Category: News Blog

By on February 24, 2017

pumping-gas fuel

Every automotive manufacturer currently selling cars within the United States has incessantly requested that the government dial back federal fuel economy standards ever since Donald Trump took office. Now, two advocacy groups — Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America — have sent a letter to Trump making a case to maintain Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for the good of average Americans.

Automakers have claimed that higher efficiency targets will increase vehicle cost, making this a battle between two camps, each focused on U.S. wallets: MSRP and MPG. Read More >

By on February 24, 2017

lawsuit

Based in Germany and nabbed by federal agents in Florida, Volkswagen’s one-time top emissions compliance manager for the U.S. made an appearance in a federal courtroom in Detroit today.

Indicted, along with five others, on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. and violating the Clean Air Act, Oliver Schmidt isn’t about to face down hard time without a fight. The executive pleaded not guilty to the charges, reports The Detroit News. Read More >

By on February 24, 2017

2017 Jeep Compass

We knew that Jeep’s redesigned small crossover was going to be sized up, priced up, and niced up in order to avoid cannibalizing the Renegade. What we didn’t know was that Jeep would dump it into the KL Cherokee’s lap like a scalding cup of coffee. At $22,090, the base 2017 Compass is only a stone’s throw away from the larger model’s pre-destination price of $23,695 MSRP.

Worse still is that Fiat Chrysler’s inability to update or enhance the Jeep Cherokee in any meaningful way has helped sales implode in recent months. The KL was Jeep’s top selling model in 2015, with 220,260 units sold in the United States, but it took a sales hit of almost 30,000 vehicles the following year and saw a noticeably weaker beginning for 2017. Read More >

By on February 24, 2017

tires

Remember when recycling was new and sexy and every 1980s sitcom included it as a subplot in at least one cringe-inducing episode? It was around the time that McDonald’s took away that convenient styrofoam container — you know, the one that stored a Big Mac on one side and a delicious pile of fries on the other.

Times change. Recycling is mundane, but it’s bigger than ever — and there’s no doubt about the environmental benefits. Unfortunately, there can also be unforeseen financial benefits for less-than-honest operators, especially if a program’s creator doesn’t keep watch on who’s minding the till.

If that creator is the government, things can get messy. Consider this cautionary tale of a massive program that went rotten so badly that it had to be scrapped. Read More >

By on February 24, 2017

Mercedes-Benz Concept X-CLASS

Colorado. Canyon. Tacoma. Frontier. Ridgeline. X-Class?

That could be the lineup Mercedes-Benz has in mind for the competitive — and growing — U.S. midsize pickup segment. Ever since the automaker unveiled its questionable-looking X-Class midsize pickup last fall and declared America off limits for now, there’s been no end to the speculation that we’d eventually end up with a German offering on these shores.

The midsize pickup segment has now grown to 17 percent of all U.S. truck sales, and Mercedes apparently likes what it sees. Read More >

By on February 24, 2017

waymo

Waymo is suing over claims that a former employee stole the design for one of its LIDAR systems and brought it to a competitor. The alleged theft of Waymo’s intellectual property came to light after the company was accidentally privy to an email chain that described an Uber design for a LIDAR circuit board that looked very familiar.

So familiar, in fact, that the Google-backed Waymo filed a lawsuit on Thursday in a California federal court. The suit accuses former Google employee Anthony Levandowski of stealing its tech for the LIDAR sensor used by the Otto autonomous startup company. Unfortunately for Waymo, Uber paid $680 million for Otto last August and is currently using the potentially stolen designs.  Read More >

By on February 24, 2017

2015 Nissan Quest profile – Image: Nissan USA

Skeptical of the Nissan Quest’s future in the latter portion of 2016, we demanded — on more than one occasion — to know whether there would even be a Nissan Quest in the 2017 model year.

Despite all the signs that pointed to a discontinued product, Nissan eventually confirmed that there would, in fact, be a 2017 Nissan Quest in the United States. Much rejoicing was heard among enthusiasts of JDM vans.

Yet nearly two months into 2017, Nissan still isn’t displaying the 2017 Quest on its consumer website and has only just added the Quest to the list of 2017 models on its media website. With only a handful of vans at dealers at the beginning of the year, Nissan somehow managed to reported an 11-month high in Quest sales in January 2017.

You didn’t buy a 2017 Quest. Your neighbour didn’t buy a 2017 Quest. There aren’t any 2017 Quests available at your local Nissan dealer. The 2015 and 2016 Quests are very nearly gone. Yet Nissan sold nearly 1,900 Quests in January. How curious.

Sure, the 2017 Nissan Quest exists, but it doesn’t exist for you. Instead, it’s apparently a fleet special for consumers named Enterprise, Budget, and Hertz. Read More >

By on February 24, 2017

2017 Chevy Equinox L

Most readers are aware of my unbridled enthusiasm for base model cars. Sure, there are a few luxury models that spring to mind where it’s imperative buyers select the top trim, lest they run the risk of an arch nemesis pulling alongside them in an Escalade Platinum when they are piloting a lowly Escalade Luxury.

Thing is, it behooves the frugal customer to pay attention before they sign the note on a set of base wheels. For years, commercials told us “America Runs on Dunkin” when we all know that America Runs on Monthly Payments. Most shoppers have a monthly or biweekly figure in mind and, examined through that lens, base cars aren’t always the best deal.

Read More >

By on February 24, 2017

GM: Barra at 2016 GM Annual Stockholders Meeting

For now, legislation restricting the use of those pesky self-driving cars is mainly up to individual states. Because no one wants an experimental, untested car piloting their local roadways, states have erected legislative safety barriers that, for the most part, restrict pilot projects in certain areas, or on certain roads.

As everyone waits for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make up its mind and put blanket regulations in place, an angry chorus of complaints from Silicon Valley startups is growing louder, accusing state lawmakers of favoring the old guard when it comes to fostering automotive technology.

Only naturally, concerns about corporate money influencing government decisions arose. One automaker’s political action fund seems more active than others Read More >

By on February 24, 2017

2015 Ford Mustang V6 shift paddle

You know how I know that things are getting pretty good in the automotive world? Because we’ve gone from a world where new cars lock their brakes and ignite their gas tanks and delaminate their tires with murderous yet monotonous regularity to a world where people get authentically upset when the fake stitching on their dashboard doesn’t look convincing enough. Our grandparents expected to have to grease their axles every thousand miles and rebuild their engines every 50,000, but we’ve turned into princesses whose posteriors are perfectly primed to detect the mere suggestion of a spherical inconsistency ten mattresses down.

I’m not just talking about the boss man here at TTAC being triggered by a wobbly hood release. I’ve been complaining about the paint and carpet in my Accord for three years now. Prior to that, I recall being very disappointed in the fact that one of my Phaetons only had the stamped-steel parallelogram trunk arms instead of the forged Campagnolo pieces that my other car had. It kept me up at night. I didn’t like opening my trunk in any sort of elevated company.

Of course, we’re not so quick to complain about getting 270 horsepower in the Accord that used to come with 110, or the five LCD screens that replaced plain mechanical gauges, or the vastly better NVH isolation. We want Rolls-Royce interiors and W126 mechanicals at Kia Rio price points. That’s because we now live in a consumer culture where we define ourselves by what we consume, not by what we produce. And it’s also because we’re kind of stupid about how the automotive sausage is made.

The truth of the matter is that all modern automakers skimp. They skimp all over the place, on all sorts of things, and they hope to heaven that you either don’t notice or don’t care. This is true whether we’re talking about the Chevy Sonic or the Bentley Mulsanne. You just have to pick and choose where you’re willing to have the skimping take place. Which reminds me of a great story about the 1996 Taurus …

Read More >

By on February 23, 2017

Volkswagen Arteon

Volkswagen’s CC replacement, the Arteon, will make its debut at the 87th Geneva International Motor Show and it looks exactly like we predicted — right down to the color, no less.

Based on VW’s recent teaser shots, the new four-door fastback looks almost identical to the Sport Coupe Concept GTE. However, as fun as it is to gloat, most of the automotive community expected this. Germany’s biggest automaker isn’t exactly known for its flamboyant redesigns and bold styling choices. There are a few remaining unsolved mysteries surrounding the car, however. Read More >

By on February 23, 2017

Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

Dodge has been parsing out minor details on the Demon, slowly shaping its identity, for what seems like decades, when it has actually only been about a month. In today’s publicity sprig, Fiat Chrysler indicated that — unlike the Hellcat — the Demon will be strip-focused with a suspension setup specifically designed exclusively for straight-ahead speed.

With Dodge claiming that the Hellcat is the “ultimate do everything muscle car” with an intention  “to strike that perfect balance between drag strip brute force, road course competence and street car civility,” I am left wondering just how streetable the Demon could possibly be. Like most purpose-built cars, dragsters are wonderful at doing exactly one thing and absolutely terrible at everything else. For Dodge’s new hype machine, the added forward momentum might come at the expense of hanging a right.  Read More >

By on February 23, 2017

Opel Ampera-e

Peugeot Citroën’s planned purchase of Opel and its operations from General Motors is believed to be largely a done deal, with only minor details remaining.

According to Bildthe details will be announced on the first of March. It’s thought that both GM and PSA want to sign the papers before the Geneva International Autosalon, where Opel will introduce the new Insignia sedan and PSA plans to show the new DS7 mid-size crossover. The deal does not include Australia’s once-glorious-but-now-gutted Holden brand. Read More >

By on February 23, 2017

Design Center Audi. Picture courtesy Audi

There’s no end to the layers of intrigue swirling around the upper echelons of Audi.

Last week saw four engineers who worked on the company’s emissions-rigged diesel engines fired, with one of them, former engine development chief Ulrich Weiss, claiming in court that CEO Rupert Stadler was privy to the deception.

Audi fired back with a lawsuit threat against one or more individuals for “baseless accusations” and the revealing of internal documents. Now, the German publication Bild has released information on a potentially damning document that was reportedly locked away in Weiss’s safe since 2015 for exactly this purpose.

Weiss pulled out the document in a German labor court Tuesday to prove he’s the “pawn” his lawyer claims. Read More >

By on February 23, 2017

tesla factory fremont

After posting a profitable fall quarter, Tesla returned to spending more than it made. However, its fourth quarter losses, announced on Wednesday, were substantially less than originally assumed by analysts. The electric carmaker’s stock price continued to climb during the final three months of 2016, despite losing $448 million from its operations.

Tesla has been throwing a lot of money at projects and acquisitions. It recently purchased SolarCity and Grohmann Engineering, so going into the red was to be expected. However, the dark cloud looming in the distance isn’t related to capital — it’s about production. Read More >

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