Monday, April 27, 2009

(Not quite a) Review: 2008 Ford Edge Limited - AWD

Earlier this month, my father decided his 2000 Ford Windstar minivan had had enough. A respectable and reliable little van, it served his small business purposes well and was much more fuel efficient than any silly and huge SUV, like a Yukon or Suburban. It probably had just as much cargo room too, but the savings from being more fuel efficient was the big reason for staying small.

Fast forward 9 years and 140,000 miles later. This car was always left outside and was never properly cared for. As such, it began to rust a bit. My father had already planned on getting rid of it, and Ford had done him well in the past, so why not go with another Ford? Particularly in this type of economic climate, any American auto dealership would bend over backward to get his business, he figured. Turns out he was right.

He was able to pick up a 2008 Ford Edge Limited - AWD (navi, leather, all those goodies - even option 18" chrome wheels!) for about $12K below MSRP (as I understand it - never saw the bill of sale or anything).

More than just the price, though, the car is actually pretty solid. I drove it briefly and it seemed pretty sturdy. The options are great, the interior quality is very nice, and the exterior styling isn't anything to laugh at like some of the Buick or Oldsmobile models of the 1990s. The reason for the deep discount was more than just the fact that it was an American car, of course; it had been sitting on the lot for well over a year and a half by this point and the dealer wanted it gone.

This is how Detroit can win American car buyers back: shed inventory for low cost, make what people WANT to buy like this Ford Edge, give up the addiction to huge trucks and atrocities like the $50,000 GMC Yukon Hybrid, and stick to making sensible vehicles people can be proud of when parked next to foreign competitors like Honda and VW. Pretty soon, if they can make this work, it will be the American auto owners laughing at folks who paid too much for a foreign car instead of the other way around.

Begging for socialism

Note: this was already posted on my other blog but as it involved the auto industry it belongs here too.

In a shameful move by a shamefully & poorly managed US auto company, GM is now asking the government to completely take over the company so it doesn't have to run itself - nor confront the unions it plans to phase out:

GM is living on $15.4 billion in government loans and faces a June 1 deadline to restructure and get more government money. If the restructuring doesn't satisfy the government, the company could go into bankruptcy protection.

GM said in a news release that it will ask the government to take 50 percent of its common stock in exchange for canceling half the government loans to the company as of June 1.

If both are successful, the government and UAW health care trust would own 89 percent of the company's stock, with the government holding over a 50 percent stake, Henderson said.


I would rather see GM go out of business or at least substantially reduce its product offerings (more than just slashing Pontiac; think much bigger - or smaller, as the case may be). The government should not be in the business of making cars for profit. And since the government will realize this soon too, taking over 50% of the company's stock (read: operational & financial decisions) means we're slowly getting on the path of government taking over all industry. Alarmist? Apocalyptic? OK maybe a bit too much melodrama to make such a leap, but it's still frightening for those of us who value good old fashioned hard work in our industry here in the States.

My only hope is that a strong state like Texas secedes from the union and shows the other 49 how it's done. Only that type of action will finally convince people that a heavily centralized federal government, which should not be in the business of bailing out or taking over industries to the point where those companies are given a lifeline just long enough to BEG the government to put it out of its misery as an independent for-profit going concern, has no place in this country.
If this (or something like it) doesn't happen? I fear the socialism bug that has infested too many countries in Europe, and spread all too easily via the EU.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Car care products: Mothers Reflections Advanced Wax vs. Turtle Wax

When I stumbled upon on the recommendation of someone on a Honda board a while back, I didn't realize just how lucky I was at the time. What I heard from the sales reps & owner at Wax Station - who deal almost exclusively in detailing products made by Mothers - is that Reflections Advanced Wax goes on easy, buffs off easy, and leaves a lasting shine. I didn't know quite what that meant until I used Reflections for years, and then tried to wax my sister's car the other day with some Turtle Wax product that I can't even find on their site at the moment (this link gives you the closest product I could find).

The Turtle Wax polish went on fairly easily, but not nearly as easily as Reflections - not by a mile. It did behave when being pushed around by the microfibre waxing cloth I used (no automatic buffers here - I do it by hand). So okay, step 1 (after using some Mother's Pre-Wax Cleaner on certain areas that looked particularly dirty - remember, there was no existing coat of wax to strip off) was finished.

Buffing off the haze was a bit of a tough task when compared to how the product went on. Keep in mind her Accord is a smaller car than my Benz, thus there's less of an area to wax, so the amount of time it took me to wax the car was shorter. I also ensured her car was NOT in direct sunlight.

When I took a clean cloth to try to buff out the haze, it was like I had covered the car with Rain-X and had left it out in the sun too long. It was simply impossible to get it all off, and streaks abounded. Even on 100% dry panels, streaking still occurred because I couldn't put enough pressure on the paint to get that gunk off! It was very disappointing after I had worked hard to get the stuff on. I'll have to go fix it this week by using some Mothers wax.

Overall, I'd give that Turtle Wax product a huge thumbs down when compared to Mothers waxes I have used.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Repair Shops: European Auto Solutions in Waltham, MA

There are a few shops in Massachusetts which are very good at what they do, and this is by no means a comprehensive list:

Accel Automotive - they work on just about anything - including antiques, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo ( they are located right next to where Alfa used to be in the 90s in Waltham, MA). Good people & honest. I have used them for years and if they have ever made a mistake, they own up to it and pay for it. What else can you ask for from your mechanic? We have a Lexus ES that will likely never see another shop again outside of Accel, and the following shop for tires & alignment.

Donovan Alignment - now a franchise of American Car Care Centers but again - very fair & honest, very talented when it comes to diagnosis. I've never been disappointed.

As good as these two shops are, for our Mercedes-Benz, I recently started using European Auto Solutions. Due to copyright issues they can't actually have Mercedes in the name, but they work solely on Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

The short history is that the owner, Tim Allen (no, not that one), a former Fidelity big-wig, had a passion for Benzes. A specialty Benz restoration shop that worked on all Benz model years and types, located nearby in Wayland, and named Hatch & Sons, was closing up shop (they would eventually re-open in Hudson). Tim was at the point of needing a new challenge in his life, so he left Fidelity and under a year later, the former Hatch & Sons service coordinator was working for him in a new shop in Waltham called European Auto Solutions.

I have used them for a few jobs now. The insurance nightmare posts (look in the archives - I'm sick of even linking to them at this point) speak to some major door issues after my driver's door needed replacement, and EAS brought me in from the cold: they replaced faulty wiring, connected the window regulator properly, aligned the door properly, replaced the contact switch, etc. All for a very reasonable rate, and just knowing my car was in the hands of people who had a passion for the brand and who never touched other cars, that gave me a level of comfort I hadn't had in my vehicle since the accident in January 2009.

I also needed rear coil springs done, and those were done without a hitch.

During my last visit, the owner, Tim, had to give me a ride to and from work. He was telling me about his passion for the W124 chassis, or the 300E (and 500E) of about the mid-80s to 1992 or so. Speaking with the service manager, Ed, is cool enough, but having 10-15 minutes of time alone with the owner of the shop and talking Benzes with him was very cool. He had no issue at all with giving me a ride to work after their loaner car wasn't back in time for me as promised, which showed me he's a down-to-Earth guy who values his customer base. Being the son of a business owner who's been located up the street from EAS for the past 35 years, this is very important to me when selecting shops to whom I will give my business.

If you're in MA and have an old or new Benz, give them a shot, you won't be let down!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hitches in Fiat/Chrysler negotiations

MILAN – Automaker Fiat Group SpA will walk away from a deal to take a 20-percent stake in Chrysler LLC if the U.S. automaker's unions don't agree to major cost cuts, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said in an interview published Wednesday.

Fiat and Chrysler are up against an April 30 deadline for Fiat to take a stake in the failing U.S. automaker in exchange for small car technology, but Chrysler first needs concessions from creditors and unions to ink the Fiat deal. If the Fiat alliance isn't finalized by then, the U.S. government has threatened not to provide any more aid and let Chrysler be sold off in pieces.

"The dialogue is out of sync," Marchionne said. "I think they need to see what state the industry is in. Canada and the U.S. are coming in as the lender of last resort. .... No one else would put a dollar in. This is the worst condemnation of the viability of this business."



Rewind 20 or 30 years. Think anything like this could ever happen?

Chrysler is defnitely an American-auto-hating whipping boy, for sure. For a German/Italian car loving guy, it's easy to completely disregard Chrysler and maybe even scoff at them. But haven't they also been an accurate sign of the times in the US? In the 70s, they represented a company that refused to change even in the midst of much higher oil prices than their cars could handle, and needed a government bailout. I think there was another bailout in there somewhere. Now they need $6billion - and then more to make this deal work, with two weeks left before D-Day.

Chrysler hasn't learned a thing over the past 30 years. They've had some nice vehicles in that time, but most of them are run of the mill and don't even compare to Japanese or German counterparts. And now, in typically American fashion, they are ready to allow unions to do all the talking for them in another "save our asses" deal.

Sure, Fiat won't inject cash or buy stock from Chrysler...but why should they? The government has offered $6billion to help Chrysler, and apparently even that is not enough to bring them out of bankruptcy and allow Fiat to take the reins & run with a freshly bailed out American auto giant.

It's sad, and shows just how far America has fallen internationally - not only in cars, but as a trade partner and in terms of asset value. Thirty years ago, Fiat would have jumped at the chance to buy Chrysler and would have offered stock, bonds, cash, anything it could throw to have such a large American base.

For my part, I'd love to see this deal go through - DaimlerBenz lost their patience with the Chrysler brand, but Fiat seems to be more about completely remaking the company if they have the opportunity, while also selling Alfa Romeo vehicles here in the States again for the first time since 1995. This could only be a good thing for the American consumer, and yet again, we see labor unions getting in the way. They would apparently rather lose their jobs and see the company completely fail than give concessions to at least keep some of their huge pensions and disproportionate benefits.


UPDATE 4/27/2009

This update was just posted on most of the major news sites. Looks like we may see Alfa Romeo & Fiat models here in the next few years after all! I guess the unions would rather make concessions than, ya know, join the ranks of the unemployed...surprisingly easy logic to follow after you think about it!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Latest - and possibly last - insurance nightmare update

Click here and scroll toward the bottom for the latest insurance nightmare update.

It's been nearly three months since the accident and we may be at the end. The only thing left is waiting to hear from the MA Division of Insurance Appeals Board to see if they will give me back my deductible.