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BACK SEAT DRIVING - JUNE 2008

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 Sun, Jun 1, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

HOT WIRES For hot and tender news wires on the car culture, see LA Car's Hot Wires Study Shows Gas Prices Severely Affecting Consumer Purchase Habits, Activities More Perspectives on Acura's New Power Plenum Front Grille Acura's New Designs Smack of Blackface 4 Cars Out-Sell Top-Selling Ford F-Series Pickup Will the North American International Auto Show Move Out of Michigan?  

 

 

Ford will delay introduction of the 2009 F-Series due to the impact of gas prices 

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING NEW-CAR SHOPPERS BELIEVE LIFESTYLE CHANGE IS PERMANENT Study Shows Gas Prices Severely Affecting Consumer Purchase Habits, Activities According to the latest Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research study of in-market new-car shoppers, the rising cost of gas is severely impacting consumer purchase habits and activities, with a large number of new-car researchers cutting small luxuries out of their budgets entirely. An overwhelming majority of new-car shoppers say they believe high gas prices are here to stay. The June 2008 study results reveal that 28 percent of new-car shoppers have stopped going to Starbucks or other coffee houses entirely, and 21 percent indicate they are going less often due to skyrocketing gas prices. Twenty-eight percent also say they've completely stopped buying DVDs/CDs, and 30 percent say they have cut back and are spending less because of high gas prices. In addition, 27 percent say they have stopped attending sporting events altogether, with an additional 25 percent saying they now attend less often. Sixty-eight percent of respondents say they are doing less shopping of non-essential retail items, and 60 percent say they eat out less often. Furthermore, 44 percent of new-car shoppers say they are vacationing less because of the rising cost of gas. In addition, 73 percent say in the June wave of the study that they believe the change in spending habits to be permanent. "What was once a frequent occurrence such as the morning trip to Starbucks or taking the family to a ballgame just isn't as financially feasible when $4-per-gallon gas must also share a place in the budget," said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book and kbb.com. "The fact that nearly three-quarters of new-vehicle shoppers see this as a permanent situation demonstrates the enormous effect that skyrocketing fuel costs can have on not just the auto industry, but the entire American economy." Further exemplifying the effect of gas prices on new-vehicle shoppers, sixty-two percent of shoppers say that gas prices have either changed their mind or made them think strongly about vehicles they normally wouldn't have considered. Consideration for SUVs, trucks and sports cars is down, while consideration for smaller, more fuel-efficient car segments, like coupes, sedans and hatchbacks are all rising by six points from last month. SUV consideration has plummeted to 27 percent in June 2008, down 11 points from just nine months ago when it was 38 percent in October 2007. The latest Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com) Marketing Research study was conducted on Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com among 862 in-market new-vehicle shoppers during June 2008.  

 

 

 

 

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING ACURA BAR AND GRILLE More Perspectives on Acura's New Power Plenum Front Grille     As if having Acura's new "power plenum" signature front grille compared to blackface isn't bad enough, reader Chuck Dee invites more unvited comparisons: "I also see an anthropomorphic face, but instead of blackface I see a resemblance to cartoon characters, such as from "Bob the Builder" or perhaps from "South Park." Chuck Dee is referring to Muck, otherwise known as Bob the Builder's dump truck. We also show a group shot of South Park's main characters for comparison.

This isn't the first time that an automotive grille drew unwanted comparisons to animate or inanimate objects. The grille of the original 1958 Edsel from Ford was compared to a certain part of the female anatomy (Ford quickly changed that two years later, but the car was discontinued after the third year). The grille on Ford's third-generation Taurus, introduced in model year 1996, was compared to the mouth of a catfish. That comparison may have been a contributing factor to its mixed reception from the public, causing the Taurus to fall behind Honda's Accord and Toyota's Camry in sales. I predict a short life span for Acura's "power plenum" signature grille - or at lease a quiet makeover that will not invite comparisons to blackface, Muck or to South Park characters. In the meantime, consider getting your Acura in silver.  

 

 

 

 

The new Acura RL and its "power plenum" front grille

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING A DIFFERENT KIND OF HERITAGE    

LA Car

Earlier this year, the 2009 Acura RL luxury sedan made its world debut at the Chicago Auto Show. To set the new car apart from the crowd, Acura designed a "power plenum" front grille. The designers employed what it calls a new "Keen Edge Dynamic" look of improved character and athleticism. Most prominent of the new styling cues is the "power plenum" front grille, and Acura will be using it as a design signature for all new Acura vehicles - including the upcoming 2009 TSX. "Over the years, vehicles have lost that individuality and brand identity. Well, at Acura, we're determined to bring it back with striking styling statements such as the powerful grille, distinctive silhouette and edgier styling on every model we produce, said Dick Colliver, Executive Vice President of Automobile Sales for Acura. "By the end of this year, I guarantee you won't mistake an Acura for anything else on the road." The power plenum grille is distinctive enough, but I kept thinking it looked oddly familiar. After viewing Al Jolson in "The Jazz Singer" on the tube, it dawned on me: Acura has brought back blackface.  For those of you too young to be in the know, here's what Wikipedia says about the genre: "Blackface in the narrow sense is a style of theatrical makeup that originated in the United States, used to take on the appearance of certain archetypes of American racism. ...Blackface is American in origin, and blackface in the narrow sense was an important performance tradition in the American theater for roughly 100 years beginning around 1830. It was rapidly popular overseas, particularly so in Britain, where the tradition lasted even longer. In both the United States and Britain, blackface was most commonly used in the minstrel performance tradition, but it predates that tradition, and it survived long past the heyday of the minstrel show. White blackface performers in the past used burnt cork and later greasepaint or shoe polish to blacken their skin and exaggerate their lips, often wearing woolly wigs, gloves, tailcoats, or ragged clothes to complete the transformation." While blackface played a significant role in shaping prejudices about African Americans. it is highly unlikely that Acura would knowingly replicate blackface as its new design signature. But now that the connection is made, it's inescapable. Every time I see the new RL, I think of Al Jolson in "The Jazz Singer."  

 

 

 

 

The Honda Civic blows past Ford F-Series in May vehicles sales

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING 4 CARS OUT-SELL TOP-SELLER FORD F-SERIES PICKUP     GM to Close 4 Truck Plants, May Sell Hummer Brand May of 2008 may go down in history as a watershed moment in the automotive industry. After 17 years as the top-selling vehicle in the United States, the Ford F-Series pickup truck was dethroned for the month of May - not by one vehicle, but four: The Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry, and Honda Accord. It's perhaps no coincidence that all four vehicles are cars - and fuel-efficient ones at that. Jim Farley, Ford group vice president for marketing and communications, said the loss of the F series' title for the month was a "significant development." "But it's not surprising, given the fuel price," Farley said. "That's just a sign of the times. In similar news, General Motors posted a sales drop of 27 percent from a year earlier and said it would close four truck plants, prepare its Hummer brand for a possible sale and focus on making smaller cars. A 25.4 percent sales decline put Chrysler behind Honda in monthly sales for the first time. Pickup trucks, SUVs and minivans dominated the market for the past decade. Starting in March, however, cars began edging ahead. The lead grew in April, and in May, cars blew past trucks to the tune of 193,559 sales. In a conference call before the company's annual shareholder meeting in Wilmington, Delaware, GM Chairman Rick Wagoner said, "We at GM don't think this is a spike or a temporary shift."  

 

 

 

 

Herd of cattle meets herd of press at Dodge's RAM intro at the 2008 NAIAS

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING NORTH AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW MOVING?     Auto Show's Organizers Expressing Frustration with Local Politicians Is the Detroit Auto Show, otherwise know as the North American International Auto Show, moving to Los Angeles? Or New York? Or Chigago? According to Daniel Howes of The Detroit News, that idea is not all that far fetched. Organizers of the North American International Auto Show, weary from a decade of petty politicking and failed schemes to expand Detroit's Cobo Center, told Howes that they plan to circumvent local officials and "within 30 days" push legislation that would help fund a 120,000-square-foot expansion of the downtown convention center. "Should that fail -- as it well could considering Lansing's toxic stew of hyper-partisanship and do-nothing machinations -- the auto show's co-chairmen told me they would consider two options neither would prefer to contemplate: Sell Chicago the rights to the North American International Auto Show name, essentially conceding defeat, or take the show's brand on the road to rival cities like New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago and downgrade Detroit to the regional show it is in danger of becoming," reports Howes. "We want to keep it here, but time has run out," says Joe Serra, senior co-chairman of the auto show and president of Serra Automotive in Grand Blanc told The Detroit News. "It's also time to do the right thing for the show, which means we have to look at alternatives. I do know I have to get 'em off dead center." Added Doug Fox, owner of the five-store Ann Arbor Automotive: "We're at the point where we have to explore all remedies." "It's all ample evidence that many policy makers simply don't have a clue of the economic reckoning bearing down harder on the state as the Detroit-based auto industry copes with imploding sales by cutting more jobs, idling more production lines and squeezing suppliers, according to Howe. "The net effect: Fewer jobs produce less state revenue, sparking a vicious cycle that becomes a downward spiral."  

 

 

 

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE

LA Car

That was LA Car's subtitle when it started back in 1997. It's original website address was about five times the size of lacar.com. Since then, La Car became LA Car. Its subtitle 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 automotive spirit - much like one's own journal or diary. LA Car has always been a great source to come back to from week-to-week, 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) and Live Wires - Hot & Tender News From the Car Culture (co-located with Back Seat Driving, and updated at least daily), we give you some reasons 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 Live Wires and the latest Back Seat Driving blog entry. In the meantime, welcome to the journal and journey from the heart of the car culture. - Roy Nakano 

For past Blog entries, click the following: May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 July 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 August 2006 July 2006 June 2006 May 2006 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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