The Mystery of the Mazda 3
Or the Curse of the Excluded Middle.
P.P.S.: It's Chinese. ... (For a better-looking version go here and click on "8".) ...
Breakthrough? GM is also producing the not-bad rear-drive Cadillac CTS in China. So, which would you rather have: a Chinese-assembled CTS or an American-assembled CTS? I thought so. Will affluent Americans start importing Chinese Caddys? ... 6/18/05
The Plot To Milk the Rest of GM's Fading Brand Glory Until It Finally Disappears, Not Unlike the L.A. Times: Here's a depressing quote from GM product czar Bob Lutz:
"We see a huge opportunity here for us to capture the essence of the American automobile in its glory days. The Japanese can't follow us there any more than they could follow Harley-Davidson. We believe there is a lot of gold in those hills and we intend to mine it."
Just what many people feared when Lutz talked "retro" after GM's humiliating cancellation of the Zeta rear-drivers. ("We can't build this Zeta car profitably. What do you think we are, a car company?" He didn't actually say that.) Instead of making desirable modern automobiles, GM is to rely on some schlocky boomer-brand nostalgia to get over. ... In addition to the problems noted by Autoblog, there's this one: For younger generations of Americans, the "glory days" involve memories of Nissan Z-cars and Toyota Supras. Is GM planning on selling only to retirees? ... P.S.: J Mays hitched his wagon to retro at Ford. He failed. Peter Horbury, who has now taken over design of North American Fords, came up with a fresh, modern design for Volvo. He succeeded. (Volvo made $700 million for Ford last year). ...
Bad Coke: But here's the new Pontiac Solstice sports car, championed by Lutz, which unless it bursts into flames like the old, aptly named Pontiac Fiero will be a big waiting-list sales success. Why? Because it's beautiful and sexy! Duh. With a classic Coke-bottle shape! ... It doesn't look like "the American automobile in its glory days," though. It looks European. ... P.S.: I'd always thought it was impossible to design an unattractive car with a Coke-bottle shape, but there is now a wide selection of lame Coke-bottle cars on the market from erstwhile design leaders. There's Giugiaro's Daewoo Leganza, and Pininfarina's Maserati Quattroporte (which people pretend is beautiful even though it looks like an old Datsun 610). GM contributes the hapless LaCrosse, while Ford offers unbelievably dull new Jags, including the upcoming XK. ... Jaguar's design department was once said to possess a secret Arabic formula for drawing curves. They must have lost it. 6/19/05
Your permanent get-the-latest-"Gearbox" link is here.6/19/05
Photograph of Mazda 3 by Sean Gallup/Getty Images; photograph of Solstice by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.