Editor’s note: BMW losing its way has been a hot topic ever since the E30 went out of production. This QOTD from Doug is probably one of the most commented articles in TTAC history. It originally ran January 23rd, 2015.
Twenty years ago, BMW was the coolest automaker in the world. I know this because I – as a young lad of less than ten, growing up in the 1990s – desperately wanted my father to purchase a BMW. And he – as a rational, middle-aged man in his 40s – ended up in a Camry with cloth seats and a tape player. He wasn’t the BMW type. He wasn’t cool enough. Back then, few were.
Twenty-two vehicles on the front line and not a single one of them a Volkswagen.
This wouldn’t be surprising if this were a used car lot or a new car store that sold a different brand, but this is Jim Ellis VW — the most successful Volkswagen dealership in the entire metro-Atlanta area.
How successful? They have two locations and sold Volkswagens every day for well over 44 years. This dealership was founded on day one with Volkswagens exclusively in their blood. No competitor in the southeast can come close to that level of enduring success.
So what does it mean when one of your most loyal dealers in the entire nation won’t even put your vehicles on their front line?
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it has officially emerged that Volkswagen has been lying to the general public like one of those guys who approaches you at a gas station and says his car has broken down and he just needs three more dollars for a bus fare.
This is surprising. Anyone who ever owned a Volkswagen knew that they were a bit sleazy, in the sense that they told you they offered “solid German engineering” when what they really offered was a bunch of untested parts farmed out to the lowest bidder. But we never really expected them to be overtly lying about stuff. Especially stuff as important as emissions results.
Or at least, I say “important,” but then I stop and think about it for a second, and I wonder: How important really are emissions numbers?
Today, I’m going to talk about a dramatically unloved segment of the automotive population: base models. You probably know base models from their lack of window tint and tremendously ugly steel wheels.
Base models aren’t discussed very often, because they’re often not very cheerful. In some cases, nobody even really buys them. For instance: I was walking along the other day, glanced inside a new Forester that was parked on the street, and it had a stick shift. I also noticed it had no sunroof, steel wheels, and cloth seats. This thing is probably rarer than a Lamborghini.
But automakers like the fact that nobody buys their base models. In fact, the entire point of the base model is basically to ensure people want to spend more money for a nicer version of the car. Dealers tell you the car “starts at” twenty-four grand, but then you show up on the lot, and there it is: twenty-four grand of no air conditioning or radio. To get a decent car, you’ve got to spend a few thousand more.
I recently attended the press launch for the new Lexus RX, which is a competitively priced, midsize luxury crossover that was styled by an angry man with a sword.
At this press launch, several topics came up. For instance: why did they give the styling job to this angry sword-man? Why was he so angry? What sort of sword did he have? And when are they going to put out a new plate of shrimp for us to eat?
There was also one other topic I discussed with a few people: the fact that the Lexus RX still doesn’t have three-row seating.
I’ll admit it. I, the millennial managing editor of an automotive blog, would absolutely rely on an autonomous car for my day-to-day errands or long-distance commutes. Why wouldn’t I? I can kick back, relax, talk with people, get some writing done, or anything else I could possibly do on an airplane. As long as all the other vehicles on a roadway are autonomous, it’ll be safer, too!
Why do I think this way? The majority of the driving we do is boring. I can just imagine hailing an autonomous car on my phone, waiting for it to arrive to my home, and setting it to drive me wherever I want in relative comfort. Why should I need to stay alert at a four-way stop if technology can make that a thing of the past?
Except it probably won’t work quite like that.
Sergio Marchionne is determined to merge with somebody. He’s kind of like that guy who doesn’t have a date at Senior Prom, and just goes anyway, hoping to score a dance with the Prom Queen. It’s as if the modern marketplace is his very own version of Sixteen Candles, and he’s James Spader rocking a 944. Or something. I gotta be honest, I never watched the movie.
Well, I’m not sure if Mary Barra is the Prom Queen or not, but Sergio seems to think she is. Yet, I’m not sure the idea of a GM/FCA merger has auto enthusiasts feeling all hot and bothered; is there a merger out there that would?
When you talk to car enthusiasts, it’s clear that they spend a lot of energy trying to figure out the best car for every possible situation.
It’s only in a group of car enthusiasts, for instance, that you’ll hear the term “daily driver.” For normal people, they just have a “car,” and maybe a “second car” for their “wife.” But car enthusiasts separate their daily driver from their other car, or maybe their other cars, because each vehicle in a car enthusiast’s garage has a different purpose.
I’m the type of guy that reads the instruction manual. Admittedly, I’m in the lower quartile of the 1 percent of humans who actually read the book, and there are even fewer still who admit to reading it — most people don’t, and if they do, it’s only when they need to.
But why? Don’t people know that they’re full of good stuff?
Did you know the newest generation Mini Cooper has launch control? I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t spot it in the manual. Also, I wouldn’t have known how to sync via Bluetooth to a circa-2013 Volkswagen car (the PIN is buried in the manual, it’s 1212 or something like that, if I recall correctly).
According to a recent report, most new car buyers don’t know what their cars do, and quite frankly, they don’t care. They should. (Read More…)
After two years at a grocery store making $4.25, I got my first raise as a member of the U.S. workforce: I could eat all the nearly expired yogurt in the dairy I could ever want.
Unfortunately, yogurt doesn’t buy a car. And after two years of checking, stocking, bagging and mopping, I had a pair of turntables and records to show for my hard work.
Fortunately, I was in high school and could “work” off my car loan with grades. But for 3.3 million Americans who make the minimum wage — or less — there may not be such a deal.
And at $7.25 an hour, or $15,080 a year, your car-buying options are fairly limited.