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THE LA CAR BLOG - MAY 2004

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, May 1, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

THE LA CAR BLOG

DOGGY STYLE REDUX May 31, 2004

Looks like Chuck Dapoz's "300C, Doggy Style" (below) is getting a lot of buzz on VWVortex.com (the Vortex, for the unenlightened, is the world's busiest automotive forum). The general consensus seems to be that DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche has to be crazy not to give Snoop Dogg a 300C or two. Evidently, the car has the potential to become the next Cadillac Escalade in the world of gangsta rappers.

The significant of this, however, extends well beyond Central Los Angeles. If rap artists think the 300C is cool, so will a large number of the buying public. The irony of this was understood by Vortexer BGLuckMan: "What's funny is that Scion tried to build a car for the kidz, but ended up selling a lot to their parents. Chrysler tried to build a car for the parents, and created a hit among the kidz."

Personally, I'd rather see a whole lot of Chrysler 300Cs on the road than what we have now, which is an over-abundance of Escalades. - RN

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

300C, DOGGY STYLE May 30, 2004

"What I gotta' do to get that brand new 300 up outta' you?" Last week, LA rapper - and language innovator - Calvin Broadus, a.k.a. Snoop Dogg, left a voice message for Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler Group CEO, at DaimlerChrysler's Los Angeles business center. "Yo, what up? This is big Snoop Dogg, trying to put these new legs down for this new 300C. What I gotta' do to get that brand new 300 up outta' you? Get back in contact with my nephew so you can make it happen, then it's official like a referee's whistle. If you want this car to blow, give it to me. This is Snoop Dogg. Preach!" At least that was the message according to the Detroit News, which offered this translation by Bushman, a DJ at Detroit hip-hop station WJLB-FM: "Hello, Dr. Zetsche. How are you? My name is Snoop Dogg, and I'm trying to get one of Chrysler's new 300C sedans. What would I have to do to get a 300C from you without paying? Please contact my manager so that we can try to come to an agreement on the 300C, and I could officially endorse the car for you. If you would like the 300C to get the attention it merits, you would be well served by giving me one. My name is Snoop Dogg. Peace be with you." Jason Vines, Chrysler Group vice president of communications, hinted that a tie-in with Snoop Dog was possible, saying, "We are creating buzz, and you put it in the hands of the people who can give you exposure." Snoop Dogg clearly is a fan of the 300C. We wonder whether Chrysler execs are equally enthralled with Snoop Dogg's music or his show on MTV, "Doggy Fizzle Televizzle."

- Chuck Dapoz

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

The success of Chrysler's 5.7L Hemi V8 prompts Ford to action.

THE POWER AND THE GLORY May 28, 2004

Two news items this week point to opposing trends in the auto industry. The Power of a Hurricane for Ford The long-term trend is vehicles growing in size, weight, horsepower and cost. Even in these days of rising gas prices, it seems you can never be too big or too powerful, with exotic and luxury cars commonly topping 400 horsepower. Among light-duty pickups, the current horsepower champ is the Dodge Ram, with its 5.7-liter "Hemi" pumping 345 horsepower. Not to be outdone, this week we learned Ford is developing a 6.2-liter V8 codenamed "Hurricane" for its F-150, according to the Detroit News. The most-powerful engine in today's F-150 is the 300-horsepower, 5.4-liter Triton. Ford declines comment on the engine, but it's a safe bet the Hurricane will best the power of the Hemi, perhaps by a substantial margin. There's no word on timing. Giving Honda USA a Fit The other trend, which is more recent but gaining momentum, is manufacturers focusing on vehicles that are smaller, less powerful and more fuel-efficient. Honda has announced it will add a sub-Civic model to its lineup in 2006, reports the Detroit News, citing Honda spokesman Andy Boyd. For a couple years industry observers have conjectured that Honda would bring to the US its Japanese-market subcompact Fit, which is called the Jazz in Europe. Boyd refused to say whether the new model would be based on the Fit. There's room at the bottom of the Honda lineup because even fuel economy-minded Honda was not been immune to making its cars larger and more powerful. Consider that the output of today's Civic engines ranges from 127 to 160 horsepower. The 1994 Civics offered 70 to 125 horsepower. The current Fit is a four-door, somewhat similar in configuration to the old Civic Wagon. Its 1.5-liter engine provides 109 horsepower and 48 miles per gallon. A 1.3-liter engine gives 84 horsepower and 55 miles per gallon. Honda's announcement is no surprise considering the success of the Mini and DaimlerChrysler's announcement to sell its Smart brand in the USA in 2006. It may not be long before we see other small cars heading to American shores, such as the likes of the Nissan Micra and offerings from Suzuki.

- Chuck Dapoz

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

CAN A CAR - OR ITS MARKETING - BE TOO SEXY? May 27, 2004

Imagine receiving an envelope postmarked February 14. Inside is a brief letter that looks like it was written on old typewriter. The letter reads, "Everyone has their weakness. So what might drive you wild? Could it be the touch of skin on your fingertips? A long, honed body? Firm sensuous curves? A deep, responsive purr? Or do you simply like the feeling of raw power? If so, I think I have the perfect match for you. I'll send you a photograph next week." A week later a large envelope arrives. "Prepare to be seduced" is printed on the outside. Inside is a photo of a Jaguar XKR. This was a marketing campaign conducted by Jaguar in the UK this year. Letters sent to men were signed by "Elizabeth Jones." Letters to women were signed by "Ian Major." For Americans, this would seem like typical sales promotion. But some British recipients found the letters overly titillating and complained to the Advertising Standards Authority. Wednesday the ASA reached a decision on the complaints and chided Jaguar, saying the letter: · Did not make clear that it was a marketing communication, · Was sexually suggestive and likely to distress or offend the recipients and · Was irresponsible because it implied that the recipient was sexually involved with another person; they therefore considered the mailing was likely to harm the relationship of the recipient. Jaguar apologized and said it will not send out similar mailings. Apparently you can be too sexy.

- Chuck Dapoz

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

A MARKETING IDEA NEVER TO BE REPEATED May 25, 2004

Old Mobil Gas Sign

Last weekend's Monaco Grand Prix showcased a marketing novelty not likely to be tried again. Embedded in the nose of each of the two Jaguars in the race was a $330,000 flawless diamond. This was a one-race-only publicity stunt for Steinmetz Diamond Group, one of the world's largest diamond traders, and the upcoming film Ocean's 12 (the sequel to Ocean's 11), which includes a diamond heist. Perhaps a great idea - as long as neither car crashes. But in the first lap of the race, Jaguar rookie driver Christian Klien, of Austria, plowed nose first into a guardrail. Not a good time to inspect a crashed car. Or get on your hands and knees to search for a shiny piece of wreckage about the size of a shirt button. It was only after the end of the race, two hours later, that the Jaguar team ## and we suspect the Steinmetz team also - was allowed to scrutinize the car and crash site. Did they find the diamond? Of course not. An inside job? Was there really a diamond in the car? Who knows? The crash occurred outside the famous Mirabeau Hotel. Perhaps the stone is now safely in the vault of a Monte Carlo casino. Or was whisked onto a yacht or around the world. Sounds like a far-fetched movie plot. BTW, the race was won by Jarno Trulli in a Renault. It was the first time he's started from the pole position, his first Grand Prix win, and it broke the winning streak of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari. Perhaps we're seeing the start of a new generation of drivers moving up in Formula One.

- Chuck Dapoz

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

FREEWAY SHORTCUT NO. 14 May 23, 2004

Pasadena to Downtown: Take the Gold Line Arguably, this is the most picturesque of all the light rail routes in the Los Angeles area. The Metropolitan Transit Authority's Gold Line starts at Sierra Madre Villa (on Madre, just north of the 210 freeway). The parking lot is huge. The Gold Line takes you westbound alongside the 210, and then cuts across through the Mission area, Highland Park, to the Southwest Museum, Heritage Square/Arroyo, Lincoln Park, Chinatown, and finally to Union Station. Eventually, plans are to stretch the Gold Line all the way to Montclair. When that happens, it'll become the shortcut of choice for many San Gabriel Valley commuters.

- RN

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor More freeway shortcuts below and at: LA CAR Blog - April 2004

Meanwhile, the waiting list on the gas-frugal Prius extends to model year 2005 NO RELIEF IN SIGHT AS GAS PRICES CONTINUE TO SET NEW RECORDS May 21, 2004

Strong demand for gasoline helped push prices higher last week throughout California as new record high prices were set virtually on a daily basis, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California's Weekend Gas Watch. The national average for gasoline is $2.010, 6 cents higher than last week and a new record high. Nearly every major city surveyed indicated a new record high. The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $2.319 a gallon, which is 5.3 cents higher than last week, 12 cents higher than last month and 48 cents higher than last year. In San Diego, the price is $2.341, which is 5.8 cents above last week, 13 cents higher than last month and 53 cents above last year. Motorists in the Central Coast pay an average price of $2.434, which is 4.7 cents higher than last week, 14 cents above last month and 49 cents higher than last year. "Gasoline on the Los Angeles wholesale market continues to sell in the $1.70 range, which should keep pump prices at or higher than current levels," said Auto Club spokesperson, Carol Thorp. "Despite record high retail prices, demand for gas continues to be very strong. As long as motorists are willing to buy more gasoline at higher prices, there is little hope that prices will go lower any time soon." The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline at metropolitan destinations throughout the nation. Average prices as of 12:01 a.m., May 21: Area Regular Change from Record Price last week LA-Long Beach $2.319 +5.3 cents $2.319 (5/21/2004) San Diego $2.341 +5.8 cents $2.341 (5/21/2004) Santa Barbara- Santa Maria- Lompoc $2.434 +4.7 cents $2.434 (5/21/2004) Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

THE LA CAR BLOG VOLKSWAGEN CHANGES ITS PLANS FOR THE MICROBUS May 19, 2004

The Board of Management of Volkswagen AG decided on Tuesday evening to change the concept for the planned Microbus. The new model is scheduled to go into production in Hanover in 2007 and will now be aimed for markets beyond the USA. The original concept that was considered for production was to be based on Volkswagen's Microbus design study that was first shown at the 2001 Detroit Auto Show. The model is being given a new orientation since VW now believes an exclusive focus on the US market would have jeopardized the success of the Microbus - particularly in view of the continuing unfavorable exchange rates and market conditions. A larger number of components from the new T5 will be used than foreseen by the original design.

Volkswagen makes some very nice vehicles, but one wonders sometimes about their marketing decisions. While rival Toyota offers no less than seven SUVs and trucks, VW elects to serve one half of the buying market (the SUV and truck half) with just one vehicle - the recently-introduced Touareg. While the waiting lists grow longer for hybrid vehicles, VW announces that it will not build any hybrids - not even diesel hybrids.

The original Microbus concept vehicle was greeted with great enthusiasm at the 2001 Detroit Auto Show. It should have been a no-brainer to turn it into a real production vehicle. However, VW didn't make the decision to go into production until well over a year later. By now, they should have had two Microbuses in production: One to follow the design of the concept vehicle, and another smaller, more basic model to compete with the Honda Element and Scion xB. They could have even created a new market category: an all-wheel drive SUM (sports utility microbus). Perhaps it's not too late. - RN

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

AUTO CLUB: GAS CONTINUES UPWARD MARCH May 17, 2004

Old Mobil Gas Sign

Investor concern over whether gasoline supplies will be sufficient to meet summer demand pushed gasoline prices upward locally and nationally for the second consecutive week, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California's Weekend Gas Watch. Nearly every major city surveyed indicated a new record high. And for the first time, the national average for gasoline exceeded $2.00 per gallon ($2.017), according to a weekly survey by the Energy Information Administration, an arm of the U.S. Energy Department. The statewide average price of self-serve regular jumped 4.6 cents in the last week to a new high of $2.269 a gallon, according to the same survey. Currently, the average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $2.266 a gallon, which is 8.2 cents higher than last week. Today's price is 3.8 cents higher than last month and 37 cents higher than last year. In San Diego, the price is $2.283, which is 7.4 cents above last week, 4.5 cents higher than last month and 41 cents above last year. Motorists in the Central Coast pay an average price of $2.387, which is 6.6 cents higher than last week, 8 cents above last month and 40 cents higher than last year. "Wholesale gasoline prices shot up to $1.70/gallon last week, dropped for a few days and now have climbed to $1.70 again," said Auto Club spokesperson, Carol Thorp. "Analysts say that there is continuing concern by traders that gasoline demand in the summer may outstrip supply. These supply jitters are pushing prices up so much that we are seeing new retail price records daily throughout Southern California and the nation." - RN

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

Columbia Pictures 1969

FREEWAY SHORTCUT NO. 13 May 15, 2004

Ride A Motorcycle If you can tolerate the danger of not being seen by your fellow drivers, a motorcycle is one of the best ways to move along in rush hour traffic. In California, lane-splitting - the motorcycle art of sharing a lane to pass an vehicle stuck in congested traffic - is legal, so long as it's done in a safe manner. In addition, motorcycles are one of the few vehicles allowed to travel on the state's high-occupancy vehicle (carpool) lanes without a carpool (see the April 4, 2004 LA CAR Blog entry about the other vehicles that can travel the HOV lanes). - RN

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor More freeway shortcuts below and at: LA CAR Blog - April 2004

ARE OPEL DRIVERS THE MOST FAITHFUL? May 13, 2004

Following up on "BMW Drivers Get More Tail" (see the May 1, 2004 entry of the LA CAR Blog below), Senior Contributing Editor Chuck Dapoz adds: There's more info attributed to the German magazine Men's Car, this time reporting that men who drive Porsches and BMWs are the least faithful, with 49 and 47 percent, respectfully, admitting to extramarital affairs. Drivers of Opels are portrayed as the most faithful. This information comes from Agence France-Presse, in English (I couldn't find Men's Car online, I don't speak German, and I'm not a researcher or statistician). But combining this info with last week's report of how often drivers of various makes have sex ## with BMW owners at 2.2 times per week and Porsche owners at the bottom of the list at 1.4 times ## my mind is reeling with possible explanations and conclusions. Could it be that BMW drivers are happier at home, so they're not pursuing extracurricular activities? Or BMW drivers are stuck at home ... for whatever reason? Or Porsches are better babe magnets? "It's the car's fault! I was minding my own business!" (Yeah. Right.) Or Porsche drivers are more inclined to break the rules? Or have a need to prove their prowess? Because they're insecure? Because they're confident? Or perhaps the drivers of some brands are more inclined to lie? Perhaps some are more inclined to brag. We're not talking about a scientific survey here. Or could it be these statistics are crap? Who knows? - Chuck Dapoz

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

FREEWAY SHORTCUT NO. 12 May 12, 2004

Southbound 605 Toward Highway 5 Courtesy of Southside Johnny: Traffic usually gets clogged up on the Southbound 605 as it approaches Interstate Highway 5 - especially if you plan on taking the 5. One alternative to being stuck in the right-hand lane is to take the Washington offramp and to stick to the "through freeway" lane on the left. It'll take you back to the 605 just before it merges into the 5."

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

FREEWAY SHORTCUT NO. 11 (FURTHER THOUGHTS) May 10, 2004

Yininyang responds to Juggernaut: "If I recall correctly, the truck in Easy Rider had a gun rack.

I'm not so sure it's the type of vehicle as much as how aggressive the driver is. I usually don't like moving in front of any vehicle barreling down the lane at a good clip. They're not always truck or SUV drivers. Wannabe race car drivers in BMWs or hopped-up Hondas are frequent violators. Sometimes, it's just some aggressive driver in a puny Hyundai."

Editor's note: Wannabe race car drivers are addressed in the April 7, 2004 entry of the LA CAR Blog ("Are BMW Drivers A-Holes?").

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

FREEWAY SHORTCUT NO. 11 May 8, 2004

The Dirty Little Secret About Trucks & SUVs Courtesy of Juggernaut: "So, you want to have fewer interruptions on the freeway? Most people know about the height advantage of trucks and SUVs - the fact that it allows you to see over most vehicles and to get a better sense of the flow of traffic. Here's a dirty little secret about trucks and SUVs that most owners won't talk about: The intimidation factor. Not only do more cars get out of your way if you have a truck or SUV, people are less likely to cut in front of your lane. Of course, the size of your truck or SUV will make a difference. You are more likely to experience this phenomenon in a big SUV than in a small one. I think trucks work even better than SUVs. I drive an old, restored pick up that resembles the one in the last scene from Easy Rider."

A friend of mine, who had just purchased a pickup truck, noticed that drivers of smaller vehicles - either consciously or subconsciously - seem to get out his way on the freeway. He also believes that fewer cars cut in front of him, which in turn allows him to be a little more aggressive on the freeway. That, in turn, makes other drivers even less inclined to cut in front of him. In all likelihood, this cycle will continue until someone gets in an accident.

For some people, there's a war going on - and it's not the one in the Middle East.

- Roy Nakano

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

FREEWAY SHORTCUT NO. 10 May 5, 2004

Valley Boulevard Back in the days before freeways, Valley Boulevard was the route to take when Inland Empire residents wanted to visit the city in Los Angeles. Today, it remains a good freeway alternative when things get heavy on Highway 10. I know of one Duarte resident who makes Valley Boulevard his daily commuter route to Monterey Park (Valley Boulevard to Garvey). Stretches of this street remain low density, and you can move at a pretty good clip. While you're at it, you can enjoy seeing the many Mexican restaurants and shops that now populate Valley Boulevard.

- Roy Nakano

For more freeway shorts: LA CAR Blog - April 2004 Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

BMW DRIVERS GET MORE TAIL (FURTHER THOUGHTS) May 3, 2004

Senior Contributing Editor Chuck Dapoz chimes in: "A footnote to your blog on BMW owners: this year's JD Power's Initial Quality Survey was released this past week. You no doubt heard that Hyundai quality surpassed Toyota. But nearly buried in the report was the manufacturer that came in last was Porsche. Maybe Porsches aren't that bad. Perhaps the poor showing is because Porsche drivers just aren't as happy as, let's say, BMW owners ...for non-automotive reasons." - CD

Chuck is joking, of course. Actually, while Porsche came in last as a manufacturer, as a brand it came in third to the bottom - at 159 problems per 100 vehicles. The bottom feeder award goes to Hummer with 173 problems per 100 vehicles. BMW, by the way, did quite well in the JD Power survey, with only 109 problems (the corporate average is 119). - RN

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

Tom Leykis may be right after all.

BMW DRIVERS GET MORE TAIL May 1, 2004

Two controversial schools of thought have recently crossed paths in the most peculiar way.

The first school of thought comes from radio host Tom Leykis, who has claimed for years that men that act like jerks attract more sex than those who don't. Or, as he's been professing to listeners seeking tail, "You must find your inner a-hole."

The second school was reported in the April 7, 2004 entry of the LA CAR Blog ("Are BMW Drivers A-Holes?"). That article exposed the stereotype that some BMW drivers have earned and worn proudly. As Bimmerfest's Jimmy325 confessed in the article, "A lot of BMW owner's that I know are a-hole drivers. I am one too."

Well, a new German magazine called Men's Car conducted a survey which concludes that male BMW drivers have more sex than any other group of drivers around. As reported in Reuters, "BMW drivers have more sex than owners of any other cars and are much more active than Porsche drivers." The German magazine reportedly found in a survey of 2,253 motorists aged 20 to 50 published in its inaugural May issue that male BMW drivers say they have sex on average 2.2 times each week while Porsche drivers have sex 1.4 times per week. Following BMW drivers were Audi (2.1), Volkswagen (1.9), Ford (1.7) and Mercedes (1.6). Drivers of foreign car makes were also behind BMW with Italian cars (2.0), French (1.9), Japanese (1.8), Swedish (1.6) and Korean cars (1.5) trailing after. Among women, French car drivers were top with 2.1 times per week followed by Audi (2.0), Italian (2.0), and BMW (1.9) with Porsche again at the bottom of the scale at 1.2 times per week.

The upshot of all this is that the finding by Men's Car corroborate the Leykis theorem - i.e., that a-holes get more tail. Of course, I'm not saying that all BMW drivers are a-holes (or even that most BMW drivers are a-holes). I am, however, amused by the intersection of the Leykis theorem and the popular if not always deserved stereotype of the BMW driver. Way to go, Bimmerheads. - RN

Thanks to Senior Contributing Editor (and current London correspondent) Chuck Dapoz for tipping us off on the Reuters report. Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE That was LA CAR's subtitle when it started back in 1997. Since then, it became Reporting From Car Culture Ground Zero, then From The Heart of Car Culture, to today's The Cars and Culture of Southern California. At all times, however, we aimed to chronicle the Southland's spirit - much like a journal. Now, the diary goes daily. LA CAR has always been a great source to come back to from month-to-month, to see what articles and reviews have been added to our rather staggering database. With the blog, we give you a reason to come back virtually every day, as we will be posting new blog entries virtually every day or two (well, there will be occasional vacation breaks).

So, go ahead and bookmark www.lacar.com. We'll be sure to always provide a link to the latest blog entry. In the meantime, welcome to the journal and journey into the cars and culture of Southern California.

- Roy Nakano

Past LA CAR Blog entries: April 2004

To go to the current blog, click the LA CAR Blog link on the homepage.  

 

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