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Segway EV in New York, GM slipping to No. 3, Honda keeps Insight price

Posted by Bill Griffith  April 7, 2009 05:50 PM

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GM Segway PumaA Segway employee behind the "wheel" of the GM-Segway PUMA in New York's Times Square. (AP Photo/Jin Lee)

The latest automotive news and muses from Bill Griffith.

Puma once was a huge rival of adidas in the sporting goods industry. Now, the PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility) is being introduced as a people mover. The two-person collaboration between GM and Segway has resulted in a prototype, said to be capable of 35 miles per hour and a 35-mile range for urban driving.

GM was No. 1. Is it soon to fall to No. 3? R.L. Polk of Germany notes that Volkswagen is poised to supplant General Motors as the world's No. 2 automaker (behind Toyota).

This ad from the Johannesburg edition of AutoTrader has been making the Internet rounds: "06 Suzuki GSXR 1000. This bike is perfect! Only done 7000 kms and has had its 1500 km dealer service. No falls/scratches. I use it as a cruiser/commuter. I'm selling it because it was purchased without proper consent of a loving wife. Apparently 'do whatever the #@%& you want' doesn't mean what I thought. Call me, Steve."

Don't know who said it first, but it's a classic. G.M. = Government Motors.

The good news is that A123Systems of Watertown, Mass. landed the battery deal for the coming Chrysler ENVI (first four letters of environment) electric vehicles. The not-so-good news is that the company came in second to Korea's LG in the bidding to provide batteries for the Chevy Volt.

Saab was born of airplanes. Now it looks as though the company may be reborn as reports have as many as 20 potential buyers kicking the tires (sorry for the pun) and hoping to take control in June.

Robert Turnquist of Morris Township, N.J., died on April 4. Turnquist literally wrote the book on Packards: The Packard Story. He was a founding member of the Classic Car Club of America in 1952. He also was able to make a living at his hobby, founding Hibernia Auto Restorations, Inc.

2010 GMC Terrain(GM)

GMC is rolling out its 2010 Terrain at this week's New York Auto Show. It's a 4-cylinder crossover capable of producing 30 miles per gallon in highway driving.

Honda won't escalate the hybrid price war. After Toyota sources indicated the company would cut the price of its 2010 Prius to match Honda's new Insight, Honda declined to take the bait and drop the Insight's price. The bigger question will be is whether the U.S. hybrid market will grow.

A decade ago, Hyundai began offering 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranties to convince U.S. consumers the company's vehicles were competitive and reliable. The program took time, but it's worked. In January, the company came up with its most recent buyer assurance program, offering to take the car back if the buyer had an involuntary job loss, was transferred overseas, or died. This time, both GM and Ford moved quickly to offer their own plans. Hyundai's sales are up 4.9 percent year-to-date when the industry as a whole is down nearly 40 percent.

The Scirocco nameplate was used on a sporty mid-70s Volkswagen that was fun to drive but tended to have the rust and reliability of many cars of that generation. The third-generation Scirocco is on sale in Europe as a sporty three-door hatchback; however, word is VW doesn't want to bring it to the States, fearing it would be a direct competitor with the company's GTI.

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

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44 comments so far...
  1. PUMA is embarrassing. That a single dollar was wasted by GM on this is evidence of why the company should be in BKCY.

    Posted by BU April 8, 09 10:59 AM
  1. If it so important to all people in this country to have a SUV, why do I see only one person driving them down the highway all the time, going too and from work,not even being able to use the HOV lanes?

    Posted by JDHarris April 8, 09 11:06 AM
  1. And they wonder why they are on the verge of bankruptcy... *sigh* This is the last thing anyone would want to travel in. It look ridiculous, becomes obsolete outside of any slow moving lanes and the safety of the passengers looks severely compromised.
    How can they even conceive that people would buy this in any significant numbers?!?

    Posted by Edith N April 8, 09 11:42 AM
  1. GM is not on the verge of bankruptcy because of its R & D. As we look to the future and realize that the sustainability of suburban living is in question because of fuel prices, short range electric vehicles will have a role to play. So let's not be too quick to trash GM on this issue. Critics maybe think GM should just pump out more hummers.

    Posted by Tim Rees April 8, 09 12:50 PM
  1. Oh I don't know, I couldn't conceive of people buying the Smart Car. It's about as ugly and useless as this thing.

    Posted by Brent April 8, 09 12:51 PM
  1. Maybe the Boston Globe should do a little more reporting on the Segway-GM has almost every other paper in the U.S....rather than just a 1 paragraph blurb. No wonder why they're close to shutting their doors. In everything that I've read regarding the Segway-GM announcement, they made it clear that the vehicle was a prototype and if it was to be manufactured, would certainly have more "bulk" to it. What I found most interesting was the technology within the prototype - drive by wire, digital systems, dynamic stability and ability to recognize and manuever around other vehicles and pedestrians to eliminate collisions. If these two companies can join together to make vehicles which are cleaner, safer (for both driver and pedestrian) and innovative, then I say “kudos” to these two American companies!

    Posted by Anonymous April 8, 09 12:52 PM
  1. I like the PUMA concept. The Segway by itself seemed to be little more than a novelty but adding seats, weather proofing and cargo capacity (albeit limited) makes this a practical vehicle for the urban dweller. It could cost as much as $12500 and still sell well.

    Posted by John April 8, 09 12:52 PM
  1. GM needs to consolidate brands to two Chevy and Cadillac. Spend less ad money to promote two brands instead of current (buick, pontiac, GMC, etc...). Having so many similar models across so many brands reduces efficiency and economy of scale. Toyota, Honda has done well. Nissan in Japan had different distribution names and it got them in trouble. Let GM go into bankruptcy and start over with a new plan...

    Posted by Yum88 April 8, 09 12:52 PM
  1. PUMA will lead to advancement. Critics are uninformed.

    Posted by jon butzke April 8, 09 01:10 PM
  1. I think this is a great concept. In my small town electricity is cheap and gas is very expensive and we only have 17 miles of paved roads and the speed limit average is 30 mph. It is an ideal commuter vehicle.

    Posted by Beau April 8, 09 01:51 PM
  1. In the past GM has spent more on advertising their engineering than on the engineering itself. While they have produced the occasional automotive star the majority of their products in the last 40 years have rated almost acceptable. The PUMA may be an attention getting oddity, but it shows that GM is now willing to do some basic engineering research with their money. The lessons learned in developing its systems and features could be applied to future products that former GM customers, including myself, may find highly desirable.

    Posted by HowardJL April 8, 09 02:25 PM
  1. I like blogs like ths one that give short pieces of information. If anything in the blog sticks out or produces further interest there are a number of places to get further information so why complain. "Anonymous" is literally complaining for the sake of complaining against the Globe.

    Be it on sports or autos, once again, Griffith is spot on with his writings.

    Posted by SI reader April 8, 09 02:45 PM
  1. I think it is a great concept and the point i feel is to move from individual transport with long haul petroleum based engines to mass transit in and betwen large cities along with these types of procudts for local transport. It's fantastic and to me, anyone seeing it for what it is right now and comparing them to todays vehicles/highways/local streets/type of lanes etc... are simply not seeing the big picture or looking towards the future

    Posted by clay April 8, 09 02:59 PM
  1. Another product with a catchy name and marketing blitz.
    Dumber then the Segway Humantransporter(hahaha)
    Doubt it will be profitable or like Segway be an expensive toy.

    Posted by rnr April 8, 09 03:56 PM
  1. I completely disagree with comments 1 & 3. This PUMA may not carry great appeal in suburbs, highways or Red States, but even in a bad economy, I could see a large enough market within coastal cities to get more than decent ROI. Finally, a more forward thinking (non-SUV or -sports car) investment by GM.

    Also, never underestimate the human race's desire to find a cool, trendy and affordable to AVOID walking ;)

    Posted by Alex R April 8, 09 04:20 PM
  1. Why reinvent the wheel? A low speed battery operated urban/suburban mobility vehicle is called a 'Golf Cart' - my nana drives one. Ask anyone in Palm Springs...and my SUV is a practical vehicle, but you don't see it because while you are on the highway alone emitting danerous gases driving into town from who knows where mine is sitting in the garage as I walk to work...

    Posted by mynameisbob April 8, 09 04:40 PM
  1. Hope they never get hit by a golf cart...

    Posted by ironhead April 8, 09 05:10 PM
  1. Gee, I think it would be great to take to the grocer or drugstore, after all I can't go faster than 35 MPH anyway and it is clearly more efficient than ANY gas hog regardless of size. Problem is, from mt perspective, it will cost so much that the only people interested in buying it are those that are rich enough to care lass about gasoline costs and environmental issues. It is the notion that this is dumb that lends itself to lack of creativity and solution. Maybe each of you saying not a good idea fall into that category?

    Posted by Bob April 8, 09 05:46 PM
  1. This is a perfect example of what's wrong with GM. They're clueless! This funky wheelchair is clever, but not at all practical. Like the Segway, it won't sell in significant numbers and it certainly won't help GM emerge from bankruptcy.

    I'd much rather have an electric bicycle - no license, registration, or insurance required. They're also allowed on paved bicycle trails. With a typical weight of under 65 pounds, most car trunk bicycle racks will easily haul electric bikes to favorite riding places away from home.

    Posted by wiseoldfart April 8, 09 08:44 PM
  1. I pray to God that none of my tax dollars that GM got went to this piece of junk

    Posted by michael April 8, 09 09:16 PM
  1. It is Great! The future of transportation and smoke free, clusterd free enviornment

    Posted by Mohan c b April 8, 09 11:18 PM
  1. Actually, I think it would make an awesome golf cart.

    Posted by Dale April 9, 09 07:38 AM
  1. That new Segway looks a bit like the "It machine" from South Park...

    Posted by Pluto Nash April 9, 09 08:54 AM
  1. This is a total embarrassment for GM. What a waste. No wonder they are on the precipice of complete failure. Too bad they can't focus that innovation on a vehicle that competes with Toyota so that just maybe American industry will survive. Most people will never own a segway. They WILL own a car.

    Posted by MF April 9, 09 09:52 AM
  1. Folks, innovation starts somewhere with novel designs. Most of the stuff you use every day started as some prototype on a workbench somewhere. I say good for them to think outside the box and learn something new.

    Posted by John R April 9, 09 09:59 AM
  1. Buy a nice bicycle.

    Posted by oldeforest April 9, 09 11:04 AM
  1. Note to GM: Electric golf carts are on sale everywhere from $1000 - $3000. I don't see how the PUMA will ever be on par with them. Golf carts not only carry two people with two golf bags, there's still enough room left for lunch pails and the like. People in campgrounds and gated communities modify them for other tasks as well.

    Suppose the market is suddenly flooded with enclosed electric city transporters with three or four wheels that are much more practical and much less expensive?

    The PUMA's gyro system is a clever gimmick. So what if it has a very small turning radius? So what if it's very compact? Some see it as cramped.

    Posted by wiseoldfart April 9, 09 11:47 AM
  1. The danger of a motorcyle and the sleek styling of a wheelchair. GM is truly focussing on its strengths. Building cars no one wants.

    Posted by daveVN April 9, 09 12:38 PM

    Posted by BFP100 April 9, 09 12:38 PM
  1. GM has come a long way down from such magnificent cars as the Cadillac V-16. What's next? Unicycles?

    Posted by Dave Brownell April 9, 09 02:30 PM
  1. Hush! I want one to run errands around town and visit clients. My clients will love it! Go GM!! Oh and I will leave my Z28 parked at home for use on weekends.

    Posted by Michele April 9, 09 03:16 PM
  1. Well #12, there is SO much to complain about the Globe so why not start here! #25, you are absolutely correct. Innovation starts some place so why not with this venture. The fact of the matter is we could stuff our streets with nothing but hydrogen powered vehicles spewing nothing but clean air but the fact of the matter is they will still require a vast amount of infrastructure, be a safety issue with pedestrians and bikes, and continue to take the "connectivity" out of our cities. America was built on innovation, most of it dismissed early on as ridiculous. It’s about time we get back behind American ingenuity because that is what makes this country great. Right on GM and Segway!

    Posted by Mark in Worcester April 9, 09 04:44 PM
  1. Can't wait til the first PUMA driver accidentally rolls in front of a NYC cabbie bombing down 5th ave in a Crown Vic doing 70. Bye bye Mr. PUMA.

    Posted by Beetle April 9, 09 04:54 PM
  1. ...and the best thing is, after one of these gets into an accident with any regular car, you can just drag it to the cemetery and bury the whole thing.

    Posted by sj April 9, 09 11:55 PM
  1. A lot of interesting opinions about what people think of GM, but most are off base since this is just a prototype. Car companies (and other companies) make prototypes all the time. Most are intended to learn something. Why criticize GM for trying to explore possibilities, especially by partnering with a respected Engineering firm such as Dean Kamen's DEKA Researech? So, I think it's a good thing to see GM partnering with a company that has a very different corporate culture.
    In case you think other car companies are not doing similar things, check out this gadgetr form Honda:

    Posted by Bob Damon April 10, 09 09:58 AM
  1. Here is what GM (goverment motors) gets you.

    Posted by Anonymous April 10, 09 10:37 PM
  1. The only thing funnier than the ad for the motorcycle was comments 33 and 34. I am beginning to think the comic page is here.

    Posted by jorge April 11, 09 11:51 AM
  1. Why would VW think the Scirocco would compete with the GTI here and not in other markets? More generally why does the US get much narrower product offerings from import manufacturers than do their other export markets?

    Posted by Carman April 11, 09 12:39 PM
  1. i bought a chevy colorado a year and a half ago. i like this truck because it has more room then my 91 s10 had, oh yea it had 250,000 miles when i sold it last year. gm builds the best trucks! i did my part to help keep them a float. rush limbaugh put it best about this thing last week on the air,he said it looks like a wheelchair with a roof. so i guess gm will build the best trucks, also the best wheelchairs too! its only been 3 months ! whats it going to be like come 3 years? its a pacifier to keep the enviromental wackos from crying!!!!

    Posted by BEAT EM @ THERE OWN GAME!!! April 11, 09 02:02 PM
  1. PUMA. At last, a bonafide Jetson's concept. I love the comment that "nothing new needs to be invented here. It's just a business decision." This vehicle, or something like it, could make all the difference in a city like New York. I wouldn't want it on the LA expressway, but man, for Manhattan commuting, or Tokyo, or Beijing- its the going thing. The Segway crew is awesome- and I don't mean it in the Valley-Girl sense of the word. There is no other adequate supelative for their innovations.

    Posted by Dave Ebert April 11, 09 06:21 PM
  1. i love my segway. i like being outside and able to see the world close up. i use it most within a mile of home. it makes no sense to get into a 4000+ car to mail a letter or get a loaf of bread or a cup of coffee. it is wonderfull to stop and talk to people. it is faster to get around in the neiborhood on my segway than in the car. it is true i would not like to go 100 miles in such a thing... but that is not the application... it is for short trips. we devote acres of land to autos in our cities... stupid is not being able to park near your own house. i carry my segway in the car on trips too.

    Posted by jim April 12, 09 06:13 PM
  1. Are you kidding me right now? Do these idiots realize there is such a thing as MODERATION. You dont yank a guy out of a Suburban and tell him he now must drive this fruity little number to save GM and the environment. The hardest thing about driving the new PUMA....telling your family you are gay. I

    Posted by dave April 13, 09 12:02 AM
  1. within a mile of home, jim? walk.

    Posted by FJ April 13, 09 08:47 AM
  1. Bring back the Scirocco! And Europe, please bring over your other fuel-friendly offerings! Aka, non-ridiculous-sized-US-excess-vehicles: "I like to sit high".

    Posted by light_and_efficient April 23, 09 05:43 PM

About Boston Overdrive reports the latest trends, auto shows and wrings out the newest cars in our city's hellish maze — and across the great roads of New England.
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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.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
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.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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