The Truth About Cars » Saab http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:30:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Saab http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Hammer Time: The Cars Of The Cave Bears http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hammer-time-the-cars-of-the-cave-bears/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hammer-time-the-cars-of-the-cave-bears/#comments Wed, 08 Jan 2014 13:30:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=693697 Click here to view the embedded video.

I live in a small, genteel, Southern colonial home that comes with all the local goodies.

An over-sized ceiling fan in every room. A little front porch that offers a palatial view of the rolling prairies of Deliverance country.

Throw in a mint julep, homemade lemonade, and the belting baritone of Paul Robeson, and the world becomes my oyster.

Except not right now. It’s too damn cold outside. Which got me to thinking…

What would you say is the best car for cold weather?

Part of me would say that the Swedes would have this wrapped up. Volvos from the 850 on forward have offered heating systems that are warm enough to tend to the most delicate of Southern frailties after a few minutes of cold.

Whenever I used to take my family from their comfortable bucolic life of North Georgia, to my brutal native land of Northern New Jersey, I would take a Volvo along for the ride. Great heat. Wonderful leather seats. A nice balance of good outdoor visibility and a cocoon-like interior. A lot of folks don’t have a lot of love for the 850/S70 Volvos for their long-term cost and reliability issues, but I have always enjoyed their balance of safety, good heat, and solid fuel economy.

I like SAABs as well for many of the same reasons. Great seats, nice heat, livable fuel economy, and packaging that strikes the right balance of sight and safety when visiting the cold strange ancient lands that are no longer my home. The fact that older GM based sleds, like the more recent SAABs, tend to offer outstanding heat, also helps balance off some of the quirkiness of these vehicles.

Still, I wonder on a day like this whether there are other rides that are even better choices? Does a Jeep Grand Cherokee offer a better cold weather package than a Ford Explorer? Would a Lincoln Town Car be more safe and splendorous than a Cadillac Escalade if you had to do your daily commutes in the coldest of cold winters? Small heating area favors the smaller rides. But then you have to worry about everyone else on the road.

So my question for you is, if you had to survive with cold weather, snow and ice for twelve months of the year and had, say, a $30,000 budget for anything new or used, what would be your choice?

Oh, and a one way ticket to a country that plays limbo with the equator does not count. Please consider this a chance to spend $30k on something that would almost make that trade of temp worth it.

 

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New or Used: Should I Beat My Hauler? Or Haul My Beater? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/new-or-used-should-i-beat-my-hauler-or-haul-my-beater/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/new-or-used-should-i-beat-my-hauler-or-haul-my-beater/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 13:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=685722

rzrforums.net

To The Best & Brightest,

I need advice on my next used car purchase.

99% of the time the vehicle will be a daily commuter (rural highway and very little city traffic / 26 miles round trip). But during the winter when salt keeps my classic pickup off the roads I need the ability to tow my boat and trailer (combined weight of 4500 lbs.)

The towing distance is only 13 miles and the vehicle must either be front wheel drive or AWD/4WD to get the boat out of the water. The ramps are fairly steep on the lower Niagara river and for obvious reasons can be icy in the winter time. Normally just me in the car but have a wife and two teenagers who come along boating occasionally. A three seat pickup would work but most I have seen are too expensive. It’s either by two vehicles or one if it offers the right combination of capabilities and economy. I would like to keep it under 12 grand but would go as high as 15 for a great vehicle. If it won’t get a t least 20 mpg I would likely go the two vehicle route. I have a neighbor who is a great independent mechanic and for reasonable prices will help me keep an older vehicle on the road.

Lastly, is it worth the cost and hassle to travel to a non snow state to find a rust free vehicle to avoid the rust belt effect of vehicles here in the Buffalo area? I thought a used Grand Caravan would be perfect but those are evidently only rated to tow 3500 lbs. Thanks.

Steve Says:

The good news is that you’re hitting the prime part of the used car market as it pertains to value.

There are a ton of older minivans and SUV’s, hundreds of thousands of them, that are molderizing in wholesale auction heaven as we speak. Unpopular vehicles. Orphan brands. You could pretty much start at the near beginning of the alphabet with the Buick Rainier, and work your way nearly all the way down to the Volvo XC90. Both of those vehicles, coincidentally, would easily hit your price quotient and may have older owners who took proper care of those rides.

This brings me to what I think is going to be the big issue with you, the prior owner. You’re not buying a used vehicle these days as much as a prior owner who may or may not have done the right thing. I would keep your list fairly open and wide while attempting to snag that ride that can handle all of your hauling days.

Would I encourage you to buy it outside of the rust-o-sphere that is northern New York? Hell yes. Not only due to the rust, but the fact that the suburbs surrounding the tri-state area are swarming with used SUV’s (and minivans to a lesser extent) that have been garage kept and dealer maintained. I may sound like a complete snob for saying this. But I would prioritize a vehicle that was dealer maintained over one from the rougher parts of town that was not. I used to liquidate vehicles for an auto finance company and  at the time, I visited quite a few wholesale auctions that had more heavy haulers than they knew what to do with. The difference between a well-kept one and an abused one was quite vast.

If you’re asking for that one vehicle, well, I have a bit of a shocker for you. My choice would be the last year of a good generation from an unpopular automaker. A 2002 Mitsubishi Montero Sport Limited 4WD with all the options. I would definitely opt for the 3.5 Liter with the touring package. As for fuel economy, if you drive with a lighter foot, you’re likely to get about 16 mpg, which is less than the 20 mpg you mentioned. But if you’re only driving it part of the time, say maybe 8,000 miles a year,  you are only looking at a few hundred dollar difference in gas. To me, a better tool for the job and a lower purchase price will more than make up for that cost differential.

If you drive a LOT, then get whatever car interests you for daily commutes… and then get the Montero anyway. The only hauling vehicle with a serious fuel economy edge would be a Touareg TDI, and they are hysterically overpriced. So is the Toyota Highlander.  There is also the SAAB 9-7x with the 5.3 Liter V8.  But most people don’t have the guts to buy an orphan brand. Even though that particular vehicle is composed of the most common of GM engines and the most common of GM platforms, nobody wants em’.

That’s what I recommend. Hit em’ where they ain’t. Opt for a loaded orphaned or unpopular vehicle that was built in the last year of it’s production run.

Good luck!

 

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: And It’s All Small Stuff Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-and-its-all-small-stuff-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-and-its-all-small-stuff-edition/#comments Wed, 04 Dec 2013 15:09:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=671050 saab97

On the same day that a Chinese firm announced that it would restart production of the 9-3, I happened to bump into the poster child for Saab’s decline and fall.


This Saab 9-7x can’t be any more than seven years old, but the badge on its nose has already faded away to nothing. The faded cloisonne is almost as much a part of Saab lore as the centrally-located ignition key, and it’s something that should have been fixed long ago. General Motors’s stewardship of Saab was supposed to result in an improved customer experience. That was the promise, but the reality was a few riffs on a European Cavalier and an Oldsmobile Bravada with a nosejob. A bad nosejob, as you can see.

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Piston Slap: Daddy’s Daily Driven Droptop? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-daddys-daily-driven-droptop/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-daddys-daily-driven-droptop/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 13:44:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=668114 saab-convertible-635x309

TTAC Commentator furhead writes:

Sajeev,

A while back I had written in with a question about which is the best wagon to get. The advice was great, but I didn’t follow any of it. We ended up with a 2005 Camry SE simply because it was too good of a deal to walk away from. The car is fine…and I guess that is the problem. That is all it is: fine. Except for the seats, they suck. The front seats are by far the worst seats that I have ever had to travel in. Any ride longer than 1 hour requires a bottle of Advil nearby in order to make it through.

So now, after living with two children for some time now, my wife and I have a better idea of what we need and don’t need, and we are coming to the realization that we don’t need a car that neither one of us likes and makes our backs hurt on long drives.

We have something bigger and likely always will, which is making us start to wonder: could we make due with a convertible? We would like it (whenever we rent a car, it has no roof). The kids would like it (they always request all the windows and sunroof open). We both really like Saabs and miss my old SPG, which has us looking at 2006 – 2008 9-3s as well as first generation Volvo C70s (the new hard top looks great, but eats too much trunk space). I know there are potentially other options, but seating for four and front wheel drive are necessary as we live in the northeast (AWD options are likely out of our price range of roughly $12-$14k). Comfortable seats is also a high priority as we regularly travel 3 – 4 hours to visit family.

I have a good independent mechanic who specializes in European cars, and we are a three car family, so when the convertible is inevitably in the shop, we won’t be in a bind.

So, is there any chance that I could hear from parents who have a convertible (of any kind) as a daily driver? Are the compromises worth the enjoyment?

Sajeev answers:

Ah yes, beancounted seating was so 10 years ago!  Many cars (including the Camry) from this era had pretty horrible seats.  Not sure if new Camrys have better seats, but they are better for a few minutes at a time. But from what I’ve seen in new rental cars (Fusion, Avenger, 300 etc) they are light years ahead of previous iterations.

That said, the best seats in modern family cars are certainly in the domain of the Swedes.  I am sure 99% of human bodies are supremely comfortable in them.

So anyway…about your Swedish droptop fantasy. Your expectations of the potential SAAB-Volvo are spot on, since this is a third vehicle and you know a good Euro mechanic, buy one with an excellent service history. But only after your mechanic gives it their stamp of approval. If you keep the child seats (assuming your kids are that small) locked in the rear and fill them with kiddos with the top down, this sounds pretty simple. Not having a roof makes it seem easy.

My only concern is safety: do you want to daily drive a vehicle with a flexi-flyer body packed full of kids in bad weather surrounded by SUVs?  

Will you hear from parents with a daily driven drop top? Only one way to find out: off you go, Best and Brightest.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Piston Slap: Escaping The Land of Lotus-Eaters http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/piston-slap-escaping-the-land-of-lotus-eaters/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/piston-slap-escaping-the-land-of-lotus-eaters/#comments Mon, 21 Oct 2013 11:52:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=630066

Susan writes:

So I found a 2011 Saab 9-5 that I just love. I have never owned a Saab. Do they break a lot? I don’t want to spend thousands on car repairs. Been there done that. Please let me know what your honest opinion is on whether I should buy this car or not. Thanks for your time.

Sajeev answers:

Run like hell. That’s the short answer. More to come. :)
Sent from my iPhone

Susan answers:

Hahaha ok
Sent from my iPhone

Sajeev concludes:

Here’s the thing: I truly adore it when readers make no pretense to their mechanical prowess (I can do this, I think I’d be willing to do that) and instead get to the point with a Yes or No question…with past experiences in mind. That makes my answer far more accurate. Why?

Consider these:

  1. Turbo Saabs are chronically below average in terms of reliability, durability and repair costs.  While a 2011 model may be far superior than older models with unobtainium non-GM parts and (possible) questionable upkeep from previous owners, while parts are available via the “Saab Secure Program“, only certain parts of the country are truly Saab friendly when it comes to service and support. Not so compared to other luxury marques.
  2. Saabs aren’t for everyone and like any niche, plenty of folks appreciate such quirkiness…and are willing to deal with non-Lexian levels of quality.
  3. The final Saab 9-5 is a rather beautiful and unique automobile, even with the Chevy steering wheel and underlying GM architecture.
  4. Saabs (and Volvos) probably have the best seats in the business, for decades. But what are those seats bolted to?

We know enough to make a sound judgement against a pretty vehicle with serious concerns: if one readily admits to being repair-averse, don’t even consider a Saab.  Hell, maybe you shouldn’t consider anything from Europe (without a very extended warranty) these days.  Make your life easier, there are plenty of alternatives out there. Just go test drive them, Susan!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Saab 9-3 Back in Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/saab-9-3-back-in-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/saab-9-3-back-in-production/#comments Thu, 19 Sep 2013 11:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=523065 Saab re-starts production

After years of rumors and speculations of the will they/won’t they variety, a brand-new Saab 9-3 has – finally! – managed to roll down the assembly line! Don’t be fooled by the fact that this new Saab looks just like the 2009 models the company was building when it was spun off from GM’s bankruptcy, however. This car features all-new components designed by Saab engineers and manufactured in Trollhättan, Sweden.

Saab, now owned by the National Electric Vehicle Sweden company, promised its new cars would reach production in 18 months. That was in September of 2012, so they’re about 6 month ahead of schedule. That on-track message puts NEVS-owned Saab in a decidedly different league than faux car-makers like Detroit Electric and Elio Motors, who’ve spent more time justifying delays than they have building cars. Don’t take my word for that, though, check out the well-appointed assembly line and experienced Saab assembly workers in the photo gallery, below, and start getting excited.

Saab’s back, baby! All we need now is a new Saab 900 revival and we’ll really be in business!

 

saab saab_3 saab_2 New Saab 9-3

Sources | Photos: Saabs United, via WorldCarFans; Originally posted to Gas 2.

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Saab’s New Owner Hopes to Restart 9-3 Production by End of 2013, Faces Supplier Issues http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/saabs-new-owner-hopes-to-restart-9-3-production-by-end-of-2013-faces-supplier-issues/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/saabs-new-owner-hopes-to-restart-9-3-production-by-end-of-2013-faces-supplier-issues/#comments Thu, 22 Aug 2013 17:32:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=500477  saab-plant-trollhatten

National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), the Chinese backed company formed to buy the assets of Saab, says that it has hired 300 workers for the factory in Trollhattan, Sweden and that it hopes to start making cars again there by the end of this year. Mikael Oestlund, a spokesman for NEVS, told Automotive News Europe that the Trollhattan plant is “practically ready” to begin production of the 9-3 sedan. That production is dependent on coming to agreements with suppliers. Also, some of Saabs former suppliers failed when the automaker went under and replacements for those parts must be found. “We are not there yet and therefore we are not able to make the decision of start of production,” Oestlund said.

The spokesman also said that the 9-3 that the revived company will make will be very close to the one that was being built by Saab in 2011 when the company went bankrupt.  It will be powered by a turbocharged gasoline fired engine. An electrified version, promised for next year, will get different styling. The 9-3 will be sold in China and Europe at first, with possible North American sales later. ”Saab will again be a global brand, but we will gradually add markets. The U.S. market is important for us and we intend to enter when we see that we have a business case,” Oestlund said.

Following the restart of production and the launch of an EV 9-3, NEVS plans to introduce completely new vehicles based on Saab’s Phoenix platform, developed but never produced. Before they can put a car based on the Phoenix architecture into production, about 20% of the car will have to be changed to components that were originally going to be sourced from General Motors, which formerly owned the Swedish car company. Oestlund told Automotive News Europe, ”The Phoenix architecture is very flexible and when fully developed it will give us the opportunity to design and manufacture several models from smaller to bigger cars. We have not yet decided which models and we have no time plan — that is some years ahead.”

According to a Bloomberg report in January 2013, NEVS has plans to build 120,000 9-3 models a year by 2016. Saab’s best year was 2006 when it sold 133,000 cars.

Beijing National Battery Technology, which builds batteries for city buses, will supply the battery packs for the 9-3 EV. NEVS and Beijing National Battery Technology are both controlled by by Hong Kong National Modern Energy Holdings. That firm is is run by Swedish-Chinese businessman Kai Johan Jiang who has investments in green engery. Earlier this year, the Chinese city of Qingdao bought 22% of NEVS. NEVS bought Saab out of bankruptcy in August 2012.

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Bring back a BOF 5-seater or I’ll buy a Saab http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/bring-back-a-bof-5-seater-or-ill-buy-a-saab/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/bring-back-a-bof-5-seater-or-ill-buy-a-saab/#comments Wed, 17 Jul 2013 17:24:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495576 Saab 9-7x Aero

I have a problem. I own a 2002 GMC Envoy. No, my ownership of a GMT360 SUV isn’t the problem although it is probably enough to get me committed to a mental institution. At 140,000 hard miles, my Envoy is getting old and there’s nothing out there to replace it. That’s a problem.

Whenever the Envoy gets brought up I feel the need to defend myself by saying I “married into it.”  This is entirely true, I did not have anything to do with the purchase. My name is not on the title and finances were co-mingled after it was paid off. That being said, I have an awkwardly styled place in my heart for GM’s GMT360 SUV. Why? It’s all about towing.

I am one of the few people in the USA crazy enough to have built their own home. No, I didn’t write a check to a contractor to build my house, I built my house. Two years into the continuing saga the only help we have had in our construction nightmare has been from friends that had no idea what they were getting into when they offered. Because I’m a cheap bastard, this meant we dug our foundation with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows and we poured the foundation by the 50lb bag. All 67,200lbs of it. Yes, I am insane and should be committed. No, I do not recommend that anyone follow in my footsteps.

IMG_0688

Since “my” car during this process was a 1998 Volvo S70 T5 (manual of course) and then a 2006 Volvo V70R (manual yet again), hauling duties fell on the Envoy. Almost everything that is our house came in the Envoy, on the Envoy, or a in 14-foot utility trailer towed by the Envoy. Why not buy a pickup truck? There were several logical reasons. First off, the Envoy 4.2L I6 produces reasonable torque, it seats 5, has a covered cargo area, is fairly easy to park, but most importantly: it was paid off. The used utility trailer with electric brakes has proven far more useful than simply swapping the Envoy for a pickup. Yes, I still dream pickup dreams (that’s what happens to you when you go to college in Texas) but my practical side says I may never own one.

I never really liked the Envoy before we started construction. I knew better than to deride my better half’s car shopping, but I never understood why anyone would pick the Envoy over a Grand Cherokee or an Explorer or a Pathfinder, or, or, or. As it turns out, the Envoy isn’t half bad after all. The 4WD low range is useless honestly, but the locking 4WD system has saved my bacon when trying to shuttle heavy items on our hillside property or haul a heavy trailer up the steep gravel road. The rear seats fold completely flat, and though doing so causes the front seats to become decidedly uncomfortable, the cargo hold is generously sized. GM may have used a solid rear axle but they tossed in a load leveling air suspension in the back that has been incredibly handy. The air bag suspension doesn’t just keep your butt off the ground when you put people in the back seat, it keeps the suspension in the middle of its travel when you have 800lbs of crap in the back making the Envoy handle better than most SUVs of its era when fully loaded. Not that I recommend this, but it also makes trailer hauling easier because you can go way over the recommended tongue weight without causing serious driveability problems for the tow vehicle. In addition, GM has a bleed off valve you can use to inflate tires, basket balls, etc. I can’t count the times I have had to adjust the tire pressure in the trailer or in the car in the middle of nowhere because something happened as I was hauling a load of free Craigslist.com bricks.

GMC-Envoy_mp137_pic_5282

The only downside seems to be the relative china doll transmission. The 4L60 transmission isn’t GM’s most robust unit and we’re on our third slushbox at 140,000 miles. The first transmission was replaced at only 15,000 miles so I’m positive that was a manufacturer’s defect but Transmission #2 failed around 80,000 miles (covered by an extended warranty). Looking back on the problem, I have a feeling that the issue was inadequate cooling and inappropriate service intervals for the load. Since then I have been flushing the ATF every 20,000 miles due to the loads we haul. Still, the Envoy is showing its age. The dashboard has gouges from ABS pipe hauling, the rear window weather-stripping is torn from 4x6s rubbings against them, one rear window leaks, the rear air suspension deflates after a few hours when parked, she burns a little oil and the transmission isn’t shifting like it did 60,000 miles ago. It’s time send my friend out to pasture. Did I say friend? I guess I did.

So what options are there on the mid-sized market that won’t cost an arm and a leg but can haul 6,500-7,000 lbs? Can’t do that in the GMC Acadia (GM’s replacement for the Envoy). The Pathfinder and Explorer have given up on towing, Kia killed the Borrego, the Montero was mercy killed, the Rodeo is extinct, the Xterra and 4Runner top out at 5,000lbs and VW’s Touareg is luxury priced starting at $44,000. That leaves just the Jeep Grand Cherokee in the mass-market mid-size SUV segment with over 5,000lbs of towing capacity. How can GM think there’s no market for a well prices world-market Trailblazer?

Here’s where my cheap side kicks in. A low mileage 2009 Saab 9-7x can be had for $16,000-$17,000. That makes it the best priced  GMT360 SUV by a few grand. It also happens to be the best GMT360 ever made. I realize that’s like saying it’s the best bedpan ever made, but it does have an impact on this very small segment. What’s a car guy that tows to do? Do I 2014 Grand Cherokee or Durango for $33,000+ or do I dive into a used “Trollblazer” because it is a crazy-cheap known quantity. Stay tuned.

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U.S. Court Shoots Down Saab Suit Against GM http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/u-s-court-shoots-down-saab-suit-against-gm/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/u-s-court-shoots-down-saab-suit-against-gm/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2013 12:29:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=491602

When Spyker sued GM for mucking with Saab’s failed deal with Youngman, and wanted $3 billion for its trouble, TTAC’s resident garage lawyers did not give Spyker big odds.

Yesterday, the suit was thrown out.

A U.S. federal judge said the GM had the right to block the sale of a company using its technology, Reuters reports. Said U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain said in a hearing in Detroit:

“General Motors had a contractual right to approve or disapprove the proposed transaction. The court is going to grant the motion to dismiss the matter.”

Spyker Chief Victor Muller was in the court room. He did not want to say whether he would appeal. “We will be awaiting the written order and then we will assess,” Muller told Reuters.

The allegedly aggrieved entity was Saab and not Spyker. Saab went bankrupt, and its assets were bought by a murky Chinese entity. Spyker acquired the rights to sue GM. As usual, Muller did not use his own money. Back then, a Spyker press release said:

“Spyker has secured the financial backing required to see the lawsuit through to the end from a third party investor.”

More money down the drain.

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Tax Saabotage: Muller And Saab Board (=Muller) Target Of Swedish Government, Paper Says http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tax-saabotage-muller-and-saab-board-muller-target-of-swedish-government-paper-says/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tax-saabotage-muller-and-saab-board-muller-target-of-swedish-government-paper-says/#comments Thu, 30 May 2013 12:17:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490015 Victor Muller - Picture courtesy gp.se

Despite Victor Muller’s assurances that he is innocent, that he has not been accused of any crime, and that Sweden’s Economic Crime Authority most likely only wants to invite him for a friendly chat, Sweden’s  Göteborgs-Posten thinks it knows who is the target of the investigation:  Victor Muller, and Saab’s board. In the end, Victor Muller was alone on board.  Says the paper:

“From what Göteborgs-Posten learned, there is a clear link between the prosecutor’s recent suspicions about crimes by SAAB Automobiles former board and how Victor Muller was paid for his work from February 2010 to the bankruptcy in December 2012.”

“When Victor Muller, a major owner of Spyker Cars which bought SAAB Automobile in February 2010, joined SAAB’s leadership as chairman of the board, there was no written contract about how and for what he would get paid. Even so, invoices started to arrive from Muller’s companies in Latin America Tug Holding on the Dutch Antilles.”

An international tax consultant tells TTAC that disputes about consultancy agreements vs. salaries are common: “If there is a dispute, they ask first for a contract. If there is none,  bad news. If there is a contract, then they look for emails in which the contract was negotiated. If the contract just appeared out of thin air, bad news.  Then they look where the money went.”

According to Göteborgs-Posten, the money did not go to the Tug company, “but to Muller’s private bank account, as the investigations of the tax authorities show.” Apparently in a letter to Muller, those tax authorities worte:

“The evidence supports the conclusion that the purpose was that SAAB should give you compensation and that you would avoid paying taxes for this.”

Until SAAB’s bankruptcy in December 2011, about $1.2 million were paid in consulting fees to Victor Muller, the paper says.

“It was only in September 2011 that Victor Muller, when he was the only person in the leadership and the crisis in SAAB was escalating, that the consulting fees were regulated in a written agreement. The payments where thereby secured. 

The Tax Authorities sees this entire arrangement with consulting fees instead of salary for the job as chairman of the board as a ploy to make Victor Muller avoid paying taxes in Sweden for his work in SAAB Automobile. In September 2012 the Tax Authorities therefore decided to demand Victor Muller pay approx. 2 million SEK ($300,000) in tax.”

The paper concludes:

“The responsibility for errors in the conduct of SAABs accounting and reporting, and that SAAB paid a consulting fee instead of salary and that a substantial tax shortfall has happened, rests with the board of SAAB.“

In the end, Victor Muller sat alone on the board. On June 23, 2011, Saab’s General Counsel Kristina Gers stepped down from the board, a week after two union representatives defected.

In the meantime, Muller said through his favorite mouthpiece Saabsunited ,  that “the contract was approved by the National Debt Office  in 2010.” According to the information given to Göteborgs-Posten, no contract existed in 2010. The Debt Office told the paper that all it had to approve whether the “compensation was reasonable,” and that how taxes are paid would be up to Saab and Muller.

(Hat tip to a friend in  Sweden for a translation better than Google Translate.)
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Tax Saabotage: Swedish Economic Crime Authority To Question Muller http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tax-saabotage-swedish-economic-crime-authority-to-question-muller/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tax-saabotage-swedish-economic-crime-authority-to-question-muller/#comments Wed, 29 May 2013 13:29:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489944 Victor Muller - Picture courtesy coolbrandsstories.wordpress.com

Former Saab Chairman Victor Muller “will be called in to answer questions related to a Swedish inquiry into alleged tax offenses at the bankrupt carmaker,” Sweden’s  Economic Crime Authority told Reuters.

When news spread last week that Muller will be called on the carpet, Victor took to his favorite mouthpiece, Saabsunited, and said it is not true:

“Nobody from the Swedish Authorities has ever tried to get in touch with me and I am sure they have my number so if they had wanted to, they would have certainly been able to do so.”

Katinka Wall, a spokeswoman at the Swedish Economic Crime Authority, told Reuters that Muller would be summoned as part of the wider investigation and that he is not being served as a suspect.

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Tax Saabotage: Victor Muller Named As Suspect http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tax-saabotage-victor-muller-named-as-suspect/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tax-saabotage-victor-muller-named-as-suspect/#comments Thu, 23 May 2013 07:43:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489341

Muller and lawyer Geers in court – Both are suspects of tax evasion

As suspected, the Swedish Saab scandal  over avoided taxes grows wider.  Yesterday, it reached the failed takeover artist Victor Muller. “Muller prime suspect in Saab tangle,” headlines Swedens Svenska Dagbladet, The paper obtained court documents that say Muller is wanted for questioning.

“Victor Muller is going to be called into the Financial Crimes Unit,” Chief Prosecutor Olof Sahlgren told the paper.  Says Reuters:

“Prosecutors are looking into allegations that executives at Saab, which collapsed in 2011, obstructed proper tax checks over the years 2010 to 2011, a turbulent time for the company, when it was sold by General Motors to small Dutch sports car maker Spyker, and when problems which led to its collapse emerged.”

While Saab continued losing all the money given to Muller by shady Russian financiers  and the European Investment Bank, and while therefore no taxes on profits were due, the Swedish government wanted its rich share of payroll taxes and social contributions. As suspected by TTAC commenter Piffpaff, the Muller case appears to focus on consulting payments made to Victor Muller’s  Latin America Tug Holding NV (later renamed to LAT Management NV), based in the Netherlands Antilles, Svenska Dagbladet says.

According to the files and the Stockholm paper, some $540,000 were invoiced by Muller’s tugboat company in the tax haven. The prosecutor thinks Saab’s management should have paid taxes and social security contributions on Muller’s compensation. Invoices from entities in tax havens are a favorite tool for tax avoidance.

Prosecutor Sahlgren told the Dagbladet that Muller has not been formally charged with a crime. However, by law, Muller “is responsible for the company because he has been a director, president, and later CEO of Saab.”

The scandal could widen. According to the prosecutor, more people could come under suspicion. The matter also is likely to involve generous bonus payments made to Victor Muller when Saab was going down the drain. Unusually high payments to the boss, especially before a bankruptcy rarely fail to attract the attention of the prosecutor.

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Tax Saabotage: Three Former Saab Execs Arrested, Victor Muller’s Offices Searched http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tax-saabotage-three-former-saab-execs-arrested-victor-mullers-offices-searched/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/tax-saabotage-three-former-saab-execs-arrested-victor-mullers-offices-searched/#comments Tue, 21 May 2013 15:15:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489134 Kristina Geers and Victor Muller Picture courtesy stureplan.se

During better times:Kristina Geers and Victor Muller

Key members of the board of bankrupt carmaker Saab were arrested yesterday on suspicions of tax evasion.  Former Saab General Counsel Kristina Geers, former CFO Karl-Gustav Lindstrom, and former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson spent the night in jail. After a serious grilling, the three were released today. At the same time, the offices of  Spyker in Zeewolde, Netherlands, were searched by police at the request of Swedish authorities, Z24.NL reports.

According to Saab fanzine Saabsunited,  the trio was booked on suspicions “of trying to seriously make accounting too complicated and difficult for the tax-authorities.” That alone does not justify an  arrest. Later, it was reported that the matter was about paying people as independent consultants instead as employees. This is a popular strategy to minimize tax and social security payments in many countries. It  usually starts a long discussion with the auditors, but no mass arrests, and no internationally coordinated raids. Someone seems to be fishing for more than confusing book entries.

Saab declared bankruptcy in late 2011. Their 2010 and 2011 books were audited, a normal procedure in most European countries after a company goes bust. During the bankruptcy, many suppliers were stiffed, however, the biggest loser was the Swedish government. It had guaranteed a $500 million loan by the European Investment Bank.

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Monday Mileage Champion: Tom Tuttle’s Tacoma http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/monday-mileage-champion-tom-tuttles-tacoma/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/monday-mileage-champion-tom-tuttles-tacoma/#comments Mon, 25 Feb 2013 14:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=478870

My grandma was a bit of a card shark. You name the game, she played it.

You would think that she would show a teeny bit of mercy to a six year old kid like me back in the day. Nope. Not a chance. Whenever she was about to beat me… yet again… grandma would flash an ear to ear grin on her face and bellow out her trademarked version of checkmate.

“Stevie? Do you want the old news? Or the bad news?”

I would flash my own waning innocence in these matters and say, “What about no news?”

No news, indeed. If you are looking to find yet another new name to take on pole position in our weekly mileage race, think again.

This 1998 Toyota Tacoma may represent the ultimate nirvana of long-term durability.

Easy maintenance. A transmission that is less taxed over the log haul than Mitt Romney. An engine that originates from a million clones and ten million near replicas. Toss in OBD-II diagnostics and a good owner, and the Tacomas of this generation present better real-life results than an Al Gore environmental symposium.

409,440 miles. No announcements. Not even much in the way of physical wear.

Of course you get that little whiskey on the side which seems to be endemic with these models. Even my retired neighbor who lives diagonal from me is chugging along with a 275k truck that has been given the custom “fat check treatment” from two different wayward travelers. It seems that about a third of the older trucks in my neck of the woods have been permanently customized with a hard dent or a long scuff. 

No matter. This SR5 model should be able to go for as long as a frugal truck owner is willing to invest in this little beast. Other notable rides this time were…

A Southern Neon with over 308,000 miles… still running.

A double whammy 1999 Pontiac Grand Am SE that suffered from a prior rental history and the virulently hated 3.4 Liter V6. Still chugging along with 305,867 miles. No announcements.

Then we had the proverbial cockroach of the road. 2004 Chevy Cavalier. As base as you get with the 5-speed and power nothing. 272,494 miles. No announcements, and a lifetime in the rust ridden roads of northern Illinois. This one must have been garage kept.

The Accord and Camry combined are still offering more 200k cars than all of Europe by a greater than two to one ratio. Audi and Kia are still the two laggards of longevity along with the habitually broken VW’s and the locally defunct SAAB and Suzuki brands. As for the often unloved Pontiac Grand Prix… it still seems to be offering just as many 180k+ trade-in vehicles as the entire Volkswagen brand.

Two months of data so far now for the Trade In Quality Index (TIQI) with ten more to go. A forecasted 300,000 vehicles will go in this system and thanks to TTAC volunteer Nicholas Lariviere, we now have a database that will require no recounts.

 

 

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BMW 3-Series GT: The Latest Retina Burning Niche Product From Germany http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/bmw-3-series-gt-the-latest-retina-burning-niche-from-germany/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/bmw-3-series-gt-the-latest-retina-burning-niche-from-germany/#comments Wed, 06 Feb 2013 16:55:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=476581

Despite being unable to eat, talk or sleep more than a few hours at a time, I have found something more agonizing than an adult tonsillectomy  the BMW 3-Series GT. Because we all know what a critical and commercial success the BMW 5-Series GT has been. At least Percocet can numb the pain of having sections of my throat burnt away by a cauterizing wand. Whoever buys this thing is doomed twice over by poor eyesight and awful judgement. Then again, maybe the reaction would have been better if it was badged as a Saab?

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Super Piston Slap: The Saab Secure Program. Yes, Really. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/super-piston-slap-the-saab-secure-program-yes-really/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/super-piston-slap-the-saab-secure-program-yes-really/#comments Thu, 31 Jan 2013 12:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=475558

NOTE: I received the following email from Saab Automobile Parts North America. As I was not aware of the recent details behind Saab’s parts/service operation (my bad) I felt obligated to share this, unedited, with everyone. – SM

Sajeev,

We read, with great interest, your latest Piston Slap post and the many comments in response to “The Last Saab = good Deal?” We wanted to take this opportunity to let you know about Saab Automobile Parts North America, the exclusive authorized provider of Saab Genuine Parts in North America. Venues like yours help us to get the message out that Saab Genuine Parts and Service are available.

For your review, I’ve attached a copy of our recent press release, which announces our newest initiative, the Saab Secure Program; but also provides more detail on our company, ownership and highlights of our very busy start-up period. In a short period of time, we’ve made notable progress on many fronts, to provide a structure of strong support to current and future Saab owners:

  • Established a network of 179 Official Service Centers in the US and Canada.
  • Returned availability of Saab parts back to the high levels that existed prior to the Saab Automobile AB bankruptcy.
  • Entered into an agreement with General Motors to administer warranty services on 2009 and prior model years, providing a seamless warranty experience for those Saab owners.
  • Launched the Saab Secure program to support owners of 2010 and 2011 Saab models.
  • Launched a North America Technical Assistance Center to provide technical help for Saab Service Centers in providing high quality repairs for Saab owners.
  • Launched a North America Customer Assistance Center on January 7, 2013 to support all Saab customers in North America needing assistance with inquiries about parts, accessories, service and technical support.
  • Launched a new SPNA website, Saab.com and Facebook page to share up to date information about the company, service facilities and current promotions.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss Saab Automobile Parts North America with you in more detail. Please feel free to contact me at any time to set up an interview.

Thank you!

The Saab Secure Press Release_FINAL

 

Sajeev answers:

There you have it, dear readers. The press release, dated 1/10/13, is here to clear up any Saab-related quandaries. And since the Saab mother ship is listening, this is a great time to give them some more unfiltered feedback.

Click here to view the embedded video.

If you think I’m a typical media shill for posting a press release, I can dig it.  But some releases are too, um, valuable to ignore. Plus, with the above music video in mind, you’ll see I’m merely keeping an Angry God from sending a Turbo Saab with Juan Manuel Fangio behind the wheel to my doorstep.  I really, honestly, love the engineering in Saab’s seats…don’t put me in the same hole Ford left the Panther Chassis!!! 

And to the detractors, it begs the question: would you consider buying a Saab now?  I re-checked my link, and 6 more new Saabs showed up online!

Any other questions? Apparently Saab is listening, so speak up.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

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Problem Solver: How To Value A Totaled Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/problem-solver-how-to-value-a-totaled-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/problem-solver-how-to-value-a-totaled-car/#comments Thu, 24 Jan 2013 09:53:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=474971

 

Hi Steve. In honor of the recent SAAB coverage, my 2000 9-5 recently decided to become a parts donor.

This whole experience has made me sick to my stomach. No thanks to the insurance company.

The SAAB got wrecked by yours truly. I was driving down a one lane road and somewhere between daydreaming and a sudden stop by the car in front of me, the front of my car got all smashed up.

At first I thought it was nothing. A headlight, turn signal lens, front bumper, a crack on the windshield and a bend on the hood. I would have no problem with just taking a smaller check and keep on driving it. The car only has 125k, and between a brand new turbo and a small oil leak, I’m perfectly happy with this car as my commuter.

The insurance company is offering $2700 if I keep it, and $3350 if I total it out. However I do have a lien on it and the check they are willing to give me if it’s totaled won’t cover my balance.

So what should I do?

Steve Says:

First off, that $3300 won’t be going to you if the car is totaled out. It will be going directly to the lienholder.  I seriously doubt the lienholder will take that smaller check instead, perform the needed repairs, get it inspected and let you keep driving that SAAB with a salvage title. The potential liability involved with financing salvage vehicles these days is simply too great.

Believe it or not, totaling the SAAB can be a good thing for your bottom line in the end. Insurance companies have several forms that need to be filled out and transacted back and forth in the event that the totaled price of a car doesn’t cover the remaining finance balance.

Finance companies and dealerships hate the glacial like pace of this process, and many will consent to just zeroing it out if the deficiency is minor.  If you financed with a large bank, you will likely have a deficiency balance unless you purchased GAP insurance. However if you did it with a Mom & Pop, or another company that doesn’t sell their notes, you may be able to get that balance zeroed out in the end.

When a lienholder agrees to zero out the balance the payout process is simple and straightforward. The insurance company gets the car. The lienholder gets a check. You get to move on with your life.

Consider the real world side of it. A lot of dealerships that self-finance prefer to get the money right away because they know you’re likely not going to pay the deficiency balance anyhow. So I would stay on friendly terms with that lienholder and see if it’s possible.

The second issue you have is valuation. Some insurance companies are incredibly fair to their customers while others are hellbent towards the proverbial screw job.

A $3350 valuation for a 2000 SAAB 9-5 with 125,000 miles may be fair depending on the model and the condition. You need to book it out.

To weigh it all in, I always tell folks to visit three sites to determine their vehicle’s value: Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds.com, and NADAGuides. Kelly has improved their pricing models… but sometimes underprices older vehicles. Edmunds tends to have the strongest pulse on older vehicles. NADA covers the world of auto financing, and they tend to have the highest valuations of all.

Figure out those valuations, and be honest. Not sentimental. Take the high road. A car with a multitude of dents and dings is in fair condition, not average. A good car with some interior wear and a smidgen of paint fade is in average to good condition, not excellent.

Apply all three valuations and get an average. If the insurance valuation comes within 10% or $500 of your average, they are likely a fair broker. Anything more than that, and I would send them a letter highlighting the three valuations and your concerns.

One other thing. You can make special additions for some things that have been recently installed on your vehicle such as tires, a turbocharger (in your case), or certain modifications. Make sure you have those receipts! A detail, recent maintenance, or a minor repair isn’t worth a flip to the insurance company. But some hardware components can be monetized to your advantage. Add that turbo!

Notify the lienholder about your concerns, and talk with them before sending the letter. They may be doing the same exact thing as you. If the insurance company still doesn’t want to move then you can get a letter written up by a lawyer or even a consumer advocate. I have done a few of them (less than a dozen in over ten years). To be blunt though, I believe that persistence and a good presentation makes this step unnecessary except in extreme or high stakes cases.

Be friendly, be honest, and don’t be afraid to be persistent. It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease when it comes to insurance claims. Good luck!

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Piston Slap: The Last SAAB = Good Deal? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/piston-slap-the-last-saab-good-deal/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/piston-slap-the-last-saab-good-deal/#comments Wed, 23 Jan 2013 12:08:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=474810
Bruce writes:

I got my 2007 9-3 serviced at the Falls Church, VA Saab dealership. My question: They had new (2011) 9-5s for $20,000 off the sticker price. Almost half off. Are they a good deal? Would you buy one?

Sajeev answers:

I initially regretted my delay in answering this Piston Slap email, as the queue is long and unfortunate to a time sensitive matter like leftover Saab inventory. But then I found 167 new SAABS still for sale as of yesterday.  Who-hoo! I dodged a bullet while these poor dealers still have laggards on their floorplan.

The question isn’t about buying this Saab, but about buying any Saab: are they ever a good deal?  NO!

But that’s not the point…if you actually like Saabs, you don’t mind spending far too much money on these repair/maintenance whores. Or you love them enough to make their repair a personal hobby, complete with all the tools of the trade.  Either way, yes, this is the BEST time to buy a new Saab.  The prices will be good and you’ll never have this opportunity! Ever again!

You wrote to TTAC because you like Saabs. And you get them serviced at the dealer, which implies you have the money to keep them running properly.  So if you want to run a 2011 model into the ground, you might have that opportunity.  And who knows, the whole GM-SAAB-China thing is still unfolding, perhaps you will have ample supply of spare parts in the future.

Your last question: would I buy one?  I already bought one of the last Ford Rangers back in 2011…so no, I’m gonna enjoy that same feeling but without the nightmarish downsides of Turbo Saab ownership.  And yes, there are still 98 new Rangers for saletwo are of the 4-cyl, 5MT variety like mine–if you wish to join me on the dark side. Or bright side. Either way.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

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Saab’s Long March To China Continues http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/saabs-long-march-to-china-continues/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/saabs-long-march-to-china-continues/#comments Tue, 08 Jan 2013 17:09:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=472723

After an alleged Swede,  Kai Johan Jiang a.k.a.  Jiang Dalong bought bankrupt Saab’s remaining assets for cheap, we could not help but reminding the faithful that this will not result in a resurgence of the Trollhättan industrial base. We figured that at the very best, Saab will march off to China. If Saab won’t manage to destroy investor’s dreams and money yet again. Both rise in probability.  Saab’s buyer, Chinese-controlled NEVS, has secured  an investment deal with the Chinese city of Qingdao, Reuters says.

Qingdao is situated in the Shandong province in northwestern China. Through the deal, it hopes to join the ranks of Chinese provinces that own a carmaker.  NEVS said in a statement that the Chinese city, via its Qingdao Qingbo Investment company, would invest 2 billion Swedish crowns ($307.33 million) in NEVS, after which Qingdao would get 22 percent of the shares.

NEVS had bought the assets of Saab for an undisclosed sum, but reports put the price in the neighborhood of $274 million, which is awfully close to the money coming from Qingdao. Qingdao is also close to Jiang Dalong. He was born nearby and he serves as “an economic adviser to the Shandong provincial government on policy matters.”   We always wondered from where the money to buy Saab would come from, we wonder no more.

NEVS said it would launch its first electric car at the start of 2014 – a year from now, don’t be surprised if it won’t make the deadline – it also is looking at the possibility of re-launching the old Saab 9-3 model with a conventional engine. A production plant would need an awful lot of more money to get going.

NEVS says it wants to ship cars it builds to Qingdao port. As pointed repeatedly,  importing EVs to China does not make sense at all. In China, new energy cars can only benefit from generous government policies if the car is built in China and sold under a Chinese brand. NEVS says it would eventually build a factory in Qingdao, “as production at the Trollhättan plant will reach capacity.”

Saab’s remaining true faithful are elated by the news.

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Monday Mileage Champion: The Year In Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/monday-mileage-champion-the-year-in-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/monday-mileage-champion-the-year-in-review/#comments Mon, 31 Dec 2012 17:43:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=471956

It’s time to make a confession to the good folks at TTAC.

The mileage game is rigged.

How so? Well, approximately two-thirds of the vehicles that reach the 300k+ mark  at an auction I attend will usually belong in one of four categories.

Ford truck or SUV.  Chevy truck or SUV. Honda car. Toyota everything.

There you have it. Nearly two thirds of the vehicles that I see with serious high mileage credentials will belong in one of those four categories.

Yes I do see the occasional V8, rear-wheel-drive Ford car. Nissan seems to do well with their mostly -90′s Altimas, 10+ year old Maximas,  and their wonderful small trucks. A few Jeeps and Cummins diesel trucks also fly into the high mileage radar.

But everyone else? Just little glimpses every now and then.

The old school German machinery will sometimes score a 300k+ model with a level of maintenance receipts that could do damage to your next door neighbor’s window.

VW does well with the TDI, the too slow 2.0, and nothing else. Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, SAAB, and Volvo have become a big fuhgeddaboudit for our weekly mileage contest. Volvo would probably field a few 300k vehicles if the odometers on all their 1990′s models didn’t break with a near 100% level of consistency.

In my experiences, Subarus can get close to 300k, But they will often  have massive oil leaks and repair records that will rival the Germans.

Mitsubishi makes some decent cars as does Mazda. But the former are almost always eventually skirted away to the abuse oriented rental fleets and buy-here pay-here lots. While Mazda suffers from a nasty long era where many of their automatic transmissions simply did not hold up.

Then we have Chrysler. The 2.7 Liter engines rarely makes it past 120k miles and are virtually non-existent at the auto recycling centers. Even though they made millions of them, you may as well be asking the guy at the junkyard counter for a 20 year old Peugeot with a dancing unicorn on top of it.

The 3.7 Liter and 4.7 Liter engines are also becoming increasingly expensive due to sludge issues and the fact that they’re difficult to rebuild. Chrysler transmissions for their minivans are also becoming a rarer sight. Although they are far easier to rebuild.

Finally, it seems that Chrysler could never design certain basic parts that were worth a flip throughout the last two decades.

For a while at the auctions, I began to think that Chrysler engineered a whining noise into all the power steering pumps in their minivans and differentials in their luxury Jeeps. Chrysler wouldn’t even arbitrate certain Jeeps for differential noise back in the mid-2000′s.

However, a Dodge truck with a Cummins diesel remains a recipe for success, and the Hemi engine seems to be long lasting along with the old 5.2 Liter 318 engine and the 4.0 Liter inline-six.

Finally we are back at GM and Ford, again. I will give special kudos to the GM 3.8 Liter V6 and the Ford Vulcan V6. The former was a marvel for the time. While the later represents the ultimate in amortization costs and continuous improvement. Everything else ranges from above average (GM 2.2 Liter engines and early non-plastic intake 3.1 Liter engines), to problematic (Ford 3.8 Liter engines, GM 3.4 Liter V6 models, Northstar V8′s.)

Sometimes these issues had to do with the overuse of cheap plastic in the engine bay and coolants that gel up. While other times it has more to do with basic bad design (Saturn and Freestar CVT transmissions) and planned obsolescence (Aveos, Neons, PT Cruisers, last-gen Festivas, last-gen Metros).

I expect that the Koreans will likely join the fray of 300k+ in the coming years. But a lot of just plain bad Hyundais and Kias were made until recent times. I can’t recall a single model from either brand with a notably high mileage at the auctions.

As for the Honda Accord with 403,817 miles? It was followed by a Toyota Tacoma, an Acura TL, and a Ford Explorer. All with over 390,000 miles. The durability quartet took 8 of the top 10 spots and 22 of the first 30.

Not bad… and not unusual at all.

 

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Question Of The Day: What Is The Best Orphan Car In History? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/question-of-the-day-what-is-the-best-orphan-car-in-history/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/question-of-the-day-what-is-the-best-orphan-car-in-history/#comments Mon, 12 Nov 2012 14:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=466565

Are you talkin’ to me???

 

There was the Cadillac of minivans. A different kind of company selling a different kind of car. A Swede with no compromises, and a Frenchman that went from strength to strength.

Daihatsus that were perhaps, a bit too modest, by skinny dipping their unknown name in a slogan-less lake. And then we had that crazy distant Yugoslavian cousin who bragged about a ‘road back to sanity’ while his neighbors blew up his plant.

They are gone now from these shores, for now. As is Opel, Hummer, Mercury, Plymouth, and in due time, Suzuki. An amazing variety of brands that offered their own interesting contributions to the mosaic of the American automotive experience.

Rockys and Rodeos were rugged for too short of a while. While Hummer alternated between playing the role of the military bad-ass and the fashionista poseur. Eventually style won, followed by bankruptcy.

Europeans always offered a more sophisticated level of style while battling Gremlins on every level. While weaker Japanese marques, plainly, contributed varying levels of utility and engineering excellence to a marketplace that expected far more.

Then there is Oldsmobile.

Oldsmobile, the rocket division, was the power and the glory.  From their 300+ horsepower cruisers of the late-60′s to the best selling Cutlass Supremes of the mid-80′s. It’s hard to find fault with a popular brand like Oldsmobile that was torturously mis-marketed and blandified into irrelevance.

All defunct brands have their unique qualities. But which vintage offered the very best? Which model among them all provided that level of power and prestige that begs for a resurrection of the brand?

Any constraints on choices? Well… no outright luxury or exotic brands. Vectors, Deusenbergs, Cords and Tuckers may have their place in museuems the world over. But for this particular exercise I want special attention to be given to those models that served the everyday Joe.

Choose your car wisely, and defend it well.  Hell hath no Fury like a Plymouth.

 

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Saab Outselling Lotus Nearly 2:1 In UK http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/saab-outselling-lotus-nearly-21-in-uk/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/saab-outselling-lotus-nearly-21-in-uk/#comments Tue, 06 Nov 2012 17:42:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=466084

Timothy Cain’s sales numbers for the UK provide a pretty sobering snapshot of Lotus and its quest for survival. Year-to-date, the brand is dead last in the UK sales rankings, outsold by such luminaries as Perodua, Ssangyong and Proton.

Even now-defunct Saab is handily beating Lotus. In October, 16 Saabs were sold, versus 2 Lotus cars. YTD, 231 Saabs have been sold versus 122 Lotus cars. Time for some drastic action, no?

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Auction Day: The Euro Bailout http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/auction-day-the-euro-bailout/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/auction-day-the-euro-bailout/#comments Wed, 31 Oct 2012 16:36:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465500

What percentage of new cars sold this year in the United States have European badges?

3%… 5% maybe? Not even close! Through September 2012 it stands at approximately 9.5%

The recent successes of VW, Audi and BMW/Mini are quite noteworthy. 10 years ago, European marketshare in the U.S. was only at 7.1%.

However this isn’t the entire story. Used European vehicles are often considered to be pricey to fix and expensive to own. At a recent sale in Atlanta this week the percentage of Euro vehicles was nowhere near 7%, or 9%.

It was over 23%.

VW 1.8 Liter engine with sludge issues? Present.

Audi in need of ride suspension elimination kit? Yeps!

Volvo with transmission issues. Audi with transmission issues. Saab with transmission issues. You.. bet… cha!

Out of 113 vehicles sold during the run, 27 of them were European… and metro-Atlanta tends not to be nearly as popular with European models as the folks up in the Northeast.  This auction may have been little more than a statistical quirk. But it was quite amusing to see.

There were also a few other surprises.

This 2002 Ford Focus SE wagon with 28,000 miles

And this 2004 Jaguar XJ8 with 181,000 miles.

 

Sold for nearly the same price. the Focus sold for $4600 (plus auction fee) while the Jag with the Tony the Tiger imprint on the steering wheel sold for all of $4800 (plus fee). No announcements for either of the two.

My beloved Tauruses continue to do well. A 2002 SES model with cloth and 79,000 miles sold for $3500, which happened to be the exact same price I sold a 2001 model with leather and 95,000 miles not too long ago.

Then there was the big kahuna. In this case it was a 2006 Land Rover Range Rover HSE (try to say that ten times really fast.) Two dealers got in a dogfight at around 18 grand and the final tally was $24,200. It had 109,754 miles and I hope the groom of this beastly bride will enjoy being married to it for quite a while. Either that or the Landy had a built in distillery in the back.

I managed to come in second a lot… which is fine. For the last couple of months I have been busy buying up whatever seems to be in decent in full knowledge that when tax season comes around, prices will go up, and quality will go way, way down.

One other thing. Convertibles. Why do some folks feel the need to trade-in their convertible during the mid to late fall? Dealers have to sit on that opportunity in most areas of the country which means the price you get will border on bupkis.

Observe…

2002 Jaguar XKR, no defect announcements, 106k, – $9800

2001 Saab 9-3 SE, Frame Damage, Non-visible, 128k – $2700

2001 Volvo C70 HT, (Tranny Needs Service, Prior Fleet, Frame Damage, Title Branded, Miles Exempt… but looked nice!), 109k- $1900

The last one sold to a guy know who liquidates vehicles at a public auction north of Atlanta. A couple of weeks ago he told me he sold 15 out of 20 at a nearby public sale, and I don’t doubt it. Every dealer has a niche. Although I never would have the stomach for something like that.

This auto auction was ground zero for the falling of the Euro… car. And guess who eventually pays for the bailout? On the cheap of course.

 

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Saab Owners Choosing Honda http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/saab-owners-choosing-honda/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/saab-owners-choosing-honda/#comments Mon, 03 Sep 2012 13:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=458748

Owners of Saab cars who replace their vehicles are choosing Hondas over other OEMs, according to a study of “defections” by automotive consultancy Polk.

Honda has captured 7.2 percent of total defections over the 2010-2011 period. Also popular with former Saab owners are Volkswagen and Audi products. VW is just slightly behind Honda, at 7 percent. Though is all GM brands were added and counted merely as “General Motors”, that figure would total 15.2 percent.

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Saab’s Alive! That’s The Good News http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/saabs-alive-thats-the-good-news/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/saabs-alive-thats-the-good-news/#comments Mon, 03 Sep 2012 11:17:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=458815

TTAC’s eulogy on Saab was premature. The Chinese willing, there will be new Saabs in the future. Surprisingly, Swedish defense contractor Saab AB licensed the Saab name to National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) to be used in future vehicles, a press release of NEVS says. NEVS also “finalized its acquisition of the main assets of Saab Automobile AB, Saab Automobile Powertrain AB and Saab Automobile Tools AB, effective August 31, 2012.”

The ultimatum given to NEVS last week apparently instilled fresh urgency into the parties, and an undisclosed amount changed hands on Friday. For the money, NEVS also received  “IP rights for the Saab 9-3, IP rights for the Phoenix platform, tools, the manufacturing plant, and test and laboratory facilities.” There are others who think they also own that Phoenix platform. And the people of Trollhättan better don’t get their hopes up on EV exports to China.

Once in China, the new Saab logo probably will be a dragon with a crown and a long tongue, because the griffin logo was not included in the sale. That is owned by SCANIA, and folks there vehemently refused to sell the winged lion with the long tongue, due to the fact that the buyer is Chinese.  When that happened, NEVS denied that is Chinese, telling just-auto that the deal is “not a Chinese investment” and claiming that the majority owner in NEVS is National Modern Energy Holdings, managed from Hong Kong and registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Two weeks later and with all signatures on the paper, NEVS rediscovered its Chinese identity. “NEVS is an international consortium formed by Swedish and Chinese stakeholders,” says the press release. “NEVS is wholly owned by National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd., whose founder and principal owner is Kai Johan Jiang.”

While “Chinese stakeholders” appear,  the fabled Japanese venture capital fund exits stage left. We never bought into that story anyway.

With everything properly papered, NEVS could theoretically start building and selling Saabs today. However, NEVS is “solely dedicated to development and manufacturing of electric vehicles (EVs),” says the press release. The market for those EVs is China, which is “investing heavily in developing the EV market.”  Says the NEVS statement:

“In approximately 18 months, we plan to introduce our first electric vehicle based on Saab 9-3 technologies and a new technology electric powertrain.”

NEVS Chairman Karl-Erling Trogen says that “the electric car of the future will be produced in Trollhättan.”

Here is something that does not compute at all. China is adamant that electric vehicles, if they want to receive generous government subsidies, must be produced in China, and must be made under a brand that is owned by a Chinese entity. This is why Nissan’s Leaf will be a Venucia and made in China, Volkswagen will have Tantos EVs with SAIC and Kaili EVs with FAW, Daimler builds a Denza EV with BYD, and so forth. Even stubborn Toyota caved in to Chinese demands and will create two “Chinese” EV brands with its Chinese joint venture partners. Why then spend the money on getting the Saab brand? Alright, it could be transferred to a Chinese venture –  if the licensing language allows it.

But production in Trollhättan? That would be a big Bu Hao, as in forget about it. Carrying huge import duties and not qualifying for government subsidies, imported EVs are huge non-starters in China. If the Swedes expect that Trollhättan will turn into a bustling export hub for EVs destined to China, then they will be utterly disappointed.

There is a possibly additional fly in the Chinese duck soup.  According to the press release, NEVS thinks it has bought “IP rights for the Phoenix platform.” Strangely, China’s Youngman also thinks it has “acquired a license in 2011” to the same Phoenix platform, and it will  contribute that license to the Spyker Phoenix company, to be started with Victor Muller. Then again, if we understood last year’s press release right, that was a non-exclusive license, meaning that licenses can be sold as often as the copying machine allows.

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