Payday Loans

I picked up the Saab 9-3 Aero Convertible filled with anticipation. I had never had a convertible, and this one looked great on paper. 2.8L Turbo V6, HP – 250, Torque – 258 ft-lbs, 6-speed tranny, 3POTF-AGI*, fully-automatic ragtop, XM satellite radio, an auxiliary input jack for the iPod, 2-tone leather seats, and enough room in the back for the munchkins.

Full disclosure: I had just resigned from Ford, where I had been for almost 15 years. They required me to turn in my management “lease car” on or before my last day. Why not buy a Ford product with my still-intact company discount (“A-Plan”)? My wife works for the General, that’s why. For her to keep her company car when I no longer had a company car of my own requires us to buy or lease a new GM car or truck at least every 4 years. The requirement used to be every 2 years, so I guess we can be thankful for the less onerous requirement.

Saab had a lease deal for 27 months that made the payments very reasonable, so did I pocket the savings like a smart boy? Nope. I moved up to the Aero from the 2.0T, which has a 4-cylinder turbo with “only” 210hp. The Aero came with a package that allows the driver to lower the windows and the top by pressing and holding the unlock button on the key fob. Way cool. How could I turn that down? Answer: I couldn’t.

The car is fast and cool and great-looking. I quickly found out, though, that it has…ahem…masculinity issues. As in people questioning mine because I drive it. Not usually one to care much what others think, I decided that those who would question my orientation for driving this car must be insecure of their own – you know who you are.

The honeymoon wore off fairly quickly, though. I started to see why Saabs have always been considered quirky. First is the incessant beeping that accompanies starting the car, followed by more beeps when reverse is chosen. I suppose some people require a warning that they are in reverse, but I chose the gear,
didn’t I?

Next is the key (see picture). It’s a stubby “key” that is also the fob for unlocking, etc. The problem is that it is an electronic item. If you leave the key in the ignition, it draws on the battery until the battery dies. If that weren’t bad enough, it is impossible to remove the key if the battery is dead. So you’re stuck until you can get a jump – you can’t even lock the door.

No surprise here – the cupholders are pathetic. One folds out from the console ( Very cool, until you try to put an actual cup in it. Better be a small one. The other cupholder is in the center between the seats – it has basically no sides, so it has less than zero value.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on the other issues, but here is a list of other bothersome details – the trip computer won’t stay on the setting I choose, the headlight switch doesn’t seem to do anything different no matter which setting I choose, the radio doesn’t stay on when you remove the key, as other cars do, no power to the powerpoint when the car is off, you have to turn off the a/c (and it never remembers that I turned it off, so I have to do it each time), the radio display is invisible in sunlight (you would think this would be an obvious one in a convertible!), and you can’t lock the doors with the lock button on the door – you have to use the key fob (see above). The dealer told me this is a safety feature, so you don’t lock yourself out. Just another electronic nanny.

All that said, the car certainly has its charm, like I said up top. It’s great-looking, fast, the seats are very comfortable, has a reasonable back seat and gets decent fuel economy for a fast luxury convertible. The sticker price was high, but it’s the payment, stupid. The payment benefited from some hefty incentives, so it hasn’t broken the Slandy Bank – yet.

Overall rating: 6 out of 10

*3POTF-AGI = 3 pedals on the floor – as God intended

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Automotive News published the following on 13 June:
DETROIT — Chrysler LLC told dealers today that it will raise prices 2 percent for most remaining 2008 models. The increase will carry over to the 2009 model year. The price rise, which will be reflected in invoices starting June 16, was announced in a Webcast to dealers by Jim Press, Chrysler co-president, and Steven Landry, executive vice president of North America sales. The executives said increasing commodity prices, including steel, pushed the company to raise prices. Chrysler spokesman Stuart Schorr said: “The average 2 percent increase brings total model year price increases in line with key competitors. It does not affect vehicles already in dealer inventory. Incentives would not be changed. “The increase will affect the remaining 2008 vehicles Chrysler will make during its summer buildout. Press told dealers at the end of May Chrysler would build 127,000 units from July to mid-August. Schorr said that since the beginning of this model year Chrysler put in an average increase of $1,200 in content per vehicle without increasing prices. Automotive News has reported that steel prices for automakers have risen $500 a vehicle since January.

This is just the latest example of the automakers formerly known as The Big 3 showing their ignorance of basic supply and demand. Countless times over the last several years, they have increased their prices at the beginning and during their model years. They justify these increases to themselves and the press by saying 1. it’s only $75 or 2. it’s only 2% or 3. we added equipment valued at more than the price increase or 4. blah, blah, blah. They’ve done this so many times that they can actually say this with a straight face. Chrysler’s sales are down 19.3% this year (more than any other manufacturer). They’ve lost over 1.5 points of share, or 179,000 units. And that’s just through May! You might think, well, everybody know that truck sales are down, it’s just the trucks…wrong. Chrysler’s car sales are down too – more than any other manufacturer’s as well.

In what other reality would a rational company say, “Hmmm, sales are down – we should raise our prices!” Customers don’t give a damn about your costs. They want a great product at a price that represents value. Period. Don’t bore me with the details.

As always, I welcome your feedback. Well, maybe not welcome, but I don’t mind it too much.

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Who Hates the Ice Caps?

3rd June 2008

CAFE (the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy law) should be repealed. Let me repeat that: CAFE should be repealed. You might think this means that I don’t believe in global warming or that I’m a conservative who doesn’t believe in regulation, or maybe that I’m just stupid. I’ll let you judge the 3rd point, but I assure you that neither of the 1st 2 are correct.

I believe in global warming, and I also believe we should do something about it. And while I am against this particular piece of regulation, I believe a tax is the better answer.

I don’t hate the ice caps! I’m all for lowering CO2 emissions everywhere we can. My argument is with CAFE. It does not work, and never has, and never will. It is flawed legislation written by morons who wouldn’t know a supply & demand curve if it slapped them in the face. The way to lower emissions is to give an incentive to people to buy a higher mileage car and to promote conservation. The way to do that is to increase the damn gas tax! Simply telling the manufacturers to increase economy doesn’t work. Billions are spent and the customer never sees it directly. Toyota, GM, Ford, etc. can’t price for this, because all of the cars will have to meet the higher standards, so you have no competitive advantage to justify the higher price. Because the consumers don’t see the cost of the economy, they have no incentive to drive smaller cars and/or drive less. A higher tax, though, would give the consumers an incentive to go buy the more fuel efficient vehicles (and would be willing to pay more for them) and drive less. American consumers and politicians are who they are, however. They want everything and don’t want to pay for it. This is a way to “stick it to big business” while the consumer gets this “free” gift. We need to grow up as a society and understand that there is no such thing as a free lunch!

Want proof? Cars average 36 mpg in Europe and 31 mpg in Japan vs. only 21 mpg in the United States. Why? Because gas taxes are about 10 times as high in Europe and about 8 times as high in Japan. Faced with such expense, consumers make the rational decision to avoid paying so much for fuel by conserving it. It’s classic economics. You reduce the demand for a product by raising its price, and raise the demand by reducing the price.

I also propose that this increase be channeled directly to improving highways and funding the research & development necessary to increase fuel economy. This funding should be apportioned amongst the automakers in direct proportion to the number of employees they have in the United States. For a change, let’s have a government that actually wants to preserve jobs here in the USA. This isn’t protectionist, it’s simply smart business. Other countries do it and it puts our jobs, our business and our national and economic security at risk.

That’s my opinion; what’s yours?

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