Category: Production

By on August 17, 2017

last-viper

It’s a wrap on the Dodge Viper. FCA’s flagship supercar just rolled down the assembly line for the last time. In production from 1992 to 2010 and from 2013 through 2017, we’re hoping this is just another three-year hiatus for the snake. But, as production is ending indefinitely, we have no way of knowing if that will be the case.

What is assured is that the Viper’s current incarnation is over. Ralph Gilles, FCA’s head of design, posted a series of photos on social media documenting the vehicle’s last two production models as they made their way out of Detroit’s Conner Avenue Assembly Plant, the Dodge Viper’s home since 1995. Read More >

By on August 16, 2017

2017 Honda Civic hatchback - Image: Honda

The lifespan of an average car-model usually lasts a half-decade before the automaker shells out for a full redesign, unless it’s a Nissan Frontier or Lincoln Navigator. That’s more or less the rule at Honda when it comes to the top-selling compact car in North America, the Civic.

While the eighth-generation Civic soldiered on for a lengthy six years, Honda sold the preceding seventh, sixth, fifth, and fourth versions of the model for either four or five years. Thanks to a boring design and lackluster reviews, the automaker spirited the ninth-gen model off of dealer lots after just four years, but not before adding extra content and style via an emergency 2013 model year refresh.

We’re now hearing the current generation — larger than ever before, radically redesigned for 2016, and a sales leader in a shrinking segment — won’t see a full redesign until the 2022 model year. That’s a six-year stretch. A stretch where automakers will be scrambling to hold on to compact-car market share in a land flush with small crossovers. Read More >

By on August 4, 2017

Mazda Driver's Choice YouTube Screenshot - Image: Mazda YouTube Channel

Toyota Motor Corp. is set to strike a deal to take a 5-percent stake in fellow Japanese automaker Mazda Motor Corp. The alliance includes the construction of a joint-venture $1.6 billion U.S. automotive plant and sharing EV technology — showing that Mazda hasn’t totally sworn off the idea of an electric car.

The two companies have been dating casually for a couple of years; Toyota sometimes uses Mazda’s Mexican factory to build compact cars, the two have fostered a love child (the Mazda 2-based Toyota Yaris iA), but this is the first time they’ve seriously considered moving in together. Toyota claimed the decision was about more than just a strategy to share technology, suggesting the automakers had genuine feelings for one another.

“The greatest fruit of our partnership with Mazda is that we have found a new partner who truly loves cars,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda said in a statement, “It has also sparked Toyota’s competitive spirit, increasing our sense of not wanting to be bested by Mazda. This is a partnership in which those who are passionate about cars will work together to make ever-better cars. It is also the realization of our desire to never let cars become commodities.”

Read More >

By on August 2, 2017

Ferrari emblem logo

Ferrari will likely add a comparatively spacious four-seat “utility vehicle” to its lineup in the hopes of bolstering volume and doubling its profits by 2022. The strategy certainly has worked for Porsche. So well, in fact, that Lamborghini has made plans to introduce the Urus SUV for 2019 — using Volkswagen Group’s MLB platform. The spiritual successor to the wild LM002 is expected to outperform Bentley’s ludicrous Bentayga and would likely be Ferrari’s chief rival in the super sport utility segment.

The concept of a Ferrari-built SUV has drifted around the automaker’s Maranello and Amsterdam offices for a few years, but now inside sources claim a comprehensive strategy for the vehicle should be unveiled by 2018. However, enacting it would fundamentally change the brand.

As a low-volume automaker, Ferrari is not subject to the same rigid emissions regulations imposed on other car companies. But CEO and sweater aficionado Sergio Marchionne has been pressing the company to increase volume ever since taking the company’s helm in 2014, consequences be damned.  Read More >

By on August 1, 2017

Tesla Model 3, Image: Tesla

The production Tesla Model 3, revealed in full at a Friday evening handover ceremony, is an impressive vehicle, but it’s also the California automaker’s most important vehicle. With 220 miles of range in stripped-down base trim, or 310 miles for the starting sum of $44,ooo (the only version available at launch), the curvaceous sedan has no shortage of fans. It’s also facing no shortage of threats.

The company’s future as a mass-market “disruptor” of the American automotive landscape hinges on the Model 3’s trouble-free production at Tesla’s Fremont assembly plant, as well as timely deliveries to the half-million reservation holders. Unforeseen quality issues, a breakdown in the supply chain, or worker strife could all conspire to give the vehicle — and company — a black eye.

After a year spent giving investors everything they wished for, the company’s once-skyrocketing stock isn’t on the same firm ground as before. The first trading day after the event reflected this. Investors are nervous about a number of things: the model’s easily inflatable price, the company’s extremely lofty production target, and CEO Elon Musk’s repeated mentions of “hell.” Read More >

By on July 29, 2017

Tesla Model 3, Image: Tesla

Perhaps the most anticipated automotive event of the year (Tesla disciples might say millenium) took place in California last night, as electric car guru Elon Musk handed over the first 30 production Tesla Model 3 sedans to customers — most, if not all, of them employees — at a glitzy, livestreamed event.

Eyesight was restored to the blind. Others rose from their wheelchairs, walking for the first time in years. Okay, that’s not true, but the depths to which some Tesla fans deify Musk and his car company cannot be understated. Certainly, after seeing the final production model, learning its specifications, and hearing Tesla’s lofty production plans, even a cynic drowning in a vast ocean of media-driven hype can’t help but feel impressed.

Hailed as the first affordable, long-range, mass-produced electric car — a crown stolen by the Chevrolet Bolt months ago — the Model 3 will retail for $35,000 before federal incentives, but not just yet. The only version available at launch is the $44,000 Long Range model, good for 310 miles of range per charge.

The 220-mile base sedan, which carries that vaunted lower sticker price, won’t be available until this fall. So, what can the roughly 500,000 reservation holders expect? If they’re on a budget, black had better be their favorite color. Read More >

By on July 28, 2017

2018 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo - Image: PorscheIn most cases, it’s a foregone conclusion. When there are multiple bodystyles available, the fewest number of buyers exist for the wagon.

The Porsche Panamera’s case is unique, however. There is no Porsche Panamera sedan. This is a battle between the regular second-generation Porsche Panamera — a hatchback or liftback or fastback or backbackbackgone or whatever you want to call it — and the new Sport Turismo, a shooting brake five years in the making.

Yet with limited practical benefit, “It’s a question of taste; some people like the Sport Turismo more, some people like the sports sedan more,” Porsche’s sales and marketing director told Stefan Utsch, told Motoring.

80 percent of taste buds apparently prefer the regular Panamera. Read More >

By on July 27, 2017

2017 Chrysler 200C Platinum - Image: ChryslerAt Hyundai dealers across America, there are 964 copies of the discontinued Azera strewn about, waiting for the final 964 Hyundai Azera buyers.

A raft of recently discontinued models has resulted in opportunities for consumers to potentially snatch up terrific deals while attractive financing terms remain on 2017 models. The Azera, a large volume-brand sedan unable to function in a market that’s rapidly turning its back on such vehicles, is only one such dead model. Production of the first (and only) generation of Jeep’s Patriot, for example, ended late last year, but there are more than 6,600 in dealer inventory, according to Cars.com.

Don’t wait too long, or you’ll end up like that buyer of a new 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution who paid $138,000 just this month, July 2017. Read More >

By on July 26, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Atlas Chattanooga - Image: VolkswagenJune 2017 was only the Volkswagen Atlas’s first full month on sale in the United States, but the Atlas, still ramping up inventory, already accounts for more than half of Volkswagen’s U.S. utility vehicle sales. In fact, the only Volkswagens that sold more often than the Atlas in June were the Jetta, Passat, and (if you count all variants together) the Golf.

2,413 units is not a terribly impressive number, although it’s stronger than what the Mitsubishi Outlander, Ford Flex, Mazda CX-9, and Volkswagen’s two other utility vehicles managed last month. But the rate at which Volkswagen is building the Atlas at the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, assembly plant suggests dealers are only beginning to see just how many copies of the Atlas they’ll soon have to sell.

Will there be buyers? Read More >

By on July 24, 2017

Tesla Supercharger

Tesla Motors changes its lineup more frequently than I replace my soiled bed sheets and, with the Model 3 fast approaching, it’s tweaking things yet again. This time the manufacturer is getting rid of the rear-wheel drive variant of the Model S 75, leaving the all-wheel version as the new base-trim — presumably to make room between its $74,500 price tag and the $35,000 Model 3.

This move also streamlines production, as eliminating the RWD car results in the Model S being an exclusively AWD build. However, that doesn’t mean the upscale sedan will be slim on options. Tesla has claimed the Model S will maintain gobs of premium features, unimaginable on the Model 3, for a grand total of 1,500 possible configurations. Do you need that much choice? Probably not. But you have to differentiate yourself from the plebs in the more-common EV somehow — apparently, superior size, speed, and free access to the company’s charging network isn’t enough.  Read More >

By on July 21, 2017

Ford GT Job 1, Image: Sam VarnHagen for Ford

Handcrafted automobiles are a rarity these days but, if you add enough digits to the vehicle’s price tag, companies can still find a handful of buyers willing to fund the expensive production method. One model included on that short list is the Ford GT, the iconic American mid-engine two-seater assembled in Canada. With the help of Multimatic, Ford can usually slap one together every 24 hours under ideal circumstances.

Unfortunately, deliveries of the GT are starting to fall behind. It’s a little embarrassing, especially when you consider Ford only wants to build 250 a year, but it’s also entirely understandable, as a large portion of the assembly process seems to involve pushing the chassis around on a dolly through a mostly empty factory. You can’t rush perfection, and handcrafted perfection takes even longer.

At least, that’s what the automaker cites as the reason for the delivery delay.  Read More >

By on July 21, 2017

Detroit Hamtramck Assembly Plant Cadillac CT6 - Image: GMThe possibility, or even the necessity, of turning General Motors’ Hamtramck, Michigan, passenger car assembly plant into an SUV/crossover facility in the next half-decade has the company considering the discontinuation of the Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Volt, Buick LaCrosse, and recently launched Cadillac CT6.

According to a report in Reuters, General Motors is in talks with the United Auto Workers about replacing the increasingly unpopular products currently built in Hamtramck with in-demand utility vehicles. Also in question is the future of the Michigan-built Chevrolet Sonic and the Canada-built Cadillac XTS, which has enjoyed stays of execution in the past.

On average, GM had a 111-day supply of the six models in its U.S. showrooms heading into July 2017. 70 days’ worth of supply would be appropriate. Combined, the Impala, Volt, LaCrosse, CT6, Sonic, and XTS account for 6 percent of GM’s U.S. sales in 2017.

In 2008, the Impala, LaCrosse, and the Sonic’s Aveo predecessor — merely three of the nameplates — accounted for 12 percent of a much more voluminous GM U.S. operation. Read More >

By on July 12, 2017

2017 dodge viper gts

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is abandoning Conner Avenue Assembly in Detroit, Michigan. The plant produced Dodge Vipers sporadically for over two decades, but low sales volume eventually led to FCA’s decision to remove the high-performing model from its lineup. In 2016, Dodge only sold 630 Vipers. A final, limited-edition 2017 run sold out in less than a week.

The two-seater doesn’t meet upcoming safety regulations due to its absence of side-curtain airbags. Rather than undergo a costly redesign, FCA chose to let nature take its course and placed the model in hospice care back in 2015. However, the future of the assembly plant and its employees were uncertain at the time.  Read More >

By on July 10, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry production line - Image: ToyotaAs all-new 2018 Toyota Camrys begin to trickle into Toyota’s U.S. dealers over the coming weeks, take a close look at the VIN.

It’s viewable through the windshield on the driver’s side. See that first number? It’s likely a 4, which means this Camry was built in Georgetown, Kentucky.

But there’s a chance that the VIN on the new 2018 Camry sitting on your local Toyota dealer’s lot doesn’t begin with a number at all.

You’re looking at the once-coveted J-VIN. Ooh la la. Read More >

By on July 7, 2017

Tesla Model 3 Duo - Image: Tesla

If Tesla stock was an airplane, it would have left Earth’s atmosphere sometime this spring. By June, that aircraft — let’s call it the Model P — would have been within striking distance of Mars. Indeed, Tesla investors made out like bandits as the company’s shares soared and its market cap sailed past that of Ford and General Motors, making it the most valuable domestic automaker.

For a while, it seemed nothing could stop Tesla’s meteoric rise. Not labor strife, not worries about the Model 3’s production timeline, not a cracked A-pillar on a freshly delivered Model S, not Model X doors trapping people inside a burning vehicle, not allegations of subpar working conditions, nothing. Tesla may as well have tried buying the rights to the word Teflon.

Well, CEO Elon Musk said it best himself in May. The company’s market valuation was “higher than we have any right to deserve,” he told The Guardian, a month before Tesla shares rose to a record $383.45. As the saying goes, “What goes up…” Read More >

Recent Comments

  • Jeff S: Same reason as GM, to save all those UAW jobs. Hecho in Mexico & China.
  • darex: Remind me again WHY we bailed Chrysler out?
  • I_like_stuff: I got my license at around 4pm. By 5pm I was with my friends on the freeway going about 100pmh. No app...
  • smartascii: I think this actually has to do with pedestrian impact regulations. If the hood comes all the way...
  • Compaq Deskpro: Clarification: The Expedition driver was a sympathetic mom, not my mom.

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