The Truth About Cars » Question of the Day http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 11 Sep 2014 23:24:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 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 is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Question of the Day http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Question Of The Day: Carros Blindados http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/question-day-carros-blindados/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/question-day-carros-blindados/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 11:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=899434 A few days ago, Jalopnik posted a link to a classified site in Colombia that listed a bunch of armored cars for sale. These aren’t the MRAPs patroling the streets of Ferguson either. Hell, they’re even more discreet than the typical black Suburbans you see roaming around D.C. In many parts of the world, those who […]

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A few days ago, Jalopnik posted a link to a classified site in Colombia that listed a bunch of armored cars for sale. These aren’t the MRAPs patroling the streets of Ferguson either. Hell, they’re even more discreet than the typical black Suburbans you see roaming around D.C.

In many parts of the world, those who are fortunate enough to afford a new (or relatively new) car are also the kind of people who are targeted for robbery, violent crimes or even kidnappings. An armored car is often a necessary requirement for daily life. The extra protection afford by the bulletproof glass and body panels can stop (but not completely hold off) an attack, and let you make a safe getaway. Other, more heavily armored vehicles have James Bond-esque features like smoke screens, sirens and gun ports.

These are often the Land Cruisers, Suburbans, Nissan Patrols and other SUVs that can withstand an AK-47. The body-on-frame construction is better able to withstand the added weight of the heavy armored body panels and glass. Smaller passenger cars are typically built to withstand attacks from a 9mm round (or a more powerful handgun round should it be required). A Renault Sandero appears to be a common type of lightly armored car in Colombia, although if you’re a badge snob, nearly twice that money will get you an Audi A1.

As much as I’d like a bulletproof Land Cruiser, this old Honda Legend is my ultimate choice. It looks old, and is therefore nondescript, a good quality to have in a dangerous environment. It appears to be nicely maintained, and it should be as reliable as any Honda product. And it represents the pinnacle of Honda’s mainstream passenger cars.

Check out the listings here and tell me what you’d pick.

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Question Of The Day: America’s Finest Hour http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/question-of-the-day-americas-finest-hour/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/question-of-the-day-americas-finest-hour/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 14:34:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=858657 In honor of Independence Day, I’d like to pose a simple question to you all. What is America’s Finest Automotive Hour? As many of you know, I have not lived that many years on this earth, and so I lack the context to properly look back upon America’s auto industry and judge for myself. A […]

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In honor of Independence Day, I’d like to pose a simple question to you all. What is America’s Finest Automotive Hour?

As many of you know, I have not lived that many years on this earth, and so I lack the context to properly look back upon America’s auto industry and judge for myself. A few things come to mind: the Ford Taurus, the Chrysler minivans and the LS1 V8 come to mind as beacons of innovation. The Ford Fiesta ST and Jeep Grand Cherokee stand out as “fun to drive” all-stars. I am constantly blown away by all three domestic pickup trucks, which I think represent the finest American-made vehicles at any price.

But I’m Canadian. And old enough to be your kid (in many cases). Tell us what you think stands out as a high point for the American automobile. The best answers submitted by the end of business will get highlighted in a separate post.

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Question Of The Day: What Does Japan Know About Fuel Cells That We Don’t? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/question-of-the-day-what-does-japan-know-about-fuel-cells-that-we-dont/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/question-of-the-day-what-does-japan-know-about-fuel-cells-that-we-dont/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 16:39:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=855985 A new report from Reuters highlight’s the Japanese auto industry’s increasing focus on hydrogen fuel cells, a technology that has long been written off as dead by many industry observers and battery electric vehicle advocates. Reuters reports Japan’s government and top carmakers, including Toyota Motor Corp, are joining forces to bet big that they can speed […]

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A new report from Reuters highlight’s the Japanese auto industry’s increasing focus on hydrogen fuel cells, a technology that has long been written off as dead by many industry observers and battery electric vehicle advocates.

Reuters reports

Japan’s government and top carmakers, including Toyota Motor Corp, are joining forces to bet big that they can speed up the arrival of the fuel cell era: a still costly and complex technology that uses hydrogen as fuel and could virtually end the problem of automotive pollution…With two of Japan’s three biggest automakers going all in on fuel cells, the country’s long-term future as an automotive powerhouse could now hinge largely on the success of what they hope will be a key technology of the next few decades.

While Nissan is a notable holdout (pursuing battery EVs like their signature Nissan Leaf), Toyota and Honda are pursuing hydrogen as the alternative fuel of the future, and they have the backing of the Japanese government.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s growth strategy… also included a call for subsidies and tax breaks for buyers of fuel-cell vehicles, relaxed curbs on hydrogen fuel stations and other steps under a road map to promote hydrogen energy.

While Honda has been promoting fuel cell technology since the 1990′s, Toyota recently abandoned their EV program in favor of focusing on hydrogen. Despite all of the criticism of hydrogen fuel cells, their cost and the lack of infrastructure, the technology is still alive in this corner of the automotive world – one that is arguably the leader in hybrid cars and alternative powertrains overall.

Industry scuttlebutt has it that Japanese OEMs are convinced that the cost of developing a hydrogen fuel station network is going to be cheaper than developing a 500 mile EV battery, but I’m still curious: what are we the public – and the hydrogen skeptics – missing out on that’s driving Japan to persist with fuel cell technology?

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Question Of The Day: What Was Your Closest Call? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/question-of-the-day-what-was-your-closest-call/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/question-of-the-day-what-was-your-closest-call/#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 18:28:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850290 Well, I nearly died today. I was driving on a winding one lane road, when  a silver mid-2000′s Dodge Ram Club Cab broke through the double yellow, and swerved halfway into my lane. My car was a 7 year old Toyota Corolla, and if it weren’t for a last split-second swerve, I would have been […]

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Well, I nearly died today.

I was driving on a winding one lane road, when  a silver mid-2000′s Dodge Ram Club Cab broke through the double yellow, and swerved halfway into my lane.

My car was a 7 year old Toyota Corolla, and if it weren’t for a last split-second swerve, I would have been dead. No question about it.

The surprising thing about the experience was my lack of a frazzled state immediately afterwards. I drove a couple hundred feet more, thanked God, did a U-turn at the nearby precinct headquarters, and dialed 911.

For all I knew it could have been anything that caused the near death experience. Texting, drugs, a spilled drink, a medical emergency… anything. But I surely wasn’t going to let that vehicle remain on the road without police involvement.

caught up with the truck enough to see it turn right onto a dead end street and stayed on the phone with the dispatcher for about 10 more minutes. The driver stayed in the car the entire time. No words between us. Nothing but me and a dispatcher, who told me that three police cars were already on their way. I kept the Corolla a good 700 feet away on the top of a large hill. I wasn’t going to play hero. But at the same time, I was betting that Atlanta’s 95 degree weather with 90% humidity would discourage the driver from coming out of his car.

Sure enough, he just stayed where he was at. 

Once the police showed up, I told them the story I just told you. They confronted what turned out to be a guy who had sweated out of his shirt. He was animate, allegedly he was working on the home where he was parked, and it took a good five minutes or so before the police were willing to let him speak with me.

“I’m sorry. I just spilled my drink and I know I crossed that yellow line. I’m really sorry.”

“I just wanted to make sure you weren’t impaired, or texting, or something like that.”

We shook hands, and it seemed like every 15 to 20 seconds, he was apologizing and trying to shake my hand again. I wish I had told one of the police officers to corroborate the spilled drink and other parts of his story. They don’t add up now. But to be honest, all I was thinking then was that my family could have experienced the worst day of our collective lives. His alibi was not my concern.

I thanked the officers and got the hell out of there. And now, well, I’m a bit frazzled. A neverending march of random questions goes through your mind when you experience something like this.

Do I stop driving compacts? Do I share what happened with my family? There’s a life lesson here, and I’m going to have to dwell on the ramifications for quite a while.

I’ve experienced plenty of close calls before. When I worked the Atlanta auction circuit I used to drive over 40,000 miles a year through three states as a ringman, and later, an auctioneer. But I never experienced anything quite like this in terms of a split second difference between life and death.  A 40 mph head on would have made me a corpse, and my family is sometimes the only damn thing I give a shit about in this world. I would rather endure the trials of Job than to leave them in such a terrible state.

This is why I like the idea of  self-driving cars and crash avoidance systems in general. I love cars, but if I had to make a deal with an angel and trade in my keys for the chance to simply stay on this Earth and be with my family, I would pack up our belongings and move away from the ex-urbs of Atlanta in a millisecond. New York City, Amsterdam, Costa Rica. Anywhere I could walk would be fine with me.

I need to get some perspective here folks, and maybe a good story or two would be the right prescription. So let me ask you, what was your closest call? More importantly, what impact did it have on the future of your driving?

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QOTD: Would You Ever Pay For A Stripper? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-would-you-ever-pay-for-a-stripper/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-would-you-ever-pay-for-a-stripper/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 17:10:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=848106 No nav. No leather. No premium or power nuttin’. All yours for $12,800 before fees, tax, tag, title. You don’t want it? Don’t think you’re alone. Strippers have represented America’s premiere unsellable car for quite a while now. Everyone says that they just need a car to get from A to B. But easy credit […]

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No nav.

No leather.

No premium or power nuttin’.

All yours for $12,800 before fees, tax, tag, title.

You don’t want it? Don’t think you’re alone. Strippers have represented America’s premiere unsellable car for quite a while now.

Everyone says that they just need a car to get from A to B. But easy credit and low monthly payments have made basic low-end models as popular as a 2014 Toyota Camry L and as hard to find as, well. I’ll put it to you this way: there are now three L models available in Atlanta for a population of six million.

Don’t think that Toyota is alone on this. There is only one Nissan Versa S with a five-speed that you can buy here for less than $13,000. Not one trim level. One car. When Honda was busy liquidating the last of their 2012 Accords for the new generation, my nearby Honda dealer still had two base five-speed Accords on their lot. One had been there for 10 months and the other had remained unloved, and unsold, for nearly a year and a half. They were each bought for only $17,300 which sounds like a fantastic buy, except that a few months later I would see an identically equipped 2012 Accord go through the auction, with fewer than 8,000 miles, sell for all of $10,000.

It didn’t have dents, dings, damage or even dowdiness. It was just a base car, and these days, base cars don’t sell.

There are a lot of reasons for this lack of attention to what I now call, the disappearing stripper. An article I recently wrote for Yahoo! pretty much highlights the financial mindset of today’s customer versus those of just a decade ago. It’s a different car market out there. The economy may still be in the slow growth to recession mode here in the USA. But we still like our creature comforts, and the good price really comes second these days to the “affordable” monthly payment. So long as loan terms remain long, and interest rates remain low, that better equipped car will usually only cost an extra $20 to $50. Even cash strapped buyers can afford that wiggle room.

I always get emails from folks who want a deal, and I always try to tell these folks  to hit em’ where they ain’t. But few folks are ever willing to take that plunge. So far in 2014, I have known only one guy who was willing to buy a stripper car, brand new, for cheap money. $14,000 out the door for a Mazda 2. If he had been in one of the five states with no tax, he could have sliced another $1000 off that price.

He bought it right. So let me ask you. Would you have taken that deal? How about a base MX-5 or a Mazda 3 with nothing but a stickshift and that olfactory new car smell? Before you instinctively say yes, take the time to go online and look at the vehicle as it is so equipped.

Would you ever pay for a stripper?  If not, then just feel free to share your story of a stripper you once owned and rode on a daily basis. It’s a Friday and we can all use the laughs.

 

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Question Of The Day: What Lame Duck New Car Is Worth Your Bills? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/question-of-the-day-what-lame-duck-new-car-is-worth-your-bills/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/question-of-the-day-what-lame-duck-new-car-is-worth-your-bills/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 10:30:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=845569 I always tell folks that they should try to hit em’ where they ain’t. Want a Camry? Look at a Mazda 6 first. A Prius C? One of my personal favorites.  But I still have a soft spot for far cheaper closeout models like the Mazda 2 and Ford Fiesta. You may also wind up […]

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I always tell folks that they should try to hit em’ where they ain’t.

Want a Camry? Look at a Mazda 6 first.

A Prius C? One of my personal favorites.  But I still have a soft spot for far cheaper closeout models like the Mazda 2 and Ford Fiesta. You may also wind up enjoying them a lot more in the long run.

That final year of a model’s run can sometimes provide that unique, one-time steal of a deal that would put today’s popular car to shame. There is a unique value quotient that frequently can’t be replicated with the brand new stuff, once rebates and slacking consumer demand start chipping away at the true cost of purchase.

So speaking of new cars…

One of our frequent commenters, tryochatter, was recently in the market for a brand new vehicle. His first in about a decade or so.

His tastes are a bit Y2K oriented. He doesn’t care about navigation systems, infotainment modules, or any of the other premium offerings that help boost the MSRP of a given new car to a healthy 15% to 25% premium.

Like a lot of us, he’s a rare breed in today’s marketplace. Stickshift, basic Ipod integration, comfortable seating for two, with maybe four in a very tight pinch, and one other small thing.

Airbags. In his words, he wanted a car that had, “enough airbags to turn the whole mess into a volleyball if need be.”. These days, even a base entry level car like the Chevy Spark comes with 10 airbags. So this wasn’t a tough hill to climb.

The car he wanted was listed for $15,515. One day of negotiating, and waiting… and waiting… and he finally bought his next new car. A 2014 Mazda 2 for $13,000 before the usual tax and potential bogus fees were added on. In Ohio, this came to just below $14,000 after tax, tag and title.

He loves it.  The monthly payments are reasonable, and with a new job within biking distance from his home, he is probably not going to need another new car until the oldest of the Millenials start hitting their 40′s.

This isn’t a common happy ending for what many in our industry call, “the lame duck cars”. Popular cars get the spotlights, auto show turntables,  and dealer traffic. While those about to be axed or replaced will usually get the moonlight that is the back of the new car lot.

Are those lame duck cars the better buy? Well,  I’ll put it to you this way. My late father was incredible at getting these types of cars at a rock bottom price. The 1992 Lincoln Mark VII that had an MSRP of $33,000, he pretty much stole it at $22,000. The leftover 2001 Lexus ES300 that followed also got a nice, but more moderate discount.

He had a knack for buying great cars during their final year of production, and with the daily driving he did around the third world roads of northern New Jersey, he wanted a car that could handle that daily brutality.

If he had bought a 1993 Dodge Dynasty, or a four door 1993 Saab 900, chances are I wouldn’t be bragging about it, and he would have quickly changed his strategy.       

So this is the question I want you to consider. If you had to buy a new car that is in its final year of production, which one would you choose? Keep in mind you’re spending your own dollars here. Let’s assume that this is a car you plan on keeping for a long while.

Which one would you pick?

Have a question? An Insight? A lame duck, first generation Honda Insight? Please feel free to contact Steve at steve.lang@thetruthaboutcars.com 

 

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QOTD: Bring Back the Unibody Pickup? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-bring-back-the-unibody-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-bring-back-the-unibody-pickup/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 13:35:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=837665 For decades, the formula for a successful pickup design in America has been pretty much the same. Design a simple ladder-frame chassis, drop in the biggest engine you can find, give it a front-engine rear-drive layout with an optional transfer case, and start raking in the money. From time to time, however, manufacturers have tried […]

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For decades, the formula for a successful pickup design in America has been pretty much the same. Design a simple ladder-frame chassis, drop in the biggest engine you can find, give it a front-engine rear-drive layout with an optional transfer case, and start raking in the money. From time to time, however, manufacturers have tried to swim against the current.

The last true unibody pickup (one without any type of traditional ladder frame) sold in the United States was the Subaru Baja, which ended production in 2006. A derivative of the Legacy/Outback platform, the Baja was Subaru’s attempt to cash in on the mid-2000s vogue for “sport utility trucks:” part-SUV hybrids like the Ford Explorer Sport Trac and the Chevrolet Avalanche. While those more successful models were selling well over 50,000 a year at their peak, the Subie barely managed to shift 30,000 examples in a four year run. With its funky body cladding, exposed rollbars, and limited utility compared to those other truck-based SUTs with traditional ladder-frame chassis, the Baja never managed to become anything but a niche product. Even so, it followed in a long lineage of experiments with unibody construction for pickups.

The golden age of the unibody pickup was the 60s, when every major manufacturer offered at least one. Ford had the Falcon-derived Ranchero, as well as a pickup based on the Econoline van. (The 1961-63 full-size F100 is often cited as an example of a unibody pickup design, but as Mike Levine explains here, this is technically incorrect. The ‘61-63 still had a ladder frame underneath its single-piece body.) Chevrolet had a similar offering in the Corvair Greenbrier pickup, although the more popular El Camino utilized a ladder frame. Dodge got in the unibody game with the pickup version of its A100 van. The pickup version of the Type 2 Volkswagen Transporter was increasingly popular in the burgeoning small truck segment before it became a target of the infamous Chicken Tax. That tariff also kept out the Japanese, who might otherwise have attempted to sell car-based pickups such as the Toyota Corona PU. The most popular of all these unibody pickups was the Falcon Ranchero. It offered meaningful size and economy advantages over the full-size trucks of the time, and was available with a greater number of creature comforts.

Many of these unibody pickups disappeared in the 70s, as compact, conventionally engineered Japanese pickups became more widely available. Many of these were captive imports sold by the Big 3, who utilized tricks like importing cab-chassis units separately to avoid the Chicken Tax. Unibody pickups didn’t reappear again until the 1980s. The Subaru BRAT was the first of these, followed by the Rabbit-based Volkswagen Pick-Up. The Volkswagen PU was an attempt to squeeze more volume out of the disappointingly slow-selling Rabbit; the Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp were similar attempts to expand the use of Chrysler’s L Platform. Neither of those was particularly successful, with both the Volkswagen and Rampage/Scamp cancelled after only three years. The BRAT was reasonably popular, lasting in the US market until 1987. The Jeep Comanche was based on the unibody XJ Cherokee, but used a ladder frame to strengthen the superstructure. Around 190,000 units were produced before new Jeep owner Chrysler called it quits in 1992; the company didn’t want the Comanche cannibalizing Dodge’s truck offerings. After that, there were no more unibody trucks in the United States until the introduction of the Baja. Cheap gas and a slew of competitive ladder-frame pickups meant that the incentive to develop a unibody pickup was limited.

Like Subaru, Honda tried to cash in on the SUT trend with the Ridgeline. Although based off the unibody Odyssey minivan, the Ridgeline utilizes a hybrid chassis setup that incorporates a box frame. Sales have been disappointing, with the model scheduled to go out of production this month, although a sequel has been promised by Honda. The Ridgeline is often cited by midsize truck pessimists as emblematic of the reasons the segment has gone into decline. The truck offers no serious fuel economy advantage over a full-sizer. It also has a smaller bed, a lower tow rating, and less power, all in a footprint not much smaller than that of a full-size. Attempting to straddle segments was the Ridgeline’s doom. Buyers who wanted power, room, towing and hauling capability, and who didn’t care about mileage bought Avalanches, Sport Tracs, and full-sizers. Economy-minded individuals went for the cheaper, more utilitarian options like the Frontier and Tacoma. None of these alternatives were particularly great on gas, but neither was the Ridgeline; and they all offered price and/or capability advantages that the Ridgeline didn’t have. That doesn’t mean, however, that the unibody truck should necessarily go the way of the dodo.

The greatest argument against a renaissance in the small-to-midsize truck segment is profitability. Small trucks often have thin margins, and it’s hard to justify separate development programs for unique platforms. That’s ultimately what killed the Ranger in the United States, as well as the Dakota. GM is spreading out the development cost of the new Colorado/Canyon by making it a world market vehicle, but it remains to be seen if this strategy will work. Only the Tacoma has proven to be a consistent winner in the US market, and it also has the advantage of being globally sold; the same is true of the new Frontier. A US-only compact truck platform is a mistake. Repealing the Chicken Tax might open up the market to more imports, but ideally a compact truck would be developed from a platform already in use in the US. This would lower the cost of federalization, while at the same time increasing the margin derived from already existing platforms. That’s where unibody design comes in.

America is awash in unibody CUVs, whose platforms could be utilized to make compact and midsize trucks. The Chevrolet Montana/Tornado has been mentioned by small-truck aficionados as a possible import, but the cost of certifying it for American sale would probably be prohibitive. Instead, it would make more sense for GM to develop a small truck from either the Theta or Epsilon architectures, both of which have already been adapted for the American market. A small truck based on the Equinox, for example, might be profitably produced for the American market. If a small truck can offer significant price or fuel economy advantages over full-sizers, it can justify its existence against highly competitive full-size offerings. Even so, doubts remain about the segment’s overall viability. FCA chairman Sergio Marchionne recently alluded to this when discussing possible plans for a future compact pickup in the United States. Could a unibody truck be the savior of the compact truck segment?

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Question Of The Day: Should Manufacturers Be Held Liable For Lifetime Fluids? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/question-of-the-day-should-manufacturers-be-held-liable-for-lifetime-fluids/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/question-of-the-day-should-manufacturers-be-held-liable-for-lifetime-fluids/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 10:17:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=833386 Some cars out there are as rough as a wore out mop. It always pains me to see them because there are so many folks in this world who are all too happy to own a car. Even one that may seem to be worth more dead than alive by the present idiot driving it. […]

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Some cars out there are as rough as a wore out mop.

It always pains me to see them because there are so many folks in this world who are all too happy to own a car. Even one that may seem to be worth more dead than alive by the present idiot driving it.

My father was a food importer for 60 years. I got to see a lot of this world and, to be frank, our society is a bit spoiled by the inherent affluence within it.

What some destroy, others would cherish.

However, there is one screw-up that always ticks me off to no end in the car business because it’s based on false information. The one where the manufacturer plays a game with the future reliability of their vehicle in exchange for a potential accolade known as low ownership costs.

The lifetime fluid. To me it’s a false promise that has cost too many people, too much money, to no fault of their own. Let’s start with that simple word, lifetime, and weigh in the full effect of that word.

Lifetime is a pretty simple word where I grew up. Two syllables. One unmistakable connotation.

Lifetime means the duration of a person’s or thing’s existence. From beginning to end. There is no intermission. No limit to the lifespan. What starts must be finished. No matter how long or short it may be.

Yet certain fluids get a complete pass on this concept. Thanks to a nice meeting of the minds between the manufacturer’s legal team and the marketeers who go about promoting what is in essence, a lie.

Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Toyota, GM, Ford, Mazda, Chrysler. The list of manufacturers that have signed onto the lifetime fluid line is now as long, as the number of affordable replacements for their older defective parts is short.

For example, I have a lot of trouble finding a good transmission for many older vehicles these days that were sealed with lifetime fluids. Even those components whose production runs number well into the six-digits.

Why? Because these transmissions were given maintenance schedules that had no remote connection with reality. In the end, tens of thousands of owners got screwed because they took faith in the automaker’s lifetime fluid and the maintenance schedule that removed the need to service it.

The manufacturer walked away with the profits, and a guarantee that is inherently deceptive and insincere. There is no other way of putting it.

When you say the word “lifetime” to someone, they don’t think about five years or, in the case of a car, 100,000 miles.

They think, “Oh. I will never have to worry about this. Great!” The owner gets to rave about the minimal service required over the first five years and the manufacturer may even find an extra industry award or two to advertise due to their supposed low ownership costs.

A warranty is most definitely a warranty, with limits and specifics. A deal is a deal. However when you use the word “lifetime” to describe the durability of a product, that word has a strong and obvious guarantee within it.

You are stating, in a brutally blunt manner, that the fluid will remain useful and defect free for the entire life of the vehicle.

What would be a reasonable solution to the idea of a lifetime fluid? Pretty simple really. Just have it walk the walk.

Approximately .01% of trade-ins these days will last 500,000 miles. If your vehicle’s component can last that long, and you are willing to warranty that guarantee, then bless you for truly changing the economics of ownership.

Please step up to the microphone of American advertising, shout out that sacred word known as lifetime, and put your amazing product on a durability level with other true lifetime products such as the Ginsu knife and the Garden Weasel.

If it can’t, then don’t. Just let folks know the truth about the useful life of your products. If this concept is too hard to contemplate for the unethical and amoral, then maybe we need to put forth new laws that will protect consumers from this bastardization of the English language.

In today’s courts, the right for individuals to sue is but a pittance compared to the right of large corporations and governments to screw them into a financial corner well before a court can put the case before a grand jury. Life may not be perfect or fair. But there is a completeness to that word lifetime and it should be honored.

Lifetime should mean the lifetime of it’s use. You say it as a seller and the product breaks, you pay for it along with everything else that got broke because of it.

Should manufacturers be held liable for lifetime fluids? I’ve already pounded my personal opinion into a fine red mist. So what’s yours?

Author’s Note: I can be reached at steve.lang@thetruthaboutcars.com

 

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Question: If the Hindustan Ambassador Is No More, What Car Takes Over As Current Continuous-Production King? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/question-if-the-hindustan-ambassador-is-no-more-what-car-takes-over-as-current-continuous-production-king/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/question-if-the-hindustan-ambassador-is-no-more-what-car-takes-over-as-current-continuous-production-king/#comments Wed, 28 May 2014 14:30:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=832962 As we all know by now, Hindustan Motors has shut down the production line for the venerable Hindustan Ambassador, a car whose production run stretches all the way back to 1954 and the Morris Oxford II… or, depending on how strict your interpretation of the definition of “same car” happens to be— the 1948 Morris […]

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QOTD - VAZ-1111 Oka DimensionsAs we all know by now, Hindustan Motors has shut down the production line for the venerable Hindustan Ambassador, a car whose production run stretches all the way back to 1954 and the Morris Oxford II… or, depending on how strict your interpretation of the definition of “same car” happens to be— the 1948 Morris Oxford MO. Whether it’s a Type 1 Beetle-beating 66 years or just a merely staggering 60 years, the passing of the Amby means that the acrimonious debate must begin: which current car has been in continuous production, in more or less the same form, for the most years?
Survivors-Lada_Niva-1280pxWhat we’re talking about here isn’t the longest continuous use of a model name (though the Chevy Suburban and Mercedes-Benz SL fanatics make that issue interesting), it’s the longest continuous manufacture of what amounts to the same car. Now, the reason that this discussion can and must turn into a crockery-throwing, ad hominemming brawl is that the definitions are inherently squirmy things that nobody can pin down to anybody’s satisfaction. What distinguishes a car from a truck? What distinguishes a true production car from a low-numbers novelty? How much can a platform change before it’s a different machine? Does an interruption of the assembly line due to war count? What about pirated copies built in a dirt-floored Guangzhou shack? When I wrote the Automotive Survivors series (in which I honored cars built for at least 20 years) for Jalopnik in 2009, I received more hate mail than with any piece of writing I’ve done before or since. “You idiot!” they read, “Don’t you know that the (Volvo 240, Ford Model T, Land Rover, Hundred Flowers BXX-991D) qualifies?”
Survivors-Caterham_Seven-1280pxI’m going to avoid the death threats from the Hundred Flowers BXX-991D Jihad this time, by leaving the question up to you, dear readers. You will go in the comments and posit the cars you think have been built in unchanged-enough-for-the-purposes-of-this-debate form for the longest consecutive streak of years, and then your fellow readers will tell you that you suck, and then you will epoxy down your CAPS LOCK key and the fun will begin.
Survivors-ShanghaiSC760-1280pxI’m going to be like Wotan here, staying above the fray (actually, the real Wotan would start blasting fools left and right, but you get the idea), but I will point you in the direction of some cars I think have a case for the Longest Production crown. The Morgan 4/4 has been built in much the same form and without a break since 1955 (since 1936 if you ignore a couple of breaks). The Lotus Seven goes straight back to 1957, if you count all the many copies in recent decades. If you want to be stricter about definitions and look at cars built in large numbers, the demise of such cars as the Fiat 128 (built until very recently in Egypt), Hillman Hunter/Iran Khodro Paykan (built in Sudan until who-knows-when), and the South African Mk1 Golf (2009) makes for some tough judgment calls. The Lada Niva has been around since 1977, but many will say that it’s actually a truck. The 1986-vintage Kia Pride/Ford FestivaMazda 121 is still being built in Iran as the Saipa 132. The VAZ-1111 goes back to 1988. They’re still building Daihatsu Charades in China, and you could argue that we’re talking about a 1977 car in that case. Vague rumors point to current Chrysler K-car production somewhere in the former Soviet Union. So much to talk about here!

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QOTD: Nassim Taleb Sums Up The Problem With Our Favorite Car Makers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-nassim-taleb-sums-up-the-problem-with-our-favorite-car-makers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-nassim-taleb-sums-up-the-problem-with-our-favorite-car-makers/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 11:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=829009 In roughly 50 words, author Nassim Taleb neatly summarizes the answer to every essay ever penned about how “Car Company X Has Lost Its Way”. Speaking about our higher education system and its flaws, Taleb writes “This is the natural evolution of every enterprise under the curse of success: from making a good into selling […]

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BMW-2-Series-Active-Tourer

In roughly 50 words, author Nassim Taleb neatly summarizes the answer to every essay ever penned about how “Car Company X Has Lost Its Way”.

Speaking about our higher education system and its flaws, Taleb writes

“This is the natural evolution of every enterprise under the curse of success: from making a good into selling the good, into progressively selling what looks like the good, then going bust after they run out of suckers and the story repeats itself …”

From Honda to BMW to Lamborghini, it’s difficult to look around and not see examples of this phenomenon at work. On the other hand, there is Lotus, a company that has arguably avoided this trap, while also avoiding any semblance of profitability. But I don’t have the benefit of context and life experience compared to many of the B&B.

Personally, I think that the vehicle above is most symbolic of what Taleb is describing: a front-drive BMW minivan wearing an “M Sport” appearance package. Is there anything further from the platonic ideal of “The Ultimate Driving Machine”?

But I also want your opinion. I want to hear who has fallen into this trap, who had avoided it, who is most in danger and why this is complete and utter BS. Post your reply in the comments.

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Question Of The Day: Would It Be Better To Test Drive A New Car… Without The Dealership? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/question-of-the-day-would-it-be-better-to-test-drive-a-new-car-without-the-dealership/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/question-of-the-day-would-it-be-better-to-test-drive-a-new-car-without-the-dealership/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 10:40:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=819593 Imagine over 500 cars at your disposal, and you pick the exact ones you want to test on the open road. There are no mind games. No bait and switch tactics. Nothing but you going to a computer, figuring out the most worthy candidates, and letting a salaried employee fetch the keys and answer the […]

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interior2

Imagine over 500 cars at your disposal, and you pick the exact ones you want to test on the open road.

There are no mind games. No bait and switch tactics. Nothing but you going to a computer, figuring out the most worthy candidates, and letting a salaried employee fetch the keys and answer the relevant questions to your car search.

Sounds too good to be true? Well, it’s already happened. There’s only one problem.

The place that does it primarily sells used cars, not new cars.

 

exterior

Thanks in part to the inordinate hassles of buying a car, Carmax is now the largest automotive retailer in the United States. In fact, they are now bigger than the #2 and #3 automotive retailers combined. They managed to do this tall order with just a small fraction of storefronts, and without the easy access to certain financing sources that help new car dealerships move their inventory. This is no small feat given the level of hardball tactics dealer lobbies usually inflict on state legislatures.

The almost universal desire to get away from bias and manipulation is a huge challenge for millions of new car buyers. Who offers the best car? It’s hard to say when advertising is all over the place and the chance to test drive all the new cars, without blatant bias at nearly every turn, is virtually impossible.

For consumers who are often firmly entrenched in the online search for a new car, the 21st century new car buying decision still hits the thick brick wall that is the early 20th century method of retailing cars.

The inherent costs to the Carmax model, for example, is still in the several billions of dollars even though they contract out a lot of their reconditioning activities. Between purchasing 500,000+ vehicles, investing in the real estate and physical infrastructure, hiring and training thousands of employees, designing the transportation logistics and the myriad of IT platforms, and finally, looking out for shareholders, Carmax can’t afford to offer the lowest price on a routine basis.

But despite this financial handicap, they still serve a large swath of the general public without resorting to the lower forms of salesmanship. People will pay a premium for honesty. If the new car business wasn’t in a legal stranglehold, chances are a lot of the fixed costs in buying a new car would go away.  Or at least consolidate to a competitive superstore / online order / specialty store world where consumers simply pick their best fit.

All of these sales channels are as common as kudzu these days for anything but new cars. Thankfully there are other alternatives; although their presence is usually fleeting.

For example, when many of us head out to the larger auto shows, we get the same unique chance to look at and test drive a lot of brand new cars.  The opportunity to walk around in one place and test drive what’s out there motivates millions of people to spend their money on a show that features things that you can usually go see for free. Just not under the same roof.

If you headed out to the more rural areas of the USA not too long ago, county and state fairs used to offer folks the same opportunity to go out and test drive a variety of new sheet metal. Maybe they still do, but I haven’t seen it here in Georgia for quite a while.

Finally, there are the rental car agencies, car sharing programs, and PR events that allow everyday folks to test drive what’s out there outside the new car dealership.

Except sometimes the new car is simply not what you want, and when it comes to rental cars in particular,  the vehicle may be too used to be new.

This brings me to the big question. If there was a place where you could test drive a new car, any new car, every new car, would you go? I’m sure you would so let me throw a knuckleball into that equation. Would you be willing to pay $20 for the opportunity to drive whatever you want for an entire day? Let’s keep it short drives. Fewer than 10 miles. But as many cars as you wish without being four-squared and stuck in a miserable cubicle for hours on end.

Think of it as an auto show that never ends. Would it be worth $20 to figure out which car will be your next car?

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Question Of The Day: Did You Ever Get Screwed On A Rebate? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/question-of-the-day-did-you-ever-get-screwed-on-a-rebate/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/question-of-the-day-did-you-ever-get-screwed-on-a-rebate/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 11:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=818402 2007 was a nutty time for my car business when it came to buying parts and supplies. All the auto parts stores around my dealership were busy blowing their financial brains out in the pursuit of commercial business. I was retailing all the good cars I could find at the auctions, and it wasn’t long […]

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rebate

2007 was a nutty time for my car business when it came to buying parts and supplies.

All the auto parts stores around my dealership were busy blowing their financial brains out in the pursuit of commercial business. I was retailing all the good cars I could find at the auctions, and it wasn’t long before I started to see an armada of amazing deals come to my door.

12 free gallons of coolant (8 store brand concentrates, 4 Dex-Cool) at Autozone. 16 quarts of free synthetic motor oil plus 24 more quarts of conventional oil at O’Reillys. Advance Auto Parts would guarantee the lowest price. Then O’Reillys offered “cost plus” deals that I could barely even fathom. While the parts stores were busy slashing each other’s throats, I was steadfastly collecting all the cheap and free products that came from the marketshare bloodbath.

Armor All, Meguiars, Turtle Wax, auto care products that were trying to get a retail presence… all were practically free for the taking if you were willing to keep up with the offers. 2007 netted me enough auto care products to handle the next three years of my business.

This ended in early 2008, and by 2009, you could often get better deals by lurking at the Bob Is The Oil Guy web site. That’s when I started noticing a nasty trend. Things started to get a bit too cute with the rebates.

I would apply for a deal, scan a copy for my own records, mail it in, and wait.

Nothing. One month would pass. 45 days. Then two months.

It got to the point where I had a spreadsheet on Google Docs exclusively dedicated to all the rebates that I saw as bait. At least 20% of which were financially AWOL on any given time.

I would call, email, and even complain if their word and my mailbox weren’t aligning themselves the right way. Eventually I got what I needed, but boy, did I get ticked off at that constant tug-o-war of time.

These days I only stock up on certain products off-season (i.e. Freon in November) and pretty much stick to the Bob Is The Oil Guy site for whatever else is worth my time. I retail less, wholesale more, and it’s rare that I see something that is truly compelling these days.

One deal today did catch my eye. This one.  The only problem is I can’t endorse it wholeheartedly because maybe, perhaps, that rebate may find itself in that netherworld called, “lost in process”.

Every rebate that isn’t online is a roll of the dice these days. So with the odds in flux, let me ask you a painful question. “Did You Ever Get Screwed On A Rebate?”

This is your time to sound off on what I consider to be an industry practice that should be taken out back and burned to cinders. Mail-in rebates are an inexcusable screwing of the general public.

If you were ever one of those screwed, here’s your chance to vent.

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Question Of The Day : How Much Would You Charge To Teach The Basics? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/question-of-the-day-how-much-would-you-charge-to-teach-the-basics/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/question-of-the-day-how-much-would-you-charge-to-teach-the-basics/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 18:10:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817386 I grew up not knowing the difference between a V6 and a V8. Cars were a mystery to me. Motor oil could have been the same thing as cooking oil right up until my 16th birthday. Then I caught the bug. We all get it. A nasty incurable fever known as, “First-car-itis”. I wanted a […]

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celica

I grew up not knowing the difference between a V6 and a V8.

Cars were a mystery to me. Motor oil could have been the same thing as cooking oil right up until my 16th birthday.

Then I caught the bug. We all get it. A nasty incurable fever known as, “First-car-itis”.

I wanted a car in the worst possible way. I knew that if I just grabbed my hands on every magazine, book and repair manual I could find, that first car would become mine for a long, long time.

I didn’t expect a steep learning curve.

The public library in Englewood, New Jersey offered a nice selection of Chilton’s manuals that probably had all of one reader. Those manuals were thick, hard with just a few exceptions, and practically unintelligible at first.

This access to a repair manual made all the difference in the beginning.  I started by opening the hood to a 1987 Toyota Celica which wasn’t even mine, and figuring out where the hood prop was located. That took a little bit of time. Then I had to figure out the little things. The oil cap. The coolant reservoir. After endless page turning, I finally figured out where the brake and power steering fluids were, and accidentally also discovered one of the a/c Freon outlets.

Hot? Cold? Heck, for all I knew that little nozzle could have been a hidden charger for the air struts that lifted the trunklid.

My beginnings were more humble than the 1962 New York Mets. I knew nothing, learned a little however I could, and eventually became proficient at… the basics. It wasn’t until college that I learned how to change out brakes, and that took two other people to do most of the coaching. I brought the pizza and beer.

Cars are intimidating machines, and today’s sealed containers, plastic skid plates, and engine covers aren’t doing the curious novice any favors.

So my question to all of you is, “How much would you charge to teach a newbie how to perform the basics of auto maintenance?”

Let’s keep it simple. Oil change. Coolant replacement. Changing a flat tire. Replacing fluids from the top. Topping off the A/C. Replacing the battery. Checking fluids and tire pressure. Basic inspection of the brake pads.

Remember that they will more than likely need to learn how to use a jack and jack stands as well, and some may even be able to handle a tranny fluid change with either an excavator or a simple wrench if there is a simple bolt to remove it (pray to the old Volvo gods for easy access!). You may also want to throw in basic wrenching techniques into the mix.

Could all this be taught in one spring day?  If so, how much would you charge if you were teaching this type of course? Throw in some free pizza and cold beer for yourself as well.

 

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Question Of The Day : What If You Could Resurrect A Dying Or Dead Brand? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/question-of-the-day-what-if-you-could-resurrect-a-dying-or-dead-brand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/question-of-the-day-what-if-you-could-resurrect-a-dying-or-dead-brand/#comments Tue, 06 May 2014 16:21:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=816065 I made my first small fortune in this business selling old Volvos. I started way back in the mid-2000‘s when I got downright militant about outbidding anyone on an older rear-wheel drive Volvo. In one year, 2007 to be exact, I managed to buy at least one Volvo every year from 1983 all the way […]

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oldvolvo

I made my first small fortune in this business selling old Volvos.

I started way back in the mid-2000‘s when I got downright militant about outbidding anyone on an older rear-wheel drive Volvo. In one year, 2007 to be exact, I managed to buy at least one Volvo every year from 1983 all the way to 2004.

I loved the Volvo brand as their rear wheel drive cars represented the perfect mix of comfort, safety and functionality. The discontinued 240, 740 and 940 were insanely easy to sell and cheap to buy; especially the wagons.

These Volvos usually had a history of conservative owners who took their cars to the dealership or Volvo specialized shops for service. Repairs were easy and reasonable thanks to long model runs and parts that were as common as kudzu at any Georgia junkyard.

The used car side of the Volvo brand represented a big fat target where young families, hipsters, Camry-oriented shoppers, and the still common Brick enthusiast could all find a Volvo worth keeping. I followed that tune of demand and soon became a daily reader at Brickboard, Swedespeed, and several other well known sites for Volvo aficionados. I was hooked.

Then I became unhooked.

The seeds of Volvo’s destruction started out as an opportunity for me. Owners began to trade in Volvo S70′s and V70′s from 99′ upwards due to a malfunctioning electronic throttle module. At the sales I would see these vehicles being sold AS/IS, buy them ridiculously cheap, and then take them to the Volvo dealer to get their software upgrade. Eventually Volvo did the right thing by extending the coverage to 10 years and 200,000 miles. However, as Volvos began to develop other issues such as lifetime fluids that weren’t so, and parts failures that were as cheaply made as they were expensive to fix at the dealerships, the marketability of these vehicles nosedived to the point of near irrelevance.

The Volvo S40 was a world-class blunder. The Volvo S60 and S80 were left to rot on the vine of Ford’s neglect along with the V70 and C70. The Volvo XC90 may have represented the brand’s only solid hit for the entire decade as the MBA marketeers at the Premier Automotive Group decided to make Volvo into a downright ridiculous alternative to BMW.

Volvo wasn’t alone in the quixotic pursuit for a more ‘upscale’ brand identity. Oldsmobile was positioned as an import fighter. Mercury tried to become a premium brand as well, and marketed heavily towards women, while Lincoln redefined American luxury in a way that no one outside of Dearborn could quite understand.

The list of failed brands stretches long since the Y2K era. Plymouth. Isuzu. Saturn. Hummer. As proof of their deadness in the retail marketplace, most independent dealerships that specialize in financing won’t even buy these brands… along with Volvo, Mercury and Lincoln.

You can’t sell a dead brand, unless you were maybe a successful overseas manufacturer trying to crack the American market. Or maybe the CEO of Ford or GM. Let’s assume that the perfect world exists. A place where you could choose your brand and launch your products without worrying about money. Consider yourself old GM, a newbie at Tesla, whatever you like.

What brand would you choose to resurrect?

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QOTD: At What Price Connectivity? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-at-what-price-connectivity/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-at-what-price-connectivity/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 15:36:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797689 From this week’s Automotive News, editor Jason Stein talks to former Hyundai CEO and now TrueCar board member John Krafcik about connected cars “Do you notice that as we talk about increased connectivity in the car, we are also talking about being less connected with the car?” Krafcik asks through a phone line. “Connectivity and autonomy. Sounds like those are […]

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Caterham_7_Roadsport_SV

From this week’s Automotive News, editor Jason Stein talks to former Hyundai CEO and now TrueCar board member John Krafcik about connected cars

“Do you notice that as we talk about increased connectivity in the car, we are also talking about being less connected with the car?” Krafcik asks through a phone line. “Connectivity and autonomy. Sounds like those are at odds with each other, hey?”

Krafcik, who owns a Caterham and a Porsche 911, is one executive who can speak with authority on the inverse relationship between in-car connectivity and feeling a connection with one’s automobile. Unfortunately, we seem to be moving inexorably towards the “connected car” model, at the expense of feeling connected to our cars – and most people don’t seem to mind one bit.

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If The Big Lebowski Were Filmed Today, What Car Would The Dude Drive? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/if-the-big-lebowski-were-filmed-today-what-car-would-the-dude-drive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/if-the-big-lebowski-were-filmed-today-what-car-would-the-dude-drive/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=773897 Before the Clint Eastwood film (but after the cheezoid TV show), the most well-known Ford Gran Torino in cinema history was the beater ’73 sedan driven by Jeff Bridges’ character in The Big Lebowski. This film, which took quite a while to go from box-office dud to sacred document of the Lebowski Jihad, was released […]

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Big_Lebowski_Torino_Crash-550pxBefore the Clint Eastwood film (but after the cheezoid TV show), the most well-known Ford Gran Torino in cinema history was the beater ’73 sedan driven by Jeff Bridges’ character in The Big Lebowski. This film, which took quite a while to go from box-office dud to sacred document of the Lebowski Jihad, was released in 1998 and was set in late 1990 or early 1991 (a period during which I was also in Southern California and living a fairly Dude-ish lifestyle myself). The choice of a ’73 Gran Torino by the Coen Brothers makes some interesting statements for those who obsess about movie cars, and Monday is always the best day to discuss such things.
Big_Lebowski_Torino_Impound-550pxLooking at 1990/1991 from the perspective of 1998, you’ve got a nasty recession being observed via dot-com boom-tinted glasses, the first one-sided ass-kicking dished out by the US military since Vietnam from the point of view of an ascendant hyperpower, and so forth. At the same time, the latter years of the 1990s saw cars that could knock of 200,000 miles becoming commonplace, with carburetors and mechanical ignition systems dead as global Marxism-Leninism. With all that in mind, The Dude’s car had to be something from the Malaise Era, for symbolic location along the Malaise-Gulf War-Hyperpower continuum as well as for the fact that unemployable Los Angeles loadies could be expected to drive 18-year-old midsize sedans.
Big_Lebowski_Torino_Brochure-550pxSo the question here is: What would be this car’s equivalent today? If you’re just going by straight model years, a 2014 movie set in 2006 with the protagonist driving an 18-year-old midsize Ford sedan would give us a 1988 Taurus… and it’s easy to picture the 2006 Dude clanking along in a hooptified first-gen Taurus.
10 - 1986 Hyundai Excel Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' GredenHowever, the runup in global commodities prices in the second half of the first decade of the century meant that larger cars were worth a fair amount at the scrapper, which means that even the ugliest Taurus floated a bit above the very bottom of the car-value barrel. That’s why I think that The Dude of 2006 would drive an early Hyundai Excel. What do you think?

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QOTD: What Do You Want Covered At NAIAS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/qotd-what-do-you-want-covered-at-naias/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/qotd-what-do-you-want-covered-at-naias/#comments Thu, 09 Jan 2014 11:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=695361 The first NAIAS press day I ever attended was in 2010. The auto industry was just finding its feet again after coming off record low sales. Discretion was the order of the day, with Ford unveiling the 2011 5.0 Mustang off-site, as fuel economy, alternative powertrains and other politically correct “stories” took precedence of power […]

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CoboHallDetroit

The first NAIAS press day I ever attended was in 2010. The auto industry was just finding its feet again after coming off record low sales. Discretion was the order of the day, with Ford unveiling the 2011 5.0 Mustang off-site, as fuel economy, alternative powertrains and other politically correct “stories” took precedence of power and brawn. Nancy Pelosi walked the show floor. For the first time in years, there’s an air of confidence surrounding the show. The industry appears to have found its legs again, the OEMs are making money, and a host of important debuts are set to be unveiled. Let us know what you’d like to see covered. We’ll make sure to have our photographers snapping pictures while myself and Juan bring you all the info.

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Question: What Is the Stoniest Moter Vehicle of All Time? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/question-what-is-the-stoniest-moter-vehicle-of-all-time/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/question-what-is-the-stoniest-moter-vehicle-of-all-time/#comments Wed, 01 Jan 2014 05:01:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=689090 As of 12:01 AM Mountain Time on Wednesday, the first legal, open-to-the-general public cannabis shops in the United States may start selling their wares. In my Denver neighborhood, the dispensary next door to the first Chipotle restaurant opens for business at 10:00 AM, and I’m trying to guess what kind of car, truck, or other […]

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QOTD-GreenVanAs of 12:01 AM Mountain Time on Wednesday, the first legal, open-to-the-general public cannabis shops in the United States may start selling their wares. In my Denver neighborhood, the dispensary next door to the first Chipotle restaurant opens for business at 10:00 AM, and I’m trying to guess what kind of car, truck, or other vehicle will be the first to screech to a smoky halt at this establishment’s front door. Actually, the loadiest stoners aren’t exactly conscious of, like, the clock, man, so this vehicle will probably show up on Friday at about 11:38 PM, and then the occupants will forget why they were there in the first place and go find a 7-11 to buy some Twin Bings… but for the purposes of discussion we’re going to say 10:00 AM on the dot, stoniest motor vehicle. What is it?
69BlueBeetle_RearThe good old Type 1 Beetle (and its Transporter cousin) scores pretty high on the TCH-O-Meter, though you don’t see many of them these days. Hippies back in the old days liked air-cooled Volkswagens because they’ll run like crap better than any other car, which means that you can space out on maintenance for years and still drive; the air-cooled Volks is the only four-stroke four-cylinder engine I’ve ever seen that will run on one cylinder. There’s no water to boil over, no complicated controls to confuse the driver.
85_Tercel_Emblem_LHThe 1983-86 Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon is a favorite of Denver/Boulder wastoids, and it’s also quite popular in the redwood country of California. Reliable, room for all your loser friends and their snowboards, friendly-looking, capable of chugging through fairly serious snow.
64ImpalaConvert-01The 1961-64 Chevy Impala makes this list, because Cheech drove one in Up In Smoke.
IMG_1270My vote, however, goes to any vintage scooter. One look at a group of scooter freaks and you can tell they’re smoking some stuff that would make even Willie Nelson freak out. What’s your choice for Stoniest Vehicle of All Time?

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Question: What’s the Best Japanese Car Name Ever? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/question-whats-the-best-japanese-car-name-ever/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/question-whats-the-best-japanese-car-name-ever/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 14:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=686970 As we all know, the Japanese car industry has produced some of the greatest cars ever made, from the Isuzu Statesman Deville to the Autozam AZ-1. And, of course, the Japanese have come up with some of the greatest car names ever. The Nissan Homy Elgrand. The Mitsubishi Debonair Royal AMG. The Mazda Bongo Friendee. […]

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QOTD-BongoFriendeeAs we all know, the Japanese car industry has produced some of the greatest cars ever made, from the Isuzu Statesman Deville to the Autozam AZ-1. And, of course, the Japanese have come up with some of the greatest car names ever. The Nissan Homy Elgrand. The Mitsubishi Debonair Royal AMG. The Mazda Bongo Friendee. So many to choose from!

Of course, my personal favorite is the Mazda Cosmo Big Run Genteel. I’m not sure if the Genteel was a separate model, or just an option package, but who cares? Genteel! So, what’s your favorite Japanese Car Name?

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QOTD: Better Off Mainstream? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/qotd-better-off-mainstream/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/qotd-better-off-mainstream/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 15:30:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=665738 Speaking at a preview event for the next-generation Hyundai Genesis, Hyundai CEO John Krafcik defended his company’s decision to forgo establishing a seperate luxury channel for cars like the Genesis and Equus. While the rationale put forth usually revolves around the exorbitantly expensive pricetag for launching a new brand and an all-new sales network, Krafcik […]

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Speaking at a preview event for the next-generation Hyundai Genesis, Hyundai CEO John Krafcik defended his company’s decision to forgo establishing a seperate luxury channel for cars like the Genesis and Equus. While the rationale put forth usually revolves around the exorbitantly expensive pricetag for launching a new brand and an all-new sales network, Krafcik put it from another angle.

Speaking to Automotive News, Krafcik remarked

“I do believe that when the three premium Japanese brands were launched, it was during a certain time in the industry when there was a certain optimism about where the industry was headed,” he said.

“I really believe that if those three companies had a chance to really think about their path, they might have taken the path that we chose.”

The epoch that saw the launch of Infiniti, Acura and Lexus was the peak of Japan’s “bubble”, when Japanese automakers seemed to have limitless budgets for new vehicle R&D, marketing (think of those wacky home-market ads with Hollywood star endorsements) and sales channels (whether it was new luxury brands in America or multiple sales channels in Japan).

At the time, the rationale was that a Nissan President or Toyota Aristo was suitable for sale with a more plebian badge in Japan, but American consumers would not be willing to shell out premium car money for a luxury sedan sold alongside a Corolla or a Civic, no matter how good it was.

Nearly three decades on and Acura is largely confined to America and China, while Infiniti seems to be stuck in the mud as far as becoming a global luxury brand. Even Lexus, which has become a household name on par with BMW or Mercedes-Benz, hasn’t made any kind of dent in Europe. Do you agree with Krafcik’s assessment? Let us know in the comments.

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QOTD: How About A TTAC Hot Wheels Series http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/qotd-how-about-a-ttac-hot-wheels-series/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/qotd-how-about-a-ttac-hot-wheels-series/#comments Wed, 16 Oct 2013 11:30:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=624961 Over on Jalopnik’s Opposite Lock section, Juan Barnett raised the idea of having a “Jalopnik” series of Hot Wheels cars that would best represent the site. Everything from a Miata to an RS6 Avant to a Merkur XR4Ti was thrown around for the hypothetical 5-car collection. How about one for our august publication? At first […]

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Mazda_Miata_Red

Over on Jalopnik’s Opposite Lock section, Juan Barnett raised the idea of having a “Jalopnik” series of Hot Wheels cars that would best represent the site. Everything from a Miata to an RS6 Avant to a Merkur XR4Ti was thrown around for the hypothetical 5-car collection. How about one for our august publication?

At first I thought about switching out Hot Wheels cars for the very JDM Tomica line, but then we’d be unable to include our favorite American Iron

If I were to have my pick, it would be something like this:

1) Any Panther (which model is up for debate)

2) Murilee’s Project Car Hell Impala

3) VW Jetta TDI Sportwagon in Brown

4) Jack’s Green S5

5) Chrysler Minivan

Honorable mentions include the latest V6 Mustang, the 2014 Toyota Corolla, NormSV650′s 40 MPG Saab, any of the BigTruckSeriesReview@Youtube’s SRT products and Zackman’s Impala.

Of course, these selections would likely be doomed to commercial failure. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go rip the NSX Concept out of the blister card.

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QOTD: They Want How Much For A Cadillac ELR? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/qotd-they-want-how-much-for-a-cadillac-elr/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/qotd-they-want-how-much-for-a-cadillac-elr/#comments Fri, 11 Oct 2013 19:55:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=621833 Pricing for the Cadillac ELR has been announced, and the swoopy Caddy coupe with the Voltec powertrain has been stickered at an astonishing $75,995, not including the $7,500 federal tax credit as well as other incentives. One can make the argument that there will be a market for a premium plug-in that wealthy buyers can […]

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Pricing for the Cadillac ELR has been announced, and the swoopy Caddy coupe with the Voltec powertrain has been stickered at an astonishing $75,995, not including the $7,500 federal tax credit as well as other incentives.

One can make the argument that there will be a market for a premium plug-in that wealthy buyers can write off as an expense in one form another, personally, I think GM is out of their mind.

While the ELR gets a more powerful powertrain, Cadillac’s CUE system, improved regen braking capabilities and Batmobile-esque looks, the nearly $76k sticker price puts it within a few thousand dollars of the Tesla Model S 85 kWh Performance model. Fans of the Voltec powertrain can argue that the plug-in system is superior with respect to range and not being stranded on the side of the road, but I’d argue that in the green car space, nothing can touch a Tesla as far as image, cachet and status are concerned. And many people shopping for such a car are cognizant of that. I’m not sure that the ELR, positioned as a “green flagship” for Cadillac can command that kind of money.

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Question: What Engine Swap Would Most Enrage Single-Interest Corvette Fanatics? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/question-what-engine-swap-would-most-enrage-single-interest-corvette-fanatics/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/question-what-engine-swap-would-most-enrage-single-interest-corvette-fanatics/#comments Thu, 29 Aug 2013 13:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=502169 In my role as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, prospective racers often ask me questions that go something like: “I have a (car type known to be fast and/or expensive) that I got for (credulity-strainingly cheap price) and I would like to race it in LeMons without getting hit with […]

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Toyota V8 - Picture courtesy of LextremeIn my role as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, prospective racers often ask me questions that go something like: “I have a (car type known to be fast and/or expensive) that I got for (credulity-strainingly cheap price) and I would like to race it in LeMons without getting hit with penalty laps. How can I do this?” In most cases, the car will turn out to be a BMW M3, Acura Integra GS-R, or C4 Corvette, and I tell the questioner to seek another type of car. Still, you can get genuinely horrible C4 Corvettes for LeMons-grade money, provided you sell off some trim parts and so on, and that’s just what happened with this bunch. No problem, I said, just drop in an engine that will anger the Corvette Jihad and all will be well (it helps that the Chief Perpetrator of LeMons racing was the owner and editor-in-chief of Corvette Magazine for years, and he can’t stand the Corvette Jihad). I suggested the Toyota 1UZ V8, as found in Lexus LS400s and SC400s, but perhaps there’s an engine that would raise the blood pressure of Corvette fanatics even higher. What engine would that be?
LeMons-Phoenix10-0895In fact, we’ve seen two C4s in LeMons racing. There was this one, which was overpriced at 300 bucks, came with a very tired LT-1 350, and got stomped by a couple of bone-stock VW Rabbits and a slushbox Neon running on three cylinders.
309-LVH12-UGThen there was Spank’s “Corvegge”, which featured Olds 350 diesel power and ran on straight vegetable oil. Some Corvette guys were made upset by this, but at least the engine came from General Motors.
pickup2So, what engine would elicit the most rage from the Corvette Jihad? The team would prefer something with sufficient power to get around the track at least as quickly as, say, a Saturn SL2, which rules out my first choice (a Model A flathead four). Ideally, it should be an engine that can be purchased cheaply. Chrysler 360? BMW M50? Ford Modular 4.6? Nissan VH45?

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Question: What Car Is Most Favored By Murderers? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/question-what-car-is-most-favored-by-murderers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/question-what-car-is-most-favored-by-murderers/#comments Thu, 08 Aug 2013 15:30:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498655 Back when I was looking for a cheap suspension-donor Lexus SC400, I had a couple of friends tell me to be careful when I went to go look at clapped-out Americanized Soarers with three-digit price tags: “All worn-out SC400s, in fact all worn-out Lexuses, are owned by murderers! You’ll see!” As it turned out, none […]

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SC400-1Back when I was looking for a cheap suspension-donor Lexus SC400, I had a couple of friends tell me to be careful when I went to go look at clapped-out Americanized Soarers with three-digit price tags: “All worn-out SC400s, in fact all worn-out Lexuses, are owned by murderers! You’ll see!” As it turned out, none of the cars I looked at had trunks full of quicklime, shovels, and duct tape… but that got me to thinking about the “murderer car” thing. Which car available today has the image of being owned by the scariest, manslaughteringest individuals? My answer, which I know to be the correct one, may be seen after the jump.
Toyota Echo - picture courtesy of ToyotaYeah, the Toyota Echo. American car buyers were afraid of the Echo from the beginning, for good reason; it’s just a creepy-looking car! Toyota had to recycle the chassis of the Echo in the much-less-creepy Scion xA and xB.

It sure didn’t help that Robin Williams’ scary stalker character in One Hour Photo drove an Echo. All right, so what’s your choice of frightening Murderer Car?

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QOTD: What Automotive Details Are You Missing? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/qotd-what-automotive-details-are-you-missing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/qotd-what-automotive-details-are-you-missing/#comments Wed, 07 Aug 2013 16:40:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498536 OK, folks: time for one last question of the day (for now, anyway). As you know, we’ve covered the best automotive details and the worst automotive details, both of which garnered well over 200 comments. Interestingly, the “worst” thread got about 100 more comments than the “best” thread, proving that we TTACers are a “glass […]

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OK, folks: time for one last question of the day (for now, anyway). As you know, we’ve covered the best automotive details and the worst automotive details, both of which garnered well over 200 comments. Interestingly, the “worst” thread got about 100 more comments than the “best” thread, proving that we TTACers are a “glass is half empty” kind of crowd.

With that knowledge in mind, I’ve decided to ask one more pressing question: what automotive details are you missing? In other words: you’re driving down the road and you think to yourself: Why the hell doesn’t it have that? And then you get even more upset when someone tells you that the latest subcompact General Motors vehicle does have that, and it’s standard.

These can be from your own car, a friend’s car, or the industry as whole. And with that in mind, let’s get started:

Convertible Top Open/Close With Key Fob

At Porsche, I discovered that all European convertible models have a feature that allows the convertible top to open and close with the press of a key fob button. Hold down the unlock button in your 911 Cabriolet, for example, and the windows and top all go down. Seems brilliant, right?

Except that feature isn’t offered in the States, presumably for liability reasons. You know: because an American will place a baby on the roof of a convertible, press the button, then sue the automaker for $25 million, which will turn into $95 million once the jurors start crying.

Sliding Doors

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 12.20.53 PM

If you’ve been to Europe, chances are you’ve seen the Peugeot 1007, which was recently voted the coolest car ever in a scientific poll taken on the Peugeot 1007 Facebook group.

I love the 1007 because it’s unique in one very important way: it features sliding doors, and it isn’t a minivan. The doors aren’t for the rear passengers, you see, but for the front seats. This allows you to park virtually anywhere and get out of your car, making it the exact opposite of the Ford GT.

Swiveling Headlights

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I know, I know, a few luxury cars have this. And that means in about 10 years, all cars will have it. But to me, that moment couldn’t come soon enough. I think swiveling headlights are one of the greatest things currently offered: they save your neck in dark corners, and they seem to shine exactly where you want them to.

Rear-Facing Third-Row Seats

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I used to own a car with rear-facing third-row seats, which qualifies me as to be an expert on the hotly contested issue of: Should cars have rear-facing third row seats?

The answer is, of course: yes they should. Because let’s be honest: rear-facing third-row seats pretty much always lead to a happy childhood. Also, for those who believe they aren’t safe, here’s a thought: in a rear-end collision, wouldn’t you rather have your legs get hit than the back of your head? I thought so.

Hands-Free Texting

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If you’re like me, you view texting as a necessary evil with which we, as a society, are forced to cope. And if you’re like me, you probably send the occasional text message at a traffic light. Well, guess what? Most people are not like me. Most people are texting at all hours of the day and night, including while driving down the street, the highway, the alley, and, occasionally, the sidewalk.

I recently read a study on texting that said around 60 percent of 13-to-25-year-olds consider it the preferred method of communication. And since texting is so easy to distract us from driving, this is something that automakers will need to integrate better in the coming years. Voice controls? Mind controls? I don’t know. But something.

So, TTAC, what details are you missing? And don’t worry: I promise we’ll have “answers of the day” posts coming soon.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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