The Truth About Cars » Matthew Guy The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +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 » Matthew Guy First Annual White Knuckle White-Out Challenge Sat, 23 Feb 2013 11:45:57 +0000

Most harebrained ideas are hatched under the influence This was no different. A thousand miles removed from Canada’s largest city, two freelance automotive writers were guzzling beer and bandying about ideas for potential stories. Most of the concepts were actually elaborate ruses designed solely for gaining access to OEM press fleets.

“Let’s drive to Toronto!” Mark heartily suggested. “It’s only, what, a thousand miles?”

“That’s sixteen hundred kilometers, in Queen’s English,” I corrected him. “Why? For what purpose?”

“Well, the Canadian International Auto Show is in February. Let’s crash that party.” White out!

Perfect. Smartphones were synced. Billfolds were audited. A plan was put into action. Deciding to go was the easy part; now we had to figure out how to get there. Clearly, driving would be the preferred method, given that we both write about cars. For me, a personal rule is that if I can drive to a destination with minimal fuss and aggravation, I will do so rather than suffer the anguish of thundering through the atmosphere in a poorly ventilated jet-engined cigar with wings.

Several OEMs were approached and the idea was pitched that two Large Persons driving a thousand miles to Toronto in the dead of winter would make for a great story. Two manufacturers grabbed hold of the concept – Mazda provided an MX-5 and Chrysler ponied up a Fiat 500 Turbo. Shod with winter tires, having a couple of sport compacts out of their natural elements promised to be entertaining.


Little did we know just how entertaining. Setting off at promptly 9:48am from far flung Truro, Nova Scotia, spirits ran high. The sun blazed, crystallizing the record snowfall from a major snowstorm that had dumped a foot of snow the day previous. As we vacated town, the hills rang with snow-blowers, and the occasional mating call of a rare species, the Snowplowus Interruptus.

We were in northern New Brunswick, about seven hours on the road, when the snow was back, to strike hard and fast. With little daylight remaining, we exited the highway, trundling to a halt at a little used coffee shop that smelled like pee. Eschewing their blackened offerings, we weighed our options. The snow was falling at an apocalyptic rate. Even a military convoy ahead of us had sought shelter at a nearby, downtrodden motel.

“I’d rather get a kick in the nuts than drive in the dark in this shit,” I blustered aloud while beating two inches of ice off the little Fiat’s wiper blades.

Taking a long drag on his cigarette, Mark flatly suggested that we at least make a run for the Quebec border, some 200km distant. Knowing full well that once I had the chance to curse the weather and refill the windshield washer fluid tank on the Fiat, I’d be game to continue the drive. He was right. We reentered the divided highway full of gusto, verve, and fuel.

“The little red-headed Italian likes to wiggle her hips,” I tersely reported over the two-way radio. Hardly the car’s fault, this. In fact, the snow was so deep that the front bumper of the MX-5 often acted as the most rudimentary of plows, biffing fluffy white powder up in the air and back over its bonnet. Snow was a good six inches deep on the road surface.

In the Fiat, the windshield washer fluid reservoir continued to stick in my craw, running dry at what seemed to be three second intervals. Memo to Fiat: please, please increase the windshield wash capacity. At a mere two litres, all it takes is for a few trucks to roar by the 500 Turbo to deplete its meagre allotment of blue liquid. At minimum, add a LOW WASHER FLUID idiot light to the cinnamon bun of a gauge cluster. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Fiat driver’s seat was astonishingly comfortable for this six and a half foot author.

Trucks rocketed past in the fast lane, secured by the weight of their 52 foot heavy trailers. With visibility near zero, I went on ahead in the Fiat, hazards blaring. I figured that if I illuminated the car, my chances of being found when I eventually deposited myself into a crusty roadside snowbank would rise from None to Slim.

It was during this leg of the journey that I dubbed the whole event the First Annual White Knuckle Challenge.

But you know what? The sojourn into the snowbank that seemed so inevitable simply didn’t happen. Not only did we forge through to the Quebec border, we made it all the way to our planned stop at a hotel which had been booked several days prior. It was a solid thirteen hours after setting out from Truro that morning and I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

For two cars that are usually approached in winter with the same caution as one would approach a lump of plutonium that has suddenly appeared in the lettuce crisper, the 500 Turbo and MX-5 were totally and superbly competent machines. Cars are like sex: with the correct rubber on, they can go anywhere.

The next morning brought more snow covered roads and much appreciated daylight. Precipitation and perspiration ceased about an hour after we left the hotel, and we approached the froggy delights of Montreal with élan. Pausing for some photos at the base of a picturesque mountain in a random megabucks suburb, the two sport compacts suddenly looked like the entirely right choices for this journey. At that moment, I couldn’t have imagined driving anything else. Onwards, then.


Montreal drivers frequently displayed a dangerous mixture of apathy and aggression, prompting banzai lane changes and the occasional furrowed brow. In fifth gear, the Fiat’s turbo lag is best measured with a calendar, forcing one to row their way through fourth and even third gear in order to keep the 1.4L on full boil while maintaining flank speed in heavy traffic.

Navigating the busiest highway in North America, we wound our way to our hotel in downtown Toronto. Arriving in the dark, I reflected on how damn well these two cars performed, completely out of their element. The Fiat even returned good fuel economy, 7.2L/100km. That’s 40mpg , as close as makes no difference. On snow tires. In rough conditions. Win.

At the base of CN Tower, high fives were exchanged. We made it in one piece, even though the brown pants factor was high on occasion. That evening, more alcohol was consumed and more plans were hatched. What kind, you ask? Let’s just say it involves a couple of full-sized trucks and some precision driving. VTEC just kicked in, yo!

For this journey, Mazda provided an insured MX-5 while Chrysler provided an insured Fiat 500 Turbo, both with clutch pedals. Save the Manuals!

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail IMG_5116 IMG_5130 IMG_5142 IMG_5141 IMG_5143 IMG_5145 IMG_5147 IMG_5158 IMG_5155 IMG_5162 IMG_5178 IMG_5175 IMG_5173 IMG_5172 IMG_5181

]]> 45 Light On Top: VW Golf Carbon GTI Wed, 20 Feb 2013 16:04:12 +0000

Shuffled off to the side of the Volkswagen display at the Canadian International Auto Show was this Golf, sporting a carbon fibre roof and side mirrors.

Back in September, VW announced a planned Golf ‘Carbon’ GTI that intends to use these carbon fibre bits plus fashion its front bulkhead and floorpan out of lightweight aluminium. While this car was devoid of GTI badges, it did have these same carbon fibre treatments. Sadly, VW would not allow TTAC to tear up the carpet and see if the floor was made of aluminium. These changes reportedly shave about 200kg off the weight of a normal GTI.

It may be one of a few special packages offered in 2014, commemorating the Golf’s 40th year. If equipped with the standard 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine, a Carbon GTI could fire off a 0-60 time of less than 6 seconds.

IMG_5282 IMG_5283 IMG_5284 IMG_5285 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 13
SUV Onslaught Continues: Honda Urban SUV Concept Wed, 20 Feb 2013 15:40:46 +0000  

Feeling the need to build a segment vehicle that slots below the CR-V, both in terms of size and price, Honda showed its Urban SUV Concept at the Canadian International Auto Show. To drive home the point that they are marketing this at young’uns, Honda amped up the hyperbole while Skrillex blared out of the main speakers onstage.

Described as having “vibrant character lines”, apparently it has “social seating favoured by young adults” while making use of Honda’s Magic Seats. This I can only imagine simply means that the damn thing will seat five and have a split-folding rear bench, not unlike every other SUV in existence. Doors on the Concept remained firmly shut, preventing anyone from seeing what this social seating actually looks like. If Honda really wanted seating that is favoured by young adults, they need only equip the vehicle with five iPads and an Xbox.

Based on the upcoming Fit, the Urban SUV Concept has a planned release date of 2014. This vehicle and the soon-to-be-restyled Fit will reportedly be built at Honda’s new plant in Celaya, Mexico.

IMG_5346 IMG_5337 IMG_5338 IMG_5339 IMG_5341 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 19
Lumina APV Redux: Fiat 500L Wed, 20 Feb 2013 15:40:07 +0000  

Our own Alex L. Dykes postulated that the 500L is what happens when Fiat stays in America for awhile – and he’s right. The feature that stuck out immediately are the massive side windows between the front doors and the windshield, looking for all the world like that area of the original GM Dustbuster minivans.

Unlike at the Chicago show, the doors of this 500L were open, revealing an interior that will be familiar to current Fiat 500 owners … but on a +1 level. The gauges are certainly more comprehensive than those in the regular 500 and the centre stack incorporates a screen seemingly intended for nav and entertainment. Neither pricing nor engines were discussed – here’s hoping that reports of the 1.4L staying in the 500 are true and the 500L is powered by the rip-snortin’ Abarth engine.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail IMG_5350 IMG_5351 IMG_5352 IMG_5353 Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. ]]> 27
The Car Salesmanuscripts: Bounty Hunters Sat, 03 Nov 2012 05:04:42 +0000

A wad of hundred dollar bills flew through the air, landing in the center of the conference room table. It was the start of a new month, and the Dealer Principal was making what was to be our main focus quite clear.

“You’ve got an entire row of used cars out there that hasn’t moved in far too long,” he thundered at the sales staff. Producing a sheaf of papers from his jacket pocket, a list featuring about a dozen vehicles that had been on the lot approaching 100 days appeared. “These are all in Recon as we speak, getting turned into cream puffs. That cash goes to the person who sells the most off this list.” A bounty,  then. Game on.

I enjoyed selling second-hand vehicles off the lot, if for nothing else than earning the favorable commission when compared to most equivalent new models. Knowing the commission percentage of gross profit for new and used, and there was often a lot more profit built into the asking price of something from the left-hand side of the parking lot, I tended to sell as many used as possible. The smell of a new car is alluring; the smell of money even more so.

One month the Sales Manager inexplicably purchased from auction several used examples of a compact sedan when we already had a plethora of the exact same new sedans sitting unsold up in the back lot. Logically, the sales staff latched onto the used models like a newborn latches onto its mother. Equivalent car, more profit, more commission – what wasn’t to like? Predictably, a cease-and-desist order was issued by way of a bounty on the new models, causing all sales staff to gravitate towards those cars in search of extra cash.

This particular month, though, there would be no easy way to earn the extravagantly offered bounty. From the list, I recall a wretched station wagon in a horrible shade of green. A plain, no frills hatchback with mismatched side moldings – different textures from the factory. A sorry looking minivan whose interior appeared to have been previously inhabited by an angry lynx. Whatever the Sales Manager was smoking when he bought these cars to create this fiasco, he should have shared,  it must have been good.

Recon is a short term for reconditioning – the wash bay, in less glamorous terms. At the dealer, nearly everything looks nice and shiny. Those dozen cars in question? They all just got sprayed down by the pimply faced, minimum wage teenager in the wash bay before going up on the 3 foot high display overlooking the main road. Every one of those vehicles had languished on the lot for a reason. As a customer, it pays to look at and study used cars with the same care as if they are plutonium filled tax forms.

Three of the twelve was enough for me to earn the bounty. The wagon went to a local delivery company who mercifully painted it in their livery colors. The base model penalty box was pawned off to a new college student who was excited to simply have wheels. I vividly remember selling the mechanically sound but tattered minivan to a very nice family who apparently cared not one whit about the shredded interior. Perhaps they had a pet lynx of their own.

When shopping, go ahead and open the hood. Open the trunk. Open the doors. Listen to Steve Lang. I took pride in being as up front as humanly possible with those customers because referrals and repeat customers are the key to being successful in this business. An ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure.

Matthew buys, sells, repairs, & races cars. He is fond of making money and offering loud opinions. He can be found on Twitter @matthewkguy

]]> 7
I’m No Dummy Fri, 02 Nov 2012 18:33:01 +0000

photo source: Wikipedia

Statistics Canada reports that there are more than 26 million registered vehicles deemed fit to ply our 900,000km of Canadian roadway. Not bad for a group of souls who wear wool socks for six months of the year and feast on poutine. Transport Canada sets regulations for such things (the cars, not the poutine) and is thus charged with crashing, smashing, and otherwise ruining brand new vehicles with single digits on their odometers – all in the name of safety, of course.

The amount of detail available on the Transport Canada website is superb. Descriptions are there for the Test Plan of a Smart fortwo micro hybrid drive. An environmental analysis of the BMW 118d, curiously not for sale here or anywhere this side of the pond, is readable in all its oil burning glory.

What I didn’t know is that after the cars have been crashed, debris swept up, and crash test dummies put back on the shelf, Transport Canada sells the remains at an online auction like a black market physician going through the best of his cadavers. I thought they simply crushed them all. Nope.

May I interest you in a slightly bent 2011 Mazda Miata with five (five, not five thousand) kilometers for $4009.00? A 2011 Audi A3 with thirty-one kilometers for $2,266.00? At these prices, some judicious bidding and subsequent eBay hawking of non essential parts would bring the net investment down to LeMons territory! Alas, purchasers have to prove that his or her recycling firm is commercially recognized in Canada. Simply having four abandoned Mustangs on blocks in one’s front yard doesn’t count. I’ve tried.

It’s notable that they also auction off Euro-specific cars that are not registerable in Canada, with the stipulation that the car be hightailed out of the Colonies upon purchase. The BMW 118d mentioned above auctioned for $11,188.00 in August. Peugeots and Renaults as Canadian Government Crown Assets? Mon dieu!

Matthew buys, sells, repairs, & races cars. He is fond of making money and offering loud opinions. He can be found on Twitter @matthewkguy

]]> 21
The Car Salesmanuscripts: Here’s My Card Mon, 09 Jul 2012 12:30:38 +0000 There’s not really any sense, I’ve learned, in trying to be subtle in this business. Bull in a china shop, full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes is the modus operandi – at least when handling the antics of competing dealers.

Fresh out of business school, where my head was crammed with strategies and theories whilst my appetite was sorted with mucho beer and pizza, I had tons of ideas and concepts I wanted to employ. “Build your brand”, they said. “Be top of mind”, they exhorted. In my early efforts to do both, I took full advantage of all opportunities, earning business and pissing off competitors.

Being employed at the smaller of the two dealerships representing our brand only strengthened my resolve. They were the rich cousin but I wasn’t about to let that stop me. I was in my early 20s and knew (knew!) that I was the best car salesman … in the world.

Towards the end of the calendar year, the other dealership decided to rent space at the local shopping mall to park some cars and build awareness. Privately, I thought it was a great idea. Publicly, I slagged it off with haughty derision in order to mirror the reaction of our Dealer Principal. I think he was just angry that he hadn’t thought of the idea first.

I hated the mall. My girlfriend at the time did not. In pursuit of a “healthy relationship”, I agreed to go shopping with her there on a Friday evening. When we walked through the South Entrance, I saw the cars on display by the competing dealer. I don’t know how much the other guys were paying for space in the mall but if the number of people milling about was any indication – peering through windows, kicking tires, looking at window stickers – it sure seemed like the expenditure was worth every penny.

Then it struck me. “I sell the same damn cars!” I blurted out to no one in particular. While the existence of two competing dealers for the same brand was a huge source of disgruntlement for me, in reality most customers simply didn’t know the difference. I decided to use this to my advantage; and I had just picked up a box of shiny new business cards! How fortuitous. I ran out to my generously supplied dealer SUV to get them.

On returning, I talked to as many of the potential customers as humanly possible. Some were interested. Some treated me as if I were a soiled reader of Playboy Magazine. When I ran out of people to tempt, I plastered all of the competitor’s cars there in the mall with my business cards. They were everywhere. Legend has it that the owner of the other dealership ranted, raved, and generally frothed when he found out what I had done. It’s a documented fact that nine direct sales resulted because of my quick thinking. That’s nine that the other guys didn’t get. Fabulous.

After telling the Dealer Principal what I had done, he roared with laughter.

“Maybe displaying cars in the mall is not such a bad idea … especially if they’re spending money to send us customers!”

I had to agree. Around here, damn the torpedoes is a fine approach.

Matthew Guy buys and sell cars. He tweets as Matthew the Car Guy (@matthewkguy) and writes for the British website for young enthusiasts, Car Throttle.

]]> 9
The Car Salesmanuscripts: Rewarding Bad Behaviour Sun, 08 Jul 2012 10:17:00 +0000 “This place smells like a distillery!” roared the Dealer Principal, hurling a previously useful phone book across the office. The veins in his neck popped out like redwood trees and I thought he was going to have a coronary right there on the spot.

“Clean yourself up or you’ll be looking for another job by 5 o’clock!”

In reality, his rage was not directed at me but rather at a co-worker who, by all accounts, seemed to have rolled into work that Saturday morning straight from the downtown bar district. Ron and I were both in our early 20s, but he had started at the dealership about a year earlier. Known for being greasier than an oil slick, Ron’s charm and sales ability generally kept him in the good books with his co-workers and the Dealer Principal. This time though, I wondered if his luck was about to run out.

“Shit, Ron. What the hell did you get up to last night?” I asked him. Ron truly did look like death warmed over.

“Not a clue, Matt”, he replied. At least I think that’s what he said. Now that I think about it, the words sounded more like “Nobaclew, Mzzz”.

“Listen, there’s a minivan I took in on trade last night that’s not entered into any of the systems yet. It’s parked around the building. Go lie down. And take these Tylenol”, I instructed. Ron grunted his thanks, shambling off in the direction of the back lot. It took him a couple of hours to resurface.

It was hardly his first time being threatened with job loss. The previous summer he and I had done particularly well with a specific leasing program on full size trucks and both of us were rewarded with a sport coupé each for a company demo. A dealership supplied car for personal use is a perk afforded to all sales staff, one for which I am grateful every waking minute of the day.

The quality of one’s demo is always directly proportional to one’s sales, or lack thereof. Do well, you drive well. Languish near the bottom of the Big Board, however, and a base model Penalty Box is your punishment. One month, all hands were deemed unworthy and the manager busted everybody down to used vehicles. His efforts were for naught. As there were a plethora of SUVs and trucks in the used inventory, most of us ended up driving better used demos than the new demos that were taken away. It wasn’t long before the manager wised up and we were all back in our original cars.

The sport coupé wasn’t in Ron’s possession for very long. A couple of weekends after being presented with the keys, he decided to attend a concert just outside of town. This was fine, except he chose to drive right down to the bottom of a steep grassy field – not unlike, upon reflection, that episode of Top Gear UK where the hosts bought crap cars and drove them like teenagers in a series of challenges.

After a night of partying and a morning of sobering up, Ron decided it was time to depart. It was at this time he discovered the grass had the approximate traction properties of the Jell-O shooters being consumed the previous evening. In a fit of frustration, the coupé was given bootfuls of right foot, creating a cloud of acrid clutch smoke that most definitely remedied the blackfly problem in that part of the world for at least three weeks.

Limping back to the dealership, sporting a burnt and now useless clutch, the coupé was put on a lift in the service department for repairs and Ron was read the riot act by the Dealer Principal. Predictably, he got away with it based on his most recent sales performance and the assertion that he would be driving the worst car on the lot for the next two months. Unfazed, Ron continued to outsell almost everybody on staff.

Ron’s not at the dealership anymore, having moved on to greener pastures of his own volition. It’s the people that make this industry bearable and, dare I say it, fun. Ron is just another one of life’s characters. Wherever he is, someone’s probably throwing a phone book at him – and I mean that as a compliment.

Matthew Guy buys and sell cars. He tweets as Matthew the Car Guy (@matthewkguy) and writes for the British website for young enthusiasts, Car Throttle.

]]> 34
The Car Salesmanuscripts: The Car That Got Away Mon, 18 Jun 2012 09:58:53 +0000 First in a series by car salesman Matthew Guy.

Trying to eke out a living in your early 20s is rarely an easy task. Compounded with fresh debt and a lack of solid work experience, I decided to parlay my knowledge of cars into making money, taking a job selling cars. It was intended to be a gap job –turned out I liked it and, more importantly, I was good at it. Some customers stick out in your mind. The 1000 watt bombshell with fabulous frontage to whom I sold a convertible. A raven haired beauty who was equally as sharp a negotiator as she was a testament to the female form. Too late in the game, I realized that dating customers was an extremely poor idea – especially if Check Engine lights and alternator problems were frequent. One red haired temptress refused to tell anyone how we met, lest people think she paid me to be her boyfriend through the commission. At 23 years old, I didn’t really care.

Not all notable customers were of the unfair sex. This guy, I chased for over a month. He was waffling between another car from me and a Subaru from across town. The industry is small, I knew the Subaru folks outside of work. On this particular customer, we agreed that whoever made the sale would get steak and the loser would get beans. As far as I was concerned, it was over before it began. They would dine on beans, I decided.

The Subaru boys were making it tough, pointing out to the customer that my new car was not significantly different than the 8 year old example he was trading, it was FWD vs their AWD, and so forth. I countered with tales of piston slap and a higher MSRP after rebates. It’s predictable who won; I wouldn’t be telling this story if I didn’t end up eating ribeye. But that steak came at a price that was dear. Once he had signed on the line that is dotted, I took his trade and parked it in the back, next to a clapped out Lumina and a Caravan that was leaking all its fluids.

Within an hour I was paged to my office for a phone call. “Hi. This is [customer]. I want to return my car.” Resisting the urge to groan out loud I mentally dug into every sales lesson I ever attended. I asked him what he most liked about the car. I asked him why he kept his current car for so long. I talked about buyer’s remorse.

It didn’t matter. “I’ll be there in about 20 minutes.” Damn. “OK.” I said, using a tone generally reserved for heart attack patients. So I rushed over to the office and explained what’s going on. Not without reason, the manager’s first question was “Where’s his trade?” “Out back, with the rest of the ones we took in today.” It dawned on me now if we explained that the trade was already sold to a wholesaler, it would muddy the waters enough that he probably would go away. Besides, it’s not like we had a return policy anyway.

Usain Bolt in the 100m did not move as quickly as I did. The body shop manager quickly saw what was up and opened the doors, first to the garage, then to the paint booth some 50ft inside. Comfortably ensconced by DuPont and Sherwin-Williams, the traded car had effectively vanished from the face of the earth.

The customer showed up in a cloud of dust and boiling brake fluid. It’s safe to say he did his best Andretti impersonation on the way to the dealership. We had a sit down. It turned out that Subaru called him on his mobile shortly after he left our lot and talked him into making the call back to us. Fair enough; I probably would have done the same thing. That customer returned thrice in seven years, buying a car each time, Check Engine lights be damned. God only knows how many referrals he sent. And that steak? Knowing that I beat the competition not only in the initial sale but also in their attempt to turn the tables made it taste that much better.

Matthew Guy buys and sell cars,  he tweets as Matthew the Car Guy (@matthewkguy) and writes for the British website 

]]> 45