Dead Pool

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How many car brands have died-off over the past ten years? How many will die off during the next ten?

Among the dearly departed: Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, Mercury, Oldsmobile, Daewoo, Isuzu, Saab, Plymouth.

That’s nine. Which is a lot.

History.

There are still arguably too many contenders for too few buyers. Hair-thin profit margins for a product that requires major investments of capital to R&D, market – and bring successfully to market. Increasingly onerous, expensive-to-comply-with government mandates – such as the soon-to-be-in-force 35.5 MPG mandate Obama, et al, crammed down the industry’s throat.

It’s getting much tougher to make a buck selling cars.

So, who’s next?

Here are some likely dead pool contenders – and some thoughts as to why they may not make it:

* Mitsubishi –

There are some dark clouds gathering above the sign of the triple diamond. Not one new model is on deck for 2013. Everything’s a carryover.

And nothing’s selling well.

The newest model – the iMiEV electric car – has barely registered its presence. Partially because it’s not yet available in all 50 states – and probably also because its maximum range under ideal conditions is only about 60-75 miles. For many otherwise-interested buyers, that’s cutting it too close. A safety recall this summer for defective airbag sensors hasn’t helped.

The once-popular Eclipse sports car has been eclipsed by the passage of time – and allowed to die on the vine. It hasn’t been significantly updated (mechanically, as opposed to minor cosmetic tweaks) since 2006. The current model is thus pushing seven years old. Production of this car actually ended mid-year, with no apparent replacement on deck.

The current Lancer sedan also dates back to prehistoric times, automotively speaking: 2008. It won’t be significantly updated for 2013, either.

Meanwhile, every competitor model is either all-new or significantly updated – leaving the Lancer looking (and feeling) like yesterday’s oatmeal.

The high-performance EVO version of the Lancer – which just a couple of years ago was considered one of the hottest cars on the market – has likewise become long in the tooth. The current EVO is five years old now. A lifetime in a market where three-year product cycles are becoming routine. The high-performing but also highly thirsty (17 city) car’s future is also threatened by the 35.5 MPG fuel efficiency edict that goes into effect in 2016.

Subaru, meanwhile, launched an all-new (and 34 MPG-capable) Impreza last year. And, of course, there’s the new BRZ … .

The 2013 Outlander is the same as the 2012 Outlander. Which was the same as the 2011 Outlander.

And the 2010.

A reboot is supposedly coming … but not before late 2013 as an early 2014 model. Can Mitsubishi afford to wait that long?

The truly ancient – and slow-selling – Galant is also being retired after this year. It has been the same for eight years.

A cursory look at Mitsubishi’s recent sales figures shows some truly titanic declines: Down 40.1 percent in June 2012 vs. June 2011; total exports from Japan to all overseas markets down 34.1 percent. Total passenger car production for the first six months of 2012 down 10.2 percent.

The one bright blip on the radar screen has been sales of the Outlander Sport – the only new  – or at least, recent – model in the Mistubishi lineup, other than the MiEV electric car.  In September, sales of this model (it’s different from the regular Outlander) were up 49 percent, with 2,253 sold. However, the bleak fact remains that Mitsubishi’s overall sales were down 17.2 percent for September. August was  even worse: 46.8 percent. July: Down 47.4 percent. (See here for more.)

Yikes!

Such a nose-down trajectory can only end up one way: in a sleeps-with-the-fishes scenario.

Mitsubishi, a relatively small presence in the U.S., may not be able to stay in the U.S. much longer. It desperately needs new product – not just one or two models, but its entire lineup of vehicles . New product requires a monster investment of cash, which Mitsubishi may not have enough of. The fact that it hasn’t been able to significantly update most of its  current models in several years bodes ill for its capacity to do it now – with the economy in terrible shape and the U.S. car market a tougher place to make a buck than it has been in decades. Add to this an occasionally iffy record in the quality/reliability department and the future does not look bright ahead.

Prediction: Mitsubishi will retire from the field to focus on the home market – and its commercial vehicle operations.

* Lincoln –

Ford is trying to figure out what to do with its flagship brand – which has fallen to a sort-of GMC level of mid-tierness. It is no longer a player spoken of in the same breath as Cadillac, Lexus, Audi or BMW.

The Town Car is an old man’s car – and on its way out. The Navigator – the model that once set the bar for super-sized SUV bling – is still there, but isn’t any kind of threat to the dominance of the Caddy Escalade. Which is ironic, given that back in the late ’90s, Lincoln actually outsold Cadillac on the strength of Navigator sales.

But they pissed it away.

Other miscues and outright disasters include the Blackwood, Aviator and Mark LT. Two models that showed lots of promise, once – and sold strongly at first – the Mark VII and the LS sedan – fell victim to poorly conceived restyles (Mark VIII) and neglect (LS).

But unlike Mitsubishi, Lincoln has some new product coming online, including the 2013 MKZ. It looks like a contender – though there’s some concern about its kinship to the Ford Fusion. Ditto the MKS – which is sourced from the Taurus. Just as the MKT is a facelifted Flex.

And the MKX a re-grilled Edge.

Lincoln is still doing the badge-engineering thing.

They’ve done a very good job of it, no doubt. For example, the ’13 MKZ has its own unique engines – not shared with the Fusion. But the fact remains that it’s directly related to the Fusion – and that could be a problem. The premium brands Lincoln hopes to compete with – including Cadillac – don’t do badge-engineering anymore.Well, maybe a little (Cadillac Escalade = tarted-up Tahoe; Lexus ES350 = really nice Camry). But overall, other premium-brand car lineups are not re-sells of bread-and-butter car lineups. People are wise to badge-engineering. It’s not 1985 anymore.

Will people be willing to pay premium bucks for badge-engineered luxury – no matter how well-executed?

Time will tell.

* Suzuki -

Like Mitsubishi, Suzuki’s a small shop – when it comes to cars, at least. (Bikers know Suzuki as one of the major players in the two-wheeled world. But that’s another story.)

Suzuki has some competitive cars – including the affordable (and AWD-available) Kizashi. The problem is there are too few Suzuki dealerships, spread too thinly. A buyer who might be interested in a Kizashi or SX4 discovers the closest Suzuki store is 50 miles down the road. Or 200 miles down the road. And decides to buy something else.

Suzuki’s also got CAFE worries. Not one of its current models makes the 35.5 MPG cut that goes into effect three model years from now – which means, two calendar years from now – 24 months from now.

That’s just around the corner.

To achieve compliance – and avoid jacking up the prices of its cars to offset the federal government’s CAFE fines – it will need to re-engineer all of them. Probably replace several of them. It will likely need hybrids – but doesn’t sell any and there are none (apparently) on the horizon.

Suzuki corporate may just decide it’s not worth doing, given the mere toehold it has in the U.S. when it comes to car sales.

It’s very possible the company will focus on overseas operations – and stick with selling bikes here.

Throw it in the Woods?

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eric

Author of "Automotive Atrocities" and "Road Hogs" (MBI). Currently living amongst the Edentulites in rural SW Virginia. 

  107 comments for “Dead Pool

  1. Brandonjin
    October 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Don’t really want to see any of them go.
    We had a Mitsubishi dealer in town ever since we’ve lived here, but some time between the summer of 2011 and now it was closed down.

    Its difficult to find out what to do with Lincoln. Like you mentioned a while ago, Lincoln should probably find a niche in the market and just stick to that, kinda like what Acura has done.

    If I could afford a new car, it would have been the Kizashi GTS with the six speed manual. But apparently you can’t get the GTS with a manual anymore. So nevermind.
    Looks like they’re going after Subaru. Most of thier models have AWD.

    I’m worried about Mazda though. I REALLY don’t want to see them go. Mit has commercial operations, Suzuki has thier bikes, Mazda is just a car company in the US, with no hold on any other industries here. 2014 Mazda 6 looks promising though.

    Scion… ehh.

    Guess only time will tell what will happen to them.

  2. MoT
    October 6, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    I always wondered why they got rid of Saturn when it looked like it was actually working. I can’t figure that one out. The “Saab” story is a sad one indeed. Daewoo had problems galore on the home front so that’s no surprise. For the brands that are clinging by their toes… I’m surprised Mitsu is still around. In Japan, and I suspect most overseas markets, they have a big truck presence. Suzuki makes plenty of K cars at home and of course bikes. I would see them sticking to the bikes and bailing on cars here. And the Lincoln should stick with some top tier models and either be identified as such or suffer the fate of Oldsmobile.

    • October 6, 2012 at 7:38 pm

      GM ruined Saturn.

      Originally, the cars were distinct from other GM cars. They were very light and efficient (the old SC1) things, with those innovative composite exterior panels that resisted dents. Then they began building conventional cars – and duplicative (badge-engineered) cars such as the Sky (nice car, but just a Solstice in drag.. which in turn, was just an Opel in drag). The L-Series was a debacle. Then, they just let the brand rot on the vine for years….by 2008 or so so, it was already a goner.

      • liberranter
        October 6, 2012 at 11:46 pm

        My daughter had a 2002 L300 that actually was one of the nicer riding GM cars I’d ever driven. It seemed to do very well on gas too, even on the rolling parking lots that were Northern VA. She would still be driving it if someone hadn’t T-boned her after we moved to Arizona.

        It’s a shame that GM let the Saturn brand die, as it was one of their few decent remaining brands, but I’m not surprised that they bungled it. This is, after all, GM we’re talking about.

        • October 7, 2012 at 10:23 am

          The L was not a bad car – per se. The problem with it was that it was conventional. No more composite panels, for example. It was just another “car” with nothing particular to recommend it over others. IIRC, it also shared drivetrains with other GM-brand cars. The idea behind the L was to “mainstream” Saturn. But by mainstreaming Saturn, Saturn lost what made Saturn something different.

          The No Haggle pricing thing was also a bad idea. Why, sure – I’ll pay full MSRP! No haggling!

          That might be appealing for a small handful of people – but most people like to think they got a good deal by haggling. Some of them actually do!

      • krakondack
        October 8, 2012 at 3:36 pm

        Those composite panels shattered when they were cold – think below -20, and were bumped by those shopping carts they were allegedly designed to resist.

        • BrentP
          October 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm

          Yep. GM cars with big holes in plastic panels are fairly common where I live. Saw a buick like that just the other day.

  3. Eric_G
    October 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Last weekend I attended my parent’s 50th anniversary party. One of my cousins is dating a low level Chrysler exec and we had an interesting conversation about cars.

    Basically, brands are going away. Detroit is copying the Toyota/Honda model and whittling down to one or 2 name brands. The reasoning is because maintaining several marketing departments (which is all a brand is anymore) is too expensive in the low-margin world today. Nothing new here, but the downside is you have to convince someone who’s brand loyal that you’ve lied to them for the past X years and there really isn’t any difference between a Dodge and a Plymouth.

    My prediction is that GM will eventually change their corporate name to Chevrolet, ditch GMC and Buick (or maybe Caddy) and be done with it.

    BTW: Look for lots of diesel powered Chryslers next year.

    • October 6, 2012 at 7:30 pm

      Hi Eric,

      Yup, that’s the lay of the land. I expect GM to consolidate its operations to “GM” – and Cadillac (the premium brand). All current GM models already have “GM” badges on them, incidentally.

      Chrysler’s interesting in that it has spun off its truck operations – now “Ram” (not Dodge Ram). So, it has three lines: passenger cars (Chrysler for luxury, Dodge for bread and butter cars – and Ram for trucks).

      • Matt in Korea
        October 8, 2012 at 6:26 am

        Here in Korea, Daewoo has become Chevrolet. The Koreans were all excited because they connected an American car company with success. I connect GM to feces. (I’m not a Ford fan either, so this is not a GM vs. Ford thing. It is an American POS vs. Asian reliable car thing.)

        Anyway, I think the Chevrolet name will survive. As another reader said, so will Buick. Huge in China.

        • MoT
          October 9, 2012 at 2:00 am

          Feces, eh? LOL!!! Well, you’re right. I have this tendency to do likewise. Still, like China, it says a lot about “branding” and the image people have in their noggins. Never mind the reality. Think Becks beer. When I was in Germany visiting my relatives and mentioned it by name they all scrunched up their noses and told me that it was “cheap” beer. Unworthy as it were! And having some of the real deal while there I’ll agree with them. Damn! The piss we drink and somehow believe is better than it truly is. Some things really are just a matter of good marketing.

      • justin
        October 10, 2012 at 1:30 am

        Chrysler spun off the trucks as a separate brand in preparation for chrysler going bankrupt, so the only parts of their business that anyone would want to purchase, the pickups and the Jeep brands, could be sold, separately to different buyers.

        And the buyer most likely would ditch the stupid Compass and Liberty and Patriot and Commander models, and keep the Cherokee and Wrangler.

        • October 10, 2012 at 9:49 am

          I think you’re right about that.

          And: It’s Fiat calling the shots. Chrysler is nothing more than a front at this point.

    • BrentP
      October 6, 2012 at 8:13 pm

      Marketeers are funny. I think brands will consolidate for awhile then expand again. I believe marketing people are driven primarily by fad, internal politics, and bullshit. Not necessarily in that order.

      When I worked at a formerly leading US electronics company the marketeers had created a grand marketing scheme. They were proud of it. Big internal roll out and everything. It flopped. Some months to a year later they had another one. I am sitting in the roll out meeting looking at the slide that is like the master plan for it and I realize it’s the previous one turned 90 degrees. (yeah, it failed too… shocking ain’t it?)

      BTW, Buick is never going away. It’s a big brand in China. They might stop having Buicks in the USA, but Buick will still be alive for the foreseeable future.

      • MoT
        October 6, 2012 at 8:47 pm

        There seems to be the constant push to sell the “sizzle” without any worthy shit to back it up with. Now if you have good products a bad campaign can deep-six even the best. There have been ads that seem geared to deliberately fail. It’s a rare combination of engaged marketing and product that is successful. Apple is a case study but even that had their fair share of dogs but the positives have outweighed the negatives. Who would have ever thought Apple would be worth more than GM or ExxonMobil! It boggles the mind but there you have it.

        • liberranter
          October 6, 2012 at 11:51 pm

          There seems to be the constant push to sell the “sizzle” without any worthy shit to back it up with.

          A perfect description of modern Amerikan industry. All bluster and bullshit, no beef and bone.

    • MoT
      October 6, 2012 at 8:55 pm

      If find it interesting that they mention a Honda/Toyota model. In Japan there is only a Honda, Toyota, Nissan… There is no Acura, Lexus, or Infiniti “brands” only the parent. People recognized the model and that was where they differentiated the class of car. Plus the price told you everything you needed to know. I lived there for over three years and saw vehicles that had they ever been imported into the US would have kicked ass and taken names. Diesel vans that were gorgeous! They never arrived. Odd that.

      • dom
        October 6, 2012 at 8:59 pm

        Japan has a bunch of cars over there that would dominate in the US market. I wonder how much the competition pays them not to bring them?

        • MoT
          October 6, 2012 at 9:13 pm

          Yeah, I know, it beggars belief. The last time I set foot there, prior to leaving my teaching job, was 1990. Even THEN a diesel Toyota luxury van was simply amazing and there was nothing styling-wise in the domestic market that could hold a candle to it. The Toyota van Americans got was mid-tier. Same for high-end luxo sedans put out by Nissan and Toyota. But, like Brent says, what do I know, I only lived there.

          • justin
            October 10, 2012 at 1:33 am

            Chrysler manufacturers, or used to, diesel minivans at their St Louis plant, and exported them to the rest of the world.

        • BrentP
          October 6, 2012 at 11:32 pm

          Cost of compliance with US government regulations vs. profit plus marketing people keeps them out.

          • liberranter
            October 6, 2012 at 11:54 pm

            The first item on your list is probably the biggest barrier to entry into the U.S.

          • MoT
            October 7, 2012 at 2:23 am

            At that time Japan was the “China” of its day. Japanophobia was rampant. Japan as #1 and the resultant fear mongering. There were also caps on the number that could be imported. Now that we have factories domestically producing vehicles the issue of importing isn’t so much an “issue”. At least for cars that comes from Japan. Funny how the times have and haven’t changed.

          • October 7, 2012 at 10:18 am

            I remember the screeching that erupted over the growing presence of Japanese bikes – which were absolutely superior, incidentally – back in the ’70s and ’80s. Much as a I like the Brit bikes, for example, of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70, they were poorly built obsolescent crap compared with machines like the Honda CB750 and Kaw Z1.

            The Japanese bike MFGRs put what was then exotic, race-level technology (such as OHC four cylinder engines) into the hands of almost anyone who wanted it. The bikes were also extremely well-built and reliable, something one could not say about the competition.

          • BrentP
            October 7, 2012 at 6:21 am

            Imports are just as often responsible for the trade barriers. They enjoy charging americans more for what they choose to send here.

        • methylamine
          October 7, 2012 at 2:34 am

          And WHO do you think the competition pays to keep them out?

          Yep–their local friendly congress-thug.

          Regulations aren’t for saaaafety or any other high-minded purpose; those are their marketing swill.

          Regulations keep competition at bay. Regulatory capture ensures established companies keep leveraging the State for their protection.

          As Rockefeller said, “Competition is a sin.”

      • chiph
        October 7, 2012 at 9:45 pm

        > People recognized the model and that was where they differentiated the class of car.

        I think that’s an important point. The US marketers assume that everyone wants a Chevrolet, and that the model doesn’t really matter. Which is why we had the Beretta, Lumina, Corsica, the Cobalt and so on.

        The cars were so bad, and accumulated such a negative association that Chevy dumped them and tried something else. Again and again.

        While with the Japanese, you have these perennial brands — Maxima, Sentra, Civic, Corolla. If a model refresh wasn’t working as well as hoped, they sped up it’s replacement, but kept the name. They continually improved the car, and made sure the car fit the target market (small sedan, mid-sized sedan, sport coupe, etc).

  4. BrentP
    October 6, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Lincoln could be saved. The question is if Ford corporate wants to save it.

    Platform engineering can work if it is done right. First thing is not to share body panels. Yes it costs more. If you want to share body panels they aren’t going to be different cars. Yes, the roof can be kept. That’s about it. Suspensions and interiors have to be significantly different. Different to the point that engineers can tell what is the same but not ‘normal’ people.

    Everything that can be upgraded in longevity and durability should be. From bearings on up. Quieter better quality bearings, more durable suspension bushings. Better shifter, etc and so on. The things people pay for aftermarket parts to get.

    For instance, if I were running Lincoln I would have a Lincoln version of the 2015 Mustang. It would have styling as different as a ’68 Cougar is from a ’68 Mustang. Or as different as an ’80s MkVII LSC is from an ’80s Mustang. Next everything is upgraded. The interior is better. The shifter is better. The suspension is stronger and better. The car is mechanically better. You can have the same transmission design in a Ford and in a Lincoln, but the Lincoln gets more attention to detail which makes it quieter and better. All the hard edges are rounded off so to speak. It becomes simply a car worthy of the higher price point.

    That makes the brand better. People will get something better. If they want to cheap out with service parts later that’s their business. Don’t worry about it. The margin on service parts is so high there’s no reason to care that the owner can downgrade the car to keep it on the road.

    Then again, what do I know? I’m just an engineer.

    • MoT
      October 6, 2012 at 8:50 pm

      Good points. I can see Lincoln standing alone but then it’s up to Ford.

    • tbiggs
      October 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm

      My favorite hamburgers come from restaurants that buy premium beef – grassfed and local is best, but even feedlot beef sells in different grades. We discovered that when we started going to a local butcher shop instead of buying at the supermarket.

      Many diners use the cheaper grade of beef so that they can price their hamburgers reasonably. I’d rather they didn’t, but they need to be competitive. So, I thought, maybe they could sell both kinds, the inexpensive burger vs. the premium burger? But when I thought about it, they really couldn’t. Some buyers wouldn’t care as long as they saved money. But basically what it would do is draw way too much attention to the fact that the cheaper burger was made from inferior meat, and cast doubt on the whole enterprise.

      The old Cougars were basically the same car as the Mustang, just glitzed up with flashy features and different styling. I like your idea of actually improving the components and engineering for the Cougar vs. the Mustang. But wouldn’t that just highlight the inferiority of the Mustang?

      • BrentP
        October 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm

        People buy mustangs knowing that they will purchase aftermarket parts to upgrade it. Lots of shops selling everything from shifters to transmissions to rear ends to suspension bits and so on. I am suggesting doing that from the factory and calling it a Lincoln. Sure it might cannibalize some sales because people would like to start with the beefier factory set up, but they’ll pay a premium price to do it so that’s more profit. No sale lost, just extra profit.

  5. October 7, 2012 at 4:40 am

    Wow, Suzuki is still alive?
    Reminds me of when some geriatric, but once relatively well known celebrity passes away. And you say to yourself….”Jeez, I thought he died years ago!”

    • October 7, 2012 at 10:12 am

      Suzuki’s a weird case. They’re a major player on two wheels (bikes). The GSXR, for example, is extremely “in your face” aggressive and a huge seller.

      But they’re barely a presence when it comes to cars – all of which are competent enough, but also anonymous and drab.

      The thing that really hurts them, though, is the scarcity of dealers in some areas.

      • David
        October 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm

        I just hope Subaru stays around, Bought my first 4 years ago, an Outback. I’m 55 so I have had quite a few cars. This is by far the most well handling and fun to drive car I have ever had. With the continuous all-wheel-drive, not like most all wheel drives that are actually front wheel drive and transfer some power to the rear if there is slippage detected.
        The Outback performs well in any environment whether it in he summer time or deep snow. These thing perform. It’s quite fun to find a road with a lot of curves and put this car to the test. Also with the boxer engine the center of gravity is low so this car just sticks to the road. Being a wagon it’s such a practical automobile. I can see why Subaru owners are so loyal to there cars now !

        • dom
          October 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm

          No doubt. My neighbor across the street says the exact same thing. They have two Subaru wagons, I think they’re foresters. Then my supervisor at work got one for his wife and he says the same thing as well. We live on a mountain and get serious snow in the winter. My neighbor is in his 80s and he drives through the snow with no problems.

        • October 7, 2012 at 3:56 pm

          Subaru is healthy – solid sales, and now that they’ve addressed the major weakness of their products (crappy fuel economy; the new ones are much better) things should be ok.

        • MoT
          October 7, 2012 at 5:06 pm

          You’ll always find Subaru popular in any mountain state. Make in West Texas? Nah! It was Suburbans and pickups. Here in the northwest you can’t throw a stone and not hit a Subi. My wife’s friend got an Outback and she loves it and my missus WANTS one! Well, baby, you can wait a little longer, I say. No rush to go into any debt.

          • MoT
            October 7, 2012 at 5:08 pm

            Crap! That Make should be Back… Damn! Dom, you need some sort of editing plug-in or rights to clean up comments. I’m going crazy!

        • Jordan
          October 8, 2012 at 8:21 pm

          Suburu has made a positive impression on me, as well. I had always been a Toyota guy (I still drive a Celica daily and I have 97 Supra I run around in the summer when I want to embarrass Camaros and Mustangs on the interstate) but after my wife wrecked her Jetta we gambled on a Impreza for her. Best move I’ve made by far. The car is stylish and sleek, plenty of room (even with the kiddo), and averages 28 MPG, all things she likes. It’s no slouch, either, even going up the vertical roads here in central PA. I am thoroughly impressed with Suburu, and may take it over for her and get a Forester for her since everyone I’ve ever asked who owned/owns one has given it a ringing endorsement.

      • Roger
        October 8, 2012 at 4:27 am

        Suzuki kept itself busy for a number of years cross-branding with GM/Saturn on things like the Tracker. Guess it paid the bills for a while.

        • October 8, 2012 at 10:51 am

          My take on this is they (Suzuki) never had the passion for building cars that they clearly do for building bikes. It’s just night and day different. Nothing wrong with Suzuki vehicles – in fact, some are very good (the Kizashi, for instance). But the “gotta have it” factor just isn’t there.

          Compare that with sport bikes. It is impossible to ignore Suzuki’s models.

      • October 8, 2012 at 6:29 am

        The original GSXR 750 was a production race bike for the street, on the bleeding edge of technology, and it absolutely transformed the motorcycle industry, overnight. The only auto industry parallel was Henry Ford’s Model T.

        • October 8, 2012 at 10:41 am

          Yup – absolutely.

          It took the baton from the CB750 and Z1900 – and ran with it!

          • Tre Deuce
            October 20, 2012 at 10:17 pm

            “It took the baton from the CB750 and Z1900 – and ran with it!”… Really?

            The GSXR_750 took the baton from previous Suzuki’s starting with the air cooled triples of the seventies, on up to the 4 pot 750/1000 GSX E’s/S’s to the first 550 Katana, and 1000 Katana.

            Suzuki put handling on the map for modern production bikes, starting with the t-10′s and T500′s, and the GT 550′s/GT750′s, those aircooled and water cooled ‘two ‘trips, really upped the ante. The Kawi’s and Honda’s of the time, handled like pigs in comparison.

            Though at times, faster, the Honda’s and Kawa’s never had the definitive, nuanced handling(with a few exceptions) the Suzuki’s did. Yamaha, for many years, was its closest competitor in the handling department.

            I should also mention drive-ability, the other Jap bikes used Keihin carbs and the Suzuki’s used Mikuni’s..Great tip-in and smooth with out the Keihin hick-ups.

            Though, I had previously owned a a 64′ T-10 and T-500 Suzuki’s (still have them), I didn’t really became a big fan of Suzuki’s until at a party in the mid-seventies when a guy found out that I raced bikes and offered up his new GT550 to ride. I initially declined being a Honda 450′ rider and not being too excited about 2-strokes. I finally gave it a go and have never forgotten that ride and the handling of that old Suzuki.

            The next day I went down and bought a GT750(Water Buffalo), and have bought, and still own, a secession of Suzuki’s, since, including a Rotary. Still own all of them.

            During those years I also bought other bikes new and used, but Suzuki’s are the ones I ride for apex clipping fun.

            Notable bikes in my Suzuki collection. GT750 ‘Water Buffalo’, RE5 Rotary, Barry Sheene GS1000, Katana GSX_750 & 1000/GS 550M(Halloween bike), XN-85 Turbo, and an RG500 ‘Sq. Four’ race bike.

            Of interest to you, Eric, is the complete collection of Kawa ‘Trip-3′s’, from the 250cc up, plus a couple of road race ‘Tri-3′s’, a 550 and a 750. Those bikes with there race expansion chambers, have a full on scream that would scare the bejeezus out of a Banshee, and is not to be forgotten by human mortals, either. Fun Stuff, but getting old, like me…col!

          • October 21, 2012 at 10:01 am

            Hi Deuce!

            Yup and amen –

            I meant to convey that Suzuki, like Kaw and Honda, established new benchmarks. Kaw, to get some limelight and catch up with Honda, came out with outrageous muscle bikes like the original H1 and then the Z1900. They put Kaw on the map as the “performance” Japanese brand. Honda made its bones, of course, selling refinement and even race-level (at the time) technology in mass-produced (and affordable) street bikes that were always superbly engineered. Suzuki was a little late to the game, but made up for that, as you explained.

            You have an impressive collection, by the way. I am jealous!

            Locally, there’s a “water buffalo” I have had my eyes on for several years. The owner isn’t ready to sell, yet. But when he is, I hope I will be!

  6. Gil
    October 7, 2012 at 4:52 am

    I’m a bit surprised about Mitsubishi because Lancers are pretty common.

  7. David
    October 7, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    my Outback had original bridge stone tires, just finished putting on a new set of Michelin’s from Costco, so Sweet!
    Just make sure you keep your alignment and balancing straight, thanks for all the feedback

    Cheers !
    David

  8. October 7, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Off topic. You don’t own foreign made goods anymore.

    Has anyone heard about Kirtsaeng vs. John Wiley and Sons, If SCOTUS upholds this ruling, anything manufactured in another country that you buy will require the manufacturer’s approval before you can resell it.

  9. Mike in Spotsy
    October 8, 2012 at 12:34 am

    Hi Tor. From what I’ve read about the case, it only applies to products manufactured in another country AND intended for use in that country. Products manufactured for export to the US and sale here are not implicated. Not having read the Circuit Court opinion, I could be wrong about that, but the facts of the case, as reported, strongly suggest that this interpretation is correct.

  10. Zippy
    October 8, 2012 at 4:10 am

    Why hasn’t Suzuki, which has had a presence in the U.S. for many more years than Hyundi/Kia, done at least as well or better than these less worthy imports?

    • Matt in Korea
      October 8, 2012 at 6:35 am

      Because Hyundai & Kia are NOT less worthy imports. When it comes to bang for your buck, you can’t get better than a Korean car. Superior to American, almost as good as Japanese. More affordable than either. Kia hired away a top designer from BMW and it is making great strides and manufacturing reliable and stylish cars.

      • DD
        October 8, 2012 at 7:01 am

        Peter Schreyer was from Audi.

        • Matt in Korea
          October 10, 2012 at 5:12 am

          Thank you for the correction. It doesn’t damage the point I made, though. KIA invested in quality design.

      • October 8, 2012 at 10:40 am

        Hi Matt,

        I can “amen” that. While current American stuff (especially Ford) is very good, Kia and Hyundai are hard to beat. The combination of value for the dollar and appeal is very compelling. The Optima (Kia) and Sonata (Hyundai) are outstanding cars, arguably the pick of the litter in their segment.

      • BrentP
        October 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm

        Maybe in Korea they are. In Chicago they don’t seem to last. There are always new ones on the road, but not old. Not sure what happens to them.

        • JerryW
          October 9, 2012 at 12:33 am

          Funny, my daughters 11 year old Hyundai is running just fine, has needed few repairs and she’ll probably keep it ’til the wheels fall off.

  11. DD
    October 8, 2012 at 5:17 am

    I don’t know why GM got rid of Pontiac…There could have been distinction with their brands:

    Chevrolet = Mass Appeal
    Cadillac = Luxury
    Pontiac = Performance
    Buick = “Almost Luxury”…WTF?

    They kept Buick because it sells in China…They sell more Buicks in China than they do in USSA.

    Hyundai placed the Equus as a “Hyundai”. They realize that the low end is going to become seriously luxurious with global competition and therefore don’t want to throw money away on a future-loser “Luxury Brand”. What will Lincoln and Cadillac do when a Toyota Camry is more luxuious in the future? GM already downgrades their Chevy models to avoid being as good as their high margin Cadillac/Buick…Yeah…That’ll work :/

    Detroit car comanies are MBA/Political Hack run (Bumbling Fascists Psychopaths – Just look at GM’s Board). They have a bleak future – as do the taxpayers.

  12. Ross Nelson
    October 8, 2012 at 6:13 am

    Actually I like the idea of sameness over the years, as practiced by Mitsubishi. That makes parts more available, there are more mechanics who know how to fix such machines that aren’t made anew every three years, and presumably the cars’ prices should rise more slowly since the maker’s not making vast tooling changes so often.

    The only fly in the ointment is the car buyer who, like an easily bored child, has to be titillated by novelty every year or so. Constant flux and change in autos are not desirable from a purchase and maintenance point of view.

    • October 8, 2012 at 10:47 am

      Hi Ross,

      I hear you – and sympathize with that view. But the reality – whether guys like you and I like it or not – is that the market has changed for just the reasons you mention: Most buyers expect something “new” every 3-4 years, if not sooner. It used to be fairly common for a car platform to go 8-10 years. Now, it’s much more common for a given model to be significantly redesigned before it’s five years old.

      Part of the reason is the need to satisfy buyers’ demand for “something new.” But part of the reason is also the ever-escalating demands placed on car companies by the government. A good example being the pending 35.5 MPG CAFE edict that goes into effect MY 2016. In one fell swoop, the government rendered economically obsolete entire families of engines (and vehicles, too). Models that would probably otherwise continued in production for several years – thrown away in favor of new designs that meet government specifications…

      • liberranter
        October 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm

        Part of the reason is the need to satisfy buyers’ demand for “something new.” But part of the reason is also the ever-escalating demands placed on car companies by the government.

        And we can bet that the same shallow people who want “something new” just for the sake of having something new (Ross’s “easily bored” ADHD-addled adultolescents) are also the same Clover control freaks who have no problem with the feds’ ridiculous, crippling fiats to the automakers.

        • October 8, 2012 at 5:39 pm

          Agreed – and we get pulled down wif ‘dem!

  13. Wilhelm
    October 8, 2012 at 7:33 am

    I distinctly remember the renaissance of Pontiac in the late 1950s. We car-crazy kids were all Chevy V8 fans when suddenly it was Pontiac that became the fastest car out there. Mickey Thompson went for a land speed record in a machine powered with four Pontiac engines. Overnight, seemingly, Pontiac gained that image and reputation for “performance.” it was no longer a modified Chevy – as the Mercury had always been a modified Ford. It had gained a legitimate identity of its own. I have no idea whether, for GM, it merely cannibalized the sales of Chevys or helped corporate sales against Chrysler and Ford, but it was a pretty dramatic illustration of how a brand could be strengthened.

    • October 8, 2012 at 10:26 am

      Hi Wilhelm,

      Back in those days, Pontiac had the advantage (like GM’s other divisions) of having its own in-house engine shop. Pontiac designed and built its own engines, which meant it could develop genuinely distinct performance cars that weren’t just rebadged Chevys. Pontiac was able to develop engines like the 389/400 and 421/428 – and put them into cars like the GTO, Grand Prix and Firebird – and have them deliver competitive performance relative to rivals while also offering very distinctive personalities relative to those rivals. This gave people a reason to buy a Pontiac rather than, say, a Chevy.

      I’ve owned half a dozen or so “F” cars – Firebirds and Camaros – from the ’70s, mostly. A Firebird from that time was very much its own thing, not just a Camaro with some styling differences. Each had its pros and cons – and its different appeal. The Trans-Am, for example, had a bigger, higher-torque engine while the Z28 had a smaller, higher-RPM engine. These differences meant there was a reason for Buyer A to buy a Trans-Am over a Z28 (and for Buyer B to buy the Z28 over the TA).

      But then GM cancelled Pontiac’s V-8 engine program (1981 was the final year for a Pontiac-built V-8 in a Pontiac-badged car). So, the then-new 1982 Firebird became a rebadged Camaro – mechanically identical to its sibling. Pontiac tried hard to maintain the car’s separate identity – and did a good job, given the limits imposed by the engineering sameness of the car – but sales began their inevitable slide and, as you know, the car was cancelled even before Pontiac itself was. By the time Pontiac itself was cancelled, it was selling nothing other than cosmetically tweaked, badge-engineered copies of other GM vehicles. Though some of these were ok cars – Solstice, for instance – they were not Pontiac exclusives. You could buy the same car, more or less, at another GM store (or, as in the case of the Vibe, at a Toyota store). Few people were able to gin up much enthusiasm for these hollowed-out “Pontiacs” in name only. And the inevitable happened: Pontiac was closed up for good.

  14. BMW ride in a KIA
    October 8, 2012 at 8:38 am

    A few years ago in California, I dropped off a friend’s BMW at the local dealership for servicing. The dealer had a shuttle service to give people dropping off their cars a ride back to home or work. My jaw almost dropped to the floor when I and a few others were given a ride home in a KIA mini van! To be honest, I was impressed with the KIA mini van, but I still laugh about this incident even today!

  15. Runaway slave
    October 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Sorry totally off topic, I didn’t even read the article. I don’t drive so its not a big deal to me. I just wanted to say something to ppl who aren’t the normal blind sheeple. We’ve all seen lots of government crime and costumed thug violence lately. It’s only getting worse. Every where ppl go to peacefully protest there being violently beaten and abused by agents of the state. So, at what point do we consider THEM to have declared war on us the people? When WE have come to the conclusion that WE are being robbed, beaten, and made to live in fear, what is the next step? By the way I own an 87 Isuzu pup 40mpg 4 speed manual, and can’t even drive it bc big brother won’t give his permission without papers bitta.

  16. glorious future
    October 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Comrades the only auto choice will be the Government Motors Chevy Volt. The people’s car for the golden hopetopia collective. It will be mandatory to own one.

    • MoT
      October 8, 2012 at 9:43 pm

      You could say it’s the new fascist American “Volts-wagen”

  17. Robert Mockan
    October 8, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    On the other hand some cars should have been taken over by private companies, and mass produced to lower their cost and convenience even more. More example, the straight six 1964 Ford Falcon was getting 30 miles per gallon on the freeway 48 years (!) afo, and just about anything that broke on it could be repaired with a screwdriver, pliers, and a socket set. I replaced piston rings, replaced head gaskets, once pulled out the transmission and fixed it roadside, rebuilt the carburetor, replaced the clutch, adjusted the alignment, replaced the brake shoes, and so on, never needing to visit an automobile mechanic, and using cheap easily available common tools. The car was comfortable, adequately fast, and if production had continued over the years, we could probably buy it used today for a few hundred dollars. I bought mine in 1972 for … 100 dollars, and it ran another 100,000 miles before I was forced to replace it while living in California because the engine did not have the mandated “smog” pump, and crankcase bypass recirculation, even though it continued to pass the state emissions tests. That reveals what lengths the automotive industry would go to to make their market for newer vehicles.

    • dom
      October 8, 2012 at 7:06 pm

      It’s called technology bro! Haven’t ya heard? We are all idiots and need this modern shit to make our lives that much more expensive and difficult. I purchased a used commuter car a couple years ago (2010 Yaris). The damn “maintenance required” light comes on when I need an oil change and I forget how to turn the fucking thing off each time. My “low air pressure” light tells me I’m a couple lbs shy of 32psi. My traction control kicks on automatically when I don’t want the shit, which by the ways makes another light. Then when I turn on my headlights during the day I can’t see my gauges because they are all digital (unless I turn up the dimmer switch). It’s fucking awesome! What’s not to like?

      Oh shit I almost forgot. My car screams at me when I don’t wear my seat belt and again another light stays on. I have back issues too, so I am constantly adjusting myself and scooting up. When I place my hand on the passenger seat to push off of to scoot up the belt chimes start ringing all over again. I’m so happy to have all these features I could just shit!

      • MoT
        October 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm

        Doh! Just watching TeeVee commercials, with the sound off, and what do I see? Well, I see ignoramuses who need GPS maps, alarms and lights to “warn” them when they’re going too fast and too close to a vehicle up front! Cameras for the rear (because… sheeeeyaaahhht… they’re too fucking stupid to use those rear mirror thingamabobs) so they don’t have to get out and check around the vehicle BEFORE backing up. That being oh-so inconvenient. Hell! Why not just take the bus because they’re brainless wastes of space! But, never mind, OnStar will keep it’s eye in the sky on your useless ass while you entertain yourselves to death with the DVD system.

        • October 8, 2012 at 8:58 pm

          Today at the gym I overheard a couple of dudes going on and on and on – in incredible, minute detail – about the latest fuhhhhhhhttttttttball game. On the way home, I stopped at the supermarket to pick up a few items. While waiting at the deli, what do I hear? More heated discussions about the gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame.

          The PTB don’t have to worry. The masses are so addled by sports-worship and other vacuous “pastimes” that they aren’t even aware they’re being – have been been – reduced to slavery.

          • October 9, 2012 at 12:49 am

            Want to know what is even a bigger meaningless joke of a distraction than the NFL….? The Presidential Election!

          • October 9, 2012 at 12:56 am

            Ditto on that!

            Fuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhtball is arguably more important.

        • BrentP
          October 9, 2012 at 1:03 am

          In another forum a fellow regular used the term ‘invisible bus’. It referred to these drivers who couldn’t see a bus right in front of them and don’t plan ahead for when the bus inventively stops.

          One day I notice a commercial on TV…. an automatic braking system that prevents the driver from…. rear ending a bus that had stopped to discharge passengers.

        • Mithrandir
          October 9, 2012 at 1:15 am

          Too funny. (yet a bit sad at the same time.)

          I think I saw the same commercial. The two people in the front were talking about something at the side of the road when BAM! the car alerts them (and slows the car down) that there is something in front of them.

          I guess attention to one’s driving takes away from more important tasks.

          • October 9, 2012 at 9:32 am

            It’s a feedback loop!

            The more of these “active” safety features, the more “passive” drivers become… which necessitates more in the way of “active” safety equipment.

            It is my firm belief that this is deliberate, too. With the object ultimately being to render the driver irrelevant by making the car drive itself.

            PS: Thanks for the info on calculating charge. I also have a line in to to Toyota asking them about it. Will post a follow-up when I know more!

      • October 8, 2012 at 9:00 pm

        Toyota’s among the worst offenders.

        I forget whether your 2010 does this, but new Toyotas won’t even let you turn off the traction control unless the car is stopped first.

        Saaaaaaaaafety!

        • dom
          October 9, 2012 at 1:37 am

          I can’t turn off the traction control at all!

          • October 9, 2012 at 9:29 am

            If there’s a TCS button, you probably can – but the car has to be stopped before pressing it will do anything! The switch might be hidden, too – sometimes, it’s in the glovebox.

            I like Toyota vehicles in terms of their overall value, but they can be overbearing as hell when it comes to saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaefty!

    • October 8, 2012 at 9:03 pm

      Hi Robert,

      Yup!

      The Falcon was also light – because it did not have to have all the government-mandated rigmarole new cars have to have.

      It would be illegal to build such a car today.

      Which is precisely why VW had to stop selling the old Beetle here in the late 1970s (the car continued to be made in Mexico for another 20-plus years).

      We could have brand-new cars that got 40-50 MPG and cost $6,000 or so.

      But we can’t have cars that are like that and meet government bumper-impact requirements, SRS requirements and emissions requirements.

      • MoT
        October 10, 2012 at 2:11 am

        This just brought back some memories. As I recall I think my family had a Mercury Comet when we moved to the States back in the mid-sixties. My parents traded in their VW Beetle for it. Funny thing is that both vehicles were beige.

    • October 10, 2012 at 1:54 am

      Ford produced the 1963 Falcon in Argentina (4 door only) until 1991 with minimal changes, none to the body, just a different grill and headlights/tail lights and different dash.

      No mention on the wiki page if they ever updated the suspension.

      • October 10, 2012 at 9:45 am

        And, like the old Beetle (also made outside the US for decades after it was last sold here) neither car was permitted the American driver because of saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety and emisssssssssssssions.

      • BrentP
        October 10, 2012 at 5:21 pm

        If I read this correctly that pushes the Ford small block inline 6 out to 1991. Meaning the same basic engine was produced from 1959 to 1991. Last year in the USA was approximately 1984. (188cid form as I have looked up was mixing and matching from the 170 and the 200)

        Now in SBC style the engine is still made today or at least up to a couple years ago…. but it’s not the same anymore like a modern SBC isn’t the same.

        32 years. Not a bad run.

  18. David
    October 8, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Eric -

    Maybe it’s a good thing Mitsubishi is not reinventing the wheel every year.

    Tired of expensive repairs on our Volvo, my wife dug around on the internet to see what kind of common mechanical problems Mitsubishi owners had – answer: Not many!

    I’d rather stick with something tried and true than trendy.
    – Dave

    • October 8, 2012 at 9:45 pm

      Hi David,

      Someone else brought up the same point – and, I agree!

      Unfortunately, guys like us – who value stability, long-haul value, etc – are outnumbered by the people who want the “newest” and “latest” thing….

  19. Strider55
    October 8, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    You’re right about Suzuki’s vanishing showrooms. The dealership here closed more than a year ago. The good news: a VW dealership is currently under construction near where the Suzuki place was. I’m looking forward to test-driving a Jetta TDI diesel. Right now the nearest VW dealer is at least 30 miles away.

    Now all we need is a Mazda dealership. Currently none within those same 30 miles.

  20. DD
    October 9, 2012 at 4:15 am

    The Global Terrorists with their “Managed Trade” have stated that they want to bring down the number of car manufactures to about 6 so count on continuing consolidation. Eventually they want to ban all forms of personal transportation devices with the exception of bicycles…For everyone else, that is. It will be similar to the old Euro-peon Socialist/Fascist model of politicians and their business buddies along with high-level managers that will be permitted to drive automobiles – with the company manager position, they will offer the “company car”…Similar to Europe of today. The socio-economic model of the future will be similar to 1990 Leipzig – in the name of “Climate Change”.

  21. SojournerMoon
    October 9, 2012 at 4:18 am

    I agree with the concern over all three of those. Mitsubishi’s position is the most desperate. Only a few years ago they required a massive infusion of cash from Chrysler when Chrysler, under Mercedes rule, was struggling (and still is). That did nothing but stretch out the seemingly inevitable by buying it another 10 years or less, perhaps, from that time.

    Suzuki has always been small and has never seemed to catch on. Given the lack of new product in the pipeline, especially high mileage sorts of things, I wouldn’t be surprised if they withdrew from the American market fairly soon as well. If it weren’t for the CAFE regs and a surprising abundance of genuinely decent, if not good, economy cars these days, I’d say Suzuki would be happy to keep plugging away as an also-ran. I don’t think that’s really feasible now.

    Lincoln is in dire straights. They have nothing of interest on board. They’re not very good at badge engineering and can’t seem to make anything work out right for them. They basically have overpriced mid-sized sedans and mediocre SUV/crossover offerings. However, they are the only real standard-bearer for luxury at Ford, and Ford is doing fairly well financially, relatively speaking. They have a number of competitive, if not class leading, vehicles (thanks to Uncle Sam’s bailout a few years back) that are selling well. I’m guessing that now the bread and butter-mobiles are sorted for the next few years, the Ford engineers will shift their attention to Lincoln in the hopes that this time it WON’T be assassinated in Ford’s theater. They’ve got too much to lose to let it die.

    It’s not that badge engineering can’t work. I’m not sure that there’s an original vehicle in the whole of Acura’s lineup. Most are either tarted up Accords or CRVs or Pilots or of European Hondas that aren’t sold here at all in Honda form. Somehow, though, they manage to make it work despite the fact that the base vehicles are usually pretty darn good to start out with (especially the Accord).

    Chrysler really seems to be struggling. That’s a big deal. The new 300 doesn’t seem, from what I can tell, to be catching on like the previous 300 did. It was that vehicle that “saved” Chrysler a few years ago (around the time they were bailing out Mitsubishi). There doesn’t seem to be much interest in the sequel. The new Charger seems to be doing well, though. They’ve also got a couple of unproven new models (Dart) that may or may not float, but with garbage like the Nitro and Compass in their recent past, it’s a big question of is it too little, too late. The new Jeep Grand Cherokee seems pretty good, and is a darling of the press, but the quality is still severely lacking. I got into one, a $70k SRT8 Hemi a few months back and liked it except for the fact that the rear driver side door would not open from the inside. The child lock was not engaged. It just didn’t open. How does a brand new car get sent out of a factory already broken? Anyway, the splitting off of Ram is probably a good idea, as is keeping Jeep separate. That way they can trim the fat. Unfortunately, that mostly seems to be Chrysler and Dodge products now. In many ways, I see all of Chrysler as being on a bubble and, as someone mentioned above, there may be a lot of pruning going on very soon. Oh yeah, and if Mitsubishi goes down, Chrysler will be hurt by that as well since they are still sort of tied together somewhat.

    GM is of significant concern, too. Though they are reporting new profit and progress, they still haven’t paid off the bailout money stolen from the taxpayer years ago. They basically just took out more government loans (another bailout) to pay off the emergency loans. It’s like getting a new credit card and transferring the old card’s balance at a low interest rate. Plus, these supposed “record” sales that we’re hearing about are mostly sales of fleet vehicles to government agencies. Sales to private customers are actually falling pretty badly. Add to this great debacles like the Volt and the withering of Daewoo, Isuzu, etc. and you’ve got some pretty unstable ingredients.

    In particular Buick seems to be suffering here in the States. As another commenter mentioned, they are winning in China, for some reason, but their American customers are dying of old age and no new ones are showing up in the show rooms. In fact, I’m in my 30s, and I’m pretty sure I’m not old enough to be permitted to drive a Buick by law, or something. Plus, the new mediocre models for sale don’t appeal to any of the older crowd and none of the younger crowd would buy one over a Lexus, or even a Toyota, for that matter. I wonder if the reverse strategy is possible, that GM will close Buick stateside but keep it rolling as an Asian-only brand.

    GMC is a division in search of a purpose. They are the upscale Chevrolet in the truck department, but are being squeezed from below by nice Chevys and above by Cadillac versions of the same vehicles. Even though I drive one, it’s always been a bit of a mystery to me why GMC even exists. I wouldn’t be too surprised if it got closed down and, perhaps, just got morphed into a nice Chevrolet trim level a la the Denali moniker.

    I’ve heard rumblings about Volvo as well. Seems like they are in some serious trouble and may be heading the way of Saab. They, too, are now owned by the Chinese who apparently haven’t a clue. Though they are in a stronger position financially than Saab, their product line is rather stale and they seem to have lost what little semblance of “premium” they may have briefly had. They sit somewhere in limbo between the Audi/Lexus tier and the Ford/Chevy tier. Unfortunately, their prices are more the former and their product more the latter (or worse, in some respects).

    Land Rover? A company currently based exclusively upon high-cost, low efficiency, heavy SUVs. I suspect that, at least in America, they’ve been caught without a seat when the music stopped. The Evoque seems genuinely interesting, and beautiful, but over-priced and not really the direction that government powers are forcing the automotive business (apparently against market demands).

    Lotus is in a pickle, too. They’re only recent/new/updated model, the Evora, is nothing special. Supposedly new product is on the horizon, but that’s what they said 2 years ago and we’re still waiting.

    Then, of course, there are companies like Tesla and Fisker, two companies that by all logic and market dynamics should not exist, and wouldn’t if it weren’t for the fact that they are essentially continually government-funded. The taxpayer takes all the risk while the owners take all the profit. Neither company, apparently, can develop and build a car that would be viable in the marketplace. Like the moon landing, they are fascinating studies in technology and human ingenuity, but years later we still have no idea what practical fruits were produced from that massive investment of taxpayer money. Come to think of it, the moon rover was an all electric vehicle, too! I guess those who do not learn from history. . .

    • BrentP
      October 9, 2012 at 6:10 am

      Ford didn’t get a bailout.

      Ford has gotten the same sort of corporate welfare that all automakers have gotten, but not a bailout.

    • October 9, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Hi SJ,

      Thanks for the thoughtful analysis; I don’t disagree with any of the points you’ve raised.

      Land Rover may survive the CAFE Crisis because it’s a small volume (high margin) elite brand – like Porsche. There will probably always be rich people – and a Range Rover is something an Escalade can never be.

      Lotus is down to one model – and that’s bad news, obviously. I should have included them in my Dead Pool. I don’t think they’re going to make it. While Lotus cars are outstanding sports cars, unlike the Porsches they’re price-competitive with, they are absolutely unlivable as everyday transportation for all but the most determined – people who are willing to put up with driving a track car on the street. There are not many of them.

      I think Lincoln will pull out of it – if only because Ford can afford to pour resources into the brand and develop new models and give them the time they need to succeed.

      I agree on Suzuki, for all the reasons you mention plus those I discussed in the article.

      Volvo is a wild card. They actually do have some worthy product, such as the C30 (and the new S60 Polestar). I think they have two problems, though: First, the cars are too expensive. Volvo just doesn’t have the cachet as a premium brand that BMW or Lexus have – and should therefore adjust its price structure accordingly. Two, the Chinese owners (Geely) probably have no clue how to proceed. China has virtually no experience with cars at all – let alone a high-end-aspiring brand marketed to a Western audience. Volvo has to redefine itself as either a full-on premium brand (and be competitive in that segment) or restructure as a brand like VW used to be: One that builds cars comparable to the high-0end stuff in terms of build quality, etc. – but which is priced more affordably. Can the Chinese see this? Can they do this?

      I dunno…

      50-50 it goes down.

  22. Tim L, from SF Bay Area.
    October 9, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    I beleive that Chairman Mao was a fan of Buicks and had a fleet of them. That is why Buick is so pupular in China.

    • DD
      October 10, 2012 at 10:52 am

      Buick was popular in China LONG before Mao.
      I think it was the number one car in China in the 1930s.

      • October 10, 2012 at 11:24 am

        Any idea why?

        I mean, why not Cadillac?

  23. Scott
    October 11, 2012 at 1:55 am

    “It [Lincoln] is no longer a player spoken of in the same breath as Cadillac, Lexus, Audi or BMW.”

    You’ve got to be kidding Eric. Anyone who ever spoke those names in the same breath was doing it under duress with a leaf blower shoved up his butt.

    Lincoln? Audi? BMW? You can’t possibly be serious.

    • October 11, 2012 at 10:05 am

      Lincoln actually outsold Cadillac for awhile during the late ’90s.

      In the ’80s, Lincoln was very competitive with other luxury brands, including Benz and BMW. Do you remember the Mark VII LSC? It was a tremendously successful car.

      BMW has only been a “premium” brand for about 30 years. Ditto Audi. Lexus did not exist before 1989.

      In the ’60s and ’70s, Lincoln and Cadillac were the luxury car brands in the United States.

      • Scott
        October 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm

        Eric, I don’t mean to put too fine a point on it, but the 70′s were 40 years ago.

        NASA put a man on the Moon in ’69. Look where it got them…

      • Scott
        October 12, 2012 at 2:03 pm

        Just to put things in perspective, I was personally considered sexually attractive in the 70′s… :)

  24. ekrampitzjr
    October 20, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    First, a disclaimer: I work on a very low level for Mazda, as mentioned in a couple of past posts here. My comments are strictly my opinion and do not represent the company.

    Mazda ain’t goin’ anywhere. The CX-5 is selling very well. The 3 sedan, the CX-5, and the CX-9 all came in first place in comparison tests in various car magazines. We’re bracing ourselves for the demand when our Skyactiv-D diesels hit the US market in the 6, CX-5, and possibly other products. Figures are looking up, and we seem to be over the worst. :)

    Mitsubishi US never recovered from that fiasco financing 0-0-0 deal 10 years ago: $0 down, 0% financing, 0 payments for a year, all aimed primarily at the college crowd. Gee, what could go wrong with such a deal aimed at the most irresponsible segment of adults, the people who have the worst reputation for credit card defaults?

    Plenty, as people walked away from the cars in droves when the payment-free year was up and Mitsu asked for money. The company was stuck with year-old cars (think of the depreciation alone) combined with lack of care and, often, abuse—other well-known attributes of the 20-something crowd. The company took a $454 million writeoff a couple of years later as the US operation was seeing rapidly declining sales even then.

    Rumors have been widespread since then that the company was going to give up selling vehicles here, even as its executives have issued Oldsmobile—style denials. The lack of new product in the 2013 US lineup strongly suggests what’s about to happen. Heck, you forgot to mention that the Galant is gone too, and that was once a bread-and-butter line here (Honda Accord and Mazda6 class).

    Suzuki has appeared in a number of forums as a company that has, as you mentioned, old products, but also problems with turnover in dealers. Part of the latter stems from the company having one of the cheapest new-car franchises around, so a number of used-car dealers latched on to Suzuki as a way to enter the new car market. We all know what reputation used car dealers have.

    I just don’t see that many newer Lincolns on the road. That’s not good. And I really like a lot of the current vehicles, especially the MKZ. (The Town Car ceased production over a year ago at the same time as the Crown Vic. If you see any at dealers now, they were built many months ago, and that ain’t good either.) One big issue to me is Lincoln’s practice of model nomenclature with cryptic, lookalike, confusing letters all beginning with “MK” instead of a proper name or, at least, significantly differing alphanumeric model designations as Mercedes-Benz uses. How did changing “Zephyr” to “MKZ” create any benefit? Why not have kept “Zephyr”?

    I don’t want to see any of the three you named leave the US market or die. But the writing is beginning to form on the wall…

  25. Tre Deuce
    October 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Morning Eric,

    Be careful of that ‘Water Buffalo. All liquid cooled bikes could have corrosion problems. Another reason to not leave batteries in bikes or to insulate them from the ground. I bought three Rotaries before we found one that didn’t have major engine corrosion problems.

    The ‘H1′ was the worlds first 12 second street bike. I never bought one new, but I can remember the first time I saw its impressive power.

    Most of my collection arrived in the late eighties and early nineties when I went on a bike buying spree, buying several bikes a month. I have only ever sold two bikes, a Honda ’125 Benly’(Big mistake!), and my trusty Yamaha 750 trip to a friend, and I once gave a kid a nice little Honda Elsinore, which his mother promptly brought back. I let him keep it at the shop so he could ride it when we went out and played in the hills.

    Haven’t ridden in the dirt lately, but I occasionally grab my highly modified GS 1000e or Honda CB400F(I collected all three colors) and carve some turns or just some country road to a village brew pub.

    In have two friends, both in their late seventies that still ride, one daily rain or shine, and one who does a cross country every year from Michigan to the North
    West. Hope I get the opportunity do keep riding that long.

    Keep the shiny side up Eric.

    • October 21, 2012 at 8:57 pm

      Yup!

      But, this one’s cherry. It was either restored recently or it’s original and been babied its entire life. It looks almost as nice as my S1 – which I just restored from the frame up.

      My experience with water-cooled bikes has been that provided the coolant was changed out every two years or so, you’re usually ok – even if it’s 30-plus years old. But even a ten-year-old bike that has never had its cooling system serviced can be a money pit. For those not in the know, bike radiators can be shockingly expensive – and sometimes, hard to find at any price (new).

      I prefer air-oil cooled stuff, usually.

      But I do like those Buffs – and have read and heard a lot that supports what you wrote about their being among the be3st (if not the best) “everyday” two-strokes out there. I’m still a little leery about taking my S1 much farther than “pushing range” from the house!

      • mithrandir
        October 22, 2012 at 2:17 am

        It appears that you are not the only one that likes air cooled bikes.

        From the article:

        Mr Mitsuyoshi Kohama, Chief Designer, CB1100

        “Why are you giving that new engine air-cooling when you know its performance won’t be as good? You had better have a pretty convincing explanation!”

        When asked to explain my choice, I could only say: “My only reason is that a lot of customers like air-cooled engines.” I like the metallic sound the engine makes as it cools… A motorcycle’s engine should have oil in it, not water… Just looking at the cooling fins inspires me…

        • October 22, 2012 at 8:18 am

          Exactly!

          This is why so many water-cooled bikes have fake cooling fins cast into the heads (if the heads are exposed). Similarly, some MFGRs of certain bikes have gone to great lengths to make FI look like carbs!

  26. ekrampitzjr
    November 9, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    You called it on Suzuki, Eric. On 6 November its US operation announced it was pulling the plug on new cars. Bike sales will continue. Total new car sales in the US this year through October were only 21,000.

    Mitsubishi’s for 2012 through October aren’t much better: 50,000. Now we’ll wait for the other shoe to drop.

    And I might work for Mazda, but speaking for myself I’m not happy about either company’s situation. Suzuki and Mitsubishi have been worthy competitors with interesting vehicles and ideas, and deserved better than the cards they were dealt.

    • November 9, 2012 at 11:04 pm

      Yeah – I’m not surprised. And I won’t be about Mitsu, either. And, I’m saddened about the whole thing. Suzuki especially had some great product (Kizashi). I think the real problem is the market’s shrinking. Despite all the Happy Talk, my sense of things tells me there’s more and worse to come. People just don;t have the money to keep on buying new cars in sufficient volume to keep all these brands (and full lines within each brand) profitable.

      2013 is going to be an interesting year….

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