Category: Industry

By on March 23, 2017

Toyota Mirai Clean Billboard, [Image: Toyota North America]

Toyota is teaming up with Clear Channel Outdoor Americas to help clean California’s air with a billboard advertising its hydrogen-powered Mirai fuel cell sedan.

From April 3 to May 28, a total of 37 billboards in Los Angeles and San Francisco will filter smoggy air, thanks to the titanium dioxide-coated vinyl used in the sign.

While Toyota missed an opportunity to explicitly rub salt in a certain rival’s wounds, this is nonetheless a pleasant change of scenery in the automotive world, especially considering all of the Volkswagen emissions scandals of the past couple of years. Read More >

By on March 23, 2017

2017 BMW 340i manual shifter – Image: BMW USA

The manual transmission isn’t dead. But it appears to be dying. Now Munich is making sure everybody knows BMW has a hand in the demise of the third pedal.

At the traditional core of BMW’s U.S. lineup, the manual transmission 7 Series disappeared three decades ago. So foreign is a manual shifter to buyers in the full-size luxury limo category, this seems entirely natural.

M models aside, the U.S. market lost BMW 5 Series manual transmission availability after the 2014 model year.

What’s next?

“Across the world, virtually all of our 3 Series models and above already have automatic transmissions,” BMW sales boss Ian Robertson tells Car And Driver.

“We will certainly see fewer and fewer manual transmissions being offered,” says Robertson.

Ultimate Driving Machine? Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

2017_toyota_prius_prime_premium_014_8d5a6573abb048f9ab660135c367b951ccab9f15

Can a hybrid vehicle really shine when there’s a plug-in sibling hogging both the spotlight and the technological podium? For some automakers new to the game, time will tell. But at Toyota, which first made “hybrid” a household word, it seems the introduction of a new Prius variant has tentatively confirmed doubts about the viability of the stock Prius.

We’ll gain better perspective as 2017 plays out, but so far, it’s looking like the Prius Prime plug-in is doing well, and the Prius is maintaining the status quo. Which is to say, it’s not doing well. Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

2018 Toyota Sienna Limited - Image: ToyotaSurely it’s time for a new minivan from Toyota. Despite significant interior updates for the 2015 model year and significant powertrain improvements for 2017, the third-generation Toyota Sienna that launched in 2010 is still kickin’, seven years later.

First, the 2015 Kia Sedona shook things up. Then the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica confounded expectations. Landing shortly is the 2018 Honda Odyssey, which won’t surprise anyone if it’s the best in its class.

Clearly then, it’s your turn, Toyota.

Uh… Toyota, hello? Paging Toyota. Call for Toyota on Line 1, all-new Sienna required on the Princeton, Indiana, production line.

The 2018 Toyota Sienna gets a facelift. A refresh. An update. A refurb. What’s up with that? Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

U.S. Mexico Border

Now that Mexican negotiators aren’t reacting specifically to President Trump’s heated rhetoric over foreign trade policies, their terror and rage has begun to subside. The North American Free Trade Agreement might even continue to exist for the time being.

Trump’s previous attacks on NAFTA, import tariff threats, and promise of a border wall incensed Mexican officials to a point where many suggested Mexico should simply abandon the renegotiation talks on principle. However, now that cabinet officials will be speaking on behalf of the president and the focus of the negotiators have shifted toward the fundamentals — and not the politics — Mexico can relax a little.  Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

marchionne looking pleased

Sergio’s waiting by the phone. Waiting for someone to call him up and tell him he’s not alone. (Our apologies to Soul Asylum – Ed.)

It’s not our fault Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s corporate life resembles a game of Mystery Date. That’s just the way it is for an automaker on the prowl for a partner. After having its advances repeatedly rebuffed by General Motors, FCA has now latched onto Volkswagen as a potential suitor — but the merger dance hasn’t been a smooth one.

After some cattiness on VW’s part, it seems the eternally — and perhaps naïvely — optimistic Marchionne’s hopes are once again up. He’s anticipating a call. Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio - Image: FCA

Jalopnik published its review of the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (man, Quadrifoglio takes forever to type) and the world discovered that Jalopnik’s Giulia did not require a tow truck.

That sounds terribly sarcastic, but we wouldn’t be compelled to point out the relative reliability of Jalopnik’s Giulia Quadrifoglio (my goodness, Quadrifoglio takes forever to type) if Giulias hadn’t failed so miserably at other prominent publications in the recent past.

Jalopnik’s 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio didn’t struggle with remote starts, spend time getting fixed at a dealer, stall while parking, or die in traffic. Bless its thumping Italian heart. But Jalopnik’s Giulia Quadrifoglio was far from perfect. Editor-in-chief Patrick George says he doesn’t care: “I am willing to do what the Alfisti have done for decades and chalk up most of its flaws to that thing that is so elusive in modern cars: character.”

But George told me yesterday, “It’s not weirdo enthusiasts like me that Alfa Romeo has to convince. It’s normal folks who might otherwise buy a BMW or a Lexus.”

“And they’re not going to put up with these issues.” Read More >

By on March 20, 2017

2017 BMW 4 Series Convertible – Image: BMW

Choice is good for car buyers. But in the never-ending quest to produce incremental volume gains, the planet’s largest premium auto brands agree that certain niches are quickly becoming untenable.

Known for questioning in 2014 whether the global sports car market would ever recover from its post-recession collapse, BMW sales boss Ian Robertson told Car And Driver earlier this month that “some body styles will be removed in the future.”

Meanwhile, the head of Mercedes-Benz Dieter Zetsche said at the Geneva auto show that the lack of Chinese uptake for specialty cars “makes the business case for these vehicles less easy.”

Yet long before a model cull returns us to the days of tidy luxury lineups — 3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series, and 8 Series as the 1990s intended! — premium German marques will first introduce a slew of new models. And the body styles destined for removal? Likely not the silly four-door coupes and impractical SUVs you love to hate. Read More >

By on March 18, 2017

2016 Lexus GS350 red

When the second-generation Lexus GS 400 arrived in North America in late 1997, the automaker paired the introduction with a can’t-miss-it ad campaign. “Something wicked this way comes,” the glossy advertisements warned of the looming V8 model.

Well, that ominous late-90s tagline would soon be a lie, as rumor states that the 2018 model year could be the last for Lexus’ sporty midsize luxury sedan. There just might not be room in the lineup for this once-boastworthy rear-driver. Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

autonomous hardware

President Donald Trump received a tour of the American Center for Mobility this week. He did not, however, discuss the federal funding of the Michigan-based autonomous testing and development facility. Instead, the site was used as a location for the president to discuss regulatory policies and meet with automotive executives. Little was said on the subject of self-driving cars.

Still, automakers routinely remind us that autonomous vehicles are right around the corner. Ford says it can have autonomous cars rolling out by 2021, Audi and Nissan have said 2020, and Volkswagen has claimed it’ll be ready for self-driving models in 2019. Tesla — which has been pioneering the technology longer than most — has stated it has the hardware necessary in its current production vehicles and would have a bulletproof system installed in 2018, anticipating regulatory approval in 2021. However, suppliers are predicting much less optimistic timelines for self-driving cars — and the dates given vary wildly.  Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

Fisker Karms (Image: David Villarreal/Flickr)

Automakers would have to fund a larger share of future green technology projects if the Trump White House’s budget blueprint passes as written.

The administration proposes to do away with a little-used — and sometimes controversial — U.S. Energy Department loan program, as well as a grant program dedicated to spurring advanced fuel-saving technologies. Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid - Image: Acura

At American Honda’s upmarket division, the Acura MDX is the lifeblood; the premium crossover that keeps Acura’s trains running on time.

In 8 of the last 10 years — including each of the last 7 — the Acura MDX has been Acura’s best-selling model. Fully one-third of Acura’s U.S. volume over the last decade has been generated by the MDX.

Honda knows best of all just how important the MDX has been to Acura’s fortunes, having watched as the brand’s passenger car volume was essentially chopped in half over the last decade. Honda is removing the interference caused by the Pilot, Odyssey, and Ridgeline at the MDX’s Alabama plant by moving production of the big Acura to Ohio.

And more importantly for consumers, the first hybridized MDX — the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid — is launching now with a pricing scheme that evidently makes the hybrid the best MDX of all. Read More >

By on March 16, 2017

2018 Volvo XC60, Image: Volvo Cars

Volvo denies that it wants to return to publicly listed status, but a new round of fundraising has many believing the Swedish automaker is about to end its 20-year absence from the stock market.

According to the Financial Times, the Geely-owned company hopes to raise about $500 million from a new batch of preference shares. Unlike the last time it held out its hat, this time Volvo wants Chinese buy-in. Read More >

By on March 16, 2017

Matthias Müller, Image: Volkswagen AG/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

To say that there was some speculation surrounding Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller’s response to a potential partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automotive would be a severe understatement.

Müller said there had been no contact between he and FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne, but he’d not ruled anything out. He seemed to have an indifference about the subject, which left plenty of room to let minds wander.

According to Automotive News’ Larry P. Vellequette, that’s not the whole story.

Read More >

By on March 16, 2017

Donald Trump

Donald Trump said Wednesday his administration will reopen a review of the current auto emissions directives passed in the final throes of the Obama presidency. This is cause for celebration for automakers, who’ve practically begged the president to repeal the mandates on grounds that the goals are far too uncompromising and ill-suited for the present-day market.

Speaking at the American Center for Mobility, President Trump promised to bring more manufacturing back into the United States and continue to bring down regulatory barriers so that automakers can continue to thrive.

“We’re going to work on the CAFE standards so you can make cars in America again,” Trump said. “There is no more beautiful sight than an American-made car.”

Clearly, the president has either never seen an Aston Martin or is trying to make a point about the importance of domestic product.  Read More >

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