Thursday, March 12, 2015

The General will cut vehicle warranties from 100,000 miles to 60,000. Same old GM?

General Motors today announced that they will reduce their vehicle warranty by 40,000 miles - from the current 100,000 mile powertrain warranty to 60,000 miles in 2016.

"Through research, we have determined that when purchasing a new vehicle, included maintenance and warranty rank low on the list of reasons why consumers consider a particular brand over another," reads the dealer memo, sent by Chevrolet vice president Brian Sweeney and GMC vice president Duncan Aldred. My take on this comment reinforces my opinion that warranties are nothing more than a marketing tool.

Ignore the PR bull; what this says to me is, "The 100,000 mile warranty seemed like a good idea but it cost us more than it was worth." Why do I say this? Yes some of GM's competitors do not have 100,000 mile powertrain warranties but so what? If the warranty did not cost GM there was no reason to end it.

If a warranty is a neutral in the car buying decision, and if your vehicles have a lower than average warranty cost per vehicle, there is no reason to shorten the warranty. On the other hand, if it is a neutral and your warranty costs per vehicle are higher than average, you have two choices - cut your warranty or improve your products. 

I have no secret info on why General Motors slashed their powertrain warranty but I also don't see any reason for it other than costs. If you have faith in your products GM, reinstate the 100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

While you weren't looking.

Autonomous cars, you know those self-driving cars that are being tested on a road near you, will save mankind. The proponents of self-driving cars say they will eliminate crashes and auto deaths. Over 30,000 people die every year on US highways so that means self-driving cars could save over 30,000 people every single year. A laudable achievement.

But, and there is always a but in order for a complete elimination of auto deaths there will have to be 100% self-driving vehicles on our roads. So while all the car collectors worry about smog inspections, ethanol in gasoline, and all the laws that seem to be aimed at older cars, the high tech industry developed a plan that will take not only the older cars off the highways and byways but all vehicles that require a driver.

How many deaths is your personal freedom worth? I don't have an answer; I don't wish death to anyone, especially not in some horrific car crash,but I don't want to just sit back and enjoy the ride either. I enjoy driving. So what is the answer?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Who is connecting to your car?

Nick Sugimoto, Senior Program Director o Honda's Silicon Valley Lab (HSVL) was the guest speaker at the recent Western Automotive Journalist's February meeting. Honda, like a half dozen or so other auto makers, is interested in the connectivity of vehicles.

I love technology but I also fear the spread of it. I've expressed this before. All of the connectivity might actually be a portal to hack into a car's computer system. Right now any hacking seems to be at the prank level; you know hackers showing that it is possible.

Before dinner I was speaking with a couple of educators. One mentioned something about using the Tire Pressure Monitoring System to hack into a car's computer. What? Intrigued, I Googled the topic. It's true! Up came this site: Just one more thing to worry about.

The proponents of all this techology envision a world of autonomous cars zooming down an Interstate at maximum speed, bumper to bumper. They say that autonomous cars will eliminate auto accidents because the computers will see to that. But are computers infallible? No because they are created and programed by humans.

There was talk at our table about situations where the computer might have to decide between to fatal collisions, kind of a Sophie's Choice. While the idea might be appropriate for a philosophy class I'm not sure the public at large is ready for a "who should die, the mother or the baby" discussion.

So what is my fear about all these computer controls on our cars? Not that some geek will hack in and change your music choices. More along what would happened if an enemy decided to disable a few vehicles on our heaviest traveled routes. Have you seen what has happened to this nation during the recent snow storms? Trucking has been devastated. Now imagine an enemy blockading strategic highways by disabling a mess of computer controlled vehicles.

Think about all those autonomous cars speeding along at 100 mph. Now think of they mayhem if one car - ONE CAR - loses its connectivity while in a group of 20, 50, or 100 other connected cars.

What bothers me is that security seems to be an after thought of all the car companies. "Don't worry, we'll tackle that later" seems to be their attitude. I think we have already seen that these things have to be designed in at the onset, not fiddled with later. When reliability was an after thought the Big 3 almost went under. Let's make computer security part of the design, not something tacked on later.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Musick has Charms to soothe a savage Breast"

Or at least it has the potential to soothe an irate commuter. That is the theory behind Music For Commuting Volumes 7-12 (and Music For Commuting Volumes 1-6 that preceded it) a 3-CD (the CDs are Monday/Tuesday, Wednesday/Thursday, and Friday) box set from Ken Elkinson. Elkinson composed and performs all of the music.

I am not a music critic nor expert. And I do not commute very far any more. For me music is a very personal experience. I listen to music that suits my mood. My mood is not anger very much anymore.

There was a time when I was an angry commuter; there was a time I was angry with the world. I was aggressive and did stupid things. Music did nothing to change my attitude.

Elkinson's music is the type of new-age ambient music that has been played in every spa I've ever been in for a massage. It is relaxing. For me maybe too relaxing. When I've received a massage and ethereal music is played I fall into a dream like world between sleep and awake. This is good when I am getting a massage but not exactly what I want when I am surrounded by deadly weapons travelling at a rapid rate of speed.

Would this music calm an irate driver? Maybe, but I suspect most angry, aggressive drivers would be the last ones to slip one of Elkinson's CDs into the slot. Music For Commuting is for those who want (the operative word is want) to unwind on the drive to or from work. The music allows one to free their mind, to not focus on ones' problems. That can be a good thing as long as you can still drive. You wouldn't get to work all keyed up anticipating what may happen; or conversely you wouldn't get home and start screaming about how stupid so-and-so was at work. I imagine that if you did breathing exercises in sync with Music it would be very calming.

For me, Music For Commuting Volumes 7-12 doesn't work. It's just not me, not in a car. I might put it on at home, maybe as background music while I drink my morning coffee on the patio.

Have a listen and see if it suits you -

Elkinson's music is available for purchase at iTunes and his own web site,

Monday, January 26, 2015

2015 Grand National Roadster Show - Fairplex in Pomona

Rode down to LA with my friend Rick and we both stayed at Mark's. Went to the GNRS on Saturday and Sunday. Both days were beautiful. Large number of cars of all types. Great show.


Jimmie Johnson's LT1, 1971 Corvette. Just about the most tasteful resto rod I've seen.

Hard to see but this is perhaps the strangest engine in the show. It is a Pontiac slant 4-cylinder (essentially half a 326 V8).

Twin grille 1936 Lincoln Zephyr.