Should I start with the good news or the bad news? Let’s get the bad news out of the way first, since I found a couple of bits of good news.
Yesterday many auto bloggers commented on January’s auto sales numbers, which were abysmal. Chrysler won the booby prize by posting a 55% drop in sales compared to last January, but GM and Ford didn’t fare much better, posting drops of 49% and 39% respectively. Colin Mathews at TheCarConnection posted a quick-and-dirty summary featuring a totally appropriate photo – and the word “portend” in the headline. Edmunds’ AutoObserver posted a much longer and more-detailed piece that highlights Hyundai’s 14% sales increase and includes loads of quotes from auto-biz bigwigs as well as some interesting details on how the Big Three’s changing approach to fleet sales made their numbers even worse.
Okay, now for some good news, which also broke yesterday. The U.S. Senate passed a bill that will allow taxpayers to deduct sales tax and interest for new-car puchases made between November 12, 2008 and December 31, 2009. The bill includes ceilings on the cost of the car and total household income, but the National Automobile Dealers Association, which pushed strongly for the measure, guesses it will save buyers about $1,500 on a $25,000 car. Autosavant has more details and notes that many in the industry would prefer to have seen a bigger financial incentive.
Another bit of news most car fans seem to consider good came from BMW. American Chris Bangle, design chief for the German automaker, announced his departure from the company to “pursue his own design-related endeavors beyond the auto industry.” (???) While Bangle was undoubtedly hugely influential, having designed the current 1-, 3-, and 5-Series and last-generation 7-Series as well as having overseen design of the new MINI, many hardcore fans didn’t appreciate the distinctive BMW rear ends that came to be known as “Bangle Butts.” As you shouldn’t find surprising, the lads at Top Gear posted a particularly cheeky notice yesterday.
Now that I’ve gotten the good and bad news out of the way, I’d like to share a couple of stories on upcoming cars I found interesting. First, the Mindset (above) has joined the parade of puzzling-looking new electric cars. It looks to me like a mash-up of a Karmann Ghia, a stumpy El Camino, and a rickshaw, but Autoblog says working prototypes have apparently hit the roads in Germany, and the company hopes to sell 10,000 in its first year of production.
I found a few more odd-looking but highly efficient new car designs in Wired’s recent Autopia post on the Progressive Automotive X-Prize, a $10 million prize for the first mass-production car that achieves 100 miles per gallon. I had already seen the radical Aptera, but I was pleased to note the Avion and the Viking 45 look pretty much like super-aerodynamic sports cars, rather than spaceships or robotic rethinks of the Honda CRX.