Category: Editorials

By on March 20, 2017

Macan Porsche

While still exclusive, Porsche is gradually becoming a more populous and profitable brand. It delivered 238,000 vehicles last year and posted an operating profit of $4.1 billion — a 14-percent increase over 2015’s accounting.

A little back-of-the-envelope math places the per-car profit at roughly $17,250. As a premium automaker, you’d expect it to rake it in on every vehicle sold. However, Porsche doesn’t limit production to the same extent that Ferrari does in order to maintain artificially high prices. And it absolutely decimates other premium brands that offer exclusivity at a higher volume. BMW and Mercedes-Benz both hover at around $5,000 in profit per car.

Porsche seems to have struck an ideal balance. While its per-car profit was actually higher a few years ago — $23,000 in 2013 — it wasn’t making quite as much money overall. At the time, Bentley pulled in roughly 21 grand per unit and sold fewer vehicles overall. Since then, Porsche has shifted some of its focus downmarket, introduced the Macan, expanded its volume, increased income, and still managed to maintain a sweet profit margin on every vehicle sold.

How did it manage that? Basically, the same way Ford wrangles its F-150.

Read More >

By on March 20, 2017

tesla model-s-rear

Tesla is taking its most affordable model off the market next month. In order to “simplify the ordering process,” the automaker has decided to abandon the Model S 60 and 60D, according to its official newsletter.

It hasn’t even been a full year since the 60kWh trim returned after the more-expensive Model S 70 replaced it in 2015. Good riddance. Read More >

By on March 20, 2017

2017 BMW 4 Series Convertible – Image: BMW

Choice is good for car buyers. But in the never-ending quest to produce incremental volume gains, the planet’s largest premium auto brands agree that certain niches are quickly becoming untenable.

Known for questioning in 2014 whether the global sports car market would ever recover from its post-recession collapse, BMW sales boss Ian Robertson told Car And Driver earlier this month that “some body styles will be removed in the future.”

Meanwhile, the head of Mercedes-Benz Dieter Zetsche said at the Geneva auto show that the lack of Chinese uptake for specialty cars “makes the business case for these vehicles less easy.”

Yet long before a model cull returns us to the days of tidy luxury lineups — 3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series, and 8 Series as the 1990s intended! — premium German marques will first introduce a slew of new models. And the body styles destined for removal? Likely not the silly four-door coupes and impractical SUVs you love to hate. Read More >

By on March 20, 2017

2017-Mitsubishi-Outlander-Sport-Limited-Edition-Front

Mitsubishi is stalling the much-needed redesigns of its Outlander SUV and Outlander Sport compact crossover as engineers explore ways of sharing components with Nissan.

This means that, until the Outlander Sport gets its proposed downsizing, Mitsubishi could have two vehicles sharing a segment and potential customers when the 2018 Eclipse Cross hits dealerships. Both Outlanders were expected to assume a new form to better distance themselves from the Eclipse Cross compact crossover and each other. While they don’t look much alike, the Cross’ dimensions are only an inch-and-a-half away from the Sport.

It may make good financial sense to appropriate Nissan parts and platforms, but Mitsubishi would be shooting itself in the foot by having two models in the same segment — even if it were only for a year or two. Considering how important crossovers and SUVs are for the North American market, there is little benefit in bringing in the flashy new Eclipse Cross just to rob sales from another model.  Read More >

By on March 20, 2017

1990 Mitsubishi Sigma in Colorado junkyard, RH front view- ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The fifth-generation Mitsubishi Galant came in a funky “pillared hardtop” configuration for the United States market in the 1988 through 1990 model years. Few bought them and almost none survived into the current century, making a Sigma one of the rarest of Junkyard Finds. Five years ago, I found this ’89 in a California yard, and now I have discovered this ’90 in Denver. Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

piech

One of the preeminent figures within the European automotive industry is looking to get out of the family business. The former paterfamilias of Volkswagen AG, Ferdinand Piech, is looking to dump his stake of Porsche Automobil Holding SE and sever his remaining ties to VW. Piech’s shares would remain within the Porsche-Piech family — allowing them to keep control of Volkswagen Group — but Ferdinand would be out of the game as a majority stakeholder.

Piech has been at odds with his relatives after suggesting that Wolfgang Porsche and several other VW supervisory board members had been aware of Volkswagen’s emissions cheating much earlier than they claimed. Sources close to the family, whose members are apparently outraged, have stated that the Porsche-Piech gang sought to replace him at the table of Porsche Holdings ever since.  Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

autonomous hardware

President Donald Trump received a tour of the American Center for Mobility this week. He did not, however, discuss the federal funding of the Michigan-based autonomous testing and development facility. Instead, the site was used as a location for the president to discuss regulatory policies and meet with automotive executives. Little was said on the subject of self-driving cars.

Still, automakers routinely remind us that autonomous vehicles are right around the corner. Ford says it can have autonomous cars rolling out by 2021, Audi and Nissan have said 2020, and Volkswagen has claimed it’ll be ready for self-driving models in 2019. Tesla — which has been pioneering the technology longer than most — has stated it has the hardware necessary in its current production vehicles and would have a bulletproof system installed in 2018, anticipating regulatory approval in 2021. However, suppliers are predicting much less optimistic timelines for self-driving cars — and the dates given vary wildly.  Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

Faraday Future FF 91 rear

Faraday Future is more of an automotive marketing company than it is an automaker. The company has been making unsubstantiated promises and ignoring its fiscal woes without giving much assurance that it will ever bring a production car — or assembly plant — into the real world. Problems have continued to mount and, like any deeply rooted zit, the situation is gradually coming to a head.

This month, Nevada State Treasurer Dan Schwartz demanded that the Governor’s Office of Economic Development conduct an audit of Faraday — throwing in Tesla for good measure. Schwartz has been critical of FF ever since it received government money to help build its factory, only to see work on the facility stalled due to nonpayment last fall. Faraday has since scaled back its construction plans, claiming that it was necessary to ensure production begins on schedule.

Now, FF’s primary backer, LeEco, is selling a 49-acre Silicon Valley property less than a year after purchasing it from Yahoo Inc. This comes after the company’s founder and CEO, Jia Yueting, explained to employees in November that LeEco was facing devastating financial issues stemming from its uncontrolled expansion. Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

the triumphant one

On Monday, we issued a challenge to the B&B to submit their best efforts in the first-ever Car Name Game Challenge. There were 26 submissions, all of which went in front of our judges for review. So now it’s time to announce your top five winners, in ascending order. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid - Image: Acura

At American Honda’s upmarket division, the Acura MDX is the lifeblood; the premium crossover that keeps Acura’s trains running on time.

In 8 of the last 10 years — including each of the last 7 — the Acura MDX has been Acura’s best-selling model. Fully one-third of Acura’s U.S. volume over the last decade has been generated by the MDX.

Honda knows best of all just how important the MDX has been to Acura’s fortunes, having watched as the brand’s passenger car volume was essentially chopped in half over the last decade. Honda is removing the interference caused by the Pilot, Odyssey, and Ridgeline at the MDX’s Alabama plant by moving production of the big Acura to Ohio.

And more importantly for consumers, the first hybridized MDX — the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid — is launching now with a pricing scheme that evidently makes the hybrid the best MDX of all. Read More >

By on March 16, 2017

Peril Chica checks out a Chevrolet SS, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

Today’s Ask Jack, just like the calls in those old teen horror movies, is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE.

Hey Jack,

I’m a woman in her 30s with four cars — Chevrolet Tahoe Z71, Ford Fiesta ST, Chevrolet C5 Corvette with 421 rwhp and coilovers, as well as an MX-5 Cup race car. The Fiesta was a great car to get started in this automotive hobby but I’m no longer very excited by its performance on or off the racetrack. So I’m looking for a faster, more interesting, more capable car for those off-the-cuff track days where it’s too much hassle to trailer the Cup car or deal with the Corvette’s voracious appetite for tires and brakes.

I’ve been thinking about one of the last six-speed Chevrolet SS sedans. I can get one pretty easily for $38,000 against a sticker of $48,900. But I’ve also been thinking about a Civic Type R. It looks like they will be priced around $35k. I’d get similar performance, although delivered in a very different fashion. But which one is really faster around a track? Which one is more fun to drive? Less hassle to own? A smarter financial proposition? Also, would you mind getting all your BMX bike stuff off the dining room table? Three weeks ago you said you’d have that done by Sunday. Sincerely … the anonymous reader who wishes to be known as, um, “Peril Chica”.

Well, Peril Chica, I’m glad you asked this question! The answer is … Buy a lightly-used Snakeskin Viper ACR. What? You’re not happy with that answer? Alright. Let’s take a serious look at this, and then let’s get the readers involved.

Read More >

By on March 15, 2017

Lucid Air

Lucid Motors’ production EV turned out to be a much more reasonable entry than anyone expected. The media buzz was that LM’s Air would be a super-sedan offering up to 1,000 horsepower and a 400 mile range — a real Tesla killer. With a 1,000 horses and instantaneous torque, it would actually shame just about everything else on the road, regardless of how it was powered. However, as is so often the case with EV startups, the reality is significantly more nuanced than the hype.

That doesn’t mean Lucid can’t be a massive thorn in Tesla’s side, though. Looking over the freshly released details of the Air reveals a highly competitive base model (on paper) and, since this is the base model, there remains room for that ludicrously powerful and extravagantly priced car we were promised.

In the interim, consumers will just have to be satisfied with a much more affordable unit, but it still outdoes the base model Tesla in terms of power, range, and price.  Read More >

By on March 15, 2017

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti - Image: FCA

In the latest episode of Consumer Reports’ Talking Cars YouTube show, hosts Jon Linkov, Gabe Shenhar, and Mike Monticello discussed the persistence with which their bought-and-paid for 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti has visited the dealer.

Only recently purchased by Consumer Reports’ undercover team, the new Alfa Romeo Giulia has hardly been able to undergo Consumer Reports’ testing.

“It’s a sexy car,” Shenhar says in introducing the new Alfa. “It has a really storied brand name. As compelling as it might look,” Shenhar says, introducing the new Alfa,”I don’t know if I’m ready to send anyone to buy this car.”

“It’s been back to the dealer about three times since we bought it.” Read More >

By on March 15, 2017

American V8 Muscle

A few months ago, I promised the B&B they would never see American muscle cars in this Ace of Base series. Why? Well, it’s my firm belief the likes of Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger should be permanently equipped with a V8 engine and its accompanying sultry exhaust note.

I am here before you today not to break my promise, but — as I’ve said to my wife on occasion — to creatively keep my promise. Let’s find out what shoppers get for their cash in a no-option, V8-equipped example of the hairy-chested coupes hawked by the Detroit Three.

Read More >

By on March 15, 2017

2017 Mazda CX-5, Image: © 2017 Seth Parks

Mazda wants you to know its 2017 CX-5 is more than just another compact crossover. Not in terms of size, power, or price, but in its transcendent experience. Media introductions are often an exploration into the esoterica of automotive design, and this launch is no different — except for a refreshing dose of substance sprinkled over a focused, if understated, redesign.

Compact crossovers recently eclipsed full-size trucks as the largest automotive segment. And right on cue, CX-5 is Mazda’s best-selling vehicle, accounting for 38 percent of its U.S. sales last year. Not only that, but it was Mazda’s fastest nameplate to earn one million sales worldwide. It’s thus no shock that as important as this little ute has become to Mazda, its first generation lasted just five years. Nor is it a surprise that its well received first generation is followed by an evolutionary and not a revolutionary second gen, with a diesel on the way to further extend its reach.

If it ain’t broke, tweak it.

Read More >

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