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lou's garage

The best option, when faced with thieves who want to take your car, is to give them the car.Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press

Amid a sharp rise in car thefts in the Toronto area, people are constantly telling me stories of their missing vehicles. What could be worse than waking up to an empty driveway? Well, my next-door neighbour Anna has this tale.

She had just parked at our local Walmart store early one evening when a young man appeared suddenly and quietly demanded the car keys for her new Mazda. In shock she hesitated momentarily, then gathered her wits and told the man that wasn’t going to happen as she tried to back away. An accomplice came in from the opposite direction blocking her exit, and they both demanded her key. They grabbed for her handbag and she again tried to escape, but was knocked to the ground. At this point she started to scream for help. A third young man arrived and the three of them wrestled her handbag away and all of them hopped into her car to make their escape. As she scrambled and backed away from the vehicle other shoppers began arriving to help.

The problem for the thieves was that the key Fob was not in her handbag as they thought, but in her pocket. Because she had moved away from the vehicle, the remote was out of range and the car would not start for them. Quickly realizing their predicament, they exited the vehicle and took off on foot in all directions with several of the Good Samaritans in hot pursuit. The youngest and first initial thief to approach Anna had an asthma attack two blocks from the scene and was taken by ambulance to the hospital where he was later arrested. He was 15 years old. The second thief eluded pursuers, slipping between buildings. The third, who was the oldest and ringleader, eventually grew tired of running from his pursuer, stopped at one point and pulled a handgun, waiving it at his pursuer. Wisely, the Good Samaritan backed off allowing him to escape.

The heat of the moment decisions Anna made could have been made by any of us, it all happened so quickly. She realizes she was incredibly lucky to have both her vehicle and her life not taken from her that day. I’m sure upon reflection she may have done things differently. Carjacking in broad daylight is incredibly bold. Police report that because of increasing vehicle complexity that makes it more difficult for cars to be stolen, thieves are becoming more desperate. It bears repeating, hand them your key, the vehicle is not worth your life. The car can be replaced.

Your automotive questions answered

Have you seen trucks fitted for the “Carolina Squat” Lou? Look it up if you haven’t already. People are crazy. Regards, Dave G. – Calgary

Okay Dave, you have my interest piqued. Typing, typing, researching …

Yes, I have now looked it up and am shaking my head. I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up. Picture a pickup truck where the suspension has been modified to lift the front of the truck and drop the rear.

Think back to the 1970s when muscle cars were raised in the back and super low in the front. Now reverse that image in your head and apply it to a truck. The next question naturally is why and to what advantage? Ironically, this modification is now illegal in North Carolina.

It originated in Southern California where Baja truck racing is prominent and uses heavily modified off-road vehicles designed for endurance racing in the desert. Suspensions need to absorb off-road trails and recover from jumps at incredibly fast speeds. Because of the heavily modified suspensions and huge horsepower engines, these racing trucks lift their front ends under heavy acceleration to the point where it almost looks like they are about to do a wheelie. They are being operated continuously under racing conditions and therefore their front ends are constantly in an elevated position. Hence the trend.

Hi Lou,

Tire rebates were started by one company way back when, and at that point, the manufacturer did have a marketing advantage when a customer came to the counter. The shop could factor in the rebate amount to show the customer that the net price after rebate was better than the next brand.

You are correct in now questioning the point of these rebates, as almost all brands offer them.

The issue goes to the structure of the tire market, which is now dominated by a few large wholesale distributors. In the 1980s and 90s, major brands owned their warehouses and shipped directly to tire shops, allowing a more direct communication with the dealer.

Today, wholesalers have access to multiple brands and play one manufacturer against the other to maximize acquisition price without necessarily passing those discounts on to the shop or consumer. (Wholesalers prioritize brands with the most generous programs and thus the highest profit.)

That is why the rebates remain. If you are the only brand not to offer one but simply lower the price, you lose the sizzle and get left behind. As well, the wholesalers will put less effort into your brand.

Also, your redemption number is very high. In my experience, redemptions usually run about 20 per cent.

John O. – Lorraine, Que.

Thanks John, I have talked about this before, and I still understand there are many reasons why tire rebates still appear relevant to tire manufacturers today including your point. From my side of the counter however, I never experience any customer choosing one brand over another simply because of a rebate. But alas they will continue whether I like it or not.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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