Archive for Driver’s Seat

Warren Buffett wants to sell you a car

Right off the press-release wire:

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Van Tuyl Group announced … that they have entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which Berkshire Hathaway will acquire the Van Tuyl Group, the nation’s largest privately-owned auto dealership group and which ranks fifth among all U.S. auto dealership groups.

After becoming a part of the Berkshire Hathaway family of businesses, the company will be known as Berkshire Hathaway Automotive. Berkshire Hathaway Automotive will continue to be led by Larry Van Tuyl, who will become Chairman, and Jeff Rachor, who will assume the role of Chief Executive Officer, as well as its experienced senior management team. Berkshire Hathaway Automotive will be headquartered in Dallas, Texas and will continue to pursue its strategy of operational excellence and disciplined acquisition growth, which is no change to the business model the company has pursued for the last 62 years.

“The Van Tuyl Group fits perfectly into Berkshire Hathaway from both a financial and cultural viewpoint. Larry Van Tuyl along with his father, Cecil, spent decades building outstanding dealerships operated by local partners. In recent years, he has shared management with Jeff Rachor, a seasoned auto retailer who will retain a financial interest in all dealerships. The Van Tuyl Group enjoys excellent relations with the major auto manufacturers and delivers unusually high volumes at its 78 locations. This is just the beginning for Berkshire Hathaway Automotive,” said Berkshire Hathaway’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Warren Buffett.

I wonder if this is going to mean more cross-promotion. A recent ad for BH’s GEICO Insurance suggested, not the usual “up to 15 percent” savings, but enough, maybe, to buy her a ring — a ring from Helzberg Jewelers, another BH company.

The Van Tuyl Group operates in ten states: they own, for example, all the “Reliable” dealerships in Springfield, Missouri.

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Defending the American knee

Not so long ago, I posted a shot from a Buick print ad showing a young lady busily tableting away in the back seat of an Encore, incorporating the following observations:

[T]he fact that Miss Tablet can actually cross her legs back there is reassuring, though I’m not sure how close her head is to the ceiling.

This latter point is seldom made by automakers; I can remember only once in recent years when it was blatant, and even then it was only a tweet.

Now comes this, to show you the space available in the long-wheelbase Infiniti Q70L, and once again legroom is a factor:

Rear sear of Infiniti Q70L, occupied by dreamy female

Of course, the great tragedy of my life is being unable to attract anyone like that to the front seat.

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Having your engine chipped?

It should not look like this when they’re finished:

Intake repair using a Pringles can

This is, I submit, the one advantage of Pringles over, say, Wavy Lay’s.

(From the BG Products Facebook page.)

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Toll you so

Surely somebody could have seen this coming:

In 2006, then-Governor Mitch Daniels (R) leased the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road to Cintra and Macquarie Bank, operating as the ITR Concession Company, in return for an up-front payment of $3.8 billion. Daniels promised to use that money to build new roads over ten years under a program he called “Major Moves,” while the consortium was allowed to charge motorists steadily rising tolls until the year 2081.

The consortium came up with the cash by borrowing $4.1 billion off the prospect of a “guaranteed” stream of future toll returns.

And both sides of this deal got squat:

Motorists paid $196 million to use the road last year while the consortium owed $193 million in debt service payments. This left just $3 million to cover the cost of 244 employees, maintenance, capital upgrades and related expenses. Reserves were exhausted in December, and the consortium missed a $102 million interest payment in June. With interest, the consortium’s total debt obligation now stands at $6 billion.

The promise of the Major Moves Fund also failed to deliver. The $2.6 billion fund was supposed to have been set aside from the $3.8 billion payment to the state government. It was to grow by 5.25 percent annually from investments. That did not happen, and the money ran dry in 2013, though tolling will continue for at least another 69 years.

If Daniels still has a wisp of presidential ambition, this should kill it once and for all: I got 99 candidates, and Mitch ain’t one.

(Via Fark.)

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One hundred K

The Jalops take on a question that never would have occurred to me:

Today, we’re going to cover a topic that has been plaguing neurotic car owners for decades: what do you do when your car reaches 100,000 miles?

To the most neurotic of car owners, the answer to this question is simple: your car won’t reach 100,000 miles. That’s because these people think a car with 100,000 miles is garbage; trash; refuse; the automotive equivalent to a toaster that won’t toast, which is really just a place to store your slices of bread every morning.

Blame the Less-Than-Greatest Generation for this:

I’m not sure where this 100,000-mile fear came from, but it’s certainly a commonly-held belief among virtually everyone from the Baby Boomer era. “Why would you want THAT car?” they’ll ask, revolted, as if they’ve just bitten into a sandwich that tastes like envelope glue. “THAT car has more than 100,000 miles on it. It’s the automotive equivalent to a blender that won’t blend.”

Allow me to exclude myself from “virtually everyone”: all but one of my cars survived for a decent interval after 100k, and the one that didn’t probably would have were it not for some damn deer. Gwendolyn is sporting 153k these days, and while her body isn’t quite what it used to be — she is, after all, fifteen, which puts her right up there with Helen Mirren if Helen Mirren were a car — she’s showing almost no signs of slowing down. (Yes, the brakes work. Don’t be a ninny.) And at the time she hit 100k, I was 3500 miles into a road trip.

Still, the yahoos continue to ask: “How many miles is too many miles?” I usually tell them to go down several price classes and buy new, because otherwise it will take them just about an hour and a half to jack up a major system to the point where the cost-benefit ratio fails to make that left turn at Albuquerque. The worst, perhaps, are the overenthusiastic guys who found a ten-year-old BMW for under ten grand and don’t comprehend the concept of a $99 oil-change special, and the ones who you just know came this close to being scammed by somebody on Craigslist who claimed to have their dream car for half Kelley Blue Book. (And, of course, the chronic masturbators who want Nissan Skylines, but that’s a whole ‘nother set of neuroses.)

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Brightness control

The Internet, says Bark M., has changed everything:

We used to think people who had vast memories and the ability to devour, and later recall, great bits of knowledge were “smart.” Who needs to do that anymore? Each one of us has a device with the entirety of the knowledge of mankind in our pockets at all time. And, largely because of this, everybody seems to have an opinion on everything, because it’s easy to do a Google search and instantly find out what your position on virtually anything should be. I can’t write a column on TTAC without commenters disputing everything I say, claiming to have all knowledge of all types of cars, despite the fact that they own a 2003 Altima and have never competed in any sort of autosport. The latest C&D review of the new Mustang GT was the best example I’ve seen of this recently — about halfway through the article, I already knew that the commenters would be screaming “45k FOR A RUSTANG LOL YA RITE.” None of them can afford a $45k car of any type, of course, but that doesn’t matter. The internet and social media have mistakenly made all of us think our opinions are equal and valid, when, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The Mustang will sell as fast as dealers can get them.

In my capacity as a person who supposedly easily once qualified as Smart v1.0, I have to admit to a growing level of complacency: if I don’t have The Answer, surely someone else out there has, and that should take the pressure off me. Opinions are still worth about as much as they always were — one of them and $7.99 will get you a combo meal for a limited time only at participating locations, tax not included — but the sheer quantity of them insures that no one is waiting with bated breath for mine.

In a lower-quality automotive environment, such as Yahoo! Answers, most of the loudmouth participants would be lucky to have a 2003 Altima; among the worst ones are the characters who are “temporarily” living at home, “paying no bills,” making $50-60k a year, and wanting to know how close they are to owning a Gallardo. I usually tell them that the reasonable upper limit of their aspirations is a ’99 Corolla. They resent the hell out of that; the only people who are consistently more hostile than this are the ones who can’t understand why they can’t have a Nissan Skyline, and the ones who go on for several paragraphs about how much this crapmobile they bought from a buy-here-pay-here dealer for only 200 percent of list keeps breaking down every other week, and demand to know “What are my rights?” (The answer to that, of course, is “If it breaks in half going down the road, you get to keep both halves.”)

And besides, we’re all smart. The Ed Biz says so:

Now, in modern schools, every kid is “smart.” They have something like seventy-four different types of “intelligence,” and all the kids are intelligent in some way — they even have “physical intelligence” for the kids who are athletically gifted. All the tests that we used to think determined some sort of intelligence are now deemed in some way or another to be “biased.” I used to endlessly mock my brother because I scored about 200 points higher than he did on the SAT (granted, I took it when I was 17 and he took it when he was 13 or something, but still). He claimed that they made the test easier in the eight years between our respective testing dates — now it’s not even up for debate. The college entrance exams are much, much easier than they used to be. I don’t even think they give IQ tests to kids now.

I mention this because (1) his brother reads this stuff occasionally and (2) my brother, the one who was four years younger than I and passed away in 2010, scored about 200 points lower than I did on the SAT. Then again, he was the grounded one; I was the neurotic. (And yet he’s gone, and somehow I’m still here.) And had he been turned loose on those nimrods on Y!A, or even the Best & Brightest at TTAC, he’d have torn them enough new ones to cause a worldwide gauze shortage, while I barely draw blood.

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Not to show off or anything

I found this buried in the comment section at TTAC, and I thought it deserved some kind of expansion:

The [Volkswagen] Phaeton sold just fine, just not in the US or Canada. There’s a sizable demand for a full-on luxury car that doesn’t scream “douchebag.”

In the US, Oldsmobile and Buick have traditionally filled that role. I guess now Hyundai will be the go-to for business people who don’t want to send the wrong message in the company lot. I know a few business owners who don’t drive their nice cars to work, simply because it would upset their employees and maybe show their customers that they are overcharging.

Our own company lot is filled with middle-market stuff: there is a single Cadillac, one Infiniti (mine), and a wide array of standard-price brands and/or beaters, though someone did buy a gently-used Prius this month. And no, the Caddy doesn’t belong to El Jefe. At any given moment, perhaps a third of the corporate spaces are occupied by trucks.

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The lightbearers of Fog City

In an Automobile magazine (October ’14) multi-page article about driving the BMW i3 through Silicon Valley, tucked into a sidebar, I found a little chart: “2013 Vehicle Sales by Fuel Type, San Francisco vs. U.S.” This oughta be good, I thought, and noted that ordinary, garden-variety gasoline-engined cars made up 76.41 percent of the total American market. In San Francisco? 76.88. How unspeakably, improbably … normal.

How is this even possible? SF buys three times as many hybrids (11.39 vs 3.66 percent), four times as many CNG cars (0.04 vs 0.01, no big deal) and nine times as many pure electrics (3.16 vs 0.37). Diesels are about even: 2.69 in SF, 2.98 for the nation as a whole. What they refuse to buy in the City by the Bay, apparently, is so-called “flex-fuel,” gasoline-powered cars that can run on up to 85 percent ethanol: only 5.83 percent of SF buyers opted for flex-fuel in ’13, versus 16.57 percent nationwide. I surmise that on this issue, if perhaps on no other, San Franciscans agree with me: the proper place for ethanol is not your fuel tank, but your shot glass.

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Fair to mittening

Yours truly, in the midst of World Tour ’03:

Two of the four major automotive magazines are based in Ann Arbor, and they complain routinely about the Third World quality of Michigan roads. I didn’t cover a whole lot of Washtenaw County, where I-94 is quite acceptable, but I-69 just south of 94 is somewhere between wretched and horrible; I kept looking around for Ba’ath Party members with remote-control devices.

Today, two of the four major automotive magazines are based in Ann Arbor, but not the same two. (Okay, one of the same two.) How are the roads?

Well when you see a medium duty truck slow to a 15 mph crawl in a 40 mph zone so the cargo (or truck) isn’t damaged, you know the roads are somewhere between “is this really paved?” and “the dark side of the moon.” The double whammy of repeated freeze/thaw cycles and a poor state economy for a couple of decades has resulted in potholes, craters and chasms in our roads. Two of the steel rims on my daily driver have been bent.

Although Lansing apparently has decided that neglect is no longer Option One:

Things are getting better. Just about everyone in the state agrees that the roads need fixing and even our fiscally conservative governor has advocated an increase in the gasoline tax to repave the worst roads here.

They certainly don’t fix themselves.

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Somewhat lacking in dash

Attack with Numbers has a subtle little piece called “The laws of shitty dashboards,” the second of which is “If it’s called ‘Dashboard,’ it’s probably shitty.”

Of course, they’re talking software dashboards, but the principle could be extended further:

Take car dashboards for example. They use vast amount of real estate to display information that is useless 99% of the time. How often do you need to know the RPM on an automatic car? Can’t you just take that stupid dial out and put something useful instead?

Then again, if you don’t have that information in the remaining 1% of the time, you’re hosed. And I look at the RPM all the time, if only to see what sort of shift points I’m using. And there’s this, for instance: the car is fully warmed up when, and only when, 70 rpm can be had below 2500 rpm, useful information of the sort you can’t count on from today’s typically wonky temperature gauges.

On the other hand, I’m definitely down with this:

They also employ UX techniques that dates from a time where the only UI component you can use was a light bulb. If that red thing is critical, can’t you tell me right away what it means?

One wants to know, after all, what the engine is doing, not what it just quit doing.

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Ferric oxide never sleeps

My car’s otherwise pristine flanks are marred by none-too-faint traces of the tinworm along the rear wheel wells, the right worse than the left. (There’s another outcropping along the radiator support, less visible but more worrisome.) I tend to think of it as a reminder that unto dust we shall return, and that goes for our toys as well. And at least it was a good paint job at one time, unlike some we’ve heard about:

I finally got around to putting a bunch of Zaino not-quite-wax on the thing last week and I noticed that Honda’s inability to paint cars properly in the United States has yet to be completely addressed. After 12,000 miles, the Accord has more rock chip damage and wear on the front than any of my Volkswagens, BMWs, or Porsches had after three times that much distance. No orange in history has ever had as much orange peel as this Honda and where the paint has chipped off you can see just how thin it is. Oh well. My 1986 Jaguar Vanden Plas had brilliant and flawless lacquer that was approximately as thick as a trauma-plated bulletproof vest but it also failed to make it to 75,000 miles without requiring the replacement of every rubber part in the suspension and body. Choose your battles.

Indeed. (Gwendolyn has a shade under 153,000 miles at this writing.)

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The new automotive priorities

The big thing at General Motors this fall, apparently, is in-car Wi-Fi. A two-page Buick ad in the new InStyle (October) contains this image:

In the back seat of a Buick Regal

The young lady, resplendent in orange, is obviously making best use of her time in the back seat. (Of course it’s the back seat: you don’t want drivers doing this, the curve of the roofline gives it away, and anyway this is the view from outside the car.) Apart from telling you that you can get a mobile hotspot, though, this ad tucks in a couple of additional messages that aren’t spelled out:

  • The average age of Buick buyers has actually been declining, from recently deceased to somewhere in the fifties, but there’s really no percentage to marketing to us old codgers, set in our ways, so let’s show someone about half that age.
  • Fear of cramped back seats haunts us all, or at least those of us who occasionally might find occasion to carry someone in the back seat, so the fact that Miss Tablet can actually cross her legs back there is reassuring, though I’m not sure how close her head is to the ceiling.

This latter point is seldom made by automakers; I can remember only once in recent years when it was blatant, and even then it was only a tweet.

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Your seventy years are up?

For a dead car brand, Saab certainly gets a lot of notice. The Economic Times of India buried this near the bottom of a column, but still:

Recent international reports indicate that one of Saab’s potential saviours could be Mahindra.

National Electric Vehicle Sweden, a Chinese-run company seeking to revive Saab, recently lost the right to use the brand’s name as it negotiates with potential investors on a revival plan.

The Indian company was keen on acquiring Saab in 2012, only to be beaten by the current owner. Saab didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

“Saab was a highly respected brand in both Europe and the US, and had a small, but strong following,” said [French auto analyst Gautam] Sen. “So, picking up Saab and using the brand could be a good way for Mahindra to make some headway into these markets. Even Ssangyong has had problems getting anywhere in Europe as many consumers believe that it is a Chinese brand. So re-branding (and redesigning) Ssangyong and Mahindra products into Saabs may work, if quality and design can come up to the expectations of the typically discerning Saab enthusiast,” he said. “Having said that, relaunching a brand as specific as Saab would not be that easy either.”

Mahindra took a 70-percent share of Ssangyong, the fourth-largest Korean automaker (behind Hyundai, Kia and GM Daewoo), after the Double Dragon fell into receivership in 2009.

Weirdly, both Mahindra and Saab Automobile were formed the same year: 1945.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Wheelbase measured in inches

Enough of this “overcompensation” stuff, says Bark M.:

These guys hate me with a passion. Not only does my car have over four hundred horsepower, it’s yellow. To this particular group of internet commenters, I may as well have a target placed on my size 38 chest. According to them, my dong is actually so small that it’s inverted.

I would suggest that, in this day and age, that line of thought is outdated as the stereotype that only women of a certain persuasion drive Subarus. The only thing my car is an extension of is of my personality. In fact, I’d suggest that perhaps the opposite might be true — that men who drive underpowered cars do so because they think it supplements their identities as hipsters or intellectuals. Also, your girl just drooled over that Viper that drove by.

That Subaru stereotype, incidentally, once got a TTAC editor lambasted and then sacked.

I’m not buying the tweedy-hipster routine, though. In any given automotive class, the car with the least horsepower is likely to be the Mazda; this particular automaker values lightness and litheness more than pony count. If J. Random Wuss persistently chose the smallest horsepower number available, Mazda would be selling a million cars a year in the States instead of a mere 300,000.

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For the long term

The October Motor Trend has an interview, not with the usual grand high muckety-muck of the automotive industry, but with a 70-year-old corporate accountant, unaffiliated with the industry, who’s been on their subscription rolls ever since 1960, at which time he was sixteen and the magazine was eleven.

I did like this interchange:

Have we ever steered you wrong?

No, absolutely not. Never was sorry on anything I ever bought, really.

So you never bought a Vega, huh?

The Vega was MT’s 1971 Car of the Year; they’re still living that one down.

I did some counting, and my current longest subscription run is with MT rival Car and Driver, which I started in 1978. I’m sure someone — possibly Tam — can beat that.

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Why we hate buying cars

A field report from Bayou Renaissance Man:

As part of my search for solutions to my truck’s electrical problems, I visited a few used car dealers (and used car departments of new car dealers) to price alternative transport. I went well armed with information, having researched possible cars and trucks on Edmunds.com and made lists of what Edmunds terms the “true market value” of relevant ones for several model years. I always found that the cars’ sticker prices were several thousand dollars above those listed by Edmunds, and I always asked the salesmen to justify that. They uniformly tried to persuade me that Edmunds.com didn’t know what it was talking about. When I produced corroborating values from NADA and the Kelley Blue Book, they’d fall back on the old “Well, we use a different book” excuse. When I refused to buckle, and insisted on answers, about half of them hemmed and hawed and waffled; the other half simply refused to talk any further.

It was always thus. When I retired Deirdre, my ’84 Mercury Cougar, I was offered something like $1400 above KBB for her in trade. This made no sense to me, but I was ready to deal. The new(ish) car was a ’93 Mazda 626, for which they were asking $9995. In plum condition, and this one was close to it, it was worth a KBB-estimated $8600. By any definition of the term, this was a wash.

(The next Mazda was bought new. Sticker was just over $20,000. But that’s another story.)

There is, however, a silver lining:

Only one dealer was honest enough to tell me that they charged the price they believed the market would bear. If their price was higher than Edmunds’ recommendation, it was because that make and model were in demand in this area, or they’d had to invest extra money in getting the vehicle ready for sale (which they backed up with invoices showing the work that had been done). They made no excuses and didn’t try to waffle.

That sort of forthright statement deserves some sort of signal boost.

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Nothing new under the sunroof

The view from the driver’s seat of the freshly-hatched 2015 Lincoln MKC:

Instrument panel of 2015 Lincoln MKC

(Photo from worldautomodification.com.)

The buttons down the upper left side of the center stack bear letters you’ve seen before: P, R, N, D, S. (The last one is the engine start/stop switch.)

Now really: how much has changed in fifty-nine years?

Advertisement for 1956 Dodge

Oh, yeah: the Lincoln has shift paddles. Hot (actually kinda tepid) diggity.

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Now that’s total recall

It’s seldom that an automaker has to recall 100 percent of a model year, but it’s happened to supercar maker Koenigsegg. Not that this is a lot of cars, of course:

Koenigsegg Automotive AB (Koenigsegg) is recalling one model year 2013 Agera vehicle manufactured in December 2012, equipped [with] a BF1 Systems Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). The affected vehicle may experience the TPMS system not illuminating the TPMS malfunction indicator light when the vehicle is restarted. Thus, this vehicle fails to comply to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 138, “Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems.”

One. Apparently this car is the only ’13 Agera actually sold in the States. I don’t know how many of them were actually built, but “planned volume is 12 to 15 cars per year,” most of which probably went to Dubai or some such place.

The bf1systems (to give it its proper stylization) TPMS is very popular in the supercar market:

bf1systems’ Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems can be found as standard fit on cars such as the Bugatti Veyron, Lamborghini Aventador, Pagani Huayra and all Aston Martins.

Not a slouch in the bunch.

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Added to the colander of saints

“Lose the glasses,” they told me when they took the picture for my driver’s license. “Too much glare.” Good thing they didn’t shoot the top of my head.

Then again, I’m not a Pastafarian:

It may sound like a joke but an Enid woman says her Oklahoma driver’s license features a unique symbol of her religious freedom.

It may even prompt a giggle, but for Shawna Hammond, the spaghetti strainer is a symbol of freedom.

“It doesn’t cover my face. I mean you can still see my face. We have to take off our glasses, so I took off my glasses,” Hammond said.

Letter of the law, doncha know. And this is the law:

According to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety’s rules, religious headpieces cannot cause shadows on your face and the photograph must present a clear view of your face.

Hammond declares herself to be an atheist, her manifest devotion to the Flying Spaghetti Monster notwithstanding.

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256 shades of grey

For as long as I can remember, the back page of the Oklahoma Gazette, the local sort-of-alt-weekly, has been purchased by the local BMW dealer to showcase the current lease deals. After a while, they start to blur: all those Bimmers look pretty much the same. Jack Baruth is happy to explain one of the reasons why:

Let’s put aside for a minute the staggering historical ignorance in thinking that German cars have always been limited to non-colors. After all, the Porsches of the Sixties and the Audis of the Seventies came in colors from lime green to light tan and at no time was the integrity of the German people harmed in any way as a result. Trabants were always wacky colors and that was despite East Germany being pretty much a collection of unheated concrete buildings. The monochromization of the Fatherland’s automobiles didn’t start in earnest until it became possible to lease them cheaply and all the newbies wanted a silver BMW with the lowest possible payment. What can you do about that? It sucks and that’s why when you drive by your local Bimmer dealer the colorful Bavarias and 320is of yesteryear have been replaced by a line of grey blobs with BMW Financial’s preferred package of auction-friendly equipment.

Well, this week they have an X1 sDrive28i in actual red for $359 for 36 months, and while this is the Bimmer toward which I am most favorably disposed, I refuse to pay actual money for anything with an asinine label like “sDrive28i.” (MSRP, if you’re asking, is $36,650.) And apparently this ad is updated piecemeal, when it’s updated at all, because some of these deals expired on the first of August, the rest on the first of September. Cover date is the third of September. (The bottom-feeder 320i, offered for $309, is indeed in silver, or a very shiny grey.)

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Barrier on the side of the road

The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard in question is Number 214, and the Feds will not yield:

FMVSS No. 214 incorporates a new test that replicates the scenario where a car slides sideways into a tree or pole. Finalized in 2007, the test began being phased in to new cars starting in 2010, but automakers that produce fewer than 5,000 units have been exempt from the phase-in period. That is until September 1, 2014 when all vehicles (excluding convertibles) are expected to be compliant; convertible have until September 1, 2015.

According to the petition [by several US Aston Martin dealers], the coupe and convertible models of the DB9 and Vantage will not meet this regulation within that timeframe, and claims that Aston Martin would require an investment of $30 million (€22.4 million) to make the necessary changes to the vehicles, which the petition says that automaker doesn’t have. Even worse, the next-generation models of both cars have been delayed with no specific time table for their arrival.

Feds: “Drop dead”:

So that would seem to be that. Formal statements are expected shortly.

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Dynaflub

I have occasionally grumbled about the four-speed automatic that sits behind Gwendolyn’s engine: the big(gish) V6 is happy to rev, but getting the slushbox to do a downshift when called upon occasionally tries my patience. This is done, I am told, to preserve fuel economy. I, of course, find this argument specious: we may or may not run out of oil some day, but I will definitely run out of time.

Still, however lethargic this Jatco unit seems to be, it’s way speedier than Dale Franks’ description of the Hydra-Matic 6T40 (I think) the General bolts into the Buick Encore:

As near as I can figure it, the engine writes out a 5-page shift request form in longhand, then walks down to the mailbox to send it off. When the transmission receives it, it properly logs the request — in longhand, of course — then proceeds to shift. You can speed the process up, as the transmission has a manual option, with a shift switch on the shifter handle. Don’t do that. You won’t like it.

And that’s a six-speed.

In the long run, it might be easier just to get the damn knee replacement and a car with an actual stick shift, while such contraptions still exist.

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The last Saab story ever?

Maybe. The company that makes Saab cars — except, of course, that it’s not actually making any cars right now — has won protection from its creditors, but at a dear price:

China’s National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), which bought bankrupt carmaker Saab in 2012, won protection from creditors from a Swedish court on Friday while it concludes funding talks.

The decision gives the company, which has not built any cars since May because of a shortage of money, breathing space from creditors to whom it owes some 400 million Swedish crowns ($57.56 million).

There’s just this one minor detail:

Separately, Saab AB, the defense firm from which Saab Automobile was created in 1990, added to NEVS’ troubles on Friday by saying it had withdrawn its right to use the brand name Saab.

Swedish business daily Dagens Industri quoted a Saab AB spokesperson as saying NEVS’ application for creditor protection gave Saab AB the right to cancel the brand agreement.

So there will be cars from NEVS, maybe, but with a new brand name — unless they can pull off something miraculous like persuading General Motors to sell them Pontiac or Saturn. Fat chance of that.

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Armed with 45s

Those of you who were taken aback at the fact that I worked a Blondie reference into a Spottings post presumably haven’t been around here very long: if a lyric comes into my head, it will almost always appear in the current post.

Even people who get paid to write stuff do this. K. C. Colwell, in Car and Driver‘s 2015 New Cars issue:

If the [BMW] M3 has been reduced to a parts-bin fluff job, well, then, God is dead and the war’s begun.

Alvin Tostig (Levon’s father) was not available for comment.

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Never be mist

TTAC commenter “turf3″ explains fog lights:

The purpose of fog lights is to blind oncoming drivers by using them in conjunction with high beams on clear nights when driving on streets with street lights located every 150 feet.

In practice, though, the high beams will blind you more than the fog lights will. (And in some cars, the fog lights turn off when the high beams come on.)

The secondary purpose of fog lights is to add an easily broken feature to plastic bumpers so the cost of using bumpers for their intended purpose (bumping!!!) can be even more expensive.

Now that’s pretty indisputable.

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Damn laws of physics

What in the world could this yahoo possibly have been thinking?

Yahoo! Answers screenshot: What suv has a tow capacity of 7000 lbs and gets good gas mileage?

This is right up there with “How much do I have to spend on a suit to win the heart of a supermodel?”

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The sourest of grapes

A TTAC article about a line of “Prius fighters” to be built by Ford drew this surly comment:

Ford will never be able to compete with the Toyota hybrid. Consider the difference between the two companies. Ford is big on workplace diversity. This means Ford managers are often selected on the color of their skin rather than their IQ. Toyota promotes the best and brightest.

Many times, a white guy, who graduates from a top college with high SAT scores, is passed over for promotion in favor of a minority who gained entrance to a comparable college using affirmative action policies and lesser SAT scores. So, the smarter white guy has no career opportunities at Ford while less smart minority is steadily promoted. The smarter white guy leaves the state of Michigan. Result? Ford can not compete with Toyota.

Go ahead Ford. Keep up the workplace diversity. Then, wonder why your vehicles continue to score black dots in Consumer Reports.

It never occurred to this “smarter white guy” to apply for a position at Toyota? They do have, after all, a technical center in Michigan, and if he’s among the “best and brightest,” shouldn’t he be a shoo-in?

Since it’s likely not the policy of any automaker, foreign or domestic, to introduce an applicant to the person who actually got the job, I have to figure that this chap is hoping someone will buy him a hat so he can talk through it.

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Immovable objects

I was still puzzling over this, four hours after the fact — it happened on the way home during Friday rush hour — and finally I decided to toss it up here.

Exiting I-44 westbound at Classen puts you on the Classen Circle, which is no longer even slightly circular, and gives you a quarter-mile of This Is Not A Ramp before you discover you’ve gotten yourself into the southeastern terminus of the Northwest Distressway. The light was yellow, and I chose not to floor it; after all, there’ll be another green in a couple of minutes.

There wasn’t. The usual pattern for this light ignored westbound traffic entirely for a minimum of three cycles. Something was apparently stuck. Off in the distance, I could see a fire truck, probably from Station 17, heading east; it turned in at 50 Penn Place. That’s odd, I thought; Station 11 is probably closer. Then again, Station 11 probably couldn’t get there because of this damn stuck light.

At which moment I looked towards the rear, and stuck about three car lengths behind me in the left lane — I was in the center — was another fire truck. Station 11, I reckoned.

Now the lights along the Distressway aren’t synchronized worth a damn, but I could swear I’ve seen one or two of them temporarily disabled to make way for emergency vehicles. Is it possible that both engines pushed the magic button, a third of a mile in advance, and their signals managed to screw with each other?

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Advance information

The beatings will continue, it appears, until the equine is no longer deceased:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How many citizens have a problem of buying 'havinga new vehicle before the calendar year?

If that makes little sense, this won’t make much more:

I got this response that I didn’t expect from one of my other questions about model years. I think it is weird, but I still find it acceptable for cars because think if I wanted it to be strict, then it could mean that i would have less fun according to my guardian’s rules. Here is this response.

“Haven’t we had enough of this whinging about the discrepancy between model and calendar years? No one in the Real World has a problem with it.

“Role model: William Maxwell Gaines, founder of Mad magazine, who set it up with an 8-issues-per-year schedule that guaranteed that no issue was ever on sale during the month printed on its cover.”

I started to wonder who has a problem with it.

For school buses, I think a 2013 school bus was there in 2012 for school bus fleet reasoning like meeting emission standards for 2013 for this school bus.

I have a problem when transit buses often enter service before the calendar year (if there is no need to or no reason to) because fleet age is something very important.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that emissions standards are set by model year, not by calendar year, therefore his concerns are somewhere between misplaced and pathological. Moreover, it’s hard not to wonder about the nature of his, um, “guardian.”

And besides, I’ve obviously told the little peckerhead enough already.

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While sticking to the seat

Advice for the unclothed driver, aside from the obvious “Don’t get pulled over”:

If you can drive without air conditioning, good for you. It’s my preferred way to do it. But: on very hot days cool down your car (and your body) before you put on your clothes. Otherwise your natural body heat will be caught beneath your clothes and that can feel very bad/hot.

I admit to not having thought of that.

Incidentally, if you need gas, you should probably get dressed before swiping your MasterCard through the pump reader.

(Via Nudiarist. Neither link should be considered safe for work unless you are the sysadmin or you have something on him.)

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