Jeans & Ties Guys is a recurring series introducing men who embody what J&T is all about. Today: Ed Kim of Lakewood, Calif.
Ed Kim, an automotive industry analyst, has been obsessed with cars since he first flipped through his parents coffee table book, “Cars of 1975.” But the vehicle that sparked his interest wasn’t a classic Corvette, sleek Porsche or even a rugged Jeep.
“You’re gonna laugh, but the car I was infatuated with as a kid was a Volkswagen Rabbit,” Kim admits.
Kim’s taste in cars has evolved a bit from age 4 to 41, but his passion has not waned. Kim is a vice president for AutoPacific, a marketing research and consulting firm headquartered in car-crazy Southern California. He spends his days analyzing customer behavior, which perfectly suits the college psychology major, and trying to figure out what every automaker will be doing over the next few years.
“Part of doing that is driving the cars that are out there right now and forming opinions on all the vehicles in the marketplace,” says Kim, who called J&T from a 2015 GMC Canyon test drive. “It helps us understand the car market as a whole.”
Kim’s wife Carrie—who J&T readers will remember—is also in the business, doing freelance communications for the Motor Press Guild and writing car reviews from a mom’s perspective for Cars.com. Between the two, there’s usually a new test car in the driveway of their SoCal home, in addition to their two Volkswagens. “I could never convince my parents to get a Rabbit, so I’ve now owned four VWs as an adult,” Kim confesses.
All the access to new cars gives Kim unparalleled expertise and makes him the go-to guy when friends and family are in car-buying mode. To gain further insight and recommendations, J&T shot him a few hypotheticals. Kim’s answers, in his own words, are below:
A guy has recently graduated from college, has a new job but not a lot of money. What vehicle do you recommend that’s practical and inexpensive, yet stylish?
Young adults today have a symbiotic relationship with their personal technology. It is increasingly expected that the car and the smartphone play nice with each other. Simultaneously, as much as you dress to impress at your first real job, the same should go for your ride, even when you’re on a budget.
For under $24,000, Honda offers the Accord Sport, which adds very snazzy eighteen-inch wheels, a discreet rear spoiler, fog lights, and even a 10-way power driver’s seat to what is otherwise a fairly mundane but incredibly competent mid-size sedan. The exterior upgrades really transform the look of the car, making it look far more expensive than it is. Inside, the infotainment system can send and receive your phone’s text messages, and you can even control your phone’s Pandora app right from the car’s stereo. The cherry on top is the big and spacious interior—perfect for taking your clients out to lunch in style and comfort.
The guy is now married, with a couple kids. His wife is driving the minivan, and he needs something that the kids can ride in and also reflects the rungs he’s climbed at work. What vehicle do you recommend?
The new Audi A3 now comes as a really attractive sedan rather than just the five-door hatchback format that the last generation was exclusively available as. It’s sporty, attractive, and has enough of a back seat to get the kids shuttled around town when the need arises. Being an Audi, its exterior styling certainly impresses onlookers and it has a beautiful and exquisitely crafted interior. Performance from any of the four available engines—even the basic 170 HP 1.8L turbo four—is spritely and impressive.
It’s also full of technology. The A3’s available adaptive cruise control can handle stop and go traffic without intervention from your feet, a real boon for urban commuters. Its available navigation system overlays Google Earth graphics on the map display. And, there’s a built-in 4G LTE wifi hotspot, allowing your passengers to bring their tablets and access the Internet on the go.
Best of all, with a starting price of about $30,000, one can be financially responsible for family’s sake and slightly indulgent all at once.
Kids are out of the house, and the guy is ready to splurge a bit. But he doesn’t want something too splashy and that his wife won’t ride in. What vehicle do you recommend?
AutoPacific’s research shows that once the kids are out of the house, many of today’s empty-nest couples still want a sizable back seat and good cargo room. Why? Compared to their parents, the Baby Boomer Empty Nester is active, social, and young at heart. So, the ideal ride might be a rewarding vehicle with room for another couple to go for a night out on the town, as well as good cargo space for loading flea market finds or luggage for a nice weekend away.
Within those parameters, a BMW X5 would be pretty tough to beat. It’s roomy, stylish, and despite being an SUV, it’s a blast to drive. Best of all, there are a multitude of engine and suspension options to suit every taste—and budget. If you can swing it, the 567 HP X5 M is comically powerful yet retains all of the practicality of the standard version.
You already have the cars you need for everyday life, and you’re eyeing a weekend car that’s strictly for fun. Money’s not an object here. What are you getting?
This is an easy one for me. It would be a Porsche 911, modified by Singer Vehicle Design.
Singer Vehicle Design is an amazing California-based outfit run by Rob Dickinson, a former designer at Lotus as well as the lead singer of the 90s alt band Catherine Wheel. To say that Singer Vehicle Design simply restores older Porsche 911s doesn’t do them justice. Singer’s cars are exquisitely vintage modern, with period-inspired design details executed to an unbelievable standard. They are truly works of art; the more you pore over the details, the more you realize just how meticulously and artistically rendered these cars are. And while the cars may look vintage Porsche, there is nothing vintage about their performance. They possess ultra-modern chassis components and highly modified engines, making them truly supercar fast.
You’re a big fan of vintage cars. Give me three that immediately make you pull over and take a picture for Instagram.
1. Quite possibly my favorite car in the world is the Mercedes-Benz W123 station wagon, best known in America as the 300TD that was sold from 1979 through 1985. For me, no other vehicle wearing the three-pointed star better encapsulates what Mercedes-Benz is supposed to be all about: stoic, beautiful through its functionality, and ridiculously over-engineered because Germany. The sheer number of these wagons still on the road is testament to their incredible engineering. So, they’re certainly not rare. But an exquisitely clean one will always get me to pull over and whip out the iPhone.
2. Any oddball vintage small European car not intended for these shores is total Instabait for me. Be they little Citroëns, Renaults, or FIATs, there is something incredibly romantic and charming about the sorts of cars that would have plied the streets of 1960s Paris or Rome.
3. The 1961-1964 Lincoln Continental is probably my favorite American car design of all time. It is simultaneously stately and imposing, yet so gracefully elegant as well. Those rear-hinged rear doors are perhaps its most famous feature, but the overall silhouette and wonderful design details truly reflect the timeless beauty and optimism of American mid-century industrial design. I will never pass up an opportunity to snap one of these.