The Truth About Cars » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 26 Jan 2015 18:20:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/editorials/ Bark’s Bites: Song for My Father http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/barks-bites-song-father/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/barks-bites-song-father/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 18:20:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988770 In his QOTD a few days back, Doug DeMuro had this to say about his father’s decision to buy a Camry: “He wasn’t the BMW type. He wasn’t cool enough. Back then, few were.” Doug is a tad younger than I am, so his father was apparently in his forties back in the Nineties. My […]

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In his QOTD a few days back, Doug DeMuro had this to say about his father’s decision to buy a Camry:

“He wasn’t the BMW type. He wasn’t cool enough. Back then, few were.”

Doug is a tad younger than I am, so his father was apparently in his forties back in the Nineties. My father wasn’t cool enough in the Nineties, either—he was cool enough when LL Cool J was still rocking a red Kangol and Don Johnson was making pastels look masculine.

Before Bush 41 even took the oath, my dad had long been rolling in the deep with the boys from Bavaria. He bought a 320i and a 733i when his neighbors were still representing Cadillac. In many ways, he was a metrosexual long before the word ever had meaning—he wore Armani suits when gray flannel still dominated the workplace. He exercised religiously long before fitness was considered an indicator of success, maintaining a 5’10” and 165 pound frame that allowed him to easily beat my friends and me in basketball even as we were winning high school state titles.

However, it was the cars that made him coolest in the eyes of my friends. Dad was always at the leading edge of what was hip on four wheels. A poll in 1983 asked Americans what their dream car was—over 70 percent responded that they aspired to own a Lincoln Town Car. It was the symbol of success in America. So, naturally, my dad went out and got one, resplendent in baby blue. He parked it in our garage right next to his MG Midget, which was a gorgeous sunrise yellow. He was 36 years old, and already had his dream garage.

But he wasn’t satisfied. He never kept a car for more than 24 months, and often much less. During the years of my childhood that I can remember, he had an Audi 100, a Jaguar Vanden Plas, a Nissan Maxima (back when that was considered a serious Bimmer fighter), a Lexus ES 250, and many others. He bought one of the first Infiniti J30s in America, and then bought another one for his wife. When I totaled my 944, I got to drive his pimped-out, gold-badged QX4 for a few months. I used to borrow his Range Rover when I was in college when I really wanted to impress a girl on a date.

He returned to the BMW brand in recent years, with both an E60 and E90 in his garage for a while, before making somewhat of a change to the Mercedes brand for a spell. After his last Merc was stolen from his gym’s parking lot, he decided to buy what I consider to be the best-in-class Grand Cherokee.

He was and is a different sort of car guy. He never turned a single wrench on a car or a single lap on a race track. He still wanted his cars to be practical—he never bought the Corvette he dreamed of for much of his life. I almost had him talked into a 350Z roadster once, until he saw the trunk space. He got so mad at his J30 for getting stuck in the snow once that he drove it immediately to the dealership and traded it on that QX4, likely taking a huge depreciation hit along the way.

Why do I tell you all of this? Because I think all of us owe our love of cars to somebody. I learned early on in life that having a cool car makes you different. It sets you apart. I’ve been accused many, many times by the B&B of being a bit image conscious when it comes to cars, and I don’t deny that I am. I can trace it back to seeing the look on my friends’ faces when my dad would drop me off somewhere in his latest and greatest European ride. I was lucky enough that he extended his love of cars to the cars he bought me, as well—a brand-new Jetta, an Infiniti G20, and my ill-fated 944.

So maybe that’s why I have always bought new, why I never keep a car past its third birthday. I also learned what I’d didn’t want to do from him—it’s why I have gone a little impractical with some of my purchases, so that I never have to say I eschewed the car I really wanted because it didn’t have four doors.

So even though you didn’t do it deliberately, thanks, Dad. if you had bought a cloth-seat Camry, I’m guessing I wouldn’t be working the numbers on a Shelby GT350 as we speak, despite the fact that my Boss hasn’t seen a third anniversary.

Wait a second. Maybe I shouldn’t be thanking you, after all. Ahh, what the hell. Of course I should be.

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Junkyard Find: 1982 Ford Fairmont Futura Two-Door Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1982-ford-fairmont-futura-two-door-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1982-ford-fairmont-futura-two-door-sedan/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988082 I see so many Fox Mustangs in wrecking yards that I don’t pay attention to them unless they’re especially egregious Malaise Era abominations, but what about the other Foxes? Well, I’ll shoot a Fox Capri or Fox Thunderbird if I see one, and of course the Fairmont and its Mercury Zephyr sibling are sort of […]

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12 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI see so many Fox Mustangs in wrecking yards that I don’t pay attention to them unless they’re especially egregious Malaise Era abominations, but what about the other Foxes? Well, I’ll shoot a Fox Capri or Fox Thunderbird if I see one, and of course the Fairmont and its Mercury Zephyr sibling are sort of interesting. We’ve seen this snazzy-looking beige-over-gold ’82 Zephyr coupe and equallly snazzy-looking ’80 Fairmont Futura coupe in this series, and I spotted this red ’82 Fairmont Futura two-door at a Northern California yard a few months ago.
13 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe two-door sedan version of the Fairmont Futura didn’t sell so well, because if you were willing to put up with the inconvenience of two doors, why not get the groovy coupe with the cool-looking rear glass?
01 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI probably shouldn’t have attempted any online research on Foxtaur Racing, because it led right to some super-creepy Furry-related stuff. However, I ran into this page showing what may be the same car; the junkyard one doesn’t have a vinyl top, but the Foxtaur Racing stickers are in the same locations. I’m sure that Crab Spirits will explore this theme further.
07 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen you can’t find the correct-colored interior parts for your car, you make do with what you can find.
09 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, that’s a Pinto 2300 under the hood.
05 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis was made when Detroit didn’t worry too much about extremely phony-looking “wood” interior trim.

01 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1982 Ford Fairmont Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Vellum Venom Vignette: The Brazil Vacation, Part II http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/vellum-venom-vignette-brazil-vacation-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/vellum-venom-vignette-brazil-vacation-part-ii/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 15:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987546   Aside from the car-less world of cruise/train travel, my post-CCS Design vacations involve seeing an American on the road only to feel their styling and (more importantly) proportioning are sleeker and prettier. Douchey perhaps, but it’s my benign contribution to American Exceptionalism. Even if this “proper” Chevy is a German Opel (sold alongside many a Korean Daewoo) introduced in […]

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A Captiva audience?

Aside from the car-less world of cruise/train travel, my post-CCS Design vacations involve seeing an American on the road only to feel their styling and (more importantly) proportioning are sleeker and prettier. Douchey perhaps, but it’s my benign contribution to American Exceptionalism.

Even if this “proper” Chevy is a German Opel (sold alongside many a Korean Daewoo) introduced in Frankfurt as the Antara GTC.  Harley Earl may spin in his perfectly-proportioned grave…but I digress.

crossport6

Few Americans shall admit a speck of admiration for the Chevrolet Captiva SUV, but the similarly-Korean Cruze is a respectable machine to most.  Well, colossal DLO fail at both corners notwithstanding. No matter, its suitably upscale: Chevrolet Brasil offers it as their most premium sedan offering. (At R$75,020)

Strangely, the Cruze 5-door hatch is cheaper (R$71,860) than the sedan: usually it’s the other way in the US. Known as the Cross Sport 6, the Cruze Hatchback looks the business against the usual Brazilian subcompact. Here’s one driving past the scenic Vista Chinesa.

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While I have little complimentary to say of Chevrolet’s split plane grille, this Chevrolet Onix wears the face quite well.  Sure, the upper half needs to grow a good 1-2″ to meet the hood’s cut-line. Or better still, drop the cut-line instead. But the look is catchy, nicely proportioned on this small canvas.

Chevrolet Brasil made a fetching machine, but this white one in Leblon was kinda rare. And that’s the problem:

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(photo courtesy: www.simcauto.com.br)

Chevys, at least in Rio, are heavy in fleet distributions.  Rio is nearly as taxi-centric as Manhattan, but the market wasn’t dominated by something Crown Victoria-esque. There’s Renault, Fiat and Citroen hacks too, so perhaps the Bowtie-branded Daewoos sporting that unique yellow/blue stripe paint scheme are a red herring.

And perhaps there’s no such thing as American Exceptionalism in car design. Not anymore, at least.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely weekend.

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Junkyard Find: 1989 Merkur Scorpio Touring Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1989-merkur-scorpio-touring-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1989-merkur-scorpio-touring-edition/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 14:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987346 Now here’s a rare one: a 1989 Merkur Scorpio. While the Merkur XR4Ti (a rebadged Ford Sierra XR4i) sold well enough that most of us have seen one, the other Merkur— a rebadged Ford Scorpio— flopped miserably and sank without leaving much of a trace. This ’89, which I found on Half Price Day in […]

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17 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNow here’s a rare one: a 1989 Merkur Scorpio. While the Merkur XR4Ti (a rebadged Ford Sierra XR4i) sold well enough that most of us have seen one, the other Merkur— a rebadged Ford Scorpio— flopped miserably and sank without leaving much of a trace. This ’89, which I found on Half Price Day in a Denver yard, is the first Scorpio I’ve seen anywhere in at least five years.
06 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNearly 100,000 miles on the odometer.
03 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe leather is a bit cracked, but otherwise the interior is in nice shape.
11 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI couldn’t get the hood open, but the sight of a Cologne V6 is nothing to get excited over.
18 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis is the 209th Touring Edition.
16 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLots of good stuff left on this car, but will there be any parts bought before the car gets crushed?

I think the Scorpio would have sold better in America if Ford had used this song in the advertising.

Instead, they had Jackie Stewart reclining in the rear seat.

In Taiwan, the Scorpio got hooned a bit more in the ads.

02 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1989 Merkur Scorpio Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Bark’s Bites: Two Years With the CUV That Flexes from Long Beach to Texas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/barks-bites-two-years-with-the-cuv-that-flexes-from-long-beach-to-texas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/barks-bites-two-years-with-the-cuv-that-flexes-from-long-beach-to-texas/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 19:34:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=985722 “I’m NOT buying that thing. It looks like one of the cars that the Nazis rode around in.” Ah, the Ford Flex. It is one of those cars that all “car people” seem to love, while the general public seems to be slow to adopt—perhaps because it looks like one of those cars the Nazis […]

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“I’m NOT buying that thing. It looks like one of the cars that the Nazis rode around in.”

Ah, the Ford Flex. It is one of those cars that all “car people” seem to love, while the general public seems to be slow to adopt—perhaps because it looks like one of those cars the Nazis rode around in.

At least that’s what Mrs. Bark said in the summer of 2013 when it became painfully obvious that our 2011 Chevrolet Equinox LT was no longer meeting the needs of our expanded family. I did a good deal of comparison test reading as well as renting of larger CUVs in my journeys around the country in those days, anticipating the day when the Equinox would need to go. I drove them all—Pathfinder, Highlander, Pilot, Traverse, and Explorer—but the one that I always loved to see in the Emerald Aisle was the Flex.

National Car has several of them in the Great Lakes area airport fleets, mostly in Limited trim. I enjoyed driving them as rentals, simply because they drove more like a car than any of their lifted competitors. The Explorer and Flex, while nearly identical in most other respects, were simply not comparable in the joy-to-drive category. The Flex never drove as big as it was—from the driver’s seat, it actually felt smaller than our Equinox did.

Also, for those of you who don’t obsess over the personal vehicle purchases of TTAC writers, you may not remember that I’m not the first contributor here to own a Flex. Nope, that honor belongs to Jack, who had a baller two-tone Flex Limited that he used to tow his racing rig around the Midwest. I remember not being a huge fan of the aesthetics of the car (okay, I may have said that it looked like a hearse), but it always seemed like it would have been a great family car.

So, when the day came that a third-row was no longer simply desirable but mandatory, I only seriously considered the Explorer and Flex. In SE trim, each could be had for well under $30K, including all rebates and X-Plan pricing. And when I took Mrs. M. to drive them, even she had to begrudgingly admit that the Flex was the more enjoyable car to drive—which was important, because our Equinox had seen over 25k miles per year of driving through the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. The 2013 refresh of the Flex, which strays from the design language of both the Ford cars and Ford SUVs, improved the looks of the CUV to the point where she relented on her objections to its quadratical form. Of course, once we settled on the Flex, there really was no other color to consider other than “Mineral Gray,” or as TTAC readers might call it, “Brown.”

Well, here we are two and a half years later, and the Flex has over 55k on the clock. How has it fared? What’s the quality been like? Most importantly, would I buy it again, given the chance?

For the TL:DR crowd, the answers are:

Fantastic.
Amazingly good.
Heck to the yes.

Those who would like to know more can continue on.

I think I can describe my Flex ownership most accurately in the following way: I can’t think of any other vehicle that would do what I need it to do nearly as well as the Flex has.

The importance of the Flex’s ride height simply cannot be overstated. Not only can my six and four-year-old children get themselves in and out of the second row easily, so can my sixty-eight year old mother. This is the one area where it outshines every other vehicle in its class. I don’t know why middle-class America has decided that the elevated ride height of CUVs is a feature rather than a detriment, but I think it would only take a week or two behind the wheel of the Flex to change their collective minds. Not only has entry and exit been easier, loading groceries and Black Friday shopping runs into the cargo area is MUCH easier than in any other third-row CUV.

flexstorage

While the SE doesn’t have all the entertainment options available on higher priced models, that can largely be remedied with a $69 dual-screen DVD player. However, it is missing a feature that I desperately wish I had sprung for—the second-row bucket seats. The SE has the bench seat in the second row. Although my kids like having the middle seat available for stuffed animal and LeapPad storage, it makes getting back to the third row nearly impossible for adults, especially if car seats are installed. I would love a re-do on that buying decision.

Also, the third row seats shouldn’t be used by anybody larger than a non-Jack member of the Baruth family—which is to say, nobody over 5’9″ or 165 lbs should try to sit back there for any length of time. I’ve done it, but I didn’t enjoy it. My son, on the other hand, loves it back there. I think it’s the closest thing to a modern-day rear facing station wagon seat, where children can envelop themselves in their own little worlds of creativity while the adults drone on in the first two rows.

Fuel mileage, you say? Well…it isn’t good. In fact, it’s bad. Granted, Kentucky is not fuel mileage friendly, what with its picturesque rolling hills of blue grass and truckers who are determined to patrol the left lane of highway 64 with extreme prejudice. That being said, I’ve experience about 21 combined MPG from the non-EcoBoost V6. I think drivers who have a flatter commute could realistically expect closer to 24. Meh.

The compromise you make for lackluster fuel mileage is easily justified when power is applied with the right foot. Real-world acceleration has been incredibly good, even when weighed down with kids and luggage. The Flex has never met an on-ramp it didn’t like. While 0-60 might only be in the 7.5 second range, the 5-60 grunt from the torquey sixer means that you’ll never have trouble merging, and the old-school transmission never searches for the right gear (looking at you, Highlander).

No, not everybody loves the looks of it. But those who do really, really do. I field nearly as many questions from fellow motorists about the Flex as I do about my Boss. The 2013 refresh makes for a much more masculine looking ride—I never feel like I’m driving the Mom Taxi when I’m behind the wheel. In fact, when given the choice for daily driving, I pick the Flex far more often than I pick the Mustang. Sacrilege? Not really. The Flex is just an easier car to drive.

The more utilitarian of you might be wondering, “Why not a minivan?” The Flex doesn’t do minivan things as well as a minivan does, for certain. But it does car things much better. You can take a Flex out on the town and not feel like people are wondering why you’re out without your kids. Yes, you can get a base model like mine, but if you were so inclined, you could spend $50K on a murdered-out Limited and have one bad-ass urban assault vehicle.

It’s simply a matter of preference. After thirty months or so of Flex ownership, I can’t give the car anything but the highest marks. Maintenance cost has been limited to oil changes and standard scheduled maintenance. It is still running on the OEM tires and shocks. It’s inexpensive, it’s unique, and it’s wildly functional.

The Flex is also a fantastic example of a car that isn’t a huge seller yet still retains a great deal of its value on the used car market. A quick AutoTrader search reveals that it’s difficult to find one for less than $20K that isn’t either at least four model years old or has over 100k on the clock. So go ahead and take advantage of the fact that some Ford stores have a hard time unloading them and get a new one equipped exactly the way you like.

I anticipate driving my Flex until it hits the 150K mark, myself, and its flawless mechanical performance over the first nearly 60K gives me no reason to think that it won’t easily hit that milestone and beyond. However, when it comes time to replace it, I hope that Ford is still making new examples. Unlike nearly every other car I’ve ever owned, I have no itch to replace it with anything other than another one just like it.

Seems to me like that’s as good of a recommendation as I could make. If you’re in the market for a CUV, you should be in the market for a Flex.

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This Year’s Definitive Detroit Auto Show Wrap-Up http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/years-definitive-detroit-auto-show-wrap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/years-definitive-detroit-auto-show-wrap/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 14:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=985234   As I look back on my career in automotive journalism – which has now officially outlasted an elephant’s gestation period – I am reminded of several important highlights; several moments where I rolled out of bed, crawled over to the mirror, flashed a big smile, and said to myself, using an especially cheery, positive […]

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2016-Acura-NSX-wheel

 

As I look back on my career in automotive journalism – which has now officially outlasted an elephant’s gestation period – I am reminded of several important highlights; several moments where I rolled out of bed, crawled over to the mirror, flashed a big smile, and said to myself, using an especially cheery, positive tone: If you really work at this, someday you might be able to make $19,000 a year.

One of those moments was the very first column I ever wrote for The Truth About Cars, almost exactly two years ago today, wherein I provided a rather unique perspective on the Detroit Auto Show without actually attending the event. So when Derek asked me to reprise my role as an occasional contributor to TTAC, I did the obvious: I said yes, and then I spent approximately nine minutes getting up to speed on Detroit.

So, without further ado, here is this year’s definitive wrap-up of the Detroit Auto Show, as told by a bona fide Detroit Auto Show expert in the sense that I looked at a few photos from 1,000 miles away.

We’re going to start with Acura, as we always do, because their name is first in the alphabet – a concoction undoubtedly dreamt up by 1980s marketers, who shrewdly realized it was the only way anyone would consider their cars.

Anyway: Acura’s big debut at this year’s Detroit show was the all-new, second-generation NSX. Coincidentally, this has been Acura’s big debut at every auto show since Plymouth announced fuel injection at the 1907 Los Angeles Auto Show, which was hosted on a vacant lot in Northridge. When reached for comment, Acura PR staff said: “Wait until you see the NSX we have in store for New York.”

One major showstopper was Audi, who released the all-new Q7 luxury SUV to the oohs and aahs of eleven journalists who could tell it apart from the old model. To help distinguish it from last year’s Q7, Audi painted the new one bright blue.  “That’s a good idea,” said Acura PR staff, diligently taking notes with the same quill pens they’ve been using since the NSX was first announced.  “In Frankfurt, the NSX will be blue.”

Chevrolet was responsible for two huge debuts, when they rolled out the Bolt Concept – with a 200-mile range – and the all-new Volt, with a 50-mile range and a “range extending” gasoline engine. Rumors are swirling that the next model in the series will offer 80-mile electric capabilities, plus “range extending” feathers. It will be called the Chevrolet Molt.

The all-new Ford GT drew the largest crowds in Detroit, largely because Ford offered free parking validation to any journalist who didn’t complain about its V6 engine.

My personal favorite debut at this year’s Detroit show came from Hyundai, who rolled out a concept pickup truck dubbed the Santa Cruz Truck Concept. According to a Hyundai press release, this truck was designed to serve as a “bold, aggressive reminder that Nissan and Toyota aren’t the only ones who can compete for full-size pickup leftovers.”

It wouldn’t be an auto show without a concept car from Infiniti, who used Detroit to reveal the all-new Q60 Concept – the brand’s seventh concept car in three years.  When asked about this curious strategy, Infiniti PR representatives replied: “We employ a lot of people who worked on the NSX.”

Journalists in attendance were foaming at the mouth to condemn the Lincoln MKX, which is objectively an excellent car that would compete closely with Lexus and Mercedes-Benz if it were wearing literally any other badge, including the Comcast logo.

The strangest vehicle in the entire show was a concept car from Mercedes-Benz dubbed the F015 Luxury In Motion. Features include – all of this is true – “lounge-style” seating with four chairs that face one another, wood flooring, and six display screens mounted on various interior panels.  “With this car, we didn’t want to create a traditional automobile,” said Mercedes-Benz PR representatives, who spent years striving for a master’s degree in communications so they could stand next to the vehicle and ask journalists to remove their shoes before climbing inside.  “We wanted to create a giant slug with wood flooring.”

Nissan heralded the arrival of an all-new Titan, which will be a highly popular choice for Nissan employees interested in moving heavy furniture around greater Nashville.

Tiny automaker Smart debuted a run-out version of its Fortwo city car, inexplicably dubbed the “Flashlight Edition” despite the fact that the car doesn’t have any apparent connection to a flashlight. Other potential names reportedly included the Fortwo Gift Card and the Legal Pad Edition.

After safely watching from the sidelines as the midsize SUV segment gradually expanded over the last 25 years, Volkswagen finally rolled out an SUV concept car at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, a mere two years after they rolled out their last SUV concept car. Industry insiders expect Volkswagen to debut an actual midsize SUV in the second half of 2061, beating the Acura NSX to the market by six months.

So there you go, ladies and gentlemen: everything that mattered at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, as told to you by someone who was nowhere near the place. It’s good to be back.

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Junkyard Find: 1978 Fiat X1/9 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1978-fiat-x19-3/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1978-fiat-x19-3/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 14:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=982969 The Fiat X1/9, like the Fiat 124 Sport Spider, is one of those old European cars that hasn’t held its value so well, which means you’ll see plenty of them in the sort of self-service wrecking yards that I frequent. We’ve seen this ’78, this ’78, this ’80 and this ’86 so far in this […]

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07 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThe Fiat X1/9, like the Fiat 124 Sport Spider, is one of those old European cars that hasn’t held its value so well, which means you’ll see plenty of them in the sort of self-service wrecking yards that I frequent. We’ve seen this ’78, this ’78, this ’80 and this ’86 so far in this series, and now I’ve got another ’78 to show you.
05 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinBertone did the design on these things, and Malcolm Bricklin kept bringing Bertone-badged X1/9s in after Fiat retreated from the United States market.
01 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThe running gear was Fiat 128 stuff, swapped from the front of the 128 to just behind the driver in the X1/9. Power wasn’t much, but the car was quite agile.
02 - 1978 Fiat X1_9 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThis one will go to The Crusher with the steering wheel lock still in place.

The incomparable, dynamic Fiat X1/9!

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Ur-Turn: In Defense Of The Ford GT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/ur-turn-defense-ford-gt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/ur-turn-defense-ford-gt/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 14:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=984425 A Ford engineer responds to our last piece on the Ford GT. In “Ur-Turn: The Hater’s Guide to the Ford GT”, we get a glimpse into the Ford product development cycle for high-volume vehicles.  The authors, who humbly claim that it was a broad overview, give a rather complete account of the roles, responsibilities, and […]

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All-NewFordGT_01_HR

A Ford engineer responds to our last piece on the Ford GT.

In “Ur-Turn: The Hater’s Guide to the Ford GT”, we get a glimpse into the Ford product development cycle for high-volume vehicles.  The authors, who humbly claim that it was a broad overview, give a rather complete account of the roles, responsibilities, and procedures behind nearly every Ford product that comes to market.  It’s a fascinating process, and it occurs every day at virtually every OEM and supplier.  But what happens when a particular design or system defies convention?  How do you validate something that is unlike anything your company has ever produced?  What happens when you push the product development envelope so far, that you enter a completely new and unfamiliar design space?  This is where we’ll find the Ford GT.

The GPDS framework that the authors describe is a rigorous process, combining elements of classical engineering disciplines, statistical analysis, and historical lessons-learned.  Every high-volume OEM and supplier uses something like it.  The people behind GPDS and other, similar processes are the reason for today’s automotive landscape of massively complex cars that are safer, more efficient, and more advanced than ever.

As robust and comprehensive as GPDS is, it can be inflexible.  New technology and processes sometimes don’t fit into the framework.  If a body control D&R has never worked with active aerodynamic elements, how will he know what acceptable performance looks like on the GT, or how to test it?  If the STA has never dealt with a carbon fiber monocoque, how can he point out faults in the assembly process?  If the engine calibrator has never tried to achieve the cylinder pressure required to wring 600 horsepower out of 3.5L, how will he know how much fuel to dial in without blowing the head apart?  What about the APQP engineer who depends on Weibull analysis to predict full-life durability, but the sample size needed for a good analysis is about the same as the entire production run?

The Ford GT is unlike anything that Ford has ever built, so the paradigms that work for nearly every Ford product may not work here.  Technology must be developed outside the GPDS framework.  The Ford Research and Advanced Engineering group does just this, using GTDS (Global Technology Development System).  Unlike GPDS, which is focused on execution and quality, the GTDS process attempts to clearly define a problem and systematically identify and explore promising solutions.  The outcome of the GTDS process is a technology that is ready for use in a vehicle, and accompanied by a complete set of requirements and validation methods as well as a list of potential suppliers.  Often a GTDS technology is so complex that transferring knowledge to a production team would be prohibitively time-consuming, so an R&A engineer will accompany the technology through to production.

This is the true skunkworks.  It’s not in a secret basement, its right out in the open, just a short walk from the folks cranking through GPDS documentation.  As for the contention that non-GPDS projects will have a “questionable pedigree in production and quality operating systems”, the people at Ford R&A have a better understanding of the operating environment and system behavior than anybody else in the company and sometimes the entire industry, as well as the manufacturing methods and quality issues associated with them.  The evaluation of technology is obsessively comprehensive, even if it doesn’t follow the GPDS framework.  There is nothing “slap-dash” about it.

The authors accurately point out that the GT is essentially a marketing exercise, not a money maker.  Doing all the development work in-house would take precious resources away from profitable production programs. So the build will be contracted to an outside company like Multimatic.  Dyno testing and calibration will probably be done by a company like Roush.  Chassis development will likely be performed by Ford drivers and engineers, though with a much narrower scope of testing than high-volume vehicles get.  But Ford will own every part of the design and development process.  It just won’t be the same people who put F-150s on the showroom floor.  Instead it will fall to a group whose job it is to bring new technology to life and make it available to a discriminating customer.  There will be no clear path to follow.  And that’s just how they like it.

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Junkyard Find: 1987 Dodge Shelby Charger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1987-dodge-shelby-charger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1987-dodge-shelby-charger/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 02:41:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=982713 Who would have thought, in the late 1960s, that the future held front-wheel-drive Chargers, based on a French platform? Or that Carroll Shelby’s name would be on some of those cars? The Shelby Chryslers aren’t worth a whole bunch today, which means that non-perfect ones show up in cheap self-serve wrecking yards all the time; […]

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06 - 1987 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinWho would have thought, in the late 1960s, that the future held front-wheel-drive Chargers, based on a French platform? Or that Carroll Shelby’s name would be on some of those cars? The Shelby Chryslers aren’t worth a whole bunch today, which means that non-perfect ones show up in cheap self-serve wrecking yards all the time; we’ve seen this ’87 Daytona Shelby Z, this ’86 Omni GLH, this ’85 Shelby Charger, and this ’84 Shelby Charger so far, and now I’ve spotted a very rough but still recognizable ’87 Shelby Charger in the San Francisco Bay Area.
13 - 1987 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThe 146-horse 2.2 liter turbocharged engine is long gone, but the genuine Shelby bucket seats are still there.
01 - 1987 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinYes, it’s a genuine Shelby.
11 - 1987 Dodge Shelby Charger Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinAir conditioning, maybe some Georgia Satellites on the cassette, some Iran-Contra on the news… yeah, a very 1980s car.

Dodge is creating a revolution in the streets!

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Vellum Venom Vignette: The Brazil Vacation, Part I http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/vellum-venom-vignette-brazil-vacation-part/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/vellum-venom-vignette-brazil-vacation-part/#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:58:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=983473   This was my first vacation in, like, ever. And it was supposed to be a break from cars. No driving, wrenching, writing, photographing!  Stop looking at that Ford Versailles, don’t take a photo of that Renault, because car design is no vacation in such a beautiful place…right? And then “my” Ford Ranger found me […]

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This was my first vacation in, like, ever. And it was supposed to be a break from cars. No driving, wrenching, writing, photographing!  Stop looking at that Ford Versailles, don’t take a photo of that Renault, because car design is no vacation in such a beautiful place…right?

And then “my” Ford Ranger found me in Leblon. Oh, for the love of why did I walk down this street I can’t believe that stupid truck followed me from…

 

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Let’s do this thing. Let’s see how vehicles are made for different needs, tastes, etc. in different countries.

To wit, here’s a shot of the USA Ranger last seen in 2011. Disregard my modest trim/wheel/grille modifications from other (less-beancounted) Rangers, because the USA and South American Ford Ranger are strikingly similar.

And the differences are where we learn something. Hopefully, considering the backlash to the last Camry analysis.

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2009 was the last year for this Ranger body in South America, and it sported unique emblems, bumpers, side view mirrors, door handles, wheels, roll bar/bed liner/cover (seen on all light-duty trucks in Rio) and these trick one-piece headlights.

I had my eye on them via forum searching years ago, but in person? One piece headlights are great, making the Ranger somewhat better crafted.

But the black plastic on large swaths of non-functional lighting surfaces? That’s one of my guilty pleasures. It’s a big deal in the automotive aftermarket, selling the same assembly with almost no chrome.  When done right, like here, the deletion of superfluous chrome looks properly macho…yet upmarket.

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I hope I’m forgiven for losing my shit when I saw the Brazilian Ranger, as their headlights tie in the charcoal/black elements of mine. Then it’ll highlight the chrome as accents…not as melodies.

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The roll bar toughens up the look, not to mention Rangers are kinda large by Rio standards. Considering trucks are often used for real tasks in places where someone can’t afford a $60,000+ Cowboy Cadillac to park at Starbucks, the roll bar is a great design for loading stuff without roof damage.

Rear tail lights look much like this Ranger’s USA counterpart, but smoked black instead of bright red.

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Red is better: it reminds us which end of the vehicle we’re lookin’ at.

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Like the roll bar and steel wheels (that look similar to 2002+ Explorer wheels), the South American Ford Ranger has a tougher bumper with less plastic topping. The area reserved for a hitch is exposed metal with (possibly) more real estate. It’s a smart move considering the Ranger’s purpose in life. Ditto the lack of plastic trim behind the wheels.

Speaking of purpose, the tailgate is significantly different. It’s a fine example of form following function. Note the outward bend of the tailgate to accommodate a larger rear handle, and note the extensive plastic protection trim.

Finally, see how the bed’s upper crease stops 1″-ish deep into the tailgate? This allows a design element to “smear” over to a different visual space. On the cheap: the same bed is used, ‘natch.

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No smearing in the USA. USA! USA! USA!

Function following form: the crease logically goes across the tailgate. Which means the negative space for your fingers to slide into the handle is smaller. So you can scratch your nice little truck if you wear jewelery befitting a truck that’s more mondo-super-badass. Like that $60,000+ Cowboy Cadillac parked at a Starbucks.

Not a good idea, but it looks better. Speaking of:

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I’m sad I couldn’t get a live shot of the Ranger crew cab. All the pretty girls in Rio would be soooooo impressed with it vis-à-vis this Vellum Venom Vignette.

How could they not?

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Ditto the 2010 South American Ford Ranger: basically the same platform (right down to the dashboard and glass-to-body ratio) with a macho, overcompensating look that’s all the rage in modern truck design.

Considering the USA Ranger must die in 2011, there was no need to import this “look” here. Too bad about that, especially the cute little crew cab that most Americans couldn’t fit in!

Ford-Ranger-Sport-09-560x373And I saw the Global Ranger, which looks like an overwrought yacht.  Too mid-sized for America and Super Duty sized for narrow Rio streets, it’s better suited as a Global F-150. Not a bad thing for the world, just bad for the honest-to-God compact pickup genre.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a lovely week!

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In The End, There Can Be Only One http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/end-can-one/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/end-can-one/#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 07:50:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=983969 At the end of the General Motors press conference that opened the Detroit show this year, when the hilariously maladjusted and intermittently inoperational mega-watt sound system blurted its last distorted dubstep doooooooooosh, and the Bolt concept had conclusively proven its ability to drive a hundred feet on a smooth surface without requiring another bailout or […]

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At the end of the General Motors press conference that opened the Detroit show this year, when the hilariously maladjusted and intermittently inoperational mega-watt sound system blurted its last distorted dubstep doooooooooosh, and the Bolt concept had conclusively proven its ability to drive a hundred feet on a smooth surface without requiring another bailout or a money shot from a fire extinguisher, all eyes were on Mary Barra, and my main man Rodney was no exception to this rule. However, my friend, a Billy Dee Williams lookalike and a two-decade dealership industry veteran who was thoroughly enjoying his first NAIAS as a member of The Press As A Whole, wasn’t interested in what Ms. Barra had to say. Far from it.

“Brah, I hate to say it,” Rodney smirked in a manner intended to convey a true sentiment that was diametrically opposed to the stated one, “but I’m in a bit of a phase of my life right now where I’m all about that ass, son! And she’s got it all! You just know that I could rub that the right way. I want to wake up next to a woman with that much power!” Then, after a refractory period of reflection where he almost certainly did not consider the weapons-grade offensiveness of what he had just said, “But what was up with those two shitty cars? Can you imagine having to sell them for a living? Who are they trying to sell to?”

A few hours later, Rodney and I exited Joe Louis arena, still kind of vibrating from the thrill of seeing that Liquid Blue Ford GT rotating on the stand between a teen-dream Shelby GT350R and the twin-turbo, anti-lag-equipped second-generation Raptor. The enthusiasm in his voice took me right back to the first day we saw a ’96 Mystic Cobra on the transporter outside our three-car suburban showroom. “Quiet is kept, man, it’s the Raptor that really does it for me. But I know your dumb ass wants to drive that Shelby around Mid-Ohio a couple hundred times. You can do that, I’m going to roll that Raptor down High Street and wax some tail with it. But…” and here he paused to make sure he had my full attention, “THAT FORD GT!!!! YOU KNOW WHAT I’M SAYING! OH MY GOD!”

Rodney wasn’t alone in perceiving that the GM and Ford press conferences stood on the two sides of what has to be considered an ideological canyon of Clark Griswoldian proportions. You couldn’t ask for two more different NAIAS presentations. The surroundings: GM, on the show floor with periodic interruptions from the creaky old Detroit People Mover. Ford, in Joe Louis Arena with a double-depth 3-D effect widescreen opening presentation that, oddly enough, flashed up the words “Digital Olfaction” at one point. The tone of the presentations: Ms. Barra stumbling through a paean to battery power in almost apologetic fashion, a stark and depressing contrast to the self-assured, old-school Detroit-titan star appeal of William Clay Ford and the short-hair-don’t-care Mark Fields. Most importantly, the products on offer.

Even if you aren’t one of the self-appointed “industry analysts” without so much as a single new-car purchase experience or self-performed oil change to his credit, it’s easy to understand that only one of these two visions for future product in the North American automotive market can possibly be correct. For a moment, let’s set aside the Asperger’s objections of “BUT CHEVY JUST RELEASED THE Z06 AND FORD HAS A FOCUS EV!” in order to focus on what these two press conferences revealed about the priorities and beliefs of the corporations that held them.

As Derek noted, the Bolt has nothing to do with Tesla and everything to do with the Nissan Leaf, which has racked up an admirable performance-to-hype ratio during its few short years on the market. It’s a good idea, I suppose. Yet once again GM is pathetically late to the game. The Bolt is best understood as the HHR to the Leaf’s PT Cruiser, or perhaps the chunky current Camaro to Ford’s S197 Mustang. Why, exactly, is an automaker with resources up to and including the full faith and credit of the United States Government always so late to the party? If that new Hyundai El Camino proves to be the sales sensation of 2017, you can depend on the fact that GM won’t have its own El Camino ready until 2021, despite the fact that they made them for something like forty years and are still making them in Australia.

As for the second-generation Volt, the presentation for that one was astoundingly po’-mouthed. The passive-voiced assertion given by the suit du jour prior to the inevitable dubstep subwoofer reveal that “some of you (the assembled, wholly apathetic media) even called it (the ugly-assed first-gen Volt) a moonshot” made me physically cringe. Imagine if RUN-DMC had operated that way.

Some of you said I might even be the king of rock
It was suggested that there might not be anyone higher
Arguably, I mean potentially, to burn my kingdom
It’s possible that you might eventually have a need for some sort of fire
Um, #TechnologyAndStuff

When the most effective marketing you’ve had in years is a gaffe from a man suffering an obesity-induced myocardial event while awarding a $30,000 truck to a millionaire who doesn’t want it, you have problems. It hurts me to write that. I grew up seeing the Mark Of Excellence on my father’s Buick seatbelt latches and thinking that General Motors could probably do no wrong. When we went from a ’75 Granada to a ’77 LeSabre it was like moving out of a double-wide trailer into the Robie House. Please, GM, do something great that isn’t a Corvette or track-focused Cadillac. Please. For the nine-year-old in me who wants to buy a great Buick.

Ford, on the other hand… It was like watching a young Mike Tyson leave his feet to triple-drill some no-name mook into a second-round knockout. The product these people are showing, and the confidence with which it’s shown! I think they said the Raptor was five hundred pounds lighter. Admittedly, that’s like Carnie Wilson skipping dinner a couple of times, relatively speaking, but who else in this business would have done an aluminum truck? Who else would have risked everything like that? You want to see a “moonshot”? It’s not making a battery-powered CruzePrius with a Kardashiass, it’s putting your life savings on the space on the roulette table marked “THE FIRST EVER ALUMINUM FULL-SIZED TRUCK” then letting the wheel spin.

And watching it drop into your slot.

Then building a 600-horsepower Daytona Prototype for the street.

How can you score NAIAS as anything but Ford 1, GM 0? Well, there’s just one little catch, and GM knows all about it. Get in the Wayback Machine with me and let’s travel back to 1980 or so. The General was riding high on the success of the B-body and they had the world on a string. They saw fuel prices going through the roof again and they decided to attack the problem head-on. Meanwhile, Ford was too broke to do anything besides redraw Foxes to look vaguely like Panthers.

Had fuel prices soared the way we all thought they were going to, those 1985 front-drivers from GM would have conquered the world. They weren’t great cars, and only the Park Avenue variant was even a good car by anyone’s standards, but they were aimed unflinchingly at a future where fuel would be eye-wateringly pricey.

Except it didn’t turn out that way, did it? Reagan scared the OPEC nations and we filled up our Town Cars and Crown Vics at $1.25 a gallon and the 1985 Fleetwood rusted in place on dealer lots and that was the beginning of the end for the Sloan Plan.
What’s old is new again, my friends. If fuel soars, the Bolt won’t have to be brilliant to sell. It will merely need to be available. And the new-gen Voltec platform will find itself under a pantheon of body shapes, most of them CUV-esque, before you can say “Plymouth Horizon Miser”. The Shelby GT350R and Raptor will become hideously, offensively irrelevant and all the armchair quarterbacks will say they saw it coming. They’ll all talk about GM’s daring commitment to efficiency and blah blah blah the Chevy Sonic was awesome and mid-sized trucks are the only trucks that sell and so on.

The future’s uncertain and the end is always near. To Rodney, Ford’s product was magic and GM’s was junk. But it might not turn out that way. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t tell you what the man next to Rodney said in response to the question, “Who are they trying to sell?”

“Ford’s customers are out in the streets,” the man smiled. “The General has one customer, and he lives in a white mansion.”

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Ur-Turn: The Truth About Oil, Part Two – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/ur-turn-truth-oil-part-two-good-bad-ugly/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/ur-turn-truth-oil-part-two-good-bad-ugly/#comments Wed, 14 Jan 2015 21:25:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=983225 David Obelcz is back with Part Two of his series on oil prices. Part One can be viewed here. In the 1966 Spaghetti Western classic The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the three principal characters come together in what is considered the most iconic standoff in cinematic history. Three parties hostile to each other […]

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David Obelcz is back with Part Two of his series on oil prices. Part One can be viewed here.

In the 1966 Spaghetti Western classic The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the three principal characters come together in what is considered the most iconic standoff in cinematic history. Three parties hostile to each other and the first one to shoot is the most likely loser.

At no time in modern history has the overall global economy been so good and the commodity price of oil crashed so fast, and so hard. As of this writing short contract West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is below $46 USD a barrel with no sign of price support. We are deep into market crash territory with pumping out of the ground tipping over into a money losing proposition. OPEC nations, state producers, and global multinationals have each other in check on the world chessboard, and no one wants to move their pieces.

Although there are plenty of conspiracy theories on why the price of oil has declined so fast, it is the simple economics of supply and demand. Production over capacity has bloated from 700,000 barrels a day this summer to 1.3 million barrels. Although there is a growing list of drilling rig contract cancelations, existing production sources are pumping more. Over supply will continue to grow because the three goliaths of oil production (OPEC nations, state owned and corporate producers) are fighting to cling to their existing market share at any cost.

Russia has increased production through 2014 despite a battered Ruble and the price of oil sitting at less than half of where it needs to be to support the Russian government. Russian producers are hoping to capture more market share, ironically from the same western European nations that Moscow is growing increasingly resentful of, to help bolster overall revenues. The Putin government position to the Russian people is the price decline is an economic assault on their nation. This message resonates well outside of major population centers, but dissatisfaction and fear of a 1998 grade collapse are growing.

Vladimir Putin has enjoyed high approval ratings because the standard of living has improved dramatically under his leadership. For Putin to maintain power, he has to keep the Russian economy out of collapse and cannot permit a repeat of 1994 and 1998. Eleven-percent inflation, 17% interest rates, and a three-trillion Ruble budget deficit projected for 2015 is a tough hill to climb. Although the General Motors strategy of, “we’ll make it up in volume,” is folly, it keeps people employed and revenue flowing.

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has stated that Saudi Arabia will not reduce production regardless of the direction of the market, and that oil will never be $100 barrel again. The reason behind this is the wellbeing of the Saudi royal family and the viability of the Saudi government is interdependent on national prosperity.

Compared to their neighbors, Saudi citizens enjoy a higher standard of living, which makes the average Saudi less likely to want to overthrow the existing, western friendly government. During the oil crashes of 1986 and 1998, the OPEC cartel, led by Saudi Arabia, agreed to reduce production capacity to help stabilize oil markets. A number of OPEC nations cheated and didn’t cut production, causing Saudi Arabia to permanently lose market share after each correction. Although you can make a strong case that the Saudi government turns a blind eye to those who fund radical Islam in other parts of the world, they are showing little interest in allowing it to ferment inside their own borders. For the Saudi royal family, heads could literally roll if their influence in the global oil market is lost.

In the Powder River Basin, Eagle Ford, Bakken, and the oil sands of Canada, leveraged producers and corporate interests are looking for long term return on investment, and increasingly economic survival. A growing list of analysts are saying that Texas should prepare for a recession, and the gravy train of $30 an hour day labor jobs in North Dakota are coming to an end. Smelling blood in the water against the other large producers in the world, the strongest players believe they can keep the pressure up until someone cuts production, and capture the smaller producers as they consolidate.

In prior oil crashes, ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, etc. have treated commodity weakness as buying opportunities. Because major oil corporations are morphing into energy companies, are vertically integrated, and have record cash reserves, they can carry out a long term war of oil price attrition. The contract drillers, their suppliers, rig operators, and the support network are already reeling from the price collapse, but with a dividend yield of more than four-percent for blue chip oil stocks, shareholders will remain patient, for now.

No one wants to give up market share because no one can afford to give up market share. If anyone cuts production, the risk is becoming irrelevant in this post oil crash market. Anyone who yields market share today, yields it forever.

To get an idea of how much global production has grown, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has tables of data you can download for fun and profit. Since 2008 US oil production has almost doubled. From September 2010, when the Great Recession started to wind down, to September 2014, US oil production has increased 31%, making the United States the largest oil producing nation in the world.

 

Top Five Oil Producing Nations
Country Production (thousands of barrels per day) Four Year Increase/Decrease
United States 14,246 30.80%
Saudi Arabia 11,558 3.98%
Russia 10,564 3.65%
Canada 4,612 27.86%
China 4,470 -0.03%

Source, USEIA – http://www.eia.gov, as of September 2014

Of the top ten oil producing nations, only Iran has had a statistically meaningful decline in production during the last four years. Recent reports of United States oil production growth slowing to the lowest level in 5 years makes for great headlines, but when you’ve grown 90% since 2008, you reach a point where deceleration is inevitable.

At the same time of this unprecedented expansion in production and the complex geopolitical situation of radicalization and militarization, oil consumption growth has dropped to just 2/10 of a percent through 2013. More remarkable, although all the data isn’t available, it appears for 2014 global consumption increases has flattened to zero, and may have even retracted.

China is expecting to grow by a relatively tepid 7%, India has cut their growth forecast in half, Japan is expected to be flat, and Russia is expecting to contract by 3%. Although the United States is enjoying strong GDP and job growth, conservation programs and increasingly stringent CAFE standards are having a real impact on consumption. In the January 13, 2015 short-term energy outlook released by the EIA, global consumption is expected to grow 900,000 barrels per day through 2015, even when factoring increased US gasoline consumption forecasts.

Top Five Oil Consuming Nations
Country Consumption (thousands of barrels per day) 2012 to 2013 Increase/Decrease
United States 18,961 2.55%
China 10,116 1.37%
Japan 4,530 -3.49%
India 3,509 1.71%
Russia 3,320 -2.21%

Source, USEIA – http://www.eia.gov, as of 2013

2015 is shaping up to be the 1967 of this generation. We are in a golden age of power and efficiency. Three-hundred horsepower is commonplace and 500 reliable horsepower, or more, is obtainable to a wider demographic than at any other time. Buyers can choose from the Charger, Challenger, Mustang, Camaro, Corvette, or SS if they want to get their ‘Merica old school V8 rear-wheel-drive on. The Hellcat, Shelby GT 350, magnetic ride control and manual transmission equipped SS, and C7 couldn’t have come at a better time. Never mind an almost endless list of sedans, CUVs and SUVs with performance numbers that makes a 1967 GTO gimpy in comparison.

Many who didn’t learn to drive in the Detroit malaise and British Leyland era believe a traffic ramp sprint to 60 MPH (or 62 KPH if you please) that takes longer than eight seconds is dangerously slow. The fears of a performance Armageddon driven by stringent global fuel economy standards appears to have been completely unfounded (your author, guilty as charged). A growing list of states is raising interstate speed limits and consumers are enjoying at least a short term gain in disposable income.

The love affair North America has with fullsize trucks will continue unabated, and will accelerate this year. Manufacturers with strong CUV and SUV line ups can look forward to growing demand in 2015, while mainstream subcompact, compact, and midsize sedan sales will slow. Think Jeep had a good 2014, wait until you see 2015. The General Motor twins of the Colorado and Canyon, as well as the Chevrolet Trax are, for the short term, ill-timed. For Ford, 2.7 liter Ecoboost engines in aluminum fullsize trucks might not be as strong a selling point if gasoline had taken a path in the other direction. For the growing list of diesel powered cars, trucks, and SUVs that United States buyers can choose from, the timing couldn’t be worse. The premium both in Average Transaction Price (ATP) and at the pump for diesel means that the math simply doesn’t add up.

But what about those cars which aren’t powered by gasoline, or are only partially powered? Tesla continues to benefit as a boutique luxury brand, and should be immune from current conditions. The Toyota Prius line up will further decline year-over-year in 2015. Low gasoline prices coupled with low ATP on Camry and Corolla makes the Prii a tougher sale. Chevrolet Volt version 2.0 is appearing at the wrong time. The Toyota Mirai should be immune to market conditions because of its green credentials and the future is now hydrogen fuel cell driveline. Because of its early adopter cred, the Mirai is likely a bigger threat to Tesla Model S sales than gasoline under $2 a gallon.

So what about the price of oil? With consumption growth not outstripping production through 2015 barring some huge unforeseen event, the price can only go down. History indicates the lowest it could go is about $23.50 a barrel, which when adjusted for inflation, is at the 1986 basement. I see oil finding support at $28 a barrel in the summer of 2015, and gasoline future dropping below $1 a gallon USD. The Midwestern states which typically have lower motor fuel costs could see the average price of regular gasoline hit $1.50 a gallon by the start of the summer driving season.

If you were thinking about a cross country road trip in a Challenger Hellcat, this is the year to do it.

The post Ur-Turn: The Truth About Oil, Part Two – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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Ur-Turn: The Hater’s Guide To The Ford GT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/ur-turn-haters-guide-ford-gt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/ur-turn-haters-guide-ford-gt/#comments Wed, 14 Jan 2015 17:01:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=983241 TTAC and the Blue Oval have a wonderful back channel that bears all kinds of fruit. Information on the new Mustang, the F-150’s aluminum construction, the subsequent delays in manufacturing aluminum bodies and the Raptor’s upcoming EcoBoost engine were just some of the scoops we’ve obtained via our sources. We also blew it when we called BS […]

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TTAC and the Blue Oval have a wonderful back channel that bears all kinds of fruit. Information on the new Mustang, the F-150’s aluminum construction, the subsequent delays in manufacturing aluminum bodies and the Raptor’s upcoming EcoBoost engine were just some of the scoops we’ve obtained via our sources. We also blew it when we called BS on the new Ford GT.

As it turned out, the car is real. But it’s being done outside of normal channels, and this could have potential negative consequences for buyers of this very exclusive, very expensive supercar. A few of our sources penned this editorial to help shed some light on the matter. They are drawing on their collective experience in various functions to help illustrate how the GT was developed, and why the secret, skunkworks nature of the project could be negative.

If you’ve read any media outlet (automotive or otherwise), you’ll know that the new Ford performance group will be releasing 12 performance inspired vehicles coming before 2020.  The star of the show is the Ford GT, with its carbon fiber construction and mid-mounted EcoBoost V6 engine. The reception from the press could not have been any more enthusiastic. The last thing we need is to throw more lube on the collective media hand job for this car.

TRIGGER WARNING: The following editorial might be offensive to Ford fanboys, supercar geeks and those who aren’t acquainted with the way things work inside Ford. You have been warned.

When Derek gave us a call about the initial rumors of the GT, we figured it was bullshit. Derek went and published a story based on the best information we had, which was that this car did not exist, and was a media fantasy concocted to gin up some pageviews. It turns out we were wrong for the right reasons, and Derek went with the information he had.

See, normal production cars follow Ford’s Global Production Development system.  At the tail end of GPDS is a coordination of multifunctional teams, who orchestrate a vehicle launch that entails the manufacturing of a vehicle that meets internal quality standards at Job 1.  This car was not developed utilizing normal production channels within FoMoCo.  It wasn’t greenlit by the same decision makers that funnel product into GPDS projects controlled by Ford’s internal QOS (Quality Operating System).

A full explanation of GPDS would be an editorial broaching 5000 words, so we’ll focus on one specific part, where the design is taken from the studio and funneled into manufacturing.  There are four divisions of engineering that guide product along a launch QOS once it leaves the studio. Vehicle Operations (manufacturing engineers, known as VOMEs), STA’s (Supplier Technical Assistance engineers), and D&R’s (Design and Release engineers). Design and Release engineers take the design from the design studio and funnel it into a production system.

These engineers are divided into Program Management Teams – Body Exterior, Body Interior, Chassis, Powertrain, Electrical, and Vehicle Engineering / Integration. After launch, these D&R’s follow the product after PPAP (Production Part Approval Process) to ensure warranty and customer issues are actively handled by either design or manufacturing initiatives. Vehicle Operations Manufacturing Engineering handles all tooling, manpower and processes at the plant level.  Sheet metal stamping, body fabrication, paint and final assembly.

They are masters of the production operating systems and plant QOS’s.  They know what can and cannot be controlled by the OEM when it comes to critical and significant characteristics of the design.  What links the STA to VOME is the control of pass through characteristics from the supplier.  There are certain design elements that you want to control (dictated by the D&R’s DFMEA) and if the OEM plant doesn’t have the man, material or machine (most of the time, in house quality is stifled by labor costs), the supplier has to control it.  STA ensures the supplier is production ready prior to launch.

They also work through the launch and into production to ensure the supplier is producing good product.  This is usually done by following up on warranty and incoming quality issues and ensuring robust containment and permanent corrective actions are administered by the supplier.  Lastly, VE/VI engineers would ensure pre-production drive fleets meet NVH and performance standards expected by the customer.

Since this super car is non-GPDS (or doesn’t show evidence of this) and didn’t follow the internal avenues that Ford products normally follow (including the 2005-era GT), all the above has not and will not occur for this program.

If the above is correct, we can assume this car is a small capital project.  We can assume that Ford Racing / Performance did most of the design work.  It would also make sense if the suppliers / contract manufacturers ( which we understand to be Multimatic) are doing full service ‘launch’ support.  Did durability drives, pre-production test fleets or internal quality audits identify issues prior to production?  We can safely assume all quality functions of this product were handled by the design team who developed it.  Ford Racing and Performance single handedly launched this product (with the assistance of Multimatic).  You are driving a car designed by a team focused solely on performance and making a big splash for Ford Marketing. Sounds great, right? Well, it’s less than optimal when your flagship $300,000 supercar (yes, it will be that expensive) has a questionable pedigree in production and quality operating systems.

The vetting process was most likely limited to virtual simulations and track days.  APQP was probably an afterthought. The upside is that this is reminiscent of the days of engineers making race cars out of vehicles that they pluck from the chassis line.  It’s a romantic idea, but these days, consumers expect their supercar to not be a complete piece of shit, even if it’s a hand-built exotic..  The 2000’s era GT had its share of quality issues and that had production support at the plant level. We can only imagine how this is going down. Ford is pushing a great story, talking about how the car was designed in secret in a basement. But we know that the “secret” basement area is really a damp, mouldy chamber where suppliers are relegated to. In all likelihood, it was penned, dropped in the lap of Multimatic and will resemble a giant scale model kit when completed. Don’t believe the hype.

This leads me to another important facet of GPDS – the plant manufacturing engineer.  The supplier, STA engineer and plant vehicle team engineer (PVT) monitor customer satisfaction metrics.  The PVT keeps their thumbs on the goal and drives the VOME team and supplier to meet that goal.  The bar is set to yield better product to the customer.  Since this is a limited run or 300 units, you can bet your ass that there isn’t any PVT support for this program.

The prior GT was built at Wixom Assembly Plant.  It followed GPDS.  It had a support structure.  Whether that system worked for it is up for debate.  The 2016 GT is as ‘Ford’ as the “stock” cars that pound the pavement at Talladega.  What we witnessed was a Halo car propped up to serve the heritage of the company and to promote the Ecoboost/Racing tie-in. The GT is a great marketing exercise. The NAIAS introduction – with no advance leaks, no embargoes and no build-up, was masterful. It looks like every boy’s dream car. But it’s nothing more than a marketing exercise being brought to life in a slap-dash manner.

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1984-oldsmobile-omega-brougham/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1984-oldsmobile-omega-brougham/#comments Wed, 14 Jan 2015 14:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=980969 Remember the Oldsmobile version of the Chevy Citation? Maybe not, because they sold poorly and depreciated to near-scrap-value levels within a few years. The Oldsmobile Omega was built for the 1980 through 1984 model years, and I’ve found a very clean example from the final year of production. No rust, pretty straight body, Whorehouse Red […]

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27 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRemember the Oldsmobile version of the Chevy Citation? Maybe not, because they sold poorly and depreciated to near-scrap-value levels within a few years. The Oldsmobile Omega was built for the 1980 through 1984 model years, and I’ve found a very clean example from the final year of production. No rust, pretty straight body, Whorehouse Red interior still in great shape… and getting crushed after 30 years on the planet.
10 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis is a California car, of course, and the nice interior means that it was kept in a garage. In fact, this car is so nice that the 38,850 miles indicated on the odometer may be the actual figure.
04 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSo, most likely a one-owner car, driven by an elderly person who took care of all the maintenance (and brought it in for the considerable number of recalls that afflicted the X-bodies).
05 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has the 2.8 liter V6, not the Soviet-tractor-style Iron Duke four-cylinder.
22 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinGenuine stereo cassette in the dash! Now that’s Oldsmobile luxury.
32 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinGM didn’t have quite the French Cathouse look that Chrysler got with their Whorehouse Red velour interior, but it’s still pretty bordellic.

The Oldsmobile of small cars: A smooth-ridin’ road-huggin’ high-fashion eye-catchin’ quick-stepppin’ fuel-sippin’ pump-passin’ pocket-pleasin’ front-wheel-drive Omega from Oldsmobile!

01 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 28 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 29 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 30 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 31 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 32 - 1984 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Bark’s Bites: The Plight of the Sub-Prime Customer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/barks-bites-plight-sub-prime-customer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/barks-bites-plight-sub-prime-customer/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 15:06:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=975553 “Mr. Smith?” The Finance and Insurance manager, a genial but tired-looking man, stuck his head outside the door of his office. “Yes?” Mr. Smith, known more affectionately as “Dad” to his two children, and “John” to his wife and friends, jumped nervously to his feet. “My name is Andy Marshall. It’s my job to walk […]

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“Mr. Smith?” The Finance and Insurance manager, a genial but tired-looking man, stuck his head outside the door of his office.

“Yes?” Mr. Smith, known more affectionately as “Dad” to his two children, and “John” to his wife and friends, jumped nervously to his feet.

“My name is Andy Marshall. It’s my job to walk our customers through our financing process. Please, come into my office and let’s talk a bit.”

John had been sitting in that chair for what had seemed like hours, watching through the glass of the finance office as the F&I manager had made numerous phone calls, looked at reams of paperwork, and even sent faxes. He knew his odds of getting financed on a newish car were slim, but he had friends who had been to this dealership before who had even worse credit than he did and they had been able to leave with a car. So maybe there was hope after all.

Bad credit. Honestly, those were two words that John had never thought would apply to him. Back before the recession, he had been steadily employed his whole life—even upwardly mobile. There had been the first round of layoffs, but those were almost an excuse. Everybody knew that corporate had just been looking for reasons to get rid of certain people. But then there was a second. And a third. And, finally, a fourth.

That fourth layoff was the one he couldn’t escape. So there he was, a suddenly over-qualified, over-educated candidate for nearly every job out there. The savings evaporated quickly. Bills that used to get paid automatically now drifted into 30 day status. But he found another job, albeit one that hadn’t paid quite as well, so he was able to scrape and claw and catch everything up to a “current” status. Nothing had gotten TOO out of control, and although he had to use some credit cards to survive during that period, he had been able to salvage at least part of his credit.

The killer had been the car that he had to get when the twins showed up. John’s little Mk III VW Jetta was no match for everything that comes along with twins—two strollers, two diaper bags, two of everything—so they had gotten a 2008 Chrysler van in 2012. Unfortunately, his FICO score had slid all the way down to 610, so the only loan he could get was at a crippling 14.9% rate. To make the payments affordable, the loan had been stretched out to 66 months. That meant that he had barely paid any principal at all when the transmission started having troubles in 2014. The quote from the shop to fix it was ridiculous, but they had suggested that he might be able to trade it in on a newer model.

And that’s how he ended up in that Finance office that day. John was nervous, even a little afraid, of what was going to happen.

Andy picked up the phone. “I’m going to page your salesman in here. There are a few hurdles we need to overcome.” Immediately, John felt a gushing of bile leap up from his stomach into his throat as Andy used the dealership intercom to ask his salesman, Jimmy, to come into the office.

“What’s up, Andy?” Jimmy came into the office and sat down in the chair next to John.

“I wanted to bring you in because we might need to look at another vehicle.” Andy slid some paperwork across the desk for Jimmy to take a look at.

“Oh, man.” Jimmy looked at the papers with a grim stare. All joviality had disappeared from his face.

What is it? What do the papers say? John wondered.

“Mr. Smith,” continued Andy, “We have lenders who we work with on what we call ‘special financing.’ I’ve been able to procure financing for you on that 2011 Odyssey you’re looking at, but only if we can get twenty percent down from you. Are you able to do that today?”

“Twenty percent?” cried John. “That’s going to be like four thousand dollars! I don’t have anything like that!”

“Well, then, we might have to look at something a little less expensive. Jimmy, do we still have that 2008 Odyssey available?”

“2008?” John shook his head. “That’s no better than what we already have. What’s the problem with getting the financing?”

“Mr. Smith, you have a considerable amount of negative equity in your van. We can’t find anybody willing to roll that negative equity into a loan for you on the 2011, considering your credit history. But we have a little more wiggle room on the 2008.”

John, visibly flushed, stood up. “No, thank you. I think I will try somewhere else. Thanks for your time.”

Before anybody could say another word, John walked out of the office, and down the hall to where his sputtering van sat waiting in the repair bay. How did I ever end up here, he thought. How did I ever end up here?

——————————————————————————————————————————————-

A story like this might normally end up in Sunday Stories. Unfortunately, this story isn’t fiction for the millions of sub-prime buyers across the country. The credit bureaus generally consider anybody with a FICO score of less than 620 to be “Sub-Prime.” There is no shortage of lenders willing to make car loans with rates around 15% APR to borrowers with 550-619 credit scores, and rates over 20% to “deep sub-prime” customers with scores under 550. In fact, many industry analysts would consider there to be too many willing lenders. According to Experian, sub-prime loans now account for over 27% of car loans, the highest number since they began tracking such data.

In short, for sub-prime buyers trying to get a new car, it’s not a financing problem. It’s an inventory problem.

When lenders are considering a loan for a subprime buyer, they look at the price of the vehicle being financed and they compare it to black book values. Whereas a Tier 1 buyer might get approved for 125% or more of book, a subprime buyer might only get approved for 85-100% of book. Obviously, if a customer has no down payment, or if he has negative trade equity, this becomes a problem for both the customer and the dealer.

Anybody who has ever worked at a dealership has at least a dozen tales of a subprime customer who landed on a car, was sent to the finance office, and was immediately told, “Sorry, you don’t qualify to buy that car. We’ll have to find you a different one.” Imagine that you’re that customer—how excited would you be to be bumped to a less expensive car (or, more likely, one with a bigger margin on it)? How likely would you be to just extend your middle finger to the F&I manager and head to a different store?

Most car dealerships don’t separate their subprime business from their regular business, even though they are two different businesses and need to be managed as such. Obviously, this includes their inventory, as well. If a dealer paid market value or above for a piece of inventory, whether it was a help make a new car deal work or because a bidding war took place at the auction, there won’t be enough margin between book and retail for the dealer to price the car appropriately. As a result, the lender won’t approve the deal.

However, if dealers had a way to identify sub-prime inventory at an auction, and could then match customers to inventory based on the customer’s credit profile, all this could be avoided. But how?

Check back with me in a couple of days, when we’ll discuss a new piece of software that might just change the way this entire segment of the business works.

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The Geopolitics and Ethics of the Top Gear Patagonia Special http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/geopolitics-ethics-top-gear-patagonia-special/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/geopolitics-ethics-top-gear-patagonia-special/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 15:01:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=976353 The only part that was not scripted was James May’s broken ribs. Much has been written about Top Gear’s Patagonia Special, which aired in Britain over the holidays. The show premiers on BBC America this week. Bloggers and journalists wrote, ad nauseam, about the authenticity of the inflammatory license plate and the barbarity of the Argentines. Nuanced […]

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The only part that was not scripted was James May’s broken ribs.

Much has been written about Top Gear’s Patagonia Special, which aired in Britain over the holidays. The show premiers on BBC America this week. Bloggers and journalists wrote, ad nauseam, about the authenticity of the inflammatory license plate and the barbarity of the Argentines. Nuanced discourse? Not so much. Let’s delve deeper.

First, a little bit of background. The Falkland Islands is a remote British possession in the South Atlantic near Argentina. Argentina, which refers to the islands as Islas Malvinas, claims them as its own. In 1982, the military dictatorship in the South American country miscalculated Britain’s resolve and naval power and invaded the Falklands. Quickly, and tragically, the British fought the poorly trained and poorly commanded Argentines, killing over 1,600 soldiers. Argentina was humiliated and its people quickly realized that their leaders were incompetent. A paper tiger–disrobed emperor moment, if you will.

The Cliffs Notes version: Argentina was humiliated, and it was made worse given the pride and machismo of Argentine men.

Then, we have Top Gear. It is an irreverent, vastly entertaining BBC series about cars. The show tries to come off as improvised and unpredictable, but is in reality heavily scripted. Its star, Jeremy Clarkson, has famously insulted virtually every ethnicity, nationality, celebrity, and political party under the sun.

Last year, Top Gear went to Argentina to shoot a special. Clarkson drove a Porsche 928 with the license plate “H982 FKL”. Argentine nationalists took this as a big F*** YOU, as they interpreted the plate to read “1982 Falklands”. This was made worse by the fact that the show was filming in Tierra del Fuego, an Argentine province which includes the Islas Malvinas.

As the Top Gear crew with the offending Porsche 928 entered Tierra del Fuego, enraged Argentines threatened violence, threw rocks at the crew, and chased them out of the country.

I watched the special for the first time last weekend, after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. These thoughts came to mind:

  • The license plate: I am convinced that Top Gear knew about the significance of the Porsche license plate going into Argentina. The license plate might have been a concoction of the BBC art department. Or, it might have been a real license plate that was truly registered to the Porsche. No matter its provenance, Top Gear knew it would piss off the locals. Shit stirring was its intent. It just underestimated the extent to which the shit was going to be stirred.
  • Humiliation: As Americans and Brits, I humbly ask you to stand in the shoes of the Argentines. Imagine yourself from a country that was never a world power, that was not always a democracy, that does not have a .900 batting average when it comes to wars. In a time of turmoil and doubt, you were certain of only one thing– that your military was strong. One of the few sources of the military dictatorship’s legitimacy was its perceived strength. That belief was shattered when the British, whose seat of power was 13,000 kilometers away, kicked the shit out of your proud sons in uniform. You’re down. And with the current Fernandez regime, the economy is not so hot. Inflation is high and so is underemployment. This is a perfect recipe for nationalism and blind rage. How would you feel if a bunch of rich Brits, and one clown, came to your ‘hood with a car that coincidentally reminded you of the year in which your country was brought to its knees and your brother lost his life for a meaningless regime’s hubris?
  • Freedom of speech: Every country has its own norms and laws. Some we agree with, others we can live with, and still others are downright barbaric. But there is the notion of a universal right to freedom of speech. Of course Clarkson and Top Gear had the right to put H982 FKL, or even 1982 FALKLANDS, on a license plate. It is their right, no matter where they are on this planet.
  • The ethics of courtesy: While Top Gear had every right to say what they wanted, was it right, was it ethical, to say what they said through the license plate? If I go to your house, can I just start insulting your wife and kids? If I visit your church, can I just start insulting your god and your beliefs? And from an ethical point of view, is it right to inflame the locals if there is a chance that the locals might rise up (reasonably or not) and physically harm your film crew?
  • Charlie Hebdo: And that leads to the insane tragedy that took place in Paris last week. We all agree that the cartoonists had every right to draw insulting works. We all agree that to react with assassinations is absolutely unacceptable. It is downright evil, let alone misguided. But as I watched the BBC crew getting pelted with rocks, I guiltily thought– those people had it coming. Was I wrong? Is it a matter of gradation? Is it a matter of absolutes?

As a postscript, I want to disclose a little bit of my personal background. Some bona fides, if you will. I was born and raised in Taiwan and Japan, countries that have lost wars and lived through humiliating times. I majored in Latin American Studies, focusing on the military dictatorships of Cold War Latin America. I have also traveled by bus, albeit briefly, through Chilean and Argentine Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. And most importantly, I am a long time fan of Top Gear.

Image source: The Telegraph

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Junkyard Find: 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1980-fiat-124-sport-spider-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1980-fiat-124-sport-spider-2/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=979929 Once again, we are reminded that examples of the Fiat 124 Sport Spider have been a junkyard constant for my entire 33-year junkyard-haunting career. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’76, this ’78, this ’80, and now I’ve found another 1980 Sport Spider in a snowy Denver […]

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07 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOnce again, we are reminded that examples of the Fiat 124 Sport Spider have been a junkyard constant for my entire 33-year junkyard-haunting career. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’76, this ’78, this ’80, and now I’ve found another 1980 Sport Spider in a snowy Denver self-service yard.
13 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 2000cc version (actually 1995cc) of the Fiat Twin Cam engine was introduced for the 1979 model year, and it made 80 horsepower for the US-market 1980 models. The car only weighs 2,290 pounds, so 80 hp wasn’t as miserable as you might think. However, since Internet Car Experts seem to complain endlessly about how intolerably slow the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ is with its 13.79 horsepower-per-pound ratio (it is a lot of fun, in fact), contemplate this car’s 28.625 horsepower-per-pound ratio. Was it slow? Sure was! Was it fun? Yes! Was it reliable? Next question! Say, putting the trunk lock in one of the zeros of the 2000 emblem looks pretty slick.
04 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI saw this car when I went to the New Year’s Day Half Off Everything sale at a Denver wrecking yard, and it was parked right next to another 124 Sport Spider. That Fiat, however, had a lucky Fiat owner pulling just about every single interior and trim piece off it (a very solid ’78), so I concentrated on shooting photos of the not-quite-as-nice ’80.
02 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe instrument cluster from this one was gone…
IMG_2497…because one of my friends thought the gauges would look cool in one of his goofy race-car projects. Hey, half price!
10 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, the same Pininfarina that did this design did the Cadillac Allanté and Volvo C70.

01 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1980 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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In Defense of the Detroit Auto Show, What Chris Harris Could Have Enjoyed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/defense-detroit-auto-show-chris-harris-enjoyed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/defense-detroit-auto-show-chris-harris-enjoyed/#comments Sun, 11 Jan 2015 03:21:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=975305 You can put me on the list of fans of Chris Harris. As a car enthusiast, you’ve got to love someone who can get as excited about driving a Citroen 2CV as he is behind the wheel of Ferrari’s latest and greatest supercar. However, while I appreciate his perspective on things automotive his recent screed […]

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You can put me on the list of fans of Chris Harris. As a car enthusiast, you’ve got to love someone who can get as excited about driving a Citroen 2CV as he is behind the wheel of Ferrari’s latest and greatest supercar. However, while I appreciate his perspective on things automotive his recent screed explaining why he’s so glad that he won’t be attending the North American International Auto Show this year was so one sided that I have to stand in defense of one of my home town’s most major annual events.

Almost everything that Harris said about Detroit and the NAIAS is (or was) true.

Cobo Hall is a beehive of activity as workers get displays ready for the big NAIAS media preview on Monday.

Cobo Hall is a beehive of activity as workers get displays ready for the big NAIAS media preview on Monday.

Yes, the city of Detroit is full of decay (though I genuinely think things have bottomed out, there are tiny tendrils of regrowth). Yes, it is cold in Michigan in January (though it’s colder and windier in Chicago when they have their auto show in February). Yes, Cobo Hall, the region’s main convention center, was getting a bit shabby and in need of updating the last time Chris came to the Detroit show in 2007 (though the building has since undergone a $250 million renovation). Yes, some of the exotic and ultra luxury brands like Ferrari and Rolls Royce, and even some of the mainstream auto manufacturers like Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover have opted out of displays in Detroit as the auto industry experienced wrenching financial turmoil, bankruptcies and bailouts since 2007 (though many have returned). Yes, the big auto shows on the European continent, like the one in Germany, dwarf even North America’s most *important car show (though I will point out that in the UK, where Chris Harris lives, they haven’t been able to sustain a big annual auto show for some years now).

All of those things, and more, are true, and I can understand how someone, like Harris, who has a love/hate relationship with Ferrari might be disappointed at not being able to check out Maranello’s costly toys after traveling almost 4,000 miles to go to a major show. I admit that it’s a bit easier for me to attend the NAIAS than it is for Mr. Harris. He needs a passport, a plane, a hotel room and local transportation. I just have to have gas in the car and make sure that I get downtown early enough to find one of the free parking spaces that I know about that are within a couple of blocks of Cobo. I usually apply for credentials late enough to have to pick them up at the show, so to avoid a big line I head downtown early, just before rush hour and it only takes me about 20 minutes to drive there. The NAIAS is situated so conveniently for me that one year, when I discovered after I parked the car at 7:00 AM that I had left my camera bag at home, I was able to drive home to Oakland County, grab my cameras, stop for a splash of gas because the needle was below empty, drive down the Lodge freeway in the teeth of rush hour and be back at Cobo before eight o’clock.

The North American Car and Truck of the Year finalists await the selection of winners.

The North American Car and Truck of the Year finalists await the selection of winners.

Much as what Chris said about the Detroit show is true, there are a couple of valuable aspects of the NAIAS that Chris didn’t mention, aspects that make it worth going through the hassle of getting credentials, dealing with bad weather, all that hard cement under the D.E. McNabb company’s carpeting, and trying to survive the heard of ravenous autojournalists, general journalists and assorted hangers on.

To begin with, for a writer or journalist interested in cars and the auto industry, particularly one that doesn’t work for a large, establishment media organization, the NAIAS is an opportunity to ask questions of executives and engineers that would otherwise be mostly off-limits. Doron Levin, Dan Neil or Paul Ingrassia can get someone like Ford CEO Mark Fields on the phone but while TTAC is fairly influential and read in the executive suites of automakers (we’ve seen the IP addresses in the logs) I rather doubt that the switchboard at the glass house in Dearborn will put me through. While much of the “news” that is generated at the NAIAS is prepacked press releasese, I use the occasion to get answers to my own questions, creating the chance for publishing something genuinely newsworthy.

I hadn't seen it announced, but at least one Chinese car company will have a display and press conference at the NAIAS media preview.

I hadn’t seen it announced, but at least one Chinese car company, Guangzhou, will have a display and press conference at the NAIAS media preview. 

Then there is the social aspect of the NAIAS. Derek Kreindler and I exchange emails almost daily and speak on the phone every week or two. Jack Baruth and I are in contact even more frequently than that, since our friendship includes interests in things other than cars. However, just about the only time that I see them face to face is at the NAIAS. The same is true for other car writers that I know, even those based in Detroit. There are mentors of mine like Paul Abelson of Land Line magazine and the aforementioned Mr.Levin, currently at Fortune, and it’s good to see them. You also get to meet people that you might otherwise not meet. The only place I’d likely come across Chris Harris himself would be at the NAIAS, well, if he attended.

Besides writing colleagues and people who work for the car companies, over the years I’ve gotten to know some of the people working for the show itself, like Jeannie, the nice lady who runs the credentials process, and then there are the professionally beautiful women. For a beta geezer like me it’s worth a 20 minute drive just to hang with Caroline and Renee, though you won’t see me try to impress them trying to bust a hip hop move at Cobo. Nor anywhere else, though the ethanol (and otherwise) enhanced conversations at the Pink Palace in Allen Park are always fun.

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Some Teamsters were delivering a Graham Paige “Sharknose” for one of the NAIAS displays. A pleasant surprise since I’m one of the relatively few people who know about the car, a personal favorite and likely the first Batmobile.

While I understand Chris Harris’ reticence about coming to frigid Detroit in January, for a car guy like me and likely you the NAIAS is an unparalleled experience. For TTAC writers it’s a great opportunity to cover a big automotive event with a perspective that’s not the same as what you’ll hear from the heard. Also, for Detroiters, the NAIAS is a Big Deal. There are going to be about 6,000 people with media credentials, many of them from the international press and broadcasting industries. Add in all of the people working at the show for car companies that are not based in Detroit. A few years back, Volkswagen flew in a Lufthansa culinary crew, not from New York’s Kennedy airport, but from Munich. Hotels are booked up, restaurant reservations are hard to come by.

From an automotive standpoint It’s going to be an exciting show. It’s been five years since the funereal atmosphere of the 2009 NAIAS. The industry is making money and the horsepower wars continue unabated even as hybrids and EVs proliferate. Things are going so well in the industry that some pundits caution against irrational exuberance. As important as it was to attend the show in 2009 when the industry was in crisis mode, it’s equally important to gauge the industry by the NAIAS when things are going well. We may not see huge shrimp cocktails per the New York Times’ cliche about the Detroit show, but people being people, profitable companies will put on the Ritz trying to impress.

One of the reasons why I was disappointed in Chris Harris’ slagging off of Detroit was that for a car enthusiast there are so many places of interest, museums and the like for them to enjoy, and not just for car enthusiasts. Over the past few decades a steady number of rhythm & blues music fans from Harris’ homeland in the UK and other parts of Europe have come to Detroit to see not just Motown’s Hitsville USA, but also the sites of other recording studios and night clubs where musicians like Jackie Wilson and John Lee Hooker played.

The Motor City has a legendary musical history and culture that includes great blues and jazz performers as well as the relatively better known rock and Motown acts. As a longtime music fan whose collection of over 1,100 vinyl and CD recordings along with about 400 hours of live tape, some of which I recorded myself, I can state unequivocally that you’ll be blown away by the talent you can see for free at open jams held just about every night of the week around the Motor City. Check out the Detroit Blues Society’s open jam and scheduled appearances for details.

On Sunday night, just before the press days, after I meet and schmooze with my friends and colleagues at the Pink Palace in Allen Park, I’ll be heading to the Blue Goose Inn way over on the other side of town in Ste Claire Shores to catch an open jam hosted by Jim McCarty. In addition to being a founding member of Cactus and the Rockets, Jim played a bunch seminal rock riffs as the lead guitarist in the Detroit Wheels, fronted by Mitch Ryder. Sock It To Me Baby. Jim’s such a great guitar player that there’s a false rumor circulating that Mike Bloomfield, who did a lot of session work, played lead on the Wheels’ hits. The rumor pisses McCarty off, and rightly so, but in a way, it’s a huge compliment to be mistaken for Bloomfield, one of the guitar gods.

Guitarist Jim McCarty, at the Blue Goose Inn, Saint Claire Shores, MI

Guitarist Jim McCarty, at the Blue Goose Inn, Saint Claire Shores, MI

More than likely, one of the other players at the jam will be a 14 year old kid named Brendon Linsley, who’s been adopted by the players in the Detroit blues scene. He’s homeschooled so it’s not unusual to see him, chaperoned by his parents, at a club on a school night. You can find lots of young teens with great musical chops on YouTube, but Brendon has an old soul, as more than one player has put it. He’ll play some unique riff and experienced professional players will perk up their ears and pay attention.

If you’re in town for the media preview and go to the Goose and want to say hello, I’ll be the geezer with the graying red beard and a fedora (not sure if it will be black or grey) with a faux “press” card in my hat band.

I’m not sure who all is going to be at the NAIAS, but The Truth About Cars will have at least three writers on-site at Cobo, Derek, Jack and myself, and our sister site, Autoguide, will have a crew there as well. If there is something particular you’d like for us to do at the NAIAS, a question you’d like answered or a newly revealed car you’d like details on, please let us know in the comments.

A clearer shot of the Sharknose, just because.

A clearer shot of the Sharknose, just because.

* I was going to say “North America’s biggest auto show” but the folks at the Chicago Auto Show have been very nice to me so I will point out that the CAS usually has more cars on display than the Detroit show, and attendance at the McCormick Place event is a little bit higher than the million or so people who attend the NAIAS. Detroit is the king daddy, though, when it comes to new product and concept reveals. About 1/5th the number of journalists attend the Chicago show as register for Detroit.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Editorial: Someone Is Making Money In Mid-Size Trucks http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/editorial-someone-making-money-mid-size-trucks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/editorial-someone-making-money-mid-size-trucks/#comments Fri, 09 Jan 2015 22:27:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=974034 Hats off to Toyota. With the release of the revised 2016 Tacoma, they sit ready to be both the reigning king of the mid-size truck market, and the auto maker that is best positioned to profit off this niche segment. Serious observers of the industry agree that mid-size trucks don’t matter. Once a popular segment, […]

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Hats off to Toyota. With the release of the revised 2016 Tacoma, they sit ready to be both the reigning king of the mid-size truck market, and the auto maker that is best positioned to profit off this niche segment.

Serious observers of the industry agree that mid-size trucks don’t matter. Once a popular segment, they have been on an inexorable decline in recent years.

Just over a decade ago, the Ford Ranger accounted for 226,000 units alone. Today, the entire mid-size truck market is worth roughly 225,000 units, in a truck market worth about 1.7 million units, and an overall market of over 17 million units. The Toyota Tacoma sold 155,000 units, making up 6 percent of the truck market, down 2.8 percent from 2013. The second place Nissan Frontier sold just 74,000 units.

A new look and some incremental improvements in fuel economy may be all that’s needed – especially with gas at record lows. The GM mid-sizers might be better trucks in an objective sense, but much of the Taco’s appeal in key markets like California likes in the fact that it’s not a domestic truck. In the same way that California surf bros wouldn’t be caught dead driving an American truck, the heartland truck consumer won’t entertain the idea of a mid-size import truck – and in the most important pickup markets, that will forever doom them to irrelevancy, since a domestic full-size truck represents a better value and a better badge.

Reaction to the new Tacoma was muted on this site and elsewhere, with many wondering if it was just a refresh of the current model. But why would Toyota do anything else? The Taco has been the top dog in the mid-size truck market for over a decade. Toyota is even planning to up capacity at a second plant to build even more Tacomas (partially to help free up capacity for the Tundra at its Texas plant, partially to lower labor costs by building them in Mexico).

The end goal, of course, is profit. Mid-size trucks are a fairly tough segment to make it in. But Toyota already owns the niche, and the combination of already amortized development costs and a commanding sales lead only strengthens their position. GM may well offer the better truck – but they won’t have the better balance sheet.

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Junkyard Find: 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1977-ford-maverick-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1977-ford-maverick-sedan/#comments Thu, 08 Jan 2015 14:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=973001 You just don’t see Ford Mavericks and their Mercury Comet brethren on the street these days; they haven’t picked up a huge amount of collector interest and their place at the bottom of the just-above-scrap-value beater-car food chain has been replaced by the early Ford Taurus. For some reason, though, a steady trickle of Mavericks […]

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06 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinYou just don’t see Ford Mavericks and their Mercury Comet brethren on the street these days; they haven’t picked up a huge amount of collector interest and their place at the bottom of the just-above-scrap-value beater-car food chain has been replaced by the early Ford Taurus. For some reason, though, a steady trickle of Mavericks and Comets shows up in California wrecking yards. My guess, based on the 1980s and 1990s detritus I find in some of them, is that they spent a decade or three forgotten in a back yard or driveway before being sold to U-Wrench-It. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’75 Maverick two-door, this ’75 Comet sedan, this ’77 Comet sedan, and now today’s ’77 Maverick sedan. Let’s examine this Malaise Mainstay more closely.
03 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinBack in the early 1980s, the owner of this car was willing to put the sticker that saved Ford from the biggest recall in automotive-industry history on his dash. Most of the 23 million owners of the affected vehicles opted not to uglify their dashes with these “Park-To-Reverse” stickers.
14 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI’m not sure what an Oregon Free Ride sticker was for, but I’m guessing that neither ass, nor grass, nor ass is involved.
07 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI couldn’t get the hood to open, but there’s about a 99.999% chance that what’s underneath is not interesting. Probably a 7-horsepower 200 L6 or a 9-horsepower 302 V8, yawn (cue enraged emails from the Maverick Jihad™, letting me know that the 200 made 96 hp and the 302 made 130 hp).
05 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinStill one hubcap left!

01 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 02 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 03 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 04 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 05 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 07 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 06 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 14 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 12 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 11 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 10 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 09 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 08 - 1977 Ford Maverick Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin

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Editorial: Subaru Is Proof That Boring Sells http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/editorial-subaru-proof-boring-sells/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/editorial-subaru-proof-boring-sells/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 18:23:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=971762 2014 was a banner year for Subaru. The Japanese auto maker sold a record 500,000 units in the United States. Capacity is bursting at the seams – Subaru simply cannot meet demand without their upcoming expansion at their Indiana plant, and they had to kick the Toyota Camry out just to be able to build […]

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2014 was a banner year for Subaru. The Japanese auto maker sold a record 500,000 units in the United States. Capacity is bursting at the seams – Subaru simply cannot meet demand without their upcoming expansion at their Indiana plant, and they had to kick the Toyota Camry out just to be able to build more cars. One industry source told us that in terms of pure retail sales (fleet, daily rental etc excluded) Subaru beat Hyundai – who would have imagined that even 5 years ago.

Subaru’s lineup is also more “boring” than ever. There are no more manual Outbacks, no more WRX hatchbacks, no turbocharged Legacy models, no more pure wagons. In short, none of the products that make enthusiasts adore the brand. I don’t think it matters.

Outside of a small pocket of New England states, Subaru has perennially struggled to gain a proper foothold in the marketplace. In the epilogue to the seminal marketing book Where The Suckers Moon, the author notes that after a repeated series of mis-steps in terms of both product and marketing, Subaru finally scored a hit with the Outback – in 1995.

It’s taken roughly another 15 years for their lineup of visually bland, mechanically quirky all-wheel drive cars to gain serious traction (no pun intended) outside of the Yankees-and-alternative-lifestyle crowd, and be taken seriously as a mainstream alternative to the Camcords and EsCR-V’s.

The big winners in 2014, in terms of sales were products that were designed to broaden the brand’s appeal to American consumers: the Impreza, Forester, Crosstrek and Outback, which have all undergone some form of commodification to scrub performance variants, manual transmissions and other idiosyncrasies from their lineup. Sales of the Forester were up 29 percent, the Outback up 18. Even the Legacy, the car which has arguably lost most of what once made it cool (turbo engines, stick shifts, wagons) is up 24 percent. Even the new WRX and STI posted a 42 percent gain in sales, despite not having the beloved hatchback body style. The big losers are the low volume BRZ and the aging Tribeca.

Clearly, the new direction is working. Part of that comes down to Subaru’s shrewd positioning in the post-recession era, where its relatively quirky image, standard all-wheel drive, safety-focused marketing campaigns and competitive prices made it attractive not just to consumers who may have bought a mainstream brand, but those who wanted something off-beat, but no longer saw the value in a foreign luxury brand. My parents are a good example of this. They now have a Volvo XC60 T6, but won’t be buying another one, thanks to a series of price increases by Volvo. The new Outback is high on their list. Are they upset about the demise of the turbo engines? No, but not for reasons you think. Says Mum: “We had a GL 10 Turbo and loved it. But when the turbo died, we sold it. It will be nice not to have to worry about that anymore.” Yes, the plural of anecdote isn’t data, but last year alone gave us half a million data points to examine. Pretty convincing numbers if you ask me.

 

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So What Makes Expensive Cars So Terrible, Anyway? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/makes-expensive-cars-terrible-anyway/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/makes-expensive-cars-terrible-anyway/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 14:30:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=972697 Derek’s editorial yesterday on the idea that you need to look upmarket for truly awful cars nowadays ruffled quite a few feathers among the B&B. Some of you thought Derek was simply repeating the usual TTAC tropes. Others wanted to hear more about why expensive cars often fail to meet the same expectations that a […]

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Derek’s editorial yesterday on the idea that you need to look upmarket for truly awful cars nowadays ruffled quite a few feathers among the B&B. Some of you thought Derek was simply repeating the usual TTAC tropes. Others wanted to hear more about why expensive cars often fail to meet the same expectations that a Camry or CR-V easily exceed. To the first group of readers, I can only say: You’re going to hear about ethics in journalism on this site almost half as often as you heard about the Chevy Sonic when they were co-branding with Jalopnik. To the second group of readers: click the jump, okay?

We can break this down into three questions:

0. Why is it tougher to build a great upmarket car than it is to build a great mass-market car, if indeed that is the case?
1. Assuming the truth of the above assertion, why does anybody buy these not-so-great cars?
2. What is the mechanism by which this mediocrity is perpetuated?

Derek went some way to answer the third question with his column; I’ll only say in addition that the prestige manufacturers are much more sensitive about the behavior of their media, ahem, partners than the mass-market crowd is. You can say some pretty harsh things about Volkswagens and still catch an invite to next year’s event. Criticizing the Robb Report brands, even by praising them faintly, is unforgivable unless you have a really big media organization standing behind you.

Enough about that, let’s turn to Question Zero. What I’d like to suggest to you is that it was easier to build a great prestige car than it was to build a great mass-market one — until the Seventies or thereabouts, when the game changed and the opposite became true. The successful London merchant who was the owner of a Rolls-Royce or Aston Martin circa 1950 could be reasonably assured that his money had purchased a car that was more reliable, and more durable, (remember, these aren’t the same thing; a 1978 Accord was reliable, a 1978 911SC was durable) than the prole-mobiles driven by his house staff.

His grandson, however, is likely to find that his Rolls-Royce Ghost or Aston Vantage doesn’t run for as well or as long as the Corollas and Cruzes with which it shares the Queen’s road. Across the pond, it’s common knowledge that an Ohio-built four-cylinder Accord can run a half-million miles with relatively little mechanical intervention and that a Maybach 62 will likely find itself facing a repair bill in excess of its value in much less than half that time.

The same’s true for performance cars. A Corvette Z06 or Shelby GT500 will run as long as you’re willing to visit your local AutoZone periodically. A Ferrari 575, on the other hand, can cost several dollars a mile to operate, as Keith Martin has demonstrated in the pages of SCM, and you’re never sure when the bill will come due. A friend and racing pal of mine has put over 100,000 miles on his ’94 Supra since he turned the wick up to 580whp. Total repair cost so far: zero.

What happened to turn the price/reliability equation on its head? It was a combination of several factors. Prior to the era of computerized design and assembly, quality was a function of materials quality, which cost money, and quality control during assembly, which also cost money. Think of a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman, chock-full of expensive materials and subject to hours of post-assembly rectification, compared to a Pinto.

Once computers got involved, however, it became a matter of available computer processor cycles in the design iteration, the size of the engineering staff, and the economies of scale possible when sharing platforms and engines over a large production volume. We all accept that the infotainment system in a low-volume sports car won’t be any good, because the cost of developing it has to be amortized over a thousand cars instead of a million and not even Rolls-Royce can make up a thousandfold shortage in volume with individual price markup. The same thing goes for everything from seat heaters to stub axles. In 1930, the route to a quality part was to put time into it. In 2015, it’s computer cycles and high production volume to absorb costs. A CNC machine makes just as perfect a part for Hyundai as it does for Aston Martin, and Hyundai can afford more design iterations for the product, as well as more eyes on the problem.

The amazing amount of engineering effort that a modern megacompany can devote to a single problem leads to unexpected dividends. When Lotus decided to create the Evora S from the Evora, they took the stock Camry engine that powers the Evora and… they added a supercharger. That was it. No reinforced internals, no “X51 Powerkit”, not even a different cam. It’s the same engine, with a supercharger, because the Camry engine is dead-nuts reliable and it has enough capacity designed in to take forced induction without any problems. Compare that to Porsche, which for years was afraid to use its modern M96 engine family in turbocharged applications because they supposedly couldn’t afford to engineer it properly. It’s hard not to suggest that the 911 would have been better off with a Toyota V-6 in the tail. It would have done wonders for the resale value, I’ll tell you that.

Of course, the rest of the Lotus Evora is straight out of the Bricklin SV-1 school of design, right down to the aftermarket radio that comes as standard equipment. Lotus probably had fewer engineers working on the entire Evora project than Toyota has working on taillights.

Therefore, when you come to an exotic or prestige car from a lifetime of owning cars that were engineered to the nth degree by hundreds of briliant people, you’re likely to be shocked at how poorly they work. I’ve driven a lot of brand new $250,000 cars and I’ll tell you that not one of them started as reliably as my Town Car did at the 100,000-mile mark. It’s common for seats to wobble, for infotainment screens to go dark, for turn signals to cut out, for the whole car to need a “reboot”. I don’t need to name names here because it’s universal.

And then you get the little problems. No prestige car since my Phaetons has managed to provide climate control that is both adequately powerful and properly unobtrusive the way it is in, say, an Infiniti Q50. Small-batch cars don’t get all the details sweated out. There isn’t time or manpower to do it. Let me tell you, the Rolls-Royce Wraith is a wonderful automobile but the iDrive just seems, shall we say, difficult compared to the same screens in a BMW 5er.

Of course, people buy the Wraith anyway, which brings us to the second question I posed above. I think you’d be better off owning a Camry than a Wraith in the long run, but in the short run I definitely want a Wraith, because it pulls tail and gets mad house on the boulevard and can spin all four wheels in a light rain shower on Ventura. If I had enough money to buy a Wraith, I wouldn’t worry about the little stuff because I’d be in search of greatness, of unique qualities, of things that you just can’t get in a Camry.

I’m not wealthy but I own a lot of things — handmade shoes, air-cooled Porsches, vintage tube amplifiers — that can’t match up to the modern mass-produced crap out there in any quantifiable manner. What I want from these things is the sense of special, so to speak. I don’t want to wear fifty-dollar Nikes and throw them away when they’re tired. I want to have my shoes recrafted and I want to live with them for decades. I want to drive down the road and not see my car coming the other way. (The alert reader will readily conclude that, with my current Accord, living thirty-three miles from the factory, this wish is not currently being granted to me in daily usage.) I want something special and I’m willing to pay in money and inconvenience to get it.

Derek hates Astons, which is ironic to a degree because we have a mutual friend in this business who openly speaks of himself as an “advocate” for the brand. When I dragged my crippled carcass to Palm Springs last April to drive the V12 Vantage S, I expected that it would be both less refined than the competition and somewhat down on pace, and those expectations were met in spades. What I was not prepared for was just how much I enjoyed the experience of driving it. Would I buy one? Probably not, at least not when I could buy two Viper TAs and a 1957 Les Paul Goldtop for what the Aston costs. But do I understand why someone would buy it? Absolutely.

It’s been forty years since someone could legitimately say that they bought something like a Silver Shadow or Ferrari Daytona because they wanted the objectively best machine they could obtain. Truth be told, even by then it was still a bit iffy — I’m not sure if a Hydragas Bentley T1 could honestly claim to be a better car than a ’69 Sedan de Ville. In 2015, however, we expect things from even the meanest Cadillac that we’d never dare to think could be had from a Rolls-Royce. Does this abandoning of the moral high ground mean that the prestige car is no longer a worthwhile proposition?

To the contrary, I’d say that the democratization of workaday virtues in the automotive market means that buying something abysmal like a Maserati GranTurismo is more justifiable than ever. When you’re standing by the side of the road with the “Replace Transmission” light blazing yellow and steam hissing from beneath the faux-vented flanks of your Italian stallion, you’re a far better person than the man who turned his Duesey-mounted nose up at the impoverished family struggling to get a fresh tire on their flivver. You’re not spending money to buy your way out of problems; you’re buying your way in. You’re paying to experience something, and if that experience is fifty percent a hand-built twelve-cylinder engine at full song and fifty percent quiet sobbing in the bathroom of the dealership service center, then who am I to judge you?

Yes, exotic cars are often terrible, but we need them, the same way we need Leslie Feist’s voice to catch when she’s singing “The Water”, the same way we need Cindy Crawford to have a mole, the same way we need Christian Bale to occasionally tear the ass off a lighting technician. They’re a reminder that human frailty often comes disguised as human greatness.

And vice versa.

The post So What Makes Expensive Cars So Terrible, Anyway? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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Editorial: There Are Still Bad Cars, But You’ll Never Hear About Them http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/editorial-still-bad-cars-youll-never-hear/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/editorial-still-bad-cars-youll-never-hear/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 18:18:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=970346 Today, I’m here to tackle one of the most insidious lies in the auto business: the notion that “there are no bad news cars on sale today.” But I’m not here to dump on the usual easy, safe targets like the Mitsubishi Mirage or the Smart Fortwo. Because, the low end, mainstream cars on sale […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Today, I’m here to tackle one of the most insidious lies in the auto business: the notion that “there are no bad news cars on sale today.” But I’m not here to dump on the usual easy, safe targets like the Mitsubishi Mirage or the Smart Fortwo. Because, the low end, mainstream cars on sale today are actually pretty good. These days, the real crap has risen to the top.

In my own experience, the most disappointing cars I’ve ever driven has tended to exist in the “premium” category.

  • The Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen is unequivocal dreck, with only the most cynical attempts to hide its origins as the personal vehicle of Reza Pahlavi. When I say cynical, I mean “throw on some wood and designo leather and charge $165,000 for a truck that was paid for in prior to the OPEC embargo”. And yet, it’s the hottest SUV on sale today.
  • The last-generation Range Rover Sport had so many warning lights on the dash that I was unable to even do a review of it during the week I had it. The new one is actually quite good.
  • The Aston Martin Vantage was the biggest letdown of my career as an auto journalist.
  • The Mercedes-Benz CLA got largely positive first drive impressions. In private, journos with a dearth of integrity admitted that it was a bad car, full stop.
  • The Lincoln MKZ. ‘Nuff said.
  • Per our own Jack Baruth: “Every Maserati ever has sucked. The Ferrari 360 and 430 are not great cars. The pre-facelift Gallardo was iffy.” Jack concurs regarding the G-Wagen and RR Sport.

Personally, I think that this does show just how good the average car is. Most cars that are available at price points accessible to the average consumer are a lot better than a lot of the tarted-up turds that are passed off as “aspirational vehicles”. Once upon a time, the delta between a Honda Accord and a Chevrolet Malibu was easily discernible, even to someone who had zero interest in cars. These days, it’s narrowed significantly, even if we consider the Malibu as one of the worst mid-size sedans on sale. That’s not to say there are no bad mainstream cars either. The Malibu, Fiat 500, Scion tC, the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ and the Toyota 4Runner all qualify as “bad” cars in my books. I am sure there are others that I’m forgetting. I still think the Camaro is the most overhyped piece of garbage on the market today, and the hometown Detroit auto media is entirely complicit in praising it with laughable hyperbole, only to turn around and crucify it a year later. Disgusting. I’ve seen more integrity during Tony Hayward’s press conferences on the Macondo blowout.

But what happens is that journalists, who depend on manufacturer access for stories and a sense of self-worth (“I may make $35,000 a year, but I can still borrow a luxury car so my wife doesn’t think I’m a failure) will give measured-but-erring-on-positive reviews (known as “the wobble”). Only when the car is replaced by a new generation vehicle will they tell you what they really think of a car. Journalists don’t want to compromise their access to the fancy cars and the lavish trips that come with them, since they are a form of professional validation, both externally, and within the incestuous world of automotive writers. Better to be able to brag on social media about the all-expenses-paid off-road safari or autobahn jaunt than to keep the best interest of the readership at heart.

And as much as everyone cries out for honest, objective, take no prisoners car reviews, they never believe you when you do give a car a bad review. When I criticized the Jeep Cherokee for being half-baked, many commenters doubted my impressions on the grounds that every other outlet gave the car a positive review. In the end, it turned out that the Cherokee had a lot of issues, but by then, it was too late. Our relationship with Chrysler was damaged, I spent a lot of time defending my conclusions and had to wait months to be vindicated by Consumer Reports. Some readers even called for me to be banned from Chrysler’s press fleet for daring to criticize the car.

Nobody wants to get banned from a press fleet – doubly so if it’s a premium manufacturer with desirable product. To paraphrase Bill Hicks, most journalists would spread their legs so wide, they’d crack their pelvis if it meant that they didn’t have to spend seven consecutive days at home with their wife and kids (if they even have any). Keeping quiet about a crappy car is part and parcel of this. Say the wrong thing, and the free cars and lavish junkets will disappear.

I don’t have a family, but I do live in a modest but lovely home and I have a Hertz #1 Club Gold Card. If a car sucks, you’ll hear about it.

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Junkyard Find: 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1982-toyota-land-cruiser/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1982-toyota-land-cruiser/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 14:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=971826 The FJ60 Land Cruiser is still a common sight on the streets of Denver, where I live. These things are not anywhere near as comfortable or fuel-efficient as modern SUVs, but they are just about impossible to kill… and that counts for a lot with your FJ-driving demographic around these parts. Being so prized, however, […]

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06 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe FJ60 Land Cruiser is still a common sight on the streets of Denver, where I live. These things are not anywhere near as comfortable or fuel-efficient as modern SUVs, but they are just about impossible to kill… and that counts for a lot with your FJ-driving demographic around these parts. Being so prized, however, means that you don’t see many of these trucks in high-turnover self-service wrecking yards, and when you do see one it tends to get picked clean in a hurry. I went to a local yard on a typically freezing-ass Half Price Day sale last week and spotted this remarkably un-stripped ’82.
19 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot even 300,000 miles on the clock. What went wrong?
17 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHere’s the likely explanation for the junkyardization of this truck. Rust isn’t a big problem around here, thanks to the single-digit humidity, but vehicles that live in the mountains (or relocate from the Midwest) can get like this.
01 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe pushrod F six-cylinder engine evolved from the licensed-by-Toyota-way-the-hell-back-when Chevy Stovebolt, which means it’s related to the engines used to power Toyota military trucks during the ill-fated attempt to set up the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
24 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinShoppers for 21st-century trucks would find this interior absolutely intolerable. By the standards of 1982, though, it’s pretty nice.
25 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe previous owner had some association with a school full of sullen kids forced to sit through PowerPoint presentations about stuff like the difference between “Teacher Voice” and “Outdoor Voice.”

01 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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America’s 10 Best-Selling Cars In 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/americas-10-best-selling-cars-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/americas-10-best-selling-cars-2014/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 13:32:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=972162 The Toyota Camry was America’s most popular car in 2014, the 13th consecutive year in which the Camry has led all passenger cars. The Camry ranked fourth among vehicles overall, trailing only three pickup trucks. • Camry volume represents a six-year high • Accord volume shoots up to seven-year high • Corolla leads all small […]

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2015 Toyota Camry XSEThe Toyota Camry was America’s most popular car in 2014, the 13th consecutive year in which the Camry has led all passenger cars. The Camry ranked fourth among vehicles overall, trailing only three pickup trucks.


• Camry volume represents a six-year high

• Accord volume shoots up to seven-year high

• Corolla leads all small cars


Camry volume rose to a six-year high in 2014. With a 5% increase in the lead-up to a MY2015 refresh, the Camry outsold its nearest rival, the Honda Accord, by 40,232 units. (The Accord trailed the Camry by 41,806 units in 2013.) Accord volume, at 388,374 units, improved to a seven-year high.

Despite reporting record-high U.S. sales, the Nissan Altima fell from third place in 2013 to the fourth spot this year. Altima volume increased in each of the last five years.

Toyota Corolla volume grew at a much faster rate in 2014, however, and with a 12% gain – 37,318 extra sales, year-over-year – the Corolla climbed into the third spot, up from fifth a year ago.

The Honda Civic, America’s second-best-selling car, was the highest-volume car to report fewer sales this year than last. Civic volume dropped by 10,199 in the 2014 calendar year, increasing 5% in the first half and falling 10% in the second half.

Ford reported more than 300,000 sales of the Fusion in 2014, the first Ford car to top the 300K mark since the Taurus in 2005. Sales of Chevrolet compact cars improved for the fifth consecutive year. The Cruze accounts for 25% of GM’s U.S. car volume.

Now one of the older members of the compact fleet, Elantra volume decreased 10% in 2014. Likewise, the Focus declined 6% in 2014 after falling 5% in 2013. Hyundai’s Sonata started slowly in seventh-gen form – only 30,481 were sold in September and October combined – but the Sonata ended the year strongly with an 12% YOY improvement in November and a 24% jump in December.

Rank
Car
2014
2013
%
Change
#1
 Toyota Camry 428,606 408,484 4.9%
#2
 Honda Accord 388,374 366,678 5.9%
#3
 Toyota Corolla * 339,498 302,180 12.4%
#4
 Nissan Altima 335,644 320,723 4.7%
#5
 Honda Civic 325,981 336,180 -3.0%
#6
 Ford Fusion 306,860 295,280 3.9%
#7
 Chevrolet Cruze 273,060 248,224 10.0%
#8
 Hyundai Elantra 222,023 247,912 -10.4%
#9
 Ford Focus 219,634 234,570 -6.4%
#10
 Hyundai Sonata 216,936 203,648 6.5%

* Included by the Corolla in Toyota USA’s sales reports are sales of the now defunct Matrix.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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