Gather round gearheads for our inaugural tradition- Our annual gearhead turkey roast! Yup, this is the time every year when we honor the worst “turkeys” the motor industry has grown in their factories this past year. And the competition is tougher than ever- not since the Nixon administration have we seen so many turkeys littering showroom floors!

Our first category is trucks, and as you’d expect in an industry that’s been whittled down to but four near monopolies, the competition for Turkey Truck of the Year is tough. The competition for good trucks, not so much… The Mack division of Volvo trucks still hasn’t figured out how to bolt up their sleeper cab to there most awesome Mack Titan heavy hauler, but they haven’t figured that out since they introduced it in 2009 after a three year gestation period, so they’ve clearly missed our this year cutoff. Expect the Titan sleeper to be announced in the press release just preceding the press release announcing that Mack will switch to the Volvo family cab, after which the Titan disappears for a few more years while they figure out how to bolt the new cab over the Titan’s 16 liter engine. Over at Daimler-Benz/Mercedes/Freightliner/Western Star’s truck operations they’ve underwhelmed us with further variations of Mexican made “American” trucks with what looks like a bulged out version of the M2 cab, complete with residual styling clues from the Actros of at least a generation ago. Sorry, but it takes more than that to win the low honor of Turkey Truck of the Year. Paccar tried too, but so far I haven’t heard any complaints about the Euro engine they dragged over from DAF, and the last of the brand new 2006 Leyland cabovers seem to have finally disappeared from dealers back lots. So that leaves us with the truck maker formerly known as International, and they’ve earned an honorable mention for bravely (or is it stupidly) soldiering on with 2007 emissions technology. Yes, for the driver in need of a nap or coffee, Navistar will provide you with regular breaks called “regenerations” where you have to stop your truck and do nothing while it burns more fuel trying to burn off the crud it’s crude emmissions system has left lodged in it’s particulate trap. But while Navistar’s efforts are laughable, they’ve been eclipsed by new competitor Catepillar. Yes, in only their first year of  competition Catepillar has run away with our turkey truck of the year prize! Remember Cat’s “Challenger” rubber tracked ag tractors that lingered in front of (and later behind) Cat dealers for years? And for at least a decade, you seldom saw one working in a field- if any farmers bought them, they must have been so embarressed that they only worked them at night. Finally, after Cat sold the Challenger line off to another manufacturer, they’re starting to sell. Well, Cat has outdone themselves, in the spirit of the Challenger tractor, with their first truck. Except it’s not really they’re truck… They buy a Paystar from Navistar, complete with Navistar’s Honorable Mention winning holdover ’07 emmissions system, and slap the Cat name, logo, and Cat price tag all over the thing. To top it off, Cat offers as exclusive option- an automatic transmission right out of their front end loaders! Ought to work great for pit hauling. So Cat, congratulations, and we’re expecting more winning turkeys from you- maybe a Cat engined locomotive with EMD decals all over it next year? Or maybe you’ll offer that Euro market 50 MPH JCB tractor to American truckers?

Our next category is Turkey Tractor of the Year. It’s been a tough competition, with all three manufacturers doing their darndest to one up each other to produce the biggest, baddest tractor and the combine that can combine the mostest. Yup, for the farmer with a town job and a section to plant or harvest over the weekend, the tractor makers for a mere quarter million dollars or so have just the tools for you. The competition has been tough, but this years Turkey Tractor of the Year Award goes to Case-New Holland-IH-etc. for a pair of achievements- New Holland brand’s 31 MPH “tractors” that can haul more bushels legally than a truck can on the roads of most states, and their two bushels a second combine to fill those quadriple bottom gravity boxes in less than twenty minutes. With that kind of productivity increases, in a couple decades we won’t even have one farmer left.

Next category up is cars and the “Tonkas” AKA pickup trucks that city folks use as cars. Unlike the previous competitions where we had but three or four turkey “producers”, in the car biz we’ve still got a dozen or so competitors. And as you’ve probably noticed, they haven’t done a whole lot to differentiate their products, to the point that it’s hard to tell them apart from across the street. So this is a shared award, given to all the manufacturers who’ve fallen for the same environmental and automotive fashions and just plain stupidity- the makers of electric cars! Yup, after telling us that they were only going to make 10,000 electric Volts, then giving in to political pressure and offering to make more, GM is trying to figure out to sell 10,000 Volts. Originally slated for “hot” electric car markets like California, the unsold Volts are even showing up on Chevy dealer lots here on the Buffalo Ridge, well beyond battery range to the nearest shopping mall. But at least the Volt has a “plan B”, in the form of a backup gas powered generator. Nissan’s Leaf electric is working without a net(work)- when the battery’s dead it’s dead. Thanks Nissan, for helping our struggling tow truck industry. Out Turkey “Car” of the Year Award (along with a long extension cord) goes to the electric cars.

Last but least is our Turkey Motorcycle of the Year Award. After HOG(NYSE) murdered Buell they probably deserved the award for life. But now that even HOG(NYSE)’s CEO even has admitted the stupidity of that mistake it time to move on… But not to a Harley dealer, they’re Off Limits for life. In fact, the motorcycle producers seem to be getting their act together and producing a better (and leaner) breed of bike- like Honda’s new 250cc. street bike and Guzzi’s upcoming replacement for the 1960s throwback California. But none the less, stupidity and just plain dumb marketing still plauges almost the whole industry, as they slavishly try to produce the best knockoff of “cheap and chearful” century old American V-twin technology. Yes, a century ago Harley, Indian, and others cheaply and crudely grafted a cylinder onto their singles, not even bothering to add a second crankpin for the exclusive use of their cheap second cylinder. It was simply the cheapest way to make a twin that would sell for more $$$ than a single and make more profits. And a century later, HOG(NYSE), Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki et al are still producing knock offs. Young adults who grew up on dirt bikes wander into the showroom, past the rows of unsold cruisers aimed at a demographic two generations senior to them, in search of a dual sport, sport, or even a standard bike to fit their needs. And likely as lot, they won’t find any, because the few the dealer ordered quickly sold out. So this years Turkey Motorcycle of the Year Award is awarded to the cruiser bikes, regardless of  manufacturer (who can tell ’em apart?). Now Manufacturers: Let’s have one last closeout sale, destroy the tooling, and get on with making 21st century motorcycles!

Well, I’m running out of post, so the award’s to Turkey of the Year DOT’s, accessories, bicycles, and website will be given out privately to save electrons and protect the guilty, and more likely the latter. I’ll be back tomorrow (or turkey day if I get busy) with Thanksgiving Dinner etiquite tips for gearheads (you might want to clean out the “parts washer” and prepare it to wash clothes again a few times about now). And to those “producers” whose turkeys didn’t make the cut, there’s always next year…