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LA CAR BLOG - APRIL 2005

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 Fri, Apr 1, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

 

GM's Cadillac Division is the envy of luxury automakers (Grafman photo) LA CAR BLOG IN DEFENSE OF THE GENERAL April 30, 2005 The General has been taking more than its share of hits this past month. Automotive publications, including this one, have been quick to write about what's wrong with General Motors. So, the Blog wants to end the month with a recap of what's right with GM. Bob Lutz GM's former chairman of North American Operations and current chairman of Global Product Development Activities brought a spark to the corporation that had been missing for too long. The automotive press has always been a fan of Lutz because he's a car guy and because of his straight-talking style at press conferences. He made no bones about what he thought about the interior designs of some of the GM vehicles. His most positive impact has been on the products of General Motors. He had the interior designers study VW-Audi interiors, and the results are just now coming to fruition. He turned around Pontiac's design approach 180 degrees, and they are now starting to produce some of the most handsome products in the entire corporation. He understood that everyone didn't have to like Cadillac's Art & Science design, but that if a significant segment really liked it, it would sell. In his new position, we expect Lutz to have a further positive impact on the General's products.  Cadillac When Cadillac first introduced the novel Art & Science design in its Evoq concept car, the critics wondered if Japanese origami experts took over the division's design studio. Audi's TT was all the rage at the time, and compared to the TT's rounded design, the Evoq looked like it was designed by folding sheets of paper into the shape of a car. Since then, Cadillac's Art & Science design has spread throughout its entire line, and they are some of the freshest, most original-looking designs coming out of Detroit. Even Lincoln's design chief expressed admiration for Cadillac's bold new look. Along with the new look came a new advertising campaign that featured Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" song. Then, rap artists started noticing Cadillacs. All of a sudden, Cadillacs are cool again.   Trucks GM has always made good trucks, and the current line-up is no different. Moreover, some of the latest ones are among the best-looking trucks around. One highly regarded automotive critic asked recently why GMC even exists. GMC exists because people buy the products, and they buy the products because GMC trucks look good and work well. The same goes for Chevy trucks. For the longest time, the import companies didn't even bother to compete with the domestic truck makers. That's changed, but it'll still be a very uphill battle before they alter the dominance the domestics have in the American truck market.    OnStar Credit General Motors for revolutionizing the automotive satellite service industry. OnStar offers its customers an added layer of safety, security, and convenience. If you lock your keys in the car, you can call OnStar to unlock it. If you're injured in an accident, OnStar can help you get an emergency vehicle to your exact location. The same technology also can track your car if it's stolen. OnStar can even be contacted to help you find a restaurant or stores in the area. A few other manufacturer now have their own version of satellite service, but OnStar is still the best.  Hummer Hummers have not been the favorite vehicles among some segments of the environmental community. Much of that has to do with the size of the H1 and H2 models, and their gas mileage ratings. Indeed, with gas prices continuing to march up into the stratosphere, Hummer sales have taken a hit. GM hopes to mitigate that with the introduction of the H3 - a smaller, more fuel-efficient Hummer. There are two other things that make Hummers stand out, however. One is their off-road prowess. Hummers are outstanding off-road vehicles. Secondly, Hummers are at the cutting edge of SUV design. In particular, the H2 is a strikingly handsome-looking SUV. It's slab sides and Department of Defense silhouette is trend-setting. We now see Nissan copying it on its latest Pathfinder. Ditto Rover in its new LR3. Even Jeep is showing the Hummer's influence in its latest concept vehicles.  GTO Last year, I called the new GTO is one of the great performance buys of 2004. This year is no different. The new GTO offers BMW 6-Series performance, handling and comfort for less than half the price. We are talking about a grand touring car with a 400 horsepower V8 motor, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel independent suspension, a superb interior, and room for four in comfort At its actual transaction price (below $30,000), the car is even more of a bargain.  G6 This is the first Pontiac that is completely devoid of its body-cladding side molding recent heritage. It doesn't seem to show up on the radar screen of most Toyota Camry and Honda Accord buyers, but its design is more attractive than either. Its the first of a line of very attractive Pontiacs that will be coming our way. And if you think the G6 looks good...    Solstice The Solstice concept car is a knockout. If the production version looks as good - and if Pontiac can keep the base model under $20,000 as promised - GM should have a major hit on hand. Also right on the money was GM's decision to have the Solstice the subject of a public relations project on the hit TV reality show, "The Apprentice." So far, the General is making all the right moves with this sizzling-looking sports car. Sky Another great-looking sports car concept car, based on the Kappa platform shared with the Solstice. Word has it that the Saturn Sky has gotten the General's green light for production. Cobalt The two-door SS coupe is particularly appealing, but all the models share an interior that looks like it came straight out of a Volkswagen Passat. If this is the direction of GM interiors to come, it's a good thing. Corvette We can count on Chevrolet to get this one right. They've never made a bad one. The latest C6 Corvette is, not just the best buy in a sports GT car, it's a world class car.  GM is a giant of a corporation. It's not easy to turn a big battleship around. The same is true for General Motors. But, make no mistake about it - GM is turning around. The aforementioned should be ample proof that, for all the critics and criticism, GM is doing more than a few things right. - RN Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

 

Price hike for the new Avalon? GOODWILL EFFORTS BY TOYOTA TO EASE GM'S PAIN? April 29, 2005 The headline in this week's Detroit News was certainly amusing: "Toyota May Hike Prices to Ease GM Pain." Brett Clanton, who wrote the report, was referring to Toyota Motor Corporation Chairman Hiroshi Okuda's suggestion that the Japanese automaker could increase U.S. vehicle prices to give struggling General Motors Corp. "some breathing space." "I'm concerned about the current situation GM is in," Okuda said at a Japanese Business Federation press conference in Tokyo, according to Japanese newspaper reports. The fact that Toyota is concerned about GM's plight should give one pause. (By the way, reports that Toyota will soon be sending their Peace Corp cadre to teach GM how to help themselves are without merit.) The truth is, companies like Toyota and Honda can sell for a higher price and get away with it. Despite the genuine advances that GM has make to their line, the general public perception is that Toyota and Honda make a superior product. If Toyota raises its prices, it'll still sell a lot of vehicles. More importantly, its overall profits will not diminish. They may even go up. There's another reason why Toyota is concerned about the welfare of GM, and Chairman Okuda hinted at it at the same press conference. Expressing concern about potential backlash from U.S. lawmakers, Okuda said "the auto industry is a symbolic industry for the U.S., and while trade conflicts similar to those in the past won't occur, there is the possibility there could be some impact."  GM declined comment on Okuda's remarks. - RN Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

 

LA CAR BLOG THE NEW JETTA ACES THE IIHS SIDE IMPACT TEST April 25, 2005 Volkswagen has been getting its feathers ruffled over the look of the new Jetta. More than one car magazine has commented on its striking resemblance to the Toyota Corolla - a car that itself borrowed heavily from Volkswagen's Phaeton and the old Jetta school of design. Volkswagen tried to do the same with the new Jettta. Not surprisingly, then, it shares much of the profile of the less expensive Corolla.  That's not the image that Volkswagen wants to portray with the new Jetta. On the contrary, the new Jetta wants to be known as a pocket luxury sedan. This week, VW got some help from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to further the latter image.  The 2005 Volkswagen Jetta earned good ratings in both frontal offset and side impact crash tests conducted by the IIHS. Plus the Jetta is the first vehicle to earn the top rating of good in every individual measurement category (injury measures, head protection, and structural design) of the Institute's side impact test.  "This car is designated a "best pick" for side crash protection, and it's a good performer for frontal crash protection. The performance of the Jetta in these tests plus its acceptable rating for seat/head restraint design in rear impact tests make it the top-rated car overall in the inexpensive midsize class," says Institute president Brian O'Neil.  "The Jetta was the first vehicle to ace our side impact test," says O'Neill. "It's the best performer among midsize inexpensive cars. Its structural performance was better than the second- and third-best models, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. This new Jetta design shows what manufacturers can do to improve occupant protection in serious side impacts when cars are hit by taller and heavier SUVs and pickup trucks." The Jetta's results "show you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a vehicle that offers good protection in front and side crashes," O'Neill adds. "The strength of the side structure of a vehicle also is important in this test. The Jetta's structure is rated good because intrusion or collapse was reduced by the good structural design around the pillar between the doors. This is only the second car to earn a good rating for structure in the Institute's side impact test program." - RN A summary of results for all midsize inexpensive cars tested by the Institute is at www.iihs.org.  Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

 

GUNMAN PUTS CAR OUT OF ITS MISERY April 21, 2005 A lot of car owners think about doing it. John McGivney actually did it. That is, he took a .380-caliber semiautomatic and shot his 1994 Chrysler LeBaron five times "to put my car out of its misery," according to Broward County sheriff's deputies. When the property manager at his apartment asked what he was doing, McGivney said, "I'm putting my car out of its misery." He tucked his gun in a pocket and went back inside, according to the Associated Press. He was subsequently arrested on a misdemeanor charge of discharging a firearm in public, according to AP. McGivney said the car has been giving him trouble for years and had "outlived its usefulness."  He called the shooting "dumb" and worries he will be evicted. But he doesn't regret it. "I think every guy in the universe has wanted to do it," McGivney told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "It was worth every damn minute in that jail." Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

 

MOTORIST INJURED BY FLYING FROZEN SAUSAGE April 19, 2005 It's amazing how much damage is caused by road debris. LA Car drivers have had their fair share of it: A bouncing motor mount that punctured a hole on the hood, metal scrap that sliced open a door like a can opener, several grilles punched open by unidentified flying objects. Last week, our long-term Prius was hit by a wooden log projectile, taking out the hybrid's front dam and air conditioner. Luckily, we've never been struck by a flying frozen sausage. That's exactly what happened to one motorist in London, according to the Associated Press. Reportedly, the motorist was driving home from work with his car window wound down, and had his nose broken by a flying frozen sausage. According to a spokesman for the Essex Ambulance Service (speaking on condition of anonymity), the 46-year-old man was driving near his home in South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, east of London, when the sausage came through the window and hit him on the nose. ''The man said he was making his way home after work and had the window down because it was such a nice afternoon,'' the ambulance spokesman said.  ''He said he saw a car coming the other way and felt a searing pain in his nose. 'His nose was undoubtedly fractured and he had lost quite a lot of blood. 'It must have been an incredibly lucky, or unlucky, shot to get the sausage through a moving car window. I have never seen or heard of anything like this before,' the spokesman said to AP. Essex police are said to be investigating the incident. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

 

Scene above is from Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome, not San Antonio. MAD MAX FANS ARRESTED AFTER SURROUNDING TANKER TRUCK April 18, 2005 Eleven "Mad Max" fans armed with fake machine guns were arrested after they surrounded a tanker truck while making their way to a movie marathon in a theatrical convoy, reports the Associated Press.   As the group headed to San Antonio, Texas last Saturday, police received several calls from drivers who reported a "militia" surrounding a tanker truck. Police charged nine people with obstruction of a highway, according to the AP report. Two others were charged with possession of prohibited knives, in addition to the obstruction charge. Co-organizer Chris Fenner told AP that the arrests were unfair. He said he didn't know why anyone can confuse the costumed crew recreating a scene from "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" - set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland - with a real threat, says AP. "I honestly don't know how that could be, because 'Road Warrior' was so over the top," said Fenner. The movie marathon was canceled after the arrests. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

 

DO YOU WANT TO DRIVE BEHIND THIS GUY? April 15, 2005 If at first you don't succeed, then try, try again another 271 times. That may be the motto of Seo Sang-moon, who passed the written portion of his driver's license examination on his 272nd attempt earlier this week, according to Reuters. The 69-year old repairman informed reporters that he was illiterate and used the test process to teach himself the rules of the road. Since the oral exam was launched, Seo took the test as often as he could, paying about $1,000 in fees along the way, reports Reuters. Each failure taught him a little more, and after 271 attempts, he was able to get the minimum score needed to pass the academic test. Reuters says test officials were thrilled to see Seo pass. "He has been coming here for more than five years and we regard him almost as being one of the family," an official from the exam office told Reuters. Seo said he was discussing with his wife what kind of car to buy once he get his license. "Driving seems a bit hard. But after trying 271 times to pass the oral exam, what do I have to be afraid of?," said Seo. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

 

Good car, the Five-Hundred. But is that good enough? FORD DROPS PROFIT WARNING BOMBSHELL - BUT MAYBE THERE'S A SILVER LINING April 11, 2005 Minutes after the stock market closed Friday, Ford announced its 2005 profits will be lower than it previously projected.   The company said earnings will be $1.25 to $1.50 per share. This is down 14 to 29 percent from last month's earning guidance.   In other words, Ford is projecting annual profits of $2.3 to $2.75 billion, down 21 and 34 percent from last year's net income of $3.5 billion. For comparison, consider that Toyota, which sells about the same number of vehicles worldwide, is on track to earn about $15 billion this year.   In addition, the company said it likely will lose money in its automotive operations this year and is abandoning its oft-stated goal of earning pre-tax profits of $7 billion by 2006.   Two things strike me about the news.   First, the reasons given for the profit shortfall lack credibility.   Don Leclair, Ford's executive vice president and chief financial officer, said, "Historically high prices for steel and crude oil, escalating health care expenses and a weak U.S. dollar presented formidable challenges as we entered 2005."   Hello? You mean you just realized costs are rising? The dollar isn't what it used to be?   "Ford's claims are silly" said Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland, quoted in Saturday's Detroit Free Press. "Prices for automotive grade steel fell the first quarter of this year. It also knew its health-care costs in advance. Ford's profits are falling because the demand for its products is flagging."   Well said.   But in a statement, Bill Ford, chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company, said, "Although one of our strongest ever product line-ups has been well received by consumers around the world, we are not immune to the broad economic challenges we all face in our industry."   Puhleeze, Bill.   The Ford line-up is not one of the company's strongest. And the "economic challenges" don't seem to be hurting some of your competitors.   For a perspective on Ford's problems, look at the performance of Ford division, which accounts for more than 80 percent of Ford Motor Company's U.S. sales.   Ten years ago Ford was the dominant brand in the U.S. It outsold number-two Chevrolet by 30 percent, and throughout the mid and late '90s, Ford proudly advertised it sold five of the top-10 vehicles in America.   Today the once-venerable Ford division still number one - but barely. It's number three in car sales, behind Toyota and Chevrolet. It sells two of the top 10. And its lead over Chevrolet in total vehicle sales is a slim 1.7 percent. Ford runs the risk of losing its sales lead this year, but that depends on the performance of Chevrolet (which is facing its own challenges).   Auto industry sales continue strong, with about 17 million new cars and trucks sold year after year. But auto sales have become a zero-sum game: for every manufacturer that increases sales, another manufacturer loses.   This year industry sales are even with last year, and there have been plenty of winners: Nissan up 12 percent. Hyundai up 11 percent. Toyota up 9 percent. Chrysler Group up 6 percent.   General Motors and Ford are both down 5 percent.   And one more thing: How does a weak dollar, cited by Ford's Leclair, hurt Ford's profits? The European automakers have been screaming that the weak dollar makes them uncompetitive. And since Ford is losing money in most of its markets around the world, a weak dollar should be a boon to Ford, since its overseas losses become smaller in dollar terms.   Perhaps the time for excuses has passed.   The second thing about Ford's announcement: I see a silver lining to Ford's situation   Ford's situation is serious - I hope serious enough to scare the bejesus out of Ford's management so that it will tackle fundamental, structural problems at the company.   With market-leading and rather profitable products such as the Taurus and Explorer, Ford success from the early 1980s to the mid 1990s hid many of its deficiencies. Management didn't have to deal with them.   But Ford has been losing market share for 10 years, and Friday's profit warning could become a rallying cry to make necessary - and painful - changes.   In some ways, Ford's plight is identical to GM's. In the April 6th Wall Street Journal, an article on GM said it was transforming itself from, "What amounted to a holding company for four, self-contained and quasi-independent regional car makers - GM North America, GM Europe, GM Latin America and GM Asia-Pacific - into a single company."   Ford has a similar structure, producing distinct vehicles in markets around the world rather than sharing platformsas much as it can. For example, Ford's product line in Europe is wholly distinct from its North American line-up. It produces three different Ranger compact pickups worldwide.   It's expensive to work this way.   Imagine the savings if Ford designed and engineered half of the vehicles it does today. Imagine if Ford's plants in Europe, Asia and Latin America produced substantially the same vehicles as its plants in North America and were able to share manufacturing knowledge and tackle common problems, instead of each regional fiefdom operating independently.   The cost savings could be enormous.   For more than a decade, Ford has been saying it will restructure in order to share expertise, components and even personnel across continents, as the European and Asian auto manufacturers do. Ford can be doing more in this regard.   Of course Ford has other problems, notably the monstrous legacy costs of its U.S. pension and health care liabilities, and they'll have to be dealt with as well.   Things are so precarious for Ford and GM that either or both could find themselves in a scenario where federal government intervention could become the topic of the day.    In the meantime, keep your eye on Ford. Tuesday, it announced the elimination of 1,000 salaried U.S. jobs by June 30.   If Ford is serious about addressing its problems, more such announcements will follow soon, and then in a couple years we could see it introduce bold, industry-leading products - as Nissan and Chrysler Group did following their turnarounds.   - BT Justice Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

 

DAN NEIL AND THE TIMES RECEIVE LETTERS OF SUPPORT; NEIL THANKS SUPPORTERS April 9, 2005

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In our April 8th Blog, we reported that General Motors Corporation pulled all of its advertising from Tribune Company's Los Angeles Times for the foreseeable future. This was in response to a series of articles about General Motors that have appeared in the Times' Wednesday section, Highway 1. GM cited "some factual errors and misrepresentations in the editorial coverage." However, the last straw may have been Times columnist Dan Neil's April 6th article on GM and its Pontiac G6, "An American idle" - a brilliant but scathing review of the car and its company. Hundreds of supporters wrote to Neil and the Times. In response, Neil wrote the following:     Dear correspondent, This is a form letter, of sorts, because I can't respond individually to the several hundred or so emails of support I've received in the past few days. But there is nothing rote in my appreciation. I have read them all and cherish them. An update: On Friday, I received a letter from GM's VP of Communications. The letter was not for publication and so I cannot tell you what it said, but suffice to say, its tone was not one of hearty congratulations (he said from an undisclosed location). As for the emails of support, the one word that might characterize them all is "frustration"; my column, written in a mood of "What else is there to say?" seems to have tapped into a deep well of resentment and anger that GM, a great company of a great nation, could be run into the ground with impunity. Many of these letters have come from current and former GM employees, suppliers and customers. Once the dust settles I may redact these to protect the identity of the senders and forward them to Detroit. Of course, I'm slightly miserable that I've cost my own company money. To my editors everlasting credit, there hasn't been event a hint of reproval. As a public relations move, I think it's fair to say GM's ad-pulling did them more harm than good. My estimate is that perhaps two million or so people read the article than would have otherwise and the debate on GM's woes has been given another good public chewing. And I have been transformed from cranky columnist to St. George slaying the dragon. I'm aware of the irony. Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences with me. I'm deeply grateful. All the best, - Dan Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

 

GM, IN PROTEST, PULLS ADS FROM L.A. TIMES April 8, 2005 In what may go down as one of the most conspicuous moves by a car manufacturer against a major media outlet, General Motors Corporation has pulled all of its advertising from Tribune Company's Los Angeles Times for the foreseeable future, according to a report in today's Wall Street Journal. Brian Steinberg and Joseph Hallinan of the Journal say it is in response to a series of articles about General Motors that have appeared in the Times' Wednesday section, "Highway 1." At the heart of the issue are "some factual errors and misrepresentations in the editorial coverage," GM spokeswoman Ryndee Carney told the Journal. "It's not just one story. It's a series of things that have happened over time, and we've made our objections known to the paper, and so we'd like to keep our discussions between us and the paper private," she said. "As a general policy, we don't do this," she added. "It's very, very rare that we would do this." Carney declined to specify the amount of money at issue, citing competitive reasons. The Journal contact the Tribune, who also declined to disclose a figure. "Our policy is never to comment on the amount of money an advertiser spends with us," the spokesman said. That didn't stop the Journal from speculating, however. "One person familiar with the advertising industry said the amount is perceived by people in the industry as 'highly significant' and that the action is seen as punitive." A media buyer, speaking generally to the Journal, said the amount would likely be in excess of $10 million. The Journal reports that the auto maker spent about $2.8 billion on media time and space for advertising in 2004, according to TNS Media Intelligence. That figure includes ads for television, cable, newspapers and other media platforms. "As GM has struggled to stop losing market share in the U.S., executives there have stepped up the volume of their complaints about negative press. Leading that offensive is Vice Chairman Robert Lutz, who chastised reporters at the New York Auto Show last month, and has taken media critics to task in his Web log," report Steinberg and Hallinan. In his Wednesday column, "Rumble Seat," Los Angeles Times automotive writer Dan Neil sharply criticized GM for what he said were a series of poor management decisions. "GM is a morass of a business case, but one thing seems clear enough, and Lutz's mistake was to state the obvious and then recant: The company's multiplicity of divisions and models is turning into a circular firing squad," wrote Mr. Neil, who also called for GM to 'dump' CEO Rick Wagoner. Dan Neil won a Pulitzer Prize for critical writing last year in "Rumble Seat." He is the only automotive journalist to have won the coveted award. This is not the first time an auto maker has pulled advertisements in protest to critical writing by a publication. It may be, however, the largest of its kind. Toyota pulled one year's worth of ads from Motor Trend magazine, in protest to an article it perceived to be overly critical of the Toyota Supra. After Car and Driver magazine described the 1969 Shelby Mustang GT500 as "a Thunderbird for Hells Angels," Shelby pulled its ads from the publication. (In response, the publisher of Car and Driver magazine cited the action in its publicity as an example of its 'no nonsense' journalism.)  If General Motors is hoping that its action against the Los Angeles Times will have a chilling effect on negative journalism against the auto maker, it may do just that. On the other hand, it's doubtful that discussions about this incident will remain quiet. - RN For the full report, go to www.wsj.com. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

 

"I'm an environmentalist. Can't you tell?" DOES WHAT YOU DRIVE INDICATE YOUR POLITICAL LEANINGS? April 7, 2005 John Tierney of the New York Times thinks so. He recently reported on a number of studies surveying the vehicle buying habits of Democrats and Republicans.  "By analyzing new-car sales, surveying car owners and keeping count of political bumper stickers, they are identifying the differences between Democratic cars and Republican ones," says Tierney. Among their findings: buyers of American cars tend to be Republican - except, for some reason, Pontiac buyers, who tend to be Democrats. Foreign-brand compact cars are usually bought by Democrats - but not Mini Coopers. They are bought by almost equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans.  Last year, Tierney reports, the Republican National Committee applied data supplied by Scarborough Research, a New York market research firm, to a range of leisure-time and consumer activities to find where it could reach potential voters with advertising. Part of Scarborough's effort was to survey 200,000 car owners about their political affiliations. Scarborough evidently found that Porsche owners identified themselves as Republican more often than owners of any other cars, with 59 percent calling themselves Republicans, 27 percent Democrats and the rest either calling themselves independents or declining to answer. Jaguars and Land Rovers also registered as very "Republican" vehicles. Scarborough determined that Volvos were the most "Democratic" cars, by 44 to 32 percent, followed by Subarus and Hyundais. On the other hand, although a lot of old Volvos on the road are driven by Democrats, the customers in Volvo showrooms no longer fit the old stereotype, Tierney reports that a survey of 163,000 new-car buyers last year conducted by CNW Marketing Research of Bandon, Oregon revealed a new twist to Volvo ownership. As Volvo's advertising has stressed performance in addition to safety, more and more Republicans are buying Volvos. "The CNW survey last year showed that Democratic buyers of Volvo cars outnumbered Republicans by only 32 percent to 27 percent," says Teirney. "Volvos have become more plush and bourgeois, which is a Republican thing to be," Slate's Gearbox columnist Mickey Kaus informed Tierney.. "Subaru is the new Volvo - that is, it is what Volvos used to be: trusty, rugged, inexpensive, unpretentious, performs well, maybe a bit ugly. You don't buy it because you want to show you have money; you buy it because you have college-professor values." The CNW survey, which measured political affiliation not just by make but also by model, finds that a Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV is more than half again as likely to be bought by a Republican than by a Democrat, at 46 percent to 28. Among Hummer buyers, the Republican-to-Democrat ratio is a whopping 52 to 23. According to CNW's figures, staunch Democrats also drive SUVs, but they tend to prefer smaller, foreign-made ones. "Republicans generally like them bigger and American-made, or at least bearing the name of an American company, even if they were built elsewhere," says Tierney. "There is a certain resistance that male new-car buyers have to minivans even in a household with two or three kids," explains CNW President Art Spinella to Tierney. "For the most part, red-state households are more male-dominated when it comes to decision-making for a vehicle. In blue states, it's more of a joint decision-making process." Because the Democratic women get more of a say in the decision, their families end up with more minivans than SUVs. According to CNW, Democrats also tend to consider a wider range of cars before buying. "In red states, there's more affinity to specific brands or loyalty to the same brand they had before," Spinella said. "A person in a red state will start with an average of 2.5 vehicles on the shopping list. In the blue states the average is 6." Perhaps not surprisingly, the blue-staters are a lot more likely to put hybrid cars on their list, says Tierney: buyers of the Toyota Prius hybrid were Democrats by a 35 to 22 percent. Democrats in general are more fond of smaller cars. Besides having fewer children, Democrats tend to be younger, less affluent and more likely to live in cities where small cars are easier to park, Tierney reports. All surveys found that nothing is more Republican than a big pickup, according to Tierney. "The No. 1 vehicle bought by millionaires is the Ford F-Series pickup truck," CNW's Spinella remarked to Tierney. "They're farmers, ranchers, contractors, independent businesspeople. They basically work for themselves and they have substantial assets." The Saab is a Democratic car, according to both CNW and Scarborough, which found that Saab owners were about twice as likely to be Democrats. "It's an upscale car an affluent Democrat can drive without feeling guiltily ostentatious while also reveling in a different sort of status symbol," Scarborough President Bob Cohen informed Tierney. "The Saab owner is not going after the obvious status symbol like a BMW," Cohen said. "He wants to make a statement that he's in a small group with specialized knowledge who don't go for a safe choice like BMW, because he can get a better deal with a Saab." Saturn owners are also prone to put their Democratic loyalties on display, at least according to a count undertaken by Political Bumpers (billed as "an extremely unscientific" project undertaken near the end of the presidential campaign last year).  Volunteers counted more than 1,300 bumper stickers in a half dozen states from September 20th to October 31st, 2004, and came up with results (www.laze.net/bumpers) that roughly corroborate the much larger market-research surveys. The Political Bumpers spotters, who recorded bumper stickers in favor of or against any of the candidates in the 2004 election, found that the drivers of pickup trucks and large SUVs were overwhelmingly right-leaning. But the leader of the project, Ryan MacMichael, said his biggest surprise was the pronounced Democratic skew of bumper stickers on economy cars (71 percent were left-leaning) and station wagons (67 percent). The most left-leaning models with at least a dozen sightings in MacMichael's project were the Honda Civic (80-20 left-leaning), Toyota Corolla (78-19) and Toyota Camry (74-26). The list of most right-leaning was led by another Toyota, but a midsize SUV, the Toyota 4Runner (86-14), followed by the Ford Expedition (76-24) and Ford F-150 (75-25). To CNW's Spinella, those bumper stickers merely provided further proof of the most fundamental difference between the two parties.  "Democrats buy cars," he said. "Republicans buy trucks." For the full report, go to www.nytimes.com.  Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

 

2007 Lexus GS450h hybrid sedan getting ready to pass the IS350 PURCHASING GM WOULD COST TOYOTA A YEAR OF PROFITS April 3, 2005 This one's no April fool's joke: If General Motors' stock continues to fall, Toyota Motor Corporation would only need a year's worth of profits to buy the Detroit automaker. That's according to James Treece of Automotive News. Says Treece, "Toyota's market capitalization already is greater than that of GM, Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG combined." Market capitalization is the stock price times the number of outstanding shares. "GM's value continues to fall with its stock price," says Treece. "On March 24, GM's market capitalization was $16.6 billion." Toyota reportedly expects to post operating profits of ¥1.67 trillion, or $15.69 billion at current exchange rates, in the fiscal year ending Thursday, March 31. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

 

 

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE

Ford Mustang Stamp

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 LA Car 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

For past LA Car Blog entries, click the following: March 2005 February 2005 January 2005 December 2004 November 2004 October 2004 September 2004 August 2004 July 2004 June 2004 May 2004 April 2004

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