Posts By: Steve Lynch

By on May 12, 2017

Confident car dealer giving a handshake car showroom on the background, Image: stockasso/bigstock.com

I spent 33 years in the automobile business, the equivalent of 96 human years. Having worked for car dealerships, manufacturers, an auction house, and an auto finance company, I’m convinced there is no other industry that attracts such a diverse cast of characters. Many of them defied stereotypes: I met car sales people who were honest, ethical and hardworking. I also worked with senior executives of well-respected automobile companies who were total sleazebags.

Throughout the years, I kept meeting the same set of six people over and over. These are their stories. Their names have been changed to protect the guilty. (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2017

Tyson Hugie is my hero. My Phoenix friend recently purchased a small house with a seven-car garage, the better to store his five 1990s-era Acuras along with his 2013 Acura ILX. From an NSX to a Vigor to a pair of Legends, his collection is a reminder of the halcyon days of Acura. You know, the days […]

By on February 13, 2017

1992 Honda Prelude Si Manual, Image: Austin Hartman

This is my new 1992 Honda Prelude Si five-speed, which passed 100,000 miles last week while I was driving it home from Tampa to Tucson.

The car was for sale on eBay and I was in the market for a vintage stickshift Prelude as the ultimate souvenir from my Honda days. In addition, my wife and I had always wanted to do a cross-country drive. My sister and her husband recently moved to Florida, a hundred miles south of where the car was located. My wife had never been to New Orleans. We decided, what the heck, let’s buy the car and drive it home.

Did I mention that this Prelude was the closest thing to a barn-find car I’ve ever bought? (Read More…)

By on July 7, 2016

1985 Honda Accord, Image: Honda via NetCarShow

Electric automaker Tesla Motors has collected more than 400,000 deposits from customers for its 2018 Model 3 sedan, despite having little more than rough renderings of the car to show prospects. This is a remarkable achievement that speaks to its groundbreaking products and the cult-like following of Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

People standing in line to put down deposits and then be willing to wait for a hot car is not without precedent. I sold Honda automobiles during the 1980s and the similarities to today’s Teslamania is striking.

Memo to Musk: If you can indeed increase your production five-fold in two years, I am sure you will move 400,000 Model 3s, but most of them won’t go to today’s deposit holders.

Allow me to explain. The scene was Benson Honda in San Antonio. The year was 1984 … (Read More…)

By on July 6, 2016

Suckers at the Stock Photo Dealership with a Credit Card

A record 31 percent of all new vehicles sold this year in the U.S. are leased. I spent a good part of my career studying why some people refuse to lease. Much of their resistance stems from bad buzz. Some say it’s because of the stories they heard about ’80s-era open-end leases where owners were responsible for paying the car’s residual value at lease end. (These are the same customers who will not buy a Hyundai today because they produced crappy cars in the ’80s.) Others oppose leasing because they heard about a guy whose cousin’s neighbor had to pay $5,000 in wear and tear or excess mileage charges at lease end. And there are those of you who will brag comment below about how you always pay cash for your cars and don’t understand why other people won’t follow your lead.

This article is not designed to convert such non-believers to leasing. This advice, drawn from my years in the auto finance business, is for buyers who know the basics and benefits of leasing, want some timely tips on how to get the lowest possible payments, and want to pay less money on lease-end charges.

(Read More…)

By on June 8, 2016

In 1984, during my Honda-hawking days in Texas, our neighboring Mercedes-Benz dealership was all atwitter upon Daimler introducing the first “Baby Benz,” the 190E sedan. We knew our waiting-list-only Accord was a far superior automobile but that didn’t stop two of our salespeople from buying 190Es while the rest of us stuck with our Chevy trucks. The little Mercedes was a […]

By on May 2, 2016

The automotive media slobbered over the redesigned 2015 Volkswagen GTI sporty hatchback ever since its introduction two years ago. I put 13,500 miles on mine over the past year and I agree that it is one of the great all-around fun cars available today. I just went through the process of selling it, and that is when the real fun began. 

By on April 22, 2016

Those of you who railed against Bark’s glowing review of the 2016 Ford Mustang convertible by claiming his “Ford bias” tainted his viewpoint might also think my yarn about this vehicle is spun in a similar vein. After all, I worked for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services for 17 years, and here I am reviewing my own Mercedes-Benz-subsidized retiree lease vehicle. How could I possibly be objective, […]

By on February 12, 2016

Bentley Export courtesy of armstrongrelocation.wordpress.com

There’s not a more uncomfortable phone call for a car dealership’s finance manager to make then asking a customer to come back to have their finance or lease contract rewritten. This is typically caused by sales managers — the people most despised by finance departments — who spot deliver a vehicle based on their wrong guess about the rate or term a lender would approve the deal. Needless to say, the vast majority of these rewrites result in a higher monthly payment for the customer.

A couple of years ago, a finance manager at a Los Angeles Mercedes-Benz dealer told me and a Mercedes-Benz Financial colleague of mine about the day he picked up the phone to fix the opposite situation: the dealership had miscalculated the taxes on a client’s lease on a black ML350 Bluetec SUV and they needed the client to return and sign a new lease agreement reflecting payments of $14 per month lower than the original contract.

He called the customer with the good news only to hear, “No no no! Payment good. Payment good. We OK!”

After he hung up, he thought, “We just got snookered. That ML is probably on a slow boat to China and the factory is going to kill us.” (Read More…)

By on January 27, 2016

 

That happy couple at the car dealership, back by popular demand...

That happy couple at the car dealership, back by popular demand.

Since we last reported on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and its controversial crusade to uncover racial discrimination by car dealers on interest rate markup on automobile loans, the agency has ordered over $100 million in fines and settlements against banks that some have deemed extortion. This has infuriated lenders and car dealers, and has frustrated lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The tale continued last week as the House Committee on Financial Services revealed that their work on this case now includes trying to get the CFPB and Department of Justice to agree on that age-old problem on how to get white car buyers to admit that they are actually white.

Let us review this investigation, which recently prompted the House committee to publish a report about the CFPB probe, titled “Unsafe at Any Bureaucracy: CFPB Junk Science and Indirect Auto Lending.

(Read More…)

By on January 7, 2016

Clovis police car courtesy sott.net

Gather a bunch of factory guys together in a bar and you can smell the bullshit flying from a mile away.

In this case, the factory guys were myself and other field sales managers from American Honda Motor Company, and the bar was located inside the Marriott in Torrance, California. The talk turned to working with Honda dealerships.

“I made that dealer take more green del Sols, and I told him to build a new facility and to get his CSI up,” said Ed. “Then I screwed his daughter.”

CA Distributor Plate Courtesy dmv.ca.govHaha, sure you did!

Shortly thereafter, the conversation turned to the new California Distributor license plates used by “import” car corporations on company-owned vehicles. The new version did not spell out the word “Distributor” and instead displayed the letters “DST.”

CA DST Plate Courtesy dmv.ca.gov“The next time I get pulled over for speeding and the cop asks what ‘DST’ means,” said Tony, “I’ll say that it’s short for ‘District Attorney’ and I bet he will let me off with a warning.”

Haha, sure you will!

A few months later, I would attempt that very ticket-beating tactic myself.
(Read More…)

By on December 30, 2015

As my personal GTI is powered by gasoline, you might think this will be the first Volkswagen story you have read in the past three months that doesn’t mention Dieselgate. You’d be wrong.

By on December 4, 2015
Persian Conversian

A Photoshop vision of the future.

The practice of removing a car’s emblems, or upgrading the emblems to a higher-line model, probably dates back to all the 1960s Mustangs sporting “289 High Performance” fender tags despite having lesser powerplants under their hoods.

Los Angeles-area high-line dealers were the first to nickname the current generation of rebadged and debadged vehicles as “Persian Conversions,” although the trend is not limited to any one specific demographic. We covered this phenomenon in these pages a couple of years ago.

Amazingly, it look likes we now have the first factory-backed badge-removal option.
(Read More…)

By on November 26, 2015

Editor’s notes: One of the best reads of the year, there’s nothing like some Fargo-style forgery on a massive scale to liven up your afternoon. This piece originally ran September 3rd, 2015.

In the opening moments of the above scene from the flick “Fargo,” Oldsmobile dealership sales manager Jerry Lundegaard is working up some bogus paperwork to cover his tracks with General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC). We can infer that he sold some floor-planned cars and did not pay back GMAC, which was the impetus for the movie’s storyline of his bumbling attempt to extort money from his father-in-law.

Jerry’s store may have been “out of trust” with GMAC on a few dozen 1987 Cutlasses, but that pales in comparison to the scheme concocted by New York car dealer John McNamara.

Between 1980 and 1991, McNamara convinced GMAC to advance him $6.2 billion to pay for 248,000 conversion vans that did not exist. It was one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history and ended up costing GMAC $436 million, equal to $725 million in today’s dollars.

We would like to show you a photo of McNamara but none are to be found. That may be because it is believed he went into the Witness Protection Program a few years after his conviction for fraud in 1992. Just picture Lundegaard with a really big brain.

McNamara’s brilliant swindle was deliciously simple. It was based on one undeniable truth he learned from his years of owning a Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealership on Long Island: General Motors and GMAC were too incompetent and too bureaucratic to figure out that they were being scammed.

(Read More…)

By on September 30, 2015

It is no surprise that environmental activists are staging protests in reaction to the Volkswagen emission scandal. Members of Greenpeace marched last week outside the VW plant in Wolfsburg, Germany. Somewhere in America, we are sure someone will print off one of those red and white pro-union banners saying “Shame on XYZ Volkswagen” and plant themselves in front of a VW dealership.

But to shame a TDI owner who is possibly already miffed knowing his car may be dropping in value — and possibly gas mileage and torque after the emission fix? (Read More…)

Recent Comments

  • JohnTaurus: Thus the mindset behind rushing to answer, without bothering to read it, as I described.
  • PrincipalDan: Wasn’t there an “ULTRA V8” project that GM was working on prior to bankruptcy? It was...
  • JohnTaurus: 1982. Just a few years off from my favorite cars. Well, there are a few. 1982 Honda Prelude. Missing the...
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