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Exhaust Notes #28: Bailing Out the Big Three? It's Not a Bailout!

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There’s been a lot of talk over the last few days about a bailout for the Big Three. The Big Three have been struggling due to a lot of factors (fuel prices that favor smaller vehicles, the economy, labor and legacy costs, etc.) and some even posit that bankruptcy could be the only way out!
One of the issues at the center of the discussion is whether the Big Three deserve a bailout at all. Well, let us – your fearless VehicleVoice editors – attempt to put some clarity to this situation!

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Posted in: Exhaust Note

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Exhaust Notes Returns Next Week – Same Time, Same Place

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Hey, it’s Labor Day. You’re not going to spend it inside reading our ramblings on the state of the automotive industry, are you? Go have yourself a lovely day!

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Exhaust Note #26: Don’t Just Cruze Along, GM; You’re Not Out of the Woods Yet

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Last week, GM loudly trumpeted the pending arrival of the Chevrolet Cruze compact car, to be officially unveiled at next month’s Mondial de l’Automobile (that’s Paris Motor Show to us ‘Murricans). First, they unveiled photos of the car and then revealed the real thing at the Lordstown, OH plant where the car will be built for American consumers.

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This is a US-market Chevrolet compact? Yes, and you’ll see it in Paris next month. Sacre bleu!

As earlier spy photos had suggested, the Cruze, which in the US will effectively be the next generation Cobalt, is a very handsome compact sedan. It’s as appealing as the Cobalt is appliance-like. There’s some real design going on here with a sleek profile and great surface tension and great interaction between the exterior’s various design elements. GM also promises a very intriguing efficient powertrain choice in the form of a tiny 1.4L direct injection turbo engine. This engine is rumored to produce at least 140HP (on par with much larger engines) while achieving 45 miles per gallon. It will also be among the first compacts available with a 6-speed automatic.


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Exhaust Note #25: NextCruise – How the Future Fared on Woodward

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NextCruise was billed as a fun, eco-friendly addition to the gas-guzzling fun of the Woodward Dream Cruise. We were promised engaging displays, a glimpse into the future and the opportunity for some quality time behind the wheel of hybrids, clean diesels and alternative fuel vehicles. Did things pan out as organizers had hoped?

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The future (clean diesel, in this case), craftily hides inside a Grand Cherokee.


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Exhaust Note #24: Foisting Big Toyota Trucks on the World Market – Any Takers?

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Toyota announced today that in light of greatly diminished sales of the full-size Tundra pickup and Sequoia SUV, the company will start selling them on the international market. As with just about every other full-size pickup and SUV, these big Toyotas have suffered greatly at the hands of $4 per gallon gasoline. The situation is particularly troubling because most Tundras are built in a brand-new (and extremely expensive) purpose-built factory in San Antonio, Texas – smack in the middle of truck country.

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The 2009 Toyota Tundra: Right at Home in Uzbekhistan!

It’s a rare stumble for the usually unimpeachable Toyota; the company had invested untold dollars in developing and manufacturing a true full-size pickup contender that could go toe-to-toe with the best of the Big 3 pickups, only to have the market for such vehicles tank in a matter of months. As the Tundra hadn’t built up commercial credibility yet (commercial users are a major source of full-size pickup sales), the truck was relying heavily on personal-use customers. With fuel prices being the way they are, personal-use pickup customers are the first to leave; they may want pickups, but they don’t need pickups. That being the case, demand for Tundra has collapsed.

Posted in: Exhaust Note, Toyota

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Exhaust Note #23: Dude, Where's My Lease?

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No doubt many of you have heard the news about the Domestic manufacturers pulling back from leasing. Chrysler has pulled out of leasing altogether effective August 1 while Ford and GM are significantly raising their lease rates on many vehicles, particularly trucks whose residuals are now in the tank.

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What’s the rationale here, and what does it mean for the consumer? Well, let’s start off real quick with a one-paragraph explanation of leasing for the benefit of those of you who are still a bit confused as to what leasing is (it’s ok to admit it – there are more than a few of us!). In a nutshell, when you lease a vehicle, you’re essentially paying monthly payments that add up to the difference between what the vehicle is worth new and what the car is pre-determined to be worth (residuals or resale value) when the lease term is up. This means that among similarly priced vehicles, those with higher resale values will generally have a lower lease price since the difference between the sales price and the pre-determined residual value at the end of the term will be smaller.


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Exhaust Note #22: There be cars on TV!

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I’ve just had no luck in getting you, our loyal reader, the sort of in-person coverage of the past week’s cool automotive happening that I’d been hoping for! You’ll remember that last week, a traffic accident that shut down a major freeway prevented me from bringing you the reveal of the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro. Since Thursday, I’ve tried and failed to bring you full reports from two other automotive happenings, which I’ll get back to in a minute. I might be good at forecasting the automotive market, but a resourceful automotive journalist I am obviously not!
Had things gone differently, this story would have brought you some pics and insight from me attending a panel discussion at 2008 Comic-Con in San Diego with the creatives behind Click and Clack’s As the Wrench Turns, a new animated TV series on PBS based on those lovable Tappet Brothers who have entertained and informed us about cars and car care on NPR for decades. I would have also told you about me being an audience member at the taping of the pilot for Top Gear USA, the American version of the world’s best car-related TV show – ever.

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Click and Clack, in animated form

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NBC’s first official image from Top Gear USA

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Exhaust Note #21: Is the New Camaro the Way Forward or a Wistful Diversion?

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What a disappointing day today turned out to be. I was supposed to represent VehicleVoice at Chevrolet’s unveiling of the long-awaited new Camaro up in North Hollywood this afternoon. Unfortunately, a three-car pileup on the I-5 North brought my northward progress to a halt, effectively making it impossible for me to get to the press conference. Beaten, I turned around and drove back to the office.

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I tried to go to Hollywood to see this…

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But instead all I got was this. Bummer.


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Exhaust Note #20: BMW and Fiat Consider Working Together

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Does Alfa Finally See Their U.S. Dreams Come True?
In another example of automakers looking to partner and share synergies rather than swallow one another whole, Fiat and BMW entered into a memorandum of understanding to evaluation cooperative opportunities. They’ve formally agreed to talk about how, and if, they can help one another.
Alfa Romeo may have the most ego wrapped up into the outcome. Desperate to get back into the U.S. car market, Alfa wants the next-generation of the 147 be the lead volume product. They’ve further announced the intent to start building cars in the States in 2011CY, and have started looking for partners to make that happen as well. Technically they do return this summer with the low-volume 8C Competzione and next year with the convertible 8C, but Alfa’s only building 1000 8Cs, including both bodystyles, for worldwide consumption. With only about 100 8C coupes being offered here, the image-building 8C doesn’t make much of an impact on the market.

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Exhaust Note #19: Is GM Breaking Up?

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After a lovely 4th of July weekend, doing my best to focus energies on anything not related to work (something I hear is easy for most people to do, but I’ve never quite got the knack of), I started my usual workday morning routine at my local Bally Total Fitness. And, sure enough, as soon as I get near the gym TV, there’s the news, dragging me right back to 5:15 am Monday morning reality.
The 5 am scoop in Detroit was the rumor GM is considering dumping more brands, one way or another, and firing more mid-management white-collar employees. (No, UAW, you do not have the corner on losing jobs. I swear.) Of course, by time I was in the office and caught up with e-mail, GM has flatly denied that any brand, other than Hummer, is up for review. We’ll only know the truth of that if GM manages to hold onto the seven remaining brands, and assuming Hummer is sold. Here’s the thing: If GM is not considering reducing their brand count, they should be.

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Rumors actually surfaced on this subject last week. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was on my way home to enjoy said holiday weekend that I heard an automotive journalist being interviewed for his opinions on the rumors and what GM should do opine that Saab and Saturn are the likeliest brands to go. Monday morning and it’s groundhog day again. Between that interview and Monday morning, it turned into “news” that GM is considering selling those two brands. Says a lot about how quickly (and recklessly) rumors and speculation fly in this industry, but that’s a story for another day.


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