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Archive for September, 2008

Would you buy one of these?

September 29th, 2008

 

Have you heard of Tesla Motors? If not, you will. And soon.

Tesla is a new kind of car company. Their Roadster is capable of going from 0-60 in a staggering 3.9 seconds. Its peak torque is reached between 0 and 14,000 RPMs.

All this performance and torque comes from an engine the size of a watermelon. Some supercars have four exhaust pipes. The Tesla has zero.

By now you may have guessed that the Tesla Roadster is an electric vehicle. But this is no golf cart, friends. It offers a range of over 200 miles per charge, and the only oil it uses is in the single-speed transmission.

The car of the future? It seems so. But there are some questions to answer before we get all gaga and announce our independence from foreign oil.

First of all is the price of entry: a lofty $109K. Still, for the cutting-edge technology, environmental sustainability, and all-out performance this car offers, that’s not bad.

Even better is Tesla’s recently announced plan to offer a five-passenger luxury sedan for about $60K.

So far we’ve got performance, real-world driving range, zero emissions, and a reasonable price. What about maintenance?

Here’s where we run into a problem. Tesla Motors’ headquarters is in California, and anyone living within 100 miles of their service area is covered by the full 3-year, 36,000-mile warranty. For customers living outside that service area, the warranty still applies, but they are responsible for all costs associated with transporting their car to the factory.

The good news here is that Tesla is opening stores and service centers in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami, and Seattle.

Next question: How long will the batteries last? Will you spend $109,000 on a car, only to have to buy new batteries for it after 3 or 4 years? That’s a question that remains unanswered and should remain a large variable in the long-term viability of these cars.

Is Tesla Motors the car company of the future? What questions would you have before parking a Tesla in your garage?

- tgriffith

Car Minded, Domestic Cars, Electric Vehicles, Gas for your car..., General Chat, Hybrid Cars

Diesel chosen over hybrids as the alternative to gas-powered cars. CarGurus survey asks – what kind of car will you buy next?

September 29th, 2008


46% of survey respondents chose alternative-fuel (non-gas) cars

Diesels (19% of respondents) outpace hybrids (14%) as the preferred alternative-fuel car.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Sept. 27 — CarGurus® (www.cargurus.com), a leading online automotive community, today announced the results of its survey of more than 4,200 automotive consumers worldwide. Forty-six percent of respondents said they plan to purchase an alternative-fuel car (hybrid, electric, diesel, or hydrogen) as their next car purchase. A greater percentage of consumers stated a preference for diesels (19%) than hybrid cars (14%).

Gasoline still the leader – but not by much
When asked what kind of car they intend to purchase next, 54% of respondents chose a gasoline car as their next purchase. A total of 46% of respondents stated a preference for a car other than gasoline only. In addition to diesels (19% of respondents) and hybrids (14%), 13% of respondents stated a preference for more cutting edge power sources – electric (6%) and hydrogen (7%).

Clean diesel – coming of age
“With the advent of clean diesels, consumers can now enjoy great gas mileage and not have to compromise on performance and comfort,” remarked Langley Steinert, CEO/co-founder of CarGurus. “Take, for example, the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta Turbo diesel (TDI), which gets mileage figures not too far off those of the Toyota Prius (38 city/44 highway for the Jetta TDI vs. 48 city/45 highway for the Prius). For the same price as the Prius (about $22k MSRP), you get substantially better performance due to the higher torque of a diesel engine. In fact, you get about three times the amount of torque with a Jetta TDI – 236 lb-ft compared to only 82 lb-ft for the Prius. These are not your father’s diesels. They are quiet, smooth, and much cleaner than the old diesels we all remember.”

Survey Results
Across the CarGurus Network, 4,200 respondents answered the question: What kind of car are you going to buy next? Respondents answered as follows:

What kind of car are you going to buy next? (Total Votes = 4,200)

1. Regular gasoline powered car   54%
2. Diesel car   19%
3. Hybrid car   14%
4. Hydrogen car   7%
5. Electric car   6%

About CarGurus LLC
Located in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA, CarGurus LLC is a leading online automotive community founded by Langley Steinert and Nick Shanny, formerly co-founders of TripAdvisor LLC, the 3rd largest online travel site in the world. CarGurus’ founders, board, and investors bring a wealth of experience from such leading web companies as TripAdvisor, eBay, Expedia, and Yahoo. For more information about CarGurus, visit us at www.cargurus.com.

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Domestic Cars, Foreign Cars, Gas for your car..., General Chat, Hybrid Cars

Let’s change the driving age to 18!

September 29th, 2008

I was a horrible driver when I was 16.

Looking back I’m grateful that I never got in, or caused, a serious accident. I easily could have because I ALWAYS accelerated too fast, tried to beat read lights, ignored stop signs and wouldn’t even let other drivers change lanes in front of me.

In my mind, the road was MINE and I was going to beat the pants off everyone who challenged me. The fact is, the only people actually challenging me were other 16-year-olds.

Of course I never thought about the possibility of getting in an accident. I was too good of a driver for that and knew I could avoid any collisions (not counting the half dozen or so parked cars I hit back then.)

Now that I’ve grown up a little, I can respect the freedoms teenagers need. But I now believe driving shouldn’t be among them. Kids are too cocky and feel too indestructible to trust them behind the wheel of 3,000 pounds of steel.

That’s why I would love to see this country adopt a nationwide 18-year-old driving age.

At first I thought 21 would be an ideal age, but then talked myself out of it because nothing good can come from a kid being able to legally drink AND legally drive on the same day.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the crash rate per mile driven is twice as high for 16 year-olds as it is for 18-19 year-olds. And most of the fatalities are single-car accidents caused by driving errors or speeding.

Sixteen is simply too young to shoulder the responsibility of driving safely and too often results in death. Two years of maturity will save a lot lives.

Even with all this being said, America is a car-loving nation. Citizens may not embrace this change because it would mean driving their kids around for a few more years. 

What do you think: Would you support a nationwide change to make the driving age 18?

-tgriffith

Car Minded, General Chat

Choosing a president by his… car?

September 26th, 2008
2008 Ford Escape Hybrid

2008 Ford Escape Hybrid

I judge people by their cars.

I wouldn’t even put it past myself to pick a presidential candidate solely by the car (or cars) he drives.

So let’s get down to business.

John McCain:

I almost choked on my own judgment when I saw that the McCains own 13 cars. THIRTEEN. Yes, I know they are rich and, heck, I’d probably own 13 cars too if I had that kind of cash. But still, as a presidential candidate, I can’t believe that someone with the means to own, store, insure and maintain 13 cars can truly understand the pains of struggling to keep my Suzuki full of gas.

According to Newsweek, the McCains’ garage looks like this: A Cadillac CTS, a Volkswagen convertible, a Honda sedan, a Ford half-ton pickup, a 1960 Willys Jeep, a Jeep Wrangler, a Lincoln, a Lexus, a GMC SUV and an assortment of NEV GEM electric vehicles (they’re like golf carts that old folks like to drive around the retirement community). 

Barack Obama:

According to Newsweek the Obamas own one car: a Ford Escape Hybrid. That certainly looks good on paper; though I’m sure the Hybrid choice was more political than personal. Still, I respect the single car choice and extend Obama a closed fist for a respectable knuckle bump.

So what about the VP candidates? Read on, my friends:

Sarah Palin:

You must keep in mind that Mrs. Palin is an Alaskan. I hear it snows up there. She also has kids to shuffle around and no doubt a load of sports equipment, shotguns and gubernatorial supplies to tote every where she goes. So, she drives a Chevy Suburban. I give her props for driving a vehicle to get the job done, but without the excess of a Navigator or Escalade. She’d get even more points if she had a MINI Cooper for those quick jaunts to the grocery store.

Joe Biden:

It seems that Mr. Biden is a little secretive on his car choices, which is a concern. What I did find is that he’s the proud owner of a 1967 Chevy Corvette. A true classic. I’m able to look past any of his secret cars and throw him my respect for his ability to know true automotive beauty.

So who gets my vote in this election? This is easy. For showing respect for the environment, a down-to-earth philosophy of owning a single car and a true flair for an American classic, I vote Obama/Biden for president.

Who gets your vote?

-tgriffith

Car Minded, Domestic Cars, Foreign Cars, General Chat, Hybrid Cars

Is this the car that will change the world?

September 25th, 2008

Chevrolet has been tantalizing us with the promise of an all-new electric sedan called the Volt.

Will this car revolutionize the cars we drive, or be the nail in the coffin for struggling GM?

Chevy hasn’t even committed to an official launch date for their much-hyped innovation, but the potential to score a major home run with it is huge. Yes, it’ll be expensive for a midsize family sedan, and yes, GM will still lose money on every one sold.

So how could this possibly be a winner?

It’s all in the facts, the marketing, and the target audience.

The average commute for 75 percent of Americans is less than 40 miles per day. Hence the Volt’s range to run without using a drop of gas: 40 miles. At first not impressive, but when positioned as a daily short-range commuter it’s suddenly an environmentalist’s dream.

Pricing hasn’t been released, but initial estimates are the Volt will cost between $30K and $35K. GM’s cost on each one is rumored to run about $40K.

Simple economics point to the Volt being a terrible investment.

But we obviously don’t live in the times of simple economics anymore. While still a gamble for GM, the Volt represents the future of vehicle design. No doubt some company needs to step up to the plate and offer an alternative source of thrust for the cars that transport us. GM is doing just that; creating a car capable of hauling us to work or our families to the grocery store without ANY gas.

GM is hoping that early adopters with the means to afford one will buy about 15,000 Volts per year, thereby reducing the cost over time for the rest of us. Those people are out there, and the Volt could very well be the car that Earth has been waiting for.

What do you think: Is Volt a savior or a one-way ticket to bankruptcy for GM?

-tgriffith

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Domestic Cars, Gas for your car..., Hybrid Cars

Hybrid Escalade? Gimme a break!

September 24th, 2008

I want to talk about something that’s incredibly simple, but for some reason a lot people don’t seem to get. 

There’s so much talk right now about the importance of miles per gallon, and ways to increase the MPG of the cars being built.

The challenge so far is building a car that can be driven more miles for each gallon of gas it consumes. A popular solution that automakers, and the public, are embracing is the hybrid vehicle. While some hybrids do increase the MPG, they also cost a heck of a lot more money than comparably sized cars.

And I won’t even get into the fact that it takes years and years to even recover the cost of the car in gas savings. And what will happen to the toxic batteries once the car’s life is over?

What I want to talk about right now is even more basic than that: weight.

This is just simple physics, friends: the less something weighs, the less energy it takes to propel it.

Following so far?

I just don’t understand why the automakers in this country are so stuck on the hybrid concept, when we can achieve even better MPG than a hybrid in a gas-powered car that weighs less.

Instead, we have GM slapping a hybrid sticker on the side of a $70,000 behemoth Escalade that gets 20 MPG. Does that make sense? Think about how many non-hybrid vehicles get significantly better mileage than that.

It’s completely insane folks, and we need to step up as consumers and say, “Hey, GM, we don’t want a 6,000 pound monster that costs over 70 grand and gets 20 MPG. We want a 2,000 pound vehicle that gets more than 30 MPG.”

We can’t have it all, America, and it’s time to start making choices that have serious effects on the environment and perhaps more importantly, on our wallets.

Instead of dropping 70K on a hybrid SUV, save yourself 50 THOUSAND dollars and pick up a MINI Cooper that goes nearly twice the miles on the same gallon of gas.

What would you buy: a hybrid Escalade or a gas-powered Cooper?

-tgriffith

Car Review, Domestic Cars, Foreign Cars, General Chat, Hybrid Cars, Trucks & SUVs

CarGurus’ 2009 Honda Accord Review

September 24th, 2008

The Honda Accord has been at, or near, the top of it’s class for more than a decade now, and we don’t see things changing anytime soon.

The CarGurus View

Sure, the engine isn’t a pillar of performance, and yes, the suspension leaves a lot to be desired. The bottom line is, this isn’t a sports car. Sooner or later, as more and more manufacturers raise the bar for even their economy contenders, the Accord will have to follow suit as well. Until then, you’d still be hard-pressed to find a better value. Read More…

2009 Honda Accord

2009 Honda Accord

Car Review

Is hydrogen power real or hype?

September 23rd, 2008

Remember the Hindenburg?

The horrific explosion in 1937 of that zeppelin was arguably caused by use of hydrogen.

Have we learned nothing in the last 70 years or so? Is hydrogen really the answer to the world’s oil crisis?

Partly because of the publicity around the limited release of Honda’s FCX Clarity hydrogen-powered vehicle, the public is being misled into believing that hydrogen is a viable and immediate solution to our dependency on importing oil.

It’s not. I’m not saying hydrogen isn’t a possible source of powering our transportation needs in the future, but I have serious misgivings about any predictions of it being in use by the general public within the next 20 years.

And we can’t wait 20 years to do something drastic about our oil use. We need something today, right now, to substantially reduce the amount of fuel we use so it will last another 20 to 50 years before hydrogen, or whatever other source is discovered, becomes a truly viable option.

But surely, if Honda can offer hydrogen power to the public in 2008, the technology can’t be that far off, can it?

Oh yes it can.

While Honda’s FCX Clarity is a brilliant piece of engineering, it’s really nothing more than a publicity stunt by experts in the field of public relations and branding. Offering a hydrogen-powered car to the public is absolutely huge, and the press they have received goes a long way towards appeasing the green peace crowd. It also influences the rest of us into believing that Honda is on the cutting edge of eliminating the need for fossil fuels.

The FCX Clarity is a marketing gimmick. It’s an ad campaign. A brilliant one, no doubt, but Honda is no closer than any other car company in offering a mass-produced hydrogen powered vehicle.

And check this out: To implement and build the infrastructure required to support a nation of hydrogen vehicles would take 20-50 years alone. Folks, that’s just to put in the filling stations.

As it stands right now, the cheapest fuel to power our transportation needs with is oil. The immediate solution is not hydrogen. The solution is for automakers around the world to step up and offer cars that average 40 MPG, not the current U.S. average of 20.

What do you think: Is hydrogen real or hype?

-tgriffith

Gas for your car..., General Chat, Hybrid Cars

Why does Europe get all the cool cars?

September 22nd, 2008

Like we didn’t know this already, but Europe is getting all the cool cars.

Here’s what surprised me though: They’re getting a lot of those cars from the Big 3 U.S. automakers.

Did they think we wouldn’t notice?

Well let me tell you, Big 3, the gig’s up!

Europe already has some pretty darn exclusive auto brands: Audi, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW. I took an odd pride in knowing we Americans had Ford, GM, and Chrysler trying their hardest to provide us with top quality engineering and economy.

But no, friends, it’s not true. At least not anymore. Want a 63 mpg Ford economy car? Go to Europe. Want a 36 mpg Ford all-wheel-drive crossover? Go to Europe. How about a 32 mpg Chevy SUV? Yeah. Europe.

Umm… hello? Anyone else find it horribly ironic and feel a bit deceived that our own automakers seem to be sending their cream of the crop across the pond, while we’re left with the 24 mpg Ford Flex?

It seems automakers are beginning to get the idea, evidenced by Ford’s plans to begin bringing popular European models to our side of the Atlantic. Even with those plans in place, we won’t have our first shot at them until at least 2010. 

Maybe it’s just time to hope that our Big 3 go belly-up, and make room for more of the world’s fun, economical automakers to enter America. Renault and Alfa Romeo, anyone?

As we wait to find out if and when that ever happens, here are some attempts to appease us Americans with a little taste of Europe:

The Saturn VUE is almost identical to an Opel Antara. Saturn’s Sky and Astra cars are also rebadged European Opels. 

Pontiac’s G3, essentially a Pontiac-badged Chevy Aveo, will be available in 2009 as either a 4-door sedan or a 5-door hatchback.

The European iteration of the Ford Fiesta is coming in 2010.

The Ford C-Max, a 5-seat Multi-Activity Vehicle based on the Focus, should arrive in 2011.

The Ford Kuga, likely to appear as a new Ford Escape, should be in showrooms in 2012.

Will these cars arrive in time? Or by the time they hit the market will we already have been introduced to more of Europe’s finest automobiles, following the path of the MINI Cooper and Smart fortwo?

No doubt the United States’ auto market is changing.

The question is, will our automakers respond fast enough to offer us their best?

Tell us: What European autos would you like to see available in the U.S.?

-tgriffith

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Domestic Cars, Foreign Cars

CarGurus’ 2009 Chrysler Sebring Review

September 22nd, 2008

The CarGurus team has published their review of the 2009 Chrysler Sebring. The MyGig Infotainment Center is a nice addition to the list of Sebring options, but the Sebring still can’t find it’s place in the midsized sedan market.

The CarGurus View

The Sebring is simply one of the safest cars you can drive, and overall a good choice in the midsize market. If it’s top-down fun you’re looking for, opt for the 3.5-liter engine and don’t expect much trunk space. Read More…

2009 Chrysler Sebring

2009 Chrysler Sebring

Car Review