Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2009 Inauguration: 44

Thank you, Mister President, for taking on the burden of leadership.  May God guide each of your steps along the path you now walk.  Amen.

2009 Inauguration: Emotions Flow

We are still two hours from Barack Obama becoming the 44th President of the United States and I can tell that I will need to keep tissue handy.  Seeing him and the future First Lady step out of car to be greeted by President and Mrs. Bush and welcomed into the White House for coffee produced my first tears of the day.  It's really happening.  A man not much older than I, whose skin is not much darker than mine, elected by a majority of all the people of this nation, is about to become our president.  God is good!

Oh, Good Evening!

2009 Inauguration: Presidential Wheels

When Barack Obama rides down Pennsylvania Avenue during his inaugural parade, he will do so in a brand new limousine that the Secret Service calls "The Beast."  I prefer to call it "Cadillac One."  Look at it! Absolutely stunning!  Truly befitting the world's most powerful leader.

Built on a GM heavy duty truck platform, with at least five inches of armor plating and glass so thick you almost can't see through it (exact specifications are classified), this latest presidential limo is said to weigh more than 10,000 pounds.  It carries forward Cadillac's new, younger appealing, progressive look including the grille and headlights design first seen on the Escalade SUV and CTS sedan.  Just perfect for a young, progressive, historic commander-in-chief.

The new "Cadillac One" was to be a prelude to the next generation full size DTS sedan.  However, GM has reportedly shelved development due to lackluster sales of the current DTS, brought on by sky-high gasoline prices in 2008 and the economic downturn.  We will have to wait and see if things change and a variation of this shows up on Cadillac dealer showroom floors.

With President Obama receiving the brand new model, look for Vice President Biden to inherit the 2005 DTS limousine that President Bush used during his second term.  Not a bad hand-me-down!

Oh, Good Evening!

Transition of Power: The Bush Dynasty

Consider this-- A Bush has been in the executive branch of American government for 20 of the last 28 years and in the Oval Office for 12 of the last 20 years.

Reagan Administration:  Vice President George H. W. Bush, 1981-1989 (8 years)
Bush (41) Administration:  President George H. W. Bush, 1989-1993 (4 years)
Bush (43) Administration:  President George W. Bush, 2001-2009  (8 years)

Oh, Good Evening!

Transition of Power: The George W. Bush Administration Ends

In a matter of hours President Bush and Vice President Cheney leave office after eight years on their jobs.  

President Bush is only the fourth commander-in-chief to complete two full terms since ratification of the 22nd amendment.  But, he leaves office with a dismal 22-percent approval rating, the lowest since President Harry Truman departed The White House in 1953 and among the lowest in history.  That figure is a stark contrast to Bush's record high approval rating of 92-percent after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  The president says he does not pay attention to these polls or the criticism he has endured over the years.  Somehow, I doubt that.

When it comes to POTUS 43 and VPOTUS 46, some people love them, others hate them, many are in the middle.  One thing is certain-- both men volunteered themselves and their families to live and work in the prison-like fish bowl that is the Executive Branch of our government.  I would like to think they did what they thought was best for the nation, always giving their all in making difficult decisions.   As we prepare to welcome POTUS 44 and VPOTUS 47-- Barack Obama and Joe Biden-- I want to thank President Bush and Vice President Cheney for their years of service and wish them and their families all the best as they move on to the next phases of their lives.

Oh, Good Evening!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

2009 AFC Championship: Steelers Win!

Two AFC titles in four years-- the Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the Super Bowl!  Congratulations to the new AFC champions!  Three years after winning Super Bowl XL in Detroit, the Steelers will go for their sixth title against the Arizona Cardinals in Tampa, Florida.  Mike Tomlin becomes the youngest coach to lead a team to the Super Bowl and he will look to become the second African-American coach to win the Vince Lombardi trophy.

Oh, Good Evening!

2009 NFC Championship: Cardinals Win!

What a difference a year can make.  From hosting the Super Bowl in 2008 to playing in the Super Bowl in 2009, congratulations to the new NFC champions-- the Arizona Cardinals!  Maybe there's hope for my Detroit Lions.

Oh, Good Evening!

2009 Detroit Auto Show: Volkswagen BlueSport

Volkswagen unveiled a hot concept at the North American International Auto show call the BlueSport Roadster.  It's a sleek, open-air sports car with a clean diesel power plant.  VW says the 2.0 liter turbodiesel engine puts out 180 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque and gets 50 miles per gallon on the highway.  

Right now, there are no plans to produce the BlueSport Roadster but the Detroit Free Press reports VW executives are excited about the car.  From its looks and specs, I'm excited, too!

Oh, Good Evening!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

2009 Detroit Auto Show: Buick LaCrosse

General Motors has another winner with the newly redesigned Buick LaCrosse.  The 2010 model was introduced at the North American International Auto Show this week.  In a word-- GORGEOUS!  In another word-- LUXURIOUS!

It appears GM is looking to attract new, younger customers to Buick. LaCrosse joins the Enclave crossover as models I would seriously consider based on their visual attractiveness.  Certainly not my grandfather's Buick, and he loved them.

The new LaCrosse model moves to the same global platform as the award winning Saturn Aura and Chevrolet Malibu models.  My guess is, the LaCrosse will follow those tire tracks and garner a trophy or two of its own.

Oh, Good Evening!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

2009 Detroit Auto Show: Mercedes Benz

Mercedes Benz is introducing the new E-Class sedan in Detroit.  This is the last of the German automaker's sedan models to get the latest redesign.  The flagship S-Class and entry level C-Class were redesigned for 2007 and 2008, respectively.  The popular midsize E finally gets its new look for 2010.

Like the flagship, the new E-Class lines borrow heavily from the Benz's ultra luxury Maybach sedans.  I also see shades of the hot CLS four-door coupe in the side panels.  At first glance, I love everything except the tail lights.  But, since I am a big fan of Mercedes Benz, I'm sure they will grow on me.  It will be interesting to see what the AMG division does with this model when they introduce the super-tuned version.  The interior appears to maintain current dimensions and amenities with one noticeable improvement-- the COMAND system video screen is higher, level with the main instrument panel.  Other nifty safety features include drowsy driver and blind spot warning systems and a night vision camera that displays hard to see objects on the dash mounted screen.

Mercedes is also showing off three concept vehicles, all variants of what it calls BlueZERO.  The common denominator is electric power and zero emissions.  The BlueZERO is all electric with a reported range of 125 miles on a single charge.  The BlueZERO E-cell has a reported electric range of 60 miles and adds a small gasoline engine that kicks in to recharge the batteries and extend the driving range.  The BlueZERO F-cell, according to reports, uses a fuel cell to convert compressed into electricity to produce a more than 300 mile driving range with zero emissions.

On the opposite end of the fuel efficiency/emissions spectrum is the ultra exclusive Mercedes Benz-McLaren SLR Stirling Moss.  One look at this and you think massive power, massive thirst for gas, and massive money needed to buy.  This car has a 650-horsepower, supercharged V8 engine that pumps 650 lb.-ft. of torque to the rear wheels.  That kind of power sounds awesome!  But I know I'll never drive one.  The darn thing costs 750,000 euros.  As of this writing, that's $988,050 based on the current exchange rate.  Not to worry.  Mercedes will only make 75 of these and none will be sold in the States.  But, since Jay Leno bought the first SLR-McLaren a few years ago and only current SLR owners will be able to buy the Stirling Moss, I'm sure if Jay wants to add this to his collection, Mercedes will sell him one.

Oh, Good Evening!

2009 Detroit Auto Show: Chrysler Electric Cars

There is much speculation about whether Chrysler, LLC will survive as a stand alone automaker, but clearly the company is moving forward as if it will be around for a while.  That considered, it is no surprise that like its GM and Ford counterparts, Chrysler is developing electric vehicles.

The Dodge Circuit EV is hot looking sports coupe and one of four electric models Chrysler has plans to produce.  According to reports from the NAIAS floor, the primary propulsion for the EV models comes from an electric engine which can take you 40 miles with zero emissions.  A small gasoline engine is onboard to recharge the batteries and extend travel range to as much as 400 miles with far less emissions than a larger, gasoline-only propulsion system.  The other EVs on the drawing board are a Jeep Patriot, Jeep Wrangler, and Chrysler Town & Country. Chrysler hasn't said which model might hit showrooms first, but the conventional wisdom from Detroit is at least one 2011 EV model introduced in late 2010.

Chrysler also introduced a new electric concept called the 200C-EV.  The sedan is based on a shortened version of the company's rear drive platform that underpins the popular Chrysler 300C and Dodge Charger models.  I like the look.  The exterior has a refined near-luxury look on the level of Lexus or Infinity.  Photos of the interior show a very luxurious cabin with futuristic touch screen controls and hot looking leather seats, all of which will never make a production model, at least not in the immediate future.  (This is what I hate, most, about concept cars!)  If they can maintain the overall look in production and install an interior that-- at least-- equals the 300C, I think this would sell.  See the auto show introductions below.

Oh, Good Evening!

Chrysler's Electric Lineup
Chrysler's Electric Lineup

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2009 Detroit Auto Show: Toyota Prius

The world's top selling hybrid vehicle gets a redesign for 2010.  At first glance, the new Prius looks a lot like the previous model.  But, according to reports filed from the North American International Auto Show now underway in Detroit, they cosmetic changes may be subtle but less visible changes are not.  And, those changes result in less weight, more power, and even better fuel efficiency.  How does 0-60 in 9.8 and 50 mgp sound? 
Pricing has not yet been announced.  With all of the R&D that went into creating the new technology (100 new patents), I would normally expect a price bump.  But, with the global economic crisis pushing sales down the drain, that could be risky.  

Word on the street is that despite what some would call brisk sales of Priuses in recent years, Toyota does not make money on the model.  The company is said to be developing a dedicated Prius-sibling for the upscale Lexus lineup which would distribute costs over another model.  From what I've seen of the Lexus HS250, it's a hottie.  Far more attractive than the Prius.  Judge for yourself below.  The question is, will it be worth the likely markup becuase it's a Lexus?

Oh, Good Evening!

Lexus' Luxury Hybrid
Lexus' Luxury Hybrid

Monday, January 12, 2009

2009 Detroit Auto Show: Cadillac Converj & SRX

The 2009 version of the North American International Auto Show is underway in Detroit.  The economic downturn is preventing me from attending in person this year but I am watching from afar by way of the internet.

On Sunday, General Motors previewed plans for several vehicles then unveiled a hot Cadillac concept car called "Converj."  It's a plug-in electric hybrid vehicle which utilizes the Chevrolet Volt technology.  As you can see in the photo, the car looks great.  But then, so did the Volt in concept form.  My fear is that GM will do what it often does after teasing the public with a hot concept-- turn down the heat in production leaving us with a ho-hum, uninspired, run-of-the-mill looking vehicle that evokes about five percent of the excitement of the concept.

I was in love with the Volt until GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner unveiled the production version late last year.  When the car rolled out on stage, it sucked all of the wind out of my sails.  The biggest reason given for toning down the design was aerodynamics and safety regulations.

One of the problems I have long had with GM is the propensity to design concepts that can't be produced.  You can't unveil something that people get excited about, decide to produce and sell it, and when it arrives in dealer showrooms the car looks nothing like what people saw at unveiling.  In recent years, GM got it right with the HUMMER H2 and Chevy Camaro, and Buick Enclave models.  The concepts were all production-ready, for the most part.  GM blew it with the old Pontiac Montana and Aztec, and now the Chevy Volt.

In this day and age, I wouldn't waste time developing concepts that only work in a designer's imagination.  If it can't be produced, move on to the next project.

Cadillac also introduced the new 2010 SRX crossover vehicle.  It has been totally redesigned and now appears to share a platform with the Chevrolet Equinox/Pontiac Torrent/Saturn VUE.  I like it.  Learn more in the video below.

Oh, Good Evening!