Many new 2014 cars have been rolled out, and I’d like to take this week’s column to make capsule comments about some of them. First, I’d like to apologize to some readers if my opinions offend your feelings for the car you may own or love.
General Motors is back in action and finally showing a profit with some really hot-selling products. Buick seems to be a runaway bestseller. Did you know that GM sells more Buicks in China than it does in the United States? Decades ago, probably right after WWII, the leading figures in China all drove Buicks. Today, the Buick brand is revered like the Chinese respect the elderly. Another GM homerun is the new Corvette that has come of age and is a performance bargain. As a bonus, it finally has an interior that justifies its $60,000-plus price tag. Cadillac is also on a roll, with a fleet of good-looking automobiles—and some are luxury hot rods, which begs the question: Does anybody really need 400 to 500 horsepower in any sedan?
Porsche has introduced a new 911 model, which, surprise, looks just like the last models that were introduced about eight years ago. The new Porsche has gotten rave reviews from the motoring press, and it truly is an impressive sports car, but it comes at a rather high price, starting around $125,000. Adding just a few ridiculously expensive extras can force your brain to require emergency oxygen. Porsche prices have been slowly creeping up over the last few years, and I wonder if this has put off a lot of Porsche lovers. Excellence is expected by Porsche owners, not fleecing.
Speaking of expensive sports cars, Ferrari, perhaps the greatest sports car brand, every year stuns the automotive world when it introduces faster and more expensive models. Getting into the Ferrari club makes the Porsche guys look like they shop at Loehmanns bargain basement. As much as I admire Ferraris, their service requirements make my eyes water. A lot of Ferrari maintenance demands the engine be removed from the car. For instance, a timing belt change that is required at 90,000 miles in a Honda and costs about $800 can be required at every 30,000 miles in a Ferrari and cost around $5,000! I guess the old saying “If you have to ask what a yacht costs to run, you can’t afford to own one” can also be said about these beautiful Italian supercars.
The Ford Motor Company keeps chugging along with a fine array of American cars. Did you know that Ford of Europe is one of the leading car manufacturers in Europe? They have brought a lot of their European products over to America. The Ford Focus is one of my favorite American cars, especially in hatchback form. It’s certainly one of the best-handling, affordable cars one can buy, and the performance of the Focus SVT would blow many sports cars into the weeds.
Volkswagen continues to make the most boring-looking cars in the world. The new Passat and Jetta look like Russian cars. What’s wrong with you guys? Just take a look at what the South Koreans are doing. The Hyundai Sonata and its sister ship, the Kia Optima sedans, are absolutely stunning looking sedans (and they’re selling like hotcakes). Also, a double whammy: these Korean cars are terrifically dependable and well built. The guys at VW make some great engines and running gear, but get with the aesthetics. I’ve seen your new VW Golf GTI debuting next year, and frankly, it’s visually boring.
Speaking of boring mainstream cars, Honda and Toyota had better shape up and get with it. Hyundai, Kia, Buick and Ford have raised the bar when it comes to design of innovative automobile design, and they are making millions selling their beautiful sedans. As Gordon Gekko might have said, Greed in car design is good.