The Virtual Driver

Stepping out of the shadows — The story of Don Nichols



By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(December 24, 2020) I was half way through the November issue of Classic and Sports Car magazine when the October issue showed up in one of those U.S. Postal Service envelopes. You know the one. It has a large clear window on the front, and a statement on the back that starts with the words, “We Care.” The envelope was chewed up along the edges, the clear polybag in which it is usually delivered was missing, but the rest looked just fine. This presented a problem: Should I finish the November issue, or stop midstream and start in on the October issue?

In defense of the sedan over the SUV — Volkswagen style

By Christopher Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(October 29, 2020) Let me get this out of the way up front: I actually like SUVs. They make a certain amount of sense for people, especially as they — after the minivan delivered the initial blow — killed off the station wagon. Or killed it off with the help of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) legislation, trucking deregulation that put many, many more heavy trucks on the road, and concerns about crashworthiness. Plus, if you want to go off-road, all the better, even though the most off-roading your vehicle will do is when the valet parks it on a dirt overflow parking lot.

What to read while in quarantine

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(March 25, 2020) As we sit in our self-isolation brought on by COVID-19, the isolation and boredom makes it possible, if not necessary, to catch up on tasks we’ve let slide. It also increases the need for entertainment that is far removed from 24-hour news channels, Facebook, and the often insidious effects that come with our electronic tethers.

Goodbye Mr. Ghosn, hello Carlos

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(January 9, 2020) I was never a fan of Carlos Ghosn for two reasons. I had a hard time stomaching the insistence that he be referred to as “Mr. Ghosn” instead of by his given name, and didn't buy the more “magical” elements of the Nissan-Renault Alliance that sounded like a mash-up of psychology and business school jargon wrapped in a Hallmark Channel movie.

Remembering the radically designed AMC Pacer

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(December 5, 2019) Forty years ago on Dec. 3,1979, the last American Motors Pacer rolled off the assembly line. Now, before you say "Party on! Excellent!" in your best Wayne and Garth imitation, spare a thought for what the auto industry was facing, and what AMC was trying to do with its meager resources.

Pulling the plug on the future

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(October 13, 2019) Whenever someone gets wistful about the past, or wants to show that the present hasn’t lived up to the future we were promised, they ask a question along the lines of: “Where are the flying cars we were promised?” After all, futurists past wowed us with cities on the moon, colonies on Mars, driverless vehicles and other science fiction staples as examples of the world in which we would live by the turn of the 21st Century. Yet none of these things have happened.

Marking the 62nd anniversary of Edsel's introduction

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(September 5, 2019) The Edsel was introduced to an awaiting — and over-hyped — public on Sept. 4, 1957. Exactly the wrong car at the wrong time, and saddled with the wrong name, it began as a vehicle designed to sit above Mercury and below Lincoln.

A contrarian viewpoint — Irrational exuberance or pure insanity?

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(February 11, 2019) All of the legacy car makers fell for the fallacy that electronics were not only sexier than automobiles, the young would stop buying cars as being online and connected meant more to them. The Detroit three and the luxury makers (Audi, BMW, Mercedes especially) really fell for this one, with the Germans seeing an opportunity to enhance their tech standing while Detroit searched for “relevance” with the new generation.

Ghosn is gone — What will happen to the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance?

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(November 23, 2018) The shocking announcement that Carlos Ghosn was arrested and "perp walked" off the corporate plane at Narita Airport outside Tokyo took the industry by surprise, and has led to non-stop speculation concerning the validity and depth of the charges, the identity of the whistleblower, and what will happen to the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance.

The best compact hatchback you’re probably ignoring

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(Septermber 18, 2018) Volkswagen reported sales for August, and — as expected — SUVs are selling well while the car side of the ledger doesn’t look so hot. Unless we’re talking about the Beetle Coupe and Convertible, where sales are up for the month and down (Beetle Convertible) for the year-to-date. Golf R sales also are up — strongly — showing that, despite expectations, folks recognize a relative performance car bargain when they see it.