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.

Crossing the Country Really Fast

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The subject of Cannonball has been incredibly popular in the last few weeks. Prior to that, it had been somewhat of a novel automotive hobby that was starting to gain popularity again thanks to Ed Bolian and VINwiki and the “fraternity of lunatics.”

Recently, the solo cannonball record fell, which, surprisingly enough, beat Ed’s record run that had lasted up until November 2019. Then during the pandemic, many attempts were made and the record just kept getting lower and lower. A point could be made that the pandemic made it easier to cross the country from the Red Ball parking garage in New York City to the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach, California. Maybe there should be a separate record category for the pandemic runs? I was curious to know what Ed would think, since he seems to be the face of all of this. He described in a video that the situation is different than it was before the pandemic and there is some controversy among those in the activity, but this isn’t exactly an activity with defined rules.

With that said, back to the solo cannonball run. It was done in a rented Ford Mustang that was modified to hold 3 fuel tanks in the cabin of the car. The driver only had to stop for 8 minutes to get fuel. And this is what I started to ponder, could those 8 minutes be eliminated with on the move refueling?

BMW created a system to refuel a car while moving when they attempted the longest drift record. It looks similar to the way aircraft refuel in flight. If this system was applied to cannonball, where you could get a lighter, faster, (electronic speed limiter turned off), and covert car that gobbles up ground quickly, it would be a very serious record breaking run.

Why Four Door?

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These are two of the four sedans that I have owned.

Growing up I really liked the BMW 3 series, specifically the sedan. I also liked the 5 series and while walking home from school everyday in 7th grade, which was around 2001, I would pass a BMW M5 that was parked in front of a local furniture store. A Volvo S60 was also parked there on the days the M5 wasn’t there and I’ll have another blog with reference to that in the future. But, the styling of the BMW with the four headlights, muscular and toned panels, and accurate proportions appealed to me as the utmost perfection in sedan design. It was also and incredible performing vehicle and as their slogan said back then, it was the “ultimate driving machine.”

I have mentioned a few cars, sedans specifically, that I grew up with a keen eye for. Knowing I probably couldn’t afford a BMW, which I couldn’t, I tried to reason with myself that maybe I could get my parents to buy me something that looked like it. The Mitsubishi Diamante was one of those cars. It has the four headlights up front, stylish body work, and great proportions.

The second car around 2001 that fit the bill was a Lincoln LS. Again, four headlights, luxurious yet sporty looking, and it had a complementing stance with proper ratios. Someone who attended the church my family went to had one, and it was always a delight pulling into the parking lot on Sunday morning and seeing that awesome silver sedan.

I was never able to convince my parents to get me any of those cars by the time I was able to drive. I was never able to save up to buy anything myself either. But, it these cars were iconic to me and to this day, I believe they fit my personality very well. They are still some of the most wonderfully designed cars in my opinion.

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.

Diamonds are Memorable

1991_mitsubishi_diamante_awd_15643306405f29eab084bDiamante1-940x627
This car is similar to that of the person I knew who owned one, except this is a right hand drive and has stock rims. This one was recently for sale by Bullet Motorsports. Diamante means diamond in Spanish/Italian/Portuguese.

Thinking back to my last blog about the Porsche 944 got me thinking of the car that I really wanted back in high school. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the most memorable diamond ever; a first-generation Mitsubishi Diamante. (Diamante means diamond) It was owned by a popular upperclassman who I never really spoke to. He never knew how cool I thought he was in that loaded, black Diamante with 5 spoke rims.

Back in 2005, BMW’s were out of my price range, and they still are. While I still couldn’t afford a Diamante, it was cheaper and gave me hope with looks similar to a BMW. Sedans have always been the vehicle that I believe suits me best, especially performance sedans. While the Diamante is not exactly a performer, it looks great and was quite luxurious for its time.

Currently, the interest in Diamantes is growing. I seem to be more than a decade ahead of my time in cars that are part of the in-crowd. I’m alright with that though. Eventually I might be able to buy a car before it gets popular. If my memory serves me correctly, the exact Diamante that the upperclassman had was for sale a few years after he graduated. I still wasn’t able to purchase it but I really am curious to know what happened to it. It is still one of the most memorable cars of all time to me.

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.

 

Up the game

I wonder why companies now days are taking their lower brands/models and tweaking them to almost out do their upper brands/models? Take for example the Corvette ZO6 and the ZR1. This article will explain my point. http://www.autoblog.com/2011/06/23/2012-chevrolet-corvette-z06-laps-the-ring-in-7-22-68-shaves-20/

One of the other companies I can think of off hand is BMW. Why they seem to neglect the M3 is beyond me. They come up with all these innovations, these new models, concepts, and the incredibly impressive 2012 M5, and yet the M3 is left to sulk in what little reputation it has left. Car companies, you really need to cherish what you have. Up your game with your models that are known for it.

We The People…who own cars

Dear Car Companies,

We the people realize that you design and build cars for a living. We highly appreciate your talent and dedication to your craft because without you, about 98 percent of us would still be walking to the Seven Eleven down the block.

We recognize that you have been in this business a long time and have a built some pretty incredible machines. However, times are changing and we would like to tell you something. May we ask you for your attention for just a moment.

You have done pretty well thus far feeding us vehicles that we think we need. Actually, it is more like vehicles you think we need. However, you would be lying to yourself if you think you are giving us what we want.

As a person myself, I am taking the role of ambassador to relay important information. I will give you things that we the people are looking for in a car. We want vehicles with incredibly, let me rephrase that, RIDICULOUSLY good gas mileage. But you can’t just give us that, because up until this point, the ones that have done so, have looked like crap. Sorry.

We want the cars to look good, like something you’d buy at Tiffany’s, not the jewelry center at as Wal-Mart. Cheap imitation isn’t going to cut it anymore. We are smart, and can pick out the imposter a mile away. I promise, if you can deliver, we will pay.

A third thing we want is practicality. Don’t give us a seven passenger vehicle if really the only people who could fit in the back seats are children. If you say seven adults comfortably, prove it. Pick-up trucks, vans, cars; get people to drive them to tell you what is practical so you don’t have to guess. If you are right the first time, you don’t have to come up with some lame excuse for a cheap imposter vehicle.

Lastly, we want performance. There are only 24 hours in a day, so the fastest way we can get to 60 miles an hour, or more, is important. A smooth ride and great handling are critical because roads and traffic are terrible now days and we have to be able to dodge a bump, or take one, and the car has to last. Here’s an idea. Start with a race car, add the previous elements of gas mileage, looks, and practicality, and still end up with a race car. Done, walk away.

And, as a side note, don’t name these wonderful machines absurd names. Really think about what it is you have created and name it appropriately. If you have any questions, consult us. You can reach us on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or any other online social network known to man. But listen to what we are saying back to you, seriously. We can easily start walking to the Seven Eleven down the street.

Sincerely,

We the People