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BMW to Exit Formula One at End of 2009 Season

In 1980, BMW announced entry into Formula One racing as an engine supplier. In 1991, a joint talent promotion campaign by BMW and ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil Club) allowed Formula One drivers like Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Timo Glock, Adrian Sutil, Ralf Schumacher and Christian Klien to learn the basics of Formula Racing. Then BMW scored ten victories when it Joined Williams F1 in the 2000 season. In the middle of 2005, BMW acquired the Swiss team Sauber, took to the starting grid, and collected a total of 19 Grand Prix wins. By 2008, the new BMW Sauber F1 Team had established itself as one of the top three teams.

Now BMW is putting a close to yet another chapter in its motor sports history. In a press conference on July 29th, BMW Group announced that they have decided to pull out of Formula One at the end of the 2009 season; dedicating these resources to the development of new drive technologies and projects in the field of sustainability.

The BMW Group is rolling out that strategy in all areas within the BMW Group. “In addition, we initiated an internal change process that goes hand in hand with a new mindset throughout our workforce.” says Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. C02 and other emission requirements standards in the UK continue to be reduced. However sportiness and dynamics remain key attributes of all BMW models, albeit paired with responsibility. Being the world’s leading premium car-company in the automotive industry, Reithofer says, “We believe that this demands accountability.”, and is convinced that they must remain a positive role model within our society.

Reithofer continues:

In line with our Strategy Number ONE, we are continually reviewing all projects and initiatives to check them for future viability and sustainability. We made this clear with the initial announcement of our Strategy Number ONE. And, naturally, this also includes motor sports. And I have always been clear about my position on making tough decisions that will help ensure the BMW Group’s success over the long run. As our company places stronger focus on sustainability initiatives, our participation in Formula One becomes less a key promoter of this engagement. It goes without saying that this step was very difficult for us – as well as for me personally. On behalf of the entire Board of Management, I would like to express our immense gratitude to Mario Theissen for his commitment and successes. Everyone knows that the BMW brand embodies sportiness with sheer driving pleasure. Sportiness and fair competition are firmly encoded in our DNA. This is why we will remain loyal to motor sports. But we will do this in series that enable us to transfer technology more directly and to realize additional synergies, while strengthening our brand values. This is in our customers’ best interest. As a company, we are making a paradigm shift based on our Strategy Number ONE. We are setting new priorities in an ever-changing environment.

Having had great success in touring car, sports car, rally and Formula Two racing, BMW reports they will continue participation in the Formula BMW, Touring Car, ALMS and endurance races as well as their increasing activity in close-to-production customer sports and the Super Bike World Championship.

FD RX-7 Rant

I happened to be perusing one of my new favorite websites and came across an article for the 93 RX-7 that claimed it may be the greatest sports car of all time. I personally agree. The pixels weren’t even dry however before the reliability card was pulled. This being a sore spot of mine I had to chime in. Read my response below…

Let me dispel those reliability fears right now.

Its true the vast majority of examples belonging to the dead 7s society do so because of blown water seals, over heating, and shattered apex seals. However I just help but to take up a Jihad every time I hear that reliability card pulled on the RX-7.

If you cant tell from my defensive position on the subject, I’m a FD RX-7 owner who has seen the end of my own 13B engine and I can tell you one thing for a certainty, all of the horror stories you’ve heard about this car are all thanks to the poor maintenance habits of their negligent owners. I admit, I’m also part of that club.

What I’ve learned from my experience as I researched to complete my first rotary rebuild, is that that engine has to be absolutely pampered. The car needs to be warmed up and allowed to cool down. Not doing so degrades the oil very quickly in turbo cars which doesn’t make it easy for the turbos and apex seals to do their jobs. Its easy to understand the turbo side of things, however most don’t know that the RX-7 injects oil into the combustion chambers to lubricate those apex seals. I am convinced that if proper and timely oil changes are carried out, the seals would be well lubricated and not generate so much internal heat which I believe is most likely why water seals, which are very close to the combustion chambers to begin with, loosen and expand to failure. That having been said, the car does benefit greatly from minor cooling modifications as well.

Staying on top of those two issues alone would keep the vast majority of RX-7 owners out of a lot of trouble. Like me its not something many pay attention to when making their purchases and completely forget about the first time they experience wide open throttle past 4000 rpm. Make sure the life blood of your rotary is changed just a little sooner than you would in any other vehicle and keep it cool. This will make for a very long lasting RX-7 that will continue to provide oodles of fun every time you turn the key.

The rest of the conversation can be read here:

Ford and Fiat – The Automotive Saviors?

Anyone that knows me will tell you that I am typically not a fan of American automobiles. And I haven’t been for quite some time. However it looks like I might be forced to change my opinion.

As I mentioned in one of my past articles (Auto Americana), some of the greatest sellers from American auto makers like Pontiac are actually European inspired, some even borrowed like the Opel GT. Normally this would be the point at which I climb atop my soap box and start to wail, and I will, however I can no longer be angry at Ford. In that same article I mentioned that “in recent years this has been more a stroke of genius than an affliction of sub-par decision making” and the decision makers at Ford seem to think so as well.

Back when gasoline was selling as high as $5 a gallon in some places, small car sales were booming in America. In Europe however Ford has been selling smaller, smarter vehicles like the Focus (If you question this choice just look at the new Focus RS, or even the old model, you will be impressed), the Ka and now, the new Ford Fiesta. For Europe this might not be such a big shocker or even seen as the light at the end of the tunnel. For US customers though, this means a whole new ball game. Its not hard to see the changes being made and much like the time of the $5 Gallon we are forced to factor in far more than before. That having been said, choices like the new Fiesta and possibly the new Fiat 500 and Grande Punto might just make all the difference in the world.

The news of Fiats decision to step in and help Chrysler reorganize is all the buzz. This type of assistance however isn’t news. A similar “helping hand” was lent when Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault, took the reigns as CEO for Nissan and brought the company from a $6.1 billion loss in ’01 to a $2.7 billion net profit the very next year. Ghosn is also credited with turning Renault around before doing the same for Nissan. If Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is anything like Ghosn we stand to see amazing things happen with the Chrysler brand. In fact Marchionne already has the credit of bringing the company he hails from, Fiat, back to profitability. Like Ghosn, if successful, this will be Marchionne’s second victory. In the very year Ghosn took over at Nissan we saw a landfall of change in the models offered by Nissan. Similarly Fiat also plans on lending Chrysler several new engine and model designs.

Could you be driving a new Ford Fiesta or Fiat 500 in the next year or so? Absolutely! Learn more about them here…

Ford Fiesta:

Fiat 500:

Auto Americana – Why The American Auto Culture No Longer Inspires Buyers

It wasn’t long after I started selling cars that I had come to learn the difference between American, Asian and European craftsmanship.  Long before I got my first car I was stunned by the looks of the ’79 Camaro and almost every mustang ever produced (the Mustang II included).  Awestruck by the build quality and expense of my dad’s old Mercedes-Benz and ultimately impressed with the balance of those qualities found in Hondas and Toyotas of the mid 80s.  Even to this day the current products from most of the auto makers that spawned those very vehicles and eventually nurtured my enthusiasm for the automobile still stoke the fires of my imagination today.

So powerful was this need to have cars in my life that I decided I would sell them.  Eventually I became a new car salesperson for a Mitsubishi dealership where I watched the Mitsubishi Employee propaganda video.  I use that term jokingly because as I found out, Mitsubishi has been in the automotive manufacturing business since 1917 starting with the release of its very own Model A.  It became Japans first series production automobile.  The most interesting fact though of this video was the target market for the ’00-’05 Eclipse.  Initially I could not understand why they were targeting Mustang owners.

Could there be two more different vehicles to compare, a 150 bhp Single-Overhead-Cam 2.4L 4 Cylinder and a 205 bhp Dual-Overhead-Cam 3.0L 6 Cylinder.  Yes, a Front-Engine Front-Wheel-Drive coupe built on a Chrysler ST-22 Platform had firmly crushed any desire I had once had to own any ford product, let alone a Mustang.

To completely understand why I get a bad taste in my mouth whenever I see a Ford product I first have to go back to where it all began.  In December of 1979 I decided that it was time to great the word at Alexian Brothers Hospital in my native San Jose, California.  Some 2,063 Miles away the first brand spanking new Fox Body Mustang rolled off the assembly line at Fords plant in Dearborn Michigan.  It continued to roll off the assembly line until 2004.  Yes while the rest of the world was moving along, Ford decided that all it would change was the body style it laid over that structure.

Now at this point I’m obligated to bring up a very important point about one of the greatest cars of all time in my opinion, the Nissan 240SX.  What’s really important about that vehicle is this.  The First Generation S13, produced from 1989 to 1994, as well as the Second Generation S14 produced from 1995 to 1998, were both built on the Nissan S platform.  Why do I love 240SX and develop Turrets on sight when it comes to the Mustang?

The 240SX completely outclasses the Mustang for one reason.  The S platform the 240SX was built on was purposefully designed to roll out a sporty vehicle to the masses.  The platform selected for the Fox Body was not.  It first saw service in 1978 as the underpinnings for both the Ford Fairmont and Mercury’s Zephyr and Ford decided, like most American manufacturers of the day, that it would be cheaper to simply slap another body on and fit a really nice small block under the hood.  So even as a new vehicle in 1979, the Fox Body Mustang was somewhat of a hand-me-down.  Like the Star Wars T-Shirt that for whatever reason is still in your dresser drawer even though it’s still a size of two too small.

Pontiac is currently doing a similar thing with the Solstice.  Many savvy auto buyers know that the Kappa platform that holds the Solstice body is the same for the Saturn Sky.  What many might not know is that the sky is simply a rebadged Opel GT.  Pontiac has taken it a step further.  Anyone who is a fan of the GTO should take a look at the Holden Monaro.  Like the Pontiac G8?  It’s based on the Holden Commodore.

In recent years this has been more of a stroke of genius than affliction of sub-par decision making.  As auto makers bottom lines become more and more financially troubled it has become important for car makers to think this way.  However where Ford uses a singular platform to build multiple cars, many are now realizing that one platform on one model can be used globally and actually sell.  You can thank the Subaru WRX for that.  A car on the market for years in Japan and Europe that was finally allowed to come to US shores.  When it did, sales were massive, which encouraged Mitsubishi to do the same with its Lancer Evolution line.

Thanks to the brilliant minds responsible, we now have vehicles like the Nissan 370Z, Toyota’s Yaris, Hondas Fit and the ultimate in affordable supercars the GT-R.  It seems that some manufacturers word-wide have finally heard the voice of their customers and responded with exactly what they want.  If only American manufacturers could have gotten the message a little sooner.