Automotive Name Game

Lately the automotive manufacturers seem to think that old names of cars should be revived. Some are putting their old car names on EV’s, some on SUV’s, and some are considering making entire brands out of them. No matter which way it happens to go, an automotive enthusiast is going to have something to say about it. The general public is going to have something to say about it too. Those two opinions might not be aligned.

The most recent, and potentially the most pivotal in terms of future unaffordable super/exotic/hyper cars, is that Lamborghini is reviving the Countach name. The Countach came out in 1974 as a wedge shaped, futuristic, made for speed vehicle. It was incredibly polarizing. By the end of its run in 1990 it grew to be an absolutely iconic, obnoxious, and completely impractical vehicle. But that was the point. Contrary to what most modern supercar owners do today, which is daily drive their quarter of a million dollar or more cars, the 1990 Countach was a loud 12 cylinder, painful cockpit, with brandishing looks that would gobble up miles on weekends in short bursts then be put away for 99.9% of the week, or more.

With styling, performance, and function all vital to understanding of what we know of as a specifically named vehicle, the Countach has a lot to live up to. It makes me wonder why they brought it back? Lamborghini has had no trouble coming up with names for vehicles. In my opinion, there was no need to bring back the Countach name. Ford has already shown how when you murky the water, you cause confusion. The Mustang Mach E and the Bronco Sport are prime examples.

I thought Lamborghini was smarter than that. A poster car of so many is now being brought back to life, but with a modern twist. If this is a production vehicle, which is unclear yet at the time of writing, it will really change the game for what these exclusive manufacturers might do. Granted, a lot of them already still have their legacy name plates or have brought back vehicles similar to them, without the old names. But the EV transformation could easily usher in a new Mercedes 300 SL (probably with slight change to EL), Ferrari F40 (probably to E40), Aston Martin DB5, even a McLaren F1. If you think I’m wrong or crazy, I get it, but I didn’t think the Countach would come back, yet here we are.

Consumers crazed with nostalgia are feeding the manufacturers with ideas that they want old cars. While that is true, we don’t actually want old car names. We want the idea of what old cars with iconic names have become. We want the limited edition, exclusive, fast, loud, and glorious looking vehicles that we grew up fantasizing about as kids. If the companies want to play games to see what works, fine, but to me a name is important. I’ll play. But, they should know, my bar is high.

Will Jaguar become Extinct?

My cousin and I were talking recently about the future of Jaguar and Land Rover. It was days before JLR announced they would be consolidating their lineup and explaining their plan to enter the electrification game. We all know that is where automobiles are heading, but is it sustainable?

The argument for electric vehicles in general can be an entire series of blogs, which I might do in the future. In this example, I want to focus specifically on Jaguar. One of the most shocking statements that I can’t comprehend is that Jaguar will not be introducing any new vehicles until 2025. That is 4 years of no new cars. What that means is they will continue producing the cars currently in their lineup, which is 5 different models, but they will not add another model. I am going to guess that they might not even do any refreshing of their current lineup either. They need to save as much money as possible. There is a huge chip shortage currently, and the pandemic has caused Jaguar to reduce their sales projections from 1 million vehicles sold to half that, with this information, I don’t think that Jaguar will survive. A car manufacturer can’t make money if it doesn’t make cars. It can’t make money if it doesn’t make new cars. It can’t make money if it doesn’t make a lot of cars.

They need to make money. Investing in electric is not cheap. It will require millions of dollars and I don’t think that Jaguar will have that. Only one of their vehicles is fully electric. With a goal to sell all electric vehicles by 2025, and only one currently being electric, with a goal to sell only a half million cars world wide, with only 5 cars in their lineup, that means with simple math, 100,000 fully electric Jaguars will reach the roads each year until 2025. I don’t know their sales numbers by models, so my estimation is a complete generalization. But, the fact remains, a car company can’t sustain itself on 500,000 cars a year and switch to all electric.

It is important to note as well, that I believe that projected 500,000 vehicles sold is combine with Land Rover sales. I am also not sure how all of the math adds up either, because 2020 sales according to the article were only 97,417.

With that perspective, the 500,000 might be the projection for total car sales by both brands until 2025. That is such a small, niche bunch of sales, that I don’t see how a profit can be found. I don’t see how a future can be forged. JLR is already sinking and creating a plan for an electric future only makes them look good on the surface. There is no way they can stay afloat beyond 2025.

I am going to make an educated guess that it would be wise to buy a Jaguar within the next 2 years. They very well could be some of the last Jaguar vehicles ever produced and they could become collectors items. Time will tell.

Should Models be Brands?

 

The subject of should models become brands has been relevant and important lately. I have had conversations with family and friends about the subject since some have texted me wondering why certain car manufacturers are doing certain business decisions. So, here is my take on should car models become brands.

In 2009, Dodge/Chrysler/Daimler/FCA split off the Ram pickup truck from Dodge and created their own brand from that model. That has been a very successful decision. Hyundai has split Genesis off into its own luxury brand, copying a page from Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti recipe, but also making a brand from a model. Chevrolet has rumored that they might consider making the Corvette a brand in itself. Manufacturers have split models into brands in the past, some have success and some were a failure.

Now, Ford wants to make a Mustang a brand, starting with the all-electric SUV, the Mach E. There is also a rumor that they want to make the Bronco a brand as well. Although, what doesn’t make sense is how they use the Raptor nameplate. They utilize that name for the F-150 Raptor, and Ranger Raptor, but apparently that name will not be utilized to distinguish a more powerful Bronco. A beefy Bronco is rumored to be called a Warthog. Confusing, but whatever.

What Ford should learn though, is they have almost been in this situation before. They had Mercury, that they closed because they couldn’t seem to explain to buyers why they should pay more for a car that is identical to the Ford equivalent. Lincoln almost had the same fate. Hopefully, they have learned from those experiences and don’t mess up a new Mustang or Bronco brand. Toyota and Subaru are also the same boat. They had the Toyota 86, the Subaru BRZ, and the Scion FRS all on the market at one time. And now they are almost doing the same thing, but instead of the Scion available, the Supra has taken that slot. We will have to see how this goes. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if Nissan does this with their Z car. Especially with the launch of the new 400Z. The Z name is known by people both with and without automotive knowledge so that would be a good start for them.

What do you think? Should auto manufacturers start making separate brands from their successful models?

Sedan Man

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Very few sedans are being produced by auto makers now days. It is sad that they are slowly going extinct. While I don’t drive one now, which I understand adds to why they aren’t being made, I had three in the past that I loved. Not only that but my dream car is a sedan and I have a list of sedans I’d like to own.

My dream car is a second generation Cadillac CTS-V. I remember an advertisement calling it a “tuxedo with jet pack.” I have always thought of myself in that way and I believe that car fits me and my personality. I’d take any generation of a CTS-V, and if possible, I’d like to own one each of the three generations. And, while the CTS-V did come in a coupe form in the second generation, I want the sedan.

Another sedan I’d like to own is a Ford Taurus SHO. I got to ride in a fourth generation SHO that my coworker had. It was a great car. It is a big, sort of bulky car, but the SHO nameplate is iconic. I would be happy with any generation, but the fourth generation would be preferable. Then again, if I could have one of each, I’d go with that too.

The newest one to join the list is an Alpha Romeo Julia. It looks great, it sounds amazing, and to me, seems to be an all around worthy sedan. Since it is a little bit of FCA with some Italian flare, I would imagine reliability is not fantastic. That is hard to because since it is new, deprecation will tank these cars new. But, I am a fan of used cars, so I would probably take the risk.

Oddly enough, I have three cars from GM, Ford, and FCA on this list, which wasn’t quite intentional, but it’s funny to notice. I do know that most of these…if not all, are performance sedans. My honorable mention list is long and I wouldn’t mind owning any of the following sedans. A Dodge Charger, Pontiac G8, Chevy SS, Jaguar XE, Maserati Quattroporte, BMW M5 and the M3 sedan, Lexus IS F, Porsche Panamera, oh man, a Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 sedan, at this point I’ll even go with a Toyota Avalon TRD, just to name a few. Goodness, the list can go on and on. A good rule of thumb is, if it is a performance sedan, I like it and it is on my list.

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.

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.

All Cars Look the Same

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Lately, consumers might have noticed that all cars, more specifically the ever increasingly popular SUV’s and CUV’s, all look the same. The graphic above is a wonderful illustration of that point. There are two reasons why this trend is beginning to take place.

First, manufacturers have invested incredible amounts of money on studies and research to figure out what consumers find aesthetically appealing. Automotive companies send representatives to design conferences to learn currently and what will be fashionable and trendy. Things like colors, fabrics, shapes, designs, and even smells and sounds, are all worked on years before they start to trend. What we see on the road today is a product of 3-5 years worth of research, data, and design foresight.

Due to that research investment, they know what consumers will buy. As with any business, manufacturers have to make things consumers want in order to continue to operate and make a profit. Consumers speak with their money and it is very clear, they want SUV’s and CUV’s regardless of how similar they all look.

Second, the strict fuel economy standards and safety standards, really begin to dictate how a vehicle will look. In order to achieve these benchmarks, designs to reduce drag coefficients are a leading supplemental way to meet the fuel economy standards. Angles, edgy creases, and deep concentration on airflow management all result in better fuel economy, but also begin to produce the same results in designs. The best example of this is airplanes. To an untrained eye, there are very few differences in airplane design.

Whether or not one thinks that manufacturers are just simply creating similar looking products to force consumers to accept what is being built and that they are limited by the designs in the choices of products available, that is an acknowledged hypothesis. However, many jobs and lively hoods, possibly even your own, hinge on the sales of vehicles, so it is hard for a company to take a risk on different designs. Consumers would need to reward risk with dollars and that is a challenging task to accomplish.

Give it time and new trends will start to emerge. Remember, what we see now was foresighted to trend a few years prior. Designs will change and uniqueness will find it’s way back into the automotive industry.

Oh, what a show!

Over the weekend my wife and I went to a car show hosted by ODMA at the Founders Inn in Virginia Beach. The weather was warm and comfortable. The overcast skies provided superior conditions for photo taking. The cars ranged greatly in make, model, and year, the oldest in attendance of which we believe was a 1909 Franklin.

That was the particularly interesting part to me. It is nice attending car shows with such a variance in age of vehicles. There were many pre-war cars in attendance. They are always a pleasure to see.

Not only was the large attendance of pre-war cars interesting to me, but also the incredible kindness by the owners of the vehicles. Never have I been to a show where people have been so friendly and enthusiastic about sharing their car. My wife, beautiful as always, looked like a southern belle and was offered many times to sit in vehicles to get her picture taken. She basked in the attention and experience and I was one incredibly proud husband.

We enjoyed ourselves very much at the show. It was a unique and rare experience and I am so glad that people in the car culture world have such warm welcomes to strangers. My wife and I are looking forward to more car shows this year, and certainly for the return of this show next year!

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My wife in what we believe was the oldest car at the show, a 1909 Franklin.

 

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My wife in her favorite car at the show, a 1966 Ford Mustang convertible.

The Lamborghini Lament

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When Lamborghini first rumored they were going to be building a new SUV, I was super excited. I remembered the first one they made, the LM002, and what an outlandish, absurd, and over the top vehicle it was. It was a brutish vehicle that looked like it was in the military reserves one weekend a month, two weeks out of the year. It then would practice law by day, and shuffle the family from horse riding lessons and ballet at night. It was amazing. At least, it has become that iconic to me. I have never driven it but, I guess, I just have this perception, this expectation of what it is.

So when they released the Urus, I was a bit taken aback. That was not the SUV I was envisioning. Now, I know it has not been tested yet. I know that when they conceived this vehicle, they did not know that Ford would be rumoring the return of the Bronco, or that Jeep would be rumoring the return of the Grand Wagoneer. All the big players in the off road game, like Hummer, Land Rover, Jeep, Mercedes G Class, Lexus, and the Ford Raptor should have been worried. The more luxurious ones and soon to be ones, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Maserati should have taken note. Instead, they made something that looks like “an urban mom” would drive, as my wife described.

Harken back farther than the 80s and you’ll remember that Lamborghini made tractors before it made sports cars. Yes, that’s right tractors. In fact, they still make tractors. With all those years of agricultural earth crawling and hauling knowledge, why could they not have applied that to a new SUV? They could have made it rugged, rambunctious, and ridiculous. They have all the right ingredients to make something fast, powerful, and luxurious. It would have been beyond capable, practically at home, off road, to outperform the competition in every conceivable way.

I really wanted the Lamborghini SUV to be a gorilla in a tuxedo. A big, bulky, but surprisingly good looking sight that you can’t take your eyes off of because it is just…bewildering. Its performance would be as obnoxious as expected, but with enough charm that you can’t blame it. These are all qualities that I think are in the lineage of the company and were expressed in the LM002.

Maybe I will put a poster up on my wall like many kids did back in the day with their dream cars. This time, the poster will just be filled with words. Words about a car, because it only exists in my dreams.

I Shed A Little “Light” On The Subject

An interesting story in the automotive news world recently has been the issue over headlights. While the story has currently been on many automotive sites, I first read about it on Yahoo, and in any case, many seemed to make this issue seem very recent. However, after looking into it, the issue was actually started much further back, as  you can read in an article here that was written in February 2013 about it.

Audi has introduced “matrix LED” headlights to the world, which in short, is an advanced headlight with the ability to turn corners and automatically brighten or dim to properly illuminate the drivers view. The problem with this new system is that a United States law from 1968 says that there can only be two setting for headlights, high and low, thus, prohibiting the “matrix LED” from being on a vehicle sold in the US. Our friends in Europe will be able to enjoy Audi’s “bright” idea on their vehicles. I did do a little digging, and found what I believe is the law that states the high low beam issue. The more interesting thing to note is that before I found what I believe is the law, I am became much more aware of all the issues at hand.

One such issue is that due to the government and private sector being so distant from one another in advancement of technology, and the inability to communicate to one another about such technology; that in turn causes the government to cautiously proceed when they do not understand and cannot properly define or regulate certain technologies. That is one issue in this headlight ordeal.

Another is the overall American automotive headlight laws and regulations in general. Each state has their own laws and rules, which obviously must first adhere to the national laws. This is where I see a problem.

The problem is that not all headlights are created equal. We have all seen the cars equipped with the xenon headlights. Those emit a much different light that standard headlights. The sheer difference in light emitted by all sorts of headlights on cars on the road is really not a good case for the government to claim cars can only have two settings. Sure you can have a “high” and a “low” but the light emitted in those settings can vary from bulb to bulb and vehicle to vehicle. From what I understand, “matrix LED” equalizes what each car emits because it is senses the light surrounding your car. That would be much more beneficial to all drivers.

We have all come across a driver who has forgotten to turn off their brights. That can be unpleasant and sometimes it results in an accident. “Matrix LED” would eliminate that because it would dim for you. However, it is also fair to point out that, a system like this can be distracting and unpleasant as well. The ability for lights to change on their own in fractions of seconds could result in distracted driving in the same manner as our current method of headlight change, human error.

I can see the pros and cons of the issue. I understand both the government and the auto makers side of things. I also understand the consumer side. There are so many factors and opinions that can be weighed and expressed. Feel free to let me know what you think.