AD #1342 – Defect Investigators Under-funded, Viper Drops Out Of Le Mans, Autoline Garage

March 26th, 2014 at 11:52am

Runtime: 7:17

- Defect Investigators Under-funded
- Fuel Cells Ain’t Cheap
- Ram 1500 Pentastar V6 Goes Upscale
- Chrysler 200 V6 EPA Rating
- Viper Drops Out Of Le Mans
- Autoline Garage: Tech Technology

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. I’m Sean McElroy filling in for John once again while he’s out of town. But now let’s look at what’s happening in the global automotive industry.

General Motors has received the brunt of the criticism over its ignition switch defect but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also under fire for not responding to the problem sooner. Safety advocates say part of the issue is the department that investigates defects is under-funded and under-staffed. Bloomberg reports that NHTSA has requested a budget of $850 million for 2015 but only $10.6 million of that is earmarked for the Office of Defects Investigation. That office has 51 employees which is down from 64 in 2002. Those 51 employees track the nation’s nearly 250 million registered vehicles and review over 40,000 complaints NHTSA gets every year from consumers. While there’s no direct link between GM’s recall and under funding at NHTSA, it maybe one reason why the agency wasn’t able to act sooner on this and other recalls.

Toyota and Honda are gearing up to introduce fuel-cell vehicles next year but it’s going to cost you. According to Japan’s Nikkei newspaper, initial prices for the fuel-cells will carry a price of just under $100,000 in Japan. By next decade, Toyota hopes prices will drop to between $30,000 and $50,000. The report said the two companies plan to build 1,000 a year and plan to sell them in the U.S., Japan and Europe in 2015.

It looks like Ram customers can’t get enough of the Pentastar V6 offered in the 1500. The brand will now be offering the engine and 8-speed transmission combo in higher trim levels rather than just base and mid-level entries. It comes at a discounted price too. In Laramie trim the V6 option will be over $1600 cheaper than the 5.7L V8.

And speaking of that Pentastar V6, the EPA just released its ratings for the engine in the new 2015 200 with all-wheel drive. It comes in at 18 miles-per-gallon city, 29 on the highway and 22 MPGs combined, which is not too bad and slots in the middle of its competitors. No word yet on EPA numbers for the 4-cylinder Tigershark engine, but Chrysler claims it will get up to 35 miles-per-gallon on the highway.

Well it looks like things aren’t getting any better for Viper. Last week we reported that production had been halted and that its days-supply was through the roof. Now, president and CEO of the SRT brand, Ralph Gilles says the car won’t be making its return to the 24-hours of Le Mans this year. Last year was the first time the Viper competed in the race since 2000 and lets just say that the two cars it fielded did not finish too well.

And you can bet that will be one of the topics discussed when Ralph joins us for tomorrow nights Autoline After Hours. So if you’ve want to learn more about the company’s performance brand or where Chrysler design is headed, make sure you tune in Thursday at 6PM eastern time at our website

Coming up next, a look at how technicians are keeping up with today’s technologically advanced vehicles.

On Autoline Garage I’ve tried to provide real-world feedback for engineers with some of my own design pet peeves. But this week I’d like to look at the kinds of tools it now takes to properly diagnose today’s computer driven cars.

There’s a saying that you can tell how skilled a technician is just by looking at the tools in their tool box. While true, the kinds of tools required these days are like the vehicles we drive, more sophisticated. So having the right tools for the job is crucial.

Now I don’t want you to be one of those folks that when a check engine light comes on you say, oh you can just hook up a scan tool under the dash and it will tell you exactly what’s wrong. Cause let me tell you that’s flat out wrong.

Here’s a good example. What if a vehicle has a P0302 engine code, which is a cylinder #2 misfire? Should it be interpreted as bad plugs and wires that need replacing? That may be right 8- or 9-times out of ten, but what if a fuel, electrical or mechanical issue is triggering the engine light to come on? A scan tool’s not going to be able tell you that nor will it be able to tell you that the plugs and wires are bad. But they’re absolutely necessary to work on today’s vehicles and will at least start you off in the right direction.

And that direction will usually start off with more tried and true tools like a power probe or multimeter. But some of the more sophisticated tools I used to diagnose vehicles were an engine analyzer, which is an instrument that gathers and displays engine data in electrical wave forms by connecting to various components via things like a high or low current amp probes, vacuum transducers or multiple kinds of leads. And like today’s vehicle technology it’s smaller, faster and more powerful than ever before. Which would allow me to diagnose everything from that cylinder-2 misfire to a slow spinning fuel-pump that causes a hesitation on acceleration but won’t trigger a check engine light.

One other new piece of technology I’ve seen come up only in the last few years is called a micro amp current probe. It’s used for things like module communication wiring current or active wheel speed sensors and its operating range can go as low as 100 microamps. And just to give you an idea, a microamp is one millionth of an amp.

As you may have guessed these tools don’t come cheap. I would guess we had about $50,000 wrapped in scan tools and diagnostic equipment. And some of those necessary scan tools require $1,000 per year in software upgrades to keep them up to date. Not to mention the hours of training needed to learn how to use the tools. So, the next time you see a $100 per hour diagnostic labor rate it may not be too surprising as why. And if you’ve got a technician that has tools like these and has taken the time to learn how to use them, stick with them because they’re one of the good ones.

For Autoline Garage, I’m Sean McElroy

But that’s it for today. Thanks for watching and have a great day.

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93 Comments to “AD #1342 – Defect Investigators Under-funded, Viper Drops Out Of Le Mans, Autoline Garage”

  1. alex wellington Says:

    1. Defect Investigators Underfunded and/or Understaffed?

    Do not underrrate the third possibility, that they are just incompetent. Very convincing, especially if you are familiar with how these people are hired. (Hint: Excellence is just an afterthought)

    I believe there is an intentional effort inside GM to put the focus on the above clowns instead of the GM insiders in this scandal. Very smart PR.

    2. $100,000 for a Fuel Cell POS econobox? This is the tip of the iceberg, the Price. You should ask how much it COSTS to make one. It used to be $1,000,000! Maybe it has gone down by a few hundered thou by now?

    3. The new 200′s poor MPG, small rear seat, etc. THIS, not the irrelevant Viper, should take center stage with Ralph Gilles tomorrow in AAH. And while you are at it, bring up the Fiat 500s and the Dodge Dart’s dismal sales and inventories too.

  2. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Wanna keep the Viper line going?Make the hemi it’s base engine,decontent it down to canyon carving excellence then price accordingly.

  3. HtG Says:

    IBM and Peugeot

    Here’s a link to a piece in Gigaom on IBM working with Peugeot to develop tech that will fuse information from both the car and its surroundings. It’s important more widely because ‘sensor fusion’ is a near term goal, from embedded applications up to the data center.

    Today’s ALD

    I thought that was a very we’ll polished report today, Sean. Thanks

  4. Mike Says:


    You’ve touched on a major problem for mechanics and garage owner’s alike. Traditionally every tech had to buy his own tools. Now with the need for major added electronic tools, it becomes a question of who should be responsible for the capital costs and maintenance costs of those special tools. In the end it has to be the consumer. The problem is the consumer doesn’t want to know; they just want the car to work for 300K miles and not cause problems.

  5. HtG Says:

    Isn’t another dimension of the cost of tools, that the OE wants to make life hard for the independent shop? The OE wants their dealer franchises to be the ones who can work on the cars.

  6. HtG Says:

    off topic

    I have turned off the ‘auto-incorrect’ feature on
    my phone. My apologies.

  7. GaryPaul Says:

    If they had really wanted to make the Viper an exotic super-car but with an all-American twist they would have made it from the start with a more advanced American V8—something like a REAL Hemi & not an engine that is called a hemi even though its far from sporting hemispherical-like combustion chambers as today’s is–crank out 500+ hp, sell it for like $69,995, and share slightly de-tuned Hemis in the Challenger and Charger, etc! And yeah a honking V8 sounds better than the 10 cylinder any day! As it is even with the rough Winter holding back customers, there are so many on the lot you’ll likely be seeing fat hidden dealer rebates to get these machines sold.

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    #1 paragraph #3 Not unless you want other execs to avoid the show in the future.

  9. HtG Says:

    8 I think you’ve got it, Pedro

  10. alex wellington Says:

    8 Sure, but there is a little problem because a few days ago somebody (not me!) complained to John that he was biased against GM because he used to work for Ford. Unfortunately, the soft interview with the person responsible for the new (and really pathetic) Lincoln Navigator did not help disspel the above claim.

  11. alex wellington Says:

    8, 9: I don’t remember ever seeing either a Honda or a Toyota exec on the show, and fail to remember if they ever had a Merc, Porsche or BMW chief either.

    Speaking for myself, always, it would really not be a big loss if some domestic prima-donna’s overpaid execs would not visit, as long as we could have some of the above others, who make far more interesting and truly excellent products.

  12. alex wellington Says:

    PS Kit, yes, I know, it should be prima-donnas without the “‘”.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Whenever they have a company paid “expert” talk about any new model and highlight only it’s good points without any mention of things that are not so good about it, you’re doing a disservice to your audience, sort of what Motorweek had done most of its existence. Example the smallish rear seat in both Malibu and the new 200.

  14. alex wellington Says:

    I think Avis, Herts and Enterprise should all have a very good year in 2014.


    “General Motors is gearing up to begin recalling 1.6-million cars for faulty ignition switches, and in preparation, it has struck deals with rental car agencies Enterprise, Avis and Hertz to reserve thousands of loaner vehicles to serve affected customers. ..”

  15. alex wellington Says:

    #*&! HertZ, not… Herts, above.

  16. HtG Says:

    11 AAH isn’t academia, AW. I grew up in a household where I heard tales of hardball fights between basic science researchers. Execs can talk to whomever they wish.

  17. Chip Says:

    Defect Investigators Underfunded: GM knew about the problem for years. It isn’t the governments fault GM didn’t take care of the problem when they should have. If they did; possibly no deaths; no government investigation; no bad PR; and eveybody would have forgotton about it by now. GM forgets a lot of Republicans don’t like them because of the bailout, and the Union. GM has to cross their t’s and dot their i’s better to get Congress off their backs. If companies would take care of problems when they crop up, there wouldn’t be a need for so much government oversite, and they would be more profitable in the long run.

  18. alex wellington Says:

    16 I never asked that it become Academia. Where did this come from? And having lived in one of Academia’s top institution for over 30 years, and having been a grad student in Academia’s top (bar none) institution in my field for 5 more as a grad student, I am not eager to ask it to become so.

    And in addition, in my post 11 you refer, my mention of “overpaid” US execs was not a comment of their competence or lack thereof, but of the real, huge, difference between Exec pay in the US vs Japan, W Europe etc. Sometimes the US Execs make 10 and 100 times what their (far more successful!) Overseas colleagues make!

    Does the above sound like Academia to you, HtG?

  19. Tony Gray Says:

    Good review on the tools Sean. I knew they were expensive but wow! Now I don’t feel so bad when I head back to Sears for a new Craftsman gadget that costs $50.

  20. marshy Says:

    Nice work on the Garage today. I enjoy the insights from the mechanic’s view point. Keep it up.

  21. alex wellington Says:

    19, 20 yes, Sean seems to have a lot of technical knowledge/experience.

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    GM will escape from this unscathed by blaming it on “Old GM” and they’ll swear up and down and sideways as well that this could not happen in the new GM. Where safety and the well being of their customers is their #1 priority, not making money or grabbing market share.

  23. HtG Says:

    18 I only trying to say that rigorous debate between experts exploring different ideas is very different than the position a journalist is in when interacting with a powerful exec. I have an inside view on both these worlds, AW, plus the power relations of govt, so I’m not too tough on AAH for being more welcoming. I still hear plenty.

  24. C-Tech Says:

    Out of curiosity, how big does a back seat have to be?

  25. alex wellington Says:

    17 Yes, but the chair of the Congressional Committee will be Michigan’s Fred Upton, a Republican, and uncle (I believe) of that gorgeous Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.

    I doubt that Fred will be too hard on GM. If he is, he will get a ton of grief for hurting a major company (perhaps the major company) of his own state.

  26. Lex Says:

    @ 5 HTG, I agree with you! The OEM’s want you to go your local dealership for maintenance and repairs. This is what I do. I scan my local dealers websites for discounts and coupons for oil changes, service and parts. I have seen too many people spend too much time and money farting around with local repair shops. If the Dealer does not get it or make it right you can always contact the OEM District Manager or Home Office for help. Some dealerships will even help you out if the first one did not get it right to win over your loyalty.

  27. alex wellington Says:

    23. There are plenty of hard interview shows (like in the OLD, not the current, 60 minutes), which have nothing Academic in them. That was all I asked for, not some Academic discussion in AAH.

    24. In a sports coupe, not too big. In a FAMILY SEDAN, like the Malibu or the 200, and not a compact one at that, (like the Civic-Corolla-Cruze), it has to be quite generous. Even if Americans had not become obese sea elephants in the last 30 years or so.

  28. HtG Says:

    26 White Plains Honda gets my business, Lex

  29. pedro fernandez Says:

    #24 well ctech that would depend on what type of vehicle is it, a sporty 2 door does not need a roomy back because most of the time it’s empty, however a “family” sedan should have enough back seat room to make even a long trip comfortable, this Sentra I’m driving now has more rear seat room than even the new Cherokee I tested out a couple of months ago, more than acceptable IMO

  30. Brett Says:

    If the regulatory agency is under-funded and under-staffed, those who are supposed to be regulated are pretty much free to do as they wish.

    If it is not the regulatory agency’s responsibility to find problems it is certainly their responsibility to instill an abiding interest in the regulated that they keep their house in order.

  31. HtG Says:

    27 You’d prolly like the BBC’s Hard Talk radio show with Steven Sacker. HolyMoly does he give the ‘guests’ a shellacking.

  32. pedro fernandez Says:

    Besides wasn’t one of the benefits of going FWD to give max interior space with the least exterior size possible? most people have forgotten that tidbit, this Sentra has less width in the front footwell than my much smaller Corolla, it’s taken up by the giant center console.

  33. gary susie Says:

    GM’s problem was that it was run by bean counters and not car people. You can bet some MBA said lets see if we can slip this by.

  34. C-Tech Says:

    The new 200 gets better mileage than comparable Subarus. Why is this dismal?

  35. Sean McElroy Says:

    #5 – When it comes to getting the upgrades for something like a factory scan tool it’s not all that hard to get. You just have to be willing to shell out the $$$$ every year. But when trying to get some things like a repair procedure, torque spec or wiring diagram for a new vehicle it can, at times, be impossible. And not having something like a wiring diagram can force a independent to send a customer to the dealer. We only had to do that a few times, but it still happens.

  36. C-Tech Says:

    The problems with Viper sales in my opinion is that there is no promotion. When it was part of Dodge it was featured in some commercials and dealers were more willing to keep one around. Many casual buyers think it is still discontinued.

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    As a street engine, does a real hemi have any particular advantage over a pent roof, wedge, or whatever the current “hemi” is? Does is have any advantage over the shape of the current Chevy V8 combustion chamber? As I remember, the old single 4 bbl 392 hemi was rated at 345 GROSS horsepower in a ’58 New Yorker. That would equate to, what, 250-275 the way they now rate them, not too impressive. The dual quad 426 hemi was rated at 425 gross horsepower, or something like that. These new, pent roof, wedge, or whatever pushrod engines make more power for their size in street trim than the real hemis ever did.

    When it comes to burning nitro and running lots of blower boost, actual hemis must have some big advantage, since fuel dragsters are still using them, even the the junk yard ’51′-’58 Chryslers are long since used up.

  38. Kit Gerhart Says:

    17, Some of us think that Congress has more important things to deal with than the switch thing, even things related to preventable deaths. More people in the U.S. probably shoot each other to death in a day, than (may) have died over 10 years as a result of the switch problem. Congress doesn’t seem to consider that a problem.

  39. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I’ve always looked at hemis as being somewhat over rated in street versions.Back in the musclecar days people drooled over getting a street hemi only to be embarrassed by the older 426 wedge and max wedge engines,then the 440 sixpaks really did them in…ON THE STREET.On the sanctioned drag strips,they still rule.

  40. Kit Gerhart Says:

    39, Yeah, I think many, or most of the magazines got better quarter mile time from the 440′s than the hemis. The hemis are the ones to have bought new and kept, though. It’s crazy what they will bring in collector auctions.

  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    One advantage the hemis had, at least the small Dodge hemi my parents had, is that they didn’t seem to lead foul plugs as badly as other engines. My aunt had a ’49 Cadillac at the same time my parents had a ’55 Dodge with a hemi. If you got on it hard, the Caddy would missfire from lead fouling after 3000 miles on new plugs, but the hemi didn’t have that problem, even after 10,000 mile on the plugs. Maybe the higher compression hemis in Chryslers were worse, though. The Dodge hemi was lower compression, and used regular gas.

  42. alex wellington Says:

    34 Very interesting point. I have driven a turbo Subaru, don’t even think it was more than a 2-lt i4 or so, and it also had dismal mileage.

    I drove it on rough country roads in a small island, where a former high school classmate, a very successful, self-made businessman in the transportation industry, has a compound where he invites a ton of friends each August. As you may have guessed, he is a very simple person, that’s why he did not have a Cayenne Turbo instead. (His own business car was an S class with the smallest available engine, and before that an elegant E class coupe, both bought so the bankers don’t think he is penniless..LOL

    Back to the topic, I drove that Subaru Turbo on these rough country roads, (hard, not hypermiling) and was amazed how fast the fuel gauge would go to zero.

    So if Subarus have the same MPG as the AWD 200, it is nothing to brag about.

  43. alex wellington Says:

    31 never heard him but think I know the type. It must be a British vs American thing, too. I remember going to conferences (not just academic, there were plenty of industry engineers there too), and invariably, when anybody presented a paper, the questions from the Americans in the audience would be softballs or at worst, requests for information, while the Brits would really go for the jugular and were not polite at all about it.

  44. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The closest current Subaru to the 200 V6 AWD would be the Legacy 6. It has EPA numbers of 18-25, while the 200 V6 AWD gets 18-29 ratings.

  45. Kit Gerhart Says:

    44 ….and the Chrysler 300 V6 AWD has ratings of 18-27. That would be my choice of the three cars, but the RWD 300 would certainly be my choice over any of them.

  46. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ 41,Kit: I think the ‘lead fouling’ was more due to the way the car was driven,ie: not getting into it once and a while.Also,the 6 volt coild didn’t put out to much as compared to the 12 volt system.I’m sure you remember one of the low buck hot rodding things was to use a 6 volt coil on a 12 volt system.It worked.

  47. Kit Gerhart Says:

    46, Lead fouling was more of a problem if the car was always driven “gently,” as may have been the case with my aunt’s Cadillac, but lead fouling was a problem for all cars, until the lead was gone from the gas.

    My parents had a ’71 Plymouth Satellite with a 383 V8. It received a mixture of around-town commuting, and highway driving for the ~10 years they had it. For the first few years, it would miss from lead fouling when run hard, probably within 5-7K miles of getting new plugs. Also, with leaded gas, the electrodes of plugs eroded about .001 inch/thousand miles, as the lead deposited on plug electrodes alloyed with the steel causing them to erode. After 1976 or so, when unleaded gas was the norm, the same car ran perfectly after 20K miles on the same plugs and, as I remember, the electrodes eroded less than half as quickly. Another huge advantage of unleaded gas, in addition to our not having to breathe so much poison, is that mufflers last much longer. The lead compound that deposited in mufflers somehow alloyed with the steel, causing them to rot out much quicker.

  48. GaryPaul Says:

    #32—yes Pedro.–Regarding the idea of big-time fwd adoption here in USA… The idea was to make the powertrain more compact and get rid of the drive-shaft to the rear (hogging space) thus combined with a slightly taller roof allowing the same or slightly more space while downsizing the given size class of vehicle. Thus cars like the Citation (compact) replaced the Nova, the Toronado/Eldorado fwd platform (huge persoanl luxury type vehicles) was downsized and also given to the Buick Riviera (which had been rwd), etc…, although some downsized vehicles remained rwd for a while, like the full-sized rwd cars and the mid-sizers. And sometimes they push so hard while using one platform that catalytic conv., exhaust, electronic devices, etc. cause bulges and interfere with the spaciousness that is supposed to be there like on the last 2014 MKZ I drove. There’s a sizable lump under the from seat passenger’s feet!

    Regarding the darn console–which i agree can indeed be handy–there should be options to get rid of this thing at least on some of the bigger vehicles and offer a damn easy to get into and highly adjustable bench seat. What do think will happen as a wave of fat, out of shape baby boomers want to go out somewhere to do what else?–EAT. They want to do it with ease and comfort. And not everybody wants to throw their entire laptop, briefcase, small TV, soda cans, etc all into their console like the monstrous one on the Dodge Ram—forcing people to get an extended cab if they only occasionally need to transport 3rd person….

  49. GaryPaul Says:

    #33–yes bean counters and managers that not only don’t know jack about automotive product, since so many were advanced though nepotism and who ya know, they really honestly do not like the auto business and find people who are passionate about auto to be “odd troublemakers that we have to watch and gang up on.” I was there working with a big automaker—and I saw this kind of nonsense first hand. If dead heads who muck-up the system were not there we”s all be driving flying cars by now…

  50. Kit Gerhart Says:

    48, The Cadillac Sedan DeVille/DTS was probably the last front drive car available without a console. As far as space efficiency, there is not much to be gained with front drive in a car that big, but selling the car without the console certainly made sense. I think the first generation Toyota Avalon was available sans console, but I don’t think it is any more.

    You can get a Dodge Ram, and the other big pickups without a console, but a lot of them seem to have the consoles. Maybe the higher trim levels have consoles standard. I’ll have to check that out.

  51. Kit Gerhart Says:

    48, I remember those first Toronadoes in 1966, had a nearly flat floor in the back, good in case you had three passengers back there.

  52. alex wellington Says:

    The “week in petroleum” from the EIA just came out with an article about Florida and how March is the peak gas consumption month of the year there, and how in the summer it is actually minimum as many leave the state to avoid the heat.

    It also showed gasoline inventories US-wide down 5 million barrels weekly and separately I checked gas prices in my town and midgrade is approaching $4 again.

  53. GaryPaul Says:

    #36: Regarding the Vipers sales woes—

    Yes you are right yet about trying to get the word about that the thing exists although Winter desire for a machine like this is limited especially this Winter…

    If the Viper is associated with Dodge that is cool but 99% of Dodge customers do not have the $$ or interest in this vehicle that is very limited in its usefulness—just look at how many are NOT driven by seeing the milage on the used Vipers! Thus the idea of marketing a vehicle through Dodge was ended and the SVT brand took over. But its still sold at a Dodge/Ram/Chrysler/Jeep Dealership aint it? So it’s kind of like buying a Porsche turbo awd at a Yugo Dealer… If they keep pushing and developing the SVT Brand it might work but seems to me likely to fail with products as high priced as the Viper… that’s why they need to knock tens of thousands of $ off the price and make it more accessible and affordable if they want to keep it around. Of course I think that overall they should concentrate on vehicles like real American Muscle Cars / Pony Cars for a maximum of $50 grand and stop wasting $$ on the Viper–It doesn’t fit in with the image of any of the brands and is just priced out of reach of the guys shopping there. I know it’s supposed to be a halo car but a $50,000 500hp real Hemi Challenger is a Halo-car too and much more accessible and fits in with the Dodge image. I say let the Viper die and get on with vehicles that aren’t so exotic. With the upcoming Challenger Hellcat at what– 600 or more hp (supercharged)?–that might fit the bill more appropriately for 1/2 the price of a Viper and people will actually drive it and you’ll actually see it o the street!

  54. alex wellington Says:

    2015 Merc C300: S-class for Buick $!

    ESTIMATED BASE PRICE: C300, $38,000

    turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter inline-4, 241 hp (mfr-s est), 272 lb-ft

    TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

    Wheelbase: 112.0 in – EXCELLENT for its length!
    Length: 184.0 in
    Width: 71.0 in Height: 56.8 in
    Curb weight (C/D est): 3400-3800 lb

    Zero to 60 mph: 5.0-6.6 sec – 20 years ago only Merc V8s could do that, BARELY.

    Top speed: 130 mph

  55. pedro fernandez Says:

    The GM 1st gen FWD cars had awesome front and rear leg room, great visibility with high greenhouse sitting and low dashboards, minimum humps in the middle and column mounted shifters, 3 abreast sitting, front and rear that is how they sold us on the FWD idea then bit by bit it all went away.

  56. GaryPaul Says:

    #37–yes–regarding a real hemi type engine it may not have the advantages that many people claim. In fact I would rather they get off the darn years of claiming “it’s a hemi” when engines that are not hemis (including the modern Dodge Hemi)actually make the same or more power at a moderate price.

    Developing a real Hemi may indeed not offer what is needed to make real performance and drivability gains for the dollar, but heck if the Viper with so much of it made by hand at a special factory can be justified to act as a halo vehicle then if they could market a functioning brute American Street V8 like in the old days it might a lot more sense. This new hellcat should be interesting if they can keep the price well under $60K.

  57. Sean McElroy Says:

    @Lex & C-Tech – Well I looked into it… product improvement suggestions… and here’s what I came up with (from Feb 26th). Most OEMs will take suggestions from almost any source, even social media, but your best bet seems to be a customer contact center. However, it seems that those suggestions will fall on deaf ears. One almost outright stating it. Another said that due to the ownership of intellectual property, it’s unable to accept direct product design and engineering suggestions from customers or the general public. So, even if there was someone in one of those product focus groups that knew what they were talking about, it does not sound like it would do much good anyhow.

  58. GaryPaul Says:

    39: Right again—the 426 street hemis offered to the general public for 6 years starting in the 1966 models year were good engines but the more conventional wedge engines —even MOPAR’s own 440 would clip them in the ET, cost a lot less $$ to purchase, were easy to tune (at least the 4 bbl 440 magnum), and overall gave plenty of satisfaction…

    Today the desire for the 426 hemi from the 60s is understandable as its a pleasure to polish and primp over it and drive a lot (like a whole 2000 miles a year, if that), but day to day it is a different story living with it….And recall those Hemi beasts typically drank a lot of engine oil so better keep plenty available if you take a trip!

  59. HtG Says:

    Viper at Le Circuit de la Sarthe

    One thing about the performance of big block cars like Viper or Corvette competing in GT classes which rots, is that there are all kinds of performance balancing steps taken by the sanctioning bodies to slow some cars down. Supposedly this leads to better racing.

    I feel safe saying that Ralph Gilles would be delighted to talk about this issue on AAH. And by ‘delighted,’ I mean he’d rather not.

  60. GaryPaul Says:

    #51: Yes and I owned one of those monsters from the 60′s! Those fwd Toronados were tanks with flat floors—no bumps or humps. I had the W34 version. That had the higher performance 455 (an added 25hp, true dual exh, hotter cam, cold air intake. i recall blowing the doors off some dolt in a Mercedes back in the pathetic performance late 70s, and he could not believe my tank could clobber’m.

  61. pedro fernandez Says:

    I think even pickups are getting away from bench seats, for the sake of having your own personal buckets with the huge console, even though they’re wide enough to sit 3 comfortably in a bench seat, just like the rear, I don’t get it!

  62. HtG Says:


    Word on the air is that the CK household will not be acquiring a BMW i3. There goes a good story, shot.

  63. HtG Says:

    61 they’re becoming luxury rides with loads of pricey options, no?

  64. HtG Says:

    It begins

    Mary Barra just put up several videos on YouTube, talking about the ignition matter. She’s framing the story.

    From Automotive News

  65. GaryPaul Says:

    #61: Yes the lack of innovation regarding the bench seat is an effort to get more folks to fork over more more $$ to buy extended cabs and bigger vehicles just like Ford Motor Co (in an analagy here) took the Panther series (Crown Vic/ Mercury Grand M and Lincoln T/C) and got rid of the class III trailer tow (along with GM) when they were the only ones to offer 5000 lbs towing in a car and they did this to get more people to fork over $$ for an Explorer or Expedition or Navigator or the Alligator (jus’ kidding—there was no Alligator). I still think what with push-button transmissions getting rid of the need for a big transmission stickign right in the way, that the time is ripe for this type seat to make a comeback…

    Of course I think it only applies to some cars and vehicles! I don’t want a Miata with a bench seat!!

  66. Brett Says:

    My father had a 1969 Olds Toronado. 455cid with 11:1 compression. Went like a bat and handled like a pig. :) Lovely car, though.

    He traded my 1952 Mk VII Jaguar saloon for it while I was away in Alaska. I was a little disappointed about it, but I couldn’t afford to maintain that thing anyhow.

  67. C-tech Says:

    Thank you Sean. TNice piece on the cost of tools. It also helps to note, the struggle of a young technician to buy all the hand and air tools needed to earn a living, sometimes drives them into other professions. When did a computer programmer have to bring their own computer to work? I never saw a lab tech have to buy test tubes!

  68. Kit Gerhart Says:

    65, There wasn’t an Alligator, but there was an Extortion, wasn’t there?

  69. pedro fernandez Says:

    What do you guys think about the fact that the Japanese brands are embracing CVT’s like crazy in their most important cars, while the rest of the auto world is not, instead going for more and more gears or double clutch stuff? are they taking a big gamble on CVT’s in the sense that they may have long term durability and reliability issues vs traditional automatics? Jut today I saw a review of the new Civic coupe with CVT, I drove this CVT Sentra to a client who just got a CVT Accord and so on.

  70. XA351GT Says:

    I agree with G.A. a V8 Viper would be great at a Corvette price, It is a hard sell to move a 100K Dodge or SRT or whatever else you want to call it. There are other Fiat products ( Ferrari) in that price range that have a better reputation . The other thing is the exhaust note. With a V8 the Viper would finally have proper growl. The V10 sounds like crap.

  71. Ziggy Says:

    1.1. Please enlighten us as to how these people are hired, I want to hear exactly what you know about it since I doubt you know the first thing about it. Give us the details CK, I mean AW, sorry about blowing your cover.

  72. pedro fernandez Says:

    AW is not CK

  73. T. Bejma Says:


    CK not getting the car that he came close to calling PERFECT?!?!?

    Do you know why HtG? Inquiring minds want to know ;-)

  74. pedro fernandez Says:

    Perhaps that half-baked generator POS was the deal breaker, I, on the other hand, look at CVT’s differently now after driving one for a week.

  75. Kit Gerhart Says:

    69, Honda and Toyota must think CVT’s will be reliable, to use them in Accord and Corolla. Nissan and Subaru have been using them in their high volume cars for several years, so they should have good data on the reliability. Audi used them for a while, but I think they use fewer now, maybe using DSG’s instead. It seems that CVT’s have not been used by anyone on high powered cars, like over around 200 hp. Maybe I’m forgetting something, though.

  76. Kit Gerhart Says:

    62, 73 etc.
    I was surprised that he would have ever considered it, given his apparent hatred for all things EV and carbon fiber. Of what I know, it is probably a good EV, but a poor plug-in hybrid.

  77. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit the Nissan V6 does come with CVT and 270 hp, that may be the most powerful combo of any brand that offers CVT. Honda Accord only comes with the 4 cyl and so does Camry, I believe.

  78. Kit Gerhart Says:

    74, Interesting, but not surprising about the CVT. Automotive “journalists” always seem to hate CVT’s, but people who actually drive them regularly like them. I’m still waiting to talk to someone with a CVT equipped Nissan with a lot of miles, to find out how it has held up.

  79. pedro fernandez Says:

    Seems like Nissan is the most into CVT while Toyota only has it on the Corolla (optional) and the Camry Hybrid for now, Honda offers it on the Civic and the Accord 4 cyl, only. I can’t believe the mpg’s I’m getting on the Sentra, I got it last Thurs with 3/4 tank full and I have not added gas yet. Corolla needs every 4 days.

  80. Kit Gerhart Says:

    77, I was thinking the Altima V6 had a regular automatic like the V6 Accord. CVT’s are used in higher powered cars than I remembered.

  81. pedro fernandez Says:

    Yep, there is also the Nissan Pathfinder with the V6 and CVT as well.

  82. alex wellington Says:

    71 If you really believe I am CK you are really, really not very bright nor very observant.

    But since you protest me telling the truth about how people are hired in Government (NOT based on Excellence or Accomplishments or Qualifications but on things like diversity, multiculturalism, geographical distribution, and thinny veiled quotas), maybe you are one of these…

    64 Who cares what kind of snow job Barra is doing on You Tube?

  83. alex wellington Says:

    I once thought Marchionne is doing a good job because, originally, he was able to make silk purses out of sow(‘s) ears.

    But every recent utterance of this clown makes me despise him more and more.

    Just today he blabbered about the failed Dart’s successor, and claimed that the current Dart is too… overqualified for its sector!

    Maybe he meant it is an overweight, overpriced, poor competitor to the likes of not only the Corolla, Civic, Cruze and Focus (OK, and Sentra and Jetta),

    It is no secret that one reason Dart sales failed miserably is that one could get a refreshed Chrysler 200 for Dart money.

    And in the minds of many, in addition, Chrysler is more upscale than Dodge, as the late Mercury was more upscale to Ford, and as the late Oldsmobile, the equally late Pontiac, and the soon-to-be-late Buick were more upscale than Chevy.

  84. alex wellington Says:

    “Ohio Senate panel approves bill allowing Tesla retail stores”

    From Automotive News. It is apparently a compromise between Tesla and the Dealers, they will allow only 3 Tesla Stores, but with Columbus, Cincin and Cleveland the “big 3″ cities in OH, it covers a lot of ground. Toledo is pretty big too, but it is only couple hours drive to Clev or Columbus from there.

  85. alex wellington Says:

    “Toyota buying back stock for first time since 2009 as cash grows”

    More serious news from Automotive news. Hey Mary Barra and Alan Mulally and Sergio: If you are as confident about your companies as Toyota execs (who make a TINY FRACTION in salary of what you, deservedly, or most often not, make), here is your opportunity to buy back your own shares!

  86. alex wellington Says:

    And in the case of Mary Barrra, “GM shares are down almost 14 percent since Barra took the helm Jan. 15 through Tuesday, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has risen.” (

    I somehow had a feeling that our other avid reader and quoter of Automotive News (proudly touting it as “facts” too), would not tell you this little gem!

  87. HtG Says:

    82 re 64 Barra

    When the CEO of a company that got lynched in congress a few years ago begins a public campaign to frame the narrative, I’m making a sandwich and cracking open a brew.*

    Who volunteers to watch the TV for me?

    *ok, maybe I’m not a big fan of the critters in DC.

  88. alex wellington Says:

    87 I can think of a million better things to do!

    Life is too short to waste on her excuses.

    Dog ate my Homework, the CEO version.

  89. HtG Says:

    Barra can prolly also think of other things she’d rather be spending her valuable time on. I wonder how her bracket is doing.

  90. alex wellington Says:

    Who cares what Barra is doing? (Except as a taxpayer, I wish GM does not go bankrupt again, of course)

  91. alex wellington Says:

    87 Oh Really? GM “got lynched in congress”? They are the victims? Not the taxpayers who bailked these bums out? Not the fools who bought =GM’s (again, Barra’s OWN words) CRAPPY vehicles???

    I am sure you now have second thoughts about writing that gem!

  92. HtG Says:

    Second thoughts

    When the govt kahk hand brigade destroys the financial system so there’s no loans to be had, and the southern gentlemen rrrepresentahhtives carry watahh for Hoonday, then publicly lambaste GM and Chrysler, I’ll call Lynch Mob.

  93. jmann Says:

    #57 Well, I suspect it depends on your source. Where I was, we sent engineers in person to hear what customers had to say. The most relevant info. possible! This is extremely important because you can often nip problems in the bud. We didn’t advertise this, we just did it. It’s just good business.