Posts by Jon

Hydrogen Cars Nothing New: 1966 GM Electrovan

Posted in Fuel Cell, GM, Hydrogen Cars by Jon | January 12th, 2010 | Leave a Reply |

This new wave of hydrogen fuel cell cars is not due to new technology, but instead a demand from the public in response to rising gas prices. In fact, fuel cells have been around since the early 1800’s. Even so the first car to put fuel cell technology to use was the 1966 GM Electrovan.  This van’s fuel cell had a range of over 120 miles which is not to bad compared to the modern Honda Clarity which has a range of 24o miles. This van was built and tested in 1966 but ultimately ended up failing due to cost and a lack of space.  The piping and equipment needed to power the fuel cell turned the 6 seat GMC Handivan into a 2 seat hyrdogen Electrovan. High costs came as a result of a lack of information, technology, and interest at the time. There was such a lack of information on hydrogen fuel cell cars that even the Smithsonian Institute did not allow it inside their facilities for the sole reason that they had never heard of a fuel cell before and did not understand it’s dynamics. Obviously the information  and technology available today makes the hydrogen fuel cell cars more affordable and safe, but the main reason they may now succeed is that there is a greater worldwide interest due to the global energy demand and rising fuel prices.

Kia UVO (Your Voice): Kia’s Version of Ford SYNC

Posted in Auto Show, Car Accessories, Car Tech, Detroit Auto Show, Kia by Jon | January 12th, 2010 | Leave a Reply |

Kia has just introduced their own “infotainment” system to rival Ford’s SYNC.  The Kia UVO (Your Voice) will be extremely similar to the SYNC system as they both run off of Windows software and share many of the same high-tech features, some of which include the voice commands and ipod compatability. The big difference? UVO uses Microsoft’s latest and greatest software available, which can decifer intricate speech patterns and words that, which with previous versions such as SYNC, proved to be an annoyance.  No more screaming at a voice recognition system that only gets more confused we scream louder. However UVO was not only developed for its convenience but also for its safety aspect. Drivers will have the ability to answer phone calls verbally through UVO, allowing them to keep their eyes on the road instead of being distracted by searching for their phone.

Read More…

2010 Dodge Viper SRT ACR 1:33

Posted in Dodge, Expensive Cars, Fast Cars by Jon | January 10th, 2010 | 1 Response |

2010 Dodge Viper SRT ACR 1:33

Always remember the great words of Ricky Bobby, “If you ain’t first, your last.”  We all want to live by this motto and you are more than likely going to have to sacrifice and arm and a leg to do so. Although the special edition Dodge Viper SRT ACR 1:33 hasn’t been priced yet, with only 33 planned for production, this 600 horsepower beast is sure to put a hole in your wallet.

Read More…

Gas Prices Affecting Auto Industry-Related Sectors

Posted in auto industry, Gas Prices by Jon | July 3rd, 2008 | Leave a Reply |

Dodge Durango SUV
It’s not just car makers affected by the rising cost of gas — fuel hits near $146/barrel for the first time – but also auto parts makers, car dealerships and car rental companies. However, with an U.S. auto industry recovery predicted to be beyond 2009, there’s no short-term relief.

Read More…

N. American Sales of Cars Falling Except For Some Imports

Posted in auto industry, Gas Prices by Jon | July 3rd, 2008 | 1 Response |

Honda Fit
It’s no surprise that higher gas prices have affected the U.S. auto industry in many ways. However, depending on whom you believe, auto sales are either at the worst they’ve been in fifteen years or in ten years [NY Times; free registration req’d].

Read More…

Your Favorite 80s TV Car Commercial?

Posted in Car Branding by Jon | July 3rd, 2008 | 1 Response |

1980 Pontiac Turbo TransAm
Ah the 80s! A time of big hair, big hair bands, big cars and big car ads. Jalopnik has a list of their picks for the ten best car ads of the 1980s. There’s a poll asking for your favorite pick, but unfortunately, none of the videos are on the main page. So you’ll need to do some clicking back and forth. I only vaguely remember these, but I’ll admit to having salivated over the De Lorean, Turbo Trans Am, Camaro IROC-Z, Porsche 944 Turbo, Datsun 280ZX. (I’ve also taken rides in Trans Ams, Camaros, Porsches, and ZXes from that era, so the commercials strike nostalgia in me.)

Do Gas Prices Have You Pumping for Jill?

Posted in Gas Prices by Jon | July 3rd, 2008 | Leave a Reply |

Fans of Michigan son Iggy Pop know the innuendo of the lyrics from the song Pumping for Jill. He might mention “the gas station where I work,” but he’s not talking about work. In an odd flip of reality, a 34-year old woman was arrested on prostitution charges after she accepted a $100 gas card in return for offering a man sex. The man was charged with promoting prostitution.

[via Jalopnik, TheSmokingGun]

Saving the Auto Industry?

Posted in auto industry, Chrysler by Jon | July 2nd, 2008 | Leave a Reply |

auto jobs at stake

Chrysler has been hurting lately, with plans to close at least its St. Louis truck plant, halting and/or reducing some minivan and truck production. Of course, this isn’t the first time Chrysler has had problems. They went through some trying times back in the K-car days. Those cars were relatively efficient at the time but none too sexy, and had other problems.

Still Chrysler lived through it – does anyone remember who bailed them out? Despite their problems, they’re part of the U.S. auto industry and it’d be a shame – economically – if the company went under. I’m not just saying that because I currently have a Dodge Caliber – my first domestic ever – though the videos like the one below worry me.
Read More…

7 Tips on Getting a New Car and 7 Things to Check During Your Test Drive

Posted in Cars, Design, Dodge, Guide by Jon | January 13th, 2008 | Leave a Reply |

Dodge Caliber SXT

After five years without a car, I decided late last fall (2007) that I had to have a vehicle. For various reasons, including a planned move to Toronto in a few months, it has become a necessity to have a car. I also missed not seeing a lot of friends, all of whom are car-less and live in a nearby city. I had to give my outdoor photography sessions and much more. So after so long without, I gave in and got a vehicle shortly after New Year’s Day. If you’re in the position of buying a new car, regardless of your reasons, here are a few tips.

1. Decide on budget beforehand. With all the sexy cars to lust after, it’s easy to get sidetracked. While I love old muscle cars and new sports cars, I’ve never been partial to spending a crapload of money on either. (Though I did spend nearly $600/mth on car payments on each of two Subarus and $600/mth on highway toll fees one year.) I go for form over function. You have to decide what you can afford, and whether it’ll satisfy your needs. When you’re earning the big bucks, you can rethink what you’re driving. (I’m planning my “sports car-driving midlife crisis” for a few years from now.) I’ll admit, I was tempted to go for the 2008 model of the Dodge Caliber SRT-4.

2. Factor in mandatory and incidental costs. It’s easy to forget all the other costs that come as a package when you decide to have a car: monthly car payments, car insurance, driver’s license fees, license plate fees, gasoline, parking, checkups, repairs, emergencies. And with gas prices rising, having a car will be at its most expensive ever in a year or two. (Unless you’re in a high-paying career, fuel efficiency is probably on your mind.)

3. Determine preferred car category. I wanted a hatchback (aka 5-door) because of cargo convenience. I’m planning to move back to Toronto in a few months, and a 5-door will help immensely. I’ve previously had a Mazda hatchback and a Subaru station wagon, but a wagon is more than I need. It’s fact that I would have selected a sexier compact car if I didn’t need the functionality of a hatchback, but I also might have been tempted to spend more money than necessary.

4. Get recommendations. I’ll admit it: I’ve never previously owned a N. American-made car. If I could convince myself that Canadian climate wouldn’t be a factor, I’d get myself a 1969 Mustang. But since it is a factor, I’ve oddly tended towards Japanese models with AWD. (Though I really miss the giant ’72 Chevy Caprice “boat” we once had in the family.)

The fact that I ended up with a Dodge Caliber SXT this time is not only because of an initial recommendation but also subsequent research. My brother, a longtime car enthusiast who sometimes races formula cars at a track northwest of Toronto, recommend Dodge Caliber for a variety of reasons. (Disclaimer: neither of us work for Dodge nor have any monetary connection.) So if you know someone that can give you a recommendation, use that as a starting point for your research.

5. Research online. Car makers and car dealers are all online now (not so when I bought my last car). So even if you use the local newspapers to find special promotions, go do comparisons online as well.

My brother initially recommended the Dodge Caliber SXT, RT, and SRT-4. I researched these online, along with another 14 hatchback models from a total of about 11-13 car markers. I actually created a mindmap complete with vital info about each model, a picture of each car, financing/ leasing details, and whatever other info I collected. Building a comparison list allowed me to quickly produce a short list of about six hatchback models.

6. Shop around for financing. My shortlist was further reduced when I factored in the base cost of cars with AWD. My previous two cars – both Subarus – were very expensive. Subarus have gone down in price since, but with the fiasco I went through when local Subaru dealership went bankrupt and screwed me over royally, I vowed never to buy another. Most carmakers, including GM (who bought a portion of Subaru), charge at least $21,000 base for a 5-door AWD car. Some don’t offer AWD as an option for 5-speeds or even 5-door cars.

Armed with an even shorter list after my research and when considering my budget, I was left with Dodge Caliber and one of the two 5-door Kia models. But Kia offers better financing options than leasing, and I have no desire to own a Kia when the lease is up. Dodge, on the other hand, had better leasing rates and is putting out a lot of great cars. I also lucked out because the dealer I spoke with, Brent, sweetened everything with a lot of free options. (Brent was truly one of the nicest car dealers I’ve interacted with.)

I managed to get a new car for a very affordable monthly rate, with just $2000 down – which was loaned to me by a family member on the condition that I get only a new car.) On top of that, I managed to get a 27-month option, so I’m not committed to it too long. I’ll be in Toronto long before the lease expires, and if I don’t need a car after that, I’m not stuck with a long lease.

7. Do a test drive. I only ever bought one car without a test drive, but that was because it was a Subaru. Both my brother and mother had nothing but good things to say about their Subarus, and I had to make a quick decision. However, since I prefer 5-speed to automatic, I’ve since learned to do a test drive before buying/ leasing. There’s really little reason not to.

What to Check For During Your Test Drive
If you’re taking the time to do a test drive, why not go in there with a list of things to test for? If you’re committing your hard-earned money for a lease or purchase, be sure you know what you’re getting. I was so excited to have a car after so long that I basically only tested the gearshifting.

  1. Blind spots. This is usually the first thing I check for, but I forgot and find that there are some serious blind spots on the Caliber.

  2. Dashboard controls. Sounds crazy, but learn where the wiper, defrost, and hazard light controls are before you go out on the road – even before the test drive. (It was snowing heavily when I did the test drive, so I insisted the dealer come along.)
  3. Ambient sounds. If you get a sunroof and actually use it, you’ll have to deal with the high decibels of air rushing past. But what does it sound like in the driver’s seat when the roof is closed? What about
  4. Handling. Check for how the car handles in both the city and on the nearest highway, if possible. Since I was getting a 5-speed, I also checked the gearshifting and clutch. My father’s research led him to believe that the Caliber’s clutch was “heavy”. I found it to be no different than with my two 5-speed Subarus and the Suzuki compact I’d had before that.
  5. Acceleration. I don’t plan to be on the highway a lot, but if you will be, make sure the car you’re getting can cope with traffic along your daily route. Can you accelerate fast enough to merge safely with traffic?
  6. Leg room. Don’t just check legroom for the driver but also the passengers. A few days ago, I visited friends I hadn’t seen years. After the fact, I realize that my new car is not comfortable when three people including the driver are around or over six feet tall. Of course, I can’t do anything about it now.
  7. Parkability. Something about the design of the Caliber makes me uncomfortable while parking – and that’s regular parking, not parallel, which I’ve yet to try. Obviously, this is something that I should have checked on the test drive. Again, too late.

When you decide on the car that you’re getting, make sure that you’ve either test-driven that model, or that the car you try handles the same way.