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AutoBuyology 101©

An Arts & Sciences Crash Ph.D. Course in CarBuyology 101©
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Mini-Van and Vehicle JunkYard
  • (May.June) Cadillac has corrected its error in claiming it outsold the Lincoln Town Car recently (So big deal, even if it had, European and Asian luxury cars are outselling both). And it is recalling the Seville due to possible combustible problems. Contact your dealer or Cadillac/General Motors for details, soon. In the meanwhile consider not parking these cars in garages or other enclosed areas or near flamable materials.


  • (May/June 1999) Chrysler is recalling some of its Caravans and Villager Mini Vans. Possible fire ignition problem. Contact your dealer or Chrysler for details as soon as possible. In the meanwhile park it in the driveway away from buildings or flamable materials.


  • Family Mini-vans fail crash tests. (The real ones done by the Insurance Companies) Nine mini-vans tested by the National Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (check our Auto Consumer Reference Page) failed 5 mph crash tests. Ford Aerostar failed the worst with damages amounting to over $5,700+, about 1/3 the sticker price of the mini-van new. The Honda Oddessy (Ordeal?) rated the best with costs for damages around $400+. The average damages caused from the 5 mph crash tests was around $1,400+. More good reasons to become a Guerrilla Car Consumer and not pay too much for cheap imitation bumpers.

    Of course Ford attacked the methodology of the tests, suggesting perhaps somewhat accurately that the tests do not predict actual accident scenarios or damages. In actual accidents usually two or more vehicles are involved and speeds usually combined exceed 5 mph, likely resulting in much greater damage and costs. Good point, Ford (Fix Or Repair Daily?).

    Factor in the unpredictability of the angles of impact and the grinding, twisting or torquing effects of braking or swerving to avoid impact, and actual damages and costs could far exceed those of controlled accident scenarios carried out in a crash test lab at only 5 miles per hour (mph). More good excuses to not pay too much for mini-vans and to keep your insurance deductible low, and have the manufacturer or dealer carry the costs for the lowered deductible as part of the deal negotiations.

    Oh yeah, and the manufacturers defended mini-van bumpers by stating that they meet all Federal standards. They conveniently failed to say that mini-vans, trucks and sport utility vehicles are not even required to meet standard sedan bumper standards, which were reduced from 5 mph to 2 mph by the anti-consumer policies of the Reagan Administration. Don't pay more for less. Make a "ding list" of all the reasons to pay less for a vehicle and keep this close to you during deal negotiations. Try not to buy the "space frame" or "crush zone" argument that dealers use to soften or loosen up consumers who question bumper design and durability. Many of the mini-vans used to haul families around are rated poorly by the National Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, even though the vehicles may or may not meet "all federal crash tests."

    For low impact accidents its not unreasonable that cars, mini-vans, light trucks and sport utility vehicles be fitted with a bumper to absorb energy and diminish the damages of low to moderate impacts. Manufacturers are merely passing costs downhill to consumer by not competing on providing real bumpers on these vehicles, instead towing the line on meeting only the letter of minimum standards, which are often inadequate when they exist at all.

    Look around at other older cars with real bumpers. Note that many bumpers are dinged and battered, while the body of the vehicle in many cases have been spared damage. That is what bumpers were designed to do, to protect consumers from the added expense of "body blows" in minor impacts and to absorb energy in moderate impacts.

    Manufacturers boast that auto quality has improved, when in fact sheet metal has been squeezed nearly paper thin making it dingable by falling pinecones or by merely leaning against a vehicle. Plastic has replaced metal bumpers and other parts, and prices of automobiles have outpaced increases in the inflation rate. Computer technology evolves at a rapid pace yet prices come down noticeably in short periods of time due to competition. On the other hand, automobiles which have not evolved technologically over the past five to ten years, except to incorporate cheaper and cheaper computerized technology, have increased in price at a fire sale pace. As long as consumers continue to pay too much for cheaper and cheaper automobile products, that what we will be served.

    Ask for a plastic to metal ratio before buying your next automobile mistake.

    The new fake "integral bumpers" and reshapeable plastic bumper ferrings or covers guarantee that more extensive damages and costs will be incurred in low impacts, with added costs accruing to the consumer, and increased profits accruing to manufacturer of overpriced replacement molded plastic parts.

    Before buying, price and compare the relative replacement costs of the bumpers and deduct this cost from your final offer. Man, can plastic really be this expensive? Price the cost of the plastic wheel covers (hub caps) and ask for a free spare prior to buying. Don't be surprised if a replacement hub cap runs around $75 to $100 or more each for cheap molded plastic in most cases. And expect the dealer and manufacturer to blame labor unions for excessive costs, instead of excessive management costs, unchecked profit creep, and executive salaries, and that big boat at the marina.

    Do the same for "plastic veneering" (veneering according to Websters: A thin finishing or surface layer bonded to an inferior substratum; Surface show; gloss; to overlay with a veneer.) or molding along the bottom of doors or along the sides of vehicles (sometimes these molded plastic veneers cover flimsy metal rods that are supposed to pass for bumpers beneath, or to hide the fact that no token steel bumper actually exists beneath the molding or bumper cover.

    Replacement costs for these molded plastic "cover-ups" or trim items can leave even the most car deal war experienced Guerrilla Car Consumer in tears, bleeding, and unconscious. The slightest scraping from an indelicate fellow motorist in any common parking lot, along local community streets, or in freeway commute driving can result in very expensive repair and replacement costs. Also ask to see the cheep plastic fastenings with which the plastic molding is attached to the vehicle. Make sure the price quoted for the replacement parts include all fastening and finishing items and installation costs. Don't be low-balled into a sham deal or into paying too much for your next car deal mistake. CARveat Emptor!

    Now, where did they put the gas tank this time...? Uh huh?

General Motors is reported to be having problems with some of its Anti-locking Braking Systems (ABS) systems. The ones made by Varity-Kelsey-Hayes Company have been reported on national television (aired on the West Coast, November 11, 1996) to be seriously flawed in design, creating potentially hazardous driving situations for owners and others who share the road.

GM says that the problem is with drivers pumping the brakes instead of holding steady pressure on the brake pedal. However 7450 '91-96 GM Suburban, Jimmy, and other GM vehicle owners have filed complaints, some disputing GM's claims that the brakes are OK and the driver's are faulty. 2006 GM vehicle owners have blamed accidents on failure of the braking systems which they say failed to work or stop the vehicle. 600 injuries have been reported to have been caused by failure of GM ABS braking systems. CARveat Emptor.

Consumers should completely research all of the mechanical systems on the make and model of vehicle they are considering "investing" in (especially the braking system), and make sure that they are compatible with consumer expectations.

Report all automobile safety related problems to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in Washington, D.C. Call 1-800-434-9393. NHTSA is also a good vehicle quality research resource. Request safety related reports on any vehicle make and model before buying. The report makes a great consumer ding list to bargain for better pricing. Report vehicle safety problems to NHTSA too.

December 26, 1996
Hyundai is reportedly experiencing massive labor strikes in Korea. Watch the low-end quality problems for the next six months to a year...or so?

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Tricks of the Great American Car Deal,
© Copyright 1995-2012, R. Rand Knox. All Rights Reserved.
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Safe Car Deal Sex © Copyright June 1996-2010, R. Rand Knox,
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Happy wheeling and dealing,
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