Category: Features

By on December 8, 2016

2017 Lincoln Continental - Image: Ford

There remains a select group of American car buyers who are actually buyers of cars. In fact, there are still American car buyers who want American cars. Indeed, there are still a number of American car buyers who want American luxury cars.

As an example, consider the all-new Lincoln Continental.

It’s not a hot seller — at least not in the conventional sense of the word. The new Lincoln Continental isn’t topping the sales charts. Indeed, given the fact, in November, the Continental was America’s 17th-best-selling premium brand car, it may not even be a warm seller.

But there are a couple of indicators that suggest the 2017 Lincoln Continental is over-performing; that it’s exceeding Ford Motor Company’s expectations. That’s not bad news for America’s remaining handful of American luxury car aficionados, especially with the measure of success being enjoyed by a cross-town Continental rival. Read More >

By on December 8, 2016

Car Not A Costume, Ford/Land Rover

True story: Many, many years ago I briefly dated a young woman who, at the age of 16, was the subject of a custody battle between her hard-luck mother and her suburban aunt. You’d expect this to go the way of the aunt, and you’d be right. But what you would not expect is that the aunt was married to a fellow who, some 15 years earlier, had been L. Ron Hubbard’s personal bodyguard. He was deeply involved in the “Sea Org” and a bunch of other Scientology-related stuff. He also claimed to have been a Green Beret and a decorated Vietnam veteran. (More information on the dude here, if you’re interested.)

Scientology in general, and my girlfriend’s foster dad in particular, was notorious for “fair-gaming” its lapsed members and anybody else who gets in the way of the organization. “Fair Game” is an L. Ron Hubbard phrase that means, basically, no action that can be taken by church members against the person in question is off-limits. It’s okay to attack them, kidnap them, have their home “SWATted”, destroy their careers or their credit rating. Being “fair gamed” by the Church of Scientology is very far from a picnic. The Church now disavows “fair gaming”. (More info here.)

The Ford Motor Company, on the other hand, doesn’t seem too reluctant to “fair game” a few of its lapsed members, as you’ll see.

Read More >

By on December 7, 2016

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

As I exited the grocery store this past Sunday night thronged by late night shoppers, the expressions on the faces of those who walked past the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback LX, parked right in front of the store, were not difficult to discern.

Then, as it became obvious I was the “owner” of said Civic, previously repulsed glances shifted toward me, now full of pity. Can’t say I was surprised. The exterior design Honda foisted upon an otherwise excellent car is downright horrifying.

I wanted to shout across the grocery store parking lot, “It’s not mine.”
Read More >

By on December 7, 2016

2017 VW Golf

Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base trim that might not be the best of its range but represents a merciful departure from the rattletrap boxes of sadness which, not too many years ago, used to be hawked by OEMS as their base wheels. Here’s an example.

Sure, it’s easy to mock Volkswagen these days. The diesel emissions scandal has scuppered the brand in the eyes of a number of consumers, adding to traditional VW stereotypes such as high repair and maintenance costs. All the same, excluding an entire brand from consideration because of a single wayward trimline is akin to throwing out a fifty pound sack of potatoes because of one rotten spud.

In the past, Americans treated hatchbacks with a degree of disdain generally leveled at soiled copies of Utne Reader. The Golf is definitely one of the better hatchbacks out there. Does its base S model pass the Ace of Base litmus test?

Read More >

By on December 6, 2016

2013-ford-taurus-sel-20l-ecoboost-grille-and-badge-photo-529274-s-1280x782

An evolving lineup that matches consumer demand is the hallmark of any healthy automaker, and Ford has no problem dropping unpopular models.

That’s the message delivered by Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, who hinted that changes could be in store for the company’s car lineup in the face of a crossover and SUV-hungry marketplace. Read More >

By on December 6, 2016

2017 Chevrolet Camaro V6 V8 1LE - Image: General Motors

Well, that was short-lived. After somewhat positive, very incentive-fueled results for the Chevrolet Camaro in September and October, November’s numbers told a very different story.

General Motors’ underwhelming launch of the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro produced significantly fewer sales in 2016 than the old Camaro managed in its final year. Camaro sales through the first eight months of 2016 were down 15 percent, year-over-year. But GM then threw down the incentive gauntlet in September with massive discounts, intending to clear an inventory glut.

It worked. Sort of. The Chevrolet Camaro outsold the Ford Mustang in September — and again in October — but inventory levels scarcely decreased. Autumn simply isn’t the time to sell large numbers of pony cars, even if the Camaro attracted more buyers thanks to average discounts of $4,700 per car.

Regardless, that two-month Camaro win streak turned out to be a two-month blip. General Motors scaled back Camaro incentives in November 2016. Consequently, Camaro volume declined, the Camaro was once again handily outsold by the Ford Mustang, and there are now 177 days of Camaro supply across America. Read More >

By on December 6, 2016

deal1

“Character is what you do when no one is watching.” This quote, ascribed to John Wooden, C.S. Lewis, and others, is doubly true when it comes to the oft-reviled profession of automotive sales. Any dealer can be “ethical” when they are facing an informed consumer with money, credit, the ability to hire counsel, and the self-confidence to fight for own interests. I’ve had plenty of trouble-free transactions with dealerships that had well-earned abysmal reputations for ethics. Hell, I’ve even managed to buy some new motorcycles over the years without getting raked over the coals too hard.

You can’t judge a dealer based on how he treats a middle-aged white guy with a spotless credit rating, a laptop full of information, and a thorough knowledge of the laws in his state regarding new-car sales. That would be like the Misfit having a good opinion of the grandmother in the Flannery O’Connor tale. Rather, you judge a dealer by how he behaves when there is nobody of consequence looking. Given a dark-skinned female customer with a decent co-signer and some down payment money but no genuine idea of how the process works, how much advantage will a dealer take?

The answer might shock you, as they say — but it probably won’t.

Read More >

By on December 5, 2016

2017 Chrysler 200C Platinum - Image: FCA

It’s over.

Consider the bucket kicked, the farm sold, the dust bitten. We have long been aware Sergio Marchionne was preparing a Chrysler 200-shaped coffin for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ remaining midsize sedan. On Friday, December 2, 2016, the lid of that coffin was slammed shut at FCA’s Sterling Heights, Michigan, assembly plant.

The Detroit News reported last week the Chrysler 200 is officially dead. Fortunately, the Sterling Heights plant lives on. Read More >

By on December 4, 2016

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2016

We have, perhaps unfairly, categorized German automakers as far more calculating and efficient than their American counterparts. While there is certainly a case to be made for this positive stereotyping, there are also plenty of examples calling this perceived Germanic precision into question. One such instance is the absolutely ridiculous lengths Mercedes-Benz have been going to avoid the chicken tax on its imported vans. Read More >

By on December 3, 2016

Mark-Fields (Image: Ford)

Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields doesn’t have kind words for the Environmental Protection Agency’s surprise decision to keep long-term fuel economy targets in place.

A mid-term review of corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) targets set in 2012 kicked off earlier this year, but the timing of the agency’s recent decision to maintain the 54.5 mile-per-gallon goal reeks of politics, Fields claims.

For automakers, reaching 54.5 mpg means extra costs. To avoid this, Ford is prepared to turn to its election campaign sparring partner — President-elect Donald Trump — for help. Read More >

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