Friday, November 29, 2013

Product Planning

Here's the thing -

I've never worked for a car company. I don't have an engineering degree. But what I do have is a keen eye on the industry, and a degree based around things like logistics, business analysis, and management. That combination wouldn't take me far off the beaten path of your average product planner. In that vain, with a bit of ego, and some serious thought that should've been applied to things like work or, you know, a life, I present you with the top 3 cars that should have been made:

3: A Falcon-based Lincoln LS:
The CTS is the car that single-handedly revived Cadillac. During the years leading up to it, Cadillac was on its deathbed, ironically like most of its customer base. However, with their sites set on their best European rivals, they went back to the drawing board and created what was to be one of the most astounding come-back cars of the century. Love it or hate it, the CTS was the first Cadillac to truly bring the fight to BMW and Mercedes. And now, with their position secure, we can't help but wonder: what's taking Lincoln so long to do the same? Instead of rehashing the entire Ford lineup, just with longer taillights and a split grill in the front, how about we make the Lincoln lineup special again? And you know just the car to lead the charge? The Falcon. I know I've talked about this before, but if you want to gut and remake a Ford, make it a memorable one. Make it one that when you're done can take the fight to the CTS. Make one Henry would be proud to drive, so long as it's black.

2: A new Monte Carlo -
Let's just face facts, the Australian-based GTO was a flop. It's not for lack of ability, or for being subpar. It actually blew everything that it was competing with at the time out of the water. The reason was GM's usual product fumbling. They phoned in a product that was clearly meant to be something else, and put the most legendary muscle car name ever on the side. However, the formula was a good one, and under a different set of conditions, it would have been a huge splash instead of a horrendous belly flop. A luxurious, sporty interior, a decent stack with a real stereo, and the ability to spin the world backwards with muscle car torque. Sounds like a Monte Carlo SS to me. At least the kind that they built before it was just an Impala coupe. If you still don't believe me, here's a picture of a concept of the latest generation of Monaro (what was our GTO):

1: A proper Integra successor -
Full disclosure: I don't hate the RSX. I actually really like it. And I like the generation of Si that took the place of the RSX, so much so, that I own one. But the Integra was bigger than that, bigger than a lineage of just what was capable in a FWD "rice rocket". It was a cultural icon that united the Fast and Furious crowd with serious tuners. They could be made to be as much about show as they could be for go. The name came to symbolize the idea that we can, in fact, all just get along. Whether you were a fan of a clean looking sleeper, or you came for the neon lights and custom sub-woofer enclosures, you were sure to find one at any car show that fit your tastes. And now what do we have? The ILX?! I was so excited to think what that I meant when they first announced the product, and now I fear that it may in fact, in Honda's mind, may be their attempt at being the new Integra. It deserves better than that. We Honda fans deserve a car that will look straight at the BRZ, the Focus ST, and the Mazdaspeed 3 and announce with a natural aspirated, stratospheric redline: "We're back".

So there they are. The best cars that never were. Some, I'm sure, were kicked around the offices, but never saw the light of day. But I can assure you, if ever given the chance, I'll make sure they do.

And that, that's the thing.

- Shawn

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cars That Definitely Have Come With a Manual Transmission

Here's the thing.

So I've decided to drudge up my repressed memories of cars that were never offered with a manual, that definitely should have. There are any number of cars that didn't get the standard transmission love that were perfect candidates. There's several older options that may fit this bill too, but being that I am a whipper-snapper, I've decided to keep mine out of muscle and classic car territory. We all know that they should have all come with one, and many didn't. My dad claims they were faster as automatics also, but I highly doubt that as well. 

Anyways, I'm picking my top 3 and, in the comments, I encourage you to do the same. Here we go:

3. 1st gen Acura RDX: This one simply because it was one of the best, if not THE best, engines to come out of Honda's new obsession with their valve-deactivation version of VTEC. "We'll use it to help spool a turbo. Slap it on a de-bored K24. And stick it in one of the most capable CUVs on the market. Oh and we'll add our torque-vectoring AWD system while we're at it. Freaking brilliant! Except for the 5-speed autobox.

2. MkV R32: I would really like to be able to get a 4Motion, fire-breathing VR6, manual equipped hot hatch without having to go back to the crap that was VW's MkIV generation. Who was the genius that decided we only get the DSG over here in the states? Leave that shit for the TTS and A3 and people that bought this car in the "upscale" skinned versions.

1. The Caddilac XLR: So you're telling me that the company that came up with the awesome idea of dropping the C5 Z06's LS1 into their mid-size luxury sedan couldn't figure out that their Corvette-based, sports-car flagship needed a standard option? Chronic GM resource mismanagement at its best..

So those are my 3. What are yours? Let me know below. I'll be curled up, crying in the corner, thinking about the current condition of the automotive market.

And that, that's the thing.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Here's the thing.

I'm completely okay with Subaru basing the next WRX on the Impreza. I've heard it's a stellar platform, although I've never driven one myself, and it could easily handle some more power. And that's exactly what the WRX is, an Impreza pushed to its limits. That's what it always been.

However, when Subaru announced their pledge to split the lines, many enthusiasts cheered. I unabashedly booed. While the general populous welcomed the thought of a poised, polished, purpose-built sports car, I began to think about a WRX more in line with the purpose of an M3 than the raw econobox-on-steroids it had always been. And that's terrifying, not because I don't like the M3, but because an M-Series BMW costs M-Series money.

The fact of the matter is that there is no reason to produce a more "refined" or "adult" WRX. Subaru used to make something of that nature, and they couldn't sell enough of them to justify keeping it in the lineup. For those of you that haven't already guessed, I'm talking about the Legacy GT. For anyone looking for the characters I just expressed, this was the car. It was every bit as fast, and handled nearly as well, only suffering because of the slight weight penalty it had. When Subaru upgraded the GT to WRX levels in 2005, several people cheered, same as they did for this next refined, purpose-built WRX, yet the sales numbers really never fleshed out or backed the decision up.

So where does that leave the new WRX? Well Subaru hasn't really addressed the Impreza-skinned mules spotted by various news outlets. Many are hoping it's a red herring, but I'm hoping it's the truth. Because I like the idea of a $35,000 car that can whip a Caymen on the track in the day, and then take you camping somewhere off the beaten path that night. As the differentiation rises, so will the price tag, and ultimately the spirit of the WRX will be lost. After all, if we wanted what they've been promising us with the next Rexxer, we'd all be driving Legacys. Or M3s.

And that, that's the thing.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

WR-Axed (With guest writer Robin McCaffrey)

Here's the thing.
My daily driver is a 2009 Impreza 2.5i. No, it isn't a WRX/STI, though I wish it was. But I still love the thing, and am glad I didn't purchase the car new.  It's sad to see power ratings go down from one year to another and Subaru did just that as they ditched the 2.5L boxer for their smaller more efficient 2.0L. What does this mean in a practical sense? Well hp has gone from 170 down to 148.  The enthusiast in me rages, while a more practical side kind of hems and haws at the 30% gain in fuel economy.
So what is Subaru's plan with all of this? Well previously Subaru has indicated that they wanted to separate the WRX and base model Impreza's. Sure, there is value in co-developing a sports car with an economy car.  Namely huge cost savings, and you'll also be left with some soul in the economy car. But that also works in reverse. The WRX is being limited by its more civil base model, and the base model isn't competitive with all of its respective economy competitors in terms of up front purchase price/features/fuel economy. Subaru knows this, I know this, and so do many Subaru enthusiasts. This is why, when Subaru announced that the two trim levels would be receiving their own distinct platforms, legions of us cheered. Finally, our base Impreza would be competitive (i.e. 30% fuel economy gains from the 3rd generation to the 4th generation), meanwhile the WRX continued on with the 3rd gen platform up until the end of the 2013 model year.  Subaru teased us with awesome style concepts such as the Advanced Tourer Concept, and more recently the 4th gen WRX Concept:
These two concept cars brought tears of joy to many Subaru enthusiasts worldwide.  Finally, a Subaru that has style, presence, and doesn't look like a Mazda 3/Corolla knockoff.  Hooray!
Then came the spy shots...
What is this?
True it's difficult to tell what it the car will look like without the vision distorting camouflage. But unless the vehicle is sporting fake mule body panels, this is no where close to the awesome concept cars we were teased with. Going by these shots, almost none of the styling cues that drove us crazy actually made it through to this iteration of the vehicle.
What are we left with? Broken promises. The new WRX is still just a base Impreza with a big hood scoop and a silly wing, and arguably smaller fender flares. Seeing as how the base impreza has been getting cheaper/efficient, this raises all sorts of terrible questions in the back of my head. The most glaring of questions being: is this a sign that the next WRX will actually be a step backward in terms of performance?
We don't know for sure yet, but it looks like we are in for another generation of bland/efficient appliances.
And that's the thing.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lincoln Parked

Here's the thing.

Autoblog has pronounced Lincoln dead. And i can't say I disagree with them. However, that is if they stay as they are now.

Look at Cadillac. They were also CTD in the late 90s/ early 2000s. One car turned it all around. The Evoq concept. It was a beautiful design that captivated audiences and piqued consumers interests enough to keep an eye on Cadillac. Cadillac used that attention, took that concept, and built a real life sedan, the CTS, using the design language, and used hardware that made it competitive with real luxury competitors. The Evoq itself would later go on to become the Corvette-based XLR.

What it comes down to is the CTS is its own car. Lincoln is still rehashing Fords with the design that shoulda been used the first time around. This is unacceptable. The cars that stick in people's minds are the ones they can't get elsewhere. 10 years from now, no one will remember the XTS. That's because it's mostly LaCrosse and Impala parts.

No, the Cadillacs that are out now that will stick with people are the 3-killing ATS and constantly surprising CTS. And that's because they are nowhere else in the GM portfolio. Even if the Camaro uses the same platform as the CTS, it's far from the same car.

Lincoln basically needs 3 cars:

-An AWD Sedan, on the Focus platform, but a bit bigger to provide it a real back seat. Think the American A3. Differentiated by AWD, slightly bigger footprint, and true premium features. Only engine available is the ST's 2.0T.

- The Falcoln brought over as a future-oriented LS replacement. True RWD, mated to the 3.5 Ecoboost, tuned to 400hp.

- A real body-on-frame SUV to replace the Navigator, and to differentiate from the unibody Explorer.

That's where they need to start. Once that begins to sustain, build a full size, RWD Continental replacement. That will be the indicator that Lincoln has pulled out of their death spiral.

Until Ford actually spends some money on getting Lincoln its own cars, they will continue to be an also-ran. At least for another 5 years. Then they'll become a "could have been".

And that, that's the thing.

Naturally Aspirated Need Not Apply

Here's the thing.

I've spoken before about the crock that is the small displacement, turbo engine. However, my problem doesn't stem from these engines themselves. It comes from the fact that many companies are ignoring better options to follow the trend.

I think the best example of this is Volkswagen's ubiquitous 2.5 inline 5. Next year it is being relieved of duty to make room for a shiny, new, direct injected, 1.8 liter, turbo four. Notice all those adjectives? Well, who's to say that if the 2.5 was given the same advantages that it wouldn't be just as good? Or maybe even better.

However, the problem comes down to consumers. They want a car that scores the magic 40 mpg EPA highway rating, regardless of what they get in real-life driving. Naturally aspirated engines often test better in application, but that doesn't look good in a 30 second television spot.

What's more, they're often faster. They are not dependent on any other system, besides their own natural torque curve. Direct injection only amplifies torque characteristics. An all aluminum, direct injected 2.5 might not hit the 40 miles per gallon on the highway, but it would return 35 while doing 0-60 in 7 seconds.

But that might crimp the style of the GTI and GLI. But won't a 40mpg, 8 second to 60 crimp the style of their diesel offerings? Seems like a DI version of the 2.5 is exactly the difference splitter the lineup needs.

And that, that's the thing.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Weight Watchers

"Simplify, and then add lightness" - Colin Chapman

Here's the thing.

What if I told you there was one thing you could do to a vehicle to enhance not only its performance, but also its mileage? No, I'm not referring to any kind of space-age engine tech or the fabled "60mpg catalytic converter" rumored through most of the 70's. I'm talking about weight reduction. In terms of a vehicle, weight is the enemy of every objective test. Don't believe me? Let's consider some Some examples.

The Audi S8 and the BMW 760Li are both large executive sport-sedans. They put up, I'm sure coincidentally, similar performance numbers, with the S8 edging out the 760 by a small margin, mostly owing to its Quattro all-wheel drive. However, that same system should, by all logical accounts, also rob fuel economy from the big super-sedan, as well as create losses to how much power is put to the ground. So from a powertrain standpoint, it's outclassed. Then how does it manage to do a 3.6 0-60 and still return 20 observed miles-per-gallon in a recent Car&Driver test? Simply put: weight. The big Audi is one of the most aluminum-intensive studies of modern automobile construction in recent years. It is over 500 lbs lighter than the BMW, and it shows.

Moreover, let's take an example of the same engine in two different applications. Going back to the Cruze I talked about earlier this week, the very same 1.4T I railed against in the Cruze is also available in the subcompact Sonic. In the same testing that drove the Cruze under 30 miles per gallon, the Sonic was able to maintain a 31 miles-per-gallon average. What's more, this was accomplished without trick grill shutters or low-rolling resistance tires, some of the tricks employed to turn the Cruze 1LT into the Cruze Eco.

Knowing all this, why don't companies build lightness into all of their cars? Well, that's a tricky question, but the obvious and biggest problem is price. Aluminum, carbon fiber, magnesium, and other lightweight materials are expensive. Although they are coming down, they are still beyond the reach of most normal econobox shoppers. Also, marketing plays a part. There is no badge for aluminum construction. You'll never see a car with "65% CarbonFiber" emblazoned on the front fender. Without those things, people will never give up their perceptions of the value that comes along with a small-displacement or a hybrid drivetrain, both of which easy to tell due to the identification usually plastered on the outside of the car.

All we can hope for is that companies will invest in these new technologies. As a matter of fact, Toyota weaved its own carbon fiber for their LF-A supercar. With any luck, that technology will trickle down to their passenger cars. I for one cant wait for our first affordable car that averages 35 miles-per-gallon and does 0-60 in 6.5 seconds, with a real engine, in all conditions.

And that, that's the thing.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Truck Talk

Here's the thing.

The truck market in America is dwindling. But no, I don't mean sales. Anyone who can read empirical data can tell you the Ford F-150 is still near the top of the sales chart. No, I'm talking about variety. Small trucks as they once were are extinct, and with the death of the Dakota and the next Colorado in stasis, anything smaller than full-size now comes from the Land of the Rising Sun.

As a matter of fact, even most of their mid-size selections are growing to the proportions most full-sized options were just a few years ago. What's worse, the options that are offered have very little to set them apart from each other in any sort of value perspective. Each full-size out right now has three power train choices: the standard engine, the power-over-economy engine, and the mileage play. And what's worse, none of them are particularly stimulating.

No, what the market needs now is a set of small, economic trucks that can be driven to work through the week and make a few utility runs on the weekend. Having a full-size for a few simple errands a week is kind of like using a jackhammer to drive a nail. Yeah, it definitely gets the job done, but ultimately it's overkill.

Full disclosure: I'm not a truck person. But if Chevy were to make a small truck based off the Equinox or Dodge using the new Cherokee platform, i'd be much more apt to give one a chance. Especially if there are performance options like the 2.0T or 3.6 hooked up to a stick, as God intended in a pickup. Better yet, can we get Volkswagen to build a new Caddy and drop the 2.0 TDi in it? Then we could have our first 40MPG pickup.

And that, that's the thing.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Exhausted With Turbos

Here's the thing.

Turbos are becoming an epidemic. And I don't mean the ubiquitous 2.0T out of the Volkswagen GTI or the Twin-Turbo 3.0 liter inline-6 from the BMW 335i. Both of these are examples of turbos being used to create more race-worthy engines.

No, I mean the current crop of small-displacement, turbocharged powerplants that we find running rampant in the markets compact and mid-size segments. There's no good reason that a car as heavy as a Cruze or a Dart (both around 3200lbs.) should have an engine smaller than a Liter and a half. And yet, somehow, both do.

The linchpin, seemingly, is that it's all somehow alright if a turbo is added to the equation. And the numbers seem to back that up, but only if you're looking at the right set of numbers. The EPA says this let's these cars hit the magic 40mpg highway rating. However, in many documented test, both have struggled to break 30 overall. And what's worse, both do 0-60 in or around 8 seconds. To put that in perspective, the Civic does a similar 0-60 while constantly scoring over 30 in real-world numbers. Same with the current Focus. Even the Golf, with its bigger and supposedly more thirsty inline-5, has been known to do similar fuel numbers while performing much more admirably.

So what's the take-away from this? Well, there is one that I can readily see: EPA testing and factory performance ratings are done on a best case scenario. They are built on the foundation of perfect conditions and unlikely likelihoods. And companies are now using this to game the system to fluff their fuel economy numbers with cars that can't replicate them in normal driving conditions.

But last I checked, we all live in the real world, where fuel economy numbers are determined by the actual thirst of the engine, and not what the attached sticker says. And for the many people brainwashed by a high number on the window sticker, that may be a problem.

And that, that's the thing.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

At-Risk Individual

Here's the thing.

As I'm staring down the barrel of graduating college, I am looking towards the part of my future any red-blooded American male would think about: a new car. However, I've hit a bit of a snag. While I am getting some assistance with the car I will be paying the car insurance myself. And that's the problem. I am 23, have a speeding ticket on my record, and am looking at vehicles which might actually raise my pulse on occasion. All these things make me an "at-risk individual", and apparently make insurance companies cringe at the very though of insuring me for any less than the promise of my first born.

Let's think about this for a second and break it down. The biggest thing I have going against me is my age. Apparently as a 23 year old I do drugs all the time, drink and drive, and pilot my automobile in ways that would make Ken Block cringe. Except I don't. I've never done any of those things. I have a healthy dose of respect for my fellow drivers and would not want to subject them to that peril any more than I would want them to do the same to me. However, this does not seem to even be a possibility to insurance companies. Maybe it's just a punishment fee for not living up to their expectations of people my age.

I have a speeding ticket. I want to understand this one, but I don't. It's not a reckless driving ticket. I was simply traveling at a rate that was more than what they felt the average driver is safe traveling at on that particular stretch of road. I would consider myself an above average driver, and don't feel like this particular offense makes me at-risk or even a problematic vehicle operator. More than that, I don't remember my insurance paying my speeding ticket. If there is a factor that makes me pay more for my auto insurance, shouldn't it pay out for that same factor? Instead, I was the one footing the bill.

And third, the vehicle selection. I am a young automobile enthusiasts who would like a performance vehicle as their daily driver. However, that combined with my age seems to make the insurance company think I'm going to be using it to start my own Youtube channel or apply for Octane Academy. I'm totally gonna put NOS under the hood and some sick graphics on da frame. Except I'm not. I'm young, my job doesn't pay that well, and frankly, I have better things to spend my money on than having a stable of automobiles. This will be my daily driver and I can't afford to blow it up or do anything that might sideline it. However, that concept is also lost on them.

But there's hope! Apparently in two years when I'm 25, married, and the ticket has expired off my license all will be well! My insurance will drop right through the basement and I'll finally be able to afford it. But that raises a big question. How does that help me now?

And that, that's the thing.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Return of the King

Here's the thing.

The King has returned! Arguably, the most famous nameplate in Camaro history has been resurrected for the 21st century. This time it's carrying the heart of the Z06 in its engine bay, and not much else.

It's down about a hundred pounds, but in the pursuit of that weight loss, it's given up several creature comforts expected in modern cars, even performance cars. A/C is optional, there's significantly less sound deadening, and the only speaker in the whole car is a small one to give you the alert sounds modern cars make when you do things they don't want you to.

So the question becomes: who's the competition? The Boss already has the 1LE to compete with, and the GT500's competition comes in the form of the ZL1. The only one I can think of is the new drag-ready CobraJet, but that's a purpose built drag car. The Z/28 is in a class of its own, but the weight savings needed to come from somewhere else to be relevant. For a 3900lb car, there's got to be other places to pull from.

So the Z/28 is a, probably, 40k track car. With that kind of money, there's much better options. Even on the new market, there's the Subaru STi and the Lancer Evo. Unless you absolutely have to have a muscle car for track duty, I just can't recommend the Z. That is until the next generation where it is lighter, faster, and even more capable, or it comes with a real option list. Because the LS7 is too good to be stuck on the track all day.

And that, that's the thing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Lexus step-child.

Here's the thing.

Lexus is more confused than the customers about the IS. I think they are stuck between making it a true sports sedan like the first generation, and the entry-lux also-ran that was the second generation. While I understand the second-gen sold more units, it also sold its soul to do so.

The first generation IS was a sedan Supra, and made no bones about it. The car was a stealth killer among the general public, and a legend to those of us familiar with Japanese cars. It did not float down the road as did the other models in its line, it pounded the pavement into submission with a 3 liter I6, routing through a 5-speed manual to the rear wheels. It was a car that was all about being driven, and riders need not apply. It was aggressive and announced itself when it entered the room.

Then came the second generation.

With a design doing all it could to copy the German competitors and a ride which was noticeably softer than the first generation, the second generation IS came into the entry-executive field fully flourished. However, it had lost the things that made it special. It was no longer the razor-edge tool it was born as. The company obviously tried to copy BMW, but lost at every turn. The 3.5 305hp V6 couldn't even be ordered with a manual. It remained in the market till this year, and is being replaced by a new model in the coming months.

However, Lexus is missing the point again.

The new car is beautiful and aggressive (save the headlights, which should be all one piece. Fire the designer that split the cluster into two), however, underneath it is virtually unchanged. How bad is it that an 8-speed in the 350 version is a major mechanical change for the new model? Where is the legitimate R&D? Where is the revolutionary turbocharged powerplant we were promised? Without any kind of effort, the model will languish.

I say Toyota pull a Civic. A full mulligan. Take the next year and develop the DI Turbo-4 they've been promising, build a legitimate manual to match it, FIX the headlights, and make a car that is underneath as impressive as that svelte new body they designed for it. Without these things, the Predator grill and fancy F-sport editions will only generate so many sales. I say let's find the guy who made the IS300 and put him back on the project. The IS was always meant to be fast over class.

And that, that's the thing.

Monday, March 25, 2013

I Love Weird Designs

Here's the thing.

Weird designs don't get the credit they deserve. In an industry where the safe bet is the option used 99.9% of the time, we need cars like the Juke and the Veloster. They serve a purpose. Young people need something to set themselves apart, and for those that value creativity, it's one of the most visual ways possible. The better part is that these designs often come with some quality engineering under the skin. The suspension and engine in the Juke, Veloster, and Beetle are all near the tops of their classes.

However, in the case of the Beetle and Veloster, there are more traditional looking alternatives using the same components, the Golf and Elantra, respectively. The small premium commanded by the unique-looking models is something a select group of customers are willing to pay to have their car be an expression of themselves as people. But for the platform and powertrain sharing models, beauty is only skin deep. But that doesn't make them any less better to look at.

And that, that's the thing.

Hybrids Are a Lie

Here's the thing.

Hybrid technology is a band-aid. It is used to boost output and efficiency of engines that would otherwise be considered a joke. The Prius has an engine that is 1.8 liters and only puts out 98 horsepower. That's barely 50hp/liter. If that was put in any other car, it would be shunned by the automotive community. However, because it has a "Hybrid Synergy Drive" badge on the back and a battery wedged in beside it, it gets a pass.

Moreover, the engine is not even the major player in the Prius' above-average fuel economy. Consider this: the Lexus CT200h has the same powertrain, CVT and all, and yet can only achieve mileage that is 80% of what the Prius does. So what makes the difference? Well, they're not under the skin, in fact, most of them are on the skin somewhere. Things like major aerodynamic work and low rolling resistance tires are the kind of primping and preening the car went through before it was allowed to step out into the world as Toyota's "God car". There's nothing to say that a well developed, modern, pure-gas powerplant with those other modifications and that much work would not do the same numbers.

The only place the hybrid methodology has anything over on other powerplants is in the city. With a sensitive start/stop system and the ability to drive slowly (read: crawl) on pure electric power, your fuel economy is practically infinite for the available range. However, should you get that horrible urge to put your foot down, it becomes no better than anything else. Which means that you have to change your driving style to get any major advantage out of your shiny hybrid batteries. And if you're going to go through all that trouble, why not do it for a car that still has guts when you want to romp on it?

And that, that's the thing.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

First Post

Hi guys, Shawn here. This blog is going to be about the way I see things in the automotive industry. I love cars, so this will be the enthusiast perspective. I will not be pulling any punches or taking any sides, I think that kind of thinking leads us all down the path where the bean counters are free to make the cars instead of the engineers. Look for my first post in the coming hours and for updates fairly frequently.