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

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.

Weighing In

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After watching the Netflix documentary Formula 1 Drive To Survive, I became a casual fan of Esteban Ocon. Wanting to learn more about him, I did some Googling and found out that he isn’t in a car for the 2019 season, and that he is apparently going to “transform” himself to try to get a ride for next year. This had me perplexed, so I kept digging.

The reported issue is that Esteban needs to work on his physical attributes, specifically his weight, in order to better his chances of achieving a full-time driver position. According to the 2019 Formula 1 rules package, the car with the driver must weigh in at 740kg, or roughly 1,631 pounds. Then, separately, the car must weigh in at 660kg  (1,455 lbs) allowing a driver to weigh anywhere up to 80kg (176 lbs). Any less than 80kg and the teams can put in ballast weight to bring the car to full combined mass.
*Moving forward height and weight will be in inches and pounds.

Esteban is the tallest driver in Formula 1 at 6’1″ and weighs in at 145 lbs. According to BMI charts, that is underweight. While it is safe to consider Formula 1 drivers to be some of the most physically fit athletes in the world, defining personal physical health and safety has to be left respectively up to the individual. The fact that Esteban might have to cut more weight (he has already done so before the 2017 season) in order to compete against the other drivers, might be a hard thing for fans to watch.

I can relate to Esteban. I am 6’4″ and currently 233 lbs. Three years ago, I weighed in at 180 lbs, and personally, felt I was at a physical peak. Yet, many people thought I looked too thin and not healthy. Surprisingly, for my height and weight at the time, I was smack in the middle of a healthy zone according to BMI charts. Now, at 233 lbs, my BMI is considered overweight and my body reminds me often that physical tasks are not as easy as they once were. Yet, people tell me I look healthy and I don’t look overweight.

Everyone is different and physical fitness is something that only each individual person can determine, but the scientific generalities are a good start though to get everyone in sync with how to determine and define physical fitness. I support BMI charts and eating healthy and exercising. Hopefully, those general tools can be interpreted and understood better by all, in order to understand each person’s best physical fitness.

 

 

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.

Maybach may not be back

Report: Maybach to get facelift in Beijing before brand gets the axe

If a recent report out of the UK is to be believed, Maybach is set to get the axe in the very near future. However, as a last hurrah, all three models from the ultra-luxury division of Mercedes-Benz (57, 62 and Landaulet) will receive facelifts this year. The last round of top-zoot Maybachs will debut in late April at the Beijing Motor Show. Expect the changes to the lineup to be very minor – new grilles and LED lights should be about the only differences from the sedans currently on sale.

So, why kill off Maybach? Ever since the brand was resurrected in 2002, it has suffered from very slow sales. Not surprising, considering the high price tags, comparatively low content levels and the hard financial times the world has fallen on in recent years. Furthermore, parent company Mercedes-Benz has big plans to expand the S-Class range, which includes adding more upmarket versions which should fill the void of Maybach’s current offerings. Look for the new S-Class to arrive in 2014, along with a fully updated version of the R-Class people-mover, as well.

Steven J. Ewing article found on Autoblog

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I first came across Maybach around my sophomore year of high school when I found one for sale on Ebay motors in the miscellaneous cars category. I thought initially, “holy crap! Why is this thing so expensive?!” After some brief reading and browsing of photos of this massive land luxury vehicle on a golf course, I found out why.

I instantly had an inclination that it was Mercedes related, simply by design. Finding out I was correct on that, I was now pleased to be exposed to a new vehicle!

So, over the past few years, I have stopped browsing Ebay motors, and realized that Maybach is not in the news much. Until I come across an article like this.

Hmmm…will I be sad that Maybach is gone? To be honest, yes. Especially with Bugatti coming out with their new exotic luxury sedan, even though technically, Bugatti and Maybach are nowhere near in comparison except possibly in price.

I do think that the “exotic” part of Maybach is possibly part of the reason of why it will not continue within the next few years. With Aston Martin, Porsche, and soon to be Lamborghini and Bugatti all playing around with exotic sports sedans, Maybach has no performance as much to match what these vehicles can do.

But even if you put it in a realm that it would compete in. Rolls Royce and Bentley have long set the standard for ultra luxury sedans. With such a limited number of vehicles and a less known name plate, Maybach has had an uphill battle since its rebirth. However, it will be sad to see it go, simply because it was one more vehicle that added to the finer things of life.

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