By on January 15, 2016

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If you’ve never been to a press day at a major auto show but always dreamed of being there for all the big releases and parties and executive speeches, I’m afraid I must burst your bubble: The shows just aren’t all that awesome. This year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit was no exception.

It’s true that there was some fun to be had, but it was mostly the same sort of fun that one has at a high school reunion. I had a blast karting with the Jalopnik crew the Saturday before the show, and I definitely enjoyed hanging out with my friends Matt Farah and Sam Smith late on Sunday. But the show itself was a giant MEH.

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By on January 1, 2016

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Twenty-fifteen is all done and junk.

We had a lot of change around here, didn’t we? Everywhere that I’ve ever worked in my entire life, somebody has taken me aside and said something to the effect of, “If you don’t like change, this isn’t the place for you.” In fact, there’s so much change in the world nowadays that there are actually people who make six-figure salaries as “Change Management Specialists.” They do things like give you safe spaces to discuss your grief and then send you large bills to fund their vacations.

The only thing that any of us can really count on in 2016 is more change. In order to maintain relevance in this space, TTAC has to continue to evolve. There are people who’d like TTAC to be timewarped back to 2005, to the time when our austere founder and his band of merry men took on the giants of the industry — and won. I’d like to think that spirit still exists here. I, personally, do the very best I can to bring you my unfiltered opinion on this business, and I trust the others who share the responsibility of putting their names below the masthead of TTAC to do the same.

That being said, there is often a difference between The Facts and The Truth.

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By on December 23, 2015

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After a week in which I was burned in effigy by some “autowriters” who didn’t much care for my editorial about their complete and total lack of ethics (don’t worry, fellas — I still won’t send you a bunch of web traffic, er, I mean, name names), I found myself in a situation that Alanis Morissette would call “ironic.”

I was going to spend the weekend in Philadelphia at the glorious Hotel Monaco, right in the Old City across the street from Independence Hall. Thanks to a last-minute deal, I got a magnificent rate of $100/night, but there was still the specter of the $43/night parking rate looming over my head, not to mention the difficulties of finding parking elsewhere in the city once I actually retrieved my vehicle from the valet.

As a result, I decided to go without a rental car for the four-day weekend, instead depending entirely on Uber and the city’s taxi services to squire Mrs. Bark and me around the City of Brotherly Love. This was the perfect way to test out the only viable theory that some of my colleagues in the automotive journalism (not that there’s much journalism going on, but that’s another subject for another time) game put forth as to why some writers don’t own cars.

“It’s too difficult and/or expensive to own a car in the city,” they said. As somebody who was born in the Greater New York City area, but has spent most of his life in the Midwest and the South, I was eager to see if I, too, would make the choice to go carelessly carless on the eastern seaboard.

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By on December 18, 2015

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My cruise was set at 68 mph. For my very last drive in my Boss 302, not only was I driving on a relatively straight and flatter-than-Taylor-Swift interstate, I wasn’t even doing the posted speed limit. It was a stark contrast to the way I had spent the previous forty-two months in the Recaro driver’s seat of what was likely the best pony car that had ever been built on the day it rolled off of the assembly line in Flat Rock.

For forty-two months, every time that I made the 90-degree left turn out of my failed, half-empty subdivision onto the curvaceous country road that intersected the neighborhood’s exit, I did it in a full drift, burning up the excessively overpriced tires with banshee-like screams that acted as a rubber alarm clock for the entire street’s residents.

For forty-two months, I revved the Boss’ motor all the way to its previously unheard of 7,500 rpm redline with every launch, creating a soundtrack that was equal parts Beethoven and Stravinsky in its cacophonous composition.

For forty-two months, the speedometer’s needle rarely saw the left side of 85, and set up a near permanent residence to the right of a hundred any time that the Boss’ retro-inspired nose had an open road in front of it.

But not on its last day.

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By on December 15, 2015

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In one of the many private automotive journalist groups on Facebook (from which I’ll most certainly be banned later today), there was a comment posted recently from a car reviewer bemoaning his lack of a press car in the near future.

“I have to go four days without a press car. My life is basically on hold,” said our dear reviewer. “What am I supposed to do?”

This is the sad reality for most “car reviewers”. Their personal brands are so strictly defined that they can’t write about anything other than how many cup holders are in the newest Maibatsu Monstrosity.

But then it got worse. From another reviewer: “I have no personal vehicle so when my inevitable lag in press cars happens, I’ll be lost.”

I’m sorry — you don’t own a car? Say what?

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By on December 4, 2015

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I come before you today to state a simple truth, a truth that is so obvious that it doesn’t even need to be said, yet it has never been properly addressed. The car franchise dealership, as we know it, is broken.

It’s too bloated. It doesn’t live in the now. It spends far too much to acquire its customers. It doesn’t focus on the things that matter. Some OEMs wish that they could eliminate it. In most cases, it’s owned by a guy whose only achievement in life is having been born to the owner of a car dealership.

It’s also the only business in America that intentionally operates in a way that is frustrating and oppressive to its customers. You could never run any other business in America the way that a car dealership is run. The posted price means nothing. Virtually no two people will pay the same price for a car. Even once the price is finally negotiated, surprises keep coming to the point where virtually nobody is entirely sure if he or she got a fair deal on his car.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If I owned my own dealership (and, honestly, could I really be any worse at it than 90 percent of the guys who own dealerships?) here’s what I’d do to help my dealership make more money, sell more cars, be more ethical, increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, and even have more fun doing it.

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By on September 16, 2015

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Earlier in the day on Tuesday, as I drove my brilliant little Ford Fiesta ST on Route 15 through the rolling hills of Kentucky on my way to Kingsport, Tennessee, I was wondering what the topic of my Wednesday column would be.

Thankfully, later in the evening, Kingsport’s Finest solved that issue for me.

In the interest of full transparency, the drive from my home in Central Kentucky to Kingsport should take about four hours, according to MyFordTouch Navigation. I did it in about 3:15, including a stop for a large, unsweetened tea and an apple pie at a McDonald’s along the way. The Fiesta is just too fun for interstate driving, so rather than the I-75 route I could have chosen, I took the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway until I reached Route 15, which took me to US 23 into Virginia and then into Tennessee for the final few miles. Obviously, I didn’t adhere to the posted speed limits for the vast majority of the drive.

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By on September 10, 2015

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For those of you who haven’t been keeping track, I’m now a little over one quarter of the way through my 24-month Fiesta ST lease. It’s hard to believe that I’ve had the car this long, but it’s true. I just clicked past the six-thousand-mile mark on the odometer, and I’m just about to make payment number seven, so I’m driving it a little less than I’m permitted to by my lease. That being said, I have driven it more than double the amount of miles that I’ve put on my Boss 302 during the same timeframe.

As I was driving it to Ohio this week from my Old Kentucky Home, chewing up the hilly I-75 North route between Lexington and the Greater Cincinnati Area, a terrible thought occurred to me:

In just about seventeen months, I’m going to have to give the FiST back, and I absolutely don’t want to.  (Read More…)

By on August 12, 2015

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It was another glorious Saturday afternoon in the Bluegrass, and Mrs. Bark and I were traveling “into town” (which is how you know you live in the middle of nowhere) on I-64 West when I saw them: three girls, none older than twenty, standing around a late-model Hyundai Elantra on the left shoulder.

Well, to be exact, there were two, slender young women standing around while a third, fleshier girl was seated on the concrete near the front passenger wheel, which was completely blown. She was reading the owner’s manual and desperately attempting to use the “widow maker” jack to lift the vehicle into the air. The rear bumper of the poor little Korean car was lightly clinging to the car, having been dislodged by contact with whatever had flattened the tire. Bolted to the bumper was a Land of 10,000 Lakes license plate from Minnesota.

In short, they were a long way from home, they were in trouble, and it was clear that they had absolutely no idea what the hell they were doing.

“We have to stop,” I told Mrs. Bark. (Read More…)

By on May 12, 2015

TRD Camry XSE Pace Car

Over its long and illustrious sales career, the Toyota Camry has been described in many ways by so-called automotive enthusiasts. Most of them, to be honest, haven’t been particularly flattering. Words like “appliance” tend to find themselves in close proximity to the Camry whenever it’s been discussed elsewhere.

But this is The Truth About Cars, dammit!, and we have never been ones to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid on any car. Our own Jack Baruth has proven time and time again that the Camry, particularly in SE trim, is a capable and dynamic car at the track. I have personally piloted a Camry SE around Nelson Ledges. While it wasn’t quite keeping the pace of my Boss 302, it was no slouch, either.

That’s all fine and good. But what about putting it in a real race, with a real professional driver? How would it do under those circumstances?

Well, the fine folks at Toyota Production Engineering got as close to that as they possibly could by running a four-cylinder Camry SE in the One Lap of America last week. That’s right. They really ran a bone-stock, off-the-lot Camry in a time trial. The story of how they got there is just as interesting as the decision to drive the Camry itself.

(Read More…)

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  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Bark M., United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Doug DeMuro, United States
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, United States
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States

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