Top Tips to Save Gas – Gas is Going Back Up, You’ll Need Them

Now is a great time to look again at some great tips to save gas. Gas prices are creeping back upward again, although thankfully not yet close to where they were 6 months ago, when the price of regular gas was around $4.50 per gallon in some locales. If that was enough to make you want to ditch the F-250 and go scouting around for a Prius, you definitely weren’t alone. If you are still driving a rig that doesn’t know the meaning of “sip” when it comes to gas, here are some tips you can use to help reign in your runaway gas or diesel bills.

Gas Saving Tip – Clean the Lid
If you don’t need to display your new Cannondale, get it the heck off the roof of your car. The same goes with that Yakima rack or Thule car top carrier. Although the roof top carriers may look pretty streamlined, they can still cost you 4% – 7% fuel mileage at freeway speeds. Besides that, they make it impossible to get into the garage. The faster you go with an obstruction on the roof, the more gas you waste, so if you don’t need it, remove it.

Gas Saving Tip – Pack up the Truck and Move to Beverly
Well, you don’t have to go through the trouble of moving, but if you live somewhere that you don’t need to run the AC, or just plain gut it out and keep it off, you’ll save about 3% – 5% on the freeway, and up to 8% in town. You get a larger gas mileage penalty in town when you run the AC because the AC compressor uses about the same amount of energy no matter how fast you go. That means you use less energy per mile to power the compressor the faster you’re traveling.

Gas Saving Tip – Keep the Pressure On.
Make sure your tires are properly inflated. President Obama’s solution to our fuel importation situation actually does save fuel, but only about 2%, unless you’re going from driving around on tires with just about no air to properly inflated ones. Check the sticker on your driver’s door jamb for the manufacturer’s recommended tire inflation pressures. Often they are different in the front and back. Most tires are normally inflated to the 30 – 34psi range. Be aware of using the gas saving trick of over inflating your tires. The saving is minimal, a percent or two at best, and you’re compromising safety, handling, and tire life to get it.

Gas Saving Tip – Remember, You’re Not Danica Patrick, So Don’t Drive Like Her
If you’re a guy, you may well wish you knew her better, but she’s already married, so cool your jets. Your driving has just about the largest impact on your fuel mileage that anything else you can do. Use the orange squeezing trick. Pretend like there is a ripe orange under the gas pedal, and you’re trying not to squash it.

So many people accelerate much too rapidly away from lights, only to have to stop again in a few hundred yards at the next red light. That constant quick acceleration, followed by hard braking just kills your fuel mileage. Every time you use the brakes, you’re turning the gas you burned to get you moving back into heat that just gets dissipated into the air by your brake rotors. If it sounds like a total waste, it is.

The way to avoid excessive brake use and maximize gas savings is when the light to anticipate. Look ahead at traffic, so that you know well in advance when you’ll need to stop. That way you can let off on the gas and coast. Most modern cars completely cut off the fuel when coasting at speed, so that you’re getting infinite MPG at that point. With luck the light will turn green before you have to completely stop, saving the gas you would have used to get going again.

Another driving related gas waster is driving too fast. This is especially true on short trips. The extra 10 miles an hour you go driving 75 over driving 65 wastes about 10% of your fuel, depending on the vehicle you’re driving. On short trips, you’ll save very little time with the extra speed, and all those short trips getting better gas mileage will add up, big time. Be that as it may, I am by no means a fan of the government legislating slower speed limits for the good of our environment, or any other reason. It should be up to us as individuals weather or not we want to trade some of our irreplaceable life time for a few extra mpg, not the Federal Government’s. If I, or any other American, want to spend an extra $5.00 or $10.00 to save an hour or two on a long trip, we should be free to do just that.

Gas Saving Tip – Don’t let Your Car Turn Into a Rolling Junk Pile
Proper maintenance is key to keeping the best gas mileage. You’ll save gas if everything is your car is working as it should. Things like dragging brake calipers, old spark plugs, worn plug wires, old oil, and clogged air filters all degrade your car’s performance and fuel economy.

Many people think that because their new car doesn’t need a tuneup for 50,000 miles, they can neglect maintenance altogether. You can, but it will cost you a lot more than a few trips to Jiffy Lube in the long run. Your gas mileage will suffer, and your ride will be your money pit before you know it. Modern cars are very reliable and well designed. They run forever when well maintained.

Forget the maintenance however, and you’ll get the shock of your life when your mechanic hands you a bill for 5 grand to put in a new engine. Some engines are even more expensive than that. So, it’s not only the extra gas money you’re costing yourself, it could be much more than the cost of fuel.

Gas Saving Tip –  Haul Gas, Not Everything Else
Take an hour and clean out your trunk. If you can do it in 15 minutes, so much the better. The fact is that hauling an extra 100lbs of crap in your trunk costs you money at the pump and when it comes time to get your brakes done, which you’ll have to do more frequently the more weight you haul around. If you rig isn’t one that requires a full set of Snap-Ons to keep running, get those tools out of the trunk. They’re heavy. Same with the sand bags, old Christmas presents, bottles of antifreeze, tire chains, and golf clubs. You can save 1% – 2% by lightening the load.

Gas Saving Tip –  Check Your Feet
Really, make sure you’re not “riding the brakes”. Many people keep their foot resting on the brake pedal even when they have no intention of stopping. You can tell those folks by the way their brake lights glow merrily as they travel down the road. That brake drag obviously wastes gas, so please don’t do it. Besides, people can see your incompetence, because your brake lights are on all the time.

Gas Saving Tip –  It’s Summer Now, So Act Like It
Get those snow tires off your car. If you live in snow country, you may put dedicated snow tires on for the winter months. They have higher rolling resistance than normal tires, so they cost you fuel. Modern radial snow/ice tires are much better in this regard than the snow tires of yore, but they are less efficient to turn.

Gas Saving Tip –  No Holes
Keep your sun roof closed on the freeway. The extra drag created by that gaping maw up top makes you guzzle about 2% – 4% more fuel than you need to, so keep it shut over about 30mph.

Following all the tips that apply, most importantly the ones relating to driving style, can save you up to 40% on your gas bill every month.

If the Waxman “Cap and Trade” bill passes, count on your gas bill going up even more.

Koenigsegg Automotive buys Saab From GM

The CCX super car, by Koenigsegg Automotive. Not your father's Saab!

The CCX super car, by Koenigsegg Automotive. Not your father's Saab!

Perhaps you’ve heard of Koenigsegg Automotive . They are one of the select few automakers to make a car that goes over 200mph, right off the showroom floor. 806hp will do that for you, you know.

Safe to say that while they deliver spectacular performance, gas mileage isn’t their strong suit. Knowing a business opportunity when they see one, this tiny maker of specialty supercars announced a few hours ago that they had purchased Saab, an automaker that makes around 100,000 cars per year, although that has been dropping of late.

Does that mean the Saab 9-5 will one day beat a 911 around the ‘Ring? Probably not.  Koenigsegg’s big challenge for the present is to make Saab profitable. Known for their quirky, small luxury cars, Saab didn’t benefit from their years under the GM umbrella, as fellow Swedish car maker Volvo has under Ford’s ownership. They cars have been rated mid pack and priced near the top of their segment; not a great recipe for success, unless they have enough intangibles to draw buyers.

We will see if  Koenigsegg can provide those, and restore Saab to the position it once held. Not too long ago, people wanted to drive a car made by a company that also made top of the line jet fighter planes and police cars for the Vail, CO police force.

GM has been looking to unload all it’s secondary manufacturing units, of which Saab was one, and leave itself with only its core brands, Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC Trucks, and Buick. Why GM would ax Pontiac and retain Buick, when the former sold many more cars per year is an open question. I would postulate that The Chief’s performance oriented image didn’t sit well with the General’s new bosses in Washington. After all, who needs a V-8 powered sedan with over 400hp?

Americans want small, fuel efficient cars, and Pontiac makes primarily politically incorrect, performance oriented vehicles. If one looks at Toyota Prius sales figures for the first part of 2009, you will see that this isn’t necessarily true, although that’s not what the administration would have you believe. The position that Americans would buy mainly small, fuel efficient cars if given the choice doesn’t hold water if one examines the number of such cars Americans actually did buy when given the chance.

January sales of Toyota’s Prius, poster child for the small, fuel efficient car movement, were down 33.6% in January and 29% in February over the same months in 2008. The Honda Civic Hybrid, a more sporty hybrid than the Prius, experienced declines as well. In January, the Honda Civic Hybrid’s sales were off over 40% year over year, and in March, 2009, only 2,869 Honda Civic Hybrids were sold. All in all, 40.9% fewer hybrid vehicles of all makes were sold than were sold in the same month of 2008. That doesn’t sound like a class of vehicle that is especially popular with American buyers.

When fuel prices are high it is another matter entirely, which is why many are predicting that increasing fuel taxes, or using other means, such as restricting domestic oil production (by limiting new sources of supply from being exploited), will be employed to inflate fuel prices. High fuel prices will force American drivers to seek out more fuel efficient vehicles, such as hybrids, which sales figures amply demonstrate American drivers eschew in other cases.

Will maker of extremely politically incorrect cars, Koenigsegg seek to do what Saab has always done, make mid-level luxury cars, just revitalize the line with exciting, new models? Or, will they take Saab in a new direction, and remake Saab into a producer of smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles, albeit upmarket ones? Perhaps they’ll do a bit of both. If they want to experience a resurgence in the U.S. market, they need to appeal to Americans taste for quirky luxury, with more than a splash of performance, while retaining Saab’s “Green” reputation.

Tesla Electric Car Company Sells Stake to Daimler

The new Tesla Motors Model S electric sedan. Zowee!! Count me in!

The new Tesla Motors Model S electric sedan. Zowee!! Count me in!

Tesla Motors, the car company famous for the Lotus derived electric super sports car, has found one way to deal with it’s cash flow and money problems created in part by founder Elon Musk’s falling in with the wrong management crowd. Such problems in the management have since been remedied, and now Daimler AG comes along and drops $50 million into Tesla’s coffers.

One would presume that a cash infusion isn’t all the aoutomaker will be getting. Obviously Diamler is world reknowned for their engineering prowess, and it’s only logical that some of that expertise would make it’s way to San Carlos, allowing further improvements to Tesla’s autos and production facilities. In addition, the much needed capital provides the financing Tesla needs to continue development on their new Model S.

Like their sports cvar, the new Model S sedan looks to be a stunning performer, with a 0-60 time promised  in the mid 5 second range. Speaking of range, the Model S should get about 300 miles before the last juice drains from the batteries, although I doubt you’ll be doing too many mid 5 second 0 – 60 runs and still going 300 miles between charges.

Speaking of the batteries, Diamler also will use tesla’s Li-Ion batteries for their electric  car efforts. The real thrill is the fact that Tesla will now be able to get their Model S production underway. Priced at about half the going rate for the roadster, or between $50,000 and $55,000, Tesla’s Model S is an electric car that could prove to be the kind of electric vehicle that could finally woo drivers from their fossil fuel powered vehicles. It looks great, has more than adequate performance, and holds 5 people and their luggage in comfort.

That’s a car people can really get behind, and they’ll have to, because it won’t need to stop for gas and it beats most vehicles in an acceleration contest to freeway speeds. That means you’ll either be in one, or chasing it. Although it is still far too expensive for the average driver, remember that President Obama’s announcement today of increased fuel efficiency standards means that traditional cars will quickly become more expensive. They will have to in order to pay for the technology required to rapidly implement the new fuel mileage rules. When setting such things, politicians would do well to remember the development cycle of the modern vehicle (about 3 – 5 years), and the fact that an advanced technology vehicle will typically have an even longer cycle.

This price increase will narrow the gap somewhat. Performance electric vehicles will continue to drop in price as more manufactiurers introduce their own designs, and production facilities ramp up. In addition, electric cars are elligible for a tax rebate, which not only makes them more affordable, it makes sure that your neighbor, who may not have been able to spring for a $50,000 car, helps you pay for yours. Ahhh, the joy of Government subsidies! After all, when the government helps someone pay for something, we’re all helping to pay for it.

By the way, when the government starts telling car companies how much they can spend for marketing (as they recently did to Chrysler), all businesses should look around. Sure, they bailed out the car manufacturers, big time, but how do the Feds think the car companies sell their cars anyway? Marketing, anyone?

How We’ll Be Forced To Drive the Most Fuel Efficient Cars – Even if We Don’t Want To

With the recent developments in the auto industry and Federal government, it is clear the current administration would like to see Detroit automakers pursue building more fuel efficient vehicles. In fact, they are mandated to do so by Congress, and it is going to happen sooner, rather than later.  CAFE standards are set to increase to 35mpg by 2020. In addition, the 35mpg fuel economy standard will apply not only to cars, but to light trucks as well. Light trucks are currently exempt from the car standard, having to meet a lower fuel economy number.  Cars must actually meet a CAFE standard of 37.5mpg by 2015, only 5 model years hence. That is a rather large jump that Detroit is mandated to meet in the coming half decade.  The problem for automakers is that many Americans either don’t want to or can’t drive small, fuel efficient vehicles, unless they have no other choice.

Since the Federal government is now in an unprecedented position to control the kind of vehicles rolling off the assembly lines, and they have made it abundantly clear that they feel the future is in smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles, that means one thing. You are going to see smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles being produced buy U.S. automakers in the near future, and larger, more powerful, and safer vehicles (that Americans would really rather be driving) will gradually be phased out or dramatically reduced in availability.

The market conflict is this; the government is advocating the production of vehicles that many Americans don’t really want to drive, and only do so out of necessity. Witness the fact that sales of the Toyota Prius, the hybrid car that Toyota dealers could not keep in stock in the summer of 2008, has experienced a 50% drop in sales from the summer of 2008 to the spring of 2009. This is the case even though heavy government subsidies make it less expensive to buy than pure, consumer demand dictates. Some states have also enacted advance technology vehicle subsidies, substantially lowering the cost of such vehicles compared to others in the fleet.

This  all means that fuel prices in the U.S. are going to go back up again, no matter what other economic conditions dictate. Realistically, they have to. Expensive fuel is the only way to force American drivers to buy the smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles that the auto manufacturers will be building. The federal government has an ownership stake in these companies, and the only way for them to make sure the automakers (and the taxpayers) see a profit building the fuel sipping or electric vehicles is to ensure fuel prices are high. The Obama administration has also made it clear that they feel it is important, both economically and environmentally, for car manufacturers to produce hybrids, plug in hybrids and other technology de jour laden modes of transportation.

There will be many tools used to ensure that the prices you see at the pump will be higher in the coming years. Increased fuel taxes will happen, even though they are not politically popular. They will have to increase, because as fuel economy standards rise, the amount of tax revenue received by government for each mile traveled will decline. Since the government, federal or otherwise, is loathe to relinquish even a penny of revenue, they will have to increase the fuel tax rates to compensate.

Gasoline demand is relatively inelastic, so the the drop in consumption caused by a price increase will not be enough to reduce total revenue. It will still grow, because people and goods still have to use transportation. The fuel tax increases will also nudge fuel prices back upwards to the point where the new, smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles start to be attractive again. The administration will kill two birds with one stone; increase demand for the new cars produced by Detroit, and get people out of their cars, something environmental advocates have desired for quite some time.

For all the campaign promises about keeping the U.S. away from foreign oil dependency, it is becoming clear that the Obama administration would rather do that by reducing overall oil consumption, rather than increasing domestic supply. There are no signs significantly expanded domestic production is on the horizon anytime soon. In fact, quite the contrary. The administration has shown signs that they will keep it difficult to find and extract new sources of oil within our own borders.

Witness the extension of the comment period for new offshore oil and natural gas leases from 60 days to 6 months as was done a few months ago. This has the effect of delaying the time when these areas can be used for domestic energy production.  Another piece of legislation that will increase the price of fuel is the pending Waxman-Markey cap and trade proposal, of which the administration is a very strong supporter (President Obama met with congressional members on this yesterday to try and convince some holdouts to approve it). This will require that carbon emissions be capped at 2005 levels. The net effect is that and it will cost money to any industry who releases carbon. The goal of such legislation is to make carbon emissions more expensive so that people are incentivised to produce less atmospheric carbon.

Producing vehicles releases carbon, which will make the price of vehicles increase, but burning fossil fuel releases carbon too. That means that the price of fuel will increase as well, as is the desired effect of the Cap and Trade bill. Part of what president Obama proposed in his meeting yesterday was a short term increase of domestic proiduction in exchange for those holdouts approval of the cap and trade bill. He will then be able to claim he has allowed domestic production to increase. While this is true as a point of fact, the increase is very short term, only 2 – 3 years. Since it takes almost this long just to get production going, and far longer to drill new offshore wells,  the practical increase allowed will be very small from a domestic production standpoint. That means the effects of his short term increases will have very little effect on fuel prices, and will likely be overshadowed by other factors.

The U.S. Geological Survey recently estimated that the Bakken Formation in North Dakota and Montana may hold 3.65 billion barrels of oil. In addition, the outer continental shelf region will largely be left untouched, although it contains over 50 billion barrels of oil that could be extracted. At some time, domestic resources will have to be extracted (or exploited, depending on which side of the argument one sits). This will create jobs and reduce dependency on foreign oil. As the country’s population rises and the economy gains momentum, there will be a increase in the quantity of fuel demanded. We will have to get it from somewhere.

Even if we experience a large scale shift to plug in hybrids, it will be decades before enough of these are in service to reduce gasoline demand to the point where there is a significant reduction in our crude oil consumption. We can turn to green sources such as wind and solar, but collectively those two sources supply only about 2% of our domestic electricity production. The President has indicated that he will double these sources during his Presidency. George Bush did likewise, although he was eviscerated in the media and in progressive circles as being an environmental demon. It made little difference then, and another doubling will make little difference in the short term. A few more doublings, perhaps.

If the president does put 1 million plug in hybrids on the road by the end of his term it will definitely reduce the amount of gasoline burned. If the total number of automobiles on American streets did not increase for the first time in our history, here would be the net effect of those million new plug in hybrids: 1 million cars, driving 12,000 miles annually, would burn zero gasoline. On the inaccurate and  very generous assumption that only carbon free sources would generate the power for these new PIH vehicles, you would replace a like number of miles driven that would have burned 480 million gallons of gasoline, (assuming they were older cars that got only 25mpg, not the new CAFE figure of  35MPG new ones will be mandated to) with zero crude oil consumption.

According to Gibson Consulting, there are about 19.5 gallons of gasoline produced from each barrel of crude oil. That means we would eliminate the demand for 24.6 million barrels of oil annually by going to 1 million hybrid vehicles. That sounds like a huge number, and is more than a few drops. However, according to the U.S. Energy Information Adminsitration in 2007 the U.S. burned 390 million gallons of gasoline per day for motor fuel. That means that the 480 million gallons saved, while certainly a good start, (and we’ll have to start somewhere at some point) amounts to only about 0.34% of our annual gasoline consumption. That seems like quite a bit of hell to go through for American business and consumers to cur back on gasoline use by only 0.34%.

Increasing fuel prices will further hobble an economy that’s trying to improve, raise prices on heating oil and motor fuels for consumers that are already smarting from the struggling economy, cost jobs in the short term, and delay the economic recovery, no matter how much money the government keeps pumping in (when will it run out, anyway?)
Eventually the much touted “green jobs” producing advanced technologies for vehicles and other energy using consumer and manufacturing goods will increase to the point where they will overcome the jobs lost in the short term, but I’m not an economist, so I can not pinpoint when that will occur. The point of all this is that increasing fuel prices to drive us into the new, fuel efficient cars made by automakers because that is what the government wants, will be a painful experience. Will it be worth it?

By Bye Pontiac

The 67 Goat 389, from Pontiac's heyday

The 67 Goat 389, from Pontiac's heyday

Well, GM finally did it. After months of speculation, the General finally decided their most performance oriented brand could last no longer. It make me wonder how much of that was a PC oriented move, and how much of it was based on purely business considerations. When you’re taking so much money from a federal government that has indicated the public needs to start buying fuel efficient vehicles, how does it look to make vehicles such as the Pontiac G8? Especially that new G8 GXP with the breathed on V-8.

The brand that brought us the 389 Goat and the Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am will go in that good night, but will all performance offerings from GM do likewise? Due to budgetary concerns, they already killed their performance engineering division (PVO) that was responsible for the CTS Caddys and the ZR1 Corvette. Time will tell if the Corvette is the only performance oriented vehicle left at GM. I only hope it can hang on. After all, it is about the most fuel efficient, true, high performance vehicle in existance.

They killed off Oldsmobile a few years ago, and now Pontiac is gone. How has Buick managed to escape the chopping block for so long?

So long Chief!

Obama Forces out Waggoner at GM – A Dangerous Trend in American Business?

New 2010 Cadillac CTS Coupe - The last of the good ones from GM?

New 2010 Cadillac CTS Coupe - The last of the good ones from GM?

So, the Obama administration has decided they no longer like having Rick Waggoner as CEO of GM, so he should resign. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the mob “suggesting” that the local shop owner should pay them insurance money because the world is a dangerous place. Now the Obama administration can step in and tell a company that the administration knows more about their business than the company’s board of directors does, so they should be the ones to decide who leads and who doesn’t.

Where does this stop? Will any number of companies have to seek the administration’s approval before appointing people to management roles. What criteria will the government use to decide who is worthy to run a company and who is not? Will one of the primary criteria be who is more likely to toe the administration line on policy and procedure? A frightening thought, that. It points to the reason why taking federal money is a dangerous gamble, with plenty of strings, and no guarantee of success.

Precisely how much does the Obama administration know about running a large motor vehicle producer? As one of the major supporters of the administration are the Nation’s unions, it raises the question weather or not Rick Waggoner’s decision to renegotiate GM’s union contracts in 2007 played any role in the administration’s decision. In fact, GM probably should have declared Bankruptcy long ago so they could have gotten out from under the parasitic agreements that greatly contributed to their downfall.

What role has Waggoner played in the decline in the General’s fortunes? Why precisely does he deserve to be removed as leader of one of our nation’s greatest companies? He has been criticized auto industry insiders and analysts for being hesitant to close plants and streamline the company in an effort to restore profitability in the face of declining sales.

Many have condemned him for relying on large trucks and SUVs as a main profit center for GM, such that when fuel prices rose dramatically last year the company was left with expensive, unsold inventory. Many of these same people and others really feel that the average citizen has no place piloting such mammoth vehicles. They are concerned that that such modes of transportation consume far more that their fair share of resources. However that is determined….

The consensus from many environmentalists, those in the administration, and others is that GM brought about their own demise by relying too heavily on such large vehicles. When gas prices rose, they got a well deserved whacking about the knees.

The ironic thing is that GM has been losing money and the aforementioned large vehicle sales were actually making a handsome profit for the firm. Should they have stopped production of such vehicles, only to see their revenues and profits decline even further? That probably would not have been a sound business strategy. I can see it now..”Well, product line ‘A’ is making us the majority of our profit, but some people don’t like it, so we should probably shut down production.” “But Jack, the customers love them, and they keep buying them.” Yes, but that’s not really important right now, is it.”

It wasn’t like some people would have you believe. GM was not like a drug peddler at a junior high school. They didn’t force these vehicles on consumers. No, they built them in response to consumer demand. They couldn’t just their product mix change at a whim when fuel prices rose 35% in a year. Consumer demands can change much more quickly than the products they want to buy.

For those of you unfamiliar with product development cycles in the automotive business, they typically take many years. Motor vehicles are complex pieces of machinery, subject to any number of regulations and customer demands. You can’t just slap them together in a few months in response to any market condition that happens by.

Waggoner has done more than any GM CEO in recent times to reverse the General’s problem of just plain producing generally inferior products over the past 30 years. That’s right, for the most part, GM made crap with 4 wheels. There were exceptions, such as their pick up trucks, but mainly there was quite a bit of garbage rolling off the assembly lines.

Waggoner has, in great measure, changed that. Since the beginning of the millennium there have been some nice, even world class machinery leaving the lines at GM. Cadillac has seen a resurgence, releasing the redesigned and highly regarded CTS last year. This mid-sized luxury sedan has been favorably compared with the best from BMW, Lexus and Mercedes. GM’s trucks are better than ever. The Corvette provides world beating performance and handling for a fraction of the cost of other sports cars. The new Chevy Malibu looks good, has a nice interior, and gets over 30mpg on the highway, while holding 5 passengers in relative comfort.

Something else; wonder of wonders, GM finally learned how to design a nice interior and cockpit. No more ugly interiors in American autos. The new truck and Cadillac interiors are fantastic. The Chevy Malibu is a great place to spend time behind the wheel, and the Corvette finally lost the diso, video game look to something more like you’d find inside a real sports car.

The new Chevy Traverse and GMC Acadia is an attractive, large SUV for those who don’t need to tow heavy loads. It returns the best fuel economy in it’s class while seating 8 with a decent amount of room.

It’s not to say that every vehicle GM produces is fantastic. But it’s too bad just as they are finally producing some great vehicles again, they may be led around by the administration like a dog on a chain. They’ll be able to dictate who leads, how they do their marketing, where they have their corporate retreats, how they travel, and which vehicles they produce. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. It sounds like a 5-year plan in the Soviet Union, circa 1935.

If this is any indication, industries will be led by those who know nothing about them, have never run a business before, and beholden to any number of interests besides the share holders and employees. If the share holders and board of directors decide that Waggoner has been doing a rotten job and want him fired, that’s fine, kick him out post haste. However, the leadership of the country should not also be the leadership of our major (and possibly minor) businesses.

In this case, they’re probably booting out the wrong guy. He’s actually done a decent job and whoever they appoint to replace him may not do nearly as well. If the government can lead him around like a bull with a ring through his nose, they’ll probably be much happier.

Maybe those in Congress should hold themselves to the same standard. Wouldn’t that be a change. When congress has a 10% approval rating, as they did a few months ago, perhaps they should resign. Chris Dodd, (D-CN) indicated that it was time for Waggoner to move on. Maybe Dodd should take his own advice. At least maybe he could help all of us get a better mortgage interest rate. Are the likes of Dodd who we want at the helm of or businesses or our nation?

Auto Manufacturer’s New 0% Financing Offers

As the economy grinds ever more slowly, auto manufacturers scramble to bring whatever incentives they can in an attmept to generate more business. Recently, auto manfacturers fom Japan to Detroit have unleashed powerful, new incetives in an attmept to entice Joe and Joesphene consumer into the dealership. Here are some of the better low and 0% financing deals they’ve unveiled.

Many of these deals expire on Feb 2nd, but there are still some great ones hanging around into March. If the economy stays soft, and every indication shows that’s probably the case, you can bet there’ll be some more great deals from the same folks who cooked these up.

We Get You Approved! All Applications Accepted

2009 Acura:  RDX, MDX, RL,TSX,RDX,TSX – 0.9-2.9% Financing

2009 Toyota:  Sienna, Tacoma – 0-0% Financing
2008 Toyota:  Tundra, Sequoia, 4Runner, Highlander, Sienna, Tacoma, FJ Cruiser, Camry Solara, Rav4 – 0-0% Financing

2009 Dodge:  Charger, Challenger, Ram 1500, Ram 2500, Ram 3500, Grand Caravan– 0.0-2.9% Financing
2008 Dodge:  Charger, Magnum, Ram 1500, Ram 2500, Ram 3500, Grand Caravan– 0.0% Financing

2009 Jeep:  Grand Cherokee, Commander, Wrangler – 0.0-2.9% Financing
2008 Jeep:  Grand Cherokee, Commander, Wrangler, Compass – 0.0% Financing

2008 GMC: Sierra 2500HD, Sierra 3500HD – $6000-7000 Rebate – Hey! Gas is cheap again, go get um!

2008 Saab:  9-7X,9-5, 9-3 – 0.0% Financing

2009 Kia: Borrego, Optima – 0.0% Financing
2008 Kia: Amanti, Sedona, Sorento, Optima, Rondo, Sportage, Spectra  – 0.0% Financing

2008 Infiniti:  G35, G37,M35,M45,EX35, QX56  – 0.0-0.9% Financing

2009 Suzuki:  SX4 0.0% Financing

2008 Volkswagen:  New Beetle Convertible, GTI, Toureq, Pasat  – 0.0% Financing

2008 Volvo:  S60, S80, V70, XC70, XC90  – 0.9% Financing

New HHO Gas Exotic Car – 40mpg, Near 0 Emissions, But Does it Perform?

In 2008, as gas prices shot through the stratosphere, new gas saving devices came out of the woodwork. One of the more popular was those HHO gas injectors where electrolysis is used to separate hydrogen from water. The resulting gas was then injected into the intake tract along with the air fuel mixture. All manner of wondrous improvements were credited to the devices, from smoother running engines to improved fuel mileage. Of course that also lead to the myriad websites claiming “Run Your Car on Water!!!!!!!!”

Anytime there is something new, there are skeptics, and rightly so. The scam alerts were on full tilt. You had the college professor types proclaiming that the devices violated thermodynamic law, and there was no way they could work. Then there were those people that incorrectly thought that cars using such devices used no gasoline at all, only the HHO gas, and that could never work.

There were also the skeptics that wondered why, if this technology was so promising, did the beleaguered Detroit auto manufacturers not jump onto the HHO bandwagon like kids mobbing an ice cream truck in August? For a mass-market auto manufacturer to find a technology that could enable them to easily increase horsepower and mileage, while lowering emissions would be a dream come true, and if such devices worked as advertised surely they’d be adopted post haste.

Many of these people questioning the auto makers forgot the morass of regulatory bureaucracy, safety issues, warranty concerns, and liability problems posed by a glass (or any other material) bottle of hydrogen under the hood.

Well, respected Texas racing engine builder, turned auto manufacturer Damon Kuhn (COO) and aftermarket manufacturer Ronn Maxwell(CEO) have some argument with the skeptics. Unlike all the e-book writers on the Internet who have been claiming the HHO technology will work if only you buy their e-book so you can see how to build and retrofit one of the devices on your own car, Kuhn and Maxwell have really put their money where their mouths are.

Kuhn, Maxwell, and ex-Dell executive Adrian Pylypec, who also sports an automotive industry background, are the three behind publicly traded Ronn Motors, and have they got a proof of concept for you! It’s called the Scorpion, and unlike those build it at home kits that you can learn how to assemble from an e-book for a few hundred to $1,000, their rig costs $150,000! That’s right, the Scorpion is a true to life exotic car, to compete with the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche. The public debut of the hydrogen powered Scorpion was at the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas in November of 2008, to rave reviews.

The Scorpion HHO Exotic Car

The Scorpion HHO Exotic Car

No kit car, this, the Scorpion is powered by a breathed on Acura engine. It is the 3.5 liter, Type-S unit used to power Acura’s top of the line sports-luxury sedan, the RL. Sporting all the usual performance and economy enhancing accoutrements, such as port fuel injection, variable valve timing and aluminum / magnesium alloy construction, it produces about 300hp when under the hood of an RL. Not bad, but not what the two from Texas felt was needed to power a super exotic. Plus, they wanted something that would be really special, and environmentally friendly to boot.

Boy, did they get their wish! The HHO and twin-turbo enhanced version of the smooth running power plant really delivers on all fronts. Not content to add only horsepower, they wanted to take something out; emissions. With all the worldwide concern for carbon emissions and climate change, Ronn Motors wanted to demonstrate that high performance doesn’t have to mean environmentally irresponsible.

The Scorpion HHO Exotic Car - another great look

The Scorpion HHO Exotic Car - another great look

They’ve succeeded in spades, as the HHO injected Acura mill not only delivers a robust 450hp, it does so while only producing about 10 – 20% of the carbon emissions produced by the stock Acura engine. It also returns 40mpg on the freeway according to Ronn Motors, although the car hasn’t been tested by the EPA or DOT yet. That, coupled with the sub 4.0 second 0-60 time is a potent combination, and one not found in any other production automobile, with the exception of the pure electric Tesla roadster. The Tesla however, has a limited range, and it’s top speed of 125mph pales in comparison to the 200mph promised by the Scorpion.

Like it?

Like it?

Vendors of aftermarket HHO gas kits have pointed to smother running, increased power, better fuel mileage, and reduced emissions, and that’s just what Ronn reps note their modified Acura engine delivers. As you can see from the photos, and probably gathered from the stratospheric price tag, the Scorpion isn’t some backyard kit car. Ronn Motors has a real, 8,000 sq foot production facility that they own, and have another campus like facility in the planning stages.

The Scorpion uses a Hydrogen gas generator, the H2GO(TM), that will be available as an aftermarket unit for $999. This should generate substantial revenue for the company, as they are projecting sales of nearly 1 million units. If this comes to pass, the exotic car business will become an interesting sideline. The unit holds 1 gallon of standard tap water, which should last for 3,000 – 5,000 miles. That corresponds nicely to the oil change interval on most automobiles. It actually uses a separate computer to optimize fuel and has flow, accounting for a large portion of the fuel mileage increase. According to Ronn Motors, some diesel test rigs running the H2GO have reported over 80% increases in fuel mileage.

When can you buy one? Well, they have promised delivery will begin in 2009 for the first run of 200 cars. The $999 aftermarket HHO generators should be available sometime this year too. For those of you who’d rather roll your own HHO power plant, try Water4Gas; they are one of the leaders in the “build and install your own HHO” arena.

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Porsche is Now the World’s Largest Car Company

With the news this morning that Porsche A.G. increased their stake in VW to a majority, that old saw you always heard that “a Porsche is really just a VW” is ass-backwards. A VW is now a Porsche! So, all you GTI owners that really wanted a 911 are that much closer to your car ownership dream, aren’t you.

The announcement that Porsche has increased their ownership stake in VW from 42% to a majority of 50.76% also means that Porsche is now the world’s largest automaker. You thought GM was the largest? After all, GM produces a hell of alot more Silverado pickups (almost 500,000 annually) than Porsche makes 911s, Boxters, and Caymans combined.

Actually, if you look at the valuation of the two companies, VW was the largest. GM’s market cap as of this writing is $2.32 billion, whereas VW is worth 103.5 billion Euros. That means VW is worth 50 times what GM is worth.  So, hop in your Rabbit and pretend it’s a new 911 on your way in this morning.

Obama Car Czar to Kill Performance Cars?

As a condition of grazing at the public trough, Congress will be appointing a “Car Czar” to oversee the U.S. auto industry. As with many projects undertaken by Congress, there is a great chance the effort will be misguided and the execution flawed.

Will the incoming Czar know anything about the auto industry they’ll be entrusted to repair? Given they’ll have the reported authority to veto any expenses over $25 million, they will effectively control what vehicles the automakers will produce in the future. In this day and age, it’s pretty difficult to launch any vehicle development program for less than $25 million.

Performance vehicles don’t really fit well with the targets of the administration to reduce “man-made global climate change”. The fact that tens of thousands of climatologists, physicists, and other qualified scientists still say there is no clear indication that climate change is man made seems to play no part in the decision. See this for more information on the debate, and yes, it’s still far from closed, despite what so many would have you believe.

The incoming Obama administration is reportedly mulling over creating an entirely new Federal bureaucracy, dealing directly with climate change and energy policy. The Car Czar will no doubt be in constant communication with this new federal agency (if it ever comes to pass), the EPA, and the Energy Department to ensure the newly designed vehicles don’t step out of line.

Will all of this collaboration and oversight produce vehicles that people actually want to buy? Are performance vehicles even profitable for the automakers to produce in the first place? Because a high performance vehicle by its’ very nature is going to use more resources that one that gives tepid performance.

Or is it? Actually, this could force our automakers to start producing high performance vehicles that are much more “green” than their predecessors. It’s all in how they’re designed. One thing about electric vehicles is that they tend to develop prodigious torque at a very low RPM; 0 RPM to be precise. It’s due to the way electric motors function.

Since the majority of driving in American cities includes a large amount of stop and go situations, this gives electric and hybrid powered vehicles ample time to put their low RPM torque characteristics to good use. What if the high performance vehicle of the future is a diesel-electric hybrid? It’s recently been proven by Audi and Peugeot that diesels don’t have to be slow. In fact, they can be fairly fleet of foot. Audi has used their V-10 TDI power plant to great effect at LeMans.

BMW has just introduced a new, diesel powered 3 series, the 335d. It gives about 35mpg on the highway and can do a 0-60 sprint in 6.1 seconds. Combine a small, turbo diesel that uses modern high pressure injection and fuel management electronics, (like the new BMW) and a high efficiency electric motor(s) and you could be talking real performance with a minimum of environmental impact.

Toyota has been talking about reintroducing the Supra with a V-6 gas / electric hybrid power train. It would definitely be performance oriented, but give decent gas mileage.

Of course there will always be those that contest the need for anything high performance on the grounds that standard performance is all anyone really needs. Take that mindset to extremes and you’ll be walking or taking the bus to work. After all, does anyone really “need” personal transportation?

With new CAFÉ standards, an incoming environmentally friendly administration, and a possible governmental bailout then control of the automotive industry looming, are drivers witnessing the swan song of the performance automobile? Will there ever be another Cadillac CTS-V, Corvette ZR1, Porsche Turbo, or even Charger SRT-8?

Are we to behold a drab and boring future, devoid of automotive excitement? Is it the ‘80’s all over again? Remember the frighteningly tepid vehicles, with dubious quality, and lackluster design we were forced to endure in the dark days of the automobile? Does anyone not see how producing such vehicles pushed the Detroit automakers over a precipice from which they never extricated themselves?

If a “Car Czar” again forces our automakers to produce such rolling trash heaps, we may as well just shut the doors now. Maybe then the UAW would give some union concessions. By the way, how can I get paid $35 an hour to play cards?

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