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The Recalls Are A-Comin’—Whether You Like It Or Not

NHTSA’s pledge to 100% completion sets unrealistic goal.

by on Mar.28, 2016

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind pledged the agency would achieve a 100% completion rate for recalls in the U.S.

The fairly new head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Dr. Mark Rosekind, a veteran of the highly regarded National Transportation Safety Board, announced that NHTSA will seek 100% completion of safety recalls in the U.S.

This comes in the wake of a record 51 million vehicles recalled for safety fixes in 2015 (40% of them related to Takata air bags) and an increase in highway fatalities last year after several progressive years of declining crash deaths, both statistics generating headlines in the media.

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Of course, Congress, and NHTSA are feeling the heat in Washington from media and professional safety critics. And NHTSA – the only agency ordained to do something about it – is wringing its hands. (more…)

Witness to History: Nothing New Under the Sun

The demise of the steering wheel and other detours on the long road to autonomous vehicles.

by on Sep.11, 2014

A prototype version of the GM Unicontrol - note the center steering wheel hub is still in place.

It’s difficult to keep up with the headlines. If my count is right, we’ve already hear from Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Nissan, all revealing plans to introduce autonomous vehicles in the coming years. And that doesn’t even include Google, the high-tech firm that is putting a fleet of prototypes on the road this year.

We’re told that electronics can take over from drivers the drudgery and skill of safely and efficiently motoring from here to there, whether commuting across town or crossing from coast to coast. But, as is stated in the circa 300 BCE Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter One Verse Nine, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  And the rush to put self-driving vehicles on the road reminds us old-timers of that.

The Automotive Journal of Record!

In 1958, I was a reporter for the Detroit Bureau of Business Week magazine, and witnessed the first steps on the long road to autonomous driving. The concept had been around for awhile. GM even promoted the idea at its lavish pavilion at the 1938 New York World’s Fair. Two decades later, it was ready to show us automotive scribes that science fiction was ready to become science fact.


A Contrarian’s Take on GM’s Ignition Switch Controversy

Opinion by our automotive veteran.

by on Jun.19, 2014

29-year-old Brooke Melton was killed in a 2009 crash involving her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt.

In the nearly 70 years that I have covered the auto industry, I don’t recall a major story that has been so poorly reported as the controversy about GM’s ignition switches.

I attribute this to my belief that, unfortunately, relatively few journalists and editors – not to mention politicians –have ever studied statistics, though they may sometimes handily cherry-pick stats to make a point.


Independent Opinion!

Let’s start with the gross, or “box car” numbers, as I like to call them.  There are an estimated nearly 300 million passenger vehicles on US roads today, a number that increases by four to eight million every year.  This number includes light trucks and SUVs.


New Book Honors the Pony Car that Almost Wasn’t

Remembrances on the unlikely launch of the 1964-1/2 Mustang

by on Apr.15, 2014

Author Mike Davis provides readers of his new book, Mustang and the Pony Car Revolution, a look at how the Mustang came to be from inside Ford headquarters.

A full 50 years ago this week, a new car burst onto the scene that revolutionized the automotive business. But the original 1964-1/2 Mustang was almost an after-thought, a design that was rushed to market when then-Ford President Lee Iacocca pulled the plug on a far more stodgy small car he decided wouldn’t sell.

Not so the Mustang. The flood of headlines helped Ford sell so many it had to add two extra assembly plants to keep up with demand.

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Ford will be staging a series of events this week to mark the Mustang’s Golden Anniversary. That includes a major event at the NY Auto Show where the all-new 2015 Mustang will be on display. The make is even cutting a new model into three pieces to haul it up to the observation deck at the Empire State Building. (more…)

Mustang v The World

How the new pony car wants to develop a global following.

by on Dec.09, 2013

The new 2015 Ford Mustang will now target a global market with both left- and right-hand-drive models.

Automakers are always looking for maximum splash with the launch of a new vehicle, but Ford pulled out all stops during the 6-city debut of the new 2015 Mustang last week.  But perhaps the most significant bit of news was buried in the press package for the 50th Anniversary  model, which contained a section titled “Mustang Going Global,” which built on a teaser news release from October that noted there are now “nearly 100 (Mustang) clubs outside the United States.”

To be clear, Mustangs have, in fact, been sold “around the world” since the pony car’s launch in April 1964—but not with the big push Dearborn is planning now.  According to the October release, a mere 161,000 Mustangs have been sold outside North America in its 49 years of existence, an average of barely than 3,200 a year—in other words, a pittance compared to the American market, where total sales over nearly half a century have amounted to around 9 million.

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But demand has been rising.  Significantly, in 2012, more than 4,000 Mustangs were sold in 35 countries overseas, a substantial increase over the 49-year average.  To put this in perspective, note that Mustang U.S. sales for ten months this year have averaged 6,600 a month.


Experimental Engine Could Deliver Econobox Mileage and Sports Car Performance

Mahle tests new downsized engine technology.

by on Jul.23, 2013

Mahle's modified VW is being used to test the new downsized engine technology.

A German manufacturer best known for its heavy duty truck engine components could re-write the rules when it comes to passenger car powertrains.  The company is the Mahle Group, and it’s presently showing off a “demonstration vehicle” with an experimental   three-cylinder 1.2-liter single turbocharged gasoline engine that promises to meet very tough emission regulations while maintaining performance in mid-sized cars.

Based in Stuttgart, Germany, Mahle entered the U.S. market some 40 years ago supplying aluminum pistons for heavy duty truck engines.  Mahle last month opened its American headquarters and R & D facility in Farmington Hills, Michigan, in Detroit’s western suburbs.

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The German company’s powertrain subsidiary is barnstorming its experimental car, dubbed a “downsizing demonstration vehicle,” to U.S. vehicle manufacturers with the objective of gaining research—not engine-production—contracts.  But longer-term its design could provide the industry a significant alternative to conventional engine designs.


From C1 to C7: 60 Years of Corvette History

Our resident historian’s recollection of Corvettes then and now.

by on Jan.18, 2013

The C7 Corvette at its unveiling last weekend.

TheDetroitBureau.com’s resident historian, Mike Davis was yet to get his license when the first Corvette rolled into GM’s private auto show, known as Motorama, 60 years ago. But he’s been watching and reporting on every ‘Vette since then.

Davis recently released a series of books on the history of Chevrolet and with the new 2014 “C7” Chevrolet Corvette winning kudos as the star of this year’s Detroit Auto Show, we asked him for some remembrances about the Corvette, as well.  Here’s his tale.

The Last Word!

What in heck does C7 mean?  It’s the seventh reincarnation of America’s only regular production sports and racing car.  As shown in my Chevy V.1, as I refer to it, the first Corvette  (C1) began as a “concept car,” a one of-a-kind auto show queen, at General Motors’ Motorama at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York in January 1953.


Corvetitis – How an Unlikely Concept Became “America’s Sports Car”

A dream car prepares for the Woodward Dream Cruise.

by on Jul.17, 2012

Perhaps the most popular Corvette model ever, the 1963 "Split-Window."

Okay, we’re about half way between the Chevrolet Corvette’s 59th birthday, June 30, and the Woodward Dream Cruise, August 18—at which there likely will be more Corvettes parading than any other model.

For one thing, America’s only mass-production sports car has never changed its name, unless you count the abbreviated ‘Vette moniker, or the Stingray designation used on a few ‘60s models. That helps, in an industry where Chevy II became Nova, Chevelle became Malibu and a lot of once-familiar car names like Plymouth, Pontiac and Mercury just disappeared.

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I can claim to have been on hand for the original viewing of the Corvette as an Autoshow Queen at GM’s Motorama in New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in January 1953.  I’m sure it was the sensation of the show, but in all honesty—sorry for the disappointment—I have no memory of it whatsoever.  At college, I had a friend who was also a car nut, but of the more exotic type.  He matched my humble Plymouth sedan with his baby blue Sunbeam Alpine, identical to the car Grace Kelly drove in “To Catch a Thief.”


Adventures in Malibu Land

The further adventures of Ripley V. Winkel.

by on Mar.13, 2012

Unless you've been sleeping you may know that Chevy is bringing out an all-new version of the Malibu.

Ripley V. Winkel, the third generation Chevrolet dealer in Shaughnessy, NY, up the Hudson from Manhattan, decided to take his demonstrator, a 1992 Chevrolet K1500 4×4 up into the Catskills for a little R & R from the pressures of business and family.

Even in a small town where every family knew every other family and had done so for generations, he was not immune from the annoying complaints of customers, the jibes from Crusty O. Jones, the Ford dealer across the State Highway, and the demands of his wife and teenaged son and daughter. What Ripley wanted was a little peace and quiet, and he knew where to find it.

In the Know!

On his way up the winding black-topped road, he nipped occasionally at the jug of hard cider on the passenger seat. Through the open window, he could hear the thunder in the heights ahead. Finally he got to his destination, a little known outlook far over the valley. He carefully backed the pickup in, grabbed his jug and lay down under an big apple tree where he could appreciate the beauty spread out in front of him.


A Second Opinion: the 2012 Volkswagen Passat

In praise of the Passat Owner’s Manual.

by on Jan.03, 2012

Volkswagen's Passat is one of three finalists for North American Car of the Year.

Here we go again. Years ago, I wrote a column for Publisher Paul (at one of his previous enterprises), concerning the gems to be found in the world’s least read book of useful information: a new car or truck Owner Manual.

This time my particular candidate is the exceptional Owner Manual for the 2012 VW Passat, the new Chattanooga product that has made the cut as one of three finalists for North American Car of the Year. (The others are the Ford Focus and the Hyundai Elantra.)

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For me, the Passat—albeit the first VW I have encountered since a retro look at a Beetle some years ago—is pure Vanilla. Driving it for a week doesn’t leave an impression either favorable or unfavorable. It meets all the driver’s needs and pleasures for a solid family five-passenger sedan (except for the $34,000 sticker price including all the standard upscale goodies), plus it has exceptional rear seat legroom and trunk space. There’s nothing at all wrong with Vanilla—Passat should be a conservative buy for those who otherwise likely would lean Camry- or Accord- or Malibu-wise.