This past weekend I wanted the most horsepower on my block. That’s pretty tough on my block, where horsepower seems to trump everything. Rationality is heresy on a block of 9 homes that includes a BMW M6, a Jaguar XKR, a Chrysler 300C SRT8 and a host of other badges of courage.
A simple V8 Would Not Do
A simple V8 would not do, but we’re fortunate enough to have a 2008 Toyota Tundra Supercharged by TRD. Some cars offer the power and handling go to give the driver a feeling of “point and shoot”. In the case of the Tundra, “just shoot” will do. The mother of all Tundras is built off of the regular cab, to keep it light. The TRD-designed and developed supercharger boosts horsepower from 381 to 504, and torque from 401 pound-feet up to 550 lb-ft. Start the motor, listen to the whine of your neighbors, I mean, the supercharger. Tap the accelerator and feel your spine align. Tap the brakes and the 16-inch cross-drilled rotors will stop your watch. Load it with manure (I did) and see how truly pointless this vehicle is. Pointless in a good way. Like 150 proof Vodka is pointless.
Which makes me wonder. Today the only auto press I hear relates to bankruptcy, compact cars, and hybrids. Among many others, the Chevrolet Corvette, Cadillac XLR and Acura NSX are postponed. How long will the Obama Administration’s latest comments be more important than horsepower?
With two new and important full-size pickup trucks this fall, at a time of extreme economic uncertainty, what do we see happening to the market in general? And how does the F-150 stack up against the Ram? Since our correspondent Jim Hossack attended both Ford and Ram driving previews, we asked him for some comments. Here we go!
2009 Ford F-150 XLT
What’s happening in the Full-Size Light Duty Pickup market?
Contrary to mass media reports, the full-size light duty pickup market is not dead. In fact, after a few tough months, it is coming back – in terms of share of industry if not actual number of units sold.
The auto industry is down by around 4 million units compared with 2007CY. Full-size pickup share of industry fell from 15.2 percent in August 2007 to as low as 8.6 percent on May 2008, but has rebounded to 15.8 percent in September 2008. In part that may be a reaction to fuel prices, which increased and then decreased, in part it a recent compensation for deferred purchases earlier this summer, and in part due to ridiculously low transaction prices as Dodge and Ford clear out showrooms of the old trucks. It is also worthwhile to remember that holding onto 15.8 percent of a much smaller market still means a dramatic decrease in overall F-150 sales. If and when the economy recovers, half-ton pickup sales volume will recover, depending on how drastic the next fuel price spike is.
2009 Dodge Ram Sport
VehicleVoice correspondent Jim Hossack attended a 2009 Ford F-150 driving preview – and reports that it was well worth it. The Dodge Ram is the other big truck news of this season, so we decided to bring you reviews of both trucks this week.
Hossack says Ford put on a very thorough, very professional series of presentation, with plenty of opportunity to evaluate the new F-150 and facing competition under a variety of circumstances. Hossack was about as impressed with the passion and enthusiasm of the guys working on the program as with the truck itself.
(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.
We must have been asleep at the switch. Not paying as close attention to the medium truck market as we do to the light truck market, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staffers were tipped to the Sterling Bullet
by our colleague Bill Senefsky of Automotive West Group
. Actually Sterling went public with the Bullet on March 6. Public introduction is in late Fall, 2007.
Apparently Dodge dealers are a bit “miffed” by Sterling getting this hardcore work truck. The question has to be asked, however, what will be the future of the Sterling Bullet when Chrysler Group is spun away from DaimlerChrysler? Will there be a clause in the deal maintaining the product or will it be still-born?
The Sterling Bullet is a mild derivative of the heavy duty Dodge Ram. Part of DaimlerChrysler’s Freightliner universe, Sterling got its mitts on the 6.7L Cummins turbo diesel Ram and put its own front fenders lights and grille on the body in white. Their website shows two cabstyles – regular cab and quad cab – unlike Dodge, there is no Mega Cab. There is also no “pickup” version but several commercial versions – “Wrecker”, “Flatbed”, “Dump”, “Crane”, “Contractor”, “Box”, “Tow”, “Service”. The Bullet is available in 4×2 and 4×4 versions with either cabstyle.
The press release for the Bullet is below the fold.
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This week on Let’s Talk Cars, exclusive, red hot test drives. And we’re not just being metaphorical here.
First, VehicleVoice correspondent David Barrett revisits his racing past when he hops inside Audi’s new RS4 to spend a few hours roaring through Pasadena’s Old Town and whipping past the Rose Bowl. With 420 horses, the latest Quattro AWD setup and a purring/screaming V8 motor, the RS4 is everything you’d ever want a sports sedan to be, and then some. The sound alone makes this podcast special.
Plus, a ride in a big red fire truck, (a 1997 Seagrave Triple Apparatus to be exact) courtesy of the Los Angeles Fire Department. Find out what it’s like to maneuver a truck that weighs over 40,000 pounds through the crowded city streets of downtown Hollywood. Sparky says this is the best job in the Department.
Yeah, this week’s Let’s Talk Cars is red hot.
02:06 Exclusive Test Drive – Audi’s New RS4: David Barrett, VehicleVoice contributor
13:36 Exclusive Test Drive – LAFD Fire Engine: Brett Sparkman, LAFD Engineer
VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.comhttp://www.autopacific.com) pay close attention to the the dynamics in one of the largest and most dynamic product segments in the North American auto market – the Premium Mid-Size SUV market. This VehicleVoice blog (http:/.vehiclevoice.com) delves into the dynamics between Traditional SUVs and Post-Modern SUV entries.
Are Traditional SUVs Based on Trucks on Their Way Out?
Some say traditional SUVs are on their way out, but their implied death is exaggerated at best or at worst will come only after a lengthy illness that has just begun to take root. That the playing field is changing there is no doubt, but traditional SUV entries will be an important part of the mix well into the next decade, despite the amount of chatter that Post Modern SUVs (some refer to them as crossovers) are generating and the speculation that the product configuration will take over the world. Though segmentation is subjective and a constantly moving target, but a close look at the Premium Mid-Size SUV segment as currently defined indicates that it is not quite time to write off traditional SUVs.
Ford Explorer Versus Toyota Highlander: Which is the Way of the Future?