Posts By: Justin Berkowitz

By on December 15, 2008

A British eBayer, selling a rather unusual car for the UK, describes one of the many flaws of his Ford Thunderbird 3.8:

SIDE WINDOW SMASHED DUE TO SOMEONE SMASHED IT.

Winner.

By on December 11, 2008

Just a few weeks ago I wrote about the Pontiac G8, one of my favorite cars, and how the prices for lightly used examples are getting rather low. Back in November, a V6 model with around 10,000 miles was $20,000. Cars with the big V8 were landing around $24,000. Now they’re even cheaper. The V8 models have hit the $20,000 mark on several have been offered below it. A Cuyahoga Falls, OH Pontiac dealer offered a 12,000 mile car for $19,994 (didn’t sell). That same dealer was, however, able to move a 361 hp G8 GT with 11,000 miles for $18,994. AutoTrader, too, is jam packed with 8-cylinder Pontiac G8s for just under $20,000 and some even have under 10,000 miles on the clock. If you are willing to get the V6 version with some 260 horsepower (though with the V8s so cheap, I’m not sure it makes sense even now), a Houston reseller was offering a 10,500 mile G8 V6 for a hair under $16,000. If the G8 is your cup of tea (and I realize that for many folks it’s not), these are stonking good deals. The question is where they will bottom out. Assuming the warranties stay intact (whether GM stays around or the government does an FDIC-style arrangement), I would think about $16,000-$17,000 is the absolute lowest a low-mileage 8-cylinder G8 could cost. That would be 50% of the original MSRP, but it remains to be seen.

By on December 9, 2008

I neither know nor care if these images were accidentally or intentionally leaked. That’s just how the internet works. In any case, these are official shots of the next generation E-Class sedan. I’m a big fan of the C-Class and its design, but the S-Class is not exactly stunning in my eyes. This E not surprisingly falls somewhere in the middle. I think the taillights look pretty Lexus.

Update: Looks like the originator of the pics (besides Mercedes, of course) was Autoscoops.eu

By on December 8, 2008

Jalopnik’s Editor and I have had some major differences of opinion. Ray Wert recently opined that a Chrysler-GM merger made good business sense. I disagreed. When Jalopnik sold “Save GM” t-shirts and claimed it was ironic, I begged (metaphorically) to differ. Today, Wert posted an editorial entitled “The Case for GM CEO Rick Wagoner.” Again, I disagree. The rant is deeply misguided, the logic and conclusions just plain wrong. And in a twist of [yet more] unintended irony, the editorial stinks of the sloth and corner-cutting that’s brought GM to its knees.

By on December 6, 2008

This one is dumber than a box of hair. While my countless hours spent trolling have come up with some really crappy, world class pieces of junk, this is crazy on a new level. The Hyundai Excel was one of the worst cars sold in America in the last 30 years. It’s so bad, in fact, that we used to say it Excelled only at breaking down. So when I saw this one on eBay with 195,000 miles, I was positively shocked. I never thought an Excel could survive for so long. But then the part that really floored me: the seller – a Chevy dealership – is asking $2799 for it. I think the Kelly Blue Book value of $1500 is about $1250 too high, so this dealership is riding off into the sunset of delusional country.

By on December 6, 2008

General Motors and Chrysler have both retained “hot shot” law firms to advise them on bankruptcy matters. Want to know what their legal bills will look like?

GM has retained a firm named Weil, Gotshal & Manges, a huge organization that specializes in pretty much everything big business, including bankruptcy law. They represented Enron, WorldCom, and Lehman Brothers in all of their bankruptcy proceedings. The Lehman proceeding was just this past October, so the rates are current. As far as I know, Weil’s rates are standard for the market – expect Chrysler’s firm Jones Day to be very similar. For the Lehman matter, Weil billed at:

$650-$950/hour for partners and counsel
$355-$595/hour for associates (keep in mind that $355 gets you a fresh out of law school kid)
$155-$295/hour for paralegals

Bloomberg estimated that Weil’s total bill for the Lehman Bankruptcy could be as high as $906 million. While Lehman was worth a lot more than GM, there was also much less work to do. I’d guess that a GM bankruptcy could cost $1 billion just in legal fees. And that’s not counting the collateral damage – suppliers, contractors, dealers.

By on December 6, 2008

British Leyland 2.0? Nope. But that’s what the London Times might like us to think, at least based on the headline: “Vauxhall in Secret Cash Plea to Save 5000 Jobs.” Oh, well that’s pretty dispositive, isn’t it? Until the next paragraph, which actually tells us “last week along with other carmakers, to urge the Government to give guarantees offering financial comfort to its car-part suppliers and dealerships.” And then later on, we learn that Ford and Honda attended the meeting too, as they also manufacture cars in the UK. Why wasn’t that in the headline? Right. Meanwhile, the British government is already paranoid about a British Leyland repeat, and has had enough of a headache with the recent nationalization of the Northern Rock bank. The concern raised by the Times could, eventually, have some merit. Vauxhall and Opel (which are distinguished only by a brand name and steering wheel placement) are totally screwed as GM accelerates its disintegration. The US Congress isn’t going to bail them out, and if I were betting I’d say GM Europe and Saab will be spun off in the next six-to-twelve months.

By on December 5, 2008

Thanks to some hard-nosed detective work by Edmunds’ Inside Line, Ford has confirmed that the Mercury Sable (now, as always, a twin of the Ford Taurus) will be ending production in April. As a likely April Fool’s joke, Ford may announce on April 1 that the Sable is being replaced with something not boring. In other, equally important news, GM has confirmed that all cupholders will grow in size by approximately 0.01 millimeters, and Audi announced that the popular A4 sedan will probably be available in “some colors” next year. I have fond memories of riding in the rear-facing seats of a Sable wagon as a kid, but that’s only because years of therapy have suppressed the memories of being terribly nauseous back there. All joking aside, dont tell anyone, but I do like the current Sable.

By on December 3, 2008

I’ve been seeing stick-on wood for as long as I can remember, but this is a first: plastiwood around the Lexus logo on the steering wheel. I like wood trim in cars when it’s actually wood. At the point where you know it’s just a junky sticker, what’s the appeal of this crap?

By on December 3, 2008

Oh sure, it looks like a Morgan. But it’s not. Fresh from Mitsuoka, the same company that turned an Infiniti M35 into some kind of time warp British sedan for James May, is the Himiko roadster. It’s based on the Mazda MX-5, which means it’s great to drive. And the bodywork is just insane enough to walk the border between embarrassing and awesome. While most of TTAC’s finest will probably say it looks like a mutant and they’d rather chew glass than have one, I’ll proudly stand in the minority. Oh, and Lieberman and I talk about a number of rockin’ cars in today’s podcast.

By on December 3, 2008

Over in what we affectionately call the “Old World,” C-segment hatchbacks like the Golf, Focus, Megane, Civic, and Corolla/Auris also come in higher roofed variations affectionately called MPVs (multi purpose vehicles). One of VW’s entries into the market is the Golf Plus; and since the Golf was just redesigned somewhat, the Golf Plus has been updated accordingly. Except for VW’s little trick – the Golf Plus is still riding on the outgoing Golf platform, and has only gotten cosmetic updates to match the new one. It still shares the Golf’s mix of turbocharged and common-rail diesel engines and available DSG transmissions. And you might recognize the interior from the Tiguan – many components are shared.

By on December 3, 2008

This is the first official shot of Honda’s upcoming Prius-fighter. And if anyone can take on the Prius (which despite being down 50% in November compared to November 2007, still sold 8600 units), it’s Honda with this car. I say that because (1) Honda has genuine hybrid building experience with the Insight, and (2) unlike previous hybrid efforts from many manufacturers, it’s not merely a hybridized version of an existing car. It looks unique, and that carries the image that’s so critical in the hybrid market. Previously, we reported that the Insight was targeted to go on sale this Spring for less than $20,000. With continuing reports that Toyota may be taking a loss on every Prius, I’m not sure how Honda plans to pull this off. Still, if you’er into this sort of car (and I’m really not at all), you probably won’t care what Honda’s bottom line is.

By on December 2, 2008

In addition to my robust obsession with cars, I’m also very much a fan of new technology. Be it computers, cell phones, wristwatches that wash dishes, or high-powered laser staplers, I’m interested. To keep up to date (especially since I am more of a gadget window shopper), I’m a frequent visitor at a number of the gadget blogs on the web. You might be surprised (though probably not) at the similar themes between these gadget blogs and their commenters with the car blogging community. I’ve got nine of ‘em. (Read More…)

By on November 28, 2008

CNN Money’s Chris Isidore writes that if all the stars aligned, the Big Three could return to profitability by 2010. He qualifies his comments often, with phrases like “if they make it to 2010,” but the bigger issue is the specious nature of his explanations for how the companies would return to profitability. Isidore’s claims are essentially underpinned by the philosophy of “cutting your way to profitability” — as such, he highlights the Big Three’s smaller workforces, supposedly reduced pension obligations, and cuts in overcapacity. The only actual increase in income Isidore speculates about is increased new car sales, an argument barely more sophisticated than “they’re really bad now, so obviously they have to get a lot better.” This kind of journalism is dangerous, not just because it’s overly optimistic (in spite of its own acknowledgements to the contrary), but because it’s wrong. There is no reason to believe sales will be up to 14 million units in the US by 2010; there’s even less reason to believe that GM’s share of those 14 million units would be the same percent that it was in 2007. Isidore’s math on the potential savings from cost cutting is calling the glass 1/8 full at best, by assuming the UAW will allow GM to just defer its contribution to the pooled-benefit VEBA account to another year. That might work in accounting ledgers, but the bottom line is that this is the kind of nonsense that contributed to GM’s collapse in the first place.

By on November 28, 2008

MINI has sent out the press release and photo pack for its new MINI convertible, and I have to say “eh.” It the same looks as the MINI hatchback, and the first generation new MINI convertible. The interior is still cartoonish, the back seat appears to be of about the same usefulness as the first gen convertible (which would be nearly none) and the trunk still has the funny fold-down tailgate. MINI says they’ve made incremental improvements (in addition to the new platform for the car, which is now the same as the hatch has had for the last two years). The roof also slides back to function as a moonroof without actually folding the whole top down, like on the last model, and now the roll hoops don’t stick out as much. Engines are the same as the MINI Cooper and Cooper S hatchback versions, so 118 or 172 ponies are your options. As for me, I’d rather have a Miata. Fortunately for MINI, loads of people won’t agree. I’d bet on a waiting list.

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