Posts By: Justin Berkowitz

By on March 3, 2009

Where’s the news? VW’s sales were down from 16,556 to 13,660 from February ’08 to February ’09, a decline of 17.5%. Models like the Rabbit (Golf with a stupid engine) and Passat were down significantly, while VW’s supremely important Jetta model fell from 6823 last February to 5199 this past month. This was offset a bit by an additional 784 units of the Jetta wagon, which wasn’t on sale last February. Some red meat if you’re into that sort of thing: the R32 (which I’ve never been wild about) dropped from 449 cars last February to a paltry 85 this February, a decline of 81%. VW has had a number of new models introduced in the past 12 months, like the Tiguan, Routan, CC, and the aforementioned Jetta wagon which have helped to offset the decline in other areas. Or just flat out stole sales from their siblings. Stay tuned for an upcoming editorial about VW’s models and marketing in the US, which I believe has been infected by the dangerous Genmotovirus.

By on February 18, 2009

Farago is going to kill me for this one, but if I don’t tempt fate every so often, the dullness wins. Since the discussion of the bailout has turned my brain to Chex Mix, and seeing pictures of the Porsche Panamera and BMW 5-Series PAS SAC KNICK KNACK just make me nauseous, I figure we should try some lighthearted fun. Readers, please put the following cars in order according to . . . whatever you like. Just tell us your sorting mechanism when you post, or be more mysterious and let folks guess.

(A) Nissan 370Z
(B) Dodge Charger R/T
(C) Volkswagen Jetta TDI
(D) Lexus IS-F
(E) Hyundai Genesis 4.6
(F) Audi A4 2.0T
(G) Citroen C6 V6 HDI

And if this wasn’t enough to make you say “huh?”, please enjoy today’s podcast.

By on February 17, 2009

After watching my local news tonight (and stay tuned for Seinfeld, next, on Fox 5), and the 6th-grade bailout coverage, I’m eager to hear what the mainstream media will say about the bailout plans tomorrow. During GM’s press conference, one intrepid reporter asked “How long will $4 billion last?” and the response was Fritz Henderson having a Coke and a Smile. The bailout itself has taken on such epic persona that it’s tough for the mainstreamers to capture. But it will be difficult, still, for them to understand the intricacies of the hogwash from Chrysler and GM’s reports. I mean, they’re so full of BS that I could do an entire between-the-lines editorial made up of 800 single-word sentences.

To those of you that read this before the morning portion of the 24-Hour Bemuse Cycle: What are they going to botch and how?

To those reading this after it’s covered by the big 3 cable news companies (CoNN; the media wing of the Conservative Party—known as FoxNews; and the alliance of Seattle-Boston-Chicago-New York-Ithaca-Burlington newsies (also known as MSNBC)), what did they say that you found flagrantly offensive and factually incorrect?

By on February 17, 2009

Chrysler has just released its 177-page “Viability Plan.” It will no doubt take plenty of time to go through (and this, of course, was unintentional on Chrysler’s part). In the interim, some highlights:

—Chrysler wants $5 billion by the end of March for “working capital and other operating expenses.” This would mean a total bailout purse of $9 billion, an increase over the $7 billion requested in December.

—The theme is “pay us now or it’s going to cost you more money than you can possibly imagine— or print.” This sounds suspiciously like like some word I learned once. Axtortion? No. Extourtan? What was it?

—There’s plenty of bankruptcy and liquidation analysis, projecting what the costs would be if they went bust.

—The “Stand Alone” business plan includes a $600 million profit in 2010, followed by a loss of the same amount in 2011, then another loss of $600 million in 2012, then a break-even year in 2013, followed by a projected $1B in profits in 2014.

—24 product launches in 48 months. I can only assume they are counting different paint colors as individual product launches.

—Fiat could, in theory, take another 20% stake of Chrysler for a majority share of 55%.

—“No American taxpayer money would go to Fiat.” Semantics.

By on February 17, 2009

By on February 3, 2009

The fact that BMW’s sales are down compared to January of last year should come as no surprise. These aren’t just cars, they’re luxury goods. What’s significant is the breakdown of model sales. The 3-Series and X5 sold 5471 units combined—44% of BMW’s entire sales for the month of January. Add in the 2596 units of 5-Series sold and between those three models (3, 5, X5) you have twice as many cars as the rest of BMW’s lineup combined. To wit: the 1-Series sold 716, the BMW Z4 roadster and coupe sold 45 units (down from 363 last January), the putrid X6 managed only 266 sales and the spine-crunching X3 registered 394 sales. And then there are the 6-Series (304 sold) and the 7-Series at a whopping 23 units. The explanation is that the next-generation 7-Series hits BMW dealers in a few months; same for the next-gen Z4. It’s not all bad news for BMW though—the M sub-brand had a record year in 2008, with its sales rising 50% over 2007. Dealers report that the boost in sales came from offering to throw in a free tub of hair gel with each sale.

By on January 26, 2009

According to Automotive News, Chrysler plans to sell up to seven Fiat/Alfa Romeo-designed models in America. Under this scheme, Chrysler dealers would flog the Fiat 500, Alfa MiTo, and Alfa 147 replacement. There’ll also be up to four Fiat-based cars in the A, B, C, and D segments. Some American car fans are thrilled at the idea of inexpensive, fuel efficient, fun-to-drive Italian cars — even if the machines in question end up as Dodges built in Mexico to Italian blueprints. But that’s exactly what it is: an idea. And a bad one at that.

By on January 21, 2009

Mercedes recently unveiled its new E-Class, much to the displeasure of eyes around the world. Still, the midrange Benz is all but guaranteed relative success in markets like the U.S. and Germany, thanks to high-powered lawyers and taxi drivers, respectively. The German-market car shown here is an E350 CGI, which refers to the direct injection that gives the car 292 hp. I believe that’s coming to the U.S. when the car debuts in place of the existing 268 hp V6.

By on January 19, 2009

I’m almost due for my next car. Well, in six months. Which might as well be tomorrow. My GTI will go back to Volkswagen so that some poor clod can own it out of warranty. And this leaves me shopping for a replacement. This is where I’m in trouble. Not only do I have car-lover’s ADD, but I am picky about cars I actually will drive and don’t want anything too common. Even though I’m a jerk, I won’t drive the official car of jerks everywhere. So that means no 3-Series.  Did I mention I prefer a hatchback or wagon? All this hemming and hawing has left me thinking about a Volvo or Saab. The trouble is, despite stories of the better experiences (“My Volvo V70 has gone 400,000 miles with only routine maintenance), whatever I buy will be weird, and therefore will break down. It’s not the breaking down I mind so much, but the cost of parts and repairs. The trouble is, I’m not unhinged enough to actually think an Alfa or a Citroen makes sense to buy. So what I really want is an Alfa Romeo or Citroen with Honda build quality. And if you take away the breaking down, you take away quintessential European-car character. What this means is that I’m crazy, but not crazy enough.

By on January 9, 2009

I think it’s great to get excited about new cars, announcements from manufacturers, spec sheets, press kit photos, and concept cars. I’m a jerk, but I’m not a jerk made of stone. With my mea-culpa qualification out of the way though, I do find it frustrating to see what I think of as undue enthusiasm. If you jump, you can see my five TTAC-spirited assessments of the product announcements of the week.

(Read More…)

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