Category: Editorials

By on March 30, 2017

Car Wash Show - Las Vegas, Image: www.carwash.org

That’s right, there’s an annual Car Wash Show.

And, of course, it’s in Vegas.

Next week, I’ll be knee-deep in cleaning supplies, equipment and professional services offered to the car wash industry. And I need your assistance to get the most from this opportunity. Read More >

By on March 29, 2017

Saturn Vue Hybrid Engine Bay, Image: © 2017 Bozi Tatarevic

Last week, I noticed a new stain on the driveway in the spot where my wife parks our Saturn Vue Hybrid. A quick sniff test revealed it to be automatic transmission fluid and an inspection of the Vue showed a leak at the transmission pan gasket. The car has just crossed the 100,000 mile mark and the worn gasket decided to accelerate my plans for a transmission fluid change.

Like many modern cars, the transmission dipstick is absent on the Vue, so checking the level is not a quick task. Adding fluid is even more time consuming and requires removal and disassembly of multiple components just to get to the fill plug.

I went out and picked up a filter, gasket, and some ATF and decided to tackle the convoluted process of this transmission fluid change.

Read More >

By on March 23, 2017

Mark Stevenson's Former 1995 Ford Bronco, Image: © 2011 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

It was 2011. I’d just lost my job working in the lower 48 while on a TN visa. Uncle Sam has some strict rules when it comes to trying to find another job when you’ve lost your sponsored “NAFTA” ride, so I needed to get out of Texas in a hurry and back to my homeland with all my possessions.

There was just one big problem: I had too many vehicles, and needed to decide which part of my motorized fleet to cull before the journey.

Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible, Image: Chris Feola

I am the unfrozen cave man of car buyers. Every decade or so, a machine shaman whispers the magic words in my ear — You’re gonna need a new engine — and I leave my cave, shaking my fist at the great ball of fire in the sky, and go looking for one, always packaged in a new steed.

This habit has several interesting side effects. There are crazed leaps in technology when you only go car shopping once a decade or so. In 2001, I turned down a $1,500 option to add a hard wired Motorola Razr to my BMW X5; in 2016, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay were standard on my base 2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible.

Another is that I’ve just purchased my fourth car, despite being well into my fifth decade driving.

Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

Cadillac XT5 and XTS Badges, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

Don’t listen to anybody who tries to tell you that all new cars are about the same nowadays, even if they’re referring to the inhabitants of a particular market segment. While I was at my local auto show last week, I took a few minutes to pretend that I was still my 2005-or-thereabouts self and that I was in the market for a new car. I was a different man back then: childless, fancy-free, still pushin’ those Schedule Twos, and personally addicted to flossin’ in the finest full-sized sedans that did not attract a Flying Spur’s worth of attention from the authorities.

Back then, I divided my street car, four-door wheel time between a Volkswagen PhaetonAudi A8, and Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG. I thought I’d look at a few bland big-ballers and pick a favorite using the same criteria that drove my decisions lo these many years ago. Started with the Genesis G90. Now this is a nice car. Lots of room, acceptable interior quality, and the blank-faced menacing mien that used to come standard with fuselage New Yorkers. And such a bargain, too. Make mine the V8 AWD. Hell, I thought about buying one right now but I can no longer justify spending more than $50,000 on a new car unless it has a snake badge on the nose.

Next up: Lincoln Continental. The G90 makes it feel tight inside but this is the one to have for interior ambiance. Bright, airy, and chock-full of unashamed, authentic design for design’s sake. I never thought the day would come when an American car would be able to compete heads-up with Audi in the cockpit, but the Continental absolutely makes the case.

Last on the list, the Cadillac CT6. Well, what can we say about that?

Read More >

By on March 15, 2017

wagons

CJinSD, FRONT AND CENTER! Thank you. Today, you will be recognized for having a very well-polished crystal ball. You were able to see five years into the future with near-perfect accuracy. Time for you to accept your prize, which is a whole bunch of EXPOSURE! Don’t spend it all in one place.

Read More >

By on March 14, 2017

Former B-Body Bubble Lot, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

Nearly eight years ago, I sold my Caprice Classic Estate to a collector who claimed to have several dozen “bubble wagons”. Shortly afterwards, I spotted my purple-and-woodgrain Chevy in a storage lot; I called the lot Eclectic Bubbleland. This past weekend I drove by the lot for the first time in a year or two, on the way back from Sunday brunch. To my surprise, all the bubbles were gone. In fact, the place was nearly empty. Only a two-tone quad-lamp Eldorado remained.

Where have all the bubbles gone?

Read More >

By on March 9, 2017

1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard, Image: © Murilee Martin

It was a six-figure mistake that just boiled down to this: Steve wasn’t reading the book correctly. Now we were all going to pay.

I gunned my red-and-black ’86 Ninja 600 up the final hill on the road to the Infiniti dealer where I was the lowest salesman on the proverbial totem pole, briefly touching redline in third then clamping the soggy brakes down hard for the left turn into the back lot. It was a Saturday morning in the spring of 1994, and despite my best Tom-Cruise-in-Top Gun impression on the way there, I was already 10-minutes late for work. Normally this wouldn’t matter much; our sales staff tended to filter in by dribs and drabs between 8:00 a.m. and the sales meeting at 8:30, which rarely started on time anyway.

This Saturday was different. The general manager for our (pathetic little) dealership group was in town, and he’d demanded everybody arrive by 8:00 for an emergency meeting. I was going to be the last man into the basement conference room, which meant that I stood a good chance of going back home that morning without a job. The Ninja squeaked to an uneasy halt and dieseled for a petulant half-second after I killed the ignition. Struggling to get my shirt’s top button closed and my tie pulled up to match, I ran towards the door, hobbling a bit because the sole on my right shoe had worn through to the sock some time in the previous week. In every sense you could think of, I was on the bubble: flat broke, still below the monthly draw after 17 days, starting to develop the panicky tic that betrays the poor fellow who needs your business too much to excite anything but your contempt.

There was a general nervous titter as I burst through the door, breathing hard, and darted towards the only open seat in the room. It was empty because it was directly in front of the general manager. “As I was saying,” he spat, giving me a look that seemed to indicate that today was my last day in the near-luxury sales business, “you’ve all really screwed the pooch here. I’d like to fire every one of you. None of you would make it a week on a real car lot. But since God looks after fools and morons, you’re all getting another chance. And we’re gonna spend some real money to turn all of you losers … into winners.”

Read More >

By on March 3, 2017

Fictional Autonomous Ford in Super Bowl Commercial

They roll in weekly. We watch them. We rub our hands together with schadenfroh glee.

I’m speaking of Tesla Autopilot crash videos.

Like a train wreck, we seem unable to avert our eyes from videos depicting the Silicon Valley darling’s sheetmetal kissing concrete dividers and other animate and inanimate objects. Time and time again, owners of Tesla’s Autopilot-equipped Model S and Model X vehicles throw caution to the wind and let the computer issue orders in situations when it’s imperative there be human intervention.

And it’s not going to change — not tomorrow, not ever — until we alter course. That’s because we’re trying to answer the wrong question when it comes to autonomous mobility.

Read More >

By on February 23, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LT Front 3/4, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

It wasn’t long ago that the Detroit Three were fending off the Japanese on home soil as the Land of the Rising Sun cranked out reliable car after reliable car for the American masses. Then came the Koreans — Kia and Hyundai — who brought over cheap metal to win market share but quickly turned around their quality and reliability woes and produced some of the best products in the industry.

So why is it that, after 108 years of building automobiles, General Motors still manufactures abysmal garbage?

Read More >

By on February 23, 2017

Jiffy Lube in Durham, Image: By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Last year, I told you that your quick-lube place was probably snitching on you to your insurance company — and to Carfax. Did you make any changes in the way you have your car serviced because of that? I’m thinking that you did not, because you probably have nothing to hide. A surprising number of the commenters on that article were on the side of the insurance companies and Carfax, and their rationale was generally some variant on “I’m not going to commit insurance fraud, nor will I commit odometer fraud, so why should I care if my car’s mileage is in a database somewhere?”

Earlier this week, Scott Adams learned the hard way what you, the TTAC reader, already know about the relationship between small auto business and Big Data. For him, however, the lesson might come at a major cost. Because this time, the data was wrong.

Read More >

By on February 17, 2017

2017 Buick Model Lineup from Buick Website

“Buick revealed its Cascada convertible, an elegant four-seater that will go on sale in the USA in the first quarter of 2016. This marks another example of the two brands’ successful collaboration, which already includes the jointly-developed Buick Encore and Opel Mokka, the Buick Verano and Opel Astra notchback as well as the Buick Regal and Opel Insignia,” proclaimed Opel in January 2016, just ahead of the Cascada’s reveal in Detroit.

One paragraph. Four products that intrinsically link Opel and Buick.

It’s no surprise, then, that General Motors’ possible sale of Opel to Peugeot has those in and out of the RenCen wondering: What of Buick?

Read More >

By on February 15, 2017

audiad

You might not have heard about it, but Audi ran a rather controversial advertisement during the Super Bowl a couple of weeks ago. If the Lords Of The Four Rings wanted to get people talking, they certainly succeeded, although not all the reaction was positive. Right-wing websites screeched that the ad was a “SJW hugbox” or a “feminist fantasy.” At the same time, the decidedly lefty Twitter hive mind was attempting to crucify Audi for offering a weasel-word response to queries about its own compensation policies for women. One rather suspects that the company did not forecast this kind of bipartisan draw-and-quarter when they were laying out their goals for their $10M Super Bowl spend.

My brief analysis of the ad spot was remarkably popular and it was linked out from all over the Internet. It was also very far from the only think piece generated by Audi’s gorgeous but problematic mini-film. The day after the Super Bowl, you could go anywhere from “Arf-com” to the “Last Psychiatrist” sub-Reddit to find a vigorous discussion on the merits of the ad. You’d be hard-pressed at this point to find someone who didn’t have at least a casual opinion on the subject.

With that said, I can give you a few names of some people who clearly didn’t see Audi’s paean to empowered, independent young women who are worth just as much as their male counterparts in the only scale that has ever mattered — cold, hard cash, naturally. These people, rather surprisingly, appear to work for Audi Atlanta’s promotional team.

Read More >

By on February 13, 2017

1992 Honda Prelude Si Manual, Image: Austin Hartman

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

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

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

By on February 3, 2017

1960 BMW 700, Image: BMW

Following in the footsteps of last week’s Karmann Ghia article, it seemed natural to take a look at two other lesser-known German alternatives to Volkswagen’s Type 1 Beetle and the ‘Beetle-in-a-suit’ Karmann Ghia.

Like the Karmann Ghia, both were attempts to capitalize on a new and expanding market for automobiles in Germany during the postwar economic boom times. That meant that the models had to incorporate existing technology, yet also appeal to a crowd increasingly interested in performance and style. However, both had to be at least somewhat economical and practical as family cars.

The result was a series of interesting and mostly forgotten air-cooled, rear-engine, rear-drive sedans, coupes and convertibles from both BMW and NSU.

Read More >

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