Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fixing BMW's Silly Steptronic "Paddleshifters" (and more)

The short course on how motive nature (a term I just made up, since I am The Car Czar) works: Throttle-up: push forward; throttle-down, pull back. That's with boats, trains, planes, hyperdrive spaceships, and with the upshifts and downshifts of every automatic and sequential-shift automotive transmission in history, save for yours, Bavarian Motor Works.

Push forward to upshift, pull back to downshift on hardcore sequential-shift race cars, posing Porsches, or the most garden variety GM turbohydromatics.

This, BMW, is coded motive DNA.

DNA you're messing with in your never-ending quest to be more perfect than you already are: smarter than your customer and never afraid to show it.

I know that some hard-nosed Teutonic engineering group within your walls determined that it is only natural to pull back on the console shifter for upshifts on your backward Steptronic automatic transmission, since acceleration is pushing the driver in that direction anyway, and vice versa. But your little solo trip down this logic path squares only with the above socially-autistic engineering core and is propagated only because human factors people are not employed by German car companies except to make coffee and answer the phones.

Excellent as your little German wundercars may be, let's face it: You continue to give us lousy cupholders because you don't think we should be drinking Slurpees while driving. You continue to give us inscrutable interior electronics controls and lately vandalized posterior 7-series taillight aesthetics just because someone within your coolly-reflective Munich compound believed it should be so.

Congratulations on not having consumer focus groups and suffering the confused mishmash of mediocrity those exercises produce ... but really. Let's get the backward console shift pattern on your Steptronic automatic fixed. The same liability posture that prevents you from putting the accelerator pedal on the left and the brake on the right just because Fritz and Hans said "Zis is most efficient" should prevail here.

Next on the agenda: Your Steptronic "paddleshifters."

When Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso want to shift gears through the kinks at Monza (or even Kubica and Heidfeld, as I hear they race too) they pull their right steering-column mounted paddle shifters for upshifts and left paddleshifters for downshifts. (Kimi Räikkönen pulls anything sticking up in his field of vision anytime he wants, which is why his engine song sounds just like his post-race interviews).

So what's up with the "paddles" on your 3-series Steptronic?

Pull either for upshift and push either for downshift?

Calling these glorified rocker buttons "paddleshifters" is like calling the Jonas Brothers rock 'n rollers or Madonna an English lady, or even a lady, for that matter.

GM is also guilty of this F1-trickle-down marketing faux pas, but while the average buyer of a Chevy HHR may not know the joke's on her, at least a small percentage of your buyers will resent finding out you've hooked 'em up with F1 falsies.

Every red-blooded driver knows the day may come when he is sipping raspberry iced tea two tables over from Brad and Angelina at Monte Carlo and the call goes out that the new F1 sensation, J.R. Hildebrand, has the flu and cannot compete ... is there anyone present who can force his or her lardbutt into a little carbon-fiber tub and operate a paddleshift transmission?

It's going to be sad, BMW, when only the civilian drivers of Nissans and Volkswagens step forward.

Let's get this fixed, because President O lately wants to go beyond unifying this great nation and get on with unifying the entire world.

(And I'm here to help).

PETA and the Cucumber Girl
Next on my agenda this week: getting the media to quit talking about those rejected People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Super Bowl ads featuring some babe getting it on with produce.

The animal rights organization, which used to do classy things like throwing fake blood on fur coat-clad women as they exited Macy's, exhausted after a morning trying to figure out how to spend 1/1,000th of their sugar daddies' ill-gotten Wall Street bonuses (approximately $1,800 in 2009 currency) on just-which diamond ear studs, has lately instead resorted to tawdry exhibitionism to get attention.

It started with racy billboards and display ads and escalated into this past week's Free Invisible PETA Super Bowl Ad.

Free Invisible PETA Super Bowl Ads are created by shooting a low-budget video of some chick doing suggestive things with vegetables (instead of, thank goodness, chickens and hogs -- that would be unethical) and then leaking the news all over creation that -- shock of shocks -- NBC has refused to air the commercial during the Super Bowl.*

All media outlets then promptly fall for the ruse and broadcast the story, giving PETA more publicity for the commercial-that-never-was than any commercial-that-might-have-been would have generated, ever. Instead of a $3-million ad, FCC fines, and a Scared Straight session with Janet Jackson, PETA gets free buzz for days.

As this nation's omnipotent Car Czar I am today calling for an end to all of this free PETA publicity.

Don't you fifth-estaters understand that every time you mention PETA and their never-to-be Babe Doing it with Vegetables Super Bowl ad you're playing right into the hands of these attention-starved mink-hugging lunatics?

Just quit mentioning PETA and their Cucumber Girl.

"PETA" and "Cucumber Girl" will get FeedBlasted all over the Internets and the Googles and the Blogospheres and "PETA Cucumber Girl" will stay around forever, become part of the lexicon, and spoil any chances that anyone will ever take the PETA Cucumber Girl organization seriously.

*Yep, that's where your donations have been going, you crazy Cat Ladies: to pay PETA Cucumber Girl executives to "audition" just-showing-skin-for-the-cause Jane Fonda wannabe chicky babies for "public service" ads all day long. (Ad agency? Right ...).

Giuliani Says the Big Apple to Suffer without Wall Street Bonuses
Sociopaths are undersold. (People are always looking at us funny, too).

Anyway, Mr. G., your inner sociopath worked for you and the world when you shut down the mob in New York, and later when you pinned your shoulders back and showed your steely, teary compassion on 9/11. Only sociopaths are tough enough to face-down such evil so coolly and effectively.

But the SocioThing didn't work for you when you hooked up with the pharma rep babe and dumped your wife, and it's not working for you this week with your dire warning that NYC's posh restaurants, limo drivers, and shoeshine specialists are going to suffer from this recession-or-depression's dearth of Wall Street bonus money.

If the only thing propping up your $400-a-plate eateries and $300,000 watch boutiques is a bunch of bumblers and crooks pulling in $18-million bonuses for running their companies into the ground, you bet your big apple you have a problem.

It looks like we're undergoing what they call a paradigm shift in this great nation, Mr. G.

Better show Sergio the Shoe Shine Specialist what the business end of a Burger King cash register looks like, and fast.
Starbucks Lays-off 6,700
A few years ago your unhumble Car Czar was on the streets of San Francisco looking for iced coffee at one in the morning, because, well, the old pal I was with wanted an iced coffee at one in the morning.

Everybody in San Francisco was out for coffee at one in the morning.

No way.

The first Starbucks we visited had a broken ice machine, so we went out the door and literally walked across the street to another Starbucks to get the iced coffee.

No way.

Back at the ranch here in the Midwest burbs, a drive-though Starbucks popped up out of a cornfield one day, and low and behold McMansion ladies from far and wide lined up 12 deep in their Lincoln Navigators each morning to buy $7 Grande Lupe Lappi Ventos.

No way.

Starbucks recently mailed out a guide to help us Midwest rubes properly order from their menu of renamed coffee mixes and cup sizes (maybe that's what the big Navigator backup at the drivethrough was all about). They pointed out that their coffee pourers were actually "baristas."

No way.

Turns out it really was all "No way."

(BTW, did you know that anything you order without specifying "non-fat milk" at these joints usually has more fat than a triple bacon Whopper? Me neither).

I'm not done yet. Next week: I give car dealerships options for the over-optioned cars sitting on their lots.


  1. Porsche has steering wheel rockers instead of left-down/right-up paddles too. Guess they figure people who buy automatics won't know the difference!

  2. You will then like our new pull style: