Ask Jack: Lex Loofa?

“We buy year… then we buy mileage… then we buy condition.” That was a favorite axiom of the used-car appraiser at my old Ford dealership. What he meant was this: In the first few years of a car’s life, people will pay more money if it’s a bit newer than a similar model sitting right next to it. Once it’s about five years old, the conversation switches to mileage: you’d rather have a 2012 ECTO-300def with 75,000 miles than a 2014 model with 105,000.

Usually by the time a car reaches the decade mark, and certainly by the fifteenth anniversary, it’s all about condition, condition, condition. Are you in the market for an Eighties Porsche? Condition is king. Are you limited by fate and circumstance to something like a 2005 Ford Focus? Then it’s doubly true.

Which leads us to today’s episode of Ask Jack, in which the person doing the asking is… uh… me.

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Guard Your Grille: It's the End of the Road for Fake Luxury

Ding dong, fake luxury is dead. I should be more specific — I don’t mean Fake Luxury in the Caddy-Calais-vs-Ninety-Eight-Regency sense. I mean just plain old fake luxury. You know what fake luxury is. Invicta watches, Michael Kors suits, everything you could possibly buy at the Pottery Barn or in most American malls. Mass-produced sweatshop junk gilded and pimped for the administrative assistant nervously considering how to spend a $250 Christmas bonus.

Real luxury is on a roll everywhere from Savile Row to Maranello, swept away on a wave of Gilded Age cash and the ever-increasing leverage power of capital, but fake luxury is in a tailspin. Patek and Vacheron will thrive, Rolex will hold steady, Breitling will collapse. Airlines are feverishly revamping their widebodies into “super-high-J” configurations, replacing rows of packed prole seats with sleeper beds and sliding-door suites. It’s a good time to be a private jet pilot, a good time to be an UberPool driver, hell on earth to be anything in between.

Two weeks ago I told you about the Chinese Volvo S90, the Volvo S90 that is built in China. It’s the equivalent of a department store suit “designed in Sweden” but constructed by the lowest bidder. I told readers on my site that the market would adjust for this, that the price of Chinese Volvos would quickly drop into the basement while Swedish Volvos stayed strong.

I was right, young Skywalker… about a great many things.

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Alfa Romeo Giulia Sales Jumped yet Again in July 2017

Critics love the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

And they hate it.

American luxury car buyers, however, are increasingly interested. The Alfa Romeo Giulia lineup has been available since the tail end of 2016. And every month, right through the spring and into the summer, stories of breakdowns and limp-home modes and on-track failures had no apparent impact on increased demand.

July 2017 was the Alfa Romeo Giulia’s best month on the U.S. market to date.

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The Mercedes-Benz GLA's Arrival Isn't Slowing Down The Mercedes-Benz CLA: U.S. 2015 Q1 Sales

As Mercedes-Benz USA levels off with slightly less than 2000 GLA SUV/crossover/hatchback/whatever-it-is sales per month, U.S. sales of the GLA’s sedan donor vehicle, the CLA, haven’t slowed at all.

In other words, the GLA’s presence in Mercedes-Benz showrooms is not a deterrent to the CLA.

Yes, America, buyers continue to flock to the sedan even though there’s a crossover version of that sedan available. Believe it.

Granted, the CLA isn’t selling like it did during its launch period. Anticipated and hyped, the CLA generated 8518 U.S. sales in its first full two months, October and November 2013.

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Mercedes-Benz CLA And Audi A3 Are Selling At An Identical Pace In The U.S.

The Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class and Audi A3 attained almost identical levels of popularity in the United States in 2014.

True, Mercedes-Benz sold 27,365 CLAs over the last twelve months; Audi sold only 22,250 A3s during that period. That’s 23% more CLA sales than A3 sales.

• GLA arrival didn’t slow down CLA

• A3 and CLA increasingly popular, but not yet top sellers

But you’ll remember that the CLA arrived at the end of 2013’s third-quarter. The A3 sedan, a replacement for the A3 hatch which never sold as often as this new car, began trickling into dealers in February of this year but wasn’t readily available until April.

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May Sales Analysis: "Premium" and Large Family Sedans
Ah, segment analysis. Each automaker has its own product strategy, and none of them are designed to make apples-to-apples comparisons easy. So we’ve lu…
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Buick Regal Announced

The American version of a Chinese rebadge of a German sedan to be built in Canada will be available at your local Buick dealer starting in the second quarter of next year. According to GM’s presser, the new Regal will initially be offered with the direct-injected 2.4 Ecotec, making 182 hp. Which, you gotta say, doesn’t sound like luxury-level motivation for a 3,600 lb car. A 2.0 turbocharged version with 220 horsepower will be offered later next summer. There will be no manual transmission option (both get 6-speed autos), and in a weird turn towards the Acura side of life, only one trim level (CXL) will be available. Accordingly, the 2009 Acura TSX and Volvo S60 are shown as competitors, although the 2.4l Buick comes up short of both in standard horsepower and rear headroom. In the real world though, GM picked some pretty safe competition: the S60 sold under 9,000 units in 2008 while the TSX sold just under 32,000 units. The Regal competition that Buick should really be worried about is its slightly-larger, more-optionable Epsilon II platform-mate, the LaCrosse.

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  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
  • Rover Sig "Value" is what people perceive as its worth. What is the worth or value of an EV somebody creates out of a used car? People value different things, but for a vehicle, people generally ascribe worth in terms of reliability, maintainability, safety, appearance and style, utility (payload, range, etc.), convenience, operating cost, projected life, support network, etc. "Value for money" means how much worth would people think it had compared to competing vehicles on the market, in other words, would it be a good deal to buy one, compared to other vehicles one could get? Consider what price you would have to ask for it, including the parts and labor you put into it, because that would affect the “for the money” part of the “value for money” calculation. An indicator of whether people think an EV-built-in-a-used-car would provide "value for money" is the current level of demand for used cars turned into EVs. Are there a lot of people looking for these on the market? Or would building one just be a hobby? Repairing an existing EV, bringing it back into spec, might create better value for the money. Although demand for EVs is reportedly down recently.
  • ToolGuy Those of you who aren't listening to the TTAC Podcast, you really don't know what you are missing.