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Dog-friendly Element, Mitsubishis at Sam's Club, Japan's old car incentives

Posted by Bill Griffith  April 21, 2009 12:22 PM

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Apologies, we've been busy in California with the Tesla Roadster this past week. Regular updates to continue soon, but for now, more automotive news and muses from Bill Griffith.

Dogs have chased cars for years. Now, at a time when much of the auto industry is going to the dogs, Honda is actively chasing dogs. The company has designed a Dog Friendly version of its Element, a vehicle that was shown at this month's New York Auto Show. Honda says the vehicle will go on sale this fall. The special package likely will contain:

  • A cushioned pet bed in the cargo area on an elevated platform.

  • An extendable loading ramp. (Did you ever try and lift a Shepherd into an SUV?)

  • A 12-volt rear ventilation fan.

  • Second row seat covers in a dog-pattern that matches the pet bed fabric.

  • A spill-resistant bowl and all-season rubber mats with a bone pattern.

  • Special Edition emblems.

The Way We Buy Cars I: As if we don't have enough new and used car dealers around. Now Sam's Club is offering an auto-buying option. Through April 30, Mitsubishi is offering its entire lineup of new vehicles to Sam's Club Members at special pricing, plus a $500 Sam's Club Gift Card. Details at

The Way We Buy Cars II:
A hedge fund-investor group looking to buy GM's Saturn division gave a hint of its business model. The group initially plans to get vehicles from GM initially, but it expects to sell smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles from other global manufacturers in the future. Thus we would have an independent company telling manufacturers what to make for its dealerships, rather than the manufacturers deciding what goes on dealer lots.

The Way We Buy Cars III: We haven't heard details of the U.S. government's incentives to get older cars off the road, but Japan's model isn't bad. If I lived in Japan and were of a mind to turn in my 1997 Camry for a 2010 Prius, I'd qualify for a $2,500 replacement incentive, $1,000 for buying a vehicle that meets the highest government mileage standards, and another tax saving for a clean emissions vehicle.

We needed a study to tell us this? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a study that confirms the laws of physics; namely, that small vehicles such as the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Smart fared poorly in crashes with mid-sized vehicles in their own company's product lineup. The IIHS thus recommends larger vehicles that get similar mileage such as the Prius, Jetta Diesel, Camry and Fusion hybrids.

We needed a study to tell us that? The EPA has concluded – after a two-year study – that greenhouse gases from vehicles and industrial plants pose a health danger. Look for the CAFE standards timetable, which seeks a fleet average of 35 m.p.g. by 2020, to be accelerated.

Broken record department: I find the Mass. Pike's unnecessary tollbooth tie-ups reprehensible. How much gas is wasted by thousands of cars creeping along for 9 miles? If you don't have enough tolltakers to keep traffic moving, stop taking tolls.

Broken record department II:
Be advised that the Mass. RMV no longer is mailing you a notice that your driver's license is expiring. Check yours before each birthday or risk becoming another venue for state revenue enhancement for driving without a valid license.

The Bird's Nest:
You might recall it as the innovative main stadium for the Beijing Olympics. Its next international event will be the Race of Champions event Nov. 3-4. The event was held at London's Wembley Stadium the past two years.

General Confusion: As of April 16, the only General Motors brands certain to continue were Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac. Earlier in the week, Bloomberg news service reported GMC and Pontiac would be sold off; however, at week's end GM said they would remain in the corporate fold, with Pontiac becoming more of a niche brand. Saab, Hummer, and Saturn all are in various stages of being sold.

GM Recall: The company is recalling 1.497 million vehicles equipped with the 3.8-liter V6 engine to fix an oil leak that could start a fire if it drips on a hot exhaust manifold. Included vehicles: Buick Regal and Pontiac Grand Prix (1997-2003); Chevy Lumina, Monte Carlo and Impala (1998-2003); Olds Intrigue (1998-1999). The auto racing gaming company has added a pair of classic Fords – the Mustang FR500S and Ford GT LeMans prototype – to its racing stable. iRacing is the company co-founded by Sox owner John Henry. Warning: It can be addictive.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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5 comments so far...
  1. I'm sure the key demographic of the Honda Element, "Barb and Chris," will be thrilled to have a ramp for their purebred labradors. It's perfect for those jaunts between agility training events and also handy for runs to Home Depot.

    Posted by InMyElement April 21, 09 04:52 PM
  1. for thos dog lovers...

    Posted by Willie April 21, 09 08:17 PM
  1. now for not making it look like a toaster with wheels...

    Posted by fitz April 22, 09 06:31 PM
  1. "InMyElement" - Actually the crate and ramp would be handy for people like myself with an old dog (a mutt) who can't jump anymore. Not sure I'd buy a new car just for that feature, though.

    Posted by DavidDavidDavid April 23, 09 09:13 AM
  1. In reply to: The Way We Buy Cars I

    Back in the early 2000's I remember seeing Suzuki Renos being sold outside of the BJ's Wholesale Club. I thought it was kinda weird at the time but figured the store has sold big ticket items in the past and the Reno is a fairly inexpensive car.

    Posted by Andy April 24, 09 08:49 AM

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
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Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
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