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Not All New Cars are Better Than Their Old Models

By Chris Haak

A typical pattern in the life cycle of products in a competitive market is that a new product will be introduced, and it will be incrementally better than the one it replaces.  Many times, its manufacturer will also at least attempt to benchmark the category’s leaders, and then either meet or beat the best attributes of those.  Then, after a period of time, a competitor will launch a new product, which may set a new benchmark.

Continuous improvement is known as kaizen in Japanese, and it’s the principle that helped Japan, Inc. take a significant share of US new-car market since the 1970s.  It’s also perhaps the worst-kept secret in the auto business that consistently applying incremental improvements over an extended period of time results in outstanding products that your customers are eager to line up to buy the new version at some point.

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Pontiac’s War: The Battle for Pontiac Customers Continues
Mar16

Pontiac’s War: The Battle for Pontiac Customers Continues

By Charles Krome

Here in the Detroit area,  I still see a fair number of Pontiacs. There are last-generation Grand Prixes all over the place, a fair number of Vibes, and the occasional G8 or two. A friend of a neighbor even parked a G5 in front of our house the other day. And that last one—essentially a Chevy Cobalt coupe with a Pontiac front clip—is a perfect example of how far the Driving Excitement brand had fallen when General Motors decided to pull the plug.

But rather than keep beating a dead brand, let’s take a look at where all the ex-Pontiac owners have been going recently, courtesy of some numbers from Bashar Cholagh at R.L. Polk. Cholagh leveraged Polk’s registration data to determine the top 15 brands that former Pontiac owners purchased from in 2010, when 57,641 of them went shopping for new vehicles.

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NHTSA To Investigate Seat Heaters Over Burn Risk

By: Carl Malek

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now trying to decide whether seat heaters pose an “unreasonable risk to safety”

Currently, the government agency is reviewing multiple reports of burns that have been associated with seat heater use. According to the agency’s report those with sensory defects of the lower body such as lower body paralysis are in danger of being seriously burned by the heaters without even realizing it.

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Twin Review: 2011 Lexus RX350/RX450h FWD
Mar16

Twin Review: 2011 Lexus RX350/RX450h FWD

By Roger Boylan

Your average SUV once lumbered across the land with all the grace of a sauropod. Think of the Scout, the Excursion, the Grand Wagoneer, and others with more utility than sport, and little in the way of creature comfort. Then, as birds evolved from dinosaurs, but in a far shorter time span dictated by the market rather than Darwin, crossovers evolved from SUVs, and a kinder, gentler beast was born. There’s a lot of variety in this market now, from high-speed machines like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo to more mundane critters like the Ford Edge. Some drivers are looking for something fast but elegant. Others want to cruise along in a hotel suite on wheels. The Lexus RX should satisfy on both counts—and I mean both Lexus RXs, the gasoline-powered RX350 as well as its hybrid sibling, the RX450h. I had the privilege of test-driving each, back to back. As they’re essentially the same vehicle, except for price, the obvious difference under the hood, and a few details on the instrument panel, I’m doing a unitary review of the RX genre.

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I ♥ Saab: The Swiss Tour
Mar15

I ♥ Saab: The Swiss Tour

By Kevin Miller

Now that the 2011 Geneva Auto Show has ended, Saab decided that instead of putting their cars from the show onto a truck and shipping them straight back to Sweden, they could instead host a series of events around Switzerland to show off their full line. Advertised by flyers handed out at the show (as well as marketing materials sent to current Saab owners), the event kicked off Tuesday night in the Swiss town of Rothrist. Staying just ten minutes from Rothrist on a visit to Switzerland, and being totally Saab crazy, I had to be there.

The event was hosted not at a Saab dealership, but instead at an events venue called Stilhaus. The parking lot was packed a lot of Saab vehicles, several of them wearing Hirsch Performance badges. Upon approaching the Stilhaus in Rothrist, there were visible inflatable pylons decorated with the I ♥ Saab logo. Near the entrance, a selection of beautifully kept classic Saabs, owned by SAABclub Switzerland member, was on display. Beyond those, a red carpet was literally rolled out to welcome guests.

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