Ask Jack: The MKT-Bone Shuffle?
Before we get down to the meat of this week’s question, a brief bit of housekeeping. If you have a question for “Ask Jack”, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will accept and privately answer questions on any topic, regardless of my qualifications to do so. Perhaps you would like to know how to catch the eye of that bored, fidgety, but remarkably attractive housewife down the street. Maybe you need to reshuffle Excel spreadsheets using Perl from a command line, or make a tattoo gun using only the items available in a Midwestern prison. I can help you with any of these queries and a million more. However, in keeping with the fundamental dignity of this website, only questions of an automotive nature will be answered here. No matter what the precise nature of your business might be, please title the email “Ask Jack”.
Now where we were? Oh yes: a fellow with the world’s best car is interested in trading it for the world’s ugliest crossover.
Our reader, dal20402, writes
As most of the B&B probably know, we have a leased Ford C-Max Energi (lease expiration April 2019) and a mint 2008 Lexus LS460 with 50,000 miles. The C-Max is my wife’s daily driver. I commute by bus or foot, so the LS460 sees action 1) on weekends, and 2) for road trips, of which we take several every year. We bought the LS460 when we had one young son and no expectation of more; our second son was, well, a happy surprise. Now the LS460, while being the best road-trip car imaginable from the front seat, is starting to feel cramped in back. Two giant car seats don’t leave a lot of room for gear or any for more passengers. (We often go to see family.)
The LS is in good shape for the long haul. I replaced all of the notorious front control arms with updated OEM parts, it has new-ish brake pads all around, and it’s sitting on a set of Continentals with about 6,000 miles on them. In short, it’s not a car I’d normally part with. But as the boys get bigger, it’s just going to be more and more awkward to take on trips, which is where it does 90 percent of its miles. It’s an issue that’s not going away. So I’ve been waffling over whether I should sell or trade the LS and get a car with more room inside.
My first choice is a 2013-15 Lincoln MKT EcoBoost. They’re ugly as sin, but they’re roomy, comfortable, surprisingly good to drive, and cheaper used than a Flex (thanks to the ugly). With the captain’s chairs, they’re hugely flexible and roomy inside. The LS is worth about $15,000 on trade, or maybe $18,000 on private party sale given that it has a bunch of rare options. I can find low-mile 2014 MKTs with captain’s chairs for about $30,000 in good shape. But the catch is that none — zero — of them are in the Pacific Northwest. We are MKT-proof up here. So I have to add shipping and the extra $1,500 or so in tax that results from not being able to trade the LS at a Washington dealer (which would allow me to pay sales tax only on the difference).
Do I: 1) just keep the LS and pack really, really efficiently; 2) bite the bullet and absorb the money/hassle to sell the LS and buy a MKT from elsewhere, or 3) do something else entirely?
Well, this is a pickle, ain’t it? ‘Cause on the one hand we have the world’s finest automobile, the Lexus LS460. If there is such a thing as a million-mile automobile being built today, the LS460 is surely it, even if it doesn’t quite measure up to the obsessive engineering standards of its illustrious predecessor — that iconic first Lexus LS/Toyota Celsior. I will confess that in my return email to Dal, I indicated a willingness to buy the LS460 from him at almost any reasonable price. It may not have the style of the S-Class, nor the gauche panache of the BMW Siebener, but it has a quiet dignity all its own, perhaps because its current owner base does not typically include the stretch-and-grasp social-striver type who will eagerly finance an S550 on credit-criminal terms just so they can be seen behind the wheel of the thing.
On the other hand, however, we have one of my all-time favorite vehicles: the MKT Ecoboost. This is the whale that carries the eternal mail, as the second mate of the Pequod once said. It’s hilariously, delightfully rapid, making quick work of freeway entrances and corner exits alike. The interior is a modern marvel of restrained yet evocative design. Every seat in the house is a good one. The sound system has depth and power. It is to be infinitely preferred to the sibling Flex and all other vehicles of its type, particularly if you can even begin to live with the looks. Now that the reliability of the Ford/GM transverse six-speed and the Ecoboost 3.5 in combination has been lightly validated by the ecumenical brush of Internet anecdotal history, it seems like a non-risky buy. Last but certainly not least, it’s a vehicle that scores very highly on all sorts of crash tests. This will only truly matter to you after you see your son’s feet scrunched back into his car seat by a peninsula of razor-sharp B-pillar, as happened to your not-always-humble author three years and three months ago.
It’s my understanding from reading his posts that Dal is a highly compensated individual who can likely survive the financial consequences of an enthusiastic decision, particularly if those consequences are in the four-figure range. If he doesn’t like the car, he can sell it to CarMax and eat the depreciation. If it breaks in a small way, as most complicated vehicles that are not Toyotas are known to do, it won’t be fatal. So instead of giving my usual lecture about how nobody really needs an SUV and how a full-size sedan is the proper answer to most questions, I shall instead recommend the purchase of a fully loaded MKT, without any reservation whatsoever, and this is how I’d play it:
I would buy one in a southern state. Then I’d take my kids across the country to get it, documenting the whole process. Let them see these amber waves of grain, et cetera. Sell the Lexus to someone who requires the security blanket of immortal construction. See the USA — in your Lincoln. What say you, B&B?
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- William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
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