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Happy Holidays from VehicleVoice

Happy Holidays!!

As we approach the year end of 2006, VehicleVoice would like to wish all of our readers and survey takers Happy Holidays and best wishes for a successful 2007.
There are over 60,000 of you now and you have helped make VehicleVoice one of the fastest growing automotive news sites since VehicleVoice was launched in November, 2005.
We look forward to continuing the dialog with you in the coming year.
Have a Great Holiday Season!
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LA Auto Show – LA Now the Real Deal


The Los Angeles Auto Show has lived in the shadow of the larger Detroit Auto Show – pardon me, the “North American International Auto Show” – for decades now. Through a folly of scheduling, Los Angeles and Detroit were always scheduled on top of each other in early January. Why more people didn’t opt for LA in January rather than Detroit was beyond us. But it wasn’t until LA moved away from the January date (which Detroit will keep because that is where the Detroit Auto Dealers Association wants it) that it has begun to reach critical mass.
Of course, VehicleVoice and AutoPacific crews were there to document the most recent LA Auto Show and determine if it has succeeded in separating itself from Detroit.
LA Gets International Sanctioning
For its “New Beginning”, LA received international sanctioning from the Paris-based Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles (OICA). This is a big deal because only two shows per continent can be sanctioned each year by OICA. But it is French, so who cares?

LA Moves Even Earlier in 2007 for 101th LA Auto Show

In 2006, LA moved from January to just after Thanksgiving. Press days were on the 29th and 30th with several companies throwing soirees on Tuesday evening the 28th. This moves LA five to six weeks earlier than Detroit and opens up the ability to trot out more concept vehicles and new vehicle introductions.
For the 2007 show, LA straddles the long Thanksgiving holiday with the show getting more attendance from the Thursday and Friday of the week when prospective show goers are sated with American football and avoiding the shopping malls like the plague. Good move, LA.

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Stuck to the Dealer's Floor – Inventory Numbers Tell the Story


Which cars and trucks are planted to the dealer’s floor? In other words, which vehicles take the longest to sell? Who cars? Why does it matter, anyway?
Well, while it may not seem that important to you, it’s critically important to the industry s a whole… from the manufacturese, component suppliers, dealers and quite a few financial institutions. First, if you know the time it takes to sell a vehicle, you know how much it is dragging on the dealer’s floorplanning costs. Floorplanning is the term for the amount it costs the dealer to finance the a vehicle in inventory waiting to be sold. If a vehicle has been hanging around for weeks, he’ll be more likely to deal aggressively to get rid of it. Also, vehicles that have high days supply may be less popular. From that perspective, they may be the ones you want to stay away from.

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Ford Taurus Laid to Rest – Dies of Neglect


The Ford Taurus ceases production during the week of October 23, 2006. Since the Taurus was launched on December 24, 1985 as a 1986 model year product over 7 million Tauruses have been sold. Taurus, over the years, is the second best selling Ford car after the Model T. What began as a bold move into contemporary automotive design was allowed to wither in the vine and eventually fade into a fleet-only product.

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1986 Taurus Redefined the Mid-Size Car
The 1986 Taurus arguably rescued the Company following its early 1980s trauma and set a new direction for Mid-Size Sedans in the USA and world markets. Taurus quickly became a benchmark for competitive entries and even when competitors criticized its “jellybean” styling, they emulated it in one manner or another.
I was there when Ford used a Hollywood sound stage to launch the first generation Taurus. This “reveal” was the conclusion of a year-long string of teaser public relations leaks that helped guarantee that the public was ready for the Taurus and not surprised by its advanced new styling.
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Best of All Tauruses – 1992 Through 1995
Where the 1986 Taurus was an aggressive change, Ford research concluded that the original concept was right on target and the second generation Taurus was what many considered a mild evolution of the original car. Keeping the basic concept the same, Ford tweaked the Taurus and the result was perhaps the best of all the Taurus line – the 1992 through 1995 Taurus.
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Because the 2nd generation car was so evolutionary, the automotive media jumped all over it criticizing it for being too tame after originally redefining the Mid-Size Car. Ford management twitched at this criticism and vowed to break the mold again with the DN101 – the 1996 Taurus.

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Crystal Cove Concours Kaput – Goodbye Croissant Derelicts!


Today marks the final Saturday morning Crystal Cove mini concours in Newport Beach. Starting at 0700 each Saturday morning for years, Crystal Cove has become the spot for car owners and enthusiasts to gather over coffee and donuts on Saturdays. Unlike Donut Derelicts up Pacific Coast Highway that has a hot rod flavor, Crystal Cove had a exotic car flavor even though there were a few hot rods and classics thrown in. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents and many local auto industry folks were on hand to bid farewell.

Irvine Company Crushes Crystal Cove Car Event

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Seen here is Barry Meguiar of Meguiar Waxes and Freeman Thomas of Ford. Meguiar is explaining what has gone on concerning the weekly Crystal Cove event. He describes typical Irvine Company “gestapo tactics” in shutting down the event. An approach to local upscale mall – Fashion Island – led Irvine Company to warn the retailers there not to discuss holding the event at Fashion Island.
What were the reasons for kicking the event out? Apparently there was too much traffic congestion. The Newport Beach Police said traffic was not a particular problem. The cars were too high performance and unsafe at speed. Newport Beach Police said that they had not given out an extraordinary number of tickets before, during or after the event for the years it has been held. And finally, the local residents complained of noise and congestion. Heck, the local residents were some of primary participants.
The event was over each Saturday at 9AM a full hour before the retail stores in the upscale Crystal Cove strip mall where there is a Starbucks, nice pastry shop and Trader Joes. The Starbucks and pastry shop will sorely miss the Saturday morning crowds – business they wouldn’t get otherwise.
Ford to the Rescue
Ford circulated flyers at the final Crystal Cove event and opened their Premier Automotive Group and Mazda Campus to the Crystal Cove enthusiasts. PAG and Mazda is adjacent to the Irvine Spectrum – another upscale shopping area, but without the oceanside ambiance of Crystal Cove. The Ford venue promises to be more spacious and more inviting… but I think it is on Irvine land as well.

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Good Bye Ol' Paint – Infiniti M45 Off Lease

Unlike many media/analysts, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staffers actually have their own cars. We actually go to dealerships and buy them just like normal folks.
Two years ago just as the lease was coming due on my 2003 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer I was driving through the local auto mall and rolled past the Infiniti dealership where they were having a fire sale on out-of-production first generation M45s. You remember the 1st M45. It was a Nissan Cedric/Gloria/Cima with “sporty” cues like a fast greenhouse and frameless door windows. The M45 had been put in the Infiniti lineup as a stopgap between the fading-fast I30 and the already faded Q45. Only a short-term proposition, Infiniti did what it could to differentiate the car and make it an “Infiniti” – did a pretty good job.

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New Lease Chosen for Most Horsepower for the Buck
Frankly, I didn’t like the way the car looked, but the price was too good to pass up. Turns out I have gotten into the mode of leasing vehicles based on horsepower per lease payment dollar. The 340 horsepower for the M45 made the discounted lease they were offering a real deal.
M45 R34 Blog.jpg

The M45 was the 1st sedan I had personally had for ten years. The previous five two-year leases had been SUVs – one Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo and four Ford Expeditions. Just could not bring myself to get sixth SUV for this iteration.
On the upside, the Infiniti was very, very fast. The V8 sounded outstanding at full roar. Handling was OK. The seats with temperature controls interfering with your inboard thigh were among the most uncomfortable in the industry for few years. They were shared with the G35 and FX and thankfully they have been replaced by better seats for its most recent cars.

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Lincoln Resurrects Town Car – For Awhile


As part of Ford’s semi-annual Way Forward plan, Ford announced that they will not cancel the venerable Lincoln Town Car after all. They made the sensible decision to move the Town Car from its decades-old home of Wixom, Michigan to the Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis Plant in St. Thomas, Ontario.

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You can see what we at VehicleVoice think/thought of Ford’s plans for Lincoln in our Lincoln commits suicide blog of August 24, 2006.
Keeping the Town Car around helps Ford’s revenue picture, keeps the livery business happy and increases the utilization of the St. Thomas plant (where Ford just dropped one of two shifts). Apparently, the transition from Wixom to St. Thomas is not as easy as many believed. There will have to be some substantial changes to the cars to accommodate all three on the same line.

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American Wretched Excess in England – Costco and Cadillac CTS


Had to visit the Costco in Derby just to see if it was different from the Costco stores in the USA. NO! While the merchandise is slightly different (not as much Kirkland private label merchandise), the layout is very much the same. Much larger liquor department with an emphasis on champagne and cases of wine. Still at a substantial value.
Years ago, I read an interview with a Costco exec working on the planning for Costco stores in the UK. He was rubbing his hands with glee thinking about how their strategy of merchandising could transform British retailing. The uniquely American approach to the mass market is something dramatically different than traditional British retailing.

CTS Costco Blog.jpg

The parking lot was the surprise. Arriving at 10:45 AM (store opened at 10AM) the parking lot was only about a third full and many of the vehicles in the lot were saloon cars (sedans with trunks) rather than the Chelsea tractors (SUVs) that are found in the USA… at least in Orange County.
Note the parking spaces are relatively generous. Not the sub-compact spaces found in most other car parks in England.
Still, felt like a touch of home.

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Cadillac CTS in England – Not the Ugly American


For the past few days, I have been driving a Cadillac CTS around England. This evaluation is special because the CTS is the winner of AutoPacific’s 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Entry Luxury Cars in the USA.
The evaluation started at Heathrow Airport, driving to the outskirts of London and then North to the East Midlands. This drive isn’t as unique as that of former-colleague Rex Parker’s when his father shipped the family 1964 Lincoln Continental convertible to the UK for an extensive driving vacation in the ’60s, but the reaction to American iron is interesting and instructive.

Cadillac CTS at Newstead Abbey – Lord Byron’s Family Home

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Cadillac CTS at Calke Abbey – Stately Home in Decline

CTS – D-Segment Luxury Entry in Europe

The CTS is an Entry Luxury Car in the USA, but is relatively large for the English driving environment. It dwarfs smaller Renault Clios, Ford Focus C-Max, smarts, Vauxhall Tigras, Ford Kas and the myriad of B and C-Class transportation available in Europe but not in the USA.

The CTS sold in the UK is built in Belgium and has right hand drive. While the CTS may be a bit large for the local car park of B and C-Class cars, there are fair number of BMW 5-Series, Mercedes E-Class, Volvo S60, Audi A6, Peugeot 407, Renault Laguna and even the remaining Rover 75s and MG ZT saloons to compete with. With few CTS saloons sold in England, the car turns heads usually in the slow motion maneuvering through city centres. Young guys crane their heads to see what the Cadillac is.

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Ohmigod! Lincoln Does It Again! Flipflops on Naming!


OK, I know I shouldn’t take this personally, but Lincoln’s latest chapter in its abortive new naming strategy is almost laughable.
Let’s Copy Them Nice Folks at Cadillac!
First, Ford decided that Lincoln should use an alphanumeric naming strategy just like Cadillac, the Europeans and Japanese luxury car brands. It doesn’t matter that case studies like Acura have proven that this strategy is fraught with peril. “Let’s go be exactly like Cadillac! They are real smart folks, so they must be doing it right – even down to Escalade not using alphanumerics. ” So Navigator is still Navigator instead of MKN.
Lets Pronounce it “Mark Z”!
Then, at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, Ford execs and PR folks couldn’t get how to pronounce the new names straight. Some were saying the new name for the year-old Zephyr should be pronounced “Mark Z” while others were spelling it out “EmKayZee”. Well if the folks internally couldn’t get it straight, who can?
Asking for clarification at a high level luncheon, we were told emphatically that it was “Mark Z”, “Mark X”, “Mark S”.
NO, Let’s Pronounce it LINCOLN EmKayZee!
But now Ford has flipflopped on the naming again. Now, we are to spell it out, but be sure to include the word LINCOLN before the alphanumerics. You see, this was to strengthen the LINCOLN name and not the vehicle line names.
Poor Lincoln.

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