Category: Editorials

By on September 3, 2015

Used cars

Going to visit a dealer on a rainy day or the third Sunday after a holiday might not help you get a better deal on a used car, but tracking how long it’s been sitting on the lot may work in your favor. Aged inventory takes up valuable lot space while interest adds up every day motivating most dealers to drop the price to sell it quickly.

Most cars arrive on a dealer lot arrive from wholesale auctions or customer trade-in and are paid out from dealer funds or by a loan through floorplan financing. As with most loans, interest and fees are paid until the loan is satisfied for the floorplan. Each day of interest cuts into the potential profit for a vehicle so dealers try to move inventory as quickly as possible.

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By on September 3, 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.

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By on September 2, 2015

shelby side

In addition to advice about the long-term benefits of wearing sunscreen, the world’s most famous commencement address included this bit of wisdom: “The real troubles in your life are apt to be the things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.” And so it was, true to the author of that essay’s own meandering experience, that I found myself on a sunny, if not entirely idle, afternoon this past June tossing a small rucksack into the back of my well-worn Shelby Charger setting out for Seattle, some 1800 miles away.

That my mother was ill was a fact I had long known. Just how serious the situation truly was, however, took everyone by surprise. One day the doctors were telling my brothers and sisters that our mother had as much as a year left to live and then, almost the next day, were coming back to say that she might have just a few weeks. By the time the news reached me in Leavenworth, the prognosis had been shortened to just days. After an hour or two of hand wringing, I decided I should probably go.

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By on September 2, 2015

yukon

As those of you with access to the Internet will know, President Obama recently discovered the executive superpower to rename mountains. As a consequence, Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America and the tallest mountain in the world when the measurement is taken from the surrounding ground, is now known by the name given to it by the Athabascans: Denali.

In a prepared statement, Mr. Obama said, “With this action, I am fulfilling two of my most cherished dreams. First, I’m living the progressive dream of presiding over the surrender of a national monument to a native group. Secondly, I’m honoring my childhood memories of Mount Kenya, which rose in splendid African majesty over the place of my birth and early years.”

Just kidding, of course. Mr. Obama is as American as Dave Matthews or Steve Nash and to suggest otherwise is to lend strength to the right-wing racist slander of people like Linda Starr and Philip Berg. But enough of that twaddle. If you’re like me, your initial reaction to the news was simple: What does this mean for General Motors?

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By on September 2, 2015

14 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

We’ve been seeing a lot of 21st century Junkyard Finds lately, so today we’ll change up and go to one of the older cars I’ve seen in a self-service yard lately. This ’51 Ford showed up at a Colorado yard last month. Read More >

By on September 1, 2015

Jeep Wrangler Eliminator

Like an NFL expansion team in Los Angeles, music in the hallways during passing periods, “welfare queens” and the full-time McRib, Jeep’s mid-sized Wrangler-based pickup might be the only thing we ever talk about. Guess which one may happen now?

According to Automotive News, the Wrangler-based pickup may make an appearance in 2018-ish, after the iconic Jeep platform gets is overdue overhaul, moves to an 8-speed automatic (maybe diesel, too) and incorporates more aluminum into its structure.

The General Motors twins prove there’s room in the segment for something not called a Tacoma or Frontier, so a mid-size makes sense — but a seven-slot grille up front may not.

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By on September 1, 2015

sergio-marchionne

Farmers are the ultimate craftsman when it comes to small-scale production. The level of management needed to stay competitive and above the high water line is, simply put, astounding. Consolidation in certain areas of agriculture has lead to factory farming, the widespread adoption of automation and genetically modified seeds that keep seed producers competitive. Private farmers are constantly at war with the market and their own budgets.

The agriculture industry has wholly transformed itself over the last 100 years. The automotive industry, which has only really existed for that same period of time, has seen similar levels of change. We are now building more cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers, trikes and quadracycles than ever before, just like we are growing more food than we’ve ever seen in human history.

But, there’s one major stumbling block ahead — and Sergio Marchionne sees it.

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By on September 1, 2015

FCA US LLC HQ WTFBBQ

Mergers don’t excite me.

I’m not excited about the prospect of walking in to my neighborhood Jeep/Chevy/Buick/Dodge/GMC superstore and thumbing through the soul-less car stocks like a weekend trip to Costco.

Bark makes a good business case that Mazda and Subaru could help each other in worldwide sales, and brings up some interesting short-term mashups: rotary engines with all-wheel drive, a boxer in a Miata, et al. All those things sound fun like monster trucks and cans of Pabst on a Friday night.

But in reality, despite repeated calls from automakers that consolidation will mean the car business can stay “in business,” mergers don’t make better products — but they try to make shareholders happy, if they can even do that (see: Suzuki-Volkswagen, page 231 of your textbook). Shared R&D is often synonymous with “badge engineering” (Cimarron) and when it’s not, well, just look at Saab.

If history has taught us anything, mergers simply leave car people left out in the cold.  Read More >

By on August 31, 2015

1

“Honey? I just got into an accident!” she said.

My body experienced an instant adrenaline rush as my mind wandered through the worst “what if?” possibility of that moment, something like the image above.

My wife… Hospital… Pain… Medical bills… The other driver…

“Is everyone okay?” I asked in reply.

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By on August 31, 2015

IMG_0115

To be completely honest, I’ve never really understood all the adulation showered upon Buckminster Fuller. Yes, I know he was a visionary who popularized (but did not invent) the geodesic dome, which has some practical applications, but a lot of his innovations seem to me to be just a bit crackpotish. With the exception of the aforementioned domes, few of his other projects were fully practical. Take his Dymaxion car for example. Read More >

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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
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  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, United States
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States