Wednesday, November 24, 2010

When Engineers Get Bored...

2011 Buick Regal

When engineers get bored, they needlessly redesign things. This may be to justify their existence, I really don't know.

This photo is of the left taillight of a 2011 Buick Regal, a car largely based upon the award-winning Opel Insignia. The Insignia is built in Germany and sold in a large number of global markets. This Regal, in fact, was also built in Germany, though production will soon shift to Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

So why show this photo? That's easy. Assume that this car is one car ahead of you, so this is as much of it as you can see...

Quick! Is this Regal braking or indicating a turn?

The correct answer is "who the hell knows?!?", because some wise ass engineer decided to redesign the electrical system of this car to equip it with what's sometimes known as "combination lamps". Combination lamps are where a single red lamp (or group of lamps) performs the brake light and turn indicator functions for each side of the vehicle. Basically, they are a brake light unless being over-ridden for use as a signal.

Virtually no other world market allows this stupidity (or even separate red rear turn indicators), including the other markets that this vehicle is sold in, where this bulb would be orange/amber. Functioning only as a signal, no confusion would be possible.

The larger red portion of the lamp above it would be the brake lamp in the Insignia - and as seen in this picture, it does not function as a brake lamp in the Regal.

You could argue Buick tradition - the majority of Buicks have used combination lamps over the years, but there have also been numerous Buicks with dedicated orange signals (it was even a hallmark of the top "T-Type" models for a while), including the model one notch above the Regal in Buick's current model matrix, the Lacrosse.

As the red part of the lamp above it still contains a bulb (it's a parking light), it's not like GM saved any money on bulbs, and I doubt more than a few cents on wire. It looks pretty hokey too.

GM is not the only offender here, as most new Audi vehicles use combination lamps in the Canadian and US markets. BMW and Mercedes stop just short of that, equipping most of our models with red rear signals.

My big question here is: Why spend the money on redesigning these parts to make the car less safe?

Shameless Self-promotion

It may not be sexy, but you can read my Wheels coverage of the Minivan cateory at this year's AJAC Canadian Car of the Year here.

Shameless Self-promotion

You can read my Wheels coverage of the Best New SUV-CUV (over $50,000) category from this year's AJAC Canadian Car of the Year here.

Shameless Self-promotion

2009 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

You can read my Wheels article on my recommended choices for buying a Sports or Performance Car (below $50,000) from the outgoing model year here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Shameless Self-promotion

2011 Honda Odyssey Touring's rear entertainment system

You can find my special Toronto Star A-section article about vehicle connectivity here.

Shameless Self-promotion

Myself (L), Mark Richardson (C), and Jil McIntosh (R)

Perhaps the ultimate in patting oneself on the back, you can read Mark Richardson's editorial about my Wheels colleagues and I receiving awards at this year's AJAC (Automobile Journalists Association of Canada) awards dinner here.

My award was the Wakefield Castrol Award for Journalism; Technical Topics, given for my article on Mercedes-Benz's new "V" engine families, which can be found here and here.

Shameless Self-promotion

'09 Malibu vs. '59 Bel Air - IIHS image via the Toronto Star

You can find my special Toronto Star A-section article about vehicle safety systems here.