Category Archive:

It's Finally Here: Satellite TV for the Car

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Having Trouble Getting Your Couch Potato in the Car? Chrysler and SIRIUS Offer a Solution
As you may have noticed from our Detroit auto show coverage, Chrysler’s latest minivans, the Town and Country and Dodge Caravan (click for story and podcast), arrive this fall with several new features for making life on the road more pleasant and easier for the whole family. Today, Chrysler announced the latest development for family-friendly road trips: SIRIUS Backseat TV. Chrysler’s George Murphy and Frank Klegon announced the new feature in New York, with a helping hand from SpongeBob SquarePants and some local kids. At first, SIRIUS Backseat TV will offer three channels, well chosen for families and include Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, and the Cartoon Network. (One more channel is needed: ESPN, for Dads to watch while waiting for the beloved family to just get done shopping already! Or even better, for tailgating before the big game.)

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SIRIUS Backseat TV uses an in-vehicle satellite video receiver and two roof-mounted antennas, and will complement the upcoming minivans dual-DVD rear-entertainment package nicely. It’s already set up so that second and third rows can watch different media, and the addition of TV to the mix only increases options.
SIRIUS Backseat TV will be a $470 option and requires opting for the rear-seat entertainment package and SIRIUS satellite radio. That $470 includes the first year’s subscription, but requires a subscription to SIRIUS satellite radio. Based on pricing for the single-DVD rear-entertainment systems for the 2008 Dodge Avenger and 2007MY minivans, it looks as though buyers might be able to get the SIRIUS Backseat TV and dual-DVD system for well under $2000. After the first year, SIRIUS Backseat TV costs $7 a month (after the first year) on top of the SIRIUS radio’s $12.95 month fee.
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Who Else Gets SIRIUS TV?
Initially, this system will only be available on Chrysler Group products, but the minivans won’t be the only ones having the fun. The 2008MY Chrysler 300, Jeep Commander and Grand Cherokee, and Dodge Charger and Magnum will also offer the feature. What hasn’t been indicated yet, though, is when SIRIUS will add TV stations, nor when TiVo or other DVR will be added to the whole shebang.


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Scion xB – Wins Motorist's Choice Small Wagon

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AutoPacific Take on win by Scion xB –
Scion xB owners’ satisfaction ratings for its size and package strongly contribute to its class-leading performance in the Motorist’s Choice Awards’® Small Wagon category. The xB “rolling box” design makes it very easy to get into and out of and easy for the driver to see out of. These are important factors to the xB owner. While xB is small on the outside, it is huge on the inside with its limousine-like rear seat getting rave reviews.
IntelliChoice Analysis – The Scion xB is a true Motorist’s Choice ‘no-brainer’. We at IntelliChoice named the xB as a Best Overall Value of the Year winner in 2006 thanks to its amazing resale value and low expected maintenance and fuel costs. And when you factor in the low entry price, the xB shines. The amazing thing is that it came to the U.S. market to attract younger drivers, but it seems to be a bit hit across all ages. With a Cost of Ownership of just $23,500 vs. $27,000 for it competitors, can you blame them?


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Driver's Edge Team Creates Program Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

Enthusiasm Breeds Successful, Quality Program
As I’ve described in a related VehicleVoice news story, I had the recent opportunity to see a Driver’s Edge teen driving education program in action. I attended with my nieces, Angel and Megan, and my sister-in-law Jane.
Watching from the sidelines as I was, neither parent nor student, a common element was easy to spot in the entire Driver’s Edge team. They all are dedicated and passionate about this program. The team is full of people leading rewarding careers doing what they love, and it shows in their overall approach and their optimism. This quality is just one of the reasons for the success of the overall program.
From support staff to leaders to in-car instructors, the team had the ability to connect with the students, to get them laughing while conveying serious information, and to keep them engaged through a four-hour program. Their heartfelt enthusiasm was catching, and the high quality of instruction reflected their dedication and interest. After each presentation, instructors were available for questions from students or parents, as were in-car instructors once they were out of the car.


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Driver's Edge: Teen Driving School Goes Beyond the Basics

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There is a fair amount of bemoaning the high fatality and accident rates among teen drivers, but precious little done to make a difference. In 2002, Driver’s Edge, based in Las Vegas, started to do something about this and has made empowering teen drivers their job. The local program has grown since then, and with help from sponsors has gone national. The 2006 Driver’s Edge schedule included a two-day stop in Michigan, and as I have two nieces with new driver’s licenses, I got them signed up. As a regular contributor to VehicleVoice, I’m glad use the space to share our experience and help spread the word on this fantastic program.

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I first heard about Driver’s Edge in 2005, when I attended a Bridgestone tire event for AutoPacific. I was beside myself with excitement when I heard Driver’s Edge was returning to our area this summer and there was the opportunity to get my nieces Angel and Megan into the class. My sister-in-law Jane and I took them to the program and we made a family day of it.
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The Mission
The mission of Driver’s Edge is simple: To save lives. Their method is “make highways safer through comprehensive hands-on youth driver education.” They teach teen drivers how to recognize their own driving limits and abilities as well as those of the automobiles. The program open to teen drivers age 16 to 21 with a valid driver’s permit or license, and teens are welcome to repeat the course if they have the opportunity.
Jeff Payne, the group’s founder, starts with the assumption that teens are not incapable. The do lack experience, an issue best addressed through education. This education is not being provided in basic driver’s education courses, where the goal is simply to give people enough information to pass mediocre state driving tests. Driver’s Edge enhances a basic course with gritty stuff about car control, vehicle dynamics, proper driving position, a bit on car care, and specific examples of how deadly a distraction at the wrong time can be. Driver’s Edge helps its students learn what a car can do, what it can’t do, and the knowledge and confidence to handle unexpected situations. Driver’s Edge’s motto sums up the approach: Know Yourself. Know Your Limits.
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Jeff is a former professional race-car driver who clearly loves sharing his skill and love of driving and racing. He has taken his experience on tracks and roads in the United States, Europe, and Japan and his experience running his own exclusive driving school and created every element of this program for developing better teen drivers, from the courses to the tests to the take-home booklets.


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Best Cars for Teens Awards

Executives from cars.com and DriversEd.com recently named the top new vehicles for teens based on safety, price, size and ‘fun factor.’
VehicleVoice Counterpoint
The vehicles selected used input from Power’s Mechanical Reliability Ratings and Consumer Reports Reliability Histories. They also used crash test scores and IIHS ratings.
In the flurry of COTY awards, the Best Cars for Teens seems soft and not particularly well thought out. It appears like a no teen was asked for their opinions and only government- and industry-available information was used. Based on AutoPacific and VehicleVoice research Teens (or lets broaden that to GenY buyers) most likely would buy a used car (because they can afford it) or larger vehicles (because they aspire to them).
Study this list and you conclude that a Teen only wants a small, fuel effiicient, inexpensive cars and trucks. Au contraire, they want vehicles where they can carry their friends and their stuff plus go places their lifestyles demand. A Mazda3, no matter how nice a little car it is, won’t do all a Teen requires of it.
The top teen car recommendations from cars.com and DriversEd.com include:
Mazda3– “sporty and affordable”
Honda Civic – having “it all”
Scion tC – “feels rich for the price”
Mini Cooper, – “stops, goes, corners like a BMW”
Subaru Impreza -“good all around performer”
Mazda MX-5 – “affordable convertible”
Volvo S40 – “Volvo safety at an affordable price”
Hyundai Tucson, described as “a lot for the money”
Toyota RAV4 – “larger and stronger than before”
Subaru Forester – “surprisingly roomy inside”
Nissan Frontier, crew cab – “perfect truck option for teens”
Toyota Tacoma, double cab – “Toyota quality in a tough truck”


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The Perfect Gen Y Car – A Used Car?

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The horrific parade of cars “designed to meet the youthful needs of Generation Y” seems to have taken its proper course. I pray the trend is dead. (No, Dan, as VehicleVoice correspondent and AutoPacific president George Peterson found at a recent Dodge Caliber press event, cars targeted at GenY are alive and well. At least Dodge admitted they would not be embarrassed when the Caliber sells to older folks.)
I remember watching Trevor Creed, head of Chrysler Group design, unveil the Dodge Razor designed for “millenials” at the 2002 Detroit Auto Show. The typical Chrysler todo included boom boxes and kids on Razors, those small-wheeled scooters that pre-adolescents use for terrorizing shopping mall parking lots. “What are they thinking?” was my first thought. “Did Trevor get into a terrible Razor accident?”

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Used 2004 Civic Coupe – Perfect GenY Car


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Buying Your Teen a Car

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First of all, nobody should have a vehicle purchased for him or her. Cars are a responsibility, both financially and from a safety standpoint. So when my wife asked me what kind of car we were going to buy my daughter Danielle for her 16th birthday I was not exactly enthusiastic. “Shouldn’t she save her babysitting cash and get a car when she goes to college?” I thought. By then she might have a better handle on both financial responsibility and safety. Besides, the cash she gets for watching some of my neighbor’s offspring is amazing.

Posted in: Car Buying, Kids & Kars

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Learning to Drive a Car – Not So Easy Anymore

Teaching my daughter to drive seems much more scary than it was to learn to drive myself. Everything is so different now than in “my day” (how old does that make me sound).
High School Drivers Ed is History… at Least in Orange County
Just a little background: I learned to drive in high school PE class and can still vividly remember behind the wheel with Mr. Lane. This was in Illinois and now we live in California so they may still teach drivers education in Illinois high school PE classes. In Orange, California they no longer offer drivers education in high school (too costly and high liability). Now it is the parent’s responsibility and financial obligation to provide drivers classes if you want your child to drive before they are 18 years old.
This is where it starts to get even scarier. You can sign up for the classroom portion at driver’s education school or take the course online. At a school the course is supposed to take 30 hours. We opted to do an online course because of the flexibility in taking portions of the program whenever she had free time (cost $99). She completed the 25-30 hour program in less than 15 hours. I was a little apprehensive that she would pass the DMV test, but she passed on the first try, only missing 2 questions. My daughter now has her driver’s permit.
She must have her permit for 6 months before she can take her driver’s license exam. When I am driving she now critiques my driving; going to fast, not coming to a complete stop, etc. Now I have to be on my best driving behavior at all times. This is tough.

Posted in: Kids & Kars

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Entering the Soccer-Family Stage

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Lifestage Has Lots to Do With Vehicle Selection
When my wife and I had our first child we owned a Jeep Wrangler – this was the family vehicle. Yes, a Wrangler was the largest vehicle in our household. The lasted as the family vehicle for about a month. I’m actually surprised it lasted that long. Turns out it could not carry a baby stroller and a passenger at the same time. The Wrangler was a great vehicle and I hope to own another some day, but next time as a third vehicle, a toy, not as primary, daily transportation. We traded the Wrangler for a slightly larger Jeep Cherokee, which was good for a family of three. We were happy with our first Jeep, and a Minivan was totally out of the question. We were not going to take that step yet, or ever. My wife was about as anti-Minivan as one can get. It just wasn’t going to happen.

Posted in: Kids & Kars

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