Auto Sales Up Despite “Uncertainty”, but…

The Auto Industry in the U.S. is alive and thriving, thanks in part to President Obama’s auto bailout, an improved economy and, let’s see, meals on wheels, no…cash for clunkers? no, not that either…I’m going out on a limb here but I think car shows have whetted our appetite for cars, or as the Brit Mike from Wheeler Dealers would say, motas.  Americans are crazy about their motors again thanks to the many TV car shows on the airwaves including Chasing Classic Cars, Mecum Auto Auctions, What’s my Car Worth (mine, not much), Desert Kings, All Girls Garage, Overhaulin’ , and West Coast Customs.  These shows glorify the car and plant the seed in our brains that we need to buy one or another.  The car products sponsors on the shows create other needs in our tiny brains for synthetic motor oils, all-weather floor mats, brighter halogen headlamps so that we can see people standing in the middle of the highway who would otherwise be invisible until it was too late, and bullet proof all-weather tires built to grip the road during a tornado.  Ok, I just made that one up.

U.S. Car Sales are up for all makes.  But one dealer says that sales would be even better if there weren’t so much uncertainty, uncertainty of who will be President in 2013.  I’m sorry, but I beg to differ with the dealer who is no doubt a Republican.  Consumers are not saying behind close doors: “because of the uncertainty honey, let’s delay the purchase of a new car until after the Presidential election.”

What difference would it make, really, who is President, except that if Mitt Romney were elected, he’d probably “roll” back all the safety and environmental regulations in place so that automakers would be once again free to pollute with impunity, and design cheap gas guzzling cars that are Unsafe At Any Speed, and really light trucks made of vinyl siding or balsa wood.

Wheeler Dealers

Wheeler Dealers.  The show is about a couple of blokes from Brighton or wherever they’re from in England who buy old cars cheaply, fix them up and resell them for a very modest profit.  The show is a little like Wrecks to Riches and Desert Car Kings but with an accent.  Interesting accents at that.  Ed China, the 6’10 mechanic sounds like a proper mechanical engineer with a academic vocabulary and just the slightest of accents.  Mike, has a much grittier accent and is frankly, barely intelligible.  They pepper their speech with the oddest British vocabulary – saying things like, “it’s looking a bit tatty”.  “We’ll have that interiour looking smart in no time…just need a few more bits for the exteriour.”  They call the cars motors, and you’ll hear Mike saying, “that’s ‘quite the crackin mota,  just need to have the dings in the bonnet touched up and the dodgy engine sorted.”  Sorted seems to be Ed’s favourite word.

Have you noticed that poor Ed rarely leaves the garage or workshop as they call it, until Mike pulls up and honks with a new project. I’m left to wonder whether he can safely drive those small European cars with his nearly 7 foot frame.

As  Mike Brewer says at the end of the show, tarra, or ta da, or is it telah or salah?  As we say in my neck of the woods – whatehva.

Space Engineers Vindicate Toyota

Toyota is on the way back after suffering a near collaspe, not unlike the U.S. economy.  And
it should be forever grateful to the team of NASA scientists who found no problems whatever with the car maker’s electronics, or as the Brits like to call them “electrics”, or at least Mike Brewer from the TV show Wheeler Dealers.  It should be said that the engineers could not replicate the sudden acceleration problems many Toyota drivers have encountered, problems that led to lawsuits and a massive recall.  And if you recall, Toyota came under heavy fire for moving slowly to recall the models believed to be dangerous.Sales declined spelling the near ruin of the company and the desperate recall of their retired spokesman, a caffeinated version of the late Bob Baker.

Pedal misapplication, a term used frequently by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), seems to have been the most likely cause of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles.  Victims of runaway vehicles would obviously beg to differ.  It makes sense though, pedal misapplication that is.  If you mistake the gas pedal for the brake, you will not slow down or stop as expected.  Hit the gas hard enough and the vehicle will surge and accelerate.  And with the lead-footed driver, the pedal might just stick – could even get tangled up with the floor mat, which in fact did happen – happened with some Honda’s too.  

Have you seen all those folks crashing into banks and convenience stores?  I would predict in most of the cases, the driver simply got the pedals confused and hit the gas instead of the brakes.  This sudden acceleration phenomenon has happened to a disproportinate number of elderly drivers who in some cases should not be behind the wheel.

Sudden acceleration problems could be caused by cruise control misapplication too. Think about it.  Newer cars have some fancy control sticks branching out from the steering column and sleek buttons embedded into the steering wheel. Some of these buttons are hard to see and touch sensitive. And the sticks, like the old column stick shifts back in the day have to be twisted and shifted to activate a number of commands from wiper movements and windshield fluids to turn signals.  And then there are those pesky paddle shifters few know how to use that seem better suited for a boater or a beaver.  What are those things anyway and what do they do? The point is, a driver who is not technology savvy could easily activate the cruise control, freak when the car suddenly accelerates and then misapply the pedal to inadvertantly command the car to go even faster.  By this time, the panicked driver might truly believe the car is runaway mode. 

I’m not a big Toyota fan.  I never much cared for the looks of their cars – boring lines, bland and conservative.  The only Toyota I really liked was the Celica of the late 80’s which was futuristic looking, straight out of the Jetsons; it might have come with a joystick option to let the driver hover and zoom about like a helicopter.  No need for pedals at all.