Category: News Blog

By on September 19, 2017

Volvo Cars Torslanda assembly plant - Image: VolvoVolvo continues to look forward to real U.S. sales recovery, meeting the goal of record U.S. sales volume by 2020, and a fourth consecutive year of record global sales. To get there, Volvo is already altering plans at the Charleston, South Carolina, assembly plant where construction is already in full swing.

Altering? According to Reuters and Charleston’s Post and Courier, it’s more like deciding that the plant should be twice as large, build twice as many vehicles, house more than twice as many employees, and cost twice as much. Read More >

By on September 19, 2017

Tesla Model 3, Image: Tesla

Before joining the gang at TTAC, I was freelancing, and a lot of my work centered around electric vehicles. Which means I was reading and writing a lot about Tesla, especially during that time a few months ago when the small California-based automaker somehow became the most valuable automaker in the world, at least from Wall Street’s perspective, based solely on its potential.

Some of my work took me into the depths of the pro-Tesla blogosphere. While these sites can serve as valuable sources for news about the company, they also have an unabashed pro-Tesla stance. Objective, they (mostly) ain’t.

And that’s okay – while many, if not most, media outlets default towards being as objective as possible, there’s no rule stating that your blog or outlet has to be objective. It’s okay for HuffPo to be leftist and National Review to lean right. And so it is with outlets that cover Tesla – no one expects Teslarati to be critical of the brand.

It’s one thing to have pro-Tesla blogs, of course, but another to be unable to even talk about the brand without dividing into two tribes – the fanboys who think Tesla is the best company ever and can do no wrong (as it disrupts the industry and solves every one of the world’s problems), and the “haters” who think that Tesla is doomed to fail any day now and it’s a minor miracle the company has lasted this long.

Read More >

By on September 19, 2017

2018 Ford Fiesta ST three-door - Image: FordOver the last seven years, America, you didn’t buy many Ford Fiestas. Fewer than 430,000, in fact. For perspective, in the much smaller United Kingdom market, Ford sold over 500,000 Fiestas in just the last four years.

But the Fiesta’s lack of popularity — and its dramatic loss of popularity in America — is not a unique-to-Ford situation. U.S. sales of subcompact cars plunged by more than a fifth, year-over-year, during the first eight months of 2017. That tumble comes after U.S. sales of subcompact cars declined in 2015 and 2016, as well.

Nevertheless, it comes as no surprise that Ford, after exploring America’s affordable avenues for one generation of Fiesta, isn’t bringing the seventh-generation version to America. And now we have confirmation that there is absolutely no hope the next-gen Ford Fiesta ST will come stateside, either. Read More >

By on September 19, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Ohio assembly plant - Image: HondaAmerican Honda’s vice president for sales, Ray Mikiciuk, won’t provide a firm forecast for sales of the 10th-generation Honda Accord. But as far as next year goes, “I don’t expect to sell fewer Accords in 2018 with this great new product,” Mikiciuk tells CNBC.

With belief in the company’s new product, Honda has invested $267 million into its Marysville, Ohio, plant where the Accord, Acura TLX, and Acura ILX are assembled. With 300 additional employees, American Honda is following the lead of Toyota’s all-new 2018 Camry.

At the Camry’s Georgetown, Kentucky, assembly plant, production of the new TNGA-based Camry required Toyota to build up its employee count to the highest level ever. That’s certainly not the way rivals are approaching America’s midsize segment. You’ll recall that General Motors cut Chevrolet Malibu production — and consequently, jobs — in Kansas City earlier this summer. Prior to the new Camry’s launch this summer, the Malibu was the freshest midsize sedan on the block, yet Malibu sales have plunged by more than a fifth in 2017.

Ohio production of the 2018 Honda Accord began yesterday, September 18th. But what do Honda’s vague sales forecasts mean in the broader American midsize segment?

More market share. Read More >

By on September 19, 2017

2017 Toyota Tacoma 4Runner Tundra TRD - Image: ToyotaEarlier this month, Toyota board chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada told CNBC that the company was “skeptical there would be a rapid shift to pure electric vehicles, given questions over user convenience.”

It shouldn’t be perceived as a revolutionary thought. But with automakers increasingly touting their plans for “electrification” — a word too many observers have interpreted incorrectly — and regulators increasingly promoting their plans to do away with internal combustion engines, Uchiyamada’s honesty regarding the limitations of electric vehicles flew in the face of advanced automotive thought.

It did not, however, fly in the face of conventional Toyota thought. According to Reuters, the president of Toyota Motor Corporation, Akio Toyoda, says, “EVs are in focus at the moment but customers and the market will ultimately decide which powertrains will be successful.”

You’d almost think Akio Toyoda was — crazy as this may sound — running a business. Read More >

By on September 18, 2017

Dealer Showroom

Car dealerships are an American institution. Often controlled by a patriarch with an unusual amount of sway in the local community (and their sometimes cosseted children), dealer franchises dot the country’s landscape like moles on a back. Isolated near exit ramps, they serve as gleaming beacons of civilization as you traverse through long expanses of wilderness on a road trip.

North America wouldn’t be the same without them but, according to one automotive regent, irreparable change is coming to the dealer networks we’ve become begrudgingly accustomed to. Bill McDaniels, president of McDaniels Automotive Group, runs a half-dozen stores selling selling Acura, Audi, Porsche, Subaru, and Volkswagen-branded vehicles in South Carolina. He’s one of those automotive viceroys mentioned earlier, right down to having his son as the chief operating officer for his business, and he’s convinced the era of family-owned dealerships is almost over.

Is this one man’s paranoid delusion or an astute observation of industrywide trends?  Read More >

By on September 18, 2017

Old Mazda dealer- Burdick Mazda - Image: Mazda“We have been working more closely with our dealers to evolve their businesses and through that process,” Mazda tells Automotive News, “some new dealers have chosen to begin working with us, while others have made the decision to leave the Mazda brand.”

Mazda has been open about its goal of earning 2 percent of the U.S. market while being forthright about the brand’s intentions to do so only on solid ground. This means fewer discounts, a premium vibe, and the kind of higher margins that make dealers happy.

On the dealer side of the equation, Mazda now wants those dealers to improve. In some cases, that means a new location. In others, a new exterior design is necessary. More thoroughly trained staff members is key, as well. But it’ll be slow going. Of Mazda’s roughly 600 dealers, the brand acknowledges that some have forsaken the automaker, though Mazda won’t say how many. Since the efforts to revamp dealers began last year, only 26 have been upgraded so far. By the end of the decade, Mazda believes roughly one-sixth of its network will have undergone a remodel.

In the meantime, Mazda is getting further away from reaching its 2-percent goal. Read More >

By on September 18, 2017

Image; 1989 Colt Vista, via seller

A couple weeks ago we took a look at a tidy, light blue Nissan Stanza Wagon, which we determined was a very early example of the crossover breed that would heat up decades later. I can happily report the Stanza was quickly snapped up by an automotive enthusiast who plans to take good care of it. Since that little light blue square is off the market, I found a different vehicle of the same general purpose (and color).

Let’s trot on over and take a look at the Colt Vista.

Read More >

By on September 18, 2017

toyota-robot-factory

Occupational hazards exist in every industry, and we used to adhere to the notion of “acceptable losses” for certain projects. Over 20,000 people are estimated to have died under the French leadership of the Panama Canal’s construction, and another 6,000 when the Americans finally finished it in 1914 — two years ahead of its target date. Fifteen years later, five men perished during the construction of the Empire State Building, which was pretty good for the time.

However, acceptable workplace-related deaths aren’t really in style anymore. One causality is too many in today’s post-OSHA world, whether you’re in the U.S. or living beyond its borders. Such was the case two years ago when a robot crushed a 22-year-old man to death at a Volkswagen assembly plant. As a result, VW and other automakers are closely watching the efforts of Germany’s Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics in order to build a safer robot.  Read More >

By on September 18, 2017

2017 Lexus IS200t - Image: LexusFirst things first: Lexus is hardly the only automaker deserving of blame for unintelligibly altering model nomenclature. Moreover, Lexus continues to offer some models for which the badge makes sense. A Lexus LX570, for example, is an LX with a 5.7-liter V8. The Lexus IS350 we tested earlier this month utilizes a 3.5-liter V6.

How sensible. How obvious. How traditional.

But for 2018, the Lexus IS and its RC stablemate will muddy the displacement waters that were already complicated in 2017 by a detuned 3.5-liter V6 that wore IS300 and RC300 badging. In 2018, while the mid-range car continues to make its power from a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 (not the upgraded 311-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 of the IS350 and RC350), the 2.0-liter turbocharged mill that was previously under the hood of the IS200t and RC200t is now the engine under the hood of the rear-wheel-drive IS300 and RC300.

Confused? Yeah, we are, too. Let’s try that again. Read More >

By on September 18, 2017

Citroen DS, Image: Wikimedia Commons

For some, including TTAC’s in-house Francophile, Chris Tonn, the wait is simply unbearable. PSA Group, maker of Citroën, Peugeot and DS cars, plans to re-enter a market it hasn’t done business in since the last Peugeot left a U.S. dealer in 1991.

It’s a slow and steady comeback for the French automaker. Steamlined, flush with products, and no longer the fiscal basket case it was earlier in the decade, PSA plans to conquer untapped and underperforming markets, including the United States. The American arrival comes by way of an extremely cautious 10-year plan. While the automaker remains hesitant to show its cards, it now admits that, if the buying public is willing, it can have cars ready for U.S. purchase in three years. Read More >

By on September 18, 2017

2017 Chrysler 300C - Image: FCA

If Chrysler’s model lineup was a parade, you wouldn’t have to wait long before crossing the street. With just two models on offer — the Pacifica minivan and elderly 300 full-size sedan — following the ill-fated 200’s demise, the Chrysler brand’s U.S. sales volume has fallen to a six-year low.

Plans are afoot to repopulate the meager stable, but the first of two new models — both crossovers — won’t arrive until the end of the decade. In the meantime, the only “new” product you’ll see is a refreshed 300. After a $3,345 price cut for 2018, the 300 appears destined for more buyer enticements in 2019. Read More >

By on September 18, 2017

strike-union-baseball

Unionized employees at General Motors’ CAMI Assembly in Ingersoll, Ontario, are on strike. Unifor Local 88 and General Motors were unable to reach an agreement by Sunday’s deadline. At 11:00 p.m. ET, workers at the plant traded the assembly line for the picket one, ending production of the recently redesigned Chevrolet Equinox.

Despite both sides having spent the weekend saying they were making headway in talks, it wasn’t enough to avoid the shutdown. In a post-strike statement, General Motors reiterated this fact.

“While General Motors of Canada and our Unifor partners have made very positive progress on several issues over the past weeks, the company is disappointed that we were not able to complete a new agreement. We encourage Unifor to resume negotiations and to continue working together to secure a competitive agreement,” said GM. Read More >

By on September 17, 2017

2017 Toyota C-HR Turkey assembly plant

Toyota has been the brand par excellence in terms of quality and reliability for as far back as many of us can remember. But, as value became its hallmark, someone decided to turn the excitement volume down to a faint whisper — breaking the knob off entirely in the mid-2000s, when the MR-2 and Celica were discontinued. Even with the company’s introduction of the 86 in 2013, its mainstream designs were about as safe a play as one could make.

If you haven’t noticed (let’s face it, you have) Toyota’s styling has changed immensely of late. The automaker has a new attitude and affixed angry gaping maws onto the core brand and added folds to the bodywork we never would have anticipated.

This wasn’t an accident. Toyota is intentionally trying to push the envelope in terms of design and rattle a few cages along the way. Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Co., decreed that boring cars would be a thing of past and has given designers the means in which to accomplish that goal.  Read More >

By on September 16, 2017

Hyundai santa cruz concept

After Hyundai’s American division canned former CEO David Zuchowski for failing to meet internal sales targets last December, it’s no mystery what Job One is for the new guy.

Kyung Soo Lee, a 61-year-old veteran of the company who started his career back in 1982, takes the helm of a troubled ship next week, Hyundai announced Thursday. As president and CEO, Lee (Kenny to his friends) is responsible for reversing a dismal sales trend that sunk his predecessor, as well as the company’s U.S. fortunes. Read More >

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