Category: Industry

By on October 23, 2017

GM Cruise self-driving Testing

“Mobility” is easily the most overused term in today’s automotive vernacular. Despite being incredibly nonspecific, executives can’t help but make it the bookend of most speeches involving long-term goals and production stratagems. But why?

The term itself pertains more to the industry itself than the specific products it’s developing. While “mobility” can be applied to any conveyance with a technological bent, the word also represents a company’s ability to move into other areas of business. And that’s what gets the investors and market analysts tugging at their collective collar, damp across the brow, so red hot they can’t help but raise the stock valuation of any company that seems poised to make a big move.

Tesla’s entry as novel manufacturer with a unique product was enough to send its share price through the roof, and established automakers took notice. Despite Mark Fields’ best attempt to rebrand Ford as a tech company, he couldn’t bottle that same lightning and paid the ultimate price — getting fired. However, General Motors may be succeeding where Ford initially failed. The proof of the pudding is how high its share prices continue to climb.  Read More >

By on October 23, 2017

2017 Skoda Kodiaq rear

Nothing stirs up enthusiasts and cynics quite like the potential launch of a new brand in the United States. Over the past several years, we’ve reported on the motions being made by established European players eager for a thin wedge of the country’s huge car-buying pie — players like PSA group, which is now in the early days of a decade-long return to the U.S. marketplace.

Less exciting, especially considering the level of zeal expressed for quirky French cars, is the rumored emergence of the Skoda brand on this side of the Atlantic. Once a lesser player in the Volkswagen Group fold, the Czech automaker is enjoying huge sales increases. There’s a diverse lineup of vehicles, including a seemingly made-for-America SUV, the Kodiaq. The brand even filed trademark applications for model names.

So, should we expect a go-ahead decision in the months ahead, like the brand’s leadership hinted at last year? Nope. Skoda has better things to do. Read More >

By on October 23, 2017

2018 Chrysler 300 Limited - Image: FCA

On the surface, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Jeep brand is everything a modern-day brand should be. SUVs and crossovers, a looming pickup truck, and no cars. This is what the world wants.

On the opposite side of the coin, Chrysler is the brand seemingly no one, save for North American minivan buyers and a shrinking pool of traditional luxury sedan devotees, wants. Year-to-date, sales of the brand’s two-model U.S. lineup is down nearly 10 percent.

Overseas reports claiming FCA has ended production of right-hand-drive models at its Ontario, Canada assembly plants paint an even grimmer picture, even though the core RHD Chrysler model — the rear-drive 300 — is not, apparently, extinct. Read More >

By on October 23, 2017

mini electric concept

Contrasting paint hasn’t been commonplace on automobiles in over half a century, but it appears to be regaining some of its lost momentum lately. Everything from the Bugatti Chiron to the Toyota Camry offers separate bodywork hues these days.

Of course, we don’t know if this is a trend poised to explode across the industry or something that will be relegated to a handful of models before fizzling out. However, with new crossovers like the Volkswagen T-Roc, Range Rover Velar, and Volvo XC40 available with contrasting rooflines, it seems ready to enjoy at least 15 minutes of fame.  Read More >

By on October 20, 2017

2018 Audi A7 Sportback - Image: AudiSee that new Audi A3 with between 109 and 129 horsepower? That’s an Audi A3 30. And see the badge on the back of that Audi A4 2.0T? Right, it doesn’t say 2.0T. It says Audi A4 45.

Huh?

Exactly. Huh. Many huhs. “Huh?” is being heard everywhere. In fact, even within Audi, “Huh?”, was an expression heard often enough that Audi of America won’t be adopting the new model designation format. That’s a relief.

Remember when you looked at the back of a German car and could instantly decipher its engine displacement? Read More >

By on October 20, 2017

2016 Holden Commodore

Maybe the dingo ate your industry? No, that cruel joke doesn’t hold a grain of truth — Australia’s domestic auto industry simply fell victim to the harsh realities of economics and globalization.

No longer a captive market, no longer a country with steep walls built of tariffs, the land Down Under found it could no longer sustain its own vehicle manufacturing presence. Because of this, today marks the end of it all. Workers will leave the Holden assembly plant in Elizabeth, South Australia, closing the door on the GM subsidiary’s 69-year Aussie car-building history.

It seems the final vehicle to leave the plant was fittingly badass. Read More >

By on October 20, 2017

2017 Mazda CX5 - Image: MazdaMazda announced 11 months ago that the company “will introduce a diesel engine option to the North American market,” with the revamped CX-5, launched in the 2017 model year.

We’d heard such claims before. Three years ago, we were still waiting on the launch of the diesel-powered Mazda 6, at least until Mazda gave up on that idea. But Mazda’s insistence this time around produced less doubt. Mazda even revealed that the automaker felt it could generate 10 percent of CX-5 sales with the diesel model.

But last month, we began to wonder about Mazda’s claims of delivering a 2017 Mazda CX-5 Diesel in the second-half of 2017. The second-half, as you may have noticed, is quickly drawing to a close. Moreover, Mazda wouldn’t offer up any timing, saying only that, “We are working with the EPA and CARB and will have more information in the future.”

Mazda still won’t offer up any timing details. But TTAC’s resident government filing investigator, Bozi Tatarevic, came across some very interesting details at NHTSA.gov that reaffirm the forthcoming 2018 Mazda CX-5 Diesel. Read More >

By on October 19, 2017

2017 Volvo V90 T6 Inscription - Image: VolvoThrough the end of September 2017, Americans have registered 13 times more Volvo V90 CCs than Volvo V90s, clarifying with purchasing habits what every auto industry observer, casual or professional, already knew.

Volvo’s surely not surprised, either. After all, if you want to acquire a low-slung Volvo V90, Volvo forces U.S. customers to actually order the car. (Perish the thought.)

Even less surprising is the frequency with which Volvo now sells wagons. Combined, the four V60 and V90 variants account for fewer than one-in-10 Volvo USA sales through the first three-quarters of 2017. Read More >

By on October 19, 2017

IIHS crash test, Image: IIHS/YouTube

First, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety bagan irking the automotive industry by performing crash tests. Then it devised more. Eventually, the IIHS ratcheted the bar up to a previously unseen height, demanding vehicles undergo the dreaded small overlap front crash test — a 2012 addition to its testing regimen. Covering just 25 percent of the frontal area of the car, the test mimics a not-quite-glancing-enough head-on collision, or perhaps an impact with a tree or utility pole.

New vehicles failed the test in droves. Firewalls were deformed. Dummies’ legs exited the vehicles in mangled fashion. The Dodge Challenger got a black eye. In response, the industry raced to beef up its front ends, eager for a marketable high crash test score.

Now, a year after becoming concerned that automakers were focusing efforts on only the driver’s side of the vehicle, IIHS is turning its attention to the passenger side. A new crash test is born. But how did the first crop of vehicles — 13 midsize cars — fare in this new test? Read More >

By on October 19, 2017

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid - Image: ToyotaFor five consecutive years between 2012 and 2016, the Honda CR-V has been America’s most popular utility vehicle.

In fact, the CR-V has topped America’s SUV/crossover sales charts in nine of the last 10 years, a streak of dominance that began in 2007.

It appears increasingly likely in 2017, however, that the Honda CR-V’s streak will be broken by the Toyota RAV4. Thanks to 20-percent year-over-year growth through the first three-quarters of 2017, the RAV4 leads the CR-V by more than 31,000 sales and the Nissan Rogue/Rogue Sport by more than 15,000 sales with scant time remaining for the RAV4’s rivals to make up the gap.

The difference maker? Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid. Read More >

By on October 19, 2017

2012 Lamborghini Urus Concept - Image: LamborghiniThe company that sells SUVs together stays together.

So it goes, or is likely to go, with Lamborghini. Keep in mind that the Volkswagen Group supercar manufacturer has already seen massive sales growth. During the half-decade before Stephan Winkelmann took over as boss at Lamborghini in 2005, the brand was selling only 800 cars on an annual basis. But by the time Winkelmann was done a decade later, Lamborghini was averaging 2,300 annual sales. In 2016, Lamborghini sold 3,457 vehicles around the world, including more than 1,000 in the United States.

Those figures will soon seem paltry because the unfortunately named Urus SUV will double the brand’s volume. But what does such a massive change do to Lamborghini’s operations? Read More >

By on October 19, 2017

Image: Nissan Titan No Lazy Horses AdvertEarlier this week I was presented with a little advertising to enjoy, via Facebook and courtesy of Nissan. The ad is part of a new campaign launched on October 14th. In it, Nissan throws a couple of strangers together in a predicament involving the Nissan Titan XD and a previous-generation (debadged) Ford F-150.

I’m not impressed.

Read More >

By on October 18, 2017

2012 Jaguar XK - Image: Jaguar“The XK being dropped was much to my frustration.”
– Jaguar design director Ian Callum

The Jaguar XK ended its 19-year-long run after the 2015 model year, undone by disappearing demand and the success of the smaller, more affordable Jaguar F-Type. But it wasn’t supposed to be this way, Jaguar design director Ian Callum says. The XK was supposed to roll along in third-gen form alongside the first-gen F-Type.

“The F-Type was never meant to kill the XK,” Callum tells Autocar.

In fact, despite the design work that had already begun on the next Jaguar XK — a car that never materialized — the marketing execs at Jaguar didn’t see the need for two coupes. The third-gen XK never enjoyed any engineering development.

Yet Callum’s outsized influence at Jaguar appears to be producing XK-shaped fruit in Jaguar’s product planning department. While there’ll likely be a new Jaguar F-Type first, you can begin inspecting your local Jaguar showroom for the next Jaguar XK in 2021. Read More >

By on October 18, 2017

2020 Polestar 1 profile - Image: PolestarBy nature, we’re skeptics. It’s in the job description.

Thus, while it’s hard not to fall in love with the idea of Volvo’s new 2020 Polestar 1 offspring — I mean, just look at it — we also know how hard it is to kickstart a new luxury brand, regardless of whether Polestar wants to sit far outside the luxury mainstream or right at the heart of the matter. We can’t help but wonder whether the Polestar 1 is not representative of the ideal luxury brand launch.

As doubters, as pessimists, as cynics, as preternatural killjoys, as wary realists, we have questions about this new upstart premium automotive entity. Many questions. Read More >

By on October 18, 2017

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Cassino Italy assembly plant - Image: FCAAlfa Romeo is on track to sell between 130,000 and 140,000 vehicles around the globe in calendar year 2017, a far cry from the 170,000-unit performance Sergio Marchionne expected Alfa to put together.

U.S. sales remain predictably low by the standards of rival brands but are rising quickly now that the Stelvio SUV is in action. But on the other side of the Pacific, new rules that limit automobile manufacturers from forcing dealers to accept stock, Automotive News Europe reports, has sorely limited sales in China. Thus, rather than the 2,666 Alfa Romeo Stelvios shipped to China in July, only 227 landed in China in August.

The result? Alfa Romeo is cutting back production of the Stelvio and Giulia in Cassino, Italy. Read More >

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