Category: Bark’s Bites

By on January 25, 2019

Image: GM

It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.”

— Dr. Suess, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

2019 Chevrolet Blazers are available for purchase at dealership near you. No, really, they are. Like, right this second. You could buy one. Some people already have. This is interesting because it’s pretty much impossible to find a review of one anywhere on the internet. A search for “Chevrolet Blazer Reviews” brings you to some news of the initial auto show reveal, and that’s about it.

To you, the TTAC reader and automotive enthusiast, this news probably doesn’t rock you to your core. But there’s a group of people that are wringing their hands nervously about this product launch.

The journosaurs.

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By on December 31, 2018

Image: JRE/YouTube2018 was pretty lit, am I right? Let’s recap some highlights:

In fact, this has probably been the craziest post-bailout year yet. Since TTAC was one of the first blogs to predict the General Motors bankruptcy, I thought I might honor that tradition by taking this New Year’s Eve opportunity to predict how events that unfolded over the past 12 months will affect the way we buy and drive cars for the foreseeable future. Click the jump and see if you think I’m right.

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By on December 28, 2018

As all loyal Bark fans know (Hi Mom), I travel extensively for the ol’ day job. Thanks to Uber and Lyft, I don’t always have to rent a car when I’m on the road, but most of the time it’s actually cheaper to rent a car for $35 a day than it is to use ridesharing services, not to mention to increased convenience and saved time. Plus, I’m a firm believer in job creation, and somebody needs to keep those valets at the hotels employed.

In 2018, I used National’s Emerald Aisle Executive services 21 times, which is a bit low compared to my average over the last 10 years. Nevertheless, let’s see what I can remember about all of my rental rides that I borrowed this year, and then I’ll make some sweeping generalizations that are sure to offend many of you. Go!

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By on December 3, 2018

Image: 2017 Dodge Journey SE, via FCA

Automotive Twitter really is the worst Twitter, for many reasons. First of all, it’s not very “automotive.” With the exception of our dear friend, Bozi Tatarevic, who is a must-follow for his encyclopedic knowledge and Holmesian sleuthing skills, nearly every other autowriter on Twitter views the platform as an opportunity to share the wonkiest political views possible. When they aren’t doing that, they’re all sipping from the same “I am an expert on financial matters but I also dress like a flood victim” Kool-Aid, chanting the same mantra over and over.

Last week was particularly objectionable, what with the GM decision to mostly abandon passenger cars in favor of light and heavy trucks. “People are buying the wrong cars!” they shout to their literally dozens of followers. “Crossover bad! Car good!” they shriek, neglecting to share with you that nearly all of them are childless and nary a one of them has ever tried to fit a collapsing stroller, a diaper bag, and a breast pump into the trunk of a Miata. One particularly stupid individual compared the nation’s overwhelming preference for crossovers to its preference for superhero movies over art films. Sigh.

It takes roughly three functioning brain cells to understand that crossovers are a better fit for the majority of flyover country than small cars are. Of course, once you understand that the majority of the major digital automotive press in this country is based in New York, then it’s not hard to understand that they can’t see outside of their bubbles. You certainly don’t need something like a Chevy Traverse if you are a childless man with a domestic partner who lives in a third-floor Brooklyn walkup with no available parking. But when you live in suburban Indiana with your three kids, all of whom have multiple after school activities, well, crossovers make a little more sense. And since childless couples in NY don’t buy cars and soccer moms in Indiana do, well, it only makes sense that the General is gonna listen to Jennifer from Carmel.

I, however, tend to think that there is an even more sinister goal behind the switch from cars to crossovers. I think it’s to prepare people for the (possibly never) upcoming switch to self-driving cars. Allow me to elaborate.

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By on October 18, 2018

For those of you who haven’t been to the press days of one of the major American auto shows (Detroit, New York, Chicago, LA), I’ll briefly describe what they are like: many, many parties, a lot of free alcohol, and very little to do with cars. I mean, yeah, there are some cars present, but nobody really looks at them or talks about them. All the press materials are sent in advance so that websites (like this one) can publish their stories en masse as soon as whatever artificial embargo is in place expires. The cars don’t really even need to be there. I enjoy going to the New York International Auto Show for one reason — it’s in New York. If you put it in Peoria, Bark ain’t going.

Local auto shows, however, serve a completely different purpose. The idea of the local auto show in your town is that it allows you to see all of the cars you might be considering for purchase in one place. Or, if you’re a car geek, you can just go look at all of the stuff that you normally would have to have a lot more money to be allowed to look at in person. When I was growing up in Columbus, Ohio, I eagerly anticipated the auto show every year. I remember my dad begrudgingly taking me to the show, just so I could walk around Veterans Memorial Auditorium and see things like the Chevrolet Citation Coupe Concept and maybe even sit in a Trans Am for a few seconds before the Pontiac booth guy kicked me out.

So it was with that same sense of excitement that I went to the Miami International Auto Show last week. It was the first time in over a decade that I had the chance to go to a car show as a member of the general public — no name badge around my neck, no glad-handing PR reps, no hordes of automotive “journalists” obstructing my view of the cars with their ridiculous camera rigs. It was going to be an opportunity to see cars, man.

An hour later, I left the massive Miami Beach Convention Center feeling more sad than anything else. The local car show, as I knew it, appears to be dead.

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By on July 31, 2018

There are two things that all men think they’re good at: sex and driving. While I won’t make any comment on the former, I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that most of you are really bad at driving. Sure, if you consider going back and forth to the grocery store and back without too much trouble, or putting the accelerator pedal to the floor and making very loud noises “driving,” then you’re probably okay. But any sort of combination of braking, turning, hitting apexes, tracking out, transferring weight, heel-toe shifting… yeah, you’re not good at that.

But before you get all mad at me and rush to the comments to make remarks about my mother — relax. Nobody is naturally great at performance driving. It’s a learned skill, just like anything in life. And while many of us might be hesitant to take a daily driver that’s currently on its 14th of 60 payments to the track, there is likely a place near you where you can learn some of the basics of enthusiastic piloting in a safe and friendly environment. Chances are that your local Sports Car Club of America region has an Autocross School with hotshoes who are ready to sit in your passenger seat to help you improve.

My local region, the Central Kentucky Region, hosted just such a school a few weeks ago, and I enthusiastically offered to be one of the coaches.

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By on July 24, 2018

2018 Chevrolet Silverado Centennial Edition

In these United States of America, there is one vehicle that is the undisputed heavyweight champion: the Ford F-Series truck. If you came to TTAC today looking for groundbreaking news, well, this ain’t it. The F-Series has been the best selling vehicle in America for roughly 167 years. I’m relatively certain that Lee Harvey Oswald escaped from the Washington Hilton in an F-150 crew cab when he shot Lincoln. (If you’re a history buff, you just threw something at your computer screen.)

Except that there’s one area of the country where that isn’t true at all. In fact, in this hugely popular and wildly growing area, the F-150 doesn’t even crack the top ten. The Volkswagen Jetta outsells the F-150 in this burg. True story.

Of course, that’s bad news for the Ford brand as a whole in this town, because if you aren’t selling F-150s, you aren’t selling Fords. As a result, in this metro area, Ford is outsold by Toyota, Chevrolet, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, and Lexus. Yes, I said Lexus.

You wanna know the name of this town? It’s Miami. Although you might think of Miami as an urban city where trucks are rare, in reality, Miami-Dade includes a significant amount of farmland and swamp country. And you know who doesn’t have a problem selling trucks in Miami-Dade? Chevrolet. The Silverado is solidly in the top models sold when it comes to Miami-Dade county registrations for the last 12 months and Ford shoppers, as a whole, are only 3 percent more likely to live in a suburban area than the average auto shopper.

And in an America that is increasingly looking a lot more like Miami, that could mean real trouble for the boys in Dearborn.

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By on June 29, 2018

2018 Buick Encore

Welcome back to Buick Death Watch! It’s been a long time; we shouldn’t have left you without a strong tale of sales woe to complain about. And just like the Jesus of the New Testament, we’re going to start our tale with a parable.

Once there was a young woman from a faraway land in the south, and she wanted to buy her very first car. She drove cars from lands far and wide, including the Orient and the Land of Cortez. When she drove the Tiny Crossover of Three Shields, she found it to be the best of them all, for it was cloaked in leather and CarPlay, and its motor held the charge of turbines within its soul.

But the moneychangers in the Temple of Finance were not pure of heart. They offered her many baubles, and some of them were tricks of the devil himself — rebates for students of the Word of False Prophets, owners of cars from other lands, and more. The young woman did not qualify for any of these, but the moneychangers were devious, and they promised them to her anyway. And, lo, they delivered, giving her a total of $6,250 in rebates, but only if she would sign the parchment by the second day of the fourth moon. Thus, the woman drove away in the crossover, relinquishing nothing but $200 a month for the next three harvests.

Click the jump and I’ll tell you why all of this means Buick is hosed.

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By on June 22, 2018

car buying

It’s happened to all of us, right? You’re reading a review on a website like TheTruthAboutCars.com, and then you decide to go browsing for some cars online at a dealer’s website, perhaps casually looking for a weekend toy or a new family hauler. Since you’re like most car shoppers, 95 percent of whom don’t take action the first time they visit a car dealer’s website, you leave the site and go about your day on the internet.

But when you go to ESPN.com to check the latest World Cup results (Viva Colombia!), there’s an ad for that same car you were just looking at. Whoa, that’s a little creepy, right? And then, the next day, you get an email from another dealership — you never even went to that website! How did they get your information?

Car dealers are getting more sophisticated than ever when trying to get your attention online. Luckily, your old friend Bark is here to tell you how they do it.

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By on May 11, 2018

Tony Horton, the creator and lead trainer for the P90X series, has a frequent saying about not letting your ego get in the way of your success. Don’t use 25-pound dumbbells for an exercise when you really need to use 15s, etc. It can be tough, especially at the beginning (when you’re not terribly strong yet), and you’re using weights that look more like they belong in a Richard Simmons workout than a P90X workout, but it’s the only way to build up enough strength and get the results you want.

About five weeks ago, I realized that I was terribly out of shape. Well, that’s not really true. I had known that I was out of shape for much longer than that, but I hadn’t actually done anything about it. With the traveling for business and the parenting and the soccer coaching and the socializing, I had taken my concerns about my physical fitness and placed them in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard.”

So it wasn’t until five weeks ago that I decided to take action and throw the old P90X3 discs back in the Blu-ray player and get my ass moving. Good news is that I’m down double digits in weight, my resting heart rate is down about 11 beats a minute, and I’m on the path back to being physically fit again. This is, of course, completely uninteresting to you, but there’s a point coming up here in a second.

I drove my loaner Lotus Evora 400 down to Atlanta Motorsports Park for an SCCA “Track Night in America” this week, and I’ll have a full write-up of whether or not it’s a good idea to drive 700 miles in one day for a track session next week, as well as the rest of my impressions of the car. However, today I want to talk about what I saw in the Intermediate session. It wasn’t good.

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By on April 27, 2018

ford focus rs

Unfortunately, I knew this whole Ford “kill all the cars” was coming a few weeks ago. While visiting a dealer, I had a conversation with a regional Ford rep who told me the company’s plan was “Mustang, Focus Active, and Trucks, Baby!” for 2020 and beyond. So it’s easy for me to say I saw it coming, but, more importantly, I can also say that I knew why it was coming.

It’s not Mark Fields’ fault. It’s not even Jim Hackett’s fault, really. Do I think he’s the second coming? No. Do I think he’s going to run the company into the ground? Of course not.

No, at the end of the day, the only person that can be held responsible for the death of Ford’s passenger cars is You. Not me. You.

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By on April 12, 2018

“See that sign over there?” The weathered, weary general manager of the dealer I was visiting that day pointed in the direction of a shiny, silver and red beacon with the word “FIAT” in bold capital letters. He spat the still-burning cigarette out of his mouth and stomped on it in disgust. “Cost me $27,000. They gave me the franchise for free, but they made me pay for that damn sign.”

“How many Fiats have you sold since you put it up?” The exasperated look he shot me after I asked that question told me that perhaps I shouldn’t have ventured into that territory.

One. One freaking car. I’d have to sell about 40 of the damn things just to pay for the sign, much less make any money.” He gestured toward the line of Fiat 500Xs that were crowding his lot. “You wanna take a couple with ya? I’ll make you a hell of a deal.”

Even though I’m actually rather fond of the little crossover, I’m not fond enough to actually buy one. Apparently, nobody else is either. And that’s a problem for FCA dealers.

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By on April 5, 2018

Earlier this week, I found myself behind the wheel of a Hyundai Kona SE, doing some test driving on behalf of a dear friend of mine who recently acquired her license and had yet to acquire the accompanying insurance.

“This car feels like despair,” I said to her as we rumbled harshly over some bumps in the urban streets of Miami. Everywhere I looked, I found reasons to be depressed. The steering wheel was of the most severe and slippery plastic material. When I pressed the accelerator, there was a ghastly noise accompanied by a complete lack of actual forward motion. The stereo was of such poor quality that I just turned it off. “No me gusta.”

The salesperson in the backseat was not pleased with my reaction to the car. “Well, you know, this is the base model. I could show you an Ultimate model if you want some more features. It has the better motor, a nicer steering wheel, more speakers. Of course, we only have one of those in stock.”

And therein lies the problem with most modern car reviews, including ones that I’ve personally written. The cars the OEMs have the automotive press reviewing are not the cars the dealers are stocking, and they definitely are not the cars people are buying.

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By on March 30, 2018

It seems like only last year that the star of the New York International Auto Show was an 840 horsepower, zero you-know-whats-given, single-seated rocketship that did a 9 second 1/4 mile and literally lit things on fire. That’s probably because it was last year. This year, I found myself enthralled by … an in-car audio system.

That’s right — the very best part of the 2018 NYIAS was enjoying Art Pepper and Bonnie Raitt on the ELS surround sound system in the Acura RDX A-Spec (no kidding, it’s freakin’ amazing and it’s worth buying the RDX just because of it).

Yes, there was a yellow Porsche thing and there was a very Lamborghini Orange Corvette, but there was little else for this journosaur to get excited about other than the fact Honda ordered some extra wine for their social hour (see pic at the top, featuring my security detail: our own Bozi Tatarevic), due in no small part to the fact that I drank six glasses of red wine all by myself in less than 60 minutes.

So rather than do what every other autoblog on the planet does, I’m not gonna give you my greatest hits of the auto show. Rather, I’m going to tell you what should have premiered on this year’s show circuit.

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By on March 15, 2018

honda s2000 cr

My friends, I spoke to you last week about the dangers of freedom-hating wackadoodles who want to take away your right to own and drive your own car. Some of you agreed with me, others didn’t. Such is the nature of an op-ed. I was pleased to see that only a couple of you tried to no-platform me — either I’m getting less offensive in my old age or you’re getting more tolerant, and both of those are good things.

But today I am here to warn you of a more subtle threat to your driving-related joy, and it’s coming from a rather unsuspected source — the very manufacturers of the cars we love so much. Well, no, that’s not exactly right. It’s actually coming from you. The economic factors presented by the buying behavior of the general public are eventually going to make it impossible for automakers to deliver the cars that enthusiasts want to buy.

I’m not just talking about silly “Save the Manuals” nonsense. I’m talking about being able to buy a lightweight car. I’m talking about buying a car that will allow you to get yourself into trouble without kicking in the traction control. They won’t be dead — at least, not yet. But there’s no denying that cheap, fun cars are very, very close to being a thing of the past.

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