Brother, Can you Spare a—Billion?
As predicted in this column, the recent ‘viability’ report unveiled by Chrysler and GM, was mostly smoke and mirrors set up to show the ...
As predicted in this column, the recent ‘viability’ report unveiled by Chrysler and GM, was mostly smoke and mirrors set up to show the US federal government that the two automakers have reformed. Both companies say they will soon be solvent - with an additional $21B bailout.
That’s not likely, though. Most experts agree that it’s just a matter of months before Chrysler shuts its doors, followed by Hummer, Saab, and Saturn. In fact, Sweden has told GM-owned Saab to pack up and leave; the government won’t play the bailout game. Faced with this grim news, Saab stunned GM by filing for bankruptcy late last week.
Good Buys in a Bad Economy. Bad news for Detroit is good news for car buyers. New and used car prices have plummeted. Recently-built large trucks and SUVs now cost less than half their original list price because of soaring fuel costs. Now that fuel prices have dropped by almost 75 percent vehicle prices have remained in the basement. This is the time to buy. 2006 and later models are good buys for most cars, vans, SUVs, and trucks, because these were key years for across-the-board safety and quality improvements.
Five Tips for Big Savings. 1. Buy a vehicle that is relatively uncomplicated, easy to service and sold in large numbers over a decade or so. This will ensure that independent garages can provide service and parts because many parts suppliers and dealers may also shut their doors.
2. Stay away from European cars, vans, and SUVs. The dealership networks are already very thin, parts are incredibly expensive and hard to find, and few garages will invest in the expensive diagnostic equipment needed to service relatively complicated emissions and fuel delivery systems. The old axiom that there is a right way, a wrong way, and a European way to trouble-shoot a car, still holds true.
3. Don’t buy a hybrid or a diesel. They are failure-prone, complicated to service, dealer-dependent, and don’t provide the fuel economy or savings they hype Furthermore with gas as cheap as it is, there really is no imperative to complicate your life with a complex piece of machinery. Diesel complexity flows from new emissions regulations.
4. Don’t buy most Chrysler or Dodge models with the exception of a well-inspected Jeep Wrangler or Liberty, or a minivan. Chrysler is the weakest of the Detroit Three, with automatic transmissions, brakes, and ACs that are practically biodegradable.
5. Don’t buy any vehicle that requires an extended warranty. Warranties will be worthless when companies merge or shut down.
Consumer Mailbag. Hello Phil: I have a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Its "crankshaft position sensor" needs replacing and I can’t find the part in Panama City. Any suggestions? Also, I plan to purchase a slightly used Hyundai "Tucson" in the near future. Do you recommend the I-4 or the V6 with the automatic transmission? Bill.
Hi, Bill. The sensor is a $39.99 part that needs to be shipped. I found no local supplier. Go to http://www.jeep4x4center.com/crankshaft-position-sensors/grand-cherokee-zj-wj-wg.htm and order it. Shipping shouldn't cost much from the supplier in Pompano Beach Florida (001-954-941-7807).
Your long hunt for a relatively common part underscores my advice to car buyers in Panama: Buy what Panamanians drive. Stick with Asian cars that are sold in large numbers like Hyundai, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Toyota. A four-cylinder engine would be fine with a manual tranny; the automatic requires a V6 for much-needed torque when passing or merging. Figure on spending $11,000 for a two-year-old base Tucson with 40,000 km. As for four-wheel drive, it will cut fuel-economy by about ten percent and get you stuck deeper, further from home.
Next week: Toyota’s rust problem.