The Automotive Amanojaku

This is where you'll find news, random car-related thoughts and personal views from a rabid car nut. "Amanojaku" is Japanese slang that means "person who is deliberately contradictory". I've always found myself drawn to the less appreciated car makes - the "underdogs" if you will. Suzuki, Pontiac, GM Daewoo and Holden, are among my favorite brands to watch and comment on. Let me hear your thoughts!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

One of the hottest car brands in China? Try Buick!

Where have all the Hot Buick Sedan Designers Gone, Long time passing?

Where have all the Buick Designers Gone, Long time ago?

Where have all the Buick Designers Gone, Gone to China Every One,

When will they ever learn, (to stop focusing on SUV's, Trucks & Crossovers in Detroit)

When will they ever learn?

Well, they've gone to China, as evidenced in most of the excellent-looking Buick of China lineup. The snippet of article below backs that up:

One of the hottest car brands in China? Try Buick!

Yes, Buick, that old fogey U.S. brand that even spokesman Tiger Woods can't seem to cure of its old man smell. In China, Buick might as well be BMW, although the Germans are here in force, too.

To add to the weird factor, while General Motors has opted for nonsensical names for its Buick models in North America, it's kept its mojo in China. So, instead of lame names such as the Canadian-built LaCrosse (deemed so naughty a name in Quebec that GM had to rebadge it Allure for Canadian buyers), the Chinese get the Park Avenue and the Regal, a lower midmarket sedan called the Excelle and a large family wagon called the GL8. (A Chinese-built version of the LaCrosse is here as a Camry fighter.)

Buick may have lost its history in the U.S., where the brand is down to just two sedans and some sluggish-selling SUV models, but it's a force in China. After selling just 19,826 units in China in 1999, sales have soared to more than 250,000 and are estimated to have totalled 303,000 in 2006.

This year, barring a miracle comeback in the U.S., Buick China will easily outsell the U.S. market. If it's embarrassing to the Detroit brass, they are certainly putting on brave faces.
"Buick's already bigger here in China than in the U.S. That doesn't bother me at all," said Rick Wagoner, GM's chairman and chief executive, at the Shanghai show. "I think it is one of those things that doing well in China has actually enhanced the viability of Buick in the U.S."
Unlike in North America, where the Buick lineup, resources and dealer lineup have shrunk pretty much in lockstep, GM and its 50/50 Chinese partner are pumping money into Buick as a Chinese luxury brand.

One of the showstoppers in Shanghai was the Buick Riviera coupe concept car. Complete with gullwing doors and engineering to fit a new Chinesemade hybrid system slated for production in 2008, the car was notable for where and how it made its return after an eightyear absence for the Riviera name.

Sure, GM may have sold 1.1 million of them between 1963 and 1999, but it took a Chinese joint venture to (apparently) give it new life.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Money-Back Guarantee For New Holden Epica

I found this article interesting. A creative way to break the "default vehicle choice" lock the Toyota Camry apparently has on some folks living in Australia.

Photo credit to member Mikmak on
Toby Hagon
27 April 2007

Holden is offering your money back if you don't like its new Epica mid-sized car, the cheapest six-cylinder car on the market.

Holden is offering a radical money-back guarantee - believed to be an Australian first - on its new mid-sized car, the Epica.

During 2007, private buyers who purchase the Korean-made replacement for the Vectra will be able to hand it back within 30 days and fewer than 1500 kilometres on the odomoter if they are dissatisfied with the vehicle.

There are, of course, various terms and conditions, including ensuring the car is undamaged. Plus, you have to provide proof you have purchased (or will purchase) a new vehicle of equal or greater value than the Epica you're handing back.

But for the most part, the money-back offer is a way of potentially "sealing the deal" against more established competitors, the most obvious of which is the Epica's prime target, the Toyota Camry.

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Q&A With “Rick” Suzuki

DEBBIE KELLEY of the Gazette recently had an interview with The Ryosaku "Rick" Suzuki. He's the chairman of American Suzuki Motor Corp. and is the grandson of the Japanese automaker’s founder, Osamu Suzuki. See the link below for the full interview. A snippet is below. If anything, this interview proves that Suzuki is on a roll and intends to keep rolling. Rumors of Suzuki going all out to produce a "full" lineup of cars (with or without GM Daewoo or Nissan's help, that is still unclear) would correspond with the very ambitious goal of doubling sales to 200,000 per year.

Source: Colorado Springs Gazette (

Q: American Suzuki has been setting sales records, including March’s 11,030 cars sold nationwide. Last year, new Suzuki sales topped 100,000 for the first time in the company’s 22-year history. And sales of 27,794 vehicles in the first quarter of 2007 surpassed last year’s firstquarter total. To what do you attribute the increased sales?
A: Our products are leading us. Suzuki is liked for its small cars, and there is much demand for cars that are economical in fuel and price. But our larger vehicles also are doing well, the XL7, with available seven-passenger seating, and the Grand Vitara.

Q: What’s your strongest market in the world?
A: Few Americans know we outsell Honda in Japan. We are No. 1 in sales in India. We also are popular in Pakistan and the Caribbean. Our manufacturing plant in Hungary is doing very well.

Q: What’s your company’s goal?

A: To reach 200,000 new cars in annual sales, as soon as possible.

Source Link:

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Friday, April 20, 2007

The GM Daewoo Enthusiast ... in English?

What to do if you're a fan of GM Daewoo and you live outside of Korea and can't read Korean? Hey, hey, no jokes about "What Daewoo Fans?" and Bobby Lee's "Tank" character from Mad TV, please... (hehe)

Anyway, since Daewoo as a brand left the global stage for the most part several years ago and became GM Daewoo, it might not be as easy as it once was to find small start-up enthusiast sites in English.
Since it is still possible to buy Daewoo-built cars even in the U.S. today, or if you have an older model, where can you go to read what fellow enthusiasts have to say?

Internationally, GM Daewoo product is now sold under the Chevrolet, Holden, Buick and Suzuki brands. Grilles and emblems are swapped out along with some minor equipment changes or different displacement engines, but they remain GM Daewoo cars underneath the thin disguises. The Taiwanese Buick Excelle is one of the rare examples of taking it further than a "rebadge" and re-doing the entire front end. The mainland China Excelle (for now at least) looks like any of the other Lacetti rebadges.

True fans of automobiles still know what cars in their favorite brands are manufactured by GM Daewoo, even if they wear the badge of another auto maker. Interestingly, even Korean fans of Daewoo have some idea of this as it is proudly stated on the GM Daewoo website with Chevrolet, Buick and Suzuki logos.

Daewoo Tech is a site that has sporadic updates to its main page and some severely outdated posts mixed in with new ones, but appears to be one of the top sites for Daewoo enthusiasts outside of Korea. The emphasis is heavy on the Chevrolet Lacetti and WTCC Lacetti Racing Program:

The Suzuki Forenza & Reno Forum is currently the most popular part of . Of course, "Forenza" is Suzuki's name for the Lacetti, and "Reno" is the 5-door hatchback. The members of suzuki-forums are not unaware of this, and you'll find general Lacetti-related posts mixed in with the Suzuki-specific ones. A member there " Kinkyllama " has taken a Forenza sedan and seriously tuned it for performance, and has some videos of himself racing at the track along with many photos and how-to type posts. I think he also runs a small business obtaining and custom making parts that should be compatible with Canadian Chevrolet Optras and other Lacetti-based cars powered with the 2.0L 4-cylinder engine.
There may be more sites, and if you know of one or more I encourage you to post them in the "comments" here!

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Ford's New "Crossover" Edge Pleases the Wagon Fan In Me

Photo source:

The Ford Flex was revealed earlier this month, and I guess I somehow missed that it isn't just a concept, but an actual production car coming next summer.

I hate the name and dislike the new "crossover" designation, but I love the looks. It says classic station wagon to me, although Detroit's Marketing executives run from that classification like it is a bad thing. Maybe it is for most people, but I'm not most people, and I love wagons.

From the debut:

“The new Ford Flex crossover is a game-changer. It’s the first vehicle of its kind that combines seating for seven, interior spaciousness and surprising features with a striking design that looks great on the road and at home for today’s modern American families,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, as he revealed the new vehicle at the 2007 New York International Auto Show. “The Flex builds on Ford’s leadership in crossover vehicles, which is the fastest-growing part of the auto market today.”

Flex features seating configurations for six or seven, the six-passenger version featuring two bucket seats in the second row. Access to the third row is made easy with second-row seats that fold and slide out of the way with the flip of a single lever. Cargo space is also plentiful, even with the third row in place.

Flex will go on sale next summer as a 2009 model."

Almost makes me want to put my Forenza purchase on hold, but then I'm guessing the "Flex" (I hope they ditch that lame name) will cost about twice as much when loaded up with the right features.

But kudos to Ford for reviving an old body style, even if they want to give it some new, politically correct name.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Buick Fans in North America Demand New Chinese Park Avenue

Once the Chinese Park Avenue debuted at the Shanghai Motor Show 2007, it was only a matter of time before word, and plenty of photos, made their way around the world. This is the age of the Internet, after all. GM can't just launch a new vehicle in secret and hope no one over here in America will notice that Buick in China is getting vastly better-looking cars than the frumpy U.S. market LaCrosse and boring, if not as ugly Lucerne. GM Execs would no doubt point to the elegant Enclave, but even the Enclave looks like just another me-too GM crossover for upper middle class soccer moms when compared to the luxury of the Chinese Park Avenue.

GM Fans have raised a ruckus about the virtual dead silence from Rick Wagoner, Ed Welburn, and Bob Lutz regarding the almost stealth introduction of the Park Avenue in China. Their comments can be seen by the HUNDREDS at:

GM Inside News forums HERE and HERE - where the outrage and demands began.

A Poll over at the Jalopnik Car Blog HERE - where thousands of votes were cast and the overwhelming majority of support was for GM to bring the Park Avenue here

The GM Fast Lane Blog HERE where a post about Chevy's minicars was hijacked - see the posts about mid-way down.

Take a look at the photos of the Park Avenue and its no wonder that GM fans in North America feel angry and confused. China was once a market of GM leftovers like old Chevy Blazers long past their prime. Now it seems the reverse, where Buick in America gets such "stunners" as the Terraza minivan with a whale-mouth grille of black plastic and unattractive body lines, while China gets the GL8 with projector-style headlamps or the Chinese LaCrosse that looks nothing like the 1996 Riviera-inspired American version.

Buick fans have every right to be mad, and I hope they continue to take their case to Wagoner and Co. , and don't allow this car to be ignored, explained away, or forgotten by the big wigs in Michigan's headquarters. The American Buick fans still left to the withering brand deserve better.

For now, expect this trend to continue:

Buick of North America slides, as Shanghai GM's fortunes rise...perhaps this is the way that Bob and Rick want it? "Buickman" seems to think so, see:

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

GM's Bob Lutz says Pontiac, Buick are on a Path to Recovery

Another interesting quote from Maximum Bob in today's news.

I know that Pontiac is looking a lot better as a brand these past few years. The Solstice, upcoming G8, and even some of the existing cars like the G6 Convertible are very appealing to me and those I work with who aren't GM fans.

But Buick? Well, Bob has the best idea of GM's plans for that withering brand, but I don't see any kind of recovery coming. Aside from the looks of the Enclave (which has a reskin-twin right on the lots next to it...the Acadia), the brand has very little going for it, and nothing in the future product pipeline that I've heard of that really changes the game for them. Another Epsilon-platform variant will not save Buick. And from what I can tell that's where GM is putting its Buick eggs-in-a-basket. If the Enclave doesn't do stellar sales, then all they have is a Mercury-style Chevy Malibu reskin?

That's not enough.

But who knows, maybe I'll wake up some day and Buick and Mercury will be the biggest brands in the U.S. market, and people will rave over the classy & conservative restyling of mechanical clones of cheaper Fords and Chevies. And Buick's market share and relevance will skyrocket.

Maybe pigs will fly, too.

Personally, I prefer my suggestion of an American-market Daewoo-built Buick. That's a new game plan, not the same old one from 1995.

Lutz: GM brands on mend
2 years after calling Buick and Pontiac damaged, he says there are signs of life
April 7, 2007
General Motors Corp.'s Buick and Pontiac brands are no longer "damaged," according to Vice Chairman Bob Lutz -- but they're still years away from full vitality.

Two years ago, Lutz created a stir at the New York auto show when he called Buick and Pontiac "damaged brands" and warned that GM would have to consider killing one or both if trends did not reverse.

"They're still not where we'd like them to be, but the vital signs have at least turned up," Lutz said in an interview with the Free Press. Reviving them is "going to be a gradual process that will take another five to six years."

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Think you will save money with a Toyota Prius? Might as well buy two Chevrolet Aveos!

We all know that the main reason to buy a Prius is to save the planet and be like Al Gore (minus the private jets), not to impress your peers...but seriously, most people have it in their heads that a Prius is a means to save gas money. But how much money will be saved when you consider the Chevy Aveo, recently refreshed with a nice interior and exterior? Bloomberg has a story on it...

Save with a Prius? Instead, buy two Aveos
By Doron Levin

The economics of owning a Prius are worth reviewing.

The vehicle, a modest four-door hatchback, gets an average of about 55 miles a gallon in city and highway driving. It will consume about $696 worth of fuel a year at today's average price of $2.55 a gallon. A Toyota Camry, averaging 28 mpg, consumes about $1,366 worth of fuel a year.

The $670 difference gasoline savings on the Prius over the Camry translates into almost a five-year payback on Prius's $3,000 price premium.

Not too bad for those who are convinced that saving gasoline is a critical national priority.

But if you're crunching numbers, a much better deal might be the conventionally powered Chevrolet Aveo.

The Aveo averages about 30 mpg and thus consumes about $1,275 a year worth of gasoline — $579 more than the Prius and $91 less than the Camry. But at a purchase price of about $12,000, it represents a price savings of about $12,000 over the Camry and more over the Prius.

The numbers are irrefutable.

Article Continues HERE

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Seoul Motor Show GM Daewoo Model Photos

The Seoul Motor Show 2007 is in full swing and yet all most auto sites are offering, it seems, are bland stock photos from the Korean automakers.

The show is a real "event" with thumping music, pretty girls galore, and a lot of special customized models. A car guy's dream.

Thankfully, we have the blogophere to provide us with a taste of that. A blog called "Max Watson's Asian Adventures" is offering some great photos from the show HERE.

Head on over and check it out!

Also, more photos (not from Max) may be added to the at GMInsidenews, if you want even more! Link HERE.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Minicar Wet Blanket: Lutz says "unlikely" that any of trio of ultra-fuel efficient cars will come to the U.S., the public’s whims will be “considered”

This article (below) conflicts with a source I have that says that there will be a Chevy minicar coming to the U.S. in 2010. And "consider"? Why offer Americans the chance to vote on a minicar ( that is not coming to the market? Why hype a trio of concept cars in New York and set up a website for the public to vote? Either its all clever marketing spin ("Look, we do minicars, too! Really!") or something is not right. Then again this is Bob Lutz, the guy who told us just a while back that Americans still basically want big pickup trucks and SUVs, regardless of gas prices. Wonder if he missed the sales results last month that had the Aveo up 50%. - Ming

Lutz: U.S. not a frontrunner to get a new Chevy minicar
The Daily Auto Insider - Car and Driver
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Unless something drastic changes, like gas prices going through the roof for more than a month, or a sudden fashion shift to tiny cars, General Motors likely won’t sell its newest Chevy minicar in the U.S.
GM used the New York auto show to unveil the triplets: the Chevrolet Trax, Beat, and Groove concepts.
Using a North American show for the unwrap shows Chevy’s global breadth and scope, said Bob Lutz, GM vice chairman-product development, but the U.S. is not likely to get one, based on current conditions.
The public is being asked to vote on which of the three hatches they prefer: the Trax is a five-door urban SUV; the Groove is a boxy five-door with a West Coast hot-rod attitude and boxy Scion xB shape, and the Beat is a three-door with micro-tuner design language.
The engines are 1.2 liters or less, with three or four cylinders, and the possibility of a small diesel, Lutz said.
The public’s whims will be “considered” as part of GM’s decision as to which one goes into production, something Lutz said will happen in the “relatively near future,” which he defines as within normal development time.
Judging by needs and the capital budget, probably only one will get the green light, but styling cues from the also-rans may make it into future small cars, Lutz said.
The triplets were designed and engineered in the South Korea global design studio. They are not engineered to meet U.S. safety requirements, but Lutz said if GM does think North American needs a Chevy minicar, the chosen one can be homologated relatively quickly.


One of my conspiracy theories is that GM and Ford in particular would prefer that people not come to them and buy inexpensive fuel efficient wagons and minicars. If you want a hatch, get a crossover or an SUV. The Maxx is going away, the HHR looks like a retro Suburban, the Aveo still has no updated 5-door model, and from all signs they would rather sell us heavier, profit-laden crossovers, pickups and large SUVs.
Toyohondassan of course want the same, but their home country values small vehicles and minicars. So the mindset is different.
They (Ford/GM) also think that if a loyal GM/Ford customer comes in and buys an HHR then they have just lost the potential to sell them an Equinox, or Uplander, or Trailblazer even. Not people who would never consider anything larger than an HHR. People that got into a Trailblazer because they thought mid-size truck-based SUVs were trendy. And now realize they really only "need" an HHR.
But the car business is not about selling people what they need. Its about creating a want for something they don't need, and making them pay more for that emotion-based buying decision.
And that's why I think we don't have much of a wagon market here in the U.S. Advertising works. Its a proven fact. But when was the last time you saw an ad for the Malibu Maxx, if ever? Can't count the number of times I saw one for a GM truck.
So when I hear people in business say that the public wants big trucks, then turn around and incentivize and advertise the heck out of large pickups and SUVs? Truck ads on TV day and night and not a single small car ad? I call BS. Fighting the competition (Tundra, etc.) is only half of the story.
Its my possibly misguided opinion that GM is intentionally pushing people towards expensive vehicle options (and not offering truly economical ones) - pushing to feed and grow the demand they claim already exists - while small, less profitable vehicles are considered a necessary evil, not something to intentionally try to excel in or sell in large quantities. "Only if gas prices skyrocket".
Bigger and improved Aveo sales don't register with them. All they care about is a drop in Silverado or Tahoe sales. Its still a drop in the bucket of their overall sales picture. And trucks are king in that picture still, despite the Volt and minicar concepts that are on again off again.
But some of us GM fans would like a fuel efficient smaller car just because we want to save money on our commutes and our monthly payments. And we'd rather not buy a Toyota or Honda. And we're tired of the way Detroit deals with the Aveo as something it has to sell, as opposed to something it wants to sell.
We don't feel the urge to go out every 2 years and buy a new Silveradoburbanhoe to prop up GM's bottom line. At least I don't. Maybe I'm not the ideal GM fan.
Maybe Detroit doesn't want to sell me a value packed inexpensive vehicle like the Forenza wagon. Or one of these minicars. Maybe I'll just get one at a Suzuki dealer instead. Come back and ask me in June...

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What the heck is "Gymkhana"?

The Corvette in the photo above is participating in a "new" U.S. motorsport called "Gymkhana". No, its not the car-version of the 1985 movie Gymkata, that cheesey martial arts film with a Gymnast running around offing people like Jean-Claude Van Damme. Nor is it a new workout routine that attempts to recreate how Ricardo Montalban beefed up his pecs for the Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan.

According to IGN: "Gymkhana can be called a "technical autocross". Just like in a typical "Auto-X" drivers try to race around a series of cones as fast as they can in the shortest amount of time. However, in Gymkhana, the emphasis is on driver skill and car control. Skill and style are just as important - if not more so - than overall time. "

So, just another obscure motorsport, or the next new thing to hit American shores like Drifting? Head on over to IGN and check out the photos and article here:

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Chevrolet Aveo Sales Surge nearly 50%

Aveo sales jumped in the U.S. market in March and have been on a roll this year.

2007 Sales were 6,793, compared to 2006 Sales at 4,438. That's a rise of almost 50%.

For the year-to-date, Aveo sales are at 15,228, up 44.1% over last year.

Either people have really warmed up to the fresh styling of the new Daewoo Gentra-based Aveo, or they've come to appreciate the way the car is jam-packed with standard features right out of the factory. Either way, its good news for GM, Chevy U.S.A. and GM Daewoo.

And the 5-door hatch isn't even here yet. By the way, what is up with that, GM?

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