Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Worst Cars

The Worst Cars
By Dan Lienert

Click Here For SlideShow of the Cars on the List

Making a list of the worst cars of all time, which we compiled last year, is easier than making a list of the worst cars currently on the market because, frankly, all cars are built pretty well these days.

However, even now in the early days of the 2005 model year, several vehicles stand out for subpar performance in several important categories--in some cases, matters of life and death such as safety.

What follows is a roundup of the ten worst cars on the market, based on three criteria: the worst crash test scores, the lowest projected reliability and the lowest projected residual values. We thought about castigating cars for multiple recalls, but the 2005 model year is too young to do so (most recalled '05 models have been recalled only once so far). Furthermore, consumers often ignore such issues as recalls--unless they are for universally dangerous reasons, such as spontaneously exploding gas tanks--in favor of style, sex appeal or raw power.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the cars in the slide show are not particularly sexy. Several of them are among the cheapest cars on the market.

In the interest of fairness, we excluded from consideration all cars that are in the process of being killed, such as General Motors' (NYSE:GM - News) Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire, both of which have horrendous crash test scores. Excluding lame ducks, there are no cars currently sold in the U.S. that suffer the indignity of a one-star crash test rating. Out of a possible five stars, several achieved two-star ratings, and we included all of those models.

The source for all crash test scores is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation that administers vehicular safety laws.

Whatever your current political leanings, we advise you to trust the government when it says you and your kids could have a 21% to 25% chance of serious injury in a particular car--at least trust it enough not to buy that car.

For reliability, we looked to Consumer Reports. For projected residual value, we went to the bible of the automotive resale world: the Kelley Blue Book Residual Value Guide.

Read on to see which vehicles earned warnings from the government, and to see the rest of the worst 2005-model cars.

Friday, January 07, 2005

The Fattest City

And the Fattest City Is...

Fri Jan 7, 9:56 AM ET Oddly Enough - Reuters

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Houston tops a U.S. magazine's annual fattest cities list for the fourth time in five years, with four other Texas cities waddling into the top 25.

Fast food restaurants -- Houston has twice the national per capita average -- are partly to blame for the dishonor, Men's Fitness editor-in-chief Neal Boulton said.

"Americans ... work long hours, don't take vacations, and when you're faced with the worst nutritional choices, you indulge in those," he said.

High humidity, poor air quality and some of the nation's longest commute times also helped Texas' most populous city unseat Detroit, the 2004 heavyweight champion, the magazine said.

Houston Mayor Bill White, who has worked with a major grocer to promote healthy food and the city's public schools superintendent to improve lunch menus, called the survey "mostly voodoo and fraud."

"On the other hand, it calls attention to real issues the mayor is trying to address," his spokesman, Frank Michel, said.

The magazine said it looked at factors such as the number and types of restaurants, park space, air quality, weather and the number of health clubs.

Philadelphia, Detroit, Memphis, Tennessee, and Chicago followed Houston on the seventh edition of the fat list. Texas cities Dallas, San Antonio, Fort Worth and El Paso were in the top 14, which Boulton said was no surprise.

"It's pure big indulgence, just living big, and that's part of the culture," said Boulton.

Seattle ranked as the fittest city, followed by Honolulu, Hawaii, Colorado Springs, Colorado, San Francisco and Denver.

Austin was the only Texas city on the fit list. The state capital ranked 19th out of 25.