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The Highway List

July 30, 1998|JOHN O'DELL

Yeah, but How Many Bags of Manure Will It Haul? Now comes word that Ford's newly emancipated Lincoln Mercury division--recently relocated to Irvine--is talking about a super-luxury (hold the applause) pickup truck. Specifically, a $45,000 to $50,000 pickup truck. Ward's Dealer Business magazine says Lincoln insiders report that the company is considering a four-door, four-seat pickup with the heavily chromed Lincoln Navigator grille up front, a short wood-floored bed in back and leather and walnut inside. The truck, called the Lincoln Blackwood, could hit the showrooms in two years, Ward's reports.

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Just Price 'em Right, OK? We've all been inundated in recent months by ads from manufacturers promising rebates, discounts, coupons, cheap interest rates, free college tuition for our kids and an end to global warming if only we'll buy one of their cars. Ever wonder how much we could save if they'd drop all the come-ons and price the things competitively in the first place? Well, in the first 20 days of May, a record 17.1% of the manufacturer's suggested retail price of every car and light truck sold in the United States went to cover the cost of incentives, according to CNW Marketing, a Canadian firm that tracks and analyzes incentive spending. That's a whopping $3,900 a vehicle.

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Hoodwinked? Don't feel bad if you look under the hood of your new car and can't find the engine. It's probably buried under a few million miles of wires and cables connecting all the computers that run everything. The average new car, according to the Automotive Service Council of California, has more on-board computing power than the first Apollo lunar orbiter.

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Take My Car . . . Please: The Highway Loss Data Institute publishes a widely reported list each year of the cars and trucks that thieves take most often. But what about the ones they don't want? Vehicles so boring that you can park them anywhere with the windows down and the keys in the ignition and never worry? Well, here, courtesy of the institute, are the 10 least-stolen vehicles, based on actual theft rates during the last three years:

Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight

Ford Taurus Wagon

Buick LeSabre

Chevy Astro van (four-wheel-drive model)

Saab 900

Ford Aerostar van

Chevrolet Lumina

Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

Honda Odyssey minivan

Mercury Grand Marquis

STICKER SHOCK

A random sampling of bumper stickers seen around town:

Jesus is coming. Look busy.

My kid can beat up your honor student.

My son was inmate of the month at Folsom Prison.

I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Be nice to your kids. They'll be choosing your nursing home.

Plan to be spontaneous tomorrow.

Two wrongs are only the beginning.

Friends don't let friends vote Republican. (Or other party of your choice.)

He's dead. (With a picture of Elvis Presley)

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Driven to Reason

We know that the need for transportation is the principal thing that drives us to car showrooms every few years. But now we can tell you what influences us to select the particular makes and models we drive away.

The reasons Californians cite for making their purchase last year are pretty much the same ones given by buyers in the rest of the U.S., but the order of finish is skewed to reflect our peculiarities. Of 36,641 buyers surveyed by San Diego-based marketing firm Strategic Vision Inc. last year, 4,690, or 12.8%, were from California.

Reason for Selection

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California Rest of U.S. Rank % Cited Rank % Cited Reliability 1 15.49 1 13.87 Value for money 2 12.06 2 13.50 Price or deal offered 3 9.94 3 12.52 Previous experience with make 4 7.29 4 7.37 Believe it is well-made vehicle 5 6.78 5 6.08 Manufacturer's reputation 6 5.56 7 4.02 Leasing terms 7 5.44 8 3.93 Exterior styling 8 5.14 6 5.97 Fun to drive 9 4.91 9 3.75 Fuel economy 10 3.13 13 2.44 Safety features 11 2.58 14 1.85 Ride comfort 12 2.30 11 2.85 American-made 13 2.00 12 2.46 Vehicle's image 14 1.92 16 1.31 Durability 15 1.79 15 1.78 Interest rate or credit terms 16 1.78 10 3.56 Future trade-in/resale value 17 1.45 19 1.19 Power and pickup 18 1.38 21 0.95 Seating capacity 19 1.02 23 0.94 Advice of friends or relatives 20 0.98 22 0.95 Dealer service 22 0.83 18 1.27 Interior room 26 0.63 20 1.13 4-wheel or all-wheel drive 28 0.46 17 1.28

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Source: Strategic Vision Inc.

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