How many days until I get to race again?
I asked myself that question over and over again this winter. After my first experience running with the fledgling American Endurance Racing organization last fall, I spent many long, snowy winter weeks in Kentucky, counting the days until this season’s debut race at New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Lightning Raceway.
All right, it’s the big close! The one we’ve all been waiting for! Will Bark show his fanboi colors as somebody who owns not one, not two, but THREE Fords? Does GM actually do anything well? Is Chrysler on the road back to respectability? Does anybody really like articles with questions like this? Let’s go!
In today’s installment, we’ll examine the lineups of the big Japanese three: Nissan, Honda, and Toyota, as well as their luxury variants. I should have said this in the first installment, but never let it be said that I am above admitting mistakes, so let me say it now: I never had plans to comment on every single model from every single manufacturer—just the ones that stand out to me in some way, or ones that I have about which I might have a contrary opinion. If I don’t mention a model, it’s likely because I haven’t driven it, or I don’t have an opinion about it that is in any way meaningful or insightful.
Since we’ve already established the format in the first and second installments of this series, let’s just jump right into it, shall we?
In our first installment, we focused on Daimler, Mazda, and the Volkswagen Group. Today, we’ll focus on BMW/Mini, Subaru, and Hyundai/Kia. But first, let me address a couple of the comments about the cars the B&B said I got wrong:
- I stand by my comments about the Golf. One commenter said the Golf was just the “GTI with less power, and less handling ability.” Well, duh. That’s like saying the Focus and Fiesta are the same cars as the FoST and the FiST, but with less power, and less handling ability. The power and the handling ability are what make the GTI special. Granted, the VW dealer network is wretched, so one can excuse the poor sales numbers of the Golf overall, but the Golf is actually outsold by the GTI. I can’t think of another example of a higher-cost, performance variant of a car outselling the base model—even the base Impreza, which I virtually never notice out in the wild, outsells the WRX and STI 2:1.
- I don’t think the C-Class is a bad car at all—I just think it’s fighting an uphill battle against the 3-Series. That being said, I definitely need to get some seat time in the new C-Class, as Mercedes has yet to deliver a press vehicle to my front door. Any readers who have one and would like to have it reviewed, let us know and I’ll get to you.
That being said, I continue to welcome your comments and dissenting opinions. Now, let’s move on.
Thanks to our Question of the Day series, we’ve had a myriad of discussions here lately about manufacturers who have “lost their way” and whatnot as of late. My contention is that every large-scale manufacturer on the market today does things exceptionally well—the market is too competitive for them not to. Any OEM that doesn’t have a claim to at least one niche is doomed to failure (cue the BAILOUT discussions). However, each company also has some things that they do badly—and some have things at which they are complete failures.
In preparation for this week’s New York International Auto Show, let’s take a look at what each player in the market does very well, does moderately well, and, frankly, doesn’t do well at all. This first installment will focus on the smaller volume competitors.
One of the baddest men I ever knew, if not THE baddest, ran that license plate on an array of European luxury sleds in the early 2000s. He was a real-life manifestation of Marcellus Wallace, a larger-than-life being whose business was dependent upon the recovery of the same type of thugs he used to take off the streets of Cleveland as a less-than-squeaky-clean cop. His three-car garage was an ever-rotating gallery of high-powered rides that rarely exceeded the speed limit—because speeding wouldn’t have been ICE KOLD. Better to be smooth and slow-moving but with an omnipresent, rumbling threat of power, much like the man who was behind the wheel.
I may have lost my damned mind, but here it goes:
I think I want to trade my Boss 302 for a Fiesta ST.
Imagine that you were a buyer of fine art. Not THAT kind of fine art, mind you—I’m not talking Seurat or O’Keefe here. Just some private collection pieces for your home, maybe in the range of $1K-$10K. Something a little unique and different, maybe not something the masses would enjoy. It might take a little bit of art education to truly appreciate it, but you are capable of appreciating it more than most.
Now, imagine that the only place you could buy them was in a Thomas Kinkade “Painter of Light” store, right next to prints of barns and horses and lighthouses. Now, imagine that the sales reps at that store don’t really want to sell you the higher end paintings, because buyers of that sort of thing are notoriously difficult to deal with, and they don’t really make any money on them, because the artists demand most of the profit. They’d rather just make their commission selling to the ignorant masses who want a touching portrait of Aladdin and Jasmine flying over Agrabah.
That’s what it’s like to be a guy who wants to buy something other than a CamCordima at any non-exotic franchise dealership in America—or maybe more importantly, what it’s like to be a guy trying to sell one.
In his QOTD a few days back, Doug DeMuro had this to say about his father’s decision to buy a Camry:
“He wasn’t the BMW type. He wasn’t cool enough. Back then, few were.”
Doug is a tad younger than I am, so his father was apparently in his forties back in the Nineties. My father wasn’t cool enough in the Nineties, either—he was cool enough when LL Cool J was still rocking a red Kangol and Don Johnson was making pastels look masculine.
About five years ago, I made a career decision that I wish I had made much earlier: I decided to get into the Learning and Development field. Unfortunately for about twenty or so people, I had spent the previous fifteen years managing sales people, and I fired a lot of them.
As a result, I also spent a great deal of time interviewing people. One of the things that every HR person will tell you about interviewing is that you’re supposed to look for what they call “contrary evidence.” As an interviewer, you’re going to form an opinion about a candidate pretty quickly—it’s human nature. So you’re supposed to ask questions that could lead to evidence that is contrary to your original impression. If you naturally like a candidate, you should ask questions that could reveal negative things about him, and vice versa.
Thus, when I selected a 2015 Solar Yellow Kia Soul Plus for my one-day trip to the ATL last week, I looked for things to dislike about it.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t find any.