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“This is my favourite car, which explains why I’ve kept it so long probably against economic logic. This was the vehicle of my dreams when I bought it,” says Jeff Rubin (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
“This is my favourite car, which explains why I’ve kept it so long probably against economic logic. This was the vehicle of my dreams when I bought it,” says Jeff Rubin (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

My Car

This economist loves his Audi Add to ...

His controversial economic forecasts made headlines.

In 2005, he predicted triple-digit oil prices and that the Canadian and U.S. dollar would reach parity. He was right on both counts.

But after two decades on Bay Street, Jeff Rubin dumped his gig as the chief economist for CIBC World Markets to pursue another passion: writing. But there's one thing in his life he won't dump - his nine-year-old car, a 2000 Audi A6 2.7 Turbo Quattro sedan.

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"I'm not driving this car because I can't afford to buy a new car. I'm very attached to my car.

"This is my favourite car, which explains why I've kept it so long probably against economic logic. This was the vehicle of my dreams when I bought it," says Rubin, whose book Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization was released after he quit his job in April. Now, he also writes a blog on Globe Investor.

"When it came out, it was a brand-new, pretty esoteric car. Audi didn't have the dealership presence back then. At the time, the choice was a six-cylinder engine, a turbo and a V-8, but the V-8 only came with an automatic so I took the turbo because it came with the stick; 2000 was the last year the car came with a manual transmission."

The turbocharged engine has another bonus. "The fact is, turbocharging was one of the innovations that came out as a result of the first two OPEC oil shocks. The whole idea of turbocharging was to be able to boost horsepower without boosting engine size and fuel consumption.

"I ended up not getting a V-8. I got a reasonably small engine, a 2,700-cc engine that was turbo-boosted. Before the oil price shock, there were no cars that were turbocharged," says Rubin, who was named Canada's top economist 10 times.

"It's an excellent-performing car. I like the Quattro, the ability it gives you to corner, and it's a big car with a huge trunk.

"My son was an GMHL [Greater Metro Hockey League]goalie for four years and there was more than enough space to take him, his gear, a buddy and his gear in it. It was a practical car."

On the downside: "I drive a nine-year-old Audi, so it's the repair bills, not gasoline prices, that will drive me off the road," he laughs. "It's certainly not a cheap car to fix. And if you're going to keep an Audi for nine-10 years, you're fixing a lot of parts," he confesses before reciting a series of recent repairs.

"Now, it's more a nostalgia thing. If you've driving a car that you really love and it's nine-10 years old and they don't make that kind of car with a standard transmission to replace it any more, you're going to want to hold on to it as long as you can - sometimes beyond the point of economic logic," says the 55-year-old Torontonian.

Rubin's first car was a Buick LeSabre - a hand-me-down from his dad. "Then the first OPEC oil shock hit and it was no longer an affordable car so I bought a Corolla with a 1,600-cc engine - the equivalent of a lawnmower engine," he laughs.

Then came a Lada. "It was the cheapest car to drive. … My worst memory on the road was driving to McGill University to hand in my master's thesis and getting stuck in a snow bank for about three-four hours on the 401 in the middle of February," he laughs.

"I don't miss my Lada," says Rubin, who graduated with a Masters in Economics from McGill.

Then came a Saab 900, which he kept for seven years. An Audi 90 Quattro followed; he had it another eight years. "I'm a guy who holds on to his cars - I'm not one of those guys who go for cash-for-clunkers deals."

Rubin doesn't have much faith in Detroit these days. "I seriously question the ethics of investing using public funds to invest in the auto industry.

"If we're going to go massively into debt, I'd rather we invest in our future not our past. But our future is public transit. Our problem is if 50 million North Americans took the exit lane over the next decade, there isn't a bus to get on.

"During World War Two, Detroit reinvented itself and stopped producing cars and started making tanks and bombers. If they could do that over World War Two, why couldn't today's unemployed auto workers be re-employed making buses, subway cars, and light rapid transit vehicles instead of SUVs?

"Sure, an economic recovery is going to restore people's ability to buy cars; what we're going to find coincides with … prices we saw two years ago, which is $4-a-gallon gas and, over time, $7-a-gallon gas."

Rubin says ethanol and other alternative fuels aren't a solution, either. "Instead of trying to figure out how to convert cow shit into rocket fuel, we should just be using our cars less."

Rubin loves driving, but he hasn't logged many miles on his A6 in the past nine years - it only has 116,000 km on it.

"When this Audi becomes no longer viable to keep on the road, which is coming up sooner and sooner, I'm obviously going to have to buy a hybrid, but I'm going to miss having a stick shift. You can't get a stick shift in a hybrid."

pgentile@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

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