It was a year of fear as the ebola virus was plastered all over the news despite being almost entirely contained to West Africa. Terror group ISIS rose up and took over parts of Iraq as America’s longest war wound down in Afghanistan and officially ended. Protests erupted across the country over the deaths of unarmed black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, by white police officers. An apathetic electorate, assisted by gerrymandering, decided that they wanted Congress and governor mansions to be red and gave the President another spanking despite an improved economy, rising employment, and an all-time high Dow Jones. Same-sex marriage became legal in an additional 17 states, now at 35.
Hacking continued to be in the news, as the full extent of purloined personal data from Target’s computers in late 2013 became known early in the year and showed how antiquated credit card security is in the U.S. Home Depot was victim of a major breach. Towards the end of the year, XBOX addicts couldn’t get their fix for a few days, and North Korea allegedly hacked into Sony’s computers as retribution to their pending release of a satirical film, or was it an inside job?
In other international news, diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba are being reestablished. Three airline disasters, including one jumbo jet that is still missing, took place in the Far East areas of Malaysia and Indonesia.
Prominent passings included Robin Williams, James Garner, and Joan Rivers. Tom Magliozzi, the older of NPR’s “Click and Clack” brother duo, also passed away.
In automotive news, Ford began sales of the all-new Mustang, which debuted to mixed reviews, but the marketplace has flocked to the car so far. Ford also brought out the aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup. This was after a F-250 prototype caught fire in August and quickly vaporized, leading people to ask whether aluminum is the best material for a pickup, combined with lingering questions about durability, repair costs, and insurance costs. Mazda unveiled a new Miata that lost some weight and has a sharper look. Porsche became even more of an SUV company with the runaway sales of the Macan. Subaru sales continue to be through the roof. GM recalled about 30 million vehicles, about double what Toyota did in their crisis about three years ago. A sinkhole opened up at the Corvette museum in February and swallowed 8 Corvettes, 3 of which will be restored. Attendance at the museum spiked up 71%, and the big hole is now being filled up with gravel. Google revealed their prototype of their driverless car, which has the potential of transforming tight urban places. At the end of the year, gas prices dropped by about a third due to increased production in the U.S., which will ensure sales of large vehicles for a while.
Here on the C&G boards, it was another pretty quiet year, though the forum platform got a nice upgrade. Here are a few of the highlights and lowlights in the 13th Annual Edition of Cheers and Jeers:
Cheers to Cadillac for credible performance vehicles with the ATS-V and the CTS-V. Details of the upcoming CT6 are promising. Cadillac sales are down 20% this year, but Cadillac is not doing fire sales anymore and will be plugging gaping holes in the lineup.
Jeers to Cadillac for their lame new naming convention. The updated emblem, which is supposed to be “sleeker and streamlined”, comes across as plain and squat, but worse is their unoriginal naming convention of having a different number designate each model in its hierarchy after CT for the passenger cars and XT for the crossovers and SUVs. The fact that Escalade will retain that name shows the power of having a unique, immediately identifiable name.
Cheers to GM for having the Best New Pickups with the Colorado and Canyon returning to the lineup, and not making them half-baked like the last go-round. They will genuinely be best-in-class, albeit a shrunken class of other aged vehicles, but they will have a year ahead of the new Tacoma to establish themselves. The diesel engine coming next year will make them that much more compelling.
Cheers to GM CEO Mary Barra for her adept handling of the recalls. She’s bringing a clarity of direction with limited obfuscation. Jeers to GM for not resolving the safety issues to begin with, and for GM somehow initially forgetting that the Saturn Ion had the same defective part. The defective ignition switch has been blamed for 42 deaths. Now GM is erring on the side of caution for recalls, which is probably necessary for the sake of PR, but it’s also the right thing to do.
Jeers to Takata for dragging their feet to recall defective airbags that spew metal debris.
Cheers to FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) for producing the audacious Challenger and Charger Hellcat, with their 707 hp and 200 mph top speed. Perhaps the Hellcat was in response to the new Mustang and pending Camaro changeover, but the American muscle car is more alive than ever in terms of performance.
Cheers to FCA again for having the full-size pickup with best mileage by placing a Fiat-sourced diesel engine in the light-duty Ram EcoDiesel and keeping the truck current. GM had plans for a small Duramax for the light-duty Silverado, but that project got shelved during the bankruptcy.
Jeers to Ford on the beer can F-150, which is not a game-changer. The styling is overwrought inside and out. Ford pickups have historically been overweight, and a 700 pound weight loss is really only about a 300 pound weight advantage compared to the competition. The new 2.7 liter EcoBoost engine has gotten good reviews so far and gives the best mileage for any gas-powered pickup, but will truck buyers feel comfortable about having such a small engine, and how will reliability be over the long term?
Cheers to Ford for the trusty, dearly, and now departed Econoline/E-Series, which was discontinued in 2014 after having the same platform architecture since the 1975 model year. RIP. The Econoline name dates back to 1961. While “eco” names have been in vogue with branding the last 10 years, Ford actually phased out the Econoline name in 2001. As balthazar pointed out, Ford and Mercedes had E-350 and E350 models concurrently. But out with the old, and in with the newfangled Transit. Only GM still has old-school vans with the Chevy Express and GMC Savana.
Cheers to Tesla for the quickest production automobile, the all-wheel-drive, 691 hp, 964 lb-ft Model S P85D. Tesla CEO and publicity hound Elon Musk closed the year by making the announcement that their six year old Roadster can be upgraded to achieve a 400 miles range, which would conceivably make an electric car practical for far more than the 80% or so it is for now, at least in terms of range. Earlier in the year, Tesla announced their first rollouts of their battery changing stations, which will swap out the battery faster than a typical car fills with gas. On the last day of the year, Musk announced that a robotic snake is being worked on to automatically plug in the charger, because that is just too much work.
Cheers to C&G Admin William Maley, aka mudmonster, for the Best Post on learning to drive a stick: http://www.cheersandgears.com/topic/83744-learning-the-dark-arts-of-driving-a-manual-transmission. How many of us were able to relate to the frustration, sheer terror, or satisfaction of doing the same thing in our youths? More Cheers for his consistently good car reviews.
Jeers to the Worst Post on spiritual and philosophical matters and inexplicably posted in the Mercury forum: http://www.cheersandgears.com/topic/83093-here-is-practical-explanation-about-next-life-purpose-of-human-life-philosophicalreligious-facts-theories-etc/#entry743913. However, perhaps it could be said that a diversity of thought can help foster a better understanding to all of us.
Finally, Cheers to all the staff and members of C&G. The constancy of the posters is like comfort food: ocnblu alternating between cars and trucks, with it now beng truck time with a pending Colorado. GMTruck74 having that constant yearning for a new GMC, and possibly getting a GMC Canyon. smk4565 being smk4565. Cmicasa did bring some needed energy to the boards late in the year. And thanks to board owner Drew Dowdell, aka oldsmoboi, for keeping the board chugging along. Cheers to all!
Hope everybody has a safe and prosperous Happy New Year!