Category: Customer Relations

By on September 15, 2017

2017 Kia Forte Sedan

Is there any lower form of life in the automotive biosphere than the buy-here-pay-here dealership operators?

It’s hard to see them as anything other than rent-seeking scumbags who inflate the market for inexpensive used cars, then turn around and sell those used cars to the poorest and most unfortunate members of our society for prices that are often multiples of the acquisition cost. There is literally no ethical reason for them to exist; most of the time the “down payment” charged by these dealers is more or less the true value of the car. Everything that comes afterwards is just tasty cake topping — and if the working mother or fixed-income older person buying from them misses the very last weekly payment, they can repossess the car and sell it all over again on the same ridiculous terms.

In a world without buy-here-pay-here dealers, the transaction prices of low-cost cars would eventually settle to the point where they could be bought for the “down payments” being handed over today. In fact, I’ve heard BHPH operators brag about making money on the down payment alone. The difference between one of these people and the victims of their operations, of course, is that the former has access to capital and an entry into the protected world of auto auctions.

You’ll often hear these dealers tell stories about how they “help their community.” The members of the community, of course, know better. They can see the BHPH dealers living high on the hog many miles away from the low-income areas in which the lots are deliberately placed right next to liquor stores and lottery ticket providers. So it’s no wonder they feel no sense of loyalty to their “dealers” and will often make the cars disappear without further payment if they can. To combat this, the BHPH people will often have remotely-operated ignition blocks installed into their vehicles. If you don’t make the payment, or if the dealer fails to record the payment correctly, your car is shut off — regardless of where you are or what you need to do with the car next. If you don’t deal with the bottom feeders of the auto biz, you’ve probably never seen one.

That might be about to change.

Read More >

By on June 23, 2017

A Frat Bro in Cadillac Country

“Pshhh, it’s not that fast. Your car is faster,” the young man wearing the Alpha Gamma Delta shirt said to his blonde companion. We were in the parking lot of a stadium in Orange County, under the shade of a white tent with a Cadillac logo, beside a sign reading: “ACCELERATION.” It was unclear which Cadillac he was disparaging, as both the ATS-V and CTS-V were available for full-throttle rips. He may have been trying to goad his girlfriend into driving, but the trash talk indicated this was no press junket.

Welcome to the Southern California edition of Cadillac’s Truth + Dare summer tour across America.

Two weeks earlier, I was wondering how the hell I was targeted on Twitter by a Cadillac ad with an invitation to a ride-and-drive event. For financial reasons, “automotive journalist” doesn’t fit the profile of a typical Cadillac customer. My BMW Z3 recently celebrated its 20th birthday. But they weren’t asking for my tax returns and I’m fascinated by the Cadillac brand, so this seemed like an opportunity to see how they present themselves to the public. All I had to do was drive from Los Angeles to Anaheim on a Friday at 2:00 p.m. Read More >

By on June 12, 2017

Car dealership, Image: VadimGuzhva/Bigstock.com

Years back, after the desire to purchase one particularly fetching model became too great, you walked into the dealership, marched right over to the salesman’s cubbyhole, and signed over several years’ worth of payments on your ride du jour. Bliss ensued.

Unfortunately, come trade-in time, your once-desirable ride isn’t even worth the amount left owing. You’re in negative equity, pardner. Still, buyers faced with this situation have a number of options at their disposal.

Thanks to a recent study of new car buyers, we now know exactly how owners of low-value trade-ins chose to deal with their unexpected debt. Read More >

By on May 23, 2017

Tesla Supercharger

Chatty Tesla owners who compel their friends and family to consider buying a Model S or X are apparently behind the company’s U-Turn on paid Supercharger use.

At the beginning of the year, Tesla, in a bid to fund a doubling of its fast-charge network, withdrew a big perk from the purchase of one of its vehicles: free Supercharger use. No longer would new buyers be able to sail off in their new Tesla, confident in their ability to juice up at one of the 750-plus stations scattered across North America. Owners who purchased their vehicle prior to January 1st were grandfathered.

Supercharger hogs were also slapped with an “idling” fee, all in the hopes of freeing up space at the stations. While the pricing structure remains — new buyers receive 400 kWh of annual free charging with their purchase, after which a variable fee applies — there’s now a way to get unlimited free power. Read More >

By on May 4, 2017

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

If supermarkets, gasoline retailers and a slew of other automakers can offer branded credit cards, why not Nissan?

The Japanese automaker most closely associated with the word “value” is throwing a perk at its customer base, rolling out a consumer credit card program to turn those fuel and meal purchases into real Nissan cents.

The Nissan Visa card, offered through Synchrony Financial, allows dedicated brand loyalists (with good credit) to collect points towards a new or pre-owned Nissan vehicle, or servicing. While some owners might entertain thoughts of gassing and eating their way into a new Armada, the card’s other features are probably a bigger draw. The fine print, however, might prove less tempting. Read More >

By on April 19, 2017

2017 Lincoln Continental

Say you’ve just gone through the hassle of buying a new Lincoln. It’s out there, sitting in the driveway, but you’ve got things to do. It doesn’t own you. You’re busy, and worthy of love.

Well, for a fee, Lincoln will set you up with someone nice. (No, not that kind of setup.) The automaker has created a pilot program called Lincoln Chauffeur, which delivers just what it states: a driver to ferry you around as you work on your tablet, drop you off at the airport and return the car home, or run out to the Safeway for sprouts. Read More >

By on November 21, 2016

2008_09_01_09_Tacoma_ACab (1)

Rust, as Neil Young once said, never sleeps, and neither will Toyota — at least, not until it has fulfilled its 12-year promise to inspect and replace (if necessary) hundreds of thousands of corroded truck frames.

Toyota has agreed to pay up to $3.4 billion to appease owners of several previous-decade truck models who launched a class-action lawsuit against the company. Replacing those severely rusted frames won’t be an easy task, and there could be plenty of vehicles needing a completely new skeleton. Read More >

By on November 13, 2016

Tesla Supercharger

With lengthy repair times, parts shortages, and colossal distances between locations, Tesla is having real difficulties effectively servicing its current customer base as complaints begin to mount.

While certainly unfortunate news, this will be nothing compared to what it will face when the upcoming Model 3 starts needing the EV equivalent of an oil change.

Read More >

By on October 27, 2016

2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited, Image: © 2016 Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

Feeling burned by your former suitor? Want to get even with the German who caused you so much trouble and heartache?

Hyundai wants disenfranchised Volkswagen diesel owners to run into the warm arms of their caring South Korean friend and has a tailor-made deal ready to rope them in.

Commence operation “V-Plan.” Read More >

By on October 5, 2016

2017 Toyota Highlander

Interbrand released its annual list of the world’s top 100 brands, a ranking that now contains an independent automaker.

While Toyota climbs one spot to the No. 5 position (the highest of all automakers), Tesla has muscled its way onto the field, slotting at No. 100. Volkswagen continues the brand value descent it began last year, falling from No. 35 to No. 40 and posting a value decline of 9 percent.

There’s grim news for GM, as none of its brands made the list this year.
Read More >

By on October 4, 2016

2017 Bentley Bentayga:

You’re a busy person, and standing at a gas station with a nozzle in your hand is for plebes.

Not to put too much of undergrad term paper slant on it, but that’s what Bentley silently suggests by rolling out a trial fuel delivery service for its owners. The ultra-luxury automaker has teamed up with U.S. tech startup Filld to offer the perk. Read More >

By on October 3, 2016

toyota-2015-world-of-toyota-article-news-events-kirobo-mini-gallery-image-03_tcm-11-559269

On the surface, it seems creepy and/or pathetic, but it could be a healthy new revenue stream for Toyota.

The automaker plans to begin offering a small, talking robot to Japanese customers this winter — a strategic product for an aging population with a low birthrate, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Kirobo Mini is designed to replace family members you don’t have, which might explain why it will criticize your driving habits. Read More >

By on September 23, 2016

2017 Cadillac XT5, Image: © 2016 Matthew Guy/The Truth About Cars

If dealership owners spring for a recent offer by the president of Cadillac, expect to see a vastly reduced brand presence in towns and cities across the U.S.

Johan de Nysschen is offering 400 low-volume Cadillac dealers cash to close up shop and walk away, Automotive News reports. Read More >

By on September 22, 2016

General Motors #AMERICA

General Motors is searching for savings under every RenCen couch cushion as it ramps up a profit-boosting cost-cutting effort.

The automaker has already chopped plenty of what it sees as fat, and is so confident in its streamlining abilities that it now claims it could weather a major plunge in sales. Even, say, a 40-percent dropoff.

For a company that knows all about sales plunges — recent ones, too — this is pretty confident talk. It has to be, as GM wants you — yes, you! — to invest. Read More >

By on September 12, 2016

Front Side Pose oF 2009 Ford F-150 Platinum In Black

Just because your vehicle is the most popular model in the world doesn’t mean there’s spare parts stashed in every storage room and broom closet.

The owner of one 2009 F-150 crew cab found this out the hard way, forcing him to turn to the media and consumer rights groups to keep his truck driveable after an extensive search for a replacement part turned up dry. Read More >

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