Author - Byron Hurd

Lord Byron — General Quarters

 Fun with Detroit road signs.

The hard news arm of the automotive press has been cursed with the grim task of reporting on the disaster that is new car sales figures over the past two months. I don’t envy them their task. The words “Black Tuesday” have been used to describe the July 1st release of June, 2008 sales figures, and for good reason. Truck sales are flatter than the Olsen twins, Chrysler is in what could only be described as a free-fall, and Ford and GM are hanging on by their fingernails. Whispers of a new recession and a return to the gas crunch of the 70s have prompted journalists, automotive and mainstream alike, to draw parallels between today’s industry and that of the late 60s.

At 23 years old, I haven’t been alive long enough that I can wax nostalgic about Detroit’s “heyday” and the troublesome years that followed. For that, I’ll refer you to Old Man Jack and his wayback machine. No, my knowledge of (and concern for) the survival of the Big Three is founded entirely in the present day. What does that do for my perspective? It would take a wiser man than myself to say for sure, I suppose. To a casual observer though, it’s uncanny how many similarities exist between these four-decades-removed time frames. But there are thousands of e-conomists on the Internet who can tell you how right or wrong you are about domestic product planning, so I’ll side-step the argument over Detroit’s short-sightedness for the time being. What’s done is done, and there is much more yet to do. Nobody knows for sure where the market is going (If you’re an exception to that rule, however, you’d do well to start applying for jobs in Detroit), but one thing seems painfully obvious: The automotive landscape of 2015 will look very different from that of 2005. The times, they are a-changin’.

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Lord Byron: Fair and Balanced

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That’s what Fox News calls it. And while we could debate the validity of any mainstream news outlet’s claim to objectivity interminably, it’s the sentiment that I’m interested in. For the longest time we’ve been told that the media’s obligation is to remain impartial and objective – to report the news as it happens and let us do the rest. That seems legit, right? After all, the underlying motives won’t change the fact that something took place. Are they newsworthy in their own right? Of course, but those motives should be the subject of news, not the gift-wrap in which it is delivered.

Now that’s all well and good if you’re talking about news. In the world of automotive journalism, however, we don’t really deal in hard news. Sure, there are times when all we deal in is hard news. Take the auto shows, for example — nothing but product announcements and unveilings. That’s news. Something happens and the press scrambles to be the first to scoop it. It’s in those brief moments that the motoring press acts most like its big brother, the media at large. The catch? We spend the other 45 weeks of the year being something entirely different.

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Lord Byron: Eight Is Enough


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Story by Byron Hurd, photograph by Jack Baruth

We’re welcoming “Lord” Byron Hurd to Speed:Sport:Life as a new itinerant columnist. Please feel free to apply the usual hazing! – Jack

A little over a week ago, Mazda quietly began circulating a memo to dealer service departments and RX-8 owners outlining a further extension of the powertrain warranty for their 2004-2008 model year Renesis rotary engine. This 8-year, 100,000 mile warranty covers only the mechanicals within the engine itself (Rotary Engine Core, Rotary Housing and Internal Parts, and Internal Seals and Gaskets, in Mazda’s own words), but when you consider the simplicity of the RX-8’s drivetrain, you realize that it’s pretty much a catch-all for the only systemic trouble spot that hasn’t already been covered by previous recalls.

With its arrival coinciding with the wide release of the refreshed 2009 RX-8, this notice has sparked a good, old-fashioned free-for-all on automotive discussion boards. Is the RX-8 a lemon? Is this just a marketing/PR move, or is Mazda just trying to cover up their mistakes and wipe the slate clean? I no can has torks?

A compelling, introspective query, indeed.

But it’s hard to refute that this newly-augmented warranty makes the ’04-’08 a very, very tasty prospect for the enthusiast looking for a diamond in the used car rough. Depreciation never hit the RX-8 particularly hard, and shoppers leery of the prospect of out-of-warranty issues with an engine with such a “colorful” reliability history have likely been looking to Nissan or Honda for their late model sports car thrills. It’s hard to find fault with that logic, especially when you consider the reputation the rotary engine has made for itself over the last thirty years. Non-enthusiasts know only what they’ve heard from the mainstream press; run away as fast as you can.

But if you’re reading this, chances are you’re an enthusiast. You can’t hide behind such excuses. By carrying around that “car guy” card, you’ve committed yourself to being above the masses. You’re informed – enlightened even – and you’re going to read on and see why this new warranty extension may be the best thing to land you on the couch for a month since you came home from Vegas with a Bunny Ranch receipt sticking out of your suitcase.

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