Saturday, March 16, 2013

As the Auto Mile Turns

Place: PF Chang's
Lunch: Kung Pao scallops, fried rice, egg drop soup, Coke

PF Chang's has a lunch menu?  Who knew.  You get a small portion entree with your choice of rice and soup or salad.  The egg drop soup was bland until I thought to put some of that sauce they make at your table in it to give it a kick.  That totally worked.

I was seriously craving Taco Casa yesterday.  But Taco Casa is in Texas, so I figured I'd go to Abelardo's after work.  But I was ALSO going to go to Aldi after work, and the Abelardo's near Aldi hasn't opened yet.  (It's opening next week.)  So I ended up at Tasty Tacos, which did nothing to satisfy my craving for Taco Casa.  But it did mean I had to drive down one of the local "auto miles" along the way.  That took me by our new Fiat dealership no longer a Fiat dealership.  It's now a Buick-GMC dealership.

That was fast.

So I checked the news and found out the company Fiat begged to open a franchise here (their first in this market) was later begged by GM to open a GMC-Buick dealership on this side of town.  So they did, and they moved Fiat into another old car dealership building that happened to be for sale.

The original short-lived Fiat dealership was housed in a really old building that's been the home of many car makes over the years and has never been remodeled.  It's kind of cool in that way.  It sat abandoned for a long time after its last tenant, Mitsubishi, moved into a new facility.  But it was going to get a major overhaul for Fiat (and will anyway for GM.  I should go photograph it before they get around to that.)

The "new" Fiat dealership used to be a Hyundai dealership.  Hyundai moved into the neighboring building that used to be a Honda dealership after Honda moved into the neighboring building on the other side that used to be...wait for it...the GMC dealership.

The GMC franchise was lost to the guys who had the Pontiac and Buick dealerships in two buildings about halfway between the old GMC dealership and what's now going to be the new Buick-GMC dealership.  They consolidated all three brands under one roof for a year before GM killed the Pontiac brand, begged the government for loads of money, and shed a bunch of dealerships...including the newly consoldated Pontiac-GMC-Buick dealership.

Said dealership appealed the decision and for an entire model year kept up the facade they were still a dealership when they weren't.  They had no new cars to sell at all.

But they won their appeal, and became an official dealership again for the next model year.  And when that model year ended, they decided they no longer wanted to be a Buick-GMC dealership and dropped the franchise in favor of being a used car supercenter.

And now the old building just up the street that had sat long abandoned before Fiat showed up is selling Buick and GMC.  That's gotta bunch their panties even more than the fact that Carmax, one of the nation's major used car supercenters, just opened up nearby.  They could have just SOLD their GMC-Buick dealership to these guys instead of abandoning the franchise.


I should've gone to Texas.  I can't handle all this drama.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Auto Show 2013

Place: Taco Tico
Lunch: Four tacos (mild, plus meat, no tomato), cheese enchilada, Pepsi

Jeepers I'm beat.  A week back home taking tours and visiting friends, then flew into Minneapolis yesterday morning, had some lunch, and went straight to the Auto Show.  I was a complete zombie on the drive to the hotel, where I napped extensively.

TRAVEL TIP: If you must fly out of MSP (and God help you if you do), park at an off-site location like EZ-AirPark in Eagan.  They're $5 per day cheaper than MSP's so-called "value parking" (which is $16 per day!) and you don't have to go through the ridiculous process of commuting from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 (which involves a ride on public light rail, at least two extremely long escalator rides from seemingly the Earth's core, a SECOND tram ride, and loads of walking in secret underground corridors).  They take you right to the terminal from your car and right back.  There's some MSP nonsense in getting back to the shuttle when returning (go to Baggage Claim 6, find the cleverly hidden escalator, go down, go by the satellite Delta ticket stations, go right, find the cleverly hidden escalator, go back up to the level you were just freaking on), but it wouldn't be MSP if they didn't make everything as difficult as possible.

I probably missed some cool stuff at the Auto Show because I was tired and because they TOTALLY MOVED EVERYTHING AROUND.  Not fair.  I couldn't even find the Fiats.


TTS Coupe - Beautiful, but when I shut the door it made a cheap "thud" like I haven't heard on a car in years.  Yikes.

Q5 - Q5 got a style refresh for 2013.  Very nice feel, beautiful dash and...a cruise control STEM???  No control for cruise on the steering wheel???  Are you FREAKING KIDDING ME???


Cadillac seemed to be pushing new tech versus new models, although the ATS was on a turntable, and the SRX may have gotten a style refresh.  I can't remember from appearance.  And I even drove a rental SRX last year.


Camaro - They had a Camaro "Hot Wheels" edition convertible.  You know...the little die-cast metal Hot Wheels?  It had a cool new blue color and Hot Wheels badges.  Neato.

Impala - All the attention was going to the new 2014 Impala, which looked great inside and out.  Fewer of the ugly interior curves Chevy's recently cursed models with on the two-tone dash.  Looked WAY better than anything on the Ford stand, but have you noticed Fords are getting REALLY ugly?

Spark - How do you make a car called "Spark" and NOT have it be electric??? EV version is coming for 2014?  Okay, never mind.

Silverado - It's all new for 2014.  From a looks standpoint, it doesn't stray too far from the farm.  Which is probably a good thing for Silverado fans.

Traverse - New styling.  Much improved backside, replacing what was one of the ugliest rear ends in automotive history.

Volt - FINALLY sat in one.  Man these are ugly.  The dash has stubby touch buttons.  Guy also sitting in it compared it to a microwave oven.  Have to agree with that.


Dart - The new Dart has nothing to do with the disastrous Dart of days gone by, and interest in it is high.  It has lots of tech on the inside that somehow feels cheap to me.  I'm betting that, like many Dodge models, it'll look dated in a couple of years.  I have to say that Dodge's "Dart Registry" marketing idea, where you get friends and relatives to commit to buying pieces of your ride, is genius.


Escape - The all-new Escape is out and selling well despite several recalls.  Feels okay, but awfully knob and button heavy.  Not impressed with the controls.

Shelby GT500 - A white customized 'Stang with Shelby cobra badges on the outside and what I'm sure is some serious motor on the inside.  Sexy. I drove a Mustang rental last year and was pleasantly surprised with it, until I drove it at night.  Didn't care for the dash illumination, which is a big deal for a night driver like me.


GMC hid their stand deep in the back corner of the Chevy display so that Nissan couldn't cleverly place their trucks next to them this year.  Chickens.  The entire staff dove for cover when they saw me coming.

Sierra - All new for 2014.  Haven't we seen that front end on a Ford before?


Santa Fe - The all new Santa Fe replaces the old Santa Fe AND the discontinued larger Veracruz.  Really...there's the standard version and a longer version with a third row of seats.  The short version is the "Sport" model, then there's the longer pretend-it's-not-a-minivan "GLS", and the pretend-it's-not-a-minivan-while-riding-in-luxury "Limited".  It was one of the most popular vehicles at the show, so of course Hyundai made ONE available for climbing into.  There were like THREE freaking Velosters for crying out loud.

Elanta Coupe - Isn't that girl who can't decide between models in the Elantra commercial annoying?  I about fell asleep when I climbed into it though.  REALLY boring styling.  But it's cheap transportation, so what do you expect.

Veloster - Neat big start button in the middle of the center console.  They had a chrome one on display.  Google should sue.


Infiniti last year moved their headquarters to Hong Kong, hired former Audi USA yes man Johan de Nysschen to head the division, and announced they were re-naming their entire lineup after Jollibee's combo menu (my interpretation, not theirs).  Turns out the reset wasn't the worst possible option.  It was later reported Nissan considered discontinuing the Infiniti brand completely.  Dicks.

Q50 - The next gen G37 gets all sorts of new advancements, including the cup holders from the Nissan Rogue.  (Which, seriously, is an improvement.  Infiniti has become my go-to rental car make and the old cup holders sent more 44oz drink cups flying than any other car I've driven.  That's NEVER EVER EVEN ONCE happened in my Rogue.)  Too bad they didn't actually HAVE one here.

EX/FX37 - The EX and FX moved up to the 3.7 litre V6 (from the old 3.5) so they got new names that will only last a year since they're getting Q badging next year.  But after sitting in the new Nissan models and seeing their new style and tech, it's evident that most of Infiniti's models are SERIOUSLY dated and need updating STAT.


Jeep built an obstacle course into one entire end of the hall and were letting attendees drive it.  They also may have been displaying a vehicle or two.  Maybe.  No, I didn't drive the course.


Altima - America's second-best selling sedan is all new and really nice.  Even the base model feels swanky.  It's full of tech goodies, has really nice seats, and looks good without making noise.  Now where's the new coupe version?

Leaf - It's not selling all that well, so Nissan has introduced a lower-end model to try and boost sales.  Still ugly, but intriguing.

Sentra - The new Sentra looks really nice and has some impressive tech for a car in this price segment, but reviewers who have driven it say the fun pretty much ends there.

Pathfinder - Pathfider is also all new and has moved from a truck platform to a car, making it an overglorified minivan.  It's pretty ordinary looking.  Back seat leg room is atrocious.  Even if the woman in the drivers seat had the seat all the way back, this was really bad, inexcusable in a model of this size.


BRZ Coupe - Holy crap.  A cool Subaru?  This is one sharp looking coupe with a 200hp four cylinder available with a six speed manual.  Reasonably priced, good gas mileage, and good looking.  HUH?  It was apparently co-developed with Toyota, who have their own version known as the Scion FR-S.  Apparently neither is available in AWD form, which is completely out of character on the Subaru side.  Even more odd for a four cylinder, it's RWD.  But the reviews are off the chart on how awesome it is.  Teens were totally into it.  I had a hard time getting out of it.  I'm apparently getting too old for low-riding coupes.


RAV4 - The long overdue fourth generation RAV4 finally arrives.  The rear-mounted spare is gone and a proper liftgate is added.  Those were probably the two biggest issues with potential buyers.  The new dash layout is snazzy while also being simple, though some packages can be tech heavy (which is a good thing).  The V6 is's a four-cylinder affair all the way now (or EV, there's an electric version).  A new six speed transmission replaces the ridiculously outdated four speed.  This is on my short list of potential next cars, though I'll probably end up with the next gen Rogue.  My Rogue has just been awesome.


Golf - The new seventh generation Golf, the world's best selling car, debuted this year.  Except in the US, where we keep the old one for another year because Volkswagen believes the United States is a third-world country.  What happened to you, Volkswagen?  You used to be cool.

Jetta - The once Golf-with-a-trunk that now looks more like a 15-year old Impala is available as a hybrid.  I could not for the life of me find a comfortable seating position.

Passat - The US-built Passat has been a winner for VW and is available with a TDI diesel motor.  I WAS able to find a comfortable driving position in this.

Beetle Convertible - New for 2013.  Looks cool, naturally.  If I were the convertible type, this would probably be the one.

Tiguan - FOUR overhead compartments???  FOUR??? You could have put a SUNROOF there, idiots!


Volvo ended the show for me with the ugliest car there, the C30.  It's a 2-door hatch intended to compete with the VW Golf.


The drive home today has been okay so far given the forecast.  Had a brief bit of nastiness near Fairbault.  Could have more on the second leg.

Oh well.  I'm coming, kitties.