TopGear Season 10 Episode 7 Review

I enjoyed this week’s show. It was good to see something different. James, Richard and Jeremy all go buy vintage British cars from the 1970’s. They all seem to be small economical cars that are 4 door hatchbacks or mini 4 door sedans. They also seem to be the design that my dad’s 70’s era Buick century 4 door hatchback was based on. buick century hatchback, 4 door, 1970's(what was going on in that decade?)  Then they do some unusual tests to see how well these cars have dealt with age.  The funniest ones are saved for the end when they have to drive the car on a bumpy test road and have eggs in a colander strapped above their heads. Additionally they all loose parts of the car along the way. This was probably the funniest part. Surprise always helps the funny. Later they also fill the cars with water via a fire-hose and try and see how far they can drive them before they drain below the steering wheel. Clearly the BBC TG staff has been bored lately and working hard on new unusual ways to torture their presenters. Jeremy’s car doesn’t fare well since it keeps loosing doors unexpectedly. So, I may have ruined the surprise.

The star in a reasonably priced car segment was fun. Jennifer Saunders of French & Saunders show and Absolutely Fabulous fame comes by to take out the Chevy whatever around the track and she is surprisingly fierce. She is really competitive and apparently fearless. I guess you can get that way when you do comedy, you can’t really be scared of anything in order to do that for a living. Anyway she ends up 2nd on the board. Way to go Jennifer! It is great to see that since I am a fan of her work.

Other than that they do some mucking around in the news about Korea and forget that Holden (vauxall minaro) is from Australia. they also insist on pronouncing Hyundai as Hiaundai instead of Hunday and Jeremy forgets how to use the TV and prints out all his pix on paper.  Jeremy also burns mucho rubber in a new Aston Martin DBS. He concludes that it is really a juiced up DB9 replacement. Ok, but there are many of us that are completely ambivalent about that. It’s gorgeous but unattainable.

Coincidentally there is also an article in TIME magazine about the 15 million BBC channels all with the same name in the UK and the issues they have had keeping viewers and trying to not rig the unscripted shows they run. They make no mention of TG of course, because it’s a pretty successful franchise. I do thing that the BBC is doing ok really and not nearly as badly as they might say because in addition to all the fees they extract for ads on BBC America and the TG site, according to TIME they get $275 bucks from every TV receiving household each year in the UK. Whether it’s paid through taxes or directly I don’t know, but no one else gets that here. ( except PBS? but not that much) Sounds pretty good to me.

Anyway enjoy the full version online at YouTube here:

Who buys American Domestic Cars?

With Toyota on top as the world’s largest auto manufacturer now, one wonders who still buys american cars? I personally own a saab which is built in Sweden but owned by GM which is American. Who knows where that lands. But as far as traditional US built American brands go Ford, GM and Chrysler are the ones we used to call the big three. Now plagued by outdated impressions of bad quality and really high pension and health care costs of it’s workers they are not producing as many cars or selling as many in the US. It shows that the domestic brands are still skewing older than the imports, they also seem to center around the old manufacturing “rust belt” cities who are still feeling the pain of the loss of manufacturing jobs to japan, china and mexico. They are also skewing towards old media usage, which doesn’t mean they are the biggest new technology users or adopters. (which correlates with lower education levels in my mind) So, how can the American car brands buck the trend and get hip, young and relevant fast? (before their customers die?) Hybrids? Crossovers? Independent High quality and reliability awards? I’m not sure. Here is some data from the center for media research today that has some new stats and Here’s the full report:

The Iron Belt Wraps Around Domestic-Only Auto Owners

A newly released 88-Market national report from The Media Audit, analyzing automobile ownership by brand, reveals that 38% of U.S. adults own domestic-only brands, compared to 25.4% of U.S. adults who own foreign-only brands.

The surveys, which were conducted between January 2006 and April 2007, found that among those who are the most loyal to owning only domestic brands are adults who own a truck. According to the study, 47.5% of truck owners own domestic-only brands, making the audience 22% more likely than the average adult to own domestic-only brands.

Older adults are are also more likely to own domestic-only brands. Among 50 plus adults, 42.6% own only domestic brands, a figure that is 12% higher than that of the average adult.

The average age for the nearly 40% of U.S. adults who own domestic-o! nly brands is 47.2 years old, compared to 44.1 years for adults who own foreign-only brands.

The top ranking market for domestic-only automobile ownership is Detroit, Michigan with 73.4% of adults in this market owning domestic-only brands. Toledo, Ohio ranks second with 66.6% who own domestic-only brands, followed by:

  • Peoria, Illinois (65.3%)
  • Buffalo, New York (64.4%)
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan (60.1%)
  • Dayton, Ohio (59.7%)
  • Akron, Ohio (58.3%)
  • St. Louis, Missouri (57.4%)
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (56.2%) 
  • Cleveland, Ohio (55.6%)

The analysis further reveals that domestic-only vehicle owners exhibit above-average usage of television, direct mail, radio and newspaper. Those who own domestic-only brands are:

  • 18% more likely to be heavy television viewers
  • 12% m! ore likely to be heavy direct mail users
  • 9% more lik ely to be heavy radio listeners
  • 9% more likely to be heavy newspaper readers

Toyota Quality Drops, Ford Quality Improves Dramatically

I have never been excited by the sight of a Toyota, but they have climbed to the top of the sales charts in the U.S. because of a claim that they build better cars with less mechanical problems and better over all quality. They cite all the J.D. Power and Associates awards and Consumer Reports reviews that gave them high marks for quality and the consumers that echoed the same feelings with repeat purchases generation after generation.

It wouldn’t be an axe to grind with me except that every Toyota owner, dealer and ad over the years has picked on GM and American Domestic cars saying that they suck. (and has picked on my cars always being Buicks and recently a Saab) And in the 80’s they did but that was a looooong time ago now, and the tables have turned. GM, Ford and Chrysler have been very aggressive in making production changes that improve quality and reliability in the short term and long term.

The gap between quality in a foreign car and a domestic one has closed and for years (despite many ad claims) there hasn’t really been any difference. Yet these people who own Toyotas still flaunt it and say that any American Car just sucks. And I resent that. Especially today when a new report from Consumer Reports comes out saying that the 6 cylinder Toyota Camry for 2007 scored as “below average”. Not ok, or good, or average. The best selling TOYOTA IS BELOW AVERAGE in QUALITY! 

Go suck on that Toyota!

I am sorry if this seems like a very 1980’s stance to have in liking American cars, or if it seems uneducated and uninformed like many Domestic car buyers are (it seems to be the demographic type who keeps buying them) but it is really a very current idea and very related to our own economy. (Hello Jobs!) I think that the open market lasezz faire idea only works to the benefit of the masses if you have companies and people that care about their own country and economy enough to support it and be proud of it’s achievements. And here we have a case of most people believing old out dated information from a foreign manufacturer and the advertising rather than the real true information.

It is hard to sway people’s opinion and “feeling” about something as costly as a car. It takes years and sometimes generations, but I would like to start that chain reaction to bring people back to the belief that U.S. made cars are good quality, very reliable, a good deal for the money and will hold their resale value. It isn’t just a belief though, it is true and proveable with stats.

For example, I have a 2001 Saab. (Yes Saab is owned and operated by GM) And I bought it for 14K in 2003. It’s 2007 and I was thinking of trading it in and was offered 8K for it. Would you get that much value retention in a Toyota that was 6 years old? I don’t think so. They really can hold their value and be good reliable cars. I decided to keep my Saab and I still drive it now. I am very happy with it and would recommend checking out GM, Ford and Chrysler in your next car search. I think you will be happier with what you find there than with the imports.

Buick best in Dependability, Makes Lexus Share JD Power award.

buickSuck it Toyota! 

Buick is #1 in Dependability tied with Lexus.

Ok, that said I do have some bias. I am someone who comes from a staunch GM car buying family and specifically within my parents, myself and brother we have owned 14 Buicks in the past 35 years.

I readily admit that GM got lazy in the 80’s, created ugly unreliable cars in the 90’s and in the has been too interested in short term revenue (sales) growth with SUV’s and Hummer Gas Guzzlers in the 00’s. Therefore they haven’t made many affordable, reliable, fuel efficient and attractive cars in the past 30 years. When I went through my last car buying process in 2004 I was so disenchanted with GM that I ended up with a used Saab 9-3. Which is GM, but really isn’t at the same time. The thing is, I just replaced that car’s turbo at 75K miles (for $1,600.00) so my advice is don’t buy a turbo 4 cylinder Saabeither. I have personally owned 2 Buicks (both regals) and I plan on buying another Buick in 2 years. (Yes, I have already decided on the LaCrosse)

Through all these years Buick has been a reliable car for my parents, myself and my family. We usually buy them used at 30K miles and run them to 130K within 5-7 years. They depreciate like a rock the first few years, so you get a 30K car for a very affordable 15K and then it just runs beautifully for the next 5-7 years with regular oil changes, brakes and tires. (Transmission fluid, spark plugs and coolant flushes are good to do every 40K miles as basic mantenance procedures on any car, and batteries usually only last 3-4 years in Chicago’s climate, so there is some maintenance cost over the years)  Basically we have loved these Park Avenues, Riveras, Regals, LeSabres, GS’s and LaCrosses for their luxury, comfort, reliability, dependability and latley their supercharged performance. Yet they also get 25 mpg on average. (hopefully Buick will develop engines towards 35-45 mpg soon too) These are great cars and I think more people should know about it.

buick lacrosseI have heard from people for yeeaaarrrrrss that Hondas and Toyotas are the better cars and they look down on people who don’t buy them. Well guess what? I don’t like Hondas or Toyotas. They are boring, bland, vanilla, uninteresting, basic, cheap cars. They feel cheap, they sound cheap, they have a rough uncomfortable ride, are very underpowered and slow, and yes they may run reliably also, but I don’t want one. And I don’t want people to rub my face in it that American cars are not as good as Japanese. Yes, as a whole the American car lot isn’t as good, but Buick is the exception, and I knew that personally decades ago. 

So, if you do want to support the American Economy, Support American Jobs and Support  your own transportation reliability, buy a Buick. I can say from experience with 14 Buicks that they are great cars and now JD Power and Associates validates our decsions and Buick as a premium luxury car brand with exceptional reliability. 

To anyone who thinks that Buick is for old people and grandparents or thinks that all American cars suck, You Are Wrong! Buick is a great car, made in the US and and is just as reliable as the Lexuses that so many people covet. So, if you are smarter than most Lexus buyers come on over and take a new look at a Buick.