Off-Road Top 20
According to SEMA, off-road enthusiasts are still spending on truck modifications. More than half of survey respondents fitted larger tires, with air filters and exhaust systems close behind. Rounding out the top-10 products were wheels, custom suspension, performance oils and lubricants, cold-air intake, a hitch, and polishes and waxes. Further down the list were differential upgrades but winches and recovery gear didn't make it at all. At least that explains all the waxes and polishes.
The survey also showed a few surprises in the trucks the participants owned. Perennial sales leader F-Series was at the top, followed by the Ram, Wrangler, Chevy C/K pickup, Chevy Silverado, Cherokee, Bronco, Blazer, GMC Sierra, and Tacoma. Other notables: the Suburban in 12th, Land Cruiser at 15, Power Wagon 16, and FJ Cruiser 19.
Dollar Hurting, Not Shareholders
The strong euro may not help European car companies sell product Stateside, but it doesn't seem to hurt stockholders much. When the beancounters finished tallying total shareholder return at the major automakers for the year 2007, GM was down about 16 percent and down 29 percent for the last three and Ford down 10 and 50, respectively, while Daimler was up 56 percent for 2007 and 99 for the last three years. Juggernaut Toyota was off 17 percent last year and up 47 over three years, while Fiat, up 36 percent last year alone was up by 226 over three years and ranked just one percent behind Porsche (62/227). However, the biggest gainer was Germany's Volkswagen, up 105 percent last year and 437 over the last three years.
As Daimler paid big bucks for Chrysler and sold it for substantially less, so has Ford done with Jaguar and Land Rover. Ford ponied up 2.5 billion dollars to buy Jaguar in 1989 and $2.7 billion for Land Rover in 2000, and by spring the sale of those two marques to Tata was all but finalized; the price of roughly *** billion was a third of purchase investment, interest and inflation notwithstanding. Although Tata may have gotten a good deal, without Ford cars in the mix, Jaguar and Land Rover are likely to incur some noteworthy fines on average fuel economy.
Who Owns What
GM and International Truck and Engine Corporation are gearing up to produce Chevy and GMC Class 4-8 vehicles and parts retailed through GM's dealer network. The GM plant in Flint, Michigan, will build other products as Navistar moves medium-duty trucks to its own production site, and GM will continue to carry Isuzu W-series trucks in its network. As reported in our last issue, the deal is expected to be completed this year.
Dollar Killed Hybrid Audi
Audi concluded the dollar/euro relationship of early 2008 created a bad business case for a Q7 hybrid. However, as the Q7 is slated to be the first--and only for now--Audi to get a diesel in the U.S. market, the hybrid version may become a non-issue.
No Parking? No Problem
A U.K.-based Web site that matches drivers with parking spaces--www.parkatmyhouse.com--has launched service in the U.S. The site coordinates those with private parking spaces to spare with those looking for a regular spot at a reasonable price; it applies only to residential parking and not pay structures and lots. It has also teamed with Zipcar, the world's largest car-sharing company, to rent parking spaces to Zipcar and keep a share-car in the neighborhood, a bonus for urban dwellers who find owning and keeping a car in a city more hassle than it's worth.
Diesel Buggy Power
Subaru developed the world's first horizontally opposed four-cylinder diesel engine, a 2.0-liter that delivers in the neighborhood of 150 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and by most measures adds less than 50 pounds. If you tow your sandrail with a diesel pickup or motorhome, this would be a good buggy engine for one-fuel users.