The Sun is Setting

A Road & Track article was recently released saying that Ford has filed for the name “Skyline” to their trademark list. While Ford did have trim levels with the name Skyline in the past, and there was a concept with the name Skyliner in it, Ford is not the manufacturer most notable for the name.

In the automotive enthusiast world, Nissan is the manufacturer that comes to mind when the name Skyline is said. While the newest Nissan flagship sports car is called the GT-R, it used to carry the name Skyline, but never has in the United States officially. That is because up until the R35, the car was never officially sold here in the States. However, if it had, up until the R35, the cars had the name of Nissan Skyline GT-R. The R35 that was sold in the America did not have the Skyline name, and I’m not really sure if it did anywhere else except Japan, if it even did there either.

While you might be thinking to yourself, gosh, why is Ford encroaching on Nissan territory and how much more could Ford ruin good names? I am going to approach this from a different angle. My beef is with Nissan. Why doesn’t Nissan care enough to keep that name? Nissan has an upcoming new Z car that will launch soon, but goodness gracious, they have a lineup that is long in the tooth and they have for a number of years now, been staying in business by fleet sales. Nissan tends to be the punch line of many jokes. They are not helping themselves by neglecting to keep the Skyline name in their library just in case. It is sad to say, but the sun is setting on the Skyline name and possibly even Nissan itself.

Consistency is Key

For a long time, Chrysler/Stellantis products were considered laughable in both build quality and performance capability. Kia had the same reputation back in the 90’s as well. There was an unproven rumor for a number of years that cars built on Mondays and Fridays would be prone to more errors and problems than a car built midweek. While again, it was unproven, recently Tesla has had some trouble with the build quality of some of their cars, and many of the fixes came quickly, meaning a car built mid month was completely different than a car built at the end of the month.

I wrote a blog a year or so ago about how Dodge could do no wrong. One of the points I made, is that while their Charger and Challenger platforms are over a decade old, they have ironed out all the issues with it and have created a very reliable machine. Something they struggled to do for years. An article on Autoblog listed the best to worst automakers from Consumer Reports. From a very high level view, I want to sum up the top five and the bottom five. These are spoilers and if you want to read more details, you can click hear to go to the Autoblog article, which I believe has the Consumer Reports link in it for even further information.

The top 5 are:
1.) Tesla
2.) Lincoln
3.) Ram
4.) Chrysler
5.) Subaru

My quick analysis of this list is that these are pretty niche auto makers. They only produce a handful of models and what they do have, in some cases, have been around for a long time. They have capitalized on keeping what works and changing only what doesn’t. In some cases, Lincoln specifically, and even Tesla to some extent, they don’t sell a lot of product either. Their volumes compared to some of the bottom makers are only a fraction, meaning they have more time to focus and get it right. Because even with Tesla having as many issues as it does, they are still not pumping out the quantity to make it enough of a market impact. The buyers of theses vehicles are also very different than the bottom bunch as well.

The bottom 5 are:
23.) Mercedes-Benz
24.) Buick
25.) Cadillac
26.) Nissan
27.) Infiniti

The first few things that come to mind of that list are; these are same family vehicles, meaning they have the same parent companies and use the same parts; they are constantly changing up their vehicles and have a vast array of models to choose from; they can be expensive and complex and have a lot of things that can go wrong on them; and they are pumping out a lot of vehicles. Mercedes, Cadillac, Buick, and Infiniti are luxury machines with many technological aids that can fail. That leads to expensive repairs. They are also wildly different in model offerings. While Cadillac, Buick, and Infiniti are somewhat niche, having 22 models collectively offered, Mercedes has 29 different models on their American website alone. Nissan has 17 different models. Mercedes has more models offered than four of the top five manufacturers combined. When you are making that many different cars, at the volume that they are, it begins to paint the picture of why these brands are ending up towards the bottom of the list.

This shows that small, consistent things, done very well, are going to give you an edge over your competitors. Customers want reliable transportation. When a company takes the time to stick to a few models and iron them out over time, the customers will reward that with reviews and returning business. Even if they have issues, like Tesla, they are able to adapt quickly because scale is not at the capacity of the competitors. The fixes can happen almost instantly.

Information like this fascinates me. I’m always excited to look at the market from different perspectives and draw up new and different opinions, commentaries, and conclusions. Facts are facts. So it is fun to discuss the data and then think of ways to make it better. Consistency is the key.

For reference, here are the number of models made by each manufacturer according to their US website.
Tesla 4
Lincoln 6
Ram 14
Chrysler 4
Subaru 8

Mercedes-Benz 29
Buick 6
Cadillac 11
Nissan 17
Infiniti 5

Could it be More Super?

About a decade ago, Toyota had roughly 3 of the exact same vehicle on the road. The Toyota 86, Scion FRS, and the Subaru BRZ. Granted the Subaru was not Toyota, it was a Subaru, but it was only that by badge. All three cars were basically the same. Now, for the new Toyota Supra, Toyota has teamed up with BMW. The BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra are roughly the same car. There are minor interior and exterior differences, as well as a few mechanical differences, but they have more similarities than differences. It is very similar to the products they had on the road ten years ago, and actually, still up until today with the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86. The fact that the 86 is still around is surprising in itself, and that can be a whole other blog subject.

To me, it would have made more sense to get rid of the 86 replace it with the Supra and instead of partner with BMW, do everything in house, based off the Lexus RC. If Nissan went slightly larger with their comeback king, the GT-R, then Toyota can and should too. I have made a graphic of all the size and price differences of all the cars referenced, along with the Lexus LFA, the one time supercar from the brand. A larger, more powerful, dare I say better looking Supra should have been the goal from the start.

I don’t have the IS500 on here, and the FRS is very hard to find anymore. It has the same dimensions as the 86 and BRZ. Click on the chart to see it in full size.

When it comes to power, I know the plan to put a V8 in the new 2022 Lexus IS500 had to have been around when the Supra was conceived. Maybe? Either way, when the Nissan GT-R went from a straight six to a V6, people didn’t complain THAT much. If Toyota planned to put a 5.0 V8 in a Supra, these things would be selling faster than they could be made. None of the new Supra makes any sense to me. There was so much potential and while the car is incredibly popular, it really didn’t meet what I thought could have happened. Granted, I did like it at launch, and I still am a fan. It just doesn’t seem like a Supra in the sense that it doesn’t compete with anything that the original did, or perceived to do. Perception is very important. Potential is also important. The Supra should have been a GT-R competitor, built in house, based off the RC, with a V8 engine. Toyota should have done all that on a budget and gave every 5.0 Ford Mustang owner a run for their money.

The RC looks so good in my opinion. It is the perfect start for a Supra. Plus, it can be all wheel drive. This one was.

Motor Trend and Hot Wheels

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Recently, Hot Wheels and Motor Trend teamed up and created an exclusive pair of diecast cars if you signed up for a new account of Motor Trend On Demand. New account users would receive the Datsun 240Z made famous by the show Road Kill. On the show, the hosts modified the car with a massive turbo charger and exhaust pipe and named it “The Rotsun.” Hot Wheels made that car so subscribers could have both the before and after version of the car. The photo above is the after version. I am still hunting down the before version.

With Hot wheels and Motor Trend collaborating on projects now, and Hot Wheels now experimenting with cars coming already crushed, could we see more cars from Roadkill and other Motor Trend shows? I’m sure all of us what like to see Blasphemi as an official Hot Wheel. But there are so many more that could be done. The Draguar, the Mazdarati, Stubby Bob, General Mayhem and General Maintenance, and those are just from Roadkill. Dirt Every Day has fantastic examples of vehicles as well. Tube Sock and the Alabama Army Truck come to mind.

I’m curious to see how this partnership continues into the future though. Because, the problem with the above mentioned promotion was that the account MUST be a new account. Current subscribers would have had to create an entirely new account in order to take advantage of getting the cars. That to me seemed like a terrible idea. Hot Wheels already has the Red Line Club where members pay a yearly membership fee to have access to cars only available to the RLC. They come at a cost, normally around $30 a car. I don’t know why Motor Trend doesn’t do the same thing? I am a faithful subscriber to Motor Trend On Demand, and WOULD HAVE BOUHGHT the set of cars from Motor Trend if given the option. Merchandise is supposedly a profitable source of income from what I know about business. Hopefully Motor Trend and Hot Wheels have learned from this situation. Hopefully there are more car choices soon and available to all subscribers. And if they could still keep them somewhat exclusive and limited, that actually might be cool too.

Add a little eXtra to the Frontier and…

My rough Photoshop skills of what I think the Xterra would look like based on the Frontier.

Nissan has launched an all new Frontier mid-size pickup truck. It is not a full size pickup like the Titan. There are mixed reactions to the new Frontier in terms of its capabilities and options. People also think that Nissan is to late to the game in the mid-size truck segment. But, overall, the truck on paper appears to be capable. It looks like a truck should as well, in my opinion, so that helps.

Nissan also recently launched a new Pathfinder. Upon seeing it, I started to think about some reports that I read recently that have indicated Nissan dealers are asking corporate to bring back the Xterra. With the popularity of off-roading and many of Nissans competitors resurrecting iconic nameplates with incredible capabilities, Nissan dealerships are saying customers will buy an Xterra if it were on the showroom floors. They also know they need something to compete with the likes of the Ford Bronco Sport, the Toyota 4 Runner, Land Rover Defender, and others.

I am beginning to see how that can come to fruition based on the new Frontier. I am hoping Nissan thought about this ahead of time and planned accordingly to potentially make an Xterra from the Frontier platform. It would simply be the Frontier without a bed and connected to the cab, as I have demonstrated with the above Photoshop render. The only problem is if the Frontier is innovative enough, to use it as a base for an Xterra, and will it live up the expectations of customers? As controversial as it would be, I think that it would. Nissan can’t wait on this if they want to get money from that market.

While we don’t know what the price of the Frontier is yet, Nissan is very extreme in pricing. They are either incredibly affordable, budget cars or they raise your eyebrows in astonishment to what could justify the high price they are asking. If the Frontier comes in at an appealing price, and sells, then I think they will easily green light an Xterra and we might see a new version on the road within 2 years. What do you think?

Why I think E-ZPass is Useless

Back in July 2020, my wife and I finally decided to get an E-ZPass. We do frequent trips where we cross bridges, tunnels, and roads that utilize it and with the world wide condition, we were thinking it would be faster, easier, and cheaper just to get an E-ZPass for all of our future travels.

To make a very long story short, it really did not do what we thought it would. When we pulled up to booth after booth, the device would not register. At one point, we stopped at an E-ZPass station in Delaware, and they said that while they felt bad for me, they could not help me because they can only assist customers with a Delaware issued E-ZPass. Mine was Virginia issued. I was absolutely livid.

Upon returning home, I decided to look into a tip my brother in-law shared with me during our travels. He remembered reading somewhere that certain vehicles, and more specifically, my 2003 Buick Rendezvous has been known to have a windshield that does not work well, or at all, with E-ZPass. I researched into that more and in fact found that to be true. There is a list of vehicles that I found on a document from the E-ZPass website that listed the Buick Rendezvous as a “Special Vehicle.”

There is apparently something in the windshield of a Buick Rendezvous that prevents the E-ZPass transponder from being read by the booths. That is really weird, because I do believe before I owned the Rendezvous, my dad replaced the windshield. I guess even replacement windshields have that same issue?

My biggest beef with all of this is the following. When I walked into the E-ZPass store (I didn’t buy online), WHY DID THEY NOT TELL ME MY CAR WAS ON THE SPECIAL VEHCILES LIST? They knew what vehicle I had because they manually entered it into the computer. The system should have red flagged that immediately. It is very frustrating.

To add insult to injury, the E-ZPass rate for the Cheasapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which we travel across frequently, is no cheaper than if you were to pay by cash or card at the booth. Yes, they take card. But the rates are all the same. The only advantage to E-ZPass is you don’t have to stop for the length of time to exchange money. Not much of a real time saving if I’m honest. I do find it humorous that on the CBBT website they use the silhouette of a Nissan GT-R as the reference vehicle and they show it can apparently tow a three axle trailer.

Overall, I do like when we use our Ford Focus to go on trips. The E-ZPass makes traveling in that car a breeze. But, 50% is a fail. E-ZPass, you really should let people know.

Thankfully, most of the time the booths just run the plate and charge me through the E-ZPass that way, so I still get the possible discounts, if applicable. Which leads to a whole new point. Why is the device needed at all? Just scan plates and bill. And at that point, E-ZPass is just the middle man. Stupid E-ZPass. Absolutely useless.

The next big car thing

nbt

What could be the next big automotive trend? There are so many out there and there can be so many ahead of us. Some might transition into something different, some might go away, and some new things might spring up. Here are two quick things that I think might happen within the next 3 years.

Safari outfitting seems to be picking up in popularity. Having that process done to the most normal of cars, like a Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, or Ford Fusion, that would be something that might happen, but it isn’t an every person common thing to do, so if it were big, it would be only within the automotive community enthusiasts. Similar to that, the YouTube channel B is for Build is creating an off-road Lamborghini. That reminds me of the battle cars/baja/safari movement that is around and seems to come and go. But as customization pushes its limits in downforce and speed, a whole new door is opening up in the off road segment.

The other trend that might go big, as crazy as this sounds, is retro micro car comeback. Swapping high horsepower motor cycle engines or just straight up beastly car engines into 1990s Ford Tempos, Geo Metros, and other insanely small cars from the 80s, 90s and early 00s. I just get that inclination from seeing not one, but two Ford Festivas and a Geo Metro lately. It makes me think that these will come back around again. Then people will give them high horsepower, combined with retro charm, and light weight, it is a recipe for insanity, which is exactly what the internet thrives on.

Need For Speed

My brother and I were recently talking about the game Need for Speed, and how after many iterations, it has lost out fans because of one specific game in the franchise. Apparently, that game, required internet to play. There was no way to play offline, which would be a huge deterrent. Since then, the franchise has struggled to get into gamers good graces.

As my brother pointed out, Forza and Grand Turismo are basically simulators rather than play for fun games.

So what would a new Need for Speed look like? Both gamers and car guys are, I think, the overlap in a venn diagram.

Right now, from a car guy standpoint, you have to put cars that are super popular in real life on the cover. A Datsun 510 would turn enough heads. If you want to really throw in a spark, put a GMC Syclone or a Porsche 944. Of course exotic cars are always a draw, but hyper cars tend to be the real show stopper now days. Cars like a McLaren Senna, Pagani Huayra, Koenigsegg Regera, are a bit more attention grabbing to enthusiasts, and still just as appealing to non enthusiasts.

Although, mentioning the GMC and the Porsche got me thinking that an expansion DLC for a Radwood edition would be REALLY popular.

I also recently read an article about how Road & Track had a hand in the original Need for Speed game. Back then, they pioneered the driving connection to the car. As the games increased, Road & Track parted ways. But ever since 2005 when Need for Speed Most Wanted came out, the game has gone down hill. I started to ask myself why.

I think that the game needs to get back to two anchors that made the game what it was. First, as debuted in Underground, they need to allow major modifications to the cars. For example, 2JZ swap a Lamborghini or safari a 94 Acura Legend. Let people get really creative with body kits, engine swaps, colors, lighting, interior, etc. A computer can swap out interiors and engines on a whim. Make it happen.

Second, and most importantly, is to have the ability to race and/or be pursued, at any time, anywhere in the game, in a semi realistic way. The original game was all about fast racing. Hot Pursuit was all about being chased. Suspension of disbelief is hard to achieve in a racing video game, especially if you are not making a simulator. But if there are options, like turning on and off damage, having a speed ratio to what is equipped on the car, and factoring in environmental effects like weather, are all things that have to have a delicate balance to give game players an extremely fun experience, but also have it be somewhat believable. To accomplish this, get a small group of strictly gamers, strictly car people, and people who know both, to accomplish the right balance for the game. If those things could be accomplished, Need for Speed can make an awesome comeback.

Many iDenties

Recently I began watching Initial D. It is a cool anime about a high schooler who unknowingly is the best drifter in his region of Japan. While I can do without all the high school drama, the cars and drift scenes are awesome.

The cars are a huge factor in the show, obviously. Watching it nearly 20 years after it was made, it is entertaining to see how the characters ogle the vehicles that were for their time, absolute monsters. They have Mazda RX-7s, Nissan Skylines, and many others.

Then there is the lone hero car. He drives a 10 year old car at the time, a Toyota AE86. In the United States, that car is known as an “A E 86”. The eight and six are said in numeric form as “eighty six”. In the show, they constantly refer to it as an “eight six.” They do the same for other cars as well, like the Nissan GT-R 32. In the States, we refer to it as an “R 32” or again, numeric format of “thirty two”, where as they refer to it as a “three two”. That fascinated me enough to write this blog.

Maybe it all comes down to region. In the United States, “pop”, “soda”, and “Coke”, all mean the same thing, a carbonated soft drink. It just depends on where you are. I’m curious, what other things in the automotive world are referred to differently in different countries or regions? Please let me know all the cool stuff from where you are from!

How hard is it to buy and sell?

buyingselling

Not too long ago, heading to eBay and Craigslist were the two big ways to find a car online. As fees go up, and sadly Craigslist now has them, where do you go to find a good used car, especially from a private party seller? As a seller, where do you go to post a car to find a buyer?

I am not versed in this area at all. I simply have a quick opinion about it. When Craigslist came out with the fee to post a vehicle, the next free option was Facebook Marketplace. That was a great option until recently. Now, Facebook has all sorts of filters that make it very difficult to find a vehicle. For example, two vehicles that I like to look for are Jeep Grand Wagoneers and Porsche 944s. Neither are an option to filter by when you select model under those makes. When you do an open ended search it doesn’t pull up very relevant stuff. I am not sure if those models can be entered. It just gets frustrating. eBay Motors also used to be glorious, but that is also not the best way to find cars either. At this time, the best way I have found to find cars is AutoTempest. But, while the results are satisfying in quantity, it can be tedious to go through them. A note to make as well is that while you can filter for all sorts of features you want, there is actually no way to filter out features you DON’T want. If you are trying to find something without heated seats, there really isn’t a good way to find a car that doesn’t have that. You have to go one by one. Lastly, as if trying to find a car isn’t hard enough with all these factors, there is the issue that you are never going to find the correct car from the start. According to Jalopnik, an issue appears to be happening with Toyota Supras that are showing as 6 cylinder cars on AutoTrader, when in fact they are 4 cylinder cars. A website can only display what information is entered, at least…I think. At the time of this writing, there was not a response as to why this was happening.

Then, you have the buying side of things. Oh my goodness. As if it wasn’t hard enough to FIND the vehicle you want, now you have to deal with PEOPLE. Egos flair, information is withheld, paperwork is tedious, time is wasted, it is seriously just the most aggravating process ever. I’ve never bought a car from a dealer, but I’ve heard it is an absolute drain. But, I am almost certain that sometimes dealing with private party buyers or sellers is just as insane.

What really hit me as an eye opener to how even as a car person, I am now not interested in buying or selling cars, was a conversation I had with a friend the other day about buying and selling cars. This friend indicated that their car was getting older, it has miles on it, and they would potentially be in the market for a newer, but still used car, in the very near future. They said they would simply shop at CarMax and trade in their current vehicle for the newer one. Now, almost all car enthusiasts would suggest against this. I have grown up being taught to drive your car until the wheels fall off, or to private party sell your car because you can get more money. But…after I started thinking about it, from all the points I have mentioned above, I realize why that is a bad idea. Especially for a non car person to try to private party sell their vehicle.

I was tasked to sell a friends vehicle one time. They gave me a price they wanted to get and told me any price above that, I could keep. I also had roughly a 30 day time frame to sell. Let’s just say I am not a salesman. I did manage to sell it. However, it was only at the price that the friend wanted and I barely got rid of it in 30 days. While there are factors that can be part of that, like the car itself, I still didn’t do nearly as well as I had hoped I would have done.

In the end, I think CarMax and trading in your vehicle is a great idea. It can save you time and headache. You might think you are doing yourself a favor by trying to sell your car yourself. But, think of all the time, effort, and materials you are putting into that, to create the listing, prepare the car, deal with calls and emails and texts with stupid questions and non showing interested parties, and absolutely insulting low offers. Do you really want to deal with all of that? Just…think about it.