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, 20 Oct 2014 20:00:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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/ TTAC AMA: I Own A Pontiac G8 With A Holden Commodore Conversion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ttac-ama-pontiac-g8-holden-commodore-conversion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ttac-ama-pontiac-g8-holden-commodore-conversion/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 20:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933386 This week’s AMA comes courtesy of reader APaGttH, who has a Pontiac G8 GT that has been converted into a Holden Commodore replica. Read on below to hear the story. Seeing the handwriting on the wall for Pontiac, and after my one week experience with a 2008 V6 rental, I purchased my Pontiac G8 GT in […]

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This week’s AMA comes courtesy of reader APaGttH, who has a Pontiac G8 GT that has been converted into a Holden Commodore replica. Read on below to hear the story.

Seeing the handwriting on the wall for Pontiac, and after my one week experience with a 2008 V6 rental, I purchased my Pontiac G8 GT in May of 2009. This is an early production 2009 GT, called a 9L1 car in G8 owner lingo, built in June of 2008. The car is White Hot (or Heron White if you’re not from North America) with the premium package, sport package, and sunroof. Just 60 days after purchase, the car got shelled by a gravel truck causing over $2000 in paint, headlamp and glass damage. It was only by coincidence and blind luck that the restomod work done produced a “2010” Holden Commodore SS V-Series Special Edition. The additional modifications, and eliminating a number of GM bean counter decisions continued from there. I have drag raced, auto crossed, and lapped in the G8 and found it a very competent platform, outside of being under braked. I pulled a 13.354 quarter mile at 105.85 MPH using a Cortex tuner only on stock rubber in very damp, cold conditions at Bremerton Motorsports Park in 2009. Currently I have 34K miles and although not my retirement plan, I have no intentions of selling the garage queen. Ask your questions!
Pontiac G8 GT at Uluaru 3 Pontiac G8 GT at Ulurau 2 Pontiac G8 GT at Ulurau Pontiac G8 GT brand new and before any modifications - June 2009 Pontiac G8 GT center stack with Holden triple gauges Pontiac G8 GT current state Pontiac G8 GT engine bay plaque in kW and Nm Pontiac G8 GT Holden SS dash cluster Pontiac G8 GT Infotainment screen modified to support Vehicle In Motion showing MP3 integration Pontiac G8 GT rear with Australian license plate Pontiac G8 GT with Holden converted interior LHD
 

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UAW, Political Leaders Uniting To Keep Wrangler In Ohio http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uaw-political-leaders-uniting-keep-wrangler-ohio/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uaw-political-leaders-uniting-keep-wrangler-ohio/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933842 With the possibility of an aluminum Jeep Wrangler being built elsewhere, the United Auto Workers and political leaders are coming together to convince Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to keep the icon in Toledo, Ohio. Automotive News reports the gathering will occur Monday at the UAW Local 12, with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, […]

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With the possibility of an aluminum Jeep Wrangler being built elsewhere, the United Auto Workers and political leaders are coming together to convince Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to keep the icon in Toledo, Ohio.

Automotive News reports the gathering will occur Monday at the UAW Local 12, with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, and Toledo mayor D. Michael Collins joining the group of workers, local leaders and members of the community to launch a campaign to keep the Wrangler at the Chrysler Assembly Plant, where 1,700 (out of a total of over 6,000) help assemble the icon with the help of 800 employed by neighborhood suppliers.

The campaign is set to begin as FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne warned that should the next-generation Wrangler be based upon an aluminum unibody, it would be built elsewhere:

If the solution is aluminum, then I think unfortunately that Toledo is the wrong place, the wrong setup to try and build a Wrangler, because it requires a complete reconfiguring of the assets that would be cost-prohibitive. It would be so outrageously expensive that it would be impossible to try and work out of that facility.

UAW Local 12 president Bruce Baumhower invited 40 elected officials and local businessmen to the gathering, with the intent of establishing a task force set to address the issues that would take the Wrangler out of Toledo.

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QOTD: Another Member Of The Brown Wagon Club? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/qotd-another-member-brown-wagon-club/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/qotd-another-member-brown-wagon-club/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:32:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933906 While helping my grandmother hunt for a new car, I tried to steer her towards a Mazda3 Sport. She didn’t take to the “game changer” (which is the tagline for the car’s marketing campaign, not an attempt to cash in on my catch phrase), but I did notice a similar example on the lot. This […]

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While helping my grandmother hunt for a new car, I tried to steer her towards a Mazda3 Sport. She didn’t take to the “game changer” (which is the tagline for the car’s marketing campaign, not an attempt to cash in on my catch phrase), but I did notice a similar example on the lot.

This color, called “Titanium Flash”, looks more like brown to me. As far as I’m concerned, the line between station wagon, hatchback and CUV has been sufficiently blurred that this can qualify as a member of the mythical brown wagon species – and you can get it in a manual as well. I’ll defer to the B&B on this one, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s time to count every possible example to help shore up ranks.

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Mercedes Turns Former Naval Base Into Autonomous Testing Ground http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/mercedes-turns-former-naval-base-autonomous-testing-ground/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/mercedes-turns-former-naval-base-autonomous-testing-ground/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933802 With the highway mostly conquered, autonomous vehicles now must navigate the cities through which they would otherwise pass by, a challenge unto itself with few proving grounds available for research. Mercedes-Benz, however, happened upon a solution not too far from its R&D base in Sunnyvale, Calif. Automotive News reports the automaker is testing its autonomous […]

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With the highway mostly conquered, autonomous vehicles now must navigate the cities through which they would otherwise pass by, a challenge unto itself with few proving grounds available for research.

Mercedes-Benz, however, happened upon a solution not too far from its R&D base in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Automotive News reports the automaker is testing its autonomous vehicles at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, a military base decommissioned in 2005 that may be redeveloped in the future.

Until then, Concord will be used as a “starter city” for autonomous city driving and navigation research and development. The strategy allows Mercedes “to run simulation tests with self-driving vehicles in a secure way, including specific hazardous situations,” per the brand’s head of autonomous driving, Axel Gern.

As for why Concord and similar spaces, such as the NASA facility Google uses to test its commuter pod, are in play over actual cities, Gartner analyst Thilo Koslowski says “existing proving grounds are not challenging enough,” while real-life testing is “too challenging at this point.” Further, both spaces are owned by the federal government, bestowing researchers the opportunity to test their theories without the California legislature dictating otherwise.

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Paul Elio Responds to Skeptics http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paul-elio-responds-skeptics/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paul-elio-responds-skeptics/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:30:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932193 The Elio Motors project continues to generate skepticism. The latest is a post by Tavarish at Jalopnik’s CarBuying Kinja subsite giving us a half dozen reasons while the high mpg reverse trike will never come to be, Six Things That Could Kill Elio Motors Before It Even Launches. Tavarish isn’t the only skeptic. The consensus among […]

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The Elio Motors project continues to generate skepticism. The latest is a post by Tavarish at Jalopnik’s CarBuying Kinja subsite giving us a half dozen reasons while the high mpg reverse trike will never come to be, Six Things That Could Kill Elio Motors Before It Even Launches. Tavarish isn’t the only skeptic. The consensus among automotive writers seems to be highly critical. While I enjoy being a contrarian and going against the stream I still don’t want to be a cheerleader for Paul Elio and his team, but I have to confess that there’s romance in the idea of someone starting their own car company. I also think that there is no reason short of raising enough money why they can’t put the car into production and meet their performance and safety specifications. I’m not so sure about Elio Motors meeting their $6,800 price point but I still don’t think the latest criticism is completely fair.

Click here to view the embedded video.


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First, I’m not naive. I recognize that the people at Elio have gone out of their way to cultivate good relations with this site and with me personally. A major reason for that is that unlike most of the skeptics, I’ve actually spoken with executives at Elio, including their head of manufacturing, their director of sales and Paul Elio himself. I’ve also corresponded directly with Stuart Lichter, a company backer who’s the middleman in the real estate deal for the former GM assembly plant in Shreveport, Louisiana. Everyone involved with the company has always answered all of my questions directly, with no evasions. Everything has been transparent, from my perspective at least.

A few weeks ago Elio’s PR guy contacted me with what he hyped as important news, the fact that Comau, the company that is supplying Elio with automation services at the Shreveport plant, will start selling off surplus machinery and equipment in the factory that wont be needed by Elio. I had a couple of questions about the financing of the equipment purchase and their rep gave me Paul Elio’s phone number, but the story didn’t really seem important enough to be of interest to our readers and I’m not simply going to run a press releasey post, so I didn’t call him at the time.

Since I do have a stake, as a writer, in the Elio story, I read Tavarish’s post with interest and I was disappointed that like many of the skeptics, he made a lot of speculation without checking either with the company or their suppliers. Having Mr. Elio’s number in my email in box, I texted him and asked when it would be a convenient time to call if he wanted to respond to the criticisms raised in the Jalopnik post. He called me and he answered the questions raised by Tavarish pretty much point by point.

Point one was that the Elio three wheeler is not a car, that legally it’s a motorcycle and that motorcycle helmet and licensing laws will hinder consumer acceptance. The Elio’s legal status as a motorcycle also means that it does not have to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including passing crash testing, that automobiles and light trucks have to achieve. I didn’t ask Elio about the motorcycle laws that will affect drivers because the vehicle is what it is. The vast majority of states won’t require Elio drivers to wear helmets and 45 of 50 won’t require them for drivers over the age of 21. Forty five? That number sounds familiar. Oh, right, that’s the number of states where Tesla sells cars. If that’s enough Americans to launch a relatively niche luxury vehicle, it’s probably enough to launch something economical. We’ll return to Tesla later.

As for the car’s safety, Elio has claimed that it will meet NHTSA’s “five star” crash worthiness standards. Tavarish is skeptical because motorcycles don’t even have to be crash tested. In my most recent post on the Elio three wheeler, when I got to drive the prototype, something almost none of the skeptics have done, I asked Paul Elio about crash testing and he said that it was possible, perhaps likely, that because of the vehicle’s status as a motorcycle that NHTSA won’t crash test it. He said that if that transpires, the company will have private firm put the trike through identical testing and that they will publish the results.

Tavarish’s second point also has to do with the fact that it’s a motorcycle. Elio Motors has been promoting their vehicle as environmentally friendly, based on it’s projected 84 mpg on the highway. Tavarish points out that Elio doesn’t talk much about the emissions side of being green and he’s skeptical of Elio’s claims that the vehicle will pass California’s stringent pollution testing, figuring that motorcycles have to meet their own standards in California, that Elio will use that loophole to avoid equipping their trike with “all that messy and expensive emissions equipment, like evaporative emissions canisters, exhaust gas recirculation, and even the staple of cleaner air technology in cars – the catalytic converter.”

Paul Elio told me that Johnson Matthey, who supply about a third of the catalytic converters currently being installed by auto manufacturers worldwide, will be supplying them with the catalytic part of the pollution control device. Eastern Catalytic will be “canning” the converter and supplying the rest of the vehicle’s exhaust system. The Elio 0.9 liter three cylinder, designed by IAV, will feature EGR and variable valve timing as part of its emissions package.  The fuel tank, fuel pressure lines, and returns will be supplied by ABC Fuel Systems will be compliant with automotive standards for evaporative emissions.

Tavarish makes much about the fact that that pollution equipment is proposed for an engine that does not yet exist. All of the prototypes so far have used the Suzuki triples out of Geo Metros. In August, when I last spoke with Paul Elio, he told me that the major engine components for the first prototype had been cast and that it would take a couple of months to get all  the parts in and everything machined before they’d be able to put it together. According to Elio, he current status of the prototype engine is that it’s been assembled and spun without power to make sure there are no interferences. It was then torn down and it is currently being reassembled in a more laborious process that involves checking all tolerances, torques etc. The target date for dyno testing is November 15th. Elio told me that assuming they meet power and torque specs they will run the engine to failure. Following that, 25 validation examples of the engine will be built for pre-production pilot vehicles, some of which will be used for crash testing.

I’d like to point out that with today’s digital tools, engine design is not as hit or miss (no pun intended) as it once was. The use of modeling and simulation software means that if it works in the digital domain it will almost certainly work when made out of metal. Ecomotors, the engine startup (again, no pun intended), has skipped actually building some generations of the prototype design because it was a waste of time just to make sure they worked.

Of Tavarish’s six reasons, the next one is the strongest, whether or not the company has enough money to get to production. Tavarish cites Jo Borras‘ calculation that they’ll need about $200 million to pull it off. While Borras has been one of the most outspoken skeptics, Paul Elio told me that Borras’ figure (and he mentioned him by name) was probably accurate. When I asked him where the money will come from, he said “a variety of funding sources”. Some of the money will come from customer reservations, which are currently at just over 35,000 and increasing at about 6,500 a month. Current investors, whom Elio says are very happy with how things are going, will also be asked to pony up additional capital. Another source of capital will be from selling off unneeded machinery in Shreveport. The reason why they were hyping the surplus machinery and equipment sale was that they now hope to clear between 30 and 40 million dollars from those sales, a big fraction of the money they need.

The equipment to be sold was purchased by Elio Motors from the RACER trust with $26 million in financing. Elio volunteered that he “overpaid a little but not a lot”. At first the plan was to sell it at auction but manufacturing has picked up a bit in the U.S. and machinery prices have gone up. So much so that the auction idea has been killed and now Comau will be going through all of the equipment, testing it to make sure it works and preparing it for individual sale. This way they can ask a higher price than if the machinery was sold covered with dust at a one day auction. Comau will be both selling the gear on the open market and using it to offer their worldwide automation customers an economical alternative to new machinery.

When all that is sold, Elio says that there still will be hundreds of millions of dollars worth of plant equipment that they will be using. Buying a recently closed auto assembly plant can be a good deal. That factory was building midsize pickups not very long ago. The plant is fairly modern and includes an EPA compliant paint shop, perhaps the most expensive part of a modern car factory because it is robot intensive and must comply with air pollution regulations.

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Elio engine mockup. Full gallery here

Elio isn’t certain that they’ll meet their financial objectives and lots of car company startups never got off the ground but he’s optimistic. “What we’re doing is hard, ” Elio told TTAC, “but it’s well thought out and we have the right people and suppliers”.

One hint of where they may get funds has to do with geography. Elio’s headquarters is in suburban Detroit and Paul Elio and his team are based near Phoenix, Arizona, but he called me from Washington D.C. It interesting that he’s in the nation’s capitol just days after the Department of Energy said that it will be restarting the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program. Only about $10 billion of the $25 billion that was allocated was loaned out before the program was put on hiatus in the wake of the failure of Fisker Automotive, which received over half a billion in ATVM money. After the bankruptcy sale of Fisker assets, the DoE lost about $139 milion on the loan. Though the Elio trike doesn’t really use any alternative technologies, it is supposed to be fuel efficient and while the usually reliable David Shepardson of the Detroit News reports that most of the new loans will go to suppliers, I’m guessing that Elio Motors may apply for an ATVM loan.

The Kinja post also takes issue with how Elio is promoting itself and its proposed product. Tavarish says that the company doesn’t have a clear idea who will be their customer and that their promotional videos are lame. Elio conceded to me that they have a very limited advertising budget.  The particular video was shot two years ago, with the P2 prototype (TTAC tested P4), and while there are videos of the current prototype, produced both by Elio and by media outlets, including TTAC, most of the marketing effort is focused in three directions. There is an ongoing road show, taking the prototype(s) to events around the country that attract large crowds and those displays are usually coordinated with some kind of local or network news coverage, but most of the promotional effort is placed online.

Tavarish concentrates on the fact that Elio is at least in part promoting their trike as an “and” car, a second or third car devoted to commuting. In addition to making an obligatory comment about the typical Elio driver lacking female companionship (and, hey, I made a similar joke but actually at the Woodward Dream Cruise stop on the road show the truth is that it seemed to me that as many women were interested as men) he lists the aspects of the car and of potential Elio buyers in a manner that shows that there just aren’t many folks who will be in the target market, someone who can afford a quirky second or third car but who is also cheap enough to be attracted by the low price and great fuel economy. That may be true but there aren’t that many people who fit the stereotype of the characters on Big Bang Theory but the show’s popular enough to be in syndication. Tavarish does concede that the little three wheeler is”likable”.

The marketing strategy that Tavarish compared to throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks may be a bit more focused than that. While the road show exposes the Elio to whomever randomly happens to walk buy at a big event, the online marketing looks to me to be indeed focused, albeit on people who might already show an interest in the tandem reverse trike. At least based on how the ads in my browser are acting, Elio is spending money on online ads targeted at people who have either visited the Elio website or used the name on a search engine. I’m not sure exactly how it’s done, but online advertisers have a way of aiming their ads that are the result of a little spying on us. I’m working on an idea for a musical instrument so now I see a lot of ads for Guitar Center. Back when I reviewed a Jaguar, my browser would display ads for that brand. Before today I hadn’t been at the Elio website or put the name in a search engine since August and I was still getting ads for the Elio trike when I’d go online. By some measures, the marketing is working. Paul Elio told me that the Elio Motors website is getting about 550,000 visitors a month, which he claims is more than a bunch of established automakers’ websites get.

Tavarish’s final point is that the Elio trike is not a gamechanger. As an example of a gamechanger, he cites the Ford Fusion Tesla Model S. I’m not sure why it makes sense to compare the Elio to a luxury EV that costs more than ten times its price. Nobody’s going to crossshop a Tesla and an Elio, though I’m guessing that since a lot of Teslas are also used as “and” cars, they’re not the only vehicle owned by those families. Considering that for affluent Tesla owners, who are the definition of early adopters, the relatively low MSRP of the Elio has the nature of an impulse purchase, Tesla owners may actually consider an Elio as a third or fourth car.

Tesla does happen to be relevant to Elio, if not as a competitor than as a role model. Elio is planning on selling their cars through company owned stores (and have them serviced at Pep Boys), as Tesla does. Paul Elio told me that besides the 45 states that allow direct manufacturer car sales, of the five states that have strong dealer franchise laws, they think they can use their status as a motorcycle maker to get around those laws in three of those jurisdictions and that they’ll be piggybacking (my term, not his) on Tesla’s lobbying and legal efforts in the remaining two states.

I’ve said it before, going forward, everything that Elio has to do to get to production is out in the open. The engine will either run on the dyno or it won’t. The 25 preproduction cars will be built or they won’t. I’ve also said, all along, that there is ample reason for the Elio critics’ skepticism, but so far the automotive startup keeps meeting their objectives, albeit in a delayed manner. As long as they keep meeting those objectives, I’ll keep a fair and open mind about the Elio enterprise.

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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Piston Slap: MT 6-speed Hyundai Sonata…Coda? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-mt-6-speed-hyundai-sonata-coda/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-mt-6-speed-hyundai-sonata-coda/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:04:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933514   TTAC commentator Arthur Dailey writes: Sajeev, Over 40+ years of driving, I have traditionally changed cars every 2 years and never kept one for longer than 5 years or 150,000km. However I made my most recent car purchase with the intention of keeping it for 8 years or 200,000km. With the belief that in modern […]

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This just happened. (photo courtesy: autojunction.in)

TTAC commentator Arthur Dailey writes:

Sajeev,

Over 40+ years of driving, I have traditionally changed cars every 2 years and never kept one for longer than 5 years or 150,000km. However I made my most recent car purchase with the intention of keeping it for 8 years or 200,000km.

With the belief that in modern autos perhaps the most expensive item to repair is the transmission (owning 4 Caravans in the preceding 15 years reinforced this), following the truism that “it is more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow”, and being admittedly George Costanza like in my spending habits I ordered a vehicle with a manual transmission. Yes, a manual Hyundai Sonata.

Nobody at the dealership had ever seen one. They even had problems confirming that it came with a traditional hand brake (it does but in return you don’t get heated seats). But find one they did. Unfortunately after taking possession and performing some routine cleaning, I found that the filters were rather dirty for a new car. Checking the manufacturer’s plate I found that it had been made 14 months previously and therefore had been sitting on the lot for nearly that long , exposed to the elements for at least one full winter.

So my questions:

  • Will sitting out on a dealer’s lot for 13+ months reduce the longevity of some parts?
  • Was I correct in assuming that a manual transmission will both last longer and cost less to maintain than an automatic or was I ‘penny wise and pound foolish’?
  • Should I expect a modern car including a Korean one built in Alabama, to be relatively problem free as long as I follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, rust proof it annually and drive like the old fogey that I have become?

Sajeev answers:

Yes! We’re actually discussing the manual 6-speed Hyundai Sonata and its sister ship Kia Optima that I really, reeeeeeally wanted in brown with black cloth. Turns out I needed a 5MT truck more. But I digress…

Shine on you crazy diamond, enjoy your South Korean Unicorn!

Luckily, your first question was previously covered.  Assuming it’s been driven after purchase, you’ve cleared the “bad” gas and rusted brakes/flat spotted tires.  I think a good detail/cleaning of the vinyl/rubber/leather bits (both inside and outside) is all that’s needed to ensure the patient’s long term health.  Maybe do an engine oil change, if you haven’t done it already under normal maintenance. You got nothing to worry about.

Question 2: I can see why you are conditioned to fear transmission/transaxle replacement costs, but you’ve owned older Chryslers.  Own something from Germany and the fancy tv screens should absolutely terrify you. Or fixing bent rims.  Or a suspension overhaul from years of abuse causing bent rims. I’d be more terrified of any car rollin’ on twankies more than any transmission woe.  And is an automatic really more durable than a manual?

I donno, dude.  200,000km isn’t a long time by non-Chrysler-minivan standards. I’ve seen auto transmissions last 400,000km with nothing more than occasional ATF fluid swaps.  If you are easy on the clutch, you are fine. If not, you might need a clutch swap and completely destroy the value proposition mentioned. Don’t be that guy! 

Question 3: Problems with the Sonata and Optima have been sparse, just look at the TSBs generated.  Undercoat/rust proof, follow the owner’s manual, don’t abuse the gearbox (good luck finding a replacement in North America) and you’ll be fine.

And you might love the 6-speed Hyundai Sonata so much that you’ll keep it well beyond 200,000kms.  You “old fogeys” (your term) need to understand that most modern vehicles last longer than cars from decades past.  Rust proof this one well and I’m confident you’ll agree.

 

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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Chrysler Twins Rank First And Second Among Minivans In 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chrysler-twins-ranked-first-second-among-minivans-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chrysler-twins-ranked-first-second-among-minivans-2014/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:02:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932466 Only twice in the last six years have one of the Chrysler Group’s minivans been America’s top-selling minivan. America’s best-selling minivan in 2008 and 2009 was the Honda Odyssey, which also led the segment in 2013. The Toyota Sienna was America’s best-selling minivan in 2011. Yet through the first nine months of 2014, not only […]

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2015 Dodge Grand CaravanOnly twice in the last six years have one of the Chrysler Group’s minivans been America’s top-selling minivan. America’s best-selling minivan in 2008 and 2009 was the Honda Odyssey, which also led the segment in 2013. The Toyota Sienna was America’s best-selling minivan in 2011.

Yet through the first nine months of 2014, not only is the Chrysler Town & Country America’s top-selling minivan, but its twin, the Dodge Grand Caravan, ranks second in the class, 8431 sales ahead of the third-ranked Odyssey. The Chrysler and Dodge haven’t finished a calendar year as the two top-ranked minivans since 2005. 

Granted, even during the years in which the Odyssey or Sienna led the category, the Chrysler/Dodge twins combined for superior market share. We also know that these vans are fleet favourites, assisting in the generation of volume outside of a retail environment. Moreover, competitors produce higher transaction prices, especially the Odyssey, while the Grand Caravan is geared towards value-minded family buyers.

But the news that these twins combined to finish the months of March, April, May, June, and September as the two leaders of the category is pertinent given FCA’s intentions for their Ontario-assembled vans and the recent growth in the category.

2011 Chrysler Town & CountryAfter five consecutive years of decline ending in 2009, overall minivan volume grew 7% in 2010, 3% in 2011, and 13% in 2012, then declined 4% to a two-year low last year. Minivan sales in 2014 are up 6%, meaning the category is on track for its best year since 2008, when the Odyssey’s two-year reign began.

We published a chart just last month looking at the increased market share of the twins in 2014, rising from 44% during the first eight months of 2013 to 49% this year. With three-quarters under our belt, the Town & Country and Grand Caravan now own 50% of the market, up from 45% a year ago. Town & Country volume is up 19%, a near 18,000-unit improvement. Grand Caravan sales have improved by 12,501 units, a 14% jump. Jointly, their sales are up 17% to 212,411 units, 13.7% of Chrysler Group’s year-to-date volume, up from 13.4% at this time a year ago. (Including the Ram Cargo Van, they account for 14.1% of all Chrysler Group sales.)

Resting on laurels is genuinely thought to be a bad idea. These vans are in need of an update, and their consistently held status of sales leaderboard top dogs hides the fact that so much of their appeal comes down to price. (And Stow ‘N Go!) They’re the least efficient vans in the class. Their second rows aren’t as comfortable or as spacious as the seats in, for example, the Sienna. They don’t offer eight-passenger seating.

Nevertheless, it would be easier to understand FCA’s decision to severely alter the Town & Country/Grand Caravan model structure if the trend was heading in the opposite direction, as it did in 2011, when their market share decreased to 41.7% from 45% in 2010. On the other hand, should an automaker stick to tried-and-true product plans in a category that’s declined in size by 48% over the last decade, even if that category is showing moderate signs of renewed health?

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Los Angeles 2014: Mercedes Maybach Set To Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/los-angeles-2014-mercedes-maybach-set-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/los-angeles-2014-mercedes-maybach-set-debut/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933770 Once a name best known for providing a platform for Kanye West’s and Jay Z’s Mad Maxian fantasies, Maybach is set to return from the grave under the bright lights of the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show as a Mercedes model. Car & Driver reports the Maybach will be around 18 feet in length, slotting […]

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Maybach-badge

Once a name best known for providing a platform for Kanye West’s and Jay Z’s Mad Maxian fantasies, Maybach is set to return from the grave under the bright lights of the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show as a Mercedes model.

Car & Driver reports the Maybach will be around 18 feet in length, slotting between the S550 and the deceased Maybach 57, according to head of global design, Gordon Wagener.

Other features include a turbocharged V12, rear-wheel drive, Mercedes’ Magic Body Control suspension, luxurious materials, and a badge here and there to let the proletariat know a god and/or goddess is being chauffeured, not some Silicon Valley dirtbag.

The Mercedes Maybach will be going up against Bentley and Rolls-Royce in the Grey Poupon delivery game, with the Maybach name becoming a sub-brand like AMG. That move could, in turn, allow for more models down the road, such as an SUV based on the GL-Class, as well as a coupe and/or convertible derived from the S-Class.

As for price of admission, all that has been said is that it will be lower than the Maybach models from just a few years ago.

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Exported To Detroit: Next Ford Focus RS Won’t Be Built In Michigan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/exported-detroit-next-ford-focus-rs-wont-built-michigan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/exported-detroit-next-ford-focus-rs-wont-built-michigan/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933714 Fans of fast Fords will be glad to know that our sources at the Blue Oval have confirmed that the Ford Focus RS is on its way for a 2016 debut. It will be (relatively) affordable, provide a measurable performance boost above a Focus ST, and it will be imported from Europe. According to our […]

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Ford-Focus-RS-2-450x309

Fans of fast Fords will be glad to know that our sources at the Blue Oval have confirmed that the Ford Focus RS is on its way for a 2016 debut. It will be (relatively) affordable, provide a measurable performance boost above a Focus ST, and it will be imported from Europe.

According to our source, the 2.3L Focus RS will be equipped with all-wheel drive and be priced a couple of thousand dollars higher than a loaded Ford Focus ST3. But getting your hands on one will be tough.

The Focus RS will have to be imported from Europe, since it apparently won’t fit down the production line at the Michigan Assembly Plant that builds our Focus. This means a very limited run of cars, serving as a halo car for those who want something more rally-inspired than a Mustang.

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Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, Chrysler 300 SRT Get Stay Of Execution http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-chrysler-300-srt-get-stay-execution/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-chrysler-300-srt-get-stay-execution/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:27:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933858 Despite an effort to consolidate SRT vehicles under the Dodge brand, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT will stick around for the immediate future. Automotive News is reporting that dealers can order an SRT version of the Grand Cherokee for the 2015 model year. Beyond that, the vehicle will likely be renamed the “Trackhawk”. And while […]

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DSC_2383-450x274

Despite an effort to consolidate SRT vehicles under the Dodge brand, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT will stick around for the immediate future.

Automotive News is reporting that dealers can order an SRT version of the Grand Cherokee for the 2015 model year. Beyond that, the vehicle will likely be renamed the “Trackhawk”.

And while the Chrysler 300 SRT is slated to be axed in North America, right-hand drive prototypes have been spied undergoing testing, suggesting the vehicle will live on for export markets. Australia is  SRT’s biggest global market outside the United States, and with the death of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon, the 300 SRT will be the last rear drive V8 muscle sedan available in Australia.

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Koesters: Ford May Build PHEV For Europe Should Demand Rise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/koesters-ford-may-build-phev-europe-demand-rise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/koesters-ford-may-build-phev-europe-demand-rise/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933746 While U.S. consumers can opt for a PHEV version of the Fusion or C-Max, European customers have had to look elsewhere. This could change soon, however. Automotive News reports Ford is “actively considering” bringing over a PHEV to go up against offerings from Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volvo, according to vehicle line director for large […]

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2015 Ford C-Max Energi

While U.S. consumers can opt for a PHEV version of the Fusion or C-Max, European customers have had to look elsewhere.

This could change soon, however.

Automotive News reports Ford is “actively considering” bringing over a PHEV to go up against offerings from Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volvo, according to vehicle line director for large cars in Europe, Uli Koesters.

The reason the Blue Oval hadn’t planned on playing the game? Low demand in Europe for PHEVs overall. Koesters could immediately bring a PHEV to market, such as one based upon the Fusion’s European cousin, the Mondeo, but only if the interest is there:

I believe the plug-in take-up in Europe is not quite as ready as some people would like to think, but it is clearly a technology that can do a lot better at significantly reducing fuel consumption and that is why we are actively looking at it.

At the moment, the most popular PHEV is the Mitsubishi Outlander, with 8,953 units sold in H1 2014. Volvo, meanwhile, sold the fewest PHEVs in the same period, moving only 3,233 V60s.

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GM General Counsel Retiring Early 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gm-general-counsel-retiring-early-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gm-general-counsel-retiring-early-2015/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933690 Come next year, General Motors will have a new general counsel, as Michael Millikin has decided to call it a day. Millikin had come under fire as recently as this summer, when Congress took CEO Mary Barra to task for not firing him for his part of the February 2014 ignition switch recall, especially when […]

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GM Senior Vice President and General Counsel Michael P. Millikin

Come next year, General Motors will have a new general counsel, as Michael Millikin has decided to call it a day.

Millikin had come under fire as recently as this summer, when Congress took CEO Mary Barra to task for not firing him for his part of the February 2014 ignition switch recall, especially when five company lawyers under him were given the axe — a result of the publication of the Valukas report — but not he. Barra had this to say about him:

Mike has had a tremendous career, spanning more than 40 years, with the vast majority of it at GM. He has led global legal teams through incredibly complex transactions, been a trusted and respected confidant to senior management, and even led the company’s global business response team following the tragedy of 9/11.

Millikin served as GM’s general counsel since 2009, and has been with the automaker since 1977, when he was brought in from his previous role as an assistant attorney in the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Detroit. He will remain in his position until the transition period for the new GC is complete.

GM has already begun an external search for his replacement.

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Cain’s Segments: Euro Sports Cars In September 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/cains-segments-euro-sports-cars-september-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/cains-segments-euro-sports-cars-september-2014/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:58:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=930490 The Jaguar F-Type continues to be the car of the moment as coupes become a more common sight and as the car continues to be an absolutely essential part of the Jaguar lineup. September sales of the F-Type jumped 91% compared with September of last year, which still stands as Jaguar USA’s second-lowest-volume full month. […]

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2013boxsterThe Jaguar F-Type continues to be the car of the moment as coupes become a more common sight and as the car continues to be an absolutely essential part of the Jaguar lineup. September sales of the F-Type jumped 91% compared with September of last year, which still stands as Jaguar USA’s second-lowest-volume full month. F-Type sales peaked at 501 units in July of this year and have, on four other occasions, topped 400 units.

400? That’s a figure untouched by BMW’s Z4 since July 2011, more than three years ago. Year-over-year, Z4 sales actually increased in September, rising by seven units, falling 9% (or 17 units) compared with September 2012. These aren’t cars one judges on a moment’s figures, however, and certainly not in early autumn.

On the other hand, even taking a broader time period into account, the Z4 is wildly less popular than it once was. BMW USA reported sales of more than 20,000 units in 2003 and averaged 11,520 annually between 2004 and 2007. Sales have declined in three consecutive years, falling to 2480 units in 2013. 2014 will likely make it four consecutive years, as BMW’s pace currently makes 2100 sales unlikely.

The disease is wreaking havoc on the sales figures of Z4 rivals, too. Admittedly, the Audi TT is now an old car that’s about to be replaced by the third-gen model. But do you really think the next TT can average 7500 annual sales in the United States as the TT did between 2002 and 2004? Audi sold 4355 TTs in 2007, 4486 in 2008, and then averaged fewer than 2200 between 2011 and 2013.

Car
Sept.
2014
Sept.
2013
%
Change
9 mos.
2014
9 mos.
2013
%
Change
Audi TT
42 178 -76.4% 1,098 1,530 -28.2%
BMW Z4
170 163 4.3% 1,617 1,953 -17.2%
Jaguar F-Type
329 172 91.3% 2,945 1,490 97.7%
Mercedes-Benz SLK
489 404 21.0% 3,595 3,569 0.7%
Porsche Boxster
275 302 -8.9% 3,024 3,759 -19.6%
Porsche Cayman
245 311 -21.2% 2,568 2,431 5.6%
Total
1,550 
1,530  1.3%  14,847  14,732  0.8%

 

What of the SLK-Class Benz? It’s a top seller, and SLK sales have improved in 2014. But it’s still a car that sells half as often now as it did a decade ago. Mercedes-Benz USA averaged 7866 SLK sales per year between 2002 and 2008 but likely won’t sell 5000 this year.

Back to the present, Boxster and Cayman sales decreased by 93 units in September and are down 10% this year as a pair. Although the SLK outsells the Boxster and the F-Type outsells the Cayman, the two nameplates combined achieve numbers far in excess of both the SLK’s and F-Type’s: 5592 so far this year.

Not lost in these numbers are higher-priced coupes and roadsters which sell in greater numbers. Mercedes-Benz SL-Class sales are down 33% this year, but at 3758 units (and 584 in September), it’s slightly more popular than the smaller SLK. The 911, of course, may be the more direct F-Type rival from Porsche: 911 sales are up 3% to 7758 in 2014, more than the Boxster, Cayman, and Z4 combined.

Then there’s Detroit’s finest, the Chevrolet Corvette. In this first full year for the C7, U.S. Corvette sales have more than tripled to 25,950 sales through nine months.

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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Coast to Coast 2014: Everything Is Bigger In Texas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-everything-bigger-texas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-everything-bigger-texas/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 15:56:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933322 Ram 2500 Long Horn in Fort Worth – Texas You can check out all the Coast to Coast reports as they are published here The Coast to Coast reports are back, and after New Orleans we now land in Texas, literally the land of pickups trucks. This time Albert, my Ram 1500 ecoDiesel feeling now […]

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1. Ram 2500 Long Horn Fort WorthRam 2500 Long Horn in Fort Worth – Texas

You can check out all the Coast to Coast reports as they are published here

The Coast to Coast reports are back, and after New Orleans we now land in Texas, literally the land of pickups trucks. This time Albert, my Ram 1500 ecoDiesel feeling now absolutely at home, took me to Houston, Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth before heading North to Oklahoma City. Texas makes it look like the rest of America I have visited so far wasn’t really trying. It may sound cliché, but everything is bigger in Texas. My impressions as well as official sales data courtesy of JATO are below.

New York Oklahoma CityUSA Coast to Coast trip so far. Map courtesy of Google Maps.

First a bit of trivia about Texas, one of the most symbolic States of the United States. The name Texas is derived from the word “tejas” which means “friends” or “allies” in Caddo language. This term was used by the Spanish themselves when they controlled the area to describe both the region and the Caddo people, a confederacy of several Southeastern Native American tribes who inhabited what is now East Texas, Northern Louisiana, southern Arkansas and Oklahoma. Today the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma is a single federally recognised tribe.

2. GMC Sierra DallasGMC Sierra in Dallas, Texas

At 26.4 million inhabitants, Texas is the second most populous State in the U.S. after California, and would feature at #47 worldwide if it was an independent country at exactly the same figure as Afghanistan and in between such nations as Saudi Arabia (30.8 million) and Australia (23.6 million). It is the second largest State after Alaska at 268.600 sq miles (or 696.241 km2), larger than France. Main cities are Houston (2.2 million inhabitants) and San Antonio (1.4 million) with the largest metropolitan area being the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex at 6.4 million souls and its capital being Austin at 885,400 inhabitants.

3. Toyota Tundra DallasToyota Tundra in Dallas, Texas

Texas has had a tumultuous history, being successively ruled by various nations: Spain, France then Mexico until 1836 when Texas became an independent Republic, before joining the U.S. as the 28th state in 1845. Texas is also called the Lone Star State, and its flag features a single star, a reference to its former status of a independent republic and as a reminder of the state’s struggle for independence from Mexico. Now. Trivia is out of the way, let’s get down to business.

4. Albert Texas State lineAlbert posing next to the Louisiana/Texas State line

And first things first, a few reports ago I said “I still am yet to spot a true American lunatic driving frankly dangerously, and I have found American highways one of the most relaxing and predictable driving experiences of my life.” That was in South Carolina. Well. I am now eating my words as everything changes the minute you cross the Texas State line. Lunatic drivers are more frequent than non-, unpredictable lane changes are the norm and speed limits are a long lost memory. To my advantage, pickup trucks rule the highways and ‘standard’ cars have no issues getting out of the way as soon as I get too close, not wanting to break my cruise control. So far so good.

5. Ford F150 Dallas 3Ford F150 in Dallas, Texas. Albert looks tiny next to it!

I started this article by saying Texas made me feel like the rest of America I had seen so far wasn’t really trying. Example: the huge highways around Houston. The I10 that circles the city at times becomes a 7 lane-highway. I simply had not seen such a thing at any time before and especially not in Los Angeles where I’ve been a few times (anyone care to correct this?), however this may be linked to the scarceness of public transport in Houston. Most interestingly, far from being an over-zealously built and unnecessarily grandiose undertaking, the 7 lanes were put to good use on a Saturday night at 9pm, each one filled with a regular flow of cars driving at speed limit or more. Impressive.

Bigger highways, but also bigger car dealerships. I drove past the largest dealership I’ve seen so far on the trip on the I10 a few miles West of Houston: Don McGill Toyota of Houston. Their website lists an inventory of 1.500 cars on site. Although I didn’t drive past it, It’s also worth noting the Fred Haase Toyota World dealership on the I45 North of Houston: the #1 Tundra dealer in the world and #1 volume dealer in Texas overall, with 2.860 vehicles on inventory right now. While huge, these are however not the largest dealerships in the country: the crown goes to Longo Toyota near Pasadena in California which is simply the largest car dealership in the world. No less. 15.000 vehicles sold a year, 50 acres, 500 employees, 30 languages and dialects spoken and complete with Subway restaurant and Starbucks café on site… It’s a different planet. But we digress…

6. Pickups DallasPickup trucks and motels. Now we truly are in America.

Texas is the kingdom of pickup trucks. Proof: according to Polk, pickup sales in the state were 3 times that of the #2 pickup market (California), and Texas accounts for 1 in 6 full-sized pickups sold nationally, whereas it holds only 8% of the national population. Even more impressive: the Houston metro area alone would rank #5 among pickup markets if it were a separate state. Dallas would be #7, as more pickups are sold just in the Dallas and Houston areas combined than in any other U.S. state, including No. 2 California. And more: even excluding both Dallas and Houston, Texas would still be the No. 1 pick-up state in the country!

6b Pickups Fort WorthPassenger cars are becoming rarer and rarer. In Fort Worth, Texas.

As a result, pickup truck manufacturers obviously pay particular attention to the Texan market, and most have special editions named in reference to this state: Ram has the LongHorn, Ford has the F-Series Texas Edition, Chevrolet has the Silverado… Texas Edition also while Toyota has the Tundra 1794 Edition named for the ranch, founded in 1794, upon which the truck’s assembly plant is located in San Antonio. At the State Fair of Texas in Dallas late last month, Toyota also unveiled a Tundra Bass Pro-Shop Offroad Edition available only to customers in the Gulf states region. Interestingly, only Toyota manufactures its full-size pickup truck locally in Texas and has recently relocated its headquarters from California to the Lone Star state. Last year at the launch of the new generations Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra, Automotive News noted that General Motors was piping as much as half of their initial national supply of 2014 pickups to Texas… Partly helped by their good health here, national sales of full-size pickup trucks hit 2 million units in 2013 and for the first time since 2007.

11. Ford F250 Fort WorthFord F250 in Fort Worth, Texas. The Ford F250 is the #5 best-seller in Texas.

But what are the best-selling vehicles in Texas overall?

Pos Model FY2013
1 Ford F-150 96,663
2 Chevrolet Silverado 78,047
3 Ram Pickup 67,378
4 Toyota Camry 36,953
5 Ford F-250 33,305

Source: JATO

Ford and Chevrolet take advantage of their extensive rural dealer network to take the top two spots with the F-150 just below 100,000 units, by far its best state score in the country, and the Silverado at almost 80,000. Seeing 3 or 4 current generation F-150 in a row is not uncommon on Texan highways. The Ram Pickup rounds up the podium at 67,000 and surprisingly, unlike Louisiana, the Top 4 is not 100% composed of pickup trucks with the Toyota Camry managing to point its much smaller bonnet in 4th position – albeit with just a little more than half the sales of the Ram. Tellingly, the Ford F-250 Super Duty makes its very first appearance in any State’s Top 5 so far thanks to a mammoth 33,305 sales in Texas. Interestingly, Toyota doesn’t place the Tundra inside the Top 5.

7. Chevrolet Impala DallasChevrolet Impala in Dallas, Texas

Thorough observation of the traffic on Texan highways also reveals the following: there are more Ford Edge and Cadillac XTS here than anywhere before during this trip, the new generation Chrysler 200 and Chevrolet Impala are back on the roads for the first time since Memphis, and the Toyota Tundra is strong but even though it is produced locally, it was more frequent in Northern Virginia or Western Louisiana. Austin struck me as a hipster chic town with more Lexus, Infiniti, Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf, less pickup trucks and the strongest heritage of previous generation Toyota Corolla so far in the trip. The Nissan Altima and Honda Accord should top the sales charts there.

10. Chrysler 200 Dallas with Kennedy detailsChrysler 200 in Dallas, Texas

The Ford F150 clearly dominates the Dallas vehicle landscape, potentially holding up to 10% market share there and way above the Chevrolet Silverado, more so than Texas-wide. The base version with plastic bumpers (playing in the same sandpit as my Ram “Albert” 1500 Tradesman) is the Hero of the state. A truckload of them all through Texas and in Dallas in particular, pun intended. There were almost no F250 and F350 in town, only outside on working sites (makes sense) and the new generation Chrysler 200 was stronger again in Dallas. As whole, both the Nissan Armada and Titan are a notch stronger in Texas than they are in the rest of the states I visited so far.

Highlights of the trip in the Lone Star state were the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas (see above), another very thorough museum this time about JFK’s assassination, and Fort Worth, which you might say is touristic yet oh so reassuringly and symbolically Texan. I bought a cowboy hat and belt. I had to. When in Texas… Meanwhile Albert, my valiant Ram 1500 Tradesman truck with ecoDiesel, has now crossed the 3,000 miles milestone in this trip, standing at 3,144 miles (5,069 km) by the time I arrived in Dallas. Fuel economy now stands at 26.4 mpg, still above the 24 average advertised by Ram for city/highway. Very happy with that one.

Next stop: Oklahoma City.

 8. Chevrolet CK Series Fort WorthChevrolet CK Series in Fort Worth, Texas

Ford F150 DallasFord Mustang and F150 in Dallas, Texas

9. Chevrolet Silverado Fort WorthChevrolet Silverado in Fort Worth, Texas

12. Dodge Durango Fort WorthDodge Durango in Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth street scene 1Fort Worth street scene

Hyundai Elantra GT DallasHyundai Elantra GT in Dallas, Texas

Nissan Altima TexasNissan Altima near Austin, Texas

Ram 2500 Fort WorthRam Pickup in Fort Worth, Texas

Toyota Camry Fort Worth 2Toyota Camry in Fort Worth, Texas

Ford Explorer Fort Worth 2Ford Explorer in Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth ColiseumFort Worth Coliseum

Toyota Tundra Fort WorthToyota Tundra in Fort Worth, Texas

Ford F150 Dallas 2Ford F150 in Dallas, Texas

Toyota Corolla DallasToyota Corolla in Dallas, Texas

Ford F250 Fort Worth 2Ford F250 in Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth street scene 2Fort Worth street scene

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Chart Of The Day: The 200 And A Decade Of Chrysler Group Midsize Car Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chart-day-200-decade-chrysler-group-midsize-car-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chart-day-200-decade-chrysler-group-midsize-car-sales/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 11:41:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=930402 Through the first nine months of 2014, sales of the Chrysler 200 are down 27%. That’s to be expected, as the 200 was transitioning from Sebring-based (but Pentastar-powered!) fleet favourite to sleeker 2015 200 form. Granted, Toyota is transitioning from Camry to refreshed Camry and sales are up 5% this year, but that’s a somewhat […]

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003-2015-chrysler-200-leak-1Through the first nine months of 2014, sales of the Chrysler 200 are down 27%. That’s to be expected, as the 200 was transitioning from Sebring-based (but Pentastar-powered!) fleet favourite to sleeker 2015 200 form. Granted, Toyota is transitioning from Camry to refreshed Camry and sales are up 5% this year, but that’s a somewhat invalid comparison for another day. Dodge Avenger volume is down 37% to 49,363 units in 2014, but again, this was an anticipated decline, as Chrysler Group has actually killed off the Avenger.

Jointly, the duo is down 31% to 124,505 units. For the third time, this is not a shocker. We expected a period of decreasing 200 volume, and we knew the Avenger’s drops were going to be severe.

Perhaps Fiat Chrysler Automobiles does not need the remaining, sibling-less 200 to sell in 200/Avenger-like fashion. But if we set aside the year-to-date numbers to look only at September’s results, we’ll certainly see that the new 200 is, in fact, not coming close to selling in 200/Avenger-like numbers. In fact, the 200 and remaining Avenger – 1677 were sold in September – aren’t selling like the 200 and Avenger did last year, either. While 200 sales jumped 15% in September, that was not enough to overcome the near disappearance of Avenger sales.

Chrysler Group midsize car sales chartThe pair was down 14% to 12672 units, a loss of 2010 units. Is that a concern if the new car has greater potential for profit generation? Not at all. But the discounts are already piling up on the 2015 200, with a $2500 cash allowance being just the starting point.

Of course, Chrysler Group midsize car sales fluctuate wildly, and we could yet see a surge by year’s end. The accompanying chart shows nine-month U.S. sales totals over the last nine years.

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Automakers, Utilities Collaborate On Plug-In Cloud Charging Technology http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/automakers-utilities-collaborate-plug-cloud-charging-technology/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/automakers-utilities-collaborate-plug-cloud-charging-technology/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 14:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932394 A group of eight automakers are collaborating with 15 utility companies in the United States to give PHEVs and EVs the ability to communicate with the latter party and the grid through cloud computing. Edmunds reports the group of eight — BMW, Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Mitsubishi — along […]

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Ford Focus EV Cloud Charging

A group of eight automakers are collaborating with 15 utility companies in the United States to give PHEVs and EVs the ability to communicate with the latter party and the grid through cloud computing.

Edmunds reports the group of eight — BMW, Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Mitsubishi — along with the 15 companies, Sumitomo Electric Industries and the Electric Power Research Institute, are developing a platform that would use the cloud to better manage energy usage and grid efficiency “while still meeting the needs” of PHEV and EV owners. The platform is called the Open Vehicle-Grid Integration Platform.

OVGI would operate as follows: an owner would plug their car in as usual, then set a time for when the vehicle would be back on the road. The utility company could then send a message to the car to stop charging during peak power use, or, if doing so would hinder the vehicle’s ability to get back on the road, allow the vehicle to continue charging until it was ready to go.

In turn, the companies could offer their customers incentives to offer their plug-ins to the grid through lower rates on electricity usage. Customers can opt-out, charge elsewhere, or have the vehicle ignore the request.

The first OVGI test is occurring this week at Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s Customer Service Center, where the tech will be demonstrated before federal, state, automotive and utility representatives and officials.

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Canada Auto Sales Recap: September 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/canada-auto-sales-recap-september-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/canada-auto-sales-recap-september-2014/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:36:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932434 Without an unexpected drastic downward turn in the final quarter of 2014, Canadian auto sales will reach record levels this year, a strong follow-up to best-ever sales in calendar year 2013. September 2014 was marked by a collective 13% sales improvement from the overall industry, a gain of nearly 19,000 units compared with September 2013. […]

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2015 Hyundai Sonata frontWithout an unexpected drastic downward turn in the final quarter of 2014, Canadian auto sales will reach record levels this year, a strong follow-up to best-ever sales in calendar year 2013.

September 2014 was marked by a collective 13% sales improvement from the overall industry, a gain of nearly 19,000 units compared with September 2013. September also marked Ford Motor Company’s return to the top of the overall sales leaderboard in Canada. Chrysler Group’s five brands haven’t actually led the monthly results since March, but their lead was strong enough to support year-to-date number one status through the end of August.

Both Ford/Lincoln and General Motors outsold the Chrysler Group in September, however, despite a combined 20% year-over-year improvement from Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, and Fiat.

Jeep’s 140% year-over-year sales increase was at the top of September’s growth chart, surpassing Maserati’s 123% leap and Buick’s 111% improvement. Jeep volume has risen above 6000 units in each of the last six months. Jeep set an all-time monthly record for new vehicle sales in May of this year, when 7531 Wranglers, Cherokees, Grand Cherokees, Patriots, and Compasses were sold. Buick’s rise beyond 2000 units was the first such 2K+ month since April of last year, when precisely 2000 Buicks were sold in Canada.

Canada’s next-fastest-growing auto brand last month was Audi, sales of which shot up 42% to 2490 units. 29% of Audi Canada’s September volume was generated by the brand’s two new entry-level models, the A3 sedan (393 September sales) and Q3 crossover (328 September sales).

The Q3 was joined in Canada by its newest rival, the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, 184 of which were sold last month, a figure which is expected to steadily rise. 46% of Mercedes-Benz’s non-Sprinter volume was generated by five SUV and crossover nameplates last month. Through nine months, the Mercedes-Benz brand (excluding Sprinter vans) leads BMW, the second-ranked premium automaker, by a scant 50 units.

Canada September 2014 YTD best-selling cars chartMidsize cars are an increasingly lackluster force in Canada’s auto market. Even in Canada’s declining passenger car market, the midsize segment’s decline is particularly egregious, falling 15% this year and 6% in September. Hyundai’s Sonata has bucked the trend of late, surging 140% in September to lead the category for the third consecutive month. But this Ford Fusion-led midsize segment was, Sonata excluded, down 15% last month, a loss of 1522 units.

Canadians, of course, respond much more favourably to slightly more efficient, not quite as roomy, and much more affordable compact cars. 2014 will mark the Honda Civic’s 17th consecutive year as the compact leader and as Canada’s best-selling passenger car overall. September Civic sales jumped 10% as compact volume grew just 4%.

The Civic was joined on the positive side of the ledger by the Buick Verano (up 121%), Chevrolet Cruze (up 22%), Nissan Sentra (up 57%) and Volkswagen Golf (up 101%), among other.

Golf sales, at 2073 units, are notable for the difference achieved by the nameplate on two sides of one border. In the United States, where Volkswagen’s struggles have been thoroughly chronicled, the Golf family accounted for just 13% of VW volume in September. The Golf is VW Canada’s second-best-selling model, producing 32% of the brand’s September sales.

Volkswagen’s model range is thin, of course, with just two utility vehicles, and five continuing passenger car lines. Volkswagen is done with the Routan minivan, having sold their last in May 2013. Canadian minivan volume was up 12% in September; mini-MPV sales were down 43%. Pickup truck volume, jacked up by the best-selling Ford F-Series, rose 11% to 31,050 units. Commercial van sales were up 23%. Passenger car sales rose 2%, accounting for 41% of total new vehicle volume last month. And Canada’s growth sector, SUVs and crossovers, grew 30%, forming 35% of the Canadian auto industry’s volume, up from 30% a year ago.

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Tesla’s First Battery Swap Station Opening Soon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/teslas-first-battery-swap-station-opening-soon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/teslas-first-battery-swap-station-opening-soon/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932362 While Tesla owners — and owners of all EVs, for that matter — may be waiting a couple of years before titanium oxide anodes bring battery charging levels down to the 3- to 5-minute fueling times found at a given gas station, CEO Elon Musk has another option for them to consider: Battery-pack swapping. SlashGear […]

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Tesla Supercharger

While Tesla owners — and owners of all EVs, for that matter — may be waiting a couple of years before titanium oxide anodes bring battery charging levels down to the 3- to 5-minute fueling times found at a given gas station, CEO Elon Musk has another option for them to consider: Battery-pack swapping.

SlashGear reports the first swapping station will come online within the next few months, offering S and X owners the option of allowing robots to swap a drained pack for a fully charged unit from underneath the car within 90 seconds. Not only is this method faster than refueling at the local ARCO, but it blows away the Supercharger’s 30-minute charging time, as well.

The pack swap would also enable owners to retrieve their original packs later on, or, should retrieval become inconvenient, pay the difference for the new pack. Critics note this could lead to supply problems, where some stations have batteries waiting for their owners to return, while others run short of new packs.

The first station will open somewhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco, though further details were scant.

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Jeep First American Brand To Enter Japan COTY Top 10 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/jeep-first-american-brand-enter-japan-coty-top-10/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/jeep-first-american-brand-enter-japan-coty-top-10/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932338 While the new Mazda2 — Demio to its friends in Japan — took home the overall gold in this year’s Japanese Car of the Year awards, Jeep took home a JCOTY, too, the first time an American brand has ever accomplished the feat. AutoGuide reports the Cherokee took eighth place among the top 10 list, […]

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2014 jeep cherokee

While the new Mazda2 — Demio to its friends in Japan — took home the overall gold in this year’s Japanese Car of the Year awards, Jeep took home a JCOTY, too, the first time an American brand has ever accomplished the feat.

AutoGuide reports the Cherokee took eighth place among the top 10 list, the third Fiat Chrysler Japan product in a row to do so after the Fiat Panda and Alfa Romeo Giulietta. The crossover went on sale in Japan in May 2014.

Among the transplants, the Mercedes C-Class took a close second behind the Demio, the BMW i3 won the bronze, and the Peugeot 308 came in sixth place. Subaru’s Levorg wagon was the next highest-placing home model.

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Singapore Researchers Invent New Anode For Faster Battery Charging, Increased Longevity http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/singapore-researchers-invent-new-anode-faster-battery-charging-increased-longevity/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/singapore-researchers-invent-new-anode-faster-battery-charging-increased-longevity/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 11:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932306 One of the main roadblocks to wide adoption of EVs is how quickly the battery can be fully charged. While Tesla’s Supercharger could put a Model S P85D back on the road in 30 minutes to an hour, a Dodge Charger Hellcat can pull up to and away from the pump in three minutes, barring […]

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NTU Assoc Prof Chen Xiaodong with research fellow Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang

One of the main roadblocks to wide adoption of EVs is how quickly the battery can be fully charged. While Tesla’s Supercharger could put a Model S P85D back on the road in 30 minutes to an hour, a Dodge Charger Hellcat can pull up to and away from the pump in three minutes, barring a run inside the 7-Eleven for a cup of coffee and a couple of donuts.

That roadblock may come down sooner than later, thanks to researchers at Singapore’s Nanyang Technology University.

The university recently unveiled a new battery that could be recharged to 70 percent capacity within two minutes, and boasts a lifespan of 20 years over the two to three years of life found in current lithium-ion batteries.

The secret? Replacing the graphite anode in those batteries with a nanogel composed of titanium oxide, a chemical commonly found in soil, sunscreen and food. Invented by Professor Chen Xiaodong at the university’s School of Materials Science and Engineering, the gel will be taken to the next level with a proof-of-concept grant to help fund a large-scale prototype.

Meanwhile, at least one company has already purchased a license to develop the titanium oxide battery for production down the road. Chen himself believes his invention will enter the marketplace within the next two years, knocking down more than just the long-charging barrier in so doing:

Electric cars will be able to increase their range dramatically, with just five minutes of charging, which is on par with the time needed to pump petrol for current cars.

Equally important, we can now drastically cut down the toxic waste generated by disposed batteries, since our batteries last ten times longer than the current generation of lithium-ion batteries.

Ease of manufacturing and lower replacement costs may further widespread adoption within the industry, in turn increasing adoption rates for whatever EVs come down the line in the future; the nanogel — a mixture of titanium oxide and sodium hydroxide — is stirred together at a given temperature for easier integration into current production systems.

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Dwindling Cabriolet Market Affecting Automakers, Suppliers Alike http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dwindling-cabriolet-market-affecting-automakers-suppliers-alike/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dwindling-cabriolet-market-affecting-automakers-suppliers-alike/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 10:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932282 If you’re a fan of convertibles, then you may find your selection dwindling as more consumers go for a different image, affecting automakers and suppliers alike. Automotive News Europe reports manufacturers like Volkswagen and Peugeot are cutting down the number of cabriolets in their portfolios as a result of the following: Popularity: In the two […]

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Opel Cascada

If you’re a fan of convertibles, then you may find your selection dwindling as more consumers go for a different image, affecting automakers and suppliers alike.

Automotive News Europe reports manufacturers like Volkswagen and Peugeot are cutting down the number of cabriolets in their portfolios as a result of the following:

  • Popularity: In the two biggest markets for such vehicles — North America and Europe — the convertible experienced sales of 827,000 unit in 2007, but only 444,000 in 2013. The drop is likely the result of consumers moving toward crossovers and SUVs, along with other image-making vehicles like the Toyota Prius and Tesla Model S.
  • Limited market: Even when popularity was at its peak, not everyone wanted the wind in their hair. Convertibles were most popular in places like England, Sweden, California and Florida — the latter two were the result of transplants from colder, wetter regions who now wanted to soak up the sun — while few were sold in places like Dubai, China and Singapore.
  • Other options: Consumers shopping for new vehicles can have theirs with a panoramic roof, delivering blue skies to all without needing to apply a ton of Aqua Net or toupee glue before heading out. Further, SUVs and cabriolets are image vehicles that can replace each other, though such a swap hurts the latter more than the former in the new-vehicle market. Finally, convertibles have a higher residual value, and tend to do better in the used-vehicle market than when first purchased.

Thus, as automakers trim their open-top offerings, suppliers like Valmet and Magna CTS fear their time may soon come to call it a day. CEO for the largest supplier of roof systems, Webasto’s Holger Engelmann, says the market won’t be able to sustain three major players in the supply game. Both Webasto and Valmet — the third largest; Magna CTS is No. 2 — have shuttered facilities over the years amid the shrinking market, with Valmet closing its German operations by 2017.

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Japanese Auto Makers Crack The Closed Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/japanese-auto-makers-crack-closed-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/japanese-auto-makers-crack-closed-market/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 18:25:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932073 While the eternal debate about whether Japan is or isn’t a closed market continues to rage onwards, the Nikkei reports that a new phenomenon is occurring in Japan: imported vehicles from domestic brands are starting to trickle in. Previously, only a very limited number of imported nameplates trickled into the Japanese market. The Ohio-built Honda […]

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ac5_04-1994CoupeSiRb

While the eternal debate about whether Japan is or isn’t a closed market continues to rage onwards, the Nikkei reports that a new phenomenon is occurring in Japan: imported vehicles from domestic brands are starting to trickle in.

Previously, only a very limited number of imported nameplates trickled into the Japanese market. The Ohio-built Honda Accord Coupe was one of the most famous examples, with right-hand drive units sent back to Japan and marketed specifically as an American-built vehicle.

 

Even though the yen has weakened – a key factor in the decision to set up overseas manufacturing facilities – Japanese OEMs aren’t so eager to move production back home. As the Nikkei reports

In some cases, the economies of scale from building cars where they sell the most makes those vehicles more competitive than those produced domestically. So the automakers are moving to import these models to beef up their domestic lineups… ‘Each automaker has taken risks to conduct capital investment abroad, so it’s unlikely that the trend to manufacture locally will change as a result of exchange rates returning to earlier levels,’ says Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association Chairman Fumihiko Ike.

While models from lower cost locales like Spain, Hungary and Thailand will be brought to Japan, Honda will be bringing the Ohio-built Acura NSX over, albeit as a low volume halo car. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting twist of events, given that the Plaza Accord and voluntary export restrictions aren’t too distant a memory for many people.

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How The Honda Passport Got Its Name http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/honda-passport-got-name/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/honda-passport-got-name/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 16:17:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=931842 It ceased being fun working at American Honda around the summer of 1993. Most of our senior managers in the sales division had recently been fired. In May, the New York Times published the first story about our executives soliciting bribes from dealers. The Justice Department was snooping around our US headquarters in Torrance, CA. […]

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Passport Rodeo courtesy popularmechanics.com

It ceased being fun working at American Honda around the summer of 1993. Most of our senior managers in the sales division had recently been fired. In May, the New York Times published the first story about our executives soliciting bribes from dealers. The Justice Department was snooping around our US headquarters in Torrance, CA. The year before, our geniuses in Japan had dropped the ground-breaking CRX two-seater and stuck us with the dull del Sol. Over at Acura, our Honda Division castoffs were busy trying to figure out why the tepid 5-cylinder Vigor was not selling.

We were still stuck in the Civic-Accord-Prelude-del Sol mode. “We will never build trucks,” our execs had often proudly proclaimed.  Now we found ourselves caught flat-footed as we followed the success of the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner SUVs. We needed a sport-ute yesterday, and it would take us a minimum of four years to develop one. We did what any self-respecting, high quality, loved-by-its-customers car company would do in this situation.

We called Isuzu.

We made arrangements with Isuzu to sell their Rodeo SUV in America in exchange for Isuzu rebadging some of our small cars in Japan. “Hello, Burger King? This is Lawry’s Steakhouse. We want to put our name on one of your sandwiches and sell it as our own,” said one of my co-workers in Honda’s advertising department. That may have been a little harsh, but there was a genuine lack of enthusiasm internally for the General Motors-powered Rodeo that we had code-named the “Hodeo.”

We had no time to hire a consultant to make up a moniker, as we had done with the brand name “Acura.” Instead we dug into the Honda motorcycle/ATV parts bin to come up with three potential model names already licensed to us.

This was not the first time we had used a tag from our two-wheel division: before it was an Acura, the Integra was a V-Twin sport bike built in the early 1980s (and the name was resurrected in 2007 and continues today as a scooter.) The cycle division had some really cool names. Heck, if Honda ever built a V-8 version of today’s Ridgeline pickup they could call it the Honda 305 Scrambler.

So armed with the names Elsinore, Odyssey and Passport, we headed off to test the SUV and the proposed names in a consumer focus group. We had a Honda-badged Rodeo and a half-dozen competing SUVs lined up in a warehouse in Culver City. The attendees were primarily SUV-owning men, as we were concerned that we were becoming a bit too much of a chick car company. My boss, Dave the National Advertising Manager, and I watched from behind a one-way mirror but were under a time crunch: thanks to NBC, we had great seats to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup featuring the LA Kings and Wayne Gretzky taking on the Montreal Canadiens, with faceoff being 45 minutes away at the nearby Forum.

The original Honda Passport

The original Honda Passport

The group first reinforced our internal concerns when asked their first impressions about our new SUV, (“It looks like that Suzuki or Isuzu.” “It IS that Isuzu.” “Why would Honda sell an Isuzu?” “It won’t have the same quality.”) Undaunted, the moderator from our advertising agency proceeded to ask the attendees what images the proposed names conjured up.

We started with Elsinore. The Elsinore was a 1970s Honda dirt bike named after Lake Elsinore, an area known for a legendary off-road motorcycle race. Movie star and motorcycle racer Steve McQueen rode an Elsinore. What could be a more rugged and manly name for the Hodeo?

Rugged and manly attendee Bob, a Chevy Suburban owner, asked, “Why would you name a truck after the castle in “Hamlet?”  Amazingly, others agreed with him. Elsinore was out.

Next up was Odyssey, a name used for a 1970s/1980s Honda dune buggy. The attendees were confused. (“So this means you can travel long distances in an Isuzu?”) I think Bob mentioned Homer. Odyssey was out but would be used on Honda’s first minivan the following year.

The name Passport was used in the 1980s on a variation of the venerable Honda Super Cub motorbike. The group liked it far better than the other two names. That was enough for Dave and me: we decided that our first-ever SUV would be called the Honda Passport. We excused ourselves and headed to the Forum. The naming process took less than ten minutes.

The Passport ended up selling pretty well initially thanks to our strong brand image and the usual hilarious commercials produced by the legendary Larry Postaer, creative director at our advertising agency. The Passport would be dropped in 2002 and eventually be replaced by the Honda-built Pilot, named after another Honda off-road ATV.

The Honda/Isuzu alliance made a semi-believer out me that a strong car company could successfully work with a weaker automaker on product sharing and development. Of course I later joined Mercedes-Benz a few months before they bought Chrysler and would learn otherwise…

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Dispatches Do Brasil: Salão do Automóvel de São Paulo (A Preview Of The Sao Paulo Auto Show) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dispatches-brasil-salao-automovel-de-sao-paulo-preview-sao-paulo-auto-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dispatches-brasil-salao-automovel-de-sao-paulo-preview-sao-paulo-auto-show/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 15:40:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932081 With an expected attendance of over 750,000 visitors, the biannual São Paulo Auto Salon opens its doors to the public on October 30th and will go on for 11 days. By far the largest of this kind of fair in Latin America, the organization of the show ambitions to turn it into one of the […]

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With an expected attendance of over 750,000 visitors, the biannual São Paulo Auto Salon opens its doors to the public on October 30th and will go on for 11 days. By far the largest of this kind of fair in Latin America, the organization of the show ambitions to turn it into one of the five largest in the world and make it the world’s premier compact car launch platform. In 2012, only with Brazilian tourists going to see the show in the city of São Paulo, that city grossed over R$250 million. This year, expectations are that tourism, and all other businesses involved, will make 30 percent more than they did at the last one.

Since we are still a couple of weeks away, here’s a quick overview of the confirmed and the speculated, based on nationality. Check back next week as we cover the big debuts in depth.

The Americans

The Chrysler group will surely be among those most visited. Spies have taken pictures of pre-production run, Brazilian-built Renegades, which are, frankly, generating strong interest. Depending on price, it should be a hit.  Jeep will also show its Cherokee and this will be the first time most of us will be able to lay our eyeballs in person on the thing. Challenger and Viper should be shown yet again, but mostly as attention getters as there are no official plans for them in Brazil.

GM will show the latest Corvette and this should garner interest. There are strong indications that they will finally get around to importing the thing (about time). A Camaro Z28 should also make the rounds. For the real world, a Spin minivan in “adventure” guise is rumored, including an a la Wrangler, back hatch-mounted spare.

Ford will also be busy showing imports. The new Edge, and the body-on-frame Everest SUV will be shown. Most importantly, the Mustang seems set to become Brazilian, the first time ever; Ford will import its wild pony, though only for 2016. Of course the new line will be shown, and the Ka should be of particular interest for Brazilians, though the new Focus shown elsewhere will be hidden as the three front triangles one has been here for less than a year.

The Chinese

If you fall down, try again. After relative success when they first arrived, the Chinese have been beaten down by government intervention, high depreciation, continued worries on quality, and mechanically (some) and dynamically (most) have been considered abject failures. Changing strategy, most makers will now focus on CUVs, ranging from compact to gigantic as their hatches and sedans have proved uncompetitive so far.

The French

…will be very busy. PSA should get a lot of visitors as they continue to spin off the DS sub-brand into its own brand. All models will be present and the most important launch is the DS 6WR, a midsize CUV-SUV-thing with turbo engines of up to 200 hp. Citroën will show off the Cactus, but to underscore that it will not be for us, the model shown is the show-circuit one. Peugeot meanwhile, has real news. For the first time in Brazil, it will exhibit its compact 2008 CUV, slated for Brazilian production and on sale by the middle of next year. To attract attention, besides the civilian version, the 37-inch wheeled, V6 biturbo motivated 2008 DKR that will compete in the 2015 Dakar Rally will be here. Another anticipated car is the Brazilian market 208 compact hatch in GT trim, an homage we can say to the European GTi as engines (1.6L, 165 hp) and number of doors (5 and not 3) will be different.

Renault has not confirmed the Duster pickup, but it should go on sale by midyear 2015 will be proudly shown off. If true, they will have a busy stand, because besides concepts, that will be the only launch. Beyond that possibility, both redesigned Fluence and Duster are confirmed. What has not been confirmed are exactly what changes are expected to the Duster. Some say only externally, and in the front it will be retouched. For Duster fans, the most important news will be if the inside finally follows the redesigned and much more inspired new Logan and Sandero interiors. Speaking of the hatch, the Stepway “adventure” version will make its debut and surely generate sales and visits for Renault.

The Italians

Alfa Romeo will again tug our hearts and show off their full line (what there is of it) in São Paulo. Rumors as to their return have been growing of late and a full line show can’t be a coincidence (can it?). The 4C will collect millions of flashes, from a distance, as Alfa Romeo is usually one of those who show but don’t allow touching.

Fiat has not officially denied or confirmed any new launches for the Salon. As the largest Brazilian maker, the new Uno should be enough to generate lines at the stand, but they always have a surprise or two up their sleeves. I wouldn’t call you crazy if you expect to see the 500L and even the 500X (also already in pre-production in the new factory) make an appearance. Besides, the female model selection is usually best in show.

The Germans

Audi will probably show coupe and convertible of the new, angular TT. Taking a page from China, the extra-long A8L is confirmed and, if Brazilian plutocrats demonstrate enough interest, could be imported.

BMW will show the electric line, i3 and i8, and surely talk in the backstage to authorities of the necessity of credit and financing to popularize such cars in this country. Besides those and the regular line, the homely X4 and Series 2 Active Tourer will be launched. Sort of German, but I will include it here; MINI will show off its also homely new line, including the 5-door hatch.

Mercedes Benz will show their regular line and the crazily-powerful, AMG-branded or not, vehicles launched in other international salons recently. In a good moment in Brazil, probably beating their über rivals in sales this year, some of their models will not be shown at their stand, but will rather rub shoulders with such luminaries and exotics as Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche and others in the so-called “Super Cars’ Space”.

Volkswagen will have lots of attractions. In the Brazilian line, the adventure line of the demure up! will be presented, as will the SpaceFox, a sort of a cross between a minivan and station wagon. It will receive the changes the hatch it derives from (the Fox) has already received. The best news though is the Jetta. VW has confirmed local production for the new one (one less Mexican import), which will submit to the same re-skin the American Jetta suffered recently.

The Japanese

Honda will showcase its new HR-V or Vezel. Maybe they’ll even settle on a name… The car will use a 1.8 engine and aim at EcoSport and Duster. The Civic Si makes its glorious return. This time it will be imported only in coupe form, use a 2.4, and be sold for a modest R$115,000. The re-styled CR-V is also likely to show.

Nissan will show its re-styled Versa and March, both of which are already in production at their new Brazilian plant, which marks the first time Nissan is producing in its own factory here, as its Livina minivan is built by Renault at the French facility. To call even more attention, the re-tuned 553 hp, Nissan GT-R will grace the stand.

Called 86 here, the Toyota twin of the Toyota-Subaru collaboration will appear yet again. It was shown back in 2012, but nothing came about. This time around Toyota promises to import it. Showing mostly the regular line, it seems Toyota is focusing on Lexus.

Lexus will focus more on CUVs than sedans. After importing and failing to sell their sedans for lack of prestige and an excess of ambition (priced higher than the equivalent German suspects, much more known and oozing in prestige), might be that the bizarre NX could do the trick. I wouldn’t hold my breath though as things like Land Rover Evoque and Audi Q3 are firmly entrenched in the category and command much better brand recognition.

At least Lexus tries; Acura and Infiniti have given up the pretense and will be noticeable only by their absence.

The Koreans

…also known as Hyundai-Kia, seem not too interested. Hyundai promises to show its pseudo-German Genesis, while Kia neither acknowledges nor denies rumors that the K900 will appear for the first time in South America.

The others

Jaguar, Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche, Volvo, among others will all be here. In spite of showing only what has already been seen and launched elsewhere, they always attract a crowd as the Salon is a real opportunity for many a Brazilian to see these cars up close. Depending on attractiveness though, and if people are not too interested, some of these brands, sometimes, are known to throw caution in the wind and hide the ropes, letting the hordes actually open and close doors, mess with the switchgear and sit in the cars.

 

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Big Steel Steps Up Marketing Game Under Aluminum Shadow http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/big-steel-steps-marketing-game-aluminum-shadow/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/big-steel-steps-marketing-game-aluminum-shadow/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=932026 Ford’s move to make the upcoming F-150 out of aluminum, along with GM’s plans to do the same with its trucks down the road, isn’t sitting well with the steel industry, to say the least. PickupTrucks.com reports the Steel Market Development Institute — the marketing arm of eight United States-based steel producers — recently became […]

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2015-ford-f-150-in-detroit-front-side-view

Ford’s move to make the upcoming F-150 out of aluminum, along with GM’s plans to do the same with its trucks down the road, isn’t sitting well with the steel industry, to say the least.

PickupTrucks.com reports the Steel Market Development Institute — the marketing arm of eight United States-based steel producers — recently became the title sponsor of the Texas Auto Writers Association’s 2014 Truck Rodeo — where the Aluminum King of Truck Mountain took home the Truck of Texas title and four other awards — in part to promote steel. Outgoing SDMI vice president Ronald Krupitzer explains:

Texans know and love their trucks. When they need a vehicle to keep up with the workload and lifestyle, advanced high-strength steel offers the perfect balance between weight and performance… we look forward to partnering with the Texas Auto Writers Association and sharing their insight on why time-tested materials, like advanced steel, will help ensure the durability, strength and safety of future vehicles.

As emphasized by SMDI president Larry Kavanaugh, the F-150 may have an aluminum body, but the truck’s frame “uses more high-strength steel than any other pickup.” The group also proclaimed said steel would remain the choice of automakers through 2025 and beyond, while aluminum will go the way of the hula hoop, Tamagotchi and the Harlem Shake after a few years of experimentation.

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