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The Latest Auto Extremist Rants

AN ENTIRELY NEW DIMENSION OF ABJECT STUPIDITY BROUGHT TO YOU BY BMW.
by Editor
18 Jan 2021 at 10:29am

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Readers of this column know that I have been documenting BMW’s excruciating slide to oblivion for many years now. Once the little German auto company that could – defined by its crisp sports sedans that were unlike anything else on the road – BMW has transformed itself into a purveyor of bloated, overwrought SUVs, porky sedans and some of the most hideous looking vehicles on the road.

What the hell happened?

Was it the pressure of trying to compete with its traditional rival, Mercedes-Benz? After all, these two manufacturers egged each other on to chase new segments – both real and imagined – to their everlasting detriment. Was it the fear of trying to remain an independent car company? This led to insane volume targets and the absurd notion that they could actually place a BMW in every garage in America. Or, was it a measure of hubris and delusional thinking that was exponentially more virulent than any found in the Motor City? The first two points I mentioned had a bit to do with BMW’s fall, but it is my last point that is directly responsible for most of it.

How else can you explain the abject stupidity polluting the social media landscape BMW has been responsible for of late? BMW operatives have decided to take the brilliant marketing approach of insulting their older buyers – you know, the ones who put and have kept BMW on the map – by suggesting they are out of touch and not worth keeping around anyway. And when those buyers registered their unhappiness with BMW’s marketing approach, company marketers responded with the now comical “Ok, Boomer.” Which, naturally, unleashed a furious torrent of derision aimed at BMW, and deservedly so.

But that monumentally misguided waste of time brought to life by BMW marketers was only setting the table for an even more egregious mistake: a remarkably insulting and flat-out stupid video that BMW operatives had the temerity to unveil at the recently completed CES. You can watch it here, but I warn you that you won’t get through it without a few well-placed "WTFs?" and "OMGs!"

Where do I begin? It insults BMW’s current customer base in such a way that I wouldn’t be surprised if a large percentage of those buyers, after seeing it, never darken another BMW showroom again. As if that weren’t enough, it insults older buyers – again, BMW’s bread and butter – to such a degree that it is almost beyond comprehension. After watching this unmitigated bullshit – the video goes on for an excruciating four minutes – it is clear to me that in their quest to send the message that BMW is no longer interested in buyers over 40, or anyone saddled with an “old” ICE-powered BMW, BMW operatives have managed to declare to the world that they are not only wildly out of touch with reality, but that they’re too stupid to understand why anyone who sees this video would have the temerity to react negatively. 

It is not uncommon for automotive marketers to get lost in the dulcet tones of their own thought balloons, but the level of grandiose delusion and unfettered hubris on display here defies all rational thinking. And, to make matters worse, BMW operatives have assumed the attitude that they can’t help it if we’re all too stupid to see “brilliance” when it is presented to us. That’s the hoary, “you’re just not hip enough to understand” chestnut that automotive marketing (and design) types trot out when it suits them. Translation? “We know what’s right and righteous, and you don’t. So, get over it.” 

The people involved in this insulting fiasco should be terminated immediately. And that includes all the way up the food chain to the top executives who actually sat in a conference room and pronounced it “good.” To say that BMW has completely lost it was news maybe ten years ago. This? This is an entirely new dimension of abject stupidity.

But before I close this week, I need to return to the earlier mention that BMW is responsible for some of the most hideous looking vehicles on the road. Feast your eyes on the monstrosity below.

C

(BMW)

This is the BMW iX. And this is what BMW PR minions have to say about it: "A vision is turning into reality, as the BMW Vision iNEXT becomes the BMW iX. With time still to go before its expected U.S. market launch in the early 2022 and with the series development phase ongoing, BMW is providing a first look ahead at the future BMW iX. The BMW iX is the first model based on a new, modular, scalable architecture on which the future of the BMW Group will be built. Conceived from the outset as purely electric mobility, the iX sees BMW redefining the successful Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) concept. The BMW iX has been created to provide something beyond just mobility – an exhilarating driving experience combined with a sense of well-being for both drivers and passengers all the while enjoying the journey with safety, security, and a new form of luxury in the process." 

My response? I have been in and around this business for a very long time. And I can deduce when a product is so far off of the mark that it will be sales-proof the moment it hits dealer showrooms. This is one of those times. This rolling monument to mediocrity is an example of design hubris the likes of which we haven't seen since the Edsel. This mobile atrocity sends the convincing message that BMW is fully intent on becoming an also-ran car company going forward. Irrelevant and offensive are not exactly the words marketing campaigns are based on. What a frickin' joke.

So here we are. BMW’s stunning pirouette into mediocrity continues. And BMW operatives are seemingly hell-bent on running the whole enterprise into the ground, while telling us were just not hip enough to understand.

Nicely done, you unmitigated hacks.

And that’s the High-Electron truth for this week.


WHAT AM I THINKING?
by Editor
11 Jan 2021 at 6:51pm

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Writing a column about the automobile business doesn’t hold much interest for me this week; it seems inconsequential and irrelevant. But I will press on nonetheless. (I’ll have more comments on the past week’s events later).

In the news this week?  The Detroit Auto Show – scheduled for the Fall of 2021 – has been cancelled, again. In its place will be an enthusiast-focused event held at the M1 Concourse, in Pontiac, north of Detroit, called “Motor Bella.” The M1 Concourse has a 1.5-mile track on the premises, so the idea is that multiple manufacturers will be able to display their wares – statically and in motion – at various times during the three days of the event (September 21 – 26). 

Whether or not this event amounts to anything is a giant “we’ll see,” but I am absolutely sure of one thing: the idea of even having an auto show is a concept that’s out of touch with reality. Auto shows were on borrowed time to begin with even before the pandemic, as manufacturers had discovered that they could hold customized, controlled events for the press to get their messages out, and save hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. 

Yes, there was a time when auto shows were welcomed and even looked forward to, but those days are now dust in the wind. Perhaps this will lead to a return of auto dealers papering their windows over in the fall, as it will be the only time that consumers will get a close look at the new models that they’ve only been able to see on the Internet. Nah, what am I thinking? The fading of auto shows from the landscape is just one more example that the times in this business are a changin’ – for good.

In other news, the North American Car (Hyundai Elantra), Truck (Ford F-150) and Utility (Ford Mustang Mach-E) of the Year were named on Monday (1/11). Does this really mean anything other than to the 50 American and Canadian journalists on the review panel who got to drive all of the entries? Or the winning manufacturers? No. This used to be a manufactured “big deal” at the opening of press days at the now dearly departed Detroit Auto Show, in January, but even back then it was a tedious showcase of Not Much. This is another quaint ritual that was once a part of this business that has become irrelevant. You can deposit this “award” in the same file folder where you will find the hoary notion of having an auto show. It’s called “No One Cares Anymore.”

I wonder when the automobile manufacturers will wake up and move on from this folly? Nah, what am I thinking? The egos involved at the manufacturers won’t allow it to fade away. Why? Because they need outside validation of some kind that suggests that they have it goin’ on. It’s kind of pathetic when you really spend some time thinking about it, but it is what it is.

Meanwhile, Ford is trying to put a positive spin on the Shit Show – aka its presence in South America – that has the company closing three plants in Brazil, which will cost the company $4.1 billion with a “b.” The company insists that it’s all part of the “addition through contraction” plan first put forth by former CEO, Jim “The Professor” Hackett. Oh, that makes it all better, no? Current CEO, Jim “Jimmy Har-Har” Farley blathered on in a statement, saying, "We are moving to a lean, asset-light business model by ceasing production in Brazil and serving customers with some of the best and most exciting vehicles in our global portfolio…” Huh? You would think Ford would not try to put a spin on this by insisting that the company has it goin’ on. Nah, what am I thinking? They can’t pass up an opportunity to pump up Farley in the media, even though it stinks to high Heaven. As I said earlier, it’s kind of pathetic when you really spend some time thinking about it, but oh so predictable from Ford.

Then there’s Jeep (see this week’s “On The Table” -WG). The purveyors of four-wheel-drive adventure just couldn’t help themselves and are shouting from the rooftops that they’re bringing to market a new Jeep Grand Cherokee that has - “Ta-Dah” – THREE-ROW SEATING. Oh-EM-GEE! This industry has blown more money to stretch, alter and otherwise hack up vehicles just to be able to claim that they have a third row – a third row that most people do not want to be crammed into – than the average yearly take by FanDuel. I mean, really, folks. Do you really believe that having the option to stuff kids or adults in the third row in the back of your SUV du jour is really essential to your daily existence? How about, no? Is this likely to change anytime soon? Nah, what am I thinking?

And finally, as write this on Monday, I thought it might be a good time to mention that it is Alexander Hamilton’s birthday, one of this country’s Founding Fathers. Mr. Hamilton believed that government had to be wise and strong enough to achieve "the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy."

Truer words were never spoken. What went on in Washington last week was disgusting, disgraceful and unforgivable. And heartbreaking. Anyone who loves this country should have had these same feelings. It was the furthest thing from “patriotism” I have ever witnessed, and if you don’t see it that way you deserve to be run out of this country on a rail. 

But then again, hoping things will get better isn’t enough. It’s going to take every single one of us to believe in what this country stands for. Too many died so that we may live with the freedoms we enjoy, and I refuse to see us squander the privileges we are blessed with.

It is my sincere hope that this country can move forward to a better place, and that this rancor will be relegated to the dustbin of history. 

Nah, what am I thinking? It is going to be a long, hard road to recovery, folks. 

And that’s the High-Octane – and sad – Truth for this week.


2021? SAME AS IT EVER WAS.
by Editor
4 Jan 2021 at 4:36pm

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. New Year's resolutions? Nah. Turning over a new leaf? Why? Projecting a New Day for an auto industry on the cusp of change? Really? Is that what’s happening right now? Double Nah. The notion that something magical happens when the calendar flips over has always been specious, a canard based on wishful thinking and delusion. The political rancor that paralyzed the country last year? Still there. The coronavirus? Not only still there but growing exponentially.

As for the auto biz, things don’t change all that much. In fact, the concept of relentless inertia defines this business still, despite all protestations otherwise.

Take the sales game, for instance.

Once upon a time in the quaint ancient times of this business, you could count on a few things during the year: the fall intros of new vehicles, the end-of-year holiday sales push, and the etched-in-stone belief that if you wanted a super deal, you’re best able to find one in the doldrums of January and February. That pretty much changed from the moment Toyota began its “sell-a-thon” sales campaigns – too many ignore the significance of that development – and everything about sales in the business was turned upside down. 

From there it snowballed into the notion of a “truck month,” where special deals could be found on pickup trucks, accompanied by a massive advertising push in whichever month was chosen by a manufacturer. Except that “truck month” became an every month occurrence – it’s always truck month somewhere, right? - and the business became a full-blown commodity-driven sales exercise. 

No corner of the business was immune from the “crank ‘em-out” sales incentive/push game either. Even the previously “hallowed” luxury brands were reduced to pumping up sales volume just to be able to say that they were “No. 1.” (Even though their ridiculously low advertised lease payment numbers were augmented by cap cost reductions that added $300 to the monthly, if not more, but who’s counting?)

As you read this, the industry is in the midst of its annual hangover from the end-of-the-year holiday sales push, which began after Halloween. January 4th was officially the last day to record sales transactions for the month of December, so the manufacturers are frantically tallying up their sales for bragging rights, or in some cases, conveniently blaming their dismal performance on COVID-19. 

This means that all of the various sales and marketing people are pouring over the results in order to come up with the appropriate spin to the media. This ranges from the relatively benign “we were pleased with our results for the year” to various dubious explanations as to why things didn’t go as planned. And if it was a Shit Show of gigantic proportions for a manufacturer, then the “sun spots” defense will be employed, because if all else fails, blaming the solar system is always an acceptable last resort.

Another aspect of this business that hasn’t changed with the flip of the calendar is the runaway obsession with building stratospherically-priced, unobtanium supercars – machines with unheard of performance numbers that will end up in various collections and will most likely never be driven. The new price of entry for these stupido machines seems to be between $2-$3 million, with 1500HP+ at the ready. 

And why, exactly? Possession? The need to have something that no one else does, as if this delusional pursuit has any merit whatsoever? Performance? These cars are rarely – as in never – driven. Why? Because their performance envelope is beyond mere mortals, and they cost so damn much that the thought of rolling one up into a ball at a track day is, well, remote, at best. No, I attribute this supercar obsession to the ultimate example of Swinging Dickism, a pathetic affliction that doesn’t have a statute of limitations, because it has been a part of this business for almost as long as the invention of the car itself. The only difference now is that the cost of being The Biggest Tool in the Shed has grown to the point over the last half-decade of being beyond absurd.

Other things about this business that haven’t changed with the transition to 2021? Let’s see, the EV explosion – or, as we like to say, It Won’t Be Long Now! – is just around the corner, so there’s that. 

Land Rover can’t seem to put together a media drive – this time for the new Defender – without flaws and glitches befalling its press cars. Check. (But people will fall all over themselves in order to pay through the nose to get one, you can be certain of that.) 

This will also be the year that the Korean manufacturers finally assert themselves, and they will make huge inroads in the market. (Wait a minute, haven’t we heard that the last seven Januarys in a row? Why yes, yes, we have.)

Porsche will continue to prey on the gullibility of its faithful by offering the most usurious pricing in the industry of its special editions and option packages. And its customers will put up with it, at least until they don’t.

And last, but not least, in the most predictable indication that nothing ever changes with the flip of the calendar alone, Ford is in the midst of frantically fixing its “Franchise” – the 2021 F-150 pickup truck – after the fact. They’re piling up in empty lots around Detroit so that myriad build problems can be addressed, as the Detroit Free Press has been dutifully reporting. 

Wait a minute, wasn’t it just a couple of years ago that Ford was forced to do the same thing with its new Explorer? Why yes, that is correct. What seems to be the problem, you might ask? Well, when you’re cranking ‘em out to meet production goals, which translate into sales figures, which translate into serious ca$h-ola – it’s not an exaggeration to say that without the F-150 Ford would have been relegated to the history books years ago – things go wrong, and stuff falls through the cracks. A lot of stuff, to be exact. But “fixing it in the edit” doesn’t play well in this day and age. In fact, it is flat-out inexcusable (just ask Tesla). But here is Ford, up to its eyeballs in it again, like clockwork.

But wait a minute, isn’t all of this badness supposed to be a thing of the past now that Jim “Jimmy Car-Car” Farley is at the helm? I mean, wasn’t Ford going to be led into the light in a burst of creativity and vision from the guy whose claim to fame was the Toyota Scion? How can this possibly be? 

Well, there’s that thing about that aforementioned relentless industry inertia at play, for one. And the fact that Ford can’t seem to conduct a proper product launch to save its life, even if you spot them the “l” and the “nch.” And no matter how hard Mark Truby’s PR minions try to portray Farley – or, as we like to refer to him around here, “Jimmy Har-Har” – as being the company savior, the reality is that he’s anything but. 

But oh my, have the Ford PR minions been working overtime on it. Farley has been front and center in a “smarm” offensive that is parts hokum and fantasy, and when he isn’t healing the sick or walking on water, his visionary product decisions are sure to propel the company to unimaginable heights. PR veterans and company insiders are choking on their cornflakes from the endless barrage of stories about Farley in this town. But then again, it has become standard operating procedure at Ford. Or, as I like to say, file it under “Unmitigated Bullshit We Have to Endure” while living around these parts.

The reality? Farley is just the latest guy to be given the keys to the Ford Motor Company by Bill Ford, and that counts for exactly not much in the grand scheme of things. 

Or, in other words, same as it ever was.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for the first week of 2021.


OUT-OF-CONTROL FIRES, NASTY WEATHER, A SURGING, INSIDIOUS VIRUS AND A SUFFOCA...
by Editor
13 Dec 2020 at 4:02pm

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. We have arrived at the point in The Year Like No Other with enough ennui to fill Ford Field to the rafters. To say that this year has been a relentless Shit Show is the understatement of the century. It has been a kaleidoscope of out-of-control fires, nasty weather events, a surging, insidious virus and a suffocating political rancor that hangs over everything like a giant black cloud. Needless to say, it has been a Tidal Basin of Not Good.

As I said one month ago, the fact of the matter is that no matter how bad this year has been, we all have something to be thankful for. We all have people in our circle who make a difference and who need to be recognized and appreciated, and this seems to be the perfect time to do that. For a lot of people, gathering will not be possible, but contacting the people who matter in your life at this very moment in time might be the most giving thing we can do. 

We all have to remember that life is hard for a lot of people, and this pandemic has made it even more so. The hoary saying “count your blessings” is never more relevant than it is right now. The fallout from the impact of the virus has decimated livelihoods, entire industries have been destroyed or irrevocably altered, and the collateral human damage has been heartbreaking.

And the fact is that none of it can be swept under the rug, either. This year, this miserable 2020, is finally coming to an end. But it’s not as if a switch will be flipped and everything bad about 2020 will magically disappear on January 1. No, the stench of The Year Like No Other will linger well into the new year. (On that note, we have put together a few of Peter’s more memorable quotes from this past year, as a reminder of what went on here at AE in 2020. -WG)

“Now? Manufacturers, from boutique to major, can generate huge impact and dominate the news cycle at least for a few days without even showing anything but a computer-generated image or video promising that The Future will be bright and that their ElectrifiedEight will redefine transportation for the next decade, if not more. It doesn’t matter that actual production timing is sketchy, because those little details seem to escape the mainstream media’s scrutiny every time. And it doesn’t matter that the manufacturer in question didn’t exist until a couple of years ago, because it is immediately assigned a gravitas rivaling an auto manufacturer that has been in business for 100 years, without having produced one vehicle.” (“We’ve Reached Peak ‘Just Showing Up.’” – 2/19)

“Last but not least is the uncanny knack by car company executives and operatives to assign blame to absolutely anything and everything else, rather than embrace the notion of accountability. A bad quarter? ‘We had to make some difficult decisions due to in-market disruptions.’ (We stunk it up so bad that none of the top executives are available for the analyst call.) The latest Belchfire Luxury 8 isn’t selling? ‘Our product mix was front-loaded with heavily optioned units; we’ve corrected that now.’ (It’s such a design disaster that dealers have simply stopped ordering them until the incentives are jacked up.) The latest product launch is a disaster? ‘We had some initial glitches, which required us to spend more time than we liked on after-production fixes.’ (It was such a cluster that we’re having to rebuild the sonofabitches one by one.) The ultimate culprit taking its place in the blame game, whether it be a disastrous product launch, a horrid financial performance, or a piss-poor design failure? Sunspots. You can always resort to blaming it on Sunspots.” ("The Other Illnesses Affecting The Auto Industry.” – 3/4)

“If you’ve frequented these pages, you know that this is one of the founding mantras of The High-Octane Truth: Outstanding products are simply the lifeblood of this business. It’s a fact about this business that never grows old or out of style. There have been outstanding auto companies – at least on paper – that have been crippled by piss-poor products, or seemingly promising products that those companies in question are unable to build in a timely fashion. Conversely, there are some auto companies out there that have managed to alight on breakthrough products that have effectively saved the companies from disaster, while masking a cornucopia of ills and internal chaos.” (“It’s Still About The Product, Stupid.” – 3/11)

“I am hopeful that this difficult time will teach us all some incredibly valuable lessons going forward: That myopic self-absorption is not a trait to be proud of; that callous indifference to our fellow citizens is never a good thing; that caring for the well-being of our elders, or for people less fortunate than us is something to relish and aspire to. Because, frankly, the way this great nation has been trending in recent times has been nothing to be proud of. This medical crisis is the most terrible way to force us back on track; I just hope we can all stay there for a very long time to come.” (“Valuable Lessons.” – 3/18)

“Now, to be sure, if you don’t have an outstanding product, success in the marketplace is a non-issue, because you can’t get there without it. But the biggest disappointment for me – well, at least one of them anyway – is that even the most brilliantly-executed product will languish in the market if the marketing strategy is off, or the advertising sucks. Having a focused and fearless marketing-advertising campaign is just as essential as having a great product. In fact, without that crucial component I have seen many finely-executed cars languish in the market and eventually fall by the wayside. And, to paraphrase Chris Rock, that just ain’t right.” (“Lost In Translation.” – 5/13)

“If anything, I keep going back to the one thing that’s undeniable about our collective love for the automobile, the one thing that no computer simulation - no matter how powerful or creatively enhanced - can compete with. And that is the freedom of mobility. The ability to go and do, coupled with the freedom to explore and experience is not only a powerful concept, it is fundamental to the human experience, which is why the automobile in all of its forms remains so compelling and undeniably intoxicating.” ("For No Better Reason, Indeed.” – 5/27)

“Autoextremist.com has been quite the trip. When we started the site 21 years ago, I had no plan beyond the fact that I had something to say and I needed a forum to say it. It turns out that after having grown up immersed in the heyday of this business in a decidedly privileged automotive childhood – and combining that with my own experiences in marketing, advertising and motorsports – I had plenty to say. And I still do. After all, how many pursuits allow you to make a mark… and leave a mark?” (“Twenty-One Years of the High-Octane Truth.” – 6/3) 

“It’s only semi-funny that every time BMW does something that’s even remotely positive BMW fanboys insist that it is an indication that company operatives are finally rediscovering their roots. It never lasts, unfortunately. BMW seems to be locked in a one-step forward, three-steps back dance of mediocrity that perpetually mires the company in a suspended state of animation. BMW operatives can’t remember what BMW once stood for because they simply don’t have a clue.” (“A BMW Too Far…” – 6/11)

“Twenty-one years ago, when I became tired of what the ad biz had become, tired of the sycophants, the ass-kissers, the spineless weasels and the other two-bit players who had turned what was once a pretty interesting profession into a vapid wasteland, I knew I had to do something different. I had also grown tired of seeing the auto business – as practiced here in Detroit – sink further into the Abyss of risk-avoidance-driven mediocrity and watching legions of so-called ‘executives’ make horrendous, piss-poor decisions day after day on behalf of their respective auto companies. As I watched the carnage unfold around me, I knew that something had to be said by someone who had firsthand knowledge of what was going on. Someone who was in the trenches and on the front lines of the ongoing battle and, of course, that someone turned out to be me.” (“Write Hard, Die Free, Continued.” – 7/1)

“One thing that will never change at Porsche, apparently, is the fact that they employ the most creative – and flat-out usurious – pricing and option structure in the business, which is the reason it is one of if not the most profitable car company in the world. Now, to be clear, I have no problem with car companies making money; it’s the name of the game, in fact. But Porsche’s pricing approach has been to gouge both its True Believer enthusiasts and its new SUV aficionados with equal ruthlessness. It’s nothing short of a Master Class in Greed.” (“A Master Class In Greed.” – 7/8)

“Do I expect the Bronco to be good? It damn well better be. After all, it has been kicked around, fantasized about and the subject of much internal hand-wringing at Ford for seven years. Yes, you read that correctly too. Seven years. And the Bronco is easily three years too late, which is flat-out inexcusable. But then again, that’s Ford. They dither and they slither, the bureaucratic fiefdoms square off and battle each other and waste time, and the net-net is that the product in question always ends up being late to market.” (“Don’t Dust Your Spurs Off Just Yet, Pardners.” – 7/15)

“Nissan has reached that point. It had – at times – what can be considered a good run. Its glory days were memorable, especially in this market when it was still called Datsun, but those moments were fleeting and seem like a long time ago. That’s because it was. Since then the company has been mired in mediocrity and held captive by mercenary prophets spouting false promises, and internal bickering, which sapped the life out of the company. In short, Nissan has been on a slow roll to oblivion, even though no one there seems to understand or believe it.” (“Nissan’s Slow Roll to Oblivion.” – 7/29) 

“Ed Cole loaned us his personal driver one weekend, which was a '61 409 Chevy with a manual gearbox (how's that for an executive company car?). And then there were the Corvettes. My, oh my. There were so many I'm not sure I can recall them all, but suffice to say, the weekend Ed Cole sent over his personal driver for us to drive, which was a fuel-injected '63 Sting Ray Coupe in Sebring Silver - before the car was officially introduced - was one of many, many highlights.” (“Fast Times in Hot Cars.” – 8/19)

“Growing up immersed in this business was indeed surreal, but even back then I realized that I had been dropped in an alternative universe – an automotive nirvana punctuated by V8s, open pipes, flashes of chrome and the hottest cars of the era. We reveled in it and made the most of every moment, whether it was me riding shotgun with my brother as he – ahem – was teaching himself how to drive fast, or me going for rides with Bill Mitchell in one of the latest GM Styling concepts – including the ’59 Corvette Sting Ray racer, to this day my all-time favorite car – to the times when I started getting behind the wheel myself.” (“The Flying Camaro.” – 8/26)

“I have, of course, seen this before. The ‘Smartest Guy (or Gal) In the Room’ syndrome is not only alive and well in this business, it’s thriving. From Detroit to auto centers around the globe, it’s a particular affliction that churns and burns white hot. The most acute level of this syndrome rises to ‘Unctuous Prick’ status, a stratum reserved for such luminaries as Sergio, Dan ‘Captain Queeg’ Akerson and St. Elon. But there’s a whole new cadre of future alumni of Unctuous Prick University emerging – some practicing right here in the Motor City – and unremarkably enough, they’re finding purchase in Silicon Valley.” (“Selling Air.” – 9/16)

“I mean, really, how can designers stand behind this work and call it… good? I can just hear them now… ‘Ahem, given our Belchfire EV’s advanced powertrain and the passenger and cargo packaging requirements, we feel this ‘four-door coupe’ design presents the finest expression of our brand, blah-blah-blah…’ Or something like that.” (“We Have Reached The Nadir Of Design. And It Ain’t Pretty.” – 9/30)

“I welcome what’s coming, because I believe that technical innovation will transform what has been a transformative industry since its very beginnings and propel it – and us – to new and unimaginable heights. Will I miss the Internal Combustion Engine era? Oh yes, very much so. But we will celebrate the ingenuity, the technical achievements, the speed and, of course, the breathtaking style for many decades to come.” (“Raging Against The Dying Of The Light.” – 10/7)

“Now, that I can safely predict: There is no getting back to whatever was before. And we need another word because ‘normal’ simply does not apply anymore. The swirling maelstrom of life as we’ve come to know it is now punctuated by daily turmoil and forged in uncertainty. Whatever our collective vision was for what our way of life should be will be blowin’ in the wind from here on out. I am reminded of a line Harold Ramis delivered in the movie Knocked Up: ‘Life doesn’t care about your vision. You just gotta roll with it.’ Yes, it’s easy to say, but in reality, that’s exactly what we have to be prepared to do.” (“Living On A Thin Line.” – 10/14)

“And right now, it’s time for these True Believin’ shooting stars to soar to new heights. Good enough isn’t even part of the lexicon for these people. Neither is complacency or going through the motions. These people push and strive as a matter of course. Yesterday’s breakthroughs give way to tomorrow’s starting points. Make no mistake about it, the dawn of the BEV Era will bring out the best out of the best and the brightest, which is why I am newly optimistic as to where this is all going.” (“Here’s To The Shooting Stars.” – 10/28)

“My experience with some of the most legendary high-performance cars alone is enough to fill three books, so, I don’t feel it necessary to justify my automotive existence or pay much attention to those who suggest I’m ‘dead’ for going electric. In fact, going electric may be the most extreme thing I could have done at this juncture.” (“High Boltage.” – 11/11)

“This is the new normal, apparently. Yes, I have seen all of the statistics - the growth of personal wealth and disposable income, along with the desire of affluent consumers to say ‘WTF?’ and spend big money on their personal transportation choices to ‘cocoon’ during this pandemic while rediscovering the concept of hitting the road and embracing the idea of road trips they never took back in the day. Yes, I get all of that, because hitting the road is always a good thing. But 100 Grand becoming the new threshold for luxury auto manufacturers from here on out is still a little hard to swallow. Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago when prices in the $80,000 range were eye-opening? Yes, it was.” (“The 100 Grand Bar.” – 11/18)

“Yes, ridin’ along in our automobiles. Powered by incredible music, fevered dreams and indelible memories. It always feels right, and it never, ever gets old.” ("Ridin’ Along in My Automobile.” – 12/2)

“Now, back then our neighborhood was an endless series of wide, perfectly paved roads with switchbacks, hairpin turns and a few long sweepers mixed in. In other words, it was perfect for a go-kart with a race motor and kids too young enough to know better, or care.” (“The Saga of the Orange Juicer.” – 12/9)

Despite the crushing laundry list of bad tidings that came at us this past year, we have reason for renewed hope and understanding. Granted, the idea of optimism at this juncture seems to be a quaint – and utterly useless – notion, but wallowing in The Darkness doesn’t seem to accomplish anything either.

Again, we have plenty to be thankful for. The men and women on the front lines of this ongoing virus crisis cannot be thanked enough. It is just not possible to adequately convey our appreciation for what they do, the relentless dedication they display day after day as they care for our loved ones is just staggering to contemplate. And our teachers, who in the face of daunting challenges insist on doing what they love to do, are examples for all of us as to how to conduct ourselves. And there are countless others in our lives whom we encounter, the police and fire personnel; the postal workers; the delivery people; the people who power our grocery and convenience stores. It’s easy to take all of these people for granted, but after what we’ve endured this year that should never be the case again.

And last but certainly not least, the men and women in our military who dedicate themselves to a higher calling every single day on our behalf. Words of thanks are simply not adequate for what they do, but they need to know that they are appreciated and we are deeply thankful for each and every one of them.

The one thing that I think is worth taking away from what has been a remarkably miserable year is that life as we know it must go on. We must persevere and make every moment count, because to succumb to the constant thrum of bad tidings is not a value-added pursuit. We must soak in those moments – a beautiful sunrise, a reason to laugh and smile, a warm feeling in our hearts, etc. – no matter how fleeting they might be, in order to appreciate the gifts that we have. 

No, life isn’t easy. Especially what this life has been in 2020. But life can and should be savored as much as we can. Appreciate things. Appreciate people. Appreciate loved ones. Appreciate what we have and leave those things that we don’t have on the side of the road, because ultimately it doesn’t matter.

Remember this one simple thing: Life goes on, so, let’s make the most of it. I’m happy to defer to Robert Frost at this point: 

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." 

-Robert Frost

We hope you and yours have a peaceful New Year.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for 2020. 

We’ll see you back here on January 6th.

Editor’s Note: At one point Peter and I discussed running the entire column entitled “The Autoextremist Interview: Al Cantara – The Man, The Myth, The Anomoly.” for our year-end Rant, because it was the highlight of the year, according to many readers. So here it is - do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. It will perk you up and prepare you for a better 2021. See you next year! -WG

AND...DON'T FORGET TO CHECK OUT "BEST OF ON THE TABLE 2020" PLUS FUMES AND THE LINE!


THE SAGA OF THE ORANGE JUICER.
by Editor
8 Dec 2020 at 2:20pm

Editor's Note: We're re-running one of Peter's most requested recent columns this week, "The Sage Of The Orange Juicer." We have also updated this week's "On The Table," "Fumes" and "The Line" columns. Enjoy! -WG

 

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. When “No Particular Place to Go” came over my satellite radio this week, Chuck Berry’s ode to driving took me back a way. A long way back. Because lately, I’ve been thinking about those fleeting moments of my car life. It’s like my fuel-injected, Technicolor dream with a Kodachrome blur thrown in; plus, an accompanying soundtrack that never grows old. 

Our dedicated readers have heard many of my car stories; the Corvette and Cobra adventures riding shotgun with my brother; the surreal moments with GM Design legend Bill Mitchell riding in many of GM’s most memorable concept cars from the 50s and 60s; the racing years as my brother pursued his competition dreams; and on and on. But there are always more stories to regale you with, and this week seemed like a good time to share a few of them.

Only a few of my close friends know about the infamous Orange Juicer. I found an ad in the local paper (I was thirteen) for a Bug go-kart with a McCulloch Mac 6 engine. The kart was beat up and not running, but to me it was a little rocket ready to be brought back to life. The Mac 6 engine was a worthy motor that when right was capable of blistering speeds back then. So, I spent the winter stripping the kart of its ugly green metallic paint; I had my mom drive me down to Ruttman’s in Dearborn to drop off the engine for a rebuild and get some parts ordered, and I slowly but surely created a little jewel of a racing go-kart. 

And when it came time to decide on a color, I went with a bright orange that I applied myself using several spray cans. When finished, I loaded up the go-kart and took it to back to Ruttman’s and they did the final assembly on it. I had ordered a very trick butterfly aluminum steering wheel, a chrome gas tank that hugged the back of the seat, and Ruttman’s put all new front steering, aluminum pedals and brakes on it to complete the build.

When my friends and I unloaded it in the driveway – my mom went inside pretending that whatever was going to happen would be okay – we stood over it thinking it was by far the coolest thing we had ever seen. But starting it would prove to be, ahem, a bit problematic. The Mac 6 was race prepped, and to say it was reluctant to start was an understatement. We must have pulled on that cord at least twenty times, with only a few grunts from the motor to show for our efforts. But, finally, it snorted alive, and afraid it was going to stall out, I jumped in it and took off down the driveway and out into the street.

Now, back then our neighborhood was an endless series of wide, perfectly paved roads with switchbacks, hairpin turns and a few long sweepers mixed in. In other words, it was perfect for a go-kart with a race motor and kids too young enough to know better, or care. So, I gassed that kart for all it was worth, and as most enthusiasts will tell you, there’s nothing – nothing – like a go-kart for the sure thrill of what driving is all about. I was sliding it through corners and powering out of them in oversteer mode as I went screaming through the neighborhood – and I mean scream, that Mac 6 was LOUD – and then turned back so I could blast by the driveway for the benefit of my buddies. I turned around and headed back and saw the big grins on all my buddies’ faces, but none was bigger than mine. 

I hopped out of it and said that it felt really fast. And then I paused for a moment and announced, “I’m going to call it the ‘Orange Juicer’” and everyone stood there reverentially and pronounced it good. We then topped off the tank and checked the oil and found out the hard way that if cold starting the Orange Juicer was a bitch, trying to get it started when hot was damn-near impossible. Once we got it going again, I let my friends drive it, only this time we never allowed the engine to stop between driver changes until we shut it off for the day. And it survived that kind of beating just fine. We terrorized the neighborhood for several days in a row.

It turns out that little go-kart was blistering fast. My brother paced it one day with his car at 65 mph, and through the neighborhood of 25 mph speed limits at just two inches off the ground, believe me, that was fast.

Oh, there were a few incidents to be sure. At one point the chain snapped and almost took one of my buddies' right ear off. And another time an irate neighbor threw a rake at one of my other buddies as he blasted by, he was so pissed-off, but other than that it was a sensational time. 

Well, there was one more episode still worth grinning about after all of these years. After we had been running for hours in 85-degree heat and we were all covered in oil residue and sweat, a local township cop car pulled into the driveway at about four o’clock in the afternoon. We were ready to go out for one more run and he knew it. Stone. Cold. Busted. The young (thank goodness) officer got out of his car and paused for a moment. Now, needless to say, we weren’t supposed to be running the Orange Juicer on the street, but it was so damn addictive we couldn’t help it. So, the officer says, “Nice kart. Now you boys weren’t running it through the neighborhood today, were you.” We all answered in unison, “No, sir.” Then, with a big grin he said, “I didn’t think so.” And he got in his car and left.

We all laughed like a bunch of jackals knowing we had just escaped certain death, or at least trouble with a capital “T.” From then on, we took the Orange Juicer to a local elementary school a few blocks away to run it because it turned out it had a circular drive that if driven just right formed a perfect little oval track. Even my brother relished taking the Orange Juicer out for some laps back then.

Was there an Orange Juicer Mk II? Why yes, there was. But it was a bright orange Chevrolet panel van that was used primarily to move band equipment around in. That generated a whole new set of adventures, as you might imagine. 

Will there be an Orange Juicer Mk III? You just never know. I often fantasize about a bright orange early 70s Porsche 911. Or an Arancio Borealis Lamborghini Huracan or a Papaya McLaren, but there will never be another Orange Juicer Mk I. 

And maybe that’s how it should be.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.


RIDIN? ALONG IN MY AUTOMOBILE.
by Editor
1 Dec 2020 at 11:21am

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. It was a notably sunny and warmish late November day, perfect for exercising the Bolt. Cruising at 80 mph on our extended freeway system around here is something I enjoy, and on this particular day conditions were excellent.

(It should be noted that cruising at 80 mph is on the low side on our Michigan Superspeedways. Just sayin’. -WG)

Having SiriusXM is a wonderful thing, too, because listening to music while driving is something that never gets old; it’s just an inexorable part of the experience. Scanning the dial, I came across Chuck Berry belting out “No Particular Place To Go.” Now, if there is a more quintessential driving song, I haven’t heard it. Ridin’ along with Chuck seemed apropos for the moment.

Like most of us, I have been on many a road trip when all I had were my thoughts and the music fueling my drive. And in those fleeting moments, it doesn’t get any better as far as I’m concerned. (And the fact that the Bolt is clearly dismissed by other drivers as something not up to the task makes it somehow sweeter as I blow by slower traffic.)

Readers ask us, “Why the AE Song of the Week in On The Table; what gives with that?” Well, it’s because life isn’t living without music that touches your soul. It’s a simple as that. 

So, spare a moment and come along for the ride with me powered by a playlist that’s part satellite and part from my library…

After Chuck comes the classic Chris Isaak tune: “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing.” A sample of the searing lyrics in this song stick with you like a dart to the heart: “You ever love someone so much you thought your little heart was going to break in two? I didn’t think so…”

Then, one of my all-time favorite driving songs – “Radar Love” from Golden Earring – comes on. This one powered many of my drives in my Bitter Chocolate 911: “I’ve been drivin’ all night, my hand’s wet on the wheel. There’s a voice in my head that drives my heel. It’s my baby callin’, says, ‘I need you here’…”

Next up? George Strait singing “I Know She Still Loves Me,” with one – of many – unforgettable lyrics: ”I know she still loves me, but I don’t think she likes me anymore…”

And now, “Take Me As I Am” by Wyclef Jean. “Before I had the bling bling; I thought I’d end up in Sing Sing; Who would have ever thought that we’d be doing our thing…”

And Amanda Marshall's "This Could Take All Night" made famous in the movie "Tin Cup." "Put your keys down; You'd better stick around; You're the only one to get this done; Close and lock the door; Drop down to the floor; Forget the phone until you see the sun; Baby it's all right; Because you know I'll make this fun; When we see the morning light; We'll be right back, where we started from..."

And the incredible Randy Newman follows up with “Dixie Flyer.” “I was born right here, November ’43; My dad was a captain in the army, fighting the Germans in Sicily; My poor little momma Didn’t know a soul in L.A.; So we went down to the Union Station and made our getaway; Got on the Dixie Flyer bound for New Orleans…”

Then there’s Pat Green with his memorable “Carry On.” “Yeah, everybody gotta get away sometime; Forget about yourself for a while; Seems to me that all you need is a ragtop car to ride with me; Ok, alright, just might get a little high tonight; Okay, alright, carry on…”

Then a stunning instrumental: “Dead Kelly” by George S. Clinton, from the move “Wild Things.” Love it.

And then Kelly Willis (one of my all-time favorites from the Austin music scene) comes up with “I Know Better Now.” “Oh I must have left some stones unturned or could be quite a few; There’s a lot I overlooked and never knew; There’s some things you learn by getting burned; Don’t feel good at the time; Playing by your set of rules pretending you’ll never lose; But I know better now yeah I know better now; It just took a while to figure it out…” 

And then Van Halen hits it hard with “Hot For Teacher.” “I think of all the education I missed; But then my homework was never quite like this…”

And, one of my all-time favorites, The Rolling Stones with “Far Away Eyes.” “I was driving home early Sunday morning; Through Bakersfield; Listening to gospel music on the colored radio station; And the preacher said, ‘You know you always have the lord by your side’; And I was so pleased to be informed of this; That I ran twenty red lights in his honor; Thank you Jesus, thank you lord…”

Then there’s one of my country favorites, Tracy Byrd with “That’s The Thing About A Memory.” “That’s the thing about a memory; it’s got a mind of its own; It can take an old flame; And chill you to the bone; Just when you think it’s long gone; It’ll roll back around; But that’s the thing about a memory; When it comes to misery; It’ll never let you down…”

Now, the incomparable Joni Mitchell with “A Case Of You.” “Oh you’re in my blood like holy wine; You taste so bitter and so sweet; Oh I could drink a case of you darling; And I would still be on my feet; Oh I would still be on my feet…” 

Joni is followed by another incredible talent: Annie Lennox with “Why.” “I may be mad; I may be blind; I may be viciously unkind; But I can still read what you’re thinking; And I’ve heard it said too many times; That you’d be better off…”

And what would a road trip be without a finale from Bruce Springsteen? And my all-time favorite Bruce song: “Jungleland.” “Outside the streets on fire in a real death waltz; Between flesh and what’s fantasy and the poets down here; Don’t write nothing at all, they just stand back and let it all be; And in the quick of the night they reach for their moment; And try to make an honest stand but they end up wounded, not even dead; Tonight in Jungleland.” 

Yes, ridin’ along in our automobiles. Powered by incredible music, fevered dreams and indelible memories. It always feels right, and it never, ever gets old.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.


IT GOES ON.
by Editor
24 Nov 2020 at 12:48pm

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. We have arrived at the point in The Year Like No Other with enough ennui to fill Ford Field to the rafters. To say that this year has been a relentless Shit Show is the understatement of the century. It has been a kaleidoscope of out-of-control fires, nasty weather events, a surging, insidious virus and a suffocating political rancor that hangs over everything like a giant black cloud. Needless to say, it has been a Tidal Basin of Not Good.

The fact of the matter is that we all have something to be thankful for. We all have people in our circle who make a difference and who need to be recognized and appreciated, and this Thanksgiving seems to be the perfect time to do that. For a lot of people, gathering will not be possible, but contacting the people who matter in your life at this very moment in time might be the most giving thing we can do. 

We all have to remember that life is hard for a lot of people, and this pandemic has made it even more so. The hoary saying “count your blessings” is never more relevant than it is right now. The fallout from the impact of the virus has decimated livelihoods, entire industries have been destroyed or irrevocably altered, and the collateral human damage has been heartbreaking.

And the fact is that none of it can be swept under the rug, either. This year, this miserable 2020, has been and will continue to be in our faces until it ends, and even then, the stench of The Year Like No Other will linger well into 2021. 

Despite that crushing laundry list of bad tidings, we have reason for renewed hope and understanding. Granted, the idea of optimism at this juncture seems to be a quaint – and utterly useless – notion, but wallowing in The Darkness doesn’t seem to accomplish anything either.

Again, we have plenty to be thankful for. The men and women on the front lines of this ongoing virus crisis cannot be thanked enough. It is just not possible to adequately convey our appreciation for what they do, the relentless dedication they display day after day as they care for our loved ones is just staggering to contemplate. And our teachers, who in the face of daunting challenges insist on doing what they love to do, are examples for all of us as to how to conduct ourselves. And there are countless others in our lives whom we encounter, the police and fire personnel; the postal workers; the delivery people; the people who power our grocery and convenience stores. It’s easy to take all of these people for granted, but after what we’ve endured this year that should never be the case again.

And last but certainly not least, the men and women in our military who dedicate themselves to a higher calling every single day on our behalf. Words of thanks are simply not adequate for what they do, but they need to know that they are appreciated and we are deeply thankful for each and every one of them.

The one thing that I think is worth taking away from what has been a remarkably miserable year is that life as we know it must go on. We must persevere and make every moment count, because to succumb to the constant thrum of bad tidings is not a value-added pursuit. We must soak in those moments – a beautiful sunrise, a reason to laugh and smile, a warm feeling in our hearts, etc. – no matter how fleeting they might be, in order to appreciate the gifts that we have. 

No, life isn’t easy. Especially this life in 2020. But life can and should be savored as much as we can. Appreciate things. Appreciate people. Appreciate loved ones. Appreciate what we have and leave those things that we don’t have on the side of the road, because ultimately it doesn’t matter.

Remember this one simple thing: Life goes on, so, let’s make the most of it. I’m happy to defer to Robert Frost at this point: 

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." 

-Robert Frost

I hope you and yours have a peaceful Thanksgiving.


THE 100 GRAND BAR.
by Editor
16 Nov 2020 at 4:51pm

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Given that everything is well and truly out of sorts right now (you mean out of control, right? -WG) or better yet, “Over Under Sideways Down” as The Yardbirds once famously sang, how did we arrive at this point? I mean, how did we arrive at this point in time in the car business, where $60,000 is considered a mid-priced vehicle, and $100,000 is now the accepted average price for the upper end of the market? Yes, I get it, time marches on and all that, but wasn’t it less than a decade ago when vehicles priced at $100,000 and up were reserved for the Aston Martins, Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and other exotica of the auto world? 

Now, the average price of a loaded pickup truck or a full-zoot American SUV is approaching $75,000. If you get a loaded Super Duty version of one of those pickups from Chevrolet, Ford or Ram you’re easily pushing six figures. 

Other examples I came across while perusing dealer lots? The new 2021 Cadillac Escalade Platinum costs over $100,000. A Cadillac Escalade ESV Premium Luxury Platinum costs $110,095. A typical Range Rover is well over $100,000 on the sticker. A 2021 Land Rover Range Rover P525 HSE Westminster LWB was $128,165. And if it’s a Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR it’s $135,000+. A 2021 Audi Q8 Prestige 55 TFSI quattro is $93,000. The Porsche Cayenne S is over the six-figure mark, a Cayenne GTS is over $120,000, and I saw a Cayenne Coupe Turbo S E-Hybrid that topped out at $178,970! (There’s no point talking about the 911, because it’s over $100,000 as a starting point. And Panamera ($120,000+) and Taycan ($140,000+) can easily go up to push $200,000 from there.) 

A Lincoln Navigator Black label is over $100,000 on the sticker. A BMW M8 Gran Coupe Competition is $175,045 (the “base” is $140,000+). A Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class AMG GLE 63 S will cost you $134,000, an E-Class E 63 S costs at least $165,000, a G-Class G550 can set you back $169,000, and there’s always the S-Class AMG S 63 at $195,000.

This is the new normal, apparently. Yes, I have seen all of the statistics - the growth of personal wealth and disposable income, along with the desire of affluent consumers to say “WTF?” and spend big money on their personal transportation choices to “cocoon” during this pandemic while rediscovering the concept of hitting the road and embracing the idea of road trips they never took back in the day. Yes, I get all of that, because hitting the road is always a good thing.

But 100 Grand becoming the new threshold for luxury auto manufacturers from here on out is still a little hard to swallow. Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago when prices in the $80,000 range were eye-opening? Yes, it was.

But then again turning back the clock isn’t going to happen either, so 100 Grand has become the price of entry. It is the new luxury-performance bar.

I’ve been wondering about all of this because I am in deep talks with my friends Mr. James “Jimmy” Fu and Mr. S. L. “Sonny” King, as they try to determine pricing for their new product line. 

As longtime AE readers may recall from a column last September, Jimmy and Sonny have operated in the shadows of the gigantic Chinese industrial machine for years. But for readers new to AE, I will gladly shed some light on these two flamboyant characters so they can have a more complete picture of who they are. Mr. Fu started manufacturing model cars in the late 70s, and it has now been confirmed that he controls every toymaking concern in China through a labyrinthian network of mom-and-pop factories and several other large conglomerates that he lords over. Mr. King became partners with Mr. Fu after initially supplying the elaborate wheels and carefully detailed tires on Mr. Fu's model cars. The two have been partners for going on more than four decades now.

I first got to know Mr. Fu and Mr. King after they approached me at the Los Angeles Auto Show years ago. Apparently, they had stumbled upon Autoextremist.com after they first became familiar with the Internet, and they regaled me with the fact that they both learned English by having my ‘Rants’ columns translated for them. When I first met them, it turned into an uproarious encounter as they blurted out some of my patented phrases that they had learned phonetically, like ‘notgonnahappen.com,’ ‘halle-frickin'-luja' and 'the Answer to the Question that Absolutely No One is Asking.' (How they learned that last one remains a mystery to me.)

Mr. Fu and Mr. King have remained in close contact with me ever since. As I’ve gotten to know Jimmy and Sonny, their frenetic pace and boundless energy never cease to amaze me. The Zoom calls I receive at 3:00 p.m. my time are usually booze-filled stream-of-consciousness rants by Jimmy with Sonny yelling things over his shoulder, accompanied by stylish model types dancing to disco music in the background at their secretive Shanghai lair. And their appetites appear to be even more boundless. In fact, Jimmy is still fond of aspiring female pop stars, while Sonny is a very generous sponsor of a female gymnastic academy. Fast American muscle cars are overflowing in their underground garage, which is an enthusiast's cornucopia of greatest hits, including three Purple Dodge Demons (each modified to deliver 1000HP); two original “narrow-hipped” 427 street Cobras; matching L88 Corvettes; two new Corvette C8s (one black, one white); and a couple of custom-built Willys Gasser replicas from the 60s powered by race-prepared Chevy 502 big-blocks reserved for terrorizing the neighbors in the middle of the night. I have noticed that their fondness for Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon has been supplanted by Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon, which is a recent change, but, as they remind me often, they absolutely love their twin Gulfstream G650s (Jimmy’s is Jet Black; Sonny’s is Chaparral White).

Since that September column, when I pieced together some salient details of the Fu-King Motors future product portfolio (although it took three, lengthy, Basil-Hayden-fueled Zoom calls to do so, with much yelling – always the yelling – and the incessant disco pop playing LOUDLY in the background,) I have been consulting Jimmy and Sunny about the pricing of their upcoming products.

So, as best as I can tell, here is the timeline – and the projected pricing – for what Fu-King Motors has coming:

2021 (Now pushed back to the 2nd Quarter): The long-awaited debut of the Fu-King Gargantuan, the six-wheeled, all-electric SUV is designed to humiliate the new Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, the upcoming all-electric Hummer and “anything Ford has up its sleeve to counteract the Dodge,” according to Jimmy. Flaunting some incredible numbers: 2000HP; 7000 lbs., electric step ladders (“not steps, ladders,” Jimmy insists) and “a look that will humiliate all that other crap out there,” added Sonny. When I asked about the price, Jimmy and Sonny answered in unison: “Enough to make grown men cry!” So, what, exactly, is “enough to make grown men cry?” Jimmy laughed heartily at my hand-wringing over the new $100,000 threshold and said – with not a nanosecond's hesitation – that the Gargantuan would have a base price of $699,999. Gulp.

2021 (Now pushed back to the 4th Quarter): Another highly anticipated debut - The Fu-King Motors KickBoxer – is the boys’ answer to the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco with “unequaled” off-road performance. Boasting a carbon-fiber unibody and a kaleidoscope of different versions, including a pickup and one cryptically referred to as the “RumRunner Edition” (“it can conceal forty gallons of Bourbon!” Sonny chimed in), the KickBoxer will be powered by an all-aluminum, 2.0-liter, fuel-injected, Twin-Turbo, flat eight-cylinder motor that delivers 600HP. When asked if this could possibly be construed as overkill, Sonny quickly replied: “We will introduce our competitors to the concept of getting their asses kicked!” So, how much will it cost to kick your neighbors’ asses in their precious Wranglers and Broncos? Sonny, who was the driving force behind this program, priced it at $199,000 saying, “There is so much technology in this beast that enthusiasts will beg to get on the waiting list. You want to make a splash at cars and coffee? We got your splash right here!"

2022 (Now Q3): The all-electric semi-truck that looks eerily like the Bison advanced long-haul trucking concept that GM Styling created for the 1964 World’s Fair is a definite go for late in ‘22. When I was shown photos of the concept, I thought they had resurrected the designers who did the original Bison it looks so close to the original (see below). But this truck will be a hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric heavy truck with a range of “700+ miles,” according to Sonny. The name? “Convoy.” (It seems that Jimmy and Sonny are huge fans of the original “Smokey and The Bandit” movie and the whole C.B. radio era in the U.S.) How much? $500,000, all-in.

(GM)

The Bison heavy truck concept from GM Styling was designed for the 1964 World's Fair in New York.

2023 (This has been pushed back to 2023, if happens at all): It’s clear that the development of the Fu-King Motors supercar has been fraught with problems from the beginning. That it has taken its toll on Jimmy and Sonny is obvious, as whenever I mention it their usual exuberant dispositions turn decidedly glum. First envisioned as a high-performance, hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric hypercar, the machine - code named “Bandini” – has been reimagined as a BEV aimed squarely at Gordon Murray’s T.50. Said to have 1+1 seating and a curb weight of 1900 lbs., Jimmy and Sunny are still mum – and decidedly glum – on any further information, which is unusual for them, although I know they’re constantly bickering about the details. Which means you can bet that even the 2023 time frame is not even close to happening, and they haven’t stopped bickering long enough to even talk about the pricing yet. Although from what I’ve seen so far, it will cost $2 million, minimum.

When I asked about products beyond 2022, the boys mimicked what I often say, chiming in again in unison, “It’s a giant we’ll see!” And, when asked if they had any plans to import their products to the U.S., the answer was a resounding, “Never!” Asked why, they answered again in unison, “Too much bullshit, too much aggravation.” 

At that point all I could say was, “I concur.”

And I am reminded of those immortal words of The Wicked Witch of the West: 

Oh, what a world! What a world! 

What a world, indeed.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.


High Boltage.
by Editor
8 Nov 2020 at 12:26pm

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Well, it has been an interesting week, to say the least. Some readers out there took great umbrage with my adventure with the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, suggesting that The Autoextremist was dead, R.I.P. WordGirl predicted as much, saying that I would be pilloried relentlessly for having the temerity to experience BEV ownership for myself. She was right, of course (she usually is). 

But for those out there insistent that this marks the end for The Autoextremist, all I can say is that reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I certainly don’t have to prove my automotive credibility after creating content for this site for going on 22 years. I’m not being boastful in saying that my accumulated automotive experiences have been beyond noteworthy, and I savor each and every moment and take none of them for granted. My experience with some of the most legendary high-performance cars alone is enough to fill three books, so, I don’t feel it necessary to justify my automotive existence or pay much attention to those who suggest I’m “dead” for going electric. In fact, going electric may be the most extreme thing I could have done at this juncture.

So, for being a V8 guy through and through, how is the Bolt so far? I have a few thoughts in no particular order. First of all, the look of the Bolt is crisply executed and looks more substantial in person than you might think, especially in the “Summit White” color I have. And from what I know about the next-gen Bolt that’s coming, the size of the Bolt will increase slightly as it evolves to more of a crossover look.

I find the interior, which has been criticized, to be better in some respects than the reviews indicate, but there are some faults. I think the aesthetics are quite good overall, but I would prefer that the materials were more adventurous. I applaud the interior design team on the Bolt for pushing the envelope a bit, but they didn’t push it enough for my tastes. (My frame of reference in this case is the interior of the under-appreciated BMW i3, which I still consider to be the leader in this department and by quite a bit, even more than Tesla.) Functionally, the interior of the Bolt is quite good. The instrumentation is clean and ultra-legible, and the center-stack presentation is contemporary and instantly informative. The one glaring aspect of the Bolt interior that needs addressing are the seats; they’re too thin and not supportive enough. I expect the next-gen Bolt interior to be much better than the current one. I will be very disappointed if it isn’t.

But the one thing that the AE readers want to know, especially those who would only relinquish their V8s if and when their cold dead hands are pried off the steering wheels, is what about the driving? How does the Bolt feel? I think the basis for their queries are justified in that they’re starting from the perspective that somehow the Bolt is some sort of “toy” and not a real car. 

Let’s begin right there. The one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that the Bolt is definitely not a toy. The sum total of the engineering involved in the Bolt is thorough and substantial. It is a very impressive machine to drive. The usual descriptors for BEVs apply: Seamless. Silky smooth (kudos to Adam Sandler’s “Zohan”). Eerily quiet. And, of course, ultra-responsive due to the instantaneous torque that comes with an electric motor.  

I said this last week and I will reiterate it here, the Bolt qualifies as an AE-approved vehicle for exactly this reason: It. Is. Fun. To. Drive. As in, if GM isn’t working on an “RS” version for the next-gen Bolt I will be shocked. I’ve driven the Bolt exactly like I would any other car at my disposal. In the urban slog and out on the freeways in the Detroit Metro area, the Bolt has been a satisfying performer; it is composed and present even cruising at 80-85 mph. The Bolt could easily be a VW GTI fighter with the right tuning, and that’s saying something because the GTI remains my all-time favorite daily driver. With the accelerating developments in GM’s battery technology, combined with the usual array of suspension and braking tweaks that the True Believers in GM Engineering can do, I see no reason why a Bolt RS couldn’t be a compelling product entry down the road. I know I would certainly consider driving one.

But maybe the most interesting thing about driving the Bolt? Its Regen braking feature. You can put the Bolt in "D" and drive as you normally would in any automatic transmission-equipped car, or you can put it in "L" - which activates the Regen braking feature. With Regen engaged, when you take your foot off of the juice pedal the Bolt slows immediately - it also activates the brake lights - without touching the brakes, and as it does it puts juice back in the battery. The faster you're going, the more juice gets put back in the battery when you de-accelerate. It takes a while to get used to, as you think you're not going to slow for an upcoming stop light and then you end up stopping well short, but once you get the hang of what's going on, it's a thing of beauty. I always drive the AE Bolt in "L" - it's that good. And efficient.

And so, this will be the last update of the new AE Bolt for a while. I will be doing updates in our “On The Table” column periodically in the coming months so that you’ll know how it fares in the BEV-sapping cold of our winter here, but so far it has proven to be an impressive machine. As for those of you out there insisting that The Autoextremist is over and done with - who says that I haven’t already ordered a V8-powered machine to augment my fleet? (Man can’t live by electrons alone, apparently, at least not yet. -WG) But even if I did, you’re not going to know about it. After all, I find it liberating and oddly invigorating to be “over.” Or as our friend Dr. Bud so eloquently put it: “The more you know, the more you just never know.” 

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

(AE photo)

The AE Chevrolet Bolt photographed in front of the Birmingham, Michigan, public library.


GONE ELECTRIC.
by Editor
2 Nov 2020 at 3:24pm

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Yes, I have gone electric. I picked up a 2020 Chevrolet Bolt last Friday (not supplied by the manufacturer, just to be clear – WG), in what some would consider a radical departure for The Autoextremist. And believe me, it is. This is not a drill. The Bolt will serve as my daily driver for the foreseeable future.

How did I arrive at the decision? It wasn’t easy, but I have been contemplating this move for quite some time now. And no, I never for a second entertained the thought of getting a Tesla; the Bolt is at a price point that I can comfortably deal with and besides, it was built about 25 miles up the road from here at GM’s Lake Orion Assembly facility. We like to look after our own around here when we can.

A few things need to be said at this juncture. I have never underestimated the quality of the engineering represented in the Bolt, because in a lot of respects it is truly outstanding. GM’s True Believers worked on this machine, and you can tell that from the moment you get in and drive it down the road. Yes, the usual electric driving characteristics that you’ve all read about for years are present and accounted for: It is seamless, it is quiet, it is remarkably responsive, it is quick, and above all, it is actually fun-to-drive. That last part is absolutely paramount to me, and in my brief time with it the Bolt delivers.

As for the decision not being easy, as longtime readers know I am an American V8 connoisseur, and I will never get tired of the sound and fury at the touch of your right foot in a proper RWD V8 machine. To me, it is the essence of high-performance, even more so than V10s or V12s, although don’t get me wrong, I love those engines just as much, especially in yesterday’s (better) F1 cars. So, before selecting the Bolt I took a long hard look at two V8-powered machines in particular: a 2021 Chevy Camaro LT1 Coupe and a 2021 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody (in Black, of course). 

No, I don’t need no stinkin’ superchargers, I am a normally-aspirated guy all the way, and both of these cars fit the bill perfectly. The 455HP Camaro LT1 is more affordable, and they’ve cleaned up the looks of it considerably, especially in the front end. And it is a full 600 lbs. lighter than the huskier Dodge. That is a lot. But the 485HP Challenger Widebody is bad-assery personified. It just looks the part, even if it weighs a porky 4200 lbs.

I was initially leaning toward the Camaro because of its lighter weight and clear affordability advantage, but in the end it was a toss-up, because if I was going out on a high automotive note, I was going out with a big bang. But then I remembered that famous line by The Boss in Born to Run:

“The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive…”

Ain’t that the High-Octane Truth? Yes, I could stand on the gas in either one of these machines in a blast up to 140 mph in an exuberant “merge” on the freeway, or rip through my favorite exit and entrance ramps, or just hammer up Woodward Avenue for the sheer hell of it. But is that all there is? Were those fleeting moments of V8 bliss worth everything else that comes with it? Like thirsty gas bills and pay-through-the-nose insurance?

“… Beyond the Palace, hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard

Girls comb their hair in rear-view mirrors, and the boys try to look so hard… “

I love every bit of Bruce’s incredible imagery in his signature song (one of them anyway -WG), because I have lived it. All of it. I have lived more automotive lives than most people could only dream of. I grew-up in Detroit’s Golden Era, and I was fortunate enough to experience an incredible array of mind-boggling machines in real time and in-period that were only available to read about in car magazines or coffee table books for a lot of other enthusiasts. I got to live through America’s greatest road racing era – from SCCA and FIA sports car racing and on to Can-Am and Trans-Am in the 60s and early 70s.

And my aim and my memories are true. I savor every last moment of my experiences and they are as vivid as if they happened just yesterday. And that is no exaggeration. People often comment on my ability to remember my experiences down to the very last detail. It is a gift that I never get tired of and I will never take for granted. It is a distinct privilege to have that treasure chest of memories at my disposal any time I want to tap into them.

But - and there’s always a “but” - the more I thought about it, the more I began to think that it was time to turn the page. As a society, we’re collectively about to embark on a New Age of transportation. Will the ICE cars of previous glorious eras survive? Yes. And there will be parts (and gasoline) for them too. But the Battery Electric Vehicle revolution has begun and there’s no turning back. Yes, there is a raft of associated problems that will come with this transformation as many have pointed out, but remember, at the dawn of the ICE Age there was much hand-wringing about the problems of having gasoline “bombs” (automobiles) roaming our streets and byways. 

So, I am not going back, although I can go back in time – in my mind – anytime I care to. I am going forward. I am going to experience this “electric thing” for myself and for real. Will there be disappointments? I would imagine so. Will I miss those V8s. Very much so, but I will be able to experience those machines whenever I want to, hopefully.

For now, however, I am dialed in to my new Bolt EV. And in my brief time with it all I can say is that I am very impressed. And as I said before, the fun-to-drive aspect of it is its most surprising feature, along with its regenerative braking feature, which means it slows itself down while putting juice back in the battery – without using the brakes – or not much of them anyway. That took some getting use to, but now, I engage this feature all of the time. 

But the most remarkable thing about the Chevrolet Bolt? It’s the fact that GM was criminally negligent in not promoting and marketing this vehicle from the very beginning. This engineering tour de force – and it certainly is at its price point – was treated like an afterthought, an unwanted stepchild that never got the attention or proper nurturing. This machine laid the groundwork for the BEV transformation that is powering GM right now and into the future, and it deserved so much better. 

In the meantime, I plan on enjoying everything the Bolt EV has to offer, and I will keep you posted.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.



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