The Truth About Cars » News Blog http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:11:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » News Blog http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/ Meanwhile In Japan, Toyota Reveals Corolla Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/meanwhile-japan-toyota-reveals-corolla-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/meanwhile-japan-toyota-reveals-corolla-wagon/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:11:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032673   Far away from the hubub of the New York Auto Show, Toyota has released a facelift for its station wagon version of the new Corolla. Of course, it’s not for us. The Toyota Corolla Fielder is a wagon variant of the JDM Corolla, which features different dimensions (namely, less width to make it easier to […]

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toyota-corollas-japan-fielder2139-699x380

 

Far away from the hubub of the New York Auto Show, Toyota has released a facelift for its station wagon version of the new Corolla. Of course, it’s not for us.

The Toyota Corolla Fielder is a wagon variant of the JDM Corolla, which features different dimensions (namely, less width to make it easier to maneuver and less length to comply with Japanese tax regulations) and a different powertrain. A hybrid system is available as well. North America will soon get the Toyota Auris, a larger hatch that will be badged as the Scion iM. This Corolla though, might actually be more desirable.

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Bark’s Bites: The Good, The Not-as-Good, and the Ugly: Part One http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-one/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-one/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031993 Thanks to our Question of the Day series, we’ve had a myriad of discussions here lately about manufacturers who have “lost their way” and whatnot as of late. My contention is that every large-scale manufacturer on the market today does things exceptionally well—the market is too competitive for them not to. Any OEM that doesn’t have […]

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11038083_10206216810085359_1614098168655906713_n

Thanks to our Question of the Day series, we’ve had a myriad of discussions here lately about manufacturers who have “lost their way” and whatnot as of late. My contention is that every large-scale manufacturer on the market today does things exceptionally well—the market is too competitive for them not to. Any OEM that doesn’t have a claim to at least one niche is doomed to failure (cue the BAILOUT discussions). However, each company also has some things that they do badly—and some have things at which they are complete failures.

In preparation for this week’s New York International Auto Show, let’s take a look at what each player in the market does very well, does moderately well, and, frankly, doesn’t do well at all. This first installment will focus on the smaller volume competitors.

In reverse order of market share thus far in 2015:

DAIMLER

The Good:

Mercedes continues to be the leader in the Luxury Flagship category. The S-Class is not only the consistent volume leader in its segment, it’s the benchmark for any luxobarge that wants to try to compete. The S-Class generally outsells the A8 and the 7-Series combined in any given month.

The E-Class is Daimler’s bread-and-butter car. A friend of mine had been lusting after an M5 for literally years, but when he had finally completed his residency and was ready to buy one, he decided to go in a different direction. “The E63 AMG was just better,” he told me (I’m still bugging him to do a Reader Ride Review). And while the performance version of the E-Class has become an absolute beast, the regular old E350 is still the “I’ve made it” car in most office parks around flyover country. It, too, outsells the competition by a 2:1 ratio most months.

The Not-as-Good:

Merc has never seemed to be able to get the whole SUV thing down. My pops had an ML class up until about a year ago when it was stolen from his gym’s parking lot. He was actually pretty relieved—he replaced it with a Grand Cherokee and has been much happier ever since. For whatever reason, the GL and the M just don’t have the panache of the X3 and X5. Mercedes’ SUV/CUV offerings aren’t bad, but they shout “stay-at-home Mom” much more than the offerings from the other Germans do. Since personal anecdotes are clearly the most important thing when ranking vehicles, I’ll just point that a colleague of mine nearly jumped out of his shoes to tell me that the GL he was driving the other day was his wife’s car, not his.

How do you solve a problem like the C-Class? No matter what Daimler does with it, it continuously lives in the shadow of the 3-Series. Back when I was doing a little entry-level German performance sedan shopping a few years back, I cross-shopped the C 300, the 335i, and the A4/S4. My friend who was tagging along made the following comment: “Everything about the C-Class just feels…old.” While there’s plenty to like about the C-Class, there just doesn’t seem to be any reason to pick it over the competition unless you’re a Mercedes brand junkie.

The Ugly:

The CLA. The CLA. God, the CLA. Have you ever seen another car that screams, “Hi, I’m an idiot!” on the road like the CLA 250 does? The BMW 320i and the Audi A3 can be defended as choices—particularly the A3. The CLA is a perfect car for a Delta Delta Delta whose daddy is footing the lease bill. For everybody else, it’s a wretched choice. And if you’re going to come back at me with “What about the CLA45?” then I can only assume you’ve never heard of something we in America like to call the MUSTANG GT.

MAZDA

The Good:

MX-5. It’s an icon, and I don’t think that I really need to expand much on one of the three most popular cars at TTAC. No matter what they’ve done with the newest generation, it’s guaranteed to be good.

The CX-5 is the only car that you can recommend to virtually anybody and be assured that they’ll like it. Younger people like the sportiness. Families like the versatility. Older people like the size and the ride height. Everybody likes the price. It’s the best car vehicle in its segment. Doesn’t sell like it, though.

The Mazda6 wins every comparison test it enters. Seriously. It’s the undisputed champion of the mid-sized sedan segment. It’s the best-looking, the best-driving, and the only car in CamCordima land that lets people know that you actually cared about your vehicle choice. Yet nobody, and I mean, nobody actually buys it. Every other vehicle in the segment outsells it by at least 5:1.

The Not-as-Good:

Somebody get our Managing Editor some Tums for this one, because I’m gonna have to put the Mazda3 here. Is it a very good car? Absolutely. Does it deserve to be priced the way it is? Absolutely not. While the 3’s base price is competitive, once options start being added, it gets very expensive, very quickly. For example, to move up from 155 HP to the 184 HP 2.5 liter engine with an automatic transmission, you’re looking at an MSRP of $27,415. That’s kinda insane. It’s hard to find a trim level of the 3 where the Focus, Elantra, Cruze, or Civic don’t make a little more sense. If it’s driving dynamics you’re after, I can see why you’d go for the base manual transmission car, though. Cut the price by a grand on each trim (and real-world pricing is close to that), and it goes back up to the “good” category. [No disagreement here. In Canada, it is priced much more aggressively than in the United States. My car is equivalent to a 2.oi Touring, which goes for $21k USD. I paid the equivalent of $16k USD.-DK]

The Ugly:

Mazda does everything well, save one thing: marketing. They have the worst dealer network in America—many of them are leftovers from the Ford partnership, and you can guess how many Ford stores focus on selling Mazdas nowadays. Their advertising strategy can be flat out baffling. I got my Mazda CX-7 back in 2008 because they advertised a $199 a month with zero down 36 month lease. I have no idea what a CX-5 leases for today, and neither does anybody else because Mazda never advertises it. I’m not sure how Mia Hamm or Penn and Teller help Mazda sell cars, but by the tumbleweed blowing through Mazda dealerships lately, I don’t think anybody else knows, either.

VOLKSWAGEN AUTO GROUP

I’m going to differentiate between Vee Dub, Porsche, and Audi here.

VOLKSWAGEN

The Good:

The GTI is pure wizardry. It’s like VW took all of its R&D budget and just decided, “Screw it—let’s make at least ONE good car.” The new GTI is Volkswagen at its purest—a small (for today’s standards), affordable (again, for today’s standards) car that at least makes one question whether or not the Fiesta ST is the best smiles-per-dollar value. It’s good that the GTI is so good, because…

The Not-as-Good:

Not only do I not have anything else to put in the “Good” category, I don’t have anything for the “Not-as-Good” category either. I could probably put the Golf R somewhere in this category, but I haven’t driven one, so I can’t say. I also suspect it will be rendered moot by the arrival of the Focus RS in the States.

The Ugly:

Volkswagen has made some truly bizarre decisions regarding its lineup for the US market. I don’t even consider any of the VWs in the rental aisle, anymore. The Passat, Jetta, and Golf are so far behind their competition that I honestly don’t know how VW stores are keeping the lights on. Why is it that the interior quality is so good in the GTI and so abysmal in the Jetta? I had a 1994 MK III Jetta once—I believe it might have been the first one sold in Ohio in 1993. It wasn’t a fast car. It had roll-up windows. It had wheel covers. But at least it had character. Volkswagen has managed to do the impossible—along with all of the other decontenting, it has removed all of the fun and personality from its cars.

AUDI

The Good:

Audi seems to be doing the “entry-level luxury” thing better than anybody else. The A3, while it shares the MQB platform with the rather drab Golf, shines in comparison with the 320i and the CLA 250, perhaps because it seems truer to the Audi brand than either of its main competitors do to their own. If I were in the market for such a vehicle, there’s no doubt that the A3 would be the pick.

Along those same lines, the S3 are RS7 are both compelling choices in their respective categories. In fact, if I could buy any car on sale in America right now, I would likely choose the RS7 ( I even made it the star of a short story once).

The Not-as-Good

The Audi Q line has always struck me as a bit…odd. I get the feeling that the folks at Audi know that they need a CUV/SUV line for America, but that their hearts just aren’t in it. I like the vehicle, overall. They drive well, they’re well assembled—I even knew a guy once who used a Q5 to tow his S2000 to autocrosses. I’m just not sure who the audience is for these things.

The Bad

The A4 isn’t what it once was—well, actually, that’s not true. It’s exactly what it once was. The A4 seems like it’s stuck in a time warp, riding on a platform that is going on seven years old. The only reason to choose the A4 over a 328i or C300 is price, and I think Audi knows it.

PORSCHE

The Good:

I haven’t driven a Porsche in aggression since about 2008 (except for when I drove David Walton’s GT3 for about five miles and missed third gear every. single. time.), so I might be a bit out of date here. That being said, I have heard nothing about the Cayman GT4 that doesn’t make it seem like it’s the second coming. So that’s good.

I trust the guys at R&T when they say that the 991 is the best new Performance Car for 2015, too.

The Not-as-Good:

The Cayenne is probably the vehicle most responsible for the shark-jumping of the luxury SUV craze. Once Porsche did it over a decade ago, it no longer seemed (quite as) strange for manufacturers like Lamborghini, Bentley, and others to make a crossover. It’s still Porsche’s best selling model, even if it doesn’t seem as ubiquitous as it once did—certainly it has lost some sales to its own internal competition, which leads me to…

The Ugly:

The Macan is just a straight-up cash grab by a manufacturer whose nameplate used to actually mean something. I find it hard to believe that Porsche is willing to sully its once-proud name for 600 units a month of Macan sales, but apparently, they are.

But even the Macan makes the Panamera look bad. Panameras are really only sold in three parts of the country—LA, NYC, and Atlanta (to Porsche executives). With the exception of a mild facelift in 2013, the Panamera has been essentially the same since launch, making it look old and tired in comparison to cars like the RS7, the BMW M6 Gran Coupe, or the CLS63 AMG. And in order to get a Panamera that will compete with those cars on the track, you’ll need to step up to the Panamera Turbo, which means you’ll have spent enough money to buy almost two RS7s.

 

See? It’s not that easy to simply exclude a manufacturer. It will get even harder in the coming days, as we move into some higher-volume automakers. Next up: A trio of Japanese companies (Nissan, Honda, and Subaru) as well as the Korean conglomerate of Hyundai/Kia.

 

 

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Dodge Adds 1,000 Hellcats To The Assembly Line http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/dodge-adds-1000-hellcats-assembly-line/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/dodge-adds-1000-hellcats-assembly-line/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032625 Not too long ago, Dodge had to curb new orders from dealers for both the Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcats. As of now, 1,000 more on on their way. According to Jalopnik, an anonymous source relayed the news to Hellcat.org forum, though how many of each was not mentioned: For those of you still waiting […]

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2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

Not too long ago, Dodge had to curb new orders from dealers for both the Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcats. As of now, 1,000 more on on their way.

According to Jalopnik, an anonymous source relayed the news to Hellcat.org forum, though how many of each was not mentioned:

For those of you still waiting on your VIN’s, you just may be receiving a nice little surprise in the coming days. An anonymous source tipped us this morning and said that Dodge has just scheduled an additional 1,000 SRT Hellcat’s to be built. Of those 1,000 new schedules, we did not receive any hard numbers on how many were Challengers or Chargers, but it’s definitely a huge step in the right direction and looks like Dodge is listening.

Right now, 2,200 Hellcats left the assembly line since early March. The duo have proven to be popular among those plunking down over $60,000 for the opportunity to wrangle the 707-horsepower monsters, with dealers taking so many orders that the brand had to tell them to stop until the current orders were fulfilled.

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While You Were Sleeping: March 30th, 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/sleeping-march-30th-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/sleeping-march-30th-2015/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 13:26:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032657 Did the EPA bluff its way into getting automakers to agree to ambitious fuel efficiency targets? The EPA proposed what they thought were a series of unrealistic fuel economy targets – and got them. Volvo will build a plant in the United States. Honda builds its 7 millionth car in Canada. GM’s closure of the […]

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2015 Chevrolet Colorado box delete package

Did the EPA bluff its way into getting automakers to agree to ambitious fuel efficiency targets?

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Edmunds: Millennials Savvier Car Shoppers Via Mobile Technology http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/edmunds-millennials-savvier-car-shoppers-via-mobile-technology/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/edmunds-millennials-savvier-car-shoppers-via-mobile-technology/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032593 According to a study, Millennials not only prefer to shop for cars via mobile devices, but also at the dealership. Per Edmunds, who commissioned the study earlier this year, 73 percent of Millennials aged 18 to 34 proclaim to be more knowledgeable about the car-buying process than their parents, while over half “actively advise their […]

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Millennials In The Back Of A Subaru BRAT

According to a study, Millennials not only prefer to shop for cars via mobile devices, but also at the dealership.

Per Edmunds, who commissioned the study earlier this year, 73 percent of Millennials aged 18 to 34 proclaim to be more knowledgeable about the car-buying process than their parents, while over half “actively advise their friends and family” on the process, compared to 37 percent of older Americans.

The study says this is due to the generation’s profieciency with mobile devices in researching the vehicles of their choice prior to purchase, from reading reviews and researching prices, to tracking down models for sale. Eighty percent of Millennials were found to have used such tactics for at least one shopping task.

Meanwhile, 64 percent stated they “valued the in-dealership experience” of face-to-face interaction with dealers, and 96 percent said that it was important to test-drive a vehicle before purchase. Purchases skew towards the used market, where 78 percent of Millennials go for their purchases, 72 percent have considered EVs or hybrids, and 66 percent hope to one day own a car that does all the driving for them.

Regarding technology, while smartphone integration and Wi-Fi are important, such features rank behind price, fuel economy and performance.

The study consisted of two surveys conducted in January and March of 2015, with 1,500 and 1,000 adults between 18 and 34 years of age who made a vehicle purchase within the previous three months polled.

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U.S. February Sales: Acura RLX Takes An Uppercut To Its Glass Jaw http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/u-s-february-sales-acura-rlx-takes-uppercut-glass-jaw/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/u-s-february-sales-acura-rlx-takes-uppercut-glass-jaw/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:51:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030385 Acura RLX sales plunged 53% to just 173 units in February 2015, the fifth consecutive month in which U.S. sales of Acura’s flagship sedan were chopped in half, or worse. Year-over-year, RLX sales have decreased in each of the last nine months. Over these three quarters, the RLX is down 60%, a loss of 2873 […]

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Acura RLXAcura RLX sales plunged 53% to just 173 units in February 2015, the fifth consecutive month in which U.S. sales of Acura’s flagship sedan were chopped in half, or worse.

Year-over-year, RLX sales have decreased in each of the last nine months. Over these three quarters, the RLX is down 60%, a loss of 2873 sales compared to the preceding nine-month period.

Historically, the RLX (formerly known as the RL) wasn’t anything like a top-selling premium car, but it wasn’t typically this unpopular, either. In the seven years leading up to the recession, 2002 to 2008, Acura reported an annual average of more than 9000 RL sales in America.

The 5555 total sales achieved between 2009 and 2012 was explained away by the age of the existing model – the second-gen RL debuted in 2004 – as well as the low-volume nature of the car market at the time.

Acura
Feb. 2015
Feb. 2014
% Change
2 mos. 2015
2 mos. 2014
% Change
MDX
4,553 4,563 -0.2% 8,934 8,804 1.5%
RDX
3,862 2,911 32.7% 7,379 5,641 30.8%
TDX
3,419 6,311
ILX
959 1,301 -26.3% 1,9531 2,458 -20.6%
RLX
173 371 -53.4% 349 791 -55.9%
TL
22 1,480 -98.5% 40 2,848 -98.6%
TSX
4 911 -99.6% 10 1,804 -99.4%
ZDX
8 -100% 22 -100%
Total
12,992
11,545 12.5% 24,974 22,368 11.7%

Indeed, sales of the new model perked up, rising to the highest level in six years and above 5000 units for the first time since 2007. Yet the dull styling of the RLX didn’t bode well, the high price has never sat well with luxury car buyers, and Acura’s less costly middle-rung cars (the TL and now the TLX) always rubbed up closely in terms of size, matched or exceeded the RLX in terms of performance, and their MSRPs have always undercut the RLX by many thousands of dollars. The RLX, especially in Sport Hybrid guise, is a very nice car, but not at the advertised price, and not with such sleepy exterior design.

Regardless, the uptick was terribly short-lived. Year-over-year volume shot forward from 2012 and early 2013 levels when there was hardly any remaining RLs available. But even in its most popular month so far, October 2013, when 830 RLXs were sold, it trailed low-volume premium players like the Audi A6, Lexus GS, and Lincoln MKS. That same month, Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class range outsold the RLX by nearly 8-to-1; the BMW 5-Series by more than 6-to-1.

From that peak, however, we’ve come a long way in a short time. RLX sales fell to a new low of just 173 units in February, the second consecutive and third month overall in which monthly RLX volume slipped below 200.

The good news for Acura? The TLX isn’t selling poorly. As a result, even with the ILX down 21% year-to-date and RLX volume down 56%, overall Acura car sales are up 10%. The TLX accounts for 6311 of the 8661 Acura cars sold so far this year. The MDX and RDX crossovers generate nearly two-thirds of the brand’s volume. With the TLX, MDX, and RDX rising, Acura sales were up 12% through the end of February.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Piston Slap: Ease of Right Hand Drive Conversion? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-ease-right-hand-drive-conversion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-ease-right-hand-drive-conversion/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:16:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032353   Jeremy writes: Hi Sajeev, Greetings (again) from Australia. I’ve got a question regarding converting from left- to right-hand-drive. No idea if you’re the right person to send this to (you could do worse – SM) but I’ll send it anyway. My question is this – is it (relatively) easier converting a mid- or rear-engined […]

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2016-ford-gt-08

Sure, why not?

Jeremy writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Greetings (again) from Australia. I’ve got a question regarding converting from left- to right-hand-drive. No idea if you’re the right person to send this to (you could do worse – SM) but I’ll send it anyway.

My question is this – is it (relatively) easier converting a mid- or rear-engined car from LHD to RHD? My very limited understanding is that, aside from things like the dash and trim that would need to be made, the biggest technical problem is where to feed the steering column, as it’s generally got a nice path through/under the engine/ancillaries etc etc. So would it be theoretically easier if the engine wasn’t there in the first place?

I’m assuming that things like the pedal box etc are easier to shift over.

This all came to my head looking at the new Ford GT, and lamenting on the fact that even if I had the money, I doubt I’d ever see one in our part of the world. That makes me sad.

Take care,
Jeremy

Sajeev answers:

From what I’ve seen while upgrading my RHD Ford Sierra with engine/transmission/suspension components from LHD vehicles available stateside, the engine’s location doesn’t matter. Cars are modular, especially those with steering (rack) and chassis (subframe?) parts specifically engineered for RHD markets. The location of the engine bay on the body doesn’t matter.

Steering columns, shafts and boxes/racks are never in the way of an engine, they mount to one side and the engine’s in the center.  The hard part is making or possibly procuring right hand drive conversion parts that mirror the LHD ones.

Since the new Ford GT is far from a Ford-based initiative, odds are it uses steering, suspension and maybe even chassis components previously designed, tested and road legal in another life. This saves time and money, the last Ford GT was full of screwball parts: Focus steering column and engine air filters, Econoline inside door releases, signal lights from the 2001-2002 Cougar headlight assembly, etc.  Granted this new GT is far more expensive, it’s probably far more bespoke.

But odds are the steering rack is made by a third-party that also offers a RHD counterpart. And it’s designed to bolt into the same place as a LHD steering rack. Probably.

Now if you wanted to convert to center drive on a front engine vehicle, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Tesla Remedying Sales, Range Anxiety Woes In China http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/tesla-remedying-sales-range-anxiety-woes-china/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/tesla-remedying-sales-range-anxiety-woes-china/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032577 Tesla hasn’t had the best time in China as of late, a situation the automaker is looking to remedy as quickly as possible. Bloomberg reports Tesla’s Q4 2014 sales were “unexpectedly weak,” according to CEO Elon Musk. Musk went on to place the blame on the Chinese market sales force, who he deemed not only […]

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tesla-china-charger-620x350

Tesla hasn’t had the best time in China as of late, a situation the automaker is looking to remedy as quickly as possible.

Bloomberg reports Tesla’s Q4 2014 sales were “unexpectedly weak,” according to CEO Elon Musk. Musk went on to place the blame on the Chinese market sales force, who he deemed not only inept, but discouraged would-be owners by warning of the difficulties of charging electric vehicles in China. Speculators who ordered — but never purchased — vehicles, range anxiety among consumers, and Tesla’s misreading of the market also contributed to the automaker’s woes in the market.

Since then, Tesla has made some strides into rectifying the situation. In one example, new “executive rear seats” — a $2,000 option wrapped in leather and equipped with two zone heaters — were made available as a result of learning that rich Chinese customers prefer to be chauffeured over taking the wheel themselves. The option arrived as quick as it had due to the automaker’s direct-sales model, according to China sales training chief Dan Hsu.

Other actions meant to bolster Tesla’s standing in the market include: lobbying cities to order vehicles, then adding them to programs meant to bring consumers into EVs and PHEVs, side-stepping the lottery/auction process prevalent in China; providing and installing home-charging systems in consumer’s homes for free; introducing more “destination chargers” alongside its Supercharger network — over 1,000 are online so far; and mobile charging connectors for the times when an owner needs to charge no matter where they are.

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BMW To Double i8 Production To Meet Demand http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/bmw-double-i8-production-meet-demand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/bmw-double-i8-production-meet-demand/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 11:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032553 Been waiting a while for your BMW i8? You might not be waiting for too much longer. Autoblog reports production of the hybrid supercar is increasing from 10 units a day to 20. Demand for the i8 has led to waiting lists as long as four months for customers wanting to take home the $135,000 […]

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BMW i8

Been waiting a while for your BMW i8? You might not be waiting for too much longer.

Autoblog reports production of the hybrid supercar is increasing from 10 units a day to 20. Demand for the i8 has led to waiting lists as long as four months for customers wanting to take home the $135,000 vehicle.

The i Series overall has done well for itself in 2014, BMW stating that it sold over 18,000 i3s and i8s that year; a third of those sales went to the United States. Sales of the i8 amounted to 555 units in the same period, with an additional 198 sold during the first two months of this year.

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Toyota New Global Architecture Key To Automaker’s Powertrain, Platform Plans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/toyota-new-global-architecture-key-automakers-powertrain-platform-plans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/toyota-new-global-architecture-key-automakers-powertrain-platform-plans/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032529 The culmination of Toyota’s Global Vision plan, the Toyota New Global Architecture is key to the automaker’s new powertrain and platform development plans. The automaker says the TNGA modular platform allows for better positioning of powertrain components for a lower center of gravity, as well as providing the basis for “attractive, low-stance designs, responsive handling, […]

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The culmination of Toyota’s Global Vision plan, the Toyota New Global Architecture is key to the automaker’s new powertrain and platform development plans.

The automaker says the TNGA modular platform allows for better positioning of powertrain components for a lower center of gravity, as well as providing the basis for “attractive, low-stance designs, responsive handling, a high-quality drive feel, and collision performance that offers safety and peace of mind.” Further, overall body rigidity with TNGA has been increased by 30 to 65 percent, with reinforcement from laser screw welding technology.

On the powertrain side, Toyota has improved thermal and energy-relay efficiencies to gain a 25-percent jump in fuel economy, and a 15-percent boost in power. Meanwhile, hybrids — such as the 2016 Prius, which will be among the first to use TNGA — could gain as much as 15 percent in fuel economy thanks to a better powertrain layout paired with smaller electric motors, batteries and inverters.

The TNGA platform is scheduled to arrive with “a midsize front-wheel-drive vehicle this year,” followed by new platforms made for compact and large front-drivers and rear-driven vehicles. Toyota plans for half of its global lineup to have the platform by 2020.

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New York 2015: Lincoln Continental Concept Revealed Ahead Of Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-lincoln-continental-concept-revealed-ahead-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-lincoln-continental-concept-revealed-ahead-show/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 04:51:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032425 Here it is: the Lincoln Continental Concept, revealed ahead of its trip down the ramp at the 2015 New York Auto Show. Power for the concept comes from a 3-liter EcoBoost V6 made exclusively for Lincoln, while the brand’s ride-enhancement technology and adaptive steering help keep things under control. No power figures were given at […]

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Here it is: the Lincoln Continental Concept, revealed ahead of its trip down the ramp at the 2015 New York Auto Show.

Power for the concept comes from a 3-liter EcoBoost V6 made exclusively for Lincoln, while the brand’s ride-enhancement technology and adaptive steering help keep things under control. No power figures were given at this time.

Inside, the occupants will be treated to a premium interior composed of Venetian and Alcantara leathers, rose gold and bright chrome trims, a satin headliner, soft-gold LED lighting, shearling wool carpet, and patented 30-way adjustable seating meant to adapt to a given occupant’s shape and size. The passenger-side rear seat can also fully recline when the front passenger seat is moved forward.

Other features include: Revel Ultima audio system; SPD SmartGlass tinting sunroof; tablet-supporting trays for the rear occupants; E-latch door handles; parking and pre-collision assists; 360-degree camera; and LED headlamps with laser-assist high beams.

The Lincoln Continental Concept is also a preview of the brand’s all-new fullsizer — to be called Continental — due next year

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New York Auto Show 2015 Preview http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-auto-show-2015-preview/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-auto-show-2015-preview/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 18:57:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031953 Although press days for the 2015 New York Auto Show don’t kick off until April 1st, various preview events are starting on Monday. We’ve got a full list of what to expect in the coming week. As always, we’ll have live coverage of all the important debuts. BMW X5 xDrive40e: BMW’s first plug-in vehicle comes in […]

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Although press days for the 2015 New York Auto Show don’t kick off until April 1st, various preview events are starting on Monday. We’ve got a full list of what to expect in the coming week. As always, we’ll have live coverage of all the important debuts.

BMW X5 xDrive40e: BMW’s first plug-in vehicle comes in the form of an X5.

Cadillac CT6: The long awaited Cadillac flagship debuts in NY.

Chevrolet Malibu: An all-new, coupe like design. Will this be enough to finally vault the Malibu to Tier 1 status?

Chevrolet Spark: The Chevrolet version of GM’s newest minicar, the Opel Karl.

Ford Focus RS : minor aesthetic changes for Ford’s hot hatch.

Jaguar XF: A lighter, redesigned mid-size luxury sedan for the British brand.

Kia Optima: A year after the all-new Hyundai Sonata, its Kia sibling makes its debut.

Lexus RX: The first luxury crossover will debut an all-new design.

Lincoln Continental Concept: A concept previewing Lincoln’s upcoming flagship.

McLaren Automotive Sports Series / 570S Coupe: McLaren’s rival to the Porsche 911 Turbo.

Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class: A renamed, re-styled Mercedes ML.

Mitsubishi Outlander: A facelift for Mitsubishi’s crossover.

Nissan Maxima: After being revealed in a Super Bowl ad, the first public appearance for the new Maxima.

Scion iM: Scion gets a version of the Euro market Toyota Auris.

Scion iA: Scion’s newest sedan is really a Mazda2.

smart fortwo: A U.S. version of the new city car.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: The RAV4 gets the same hybrid setup as the Lexus NX.

 

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Playstation GT Academy Winner’s GT-R NISMO Flips Into Nurburgring Crowd, Killing Spectator http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/playstation-gt-academy-winners-gt-r-nismo-flips-nurburgring-crowd-killing-spectator/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/playstation-gt-academy-winners-gt-r-nismo-flips-nurburgring-crowd-killing-spectator/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 17:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031161 Warning: Video includes fatal crash GT Academy is a Sony sponsored competition where contestants can compete, racing on the Playstation sim, for actual rides with factory Nissan teams. Jann Mardenborough won in 2011 and he’s had a successful motorsports career since, winning in both the British GT championship and in the GP3 series. Today, Mardenborough was driving […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.


Warning: Video includes fatal crash

GT Academy is a Sony sponsored competition where contestants can compete, racing on the Playstation sim, for actual rides with factory Nissan teams. Jann Mardenborough won in 2011 and he’s had a successful motorsports career since, winning in both the British GT championship and in the GP3 series. Today, Mardenborough was driving a Nissan GT-R NISMO at a VLN endurance race on the Nürburgring in Germany when the car got airborne at the Flugplatz, flipped and went over the catch fencing into an area where spectators were sitting, killing one and injuring others. Mardenborough was unharmed.

It’s not clear if the spectators were sitting in an approved area or had climbed over one of the fences into a restricted area. While it’s not unusual for cars to get air at the Flugplatz, that’s not why the section of the track is called the “flying place”. That part of the Ring is adjacent to an old airfield.

The accident has already sparked comparisons with the terrible tragedy at LeMans in 1955, when a Mercedes 300SLR didn’t slow on the main straight and got launched over an Austin Healey into the grandstand, spewing parts as it tumbled through the crowd, killing 83 people. In terms of what possibly caused the flip, though, Mardenborough’s accident is more reminiscent of the Mercedes Benz CLR endurance racer that flew and flipped multiple times while airborne at LeMans in 1999. Here’s an explanation of the aerodynamics involved in the CLR’s flip.

Click here to view the embedded video.

More recently, in NASCAR, Carl Edwards’ and Kyle Larson’s cars have gotten airborne and into the catch fencing, and while it wasn’t due to aero issues, at the 2011 LeMans race, driver Alan McNish’s Audi R18 slid through a gravel runoff area and into some tire barriers, flipping the car up and almost into a trackside photographers’ area. While there were no spectators involved, Indycar’s most recent fatality took the life of racer Dan Wheldon when his open wheel car got airborne and flipped him headfirst into the catch fence.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Auto racing has changed for the better since it was a true blood sport in the 1960s. The drivers are so much safer today due to great advancements in racing safety technology, like the SAFER barriers and the HANS device. Less attention, however, has been paid to spectator safety. All of us who have ever attended a sporting event and read the fine print on the back of the ticket know what implied risk means. Still, there’s always room for improvement and keeping the cars on the track should be one of the highest priorities for racetrack operators.

VLN’s statement:

In the opening round of the VLN Endurance Championship Nürburgring an accident happened on Saturday, in which several spectators were injured. One of them died despite immediately initiated rescue operations in the Medical Center of the circuit. The other injured spectators were taken for further medical care to the hospital. The race was stopped to allow quick access to the scene of the rescue services and not restarted. In the stretch airfield a participant vehicle drove off yet unknown reason from the track and came out from behind the safety features of the circuit to a halt. The VLN and the organizer of the race are deeply saddened and her thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims.
Our thoughts are with the friends and family of the deceased.

NISMO’s statement.

The driver, Jann Mardenborough got out of the car and, after initial checks in the circuit Medical Centre, has been taken to hospital for further routine checks.

Today’s events have been a tragedy. We are all deeply shocked and saddened by these events and our immediate thoughts go to the deceased, those injured and their families and friends.

The team is fully co-operating with the race organisers to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into this incident.

TTAC joins those organizations in offering our prayers and thoughts with the injured and the family and friends of the as yet unidentified spectator who was killed.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Capsule Review: 2015 Dodge Ram Quad-Cab Tradesman http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-dodge-ram-quad-cab-tradesman/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-dodge-ram-quad-cab-tradesman/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 15:40:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031329   Recently I had to go pick up a pallet of mortar for a temporary job I was managing. My Suburban was not up to the task, and I didn’t want impossible-to-vacuum-while-still-getting-into-every-crack concrete dust sitting in my wife’s BMW X1 for the next decade. So I snagged the keys to a coworker’s 2015 Dodge Ram 2WD […]

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Recently I had to go pick up a pallet of mortar for a temporary job I was managing. My Suburban was not up to the task, and I didn’t want impossible-to-vacuum-while-still-getting-into-every-crack concrete dust sitting in my wife’s BMW X1 for the next decade. So I snagged the keys to a coworker’s 2015 Dodge Ram 2WD 1500 Quad Cab. I’ve driven Dodges in the past, but this is my first interaction with the new ZF 8-speed transmission. It was introduced on the 2014 model year Rams, but the hardworking, good-looking editors here at TTAC elected to skip the launch to review another rented Ford Fusion Ecoboost[Not true-DK].

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 This particular Dodge listed at $35K, but came off the lot at $27,000 before a trade-in. Ram dealers in the Atlanta area are throwing money at customers, despite growing sales. Even though Dodge has seen double-digit percentage sales increases over the last two years they are very short of the number GM is pushing off the lots. For sheer numbers, believe Dennis Leary, Ford is the king of pickup sales.

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 Last year, Matt Gasnier piloted a Ram V-6 EcoDiesel across this vast and great land and had very positive reviews. Eight years ago I traveled from Montgomery Alabama to Altamont California in a 2005 Ford F-150 STX. I did not have the same pleasant experience, and it was actually my own truck. That speaks volumes for the ride quality improvement in trucks across the board. Alex Dykes also had a great review of the diesel 1500 Ram and gave it high marks. But dear reader, this is not a review of a sinister oil burner here pollutin’ up my green city with parh-tic-you-lates and whatnot.

IMG_0199No sirrie bubba, this here is an old-fashioned, pee-trol-fueled, 5.7-liter “Hemi” putting out 396 horses and 425 lb. feet of torque. That may not sound like a lot of twist in a conversation about diesels, but in a frame just over 3 tons and mated to the aforementioned 8 speed, this thing will go, and in a hurry. I discovered this as I pulled away from the worksite. Applying a little too much throttle I was rewarded with wheelspin. The owner wasn’t nearly as impressed as I was (Maybe it was the “Yee-Haaaww!” and throwing the horns out of the window). My experience with Rams of the past found their power and acceleration on par with the offerings from GM and Ford. But this transmission really makes a difference. The zero to 60 times don’t tell the same story on paper, but trust me; you could school some Gee-Em and FoMoCo pickup driver in this thing.

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In stark contrast to the modern drivetrain, the cabin is sparse even by truck standards. I was a little surprised to find the asking price north of $30,000 and even $27K might be a little much for this interior. When Dodge “revolutionized” their trucks in the early 90’s, one of their selling points was a cabin designed for working. This tradition still carries with this Tradesman model, but at the expense of the material quality. It’s not the amenities, but the materials. The black door inserts are particularly out of place and look malaise era cheap. I can’t help but wonder how well these items will wear in a work environment compared to other pickups, including the imports. The seats are fine and comfortable, but the back seats are a bit of a joke. The headroom is great, but there is no room for a normal human being’s knees with another normal human sitting in the front.

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The stereo however, is excellent. with quality sound and compatibility for an entry level. The controls on the steering wheel, while a bit small, are instinctive and work well. The wheel-mounted shifters responded quicker that I expected, but ultimately the truck will override bad decisions and shift the truck with enough throttle input.

IMG_0202 It’s a good-looking truck; with chrome wheels raised white letter tires and factory dual exhaust. It’s an excellent, stable and comfortable ride. While it’s mostly an evolution of the 09 redesign, the transmission really transforms this into a vehicle that can be driven on the freeway and in complete comfort as was referenced by the cross-country trip. The owner is seeing upwards of mid 20’s in Atlanta traffic with makes my 11-year old Suburban downright embarrassing in comparison.

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The new all aluminum F-150 is much more expensive even before the repair costs are weighed in. In the realm of work trucks, the market Dodge has clearly targeted, this is a real factor to consider. Even if you are fine with the nicks and dings that come with a truck that earns its’ living, it will have a negative effect on resale. Atlanta area Chevy and GMC dealers are putting cash on the hood, but it’s an eminence front (see what I did there?), as they are not getting their similarly equipped models under $30K. Why? Because here the Eh Tee El, they don’t have to. Those trucks will sell regardless, your market may vary.  Nissan doesn’t offer a Titan quad cab below $32 and good luck finding an entry level one at the dealer. Toyota Tundras start at $28, but when optioned to even this sparse level they hit $30K while being down on HP and MPG to the Dodge.

So for a truck that will see work beyond hauling petunias from Home Depot on weekends, the Dodge 1500 might be worth a test drive. Especially if your dealer is as aggressive about making a deal as this one was.

Dodge didn’t contribute a thing to this test. The truck is privately owned and was a replacement for a previous 2004 Ram Quad Cab that blew a head gasket at 200,000 miles.  Mental did owe the owner lunch after boiling his tires like a drunken redneck in a Miranda Lambert song.

Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, still loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, a Philosophy degree and makes Derek wonder if English is actually his first language. Follow him on Twiiter, Instagram and Vine at M3ntalward. 

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Crapwagon Outtake: Tabula Rasa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/crapwagon-outtake-tabula-rasa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/crapwagon-outtake-tabula-rasa/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 13:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031169 Last week’s Hillman Husky/Miata swap provided the example for what I view as the best of both worlds – old European car with an entirely new drivetrain. Here’s a half-way finished example that could be turned into a real firecracker – provided you have the patience of Mother Teresa. “Never buy someone’s project car – […]

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Last week’s Hillman Husky/Miata swap provided the example for what I view as the best of both worlds – old European car with an entirely new drivetrain. Here’s a half-way finished example that could be turned into a real firecracker – provided you have the patience of Mother Teresa.

“Never buy someone’s project car – it’s like buying a half finished Science Fair experiment” were the immortal words of a relative, who has managed to keep his 2002 WRX free from modifications, theft or general abuse. It may be the last of its kind in such good condition. I’ve kept that mantra in my head for some time, but I could be tempted to stray for this.

This 1965 Ford Cortina is very much a work in progress, save for an already swapped in 1.8L Ford Zetec motor. My first inclination for a project like this would be for a Miata swap. But let’s face it, the B6 is underpowered and the later BP engines are miserable, torqueless boat anchors. I’ve had two of them already, and I hope that I avoid it on my next Miata. At the very least, the Zetec has a bit more charm than the BP.

Unfortunately, the rest of the car needs work. Suspension, brakes and if possible, the steering would be upgraded to modern spec. You’re already $9,500 in the hole for the car, and all of that could easily double it. On the other hand, you’ve got a modern day Lotus Cortina so good that even Jim Clark couldn’t have dreamed of it.

 

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Truck Sales: What Does “58 Consecutive Months Of Growth” Mean For The Ram P/U? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/truck-sales-58-consecutive-months-growth-mean-ram-pu/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/truck-sales-58-consecutive-months-growth-mean-ram-pu/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 12:25:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030345 “Sales of the Ram pickup truck were up 7 percent in February; its 58th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains.” – FCA US LLC press release, March 3, 2015. What do 58 consecutive months of year-over-year U.S. sales improvement look like? The accompanying chart is one way of looking at it. Ever since May 2010, […]

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2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited“Sales of the Ram pickup truck were up 7 percent in February; its 58th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains.” – FCA US LLC press release, March 3, 2015.

What do 58 consecutive months of year-over-year U.S. sales improvement look like? The accompanying chart is one way of looking at it. Ever since May 2010, Ram P/U sales have been on the rise. Most recently, this translated to a 24% year-over-year increase in calendar year 2014, a 14% jump in January 2015, and a 7% improvement last month.

No high-volume vehicle has even approached the level of consistent growth achieved by the Ram P/U, America’s third-best-selling vehicle line. The Audi brand’s 50 consecutive months of year-over-year improvement and 19 consecutive months of monthly sales records is similar, powered by an expansion of its model range, greater interest in entry-level luxury, and steadily improving brand image. Indeed, the Ram P/U’s parent company, FCA (née Chrysler Group) has posted consecutive U.S. year-over-year sales increases in every month going back to April 2010.

Ram sales chartOf course, part of the reason for the steady growth of the Ram truck line was its steady decline. Ram volume declined in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, tumbling 61% between 2003’s high of 449,371 sales and 2009’s 177,268-unit performance.

While it’s true that the truck market declined consistently during the same period, the class-leading Ford F-Series didn’t fall quite as hard, sliding 56% between 2004’s record high and 2009’s low point. Moreover, while the F-Series continues to be America’s top-selling truck and best-selling vehicle line overall, it hasn’t recovered to the same degree as the Ram: F-Series sales jumped 82% between 2009 and 2014 and even last year were still 20% off 2004’s pace.

Ram sales, meanwhile, jumped 148% between 2009 and 2014. Last year, the Ram P/U was only 9582 sales off its 2003 total.

And yet, even now, Ford’s overwhelming capacity and steady increases from the full-size GM twins keep the Ram at bay. In 2003, 18.8% of the full-size trucks sold in the United States were Rams. Over the last two months, that figure is only modestly higher at 20.1%.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Lotus Evora 400, If You Don’t Know What It Is #itsnotforyou http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/lotus-evora-400-dont-know-itsnotforyou/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/lotus-evora-400-dont-know-itsnotforyou/#comments Sat, 28 Mar 2015 16:53:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031089 While most car companies try to persuade broad swatches of people to buy their cars, Lotus is trying a new/old approach in promoting their new Evora 400 model, telling some folks that maybe Lotus’ fastest model is just not for them. Lotus has launched an online game called “Take the Lotus Evora 400 Agility Test” at […]

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While most car companies try to persuade broad swatches of people to buy their cars, Lotus is trying a new/old approach in promoting their new Evora 400 model, telling some folks that maybe Lotus’ fastest model is just not for them.

Lotus has launched an online game called “Take the Lotus Evora 400 Agility Test” at the company website . It’s a reaction time game based on tests used to select fighter pilots. There is competition, with a leader-board displaying the results, and if you succeed you can win an early test drive of the Evora 400 (so named because it has 400 hp). You can also lose – Lotus is presenting this as a challenge. The banner ads hyping the game say “Can You Handle It?”, you’re invited to “see if you’ve got what it takes” and if you lose you’re told that maybe you should be driving some  “Bavarian cruiser” and given the hashtag, #itsnotforyou. While it can be rightfully accused of elitism, for this old Lotus fan, it hits all the right notes.

I said that it was a new/old approach. Companies selling a variety of things, from mass market items to luxury products, have appealed to customers’ sense of non-comformity. The idea that you’re not like everyone else, that you have refined tastes or that you march to the beat of a non-standard percussionist is very appealing. We want to be different, just like all the other kids.

More than that, though, the promotion hearkens back to Lotus’ earlier days when Colin Chapman was growing the company from a tiny maker of tuner “specials” and kit cars to a force to be reckoned with by racing teams and sports car makers alike. The project that led to the Europa, Lotus’ first mid-engine road car, was sophisticated enough that it was at least briefly considered by Ford Motor Company to be the basis for what eventually was the GT40 LeMans effort (though Ford eventually went with Eric Broadley’s Lola at the start of the GT40 program).

Chapman knew, however, that his sophisticated cars weren’t for everyone and that for a small automaker trying to make a name for itself it made sense to appeal to hardcore sports car enthusiasts by stressing that point. Making a name for itself was critical. While readers of Sports Car Graphic or Autoweek might have known what a Lotus was, readers of mass market publications like Motor Trend or Popular Mechanics did not. Of course to your average Reader’s Digest consumer little British cars weren’t even part of their consciousness.

If you’re small and unknown, why not use that as an angle for promotion? In the 1960s, advertising agencies started experimenting with ‘anti-hero’ ads like Avis car rental’s “We’re #2″ campaign and Doyle Dane Bernbach’s “Think Small” ads for the Volkswagen Beetle. Maybe that’s why Lotus was comfortable promoting the Europa with ads that read “Lotus: If You Don’t Know What It Is, You Won’t Know How To Drive It”.

I wish I could find an image of that ad. I didn’t imagine it, I can provide links to others who remember it, but Google can’t find an example. Google also can’t find what is my favorite Lotus t-shirt, a line drawing of an Europa going around a racetrack corner, with the slogan, “Lotus: The Shortest Distance Between Two Points”.

“Lotus: If You Don’t Know What It Is, You Won’t Know How To Drive It” appealed to potential customers’ elitism, non-conformity and driving skill. I think it was brilliant. I should say that Lotus wasn’t trying to make it seem that their cars are hard to drive. Actually, Loti are fingers and toes cars, that require small inputs. Nothing hard to drive about them at all (outside of usual caveats about the reliability of LBCs). What Lotus was saying then was that if you weren’t enough of an enthusiast to know about their brand, you probably wouldn’t be able to take full advantage of their products.

The current promotion asks today, “Are you sure you’re good enough for Evora 400? It requires a superior level of hand-eye coordination, reaction times and driver skills to handle a car that is capable of supreme agility.”

So, “Can You Handle It?” and the  Lotus Evora 400 Agility Test fits nicely with the heritage of Lotus. They also, rather cleverly, I think, like “the shortest distance” t-shirt picturing a curve, not a straight line, allude to the company’s preeminent skill, making cars that corner and handle as well as any on the road.

You can take the Lotus Evora 400 Agility Test here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Question Of The Day: What Automaker Will You Never Buy From Again? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-automaker-will-never-buy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-automaker-will-never-buy/#comments Sat, 28 Mar 2015 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030585 I recently wrote a column about how there are those occasional times where you just have to recommend a boring car to someone. Whether it’s for financial reasons, or equipment reasons, or their own brand preconceptions, sometimes it’s just easier to recommend a boring car than to try and convince them that your point of […]

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Volvo240calypse_Part_2-01

I recently wrote a column about how there are those occasional times where you just have to recommend a boring car to someone. Whether it’s for financial reasons, or equipment reasons, or their own brand preconceptions, sometimes it’s just easier to recommend a boring car than to try and convince them that your point of view is correct.

But then, sometimes, there’s an entirely different reason why you can’t recommend certain vehicles: because there are people out there who are convinced that they will never buy from certain automakers ever again.

I’ll give you an example. I have a friend whose mother bought a Volvo 240 in approximately 1989. It may have been 1988, it may have been 1990; who the hell knows, at this point? She probably doesn’t even know anymore, despite the fact that she’s still harboring an intense grudge against Volvo because of this car.

And what’s the reason for the grudge? Apparently, a few years into the car’s life cycle, the engine blew. I’ve never heard any more details than that: the engine blew. Volvo refused to pay for it. The engine blew. What an awful company. The engine blew. These cars are so poorly built!

Now, I’m going to put aside the obvious issue with this — primarily the fact that the Volvo 240 is known for being one of the most robust, sturdy automobiles in human history, and the engine was so pathetically unstressed that it made something like 46 horsepower — and tell you what her reaction was: I AM NEVER GOING TO BUY ANOTHER VOLVO AGAIN.

And guess what? She hasn’t.

It’s been 25 years, and she still hasn’t touched another Volvo. She’s owned cars from various other luxury automakers, some of which are probably even worse than the Volvos of today. But she doesn’t even give Volvo a second glance. It is completely lost on her that Volvo of 2015 – which makes hybrid turbo-supercharged engines and a center stack with a huge opening behind it and blue dials and an automated parking system – could possibly be different than the Volvo of 1989, when the big new feature was those three-bar head rests. She swore off Volvo during the Reagan years, and by God, she ain’t goin’ back.

Of course, she isn’t the only one. Talk to just about any car person and you’ll see a wide range of automotive opinions, most of which place Honda and Toyota as the answer to every single question, regardless of the answer; Kia and Hyundai as “second class” automakers that haven’t really “earned their place” in the car industry; and Ford and Chevy as the kind of thing they rent when they’re on vacation. And then there’s always that one brand that they simply will never purchase again.

So today, I ask: what’s your brand? What automaker have you decided to swear off in its entirety? What car company could come out tomorrow with the cure for cancer, and leave you saying: No, thanks. I’ll wait until Subaru has it.

For me, no such brand exists. I mean, oh, sure, I’ve written a lot of negative things about Volkswagen over the years, but I’m not inherently biased against its cars. In fact, I happen to like every single good Volkswagen model, from the GTI 2-door to the GTI 4-door. And despite a series of bad experiences with Mercedes-Benz, I haven’t yet sworn off the luxurious Germans — at least, as long as they keep making the sublime CLA45 AMG.

I haven’t even given up on Land Rover, manufacturer of automobiles that last as long as Boston-area pothole repairs, because by God I just love driving mine. And plus, I love the wild and crazy selection of rental cars that I’m given whenever mine goes into the shop for an overly severe warning light.

But I’m sure that most car enthusiasts have at least one brand they’d never touch — either for reliability reasons, or safety concerns, or because you just don’t like their cars. So today I’m curious: which one is it? And why?

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Chart Of The Day: GM’s U.S. Sales By Brand Over The Last Decade http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/chart-day-gms-u-s-sales-brand-last-decade/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/chart-day-gms-u-s-sales-brand-last-decade/#comments Sat, 28 Mar 2015 12:21:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030321 Two weeks ago we published a chart that showed GM’s decreasing passenger car emphasis over the last 14 months. Last Saturday, we showed GM’s annual U.S. sales volume by vehicle type. This week, we’re continuing the GM examination with a look at the brand allotment over the last decade. Aside from the Chrysler Group, no […]

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GM sales by brandTwo weeks ago we published a chart that showed GM’s decreasing passenger car emphasis over the last 14 months. Last Saturday, we showed GM’s annual U.S. sales volume by vehicle type. This week, we’re continuing the GM examination with a look at the brand allotment over the last decade.

Aside from the Chrysler Group, no automaker has undergone such a dramatic restructuring during the last decade. The public face of the GM restructuring, apart from the shuttering of dealerships, congressional hearings, and a revolving door of new faces in the executive’s chair, was the dismissal of a number of brands. Hummer, Saturn, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac were killed off. Saab is still kind of a thing, but not GM’s thing.

In the U.S., General Motors thus became much more of a Chevrolet/GMC company than it already was. Chevrolet’s share of the brand’s U.S. volume increased from 58.9% in 2007 to 71.3% in 2012, for example. GMC was responsible for barely more than 11% of GM sales in 2006, a figure which stands at 18% through the first two months of 2015.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Question Of The Day: How Will Indiana’s “Religious Freedom” Bill Affect Subaru? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-will-indianas-religious-freedom-bill-affect-subaru/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-will-indianas-religious-freedom-bill-affect-subaru/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 17:40:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030561 The state of Indiana has just signed a new bill ostensibly designed to safeguard “religious freedom”. Those opposed to it claim that it will lead to discrimination against LGBT individuals. So what does this mean for Subaru? Subaru’s entire U.S. manufacturing base is based in Lafayette, about 60 miles outside of Indianapolis. The Japanese auto […]

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Subaru Indiana - Picture courtesy mibz.com

The state of Indiana has just signed a new bill ostensibly designed to safeguard “religious freedom”. Those opposed to it claim that it will lead to discrimination against LGBT individuals. So what does this mean for Subaru?

Subaru’s entire U.S. manufacturing base is based in Lafayette, about 60 miles outside of Indianapolis. The Japanese auto maker is expanding their plant to help meet growing demand for their cars in the United States, as the car buying public grows increasingly receptive to the brand’s AWD-centric lineup of cars and SUVs.

But one of Subaru’s core constituencies has been the LGBT community. Jokes about their likelihood of owning a Subaru have become commonplace – and resulted in the downfall of our former EIC. Businesses like Salesforce.com have decided to boycott the state, while the NCAA, which hosts the Final Four in Indianapolis, has expressed its concerns over the bill.

I’ll be curious to see how Subaru responds to the bill. It’s reasonable to expect that a good portion of their customers beyond the LGBT community will be unhappy with it as well.

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Dispatches do Brasil: Compact SUV Fever http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/dispatches-brasil-compact-suv-fever/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/dispatches-brasil-compact-suv-fever/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:51:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030537 Like it or not, compact SUVs, particularly B-segment vehicles, are the segment to be in right now. They may be anathema to enthusiasts in the developed world, but in developing markets, their is no hotter property. In Brazil, where the Renault Duster and Ford Ecosport have reigned supreme, the market has just gotten a bit more crowded. […]

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Like it or not, compact SUVs, particularly B-segment vehicles, are the segment to be in right now. They may be anathema to enthusiasts in the developed world, but in developing markets, their is no hotter property. In Brazil, where the Renault Duster and Ford Ecosport have reigned supreme, the market has just gotten a bit more crowded.

Launched in 2003, the compact SUV may well be a Brazilian invention. In Europe, Ford had launched a micro minivan thing based on the Fiesta of the times and it was offered to Brazilians as, confusingly enough, the Fusion. Ford do Brasil took one look at it and declared it not good. But using that experience, they played around with the idea, squared off the lines, made them butcher and arrived at something any Brazilian would recognize as a “jipe”, a Portuguese version of the Jeep name that came to symbolize that special kind of car. The EcoSport was Ford’s jipe and it is credited with keeping Ford alive in Brazil based on it almost doubling Ford’s then withering participation in this market.

Competitors played around with the idea, showing off various concepts at different times, but only at the end of 2011 would a direct competitor arrive. It was the Renault Duster. Larger than the EcoSport, it soon took the sales title from it, losing it again when the re-styled, present-Fiesta-based EcoSport was launched. No matter, both cars proved the market was hungry for such things.

Now in 2015, Jeep is making a big splash with the Renegade. It has set off the blogsphere and apparently has what is takes, from price to availability. Being that Jeep is an FCA brand, and that Fiat is well established here and present in every nook and cranny in Brazil, the Renegade has sparked a renaissance of the Jeep brand. There were 45 Jeep dealers in Brazil last year, and at launch there are now 120. Until the end of the year, there will be 200 of which 150 will be exclusively Jeep.

Honda meanwhile has been more discreet with its launch. They made their compact SUV, called HR-V, available at dealers even before allowing the press to drive the car. Honda has about the same number of dealers as Jeep will have until the end of the year, but is of course dwarfed by FCA’s presence in this country.

For both makers, however, this is a very important launch as evidenced by the presence of top suits in Brazil. The General Director for Fiat Latin America Sérgio Ferreira is highly optimistic and has a good grasp of what the market wants. He highlights that this is the first Jeep factory out of the USA. It consumed an investment of 7 billion reais to be made and will have a capacity to build 250,000 Jeeps that will also be exported to other South American markets.

Ferreira points out the main competitors for the Renegade. He cites the EcoSport, Duster as well as the less succesful Chevrolet Tracker and Mitsubishi Pajero TR4, besides the new Honda. He stresses however that the Jeep will not only attract compact SUV buyers, but that it will bring in new consumers into the segment. According to him, SUVs have a global market participation of 18% while in Brazil it is just 9% and he believes the market is hungry for more. He said, “this is not a hole in the market, this is an ocean [of opportunity]”. He said Jeep is strongly focused on the after market, too. “We know how much it costs to keep a Duster or an EcoSport and our prices will be aggressive” and that 80% of Renegade parts come from Brazilian suppliers. He points out that the Renegade will not sell on price alone. Depending on version and trim, the Renegade has potential to seduce buyers looking for comfort as well as adventure.

Nahoisa Morishita, who was the leader of the HR-V’s global development project doesn’t seem to be so attuned to the Brazilian market. He speaks of the HR-V as a “superior” product and specifically cites the EcoSport and Duster as non-competitors. According to him, “taking into account an international competitor we can say it [the HR-V] is comparable to the Nissan Qashqai. In functionality we have as a reference the Audi Q3. In other words, though compact, it is a luxurious car and of a highly superior quality”. He stresses that the car was developed keeping in mind market demands in global markets such as the US and China. As evidence of the superiority of the car he cites safety, driveability and the presence of such items such as an electronic parking brake, “only available in superior cars, like BMW” (forgetting that the Renegade, for one, offers this, too).

The two cars are of course different, and do look more modern than the Renault Duster though Ford EcoSport in in the running in this aspect. The two predecessors start off quite basic, but have very good equipment levels in higher trims. Both EcoSport and Duster start off at around 50 thousand reais and top off at 70 almost 80. Base engines in both are 1.6 units and top trims get a 2.0. The Ford has a Powershift DCT automatic while top trim Dusters get an old 4-speed auto. Both offer 4×4 versions.

The Renegade starts off at 68 thousand reais in its Sport version and maxes out at 117 thousand for the Trailhawk. The base engine is a Fiat-built ecoTor-Q 1.8 16 V that produces 132 hp and can run on both Brazilian gasoline (E27-ish) and ethanol (E100). In all versions (except the top trim), that can be coupled to a five-speed manual or a 6-speed auto. All versions can get a 2.0 turbodiesel that puts forth 170 hp and is mated to the 9-speed already available on American Renegades. All version also go above and beyond what is usually on offer for the Brazilian market. Besides the trivial, there are more airbags, ABS, and diverse electronic aids that help the driver.

Shorter, but wider and taller than the Honda HR-V, the Renegade has a design that harks back to the original Jeep. It has attracted quite good evaluations from the public though some balk at it saying it is cartoonish. The Jeep offers a wide variety of colors even in the Brazilian market and promises to happily give our streets a splas of color. Though they don’t give an exact number, they cite leadership of the compact SUV market as their ambition. They affirm pre-orders has made them step up production at the new factory.

The Honda HR-V meanwhile takes another view on design. Honda affirms there are traces of a coupe on the top part of the vehicle and that it is all SUV on the bottom part. The lines are decidedly more “urban” and might appeal or not to a more “serious” buyer. And that is good since in Brazil has absolutely no off-road appeals at all. Besides the lower ride height than all competitors (including Duster and EcoSport),4×4 traction is not an option on any Brazilian HR-V. All HR-Vs will be front wheel drive only and will sport the same 1.8 16v engine already used by the Brazilian Civic. It too can drink Brazilian gas or ethanol. That engine will couple either with a six-speed manual or Honda’s worldwide CVT. Starting off at R$69,900 ($21,620) and will top off at R$88,700($27,370). Only the lower trim level will offer the manual, while the intermediate and top trim will only come with the CVT.

Taking a step inside, the ambiance is more somber than the Renegade’s, while more elegant than either the Duster’s or EcoSport’s. Hard plastics are harder to find here than in the other cars while fit and finish is undeniably excellent. In typical fashion though, the HR-V is quite stingy with equipment levels and such things as unpainted window buttons are found. Sharing 50% of its parts with platform brother Fit, the magic Honda seats are also available, making it a clever car with a wide array of packaging possibilities.

The HR-V is longer than either Ford EcoSport and Jeep Renegade and enjoys a longer wheel base than both those competitors, it is shorter, less tall and has a smaller wheelbase than the Renault Duster however. It is only wider than the EcoSport (by 1 cm). It is also less tall than the Renegade.

Due to capacity constrictions at its Brazilian units, at first Honda will cut back on City, Fit and City production to accommodate the HR-V. Honda claims the sales target is of 50 thousand units. If this is reached, they will outsell both “non-competitors” EcoSport and Duster. With Jeep wanting to take the lead in this segment, and the declining market, that target can be considered quite ambitious.

The compact CUV market in Brazil is now on fire. With four big competitors in the ring, it will be hard to forecast the winner. At this level of the market, consumers are somewhat less price sensitive and look for something more. The Ford EcoSport has the tradition and pioneering position in the market, a design that is modern and the possibility of very high equipment levels. The Renault Duster offers a more rugged design that is attractive to some, less equipment than rivals, but is bigger than most of them with undeniable internal and boot space superiority. The Jeep Renegade uses and emotionally appealing design that polarizes more and challenges people to love it or hate it with a plethora of personalization possibilities, the most variation in engines and transmission options, versions designed for city and even possibly heavy off-road use and the attraction of being the first Brazilian Jeep in 32 years. The Honda HR-V possibly appeals to more grown up people in its modern aesthetic, a proven drivetrain, and the big H out in the front and its promise of superior reliability.

Who will come out on top? Stay tuned.

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Crapwagon Outtake: The Answer *IS* Miata http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/crapwagon-outtake-answer-miata/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/crapwagon-outtake-answer-miata/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030121 I like the aesthetic properties of old British cars. The way they drive, leak fluids and operate on a sporadic basis is another matter. So, what could be better than a British car with a modern, Japanese powertrain and modern brakes? As far as I’m concerned, not a whole lot. Ideally, I’d go one further, […]

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I like the aesthetic properties of old British cars. The way they drive, leak fluids and operate on a sporadic basis is another matter.

So, what could be better than a British car with a modern, Japanese powertrain and modern brakes? As far as I’m concerned, not a whole lot. Ideally, I’d go one further, with a modern steering system and as much of the electrical system brought up to spec as possible (is that even possible?).

This Hillman Husky is pretty close to the ideal. With the drivetrain out of an early Miata, Willwood brakes with 4-piston calipers and a host of other modern upgrades, it remedies most of the faults (or charms) of Little British Cars. Unlike the coarse, utilitarian 1.8L BP-ZE motors, the early 1.6L engines were freer revving and had a modicum of character. Plus, it has the added benefit of not being an MGB or a Spitfire. You can keep your M Coupe. I’ll take something like this. And maybe convert it to carbs or ITBs, just to add a little bit of unpredictability to the mix.

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The Best (Volume) Or Nothing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/best-volume-nothing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/best-volume-nothing/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:50:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030497 A few days shy of April 1st, Mercedes-Benz has announced that they will build a luxury pickup truck for world markets. While M-B clearly has their eye on the VW Amarok, not to mention the countless markets where a pickup truck is a logical next step up from one of their vans, the whole thing […]

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A few days shy of April 1st, Mercedes-Benz has announced that they will build a luxury pickup truck for world markets.

While M-B clearly has their eye on the VW Amarok, not to mention the countless markets where a pickup truck is a logical next step up from one of their vans, the whole thing has the undeniable stench of “fuck it, we’re all out of ideas”.

The German luxury brands have been on an insatiable quest for volume over the past few years, and it’s led them down a strange path; front drive minivans, coupe-like SUVs, compact cars.

There is no bigger advocate in the automotive media for products that have a solid business case, but at a certain point, you have to wonder where the erosion of brand equity begins. In the world of quarterly results and responsibility to shareholders, these new products are a good idea. But when your barista is leasing a CLA at $299 per month, the very notion of luxury and exclusivity is gone.

Personally, I think the end game is going to be the inevitable rationalization of their model lineups, with unnecessary variants getting the ax. But go ahead, tell me why I’m wrong.

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Generation Why: Invasion Of The Bodystyle Snatches http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/generation-invasion-bodystyle-snatches/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/generation-invasion-bodystyle-snatches/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:32:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030465 We don’t have the rights to run the spy photos of the Scion iA concept, but you can check them out here. The above rendering, from TopSpeed, is 99.9% accurate, for better or for worse. On the surface, it looks like an uglier version of the Mazda2 sedan, with the unfortunate catfish maw grafted on […]

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We don’t have the rights to run the spy photos of the Scion iA concept, but you can check them out here. The above rendering, from TopSpeed, is 99.9% accurate, for better or for worse. On the surface, it looks like an uglier version of the Mazda2 sedan, with the unfortunate catfish maw grafted on in place of the rather handsome Mazda front end treatment. The on paper sepcs aren’t exactly thrilling either.

We at TTAC estimate a 1.5L Skyactiv 4-cylinder making 106 horsepower, with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic gearbox. From what we’ve seen, the tablet-style screen present on all Mazdas will make its way over, and it’s possible that even the excellent HMI Commander knob will too.

On the surface, it seems like a cynical attempt by Scion to cash in on the low end of the market without building a car of their own. But this kind of thing has been happening for years and years in the Japanese Domestic Market. The Civic (well, really the Domani, aka the Acura EL) itself was lent out to Isuzu and sold as a Gemini, with literally no modifications beyond a couple of “Isuzu” emblems slapped on in strategic locations.

The iA will at least have a different front end (ugly as it may be), and the dealer network for Scion is a lot more extensive than Mazda.  106 horsepower seems a bit lackluster, but keep in mind that in hatch form, the car weighs 2270 lbs. The Skyactiv unit will almost certainly return outstanding fuel economy, and both gearboxes are among the best in the industry. It’s basically the Isuzu Gemini we never got – and it won’t amputate your legs in an accident.

And let’s not forget this either: Mazda can use ever dollar that comes its way. The deal with Toyota is probably a nice cash infusion for the company, and helps use some capacity at its new Mexican plant.

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Honda S660: A Case Study In Avoiding Bloat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/honda-s660-case-study-avoiding-bloat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/honda-s660-case-study-avoiding-bloat/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:16:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030441 On the left, we have a Honda Beat. On the right the new Honda S660. Nearly 25 years separate the two cars, but their size has stayed roughly the same. Perhaps there is hope.

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On the left, we have a Honda Beat. On the right the new Honda S660. Nearly 25 years separate the two cars, but their size has stayed roughly the same. Perhaps there is hope.

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