Friday, June 26, 2015

Here's an interesting idea... Nissan Leaf from Carmax?

The revolution in electric cars, in particular the brilliant models coming from Tesla, is a fascinating development for car enthusiasts. At the same time, most of us fairly despise small economy carsSo recently when I rode in a friend's Nissan Leaf I was pleasantly surprised. The interior was much nicer than its parent the Nissan Versa and it suffered from no shortage of get-up-and-go, easily keeping pace with interstate traffic. Wall Street Journal auto writer Dan Neil gushed over the car in this 2010 video.

What's he point of this little tale? Well, my car friend Chris recently noticed that off-lease Leafs (Leaves?) are a real bargain. Carmax lists dozens of them, ranging in price from $9,998 to 13,998. Those prices represent serious depreciation for a two or three year old car that originally listed for over $30,000! And as these were generally locally driven, range-limited leases, some have very low miles, 

And that's not all. Carmax is offering their Maxcare warranty on these cars at a very low rate, some under $1,200 for five years of coverage out to 75,000 miles. And as Jalopnik's Doug DeMuro has proven, Maxcare works. 

So to review, for under $15,000 you can buy a solid, low-miles electric car fully warrantied for years. 

One last interesting question... Just how much is Nissan losing on their Leaf experiment? They offered lease rates as low as $199/month with low initial buy in. The full cost of a Leaf two lease year lease could have been as little as $7,000. And now Nissan is wholesaling these cars for around $10,000, and the market is flooded. Those are the kind of numbers you would expect for a sub-$20,000 car, not one that listed for over $30,000, representing tremendous R&D costs.

It's all a bit of a puzzle, and interesting from a auto enthusiast point of view. But if you ever wanted an electric car, here's your chance. Dirt cheap.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Cars of Lynne

A few years back, on a Porsche Club of America driving tour of the great mountain roads that surround Asheville, North Carolina, I witnessed a near divorce. We were pushing kinda fast that day, to be honest probably too fast. Suddenly one of the other cars pulled off. We didn't see them again until evening. Seems the guy's wife took exception to the overall speed, and general nature of our motoring activities.

My wife Lynne was along for that trip. She enjoyed herself completely, did some of the driving and took video during the faster, curvy sections. I'm lucky. Lynne gets it. I married a car girl.

Lynne's Sprite was a Mark II, not a Bugeye.
Growing up in Raleigh, on Saturday mornings Lynne's dad would take her downtown to see the new foreign cars at Harmon Roland Motors. While his tastes went generally to big Chryslers, she was drawn to sports cars from the start, as was her sister Nancy.

One of Lynne's first cars was a black Austin Healey Sprite... I wish I had known her then, blond hair blowing as she flew down Dixie Trail or zipped across the old narrow Lake Johnson bridge.

Lynne's first husband tried to hand her the keys to a Ford Aerostar minivan. She drove it once. Over the years she went through VW Cabrios, a Plymouth Laser (I had an Eagle Talon about the same time, essentially the same car), and briefly a brown Pinto. A low point to be sure. She was driving a Ford Contour SE when I met her. Hard to remember now, but the performance version of the Contour was a heck of a sport sedan for the time.

We bonded over cars early. On one of our first dates, driving through the Five Points neighborhood of Raleigh I spied an old MG parked on a side street. "Did you see that MG TC?" I asked. "It was a TF," she replied, "You can tell by the headlights."

I would have married her right there, by the old Piggly Wiggly, if the deli counter guy could have presided over the ceremony.

Before we married I had sold my Contour SE (yes, we both had the same model of carher's had leather), and bought a 1996 Mazda Miata M-Edition for us to share. Lynne loved that car, stealing it every chance she got. We took some great trips in it too; Wrightsville Beach, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Washington DC via back roads. It was our first sports car together, but far from our last.

Lynne encouraged me to return to Porsche ownership and we shared first a 944 S2, then a 968, and finally our current Carrera. When I was searching for a Carrera she specifically asked if we could get a red one. "I always wanted a Guards Red 911." How many husbands get to hear their wives say that?

At the wheel on the 911 just off the Blue Ridge Parkway
Over the past ten years she has developed an appreciation for BMWs, starting with an E90 330i sedan. When we replaced that car, her daily driver, with an X3 to better transport our herd of Labrador Retrievers, she asked me, "Why do I always have to have the family car?"

She had me cold. I didn't have a good answer. I took over the X3 and found her a 2005 BMW 330i convertible. Lynne's car.

So now my lovely wife has come full circle, once again zipping around Raleigh in her little black sports car. Too bad they replaced that twisty narrow bridge over Lake Johnson.

And she will get behind the wheel of that car again soon. I believe that.