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BACK SEAT DRIVING - DECEMBER 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 Wed, Nov 30, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

LA Car brewmeister Derrick Lim's batch ROY NAKANO BACK SEAT DRIVING AUTO CLUB OFFERS TIPSY TOW SERVICE FOR NEW YEAR WEEKEND December 30, 2005 Los Angeles (Business Wire) - The Automobile Club of Southern California is offering its free Tipsy Tow service to drinking drivers during the New Year's holiday weekend again. The service is available from 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 30, through the end of the day on Sunday, Jan. 1. Tipsy Tow is available in the 13 Southern California counties served by the Auto Club. Motorists, bartenders, restaurant managers, party hosts or passengers of a drinking driver may call 1-800-400-4AAA for a free tow home of up to seven miles. Callers simply tell the Auto Club operators, "I need a Tipsy Tow," to receive the free tow and ride home. A regular Auto Club-contracted emergency road service truck will be dispatched. Callers need to keep in mind that the service excludes rides for passengers, is restricted to a one-way, one-time ride for the driver and the destination is limited to the driver's residence. Reservations are not accepted. Drivers can expect to pay the rate charged by the tow truck contractor for rides farther than seven miles. "We want motorists to be aware of the high crash risk from drinking and driving associated with holidays and encourage them to think twice about getting behind the wheel if they have been drinking," Auto Club spokesperson Carol Thorp said. While the number of Californians arrested for driving under the influence in 2003 (the latest year available) is far lower than it was 24 years ago, it is still far from low - 179,000, according to Thorp. Statewide annual alcohol-related fatal and injury crashes have also decreased sharply, from 49,000 in 1981 to nearly 22,000 in 2003 "We'd like to see these numbers reduced even further, particularly the high numbers during the holidays," added Thorp. The Auto Club advises that motorists can keep themselves and others safe and can avoid DUI arrests by keeping these safety tips in mind: ## At social events, designate non-drinking drivers who can get everyone home safely. ## Call a friend or family member for a ride if you have been drinking. ## Keep a cab company telephone number in your wallet so you can call for a ride home. ## As a party host, offer a variety of non-alcoholic drink alternatives and provide a gift to guests who volunteer to be designated drivers. ## Take the car keys away from friends and relatives who have had too much to drink. The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest AAA affiliate, has been serving members since 1900. Information about its products and services is available on the Auto Club's Web site at www.aaa-calif.com. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

Ridgeline ROY NAKANO: BSD YEAR OF THE HONDA December 27, 2005 Every year about this time, 49 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada pick the North American Car and Truck of the Year. It's all part of the hoopla for the North American International Auto Show (a.k.a. the Detroit Auto Show). This year, the journalists picked the all-new Honda Civic and the Honda Ridgeline as their choices. It's the first time a single brand has captured both awards. I'm afraid the journalists got it right this time around. I recently had a chance to drive both the new Civic Hybrid and the equally new Civic Si, and both are remarkable cars. IMHO, the former (the Hybrid) trumps the Prius in most categories and the latter (the Si) is going to make the high school tuner crowd very happy. Neither look nor feel much like a subcompact car. The Si, in particular, runs around the Streets of Willow (Springs Raceway) with the precision of a Swiss watch. 'Just amazing. As for the Ridgeline, it is such a leap forward for which most people use trucks for - i.e., as daily drivers. As a truck, there are ones that do a better job of hauling (and there are certainly better-looking trucks). As a part-time truck and full-time car, however, the Ridgeline breaks new ground with its car-like ride, handling, acceleration, gas mileage, and locking storage space. Sometimes, I just stand in awe of some of the achievements produced by car manufacturers. This year, it's Honda. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

The Hummer and the Hybrid: LA Car's own brain versus brawn study ROY NAKANO: BSD REAL MEN DON'T EAT QUICHE December 23, 2005 The annual (January) 10Best issue of Car and Driver magazine is out. As usual, one can disagree with its selection of 10 best cars (e.g., the Mazda RX8, the Honda Accord), but the collection of 10 best reader stories and 10 best winners and losers are an amusing read. Making it onto the 10 best losers category: "According to a study at Cornell University, men whose masculinity has been questioned are more likely to oppose gay marriage, support the war in Iraq, and buy SUVs," says Car and Driver. The research was reportedly conducted on 111 undergraduates, and the finding were presented to the American Sociological Association last August. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD HERO TO ZERO IN TWO SECONDS December 20, 2005 This one comes courtesy of reader Arthur Yin: The husband was in BIG trouble when he forgot his wedding anniversary. "Tomorrow," his wife angrily told him, "there had better be something in our driveway that goes from zero to 200 in two seconds flat!" The next morning, the wife looked outside and saw a small package in the driveway. She brought it inside, opened it.... and found a brand new bathroom scale. Funeral services for her husband have been set for Saturday. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

Times have changed at Ford since the Model T days. ROY NAKANO: BSD FORD TO ADVERTISE IN GAY PUBLICATIONS AFTER ALL December 17, 2005 Following a decision by its luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover to pull advertising from that sector, parent entity Ford Motor Company announced it will run corporate advertisements in gay publications. The corporate ads include all of Ford's brands. In a letter to some gay, lesbian and human rights groups who met with the automaker, Ford said it has decided to run corporate ads in the targeted publications in 2006, reports Reuters. "It is my hope that this will remove any ambiguity about Ford's desire to advertise to all important audiences and put this particular issue behind us," Joe Laymon, Ford's group vice president for corporate human resources, wrote in the letter. A spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. gay rights organization, informed Reuters that it is the first time Ford would run corporate ads in these publications. The week before, Ford announced its Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands will pull all advertising from gay publications after facing a boycott threat from the American Family Association. "Ford is not the first company to come under fire for its stance on homosexuals," says Jui Chakravorty of Reuters. "Other large companies including Microsoft Corp. and Walt Disney Co. have also found themselves trying to appease groups on both sides of the cultural divide." Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD LET ALL USE CARPOOL LANES, OCTA CHAIR SAYS December 13, 2005 First it was compressed natural gas cars. This year, it was hybrids. Now, the chairman of the Orange County Transportation Authority is recommending that all single-occupant cars be allowed into the carpool lanes - during off-hours. OCTA Chairman Bill Campbell (who also happens to be an Orange County supervisor) has asked Caltrans to determine if it will work in Orange County, says David Reyes of the Los Angeles Times. Campbell, a former state assemblyperson, took notice that the practice already exists in certain parts of Northern California. "Northern California is already doing it, and this should help spread traffic over all lanes and make it safer and free-flowing too," Campbell told the Times. In Sacramento County, Caltrans restricts carpool lane access only during morning and evening rush hours. "But between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and again after 7 p.m., they are open to all vehicles - even those with only a driver," says Reyes. In addition to the off-hours access, motorists in some Northern California counties can also go in and out of the carpool lane without regard to lane striping. "At least five Northern California counties - Sacramento, Alameda, Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Marin - allow this flexibility," says Reyes. "They've solved how to do it in Northern California, and if any study or review gets done, it needs to be done regionally, and that includes L.A. County and the other counties in Southern California," Campbell said. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD WHAT IS IT ABOUT TRUCKS? December 10, 2005 This week, it's my turn to tool around in a truck. More specifically, it's Mitsubishi's new Raider pick-up, which is based off of the Dodge Dakota platform. Our $33,920 2006 4WD XLS DBL model comes with a 4.7-liter V8, leather-trimmed seat, a six-way power adjustable driver's seat, and a Sirius satellite radio-ready sound system with a six-CD changer, 276 Watt amplifiers. In short, this one comes well-equipped. So why am I not more excited about this vehicle? After all, I come from a truck family. My earliest memories of living in Boyle Heights, California, involve seeing my father's 1949 F-Series Ford pick up pulling up into the backyard every day (I'd get a ride from the alley to the house). He purchased a number of other trucks throughout the years, and I'd sometimes go out on gardening routes with him. Therein might lie the rub. I grew up with trucks as work vehicles. For families that rely on the utility that trucks provide, they make a lot of sense. For most of us who live In Southern California, however, they make less sense. With the subject truck, there's the issue of ride (stay off of the 710 freeway if it matters to you), handling (great, if you like boats), and fuel efficiency (EPA: 15 city and 20 highway) - all of which are generally superior in cars comparably priced. Parking proved to be a particularly thorny prospect when trying to fit the truck into an ordinary space at the local Zankou Chicken parking lot. And, oh yeah, this truck doesn't fit in my garage. I don't mean to pick on the Raider, since what applies to the Raider more-or-less applies to just about every truck on the market. And as a truck, the Raider works just fine. But $35,000 can buy an awful lot of car. For those contemplating a truck as a daily driver, you've got to ask yourself: Are the weekend runs to Home Depot enough to justify the sacrifices in ride, handling, and fuel efficiency? For you, there may be other reasons why a truck purchase makes sense. For me, the answer is clear: Those eight feet-long planks are actually easier to get into my own car than they are in trucks with six-foot beds. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD GAY-FRIENDLY CAR ADS December 7, 2005

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The antigay American Family Association has called off its threatened boycott of Ford Motor Company, after the company confirmed that it will stop advertising its Jaguar and Land Rover brands in gay publications. Ford insists that the matter is strictly a business decision. Ford was threatened with a boycott by the Mississippi-based AFA back in May according to the Associated Press, but the AFA announced in June it would hold off on its planned action after the car company and some of its dealers agreed to negotiate the issue. On December 1st, AFA announced the boycott was canceled. "They've heard our concerns; they are acting on our concerns. We are pleased with where we are," said AFA chairman Donald Wildmon, in a prepared statement. The AFA succeeded in its efforts in part because both Jaguar and Land Rover appeal to a large segment of the culturally conservative community. There are car companies and brands, however, that are less vulnerable to such pressures. For instance, Subarus, Volkswagens, and BMWs appeal to political conservatives and liberals alike, but their markets are less reliant on cultural conservatives. Subaru first ventured into the gay marketplace back in the early 1990s, according to Paul Perales of GayWired.com. Lead by John Nash, an expert in the field of automotive advertising within the gay market, Subaru took care to understand its gay consumers by conducting their own market research, says Perales. The carmaker even so far as to have had national TV spots featuring out lesbian tennis pro Martina Navratilova. The brand has, as a result, sustained a loyal lesbian consumer base. Volkswagen's involvement with gay market allegedly occurred by accident when in 1997 it aired its "Da, Da, Da" commercial. That commercial featured two men in a VW Golf picking up a discarded couch. VW's marketing arm at the time, Arnold Worldwide, said the ad was not intended to depict a gay couple. However, Volkswagen has not objected to such an interpretation. Michael Wilke of the Commercial Closet is said to have coined the term "gay vague" in describing the VW ad, since it's not clear that the couple in the Golf are gay. With their 2004 US print campaign, BMW created ads depicting what could vaguely be interpreted to be gay couples. Perales points to one BMW ad caption that read: 'Being out has never been so in.'" Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

Mazda MPV ROY NAKANO: BSD DO YOU REALLY NEED THAT MINIVAN? December 4, 2005 I've been tooling around in a minivan for the past few days. It's one of the better ones: A Mazda MPV. To me, it's better because it's smaller. With its three-row seating, it's roomy enough to fit a family of seven. On the other hand, it's not so long that putting the vehicle in reverse and looking out the back doesn't resemble a trip through the Holland Tunnel. On the cornering front, the MPV is also one of the more nimble examples of this species - although "nimble" is a very relative term here. As good as the MPV is, it's not my cup of tea. In fact, I've come to the conclusion that most people don't need minivans at all (don't even get me started on SUVs). The marketing people have done a great job in convincing families that a minivan is just what they need to carry around their kid's soccer team. In reality, I rarely see more than four people in minivans - usually not even four. So what about those special occasions when we really do need to take more than five passengers? Here's a novel idea: Take two cars. In the long run, you could be saving a lot of fossil fuel. You could also be driving around in something that's a helluva lot more fun, and isn't such a VOTRB (view-of-the-road blocker). Need more reasons? How safe do you think that third row is in rear-end collision? When it comes to passenger injuries, rear-end collision safety is all about crumple zones. How much room do you see for crumpling behind the third row of most minivans (ditto three-row SUVs)? Otherwise, yeah, the MPV is a great minivan. If you absolutely, positively think you must have a minivan, you can bet I'll be steering you toward one (like the MPV) that puts a bit more emphasis on the mini rather than the van. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

LA Car's Bill Wright and Newt Gingrich (Grafman photo) ROY NAKANO: BSD NEWT, THE CONSERVATIONIST December 2, 2005 "We need to begin exploring modern approaches to decreasing dependence on foreign energy sources across a range of areas." No, that's not Larry David at the Earth to America program. It's former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich giving the keynote address at a recent industry event hosted by Rinnai Corporation. Yes, it's the same Newt Gingrich that orchestrated the Republican "Contract With America" back in the mid-1990s. Hybrid advocates, Sierra Club members, and others who urge a decrease in our dependence on foreign oil appear to have gained an unlikely but important ally. "Becoming energy independent doesn't require huge sacrifices; however, it does demand use of the best available energy efficient technologies, continued innovation and a long-term commitment to changing the way America consumes energy," says Gingrich. "If we, as individuals, begin to make wiser energy decisions, we can change our country's course and have a safer, more secure tomorrow." In addition to Gingrich's remarks, guests at the industry event were presented with the finding of a comprehensive study into what California's building industry can do to be more energy conscious. For more information about the study, go to energyvortex.com. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

Yours truly "back seat driving" the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid ROY NAKANO: BSD THE LA CAR BLOG GETS A NEW NAME December 1, 2005 I always thought LA Car Blog sounded a bit too generic. It also isn't the most fitting description, since the LACB is more an op-ed column than a traditional bulletin board-style blog (although for all intents purposes, it's still a blog). Hence, a new name. Back Seat Driving, as the name implies, will offer opinions when none are called for. It'll be the automotive equivalent of Monday morning quarterbacking. So, good morning, LA Car readers. Buckle your seatbelts. We're going for a ride, and you'll have your very own back seat driver. I hope to see you back here on a regular basis. Your Back Seat Driving 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 semi-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 Back Seat Driving, a.k.a. BSD (note the similarity to two well-worn abbreviations, BS and BFD), we give you a reason to come back more often (all opinions, by the way, are those of the respective author). 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 Blog entries, click the following: November 2005 October 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 June 2005 May 2005 April 2005 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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