Archive for Driver’s Seat

Says “RAM” right on it

It was black. Black sheetmetal, black trim, black wheels. The interior was probably black, though it was impossible to tell through the not-entirely-unblack window tint, and the dash was almost certainly festooned with weird black controls that are labeled in black on a black background, and a little black light lights up in black to let you know you’ve done it. The children refer to this color scheme as “murdered out,” a term at which I have reason to quail.

Westbound on Interstate 44 runs three lanes, mostly; where the Broadway Distention comes in, the outer lane merges into the center, so that south-to-west traffic can enter on the other side of the junction without actually having to merge. A Ram truck in the color scheme described above executed a speedy merge from right to center, and its pilot decided that hey, let’s go all the way to the left lane. I thought this was a bad idea, since I (in a white car, if you want to ladle on the symbolism) was occupying that section of the left lane at the time, doing a modest, if technically too fast, 63 mph. Now you should know that there’s a lot of junction crammed into a small space; the left shoulder, into which I would have to escape the Ram’s apparent wrath, is all of 30 inches wide and is topped off with a seven-foot-high Jersey barrier. Sideways was therefore out; I had to evacuate forward. The request was sent to Gwendolyn’s engine room: second gear, stat. The tachometer spun clockwise toward 6000 rpm, and once I was able to breathe again, I muttered some suitably dark incantations. The Ram stayed behind me, but its velocity was diminishing: two lengths between us, then four, then more.

I slid down the Classen offramp, the Ram still in tepid pursuit. We wound up more or less side by side at the place where the Circle ends and the Northwest Distressway begins, and then I saw something that wasn’t black at all: a thirty-day paper tag, flapping in the breeze. The owner of this truck had only been so for a few days. Probably had just moved up from something purely proletarian.

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Downright quick, considering

I would have expected a longer, or at least more tedious, procedure:

Mrs. McG and I took her car to the nearest Honda dealership this morning, and the ticking timebomb that was a Takata airbag has been replaced with something less likely to jump out and start shooting innocent bystanders without warning. Or am I getting that confused with how the media portrays AR-15 rifles? It’s hard to tell sometimes.

I figured this to be a two-day job, if only because of the expense involved. But no, apparently not. I dialed over to Alldata, which presently advises that while the parts are pricey and then some, labor is no more than 0.8 billable hour and requires only a medium skill level.

Not that I was worrying, particularly. Nissan started buying airbags from Takata for this model starting with model year 2001. I have a ’00.

Incidentally, in a lifetime behind the wheel I have reported in for only one vehicle recall, on my second Mazda. Problem: wrong cap may have been installed on the brake-fluid reservoir. Dealer’s report after 20 seconds: “No, this is the right cap.”

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Wheels for the desperate

If TransUnion is to be believed, I have a credit score of, um, 799. (It broke 800 for one month, then dropped back.) This silly number notwithstanding, I get rather a lot of snail mail from auto dealers who cater to subprime customers, and it hasn’t been that long since I was one of them. And they’re easy to spot, because they all rely on the same tedious devices to make the would-be buyer feel more important than he is. The one I got yesterday was one of those tear-off-three-edges things that big-box stores use to send you a check for a five-dollar rebate. Up in the return-address zone was the phrase “ACCOUNTING DIVISION” — well, it could be a check, couldn’t it? — and in smaller print: “Please be careful not to discard or lose that notice.” Which is how you know it’s not a check, because someone who was actually sending you a check wouldn’t mind at all if you threw it away.

It gets hilarious on the inside, with the reference to the “Main Office for the Issuance of Official Documentation.” This obviously doesn’t mean a damned thing. Nor does this: “This is not a sales promotion, but an opportunity to assist you, regardless of past credit.” When I was 12 years old and had a credit score of six and two-thirds, you dumbasses, I could have recognized this as a sales promotion.

And then:

“Our records indicate that you are in your final two weeks of eligibility.”

Does this mean that once 14 days have elapsed, I’ll never see crap from this dealer again? Fat farging chance.

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Shuffling off this mortal coilover

There was a time when General Motors had many more badges than they do now. And one by one, they were judged superfluous and were made to face the firing-order squad. (Remember Viking? Oakland? Okay, LaSalle ran great for a decade or so, but they’re forgotten by now.) What matters now, though, is that Buick, the very first brand bought by Billy Durant on his way to founding GM, must die:

Buick is now clearly the dumping ground of GM product. If you look at GMC, for example, you’ll see fresh faces and shiny grilles and waiting lists for products like the four-cylinder Terrain. Buick? Well, they have

  • A Korean blob (Encore)
  • A Chinese blob (Envision)
  • A Polish blob with a folding roof (Cascada)
  • A sedan that nobody buys (Regal)
  • Another sedan that nobody buys (LaCrosse)
  • A monstrous CUV that weighs 4,800 pounds in its cheapest FWD variant and which has no visible market whatsoever (Enclave)

And since all but a handful of Buick dealers also sell GMC trucks and trucklets, you can see them more or less simultaneously.

Weirdly — or perhaps not so weirdly, since I am old and set in my ways — were I to buy one more car before I go, it could well be a Buick. The brand image may be murky these days, but I still think of Buick as Cadillac’s quieter, if perhaps dowdier, sister. There isn’t much space, though, between Cadillac and Chevrolet, and the General doesn’t seem to be making any room for the Roadmasters of legend.


Cheaty cheater wants to cheat

The question posed: “If I don’t pass my Florida permit test the 1st time, will the questions be totally different the 2nd time I take it?”

If that doesn’t give away his scheme, the next line will:

Or will they be in a different order? Thanks!

Guy’s evidently too young and untried to know better than to give away his bad ideas that quickly.

One answerer, careful to keep a straight face, pointed out that there are at least half a dozen versions of the Florida test.

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It helps to be small

I figure the desire to save $75 is probably pretty strong with most of us.

This vehicle is a 2013 Nissan Juke; what works best in this car may not work for yours.


How little we have learned

And you can probably plug any other state into this matrix and get similar results:

The Romans probably never envisioned a system in which road builders would do the minimum amount of work possible, in the hopes of getting rehired to redo the same road in a few years.

(Via Sissy Willis.)

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A dealer’s dream

The customer who doesn’t learn anything until after the contract is signed:

I bought a 2015 suv from a major car dealership in my area (ma). And found out after all their talking they didn’t take anything off the overpriced car! They listed it way over the Kelley blue book value for fair market range. The top price was 20k for fair market and the dealer sold it 25k! Is this legal? I bought it Thursday can I return it?

Well, you could always contact the Federal Department of Mandatory Discounts, except for the tiny matter that it doesn’t actually exist.

Somebody else took it upon himself to set the original poster straight, or at least less bent:

Yes…EVERYTHING WAS DONE LEGALLY. You could have tried and negotiated a lower price(they can refuse to sell it for that price too, which also is legal) … but you didn’t.

Yes, you can return it. Be fully aware that they are buying back the vehicle from you and are only going to offer you 18,000. Take the hit, or keep the car. Your choice. THAT IS ALSO LEGAL.

KBB is a suggested value (if you are a sharp negotiator). Car Lots have “professional” negotiators … so way past “sharp”. This is their living, what they do everyday, multiple times per day. You buy a car like ONCE every few years? You lose the edge for negotiating.

They can ask a sky high price for it and hope they get a “biter”. You bit the hook, and they reeled you in.(much like fishing)

You bringing the car back … they don’t have to buy it from you … for the same price. They want to be paid for their work of pushing a pen and paper around … so you lose. (They NEVER LOSE.)

All their talking (talk is cheap) managed to make you lose focus on the actual deal and you signed for it; buying at the advertised price. THAT is your fault.

Having the KBB knowledge did not HELP YOU one bit. Hope that when you resell the vehicle, that THAT buyer does not use KBB guidelines and Out negotiates you. (as you will be asking more than the vehicle is worth — because you are making room for negotiations.) If they see they get the price lower, they are more apt to buy and be happy … while you still get more than the actual KBB value for it so you are also happy.

That is why stuff is overpriced in the first place.

Seemingly random capitalization as in the original.

From what I’ve seen, the nation is chockablock with people who believe that results from Kelley — or the EPA-derived numbers at — are somehow legally binding. In that case, I invoke the shade of W. C. Fields: “It’s morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money.”

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Don’t look down

It’s 1972, and your humble host, on a flight to Boston, is looking down at what was then never called “flyover country,” and he grumbles that the farmland below is taking forever to traverse; intellectually, he knows that he’s going a couple hundred miles an hour, but the ground passes by at seemingly a lot slower than that.

And then he didn’t think of that anymore, until he read this:

We tend to take our speed cues from the motion of the ground beneath us. The farther away your eyes are from the ground, the slower you think you’re going. A Dutch study showed that drivers at “SUV height” were comfortable driving almost 5 mph faster [pdf] than they were in an identical car at passenger-car height. Two-thirds of the drivers didn’t notice any difference; some of the ones who did notice thought they were actually going slower in the higher vehicle.

No wonder everyone’s buying these jacked-up jalops instead of staid old sedans. And I thought it was just to be able to see better at those higher heights.

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Let’s see if we can mess this up

The question sounded suspicious: How could I get access to a vehicle’s source code? The guy’s motivation, however, does not seem malign:

The reason why is because my car has a digital dashboard & I was wondering if I could adjust the dashboard layout like the color of the car and text by accessing the source code responsible for dash layout & manipulating it.

There are some current cars with digital dashes and adjustments provided for same, though none of them will actually allow you to change “the color of the car.” In which case, the answer is simply RTFM.

Somehow, though, I doubt that he’s driving one of those.

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Forever crawling

In 1978, I was a newlywed, and one of the first orders of business was to dispose of Susannah, my raggedy old 1966 Chevrolet Nova, and obtain something less offensive to the eye. There was no particular rush, so we hit lots of dealer lots. Eventually we happened upon a three-year-old Mercedes-Benz 240D. Exterior was perfect; interior nearly so, with the exception of one small cigarette burn in the MB-Tex upholstery. We observed that it was short on trunk space; the explanation given us was that the previous owner, a physician from up around Enid way, had installed an auxiliary fuel tank, making it possible to get 1200-1300 miles on a single tank of diesel. Consistent with this story, the Benz was already over 100,000 miles.

Eventually, we passed it up, officially because of its out-of-our-range price, but mostly because of that sixth digit on the odometer: Susannah was dying a slow death at 105,000. And, well, zero to sixty in 31 seconds or so would have tried our patience. But we were young and foolish, and we ended up in another Nova, a ’76, with an actual gas-guzzling V8 instead of Mercedes’ abstemious diesel four.

Now I wonder if that 240D, now well into its forties, might somehow still be on the road. In those days, Benzes were built to last and then some. I know what Jack Baruth thinks on the matter: “There will still be 240Ds crawling around this planet when the last CLA becomes a Chinese refrigerator.” In support of this notion:

In 2004 Greek taxi driver Gregorios Sachinidis donated his 1976 Mercedes-Benz 240D to the Mercedes-Benz Museum Collection with 4.6 million kilometers on the odometer, which is recognised as the Mercedes-Benz with the highest recorded mileage known to date.

Bless you, Mr Sachinidis, sir.

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Boo, and also Hoo

I got this from one of Jack Baruth’s commenters, and I have decided that if I ever get this whiny about a mere car, you should borrow an AR-15 from a classmate and perforate my rib cage:

Said another commenter:

There are weak, confused drama queens about, in this unfortunate time; and a lot of them are, at least chromosonally, males. Here in my little hipster settlement in the Bitterroots, we have more than the average share — California expats.

Okay. Weak and stupid people abound.


How does this HAPPEN? Like you said … it’s insured. He just bought it. Stand back and watch the fireworks; and think about whether you want to use the insurance money to get another … or maybe, not make the same mistake twice.

But no. There with his woman with him … he’s carrying on like a scared four-year-old. And who comes to help him? An ARMY MAN. Someone who DOES have emotional and mental discipline.

As Roberta X says:

[N]o one wins their last battle; the best any of us can hope for is to enter it unafraid.

I don’t think I’m quite to that point yet.

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Broke, broke

“Can a Financier Finance a SubPrime Car?” asks a guy trying to sound like he knows what he’s talking about:

A financier financed a car that I thought was in working condition and had a few cosmetic issues… I got tired of fixing it under the hood, bought another car out-right, and they repossessed the financed one. Then charged me to “make it new again”-very costly… before auctioning it off for a measly 300 dollars claiming that the engine needed to be rebuilt and the the vehicle was “abused” and I know that all I ever did was take care of it. What should I do. I reported them to the CFPB for their collections tactics etc. and they still haven’t deleted the collection item. What can I do? I don’t have “before” pictures.

Um, Bunkie? This is not Walmart. You don’t get your money back. Ever. And “… that I thought was in working condition” is utterly worthless in view of “I got tired of fixing it under the hood.”

The real question, though, is why, if you were in a position to buy a car “out-right,” did you take out a loan for that first piece of crap — and then default on that loan? You played this about as badly as it’s possible to play it.

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Have we got a Brazilian for you

Hyundai’s new Tiny Crossover is called “Kona,” except where it isn’t:

The car will be sold in Portugal as the Hyundai Kauai, as Kona is too similar to “cona”, the slang word for the female genitalia in Portuguese. Like Kona, Kauai is a western island of Hawaii.

And there’s one more outlier:

In the People’s Republic of China, the car will be released as the Hyundai Encino.

Because what sophisticated Chinese buyers want is a Korean car named after a section of L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, right?

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You’re my polar opposite

Toyota, having contemplated the design of future electric cars, has perforce been required to take a fresh look at magnets (how do they work?):

Electric motors found in EVs use magnetism to create rotational energy, which is then transferred to the axle shafts and drive wheels. Without straying too far into the technological weeds, the motor utilizes magnets, along with alternating current, to create a rotating magnetic field with which to spin the rotor, thus creating a means of propulsion. And batteries aren’t the cheapest things in the world.

Toyota’s plan is to eliminate the use of terbium and dysprosium in these magnets, and halve the use of neodymium. (Hands up if you’ve ever heard of these metals.) The automaker expects neodymium demand to outstrip supply by 2025, making it a good time to start leaving it in the rear-view. Instead of these rare earth metals, Toyota will use lanthanum and cerium. Both of these metals are 20 percent cheaper and less likely to skyrocket in price as EV sales rise.

Former chemistry student here. Of course I’ve heard of them. And I have a fair-sized chunk of neodymium in my own highly non-electric car: it’s part of the magnet that moves the voice coil of the subwoofer hanging off the rear deck.

And here’s rather a lot of the stuff, in spherical form:

(No thanks to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which really hates these things, though apparently more for the swallowing risk than for the magetism. Title swiped from Freezepop.)

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Please don’t think ill of us

Imagine what sort of crapmobile this clod might drive:

My girl friend and I are planning on a road trip across ‘Merika – Las Vegas next year.

We’re planning on taking a trip down to long beach [ca] to have a look around.

Thing is, GFs car is a decade old beat up Kia and was wondering if we should park up around a corner then walk down to the beach.

I’m just concerned that my GFs car [being what it is] might lower the tone of the area, people might think we are hobo’s or something what with everyone driving around long beach in their Ferraris, Bentley’s and Wrangler jeeps ?

I was going to suggest he rent a car from 1-800-POSEUR, but a long-time resident had the better argument:

All those people with the high dollar cars live in Newport Beach. Downtown LB is mostly black folks, gays, Cambodians, and, of course, a wide selection of homeless bums and thieves. No one will give your old car a second look, except maybe the police if the registration isn’t current.

Which is not so different from what I remember on my one visit to Long Beach.

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Down the hall at the Department of Duh

Unfortunately, this chap is in a hurry to get on the road: If I get pulled over without having my license yet, and I get a ticket, do I have to pay it if I get my license?

In some jurisdictions, that ticket may actually delay issuance of a license, in which case this clod is destined for the Group W bench.

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I don’t want this car anymore

So, says this feeb, I’m getting rid of it in the least-efficient way possible:

I took my 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee in because it wasn’t starting turning on anymore so I took it to them they did a diagnostic on it and they quoted me $600 for the starter and $800 for the fuse box so about $1,500 in repairs I’m not going to pay that because first of all they started throwing Parts at the card I didn’t even fix the problem so days go on, they asked me today what I wanted to do either make payments on the repair cost or just give them the car and I said I’ll give you the car because the repairs cost more than the car is worth and who knows what else is wrong with the car when they turn it back on so everybody on Facebook think I got scammed I don’t look at it that way I look at it as they spent their money to buy the starter and I refuse the pay so that kind of were in the air with the whole thing so if I let them appraise my truck which they end up saying no give me $500 for it which they said they’re going to keep the $500 to satisfy the maintenance cost really it was a catch-22 they bought the starter and pay me $500 to give back to the parts department so they really did not win anything the paid off Jeep is out of my name now the Jeep is now in their name my headache is there new headache would you say I got scammed for a car and a few hundred dollars worth of parts

In this neck of the woods, the cheapest ’04 Grand Cherokee to be had is offered for $3499; others are closer to $5000. So yeah, by the standards (or complete lack thereof) of people who are motivated largely by pique, or by the opinions of randos on Facebook, he did really well.

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Augusta wind

“As Maine goes,” said political pundits once upon a time, “so goes the nation.” I’m not so sure this scheme will make it as far as New Hampshire:

The Maine Department of Transportation wants to add an annual registration fee for hybrids and electric vehicles. $150 for hybrids, and $250 for electric models. The DOT is looking to impose the fee because it says drivers of the more energy efficient vehicles aren’t paying their fair share toward road maintenance.

“The owners of these types of vehicles are paying far less in the gas tax than other vehicle owners and they are using the highway system just like any others,” MDOT Manager of Legislated Services Megan Russo told the Portland Press-Herald. “There has got to be a way to try and capture revenue from those drivers who are using our road system.”

Perhaps weirdly, the hybrid and EV owners will be punching above their weight: At $250 per year, an EV would pay about the same in fees as the driver of a vehicle that gets just 18 miles per gallon over 15,000 miles.

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In lieu of actual wayfinding

If you’ve lived here more than a few nonths, you probably have your own story of this sort to tell:

I don’t know if it’s budget cutting (signs fall down/get stolen, never get replaced), or the assumption that “If you’re not from ’round here, you got no business drivin’ on our rural roads,” or the assumption “But everyone uses their smartphones to tell them where to go now.”

THEY DON’T MARK THE STATE ROUTES. Or at least not regularly. In a couple places I found you go 15-20 miles before you see a clear indication of what you’re on. And MULTIPLE times (I am looking at you, Purcell, and also you, south end of Davis), there is an intersection, it’s not clear which way you’re supposed to turn (or turn at all) and there is NO SIGN. So, if like me, you assume, “No indicator sign and arrow means you keep going straight,” you get off your path badly.

In general, this is an area where this state often fails. If you’re northbound on I-35 coming from downtown Oklahoma City — in which case you’ve already wondered how you got tossed onto I-40 in the middle of it — you’ll rather quickly learn that there is a junction with I-44 coming up within how many miles and fractions thereof. Until you actually reach that junction, though, there is no way you would know that to go westbound on I-44, you’ll have to exit left. You have not quite half a mile to move over, not a problem at ten in the morning, but a major source of tsuris during the afternoon rush.

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More air in there

Newer cars than mine have a Tire Pressure Monitoring System, which throws an indicator on the dash should a tire appear to be low. Cars sold in Ireland also have TPMS, but there’s a second monitoring system at work: the local police. The Newspaper reports:

Irish motorists face higher insurance premiums, potential loss of license and a 80 euro (US $100) ticket if they hit the road without first checking the pressure of all four tires. Ireland’s traffic code has long banned the use of “unsuitable” tires that are excessively worn or otherwise damaged. The rules make reference to the need to maintain an appropriate tire pressure.

“The tire is not fit for the use to which the vehicle is being put, due to the degree of inflation of the tire,” Irish road traffic regulations state.

The tire industry’s response has been mixed:

Continental Tire Group, for example, has been using the “Vision Zero” political branding as a means of promoting sales of replacement tires. Several firms advocated changing the legal definition of a worn tire from 3mm to 1.6mm. Michelin blasted the idea, citing the results of its own extensive testing.

And yes, they will set up roadblocks to check your tires and other equipment.

(Via Fark.)

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A credit to the species

Bark M. has a long talk with a subprime auto-lending specialist, and he asks one of the questions I most wanted to have answered:

“So who are your very best customers, then?”

“Drug dealers. No question.” She’s very definitive on this point. “They pay on time, every month, in cash at the office. They’ll even pay extra money toward the principal — I’ve explained how that works to a few of them, and they really love the idea. Of course, the money smells like weed and makes the office reek for the whole day. Great customers. Horrible people, yes, but great customers.”

You’d almost wonder why they’d go shopping subprime if they’re such careful, um, money managers.

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Comparison test

In the post-Rand McNally era, we will need evaluations like this:

Or you can wait for a GPS to lead you into a lake.

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Application for Cheap Bastards of America

Prospective members have to be able to rattle off garbage like this at a moment’s notice:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: After 100,000 miles is it okay to no longer change your car oil?

By the same token, as my dad used to say, after 40 years you no longer have to bathe or eat.

Of course, this skinflint could avoid the whole question by buying an electric car, which has no oil to change, but I’m guessing that if he can’t pony up $25 for an oil change, there’s no chance he has the bucks for a little radio-controlled toy, let alone a Tesla.

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The latest thing in jump-starting

Hyundai Canada has come up with a plan to rescue owners of their Ioniq electric hatchback who drove just a little too far:

With its first electric model now plying the country’s roadways, the automaker figured the best way to help stranded Ioniq Electric drivers was with other Ioniq Electrics.

The service, which starts in the EV-heavy Montreal area this spring, sees Ioniqs come to the aid of overly optimistic drivers sidelined by their car’s modest 124-mile range. The savior Ioniq drains 7 kWh of juice from its own battery to the recipient car, resurrecting it with about 25 miles of range — enough to make it home or to a public charging station.

The hookup lasts about 20 minutes. A trunk-mounted converter and two Level 3 charging cables allow the donor car to reverse the normal flow of electrons — out from the car’s charge port to the convertor, and then on to the dead vehicle.

Hyundai will be offering this service gratis for five years after the purchase of a new Ioniq.

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The French humbly return

This I did not expect:

At Wednesday’s Automotive News World Congress in Detroit, Peugeot SA Chief Executive Carlos Tavares said the French automaker is picking the brains of former Opel engineers to develop vehicles for re-entry into U.S. market.

[Note to self: Rebrand as “Carlos,” try for a high automotive job. It’s worked for Tavares; it worked for Carlos Ghosn at Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi.]

Of course, those former Opel engineers now work for Peugeot, which acquired what used to be GM’s European operations last year.

TTAC’s Matthew Guy says, and I am forced to agree, that no article about Peugeot is complete without this video:

Must have been after Columbo’s seemingly indestructible 403.

Clearly the man kept a body shop on retainer.


A new name, perhaps?

The original Mini was, well, not large, hence the name. The current model, produced by BMW, is almost, well, not small:

Minis old and new

Kim du Toit observes:

Now I know that a lot of the bloat has come about because of the Nanny State’s insistence on airbags and similar safety features [25,000-word rant deleted] and the fact that in today’s obese world of fatties and such, only anorexic supermodels could get in and out of the old Mini without needing the Jaws Of Life. I know all that, and I don’t accept the excuse, because back in the 1970s I knew a 6’11” tall man who used a Mini as his daily driver, and I, at ~230lbs, used to hell around with him when clubbing and so on. Was it a tight fit (as the actress asked the bishop)? Sure it was: but we weren’t driving thousands of miles either, so temporary discomfort was quite acceptable.

We’re a softer species these days; we’re not willing to accept temporary discomfort for any trip longer than a midnight run to Taco Bell.

And I remember when my daughter, having used up the old Ford Escort she called “Muff, the Tragic Wagon,” took on an ’85 Honda Accord, which today seems to be about two-thirds the size of a Civic. (The current Accord isn’t quite Lincoln Town Car-sized, but it’s closer than you think.)

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Zeitgeist grasped

It’s a wacky hybrid that Jack Baruth has stitched together for The Truth About Cars:

Welcome back my friends, to the show that has yet to end! In this episode of QOTD, I answer the questions that you, the people, have entered into search engine-queries that landed you at TTAC.

Not only does this neatly appropriate the search-string business that I didn’t actually invent, but the questions TTAC has been getting seem to fit right into the stuff I sniff at over at Yahoo! Answers. A single example should suffice:

what transmission will fit my 1998 grand prix gtp?  The one you just removed, you moron! Put it back!

Lot of morons out there.


Virtue signal activated

This chap wrote to the Oklahoman because he was presumably grievously aggrieved, or something:

Driving around the Oklahoma City metro area it’s hard not to notice all of the old, expired “rain arrow” license plates. Some of these tags are expired by many months, costing the government revenue. I hope the relevant law enforcement agencies can deal with this in a humane way that upholds the rule of law.

Now I’m tempted to put my “rain arrow” plate back on the car. It bears a properly issued June 2018 expiration.

Quick explanation: I ordered the same number as I’d had on the previous design and the one before that. The Tax Commission, sensibly, sent me the date sticker; they apparently had no idea when the actual plate would ship, and they were unwilling to see a 28-year customer put in legal jeopardy in case some twit wished to register a complaint. Eventually the plate shipped, and I swapped; but since the plates were made in sequence starting with AAA-000, and it was nine months before they got through the letter F, someone who had done similarly with a tag starting with X or Y might still be waiting. Remember when tags from Oklahoma County started with X or Y? I do.

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The Chinese order in

The Chinese auto market is the world’s largest, but it’s not at all satisfied with its wide array of workaday wagons and such:

China’s new money crowd has an insatiable appetite for luxury status symbols to show off their riches. And there is no excess more glorious than a hyperspeed SUV to sit in during the regular multi-day traffic jams near Beijing or Shanghai. There is a triple whammy of taxation at the point of sale for such vehicles; the standard sales tax first (17%), then another hit for expensive imported vehicles (10%), and yet again on engines displacing over 4 liters (20%), which means buying a glammed up, twin-turbo, V8 big-daddy-wagon can cost nearly 50% more than it would in most other countries due to the government’s cut alone. But Porsche, Mercedes, Land Rover, and BMW all want to cash in on the spending spree, so they jack up the pre-tax MSRP’s at local Chinese dealerships by DOUBLE or TRIPLE what we pay here in the U.S., ending up with a low-option Porsche Cayenne Turbo costing well north of $250,000 USD equivalent before taxes.

The solution to this, from their point of view, might seem to be obvious. From ours, not so much:

Buy brand new cars low in the US, sell high in China. The question is: is it legal? Exporting dealers thought so until 2014. They called it a “Grey Market.” The first headlines on the legality of the issue appeared in June of that year when feds cracked down on a few shipments, including one containing forty-seven baller status SUVs being transported by Efans Trading Co. All of the cars were seized. Confiscating millions of dollars of cars would seem like a government response to an illegal act, and since the raid was led by U.S. Customs, that appeared to confirm it. Before the seizure three years ago, it was estimated that 35,000 brand new high end cars and SUVs were being shipped from US ports to China each year.

Well, that was easy: blame the Feds.

Wait, what? We shouldn’t blame the Feds?

New Car Dealers themselves cannot sell cars for export because it undercuts factory margins in other countries, especially ones with 200% markup, like China. The OEMs put clauses in the dealer contracts which specifically prohibit this act. Any attempt to sell directly abroad or to any known exporter not only violates the terms of the dealer-OEM contract, but can also result in huge financial penalties from the manufacturer, withholding of inventory, and perhaps even termination of the entire franchise. Without the sticky franchise violations getting in the way, several high line stores have said they could easily move their entire multi-million dollar inventory in a week to exporters. Instead, they are turning them away in droves.

This is where the Craigslist job shopper comes in. What the exporters have realized (all of which are set up as licensed USED car dealers, even though they are selling the cars as NEW in China) is that the only way to get their sweet, juicy profits is to recruit and train an army of fresh-faced U.S. new car buyers, who are unknown to the new car dealerships.

Ingenious, if you can get it to work. And if you can get it to work more than once, you should have been up for the Golden Globes this year.

Oh, and Efans got back all 47 of its confiscated cars.

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