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. Sat, 29 Aug 2015 15:27:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 » Question of the Day http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com QOTD: What’s the Best All-Around Car? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-whats-the-best-all-around-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-whats-the-best-all-around-car/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 11:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1154841 When you talk to car enthusiasts, it’s clear that they spend a lot of energy trying to figure out the best car for every possible situation. It’s only in a group of car enthusiasts, for instance, that you’ll hear the term “daily driver.” For normal people, they just have a “car,” and maybe a “second […]

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2015 Subaru Outback

When you talk to car enthusiasts, it’s clear that they spend a lot of energy trying to figure out the best car for every possible situation.

It’s only in a group of car enthusiasts, for instance, that you’ll hear the term “daily driver.” For normal people, they just have a “car,” and maybe a “second car” for their “wife.” But car enthusiasts separate their daily driver from their other car, or maybe their other cars, because each vehicle in a car enthusiast’s garage has a different purpose.

There’s a track car — a car only owned by enthusiasts dedicated solely to track use. And there might be a truck and a trailer to pull this track car. So now you have the daily driver, the track car, the truck, and the trailer.

Or maybe you have a winter beater. A car you use during the winter to keep the bad weather, road salt, potholes, and debris away from your pride and joy. This winter beater is usually an old Subaru, or a truck, or something you wouldn’t be caught dead driving in normal circumstances. But alas, it’s another car that fills another purpose.

Some car enthusiasts have a commuter car; a car that sucks miles, that keeps their fun car away from the daily grind; a car that they can use for fuel economy and hauling kids while keeping their “fun car” safe for weekend use. I know a guy who once had an E60 BMW M5 in the garage and a Toyota Prius as a commuter car.

And it goes, on and on and on. Some people have an off-roader. A truck for hauling. A classic they keep in the garage. A drag racer. Car enthusiasts like cars, so they have a lot of them. It only makes sense.

But what if you could only have one?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m asking the question: what’s the best all-around car if you had to have only one single car? What if you couldn’t have the track car, and the winter beater, and the commuter cars, and the off-roader? What if you had to stop and choose only one specific vehicle that does it all?

bmw-x5-m-2014-la-auto-show-04

For me, this question is impossibly hard to answer. Your mind immediately goes to high-performance SUVs like the BMW X5 M or the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8, because they combine sports car performance with SUV practicality. But in doing so, they kind of lose the best aspects of both: the X5 M and Grand Cherokee SRT8 have such thin performance tires that they’re hardly capable off-roaders. And they’re so bulky and heavy that they don’t really go around corners. They’re good all-rounders, but not great ones; better in theory than in reality.

So then you start thinking of practical sports cars, like the Porsche 911 or the BMW 6 Series. But these things aren’t really family cars: both have back seats that could barely be comfortable for a notecard. And by offering back seats at all, they kind of compromise the true “sports car” nature of the sports car that’s honed so effectively by cars like the Mazda MX-5 Miata and the Honda S2000.

So what’s the answer?

Volvo V60 Polestar, model year 2016

I nominate the Volvo V60 T6, which seems to combine good things about every possible type of vehicle. Under the hood, there’s a 3.0-liter turbocharged 6-cylinder engine that makes 325 horsepower. Performance, check. It’s also a wagon, or at least a long hatchback, so there’s some room in back for both people and luggage. Interior space, check. And there’s standard all-wheel drive in the T6 model, along with an insane amount of typical Volvo safety features. All-weather capability, check. Safety, check.

But of course, there are many fine answers to this question, and I’m sure that not all of them will be the Ford Crown Victoria. So I say to you, what exactly do you think is the best all-around car?

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QOTD: Do You Care About The Latest and Greatest Tech? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-do-you-care-about-the-latest-and-greatest-tech/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-do-you-care-about-the-latest-and-greatest-tech/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 11:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1153697 I’m the type of guy that reads the instruction manual. Admittedly, I’m in the lower quartile of the 1 percent of humans who actually read the book, and there are even fewer still who admit to reading it — most people don’t, and if they do, it’s only when they need to. But why? Don’t […]

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2015.5 Volvo Sensus Connect Infotainment Navigation

I’m the type of guy that reads the instruction manual. Admittedly, I’m in the lower quartile of the 1 percent of humans who actually read the book, and there are even fewer still who admit to reading it — most people don’t, and if they do, it’s only when they need to.

But why? Don’t people know that they’re full of good stuff?

Did you know the newest generation Mini Cooper has launch control? I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t spot it in the manual. Also, I wouldn’t have known how to sync via Bluetooth to a circa-2013 Volkswagen car (the PIN is buried in the manual, it’s 1212 or something like that, if I recall correctly).

According to a recent report, most new car buyers don’t know what their cars do, and quite frankly, they don’t care. They should.

Admittedly, carmakers aren’t tech companies. The latest and greatest is under the hood and usually not at your fingertips. But most people find that their phones are a better source of information and directions, and that’s probably not the safest way to drive a car.

Instead of competing with tech companies, I’d prefer carmakers to contract — but that’s not conducive to a better bottom line [or with developing a product that’s visually and functionally different from the competition —Mark].

Drivers should care about the tech going into their cars because it could make their lives safer — and easier.

But maybe I’m wrong. So what say you, B&B? Do you care about in-car tech? Should automakers improve or outsource? Is there any tech that should be in cars that isn’t already?

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QOTD: What Are You Supposed to Drive Making Minimum Wage? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-supposed-drive-making-minimum-wage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-supposed-drive-making-minimum-wage/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 11:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1151873 After two years at a grocery store making $4.25, I got my first raise as a member of the U.S. workforce: I could eat all the nearly expired yogurt in the dairy I could ever want. Unfortunately, yogurt doesn’t buy a car. And after two years of checking, stocking, bagging and mopping, I had a […]

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09 - 1998 Toyota Corolla Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

After two years at a grocery store making $4.25, I got my first raise as a member of the U.S. workforce: I could eat all the nearly expired yogurt in the dairy I could ever want.

Unfortunately, yogurt doesn’t buy a car. And after two years of checking, stocking, bagging and mopping, I had a pair of turntables and records to show for my hard work.

Fortunately, I was in high school and could “work” off my car loan with grades. But for 3.3 million Americans who make the minimum wage — or less — there may not be such a deal.

And at $7.25 an hour, or $15,080 a year, your car-buying options are fairly limited.

I know what bootstrap Republicans will say: “Take the bus!” But remember, west of the Mississippi River, public transportation is often a time-consuming and inconvenient process. And if you’re making minimum wage, chances are you need more than one job, which means lost time commuting is lost money that’s sorely needed.

Geezers may scoff: “In my day, I worked for a dollar an hour and was thankful for the opportunity!” That’s true. In 1967, the minimum wage was $1 an hour, but a new Camaro also cost $2,466 MSRP — which meant your buck an hour could buy you a Camaro after one year of hard work. Try that today with your $15,080 and the 2016 Camaro starting at more than $26,000.

Budget buyers would say: “Craigslist is full of $500 Corollas! Buy one of those!” But remember that a bad asset is another word for a liability. Cars today are infinitely more complicated for home mechanics, and more expensive to fix at a shop. There’s nothing worse than a money pit, or worse, walking away from something you can’t recoup later. Even the average price for a used car is out-of-reach, the Detroit News reported that an average used car transaction is $18,800.

So what say you B&B? What’s a working man supposed to buy if minimum wage can’t even pay attention?

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QOTD: Would Anyone in America Miss Professional Motorsports? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-anyone-america-miss-professional-motorsports/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-anyone-america-miss-professional-motorsports/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 11:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1151161 On Sunday, I watched a fantastic car race. Unfortunately, based on the shots of the crowd, I might have been among very few who did. The INDYCAR (are we still capitalizing it?) Pocono 500 had everything a race fan could want: upwards of thirty lead changes, some spectacularly competitive and aggressive racing (including one restart […]

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Ed Carpenter apexes Turn 3 during the 2015 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway

On Sunday, I watched a fantastic car race. Unfortunately, based on the shots of the crowd, I might have been among very few who did.

The INDYCAR (are we still capitalizing it?) Pocono 500 had everything a race fan could want: upwards of thirty lead changes, some spectacularly competitive and aggressive racing (including one restart where the drivers went seven wide), and a tight points race where the season championship would be greatly affected by the outcome. Unfortunately, there was also a spectacular crash that has one racer battling for his life.

Meanwhile, the race had far fewer fans in attendance than the 30,000 that Indy officials said that they would need in order for Pocono to be on the race schedule in 2016.

On an August Sunday, where the TV sports calendar had no football or anything more compelling than Tiger Woods finishing tenth at a non-major tournament, the second-to-last Indy race of the season was relegated to NBC Sports Network — a network that I’m frankly surprised my rather basic cable package includes. I don’t know what the overnight viewership number was, but I’m going to guess it was comparable to a regular season baseball game; a Tuesday afternoon baseball game, that is.

The other roundy-round racing series in America isn’t faring too well, either. It’s hard to remember that NASCAR was once considered the fourth major sport in this country for a brief time at the beginning of the century. They, too, now struggle to fill the stands at most races, especially anything that takes place outside of the sport’s core demographic area of the southeastern U.S.  They can’t get a decent TV deal anymore. Perhaps the most damning evidence of NASCAR’s struggles can be seen in the continued presence of Danica Sue Patrick on the track, despite a whopping six top ten finishes in 105 starts. She was without a sponsor for roughly six minutes when GoDaddy dropped her this season. Despite her struggles on track, she’s still as powerful a marketing force as anybody else NASCAR has in 2015. And with the impending retirement of Jeff Gordon and the rapid graying of most of its stars, NASCAR is in a world of hurt unless they can find a new generation of stars quickly (and Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon ain’t cutting it so far).

You might like sports car racing (although our site statistics beg to differ), but most Americans have no idea what that even means. No, for most Americans, car racing means that thing that the racists and hillbillies like to watch. Despite our nation’s recent tendency to become less exceptional and as much like Spain as possible, we just can’t seem to embrace motorsport like the rest of the world does.

So, my question is: if INDYCAR and NASCAR folded tomorrow, would anyone notice and/or care? Outside of Charlotte and Indianapolis, I think not. At best, it’s a regional sport with limited demographic appeal and virtually none of the “diversity” that everything appears to be required to have as of late. Neither sanctioning body has figured out how to appeal to that craved 25-34 group, and I fear that will ultimately be the death of Auto Racing as a spectator sport in our great nation.

What say you, B&B?

[Photo by: Chris Owens/INDYCAR]

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QOTD: How Is The Toyota 4Runner So Damn Popular? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-how-is-the-toyota-4runner-so-damn-popular/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-how-is-the-toyota-4runner-so-damn-popular/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 11:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1149489 A few days ago, we all woke up to the sad news that the Nissan Xterra is going to be cancelled. This is especially depressing for people who post Instagram photos of themselves lifting weights. Personally, I could take or leave the Xterra. It’s outdated, it’s trucky, it’s too tall, it’s a bit expensive, and […]

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2014 Toyota 4Runner dirt path

A few days ago, we all woke up to the sad news that the Nissan Xterra is going to be cancelled. This is especially depressing for people who post Instagram photos of themselves lifting weights.

Personally, I could take or leave the Xterra. It’s outdated, it’s trucky, it’s too tall, it’s a bit expensive, and it lacks a wide variety of modern technology. By this I am not referring to forward collision warning, or lane keep assist, or blind spot detection. I mean the base model doesn’t have a height-adjustable driver’s seat.

So the Xterra’s fifteen-year run is coming to an end, and we must all marvel at the fact that yet another off-roady vehicle won’t be available to us anymore. In the land of reasonably priced off-road vehicles, they all seem to vanish: the Toyota FJ Cruiser. The Suzuki Vitara, and Sidekick, and Samurai. The Ford Bronco. The K5 Blazer. All gone, replaced by something more mainstream, or not replaced at all, leaving the Jeep Wrangler to soldier on as today’s sole off-road vehicle choice.

Well, not quite today’s sole off-road vehicle choice. There’s also the Toyota 4Runner.

That’s right ladies and gentlemen: the 4Runner is still on sale, flying in the face of the trend that has seen virtually every automaker either cancel their body-on-frame SUV, change it into a crossover (Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder), or move it upscale, like the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Range Rover. Indeed, the 4Runner still soldiers on, using the same old and trucky design it always has.

Who the hell is buying it?

You might think my question is unfounded, so allow me to explain myself. For one thing, the 4Runner starts at $34,500 with shipping. This isn’t tremendously expensive until you discover two things. Number one: the 4Runner comes standard with only basic items, like cloth seats, manual dimming mirrors, two-wheel drive, and a manual passenger seat. And number two: the Toyota Highlander starts at $30,500 with shipping, or roughly four grand less than the 4Runner.

Although I don’t consider the Highlander to be a true competitor to the 4Runner, I bring it into this discussion for an obvious reason: If you’re a family and you’re looking for a new family car, do you pick the smooth, car-based, easy-to-drive, well-equipped Highlander? Or do you spend four grand more and get the loud, truck-based, off-roader, overstyled 4Runner? You or I may choose option number two, but the vast majority of buyers would rather save the four grand and go for the more family-friendly vehicle.

So it must be off-roaders buying the 4Runner, then. And yet, the 4Runner seems like an expensive proposition if you’re taking it on the trails. A 4-door Jeep Wrangler starts at just $27,700 — around seven grand less than a base-level 4Runner. The average asking price for a new 4Runner on Autotrader is $39,905. And there are some models that cost more than fifty grand.

So the 4Runner isn’t comfortable enough to be a family crossover, and it’s too expensive to be an off-roader. So maybe the 4Runner competes with other trying-to-be-bold midsize SUVs, like the Nissan Murano and the Jeep Grand Cherokee?

The problem here is the 4Runner’s lack of technology. While those cars offer forward collision warning this and blind spot that and automatic this and touchscreen that, the 4Runner’s greatest safety advancement is a backup camera. And its best high-tech gadget is a push-button starter. A push-button starter that you can only get on the 4Runner Limited, which starts at $44,900 with shipping.

Now, is there a coalition of car buyers out there interested in an expensive, off-road-ready but sized-like-a-midsize-SUV, low-tech vehicle? Apparently the answer is yes, there is. I’m just curious exactly who it is.

I say this because Toyota’s SUV lineup now includes an almost amazing five vehicles — the RAV4, the Highlander, the 4Runner, the Sequoia, and the Land Cruiser. And this is without a subcompact Honda HR-V-sized vehicle, which we can only assume Toyota is poised to make in the next few years. So with all those models and all those choices, how are they still finding buyers for the 4Runner?

To me, it’s impressive: despite the segment crashing down around it; despite newer technology everywhere else; despite cheaper rivals better suited for daily duties; despite its high pricing, the 4Runner has braved it all. How does it do it? Has its 4Runner name achieved cult status, like the Jeep Wrangler? Who’s still buying the Toyota 4Runner?

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QOTD: Do We Really Need So Many Car Blogs? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-really-need-many-car-blogs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-really-need-many-car-blogs/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 11:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1143177 I don’t get invited to many press events, but when I do, I often find myself surrounded by people wearing Hawaiian shirts, khakis, and black shoes. And that’s not even the weird part. The last event I attended I was representing a blog that rhymes with “La Hop Stick.” This made me a virtual magnet […]

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GNaaaaaaa, aaaaaa, aaaaa. (courtesy 48facets.files.wordpress.com)

I don’t get invited to many press events, but when I do, I often find myself surrounded by people wearing Hawaiian shirts, khakis, and black shoes. And that’s not even the weird part.

The last event I attended I was representing a blog that rhymes with “La Hop Stick.” This made me a virtual magnet for every forever-alone-Dockers-wearer in attendance, all of whom were nearly twenty years older than I, and all of whom wanted to tell me all about their blogs, which were ususally named something like “MOTORSANDROTORS.TV” and had audiences of approximately fourteen uniques a month. Despite the fact that neither you nor I, nor anybody not sharing a blood relation with these people had ever heard of any of these guys, they all get invited to all of the press events.

“Oh, yeah, I haven’t even been home in weeks,” I heard one humble-complaining, despite the fact that he was dressed like a flood victim and was eating in a four-star restaurant. “Just one event after another.” I assumed that he represented Motor Trend, or perhaps Automobile, since his presence at these events was so desperately desired by the OEMs. Not so much. I would link his blog here except that I fear I would crash his site if one out of every hundred readers here were to click on it.

Why does this happen? For a reason that serves both the OEM and the blogger well, but hoses anybody in search of the Truth.

In the olden days of print, your value as a press outlet was largely determined by one thing and one thing only: your number of readers. It was a fairly easy thing to understand: the paper or magazine’s circulation number consisted of the number of subscribers plus the number of newsstand buyers. If your number was high, you were important. If it wasn’t, you weren’t.

You would think that the web would work the same way, right? If that were the case, there might —might — be about fifteen to twenty online car sites that mattered and, as one of them, TTAC would be invited to everything. But the amount of traffic that a website gets, while still important, is almost secondary.

Nowadays, the Google Algorithm rules all. It’s ever changing, but there are some constants. The Googlebot is constantly searching and looking for new links to report back to the mothership. The more sites that talk about a celebrity/movie release/new hybrid-crossover, the higher it indexes in the Google search. If it includes videos and/or pictures, why, that’s even better as far as Google is concerned.

So, the more sites that an OEM can get to produce content about its new whip, the better, because when you search for “new mid-size sedan,” Google tries to produce the most relevant search it can for you. It uses PageRank, which is essentially an algorithm that tries to determine a link’s popularity. So even though WHEELSANDFEELS.COM has little to no traffic, it’s another place that an OEM can place a link back to its site for the cost of a flight and a hotel room.

Because of that, it’s in the OEM’s best interest to get its message out in as many places as possible, and it’s even better to have that message be as positive as possible. If you have a blog that has a tendency to tell The Truth (ahem) to nearly a million visitors a month, you can simply replace that traffic with twenty sites that will happily reprint your press release and get 50k visitors a month, and it actually works out better. So they continue to invite Mr. Hawaiian Shirt and Khakis, who gets to live a six-figure lifestyle on a four-figure salary, as long as he promises to keep writing nice things. It’s a disgusting, borderline immoral, symbiotic relationship that benefits everybody involved — everybody except you, of course.

So back to our original QOTD: do we really need so many car blogs? Maybe we don’t, but the OEMs sure do.

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QOTD: Why Hasn’t Anyone Out-Gas Mileaged The Prius? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-why-hasnt-anyone-out-gas-mileaged-the-prius/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-why-hasnt-anyone-out-gas-mileaged-the-prius/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 12:28:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1141713 Fifty-one miles per gallon city. Forty-eight miles per gallon highway. Still the best numbers in the industry for nearly a decade now. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m referring to the Toyota Prius, which is a 5-door hatchback that looks a bit like an egg mated with a shopping cart. It’s been a decade since the […]

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2014 Toyota Prius

Fifty-one miles per gallon city. Forty-eight miles per gallon highway. Still the best numbers in the industry for nearly a decade now.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m referring to the Toyota Prius, which is a 5-door hatchback that looks a bit like an egg mated with a shopping cart. It’s been a decade since the Prius came out in hatchback form, and a decade since it achieved those impressive fuel economy figures: 51 miles per gallon city. 48 miles per gallon highway. And still, no one has unseated the Prius.

It hasn’t been without trying. After the original Honda Insight failed, Honda came out with a Prius-looking second-generation Insight trying to dethrone the king. But it didn’t even come close, with fuel economy figures reaching just 41 miles per gallon city and 44 mpg on the highway. Even the Civic Hybrid, in its current form, can manage only 44 mpg city and 47 mpg highway.

And then there are the other challengers. The Ford C-MAX, also a hybrid-only 5-door hatchback, originally seemed like it might be close to the Prius’s EPA ratings — until people started complaining that they couldn’t come anywhere near Ford’s published figures. Down the C-MAX’s numbers went to their current resting place of 42 mpg city and 37 mpg on the highway.

The Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid gets close at 42 mpg city and 48 mpg highway. So does the Honda Accord Hybrid, at 50 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. And the Ford Fusion Hybrid, at 44 mpg city and 44 mpg highway. But none of them can unseat the reigning king and champion, the Toyota Prius.

Interestingly, even Toyota doesn’t seem to be able to top the Prius. Proof of that came a few years back, when they debuted the even smaller Prius c, a subcompact hatchback version of the Prius designed to provide a low-cost alternative to the iconic car. Despite a smaller engine, a smaller size, and less weight, its fuel economy ratings are 53 mpg city and 46 mpg highway — no better combined than the Prius’s 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway.

So how does the Prius do it? It isn’t by cheating. The people on Fuelly all seem to report somewhere between 47 and 49 miles per gallon, which is right there on par with the EPA’s estimate. By comparison, second-generation Honda Insight people all seem to be somewhere between 43 and 45 miles per gallon.

We must assume that the Prius gets its amazing miles per gallon by honest-to-goodness engineering: a streamlined body, a tremendously efficient engine, and a wide range of other modifications that gives this car a leg up on all of its wannabe-Prius competitors. Which brings me to ask: why hasn’t anyone topped the Prius?

If it’s just engineering, someone can certainly do it. After all, this isn’t rocket science. Tear down the Prius. See what they did. Replicate it. This is how Volkswagen created its current-generation Passat, although unfortunately the car they used as the benchmark was a 1995 Camry CE.

So maybe people don’t want to replicate the Prius. What I’m thinking is, other automakers have decided the Prius is old news, and they want to focus instead on plug-in hybrids and electric cars which are all the rage these days. But here’s the problem with that: last year, Toyota sold 207,000 units of the Prius family, compared to roughly 19,000 Chevy Volts, and 30,000 Nissan Leafs. In other words: although electric cars might be all the rage, the “highly efficient hybrid” segment is still exponentially larger than the plug-in EV class.

And so I ask: in today’s world of people trying to conserve energy, save the planet, and lower their carbon footprint, how is it still possible that nobody has managed to equal the Toyota Prius in terms of fuel economy? How is it possible that nobody has beaten it? How has nobody entered this wildly profitable, popular segment and given the Prius a (slow, quiet) run for its money? Because the way it stands now, it doesn’t seem like General Motors should’ve devoted all that energy to making the Chevy Volt. Instead, they should’ve made a Chevy Prius.

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QOTD: Could Cadillac Make It on Its Own? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-cadillac-make/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-cadillac-make/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 11:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1140394 About three years ago, a friend of mine who lives in Dallas called me to ask my opinion on cars he should buy. He was cross-shopping a C-Class and 3-Series before the inevitable question came up: “What do you know about the Cadillac ATS?” he asked. “I like them. It’s a good start for Cadillac,” […]

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Cadillac Brand

About three years ago, a friend of mine who lives in Dallas called me to ask my opinion on cars he should buy.

He was cross-shopping a C-Class and 3-Series before the inevitable question came up:

“What do you know about the Cadillac ATS?” he asked.

“I like them. It’s a good start for Cadillac,” I said.

“But isn’t it just a glorified Cavalier or something?” he replied.

Joe (that’s his real name, screw protecting the innocent) may not know as much about cars as the rest of you, but he’s indicative of a typical car buyer who may not be well versed in verticals, corporate structure or Johan de Nysschen. But he does know enough to know there’s a relationship between Cadillac, Chevrolet and GM

The Cadillac CEO yesterday said the luxury arm of General Motors would have more autonomy in the next few years, including sales reporting and presumably profits that it would like to keep behind the Cadillac family crest.

I didn’t bother going into where the ATS came from, or why it’s around, global sales goals and overall platform. Cadillac hasn’t outrun the Cimarron shadow, according to Joe.

In that respect, a further separation from GM would help the brand succeed in becoming a larger, global luxury carmaker.

But it’s undeniable that Cadillac wouldn’t be where it is today without the Escalade — firmly a GM product, first — and the profit it provides. Furthermore, Cadillac gains much from GM’s economy of scale and global reach. On its own, Cadillac wouldn’t have direct access to the same resources without GM — even if it were to contract build every single car from GM.

It’s clear that GM wouldn’t be as profitable without Cadillac, but is it possible that GM is what’s holding Cadillac back from sales success in Europe and beyond?

As de Nysschen pushes Cadillac further from the GM model, a split could come into view, but for Cadillac — a brand that was weaving on the ropes only a few years ago — would breaking away from the mothership be a good thing?

Would Joe, our new luxury car buyer, be tempted into buying a new Cadillac if he knew the flagship luxury brand for GM was a brand all by itself?

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QOTD: What’s the Worst “Pain” Inflicted on You by Your Car? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-whats-the-worst-pain-inflicted-on-you-by-your-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-whats-the-worst-pain-inflicted-on-you-by-your-car/#comments Tue, 11 Aug 2015 11:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1137978 I love cars. And motorcycles. And pretty much anything with an engine or motor that’ll allow be to catch a half a thrill. But, this hobby… this interest… sure comes with a lot of pain. The thing that sucks about pain is that it hurts. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “Of course, it hurts. […]

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IMG_2498.JPG

I love cars. And motorcycles. And pretty much anything with an engine or motor that’ll allow be to catch a half a thrill. But, this hobby… this interest… sure comes with a lot of pain.

The thing that sucks about pain is that it hurts. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “Of course, it hurts. It’s pain.” But, what is pain? What is hurt?

In the above photo is my middle finger after being slammed between a sliding glass door and its door jam. This isn’t an automotive injury — this time. I wasn’t wrenching away on some heap in the garage or driveway to earn this badge of manliness, but it did get me thinking about the pain we grin and bear for our love of the automobile. I’ve collected a number of little injuries over the years while working on my own and others’ vehicles.

When I moved back from the U.S., I didn’t have much in the way of money. Over the previous year, I lived the highlife, but I did so paycheck-to-paycheck even though I was making nearly $100k a year in a state that doesn’t tax its citizens’ income. Before moving back to Canada, I sold my Bronco and many other larger-than-new-life things I could no longer afford and, upon my arrival home, I was car-less and in need of cheap wheels. My father took pity on me and bestowed upon me a well-used Suzuki Vitara.

The Suzuki was a basketcase. The driver’s seat belt didn’t really work. My father had affixed a clothespin to the belt because if it went into the retractor it wasn’t going to be coming out again. The clothespin was a stopper of sorts. The retractor failed because the spot where it is mounted, way down in the B-pillar, had rusted out and the resulting iron oxide particles had gummed up the works. Other than the seat belt, the air conditioning no longer worked, a couple of the windows wouldn’t roll down, and only two of four brake calipers were still doing the jobs they were designed to do. This all added up to a painful daily commute to my new job.

I needed to do something about those incredibly questionable brakes, so I spent the day on the garage floor wrenching, hammering, and eventually angle grinding the calipers free of the brackets. During this DIY dance of sorts, I pulled what I thought was a muscle in my back. To this day, my back hasn’t been the same.

Sometimes we make questionable financial decisions that inflict monetary pain or maybe we buy a vehicle that’s a bit more than our skills can muster back into shape. Or maybe we can muster it, but the path to success is riddled with landmines. It all hurts. It’s all pain, just in a different forms.

What’s the worst pain your car/truck/vehicle has inflicted on you? We all have our war stories. Let’s hear them, B&B.

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QOTD: Are All These Turbocharged Cars Going to Last? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-are-all-these-turbocharged-cars-going-to-last/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-are-all-these-turbocharged-cars-going-to-last/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 11:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1135746 If there is one recent trend in the automotive industry today, it’s turbocharging. Of course, there are a lot of other trends, too. That whole SUV coupe thing is bizarrely catching on. And I think we can all agree that it’s only a matter of time before someone sees the Subaru Outback’s 20 years of […]

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2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8L Turbo Engine-001

If there is one recent trend in the automotive industry today, it’s turbocharging.

Of course, there are a lot of other trends, too. That whole SUV coupe thing is bizarrely catching on. And I think we can all agree that it’s only a matter of time before someone sees the Subaru Outback’s 20 years of unrivaled success and finally decides to re-enter the wagon game.

But in the last few years, it’s turbocharging that has really managed to beat out everything else for today’s most popular automotive trend.

These days, everything is turbocharged. And I mean everything. Years ago, it was just Volvos and Saabs and maybe the occasional Audi or so. It was an unusual thing, turbocharging, and we weren’t exactly sure what to make of it. “That car is TURBOCHARGED,” people would say. “Oooooh.”

It was so much of a unique thing back in the day that companies would advertise products that were turbocharged when it couldn’t possibly be so. There were turbocharged shavers. Turbocharged medicines. Turbocharged toys. All used roughly the same level of forced induction as a grapefruit.

It’s not so unique anymore.

In modern times, everything is turbocharged. Family cars. Subcompacts. Luxury sedans. Ford has not one but two different turbocharged F-150s: a 2.7-liter and a 3.5-liter. They’re widely agreed to be better than the naturally aspirated engines they’re sold alongside. BMW turbocharges. Mercedes turbocharges. General Motors turbocharges. Everything from the Chevy Sonic to the BMW M5 now uses turbochargers to force air into the engine and bring us MORE POWAH. This concept is no longer unique to weird European cars that your dentist friend drives.

The reason for all this turbocharging is obvious: we’re all trying to improve our fuel economy. This is in order to meet CAFE standards, which say that every vehicle must return 87 miles per gallon by next week. Automakers have deemed this a hard goal to meet, so they have turned to turbocharging to accomplish it. And thus, it was born. The turbocharged Ford Fusion. The turbocharged Lexus NX. The turbocharged Buick Encore.

Naturally, I don’t blame automakers for this. There were really only two ways to achieve the goal of better fuel economy: dropping horsepower, or going turbocharged. As much as people say they want to “go green,” they don’t actually want to lose their horsepower, their acceleration, their beloved passing power. So instead we put up with a 1.4-liter engine in a midsize sedan that can deliver a lot of power when we need it, or a little when we don’t.

But there’s one obvious problem with all this turbocharging: How long will these engines really last?

I say this as the former owner of a 1990s turbocharged Volvo, and then the owner of a non-turbocharged 1990s Audi. When it comes to turbocharging, here’s what I learned: Turbos add complication. They often bring more stress to the engine. They leak. They fail. They suffer from serious longevity problems. And this was a turbocharged Volvo, a forced-induction car from an automaker who had known about this technology for years. How do you think it’ll last in a brand-new pickup?

When it came time to replace my Volvo back in 2006, I didn’t want to find out. Knowing that the Audi A4 1.8T had a problem where the turbochargers would leak oil, I went with a 2.8-liter model. I’ve made it a point to generally staying away from turbocharged cars after that.

So what about this new crop of turbocharged cars? Will they last? I worry about that a lot. Many people out there buy cars to last five, ten, or fifteen years, and they’ll be severely disappointed that “turbocharger” now joins the list of expensive “one day” replacements, along with timing belt, transmission, fuel or water pumps, and — if you have a Subaru — head gaskets.

Admittedly, I might be totally wrong. These automakers may have turbocharging down; they may be totally capable of engineering a turbocharger that can last the life of the car, and then some. But if you were looking for a car that you hoped would last you a long time, would you end up with the high-pressure turbo? Or the tried-and-true naturally aspirated 4-cylinder?

I guess it depends how badly you want that additional fuel economy.

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QOTD: Did The Griswold’s Family Truckster Kill the American Station Wagon? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-griswolds-family-truckster-kill-american-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-griswolds-family-truckster-kill-american-station-wagon/#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2015 11:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1133985 At one point few vehicles epitomized the American family car as the station wagon, particularly of the fullsize variety. Today, most car companies are pretty much convinced that American consumers will not buy station wagons. A few of the European luxury brands offer them here, but for the most part wagons are not welcome in […]

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At one point few vehicles epitomized the American family car as the station wagon, particularly of the fullsize variety. Today, most car companies are pretty much convinced that American consumers will not buy station wagons. A few of the European luxury brands offer them here, but for the most part wagons are not welcome in the contemporary automotive scene in the U.S. According to Pete Bigelow of AOL Autos, the fault for that lies with the vehicular star of 1983’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation” — the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, a hideous pastiche of just about every bad malaise era styling trend appliqued over a Ford LTD Country Squire.

National Lampoon’s Vacation was released 32 years ago this summer and with its fifth sequel, “Vacation”, in theaters now, Mental Floss posted a listicle of little known facts about the original film. Number one on their list was Bigelow’s 2013 assertion that the movie’s mocking of the traditional American family station wagon fatally tainted the body style in consumers’ eyes:

Clark Griswold killed the station wagon.

You remember the scene. Stony disappointment spreads across his face when he learns his Antarctic blue sports car has not been delivered. His old car, a two-toned puke-brown and pale-mustard wagon, has already been demolished.

He has no choice but to drive the Family Truckster.

In all its heinous glory, the pea soup-green Wagon Queen Family Truckster was a caricature of everything America hated about its station wagons: Its wood paneling, its broad, expansive frame and its boxy headlights, its status as the frumpy domestic hauler.

And Griswold embodied the aloof, American dad. Put the two caricatures together, and National Lampoon’s Vacation made the station wagon, in the eyes of consumers, a toxic product in one three-minute scene. It’s no coincidence that the same year the movie was released, 1983, Chrysler introduced the minivan and found runaway success.

Ever since, the station wagon has endured a sad, slow decline.

Interesting theory, though I’m not sure that I’m going to embrace it just yet.

As Bigelow mentions, the movie came out the same year that Chrysler introduced their first minivan. Do you think it’s just a little bit possible that product planners at Chrysler, which was selling a wagon version of their K cars at the time, might have had an inkling that consumer tastes were changing?

For years I’ve contended that it’s been the buying choices of American women that have moved from wagons to minivans to SUVs to car-based crossovers as they’ve tried to escape the image of driving a mommy mobile while simultaneously choosing practical vehicles that can carry their entire families plus cargo. Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold was a dork, but he’s the one who subjects his family to it, not Beverly D’Angelo’s Ellen Griswold. One of the reasons why the Family Truckster was funny at the movie’s original release was that by 1983 all that fake wood, “metallic pee” paint (we called it “baby shit green”, everyone offered it in the ’70s), and gingerbread was already passe.

Maybe our autometrician Tim Cain can run the numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that by 1983 sales of American station wagons had already started going down significantly. According to the wagon enthusiasts at stationwagon.com, the decline indeed started in the 1970s, with Chrysler discontinuing their fullsize Chrysler, Plymouth and Dodge wagons in 1978. It should also be pointed out that the obviously Ford-based Family Truckster didn’t keep the Taurus wagon from being one of the best selling station wagons ever. The wagon declined, but it went down slowly.

Both stationwagon.com and Gear Patrol say the minivan was what killed the wagon. In a fairly comprehensive history/eulogy for the station wagon by Charles Moss at The Atlantic he, too, blames Chrysler’s people mover. None of them mention the Griswold’s fictional wagon.

Speaking of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, if you’re dying to show up at your next costume party as Clark or Ellen Griswold, a modified Ford LTD wagon “believed to be” the car used in the film was up for auction by Mecum in 2013, but appears to have been a no-sale at $35,000. If you want, you can apparently still make Mecum an offer.

In any case, Bigelow’s theory is worth considering. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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QOTD: What’s the Stupidest Automotive Feature? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-whats-the-stupidest-automotive-feature/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-whats-the-stupidest-automotive-feature/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 10:43:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1129913 I think it’s time to discuss something that we should’ve brought up a long time ago: the stupidest automotive feature. Oh, sure, we’ve discussed the worst automotive feature, and the best automotive feature, and the automotive feature you wish you had, like spiked tires that could cut through ice and offending road users. But what […]

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2004 Chrysler Crossfire Rear Retractable Spoiler

I think it’s time to discuss something that we should’ve brought up a long time ago: the stupidest automotive feature.

Oh, sure, we’ve discussed the worst automotive feature, and the best automotive feature, and the automotive feature you wish you had, like spiked tires that could cut through ice and offending road users.

But what about the stupidest feature?

I ask this because I think there are a lot of unnecessary automotive features out there in today’s world; items that have no basis or bearing for real life use, or customer desire, brought to us by automakers who are hellbent on coming out with a vehicle that offers the highest possible level of gadgets and equipment so they can use the phrase “BEST IN CLASS” over and over in their ads.

Interestingly, however, I don’t believe the stupidest feature is one of these newfangled ideas that seems to exist for the sheer sake of existing. I believe the stupidest feature is actually an oldie. And it is: a retractable spoiler.

For those of you who don’t know what a retractable spoiler is, allow me to explain. You’re cruising along in your Porsche, or your Bugatti Veyron, or your Volkswagen Corrado, and you hit a certain speed, which is usually something inexplicable like 47 miles per hour or 87 kilometers per hour. And then the spoiler shoots out for no apparent reason other than to alert drivers on the road that you’re in a sporty car.

I’ve never really understood the purpose of this retractable spoiler. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when you see it sticking out on a Porsche 911, the driver is just cruising down the interstate. That’s because the spoiler is designed to deploy based on speed, not driving style, apparently in some bizarre effort to keep your car on the road should you begin to experience the effects of a massive windstorm.

The funny thing is these spoilers are never adequately sized to actually do anything. They’re just there to be spoilers, so you can tell your friends you have a cool spoiler that extends out at speed as if you’re in a race car, when in reality the spoiler is the size of a license plate and it wouldn’t have any effect on any vehicle larger than a Hot Wheels.

So why does this spoiler exist? I really do think it’s for bragging rights. But that’s not the worst part.

2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo Adaptive Motion Rear Spoiler

Oh, no. The worst part is that the retractable spoiler in most modern Porsche models actually can be extended at the push of a button. I want you to consider this. If you decide you need a spoiler on the back of your car, Porsche actually lets you push a button in order to extend it and get you ready for all that serious track use.

Except, of course, this isn’t how anyone uses the spoiler. The only people who actually push that spoiler extender button are the same type of people who drive around wealthy shopping areas looking around to ensure people are looking at them. These are the worst people in the world. The spoiler button is not a spoiler button. It is an asshole button.

So what people do, when they push the asshole button, is they cruise around — not on the race track, or even a drag strip — but just around town, driving like normal, making sure everyone sees how cool their car is because they have a spoiler. Nothing makes a Panamera V6 look cooler, they think, than if you extend the rear spoiler.

But surely, the retractable spoiler is not the single stupidest feature in the world. There are a wide range of stupid features, and I’m sure I can count on you to inform everyone of your personal favorites. However, I must warn you: it’s going to be hard to top the asshole button.

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QOTD: Do You Care About Mitsubishi? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-do-you-care-about-mitsubishi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-do-you-care-about-mitsubishi/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 14:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1126441 I am going to make a couple assumptions about Mitsubishi, our loyal TTAC readers, and where the two intersect. For one, I don’t think a single person who comments or reads TTAC on a regular basis owns a Mitsubishi built after 1993. Also, I am going to make an educated guess that not a single Mirage […]

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2015 Mitsubishi Mirage ES

I am going to make a couple assumptions about Mitsubishi, our loyal TTAC readers, and where the two intersect.

For one, I don’t think a single person who comments or reads TTAC on a regular basis owns a Mitsubishi built after 1993. Also, I am going to make an educated guess that not a single Mirage owner reads automotive websites or blogs or any information source that offers proper opinions on Mitsubishi’s smallest of offerings.

Last — but certainly not least — I am going to point out there aren’t many people who read TTAC that care about Mitsubishi in the slightest. This, my friends, isn’t just a guess.

Every morning, after sitting down with my thick-as-tar coffee and obligatory morning bagel, I check the previous day’s traffic to see what articles have done well and what ones haven’t. I was almost certain that Mitsubishi’s announcement last week would set off a shockwave of interest throughout the automotive enthusiast community, whether it be out of actual concern or pure schadenfreude.

I wasn’t the only one who thought this. Tim was certain of this, too, providing us a quick recap of Mitsubishi’s sales in the U.S. since 2002. Even Matt Hardigree at Jalopnik found the Mitsubishi situation interesting enough to spend some time behind a keyboard to smash out an excellent editorial about the state of the U.S. manufacturer-gone-importer arm of the Japanese marque. He even linked to our Mitsubishi Doomsday Clock post by the second paragraph, the good friend that he is. (It should be noted when Jalopnik posts a link in our direction, we are usually in for a fair amount of additional traffic than a typical day.)

Yet, even with those pieces in place, do you know what people found more interesting?

A crashed Mazda MX-5 Miata replaced by Mazda.

That’s right. The fact that nearly 1,200 Illinoisans will likely lose their jobs was completely supplanted in popularity by a single MX-5 being destroyed by a pickup truck.

For what it’s worth, there isn’t much to report about Mitsubishi these days other than the company has increased overall sales due in part to the Mirage, a low-margin offering built in Thailand. It’s difficult to get excited about a car that’s typically sold below MSRP since first being imported to the United States. A 20-year-old Lada would garner more intrigue from our fringe set of readers.

It’s also difficult to take Mitsubishi seriously on the surface. Its car lineup consists of the aforementioned Mirage, an eight-year-old compact Lancer (that we first saw in Tokyo as a concept 10 years ago!), a performance model based on the Lancer that’s in its last year of production, and an electric vehicle that’s been uncompetitive (and more expensive than its competitors) from day one. Even Mitsubishi’s SUV lineup has been relegated to also-ran status next to the much more modern offerings of its Japanese, Korean and American competitors.

However, if Mitsubishi played a different game, I think we would care. If Mitsubishi was more honest about the products it does offer and wasn’t hellbent on ruining the little bit of remaining goodwill it has with enthusiasts, we might actually give a shit. When a car company has virtually no exciting product in the pipeline, people don’t see the brand’s disappearance as much of a loss. Even those who’ve bought Mirages are likely not to care as there’s not a single vehicle within the Mitsubishi lineup for them up “step up” to at trade-in time once the Lancer is put out to pasture.

When Suzuki tanked, while I cared to a degree, very few other people did. Most of my positive emotion invested in Suzuki was deeply rooted in a childhood spent being driven in and learning to drive on Suzuki products. Sure, they were cheap, disposable SUVs with little to offer in the creature comfort department (our first Sidekick was completely devoid of power options, A/C and gear selection was dictated by the driver), but at least Suzuki’s offerings were unique and provided a niche choice in the market. Even toward Suzuki’s end days, the Grand Vitara was an enchanting option with rear-wheel drive and a ladder-type frame beneath its unibody coverings. Oh — and you could still get a proper manual transmission! (Let’s not talk about the Kizashi or any of the number of Korean-built Daewoo rebadges. Or the Equator.)

What does Mitsubishi have that sets it apart from any other automaker?

Unlike Suzuki, however, I think Mitsubishi will survive, whether it deserves to or not. In a marketplace where virtually anyone can get a loan, Mitsubishi will likely thrive on small vehicle sales until the financial bubble bursts. Hopefully by then, for Mitsubishi’s sake, the company will have one or two new products that elicit some amount of interest in customers besides those who’d otherwise be relegated to a “buy here, pay here” lot.

And even with all that, even if Mitsubishi survives — or even thrives — after their latest shedding of production assets and we report on a brand new Lancer or EVO-esque SUV, I don’t think a single person will care. Maybe we will have enough budget by then to crash a Miata on our own just for the page views.

What say you, B&B? Do you care about Mitsubishi in its current form? Is it even still a curiosity at this point? Or is Mitsubishi simply a lacklustre brand that’s had its clearcoat fade in the sunlight for far too long?

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QOTD: How Do People Make Decisions On a Test Drive? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-how-do-people-make-decisions-on-a-test-drive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-how-do-people-make-decisions-on-a-test-drive/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 11:16:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1124529 I recently had the opportunity to test drive an automobile, and I remembered why I hate it so much: because test drives are insanely short. They’re not just a little short. They’re wildly, absurdly, ridiculously short. Some test drives last for eight minutes, even though you will likely own the vehicle you’re driving for several […]

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Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 8.13.35 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2016 Ford F-150 Limited

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

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

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

And apparently it’ll bear a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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2016 Chevrolet Cruze Front 3/4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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QOTD-EngineSwapBlasphemy-610px

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

How do you feel?
LeMons_Engine_Swaps-Duratec_Geo-02

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

Whaddya think?

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

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Escape to which mountain?

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

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

No longer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2015 Dodge Challenger 6-speed manual shifter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images]

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

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volkswagen-chattanooga-solar-park-08

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

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

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

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

So is the Passat an American car?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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QOTD: What’s the Uncoolest Choice For a 2015 Teenager’s First Vehicle? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/question-day-whats-uncoolest-possible-choice-2015-teenagers-first-vehicle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/question-day-whats-uncoolest-possible-choice-2015-teenagers-first-vehicle/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 11:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1098633 I just took my chopped, Carson-top-equipped, heavily-customized 1969 Toyota Corona coupe to a local car show and won a trophy without even washing the thing. All but the most tradition-bound angry old coots think the Kustom Korona is pretty cool, but that got me thinking about the reason I’d spent so many years wanting a […]

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QOTD-Uncoolest_Teenage_Car

I just took my chopped, Carson-top-equipped, heavily-customized 1969 Toyota Corona coupe to a local car show and won a trophy without even washing the thing. All but the most tradition-bound angry old coots think the Kustom Korona is pretty cool, but that got me thinking about the reason I’d spent so many years wanting a cool Corona: my very first car was a 1969 Toyota Corona sedan. A beige Corona sedan, which cost 50 bucks at the corner gas station and had a clattery pushrod four-banger at a time when my peers and I lusted after Detroit muscle cars with tunnel-rammed V8s with Centerline wheels. This was pretty much the uncoolest car possible for a 16-year-old to drive in the East Bay in 1982.

So what’s the 2015 equivalent to that hooptiefied, unidentifiable, squat little Japanese sedan?
82_Toyota_Corona

Naturally, such a car would have to be old enough to be sort of battered and depressing, yet not old enough to be interesting in a nostalgia-inspiring way. These days, I think that would be somewhere in the 1990-2005 range, although vehicles outside that range — say, a salvage-title ex-rental ’08 Chevy Aveo or a 600,000-mile white ’88 Sentra sedan — probably qualify. It can’t be anything with distinctive styling or the slightest hint of sportiness and/or luxury, so we can rule out Saabs, Quad-4-engined GM products, and anything made by any of the Japanese luxury marques. Ideally, it would be something that most teenagers can’t identify at a glance, so that the long-suffering owner must answer the sneering “What is this POS?” question over and over and over. And, of course, it must be a car that you can buy for next to nothing.

QOTD-Uncoolest_Teenage_Car2

My vote is for the joyless, generic Daewoo Lanos. Any teenager driving a Lanos now is going to be buried beneath a gigantic heap of Korean-GM uncoolness. What’s your choice?


This Korean-market Lanos ad just makes the car even more uncool, by reminding Lanos owners exactly how little their cars resemble a black panther stalking the streets of Seoul.

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

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Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 7.27.54 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Question of the Day: Ralph Nader, Angel or Demon? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/question-day-ralph-nader-angel-demon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/question-day-ralph-nader-angel-demon/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 11:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1096817 It’s Monday, so let’s start it off by ignoring the demands of your cruel overseers in The Man’s salt mines and turning to a subject that’s sure to get all automotive enthusiasts riled up: Ralph Nader! First of all, we’re going to add the requirement that you don’t get to talk about the contents of […]

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QOTD-RalphNader

It’s Monday, so let’s start it off by ignoring the demands of your cruel overseers in The Man’s salt mines and turning to a subject that’s sure to get all automotive enthusiasts riled up: Ralph Nader!
QOTD-RalphNader2

First of all, we’re going to add the requirement that you don’t get to talk about the contents of Unsafe At Any Speed unless you’ve read the damn book first (if you do, you’ll find that the book has just one short chapter about the Corvair, sales of which were already in the toilet when the book came out in 1965 — mostly thanks to the American car-buying public’s preference for a more traditional compact Chevy). Second of all, this is about Ralph Nader as his activities relate to the automotive industry, so if you’re pissed off about those 97,421 Nader votes in Florida in 2000, too bad — you’ll need to tamp down your rage over Bush’s win and stick to car-related discussion here.

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Nader — who likely would have have languished in obscurity had General Motors not attempted to smear him (in classic clumsy GM fashion) with all manner of Nixonian dirty tricks — pointed out many of Detroit’s shady practices in his book, including odometers set to read fast (to get cars out of warranty more quickly), and made the case that only government regulation could fix the problems of dangerous vehicles and janky consumer-ripoff business practices. Now we have plenty of such regulation on vehicles and a gigantic bureaucracy devoted to the subject. So, overall, do you think the revolution that Nader started was a net win or loss when it comes to what we drive today? Feel free to deliver table-pounding tirades and withering jeremiads, but keep in mind that anybody making personal attacks on other commenters — even those you know to be dangerously wrong — will be impaled on a ’59 Cadillac fin and banned, not necessarily in that order.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

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

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Range Rover in Albania. Picture courtesy of autowp.ru

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

Right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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