Used Cars That Are Better Than New

A sign that Honda is past its prime?

Buy any new Ford or General Motors vehicle and you’re virtually guaranteed to get a better car than the same model from a previous year.

Compare, for example, the 2002 Ford Taurus with the 2011 model. No contest. How about the 2000 Chevy Malibu up against the more refined, and exponentially more beautiful, current model? It’s almost like the cars were built by two different companies.

While it’s certainly expected that newer cars will be better than their outgoing brethren, there are some new cars that simply don’t stack up against their older versions.

Sometimes the older versions simply look better. Sometimes they get better gas mileage. And sometimes the new cars just seem to be symbols that a carmaker is past its prime. Surprisingly, it’s the foreign automakers that seem to fall into that category…

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Jamming Cell Phones in Cars: “I think it will be done,” says Ray LaHood

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation has been on the warpath about cell phone use, particularly texting, in cars, which has killed some 16,000 people in 6 years in the U.S. The department has a new video campaign with heart-rending stories of young people who have been killed in distracted driving incidents.

In an interview last Thursday, responding to a question about jamming phones, the secretary said:

I think it will be done. …I think the technology is there and I think you’re going to see the technology become adaptable in automobiles to disable these cell phones. We need to do a lot more if were [sic] going to save lives.

Then, on his blog, LaHood backwatered a bit, saying “personal responsibility—that’s the bottom line.” Well, sure, Mr. Secretary, but that begs the question of what is the most effective and efficient way to prevent these deaths. All the tear-jerk videos in the world won’t make people more responsible.

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The Mazda Concept That Looks Nothing Like a Mazda

Mazda Shinari concept

Disaster can befall the automaker that changes the look of its cars too drastically.

But on the other hand, a complete redesign of an automaker’s signature look can launch a new era of profitability and respect.

Porsche deciding to re-sculpt the iconic shape of the Boxster or 911? Bad. Chevrolet choosing to modernize the generic Malibu? Really, really good!

Somewhere in the middle lies Mazda, a company that can design both timeless beauty (MX-5 Miata) and utter catastrophe (Mazda3) in a single model year.

A complete redesign for Mazda can only be a good thing. I can think of a few other automakers that should consider revisiting the ol’ design textbooks, too!

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GM Roars Back, But Not Without Costs

GM at NYSE

I can’t pretend to understand the arcane workings of IPOs or high finance, but it seems clear that General Motors’ IPO yesterday was a success. The stock was priced right, the markets responded, the government sold almost half its GM shares, and the bailout (despite what you have heard) may go down as a bargain for the taxpayer.

In another sense, Washington won the battle over Wall Street. The big underwriting banks took “amazingly low fees of just 0.75%, or $10 million for the government-owned portion, …a pittance versus the 6% Wall Street likes to charge.” If the stock price had soared, the Treasury would have lost about $4 billion—but it didn’t.

The result was the third-largest global IPO in history and showed light at the tunnel’s end if the government sells the rest of its stake, as the White House hopes, by mid to late 2012. Still, GM stock has to rise about $20 a share for the Treasury to break even.

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The Six Hottest 2011 Sports Cars

People buy sports cars for two reasons:

They want the adrenalin rush only a sports car can provide. They want to look good in front of friends and members of the opposite sex.

Many of the offerings for 2011 satisfy both requirements with the kind of style that turns heads and the kind of acceleration that’ll pin yours against the headrest.

Rest assured, you’ll only find true sports cars on this list. No Mustangs, no Camaros, and certainly no Honda CR-Zs. Feel free to have your say in the comments section.

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“Best Resale Value” Cars: Why (or Why Not) Buy Them Used?

Used Honda CR-V

The car with the snout has residual clout.

Choosing a car that’s low on depreciation is usually a smart move if you buy it new. When you go to sell your Honda CR-V, for example, you’ll stand to keep more of your outlay, percentage-wise, than the guy who is trying to move his Mitsubishi Galant.

But depreciation is a tricky thing and can be affected by many factors—including market changes, recalls, rebates and incentives, and, of course, the age and condition of the car. Low depreciation is only one reason to buy a car—and may not be the most important one, after all.

There are other factors to consider. How long are you going to keep it? What kind of driving will you do? Are the car’s features and benefits what you want and need? And so on.

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Cars Coming Soon->Hot New Impreza, Compass Changes Direction and Dodge Goes Italian

Subaru Impreza concept

Stop for a moment. You feel that? That’s the feeling of change. Everything is changing…the seasons, GM’s stock expectations, even long-held notions about the auto industry.

Take Subaru, for instance. The company has a long history of producing vehicles with questionable visual appeal. So when we heard a new concept for the Impreza was coming, we sorta assumed that we’d see more of the same.

Not even close.

Add in a future 40-mpg Italian Dodge and an attractive Jeep Compass, and not only do we have change, we have change that borders on the miraculous.

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Exploding Investor Demand for GM’s IPO

Pre-production Chevrolet Volt

"Yeah, I know the wheels are off."

First off, let’s be clear that many people want General Motors to succeed. However, the lion’s share of investors probably are in it simply for the profit potential.

The big institutional, “wholesale” investors seem very much pleased with GM’s “near-term upside potential,” as they say in the trade, because the company’s figures and its fundamentals have drastically improved. These insiders are the ones who are going to buy the stock, since most retail buyers—the company’s real rescuers—are being shut out in a typical Wall Street move.

That is making some people angry, and is part of the ongoing outrage over the bailouts, the banks, and disgust with the government, which indeed promised back in September that the little guy would be able to participate.

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Pure Fantasy: Mercedes-Benz Biome Concept

Mercedes-Benz Biome concept

Yes, it looks like it’s right out of a Tron movie, and in all honesty, it’s about as real.

While it may be completely science fiction, the Mercedes-Benz Biome concept looks futuristically awesome. Born out of the LA Auto Show’s Los Angeles Design Challenge, in which automotive designers are given free range to envision the future of transportation, the Biome is meant to blend seamlessly into the planet’s ecosystem. That means all components of the car are “grown” organically, and it emits pure oxygen and is fully compostable at the end of its service life.

And it only gets nuttier from there.

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Green Update–>Cher on Hybrids, Jay Leno on Think City, Neil Young on LincVolt

Sonny and Cher and 1966 George Barris Custom Mustangs

Celebrities are just like you and me. Some are smart, some have interesting opinions, and some are stone dumb. You’d be hard pressed to find a better representative of the latter group than Cher. A person who built a career out of totally mediocre singing and acting talent, she is now 64 and still making pronouncements.

The latest is her opinion on hybrid cars and diesels.

I researched all the hybrid stuff and its pretty much all bulls**t…. I was going to get a Mercedes diesel thing, but then thank God I found out there was no diesel places near us, so if there was a fire, I would not be able to get out. There have been 10 fires since I lived in my house in Malibu, and we’ve had to evacuate. It wasn’t safe and if there was a fire, we wouldn’t be able to get out.

It’s the government’s fault there isn’t more acceptance of things green, she thinks. They need to “put out a list, saying ‘this could do this’ etc.” Like maybe telling people that diesels won’t run unless you put fuel in their tanks.

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