Posts By: BarkM

By on November 25, 2015


“Rolls-Royce sold 4,000 cars last year.”

Carlos, a handsome, Cuban gentleman sitting across from me wanted to make sure that I understood this fact. He said it so intensely that I never even thought to question his number (which was accurate). “Four thousand. That’s it. Do you know how many of them were sold to people on my street?”

I shook my head.

“Six.” He leaned back in his chair for dramatic effect, puffing on a cigar that had been handcrafted by one of Castro’s own private cigar maker’s proteges. “Six. That’s why I have to have the latest one. That’s why I have my friend, Manuel, looking for a very specific car for me.”

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By on November 13, 2015


If you happen to live somewhere in the United States where radio waves can be transmitted and/or received, you’ve no doubt heard of the “Friends and Neighbors” sale that is going on Now At Your Local Ford Dealer. It sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn’t it? Employee pricing for everybody!

Not so fast, my friends.

Like nearly everybody on God’s Green Earth, I qualify for X Plan pricing at Ford. It’s how I effortlessly purchased/leased my Flex and my Fiesta ST. X Plan is Ford’s code for supplier pricing, and it’s typically about four-percent higher than invoice. It also limits the documentation fees that dealers can charge, which can be insane in some states.

Can better deals be negotiated? Certainly. However, for a low-stress car buying experience, it’s hard to beat. You simply walk into a dealership, they print off the X Plan price, you give them your certificate, and you walk out half an hour later with a new set of keys.

Ford also has pricing for actual employees and their immediate families, called A Plan, which is a little bit better than X Plan but it follows essentially the same guidelines. All that’s required is proof of employment and a PIN code you generate from Ford’s employee site.

So wouldn’t you think that “an inside deal for everyone” would be A Plan, or at least X Plan? You’d be somewhat right, but you’d be mostly wrong. Here’s why.

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By on November 4, 2015


As I travel this great nation of ours on a weekly basis, I am often asked the same question by people I meet. Whether it’s a stranger in an adjoining seats on a planes, a fellow patron dining solo at a restaurant, or even a new colleague whom I haven’t met, they all ask me the same thing:

“So, where do you call home?”

When I reply that I reside squarely in the middle of the Bluegrass in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, I can tell immediately if my interrogator has ever been there simply by the way that he responds. If he has never visited our great state, he’ll likely crack some sort of joke about missing teeth or southern diphthongs. But, if he has, he’ll nearly always reply, “Oh, it’s so gorgeous there. You must love it.”

To which I reply: “Yes. Yes, I do.”

However, even relatively frequent visitors to my home state — or even perhaps you, the frequent visitor to TTAC — are often unaware of the severity of the winters in Kentucky. I live only eighty miles south of Cincinnati, Ohio. We get nearly exactly the same weather as our bordering neighbors to the north, only instead of the the snow that Buckeyes tend to get, we regularly get sheets of ice on our roads. As you can imagine, this can make driving a 444 horsepower, rear-wheel-drive pony car a bit treacherous.

And, as such, as I pulled out my iPad to make my rather oppressive payment on my Boss 302 Mustang, I wondered to myself: How often do I actually drive this thing? Do I drive it enough to keep paying such a large sum to own it? And how much will I really be driving it over the next four wintry months?

The answers to my questions led me to an ultimate answer that I didn’t expect, and I certainly didn’t like.

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By on October 30, 2015


When I arrived at the Emerald Aisle at LAX on Wednesday, I had a slight moment of excitement when I saw a low-mileage Nissan 370Z coupe resting comfortably in the far corner of the Executive area. You see, I very nearly bought a Z back in 2005, and the car has always held a special interest for me. Back then, the Mazda RX-8 and the Nissan 350Z held quite a grip on the young American car culture—the Z was the official ride of Drift King in The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift (a fine and underrated film, in the opinion of your author). I tried to talk my father into buying a 350Z convertible a couple of years later, and I nearly succeeded, too, until his wife got a look at it and declared it to be “impractical.”

So I sauntered over as casually as possible, so as not to alert my fellow National customers to the presence of the Z on the lot, and quickly threw my bags in the back. “Aha,” I thought. “I won the Rental Car Lottery today!”

Then I started to drive it.

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By on October 13, 2015

Have you ever heard of the word anticipointment? It’s one of those Urban Dictionary words that seem to be all the rage with the kids nowadays. Basically, it means that you look forward to something with great anticipation, but the experience ends up being incredibly disappointing. Yeah, that’s kind of how I felt after attending the […]

By on October 6, 2015


“I’m fine. Annabelle’s fine. Tails might be a goner.”

Those of you who have been around this site for more than a calendar year or so no doubt remember our former contributor, Caroline Ellis. Caroline has the good fortune of living in the Palmetto State of South Carolina, which is normally a good thing. This week, however, she isn’t so fortunate. When I saw the news images of floods throughout the State, I texted Caroline to see if all was okay. You can see the text I got back at the top of this post. Annabelle is Caroline’s black lab. Tails is her 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ hatchback.

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By on September 30, 2015


In light of the great Yogi Berra’s recent passing, I felt it appropriate to use one of his more famous “Yogisms” for the title of today’s editorial. It’s about a time when a great institution was accused of cheating and lying to all of its customers. It’s about a time when numbers were inflated beyond rational belief, yet everyone, including industry experts and reporters, blatantly looked the other way. It’s about a time when our government decided to get involved and start calling people to testify on Capitol Hill.

I’m referring, of course, to the Steroid Era in baseball. Oh, you thought I meant #Dieselgate? Well, you wouldn’t be wrong. Here’s how the two situations are remarkably similar, and how it’s amazing that either was ever discovered.
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By on September 16, 2015


Earlier in the day on Tuesday, as I drove my brilliant little Ford Fiesta ST on Route 15 through the rolling hills of Kentucky on my way to Kingsport, Tennessee, I was wondering what the topic of my Wednesday column would be.

Thankfully, later in the evening, Kingsport’s Finest solved that issue for me.

In the interest of full transparency, the drive from my home in Central Kentucky to Kingsport should take about four hours, according to MyFordTouch Navigation. I did it in about 3:15, including a stop for a large, unsweetened tea and an apple pie at a McDonald’s along the way. The Fiesta is just too fun for interstate driving, so rather than the I-75 route I could have chosen, I took the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway until I reached Route 15, which took me to US 23 into Virginia and then into Tennessee for the final few miles. Obviously, I didn’t adhere to the posted speed limits for the vast majority of the drive.

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By on September 10, 2015

For those of you who haven’t been keeping track, I’m now a little over one quarter of the way through my 24-month Fiesta ST lease. It’s hard to believe that I’ve had the car this long, but it’s true. I just clicked past the six-thousand-mile mark on the odometer, and I’m just about to make […]

By on August 31, 2015

Subaru BRZ and Mazda MX-5

Sergio Marchionne is determined to merge with somebody. He’s kind of like that guy who doesn’t have a date at Senior Prom, and just goes anyway, hoping to score a dance with the Prom Queen. It’s as if the modern marketplace is his very own version of Sixteen Candles, and he’s James Spader rocking a 944. Or something. I gotta be honest, I never watched the movie.

Well, I’m not sure if Mary Barra is the Prom Queen or not, but Sergio seems to think she is. Yet, I’m not sure the idea of a GM/FCA merger has auto enthusiasts feeling all hot and bothered; is there a merger out there that would?

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  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Bark M., United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Doug DeMuro, United States
  • Steven Lang, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, United States
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States