New Suzuki Jimny selling at supercar profit margins

Suzuki Jimny mark-up

The latest Suzuki Jimny is already one of 2019’s most-wanted cars. Now, ratifying that cult status, a private buyer has advertised one for £5,000 above list price.

This new Jimny is for sale on Auto Trader for a heady £24,950. The strap line? ‘Beat the waiting list!!’

The Jimny has, of course, been lathered with affections by motoring journalists. Whether that would translate into real sales was the question. After all, the Toyota GT86 was equally lauded by the press, yet failed to follow-up with sales success.

Suzuki Jimny mark-up

That’s not the case for the Jimny, it seems. Indeed, the owner of this car claims ‘there’s a year’s waiting list for this car in the UK’.

Jimny residuals are set to be inordinately strong, too – kicking off , apparently, with 125 percent of list price to own one now.  

Such mark-ups are normally the preserve of limited-run sports cars and supercars like the Ford GT, LaFerrari and Porsche 911 R. Early Porsche Cayman GT4s were hitting the classifieds at similarly inflated margins.

Suzuki Jimny mark-up

In reality, the Jimmy is good for going off-road, but struggles a bit at being a normal car. That’s to say, motorway speeds are a windy, noisy struggle, and the space known in other cars as the ‘boot’ is barely larger than a rucksack.

Affairs of the heart recognise no such logic, though. We love the Jimny for its flaws as much as the next person. We’re not sure we’d pay £25,000 for one, though.

If you’re interested, this car is a 1.5-litre auto with the £650 Kinetic Yellow paint, and just 90 miles on the odometer. The supply is there but is the demand high enough? Time will tell…

New Renault Clio breaks cover ahead of Geneva 2019 debut

The new Renault Clio’s interior was revealed yesterday (28 January) and now, just 24 hours later, the exterior has been shown for the first time, ahead of the car’s public debut at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. 

We can see Renault’s logic: the revolution with this car comes inside, as the exterior is very much evolutionary. Intentionally so, says designer Laurens van den Acker, pointing to sales figures that have increased year-on-year since the outgoing car was launched in 2012.

“The exterior design of Clio IV won over our customers and continues to do so today, so we chose to keep that DNA, while bringing modernity and elegance to the new model.”

Renault adds that the new car really is 100 percent new. 

All-new 2019 Renault Clio

So while the curves and bulges of the old car are still present within an evolutionary profile, the details have been honed and refined. Look at the ribs on the bonnet, says Renault; the bigger grille, the more pronounced front bumper. 

The headlights are now 100 percent LED across the range, and more like jewellery than ever before. There are also LED lights at the rear, and both have a C-shaped light signature. 

At the side, fancy chrome window surrounds offset gloss black pillars, and the hidden rear door handle remains. There are premium-style creases in the body surface and tiny little chrome-plated ‘Clio’ logos on the lower body sides.

Renault says everything has been reworked for much higher perceived quality.

Oh, and the new Clio is actually smaller than the old model, by 14mm in length and up to 30mm in height. Despite this, it’s bigger inside, with the boot now holding 391 litres: a new record for the supermini sector.

Renault is also proud of the new Clio’s paint. Ten colours are available, including new Celadon Blue and this vivid Valencia Orange. It uses a special new paint varnish that offers “unprecedented depth and radiance,” apparently. It’s an automotive industry first for this new paint tech.

All-new 2019 Renault Clio

A new trim level has already been confirmed by Renault for the new Clio. Called RS Line, it replaces the old GT-Line and matches Renault Sport trimmings with a more efficient range of engines. 

Key features include 17-inch alloys, an F1-blade front bumper, honeycomb grille and, inside, sports seats, aluminium pedals and carbon-style dash inserts.

One in five drivers admit to poor eyesight

Driving eyesight

New research has uncovered the worrying eyesight of Britain’s drivers. More than a fifth (21 percent) say road signs appear blurry when driving.

The research, by specialist eye hospital group Optegra, also revealed that 27 percent find it hard to see when driving at night. That may sound obvious, but our ability to deal with varying levels of light, such as when cars and streetlights pass through our field of vision, is vitally important. Four in 10 said they experience distracting levels of glare from other cars’ lights in the dark.

In addition, 28 percent of the drivers admitted they wished they could see better when driving. And 17 percent said they did not feel safe driving because of the quality of their eyesight.

Short-sighted youth

Driving eyesight

Interestingly, it’s a major issue with young drivers. One in five British drivers had to buy glasses or contact lenses in order to pass their test.

Incredibly, as many as 44 percent of 16-24 year-olds say road signs appear blurry. Over half said they are majorly affected by light glare at night – and 39 percent said they don’t feel safe driving because of their eyesight.

“This concerning data really worries me – that so many drivers are citing problems with their vision when driving,” said Optegra eye surgeon, Shafiq Rehman.

“It is so, so vital that all drivers see well. As we have heard in the news recently, accidents can so easily happen”.

What are the DVLA ‘standards of vision for driving’?

Driving eyesight

As quoted directly from the DVLA site, ‘you must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres’.

‘You must also meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving by having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, in that eye.

‘You must also have an adequate field of vision – your optician can tell you about this and do a test.

‘At the start of your practical driving test you have to correctly read a number plate on a parked vehicle. If you can’t, you’ll fail your driving test and the test won’t continue. The DVLA will be told and your licence will be revoked.’

Keyless theft shock: most popular cars are the easiest to steal

Ford Fiesta keyless theft

Four of the top five best-selling new cars on sale today are among the most susceptible to keyless car theft. That’s according to a new report by consumer group, Which?.

The big four are the Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Nissan Qashqai. All are highly vulnerable to keyless theft.

The Which? research covered 237 car models equipped with keyless technology. Among these, all but seven could be opened and started using relay boxes. A further four models could either be accessed or started using this tech.

It’s worth noting from the off, however, that keyless theft is not impossible to prevent.

The safest keyless cars on sale

2019 Jaguar I-Pace keyless theft

It seems Jaguar Land Rover has upped its security game in recent years, after a spate of Range Rover thefts involving key cloning. According to the Which?, the latest Discovery, Range Rover and new Jaguar I-Pace aren’t currently susceptible to relay-style attacks.

Which was the odd one out of the top five best-sellers? Why, the humble Vauxhall Corsa, of course, given its lack of a keyless option.

What is a relay attack?

Keyless car theft

This type of theft usually takes place at the car owner’s home, due to how it works. One of two thieves stands as close to the house as possible, while the other waits by the car.

The box relays the signal from the key inside the house to the car. This fools the car into thinking the key is closer and unlocks it, ready to start. 

What are the latest car theft numbers?

New taskforce to tackle vehicle theft

Between March 2017 and March 2018, there were 106,000 car thefts reported to the police in England and Wales. Thats the highest number since 2009. Figures from the West Midlands Police reveal that car theft almost doubled in 2017 compared to 2015, with 9,451 incidents versus 5,344.

Earlier in January 2019, a new task force was called for by the policing minister Nick Hurd to combat the ‘epidemic’ of car theft. Vehicle crime has increased by seven percent over the past 12 months, ‘leaving no community unaffected’.

Numbers are still lower than they were in the 1990s, but it’s plain to see they’re on the rise. 

SMMT: “New cars are more secure than ever”

Vauxhall tops Scottish car sales

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is eager to calm hysteria around keyless theft.

“New cars are more secure than ever, and the latest technology has helped bring down theft dramatically with, on average, less than 0.3 percent of the cars on our roads stolen,” said Mike Hawes, head of the SMMT.

Hawes went on to say that motor manufacturers need to keep on top of their game, but added that the technology thieves use needs to be regulated and taken off-sale.

“We continue to call for action to stop the open sale of equipment with no legal purpose that helps criminals steal cars.”

Ferrari is now the strongest brand in the world

Ferrari fans with the Scuderia logo

The Global 500 – the annual report on the world’s most valuable brands – has been revealed for 2019 by Brand Finance. Who holds the top spot, then? Apple? Google? Wrong. It’s a brand from the automotive industry: Ferrari.

That’s right, Ferrari is officially as the world’s strongest brand, period. It scored a 94.8 out of 100, with an AAA+ rating. That’s an increase of 3.3 points from 91.5 last year, allowing it to overtake McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Lego and Disney.  It previously held first place in 2014.

How do you work out the strength of a brand?

A multitude of factors play into the strength of a brand. Brand Finance looked at marketing investment, stakeholder equity and business performance. By these measures, Ferrari joins just 14 other brands in this year’s Global 500 that receive an AAA+ rating.

It’s not just Ferrari’s cars that reinforce its status. A global brand of merchandise, theme parks and a hotel fortify the marque’s presence and public awareness of it, without damaging its appeal as a luxury motor manufacturer.

Ferrari’s brand strength has strengthened its value, too. This year, the company is 27 percent up, with an $8.3 billion valuation.

Ferrari Portofino road trip

“As the world’s foremost luxury carmaker, Ferrari has an unparalleled level of brand recognition, upholding excellence for design and innovation,” said David Haigh CEO, Brand Finance.

“The prancing horse logo is a perfect symbol of the brand’s strength and vitality as it plans new models and reaches outside the auto industry.”

Other luxury automotive brands also carry major consumer appeal. Both BMW and Porsche get AAA brand strength ratings.

1967 Chevrolet C10 Series Half Ton Pickup

7 hot classic cars for under $10K

1967 Chevrolet C10 Series Half Ton PickupWe love classic cars. Even more so when we find a good one for a low price, enjoy it for a year or two, and then realize a tidy profit on resale.

That’s the purpose of this list: to spot old cars that have a higher rate of appreciation than those around them. The wonks at Hagerty study auction sales results and insurance activity to reckon the demand for a car in relation to the market overall.

These are the ones that won’t remain affordable for long.

1990–96 Nissan 300ZX

1990 Nissan 300ZX

Average value: $7,000 – $9,600

The second generation Nissan 300ZX was all-new except for its inherited 3.0-liter V6, but even that was updated with dual overhead cams and variable valve timing. The car’s 222 horsepower and rear-wheel drive meant that fun was at the forefront of the driving experience.

Today, the 300ZX is still a bit young to be a coveted classic, but it has an excellent reputation and has created endless diehard enthusiasts out of those lucky enough to own one.

Because of the relatively modern electrical systems, buyers are encouraged to seek examples with well-documented histories. Repairs can be depressingly expensive to fix.

Turbo and convertible versions are available, but demand a premium.

1987–91 Ford Bronco

1987 Ford Bronco

Average value: $8,000 – $9,400

First generation Broncos are now stratospherically expensive and dragging second and third generation prices up, too. Fourth gen models can still be had at affordable prices and offer plenty of fun for the buck.

Three engines were offered, a 145-horsepower straight-six, a 185-horsepower 5.0-liter, and a high-output 210-horsepower 5.8-liter. Fuel injection was introduced across the range in 1988.

Base Custom, middle XLT Lariat, and premium Eddie Bauer versions were offered and reflect pricing variations today. A Silver Anniversary edition was offered for 1991 but sees no significant pricing differences from the other models.

1984–93 Mercedes-Benz 190

1984–93 Mercedes-Benz 190

Average value: $3,200 – $4,000

Looking for something completely different? Mercedes’ first foray into the compact segment offers vintage buyers a taste of luxury in a stylishly reliable package.

The 190E and 190D (diesel) are old and handsome enough to be interesting, and collectors are starting to take note. Rust and neglect are the biggest gremlins; a thorough inspection before buying can avoid unwanted trips to pricy aftermarket parts dealer.

Two variants are highly prized and will be much more expensive, the  2.3 16v and 2.5 16v. These performance models featured a Cosworth 16-valve head, revised suspension, and racy bodywork. While prized, they are not included in our average pricing. A 190D might fetch $4,000 in average condition; a 2.3 16v could easily go for four times that amount.

1997–2004 Porsche Boxster

1997–2004 Porsche Boxster

Average value: $8,000 – $10,000

Porsche was in a bit of trouble in the mid-1990s and decided to release an entry-level model: the Boxster. To save on development costs, the new model used many of the same front end components as the 911.

The Boxster is pure roadster fun and, because of a reputation soiled by a few catastrophic bearing failures, just about the cheapest way to get into a Porsche.

But about that catastrophic failure: the bearing in question is on the intermediate shaft between the crankshaft and the camshafts. If it failed, it would have been necessary to rebuild the engine. The preventative repairs are very expensive compared to the cost of the car, but most examples with high mileage are unlikely to experience the issue. Boxsters with rebuilt engines can also be found.

Year by year updates and improvements add a bit to the price, but base models should hover on the low side of the 10 grand mark.

1985–89 Merkur XR4Ti

1985–89 Merkur XR4Ti

Average value: $2,200 – $2,400

The 1980s were the Age of the Yuppie and German cars like BMW flew off the shelves. Ford shot back with a European model from its German plant. Called the Ford Sierra in Europe, it was rebadged the Merkur XR4Ti here.

Critics loved it, but American buyers couldn’t quite wrap their heads around buying a German car from the Lincoln-Mercury dealership down the street. Few were sold, and even fewer survived.

Build quality is good and performance interesting enough from the 2.3-liter turbo four. The XR4 deserves a second look, and especially at such a ridiculously low price.

Assuming you can find one.

[Editor’s note: 1987 UK version shown]

1986–92 Mazda RX-7

1986–92 Mazda RX-7

Average value: $6,000 – $8,000

Rotary enthusiasts like the second-gen RX-7 for its performance potential, and general lack of interest in the model kept prices low for a long time. That looks to be changing.

Collectors will find the highest gain potential in convertible versions, but most hardcore RX-7 fans like the 182-horsepower turbo models.

A tenth anniversary edition was released in 1987 with a white-on-white exterior and black leather upholstery. Production was limited to 1,500 examples.

The Miata stole much of the RX-7’s thunder beginning in 1989 and the model’s popularity dwindled. Late in the model year, horsepower was upped to 160 for base models and 200 in turbo versions.

1967-72 GMC Chevrolet CK Series Pickups

1967-72 GMC CK-Series Pickups

Average value: $8,000 – $10,000

The second generation C/K trucks brought comfort and convenience to the pickup world. Padded dashboards, safer steering wheels and braking systems made an appearance.

A wide variety of engines were offered, various six-cylinders, small- and big-block V8s. Coil springs continued from the previous generation, and the crisp new appearance was thoroughly modern.

Second gen C/K production was huge and build quality good, so collectors have a wide variety to choose from. Parts are readily available and maintenance simple.

Vintage pickup prices are heating up, and the C/K is easy to love. Chevy versions are slightly more expensive, but virtually identical to their GMC counterparts except for badging and trim choices.

2019 Chevrolet Corvette C7 Racing Drivers Series

These special edition 2019 Chevrolet Corvettes were designed by RACING DRIVERS

2019 Chevrolet Corvette C7 Racing Drivers SeriesChevrolet has announced four special edition versions of the Corvette sports car, with designs created by the Corvette Racing team.

General Motors is no stranger to creating special Corvettes, but these cars are slightly different than normal. The quartet of offerings has seen Corvette Racing drivers select their personal pick of exterior and interior options, intended to reflect their individual tastes.

Suitably, Chevrolet is using this weekend’s 24 Hours of Daytona race to show off the Drivers Series range of cars. The endurance event will see two Corvette Racing C7.R cars competing in the GTLM class, with Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia onboard.

High-speed graphic designs

2019 Chevrolet Corvette C7 Racing Drivers SeriesRather than limiting the Drivers Series cars to just one Corvette model, the design packages can be applied to 2019 1LT, 2LT, 3LT, and Grand Sport cars. It’s simply a case of picking which colour scheme appeals the most, or who your favourite Corvette driver is, from the four options:

Tommy Milner Edition: Two-times Le Mans winner Milner picked Elkhart Lake Blue paintwork with silver stripes and red hash marks, body-color mirrors, black wheels with red stripe and red brake calipers. The interior features Jet Black Suede (or leather), with red seat belts.

Oliver Gavin Edition: British driver Gavin plumped for Shadow Gray exterior with Torch Red center stripe and Torch Red hash marks, plus Carbon Flash mirrors, black wheels with red stripe, red brake calipers. Inside is finished in Adrenaline Red, with red seat belts.

Jan Magnussen Edition: Great Dane Jan Magnussen opted for Arctic White paint with Crystal Red stripes and gray hash marks, body-color mirrors, black wheels with red stripe and red brake calipers. Like the others here, the interior is Jet Black, but has red seat belts.

Antonio Garcia Edition: Racing Yellow exterior with stinger stripe, red hash marks, Carbon Flash mirrors, black wheels with red stripe and red brake calipers are the selections of Señor Garcia. Predictably, the interior is Jet Black interior, but 3LT trim nets yellow stitching.

Racing legends

2019 Chevrolet Corvette C7 Racing Drivers SeriesSpecifying anew Corvette as a Drivers Series car will add $4,995 (£3,780) to the basic price of 1LT and 2LT trims, and $5,995 (£4,540 for the 3LT trimmed ‘Vette.

Standard equipment includes Brembo brakes, an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, uprated suspension, and bodywork tweaks. Corvettes with the Drivers Series package will be able to order from spring 2019, with no mention of limits on how many can be built.

Demand may well depend on whether Corvette Racing can take a 100th IMSA sports car victory at Daytona this weekend. We just hope that the other two Corvette Racing drivers, Mike Rockenfeller and Marcel Fassler, are not too upset about not being asked to design their own cars.

Best Super Bowl car commercials of all time

Super Bowl adsIt’s hard to believe, but Super Bowl ads didn’t used to be a thing. There were no three-minute opuses exulting the virtues of horse-drawn beer, nor widescreen cinemas verite urging us to find our common humanity in soda pop.

Luckily for us, automotive advertising has evolved over the decades to an art form, and nowhere does it reach such oxygen-starved heights as The Big Game.

These are our favorite Super Bowl car commercials.

Super Bowl I: Green Bay 35, Kansas City 10

Ad: 1967 Chevrolet Impala in a Glass Garage
Jan. 15, 1967

Way back in the beginning, Super Bowl commercials weren’t really a thing and 30 seconds of air time went for $42,000 rather than the $5 million it does today. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that fans began to notice the commercials. By the early 1980s, the advertising bar began to rise to the lofty position it holds today.

So, we don’t actually know if this 1967 Chevy Impala ad played during the first Super Bowl, but we hope so. It’s delightfully weird. 

Super Bowl III: New York Jets 16, Baltimore 7

Ad: Chrysler, “Scuba Diver”
Jan. 12, 1969

There’s one hard rule in graphic design: if at any time someone points to your work and says, “Does this look like a swastika to you?” you immediately scrap it, no questions asked.

After viewing this vintage Chrysler ad, we would like to propose one hard rule for video: if at any point someone looks at your work and asks, “Does this remind you of dolphins tripping balls?” you immediately scrap it, no questions asked. 

Super Bowl IV: Kansas City 23, Minnesota 7

Ad: Pontiac, “Humbler”
Jan. 11, 1970

What? You’ve never heard of “The Humbler?”

Pontiac’s Vacuum Operated Exhaust (VOE) was controlled by a discrete knob under the dash. When pulled, exhaust bypassed the stock mufflers for improved air flow, a measurable power gain, and twice the noise.

The increased decibels failed to conform to legal requirements in several states and the option was immediately pulled. This is the only known commercial sighting of The Humbler. 

Super Bowl VI: Dallas 24, Miami 3

Ad: Goodyear, Custom Wide Tread Radial Tires
Jan. 16, 1972

Watching this bloated Mustang wallow through a slalom on then state-of-the-art bologna rounds makes us wonder how anyone survived the Before Times. 

Super Bowl IX: Pittsburgh 16, Minnesota 6

Ad: Chrysler Carnival
Jan. 12, 1975

Oil prices had skyrocketed by 1975 and the auto industry responded with smaller, more fuel-efficient models. Well, most of the auto industry. In order to rid the lots of its large, unpopular offerings, Chrysler introduced the concept of rebates at its “Car Clearance Carnival” in 1975. 

Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31

Ad: AMF (Harley-Davidson), “We Make Weekends”
Jan. 21, 1979

This ad for Malaise Era Harley-Davidson makes us die a little inside. The company was “bought back” by Harley execs and returned to Milwaukee just two years later, and the eagle once again soared alone. 

Super Bowl XIV: Pittsburgh 31, Los Angeles 19

Ad: Ford Thunderbird, “Spread Your Wings”
Jan. 20, 1980

This one is strictly for the nerdiest of car nerds.

At the beginning of the 1970s, computers were the size of refrigerators. Pocket calculators cost hundreds of dollars and weighed over a pound. By 1980, processors were small, light, and cheap enough to run the fuel gauges shown in this Thunderbird. It was the first face of the revolution that changed the world.

And that’s also Wilma Deering from “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.” 

Super Bowl XVI: San Francisco 26, Cincinnati 21

Ad: Subaru, New Subaru Brat
Jan. 24, 1982

A: How much do you want a Brat after seeing this?

B: The Subaru Brat is 55 inches tall. Ruth Gordon is in heels. 

Super Bowl XVII: Washington 27, Miami 17

Ad: Honda, V65 Magna motorcycle
Jan. 30, 1983

In case you were wondering what happened to the supremacy of American motorcycles in the marketplace, take a look at this ad for the 1983 Honda V65 Magna. The only thing that could possibly make it cooler is if was being ridden by a kung fu tiger with lasers for eyes. 

Super Bowl XX: Chicago 46, New England 10

Ad: Nissan, Nissan trucks
Jan. 26, 1986

It’s impossible to believe, but there was indeed a time in human history when the globally ubiquitous Nissan Hardbody didn’t exist.

The company was phasing out the “Datsun” name in the U.S., and this Super Bowl ad introduced the new line of small trucks along with the new name. 

Super Bowl XXIV: San Francisco 55, Denver 10

Ad: Pontiac, Transport
Jan. 28, 1990

Meet the Pontiac Dustbuster! “The SPACE vehicle of the 90s!”

*cringe* 

Super Bowl XXIX: San Francisco 49, San Diego 26

Jeep, “Snow Covered”
Jan. 29, 1995

The driver of this Jeep should have turned left at Albuquerque. Nonetheless, the charm of this ad was not lost on the judges at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, where it won a Grand Prix in 1994, the first automotive ad to do so.

“Snow Covered” was aired for nearly a decade after its debut.

Super Bowl XXXI: Green Bay 35, New England 21

Ad: Nissan, “Pigeons”
Jan. 26, 1997

This hilarious action movie spoof kept audiences glued to the screen by being entertaining first and advertising second. It won Bronze at Cannes. 

Super Bowl XXXVIII: New England 32, Carolina 29

Ford GT, “The One”
Feb. 1, 2004

Shhh. Just listen. 

Super Bowl XLI: Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17

Ad: GM, “Robot”
Feb. 4, 2007

Though the ad was centered around GM’s commitment to quality, it received heavy flak from critics for apparently glamorizing suicide. Nonetheless, it scored ninth in the annual Adbowl survey. 

Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23

Ad: Bridgestone, “Taters”
Feb. 1, 2009

Bridgestone took the top Adbowl spot in 2009 for its high-sterical take on nagging wives. We were a simpler people then. 

Super Bowl XLV: Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25

Ad: Chrysler, “Born of Fire”
Feb. 6, 2011

Chrysler’s award-winning “Born of Fire” debuted the company’s new “Imported from Detroit” slogan. The ad highlighted the Chrysler 200 and featured Eminem performing his song “Lose Yourself.” 

Super Bowl XLV: Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25

Ad: Volkswagen, “The Force”
Feb. 6, 2011

Viewers went wild for “Mini-Darth” back in 2011. The ad tells the story of a boy trying to channel the powers of Darth Vader only to fail in every attempt. With a little help from his father, however, the child finally succeeds in making a Passat come alive. Even after eight years, this remains the most watched Super Bowl commercial of all time. 

Super Bowl XLVIII: Seattle Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8

Ad: Audi, “Doberhuahua”
Feb. 2, 2014

Audi’s hilarious “Doberhuahua” aired to an audience refocused after Bruno Mars’ halftime show. In it, Canadian animal rights activist Sarah McLachlan implores the audience to use genetic engineering to rid the world of irritating yappy dogs once and for all. At least that was our take away. 

Super Bowl XLIX, New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24

Fiat, “The Fiat Blue Pill”
Feb. 1, 2015

This saucy ad used a familiar little blue pill to highlight the size difference between the Fiat 500 and the larger 500X. Or should we say XL. 

Super Bowl XLIX, New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24

Ad: Nissan, “With Dad”
Feb. 1, 2015

Nissan’s first Super Bowl ad in 18 years combined racing with absent dads . . . and . . . *sniff* . . . Harry Chapin . . . *sob* . . . It won audience acclaim . . . *snorfle* . . . and . . . *sniff* . . . where’s the damned Kleenex . . . 

Super Bowl 50, Denver Broncos 24, Carolina Panthers 10

Ad: Jeep, “4x4ever”
Feb. 7, 2016

This ad promoting Jeep’s 75th anniversary was so effective that literally every person in America bought a Wrangler over halftime.

Literally. 

Super Bowl 50, Denver Broncos 24, Carolina Panthers 10

Ad: Hyundai, “First Date”
Feb. 7, 2016

While overprotective dads run the gamut from comically annoying to promise ring creepy, Hyundai won hearts with this one while promoting its Car Finder feature.

For the record though, if Car Finder is used in this way, Dad is definitely leaning towards towards the creepy end of the spectrum. 

Super Bowl LI, New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 28

Ad: Kia, “Hero’s Journey”
Feb. 5, 2017

Melissa McCarthy played a fur-wearing eco-warrior in this award-winning bit of slapstick for the Kia Niro Eco Hybrid. 

(Fur hood trim worn at 0:33)

Super Bowl LII, Philadelphia Eagles 41, New England Patriots 33

Ad: Toyota, “Good Odds”
Feb. 4, 2018

The highest rated automotive ad of Super Bowl LII tells the story of Paralympian Lauren Woolstencroft on her journey to the gold. There wasn’t a dry eye to be found after it aired. 

Zip merging: are we a nation divided?

zip merging

‘Merge in turn’. We’ve all seen the signs at the end of a two-lane section of road, but how many of us actually do it?

Based on the response from BBC Radio 5 Live listeners this morning, we’re all wonderfully polite and follow the ‘zipper merge’ technique without fuss or bother. But anecdotal evidence would suggest this isn’t entirely true.

For example, how many times have you seen a lorry driver move across to block the two lanes, resulting in two lines of heavy traffic behind the trailer and an entirely clear lane ahead of the cab?

Or, in what appears to be an example of Britain’s obsession with queueing, you find a long line of drivers sat picking their noses and Snapchatting photos of the tailback in one lane, while the other lane lies empty, save for a few crows and the occasional wagtail.

There is a third method, which involves hurtling along the asphalt equivalent of the Mary Celeste, only to barge in at the last minute. According to social media – so often the voice of common sense, balance and reason – this method invariably includes an Audi of some sort.

But, aside from the retina-burning LED lights and the apparent lack of courtesy, isn’t Mr or Mrs Audi doing the right thing?

Divide and conquer

lane closed roadworks

‘Zip merging’ or the ‘zipper merge’ originated from the US as a traffic flow measure designed to ease congestion when a road narrows from two or more lanes to one. In simple terms, drivers should merge at the point of closure, rather than merging in as soon as possible.

In 2008, a study conducted by Ken Johnson, a state work zone engineer in Minnesota, found that the length of the queue is reduced by up to 50 percent when drivers merge in turn. Sounds compelling enough.

And yet, on this evening’s commute home from work, you will find some motorists sat shaking their heads and tutting to themselves as an Audi driver (other German brands are available) shows a total disregard for the rules of the road and our nation’s reputation for politeness.

But while the terribly polite and courteous driver sits behind the wheel of their Hyundai/Skoda/Kia/Suzuki/Lexus (delete as applicable), it is they who are failing to observe the guidance of the Highway Code. Not to mention missing the first 20 minutes of Pointless.

Joined-up thinking required

happy driver

In the section marked ‘Lane discipline’, the Highway Code states: “You should follow the signs and road markings and get into the lane as directed. In congested road conditions do not change lanes unnecessarily. Merging in turn is recommended but only if safe and appropriate when vehicles are travelling at a very low speed, e.g. when approaching road works or a road traffic incident. It is not recommended at high speed.”

Far be it for anyone to accuse the government of sitting on the fence, but the use of ‘recommended’ is the hardly the conclusive evidence we were after. But the signs asking us to ‘merge in turn’ and ‘use both lanes’ couldn’t be any clearer.

You’ve seen what can happen when the nation is divided, so on the subject of merging in turn, can we engage in a little joined-up thinking? If nothing else, you might get home in time to see the first round of Pointless.

Winter driving? Be prepared!

Ford Focus RS in snowWinter is hereAt the first sign of snow or ice, the safest thing to do is, of course, not drive. Barring that, never utter the words, “Oh, I think we can make it.”

According to a study done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than 800 people die every year as a result of winter driving accidents, ether from injuries or exposure. By steeling both yourself and your vehicle against the murderous tendencies of Jack Frost, these trips can end with you safely wrapped up in front of a fire instead of in a fireball at the bottom of a ravine.

Winter Driving Safety

The number one safety feature of any vehicle is the driver

The importance of staying focused and aware in any driving situation can never be overstated, and that goes triply so in wintry conditions. Training and experience are the keys to staying safe, yet most American drivers only take one class in car control and traffic safety in their entire lives, Driver’s Ed, taken in high school around age 16. While undoubtedly you were a studious angel at that age, the rest of us were discovering sex and remember absolutely nothing else until well after college, and certainly not which way to turn the wheel in case of an icy skid.

It’s time to change that. Ask your insurance company, licensing agency, or state department of transportation about local winter driving courses. Learning car control as an adult is is one of the most rewarding ways imaginable to spend a day. As part of the instruction, it’s necessary to slide the car sideways, swerve erratically, slam on the brakes, accelerate idiotically, and do all the other fun things your high school Driver’s Ed teacher would have a coronary over, and the police certainly would certainly frown upon.

Learning emergency maneuvers in controlled conditions is more that just fun, though; it could save your life. More importantly, it could save the life of your passengers, including the two small ones in the back seat who call you Dad.

Four-wheel-drive

By the time four-wheel drive is required, the mistake has already been made

Four- and all-wheel drive vehicles neither stop nor steer any better on ice than their two-wheel drive counterparts. Yes, they do indeed have an advantage in low-traction situations and will continue to move the car forward while lesser vehicles get stuck. However, the moment traction runs out, the vehicle will continue on in whatever direction it was headed until something stops it, like another vehicle, a tree, or perhaps jagged rocks at the bottom of a cliff.

A general rule of thumb for street vehicles in winter is: if four-wheel drive is required to get there, you shouldn’t go there. Stick the road, stay out of deep snow, avoid hills, and keep off unplowed thoroughfares. All of this applies to four- and all-wheel drive vehicles.

If you still insist that your 4×4 will take you where snow angels fear to tread, remember the old adage, “With two-wheel drive you get stuck. With four-wheel drive you get damned stuck.” Bring recovery gear, such as tow straps, a shovel, a high jack, additional traction devices, and hopefully a winch, as well as all the instruction books that came with all that gear. Know how to use it before you set out and, again, bring warm, stout gloves; leather ones if you’re using a winch.

And again, there is no substitute for training.

Winter Tires

Do I really need winter or snow tires?

For drivers who can reasonably expect a period of slick, icy roads, the answer is yes. Winter and snow tires are designed to remain flexible at lower temperatures, allowing them to conform to the road for better grip. Deeper tread depth and special patterns allow the tires to bite through the snow and slush, but still remain free of icy buildup. They also expel water at an increased rate, allowing the rubber to grip the ice through the slippery, sloppy surface layer.

According to Bridgestone Tire, “Mounting winter tires isn’t an over-the-top precaution, it’s an essential safety measure that could save your life.” We agree.

All-season tires are probably fine for drivers who only see a few flurries a year and for whom icy roads are a fluke. Even so, make sure your tires are ready for colder and wetter weather.

And lastly, the changeover to winter, all-season, or wet weather tires is a great time to ensure your spare tire and jack are in working order.

Traction

Have a plan for additional traction

Even with appropriate tires, it’s necessary to have a plan for additional traction. Tire chains are the usual favorite, but shockingly, few people have ever thought about how unbelievably awful it’s going to be when the chains are actually needed and the package is opened for the first time. In the snow. On the side of the road. In sub-freezing temperatures. Probably at night, because it’s colder then and more likely to snow.

In short, read the instructions before you leave the house and make sure all the pieces are there. Practice putting the chains on in the warmth and safety of the garage, or even in the relative calm of the auto parts store lot. And add a pair of warm, stout gloves to the package, while you’re at it. You will absolutely need them.

Additional traction solutions like sand, traction mats, or even kitty litter can help to get a stuck car moving again. It’s best to research heavily or already be familiar with these options before setting off.

When driving in snow or wintry conditions, it’s a good idea to have a shovel in the car. Small collapsible models are available. If the car does need to be dug out, your hands are terrible tools for the job, and being cold and wet is the direct opposite of fun. Even if you never need it, someone stuck on the side of the road might. Also, impromptu toboggan.

Driving Tips

Winter driving tips you’ve ignored before but will totally listen to now

  • Slow down.
  • Stopping may take much longer on icy roads, and might not even be possible.
  • The bigger the car, the longer the stopping distance.
  • Leave extra room between cars. Loads. Yes, even at low speed.
  • Do not mash the gas. Yes, we know it’s fun.
  • Do not slam on the brake. Yes, we know it’s fun.
  • Slow down.
  • Do not use cruise control.
  • Bridges, offramps, and shady spots might be extra slippery. Prepare for that.
  • Slow down and approach intersections with caution. This is the most likely place for other drivers to be careening out of control.
  • Be extra cautious near chainup or removal areas; people are out of their cars.
  • Give snowplows extra room. Never pass a snowplow.
  • Learn what traction advisories are active along your route.
  • Slow the hell down. Yes, really.
  • And Seattleites, we’ve all seen the videos. If it snows even one single flake, please don’t drive.

Winter Windshield

Your wintry windshield and you

Check windshield wiper blades at the beginning of the season to ensure they’re in good working order. There are now also winter blades available that flex more in cold weather and slide easier across frosty or muddy windshields.

Be sure to keep the windshield washer fluid reservoir full of actual windshield washer fluid. It contains antifreeze properties that soapy water just doesn’t have. Keep an extra bottle in the trunk, as well. Being able to see things is the first step in not running into them.

Make sure the windshield scraper is still in the car, and throw a good pair of gloves into the glovebox to go with it. They are a godsend on chilly mornings, and a necessity in emergencies.

Add a snowbrush to your kit. It’s the proper tool for the job and puts distance between the snow and your hands, keeping you warm and dry. Even if it’s rarely needed, it just makes life so much easier when it is.

Half Tank Rule

The half-tank rule

The half tank rule is simple: if the fuel level in the car drops to half a tank, fill ‘er up. Should the car get stuck on a snowy, deserted mountain road, keeping the car running and the heater going can mean the difference between life and death.

Preparedness

Emergency preparedness

Speaking of ways to avoid freezing to death by the side of the road, every car should carry an emergency kit during winter months. Things to have in the car:

  • Cell phone. The most important thing to do in an emergency is call for help.
  • Cell phone charger
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Snacks and water
  • Emergency poncho
  • Reflective safety vest
  • Spare socks and other clothing items that might get wet
  • First aid kit
  • Blanket
  • Two pairs of gloves, one leather and one latex
  • Rags or paper towels
  • Matches or lighter
  • Whistle
  • Toilet paper
  • Tow rope
  • Jumper cables
  • Flares
  • Spare tire

Don't Panic

Don’t Panic

The most important winter driving rule of all, of course, is don’t panic. If you find yourself stuck or stranded, stay in your car, put on your flashers, call for help, and wait until it arrives. After all, you’ve prepared for this. Wrap yourself in your emergency blanket, turn up the heat, and have a granola bar. You’re fine.