Posts By: stephwillems

By on January 21, 2017

Image: Nissan 2017 Nissan Rogue One Star Wars

If compact crossovers were feature films, Nissan’s Rogue would be tapped for an Academy Award statuette. The surging model ended a record sales year with a truly boffo month, and Nissan can give partial thanks to the visibility heaped on it by the Rogue One marketing campaign.

You couldn’t escape it — simply, it was everywhere. No longer dodging monsters made out of ice, the Rogue spend the holiday season dodging lasers as it plowed across a Martian-like landscape. The automaker’s partnership with Lucasfilm took the vast marketing power of the Star Wars franchise and brought it to bear on a relative latecomer to the crossover game, cranking its exposure up to “11.”

That, coupled with a cringe-inducing (or lustworthy) limited-edition Rogue and an end-of-year sales push, made the Rogue the best-selling non-pickup vehicle in the U.S. for the month of December. Unfortunately for Nissan, nothing lasts forever. Rogue One won’t stay in theaters forever, and there’s no new partnership on the horizon.

What to do? (Read More…)

By on January 21, 2017

Just as geese fly south in the winter, metal conducts electricity, and tides rise and fall at the will of the moon, a luxury-laden SUV that rivals yachts for sticker price is guaranteed by all of science to become a premium brand’s best-seller.

After seeing the stunning success of the once-unthinkable Bentley Bentayga, what other conclusion could the folks at Mercedes-Benz draw? Carving out a stratospheric utility vehicle niche well above a brand’s high water mark means money falling from the sky. Period.

Naturally, Stuttgart wants in on the action. Like any rational competitor, the company now plans to tart up an existing SUV, slap on a Mercedes-Maybach badge, and sit back to await the arrival of the money train. (Read More…)

By on January 20, 2017

2017 Volkswagen Beetle

Rumors of the Volkswagen Beetle’s demise are either greatly exaggerated, or right on point. The Model languishes on the low end of the sales scale, hamstrung by a retro design that shuns updates and the public’s dwindling enthusiasm for compact cars.

Still, there exists fans of the model, even inside the scandal-shaken and SUV-fixated company. No one loves the Beetle more than VW design head Klaus Bischoff, who claims the model is his favorite in all Volkswagendom (um, have you seen the Atlas, Klaus?). So great is his love for the Beetle that Bischoff is urging VW to spare the model the axe and stimulate interest through a new method of propulsion.

A report suggests that top brass might be listening. (Read More…)

By on January 20, 2017

ford-mustang-gt-convertible-ingot-silver

Okay, it certainly wasn’t hard to imagine the upcoming 2018 Mustang sans roof, but here it is.

No, there’s no retractable hardtop or innovative Mazda MX-3-esque retractable fastback to be found on the upcoming convertible, as that might be a little too high-minded for the Blue Oval. As well, lower price points are a pony car tradition. (Read More…)

By on January 20, 2017

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE350, Image: © 2016 Steve Lynch/The Truth About Cars

Russia, the country where Shoviet Shub captain Sean Connery learned to fish, might be on the verge of a modest economic rebound.

After tanking hard in the wake of collapsing oil prices, the country’s rickety economic state prompted many automakers to abandon plans for production growth or pull up stakes altogether. General Motors was a noted casualty, though Lada sailed through the turmoil in fine shape.

Early last year, it seemed as if parent Daimler would head west instead of building a Mercedes plant in the Motherland. However, that’s no longer the case, according to the country’s trade and industry minister. (Read More…)

By on January 19, 2017

Martin Winterkorn, Image: Volkswagen AG [CC BY 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons

As far as anyone knows, former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn spent the last 16 months on a desert island.

After resigning his post in the turbulent days after the diesel emissions scandal went public, Winterkorn stayed out of the spotlight, shying from any public appearances. That is, until now. As indictments land in executives’ laps and top brass grow wary of leaving the country, Winterkorn showed his face to a parliamentary committee in Berlin. (Read More…)

By on January 19, 2017

untitled

No, not Kato Kaelin. (That’s two OJ references on one day. We’re done. – Ed.)

Mouth-watering classics hit the block at Bonhams’ Scottsdale auction house all the time, but few were ever driven by the embodiment of 1980s masculinity. Well, today’s your chance to clear out your retirement funds and make a bid on one of the most recognizable vehicles in all of TV Land. (Read More…)

By on January 18, 2017

checker-pickup-1

Being a non-conformist used to mean driving a German or Japanese car. For those who really wanted to make a scene, Sweden was more than happy to provide a quirky Volvo or Saab. Well, that strategy is out. Everything’s just too mainstream.

What’s an individualist to do? Electric cars have become too commonplace, and regulations make building your own car too much of a hassle. Enter Checker, which tentatively plans to build two offbeat versions of an already offbeat classic starting next year. (Read More…)

By on January 18, 2017

volkswagen i.d. buzz concept

If we’re to believe a source inside Volkswagen, 2022 could bring a latter-day Summer of Love.

The company’s latest Microbus concept — the eye-rollingly named I.D. Buzz — might not stay a concept for long, an insider claims, stirring hope in eco-conscious Germanophiles and fans of the original hippie wagon. (Read More…)

By on January 17, 2017

GM: Barra at 2016 GM Annual Stockholders Meeting

Not wanting to be left out of the flurry of recent U.S. investment announcements from various automakers, General Motors arrived at the party with cash in hand and second thoughts about Mexico.

GM says it will invest an extra $1 billion in its U.S. operations, with the cash covering several new vehicle projects, as well as some advanced technologies and components initiatives. The funding comes hot on the heels of similar announcements from Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and, just this morning, Hyundai/Kia.

In a nod to the political climate in America, GM will shuffle some outsourced parts production back to U.S. soil. (Read More…)

By on January 17, 2017

2018 Ford Mustang

After luring journalists away from last week’s Detroit auto show for a sneak peak, Ford is ready to show the world its new 2018 Mustang.

That face. Online backlash was moderate to severe when leaked b-roll footage of the new ‘Stang appeared online last night, with some wags claiming the updated model must be unhappy. Beneath the downturned face, however, there’s a host of upgrades designed to satisfy performance-minded enthusiasts.

On that front, ‘Stang purists can breathe a sigh of relief. The 5.0-liter Coyote V8, rumored to be replaced by a 4.8-liter unit, won’t disappear after all. But one long-running engine choice had to skip this party to attend its own funeral. (Read More…)

By on January 17, 2017

Hyundai Tucson, Image: Hyundai

Hyundai Motor Company and its Kia affiliate are starting off the New Year with a promise to float barges full of cash to U.S. shores.

The automaker has announced a plan to funnel $3.1 billion into its American operations over the next five years, handily killing two birds with one stone. Not only would it (potentially) placate President-elect Donald Trump’s thirst for non-Mexican automotive investment, it would also fix a thorny problem facing Hyundai’s vehicle lineup. (Read More…)

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