Category: Editorials

By on April 21, 2017

2015-Volkswagen-Golf-SportWagen-09
Oh my God, it’s finally almost over. After a 10-year conspiracy and almost 600,000 rigged diesel cars, VW’s legal battle with the United States is coming to an end. Volkswagen pled guilty last month to conspiracy to commit fraud and the obstruction of justice after it was caught cheating on emissions tests in 2015, and we’ve been eagerly waiting the verdict and subsequent punishment.

Today, a U.S. judge ordered the automaker to observe three years of probation and shell out a $2.8 billion criminal fine. The sum, which Steph Willems has informed me equates to 135,168 VW Golfs — after delivery and rounding up to the closest car — is in addition to the company’s $1.5 billion in civil penalties,  $4.7 billion in mandatory anti-pollution initiatives, and $11.2 billion diesel buyback program.  Read More >

By on April 20, 2017

By Siyuwj Geely_assembly_line

Long-time TTAC readers may recall that your humble author has worked a variety of unglamorous jobs in the retail end of the auto business — salesman, title department for one major finance company, skip tracer and junior approval officer for another — but I’ve also worked two stints in vehicle production itself. I never worked on the line directly, but I worked with various plants and production facilities on a fairly regular basis. Once I managed to figure out a pretty major problem and save the automaker in question about 45 minutes’ worth of downtime for their whole North American operation. That’s a savings measured in millions of dollars. I was so pleased with myself, I ran out, hopped in my old Porsche 911, and went to Donatos for a celebratory pizza with double cheese.

They wrote me up for taking a long lunch.

I bet that never happened to Bob Lutz.

Anyway, I’m a big fan of building cars — and everything else — in the United States. (You can find out more about American-made products and services at my hobby blog.) When we build real, tangible products here in the USA, we change hundreds of thousands of lives for the better. We preserve families and give young people a chance at a life beyond the social-welfare system. We also make it possible for minorities and disadvantaged people to enter the middle class and live the American dream.

Unfortunately, as a reader recently reminded me, these benefits don’t come without an associated cost, and that cost can be measured in blood.

Read More >

By on April 19, 2017

1990 Toyota Town Ace

High atop Mount Forbidden, the “other market’s” imported vehicle stands alone. It awaits that special day, some 25 years in the future, when the clouds will break and a descent into the mortal realm is possible.

And, after that special day comes, the vehicle gets a chance to stand out beyond all normal cars in any given American parking lot. It was never meant to be seen in this country, and yet someone with an entrepreneurial spirit made it possible. Come with me now, as we experience JDM van goodness.

Read More >

By on April 19, 2017

BMW CPO commercial Toyota Camry screenshot - Image: YouTube screenshot

Call them frenemies. BMW and Toyota are working together on a high-profile sports car project that will result in a long-awaited Supra successor and a replacement for the Z4. Two heads are better than one.

“The concept works, the platform can deliver and now we have two proud sets of engineers — one group German, one group Japanese — who are each fighting and arguing for the car they want,” BMW sales boss Ian Robertson said last year.

The fighting and arguing extends beyond the R&D facilities in Munich and Toyota City.

On a mission to exalt its 3 Series in a certified pre-owned commercial, BMW sought to make fun of a typically bland midsize sedan. 2001 Chevrolet Malibu? 2006 Kia Optima? 2017 Subaru Legacy?

No. BMW chose the most basic, beige, new Toyota Camry to make a point on behalf of a bright red pre-owned 3 Series.

Hardly the work of a BFF. Read More >

By on April 19, 2017

2017 Mazda MX-5 Sport

Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base model in which it might be more prudent to spend one’s extra cash on aftermarket upgrades and not a more expensive trim. Here’s a candidate.

Many songs of praise have been penned and much digital ink spilled of Mazda’s rear-wheel drive, two-seat roadster. From the original version in 1990 to the current fourth-gen model, Mazda has always managed to keep a lid on cost and weight, two things which generally spiral out of control in both successive iterations of a popular vehicle and my own personal lifestyle as I age.

A total of $5,150 separates the base MX-5 Sport from the top rung Grand Touring model. Is that sum of cash better spent on DIY upgrades? Or should buyers spring for the high-zoot MX-5? Let’s find out.

Read More >

By on April 18, 2017

s-l1600-7

Last time on Rare Rides, we carried the racing [driver] and special edition themes to new heights, and featured a shockingly bad Jeff Gordon Monte Carlo special edition of which there were 24 copies made. Our ride today is still made by General Motors, and it’s still about racing, but it’s larger and even more rare. It’s also better, because it has an Oldsmobile logo on the front (albeit not the superior rocket one).

Oh yeah, and it’ll go 140 miles per hour.

Read More >

By on April 18, 2017

Snowstorm/Tesla Motors Club forum]

Earlier this month, we detailed the plight of a Toronto-area man whose newly delivered Tesla Model S 90D — a six-figure vehicle boasting cutting-edge technology — arrived from the factory with a sizable crack in the A-pillar.

Because the A-pillar forms part of a one-piece aluminum side member, the defect represented a structural fault that couldn’t be ignored. It wasn’t the kind of PR Tesla wanted, especially as it ramps up production (and stock value) ahead of the Model 3 launch, and it certainly wasn’t something a first-time owner and admitted Tesla fan wanted to find.

After airing his story on the Tesla Motors Club forum, the owner provided TTAC with updates on his vehicle’s status. Read More >

By on April 18, 2017

Out of Patience Fuel Gauge Mug

Not to go all political on you, but it’s amazing how President Obama acted more like a bitter foreclosure victim — one who goes nuts and destroys as much of the house as they can, just short of being arrested for vandalism — during his last days in office, and not a graceful man given two terms as the leader of the free world.

Mr. Obama did this in two ways: one action affected a short list of government folk, and the other impacted one of the most important industries in our lives — the auto industry.

The short-listed government victims are those affected by Obama’s order to share dirt on people talking with “foreigners.” It’s against the law — but when did that stop the former President? What’s worse, and perhaps deadly, is Mr. Obama’s decision to renege on his promise to check and perhaps re-adjust the daunting future Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard his administration first put in place in 2009, which the administration made even wackier in 2011.

Read More >

By on April 18, 2017

2017 Honda SUV lineup – Images: Honda

American Honda will build a Pilot-based SUV intended to carve out a space between the Honda CR-V and Honda Pilot.

According to a report published by WardsAuto with AutoForecast Solutions, Honda will assemble this Co-Pilot in Alabama alongside the Pilot beginning in the fall of 2018.

Co-Pilot? How about Honda Pilot Sport? Nah, that’s Michelin territory. Honda Pilot Sidekick? Suzuki grabbed that one already. Honda Pilot Junior? Too juvenile.

The name matters less than the positioning. Is there room for a midsize two-row utility vehicle in between the CR-V, traditionally America’s top-selling SUV/crossover, and the Pilot, one of America’s most popular three-row vehicles?

It’s a gap Ford, Nissan, and Hyundai have no trouble filling. Read More >

By on April 18, 2017

Mazda 6 Grand Touring Interior, Image: Mazda/www.allcarz.ru

TTAC Commentator AbqJay writes:

A couple of months ago I bought a slightly used 2016 Mazda 6 Grand Touring with 18,000 miles. The car is my wife’s daily driver; I drive it about once a week, and for longer trips, such as a jaunt I took from our home in Albuquerque to southern California in December. It’s hard to believe, but this is my first wrong-wheel drive car. The Mazda 6 is roomy, has decent power, gets fabulous mileage, and has an interior filled with creamy leatherette seating and trim, and soothing blue LED lighting. Since no one wants to buy this car, we got a great deal on it. So far so good.

Then I drove it to Cali.

On the drive, I noticed the steering is heavy. As in really heavy. As in my wrists hurt after driving it for about 20 minutes on the interstate. It feels like I am wrestling with it, even though the steering appears to be dead center.

Read More >

By on April 17, 2017

Toyota Test Drive Track at NYIAS, Image: Twitter by New York International Auto Show

Walking through Brooklyn, your humble author was confronted by a sign on a building that said, “We stay awesome 24/7, but we are only available in person,” followed by the company’s business hours. There are two ways to view that sort of arrant idiocy. The first is to shrug one’s shoulders and just chalk it up to the sort of cutesy, infantile, Millennial-focused marketing that has turned Brooklyn from a place where my mother was actually shot at in 1970 merely for wearing her Women’s Army Corps — but Mommy’s neither one of those, I’ve known her all these years! — Class A officer’s uniform to a sort of supervised playground for losers whose sheltered ineptitude has combined with the realities of a flaccid job market to suspend them in kindergarten gaffa until the parents run out of home equity with which to sustain them.

(That’s quite a sentence there, ain’t it? You won’t get combinations of Cheap Trick and Kate Bush jokes in Motor Trend, trust me.)

Alternately, you can be a bit more perceptive and/or distrustful about the whole matter. You might take it as a sign of a corporate culture where employees are, in fact, expected to “stay awesome 24/7,” where everybody is judged on how infrequently they have an incorrect thought, even when they are off work. We’re rapidly approaching a day where we are never truly away from our jobs. You can be fired from your job for simply saying something that people don’t like during your private time; several years ago I had a public Facebook argument with two car-magazine writers that resulted in one of them calling my day job and making a “special request” to have me fired. (He was told to get stuffed, by the way.)

In other words, we now live in a world where corporations expect to have the kind of control over reality that was once just the nightmare imagination of George Orwell. Everything is now “curated,” which is a nice way of saying controlled. And that, in a nutshell, is why most of the “New York auto show” did not actually happen at the New York Auto Show.

Read More >

By on April 17, 2017

Fate of the Furious

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. The Fate Of The Furious is the eighth installment in what has become a surprisingly important cultural touchstone for an entire generation. With its lack of reliance on old comic books and/or Nicholas Sparks novels, the Fast/Furious saga probably ranks as the closest thing to original, innovative storytelling on the modern silver screen. That’s depressing, because you don’t exactly have to be Joseph Campbell to spot the multiple debts these films owe to everything from Henry James to James Bond.

In my previous reviews of installments five and six, I suggested the odd-numbered movies tend to be better than you’d expect, and the even-numbered ones tend to be worse. The Fate Of The Furious is in no danger of breaking this pattern; it’s a by-the-numbers action flick, half-hearted both in the sense that it’s missing Paul Walker and that it often feels like everybody involved is simply grinding out a paycheck. It’s very far from the worst episode in the series; that would be either the cartoonish 2Fast2Furious or the confusing, needlessly dark fourth film.

The irony, if you can use “irony” within shouting distance of a flick where a Russian nuclear submarine engages in battle with an all-wheel drive, Chevrolet powered, bulletproof Seventies Charger, is that Fate Of The Furious owes both its best and worst moments to the strength of a particular idea, one that has been at the heart of these movies since the very beginning.

(Mild spoilers ahead)

Read More >

By on April 17, 2017

1985 Mitsubishi Galant in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The first non-Chrysler-badged Mitsubishis arrived in the United States for the 1983 model year, in the form of the Cordia, Tredia, and Starion. They weren’t enormous sellers, but they made the Mitsubishi name a bit more familiar to American car shoppers. For 1985, Mitsubishi USA brought over the fifth-generation Galant, hoping to steal some sales from the extremely popular Honda Accord. Galant sales were not brisk, to put it mildly, and so I found it noteworthy when I spotted this first-year-of-importation Galant in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard. Read More >

By on April 15, 2017

chrysler200-rear

If you’re planning to buy your teen son or daughter their first vehicle — rather than let them work a retail job to save up for a rusting heap — the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety wants a word.

There’s good and almost-as-good choices for used cars out there, and none of them are a ’95 Cavalier with a blown suspension and more fluid leaks than the Bismark. While the IIHS top picks pack piece of mind for parents, kids might cringe at the less-than-sexy choices. Read More >

By on April 15, 2017

2016_nissan_leaf_12

How do you keep a very long-in-the-tooth model alive when competitors have bypassed it in terms of technology and practicality? Offer sweet deals, obviously.

Nissan’s venerable Leaf, which saw its first U.S. sales in late 2010 and still hasn’t confirmed a North American successor, needs all the help it can get. Not only are electric cars a tough sell in America, but the Leaf faces a growing crop of rivals that top its paltry driving range by roughly 2:1.

Nissan wants to know: would you feel differently if it was much, much cheaper? Read More >

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