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BACK SEAT DRIVING - MAY 2006

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 Tue, May 2, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

GORDON BLEAM BACK SEAT DRIVING GM'S FUEL PRICE PROTECTION PROGRAM May 28, 2006

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First, it was zero percent financing. Then, it was "you pay what we (GM employees) pay." LA Car's Gordon Bleam report's on GM's third in a trilogy of novel sales incentives for its vehicles: Purchase a new GM vehicle and get protected against rising fuel prices. California residents, pay only $1.99 a gallon for a full year. The way GM does that is using OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics (OVD), at no additional cost, this system will measure the miles you drive and transmit the number to GM once per month. GM uses the following formula: EPA City MPG x (State Average Price for Premium Gasoline -$1.99) and calculates the monthly credit. The credit is then applied to your GM Fuel Price Protection Card which may be used wherever MasterCard® is accepted and good until 2007. There is no limit on the mileage included. The EPA city mileage is used to calculate the fuel credit except on the Hummer H2 they use 11 mpg (creative accounting at its best). Don't expect to make a windfall from this, if you drive 20,000 miles in the Hummer H2 at the price current premium gas price $3.568 (So. Cal price at press time according to AAA) you will receive a credit of $239.09 per month, but you will be spending $540.62. So gas will cost you $301.53 per month to drive 20,000 miles a year. Eligible Vehicles Choose from the new 2006 or 2007 Chevy Impala, Tahoe, Suburban 1500 and Monte Carlo; GMC Yukon and Yukon XL 1500; Pontiac Grand Prix; Buick Lucerne; Cadillac SRX and the HUMMER H2 and H3. You must take retail delivery by July 5, 2006. - Gordon Bleam Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD HYBRIDS GO POSTAL May 21, 2006

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At a ceremony in the Boston General mail facility, the United States Postal Service launched the first conversion of a mail-delivery van into a hybrid-electric vehicle. When it comes to cutting-edge transportation, one may not think of the USPS. However, they do have a history of it. From the audacity of the Pony Express rider, the fearlessness of the early airmail pilot, or the rumble of the postal railway car, the Postal Service has been instrumental in the birth, growth, and development of a variety of transportation industries. This year, hybrid technology goes postal. "As an agency that delivers mail to 145 million businesses and households six days a week, drives approximately 1.1 billion miles a year, and consumes more than 125 million gallons of motor fuel annually, we are in a unique position to demonstrate to the public and other businesses the growing viability and positive environmental and energy-savings benefits of alternate- fuel technologies," said Walter O'Tormey, Vice President, Engineering, U.S. Postal Service. O'Tormey spoke to an audience of nearly 100 industry representatives, environmentalists, and Postal Service employees. The hybrid-electric mail-delivery van will be monitored in regular service-delivering mail to Boston-area homes and businesses ## to determine its potential for emissions reduction and fuel-economy improvements. It was converted by Azure Dynamics Incorporated, Boston, a developer of electric and hybrid-electric powertrain systems. Based on the company's other hybrid applications, and depending on the vehicle and its duty cycle, Azure officials expect fuel-economy improvements to be in the range of 30 to 50 percent. The Postal Service has been testing alternate-fuel vehicles for several years now. It turns out, in fact, it operates the largest alternative-fuel fleet in the nation ## 30,000 vehicles. The fleet includes compressed-natural gas, propane, ethanol, biodiesel, and electric vehicles. "We expect hybrid delivery trucks to significantly improve our nation's fuel economy and reduce our reliance on foreign oil," said O'Tormey. "That's why this innovation is so important to us, and why we want to share our experiences with the public." Due to the size of the Postal Service network, every penny increase in the price of fuel costs the agency an additional $8 million a year. "We will continue to manage the operation of our more than 200,000 vehicle fleet to maximize fuel efficiency and to keep mail-delivery costs as low as possible," said O'Tormey. Representatives from Azure Dynamics were present at the event to assist in demonstrating how hybrid-electric technology works. "This event highlights the Postal Service's longstanding interest in supporting the development of alternative, cleaner, and more efficient power sources for their delivery fleets, and demonstrates their commitment and vision to be part of a long-term environmental solution," said Campbell Deacon, Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Azure Dynamics. "We are proud to be a part of this Postal Service program and to be associated with this important event." Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD EXCUSE ME, MY PARKING METER IS CALLING TO SAY IT'S ABOUT TO EXPIRE May 17, 2006

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Remember the parking meter fairy from MTV's Jackass? That character saved a number of people from parking tickets. Someone has come up with an electronic version of the parking meter fairy. Imagine a parking meter being able to send you a warning that it is about to expire - or being able to add time to your parking meter from wherever you are just by calling your cell phone. The same meter allows you to slide your credit card through the meter instead of searching for the right coins. Well, that parking meter is a reality, thanks to Duncan Solutions, Inc. The company offers single-space and multiple-space parking meters with credit card and cell phone payment options, meters that cover up to 20 parking spaces, meter and enforcement management software that allows administrators to know instantly if a meter is broken or being tampered with, citation processing and collection services, outbound phone calls and mailings to assist municipalities with collecting delinquent fines, and even lending programs for financially-strapped communities with parking equipment and service needs. The company has also come up with a product called AutoCITE X3, an integrated, handheld, Windows-based computer ticket writer that can communicate directly with parking meters to determine the status of every parking space as well as check on a vehicle's history of tickets. The company's new cell phone payment option, featuring the mobile payment service of mPARK, allows people to add time to computerized parking meters from any location by simply calling on their cell phone to an account previously set up for such charges. The meter itself can send a text message to a person's cell phone to indicate that just a few minutes remain before the meter expires. The person can then respond to the message and add more time. "We are pleased that we could combine the many products and services of these top companies to provide consumers as well as administrators and municipalities with the latest, most efficient, and most convenient products and services available," said James Haugsland, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Duncan Solutions. "It makes us the only single-source company in the parking and enforcement industry." Duncan Solutions is exhibiting its new products at the International Parking Institute's conference and exposition being held right now (May 15-18) in Las Vegas (yes, there is such a thing). Las Vegas installed 17 of the new Pay-by-Space meters in a busy downtown area to test how they would work. "With the growth in population in the downtown area, we saw a huge increase in citation issuance," said Doug Towner, Senior Parking Enforcement Officer for Las Vegas. "But issuing more tickets is not our goal. We'd rather bring in revenue through our meters than through ticket issuance. With the ability to pay by credit or debit card or a cell phone, Duncan meters make it easier for people to do the right thing. Our goal is to leave people feeling good about their dealings with the city." Besides Las Vegas, recent product and service installations have also been initiated in Milwaukee, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. More information on the Duncan Solutions products can be seen at the company's Website at www.duncansolutions.com. Information on whether mPARK is available in a particular city may be found at www.mparkusa.com. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD HUMMER TO DEEP SIX THE H1 May 13, 2006

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General Motors is preparing to send the flagship Hummer H1 to the big dinosaur pasture in the sky. According to Micheline Maynard and Nick Bunkley of the New York Times, Hummer distributor General Motors says it expects to stop building the H1 next month. The H1 is derived from the Humvee military vehicle. The imposing Jeep-like vehicle captivated many television viewers, who watched it in duty during the first Gulf War. "Hoping to capitalize on Humvee-mania, its maker, A.M. General, quickly brought out a street-legal version," says Maynard and Bunkley. "Despite its $140,000-plus price tag, rough ride and a fuel economy rating of about 10 miles a gallon, well-heeled buyers and celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger snapped up the H1 when it first reached the market in 1992." "It started out as a huge image boost for GM - everyone knows what a Hummer is," Ron Pinelli, of Autodata told the Times. But with spiraling gas prices, endearment for the vehicle quickly faded. "With diesel fuel prices around $3 a gallon, it costs more than $150 to fill up the H1's two gas tanks, which together hold 51.5 gallons," says Maynard and Bunkley. The H1 has been a favorite poster child for environmentalists advocating fuel-efficient vehicles. "It's one thing if it's carrying soldiers to and from a fight," said Daniel Becker of the Sierra Club to the Times. "It's another if it's hauling lattes home from Starbucks." The Sierra Club , maintains an anti-Hummer Web page called "Hummerdinger.org." According to GM, however, high fuel prices are not the reason it's pulling the plug on the H1. Instead, GM says Hummer's maker, A.M. General, "will dedicate its engineering, manufacturing, marketing and dealer resources to bringing more new or significantly revised models to market." Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD AND NOW FOR A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT OPINION... May 10, 2006

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"Bring On The $6 Gallon Gas" SFGate.com columnist Mark Morford loves his new Audi A3. But that doesn't stop him from firing off some unadulterated opinions that leave some car enthusiasts slack-jawed. "Bring on the $6 gallon of gas," he declares in his May 10th Notes & Errata column. "It would revolutionize America. It would make us all better humans." But could we handle it? To which Morford says, "No wait, not six. To hell with that. Make it 10. Ten bucks a gallon, no matter what the going rate for a barrel of light sweet crude. That would so completely, violently, brilliantly do it. Revolutionize the country. Firebomb our pungent stasis. Change everything." Morford is not alone here. Automobile magazine founder David E. Davis, Jr. has long called for higher gas taxes for many of the same reasons. Too far fetched? "Not at all," says Morford. "Sure, 10 bucks a gallon would be extremely painful for a while. Citizens would wail. Commuters would scream and stomp and die. But then we would do what we always do. We would evolve. Adapt. Systems would quickly transform, habits would instantly shift." "Look, I adore cars, offers the SFGate columnist. "I adore driving and I cherish open roads and smooth horsepower and a musical exhaust note and I fully believe most German automotive engineers should be sent gifts of candy and Peet's coffee and porn. I would, like most everyone else, be absolutely loathe to give much of it up." "But you know what? Big freaking deal," continues Morford. "I could learn to live without so much. I like to think I would be able to step back and see the bigger picture, realize what is and isn't absolutely essential, what does and does not absolutely define my identity and my life, modify accordingly and laugh/shrug/sigh it off in the process." Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD MOTOR MOUTHS, TURTLE RACERS, AND OTHER PET PEEVES May 5, 2006

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While we are on the subject of pet peeves, the Hagerty Collector Network surveyed thousands of its members to uncover America's "Top 10 Driving Pet Peeves." "After visiting numerous car shows, auctions and automotive events, and talking with our customers, the Hagerty staff heard many of the same complaints about drivers' behaviors" says CEO McKeel Hagerty. "Yet these drivers also admitted they, too, were guilty of committing some of these 'sins of the road.' That's why we decided to launch this survey - for a fun way to bring these pet peeves to the public's attention." Hagerty's "American Top 10 Pet Peeves of the Road," in the order of their irritation index: Motor Mouths - Distracted drivers talking on cell phones: Americans love to multi-task so it comes as no surprise that drivers drifting into other lanes while dialing, downloading, texting or just good old fashioned phone chatter, makes Motor Mouths the survey's number one pet peeve. Turtle Racers - Slow drivers in the fast lane: It doesn't matter to these Turtle Racers that the average traffic flow is 15-20 mph faster than they are traveling; they just "cruise" at their own pace! Piggybackers - Pushy drivers who tailgate: Unless you're at Daytona racing Dale Jr. for the lead, there's no reason to climb up another driver's bumper. Piggybackers should leave the bump-drafting to NASCAR. Wacky Weavers - Drivers who weave through traffic to gain one or two car lengths: These Wacky Weavers employ what's known as "cut and thrust" motoring techniques, chopping off fellow motorists, changing lanes with abandon - all in an effort to roll up to the next red light 10 seconds before you do. Gap Snatchers - Obnoxious drivers who speed up to keep you from changing lanes: It's a mystery why these Gap Snatchers, who can clearly see fellow drivers' signals to change lanes, find it necessary to keep other drivers "in their place." Space Invaders - Hasty drivers who change lanes without signaling: Over the years, auto manufacturers have refined the operations of that little stalk that extends from every vehicle's steering column (turn signal duh). Space Invaders obviously haven't caught on to this radical, cutting-edge technology yet. Road Rages - We've all experienced Road Ragers. These offenders obviously will not stop until you respond to their "need to communicate" which comes in many forms including "sign language" (flipping of the middle finger), the "shout out" (using words that no good Samaritan should say) as well the most popular "the Honk-a-holic" (no description needed!) Speed Racers - Motorcyclists who race down the middle of a lane, between cars: This is the kind of behavior that gives some motorcyclists a bad rap. Not surprisingly, some of these Speed Racers end up high-sided, face down on the pavement, but not before they've left a new contour on your favorite ride or nearly given you cardiac arrest as they speed in between vehicles. Driving Divas - Women applying makeup and men shaving: Don't these Driving Divas have indoor plumbing? Please, spare the rest of us and handle personal grooming habits at home. Morse Coders - Drivers who leave their turn signal on for miles: Now let's be fair. Perhaps these Morse Coders are part of the SETI project, their turn signals beaming out across the galaxies in search of other life forms. Or not. "We started this campaign several months ago, but ironically it was only recently that attention to motorists' driving behaviors became more prevalent" says Hagerty. "Because of soaring gas prices consumers are apt to be a bit more on edge behind the wheel whether it is road trip or your daily commute, we wanted to remind drivers that we could all be more courteous and try not to be a 'driving diva' or 'motor mouth' ourselves!" Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD LITTLE WOMEN IN BIG SUVs May 4, 2006

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Drivers who don't use their turn signal indicators may be one of the top pet peeve's for motorists. My wife's pet peeve is little women in big SUVs - or (an even more lethal combination) little women in big SUVs with cell phones glued to their ear. Evidently, this pet peeve strikes a common chord throughout the country. Suzanne Sheridan and Rozanne Gates of Fairfield Country, Connecticut penned a song about tiny suburbanites driving huge sport-utility vehicles is gaining fans nationwide. The song, "90-Pound Suburban Housewife Drivin' in her SUV," has been recorded by country singer Kira Small. The song drew numerous responses after it was played on National Public Radio's "Car Talk" program. It's now on iTunes, the online store from Apple through which people purchase and download digital music. The lyrics speak for itself: "90-pound suburban housewife/ drivin' in her SUV/ talkin' on her cell phone/ oblivious to you and me/ kids in the back seat watchin' the/ little TV." Gates and Sheridan informed Associated Press that they drew their inspiration for the song from what they saw around them in Westport and other parts of Fairfield County. "They're everywhere - the 90-pound housewife driving in that big Suburban, or Explorer and the Escalade," Gates said. Gates told AP that they haven't received criticism from any neighbors - even those who may have unwittingly inspired the song. "I know so many people who fit that description, and they will say to me, 'I know somebody just like that!' " Gates said. "I say, 'Of course you do.' " To here the song, click here. To see Gates and Sheridan's site, go to www.90poundsuv.com. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD BLINK 101 May 2, 2006

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Have you noticed that an awful lot of people don't use their turn signal indicators? According to a survey conducted by Response Insurance, 57 percent of American drivers admit they don't use their turn signal when changing lanes. Even more interesting, however, are the reasons given for not using them. 42 percent of those drivers say they don't have enough time, 23 percent admit they are just plain "lazy" 17 percent don't signal because when they do, they forget to turn it off, 12 percent admit they are changing lanes too frequently to bother, 11 percent say it's not important, and 8 percent say they don't signal because other drivers don't. Perhaps the most eye-opening: 7 percent say forgoing the signal "adds excitement to driving." "The Company identified several driver-types when it comes to ignoring turn signals - Impulsive, Lazy, Forgetful, Swervers, Ostriches, Followers, and the Dare Devils. The bottom line is that most drivers are failing to see the importance of using their turn signals" noted Mory Katz, CEO of Response Insurance. "But, they are doing so at their own peril - and the peril of others - since their unanticipated actions cause crashes." The National Driving Habits Survey also indicates that men are more likely than women to forgo their signal when changing lanes (62 percent versus 53 percent), as are younger drivers (ages 18-24), 71 percent of whom report they don't signal, as compared to 49 percent of older adults (ages 55-64).

Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE

Flying Spur

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: April 2006 March 2006 February 2006 January 2006 December 2005 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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