Daily Edition: Feb. 13, 2006

February 13, 2006

TCC's Street Names Contest: Finalists!

Farfrompoopin Road

Farfrompoopin Road

Our readers, it seems, have crisscrossed every inch of the country looking for the wildest, weirdest, and wackiest street names, and since we launched our contest on December 20, they've come up with some amazing signs of our time.

We can't tell you how many different places have streets named ThisaWay, or ThataWay. There are countless Yankees and Doodles and even Dandies. City planners must be a hungry lot, considering the number of Chicken Dinner Ways, Streets, and Places. And whatever the original intent, we've got some naughty minds who can't send us enough entries for

Kitchen Dick Rd.
, Morning Wood, and Hooker Lane.

All told, we've received nearly 2500 entries, enough to get TCC's Editorial Assistant Eric Edelstein to the eye doctor, all the while mumbling incoherently. But he's finally finished up and it's time to pick the winners.

Well, potential winners, anyway. The members of TheCarConnection team have narrowed our selection down to a Top Ten, and now we'd like you all to weigh in with your own choices by voting in this week's TCC poll, which you'll find on the home page.

TCC's Street Names Contest: Finalists! (2/12/2006)
From Psycho Path to

Farfrompoopen Rd.
, you've uncovered some weird stuff. Won't Mom be proud?


Bigger Is Better in Chicago

2008 Toyota Tundra

2008 Toyota Tundra

If last year's oil shock changed the way Americans are driving, the message was apparently lost on those showing off their wares in the Windy City. The 2006 Chicago Auto Show put plenty of emphasis on large trucks: Toyota rolled out its next-generation Tundra pickup on Thursday, while General Motors rolled out yet another variant of its all-new big truck platform -- the 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche. Dodge's mid-size Nitro SUV was nearly the smallest truck on display. And at Lincoln, the new Navigator showed up with an even larger L model.

2006 Chicago Auto Show: Last Words (2/12/2006)
To sum it up: there are a lot of trucks here, aren't there?

2006 Chicago Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (2/6/2006)


Ford Says It's Number One for 2005

Ford is going after Chevrolet's claim that it was the best-selling brand in the U.S. in 2005. Chevy bases its claim on sales data as reported by the manufacturers. However, new data from R.L. Polk indicates that Ford registered more vehicles in 2005, and actually beat Chevrolet by more than 5000 units, which means it kept its sales leadership for the 20th consecutive year, according to Ford spokesman Jim Cain. "To us, the Ford versus Chevy race is a remnant of the old Big Three mindset.  We're managing our business to emerge a winner in the Big Six shootout, and that means looking farther east than

Jefferson Avenue
to measure ourselves," he said. "That said, the industry standard for advertising claims is R.L. Polk. The Polk data doesn't support GM's claim of Chevrolet leadership, so we will be contacting GM and asking them to stop making the claim," he told TheCarConnection. GM chief executive officer Rick Wagoner told Automotive News that Chevrolet wasn't going to drop its claim of being number one. -Joe Szczesny


Detroit Stakes Out Political Path

President George W. Bush seems to have ruled out any kind of a bailout for American carmakers. But that hasn't stopped the domestic brands from soliciting support for policies related to research and healthcare that bolster their interests.

One aspect of the Detroit policy now coming together was on display during the press previews for the Chicago Auto Show. Ford, General Motors, and even Chrysler talked up ethanol aggressively, as new tax credits and subsidies are being heavily promoted in Washington. Opposition to the proposals in Detroit seems to have melted away in the wake of President Bush's decision to extol the virtues of ethanol in the State of the Union address.
Executives from Detroit, in fact, spoke cheerfully about governmental support for ethanol and suggested the federal government ought to think about offering even more incentives to convert and develop vehicles for ethanol. Ethanol does seem to have broad political support, uniting agricultural interests, critics of urban sprawl who maintain the U.S. needs to protect and not develop farmland, and national security hawks who loathe transferring more American wealth to the Middle East.

Detroit Stakes Out Political Path (2/12/2006)
Ethanol wins over Detroit and Washington, but healthcare still a big concern.


Lincoln Abandons Names, Mostly

2007 Lincoln MKX

2007 Lincoln MKX

"What is in a name?" So wondered Shakespeare, and so are wondering observers around Dearborn this week. In a clearly controversial move, Ford has decided to abandon some of the traditional names used by its Lincoln brand, opting instead, for alphabetical designations. The old Aviator SUV, for example, will be reborn as the MKX, or "Mark-X," the newly preferred pronunciation. The new Zephyr sedan, one of the division's few recent success stories, will be renamed the MKZ.

"'Mark' is one very, very strong nameplate," asserts Anne Stevens, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Ford's operations in North and South America. It was a long-running nameplate used on a variety of Lincoln products, most recently with the Mark VIII coupe, and Stevens added, "We believe it will be very relevant."

A few familiar names will survive the transition, such as that on the Town Car, Lincoln's rear-drive traditional luxury sedan, and that on the Navigator, the brand's newly redesigned full-size SUV. "The Navigator name has a lot of equity across the marketplace, so we decided to keep it," explains Ford's Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Service, Cisco Codina.

Lincoln Abandons Names, Mostly (2/12/2006)
Zephyr's gone with the wind; are MKZ, MKX, MKS too alike?


TCC Drives: 2007 Dodge Caliber

2005 Dodge Caliber Concept

2005 Dodge Caliber Concept

The Caliber five-door hatchback succeeds the four-door and two-door Neons in the Dodge lineup. But just so we're clear on this upfront, it's no Neon replacement. With its tougher, vaguely militaristic connotations right up front in the title, the Caliber drops the perky Neon overtones for a classier, more substantial, and far more upscale feel.

The problem is, it's also more expensive than the Neon, in an age where sub-Neon cars are winning converts. Sans Neon rebates, you pay the price for the cargo-loving body style, for the standard curtain airbags and superior back-seat room. Dodge crows the $13,985 Caliber is only $410 more than the last base-model Neon, but the Caliber you wouldn't rent starts out well over $16,000 - and in top R/T form hits the $20,000 price barrier than sends cheapskates scurrying for smaller Korean cars with less pretension and less price.

The questions are multiple: are Americans raised on cheap four-doors and three-door ziplets like the Ford Focus okay with the five-door hatchback? Yes, there are five-doors aplenty on the market, including the Focus, Mazda3, Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix, and Hyundai Elantra. But none of those vehicles come only as a five-door - and none of them has the 150,000-a-year sales volumes to live up to, either.

Who will buy the Caliber when it shows up at dealers before the end of spring? Young couples, Dodge thinks, as well as parents putting their teens in a first car. The PT Cruiser sort of does the same thing, we think, but for an older crowd.

Finally, what's it like to drive? Pretty good, if you pick your options judiciously. While you spell-check that word, we'll explain what we mean.

2007 Dodge Caliber (2/12/2006)
Trading perk for class.


TCC Drives: 2006 Kia Sedona

SinatraThunderbird 1956 Ford

SinatraThunderbird 1956 Ford

Few vehicles are both loved and despised as much as the minivan. As models of how to move passengers and cargo safely, comfortably, and economically, they've found a loyal base of buyers. But they're also hated - including by some of those same loyal buyers - for being just short of anonymous. Despite how several automakers have allowed their minivan models to slide out of the limelight, minivans are still a very significant chunk of the new-vehicle market, with still more than a million sold per year in the U.S.

The Kia Sedona was originally introduced for the U.S. market for 2002, with a design that was successful for its impressive value even if it wasn't quite up to the standards of refinement, packaging, and performance of top-sellers like the Honda Odyssey, Chrysler minivans, and the Toyota Sienna. Kia isn't settling for good enough, though, as it's already introducing a completely new design for the Sedona for '06.

With a quick look at the outgoing Sedona's specs, it's easy to see why it wasn't quite competitive performance-wise - it was a heavyweight, at over 4800 pounds, and so its otherwise generous 195 horsepower was only adequate. To start, the new Sedona was designed with weight savings as one of the priorities, and engineers managed to shed more than 400 pounds despite larger dimensions and increased standard equipment.

2006 Kia Sedona (2/12/2006)
Homework does pay off, kids. 


DC Gets Haden Workers Back in Toledo Plant

DaimlerChrysler has put the employees of the bankrupt Haden Corp. back to work at its Toledo North Assembly plant. Haden stopped work on the Chrysler project after it failed to meet payroll and filed for court protection under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code, which sets out the procedures for liquidation rather than reorganization. Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda didn't offer any details about the agreement that put the Haden employees back to work: "All I'll tell you is they're working today," said LaSorda, who added that Eric Ridenour had been dispatched to Toledo to inspect the project, which calls for Haden to deliver a new paint system to the Chrysler plant. LaSorda also said that Chrysler would feel the impact of a strike by the UAW and other unions against Tower Corp. of Novi, Mich. The Chrysler Group has informed the company of its concerns about the impact of a walkout but it is not taking any special steps to protect itself from the impact of a strike. "I can tell you right now, I'm not going to stockpile frames," he said after a speech at the Chicago Economic Club. -Joe Szczesny



Chicago sheetmetal: which one gets your stamp?

2007 Dodge Nitro

2007 Dodge Nitro

Dodge Nitro        35.9 percent

Toyota Tundra    18.9 percent

Chevrolet Avalanche    20.7 percent

Lexus ES350       11.2 percent

Hyundai Accent   3.5 percent

Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart       6.3 percent

Hyundai Entourage      3.4 percent

Get more poll results


TCConfidential: The Week in Reverse

Bob Lutz head shot

Bob Lutz head shot

Tough-timer Lincoln says it's changing most of its cars over to letter names instead of real word names. The Zephyr's becoming the MKZ - pronounced "Mark-Z." No so differently abled Mercury called dibs on all leftover names starting with the letter M. Will there be a Menopause in Ford's future? (Answer: "That's not funny!")

Toyota showed off a new Tundra pickup with 10,000 pounds of towing capacity - or, roughly, three Priuses unladen with social conscience. Are we green, or are we black and blue today?

Might you like a Caliber SRT4 with 300 hp? That's what you'll get if you line up for a Neon SRT4 and stay in line too long.

Looks like AM General is out of the running to build the replacement for the Humvee. But hey, wouldn't it be keen to see the new International MXT alongside the Humvee in some foreign war theater like stars in a bad cop-buddy movie? (Now starring Woody Harrelson and Queen Latifah, in High and Mighty. Or if Russell Crowe needed the cash, it would be High and Matey, pronounced same.)

Proving there's nothing new under the sun, Dodge's Rampage concept truck not only lifted the midgate concept from the Avalanche - it lifted the name, too. What the hell, it's probably copyrighted already; you'll save money anticipating the lawsuit.

When it comes to bling, there's nothing like excess. So who wins the metal-faced smackdown between the new Navigator and the Caddy 'Slade? We're not sure but we think good taste is the usual casualty.

You really missed the most charming press conference ever if you weren't at the Chicago auto show. Hyundai brought up a preschool worth of kids dressed as doctors, scientists, and airbags. Marketing guy John Krafcik gets extra points for his kudos: "Great job, airbags." New rule: don't work with kids or animals unless you let them run the show.

Our favorite Santa Barbara slacker, John Pearley Huffman, thinks the Mitsu Eclipse is better with its top off. He says the same thing about the Dixie Chicks, which is why he can't be trusted.

And on that note, TCC's latest Flint in the works pointed out this week that bimbos are back on the auto show scene. We read it and liked it - but really, doesn't Billy Ford deserve a little more respect?

More in TCConfidential


FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases


Kia Motors America, Inc. (KMA) today announced a corporate reorganization to better align resources in support of the company's aggressive sales goals. Under the new structure, corporate sales operations report directly to Len Hunt, executive vice president and chief operating officer, which eliminates the current position of vice president, sales. Phil Kelley, currently vice president, sales, will assume the role of director, Central Region. Jim Reilly, formerly director, Central Region has left the company. "We thank Jim for his contributions and dedication to KMA and wish him well in the future," said Hunt.


Name Symbol Last Change
Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 4.89 -0.07 (-1.41%)
Autoliv Inc. ALV 51.59 +0.59 (+1.16%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 21.44 +0.08 (+0.37%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 15.94 -0.16 (-0.99%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 16.87 +0.14 (+0.84%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 5.27 -0.10 (-1.86%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 54.35 +0.55 (+1.02%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 99.88 +0.17 (+0.17%)
Dana Corporation DCN 4.16 -0.06 (-1.42%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 57.76 +0.62 (+1.09%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 2.53 -0.15 (-5.60%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 66.90 +0.53 (+0.80%)
Ford Motor Company F 8.27 -0.09 (-1.08%)
General Motors Corporation GM 21.87 -0.27 (-1.22%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 16.92 -0.04 (-0.24%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 14.91 +0.21 (+1.43%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 28.89 +0.11 (+0.38%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 68.01 +0.76 (+1.13%)
Lear Corporation LEA 22.67 -0.39 (-1.69%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 72.39 +0.25 (+0.35%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 21.60 -0.01 (-0.05%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 22.68 +0.59 (+2.67%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 23.95 -0.05 (-0.21%)
Siemens AG SI 88.99 -1.47 (-1.63%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 5.74 -0.06 (-1.03%)
Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) TM 103.29 +0.78 (+0.76%)
TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 25.91 +0.15 (+0.58%)
Tower Automotive Inc. TWRAQ.PK 0.076 +0.001 (+1.33%)
United Auto Group Inc. UAG 39.15 +0.45 (+1.16%)
Visteon Corporation VC 4.73 -0.11 (-2.27%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 25.58 -0.20 (-0.78%)
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