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?

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?

Dyson Ditched Car Making

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2 and a half years later, my shirt is the same but my prediction was completely wrong.

Two and a half years ago, there were reports that Dyson was going to be working on an electric vehicle. I made a video and a blog on September 28th, 2017 where I covered the topic briefly and predicted that Dyson would have a concept on the road before a Tesla semi would be on the road. That was one terrible prediction on my part. Tesla 1, Brentton 0.

Autoweek ran an article recently that explained how the founder of Dyson spent $609 million of his own money on the electric car project, only to find out that in order to simply break even, the car would have to be sold for $180,000. If this isn’t proof that profitability in transportation and mobility services is almost near impossible, I don’t know what more you could ask for.

While I am sad that Dyson abandoned the project, and let me down on my prediction, I can also understand and respect the choice. I want to step out of the auto industry for just a moment to provide an example of high cost, low profit projects. Recently, my wife has been looking into creating a point and click video game for PC and mobile. When you add up the cost of software, talent (if you can’t do everything yourself), time, materials, a somewhat simple game can start off anywhere from 3 to 5 thousand dollars to make. People pay for quality games. In order to turn a profit, we would most likely have to sell the game for $10 which might price out our audience. If we sold it at a $1, we would need to sell over 10,000 copies to turn some small profit. We don’t know if we have an audience that large. So, after counting up all the associated costs, and estimating and understanding the industry a little more, it is not surprising that large game studios spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a top tier game, like The Last of Us or Forza or Fifa. Then, in order to make any sort of profit, there is a reason those games are nearly $80 at launch, even with the quantities they sell them in. The cost to produce video games is an upfront, staggering cost.

Hopefully that will help shed light on just how hard it is for these EV automotive start-up companies to produce a product. The industry is cut throat and expensive. No one works for free. If you can’t turn a profit you won’t stay in business. And for what it is worth, Tesla is barely profitable. Elon can get an Eskimo to buy ice in the arctic and has had investors pour millions into Tesla. If everyone wanted their return on investment right now, the company would cease to exist.

Is the Ford Bronco Back Yet?

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A few of the diecast Broncos in my ownership have seen better days. The same could be said for the yet to be debuted new Bronco.

With this week seeming to be Ford week on my blog, I want to cover the topic of the Ford Bronco. This vehicle is legendary in name and has been anticipated for years. But will uncontrollable circumstances cause us all to wait even longer? Hopefully not.

While the truck and SUV market is heating up, especially for older, iconic versions of those vehicles, the Bronco nameplate is one of the leading vehicles in that segment. Since Ford is putting all of their manufacturing into those types of vehicles, it is no surprise that they are bringing back the Bronco.

They have rumored this for a long time now, somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 years ago. I can understand how long it takes to produce a good product, which I’m sure Ford will make when the next, new generation Bronco is finally revealed, but I won’t lie. It really deflates anticipation and excitement for it when we have seen concepts and rumors for 6 years.

According to Ford, their timeline was to finally show the public the kicking pony in the spring of 2020. They have a website dedicated to this here. Of course now that the time has come, a worldwide pandemic just had to come about which could potentially ruin everything. I know Ford does not want another botched product release like the Explorer and they have put personnel in place to prevent that. Sadly, they couldn’t predict a global catastrophe that would ruin their long in the tooth official debut. Will they go through with the global launch? Only time will tell, but spring is over at 11:59 PM Friday, June 19, 2020. The clock is ticking.

 

Pass the Blue Oval: Collect $20

Our 2012 Ford Focus
This is my wife and I’s 2012 Ford Focus.

Ford just cannot catch a break. Following up from my last blog, between the decision to make only trucks and SUVs, a worldwide pandemic, a damaged parts supplier factory, office member shake ups, the fifth and final issues that will be the focus (pun intended) of this blog is a lawsuit for an issue spanning almost 8 years. This is going to be a very rough 2020 for the big blue oval.

Ford was praised for not taking a government bailout during the 2009 recession. While that was a good thing, and I am supportive of that decision, I think it made them lean in product forecasting and ignorant in mechanical reliability. While they were trying to make good financial decisions, it blinded them to what was coming, which will ultimately end up costing them. The worst part is, you get what you pay for.

Starting in 2011, Ford released the third generation Focus, which lasted until 2018. However, the models made from 2012 to 2016 had a major issue with their transmissions which included shuddering, stuttering, weak acceleration, inability to start or randomly shutting down, among other things. I am the second owner of a 2012 Ford Focus and have personal experience with these issues. The issues started almost immediately after customers purchased the cars back in 2012 and after a number of years, it came out that Ford knew about the issue and was not exactly willing to correct it.

That has lead to a major lawsuit and where customers who have owned or currently own a Ford Focus from 2012 to 2016 have sued Ford for knowingly continued to sell a faulty product. The minimum amount Ford has to pay is $30 million and they have already paid $47 million to some Focus and Fiesta owners up until this point. $77 million dollars is a lot of money, but again, that is the least amount they must pay. When the dust settles, they could be on the hook for as much as $450 million according to some analysts. When it comes down to it, any Ford Focus owner past or present, that meet some pretty minimal criteria, can get at minimum, $20 from Ford. I’ll take a free tank of gas, thank you very much! Some may qualify to have their Focus or Fiesta bought back entirely, which is not cheap. It will be interesting to see what the amount will finally add up to when all is said and done.

That is a big black eye to Fords already hurting circumstances. As I outlined in the last blog, their focus on trucks is an all in bet that there is no going back on. When you look back on 2010, you would have thought they would have invested their money on a better functioning, critical mechanical component of the car. But, they probably didn’t want to spend the money trying to fix it and went years just hoping no legal action would be taken. They made bad parts and made bad decisions, and now they are paying for it. To add insult to injury, they don’t even make that vehicle anymore and yet it has become a pebble in the shoe of their move to trucks and SUV’s plan. Loosing all that money on a car that you no longer make is rough. However, Ford has always found freedom in their F-150, so let’s hope that doesn’t fail them this time around.

*Just to note this lawsuit is not just for the 2012-2016 Ford Focus. It also includes the 2011-2016 Ford Fiesta as well.

Ford for all the Marbles

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Last year Ford announced they would no longer be producing compact, small, mid-size, and large cars. They were changing their long term plan to only produce cross over, SUVs, and pickup trucks. Not long after that announcement, the electric Mach E Mustang was introduced, and that vehicle seems to be the kick off of a new large vehicle line up.

But, this plan might be in serious peril before it even gets started. Let’s break down a few elements that might make Ford’s plan very challenging. Many of these things can change quickly though, as they all are very recent themselves in some regard, so this is my opinion and speculation.

First, the world wide COVID-19 pandemic is absolutely destroying the global economy. Auto manufacturers are taking a beating and sales are almost non existent. With people out of work, it makes it hard to entice people to buy a shiny new expensive pickup truck.

Second, the factory that supplies parts for Ford, Ram, and Toyota trucks was recently damaged by a tornado. While this will hurt Ram and Toyota as well, it made most headlines as interrupting Ford’s production. Since Ford’s entire lineup is mostly large trucks and SUVs and the parts supplier that provides the transmissions for those vehicles is damaged, all the eggs are in one basket and about to break.

Third, oil prices are deep in the red in trading value. While that is great for consumers because prices at the pump are very low, this unfortunately isn’t the time to take advantage of it. A thirsty F-150 can be filled for cheap at the moment, but with all shelter in place guidelines and people out of work, it is unlikely that people are going to be wanting a vehicle that is expensive to fill up in the future.

Fourth; very recently Ford announced that they are wanting to achieve 10 percent profit margins, even through this current circumstances. They have placed Lisa Drake in charge to accomplish that goal. She was in charge of the 2004 launch of the 11th generation F-150. That particular skill is what they are desiring her to perform on because she is also tasked her with increasing awareness of new products being launched, something Ford has struggled with for the past few years. Most notable the newest Ford Explorer botched release.

The next blog will be about the fifth and final blow to the Ford fiasco that is brewing. But with all the issues mentioned above, Ford has put all their chips on the table. SUV’s and trucks that with gas prices low but a worldwide pandemic not facilitating using those vehicles, a damaged factory, and the need to produce and profit within all of these circumstances, it is going to be a tough year for the automotive industry in general but I think Ford will really be feeling a pinch. Although Ford has weathered a lot over the years, so I should stop being so negative. The American spirit will prevail.

 

Tow Trucks: Tough as Nails

This blog is full automotiveness. And honestly, if there are hero’s of the automotive world, its tow trucks, semis, and any other heavy duty vehicle and especially those who operate them.

 

Tow trucks fascinate me. There is just something about them that makes me want to cry out “That thing is so BA!” The sheer size and ability of them, especially the rotators, is like a Clydesdale that can perform dental surgery.

 

I’ve always had a fascination with them. It probably came from my dads side of the family. My great grandpa, who I never knew, used to drive trucks from the 30’s through the 60’s and around the 40’s purchased a junk yard and drove a tow trucks. My grandpa, he drove ¼ and ½ ton trucks in the military. I am so thankful I caught that bug…eh trait from them. One of my favorite books as a child was “How Many Tow Trucks Can A Tow Truck Tow?” J I want to get my CDL someday, hopefully sooner rather than later.

 

Knowing those roots, the flame only got bigger when SPEED channel debuted “Wrecked” in 2008. Those guys from O’Hare Towing in Chicago and their pristine white and green towing machines, I was absolutely glued to the screen. Up-righting an overturned semi, moving a bridge, towing one of the largest mobile cranes in Chicago, it was all in a days work for those guys.

 

Because of that show I have set a goal to own a rotator. I have searched Ebay Motors high and low, wishing one of them would get in my price range.

 

Today I was watching SPEED, and their new series “American Trucker” came on. The episode featured Diamond Heavy Haul Inc. A huge heavy haul company based in Ohio (yay Ohio! I’m originally from there!) that specializes in moving the heaviest of the heavy. More like gargantuan things. Those trucks, and the people who drive them…absolutely tough as nails in my mind, and freaking brilliant. The sheer logistics that go into one of those hauls; just blows my mind. Absolutely addicting!

 

Tow trucks, heavy hauls, and brilliant people. That sounds like a recipe for success to me! Hopefully someday I’ll get to that point!

 

A Proportionate Problem

Something I have always struggled with as far as automotive design goes is the use of un-proportionate parts/designs etc. It drives me nuts. Whether it be to big a spoiler, not big enough spoiler, side grilles with no purpose and horrible lines, headlights that are just ugly looking because they are too big or small, the list could go on and on.

Today I saw a picture of a Ram that made me really think. The truck is MASSIVE, and its ride height is incredibly high, yet with such a beastly truck, there was one thing that looked incredibly out of place, incredibly un-proportionate. The tires. Why does such an aggressive vehicle deserve such lil un-proportionate tires? I understand that there has to be fender clearance if it is loaded down, however, the ride height is so great, it really makes me wonder, even with a weighted back end, how low is that thing going to go? If it were to clear all that space, that would raise two problems, one, that’s probably WAY too much weight, and two, that would cause the nose to be so dang high, you wouldn’t have any real good maneuverability or sight line. So, this insignificant problem, my observance being annoying, thinks that they should increase the tire size of vehicles like this. It would make it look much more proportional.