Historiography: Sports. Utility. Vehicle – Part 2

All Photos by Randy Stern

All Photos by Randy Stern

We pick up the story at the end of the 1970s…

By the mid-1970s, the SUV market shrank due to the loss of Land Rover and International Harvester. As the decade continued, the segment was stagnant as most customers did not take these vehicles as seriously as in those in certain parts of the country. Places, such as rural communities and in mountainous regions, were ripe for these vehicles to serve as primary transportation through any climatic condition.

There was an automotive development that would change the future of the SUV. Throughout the 1980s, the station wagon was under threat by a brand new transportation option – the minivan. Families figured out that you can have a vehicle that would seat seven, carry their stuff and park inside of a garage.

Meanwhile, another development began to shake up the automotive world. Continue reading

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Historiography: Sport. Utility. Vehicle – Part I

All Photos by Randy Stern

All Photos by Randy Stern

War is hell….but for the victors, the spoils sometimes go a very long way.

Think about what came out of World War II. In America, it would be the prosperity that lasted well into the 1950s and beyond. It introduced new technology, such as the jet engine and more efficient engine and transmission designs. It gave us the Jeep – in various different forms.

Recently, I did some client work on the subject of Land Rover. The basis of this work was to recount the history of the brand. One little known fact today was the genesis of this vehicle actually came from a leftover GP from the American Armed Forces that was used in the UK. In other words, for the one vehicle that opened up the British Empire and beyond, it took an American invention to spawn this machine.

It was not a strange idea. The Jeep was also the catalyst for Toyota’s own off-road vehicle. Though Toyota developed a couple of vehicles based on a captured American Bantam GP, when they were asked by Willys Overland to build the military-issue vehicle for the Korean conflict, it rekindled the development of the Land Cruiser. This would be the vehicle that would replace the Land Rover in almost every part of the globe.

The Land Rover and Toyota Land Cruiser would not have had the experience of exploring jungles, remote deserts, the greatest mountain ranges and hidden river valleys without the greatest spoil of war. Continue reading

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V&R Stories: Passed Up Dreams at The Used Car Lot

Photo by Randy Stern

Photo by Randy Stern

There’s a car on any given lot that gets your attention every time you pass by it. It may have been for sale for weeks – even months. Yet, when you see that particular car, you always think “why hasn’t anyone bought it?”

There could any set of reasons. Recent reminders of things past opened up the memory banks to attempt to address this scenario.

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Commentary: A New Argument for Diesel

Photo by Randy Stern

Photo by Randy Stern

In 2007, I wrote a commentary on this blog exploring the notion of expanding diesel engines in this country. Some changes were made, but there is still stagnation in terms of market growth.

Recently, Automotive News had their own commentary comparing diesel sales in Europe in comparison to the USA. While they state that passenger car diesel sales are running around 50% across the pond, USA sales were quoted at 1%. I wished I had access to complete sales figures to show whether this is correct or not, but I seriously doubt the 1% figure is indeed true.

Since 2007, diesel fueled offerings had expanded. It was not a huge expansion, but it showed that certain brands and auto makers are willing to invest in offering products with diesel engines. Continue reading

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My Favorite New Vehicle Unveilings

All Photos by Randy Stern

All Photos by Randy Stern

Over the years in my professional life, I have bore witness to a few exciting new things. These are otherwise known as “unveilings.”

These are big auto show moments – sometimes not at auto shows, but mostly they are. They gather the media around in hopes of pulling off a surprise. These days of electronic communication, the surprise sometimes gets ruined by leaks and advance media information sent via e-mail. All we had to do was to show up for the spectacle.

Sometimes, these are great spectacles, considering what was to be unveiled. These are the ones I enjoyed the most – especially being there live for the event. They could be concepts towards a production vehicle, or the long-awaited production car. They could also be refreshes that will set it apart from the crowd.

In this rendition of My Faves, I will spell out the unveilings I attended, as well as some that were downright awesome that I was never able to attend. You might say that these were some spectacles that were worth watching – live or by video.

Let’s roll the tape…

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Chicago 2015: On the Road and Through McCormick Place, I Go…

All Photos by Randy Stern

All Photos by Randy Stern

So, what happened at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show, you asked?

Plenty. Continue reading

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Historiography: “Gotta Go To The Auto Show!”

Ralph Gilles and the 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 - All Photos by Randy Stern

Ralph Gilles and the 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show – Photo by Randy Stern

If you ask any enthusiast where the love for the automobile was nurtured, it might come from their first auto show experience.

The auto show is a safe place to connect with the automobile. Your admission into the exhibit hall is a license to dream. Once inside, you encounter cars, trucks and SUVs that you might see in your neighborhood. Then you encounter something you have never seen. Is it a concept? Or, a brand new model coming out soon? Or, a very rare and expensive piece of machinery that opens up your eyes to complete wonder and surprise.

Sometimes, you might even buy a car right at the show. For the most part, you come to shop…not buy. Well, maybe do some fantasy shopping. Fewer of us – including myself – work these shows. We’re there to cover the show as media, others to represent their brand or OEM – in various ways. The auto show is a gathering point for those who appreciate the automobile, no matter the reason to attend it.

However, the auto show is not a modern invention. They have been around as long as the automobile itself.

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V&R Stories: The Bucket List…Sort Of

That was so last year... All Photos by Randy Stern

That was so last year… Photo by Randy Stern

Year 50 is over!

It was a fantastic year full of triumphs and downturns. However, it yielded some advances towards furthering this career and focusing on providing the right content for my outlets.

Now that 50 is over. What about the rest of my life?

Is there a “bucket list” I want to make? Oh boy…here we go…

“Bucket lists” are for people who could see the end of their lives happen sooner than later. The items on said list could be rooted in reality, but not entirely. If accomplished, one wonders if it would never be repeated as long as they live.

We have desires. Things we do not need, but want at a distance. Yet, how do we know if these desires are attainable?

Does anyone care if there are such things as bucket lists and people actually do them as long as they’re alive?

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Down For The….Polar Run

All Photos by Randy Stern

All Photos by Randy Stern

Remember the Central Crown rally? That run in September where teams drove from the Twin Cities to Chicago for charity? Two veterans of that rally were inspired by their experience to do the same thing – in the winter.

The Polar Run kicked off on a Friday – a work day for most people. Organizers Matt Smith and Hayley Lynn Noll thought they were not going to get a huge crowd to run in it. Maybe ten entrants? Fifteen. No. Matt and Hayley got 37 entrants for the run from Stillwater to Lutsen along some backroads – and a few frozen lakes.

This inaugural rally was also for a cause – the Ronald McDonald House, Upper Midwest Chapter. What made this run special was the fact that a representative from RMH was there to see the rally launch. Manager of Community Fundraisers, Terra Peterson, was not just there to witness the start of the run, but to collect donations from the participants. I felt bad for her, as the organization’s Nissan Cube was filling up to is maximum capacity.

The rally entrants also did some volunteering at Ronald McDonald House, as they served Sunday brunch at one of the homes the weekend prior to the start. This is the kind of charity a participant would want to be a part of, as it helps to see what the benefactor does for its clients. It shows where the money goes.

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Commentary: “Heart and Sole” and a Larger Problem in America

All Photos by Randy Stern

All Photos by Randy Stern

The story of James Robertson and his car-less commute has been circulated on many news outlets by now. It is a story of determination of a single man to ensure his commitment to employment in a place where one must go to where the jobs are by any way possible.

Bill Laitner of the Detroit Free Press introduced us to Robertson on Super Bowl Sunday, after the 56-year-old gentleman was walking from his home in Detroit to meet a SMART bus up into Oakland County. The response from the story yielded multiple online donation campaigns, including one from a close contact at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. A Wayne State University student began the first campaign, which yielded about $230,000 in pledges to help Robertson gain reliable transportation to his job in suburban Rochester Hills. Other people – dealerships, OEMs and other individuals – offered automobiles to help Robertson, as well.

Robertson is a grateful, humble man who is the embodiment of hard work. His boss has been grateful that Robertson comes in every day and put in a full week’s worth of employment without fail. What the donors on these online campaigns have done is to make things a little easier for Robertson – to replace his broken down 1988 Honda Accord with something that will help him prolong his work life.

The story is one of many told in Southeastern Michigan. Continue reading

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