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March 2006 Newsletter
Have You Driven a Fjord Lately
That headline was one of the standard industry jokes when Ford acquired Volvo. Many wondered if the Swedish company would be swallowed by the American giant. When deals of this nature are made, few know the exact terms. We hoped, and apparently this was the case, that Volvo had insisted on a strict hands off policy regarding its research and development departments. Of all of Ford's recent purchases, including Jaguar, Volvo has produced the best results, with Land Rover in second place. Notice the many references to Volvo in current Ford adverts. Legitimacy by proxy, though many of the Detroit automaker's latest lines have Volvo underpinnings. In a way, that is what happened at Daimler Chrysler. The best products there are loosely disguised Mercedes chassis with American styling, such as the Chrysler 300/Dodge Magnum. Cheap way to get much of a Merc, if you can see out of the thing.
Safety Sabotage
Let's say you have a newer vehicle, equipped with many of the latest safety features. This would include anti-lock brakes, perhaps some sort of stability control, front, side, and side curtain airbags, and pyrotechnic pre-tensioners for the seat belt mechanism. These are explosive charges that fire to take the otherwise dangerous slack out of the belts in a crash. Here is how to render those features useless, if not actually dangerous. Start with the anti-lock brakes. In an emergency, fail to brake hard enough early in a stop, when kinetic energy is highest. The car will take a long, long time to come to a halt. Brake assist programs actually apply the brake more for a driver who has been tentative with the pedal. Remember, the faster a car is going the harder it can be braked. Check your owner's manual to see if you have brake assist. (not the same as power assisted brakes) To make front airbags dangerous, drive with one hand on top of the wheel. In a collision, should the airbag go off, you will punch yourself very hard in the face That is not a pillow in the steering wheel, it is Mike Tyson in a canister. Seat belt pre-tensioners. Sit at an angle, or lean forward so your shoulders are not in contact with the seat back. The explosive charge will make you feel like a fast dog on a short leash. Side curtain airbags and thorax protection can also be made nasty. Simply slouch against the door instead of sitting properly. That way, not only won't the protection work, you will get punched in the kidneys and slapped on the head as well. All of those high tech safety features require understanding and cooperation from the vehicle occupants to make them truly effective.

Understand What You Are Driving
A big part of driving safety is having a fair idea about the capabilities of your ride.Tailgating a newer vehicle on good tires, while driving a clapped-out pickup, simply means you will likely be uninsurable after the crash. Equally, believing your sports sedan can corner twice as fast as the neighbour's Camry is an exercise in delusion. The truth is that the actual cornering power of a new BMW 325 and a Toyota Corolla are not that much different. The feel certainly is, along with the cult status and car magazine hyperbole. On a similar note, all-wheel drive, no matter what the salesperson tells you, does not increase cornering power one tiny bit. That is determined by the tires alone. Once again, feel may be different, as is straight line traction. An all-wheel drive car can be somewhat more forgiving of bad driving, but is subject to the same physical realities as everything else.

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