By on February 19, 2017

2015 Honda CR-V

Sport utility and crossover vehicles have gradually become hotter than the surface of the sun as the public has come to treat sedans with the sort of disdain usually reserved for an old high school flame. It was decent while it lasted, but now you don’t even really want to acknowledge that it was ever a part of your life.

Sales have reflected this and automakers have hurried to supply an eager market with utility vehicles. While some did not quite meet demand, and have suffered for it, others are seeing rising incentives to meet the growing inventory surplus — giving us our first indications that interest in SUVs and crossovers has its limits.  Read More >

By on February 8, 2017

Visual Clarity

Telling someone that you can run a car on hydrogen — a greenhouse gas — and emit clean water as the singular byproduct is already an extremely novel concept. You don’t need a laser light display or sideshow antics to make that fact more interesting or palatable. In the case of Honda, you absolutely do not need to include the disembodied heads of singing children bathed in light. In fact, the actual message might even become partially lost in the abyss of confusion you’ve created as people furrow their brows and wonder if someone has snuck a psychoactive drug into their beverage.

For reasons clearer to hired visual artist Adam Pesapane than myself, the 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell ad campaign uses a central theme of floating heads — frequently representing chemical compounds and molecular structures. The end result is as informative as it is unsettling, though it heavily favors the latter.

Read More >

By on February 6, 2017

old dealership Chrysler

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles wants to grow its dealer network by 380 new stores in a bid to improve its dwindling market share. The plan isn’t going over so well with the company’s existing dealers, however. As the strategy could potentially threaten their present businesses, some of those dealerships are putting up a fight over the issue.

The choice to expand comes at a difficult time. Sales locations aren’t doing the best and suffering through a diluted and unpopular product lineup while the automaker shifts its focus away from cars to the more-popular SUVS and trucks. FCA sales have been on the decline for almost six months and the company’s slice of the U.S. market fell to 12 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared to 13.6 percent in the same period of 2015. The expansion decision also goes against the advice of FCA’s dealership location consultant, Urban Science. Read More >

By on February 6, 2017

Television Set

The “Big Game” is as much of a sporting event and as it is a tactical delivery system for advertisements and, at roughly $5 million just to reserve a thirty second slot, the folks working in the media department want their commercials to have a strategic impact. Reaching your intended audience is only half the battle. You must also provoke them into action.

While there were plenty of Super Bowl 51 car commercials that got under people’s skin, those strong feelings often failed to morph into consumer interest. For example, Ford’s mobility-focused spot featuring Nina Simone’s classic civil rights song I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free was all over social media when it aired right after kickoff. However, nobody sent me a surprised and excited text about Ford like they did for Alfa Romeo.  Read More >

By on January 26, 2017

Ford Ranger 3.2L TDCI Wildtrak exterior beauty shot, Image: Radek Beneš/The Truth About Cars

On September 5, 2006, Alan Mulally moved into the corner office at the Glass House. He brought with him a simple management philosophy he developed over three decades at Boeing Commercial Aircraft. After a short time at Ford, he formalized his philosophy, which continues to guide the company under Mark Fields.

He called it One Ford — and along with a lot of hard work, that philosophy transformed the Blue Oval into the profitable, future-oriented automaker we know today.

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By on January 17, 2017

pumping fuel

It would be fair to suggest that government agencies have held the automotive industry by the testicles with both hands for much of the Obama administration. America’s fuel economy and emissions targets are noble, but have cost manufacturers peace of mind and plenty of money. Enter President-elect Donald Trump, who spent a great deal of his campaign promising to repeal some of those standards and change things for the industry.

Are the current targets too lofty? Most automakers would say yes, but it depends on who you’re asking. However, the odds of Trump rolling back efficiency standards in a meaningful way is on par with us returning to the Bronze Age. While not impossible, it’s incredibly difficult to turn back the tide of progress. Even if the 45th President of the United States did manage to dismantle the EPA, abolish Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations, and convince China to nuke us into the Stone Age, there remains the outside world to consider. Read More >

By on January 16, 2017

BMW X Models

Mercedes-Benz and BMW have more in common than just a bitter rivalry and the Fatherland — they both feel the need to get more crossover vehicles into North America.

Despite being known largely for their rich heritage of premium sedans and coupes, Bavaria’s Motoren Werke and Daimler’s Three-Pointed Star want to see utility vehicles replacing more of the cars they ship to the United States.

Last year, crossovers and SUVs comprised 42 percent of BMW’s sales in North America — an almost ten percent increase from 2015. Mercedes-Benz also saw an increase in truck sales. Sport utility vehicles now account for 47 percent of its passenger vehicle volume. However, both companies are anticipating a balanced ratio right around the corner.  Read More >

By on January 15, 2017

tesla model-s-rear

Tesla pricing is about as predictable as the winning lottery numbers. This year it added numerous surprise fees onto its supercharging network and rearranged the pricing structure for its Model S sedan more times than I can remember. Most recently, the company increased the price of its base Model S 60 from $66,000 to $68,000 with an $8,500 software update that unlocks the battery’s full potential — since the 60 is just a 75 that has been digitally neutered and rebadged.

In some instances, almost 30 percent of the value of the vehicle can be unlocked through in-car purchases. There are all manner of software-upgradable items but keeping up with their pricing is nearly impossible, especially when Tesla doesn’t actively announce those changes.   Read More >

By on January 4, 2017

Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet 2012

Convertible sales have slid steadily for a while now and “everyday” droptops like the difficult to praise Chrysler Sebring have vanished from the automotive market. With the exception of a few premium options from Germany, fun in the sun doesn’t seem to coincide with daily driving anymore.

With their sales volume now trumped even by impractical, short-ranged electric vehicles, lidless cars are less popular than ever. In fact, America’s most popular convertible isn’t even a car (Jeep Wangler), and today’s remaining open-air options are either performance focused, comically small, or extremely expensive European luxury items. That’s likely to remain the case for some time, considering it took us over a decade to get here.  Read More >

By on December 29, 2016

Ford Police Interceptor Utility

North America’s romantic entanglement with the sport utility vehicle is not limited to retail consumers, as police fleets in the United States and Canada have been getting in on the action for a while now. Valuing durability and flexibility above all else, law enforcement’s gradual shift toward SUVs seems to have been inevitable.

Ford said that sales of its Explorer-based Interceptor Utility surpassed its Taurus-based Interceptor Sedan in 2014, claiming that the SUV had “officially” become North America’s most popular police vehicle. While that might not be entirely accurate until current fleets retire the horde of large sedans that proved so popular in the past, the utility trend is growing and departments have plenty of praise for them — especially departments rife with oversized officers.  Read More >

By on December 27, 2016

2016 Volvo XC90, Image: Volvo

We already know what vehicles Americans love, and most of them are trucks. It’s expected that annual Ford F-Series sales will be astronomical, but will come in just shy of a million units. It’s as boring as it is patriotic and tells us nothing of the future; we already know the United States will keep buying trucks. An underdog tale is always much more interesting. So what are the less popular vehicles we’ve perpetually ignored that are suddenly beginning to worm their way into our hearts?

Bloomberg compiled sales data through this November to see which models posted the biggest swells in demand and which models have been cut the deepest by America’s changing tastes. While it is impossible to say with certainty which are a flash in the pan sensation, a genuine comeback or marketing blunder, the vehicles on this list are all pieces in the puzzle that shows us what the automotive industry should look like in the near future.  Read More >

By on December 12, 2016

Ford Fleet Transit

With nearly a third of its volume heading to businesses and government agencies, Ford is a bit of a fleet queen. However, the Blue Oval has been fairly uniform with General Motors in terms of volume when it came to selling its vehicles in bulk.

Not so this year.

General Motors is gradually pulling back from fleet sales, leaving FCA and Ford with a larger piece of the pie. GM’s total U.S. sales in November were up more than 10 percent from the previous year, giving it a larger share of the retail market and the confidence to abandon some of its fleet dependance. Meanwhile, Ford’s seems happy staying the course so long as the endeavor remains vaguely profitable.  Read More >

By on December 11, 2016

Nissan Battle Tested Rogue Virtual Reality Star Wars

I despised all of the cross-promotion taking place between Nissan and Star Wars this fall, especially now that it has devolved into dealerships offering free worthless collectables to lure in prospective buyers. However, you have to admit that they did a phenomenal job implementing the campaign.

It was a perfect storm of coincidences that allowed this cooperative marketing strategy to emerge from Nissan’s womb. The Rogue shared a name with the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the timing of the film’s release roughly coincided with the model’s 2017 face-lift, and the automaker wanted to put a lot of money behind the advertising of its best-selling model.

Although it probably didn’t hurt that Nissan’s North America marketing chief, Jeremy Tucker, joined Nissan from Disney — the company that now owns Lucasfilm and Star Wars — in 2014.  Read More >

By on November 25, 2016

Porsche cayenne diesel

There are currently over one thousand 2014 through 2016 model year Cayenne TDIs in the United States that Porsche cannot sell, all thanks to VW Group’s ongoing emissions fiasco. You might be wondering what Porsche plans to do with its stop-sale utility vehicles. Recycle them? Ship them all to Germany? Burn them on the world’s largest-ever funeral pyre?

Read More >

By on November 17, 2016

Image: Nissan 2017 Nissan Rogue One Star Wars

After several stellar space-themed puns and a pyrotechnic display that was out of this world, Nissan unveiled the Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition package at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

For under two grand, you can have the package added to a front- or all-wheel-drive Nissan Rogue and let the whole world know you are the sort of person willing to pay money to drive around in a commercial.

Read More >

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