The Truth About Cars » QOTD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 30 Jul 2015 21:00:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » QOTD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com QOTD: How Do People Make Decisions On a Test Drive? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-how-do-people-make-decisions-on-a-test-drive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-how-do-people-make-decisions-on-a-test-drive/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 11:16:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1124529 I recently had the opportunity to test drive an automobile, and I remembered why I hate it so much: because test drives are insanely short. They’re not just a little short. They’re wildly, absurdly, ridiculously short. Some test drives last for eight minutes, even though you will likely own the vehicle you’re driving for several […]

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I recently had the opportunity to test drive an automobile, and I remembered why I hate it so much: because test drives are insanely short.

They’re not just a little short. They’re wildly, absurdly, ridiculously short. Some test drives last for eight minutes, even though you will likely own the vehicle you’re driving for several years, you will pay tens of thousands of dollars for it, and you will spend several hours in it every day of your life.

Obviously, we know why this is: dealers don’t want to waste time with test drives. They want these things to go by quickly, so the cars don’t accumulate very many miles, and then they want you to get back into the showroom and start arguing over the price. This is how they get ya. The more time you spend arguing over the price, the more you want the car. “I don’t really want this car,” you think to yourself. “But I’ve already devoted six hours to arguing about the price. So I’d better get it.” This is how Chevrolet sold so many Cobalts.

But is the car buying public really content with these test drives?

The last test drive I took when I was buying a car for myself was in the summer of 2013. I was at a Cadillac dealer, and I was buying a CTS-V station wagon, and the guy allowed me to take the car about seven miles. “Just go up to the light and turn around,” the salesperson said. “That’ll show you how it handles.”

Yes, a U-Turn on a busy street shows me everything I need to know about handling.

Now, I bought that car anyway, because the truth is I didn’t really care how it drove. I had read all the magazine reviews, and watched all the videos, and I knew that I would probably love the car based on the fact that I heard it was excellent from a wide range of trusted journalistic sources, and also Road & Track.

But how does a normal person make a decision based on something as short as a test drive?

Here’s what I mean: you go to the Honda dealer and you’re interested in a Pilot. This is a family car you’ll have for the next five to eight years, until the moldy Doritos smell between the seats gets so bad that you trade it in on an MDX.

Now, when you’re buying a Pilot, you have a LOT of needs. For instance: it has to carry car seats. You have to be able to communicate with your kids in the third row. You have to be able to get grandma in and out of the back seat. You have to be able to store all your children’s accessories back there, like your diaper bag, and your clothes change bag, and your childproofing bag, and your large selection of wet wipes. You have to be able to fit it in your driveway, to pair it with your phone, to go over the bump near your house without too much drama. How the hell are you supposed to figure out all this stuff… from a ten minute test drive?

The funny thing is, I’ve never really seen anyone ask about a longer test drive. I sold cars for a while, and nobody really pushed me very hard to let them take the car out for an extended test. Once, a guy came in and said he would buy a used Pontiac Vibe if we let him take it home so we could see if his tuba fit in the back. So we let him take it home, his tuba fit in the back, and he bought the car. For me, that was the extent of the extended test drive market.

So here’s my question: is today’s society actually OK with the state of modern test drives? Do we find it acceptable that you buy a brand new car without taking it for more of a spin than a quick jaunt around the block? And more importantly: if you’ve ever taken an extended test drive, exactly how did you negotiate it? And what was the dealer’s response when you asked?

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QOTD: When Will Pickups Cost $100,000? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-will-pickups-cost-100000/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-will-pickups-cost-100000/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 11:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1122289 An unnamed product planner for an unnamed truck company candidly told me off the record once: “There is no ceiling for trucks right now. It’s incredible.” He’s right. Ford’s announcement yesterday of a truck that’ll likely sniff $60,000 to start is a far cry from your grandfather’s Ram that he bought for three dairy cows […]

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2016 Ford F-150 Limited

An unnamed product planner for an unnamed truck company candidly told me off the record once: “There is no ceiling for trucks right now. It’s incredible.”

He’s right. Ford’s announcement yesterday of a truck that’ll likely sniff $60,000 to start is a far cry from your grandfather’s Ram that he bought for three dairy cows and a handful of sawdust.

Reuters reported that the average sale price for a full-size pickup is $42,429, which is 30-percent higher than it was six years ago. Certainly, trucks don’t have 30-percent more stuff or 30-percent more anything to justify the price hike. Truckmakers are just being good ol’ capitalists and testing what the market will bear.

And apparently it’ll bear a lot.

It’s hard to say if trucks have reached Nero-levels of excess yet, but it’s only a matter of time before the bubble bursts — after all, economics follows the law of gravity too. Who builds and when will it leave the factory with a six-figure tag? It’ll come sooner rather than later, is my guess.

A bit of background: We couldn’t price out a six-figure truck yet. We were close with Ford’s Super Duty F-250 Platinum, but that topped out at just under $74,000. The most expensive non-luxury vehicle we could make was a Chevrolet Suburban with every option — including a man-made ski mountain, or something on its roof — thrown at it, at just over $80,000. Volvo, who loves that it’s a “premium” brand and not “luxury,” will sell you a luxury-ish XC90 for just over $93,000.

That means bupkis for pickups, however. They follow their own law of profitability right now, evidenced yesterday by the F-150 Limited, which is only limited in the numbers that they’ll sell.

So how about it B&B: When will a pickup cost $100,000?

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QOTD: Is Death Of The Sedan Nigh? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-is-death-of-the-sedan-nigh/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-is-death-of-the-sedan-nigh/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 11:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1120345 Automakers are busy re-jigging their product mix to better meet the crossover hunger of an ever-shifting buying public. Chevrolet is adding a new crossover to their lineup — according to “sources” — that shrinks the Equinox and puts a new, three-row model between it and the Traverse. Mazda has a new cute ute in the forum of […]

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2016 Chevrolet Cruze Front 3/4

Automakers are busy re-jigging their product mix to better meet the crossover hunger of an ever-shifting buying public.

Chevrolet is adding a new crossover to their lineup — according to “sources” — that shrinks the Equinox and puts a new, three-row model between it and the Traverse. Mazda has a new cute ute in the forum of a jacked-up Mazda2. Same with Honda’s HR-V which, by all accounts, is a massive hit out of the gate. Toyota has their new subcompact utility on the way. And Buick — oh, Buick — has finally rectified the Encore’s asthma with a decent puffer.

However, there was news about a new Cadillac ATS Midnight Edition yesterday and we didn’t run it. That’s because nobody, or at least nearly nobody, cares about sedans.

Timothy “Sales, Sales, Sales” Cain says it month after month using his fancy charts. Mid-size sedans are taking a beating. There are winners in the category — the Chrysler 200 and Subaru Legacy come to mind — but their successes are very situational. For the 200, for instance, it probably has more to do with the lack of a mid-size Avenger in the same dealer lot.

While analysts and journalists talk about the “crossover craze” as if it’s a passing fad — like two-tone beige/gold on forest green ’90s-esque paint schemes — I think this crossover migration is now the new normal. Chevrolet currently has five sedans if you count the soon-to-be-gone Chevrolet SS, a car that nobody buys because GM doesn’t even bother to market it beyond sticking the two letters to the front of a swarm of oval-racing silhouette cars. Take that away, Chevrolet has the Sonic sedan, Cruze, Malibu, and Impala — and guess which of those are selling like hotcakes right now? (Hint: I’ll let you use zero fingers to point to the winner.)

Just like our parents, or maybe even their parents, who transitioned away from the traditional family hauler that was the American station wagon; just like we, or maybe even our parents, adopted massive SUVs in the ’90s that drank gasoline like a local varsity cheerleading team attacking well shots after a great home game — then unceremoniously ditched them for hybrids; just like we took up the hybrid torch, ditched the engine altogether, and accepted electric vehicles into our lives … the lowly sedan, a staple of American road-going salesman and fresh-faced professionals looking to put on a good show in office park parking lots across North America, is being phased out in favor of America’s new favorite family car — the crossover.

Should we be sad? Maybe. Probably not. As long as we still have Chargers, I’m happy.

What do you think, Best and Brightest? Are the sedan’s days numbered?

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QOTD: Are Cross-Marque Engine Swaps Blasphemous? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-cross-marque-engine-swaps-blasphemous/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-cross-marque-engine-swaps-blasphemous/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 11:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1107937 I’m a big fan of goofy engine swaps, but I must admit that I get tired of seeing small-block Chevy engines in everything. Still, engine swapping is an American tradition that goes way back, and the rise of online discourse has led to a huge increase in the level of heretic-seeking, brand-loyal, anti-engine-swap sentiment in […]

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I’m a big fan of goofy engine swaps, but I must admit that I get tired of seeing small-block Chevy engines in everything. Still, engine swapping is an American tradition that goes way back, and the rise of online discourse has led to a huge increase in the level of heretic-seeking, brand-loyal, anti-engine-swap sentiment in the last decade or so. Why, our very own Crabspirits may have to go into a witness-protection program after stuffing a Nissan VG30 V6 into his Toyota Cressida, and I’ve received some disapproval for putting a GM engine in a 1941 Plymouth (not a huge amount, because prewar Plymouth fanatics tend to be 115 years old and not so online-savvy). AMC guys wig out when they see an LS in a Javelin, BMW fanatics get all red-faced when they see an E30 with a Detroit V8, and so on with just about any cross-marque swap you can name.

How do you feel?
LeMons_Engine_Swaps-Duratec_Geo-02

Are all such swaps evil and wrong? Some of them? Which ones? So far, fanciers of British cars are the car freaks I’ve found whose members nearly always approve of weird engine swaps, partly because of the tradition of hacking the hell out of British machinery and partly because so many British engines were 50 years obsolete when new.

Whaddya think?

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QOTD: Does Anyone Care About Recalls? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-does-anyone-care-about-recalls/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-does-anyone-care-about-recalls/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 11:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1112641 Another day, another recall. Or, at least, this seems to be the growing trend lately in the automotive industry. Years ago, I remember recalls being a rarity. My mom owns a Ford Escape that she bought new in 2003, and I distinctly remember her thinking about getting something else because she was worried about all […]

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Escape to which mountain?

Another day, another recall. Or, at least, this seems to be the growing trend lately in the automotive industry.

Years ago, I remember recalls being a rarity. My mom owns a Ford Escape that she bought new in 2003, and I distinctly remember her thinking about getting something else because she was worried about all the recalls. It had, at the most, three. This is what used to pass for a high-recall vehicle.

No longer.

In today’s climate, cars are getting recalled all the time. Left and right. Cats and dogs. Every single day there’s a new automotive recall. I just got a recall for my 10-year-old SUV of which I’m the third owner. Nobody is safe.

The funny thing is, the sheer number of recent recalls has sort of desensitized everyone to the recall problem. It used to be when you got a recall notice, you were seriously concerned about safety and worried about your vehicle’s ability to drive down the street without something happening like the vehicle launching you into space because the supplier had unintentionally built 2,400 units with an ejector seat.

But in today’s world, we’ve seen it all. Toyota recalling millions of cars for floor mats and pedal issues. Chevrolet recalling tens of millions of cars for ignition switch problems. Honda recalling every car it has ever manufactured for faulty airbags, including a wide range of cars that didn’t have airbags, because Takata was putting explosive charges in the speedometer.

I think the result is that people just don’t care about recalls anymore.

I noticed this because I’ve started running a lot of Carfax reports over the last few months. I’ve paid for a subscription and I’ve started running reports on a wide range of cars, including vehicles on sale, vehicles I see on the street, vehicles I see on Craigslist. Anything, really. And what I’ve learned: an enormous number of them have open recalls.

What I think happens is people are starting to disregard recall notices more and more because they’re just coming so often. If you have any modern, popular vehicle, you might have four or five recalls currently outstanding, all of which will have parts reach dealers at a different time. That door lock recall? Oh, we’ll have parts in August. The brake spindle bladder? Parts won’t come in until October. But by then, we’ll be out of parts for the door lock recall. Better come in twice.

The interesting thing about this is, the latest climate of recalls has made it so oft-recalled cars are almost entirely unnoticeable. It used to be that if you were thinking about buying a car, and you learned it had been recalled a few times, you wondered if maybe you should consider something else. Somewhere else. Some other brand that isn’t making the kind of death trap that gets recalled a few times.

But now, you see a car that’s been recalled a few times, and you sort of expect it. What hasn’t been recalled, you think. And then you buy it, and you forget all about the recall, because God knows you’re going to get ten more notices in the mail until it’s time to dump it on the next poor sap.

And so I ask: does anyone care about recalls? Do you?

Me, I worry a bit about recalls. When I got my recall notice, I grew a little concerned, because I know this is a safety thing. No, it might not be affecting me right now, but if we’ve moved to the point where they’re doing a recall, it might affect me soon. So I’m a little cautious with these things.

But should I even be worried? Are cars actually made worse than they once were, and that’s why there are so many recalls? Or are automakers just scared of liability issues, so they’re being more cautious?

The public certainly seems to think it’s the second option, based on just how many recalls they aren’t going in for. Me, I’m not so sure. I made sure to ask about my recall the last time my car was at the dealer.

Their response? “Oh, those parts haven’t come in yet.”

Ahh, recalls. Maybe I’ll just forget about it.

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QOTD: Is It Time We Give Up The ‘Save The Manuals’ War? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-is-it-time-we-give-up-the-save-the-manuals-war/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-is-it-time-we-give-up-the-save-the-manuals-war/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 15:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1109129 With news that BMW’s M division might give up offering manual transmissions altogether along with the plethora of automatic-only performance options from other automakers on the market, the battle to keep the manual looks bleak. Not only that, but automatics seem to just be the better choice for a number of other non-performance options as […]

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2015 Dodge Challenger 6-speed manual shifter

With news that BMW’s M division might give up offering manual transmissions altogether along with the plethora of automatic-only performance options from other automakers on the market, the battle to keep the manual looks bleak.

Not only that, but automatics seem to just be the better choice for a number of other non-performance options as well.

Let’s set the Mazda MX-5 Miata aside for a moment because we all know putting an automatic transmission in a light-weight, low-power roadster is sacrilege and anyone attempting to buy an automatic Miata should be shipped off to a re-education camp.

For starters, let’s talk about one car that isn’t necessarily driver oriented.

In Alex’s review of the Scion iA yesterday, he points out the automated needs on the lower end of the price scale (emphasis mine):

The iA isn’t the Scion I was expecting, and it isn’t the Mazda I was hoping for either. The iA seems like Mazda’s interpretation of what a Scion should be, and marriage has created a surprisingly good little car. Shoppers will find a well-controlled ride, excellent road manners and impeccable fuel economy all wrapped inside Scion’s warranty and scheduled maintenance, and sold at a Toyota dealer. The combination makes for the most appealing sedan in this segment by a hair. (If Ford mates an automatic transmission to their 3-cylinder turbo Fiesta, it’s game on.)

For those of you who’ve never driven a manual Fiesta, especially one with the 1.0-liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost mill, it’s as close as you can get to driving nirvana in the subcompact segment without adding ST curry. The manual transmission is the perfect amount of notchy and forgiving, and it’s the one vehicle I wish I could use to teach everyone how to drive a car with a stick shift.

But, appreciation for rowing your own these days is limited. The little three-pot Fiesta would likely do a helluva lot better sales-wise if it could be had with an automatic. Instead, those looking for a new car who’ve never driven a manual before immediately dismiss it. That should be expected as learning how to drive on a brand-new $17,000 investment is far from ideal.

Over at General Motors’ Aspirations Division, Cadillac’s last-generation CTS-V was an absolute hoot to drive. When it came out, I was lucky enough to spend time behind the wheels of both the CTS-V Coupe and Sport Wagon (which they should have called Estate). The coupe, equipped with its six-speed automatic, was an absolute blast to drive hard. It also required zero effort to just cruise around as you should do in a Cadillac. On the other hand, the six-speed manual Sport Wagon was more fun when driven in anger, but about 1/10th as relaxing to drive in “Everyday Mode.” If it were my money, even though I’ve grown up my entire life on manual cars, I’d have bought the automatic V — hands down.

What do you think, Best & Brightest? Is it time to give up the “Save The Manuals” war and finally accept computers are better than us as this whole changing-gears business?

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QOTD: Is Motorsport Still Relevant? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-motorsport-still-relevant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-motorsport-still-relevant/#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2015 15:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1108129 I am completely at a loss to think of another sport that tests man and machine as much as motorsport. Maybe bobsledding? Nah, scratch that. Automakers have a history of testing their latest and greatest at road courses, ovals and street circuits all over the world. Some of the best technological innovations have come directly from […]

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SONOMA, CA - JUNE 28:  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Crispy Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 28, 2015 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

I am completely at a loss to think of another sport that tests man and machine as much as motorsport. Maybe bobsledding? Nah, scratch that.

Automakers have a history of testing their latest and greatest at road courses, ovals and street circuits all over the world. Some of the best technological innovations have come directly from racing. But, is that still the case? Is racing still the test bed it used to be for what we see on our cars a decade from now? And does it still help automakers capture the hearts and minds of the car-buying public?

Formula 1, the multi-billion dollar single-seater racing series controlled by a British troll, has gone down the rabbit hole of high technology and, to a degree, fuel economy. The new breed of Formula 1 “power units” — as they are now called — are a combination of turbocharged V6 engines and electric drivetrain systems. The days of a relatively simple V10 are over, as is the noise and overall spectacle of a Formula 1 car.

Today’s production cars are certainly becoming more tech laden. However, whether the technology is directly derived from racing is another point entirely. I can’t remember the last time I saw an ad for a piece of technology taken from an automaker’s F1 efforts and applied to a vehicle on the showroom floor.

That’s not to say racing is irrelevant because the technology cannot be directly transferred. Instead, Formula 1 has turned into a marketing exercise disguised as a high-brow sport. Infiniti, and possibly Aston Martin in the future, has sponsored Red Bull Racing for a few years now, but the team has never once used an engine built — or even branded — by Infiniti. Yet, the Cars of the Bulls that are Red still wear multiple Infiniti logos all over their bodywork.

NASCAR is a completely different can of beer, but the outcome is very much the same. Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota are the only three automakers contesting America’s motorsport of choice after Dodge decided the investment was no longer returning the needed rewards. After all, today’s NASCAR cars are no longer even loosely connected to what you can buy at your local dealer — though a push-rod V8 Camry would be a tempting proposition. The disconnection is compounded when you realize many engines in NASCAR are built by engine builders and not the automakers themselves.

The motorsport that turns left is another marketing exercise — though not as polished in its fan base or technology as Formula 1 — that exists simply to show you what candy you should by, where your should enlist for service, and multiple options for achieving *ahem* stature.

Even IndyCar, with its less ambitious technological aims, is only supplied by two automakers — Chevrolet and Honda — with nary a piece of tech making it to either of their showrooms.

What about club racing? Certain members of TTAC’s roster believe all car reviewers should be track aficionados, possessing the ability to push a Nissan Pathfinder to its physical limits in an effort to deliver the best value to readers. Many of these reviewers are club racers of one flavor or another, whether it be entry-level Spec Miata or top-flight competition at the SCCA Runoffs, but it is difficult to justify club racing as relevant to the general car-buying public. I’ve never once heard “I am extremely interested in XYZ model … but where did it place in the Runoffs this year?” The commercial viability of marketing in such a space is quite small as well as there is virtually no media coverage of club events.

Speaking of media coverage, the three top-level racing series mentioned above have seen their TV viewership dwindle over the years. Formula 1 lost 25 million viewers thanks to a switch to pay TV in Britain and a laundry list of other reasons. NASCAR can’t fill all the seats at their biggest race of the year. And, well, IndyCar is IndyCar. Even as an excuse for dumping large amounts of marketing cash, racing is a case of diminishing relevance.

And just to drive the point home a little bit more: Mazda. They are likely the most recognizable marque at your local road course or autocross and they cross the finish line first more often than any other automaker in America. In terms of sales, Mazda finished 18th last year.

But, that’s just what I think. What about you, Best & Brightest? Is motorsport still relevant in today’s automotive marketplace?

[Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images]

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QOTD: What Really Makes a Car American? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-what-really-makes-a-car-american/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-what-really-makes-a-car-american/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 14:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1106969 Today is the beginning of the Independence Day holiday in America, which is this beautiful historical moment where we all take a few days off work and light things on fire. It’s also an excellent time to examine precisely what makes a car American. I want to do this because there are a lot of […]

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volkswagen-chattanooga-solar-park-08

Today is the beginning of the Independence Day holiday in America, which is this beautiful historical moment where we all take a few days off work and light things on fire. It’s also an excellent time to examine precisely what makes a car American.

I want to do this because there are a lot of Americans out there who will only buy an American car, just like there are a lot of Japanese who will only buy a Japanese car, and a lot of Germans who will only buy a German car, and a lot of South Africans who will only buy cars with bulletproof windows. But in today’s globalized world, what exactly defines a car’s country of origin?

Some would say where the car is manufactured – and that’s reasonable. After all, if a car is built in America, and sold in America by an American car dealership to someone in America, this is a pretty damn American vehicle, correct? You can only get more American if you were to get on a plane and ask personal questions to the stranger sitting next to you, even though they’re obviously trying to read the newspaper.

But wait! There are millions of cars that fit this definition that aren’t made by “American” automakers! The Volkswagen Passat, for example, is built somewhere in the marry-your-cousin hills of East Tennessee by an American factory worker, then shipped to an American dealer by an American truck driver where it’s prepped by an American employee and sold to an American rental car company for use in the commission of an American felony, likely with an American gun.

So is the Passat an American car?

Most people would say no, the Passat is a German car, in the sense that the brand that sells it, Volkswagen, hails from one of those European countries where they smoke cigarettes in corporate offices. Instead, some might say, to be truly American, a car must come from an American brand that has headquarters in America, where they hire many recent Wayne State University graduates to try and figure out whether the Buick Regal should cost $28,936 or $28,934.

The problem with this definition is that many American car companies build their cars in foreign countries. For example: the highly American Chrysler PT Cruiser, which is one of the most American cars of all time based on the total number of elderly owners who enjoy sitting in plastic lawnchairs on their porch, was actually manufactured in Mexico.

This creates a problem when we’re referring to American cars, because – this is an important news bulletin, so pay attention – Mexico isn’t America. Mexico is Mexico. [I thought Texas was Mexico? –MS] It’s an entirely different country, with an entirely different language, and culture, and citizenry, and flavor of Coca-Cola. It is, in fact, a completely different place from the US of A.

So this brings us to another question, which is: Can an American car not be an American car unless it’s made by an American brand and manufactured in America?

If the answer to this is yes, it removes dozens of American cars from our “American car” list. It also removes dozens of foreign cars, even though they often show up near the top of the cars.com “American made” index, which examines just how much of each car actually comes from the United States. Do these cars really deserve to be removed from a listing of American models?

The thing is, it’s just gotten too hard to know for sure. Is a Japanese car really American if the majority of its parts are American and it’s built here? Is an American car not American anymore if it’s built in a foreign country? And most importantly, does anyone really care?

The answer, actually, is a lot of people really care. Many Americans want to buy American, just like many British want to buy British, and many Spanish want to buy Spanish, and blah blah blah. This is why people in Italy buy the Fiat Freemont, thinking it’s an Italian car, even though it’s just a leftover Dodge Journey with a different grille.

And so I ask you, the readers: what exactly makes a car American? What does a car require in order to fit this definition? And in today’s increasingly globalized world, is there even such a thing as a truly “American” car anymore?

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QOTD: Why Do Automakers Care So Much About Sales? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-do-automakers-care-so-much-about-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-do-automakers-care-so-much-about-sales/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 11:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1100425 I always get a little dismayed whenever I hear a car company talking about sales volume targets. Yes, sure, reasonable sales targets are OK. Acceptable sales targets. If Toyota wants to say they’re going to sell one billion Camry units this year because they sold 997 million last year, that’s fine with me. If Honda […]

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Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 7.27.54 AM

I always get a little dismayed whenever I hear a car company talking about sales volume targets.

Yes, sure, reasonable sales targets are OK. Acceptable sales targets. If Toyota wants to say they’re going to sell one billion Camry units this year because they sold 997 million last year, that’s fine with me. If Honda wants to say they’re going to sell 950 million Accords this year because they’re contractually obligated by a higher power to slightly undersell the Camry, that’s fine too. And if Dodge wants to say they’ll sell 100,000 Grand Caravans this year, of which 99,000 are going to Enterprise, and the remaining 1,000 are going to people who don’t know any better, I guess I can accept that.

But I’ve never really understood why automakers set insane volume targets that keep them desperately reaching for sales for the next few decades.

Probably the best example of this is Volkswagen, who announced several years ago that it would sell 800,000 vehicles in the United States by 2018 from its Volkswagen brand alone. This seemed like a totally reasonable goal at the time, because they had just introduced the new Passat, and they would soon be coming out with an SUV, and they were finally starting to understand the US market, and sales were really taking off. Well, last year, they managed 367,000 units, down from 407,000 last year and 438,000 the year before. In other words: 800,000 ain’t gonna happen.

So now Volkswagen is backing off its sales goals, and it looks like an animal retreating from a fight with its tail between its legs. But why did they have to make the goal in the first place? This, I’ll never understand.

I noticed this a lot when I worked in the car world. Automakers were so hell-belt on sales targets and volume goals that they were doing everything they possibly could just to meet these numbers. Fifty fleet sales? A hundred fleet sales? A thousand fleet sales? Turning over employee lease cars more often? Discounted leases? Zero-percent financing? Punching cars as sold the moment they came off the boat? Fortunately, my company never even considered doing most of those – but some automakers weren’t above even that final strategy during the very last weeks of the year.

Here’s what I’ve never understood: it isn’t sales numbers that prove your business is successful. It’s profit. So why the hell are so many automakers targeting sales, and not profit?

The truth is, anyone can sell anything. Pull a random person off the street, put them in a car dealer, and they can sell the entire lot empty in two days if you let them offer their vehicles with a complete disregard for profit. But then the business’s lights won’t stay on, the stock will plummet, the employees will get laid off, etc. etc. etc. It goes on.

From what I understand, Honda seems to be doing it right. My entire life in the business, I’ve been told that the Honda Accord could easily outsell the Toyota Camry, except that Honda refuses to give in to the pressure of profitless, or low-profit, high-volume fleet sales. And this seems to be true: consider every airport rent-a-car station you’ve ever been to, every Enterprise lot, every Budget kiosk. There’s never Honda there. You’re never given a Honda, you never see a Honda in the lot next to you, or the space down the row, or pulling out of the rental car gate. But you do see Toyotas. Honda seems to know these fleet sales are only a way to burnish sales figures, not actually make money. And they’d rather sell those cars to actual consumers at actual dealers who will bring them actual profits.

So I’ve always been curious about this, and now I’m asking you: why the hell does the auto industry focus so severely on sales numbers? Most other industries talk profit: year over year growth, net profits, gross profits, operating income. But in the car industry, we talk sales: overall sales, monthly sales, total sales, with no apparent care in the world whether those sales are making $10,000 per car or $20 per vehicle on a 30-car transaction with Enterprise. Me, I’d rather hear about profits. No, Volkswagen isn’t going to hit its 800,000-car figure. But are its profits increasing? Is it a stable, healthy company? Are they making money? Only then will I be impressed.

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QOTD: Why Do People Shame You For Having More Car Than You “Need”? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-do-people-shame-you-for-having-more-car-than-you-need/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-do-people-shame-you-for-having-more-car-than-you-need/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 11:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1095665 As many of you know, I drive a Range Rover, which is a giant, gas-slurping SUV that simultaneously kills babies and harms small animals. This is a horrible vehicle, according to the majority of people I meet, and because of it, I’m always being judged for having more car than I “need.” It is, after […]

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Range Rover in Albania. Picture courtesy of autowp.ru

As many of you know, I drive a Range Rover, which is a giant, gas-slurping SUV that simultaneously kills babies and harms small animals. This is a horrible vehicle, according to the majority of people I meet, and because of it, I’m always being judged for having more car than I “need.” It is, after all, overkill.

Right?

Well, I don’t really think so. When people assail me for having “too big” of a vehicle, they’re often referring to its length. So I ran the numbers, and I discovered that my Range Rover – at 194.9 inches in length – stands merely 3.5 inches longer than the current Honda Accord, which is 191.4 inches long. Think about that for a second: the big ol’, heavy, baby-killing, jungle-tackling Range Rover is actually only a USB stick longer than a Honda Accord. In other words, these people have been fooled by marketing that has them convinced the Range Rover is this gargantuan off-road beast, when actually it’s a normal ol’ suburban family hauler.

So then the discussion turns to power – but my Range Rover has only 300 horses, which is just 30 more than a Honda Accord V6. And then I get the inevitable question: well why do you NEED an SUV?

I used to get this question when I had a sports car, too. Certain people – and I’m not going to name names here, but it was my pretentious friends in college and graduate school – would see me in a sports car and ask me why I needed such an impractical, inefficient vehicle. “You could’ve spent way less money and gotten something more efficient,” they would tell me.

The worst example came when I had a Porsche 911 as a company car. Anyone who knows anything about cars knows the 911 is pretty efficient, as sports cars go. It has a small six-cylinder, and not a huge V8. It’s fairly light in weight. And it doesn’t have all that much power. At the time I had mine, the Porsche 911 fuel economy rating was 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

So I posted a photo of this car somewhere on Facebook, and one of my friends replied with a comment along the lines of: Ewww, why would you get such a gas guzzler?

Now, we know the 911 isn’t a gas guzzler, so the very idea of the comment made me laugh. But what was even more disturbing was the fact that the person who posted it drove a Jeep Liberty. Not a Liberty Diesel. Not one of those fuel-efficient Jeep Compasses with a 4-cylinder and a Dodge Caliber chassis and the loudest CVT known to man. No, no. Dude drove a V6-powered Jeep Liberty that probably got 11 miles per gallon in the city on the rare days when it wasn’t having transmission problems.

And yet he was attacking me for having an inefficient gas guzzler.

I suspect the reason people do this is because they’re jealous. You can’t overtly walk up to someone and say to them: I hate you because you drive a Range Rover. So what they do is, they come up with some other reason to hate you, like your vehicle’s size, or its fuel economy, or its horsepower, or whatever. “Oh,” these people say. “I didn’t know you wanted to kill endangered species.” And then they stare at you and wait for your response, so they can see just how much their comment hurt your ego.

The funny thing is, these people have nothing to be jealous about. My Range Rover cost as much as a well-equipped Honda Civic, and it breaks down all the time. This is not an especially special vehicle. But they see the badge, and they become all offended, and then they break into the “Why do you need so much car?” routine.

So today I’m curious if you’ve ever experienced this phenomenon – and if so, what you think the person’s motivations were. I’m also curious how you handle it. Do you defend the car? Apologize for it? Correct the person? Punch them in the face? I need ideas, because nobody seems to believe the whole “only three inches longer than an Accord” thing. Maybe what I need is a tape measure.

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QOTD: What’s the Most Cynical Rebadge of All Time? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-whats-the-most-cynical-rebadge-of-all-time/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-whats-the-most-cynical-rebadge-of-all-time/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2015 11:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1091393 Today, we are going to talk about an automobile called the Chevrolet Voltz. Never heard of it? Few have. That’s because it was one of the most bizarre and unusual rebadges of our entire automotive lives. Here’s what happened: Toyota made both Matrix and Vibe at this factory located somewhere in Northern California. At some […]

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2001 Toyota Voltz - Tokyo Motor Show 2011

Today, we are going to talk about an automobile called the Chevrolet Voltz. Never heard of it? Few have. That’s because it was one of the most bizarre and unusual rebadges of our entire automotive lives.

Here’s what happened: Toyota made both Matrix and Vibe at this factory located somewhere in Northern California. At some point, Toyota decided it liked the Vibe better (as we all did), so it snatched up some Vibes, converted them to right-hand drive, and sold them in Japan as the Toyota Voltz.

That’s right. The Vibe and Matrix were twins, but Toyota took the Pontiac version and sold it in Japan with a Toyota badge. They didn’t even change the Pontiac front grille – or the Pontiac emblem template, which remained on all the Toyotas when they sold them in Japan.

This is a pretty cynical rebadge. But I don’t think it’s anywhere near as cynical as some of the awful, inappropriate, horrible rebadges that have been forced on us over the years. So today I’m asking you: what’s the very worst rebadge you can think of?

16 - 2000 Pontiac Grand Am GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

There are some obvious answers here – like practically everything that came out of America in the ’70s and ’80s. So many different cars were literally just the exact same vehicle with different badges and – sometimes, but not always – different wheels, sold together under a different brand name just to try and convince as many possible people they were different vehicles. Don’t like the Oldsmobile Achieva? Here, try the Pontiac Grand Am!

If you go back through the long history of rebadging, you’ll find it very hard to name one that’s the absolute worst example – but a few attempts come to mind. There was, for example, the Chrysler “LH” cars, which included not just the Dodge Intrepid and Eagle Vision, but three different Chrysler versions – the New Yorker, the LHS, and the Concorde – all based on the same platform.

chrysler-lhs-06 (photo courtsey: motorstown.com)

That was a bad time in Chrysler’s history, and they paid dearly for it later when the bankruptcy regulators came in and Chrysler told them, “Sorry, the reason we went bankrupt is because we have two platforms, one engine, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.”

2009 Suzuki Equator

Although rebadges don’t happen as much anymore, there have still been some real whoppers in the last few years. Does anyone remember the Suzuki Equator, which was literally just a Nissan Frontier with a Suzuki badge inexplicably placed in front? How about the Volkswagen Routan, which was a mediocre minivan rebadged by an even more mediocre automaker and sold through its mediocre dealers? And then there’s the Nissan NV200, rebadged as the Chevy City Express, and sold to contractors whose cousin is the sales manager at Todd Johnson Chevy-GMC in suburban Fresno.

Passport Rodeo courtesy popularmechanics.com

We also can’t forget some of the weakest 1990s rebadges. Remember the Honda Passport, which they tried to pawn off as a “Honda SUV” in the same vein as the Toyota 4Runner and Nissan Pathfinder? Remember the luxurious Acura SLX, which was a rebadged Isuzu Trooper? And then, do you remember what Isuzu got in return for these rebadges? The Oasis minivan, which was based on the original Honda Odyssey, with four opening doors, four cylinders, and zero interested buyers.

2013 Subaru BRZ. Photo courtesy Subaru.

I personally think the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S are pretty stupid rebadges, too. The automotive community has spent the last two years debating which of these two cars is better, and I’m still trying to figure out how to tell them apart. C’mon, Subaru and Toyota. The least you could do is change the freakin’ wheels.

So I’ve clearly devoted several long minutes to thinking about this issue, and now it’s your turn. What do you think are the most cynical rebadges of all time? What can you not believe they actually thought the consumer would put up with?

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QOTD: Why Don’t We Like Hatchbacks? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-dont-we-like-hatchbacks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-dont-we-like-hatchbacks/#comments Fri, 05 Jun 2015 11:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1085193 So I was sitting around the house the other day and my mind started drifting to the Toyota Matrix. Do you remember the Matrix? This was a happy little Japanese 5-door hatchback that never really harmed anybody, except people with eyes who looked directly at the front bumper of XRS models. No, I’m kidding. It […]

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CGsR6E4UQAETEd2

So I was sitting around the house the other day and my mind started drifting to the Toyota Matrix. Do you remember the Matrix? This was a happy little Japanese 5-door hatchback that never really harmed anybody, except people with eyes who looked directly at the front bumper of XRS models.

No, I’m kidding. It wasn’t that ugly. Also not very ugly was its twin, the Pontiac Vibe, which was essentially the Geo Prizm of the modern era. What I mean by this is, it’s got Toyota running gear, and Toyota gas mileage, and Toyota reliability, but it’s two grand cheaper on Craigslist because everyone thinks it’s a Pontiac.

Now, these were, by all accounts, excellent cars. I mean, sure, they were dull. And they drove like economy cars. And they didn’t really have many features beyond power windows and a CD player. But in the early 2000s, this was about all you could want from a new automobile that cost like fifteen grand.

And yet people didn’t want it. The Matrix and Vibe went through one redesign together where they sort of lost the character of their shapes. And then, that was it: the cars were gone, Pontiac was gone, and Toyota sort of gave up on the hatchback game except the Yaris, which is a car that makes it seem kind of like Toyota gave up on the automobile game.

So what the hell happened?

Well, what happened is, they were hatchbacks. I say this because Toyota also sold a sedan version of the Matrix at the time, and it did very well. You may have heard of it, because it’s called the Corolla.

And, of course, people bought the Corolla in droves. Tens of zillions of people wake up every day with nothing better to do than buy a Corolla. They’re like zombie people, all heading to the Toyota dealer to get their Corolla fix. “MUST BUY COROLLA,” they say, walking in with blank personal checks in hand. “MUST NOT BUY MATRIX.”

So this is a major phenomenon, but I’m kind of curious why.

By all reasonable measures, the Matrix is probably a slightly better car. The thing is basically a Corolla in every conceivable way, except it’s got a lot more cargo room. So who the hell wouldn’t want more cargo room? And thus: who the hell wouldn’t want a hatchback?

Well, a lot of people, it seems, because in case you haven’t checked recently, hatchbacks don’t really sell all that well. I mean, yeah, sure, there are a few that seem to do pretty well, like the Honda Fit, and the Mazda3, and the Aston Martin DB9. But what I’ve noticed, generally, is that for every hatchback an automaker sells, they sell like fifty zillion sedans.

Interestingly, this isn’t the case in many places overseas. What happens overseas is, people buy hatchbacks in ridiculous numbers. “I’m running to the store,” an overseas woman might say to her husband. “Do you need me to get anything?” And he will reply: “Yes, a hatchback!” And then she will buy something like an Open Corsa 0.9 diesel, for which she will pay $8,399, plus tax of $112,470. Of course, all of this would take place in a foreign language, because that’s what they speak overseas.

But in North America, we’ve never really endeared to the hatchback. [Speak for yourself, U.S.A. -Canada/Mexico]

I think part of the reason may be because we are really concerned about privacy. This whole Edward Snowden thing went down, and Americans have suddenly gone into hyper privacy mode, to the point where people next to me in on a plane even try to hide their iPhone screens when I glance over to read their text messages.

And sedans are masters of privacy. This is because they have an enclosed box in the back where you can put your things, whereas hatchbacks have all these windows that kind of say: Here are my things! And this is where I have put them!

But is that the reason why we’ve eschewed the hatchback for the sedan? Simply due to privacy? We’ve given up on those sweet hatchback lines, and all that sweet hatchback interior room, and the sweet hatchback carrying capabilities, due to something that can be solved with a cargo cover?

I’m not sure, but I’d love to hear from you. Why do you think hatchbacks aren’t popular in North America? [Again? This is an American problem! -Canada/Mexico] Have you ever been rebuffed when you suggested a hatchback to someone? And if so, what the hell was the person’s reasoning? Aside, of course, from being a member of the Corolla-buying zombie club.

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QOTD: What Body Style Needs to Make a Comeback? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-what-body-style-needs-to-make-a-comeback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-what-body-style-needs-to-make-a-comeback/#comments Wed, 03 Jun 2015 11:23:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1083337 This is the 1999 Buick Cielo Concept and its incredibly similar in form and function to the Soarer Aerocabin we featured yesterday. As a hardtop convertible that retains its roof rails, the Cielo (which isn’t brown, unfortunately) isn’t the only car – or even the only Buick – to leverage this concept. A year later, Buick built the Regal […]

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1999 Buick Cielo Concept

This is the 1999 Buick Cielo Concept and its incredibly similar in form and function to the Soarer Aerocabin we featured yesterday. As a hardtop convertible that retains its roof rails, the Cielo (which isn’t brown, unfortunately) isn’t the only car – or even the only Buick – to leverage this concept.

A year later, Buick built the Regal Cielo Concept, applying the same technical idea to a production sedan.

“This is a translation of the most significant feature of the Cielo concept car directly into a potential production application,” said Mark D. Hines, Regal brand manager at the time. “Although Regal Cielo is technically a concept car, it is clearly a vehicle which can be built.”

Like the Regal GNX concept of the same year, the Regal Cielo never did see production.

2000 Buick Regal Cielo Concept

The idea of a convertible car that retains its roof rails when the roof panels are down hasn’t been entirely abandoned – it’s only disappeared on bigger coupes and sedans.

Switching our focus to Fiat, the 500C makes use of this roof rail concept, though the panel itself is made of fabric instead of metal, probably due to the fact the diminutive hatchback lacks any modicum of trunk space.

500c6

With the number of glass panoramic roofs on factory vehicles in the market today, a case might be made for replacing these fabric or metal panels with something a bit more transparent.

Best & Brightest, what body style do you think should make an encore appearance? My vote goes to a return of what I call the “private convertible” seen above.

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QOTD: Should We All Be Driving Around With Dash Cams? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-should-we-all-be-driving-around-with-dash-cams/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-should-we-all-be-driving-around-with-dash-cams/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 10:49:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1077874 So I’m screwing around on the Internet the other day, minding my own business, and I come across this video of an accident with a red light runner. For those of you who can’t or don’t want to watch this video, allow me to explain what happens. In one second, some guy is driving along […]

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So I’m screwing around on the Internet the other day, minding my own business, and I come across this video of an accident with a red light runner.

For those of you who can’t or don’t want to watch this video, allow me to explain what happens. In one second, some guy is driving along in Anytown, USA, next to a mall, and a couple of shops, and some charming angled parking spots, and some nicely maintained grass. And in the next second, he goes through a green light and hits a person in a Mitsubishi Eclipse who has run the red light coming the other direction.

Now, any idiot can see what happened here. In one lane, you have the driver with the dash cam, who’s cruising along at a normal rate of speed like a normal person, abiding the law and doing everything by the book. And in the other lane, you have someone who chose to spend their hard-earned money on a Mitsubishi Eclipse.

So there’s a big crash, and the dash cam guy hits the Eclipse, and so does the car next to the dash cam guy, and then the Eclipse takes out a large number of power lines and other road peripherals before finally coming to a complete stop.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting: in the video description, the guy who uploaded it claims the Eclipse driver tried to say her light was green. Yes, that’s right: the woman enters an intersection at full tilt, takes out two cars coming perpendicular to her, and then she tries to say that she had the green light.

Obviously, her argument is idiotic – but one major reason why it’s easy to disprove her is because the guy with the dash cam had, well, a dash cam. So presumably when she was sitting there, staring over her damaged Eclipse, angry at the world for hurting such a precious ball of 4-cylinder joy, pissed off at the other drivers for running their red light, he says to her: “Bad news.” And then he plays back the tape of her blowing the red light as if she was Al Cowlings in the O.J. chase.

And this leads me to today’s question, which is: should we all just be driving with dash cams?

I say this because a) our society is rather litigious, and b) it can be tremendously hard to assign fault at the scene of an accident if you weren’t there to witness it. Say you’re a cop and you show up at an accident where one car has a damaged front end and another car has a damaged rear end. Rear end damage guy says he got hit from behind, while front end damage guy says the other person backed into him. Who do you believe?

It’s the same deal with traffic lights. Two cars enter an intersection, and they collide. Which one is at fault? Who ran the light? How do you assign fault? The answer is: it’s really hard. So you do the best you can, and maybe you make a mistake, and the driver who was ACTUALLY at fault gets off scot-free and sues the driver who WASN’T at fault for a sum of money roughly equal to the annual operating budget of Delaware.

If we were driving with dash cams, these problems would be a thing of the past. And indeed, that’s what they do in Russia. People are so worried about fraud, everyone has a dash cam. Now it’s installed in everything by default, so the fraud is over, and now there’s a record of virtually every accident in Russia, including the ones involving farm animals.

So I’ve started to wonder more and more if this sort of thing should maybe be applied to us here in good ol’ North America. No, we don’t have the same level of fraud as they do in Russia. But by God, we probably have about the same level of accidents. And wouldn’t it be nice, in an accident, to be able to look at the law enforcement officer on the scene and say, “Sorry, officer, I have it on tape”? Keep in mind that your other option is to be entirely at his mercy after he interviews everyone at the scene as if they were equals, even if they’re driving a Mitsubishi Eclipse.

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QOTD: What Wagon Version of a Non-Wagon Car Would You Actually Buy? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-what-wagon-version-of-a-non-wagon-car-would-you-actually-buy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-what-wagon-version-of-a-non-wagon-car-would-you-actually-buy/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 11:34:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1076658 This, my friends, is the Golf SportWagen TDI (Sportwagon in Canada) currently taking residence in my driveway this week. It’s a brilliant little car, even if it isn’t manual, brown, or all-wheel drive. Even though it’s wonderfully good – the DSG is sharp and smooth, the ride is firm yet svelte, and the torque, oh the […]

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Golf SportWagen

This, my friends, is the Golf SportWagen TDI (Sportwagon in Canada) currently taking residence in my driveway this week. It’s a brilliant little car, even if it isn’t manual, brown, or all-wheel drive.

Even though it’s wonderfully good – the DSG is sharp and smooth, the ride is firm yet svelte, and the torque, oh the torque! – I still wouldn’t buy one.

This past week, I’ve been inundated with different versions of a similar question: are there any modern vehicles I’d actually buy? This is opening up Pandora’s Box and finding a can of worms inside.

Proving the Pandora’s Box part of the above metaphor, automotive journalists are weird degenerates and we desire cars that are truly horrible. Case in point: the Crown Victoria. Sajeev’s unending love for one of Ford’s worst creations, powered by the modular 4.6L V8, is proof of his masochistic ways. Also, he lives in Houston, further cementing his devotion to being eternally uncomfortable, whether it be on sitting on a bench seat or sweating in 95 percent humidity. Or both, assuming the Vic’s air conditioning is on the fritz.

The can of worms part is simple. As an automotive journalist, saying you would buy a particular car, truck, or SUV is akin to endorsement. There are literally tons of vehicles I would buy for myself but would never suggest to others. Much like Sajeev’s “beaten spouse” acceptance of the Panther platform in its many guises, I love one of Ford’s other forgotten heroes: the Bronco. Oh, do I love the Bronco. Not even the cool old Broncos upon which ICON does its magic. I (again) want a plastic-adorned Bronco of the ’90s emblazoned with XLT or Eddie Bauer on the side.

However, I won’t tell anyone else to buy a Bronco. They’re thirsty, problem prone, and completely impractical. A two-door SUV with a removable roof (held down with tamper-proof Torx bolts, no less) powered by, not one, but two V8 engines spitting out very similar horsepower figures? Yup, that’s for me. Give me that, please.

That said, if there existed a long-roof version of some of today’s sedan or hatchback offerings, I’d probably switch my tune.

Impreza? They used to do a wagon. And I would buy it, too. With real money. The hatchback? Not a chance.

Focus? You can get it in Europe. Yet, bringing it to North America would put it in competition with the Escape.

Impala? Oh god. This used to exist in the ’60s and whenever I see one I get that feeling. The nostalgia might push me over the edge.

So, B&B, what wagon version of a normal car would you buy with real non-Internet-commenter money?

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QOTD: Would We Still Love Wagons If They Were Popular? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-would-we-still-love-wagons-if-they-were-popular/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-would-we-still-love-wagons-if-they-were-popular/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 11:19:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072610 Every so often, my mind starts to wander to various random automotive related topics. Take, for instance, the Chevy SSR. Here’s a car that makes absolutely no human sense: a half-convertible, half-pickup truck with two seats and a cover over the bed to make sure you can’t transport anything larger than a toilet seat. So […]

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2003 Chevrolet SSR

Every so often, my mind starts to wander to various random automotive related topics. Take, for instance, the Chevy SSR. Here’s a car that makes absolutely no human sense: a half-convertible, half-pickup truck with two seats and a cover over the bed to make sure you can’t transport anything larger than a toilet seat.

So GM develops the SSR, and they bring the thing to market, and it just draws universal laughter. I mean, car enthusiasts, the press, random people on the street. They see this thing and its huge fenders, and its ridiculous size, and its substandard interior, and everyone asks: what the hell was General Motors thinking?

And now, guess what? The damn SSR is still averaging more than $25,000 on AutoTrader. The thing is ten years old, and it’s still bringing half its value, whereas a 10-year-old Chevy TrailBlazer is worth approximately the same money as a yard sale copy of Monopoly with a couple of plastic hotels missing.

So I wonder about how this happened. And then also, sometimes, I wonder about station wagons.

2015 Toyota Auris Touring Sports

As car enthusiasts, we love station wagons. What I mean here is, us car enthusiasts believe that station wagons are the finest way to transport a family, because sedans don’t have enough room, minivans are boring, and SUVs are like road-going versions of Satan.

So we love station wagons, and we think station wagons are really cool, and we always implore people to buy station wagons, and instead they always buy a RAV4.

But I’ve recently started to wonder something: would we still love wagons if they were popular?

A lot of people will immediately say yes. OF COURSE we would still love them if they were popular, some enthusiasts will say. My love for wagons is not based on their POPULARITY!!!! It is because they offer SUV packaging in a cool, car-like package! It has nothing to do with the fact that every suburb-dweller has a RAV4 or a CR-V, whereas only the coolest people among us have wagons!

But I’m not quite so sure.

2015 Subaru Outback

Let’s take, for example, the Subaru Outback. This is a car that’s generally loved by enthusiasts because it has kind of reinvigorated the whole wagon segment. People who weren’t even considering wagons before are suddenly buying the Outback, even though it’s – and I’m putting this mildly here – a little dull.

Indeed, it’s actually a lot dull. If you look at the Outback objectively, here’s what you see: front-based all-wheel drive. A 175-horsepower engine. Nearly 3,900 pounds of curb weight. And a continuously-variable automatic transmission. These are not usually the makings of a car enthusiast car. But we give the Outback a pass, because it’s a wagon, and we love wagons, and blah blah blah.

So then here’s the question: what if everyone had a car that matched these specs?

Yes, consider it: what if the Toyota Venza was a 3,900-pound wagon with 175 horses and a CVT, rather than a faux-minivan with SUV marketing? And what if the Honda Crosstour was a 3,900-pound wagon with 175 horses and CVT, rather than a strange-looking bug-shaped hatchback. And what if Mitsubishi had any automobile that could possibly manifest itself as a station wagon? Or even a midsize sedan?

In other words: if wagons were everywhere, what would we think? Would we still love them?

I’m kind of thinking no, we wouldn’t. Imagine a world where mom’s driving around in a 4-cylinder Ford wagon with a CVT, and dad’s driving around in a front-wheel drive Chevy wagon, and grandma has a Cadillac wagon, except it isn’t a CTS-V, it’s an Eldorado with a long roof and a 4-speed automatic tuned for a) comfort and b) complete failure at 75,000 miles.

It’s hard to imagine this kind of world would be something we car enthusiasts would appreciate. Therefore, I think the popularity of wagons among car enthusiasts is, in some form, rooted in their lack of popularity among the general public. In other words: if wagons were as popular as SUVs, and everyone drove them, and mom had one, and dad had one, and the guy down the street had one, and our neighbor had a beat-up used one, would we really still wax poetic about the joys of wagonhood?

My money is on no, we wouldn’t. What do you think?

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QOTD: Which Manufacturer Has Most Lost Its Way? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-which-manufacturer-has-most-lost-its-way/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-which-manufacturer-has-most-lost-its-way/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 11:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071938 If someone mentions the name Buick, a certain image is conjured: comfortable, plush, American motoring just on the blue-collar side of luxury. Buicks used to be the working man’s Cadillac, an association doctors leveraged when making house calls. After all, showing up in a Cadillac would really show the patient how much you were about to […]

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2015 Buick Encore

If someone mentions the name Buick, a certain image is conjured: comfortable, plush, American motoring just on the blue-collar side of luxury. Buicks used to be the working man’s Cadillac, an association doctors leveraged when making house calls. After all, showing up in a Cadillac would really show the patient how much you were about to screw them upon leaving the bill on the nightstand.

But, in more recent times, Buick has become more of a Chevrolet+. Taut suspensions, journo brown interiors and lukewarm engine choices. Oh, and there’s the Encore, a cute ute powered by one of the roughest, smallest engines you can buy in North America. What gives?

Before people start thinking I’m on a General Motors focused tirade, there are a number of other marques out there as well that have seemingly “lost their way.”

Honda, for instance, used to be a technical powerhouse of gung-ho engineers turning efficiency into fun. Instead, we are given the CR-Z to chew on for years instead of a properly fun hatchback to act as the spiritual successor to the CRX.

Suzuki was another company that lost its appeal with customers as they chased larger and larger models. Sure, the Grand Vitara wasn’t a bad truck and the driving dynamics embodied by the Kizashi were fairly spot on. But, when the Samurai and Sidekick died, Suzuki abandoned the segment they were best known for: rough, tumble, pure off-roaders that were dead simple to own and operate.

Which manufacturer do you think has most lost its way?

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QOTD: Why Do People Display Bumper Stickers? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-why-do-people-display-bumper-stickers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-why-do-people-display-bumper-stickers/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 11:22:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1068882 You can’t avoid bumper stickers when you’re driving around. They’re everywhere. Political bumper stickers. Colleges and university bumper stickers. Sports teams. Bands. Ideas. Phrases. Sayings. Vacation spots, cities, neighborhoods, towns, BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. It’s come to the point where I’m surprised when I get up behind a car that doesn’t have a bumper sticker. […]

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Van with bumper stickers Courtesy commons.wikimedia.org

You can’t avoid bumper stickers when you’re driving around. They’re everywhere. Political bumper stickers. Colleges and university bumper stickers. Sports teams. Bands. Ideas. Phrases. Sayings. Vacation spots, cities, neighborhoods, towns, BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. It’s come to the point where I’m surprised when I get up behind a car that doesn’t have a bumper sticker.

I’ve always found this a bit odd.

Here’s why: when you really stop and think about what bumper stickers are, at their very core, they are markings that identify the interests of the driver of the car. It’s like getting a tattoo, or wearing a T-shirt with some writing on it. But I’ve often found that bumper stickers go a lot further than any T-shirt that anyone would ever wear.

Case in point: I have never, in my entire life, seen anyone walking around with a Mitt Romney T-shirt. I suspect Mitt Romney himself wouldn’t walk around with a Mitt Romney T-shirt. He’s too busy wearing plaid button-ups that make him look like a man of the people, even though his haircut costs more than my cell phone.

Likewise, I’ve never seen anyone walking around wearing a T-Shirt that bragged about the quality of the shirt wearer’s honor student. You also don’t really see T-Shirts that say things like “Well behaved women rarely make history,” or “Wag More, Bark Less,” or “COEXIST.” What you see, when it comes to T-Shirts, is a lot of stains that have been there for what looks like several presidential administrations.

So why the hell do we put these things on our cars? Just because we know other people will be behind us in traffic, we feel like it’s necessary to reveal our interests? Are we trying to start some sort of conversation?

The funny thing is, bumper stickers never start a conversation, because nobody notices them. I’ve driven around for several years with a subtle bumper sticker for my alma mater on the back of my car, and nobody has ever said anything to me about it. Not a word. Not a thumbs up. Not a smile. I suppose someone could be back there talking about it with a friend. Is that the goal of my sticker? To inspire random people to discuss it, completely unbeknownst to me?

The reason people don’t notice bumper stickers is because everyone has them. You pull up at every stoplight and you just sort of assume the guy in front of you will have a bumper sticker, so you couldn’t care less what it says. We really only notice bumper stickers if they’re bizarre and unusual, and they say something like “I HATE MEXICANS.” Then we take a picture and post it on Instagram.

The funny thing is that the bumper sticker is a phenomenon entirely limited to North America. You see them in the States, and you see them in Canada, but you can spend an entire week in Europe and not see a bumper sticker aside from the common international oval country code. In Europe, nobody cares where you went to college or who you’re voting for. They only care that you move your tiny, silver diesel hatchback out of the way so they can drive past you in their tiny, silver diesel hatchback.

So I’m a bit mystified, and I’m reaching out to you, the reader, to get your take on bumper stickers. Do you use bumper stickers? Do you understand why other people use them? Do you ever approach people in parking lots because of their bumper stickers?

Of course, I’m not as dense as I seem here. I understand why people use bumper stickers in the first place: they want other people to know that they support the Bears. Or the Cowboys. Or Millard Fillmore Elementary School, home of the Fighting Powdered Wigs. Or maybe they support OK Go. Or the Outer Banks. Or Hillary Clinton. Or Ron Paul. Or Rand Paul. Or Paul Ryan. Or Ryan Seacrest.

But why the hell do you want unknown random humans behind you in traffic to know you feel this way? Do you expect there will be some giant revolt while you’re sitting at a light, and it’ll spread across the country, uniting everyone in their appreciation of the Father John Q. Zilshepper Catholic School Choir? Is that the reason for the bumper sticker?!

And so, I ask you, the reader: What’s the deal with bumper stickers?

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QOTD: What’s Your Automotive Guilty Pleasure? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-whats-your-automotive-guilty-pleasure/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-whats-your-automotive-guilty-pleasure/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 11:24:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1067154 I would never own a brown diesel all-wheel drive manual wagon. Never. I don’t care if I’m chastised by the inner circle of automotive know-it-alls by denouncing the auto journo unicorn. A brown diesel all-wheel drive manual wagon is the equivalent of gearhead hipsterdom. I’m not a fan of hipsters. They put way too much […]

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A Ford Bronco carrying OJ Simpson

I would never own a brown diesel all-wheel drive manual wagon. Never. I don’t care if I’m chastised by the inner circle of automotive know-it-alls by denouncing the auto journo unicorn. A brown diesel all-wheel drive manual wagon is the equivalent of gearhead hipsterdom. I’m not a fan of hipsters. They put way too much thought and effort into looking like bums and enjoying things no sensible human could actually enjoy.

But, I do have one guilty pleasure: white Broncos. Yes, the Al Cowlings Special. I’ve owned one and would have another in a heartbeat. They’re slow, loud, drink gas like an art degree dropout consumes PBR, and they’re prone to break in the most magnificent of ways possible. They also epitomize the “bigger is better” attitudes of the ’90s, whether said thing was truly better or not.

Yet, there’s nothing you can do to change my mind. My want is irrational and I’m not going to defend it.

There are other cars that, if you like them, will automatically invalidate your automotive equivalent of the man card. Like the Aveo. It’s not because they don’t fit some social norm within our own bubble. It’s because, for a wide variety of reasons, there are better options out there on practically every level for the same price.

So, Best & Brightest, car-centric tropes aside, what is your automotive guilty pleasure?

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QOTD: What Interior Controls Drive You Mad? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-interior-controls-drive-mad/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-interior-controls-drive-mad/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 14:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1065698 Even in a day of standardized controls and homogeneous design, there are a few oddball controls that – for better or worse – stick out like a proverbial sore thumb. Whether it be window switches (door or center console?), seat controls (side, front, or door panel?) or even shifters (lever or knob; column or console?), […]

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2015 Chrysler 200 rotary dial shifter

Even in a day of standardized controls and homogeneous design, there are a few oddball controls that – for better or worse – stick out like a proverbial sore thumb. Whether it be window switches (door or center console?), seat controls (side, front, or door panel?) or even shifters (lever or knob; column or console?), today’s cars are still a complex assortment of controls that vary greatly from one make and model to the next.

TTAC commenter MrFixit1599 writes about a recent Chrysler 200 rental:

At a red light, I decide to turn the fan off for the A/C. I didn’t notice a change at the time, but then the light turned green. I attempted to accelerate. The car would not move. I assumed I had forgotten to shift back to S. Turns out, when I went to rotate the knob to turn the fan off for the A/C, I actually rotated the knob for the transmission and put the car in P. As in Park. At an intersection with a green light showing. And me not going anywhere. Just sitting there revving the engine.

Now I am wondering what exactly would happen if you rotate the knob for shifting – into, let’s say R – while cruising at 75 down the interstate. I had a buddy in high school that did that on a column shift GM car of the mid 80’s sort and the transmission literally exploded.

I am sure this comes off as a “GET OFF MY LAWN” type of commentary, but I believe that shifting the transmission should NOT resemble 3 other dials that are in close proximity that get used frequently.

Shifting into R or P while in motion is impossible thanks to shift interlock mechanisms. Doubly so for the newest ZF units at Chrysler as there’s no mechanical connection between the dial and transmission (this is what allows for that cavernous storage space under the center console). But, a design like this is still cause for concern for the unacquainted in a strange rental car. The shift interlock mechanism will only allow you to shift into P or R if the brake is depressed, which it would be if you’re sitting at a red light or in stop-and-go traffic on the freeway. Pop it into reverse instead of turning the fan up before driving away and you might end up staring in a YouTube video.

Jaguar Land Rover uses a similar control for their ZF transmissions, except the knob can be pushed down into the console, hiding it away from a grabby child riding shotgun or absent-minded driver. Chrysler? No such luck. (And if we’re being honest, it’ll likely break in your Range Rover just as you get out of warranty.)

Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé (2014)

Personally, I don’t mind the Pentastar “Dial-a-Gear” as some call it. At least not as much as the column-mounted idiocy at Mercedes-Benz (and, thanks to a supplier agreement, on the Tesla Model S as well). Driving any other vehicle, I instinctively know the location of the cog swap controller. In a Mercedes? Even after a week, I’m still required to actively think how to shift out of Park and into Reverse or Drive, even so far as almost putting a C400 into Neutral as I tried to wipe the windscreen clean. The C-Class is not a pickup. Why is the shifter on the damn steering column?

So, Best & Brightest, what’s your most hated interior control?

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QOTD: Should Backup Cameras Really Be Mandated? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-backup-cameras-really-mandated/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-backup-cameras-really-mandated/#comments Fri, 08 May 2015 10:30:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1064081 A few months ago, the federal government of the United States – the same federal government who recently forced us all to use energy efficient lightbulbs – announced that backup cameras will soon be mandatory on all new cars. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s right: the era of the backup camera has arrived. In just […]

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2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, backup camera, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes

A few months ago, the federal government of the United States – the same federal government who recently forced us all to use energy efficient lightbulbs – announced that backup cameras will soon be mandatory on all new cars.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s right: the era of the backup camera has arrived. In just a few short model years, you will not be able to buy an automobile in the United States without a backup camera. Everything will have one: Sedans. SUVs. Trucks. Minivans. Even BMW will begrudgingly install standard backup cameras, though doing so may involve removing other standard equipment, such as seats.

So with today’s column, I’ve decided to ask you, the reader, exactly how you feel about the spread of backup cameras in the United States.

Personally, I love it. I think it’s great. I say this because I drive a rather large vehicle, and I am constantly parallel parking it, and what I’ve noticed is that backup cameras ensure that I always a) see the car behind me, and b) have absolutely no idea how close I am to it.

Yes, my backup camera is kind of crappy. What I mean by this is, during the day, you can see approximately 80 percent of what’s behind you, except there are no lines to judge anything by, so you have no idea if you’re parked on the hood of the vehicle behind you, or if you’re four feet away from it. And then at night, it’s even worse: the backup camera is so poorly lit that it looks like the entire thing is filming the center of a trash bag.

So essentially, what I have learned, after two years of owning this vehicle, is that the backup camera is approximately as trustworthy as a James Bond villain who has a scary private island and a gigantic weapon that can destroy Connecticut with the push of a big red button.

But not all backup cameras are this bad. On the contrary, I’ve driven many modern vehicles with state-of-the-art backup cameras, and what I’ve noticed is that they are getting better and better and better with every passing model year. They have lines that tell you what direction you’re going. They have little green, yellow, and red symbols to show you how far away from everything you are. And the backup camera that hooks to Chrysler’s Uconnect system is so large that it looks like your entire reversing process is being broadcast on the jumbotron at a Lakers game.

So the whole backup camera thing has developed very well, which is why I’m kind of excited about it.

But there are some flaws to the backup camera. Cost is one. When the federal government mandates these things go on vehicles, it does not mandate that the vehicle prices stay the same. So the automakers take full advantage of this by installing a “standard” backup camera, and then jacking up the price of each vehicle by $1,100, even though it costs them the same amount of money to make a backup camera as it does for you and I to buy a Sharpie six-pack at Office Depot.

The same thing happened when airbags were mandated. Do you remember that? It was 1995, and you could buy a new Ford Aspire for like $2,100, including shipping, not including body panels. Well, here we are, 20 years and a lot of government-mandated safety features later, and now the cheapest Ford is like $12,000. I personally blame the government for this, because I think if it weren’t for annoying unnecessary “extras” like stability control, and ABS, and traction control, and seat belts, we could probably have a Fiesta for like eight grand. And we wouldn’t even need a Fiesta ST, because the new seat belt-less Fiesta would be so damn lightweight.

The other issue with the backup camera is complexity. Namely, the camera so eagerly mandated by the government; the one that works so well right now; the one that lets you see the world, will fail in approximately seven years, leaving you to question whether you should fix it or just look over your shoulder like your ancestors in years past. If you don’t fix it, this will come up at trial when you back over someone’s beloved pet zebra.

“He had a backup camera in his car,” people will say. “But it broke and he DIDN’T FIX IT!” And then the newspapers will call you zebrakiller, and you’ll have to resign in disgrace and walk out of the courtroom with your jacket over your head.

So we can see there are benefits and drawbacks to backup cameras, but I personally am all for it, because I have no other choice. What about you?

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QOTD: Why Do You Hate Automatic Climate Control? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-hate-automatic-climate-control/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-hate-automatic-climate-control/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 10:30:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1060610 I recently posted a column about automatic locking, wherein I reached the following conclusion: automatic locking is the worst thing in the world. Worse than being buried alive. Worse than cutting off your own toes, one by one, for sport. Worse than a college student who won’t shut up about her MacBook Air. As I […]

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This Giulietta had the optional automatic climate control, which did an admirable job.

I recently posted a column about automatic locking, wherein I reached the following conclusion: automatic locking is the worst thing in the world. Worse than being buried alive. Worse than cutting off your own toes, one by one, for sport. Worse than a college student who won’t shut up about her MacBook Air.

As I was reading through the comments section of this column, I was delighted to find that most of you agreed with me: automatic locking, bad. Regular locking, good. But I also noticed something else: most of you don’t like automatic climate control. Poor little ol’ automatic climate control, just doing its best to make your automotive experience a little more temperate. Most of you hate it. Why is that?

Personally, I love automatic climate control, and I’ve recently realized maybe half of the people who hate it simply have no idea how it works. So allow me to educate you. Here’s what happens: you set it to 72. You push “AUTO”. It then blows out whatever air is necessary to reach 72. On a hot day, it’ll blow cold air. On a cold day, it’ll blow hot air. And once it’s at 72, it stops blowing until it gets down to, say, 71, at which point it’ll blow more hot air. Just to maintain that perfect air temperature equilibrium in your life.

My girlfriend doesn’t seem to understand this. The way she thinks it works is this: you get in the car, you turn it to 85 degrees, and THEN you push “AUTO”. After several minutes, she’ll look down and wonder why the hell the car is so hot. Well, here’s why: the automatic climate control is going to blow warm air until it reaches 85 damn degrees! So then she turns it down, and she adjusts the air speed, thereby defeating the entire purpose of automatic climate control.

The thing is, automatic climate control actually works quite well when you use it properly. In my daily driver, I set it to 72 – or, if I’m feeling like I want a slightly cooler experience, 71 –and I push “AUTO”. Then the thing just blows air out for a while until I’m nice and relaxed, cruising along at precisely the temperature I wanted. Admittedly, sometimes it blows the wrong air temperature for several minutes, but I’ve always chalked this up to the fact that I drive a Land Rover, and I’m lucky the damn thing starts in the first place.

Now, where I admit automatic climate control goes a little wrong is when it becomes dual-zone automatic climate control. Here’s what I mean: the driver sets his side to 57 degrees. The passenger sets his side to 84 degrees. You know what happens? The temperature ends up being somewhere in the lukewarm 70-ish degree range throughout the entire cabin. This is because dual-zone automatic climate control is a myth: there is only one zone, and it’s called “inside the car.” As long as there’s no partition between the seats, air from the passenger side will reach the driver, and vice versa.

And then you have an even bigger lie with this new fad called “quad zone climate control.” Have you heard of this? A wide range of new luxury cars have climate control for four zones: the driver, the passenger, and both rear passengers individually. Apparently they do not realize that air blowing on the driver will likely find its way into the back and will also blow on the rear passengers, and the third-row passengers, and basically every person involved with the vehicle who has a beating heart, unless you’ve placed a family pet on the roof, Mitt Romney style.

So my point here is this: when done right – with one single zone – automatic climate control is a very good thing, and I’m very curious to find out why you don’t like it. When done wrong – with two zones, or three, or four – it can be a bit of a gimmick. In that situation, and only in that situation, I feel like it’s bad. Really bad. Not bad as central locking, of course. But worse than, say, finding your street blocked by volcanic lava. So why don’t you agree?

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QOTD: What Car Would You Never Buy For No Other Reason Than “Because”? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-car-never-buy-no-reason/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-car-never-buy-no-reason/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 10:27:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1057938 Cadillac clickbait? Maybe. But, that’s not what I’m aiming for. One of our Facebook likers said he’d never buy an ATS and “can’t even give you a good reason why not.” Interesting. I have a few cars like that, too. On the incredibly exotic end of the automotive spectrum, I would never buy a McLaren. […]

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Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 7.15.01 AM

Cadillac clickbait? Maybe. But, that’s not what I’m aiming for.

One of our Facebook likers said he’d never buy an ATS and “can’t even give you a good reason why not.” Interesting. I have a few cars like that, too.

On the incredibly exotic end of the automotive spectrum, I would never buy a McLaren. Sure, they are wonders of automotive advancement and when I got to ride shotgun in the MP4-12C I was ecstatic. The performance is immense. The feeling of acceleration and handling is mind boggling. And, no matter how much money I may have in the future, I would absolutely never buy one and I’m not sure why.

Coming back down to Earth, I would never buy a Chevrolet or GMC full-size truck. They’re capable, quiet, and at least the Sierra is handsome (the Silverado looks too much like a Michael Bay-era Transformer for my liking). And no matter how much money GM put on the hood or how many options I could get for free or money I could save over an equivalent Ford or Ram, I’d never have a full-size pickup from GM. I can’t tell you why because I don’t really know.

So, Best & Brightest, what perfectly good car on the market today would you never buy “just because”?

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QOTD: Do You Have To Be Showy To Sell Cars? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-showy-sell-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-showy-sell-cars/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 10:30:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053033 I recently realized that Porsche – once noted for producing subtle, performance-focused alternatives to crazy, emotional Italian vehicles – has officially become the German equivalent of Lamborghini. Consider the 911 GT3. When the GT3 first came out back in the early 2000s, it was one of the most subtle performance cars on the road. It […]

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Porsche-911-GT3-RS-07

I recently realized that Porsche – once noted for producing subtle, performance-focused alternatives to crazy, emotional Italian vehicles – has officially become the German equivalent of Lamborghini.

Consider the 911 GT3. When the GT3 first came out back in the early 2000s, it was one of the most subtle performance cars on the road. It had slightly different wheels, slightly updated bodywork, and a slightly enlarged wing. That was it. There was no other way you could possibly know you were dealing with a car that could run rings around any Ferrari on the race track.

Well, that isn’t the case anymore. The latest GT3 has huge wheels. Huge inlets and scoops and air intakes and cooling ducts. Major changes to the bodywork that say “Look at me! I’m a GT3!” And a giant rear wing that could – truly and honestly – double as a desk, or a park bench, or the kind of table you use to mount a circular saw and cut wood, plus the occasional finger.

The GT3 RS is even worse. Back when the 997.2 GT3 RS came out, it was already becoming clear that Porsche had diverted from its status as a formerly great purveyor of subtle sports cars. But in case you weren’t sure, they painted the wheels red, stuck an even larger wing on the back, and stuck red “checkered flag” decals down the sides. I can’t even imagine being seen in this car.

It’s not just the 911 that seems to be more ostentatious than ever before. The rest of the Porsche lineup has also embraced the changes: there are now giant wheels where there used to be average-sized ones. There are huge LED running lights on the front. The Panamera is about as subtle as a brick through a window.

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG. Photo courtesy Autoblog

But it isn’t just Porsche who’s making these changes. When I was growing up, base-model Mercedes products were really restrained. You had dull, simple wheels, and dull, simple designs, and some of them even had black plastic cladding on the bottom to remind everyone that no, this person didn’t opt for a high-performance version or the most expensive S-Class.

Well, that seems to have changed. In 2015, there is no possible way to distinguish AMG cars from non-AMG cars unless you get a look under the hood. I have especially noticed this on the CLA: I once drove the CLA45 AMG, and I thought it was amazing, so I always get very excited when I see a CLA45 on the roads. Except it’s almost never an actual CLA45. It’s usually just a CLA250, with a bigger bumper, and bigger wheels, and even factory AMG badging as part of some annoying “AMG Sport Package.”

Audi, too, is playing this game. Remember the B5 S4, the early-2000s model that offered only subtle updates — painted rocker panels and different wheels — over the standard model? Today’s Audi “S” and “RS” cars are far different. They’re subtle, but showy. They have huge grilles, and big wheels, and obvious body kits. They’re like the kid who raises his hand in class and casually mentions that his dad is a CEO.

This annoys me, because I’ve always enjoyed the automotive “sleeper.” I once had a Mercedes E63 AMG station wagon painted metallic gold that looked – to the vast majority of observers – like the kind of car your grandfather would buy once he got too old to climb up into SUVs. But to people who knew, it was a monster: 500 horsepower, giant V8, Ferrari-style acceleration. It was one of the most exciting cars I’ve ever driven, largely because no one had any idea what it was capable of.

But in today’s world, we’ve gone the other way. More and more modern cars are offering the look of a fast car without the actual goods to back it up. How did this happen? Why did this happen? And in today’s automotive world, is it really necessary to be showy in order to sell cars?

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QOTD: Are Chinese Car Designs Getting Worse? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-chinese-car-designs-getting-worse/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-chinese-car-designs-getting-worse/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 12:09:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1050705 The 2015 Shanghai Auto Show is coming to a close – finally. I love cars but Chinese designs are still the worst. It seems nearly all vehicles offered up in Shanghai this year (and most years before it) fall into two camps: horribly obvious knock-off or super-cheapo plasticy concept. Case in point – the Jiangling Yuhu. Let’s ignore for […]

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Jiangling Yuhu

The 2015 Shanghai Auto Show is coming to a close – finally. I love cars but Chinese designs are still the worst.

It seems nearly all vehicles offered up in Shanghai this year (and most years before it) fall into two camps: horribly obvious knock-off or super-cheapo plasticy concept.

Case in point – the Jiangling Yuhu.

Let’s ignore for a moment the truck’s name is pronounced similarly to the grossest drink on earth. Let’s also ignore it’s what “doves of the roost” in Old West saloons would shout to capture the attention of new cowboys in town. Instead, take it in for what it is.

There’s not a single part of the Yuhu that shouts, “Hey! I’m built with quality! People care about my craftsmanship!” Even the grille looks like a series of tow hooks; at least when you inevitably need one and it breaks, there will be many others from which to choose.

That’s the good part, though. Concept vehicles are allowed to be bonkers. We don’t put them under too much scrutiny. But, unlike the rest of the world, knock-offs get a free pass in China, too.

I know. This isn’t new. The Chinese have been knocking off literally every consumer good since the dawn of time in order to make a profit. Yet, when you roll out three brand new SUVs, all of which are obvious Xeroxes of quite iconic vehicles, you just need to give your head a shake.

Beijing BJ20

The first of Beijing Auto’s SUVs – the BJ20 – cribs its side profile from the recently discontinued Toyota FJ Cruiser.

Beijing BJ40L

While only sporting a five-slot grille and square headlights, the rest of Beijing Auto’s BJ40 design is straight out of the Jeep Wrangler playbook.

Beijing BJ80

And the biggest of the BJs is this painfully obvious Gelandewagen knock-off … right down to the paint colour.

[Images source: CarNewsChina.com]

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