New Ride

As you saw in my last post, I was involved in a bit of an accident recently. I’m back to normal, but my Jetta isn’t. In fact, after initially saying they were going to fix it the insurance company decided to total it out.

I was a bit concerned at first because I was worried about having to replace the first new car I’d ever bought. It had all the options I wanted, and the exact color combination I wanted. I bought new so I wouldn’t have to settle on any of those decisions. And then suddenly it looked like I was going to have to.

As I began my car search, I had a few models in mind — either stick with a Jetta or maybe move up to a Passat or an Audi A4. I was amazed how rare the dark blue/tan leather combination was! I searched cars.com, autotrader.com, CarMax and elsewhere. The cars I saw ones I saw were either older (no warranty left), without leather, or I’d have to settle on a different color combo. Saw some blue with grey, some black with tan, etc.

After test driving a blue/grey Passat Friday night, I found the perfect car on Saturday morning. I walked into the Autobarn – Evanston’s used VW showroom and there it was!

2002 VW Passat GLS – same exact color combination as my Jetta, same turbo engine, same options (except single CD instead of changer), same everything basically. But 12k less miles. And I was able to get it for a price that only extended my payments a few months. I really hit the jackpot on this one. I’ll post some pics soon…

Control-Z

Sometimes it’d be nice if life had an undo command like computers. Alas, it does not. While not official yet, it sounds like my car is dead. At least that’s what the police officer on the scene and the tow truck driver both said — and I’d trust they’ve seen enough accidents to know.

Driving home from an appointment Thursday afternoon, I was rear ended on Rt. 41 at Half Day Rd. in Highland Park, IL. Heading southbound, I came to a stop at a red light. The Infiniti QX4 behind me did not. The driver claimed he looked down for a second and didn’t see the light change. A witness yelled to me as he drove by that the guy was on his cell phone.

I’m for the most part OK. My neck, shoulders and back are a little sore but I think Tylenol, heat and time will be enough. My car isn’t as well off. My 2002 Jetta, only months from being paid off, is in pretty sorry shape. Here are some more pics of the damage. I’m waiting to hear back from my insurance company about whether they can fix my car, or whether I need to get a new one.

So Close, but So Far

During my annual vacations in Puerto Vallarta, I’ve noticed more and more car models available down there that we cannot get in the U.S.

For the past couple years, I’ve been seeing the Nissan X-TRAIL — an attractive, smaller SUV that is most likely car-based. At least in Mexico, it prices in just below the X-Terra we can get here in the U.S. It seems like it’d be a nice competitor to the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Excape, etc. So why doesn’t Nissan sell the model north of the border? Nissan’s small SUV is the rugged, truck-based X-Terra. But in other SUV segments, Nissan offers both ends of the spectrum. In the mid-sized segment, they offer the truck-based Pathfinder as well as the car-based Murano. So why not offer the X-Trail here, too?

I’ve also noticed that many of the European makers sell their vehicles in Mexico yet remain out of the U.S. market — Alfa Romeo, Renault, Seat, Peugeot. Oh, how I wish they sold the Alfa 156, Renault Laguna, Seat Cordoba or the Peugeot 406 coupe here.

I realize that it is expensive to move into a new market. They’d need to set up dealership networks, merket the vehicles, etc. But it seems like the payoff would be much greater in the world’s most lucrative auto market. If they’ve already developed the channels to import the cars into North America, it seems silly not to tap into a much larger market that’s right there.

In the past, cars have been marketed primarily through expensive advertising such as television and national magazines. But it seems to me that cars could be marketed very effectivly without resorting to the high cost advertising used by GM, Ford, Toyota, etc.

But autos lend themselves to word-of-mouth marketing better than nearly any product. They’re an emotional purchase — how many people spend so much more than they’d need to for basic transportation because they love the design, performance or status of a particular car. These cars are driven places and they act as billboards just by being on the road. That’s exactly how I learned about the models referred to earlier. And how many people attend auto shows each year? Auto shows provide a perfect opportunity to put a product in front of the target market, both those looking for a new car as well as car buffs who are often asked for advice by friends and family. Car magazines provide free coverage (well except maybe the cost associated with loaning a demo car), and give consumers more insight into their performance. And don’t forget the web. Studies show that a large majority of car shoppers begin their research online before ever heading to a dealership, and the combination of manufacturer sites, general auto sites and fan sites provide a number of opportunities to spread the word about new models available.

Hopefully, some of the Euro car makers will realize this and return to the U.S. market. Alfa has been discussing it for years now, and I can’t wait to get myself a 156.

Chicago Auto Show

The Chicago Auto Show opened on Friday, so I checked it out with a friend Saturday afternoon.

After too many trips with people who couldn’t last through the entire show (even the tiny Atlanta one) I’ve gone alone the past couple years. I’d head down there after work on a less crowded weeknight and stay until they closed–a good 4 hours to enjoy the cars. However, my friend was as into the show as I was and we ended up spending 6 hours at the Auto Show on Saturday! We got there around 4 and again didn’t leave until kicked out.

I think I’ve now got a new front-runner for my next car–provided Alfa Romeo doesn’t return to the U.S. by the time my Jetta‘s paid off.

The new Volvo S40 looks amazing, inside and out! The new model has a 218 HP engine available, which means it should be pretty fast, too! I plan to go take one for a test drive when they hit the dealers next month.

However, if for some reason uBid goes public or I win the lottery, I want the Maserati Quattroporte. I don’t know what it is about Italian designed cars…