Remember the old joke? Man claimed he was a diesel
fitter for a lingerie shop. When questioned that this seemed a rather
strange place for a man of his skills, he explained that his job was
to bring the knickers up from the stock room and hold them up in front
of the customer and say, “Diesel fitter!” Boom, boom!
Now up till very recently I turned my nose up at
diesel engines, nasty knocking smoking things that they were (and
still are when you look at some of the older song taews plying the
local streets). However, it really is time to review the whole diesel
engine scene, with the Europeans in particular producing some very
Certainly one big plus (especially with high
European petrol prices) is the cheap diesel fuel, and the incredible
fuel economy that you get out of a diesel is the second. Freeway
cruising in a diesel BMW 320 returns something over 60 miles per
gallon (about 21 kays per litre -or 4.7 litres per 100 km - if my
maths is holding up correctly) and that is nothing short of
staggering. No wonder diesel is popular.
Looking at just four of the Euro-diesels, all round
about 2 litres, you have the aforementioned BMW 320d, the Ford Mondeo
2.0 DCi, the Saab 9-3 2.2 TiD, the VW Passat 1.9 TDi and the Audi A4
1.9 TDi. The quickest is the Beemer at 134 mph (215 clicks) with the
other three only about 15 kays slower. Acceleration times again show
just how quick the BMW really is, with the 0-100 kays coming up in 8.9
seconds, but even the others, which range between 9.9 and 12.1, are
not all that slow either.
While we are currently enjoying inexpensive gasoline, this may not
last forever, especially with George Bush’s finger poised over the
button. In Asia, diesel is the fuel of choice, so about now might be
the time to start looking at a diesel engined import. Citroen, VW and
SEAT are all here already. It doesn’t have to be a song taew!
A new meaning to the words “A
American Roger Penske (yes, the motor racing Penske)
is into flogging cars these days, but if you’re going into the car
sales bizz, then take a look at this for a dealership. Penske’s
place is called Chauncey Ranch, in Scottsdale, Arizona, and it covers
41 acres (please don’t ask me how many rai that is, I do not
understand area measurements) and sells 12 brands.
Now if you want to test drive your choices of new
cars then don’t worry, you do not even need to leave the dealership
as there are two test tracks behind the showrooms, one for bitumen
burners and the other for off-roaders.
Servicing facilities? Again don’t worry. There
are 253 service bays. Each of the service bays at Chauncey Ranch
includes a bench, toolboxes, a computer, fluid delivery and recovery
systems and a hydraulic lift. Parts the technicians may need are
delivered from 46,000 square feet of inventory through Remstar
International’s automated storage and retrieval equipment.
Penske expects to sell a staggering 12,000 vehicles
at the complex this year, and is convinced that the sheer size of the
complex is an advantage that will justify the huge investment,
reportedly in excess of $100 million.
Chauncey Ranch was completed late last year by
UnitedAuto Group Inc. (UAG), which was ranked the second largest
dealership group in the United States in 2001 with revenue of $5.9
billion. And incidentally, Penske is the CEO of UAG.
The dealership also houses the Penske Auto Racing
museum and even has a Starbucks coffee shop on the second floor.
Parking for the old jalopy? No worries here either, behind the
showrooms is a 3,000 space parking lot, plus a Hertz rental outlet,
collision repair shop, a fuel station and a car wash that can clean
and detail as many as 700 vehicles a day.
Of interest are the margins that a huge operation
such as this is expecting. While not disclosing specific details for
Chauncey Ranch, a spokesman said that anticipated margins for various
departments should be similar to those for UAG as a whole. According
to the 2001 annual report, gross margins were:
8.3 percent for new vehicles
10.6 percent for used vehicles
44.9 percent for service, parts and collision
58.5 percent for finance and insurance.
While the margins look slim when selling new cars,
if you sell enough of them the bottom line looks fine. Again from
their 2001 annual report, the money came from the following:
New car sales: 35 percent
Service, parts: 34 percent
Finance, insurance: 17 percent
Used-car sales: 14 percent
Now then, does anyone want to buy a used pick-up?