Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

In some of my previous posts, I outlined that some of the cars that GM produces are highly competitive in their respective classes. The Chevrolet Corvette is one of those cars, it is an example of what is going right at GM. Today, I am covering the best Corvette ever the ZR1.

The Corvette ZR1 is an incredible bargain in the super car arena. The ZR1 is the most expensive Corvette at $103,970 plus options, that price is double what the base Corvette costs. It is also the most expensive car that GM has ever produced!
The Corvette's foreign competition is priced $187,830 more for a Mercedes SL65 AMG and $323,940 more for a Lamborghini Murcielago LP640.

The supercharged LS9 V-8 delivers a tidal wave of power with 638 hp, the 0-60 is 3.3 seconds, and 60-0 is an amazing 97 feet. The ZR1 earned a 1.07 g on the skidpad. All these numbers are exceptional by any standard. Check out the Motor Trend video.

The braking is handled by huge 15.5 front and 15.0 rear ceramic disks. The ceramic disks make the ZR1 brakes strong, fade resistant and have terrific pedal feel.

Driving the car will give you an impression that the ZR1 can be a very civilized every day driver. But, when you step on the gas you quickly discover that this is no ordinary car. This is a refined, fast, powerful super machine that immediately stirs your adrenaline.

The ZRI uses carbon fiber on the interior, the hood and on the roof of the vehicle. It does not look at outlandish as some of the other super cars it competes against but delivers a superlative driving experience. In a recent Car and Driver comparison test the Corvette ZR1 won a comparison test over some very serious competitors.

Volkswagon Jetta TDI

These are frugal times so I thought I would post an inexpensive new car. Yes it is a diesel but it is not like the diesels produced in the 1980's. Those cars had substantial amount of soot exhaust, made a lot of noise, and were slow to accelerate.

The Europeans have been producing diesels in Europe for a number of years. Actually, diesels account for approximately 60% of the new car sales in Europe. The diesels produced in Europe today have low emissions, are more refined, and are comparable to a gasoline engine in acceleration.

Now we get to the diesels strong point - fuel economy! The Jetta TDI is rated at 29 MPG city and 40 MPG on the highway. The car should average approximately 33 MPG in mixed driving. The acceleration 0-60 is 8.1 seconds, with the motor horsepower at 140 hp. The motor was also named to Wards 10 Best Engines see the attached Car and Driver article.

The sedan has an attractive base price of $22,640 for the sedan. When compared to hybrids that can take up to 9 years to payback the additional cost - this car is an exceptional buy for a green machine.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Morgan Aero 8

The Morgan Motor Company is a specialty British manufacturer that builds a small number of hand built motorcars. The company was started in 1909 and is still owned by the Morgan family. They have a quality reputation due to their hand-built, quality approach to car design and manufacturing. Morgan is renowned for combining a unique blend of traditional construction with the latest available technology.

Designed to comply with the rigorous safety standards in the U.S., Morgan has installed the latest generation electronic airbags and ABS which incorporates electronic distribution thru the use of the wheel sensors. They have installed BMW's 4.4 litre V8 which puts out 333 HP and 6100 lbs. of torque. The Aero 8 is equipped with a 6 speed ZF manual gearbox and an automatic transmission was added in 2008. A fine example of the 2006 Morgan Aero 8 is shown above.

The dedication that Morgan has put into lightweight engineering has lead to some real performance gains. The car has a 0-100 kph time of under 4.5 seconds and has the ability to stop from 100 kph in just 35.8 meters or just under 9 car lengths.

Executive Chairman Alan Garnett commented "what has been achieved from our small yet talented is truly noteworthy. To meet the exacting requirements for America is significant even for major manufacturers, and all of this state of the art technology has been packaged into a car that is actually lighter than its predecessor. At just 1145 kg, the performance is astonishing. This version is now on sale worldwide."

A fine example of a 1963 Morgan Plus 4 Drophead was included below for historical purposes.

Cadillac CTS

Earlier posts have gone over GM's financial problems. Today, I would like to bring you one of GM's success stories. As I have outlined in a previous post the CTS has chosen by Car And Driver as one of their 10 Best for both 2008 and 2009. Cadillac has not been on the 10 Best List since the Seville won in 1992. See the complete list at Car and Driver 10 Best List.

The CTS is the first Cadillac, in recent memory, to have good driving dynamics, an upscale interior and performance in its optional 302 hp, 3.6 liter direct-injection V-6. It also offers edgy styling, a refined driving experience and offers a manual for automotive enthusiasts. Actually, I could not believe I was driving a Cadillac! I had to take a look at the crest on the steering wheel a couple of times.

On the tech side, the CTS has a voice activated infotainment package featuring intelligent iPod® integration, 40 GB hard drive and an advanced hard-disk navigation system.

The pick of the liter is the CTS-V. This is a SUPER SEDAN! This car is a very refined and extremely capable sedan, handles extremely well, and brakes well.

The CTS-V’s supercharged 6.2-litre V8 engine delivers a heart pounding zero to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and on to 191 mph where legal and 175 mph for the automatic transmission. These outstanding performance figures enabled the CTS-V to claim the unofficial lap record for a production car (7 mins 59.32 secs) around the Nürburgring’s legendary Nordschleife circuit in October 2008. Click here to see a video of a CTS-V in action, also note the exhaust note - it is even better in person.

The Cadillac CTS-V is fitted with the latest generation of the world’s fastest-reacting suspension technology, Magnetic Ride Control (MRC), which uses shock absorbers controlled by electro-magnets, rather than mechanical valves, accelerating response time. The CTS-V is also equipped with powerful Brembo brakes which account for the excellent stopping distances. These features, along with four-channel ABS, hydraulic brake assist and dynamic rear brake proportioning, ensure that the immense power is kept safely under control.

It’s not all about performance however, as the Cadillac boasts a range of luxury features fitted as standard including new, 14-way adjustable Recaro® performance driving seats, ‘hand cut-and-sewn’ double stitched leather and sueded material, and a high-gloss black Obsidian surface finish. The CTS-V is currently available in left-hand drive only and priced from at $59,995 in the US and in England £56,495 on-the-road (£58,995 for the automatic transmission model).

Friday, February 20, 2009

Saab Declares Bankrupcy

Many of the worlds auto manufacturers are in financial trouble due to the severe decline in auto sales. Today, Saab was the first auto manufacturer to declare bankruptcy. The Supervisory Board of Saab decided that bankruptcy was the solution and notified the 4000 employees how the company will continue to operate. The filing is apparently similar to a Chapter 11 filing in the United States, which allows the organization protection from the creditors while allowing the company to restructure.

Shown below is a 2008 Saab 9-3, which is Saab's most popular model.

Sweden's government had turned out a bailout request from the parent corporation GM. GM has indicated in the court filing that the company "would not fund further the projected losses of the company (Saab)." It appears that GM and the Swedish government are playing a game of chicken. Unfortunately, a high number of jobs are on the line if this does not work out.

Last year Saab lost about 3 billion Swedish crowns ($340.1 million) and anticipates that 2009 would lose about the same amount. Saab Managing Director Jan-Ake Jonsson indicated that they will continue to explore all available options for funding and or selling Saab, it was determined that a formal reorganization would be the best way to create a truly independent entity that is ready for investment.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Aston Martin DB9

A friend has requested that I do some posts on infamous British cars! So I thought that everyone would enjoy a post about the Aston Martin DB9. The Aston Martin DB9 is a world class example of a beautiful fast grand tourer that was launched in 2004.

A prime example of a 2006 DB9 Volante is show below.

Aston Martin has a checkered past with some great cars and the company has seen its fair share of financial troubles. Ford purchased the brand in 1987 and sold the brand in 2007 to a consortium lead by David Richards, a British racing champion. Ford brought stability to the company, substantially increased reliability and left the designers to do what they did best. As a result, they have created fabulous examples of the automobile. The car sounds fabulous also, click here for the video.

The DB in the name stems from David Brown, the owner of Aston Martin for a significant part of its history. The DB9 was designed by Ian Callum and finished by his successor, Henrik Fisker. Ian Callum is an infamous British designer whose work I greatly admire! He has such a sense of style! For more information about him visit a New York Times Blog.

I have to admit that Aston Martin DB9 is one my favorites cars in the world. First, it is a beautifully styled car with some serious motoring performance. Second, did I mention that the car is FAST! The DB9 coupe has a V-12 motor that produces 470 horsepower, produces a 0-60/0-97kn/h speed in 4.6 seconds and a top speed of 190 mph/306 km/h.

DB9 comes in two variants, a coupe and the Volante convertible. There is also a new variant out now which is the DBS which generates 40 more horsepower than the standard DB9. The DBS wears a full carbon-fiber suit which is a first for Aston, and gets carbon-ceramic brakes and adaptive dampers. Shown below is the coupe version of the the DB9.

The DBS generates the numbers promised by a vicious exhaust note and steam roller tires, sprinting to 60 in 4.3 seconds and topping out at 191 mph via a 510-horsepower V-12. Aston is big on the tactile experience; to bring the DBS’s engine to life, you press a sapphire and stainless steel “Emotion Control Unit”—not an ignition button.

Shown below is the 2009 Aston Martin DBS. Click to hear DBS exhaust note !

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lutz To Leave GM

I thought that today was an incredibly sad day for General Motors. They submitted their recovery plan to the government. From a management perspective, that day was embarrassing considering that GM a few years back was the largest business in the world ranked by sales and market capitalization. They are also loosing a very important component of what was going right at GM.

Here is a salute to a real car guy Bob Lutz! He is the chief product czar at General Motors. He is the person that is directly responsible for bring on some of GM's best new products. He made the announcement that he will be leaving GM last week. The products that he as brought to life are the Chevrolet Malibu, Cadillac CTS, Pontiac G-8 and the Chevrolet Volt.

I personally think he saw the writing on the wall. Under government supervision, he would not have a free reign to implement his visions of what an automobile should be. So, he would not be comfortable operating in that kind of restricted environment.

Bob Lutz has had a substantial automotive career working at Ford, Chrysler and BMW prior starting work at GM in 2001. Hopefully, he will continue working his magic at some other manufacturer. But, if not we will miss his automotive genius!

Monday, February 16, 2009

GM Time To Pay The Piper

Today GM is starting to build some of the best cars in the company's history. The Cadillac CTS, Chevy Malibu, Pontiac G8, Chevrolet Corvette and the Chevy Silverado pickup are the best vehicles that GM manufacturers. Each of these vehicles is extremely competitive in it's class. I have driven each and they are impressive cars in driving dynamics, style, design, engineering etc. It appears that they may have turned the corner in realizing that they have to compete not only here in the U.S. but worldwide.

My issue with the American manufacturers has been a management issue. GM management traditionally has chosen to build cars as cheaply as possible. Which means that they would put a minimum number of dollars into product development, use parts that were as cheap as possible and then anticipate that Americans would continue to buy them like they always did.

Unfortunately, Congress in all their wisdom allowed every country in the world to compete here. Therefore, Americans realizing that there were better cars out there started purchasing Japanese cars due to the improved reliability. Then Americans discovered the European cars based upon driving dynamics and superior safety.

So here we are , tomorrow GM and Chrysler will turn in a restructuring plan to the Treasury department. Apparently, they will not report to a new Car Czar but an inter agency task force headed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner and Economic Council Director Lawrence H. Summers.

GM now has to answer to Uncle Sam! It is time for some hard decisions! GM has to cut the number of models, currently GM has 60 models which average 50,000 sales a piece. Many of the models are almost exact duplicates ie. Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook crossovers. GM has not had the money to to market all it's vehicles nor the development dollars to improve the existing models.

GM also has four times and many dealers as Toyota in the U.S. They have to supply all the different dealers with products which they can no longer afford to do. Dealers are protected by state franchise laws. When GM shut down Oldsmobile a few years ago, GM had to pay dealers $1 billion in settlements.

Then we have the issue of the United Auto Workers and the Canadian Auto Workers unions which have generous contracts for wages, healthcare and retirement benefits. The unions have been working with the auto industry so I will have to commend their management. But, this is a make it or break it situation!

Bottom line - GM will have to undergo major financial surgery! Eventually, I anticipate that GM and Chrysler will be put into a government sponsored bankruptcy. GM will probably survive but will exit bankruptcy a smaller more efficient manufacturer. Chrysler's fate does not look very promising!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

More Tickets Given Out In Hard Times!

Unfortunately, it is true! It appears that more municipalities are having hard times themselves. They need more revenue - therefore they are asking the police departments to increase vigilance on citations to cover the budget shortfalls. Many police departs indicate that they do not have quotas but what else would you call it!

Take Detroit for example, the car business has been slowing down for a number of years - along with city coffers. The number of moving violations in the greater Detroit area has increased 50% since 2002. Michigan during that time has also cut revenue sharing to communities by $3 billion dollars.

So, whenever your driving be aware that police departments in many cities and states are issuing more citations that ever. One unintended side effect might be is that if drivers watch their bad driving habits. The number of accidents and fatalities will also go down.

New American Car Company - Tesla Motors

Most people are unfamiliar with Tesla Motors, they are an American auto manufacturer. They produce an electric car the Tesla Roadster which is one of my favorites. Actually, while most of the auto industry is in the dole drums due to the bad economy. This company has 1000 back orders on their production thru November and will be sold out thru 2009 shortly.

The Tesla Roadster is an exotic car and sells for $109,000. The Roadster is assembled in England by Lotus Motor. European deliveries of the Roadster and Roadster Sport will start in late June, and we will announce the location of our first European showroom (in London, UK) in the next few weeks
The company is also developing a four door sedan called the Model S. The department of Energy informed Tesla that they will disburse $350 million for their Model S within the next few months. The Obama administration has made it a high priority to move quickly on the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan program.

Elon Mush, Chairman of the Board, Product Architect and CEO wrote this in his blog "I expect sales demand to strengthen further as this awareness grows. After all, what’s the point of driving another exotic sports car when it is slower than a Tesla and damages the environment? Already, the Tesla Roadster is the car of choice among the technology, business and Hollywood A lists – this year’s Academy Awards will be a lineup of Teslas – and we have never had to give a discount to anyone". See the Tesla Blog for more information!


Friday, February 13, 2009

Is This The BEST Muscle Car Ever?

The new and revised Mustang has to be one of the best new models that Ford will introduce for 2010. The pick of the litter is the Ford Shelby GT500. I can remember back in the late sixties The Ford Shelby GT500 was the hottest Mustang you could buy. Today Carroll Shelby is still working his magic with the 2010 model.

The Shelby GT500 has a supercharged 32-valve 5.4 liter V-8. The engine generates 540 horses of raw power and it is hand built by one technician at Ford's Romeo Michigan plant.

The cars appearance is an evolution of the current Mustang styling. It appears to be based on the 1968 Mustang but with a much bolder stance.

The car show is in Grabber Blue with red stripes. Wow!! This car is hot!! The pricing is expected to be $47-$49K. For more information go to Motor Trend. Enjoy!!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Behind The Scenes Of The Auto Industry

The news just hit the wires! GM is in talks with Delphi to purchase some of their manufacturing plants. Most people are not aware that Delphi was part of GM until it was spun off as a separate company in 1999.

GM obtained a bridge loan in December to help it survive thru March! Cash is very tight! Why would they be talking about purchasing assets of another company? The answer is that any interruption by their part suppliers could bring the assembly lines to a complete stop. That would have drastic implications to sales that are already down by substantial margins.

GM is trying to hedge their bets! They want insurance that they will have the critical parts for the vehicles that they manufacture. There are thousands of parts in each vehicle that they manufacture. Most plants are set up on a Just In Time system where the parts arrive just as they need to be assembled into the car.

The bottom line is that the car business is a complex web of manufacturers not just the major auto companies. Suppliers supply most of the parts that are used in today's cars. So, any interruptions to the parts supplied would bring the auto makers to their knees!

Many of the companies that supply the auto industry have been burned by the recession and the substantial decrease in the sales of cars. Some of those companies are in just as bad a shape financially as the big three auto manufacturers.

Is Your Car A Ticket Magnet?

Here is some interesting information on the 10 most ticketed cars. Toyota/Scion gets the nod with five of the cars - winning this competition by leaps and bounds. Coming in a distant second is Mercedes Benz with some incredible cars the CLK63 AMG, and the CL63 AMG. I have to admit that I drove an CL63 AMG. What an super car, it goes fast, stops fast and handles well. It felt like it could go a lot faster than I drove it. Both Mercedes deserve to be on the list!

  1. Hummer H2

  2. Scion tC

  3. Scion xB

  4. Mercedes Benz CLK 63 AMG

  5. Toyota Solara Coupe

  6. Mercedes Benz CL63 AMG

  7. Scion xA

  8. Subaru Outback

  9. Audi A4

  10. Toyota Matrix

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Six Discontinued Models

We have just gone thru a golden age of automobiles! The choices have been many! The current state of the economy has materially impacted the automobile business. The car companies are beginning to cut less profitable models. This is only the beginning of the restructuring that will go on over the next three years.

Here are six models that will be discontinued after the 2009 production year!

  • Chrysler PT Cruiser

  • Dodge Viper

  • Honda S2000

  • Hummer H3

  • Lexus SC

  • Saturn Sky

My advise is that if your interested in one of these vehicles. It would be a good time to purchase one - the incentives are substantial. FYI, discontinued models have a high rate of depreciation.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Can Detroit Build Hybrids?

Ford has hit a a big one over the fence with the 2010 Fusion Hybrid. This product has received great reviews from the automobile writers. The car is unexpectedly refined, gets great gas mileage and is fun to drive! This hybrid was actually developed in Dearborn with Ford technology. Ford's other hybrid vehicle the Mariner Hybrid uses a version of the Toyota Synergy Drive licensed from Toyota.

The Ford Fusion actually won a comparison test in Car & Driver versus the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid and the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid. Click here to see the full article in Car&Driver.

The American companies have made a number of major management mistakes over the last twenty years. My opinion is that should have been investing enough money in product development and research and development. That would have produced better cars allowing them to compete effectively. Instead they were purchasing foreign brands that now they are forced to sell at bargain basement prices. So,it is comforting to see them developing some good products.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cadillac Converj Concept

Last month General Motors (GM) gave us a preview of what GM is capable of producing. Bob Lutz (chief product guru) introduced this gorgeous 2+2 concept the Cadillac Converj. Wow!!! This a an absolutely gorgeous car! It is designed with the thought that a car's beauty should dictate its appeal - not the powertrain. Although, the high-tech electric powertrain named the Voltec has alot appeal in today's green auto market. The powertrain is an upgraded version of the Chevrolet Volt concept.

The electric motor for the Converj is the sole powertrain and can travel up to 40 miles on electricity alone before requiring the gas engine to power the electric motor. Here is the best part - the batteries can be recharged on a regular 110-volt household outlet which takes 8 hours or a 220-volt outlet which takes 3 hours.
The interior is just a gorgeous as the exterior with white suede, black leather seating and as aluminum and wood trim. The LED instrument panel has blue console illumination while the interior is bathed in white ambient lighting.
GM has not announced production plans but the Chevy Volt is scheduled to happen by the end of 2010. Also, the pricing has not been announced but I would estimate in the $55 - $60k range.

Wow!! I love the styling and cannot wait until I can drive this car! If GM had started making cars like this ten years ago, they would be flush with cash and would not be begging the government for funds.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A hydraulic-diesel hybrid?????

Most people are familiar with a gasoline-electric hybrids. Examples are the Toyota Prius, Ford Mariner Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid etc. OK, there is a new hybrid on the block! Yes, the UPS truck you will see driving down the road in the near future!

Here is a prime example of how our government should work! The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)Advanced Technology Division, in coordination with Eaton, Navistar and the United Parcel Service (UPS) are developing a new technology to power UPS trucks. The technology utilizes high pressure hydraulic fluid. A 170-hp diesel engine is connected to a hydraulic pump instead of a transmission. The engine is not used to propel the truck but instead pressurizes the hydraulic fluid. The fluid is stored in an pressurized storage tanks located under the vehicle. The pressurized hydraulic fluid powers two hydraulic motors drive the rear wheels of the vehicle. Under braking the motors slow the truck and recapture energy in the process.

This technology gives the UPS truck a 45-50% gain in fuel economy. The fuel savings will pay for the additional costs of the technology within three years. Many hybrids take much longer to pay for the additional cost of the vehicle. So, this development is key for the mass production of the technology and the application to passenger cars.

The EPA has built a Ford Expedition with this technology. Fuel economy increased substantially by 85 percent mainly due to swapping the Expedition’s 5.4-liter V-8 for a 1.9-liter Volkswagen diesel. Who says that Americans cannot have their SUVS?

Automobile Sales Plunge In January

The continuing severe sales declines have hit the automakers like a January snow storm. These numbers are the percentage of sales this year versus last year. Consumer confidence has taken a steep decline. Consumers are concerned with the economy, job losses and their ability to make payments. Consumers ability to get loans have also factored in the sales declines.

  • Chrysler's down 55%
  • General Motors down 49%
  • Ford down 40%
  • Toyota down 32%
  • Nissan down 30%
  • Honda down 28%

There were positive reports from two manufacturers. Hyundai has a creative incentive for its customers. Hyundai will cover a new vehicle's depreciation if customers return a car within 12 months because they are unable to make payments due to a job loss etc.

  • Hyundai up 14%
  • Subaru up up 8%

GM and Chrysler are required to submit a viability plan to congress by Feb. 17 in order to get additional financial aid from the government. The automobile business is a capital intensive business and severe sales declines impact their ability to operate. The American auto manufacturers are not currently well capitalized. Few businesses can take severe sales declines without a substantial balance sheet and the cash to endure this downturn.

Monday, February 2, 2009

State of the Automobile Industry

Currently, the automobile industry is in serious jeopardy. The worldwide economic slump is the worst since the great depression. When a company has substantial sales declines inevitably large losses will follow. My experience as a CFO tells me that the red ink is going to flow for a minimum of two to three years. They are making drastic cuts but they cannot cut expenses as quickly as the sales have declined.

The US based companies GM, Ford and Chrysler have had some red ink for the last several year based upon overcapacity. But now Toyota has joined the club with their first loss ever in their corporate history.

I am of the opinion that we are going to see all companies world wide cut down on the number of models and brands that they produce. The automobile market in the US is very crowded with a high number of models and makes. They will cut the models that are least profitable. The US companies also will cut divisions. Using GM as an example, they are indicating that they will sell or close the following divisions Saturn, Saab and Hummer. Ford has already sold Jaguar, Aston Martin, and Land Rover. In addition, they now have Volvo up for sale.

The bottom line is that within three years we will have a substantial fewer number of brands and models to choose from. Currently, the US manufacturers with the exception of Ford have received a bridge loan from the government to continue operations. But, it will take hundreds of billion dollars to save them. So, in the end result the auto industry is going thru the most tumultuous time since the great depression. In the end, there will be a number of bankruptcies in the industry and consumer choices will be substantially reduced.


This blog has been created for all the Car Enthusiasts who love cars. Cars have been an obsession of mine since the age of five. My dad would pick me up from school and we had to drive by the cars dealers on the way home. I would admire the new cars from afar!

As I grew older, I would go by the dealers to look at the new cars with the new styling, different colors of paint, features, engines etc. So, that fascination continues!

This blog will cover many facets of the automobile. Here are a few of the issues that we will cover the state of the automobile industry, new cars, classic cars, muscle cars, new technology, hybrids, manufacturers, models, and automotive news.

This blog is a fun and enjoyable project of mine! Please feel free to comment about issues or subjects that you would like to be covered. Enjoy!