Posted by: engineguy | September 29, 2007

How Do Most of Us Make a Car Buying Decision?

Once car buyers decide on a an import or domestic brand, they aren’t likely to change their preference, suggests a new study by the consultancy J.D. Power & Associates.

According to the 2007 “Escaped Shopper Study,” which looks at why consumers consider one model but ultimately purchase another, about 50% of vehicles bought in the U.S. market are imports, but about 80% of new-vehicle buyers limit their considerations to include only domestic models or only import models.

Per the study–based on responses from 31,355 new-vehicle buyers surveyed between May and July–among the 20% who cross-shop both import and domestic vehicles, those who buy a domestic vehicle tend to do so because they decide they do not want an import, not because they wanted a domestic vehicle.

J.D. Power & Associates’ study finds that buyers of domestic new vehicles also tend to decide against import brands for financial reasons, such as a lack of aggressive rebates or other incentives from import brands.

By contrast–and probably to no one’s surprise–import buyers who reject domestic models do so, per the study findings, because of “perceived” deficiencies, such as concerns about reliability, gas mileage or poor resale value.

The key term may be “perceived” since J.D. Power notes that perception is a lingering problem for domestics, the quality of whose vehicles has improved dramatically in recent years.

Tom Gauer, senior director of the firm’s auto retail research, says that although domestics have made tremendous strides on inherent quality of vehicle — “Night and day from where they were years ago” — the issue when dealing with customer perception is that it is difficult and time-consuming to get consumers’ images to change.

By way of example, he says Jaguar has been ranking high in the the firm’s satisfaction studies. “But people think they still have a lot of problems. The market needs time.”

Kara Steslicki, research manager of the automotive retail practice at J.D. Power, adds that, among those consumers who look only at imports and domestics, the numbers have tended to skew toward import brands. “In 2003, there were a higher percentage of people only shopping domestics,” she says. “This year, we see it reversed.”

The study also found that nearly 40% of all new-vehicle shoppers cite price as a key reason for rejecting a model. Also, about 45% of new-vehicle shoppers took a test drive before rejecting a model. More than 60% of those who rejected a vehicle said they researched a vehicle online, with more than 20% saying the Internet influenced their decision to reject a model.

The study also found that consumers who shop for a hybrid are less likely to reject such a vehicle because of its price than those who shop for a non-hybrid, but not by much: 53% of hybrid shoppers reject such a vehicle for price, versus 59% of non-hybrid vehicle shoppers.



From an article by Karl Greenberg of Media Post


Posted by: engineguy | September 29, 2007

Thinking about a new car? Here’s something good to know.

Here are “Car and Driver’s” Top 10
Safest Vehicles for Less Than $25K.

2008 Saturn Astra
2008 Scion XB
2008 Hyundai Sonata
2008 Volkswagen Rabbit
2007 Mini Cooper
Toyota Camry
2008 Volvo C30
2008 Dodge Charger
 2008 Honda Accord
2008 Mazda CX-7


Posted by: engineguy | August 27, 2007

Zen and the Art of Life

A Little Zen Sarcasm Just for Fun — 21 Ways to Keep Us From Taking Ourselves Too Seriously

1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me the heck alone.

2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tire.

3. It is always darkest before dawn. So if you’re going to steal your neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it.

4. Don’t be irreplaceable. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

5. Always remember that you’re unique. Just like everyone else.

6. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

7. If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

8. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.

9. If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.

10. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

11. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

12. If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

13. Some days you’re the bug; some days you’re the windshield.

14. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.

15. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it in your pocket.

16. A closed mouth gathers no foot.

17. Duct tape is like ‘The Force’. It has a light side and a dark side, and it binds the universe together.

18. There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.

19. Generally speaking, you aren’t learning much when your lips are moving.

20. Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.

21. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

Posted by: engineguy | August 27, 2007

Honda’s Acura In Race To Boost Rep As Performance Luxury

Honda’ Acura brand has for the first time entered racing this year with a factory-backed team as part of an effort to boost its reputation as a performance luxury brand versus companies like BMW, Porsche and Audi.

Acura has three cars in the prototype division of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). The cars were developed by Santa Clarita, Calif.-based Honda Performance Development and are raced by Andretti Green Racing, Lowe’s Fernandez Racing and Highcroft Racing.

Acura races in a prototype class called P2, whose million-dollar-plus vehicles look nothing like production cars, resembling instead the low-slung cars raced in Formula-style events. Porsche also fields vehicles in the P2 class, and Mazda also races. The larger LMP1 class vehicles–in which Audi is the only factory brand this year–are the most powerful cars in American Le Mans.

American Le Mans series is unique in auto racing

What makes the 12-event-per-year American Le Mans series unique in auto racing is that races have a free-for-all quality because four classes of vehicles–including modified Porsche, Ferrari, Panoz and Corvette production cars–race simultaneously on the same track, and rules are less strict even when it comes to fans’ access to vehicles and teams: minutes before races, fans crowd the pre-race grid, swarming cars, snapping photos and even chatting up drivers.

“It’s the most relevant series in racing today because the rules are open and flexible,” says Robert Clarke, president of Honda Performance Development.

Wes Brown, automotive market consultant with Los Angeles-based marketing firm Iceology, says that Acura’s success off the track and on the marketing circuit will depend on its not being shy about promoting the cars in advertising and PR, something that Acura’s sibling, Honda–which made a name in CART and Formula–has done over the years.

“This is a much more affluent and educated audience, along the lines of Formula 1,” he says. “I think what played into Honda’s success in ’80s and ’90s–with younger guys especially–was the fact that Honda was so heavily involved in CART and F1, and they had strong marketing campaigns that tied into the fact that ‘what we learn in racing is making its way into your vehicles in concrete ways’,” he says.

Clarke alluded to that at a presentation at Lime Rock (Conn.) Park last week during the sixth race of the season. He said the Honda’s premium division decided to enter racing to boost Acura’s performance reputation and credibility both to consumers in the U.S. and Canada and worldwide as Acura expands into China and Japan.

“We joined American Le Mans because it gave us the clearest positioning versus world-class brands,” he says. “American Honda wanted to establish Acura as a luxury and performance brand, so racing became a clear priority for Honda.”

Clarke says Honda technology–such as VTEC (variable valve timing and lift electronic control), via F1, and metallurgic advances via Honda’s CART program–are used in mass-production cars.

“That kind of message and positioning appeal to that 18-to-35-year-old guy into motor sports,” says Brown. “That I can get a VTEC engine from the Formula 1 world in my car, for example – that clear linkage between motor sports and road vehicles that says you can get racing-bred performance in an everyday car–that has a tremendous effect on a brand’s reputation.”

Acura must create its own performance/luxury image if it’s going to compete

And, while Honda touted its racing roots, Acura benefited as well, by extension. But Brown says that, as the Honda brand has evolved away from racing and as the company has moved to separate Acura and Honda – with separate design studios in separate buildings, for instance– with the likes of Audi and BMW, both of which strongly identify with racing.

“They have a brand promise and an emotional connection around it, and they spend a lot on motor sports. So Acura’s success will depend on how they are going to market this activity to the consumer, so it’s not just for the enthusiast. If they do it properly, it will help strengthen the Acura brand and its link with the male owner base.”

The author, Karl Greenberg can be reached at


Posted by: engineguy | August 26, 2007

Who Is Axel Friedrich, and Is He An Idiot?

Axel Friedrich and people like him are going to kill our enjoyment of our cars and the open road. Not because they are mean. But because of their blundering policy-making and their mistaken ideas to “help” the environment.

Axel Friedrich is one of Europe’s top environmental regulators and unfortunately for Germany, he’s also head of the transport department at Germany’s Federal Environmental Agency. And no, he’s not an idiot. He only seems like one because he supports making lighter-weight, smaller and, therefore, more dangerous cars with under-powered engines to reduce emissions and save fuel. But, mind you, only until better technologies emerge. Which may be at least twenty years away.

I’m writing about him here because he recently spoke at a hearing of the European Union regulators last month. And there is the suspicion (read fear) among many of us that “as goes Europe, so goes the U.S.” In the same way we always say, “as goes California, so goes the nation.” But now with the environmental movement’s top political radicals carrying on as if everyone but them wants dirty air, dirty water and “global warming,” we’d better be paying attention. This is serious stuff, folks.

Or we’ll find ourselves driving cars that we DO NOT want to drive. And sadly, not because we don’t have a real ability available to us right now for cutting emission drastically. But because these radical elements will beat us to the punch with their solutions — totally impractical, overbearing regulations and very discomforting to us. You know what I mean.

Do you want to live with those kinds of laws?

Of course not. So listen-up. This is important. I’ll show you there is already some strong medicine on the market that will cut emissions, increase mpg and horsepower. But first let me show you the dangers of quietly waiting for Friedrich.

Herr Friedrich hired a group of university engineers to find ways to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from Volkswagen AG’s best selling Golf. And further, to do this without undermining safety or performance. Well, what a great idea. But it’s been done. (And I’ll show you how and where.)

The “team” reported back that they had cut emissions by 25% while keeping Golf’s horsepower intact. But are we ready for the means they used to perform this feat? Volkswagen wasn’t pleased.

You see, the “team’s” trick was to reduce the car’s weight by substituting a variety of things, such as installing lightweight front seats similar to those used in race cars. Volkswagen complained that this would make it harder to get into the car, and thus, less appealing to consumers. Other alterations the “team” and Friedrich came up with would make the car too expensive for most buyers. Again,Volkswagen wasn’t amused or pleased, at all.

Herr Friedrich, with all the hautiness of a French waiter, said, “We all know what to do. It’s nothing magic.”

No, mein herr, apparently we ALL don’t know what to do, least of all you! I am so sick and tired of the idea that to save fuel and reduce emissions we have to make smaller, lighter cars with smaller under-powered engines. That’s wrong and it shows a nearly complete lack of imagination and creativity.

But since when have most car-makers been imaginative and creative? I can’t believe it. They really don’t even have to “think outside the box” as the mavens of innovation tell us to do. The problem is so simple anyone can understand it and devise the answer in a moment’s thought.

The problem is friction. The answer is to reduce friction.

That’s it. That’s all of it. And it can be done easily.

Why is this so hard for them to understand?

The single thing that causes lower fuel efficiency, also causes lower horsepower and higher exhaust emissions. And this single thing is friction within the internal combustion engine and the moving parts that run the vehicle — transmission, differential, wheels and so on. Including the drag we’ve all felt when we turn on our car’s or truck’s air-conditioner.

Sure, it’s big. And it’s very real. A Department of Energy study shows that friction alone — just friction — causes losses of up to 85% of a vehicle’s power between the engine and where the tires meet the pavement. That’s a hard study finding to swallow. But the DOE stands behind it. Of course, much depends on driving conditions, the driver and other factors. Personally, I usually take most study findings and cut them in half. But here, that means we still have a 70% loss of power from friction. That’s not acceptable either.

But with the politically-driven push by government and environmentalists on the auto industry to reduce emissions right this moment — right now! — especially Carbon Dioxide, is going to result in just what we will fear most. Flimsily built, lightweight cars with small engines that few people will want to buy. And few of us will want to drive.

Why? Because that’s the quick answer. Not the best answer nor the right answer. But it sure beats having to actually think and solve the real problem: friction. This calls for a complete reversal in the car-makers mind-set in an unrealistically short time. We will get trash. Does anyone remember the Seventies? And the cars that Detroit scrambled to make to please the CAFE standards? Junk, most of them, anyway.

How to boost fuel economy and reduce emissions is a very emotional topic in Germany. The German automotive industry makes some of the world’s greatest cars. And one out of seven German jobs depends on the auto industry. Needless to say, German auto-makers are worried. And German auto-workers are worried, too. As well they both should be.

“This is a business war in Europe,” says Porsche AG CEO Wendelin Wiedeking. The potential of battery-powered cars and other hybrids that are being developed to run on Hydrogen fuel cells are years from mass production and practical use. We’d need hydrogen fuel cell filling stations. How likely is that to happen with only a few Hydrogen fuel cell cars on the road?

But all this turmoil and political-economic war to reduce emissions by 25% and increase fuel efficiency is totally unnecessary. It’s a problem that’s already solved. But you haven’t heard about it, right? So let’s take a look at it.

Yes. The problem is already solved.

Yes, the problem in solved. But some important testing done by Porsche-Volkswagen AG has apparently been lost in the shuffle of big companies, big government agencies, and gadfly’s like Herr Friedrich out to save us from ourselves. The test results clearly showed that Microlon, a metal treatment technology that came out of the aircraft industry, substantially reduced emissions — particularly Carbon-Dioxide by a whole lot more than 25%.

How about a 62.6% reduction in Carbon Dioxide? Yep. That’s what the test results show. And it gets better. Volkswagen-Porsche AG’s own tests showed that the Microlon treatment of their Porsche 928’s engine resulted in a 40% decrease in Hydro-Carbons, a 20% decrease in noxious particles per millimeter and the gas mileage was increased by nearly 10%. And the biggest outcome again, it reduced Carbon Dioxide emissions by nearly 63%! That’s a lot more than 25%. And the big deal is, we can drive any car we want to and get that kind of emission reduction!

These test results were freely shared with Microlon corporation and the public. They were released by Kurt Meier’s California office, Volkswagen-Porsche AG, Western District. Although other data of the test results are proprietary to Volkswagen Porsche AG, anyone can see these emissions and gas mileage results.

And what is it that Microlon engine treatment does to get these almost magical results? It reduces friction in the engine by a permanent — yes, permanent — dry lubricant coating of all metal engine parts. It’s the only compound in the world that does this, but it does it none-the-less.

Now what has happened that Herr Friedrich and Volkswagen AG don’t remember those study findings? Who knows? Possibly big companies, big government agencies, and gadfly’s like Herr Friedrich aren’t all they’re cracked-up to be.

But I would say that this is a much more effective way of handling our emissions problems and our fuel problems. And doing so without Detroit and others turning automobiles into junk. And without us having to drive around in toy cars.

These little things (cars) are dangerous. You know, you only have one wreck in these kinds of cars. And if you’re lucky enough to survive, the car won’t. And we all know how well we come out on an insurance claim of a totaled car.

Well, one thing leads to another and pretty soon we’re all screwed, including the environmental crowd, because no one takes the time or trouble to solve the problems correctly. But worse. In this case the problem is already solved. So we need to tell them about it. Get the word out somehow.

Maybe we should all open our windows, stick our heads out and yell, “It’s friction you dummies! And I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Posted by: engineguy | July 11, 2007

The Oil Change


The Oil Change for Women:


1) Pull up to Jiffy Lube when the mileage reaches 3000 miles since the last oil change.

2) Drink a cup of coffee.

3) 15 minutes later, write a check and leave with a properly maintained vehicle.

Money spent:

Oil Change $20.00

Coffee $1.00

Total $21.00



The Oil Change for Men:


1) Wait until Saturday, drive to auto parts store and buy a case of oil, filter, kitty litter, hand cleaner and a scented tree, write a check for $50.00.

2) Stop by 7 – 11 and buy a case of beer, write a check for $20, drive home.

3) Open a beer and drink it.

4) Jack car up. Spend 30 minutes looking for jack stands.

5) Find jack stands under kid’s pedal car.

6) In frustration, open another beer and drink it.

7) Place drain pan under engine.

8) Look for 9/16 box end wrench.

9) Give up and use crescent wrench.

10) Unscrew drain plug.

11) Drop drain plug in pan of hot oil: splash hot oil on you in process. Cuss.

12) Crawl out from under car to wipe hot oil off of face and arms.

Throw kitty litter on spilled oil.

13) Have another beer while watching oil drain.

14) Spend 30 minutes looking for oil filter wrench.

15) Give up; crawl under car and hammer a screwdriver through oil filter and twist off.

16) Crawl out from under car with dripping oil filter splashing oil everywhere from holes. Cleverly hide old oil filter among trash in trash can to avoid environmental penalties.

Drink a beer.

17) Buddy shows up; finish case of beer with him. Decide to finish oil change tomorrow so you can go see his new garage door opener.

18) Sunday: Skip church because “I gotta finish the oil change.” Drag pan full of old oil out from underneath car. Cleverly dump oil in hole in back yard instead of taking it back to Kragen to recycle.

19) Throw kitty litter on oil spilled during step 18.

20) Beer? No, drank it all yesterday.

21) Walk to 7-11; buy beer.

22) Install new oil filter making sure to apply a thin coat of oil to gasket surface.

23) Dump first quart of fresh oil into engine.

24) Remember drain plug from step 11.

25) Hurry to find drain plug in drain pan.

26) Remember that the used oil is buried in a hole in the back yard, along with drain plug.

27) Drink beer.

28) Shovel out hole and sift oily mud for drain plug. Re-shovel oily dirt into hole. Steal sand from kids’ sandbox to cleverly cover oily patch of ground and avoid environmental penalties. Wash drain plug in lawnmower gas.

29) Discover that first quart of fresh oil is now on the floor. Throw kitty litter on oil spill.

30) Drink beer.

31) Crawl under car getting kitty litter into eyes. Wipe eyes with oily rag used to clean drain plug. Slip with stupid crescent wrench tightening drain plug and bang knuckles on frame.

32) Bang head on floorboards in reaction to step 31.

33) Begin cussing fit.

34) Throw stupid crescent wrench.

35) Cuss for additional 10 minutes because wrench hit bowling trophy.

36) Beer.

37) Clean up hands and forehead and bandage as required to stop blood flow.

38) Beer.

39) Beer.

40) Dump in five fresh quarts of oil.

41) Beer.

42) Lower car from jack stands.

43) Accidentally crush remaining case of new motor oil.

44) Move car back to apply more kit ty litter to fresh oil spilled during steps 23 – 43.

45) Beer.

46) Test drive car.

47) Get pulled over: arrested for driving under the influence.

48) Car gets impounded.

49) Call loving wife, make bail.

50) 12 hours later, get car from impound yard.


Money spent:

Case of Oil and Filter $50.00

DUI $2500.00

Impound fee $75.00

Bail $1500.00

Beer $40.00


Total – – $4,165.00


But you know the job was done right!




If you’re you trying to save money by using a lower octane gas than your owner’s manual calls for, I can almost guarantee that you will actually spend more money on gas (depending on the cost difference of the choices between 87 octane and 93 octane). Why? Because it’s a certainty that you will get terrible gas mileage. Isn’t that ironic? And horsepower? Forget it. But the worst part is that it will eventually harm your engine. Badly. And you won’t know about it until it’s too late.

Surprised? Sure. I’ll bet that you’ve heard that there is no reason to buy premium gas because the regular gas is just as good. That’s wrong! Then there’s the belief that the higher octane premium gas is just another rip-off by the oil companies. Wrong again!

First let’s look at what octane means. It’s not about horsepower or heat energy. All an octane measure of 87 or 89 or 92 or whatever, means is that the number signifies the average of two methods of testing a fuel’s resistance to detonation. They typically range from 87 octane for regular unleaded gas to 93 octane for premium fuel. If you read most of these signs you will see a notation that the octane has been calculated using the formula R+M/2. We could go into another page to explain that those are shorthand for the two tests performed and divided by 2 for an average between them.

Without going into all the scientific stuff, this means that a premium, higher octane fuel has a much higher resistance to detonation than does a regular fuel of 87 octane. You read it right. Resistance to detonation. So what’s this about detonation? The resistance to detonation is the primary quality of a good gasoline. This is desirable so the detonation inside the cylinder head can be ignited evenly; the spark plug ignites the flame front in the cylinder head as a mixture of gas and oxygen. The flame moves in a deliberate manner across the top of the piston in the cylinder head. And that’s how it’s supposed to work.

So the better the fuel’s resistance to spontaneous igniting the more controlled the burning of the gas and the subsequent expansion of the heated gases that pushes the piston down to turn the crankshaft. But when a fuel with a lower detonation is used where it shouldn’t be used (in an engine whose manufacturer says it shouldn’t be used) the whole process goes out the window.

Abnormal combustion is what it’s called. And that’s because the intense heat and pressure in the cylinder subjects the lower detonation fuel (the 87 octane fuel) to an environment that it wasn’t meant for. So pockets of the fuel can spontaneously self-ignite creating secondary flame flashes. When those meet in the out-of-control burning in the cylinder head, the engine gets a shock wave. This shock wave is the knocking sound we have all heard in an engine at some time or another, usually when accelerating or under a heavy load hill climbing. Sometimes it sounds like marbles rolling around in the engine. Other times it actually sounds like the piston rods are loose and rattling. Whatever it sounds like, it’s not good for your engine . . . really not good!

So now comes the part where technology almost outwits us again. In older cars – those that didn’t have computer controlled engine functions, we all knew that the knocking sound meant that either we were using el cheapo gas or the spark timing was wrong. That was easy enough to fix. Just buy better gas or have your mechanic re-set the timing. Some guys could do that themselves in their own garage or under a shade tree. Just use a timing light and synchronize it with the main belt running by turning the distributor to adjust the spark up or down. Old, old cars used to have a little lever on the steering column by which one could adjust the spark after the engine started. Kind of like adjusting a choke until it sounds right.

But now we have these ingenious high-tech engines that are monitored by an on-board computer and they are constantly making adjustments to correct or improve what the computer perceives as a problem. Here’s where we fool ourselves. Or rather where the engine fools us and we believe it. These little critters are equipped with knock sensors.

When they detect the typical bad detonation from using low octane fuel, the little devils automatically retard the spark timing or take other precautions to protect the engine. So, in reality, the sensors are de-tuning the engine to accept the fuel’s octane. The designers put this in to protect the engine from damage, but only for the short run. But with the spark timing compromised, you may not have a clue that it’s happening. But the engine’s performance is just shot. This is why it looses horsepower so badly, as I pointed out earlier.

In addition to robbing the engine of power, the electronic computerized de-tuning has put the engine into a mode that, by the nature of the low resistance, uncontrolled detonation, wastes the fuel’s energy to power the vehicle. So, if you think you’ve outsmarted the oil company, think again. You’re among their best customers because your vehicle’s miles per gallon are in the toilet. Said another way, you use more of their product than you need to.

The techno-wizardry of this is amazing. But the down-side is that the electronic computerized controls – the techno-wizardry — can mask the inferior detonation so effectively that you may never be aware that it’s happening.
So you are merrily driving along thinking how clever you were to not fall for that premium gas trick at the service station. Meanwhile your car is running sluggishly and you are using a great deal more gas than you should be using. But you sure saved a lot of money on that last fill-up, didn’t you?

Posted by: engineguy | June 26, 2007

So what do you think about Ethanol?

I’m afraid it’s another one of those “clever ideas” cooked up by industry and government. A more dangerous combination of forces doesn’t exist.

It’s a joke for fuel savings because it’s nothing but “watered-down” gasoline that costs more to make and sell. It doesn’t save fuel because it takes more of it to send you down the road. And it does actually have water in it. Not only is water not particularly good for an engine, but it can and will condense in the fuel tank and cause it to rust. This does wonders for your fuel pumps and filter.

At first it was 90% gas and 10% ethanol. Now I keep seeing 85 in some places. Well, that would invalidate my car’s engine and drive-train warranty. Says so very clearly in the owners’ manual. I don’t like that part.

I have another question for those who are busy saving our environment. How does ethanol save the use of “fossil fuel” when it uses just as much or more to propel our vehicles as it did before? Not that I’m against saving our environment. I believe strongly in protecting our environment. But as I remember it, the original idea was to use less fossil fuel, not the same amount or likely more with corn and water added. Is that not the original idea?

Like a fellow once said, “When you’re up to your butt in alligators, it’s hard to remember that the original idea was to drain the swamp.”

But it is a nice sop from the government to the corn growers. Makes the cost of corn higher become it’s in greater demand. And I believe in free markets, but I also like steaks, and ham which will all cost more because the beef and hog farmers can’t be expected to sell for a loss just because we “need” ethanol.

But if it is what it appears to be. That is: a really bad idea. It looks like the loss is going to be ours, too. What do you think should be done?