Posts By: BarkM

By on October 30, 2019
As I look at all of the questions I’ve received via the Ask Bark inbox over the years, I find that a disproportionate number of them are on the topic of leasing. In all honesty, leasing isn’t that hard to understand. You’re paying the cost of depreciation over the time you use the car, plus interest. Of course, there are other factors involved, and one of those is what happens when a leased car is returned to the dealership. Our friend, Brian, a longtime TTAC reader, turned in his Buick Regal recently and was a little compuzzled (that’s a word my son made up, but I think it fits perfectly here) about what happened. Let’s read.
Hi Bark:
I had previously asked this to a certain Jalopnik car sales expert and got a bit of a glib, didn’t really read my question answer so I thought I would take another stab and reach out to an actual expert.
Back in May I turned in a leased 2016 Buick Regal GS (FWD – auto – black) and I got stuck with the $495 disposition fee. I took over the lease from someone else and I got a pretty darn good deal so I really can’t complain too much.
I took the car to several GM/Buick dealers toward the end of the term to see if they wanted to buy it. It was in good shape and it was almost 10k miles under the maximum. The residual was $19k and change plus taxes and fees. I knew I wasn’t going to make money on it, I really just wanted them to take it at residual and relieve me of the disposition fee obligation. The closest offer I got was $18k with most around $16k. One dealer told me they would pay the leasing company the residual themselves in order to keep it on the lot if they wanted to sell it.
Is this true? The dealership I turned it in to wouldn’t buy it from me but they kept it and sold it on their used lot. Did they actually pay the leasing company the residual to keep it and if so, why not buy it from me at the same price?
Can you enlighten me?
Thanks,
Brian
Can I? You bet I can.

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By on October 25, 2019
2018 Buick Regal TourX - Image: Buick
One of the great joys I’ve had over the last six years of writing for this site has been offering my advice (for what it’s worth) to the loyal readers of TTAC, the Best & Brightest. Nearly every person whose question I’ve answered has written to tell me that they appreciated what I’ve written in response to their advice, even if he or she didn’t follow it exactly. But today, I got an email from somebody who ended up feeling the sting from my words. Let’s hear from our friend Quincy and see if we can help him.
Hi Mark,
I was recently reading your article about the deals that could be had on left over inventory and I felt inspired to test the waters. My local Buick dealer in Metro Detroit had a 2018 Regal TourX Preferred in silver with a MSRP of $36k and I was happy to take it home for $23.5k before TTL. However, the honeymoon came to a screeching halt as I was introduced to the concept of lot rot. Back to the dealer for new brakes. To make a long story short, the driver’s front wheel came off during the technician’s new brake road test and moved in a generally northeast pattern towards the A-pillar. With only 444 miles, my car sits in the dealer’s back lot with a driver’s door impinged by a front fender. The only offer from the owner of the dealership is to let them repair the car in-house or they won’t cover the costs of the repairs. Do I really want the dealership that damaged the car to fix it? With no parts is sight (GM strike) and a damaged vehicle history, I’m finding the dealer’s offer leaves me less than satisfied. So what would you do in my shoes?
Thanks,
Quincy
Ugh. That sucks.

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By on October 18, 2019

Image: 2015 BMW M6 Coupe

Most people who write to me asking for car buying advice actually take it. That’s in stark contrast to what happens in the real world, where a friend will ask my opinion about a car in his search for confirmation bias. I’ve written about my frustration with this in the past, but just like politicians talking about social issues, I’ve evolved on this one. I now cheerfully offer roughly 5 percent of my attention to these requests and go about my day.

However, I do have one friend from the dayz of wayback who has asked for and actually taken my advice in a few cases — not so much on what car to buy, although I mildly influenced his Honda Pilot Elite selection a couple of years ago — but on the deals themselves. For the purposes of this conversation, we’ll call him Joe. I always knew Joe was a good guy back when we were in high school together, mostly because he had a part-time gig as a bagger at the same grocery store where my mom was secretly a second shift cashier. He could have used that as an opportunity to make fun of me for being poor, but he never did. So, yeah, good dude.

In additional to the aforementioned Pilot, Joe has a BMW Z4 for a fun, summer-focused whip. He’s enjoyed the little Bimmer, so naturally his eyes bugged out a bit when he saw a 2015 M6 Competition and Executive package with only 34k miles on the clock at a local dealership. For those who haven’t done a lot of M shopping lately, that’s a fairly difficult car to find. He pinged me on Zuck Chat and asked me to take a look.

Of course, none of the regular Bark readers will be surprised to know that everything about this deal reeked from the get-go.

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By on October 16, 2019

The dam on the Chevrolet Corvette C8 embargo broke in a big, big way yesterday, with Motor Trend shoving their story in their remaining readers’ inboxes around 5:30 am yesterday. Everybody else who had early access to the car (Road & Track, Car and Driver, The Digital Publication Formerly Known As Autoweek, etc.) quickly followed suit, and by the end of the day you had all the Corvette news you could handle splayed all over the internet like Hope Solo. Don’t search that at work.

There were some good takes on the C8, including this excellent lap of Thunderhill by FOB (Friend of Bark) Travis Okulski. But then there was a very, very bad one by Car and Driver, entitled Race Track Hot Throwdown Of All Throwdowns: The C8 Tells The C7 To Step Outside! Okay, it wasn’t actually called that, but it may as well as been. The idea was to compare the C8 Corvette Z51 againsta C7 Corvette Z51 on a racing surface and see which one was faster.

I’ll save you the click and let you know that C/D discovered that the C8 could lap Grattan Raceway in 1:26.1, while the best the C7 could muster was a 1:27.0. The C8 was faster! All hail the new mid-engined Playskool disaster!

Except, of course, they’re wrong. Here’s why.

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By on October 3, 2019

Jesus!” 

The poor server at the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible launch had just dumped an entire tray of backwash onto her chest, thanks to the raucous, deafening, unholy rumble of the C8.R Corvette that had been started and revved up nearly fifty feet away from her. I stifled my laugh and reassured her from my nearby hi-top table.

“Don’t worry,” I said to her as she stood there shaking with a combination of laughter and disgust. “I don’t think anybody else saw that.”

If you want to read all about how great the new Corvette Stingray Convertible is, I encourage you to go to your web browser and read any one of the literally hundreds of stories that were posted the instant the embargo dropped last night. There, you will be able to read all about the nearly 500 horsepower and the 3-second zero-to-60 times and the 16-second-folding-hardtop and the $67,499 price tag, plus you’ll be able to see some very flattering photos of an orange Vette that have been photoshopped within a pixel of their lives. I was doing “Triometrics” at the hotel while everybody else was breathlessly regurgitating the stats, so I apologize that you’re only getting this vital information this morning instead of last night.

But, if you want to read about how the Corvette Stingray Convertible is the ugliest, most Playskool looking car I’ve ever seen in person, plus some stuff about how the C8.R shows us how terribly executed the coupe/convertible is, stick around and click the jump.

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By on September 30, 2019

2013 Ford Flex

Seven years ago today, I bought a 2013 Mineral Gray Ford Flex SE. It wasn’t the ideal combination of options, nor was it the most desirable color — I would have preferred something in a Blue or Red, but Flex inventory was pretty limited, and Ford was offering some sort of quarterly promotion on in-stock inventory that was expiring that same day, so Mineral Gray SE it was.

180,000 miles later, it’s still in service as the family hauler. It’s taken thousand-mile-plus trips to places like Orlando, Minnesota, Kansas, and Iowa every summer, loaded to the gills with suitcases and sleeping bags. It’s endured through dozens of fruit punch spills and had hundreds of Cheerios trampled into its carpets. It even took a 40 mph hit to the rear subframe at a dead stop, and the precious occupants inside, my two young children, suffered nothing except a cup of spilled chocolate milk (which the interior also suffered, with a smell that took multiple cleanings to exorcise).

It started making a weird whirring sound in the dash a few years ago, but when the Ford tech said it would cost a few hundred bucks to fix, we simply got used to it. The “Check Fuel Filler Inlet” warning comes on every so often, as it does with all Fords of this era with capless fuel fillers, but I just clean it out and wait for the CEL to clear. It has consumed six sets of tires, but only two sets of brake pads — and it’s on the original shocks. I nearly knocked myself out with the tailgate once, thanks to the lack of a push-button feature, but honestly, I deserved it.

In other words, the Flex, long since paid off, continues to do exactly what I bought it to do all those years ago — transport my family with relative ease and comfort. I confess that I enjoy not having that $500-a-month payment anymore, and I fully expect to drive it another 2-3 years without issue (knock on wood). But if I did want to replace it, I’d have trouble doing so, because Ford won’t be making it after the 2019 model-year run expires. And that’s kind of a shame, because there’s nothing else like it.

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By on September 24, 2019

I can tell by the falling leaves and temperatures in the air surrounding My Old Kentucky Home that the season is here. No, not autumn. Not soccer season or even football season, which are already in full swing. No, it’s the season for the tried-and-true clickfest that is known as the Comparison Test. My friends at Road & Track are doing their Performance Car of the Year test out in California this week. Car & Driver should be doing Lightning Lap any day now at Virginia International Raceway. I’m sure Motor Trend does something similar, but I haven’t read a word of their writing in decades, even before that whole Apple Car nonsense.

The whole idea of the comparison test probably originated right around the time the second car was made — after all, it’s human nature to want to know what the best anything is. For as long as anyone can remember, the Camaro has been telling the Mustang to step outside, the 3 Series and the C Class have been toe to toe, and the 911 and the Corvette have been entering the ring. And if comparing 2 or 3 cars is good, then comparing 10 cars? Well, that’s obviously even better. Hence the mega-comparisons. Not only for performance cars, but for SUVs, too.

When I was younger, I eagerly awaited the results of such tests, treating them as virtual gospel. And over the seven plus years that I’ve been a contributor here, I’ve noticed that many of you do, as well. Any time that I’ve written a review of a car, some commenter will invariably say, “Yeah, well C&D ranked the Maibatsu Monstrosity best in their Midsized SUV Shootout, so your observations are obviously wrong, even though you just spent an entire week in one that wasn’t meticulously prepped by factory techs and accompanied by an on-site mechanic for the duration of the test!”

Well, I’m here to declare an end to all of it. The super comparison test needs to go away. Here’s why.

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By on September 19, 2019

Full disclosure time: For those who are new around here, I worked at Cox Automotive for a little over four years as a sales trainer in the Media Sales division. In that role, I was (very) peripherally aware of some of the company’s strategic decisions, as the Sales Strategy team was also part of my larger department, but I didn’t have any influence or advance knowledge of them. (This is a boilerplate statement for when my old friends at Cox decide I’m in violation of my employment termination agreement by writing this.)

When I first started at Cox (before they even called it “Cox Automotive,” it was just Autotrader.com then), the company was a fat cat, to say the least. I remember when one of our leadership team members declared that we had sold $1.2 billion of revenue in a year, and that over $700 million of it was pure profit. I remember when we drastically overpaid for Dealer.com and Dealertrack at a whopping $4 billion dollar pricetag, just because we had the cash laying around and we were going to get heavily taxed on it if we didn’t spend it on something.

Of course, everything has an expiration date, and the third-party automotive classified business was no exception. Around 2016 or so, consumers started using this new thing called “Google” to search for cars on the internet, dealers stopped writing five-figure checks for classified ads every month without even asking why, and sales reps learned that they aren’t actually worth $250,000 a year for just “checking in” on dealers. Their  strategy of diversification, with the purchases of companies like Kelley Blue Book, vAuto, and VinSolutions turned out to have been a smart move, as some of their competitors like Cars.com were stuck holding the note on a company that literally nobody wants. Ouch.

So when I read that Cox Automotive had invested $350 million into Rivian last week, my initial thoughts were, “Oh, there goes Cox burning some more cash,” and I mostly went about my day. However, a week later, I’m beginning to see that there are more wheels in motion than anybody on the outside realizes — and they will have a significant impact on the automotive marketplace in the years to come.

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By on July 26, 2019

2018 Buick Regal TourX

When it comes to getting a deal on a new car, I’ve definitely been at both ends of the spectrum. I’ve paid MSRP for cars that were selling well above (see: Boss 302, Focus RS), and I’ve negotiated like crazy to save thousands below sticker, too. But my best deal I ever got was on a 2004 Mazda RX-8 that was still on the lot in June 2005. I ultimately paid $23,000 for a car that had an original MSRP of $31,500.

It wasn’t easy.

It took visits to three different dealerships, multiple return visits to the dealership where I actually purchased the car, and some, er, creative paperwork on the part of the dealer to get the deal through financing (I signed up for a LOT of credit cards on Ohio State’s campus when I was a student. Don’t judge me, they were giving away 2-liters of soda). All in all, it took about three weeks to get the Sunlight Silver RX-8 touring to its permanent home in my apartment complex’s garage.

But if you really want to steal a car, buying the previous model year is always a great way to get an initial win, especially if you plan to keep the car past the majority of its depreciation curve. Today’s Ask Bark deal’s with just such a scenario, but will our shopper be able to find the deal he wants? Click the jump to find out.

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By on July 19, 2019

Shopping cart full of cash money bills, Image: urfingus/Bigstock

When I was in high school, many moons ago, I had to recreate an historical debate in front of the class as part of a project for my American History class. I was assigned to take a “pro” position on the Three-Fifths Compromise (I don’t imagine that these sorts of things happen much in high school today). My opponent in the debate was a young lady who was, shall we say, a little different. She didn’t have many friends, she was socially awkward, and I’m not entirely sure that I’d ever actually heard her speak before.

We picked numbers out of a hat to see which one of us would go first, and she won. Right from the beginning, it was evident that things weren’t going to go well. She starting mumbling, inaudibly repeating the same thing over and over. Our teacher, a kind, and gentle man, asked her to speak just a little bit louder.

“Three fourths of a person, that’s all they were. Three fourths of a person!” And then she broke into hysterics and ran out of the room. The teacher sprinted out the door after her, returning after a few moments.

“Now, everybody,” he began, “Mary (not her real name) is our friend. When she comes back in the room, I ask each of you to treat her as our friend.” Let’s be honest. She wasn’t our friend. But in that moment, thanks to a kind word from our teacher, we did our best to treat her as one.

Here at Ask Bark, we get a lot of emails. As the curator of said emails, I do my best to answer all of them personally, even if I can’t dedicate precious ones and zeroes to them in this space. Some of them just aren’t interesting enough for me to dedicate an entire column to answering — it’s often as simple as “Don’t go to that dealer if they’re pulling that garbage on you,” or, “No, it’s never a good idea to spend all of your money on a used German car that’s out of warranty.” Stuff like that.

But every so often, I get an email that both excites and terrifies me, because I know that there is sufficient content within for a good column, but will also likely expose the writer of the correspondence to the combined vitriol of TTAC’s Best & Brightest. Today is such a day. So, everybody, Tom is our friend. After you’ve read his email, I ask each of you to treat him as our friend.

Here we go.

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By on June 28, 2019

2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Camo

When it comes to buying new cars, I don’t have much patience. When I bought my Focus RS in 2016, I spent less than an hour doing the whole deal, including actually deciding what car I wanted to buy. Got a blank check approval from my bank, spitballed some ideas with my older brother and my good friend Bozi, and then put down a deposit on a car at a dealership about a thousand miles away. But there was one time when I tried to have patience, and was sorely disappointed.

Eleven years ago, I put down a $5,000 deposit and placed an order for a BMW 135i with my local BMW dealer. It was the launch year for the ill-fated 1 Series in the states, and I wanted to have one of the very first Ones to hit our shores. I ordered a very stripped down version — black, stick shift, cloth seats, no roof. After about 12 weeks, the dealer called to let me know that my car had arrived. Well, a car had arrived… but certainly not mine.

This example was an automatic. But that wasn’t the only thing they got wrong. They added somewhere in the neighborhood of $5k to the sticker, including nearly every option, even a red leather interior. Imagine my disappointment and frustration with the dealer, who had recycled sales people a couple of times since my order and couldn’t seem to track down anything about it, not even the original order sheet.

I asked for my money back, which they reluctantly gave me, and I ended up buying a Pontiac G8 GT instead — not a bad trade. But not everybody who goes through the ordering process is so fortunate. Click the jump for a question from our friend Andy about his experience in ordering his own custom German whip.

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By on June 21, 2019

If there’s one thing I loved about spending time in the offices of General Managers and dealership principals, it was hearing about the harebrained schemes they had to bring customers into the dealership. GMs see an average of 80 or more vendors every single month — there’s always a new piece of software, a new way to buy inventory, even a new way to wash the windows. Invariably, due to some combination of pressure to meet unrealistic sales goals and the attractiveness of the sales rep, managers would fall for something that would make me shake my rather large head in disbelief.

The tough part was always maintaining a straight face when they told me about their plans. One of my fondest memories was listening to a GM explain that he had canceled all of his third party advertisers and ordered two Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tubemen. I wasn’t entirely surprised to see that the store was out of business 90 days later.

But one of my all-time, tried and true favorites is the “gypsy sale.” Click the jump to see our friend Greg’s question about these direct mail pieces and whether or not they actually work. (Read More…)

By on June 14, 2019

Allow me to take you on a trip in the Wayback Machine for a moment. The year was 2001, and a 23-year-old Bark (that’s me) had just gotten a job as a Kiosk Sales Representative for Verizon Wireless. My first month, my sales quota was 55 new phone activations — I ended up selling over […]

By on June 7, 2019

“I’ll tell you something.”

Normally this sort of phrase is followed by, well, something. But the grizzled old dealership veteran seated across the desk from me seemed to be sizing me up a bit, seeing if I was worth the time it would take for him to dispense some of his six decades’ worth of wisdom. After a deep sigh, he must have decided that I was, because he continued.

“This is the worst business. The absolute worst. I invest $30,000 to make $500 — if I’m lucky. Even Vegas would give me those odds. If I had any sense at all, I’d liquidate every car on the damned lot and put all of my money in the stock market. If I had done that at the beginning up the year, I’d be up a couple of hundred grand right now.”

I sensed that I was supposed to say nothing. So I did just that, silently encouraging him to continue.

He noticed my obedience and nodded gently. “Of course, I’d never do anything of the sort. I was born into it, you know. I’m a little bit older than most people think. My father opened the first of the Japanese stores here in (undisclosed state). Then he opened another one. I opened the first Korean store. And now look at me — master of all I survey, owner of ten points.

“As much as I want to get out the business — as much as I wish Daddy had never even thought about buying a car lot — I can’t. But you, young man, you should get out now. I mean now.”

It only took me about seven more years to follow his advice. I am officially out of the car business — kinda. I still have clients who have automotive clients. But I don’t directly sell to car dealerships anymore, which is why I have no problem pulling back the curtain in answering this next question from our friend and reader, Bart.

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By on May 31, 2019

Ford Fiesta ST and Ford Focus RS in Bark's driveway, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

Yes, dear readers, I’ve missed you. More importantly, I’ve missed your questions and the opportunity to provide my occasionally helpful feedback. So we’re rebooting the “Ask Bark” column, which will run approximately as often as I have time to write it (hopefully 3-4 times per month). But I’m going to be doing things a little differently than we were doing them before.

While I’m still happy to answer your “What Car Should I Buy” questions (which is, coincidentally, the name of a series on a competing site that is probably in no way, shape, or form a ripoff of the original “Ask Bark”), I also want to answer more of your “how do dealerships work” questions. A recent job change has moved me outside of the world of directly selling advertising to dealerships, so I no longer feel that I have any conflict in revealing all of my dirty little secrets to you, the people. So if you’ve ever wondered exactly how a foursquare works, or why you never seem to be able to get KBB Excellent for your trade-in, or anything like that, shoot your questions to [email protected]

And if you’re a recent TTAC convert, you’ll get the idea after reading today’s question, which comes to us from long-time reader and commenter, Sobro. Click the jump and let’s get to it.

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