GirlDriver, USA

GirlDriver, USA
Look! It's GirlDriver, USA.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Auto Loaner is also a Kind of Bank of the Future

I had lunch with my friend Gina Proia last week.  She is the Chief Communications Officer for Ally bank and has been with them throughout the mortgage foreclosures, etc.  I knew Ally Bank as GMAC and have watched its transition into Ally but have thought of them mostly as a lender for automotive.  They do finance many of the car loans through dealerships and in partnership with some of the auto companies and that is mostly how we define them.

Now we all hate the banks.  That's a given.  And don't think they don't know that.  But I was actually impressed by the retail products and services they have.  Ally Bank offers some compelling arguments for changing banks, granted a difficult thing to do when you have done business with a bank for as long as I have been with mine--over 20 years.

What's most interesting  is that the bank does not have any retail presence at all--i.e., it is not occupying every corner of New York City with a bank and thank you for that.  One day we'll walk past interesting shops again maybe?

Not having retail makes it hard for them to get the word out that they have a retail business but the no bricks and mortar benefit is obvious--they aren't paying rent in all those places, which has to be a huge bite out of Citibank, Chase, HBSC and other bank's bottom lines.  That they don't have to pay for all that retail space has to be one of the reasons that Ally Bank can provide its customers with real benefits.  That's really smart.

Ally Bank will let you get cash out of any other banks's ATM for free (they reimburse you for any fees you incur) and they have an App that you can download to your phone that tells you where the nearest ATM is. 

They offer interest bearing checking accounts with no minimum deposit, money market accounts, online savings accounts with competitive rates and high interest CDs with flexible term options, no penalty CDs in 11 month terms and raise your rate CDs in two-year and four-year terms.  They also offer IRA products.

All of their products offer no minimum deposit, no monthly maintenance fees, and daily compounded interest.  Chase Bank just helped themselves to maintenance fees on my account because I didn't have a balance of $7,000 in my no interest checking account. Are they just kidding around about the seven grand?  Apparently not.

Ally Bank is one of several banks have a feature that allows you to scan a check and get remote deposit.  They currently offer that via scanning and sending on a computer.  The ability to do it on your phone is coming later this year with phase two of their mobile application.  Very cool if, like me, you still get checks in the mail.  Ally eCheck Deposit supplements other deposit methods to Ally Bank accounts including transferring money
online from another financial institution, direct deposit, wire transfer and U.S. mail., for which Ally Bank provides postage paid envelopes.

I payed $40 for my last box of checks at Chase.  At Ally they would be free.  Free security software.  You can send money to people--say someone in your family needs money--electronically and for free.

"We have some tools on our site for consumers like a payment calculator that might be helpful for folks," says Proia.

"Also, we have a free financial literacy program called Ally Wallet Wise that covers many topics including auto financing."

 Is this virtualness the future of banking I asked Gina?  Say in 20 years there won't be any bricks and mortar banks?  She thinks we're moving in that direction.  I know she'd say that because she's in PR but it seems totally logical to me that banking will be virtual.  Should you have problems with your Ally banking you can reach a live person by phone or via online chat 24/7. You don't even have to go through 15 multiple choice menus that  raise your blood pressure to get to a live person.  Just type in the name you want to be referred by and check the subject matter and you are connected to a real person.  Customers can even preview current call-in wait times, if  applicable, at or by using Ally Mobile Banking.

Every company says they are focused on customer satisfaction but few actually are.  Now I'm not an Ally customer (yet) so I don't know if all these services and products work perfectly but you can see, they do have a customer focus. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Program

This is a great outreach program that gives not-for-profit organizations a vehicle.  Toyota asks the public who should receive new Toyota vehicles.  A hundred organizations are chosen.  The final votes have been cast for this year and the results are in.  Willing organizations begin receiving vehicles in September 2012.  Toyota has awared more than $7 million in vehicles and cash grants over the last two years. 

Tuesday, August 21 marked the last day of voting in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good program, a national philanthropic program that awards 100 cars to 100 U.S. nonprofits over the course of 100 consecutive days. Winners were selected each day through public voting on Facebook at

Each day five nonprofit organizations were profiled on the 100 Cars for Good Facebook page where the public could vote for their favorite organization. The organization with the most votes at the end of the day won a new Toyota vehicle while the four runners-up each day received a $1,000 cash grant from Toyota. In total, 100 new Toyota vehicles and $400,000 in cash grants are being awarded to non-profit organizations across the country.
“It is rewarding and inspiring to see the response Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good program has received from the public,” said Jim Lentz, president and chief executive officer of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. “Over the course of two years, this program has awarded more than $7 million in vehicles and cash grants to local nonprofit organizations across the country, as well as helping to raise awareness  to hundreds more.  We are very pleased to have the opportunity to help these worthwhile organizations broaden their impact in communities all across the nation, and we thank the public for their support in determining the winners.”
Winning organizations offer services in a variety of areas, including: education, safety, animal welfare food banks, and human services for children and adults.  Cool, huh?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Suzuki Kizashi with All-Wheel Drive

Great looking car.
I wish Suzuki had sold more than 11,000 cars this year because they have good car.  The use of the singular in the previous sentence isn't a grammatical error, but it is a slight exaggeration.  Suzuki sells two cars in the U.S., the Kizashi and the Aerio SX4.  Oh, yes, and to date in 2012, they have sold 1 Forenza/Reno.  They sell crossovers too, the Grand Vitara and the Equator.  Compare that to their Japanese counterparts.  Toyota has sold 625,000 cars, Nissan, 389,000, Mazda 110,000.  You get the drift.

 This is a shame.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, Suzuki makes good cars.  I drove the Kizashi  2012 Sport GTS with AWD.  It has a 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder engine that delivers 180 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of torque.  That translates into plenty of power for this sedan and it is available with a six-speed manual transmission.  It also comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).  Mine came with dual zone climate control and cloth seats which I vastly prefer over leather especially when wearing shorts in hot weather.  (How long does it take you to peel your legs off leather seats in the summer?  It takes me around 4 painful minutes.)

The interior is very well designed, plenty of leg room, easy to manage controls, and cool touches that aren't so terminally hip you feel diminished if you're not in the latest fashion.

Roomy, sleek interior.

Very cool IP.
Fuel economy is competitive at 22 city/29 highway/25 combined.  The GS has some very nice features included in the base price:  sunroof, tilt and telescope steering wheel, power driver's seat, 18-inch wheels, a 425-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with 10 speakers, iPod and MP3 USB port, front fog lights, sport aero body kit, sport wheels, sport tuned suspension and sport design steering wheel.

In the highly competitive sedan category, the Suzuki Kizashi lines up against the best selling Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.  It competes with the best of them.  If there is a Suzuki dealer in your area, you can bet that they are hungry for business and will very happy to see you walk through the door.  Go for a test drive.  See what they're offering.  The MSRP on my test vehicle was around $26,000.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ford's C-MAX Rates 47 MPG Fuel Economy City and Highway

This is kind of cool.  Ford Motor Company once again raises the hybrid fuel-economy bar with the all-new Ford C-MAX Hybrid, which is now officially EPA-certified at 47 mpg city, 47 mpg highway and 47 mpg combined – beating Toyota Prius v by up to 7 mpg.

Below are a few highlights and attached is a release with further information. Please let me know if you have
any questions or if you would like to speak with someone at Ford. Thanks.

·         All-new 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid delivers EPA-certified 47 mpg city, 47 mpg highway ratings – 7 mpg better than Toyota Prius v on the highway – for a 47 mpg combined rating

·         Ford’s first hybrid to achieve equal city and highway ratings, the versatile C-MAX Hybrid also is expected to offer 15 class-exclusive features such as the available hands-free liftgate

·         C-MAX Hybrid launches this fall as part of Ford’s power of choice strategy to deliver leading fuel economy across its lineup while tripling electrified vehicle production capacity by 2013

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

GM Reuses Shipping Crates and Collaborates with Other Organizations to Make an Urban Garden

General Motors is unveiling Cadillac Urban Gardens on Merritt, a community project where 250 shipping crates from Orion Assembly – home of the Buick Verano and Chevrolet Sonic – are converted into raised garden beds.
The once-abandoned southwest Detroit parking lot will now benefit nearby residents, providing them nutritious and locally grown food.
“Instead of recycling this material, we found a direct reuse, which saves energy and resources,” said John Bradburn, GM’s manager of waste reduction efforts. “We seek opportunities for projects in our backyard that reduce environmental impact and strengthen communities.”
This project is a result of collaboration with eight-time GM Supplier of the Year Ideal Group, and composting company Detroit Dirt. The soil, supplied by Detroit Dirt, is sourced from local partners, including Detroit Zoo animal manure, Astro CafĂ© coffee grounds, and composted food scraps from the Marriott Hotel in GM’s world headquarters and GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, home of the Chevy Volt.
Several organizations helped make the project a reality. Detroit Dirt provided urban planning expertise, and Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision created the urban environmental plan; Rush Trucking delivered the GM-donated crates for volunteers from Ideal Group, Congress of Communities, Better Day Ministries and Southwest Detroit residents to begin planting.
“Our mission is to create a space that promotes the health and security of our community,” said Frank Venegas, Ideal Group chairman. “Cadillac Urban Gardens is producing vegetables, community health and growth.  This vision came true with fast action on the part of our collaborative partners.  In four short months, we are well on our way to linking sustainability with producing community growth.”

Invitations for Southwest Detroit families and residents to participate in the urban gardening project are facilitated through community partners like Detroit Cristo Rey High School, Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, Southwest Detroit Business Association and Community Health and Social Services Center. The lot borders a residential neighborhood and Ideal Group.