Thursday, December 29, 2005


The Toyota Yaris, in the US.. WHY Toyota, why!?

I know that might look like a deceiving title for this blog, but in reality it is an honest question to Toyota. I was quite excited that Toyota was bringing the wonderful Yaris over to the States.

For one, a reasonable supermini classed car, with a peppy 1.0l, 70bhp engine that is quite fuel efficient sounds wonderful.

The truth is that Toyota backed out and 'fixed' that which was never broken in the first place. They're giving the US a larger car, an ugly saloon version (the hatch looks beautiful, the saloon looks outright awful, and to top it all off, the engine we'll be getting here is a 1.5l 108bhp version. Talk about adding insult to injury.

I just want to know.. WHY Toyota.. why.


Friday, December 16, 2005


Tax new cars based upon Auto Emissions

I know that some of the readers here had an issue with my previous post regarding Displacement based taxes, so I've thought about alternatives, one being the emissions based tax.

If one looks at standard auto-reviews in a publication such as Top Gear, it very quickly becomes apparent that CO2 Emissions are listed right next to 0-100km times, power output and fuel economy. Here we have CAFE standards which are so convoluted to allow sly maneuvers allowing a revolting quantity of trucks and SUVs to be sold without penalising said manufacturers. By pushing the burden onto the consumer, it will affect the manufacturers indirectly through their choices.

If Joe consumer has to pay a tax annually (which would go to help clean up the air in general/environment) based upon the particulate emissions of their vehicle, it would definitely benefit them to ask for lower emissions producing vehicles from their manufacturers. This would also limit after market performance parts producers from taking the easy way out with mods which build dirty horsepower. Efficiency is and always has been the key to more power gains, and this would just reinforce that.

Its time we as a country, take responsibility for our choices and the effects they have on not only ourselves, but the world.


Friday, December 09, 2005


Finalise our conversion to metric already...

The United States has been moving toward Metric units of measure since the mid 1800's. The government has over time (and as recently as 1988/1991 additional changes were put in place to finalise said transition in terms of preferences and official weights and measures (including trade). We see it in many places, whether measuring cups in the kitchens, dual readouts on our home thermostats, or our soft-drink bottles. The only problem is, a lack of consistency.

In the United States our soda comes in litres, and our milk doesn't. We reference our engines by their litre displacement, yet we fill the petrol tank by the gallon. We are not (as of January 2005), the last country (sans two small territories in Eurasia) which has not completely made the changeover to the metric system. We still use a duodecimal (base 12) system for much of our comparisons. I realise this rant is very much a non-automotive one, but give it a moment as it does tie into autos quite quickly, as in the next sentence.

Most of the vehicles built in the world today (including those built in the US and/or for the US) are done utilising metric components, whether those 14mm bolds that hold on ones fender, or the 21mm bolt that fastens your steering wheel, it is omnipresent. So why not make the automobile the place to take a stand and lead the final steps to metric adoption in the US.

It could start with the Petrol stations. Start selling petrol by the litre. Think about it, all of those vehicles which are produced elsewhere and sold in the US. Does anyone honestly think that your '14.5 gallon tank' was built with US measurements in mind? Think again. What you have is a 55 litre tank. How about engine oil, or coolant? It's just being rounded to the nearest 10th of a quart for the sake of ease. There we go again though, we naturally round things down into 10ths.. Base 10 again, the whole point of metric.

I realise this is a bit of a tirade against US thinking, but ultimatley it isn't as it makes sense. Think of how convenient it would be if we didn't need to have dual measurements in every book/measuring implements/etc. that we currently do. There would never be confusion again when travelling or purchasing an item from elsewhere (or for that matter, baking a recipe from outside the US (like a wonderful recipie for speculaas I found recently).

Metric is simple, here's a few hints to help the metrically challenged.

Freezing point of water: 0 degrees centigrade
Room temperature: 20 degrees centigrade
Body temperature: 37 degrees centigrade
Boiling water: 100 degrees centigrade

100km = 62mph
400m = 1/4 mile

1kw (kilowatt) = 1.34bhp
1nm (newton-metre) = .737ft/lbs

Though it is much easier to just not do conversions and immerse oneself in metric only. It is easier than you might think, and after a little while, when everything new is metric only, won't it be nice that you'll only need one set of tools ;)


Thursday, December 08, 2005


North American Suspension Setups

I though I understood a while back why it was that the auto manufacturers in the North American (specifically US market) always put such boring laxative-esque suspension setups on their vehicles. Originally I thought it was for the purposes of counter balancing the absolutely horrid road surfaces throughout the country (especially Pennsylvania and all points north), and to help keep Americans sedate and distant from feeling any feedback whatsoever (not that most would know what to do with said feedback).

The theory as mentioned above got shot right out of the window several years back when every manufacturer started putting 17" and larger diameter wheels on their offerings, as anyone who has owned or driven a vehicle with ultra-low profile tyres will tell you, you feel eveything and your chances of a flat upon meeting a pothole or curb are way up there in the realms of most-likely.

I gather that since the people in the states sans the enthusiasts (not to be confused with the wanna be boy racers) haven't had the opportunity to experience their vehicle (if it happens to be of a global market model) with the suspension it was originally built upon, they don' know what they should be feeling. Sure, there are individuals out there (such as myself) that will go through the effort to aquire the necessary peices to bring their vehicle's ride in line (or even beyond) the factory's original design/intentions (to taste mind you), such as myself, but most wouldn't, and it is mainly because they don't know what they're missing.

You can have a firm suspension that corners fairly flat, and provides positive feedback through the steeering and seat while allowing for a non-jarring ride. The english, germans, french, swedes and italins have been doing this for years. I know that when I converted my Late Model 240's suspension to a Bilstein setup with progressive springs and 25mm anti-sway bars front and rear, the car felt solid, able footed and quite controllable while still retaining an absolutely docile ride when wanted. The same went for my MkII Golf (and eventual turn-key rally/hillclimb Group 2 competition car).

Wouldn't it make sense to return to reasonbly sized tyres and profiles, matched with more competent suspension setups? Would it not be more cost effective for the respective manfuacturers to have a simplified process in place utilising uniform parts? Doesn't this have beneficial repercussions throughout the supply chain and process? Maybe this wil change one day, but sadly, I'm doubtful, afterall this is the land of Walmart and MacDonalds, mediocrity abound on the road towards automotive entropy.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Smaller Displacement Engines

In the United States we hear a lot regarding the freedom of choice, as well as how the free market economy gives consumers more options than anywhere else, yet when looking at the automotive sector, I find myself asking "do we really have that many options available to us?"

If one takes a look at pretty much any other moderately sized market for cars such as Western Europe, Asia and South America it quickly becomes clear that our options are (in terms of variety) greatly limited. We get a smaller, less diverse grouping of manufacturers, a subset of said manufacturers products and even more so, a minute selection of motors for each of the aforementioned groups of vehicles.

Example 1: Choice of Manufacturers

First off we have to think about brands in general. Do we count Acura and Honda as two manufacturers? How about Audi and Volkswagen (amongst others)? For our criteria, Honda and Acura count as one manufacturer because most if not all of the cars sold as Acuras in the US carry the Honda badge elsewhere. Volkswagen and Audi would be counted separately because they are sold as such distincly around the world. Lets think about this then.
We have all of the Major Japanese and most fo the German companies, the Swedes, and a few of the English brands via both American and German owned parent companies. We could say that we have some of the Italian and French cars available in our country, but that's only if you count supercars/exotics. This brings up my first issue:
Where are the everyday car companies from those countries. Where are the cars from Opel (GM Germany), Vauxhall (GM UK), Holden, Ford (of Europe and Australia), Lancia, Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, Proton, Daihatsu (yes, Daihatsu), Smart?

Example 2: Diversity of Offerings from Available Manufacturers

Since there happens to be so vast a void of autos not currently available in the United States, I'm only going to pick out a few vehicles for sake of brevity. I'll take my selections from various world markets served by companies already selling their autos in the United States. Please note that I aware of some new arrivals coming to the US such as the Toyota Yaris (replacing the Echo), and this is a good thing, lets hope it is the beginning of long-term change.

Mind you there are some cars that come to the US as other brands, but usually at a premium, and/or without options offered on the original. Look at the new Ford Focus.. NOT the one in the US, but the one in Europe. We get the Mazda 3 and Volvo S40 which shares its platform, but not as what it originally was built as.. A Ford. We get the Chevrolet Optra/Lacetti/Excelle as a Suzuki Reno/Forenza, but in Canada it is still a Chevy. What is the deal with such badge engineering, it seems so pointless.

Example 3: Choice of Motors

This is really a no brainer, and I'm not going to list every possibility for the autos current sold in the United States, however as a simple example, I'll just use the current Ford Focus available in the United States and Suzuki Reno/Forenza (Chevrolet Lacetti).

In England you have a choice of the following motors available in your Focus:

1.4l - 80ps, 1.6l - 100ps, 1.6l VCT - 115ps, 2.0l - 145ps, 2.5l - 225ps, 1.6 Turbo Diesel - 109ps
1.8 Turbo Diesel - 115ps, 2.0 Turbo Diesel - 135ps, 2.0 Turbo Diesel - 136ps

In Europe you have the choice of the following motors availabe in your Lacetti/Reno/Forenza/Excelle, etc:

1.4l - 94ps, 1.6l - 109ps, 1.8l - 122ps and a special WTTC +R Edition with a 1.8l Supercharged Motor @ 170ps


Does anyone else see the disparity here. This is supposed to be a country full of freedom and choice, but apparently someone forgot to inform the auto makers.


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