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Archive for March, 2010

03 23rd, 2010

In a world where people appreciate good design everywhere, cool mini hotel rooms are the latest ‘it’ trend. In Tokyo, the Capsule Inn exemplifies the bare-essentials hotel rooms for brief use, and similar concepts are popping up at airports, train stations and downtowns around the world, replacing and mimicking the “day rooms” already existing at many airports.

Unlike Tokyo’s bed-only cabins where customers climb into a human equivalent of a honeycomb for a night’s rest, Yotel pods at Gatwick and Heathrow airports in London and Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam come in larger and more comfortable formats. These self-contained mini hotel rooms are equipped with a bed, table, HD TV and Wi-Fi.

The fourth Yotel is set to arrive in New York in 2011 with a location opening on 42nd and 10th street boasting 669 luxury rooms and the largest outside terrace in any hotel in New York

Also in Amsterdam, Citizen M has a hotel with 230 mini rooms at Schiphol Airport and a 215-room hotel in Amsterdam City. Citizen M plans to open similar hotels across Europe.

Qbic Hotels has opened two “cheap chic” hotels with mini rooms in the Netherlands: Qbic World Trade Centre Amsterdam and Qbic Maastricht, plus one in Antwerp, Belgium.

Taking the next step in rest and space efficiency, Russia’s Arch Group designed the SleepBox.

Along with an airport version of the rest pod, equipped with the usual, high-tech necessities offered by other companies, Arch Group has also designed an easy-to-relocate version fit for hostels. A small, mobile compartment, 2m (l) x 1.4m (w) x 2.3m (h), SleepBox is made of wood and MDF. SleepBox is meant to “allow very efficient use of available space and, if necessary, a quick change of layout”, making it perfect for hostels where demand and space available often come in conflict with each other. The hostel-specific SleepBox features bunk beds, flip-out tables and sockets for computers or phone chargers and not much else.

03 11th, 2010

Last month, sales of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (MSRP: $90,000 to $202,000) were up almost 12% from November 2008. That’s unusual: Overall, the luxury segment was down 8% year-over-year, and is down 27% for the year to date.

Total Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $233,731

Mercedes-Benz CLS Class (CLS63 AMG sedan, 6.3-liter V8) costs $97,950 at the dealer but loses $69,904 in value over five year.

Total Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $137,804

It turns out that while it’s tough to sell top-end luxury cars in a time of high unemployment and an uncertain economy, there are exceptions to the rule. Buyers will still flock to special cars with a lot of cachet and the price tags to match.

Audi, in particular, is faring better than most brands in the segment. With top-sellers like the Q5 SUV and A4 sedan, the company is down a relatively benign 7.9% for the year to date. (Competitors BMW and Mercedes were down 24% and 17%, respectively.)

But the Ingolstadt, Germany-based brand is not all everyday-driver cars and soccer-mom SUVs. Its $146,000 Audi R8 5.2 coupe sports a 525-horsepower V10 engine that gets to 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds. Its non-fixed costs (fuel, maintenance, depreciation) are apt for the high sticker price.

There are plenty of other 2010 cars–such as BMW’s $137,000 7-Series turbocharged V12 sedan (loses $85,642 in value over five year)

Total Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $166,232

and Jaguar’s $115,000 XJ Super V8 sedan (loses $72,698 in value over five year) – that offer a lot of extras with an MSRP and long-term costs to match. They’re at home on our list of the most expensive cars of 2010.

Total Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $140,939

Jaguar XKR convertible, supercharged 5-liter V8, costs $101,150 at the dealer but loses $65,220 in value over five year.

Total Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $128,458

Behind the Numbers

To determine our list, we used data from Vincentric, an auto-industry analysis firm in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., to evaluate the following costs over a five-year term: manufacturer suggested retail price, projected depreciation, fuel costs, repairs, interest, opportunity costs, fees and taxes, insurance and maintenance. The data assume an annual rate of 15,000 miles driven per vehicle and a price of $2.60 for regular fuel, $2.86 for premium and $2.75 for diesel. It also applies an inflation rate for fuel prices, since the calculations predict costs over five years. The 10 cars with the highest totals made our list.

We did not evaluate models from exotic brands like Lamborghini and Ferrari, automakers with extremely low production levels, like Spyker and Koenigsegg, or models from ultra-luxe automakers like Bentley, Maybach.

It’s not the sticker price but the depreciation that’s the key factor in making these vehicles expensive. Dave Freed, a managing partner at Vincentric, says car buyers wanting an affordable vehicle should remember to take into account the value of their asset at the end of five years, not just its initial MSRP.

The supercharged Land Rover Range Rover, for instance, costs $94,275 at the dealer but loses $54,600 in value over five years.

Total Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $117,191

That’s proportionately more than other SUVs in its class, like the $85,400 BMW X5M (it loses $42,149) and the $82,850 Mercedes-Benz GL550 (it loses $43,142).

New vehicles depreciate at an average rate of $3,461 per year ($4,551 per year for large sedans), according to AAA’s 2009 Driving Costs Report. On average, the cars on our list are projected to lose more than $15,000 in value per year.

But it’s also true that, in general, cars with low MSRPs cost less over time than their expensive counterparts–they have less value to insure, tax or depreciate in the first place.

Not about Affordability

Bill Gacioch isn’t thinking about the estimated $92,700 he’s losing to deprecation when he drives his red 2009 Audi R8 ($155,100). The Florida real estate investor values the car for its extraordinary performance, not for whether or not it’s affordable.

Total Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $182,688

He should know–he also drives a 2005 Spyker C8 Laviolette. Interestingly enough, the Spyker has the same soundness he’s come to appreciate in other Audi-built vehicles like the R8, meaning he isn’t constantly writing checks to keep the car in working order.

One of the nicest things about the Laviolette is that its drivetrain is all Audi, which has great reliability,” Gacioch says. “Sometimes ’sports car’ and ‘reliability’ don’t go together. This does.

At a base price around $210,000, the least it should be is reliable. And anyone who can splash out for such a sticker price needn’t worry about affording the depreciation.

Chevrolet Corvette: ZR3 coupe, 6.2-liter supercharged V8 costs $116,880 at the dealer but loses $55,039 in value over five year.

Total Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $125,615

BMW M6 Convertible, 5-liter V10, costs $107,900 at the dealer but loses $67,716 in value over five year.

Total Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $141,501

Mercedes-Benz CL Class(CL65 AMG coupe, twin-turbo 6-liter V12) costs $207,170 at the dealer but loses $103,187 in value over five year.

Total Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $199,391

03 1st, 2010

Wipe that smile off your face! The Olympic fun police are on the prowl.

It wasn’t enough that International Olympic Committee Mr. Miserable-in-Chief Jacques Rogge had to sour the last games in Beijing with his dour criticism that sprinter Usain Bolt’s celebratory showboating is “not the way we perceive being a champion.”

This time, just as everyone was having a little fun at the Vancouver Games drenched in tragedy, it is Canada’s gold medal-winning women hockey players who have had to apologize for being happy. Champagne-and-cigars happy.

Long after the joyous crowds had gone home, with only cleaners, venue staff and journalists – busily telling the story of Canada’s 2-0 win over the United States – still in the building, the women went back onto their home ice at Canada Hockey Place with cold ones in their hands and had themselves a party.

Anyone with a sense of humor couldn’t help but laugh at the photos of Haley Irwin and Meghan Agosta on their backs on the ice, sharing a fat cigar, or Irwin pouring champagne down the throat of Tessa Bonhomme. Goalies Charline Labonte and Kim St-Pierre posed at center ice, lying on their stomachs with a giant bottle of champagne resting just above the Olympic rings. Rebecca Johnston clowned around on the ice-resurfacing machine.

It was raucous, but it wasn’t football-hooligan nasty. It wasn’t inappropriate like Scotty Lago caught on camera at a party with a woman kneeling below his waist, trying to kiss the snowboarder’s bronze medal.

It was deserved. Canada’s women didn’t bag their third straight Olympic hockey gold on Thursday by being pushovers. The team works hard to be a world-beater. If they were men, no one would have begrudged them a celebratory drink or 10.

They had a great time,” Vancouver organizing chief John Furlong said Friday of Boozegate. “They let their hair down. Yes, they said they were sorry, but they’re great ambassadors for hockey, and they shouldn’t regret what they did for a moment.

But the thing about the stuffed shirts at the IOC is that you can always expect at least one of them to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Rogge has done it at these games, by ducking blame for the training-run death of Nodar Kumaritashvili on the too-quick Olympic sliding track. His assertion that “everyone is responsible” for the Georgian luger’s crash was really the same as saying that no one is, because it avoided singling out individuals who might be called into account.

With Canada’s women, it was Gilbert Felli, IOC executive director of the Olympic Games, who stuck a ski boot-sized foot in his mouth.

Informed by an AP reporter of the celebration, Felli said: “If that’s the case, that is not good. It is not what we want to see.”

We will investigate what happened. We will talk to the federation and the NOC. We will first find the facts and then act accordingly,” he said.

So, we can presume, can we, that not one IOC member, not a single one, has drunk a drop from the fully stocked bar and the stock of British Columbia wines on offer at their Vancouver hotel.

And why didn’t any of them pipe up when Jon Montgomery paraded through the streets of Whistler, guzzling from a large pitcher of beer, when he won gold for Canada in skeleton?

The easy assumption would be that it disturbs some people that women drink and smoke cigars like men. But we’ll give Felli the benefit of the doubt and guess that he was miffed only because he wasn’t included in the party.

At risk of looking like the biggest partypooper since prohibition, the IOC executed a halfpipe-sized U-turn on Friday.

Spokesman Mark Adams said the Olympic governing body would write to Canadian organizers asking for more details. He was careful not to call it an investigation.

For this mini-affair to end here, as it should, here’s what the letter should say: Have a good time. We’ll send over a few Olympic-sized packets of hangover tablets.