Daily Podcast: Persistence

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

I just finished editing a piece by Steven Wade about Saab's [alleged] renaissance. Bolstering the arguments of a writer whose opinions I don't share may seem a bizarre way to spend my time, but it's a necessary part of TTAC's dedication to platforming ALL viewpoints. (I love verbizing in the morning; its victorizes smells.) As a Jewish Quaker, I do believe there is but one truth. But I'm not so egomaniacal as to believe that I alone am able to discern it. More prosaically, I maintain a steadfast conviction that I can be wrong about anything at any time for any number of reasons. I know that sounds kind of weird coming from the founder/gatekeeper of the most strident of automotive websites, a site that earns more ire than any other. But I reckon that's because our legions of critics mistake our passion for arrogance. The truth is TTAC's writers and commentators care. Which is why I'm not really bothered by Mr. Wade's single-minded belief that Saab's products are vastly underrated. and will rise again. The guy's got heart. He's one of us. And it seems to me that "we" are gathering strength. I see it in our numbers. I see it in the comments sections (check out the 459 comments on " In Defense of the Big Three"). And I see it in my burgeoning in-box, where readers do their level best to contribute to our mission. Some day, we'll be breaking news instead of regurgitating it. Some day, we'll be ahead of the new car curve. But right now, tonight, I feel a sense of satisfaction. And for that I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Steven Lang Steven Lang on Oct 21, 2007

    Last year I bought two higher mileage minivans that were at the polar opposites of prestige. A 2004 Toyota Previa LE with 94,000 miles (bought at a dealer auction for $11,000), and a 2004 Ford Freestar SE with 76,000 miles (bought at the same auction a week later for $6500). Both vehicles were extremely well maintained and were considered to be in clean condition overall. The Toyota had a back seat cover that was replaced for $150, and had been maintained it's entire life by a trucking company that used it for local jaunts and airport transit. The Ford had a few dents removed, and that was that. Great van in a beautiful burgundy. It was owned by an executive's wife from Novartis Pharamaceuticals and had also been maintained to the T. On paper these were two perfectly good minivans. My wife and I drove each of these vehicles well over 2,000 miles. On days where I visit more than one auction I would typically take three or four dealers with me to the second sale. They would get a free ride, and I would be able to have most of my vehicles transported within 10 minutes from my holding yard which was closer to the first sale. Thereby saving a few hundred in weekly transport fees. Overall, The Freestar was quiet and perfectly comfortable. The engine was great (Ford has used a similar engine design for certain Lincoln and Jaguar lines), the 4-speed transmission worked perfectly, and like a true large American vehicle, the Freestar quietly cruised at 80 all day long. There were a few minuses. Some of the surfaces were hard (a.k.a. cheap feeling) and the gas mileage was only around 22 to 23 compared with 27 for the Sienna. But overall it was still a pleasure to drive it, and I even took the family in it to Myrtle Beach for a week long vacation. As a minivan, the Freestar was an absolutely fine performer. I still believe that 95+% of minivan buyers would have been perfectly satisfied with this vehicle. When I finally sold it at 79,000 miles, it went for the $8,000 asking price. The owner was overjoyed to get such a nice late model vehicle at that price... even though there were others with similar mileage online that were selling for nearly a thousand dollars less. Now for the Sienna LE. The Sienna was a Lexus/Camry/innocuous cocoon of a vehicle. It was a bit more quiet. The quality of the materials were generally better with the sole exception of the plastic panels on the door panels and seatbacks. The stereo was top notch and the panel gaps were a bit less noticeable. Overall, it lived up to Toyota's bulletproof reputation. We put it on Ebay after my wife found a silver Volvo S80 T6 that had been a dealer queen. The Sienna sold for $14,101. Now I can see the Sienna having maybe a $3500 premium in the used car market IF you strictly looked at the overall quality of the vehicle. The sheetmetal gives it a more upscale look versus the mildly facelifted Freestar. The dashboard and interior had been influenced by a modern day ES300 instead of an ages old Taurus-aurus. Oh, and that 3 to 4 mpg difference in gas mileage was pretty consistent across the board. All those positives less the 18k mileage difference, and you have about a $3000 premium. The Sienna with 96,000 miles sells for 14k. The Freestar with 18,000 fewer miles sells for 8k. A $6,000 difference for the type of vehicle that most buyers have absolutely no passion about. There are an awful lot of people out there who would rather pocket that difference and that gets me to the crux of the opportunity in today's marketplace. If Wee Willie Keeler had been in the car business instead of the baseball business, he would have probably said something in the lines of... "The smart car buyer is the one who buys em' where they (other customers) ain't." Think of all the short wheelbase Dodge Caravans that have spent their lives in rental fleets over the last two years. Think of the Freestars, the Galants, even that last generation Kia Optima with that four cylinder engine and no sunroof. The manufacturers built them to keep their fleet and rental customers (and the labor unions) happy. But today they're having to sit for months upon months in wholesale heaven. A place where cars only get cheaper and cheaper over the course of time. If you're looking for that killer deal, start there. Then consider whether you can replace the seats and stereo with nicer ones at an automotive parts database like car-part.com . Find out if that Kia or Dodge Caravan has an extended warranty that most buyers aren't even aware about. In today's market, you can get a vehicle with 80% of it's life left for only 40% of it's cost. Most non-enthusiasts would be better off buying an unpopular two to three year old car, replacing a few items on the cheap, and keeping it for the next ten years. In fact, that may actually be the perfect recipe for an enthusiast as well.

  • Ryan Knuckles Ryan Knuckles on Oct 22, 2007

    I have to agree with Johnny Canada. While I enjoy your take on the news, hearing you guys talk about your personal experience with cars is what interested me the most.

  • Starlightmica Starlightmica on Oct 22, 2007
    Steven Lang: I own one of those 04 Sienna LE's with the 8 passenger 2nd row bench seat. Being a clean-sheet design, it just simply did things better than the Freestar (or any other 04 van) - engine/powertrain, tumble forwards 2nd row seats with LATCH in all 3 positions, 3rd row width & comfort with split folding seat with 2 LATCH connectors, easily available curtain airbags/ESC/4 wheel discs, and more interior space. The outgoing Windstar's CR reliability report wasn't inspiring, either. We paid just over invoice, when Ford was piling on thousands on the Freestar. Not many frills on the LE, but not too many clams, either. Dot the i's, cross the t's, more resale.
  • BlueBrat BlueBrat on Oct 22, 2007

    2001 Shelby Cobra Mustang (with the hand-assembled engine) has a beautiful engine sound to it. It encourages speeding tickets.