Gears and the Gearshift (for Youngsters)

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Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett and Andy Bunch

The old joke among generation X and Baby Boomers is that you can completely handicap a millennial by taking away their cellphone, giving them a manual transmission and writing the directions in cursive. Well, if you are want to understand gearshifts but don’t want to appear foolish by asking about it, here’s the skinny. Sorry, here’s the 4-1-1.

Those of us who grew up with gear shits are united by a common memory having the driver reach over and invade your space every time they needed to change a gear—which is pretty much all the time. The worst was the pickup trucks, which often had bench seats. If you had to fit in three people, and you lost the ro sham bo, you had to sit in the middle and move your legs all the time.

steering-801807_1920When car makers developed the automatic transmission, they moved the gear selector to the steering column which improved life immensely. As car makers increasingly started installing bucket seats in the front most modern cars have a “gear selectors” which looks like a gear shift, but instead of manually operating a physical gear box the way a manual stick shift does, it merely selects the gear for the automatic transmission.

(On a side note: some high end sports models allow for a manual operation of the automatic transmission by adding functionality to the gear selector.)

But by far, the biggest difference between manual and automatic is the amount of time it takes when first learning to drive a car.

To Operate a Manual

Since we know all of you can already drive a stick I know you’ll all be skipping this section, but just in case you don’t know how…

In order to engage the engine the driver must depress a pedal on the floor, called a clutch pedal. This disengages the engine from the drive train which powers the wheels. With the clutch depressed the driver must select a gear and slowly release the clutch while applying some gas to keep the engine from dying while it must re-engage the drive train. It’s a bit of an art form, officially known as “feathering the clutch.”

car-interior-1834270_1920The difficulty of feathering the cutch goes up exponentially when you’re attempting to start on a hill. The dreaded “hill start” is so bad because the moment you depress the clutch the car begins to roll backwards. The answer to going uphill is getting the engine engaged quickly. So effectively the driver must engage the engine before the car runs into another car behind it, but not so quickly that it kills the engine instantly.

If everything is going well there should be a slight vibration. Only now should you release the clutch pedal. Should you wish to accelerate further continue to take your foot off the foot pedal and put your other foot on the accelerator pedal.

Do you always need a gear shaft?

Not necessarily – sports cars often have levers known as paddles. One paddle shifts up a gear and the other down. Formula One cars also have paddles but they are mounted on the steering wheel. This complicated procedure is definitely not suited for the amateur and even paddles haven’t made their way into the mainstream. However, paddle shifter on the steering wheel in place or a gear selector on an automatic transmission has made it into the mainstream, but this isn’t the same thing as a true paddle shift.

Special Accommodation

It can be hard for those with either limited mobility or arthritis to operate a manual gearshift because it requires a certain amount of force. Instead a special adaption needs to be made or purchased. One way that they work is pressing a comfort handle rather than adjusting the gearshaft itself. Clearly an automatic transmission is way to go, depending on your disability.

Automatic Transmissions have proven themselves reliable and simple to operate. They are easier to learn to operate and make the entire process of learning to drive simpler. They can also reduce driver fatigue for city, stop-and-go, driving.

So are Manual Transmissions Obsolete?

Not exactly! Manual transmissions are a bit more fuel efficient, because a human intelligence can keep the engine in neutral at stop lights. Most stunt drivers agree that manuals give them better performance when precision moves are required. Other than heavy traffic, most drivers who know how to operate a “stick” prefer them over automatic.

Here’s the real difference that no one really talks about. An automatic transmission is a complicated thing. It’s more likely to breakdown and when it does, it’s more expensive to fix. The other issue is that manual transmissions can be rebuilt from pretty simple parts. It’s possible to get these parts long after that particular car is no longer manufactured.

Automatic transmissions are so complicated inside that rebuilding them isn’t cheap and soon the internal parts aren’t available for order. Then the only source of a replacement transmission is a junk yard. Even the junk yard becomes difficult eventually. How soon depends on the popularity of the vehicle you bought, but generally things start getting hard to find after 10 or 12 years.

So when you buy an automatic you’re basically buying a car with a shelf life, which seems counter to the ethics of most environmentally conscious millennials.

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The Mind Car?

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Could the next step from the self-driving car be the car with thoughts of their own? Is this a dip into science fiction, perhaps but it’s more likely a dip into science future fact.

Although we think of self-driving or autonomous vehicles (AVs) as “cars with minds of their own” in reality they’re no different from a calculator or a computer. It’s actually just following a sophisticated set of logical steps as a result of stimuli, which is a fancy way of saying when something triggers it the car responds according to it’s programming.

A car having it’s own thoughts comes under the umbrella of artificial intelligence.

To be fair, most of us sort of feel like computers have a mind of their own. When a computer breaks down it feels like its acting out of spite. Even non-autonomous cars are sometime feel like they have minds of their own. And most car owners take refuge in giving their car a personality, sometimes even a name.

There are two possible ways a car might gain the ability to generate its own thoughts.

  • True artificial intelligence: where programming become so sophisticated that the program writes additional programming to deal with situations it wasn’t already programmed to handle.
  • Creating a digital imprint of a human to act as a logic engine from which programs will feed in questions and carry out instructions

A current example of the first kind is Siri, which sort of spoofs intelligence by being able to intuit what is being asked of it and trying to carry out instructions as best it can. A science fiction example would be HAL 9000 the murderous computer in “2001 a Space Odyssey” who decided it was self-defense to wipe out the astronauts who want to disable it for making an error.

eeg-2680957_1920Science fiction is rife with examples of the second kind of artificial intelligence as it has become a common trope. The idea that a human nearing the end of his/her life could “upload” their conscious into an android, for example, is alluring and entertaining. But taking it the extra step and uploading the contents of the human brain into a vehicle is also portrayed frequently. Take for example, “The Tunnel Under the World” by Frederick Pohl (1955), which is perhaps the first story about transferring a mind into a machine. (Earlier works cantered on transferring the mind into another person.)

The advantage (or disadvantage) is that the new computer would have a personality as well as experiences and the ability to really read the subtext of spoken questions or instructions. The result would be giving your car an actual personality.

Do we really need a car to flip out when we pass gas while driving? That’s what our spouse is for, right? We’ll leave you to wrestle with these deep questions.

Current examples the second type of AI don’t exist, but how far off could they really be? Well, the science behind how you might do this is still in its infancy so you are unlikely to get a car with a real brain any time soon, but… there is a Wikipedia page devoted to whole brain emulation (WBE) so efforts are underway.

If a car can’t gain a mind what about cars that can read your mind? An institute in Lausanne in Switzerland reported that they had invented the brain-machine transference that allows wheelchairs to be powered by thought alone in disabled people. The next step, and it could be tricky, is to find a way they can interact with cars.

Nissan plans to look at the brainwaves of drivers to study the patterns as they about to react to driving situations. They Nissan will pilot the cars off their driver based on the actions it reads the driver attempting to make. Right now it requires you to wear an EEG headset which isn’t the kind of thing you might wear out to the mall, so there is room for improvement. The other key part of the research is keeping drivers focused on the road. Most drivers don’t actually concentrate on driving while driving any more than most pedestrians concentrate on walking while strolling down the sidewalk.

It could be said that this system won’t produce autonomic driving cars as much as it is could improving the system of “human driving.”

Nissan is not alone though; there have been similar plans with Jaguar and Renault. As with all things autonomous there’s always the problem of legally deciding who’s driving the vehicle, because our laws currently hold the driver liable for moving infractions. If an AV kills someone in an accident is the human occupant responsible or the company that made the AI in the AV.

Based on the money companies are throwing at these projects, it’s not likely they’ll give up.

The first idea on brain waves came not from a car company but from an EEG company in 2011, no doubt looking for a way to use their product. It’s commonly believed that General Motors got involved in the first experiments into fatigue though it wasn’t officially established. If that sounds a little wonky you have to remember that GM spent decades as the largest defense contractor in the US, and worked on many secret projects for the US military developing technology that we may never truly learn the origins of.

hand-prosthesis-3853267_1920Regardless of origin, the idea of brain scans was seen as a quite controversial idea at the time, maybe we’re just more used to augmented and virtual reality now?

When we throw in the ideas of reading human brains to drive, whether we’re leaving the brain in the head of the driver or transferring it into the vehicle, the better label for the topic should cybernetics. We are, after all, trying to meld man and machine, which is the heart of the idea when you say the word “driving.”

The term cybernetics was created in 1948 and apparently refers to both “control and communication.” So presumably the machine part allows human augmentation, in the case of the Swiss EEG driving experiment, a disabled person gets augmented control and an ability to express themselves.

 

Seeing the USA in a Van

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By Paul Wimsett of the U.K. Desk

It seems madness to live in a van, but the caravan has had a long history. But when it comes to taking a road trip across America it surely is the only way to travel.

Although many people do own camper vans outright it takes out so much of the hassle to hire them instead.

Companies such as Campervan Hire USA feed off people’s wanderlust to see the sights around the USA. (Although Campervans are used abroad the idea of hiring a campervan for a limited period seems to be an idea confined to the USA. It may have something to do with the narrowness of roads elsewhere). You have a choice of traveling from A to B or taking a round trip. You need to be over 21 to drive a camper-van and you need to have had a license for more than 12 months.

Luxuries…

car-3314753_1920.jpgWhen it comes to luxuries you have a short list: a stove, clean bedding, pots and pans, table and chairs and a fridge. Presumably the fridge has somewhere to store frozen goods, which can be a matter of controversy. You hope for quite a substantial spot but many only have a tiny “most cold corner of the fridge.” There’s nothing like travelling all day to make one want to snack.

Technicalities…

What might worry people is if they pay to go on a trip and they do not take the whole journey. Do they still have to pay the same amount of money? No, because it all comes down to the recorded mileage. If you are traveling from another country you can even get a reduction on your flight.

Special Types of Camper-Vans…

With all these hire firms there are number of pick up centers throughout the USA. As well as general campers, it is possible to hire what is known as an “A-Class Motorhome”, also known as a RV. Opinions vary on what an A-Class Motorhome is, but the consensus is that it’s an RV built on a van frame that doesn’t require altering the basic shape of the vehicle. Class A’s do accommodate larger groups – for instance four adults and two children—where a typical caravan is better suited to a couple of surfers and their boards.

Pre-Trip Prep…

If you’re from a place like England traveling to America it’s important to remember that even though the culture isn’t radically different, some of the climates you encounter are quite different. Do you have the right clothes for the climate? That’s the first question, you’d ask for a trip to a location, but this is a touring holiday. If you plan to explore New Mexico for instance and you research weather in New Mexico, everything will indicate that the place is generally warm. Then you learn how close you are to the Rocky Mountains and you decide its worth a few hours just to say you’ve been there. Well if you don’t want to pay tourist prices for a jumper it’s vital to plan ahead.

The Trip Itself…

roadtrip-4087903_1920.jpgThere are a number of things you need to remember such as booking the campsites. You also need to check they have all the amenities you need.

The big shocker for those of us from small, but populous places like Java, Japan, or Great Britten is the distances in America. It feels strange just how far apart things are. And while petrol seems cheap compared to home, if you want to explore the West coast and go from Phoenix to Seattle that’s 1441 miles. No matter how cheap price per liter its a hell of a lot of diesel.

The right tool for the job…

We’ve spoken a lot of Class As and simple caravans, which are more dissimilar than we’ve perhaps described. Here’s why it matters. The motorhome/RV is no good in urban areas but comes into its own in the country. If you have in mind, hitting the world’s longest yard sale in but you also want to hit the statue of liberty then you have an issue on your hands. The better vehicle to navigate the streets of “The Big Apple” is a small camper van, but a Class A will provide more comfort on the open road.

The answer any American will give you is to fly into New York and site see for a couple days, then get out of the city to pick up a descent sized Class A and start traveling. Almost any direction you go will provide mind blowing things to see and neat people to meet.

Where to go…

boat-1834837_1920.jpgWe can’t include it all here, but assuming you started in New York, you could drive North and see Niagra Falls, Boston where you can’t throw a crate of tea without hitting a bit of history, then head to main for some lobster. Or, you could head south and go to the nation’s capital where you’ll catch as many museums as America has to offer in one town. (In America 17 museums in one city is a lot, so try not to bring it up London’s 250.)

If you head west there is so much to see but you’ll learn just how spread out America can be. It’s truly impossible see it all if you had a year, but go ahead and throw a dart in the map, you’ll find adventure and friends wherever you go. The most boring state will take more than a day to explore and you’ll never be bored. (I confess that Yanks love our accent, which helps you make new friends and if you speak engine, well, good like buying your own pint.)

Resources…

The websites will refer to “tumbleweed deserts” to “palm lined” roads, but it’s important just to see these as brochures. See if you can find someone online who has actually taken a trip and can inform the best ways to enjoy the trip and stay safe.

By the way, the English version of an ugly American tourist is to say you’ve been to the states and then confess you’ve only been to Walt Disney World in Florida. However, instead of a scowl or good withering look, a yank will smile in amusement. They take for granted that we’ve all glanced at a map and noticed that Florida is one extreme corner of the country and the park is built for fanciful amusement. Expect a follow up comment along the lines of, “Ahh, well your seen it all then.”

But the unexpected truth is, real America is shockingly more amazing than the place they built to escape reality. So what are you waiting for? Explore what’s out there.

 

What’s News: Rent a brand new Mustang?

“For $177, you can stand in lines at Disney all day. You can cover a night in a decent hotel room or eat a plate of deconstructed fried pickles at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Or you can invest in 24 hours with the supercharged 600-plus-hp Mustang Shelby GT-S. Let’s put that last one into perspective: You can’t buy even half of a rear tire for the Shelby with $177.”

German automotive rental giant, Sixt, entered the US market in 2011, and has grown quickly since–probably due in part to sharp decisions like this. Sixt’s Shelby fleet currently stands at 20 nationwide among cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, (price tags vary by market). When Car and Driver rented one in Florida the cost was $177 / day with an extra $0.83 /mi after the first 175 miles.

This sure beats renting a minivan to haul the family to a world famous amusement park and doesn’t cost that much more, really, does it???

“The Shelby GT-S turns every open road into a thrill ride that you pilot. And if it takes your entire vacation budget to make it happen, know that you can probably cook a steak on the car’s supercharger and sleep in the passenger’s seat.”

Original Story Link

The Down and Dirty (Tropes) of the Getaway Driver

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When it comes to the heist (or the sting) and the getaway driver, there are number of phrases, characters, and such. We all know what you mean when you use a term or refer to a character but where did these things come from?

We’ve dug up some interesting and fun facts we think you’ll find entertaining.

(FYI: a heist is a term generally meaning a bank job, which seems to have reached peak usage in the 1970s and a sting is an operation involving deception, though according to the online dictionary its peak usage predates cars.)

Getaway: Meaning to make a swift exit after committing a crime reached a peak in the 1950s, likely because it was popularized by dime store crime novels—ya’ see.

The wheel man: Circa 1900. A driver, especially for a getaway car.

death-car bonny clydeBonnie and Clyde: (aka Clyde Champion Barrow and Bonnie Parker) Famed bank robbers, even though they tended to rob small convenience stores and post offices. Famed perhaps, because they were in love and because they died violently in an ambush on a rural Louisiana road in 1934.

You might have seen Clyde standing on the running board of a car, firing his gun in certain films? The term “running board” comes from trams and streetcars. Every vehicle up to 1936 had running boards.

Ticking over: (as in “the getaway driver may keep the car ticking over”) means to keep an engine in neutral. It is also used to describe when the car is working but not moving, like when you put it in park without turning it off.

car-813482_1920Ticking over remained in use throughout Britten while in the U.S. most Americans replaced the term with “keep it running,” a term that came from film and television portrayals of bank heists. In reality a robber would be stupid to park a running car outside a bank as it draws attention.

Fake number plates: Having fake number plates seems to go back almost to the beginning of cars (logically the idea of having a real number plate needed to gain traction before criminals decided to fake them). It is such as lucrative industry especially in Asia that for many countries a real number plate might be hard to find. But in the US, except for a small number, plates are reliable.license-plates-3614254_1920

Armored car: The idea for the armored car goes back to the Wild West, where they transported valuables in strongboxes (though carrying strongboxes in carriages probably goes back further than that.) The first armored car that we’d recognize was introduced in 1910, but was more like a mobile bank than a delivery van. The financial industry, the mail, and jewelers all employ armored vans. So too, big name shops, schools, universities and so on to transport money or important records. There tends to be one driver which must stay behind the wheel and several guards on board.

Soft-skinned vehicle: This is any car which isn’t armored, especially one that is used to transport valuables. If you are transporting anything by this method you are employing a different strategy than outright protection. You might be semi covert about the nature of what you transport or have measures in place to “neutralize” the money so it can’t be spent if it is taken. There may be a special reason why the police would need to carry valuables in non-armored cars, for instance in undercover work.

Malcolm: The getaway car used in the film Malcolm (1986 by Cascade Films) might be worth a mention as it can split in two, widthways. The two parts can go down narrow alleyways. How exactly the drivers of the two vehicles avoid falling out of the converted vehicle isn’t that clear.

Transporter: Perhaps one of the most famous getaway drivers in recent cinematic history would be the transporter played by Jason Statham in 2002. The character was a professional contraband courier.

The Fast and the Furious: Deserves a nod because it’s a movie entirely about vehicular heists—by which we mean heists made by people from one a moving vehicle to another. This hasn’t been a thing in real life, at least on land, that we know of.

The Getaway: Which brings us to our last film nod, the movie The Getaway, and of course it’s remake. The most famous real life getaway scene was probably the slow speed chase of O.J. Simpson in his white SUV. But the rise and fall of the Juice is a topic for another post.

There are so many more references out there, so this article has been left criminally short…

 

A Strong Car?

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Do you want a strong car? Well, it’s certain you don’t want that falls apart or stalls when you try to start it, but how strong do you want it?

What is a Strong Car?

old-2416225_1920People aren’t quite sure what strength means in a car. A quick web search suggests most people equate strength with safety. That might be the case if you are talking about strong suspension, or strong brakes. But what about strong doors or strong designs? It seems that not everything about your car needs to be strong. It’s about comfort and familiarity too.

If it means indestructible, well, there’s a market for those too. Although, many such “strong cars” like the Jeep, FJ Cruiser and Nissan Xterra have been discontinued.

The History of the Term

Classic cars were generally strong cars. Historically, roads weren’t that great and even if you lived an urban lifestyle, as late as the 1970’s, you might well encounter unpaved or poorly maintained roads. Also they didn’t face as much competition as today’s market so most cars will built to be sturdy. Also these cars weren’t as complex as modern cars and simple usually equates to reliable.

Recently, however, safety and sturdy are less associated. Crumple zones for example, tell the car how to sacrifice themselves in order to absorb impact during collision, which in turn keeps passengers safer. So the trend is away from strong car unless you need something specifically for off road or hauling. Being a sturdy runabout is not seen as a priority in today’s cars, only that they are safe.

Handling

As previously mentioned, one of the best ways to make a strong car is to keep it simple and sturdy. That necessitates different design decisions, particularly in suspension. So most modern strong cars aren’t known for their handling.

280px-Budapest,_Hungexpo,_AMTS_2017,_51Internationally though, AvtoVaz of Russia gives us one of the strongest cars available commercially, the Lada Niva. This unholy combination of all things practical is a new look strong. It looks a little like a Yugo and a Toyata FJ had a baby. It’s sorta cute in a way, and almost feminine.

It’s an off-road, compact SUV, with a unibody and a plush interior. It drives like an SUV, hard to handle, but fits in city parking spots. If you’re exactly the right person for it, it’s exactly the right car for you. If you’re not the right person, you will find it off-putting.

So are Race Cars Strong?

auto-racing-583032_1920On the race track, cars run hard for long periods of time. They also get bumped into. Race cars are the extreme version of the modern idea of strong the engine is powerful, but the body is fiberglass. The goal with race cars is to protect the driver and allow new parts to be cheaply and quickly replaced. All cars are, to a degree, being constantly replenished with new parts throughout, but this is extra true. Only a percentage of the car that starts the race is present in the car that finishes the race.

What about 1st Responder Vehicles

fire-1006924_1920Now we’re closing in on the idea. Police, fire, and EMS are generally outfitted according to municipal guidelines that stem from the needs of that area. Fire trucks obviously have the best type of fire gear for the type of fire they see most, but have you ever seen some of the emergency response vehicles? Each city has to decide what public service agency will deal with what type of crisis. Road issues like breakdowns increasingly go to DOT responders who can deal with non-emergencies like break downs. Because these vehicles have to respond to unknown problems in difficult or dangerous circumstances they are well equipped to route traffic safely around the problem and trained to asses and call in specialists if an injury has occurred.

ghostbusters-1515155_1920Search and rescue is largely staffed by volunteers who bring out their own equipment most of the time. Still, some of these heroes tool-up as well as any government sponsored vehicle and train just as well too. But does cool equipment make a strong car?

Security! Can Someone Call Security?

For a security car strength is a specific thing; a car needs to be bulletproof, in other words provide ballistic protection. Don’t confuse bullet resistant with bullet proof. Most folks will tell you there is no real bullet proof vehicle. They haven’t seen Cadillac One.

Every few years a president will order upgraded the Limo detail. Donald Trump’s Cadillac One is a whole new creature, befitting a polarizing President. Not only does it have a special “armor” which prevents the penetration of bullets it can also shielded from underneath to stop IED mines (Improvised Explosive Device mines). The tires won’t go flat and the drivers are specially trained to perform skill evasion manuvers at high speed in that exact vehicle.

In order to support the weight of the armor, the suspension is reinforced and the engine is horsepower is topped out. (See our post on presidential limos.)

They have radically increased the technological equipment from simple office style car phones to coded wifi and satellite communication. Whenever Trump is aboard there is also several bottles of blood of the President’s own type just for safety’s sake.

If you’d like to do-it-yourself a bullet-proof car it can take between $40,000 and $100,000. It would be cheaper just to put bullet proof glass and install armor plates in a car than to start from scratch. Naturally Cadillac One is built custom from the ground up, and has always been so. Creating a bulletproof or armored car is certainly big business, especially given the high profile clients.

In Conclusion

Just what makes a car a “strong car” is probably in the eye of the beholder, but admit it, however you define it, you want one.

Cars in Bulk

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Imagine this scene…

A salesman in a plaid suit wearing a giant cowboy hat and smile he stole from a shark, stands before his many toys; all of them have one careful owner, not scratch or ding on them…at least not on the outside. A client approaches to look over the stock and suddenly from nowhere, orders two thousand of them.

 Welcome to world of buying cars in bulk. Okay, it doesn’t happen like that. An independent used car-slinger doesn’t deal in bulk, as far as we know of. Although many new car lots have a fleet representative that takes over if a buyer wants between two and 20 cars, fleet buying and bulk-buying-are nor the same thing.

But the military, taxi cab firms, other car hire firms, the police and so on have to deal with the idea of buying more of the same car at once.

It goes back longer than you might think. Oshkosh Corporation for instance delivers specialty vehicles, mostly trucks, for access, fire, emergency or military and has been in business for a hundred years.

One recent purchase was for 6,107 light tactical vehicles for the US army – mobile command centers-for which the bill came to a cool 1.69 billion. For that price the vehicles need to be fully operational and well serviced, though having said that army vehicles do have a reputation of breaking down, maybe it’s due to attempting to squeeze the price?

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When you’re talking about emergency vehicles you also need something extremely reliable. Increasingly, these deals go to an electric motor vehicle rather than gas or diesel. Although it is a bulk buy as such there needs to be a customized design to start from.

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They may look the same to an outsider, but something as straight forward as a fire truck varies greatly from one state to another, based on their needs.

When it comes to purchasing taxis what do you go for? Ride-share vehicles are privately owned so each one is unique, but when trying to maintain a fleet of corporately owned taxi s it’s best to have all the same car. Uniformity of vehicle profile helps reinforce the brand just like the paint jobs does, but as an added bonus your mechanic can order parts in bulk as well. Every car is purchased outright, except for special circumstances when cars are leased. The contracts on leased taxis are detailed because of the wear and tear inflicted, and the high mileage added. It’s hard to imagine not going to be out of pocket leasing.

automotive-1250546_1920Another person who might buy cars in bulk is that salesman referred to above. Sure cars come in on trade, and many are purchase at auction, but when an independent car dealer finds another dealership liquidating inventory they may buy sever dozen at a time, sight unseen.

Dealerships who offer new vehicles do so by negotiating a bulk rate even though the cars arrive in batches across the year.

This can really help the salesman because if a customer is looking for one specific type of your brand of car they can order one through you and you still make a commission.

These dealers are also less likely to get stuck with hundreds of cars they cannot get rid of…however, they need to be pretty savvy to avoid low or high inventory. Too few cars on hand and you don’t close as many deals. Too many cars on hand and you run into a host of problems including tax issues.

What considerations do you need in order to make a purchase (or should I say several purchases?) this way? In some ways buying a car wholesale is similar to buying cars retail. You want the full service history. You want the papers to be in order. So you can put the car on your lot, and ideally, sell it. It’s that simple.

 

Free Spirit and Cars

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Advertisers tend to have a problem marketing products to the free spirited, but not so much with cars. It’s understandable, the idea of having a car and obtaining your freedom.

kombi-2400356_1920No one likes to think they are susceptible to advertising, least of all the Free Spirit. That’s why advertisers go to what they call “the Sage” or “the Yoda.”

When selling to the average car consumer its all about luxury, so the standard advice is “sex sells.” The Free Spirit tends to desire living within your means—not they always do so, but its an ideal to hold up to. So this needs a work around in any campaign.

Honda’s Power of Dreams campaign might be one such example. It is based on making our dreams a reality, which is slightly different campaign from just marketing to a free spirit but is still in the same ballpark. It uses 3,000 illustrations in a flip book animation of an engine turning into a real car in the hopes of inspiring innovators to come and work for Honda. Many innovators can be found among Free Spirits.

It’s always nice when you can advertise a job and reinforce your brand at the same time. But does Honda’s Power of Dreams work? It probably depends on what you’re measuring. For sales, yes, Honda is the most sold car in many markets, including the U.S. Not so much on the race course, it seems. In the recent Red Bull race, Honda took third place.

Maybe too much success is a bad thing, as noted by Honda’s advertisement called “Failure: The Secret of Success,” set in Honda’s race industry. It consists of many interviews with engineers, which doesn’t sound like a riveting advert to me, but then I’m not an advertiser.

adult-2822644_1920What kind of Ads you ask?

The free spirit and the open road are a theme on TV advertisements but also can be seen on billboards. One local billboard entitled “raise the roof convertible” depicted a man in sunglasses driving and a woman with a parasol sitting on the hood of the car. Talk about mixed imagery. So sex and free spirit work together in some adverts.

Cars names Free Spirit

On the subject of marketing a number of brands have used the Free Spirit name, though you might not have heard of any of them. The Buick Century Free Spirit Pace Car for example was created to celebrate the bicentenary of the United States. Obvious the colors were red and blue the design was wavy lines, bringing to mind the Stars and Stripes which almost everyone associates freedom—except Hippies, the biggest Free Spirits of them all. Rather something more associated with patriotism than “anything goes.” Ironically, despite being a “free spirit” car it seemed to be made for roads, rather than being an all-terrain vehicle. Definitely designed for someone tied to the system rather than a free soul.

 

Free spirit car movies

Linking a film about a free spirit and a car seems like a good idea, though as with most things nowadays it started off on social media. A road movie about a school dropout making the journey across America, the van has a fiery design with a symbolic coyote. If you haven’t heard of Free Spirit, that may be because it was a short film and wasn’t shown in most theaters. Nevertheless the use of vans with the Free Spirit images worked well as a promotion. It was especially popular at Universities.

So even if you are free, prepare to be targeted by car advertisers! And watch out for tricks by “the man.”

Future of Cars – Steel or Silicon (Part 2)

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In the first post in this series I discussed that America’s future might not depend on steel and aluminium but more in terms of silicon. Certainly there is a number of competitors vying with America over who can make the most efficient and profitable cars.

The West has ruled the world of cars for almost a century, seeming to own the “Internal Combustion Engine” (ICE). The East can only compete if the combustion engine becomes redundant, and unfortunately for us, this is the way things might be going.

The country which makes the most cars is currently China with approximately 28,000,000 being made in 2018, while the US made 11,000,000. (Largely due to Chinese tax breaks and subsidies.) You won’t have heard the cars made in China though, the Wuling Sunshine for instance as is it made only for the domestic market.

Chinese computer industry has often relied on re-engineering technology invented in the US and Europe. However, as the car market blends with the computer industry greater investment is justified in original R&D. Self-driving (or AV) cars are spurring much greater investment. Electronic Vehicles (EVs) are also driving this new interest. China has factories dedicated to making lithium-ion batteries, a necessary part of all electronic vehicles.

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Japan

The biggest player in the East around the 1970s was Japan – it was one of the Big Three countries (the other two being the US and Germany). In the 1980s they remained popular, but they now had competition from China. The autonomous driving is big here, with technology creating self-driving buses and trucks.

While Japan focused on exports, China had to build a domestic economy so they could sell something as expensive as a car to their own people. In other words China was rich in people and the more affluent the people become the more they can sell cars without shipping them great distances. That allows them to come from behind in the car sales race.

South Korea

In the US they have Detroit. In South Korea they have Seoul. 15 million square feet is dedicated to five factories which produce Kias, Hyundais and Genesises. Although South Korea’s rise is about cheap cars, which does come to the price of steel and aluminium, it is all about innovation too, they have even created an innovation center in Silicon Valley itself.

 

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As far as cars go, the investment seems to be in hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and self-driving. The Korean government is funding what is known as a “K-City”, a testing area for self-driving cars and buses with a number of urban areas and other features built in.

India

The Indian car technology might be looking at more sustainable systems. One such idea floated in recent years is a car that runs on water. This could be India’s chance to get ahead of China and Japan. There are also a number of hybrid and electric vehicle factories planned.

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Other Competition outside the East

The US’s competition might also lie with Brazil, which is the biggest manufacturer of “flexible fuel cars” in the world. Flexible fuel cars shouldn’t be confused with hybrids, they are designed to work on either gasoline or ethanol (note the price of ethanol makes them more efficient to run a car than gasoline). Though I did say don’t get confused with hybrids, I should warn you that the Toyota Corolla will work on hybrid flex-fuel, in other words, either electric energy or ethanol.

So can the big giants in the US take on these innovative countries? Maybe, if they stop thinking it’s all about the substance of the car. It’s how it moves, how it operates too, what it runs on, and how you build it.

 

Best of the Web: New ‘Vette unveiled, but radical new look

Chevy released the new design of Corvette for public display but it’s the biggest shift we’ve ever seen in Corvette design.

As hinted at earlier this year, Chevy’s moved to a mid-engine design allowing the hood to go lower. This will give better handling but also completely changes the traditional profile of what Americans think of as an iconic American sports car.

Will Americans embrace a radical new look if it brings better performance? Perhaps, but sadly the look isn’t really new. It’s common for high end European sports cars and this may not be a great year to make that specific switch to the US buyers. Time will tell.

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