Wednesday, November 30, 2011


So now the Chevy Volt is catching fire. This is not to say that the Volt is experiencing a dramatic increase in popularity and sales are through the roof because they certainly are not. What I am saying here is that the Volt has gone up in literal flames a few times after being wrecked. So far this seems like a first for hybrids, as cars like the Toyota Prius have been around for 10 years now without much trouble.

At least one incidence has been reported of a Chevrolet Volt catching fire out behind a body shop while it was waiting for some restoration after having been wrecked. A few incidences have also occurred of the Volt catching fire while sitting out behind the facilities of a crash test center. At least one of these fires occurred after the test center wrecked the car and stuck it out back to specifically see if it would catch on fire, according to CNN. The fires seem to be erupting from the high-voltage battery. Every time one of these cars has gone down in a blaze of glory, it was always days or weeks after it was wrecked, and with every car, GM procedures for discharging the battery after it was damaged have not been followed.

The bad PR has caused GM to offer temporary loaner cars to owners of the Volt while an investigation is being conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, just in case the owners are freaking out and afraid of getting burned alive. GM of course is down playing everything saying that it’s not that bad since the fires don’t occur until well after the crash.

So what should we make of all of this? I for one am torn a bit with my opinion of the Chevy Volt.  The topic of the Chevy Volt can be rather incendiary (current fire problems not withstanding). I think it is ridiculous that the federal government took control of GM when they filed for bankruptcy back in 2009, and then forced the Volt to market for purely political reasons. The Volt kindles similar feelings amongst many taxpayers. I don’t have a problem with companies doing things for the purposes of being politically correct, or to advance some agenda. A privately held company ought to be able to do whatever they want to do as long as it’s not illegal. The problem is that even today GM is not privately held and the U.S. taxpayer still owns about 25% of the “new” GM.

The Volt was pushed to market with federal tax dollars, and then congress passed legislation awarding $7500 to anyone willing to buy a Volt in order to ignite interest in this new car. MSRP on a new volt is about $42k so with the $7500 incentive (from the developers and builders of the Volt i.e. the Feds) the price people actually end up paying is about $34k. This tax credit for Volt buyers means that tax payers are paying impractical rich people a large chunk of money to buy something that they will use to make a political statement, or they will just use as a toy. This is the real conflagration of the Chevy Volt

Now having said all of this, the part where I am torn is in that I love the technology that is wrapped up in the Volt. I am a technology geek of the highest order and the Volt does have some pretty cool stuff under the hood that makes it go. I have had a chance to inspect a Volt up close and personal, and I even took it for a spin. The car is without a doubt the most impressive thing to ever bear the Chevy bowtie. The ride is great, the handling is nice, and the gas/electric motor combination provides plenty of pep. The Volt beats the Prius in the quarter mile anytime, anywhere. I think that some alternative fuel vehicle is likely to take over at some point anyway, although it will probably not happen overnight. When it does happen it will be gradual and it will be a result of regular market demand, not the result of anyones political agenda.

The problem is that the Volt is like the U.S. military. While it is great at what is does, and perhaps it does its job better than anything in its class, when considering the overall cost, it’s obvious that things could be done better for a lot less money. Since the U.S. Constitution calls for the Federal Government to fund the military to protect us all, and since I am pretty sure there is nothing in the document that allows the government to build impractical cars, we can be concerned with G(overnment) M(otors), and we kind of have to learn to live with the military scorching cash.

So what about the fires? On the one hand I would ask what do you expect from a government funded project? On the other hand I would say that it is likely much ado about nothing. Gasoline powered cars catch fire all of the time and we still, after more than a century, keep the highly explosive fuel used to power these cars in plastic or metal tanks that are only inches from the ground as these land missiles cruise about and get into fender fights with other cars. If the Volt fires are a big deal then we will see it all unfold shortly. I think that the media loves fires and explosions so they will try to over inflate this entire issue and we can count on hearing about every battery that is set ablaze.

Friday, November 25, 2011

An Idle Car is the Devil’s Workshop

In the area that I live I am not what you would call native. I live in a small town in one state but I am originally from a large city in a neighboring state. Being something of an outsider to this place I have noticed many things that are common here, that are not as common where I am from. One of the things that I have noticed to be so common is endlessly idling vehicles.

Here in our little town it is very common to be in any parking lot and find an empty vehicle running in one of the stalls. I’m sure that this is a common thing in many places; it just seems more common here than in other places where I have lived. Perhaps it is a cultural tradition and in talking to some of the natives about this situation many of them say it is because of the cold harsh winters. The problem with that theory is that you see it almost as often in the summer as you do in the winter. I think that perhaps the biggest reason this doesn’t seem so noticeable in the big city is that if you let your vehicle run unattended, some ne’er do well might decide that they need your car more than you do. This is probably less of an issue in a small town.

With gasoline being as expensive as it is, and with vehicle maintenance being such a nuisance at times, why would anybody want to burn so much fuel and put so many hours on their engines and get essentially nothing in return? Is idling a vehicle really necessary in order to warm it up on a cold morning? What kind of wear and tear occurs when a vehicle is not warmed up? What kind of wear and tear occurs when a vehicle is idled excessively? All of these are valid questions.

Let’s start with the issue of warming up that engine on a cold winter morning. Many people will let the engine idle for 10 or 15 minutes, to then drive the vehicle 10 or 15 minutes to work. The logic that many of them use is that it is bad for the vehicle if you don’t give it a chance to warm up. Some say that you have to let it run so that the oil can circulate through the engine. They say that idling the engine and letting it warm up gets more oil to critical engine components that would be starved for oil if you were to just get in and drive. This is not true.

The fact of the matter is that even when ambient temperatures are very low, it only takes a few seconds for the engine to build oil pressure and get oil flowing to all of the critical parts of the engine. The oil pressure actually builds easily when the engine is so cold so pressure wouldn’t be the issue anyway. The oil does flow more slowly when the engine is cold and it does take a bit longer to get to every place where it needs to be but we are still only talking about a few seconds longer than it would normally take at higher temperatures.

A crankshaft bearing with scuff marks made by the crankshaft
rubbing on the bearing.
The real issue here related to excessive idling and engine oil is the fact that when the engine is at idle the oil pressure is at its lowest. Engine oil pressure is responsible for supporting the crankshaft and the camshaft when the engine is running. Normal oil pressure on a warmed up engine running at 2000 to 3000 rpm is about 60 psi. At idle this pressure falls to about 30 psi. When engine oil pressure is low, such as it is at idle, then there is a greater chance that the crankshaft will actually touch the bearings that are wrapped around each crank or cam shaft journal. As an engine wears under normal conditions these engine bearings will gradually become thinner, but they should ultimately last forever. When oil pressure is low it increases the rate at which these bearings wear out. When an engine has very high mileage and the bearings are already somewhat worn, excessive idling can be even more damaging because engine oil pressure can fall to something as low as 5 to 10 psi. This is because the tight tolerances between the thicker or newer bearings and the shaft journals cause the oil pressure to run higher.

Some people say that a car uses more fuel if you shut it off and restart it, than it would if you just let it idle for a few minutes. This is completely untrue. In the old days some cars might use a bit more fuel on startup then they would if they idled for a few minutes but even then it was only under certain situations. Some people also say that you can wear the starter out if you stop and start the vehicle too much. Of course something is going to wear out if you use it. By this logic then we should just never drive the vehicle ever because it will wear out the tires and the engine. Assessing how quickly a starter wears out when a vehicle is stopped and started rather than idled is pretty much impossible.

The biggest issue in relation to fuel consumption and an idling engine is that a car that is running at idle is getting zero miles per gallon no matter how efficiently it is burning the fuel. If you complain about bad fuel economy from your vehicle, or you complain about how much it costs to fill ‘er up, but you idle your car regularly, you are only making matters worse. They say that the way you drive your car affects your mpg’s and this is completely true. Many of us would never drive our vehicles in a way that would compromise fuel economy, or cause harm to the engine (no matter how miniscule), yet many people will idle their cars at least 30 minutes every day.

Also in relation to overall efficiency is the fact that vehicle emissions are often higher when a vehicle is at idle compared to when a vehicle is moving down the road. Fuel control is optimized for rpm ranges that are off idle. The catalytic convert also has a tendency to cool down a lot, so much so that the chemical reactions that reduce the level of pollutants in the exhaust stream cease to occur and the exhaust becomes more harmful.

This decrease in efficiency also means that the carbon that is contained in the fuel does not get fully oxidized so it tends to just buildup in the combustion chamber, and in the piston rings, and on the valves, and in other places in the engine. When this happens, the carbon acts as an abrasive to slowly grind engine parts down and disrupt the smooth and efficient flow of air and fuel through the engine. Hydrocarbons will also build up in the crankcase oil causing it to lose its ability to lubricate internal engine parts. The buildup of carbon in the oil will require the engine oil to be replaced more often.

I think that most people that are spending a considerable amount of time warming up their cars, or the people that leave it running when they run into the Loaf & Jug, are either not thinking about it one way or the other, or they are thinking that they don’t want the inside of the car to get cold. How cold is it going to get if you shut the engine off while you are filling up with gas, or running into the store to get a cup of coffee?

Truthfully, letting a car idle really doesn’t warm it up very quickly, nor does it warm it up very thoroughly. The fastest and most effective way to warm up a car is to drive it. A car that requires 15 minutes to warm up the engine just idling can be warmed up just as much in about five minutes if it is just driven normally. This will not warm up the inside of the car but if your commute is longer than about 15 minutes then you will be plenty warm inside the car by the time you get to work. What about the rest of the car’s systems? When a vehicle idles for an extended period of time to warm up the engine, this does nothing to warm up the transmission or anything else on the car. Don’t these things need to be warmed up as well? No they don’t, or at least not purposely. Just get in the car and drive it like normal and all warming will be taken care of quickly and effectively.

Back when every car used a carburetor for fuel metering, it may have been advantageous to let the car warm up a bit on very cold days because the choke needed a chance to open a bit. The choke was a device that helped the engine to run with a bit of a rich mixture when it was cold. Sometimes automatic choke function was not that reliable and the car didn’t really run very well until the engine warmed up and the choke opened all the way. Some old carbureted vehicles had a problem with ice buildup on the venturi. Considering that the venturi works sort of like an airplane wing, we know an airplane wing is useless with a bit of ice on it, and the same applies to a venturi. Most vehicles had a system meant to prevent this kind of ice buildup, but they didn’t always work. After the engine warms up there is no problems with ice on the venturi. Modern vehicles (most cars built within the last 25 years) are fuel injected so they don’t have any of these problems that in the old days were avoided by letting the car warm up before driving it.

What about a diesel engine? Isn’t it true that the rules are different for diesels? I would ask, how could the rules be any different? A diesel vehicle at idle is still getting zero miles per gallon. A diesel engine still has a crankshaft that is supported by engine oil pressure that is best kept up. A diesel engine still burns a hydrocarbon fuel that when not fully oxidized in the combustion process leaves carbon deposits in the engine. Diesels are more efficient at idle than their gasoline counterparts, meaning that they don’t burn as much fuel compared to how much power they produce, but this rule applies to all operating ranges and not just idle. Nothing magical happens when a diesel engine is idling that makes it okay to do so. So why do the big diesel trucks idle at the truck stops so much? Probably to keep the driver warm while he is in the sleeper of the cab, or so that he can run his TV and microwave. Other than that the trucker does this for another reason. Quoting Tevya from Fiddler on the Roof that last reason is “Tradition!”

Since we live in a free country we can let our vehicles idle all day long if we want to. Everything that I have said here can be disputed in some way, or deemed unimportant by some, and that’s okay. Everything that I have said is true no matter how you spin it. If you don’t care about saving fuel or extending engine life, then you have just wasted the last few minutes reading this article. If you value your engine and you value your fuel almost as much as gold, then consider some of the things that I have said here and see if you can change some of your habits. Your car and your wallet will be glad if you do.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Worst Cars In the World

Next in the ongoing series: Fiero actually doesn't mean fire in some foreign language

Built from 1984-1988, this thing was a disaster in spectacular fashion, and a supreme piece of junk! The concept represented something totally different for Pontiac and GM. The idea had so much potential and it really wanted to be a cool, sporty, mid-engine sports car, but what it ended up being was a terrible, unreliable, fire-ball on wheels. The reason I say fire ball is because of more than one problem that came about after the car was released that had a tendency to make the engine compartment erupt in flames and burn the car to the ground.

With the front suspension of a Chevette and the rear suspension of a Citation, what could be bad? To clarify, the rear suspension that came from the Chevy Citation was the front suspension from the Citation, but it was used on the rear end of the Fiero because the Fiero was rear-wheel drive, and the engine options on the Citation and the Fiero were very similar. Regardless, any time you hear the words Chevette, Citation, and Fiero together, you know that the discussion is not about anything good. Despite the suspension design the vehicle handling was not too terrible because of the mid-engine setup, but everything was so poorly executed that it had a lot of maintenance problems. “Maintenance problems,” is kind of a nice way to say that it fell apart right and left and there was nothing that anyone could do about it. The car was competition for the similarly mid-engined Toyota MR2 but there is absolutely no comparison between the two.
1984 Pontiac Fiero
To make this bucket of bolts even better (worse), the base engine was the 2.5L pushrod boat anchor that was found in other piece of junk Pontiacs of the day. These four cylinder engines were the ones that were catching on fire. They would catch fire when the engine would throw a connecting rod through the side of the block and spill the contents of the crankcase onto the hot exhaust. Car-b-que! Flames erupting from the engine compartment were a bad thing but considering the fact that the flames resulted from dramatic engine failure, you might as well go ahead and let the thing burn down because it’s going to need a new engine anyway. Talk about adding insult to injury. It’s one thing to have the engine break apart, but it takes a real piece of work to then only seconds later catch on fire.

Besides blowing up the engine to catch everything on fire, the vehicle was also thought to have a wiring problem in the engine compartment that could result in fires. Wiring connectors could get hot being in the wrong places in the engine compartment. When the insulation melts off of electrical wires and the wires touch each other or short out on the body or engine, the amount of heat that results has a tendency to burn things to the ground. Because of the way the cooling system was designed, and the fact that the engine was in the rear, the engines also had a tendency to overheat because air would become trapped in the cooling system and these air pockets would block the coolant from circulating.
1988 Pontiac Fiero GT a much better car than the original but...
The initial four cylinder engine was good for all of about 97 HP and it clattered like your grandma’s sewing machine. The V6 wasn't nearly as bad, but it was only good for 140 HP. Not having much power is really not the worst thing, the biggest problem is that the entire car was so unreliable and had so many mechanical problems, it didn't really matter what kind of engine it had, it didn't matter how it looked, how it handled, or how it was designed. The fact that it was pure unmitigated garbage is the biggest sin here and it is the thing that makes it one of the worst cars ever made. The second generation Fiero was significantly improved but it was too late, the damage was done and sales never recovered to a level that would allow the model to survive. If you go to a restaurant and they serve you burned chicken, are you ever going to order the chicken again?
A mid-mounted V6 that only produced 140 HP
This car being so terrible does not preclude some people from liking it. The internet is loaded with clubs and discussion boards that allow Fiero aficionados to come together and commiserate on all things Fiero. Despite the fact that this is such a terrible car, if some people like them so much that they want to band together online, or on the weekends, and fix them up, talk about them and modify them to make them fast, then I say go for it. The one thing that the Fiero has going for it is that it is different. It’s not good, but it is different.
A real abomination. This is not a Lamboghini Diablo, it is a Pontiac
Fiero dressed up with a kit.

Friday, November 4, 2011

To Let a Good Idea Languish

What are manufacturers thinking sometimes?

Sometimes an auto manufacturer will come up with an idea for a new car that is spectacular. They will put the vehicle to market and it will be a runaway sales success. This new model success will make the manufacturer and their dealers piles of cash from being able to sell cars well above invoice and sometime above the MSRP. People can go crazy sometimes and when they really want something that’s hot, to drive up and down their street in front of their neighbors, they will spend all sorts of money that they wouldn’t normally spend. All of this profit that the manufacturers rake in can be funneled into R&D of the next iteration of their success.

If they have their heads on straight then they will continually improve the car over the years and every four or five years they will completely redesign it in order to keep the auto buying public interested. Human nature is to have a very short attention span, and once we get used to some stunning new vehicle, and it becomes common place on our streets, we get bored. That’s just the way it is.

Sometimes a manufacturer will have a fantastic design that doesn’t turn into a big seller but could be if only they made a few changes. Even as these cars are, they might be great but for some small reason the public hasn’t noticed. If a car is great why would people not see it? This could be due to something such as mediocre engine options, or it could just be a lack of proper marketing. Either way the car languishes.

The following is a list of the top 10 most neglected models from recent years. These are vehicles that at some point were class leading, either in design, or sales, or both; some of them have just never been noticed much. Some of them are still for sale and some of them have been discontinued. All of them could be or could have been so much more if only their respective builders and designers wouldn’t have left them on the back burner for so long.

Volkswagen New Beetle

An instant hit because it had much of the charm of the original Beetle, but with none of the headaches. This was one of the first retro styled vehicles that played on people’s memories of the past, and the public loved it for all sorts of reasons. On top of the obviously nostalgic reasons, the car was actually a pretty decent little car. Roomy interior, fun to drive, good fuel economy, and the engine options available in the New Beetle over its model run have made the car even better. Not only could you get your average four cylinder engine, but you could get a peppy little DOHC turbo, or even a diesel.

Why would VW forget about this great little concept? Perhaps because it is retro. What is the natural progression of a retro styled vehicle? If you make it look like something from the past to begin with, how do you update it? Make it look like something from the more recent past? Over the years the New Beetle did receive a few minor revisions in some of the exterior bits and pieces, but from 1998 until just recently, the car has been mostly the same.

Volkswagen is not killing off the New Beetle that has languished all these years, but has in fact redesigned it for the 2012 model year. The new New Beetle is now just referred to as the Beetle. This car is quite different inside and out but it doesn’t really appear to be. The car does look pretty good for the most part and it also seems to catch a bit more of the spirit of the original beetle. Too bad Volkswagen has taken so long to make this happen. Will the masses respond well to this new take on the original car for the masses? Time will tell.
2012 VW "Bug"
Lincoln LS

This vehicle represented a completely different direction for Lincoln when it was released for the 2000 model year. Based a platform that it shared with the Jaguar S Type and the Ford Thunderbird, it was like none of the big boats that we had come to expect from Lincoln. It was available with a thoroughly modern 3.9 L DOHC V8, and rear-wheel-drive so it was a proper driver’s car. This was the first and still perhaps the only car from Lincoln that could arguably be listed in the same class as cars such as the Mercedes E class or the BMW 5 series, at least it was trying to compete with these class leaders.
The LS was a step in the right direction without any follow up.
The problem is that while this car was a great step in the right direction for Lincoln, they never did anything with it. The potential was there to make this car something that could truly compete with the European luxury brands but the LS was ignored by its manufacturer. So after selling over 50,000 units the first year, sales declined to less than 10,000 in 2006, the last year it was available. It’s no wonder the sales fell off, people got bored as the LS languished.

Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger

Same story with the Chrysler 300. Great idea, revolutionary for the builder, unlike anything else on the market when it was first released. The 300 and Charger were both playing off of names that carried some nostalgia but these cars were not really much like their namesakes. They had exciting engine options and rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. They were built to cruise in style and cruise they did, right off the showroom floor and into the possession of people who had never bought a Chrysler product before, because had not built anything like this before.
2005 Chrysler 300. Fancy and tough looking at the same time.

This car hit the market in 2005 and got trapped a few years later. Mercedes dropped the boat anchor in their stock portfolio know as Chrysler, and sold out to a capital management firm called Cerberus. Cerberus rode Chrysler into bankruptcy. After the government took control of Chrysler through the bankruptcy process, they dished most of it off to Fiat. During this time the 300 and the Charger were ignored while Chrysler was just trying to figure out a way to keep the lights on.

After Fiat got control of the reigns they looked around and realized that all of the Dodge and Chrysler models needed a refresh. So for 2011 the 300 and Charger were tweaked. They will say redesigned but tweaked is really more accurate. They got new headlights and taillights, strings of LED lights here and there, and a few extra folds in the sheet metal. The V6 option is the new and improved Pentastar power plant, but the V8 options are pretty much the same. These cars might have more life in them with this recent refresh, but they may still die an ignominious death if they get ignored again. And by the way, the 300 is actually imported from Canada not Detroit, no matter what the commercials say.
2011 Dodge Charger. Is the "redesign" enough?

Honda Ridgeline

A truck that was not like any other truck, but a truck that probably needed, or at least still needs to be perhaps a bit more like other trucks. This truck is truly unique because it actually has some of the capabilities of a traditional pickup truck but really is not built like one. The transverse mounted V6 linked to a five speed automatic is actually biased towards front-wheel drive, but can transfer power to a locking rear differential that provides a great deal of traction when the situation requires.
Not exactly a truck, but it's not exactly supposed to be.

While this truck is unique and capable in many ways, it has a few problems that show signs of its languishing. It has remained mostly unchanged since it hit the market in 2005. A few minor tweaks were implemented in 2009, and again for 2012, but these are mostly cosmetic. This truck needs something new in the powertrain department. A V8 perhaps, or at least a V6 with more power or maybe even just better fuel economy. Some of the new V6s that are on the market in similar vehicles provide more bang for the buck and much more bang for the gallon. A V6 can be just fine but it has to be able to obtain at least 20 mpg around town, and the current Ridgeline could only get that going downhill on the freeway. Honda says the Ridgeline will live on for the time being but who know how long that really is. Rumors of a complete redesign for 2013 could lead to something more worthwhile.

Honda S2000

A true driving machine! When you say “sports car” this is the car that you should think of. A small, powerful, high-revving engine that would wind to nine grand with much eagerness, with one of the snappiest 6 speed manual transmissions that was ever invented by man, directing power to the rear wheels. A convertible top that would allow you to let the wind blow through your hair as you strategically pick your way through the gears. This thing is just extremely fun to drive in every way!

Honda released this car in 1999 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Honda Motor Company. The car was built until 2009. During that time some slight changes were made to the engine, transmission and suspension, and a few things were done to the exterior of the car as well, but overall not much changed. Some say that you need not mess with a formula such as this that works so well, but this line of thinking doesn’t account for the short attention span of people with money who buy new, frivolous cars such as this one. Some say that Honda never intended to keep this car in production and that it was only meant to be temporary. Who knows for sure? One thing is certain; wouldn’t it be better to keep people interested through continuous improvement so that we can keep a car like this in production? Seeing a good idea languish is tough.
There is a shortage of affordable sorts cars in this world, why
did this one have to die?
Nissan Titan

A big truck like Nissan had never made before. A powerful 5.6 L V8 that was modern and could put out as well as any other V8 engine in any other pickup truck. The name Titan seemed very appropriate for this manly new truck from a company that had a good reputation for building dependable trucks, but up until this point they were all little trucks.
2005 Nissan Titan. A legitimate truck.

The Titan hit the market in 2004 and just like many other vehicles in this list has been a good seller, or shown great promise, despite this the Titan was seemingly forgotten. A few years ago Nissan announced that the next generation Titan would be a rebadged Dodge Ram. Is this any way to develop an alternative pickup truck? Literally cloning the competition and putting your own name on it? Luckily this never happened, but the Titan is still there, long in the tooth and languishing. Supposedly Nissan has said that the Titan will not be killed, and that they are currently working on the replacement. This isn’t expected to hit the market until 2013 or 2014, ten years after the original hit. Can any vehicle recover from such a long model run?

Chrysler PT Cruiser

Chrysler PT Cruiser
Whether you like this little retro wagon or not, one thing is certain, it was a sales juggernaut for its first few years of production. Lines at the Chrysler dealership were out the door, full of people wanting one of these little “old fashioned” modern cars. These things were on the market from 2000 to 2010. You would think that if you had a product that was so wildly popular you would do all that you could to keep the public interested. The PT Cruiser was based largely on the Neon so development costs couldn’t have been too steep. Never the less, the PT Cruiser languished. For a few years they came out with a convertible model but that wasn’t enough to keep the model interesting.

Acura RL

Honda builds a screamingly awesome V8 engine for the Indy Car racing circuit. And in case you didn’t know, race cars with V8 engines are rear-wheel-drive. The RL has none of these things which is too bad. If Acura wants to have serious and exciting competitor in the luxury sport sedan market they need to have a V8 and a rear-wheel-drive propulsion system. The current car has a snappy V6 and a sophisticated torque vectoring AWD setup, but this is not enough for a supposed flag ship like the RL. The RL continues on selling fewer units than anything else in the Honda family, and every once in a while there are rumors of a V8 but alas, it has yet to materialize. The RL will continue to languish, and won’t last much longer without it.
2011 Acura RL, a fantastic car but it's not really enough.

Mitsubishi Galant

Forgettable, At least that's what Mitsubishi thinks.
Unbelievable that this car is still sold as new from Mitsubishi dealers. The current generation hit the market in 2004 and has not changed much since then. Past Galant models such as the old Galant GSX with AWD and a turbo from the early 90’s was a genuinely fun car to drive, kind of like a turbo eclipse but with 4 doors, or sort of like the granddaddy of the Evo. For what seems like decades now this solid sedan has languished while Mitsubishi has focused on smaller more popular cars like the Lancer and the Outlander. Most likely Mitsubishi Motors has simply been lacking the funds necessary for some R&D of a new Galant, but the thing that is hard to understand is that they will be releasing the new i electric car sometime next year. That couldn’t have been cheap to design and build, so they must not be totally out cash yet.

Ford Ranger

This little truck has been around for a very long time and during its existence it has been a good seller in the compact pickup market for Ford. Over the past 10 or 15 years this segment of the auto market has changed. None of the domestics have been able to move many of their little trucks for some reason. The Japanese have maintained sales pretty well based on the reputations that they have built for putting out a solid product, the lack of sales has cause the domestic small trucks to languish.

The Ranger first hit the market in 1983 after ford decided to bring their compact pickup model in house. The Ford Courier that preceded the Ranger as Ford’s little truck had been built by Mazda. The Ranger was a good seller from the beginning and Ford at least tried to keep the truck somewhat fresh. The current model has remained mostly unchanged since 1998, and is scheduled to be discontinued in December of 2011. That means that this truck has been around in its current form for 13 years. But wait there’s more! The changes to the truck in 1998 were mostly cosmetic and in reality the truck has actually been mostly the same since 1993. In reality you could find many similarities in the base design of the first 1983 Ranger and the last 2011 Ranger; this little truck at no point received a full and complete redesign. If it were not for fleet sales, Ford probably would not have sold any Rangers for the last seven or eight years.
The ho-hum Ford Ranger
In all likelihood the Ranger will be back at some point, especially if gas prices go back up and people decide that they want more small truck options. Rumors abound concerning the matter, and in foreign markets Ford sells a completely different Ranger that is much more modern than the one that is about to die. This global Ranger could be the one that we see here in the U.S. in a few years. Why did Ford ever let the Ranger languish to begin with? Why does any company ignore or forget a good idea?
The Global Ranger that we can't buy here in the U.S. at least not yet.