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May 21st, 2006

Three Design Choices I Like About Our New Cars

I’m not a car guy and don’t take notice of most of the important things when driving a car (ask me my horsepower and I have no clue), but I notice the little things I like. Three things that stand out for me with the two cars we recently purchased are:

  1. Aux-In – The 2006 Prius (and some other new cars) are coming with a simple aux-in jack in the stereo for plugging in an MP3 player. It’s a small thing, but it’s nice for cars that don’t have cassette decks (I’ve never considered those FM transmitter doohickies an option, really).
  2. Gas tank side indicator – When I was driving a rental car a few months back, I noticed that right by the E/F on the gas gauge there was an arrow and it pointed to the side the gas tank was on, making it easy when pulling up to a gas pump. Since then, I noticed that both of our new cars have it as well. A very, very small detail, but it’s quite nice, particularly when you’re driving an unfamiliar car. The Kia didn’t have this sort of luxury.
  3. Cassette and CD player – Our 2002 Outback has both a cassette deck and a CD player. While I only occasionally listen to cassettes in the car anymore, it’s a nice feature for the reason listed above. Since older cars don’t have aux-in jacks, the cassette deck is the best way to hook up an MP3 player and this makes it possible while also offering a CD player. I should also note that I really like the layout of the Outback’s audio system. It’s very, very basic, but that’s the reason I like it. It responds how you’d expect it to in every case.

I should also comment that I like cars that have wheels.

Posted in Cars

FROM: Merle [E-Mail]
DATE: Sunday May 21, 2006 -- 9:47:57 am
Ooh! Wheels! ;-)

I agree, #1 and #2 are truly amazing things. My car doesn't have an arrow, but it does have a little design of a car with a light that flashes near the gas thing when it's almost empty. Aux-In is blatantly obvious, cheap, and it means they're suddenly "iPod-compatible", which seems to be enough to cause people to buy $45k cars these days.

FROM: Riley
DATE: Sunday May 21, 2006 -- 12:40:14 pm
Call me anal retentive, but I'm a sucker for the new cars with all of the storage areas. Like the new commmericial for the Yaris, it shows the UFO abducting all types of things you would normally find in a car. Then it shows all of the secret doors where you can put everything. I also love the change holders, mine is always full.

FROM: jk
DATE: Sunday May 21, 2006 -- 9:24:08 pm
On my new Corolla, I mean Jetta, there are radio volume controls on the steering wheel. I LOVE that.

I also enjoy the MFA telling me my gas mileage: On my 36-mile drive to work, most of it highway, I am getting between 33 or 36 mpg.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Sunday May 21, 2006 -- 9:46:27 pm
I'm not a fan of wheels. Cubes... those work better.

The tilt and telescoping steering wheel in Our Current Vehicle is absolutely fantastic. Every car should have it. Tilt is great, but being able to push or pull the wheel in or out makes getting comfortable a lot easier.

FROM: COD [E-Mail]
DATE: Sunday May 21, 2006 -- 10:23:27 pm
Our Durango has memory seats - when you use your remote to unlock the truck it adjusts the seats, mirrors, radio stations, and climate control for you. We have the audio controls on the back of the streering whee too - but I just can't get into the habit of using them. 20 years of muscle memory in reaching to the radio with my right arm is proving to be a difficult habit to break.

FROM: Tina
DATE: Thursday May 25, 2006 -- 2:24:57 pm
(I've never considered those FM transmitter doohickies an option, really)

If it wasn't for those FM transmitter things, I'd be one sad camper in my 1995 Camry.

Side note: have you ever done a ping on "What music do you consider it appropriate to play at "Eleven" while driving? If the answer is "Nothing should be played at maximum volume while driving", why do you feel that way?

I find playing music loudly in my car is educational for my fellow drivers - you never know, they might find that they LIKE Guided by Voices or Pavement!

FROM: jk
DATE: Friday May 26, 2006 -- 1:24:21 am
So this is what the Ping does late at night. I was just confirming an airline reservation and noticed someone here was up to no good! These people should be locked in a room with video of the "new" Clay Aiken. Did you see him on Wednesday? He looked like one of the Beatles.

FROM: jk
DATE: Friday May 26, 2006 -- 1:25:21 am
PS--my new drug coverage does not cover Clarinex. Think these guys can help me out?

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Friday May 26, 2006 -- 10:26:43 pm
I know. What was with the Beatle look? Totally didn't work--except that he had the totally screaming adoring fan, even if it was a guy. Clay looked quite annoyed, but he did a good job of covering it. I guess the look change meant to open him up to a larger fan base than the rainbow crowd must have been blown by the screaming, gasping, hyperventilating, skinny, beglassesed homosexual (not that there's anything wrong with that) who shared the stage with him.

FROM: jk
DATE: Saturday May 27, 2006 -- 2:32:48 pm
Had I not heard his voice I never would have known it was him. It was he. There, my mom would be happy about the correct grammar.

Someone in York PA has a car completely dedicated to Clay. I have never seen it but have heard stories from friends--one of my employees came to work one day and said "I think I was behind Clay Aiken's mom in traffic." I wonder what will happen when the woman tries to sell the car. When my friend Jane saw the car parked at a bank, there was a laughing woman next to it taking pictures of it with her cell phone.

FROM: Last [E-Mail]
DATE: Wednesday June 21, 2006 -- 10:42:27 pm
Great site. Keep doing.

FROM: jk
DATE: Wednesday June 21, 2006 -- 11:43:06 pm
Keep doing.....what? Writing complete sentences?

I am enjoying my MFA greatly this week as it allows me to see that the AC is not really hurting my fuel economy.

Today at the gas station, I opened my trunk instead of the gas cap and then had to make it look like it was intentional.

I love having 6 gears. I heart my Jetta.

FROM: jk
DATE: Saturday June 24, 2006 -- 9:55:35 pm
Why do the pill pushers like this particular Ping so much?

We are currently supporting my mom's efforts to wean herself off Xanax.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Saturday June 24, 2006 -- 11:03:21 pm
I guess they like cars.

FROM: jk
DATE: Monday June 26, 2006 -- 8:46:53 pm
Mmmmm, cars.

FROM: jk
DATE: Wednesday June 28, 2006 -- 12:19:20 am
Did you see that VW is bringing back the Rabbit? I swear I knew nothing of this, and I feel neglected. I bet my salesman did not even know. The website is useless also regarding this....still showing last year's Golf! Clever, very clever commercials are already out for the Rabbit.

I will be very curious to know what the differences are between the Rabbit and Golf, since the Golf IS the Rabbit.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Wednesday June 28, 2006 -- 8:29:10 am
jk: They're just renaming the new Golf. Kind of weird - I know the Rabbit is a name with a lot of history, but they've built up the Golf name as well.

FROM: jk
DATE: Wednesday June 28, 2006 -- 10:57:13 am
Hmm. Maybe it's also to distance the Golf from the Audi A3.

When I was car shopping in January and they were unable to tell me when the 06 Golf was coming out, they knew nothing of this.

FROM: Ryan [E-Mail]
DATE: Wednesday June 28, 2006 -- 11:23:33 am
Now people can pump Eddie Rabbit at full blast while driving their VW Rabbit.

FROM: jk
DATE: Wednesday June 28, 2006 -- 2:51:09 pm
Brief unofficial survey of Pingers: who knows who Eddie Rabbit is?

When I tell people my name, I sometimes say "like Joan Jett" and if I get a blank stare, I ask, "Are you under 30?"

I loved the heated seats until late March. Now I am strategizing how I can attach a nice terry towel to the seat.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Thursday June 29, 2006 -- 8:15:03 am
I know Eddie Rabbit. "Driving My Life Away" was one of my favorite songs when I was a toddler (really!)

FROM: Aanen
DATE: Thursday July 20, 2006 -- 11:21:52 am
The gas tank side indicator has been around for a long time.

I like the older cars with out all the fancy electronics and computers. Much easier to fix.

But I'll always have a soft spot for 31 Chevs!!

Marcus Mackey September 24, 2006, 5:42 am

Actually… the original VW Rabbit that was sold here in the late 70’s and early 1980’s was called a Golf abroad. The same thing as our VW Jetta, which is known in Europe as the VW Bora. I’ve even seen people who have “mod’ed” their Jetta’s to carry the Euro nameplate, as I witnessed an owner at the gas station at the corner of my block with a U.S. Spec Jetta (i.e. narrow license plate frame) sporting the Bora letters on his trunklid.

The reason for the Golf name change has been said to have happened for numerous reasons. Even AutoWeek ran a # of reasons for it, one in that they are trying to play up the image of the old spunky 80’s Golf’s (sporty, many found the last Golf to be sort of numb… which owes itself in some ways to the fact that the Golf/Jetta in Europe are very popular with elder people and they’re more touring cars than sporty cars, as the original Rabbit/Golf was in it’s day) which were seen as being quality built (for their time) and also sporty. The other is that the name conjures compact and agile, much like a real life bunny rabbit. That’s largely the reason, I’m sure, that VW originally “hopped” to the name in the car’s original times, but considering that VW is trying to target a demographic of people that probably have no recollection or knowledge of the past Rabbit, I think they’re more setting out to garner a new image while playing to those who remember and loved the old Rabbit’s of their time.

VW’s image has become plagued of late due to their reliability concerns (the massive 1.8T recall that their dealer network struggled through because it had too many cars and not enough technicians) and the less than svelte/verve handling characteristics of late model Jetta and Golf’s in comparison to the competition that has caught up and in some ways… surpassed the German make’s strength as a maker of affordable cars with great handling and reliability. Much as VW used the Beetle to try to drum up sales by playing off of their heritage, so are they poised to use the Rabbit as well. I can’t blame them… as I think this move is much smarter than the attempt to turn VW into a make that covers the economy market while inching into and smack dab into Audi territory. I never understood that attempt at overlap.

The best however might be this quote in the above link:

*”Keep the name Golf (the German name for the Gulf Stream, not a reference to the sport) and you’d get more of a yawn. And if you dared try to get clever with the ads, some churlish enviro-critic would point out your city car is heavier, larger (an inch in width and in overall length, 2.6 inches longer in wheelbase and 1.5 inches taller), more powerful and less fuel-efficient than last year’s. Change the name, though, and you get to start over. Hence the brilliance of “Rabbit.”’*

On a sidenote… I’d like to see VW bring their Spanish Seat (pronounced: SAY-ot) subsidiary over. I can’t stress it enough how awesome the Altea, Ibiza, and Leon are. If given any of them, I’d have to rethink the tC as while I’m not a huge hatch fan, I find their styling absolutely sexy. I think of them as a VW/Audi underpinned car with Alfa Romeo-level styling. If priced properly, I think thet Seat’s could be a runaway hit in the U.S. and give VW and Audi a car with a decisively different image. With as similar as some Audi’s and VW’s look, having a car that’s set off on a different aesthetic might draw more people into their showrooms.

Then again… if VW were just smart enough to give us a sported-up version of the European Polo, I’d have to cross-shop it as well. I mean as much as I like the GTI (not a huge fan of the I-5 in the Jetta/Rabbit), when you start it at $23k… it’s hard to drop the coin on it when there’s cars as good as it for much less. The Polo isn’t quite Fit/Yaris sized… (perhaps more like a Versa) but it’s Sub-Golf enough that I could see the 1.5L T/SC motor they have in Europe making the car into something akin to the original Rabbit GTI’s of years gone by. For the right pricepoint… it could be huge.

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