If there is a hell, you will probably find it on Craigslist.
Category: Hammer Time
There a few things I can’t wrap my mind around these days.
Take for example, Zipcar. The car sharing firm that supposedly offers the Millenial vibe, is actually run by the
old GM dumping ground for unpopular vehicles established rental company Avis.
That’s not a bad thing at all. Long story short, the opportunity for Zipcar to buy and manage vehicles at Avis procurement levels makes what was once a pipe dream, financially realistic. Avis gets to expand their fleet with minimal overhead costs (the two companies share the same vehicle fleet), and Zipcar gets to focus on expanding the idea of car sharing.
The problem for me is that the economics of car sharing under a corporate umbrella is still a bad idea for 99% of the folks out there.
I am pacing back and forth in a 200 square foot wooden building that I had exchanged for a 1996 Volvo 850 sedan back in 2008.
“What the hell am I going to write about? I know nothing about racing! Zip!”
“Well Steve, maybe we can arrange for a few interviews.”
“Would they be racers?”
“Owners? Hookers? How about the guy who fires the gun?”
A 33 foot stretch limo that was formerly owned by a
famous run down strip club in Miami.
Two small TV’s that dated back to the beginning of the Clinton era.
Cheap burgundy upholstery that I probably would never want to study with a forensic light.
104,000 miles, and a corded phone right next to the champagne glasses in the mini-bar. Oh, and it was a Cadillac. Not just any Cadillac. But the last of the old-school rear wheel drive Cadillac Fleetwoods with rear-wheel drive and the 350 V8.
Everyone screws up at some point when it comes to cars. But when I screw up… it’s something truly special.
There it stood, right next to the Michael Jordan Wheaties display.
A brand-new 1992 yellow Geo Metro convertible.
Price Chopper, a local New York supermarket chain (think Pathmark or Albertson’s on crack) was opening up a brand new location in Saratoga Springs.
The Metro would be the perfect vehicle for upstate New York’s salty roads and wickedly cold weather for one irrefutable reason. It was free… after tax, tag and title. The only thing I had to do was figure out how to win it.
So I got busy. 150 entries a day for 3 full months. 13,000 in all. The day came for the drawing, and I won!
Capitalism has no loyalties.
Everybody is replaceable.
Products. Employees. Employers. Services. Alliances. Joint Ventures. Financiers. Even the executives of multinational firms along with their board of directors are only as good as whatever quarterly numbers can be cooked up by their ‘independent’ auditing firm.
Capitalism is the ultimate “Let’s go!”, “Do it!” and “Screw you!” of economic systems. You name the angle or need in capitalism, and chances are that there is a market substitute that can immediately fill the gap. Even government regulations can be routinely challenged by trade organizations, international courts, and the all too common political handshake.
All this reality happens… on paper.
One dollar of depreciation in four years.
Fifty-five miles per gallon.
Forty-eight thousand miles.
I may have very well owned the cheapest car in America a few years ago. Back in 2009, I bought a 2001 Honda Insight with 145,000 miles for all of $4001 at an auction. After four years and with 193,000 miles, I sold it last year for exactly $4000.
That’s all well and good, but let’s face it folks. I’m in the car business. Plus, a first generation Honda Insight is pretty much a cheat when it comes to cheap cars. It was designed with stingy bastards like me in mind who use the edge of the technological envelope instead of individual ingenuity and improvisation.
That Insight was a cheap car… but definitely not a beater. Why? Too much money and too few stories about personal travels and other unique mayhem. To me, a beater is a concept that has far more to do with the owners than the actual car.
That was the asking price for a 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser down at my local Chrysler dealer back in June 2008. Throw in a $1500 rebate or the “Refuel America” $2.99 per gallon guarantee into the equation, and you may have ended-up with a pre-tax, tag, title price right around $10,300.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Then again, was it? There are a lot of long-term factors to consider when approaching any of the less popular new cars that are in their last years of production. Not all will be a good deal. But you may be surprised. Join me now as we journey down the PT-shaped rabbit hole.
The bases are loaded and the score is tied. Two outs in the bottom of ninth. 3 balls. 1 strike.
You know this pitcher better than you know your brother. The last pitch had almost cleared the left field pole, and the entire stadium. Your swing was as beautiful as Mickey Mantle in his prime. Just a few inches to the right and you would have been on your way to a private party with friends instead of another walk back to the batter’s box.
The catcher signals, and you catch one finger out of the very corner of your eye. Fastball. The pitch comes, right down the middle. It’s almost like a dream and yet, you can’t do anything about it.
The stomach pangs in stress and anguish as the rest of your body remains still. You watch it go past. The thud in the catcher’s mitt. The umpire bellowing, “Stttaaarrriiikkeee!!!” Your manager had told you not to swing and now, you have 50,000 fans booing as you curse under the breath and step away from the batters box.
Will you get a pitch that good again? The pitcher grins as he now knows, his mistake ended up giving him an advantage.
An unsellable car comes in many forms.
The three-door minivan. The stickshift attached to a non-sporty wagon. The Daewoo. The conversion van with design graphics rooted in sexual fantasy.
Then there is this car. A car designed in the Reagan era with a cheap plastic grille, an even cheaper plasticized interior, and a luggage rack on the trunk that would do Lee Iacocca proud.
God I love this thing. What the hell is wrong with me?
5 cars – 5 sticks = 0 Customer Demand
I hate looking at that equation. But these days, it’s about as true for the car business as Georgia is hot. An older stickshift vehicle that isn’t an all out sports car will sit at a retail lot for months on end.
Nobody knows how to drive them except for those folks who are either too middle-aged, too arthritic, or too affluent to buy an older car with a manual transmission.
Don’t believe me? Well, here’s five vehicles that have become the equivalent of heavyweight paperweights at my humble abode. The funny thing is I like driving them all… I just wish I wasn’t two stickshifts away from driving a different handshaker every day of the week.
They are…. Read More >