Clarkson Fired: BBC Loses, Not Top Gear

It’s official, Jeremy Clarkson has been fired from BBC after an altercation with a producer. James May and Richard Hammond have already made it clear that they won’t continue making episodes without Clarkson so at the moment, the future of Top Gear looks grim. But BBC loses more than Jeremy Clarkson as Top Gear rakes in 50 million British pounds, the equivalent of $74 mil in our currency. There’s no way that the BBC will make that off their nature shows, Orphan Black, and the Three Musketeers, so it’s a bad business decision for them.

We can sit here and argue for hours about whether this was the right move, but by firing Jeremy Clarkson, BBC has essentially given him, May, and Hammond all the power to creating their own show or joining another network under a different name. There’s already been rumors circulating on the Internet that Sky News and ITV have interest in adding the trio to their TV lineup. Why not? $74 mil in extra revenue in a year is certainly worth it. There’s also rumors that Top Gear will be coming to America, which in terms of business and money, is a great move.

If there is one thing American companies and business owners are good at it’s making money. With Top Gear being on American networks, there would be more distribution, bigger profits, more episodes per year, and a bigger viewing audience. Netflix has also been rumored to be working on a deal with Jeremy Clarkson. So a company that’s dominated the movie rental industry, killing off Blockbuster, would be moving into a new market that will definitely bring revenue. This isn’t the end of Top Gear, this is just the beginning.

People seem skeptical due to the possibility of a non-compete in Jeremy Clarkson’s contract, but since he’s been fired, that contact could be voided, and May and Hammond are sure to follow suit. We’re either going to see this trio on another British TV network, or Top Gear is coming to America. There is no doubt that there are TV executives in the United States foaming at the mouths due to the potential of $74 mil in extra revenue.

Just as car companies are entering new markets and following the money trail, TV networks are going to do the same by trying to acquire these three for another show. The United States has always had businesses that capitalized off opportunities other companies gave them, and the BBC will be, without a doubt, the next corporation making a huge mistake.

This is bad business for the BBC. Think of how many other outspoken and controversial figureheads are still on TV. They bring in revenue and a strong viewing audience. Top Gear isn’t dead, and in fact, we may get a better show without the BBC overseeing operations and hindering these three from making the best TV show on the planet.

It’s your loss BBC. Not Top Gear’s, the fan’s, or Jeremy Clarkson’s. Just remember when viewership rankings tank, and lower yearly revenue starts giving you headaches, that you made the biggest mistake ever.

You Have $15,000, Do You Buy Or Lease A Car?

If you have $15,000 in cash, do you buy or lease a car? Actually, I’m going to make it more interesting. If you have $10,000 in cash would you buy or lease a car?

Having scanned through forums and Reddit, there are many young, and even older consumers, who ask the same question, usually with the same amount of money in hand asking for car buying advice. Now, if your commute to work and weekend trips make your annual mileage higher than 12,000 a year, then buying is the better option. But what about those who are driving around 8,000 – 10,000 miles a year. Would you still be so hasty to buy instead of lease?

Most people feel that leasing costs you more in the long run. But does it really? True, your car payments could be higher per month, but because it’s a new car, you won’t have to factor in major maintenance costs. At $10,000 – $15,000, you’re not going to end up with what you want. Certified pre-owned, you’re looking at the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, or Toyota Corolla to name a few. Used can be a case of trick or treat. There’s always diamonds in the rough, but more often than not, you’ll end up with someone else’s problem. Mechanical failure is likely, factoring into the overall cost of the car, while it’s aging, and every year the resale value is slowly tanking. You either wind up with a money pit, or a decent car that will last you a few years before maintenance issues could arise.

Now let’s look to leasing. You have $10,000 – $15,000 in hand and you’re visiting local dealership websites comparing lease offers and deciding which one works best for you. You stumble upon a great deal. Your local Ford dealership down the street has a lease offer for a new Ford Escape SE; $4,173 due at signing, $159 a month for 24 months. If my math is correct, for those 2 years it will cost you a grand total of $7,989, not including oil changes and annual maintenance. You’re saving $2,000 in the long run, which will be two grand more saved up for your next lease. If you buy a $10,000 car, you’re looking at a world of unknowns.

So the choice. A new Ford Escape SE or an 8 year old car with 50,000+ miles on it. $8,000 overall in 24 months, or $10,000, plus maintenance that will inevitably happen sometime during your ownership of the car.

Another example; this time you have $15,000. Now I’m sure you can find some sweetheart deal for a 6+ year old Infiniti G35 or G37 or an older BMW 3 Series, but again let’s factor in unforeseen maintenance. But you decide, “I’ll lease instead because I want to drive a new car”. Here are the potential options you have. Let me just say this is all predicated on what the dealerships in your area are offering. Here’s a few from my neck of the woods.

Audi A3: $2,694 downpayment, $299 a month for 36 months = $13,458

BMW X1: $4,000 downpayment, $239 a month for 36 months = $12,604

BMW 320i X-Drive: 4,000 downpayment, $239 a month for 36 months = $12,604 (Same offer as the X1)

Infiniti Q40: $1,499 downpayment, $229 a month for 39 months = $10,430

Lexus IS 250: $1,599 downpayment, 349 a month for 36 months = $14,163

These are just some of the deals that are out there. They all cost under $15,000 within the three year window you have the car. Most come with leather seats, heated seats, bluetooth, navigation, and electric sunroof. So think about it for a minute. You can have a luxury car for the same price, or less than if you bought a certified pre-owned Honda Civic. There are even better offers out there if you don’t want to spend $15,000.

After seeing this, would you still buy or would you lease?

Are Consumers’ Demand For Luxury Interiors Driving Prices Up?

In an age of living a luxurious life, even for those living well beyond their means, we’re seeing prices gradually moving up, pinching middle class consumers in the process. The automotive market is one of those industries in which we’re witnessing the inflation of car prices. Vehicles that shouldn’t be priced any higher than $16,000 – $18,000 are nearing $20,000+, and consumers are beginning see how buying a 1-2 year old used car is a better fiscal decision than walking into the dealer and driving off the lot in a brand new car. But are consumers partially to blame for the uptick in vehicle prices?

Europeans are known to prefer luxury and driving experience over flat-out performance, which is why European auto makers produce more expensive cars that capture the very best in what the automotive world has to offer. Over the years we’re seeing this trend beginning to grow in the United States as flat-out performance is not selling as quick as luxury, something Cadillac refuses to see as they’re marketing performance first and their sales figures are dropping because of that. Muscle cars have made a slight rebound with the emergence of the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcats, the new fastback Ford Mustang, and the Chevrolet Camaro which will be sporting a new look next year.

If you’ve been to car shows recently you’ve noticed that interiors of low-end cars now have an upscale appeal. The Mazda3 and Mazda6 have very comfortable and luxurious interiors, which is a slight shock considering that they’re not a luxury brand. The Honda Civic EX-L, priced around $25,000, has an amazing interior, and if you forget about the engine that it has, you’d have to say that it’s a very impressive car. This leads me to the Toyota Yaris, which some trims cost near or exceed $19,000. That’s absolutely outrageous as this is the Hyundai Elantra GT’s price range territory. True, it gets less gas mileage than the Yaris, but why buy a micro hatchback when you can buy a full size for the same price?

The interiors and their infotainment systems are partially to blame, but so are the consumers. Bluetooth, navigation systems, electric sunroofs, touch displays, and premium cloth or leather seats all factor into the price. The reason why cars like the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris are considered economical cars is because they’re supposed to be cheap while also offering great gas mileage. Not in 2015. While you have the option to buy the base model, $16,000 is still no drop in the bucket either. Which raises the question as to why consumers would buy new in this current market? Leasing offers have become more appealing than buying, and you actually end up with a better car for 24-36 months than if you bought a car for $18,000.

The luxurious lifestyle is great, but are we living way beyond our means? The Mazda3 was once affordable, a rival to the Ford Focus. Now a top trim Mazda3 is impeding on the Chrysler 200’s territory. For those who do have the money to buy a $25,000+ car, this is a great time to buy. Instead of spending $40,000 on a Mercedes Benz or BMW, you can get an upscale interior for a fraction of the cost. In the sure sense of practicality, a top trim Mazda3, Subaru Impreza Premium, or a Honda Civic EX-L is a much better option, and you don’t break the bank buying a car that offers every infotainment system on the market.

Car companies have their reasons for spiking the prices of cars, but consumers’ demands for luxury interiors and infotainment systems have been a cause for more expensive cars that were once affordable. Whatever happened to the days when we’d get in our cars, turn on the radio, roll the windows down, and enjoy the driving experience? Owning a luxury car is by no means a bad thing, but we’re continuously outdoing ourselves by demanding luxury in cars that are nowhere close to being upscale.

#SaveTheManuals: A Valiant Effort All For Not

The age of the manual transmission is coming to a close. With automatics dominating the auto market, auto-shift and paddle shifters replacing the traditional manual, hard core car enthusiasts will have to either buy an older car or hope an auto manufacturer specifically targets to a dwindling market. As of right now, manuals make up about 6-10% market share, leaving the other 90-94% to being automatics or non traditional manuals that allow the driver to switch from manual to automatic when he/she so chooses. Last month, Acura announced that the only car in their lineup that will have a manual transition will be the ILX, which hasn’t generated great sales for the Honda-owned car brand.

When Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren have paddle shifters on their models, you know we’re entering into a new era of cars. People have given many reasons as to why this phenomenon is happening. Some say it’s because the infotainment systems in cars require too much attention from the driver, so manually shifting become a second thought. Others say it’s because automatics have become just as fuel efficient as manuals, and due to the computer systems in cars now, the car can shift just as good, if not better than a human. But I personally believe that automatics are more convenient. Isn’t that where our culture is heading? Convenience?

A 16 year old who is learning how to drive, or just got his/her license can just get behind the wheel, put the key in the ignition, and drive off to their destination. There is no energy required, no secondary action needed while driving, and with the cars that are being produced today, a person driving an automatic can fully enjoy their vehicle just the same as owners of manuals.

Let’s also remember that auto manufacturers are companies. They’re following the money, and that trail does not lead to a large market for manuals. Six to ten percent isn’t a huge chunk of the market. In the last 35 years, we’ve seen a 25% drop in demand for the traditional manual, which means less money is going to that market. For these companies to survive they need to follow the money. This is the same reason that every car brand is entering the crossover market. Porsche manufacturing two SUV’s and a four door, and Ford bringing the Focus RS to America to compete with the likes of the Subaru STI and the Volkswagen GTI, is another example of car brands getting into a market that is making money.

We’re seeing a massive change and shift in the automotive world. Because of these changes, transmissions, infotainment systems, and other components have been updated to appeal to a broader market. Unless consumers start buying manuals, the days of the traditional stick shift will be over. It’s been a valiant effort, but it might be all for not.

Consumer Reports Has Buick In Top 10 Brands, Regal Best Sports Sedan

To most car owners, Consumer Reports’ findings are always suspect and are never truly accurate. Because they base part of their reports on the reviews of their subscribers, the findings can be a bit distorted. While they do test these cars themselves, they’re also using other forms of secondary statistics to decide which vehicles and brands are worthy to be put into the top 10. Shockingly, the Buick Regal gets best in the sports sedan class while the Buick Brand gets places in 7th behind Porsche, Subaru, and Audi in the top 10 auto brands.

Buick finds themselves among some of the most well-known brands in the industry, and it’s rather interesting how Consumer Reports came up with the findings. The real question is, based on what? Price? Reliability? Performance? It should be noted that the Buick Regal is in fact a rebadged Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, so no matter what your take is on this report, apparently having your car built in Germany can make all the difference when it comes to quality.

The Regal is priced between $29,000 – $40,000 putting it in the price range of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Volvo S60, and Infiniti G37/Q40 to name a few. That’s some worthy competition to be up against and to beat out. The one factor that hasn’t been taken into consideration is long term reliability, and seeing as though they’re basing these findings on the 2015 models, we can’t tell if the Regal is better overall in the sports sedan category when it comes to reliability.

When it comes to the Buick brand itself, they are making better cars, but that might be due to the rebadging of Opel’s. Buick is certainly selling nicer cars than a few years ago, but to put them in the same sentence as Porsche, Subaru, Audi, and Lexus in the top 10 auto brands is far too early and very bold.

The other shocker from this report is the Chevy Impala’s rank as best in the large sedan class. Again, I want to know what it’s based on. I’ll respect the honors it’s receiving if I could understand why exactly this car is better than all the other large sedans on the market. Even when it comes to Buick, I just want an explanation as to why and not just a graph showing me that the Buick Regal is best in the sports sedan class.

What do you think? Cars are not one of Consumer Reports’ strong suits, but I do agree with Subaru’s dominance in the mid-sized sedan and compact car classes. Who do you think should have gotten the honors in the sports sedan and large sedan classes? Do you agree that the Buick Regal is the best sports sedan, or Buick is a top 10 auto brand?

Consumer reports also left out the hatchback class, but we all know the GTI would have gone home with that award.

Making A Case For The Kia Forte Hatchback

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of getting a good long look at the redesigned Kia Forte5 SX. Needless to say, it left a lasting impression. The hatchback market is extremely competitive with the Volkswagen Golf and GTI leading the way, Ford bringing their Focus RS over to the United States, the Fiesta’s dominance in the compact hatchback market, the fresh design of the Mazda3 which is turning heads, and Hyundai’s Elantra GT. Where does Kia’s Forte fit in, and can it hold it’s own against the competitors?

The Forte hatchback comes with two trims: The EX and SX. For performance, you would most definitely want to go with the SX, which is turbocharged, packing 201 HP. Unfortunately to get all the bells and whistles, which includes front and rear heated seats, you’re looking at spending $28,000, but it’s worth it. A sporty interior that will grasp the attentions of young millennials and will certainly get them noticed. A spacious interior that has more cargo volume than the Golf and GTI will make it easy for college students to move in and out of dorms, while also making room for passengers when it’s a late night on the town.

The EX on the other hand is more practical, getting much better gas mileage (25 MPG in the city, 33 MPG on the highway), but not lacking in power. With a 2.0L engine, you’ll still get 173 hp, 0-60 in 7.5 seconds (only two tenths of a second slower than the GTI). With a base price of $19,960, it’s much more reasonable, but if you’re looking for leather interior and other comforts, the price could hover around $25,000.

The Kia Forte is definitely a car worth looking at getting if you don’t want a Golf or GTI. While you’re not getting the fastest hatchback with the SX, you’re still getting a turbocharged engine, cargo space, a sporty interior, and a car that will turn heads. It’s the kind of car you want to get if you want to be different and not buy a car your friend owns.

If you’re a fan of Top Gear UK, you’ve probably already seen the Forte make it through a grueling challenge of rugby. The car is no doubt durable, and even for Top Gear, was an eye opener. The Forte is by far one of the most impressive cars I’ve seen in the hatchback market. I wasn’t expecting to see premium features such as backup assist, heated seats, navigation system, leather seats, and sunroof from a car that’s been flying under the radar for so long.

As someone who goes against the trend and leans more towards something different, the Kia Forte5 would certainly be in the top 5 cars under $25,000 I’d choose as a daily driver.

Volvo Has Caught The Cross Country Bug. XC S60 and XC V60?

Volvo is a company in transition. Under new ownership after being sold by Ford, Volvo has had difficulty in distancing itself from it’s past. Much of the designs and components of their older models such as the S60 and discontinued S40 were based off of Ford, and for the S60, there are major changes underway to get rid of the old blueprint and start fresh in 2015. Well they’ve certainly done that by unveiling their new XC version of the S60. With a height adjustment of 2.5 inches, Volvo is moving away from their traditional sedan and have suddenly come up with a Subaru-like, height-adjusted, tough terrain beating car and station wagon.

The addition to the XC family has already caused confusion with the media as there is an XC V60 and a XC60 now, but the difference being one is a station wagon and the other a crossover. What are Volvo’s future plans, what segment are they trying to enter, and who exactly are they competing against with their new XC lineup? These questions seem to go unanswered, but one could speculate that they’re trying to be the more luxurious Subaru by offering AWD across their product line, or their bringing Subaru-like engineering to the luxury car market, a segment that hasn’t been capitalized as of yet. But is there a demand for it?

Volvos primarily sell better in the states with winter climates as their AWD systems are a luxury during the late fall and winter months during the year. It’s very possible that they’re trying to target a specific market that either likes off-road capabilities or prefers something other than Subaru without sacrificing the AWD and year round durability.

However, the redesigned Volvo XC90 might contradict that theory as Volvo unveiled the R-design trim that will surely take on the BMW X5 and Audi Q5. It appears the Swedish automaker is trying to take on multiple segments at once, while also innovating along the way. They have a triple turbocharged engine in the works that could revolutionize the car industry while also continuing to perfect their safety features on their cars.

It will be interesting to see the reception the XC S60 gets when it enters Volvo dealerships early this year. Personally, I see the XC V60 doing better as Subaru has lived off the AWD station wagons for years, and it’s possible Volvo can experience that same success. Great things are happening up in Sweden these days, and let’s hope we continue to see these changes as Volvos have become very luxury-based cars over the past 5 years or so.

What Are Your Thoughts On Cadillac and BMW?

Over the past few weeks Cadillac has become very bold, and rightfully so, with the unveiling of their new ATS-V Coupe. This has lead to a lot of banter on the Internet, with some going as far to say that BMW should be looking in their rearview mirror because Cadillac is catching up with the German luxury car manufacturer. The BMW faithful are defending their favorite cars, while fans of the new Cadillacs are beginning to believe GM’s luxury branch has finally made a comeback in the luxury car market. What do you think? Is Cadillac inching closer behind BMW, or should the people in Munich just laugh at Cadillac’s show of force?

The BMW product line has certainly been extended the past few years, and with the BMW M4, and the highly anticipated four-door BMW 435i Gran Coupe, it doesn’t look like they’re going to give up ground easily. While Cadillac’s newer designs and breath of fresh air is encouraging, can they compete with a luxury brand that seems to be sticking their nose into every market in the automotive world? BMW continues to push their SUV and crossover models, the new 2 series is sure to be a hit with the younger generations, and their 3 and 5 series sedans are still experiencing strong sales figures this year.

What are your thoughts on Cadillac and or BMW? Is Cadillac ready to take the stage? Or do you not like both and prefer an Audi, Mercedes Benz, or maybe even Volvo due to what they’ve been doing lately. The great thing about the automotive world is that it’s constantly evolving. What might be exciting and popular today, might be old news by tomorrow. Right now BMW is still riding on their popularity over the past decade, while Cadillac is trying to revitalize their sluggish sales figures and create a buzz for their cars that hasn’t been seen in years.

More Car Buyers Are Leasing and That’s Good For You

The percentage of Americans leasing cars has boomed to 20% over the past few years. Rough economic times, better leasing offers, and car manufacturers creating better vehicles has helped spur the growing number of consumers leasing instead of buying new. Some car dealers may prefer that most consumers would much rather buy, and that leaves the opportunity for those who buy certified pre-owned vehicles with an endless array of quality cars at reasonable prices. As with most trends in the economy, there is always an opportunity for someone to walk away with a great deal, and right now it’s time to take advantage of the leasing craze that is growing across the country.

Tesla just unveiled a leasing program for their Model S, which will now make monthly payments cheaper for the consumer.

From the Wall Street Journal

With sales of its electric sedan declining in its home market, Tesla Motors Inc. this week launched U.S. incentives that cut its monthly lease price and aim to convince potential customers that buying the car is a safe financial bet.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said the Silicon Valley car maker is joining with U.S. Bank to cut monthly lease payments by as much as 25%. In a blog post on Saturday, he credited the bank’s lower cost of capital for the lease-rate cut. He also unveiled a “happiness guarantee,” promising to take back cars within the first 90 days of ownership “if you don’t like your car for any reason.” The return policy doesn’t allow a buyer to swap for another vehicle.

While some would say this is because of declining sales, this is happening across the board for most auto manufacturers. Leasing is becoming the new normal, especially with the uncertainty of the long term health of the economy. You might ask, “So where are the opportunities?”. Here are three cars that are under $25,000 and are from luxury brands that can be found on dealership lots. Best of all, they’re certified pre-owned and the mileage is below 31,000.

1) Volkswagen GTI/Wolfsburg Edition

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It’s not too uncommon to find Volkswagen Golfs, but to find multiple GTIs spanning from the years of 2011-2013 is very surprising. Even better for the consumer, there are a few Wolfsburg edition GTIs on the market that are under $25,000, one of which has only 5,000 miles on it. These are gems, and with the turbocharged engine that supplies 200 hp, you get performance and cargo room which is always a plus.

2) 2011 Lexus IS 250

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To see these under $25,000 with close to 20,000 miles is certainly an eye opener. A local Lexus dealer outside of Boston has a few of these, and even though they are the base models, they’re still fully equipped and in great condition. Navigation system and backup assist make you feel like you’re getting away with more than what you paid for, but these are the types of deals that are out there. Seeing a Lexus IS on the market in great condition and not overly driven, it makes you question why there are certified pre-owned Toyota Camry’s and Chevrolet Malibu’s in the same price range.

3) 2011 BMW 3 Series

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Just as the Lexus IS, the model year may be the only reason why these luxury cars have depreciated in value. There are BMW 328i X-drives that only have 25,000 – 30,000 miles on them and priced under or at $25,000. Once again, this is a luxury sedan that will make your mouth water because to see a BMW in unbelievable condition at that price was unheard of a few years ago.

When seeing offers and deals like this, it really makes you consider going the certified pre-owned route. The automotive market is evolving, and unlike 10-15 years ago, going used isn’t a bad thing, especially when you have three solid vehicles at reasonable prices. This is only the beginning though. Seeing that there is no reason to believe the leasing trend is going to slow down, there will be more opportunities down the road. Who knows what will be on the market a year or two from now, and maybe there will be better offers than there are right now.

Acura Going AWD To Compete With Subaru and Audi?

CIAS 2013 - 2014 Acura RLX
MSVG / Foter / CC BY

According to a report by Automotive News, Acura is looking to make AWD standard on all their models and go the route of Subaru and Audi. But is it too late for the Honda-owned luxury car manufacturer?

While going AWD creates benefits for the consumer, Acura has to distinguish themselves from Subaru and Audi first. What is the Acura brand? Who are they marketing to, and are they a luxury car company, or more similar to Subaru who market to consumers that need AWD to deal with snow and difficult terrain?
Subaru has already built up a strong tradition of manufacturing durable and long lasting AWD sedans and station wagons, and their Impreza and Legacy are in a league of their own that’s very difficult to break through and compete.

Audi on the other hand is pure luxury that offers AWD as standard, but their cars are predicated on luxury more than off-road capability. Their sedans and smaller crossovers are competing against BMW and Mercedes Benz, and it would be a mistake for Acura to jump into the fray and compete against the best the automotive world has to offer.

Acura needs to change their image, or promote the brand that displays a definte direction so consumers know exactly what they’re buying. Introducing a crossover SUV wouldn’t be a bad place to start, and then figure out where their sedans compete in the automotive market. 

AWD is the right answer, but to the wrong question. Consumers don’t know where Acura fits in the luxury market, and they have no idea whether it’s a luxury brand or not, especially with the changes they’ve made to their lineup by getting rid of the TL and TSX. Acura has a lot of questions to answer and evaluate where their brand stands among its competitors, but when it comes to standardizing AWD on all their models, they’re on the right track.