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Fixing Fiats Again in the United States

Who could have imagined Chrysler Corp. being rescued by Fiat?  When Fiats last appeared in the US automobile market, they were viewed by most US drivers as quirky little cars from Italy with maintenance problems. 

I owned a Fiat 124 Sport Coupe during the late sixties.  For the time, it was a great car.  It had double overhead camshafts, four wheel disc brakes and a five speed transmission; features that few if any American cars had.  The car had a solid rear axle; but, because the axle was well located, that had no effect on the car’s excellent handling capabilities.  The engine would willingly rev well past its 7000 RPM limit if you let it.  I bought it because I wanted a sports car but had a family and needed something bigger.  It met my needs extremely well, but there were problems. 

The exhaust manifold gasket blew out at intervals between 5,000 and 10,000 miles.  The turn signals stopped working with about the same frequency, and then the steering column wiring harness had to be replaced.  The rear disc brake calipers slid on dissimilar materials and stopped working due to corrosion from electrolytic action when the car was driven on salted roads in the winter.  I was into working on cars then, so none of those things mattered to me. 

Gasoline Efficiency or Hybrid Electrics: Which Should Have Higher Priority?

There is a great deal of public and political enthusiasm for hybrid electric vehicles.  This is founded on the idea, no doubt true, that hybrid electric vehicles can reduce gasoline consumption and dependence on imported oil in the United States.  But are they the best short term solution?   In the summer of 2008 when gasoline exceeded four dollars per gallon in the U.S., there was a surge of interest in smaller, more fuel efficient cars and hybrid electric cars.  Gasoline prices have returned to about two dollars a gallon, but many consumers now believe it is only a matter of time before prices go up again.  Previous gasoline crises, however, have shown that consumers have a very short memory for pain.  Based on past behavior, there is a good possibility that consumers will return to larger cars, pickup trucks and SUVs if gasoline prices stay low for three or four years.  To be ready for that possibility and still be able to reduce pollution and dependence on foreign oil, it is essential that those vehicles have better fuel mileage.   There are several emerging technologies that can significantly improve the efficiency of gasoline engines in the short term: gasoline direct injection; dual clutch transmissions; electronic valves and electrically powered auxiliaries for example.  Together these technologies could improve gasoline mileage by 15% to 25%.  The engineering investment to bring these technologies to market is much less than the investment needed to further develo

MOST Cooperation Multiplexes Automotive Infotainment Systems

 The wiring harness for in-vehicle entertainment is becoming increasingly complex.  Only a few years ago the only electronic entertainment device in a car was the radio.  Today, an infotainment system may include an FM radio, a satellite receiver, a CD or DVD player, an amplifier, multiple speakers, a telephone, a navigation unit, an MP3 input and one or more displays.  Tomorrow, a vehicle may contain all of the above plus a wireless connection to the internet.  The wiring for an FM/AM radio with two speakers in the dash was simple.  The wiring for a modern infotainment system is not.  What to do?