The Pros and Cons of Spoilers

Mehta_Spoilers

Adding a rear or chin spoiler is one of the necessary accessories for many drivers. What are the benefits? Some just prefer the look and consider it an extra dosage of muscle in the Pony. Of course, spoilers are “supposed” to add performance to the car, but whether or not any downforce is added is up for debate. Some pros say yes, some say no, so it’s up to what research strikes your fancy – but really, it’s what you think of the look.

One thing to consider is whether or not your specific model is “supposed” to have a spoiler. Some cars, like the 2008 Shelby GT, have ducktail spoilers made by Shelby for Shelby. Other models come straight from the manufacturer with a low wing rear spoiler. There are some enthusiasts who belong to the camp of believing only real Ford Mustang parts belong on these machines. On the other hand, there are others who enjoy thinking outside the box and are up for creating a one of a kind powerhouse with whatever spoiler floats their boat.Mehta_Spoilers2

The Downside

Adding the “wrong” spoiler will not negatively impact the performance of a car. However, choosing to modify a Mustang with a spoiler obviously costs money. Prices of spoilers can range drastically, so it’s important to do a little research to find one that fits a budget. More importantly, adding a spoiler – especially one that is not made specifically for a particular Mustang model – might make a difference when (or if) it comes time to sell. Will the new owner be a fan of your choice?

What Some Fans Say

Regardless of what you believe, the “real” reason spoilers were born was to increase a car’s grip on the road. How much downforce a car has is extremely important in the racing world and most of the time the only thing keeping a Mustang on a track is the weight of the car. One way to help with grip is to increase the weight of the car – but that negatively impacts how a Pony performs in turns. Spoilers are basically upside down airplane wings that are meant to add grip without the added weight. Does it work? That’s up to you to decide.

Options Abound

So, you’ve decided a spoiler is a right option for you. Now comes the tough part – there are seemingly limitless spoilers out there. Cobra styles come with or without lights. Maybe you want to replace that factory low wing rear spoiler with an F-40 high wing spoiler with a red light. An AIT racing spoiler is a popular option for drivers looking to improve on the track. No matter what you decide, remember that spoilers require some serious changes to the car (like holes in the trunk), so choose wisely.

What To Expect When Your Mechanic Makes a House Call

Mechanics have simplified the process of getting car repair services. You no longer need to drive your car to the mechanic to get it fixed. Now, mechanics are going rounds making house calls. Therefore, besides the convenience of having your car fixed right from your doorstep, there’s a lot more you should expect with door-to-door car repair services.

Car Care Made Easy

Driving your vehicle to get it fixed is always a hassle. This sometimes means paying an extra fee to tow it to the nearest service center or a mechanic you trust. With car repair services delivered to your home or office, you will save a lot on additional expenses that you could have alternatively incurred.

Once you book an appointment, the mechanic will arrive with all the required gear to fix your car. You need to provide the mechanic with enough parking space or driveway. To ensure you don’t forget about the appointment, your mechanic or service center will send you a reminder a day before the appointment.

During the specific day when your vehicle should be fixed, your mechanic will send you another reminder that they are on their way. If you’re not around your home or office, you can notify the mechanic where to collect your car keys and fix your car while you’re away.

Your mechanic will strive to keep time, so you should expect them to arrive within the scheduled time. Avoid driving your car during this time so the engine cools down for effective repairs.

If you’re present during the house call, you can use this opportunity to ask your mechanic about any mechanical issues with your car. You also don’t have to worry about disposing of old replaced parts of your car since your mechanic can do this for you.

What You Get

After inspecting your account, your report will be recorded in your account. The report details essential safety items like car engine codes, brakes, filters, fluid levels, tire treads, belts, etc. You can easily access your report at any time. This allows you to maintain your car in good condition to serve you better.

Your mechanic will then bill you for services rendered. You can choose your preferred payment method and won’t be billed until you’re satisfied with the car repair services. Depending on your payment method, your mechanic will send you a digital receipt and update your data on their platform. This helps you to track your car repair expenses and budget for them in the future.

When your mechanic makes a house call, they can send you maintenance reminders from time to time. Plus, you can manage your vehicle online. You get to schedule appointments and review any services your car needs to function at its best.

Car maintenance is easier than ever before, especially now that your mechanic can provide door-to-door services the ‘Uber-style. Therefore, apart from convenience, you can be confident that your car will always be well maintained.

Who Drives on Which side of the Road?

The world of travel and commuting has it’s fun trivia like…the fact that train tracks are as far apart as the width between tires on a Roman chariot, or that there is an interstate highway in Hawaii. Some of the trivia though, could impact you if you travel, like today’s post on which countries drive on which side of the road.

So we decided to take a look at this less critical travel and transportation topic that could possibly cause a lot of confusion if you aren’t prepared for it.

Driving on the Left

The obvious reason most countries that do drive on the left side of the road do is that they were a former British colony. We’ll dive into why the UK does it soon, but it may surprise you how many countries do. 76 according to Business Insider, compared to 163 countries (or territories) that drive on the right. 30% of the population but only 25% of the roads and only one sixth of the worlds land area.

Driving on the left happens around the globe, about one third of the worlds drivers do it in regions like  Southeast Asia, Southern Africa, and Oceania. (Full list and graphics to follow.) In fact, Oceania is entirely left side driving currently.

Why they started driving on the left or right?

If countries formerly associated with England drive on the left because England does, why does England do it. Well, no one know for certain. Theories range from reasonable to ridiculous but the one you’ve probably heard most is that right-handed people draw their sword from the left and passing on the left allowed for a swift repost should the need arise.

Another theory, which frankly sounds more British, is that the upper crust preferred passing on the left and passing on the right was a trait of commoners. It also would explain why the US would decide to do it differently than those stuffy Brits.

One reason we doubt the sword explanation is that horseless carriages drove on whatever side of the road they liked until there were enough cars on the road to bother making a rule, which happened at Least in Brittan is 1835 with the Highway Act.

If train tracks trace back to Rome then does which side of the road we stick to? There isn’t a historical record but examination of cobblestone wear patterns suggests that they drove their chariots down the middle and if they needed to pass each other they did so on the right.

This likely resulted from the fact that right handed people would hold a horse whip in their right hands and have more room to use it if they stood on the left side of their chariot to drive it. Rome had a big influence on England so why would England drive on the left side instead of the right?

Ironically, we have better records of Ireland insisting that drivers stick to the left. As early as 1793, rules required a 10 shilling fine for driving on the right side of the road. This brings some to speculate that the Celts drove their wagons etc. on the left and since Rome was an invader their driving preference didn’t trump the native preference.

At this point its primarily culture and tradition. Well that and switching is a pain.

Countries that Switched

It does happen that countries bite the bullet and make a switch. In the 1960s both Sweden and Iceland made the switch from Left to Right, probably because the overwhelming majority of Europe drives on the right.

In 2009 Samoa switched the opposite direction, from right to left, but for the same reason, New Zealand and Australia both drive on the Left.

Between 1919 and 1986, 34 of the Left-hand countries and territories switched to Right side driving.

Noteworthy: Rotterdam was Left side drivers until 1917, while the rest of the Netherlands were Right-siders.

How to Prepare if you’re Planning a Trip

The side of the road you drive on tends to determine which side of the car gets the steering wheel. So it can be jarring to not only remember which side to be on, but to do it from the “passenger side” of the vehicle.

Source Insider Inc.

The subtle points are deciding where to watch other cars when you are passing them, or remembering which way to watch for traffic when waiting to make a turn.

If it’s too hard to drive from the odd side of the vehicle, you can technically take your own car to a new country. Just as you can drive your car into Canada or Mexico, you don’t have to operate your vehicle from the side of the car most people do when driving on the side of the road it’s legal to drive on. The primary reason most people don’t think to bring their own car is water. More specifically the oceans etc. that tend to separate countries that drive on the Left from those that drive on the right.

Insurance?

If you’ve ever read your insurance policy (some of us nerds do) than you know you are insured for specific situations. If you move your home address, for example, it should really impact your insurance status, but it does. (Mainly because your chance of losing the car to theft might change.)

So it’s worth asking, does my insurance cover me when I drive on the other side of the road (in a country where I’m supposed to–not just for funzies.)

The simplest answer is probably, yes. Insurance companies factor in things like, which country is nearby. So just like your Montana Insurance doesn’t typically stop at the border to Canada, your UK insurance doesn’t stop when you drive the Chunnel into France.

You may be more effected by rules such as enhanced licenses vs passports vs green cards etc. You license and insurance will probably still cover you, but your license may be inadequate to use as identification, which is a real brain twister if you think too much about it.

You should look at the rules before traveling as you may need to show more than license and proof of insurance in some countries. For example when driving in the EU in a rented vehicle, you will need a document that shows the owner knows you are driving it outside it’s country of register.

When taking your car to the UK, for example, they don’t have any problems with the fact that the steering wheel is on the wrong side, but they have strict rules for importing any vehicle and you’ll have to pay many taxes.

Interesting Exceptions

Okay to have interesting exceptions we would need to have a standard rule that we’re taking exception to and so far we’ve only indicated one or two. They are 1) most countries either follow the tradition of a country that once ruled them or 2) They switched to match countries they share borders with.

Here are some exceptions.

In Africa the major influence for left was England, and Portugal. The major influence for right is France. While most of Portugal’s former colonies switched to Right driving at some point, as did Portugal itself, except for Mozambique which stayed Left. South Sudan has it’s independence and despite having two neighbors that drive on the Left they have retained right hand driving. Rwanda and Burundi are Right Hand Driving but are actively considering switching to Left.

All of Canada is Left driving despite being former British Empire. This isn’t so much an exception because they match the US and who wouldn’t want to match the US? Interestingly, Newfoundland, joined Canada in 1949 but had already switched to Right driving just two years before. Of course the former French Provinces were always right driving, but BC, New BrunswickNova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, all changed to the Right in the early 1920’s.

Conspicuously, the US Virgin Islands are the only US affiliated country that doesn’t drive on the right.

Also, we indicated that unless someone brought their car with them, most cars in a country that keeps left have a steering wheel on the right and vice versa. This is not true in certain cases. For example the islands of the Caribbean and nearby. The closest big car maker is the US and while a large number of the islands were former British colonies they tend to import there cars from the US.

(Note US Virgin Islands drive on the left in vehicles that are designed for right sided driving despite being aligned with the US. Some people are just obstinate we suppose.)

Another common exception, right here in the US is commercial vehicles like parking enforcement or mail carriers which were purpose built with a steering wheel on the right.

List of Lefty Countries

Green = Left, Black = Right

Europe

  • Channel Islands
  • Ireland
  • Isle of Man
  • Malta
  • Cyprus

Asia

  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • Brunei
  • East Timor
  • Hong Kong
  • India 
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Macao
  • Malaysia 
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Singapore
  • Sri Lanka
  • Thailand
Green = Left, Black = Right

Oceania 

  • Australia
  • Christmas Island
  • Cocos Islands
  • Cook Islands
  • Fiji
  • Kiribati 
  • Nauru
  • New Zealand
  • Niue
  • Norfolk Island
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Pitcairn Islands
  • Solomon Islands
  • Samoa 
  • Tokelau Islands
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
Green = Left, Black = Right

Africa

  • Botswana
  • Eswatini
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Mauritius 
  • Mozambique 
  • Namibia
  • Seychelles
  • South Africa
  • St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
Green = Left, Black = Right

The Americas:

  • Anguilla 
  • Antigua 
  • The Bahamas 
  • Barbados 
  • Bermuda 
  • British Virgin Islands 
  • Cayman Islands 
  • Dominica
  • Falkland Islands 
  • Grenada 
  • Guyana 
  • Jamaica 
  • Montserrat 
  • St Kitts-Nevis 
  • St Lucia 
  • Saint Vincent 
  • Suriname 
  • Trinidad and Tobago 
  • Turks and Caicos Islands 
  • Virgin Islands (U.S.) 

Is Onstar Really Worth it?

Yes, Onstar is worth it. Developed 25 years ago, Onstar offers beginner and seasoned drivers the security and safety they need while driving. As more and more people get their driver’s licenses, the number of road accidents soars. Therefore, having a reliable application or measures to ensure you can easily reach for help is essential.

Below, you will find out how Onstar works and the benefits of having the in-vehicle application. But first, we’ll go over what Onstar is and why you should consider using this system.

What is Onstar?

Onstar is an in-vehicle system offering drivers safety and security assistance in the light of accidents or breakdowns. You can use it to acquire an automatic crash response, road assistance, and locate stolen vehicles. The services are always available 24 hours daily, assuring stakeholders to arrive each time safely.

Benefits of Onstar

There are multiple benefits of having Onstar as your in-app vehicle safety app. Here are some of the perks you can expect to enjoy as an Onstar user.

  1. It boosts safety – You can use Onstar if you are in a crash or emergency to get out or in any vehicle. Drivers rely on the system to unlock doors and obtain emergency assistance. The services will notify police or medical personnel and call you to check on your status.
  2. It helps in security – Suppose you lose your car, you can use Onstar to locate and recover your vehicle. The application comes with an inbuilt Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) and wireless phone technology that helps locate stolen cars.
  3. It’s used in navigation. You cannot get lost if you are using Onstar; its extensive services provide directions to its drivers. You can also use it to make reservations for accommodation hands-free.
  4. For vehicle diagnosis. The system regularly checks your vehicle’s operating systems and provides reports. You can easily pinpoint your car’s issue without going to the garage. In addition, the app will also remind you of routine services with your dealer.
  5. Improve your driving skills. You may not be the next Charles Leclerc; however, you can use the Onstar Smart Driver feature to gain new driving skills.

Onstar Subscription Plans

For only $49.99 per month, you will gain access to Onstar premium features. You can expect an automatic crash response, emergency services, crisis assist, or roadside assistance. Premium drivers also enjoy stolen vehicle assistance, voice services, vehicle status, remote personalization, connected navigation, and on-demand diagnostics.

There are other Onstar subscription plans which cost less than the premium option. However, you will not have access to some of the premium benefits. The essentials subscription plan costs $39.99 per month, while the Safety and Security subscription costs $29.99. The cheapest Onstar subscription plan is the Connected Vehicle is $24.99 per month. It will give you access to the voice service, vehicle status, vehicle locate, remote personalization, Alexa built-in, and connected navigation.

Auto Makers: US Little Known (Part 4D)

You probably think after writing a post on the big three automakers and three new, start-ups making Electric Vehicles we’d be ready to close out the series with some phased out/defunct car makers, but we have one more post on companies that still make cars–these are the ones you might not of heard of or maybe thought were out of business entirely but they’re not.

DeLorean Motor Company

Vital Stats: 1995-Present, Headquartered in Humble, TX. Founded by Stephen Wynne.

Wait, what? DeLorean still exists? And it started in 1995? What!?! Okay, here’s the story.

As you likely know, if you’ve been around the automotive world for awhile, or if you lived through the 1980’s in the US, DeLorean Motors was started by a man named John DeLorean, an American automobile executive. The company was founded in Detroit, MI, late in 1975. The stainless steal sports car (named after the company owner) featured gull wings and an iconic look, and became the one and only car model for the company.

John DeLorean was already known as an innovator for his work at GM, and raising funds in part through Hollywood connections helped add to the car’s automatic celebrity. The owner ran short on funds and DEA undercover agents offered offered him a quick fix if he’d bankroll a giant drug buy. DeLorean sought to offset the costs of building a factory by government incentives in exchange for locating the factory in a zone of high unemployment.

The UK Government leapt at the chance to build a car factory in Northern Ireland, to the tune of $120 million pounds. They’d easily make their money back on export taxes, a fact they didn’t tell John DeLorean. Upon finding out he’d make $20,000 dollars less per car just to sell it in the US Johnfound himself in a bind. Unfavorable exchange rates didn’t help, nor did the early models terrible reputation for breaking down all the time.

Ultimately, DeLorean was acquitted of drug charges due to entrapment. But the damage to his reputation and by proxy, the highly recognizable car names after him, was too much to overcome. The car went into receivership and bankruptcy in 1982.

In 1985, America was reminded of the iconic car when Universal Studios made a time machine out of it for their blockbuster movie, “Back to the Future.” The car was modified and used twice more in the sequels (1989 & 1990).

Beyond the reliability issues, DeLorean faced a innate problems. The stainless steel body made them all look alike. It was shaped lie a sports car, but didn’t have the speed you’d expect from one (it was a manual transmission), and it cost $25,000 ($70,000 in todays money.) DeLorean seems to have overcome its mechanical issues and found a place in the hearts of Americans which is likely why Stephen Wynne, a mechanic from Liverpool, decided to buy up all the remaining stock, parts and the rights to the name and logo.

Wynne began marketing hats and tee shirts with the logo, and was soon able to distribute parts to existing DeLorean owners. By 2007 you could homebrew your own DeLorean for about $57,000 US by mixing new and factory leftover parts. So the new DeLorean began selling factory “refurbished” models.

When the enterprise became successful, DeLorean’s widow, Sally Baldwin, sued. They originally settle out of court for an undisclosed amount. Her second lawsuit didn’t go anywhere. What made her sue? The new DMC decided to create a brand new model that was all electric. Believe it or not, government red tape has slowed the creation of a DeLorean EV, but the EV climate has massively improved so don’t be too surprised.

Hennessey

Vital Stats: 1991-Present, Headquartered in Sealy, Texas. Founded by John Hennessey…no relation to the cognac.

We’ve included car tuners before when covering UK automakers. So, before we leave the great state of Texas we thought we’d take a look at Hennessey. As a tuning house Hennessey mainly works on sports cars including  FerrariPorscheMcLarenChevroletDodgeCadillacLotusJeepFordGMCLincoln and Lexus. However, they’ve been known to also sup-up pickups and SUV’s, luxury cars and muscle cars…so everything really.

Venom GT by Hennessey, based on a Lotus Exige.

Hennessey is also famous for running a Tuner School where they train mechanics to do what they do. But if you click the tab in the middle you’ll see some of their specialty cars–the venom line. What makes us consider the Venom line it’s own car model as opposed to just a juiced up car is that they use different base cars for different models.

At the Kicker, we’re partial to the Venom GT, built from a Lotus Exige. twin-turbocharged V8 engine that is rated at 1,244 hp in a car that weighs 1244 lbs creates a worlds fastest car three times over. It’s also quite pretty. The original Venom GT came about in 2010, but a 2012 roadster version name the Venom GT Spider was built at the request of Stephen Tyler. Only 6 were made. If we were celebrities we ight steer clear of cars named spider, but Stephan Tyler can make his own decisions.

Commuter Cars

39″ Wide

Vital Stats: 1998-Present, Headquartered in Spokane, WA.

Commuter Cars makes an ultra-narrow electric sports car, the Tango, designed and built by them in their facilities in Spokane, Washington. Well, one of their cars was made in England during an attempt to get manufacturing going, so they’ve only really made a few prototypes, about 20. But they sold them so they are a car maker.

The very 1st Tango was sold to actor George Cluny in August 9th, 2005. The range of the Tango is under 100 miles and it was initially designed to seat only the driver. Car and Driver gave the company a 1.1 out of 10 on survivability. So why are we featuring it. Well this little company did some innovative things. They had some good ideas and are victims of a couple bad bumps of circumstances.

Rick Woodbury and his son Bryan Woodbury founded the company, financed in part by the sale of Ricks yacht. The goal was to produce a vehicle purely for city commuting, with tight, expensive parking. The also banked on continued increased cost of fuel and that the hydrogen fuel cell would be developed by the time they went into production.

Gas prices have climbed, but electricity is also expected to climb in price. The Fuel cell seems to be harder to create than originally estimated and the decision to go ahead an make a standard battery EV meant they entered competition with many other (better funded) startups. Competition is made worse by traditional automakers deciding to also produce EV’s in response to warning signs from the government.

What did they do well? This car is tiny. You can see the specs below, but put it this way–you can split lanes like a motorcycle and park more than one in a standard parking spot. You can also charge it from a standard dryer plug in about an hour. They also put more than one engine in, which is an obvious miss on the parts of almost every major EV maker in the market right now.

Commuter car made sure the heavy batteries are low giving the car stability even at 39 inches wide.

Finally, they got smart and manufactured a separate generator cart that can be drug behind to extend the range. If this seems comical, well it is, but it’s also practical. It allows the owner who lives less than 50 miles from work to drive it normally all week, and still be able to use it to get out of town on the weekend.

Gen Cart (not specifically for a Tango)

Now if the pandemic hadn’t made it so we all work from home…

  • Width: 39 in (990 mm)
  • Length: 101 in (2,600 mm)
  • Weight: 3,000 lb (1,400 kg) (claimed)
  • Batteries: 12 V * 19 Hawker Odysseys or 25 Exide Orbital XCDs or Optima Yellow Tops. Lithium-ion battery options available
  • Nominal voltage: 228 V with 19 Hawkers, 300 V with 25 batteries, 250 V with lithium-ion batteries.
  • Charging: 50 A Manzanita Micro on-board charger with Avcon conductive coupling. 200 A off-board charger under development.
  • Motors: 2 Advanced DC Motors DC FB1-4001 9″,[13] one driving each rear wheel with claimed 1,000 lb⋅ft of combined torque at low rpms. 8,000 rpm redline. or 4 motors, one for each wheel, lithium batteries.

Performance (claimed)

  • 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h): 3.2 seconds
  • 14 mi (0.40 km): 12.25 seconds @ 106 mph (171 km/h)
  • Top speed: 150 mph (240 km/h)
  • Range: 40–60 miles (96–128 km) with lead-acid batteries. 150 mi (240 km) with lithium-ion batteries.
  • 805 hp claimed.

Should You Trade-In Your Car?

After saving up for a new car, you may be considering a trade-in for a potentially ‘better.’ Car. Heading to the dealership and trading your old vehicle sounds like a viable option, but is it worth it? Before you take the old car to the dealership, it might be a good idea to evaluate your finances in relation to your desired car.

There are a few considerations that you should look into before heading to the dealership. For instance, it would be best to price your trade-in before heading to the dealership. Letting the dealership owners put a price tag on your car might not be the best option, especially when you’re on a tight budget.

Trading it can be wise, but if you are not well informed about how it works, you may be ripped off. The following are some of the pointers you need to focus on. It’s entirely okay to trade off your car, but you must consider the following.

It isn’t ideal to trade your BMW or Range Rovers at the dealership. You ideally want to sell such cars on Craigslist. Craigslist is a better way to find potential buyers who will give you a better deal or make a profit.

Again, it will not be prudent for you to go to a dealership and trade in a damaged car. The chance of you making a loss in this kind of situation is like 100%. Suppose the only option for you is to go to a dealership.

Another thing you need to consider is the state of your car. Ensure you have serviced your vehicle because, at the dealership, they will probably consider the cost of the repairs and double that value plus the time invested in it. Then minus all that cost from its current market value.

It is essential to trade your car at the most suitable dealership. For instance, if you have a Toyota, don’t take it to a BMW dealership. The point is to change a vehicle that allows the dealership will find accessible for them to put in their lot. When you take a car that fits their inventory and no repairs are needed, you will likely sell the car at a better rate.

Don’t trade with a value difference more significant than 20%. For instance, the dealership appreciates your car to allow the price of the vehicle to match similar cars on the lot. If the dealership is offering you a trade-in value that is more than 20% lower than similar cars on their lot it’s not a good deal for you. Understand that they will often spend some money bringing your car up to snuff before turning it around. However, they need to justify it if they’re expecting you to take the hit on a vehicle they intend to flip for a quick 25% profit.

When trading with a dealer, remember to look for a discount from the dealership. You may have found a better deal, but it will be much better if they give you a discount of about 5% to 10% for your new car.

Finally, if the dealership has to take your car for an auction, it is not worth the fight to squeeze the fair price from such a deal. Constantly looking for a third-party buyer could also save you a great deal.

Auto Makers: US Startups (Part 4F)

The best way to tackle Car Manufacturers in the US is to break them up by category. Let’s start with the big three, and within those we’ll take on one parent company per post. Later in this series we’ll get to some of the the start ups and those that have been phased out or gone out of business.

Tesla

Vital Stats: 2004–present, Headquartered in Austin, TX, USA (on Tesla Road, BTW).

The above statement is a tad misleading. Tesla Motors Inc. was born in July 1, 2003 in San Carlos, CA. The Tesla Motors Part lasted until February 2017 when the company was reborn as a Texan.

Noteworthy: Tesla was named after Nicola Tesla, the Romanian super genius who immigrated to America and invented the US invented the Induction Engine and A/C Generator, which were stolen from him by American Industrialist Thomas Edison. You’d think they’d make Tesla cars with 4 Induction Engines (1 per tire) wired in series, giving it 4 wheel drive, four wheel steering and auto power regeneration–but Elon doesn’t consult the Kicker before designing his cars.

Best know as a car maker, Tesla also manufactures related products like home batteries, and solar panels as well as charging stations for their vehicles. The drive behind Tesla is clean energy. While electric vehicles currently use whatever power their local grid provides–by and large fossil fuels–they have created a mode of transportation that doesn’t create emissions in and of itself, which can honestly claim to be doing a big part toward an environmentally friendly future. (If you ignore how much pollution is created mining and making batteries.)

Prototype Roadster

The world’s most valuable automaker with a market capitalization of more than US$760 billion, Tesla owns about 23% and 16% of the full EV and plug-in world market respectively.

Contrary to popular belief Tesla is not the brain child of Billionaire Elon Musk. It was actually incorporated by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, then essentially taken over by a $6.5 million investment by Musk in 2004. Musk’s true objective was to raise capital for a private space company, but Tesla is definitely the smartest $6 million he’s spent so far.

Musk, CEO since 2008, is not without controversy, wracking up lawsuits for creative accounting, workers rights violations, and technical issues in their autopilot. Still, with global sales of 936,222 cars in 2021, a 87% increase over the previous year, total Tesla’s sold tops 2.3 million. Tesla is one of the most successful car companies in the world, becoming the sixth US company history to reach a market capitalization over a trillion dollars in October of 2021.

Tesla Models began with a roadster, then the Model S (Sedan), the Model X (SUV), the Model 3 (first EV to sell a million units), and the Model Y (Crossover). Then of course the Cybertruck. An observant reader might notice that subtle name game–S.3.X.Y.

Tesla’s plans for the future? Cheaper cars for the less affluent in society. A Tesla motorcycle seems unlikely based on Musk’s 2018 statement, “we’re not going to do motorcycles.”

Lucid Motors

Vital Stats: 2007–present, Headquartered in Newark, CA. Founded by Bernard Tse and Sam Weng.

Following a model piloted by Elon Musk, Lucid heavily marketed their design ideas and financed part of their start up by selling slots on their waiting list before they even had a product. The first 20 got their cars the day before Halloween, 2021.

In the tradition Dodge and other American Car makers, Lucid first existed to make parts for other EV makers, as a company called Atieva. CEO Peter Rawlinson of Tesla, and Derek Jenkins formerly of Mazda, rebranded the company when they decided to make their own vehicles in 2016, with some investment from  Tsing CapitalMitsuiVenrockJAFCO, among others.

The Lucid Air

Lucid picked Casa Grande, AZ, as their US manufacturing base, and built a plant projected to make a maximum capacity of 380,000 cars per year. It opened 2 years late, but that’s not too bad considering red tape, pandemics and the like. Lucid was acquired by a Saudi Investment fund and has since merged with  Churchill Capital Corp IV, a publicly traded investment fund. The resulting nearly $12 billion investment will complete the factory through phase 4 and allow them to develop their Project Gravity SUV by 2023, then try to start competing with Tesla’s Model 3.

If you feel like $12 billion is a big investment for a company that’s only sold a few hundred cars, you may want to ask your financial advisor where your 401K is. In the mean time, it’ hard to get a feel for how successful this company will be, but it’s poised to make the next few billionaires.

Rivian

Vital Stats: 2009–present, Headquartered in Irvine, CA. because apparently California is the new Michigan.

Rivian’s an EV automaker with a slightly different approach. Rather than starting with a traditional modern unibody car, Rivian has gone straight to the skateboard model, which allows them to make a standardized powertrain platform, upon which they can build an SUV or a Pickup Truck.

This allows them to develop other types of vehicle in the future, or make that platform for other car makers–existing or yet to come. Given the number of semi-manufacturers out of the UK, the Kicker staff wouldn’t be surprised if a company like Caterham or David Brown Automotive, doesn’t grab an investor and build a plant somewhere in the US Land is cheap and business friendly like Texas or North Dakota, then create a Line of EV sports cars based on Rivian’s skateboard.

Rivian raised money via going IPO. Based on Tesla’s performance as a company, investors leapt at the chance to get in on the ground floor of a similar company–they raised $13.5 billion (153 million shares sold).

Rivian manufactures in 5 locations inside the US, with plans to build another factory in Georgia, as well as Canada and the UK.

Robert “RJ” Scaringe, is an American Engineer, Entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of what’s now Rivian. It started as Mainstream Motors and got renamed Avera Motors on it’s way to it’s modern incarnation. The original idea was to make a sports car, but that dream grew as investment dollars came in.

Another early stroke of luck was their purchase of the Normal, Illinois Mitsubishi plant for $16 million dollars, including everything inside it. A ready to make facility can accelerate your plans. In 2017, Rivian revealed its first two products: an electric five-passenger pickup truck (A1T) and an electric seven-passenger SUV (A1C), which it renamed in 2018 R1T and R1S, respectively.

Rivian RT1

Rivian employed 250 people in 2018 and by 2021 it employs 9,000. Although they’ve since announced a 6% reduction in workforce, siting economic downturn.

Despite a few delays, the R1T began shipping out in October 2021, making Rivian the first car company to bring an all electric truck to the US market–not GM, not Ford, not even Tesla (although Tesla has since caught up). Ford was counting on a partnership in Rivian to bring an all EV truck to market, but Rivian backed out leaving Ford with a 12% stake in the company worth around $10 billion.

Rivian made news in March of 2022 announcing a retroactive price increase of 17% for the R1T and 20% for the R1S vehicles not yet delivered, citing increased cost of goods to manufacture. Due to backlash, the company recanted their decision for folks waitlisted prior to March 1. (Only reasonable since locking in a price is one of the big advantages to ordering a new car before it even exists.)

The most recent news, aside from their new COO starting early last month, is that Time Magazine added Rivian to their List of 100 Most Influential Companies (2022).

The 5 Things New Cars Have That We Can’t Live Without

Heated seats, climate control, smart door handles, powerful stereos, and power liftgates are some of the few features that we love about new cars. Manufacturers are always looking for unique ways to enhance our driving experience, a feat typically achieved by introducing new or. Improved features. 

For many car enthusiasts, these features are a ‘must-have’ as they make life on the road easier. Here are the top five new features modern cars have, and you can’t do without them.

Heated Seats and Side Mirrors.

Heated seats are particularly helpful during winter. Initially, you had to wear gloves and cover yourself in layers of clothes during the winter, but now you can have your car seats warm you up. With just a button press, the steering wheel and the seats are all heated, and you are warm enough to drive. A heated side mirror feature allows you to drive seamlessly without opening the car window to remove snow.

Adaptive Cruise Control

Adaptive cruise control is a great feature for road trips. The feature allows the car to self-drive reducing the need for you to become overly worked out by concentrating for long hours. You can easily multitask as you can now focus on eating that burrito, knowing well that adaptive cruise control is your third eye while on the road.

The feature also is helpful in busy city streets. Though it may be tiresome to always be on the lookout for the car in front of you, with adaptive cruise features, you can have the peace of mind to let the car take care of those situations by calculating the vehicle’s distance in front of you as you drive.

Smart Door Handles

Smart door handles are one of those innovations that are helpful, especially when you may need help operating the doors. You don’t need to use a lot of effort to open the door because you can either use voice recognition or an app to open and close your door.

Some cars have apps that you can install on your phone and open the door right from your phone. Isn’t that an amazing feature? The only downside is that when you are hacked, it could be a scary ordeal.

Software Upgrades

Car brands like Tesla have numerous software upgrades that can overly increase the car’s efficiency and performance in general. This feature increases the safety precautions of the car and reliability in the long run. Tesla uses this kind of update on its AI system, and the feedback from the clients has been nothing but positive reviews.

Electric hydraulic

Electric hydraulics are superb features that increase the levels of comfort inside the car. You could be travelling through rough terrain, but you might not even notice since the shock absorption quality is remarkable. You can also travel for long hours without fatigue.

Auto Makers: US Stelantis (Part 4C) 2nd half

The best way to tackle Car Manufacturers in the US is to break them up by category. We started with Ford and GM earlier this month. Now it’s time for the “parent company” car maker you’ve probably never heard of even though they are currently responsible for many long standing and household recognized brands.

Later in this series we’ll get to some of the the start ups and those that have been phased out or gone out of business.

StelantisRecap from 1st Half

Vital Stats: 2021-Present, Headquartered in Amsterdam.

Ever heard of Stellantis? You’ve probably heard of Chrysler and assumed that was the third spoke in the US automotive “Big Three.” Stellantis formed in 2021 as a multinational automotive manufacturing corporation. In order to understand this merger you must first know what happened to Chrysler, detailed below, but in short it became the Italian-American conglomerate Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

FCA joined in a 50-50 cross-border merger with the French PSA Group. Upon forming Stellantis became the fifth largest automaker in the world, behind ToyotaVolkswagenHyundai, and General Motors. At the time of the merger, Stellantis had approximately 300,000 employees, and manufactured in 30 countries. Sales are worldwide in 130 countries.

Major brands include  AbarthAlfa RomeoChryslerCitroënDodgeDSFiatFiat ProfessionalJeepLanciaMaseratiMoparOpelPeugeotRam and Vauxhall. This article will focus on the US concerns since this is a US Automaker post. Other car makers will be covered with the respective countries where the brand is most commonly associated. For example, while Vauxhall has long been thought of as Chrysler of the UK most Americans are unfamiliar and unaware the brand even exists.

The deal is estimated to save the companies $4.22 billion. While the merger is thought of as 50-50 PSA got six out of the 11 board members and retained their CEO at the helm of the newly formed company. PSA shareholders paid a fee to acquire their shares in the new company which went to FTA shareholders to compensate them for differences in valuations. It looks to us like a David ate Goliath situation purely for the glory of becoming the #4 car maker in the world.

Jeep

Vital Stats: 1941-Present, Headquartered in Toledo, OH.
Formed by Willys-Overland in 1941.
Merged with Kaiser Motors in 1953.
Acquired by AMC in 1970.
Acquired by Chrysler in 1987.

This history of jeep is fascinating. The jeep is just different from the ground up from most other passenger vehicles. Unusual for a US maker–it’s headquartered outside Michigan. It’s an iconic shape that many automobile manufacturers around the globe feel free to replicate in some fashion. There is also military use which has come back in a manor of speaking.

During the 80 years since the first jeep was built their have been luxury versions, vans and even a truck. With roughly 2400 dealerships holding franchise rights to sell Jeep-branded vehicles if Jeep were spun off into a separate company, it would be a skosh bigger than Chrysler is without it (estimated value $22 to $33 billion). Let’s clear this up some.

The origin of the name is very fitting. You may be familiar with US military terms like FUBAR and SNAFU which go all the way back to WWI. Jeep was, prior to US entering WWII a slang term referencing something General Issue like soldiers and rifles. The term General Purpose got shortened to GP to Jee-P. The vehicle itself was a work horse and quickly became associated with the European view of American Soldiers–reliable, rugged, hard working, lacking refinement but able to get the job done when all means have failed. Jeeps quickly became the light military vehicle of choice for the allies and their military use spread around the globe over the next few decades.

Ford Pygmy

Jeep is not patented and trademarked as design or a term. Therefore jeep without a capitol “J” is the name of sports utility vehicles around the globe if they look like a Jeep. During WWII, a jeep was abandoned on a Japanese Island and the Japanese car maker Toyota created their own version, which explains the Landcruiser and FJ series from them. How in the heck does that happen? Prototypes are closely held secrets, what made Jeep a type of vehicle like pickup or sedan, instead of an exclusive model from one car company?

1940’s Willys Jeep

The origin of the design is found WWII. The US government saw a need for a lightweight 4×4 vehicle that could navigate bombed out roads and ford bridgeless streams. This would be a scout vehicle, capable of shuttling brass to strategic positions, or taking secret messages to command across apocalyptic terrain. They contacted 135 auto makers to compete for a contract. Their specs were so tough and the timeline, 49 days, so tight only two companies seized the chance to go after a lucrative military contract–American Bantam Car Company and Willys-Overland.

Bantam’s BRC 40

American Bantam recruited a designer, Karl Probst, who turned them down, but the government was able to twist his arm. He produced the design in two days using parts that were already manufactured so factories wouldn’t have to be retooled in order to begin production. The exception was the 4-whee drive drain which could be sourced by Spicer. `With plans submitted in 5 days, including blueprints and cost sheets, Bantam built their prototype by September 1940. It was perfect, except under powered. The other problem was that the Government doubted Bantam could make enough of the vehicles fast enough.

So the government essentially handed everything of to Willy’s who were already working on a prototype and Ford. Each produced independent prototypes and ultimately Willys married a “Go Devil” engine with the Bantam Design. It was heavier than initial specs but the government was happy with the final version. Willys granted the Government nonexclusive use of the design and the Government ordered 1500 vehicles from each of the three companies (Bantam, Willys, and Ford). After making 2600 jeeps Bantam switched to making trailers for the rest of the war.

Ford began stamping the F into many parts on the jeeps they made, so Willys-Overland followed suit. The Government eventually put an end to it, which likely lead to eventually creating a vehicle under the name Jeep in 1945–the Willys CJ-2A.

2022 Wrangler

640,000 Jeeps were produced for the war effort, and distributed to every branch of the US military, as well as the Great Britain and Russian allies.

Jeep imitations around the world include Delahaye and Hotchkiss et Cie, in France,  Mitsubishi Motors and Toyota in Japan, as well as pretty much every original Land Rover in the UK. In the Philippines abandoned jeeps were turned into taxis, often expanded to hold more passengers and later decorated with wild colors. These Jeepneys are part of the culture in the Philippines. In Iceland, the word Jeppi (derived from Jeep) is the general term for an SUV.

Eugene The Jeep

Surplus jeeps sold well in the US after WWII and Willys-Overland tried to grab the Jeep name touting their contribution to the original design and project. The Federal Trade Commission wasn’t buying it. So Willys staked their claim by being the first to market a Civilian Version, their CJ in 1945.

In the end, we can’t even be sure that the term jeep comes from GP as often claimed, as early as 1936 a comic book publisher named Popeyes pet “Eugene the Jeep” created by E. C. Segar.

Ram Trucks

Vital Stats: 2012-Present, Headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan, slogan “Guts. Glory. Ram.”

If the Ram story seems suspiciously short at 12 years, it’s because Ram was a brand under the Dodge marque prior to being spun off. Ram “Classic” trucks are made at the Warren Truck Plant in Warren, Michigan and at the Saltillo plant in Saltillo, Mexico. New series Ram pickups are made at Sterling Heights Assembly in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

In 2009 Chrysler emerged from chapter 11 a restructured company with Ram, Jeep, Dodge, SRT and Chrysler divisions under their own brand identities and management.

Traditionally, Dodge kept their light truck and other vehicle divisions somewhat separately branded from their cars. For example outside the US they used “Fargo Trucks.” So the idea of individual branding for Ram trucks isn’t a new concept to the company. In this case, it reflects certain opportunities that came with Fiat’s involvement and the departure of Diamler’s involvement.

2022 Ram 2500

Specifically, Dodge car division wants to go after hip, cool, and trendy buyers, while Ram Truck is targeting “Real Truck” customers. Ram is well aware of people who by a truck for the look with functionality an after thought. Given that Fiat owns Iveco who makes powerful commercial hauling vehicles, Ram is able to cozy up to a buyer seeking a functional pickup that looks cool as a happy side effect.

Noteworthy: The 1996 film Twister used a red 1995 Dodge Ram 2500 pickup truck as the storm-chasing vehicle. 

The long history of Dodge and trucks is spoken to in our post on Dodge. The first-generation “Ram trucks” were introduced in October 1980 and featured a Ram hood ornament first used on Dodge vehicles from 1932 until 1954.

Cummins B Series engine added to the engine lineup in 1989 gave Dodge their first big commercial success as their direct fuel injection didn’t require “glow plugs” like the Ford and GM Diesel trucks did.

Ram got some bad press from their  Super Bowl LII commercial featuring a speech from MLK Jr. in which he actually disapproves of advertisers. One of many examples of marketers attempting to be edgy only to dive headlong across the line of good taste.

Dodge Ram went through 4 generations of development dabbling in a modular design, but mainly optimizing engine, axels, drive trains, transmissions and ultimately giving the entire division a facelift for a consistent and cool new look. In a way, Dodge positioned Ram for success through decades of experimenting and the only thing Dodge couldn’t do for the Ram Truck has now been done by Stelantis through some savvy cross pollinating with other existing brands under their new umbrella.

Ram Trucks likely have a bright future in a competitive US Truck market.