Bad Taste in Badges

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While out and about over the weekend, my wife and I saw a Toyota Solara that had a TRD badge in the front grill. What is so special about that you might ask? Well, that is exactly the point my wife and I discussed for a few minutes.

As a keen automotive enthusiast, I knew something didn’t look right about the Solara. After doing some quick research, and finding a flaw with the car and that badge. I described the situation to my lovely wife. She then dropped the bomb on all badge discussions. “That’s stupid. Why put a badge on a car when most people don’t know enough to care, and those that care, know it’s fake?” She is the best and I couldn’t agree more.

The Toyota Camry Solara was built from 1998 to 2008. There were two generations, the first from 98 to 03, the second from 03 to 08. Only the first generation had a TRD package available as a dealer upgrade on the 99 and 00 model years. While the parts are available for any Solara, the picture of the car above is a second generation car. That right there is already flaw one. I texted a picture to my brother in law and he noticed the badge is crooked. Flaw two. After that, I figured out what I would be blogging about.

The point my wife made was absolutely brilliant. Why bother badging a car for those that don’t care? You might get away with it for a little while, and it might impress some people who will act like they care. It might inflate your own ego. But, to those of us that know, you are really just making a fool of yourself. Bad taste in badges is a bad idea, but if you insist, it makes great content to put on the internet!

Questionable Revivals

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There are two vehicles that have been revived recently that have left me perplexed at their timing and construction. They are the Ford Ranger and the Toyota Supra. While I am not opposed to them being in production, the logic behind them seems weak.

The Ranger has grown up since the last time it was built. As the ever-popular American market continues to purchase pickup trucks and SUV’s, Ford revived the Ranger to possible help solidify more of that market share, complimenting their dominance in the full-size truck segment. What does not make sense is the timing of Ford producing the Ranger. It is basically the European Ranger with tweaks for the US market. But, the life cycle of it is coming to a close quickly since it has already been on sale in Europe for a number of years now. It really seems strange that Ford would bring the Ranger to the US as a “new” truck, only to potentially do a complete refresh on it in 3 years. Why would anyone want to buy a truck they know is going to only be around for 3 years? Why buy a leftover? To add insult to injury, the 15-year-old Nissan Frontier outsold the Ford Ranger. There are so many things that don’t make sense about Ford selling the Ranger here in the US before the refresh.

When it comes to the Supra, Toyota teamed up with BMW to produce the car. From a financial standpoint it makes sense to team up with a manufacturer, but maybe not on your halo car. Hearing the price range doesn’t seem to register well with the price of what one would think a Toyota should be. Adding to that, the car has been intentionally built without certain performance enhancements simply because Toyota knows the aftermarket world will improve the car. It really sounds quite lazy. I am not against that tactic. To be honest, I think it is brilliant. I wish more companies would do that. What my issue is, is that the car costs so much for what is essentially a watered down BMW Z4 and an expensive, not fully equipped Toyota. With an asking price of over $50,000 for the base model, it does not make sense to me in monetary terms.

The Ford Ranger and Toyota Supra are quite perplexing to me regarding when they returned and how expensive they returned for. Maybe things will make more sense in a few months or years. With the current automotive market climate, it will certainly be entertaining and interesting.

 

Color Me Impressed

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2014 Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge concept from the Detroit Auto Show.

There is something incredibly powerful about the color a car is launched in. Seeing a car displayed at an auto show for the first time can have a magnetic effect. A car that always sticks out to me is the 2014 Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept I was able to see at the Detroit Auto Show. A photo of it is shown above. The red paint that covered that car had me mesmerized and the camera cannot capture how stunning the color really is. If I were ever to buy an Infinity, it will be in that color.

Other notable cars are in specific colors are a Honda S200 in yellow, a Volvo S60 or C30 in Polestar Blue, a Nissan Xterra in yellow (although red has grown on me), a Cadillac CTS-V in Black Diamond, the original Ford Raptor in Orange, the Lamborghini Huracan in Green and Aventador in Orange, there are countless cars that the color they are debuted in are the ones I find most appealing. But, that isn’t always the case because some cars are launched in multiple colors or a specific special edition colors, which are some of the examples mentioned above. A notable example of that is the Toyota 4Runner or Tacoma in TRD specific Cavalry Blue.

These colors are sometimes what I associate to cars in diecast as well. I tend to gravitate towards realistic models of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, especially when they are in the color debuted by the original manufacturer. Not all colors are captured well by diecast makers though. The Hot Wheels McLaren Senna does not quite match the color I have seen pictures of. Other times, maybe due to reasons like scale or proprietary information, the diecast car color is not exactly the color on the real-life car, but to the eyes and brain, it looks the same. It is a fascinating effect.

This topic has such depth to it and there are countless more stories of my fascination with cars and colors, that I could fill countless more blogs. If you have any stories related to this topic, I would love to hear it. Feel free to leave a comment if you feel the same way or have any cars you enjoy in a specific color.

Name Game and Design Time

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Land Rover has been in the news lately for having their new Defender out testing in camouflage. Even with that disguise, one can get a pretty good idea of what it will look like. It is going to join the long list of resurrected names from an automobile company that will use on a newly designed vehicle. So, how closely do a name and design relate and what importance does it have to a brand and the consumer?

There is an incredibly long list of cars that have names once associated with a different ancestor. Some of the most notable are the Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger, Chevy Blazer, and the Ford Ranger. In some cases, you wonder how the old and new vehicles are related? Upon launch of the Chevy Blazer, many enthusiasts were very disappointed with the way it looked compared to a name with a legacy that was attached to it. Especially with Ford bringing the Bronco back, which has enthusiasts concerned Ford might water down the legendary truck to compete.

All signs seem to point to the Bronco living up to its former glory though, potentially rivaling Jeep in their dominance of the off-road market. However, buyers tend to be shifting towards luxury off-road vehicles, and ones with iconic names top that list as well. Jeep is said to be bringing back the Grand Wagoneer, Mercedes just redesigned their G class SUV, Chevy has their attempt in the segment with the Blazer, and now Land Rover is reviving the Defender.

The new design of the Defender does not resemble the look of Defenders gone by. Consumers, especially enthusiasts, are keen to take note that names should match designs, most notably if it has such a long history. While the US market is not as familiar with the old design and name, I would be curious to know what other markets think. Americans have had many vehicles revived in name and design. Some have been great and others have flopped. Manufacturers should think long and hard before they decide to put an old name to a new vehicle.

Dodge Can Do No Wrong

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The Dodge Challenger has recently outsold the Chevy Camaro for the number two muscle car sold in the US. It is quickly gaining ground on the Ford Mustang as well. You can read more about that here. I think Dodge has one of the best strategies in terms of manufacturing, marketing, and proven product, that factor strongly into the success of it outselling the Camaro and potentially the Mustang.

The Challenger design has been produced for far longer than initially intended or is common for the life cycle of a design. However, it has worked brilliantly for Dodge. They have been able to save money on all the factors that are expensive when a car is redesigned. That long life has allowed consumers and the general public to get very familiar with the look of the car. Dodge has squeezed every ounce out of the body and chassis. In 2018 there were 17 trim levels for the Challenger with prices ranging from $27,000 to $85,000.

Dodge has done brilliantly at marketing the Challenger.  They communicate an aggressive, bold, and cool image about the car. Some campaigns use famous people, others just showcase the car, but all have colors and sounds emphasized. The Challenger has been marketed so well, and there are so many on the road, that I “challenge” you to recall a memory of one.

A few months ago I was able to rent a Challenger for a work trip. After spending over 12 hours in the car, I came to the conclusion that it was an incredibly practical vehicle. The car had four-cylinder shut off, so I was able to get about 30 miles to the gallon, but if I wanted to get a bit feisty, the other four cylinders would light up with the tip of a toe. It has an incredible interior room, a spacious trunk, stupendous looks, and an aggressive sound.

Whoever made the decision to extend the life cycle of the Challenger should be applauded. That decision has allowed the Challenger to grow into being one of the best muscle cars on the road, aggressively “challenging” for the first place spot. In my opinion, Dodge can do no wrong with this car.

Electric Vehicles are on Fire

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A major subject in the news lately has been that of a Tesla bursting into flames in a parking garage. You can read about that here. While Tesla seems to be in the subject of media outlets quite often, this particular story has actually been quite the finale for a multitude of stories recently about electric cars on fire. And sadly, not in a hip cool way, but literally, on fire.

There was another story a few months ago (read here) about a Tesla crashing and instantly catching on fire. The driver was trapped in the car and perished because rescue personnel could not get the vehicle open in time. That kind of situation probably does not sit well with first responders and even the general public.

Another story out of Europe described an electric vehicle continuously reigniting after firefighters thought the fire was out. You can read about that here. Eventually, they had to submerge the car in a shipping container full of water for a few days to ensure that it would not catch on fire again. That is quite brilliant actually. Simple and effective, but should it be necessary?

Lastly, a Camaro modified to be fully electric was forbidden to take part in a Formula Drift event at Long Beach because firefighters were not prepared to battle an electric car fire. That is the big debate now regarding electric vehicles. Some people see this as a killjoy while others see this as a wake-up call. You can read about this here.

After reading all of these examples (there are many more out there), I lean towards the side of caution and safety, using these situations as a wake-up call. Electric cars are a lot of danger not just moving, but even parked! The evidence is unclear on if and what first responders are trained about electric vehicles and how to handle them in the event of a crash and fire. High amperage and voltage cables pose a risk to the very lives trying to save a life, which one could argue is the chosen job, but life or death scenarios are time sensitive. Will firefighters have enough time to pinpoint and precisely cut an electric vehicle where it needs to be cut in order to preserve their own life along with saving another?

Society has had batteries in devices for quite some time now. However, it is becoming more common to see in the news that even those small devices, cell phones, and electronic cigarettes, have blown up injuring the user. The odds might be relatively low for that happening considering the number of devices that are out there, but still. Automobiles are already a huge danger to human lives. Add in electricity and batteries and that doesn’t make the equation any safer. Take the time to educate yourself and feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below. I am going to proceed with caution as more and more electric vehicles begin to be produced.

Autonomy and Infrastructure

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As the springtime gets into full swing, orange barrels start blooming on the highways. Construction seems to never stop, especially in large cities with high traffic and brutal winters. Budget issues don’t help things either. So when it comes to the subject of autonomous vehicles, I am very perplexed at the long term goal relating autonomy to infrastructure.

Economists and auto manufacturers have been conscious of “peak car” for quite some time. Peak car is a complex theory, but the premise is that there is a limit as to how many miles can be traveled by a number of cars before there are too many cars driving too many miles, at which point peak car has happened and a decline in usage and sales occurs. Add that to the highly debated topic of autonomous cars, and if autonomy will require a greater demand for vehicles or less, and the recipe is quite perplexing.

If autonomy will require fewer vehicles, than the amount of money going into creating new infrastructure to accommodate more vehicles will seem irresponsible and silly in the future. Yet, if autonomy will demand more vehicles, it will be a good thing that highways and roads and all other vehicle infrastructure would be improved upon and expanded. We will look back and be thankful we spent the money on those resources.

It is hard to determine which way things will go. Planning long term is something that is very hard to do in these modern times, so to try to perceive how autonomous vehicles will be needed and used, and weigh that to the current and future needs of infrastructure, the comparison is tough to connect in a shared goal situation. Time will tell how it turns out, but for the moment, I just hope construction will be completed so traffic can flow properly again.