Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Versa is coming

Well, we're almost certainly going to add a third car tonight. (Updated: We did it. The car makes one hell of a first impression. I was only marginally excited, and I'm up to moderately excited.)

We started poking around for a $3000 beater that got decent gas mileage—something for me to drive to work, and for either of us to drive in the evenings. Thing is, we're hardly the first folks to have that idea, and $4 gas has inflated resale values significantly. Great for sellers; not so much for buyers.

So we're going to drive a Nissan Versa 1.8SL sedan this evening, and barring an unexpectedly offensive test drive, we'll buy it.
This is not what I had in mind for my next new car purchase. I envisioned driving my F-150 for another year or two and buying a 2010 Accord coupe, with the V6 and 6-speed manual. However, I also didn't count on spending $250 monthly to keep the F-150 fueled. When we figured out we could come up with half of the car payment just in fuel savings, it wasn't too tough to make the call.

And the Versa's not so bad. It still looks like a clown car—big, Deputy Dawg greenhouse and little tiny black Cheerios for tires—but it's not as offensive-looking to me as some of the other offerings in this segment. I was pleased with the level of equipment available. The rags say it's not a great handler—body roll from the tallness and what-not—but I expect it'll feel plenty spry to me after coming out of a half-ton crew-cab pickup.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about it in the weeks to come.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Cadillac prepares to lop its own head off

I never trust General Motors to act in its own best interest. The company's history—at least the past four decades or so—is riddled with tales of doing the wrong thing too long and the right thing not long enough.

In one of my earliest posts on Cowl Shake, I applauded Cadillac's rebirth as a meaningful world player. Near the end of the piece, I wrote "Though history is less than fully encouraging, let's hope GM leaves the division alone."

Wishful thinking, it seems. According to this Jamie Kitman column, Cadillac is going to kill its signature Northstar V8 without replacing it. So, having steadily rebuilt Cadillac's credibility with a steady stream of sound product decisions, GM is now content to march the division out back and lop its head off.

I'm certain that thoroughly reasonable people have made this decision. After all, a V8 is not a necessity, and we're in the days of $4 gasoline. But luxury cars are not about reason. Moreover, the effect of its presence in the lineup is more subjective than objective. It need not be a high-volume engine to have the desired halo effect. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Lexus, Infiniti—all have V8s (or larger!) in their respective lineups, but all make their volume on smaller engines.

I suppose Cadillac will still have it over Lincoln, small victory though that is.

One hopes Kitman's assessment is overly pessimistic. After all, if Cadillac kills the Northstar and doesn't replace it, it doesn't mean they can't continue to commandeer a corporate V8 when needed. Surely they're not going to try to pitch us a turbo V6 Escalade, for example?

Do the right thing, GM. Perform above expectations. Keep the Cadillac V8.