RIP Tom Magliozzi, RIP

Ray and Tom Magliozzi with their cartoon likenesses for their cartoon show years ago.

Ray and Tom Magliozzi with their cartoon likenesses for their cartoon show years ago.

BY GERRY MILES

The world lost one of its greatest laughs today.

Tom Magliozzi, the second half of “Click and Clack” on NPR’s famed radio show, passed away due to Alzheimer’s disease it was revealed today on their website at the age of 77.

The sad news from “Car Talk Plaza” read:

Dear Friends and Family,

It’s my sad duty to report that our friend and colleague, Tom Magliozzi, passed away this morning due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
Tom was the most buoyant, engaging, brilliant and funny person I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.  I know many of you feel the same way.  The legacy he and his brother leave us, Car Talk, has changed radio broadcasting, and has had a life-altering affect on millions and millions of listeners over several generations—many who have never met Tom, but feel like he’s a close friend.
There is little we can do today except be grateful we knew this unusual, creative, fun-loving, uncompromising, endearingly honest man.  I know you join me in sending your thoughts to his loved ones today.
For those of you who work with us, we will be in touch in the coming days to discuss our on-going projects.  We are celebrating Tom’s public life on the show’s web site, cartalk.com, and we invite you to join us there.
For those who care to, his family has asked that in lieu of flowers, friends and listeners make a contribution in his memory to the Alzheimer’s Association or their favorite public radio stations.
With gratitude,
Doug

Having known Tom and Ray for years, he was as down to earth as anyone could be, without any desire for the fame they had achieved across the airwaves and will no doubt fill the http://www.cartalk.com website and journals in telling tributes.

They were rock stars without the band…as one of their CDs is titled “Born NOT to Run” with Tommy spoofing on Bruce Springsteen’s pose of his musical CD.

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To go on a press trip and have someone learn I’m from Boston – it’s easier to say that then explain what and where New Hampshire is even though we hold the first in the nation primary – invariably the next question would be: have you ever met Click and Clack?

I’d say yes, I’ve known them for a while now and they’re great guys.

When I’d respond positively the very next question was always: So what are they really like? Is all that laughing and joking an act? And who’s the one that laughs like a hyena?

Yes they’re really like that.

They liked nothing better than to have a laugh and joke and smile every single day: especially if it was a trick at someone else’s expense. Staffers have retold that if you ever “went to lunch” with them to never visit the restroom or chances were strong you’d find an empty table with a bunch of noses pressed against the glass watching you have to pick up the entire bill.

The hyena laugh belonged to Tommy. And yes he got quasi-gassed from his laughter.

Tommy often described himself as the Italian brother who looked like a rabbi with the Don King fly-away hairdo and falsetto laugh with an attraction for cheap Hawaiian shirts.

 

That was spot on, too.

At the New England Motor Press Association, we were honored to have them at our annual Christmas party where when pressed they’d harmonize acapella and toss in some soft-shoe shuffling that wowed everyone. It was just Tom and Ray having fun, making people smile and enjoying a laugh.

Click and Clack, both MIT graduates, finally addressed their alma mater in 1998.

Click and Clack, both MIT graduates, finally addressed their alma mater in 1998.

You just can’t split up a duo that needs one half to play off the other.

Imagine the Smothers Brother?

Mutt without Jeff.

Abbott without Costello?

Ralph Kramden without Norton to chase out of the apartment?

Click and Clack aka the Tappett Brothers of NPR will continue in reruns on the airwaves, but one of the nicest, genuine human beings I ever met has left us.

As NEMPA president Craig Fitzgerald wrote today, “Who ever said ‘never meet your heroes’ never met Tom Magliozzi. He was one of the kindest, most welcoming, unpretentious people I ever met.”

And so is his brother, Ray.

I wish Tommy eternal peace in Heaven with an MG that runs, doesn’t drip oil, and an endless supply of couches upon which to nap whenever he wants. He’s earned it.

RIP Tommy. RIP.

 

 

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RIP Ross Roberts, a straight shooting, rootin’, tootin’ Texan

BY GERRY MILES

It’s on the cusp of the New York Auto Show and a busy schedule that I recently learned of the passing of a Ford favorite of mine: Ross Roberts.

Ross RobertsRoss was notable for many reasons: an embraceable personality, a quick smile, a cut to the chase straight-shooting style from Texas ala former Olds boss John Rock, and the ability to admit he was wrong, didn’t know, or get the answer.

Roberts, by all known and credible accounts, was an indefatigable salesman at heart and his upbeat ways could swiftly turn many a dealer around from ordering just three copies of a model into 30 without any arm-twisting involved.

I loved Roberts for his attending our New England Motor Press Association meetings where he admitted that customer service and dealer warranties – many years ago – had to be changed so that a customer who was just two or three weeks or months out of warranty was met at least halfway or completely and kept in the Ford family.

Roberts recalled how many a demon dialer would go through whomever and eventual get to his line with the problem at hand that he would immediately green light. And while he hoped the decision was a “save” he realized that when it came time to trade in the car it might have been a “lost sale.”

To paraphrase Roberts that night, “we have to extend the same courtesy I want if my refrigerator’s compressor goes out just after the warranty expires. Things like that is simple, easy to do and it doesn’t cost that much to keep a customer and make them a loyal customer.”  I’ll never know how seriously he was able to enact that sea change for the industry at the time, but if you ever heard Roberts address a group or spoke to him one-on-one, you’d believe him. Straight up. No lie. He’s the guy with the big title that was as down-to-earth as anyone in any neighborhood anywhere.

Ford PR liked him as well for his willingness to do whatever it took to promote the company and any of its brands. I’ll never forget when Ford topped Toyota’s Camry for the third year in a row in sales. In ice hockey parlance, that’s called a hat trick. Approached about sitting in a convertible dressed like a hockey player in Detroit, which also bills itself as Hockey Town for its fervor with the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League, he couldn’t wait to jump in the car, wear a helmet and hold a stick to pump the title honors…even if it did have a bit of a  Michael Dukakis tank doofus look to it.

Another year in Charlotte for the then-new, fish-mouthed Taurus intro, Ross remembered me from Boston and raffling off a Drew Bledsoe jersey (no I didn’t win it that night) and that he was a Cowboys fan, naturally.

Asked what I thought about the new Taurus after the intro, I ran off a small laundry list of things that I thought needed correcting, especially its price of just under $22,000 if I recall. Roberts, surrounded by a phalanx of notebook toting PR folks, pressed for more details that I provided. When I then quizzed him on what it would cost for someone to swing 15,000 in a loan he blinked. He had no idea and the PR folks started to turn red. Had he been entrapped? Nah, he was smarter than that. He just hadn’t viewed it that way.

Having swung a loan in that range a few years prior for a Saab 900 I explained it all to him and that folks would do it for an import but it would be seen as too pricey for a domestic. He took it all in, told the flacks to make notes and he’d look at it all. I was not seen as attacking the man at his party, rather I provided information that he’d not known or seen in a different light.

The following spring, Roberts – who was still thumping the slow-selling Taurus that did not at the time have a base model  – greeted me warmly at the NY Auto Show, remembered our conversation and told me I was right. For instance, they had to change their commercials to say that even thought it appeared smaller, it had a lower step-in height, more head-room and such. A president of Ford Motor was telling me, months after the fact that I was right. Imagine that. That was Ross Roberts.

However, shortly after that talk, he took the podium to say to the assembled auto journos that Ford did not see a need for a de-contented Taurus, it was priced right and there would not be any rebates in sight any time soon.

Exactly a week later, Ford produced a de-contented Taurus G with crank aka Jack Armstrong windows and the very things he was quizzed about in NY City. Had someone ushered a directive he fall on his Mont Blanc for FOMOCO or had he know all along? We’ll never know but it put the Ford PR folks in a tough spot. They had no real answer when called about it other than to say all they could, which was essentially “write what you have to. We were there. You were there. So was he. Just write what you have to.”

Ross Roberts next to a purpler F-150 flareside pickup truck. Son, he told me, there's a color for every car and truck that sometimes doesn't make sense to you or me. Just as long as someone buys it he quipped. His honesty, frankness and smile let you know he meant what he said, that he had a sense of humor and that the product - color aside - would be a good ride. (Ford photos)

Ross Roberts next to a purpler F-150 flareside pickup truck. Son, he told me, there’s a color for every car and truck that sometimes doesn’t make sense to you or me. Just as long as someone buys it he quipped. His honesty, frankness and smile let you know he meant what he said, that he had a sense of humor and that the product – color aside – would be a good ride. (Ford photos)

 

But they got through it, over it and on with it.

Ford Division and Ross Roberts could hardly be uttered without one in the same sentence if one was talking about the Blue Oval in any kind of depth. They were interchangeable. They were inseparable. They were real people repping real products that were hitting the main stream.

You always got an honest answer from Ross Roberts.

He was upfront, personable and he looked you square in the eye every time.

You couldn’t ask for any more than that then or now.

For staying true to himself every time I saw him and talked with him, which he did for so many other auto writers, he’ll be missed.

He was a breath of fresh air that Ford needs back right now.

Rest In Peace, Tex.

 

Chevy, GM join to fight breast cancer – but only on selected dates, at selected dealers and only up to $130,000

Danica Patrick and Kasey Kahne give rides to Cancer survivers at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton GA. (HHP/Harold Hinson)

Danica Patrick and Kasey Kahne give rides to Cancer survivers at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton GA. (HHP/Harold Hinson)

BY GERRY MILES

For the third straight year, General Motors, its employees and Chevrolet will team up to fight breast cancer with the support of the American Cancer Society through the Making Strides walks. This money helps fund research, wellness, breast cancer awareness education and support for breast cancer patients and their families.

For every customer to test drive a Chevy, during October, the automaker will contribute $10 up to $130,000 to the American Cancer Society for every eligible test drives take nationally on select dates at participating dealerships. (Drivers must be over 21 with a valid driver’s license. The promotion is limited to one test drive per person.)

While this sounds all warm and fuzzy on the outside, the devil is in the details.

However, if GM and Chevy will really willing to toss in to fight cancer – it should sponsor test drives during the entire month of October nationally – not just at participating dealerships on selected dates. To me, that’s just a trumped up way to drive showroom traffic on the back of national awareness.

By comparison, when Toyota undertook an effort to send lunches to victims of Superstorm Sandy up to a certain, the wide spread reaction was so great they boosted the donation level…twice!

For each view of a short film on youtube, Toyota set a pledge goal of 250,000 meals for 250,000 views.

After an overwhelming response, the import carmaker soon prepared to send up  to 1.25 million meals from Toyota as a result of the video views for a great cause without conditions of the views having to be on a certain day or participating dealership.

Chevrolet will donate $200 for every lap run under caution during select NASCAR Sprint Cup and IZOD IndyCar Series races throughout October and not just selected races. A special pink Chevrolet Camaro SS will pace select NASCAR Sprint Cup series races. A 2014 Corvette Stingray will serve as the pace car for the IZOD IndyCar Series event at Auto Club Speedway in October.

Anyone interested in participating in a Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk in their community can visit www.makingstrideswalk.org.

Is Irv Gordon Volvo’s 3 million mile version of Peggy Lee?

Irv Gordon and his 1966 Volvo P1800

Irv Gordon and his 1966 Volvo P1800

BY GERRY MILES

Good for Irv Gordon.

Good for Volvo.

Good for all who have ever owned, driven, liked and for those especially survived a crash – and death-defying in the case of several friends several times – who have walked away with nary a scratch.

Yet for all of Gordon’s news of longevity with a fastidiousness to his near-maniacal mechanic maintenance, there’s no there “there” for the 2014 Volvo line.

Sure there’s plenty of safety stuff that I’ve written before on. The electronics will surely save the lives of both motorist(s), bicyclists and pedestrians alike. There’s so many distractions to driving today the connectivity we crave drives us – almost – crazy. No pun intended.

Yet Gordon – and I’ve seen, met and liked him immediately – and his P1800 are Volvo’s best stories for the upcoming model year. Or am I missing something?

I’ve read the Gordon legends about stopping at Waffle House for coffee but he’s never even had one.

He even likes New Hampshire’s road and their drivers. (He made no live free or die statement, smart man that he is).

Yet Irv made his achievement in Alaska, near Turnagain Arm, (a place I’ve been years ago), perhaps to be near his “turning the odo over again” and not in any place near the dealership in New York where he bought the P1800. For some reason, I thought he’d get close to the 3,000,000-mile mark and then go ’round the block or cross a finish line in Manhattan before doing talk show gigs on the morning TV shows, Kelly and Mike and more.

Volvo’s hired PR guns had tweets, fans post their pictures, all good, but now that it’s over I have to wonder, what else is there for the new model year’s excitement?

As Peggy Lee asked in a song, “Is that all there is?”

Cadillac tries to be Cadillac, again, at Pebble Beach

Cadillac Eldorado evolution-1967

Cadillac Eldorado evolution-1967

Upcoming models, new concept car and historic coupes highlight annual event

BY GERRY MILES

I like this photo of the ’68 Eldo because there’s no mistaking it for anything but a Cadillac.

Who else had cars as long, as creased, as wide and as distinctive – so distinctive – that the mere mention of its name along side another product meant it was the best of the best? And that, boys and girls, was L-O-N-G before we had “branding” to consider as a business and marketing buzzword. I think the only branding during the day was left to either a rare cattle rustling scene in the Rifleman – starring Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain – or maybe the TV series, “Bonanza.”

Let’s not pretend that GM and Caddy didn’t lose their way for a decade or two, either. There was the rebadged Corsicrap with ducks in the logo and Cindy Crawford dressed as a dominatrix and not an up-and-coming white collar business something that bombed. It was almost, almost enough to make you forget the Cimmarron, but instead it dredged up memories of the tiny rust bucket.

Cadillac seems to be back on track – the cars look nothing like they used to while they perform far, far better than they used to in recently memory as well. As great as the award-winning ATS IS – should not it look like a Cadillac instead of any other import tuned swoopy sedan? That the last marque makes for the ATS sitting in the drive recently was Caddy, me thinks so.

Regardless, Caddy plan to take the wraps off a new concept debut at Pebble Beach as well as showing off new production models and historical cars.

Guests can register to test drive new Cadillac models, including the ATS sport sedan, the 2013 North American Car of the Year. Visitors can drive Cadillac performance cars like the 2013 ATS 2.0 T and 2013 CTS-V Coupe.

The heritage exhibit includes three personal luxury coupes, expressing Cadillac’s lineage of dramatic design and performance:

  • the landmark 1967 Eldorado
  • a 1965 Coupe Deville
  • a 1937 Series 90 V16

With the automotive world watching, it’ll be interesting to see if some of the swagger is back…to stay.

Edmunds.com on Toyota’s July sales

TOYOTA

From Edmunds.com Sr. Analyst Jessica Caldwell: “Toyota Camry held on to the top spot in the top selling segment in the country but it came with a price. Camry incentives are at its highest level in nearly two years and were 4 times more than its biggest rival, Honda Accord.

Edmunds.com’s Jessica Caldwell on GM, Subaru sales

GENERAL MOTORS
From Edmunds.com Sr. Analyst Jessica Caldwell: “Timing can be everything and GM is a great example in the truck market. GM has a nice sales blend of 2013 and all-new 2014 trucks that appeals to both low and high-end shoppers. And because there is so much pent up demand in this segment, we’re in the midst of a profitable time period for GM.”

SUBARU
From Edmunds.com Sr. Analyst Jessica Caldwell: “Subaru has been riding a nice wave of success for quite some time now. Americans have been responding to their products; not only are Forester’s sales are up over 50% but it was also the quickest selling car in the country last month with a days-to-turn rate of 15 days. That’s 46 days less than the industry average.”