The Truth About Cars » Argentina The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 12:00:21 +0000 en-US hourly 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 (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 » Argentina On Peace, Freedom And The Fearsome Reputation Of The Ford Falcon Fri, 16 Aug 2013 16:28:02 +0000 falcon

Last week, I had the privilege of attending a Naturalization Ceremony. If you have never had the opportunity to be there when immigrants to our country take the oath of citizenship and exchange their Green Cards for their Naturalization Certificates, you are missing out on one of those special things that makes the United States of America a truly great place to be. Looking out across the crowd you can see people who began their lives in the far corners of the world sitting beside one another without regard for gender, race or national origin. It matters little where they came from, whether or not they once lived on one side of some armed border or the other, today they are Americans and the old hatreds, if not forgotten, are at least set aside. On that day, they are united in their desire to join in our great experiment, to offer their descendents to the great American melting pot in the hopes that they will blend seamlessly into the fabric of our nation in the same way that we, the descendants of so many who made that journey before them, have done.

The stories they tell are often powerful. We often think they come to our shores simply for freedom and to take advantage of the economic opportunity our country offers, but often they are here because we are an island of peace in a terrible world and because they have endured horrors that would keep most of us awake at night if we spent too long thinking about them. At the ceremony I attended the speaker, a young man from Rwanda, told of his childhood experiences hiding in a thorn bush to avoid being murdered and of walking over corpses so thick on the ground that he could not avoid stepping on them as he sought to escape his war ravaged land. Other people have spoken to me about poverty, hopelessness and, worst of all, what happens when your own government institutes a reign of terror and people begin to vanish. Such was the case in Argentina in the mid 1970s and, although the reign of terror is now ended and the situation improved, one icon of those times still strikes fear into the populace whenever it appears: the otherwise unremarkable Ford Falcon.

In 1961, Ford sent two examples of their recently introduced Falcon to Argentina in order to help their factory in La Boca set up a production line. Argentina was booming then and the newly emerging middle class finally had enough discretionary income to afford new cars. Naturally, the Ford company was hoping to put that country on wheels and the rugged and reliable Falcon seemed to be perfect for the task. The car was introduced for the 1962 model year and was a hit from almost the minute it went on the market. Argentines took to it as though it were their own Model T and made it the bestselling car in their history. The Falcon thrived and by 1973 had received several updates and was almost entirely built of locally sourced parts. But even as the Ford Falcon flourished, the nation was headed towards Chaos.


In 1976 the Argentine military seized control of the country and most of those who actively opposed its rule were murdered shortly thereafter. The military followed up those first murders with what is known as “The Dirty War,” a war they waged against their own people between 1976 and 1983 and during that time an estimated 30,000 people went missing. What happened to most of these people remains a mystery to this day, but one common thread to their disappearance is that many were last seen in the back of a dark green Ford Falcon.

Why the Argentine secret police chose the car is simple. The Falcon was already a proven police vehicle in service all over the country where it wore more-or-less standard black and white police livery so the secret police knew the car would be reliable. Why they decided on dark green is less clear, perhaps it was intentionally chosen because they hoped the dark color would elicit fear or because there were so many others around in that color and they thought it would blend in better, who knows? The end result, however, is that the dark green Falcon soon became feared on the streets and whenever one of the cars was spied cruising slowly along the block, people knew there was a good chance that someone in the area would likely not be returning home that night.

Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Those days have passed but live on in the memories of those who endured those horrific events and what should be a golden legacy for the Falcon has been tarnished by its fearful association. To many Argentines, the Falcon is simply an old car, one that their parents and grandparents may have owned, one that they may have ridden in during their childhood. To others they are a symbol of oppression and fear. For those people, the memories of what they endured and those that they lost will never go away. For them, even the mere sight of a Ford Falcon, especially one painted dark green, stirs those memories and causes the pain to begin again. It is a horrible legacy for what everyone agrees was an otherwise fine car.

We in the first world often live in ignorance of what happens outside of our borders. We see the events on the news, hear the talk of analysts and pundits, but seldom grasp the actual horror that is sometimes the norm in some of the Earth’s most terrible places. The next time someone tells you that they are a naturalized citizen, shake their hand and know that their presence strengthens our country. The next time you see a Ford Falcon, especially a dark green one, think for a moment about the 30,000 Argentines who vanished after their ride in a similar car and be thankful we are insulated from such things. There but for the grace of God, go us.

Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Supreme Court Halts Human Rights Case Against Daimler Tue, 23 Apr 2013 12:44:27 +0000

The American justice system has shown a large degree of overreach in the not so distant past, punishing or shaking down foreign companies for misdeeds performed on foreign soils by foreign perpetrators on foreign victims. This is not a matter of right or wrong. It is a matter of jurisdiction and sovereignty. Enough is enough, says the U.S. Supreme Court and decided to hear Daimler’s appeal  against a decision by a San Francisco court that  workers or relatives of workers at an Argentina-based plant operated by Mercedes-Benz, a wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler, can sue for alleged human rights abuses performed by Daimler in the 1970s in collusion with Argentina’s then military junta. Daimler had been on the receiving end of judicial overreach in the past.

According to Reuters, plaintiffs “ claimed the company had punished plant workers viewed by managers as union agitators and that it had worked alongside the Argentinian military and police forces.”

The dispute is not about the allegations; the dispute is about whether suit can be brought in America for alleged misdeeds perpetrated by foreigners outside of the country, simply on the very thin grounds “that an indirect corporate subsidiary performs services on behalf of the defendant.”

The case isn’t won yet, but Daimler can breathe a little easier.

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Adventures In Marketing: Outrun Satan’s Temptations In a Renault Clio Thu, 17 May 2012 15:30:49 +0000 In 1999, you could still buy a brand-new Peugeot 504 in Argentina. With such a classic French automobile available, Renault’s marketers had to come up with an extra-special advertising gimmick to move those Clios off the lot. How about El Diablo?

For you non-Spanish speakers (I can’t find a good subtitled version), it goes like this: Satan (in snazzy red silk tie) offers the Clio driver women, money, and power in exchange for his soul. Driver refuses. Satan tells driver he doesn’t understand anything about life. Driver responds “You don’t understand anything about cars!” and evades the onrushing trucks via a suspension-of-disbelief-required maneuver on the dirt shoulder. Would this have happened in a Peugeot 504? No, because Satan would have fallen asleep due to the spacious back seat and comfy 504 ride.

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Argentina: Want To Sell Porsches? Export Our Wine And Olives Fri, 04 Nov 2011 15:20:36 +0000

With a 35% import tax on new cars, Argentina is already a touch market for foreign brands seeking to bring cars into the country. But the Argentinean government has just made it  little bit harder by demanding that importers export an equal amount of Argentina-made goods for every car imported. As a result, Bloomberg reports that Porsche’s importer is exporting Malbec wines and olives, Mitsubishi’s importer is getting into the peanut export game, and Subaru’s representative is shipping chicken feed to Chile. BMW, which has had recent difficulties importing into Argentina, is focusing on its core business, exporting auto parts and upholstery… and a little processed rice to make up the difference. But why are these major manufacturers getting into all kinds of strange side businesses just because Argentina wants to improve its trade balance and foreign currency reserves? Simple: Argentina is South America’s second-largest economy, and it’s been growing at over 5% per year since 2007 (i.e. when other markets were shrinking). So if the government wants imports balanced with exports, well, Porsche’s importer is just going to have to get into the wine business, isn’t he?

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BBC Honors the Argentine Ford Falcon Sun, 12 Dec 2010 18:00:58 +0000
When I researched the subject of cars built in relatively unchanged form for 20 or more years, the only American machine that met my criteria was the first-gen Ford Falcon (no, the Model T was not built during 20 model years and, no, the Ford Panther and GM B platforms changed too much to be considered single models). As late as 1991, car shoppers in Argentina could step into a Ford showroom and choose between a new Falcon and a new Sierra XR4… or they could walk across the street to Peugeot and drive out in a new 504. How’s that for a set of choices?
Today, the BBC News has a short video piece on Argentina’s love for the Ford Falcon. Sure, the Argentinean Falcon got square headlights in 1970, but under the skin it’s still the 1960 compact car that Robert McNamara hammered through the heart of the Edsel, thus ensuring the decline and fall of American power, etc. (I’m just getting prepared for the anti-McNamara hate mail that I always get from Edsel fanatics every time I write about the Falcon). Unlike my very favorite Argentine-ized American car, the Falcon carries some ghosts on board, which should gratify the anti-Falcon zealots; during the Dirty War of the late 70s/early 80s, green Falcons were often used by security forces to abduct the desaparecidos, and the BBC touches on this less-rosy portion of Falcon nostalgia as well.
BBC News

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Toyota Takes Their Lithium Wed, 20 Jan 2010 19:51:28 +0000 Argentina's lithium salt lakes (
After years of spurning lithium ion batteries in favor of Nickel metal hydride cells, it seems Toyota might changing their mind. The Wall Street Journal reports that Toyota Tsusho Corp, which is 21.8% owned by Toyota Motor Corp., has secured the loans it needed from the Japanese government to buy a stake in a lithium project in Northern Argentina. The article states that “people with knowledge of the matter” (read in to that what you will), values Toyota Tsusho’s investment somewhere between $100 million and $200 million.

Toyota Tsusho will pay for a feasibility study on this lithium project, which is being operated by Orocobre, an Australian firm, and will take a 25% stake in the project. “We think we should start preparing to supply the market,” Naoto Yamagishi, general manager of the metal-and-mineral resources department at Toyota Tsusho, said. Mr Yamagishi went to mention that the project area is located near an area of Chile, which is affectionately known as “the Saudi Arabia of lithium.” As opposed to Bolivia, which one might term the Iran of lithium.  Toyota’s first lithium ion battery vehicle will be the plug-in version of its Prius, which is planned for releases next year.

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VW To Bring Amarok Pickup To America If We Promise To Buy 100k Units Wed, 16 Dec 2009 20:12:39 +0000 Amarok you like a hurricane
The Argentinian-produced Volkswagen Amarok pickup might be coming to the US if VW thinks it can sell enough of them. VW of America’s Stephan Jacoby tells “we’d have to sell at least 100,000 Amarok pickups to make it feasible.” But don’t get too excited: the only compact pickup to sell in those numbers is the Toyota Tacoma, which sold 102,327 units year-to-date.

On the other hand, the compact pickup segment is woefully short on modern offerings, and the sales difference between the relatively modern Taco and its next-closest competitor, the aged Ford Ranger (51,097 units ytd) indicates that updated offerings could unlock serious sales potential in the segment. But VW has bigger fish to fry, what with it’s million-unit ambitions and US plant coming online. Jacoby hedges:

The compact pickup segment is declining. Consumers are going to big pickups, which is a very traditional conservative segment. A lot of our competitors have burned their fingers in it as late entries. Before we could bring [the Amarok] here we’d have to do a lot of homework. But we have other vehicles to bring into this market first. Once we do that, we can talk about the Amarok.

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