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  • I'm a little late for the discussion, but to me there is nothing to compare with the sound of a high performance in-line 6 of the pre-emmission era. Big Healey's, Jags, etc. There is nothing to compare, even big rumbling V-8's.
  • I moved from a Honda Odyssey to a Toyota Celica. Don't have to drive the kids any more!

    Brenda
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    COURT TV IS SEARCHING FOR YOUNG ADULT DRIVERS IN THE LOS ANGELES AREA TO PARTICIPATE IN THE NOVEMBER TAPING OF A TEEN DRIVER SAFETY TV SPECIAL.

    WE ARE IMMEDIATELY LOOKING TO INTERVIEW STUDENTS
    16-23 YEARS OF AGE WHO HAVE SURVIVED (OR MAY STILL BE IN REHABILITATION FROM) A MAJOR CAR CRASH.

    We are not looking to sensationalize bad drivers; we want to point out that wrong choices are often made behind the wheel due to inexperience or youthful feelings of invulnerability.

    Possible causes of the crash could have been:
    · distraction from the road such as cell phone use, changing CDs, putting on makeup, fooling around with group of friends, etc.
    · falling asleep behind the wheel
    · too much partying
    · speeding
    · racing with another car
    · angry frustration or road rage

    · or if your car crash injury could have been avoided if a seat belt had been worn!

    *If any of the above applies to you or someone you know, please contact
    ROSEMARY KALIKOW, Producer, Court TV (212) 973-8940, or
    Email: [email protected]
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    Have you bought or shopped for a 3-Series BMW, C-Class Mercedes, Jaguar X-Type or other small sports sedan since Sept 11? If so, your comments are of great interest. Please get in touch with me via [email protected]
    Thanks as always,
    Jonathan Welsh
  • When back to the dealer a week later and order it. The MRSP was $35,550 and I got the car for $33,750. It includes an yearly detail of the car for as long as I own it.
  • You can contact me at my e-mail address in my profile.

    Katkison
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    Thanks to all of you who participated on- and offline about your post-Sept 11 shopping experiences. I think we've befriended The Wall Street Journal for life, since we provided so many responses. Hope it's been fun for you to interact with the reporter. Here's another chance...

    The New York Times is interested in hearing people's reactions to the special car rental deals currently in effect. You can now borrow a car for as low as $9.99/day from Enterprise or $20/day from Hertz, and you can get a Ford Ranger at $19.99/day or $99.99/week from Budget. How does that fit into your travel plans? Or, does it inspire you to rent a vehicle locally for personal use?
    Thanks for coming back to me at [email protected] with your comments, phone number, and city and state of residence by Wednesday, October 17 if you'd like to participate.
    Very best always,
    Jeannine Fallon
    PR Director
    Edmunds.com
    [email protected]
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastPosts: 1,712
    $9.99/day??
    That interestes me. I rent vehicles fairly often and have cut back the amount of rentals I use, because most of the rental agencies started cutting their mileage allowed.
  • Yes, someone who defies the auto gods, and doesn't buy an import sedan! And buys a Van of all things!
    Proud to buy a car that is not only made in America, but maintains profits within this country. Ahh! How Politically Incorrect is that!

    Why I bought a full sized (non-conversion) van:
    Chevy Express 1500 Passenger Van (base w/ 1SC package)

    1. Bigger interior space than SUV
    2. Better gas mileage than SUV with comparable interior space (there isn't one, nope, not even the Toyota Land Cruiser - joke)
    3. Not what everyone else buys, but sold enough in commercial applications to ensure that repair/maintenance will be cheap and easy to come by.
    4. Ability to remove rear 2 seats for a massive 270 cubic feet of cargo space.
    5. It's better than a pickup, because *my* "tonnaeu cover* is air conditioned, and if I need, I can put the 2 rear benches back in.
    6. Insane number of engine choices and configurations.
    7. The "sin bin" may (again) be the wave of the future?
    8. No interest in little sports sedans that my friends have to cram into, no matter how great the handling might be.
    9. Conversion is possible in the future, if I desire it.
    10. Cheaper by far than any big honking SUV, sports sedan, or other poseur-mobile. Not being popular has its benefits, it seems.

    My buying experience was Difficult, to say the least.
    Few dealerships even offer a base, non-conversion van. Fewer still offer one that isn't a white, windowless "commercial" van.
    When the dealers I went to (Both GMC and Chevy) didn't have base vans, some asked me about getting a Chevy Tahoe ---- with prices waaay up in the 30Ks. Not gonna happen...

    In the end, I found ONE Pewter Metallic with the 5.0 liter V8 where I live, and I jumped on it with GM's 0% interest, and my company's GMS discount program.

    In the end, I am a happy camper, with this fun to drive- look down on others as you drive the big rig - feeling. No problems, though I mistook the clutch fan for high revving at first - my bad. The vehicle has a whopping 31 gallon gas tank that I have only had to fill once (was filled initially by dealer) and I have driven 700+ miles so far. A good vehicle, and none of my friends recognize it or know it. What a GOOD feeling it is to not be yet another sheep, following the "trenzzz".

    The Suzuki was....O.K.....but the engine sounded like a tornado at 70mph, revving waaay up at 4000 rpms, and none of my friends appreciated the cramped (even with the sedan) ride. Overall, I realized fast that my hobbies and lifestyle could not be supported by a little economy car. No gripes against Suzuki, but I don't live in Japan anymore, and I now recognize that fact in my big American house and Big American needs.

    - Happy Express Owner
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    What are the most important factors in your car-buying decisions? I'm looking for a ranking of concerns such as safety, price, monthly payment, styling, quality, etc.
    Please post here and/or send your response to [email protected] by Monday, October 29 for inclusion in a Chicago Tribune article.
    Thanks as always for your time!
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    I'd have to go with safety (now that I've got a little one to think about), the availablility of a manual transmission, fuel economy, and the fun factor in that order. Styling isn't a major concern, but it still plays into any buying decision I'd make. Also important are long-term durability, build quality, and space. Given these criteria, and I know I'm not the only one with them, I think it's easy to see why sporty station wagons are making a comeback (or really, a debut, if the "sporty" part is factored in.)
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    1) Reliability. I've had too many american cars that were just complete crappola. I don't care how safe the car is, if you are left stranded on the side of the Cross-Bronx X-way at 3am, that safe car now becomes quite the un-safe car

    2) Utility. Not necessarily an SUV, but whatever the car's purpose it should do the job properly, beit Sports Car, SUV, Van, Roadster, etc. I can't stand 90% of the SUVs out there cause they are all curvy and not very good for hauling boxes and other assorted items in the back. When I showed up to the Dodge dealer with 2 17" monitor boxes he looked at me like I was crazy when i tried to fit them in the back of the durango.

    3) Safety- Real safety items such as real world stats on # of crashes etc. Not theoretical rollovers, or 5mph crashes into things that don't exist in the real world, or biased automotive press tests. Cold hard factual real world stats.

    4) Price- Value more specifically. For instance I bought a trooper for $25,500 fully loaded. No other SUV can come close to the features + size + reliability for even $30K out the door price.

    -mike
    [email protected]
  • im_brentwoodim_brentwood Posts: 4,883
    1) Performance

    2) Resale value. Is it a better buy new or Used? I just bought a 99 Jaguar used (for myself.. I am a dealer) as I saved over $40,000! Meanwhile, another family member just bought a new Mercedes CLK Cabriolet on my reccomendation new. There's no real savings there going used. People just dont look at that factor enough. "Ooh, I can get a Taurus cheaper than an Accord" Meanwhile, it'd be cheaper to drive a Mercedes CLK for 3 years!

    3) Comfort

    4) Styling.

    5) Reliability

    Bill
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 9,403
    What are the most important factors in your car-buying decisions? I'm looking for a ranking of concerns such as safety, price, monthly payment, styling, quality, etc.

    Please send your response to [email protected]
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Posts: 1,308
    You missed it, dude. Look up about five posts.
  • Sounds just like the last one . . .

    ;^)
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    My top criteria:

    1. Fun to drive. Doesn't have to be a rocket in a straight line, but balanced performance in an entertaining package is an absolute must.

    2. Utility. It must meet my needs. By that I mean at least decent payload, towing, passenger space, cargo space, etc.

    3. Reliability. Must be better than average, at least. I'd like a 5+ year warranty to go with it, too.

    4. Value. At any price level, a good value. I'd be in the $20k to $30k price range, but for that much I pretty much want it loaded.

    Specific things I'd like include traction and stability control, a wagon bodystyle, a manual tranny, 4 channel ABS, and AWD.

    -juice
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    Great responses - I've forwarded all of them to The Chicago Tribune and will let you know how it goes!
    And, I've connected with pf_flyer to thank him for being so thorough in helping me get the word out about our search - we don't expect any more deja vus like that again!
  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 27,760
    Well, not suprisingly, I almost agree with Bill on this one. Performance is my top concern. But resale is my 3rd. I've got to put comfort above that (chalk that up to 3-4 hours spent in my car every day). And styling is dead last for me. If it looks good but doesn't start, then its still worthless in my book. I'm more of a function over form person.

    But, its tough to put some of those in order because there aren't many I'd compromise on. If it was lacking in any of the areas, I wouldn't buy it. So, really, I guess they are all equally important when you get right down to it. Yes, performance is what I look at first, but if its butt ugly, then I'm not buying it, no matter how fast it is.

    '03 F250 7.3, '07 ML63, '08 Charger R/T Daytona; '67 Coronet R/T; '14 Town&Country Limited; '18 BMW X2. 52-car history and counting!

  • the most car that I can afford that meets my needs.

    I guess that means that my needs are first, as in size and/or volume, followed by number of doors, functionality and comfort. I also want a fun driving experience, but since it has to meet my needs first, I guess that follows, along with economy and style.

    That all said, the whole package must fit into my price range. If you look at it one way, the price is the most limiting criterion. I think, like almost everybody else, cost is really #1. But once you have a laundry list of cars that fit within your budget, the other criteria float to the top.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 9,403
    So it was a minor braincramp...LOL




    PF Flyer

    Host

    Pickups & News & Views Message Boards

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Hmm, resale is important to folks that own cars for the short term, but that doesn't include me. I usually drive them forever, so it's much less of an issue.

    Also, most cars with good resale cost more to begin with, so the actual amount of depreciation can be about the same. For example, a Sonata can't match the resale value of an Accord, but it costs so much less to begin with that a lease payment is most likely still lower.

    -juice
  • im_brentwoodim_brentwood Posts: 4,883
    Not really...

    Say you can buy a 2002 Sonata GLS V6 with cloth and no roof for like $16,500.

    An Accord LX will be like $18-19K or so I assume..

    The Sonata will drop over $5,000 in the first year.

    (01 Sonatas are barely breaking $10-11K at the auctions)

    Bill
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    An Accord LX V6 (apples to apples) is more like $21k at invoice.

    Hyundai does not transfer the 10/100k warranty to the 2nd buyer, so that probably hurts resale. But if you keep your car forever that and the resale price won't matter to you.

    -juice
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Have to agree with Juice. If you keep a car for the long haul, the smaller companies such as subaru, isuzu, kia, hyundai, etc. are worth it. Less investment a lot of them last a long time. My buddy bought 2 '92 Hyundai Excels for $10K total, they lasted about 4 or 5 years and 100K w/o any major repairs. He then donated em and took the small writeoff. But $5K for 100K miles troublefree driving is a good deal in my book. Same goes for Isuzu trucks, most last 250+K miles w/o major repairs, and they are generally cheaper than any counterparts.

    -mike
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    The Wall Street Journal is looking for people who modify their Honda Civics and other new, small cars to increase their performance and road presence. Both enthusiasts and service providers in this arena are welcome to respond to [email protected] Thanks as always!
  • hammen2hammen2 Posts: 1,313
    1) Does the vehicle fit my transportation needs? IOW, does it have enough doors, room, etc.? This lets me narrow down to a type of category (coupe, sedan, SUV, van, etc.)

    Prioritizing the next few are tough, as I keep changing my mind:

    2) Price, or at least price range. This is not the biggest factor, but, if I have a max limit of 25k I'm comfortable spending on a car, it narrows the field. The car does have to have "value"..

    3) Reliability... helps narrow the range down more (e.g., after a bad experience with Chrysler, I'll never buy another).

    4) Safety... further helps me decide, along with:

    5) Styling. This really isn't the least important thing - I won't buy a car that I don't like the looks of (why I will never buy an Impala, despite its safety and value - it's just too ugly for my taste). Sometimes my heart overrules my head, and this trumps the other ones (i.e. I currently drive an Aurora, which I've loved since I first saw one. They're not the safest (3-star), or most reliable (thank god for extended warranties), but, to my taste, it's one of the best-looking cars GM's ever designed. It has all of the features I want, too :-)

    6) Performance/handling. Also, not at the bottom of the list - if a vehicle doesn't have the HP, or it handles like a truck (OK, I'm showing my Car Guy colors here, no SUV's for me), I'm not going to buy it.

    7) Comfort/features. If I can help it (afford it), I will never buy a car without leather seats again. Ditto for ABS, traction control, keyless remote entry, etc.

    8) Monthly payment... this is related to price, obviously, but I've already set a range in #2 above. The actual amount of the monthly payment will of course depend upon any financing deals or rebates ongoing, and how much I'm willing to put down.

    I bank at a credit union and get pre-approved there at an excellent rate, before going to dealers to look for a car. I do give them the option to beat my credit union's rate - most won't even try when I tell them what it is. I've always thought it foolish to try to get financing through the dealer - after all, when you buy a house, unless it's a land contract, you generally don't try to get financing from the seller or seller's realtor, do you? I see too many people negotiate good prices on cars, only to give it all back (and more) in the financing.

    9) Fuel economy. I am a bad American, used to our cheap (compared to the rest of the world) gas prices. I live 6.5 miles from work, with about a 10-minute commute (1 stop sign, 2 stoplights, little traffic, 45 mph speed limit), and maybe drive 100 miles every other weekend to visit family. This averages 10k miles/year. For my purposes, fuel economy is not that high a priority. If I commuted 100 miles each day, it'd be way up there.

    10) Resale value. I have generally always bought used (15-30k miles), finance for 3-4 years, and sell after 5 years of ownership (before the mileage gets much above 80k/before the car needs much in repairs or maintenance). I've only bought one new car in my life, and that's only because my wife's mother works for GM and we got the discount. Otherwise, let someone else take the tremendous hit when driving it off the lot...

    If I put more stock in resale, I'd never have bought a car from a company that's going out of business. If I can help it, I don't ever intend to sell the Aurora, though :-)

    Value again plays into the equation - because GM had announced 3 months earlier that Olds was history, I was able to pick up my loaded (every option) '98 Aurora (27k mi) for $17k - when it stickered for over $40k new. Other than a water pump (still under warranty), it's been the dream car I've lusted after for years...

    Hope this helps,

    --Robert
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Anyway if you want some non-urban-clear-tail-lite-reflective tape-washer glowing-big-rim toting people you might check out http://i-club.com there are a lotof people who modify for performance their 2.5RS and WRX subarus over there.


    -mike

  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    Thanks, all. Keep 'em coming!
  • I am 6'5" and my wife is 5'11". Therefore, the very first criterion for us is simply whether we fit in a vehicle. Headroom, legroom, visibility, whether our knees fit under the steering column--simple things like that which most people can afford to take for granted become of paramount importance to us. We're tall, but not freakishly so--but we're still amazed at how few vehicles can meet our simple accommodation needs.

    If and when that condition is satisfied (or in an ideal world where it wouldn't matter), the other things that are important to us include:

    1. Safety. We live in the northeast, with all of its attendant weather conditions. We also live in a college town with a lot of young, inexperienced, unpredictable drivers. Some are just learning to drive, some think they are F1 drivers. (Beyond that, I happen to think the driving skills, attitudes, and attentiveness of the vast majority of all the people beyond the wheel on the nation's roads are woefully lacking.) We are also expecting our first child, so we are obsessing about safety at the moment. But to me, safety doesn't JUST mean things like crash test results, ABS, air bags, daytime running lights, and the usual litany of actual "safety" features. Things like emergency handling (acceleration, braking, steering--things most people might put under the heading of "performance and handling"), visibility, and so on are part of my overall consideration of what I call "safety".

    2) Reliability. I want a vehicle I can expect to count on day in and day out, year in and year out. It's as simple as that.

    3) Comfort/features. I'm not overly impressed by the total NUMBER of features, but I AM impressed but thoughtful industrial design. Is a feature useful? Does it do what it is supposed to when it's supposed to do it? Are the controls thoughtfully designed and placed? Is the vehicle comfortable to drive or to ride in for both short errand-running kinds of trips as well as longer drives? I would also include "fit and finish" under this heading. Is the vehicle well-made? Does it feel solid? Is it free of squeaks and rattles?

    4) Fuel Economy. Too bad it has to come behind so many other considerations, but for me it does. Nevertheless, I would prefer to be able to drive a vehicle which meets all my other criteria and gets good mileage, too.

    5) Price range. I'm prepared to pay somewhat of a premium for all of the things I have listed thus far, but I haven't won the Powerball, so a vehicle has to be within the realm of reason in terms of price.

    6) Durability/resale. I expect to keep a vehicle for at least 5 years when I buy it. Presuming I have taken reasonable care of it, I also expect it to have decent resale value when I finally decide to sell it.
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    Thanks for your response, Michaeli1. I've forwarded it to the journalist and will post the article as soon as it appears. Congrats in advance on the extension of your family. Any chance you will name the baby Edmund or Edmunda?

    Next query - calling all Web-savvy dealers! A journalist at Automotive News is looking to talk with you about how you protect your Web site from hackers and viruses. Any takers? Please post here at Talk to the Press or write me directly at [email protected] Thanks!
  • 1. Does it fit my needs ( room, utility, doors, etc)

    The next few are about equally important:

    2. Price (under 25K). montly payments under $400. With all other things equal, manufacturer's low APR financing may sway me.

    3. Value. Everyone understands it differently. For example: One can buy a smaller car or a trim with less powerful engine but with sunroof, alloys, leather, multi-cd changer, premium sound system etc. to me, it's not a good value. I'd rather have a bigger vehicle or trim equipped with more powerful engine, ABS, power windows/locks, 1 cd player than a v-4 with leather, sunroof, multi-cd changer and alloys.

    3. Image/style. Sometimes you just see a car and you fall in love with it, despite all practical considerations. On the contrary, I could not bring myself to buy a minivan although it would have made perfect sense because we often haul 2 large dogs, gear, etc. I just resent that 'soccer mom' image that comes with a minivan.

    4. Reliability... Sure, there are some cars that reported to be super-reliable, but they are either generally overpriced, or if the price is OK, they tend have poor feature content. Also, there is a luck of the draw, you may get a reliable car from 'unreliable' brand and vice versa. Some manufacturers just seem to rest on their reliability laurels. So I choose middle ground between reported reliability and value.

    5. safety - kind of ties with value/features - i'd rather have an ABS than sunroof for the same price..

    6. Comfort/features. If I can help it, I will never buy a car without power windows/locks, AC,
    ABS, auto transmission, keyless entry. These are must-haves.

    Not very important are:

    8. Fuel economy. I will not go into either extreme (drive 3-cyl Geo Metro w/stick or drive Ford Expedition). Good fuel economy to me is in 24-27 mpg level(highway). Many v-6 are rated at that or better.

    9. Resale value. Obviously, there are some exceptions either way, but generally as a rule the cars that have better resale value cost more upfront. I tend to keep my vehicles until they are so old that resale value is a moot point.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    My guess is that they are protected by whatever company they hired to build and maintain the website. I don't know of any dealers that host and maintain their own websites.

    -mike
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    Great responses as always...here's a new topic:

    All automotive shoppers today know there are some great 0% financing deals...but many don't realize not everyone qualifies, and not every vehicle is eligible. Did you walk into a dealership prepared to take advantage of 0% financing, only to walk out frustrated or disappointed? If so, the NY Times wants to talk with you! Please post here or respond directly to [email protected]
  • teoteo Posts: 2,508
    Zero percent financing deals don't exactly mean a "Free ride for all". In order to qualify for ANY kind of special financing rates (yes including the 0% deals of late)you must be a A+ tier customer, in other words, your credit report beacon score must be 700 points or above. If you fall below the 700 point mark, you can still qualify for financing but at higher rates.

    Buyers should check the current state of their credit reports before heading down to a car dealership. This will avoid unecessary embarrasement when the Finance Manager is going over your credit report just to find out that you have enough dings in your credit report to terminate the sale.

    Knowledge is power. A complete and up-to-date credit report can be obtained from the 3 main credit bureaus, typically for $8 per copy (But this varies on some states):

    * Equifax
    * Experian
    * TransUnion

    Before heading out to "car Shopping" make sure before hand that the vehicle(s) you are interested in are covered under current special financing problems. Some models are while other models or brands are not. This is up to the manufacturer to decide, how, when and where.

    Sites such as Edmunds and the manufacturers websites can easily provide this information to avoid dissapointments at the dealer's negotiation table.

    Consumers that experience frustration in these two areas is simply because they did not take the time to research the current shape of their credit reports and did not do enough research on the cars they are looking for.

    In the other hand, some dealers are forcing customers to pay sticker MSRP prices in exchange for the special financing rates. That's a crooked practice of some selling outlets. Consumers can still negotiate their best price and get the special rate (If they qualify for it)at the same time. If a dealer tells you that you have to pay MSRP to get the 0% finance rate, LEAVE THAT STORE AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN.

    This kind of ongoing rip-offs are truly FRUSTRATING experiences while the other two can easily be sort out by consumers by taking time to do their research before spending time for nothing at a dealership.
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    Thanks for clarifying, Teo.
    That said, the query remains open to anyone who was taken off guard by the small print.
  • teoteo Posts: 2,508
    Cool ;)
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    Are you shopping for or have you recently bought a Navigator, Suburban, Hummer, Jeep, Land Rover, Tahoe, F-Series, Escape, Explorer, V70 Cross-Country or BMW X5? If so, The Wall Street Journal would like to talk with you, especially if this is your first SUV and thought maybe you'd never buy one.
    Did the automaker incentives draw you to the SUV, or did the lower fuel prices register in your mind and lead you to this decision? Maybe it was the enhanced capabilities like all-wheel-drive appealing more than usual, as we all are extra focused on safety these days.
    Please post here and/or send your input to [email protected]
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    I got $5+K off my trooper. Paid $26K for it, and it's the best equipped $26K on the road, hands down. Please have em contact me, I can write a book about it for em! [email protected]

    -mike
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    Keep those responses coming!

    Have you or a friend bought a Honda S2000, Chrysler Sebring or Corvette in the past few weeks? If so, The Wall Street Journal would like to talk briefly with about the purchase. Please respond by Friday, November 9 to [email protected]
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastPosts: 1,712
    Next query - calling all Web-savvy dealers! A journalist at Automotive News is looking to talk with you about how you protect your Web site from hackers and viruses. Any takers?

    Since you didn't get any takers from auto dealers, as an automotive technical information website owner, I rely heavily on the server I use. The company I deal with as a server makes backup copies twice a day and make sure their up to date on the current protection. Changing passwords every so often and all that is a must. That isn't saying I don't worry about it, I continually make back up copies of the site and pray I never need them. Ha ha.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    My site http://isuzu-suvs.com is backed up both in NY where I do the editing (both on my personal PC and my server) as well as sent over to SF where it is hosted on my web-server. All current anti-virus and other such patches are always kept up to date.


    -mike

  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    November 9, 2001
    Diversions
    Flashy, Glitzy Cars Top Lists
    As People Seek New Vehicles
    By SHOLNN FREEMAN and KAREN LUNDEGAARD
    Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

    Eleen and Merlin Reusser just lost $20,000 in the stock market and think their portfolio will slip even more. So what are the retirees from Boise, Idaho, doing? Buying a new Ford Mustang convertible (bright red) with a license plate that reads "ME N POPS."

    Ms. Reusser says the couple can afford the five years of payments -- and besides, they really wanted it. "We've drooled over the picture of this in magazines."

    Just how are Americans dealing with economic downturn, high unemployment, terrorism and war? They're buying brand new cars -- 1.73 million of them in October, the most ever in a single month. At that rate, one in every 10 Americans would be driving off the lot in one within a year. But take a look at what's selling: While there's been a slight uptick in the economy models that usually do well in a downturn, the biggest sellers have flash, glitz and price tags that seem surprisingly out of step with the times. (Think high-end trucks, gas-guzzling SUVs and muscle cars.) The biggest gainer of all? A convertible -- Chrysler's Sebring, whose sales have almost tripled since last October.

    Corvette sales up 63%? A list of cars that are going fast.

    Much of this boom, of course, has been driven by the industry's well-publicized financing plans. But good deals are only part of the picture. Indeed, some of the industry's hot sellers weren't even marked down. Instead, many buyers say they're motivated by everything from confidence that the economy will bounce back, to a patriotic impulse to buy American. And then there's the "seize-the-day" factor, with people suddenly deciding life's too short to hold off on the car of their dreams.

    "Sept. 11 may have made us all feel a little more mortal," says Jay Shoemaker, a San Francisco businessman whose wife is a flight attendant for United. He just traded his five-month-old old Mercedes for a fancier Benz that cost almost $100,000. Oh, and he's also shopping for a used Porsche. Says Mr. Shoemaker, chief executive of director Francis Ford Coppola's businesses: "There's only so long you can defer your gratification."

    Ford Mustang
    This is hardly how buyers behaved during past downturns. During the great gas crisis of the mid-1970s, American consumers shifted to fuel-efficient compacts. In the 1991-92 slowdown, they bought fewer cars because of the sluggish economy and war in the Persian Gulf. But this time around, auto makers are hoping to prop up the market just long enough for the economy to regain steam. So they've rolled out one of the industry's most extreme sales strategies: 0% financing, a plan that lets buyers pay the vehicle price in installments, with no interest. Industry veterans say they can't remember the last time Detroit offered 0% deals this widely.

    The deals are giving cars like the Chevrolet Corvette a big boost. General Motors rarely discounts this ultra-macho coupe, so when the company included it in its new financing deals last month, sales jumped more than 60%. "If you weren't going to buy a Corvette in October," said GM sales analyst Paul Ballew, "I don't know when you were going to buy one."

    SUV Backlash?

    Chevrolet Corvette
    In fact, some buyers are using this as an opportunity to buy cars they never could have afforded otherwise. "We'd always wanted a Suburban," says James Day of Maryland, who just bought one of the $36,000 Chevy SUVs. With cheap financing plus an end-of-the-year sale price, he's spending little more each month for his new Suburban than for the 1999 Pontiac Trans Am he traded for it. Still, Mr. Day worries a bit about paying for such an expensive vehicle: His telecommunications company has been laying employees off for three quarters running. Another worry is fuel prices. While gas is relatively cheap now, a period of unrest in the Middle East has never been a comfortable time to own a gas-guzzler.

    Ironically, though, that's what's selling more than anything else right now. Remember the mounting SUV backlash? Well, forget it: Sales actually doubled from last October for some popular sport-utility vehicles, while others gained nearly as much. It's easy to see why, with Americans worried more about safety and security, and also planning more road trips instead of flights.

    Cadillac Escalade
    Trucks fared even better, particularly in Texas, where Ford dealerships pushed the 0% deals especially hard, with some staying open until midnight. The upshot: Ford sold 102,000 F-series pickups in October, the first time a pickup truck has passed the 100,000-a-month mark. The deals were so good, in fact, that Ford's pickups were the biggest-selling vehicle of any kind for the month.

    But even some cars that weren't discounted sold well. Subaru and Honda, neither of which offered major new deals following Sept. 11, saw double-digit sales gains in October. Some high-priced models were hot as well. Sales of BMW's 5-series, which goes for about $50,000, were up more than 20%. In fact, sales manager Louis Smith says most BMW buyers at his Midwestern Auto Group in Dublin, Ohio, are not only paying full price, but asking for models loaded with luxury features. "We're a bit shocked at how well things are going," he says.

    Chrysler Sebring
    And then there are the convertibles. Jeffrey May had been looking for a car to replace his old Pontiac Bonneville, but he put it off after the attacks. "It was a little bit of mourning, a little bit depression," says the Bethesda, Md., accountant. "The mood just wasn't there." So when he went shopping again, he found a little something to lift the clouds -- a new Chrysler Sebring convertible. Another big gainer was the new Lexus SC drop-top. "It's still selling even though it's getting colder outside," says Bob Campbell of McGrath Lexus in Chicago.

    Sober Approach

    Some buyers are taking a more sober approach. John McCurdy Jr. spent months before Sept. 11 shopping for what his nine-year-old son called "cool" pickup/SUV hybrids like Ford's SportTrac and Chevy's Avalanche. But come October, he reversed course. "Events like these make you realize that your family is No. 1 and that perhaps you should have a vehicle that's a little more protective," says the 52-year-old photographer. He ended up paying a premium for a Subaru with all-wheel-drive, extra airbags and better gas mileage than trucks. "I know that gas is pretty cheap now, but I don't expect that to last. All we need is to make one Arab country mad at us."

    Toyota Prius
    Of course, because so many buyers have already signed on the dotted line, auto makers will have to come up with a plan to bring still more of them into showrooms. Detroit's Big Three complain that financing deals are draining their bottom lines, and that they'll last only a few more weeks. But Ford and GM both sa
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    Toyota Prius
    But Ford and GM both say discounts are likely to continue in a different form. And Chrysler is already offering buyers a free seven-year, or 100,000-mile, warranty that covers the engine and transmission. In touting the warranty, the company has made some not-so-subtle references to Sept. 11, suggesting its plan will give buyers "peace of mind."

    "We're trying to get people back focusing on the benefits of the product rather than the size of the deal," says Chrysler marketing chief James Schroer.

    Ford F-Series
    Some experts expect the no-interest financing deals will be extended or resumed. "Anyone who buys a car after these deals go is making a mistake," says David Healy, an analyst at Burnham Securities. "They'll be back."

    But Kristine Arndt says she didn't want to wait. The telecommunications manager had wanted a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV for years -- but put it off because she lived in the Southwest, where wet-weather traction wasn't an issue, and because her then-husband objected. But her resolve grew after she moved to Denver last year, and slid through the Colorado winter in her Chevy Impala. As soon as she found a good deal on a Tahoe, she says, "there was no reason not to do it."

    No reason, indeed. Now divorced, she picked one up last Saturday. "Now if I want it," she says, "I can just get it."

    -- Jonathan Welsh and Daniel Costello contributed to this article.
  • jdr3kjdr3k Posts: 2
    I posted this in the Sante Fe Owners Forum, but think it's worth sharing here, since it reflects a bit of our thinking as we approached buying a SUV. To sum up - our concerns were safety, road manners, and handling a New England winter (and the joys of city parking).

    Just picked up our new silver LX from Mirak Hyundai in Arlington, MA this week. We have been eyeing the Santa Fe for more than a year, but have waited while I read every possible review, crash test, and recall report (on other vehicles). With winter approaching (supposed to be a good one this year) and an impending drive to VA for Thanksgiving, we decided "now or never." We gave a hard look to the Liberty (which I really liked) and the Forrester. We kicked the tires on all of these at the car show here in Boston last week, but decided to only test drive the Forrester - the Liberty just felt too truck-like for my 5'2" wife. We drove the Forrester on Sunday and I was very impressed with the car-like handling. I thought it would be the better car for my wife whipping around the city. The other pluses for the Forrester: Subaru quality, years of AWD experience, and the only similar crash-test ratings (to the Santa Fe). I also loved the visibility and the glass - a view that felt much safer.

    So we moved up the road to the Hyundai dealership in Arlington with the Forrester the one to beat (we had previously driven the Santa Fe twice in the past year). We gave it a good test drive this time, with my wife also getting behind the wheel. I think we both sensed some Serendipity this time - they had a fully loaded silver LX on the lot, precisely the vehicle we would want. My main concern had been visibility - with less glass and the flared hood, I was concerned about more "spatial relationship" problems, but my wife drove it and felt comfortable. In driving it felt smooth and solid and I liked playing with the shiftronic, so the Santa Fe moved into the "lead" again (with of course the main benefits being getting leather, and all the trimmings for less $ than the Forrester).

    Now for some background - we are now three-time Hyundai owners. My wife had a '93 Sonata from college that I inherited in marriage. When looking for a car two years ago, we did not set out looking for a Hyundai. I really did not care much for the car, but the economics (we bought an Elantra wagon) were hard to argue against. And, I realized, they are building better and better cars, and the Sonata (built at a time of lower quality) had not had a significant problem at all through 70K miles; the main problem to me had been the quality of construction and fit (it rattled a lot).

    So we put only 22K miles on the Elantra in 2 + years, and were generally happy with it – not so much that’d we consider ourselves “loyal” Hyundai drivers yet, but we were at least used to being Hyundai owners. The only problem was a recall part - I believe the power transmission fluid line. My other beefs – the car got TERIBLE mileage. I should have had it looked at, but was too lazy. Our hunch in looking at an SUV was that we might get a better trade-in value from a Hyundai dealer. Not sure if that was the case or not, but they offered us $1000 over blue book trade-in value - and the car had a big dent and scrapes in the rear passenger-side door (the result of some, uh, spatial relationship problems my wife had had with a few poles). All-in-all, with that and some service needed (alignment, etc) we were probably looking at sinking a $1000 into it before winter, so trading up was a relief.

    So we returned to the dealer on Monday and put a deal together quickly. I think they were pretty straightforward on the price - our biggest break came on the trade-in, so I had no complaints. We picked the car up Tuesday, and off we went.

    We have only 70 miles on the car so far (all in hard city driving), but we are absolutely thrilled with it. Time will tell, of course on reliability and quality, but it is a dream to drive, and it has exceeded our expectations. My wife loves driving it and actually feels much safer. Again, we love it. With each Hyundai we've had, it's clear they've made strides with fit, finish, and - let's be honest - the automatic transmissions (the Elantra never felt quite “right”). This is a great car.

    I've had a few snickers from friends whom I've told we bought another Hyundai. But I don't care -I'm not a "car" person. A car will never say much about who I am, but I feel smart driving this. I really don’t think you can go wrong in the compact SUV class. This seems like almost a “golden age” of cars, with so many companies making good cars. I’m sure we would have been happy with the Forrester, but the Santa Fe makes us almost giddy. To paraphrase one review I found – if you like the looks of the Santa Fe (and many understandably don’t) you don’t even need to consider the competitors.

    One last thing - we've already had one of those "Santa Fe moments" other drivers have reported. A man stopped my wife as she was plugging her meter in the South End. He marveled over the car and actually asked if he could sit in it.
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    Congrats on the Santa Fe. I'll forward your comments to the Chicago Tribune and to my buddy at Hyundai who will be happy to hear your story, I'm sure. Nothing to be ashamed of at that company these days!
    Thanks for posting in Talk to the Press.
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    I'm looking for consumers who were looking at a used car, but the great financing deals moved them to consider/purchase new instead. Or, they were thinking they would use the zero-financing to buy a new car, but decided a used car was a better deal right now because of a drop in the used car's price.
    Please respond to [email protected] by Friday, November 16 with your story.
  • prlady1prlady1 Posts: 573
    Okay, all you 0% finance rate shoppers - now the esteemed WSJ is looking to hear stories about people who declined that special rate in order to accept a different incentive (cash back, etc.). Please post here or contact me directly at [email protected]
    Happy Thanksgiving, all!
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Took the $4K discount. Mostly cause I didn't qualify (most people don't) for the zero percent financing.

    -mike
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    AN wrote that only 25-30% of customers qualify and take the 0% offers. Seems like a pretty small number to me.

    -juice
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