techshake

Techshake’s Recommended Winter Driving Accessories

By Chris Haak

Earlier this week, I was ed by an editor at Woman’s World magazine for input into a feature that they’re working on called “You Deserve the Best.”  She asked for my input on what the best car winterizing tools would be, and rather than making my readers wait until January 6 to see a portion of my opinion (and sparing our predominantly male readership from having to buy a magazine called Woman’s World at the grocery store checkout line, I thought I’d share the thoughts in advance.

I was asked about specific categories of winter driving accessories, and I probably have a different set of preferences than would a typical WW reader.  But since she asked, I’ll share.

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October Sales Results Are 2010’s Best to Date

By Chris Haak

The auto industry’s gradual recovery from the doldrums of 2008 and 2009 – when sales volumes fell nearly 50 percent off of their peak levels – continued in October 2010.  Overall, industry sales were up 13 percent in October 2010 compared to October 2009.  For the first time in 2010, the month’s sales were above the 12 million unit annual selling rate (which accounts for seasonal fluctuations).

Among larger brands, another big winner for the month was Chrysler, which saw its sales jump 37 percent on the back of truck sales.  Specifically, the all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee.  Thanks to that single vehicle, Jeep’s sales more than doubled.  On top of that, the Ram pickup saw its sales increase by 41 percent compared to the year-earlier period.  Chrysler’s supposed “survival” sales volume is 95,000 units per month, but the company missed that bogey by about 5,000 units, with 90,137 in October.  Chrysler is also a bit short of this goal if you look at the average sales over the first ten months of the year; the 910,357 sales through October 31.  With a stream of new or improved products coming imminently, Chrysler should see things perk up for the rest of the year.

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Hey, There’s a Cool Car:  Chrysler Crossfire Convertible
Nov03

Hey, There’s a Cool Car: Chrysler Crossfire Convertible

By Charles Krome

You know, I can’t believe this car is no more than five years old, and I don’t mean in terms of its design or specs or anything like that. It’s just that the much-heralded “Merger of Equals” between Chrysler and Daimler seems like it was eons ago. Of course, what we’ve got here is well-known as the perfect symbol of that ill-fated partnership, putting what was supposed to be a dramatically “American” skin on top of the impressive—albeit dated even at the time—mechanicals of the Mercedes-Benz SLK.

The Crossfire doesn’t have the best reputation today, but I think that again goes back to its origins. It certainly got some nice reviews back in the day in the buff books. For example, here are some comments on the car from Car and Driver’s first drive, as penned back in June 2004 by Barry Winfield: Style-wise, “Chrysler’s designers thought it crucial that the roadster look good with the top up or down. We think they achieved that goal, even retaining the coupe’s rear boattail design to great effect.”

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Some Things I Learned About the Nissan LEAF
Nov02

Some Things I Learned About the Nissan LEAF

By Charles Krome

I had lunch with Nissan vice president Carlos Tavares yesterday—just me, Tavares and about 100 of my new friends from the American Press Association—and it was quite the ol’ learning experience. Tavares, who heads up Nissan’s business in the Americas, was in town to discuss the automaker’s new “Innovation for All” marketing campaign, but he ended up spending much of his time talking about the Nissan LEAF. It was no surprise, of course, as America’s first “real” electric vehicle designed for the modern-day mainstream consumer is nearing its launch, and to say there’s still some skepticism about its viability is a serious understatement.

So, Tavares spent most of his time presenting counter-arguments to the points people usually use to discount the LEAF’s potential. For example, there’s the fact that while the car itself uses no gasoline and produces no tailpipe emissions, there are still plenty of environmental issues around generating the electricity on which it runs. As some on the green side of things like to point out, “clean coal” is an oxymoron.

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First Drive:  2011 Honda Odyssey Touring
Nov02

First Drive: 2011 Honda Odyssey Touring

By Chris Haak

The 2011 model year is definitely shaping up to be the year of the minivan, with the all-new Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey duking it out, a significantly upgraded 2011 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan hitting dealers this fall, and an all-new 2011 Nissan Quest returning from the dead to do battle in the family-friendly kid hauler segment.  In spite of their makers’ best marketing efforts, minivans really aren’t likely to be seen as “cool” anytime soon, but the current crop is truly the best that there’s ever been available.

Honda first showed its all-new 2011 Odyssey a few months ago, and after first-time observers (us at Techshake included) picked our jaws off the floor and asked what the heck Honda did with the rear-quarter styling of their bread-and-butter family hauler, we began to realize just how good the fundamentals of this van were. The million dollar question is, does the Odyssey’s “lightning bolt” and prominent door track take too much away from what’s really a very good vehicle, or is the underlying van so good that design details are truly just superfluous conversation starters among people who wouldn’t actually buy a van?

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