Odds and Ends about Cars and the Car Business
By Brendan Moore
KIA has been showing off their new No3 concept car to the press in Europe lately, and it’s a stunner. The production car is going to make its debut at Frankfurt in September. Based off the Soul platform, the No3 mini-MPV has great looks and presence, and should do well in the European market. Kia design seems to noticeably improve with every new car they do these days, which definitely is not a bad thing. For you readers in the States, you will probably not see the new Kia on your shores anytime soon, if ever. It’s considered too small for the American market.
By Brendan Moore
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has released figures showing that automobile dealers submitted 690,114 deals for a dollar value of $2.88 billion by the program’s deadline at 8 PM Eastern Time yesterday.
This brings in the program under the $3 billion funding limit of the program, but this was accomplished only by truncating the time of the program twice. The cash for clunkers programs was originally designed to run until November, but instead ran only four weeks.
Meanwhile, dealers are frothing at the mouth over the DOT computer system used to submit the cash for clunker deals. The platform has been repeatedly overwhelmed with the immense volume of deals being submitted, which renders it inaccessible, and the level of frustration among dealers is very, very high. Additionally, many deals have been rejected for format errors by the DOT, but without any guidance whatsoever on what error(s) on the form caused the rejection by the program, leaving the dealer personnel to simply guess at what might be wrong as they scramble to re-submit the deal. Lastly, payments for the deals that have been approved have been disbursed at a glacial pace.
All of this has automobile dealers hopping mad.
The DOT already has 2000 employees processing cash for clunkers deals, and says it plans to add even more personnel to that number today, in an effort to make some headway against the backlog of deals in the queue.
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By Kevin Miller
In Paris yesterday, Citroën revealed their new DS3, the first vehicle in its upcoming DS line. Named after the iconic Citroën manufactured between 1955 and 1975, the DS line previewed this week by the DS3 is likely not as overwhelmingly innovative as the original, though it is a good-looking car. While the original DS was an executive car with innovative features like a hydraulic suspension, the new DS line is a set of spacious superminis.
The DS3 is a unique, good-looking car with real style elements like a ‘floating’ roof, a ‘shark fin’ that lends visual interest to the waistline, and recesses on the nose housing LED lights. Citroën claims that the DS line will grow to a range of distinctive models with more radical design content than recent Citroën vehicles. Additionally, the DS can be personalized (much like a MINI Cooper) with a broad range of styling components. Exterior personalization components include the colors or finishes of the roof, body, rearview mirror housings and wheels. For example, the roof can be painted in four colors that contrast with the rest of the body (Onyx Black, Opale White, Botticelli Blue and Carmen Rouge), rearview mirror housings and door sills can be clothed in color or chrome, and wheels and their centers are available in a near-infinite range of colors.
By Chris Haak
The first time I saw a 2010 Honda Insight in the flesh, I was underwhelmed. It was as the 2009 NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show), and was the main focus of Honda’s more subdued product introduction plans in light of the poor economy. At the time, I felt that the car was small, had a cheap interior, and worst of all – for a car whose whole raison d’être is fuel economy – had some relatively disappointing numbers on the window sticker: 40 mpg city/43 mpg highway. Toyota made a splash at the same auto show with a 2010 Prius that stole some of the Insight’s thunder with a 50 mpg combined number – far better than the Insight’s approximate 41 mpg combined figure. Also not good: the car looked like a cross between an original two-door Honda Insight and a Toyota Prius, and its only good angle (at least to my eyes) was the front end.
Honda doesn’t necessarily want you to necessarily compare the two cars; they are different sizes (the Prius is larger and heavier) in spite of their likely-not-coincidentally similar shapes. The Prius was engineered from stem to stern as Toyota’s environmental flagship, with maximum fuel economy as its primary mission. The Insight had a similar mission, but with the added wrinkle of bringing the entry price of hybrid ownership further into the range of affordable cars.
By Brendan Moore
The decision by the board of GM a few days ago to reject the latest offer by Magna to take control of Opel has made almost everyone in Germany unhappy, most notably Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor.
Merkel, the Conservative leader of Germany, governs with the help of a coalition of Social Democrats, who are also unhappy that the situation with Opel has dragged on for so long.
German politicians have stated publicly that they would like the US government to help broker a deal at this point, and it is known that Merkel’s rival in the next election, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has put in a telephone call to Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, in order to express his concerns about the pace and the results of negotiations.
By Brendan Moore
The Nikkei business news paper of Japan reported over the weekend that Honda will unveil a concept car at the Tokyo Auto Show this October that will be the first prototype for an electric production car the company hopes to sell in the US market by the middle of the nest decade.
Honda had no comment on the Nikkei report.
If true, Honda joins a growing number of automakers that have decided to produce electric cars for the mass market.
Various strategies regarding electric vehicles are now emerging.
By Chris Haak
While on vacation at the beach in Delaware this past week with my family, we obviously happened to see many different sizes and types of RVs – large and small, old and new, Class A and Class C motor homes, and travel trailers. But the one that we saw on our last evening at the beach was unique enough to inspire me to write about it. It was a nicely-restored 1970s GMC Motorhome, and I was immediately reminded of how fond I’ve always been of these unique vehicles.
The GMC Motorhome showed the creativity and forward thinking that made GM the market leader in the US for most of the 20th century. Troublingly, it also sold in relatively small volumes and is rumored to have not made money for GM during its six years in production.
By Alex Kalogiannis
When is a car not a car? When it’s the 2009 Toyota Venza. The latest addition to the brand’s line-up is something of an instigator for semantic arguments. At first look, it’s easy to tell that the Venza, though built on the (shudder) Camry platform, is more towards a small SUV in stature. You’d be in the ballpark if you hypothesized that it would fall in the crossover vehicle category, but Toyota is adamant in calling the Venza anything but a “really big car.” While magazines and other sources categorize it freely as a CUV or wagon, read the window sticker, and it’ll state “5 door sedan”. Why not call a spade a spade?