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Archive for January, 2009

Would you buy one of these luxury cars if the price was right?

January 25th, 2009

Every once in a while I get a real hankering for a luxury car that’s way out of my price range. I mean who wouldn’t want to sit behind the wheel of a brand new 911 Turbo or cruise with a heavy dose of Lexus luxury?

While the price of entry on such new vehicles leaves me dreaming, there’s always another option for people like me: stepping back a few years in time.

Here are some of the best values for parking some true performance and luxury in your garage (while making your neighbors think you’ve hit the big time):   

Jaguar XK

2000 Jaguar XK8

MSRP: $66,000
Used: $13,000-$18,000
I remember drooling over this car when it came out; that classic oval grille, a true Jag V8, Connolly leather, wood trim and 300 horsepower. All for under 20 grand? Where do I sign!?

911-1

2001 Porsche 911

MSRP: $66,000-$111,000.
Used: $26,000-$50,000
The 911 is a true automotive icon, and going back a few years saves you a ton of money while still getting everything a 911 has ever stood for.

m5jpeg

2001 BMW M5

MSRP: $69,400
Used: $25,000
With a 4.9-liter V8 producing 394 horsepower, this car was a bargain at nearly $70K. Now we can pick one up for the cost of a Chrysler.

S430

2002 Mercedes Benz S430

MSRP: $71,850
Used: $20,000
Wouldn’t it be fun to tell your friends you drive a $72,000 car? Do a little searching and you’ll likely find a deal you just can’t pass up.

Land Rover Range Rover

2003 Land Rover Range Rover

MSRP: $71,200
Used: under $30,000
2003 saw a redesign of the classic Rover, and even the brand new models still look similar. Save yourself close to $50,000 and drive in true opulence!

ls430

2004 Lexus LS 430

MSRP: $55,000
Used: $25,000
Hmmm… let’s see… a new Camry or a used Lexus? Spend the same amount of money and get unrivaled luxury while still getting the legendary quality and reliability that goes with Lexus ownership.

What do you think are the best values in used luxury cars right now?

-tgriffith

Car Minded, Foreign Cars, General Chat, Trucks & SUVs

Ford Is Syncing; Others Are Shrinking

January 25th, 2009

First off, let me say that I drive a relatively simple car, a 2003 VW GTI, that doesn’t even have an outdoor temp gauge. And I like it that way. You concentrate on driving, not looking at or listening to or playing with extraneous stuff.

eathing-while-drivingBut I am clearly bucking a trend, because more and more vehicles are coming with more and more devices for entertainment, information, phone, wireless and other services—most of which are for personal convenience rather than enhancement or support of the driving experience.

The car is becoming just another hub in the social network web that, happily or not, connects us all. If you applaud that idea, you’ll love Ford’s (and Microsoft’s) Sync system. Available on most of Ford’s 2008 cars, Sync is in fact pretty cool but has some limitations, according to one source.

[It] allows various portable digital music players (i.e., the iPod and Zune) and Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones to be operated with simple voice commands. SYNC can even receive text messages and read them aloud using a digitized female voice “Samantha.” SYNC can interpret a hundred or so shorthand messages such as LOL for “laughing out loud” and will read swear words; it won’t however, decipher obscene acronyms.

The next-gen version of Sync was recently introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. It now gives you personalized traffic reports, text message traffic alerts, turn-by-turn driving directions, business, weather and sports read aloud, and more. Click the video to listen in on a fascinating phone call from Amy to her mom.

At CES, Ford announced more plans for other “environments” to be brought into the car—things like a mobile computer for F-150s with a printer so the busy contractor can print out invoices, hopefully not while driving.

Mark Fields, Ford’s President of the Americas (what a title, better than Obama’s!), was recently interviewed by Advertising Age: “A car used to just get you from Point A to Point B. What a car is becoming now is not only getting you from Point A to Point B, but allowing you to stay connected to the entire world as you’re doing it.”

Despite the fact that cars have never been about just getting you from Point A to Point B, is this kind of connection really a good idea? The premise is that connectivity anywhere, any time is valuable. Well, I would not want it in the bathroom, bedroom or, frankly, in my car. The fact that it’s in your car can be nothing but a distraction from the business of driving.

Others will argue that people unfolding and reading maps while driving is a lot more dangerous than listening to GPS prompts from “Samantha,” and maybe they’re right.

Where do you come down on these devices? Are you pro-Sync or con?

—jgoods

Car Accessories, Car Industry News, Car Minded, Domestic Cars, General Chat

Is this the flying car we’ve been waiting for?

January 24th, 2009

Imagine pulling out of the garage in your new $200,000 car.

You roll down the windows, feel the breeze and smile, knowing that your car has the power and speed to fly past any other car on the road.

TerrafugiaLiterally.

The Transition, built by Terrafugia of Woburn, Mass., has been generating some buzz for at least a year. Now, the company plans to deliver the first vehicles in 2010.

The Transistion can be parked in your garage, drive on regular roads enroute to the runway, unfold its wings, and fly up to 500 miles – without jet fuel. In fact, the Transition can run on the same juice that fuels a regular old Honda.

I was in junior high when the 1980s gave way to 1990, and I remember how futuristic that date looked flashing high above Times Square. I thought surely now that we were in the ’90s, flying cars couldn’t be far away. Of course, they never materialized. Now, though, I have to wonder if the Transition is the flying car people like me have been waiting for.

Officially, the makers of the Transition are reluctant to call it a flying car, because it won’t replace anyone’s car for daily driving and requires a general aviation airport for takeoffs and landings. However, they say it’s perfect for trips of 100 to 500 miles, and such airports are within an average of 30 miles from any point in the U.S.

On the ground, the wings fold up, and the car can be driven on any road and even park in regular parking spots. Once on the runway, the driver/pilot unfolds the wings with a push of a button, engine power is redirected to the propeller, and the plane can take off.

The Transition can cruise in the sky at 115 miles per hour and achieves 30 miles per gallon on the highway. Potential buyers can earn the required Sport Pilot License in just 20 hours of flight time.

Still not convinced? Buyers can also order a full-vehicle parachute, just in case their landing skills still need some work.

Do you think a vehicle like the Transition can succeed? 

-tgriffith

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Domestic Cars, Exotic Cars, Gas for your car..., General Chat

Exports, Imports, and Bringing It All Back Home

January 23rd, 2009

It might be a great time for U.S. car companies to think about the export business. That is, if any importing countries have money to buy. It’s an even better time for them—Ford and GM in particular—to start thinking about importing the good, fuel-efficient cars they already produce in Europe. Why not Mondeos and Opels for us in the U.S.?

Mondeo

Mondeo

Why, you may ask, can’t the successful European cars simply be imported and rebadged here for our consumption? The main obstacle seems to be our regulatory, safety, and emission standards which vary, sometimes in minor details, from the European rules and from state to state. Certification here is expensive, and the red tape extensive. In a time of crisis, one might think, the government should be able to set aside some of these barriers.

The other alternative is to make them here. Ford has been working hard to get its next-gen small cars here and retooling its truck plants here and in Canada. Cars like the Mondeo, which won the European Car of the Year award, are better built than our counterparts and better suited to the burgeoning U.S. market for smaller, more efficient Euro-styled cars. In fact, we hear the Mondeo will provide the platform for the new Fusion, plus other Ford, Mercury and Lincoln products.

Ford also has a successful recent history of exporting its cars to China, namely the Escape and the Lincoln Navigator, as well as the Mondeo, S-Max and the Transit. Ford Motor China sold over 90,000 vehicles there last year, 47% more than in 2007. Chrysler? Forget it.

Regal Nee Opel

Buick Regal Née Opel Insignia

So Ford has gotten the message and recently decided, as we reported, to import the new Fiesta, a good car that Chrysler and GM can’t match with their product lines.

What is GM doing? Well, with the convoluted genius that only this company can muster, they are rebadging their award-winning Opel Insignia and sending it to China as a Buick Regal. We know the Chinese love Buicks, so it’s another excuse for GM to indulge its addiction to rebranding and rebadging. They now have a product line of maybe 9 cars with 180 names. The Insignia may also be coming here as the Saturn Aura (if Saturn is still in existence).

If this administration really believes in the global marketplace, now would be the time to ease the overly fussy restrictions on imports and provide incentives for exporting our cars to China, India, and wherever the market will take them. Yes, we can.

Which of the Big Three’s cars currently available overseas would you consider purchasing if it went on sale in the U.S.?

—jgoods

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Politics, Domestic Cars, Foreign Cars, General Chat

What’s the best movie ever about cars?

January 23rd, 2009

We all know that a great movie usually has at least one great car in it. But what about great movies that are ABOUT cars? I’m talking about the best movies that revolve around car culture, rather than just featuring a sweet ride in a couple of scenes.

We want to know what your favorites are! While you’re thinking about it, here are my top 5 movies about cars:

Cars

cars-lightning-mcqueen

The story of a cocky rookie race car realizing what’s important in life is as heartwarming as it is exciting. Yeah, it’s an animated “kids” movie, but adults can be entertained and learn from it just as much. We can even learn a thing or two about driving (turn right to go left!?).

Days of Thunder

days_of_thunder

Another hot-shot rookie race car driver (this time in human form) gets his shot at the racing big time. Fast cars, intense racing, true love… what else do you need? How about “the need… the need for speed!”

Talladega Nights

talladega_nights

“Shake” and “Bake,” baby! The top two NASCAR drivers always finish 1st and 2nd. But uh-oh… here comes a French Formula One driver ready to take over NASCAR! As funny as Will Ferrell is, Sacha Baron Cohen makes this movie. Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. even make appearances!

Speed Racer

speed-racer-dec1

Maybe it’s just because I have a 7-year-old son, but I’ve seen this movie twice and loved it even more the second time. This movie lacks real cars, is partly computer generated and has completely unrealistic race scenes. Still, the race scenes are as fun as they are furious. This isn’t just a movie about racing; it’s a movie about saving the world of racing.

The Fast and the Furious

fast-and-furious

The underworld of LA street racing: fast cars, beautiful women… so tempting even an undercover cop isn’t sure he wants to give it up!

Did I miss one of your favorites?

-tgriffith 

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Car Minded, General Chat

When test tracks become parking lots…

January 21st, 2009

nissan-parkingTake a close look at this picture.

What comes to mind: Costco on a Saturday? Maybe the parking lot on Super Bowl game day?

This image is of Nissan’s test track in England. Those cars are unsold Nissans. If one image ever summed up the state of the auto industry, this is it.

You know those TV commercials where Nissans are shown racing around their test track, avoiding obstacles and going through sections of track with names like “the frame twist”? Well, Nissan’s not testing any new cars on that track now. The only obstacle encountered here would be other cars (which I suppose would make for a more real-world test)!

Seriously though, this tells me just how badly the auto industry is being hit, and it goes way beyond America’s automakers. Honda for example recently announced production cuts  and layoffs. Even Toyota, who it was just announced has unseated GM as the world’s top-selling automaker, is announcing cuts in their production.

If the backlog of unsold cars is as bad as this picture makes it look, even production cuts seem like a futile effort to bring production back in line with demand. First they’ve got to find a way to clear out their unsold inventory.

And that’s where the good news is in all this. With so many cars waiting to be sold, there are some killer deals on new cars waiting just for you, if you know how to find them. 

Would you buy a new car right now if you found the right deal?

-tgriffith

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Foreign Cars, General Chat, Trucks & SUVs

Trade You a Dodge Ram for a Fiat 500?

January 21st, 2009

Yesterday Chrysler and Fiat announced a “strategic alliance” wherein Fiat would take a big stake, cost-free, in the American company. Bells rang, whistles blew, cheers went up—mainly from the Cerberus boardroom. That company happily is giving away 35% of Chrysler, which it bought (80%) for $7.4 billion from Daimler Benz less than two years ago. And everyone loves the deal.

New Fiat 500

New Fiat 500

But enough of high finance. Most of us hope the deal works out. Chrysler would gain access to a range of excellent FWD, low-emission small cars that, rebadged and rebodied, it could begin selling relatively quickly. The company would finally have access to the European and South American markets. It would get critical help rebuilding and, maybe, succeed in convincing the Feds to cough up the conditional $3 billion in March that it needs.

Fiat gets a heckuva deal. Mainly it gets access to the U.S. market, both for manufacturing and distribution. Here’s how The Economist put it:

Fiat has little to lose. If Chrysler stages a miraculous recovery with its help, Mr Marchionne [Fiat’s CEO] would have pulled off something similar to Carlos Ghosn’s Renault-Nissan alliance at almost no cost other than diverted management time. With a rumoured option to increase its stake in Chrysler to 55%, the deal is potentially transformative for Fiat. And if things do not work out and Chrysler slides into bankruptcy, Fiat has no liability exposure but would be in pole position to pick up the assets it needs to implement its North American strategy at fire-sale prices.

Alfa 8c Competizione

Alfa 8c Competizione

What do you, the buyer, get? The potential to buy everything from the successful Fiat 500 to an Alfa Romeo. With Chrysler’s production capabilities, costs would be reduced. That could create real economies of scale, so that the Alfa might finally be priced within our reach—and have a sales and service network to boot. I want one.

The big question is whether there is time enough for Chrysler and Fiat to put this all together before the money runs out. Do you think they can do it?

—jgoods

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Domestic Cars, Foreign Cars, General Chat

Acura NSX: Collectible or Forgettable?

January 21st, 2009

When I was entering high school, I helped my dad restore a 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado. (By “helped,” I mean “watched,” but I still felt involved just by being there as he worked!)

As the Barrett-Jackson auction in Arizona ended last week, I remembered that old Toronado and wondered which cars from today my son might someday collect or even restore. Of course there isn’t a scientific way to predict what models will skyrocket in value, but we can certainly take educated guesses.

Below are four modern cars I believe will eventually sit behind red ropes at auctions or await restoration in garages across America.

Cadillac Escalade

escalade1

I could’ve really used any full-size American SUV here – the Suburban, the Navigator, the Yukon, etc. I think the Escalade is unique, because it’s the only one that has taken on an image like no others: A symbol of excess used by athletes and rappers nationwide. In 40 years or so, we’ll look back on these and remember a time when America truly believed that size mattered.

Continue reading >>>

Car Minded, Domestic Cars, Exotic Cars, Foreign Cars, General Chat, Trucks & SUVs

Super Bowl 2009 Car Ad Craziness

January 20th, 2009

We know: You don’t watch it for the football, but for the ads. Setting aside those moronic “drinkability” beer gatherings and the smoke- and noise-filled macho truck competitions that all look the same, we saw some good car commercials during Super Bowl 2008.

Audi’s Godfather ad was one.

And in the same screaming vein, so was Bridgestone Tire’s squirrel ad.

This year Bridgestone and Castrol will be back, we hear, along with Hyundai—showing off the Genesis coupe. Some Internet wag stole this still from the commercial featuring the Genesis driven by Rhys Millen and Bach played by cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Bach finally comes to Road Atlanta.

Genesis Coupe

Genesis Coupe

Preposterous ads with automotive people and themes will be there once again. You can’t forget the fat guy who drinks Amp and jump-starts the lady’s car with cables attached to his, ahem, nipples. Can Amp ever top this performance?

There will be a new ad starring Indy driver Danica Patrick, once more giving her all for Go-Daddy websites in a titillating courtroom drama.

But it won’t be all T and A this year—not in this economy. Each 30-second spot costs about $3 million to air (not including production costs), and at last report NBC has a few left to sell. U.S. automakers are sitting this game out. Still, besides Audi and Hyundai, Toyota will play, presumably with this silly Corolla ad.

For 2009, GM and all the U.S. carmakers have cut their ad budgets severely. We’ll see less TV and print, more Internet. Apparently only one company, Audi, will increase its ad dollars by 15%, for events, online and media, encouraged by growth in sales figures and general interest.

Their Super Bowl ad will be 60 seconds, like the Godfather. Will it top that one, which got great response? Stay tuned, as they say.

What do you think was the best Super Bowl car ad last year? Does humor in car advertising work better than “features and benefits”?

—jgoods

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Domestic Cars, Foreign Cars, General Chat

Electric Car Fans Wait in Hope

January 20th, 2009
Stout-hearted fans wait in the cold for Obama's train to convey their message.

Stout-hearted EV fans wait in the cold for Obama's train

Do you think President Obama should encourage Americans to purchase electric cars?

Car Minded, Car Politics, Domestic Cars, General Chat, Hybrid Cars