(Dan Leahy/Village Automotive Group)
(Dan Leahy/Village Automotive Group)
The scene at Peabody High School's field house was one of anticipation. There was a big prize to be won on this afternoon, but despite the venue, it didn't involve athletics.
On Thursday, twenty students from Danvers and Peabody High got in facing lines. Each had a key in hand, a prize they'd won during the year-long "Keys to Success" program sponsored by local merchants and aimed at fostering student achievement, citizenship, and attendance.
One of those keys would start a 2005 red Hyundai Elantra donated by Village Automotive Group. General manager Tony Bartolotti of Hyundai Village of Danvers was there to make the presentation official.
A week earlier, at Honda Village of Newton Corner, 60 high school students from Brighton High, Jeremiah Burke, Madison Park, and Waltham took part in a similar final chance to win a car, this one a certified pre-owned Toyota Corolla.FULL ENTRY
In western London, three things are certain: overcast skies, perfectly-measured pints of beer, and exotic cars parallel-parked like Vauxhall hatches. On any given day in the "W" and "SW" codes — where Princess Diana lived and Hugh Grant sputtered his way through the film "Notting Hill" — it's de rigueur to spot dozens of high-end cars in the most unwieldy traffic.
Open-top Porsche Carrera GTs idle behind double-decker buses, Lamborghini Murcielagos roll in rush hour, 911 Turbos go to the supermarket, and Jamiroquai's Ferrari Enzo sits curbside. The BMW 5-Series is so common it's the standard patrol car for the Metropolitan Police.
Since I left six years ago as a study-abroad student — after stopping all the Mercedes-McLaren SLRs I could at crosswalks — it's even more the supercar paradise. Last year, after the Qatari royal family purchased Harrods — an Egyptian King's tomb masquerading as a department store — Londoners became more jaded than New Yorkers. Where else but London could you buy a Burberry scarf and walk past a booted $2 million Koenigsegg? It takes too much torque to turn heads there.
Rolls-Royce probably figured as much when it hosted a parade Sunday to celebrate, of all things, a hood ornament. The "Spirit of Ecstasy," the winged chrome angel atop every straight-bar Rolls-Royce radiator since 1911, has turned 100. Owners, journalists, and other VIP-types took 100 cars on a road tour through the city, starting a few blocks from Harrods and ending up further west at a conservatory in Syon Park. To mark the occasion forever, all 2011 Phantoms and Ghosts will have a special "Centenary" inscription on the base of the ornament.
Early 20th century Rollers aren't average fare for Piccadilly Circus, but aside from painting them hot pink, the Rolls-Royce PR team couldn't have done more to get noticed. Forget about how Chrysler and Eminem paint Detroit — for automakers, London is one tough city.
It takes a lot for an Internet banner ad to grab your eyes, even for a nanosecond. But after spotting one of Hyundai's new "Snap Out of It" banners on Boston.com earlier this week, I actually stopped and clicked the replay button.
"Compact car fuel efficiency has barely improved since the eighties," shouts an all-caps headline for the 2011 Elantra. The ad fades to a supposed 1980s-era compact on the left (thanks to an astute reader, it's more like a 1970s Corolla), a "Mad Men"-like mugshot from the 1960s on the right, and a 14-mile-per-gallon highway rating and a happy-faced, dancing gas pump in the middle. It ends with a cutout of the new Elantra by a large, boldface "40 mpg."
Now, I may have been present for only half of the eighties, but the number of Honda CRXs and Volkswagen Rabbits back then could have filled every Wal-Mart parking lot in the country today. While it's true that most compact cars fell below the 40-mile-per-gallon barrier in the 1980s — the best-selling Chrysler K cars, Chevrolet Cavalier, Toyota Corolla, even the first Hyundai Excel — diesel Rabbits did 43 mpg while manual CRXs pegged 47 (both at current adjusted EPA figures). And whatever older car Hyundai pictured certainly wasn't thirsty enough to score a 14.FULL ENTRY
Toyota USA president Jim Lentz was at the 2011 Automotive News World Congress last Sunday, discussing his improved outlook for Toyota's fortunes in 2011. But during the course of his speech, he brought up a challenge Toyota faces in the years to come.
"We have to face the growing reality that today young people don't seem to be as interested in cars as previous generations," said Lentz. "Many young people care more about buying the latest smart phone or gaming console than getting their driver's license."
But Lentz, along with the media, is completely missing the point. As an example, MSNBC ran a story in November that suggests a lot of the same ideas that Lentz's speech parroted: Kids aren't interested in cars. "A confluence of events," reads the article, "is pushing some teens and twentysomethings to opt out of what has traditionally been considered an American rite of passage: Owning a car."
It cites a lot of statistics that have been thrown around in similar articles in recent years, from automotive research firms such as AutoPacific and CNW. The percentage of new cars sold to 21- to 34-year-olds hit a high of 38 percent in 1985, but is down to around 27 percent today. In 2008, 82 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds had their driver's license. In 1994, that figure was at 87 percent. Percent of total miles driven by 21- to 30-year-olds sits at 14 percent, down from 21 percent in 1995.
So clearly, there's something causing that potentially massive purchasing block known as Gen Y — with an expected annual income of $3.4 trillion by 2018, according to a 2009 Javelin Strategy Research study — to either not drive as much, or not drive at all. But all of the research firms and auto manufacturers have completely missed the point: It's the economy, stupid.FULL ENTRY
We're already looking forward to the clever TV ads we'll see during the Feb. 6 Super Bowl, especially now that the commercials are more important because the Patriots won't be playing the game.
Lexus caught many eyes with a new spot that features five of its vehicles suspended from a crane, starting with an LS, and followed by an RX, GS, ES, and IS. The bottom four are being held up by the strength of the LS unibody.
As a finale to the ad, Lexus parks a $375,000 LFA luxury sports car below the five vehicles. Total weight suspended above it: 21,000 pounds. It's a far cry from the company's annual Lexus-with-a-big-bow holiday ads, and another crack at physics to follow last yearís LFA commercial, which showed the carís V-10 exhaust shattering a champagne flute.
Whether the stunt can quickly restore the company's prestige, damaged by a highly-publicized fatal accident in 2009 that spurred several Lexus recalls and every Toyota model last year, remains to be seen. Competition from the new Hyundai Equus, which recently won a Car and Driver test against a Lexus LS 460, surely isn't helping.
"We feared it would be so unbelievable that we invited a physicist and structural engineer to witness the shot to prove it did occur without the use of special effects or computer-generated imagery," said Dave Nordstrom, vice president of marketing for Lexus, in a press release.
However, Lexus did conduct a pre-shoot test. A pair of big wreckers, the type that move 18-wheelers, hooked up on each end of an LS with one serving as an anchor and the other pulling. Instead of holding 21,000 pounds, the LS held on for 29,000 pounds. That means that if the crane were big enough, another Lexus could have joined the chain.
Because photo shoots never are accomplished in one take, the cars were suspended repeatedly over a three-day period without any having to be replaced.
The Lexus campaign, called "The Hard Way," can be viewed here.
About Boston Overdrive
|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
|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 About.com. 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