By on July 6, 2020

2009 Pontiac G3 Wave in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe years 2008 and 2009 were interesting times for GM, with the company filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on June 1, 2009 and the Pontiac Division clearly on the ropes (despite the Bondo applied over Pontiac’s rusty image by the Solstice).

To The General’s warlords, only one solution to Pontiac’s woes made sense: take the Chevy Aveo, itself a South Korea-built Daewoo Kalos, and give it Pontiac badges! (Read More…)

By on June 15, 2020

1987 Hyundai Excel in Denver junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsUntil the appearance of the Chrysler 200 and the current generation of Mitsubishi Mirage, the fastest average showroom-to-junkyard speed I’d ever seen with a new car took place with the first-generation Hyundai Excel. Even the wretched Yugo, its rival for the title of Cheapest New Car Available In America, seemed to hold together until at least age six or seven before going to The Crusher, but I started seeing plenty of solid-looking ’86 and ’87 Excels at Southern California U-Wrench yards by 1990 or so.

Still, some of those early Excels stayed on the road for decades, and I try to document those miraculous survivors when I find them. Here’s the cleanest first-gen Excel I’ve seen in at least 25 years, found in a Denver self-service yard last week. (Read More…)

By on February 24, 2020

Don’t let the title fool you — what we’ve got here is not a Mitsubishi at all, but rather a Hyundai. The late Eighties were confusing times at Mitsubishi, and deals with other OEMs were made left and right.

Today’s Precis is an Excel by any other name.

(Read More…)

By on February 24, 2020

1988 Pontiac LeMans in Denver junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSince starting doing this goofy car-writing-online gig 13 years ago last month, I have documented the demise of 2,073 discarded vehicles in excruciating detail. During that time, I have walked right past thousands and thousands of allegedly interesting cars and trucks (sorry, BMW 3 Series fans, but I’ve been trying to make it up to you in recent years) in order to obsess over my very favorite kind of junkyard machines: littleknown examples of puzzling badge engineering. That means that when I see the South Korean Pontiac LeMans in a junkyard, I photograph it.

Here’s a low-mile, first-model-year LeMans sedan, found in a Denver car graveyard last spring. (Read More…)

By on August 6, 2018

2000 Daewoo Leganza in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Daewoo wasn’t a well-known name in North America in the late 1990s, though quite a few Daewoo-built Pontiac Lemans cars were sold here during the 1988-1993 period. For the 1999 model year, a trio of Daewoo-badged cars appeared on these shores: the Lanos, the Nubira, and the Leganza.

The Leganza was the most luxurious of the Daewoo triumvirate (the bloodline of the Lanos lived on here after Daewoo departed the continent in 2002, as the Chevrolet Aveo and then the Sonic), and I photographed this crashed ’00 in a California self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on November 28, 2016

2004 Suzuki Verona in California wrecking yard, front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

What American car buyers in 2004 really needed was a lengthened Daewoo Leganza with Giorgetto Giugiaro styling, a transverse-mounted straight-six engine, and Suzuki badging … or so GM Daewoo Auto & Technology believed. Not so surprisingly, American car buyers weren’t so excited about the Verona, and these things are now nearly as rare as the similarly puzzling Isuzu Oasis.

Here’s one that I spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on February 5, 2016

17 - 1986 Hyundai Excel in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

I can’t think of any vehicle manufacturer whose products improved as much and as quickly as Hyundai’s did between the ghastly first-gen Excel and the very nice Hyundais of, say, the current century.

The only new US-market car that was cheaper than the first Excel was the Yugo GV (which was, arguably, the better car), and in all my years of junkyard crawling I have never seen any vehicle that got discarded in larger quantities before reaching ten years of age (in fact, lots of Excels appeared at U-Wrench-It before their fifth birthdays).

This means that 1985-89 Excels are exceedingly rare in junkyards today, so I always photograph them when I find them. So far in this series, we have seen this ’86, this ’87, this ’88, and now today’s depressingly un-loaded ’87, which is as far advanced from today’s nice Hyundais as is a cargo-cult wicker plane from a Boeing 787. (Read More…)

By on June 13, 2015

Hyundai Kia sales chart May 2015

Hyundai’s U.S. operations produced record sales in calendar year 2014 and in the process outsold Kia – which also reported record sales last year – by an average of 12,000 sales per month. That gap was narrower than in 2013, when Hyundai typically outsold Kia by more than 15,000 sales per month.

But after outselling its Kia partner by 6,206 units in January of this year, 8475 units in February, 16,248 in March (Hyundai Motor America’s best ever month), and 14,727 units in April, Hyundai’s favourable gap narrowed to only 1,177 units in May(Read More…)

By on December 24, 2014

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Ssangyong has trademarked two nameplates in America, ostensibly in preparation for an American launch.

(Read More…)

By on February 14, 2014

Ssangyong has had a colorful history, to put it lightly. In 1999, the Korean brand entered bankruptcy as its Chinese majority owner, SAIC Motor Company cut Ssangyong loose. Ssangyong made a frenzied attempt to cut its workforce down, and faced one of the worst labor strikes in the Korean auto industry’s history. In retaliation for the cuts, the workers of Ssangyong’s Pyongtaek production plant set fire to the plant, and later occupied it for two months. Riot police, including helicopter support, was called in eventually to clear the plant.

With Ssangyong in shambles, Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra bought a 70% stake in the company in 2011 and immediately went to work on labor issues. Since the acquisition, Ssangyong has not suffered any labor downtime and the once rioting workforce now appears to be diligently rebuilding the auto maker, one car at a time.

In 2013, Ssangyong returned and racked up its highest sales, with 145,649 cars sold last year. 81,679 of those sales were made in overseas markets; and a spokesman for Ssangyong confirmed to WardsAuto that the Korean Automaker is looking to expand its product to the U.S. market.

(Read More…)

By on February 11, 2014

14 - 2001 Hyundai XG300 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI admit I’ve got a sick fascination with luxury cars sold by companies not (at the time, in this market) known for luxury. There’s the Mitsubishi Diamante, of course, and the Mazda 929, and even the Volvo 262C Bertone (I’m still looking for a junked Daewoo Leganza, but either they don’t exist or— more likely— they fade into the junkyard background so perfectly that I never notice them). The Hyundai XG, well, that’s a perfect example of the “who’s laughing now?” phenomenon; just a decade ago, we all chortled at the idea of a Korean luxury sedan selling in the United States. Today, German and Japanese car-industry execs wake up screaming from Hyundai-themed nightmares. So, that makes today’s Junkyard Find of great historical significance (to me and maybe a dozen others). (Read More…)

By on October 18, 2013

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It sure would seem so. Despite the best efforts of our IT crew, the TTAC Staff Robot is unable to read Korean,but we can read the word “Genesis” on this car’s front plate.

(Read More…)

By on April 10, 2013

A Reuters article on Hyundai’s recent quality problems raises an interesting question. Has the company grown too fast following an unprecedented image makeover?

(Read More…)

By on November 12, 2012

In a world obsessed with quantity, volume, economies of scale, speed, expedience and all that comes with it, wouldn’t it be nice if someone wanted to ease up a little and make sure things work?

(Read More…)

By on August 5, 2012

France is asking the EU to look into an uptick in South Korean car imports, which could possibly result in tarrifs being slapped on the vehicles, despite an EU-South Korean free trade agreement.

(Read More…)

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