No. 992
April 17, 2019

Follow Autoextremist





Editors' Note: If you have a comment, please include your name or initials (AND YOUR HOMETOWN TOO, PLEASE). We do not print email addresses. If you want to read previous issues, click on "Next Entry" on the bottom of each section (we do not save emails from previous issues, however). Thank you. -WG


Panic in Detroit.

Or, "The Motor City Is Burning" (John Lee Hooker), is more like it.  Although Rob Tyner (MC5) certainly did it justice. They say that during World War II, only 6% of the people in the military actually fought. That pretty much sums up what I saw during my decades in the automotive business. About 6% did all of the work. Unfortunately, the Big 3 always depended on a robust "contract" design pool of people that gravitated to Detroit to not only design cars, but to also make money. At the end off the day, the automotive business just doesn't exist without parts. The Big 3 were satisfied with staffs that managed the work being done outside. That's where the 6% that did the work were. Now they have staffs that manage the work being done in other countries because it was too expensive to do the work "outside" in Detroit. Once again, we have a problem with the mathematics. If only 6% were doing the work here in Detroit, how many people does it take to replace them with engineering centers in other countries where chances are, the "automotive" engineers don't drive? I have been there. Its a reality. Here is another reality. Sales. If you cannot offer a wide range of platforms, you simply won't exist for long. First you implode and then you explode. Right now, none offer the range of choices that can weather changes in consumer demand. As gas prices go up, people will demand more economically priced vehicles. And really, most consumers don't really care about headlight packages that cost $2500 per corner. Or 11" screens for that matter. And I don't know anyone that is dumb enough to trust a computer to drive them along at 70. Not to burst any of the futurists bubbles, I can't use the navigation on my 2006 Volvo because the DVD is out of date and they don't make a replacement. Try that with your batteries. Now, the facts are the facts. I do not believe that the formerly big 3 have the capacity to, or will ever bring out any type of "autonomous vehicle" that will be sold to the mass public and that will be purchased at numbers to make a viable return on investment. Not only that, I don't believe that the formerly big 3 have the capacity to come up with viable business models that can keep them solvent through the upcoming drastic changes in consumerism and our economy. If anything, Apple has proven that the price point for technology in America is about $300 per month for phone and service. The price point for cars is the same. That means that cars that are priced at about $20,000 are the ones that they will sell the most of providing they are dependable and cool and can go anywhere, anytime. I just don't see the 6% pulling it off, that why its "Panic in Detroit"...

Highland Park, Michigan


From "The Genius" File.

Thank you for continuing to tell the truth about Jim Farley. This was the guy who Ford hired on the basis on the two minutes of glory that Scion enjoyed. Can anyone think of one successful product contribution Farley has made to Ford in his eleven years there? Ford of Europe, once the company's backbone in tough times, is now a hulking disaster. That Farley wasn't shown the door with "Markie the Mullet" Fields is a testament to Bill Ford's inability to judge talent or make any decisions without the family-led Board breathing down his neck.

Brooklyn, New York

Confronting the addiction.

Regarding "Electrified Nannys", I welcome a quick and easy software fix applied to Smart phones. This could  solve the distracted driving epidemic in one quick swoop. Self regulation, tougher laws and Distracted Driving Awareness Month are lame attempts that just won't fix the problem. People are kidding themselves. Everybody seems to want safer roads but most people don't want to change their habits. Smart phones are an addiction for many. Make phones inoperable at vehicle speed except for any valuable safety features like a call to 911.

Frank S.
Rochester, Michigan


The times they are a changin', Part I.

The Autoextremist said: “multi-million-dollar “hypercars” that have little rhyme or reason for being, except to be the new, quintessential definition of swingin’ dick-ism in this business.”

At risk of having my gearhead card revoked, I’ve often felt that sentence equally applied if you changed the “multi-million dollar hypercars” part to “300+ horsepower sedan/SUV/hatch”.

So hear me out:  my entire adult life, and even more so my children’s lives, has been spent under the alarming crescendo of Looming Global Catastrophe in the specter of climate change, finite energy resources, exploited labor, etc., etc., etc. Cars - as Europe, cities, and many many more people seem to think - are an evil con we foisted upon ourselves. And maybe inasmuch as it comes to the commuting and A-to-B grind, it’s true: that part sucks. See the other side of the “evil con” coin: a “future of mobility” that solves the issue… maybe? Hopefully?    

But 95% of the driving we do - even as enthusiasts - is a forced A-to-B routine in a shared environment of community resources with laws and regulations for the common well-being of all. So then I think of my first half-wreck of a car: a ten-year old 1988 T-bird with the lamentable 3.8 good for all of 140HP on paper. But! That car was smooth and comfortable, and had more than sufficient power relative to its time, and its environment of urban slogs and rural interstates.  I drove it all over the entirety of the eastern US, racking up 40K miles in eighteen months, never once feeling unsafe or too slow in power - and occasionally finding trouble (aka “fun”) in spite. Point being: that car did all I ever truly *needed* it to do… all while regularly achieving 31-33mpg. Thirty-one miles-per-gallon in a not-small car then a decade old, engineered and built in the 1980s?!  

So what if that paltry “140HP” - or some other number - was a cap?   Today’s engines are masterpieces, yet we’re constantly told that MPG targets are an enigma. Yet I bet those marvelous 400HP truck engines getting 25mpg would easily double their mileage and halve the emissions if power were cut by half. And so on. 

Yes, the concept of cutting power is anathema to an enthusiast. I get it. But ask yourself, how many Camrys and Highlanders clog up the roads on a daily basis?  Yet have you ever met a Camry driver who NEEDED a 300HP model, or even dare use it?  Or, a Highlander driver you would trust to handle that? In the face of looming pressures here and abroad - few of which are actually new - how much gas and exhaust might have been spared if people were honest about what’s really necessary?  

Unfortunately Dick (and clit) swinging is as old as marketing so we’re told we need 300HP commuter safety pods, and middle fingers to physics in the form of 400HP SUVs. I’m not convinced any of that is necessary. I could be very wrong and I’d say my kids can figure that out, but that’s what my parents told me… meanwhile I’m not sure there’s that much time left…

Oh well, may as well have fun and “hit the swings” (ahem) while you can.  Marketing taught me that much at least.

Tony Lucio
Frankfort, Kentucky

The times they are a changin', Part II.

I want to get upset about limiting top speed but I can’t.  In reality it doesn’t matter as long as there is a way for the enthusiast to turn off the governor temporarily on specific cars, which could easily be accommodated. 99.9999% of car buyers will never know the difference. I know I won’t in my daily driving. While resetting the trip computer after gassing up this morning, I saw my average speed over the last 230 miles was 16.4mph slogging along in Seattle traffic in my supercharged and turbocharged Volvo. The only time I get to use all 316HP is to zip up an on-ramp before I merge into stopped traffic. Then I crawl along with the engine at idle for the next 10 miles. So for most people like me, who cares about 100+mph?

But in a car like a Corvette, if the owner could log in to a website, enter a VIN and be granted, say, 100 miles of nanny-free driving for a track day, that seems like it'd suffice for an enthusiast. It would for me. (As long as I'm not hassled about warranty issues!)  Then the other 99.9999% of the time, if my car got stolen or my kid borrowed it, I'd know it couldn't go more than 100mph.  Seems totally reasonable in the name of safety and fuel economy.

Mill Creek, Washington



The Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition is downright embarrassing.  Manufacturers have long sold paint-and-tape "special editions" at the end of a model's lifetime to try to generate some sales before they finally replace it (Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition: I'm looking at you).  What executive looked at the 370Z 50 Anniversary Edition paint scheme and decided it was good enough?

For me, no Z-car has caught the magic of the original 240Z, but this version is particularly pathetic.

Boston, Massachusetts

Editor-in-Chief's Note: I concur. -PMD


Not. Very. Good.

I just spent an hour at the doctors office and perused the mags in the waiting room. (I haven't bought them in years and used to have subscriptions to no less than three at a time.) The verdict? The car business doesn't want me. Electric cars? (Useless to a guy in an urban environment with street parking.) Self-driving cars? (Soul crushing.) And six-figure (and up) hyper cars that would give Andretti pause and that will soon be wrapped around a pole near your friendly neighborhood multi millionaire?

We're not going to a bold new future, we're going back to the dawn of the automobile (circa 1900?) where the Rockefellers, Carnegies and Vanderbilts ride around in multi-million dollar horseless carriages. And the rest of us? We get to shovel the shit from the street.

These new Hypercars? Will they have speed limiters? I look to places like the D.C. Beltway where millions of dollars were spent building an exclusive HOV lane (now a toll lane). Is it crazy to envision at some point that road will someday be reserved exclusively for "our betters"? While the rest of us are limited to 115 (hah! If they can do that they can cut it back to 55) in gridlock?

It's sad.

Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania


The Cadillac CT-5.

Even after days and nights... sleeping on it... looking again and again... trying to like it...

I just cant...

What in the hell?  How in the hell?  Most importantly - Who in the hell?

Atlanta, Georgia


Nannies run amuck.

What people from the 1960s & 70s want:
1. Smooth, powerful engine.
2. Fun to drive.
3. Sporty appearance.
4. Good brakes.
5. Seats that support spirited driving.
6. Speed - whatever the vehicle will do.

What new era people want:
1. Who cares about power? I don't want it to spill my coffee as it takes me to work.
2. Drive? I'm not driving the damn thing, it has computers to do that.
3. I don't care what it looks like as long as it gets me back and forth.
4. Don't let it slow down too fast except when one of those dinosaur drivers gets in my way.
5. Comfortable seats, yeah. I might like to take a nap.
6. Please limit my vehicle's speed. I want to be in the way and I want everyone else on the road with me driving the speed limit also.  Safer!

I'm a baby boomer and I want to drive my vehicle and enjoy it.  The nannies of the world are trying to take that away from me.

Mustang, Oklahoma


He'll stick with the GT.

You are spot on with the Focus RS vs. Mustang EcoBoost. Two totally different cars going after two totally different buyers. Ford seems to think that they can kill a model and those buyers will automatically gravitate towards something totally different in their line-up. Example being them discontinuing cars with the “Hope” those car people will buy an SUV. Anyway, to the Mustang. It’s a phenomenal car with great lines and best in its history interior. My beef is the price. This new Mustang Eco RS sounds great, but it’s going to cost a lot. I’m old enough to remember the Fox Body SVOs. A great car but not a 5-liter GT. The SVO only lasted three years because buyers wanted cheap performance. Given the choice of the EcoBoost and a base model GT, I’m going with the GT every time.

Plymouth, Michigan


Audi disappoints.

So the Audi Q3 is going to have a 2-liter turbo with a 0-60 time of 7 seconds. Big deal. Once again the North American market gets left out of the good stuff. The Golf R has over 300 HP and the engine would be an easy fit in the Q3. And Europe is rumored to be getting the 5-cylinder turbo with lots of power. I guess I will just have to keep my GTI a little longer, or look at other performance offerings in the Q3 segment (Ford?). Come on Audi, step up to the plate here.

Rochester, Michigan


Ford's strategic boneheaded-ness.

The lamentable effort at converting Focus RS customers into Mustang customers by installing a similar tweaked up 4banger up front just shows how little they get it. Turn this on its head, imagine a world where Mustang was discontinued in the USA; how many Mustang buyers would be picking up a Focus if they installed the 5.0 V8 upfront. Answer? None. These are two very different cars, albeit at similar price points. One is a high tech do-everything euro rally weapon, and one is a heritage coupe all about sound, style and burning 11s.

This exercise demonstrates the fall out from the desperate acts of the Hackett regime, with their ‘we get it’ genuflecting to wall street while chopping all passenger cars in the US market. Never mind that the next Focus was already done by then, engineered for the US as well as Europe just like the last one. Never mind that very profitable enthusiast niches like the ST and RS versions had been mined out. Never mind that surrendering the shrinking but still significant market in actual cars to Toyota, Hyundai and Honda is long term strategic boneheaded-ness, especially when you have the cars anyway, in order to stay in business in Europe.

Anyway, back to the engine story. Perhaps it is a good thing Ford surrendered the minivan market ten years ago, saving us the embarrassment of that 2.3 turbo being mounted in a lowered, speed striped Windstar and offered to disbelieving RS owners.

Bevan Brookfield 
, Illinois