Payday Loans

Another Shoe Drops

24th December 2009

Toyota’s sterling quality reputation is taking another hit, this time for the Prius. The best-selling hybrid car in the world is now the subject of a safety investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). is reporting that NHTSA has received 33 complaints of brake failure on the current 3rd generation Prius.

In the case of the Prius brakes, it appears that the transition from regenerative braking to hydraulic braking is not transparent to drivers. Under certain conditions, the driver needs to press harder on the brake pedal to obtain the same stopping performance the regenerative system working in conjunction with the hydraulic brakes initially provides. Drivers are clearly upset by longer than expected stopping distances.

The problem seems to occur when the car goes over a bump or pothole. Somehow, the jarring disrupts the regenerative brakes’ operation.

A Toyota spokesperson initially told TDB that he was unaware of the issue, but Toyota quickly supplied the following statement: “We are aware of the complaints filed with NHTSA. The agency has not opened an investigation. We are investigating the issue based on internet traffic, customer comments to Toyota Customer Relations, and NHTSA complaints. It is too early to speculate the final conclusion(s) of our investigation and subsequent actions.”

Toyota has had several recalls recently. Toyota is in the midst of huge recalls involving floor mats and accelerator pedals (3.8 million vehicles) and rusty Tundra frames (+100,000), among others; and it faces lawsuits alleging the withholding of evidence in safety investigations, as well as new charges of unintended acceleration, and stalling in some of its most popular models.
Toyota’s worst year for recalls, ever
So far this year, Toyota has said it will recall a total of 4.8 million vehicles in the United States, four times more than in any previous year. It recalled 1.1 million vehicles in 2004.

So far, Toyota’s sales have not been hurt by the quality issues. Only time will tell if they are hurt long term. The D3 weren’t hurt by their bad quality at first either.

That’s what I think – how about you? Please leave your comments below.

Post tags:

Every year, Ward’s Auto has published its 10 Best Engines list.  Considered the most prestigious award for powertrain excellence, the 10 Best Engines award is highly coveted by automakers.  The criteria include many objective and subjective factors.  They all must be available in a regular production model priced no higher than $54,000 by early 2010.  There were 34 nominees this year.  2009 winners and any all-new or significantly changed engines are eligible.  Lest you think Ward’s only includes high-powered, sports car engines, this year’s list is highly diversified, with engines of every major type and geography represented.

The list includes engines from German (4), US (3), Japanese (2) and Korean (1) automakers.  The engines have 4-cylinders (6), 6-cylinders (3) and 8-cylinders (1) and are powered by gas (6), Diesel (2) and hybrid (2) power.  They use natural aspiration (4) and turbo (5), and 1 supercharged.  5 winners are repeats from last year and 5 are new on this year’s list.

The engines have a huge range of horsepower (98 – 375) and an even larger torque range of 105 – 425 lb.-ft.  Specific output, or horsepower per liter, is considered a measure of how well the engineers have wrung power out of the engine.  A few years ago, 60-70 hp/L was considered excellent.  The lowest figure on this year’s list (54) is a hybrid, whose horsepower figure does not include the extra power provided by the battery.  The highest non-forced induction engine is 82.  The forced induction engines range from 88 – 111.

Enough of the stats!  Here are the winners this year:



Size & Type







2.0L Turbo I-4







3.0L Supercharged V6







3.0L Turbodiesel I-6






Taurus SHO

3.5L Turbo V6






Fusion Hybrid

2.5L I-4 Hybrid






Chevy Equinox

2.4L I-4







4.6L V-8






Legacy GT

2.5L Turbo I-4







1.8L I-4 Hybrid






Jetta TDI

2.0L Turbodiesel I-4





Post tags:

Pontiac, Saturn and now Saab.  Can Hummer be far behind?  I’m not talking about brands that GM has decided are not “core” anymore, but those that are going or out of business in the last several months.  Pontiac was supposed to become a niche brand, and then the government told GM to shut it down.  Saturn was supposed to be sold to Roger Penske, and when that fell through, GM decided to just shut it down.  Now Saab will have a similar fate.  Saab was supposed to be sold to Koenigsegg, a Swedish producer of exotic sports cars.  That fell through, and then GM sold some of Saab’s assets to Beijing Automotive (BAIC) this week.  Word came out that GM was working with Spyker on a deal for the rest of Saab.  Today, GM made the announcement below.

Detroit.  General Motors announced today that the intended sale of Saab Automobile AB would not be concluded. After the withdrawal of Koenigsegg Group AB last month, GM had been in discussions with Spyker Cars about its interest in acquiring Saab. During the due diligence, certain issues arose that both parties believe could not be resolved.  As a result, GM will start an orderly wind-down of Saab operations.

“Despite the best efforts of all involved, it has become very clear that the due diligence required to complete this complex transaction could not be executed in a reasonable time. In order to maintain operations, Saab needed a quick resolution,” said GM Europe President Nick Reilly.  “We regret that we were not able to complete this transaction with Spyker Cars. We will work closely with the Saab organization to wind down the business in an orderly and responsible manner. This is not a bankruptcy or forced liquidation process. Consequently, we expect Saab to satisfy debts including supplier payments, and to wind down production and the distribution channel in an orderly manner while looking after our customers.”

Saab will continue to honor warranties, while providing service and spare parts to current Saab owners around the world.

As part of its efforts to become a leaner organization, GM began seeking a buyer for Saab’s operations in January.  Last week, Saab Automobile AB announced that it had closed on the sale of certain Saab 9-3, current 9-5 and powertrain technology and tooling to Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings Co. Ltd. (BAIC).  GM expects today’s announcement to have no impact on the earlier sale.

As the company continues to reinvent itself, GM has been faced with some very difficult but necessary business decisions. The focus will remain on the four core brands – Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC – and several regional brands, including Opel / Vauxhall in Europe.  This will enable the company to devote more engineering and marketing resources to each brand and model.

You have to wonder what was the hurry?  GM has only referred to a December 31 deadline to get a deal done.  That sure seems like an artificial/meaningless/arbitrary date, which is fine – it’s their business to run as they please.  Just spare us the self-imposed emergency.

That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

Post tags:

GMC gets its 3rd General Manager in a month…GM announces the “small car” it will build at its Orion Township plant…Obama signs dealer arbitration bill…GM speeds development now that it actually has cash to spend.  All this and more on today’s episode of As the Crankshaft Turns.

As The Slandy Report told you, Mike Richards, hired to lead Buick-GMC, left after only 8 days on the job.  Well, now Buick-GMC has a new leader.  Brian Sweeney, formerly Buick-GMC sales manager, takes over the division after months of turmoil.  The division is desperate for sales, and chairman Ed Whitacre has said that executives will not have long to show results.  Sweeney has been replaced by Jennifer Costabile, 47, a 25-year GM veteran.

In May, GM announced after a competition between 3 plants, that it would build an unnamed new small car at its Orion plant in suburban Detroit.  The unnamed has now been named.  The next generation 2011 Chevy Aveo will be built at the plant next year.  The present Aveo is made in South Korea, and the next version was supposed to be made in Mexico or China.  A big win and a new small car for the US!!

President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed legislation that would give rejected GM and Chrysler dealers access to neutral arbitration if they want to be reinstated, kicking off a a 6½ months arbitration process.

GM and Chrysler now have 30 days to send letters to the owners of about 2,150 rejected dealerships informing them of their rights under the new law and spelling out the reasons that their franchise agreements were terminated.

With Obama’s signature, the eliminated dealerships have 40 days to give notice that they intend to seek arbitration.

And finally, GM’s Bob Lutz announced that the General is pulling ahead many product programs now that it has the cash to fund them.  Lutz specifically mentioned the next-gen Chevy Malibu, which has been pulled ahead by a year.  It will now go on sale in 2 years, instead of 3.  Lutz also said all of GM’s future cars will have a chrome strip surrounding the side window glass.  “Nothing adds perceived value to a car faster than that chrome surround around the side glass because it is a hallmark of German and Japanese luxury products,” said Lutz.  “If you skimp on $50 of chrome, you are reducing the customer’s perceived value of the car by $500 or $600,” he said.
Post tags:

This week, a jury of 49 veteran automotive journalists has selected the Buick LaCrosse, Ford Fusion Hybrid and Volkswagen Golf/GTI as finalists for North American Car of the Year and the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Transit Connect and Subaru Outback as finalists for North American Truck of the Year.

The awards are unique in the United States because — instead of being given by a single media outlet — they are given by automotive journalists from the United States and Canada who represent magazines, television, radio, newspapers and web sites.  The awards are designed to recognize the most outstanding vehicles of the year based on factors that include innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar.

To be eligible, vehicles must be “all-new” or “substantially changed” from the previous model. This year the jury considered more than 50 vehicles and finally focused on 16 cars and 10 trucks.

The winners will be announced January 11th at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Although the winners are disclosed at a news conference at the auto show, the show does not give the awards.

Last year the North American Car of the Year was the Hyundai Genesis and the North American Truck of the Year was the Ford F-150.

This is the 17th year of the awards, which are funded exclusively by the jurors. During that time:

• Hybrids have been honored three times. The Toyota Prius was the 2004 North American Car of the Year and the Ford Escape Hybrid was the 2005 North American Truck of the Year. The Honda Civic Hybrid was included when the Civic was named the 2006 North American Car of the Year.

• Chevrolet’s vehicles have been named the North American Truck of the Year three times. Most recently the Silverado was the 2007 North American Truck of the Year.

• While Ford has been a finalist in the car category many times, it won only once. The Ford Focus was the 2000 North American Car of the Year.

• Ford has dominated the truck category with five wins, followed by Chevrolet with three. Most recently, the F-150 was the 2009 North American Truck of the Year.

• General Motors won North American Car of the Year three times. Most recently, the Chevrolet Malibu was the 2008 North American Car of the Year and the Saturn Aura was the 2007 North American Car of the Year

• Volkswagen’s Jetta TDI was a finalist last year. Volkswagen’s New Beetle was the 1999 North American Car of the Year.

• Domestic automakers have won North American Car of the Year eight times. Japanese automakers have won three times. European automakers have won four times. A Korean automaker has won once.

• Domestic automakers have won North American Truck of the Year 10 times. Japanese automakers have won four times. European automakers have won twice.

Here are the vehicles on which the jurors voted:
2010 North American Car of the Year nominees:
BMW 335d
Buick LaCrosse
Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon
Chevrolet Camaro
Ford Fusion
Ford Fusion Hybrid
Ford Taurus/Taurus SHO
Honda Insight

Kia Soul
Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Porsche Panamera
Subaru Legacy
Suzuki Kizashi
Toyota Prius
Volkswagen Golf/GTI/TDI

2010 North American Truck of the Year nominees:

Acura ZDX
Audi Q5
Cadillac SRX
Chevrolet Equinox
Ford Transit Connect

Honda Accord Crosstour
Land Rover LR4
Lincoln MKT
Subaru Outback
Volvo XC60

The awards are given by 50 of the most experienced and respected automotive journalists in Canada and the United States. They represent newspapers, magazines, web sites, television and radio shows. The winners are announced at a news conference at the North American International Auto Show.

Post tags:

Badge Engineering Gone Wrong

16th December 2009

So what do you get when you cross an expensive sports car with a quirky economy car?  No, this isn’t the losing joke at a 3rd grade joke contest.  It’s a real car!  Well, sort of.  It will be a real car – if you could call it that.  This past summer, Aston Martin, the maker of uber-expensive sports cars announced it would jointly develop a small car with Toyota.  The car would be based on the Toyota iQ, which is a small city car (think Smart ForTwo) that will be sold in the US in about a year as a Scion iQ.  The Slandy Report didn’t tell you about this, because we thought it was a badly-timed April Fool’s joke.

Aston Martin DBS

Aston Martin DBS

So let’s get into the details, shall we?  Aston Martin makes drop-dead gorgeous, very expensive sports cars in very small numbers.  The cheapest model for sale in the US is the V8 Vantage, which starts at $120K.  The most expensive, the DBS, starts at $270K.  The Toyota iQ is a very small, no frills economy car.  While not for sale in the US yet, It starts at £9763 (about $16,000) in the UK.  It has 2 engines available; the faster of the 2 will get you to 60 MPH in over 13 seconds!

So along comes the Aston Martin Cygnet, of which Aston has released official photos.  This car is so wrong on so many levels it just astounds me.  Boggles the mind.  First, this is perhaps the worst example of “badge engineering” ever.  For the uninitiated, badge engineering is when an automaker “creates” a new vehicle simply by “engineering” a new badge for it.  The Detroit 3 have been (correctly) accused of this for

Aston Martin Cygnet

Aston Martin Cygnet

years.  That Aston Martin, one of the most exclusive brands in all of automotive-dom, would succumb to this with a lowly Toyota city car gives me a headache.  Second, this is also perhaps the worst example of brand extension ever.  Even with Aston Martin’s snout grafted on its nose and a fancy interior, this car might cost $40,000 if/when it comes to the US.  That would still be 67% lower than its cheapest car now.  To say that this car will hurt Aston’s reputation and alienate its present customers is an understatement.  Third, this car, like its Toyota half-brother, is just plain ugly.  Aston Martin cars, as I mentioned above, are known to be works of art on wheels.  So much so that they should come standard with a bib.  I would be embarrassed to sell this.  Or to be seen in it.

That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

Post tags:
GMC Acadia Remote Start Key Fob - the start button is on top

GMC Acadia Remote Start Key Fob - the start button is on top

Ford announced last week that it will begin offering a factory-installed remote start system to its vehicles, beginning with the 2011 Super Duty pickup when it launches next spring.  Ford says it will “quickly be offered across the entire Ford, Lincoln and Mercury lineup.”  Ford’s remote start system, when combined with automatic climate control, will gauge the temperature and quickly achieve a comfortable cabin environment. Heating, heated seats and defrost activate on colder days; air conditioning and cooled seats kick in when the weather is warm.

Later that same day, Chevrolet put out a press release that served as a reminder that they have offered remote start since 2003.  Funny that it took a competitor’s announcement of a similar feature to make Chevrolet/General Motors to tout a great feature about which they have been all but silent.  Launched in 2003 as a 2004 model year feature, GM’s factory-installed remote start was the first of its kind to be factory-installed.  Previously, this feature was only available as an aftermarket add-on.  This gave GM an advantage over all of their competitors, but they never seemed to advertise it or make it prominent in their press releases or brochures.

When I first heard of it while working for Ford as the minivan pricing manager, your humble reporter pleaded with the product development community to look into offering this feature, especially on minivans.  I saw it as a family-friendly feature, especially on a vehicle like a minivan where the driver might be carrying an infant into a cold vehicle in the winter or a hot one in the summer.  Alas, they did not listen to me.  I was told that none other than Chairman Bill Ford (and CEO at the time) had decided that it did not fit with the environmentally-friendly image he wanted for the company.  Remote start would waste gas, he apparently said.  Now, they are not only offering it, they are saying, “Ford engineers calculate that using a remote start system could help reduce hydrocarbon, CO and nitrogen oxides emissions by up to 75 percent, since it preheats the catalyst on cold starts (where up to 95 percent of emissions typically occur), prior to those first few accelerations.”  Hmmm, I guess actual facts won the day, huh?

If Ford gets any true traction from this after GM has had it for 6+ years, then they will only have themselves to blame.  Themselves…and their advertising agencies.

That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

Post tags:
Brent Dewar

Brent Dewar

Susan Docherty, newly minted VP of sales service and marketing, lost one of her key lieutenants today.  Brent Dewar, VP of Chevrolet, and one of Docherty’s direct reports under last week’s changes, announced that he will “retire” effective April 1, 2010.  In the meantime, he will act as an advisor to Mark Reuss as he transitions to his new role as president of North America.

One can assume that Dewar’s “retirement” wasn’t planned in advance and was the result of the latest management changes because he was only recently repatriated to the US and because Docherty had reported to Dewar in a previous position.  It seems that Dewar didn’t think he should be reporting to Docherty and/or Reuss – maybe he thinks he should have been given the job that Docherty got.  Or maybe Dewar was seen as a holdover of the “old GM” regime, having spent 31 years at the General.  Maybe Reuss and Docherty told him that maybe he wasn’t going to fit in at the “New” GM.

Jim Campbell

Jim Campbell

Replacing Dewar is Jim Campbell, who will be moving to Chevrolet from his position as General Manager, Fleet and Commercial Operations.  Before running GM’s Fleet and Commercial Operations, Campbell held various positions in field sales, retail incentives, marketing and customer relationship management.  He has played important roles in many product launches including the Chevrolet Impala, Monte Carlo, Colorado and Corvette.

Jim Bunnell will be responsible, in the interim, for Fleet and Commercial Operations until a replacement has been named to replace Jim Campbell.

In other General Motors news, Michael Richards, who was just named Buick-GMC general manager December 1, seems to be out.  Although GM has not announced this (and will not comment), there are reports in the Detroit Free Press and Bloomberg News that Richards is gone.  Richards, a former Ford marketing executive, had a reputation for treating employees poorly.  Maybe his new bosses heard about that reputation and decided that he didn’t fit with their vision for the future.  Maybe a little more due diligence would have been smart.

That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

Post tags:

It has been nearly 2 years since we first saw the Chevy Volt at the Detroit auto show, and we have been subjected to a nearly non-stop media and marketing assault since.  Chevrolet and GM have taken every opportunity to tell us how wonderful the Volt is (or rather, “will be”).  They have used it in corporate advertising, it has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and at every auto show on the planet in the last 2 years.  What you might not know is that it is also AT LEAST another year or more until anybody will have the opportunity to buy one, and then in only small numbers and in select areas of the country at the beginning.

In the latest example of this sensory overload, Chevy commissioned a Volt jingle.  No kidding – you read that right.  Chevy released this jingle last week at the LA Auto Show.  I’ll admit, it is a bit catchy.  It has a pleasant melody and attempts to educate and get you excited about the Volt.  But seriously, do we really need a Volt jingle more than a year before we might have a chance to buy this thing?  GM should be more focused on delivering the Volt on time and on budget and less on selling it before they have a single one to sell!  That said, click on the image below to hear the jingle.  Note that the images in the video are not provided by GM.  The video portion is the work of Lyle Dennis, who created, launched, maintains and writes the website  He’s a bit of a Volt-nut, but his work has gotten him recognition from the media and from GM.  GM has even given him the opportunity to drive a Volt prototype recently.

That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

Post tags:

In the most recent in a line of quality issues for Toyota, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into a stalling problem in 2006 Corolla and Matrix models.  NHTSA has received 26 complaints of random stalling, sometimes in intersections or on highways.  The review only covers 2006 models with the IZZ-FE engines.  Apparently, Toyota has known about the problem, having issued a service bulletin in 2007 calling for replacing the engine computer following complaints of stalling.

The follows on the heels of the 3.8 million vehicles that Toyota recently recalled to fix the accelerator pedals in many models that were getting stuck in the wide open throttle position, causing uncontrolled acceleration.  Toyota also recently recalled Tundra pickups to fix a rusting frame problem and also had a similar problem on Tacoma pickups.  They also had a well-publicized problem with engine sludge causing engine failure in Camrys.

Toyota has a reputation for high quality vehicles that they have earned over many years of hard work.  However, to just assume that they have and will always have high quality vehicles that never break down is just as inaccurate as assuming that the domestics have and will always have low quality vehicles that always break down just because they used to have quality problems.  Toyota is not perfect, and neither is Honda, Nissan or anybody else.  JDPower and others have made their mark figuring out which vehicles have the highest quality.  You owe it to yourself to check the real facts on quality before buying and certainly before bashing anybody’s quality.  The life and the job you save could be your own.

That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

Post tags:
Newer Posts »