Taking Time Over Cars

people-2589186_1920

It seems we spend most of our lives in cars but is that factually true? According to Donald Shoupe, a car’s “natural” state is being parked, it’s like that 95% of the time, which accounts for 165 hours in a week. Though just because it’s parked doesn’t mean you’re not in it!

traffic-1149960_1920

When we are in the car we’re generally taking a journey of less than a mile, this accounts for 28% of trips. We take 18 of these trips per week.

We say, “time is money” in this case it is true because using the car can be the most efficient way from getting from A to B. Then again the real reason we’re taking a car might be some other factors such as rain, shopping or other luggage which makes taking mass transit less convenient.

Time is Certainly Money on the Dealer’s Lots.

What people don’t know is that the more expensive the car the more likely that it will be stuck on your lot for longer. Other factors such as being a sedan also mean it’s slower to sell. If the goal is just inventory turnover it is better to stock reasonably priced cars and hatchbacks. In reality, most dealers go for a range of cars.

Time is Tricky in the Rental Business

end-of-the-world-560859_1920For the car rental market, it is important that a car is returned on time. Unfortunately, due to the pressures of work or family, this might not be all that convenient, so drivers may decide to pay more (or just forget to return the car at the appointed time).

What consumers don’t tend to know is that a rental company doesn’t necessarily want you to return to the car early as they may not have anywhere to store it.

On the Road

delorean-38103_1280Many people don’t like those who take their time driving, calling them Sunday Driver…or worse. Taking your time after the light turns green, for example, could well cause an accident. It is probably not as dangerous as most of us shout at the moment, but slow drivers do cause accidents. The actual association might be that slow drivers are driving slow for another reason entirely, like being tired, and it’s the sluggish reaction time, not the sluggish speed that creates an accident. Although most accidents are about a “perfect storm” of circumstances – the weather, the time of day, the amount of coffee drunk and so on, not your lack of fast-twitch reaction.

The other problem about slow drivers is that, particularly on single lane roads, they create a bottleneck which slows down the flow of traffic.

Time in Car Advertising

road-1030789_1920Following some drivers on the road might feel like following a funeral procession! No wonder car advertisements always show the vehicle on empty roads, but seldom going fast. The goal is to show a car-free commute. Sure it’s strange to hear the voice-over talk about how fast the car accelerates from zero to sixty while watching a car mosey down a country lane at maybe 30 MPH.

Perhaps for the first time ever, let’s conclude that we should be more like a commercial. Enjoy your time on the road, drive well and not too slowly. And make sure that you take advantage of the bargains on the car lot, it kind of makes sense that you do.

Advertisements

What is a Car Geek?

geek-663264_1280

(Special Note: Happy Birthday to the Biggest Geek we know, Managing Editor of The Kicker Blog, Andy Bunch)

When we say someone is a car geek what do we mean? How geeky is geeky? Do we mean someone who occasionally looks under the hood, someone who has named their car and loves to mess around with it or someone even more obsessed? Let’s look the source of all things geek, nerd, or bazaar–the internet.

Fictional & Family Friendly Car Geeks

800px-Mr_Toad's_Wild_RideThe most famous car geek was the literary character Mr. Toad in Wind in the Willows. It would be difficult to take the obsession for motorcars away from the character, though he has a few more obsessions such as caravans, hot air balloons and according to one film airplanes. In the Disney film, he appears hypnotized by the sight of his first car. Although other versions don’t go that far it could be implied that all versions of Mr. Toad are super geeky.

What Makes Someone a “Car Geek?”

According to the most common searches, a car geek looks for ‘how to’s’ and supercar events. They may be after specialist parts for their individual vehicles. A car geek’s obsession may go into other motor vehicles such as trucks or motorbikes. They may look for the best kind of vehicles or the most obscure. And know everything about them.

An obsession with cars can go as far as knowing the names of paint varieties for different cars, taking pictures of cars and linking places to specific cars that you have driven. In a way, they see the world through the eyes of their car (okay, a bit over the top but that’s the point, right?)

A Car Geek Would Know

aston-martin-3619204_1920Car geeks will certainly know what press car number plates are. These are the plates placed on cars when they are photographed in. It’s like when a movie or TV show has to say a phone number they always start it with 555. For a car example, it is 911 HUL for Porsche cars. In 2012 the number plate VE12 AML was used in press photographs for the Aston Martin Lagonda but has been since been sold off. It was the intention to sell it to an Aston Martin Lagonda owner but that may not have been the case.

Forward-Looking Geeks

Car geeks come in handy when trying to predict the future of cars and commuting. They may look at virtual reality for the latest way to design automobiles, whether electric cars or self-driving cars will catch on or the latest crazes such as LimePod. In case you are not a geek, LimePod is an idea for a car sharing service run in Seattle which has yet to find favor with the public at large.

car-racing-67525_1280

Or Looking Back

The geek certainly goes to museums and one of the most famous is the Henry Ford Museum of Dearborn, Michigan which includes a car from all the way back to 1865. The Nascar Hall of Fame might be also worth the journey if you are a speed freak as well as a car geek.

Who’s Looking for a Car Geek?

The geek is certainly a valuable market, with items such as car wax, auto accessories and general car care products advertised to them. The name might be a bit watered down with its use for any enterprise involving cars though.  The more a term is used the more watered down the meaning so it shouldn’t be overused?

Top Picks in Cars for Families in 2019

cup-1613315_1920

When you have a family, you need a car that is roomy, comfortable, and safe. You want your children to have their own space to avoid those screaming fights and for the baby seat to buckle in with ease. So, what are the top picks for 2019? Here is a rundown of cars that are ideal for families in minivans and SUVs.

What Makes a Car Ideal?

You want to make sure that your vehicle is equipped with at least the standard features and that others are available should you choose. These features should include a rear camera, lane stay assist, and Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), among others.

family-932245_1920Safety testing is one of the most important parts of choosing any vehicle for your family. You want to know how it fares in an accident and how safe your family will be. Make sure you check the safety ranking for each vehicle that you look at. Specifics like crash rating and overall rating are a good place to start.

Convenience and Technology almost go hand in hand nowadays. Make sure that the vehicle you choose has the features you want or the option to add them. This can include things like remote start, remote door access, smartphone connections, touchless entry, heated seating, and more.

Following is the list of top family cars as rated by Kelly Blue Book, Cars.com, and Parents.com.

minivan-41476_1280

Minivans

 

Honda Odyssey

With its top rate technology for safer driving including CMBS, Road Departure Mitigation System (RDM), Blind Spot Information System, and multi-angle rear camera, it is no wonder it has received Kelly Blue Book’s minivan best buy award. With ample seating allowing up to eight passengers and options for a rear entertainment center, your children will be happy and give you fewer distractions.

 

Chrysler Pacifica

The Chrysler Pacifica gives you the technology you are looking for and the comfort you need. This hybrid minivan has the safety features to help keep you safe like all around camera, Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) and adaptive cruise control. It also provides seven-passenger seating with stowaway seats for all of those necessities. It also has the option of dual entertainment screens and connection to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Again, keeping your children occupied while you stay in control.

suv-29064_1280

SUVs

 

Subaru Forester

The Subaru Forester has standard-on-all safety features that include EyeSight to monitor traffic. It also features optimized cruise control, lane assist technology, and automatic pre-collision braking with full braking capabilities. It has memory seating for up to five drivers and adjusts to their preferences upon entering the car. The Forester also has different entertainment packages to choose from and space for the extra cargo you may be transporting to and from the game.

 

Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V gives you room and style in one package. With convenient features like automatic adjusting wipers that sense the speed of the rain and adjust accordingly to hands-free rear entry, you will be hard pressed to find something you don’t like. Some of its safety features include lane change sensors that sense if cars are close when changing lanes, reverse sensors, multi-angle rear camera, and smart entry. The CR-V also comes with CMBS, RDM, lane assist, and adaptive cruise control. With plenty of space and stow away seats, you will be ready to go where ever the road calls.

 

Chevrolet Traverse

The Chevy Traverse gives you the comfort you want and the size that you need for a big family. With seating for eight, this SUV gives you convenience with hands-free rear entry, easy-slide seating, and hidden storage. It includes sixteen different safety features like forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, lane keep assisting, rear vision camera and alert, lane change assist and backup assist, among others. It also comes with connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to keep your children entertained and get you safely where you need to go.

 

Volkswagen Atlas

The Volkswagen Atlas comes with seating for seven and stowaway seats for comfort no matter how big your family is. The Atlas also comes with hands-free rear entry, remote doors, driver memory for four drivers, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay, and remote start. The safety features on the Atlas include pedestrian monitoring, overhead view camera, adaptive cruise control, LKAS, and blight spot detection, light assist, and rear traffic alert. The Volkswagen Atlas gives you space, comfort, and safety you need for your family’s road trips.

 

 

The Pros and Cons of Garages

architecture-1836070_1920.jpg

Many of us practically live in our car, which means the front door of our house is actually the garage door. The big exceptions are those who live in apartments and those who live further off the beaten track.

Not so Humble Origins

The tradition of a garage is as old as the car itself, as it began with wealthy people to store vehicles out of the weather. In the beginning, only the rich had cars and it was natural to keep them like they had the horses it replaced, in a stable where the maintenance, care and well, waste could be handled by household employees. So the first garages were repurposed “carriage houses”.

Apart from having money what kind of people would have a carriage house? Well, it depends on how you define one. If you think of it as a cart shed, then anyone with a horse or donkey probably had one. We’re not talking about people in slum areas, but everyone else. The posher ones had living space for staff and no doubt the first garages used the sleeping quarters for chauffeurs.

Modern racing fans know of pit row where cars pit-in for service, but we probably don’t think about the source of the name, which is a pit you dug in your garage so your chauffeur can perform regular maintenance on your vehicle. Now we use hydraulic lifts of course.

country-house-540796_1920.jpg

The Evolution of the Garage

Garages haven’t changed much with one big exception–where they are in relation to the rest of your house. Most houses now have an attached garage. The big advantage is that you can drive right up to, and really into, your abode without getting out in the weather.

Of course, it goes without saying that you need some sort of shelter for a convertible but there are some advantages for any vehicle. Garaging your vehicle keeps its exterior in better condition, prolongs the paint job, and reduces creature infestations like mice in the engine or yellow jackets in the air intake.

Are there any disadvantages to an attached garage? There must be. How many of us park in front of our garage and use it as a large storage facility. You can try to make the garage double for storage of things and cars, but things like ladders pose a bigger threat to your paint job than the weather outside.

An attached garage also either takes up room from your house (under the roof) or from your yard. Most of us have come to accept the loss of front green space and perhaps even consider it an advantage to have less mowing to do. Still, the modern house, with it’s living quarters tucked behind an amorphous garage is less conducive to a neighborhood feel than say, a wraparound porch.

If you’ve ever lived in a situation where you needed to walk outside for a bit, in order to get in your car, you notice how much the air wakes you up in the morning. You might also notice a lack of smell. Cars have a lot of chemicals, etc. that can gather in the sale air of a garage. The material used for the car such as diesel and anti-freeze also whiff a bit. If you don’t use the car a rust smell will also develop. Many people might prefer these kinds of odors further from the house.

Note: Now that some of us have remote start on their cars, it’s a good idea to make sure the garage door is up before starting your car. That carbon monoxide is dangerous. Then there is the smell. A number of older cars smell especially diesel cars.

Safety

Another big advantage to a garage is the safety factor. Garages are thought by insurers to a safer place to keep a car than say the street. For an insurer, it’s all about managing risk in any case. Your pride and joy might not be perfectly safe in a garage but it is better than the alternatives. Many single people feel personally safer walking into a garage attached to their house than walking outside to get in their car.

Whatever you choose, and garage placement may not be a big factor in choosing where you live, there are some plusses and minuses to having a garage. It’s worth giving some thought to.

Night Systems

Audi-Night-Vision

 

It’s not just the darkness, but fog, smog and even the glare of light can prevent you seeing nearby obstacles. Introducing the automotive night system which can detect objects you wouldn’t see with mere headlights and alert the driver to them. Given its potential to improve safety and how long we’ve had the basic technology it may come as a shock that it only dates back to 2000. That means it came in about the same era as  Sat-Nav, which is also handy, but not a safety concern.

As with most innovations night systems were first installed in the luxury brand and even now hasn’t become a standard safety feature in mid-cost vehicles. The first car to employ an automotive night system was a Cadillac de Ville.  This style of Cadillac was originally developed in the 1950s, but it has undergone several generations of improvement.

From the start, the goal was to make automotive night system passive and intuitive so that they didn’t provide more distraction than a driver simply concentrating on the road ahead. All the systems employ an infrared beam to pick up on objects which the human eye would miss. The main difference in the systems is how it alerts the driver.

Less passive systems were introduced by  Mercedes and Toyota, which produce a black and white image for the driver.  The Mercedes can only use this function when you are going at 28 mph, presumably because you are less likely to be killed by a car traveling below 28 mph. (But honestly who  wants to be hit at any speed?)

You might think that as people aren’t used to black and white images that it might hard for a driver to know when to react. The people behind the DS Night Vision have thought of this. Its sensors give a red border around any objects that may be a potential danger, and then adds a yellow border if the danger changes to critical.

The BMW has a pedestrian detecting device which flashes a caution symbol if its infra-red senses that a pedestrian is in the driver’s “eye-line.” In recent years they added an animal detection device. If an animal is in the vicinity a number of LEDs will start flashing.

Should you discover something called “active vision” it means it only works on nearby obstacles. Far away obstacles can appear grainy in this type of footage, which isn’t necessarily a problem as such obstacles can generally be ignored.

Naturally the idea of creating a live stream in front of you to show you how the road is looking seems an obvious evolution. However, it’s currently thought to be too distracting.  As drivers become more accustomed to technology in cars its quite possible we’ll see this innovation soon.

As this is the latest in tech it will remain quite expensive for some time, to the detriment of the pedestrian and maybe other drivers. This isn’t, from a tech standpoint, much different than ordinary surveillance devices. Night vision comes standard on baby monitors these days. The safety of others seems to come secondary to price, which isn’t how other safety features have been prioritized. The court of public opinion can shift swiftly so perhaps we’re one bad night accident away from a handy new standard safety feature.

The Car in the Landscape

end-of-the-world-560859_1920

An Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett

Much has been written about the battle between nature and cars. To hear some folks talk about it, cars are the worst thing to happen to the environment. thousands of miles of the landscape have been paved for roads and parking lots. This paving of nature goes back further than the combustion engine but environmental types seem to narrow the culprit down to the mass ownership of cars.

Do we really need to rehash it again? Well, brace yourself.

It’s worthy of note that between car and nature the latter sometimes wins? There are hundreds of mountains which cannot be tunneled through (sometimes because they are too large, sometimes because tunneling might interrupt a mine or another internal structure), hundreds of bodies of water which cannot be crossed by a bridge and many animals that get in the way of a car.

These animal “trespassings” on the interstate don’t have a good ending for anybody. This means death for the creature but also trauma and injury for the passengers of a car that has the misfortune to collide with it.

We’re talking big animals here, giant moose, deer, and cows. Even if you have a near miss with one of these large animals, it doesn’t mean another member of its pack is likely nearby. This is why you should be extra vigilant if you see an accident caused by one of these animals.

If there is an animal up ahead the best thing you can do is perform an emergency stop. It is ill-advised to try and swerve to avoid the animal as you can end up causing a greater accident with other vehicles on the road. Sounding your horn is as likely to make the animal rear up instead of move. Put your hazard lights on though, to warn motorists, especially if it’s a foggy day.

You are more likely to hit a wild animal near a heavily forested region you are also more likely to hit one in the early spring or late fall. During winter and summer animals are more sluggish and do not travel so far.

It’s human nature to try and comfort an animal in distress but this isn’t advisable with something like a deer or a bigger animal. After all, its hoofs are sharp and it may take its distress out on you.

Deer seem to be the main culprit of wildlife accidents. State Farm reported that there were approximately 1.35 million accidents involving deer between July 2016 and June 2017. On average the damage for an accident was estimated at $4,100. And larger animals such as moose or bear can cause more expensive accidents.

You can install a small whistling device on your car to warn deer you’re coming. I don’t know of a study proving that they work, but if you live in a rural area it might be worth a try.

Different states have different laws about reporting car accidents with animals. It is best to err on the safe side and report them anyway as it will probably help your insurance case. Likely you’ll have to report the accident when you call for a tow.

A Look Ahead To 2019—for Commuters at least

 

car-3866120_1920Trying to predict the future of the automobile is like trying to predict the weather. There’s the farmer’s almanac method which examines the last century of trends and cycles, then mathematically predicts what’s most likely to happen. Then there’s the meteorological method which involves Doppler radar, satellite imagery, and computer models. In this method, well-educated experts analyze the data to produce a percentage chance of an outcome—usually, something like it will rain or not, odds are 50/50.

There’s a third method that involves Granny Clampett and a beetle she keeps in an old matchbox…but in all seriousness natural observation can’t be completely discounted. It’s maybe odd that the first two methods don’t involve stepping outside and looking up.

So let’s take a look at the automobile, it’s industry and environment in 2019 from all three viewpoints.

automotive-2391928_1920

The Market/Industry

The automotive version of the Farmer’s Almanac might be the Cox Automotive Dealer Sentiment Index. It says that the fourth quarter of 2018 was not as profitable as it could have been and the market may be heading south.

The meteorological approach would see a number of new tariffs for the market put there so that we might compete with China for manufacturing jobs. This includes all the pieces which make up a car, the engine, the tires, the transmission shafts and so on. But manufacturing jobs will be hit hard by automation in 2019.

Fewer imports mean less crude oil burnt to bring goods from China, but a bigger cut to fuel consumption is coming from electric vehicles. This is where we get some conflicting indicators. GM is closing plants because it gambled on hybrids that no one seems to want to buy. So fuel economy may not be the single biggest driving force in market decisions. And the current power grid and generation level can’t handle charging all those cars, so it’s not likely that electric cars (EVs) will quickly supplant traditional ICE Cars (internal combustion engine).

If EVs are truly more reliable and the cost of fuel, which has come down, is the big car consumer driver then we’re heading for a big oil surplus in three to five years, along with cheap used cars, and almost no new ICE Cars being purchased. This will mean a temporary boon for repair shops as the driving public buys cheap surplus used cars to exclusion of new cars (unless they’re EVs). For more on that theory see our post from 12/28/18.

The tariffs won’t hit for a couple months into 2018 and then we’ll get a better idea what the impact might be.

concept-car-3744287_1920

Financing

The Almanac student would point to the fact that new cars price tags have gone up and up. Some of this could be that EV’s are in development phase more than really in the production phase. Companies like Tesla have released their luxury versions first because it’s better able to absorb the high cost of buying something so new to the market. Even as Tesla moves on to more consumer-friendly car models their price won’t fall until they get into their second and third rendition (where new the new model uses the old assembly). Also, more EV manufacturers will enter the market and need to go through the same cycle.

If we exclude EV’s entirely we still see a trend to more expensive new car prices as the amount of mandatory safety features increases every year. However, it’s likely that the big driver of cost in cars is that makers aren’t able to sell as many. The reduced demand should bring prices down, but not if automakers believe that the people opting to not own a car are a cheap car buying people.

In other words:

  • Generationals aren’t as interested in driving
  • Jobs are concentrated in population centers where parking is scarce, gas is expensive, and mass transit is an option,
  • While baby-boomers are staying in the job market longer, they’re finding other ways to get around.

With young and old not buying cars, that leaves only the more affluent of the smaller generations to market to and they’re not as afraid of a high price tag.

The car meteorologist would notice the number of creative financing options popping up. (Whoever heard of an 18-year house loan, right?) Well, if manufacturers think the answer to their woes is to sell fewer, but more expensive cars, then it’s likely we’ll see longer term car loans. Many experts are predicting that your FICA score will become more volatile as technology can now track your income and debt down to the minute. It puts the whole subprime loan process into a new light.

Assuming all the above is true we’re looking at a giant used car market coming, which could see lenders sending consumers to car inspection services, to verify the condition of their next purchase as early as June 2019.

One way dealerships and automakers might partner to respond to changing conditions are with leases and cashback services. The idea is to make cars more like cell phones where you buy the car but the trade in value follows the market better when you return it to the maker’s official dealership. Then you can turn it in toward the new model. One could imagine it coupled with levels of extended warranty so that after a year you can upgrade at a good trade-in price and the next buyer would get a special extended warranty based on mileage. This might sound like what already happens but it’s not. This plan would take some of the sting out of the new car depreciation but offer people more flexibility that they have with a lease.

audi-3692022_1920

Type & Trend

The car meteorologist says there is a host of new EV and hybrid models coming out, including the Lexus UX HUV and the Jaguar’s i-Pace. There are also new manufactures entering the market. A startup called Rivian (https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/27/rivian-electric-truck-suv-r1s/) is going to enter the market in 2019.

The car almanac reader says it’s a bit too early to tell if EVs area fad or a revolution. Most of the time cost of operation is a major influence and power rates may not always be cheaper than gas and diesel. Many new technologies have false started a few years before they actually took off. The more expensive the item the slower it’s adopted.

As for dealerships, CarMax has become the number one used car dealership in the world based on volume. But their system isn’t perfect (you can’t get it inspected pre-purchase) and just because they have a lead doesn’t mean they won’t get competition. There’s no barrier to entry for their system. In fact, it’s likely that they’ll get at least one big competitor in 2019.

Certainly, the appeal of new models means new car dealerships will thrive, but what about long-term? It seems that optimism is declining in both new car sales and used car sales. The optimism for used car dealerships is down to about 57% from 60%, according to the Kelley Blue Book. It should mean that when new car dealerships are declining that used car dealerships pick up, but that doesn’t seem to be happening and it’s not clear why.

One thing is likely, 2019 will see hybrids start to fade as European clean diesel and longer range EVs start to take market share.

nissan-2060106_1920

Car Design Trends (Mid-engine Mainia!?!?)

The car meteorologist points to sudden interest in mid-engine design. Mid-engine cars aren’t new. In fact, it’s basically the first design for cars (see 1901 autocar). It’s common sense that placing the heavy engine closer to the back wheels increases torque and evenly distributes the weight. It’s become quite the rage in sports cars where performance is more important than a back seat. But Chevrolet is gambling on a mid-engine Corvette in 2020. (Note that cars stated as 2020 are sold in 2019. An advertising gimmick, but it confuses some people.)

A mid-engine just means it has an engine located centrally between the axles. Confusingly, there is also a rear-mid engine type car. It’s possible that automakers who embrace EVs will go to a low engine/battery compartment that sits entirely below the seats and between the wheel wells. This might enable them to build all their car lines on the same base frame and engine platform. Imagine a thick car-sized surfboard with wheels attached that you can just attach seats to and then add a body over.

The car almanac reader says that certainly, the SUV fashion will remain. At least Ford is banking on it by bringing back the Bronco. The last Bronco was manufactured in 1996 but in order to compete with jeep, the design has been rejuvenated. In many ways, it looks more like the Ford Ranger than the 1996 Ford Bronco.

 

afterfx-custom-jeep-2774671_1920In Conclusion

Is there a devastating storm brewing that will leave the American auto industry in turmoil or is it just shifting from ICE cars to EVs?

The car meteorologist would say that apart from giving cars a facelift and what appears at concept car shows is relatively unchanged from past shows.

The car almanac reader points out that new trends move slower with expensive items (like cars) and the current power grid won’t sustain an army of electric cars. Unless the government does another round of incentives it’s unlikely EV’s will grow their market share drastically in 2019.

So the net answer is the American Car Maker should be able to ride the storm if there is one, but no one really knows, except perhaps Granny Clampetts weather bug. The weather bug has rolled onto it’s back and started wiggling its legs, so 2019 will ease in deceptively slow, but big changes are coming in the spring.

PS if you thought we’d update you on autonomous driving cars…well, the weather there changes by the minute. Look for stretches of long desolate highway in the southern Midwest (Arizona/Texas) to be upgraded with paint and electronic location devises so that driverless semis can be tested. The shortage of drivers and brutally boring sections of road with relatively stable weather conditions make it a good place to implement automated driving. Market forces will power this so it will happen, but maybe not 2019.

But Granny’s weather bug remains convinced that we’re five or more years away from regular use of AVs. That’s a controversial opinion these days, but Granny stands by her bug.

And The 2018 Awards For Best…

 

cup-1613315_1920Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett

I know, you’re probably sick of award shows. It’s always the best-in-class, or bestselling, or the most important. Do we need to crown the next “his royal arrogance, Ipopygooogly?” Well, it does help us decide which movies might be worth seeing after all, (or maybe finally figure out who sings that song you can’t get out of your head).

It’s the same with cars, although some people want to look away from the obvious when picking up a vehicle, we can’t help be intrigued as to what the movers and shakers are driving.

What were the greatest achievements over the past 12 months? Which car has excelled? It’s December, and it’s time to open the envelopes.

The best-selling car over-all of 2018 was the Ford F series pickup, according to Capital One; over 80,000 sold this year. It might come as a shock that such a truck-like vehicle was so profitable but are useful for both work and play. The redesign of the Ford pickup was thought by many to potentially disastrous, as the pickup formula is not easily tampered with, but it seems to have paid off.

The best-selling small car of 2018 would is Nissan Sentra. Despite its compact design, it appears quite spacious inside, including a substantial trunk size. It may have felt less compromised than others compacts.

The most surprising car of 2018 is the Lexus LC 300h. What makes it surprising? The mixture of Japanese and German design, that shouldn’t work together but somehow, does. At least aesthetically speaking–there might be slight problems with the transmission in the vehicle.

As a category, the Sedan tries to be both aspirational and practical, if not as practical as something like a pickup. The most powerful Sedan of 2018 is the Jaguar XJ, making the Kelley Blue Book’s Top List. The sales pitch of Jaguar XJ is ‘power meets beauty’ and despite being tweaked over a number of years it remains one of the best-selling models.

The best-selling electric car is the Tesla Model 3 (according to Clean Technica). Many might not think this category important, as electric cars have yet to reach mainstream market-share, but Tesla could take over from the big players in the years to come, especially if incentive programs come back. The big drawback to electric vehicles is range and the Model three is shorter than others in its class (distance without charging 263 miles). Likely reasons for the Model 3’s popularity despite a mid-range battery pack include brand recognition and that it has come down in price.

As for the best-selling hybrid for 2018 the winner is the Toyota Prius Four. The seating for five and the heated front seats seem to be a strong selling point. People look for family cars instead of those which are kinder to the environment (just as long as you remember to use the electricity settings once in a while) but this car does both.

The special prize goes to The Connected Car. The rage at the moment seems to be all about the internet of things and as the largest “thing” we use every day is the car. So it seems that money will be spent to increase both safety and in-car entertainment.

Thanks for attending the awards. We will see you next year.

 

Best of the Web: Future of Cars & Oil?

One of our friends uncovered this video and it’s worth watching. It contains one interpretation of facts and one possible future of Electronic Vehicles (EVs) and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars.  The video is based on a rather scholarly work that’s no doubt less entertaining than this video.

We reached out to a member of the tech industry who gave us his response to the video on the condition that his name be withheld. His counterpoints speak for themselves. We’ve listed them below the video.

Interesting.  A couple of flaws with their logic:
  • EV’s take a long time to recharge. For anyone that travels more than 150-200 miles a day this causes a massive problem so these people will not be flocking to EV’s.
  • Lots of people live in areas that still have difficulty plugging-in to recharge.
  • The adoption curve they show is too step.  A car still costs a lot so assuming a super straight up adoption like an MP3 player or cell phone is not realistic.
  • That said, we probably will hit a point where we have an oil glut but I predict it will be slower.
  • Another thing to consider–Self-driving cars and Uber are predicted to make many cars obsolete.
  • In metro centers, people will rely on mass transit to avoid fighting for the increasingly rare parking spots.  Both rideshare and mass transit compete directly with EV’s because of EV range restrictions.

Lord, Will You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz? Modern Spiritual or Cynical Advertising?

 

amg-1880381_1920Merry Christmas Everybody! Please enjoy an OP-ED by Paul Wimsett that we thought fitting for the season.

Janis Joplin first sung the song entitled Mercedes Benz in 1970, though it has been covered by Stephanie Wenger, T-Spoon and Celeste Carballo. Even Elton John performed a version of it.

The song, done in the style of a modern spiritual, seems to embrace consumerism, which creates an absolute cognitive conundrum in most listeners. The singer suggests that they deserve the Lord (God or Jesus – it’s not clear?) should deliver her a Merc after all her friends drive Porsches.

It’s also rather unclear if Porsches or Mercs are the better cars. Certainly, both vehicles seem to be aspirational items. Other things she asks for is a color TV (which kind of dates the song) and a night out on the town.

She comes across a bit down and out really. There’s an obscure reference in the song to a phone-in program called Dancing For Dollars, which allows those considered not very well off to win cash prizes. Many later versions of the song omit the verse.

janis-joplin-396743_1920

The song was written by Janis Joplin, Bob Neuworth and Michael McClure, the other two names spent most of their time writing poetry. What seems to give the song added poignancy is that Janis Joplin died three days later.

The consensus among Joplin Fans is that the song is a commentary on the dissolution of the American dream (streets paved with Gold, etc.) and the reality most working class Americans face. Basically, in this land where surely everyone drives a fancy imported car, I need an even more expensive car to make up for not living the American dream so far.

It’s a clever way of expressing a sentiment that it’s a sin to be poor and no matter how hard a person works they may never shake their shameful poverty.

With that in mind, Mercedes is simply a cultural icon to represent wealth. You have to tip your hat to the songwriters for the car choice in terms of staying relevant.

It should come as no surprise that Mercedes Benz has used the song a couple of times to promote their cars: one in 1995 and another one in 2011 (aired during the Superbowl). It is not clear whether the advertisers are aware of the irony, or don’t care. Perhaps they look at a song as a background, nothing else.

Oh, Lord wasn’t the only song composed about the Mercedes Benz.

Pebbles did, “Mercedes Boy.”

Juelz Santana and Lloyd Banks created a rap called Beamer Benz and Bentley in 2010.

Mercedes Benz by Say Yes, all about following a girl in the Mercedes Benz, which seems a little stocker-ish by today’s standards.

It seems those who commit notes to paper look at Mercs as a common icon of the upper crust. There are so many songs about Mercs it would seem that a number of songwriters are just including the brand in the hopes of getting a free one!

The first official Mercedes Benz came in 1926. It was developed from the first gas-powered vehicle (created by Benz) in 1886 called the Benz Patent-Wagon.

As most of you know the inventor, Emil Jenninek, named it after his daughter, Mercedes.

Mercedes-Benz is not just about luxury cars, they also manufacture Sports Utility models in the US. Although they no longer make trucks in the US they do have several truck manufacturing plants in Mexico, Russia, and several other countries.

It’s unlikely another car will replace the Merc as the popular icon of wealth and luxury in our time. Ergo, the materialistic desire to obtain Mercedes-Benz will not be going away any time soon.

I doubt that Janis hoped to discourage anyone from buying any of the items in her song, but she did land her point about unfulfilled desire with the American consumer. We may very well feel a tinge of guilt when we drive to the dealership to buy our own luxury car, because once you ride in a Merc you kind of get hooked. Maybe, in the final analysis, that’s what makes the car worthy of singing about.

Well, there you have it. From all of us at the Kicker, we wish you a Merry Christmas (and a Merc)!

Notes:

Lyrics Courtesy of https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/janisjoplin/mercedesbenz.html