Posts By: stephwillems

By on October 21, 2017

All-New Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Compact SUV - Image: Mitsubishi

Last year, Nissan answered Mitsubishi’s prayers by purchasing a majority stake in the struggling Japanese automaker. The company had started out strong in North America at the dawn of the 20th century, with U.S. sales topping 345,000 in 2002. Six years later, volume had fallen by nearly 85 percent.

Mitsubishi was a dead brand walking, at least on these shores.

Now adopted by a wealthy parent, Mitsubishi has access to Nissan’s technology and platforms, but don’t expect the two automakers to start joint production of new products anytime soon. Only two new models — one with a horrible name, the other a long-delayed niche vehicle — will appear in showrooms before the end of the decade.

Still, Mitsubishi is planning for a 30-percent bump in U.S. sales by early 2020. Product isn’t the sole player in the company’s new growth strategy. (Read More…)

By on October 20, 2017

2016 Holden Commodore

Maybe the dingo ate your industry? No, that cruel joke doesn’t hold a grain of truth — Australia’s domestic auto industry simply fell victim to the harsh realities of economics and globalization.

No longer a captive market, no longer a country with steep walls built of tariffs, the land Down Under found it could no longer sustain its own vehicle manufacturing presence. Because of this, today marks the end of it all. Workers will leave the Holden assembly plant in Elizabeth, South Australia, closing the door on the GM subsidiary’s 69-year Aussie car-building history.

It seems the final vehicle to leave the plant was fittingly badass. (Read More…)

By on October 20, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry Georgetown Kentucky assembly plant - Image: Toyota

Kobe Steel, the disgraced Japanese metal supplier, apparently falsified quality data for its products for over 10 years, the company now admits. Some of those products were sheetmetal and aluminum components used by a slew of automakers, among them American, Japanese, French, German, and Swedish manufacturers.

Makers of trains and airliners also made use of the metals, the strength and durability of which is now in doubt. This week, the European Aviation Safety Agency warned against components made by Kobe Steel.

While Boeing and Airbus inspect their aircraft, automakers are doing the same. Ford has said there’s no reason to be concerned, as Kobe product only went into the hood of a Chinese-market sedan. Now, four other automakers have given their vehicles a clean bill of health. (Read More…)

By on October 19, 2017

flooded cars (public domain)

From the Texas coast to Georgia, the southern U.S. took a long-delayed pounding this summer after years of hurricane “drought.” Hurricane Harvey struck, then lingered for days, over the Corpus Christi-Houston area in late August, sending hundreds of thousands of vehicles to the salvage yard. Hurricane Irma followed shortly thereafter, striking Florida before moving up into the southeastern states.

Perhaps aware of Texas’ reputation, Harvey cut the largest swath through the country’s rolling stock, with roughly 422,000 insured vehicles now awaiting salvage auctions. Irma’s wrath adds a further 215,000 to the flood-damaged mix. For the National Insurance Crime Bureau, it’s not necessarily those vehicles that are leading to restless nights — it’s ones with owners unable to make an insurance claim. (Read More…)

By on October 19, 2017

IIHS crash test, Image: IIHS/YouTube

First, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety bagan irking the automotive industry by performing crash tests. Then it devised more. Eventually, the IIHS ratcheted the bar up to a previously unseen height, demanding vehicles undergo the dreaded small overlap front crash test — a 2012 addition to its testing regimen. Covering just 25 percent of the frontal area of the car, the test mimics a not-quite-glancing-enough head-on collision, or perhaps an impact with a tree or utility pole.

New vehicles failed the test in droves. Firewalls were deformed. Dummies’ legs exited the vehicles in mangled fashion. The Dodge Challenger got a black eye. In response, the industry raced to beef up its front ends, eager for a marketable high crash test score.

Now, a year after becoming concerned that automakers were focusing efforts on only the driver’s side of the vehicle, IIHS is turning its attention to the passenger side. A new crash test is born. But how did the first crop of vehicles — 13 midsize cars — fare in this new test? (Read More…)

By on October 19, 2017

Governments big and small can issue far-off bans on gasoline and diesel all they want, but in the here and now, no one’s stopping you from taking home a Ford F-350 crew cab for family hauling duties. There’s no shadowy apparatchik barring the front door at the local Dodge dealership, preventing you from signing on […]

By on October 18, 2017

Car in a Driveway, Image: Bigstock.com

Picture a suburban street in an average middle class neighborhood. In each driveway sits two vehicles, as tradition states no modern American suburban family can make do with just one. Think about those two vehicles for a minute now.

Are they evenly matched? In other words, are they the same size? Do they fulfill the same requirements laid out by a single segment? Doubtful, and your mind’s eye already made this clear. One’s a Safari or Caprice wagon, the other’s a Datsun 210. One’s a Corolla, the other, a Suburban. A Focus and an F-150, and so on.

Does owning an economy car compel new car buyers to splurge when new-car buying time rolls around? Logic, and now science, says yes. (Read More…)

By on October 17, 2017

Polestar 1, Image: Polestar

There’s something missing from the efficiently named Polestar 1, the first production vehicle unveiled by the world’s newest car brand: a Volvo badge.

Anyone who’s ever seen Volvo’s 2013 Concept Coupe will surely recognize the similarities between the two vehicles, but the slinky personal luxury coupe seen here is the one you’ll actually see plying a roadway near you, if you’re so lucky. Polestar, once a performance arm of Volvo Cars but now its own standalone subsidiary, plans a range of high-end electrified performance vehicles, of which the Polestar 1 is merely the first.

Packing a 600-horsepower plug-in hybrid powertrain and a body to die for, the 2+2 grand tourer makes great use of its sister division’s architecture, all paid for by corporate overlord Geely. The obvious similarities to the Volvo S90 isn’t an accident, as a bespoke version of that model’s platform lurks beneath its curvaceous flanks. However, that isn’t to say the Polestar 1 is just a Volvo in disguise. (Read More…)

By on October 17, 2017

1994 Dodge Ram, Image: Brian Cantoni/Flickr

There’s a questionable spy photo of the next-generation Ram 1500 floating around. “Questionable,” because since the dawn of time, a Ram pickup, whether prefixed by “Dodge” or not, has retained solid, distinctive, and simple lines.

Unfortunately, the 2019 model seen in the photo appears with an odd mish-mash of Silverado and Tundra styling cues in place of today’s handsome front fenders and traditional crosshair grille. This got the TTAC chatroom talking. After all, the Ram nameplate is well-known for taking a styling direction and running with it for decades. Two styles over 40 years, essentially.

That got us talking about the most memorable Rams, the most quintessential and #iconic Rams, and, eventually, to the most famous Ram of them all. (Read More…)

By on October 16, 2017

2017 Cadillac XT5 - Image: GM China

Imagine a traditional luxury car buyer — yes, some still exist — walks into his or her local Cadillac dealer to check out the radically refreshed 2018 XTS. Naturally, the old XTS is hanging out in the parking lot, quietly serving as potential trade-in. After entering the dealer, a salesperson ushers our buyer over to a virtual reality machine to check out the many glories (and options) that await in the new model.

On the way to that machine, the buyer passes zero Cadillacs. There’s not a CTS or CT6 or hot-selling XT5 in sight. An unlikely scenario? Perhaps. A little weird? Certainly to a repeat (read: aged) buyer. It seems small Cadillac dealers definitely felt that way, as low-volume sales locales soundly rejected head office’s plan to do away with traditional showrooms and physical cars.

As a result, Cadillac has given the ominous-sounding Project Pinnacle a makeover. (Read More…)

By on October 16, 2017

Volvo Cars Torslanda assembly plant - Image: Volvo

It’s often hard to remove an ingredient after the cake’s emerged from the oven. Because of this, news of Kobe Steel’s falsified inspection reports no doubt came with a fair bit of nervous collar tugging for executives at several automakers.

The Japanese company, which has subsidiaries in numerous countries, is a go-to supplier for the automotive and aircraft industries, providing steel, copper and aluminum components to companies as diverse as Ford and Boeing. Last week, Kobe admitted to selling substandard (or suspected substandard) materials to 500 companies, among them Ford, Volvo, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and possibly Mazda.

Oh, and Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, General Motors, Hyundai, and Renault.

Maybe you’ve heard of them. (Read More…)

By on October 14, 2017

tesla factory fremont, Image: Tesla Motors

Tesla employees jockeying for scarce parking spaces outside the company’s Fremont, California assembly plant and Palo Alto headquarters could soon find it easier to locate a spot.

The electric automaker reportedly laid off hundreds of workers this week — a move that comes at an particularly stressful time for the company and its employees. At just 260 units, third-quarter production of the long-awaited Model 3 sedan fell far short of predictions, with CEO Elon Musk blaming production bottlenecks for the slow trickle of highly sought-after vehicles.

Meanwhile, the exact nature of the fired employees is the subject of some debate. (Read More…)

By on October 14, 2017

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel - Image: GM

After a month-long strike and a war of words that erupted earlier this week, General Motors and the union representing workers at its CAMI assembly plant have struck a tentative deal.

Late Friday, Unifor Local 88 posted a statement claiming a breakthrough in bargaining talks that reached an impasse on September 17th. That means Chevrolet Equinox crossovers could restart production at the Ingersoll, Ontario facility on Monday — easing dealer fears over a shortage of the hot-selling vehicle. (Read More…)

By on October 13, 2017

Ford storage bin patent, Image: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Cargo covers only hide so much. And at the end of the day, your SUV’s cargo area is merely a receptacle for refuse — you can’t tote the contents around outside the vehicle without a stolen shopping cart.

If a patent application filed by Ford Motor Company bears fruit, your cargo hold will have everything you need for tailgate parties, camping trips, and, just maybe, a long wait at the border. (Read More…)

By on October 13, 2017

2016 Chevrolet Impala LTZ Detroit - Image: GM

It’s going to be a black Christmas at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant this year. Amid rising inventory levels for the Cadillac CT6, Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala, and Chevrolet Volt, General Motors plans to shut off the lights for the rest of the year.

Blame the American consumer’s rapidly changing automotive tastes. (Read More…)

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