Photo Gallery
Login
Powered by Squarespace
Thursday
Mar172011

1971 Oldsmobile 

When a video tells the entire story....

 

Wednesday
Mar162011

6.9

We often hear, see, and with technology its a given to have videos and opinions on a variety of vehicles....its perfectly normal, and expected. Go back a few years, where finding, and more important experiencing memorable vehicles was usually a quest that took time, and a passionate focus. 

By the mid 1970's when domestic manufacturers were in the business of making money, after having been in the business of making cars for a few decades. One car emerging in North America was the Mecedes-Benz S Class, the 116 version, with the 450SEL being the top of the line (a carbureted 6 cylinder version was not interesting). 

A few years prior, Mercedes-Benz discovered that installing a bigger engine in their top of the line sedan was a cool thing to do (6.3), and having a bigger than life limousine was also cool (600). To uphold their Teutonic tradition these cars were usually over engineered, over complicated, and fascinating.

Back to the 116, the car that set Mercedes-Benz on the map in North America. What was cool about a 450 SEL, with manual seats, extremely slow power windows, semi efficient climate control, vacuum central locking. Compared to a Detroit 3 luxury car of the time, most of the features on a 450 SEL were archaic and behind the times. The immense steering wheel always captured the attention of onlookers. 

Examining a 450 SEL the fit, the finish, the materials, it was a revelation; compared to the interiors from Detroit. In addition to having alloy wheels, not wire wheel covers, and blackwall tires, at a time when white walls were still popular.

If one had an opportunity to drive a 450 SEL it was a serious WOW experience especially for an enthusiast, fuel injection, 3 speed automatic, independent suspension front and rear, disc brakes all around. The car had a performance envelope that was in another orbit. 

This car stops, steers, goes over irregularities, bumps, nothing disturbs it, its rock solid, its like a vault, and with only 275 cubic inches it goes, and stops, with a precise steering feel.

A 450 SEL was a competent car, literally years ahead of most other cars.

Imagine a 116 with a 6.9 (almost a 427), dry sump, enough coolers to run hard all day, hydraulic suspension, aluminum rear suspension arms, shod with Michelin XWX (high performance tires of the time). The price...do you have to ask...expensive. The service and maintenance...don't go there...expensive. 

The owners of 6.9's were wealthy enthusiasts...

The performance envelope of a 6.9 was crushingly superior to any other sedan, it was a sublime experience to enjoy a 6.9 for a few hours while exploring the performance capabilities of the car, and see it ingest prodigious amounts of gasoline. 

Yes...a 6.9 had superlative capabilities, yes...over engineered, overly complex, and capable of sustaining autobahn velocities all day long. To side step a myriad of pollution requirements the last 6.9's were built in December 1979 as 1979 models, not 1980's. 

The car used to film Rendez Vous was a 6.9, although the sound is a Ferrari.

What happened to old 6.9's....the usual history where the second owner does not have the resources of the first owner, and the 3rd owner still less resources...you know the outcome. 

In its day (30 years ago) a 6.9 especially one with a slightly tweaked engine (to alleviate the effects of pollution controls) was an incredible sedan, a seriously capable Q ship (few people understood the capabilities, and performance envelope of the car), that left a memorable intellectual imprint.

 

 

Wednesday
Mar162011

Motorcycles at Boca Raton Concours

Stroll through some cool old bikes with Jay Leno...enjoy!

 

Tuesday
Mar152011

How Did They Do it?

Last week while commenting on a blog entry, we mentioned that in the pre technology days (no computers) dealers sold cars, customers bought cars in a showroom environment, and it was perfectly normal. During a time when cars were much higher on the desirability list, accompanied by less transparency than today.

Lets take a look at how they did it during those backward pre technology days...in no particular order.

<> Dealers had a Kardex system to manage and control their parts inventory, completely manual, these guys sold, stocked, ordered parts, while applying e same metrics as today.

<> Dealers opened work orders by hand...yes hand written, multi copies, press hard, they repaired and serviced cars, managed time, time tickets, submitted warranty claims, and applying the same metrics. The service department still sells time.

Lets look at sales a little closer since we commented on sales.

<> Dealers would order vehicles on an order pad, option by option, every dealer would calibrate the options to his market requirements...how did they do that? Dealers understood their market, knew most of the options by memory, these guys had their own vocabulary when ordering or trading vehicles.

<> They tracked the vehicles through the system, from order, to being built, shipped, distribution, allocations (you could fill several volumes with allocation tales). How did they do that without elecronic calculators, let alone computers?

<> The dealer would price each vehicle manually, with the ensuing temptation to inflate the MSRP, and show a larger discount. While the customer had to visit a dealer to get product information, and a price.

<> Imagine 200 new units in inventory, the dealer knew which vehicles he had, kept track of their location, and when the finance company came for an inventory floor plan verification, it was all reconciled by human brains...how did they do that?

<> Think of 50 used units in inventory, usually owned by the dealer, and if the dealer needed extra operating cash the used inventory was the "bank".

<> The sales person would calculate monthly payments, take a credit application from a customer, phone it in to the finance company, it would get approuved, the finance contract was typed with a typewriter...how did they control all of that...especially the dealers doing 100 new units a month with 10-12 sales representatives in the showroom.

<> Dealers appraised trade ins when black books did not exist? How did they close a deal with a trade in? How did they sell used vehicles when they were less reliable?

<> The progressive dealers had their own leasing companies, calculated their own leases, established their own residuals, offered closed end, and open end leases, offered full service leases, and did their own remarketing of their lease returns. 

<> How did they account for a transaction after the vehicle was delivered, how did they put an ACV on the trade in...how did they "wash out" a deal?

We could keep on going, we are certain that you are grasping that at one time the human brain was powering the retail auto industry, from the most menial tasks, to managing the business. Technology has taken over the routine, menial task that were often prone to silly errors. Technology has dramatically improved process productivity.

Most dealers can do more with less people since technology has literally taken over the majority of the routine tasks, yes...its a good thing.

We have difficulties with various statements that the human intellect is almost incapable of operating a dealership without technology, that its the technology that empowers the human intellect. We agree if the human intellect understands the technology, but does not understand the "business" its perhaps a problem

Here is the thing....

With the Social Autosphere, having technology deal with a myriad of menial/routine tasks, augmenting productivity. The human intellect must focus on connecting and resonating with the "people business", engaging, caring with the human intellect of the propsect to turn him into a customer, and keep him as a customer.

Its been a long time coming.... 

Want to share your thoughts, leave a comment its always appreciated.

 

 

Monday
Mar142011

Canadian Sales 2-11

Musical ChairsIts more challenging, as we mentioned the fruits are higher...certain segments are under a sea change of new competition, others endure with established and in some cases entrenched players. 

In February the price of gas was still relatively stable compared to this month (March), we noted that some manufacturers were slow off the line, expecting to see how the competitive landscape would develop during the first month.

You have noticed that the level of advertising for certain models, accompanied by various offers has intensified in March...yes its the last month of the first quarter.

Keep in mind...we mentioned that catching up from one not so good month is doable, catching up from more than one month is not as easy. Some manfacturers became proactive in February to overcome a slow January, others are solidifying their positions, while others are simply falling behind.

In the meantime...

To follow through on how manufacturers deploy their tactics and startegies Lets quickly take a look at the same segements we considered last month...they are year to date February results.

 

Pick Up

YTD................................2011...........2010

Ford F150.......................10,882.........11,084

Ram...............................8,185............6,155

GMC Sierra......................5,112...........5,040

Chevrolet Silverado..........4,695...........4,598

These guys do not concede anything, they started strong, are still very close, with Ram gaining additional momentum. Ford is still ahead of GM (if you ad Sierra and Silverado). Its a close race that is satisfying to watch.

 

Entry Luxury Sedan

YTD...............................2011.............2010

BMW 3 Series..................1149..............1139

Mercedes C Class.............1008..............1006

Audi A4...........................768................650

Cadillac CTS.....................387................423

Infiniti G..........................375................482

Buick LaCrosse..................349...............339

Acura TL...........................292...............221

Lexus IS..........................268................247

Volvo 60 Series................143.................0

Did you expect anything less than MerBimAu (Mercedes-BMW-Audi) get an early lead, while receiving pit signals to manage their pace. We agree that Infiniti needs to improve its track position. It will be interesting to see how the pack behind MerBimAu settles in at the end of the first quarter.

 

"Little Cars"

YTD.................................2011.................2010

Hyundai Elantra...............6,212.................3,947

Toyota Corolla..................4,121................4,536

Honda Civic......................3,926................6,009

Mazda 3...........................3,514................6,284

Chevrolet Cruze................3,264...................0

Ford Fiesta.......................1,095....................0

Mazda 2...........................1,020....................0

Toyota Yaris........................783.................2,294

Honda Fit............................211...................706

The Elantra is way ahead, and claiming the best selling car in Canada after 2 months. After the January results (a little scary) Honda took remedial action with the Civic for February. Mazda is wishing that it was 2010 instead of 2011. The Cruze holds impeccable track position and is right on the bumper of the Mazda 3. With the Civic dramatically improving its track position (Honda seems to come up with "Hail Mary Months"), yes...Mazda is in a precarious position 

Toyota with the Corolla and Yaris 2011 = 4,332...2010 = 5,242  close

Mazda with the 3 and 2 2011 = 4,534.....2010 = 6,284  sort of close lost momentum

Honda with the Civic and Fit 2011 = 4,137....2010 = 6,715 still takes your breath away

 

Mid Size Sedans

YTD...............................2011........................2010

Fusion...........................1,751.......................1,886

Altima...........................1,698.......................1,863

Sonata...........................1,640......................1,644

Malibu............................1,057......................1,543

Accord..............................801......................1,708

Camry..............................787.................... ..1,707

Mazda 6...........................580.........................641

Legacy.............................349.........................438

Regal...............................267..........................0

Jetta..............................3,019......................1,252

The mid size sedan segment is undergoing changes, the manufacturers that are losing sales from the previous year, coincidentally (?) are also the ones not doing well after 2 months of this year. The Malibu is dissapointing, the Regal is another dissapointment, the Accord and Camry after 2 months are devastated. Consider the effects of the recalibrated price on the Jetta. 

At the end of 2010 in Canada the breakdown for cars 45% and utility vehicles/trucks 55% was the highest its been for years. After the first 2 months of 2011 its 40% cars and 60% utility vehicles/trucks one would conclude that in the quest to transcend winter some folks are migrating from mid size sedans to utility vehicles. 

Its a stagnant competitive market, the gains of one are the loss of another. 

Yes...Certified Pre Owned continues to be a bright spot.