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Exhaust Note #4: Does the Green Car Really Exist?


It seems that everywhere you look, America’s gone green. Products and their packaging proudly announce their sustainability. Recycling bins are prominently placed in public places. And of course, those hybrid vehicles seem to be just about everywhere. There are countless good reasons to think about environmental sensitivity, but it should also be said that it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the hype too. What am I implying here? I’m suggesting that it’s pretty easy to do small token acts – and then feel like you’re helping the environment a lot more than you really are.
I’ll come back to this is a moment. I think it should first be said that there is a universal truth about automobiles. This universal truth is that people tend to buy vehicles that make them feel good. What makes people feel good varies with the times. Back in the 1950s, big cars with tailfins and jet-exhaust lamp clusters reflected the progress and optimism of the era; these attributes on vehicles made drivers feel good to be alive at that time. In the 1990s, gas was cheap and the economy was strong. These factors helped spur the growth of SUVs, which made owners feel independent and strong – and of course feel good.


Posted in: Exhaust Note

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Exhaust Note #3: Help! I’m so distracted!

It’s a fact of life that we are all “connected” more than ever today. We gab on our cellphones constantly, we check our messages both in front of computers and on the go on our smartphones, and we have more choices than ever over how we are entertained. For the most part, these are all positive changes in our lives and a clear sign of progress.
We live, however, in one of those “in-between” times when society hasn’t yet figured out how to merge progress with basic safety. You know, like back when automotive engineers figured out how to make cars go really fast but hadn’t yet invented the 3-point seatbelt. To what am I referring? I’m talking about being able to use all of these devices that keep us connected safely while driving.
This is a topic that’s been talked about time and time again over the last decade. Initially, people talked about people distracted as they talk on their cellphones, but since then, it’s gotten a lot worse. Now, people scroll through reams of playlists on their iPods (yes, I’m guilty as charged) as they read their email and text messages on their phones (and many try to write messages too). All this, while talking on their handsets while negotiating traffic filled with similarly distracted drivers? Oh dear.
Manufacturers have been trying for years to find ways to reduce this distraction, with mixed results. Among the most ambitious and comprehensive systems that attempt to reach the Holy Grail of connectivity and safety is Ford’s new SYNC, co-developed with Microsoft. It’s available on most Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln products – even the lowly Focus. So, it’s available to everyone, not just those rich guys who can afford all the gadgets.


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Exhaust Note #2: GM’s Comeback Trail


Much has been made of the recent onslaught of really great cars and trucks from General Motors. It’s particularly amazing for me, an automotive analyst in his thirties, to witness. You see, until very recently, GM – for my whole life – has always been the perpetual underachieving giant; in many ways a symbol of everything wrong with Detroit. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s – a time when more and more of my generation’s Baby Boomer parents were abandoning GM clunkers in favor of far higher quality imports. Even throughout my adult years, GM hardly represented the “Mark of Excellence” its corporate slogan claimed. As long as I could remember, GM products (large trucks excepted) were rarely world class; in my mind, price and patriotism were the only real reasons to buy them.
For the last year and a half, however, I’ve been forced to rethink this notion that had been one of the true constants in my life. Beautifully rendered and engineered vehicles that truly needed no excuses began to trickle from GM factories. Truly drool-worthy GM cars began showing up in real dealerships, not just the auto show turntables. It has truly been an amazing experience to witness all this happen before my eyes.


Posted in: Exhaust Note, GM

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Exhaust Note #1: It’s Pickup Week at VehicleVoice!


(editor’s note: VehicleVoice will now kick off each new week with Exhaust Note, a weekly rant or rave of automotive industry insight. Here’s our first…enjoy!)


Pickups Are At Our Core
Like ‘em or not, big pickups remain a staple of the American automotive industry, representing one of the biggest chunks of the U.S. automotive market in terms of sales. Last year, full-size pickups represented over 2.1 million sales, or just over 13% of all new light vehicles sold, and AutoPacific, VehicleVoice’s parent company, forecasts sales to remain over the 2-million mark through 2013.
What gives? Aren’t all of the green messages getting through to people? Why aren’t people ditching these guzzlers in big numbers? The fact of the matter is that big pickups are core and central to our lives. Just think about all the goods and services that are delivered by pickups, and all the livelihoods they contribute to. Or, think about the way that they enable people’s hobbies and interests. In the auto industry, we often talk about new vehicles’ innovative flexibility and utility features, but when you think about it, the good ol’ pickup is the very definition of those words. Their appeal is democratic in the truest sense of the word; for rich or for poor, for young or for old, for men or for women, for work or for play, the pickup just simply works.

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