Forgive me father, for not only have I sinned (at least for right now), but I’m going to make a sordid confession about my daily work life that will tick off 99 percent of the people here.
I find that auto enthusiasts — that’s you — are completely irrational. In fact, sometimes you’re just plain nuts.
It has nothing to do with conspiracy theories, the federal government, or the fact that every manufacturer wants us enthusiasts to become mindless traders and renters instead of long-term keepers. What it really comes down to is that most auto enthusiasts I know simply act like emotional fools.
Would you visit a hotel that rents its rooms by the hour to see a 36-year-old Cadillac with a wrench sticking straight out of the carb?
That old-school Caddy — a 1979 Cadillac Deville D’Elegance — had pretty much popped straight out of Craigslist while I was eating some hashbrowns at a nearby Waffle House. About an hour after I first saw it, I bought it for $500. TTAC compatriot W. Christian “Mental” Ward even helped me drive it off to my dealership.
It was pretty beat up, but the Caddy could still maybe, kinda, sorta play the part of a “Goodfellas” Cadillac if you were far enough away from it. Maybe 50 feet. Maybe 150 feet with a really old pair of eyeglasses.
Between seeing a nice thick solid line of fuel sputtering out of the Cadillac’s tailpipe off Highway 278 and watching its body bounce like a pinata at a kid’s birthday party, I decided to do something.
I call Scions “the acronyms from hell” because even I have trouble keeping up with all of them.
iQ, iA, iM, tC, xB, xD. Did I forget one? The xA and…wait! I forgot the FR-S, but that’s only because I rarely see those go through the auction block. Everything else, save the two new iA and iM models, seems to make a perennial pilgrimage to the wholesale heaven of unwanted used cars for one unfortunate reason.
Scion, historically, can’t help but hit ’em where the customers ain’t.
There comes a point in our lives when we all fly off the handle. It can happen when we’re still young and ready to believe anything or when we’re old and the voice of those young’uns make us instinctively say nasty, insensitive thoughts.
Temporary insanity comes and goes with the seasons. With that I am about to recommend a cartrucksterminivan lame duck vehicle that has a surprisingly good fit for one type of buyer in particular: Those with large families who want a new car but don’t really give a shit about cars.
Consumer Reports recently came out with a study that featured the seven least satisfying new cars in today’s market. The worst? By a margin worthy of “Independence Day” going up against “Pluto Nash,” it was the current generation Kia Rio. Only 40 percent of current owners would recommend buying a new one.
The usual demerits for a compact such as the Kia Rio would be that it is tinny, cheap, loud and had interior accompaniments that would be worthy of a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. In other words, it’s a Korean version of the Mitsubishi Mirage with substantially more power in exchange for far less usable interior space and an ugly beak. That may just be my personal opinion.
But there’s a far guiltier crime of irrefutable measure that the Kia Rio is known for at the auto auctions, and Consumer Reports managed to hit the exact bullseye of that bullseye.
We used to always hang out together on the day after Thanksgiving.
Black Friday was a complete knockout when she was a young lady. Sexy, seductive, easy to please, and so damn smart! The two of us would go out shopping and pretty much knock out everything I could ever need for my cars before lunch. She was a true gearhead at heart, and for a long time she made my life easy. Oil change packages for $5. A gallon of coolant for a buck. Free spark plugs. She had an uncanny ability to find every item I would ever need for my family garage. With her small army of circulars and rebates, I could get it all for only about 20- to 30-percent off the retail price.
She… was… awesome!
My wife and friends would hang out with her as well. Everyone loved Black Friday for her fun and chatty nature. It wasn’t just the deals that made Black Friday so enticing back then. It was the experience of enjoying that one day when she was the true queen of retail America.
But then she had what could only be described as a mid-life crisis.
Imagine growing up in the modern day world and having no future.
No education. No upward mobility. No right to pursue a better life beyond just a few crumbs of financial sustenance.
This is the reality in most Arab countries and former Soviet republics. It’s a world where opportunities are almost non-existent and certain cliques and clans determine who has the exclusive right to get ahead.
I grew up traveling the world in a family business — the food import business, to be exact. I have learned that in the West there is a tendency to believe folks can overcome Herculean odds in the pursuit of that better life, whatever and wherever it may be.
That opportunity just isn’t there in these places where even geniuses can be damned to a life of a terminally squalid environment. It’s a shame. But what if instead of investing billions of dollars in armaments and other forms of support to these idiotic regimes, we tipped the scales of supply and demand a bit in favor of the billions of little guys and little girls?
A quarter of a century can yield an amazing level of improvements to a modern day car — but this isn’t always the case.
Take for example a 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air and compare it with the 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. Even back in 1983, a 1958 Bel Air could offer the keepers among us the enduring joy of a long-term relationship. That big block Chevy V8, even in the early Reagan era, could give you a fiendish ear-to-ear grin behind the wheel. The Cutlass Ciera on the other hand was a rental car from birth with the vapid empty soul of a parts bin beater. It would take a special masochist of an owner to make that a long-term keeper.
Twenty-two vehicles on the front line and not a single one of them a Volkswagen.
This wouldn’t be surprising if this were a used car lot or a new car store that sold a different brand, but this is Jim Ellis VW — the most successful Volkswagen dealership in the entire metro-Atlanta area.
How successful? They have two locations and sold Volkswagens every day for well over 44 years. This dealership was founded on day one with Volkswagens exclusively in their blood. No competitor in the southeast can come close to that level of enduring success.
So what does it mean when one of your most loyal dealers in the entire nation won’t even put your vehicles on their front line?
The alarms clocks ring. Both of them. Just in case I get any funny ideas.
I go through the semi-conscious motions. Clothes… suitcase… glasses… coffee… breakfast. By 4:15 a.m, I’m out the door and driving to the airport in a 21-year-old Geo Prizm. I figured that a 5-speed and a stark lack of noise insulation will keep me alert. Thanks to Atlanta’s penchant for using steel plates to cover up every possible pothole on the road, I am not disappointed.