Thursday, June 04, 2009

Not A Bad Ride

The Mazda is finally in the process of being repaired from the hail storm last March. On Monday I was tossed to keys to a 2009 Nissan Alitma 2.5S. It's a fairly basic four-cylinder model Altima, cloth interior, but all the power options. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with a manual mode. This is my first ride in this generation of Altima and I was pretty impressed.

Push button start is the latest gee-wiz feature on cars these days and it's standard on Altima. When the remote is in the car, you put your foot on the brake and press the start button and the car comes to life. It doesn't take long to get used to, but there was one time I left the engine on when I exited the car. There's a gentile chime from the exterior of the car that reminds you what you've done. You can leave the car with the remote and it will stay running.

Coming from my Mazda6 with the six-cylinder engine I was surprised when I caught myself hitting the gas and not missing the extra horsepower. The Altima held it's own in suburban traffic. I'm not a hypermiler but it was fun to shift up to sixth gear as soon as possible for the best gas mileage. Below the speedometer there is a gauge that can tell you how you are doing. It's a fun bar graph to watch as it fill up the better gas mileage you're getting at the moment.

The mid-size, four-door sedan market is pretty crowded. The Altima remains competitively priced with the standard players. Reliability is not as high as offerings from Toyota, Ford and Honda, but you won't see yourself coming and going as much in the Altima as you would the others.

Push button start and not accidentally getting into someone else's car in the parking lot are not bad virtues.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I Am Debbie Downer

Sigh, why the long face. GM went into bankruptcy and could not have asked for a better news day then when an Air France jet disappears in the Atlantic. It was a media miracle for GM, the stuff their PR team dreamed about. A headliner that trumpted GM's bankruptcy story. Obama had a press conference at noon on Monday to put a positive face on the whole thing. Gee, bankruptcy is not that bad after all. We should all do it.

There are a few things that will not work and I want to point them out well ahead of time. I like to take credit. GMC Truck needs to go along with Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer. Buick has value but needs to be folded with Chevrolet dealers. Buick only has three vehicles in their lineup. Unfortunately GM decided to merge the distribution channel of Buick, GMC and Pontiac years ago to consolidate roof tops. They did not plan on going under then. Chevy/Buick dual stores make since. Their price points do not collide on product. Cadillac will go it alone, but it's going to be tough. Those dealers barely sell more then Lincoln which is dueled with Mercury.

Buick/GMC is targeting an upscale customer. GMC trucks command a price premium, but they are the same vehicle as a Chevrolet. GMC has offered the upscale Denali series on it's truck and Chevrolet does not. But Cadillac sells upscale trucks in the GM stable. Give it up GM, it's time to put the kiss of death on GMC too. Best to do this now then go through another reorganization to kill off a division. By then no one will have any confidence in your company. Now is your chance. You can always sell upscale Chevy trucks, Ford does that with the King Ranch series. And they did not need a separate brand to do so. The day of the uber-luxury SUV/truck is limited with new CAFE regulations.

I warn you about the government taking over your new car warranty. Yes the government has pledged to back it. But warranty items can be gray. Concessions are made to please the customer, something the government is not likely to do. The government does not want your future car business.

It was kinda silly this week that when Ford announced it was upping production 10%, it had to apologize for doing so. The press asked if they were being opportunistic in the wake of the GM/Chrysler bankruptcy filings. Well hell yes they are taking advantage of the situation. They are not getting bailed out by the government and they need to make that up. In our new wave of socialism, we have forgotten this is still a free-market economy. You gain your market share where and when you can. We need to be empathic to distressed industries and companies, but this is not a first grade soccer game where everyone gets a trophy.

A Chinese firm bought Hummer today. They will close the deal in the fourth quarter of this year. The Chinese are coming and they are brutal competitors. We owe them so much money we cannot shut out their product policy wise. We can only not buy it. I'd like to think we have a social conscience in this country but then again we can't stay out of Walmart to save our lives. We ignore the safety issues with Chinese made products, but will we continue that thought process with our cars?

On the bright side, Lincoln sales are up 2% over May of last year. You say Huh? It's the return of the Lincoln Town Car to the line up. Town Car rules!

I'm happy again.