By on January 29, 2016

DSC01993

I wish I had $100 for every time someone told me their rare car was going to shoot up in value. If I did, I would invest it in the stock market, which is something that actually might shoot up in value. Their rare car, of course, will stay behind, largely due to the old adage that just because something’s rare doesn’t mean it’s valuable.

I remember the first time someone told me their car was rare and so it would increase in value. I was in high school, and a classmate of mine had just bought a Jeep Liberty Freedom Edition, or some such bizarre Jeep special edition where they change the wheels and add two-tone seats in an attempt to get people to buy it.

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By on January 27, 2016

2012_ford_fusion_sunroof_spoiler_8600062416271215145

After considerable thought, I have come to a conclusion: sunroofs are weird. I mean, think about it: it’s a hole in the roof of your car, designed to allow you to … what, exactly? Look up at the sky? While you listen to the incessant rattling caused by the fact that there’s a hole in the roof of your car?

Yes, folks, I’m being serious. Today I’m writing about sunroofs. And there’s a reason for this: I have recently come to the realization that sunroofs, unlike virtually any other feature or option available on an automobile today, provoke some seriously strong opinions. Some people like them. Some people hate them. Some people really hate them. I haven’t found anyone who really likes them, except for myself.

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By on December 28, 2015

Carmax

Earlier this week I wrote about how CarMax is heavily constrained by a market that has flip-flopped between six years worth of heavy car sales and about 18 months of resurgent truck and SUV demand. Long story short, CarMax’s acquisition costs for trucks, SUVs and crossovers has gone up considerably, and the supply of this inventory has cratered due to new car dealers keeping the bulk of this inventory for themselves.

Not everybody liked what I wrote. Case in point.

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By on December 22, 2015

30th_Anniversary_Minivan_Windsor_Assembly_Plant

So I got up behind a Dodge Grand Caravan the other day and I started thinking about my youth. This is because, in my youth, the Dodge Grand Caravan was an acceptable vehicle to drive, and not something you were stuck with when Enterprise ran out of full-size sedans.

There are two reasons for this: 1. Back in the day, the Dodge Caravan didn’t really have any competitors, so we didn’t really know that there were better options out there. Honda had the hinged-door Odyssey. Toyota had the weird-ass Previa. It was a mess; more importantly, 2. There were so many different versions of the Dodge Caravan that you were pretty much stuck buying a Dodge Caravan even if you actively avoided buying a Dodge Caravan.

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By on December 18, 2015

2015_Toyota_Sienna_SE_001

So I’m driving along the other day, and I get up behind this Toyota Sienna that looks like it has a body kit. And not just a body kit, but powder coated wheels, too. This thing looked like your standard airport rental Sienna had been turned over to the people in charge of making Hyundais appealing in their last model year before a redesign.

It turns out that this vehicle is available for order from your local Toyota dealer. It’s called the SE Premium, and Toyota pitches it as a minivan that offers “extra swagger” for your whole family, as if your whole minivan-owning family already has enough swagger to go around, but some extra couldn’t hurt.

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By on December 14, 2015

2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-003

The new Mustang is handsome, isn’t it? I was behind one the other day in traffic, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it: in the right color, with the right wheels, there’s a good argument to be made that the Mustang is one of the most attractive coupes on the market today. Too bad it’s still just another in a long list of retro designs.

I was thinking about this recently because there has been a lot of retro designs in the last few years — and virtually all of those models are still sporting retro designs. Which leads me to wonder: Has anyone ever actually successfully followed up on a retro design? Has anyone ever created a retro design, and then un-retroized it, and still found success?

In other words: Once you’ve gone retro, is it even possible to go back?

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By on December 4, 2015

2011_Hyundai_Equus_--_12-29-2011

I was driving along the other day and I cozied up behind a Hyundai Equus, which is the finest luxury sedan ever manufactured, assuming that you a) work for Hyundai, or b) are a Korean diplomat. I personally think it is merely OK.

And here’s why I think it’s merely OK: the damn thing starts at $62,500 with shipping. Although I realize that’s a discount compared to a Lexus LS or a BMW 7 Series or a Mercedes S-Class, that’s still an enormous amount of money to pay for a Hyundai. I don’t care if the thing has a Baroque-era fountain in the middle of the back seat and a trunk full of precious metals: sixty-two grand is a lot of cash for a subtle design from an unproven luxury car company.

Most people apparently tend to agree with my point of view, because from what I’ve seen, the Equus sells about as well as tangerine-flavored dog food. Sure, there are a few buyers, but there are always a few buyers for anything, like the Suzuki X-90.

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By on November 30, 2015

Scion C-HR Concept (54 of 74)

I am writing to you today from Los Angeles, California, which is currently 65 degrees Fahrenheit (also known as 1.4 million degrees Celsius) and home to approximately 800 Mercedes G-Wagens per square mile (6.7 million G-Wagens per square kilometer).

I have been driving around Los Angeles for about a day and a half now, and I have very much appreciated all the unique cars I’ve seen. For example, I have already seen: The new Scion iM. The new Smart car. An early 2000s Toyota RAV4 EV. Bright red and bright green examples of Porsche Cayenne GTS. And the new Toyota Prius, which I personally like, even though the vast majority of car enthusiasts believe it to be Satan in hybrid hatchback form.

But the main automotive event going on right now in Los Angeles is not on the streets. It’s inside, at the Notorious B.I.G. Convention Center, where the Los Angeles Auto Show is currently underway. I watched this auto show with great interest, because many exciting new cars were revealed, and then quickly forgotten about moments later when the next exciting new car was revealed.

And so, today, I ask the question that is on the mind of virtually everyone, from automotive PR directors to automotive PR directors’ assistants: Why the hell are we still doing the whole auto show thing?

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By on November 20, 2015

2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser

I recently got up behind a Smart car in traffic the other day, and I realized something: Smart has managed to do what very few other brands can boast about. They’ve successfully redesigned a car that sells primarily based on its style.

Now, you might think this is a bit of an unusual point, because you probably don’t think the Smart Fortwo is a very stylish car.

In fact, you probably think it looks like a shopping cart with alloy wheels. But hear me out, here, because I think one of the biggest challenges automakers face is redesigning stylish cars. And I think the good folks over at Smart deserve some credit for doing it right.

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By on November 6, 2015

2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum

I was driving along the other day and I realized something: the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is currently the most popular vehicle in North America.

Okay, this might be a slight exaggeration. For instance, I am told that the bicycle is quite popular. But on a list of today’s most popular vehicles, the Highlander Hybrid is right up there with the bicycle, and the wheelchair, and that Ford pickup that sells more units in an afternoon than Ferrari sells globally in an entire calendar year.

It is very obvious to see why the Highlander Hybrid is so popular. For one thing, it’s a normal family SUV with three-row seating, which is incredibly hot right now; so hot that I am quite certain it is not actually possible to rear children in today’s society without a three-row SUV. If you showed up at a child’s birthday party in a Toyota Camry, and you had forgotten to dress your child, and you had brought the wrong child, and your child was vomiting all over everything in sight, people would not call attention to your child-related issues. They would ask: Why don’t you have a three-row SUV?

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By on October 30, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 1.14.47 PM

I recently had the chance to test out the “new” Volkswagen Passat, which is so new that the designers were explaining to a whole group of journalists how the position of the rear reflectors has changed compared to the outgoing model.

Actually, I kind of like the new Passat. It was impressive in a lot of ways, right down to the new touchscreen, which finally sees Volkswagen catching up to some of the technology and features rival models have been using for roughly five years. As I was driving it, I couldn’t help but think to myself: I like a good touchscreen.

What I don’t like is a knob.

It seems that these are our only choices in today’s infotainment world: a touchscreen or a knob. Some cars have touchscreens. Some cars have knobs. And given that basically every new car has an infotainment system, this is an important choice. Do you want to control your screen by touching it, like a smartphone? Or by moving around a controller located on the center console, like a computer?

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By on October 9, 2015

2013-volkswagen-lineup

There has been a lot of coverage recently devoted to that scandal where Volkswagen revealed that its vehicles have been polluting like a chemical company that dumps out its waste in poor neighborhoods late at night.

But this scandal seems to have taken our eye off the Volkswagen ball. I say this because the whole “cheating on diesel” thing is not Volkswagen’s only issue. It is merely one of a myriad of problems that has launched the brand into the mediocre, also-ran position where they find themselves in America today. And right now, I’m here to remind you of the largest of these problems: that they spend their money on absolutely the wrong things.

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By on September 18, 2015

2015 Subaru Outback

Over the last month, I’ve spent more time driving Subarus than any other vehicle. This was not intentional.

It all got started in August, when I went to Pebble Beach and I asked Subaru for a press car. I don’t normally take press cars, but I decided that I wanted to continue my tradition of going to Pebble Beach in a station wagon, which now spans four years and four different wagons: a 1997 BMW 528i Touring, a 2013 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon, a 2000 Volvo V70 Cross Country, and now the Subaru.

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By on September 18, 2015

Dodge Grand Caravan American Value Package

Today, I’m going to talk about a dramatically unloved segment of the automotive population: base models. You probably know base models from their lack of window tint and tremendously ugly steel wheels.

Base models aren’t discussed very often, because they’re often not very cheerful. In some cases, nobody even really buys them. For instance: I was walking along the other day, glanced inside a new Forester that was parked on the street, and it had a stick shift. I also noticed it had no sunroof, steel wheels, and cloth seats. This thing is probably rarer than a Lamborghini.

But automakers like the fact that nobody buys their base models. In fact, the entire point of the base model is basically to ensure people want to spend more money for a nicer version of the car. Dealers tell you the car “starts at” twenty-four grand, but then you show up on the lot, and there it is: twenty-four grand of no air conditioning or radio. To get a decent car, you’ve got to spend a few thousand more.

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By on September 11, 2015

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Wake up, ladies and gentlemen, and listen to the happy news: we are in an automotive renaissance. The kind of renaissance that comes around but once every decade or two; the kind that’s accompanied by new designs and new powertrains and new features and new competition.

I am referring, of course, to the cargo van renaissance.

I’m not sure if you’ve realized it, but that’s exactly what’s going on around us: a renaissance of cargo vans. An explosion of new models, and new segments, and new powertrains, and new features, and new designs. When we look back years from now, we will all agree that the cargo van segment was forever changed by the years 2014 and 2015.

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