Thursday, December 31, 2015

Long Term Test: 2012 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited post #5

Fifth update
Current mileage: 39,578

The Sonata just narrowly escaped being replaced. My in-laws, who daily drive the car, has seriously begun looking for possible replacements, spurred by one of those things that I consider an automotive pet peeve. The Sonata, like many of its competitors of the same generation, offers electric seat adjustment, but no seat memory. It seems like a minor thing, but when multiple drivers of different heights and body shapes share a single car, the driving positions can be equally dramatically different.

With manual seat adjustment, shifting between two driving positions is surprisingly easy because one can simply count the detentes in the various adjusters. That does not work quite so well with electric seats because there is an infinite range of adjustability between the two extremes. Also, it is often the case that electric seat adjusters offer substantially greater numbers it adjustments. That means tweaking the seat to fund just the right seating position to be truly comfortable can take quite a bit of finesse and patience. Without seat memory systems, it can become a hassle to relocate that exact position that was perfect. I know it sounds trivial, but as someone who has done solidly 8 hours behind the wheel without a stop, I can honestly attest to the virtues of a truly find-tuned seat position.
And so, because of this single shortcoming, the Sonata found itself on the chopping block. The car, which has been otherwise reliable and comfortable, was to be retired because the seats lacked a much desired, but not needed position. Funny how such a trivial detail can have such a major impact on a large financial decision.

Fortunately for the Sonata, its record allowed for cooler heads to prevail and it was eventually decided that a replacement was unnecessary at the moment, though I suspect this stay off execution will be short-lived. It is only a matter of time before some other reason crops up that places the Sonata's tenure in jeopardy. Such is the fickle nature of the automotive consumer these days.

* * * *

As the final article to run here on East-West Brothers Garage for 2015, we hope you have enjoyed our content from this past year and wish you a Happy New Year. For 2016, we are looking at scaling back our publication schedule to focus on the depth and quality of content and hope you will continue to offer us your feedback.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Editorial: All I want for Christmas...

It seems almost cliche to write a wish list for this time of year, but given that this is the first Christmas I am spending in my newly adopted home town of Long Beach, I thought it appropriate to share a few things that I would like to see happen in coming months. Most of this is borne of experiences since moving here in February, much of it slightly harrowing to say the least. I certainly do not expect any of this to change on its own and am working to participate in the civic process to try to help improve things, but it takes more than one person, even one organization, to really effect the kinds of change necessary to make things better.

So, all I want for Christmas is:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Product Review: Kuat Sherpa and Torklift Central EcoHitch

As an avid cyclist, one of the biggest challenges is finding the right way to travel with my bike. When it is just me, throwing the bike in the back of the car and packing a light day bag is not an issue. However, add in my wife, her bike, her stuff, our dog, and our dog's stuff, things start to get a bit crowded pretty quick. With the Focus, there is adequate space for one person, but definitely not enough for two plus the dog, which means we needed to look for a suitable solution to carry the bikes on the outside of the bike. Having experienced a trunk mounted solution during our cross country road trip, I was not particularly keen on going that route in part because it is not the easiest to put on and take off on short notice. I knew I still did not want a roof mounted solution because of the fuel economy penalty, especially given the already limited range of the EV.

After doing some research, I decided that the best solution was going to be a hitch-mounted rack. Going that route offered all manners of platform options, which was an absolute must because of my carbon fiber bike, but presented the minor hurdle that the Focus EV is not offered with a hitch. More research and digging around on the web resulted in the discovery of a few aftermarket solutions that bolted right on, would not affect the warranty, and could be easily removed before turning the car in at the end of the lease.

A few months worth of research resulted in my decision to go with the EcoHitch from Torklift Central in combination with the Kuat Sherpa hitch mount rack.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Long Term Test: 2014 Ford Focus Electric post #3

Update #3
Current mileage: 7,523
Average MPGe: 114

A big part of EV ownership, especially of one if these first generation cars, is a need for planning ahead. Some people feel that is a huge limitation as they want the freedom to just jump in their car and drive anytime they want. I freely admit that I am still one of those people at heart, but a super busy schedule lately in conjunction with a number of personal obligations means I get to do that less and less. Add to that the fact that being in Southern California means I have the flexibility to hop on my motorcycle any time to satisfy my wanderlust and on warmer days, I can always take my bicycles out as well. Luckily for us, since my wife and I share a car, we are always planning our car use anyway, which means we are planning things out well in advance anyhow. That is not to say that we have not run into some slightly hairy situations.

Of course, our lifestyle and choice of residency location allows us to take full advantage of an EV. In the 13 months we have owned the car, we have encountered only one trip that we could not complete in the EV, and it was a longer road trip where we brought our bicycles along. Otherwise, getting around town has largely been problem free, although not totally range anxiety free. There has been one incident where we were holding our breath, hoping not to run out of juice. Luckily, we made it, if just barely. Fortunately, the public charging network in Southern California is quite good and relatively plentiful, so sometimes if a top-off is needed, it is usually possible to find a place to plug in for a bit. Some of the chargers are not in the most fun places, but that's when a good old-fashioned nap is the best choice.

During these first 13 months, the little silver hatch has already suffered some indignities to its pristine condition. Traveling anywhere away from home means things like door dings are inevitable, Aside from that, though, there was one incident that was the result of an inattentive driver rear-ending the car on the freeway in bumper-to-bumper traffic and another involving a low retaining wall. The resulting damage in both incidents was rather surprisingly pricey to fix. Fortunately, everything is fully repaired and there seem to be no ill effects resulting from the incidents.

In the meantime, the car continues to drive well and I am still regularly surprised by how dramatic a difference it is going from the EV into a regular car. The low-end torque and nearly silent travel are definitely going to be hard to give up to go back to gasoline. That and the 114 mpg equivalent.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Editorial: Craigslist is both a godsend and a curse

I suspect most people are familiar with Craigslist, the web bulletin board where one can get everything from a new job to a blow job. It is the digital swap meet where people can buy and trade just about anything for mostly free. I am a long-time user of Craigslist and frequently peruse the cars for sale and have used it to buy and sell a number of different things over the years. Anytime we move to a new city, Craigslist is always our first stop for apartment hunting. In many ways, some of my most treasured possessions have been discovered on Craigslist. Both of my current bicycles were acquired through hunting around on Craigslist. The Shogun is one of my best purchases ever and the nearly brand new condition Orbea Orca a close second. Both of my wife's bikes were Craiglist purchases also and we have been extremely happy with those as well. But when it comes to selling things on Craigslist, the experience is certainly not anywhere as pleasant.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Test Drive: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

When the Mazda Miata was first introduced back in 1989, it was a small, light weight roadster that was easy to toss around. What it lacked in horsepower, it easily made up in handling shenanigans. But just as with all cars these days, the Miata grew in size and weight with each successive generation. The first generation car weighed a svelte 2,070 lbs. By the time the third generation car rolled around in the mid 2000s, the car had ballooned to 2,542 lbs. With only 170 horsepower under the hood, the third generation Miata was probably the least "Miata" like to date.

Looking to put some of the light weight tossable fun back into the Miata's DNA, Mazda worked hard to slash weight from the new, fourth generation model. The result is an over 300 lbs. weight loss to the tune of 2,200 lbs. While not quite as light as the first generation Miata, this put its weight under even the second generation car. With a 500 lb. weight advantage over my own S2000, I went into this test drive expecting to have a ton of fun tossing the thing around. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Events: 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show

Thanksgiving guarantees two things each year to us here at EWBG: eating way too much and a trip to the Los Angeles Auto Show. Over the last few years, the LA Auto Show has started to become one of the large auto shows that people actually pay attention to with manufacturers revealing new concept models and production ready cars in one of the largest automotive markets in the US. With each year, the number of new reveals increased along with the popularity of the test drives that manufacturers offer to attendees. With each successive year, more and more manufacturers set up tents and booths outside the LA Convention Center to allow show goers a chance to sample their latest wares. Let us take a look at some of the cars that we saw at the show this year, as well as some of the cars we test drove.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Long Term Test: 1984 Shogun 600 post #2

Second update

I feel bad that my poor Shogun has largely been neglected the last few months. It serves mostly around town riding I simply haven't needed to go farther than walking distance lately. In fact, the biggest role it has played lately is serving as the tester for the new bike rack for the Focus EV (review coming soon). Of course, the fact that it sits by the door to my apartment means that I cannot help but gaze upon it every time I pass and it honestly is a pretty bike to just look at. From the slender frame to the complicated head badge, the perfectly true wheels to the still gleaming Shimano Golden Arrow group set, the bike is a stunner in its own right even if it is a bit worn in. Certainly, it appeals to the bike enthusiast in the know, as a colleague took note of it the very last time I rode it to a meeting.

So rather than babbling on, this month, I am going to just present some of my favorite photos of the bike so that we can all admire it together.

On a side note, this post marks the 400th post we have published here on East-West Brothers Garage. We are thankful for everyone who has supported us with their views and have shared our content with others.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Long Term Test: 2012 Orbea Orca Bronze post #2

Second update
Current mileage: 365.6 

I launch away from the stop sign, sprinting hard to race up the short hill. Standing on the pedals, every stroke translating into more speed as I try to beat the cars to the light at the top. The road levels off just before the red light comes into view and I squeeze the brakes gently to bring the bike to a stop. Looking back, I can't help but smile as the first car only just pops into view after I catch my breath.

The Orca continues to prove itself a perfect complement to where I am in my evolution as a rider. It is far and away the lightest bike I have ever ridden, coming in at a scant 18.6 lbs, and that translates into fantastic acceleration. The smoother shifting of the Ultegra components means quicker transitions in cadence and allows me to manage my energy consumption much better as I no longer cringe at the thought of shifting and dealing with the jolt and stutter that I used to get from the components on my old K2. Handling feels fantastic as the bike turns in much more willingly than I ever remember the K2 being and with less weight to move around, I am able to toss it around at will and be confident that I am in complete control. Best of all, despite being stiffer all around, the bike actually delivers a more compliant ride than the aluminum frame it replaced. The layup of the carbon in the seat stays and the use of a carbon seat post seems to damp the ride much better than the aluminum K2.

Of course, one clear thing to keep in mind is that this is a significantly more expensive bike than the one it replaced. It was nearly four times the cost in price paid and over four times the MSRP. It is not hard to see where the extra expense went as the bike is just all around a better ride. While I have not gone out riding nearly as much as I had hoped I would this year, every ride on it proves to me that it was worth every single penny.

As the miles rack up, I expect the bike to reveal ever more of its character to me and to become ever more enjoyable to ride.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Innovation: Honda Power Exporter

In our modern society, electricity is an almost absolute necessity. Or lives have become incredibly dependent upon our electronics and when something happens to the local electrical grid, as happened earlier this year in my town, the loss of electricity can prove particularly inconvenient, especially for someone who works remotely from home. Thinking back, it could have been great to have the power stored in the high voltage battery of my Ford Focus Electric. Honda has come up with a solution for that very problem. The Power Exporter is able to convert the DC power stored in the high voltage battery of an EV and turn it into usable AC power for household electronics.

Using the increasingly more ubiquitous Chademo charging port, the system is able to supply up to 9kWh of power a day, more than enough to keep most basic necessities running in most homes. For my purposes, where my average daily usage is more like 5kWh per day, the battery of my Focus Electric can supply almost a full work week's worth of power. If I reduce a few less necessary items, I could probably go a full week assuming the battery on the car was fully charged. Even on a partial charge, the car would have gotten me through a few days, which would have worked out perfectly for the few days we were without power. Unfortunately, the Focus Electric does not support Chademo.

Still, the idea is a good one and would have been a great alternative to the noisy generators that many of my neighbors had. With the likelihood that electric vehicles will become increasingly prevalent in the future, systems such as these might offer an increased incentive to consider joining the electric revolution.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Editorial: How Hard is it For a Brand to Change Its Image?

Once a company establishes an image with consumers, it tends to stick. Car manufacturers all have different images associated with them. For example, Toyota has been known for building reasonably priced, reliable, but boring vehicles. Volvo is known as a lead innovator in automotive safety technologies. Subaru is often regarded as the manufacturer for enthusiasts. However, not all manufacturers have had the good fortune of having a positive image attached to their name. How difficult is it for a manufacturer to shed their image?

Image courtesy of Logopedia
This question comes to mind because of a certain vehicle I encountered on the way to work one morning. That vehicle was the Cadillac CTS V-Sport, which is one step down from the full on CTS-V. Even though it is not powered by a rip-roaring supercharged V8, it is certainly no slouch. With a twin turbo V6 under its hood pumping 420 horsepower to its rear wheels, it is definitely not slow. This particular CTS V-Sport had a certain flair though. On its hindquarters was a D3 badge. For those unfamiliar with the name, D3 is a noted Cadillac tuner, known specifically for working on Cadillac's "V" line of cars. If the badge was any indication, it meant that this CTS V-Sport must have had some work done to it. As I pulled up next to it, I expected to maybe find a man in their 30s, possibly 40s, face adorned with aviator sunglasses. Instead, I found a man who was at least in his 60s, hunched over the steering wheel, looking like he was struggling to drive the car. The first thought that came to my mind was, "is all that effort Cadillac is putting into re-branding itself not working?"

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Test Drive: 2016 Scion iM 6MT

Image courtesy of Scion
What do I think of James Franco as an actor? Well, he is certainly eclectic. The man is not a terrible actor, as long as he applies himself to whatever role he is in. I think his off screen antics are what make people question his ability and talent as an actor. Nonetheless, his IMDB page still shows him getting plenty of work. About two weeks ago, while watching TV, a Scion ad for their new iA sedan and iM hatchback appeared and it stared none other than, James Franco. Normally, when an actor resorts to shooting these sorts of TV commercials, they are either at the end of the career and desperate to get work, or are just bored. It is hard to tell what the case is with Mr. Franco, but needless to say, it was this TV commercial that oddly piqued my interest in the Scion iM.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Editorial: I Don't Get Dual to Single Exhaust Conversions

Image courtesy of FT86 Club user FreedE
Let me start by saying it is not that I do not understand why people do them. There are certain cars out there that come from the factory with a dual outlet exhaust system, but does not really benefit from it aside from looks. There is also the fact that most single outlet exhaust systems will weigh much less than dual outlet systems. What I do not understand is why people do the dual to single conversion, and then just leave the unused exhaust cutout on the bumper.

Image courtesy of S2KI user alexisthemovie

Take my S2000 for example. There are a ton of single outlet aftermarket exhaust systems for the S2000. Even though it looks much better, the S2000 really does not benefit from having a dual outlet exhaust system. Taking a closer look at the S2000's full exhaust system, you will notice that the exhaust headers feed into a single pipe. Besides the fact that most inline engines would never benefit from the exhaust header feeding into more than one pipe, the car was not designed for more than one pipe anyway. In this sense, doing the dual to single conversion makes sense. It also helps that many of the single outlet systems designed for the S2000 are much lighter than their dual outlet counterparts. However, look at the above picture and take a good look at the bumper. How unsightly is it to see a giant, unused gap in the bumper? It just does not look right. If the average Joe saw that, they would wonder why you removed a chunk of your exhaust system and left a big gap in the bumper for no reason. Another car this happens to a lot is the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ. Look at the first picture of that white FR-S. Again with the unsightly and unused exhaust cutout. The bumpers were designed like that because they were designed for dual outlet exhaust systems, folks!

Image courtesy of S2KI user dut
Thankfully, there are companies that make aftermarket bumpers that have the unused exhaust cutout removed. Ultimately, this makes the car look much cleaner without the big gaping hole in the bumper. Just take a look at this black S2000. It almost looks as if it came out of the factory looking like that! There are also companies that just make caps that go over the unused cutout. Frankly, slapping a cap over the unused cutout looks really tacky. It is the same with car manufacturers that are too lazy to make two separate bumpers for cars that are available with both single and dual exhaust outlets, and just slap a cap over the unused outlet on their single outlet cars. If you are going to go the single exhaust outlet route, at least do it right and clean up the look so that it looks clean and sleek, not tacked on and cheap.

Image courtesy of DSG Performance
Ultimately though, I believe that cars that come from the factory with a dual exhaust look best with a dual exhaust system. Whether you stick with the factory exhaust or want to enhance the sound and power output of your car with an aftermarket system, if it comes with a dual exhaust, I think you should stick with it. Yes, it may weigh more and yes, the car may not actually benefit from maintaining a dual outlet setup, but ultimately the weigh difference is usually not much and it just looks better. Besides, when the vehicle was originally designed, the designer probably designed it with a dual exhaust because in the first place. Why go undo what the designer spent months, or even years to create?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Long Term Test: 2014 Acura MDX FWD Tech Post #4

Update #4
Current mileage: 12,857

Since our last update, I have not spent as much time with the MDX as some of our other long-term vehicles, but what time I have spent continues to be enjoyable. Despite my aversion for all things SUV, there is no arguing that the MDX is an incredibly capable and comfortable family hauler alternative with as much or as little seating or cargo space as one could possibly need. Of course, one of my favorite features of the MDX has nothing to do with comfort, but everything to do with style and safety.

Our 2014 MDX, along with all of Acura's current line-up, comes with the brilliantly implemented, if awkwardly named, JewelEye LED headlamps. The MDX's five-lamp arrangement is the more prevalent setup in the line-up as opposed to the ten-lamp arrangement that is unique to the RLX. On the MDX, the five individual LED elements are each wrapped in a separate housing with its own focusing lens that is then wrapped up within the larger headlight cluster. During the day, smaller upper elements light up all five elements and serve as a daytime running lamp (DRL). As the sun sets, the low-beams come on and light up the outer three lamp elements. The two inner lamp elements serve as the car's high beams.

Looking at the LEDs, you feel like they are quite small and must not be able to provide all that much light, which was a real concern for me when I first saw the MDX in photos. However, after using the LED headlamps in nighttime driving, I am fully convinced that LEDs are, without a doubt, the right way to go in the future. Similar to xenon high intensity discharge headlamps, LEDs provide a whiter, more natural light. What separates HIDs from LEDs, however, is how that light is dispersed. HIDs are limited by the shape of their reflectors, which is used to disperse the light from the HID bulb and must have a notched pattern cut-off at the top to prevent blinding oncoming traffic. With LEDs, because you have more control of the individual lighting elements, it is possible to tune and overlap the light output of each element to cast just the right amount of light to give you the best balance between distance and side coverage. On the MDX, I feel like the LEDs light up the sides of the road much better than the HIDs of previous generation models and all without sacrificing the visibility down the road. As an added bonus, the LEDs have a much subtler cut-off that feels more natural than the often harsh cut-off necessary with HIDs.

Needless to say, if I am cruising around in the dark of night, I feel like the LED headlamps on our long-term MDX or RLX are at the top of my list of options if given the choice. Plus, it does not hurt that they look pretty cool when they are all lit up.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

National Teen Driver Safety Week

Image courtesy of
This week is National Teen Driver Safety Week. Even in this day and age of greatly improved safety devices in cars, crashes are still the top killer of people 15 to 20 years of age. Progress has slowly been made as states update their licensing requirements (to varying degrees of effectiveness), but there are still tremendous gaps in many states and there is always more that can be done to help improve the situation. A few stories shared on Jalopnik about driver's education experiences really show just how far we still have to go. Take this story, for example:

"In Virginia the driving section was done through a private company which charged hundreds of dollars for (mandated by law) five sessions and a test at the end. The owner of the school picked me up on day one and we drove around for a half hour then took me home. He handed me a signed paper and said, “It’s been nice getting to know you over the past five days, good luck to you.”

I crashed my car a week later."

Such stories are probably more common than we think. Young drivers who fail to receive adequate training to handle some of the more unexpected and challenging situations are certainly contributors towards the crash statistics so Michelin, in the spirit of improving driver education, has asked more experienced drivers to share their safety tips with those less experienced. Finding a way to share our collective wisdom to improve the safety of all on the road is a great start towards making a difference in the education process, but it is no substitute for significantly more stringent driver education standards. If you have wisdom to share, simply tag it with #SharingSafety. You can also check out our own Driving 101 collection of posts for some of our tips.

The longer term implications of better teen drivers now is better adult drivers in the future. That is a worthy investment, if there ever was one.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Editorial: Just because we choose not to drive a car does not make us any less human

I had planned on running an editorial on a different topic, but reading some of the commentary on several recent incidents involving cars and two-wheeled vehicles along with nearly getting run over by cars while crossing the street last week has me more than a little upset at the callous attitude so many drivers exhibit. The most recent incident, shown in the video below, records one of the most unnervingly unsympathetic and completely sociopathic people I have ever seen. Shortly after swerving to cause a motorcycle carrying a passenger to crash, this driver has the gall to stand there and declare, "I don't care" when he is questioned about what he just did. Such disregard for human life is not just a little scary, it is downright run-for-the-hills alarming. Then, to make matters worse, the comments from other people start to pile on and, protected by the anonymity of the Internet, we get to really see what people think of those of us who choose not to get around everywhere surrounded by the metal crash structure of a car.

My own experience this past week has not been significantly better. On one occasion, while crossing at a signal controlled intersection, within the boundaries of the clearly marked crosswalk with a clearly visible walk signal, my dog and I were nearly run down by a livery driver who thought it was entirely appropriate to enter the crosswalk as soon as I had cleared the space he wanted to occupy, barely missing us by inches. Naturally, such a close encounter is going to startle a pedestrian and I immediately spun around to confront the driver of the large black SUV, who threw his hands in the air in exasperation as if he were confounded by why I was upset. Setting aside the fact that he was in clear violation of the law, which requires that drivers refrain from entering a crosswalk until pedestrians have cleared it completely, his lack of any semblance of guilt for the maneuver, compounded by his clear lack of giving a shit for my safety, sent me into a rage, causing an expletive laden diatribe to pour forth from my mouth. The SUV screeched off and I was left upon the side of the road seething in an adrenaline fueled state of anger.

Stories like this are all too common among the cycling community as well. There are countless stories of drivers intentionally making efforts to intimidate riders who are following their legal right to use entire traffic lanes. Some drivers go so far as to knock the rider over, force them off the road, or otherwise cause them bodily harm. When such incidents are reported in the media, the commentary that follows usually devolves into a cesspool of shameless victim blaming with many people voicing the sentiment that the cyclists "got what they deserved" for taking up the whole lane.

I believe this mentality towards anyone not ensconced in the confines of a car seems stem from a few key areas: ignorance, unfairness, and lack of education.

The ignorance comes in many flavors. It could be ignorance of the laws. It could be ignorance of the experience of others. It could just be plain and simple ignorance because of lack of exposure. Whatever, the cause, ignorance can be a tremendously dangerous fuel for dangerous and destructive behaviors. One of the greatest areas of ignorance for many Americans is simply an ignorance of perspective through the eyes of another road user. Most Americans will never ride a motorcycle during their lifetime and most stopped riding bicycles when they became old enough to drive. Since our culture is so dominated by driving, most Americans hardly spend time as pedestrians anymore, aside from the walk from the car door across the parking lot to enter the fast food join where their dinner awaits. Not understanding how the world view is different through the eyes of a pedestrian, cyclist, or motorcyclist leads to a lack of understanding of what is perceived as dangerous. Driving in a car, passing a pedestrian or cyclist with less than a foot of space may seem totally safe to a driver, but is a shockingly close call to someone without any kind of physical protection.

One of the most common arguments against the idea of letting motorcyclists lane split is that it is "unfair" for drivers to have to sit in traffic while motorcyclists get to zoom ahead. A common myth levied against cyclists using traffic lanes is how "unfair" it is that cyclists are allowed on the roads but do not have to pay registration and taxes to help pay for those roads. Both of these try to appeal to a sense of "fairness" that taps into the absurdly selfish belief that road use is somehow a zero sum game. If someone else is getting some kind of advantage, then it must be taking away from you in some way. We have turned road use into a kind of sick reality TV competition where the winner gets a crap prize accompanied by their 15 minutes of Internet fame. This attitude is also what leads to some of the more epic road rage incidents as one entitled person takes out their frustration on another in some misguided belief that this will somehow result in them being happier, but only ends up with them in jail.

As for the lack of education, it is a topic that I often revisit. Our driver education system is so pathetic as to be laughable. Not only do we fail to instill in drivers the rules of how to safely operate two ton weapons on the road, we fail to do any semblance of follow-up to make sure that they remain safe in their operation. Just as we license doctors and require them to re-qualify for their license every few years, drivers should be required to update their qualifications from time to time to ensure that they understand how rules have changed or evolved. On top of that, our driver education testing is atrociously inconsistent and lacking in interactions with other road users that it should be no surprise that most drivers simply have no idea what the laws are that pertain to motorcyclists, cyclists, or pedestrians. Testing criteria should be standardized and much more comprehensive and the standards much more stringent to ensure that the pilot of a two-ton box of metal is fully able to comprehend how serious the task of driving really is. Triggers for automatic failure should include reaching for a phone, hitting anything of any kind, and any moving violation that would normally result in a traffic citation. Of course, these standards are going to be the most difficult to change as legislation to alter driving requirements is often met with opposition that rivals the wrath of Zeus himself. There are certainly many advanced driver education options throughout the country and bless the hearts of those who invest the time and money to take those for their own, and everyone's, sake.

At the end of the day, regardless of how utterly ridiculous the current situation might be, what really needs to happen is that everyone needs to learn a bit of respect for everyone else. Just because someone has made the decision to not drive a car does not make them any less of a person. Do not judge them for their choice and instead, focus on your own.

Choose to be respectful of the rights of all road users.
Choose to educate yourself about the rules of the road and follow them as best as you can.
Choose to leave a little earlier so that you are not in a rush and cause chaos along the way.
Choose to allow a greater margin for error anytime you are behind the wheel.

Most importantly, choose to be aware of your surroundings and realize that your actions have an impact on your environment and take responsibility when you make a mistake. There is no faster way to diffuse a situation than to be genuinely apologetic, own your mistake, and communicate that to the other party.

As for the driver above, who exhibits such an abhorrent disregard for human life, I hope that he is punished to the fullest extent of the law for his actions. At a very minimum, I hope such a driver has his driving privileges revoked for the remainder of his life.

Friday, October 16, 2015

News: Salt Lake City has launched the first protected intersection in the US

The development of cycling infrastructure is a constant struggle to balance the needs of cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. Many municipalities continue to turn to third party design firms for new ideas on how to strike the appropriate balance, and one such firm has adapted a concept that is increasingly popular in Europe and put in place a working example in downtown Salt Lake City. Alta Design + Planning, which specializes in active transit planning drew inspiration from similar intersections in the Netherlands and worked with SLC city planners to get it implemented at a heavily trafficked intersection of two cycle tracks.

Image courtesy of Alta Planning + Design
By adding some small concrete islands in strategic locations, the new protected intersection provides clearly demarcated paths for cars, bikes, and pedestrians, extending the separation and protection offered by the cycle tracks. Additionally, by using the concrete traffic islands, a space is created to shelter bikes that need to make a left turn, making it so that cyclists no longer need to maneuver across several car lanes in order to get over to the left turn lane. This makes the entire process of a left turn much less disruptive to the overall flow of traffic and helps to reduce the potential of crashes resulting from right of way violations. As an avid cyclist, I would welcome this kind of intersection anywhere there are protected cycle tracks. The good news is that several other cities are evaluating similar intersections or in various stages of implementation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Editorials: Car owners not using technology they paid for indicates bigger problem

Image courtesy of
In a recent study done by JD Powers, some 20 percent of new car owners do not know how to use half of the technology that they have paid for even three months after purchase. That three month period is considered the sweet spot for adoption of new technologies when an owner purchases a new vehicle so the fact that there is a rather sizable number of people who spend the money but do not actually use the technology should give manufacturers and consumers pause. I see this being a problem from a few different perspectives.

For consumers, this means that new technologies are probably being bundled together in a way that more desirable and adoptable technologies such as navigation systems or blind spot detection are combined with systems that people are not using such as in-vehicle concierge services and WiFi hotspots. As much as I dislike the idea of having a car where every single item is a separate option and it is next to impossible to find your exact combination on a dealer's lot, I also feel that consumers are getting cheated here because the bundling of unwanted technology with more desirable technology is a way to drive up the final selling price of the car. It also means saddling a car with more things that impact fuel economy, packaging, and reliability in the long run.

For manufacturers, the fact that these new technologies represent possibly millions in resources, contracts, or research costs means that must be recouped somehow. That means raising the cost of vehicles to compensate, but also adds to the challenges of bringing a vehicle to market that meets the fuel economy, safety, and reliability expectations of buyers without giving consumers sticker shock. In a lot of ways, if funds spent on developing these less desirable technologies were funneled into improvements in other areas, such as increasing fuel economy to meet future CAFE standards or improving integration with widely available and adopted smartphone technologies, that would be a wiser investment on the part of manufacturers.

For dealers, these less desirable technologies represent a conundrum. Because of how they are bundled, salespeople are often saddled with the unenviable position of explaining to a potential customer why the technology is worth paying extra for. That means they need to work harder for every sale and makes the relationship with the consumer that much more contentious if the consumer does not want or care for the additional technology. Some of the new technologies, however, are great marketing tools and represent a whiz-bang factor that can help sell cars to less informed buyers, but for those in the know, it is just another hurdle in the process.

Image courtesy of
The real problem is that many of these less desirable features are ones that seldom get used aside from serving as a good parlor trick to show friends how cool your new car is. Rather than wasting everybody's time on these types of things, it makes the most sense for dealers to make it clear to manufacturers what people actually want, for manufacturers to stop investing money in areas that are largely unused by consumers, and for consumers to start demanding that these unused technologies start to be replaced by genuinely useful innovations.

On my own Ford Focus Electric, I would happily have traded in the Ford Sync system for Android Auto. It would have saved Ford millions in R&D and public derision and I would be a lot happier.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Innovation: Blind spot monitoring for motorcycles

Image courtesy of
Normally, I highlight innovations that I am genuinely excited about, but this is one that I am not only uncertain about, but might seriously question the intelligence of including on a motorcycle. Anyone who has ever driven a car know that, because of the positioning of the roof pillars and mirrors, a typical car has serious blind spots from the driver's seat. To compensate, a driver should turn their head to look over their shoulders and check their blind spots before executing lane change and turning maneuvers. However, as Americans have gotten pudgier and their necks ever less nimble, the physical requirements of the shoulder check have become too demanding and automakers have compensated with the addition of Blind Spot Monitor technology. Using sensors or cameras, cars are now able to monitor the blind spot area and provide both a visual and audible warning if a vehicle is detected. If the driver signals a lane change, the system will actively warn against a maneuver if a vehicle is present in the blind spot.

On the surface, this seems like a great idea. In theory, it prevents people from sideswiping another car and offers the convenience of not having to do more than glance at your mirrors instead of needing to do a full shoulder check. The only problem is that the automakers base this on two assumptions:

1. Drivers actually check their mirrors
2. Drivers actually use turn signals

The problem is the sheer number of people who could get around an entire day's worth of driving without checking their mirrors once or ever using a turn signal is downright staggering. For these people, no blind spot monitoring system in the world will ever be enough.

So in their infinite wisdom, BMW has decided to add such a system as an option on their C650 maxi-scooter. Called Side View Assist, it uses sensors embedded around the bike to detect objects up to 15 feet away and lights built into the mirror stalks to warn a rider when another vehicle is detected. There are a few caveats, however. First, the system is only able to function from between about 17 mph up to about 50mph. Second, it only works when the vehicle has a maximum speed differential of about 6 mph. That severely limits the functionality of the system and makes me wonder why anyone would even bother.

On a motorcycle, there really are not the same kinds of blind spots as on a car. A quick shoulder check is much easier to do because of both the riding position and the lack of pillars to block visibility. While it might have a disclaimer to the contrary, such systems inevitably promote laziness and encourage drivers to be less aware of their surroundings, relying on the technology to avoid accidents. When you are in a two-ton steel cage, the consequences are generally not so dire. On a motorcycle, the consequences are liable to get you killed. To say the least, this is one innovation from the automotive world that I hope never makes any serious inroads into motorcycling. Riders who cannot be bothered to monitor their surroundings should not be riding in the first place.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Editorial: Google's Self Driving Cars show that humans are terrible at following the rules of the road

By Driving_Google_Self-Driving_Car.jpg: Steve
Jurvetson derivative work: Mariordo [CC BY 2.0
via Wikimedia Commons
While Google's self-driving cars have gotten a fair amount of press recently for accidents they were involved in, one thing that has not been talked about at all is how the self-driving cars are doing a great job of highlighting just how awfully Americans drive. Every accident so far for Google's self-driving car testers on which the technology is being developed has been the result of human error. Whether that was the error of another driver or of the "driver" behind the wheel, each mistake was not the fault of computers controlling the car. In fact, the computers are coded to so strictly follow the laws that it actually got stuck at an intersection with a four way stop because it placed traffic laws and safety above speed and convenience. It followed the rules to the letter when no one else on the road was doing the same. In order to proceed, the programmers had to alter the coding to get the car to be more aggressive and to emulate some of the bad habits of human drivers.

The fact that we, as drivers, are pretty much granted the privilege to drive for a lifetime without so much as a cursory follow-up to make sure that we are still driving safely is a pretty scary reality. Most drivers develop bad habits over time and those habits are reinforced when we regularly get away with them. Oftentimes it takes a major shift in paradigm or a life-altering event to get most drivers to even look at their own driving habits and reconsider just how good they really are at the whole driving thing. That does beg the question, if we have to teach the self-driving cars to drive like us while there are still human drivers around on the roads, will the robot cars continue to drive like us when humans stop driving altogether? Will having a self-driving car really make you safer if you are still surrounded by people who cannot drive?

What if, and stay with me here, instead of changing how the computers will drive, we start to change how we drive? It is time that our driving legislation caught up with the times and instead of just focusing on easily ticketable offenders designed to bring in money, we focus on equally ticketable offenders that require more attentive enforcement, but are intended to improve safety. Instead of spending money on technology from questionable automated enforcement companies, municipalities could use those funds to require retesting every five or ten years and the fees from the retesting could be used to make the process self sustaining. Police officers, instead of spending time sitting behind a radar gun, could be required to know the driving laws and would actually make an effort to enforce things such as reckless driving, failure to stop at stop signs, or distracted driving.

Heck, I will take it one step further and say that perhaps our driving laws should require mandatory training on motorcycles or bicycles as well to boost the awareness of drivers behind the wheel. While not everyone will continue to use it as a means of transport, just the exposure to living on two-wheels could prove a powerful mechanism for delivering the message about how important it is to be attentive and alert when driving.

Whatever the case, we should look at the upcoming revolution of self-driving cars as a blessing in disguise and as an opportunity to reshape how Americans approach the whole idea of driving. New legislation will be required to cover these self-driving cars and using that as a way to get changes made to our current laws might be a ripe opportunity. On top of that, we should thank Google for helping to bring to light just how bad we are behind the wheel. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Go Human in Southern California

As much as I am a total car nut, I truly love active transportation because it not only encourages people to avoid driving, but has all the added benefits of being healthier, often cheaper, and unquestionably better for the environment. This month marks the launch of the Go Human campaign here in Southern California. The goal of the campaign is to encourage residents of Southern California, one of the most congested and car-centric parts of the US, to take human powered transportation instead of driving. That means more walking and biking instead of time spent behind the wheel. For those who cannot realistically make the switch to human powered transportation, the campaign is a reminder that our roads are shared with all manners of road users, including pedestrians and bicyclists.

It might seem that we have been spending an inordinate amount of time lately talking about non-motorized transportation and there is a good reason for that. Despite moving back to Southern California, where I grew up relying on a car to get just about everywhere, my wife and I have made the conscious decision to live in a location that offers us great flexibility when it comes to transportation options. Not only are we able to walk to take care of most of our day-to-day needs, we are located within easy walking distance of the LA Metro, which offers a straight shot into downtown LA for my wife's job, and we are located right in the heart of Long Beach's numerous bike paths, giving us access to much of the city by bike. Our desire stems from the decade we spent on the East Coast, where cities are structured in such a way that walking, biking, and mass transit are legitimate and generally ubiquitous options for getting around. We wanted to emulate that convenience and flexibility even though we are living in Southern California.

The Go Human campaign is a great reflection of these values that we brought with us from our time out east. The idea that people can move around their communities without the sometimes financially crippling costs of car ownership is an excellent one as it opens the doors to opportunity for people who might otherwise be stuck between finding a job that they can get to or finding a job that pays well. By electing to utilize human powered transport, we not only tell our city officials and legislators that they need to spend money on the infrastructure to facilitate active transportation, but we also guide the way cities are developed, with a greater focus on accessibility for all.

While Southern California is certainly not going to morph overnight into a pedestrian and cyclist wonderland, my personal hope is that this campaign can help encourage a few more people to walk or bike for transit and that it helps illustrate to drivers the importance of being attentive of and courteous to the vulnerable road users that are a part of the traffic around them. Equally important, the campaign reminds pedestrians and cyclists to do their part and follow the rules to make themselves safer as well.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Long Term Test: 2014 Acura RLX post# 4

Fourth update
Current Miles: 10,294

What is there to say about the Acura RLX? In the nearly two years we have had it, it has been reliable, comfortable, and an overall pleasure to drive. Sure, the RLX has had its share of problems, mostly involving recalls, but as with all new models in their first year, we anticipated these growing pains. The only complaint I have about the car is that it does not get utilized quite enough in our family. Two years, and we have only just broken the 10,000 mile mark. Considering the lease agreement attached to this car, Acura Financial clearly believes that we should be approaching the 20,000 mile mark within the next few months. Clearly, that is not going to happen. I would actually be quite surprised if we even reach 20,000 miles by the time we need to return the car next year.

What I would like to do this time is to focus on the rear seating area of the RLX. As I usually spend my time driving solo (whether it is my own car or in the RLX), I do not get to spend a lot of time in the back. When I do though, I really enjoy it in the back. The RLX is the first car our family has had where I feel like I can truly stretch out my legs, and do not mind sitting in the back. I actually find it to be far more comfortable than sitting in the front passenger seat. The large amount of room available in the rear seating area makes it feel like the RLX should be a car where you would hire a driver to shuttle you around in. Then again, when was the last time you heard of anyone hiring a driver to shuttle you around in an Acura? Image issues aside, this is definitely one of the most comfortable rear seating areas I have experienced in a long time.

As comfortable as it is in the back of the RLX, it is not without its faults. For a car in its price range, I would have expected the rear vents to have their own climate control console. Acura saw fit to include it in the MDX, so why not the far more expensive RLX? Then there is the fact that while cars like the Hyundai Genesis include sun shades in the rear as standard equipment, you are not getting them in the RLX without upgrading to at least the trim level with the Krell sound system. This actually bugs me quite a bit as sun shades used to be standard equipment across all trims on the RL. As comfortable as the seats are, it does make it a little difficult to sleep in the back with the sun beating down on you. 

What we are missing now is a proper road trip with the RLX. We still have a little more than a year left on the lease, so hopefully that will come soon.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Industry News: VW's diesel cheating scandal could have widespread repercussions for the automotive industry

By now, unless you literally live under a rock, you must have heard about VW's scandal over its diesel engines cheating on emissions tests. In case you were indeed under said rock, the VW 2.0L disesel four cylinder motor was found to have different tuning in the test mode used to perform emissions testing. That different tuning was used to reduce NOx emissions to within spec to pass emissions tests, but was not reflective of how the car actually performed in the real world. According to VW, forcing the car to run on the tune that passes the emissions tests also drastically reduces the fuel economy and performance, which are the only real reasons anyone buys diesel in the land of heavily subsidized gasoline that is America.

Of course, VW is now feeling the pain of this scandal, having suffered a huge hit against its stock in global markets as well as having to shake up a sizable portion of its senior leadership, including the resignation of CEO Martin Winterkorn (although he may get a big golden parachute so don't waste your tears on him). With numbers already struggling in the US and diesels accounting for a rather surprisingly large portion of VW sales here, this scandal could not come at a worse time for the company.

But the real damage has only just begun.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Editorial: Why do Responsible People Have to Suffer Due to the Stupidity of a Few?

Keyless ignitions are starting to become the norm in more and more cars these days. Is it a necessary technology? Probably not. We have survived decades without keyless ignitions by simply sticking the key into the ignition and turning it. As technology advances though, keyless ignitions, and their wireless key fobs, are soon going to replace the good old fashioned keyed ignition in short order. Is this going to end up being a problem? For some, it apparently already is.

Those of us that keep up with the latest news in the automotive world have probably already heard about the lawsuit against 10 automakers over keyless ignitions. The reason behind the lawsuit? Apparently the plaintiffs claim the system is dangerous because drivers, for whatever reason, believe the engine is supposed to automatically shut itself off after leaving the vehicle. Because engines do not shut themselves off, a car parked in a garage can cause carbon monoxide build up, leading to carbon monoxide poisoning. The plaintiffs are asking auto manufacturers to implement an auto shut-off feature on all cars and are seeking damages from the 10 automakers listed in the suit. Also of note, the lawyers working with the plaintiffs are seeking class action status from this law suit.

I have been around keyless ignitions since 2004, when my folks brought home their 2004 Acura RL. At the time, keyless ignition was very uncommon, and Acura was one of the first companies to implement it into the second generation RL. Since then, at least one vehicle in our household has always had keyless ignition, and not once did my parents, myself, or East Brother ever make the assumption that the engine would shut itself off when we left the car. Why? First off, the sales people we worked with never once mentioned "auto engine shut-off" as a feature. Two, at least one person in our family does what I like to call "RTFM," which is short for "read the f***ing manual," when we get a new car. In all of the cars with keyless ignition my family has owned since 2004, not once in any of the manuals does it ever mention that the engine will automatically shut off if you leave the car.

But OK, let us say that you do not believe that the engine automatically shuts off, but you forget to shut the engine off. For starters, all cars with keyless ignition systems have a warning system if you are about to leave the car with the engine still running. This could range anywhere from a series of beeps and squawks to the car straight out honking at you. The noise is often times supplemented by flashing lights for those that need visual cues along with the audio ones. If all else fails, let us not forget, THE ENGINE IS STILL RUNNING! If you are driving a conventional gasoline or diesel powered vehicle, you will most likely still hear the engine running when you exit the vehicle. That alone should be your first indication that you forgot to turn the damn thing off. "Oh, but I drive a hybrid or electric vehicle, so I won't hear the engine." For starters, if you drive an electric, what are you complaining about? Your car does not produce carbon monoxide. At most, you will end up with a dead battery when you go to start your car again. As for hybrid drivers? Just listen for the audio cues basically screaming at you to turn the damn thing off.

To me, this whole situation screams of "cash grab." For as long as keyless ignitions have been available, never has any manufacturer claimed that their car will automatically shut off if you leave the vehicle and walk a certain distance away from it. In the past, before keyless ignitions, most people were smart enough to remember to shut off the car and take the keys with them. Why is it that as technology becomes more advanced, people seem to become more and more careless and stupid? And why is it that the careless and stupid ones are always the most vocal ones?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Join us for World Car-Free Day

Update: As promised, I took the bike out for a ride and ended up doing 36.6. miles.

Next Tuesday, September 22, is World Car Free Day where people from around the world have pledged not to use their car and take alternative forms of transportation instead. Ride your bike or take public transit to work. Walk to the grocery store or to grab your lunch. Take a stroll or bike ride after dinner to enjoy the evening air. This is an opportunity to experience the transportation options that are available to you in your area and gives you a chance to see how others, especially those who do not have access to a car, get around. It is also a chance to see just how much of your day to day driving is truly necessary.

I have the good fortune of having a job that allows me to work from home, which means my commute consists of rolling out of bed and stumbling over to my desk. However, since according to the US Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics the average American has a one-way 26.4 minute commute with an average distance of 15.3 miles, I am committing to jumping on my bike and riding in solidarity with my fellow commuters. That means over the course of the day, I will need to ride just under 31 miles. As proof, I will track the ride on Strava and share the data.

What about you, dear reader? Will you commit to giving alternative transportation options a chance next Tuesday?

Take the pledge and share with us what you plan to do to celebrate World Car-Free Day.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Editorial: Critical Mass just causes chaos, but there is better way

The modern iteration of the Critical Mass ride is over two decades old and started off as a way for cyclists to gather and assert their rights to use the road. It started out as a small ride in San Francisco but has grown into a rowdy and chaotic protest that takes place worldwide. With no leadership to speak of and no real hierarchy or formal organization, there is little effort to work with proper channels or the authorities to do things in a safe, much less legal, manner. That has caused the rides to become not only controversial for their lack of adherence to traffic laws, but have also resulted in numerous collisions or other traffic incidents where riders were injured.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Product Review: Bell Vortex Flying Tigers Helmet

Motorcycle helmets are not something one replaces very often. Safety standards are periodically updated, but those happen so rarely that one can safely wait for the expiration of the helmet before making a change. Yes, for those of you who were not aware, motorcycle helmets come with an expiration date. It is the glue that bonds the EPS foam layer to the shell that, through exposure to the elements during riding, begins to break down and typically five years after production it is recommended that the helmet be replaced. For me, that date arrived earlier this year. My trusty Bell Star, that had served me well for some four plus years, was in need of replacement. Everything about the Star was fantastic, from the quality of the build to the real metal accents to the way it fit my oddly shaped head. The only thing that ever bothered me was the noise, which as a result of being designed to be a racing helmet was not as critical a consideration. So now that I was in need of a new helmet, I once again turned to the Bell line-up and selected a helmet I had been eyeing for a long while.

Allow me to introduce my brand new Bell Vortex motorcycle helmet.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

News: $30 device allows thieves to steal your car

As cars have become more sophisticated, largely becoming rolling computers that are increasingly able to take over many of the tasks of the daily commute, so too have the thieves who steal them. In the old days, car thieves relied on mechanical tools like slim jims, screwdrivers, and pliers or sometimes just brute strength to break into and hot wire a car to steal it, but nowadays, with most cars using push button starting or some form of rolling code immobilizer, some much more sophisticated equipment is required, or so we thought.

Clever hacker Sammy Kamkar has created a device, costing about $30, that is not only capable of allowing someone to steal your car, but also allows them to open your garage door so that they can get at your car in the first place. Known as RollJam, the device jams and intercepts radio signals to allow an unscrupulous car thief the ability to acquire a valid code from your vehicle or garage door remote. The way it works is actually quite clever.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Long Term Test: 2007 Honda S2000 Post #5

Fifth update
Current Miles: 75,502

After five years of ownership, my 2007 Honda S2000 continues to perform beautifully. However, during the time between this post and the last, an old problem popped up again that makes me wonder if my car has a mind of its own. Back in late 2011, my clutch pedal began squeaking. This is usually an indication that the clutch slave cylinder is leaking and is about to die a horrible death. Unfortunately, I was far too busy at the time to be able to go without a car so I could not give it the attention it required. That was probably a bad decision as in early 2012, my clutch pedal completely lost all resistance and was only being held up by the spring attached to the pedal. Without any resistance, shifting gears nearly became impossible. Thankfully, this happened near home so I was able to limp my car to the local Honda dealer where I learned that my car's clutch master cylinder had failed as well. Having no choice, I left my car with the dealer for a day and received it back the following day completely fixed.

Fast forward to earlier this year, the squeaking returned. I thought to myself, "there is no way in hell these components were designed to only last three years, right?" Concerned, I took my car back in to the local Honda dealer. The service rep who helped me looked up my car's records and was also shocked to learn that my car's clutch slave and master cylinders were only replaced a mere three years ago. Strangely enough, when the service rep sent a tech out to drive my car, the squeaking vanished. After doing a visual inspection of both the master and slave cylinders, the tech noted that he could not find any leaks or damage to either cylinder. Confused, I went to pick up my car, and as I started it to drive away, the squeaking returned. "Of course it comes back now," I thought to myself as I drove away. As of a month ago though, the squeaking mysteriously vanished on its own. I swear, my car must have a mind of its own.

In mid-June, I got to drive my S2000 again on the types of roads it was built for. After a day of
shooting pistols, East Brother (on his BMW K1200S) and I drove out to the local back roads for some canyon carving. I really cannot get enough of driving my car in its element. The sound of the engine, the feedback from the steering wheel, and the sensation of perfectly timed gear changes all added up to an amazing afternoon of driving. It is getting the opportunity to drive on these kinds of roads that make me think, "man, I am really glad I bought this car!" Of course, my brother and I will have a full article and videos of our trip in a later posting.

Other updates regarding my car include the recently replaced radio. I replaced the factory radio in my S2000 with a Pioneer unit with both Bluetooth audio capability and hands free phone operation (you can read the full review of the radio here). So far, I have been pretty satisfied with the radio, and it is nice having to only carry around my phone instead of both my phone and iPod. I do miss being able to use the radio buttons to the left of the steering wheel, and it does bother me a little that the included remote does not work when the radio cover is closed, but those are minor issues I can live with.

Admittedly, as I get older, the thought of getting a daily driver to replace my S2000 comes across my mind more frequently. As I am sure I have mentioned many times, the S2000 is a fantastic handling and sounding car, but can be a bit rough for the daily commute. My hope is to get something more pedestrian, like a Honda Accord or Volvo V60, while the S2000 gets relegated to weekend "fun time" use. Unfortunately, without a space to park a second vehicle right now, a second car will have to wait. Besides, living by myself, the S2000 is more than adequate for my needs, and you get a lot more smiles as you drive around town in a convertible roadster rather than a pedestrian people mover.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Editorial: Mike Accavitti Leaves Acura Under Mysterious Circumstances

Image courtesy of
Last week, we learned that Mike Accavitti, senior Vice President of American Honda, and the head of Honda's Acura division, has abruptly left the company. Former auto design division director, Jon Ikeda, has taken his place. The circumstances of Accavitti's departure are still unknown at this time, but considering that Accavitti has only been on the job for a little over a year, it does make the departure appear a bit suspect.

Last year, Honda took a huge step in giving Acura its own division along with its own director. The idea was to give the Honda luxury division freer reign to do its own thing rather than being constantly limited by the parent company. The other hope was that by bringing Acura's sales and marketing structure closer to its key competitors, the brand would be able to better compete. Enthusiasts were hopeful that under Accavitti's reign, Acura would finally get back to producing vehicles that enthusiasts would be proud of. Accavitti himself, despite coming from a marketing background, seem to genuinely care about what the enthusiast crowd thought of Acura's vehicles. While he was still leading the Acura division, sales had gone up 12 percent over the course of the year, despite the company's sedans being skewered by the automotive press. Accavitti's departure during a time of sales growth draws to the surface many questions.