We’ve been often accused of hiring bad writers here at TTAC — and now we have confirmation.
Our own Steve Lynch, former Big Time Auto Industry Executive and author of the book about the Honda scandal, just received a Dishonorable Mention nod in the 34th annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, where entrants are challenged to write the worst possible opening sentence to an imaginary novel.
The contest, sponsored by the English Department of San José State University, is named after Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose opening line in his 1830 novel “Paul Clifford” has been mocked relentlessly over the years: “It was a dark and stormy night … ”
It goes without saying that Lynch’s entry was automotive related.
In 1984, during my Honda-hawking days in Texas, our neighboring Mercedes-Benz dealership was all atwitter upon Daimler introducing the first “Baby Benz,” the 190E sedan. We knew our waiting-list-only Accord was a far superior automobile but that didn’t stop two of our salespeople from buying 190Es while the rest of us stuck with our Chevy trucks. The little Mercedes was a turd: terribly unreliable, cramped and slow. Much to our delight, the media said the 190E was not worth twice the price of an Accord.
Fast forward to 2016, your humble site’s readers and writers voted the latest entry-level Mercedes, the stylish front-wheel-drive CLA250, as one of the Ten Worst Automobiles Today. Like with the 190E, the CLA is flying off dealers’ lots, so what do we know?
Mercedes-Benz introduced the latest version of the C-Class two years ago and it’s now the brand’s best-selling model in America by a large margin — not to mention handily outselling its top competitor, the BMW 3 Series.
This is finally one small Benz that everyone loves and for good reason. The C300 is a miniature S-Class.
The automotive media slobbered over the redesigned 2015 Volkswagen GTI sporty hatchback ever since its introduction two years ago. I put 13,500 miles on mine over the past year and I agree that it is one of the great all-around fun cars available today.
I just went through the process of selling it, and that is when the real fun began.
There’s not a more uncomfortable phone call for a car dealership’s finance manager to make then asking a customer to come back to have their finance or lease contract rewritten. This is typically caused by sales managers — the people most despised by finance departments — who spot deliver a vehicle based on their wrong guess about the rate or term a lender would approve the deal. Needless to say, the vast majority of these rewrites result in a higher monthly payment for the customer.
A couple of years ago, a finance manager at a Los Angeles Mercedes-Benz dealer told me and a Mercedes-Benz Financial colleague of mine about the day he picked up the phone to fix the opposite situation: the dealership had miscalculated the taxes on a client’s lease on a black ML350 Bluetec SUV and they needed the client to return and sign a new lease agreement reflecting payments of $14 per month lower than the original contract.
He called the customer with the good news only to hear, “No no no! Payment good. Payment good. We OK!”
After he hung up, he thought, “We just got snookered. That ML is probably on a slow boat to China and the factory is going to kill us.”
The Continuing Saga of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Dealer Interest Rate Markup on Car Loans, Part Two
That happy couple at the car dealership, back by popular demand.
Since we last reported on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and its controversial crusade to uncover racial discrimination by car dealers on interest rate markup on automobile loans, the agency has ordered over $100 million in fines and settlements against banks that some have deemed extortion. This has infuriated lenders and car dealers, and has frustrated lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The tale continued last week as the House Committee on Financial Services revealed that their work on this case now includes trying to get the CFPB and Department of Justice to agree on that age-old problem on how to get white car buyers to admit that they are actually white.
Let us review this investigation, which recently prompted the House committee to publish a report about the CFPB probe, titled “Unsafe at Any Bureaucracy: CFPB Junk Science and Indirect Auto Lending.”
Gather a bunch of factory guys together in a bar and you can smell the bullshit flying from a mile away.
In this case, the factory guys were myself and other field sales managers from American Honda Motor Company, and the bar was located inside the Marriott in Torrance, California. The talk turned to working with Honda dealerships.
“I made that dealer take more green del Sols, and I told him to build a new facility and to get his CSI up,” said Ed. “Then I screwed his daughter.”
Haha, sure you did!
Shortly thereafter, the conversation turned to the new California Distributor license plates used by “import” car corporations on company-owned vehicles. The new version did not spell out the word “Distributor” and instead displayed the letters “DST.”
“The next time I get pulled over for speeding and the cop asks what ‘DST’ means,” said Tony, “I’ll say that it’s short for ‘District Attorney’ and I bet he will let me off with a warning.”
Haha, sure you will!
A few months later, I would attempt that very ticket-beating tactic myself.
A Photoshop vision of the future.
The practice of removing a car’s emblems, or upgrading the emblems to a higher-line model, probably dates back to all the 1960s Mustangs sporting “289 High Performance” fender tags despite having lesser powerplants under their hoods.
Los Angeles-area high-line dealers were the first to nickname the current generation of rebadged and debadged vehicles as “Persian Conversions,” although the trend is not limited to any one specific demographic. We covered this phenomenon in these pages a couple of years ago.
Amazingly, it look likes we now have the first factory-backed badge-removal option.
It is no surprise that environmental activists are staging protests in reaction to the Volkswagen emission scandal. Members of Greenpeace marched last week outside the VW plant in Wolfsburg, Germany. Somewhere in America, we are sure someone will print off one of those red and white pro-union banners saying “Shame on XYZ Volkswagen” and plant themselves in front of a VW dealership.
But to shame a TDI owner who is possibly already miffed knowing his car may be dropping in value — and possibly gas mileage and torque after the emission fix?
In the opening moments of the above scene from the flick “Fargo,” Oldsmobile dealership sales manager Jerry Lundegaard is working up some bogus paperwork to cover his tracks with General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC). We can infer that he sold some floor-planned cars and did not pay back GMAC, which was the impetus for the movie’s storyline of his bumbling attempt to extort money from his father-in-law.
Jerry’s store may have been “out of trust” with GMAC on a few dozen 1987 Cutlasses, but that pales in comparison to the scheme concocted by New York car dealer John McNamara.
Between 1980 and 1991, McNamara convinced GMAC to advance him $6.2 billion to pay for 248,000 conversion vans that did not exist. It was one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history and ended up costing GMAC $436 million, equal to $725 million in today’s dollars.
We would like to show you a photo of McNamara but none are to be found. That may be because it is believed he went into the Witness Protection Program a few years after his conviction for fraud in 1992. Just picture Lundegaard with a really big brain.
McNamara’s brilliant swindle was deliciously simple. It was based on one undeniable truth he learned from his years of owning a Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealership on Long Island: General Motors and GMAC were too incompetent and too bureaucratic to figure out that they were being scammed.
Has there ever been a longer running runner-up in an automotive category than the Ford Expedition? The large three-row SUV has been outsold by the Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL twins for years by as much as a 2:1 margin in the ever-shrinking large SUV segment. Throw in the Tahoe and regular Yukon numbers and the Expedition lags even further behind. The Expedition does outsell its luxo Lincoln stablemate, the Navigator, by about a 4:1 margin.
It may not be able to overcome the years of momentum and iconic brand image of the Suburban — proclaimed back in 1986 as the “ National Car Of Texas” — but the latest iteration of the Expedition is fighting back.
We have opined in these pages before about how for every Tesla sold in America, there are two or three glowing stories written about the electric automaker. There are days when over 50 percent of the pieces on auto industry news feeds are about Tesla, which is not bad for a company capturing 0.1 percent of the U.S. automobile market. Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is truly a marketing and public relations genius.
Given that, it is fascinating when a negative story surfaces about Tesla’s way of doing business and the slobbering media is strangely silent.
Why yes, it has been only three weeks since our last Volkswagen Golf feature story. Why do you ask?
Maybe it’s because the little VW is on fire. The car is nearly single-handedly bringing back hatchback sales with the introduction last year of its 7th generation model. Winner of numerous national and international auto journo awards, MkVII Golf sales in the U.S. are up 230% through June over the same period last year, and are tracking towards a record-setting 84,000 sales for 2015.
There are two 2015 Golfs in my driveway this week: my own two-door GTI 6-speed and today’s tester, the above four-door TDI SEL with the DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. This is not a comparison test but the variation between the two cars’ equipment levels makes for some interesting perspectives.
My 25-plus years as a Big Time Auto Industry Executive afforded me many memorable moments. It would be difficult to single out one example, but I may be the only person on earth who has shaken hands with both Soichiro Honda and Derek Kreindler.
As for the low point of my career, there is no contest: the morning of May 7, 1998, four months after I joined Mercedes-Benz Credit Corporation. That was the day it was announced Daimler-Benz had merged with the Chrysler Corporation.
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- Ollicat And I don't think this test included changes in the weather which can affect range another 15 - 20%. Plus, I understand that it is very bad for the battery to run it down to zero. From my research on battery longevity, one is supposed to keep their battery from 20% to 80 or 90%. So in effect, one only really has at most, 70% of the posted range on an EV, if they want to preserve the life of their battery. And the ultra quick chargers are also supposed to be used sparingly. Hmmm.
- Analoggrotto Meanwhile the Hyundai vision 74 is making the real waves with the modern retro original design behind all lambos, delorean, and every japanese car in the 80s. First we took over economy cars, then luxury vehicles, then 3 row SUVs, EVs are our bag too but next the exotic car will be the object of our domination and the vision 79 is our vehicle to success.
- Kwik_Shift Sign me up! /sarcasm
- Sobro My guess is it's just a plain scam. Very few pictures? CheckPrice too good to be true? CheckEnough "real car" info to convince the gullible it's a real car? CheckWeird story as to its provenance and location? Check
- Analoggrotto So when the toyota 2ZZ engine is mounted in the Fwd Celica GT-S the YAMAHA casting on the head is prominent but it becomes hidden in the MR configuration on the Lotus cars. You have to pull out the passenger's side rear fender liner to see it.