Here’s a very good example for why I don’t think Wikipedia can be trusted. Below is a screen shot of a page at Wikimedia Commons, which I assume is where you can submit pictures for Wikipedia. I applaud those who give up their copyright on images (and have done so myself from time to time), but it might help if they were in the right place.
Here are some pictures on a page about the Hyundai Sonata Y1:
Problem: not a single one of these cars is the Hyundai Sonata Y1. (Here’s what it actually looks like.)
On the Y2 page, two out of twelve people got it right, which is roughly how the population works, anyway: for every two smart people, there are ten thickos.
Granted, Hyundai itself has not helped things by calling the third-generation model, even in Korea, the Sonata II, which I suspect is how this error propagated. That, and people wanting to contribute to an encyclopædia but who refuse to do any research. It’s a dangerous mix.
Just because a bunch of people believe in erring doesn’t make it true. Which summarizes my attitude toward Wikipedia. And Rogernomics.
Incidentally, I recognize there are some positive aspects to Wikipedia’s existence—these were covered in the comments to the earlier post. I agree it is a landmark in the growth of the internet. Maybe one of the commenters is right about the science articles having fewer disputes (or, it shows the relatively good training of scientists and their willingness to settle things in a civilized fashion, rather than any merit on Wikipedia’s part).
And without MediaWiki, there would be no Autocade. (In fact, if Wikipedia were accurate, I would never have started Autocade. It’s partly because of errors like the above that I did.)
However, it remains the only volunteer site to my memory where a senior admin has gone out of her way to send me email abuse privately (while exposing that you don’t need to be particularly smart to be an admin there). After the Wikipedia defenders came to the site’s rescue in June, along comes one of their own to undo their diplomacy—and then some.Posted by Jack Yan, 05:11
Remember when Chrysler made cars that people (even the industry) salivated over? It wasn’t that long ago.
The original, base LH cars went up on Autocade today. It’s a real pity these were not widely exported: Chrysler could have cleaned up Down Under if there were right-hand-drive versions, especially as the Holden Commodore was beginning to march up the sales’ charts during these model years. (We also put up all the Triumph Spitﬁres.)
Chrysler Concorde (LH). 1993–7 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan. F/F, 3301 cm³ (V6 OHV), 3518 cm³ (V6 OHC). Chrysler’s version of the LH large cars, similar to Eagle Vision and Dodge Intrepid of these years. More upscale than either Dodge or Eagle, but below LHS. Huge interior room thanks to the cab-forward design. Interior trim still a bit tacky, despite upmarket pretensions.
Dodge Intrepid (LH). 1993–7 (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan. F/F, 3301 cm³ (V6 OHV), 3518 cm³ (V6 OHC). Dodge version of Chrysler’s LH (rumoured it meant Last Hope) cars, with chassis elements derived from Renault Premier. Very good handling, even by European standards. Cab-forward look meant greater space, with three sitting across back comfortably. Well built range. ES had stiffer suspension.
Eagle Vision (LH). 1993–7 (prod. 105,000 approx.). 4-door sedan. F/F, 3301 cm³ (V6 OHV), 3518 cm³ (V6 OHC). Handsome cab-forward sedan, twinned with Chrysler Concorde (1993–7) and Dodge Intrepid (1993–7). Eagle was considered the most European of the three, and meant to fight the imports. Still modern looking and striking many years on, with excellent use of space thanks to the cabin extending far forward. Excellent handling and grip, but some plasticky interior trim not particularly appealing. Exported to Europe as Chrysler Vision. Last Eagle, as Chrysler retired the marque in 1998, and its successor was badged as the Chrysler 300M.Posted by Jack Yan, 10:06
We sent out the Autocade press release today. Mico Santos was the ﬁrst to break the news.
With how I’m enjoying Tumblr, and how Lucire editor-at-large Summer Rayne Oakes and fashion ed Samantha Hannah enjoy their Flips, it seems there is, as Wired pointed out, a trend toward “good enough”. We used that as the hook for the release.
Autocade car database site takes Twitter’s “good enough” approach
New Zealand- and British-developed site focuses on providing 80-word summaries of car models made after 1970
Wellington, December 21 (JY&A Media) In an era when the Flip’s camera quality is sufﬁcient for most people, and when Tumblr and Tweeter serve as channels of communication, sometimes “good enough” is all that people need. Autocade, a new online car database at autocade.net, follows the same philosophy.
Instead of long-winded pieces that one might ﬁnd on Wikipedia or websites devoted to certain models, Autocade has one-paragraph summaries, along with basic technical information.
The website, editable by the public, boasted its 1,000th model entry today. It is the brainchild of Jack Yan, who has had a track history of being a pioneer.
Mr Yan was the ﬁrst digital typeface designer in New Zealand, one of the country’s ﬁrst web publishers, and the founder of Lucire, a fashion magazine which began online but has since spawned international print editions. The Media department of his company, Jack Yan & Associates, is behind Autocade.
He says that he was tired of seeing the errors in Wikipedia, where contributors often failed to double-check their sources, and aimed to build something better.
However, he believes that many users want quick information and do not have time to sift through long articles.
‘I haven’t seen a site like this yet, despite the web having been with us for 20 years,’ he says. ‘You either see really long articles, or very technical pages that only experts would get any value from. Others are market-speciﬁc and tied to automotive retail. I wanted a quick, accurate, international resource.’
Each entry has an average length of 800 bytes, or around 80 words.
He takes one lead from Wikipedia by making the database editable by the public, speciﬁcally registered users. The site is driven by MediaWiki, the same software behind Wikipedia.
‘Let’s make it open to edits, but let’s also monitor those changes so that Autocade remains accurate and true to its original spirit,’ says Mr Yan.
He says every entry on Autocade has been meticulously checked against published sources. He wants to see this continue, by allowing only registered users who are serious about maintaining the website’s global, accurate point of view.
Mr Yan claims Autocade is truly international, in the spirit of the original web.
‘If you visit the English Wikipedia, there is a natural bias toward English-speaking territories. It’s understandable: it has more contributions from natural English speakers. However, when it comes to dealing with cars sold outside the United States, in particular, it falls short in many cases,’ he says.
His aim with Autocade was to have a website that would not have the same biases, by giving the same emphasis to models regardless of their country of origin. He admits that there will naturally be some bias, but it is not as strongly felt.
He says the site’s focus has been on automobiles made in his lifetime (from the 1970s on), since he had more readily available published resources. But Autocade welcomes any models, provided the information is accurate.
The photographs have to be either publicity shots where copyright has been waived, or original work by the contributor.
While it has some popular models such as the original Volkswagen Golf and the entire lineage of Toyota Corollas, Mr Yan has seen ﬁt to add obscure cars such as the Luxgen M7 of Taiwan, the Kish Khodro Veek of Iran, the Pakistani Adam Revo, and the Korean, Holden-based Camina.
‘In some of these cases, Autocade is the ﬁrst site to get this information online. In other cases, we’re the ﬁrst to publish the information online in English,’ he claims.
He says his inspiration was the work of the late Michael Sedgwick, who authored a series of guides in the early 1980s for Haymarket’s Classic and Sportscar. The format was later followed in Classic and Sportscar’s sister magazine, Your Classic, in some of its guides.
The one-photo, one-paragraph format adopted by Mr Sedgwick gave a useful overview of production years, body styles, engine choices and a brief impression of the model.
Mr Yan used that as his inspiration, but has been careful to not duplicate the format exactly. In addition, he has appended production locations and links to the models’ predecessors and successors, something that could not have been done practically in print.
‘Haymarket’s position with Autocade was that they were ﬁne with the site as long as the content was original,’ he says. ‘That was perfect as far as we were concerned, since we have published magazines for two decades and unoriginal content would have been out of the question.’
JY&A Media, part of Jack Yan & Associates, did Autocade’s overall design (based on a template by Paul Gu, www.paulgu.com) and hosting. Peter Jobes (www.peter-j.co.uk), a British web designer and developer, customized MediaWiki for the site’s needs. Mr Jobes is currently working on Yappey (www.yappey.com), a UK social networking site.
Autocade entered its alpha and beta testing phases in March 2008. Mr Yan had gone on record to say that once the site had reached 1,000 models, the beta tag would be removed. The 1,000th model, the Turkish Tofaş Doĝan, went online on December 20, 2009.Posted by Jack Yan, 04:50
We began the journey in March 2008 and we are now there: our website Autocade has reached 1,000 models, which means the beta tag gets taken off and we present the site to a wider audience.
The 1,000th car is very unusual and I doubt many people outside Turkey, aside from car enthusiasts, have even heard of it.
Tofaş Doĝan (131). 1986–2002 (prod. unknown). 4-door saloon. F/R, 1581 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC), 1585 cm³ (4 cyl. OHV). Rebodied Fiat 131, which had been built under licence by Tofaş as the Murat 131. More high-line than Şahin. Fairly basic transport, initially with OHV engine, before newer OHC unit added in the 1990s.
As I explain in the press release, which goes out tomorrow, the timing seems right for such a site. We are now accustomed to the brief ways of communicating, such as Twitter and Tumblr. And as shown recently in an issue of Wired, there is a trend toward “good enough”—products such as the Flip do not rely on the highest quality, but the ease of sharing information.
My thanks to all those friends who have supported this venture during the beta phase.Posted by Jack Yan, 10:51
These posts about models I’ve put on to Autocade traditionally went on to my Vox blog, back in the days when vox.com worked. I would group them into themes that interested me, and link the entries back to the site.
As of tonight, we have all the Honda Accords up, and I wonder if we will crack the 1,000 barrier before the close of 2009.
The last one to be entered was the North American-market Accord Crosstour, meaning we now have some very distinctive vehicles being sold as the Honda Accord these days.
It might be of interest to readers here—and it does give us an insight into how much the Accord badge, now 33 years old, means to Honda. It might adorn different cars, but they all, by and large, have the same “meaning” to the consumer. This is one interesting exception to the idea of global, homogeneous markets, where the brand’s meaning is very similar worldwide, but the product offering is not.
Honda Accord. 2008 to date (prod. unknown). 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon. F/F, 1997 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC), 2199 cm³ diesel, 2354 cm³ petrol (4 cyl. DOHC). Longer, wider and lower Accord, building on previous model’s strengths with raised quality as Honda goes after Audi A4 and BMW 3er-Reihe. More angular, muscular styling, though not marketed as a sporty car. Collision avoidance and lane-change warning systems. Sold in US and Canada as Acura TSX.
Honda Inspire/Honda Accord (CP3). 2007 to date (prod. unknown). F/F, F/A, 1997 cm³ (4 cyl. OHC), 2354 cm³ (4 cyl. DOHC), 3471 cm³ (V6 OHC). Larger Inspire, now with Legend 3·5 engine in home market. Boxier styling, classed as full size in the US. Sold as Accord in many markets outside Japan, including US, where four-cylinder versions are available. Considered a well balanced all-rounder in the US, and sportier than Japanese rivals.
Honda Accord Coupé (CP3). 2008 to date (prod. unknown). F/F, 2354 cm³ (4 cyl. DOHC), 3471 cm³ (V6 OHC). Coupé version of Honda Inspire (2007–), aimed at the US market. On shortened wheelbase, and classed as mid-sized car in US (unlike full size of the sedan). More attractive styling.
Honda Accord Crosstour. 2010 to date (prod. unknown). 5-door sedan. F/F, F/A, 3471 cm³ (V6 OHC). Much-criticized (for its looks) hatchback version of Accord, marketed as a crossover in North American markets. Pricey, less sporty, and not really a hold-all. First Accord sold in US with four-wheel drive.Posted by Jack Yan, 11:54
Photographed by Chelfyn Baxter
Autocar is currently talking about what was the car of the decade. I remember in 1989, the magazine ran a series on the most beautiful cars of each decade, and named the most signiﬁcant. That decade, the Ford Sierra was the most signiﬁcant, for mainstreaming the aero look, an assessment I agree with.
One of its writers has named the Audi R8 his choice, and the magazine is doing a poll, asking readers to vote on theirs. The magazine has provided a list, which includes the Hyundai i10 (important for the Indian motor industry’s global exports) and the Toyota Prius NHW20 (but what does it really pioneer than the original NHW10 did not?).
What surprises me is that the Aston Martin V8 Vantage is not on its list. You can write it in, but how come this very British of automobiles is missing?
I know the 911 beats it dynamically on every count. I know it’s not as powerful as the bigger DB9. On the other hand, it looks the business, and the only area where it stirs the soul more than its looks is its sound.
It’s the opposite of the attractive woman who sounds common the minute she opens her mouth. The V8, more than the DB9, and more than the 911, seduces you a second time when you open her up.
What it does represent is the survival of a brand, and how to do a downward brand extension without losing too much exclusivity.
While the V8 Vantage means that more footballers are able to get their hands on one without getting into the Premier League, at least it has assured Aston Martin’s survival for the decade—and a good part of the coming one.
For most of my lifetime, Aston Martin Lagonda has really been a single-range marque with the occasional four-door model that broke down.
Now it ﬁelds a wider product range of the V8, DB9, DBS and Rapide, and we haven’t even looked at the limited-edition models.
It was a downmarket extension that was not botched. For a lesson on how not to do it, one need look no further than the Jaguar X-type, which was Detroit’s way of taking on BMW’s 3er.
One of my friend and colleague Stanley Moss’s Medinge papers dealt with this very topic, indicating that the Europeans did downmarket forays better.
How ironical, in this case, that both these examples happened while Ford ran Aston and Jaguar. However, one might say that Aston was left more to its own devices than Jaguar was.
In addition, the V8 Vantage made Aston Martin a brand that kids could point at and dream about. When I was a child, the car with the same name, which was based on the original DBS, was a brute, but it was never the star of my bedroom wall. It was not cool in the way the Porsche 930 was cool. Or the Lamborghini Countach.
Sure, the V8 did not mobilize the masses nor did it present a new technology.
But for Autocar readers, I suggest they enter this model in for its signiﬁcance to the Aston marque, to British ingenuity, and for a reassuring dose of patriotism.Posted by Jack Yan, 12:10
While I’ve very happily dissed BYD for falling foul of intellectual property law (to which some very un-Chinese face-losing types cried over), and had it in for SAIC over its tactics in trying to buy MG Rover, I’ve always applauded those Chinese ﬁrms who are willing to showcase the true ingenuity of Chinese designers. The latest Cherys, the MG 6, and even the great symbol of Chinese communism, the Hongqi, actually look the part. (The Hongqi, in particular, plays homage to some of the 1960s’ and 1970s’ models, and straddle the part of looking retro and heritage with communist restraint and free-market limousine pretensions.)
I’ll reserve judgement on quality till I see a Red Chinese vehicle in the metal, but right now, BAIC looks like the only automaker that might be able to give Saab a shot.
It’s not beyond Spyker’s capability. If I thought that Koenigsegg could make a go of Saab, then why not Spyker? A lot of it is restoring the corporate culture and reinstil that Saab pride. (It’s the sort of move John Egan made at Jaguar when he put a large leaper mascot back at the factory and had an unveiling ceremony. The cars might have been badly made, but at least the pride was back.) While Koenigsegg had plans for a solar car, which ﬁts marvellously with Swedes’ business and social conscience, Spyker might be the sort of owner that would encourage Swedish innovation. Saab’s engineers have not all disappeared and the new 9-5, from what I have seen, is still quite a capable and distinctive car.
But does it have the readies to ensure long-term survival for Saab? That’s the hardest question to get one’s head around, because if it were there in the family silver, why hadn’t it been used to launch smaller, less exclusive Spykers? Simple: even if the money were there, Spyker hasn’t had downmarket plans in mind. Will it be able to take on a (relatively speaking) volume manufacturer and turn it around, or will Saab simply become another limited-production line, being built by a few hundred staff in Sweden?
Meanwhile, we are seeing some interesting tactics being employed by Beijing. I already knew that the old 9-5 production line was making its way over to China, but the latest news is that the 9-3 is heading east, too. Powertrain technology and tooling have also gone, and Saab people will help BAIC integrate the technology into its cars. The Murdoch Press claims that the current 9-5 has also headed east, but I wonder if this is a typo.
BAIC lacks, of course, a brand, but its styling is fairly sharp among the Chinese automakers when it comes to its own-design work.
The sales do not bode well for the Swedish worker, but what does one expect of a conservative government that has been keen on selling everything from Absolut to a part of TeliaSonera? It was predictable, and similar moves in New Zealand have done little for the country’s productivity and wealth.
This is not a popular view in the Swedish business press, which embraces the technocracy, but it is all too familiar to most New Zealanders, who wound up opposing asset sales by the late 1980s.
However, I digress, and there is plenty there for another blog post.
The BAIC acquisitions have been done legally and at arm’s length. There are no stories emerging from Trollhättan about Saab managers getting drunk as Chinese executives entertained them, or false promises about joint ventures that failed to materialize. Already, this shows good faith and face.
The company has learned from the days when the Jeep Cherokee design somehow leaked from the company and pirate ﬁrms were churning out a model to which BAIC itself had the exclusive Chinese licence. It might actually be quite a good defender of intellectual property.
It has roughly the same number of years in JVs as SAIC, initially with Chrysler, and more recently with Hyundai, so we are not talking about a bunch of amateurs.
And BAIC has dreams of international expansion. What Chinese ﬁrm doesn’t, at this level? What it eyes is less the 9-3 and 9-5, but the Saab name that could adorn a whole generation of new cars.
The conservative government of Sweden is unlikely to kick up much of a fuss on behalf of the Swedish worker if more assets go to Beijing.
However, this might be the lesser of two evils, if some production is kept in Sweden—even if it is assembly—than for it to fade away completely as a slightly downmarket Spyker.
It would ensure the continuation of a brand that will inherently be tied to Sweden, even if some componentry comes off Chinese production lines.
And is being Chinese that much worse than being German, when Saabs have been rebodied Opel Vectras for some time now?
If indeed Swedish engineers are ﬂying out Beijing these days to help productionize the 9-3 and 9-5, then the quality will surely be up to Swedish levels.
It keeps the door open long-term for top-end Saabs still emerging from Trollhättan while more basic models emerge from Beijing. Eastern markets are the ones that are really growing these days, and basic economics suggest that the products should be built where they are most desired.
And at least whatever BAIC builds will be of Saab design, albeit on Opel platforms. It will not be a Japanese Saab, the 9-2X, which the company’s brand adorned earlier this century when GM had a Subaru share holding. It will not be a big SUV based on the Oldsmobile Bravada and made in Ohio, another of GM’s abominations (though at least that kept buyers at Saab when, prior the 9-7X’s release, they were ﬂocking to SUVs made by other brands).
Whatever BAIC builds at least will have a Saab soul, not one dictated by Detroit economics. BAIC itself has an electric car design which would work quite well with the Saab brand, too. GM’s failure to grasp anything about the Saab culture—which, incidentally, contrasts with Ford’s ability to keep the brand essence of most of its acquisitions, including Volvo—meant that any differentiation and distinctiveness were washed away by cost controls and the GM way. If it could not keep its own Stateside Saturn division unique, what hope was there for an out-of-sight, out-of-mind outpost, starved of resources to develop new models?
I wish Saab and Koenigsegg had tied up, or Saab had the volume to be independent. These are not options. Looking at what we have, BAIC might not be the worst suitor. If Saab becomes its only international brand, it certainly would treasure it more than GM, with its many divisions, ever did. And if it understands that brand value and country of origin have some important ties to car buyers, as Tata did when it acquired Jaguar and Land Rover, then Sweden might not lose out.
Labels: BAIC, Beijing, branding, brands, cars, communism, conservatism, copyright, corporate culture, design, ethics, globalization, GM, intellectual property, politics, Red China, Saab, Spyker, SwedenPosted by Jack Yan, 09:19
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