Category: Industry

By on June 14, 2017

marchionne, Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has just under two years left at the helm of the multi-national automaker, after which he’ll slowly enter the cushy existence of the semi-retired professional. The sweater aficionado will continue on as CEO of Ferrari until 2021, and still serves as chairman of CNH Industrial and vice-chairman of Dutch investment company Exor.

Many hats. However, FCA needs to find someone willing to wear just one.

As Marchionne’s April 2019 retirement date grows ever near, the automaker has stepped up its search for a successor. No, don’t bother submitting your resume just yet. While it’s probable a few brave outsiders might find the prospect of figuring out what to do with the Fiat brand exciting, FCA’s CEO search isn’t taking place outside company confines. There’s already a lengthy list of possible top dogs. Read More >

By on June 14, 2017

2018 BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo - Image: BMWIt was rare enough that you may have only seen the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo in pictures. You’re all the better off if you weren’t forced to feast your eyes on the crime against automotive design that was the sixth-generation 5 Series’ hatchback.

With the new seventh-generation 5 Series, there is no Gran Turismo, at least not yet. But after suspending the coupe from the more expensive 6 Series range, BMW is once again expanding the 6 Series lineup with, that’s right, a Gran Turismo. Oddly, the 6 Series that’s least deserving of a GT tag now wears the badge, but fortunately this new BMW GT isn’t as offensive as the last.

Where is the 6 Series Gran Turismo positioned in the BMW hierarchy? Imagine, if you will, a buyer who wants more space than a regular BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe (which is actually a sedan) but wants greater cargo flexibility than the BMW 7 Series affords; a buyer who doesn’t want a full-blown family friendly X5 “SAV” but requires a liftgate of some sort; a buyer who finds the X6 too tall. BMW now has a car for that buyer.

In America in the fall of 2017, that car will be the $68,895 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo, propelled by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six. Read More >

By on June 14, 2017

2017 Ford Mustang RHD Australia - Image: Ford Australia

Thanks to the appeal of a modern independent rear suspension and the availability of right-hand drive, the sixth-generation Ford Mustang has encountered far greater global appeal than any Mustang before it.

The latest country to take a real liking to the Mustang is Down Under, where Australians are buying more Mustangs than any other Ford save the Ranger.

And it’s a good thing they are. While U.S. sales of Mustang plunged 28 percent in the first five months of 2017, production at Mustang’s Flat Rock, Michigan, assembly plant hasn’t been forced to slow down nearly that much. Through the first-third of 2017, Ford built only 4-percent fewer Mustangs than in the same period last year.

Put another Mustang on the barbie, indeed. Read More >

By on June 13, 2017

2018 Hyundai Kona - Image: Hyundai

Nearly seven years after the Nissan Juke. Five years after the Buick Encore. Three years after the Jeep Renegade. Two and a half years after the Honda HR-V. Finally, the 2018 Hyundai Kona is set to arrive as the fourth and smallest member of Hyundai’s utility vehicle lineup.

With the silhouette of a Mazda CX-3, the quirky light treatment of a Nissan Juke, and the cladding of a Pontiac Vibe, the Hyundai Kona will arrive in North America in early 2018 with optional all-wheel drive and a new platform that will be shared with the unfortunately named Kia Stonic.

The platform, Hyundai says, “is optimized to permit SUV levels of ground clearance.” Don’t expect more than 6.7 inches, yet in the Kona’s segment, the little Hyundai won’t actually be that low. But it is small. At 164 inches from bumper to bumper, the Hyundai Kona stretches only two inches longer than a Hyundai Accent hatchback and is four inches shorter than the Mazda CX-3.

Yet by 2020, Hyundai intends to strengthen its crossover lineup by positioning below the B-segment Kona an even smaller A-segment utility vehicle. Like a sidecar for your Santa Fe. Read More >

By on June 13, 2017

2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition - Image: Mitsubishi

Though the 10th-generation Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is barely cold in its grave and the Lancer on which it was based is also being put out to pasture, Mitsubishi does intend to replace the brand’s former Subaru WRX STI challenger.

In 2023, or thereabouts. Maybe as early as 2020 or 2021.

But the next Mitsubishi Evolution is not likely going to be a proper rival for the WRX STI.

Mitsubishi COO Trevor Mann suggested to Motoring that the next Evolution won’t be a sedan-based performance car, but rather a high-end variant of an upcoming SUV. “In terms of the brand, I think it would be interesting to bring something back that’s a bit more sporty in the future,” Mann said. “You’ll have to wait and see what that is.”

We know Mitsubishi has little regard for former nameplates being restricted to their former class designations. So it’s time you prepared yourself for the 2023 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Evolution. Read More >

By on June 13, 2017

2018 Subaru WRX STI and WRX - Image: SubaruNo auto brand in the world sells more all-wheel-drive vehicles than Subaru, says Subaru.

Autocar is reporting figures from Subaru UK that say 15 percent of the global market for all-wheel-drive vehicles is scooped up by the Subaru brand.

In Subaru’s fiscal year from April 2015 to April 2016, the automaker finished with nearly 1 million sales of all-wheel drive vehicles — 245,382 more than the next-highest-volume all-wheel-drive provider: Audi. Read More >

By on June 13, 2017

2018 Acura TLX V6 A-Spec - Image: Acura

Upon its debut in late 2014, the Acura TLX had big shoes to fill. Not only was the TLX intended to replace the Acura TL, the TLX would also serve, at least in part, as a replacement for the Acura TSX.

Not surprisingly, the TLX never sold as often as that duo did at their peak. Acura sold over 113,000 TLs and TSXs in 2005. Yet by the end of their run, in 2013, Acura managed to sell fewer than 42,000 TLs and TSXs. As a result, the arrival of the Acura TLX — and yes, it’s difficult for both reader and writer to keep the letters straight — was heartily welcomed by Acura dealers. The TLX represented a simpler lineup, one sufficiently spacious car, and 47,080 sales in 2015.

But TLX sales have trailed off rather precipitously ever since, and Acura is counting on a thorough refresh for the 2018 model year to spur TLX demand once again.

And quite a spur it must be. Wards Auto is reporting that Acura’s goals for the facelifted TLX are loftier than ever. Read More >

By on June 12, 2017

2017 Lexus IS commercial screenshotWe’ve got more than a few years of driving remaining, don’t you think?

It’s 2017. People still grasp steering wheels, still prod throttle pedals, still check blind spots (sometimes), still use their left hand to flick a signal stalk, and still stop for red lights by firmly pressing a right foot against a brake pedal. Last I checked, in my driveway sits a two-seat convertible with a six-speed manual transmission.

But in a 30-second spot that aired repeatedly during the final game of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Hockey Night In Canada, Lexus strikes fear into the soul of drivers everywhere in order to get you into a 2017 Lexus IS today. Today, before they — whoever “they” are — come for your manual transmissions and your steering wheels and your pedals. Before your driver’s car is replaced by an autonomous pod.

“Enjoy the thrill of driving,” Lexus says. “While you still can.” Read More >

By on June 12, 2017

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir - Image: BuickPricing for the long-awaited, second-generation 2018 Buick Enclave starts at $40,970, nearly $1,000 more than the 2017 model, according to Automotive News.

But it’s at the top of the 2o18 Enclave’s lineup where Buick begins the launch of its new Avenir sub-brand. The 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir is a $54,390 three-row crossover; $56,690 for an Enclave Avenir with all-wheel drive.

Buick has high hopes for the new Enclave, and rightly so. With the brand’s U.S. car sales flagging, the Enclave takes its place as the rightful flagship of a three-pronged crossover lineup — a lineup that now accounts for more than three-quarters of Buick’s U.S. sales. Already helping itself to high average transaction prices, the Enclave will become an even more premium entity with the new Avenir trim.

And how will you know it? Enclave Avenirs feature a “three-dimensional” mesh grille, pearl nickel 20-inch wheels, and badges on each front door and the left side of the tailgate. Read More >

By on June 12, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry Canada reveal - Image: Toyota Canada

The all-new 2018 Toyota Camry’s new 2.5-liter four-cylinder base engine generates 203 horsepower in the entry-level model, 206 horsepower in the 2018 Camry XSE.

This means the eighth-generation Camry offers the most standard horsepower of any car in America’s midsize segment, at least for the time being.

We know not yet what the 2018 Honda Accord will bring. Honda released some engine details last Friday, including information that reveals the death of the Accord’s V6 and future reliance on the 1.5-liter turbo from the Civic and CR-V — as well as the 2.0-liter turbo from the Civic Type R. But we don’t know how much power Honda, notoriously not a participant in any horsepower war, will allow the Accord’s basic 1.5T to produce.

Meanwhile, the Camry’s upgrade engine continues to be a 3.5-liter V6, and Toyota’s gone and done the right thing with that powerplant, too. Moar powah. Read More >

By on June 12, 2017

2016 Volkswagen Polo - Image: Volkswagen UK

It’s a Volkswagen Golf, only slightly smaller and with a more affordable price tag.

Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted?

Maybe not.

The 2017 Volkswagen Polo is a close relation to the Mk7 Golf Americans can get their hands on, and shares the MQB platform that underpins just about everything at the Volkswagen Group except the factories themselves. But in a U.S. market that’s increasingly willing to pay just a bit more for a larger car with essentially no degradation in real-world fuel economy, would the sixth-generation Polo stand a chance?

Probably not, especially given the speed at which subcompact cars are losing sales. Read More >

By on June 12, 2017

Mountain Chevrolet GM dealer Glenwood Springs, Colorado - Image: GMAfter U.S. sales of new vehicles declined 2 percent, year-over-year, through the first five months of 2017, forecasters surveyed by Bloomberg are largely in agreement. 2017 will fall well short of 2016’s record auto industry output, sliding to 17.2 million sales from more than 17.5 million in 2016.

There are nevertheless a handful of positives on which optimistic automakers can draw. First, a 17-million-unit sales year still represents a huge number of sales for manufacturers that averaged 12.5 million sales between 2008 and 2012.

Second, the high incentive spending doesn’t appear to be growing higher. Pair that with high average transaction prices and automakers can still earn big profits.

Third, if Washington ever does get around to legislating — no sure bet in this investigative congressional age — then promised tax cuts and infrastructure programs could further elevate demand.

In the meantime, there are causes for concern. Read More >

By on June 10, 2017

2017 Audi Q7, Image: Audi AG

As Audi pushes new and refreshed product out the door in a mad rush, hoping to create the youngest lineup of any German automaker, it can’t ignore the requests of brand loyalists. In the United States, those buyers want one thing more anything else: a bigger SUV.

The three-row Q7 is nice, but in the land of Expeditions and Suburbans, it simply doesn’t measure up. Space-obsessed German vehicle aficionados can climb into a Mercedes-Benz GLS and enjoy more room. Naturally, Audi isn’t about to let an opportunity slip away.

It also wants to do something about those pesky buyers who want more cargo room, but won’t drive an SUV. Read More >

By on June 9, 2017

2017 Ford Focus RS - Image: Ford2018 will be the final year for the current iteration of the Ford Focus RS.

Shed a tear.

Now shed another tear for the old base price, because the old base Focus RS is done, CarsDirect says. For 2018, Ford is equipping every U.S.-bound edition of the Focus RS with a limited slip differential, the RS2 package, and 19-inch wheels.

As a result, the $36,995 2017 Ford Focus RS gives way to a $41,995 2018 Ford Focus RS.

Paging the Civic Type R. Civic Type R to the showroom. Read More >

By on June 9, 2017

2017 Hyundai Tucson - Image: HyundaiIt’s time for performance SUVs to leave the luxury domain and make their way down into the mainstream.

And who better to bring a performance utility vehicle to the masses than the man who previously headed up BMW’s M division, Albert Biermann.

Biermann, after three decades at BMW and more than half a decade in charge at BMW M, joined the Hyundai Motor Group as head of vehicle test and high performance development in 2014. His list of responsibilities at Hyundai and Kia is lengthy. His aspirations for Hyundai’s N brand, according to Drive, are lofty.

But while conventional thought would lead you to believe Hyundai’s N performance sub-brand would focus on cars, Biermann says, “The fun-to-drive element is not limited to the size and segment of the car; you can create fun cars in every segment.”

As a result — and this won’t surprise anyone who remembers that Biermann’s previous position included oversight of M versions of the BMW X5 and BMW X6 — there’s likely a Hyundai Tucson N in the future. Read More >

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