Saturday, July 19, 2008

Big Things In Small Packages

Well, the New York Times is reporting (you have to register on to view) that more people are optioning up their small cars as they trade in the SUV. That should be good news for car makers. For Detroit, it is mixed news, as how many people want a loaded up Aveo? How about a Cobalt GTI? Caliber S? Focus M?

Well, Detroit just doesnt have anything to compete in the premium compact segment. There is nothing that can come up against a MINI, Audi A3, or even a New Beetle convertible all tricked out. Nothing that is fun, sporty, or can be made to be so. Nor anything on the way, that I can see. Ford even just cut out some of the better versions of the Focus.

Oh well...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Who is square now?

I am a big fan of the VW Squareback. As a variation, or "Variant" of the Type III, it was introduced in the US in 1965, about 4 years after its German debut as a notchback. During that time, they developed the Squareback (the name Variant was too close to Valiant) and the Fastback. 1968 saw the introduction of electronic fuel injection, a first for a production economy car inthe US. And around 1970 ushered in a slightly larger update.

Using the platform of the bug, this car brought a modern sensibility to the VW stable of cars. Providing 30 mpg, and 30 cubic feet of cargo space, it was cheap to use and versatile. While no letters were written home about blinding acceleration (this was the 60's and there were other cars for that) the Squareback surely gave over 800,000 owners practical and dependable transportation.

One of those owners was my brother. Around 1968 he came home with a white Squareback, which provided him the ability to haul equipment for his garage band gigs. He didn't seem to have it long before he traded it in on an Austin Healy, causing our father to be at no loss of words. The two cars were a Dr. Jeckle/Mr. Hyde thing, and I guess my brother had to go through both sides. Within a year, he had settled into an older Volvo sedan which led to a long line of practical and dependable vehicles.

While my brother undoubtably misses his Austin Healy, I am sure he also has a soft spot for his Squareback as well. The Squareback definitely belongs to the class of small wagons I hold dear, for being
modern before their time.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Well, am I all alone on this? It kills me that Toyota is the only one with a really viable, profitable hybrid. Where the hell are the technology leaders, our German friends at BMW and Mercedes?

BMW has a "concept" hybrid that is based on the no-one-can-quite-figure-out what-it-is-for X6. They have some "efficient dynamics" features that are on the corporate site, but not on the USA site. And the features there are not listed as features on US cars. They have also created a small fleet of some 100 hydrogen cars, in their largest, luxury model mode, and are having them driven by invitation. Hardly getting real world use. This is all nice and good, but, we wont transition to hydrogen overnight, and so what we need are all the steps to get us there. Hybrids.

Mercedes is even worse off. Visit their site, and you can get more information about their classic car program than any new efficiency technologies. I honestly dont think anyone is going to get excited about Blue tech diesels. Diesel isnt running efficient enough to overcome the price gap.

I'm not impressed. These guys make GM look good.

If only GM could make a car that looks as good as the BMW 1 series hatchback...