Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 Jeep Patriot - Oh Joy. Oh Bliss.

Just like last year, my family and I made a pilgrimage to Jupiter, Florida to spend Christmas with my wife's mother and her sister's family. Instead of renting "a car" like we did last year, I let my wife persuade me into getting a Toyota Rav4 instead. While I begrudgingly accept that cross overs are taking over the world, I have heard nice things about many of them and in particular, the Rav4. And it never hurts to try something new so, let's have at it.

When we got to the Alamo rental counter at the Fort Lauderdale airport we found they were out of Rav4's; all they had left were a bevy of Jeep Patriots and Compass'. You know, vehicles that were "just like" a Toyota Rav4. I wasn't going to argue with a rental car counter person but, c'mon. man, no Jeep is Toyota. Never has been and never will be. A Jeep Patriot for a week? Oh Joy. Oh Bliss.

I knew I had made a mistake of not insisting that we get something else the moment I sat in this thing for the first time. Now, far be it for me to be critical of modern vehicles, me, the owner of four vehicles with an average age of twenty four and a collective half million miles plus, but my first issue with this "cute-ute" was a beef I have with many "modern cars" - visibility. It's not the worst I've experienced on a vehicle made after 2005 but it certainly ain't great. Problem is the doors on the Patriot are too tall and the sitting position too low making me feel as though I'm sitting in a bathtub. Even our 1996 Camaro, a car that is very low to the ground, feels downright airy in comparison. There was no power seat in our stripper rental Patriot so where we sat, we sat. Save for fore and aft adjustments. What's worse, the B pillar and the head rests are positioned such that they appear as a pair of heads out of the corner of the driver's eye. They also further inhibit visibility out the passenger side of the vehicle. Add a real human head and you have three heads blocking the driver's view out the passenger side. How this got engineered into a "modern" vehicle is mind boggling. Hopefully they'll fix this with the new Patriot slated to be in showrooms for model year 2018.

Our rental Patriot didn't even have a compass but it did have power windows and door locks. Thank goodness. Lest we think we had gone back to the stone ages. The seats were comfortable on our short traipses up and down the Florida coast, the AC blew abundant chilly air and the Patriot, I found, was actually quite a nimble handler; it was almost fun to throw around. The brakes were excellent too. While I hit my head a time or two on the sill above the tail gate door, noteworthy since I'm no giant at maybe five foot ten, I found the cargo area to be very accessible and more than commodious. It's not the rolling cavern that is our 2006 Tahoe but for hauling soft luggage, beach chairs, blankets and umbrellas it was more ample.

I've even took to the styling. For the most part. I like the 7 slot grill paying homage to Jeeps of yore; Jeep styling is hard not to like even if you're not a fan of off roading or the Jeep "lifestyle". I'm sure Jeep cognoscenti appreciate the design as well. There's a certainly "butch" to the Patriot that I'm sure is part of the appeal to buyers; Jeep's done quite well with the Patriot since its debut back in 2007. Done well despite some glaring issues.

The most glaring being  the "CVT" automatic transmission on our rental. I've heard horror stories about these things and cutting to the chase, the CVT in our 15,000 mile young Patriot didn't disappoint in being disappointing.

A CVT transmission, or "constant velocity transmission" is different from a conventional automatic transmission in that instead of multiple gears it has has "one" gear. One gear that fluctuates constantly while driving, particularly when accelerating hard, attempting to find the "perfect ratio" to maximize gas mileage. The potential upside of good gas mileage compared to a traditional automatic all but negated by a most annoying lack of responsiveness. If you're wondering, we averaged a ho hum 22 miles per gallon. What would it have gotten if it had a conventional five or six speed automatic? Good question.

In a 3300 pound vehicle powered by a mid size four cylinder engine making a respectable 158 horsepower, even with a conventional automatic, acceleration would be far from sporty but it would be adequate. With a CVT and its constant ratio hunting, which, incidentally, is accompanied by incessant droning and buzzing, acceleration was akin to an '80's diesel powered GM full size car. In other words, this thing is very slow. Honestly, I can't remember the last time time I drove anything as slow and unresponsive as this Patriot. It's a shame too since that mid size four (2.0 liter) is a pretty smooth, rev happy little runner. Its CVT sidekick ruins the show, though. Seriously, if you're in the market for a car and you're looking at something with a CVT, do a very through test drive and do your research. These things are touted as the future and they may very well be, however, the future is not here. Yet? I'd stay far away from anything with a CVT.

Good news is if you're smitten with the styling of the Patriot, at least when the Patriot first came out in 2007, a conventional six speed automatic is or was available. I'd forgo the CVT for that transmission. A larger in line four is also available as is all wheel drive on an up level Patriot "Limited". The Patriot is so light that that larger engine (2.4 liter) and conventional automatic no doubt make for a pretty snappy ride. No word on whether or not the 2018 Patriot will have a CVT or not. If it does, hopefully it will have most if not all of the issues that plague our Patriot's CVT ironed out.

Time to throw the umbrellas, beach chairs and Gatorade in a cooler and head back to the beach. Happy New Year! 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

1994 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 - Wants Vs. Needs

As much as my family and I have moved around the country, with perhaps the exception of our move to Cleveland, Ohio in 2010 to some degree, the moves have been necessitated by needs rather than wants. To wit, I don't think that any sane person with a family in tow would move four times in six years if they didn't need to. Most insane people wouldn't do that either. Even the move to Cleveland was predicated more on needs than wants, please bite your tongue with any Cleveland jokes, seeing that our choices were to have me continue to commute between Dallas and Nashville or go to where I hoped would be a more stable situation for us. That want based decision was an easy one and has worked out quite well. I have great respect for people who make big life decisions based on wants instead of needs that are difficult to make; and are completely comfortable with their decision. Think about it - knowing full well there are consequences to any all decisions, it's not as simple as it seems. And my hand wringing over what to do about a broken down old car seems almost trivial in comparison. 

With my 2002 Monte Carlo going through it's biannual series of maladies, I had taken to using our 1996 Camaro instead while I had it "off line". One day after my somewhat traffic clogged twenty seven mile slog to the office I smelled warm anti freeze oozing from underneath it. To my utter astonishment what I first thought was a busted lower radiator hose was "only" the lower radiator having fallen off the radiator. Later that day I replaced the hose, being proactive believing that the hose fell off because it was bad, and filled the reservoir with fresh coolant. However, and to make a long story short, it was too late. I had run the engine too long without coolant and the head gaskets broke or became defective or what is commonly referred to as "blown". And, just like that, our Old '96er was toast. Fixable toast but for all intents and purposes, toast. I was and remain absolutely heart broken.

The prognosis? Grim. Or quite expensive. Replace the head gaskets and run the risk of a cracked engine block necessitating the junking of the engine anyway, replace the engine with something that has about 145,000 miles on it, or just scrap or part out the whole car. Head gasket replacement and an engine transplant would both run between $2,500 and $3,000. Swap the engine myself? Trust me, I thought about it but as much as I'd love to tackle something like this, on these "Gen IV" Camaros where everything has to be done from under the car, it's just too damn big of a job for me. Especially working alone.

Me being me, I started hunting for replacement Camaros or something interesting for similar amount of money that it would cost me to fix what we have. I quickly found that $3,000 doesn't buy much these days when it comes to a used car but after myriad traipses between the Indiana and Pennsylvania state lines I came across this lovely 1994 Camaro Z28 out near Toledo. Yes. It looks even better in person.

I've fallen hard for this little beast but I can't get the dealership down lower than $5,000 out the door. Still, a lot of car for the money despite 115,000 miles on the odometer, a worn out driver's seat, a driver's window that won't go down and a driver's side mirror that doesn't move. Oh, and it needs tires. Seeing that I have a perfectly good donor car I wouldn't fret any of it. I think there's a bad muffler too. Remember there's always going to be something with an old car.

Rarely is the easier thing to do the most pragmatic; that being for me to get our busted Red Camaro down the block to the shop in town and have them transplant the engine. Our Red Camaro also needs front end work that I can do with the parts all in running $300-$400. So, we're talking about $3,000 to get the Old 96er back up and running. That's what I need to do and in short, "save" $2,000.

What I want to do is get the Z28 instead but rarely have I done anything in my life out of pure "want". My greatest concern is having buyers remorse; never mind the amount of work I'd have to put into it at first. It would be fun to swap over the parts from one to the other and then I'd part out what's left of the Red Camaroit. As hillbilly as that seems or actually really is. Parting out the Red Camaro would help to offset the additional cost of the Z28 too; that $2,000 additional expense is not something I dismiss lightly. Any one need a set of pristine Gen III Camaro tail lamps or hood? Now, if the cost of the Z28 was even $1,000 less this would be an easier decision but with an eye towards the bottom line at all times, I'm caught in the age old quandry of Wants vs. Needs.

Update. The deal fell through. The original $5,000 transaction was to include the dealership repairing a rust patch on the left rear quarter panel above the wheel. On 12/23, I told the salesman I was dealing with that things were moving in "the right direction" toward a deal but I couldn't "do the deal" then because I was heading out of town through New Years. I told him that I would contact him after the first of the year to probably get the deal done. Meanwhile, he contacted me while I was on vacation and said that if the deal was not completed by 12/31 that the price of the car would not include fixing the rust patch thus raising the out door price to $5,300. Wow. Did not see THAT coming but it's just as well. What with everything the car needed and the high mileage, ultimately, I did have a problem paying that much for the car. Despite my being able to do just about everything that needed to be done for nothing. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2005 Pontiac Bonneville GXP - Time To Let Go Of Things That Don't Matter

Years ago the notion of a Cadillac powered Pontiac was about as fathomable as radio with pictures or a man walking on the moon. That's because a major part of GM's brand essence was what was under the hood; even if what was visible looked very much the same across their myriad divisions. With Cadillac an exception to some degree - particularly before World War II.

Was a Buick "better" than say, an Oldsmobile? No, of course not but if you market it as such and buyers believe that it was then the answer to that question is an unqualified, "yes". Even if said makes and models were indistinguishable from each other. If you think that GM cars in the 1970's and 1980's looked alike, get a load of GM's new for 1933, "turret top" 1933 Buick...  

and 1933 Oldsmobile. Save for the vaguest of styling nuances, I mean, you really have to look hard at both of these cars to tell them apart, they are the same car. Oh, but one's a Buick and one's an Oldsmobile? Ok. 

Let's not forget lowly Pontiac which was slotted below Oldsmobile but a head of Chevrolet.  Without, again, any discernable difference aside from what GM told you the cars represented in some sort of bizarre caste. All part of Alfred Sloan's pricing ladder or a car for every wallet. 

Where you'd see a difference was in the interiors and power trains. The interior of this 1933 Chevrolet Master Six, again, note how similar it looks to Buick, Olds and Pontiac, all but an empty tin can in comparison to the lavishly trimmed interior of the Buick. Under hood, this Chevrolet makes due "only" with an in line six whereas the Buick, Oldsmobile and even the Pontiac had in line eight cylinder engines available. Were the Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac "Eights", they shared nothing with each other, superior to the Chevrolet "Six"? Debateable. Very. 

GM's engine hierarchy came to a screeching and embarrassing halt in 1977 when they found itself in a public relations snafu for not disclosing that it was using Chevrolet engines in Oldsmobiles. To make matters worse they charged more for the Chevrolet engine in an Oldsmobile than they did for the same engine in a Chevrolet. Not good. Even if they had disclosed it they would have gotten a fair amount of flack from a marketplace reared for years on Mr. Sloan's pricing ladder. Probably wouldn't have been as damaging to GM's reputation had it been ther other way around but still, it somewhat diminished whatever exclusivity the models had. Did it really matter from behind the wheel? No, but the "corporatization" of GM engines, were engines where not division specific, had begun. Amazingly, it took decades for it to completely unravel.

Along the way that unraveling took a strange turn or two. In 2004, for instance, GM started offering their once exclusive to Cadillac "Northstar" engine in the Pontiac Bonneville GXP and, amazingly, nary an eyebrow was raised. That having more to do with GM offering an "upmarket" engine in a "downmarket" automobile as much as it had to do with a buying public and automotive press that just didn't care [anymore]. And, yes, GM disclosed it that time but...was that not unlike a parent whom all of a sudden decides not to take things with their children as seriously as they once did? You can't not scold your kids for drinking straight out of the milk carton when they're young but not do it when they're older. A Cadillac engine in a Pontiac. As if.

The whole Cadillac in a Pontiac actually made very good dollars and sense since the Bonneville and Cadillac DTS shared so much mechanically; the Northstar made the Bonneville GXP a really nice, smooth runner too, much better than the supercharged 3800 V-6. The 2005 Buick Lucerne also had the Cadillac Northstar engine available.

Ford and Chrysler have had "corporate" engines for years, VW/Audi, Toyota/Lexus, Honda/Acura too. The list goes on and on. GM's bankruptcy only sped up the process of corporatizing their engines. It was time for GM to let go of things that didn't matter any more any way.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

1986 AMC Eagle - Back Against A Wall.

A couple of weekends ago the folks across the street from us had an Ohio State Buckeyes watch party in their garage, please, I know, and everyone of their guests vehicles was a "cross over". There were a total of 12 of them in front of their house; not a single midsize SUV was there let alone a full sized SUV or even a single sedan. Acck! Wait, do they even make "mid size" SUV's anymore? What's more, when the day comes that we finally replace our 2006 Chevrolet Tahoe, Mrs. Connolly has all but let it be known to me that what will replace it will be some sort of "cross over". Lovely. While I fail to find anything remotely appealing about cross overs, to me you go full size SUV or don't even bother, crack historian that I am, ever since that influx of CUV's into our neighborhood, I've been waxing nostalgic over the world's first cross over, the AMC Eagle. Our subject is a 1986.

Laughably absurd looking back in the 1980's, especially on Long Island, although four wheel drive could certainly have been handy in winter time, the AMC Eagle was the world's first literal cross over inasmuch as it combined an automobile body with the running gear of a four wheel drive truck. That might seem like a no brainer today but going on forty years ago, this was heady stuff. Too bad it looked a clown car on stilts. It's not as odd looking today as it was years ago but, again, years ago, this was as out of this world looking as much as it was radical.  

"AMC", or American Motors Corporation, was never that strong of a player up against "The Big Three" and since they were so small there there was never a "Big Four". The result of a 1954 merger between the Nash and Hudson motor companies, AMC at first attempted to carve out a market niche by selling small economy cars. That did fairly well until the late '50's and early '60's when "The Big Three" launched economy cars of their own. With the market all of a sudden relatively flooded with small cars, in the mid '60's AMC attempted to go mainstream with middling success at best. Certainly didn't help that many of their designs were on the "really odd" end of the spectrum. AMC did have one thing going for it and that was that they had purchased control of the Kaiser-Jeep Corporation in 1970. While Jeep was hardly the financial boon that AMC had hoped it would be for them, owning Jeep gave them access to Jeep engineering and their fabulous Quadra-Trac system that debuted on Jeep vehicles in 1973. 

Quadra-Trac was a full time system based on Borg-Warner's innovative BW1339 transfer case and central locking differential and was used at first only on the Jeep Wagoneer, Cherokee, Gladiator and CJ-7. Starting in 1979, AMC placed it under their Concord wagon and they called it "Eagle". Our subject vehicle's cabin, already suffering from packaging inefficiencies common to smaller rear wheel drive vehicles in its day, is made even cozier thanks to the added bulk of the Quadra-Trac system. 

Have to hand it to AMC to come up with such a thing but if you've ever been in a desperate situation, you know all too well what fantastic things you can accomplish when your back is up against a wall. AMC had to do something to stay afloat and this was  it. It's genius only in retrospect; again these were laughable in their day and you can only imagine how poorly these sold in dry climates with no hills or mountains.  Seeing these back on Long Island years ago was like seeing someone driving a snow mobile on a beach. That in lieu of the fact that they actually had a tremendous amount to offer. 

AMC did the Eagle no favors in 1983 when they introduced a downsized Jeep Cherokee. Far more conventional looking, as far as multi purpose vehicles go, than the Eagle with better interior packaging and using the same Quadra-Trac system, Eagle sales, which were not that great to begin with, cratered. The Eagle was put to the curb when Chrysler bought AMC in 1987; Chrysler seeing no use in a four wheel drive station wagon that would eat into their mini-van sales.

While it's a reach to say that these vehicles are the missing link between SUV's and today's cross overs, it is fair to say that this was the first "CUV", and was a vehicle that debuted way before its time. Who could ever imagine years ago that something like this AMC Eagle would be part of a vehicle segment today that's growing so fast that it will more than likely displace the sedan in the not so distant future. Judging by the amount of CUV's at our neighbor's little college football soiree a couple of weeks ago and any look around any parking lot these days and it would seem that the demise of the sedan will come sooner than later.  

Sunday, December 18, 2016

2004 Chevrolet SSR - Don't Believe Your Own Press

When I first got into broadcasting back in the '80's, my beloved, cranky yet extremely supportive mentor would repeatedly tell me in his cranky, crusty New Yorker kind of way, "You're a dime a dozen, Connolly. Don't believe your own press." Coming from a background where even the slightest hint of hubris would get my ass ground to pulp, it wasn't hard for me to take his sage advice to heart. No one apparently was as candid with General Motors when they rolled out a "hot rod pickup truck" for the car show circuit back in the year 2000. 

In an Autoweek article from 2003, Tom Wallace, a vehicle line executive for the Chevrolet SSR claimed there were three reasons that they [General Motors] decided to build it. "First", he said, "it's pretty cool, a halo vehicle for Chevrolet. Second, journalists all said we should build it. Third, Rick [GM chairman Rick Wagoner] said we should built it. Now, no one ever said that the automobile industry was for the modest or faint of heart, but clearly Mr. Wallace, Mr. Wagoner and the rest of the gang from General Motors would have been well to heed the advice given to me years ago when the press accolades starting pouring in about their SSR concept. Also, and hindsight being 20/20 of course, I find it hard to believe that no one at GM saw where the SSR would eventually end up. That being in a metaphorical if not literal ditch. 

Pundits claim that much of what doomed the SSR was poor execution. Based on General Motors quite capable mid sized truck chassis at the time, the SSR was deemed to be under powered, had a shaky structure, [well, what do you think was going to happen when you chopped the top off a pickup?] and suffered from poorly designed eronomics [interior design]. By the time Chevrolet updated the SSR for model year 2005 with the power train from the Corvette and myriad suspension modifications and chassis reinforcements, the dye had been cast; SSR was a loser. 

Interesting. Did anyone think to ask people who didn't go to car shows or write for auto industry friendly rags what they thought of a 5,000 pound, two passenger, retro styled, convertible pickup truck? Didn't think so. 

In broadcasting, if you're on the air whether it be radio or television, no matter what, someone is going to love you; everyone has fans. However, if you only listen to what you want to hear you're not going to go very far in life. While it is important to have people who react positively to whatever in life it is you're doing, it's the unspoken masses, the silent majority so to speak, that have the final and most important say. The silent, polite masses were the ones who ultimately decided the fate of the SSR; determined it pretty quickly too. It total, Chevrolet sold just over 21,000 SSR's in four model years and just over 9,000 its first model year, 2003. To put that into proper context, SSR would have been deemed successful had they sold 21,000 a year. So, if the car show circuit and the the automobile journalists not to mention GM's Big Cheese said it should be built thus being a ringing endorsement of it's sales potential, then what happened? 

Well, they were wrong; that's what happened. The SSR didn't fail because it didn't have enough power, shook like a hulu girl and handled like a bathtub full of water. No, it failed because it was ugly, weird, impractical. and expensive. Was it cool? Yes, but only to a certain degree. No work-a-day pickup truck driver would ever use this as a tool box. Its concept was so far over the top that no one could take it seriously either; you drive this thing and you might as well be wearing a red tuxedo or a clown suit to work. Would people react in what could be construed a positive manner if you wore a red tuxedo to work? People, in general, are your face. What you really want to know is what they're whispering to themselves and saying to others behind your back. When it came to the SSR they politely said no by not opening up their checkbooks for it. 

What was the SSR attempting to be in the first place? A hot rodded 1947-55 Chevrolet pickup, of course! He says putting his palm against his forehead. Even "car guy" here can appreciate that, sort of, but to have the fanfare this thing got, that it could be, in essence a player, that would run in the same circles as Corvette was more than a tad perplexing, it was down right troubling. Especially in light of the fact that GM had just canceled Camaro and Firebird after 2002 and they were just about to launch a Holden Monaro as a Pontiac GTO. He puts his palm to his forehead again and says, "guys, who slipped what into your Kool-Aid"?  

What I find the most perplexing of all, in retrospect which is amusing since we're discussing a "retro" themed vehicle, is that Chevrolet made their at the time mainstream vehicles as stylistically bland as possible. By mainstream in 2003 mind you, years before the explosion in popularity of "cross over" SUV's, we're talking about the 2000 Impala and the oh-my-god-awful 1997 Chevrolet Malibu. If Chevrolet did do anything correctly with the SSR, it showcased that GM still had considerable design chops in their midst. Too bad they didn't use those design chops where it mattered. Judging by the look of things with their present day Impala and Malibu, they're still not. Someone in the press better start getting as frank and candid with them as possible and tell them what to do since they're the only people they listen to. Oh, wait...that's right, you wouldn't be telling them everything they'd want to hear. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

2004 Pontiac GTO - Bob Lutz Swings and Misses

Bob Lutz had a most interesting career in the auto industry having worked at BMW, Ford and Chrysler before becoming Vice Chairman of Global Product Development at General Motors in 2001. A "car guy", first and business man second, many give Lutz credit for creating the BMW 3-series and their "M" or "Motorsport" division, the Ford Escort III, Sierra and Explorer and at Chrysler, the LH series of sedans and the Dodge Viper. Lutz left Chrysler, and essentially the auto industry, when Chrysler was sold to Daimler in 1998.

Once back in the business as GM's product honcho, Lutz swung wildly for the fences and like most homerun hitters, he struck out quite often. With almost as many hits as he had misses, it's hard to imagine how he was able to shoe horn a Holden Monaro through the GM pipeline in the early 2000's and rebadge it as a Pontiac "GTO" of all things. I admire the man for his passion, moxy and love of performance automobiles but from a business stand point, honestly, did he or the wonks at GM he convinced through the force of his charismatic personality honestly think that a homely and cramped Holden based coupe with GTO glued on its rear end was going to find buyers?

Back then, I was thrilled when I heard that GM and Pontiac were pushing out a Corvette powered 2+2 out on the heels of the departure of the late and not so great Gen 3 Pontiac Firebird. I was curious, though, as to why they replaced the Firebird with this instead of retooling the Firebird. Same goes for the even uglier, 2 passenger, truck based Chevrolet SSR that replaced the Camaro. If at any time in the long and tortured history of GM decision makers made decisions that made no sense, it was the early 2000's. No wonder GM went belly up less than five after this car debuted.

Shame of the matter was, the 2004 "GTO" was a fantastic automobile. Dare I say, the best thing GM sold at the time. It went like stink thanks to it's Corvette engine and was sure footed thanks to its Holden Monaro underpinnings. The front seats were the stuff of dreams.

The list of wonderful performance bits and pieces on the 2004 GTO was mesmerizing. 350 horsepower, 5.7 liter LS-1 V-8 straight from Corvette, 245/45 BF Goodrich G-Force T/A's, Akebono front pads and Bendix Mintex rear pads, struts up front and semi-trailing arms out back with an adjustable toe-in link. The 2004 GTO was the type of car that inspired you to do stupid things with it.

The 2004 GTO was not, however, without a serious number of "what is that"? The car after all was Australian; Australia is just like America only completely different. That goofy steering wheel, the console mounted power window switches, the Blaupunkt radio, odd HVAC controls and the huge gas tank mounted in the trunk. Quirky is one thing, quirks are what what made Subaru and Saab Subaru and Saab back in the day but all the "what is that's"? gave the GTO a weirdness factor that was hard if not impossible to shake.

And then of course there was the styling. Or lack there of. Try as I might, even after all these years, it's still hard to get my eyes around this thing and go, "yeah, I get it" because I don't. Not that I think there was anything to get, mind you. The original Holden Monaro was a charmingly generic appliance with the heart of a lion; festooned with GM's chintzy Pontiac design ethos fore and aft and the Monaro became a frankenstein esque Grand Prix fleet car.

Legend has it that Lutz and company were inspired to "GTO" the Holden Monaro after reading a positive review of one in an automobile publication shortly after the car's debut down under in the early 2000's. Bureaucratic GM red tape combined with federalizing a foreign car for sale in the United States delayed that process precipitously; there apparently was no time nor money to properly redesign it. So, a rear wheel drive Grand Prix like "blob" is what we got instead. Imagine what could have been.

The 2004 vintage GTO lasted through model year 2006 with just 40,000 sold in total. Pontiac and Bob Lutz lasted at GM through 2009. Lutz  claimed one of the reasons he retired was because of an increasingly regulatory climate in Washington that was forcing GM to produce what Federal regulators wanted rather than what customers wanted. That sounds like a perfectly good reason for someone who really needed to work to quit, don't you think? Yeah. Judging by just 40,000 GTO's sold between 2004 and 2006, sounds more like what he wanted.

Words of advice, try and not work for people who really don't need to work. Unless of course you're just like them and you don't need to work either. Then you and your bosses can take your jobs as seriously as a high school yearbook staff does. You'll be passionate about the work but you don't have a financial stake in whether or not its any good.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Genesis G80 and G90 - Wait Three Years and Buy Two At a Time

I loved these goofy Hyundai Excel commercials from the late 1980's where a man drives two brand new Excel's home at the same time that he just bought new at a dealership. The gist of the commercial was that Excel's where so inexpensive that you could buy two of them for less than average cost of one car. Regardless of whether or not Excel's where any good, I for one found them horrible, these ads were effective in branding Hyundai's as being inexpensive, dare I say cheap automobiles.

It's always come as a surprise to me then that over the years, Hyundai has grown from being a purveyor of terrible cheap little cars to purveyors of a full range of automobiles most of which are respectable and some of which are really expensive. However, based on my handful of bad experiences that I had with early Hyundai's, I've always been a skeptic of the brand. So much so that I wouldn't be caught dead with one in my driveway.

Imagine my surprise in 2008 when Hyundai came out with a premium sedan they called "Genesis" for sale here in the United States. I was even more flabbergasted the next year when they started selling the "Equus", a car that was even more ornate and expensive. Hyundai had long been selling what appeared to be "upmarket" automobiles but the Genesis and Equus were the first "luxury" Hyundai's that actually appeared to be luxury cars. If you're curious, "Equus" is a Latin word for horse. I know, you thought it was Latin for pretentious.

Fast forward eight model years and now Hyundai has spun the Genesis and Equus off into their own separate division. The new division is called "Genesis" and the "old" Genesis sedan will be called the "G80" while the old Equus will now be known as the "G90". From a marketing and branding perspective, if this sounds a little half baked to you you're not the only one who feels that way. This would be like GM spinning off "Impala" into its own division. To make matters even worse, the G80 and G90 will be sold through existing Hyundai dealerships. A dealership network that after all these years still markets value first and foremost.

What's the value in a G80 with an MSRP of nearly $50,000 and the G90 at almost $70,000? Good question.

Boils down to perspective. If you're of the means that you can drop $50,000 - $70,000 on a car you might be inclined to buy into Genesis' value proposition that you're actually getting a car that would cost you tens of thousands more if you bought an Audi, BMW, Jaguar or Mercedes. Thing is, though, you're not buying an Audi, BMW, Jaguar or Mercedes you're buying a fancy Hyundai. And people who are of the means to spend that kind of money on a car want a nameplate in their driveway that has the power to impress the neighbors. It's not about keeping up with the Joneses, it's about being far out in front of them. At the end of the day people are going to be doing a fair amount of explaining as to what it is that they bought for a still very sizable amount of money. A Hyundai is still a Hyundai no matter what you call it.

If there's any value in these cars its in two or three years when they're back on the market as used cars. The resale value of the Genesis G80 and G90 is going to be atrocious but with the balance of Hyundai's absurdly wonderful warranty still available, a G90, with its power reclining rear seats, might be a smart buy and one that could impress your more enlightened neighbors. Heck, they're such great values you might be able to buy two of them for less than the cost of one brand new one.