My Parking Garage Neighbour

I live in a rather reclusive building. When I first moved in over three years ago I hardly knew I had neighbours at all. I rode up and down the elevator, walked up and down the hallways and didn’t meet a soul.

It was after seven months of living in my condo that I met someone.

My parking garage neighbour.

At the time he was driving a 2002 Silver Volvo S60. Seriously, I know this is ridiculous of me, but cars really are my thing. I noticed there were always loads of things in his backseat all covered in blankets and I got to wondering what possibly could be lurking under the blankets.

Perhaps it was all this wondering that got my introduction but I believe it was more likely all the random cars he saw parked beside his that had him calculating exactly when I would be home so he could confront me.

And confront me he did.

I don’t recall how the conversation started but I do recall being grilled on what I did for work and the conversation ended with him asking for my help on his next car. As a side, I did attempt to help him however he ended up buying something completely off his original list – I am not offended just sad he choose a weaker competitor, but alas he couldn’t be helped 🙂

Since that day we met, every few weeks we make it an unplanned point of meeting in the elevator, the garage, the parking lot and once in a while, the local grocery store.

He is what you would envision as a true sales guy. Rushing around with his goods packed into his vehicle, a fast talker with the ability of getting a clear and comprehensive full month of verbal catch-up done in literally 2 minutes. It puts alot of pressure on me to par down on my verbal updates to him, you know, give him the basic facts and let him fill in the rest!

I know when I’ve gone over my 2 minute limit because he starts shifting from foot to foot and fiddling with his hands. I almost want to keep the conversation going just to see if he would implode/explode if I added more filler to my stories :).

Today I didn’t quite get the memo and left my unit 30 seconds later than I should have. When I arrived in the basement to get into my car, he was already in his, car running, ready to go.

This meant our 4 minute conversation (2 for him, 2 for me) would have to be much shorter.

As I walked up to the driver side of my vehicle (He likes driving into his spot, I prefer backing into mine, so our driver doors are friends), he waited for me to walk around the back of his vehicle and rolled down his window to say,

“I really like your new car, when did you get it?”

“I picked it up Wednesday, it has turned out to be way more fun than I initially thought it would be! A friend helped me with a good deal on a well equipped car otherwise I don’t know what I would have done!”

“Well I love it, it suits your personality,” and then squinting slightly and scrunching lower into the seat of his SUV as though he was experiencing some major abdominal pain, he ended, “it’s sexy, sporty just like you!” and as he grimaced some more he completed a full hand finger wave, rolled up the window and off he went….

Our 1 minute was up. I stood there and laughed.

The would-be Kamikaze Grandma and her Scooter

Today I made my way to the coffee shop after a number of days reprieve. It wasn’t planned that way, just some times life gets in the way of me and my coffee shop! 😦

Today is the first time ever I have helped someone on a scooter cross the road. Normally they are trying to run me down on the sidewalk while weaving around pedestrians.

I have always wondered at these power scooters that are sometimes spotted driving on the road pretending to be a real automobile. We are confused enough about where road bikes fit into traffic and now we have an infestation of confident scooters darting here and there. Owning the roads, side walks and bike lanes, ignoring road rules, cloaked in their capes of invisibility.

So I was mightily amused when a 60-something woman sitting on her scooter pulled up alongside me and asked for my help.

We were waiting for the traffic lights to change and she asked me,

“Do you think I’ll be able to make it across the street car tracks and over that metal grate sitting an inch higher than the pavement?”

I looked down at her scooter to see the size of the wheels and replied, “Oh I am sure you’ll be fine and if you have any doubts my suggestion would be to take a good fast run at it – I am sure you’ll make it over.”

She chuckled, “I’ll see how this goes, do you mind staying with me while I cross?”

I agreed to stick with her and we started across the street at a fair clip – I was lightly jogging. I was curious to see what she’d do, continue her speed or slow down.

As we got closer to the grate she slowed down, turned to me and said, “I am just really too tentative to go that fast.” and slowing to a snails pace, moved her scooter over the metal grate.

She made it to the south side walk, thanked me, turned and off she “scooted” to her destination.

Now I am left wondering if she hadn’t of slowed down and turned out to be the kamikaze grandma I was hoping she’d be, what if the scooter had of tipped over? Seriously what would I have done. Catch the scooter in mid-air?

Better she didn’t take my advice for both hers and my safety 🙂

The Day of The Balloon War

The Day of The Balloon War

First off, I have been genetically engineered to dislike balloons. Its the unpredictable factor of when they are going to burst. The noise bothers my ears, but more importantly its the snapping followed by flying rubber.

So today is the balloon war day. Two weekends in a row the competition has had helium balloons tied to the antenna’s of all their cars. The first weekend this happened, the salesmen at our dealer falsely threatened to run across the street and pop the competitions balloons.

So today, the competition has again attached balloons to their cars PLUS they have two giant SALE blow up fabric balloons. It is these fabric balloons that have really ignited the war.

What does a car dealership war mean? It means having all the sales people huddle around a helium tank, blow up balloons that every 4th one pops, add some string and attach them to cars on the lot. Its more than balloons. It is also a barbecue tent on the front patio, hamburgers, sausage, cookies and other treats. These balloons will draw customers onto the dealership lot right? In the 1980’s this certainly worked, and its GOT to work 2 decades later 🙂 .

With a mostly open mind, I am going to validate the effectiveness of balloons on a cold rainy day. Its the perfect day for such research since the predictability of warm weather driving traffic into the showroom has been conveniently removed with the cold, wet day. The assumption is that people leave their houses more often in nicer weather and may miss the bright cheery balloons due sunglasses. I have no data to back this up except that the roads are more crowded on a nice day and I see more sunglasses during a sunny day than on a rainy, cold day.

The question that needs answering: Are potential buyers driving by more likely to visit the dealer with the most balloons? Seeing as we have the most balloons, this store should see more customers than the competition.

I am tempted to wander across the street to see how the multitude of balloons popping up on our lot is affecting the competition’s spirits.

We all know that its the positive, I can do attitude that more often than not closes the sale. And knocking the competition off their game is half the battle.

Why is this so important, knocking the competition down a notch on the pole of positive outlook?

Well, it means the customer’s will sense the lack of interest with their super sensory processes, leave the dealer after seeing all the offers possible, walk across the street and make the deal at the second dealer. These deals are called “lay downs” and the easiest to close. The customer is tired of visiting dealerships and just wants to buy a car. I call it customer fatigue and its when you hope your competition are terrible closers.

Its 10:30, the BBQ is fired up, balloons are waving in the wind, we are READY!

Seeing Greenland

Today isn’t a particularly different day from any other day except that I have all sorts of funny thoughts floating around in my head. I’ve tried all day to get them out so that I could stop looking like a grinning idiot wandering around the dealership having my own little party.

I mentioned this in an earlier post, I am a rather terrible car sales person, I am less interested in the “close” and selling them a car than I am in learning everything possible about my customer’s lives. I call it my hobby 🙂

The dealership is becoming more about personal development then building a nest egg to travel the world. I am spending my days unlearning learned behaviours that I needed to survive my eight years at a desk. It’s less about writing a well written email and more about invoking emotion to create a reaction to buy.

Today I had three non-customers. Each was in the store for service and was wandering around the sales floor.

The first gentleman had to be in his late 80’s. British, consciously unlearned his British accent when he came to Canada in the early 40’s to go to the Radio College of Canada. Now I have no way of verifying this, but he told me the only people who Canada was allowing to learn how to operate a ham radio for the war, were British Nationals who came directly from Britain?

My new friend spent 2 years flying around the globe in the 1940’s helping win a war. I told him about my upcoming trip to see the Germans. He left my desk and re-appeared two hours later. He wanted to wish me luck on my trip and to make sure to look out the left side of the plane 3 hours into the flight to have a peak at Greenland. He was so excited about Greenland it took everything in me not to squeeze his cheeks, which I am sure he wouldn’t have appreciated.

I am not sure I’ll get to see Greenland but will do my very best 🙂

Buying Your Next Vehicle: Understand The Bill of Sale

In Ontario we have the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (MVDA) legislature and the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) to enforce it. OMVIC is important because it is this council that behaves as a “Better Business Bureau” for the Automotive industry when it comes to selling and advertising.

Some important things to know:

a) Dealers cannot sell a vehicle for more than the listed Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) – this can be found on all Manufacturer’s websites

b) The Selling price of the vehicle is the MSRP plus added Options off the base vehicle, plus Freight, plus Air Tax of $100. All four are found on Manufacturer’s websites.

c) After the Selling price on all contracts will be the Dealer Administration Fee, License Fee, Gas Fee, Tire Tax, Trade-In etc., this is part of the business and Dealers are highly unlikely to negotiate on these fees. It’s here that you’ll add in up to $2,000 on top of the Selling Price. Also, any extended warranties (I know they aren’t cheap usually start around $2,000, but they make good financial sense in the long run if you plan on keeping your vehicle longer than the manufacturer warranty) or other products that are sold in the business office. Each item must be called out on the bill of sale on it’s own line. These “miscellaneous” items plus HST gets us to the total to Finance.

d) The monthly payment is calculated off the total amount to finance and there will be a line under the total amount to finance that will show you how much interest on the loan that you are paying for the duration of the loan. Most finance contracts are open loans that mean you can pay them off early, saving on interest payments.

e) The Selling price (b) is important because the higher it is the more content you are getting in your vehicle so it’s good to know your model and know the price of the vehicle you actually are interested in buying.

Like any good business model, selling in-stock inventory is preferred where possible over factory ordering. Why? Because the longer a vehicle sits on a dealership lot the more money is being paid to the bank in interest for the line of credit. I am going to try to explain something without sounding sleazy and my apologies if I do.

One of my first customers who purchased a vehicle from me was mostly interested in colour and a few other options off of a mid-range model. I found a vehicle in inventory that suited them exactly, no extra features. I gave them payments and they agreed to the terms and there was very little negotiation on payment or price which is a bad thing for both the Seller and the Buyer. It’s bad for the Buyer because I am sure after a few days of taking possession of the vehicle they were thinking “I could have negotiated this price down.” And the Seller (I admit I did think this because I realized it was true but unethical) “I could have sold them a higher priced vehicle and made more money and they wouldn’t even have had a clue. They were more focused on colour and the monthly payment didn’t matter, an extra $2,000 on the Selling price with a better equipped model would have been $4/month more on their payment, they wouldn’t have noticed.”

So selling price is important, understand what you are buying; understand what content is in the vehicle that gets you to the price. Be comfortable and confident with what you are buying.

It’s not about negotiating the Selling price, it’s about understanding it and agreeing that you have made the right choice for you. It is not shrouded in secrecy; the Bill of Sale must show the model, option and MSRP as the Selling price along with all the added costs and fees. If there is something you disagree with, bring it up before signing the Bill of Sale.

As a consumer you can confirm the price and the model by going onto the Manufacturer website and double checking everything adds up. If something is off ask the Dealership to explain it and if they can’t explain the discrepancy use the tools available to you, contact OMVIC.

f) Once the Bill of sale is signed you are liable to meet the obligations of the contract unless otherwise stipulated on the bill of sale. Example of a stipulation: Subject to finance approval etc. Make sure you understand the Bill of sale before signing.

Buying a car should be a stress-free experience and as a customer you should feel informed on what you are buying and why. Understand that there are fees involved and that no matter how much you might not like the fees it is part of the business. One of the sales people I used to work with who I liked to call the “Al Pacino” impersonator (he should have really worn tweed and a bow tie) was never out to eat your dinner. Most of my coworkers were down to earth, hockey fans who had a hard time telling a lie and have severe Negotiaphobia (don’t tell them I said that! :))

Ok so this post has gone way off the rails from what I was intending – I became a little passionate about that “Bill of sale” and the “Selling price” but they are my two pet-peeves 🙂

If you are in the market for a car and have a question, ask away and I’ll do my best to answer.

Cruzing in a Chevrolet

This post is an article passed along from a friend that is now being shared with many friends!

One more reason to “come on down” and visit me at my digs in the
Chevy store 🙂 no pressure, I swear!

I do have one little story before you read the article.

Yesterday I had a girl come into the store shopping for a new compact Hatchback. She’d been to Mazda, Nissan and Honda to test-drive and check out their cars and stopped by Chevrolet only because it was convenient. She had no intention of buying a Chevrolet, but what the heck, she decided to come in and see what the advertising fuss was all about.

After our test drive and the great bi-weekly payments she was offered on the best equipped car she’d driven that day, she exclaimed “I never thought I’d like a Chevrolet!!”

Did she buy? Unfortunately not yet, but I have her number and you can bet what I’ll be doing this afternoon….calling her – don’t you just love sales people!

Why didn’t she buy yesterday? Pretending I can get into her head, she is struggling with the bow-tie, meaning the brand. Her heart is set on the product, but the brand is far away from who she wants to emulate. Aren’t customers the greatest?!

Now for the article:

Detroit Finds Small Is Beautiful as Compact Buyers Return | View Web
Bloomberg News – Online
Keith Naughton

When the engine blew on his eight- year-old Toyota Matrix last year, Shane Wilson needed a new car fast and wanted something good on gas. He shopped the usual suspects: small Honda and Toyota models he’d owned in the past. Then he surprised himself by buying a Chevrolet Cruze.

“I thought American cars were pretty horrid and that they tended to fall apart,” said Wilson, 36, an accounts manager for the Internal Revenue Service in Seattle. “But the Cruze was fun to drive and the interior was light-years better than American cars used to be.”

Small cars, once the Achilles’ heel of U.S. automakers, are becoming a strength. Sales of General Motors Co.’s Chevy Cruze compact are up 10 percent this year, while Ford Motor Co.’s Focus compact sales have soared 90 percent. Last year, GM, Ford and Chrysler Group LLC’s share of the compact and subcompact market in the U.S. rose to a four-year high of 26 percent, from 20 percent in 2010, according to researcher LMC Automotive.

After losing a generation of car buyers to Japanese automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp., U.S.-based companies are building their comebacks on cars they once dismissed and discounted in favor of high-profit sport-utility vehicles. Small cars from Detroit are no longer utilitarian econoboxes. They have high style and high-tech features, such as voice-activated stereos, previously found only on bigger, more expensive models.

“Remember when smaller cars used to be cheap and cheerful?” Ford Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally asked reporters March 6 at the Geneva motor show. “Now the consumers want the finest quality, the finest fuel efficiency, safety and design.”

Small-Car Foundation

While SUVs and pickups still have higher profit margins, Detroit has discovered that small cars are the foundation of a successful automaker. Since compacts are often a buyer’s first car, they represent the initial step in building brand loyalty. Toyota, Honda Motor Co. and other Japanese companies used small cars as their wedge into the U.S. market in the 1970s, while GM, Ford and Chrysler spent more development dollars on bigger models that burned more fuel.

The weakness of that strategy was exposed in 2008 when the average U.S. price of unleaded gasoline peaked at $4.11 a gallon. The lack of competitive compacts accelerated the collapse of U.S. automakers. Ford posted a record loss of $14.8 billion for 2008, and GM and Chrysler entered bankruptcy the following year.

“That was a defining moment for Detroit,” said Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis at auto researcher in Santa Monica, California. “That really pointed out the weaknesses in their small-car lineups and it hit home that they needed strong models throughout their portfolio.”

Fuel Prices

As U.S. fuel prices return to those levels, small-car sales are rising, too. Compacts and subcompacts will account for 19 percent of U.S. auto sales this year, up from 13 percent in 2005, LMC forecasts. Regular unleaded gasoline averaged $3.80 a gallon on March 11, up 8.3 percent from a month ago, according to AAA.

Without the Cruze and Sonic subcompact that have debuted over last two years, GM wouldn’t weather the rising gas prices as well, said Don Johnson, the automaker’s U.S. sales chief.

“We wouldn’t be in as good a shape as we are today,” Johnson told analysts and reporters on a March 6 conference call. “Cruze continues to be a more and more important part of our portfolio.”

U.S. automakers see rising fuel prices as an opportunity to poach car buyers from Toyota and Honda, which have just fully restocked showrooms after natural disasters in Asia cut inventory in 2011.

‘More Competitive Models’

“With more competitive models from the Detroit brands, they’re positioned to benefit from the rise in gas prices,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC in Troy, Michigan. “Who would have thought that?”

Some of Detroit’s competitors acknowledge the change.

“The steady increase in gas prices over the last few years has forced many competitors to finally get serious about cars again and, for the first time ever, some of them are bringing credible small cars to market,” John Mendel, executive vice president of U.S. sales for Honda, said in an e-mail.

As car buyers return to showrooms, they’re finding significantly better fuel economy in the new models from U.S. automakers. The Cruze, Ford Focus and Fiesta are each rated to get 40 miles (64 kilometers) per gallon or better in highway driving.

“As fuel prices went higher in February, so too did small car sales,” said Erich Merkle, sales analyst for Ford, where Focus sales more than doubled last month.

Small-Car Supply

Car dealer Gordon Stewart can’t keep a small car in stock at his four Chevrolet outlets and it reminds him of how models sell at his Toyota outlet.

“If I could get the inventory, I’d double my small-car sales tomorrow,” said Stewart, whose Gordon Stewart Chevrolet Inc. is based in Tampa, Florida, and who has Chevy stores in Georgia, Florida and Michigan and a Toyota showroom in Alabama. “People used to come in looking for the big SUV, but now I sell almost two cars for every truck. It’s much more like my Toyota store.”

The primary attribute of Chevy’s old Cavalier compact was its rock-bottom price, Stewart said. Now the Cruze and Sonic sell on style and performance.

“We sold the Cavalier in volume because of price,” Stewart said. “We’re selling the Cruze because the styling is so hot.”

Looking to Japanese

U.S. small cars still haven’t caught up to Japanese models in quality rankings. Japanese automakers held the top five spots last month in Consumer Reports automaker report cards, a measure of reliability, performance, comfort and utility. the publication selected Toyota models as the top pick in five of 10 categories, including family sedan (Camry hybrid) and green car (Prius).

“People still look to Japanese automakers when they shop for small cars,” said Edmunds’ Caldwell. “A Toyota Corolla is something they know.” The Corolla trails only Honda’s Civic as the top-selling compact in the U.S. so far this year.

Among U.S. automakers, Chrysler has the longest way to go to become competitive in small cars, Caldwell said. Next month, Chrysler begins producing the Dodge Dart compact, based on a design from Turin-based Fiat SpA (F), which controls the U.S. automaker. Sergio Marchionne, CEO of both companies, has called Chrysler’s current small car, the Dodge Caliber, an “abomination.”

Chrysler acknowledged it remains dependent on SUVs and light trucks in a March 6 regulatory filing.

Changing Equation

Even with its recent small-car gains, Chrysler’s sales are dominated by sport-utility vehicles, pickups and larger minivans, the company said in the filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company delivered 552,000 SUVs in the U.S. last year compared with 354,000 cars. It sold 244,000 pickups, compared with 52,000 small cars.

GM, Ford and Chrysler are steadily changing that equation, said LMC’s Schuster. They also are finding ways to make money on small cars, which were loss leaders before they cut costs and added features to justify increased prices.

“They’re getting the recipe right,” Schuster said. “It’s a night-and-day difference between where Detroit is today and where they were back in 2008 when rising gas prices caught them off-guard.”

New Cruze owner Wilson says he has been surprised by the 34 mpg he’s averaging and that for $15,096, he got a base-model small car with satellite radio, a six-speed manual transmission and a black-and-cream interior that looks “rich.”

No one was more surprised, though, than Wilson’s friends when he pulled up for the first time in an American small car.

“They were like, ‘Really, a Chevy?’” Wilson said. “Then some of them had a chance to drive it and they were like, ‘OK, this is pretty decent. This is not what we’re used to.’”

Super Sonic, Why I like Driving the Sonic

Super Sonic, Why I like Driving the Sonic

Three months ago I started driving a Chevrolet Sonic. Coming from a Japanese manufacturer who’s main brand pillar is performance and building a driver’s car, getting into Chevrolet was giving me heart burn and to top it off a small car.

Selling 101 is believing in the product that you are promoting. Choosing to come work for Chevrolet immediately put me at a disadvantage to becoming a great salesperson. We know that Chevrolet ignored the long-term effects of brand and customer loyalty by building years worth of cheap, badly engineered vehicles and blowing them out of showroom’s with copious amounts of customer incentives.

Good thing my intent of joining Chevrolet was never to be the world’s greatest salesperson, nor was it to fall in love with a product that is struggling to find it’s place with Generation X, Y and Z.

Regardless of my reason’s behind choosing Chevrolet as a brand to work for, I had reservations driving one which I feel were well grounded being a) the brand’s negative perceived quality and b) driving a Small Car, where I would have to adjust losing the comforts most commonly found in full-sized, luxury vehicle, including interior features and most important, power.

After 3 months the Chevrolet Sonic, I have been pleasantly surprised by my growing adoration for the Sonic and here are the top 5 reason’s it has won my admiration:

1) It has a driver’s side armrest. This might sounds trivial but this is an item that as driver’s we don’t realize how important it is until it’s gone! Alot of entry-level vehicles lose the driver’s seat armrest in favour of a slight price advantage. How much would you pay for a driver’s seat armrest $50, $100, $200?

2) Comfortable seats. Another easy way to reduce cost in a vehicle without visually losing feature’s is using cheaper materials. Seats are a great way to reduce cost with less expensive cushioning. Again, it is something a driver might not necessarily notice until after delivery on that +600 km road trip to Montreal. With over 5,000 km’s, my buttock and back are happy campers and game for any road trip I deem appropriate.

3) Standard Bluetooth! The majority of customers coming into the store are baby boomers, is this brand specific or is the biggest consumer group evenly shopping all brands? In any event not all baby boomers seem to care about this standard feature, however, I feel Bluetooth is super important for late Gen X’ers and Gen Y, the target audience of Sonic. What is curious is the target audience is insisting on skipping the Entry-Level Sonic altogether and opting for the larger Chevrolet Cruze. From my perspective on the sales floor, the Entry-Level segment is overloaded with interesting product that the target customer’s aren’t interested in buying. Gen X and Y reasoning on moving up to the Cruze, well they are thinking about children in 2 years and want something that will fit them for 5 years. So who is coming into the store to talk about Sonic? Baby boomers who have grandchildren to cart around three times a month. Again, is this the core customer’s of Chevrolet just coming out for a tour of the dealership or is this a trend for all Entry-Level competitors?

4) Zippy when I need it to be. Sonic does a great job of merging into traffic on the 401, 427, QEW and 403, to name a few major highways. A few years ago, I met a rather handsome fellow (his handsomeness is irrelevant to the story, but decided it was worthy to note) who had a little sticker under the speedometer of his car that said “SLOW DOWN”. I found it amusing and sweet and if you know me, I could hardly contain my laughter not because I thought him funny, but rather it was so ingenious! We would get into heated arguments about speeding and since he’d had enough tickets to prompt a “SLOW DOWN” reminder on his dashboard, I didn’t have much of an argument. I vote that Sonic come standard with a factory installed “SLOW DOWN” sticker, just as a friendly reminder!

5) Instrument panel and Centre console. I love the interior styling and ease of use of the controls on the Instrument panel and Centre console. I am equally happy that Chevrolet has taken queues from import brands where fit and finish is an engineering consideration. I particularly like the “motorcycle” inspired interior design and the steering wheel controls with their soft rubber grips that make it easy to navigate through the menu’s.

**I have to add one more item to my list of things I love about the Sonic, Remote Start! What a great feature and it has a pretty impressive range (for me anyhow). When I step out of my elevator in the parking garage and I am still a 3 minutes walk to my car, I press my remote start and it turns on! Love it!

***One more item, this is standard on all Chevrolet’s, the Auto On/Off Headlights that sense when to turn On/Off the night headlights! Its so great not having to turn off the lights when I park the car, and equally, something I do not have to think about when it starts getting dust, they magically turn on 🙂

Similar to a relationship, after all the newness and excitement wears off, it’s important to have the must-have, important features – they make all the difference! Regardless that I sell for Chevrolet, I happily promote Sonic with fevor because I believe in the product.

What was your favourite car and more important, top 5 must have features?

Subconscious Existence

Ok so here I am trying to figure out what to do, why am I always trying to figure out what to do? If I just did instead of trying to figure everything out it would work a lot quicker and stuff would get done. Distractions, I will blame it on them, they come along and take me away from whatever it is I should be doing, it’s not my fault! 😉

It may be surprising, being in the automotive industry and all, that I cannot remember the last time I picked up a car magazine and flipped through and enjoyed it. The other day a co-worker of mine dropped the 2009 Auto Traders Buyer Guide on my desk – there was an article about him on page 112. He’s a car enthusiast, been working in sales since retiring from Air Canada 20 years ago. Ron works only on Saturday and calls himself the Dealerships “cat”. He doesn’t have a designated desk and he roams around giving advice, he is costing the dealership nothing but giving much in return.

In 2009 Nissan launched the revamped 370z, the G37 was going into its second sales season with its new design and the Pathfinder, well it wasn’t sure it still needed a V8 on it’s top model.

That year I was well on my mad quest to learn everything there was about a perplexing, multi-faceted ordering system. I had jumped in with both feet a year earlier, held my breath and for the next two years worked with the most amazing team. There were incredibly long hours and manual interventions to make it all work, but we did it and made a difference. I believed in the effort I was expending and learned many lessons and met some of my best friends.

So realizing my embarrassment of not having taken time to flip through and enjoy an automotive magazine for quite some time, I started to reflect on how I ended up in this state. Did I go to sleep for the last few years?

It’s taken a few months, but the spell is starting to come undone and it feels good and somewhat awkward. I know I am not alone, how do we get ourselves into states of subconscious existence? Letting our conscious minds sleep, functioning as robots and perhaps being very good and efficient at our work, expert even. Some like to call it not stopping to smell the roses, the only problem is the world around us becomes so blurry that we can’t see the roses, even if they did jump out of the ground and smack us!

I am going to call it “Sleeping Beauty phenomenon”, except unlike the fairy tales, there is no prince to come and kiss us out of our deep sleep and into a new magnificent reality. Instead we roll off the lumpy sleeping beauty bed, bumping our heads on the way down, landing with a hard thump into the overgrown underbrush.

I don’t know how the story ends or how we stand up and walk forward, I just trust that somehow our limps become agile once again and we find our way.

Swiss Ingenuity

Swiss Ingenuity

“Wow!! Imagine stoking the fire. Could potentially be more dangerous than texting and driving.”

This link was passed on to me and I had to share it on my blog!

Pictures are worth a thousand words and this article has enough to tell the story and coax some laugh out “louding” laughter 🙂

To deal with the European cold snap, this Swiss gentleman received a permit to add a real wood burning stove to the interior of his Volvo.

Winter, Cars and Tires

We have passed the Winter Solstice and are well on our way into the winter season. The unfortunate part is the limited amounts of snow we are experiencing this winter. Learning to drive just south of the 49th parallel meant snow covered roads from mid-November until mid-March when the North started warming up and the snow started to slowly melt away.

My experience with winter tires can be explained like a great relationship that once gone, realize how wonderful it was.

I learned to drive on old logging roads in the late summer when the blueberries were in their prime. We’d take a drive out to a corner of the woods, surrounded by new growth springing up after a forest fire. Blueberry picking was boring and a little frightening for the sole reason that you never knew where the bears were lurking. It was on these old fire roads I learned to drive and how to get myself out of muddy situations.

The first car I drove was a rear-drive, 1972 4-door Pontiac LeMans, inline 6, 250 ci, 130 hp @ 4000 rpm with a whopping 205 lb-ft of torque @ 1600 rpm. Somehow 20 years later these numbers matter when at the time all that mattered was the roar of the engine and the leaded fuel pushing the car forward faster than I could run. The LeMans had a bench seat in the front and rear that helped our family of six fit rather comfortably. My favourite thing about the car was the high beam light switch on the floor that had to be pushed with your left foot. During the summers, I took great pride in washing the LeMans, using the orange wash bucket with warm soapy water, always taking extra care on the white walls, scrubbing them till they were gleaming white.

Growing up there was always that day in the fall when the summer tires came off the car and the winter tires were put on. Dad would pull the car into the garage and I would unsuccessfully attempt to get my hands in on the job.

By the time I was officially allowed to drive on the road, the LeMans had been replaced with a rear-drive 1984 Delta Eighty-Eight Royale Brougham Oldsmobile, V8, 307 ci, 150 hp @ 3600 rpm with 245 lb-ft of torque @ 1600. This car came equipped with a “turbo-hyrdomatic 200 4R” transmission with an overdrive gear and a torque converter clutch, all things necessary in maximizing fuel economy and faster acceleration “now”. At the time, I was so happy to say good-bye to the faithful LeMans for something more modern. There would be no more “Mom, you can just drop me off here at the bottom of the hill, I’ll walk the rest of the way to school from here.” It was with this car that I experienced winter roads and learned that snow banks and garage doors are not to be trusted!

In my teens, I spend copious amounts of gas driving around for no other reason than I loved driving and generally misbehaving in large unoccupied parking lots. Many times I would have a willing passenger and we’d dream up new and improved manoeuvers to do with the car and find unplowed back roads to try things out. The best part was slaloming through empty parking lots, drifting and doing impressive 360 donuts, something that can only really be enjoyed in a rear-drive vehicle. On the road, however, all the fun ended but it sure made me aware of how to handle the car on icy, snow covered roads.

When I moved away for college, I was on my own without a car and I felt trapped. No more gallivanting around for no reason to some obscure place just to check it out; I had a bus pass and my two legs. By my 3rd year, thankfully, my sister donated her 1989 baby blue manual transmission Mazda 323, I was in heaven; forget that each time I went anywhere I was lifting the hood to tighten the alternator belt, that the back hatch hydraulics’ were worn with the hatch winning numerous times, hitting me in the head and that I had to check the oil level anytime I decided I wanted to drive more than 50 kilometers!

It was the first winter in Southern Ontario with the 323 that I realized how important those winter tires were that dad so consistently put on each year. There were no dramatic into the ditch or snow bank episodes, just some obvious handling differences. Armed with my “all-season” tires, I noticed longer stopping distances and more sliding on icy surfaces. I am no expert on the science behind tires, but I have learned to appreciate winter tires regardless of their irritating whirr when cruising along the highway; the softer compound making for shorter stopping distances and improved traction on icy, snowy roads.