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.

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 H3 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.........