About Me

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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
My passion is also my business, as I am with the Toronto based Hav-A-Kar Auto Group. I sell or lease any make of car, van or truck available in Canada. My interest in all things "car" has helped me with my many clients in Ontario over the past 20+ years. Please give me the opportunity to assist you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sept 1: Re-establishing a brand

This morning I had to take my Cadillac ATS into the dealer for one of those annoying, but necessary(?) recalls. What I like about Cadillac service is that they always give me a loaner and if available, they give me another Cadillac (I also like the free maintenance, but that's another story). Today, I was given an XTS.


At one time, I wanted to drive the biggest cars I could get, but those days are long gone. Now I like smaller, easy to park and great handling rides, hence my ATS with the Performance package. So back to the XTS. Currently, this is Caddy's top model, at least until the 2016's arrive. Unlike most luxury cars, this one is front wheel drive, usually the kiss of death in this part of the market. But the XTS was always meant to be a temporary car, ie put in the line up until the real top model arrived.

As I have written in the title, Cadillac is working hard to re-establish their brand. So is Lincoln, but while they are using many rebodied Fords, Cadillac is developing their own unique cars (now let's not get into shared platforms, since it's not the same thing as being rebodied). Cadillac has tried before to establish their name at the top of the luxury car pecking order with very mixed (read not great) results.

Remember the Allante?


Initially underpowered, with bodies shipped from Italy to Michigan, to be mated with their chassis and drive train. A very costly route to take, the Allante ended up being a reasonably good car, but it just couldn't sell up against the big name Mercedes SL's.

Another effort was the XLR. A true made in America sportscar based on the Corvette.......


......and with a love it or hate it design (I liked it). It also didn't do well, but ten years later, this design has aged well. And you have to give Cadillac an "A" for effort.

Rather than take on Lexus, the "new" Cadillac division has chosen to go after BMW and to go after them hard. The ATS now comes in a coupe, as well as the sedan, in order to try to cover the 3 series.......


In the case of the great handling ATS, beauty is definitely much more than skin deep.

Cadillac's next move was to reset the CTS's position in the market place, with an extremely competent (it won Motor Trend's prestigious 2015 Car of the Year award), bigger sedan (think 5 series or E Class). And to top the CTS range, the CTS-V is being introduced for 2016........


Read those numbers. This one again uses the Corvette motor, putting out 640 HP. Fast? Read those numbers again. But this car has all the right moves and every car magazine that I've read, puts its browess ahead of any other luxury performance car competitor. Question is, can this halo car pull the rest of the slow selling CTS line along with it?

And also for 2016, Cadillac is finally bringing a proper top of the line luxury model to market, with the strangely named, rear wheel drive CT-6.........


Strong family resemblance, but that is almost a given with the luxury brands these days, as every Audi, BMW and now Benz carry all the same family styling cues.

One has to hand it to Cadillac, they are trying hard to hit the nail on the head and get people thinking Cadillac again, when they think luxury cars. Now folks think Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes, with Cadillac coming in a poor fifth. Thank goodness for the gigantic Escalade's popularity, but funny how that hasn't carried over to the rest of the line.

Try to re-establish any brand that, although it has a great history, had become complacent and failed to move on with the times. Tough job. Do I think that they'll be able to pull it off? One never knows with General Motors, but everything that I've seen says, commitment and determination. So my vote is being cast with the "yes" side. And if I'm financially able to, I'll continue to support the brand as it gets re-established.

Until next time........



Friday, August 28, 2015

August 28: From France with love, part 1

I love our trips to Europe. There are the expected things that all tourists enjoy, but being a real car guy, there is always something interesting on the road. I try to keep some sort of idea of what is being sold in other markets, but in Europe there are so many brands and models that, we never see, keeping up is darn near impossible. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll share some of the cars that caught my eye.

The first, may well be the worst. I saw these little electric cars in the major centres, but Paris seemed to have the most. Although it is sold to private buyers, all the ones I saw were owned by the Autolib car sharing company. The Bollore Electric is designed by Pininfarina and for some reason are finished in unpainted stainless steel. Now "stainless" is a relative term, as every single one that I saw was stained, dented and filthy, as well as seeming to have different shades of stainless, as my pic below shows.........


Gee, maybe that is the point of the whole thing, never having to wash it. Pray for rain and lots of it!

This is the European Honda Civic, which has been around for a few years and I've pondered before, why the heck Honda doesn't bring this great looking car to our shores........


Well, folks, the good news is they might. This is the Type R version, which has a cool 310 HP in Europe. Now in a small car like this, watch out VW Golf R (what is with all these R's?). Question is, will Honda bring over their R in this body style or modify the current Civic coupe? We should know shortly as it is scheduled to sell here in early 2016.

Saw an article the other day that, Ford is seriously considering bringing their other market mid-size Ranger pick-up to North America. Remember, we used to have a Ranger made for the good ol' USA, but as full sized pick-up truck sales soared, the little guys fell by the wayside, that is until GM re-introduced them for 2015. Sales are good, so Ford is rethinking their position. I took this pic in Lyon. Saw a few of them and they looked great. Much better than our boxy old Ranger.


I know the story, have heard it many times, the Smart car is just a little too big for your needs, so you wish that someone would make something just a tiny bit smaller. Well, folks, your wish has been granted, at least if you live in Europe. Behold, the Aixam.........


Possibly a touch more stylish that the Smart car parked behind it (not a difficult accomplishment), but more importantly it is smaller. Hard to see in this pic, but you can take my word for it. Aixam is a French company and they have a variety of really little cars, that are good looking in a little car kind of way. 

On the subject of small, have you always liked the Mini, but like your friends, who find the Smart car too large, so is the Mini in your eyes?


Once again, look to our French friends to solve your problem, with the Chatenet line of little vehicles, including a sports coupe (hard to believe). They've done a sort of Mini copy (squint and maybe you can see what I see). And sorry for the poor quality of this pic, but many of my shots were taken on the fly.

The newest hot sellers over here are the small commercial vans that, have been lifted from the foreign markets, where big cargo vans are, well, just too big. Mercedes sells a big one here and they are adding a smaller one, but if the trend continues, watch for them to add an even smaller one to their line. This new Citan that, I saw in Paris, is similar to our popular Nissan NV200, so it would fit the bill over here quite nicely.


And finally for today, what did I rent in Provence for our tour around the countryside? Well sure, I'd like a hot and sexy ride, but have you priced a rental in Europe lately? I didn't think so, as this humble car set us back just over $800 Canadian for a mere five day rental.........


This is a Renault Megane. I wanted a hatch and also something that this long legged, 6'5'' car guy could drive relatively comfortably. Had to be an automatic, since although I can drive a manual, my long legs make it a difficult proposition in a Civic sized car. Actually, the Megane was a good choice. Tight steering, competent handling and lots of pep from its diesel engine. Not near as roomy as my ATS, but it sure fit the bill in France. And it didn't look too bad, in a small hatchback kind of way.

So that brings us to the end of part one. I think with all the pics I have that, there should be a couple more blogs coming your way about what I saw. I'll try not to bore you, so please be patient with me.

Until next time.......



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August 25th: Shed a tear, Arnie

Yes, Arnie, it's time for you to shed a tear. You, the man, the Terminator, the one who made famous the line, "I'll be back!", has to say a fond farewell to a vehicle that, you actually helped to make famous.


Yep, you guested it, the Hummer or Humvee, is coming to the end of its life with the US military and probably that means by extension, the end of its life anywhere. Remember this vehicle being made famous by the Gulf War? Every newscast had some form of Hummer in the shot. Originally developed as a replacement for the Gama Goat.........


......the US military wanted an all purpose vehicle, sort of an updated version of the Jeep that, was also developed for the military during World War 2. Big and extremely capable, the Hummer became the vehicle one thought of when a combat scene came to mind.

Now to Arnie. Here is a big tough star, requiring an over the top, big tough vehicle, so he went to AM General, the Humvee manufacturer, about getting one for his personal use. I mean, after all, who wouldn't want a cramped, extremely wide, relatively slow off roader to traverse the Hollywood highways and biways?


So, the pic above shows Arnold and what AM General made for him. Just what he needed to bring attention to himself and by extension the brand. If Arnie wanted one, maybe in the 1990's USA, there would be a market for this vehicle for other folks and uses. Great, if you owned a ranch or a mine or an oil field. Not so practical, if you needed to get to a restaurant downtown. But hey, has that ever stopped rational thinking in the past? No sir, it hasn't.

AM General seeing a need that had to filled, started to produce a variety of Hummers called H1's for civilian consumption.......


........and not surprisingly or maybe the opposite, they found a market for this ex military vehicle and one for which they could charge big bucks. Arnie at one time had several. Super capable, but really, who needed a vehicle that could climb mountains and fight off insurgents?



Chrysler had bought American Motors years before and lucked onto the Jeep brand, so General Motors saw an opportunity. Buy the Hummer brand and expand it like the Jeep had done and roll in all that cash that would roll in. Sounded like a good plan and it was for awhile.

 

They rolled out the more user friendly H2 (top pic) and then the smaller H1 in a variety of body styles. For a time, this was the truck to have if you were a celebrity or fashioned yourself as one in your own mind. No idea was too outrageous........

 

For Pete's sake, even Paris Hilton, that great arbiter of style, had a pink one. People it seemed couldn't get enough of the brand. But, you know it had "jumped the shark", when they started to be made into stretch limos.........


......like this one in Moscow. The Hummer was known worldwide and graduation parties everywhere had to have one to take those wild and crazy teens to the prom.

 GM even rolled out a concept for a smaller sportier Hummer, set to do battle with the Jeep Wrangler.......


But then something happened, whether it was the setback of 2008 or people getting more sense (sure, like that would ever happen) or its terrible gas mileage, but the Hummer sales quite quickly ground to a halt. So much so, that in their post bankruptcy restructuring, GM discontinued Hummer as a civilian brand and sent it back to the battlefield from whence it had come.........


But now, even Arnie's favorite had to be replaced. When the US military machine was ordering ten's of thousands of them, AM General could keep them in production. But as they are being phased out, even the orders from other countries won't keep those production lines rolling.

Still need/want one? Watch out for those government auctions, as they are being sold off a few hundred at a time. For only a few thousand dollars, you too can drive something that just might have seen action in some far off battlefield.

So, shed a tear for Arnie and ponder the biggest question of the day.......what will he drive now?

Until next time.......





Friday, August 21, 2015

August 21: So what's new?

Back after two and a half weeks in France and yes, it was a great trip. All those French cliches about their love of baguettes and having a glass of wine at their favorite cafe at eight in the morning, are 100% correct. And wonderful. From the people, to the sights and to the food (oh, that food) everything was memorable. And of course, to a car guy, the sights were even better, as so many of their models are never seen in North America. I'll blog about some of my sightings over the next few weeks, but here are some interesting facts......

- Canada'a best selling car, the Honda Civic, is a rare sight in France
- the best selling car in the USA, the Toyota Camry, is not even sold in Europe
- never did see a Honda Accord (their version is what was sold here as the Acura TSX )

Anyway, as I say, more to come, but for today, let's look at some models being introduced around the world that, we probably will never set eyes on in Canada or the US.........


Recognize this one? Sure, it's the new for 2016 Honda Pilot, a full seven seater. Good enough for us, good enough for the world? Not really, as just yesterday Honda unveiled the BR-7, which will be sold in Asia and the Pacific rim countries........


Similar in style to the CR-V and the new, smaller HR-V, but it's Pilot sized. Why not just sell them the Pilot? Very good question, the answer of which, we'll probably never know.

Hyundai sells the Sonata over here and does very well with it. Of course, us North Americans don't get the entire line up due to our extreme love of the (let's hear the cheers) ubiquitous suv. So go to Europe to see this beauty........


Never sell here? Apparently not and if you plan on holding your breath, you'll be long gone and forgotten, before it lands here (relax, it never will). And on the topic of station wagons, shooting brakes or sports tourers, whatever makes you think that you are not driving a wagon, there are many others that, we'll never buy on this side of the Atlantic.......


This is my favorite, the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake (count the times, I've shown it before). Gorgeous in the pic, better in the flesh. When I mentioned this wagon to one of my Mercedes loving colleagues, he argued that it wasn't a station wagon, it was a shooting brake. Yeah, and that's not an apple, it's a pomme.

Not to be left out (but of course, we are), Jaguar is selling the XF wagon in other markets. Hey, if Volvo can try to sell a few wagons stateside, as does Mercedes, how come these other models can't find a home here?


Since today's blog has temporarily evolved into a showing of station wagons missing from our shores, lets continue the theme and also, not leave out Toyota..........


No Camry's in Europe, but they do sell the Avensis. I rented one in Ireland a few years back. Camry size and general look, but definitely not the same car. And not surprisingly, they also market a wagon version, or Sports Touring, as they like to say. Either way, the Europeans, know an interesting and practical version when they see it.

 Enough of the missing wagons? Then how about one more Toyota that won't make its way to our showrooms (and maybe that's not a bad thing), the agressively redesigned 2016 Alphard. Named after_____?


Do we need another van in a shrinking market? Not really, but add all wheel drive, bigger rims and hey, maybe we have a winner?

Now, to finish off this blog, here is a car that I definitely think should find its way to us........ 


This is the home market only Honda S-660. In my eyes, a very junior Lambo look alike, but with style up the wazoo. This little three cylinder, in my opinion could find a happy home in North American Honda showrooms. Will we ever see it? Now, this is a tough one. How much would it cost to Americanize it and once done, could it still be priced where it should be, which I would guess to be no more than around the $25k mark? Thoughts?

Good to be back and to share with you a few other market morsels.

Until next time.........




Friday, July 31, 2015

July 31: Land Rover - R.I.P.

 Land Rover - R.I.P. Now hold on just one minute here. What do you mean, rest in piece? Land Rover is doing quite well and is the darling of the "I've got $, you don't." (not that there is anything wrong with that) crowd. No, you are correct, the brand is doing very well, but an icon has come to the end of its very long road and will be laid to rest at the end of the 2015 model year.

Recognize this jeep type vehicle? Sure you do, it's the original Land Rover and as the ad says, it will......"Go anywhere...do anything." And they meant it. Originally, it was expected that these little 4x4's would see a lot of farm work, so their ads reflected that role. Something for the hard working farmer to use to aid him with his daily chores. Not like the later Range Rover and its offspring, which were pitched to the country gentleman and eventually, the city bound rich folks.


So, I say, R.I.P. to this old standby of the 4x4 scene. Originally for rural use, this model over its sixty eight year life span, saw an amazing amount of diverse roles. It was even fit for a queen......

 

.....whether in her official role or just lazing about her castle grounds, as the peasants undoubtedly toiled away in the background (and cleaned those tires when it returned).

Did you ever see news footage of the troubles in Northern Ireland, that didn't feature this iconic vehicle?

 

Or in some far off conflict..........


Yep, in each and every instance, this Land Rover would be there proving its mettle. And, of course, you just know that, this sort of 4x4 would sure as anything show up doing its duty on safari in darkest Africa........


,,,,,,ferrying these soon to be crushed tourists on the last trip of their lives, or as a food truck for the patient cheetah waiting for his/her lunch to step out of that extended Land Rover..........


A friend's dad bought one way back in the '50's and was thrilled with his toy. Rough? Man, was it rough. Simple and effective, but I think you needed a farm in order to appreciate its goodness.

Eventually, like many things, this model, now called the Defender (get it?), made its way up the price scale, so that only the wealthiest folks could enjoy its capabilities (much like the Mercedes G wagen). And so it is, that as this icon comes to the end of its road, the last model should appeal only to those with lots of $ and absolutely no use for what it was originally intended.


This end of the line limited edition, the 2015 Sixty8, looks much the same as the earliest models, except of course, when you see the price tag. Why discontinue this model? Well, everything has its day and while this has been updated over the years, its "bones" are still ancient. Time to move on and time to redesign this icon. Make a clean break? Good question. A concept has made the rounds, but I'm skeptical, that this will be the replacement, as it toured the auto shows to almost universal disgust. Two things will be certain, one, the price. It won't be low. And two, its toughness. Although very capable, it won't serve its original purpose.

So as we wait for the Defender's replacement (2018?), we can look back on the role it was intended for. A tough as nails vehicle to aid the farmer with his daily chores, whatever they may be........

 

Time for a break. Every car guy needs a holiday and mine starts on Sunday with an overnight flight to France. A few days in Paris, a week's river cruise and five days touring Provence. I'm not much of a drinker, but the cheeses and pastries should be worth the trip. And, of course, the cars. Always a highlight of our trips abroad.

Miss me? I doubt it, but in case you do, may I suggest rereading some of the old blogs (just an idea). So until next time, which in this case will be Friday, the 21st........



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28: Rockin' Rims

Clothes make the man. You all know that old adage and you know what it means. Imagine if the president of the United States addressed the citizens in torn jeans and dirty t-shirt. Even ZZ Top wrote a song about a Sharp Dressed Man. Now to a car guy like me, nothing finishes off a car like a great set of rims. Something like the ones on this new Mustang, really set off the look of this hot ride. My brother's 2015 Mustang is charcoal with knock off Torque Thrust rims and it looks so much better than the base rim/tire package. Trust me!

You don't? Ok, so a picture is worth 1000 words.......


How important are wheels on a car? How about a huge multi, multi-million dollar industry supplying aftermarket rims for those of us, for whom the stock rim just won't cut it. Heck, even my wife's lowly HHR has aftermarket wheels. And like, with any product there are always those items that, are over the top in style and dollars. Want to see the rim which comes with a free Bentley?


And in your choice of precious gems. This will get the neighbours talking when you are washing it in your driveway on Saturday morning. Or should I say, the help is washing it?

Sure, when your bejeweled wheel is worth a cool $1m, you can afford to throw in a Bentley, even when it does cost just under $200k. Dilemma. You already own a Bentley, but want something a little tasty to spark up your ride. Something to set it apart from all those other expensive cars and to show the impeccable taste for which you'd like to become known. And make it something a little less garish than the $1m rim above........


Look closely.........loaded with expensive stones, but subtle in a perverse kind of way.

Not your style, assuming you have some? You picture yourself more as the cuddly teddy bear type, then what better way to tell the world, than with this classic.........


Sadly this rim is no longer in production, but heck, isn't eBay just the ticket for finding the few remaining unsold copies? Just hope the size is correct.

Still not convinced that either one of these rims will work for you? You, the colourful character, known for a bit of flamboyance to go along with that impeccable taste. You want a rim that will stand you out from the everyday, something that trumpets your arrival on the scene. Ok, then I have a wheel for you......


Sure. it's bright, but it suits your personality to a "t", doesn't it? Maybe even throw in some pinstriping to match that vibrantly shocking pink?

Ok, so none of these fit the bill. You long for something subtle, but you've always loved gold. So, there is only one choice for you, no second guessing about whether you've made the right choice, when you buy this exotic number..........


Yeah, I figured that would do it. You might want to skip that over the top gold finish on the car, though.

I'm surprised that I still haven't landed on just the right wheel for your personality. Something distinct without being flashy. Something that makes a statement without you having to say a thing. A touch threatening with just a little bit of implied danger. Let me think.........ok, I've got it, this has to be the rim for you.........


Nailed it, right? This snake wheel will make a statement on any car, but make your car selection carefully and you will never have to say anything at all when you arrive, your rims say it all for you.

Rockin' rims. No longer just something to hold the tire. Make them say something for and about you. Do it right and live the dream.

Until next time.......