“Sammy’s Unofficial Template for Listing a Car or Truck for Sale on Craigslist” (or “How to sell a car in a crappy economy”)

December 9, 2008

With the economy in the smelliest of train station crappers, hundreds of thousands of used and classic vehicles have flooded web sites like Craigslist and eBay. While these sites have made listing a car for sale so easy that the dumber brother of the guy who copied off George Bush at Yale could do it, unfortunately, these sites don’t explain the critical information each listing needs to call potential buyers to action.

For the benefit of both sellers and buyers, we at The Four Wheel Drift present “Sammy’s Unofficial Template for Listing a Car or Truck for Sale on Craigslist (or other site)”.

Crazy as it might seem, you actually need to tell people what you’re offering for sale. These are all essential pieces of information:

  • Model year of the car – This is on the title and registration. If the car is a classic car, make sure that the year on the title matches the date code on the car’s data plate. (Most car VINs can be decoded to establish the date of manufacture.)
  • Make of the vehicle – Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, Hummer, Hupmobile, Porsche, Dort, Crit, Steyr… For searching purposes, if you’re selling a Chevrolet, it’s not a bad idea to also include “Chevy” and “Chevie” in the listing. For most cars it should be absolutely obvious what make it is, however, for that wildly modified hot rod that remained in your garage after you kicked the cheating bastard out, simply look on the registration or title for the manufacturer of record.
  • Model – Just saying it’s a Mercedes, ’67 Chevy or ’30 Cadillac isn’t enough. (There were no less than 113 officially produced model and body styles for a 1930 Cadillac!) You need to list which specific model it is.

    The model name is usually evident (like Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, MG MGB), but it can get tricky for cars built before WWII. For instance, in 1936 Cadillac offered four different series of “Fleetwood” models corresponding with three available wheelbases. Make sure that you always include the series number with the model, such as “Series 85 Fleetwood” to avoid confusion. Any model or series number usually appears on the registration/commission plate on the engine firewall.

  • Trim-level sub-designation – Models often have an additional sub-designation to differentiate equipment levels. Don’t just say it’s a Chevelle if it’s a more desirable Chevelle Malibu. If it’s a Toyota Avalon, is it an XL, Touring or Limited? This is also the time to indicate if the vehicle has an all-wheel or four-wheel-drive option.
  • Body style – Don’t make the reader guess whether it’s a sedan, coupe, wagon, convertible, crew-cab, long bed, step-side… For cars before the 1970s, ensure you get the specific body style name correct, because it can be misleading. Taking the 1936 Cadillac as an example again, there were 21 different body styles of coupes, sedans and convertibles. In the 1950s and 1960s some manufacturers offered coupes and sedans, but also hardtop versions of both with no pillar to hold the side windows. The bottom line is to look for the VIN or commission plate on the firewall or body tag on the driver’s door and use a Google search to find how to establish via your VIN or body code that you are describing the vehicle’s body the same way the factory did (like sedanette, club coupe, club sedan, formal sedan, two-door sedan, phaetons, Victoria, town sedan, roadster…)
  • Engine – For most cars with multiple engine options, just indicating the number of cylinders will suffice. If the car you are selling was offered with multiple displacements and/or states of tune, such as a 1969 Corvette, list the important details (350ci or 427 ci V8 delivering 300, 350, 390, 400, or 435 hp?)
  • Transmission – For cars that offer optional transmissions: automatic, 3spd, 4spd, 5spd, 6spd manual, and list if the gear-change is steering column or floor-mounted for older vehicles.
  • Interior – Leather, cloth, bucket seats or bench.
  • Options – You don’t need to list every last option, but it’s important to list larger and more important equipment packages. Certain vehicles are more valuable with specific options, such as a truck with towing package, luxury car with heated/ventilated seats, BMW with Sport Package, British roadsters with wire wheels and/or Laycock overdrive.

You should always look at your own vehicle with a seller-calibrated eye. Intentionally misrepresenting the vehicle might be against the law, but unintentionally misrepresenting it is also bad, as it wastes the potential buyer’s time and money.

  • Body: Disclose in the listing if there are any sizable dents, scratches, faded paint, or areas of previous damage that were not repaired to as-new condition…this includes the presence of excess body filler (Bondo). If there is rust, please list the major areas and extent of the rust in detail. This is VERY important. Holes in the floors, trunk or disintegration of frame metal is something people want to know about before they take time out of their schedule to inspect a vehicle! To describe rust, you can use:
    • Surface rust: a light coat of orange on exposed metal pieces that can be scraped-away with a fingernail or light sandpaper.
    • Bubbling: Places where the paint is literally bubbling underneath. Usually you’ll find it low on the car – on fenders, doors and around the wheels. A small poke with a small screwdriver will reveal if the bubble is an indicator of rust through. If your car has bubbling, don’t claim it’s “rust free”.
    • Rust-through: Where the rust has destroyed an area enabling a screwdriver to go through the panel. The only cure is to cut out these rusty areas and weld in new metal.

    This is also a good time to detail if any chrome needs replating or if there are cracks in windows or exterior light lenses.

  • Interior: Describe any wear to the seats (splits, tears or burns), carpets, top, dashboard (cracks). If the car has never been smoked in, indicate it for the benefit of the asthmatic set. If any gauges don’t work, list it. For cars with a kickin’ stereo (that’s what the kids call them, right?) this is the place to describe it.
  • Mechanicals: Does the car run? If not, explain (as best you can) why it doesn’t? Does the engine smoke? When running at operating temperature, is the oil pressure gauge showing in the normal range? Detail any major component that needs addressing, as well as any recently completed major servicing. For collector cars and exotics requiring expensive services, indicate when (time and mileage) the services were last done.
  • Originality: If the car has been significantly modified, not only describe the changes, but also identify what was originally equipped. This is most important for clones/tributes of more exclusive high performance models. Not disclosing that your 1969 Camaro Z28 is actually the love child of a six-cylinder coupe mated with the drivetrain from a wrecked authentic Z28 is fraud. The same goes for more modern cars like Honda VTECs.
  • Mileage: How many miles on the car? If the engine is not original to the car, then how many miles on the engine, as well?

Don’t expect to get calls or reasonable offers without listing a price. Research what the value of your car is and set a realistic price. Don’t forget that asking prices of cars on Craigslist are just asking prices, not selling prices. Go on eBay and see what similar cars are actually bid to. The more you ask, the longer it takes to sell — and if you ask too much, people simply won’t call.

Don’t forget to explain where the car is located, because if you leave it blank, people will think it’s a scam. If you live in a small town that the city folks have never heard of, explain how far away you are from the nearest big town.

Include your email address and maybe even a phone number.

This is one of the most important parts of the listing! Take pictures outside in daylight. The most important shots are front ¾-view, rear ¾ view (showing the other side), interior, and engine. It’s also good to take detail shots of wheel wells, undercarriage, trunk floor, door bottoms and other areas so that you can email these to people when they inevitably ask.

People, people, people… please check your spelling! The chances of getting your asking price for your car if you misspell the make (Alpha Romero instead of Alfa Romeo), model (Camero instead of Camaro), body style (convertable instead of convertible), or important items (bumber instead of bumper), are Slim Whitman-to-nun chucks.

It might seem like a crazy suggestion after all of this, but be concise! Use bullet points and stay away from long narratives. If the car was only available with a single transmission, don’t waste space with the number of gears or if it has a manual shift mode.

The bottom line: be honest, direct and accurate.


Why Cars Have Gotten So Heavy (or Yo Mama’s Car Is So Fat…)

November 20, 2008

Have you ever notice how cars are like their owners? All too often now “heavy” seems to apply to both the vehicle and the nut behind the wheel.

In times when everyone seems to be discussing fuel economy, the 800-pound gorilla is vehicle weight. The fact of the matter is that our cars are heavier than they’ve ever been, and that’s killing the mpg.

Ask an automotive manufacturing executive about why cars have become so portly and you’ll get a response like the one I heard GM’s Bob Lutz give a woman who asked why GM no longer makes economical cars like her diesel Chevette: “the government mandates a thousand pounds worth of safety equipment.” Lutz is definitely in the ballpark here. While 1000 pounds might be a little larger than life, the government is indeed responsible for ordering auto companies to install more and more safety gear.

The Safety Factor
It all started with seat belts in 1964, but most Americans with any gray hair remember the turning point as being the impact-absorbing bumpers mandated for 1975 cars. The original 5-mph bumpers were much heavier – using a combination of metal, plastic and struts. Now, however, cars use Styrofoam, plastic, composites, and other lightweight materials, making modern crushable bumpers dainty on the scale – even compared to those 1950s European sports car bumperettes. So bumpers aren’t adding anything more.

Ralph Nader was a big fan of improving side impact protection. The metal beams inserted into doors aren’t necessarily light, but they’re not really that heavy, either. In this case, a little iron goes a long way.

Airbags account for quite a bit of weight in a modern car. There are at least two airbags (driver and passenger.) In some cars there are driver, passenger (both face and knee), as well as side-curtain and head airbags. With sensors, wiring and the bag units themselves, it wouldn’t be crazy to figure the median extra weight added by airbags looming at around 100 pounds. Is it weight well spent? Absolutely!

Antilock brakes and stability control aren’t mandated yet, but they will be. Both require a number of sensors, wiring, valves, etc… When compared to older drum brakes, the modern ABS-equipped discs are often lighter. All that wiring for yaw sensors in stability control weighs more than you’d think, though.

Crash testing is an interesting issue. The more solid cars do better in NHTSA/IIHS safety testing, which can be a function of weight, but usually of well-engineered design. While performing well is not government “mandated”, poor ratings can be a kiss of death from a marketing perspective. Extra weight does not guarantee good ratings, but well-placed supports can help when lighter, better performing structures are precluded by money, time and/or existing designs.

The Green Factor
Safety isn’t that heavy, but preventing pollution really is. Catalytic converters to reduce emissions and mufflers to control noise pollution are heavier than a Metallica radio marathon. Many SUVs and trucks use two pre-cats and two cats to achieve emissions standards, while also sporting two huge mufflers to come in under ever-stricter noise ordinances.

Government Grand?
At the end of the day, though, safety and emissions brings a car nowhere near 1000 pounds. So let’s look at where the rest of the fat might be.

Let’s start where the rubber meets the road: wheels and tires. Back in the old days, cars used 14 and 15-inch wheels. In the 1970s and 1980s, 13-inch rubber was the norm among imports and econoboxes. Ferrari 328s had 16-inchers with wheels and tires at about 45-pounds each. Just ten years later, C5 Corvettes came stock with 35-pound run-flat tires over 25-pound 17 and 18-inch wheels. Now even Toyota Avalon sedans carry 17s and many sports cars and SUVs have 20-inchers. Larger wheels have also made way for significantly larger brake discs and calipers. Anyone who has ever tried to do brake work understands how much these components weigh. Larger wheels, tires and brakes together can easily add 250 pounds to a vehicle.

Transmitting the Weight
Engines are lighter than ever, but transmissions are heavier. In the 1960s if you had five speeds, you were probably driving a Ferrari. Now the standard is six speeds – for automatics and manuals alike, with seven (and even eight) speeds for the high-end vehicles. Since trannies are all computer-controlled, add in a box with wiring and some plastic to protect it from the elements. Use of lighter alloys and tighter packaging has kept the scales from overloading, but at some point, adding gears means adding weight.

It Makes You Feel Good, But Is It Good For You?
Where the real additional girth is now is in the interior – and it has nothing to do with safety or emissions.

  • Seats: Remember when seats slid forward and back and you could just recline the seat back? Gone now, in favor of 300-way adjustable buckets with multiple air bladders. Some seats, like those on my daily driver, offer heating and cooling. BMW and Mercedes chairs massage while you drive. All those features require motors, relays and wiring. Motors aren’t light.
  • HVAC Attack: I’m not sure why in my two-seat Corvette roadster I have dual-zone climate control, but I do. In some cars it is four or five zones. The more complex the HVAC system, the heavier it all is.
  • Infotainment Overload: Probably the main interior offender is the entertainment/information system. Back in the old days you had one head unit (weighing less than ten pounds) and two cheap paper speakers. Now hundreds of pounds are dedicated to up to two-dozen speakers, multiple amplifiers, complex wiring and multiple components to operate a radio, disc changer, and navigation. For SUVs and minivans, a DVD system is not uncommon.
  • Top Heavy: Sunroofs and convertible tops have become heavier. Panoramic multi-panel roofs can be had on everything from luxury cars to Subarus. As for drop-tops, the wild hardtop convertible contraptions that used to be reserved for anomalies like the Ford Skyliner, is now commonplace. It’s even an option on the Miata…which is supposed to be a throwback no-nonsense roadster.
  • Techno-burdened: High intensity discharge headlamps need automatic leveling systems, ballasts and larger gauge wiring that traditional lamps don’t require. Laser-guided cruise controls have a sensor box mounted in the front grill and a separate computer box to manage the system. Parking assist functions range from a few pounds for an audible alert and a handful more for a rear-mounted camera to a grade-schooler’s worth of equipment to achieve a fully-automatic parallel parking job from a Lexus. Just keep in mind that most core modern automotive technologies, like drive-by-wire and direct-injection fuel management, reduce weight.
  • Throw the Book At Ya: This might sound stupid, but even the owner’s manuals are overweight. The average manual from the 1960s weighed under a single pound. The combined weight of all the manuals (including several individual volumes for the car, the navigation system, the keyless entry/ignition, the laser-guided cruise control) that came with (and are still in the glovebox of) my 2006 Toyota is nearly six pounds.

Don’t get me wrong, I like butt warmers and nice sounding stereo. When I hop into a BMW 335 convertible, however, and realize that at 3960-pounds it actually weighs more than a mobile home-sized Chevy Impala with a 409ci big block, it’s startling. It is no doubt a testament to the capabilities of automotive engineers that the BMW out accelerates, out handles, is infinitely more comfortable, and gets exponentially better fuel economy than a 3705-pound 1964 Impala ragtop, a Chrysler 440-equipped 3696-pound 1973 Jensen Interceptor, a 2680-pound 1986 Dodge 600ES Turbo Convertible, or a 3471-pound ’96 Mustang GT Convertible – all vehicles that paved the way for the sport-luxury Bimmer.

The Big-Bottomed Line
Manufacturers need to cut back on this automotive version of the artery-clogger six-item breakfast from the local greasy spoon. Drop the useless huge tires and wheels – ’84 Corvettes hit 1g on the skidpad with 16”s, so anything larger is for looks. Reduce the number of multi-zones. Lighten the entertainment load…

But keep the safety and emissions controls like the vitamins we need each day.

A crash-course gizmo diet should do wonders to hitting and surpassing the 35 mpg CAFE standards. The next step is to take a page out of the auto racer’s bible: the easiest way to improve vehicle performance is to get a lighter driver.

Maybe we’d find that the weight the car and we could lose would make us…and the world healthier, more athletic and more fun. Plus neither the car or us could be the target of fat jokes.

Bail Out the Big Three? History Suggests “Don’t Do It”!

November 11, 2008

It would be catchy to lead with something like “I’ll give you fifty-billion reasons why the US government shouldn’t bail out the Big Three automakers.” Instead, I’ll just write: don’t do it.

I need to make something crystal clear here. My views are not ideologically-based. If you’d like some Republican versus Democrat, free market capitalism over big government socialism, Apple against Microsoft rants, you’re not going to find it here.

What you will find is a simple statement: history and common sense intersect at a point with a big marker titled “STOP”.

The Meat Of the Deal

Congress has already given General Motors, Ford and Chrysler around $25 billion so they can retool for production of more fuel-efficient cars. Last week the three CEOs returned to The Hill to ask for as much as $50 billion more to keep their companies floating while they hemorrhage cash in the down economy.

It is true that consumers are not buying new cars right now. That’s a huge problem for all automakers, not just the Big Three. When they start buying cars again, fuel-efficient vehicles like hybrids and compacts will be in demand. Actually, if we’re being truthful here, these vehicles are in demand right now. Just go try to find a Prius on a dealer lot.

So the Big Three CEOs have the audacity to go to Congress and say “give us money so we can ride out the bad economy and have what the consumers will want when they are ready to buy.” Audacity? Why did I choose that word?

Simple, because unless you’ve been living in cave for the last decade, you’ll know that even when GM, Ford and Chrysler were selling SUVs and trucks faster than a Ramones drum beat, they were largely losing money. Keep in mind that SUVs and trucks had a hell of a lot higher profit margin than compact and hybrid cars could ever hope to attain.

Imagine if the CEOs told Congress: “we need money, because we couldn’t make profits when we were selling high-profit vehicles. Since we pocketed that money in salaries, union deals, benefits, and executive bonuses, and got drunk on cheap gas (although in our hearts we knew it wouldn’t stay that way, but we hoped we’d be retired by the time it hit $4 per gallon), we never spent enough on R+D, so we didn’t have vehicle products ready to go for this current marketplace.” Unfortunately, that’s the truth.

Here is a scary reality
If Congress gave $50B directly to American consumers with the condition that we went out and bought new cars, here’s what would happen: $50B would buy 1,666,666 cars, based on the current average price of around $30,000 each. Given the current market share, GM at 22.4 percent would sell 373,333 vehicles, Ford (14.8%) would move 246,666 units, and Chrysler (11%) would sell 183,333 units. In other words, with fifty billion dollars going directly into the hands of consumers to buy a new car, the best any of the Big Three could do would be to sell a group of additional vehicles equating to less than one year’s worth of Honda Accord sales in America. (392,231 Accords were sold in the US in 2007.) Think that’s enough to keep them (or dealers) from failing? Nope!!!

Inevitably, there are those out there who will say the Big Three are “too big to fail”. Television news channels are already reporting huge job loss potentials if the companies go out of business—from a few hundred thousand to somewhere around 1.5 million. For every one job at GM, Ford and Chrysler, there are seven positions at vendors providing parts and services for domestic auto production. In other words: if they fail, we’re in a depression with millions of unemployed workers.

The logical conclusion, claim these folks, is to keep the government money flowing– no matter how long it takes, otherwise the companies will implode, everyone in the industry will be out a job, and a depression is unavoidable. To these people I have just two words:


Allow me to follow up those two words with a description of why this is critical history for every Member of Congress to know. England used to be tied with America as the automotive powerhouses in the world. We had Ford and Chevy, while they had Austin and Morris. Just like the contraction of companies in America that formed Ford-Lincoln-Mercury and General Motors, Austin joined Morris in BMC. Standard joined with Triumph, which was joined with Jaguar. Finally, by 1968 most British-owned brands were rolled into British Leyland.

Thanks to equal parts ineptitude, greed and lack of ethics, BL drove the British car industry into the ground. BL executives blamed the economy (including an oil crisis) and labor. Everyone else pointed the finger at products that were inferior to foreign competition, as well as short-sighted contracts and profiteering.

Despite selling forty percent of the vehicles in Great Britain, by 1975 British Leyland was broke. The British Government sank millions into the group and became the majority shareholder. The corporation was reorganized, and millions more went to cure production and labor problems.

The company was again reorganized into saleable units. Jaguar-Daimler was sold-off in 1984 (two years later it went to Ford). The Leyland truck and bus unit was merged with Dutch DAF in 1987, which later sold bus operations to Volvo. Just a year later the Rover Group (including most of the remaining car business) was sold to British Aerospace, which turned around and immediately sold this remaining part of Great Britain’s auto industry to German BMW.

Which puts us back to GM, Ford and Chrysler

If Congress simply let nature take its course, there is a strong chance that all would fail. But we need to DEFINE “FAIL”. In this case, do we honestly think that if any of the Big Three “fail” everything the company owns would simply be auctioned off to the high bidder in front of the local courthouse? Of course not.

All three companies own valuable plant assets. All still have cash. All own products and technology that are profit centers. There is certainly a big financial value to Chevy’s Volt product, as well as Chrysler’s ultra-modern flexible plant locations, Ford’s Mustang brand, Corvette production, F150 fleet sales, the “Hemi” trademark…

Considering that Porsche just tried unsuccessfully to buy VW, it puts them back in the market for an entity that will enable them to meet 35-mpg CAFE standards. By the way, Porsche has also been one of the most profitable automakers of the last decade. (Turns out that selling overpriced sports-SUVs is a cash cow.) So even after the botched buyout, they have money to burn.

Hyundai is also a strong competitor without a good hybrid play, as is Mitsubishi. Both have money. Mitsubishi’s dedication to cars might be questionable, but Hyundai’s certainly is not. Honda could use a more diverse product range, especially upmarket. Even Toyota could make a case to buy one of the Big Three — Chrysler for flexible production facilities or GM for Volt plug-in technology (since it could take a big bite out of Hybrid Synergy Drive sales).

Then there’s BMW – the same company that at one time or another has purchased Rover, MG, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Austin/Morris/Mini, and still retains the rights for Triumph. They have cash and good credit…not to mention a pretty good history of acquiring, absorbing, improving operations, and remarketing companies. (We’ll give them a pass on Rover, which was a debacle, only because nothing short of a neutron bomb could have solved that company’s issues.) Finally, BMW has banked way too much on hydrogen over plug-in hybrids, so they could benefit from buying the technology, rather than developing it in house.

Don’t count on Mercedes to get involved. The company is still sore from its marriage to Chrysler. It turns out Mercedes was ill prepared to deal with the complexities of a merger with such a dysfunctional corporation at a time when it was challenged with its own operational and technical issues. Consequently, Mercedes lost more money than a drunk billionaire trying to impress the hotties at the high roller baccarat tables.

Hyundai, BMW, Porsche…Any of these companies could benefit by buying GM, Ford, or even Chrysler.

All have experience designing, building, marketing, selling, and servicing in America already, and do so with high profit margins.

No doubt each and any foreign buyer would bust the unions and negotiate dumping retirement benefits on the US government. Then the companies would kill poor performing legacy products, as well as the people who continued to push losing strategies. Good niche brands and solid future technologies would be exploited, while albatrosses like Hummer would likely be closed down or sold to a greater fool.

In the end, America would have to let go the concept of the American Big Three. One could get caught up in buzzwords like “failure”, but the goal is to save money and jobs.

No matter how we look at it, American jobs will be lost. The difference is that if the US Congress pushes the Big Three to sell, more people will actually be able to keep jobs. Granted some will do so at reduced wages and most at decreased long-term benefits. Wouldn’t it be better, however, for these people to work for a competitive company again – one that isn’t in jeopardy of needing to make more layoffs or beg for more government money next year?

Congress might still decide to throw good money after bad at GM, Ford and Chrysler, just like the British did for BL, but the best course of action is to allow these dinosaurs implode under their own weight sooner rather than later, and work to convince German, Japanese and Korean automakers to bring them back to life as more efficient, better targeted and longer-reaching versions of their old selves using the American workers and suppliers who are willing to adapt to a new world with a view far beyond the self-interests of Michigan and D.C..

Editor’s Note: We here at the Four Wheel Drift realize that this whole bailout issue is far more complicated than can be summarized in one article. We expect that if Alan Mulally or Rick Wagoner read the above article, they’d accuse us of missing important details. (We’d expect that Bob Lutz would say we’ve got our heads up our asses if we thought it was that simple.) The fact is that it isn’t simple. It took nearly a century for GM, Ford and Chrysler to create the mess they’re in, and there are no easy answers. We simply are taking a stand unpopular with car folks, especially those emotionally tied to the long history of American auto producers, and suggesting that the only way to stay competitive is to admit that there is no way to stay competitive by just taking government money and tightening belts.

Update Numero Tres Of Dos People In Uno Jaguar Racing In the La Carrera Panamericana

October 28, 2008

Joel Eisenberg submitted this exclusive update from the Carrera at 7:45pm last night to The Four Wheel Drift:

 The 4th day was magic we finished all legs and are celebrating.  I don’t think our times were that good as it rained and we had no wipers.  Only one close call, which happened just as we took the checkered flag in the first speed section: a burro wandered into the road before we could slow down. He was one lucky burro as we just missed him.

We had another burro issue on the next to last speed section.  We were off the start and just as we hit the red line in first gear out wandered another burro.  I had to hit the brakes hard to let him pass.

The bad luck today was that Jake and Matt rolled their Studebaker. We’re in the same support group — on the car hauler the Studebakers and the Jag.   John and Chris were with us in the Chihuahua. Their two sons who are in their 20s and john spent most of the last year building the car for the Carrera. It’s -totaled-! They just went too fast on the last speed section today.

It turns out the problem the last two days was a defective master electrical kill switch. All of the original Lucas shit has been replaced but the Lucas gremlin remains! Hopefully well have Rain-X tomorrow.

Adding to the comic aspect is that the toe guard on my foot cast got tangled in the clutch. So now my cast and toe guard are duct taped up!

GM Buying Chrysler Rumor — Redux

October 13, 2008

Just a year and a half since the last time that similar rumors hit the world, again the buzz in the business world is that General Motors is considering buying a controlling stake of Chrysler. This time, though, it might turn out to be true.

Quite a bit has happened since February of 2007, when GM initially walked away. Chrysler was purchased by Cerberus, which quickly found out the extent of the company’s horrible problems. Then gas prices soared…then the credit crunch. If we were Cerberus, we’d want out too!

Everyone seems to be asking: “why would GM want Chrysler?” Here’s a list of pros and cons:

Pro –

  • Chrysler has some of the most advanced plant facilities in the world. Utilizing “flex line” operational technology, some of the facilities are able to build many different cars on the same line. This allows the company to build based on market demand without the need to stop and change production lines – something that is currently killing GM. And Chrysler’s overall value is so low, GM could conceivably buy the company and kill it for its factories for less than the cost of modernizing some of its existing ones.
  • Chrysler’s share of the government’s $25 billion bailout.
  • Getting the “Lebaron” name and preventing it from being used on anymore horrible vehicles that can bring further insult to the name of the great coachbuilder of the pre-WWII era.
  • Ummm….that’s about it.

    Con –

  • Chrysler has the single worst product family for modern market conditions. Most of the company’s star vehicles rely on Hemi V8 and V10 engines that consume gas like beer in a Boston pub on March 17th.
  • Chrysler’s product family offers nothing that isn’t already offered by GM, other than a good minivan (a declining segment.) The 300/Charger competes with Impala, Lucerne and STS, to some degree. Camaro will steal dollars for Challenger. Jeep certainly offers better products than Hummer, but both brands draw from the same pool, and neither look to have good sales over the foreseeable future. Even the Viper is basically in direct competition with Corvette.
  • Just what GM needs – hundreds of additional dealers with under-trained sales and service staff whose primary goal is to get people to circle “completely satisfied” on surveys solely for the purpose of winning corporate recognition (instead of actually having completely satisfied customers!)

    In the end, the only thing we could understand is if GM pulled a Microsoft – buying a company simply to remove it from the marketplace. Chrysler is too costly and too far behind to be anything other than akin to trying to restore a rotten 80’ sailboat. (Read: money pit with no hope of breakeven.)

    We’re going to guess that this just isn’t going to happen, because it makes little to no sense for GM. Though GM has been guilty of plenty of shortsighted decisions in the past, but they’ve made only a handful of downright stupid ones. Only if Chrysler’s share of the bailout funds, plus the value of its modern plants minus the cost of changing the plants to build core GM future products (like the Volt and other plug-in versions of Cadillac, Chevy, Buick, Pontiac, and Saturn offerings) far exceeds the cost of purchasing the company will it go ahead.

    After all…even some still working in GM are old enough to remember how merging Packard and Studebaker (two ailing car companies) turned out!

  • It’s Going To Get Ugly: GM Had “Supercars” Before Setright’s Miura

    September 24, 2008

    It is considered automotive historical fact that British auto journalist L.J.K Setright coined the word “supercar” in his review of the Lamborghini Miura. Even I have referenced this piece of trivia.

    There’s one huge problem, though! It’s wrong.

    One of the benefits of having a huge collection of old automotive magazines is that you learn something new every single time your colon comes a-calling. For my morning constitutional today, I picked up the May 1966 edition of Car Life.

    On page 28, Car Life’s road test of the ’66 Chevy II 327/350 V-8 uses the subtitle “Who Needs 400 Inches for Supercar Status?”. The last paragraph uses the word three times. (“More intriguing, however, is the fact that the Chevy II 327 relates more to the present proliferation of Supercars than it does to a counter-Mustang. And in that context, it is well worth a close examination. Unlike some samples from the Supercar spectrum, it maintains a gentleness along with its fierce performance potential; its power/weight ratio is second to none and it is definitely better balanced than most. While admittedly giving a cubic inch advantage away to the more established models, the Corvette engine manages to be just as competitive in pure output. On the basis of specific bhp/cu. in. ratios, as a matter of fact, it stands heads about the Supercar level.”

    Gulp…did Car Life indirecly call the Chevy II a Supercar? And did they do it in a magazine that hit the mail before the May 1st opening day of the 1966 Geneva Motor Show, where the Miura was unveiled to the public and press?

    But wait…there’s more!

    This wasn’t a passing thing in this issue of Car Life. We now turn to page 51. In the comparison test of Pontiac’s Tempest Sprint (with OHC Six) and GTO, there is a caption for a picture of the GTO. “GTO CONTINUES to be a pace-setter in the Supercar crowd.”

    Indeed, a little research shows that Car Life had been using the Supercar word to describe the cars in its pages for over a year. In March 1966, a review of the Plymouth Satellite has a picture with caption as follows: “PLYMOUTH 383-cu. in. engine has just enough space around it for easy tuning accessibility, is big enough to give the Satellite “Supercar” status and action. (By the way this was the same issue that covered the Lamborghini’s frame and V12 engine unveiling that would later become the Miura).

    It seems Car Life started using “supercar” instead of “muscle cars”. The first use of supercar seems to be in its article on the 1965 Pontiac GTO. Fingering through earlier articles on 409 Impalas, 426 Mopars and even August 1964 articles on the 1965 Corvette and Cobra, there are no mentions of the word anywhere.

    Car Life certainly didn’t invent the word, either. Supercar was first used conversation in England in the 1920s, or least that’s what I’ve been told. Since I wasn’t there, I have to believe that, like most elements of automotive history, someone somewhere else used it earlier, but we believe the legend.

    The Stock and Credit Crunches..And How It Relates To Cars

    September 16, 2008

    Unless you have been under a rock for the last year, you know that there’s an ongoing credit crunch, which in turn has caused the stock market to plummet like the neckline on a Grammy-evening dress. Here are some interesting concepts in terms of how credit affects the world of cars.

    1) Dealers cannot get credit to buy cars: This applies to both new and used car dealers. Fewer new car dealers mean less sales by manufacturers. Usually sales are reported as deliveries to dealers. If new and used car dealers cannot get lines of credit, they have to pay cash for the cars they floor. With the exception of the long-running dealers, most use credit to floor cars.

    2) Manufacturers have less cash with which to work: When the stock plummets and there’s no available credit, companies like Ford and GM have less money for R+D, operations and changing production to more profitable products.

    3) Less money for advertising: This means fewer sponsorship dollars for racing, which translates to a scary future for every series from SCCA and Grand Am to American Le Mans and NASCAR.

    4)Higher prices for cars: Even though the Fed just announced no change for the interest rate, the rate is still low enough to devalue the dollar. Since most automotive components come from other markets (China, Germany etc…), it costs more to build cars. That cost must be passed on to consumers.

    5) Say goodbye to halos: No money…no supercars that make no money for the corporations. Even the Viper is in peril!

    6) It’s buying time: If you have cash, it’s time to start looking for your dream car — be it classic or new. In times like this, it’s a buying opportunity for those who are savvy. It might seem heartless to take advantage of other’s misfortunes, but isn’t that the American way?

    No matter how one looks at it or what the Presidential/VP candidates might claim, the near-term economy looks really grim, especially for fans of automobiles…but again, if you have stockpiles of cash, it won’t be all too bad!