Category: Bark’s Bites

By on January 18, 2017

Pontiac G8 GT at Ulurau 2

Cory writes:

My 2009 Pontiac G8 GT is finally getting to the mileage where a replacement may soon be needed. It has 103,000 miles on the odometer but still runs fine and has not been abused. Just the random aging that comes with a high mileage car that I’d prefer not to deal with (headliner coming down, seats lacking support, ride getting softer, leather on steering wheel coming off, side mirror motors not working, dents and dings). I’d love to go the SS route, but can’t support the price tag. I need four doors and like larger vehicles — new Chevy Malibu Hybrid, new Mazda 6, Acura TLX, used Volvo S60 (doesn’t hold resale), used Maxima (ditto)?

I know, none will be as fun as the G8 (I love it), but it’s time to update.

Ugh, this letter depresses me. Why? Read on.

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By on January 13, 2017

Ford-GT-1

I remember it as though it were yesterday. Well, actually, my short-term memory isn’t that good anymore, thanks to the little transient ischemic attack I had about two years ago. So, let’s say I remember it like it was the day my son was born: the announcement of the Ford GT at the North American International Auto Show in 2015.

Painted in an unobtainium shade of blue, the GT rolled out onto the stage in Joe Louis Arena to much thunder and applause — and then a similarly painted Shelby GT350R came out and starting doing smoky donuts all around it.

Then, out of nowhere, a bald eagle flew in and landed on the hood of a Raptor F-150, carrying the severed head of Mary Barra in its beak. After that, a reanimated Norman Schwarzkopf rolled an Abrams tank in and blew a hole in the roof on the arena, causing $100 bills to rain down on everybody while girls in stars-and-stripes bikinis lovingly brushed Mark Fields’ mullet.

That second part may not have happened exactly like that. But compared to what Ford and other manufacturers did during their reveals this week, it may as well have. Because this week’s show was a fucking bore, and it was all because of that most millennial of vices — virtue signaling.

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By on January 11, 2017

2016 Chevrolet SS blue

Mattias writes:

I’m doing my responsible midlife crisis thing, and I’m wanting a V8 sedan. My budget is around $40,000, and I’m looking at used examples of the Lexus IS-F, Cadillac CTS-V, and Chevy SS.

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By on January 6, 2017

PH-818009996 Cadillac Escala GM

Oh, Cadillac. Sometimes I feel bad for you, what with your rebadged Impalas, your ATS wasting away on dealer lots for $15,000 under sticker, your XT5 badges that look exactly like XTS badges — it’s enough to make a man pity you.

But then you go and do stupid shit like starting a “Luxury Subscription Service,” and I lose any sympathy I have managed to scrape together. Yes, Cadillac thinks that renting you a car (that nobody wants to buy) for $1,500 a month is a great idea, and it has all the early signs of being something that Cadillac has excelled at recently — being a complete and total failure.

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By on January 4, 2017

2016 Lexus IS 300 AWD F SPORT, Image: Lexus

Dave writes:

Should we get a better deal on a special order car vs taking one off the lot? The dealer wants MSRP and won’t budge giving us some story about special orders affecting his allocation. We can’t go to another dealer because the other Lexus dealer in town has the same owner.

We’re looking at an IS 300. The reason for special order is my wife wants an exterior/interior color combo (from the standard colors) that the dealer can’t find in any U.S. or inbound inventory searches.

She’s flexible on other options, just has to have her color combo and is willing to wait for approx 90 days to get it.

Thanks,

Dave

Dave, you seem like a sensible guy, and not a dope fiend at all. So let me drop some knowledge on you about how dealer allocation and special ordering works.

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By on December 21, 2016

2011_ford_mustang_eng_10-de-as_4_717

Charles writes:

Dear Bark,

The 1986 silver, manual Accord Yokohama company car I was lucky enough to cut my teeth on in rural Ohio still comes to me in my dreams as I’m nigh on middle age. Here I am back in Ohio, and I’m sitting on the theoretical cash for my ’15 Golf TDI. My neurotic self vacillates far and wide: country boy F-150, Tacoma, Fusion Sport, Mustang GT, Civic Type R, Accord V6 Touring? My wife will have the family hauler, but I need something fast and mature that will occasionally accommodate my milk-chugging sons.

My wife says I’m too old for a civic, and she thinks a truck is “trying too hard.” The joy of the car fantasy ceases as soon as you drive one home. This is my struggle: once I choose the car I lose the potentiality. What’s my problem? What’s my car?

Oh, boy. Here comes some tough love. Buckle up.

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By on December 16, 2016

2016 Ford Focus RS Long-Term Test, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

In my nearly 25 years of car buying, I’ve walked into a dealership and walked out with a brand new car more times than most people would in several lifetimes. 14 times, to be exact. I’ve bought Volkswagens, Infinitis, Pontiacs, Mazdas, Fords, Chevrolets, Hyundais, and Toyotas, representing nearly every mainstream brand. And yet, only two of those 14 instances was anything resembling positive.

When I leased a Mazda CX-7 in 2008, I drove to the store in my 2005 Scion tC with two numbers in my head: $279 a month with zero down (the advertised CX-7 lease price) and $9,000 (the amount of money I believed my tC to be worth). The lease was already a strong offer, so I didn’t feel the need to negotiate further, and my trade valuation was based on one thing only — as with most shoppers, it was exactly the amount of money I needed to pay off my loan. The dealer quickly agreed to my terms, as he knew he would be able to sell the tC for $10,500 within 30 days.

The second time? We’ll get to that. But the other 12 times? As Dr. Dre once said, it was like muthaf–kin’ Vietnam. And in all honesty, I have nobody to blame for that but myself.

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By on December 14, 2016

audi-1214054_960_720

Nick writes:

Hi Bark,

I’m a #savethemanuals sucker. My daily driver and only car is a damn Miata Club six-speed, but I’m getting married in a couple of months and my fiancée is not so stubborn. I’ve taught her how to drive stick, and she’s pretty good at it, but it’s not her thing. Driving really isn’t her thing, in fact. She doesn’t now have a car. When she used to live in a part of the country where you need a car, she had some plain Kia or whatever. Her only strong preference is for smaller cars over larger ones, as we live in a dense urban area.

Let’s say for argument’s sake I knock her up in the next 12-18 months. We’ll be in the market for another car. I wouldn’t be the primary driver, but I’d drive it often enough. She wouldn’t mind if it’s “fun and nice.”

I would keep buying stick shifts until they stop selling them, and I’d resent any car if I could have in a stick yet passed on the option in favor of a CVT. Still, I understand that’s not how the world works. I think the best compromise, then, is to get a car that isn’t available with a manual transmission.

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By on December 12, 2016

More Transparency

“I’ll tell you something,” the grizzled used car veteran said to me menacingly from across his massive, oaken desk. “The internet has ruined this business.”

Tell me something I don’t know, old man.

It’s a variation of the same thing I’ve heard for five years. The car business used to be a place where men of little to no education or intelligence could make veritable fortunes, simply by preying upon the ignorance of their customers. Pre-internet, it was completely realistic to make $4,000 of front-end gross profit on the sale of a used car — and sometimes even more! Pull up a chair across from the more tenured sales guy at any Cadillac store, and he’ll gladly spin you a yarn about that one time he made $10,000 in gross on a little old lady who was on a fixed income, and he’ll laugh as he’s telling it.

Of course, he’ll have plenty of time to tell you this tale because he’s the guy who doesn’t take ups and instead lives on his book of referrals — and those are dying faster than the baby boomers who made them an integral part of the car business in the first place.

But now? Why, that rotten internet and all of its information has made it impossible for dealers to screw customers. Or has it?

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By on December 7, 2016

2018 Euro VW GTI Golf

Alexis writes:

I give advice to everyone about what to get and not get, and yet I’m finding it impossible to decide for myself.

I’m a moderately successful realtor living in Toronto, and my 2005 Saturn Ion is about to give up the ghost. Yes, I know, an enthusiast driving an Ion doesn’t really make sense, and I admit it’s a car for people who just gave up — that’s why I bought it four years ago.

Alas, it’s time for something else.

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By on November 30, 2016

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-006

Tommy writes:

I love reading your columns, and have a question that I think you’ll enjoy. I’ve been living in Washington, D.C. for seven years, about half of that time without a car. I’m planning on getting a raise soon, and with that, I’d like to buy a car. And not just any car, but an adult car that I can rely on to start when I need it, and not constantly have to wrench on the little things that break.

For so long now, I have wanted nothing more than a Focus ST. Everything I’ve read about them just screams to my inner child, and at 29, I think I can still listen to him because I’m not expecting a family any time soon.

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By on November 23, 2016

Our New Car

Remember when we didn’t know what the word “hashtag” meant? Gosh, that was nice. I recall reading one of Jack’s fiction pieces in 2012 (did I mention that Sunday Stories are coming back this weekend! YASSSS! Thank you, readers! #MakeFictionGreatAgain damn it I just used a hashtag) that was laden with hashtags and thinking, “Christ, I’m glad I have no idea what that was all about.”

Of course, it’s now 2016, and I’m busy adding #fordperformance #fordfocusrs #fors #nitrousblue to every single picture I post on Instagram in the hopes that some 15-year-old hot hatch enthusiast will get bored in study hall, find my picture, and give me the highly sought-after “like,” or, if I’m really lucky, a “follow.”

I think we can all agree this is pathetic behavior, yet everybody in the game does it. I’m not as bad as some — my social media pages are designed more to inflame the opposition than inspire loyalty — but we’re all driven to play this silly game by the OEMs, who have universally decided that having 10,000 Instagram followers means you get to have press cars delivered to your door, regardless if you have any knowledge of or about the industry.

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By on November 22, 2016

2017 Accord Hybrid

TJ writes:

Greetings Bark,

With a growing family, it’s about time for me to move out of my 2007 Frontier Crew Cab into something more family friendly. The crew cab has been great transporting our toddler, but we’re planning on having another one, and I don’t think the backseat will work for two little ones.

After a long search that has included newer midsize pickups without much more inside room, full sized cars (namely Impala, LaCrosse and Azera — nice car, horrible seats), I think I’ve settled on a V6 Accord. I have my grandfather’s old C10 for pick-up stuff once I get it running again, and my father is interested in buying my Frontier, so trade-in won’t be a problem.

I’ve test driven the Accord twice, and the dealer is absolutely pressure-free; which my wife and I appreciate. BUT…the dealer only has three V6s in stock — all standard, easy-sell black or silver. I prefer Honda’s Obsidian Blue, and the salesman said getting one shouldn’t be a problem. Am I setting myself up to get taken if I email him requesting the blue one?

Read More >

By on November 17, 2016

jackandbark

Recently, our austere Managing Editor, Mark Stevenson, asked what TTAC means to you. This is an important question, for many reasons, the most important of which may be this: every automotive blog/website has an audience, but TTAC may be the only site where the audience has such an active role in “steering the ship,” as it were.

I’ve been here for nearly five of these fifteen years as a contributor, with over 200 posts to my (dis)credit, and for considerably longer as a reader. And while you can find my writing elsewhere on occasion, TTAC is, without question, my home. I was quite pleased to see that many of you said that “Bark” was one of the things you wanted more of (well, not all of you), so I’ll do my best to live up to your high expectations.

Henry Ford once said that if he had asked people what they wanted, they would have wanted a faster horse. Well, we’re beating the holy hell out of this horse, trying to get it to giddyup. Here’s what I’ve learned about TTAC, myself, and the B&B in the process.

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By on November 15, 2016

Screen-Shot-2016-11-15-at-11.11.05-AM

Kori writes:

Hey, Bark! I’m a 37-year-old woman with a couple of financial degrees and a decade of experience in the world of money, yet I still dread going to the dealership. I know that they’re screwing me but I just don’t know how, and that’s the worst part. I don’t object to the dealer making his fair share of money (I’m a capitalist after all), but I just wish that there was a way to know how they were making that money, and where.

In your experience, where do most customers get the shaft in a car deal, and how can it be avoided?

Thanks for your question, Kori. Most customers feel uneasy about the whole purchase experience for this very reason. Let me see if I can help you feel a little better about it by breaking down the various money aspects.

Read More >

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