The Mistake That Was The Edsel

Have you ever heard of the Edsel? Probably not, as they only manufactured for three years during the fifties, but if you work in car manufacture it is hard to forget them.

The Edsel was to compete against the Buick and the Dodge. They were marketed as cars of the future at medium price. In hindsight this seems mad, they were the same price as a Ford Mercury but not considered to be for the same market sector, so why?

It’s possible you do need to innovate during a recession but creating a luxury product?

Ford claimed at the time that was adequate product development involving sophisticated market analysis. In reality no such research had been carried out. The manufacturer of cars was a fairly new enterprise so maybe they should have known better, but they didn’t.

What’s in a name?

Ford Motor Co named this giant mistake after Henry Ford’s own son, which added weight to their claims that they didn’t do this as a joke. Then they created several different versions of the vehicle (four sedans and three station wagons), which had strange working names– for example the Edsel Citation.

The strange names, indirectly because of the influence of comic poet Marianne Moore who worked for the company at the time. Although her names were not used, they still leant the cars a tongue in cheek aura that didn’t help people take the project seriously.

Buzz and Foreshadow.

When Ford previewed beforehand pictures of the Edsel to promote it they appeared slightly blurred, which was probably an accident or an attempt to create an air of mystery, but it felt almost as if the company knew what was going to happen. When the pictures were shipped to the sales agents they were always done under wraps as if it was something illicit. Again, this was likely a sales tactic, but it struck many as if they were postponing the inevitable.

Looks that Kill.

Although the station wagon version had a superficial similarity to other station wagons but with innovative designs such as a rotating dome speedometer and a deep ditch steering wheel, the “horse collar grille” and powertrain features to the hood struck people at the time as bazaar. (It wouldn’t really move the needle by today’s standards but cars at the time were classy and fashionable not “other worldly.”)

September 4, 1957 was known as E-Day. This is where the first inklings of what the public felt about the vehicle was discovered; that it was far too unconventional a build.

It was thought to be reborn “LaSalle” a car also known for its design problems; it didn’t seem to be like any other car. And if it’s not like a car you know, how can you drive it?

Although some of the body panels were toned down in 1959 and it was given a vertical central grille the car still had trouble with its teletouch transmission system, no one could understand it. So still the sales numbers remained extremely small and it was eventually removed from the market.

Where did they Go Wrong?

It’s probably a case of hubris. Ford had a strong record of innovation and leading the car market. To some degree they may have believed that whatever they thought was cool and edgy would be adopted by the public as the next great thing. They may have been hoping that people in the market for a new car during a tough economy were advanced thinkers who would want a car that reflected their iconoclastic success. The truth is when people get their fingers burnt they get a bit cautious for a while.

They leapt to far beyond what people were accustomed to and at the worst possible time. However, looking at pictures of this car one wonders if there was ever a good time for the Edsel.

Given the amount of money involved it seems ludicrous that Ford employed none of the usual business safety procedures, such as getting the proper amount of feedback from the public including or having average consumers test drive it before it hit the market. Although Ford may have learnt its lesson, there will be further disasters masquerading as vehicles to come…

What Is The Car Etiquette?

People aren’t always sure of the etiquette in cars and sometimes they test the driver’s patience, or the driver tests the passengers’ patience. Here are some rules suggested from sites around the internet…

Generally Good Advice

  • You shouldn’t smoke or eat in another person’s car. (If you are the driver you shouldn’t eat or drink while you are driving.)
  • Do not keep giving the driver instruction from the back seat.
  • If you borrow someone else’s car make sure it is fully insured and then top off with gas before returning.
  • You should pay attention even when you are not in motion, the lights may change suddenly or the traffic in front may alter quickly.
  • It’s not a good idea to bang doors especially the trunk doors shut, just close them firmly. Speaking of doors, do not look into other people’s door compartments, it’s just nosy. Try to stay out of their glove compartment too.
  • Do not use the climate controls without the driver’s permission. Many of them don’t like you touching the radio or music system either.
  • You are allowed to move the seat but it’s best to move it back when you’ve finished the journey.
  • Another source of complaint for drivers is touching the windows or leaving trash lying around so make sure you clear up after yourself.

It’s sounding as if most drivers are temperamental, but drivers are ultimately responsible for what happens in a car and knowing expectations ahead of time will help keep the peace.

Who Gets Shotgun?

Let the lady or the most senior member of the party sit in the front seat. Other people suggest that the guest should have the first choice. After that you should offer them the seatbelt. Most people do try to open the door for a lady and close it for them.

Because of the amount of legroom, it is best for a pregnant woman to sit on the back seat, though other etiquette experts suggest a couple always have to sit together. This may be interpreted as saying that a couple always want to sit together, but this is not always the case. Ultimately it is up to the driver to decide.

Children shouldn’t be allowed to sit on the front seat until they are 13 years old. 8–10-year-olds need a booster seats though it is dependent on their size.

If you are in an Uber it is best to travel in the back as it helps you to exit quicker, you can use either door. It’s possible to sit in the front seat in Ubers, but don’t feel obliged to do so. Lyft often invite passengers to sit up front as a way of differentiating themselves from Uber, but the practicality of sitting in back often trumps that.

Rideshare Etiquette

Also, on the subject of Uber it’s hard to specify a female driver (presumably you can ask for one) for Uber and Lyft cars. With Safr you can.

Many people don’t know you can request more than one stop with Lyft or Uber by pressing the + sign after typing in the first destination. Remember though like a taxi waiting time will be added to the price of your journey.

A Couple Final Thoughts

If you are on the back seat with pets you should make sure they do not disturb the driver. There’s some logic here, no one wants the driver to lose control.

You should respect that sometimes the driver may need to concentrate at certain points in the journey and conversation needs to be kept to a minimum.

Most of this stuff is common sense, but maybe it’s worth reiterating as people forget. We are only human so give each other some grace.

TTC Electric buses

As with all Electric Vehicles Manufactured today, there are a number of electric bus innovations out there and they still come with pluses and minuses.

TTC Electric Bus

There is a market for these electric buses. The Toronto Transit Commission is participating in a new pilot program aimed at reducing carbon emissions by using electric buses for public transit, and the city of Gothenburg ordered 145 electric buses from Volvo.

The TTC is still trying to weigh the cost of the new busses verses the cost of fuel and despite the huge purchase Gothenburg still has 65% of their fleet traditional diesel buses.

The idea of Zero City sounds appealing but there is a long way to go. Okay zero emissions is appealing but zero noise may be a worry if you are a pedestrian. As referenced in the video below, drivers have to honk to notify pedestrians of the bus’s approach.

Pros:

A battery electric bus provides better acceleration than a diesel and can climb hills better than diesel vehicles, they also have less maintenance costs. Diesel vehicles are a contributor to air pollution.

Cons:

They can only run for 100 miles generally before they need for recharging 4-5 hours. Plus the whole, silently running over pedestrians thing.

According to Reuters the running costs appear to be better than diesel, but as mentioned above only urban buses can run on electric power.

Longer Range E-Buses

An example of a bus which is more effective than the regular electric bus is the Proterra, a 40 foot bus which can drive up to 329 miles on full charge. They have been producing electric buses for more than 10 years and their sales copy says that it is designed “for the rough terrain of the US.”

Electric buses have a surprisingly long history; the first electric bus was operating in 1807 between Victoria and Liverpool Street stations, which is a 22 mile journey. So, running out of battery wasn’t that much of a problem there.

Green Washing?

There seems to be various reports of a single bus to a single city, for example Gulfport, surely a token gesture. Electric buses shouldn’t be underestimated but why a single bus if they cost the same amount to run? One theory is that not all routes are compatible with the low range on an E-Bus.

A more eco-friendly idea is to make all school buses electric. It’s a positive change, but then why concentrate on school buses? Once again, it comes down to range limits. School busses generally have shorter routes.

CA E-School Bus

The state of California is due to get half its electricity from “renewable resources” so it seems logical that they should have electric buses too. The increase in heavy duty E-Vs (electric buses and trucks) means more industry jobs in assembly, which given the need for more employment is surely a vital necessity? However, many argue that the new jobs are really just traditional bus makers moving to make E-Busses and don’t represent an expansion of employment.

As well as looking at the fuel, the Columbia company (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Transportation) reduced the height of the step, expanded the door space and made the entry ramp as flat as they could. They specialise in students commuting through the campuses of various US cities. This is a clever look outside the box at what can be done when the large diesel motor goes away.

Other Bus Controversies:

Tesla Cobalt Mine

It’s no use talking about the type of fuel a bus uses if you don’t mention a key controversy around buses—ridership. Empty buses running around hoping someone gets on represent waste no matter what powers them.

The city of Luxembourg has created another innovation: It is one of the first cities it’s size to become fare-free. It is not known as yet if it is a lone wolf or other cities will join it. This should increase ridership, and any idea that can counter pollution is probably a good idea, but where exactly does the financing come from? It looks like we shall have to wait and see.

Are EV’s Truly Environmentally Sound?

One of the more stylish e-buses is arguably the eCitaro G which runs on solid state batteries. Although they currently contain cobalt there are plans to phase this out, again for the sake of the environment.

Ecitaro G Bus

The process of extracting the materials to make batteries and the lack of a good way to recycle or dispose of worn-out batteries poses a serious threat to the soundness of any EV including E-Buses. At least E-Buses don’t require a massive infrastructure build to put powering stations everywhere there is fuel stations currently.

Additionally, renewable energy is an odd term. Technically dams run on water that’s renewable in places it rains, yet environmentalists aren’t happy about dams. Windmills kill birds, create noise pollution, cost more to produce electricity, require acres of land compared to other forms of generation and tend to wear out before they produce the amount of energy it took to make them.

However, environmentalist scientist’s express faith that these problems will one day have an answer. Faith…doesn’t sound like science. Only time (and billions of tax dollars) will tell the fate of E-Buses.

Passenger and Commuter Cars

Op-Ed By P. Wimsett

Does it matter if you commute in a passenger car or drive your family in a commuter car? Probably not, but we still have these distinctions.

Do commuter cars just exist for lonely single people who desire an extra mile per gallon in exchange for not being reminded that you don’t have a family to fill the rest of your vehicle. What happens if you neither commute nor have a family?

To complicate matters…

…All cars may have the description “passenger cars,” since all commercially produced cars these days can carry passengers. By that token, all cars are commuter cars since they are transportation after all. An alternative to the commuter car and the passenger car is the pleasure car, one used purely for weekends but it’s yet to catch on with the general public.

There are other ways to define cars – a minicompact, a compact and midsize, though a midsize vehicle can also describe pickups and vans.

The truth is it’s hard to market anything that’s all things to all people so it’s practical to put a primary use forward when describing your car to the marketplace—even if consumers don’t always use a certain car for that purpose.

Then the question is, is there a design difference between Commuter and Passenger Cars? Yes! But not a huge one. Passenger cars make a priority of seating capacity, with legroom, smoothness of ride and gas milage a bit behind in the design priority list.

So, what is a Good Commuter Car?

Dacia Duster

Now to commuter cars, you need a way of dealing with excess amount of traffic such as the infotainment system. The greater the size the greater fuel bills. Commuter cars tend to be vehicles such as a subcompact or coupe. There’s no reason to have a big car if you only use it to commute.

SEAT Terraco

Dacia Duster and Toyota Corolla are two examples of regular commuter cars. Electrical alternatives include the SEAT Terraco and the Audi 35 TFSH. If you have an especially long commute you need to look at air conditioning and possibly heated seats for your own sanity and maybe health. Look for a car noted for comfort, cruise control, wifi and hotspots, look at the Vauxhall Insignia or the Ford Focus which has eight engines and a strong EcoBlue color.

The Toyota Hybrid may not have the best hood, because it is a crossover, not a regular SUV.

Another Toyota, the Camry makes the most of not being a hybrid in terms of its four cylinders.

Can you do Both?

Sure, the Vauxhall Passat for example, has features you don’t automatically expect – those being the spacious seat area and the trunk. It’s a good all-rounder rather than purely a commuter car? Who said sorting out these cars was easy?

VW Jetta

The VW Jetta is a small sedan which offers a smooth ride with its supportive and stylish seats. Its selling point is that some people don’t like a hatchback. (The VW Golf has cornered the VW hatchback niche). According to Volkwagen’s own figures it has sold about 14 million units of this model since it was introduced in 1980.

The passenger and the commuter car owner want different things from their car. True there are more convenient ways of dividing the drivers; no one can convincingly say there are two types of driver.

In the end, it’s nice to have a primary function a car was designed around as a handy starting point when you start searching for a car.

Campers and Adaptions

If you wish to take to the open road a camper is a great option as you are not hampered by locating a suitable hotel every night. You can stay a lot of places, but officially, it’s advisable to sleep in a registered camp site It’s safer, and has a few amenities like showers and shore power, maybe even a place to empty your wastewater. Of course, if you got too tired to drive, in a pinch you could pull off at a Walmart and park overnight.

Well Known US Campers

Any talk of campers wouldn’t be complete without mention of Winnebagos. Winnebagos have been going since 1958 and have variants such as Journey, Farza, Adventurer and Vista.

Vista, for example, is a four-person Winny with two double beds, toilet and even a shower.

The Winnebago Solis is for more glamorous camping, what with its insulated walls and a plumbed-in wet bathroom. For this design it has a sleeping sofa rather than the usual bunk area.

Well Known European Campers

1961 Bedford Dormobile

Alternately, would you choose a European model like a Dormobile? The Dormobile company started in 1956, just after the VW camper known as “The Camper Box.”

The Dormobile had an estate car roof (AKA a sunshine roof) which could be extended to give two extra berths.

There have been conversions of Land Rovers by a Colorado company into campers but they aren’t Dormobiles themselves.

The reason Dormobile created campers is because they were exempt from purchase tax as long as they had cookers and the most basic washing machines.

The Dormobile had a lifting roof that was side-hinged, slightly resembling a Jack-in-the-box. It was made of a plastic canopy sometimes with red stripes, the top had two windows for ventilation. The inside looked reminiscent of the curve of a wheel’s spokes with two large poles or struts keeping the structure. It allowed for an extra meter of interior space even if it’s only purpose was to sleep in.

Before putting the roof down, you had to remove the mattresses from the bunks, otherwise the roof wouldn’t fit right. It sounds awkward, but no doubt you got used to it.

Another plus point was the 4-wheel drive which is unusual in a camper. It was definitely designed as a vehicle which was not afraid to go off road. This could come as a surprise given its streamlined shape.

Conversions

With enough money you can convert vans and SUVs into campervans. There are two ways to do this-one is to just use the space as is, the second is to create an “extension” part like an overhanging caravan, also known as a pop-up.

Though the first of these is easier and creates less disruption you will be hard pressed to find a place to fit in a bathroom! What you end up with is a table and chair area in the back which can be turned into a flatbed at night.

When creating a conversion use lightweight materials. Because of the need to store away tables/chairs/mattresses the active storage space is only available when its being used to camp in not when packed up to travel.

But as conversion is so complicated, most people tend to like the specialized vans. After all, why mess with mid-century design? And if you don’t like vintage, choose an up-to-date version.

Why The Car Industry Is So Vital

OP-ED By P. Wimsett

The building of cars is the number one industry in the US and other countries. This is why in a pandemic economy it has been protected by the government.

There’s more to it than that though. You need to able to travel to school or work. Then you have business conferences, expos and similar. Added to this, various aspects of the entertainment, travel & leisure industry/hotels, theaters and sports arenas…the list goes on and on. It’s all about people being at the right place when you need to be there. So, there is a definitely an argument to be made that transportation impacts ever other industry on some level.

But is domestic manufacture vital as an industry?

The History of American Car Making

The mass production of cars was famously begun by Henry Ford. He also created large plants or super factories as well as moving assembly line. This was the only way a Model T could be created every 24 seconds.

The superfactory infrastructure was also vital in getting the time down, having a glass factory and a steel mill as well as a number of other plants in the general vicinity. If you have to rely on deliveries the process breaks down.

There is an argument for assembling cars one at a time in a shed using parts (glass frames, radiators etc) but it would be very unlikely to make a profit. Some luxury sports cars are made this way. This business model relies on having a car ordered in advance of making it and these cars are by definition, luxury (not needed) meaning if they aren’t made the buyer can simply get a different car elsewhere.

If we’re only looking at vital cars, then we’re looking at affordable cars or vehicles built to a vital purpose like hauling goods to market. Affordable cars need to be mass produced not made to order. A modern car factory needs to work at 80% capacity just to break even. You also have the difficulty of maintaining working conditions in a small environment. So, a superfactory is better.

Well, this might be an exaggeration as it would be hard to visualize the big-name cars being “clinker-built.” It wouldn’t be safe, it wouldn’t be quick and it wouldn’t be economical. So, it could be said that the superfactory system is the only way.

As well as the factories you also need showrooms and forecourts (auto lots) as well as the annual motor-shows for the system to work. With motor-shows being cancelled (most notably the one in Detroit but there usually hundreds around the world) and car lot sales so restricted that sales in general are breaking down.

Detroit

To examine how vital the industry is, it is probably worthwhile to focus on the city of Detroit. What sort of city would it be without the Big Three-General Motors, Ford and Chrysler? And what would the US economy be without these three names? There are so many questions and because we are still living through it, so few answers as yet.

Although the Big Three are no longer the biggest names in car processing they are still big enough to the US economy to be protected.

So, this is where we are, in a non-industrialized state of limbo. For our own good this state of affairs cannot continue for that much longer. There is the health risk, true, but poverty in a country causes mental complications. How long can the US economy survive on handouts from the government, which is really barrowing against the future? No one knows, but it appears we’re going to find out.