Category: Bark’s Bites

By on September 20, 2017

Three-wheeling the FiST isn't hard to do

The Fiesta ST was the greatest car to ever be sold in the United States of America. So, naturally, Ford has decided to stop selling it here.

Boom. How’s that for an opener, y’all? I mean, I can just picture the keyboard warriors reading those sentences and fumbling their bag of Cheetos while running to Reddit to say that ol’ Bark is off his rocker again.

“He should be fired — not just from TTAC, but from the entire internet! Has he forgotten about the 1994 Camry, for Hillary’s sake?”

As Aaron Rodgers would say, “R-E-L-A-X.” I’m going to take a moment to explain to you why the greatest mistake I ever made was returning my 2015 Fiesta ST at the end of my lease.

Read More >

By on August 10, 2017

used car sales, Image: alptraum/Bigstock

 “The internet has ruined the car business.”

“I’m not interested in a race to the bottom.”

“There’s an ass for every seat.”

Yes, my friends, in the year 2017, dealership general managers still say these sentences. What’s worse is that they’re not even being ironic. And in this era of record-setting car sales (yes, despite what you’ve heard, 2017 is going to be the fourth-best sales year in history), some of them are even able to keep their jobs.

But smart dealers know better. They know that the internet is their friend, that being the cheapest sometimes really is the best strategy, and that no, there most definitely is not an ass for that 2013 Malibu that’s priced at 117 percent of the market average.

Why are they so smart? Because they understand a seemingly simple concept that can get quite complicated when dealers try to execute it. That concept? It’s called “turn.”

Read More >

By on July 26, 2017

cars dealer dealership, Image: HappyAlex/Bigstock

In the last five years, I’ve visited over 2,500 dealers in 44 different states. Sometimes I think I’ve seen everything. And just when I think that, I’m invariably proven wrong.

This week, I walked through the doors of a massive dealership — easily one of the largest dealers I’ve ever set foot in (the name and make of this dealer shall remain anonymous, since the conversation was “off the record”). This dealer sells upwards of 500 new cars a month and about 200 used per month, and they’re planning to add even more floor space so they can increase their volume.

As I waited to talk to the GM, I browsed the cars on the showroom floor. Considering the overwhelming success of this store, you can imagine my surprise when I saw that every car on the floor, without exception, had an extra sticker on the window.

Read More >

By on July 14, 2017

screen-shot-2017-07-13-at-10-48-12-am-610x588

“You know, that might be the answer – to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That’s a trick that never seems to fail.”

— Col. Korn, Catch-22

It never fails. I’ve visited dozens of Ford dealers this year in the course of my day gig, and they almost always have a Focus RS sitting prominently on the showroom floor. Sometimes, they have two. This week, I visited a dealer that had four.

“Hey, I’ve got one of those,” I said to him, pointing at a 2016 Nitrous Blue RS2 model.

“Would you like another one?” he pleaded. “I’m selling it below invoice.” A quick check of his inventory revealed that it had been sitting on his lot for 217 days, with the others eclipsing the 150 day mark — a lifetime at a Ford dealership.

Of course, we know that Ford has already decided to pull the plug on the RS, and they’re gonna send it off with a limited-edition run of 1500 cars with the RS2 package and a Quaife LSD (something the car has always desperately needed). But why? Why did a car that American hot hatch enthusiasts have been craving for decades see such a short existence in the States?

Ford dealers. Duh.

Read More >

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.

Read More >

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.

Read More >

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.

Read More >

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?

Read More >

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.

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.

Read More >

By on November 10, 2016

Trump and Clinton, Image: Image: By Donald Trump August 19, 2015 (cropped).jpg: BU Rob13Hillary Clinton by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg: Gage [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Oh, come on. Don’t be mad. You knew I was gonna bait you a little bit this week with political stuff, right?

As I was reading the dozens and dozens of posts from my friends and frienemies on the Bookface yesterday, I couldn’t help notice all the discussion about the “popular vote” vs. the “electoral vote.” Depending on which side of the aisle you sit, I’m sure you have opinions about which one is more relevant. However, automakers play the popular vs. electoral game all the time, every day of the year.

Read More >

By on November 4, 2016

Ford Fiesta ST and Ford Focus RS in Bark's driveway, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

Yep, that’s my driveway. Based on my non-scientific observations and complete lack of research, I’m going to say I’m the only person in the world to have both a Ford Fiesta ST and a Ford Focus RS. Well, okay. I’m a person in the world who has a Fiesta ST and a Focus RS, which makes me uniquely qualified to compare the two.

“Hold up,” you might be saying. “Who compares a car that stickers for just over $23,000 with a car that runs $43,000 plus additional dealer markup?” (And yes, I know that you can get FiSTs for under $20,000 now. We’ll get to that.)

Well, it’s not as crazy of a comparo as you might think.

Read More >

By on October 27, 2016

car behind fence (Kevin Cortopassi/Flickr)

Almost three years ago, I wrote a little piece of fiction for this site (back when we used to do that sort of thing) called “The Controller.” The premise was that, one day, the government would decide what was best for all of us by taking away our right to own and operate cars. A little “Red Barchetta,” a little Richard Fosterand a little Affordable Care Act, all wrapped up in one. To this day, it ranks among my favorite pieces that I’ve written.

However, the change in the socio-political climate in those three years has led me to believe that the government won’t have to resort to totalitarian tactics to take our cars. No, the majority of people will hand over the keys willingly and easily, and they’ll do it thanks to one of the most brilliant political tactics ever developed.

They’ll be shamed into doing it.

Read More >

By on October 17, 2016

Lincoln Driven at Speed of Depreciation

As our own Matthew Guy has marvelously demonstrated recently, it’s widely known a new-car purchase’s best value can often be found in the base-level trim. Rarely is a vehicle improved in proportion to the cost of additional options. Nor is the money spent on additional options or higher trim levels recovered in resale as secondhand customers are reluctant to pay more money for bells and whistles because, quite often, they’re obsolete by the time the car sells the second time around.

If we take these truths to an obvious conclusion, it can be said that the higher the trim level, the worse the resale value — and in my years of experience working for Autotrader, I can tell you that’s true. Many of the low-end pricing tools used by dealers to determine used car values often don’t even take trim into account.

Is it any wonder then that General Motors’ and Ford’s top trim levels have wretched resale values?

No, I’m not talking about “LTZ” or “Titanium.” I’m talking about Cadillac and Lincoln.

Read More >

By on October 13, 2016

ford focus rs

I have a confession to make. I’ve never modified any car that I’ve owned. Not a cold air intake. Not an exhaust. Not a single bolt-on. Nothing.

I guess you could make a case that I modified my Mazda RX-8, but all I did was buy Koni Sport shocks (which are considered OEM replacement) and O.Z. Ultraleggera wheels (man, I miss those) to make it a better autocrosser. And I did buy the Trackey software for my Boss 302. But I’ve never done a single thing to a car that would cause a warranty to be violated. And as a “car guy,” I’ve always been completely okay with that.

That is, I was, until I saw an Instagram picture yesterday.

Read More >

Recent Comments

  • gtemnykh: “pulled a lot harder than its so-so brochure numbers said it should have” This was my...
  • PenguinBoy: I doubt Cadillac and Lincoln will ever be top tier luxury brands like Rolls Royce and Bentley, but I...
  • anomaly149: @Garrett, I’d really hope Volvo scored well in small overlap, as far as I know it’s...
  • TrailerTrash: Dunno don’t know which is better, CX90 vs V90, but I like and need to drive sitting higher up....
  • hamish42: I don’t understand Honda’s ethics in offering a comprehensive safety (nanny) package to upscale...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States