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, 05 Mar 2015 13:30:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars 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: Japan’s Future Classics http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-japans-future-classics/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-japans-future-classics/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 14:18:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1010146 When a publication like Barron’s is getting in on the “Japanese classic car” story, you can be sure that this is more than just a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon of aging boomers looking to buy the 240Z they lusted after in high school. It also helps that most Japanese cars, save for the Toyota 2000GT and an all-original […]

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Integra1998

When a publication like Barron’s is getting in on the “Japanese classic car” story, you can be sure that this is more than just a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon of aging boomers looking to buy the 240Z they lusted after in high school. It also helps that most Japanese cars, save for the Toyota 2000GT and an all-original Nissan Skyline GT-R “Hakosuka” with the original S20 engine, are within the reach of most potential classic car investors.

Aside from obvious candidates like the Acura NSX and the Toyota Supra Turbo, I think that there are some solid gems that will fetch decent money or be otherwise desirable in the future. Front and center is the Acura Integra Type-R. Most of them have been crashed, stolen or modified. I don’t think they’ll ever hit the same heights as a Hemi Cuda, but they occupy a similar place in the imagination of the Fast and Furious generation. I’d also add the Mitsubishi Evo and the third-generation Mazda RX-7 for similar reasons. Any other candidates?

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Question Of The Day: Will The CR-V Continue To Be America’s Best-Selling Honda? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-will-cr-v-continue-americas-best-selling-honda/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-will-cr-v-continue-americas-best-selling-honda/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:21:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1008298 After averaging around than 230,000 U.S. sales between 2007 and 2013, a period in which Honda averaged 295,000 annual Civic sales and 324,000 annual Accord sales, the CR-V was the second-best-selling Honda in America for the first time ever in 2014. Much of the CR-V’s Civic-besting work was done in a second half which saw Civic […]

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2015 Honda CR-VAfter averaging around than 230,000 U.S. sales between 2007 and 2013, a period in which Honda averaged 295,000 annual Civic sales and 324,000 annual Accord sales, the CR-V was the second-best-selling Honda in America for the first time ever in 2014.

Much of the CR-V’s Civic-besting work was done in a second half which saw Civic volume slide 10%. Moreover, 54% of the CR-V’s 2014 U.S. volume was generated in a strong second-half.

But the CR-V didn’t stop with the Civic. In each of 2014’s final three months, the CR-V also outsold the Accord, America’s second-best-selling car.

A brief spurt of extraordinary achievement? Perhaps not. In the first month of 2015, the CR-V was once again the best-selling Honda in America.

The CR-V outsold the Accord by 2129 units in October; the Civic by 5103. In November, the gap widened considerably, with the CR-V outselling the Accord by 7103 units; the Civic by 9318. In the final month of 2014, as Accord volume slid 2% year-over-year, the CR-V outsold the midsize Honda by 780 units; the Civic 7032. In the fourth-quarter of 2014, American Honda reported 94,004 CR-V sales, equal to 28% of the brand’s total, up from 23% the same period one year earlier.

Honda sales chart 2014-2015The Civic’s share of Honda’s pie fell from 26% in the fourth-quarter of 2013 to 22%. The Accord’s share slid from 26% to 25%.

Then, in concert with its fifth consecutive month as America’s top-selling SUV/crossover, the CR-V was the top Honda for the fourth month running in January 2015. As non-CR-V Hondas collectively achieved a 7% year-over-year improvement, equal to 4415 extra sales compared with January 2014, CR-V volume jumped 27%, or 4979 units.

In fact, despite being outsold by Nissan, the Honda brand reported record January sales in 2015, with no large amount of thanks to their car division, which slipped 1.5%. But in addition to a record January from the CR-V, a clear-out of remaining second-gen Pilots helped the bigger Honda crossover to a near-doubling of January volume: 12,315 units, up 89% from 6224 in January 2014.

The CR-V is not alone in its car-conquering ways. Pickup trucks aside, the Escape, America’s second-best-selling utility vehicle, was Ford’s top seller in each of the last five months, although it trailed the Fusion by a scant 648 units at year’s end. The Escape was Ford’s best-selling non-pickup-truck in 2011, 2012, 2013, as well.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Question Of The Day: Has Acura Fooled Us All? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-acura-fooled-us/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-acura-fooled-us/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 17:57:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1004850 If you ask any automotive enthusiast about Acura, you’re likely to get approximately the same response. “Oh, ACURA?” they’ll say, with a look of disgust, as if they were just informed their flight is experiencing mechanical issues and will be stopping in Des Moines. “Acura used to be so cool. And now…” And then they […]

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2016-Acura-RDX-2

If you ask any automotive enthusiast about Acura, you’re likely to get approximately the same response. “Oh, ACURA?” they’ll say, with a look of disgust, as if they were just informed their flight is experiencing mechanical issues and will be stopping in Des Moines. “Acura used to be so cool. And now…”

And then they dazzle you with all the ways that Acura used to be cool. The Integra. The RSX. The NSX. The Vigor. The Legend Coupe with that cool 6-speed manual transmission and those oversized alloy wheels. Then they tell you about how Acura was so cool that you couldn’t leave an Integra Type-R outside the grocery store for five minutes without some car theft ring stealing it and dumping the stripped shell in a ditch in a part of town where train tracks outnumber living trees.

But now?

Acura is BORING, car enthusiasts say. They’ve lost their direction, their purpose, their progress. Acura is the automotive equivalent to that time Robert Downey, Jr. told his agent that yes, it does seem like a good idea to do that Shaggy Dog movie where I play an evil geneticist who kidnaps a sacred, shape-shifting dog from a Tibetan monastery.

And car enthusiasts may have a point, because Acura is hardly as exciting as it once was Think about it: a brand formerly consumed by manual transmissions and sharp handling has now given way to the torque converter, the ventilated seat, and a dual infotainment setup with more total screen inches than my parents’ living room. So where the hell did they go wrong?

Or… did they?

I say this because I recently discovered that Acura’s two SUVs – inexplicably named the RDX and MDX – are two of today’s best-selling luxury crossovers. And this is no easy feat: in today’s world, everybody sells a luxury SUV. BMW has five of them. So does Mercedes. Lexus is going to create twenty-six luxury SUVs, one for every letter of the alphabet (followed by the letter “X”), each uglier than the last, until finally they come out with the ZX 350, which looks like a desktop fax machine on wheels.

And leading the charge through all this is… Acura? The brand that forgot enthusiasts? The brand that gave up on the fun car?

It isn’t just SUVs where Acura seems to be making a killing. Take, for example, the Acura TL, which is a midsize sedan known for its transmission problems (1999-2003), good looks (2004-2008), and scary-looking beak nose (2009-2013). Well, guess what? The TL is also insanely popular. Seriously: you cannot drive through an HOA-controlled condo complex in the Los Angeles suburbs without seeing at least a dozen TLs, all in various nondescript colors that Acura calls something like Pearl Stormcloud Metallic.

Admittedly, the TL is now dead; replaced instead by a new model called the TLX. But guess what? It has an expanded engine lineup, a wider variety of features, lower pricing, and a normal front end that doesn’t make it look like an automotive killing machine. I’m guessing this won’t lead to fewer sales.

Now, I’m not to say Acura is without faults. We all know about the bizarre ZDX, which cost like fifty grand and had a backseat designed for a headless turtle. And then there’s the ILX, which is little more than a cynical Honda Civic clone with an unfortunate markup. And of course, there’s also the RLX, which is still on sale in the same way that John Glenn is still alive: you have to check the Wikipedia page every few months just to make sure.

But what I’ve noticed is that Acura actually does pretty damn well for being a company that “turned its back” on automotive enthusiasts, and “lost its direction.” So well, in fact, that you have to wonder if “losing its direction” happened precisely on purpose. In fact, you kind of have to wonder if Acura’s direction isn’t really lost at all.

So what do you think? Am I wrong? Is Acura a directionless, formless blob of a luxury car company? Or, by ignoring automotive enthusiasts, have they found a better direction?

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Question Of The Day: Has Mazda Lost Its Zoom? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-mazda-lost-zoom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-mazda-lost-zoom/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 14:26:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=999250 Ladies and gentlemen, today I must reveal a depressing opinion about Mazda: I believe they no longer zoom. Yes, folks, that’s right: I believe that Mazda, everyone’s favorite “zoom zoom” brand, once home to all the cool “zoom zoom” cars, is no longer in the “zoom zoom” business. In fact, if they were to make […]

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Ladies and gentlemen, today I must reveal a depressing opinion about Mazda: I believe they no longer zoom.

Yes, folks, that’s right: I believe that Mazda, everyone’s favorite “zoom zoom” brand, once home to all the cool “zoom zoom” cars, is no longer in the “zoom zoom” business. In fact, if they were to make those commercials again today, the little boy would say “sip sip,” and the ad would show Mazda’s lineup slowly descending a hill in top gear in order to maximize average fuel economy.

For those of you who have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, allow me to back up a bit. The year was 2005 – or possibly 2002, I have no idea – and Mazda was putting out these “zoom zoom” commercials in order to point out how it was more fun than all the other automakers. What would happen in these ads was:

1. A little boy – inexplicably dressed in funeral attire – would stand by the side of the road and whisper “zoom zoom” while the camera panned uncomfortably close to him.

2. They’d start playing this high-energy song, whose entire lyrics – this is true – were “Zoom
ZOOM zoom! Yeah zoom zoom zoom zoom zoom.”

3. The entire Mazda lineup – including the B-Series, which was an outdated small pickup that moved with the grace of a garage door – would speed recklessly through the desert, uprooting sagebrush and various species of lizards.

Although I’d love to make fun of these commercials, I must admit that I actually enjoyed them immensely. You got the sense, when you were watching them, that Mazda was cool and fun and youthful, and other people must’ve agreed, because how else do you explain them selling all those yellow Protege5s?

More importantly, however, Mazda of ten years ago had the exciting lineup to justify these ads. There was the high-performance MazdaSpeed6, which had more power than the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. There was the sporty MazdaSpeed3, which had more power than the Acura NSX. And there was the RX-8, which consumed more oil than a NASCAR race. And who can forget the turbocharged MazdaSpeed Miata, which soon gave way to the highly enjoyable “NC” MX-5?

But in my opinion, the brand long since has changed.

Now, before I assail Mazda for making un-zoomy products, I should note that they aren’t currently using the “zoom zoom” tagline anywhere in their advertising. In fact, a quick trip to their website reveals they aren’t using any slogan, and instead their press images primarily involve bright red vehicles in dimly lit settings.

And it’s a good thing that Mazda has abandoned its “zoom zoom” slogan, because the brand isn’t really in the zoomy business any longer. I think many of you agree with me here, or at least call me names in the comments.

To help prove my point, consider the Mazda6, which is the single most attractive midsize sedan in human history. Seriously: when we all die, and humanity moves on, there will come a day, deep in the future, when the curator at the Louvre says: “We need to make room for the 2014 Mazda6. Can we move the small, faded painting of that grinning woman? Lisa something?”

But here’s the problem: as beautiful as the new Mazda6 is, it isn’t sporty. Oh, sure, it handles a little better than most competitors, and it has big wheels that make it look like an expensive luxury car; the kind of luxury car that might have illuminated door sills and free baked goods in the dealership waiting area.

But its most powerful engine makes 174 horsepower. One seventy four. This is Honda Civic territory. This is Ford Focus territory. This is 1990s family sedan territory. And to make matters worse, another unfortunate Mazda6 fact: every single competitor offers more power. Even the Toyota Camry – long considered the automotive version of un-lined typing paper –has a V6 version that makes 268 horses and reaches 60 mph in under 6 seconds.

It isn’t just the Mazda6 that’s got me worried. While Ford’s subcompact Fiesta has a high-performance version with 184 horsepower, the tiny Mazda2 is saddled with only 100. While the Volkswagen Golf R is about to debut with 296 horsepower, there still isn’t a MazdaSpeed3 – though some rumors say it’s on the way. The brand of the RX-7 and RX-8 now makes three SUVs and a minivan. And instead of pursuing speed, Mazda has instead earned the EPA’s distinction of most fuel-efficient automaker – an honor, yes, but not a zoomy one.

But if you aren’t yet convinced that the fun is gone from Mazda, here’s the real kicker: that zoom-zoom kid? The one in the commercials? Who got all excited about the Mazda6 powersliding over an endangered turtle habitat? He’s at Notre Dame Law School, where he’s currently on the dean’s list. The dean’s list!!! In other words: even the zoom-zoom kid has given up on having fun!

Now, I admit that Mazda is just now coming out with the all-new MX-5 Miata, which is the brand’s link to the high-performance world. And I understand that some of you might think that this alone makes Mazda sporty. But here’s my counterargument: Ferrari.

Ferrari, as you know, makes bright red sports cars for people who spend more time tending to their hair than their children. But they also make an oddly proportioned station wagon with a hood so large that it could serve as a landing area for remote-controlled drones. But is Ferrari a station wagon maker? No! They’re a sports car maker that happens to have a station wagon – just as Mazda is a mainstream, gas mileagy brand that happens to have a cool little sports car.

I also admit that Mazda products are generally more fun to drive than their counterparts at Honda, Toyota, Nissan, or other brands. But does this justify Mazda’s image as a “sporty” automaker? Does a slightly better steering feel and improved cornering abilities still make Mazda a “zoom zoom” brand? In my opinion, it just isn’t the same – but what say you? Has Mazda lost its zoom?

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Question Of The Day: What’s The Best Car You’d Never Buy? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-whats-best-car-youd-never-buy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-whats-best-car-youd-never-buy/#comments Fri, 06 Feb 2015 14:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=994282 I recently had the opportunity to attend the Philadelphia Auto Show, where I found myself sitting in a shiny, new 2015 Ford Flex. For those of you who aren’t up on your modern Fords, this is the one that looks like a port-a-potty tipped on its side. So anyway: I’m sitting there, playing with all […]

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I recently had the opportunity to attend the Philadelphia Auto Show, where I found myself sitting in a shiny, new 2015 Ford Flex. For those of you who aren’t up on your modern Fords, this is the one that looks like a port-a-potty tipped on its side.

So anyway: I’m sitting there, playing with all the beautiful buttons, taking in the surprisingly well-crafted interior, reading about the available 365-horsepower turbocharged engine, checking out all the cool, high-tech features, when it hits me: there is absolutely no way I would ever buy this car.

And I admit, my reasons for this are entirely superficial. On paper, it appears the Flex offers excellent interior room, and excellent powertrains, and excellent equipment, and even surprisingly reasonable pricing. But I just could never get past the fact that I’m driving a vehicle that looks like an enormous coffin on wheels. In fact, it’s interesting that they call it the “Flex,” because every single line on the thing is actually rigid, and blocky, and straight, and the only thing that really flexes is the chassis when it goes around a corner.

But here’s the thing about the Flex: when you talk to an owner of the thing, they absolutely love it. Seriously: walk up to someone at a gas station who’s there with a Flex and ask what they think. They’ll talk forever about how much they love the thing. It’s like when you pull out your iPhone at a meal where someone has an Android, and they see your iPhone, and they talk for days, weeks, months, years, about their Android, and why it’s better, and customizable this, and flexible that, when all you really wanted to do was check your e-mail.

So I admit that I might be wrong about the Flex, but its bizarre styling ensures that I’ll never change my mind. And this leads to today’s question of the day, which is: what’s the best car you’d never buy?

It doesn’t have to be about styling. As I was writing this column, I came up with another excellent example of a great car I’d never buy: the E46 BMW M3. For those of you who don’t know it, this was the BMW M3 they made in the mid-2000s. For those of you who still don’t know it, this is the BMW M3 that’s primarily owned by teenagers who spend more time getting their hair to spike up than they do earning a paycheck.

By all accounts, the E46 BMW M3 is an excellent car. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s got a great engine, and the interior is still classic BMW, which is to say that the shifter isn’t that bizarre plastic unit that looks like a malformed piece of petrified wood. But if you buy an E46 M3, you’re automatically… that guy.

You know the guy I mean. The guy who leaves his front windows down, even during the winter, so people can hear his music. The guy who believes street racing will identify the better man. The guy who believes that a condom is a debatable part of relations with a stranger. (“C’mon baby… just this once.”) And if you buy an E46 M3, whether you actually are that guy or not is irrelevant: you’re representing to the world that you’re that guy. You’re telling everyone: “Although I may not actually be that guy, we certainly have the same tastes. Now, let me turn up my bass.” And for me, that alone removes the E46 M3 from my list of possible vehicles in the future.

So I ask you: what’s the best car you’d never buy? Due to brand bias, perhaps? Or styling? Or owner perception? Or maybe you’re above all these superficial things, and they wouldn’t stop you from buying any car. Even if it looks like an enormous coffin on wheels.

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Question Of The Day: How Long Until Atmospheric Ferraris Rise In Price? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-long-atmospheric-ferraris-rise-price/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-long-atmospheric-ferraris-rise-price/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2015 16:09:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=993106 Today marked the introduction of the second turbocharged Ferrari, the 488 GTB. Replacing the 458 Italia, the 488 is another move towards the eventual replacement of naturally aspirated Ferrari engines with turbocharged units. Ferrari’s engineers are on record as stating that they “don’t like turbos” and are moving towards them solely for regulatory compliance reasons. […]

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Today marked the introduction of the second turbocharged Ferrari, the 488 GTB. Replacing the 458 Italia, the 488 is another move towards the eventual replacement of naturally aspirated Ferrari engines with turbocharged units.

Ferrari’s engineers are on record as stating that they “don’t like turbos” and are moving towards them solely for regulatory compliance reasons. By all accounts, the new California T is about as good as a turbocharged engine can get in terms of throttle response and driver engagement. The new 488 GTB gets a downsized 3.9L V8 (versus 4.5 in the old car) making a massive 661 horsepower and 560 lb-ft of torque – 64 more than the 458 Speciale that Jack was enamored with during R&T’s Performance Car of the Year test.

But Hooniverse editor and TTAC contributor Kamil Kaluski raised an interesting point. Will Ferrari values rise for the pre-turbo models, similar to air-cooled Porsches?

FullSizeRender (2)

Moving from N/A to turbo engines doesn’t represent a wholesale change in character the way that the shift from air to water cooling did for Porsche. But it’s not out of the question. Let us know your thoughts.

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Would You Buy a Used Rental Car? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/buy-used-rental-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/buy-used-rental-car/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 11:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=990522 Most car enthusiasts know that rental cars are the most abused vehicles on the road. We know this, of course, because we are the ones who abuse them. Seriously: when a normal person picks up a rental car, they see it as little more than basic transportation. A simple, cheap vehicle designed to bring them […]

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rentals

Most car enthusiasts know that rental cars are the most abused vehicles on the road. We know this, of course, because we are the ones who abuse them.

Seriously: when a normal person picks up a rental car, they see it as little more than basic transportation. A simple, cheap vehicle designed to bring them from the Houston airport to a suburban office park, where they will give a presentation about something like The Efficacy of Automated Stapler Software to a company with a nondescript name like “RidgeTech” or “The Matheson Group.”

But car enthusiasts see it differently. When a car enthusiast gets inside a rental car, he doesn’t wonder where the lights are, or how to turn on the wipers. Instead, he thinks: How fast can I go before it locks me out of park? And then he tests this, repeatedly, until finally the transmission dies, at which point he goes home and tells his friends that whatever Chrysler he rented is an unreliable piece of shit.

For further proof of how car enthusiasts beat on rental cars, allow me to share my most recent rental car experience. It was in Europe, and I was tremendously excited, because I had rental car insurance. When a customer eagerly opts for rental car insurance, this is a bad sign. If you run a rental car company, and the customer asks “Can I get even MORE rental car insurance?”, you can be pretty sure you will never see the car again with all of its doors attached.

So anyway: I rented something small and pathetic, some French car called the C-Elysee, and it was awful. I mean, truly terrible. It was ugly, it was cheap, it was boring, it was plasticky, and it accelerated at the same rate as melting ice. So I decided that the best thing to do – the best way to really enjoy this car – would be to pull the handbrake in every possible situation, including when stopping at red lights.

Now, it’s been about six months since this trip, so this car has probably found its way into the hands of a real customer by now. A normal person, maybe even a young driver, highly excited to receive her very first car, with absolutely no knowledge that a previous driver drove 37 miles of the French Riviera with the handbrake up “just to see if it would let me.”

But here’s the thing about modern cars: in large part, they can usually take the abuse. I say this because I spent a summer in college working for Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and I discovered that modern cars are capable of handling just about anything that modern car renters can do to them. Blowout on the highway? No problem. Mud in the trunk? Not a worry. Didn’t realize the parking brake was in the footwell, so you drove around with it engaged all weekend? Who cares!

Indeed, it seems that modern cars are almost manufactured to the lowest common denominator. It’s as if, when an automobile engineer is designing a vehicle, he thinks to himself: what about the guy who tucks in his shirt even though he doesn’t have a belt? And then they add a bunch more screws and nuts and bolts just to make sure even that guy doesn’t break the thing.

And so today’s question is this. We all know how much rental cars can be abused – whether intentionally or unintentionally, whether by car enthusiasts or complete idiots. And yet, we all know how reliable modern cars are: the days of breakdowns and mechanical failures and unexplained noises are generally over, unless you’re driving a Land Rover. So is a used rental car worthy of your consideration? Is it an acceptable possibility? And if not: at what price would you change your mind?

Me, I’d have no problem buying a used rental car, provided it a) passes a thorough mechanical inspection, b) feels perfectly fine on a test drive, and c) is not a Dodge Avenger. What about you?


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Question Of The Day: Can Nissan Sell 100,000 Titans Annually? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-can-nissan-sell-100000-titans-annually/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-can-nissan-sell-100000-titans-annually/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 13:35:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988698 In the nameplate’s best-ever year, Nissan sold 86,945 Titans in the United States. Nissan USA wants to sell 100,000 Titans annually when the new model, with its more extensive lineup, arrives for the 2016 model year. • Titan sales declined 20% in 2014 • Titan volume peaked at 87K in 2005 • F-Series, GM, Ram […]

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2016 Nissan Titan XDIn the nameplate’s best-ever year, Nissan sold 86,945 Titans in the United States.

Nissan USA wants to sell 100,000 Titans annually when the new model, with its more extensive lineup, arrives for the 2016 model year.


• Titan sales declined 20% in 2014

• Titan volume peaked at 87K in 2005

• F-Series, GM, Ram combined for 1.9M full-size truck sales in 2014


A 15% uptick from that record-setting year – the Titan’s second full year in the U.S., 2005 – doesn’t sound like an insurmountable leap forward. But an increase to 100,000 units would represent a six-fold improvement over the Titan’s U.S. sales average from the last three years.

According to Automotive News, Nissan North America’s chairman, Jose Munoz, told a crowd at the J.D. Power Automotive Summit that their aspirations are “modest,” and that when it comes to the automaker’s expectations for the Titan, “We’re very bullish.”

But is it reasonable to expect that the Titan could penetrate the market with Toyota Tundra-like force?

With 118,493 sales in 2014, Toyota USA reported their best Tundra sales year since 2008 and earned 5.7% market share in the full-size category. Nissan feels that less than 5% market share in the full-size category, “would be considered by us as not very successful.”

2016 Nissan Titan XDIn other words, Nissan needs to sell Titans at a record-setting pace even though the market for full-size trucks, at least in 2014, was down 16% compared with 2005, when Titan volume was at its previous best.

To earn 5% market share in the full-size truck category in 2014, Nissan would have needed to sell 103,000 Titans. Nissan sold 12,527 Titans in 2014.

Recent performances may mean very little aside from the fact that, without so much as a facelift or new powertrain, the first-gen Titan became something of a laughingstock in the truck world. In 2004, Nissan was marketing a 305-horsepower, 5.6L V8-powered truck with a 5-speed automatic and an EPA-rated 17 mpg on the highway at a time when Ford was offering a 231-horsepower, 4.6L V8, a 4-speed automatic, and 17 mpg on the highway. Fair enough.

2016 Nissan Titan XDA decade later, however, Nissan was still selling the same truck (albeit with 12 more ponies), but it was up against gas-fired six and eight-cylinder pickups from Ram with EPA highway ratings between 21 and 23 miles per gallon, 305 or 395 horsepower, and 8-speed automatics. The lack of redevelopment may not have done the Titan nameplate any favours, particularly not in a category where hundreds of thousands of buyers have already attached their loyalty to top-selling trucks.

But the new Titan is most definitely new. There will be an available Cummins diesel, a semi-heavy-duty XD version with a unique frame, and more available configurations across the board. Nissan will therefore be tackling a far larger portion of the pickup market. But will they do so with as much success as they anticipate and apparently require?

Here’s a scenario full of assumptions that would work in the new Titan’s favour. The full-size truck market grows 8% in 2015, just as it did in 2014, and then does so again in 2016, when the Titan is readily available. Now the full-size market is nearly the same size as it was in 2005, when the Titan performed at its best. With 2.41 million sales to split and Nissan needing 100,000 units (equal to 4.1% market share), the competitors must only generate 2.31 million sales. (They generated 2,053,721 sales in 2014.) This would mean that the F-Series, Silverado, Sierra, Ram, and Tundra collectively rose 12.5% over the course of two years, a healthy boost to their own volume which would still, in turn, create space for bigger Titan numbers, too.

2016 Nissan Titan XD interiorIn other words, growth in the overall truck market would allow the Titan to expand its volume without needing to steal sales from the established players, something it didn’t need to do in its 2004 debut year, either. That year, full-size sales jumped by 177,000 units, or 8%, and Nissan added more than 80,000 of those sales.

And if the full-size truck market doesn’t grow? If plans for growth are stalled by the shocking success of a revitalized small/midsize truck segment? If there is substantial growth but consumers don’t take kindly to the Titan’s new face? If Nissan is taken aback by Detroit’s willingness to incentivize their trucks at all cost to avoid losing market share? In those cases, all bets are off.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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QOTD: When Did BMW Lose Its Edge? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/qotd-bmw-lose-edge/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/qotd-bmw-lose-edge/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 17:11:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988002 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 […]

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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.

Remember the BMW of yore? The sharknose 6 Series. That late-1990s 7 Series (E38) that looked like the kind of thing the devil would drive, if he was late to a board meeting in Hell. The beautiful mid-1990s 5 Series (E34), and the perfect late-1990s 5 Series (E39) that followed it. The Z8. The Z3, which – although it hasn’t aged well – came out to universal acclaim in the mid-90s, and made its way into a Bond movie soon after. And then there was the 3 Series: the E30. The E36. The E46. The brand’s bread-and-butter, perfectly executed, perfectly sized, perfect to drive.

Little did we know, it was the brand’s all-time peak.

Twenty years later, here we are: the BMW of now. Gran Coupes. Gran Turismos. xDrive35i. Sports activity vehicles. iDrive. And a front-wheel drive electric car with a trim level called Giga World. I swear that if a meeting ever took place between the two BMW eras, 1990s BMW would punch 2010s BMW in the face and give it a wedgie while it was lying on the ground.

Things have gotten so bad that there’s kind of a running understanding among modern car enthusiasts that BMW has turned to crap. It’s like when you’re on a boat, and you’re rapidly taking on water. Nobody says you’re taking on water, but it’s plain to see: there you are, in the middle of the ocean, with minnows swimming around your ankles.

Essentially, the problems are as follows: the cars are bloated. The segments make no sense. The names are bizarre. And what the hell is the 2 Series Active Sports Tourer? Is that a joke? Are we supposed to pretend that thing simply doesn’t exist?

So my question today is: what the hell happened? Where did BMW go wrong? When did the once almighty BMW, the ambassador of cool, the diplomat of debonair (eh? EH?!), finally go off into the deep end and lose the plot? I’ll give you my theory – and below, you can submit yours.

My theory: it wasn’t a car that caused BMW to lose it. It was an all-out, no-holds-barred sales-chasing mentality; the kind of mentality Chrysler has with the rental fleets. I think it was this strategy – and not the vehicles themselves – that led to the decline of BMW. Essentially, it was the moment the automaker went from “How can we make this car cooler?” to “Why don’t we have a vehicle in the all-wheel drive rhombus segment?”

Of course, the “sell everything” mentality dramatically affected the products. Out went the careful styling decisions and the restrained lineup; in came segment-busting products and low-payment lease deals. The 3 Series grew huge. The X1 came into existence. And the 5 Series went from “desirable and stealthy” to “enormous and anonymous.”

But in my opinion, none of that would’ve happened if BMW had remained happy with the status quo: build cool cars, and sell a lot of them. Not tons of them, mind you. Not zillions. Not eleven crossovers and twelve variants of the 3 Series. But enough cars to generate a big profit while retaining the “cool guy” image.

So, what say you? Where do you think BMW took a wrong turn?

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Question Of The Day: Would You Accept A V6 EcoBoost Mustang http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-accept-v6-ecoboost-mustang/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-accept-v6-ecoboost-mustang/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 18:38:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=984617 I’m sure there’s a good reason it hasn’t been done yet, but I’m going to ask for it anyways: how about a 3.5L EcoBoost V6 Mustang? Why not call it a Shelby GT500? In an era where the Mustang V6 Performance Pack can put down respectable acceleration and lap times, it’s reasonable to expect that […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

I’m sure there’s a good reason it hasn’t been done yet, but I’m going to ask for it anyways: how about a 3.5L EcoBoost V6 Mustang? Why not call it a Shelby GT500?

In an era where the Mustang V6 Performance Pack can put down respectable acceleration and lap times, it’s reasonable to expect that the public is ready for a high performance V6 twin-turbo pony car. Take the all-new anti-lag equipped 3.5L EB from the Raptor, crank the boost up to the GT’s 600+ horsepower output. Add a stick shift or the new 10-speed. You have a Hellcat competitor that also ties into Ford’s EcoBoost motorsports push.

I’m aware that the mere notion of a V6 EcoBoost Shelby GT500 will make the V8 faithful have a stroke, so maybe it needs another moniker. Call it the Cobra. Or the SVO. The Twin Turbo setup was a popular modification for the famed ’03-’04 “Terminator” Cobra. I think my proposed Mustang would be a hit, even with two fewer cylinders. It’s only a matter of time until Chevrolet get’s the same setup in the next-gen Camaro.

 

 

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Question of the Day: First Car Trip of Your Life? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-first-car-trip-life/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-first-car-trip-life/#comments Wed, 14 Jan 2015 15:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=982889 It’s likely that most of us don’t remember the first time we ever rode in a motor vehicle— in most cases, that would be the ride home from the hospital after being born— but I’ll bet that most can figure out what that car, truck, motorcycle, or Comfortractor was. In my case, the first car […]

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QOTD-FirstCarRide-56OldsIt’s likely that most of us don’t remember the first time we ever rode in a motor vehicle— in most cases, that would be the ride home from the hospital after being born— but I’ll bet that most can figure out what that car, truck, motorcycle, or Comfortractor was. In my case, the first car I remember was my dad’s ’67 Ford Custom 500 sedan, but I happen to know that my first car ride was on icy Minneapolis streets in January of 1966, and that the car was a 1956 Oldsmobile 88. How about your first road trip?
QOTD-FirstCarRide-56Olds-2Sadly, the family Olds had bashed a deer a few weeks before I was born, and— being a ten-year-old car in Minnesota— was pretty rusty, anyway. It was gone not long after I made the scene, so have no memory of the roar of its mighty 324-cubic-inch Rocket V8. My dad still misses that Olds. All right, now let’s have your stories!

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Question Of The Day, Grandma Edition: Why Are EVs So Odd Looking? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-grandma-edition-evs-odd-looking/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-grandma-edition-evs-odd-looking/#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 16:46:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=971530 Today’s QOTD comes from Grandma, who is on vacation in Florida. Grandma writes: i have a a chevy sonic rental.  i parked it, it is so small it was a breeze   lots of 2014 mercedes sitting in dealer lots here.  saw 2 bmw electric cars.  the back lights look like the kia soul.  it […]

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Today’s QOTD comes from Grandma, who is on vacation in Florida. Grandma writes:

i have a a chevy sonic rental.  i parked it, it is so small it was a breeze   lots of 2014 mercedes sitting in dealer lots here.  saw 2 bmw electric cars.  the back lights look like the kia soul.  it looks cute, but none of the beemer [sic] sophistication.  don’t know why they have to make electric cars look so quirky.
Upon further questioning, it appears Grandma was asking about the BMW i3. Sixt is now renting out the i3 in the South Florida area, complete with burnt orange paint and giant Sixt logos. I didn’t really have a good answer for her, other than “people want to be seen driving an electric car”. In her mind, a Bimmer is still something you buy to show that you’ve “arrived” – but it’s not as good as a “Jag-you-are”.

 

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Question Of The Day: Auld Lang Syne http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/question-day-auld-lang-syne/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/question-day-auld-lang-syne/#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 15:40:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=969425 It’s not quite the 31st yet, but since a few of us won’t be at our computers on New Year’s Eve (*ahem*), I figured this is an opportune time to turn the floor over to the B&B. The question of the day is simple. What would you like to see more of in 2015? What […]

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It’s not quite the 31st yet, but since a few of us won’t be at our computers on New Year’s Eve (*ahem*), I figured this is an opportune time to turn the floor over to the B&B.

The question of the day is simple. What would you like to see more of in 2015? What would you like to see less of? This is *your* site, and we serve you, not the manufacturers or the advertisers or anybody else. Let us know. We’ll be paying attention.

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Question Of The Day: What Do You Drive? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/question-day-drive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/question-day-drive/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 17:06:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=955850 Today’s Question of the Day is remarkably simple, but it took a reader suggestion to make it appear. Reader David J. wrote in this morning, stating TTAC is not short of opinions about cars. I would like to see each submitted state the car or truck, SUV, etc he or she owns or leases. Here’s […]

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Today’s Question of the Day is remarkably simple, but it took a reader suggestion to make it appear.

Reader David J. wrote in this morning, stating

TTAC is not short of opinions about cars. I would like to see each submitted state the car or truck, SUV, etc he or she owns or leases. Here’s a start for me: own a 2010 model Prius V and a 2014 Audi Q5.

We know that some commenters are linked with certain cars (Davefromcalgary and his Verano 2.0T 6MT, CoreyDL and his Audi) but I’d be interested to see a snapshot of what everyone else drives.

I’ll start: 2015 Mazda3 Sport. Previous cars are a 2003 Mazda Miata Shinsen, a 1998 Volvo V70 (5-speed manual) and a 1997 Miata in British Racing Green.

 

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Question Of The Day: This Time It’s Different? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/question-day-time-different/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/question-day-time-different/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 15:51:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=952161 On the news of OPEC’s decision to keep oil production at current levels, there is almost certainly going to be a rout in the price of oil. As of this writing, Gasoline futures are below the $2 mark, while West Texas Intermediate (the North American crude oil benchmark) is sitting at about $71.50, down from […]

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On the news of OPEC’s decision to keep oil production at current levels, there is almost certainly going to be a rout in the price of oil.

As of this writing, Gasoline futures are below the $2 mark, while West Texas Intermediate (the North American crude oil benchmark) is sitting at about $71.50, down from a high of $105 this summer. Gas prices are sure to sink even lower alongside the expected dip in crude.

The big question in my mind is how this will influence consumer behavior in the auto sector. Since the Great Financial Crisis, auto makers have positioned themselves for marked increases in fuel economy, spurred by equal parts consumer demand and government mandates (CAFE and Euro emissions regulations). This has manifested itself in everything from incremental (more efficient powertrains) to extreme (the aluminum F-150).

With gasoline at record highs, the demand for smaller, fuel-efficient cars is acute. But when the price dips, consumers tend to forget about the hard times and gravitate back towards pickups, SUVs and all manner of gas guzzlers.

Or do they?

Over the following months, we’ll be able to track what happens to auto sales and the price of gasoline. Our sales guru Tim Cain will be able to plot the results in one of his trademark charts.

Personally, I suspect that we’ll see more short-term thinking when it comes to vehicle purchases. Sales of SUVs, trucks and larger crossovers will keep rising. Small crossovers will eat into sales of passenger cars, likely stealing market share from compact cars once nameplates like the Chevrolet Trax and Honda HR-V hit the market. The hard times will quickly be forgotten…until the next rise in gas prices and economic contraction. In the mean time, it’s going to be a rough market for hybrids and EVs.

But I’m curious to hear what you have to say. With no formal training in economics or business, all I can do is go with my gut. I’m curious to hear your analysis, whether its rooted in the same methodology as mine, or something more concrete and quantitative.

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QOTD: Another Member Of The Brown Wagon Club? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/qotd-another-member-brown-wagon-club/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/qotd-another-member-brown-wagon-club/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:32:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933906 While helping my grandmother hunt for a new car, I tried to steer her towards a Mazda3 Sport. She didn’t take to the “game changer” (which is the tagline for the car’s marketing campaign, not an attempt to cash in on my catch phrase), but I did notice a similar example on the lot. This […]

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While helping my grandmother hunt for a new car, I tried to steer her towards a Mazda3 Sport. She didn’t take to the “game changer” (which is the tagline for the car’s marketing campaign, not an attempt to cash in on my catch phrase), but I did notice a similar example on the lot.

This color, called “Titanium Flash”, looks more like brown to me. As far as I’m concerned, the line between station wagon, hatchback and CUV has been sufficiently blurred that this can qualify as a member of the mythical brown wagon species – and you can get it in a manual as well. I’ll defer to the B&B on this one, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s time to count every possible example to help shore up ranks.

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Question of the Day: What Was the Worst 1982 Car Sold In America? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/question-day-worst-1982-car-sold-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/question-day-worst-1982-car-sold-america/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 13:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=919962 Last weekend, while I was helping to run the seventh annual 24 Hours of LeMons Fall South race, I got into a debate with LeMons Chief Perp Jay Lamm over which team should get the accomplished-the-most-with-the-worst-car trophy, the Index of Effluency. The 1982 Renault Fuego Turbo of Interceptor Motorsports, which made its debut at that […]

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Last weekend, while I was helping to run the seventh annual 24 Hours of LeMons Fall South race, I got into a debate with LeMons Chief Perp Jay Lamm over which team should get the accomplished-the-most-with-the-worst-car trophy, the Index of Effluency. The 1982 Renault Fuego Turbo of Interceptor Motorsports, which made its debut at that race, managed to turn 19 laps during two days of racing (the winner did 377 laps) and finished 105th out of 110 entries. My opinion was that the Fuego Turbo was the worst car sold in the United States in 1982 and thus Interceptor Motorsports deserved Index of Effluency recognition for their achievement, but the Chief Perp felt that plenty of Detroit-built cars from the Malaise Era were even worse. In the end, we gave the prize to a 1979 Wagon Queen Family Truckster (which finished in P73), but I still think that you’d be hard-pressed to find any 1982 model-year car that approaches the Renault Fuego Turbo for across-the-board terribleness.
QOTD-WorstCarOf1982-PhoenixTo avoid veering off into tangents about production-run-of-27-cars oddball stuff or non-car abominations such as the Comuta-Car, cars to be considered must be 1982 model-year vehicles sold in at least four-figure quantities in the United States. So, with 32 years of hindsight, what was that profoundly bad car, the biggest mistake you could make when car-shopping in 1982? The Fiat Strada? The Chevy Citation and its siblings? The Cadillac Deville with V8-6-4 engine? The Datsun F10? Ford EXP? You decide!

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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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Click here to view the embedded video.

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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versa

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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mazda2

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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