The Truth About Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 27 Apr 2015 17:00:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Trans-Pacific Partnership Fears Hover Over Detroit Three http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/trans-pacific-partnership-fears-hover-detroit-three/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/trans-pacific-partnership-fears-hover-detroit-three/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 17:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055241 The Detroit Three are among those expressing concern over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, specifically what it would do to the industry. Last week, both houses of Congress approved President Barack Obama’s request for an up-or-down vote to fast-track the free-trade agreement involving 12 nations and affecting 40 percent of the global economy, The Detroit […]

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Trans-Pacific Partnership Circa 2010

The Detroit Three are among those expressing concern over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, specifically what it would do to the industry.

Last week, both houses of Congress approved President Barack Obama’s request for an up-or-down vote to fast-track the free-trade agreement involving 12 nations and affecting 40 percent of the global economy, The Detroit News reports. The urgency comes amid warnings that if the TPP isn’t put into effect as soon as possible, China, not the United States, would be the one creating similar trade deals.

Though the TPP has few fans among unions, activists, and most Democrats in Congress, the Detroit Three have their own concerns about the fast-tracking proposal: once enacted, the 2.5-percent tariff on cars and parts, as well as the infamous 25 percent “Chicken Tax” on imported light-duty trucks, would disappear over a period of time. The latter has been used to protect the domestic truck market by keeping competitors out unless the latter were willing to build trucks in the U.S.

According to the trio, were the tariffs – which they want to keep around for 25 more years at minimum – to disappear, and if Japan weakens its currency to better compete against them, domestic automakers would eventually be undercut by Japanese automakers. In turn, the Detroit Three would face considerable pressure to return fire, with those on the factory floor likely to be the hardest hit.

Another issue surrounding Japan is importation of U.S. vehicles, which the trio state has been difficult to accomplish over the years due to a number of trade barriers, tariffs not being among them as far as Japan’s importation policy is concerned. Japanese automakers counter that so few U.S. vehicles are imported annually because the Detroit Three haven’t made much of an effort to sell them to Japanese consumers in the first place. While the former has spent billions and employed thousands to build vehicles in the U.S., Detroit hasn’t done the same at all.

Currently, their lobbyists are working to add an enforceable currency provision to the TPP to protect Detroit’s standing. So far, the provision has yet to be added to the pact.

[Photo credit: Gobinero de Chile/Flickr]

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Automakers Consider Octane Increase For Better Fuel Economy, Emissions http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/automakers-consider-octane-ratings-increase-better-fuel-economy-emissions/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/automakers-consider-octane-ratings-increase-better-fuel-economy-emissions/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 16:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055201 Automakers are looking to boost octane in the gasoline consumers use as a possible new tool to cheaply and easily meet ever-tightening standards. At the 2015 SAE World Congress in Detroit last week, panelists representing Ford, General Motors, Chevron, and Renewable Fuels Association discussed the idea of raising the octane rating of regular gasoline from 87 […]

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Octane Ratings With 2013 Fuel Prices

Automakers are looking to boost octane in the gasoline consumers use as a possible new tool to cheaply and easily meet ever-tightening standards.

At the 2015 SAE World Congress in Detroit last week, panelists representing Ford, General Motors, Chevron, and Renewable Fuels Association discussed the idea of raising the octane rating of regular gasoline from 87 to 95, Automotive News reports.

The group agreed that by doing so, fuel economy would climb between 3 percent and 6 percent while also lowering CO2 emissions by 2 percent. In turn, the engineers could make a few modifications to the pistons and/or cylinder heads in order to increase a given engine’s compression ratio – a process that can occur quickly with little in the way of investment or labor – to enable the use of higher-octane fuels.

However, boosting the octane rating would also boost the price per gallon of gasoline. The U.S. Energy Information Administration noted that the current gulf between regular and high-octane blends comes to an average of 37 cents as of last week. While automakers aren’t willing to make their consumers pay more at the pump for the touted improvements, they’re also finding less inexpensive methods to meet increasingly stringent fuel economy and emissions standards, such as the 2025 mandate of 54.5 mpg fleet average.

Another problem: as newer vehicles with higher-compression engines would benefit from the increase in octane, Chevron research engineer Amir Maria said most vehicles on the road at present would be better off on 87 octane – the rating the engines were calibrated to run – and consumers would be dinged by as much as $1,500 more over 200,000 miles if they went for 95 octane.

[Photo credit: Upupa4me/Flickr]

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Oh, So This Is Why BMW Thinks The Sports Car Market Isn’t Going To Recover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/oh-bmw-thinks-sports-car-market-isnt-going-recover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/oh-bmw-thinks-sports-car-market-isnt-going-recover/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 14:08:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055089 It’s been five months since BMW’s sales boss, Ian Robertson, made news by questioning the long-term viability of the sports car. “The sports car market is roughly half of what it used to be. Post-2008, it just collapsed. I’m not so sure it’ll ever fully recover,” Robertson said. BMW, of course, is the maker of […]

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BMW Z4

It’s been five months since BMW’s sales boss, Ian Robertson, made news by questioning the long-term viability of the sports car. “The sports car market is roughly half of what it used to be. Post-2008, it just collapsed. I’m not so sure it’ll ever fully recover,” Robertson said.

BMW, of course, is the maker of the Z4, a car which generates only one-tenth the volume now that it did when launched as a successor to the Z3. In other words, it’s not much wonder BMW wonders whether outright sports cars have a future. 

Just how bad has the Z4’s situation become? Only 802 were sold in the first-quarter of 2015, down 6% compared with the same period one year ago. The Z4 accounted for just 1% of BMW brand volume over the last three months; just 1.5% of BMW passenger car sales. Naturally, roadsters aren’t typically major contributors to an automaker’s volume, but the Z4 was at one time. During a five-year span from 2003 onward, the Z4 was responsible for 5% of the brand’s U.S. sales.

USA Sports Car sales chart BMW Z4

It’s not as though BMW hasn’t significantly altered the Z4 to make it more appealing to a broader cross-section of the buying public. Previously a softtop convertible or a hardtop model, the Z4 has used a retractable hardtop since the 2009 relaunch.

Sales hardly perked up, however, and have only declined since. Only 2010’s marginal 7% increase and 2006’s 22% jump interrupted a streak that saw Z4 sales decline in nine of the last eleven years.

All of this brings us to the month of March 2015, the first time in a year that Z4 volume climbed beyond 300 units. Yet on a year-over-year basis, even March’s 422 sales revealed a 29% decline. Z4 volume has decreased in nine of the last 14 months; Z4 volume has increased only eight times in the last two years.

Yet while reports of sports car death seem to make a special amount of sense when BMW’s delivering the reports, it’s not as though Z4 rivals are contradicting Robertson’s theme.

The Audi TT’s U.S. volume has declined in nine of the last twelve years.

Mercedes-Benz SLK sales in America decreased in six of the last nine years.

Porsche Boxster sales in 2014 fell 15% in 2014 after rising to an eight-year high in 2013, but 2014 volume for the Boxster and Cayman, combined, was down 26% compared to the Boxster’s total from 2002.

The Nissan Z’s 2014 U.S. sales tally was less than one-fifth the total achieved in 2003.

One key exception: although the Chevrolet Corvette’s average U.S. annual volume dwindled to 14,230 units between 2009 and 2013, GM sold more than 34,000 Corvettes in 2014, the best year since 2006.

Since the quote from Ian Robertson was given in November, U.S. Z4 volume has fallen 5%.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Piston Slap: Are you Jagsperienced? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-jagsperienced/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-jagsperienced/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054761 Allen writes: Sajeev, Hopefully you can offer some light at the end of the tunnel for an issue that a friend has with her 2004 Jag X-type. The car is in great shape for its age and all was well until the bad news came regarding the transfer case. The car recently started acting up […]

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Jaguar-X-Type-033

Allen writes:

Sajeev,

Hopefully you can offer some light at the end of the tunnel for an issue that a friend has with her 2004 Jag X-type. The car is in great shape for its age and all was well until the bad news came regarding the transfer case. The car recently started acting up and the local Jag dealer diagnosed a failed transfer case with a part price of 3,600 with 6+ hours of labor.

I’m not Jagsperienced so I have to take their quote at face value.

Do you know of any resources on a failure of this type? The failure occurred virtually overnight and with the value of the car, it seemingly is a death sentence for what is an otherwise healthy car.

Any wisdom you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

Explain more about this “acting up” before the car needed to go to the dealer.

Allen writes:

Literally overnight: rough, jerky acceleration closely followed by garbage can full of pistons sound and lack of drive. I had changed the plugs the week before. During the test drive after the plugs, I only heard a couple of rough clashes that I wasn’t even sure were from that car because they didn’t repeat and I was in traffic at the time.

Sajeev answers:

Ah-ha!  This problem?

Click here to view the embedded video.

I reckon this happened because of a lack of fluid changes in the transfer case.  Ask her if she followed the service specifications outlined in the owner’s manual. Even if she did, supposedly Jaguar/Ford doesn’t make it very easy: perhaps no mechanic ever touched the transfer case?  Let’s hope not.

You can get a used X type transfer case, finding one might be easy depending on if her Jag has traction control. But considering the inherent weakness found in a lack of fluid servicing, will you get another pile of crap from the junkyard? Remember this: it’s not your car, not your problem.

Tell her to sell it, or roll the dice with an independent mechanic installing a junkyard replacement (and fluid change). The former is a better idea, especially if she’s better off (financially) in a cost-effective vehicle.*

*That’s not a sexist thing, there are plenty of cash-strapped dudes in ticking time bomb, maintenance deferred premium vehicles when they should be in a used Corolla. Your job as a Piston Slap reader is to give people a reality check if or when they need it. 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4×4 Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2015-nissan-pathfinder-4x4-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2015-nissan-pathfinder-4x4-review-video/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1049737 Nissan’s path to the modern Pathfinder has been long and wandering. In 1985 the 2-door truck based Pathfinder was the answer to Chevy’s Blazer and Ford’s Bronco. In 1995 Nissan changed absolutely everything and made the Pathfinder a 5-door unibody SUV to compete head-on with Jeep’s successful Grand Cherokee. Nine years later, Nissan started over, […]

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2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior

Nissan’s path to the modern Pathfinder has been long and wandering. In 1985 the 2-door truck based Pathfinder was the answer to Chevy’s Blazer and Ford’s Bronco. In 1995 Nissan changed absolutely everything and made the Pathfinder a 5-door unibody SUV to compete head-on with Jeep’s successful Grand Cherokee. Nine years later, Nissan started over, yet again, with a body-on-frame design to do battle with the myriad of General Motors midsize SUVs choking up suburban expressways. Then, in 2013, Nissan went back to the drawing board for a fourth time with a new mission: build a spacious and well-priced soft-roader to battle the new Explorer and the GM Lambda platform triplets (Acadia, Traverse, Enclave).

Exterior

Before we dive deep into the Pathfinder, we have to identify this breed’s natural habitat, and that means forgetting every Pathfinder that came before. While you’ll still find WD21 Pathfinders climbing rocks, this Pathfinder is more at home on the school run. I mentioned GM’s Lambda CUVs earlier because this Pathfinder is big. Really big. That means the Pathfinder isn’t the most direct competitor to entries like the Kia Sorento that’s more than a foot smaller or even the Toyota Highlander that is 6 inches shorter. The mission of the Sorento and Highlander is to carry 4-5 adults in comfort while providing a third row for children, mothers-in-law or emergencies. The Pathfinder however was intended to carry 7 adults in relative comfort.

Because the new Pathfinder’s mission is people hauling, not rock climbing, you won’t find aggressive approach and departure angles on the nose and rump. Instead, we get slab sides, a variant of Nissan’s truck grille up front and a rather vertical hatch in the back. The overall look is simple and clean but lacks the excitement (yes, I used that word in a CUV review) you’d find in entries like the new Sorento.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Third Row Seat-001

Interior

The Pathfinder sports the most combined legroom in this segment (1st row + 2nd row + 3rd row) and combined legroom is important. Other entries claim to have more third row legroom (like the Traverse), but if the other two rows are cramped, you end up sliding those seats back cutting down on the room left in the mother-in-law-row. Looking deeper, the Traverse claims 3.4 inches more 3rd row room but you’ll find that the Chevy’s 1st row is 1 inch smaller and the middle row is 5 inches smaller. This means with the driver’s seat adjusted ideally for me at 6-feet tall (not giving a toss about the folks in the back) I can adjust the second row seat to have 2-3 inches of leg room and have a similar 2-3 inches of legroom in the third row of the Pathfinder as well. I’m a little surprised Nissan chose not to make an 8-passenger version of the Pathfinder because the 3rd row is as accommodating as the Highlander’s 3-seat rear bench. Speaking of the Highlander, you’ll notice upper trims come only with captains chairs in the middle row, meaning passenger number five has to sit in the cramped third row.

The second reason to buy a Pathfinder is for the trick second row seat. If you’re a parent with two or three child seats in the middle row, you’ll appreciate that Nissan designed the 40% section of the bench to contort in a way that allows adults to get in to the third row. While it is possible to get into the back in other 3-row vehicles with a child seat in the middle, it isn’t easy.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Second Row Folding Child Seat

Legroom isn’t everything, of course, so Nissan kept the roofline high at the rear of the Pathfinder giving a generous 37.8 inches of 3rd row headroom. If you want this kind of room without a Nissan logo on the hood, you’ll be looking at full-size SUVs. I am talking Suburban-sized since the Tahoe actually offers 6 inches less total legroom than the Pathfinder. If you need something bigger than that, you’re in Blue Bird bus territory.

The Pathfinder’s generous legroom comes at a price: the small cargo area. Admittedly, the 16 cubic feet of space behind the last row is 1 more than you get in the Tahoe, but it’s 8 less than the Traverse and 23 less than the Suburban. So, while the Pathfinder is as accommodating as a Suburban for 7 adults, you can’t fit 7 suitcases in the back.

Also on the down side is a cabin that’s starting to show its age. The seats are class leading in terms of comfort, but the cabin is full of hard plastics. I’m not one to bash hard plastics off-hand, but casting the primary dashboard touch points out of hard plastic is unusual in this segment and it makes entries like the Durango, Sorento and Enclave look and feel more premium.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Interior Infotainment.CR2

Infotainment

Although the Pathfinder isn’t that old, the base “S” trim gets you a 6-speaker audio system and in-dash 6-CD changer … and that’s it. No Bluetooth, no AUX input and no USB/iPod interface. If you want those, you have to step up to the $32,990 SV trim which includes a 7-inch infotainment LCD. Although I dislike the stripper trim concept, you should know the SV is still about $2,000 less than a comparable Highlander. (Keep in mind Toyota’s base model lacks a V6.) SL Tech trims get an 8-inch infotainment display and the same 13-speaker Bose sound system as the Infiniti QX60. At $38,090, it’s also the cheapest way to get navigation. Any way you slice it, however, Nissan’s infotainment options are a step behind the new entries like the Sorento, Highlander, Durango and 2016 Pilot.

On the up-side, Nissan’s touchscreen infotainment system was one of my favorites last decade, so in terms of functionality it fares quite well. GM’s Lambda SUVs all get small infotainment screens set low in the dashboard due to the age of the platforms and, interestingly, a Traverse with navigation is just $250 less. On the down-side, the Pathfinder is at least five years behind the rest, especially compared to Toyota and Chrysler’s latest systems. GM’s refreshed infotainment options in the Lambda CUVs operate on a smaller 6.5-inch screen but look more modern.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 AWD control

Drivetrain

Under the hood lies Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5-liter V6 tuned to 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, 5 hp and 8 lb-ft less than the same engine in the QX60. In addition to being down a few ponies compared to its luxury cousin, it’s also the least powerful in its class. As you would expect from Nissan, power is sent to the front wheels via a CVT, but this one has been revised to handle a 5,000 lb tow rating. The new transmission uses a steel chain instead of a steel belt for durability, but importantly the ratios stay more-or-less unchanged. Nissan’s reps confirmed the transmission is the primary reason for the QX60 and Pathfinder’s different tow ratings.

If towing with a FWD crossover doesn’t sound like fun, $1,690 buys you AWD. The system normally defaults to FWD mode for improved fuel economy but as a (small) nod to the Pathfinder’s history, the system has a lock mode mechanically connecting the front and rear differentials so power flows 50:50 (front:rear). Unlike more traditional transfer case setups, the clutch-pack allows a small amount of slip so the system can be used on dry pavement without binding. Leaving the AWD system in “Auto” keeps power to the front unless fairly significant slippage occurs (in order to improve fuel economy).

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Gauges

Drive

The Pathfinder is loosely based on Nissan’s D-Platform which underpins the Altima, Murano and the last generation Maxima. One thing all those vehicles have in common is being light for their category and that’s true of the Pathfinder as well. At 4,317 lbs in FWD trim and topping out at 4,506 in AWD trim, that’s about the same weight as Toyota’s Highlander V6 and 300-500 lbs lighter than a comparable GM crossover. The weight reduction and other efficiency differences pay dividends with real world fuel economy in the AWD model coming in around 21.5 MPG in mixed driving. That’s around 11 percent better than the Traverse, 15 percent better than the Enclave and 18 percent better than the Tahoe on my same fuel economy route. While a few MPG doesn’t sound like much, at this end of the scale it equates to $450 lower annual fuel bills vs the Buick.

The comparatively light curb weight and CVT compensate for the lower torque numbers and allowed our tester to scoot to 60 in 7.1 seconds. While not the fastest in the pack, this is better than the majority of three row crossovers on the market. This is despite the CVT’s final drive ratio being tuned toward fuel economy. The CVT’s main benefit is it allows the engine to hang out at the peak of its power band for maximum acceleration. For 2015, Nissan programmed the CVT to imitate a traditional stepped automatic when in “D.” Not surprisingly this results in lower performance because it negates the major benefit of a CVT in the first place and actually causes a 2/10th longer run to 60 (7.3 seconds) than when the transmission is in “L” and ditches the imitation shifts.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior Hitch Receiver

Everything has a trade off and so it is with the Pathfinder. The CVT’s low ratio isn’t terribly low at 13.5:1 (low gear and final drive), this doesn’t compare all that well with the lower 15.2:1 that you find in the Ford Explorer and higher overall than basically all the competition. This tall starting ratio conspires with the soft springs and compliant sway bars to make the Pathfinder feel about 1,000 lbs heavier on the road. In the stop-light races, most of the competition will beat the Pathfinder to 30 mph because of that ratio choice. Past 30, the Pathfinder picks up steam and may win the race overall, but in the real world that 0-30 time is more important.

More than most new cars, we have to separate lateral grip from handling “feel” when discussing this Nissan. Why? Because the Pathfinder actually road-holds as well as a Mazda CX-9 according to most publications (TTAC doesn’t have access to a skidpad) but the feeling is night and day different. Steering turn-in is lazy. Soft springs that give one of the best rides in the segment make body roll excessive. There’s plenty of pitch and dive when accelerating and braking. This is the prefect example of numbers not giving you the complete picture. The Pathfinder is faster than almost all of the competition, it stops from 60 mph in a short 125 feet and pulls lateral Gs like a Mazda crossover. Get behind the wheel however and the Pathfinder feels enormous.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior-007

Towing with a CVT is an unusual experience to say the least. I attached a 5,000 trailer and gave it a whirl. As expected, the tall starting ratio in the transmission makes for sluggish starts, but when I started climbing hills things went just fine. Like Chrysler’s 8-speed automatic, the ability to find an “ideal” ratio for the moment is what saves the Pathfinder here. Sure, you hear plenty of the 3.5-liter V6 in the cabin when the engine is revving its nuts off, but it feels peppier on a 15 percent grade than a GMC Acadia with the same trailer.

With the Pathfinder, Nissan has created one of the best crossovers on paper. It has legroom to spare, the highest fuel economy among its direct competition, and delivers great acceleration, braking and handling numbers, but it looses something by the time you add it all up and drive one yourself. Perhaps the toll to be paid for checking every box the crossover shopper wants is engagement. The Pathfinder is a crossover I have recommended and will continue to recommend if you want an honest to goodness usable third row and great fuel economy. It also remains one of the better buys in this segment thanks to its low starting price and aggressive equipment bundles. Unfortunately, if driving pleasure, interior refinement, or modern infotainment are higher on your shopping list, there are better options.

Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as testes

0-30: 2.7 Seconds

0-60: 7.1 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.24 Seconds @ 93 MPH

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Canada Loans €400M to Volkswagen for Chance at Supplier Table http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/canada-loans-e400m-volkswagen-chance-supplier-table/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/canada-loans-e400m-volkswagen-chance-supplier-table/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 11:35:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055073 As Volkswagen plans to expand in Chattanooga and Puebla, the Canadian government is loaning €400 million ($433.8 million USD) to the German automaker in exchange for possible future supplier business. Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation (an entity owned entirely by the Government of Canada), announced the “financing is designed to create opportunities for qualified small and medium-sized […]

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Volkswagen Chattanooga Tower

As Volkswagen plans to expand in Chattanooga and Puebla, the Canadian government is loaning €400 million ($433.8 million USD) to the German automaker in exchange for possible future supplier business.

Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation (an entity owned entirely by the Government of Canada), announced the “financing is designed to create opportunities for qualified small and medium-sized Canadian companies to win new business with the global automotive giant as they grow their operations in North America.” The loan is being extended to Volkswagen with “market-rate interest and administrative fees.”

“There’s no doubt Canada needs Volkswagen more than Volkswagen needs Canada,” said Phil Taylor, spokesperson for EDC, to the Windsor Star.

The financial agreement gives smaller Canadian companies exposure to Volkswagen as they tool up their North American operations for future product. Suppliers can register their products or services on a website run by EDC.

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QOTD: Is It Time for Lefty Countries to Drive on the Right Side of the Road? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-time-lefty-countries-drive-right-side-road/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-time-lefty-countries-drive-right-side-road/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 11:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055017 After only selling close to 250 Volts in Australia since its introduction in 2012, the decision was made to not import the second-generation extended range electric vehicle, even though it features less-quirky styling and an improved electric drivetrain. But, if Australia was a left-hand drive country, would this be an issue? Thanks to laws in Australia prohibiting […]

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Brooker Hwy 25, Australia

After only selling close to 250 Volts in Australia since its introduction in 2012, the decision was made to not import the second-generation extended range electric vehicle, even though it features less-quirky styling and an improved electric drivetrain.

But, if Australia was a left-hand drive country, would this be an issue?

Thanks to laws in Australia prohibiting the sale of left-hand drive vehicles, should an automaker want to sell a vehicle Down Under, it must be converted to right-hand drive. For a number of vehicles, due to packaging constraints, this is not feasible from an engineering perspective. More often than not, while it might be technically doable, it just isn’t financially prudent – as is the case with the newly-cancelled Holden Volt.

Countries driving on the left or right

Folks, its 2015 and we still live in a world where, depending on what country you live in, you drive on one side of the road or the other. Isn’t it time for this to change?

It would certainly make it a lot easier for automakers to develop, engineer, and sell global models. It would make roadways safer (every year there’s always at least one tourist here driving on the wrong side of the road, usually around a roundabout). Australians could get all the Volts and F-150s they want. We could have saved the Australian ute. Everyone could have been happy.

What do you think, B&B? Is it time to ditch right-hand drive?

[Image source: Wiki ian (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons/Benjamin D. Esham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

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While You Were Sleeping: No Holden Volt, Super Troopers 2, and Meeke Gets a Win http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping-no-holden-volt-super-troopers-2-meeke-gets-win/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping-no-holden-volt-super-troopers-2-meeke-gets-win/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 10:03:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054985 The second-generation Chevrolet Volt won’t go on sale in Australia as GM will not convert it to right-hand drive. The Holden Volt is dead (CarAdvice) It appears a Holden version of the second-generation Volt will not come to fruition as General Motors has decided not to build the car in right-hand drive. Bolt still on the table. […]

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Mary Barra and Chevrolet Volt at NAIAS 2015

The second-generation Chevrolet Volt won’t go on sale in Australia as GM will not convert it to right-hand drive.

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Range Rover Sales Are Booming In The U.S. – $80K+ SUV Outsells Evoque, Flex, Yukon XL, GLA, Cayenne http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/range-rover-sales-booming-u-s-80k-suv-outsells-evoque-flex-yukon-xl-gla-cayenne/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/range-rover-sales-booming-u-s-80k-suv-outsells-evoque-flex-yukon-xl-gla-cayenne/#comments Sun, 26 Apr 2015 14:30:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053201 Land Rover USA reported more than 1000 Range Rover sales in each of the last six months and in eight of the last nine months. Year-over-year volume has now increased in four consecutive months as well as in seven of the last eight months. But it was the month of March in particular that drew […]

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2015 Land Rover Range Rover

Land Rover USA reported more than 1000 Range Rover sales in each of the last six months and in eight of the last nine months. Year-over-year volume has now increased in four consecutive months as well as in seven of the last eight months.

But it was the month of March in particular that drew special attention to U.S. sales performance of one of the world’s best known high-end SUVs.

Land Rover reported 1996 Range Rover sales in America in March 2015, a 151%, 1202-unit year-over-year increase.

Three out of every ten Land Rovers sold last month in the U.S. were Range Rovers, a luxury SUV with a USD base price above $80,000 (and options which take the MSRP well beyond $140,000). Only Land Rover’s second-most-expensive model, the Range Rover Sport, sold more often, thanks to a 51% jump to 2646 March sales.

Land Rover
March
2015
March
2014
%
Change
3 mos.
2015
3 mos.
2014
%
Change
Range Rover Sport
2,646 1,747 51.5% 6,225 4,823 29.1%
Range Rover
1,996 794 151% 4,835 2,884 67.6%
Range Rover Evoque
1,284 1,370 -6.3% 3,794 3,176 19.5%
LR4
841 157 436% 2,065 1,144 80.5%
LR2
11 331 -96.7% 57 1,052 -94.6%
Total
6,778
4,399 54.1% 16,976 13,079 19.8%

The Range Rover, reviewed in long-wheelbase form by Kamil Kaluski on TTAC last fall, outsold the whole Jaguar brand by 336 units and outsold Jaguar’s flagship, the XJ, by nearly five to one. The Infiniti QX80 trailed the Range Rover by 580 March sales. The Range Rover sold 82% more often than the steadily improving Lincoln Navigator.

Combined, the Toyota Land Cruiser, Lexus LX570, and Mercedes-Benz G-Class didn’t sell half as often as the Range Rover in March. High-end SUVs which outsold the Indo-Brit Range Rover all have distinctly lower base prices, from the Cadillac Escalade ($73K, 2758 March sales between standard and long-wheelbase derivatives) to the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class ($64K, 2365 March sales). Porsche Cayenne volume slipped 27% to 1364 units; the BMW X6 was up 58% to 587 March sales.

Yet more than the Range Rover’s ability to outsell a bevy of high-end SUVs (thanks to its first 1800+ month of sales since December 2005), the truly impressive thing about operating at a 2K monthly pace is the number of rather more mainstream (allegedly) vehicles outsold by the most costly Land Rover.

2015 LAnd Rover Range Rover

The Buick Regal, Ford Flex, GMC Yukon XL, and Mazda CX-9 are just some of the volume brand vehicles which didn’t sell as often as the Range Rover last month. Add to that list much talked about vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz GLA, Nissan Leaf, Cadillac CTS, Porsche Cayenne, BMW X1, and Land Rover’s own Range Rover Evoque.

No, it’s not a one-time thing. The Regal, Flex, CX-9, Leaf, CTS, Cayenne, X1, and Evoque all trail the suddenly high-volume Range Rover on a year-to-date basis, not just in the month of March. And by high-volume, we mean nobly aristocratic. The Range Rover is the SUV of royals, after all.

As for the overarching brand, Land Rover says the brand “established a new March U.S. sales record with 6,778 units sold.” Five nameplates combined for a 54% YOY improvement. The Range Rover trio of nameplates generated 85% of the brand’s March U.S. volume.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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BREAKING: Piëch Resigns Chairmanship, Winterkorn Continues as CEO at VW http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/breaking-piech-resigns-chairmanship-winterkorn-continues-ceo-vw/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/breaking-piech-resigns-chairmanship-winterkorn-continues-ceo-vw/#comments Sat, 25 Apr 2015 17:26:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054273 While Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn wears bruises from the conflict, Ferdinand Piëch has paid the ultimate of price and resigned his chairmanship with immediate effect. According to Reuters, the ongoing row between CEO and Chairman at Volkswagen eased this past week, but when the group’s supervisory board put their support behind Winterkorn, the 78-year-old grandson of Ferry Porsche was […]

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"It wasn't Domino's. Someone delivered Wiedekings head." Piech and Winterkorn.  Picture courtesy handelsblatt.de

While Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn wears bruises from the conflict, Ferdinand Piëch has paid the ultimate of price and resigned his chairmanship with immediate effect.

According to Reuters, the ongoing row between CEO and Chairman at Volkswagen eased this past week, but when the group’s supervisory board put their support behind Winterkorn, the 78-year-old grandson of Ferry Porsche was left “isolated” in a five-to-one vote. Sources told the newswire service Piëch’s decision to not support Winterkorn put his own position in jeopardy. Piëch’s wife, Ursula, also resigned her positions within the company.

Piëch will be replaced by Deputy Chairman Berthold Huber in the interim. A vote on when a new Chairman will be chosen has not been announced.

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Chart Of The Day: Imagine The U.S. Auto Industry Without Pickup Trucks http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/chart-day-imagine-u-s-auto-industry-without-pickup-trucks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/chart-day-imagine-u-s-auto-industry-without-pickup-trucks/#comments Sat, 25 Apr 2015 16:34:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053169 With 29% and 30% of their U.S. sales coming from pickup trucks, respectively, General Motors and Ford Motor Company fall from the top two positions to the second and third when auto manufacturer sales are compared without pickups. Toyota, therefore, becomes the top dog with 507,000 non-pickup sales through the first-quarter of 2015, 21,000 more […]

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Industry sales chart no pickup trucks

With 29% and 30% of their U.S. sales coming from pickup trucks, respectively, General Motors and Ford Motor Company fall from the top two positions to the second and third when auto manufacturer sales are compared without pickups.

Toyota, therefore, becomes the top dog with 507,000 non-pickup sales through the first-quarter of 2015, 21,000 more cars, vans, SUVs, and crossovers than General Motors.

Excluding Frontiers, Titans, and Ridgelines doesn’t change the fact that Nissan and Infiniti are still outselling Honda and Acura. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles nearly pulls level with Ford MoCo when the Ram and dominant F-Series, America’s best-selling vehicle line, are left out of the equation.

Those figures don’t accurately reflect the state of the industry. That’s why today’s chart of the day also includes the actual figures. But the second subject line would clarify the state of the industry if the top manufacturers couldn’t lean on their pickup popularity.

U.S. pickup truck sales are up 12% to 567,560 through the first-quarter, equal to 14% of the industry’s year-to-date volume.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Wall Street Journal v. GM: A Public Battle For Editorial Independence http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/wall-street-journal-v-gm-public-battle-editorial-independence/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/wall-street-journal-v-gm-public-battle-editorial-independence/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 17:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053417 Once upon a time, The Wall Street Journal faced off against General Motors over editorial independence, and won. According to ProPublica president Richard Tofel, who wrote an entire chapter about the story for his book, “Restless Genius: Barney Kilgore, The Wall Street Journal, and the Invention of Modern Journalism,” the conflict between the two giants […]

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Renaissance Center

Once upon a time, The Wall Street Journal faced off against General Motors over editorial independence, and won.

According to ProPublica president Richard Tofel, who wrote an entire chapter about the story for his book, “Restless Genius: Barney Kilgore, The Wall Street Journal, and the Invention of Modern Journalism,” the conflict between the two giants began over 60 years ago this May.

The story goes that GM CEO Harlow “Red” Curtice happened upon a report in the WSJ about the tactic of selling excess inventory through smaller independent dealers at cut-rate prices – bootlegging – a tactic used by his company and his competitors in Detroit. The report also covered the editorial policies of the newspaper’s local competitors – which had banned advertising of non-franchise dealers involved in bootlegging – citing the Detroit Three’s influence in advertising departments had begun to creep into the newsroom.

As a result, Ward’s Automotive Reports had cut the WSJ off from its weekly newsletter subscription. However, an exclusive published in late May – styling renders of the 1955 models from the Detroit Three – was the straw that broke Curtice’s back.

Fearing that sales of 1954 models would crash as a result of the exclusive, GM cancelled all of its advertising with the newspaper that day and barred access to its weekly production figures; the Associated Press was also barred when GM learned the Journal had tried to go through the media organization to get the figures. Editor Barney Kilgore later told Time magazine his paper declined to attend the “off-the-record” new-model briefing that year, citing the Detroit Three’s tendency to go “off the record” nearly all the time as the reason for not playing the game.

What followed was two months of editorials defending its stance on the two stories, letters to the editor from readers who either weren’t happy with Kilgore’s decision or stood behind the newspaper, and a number of other publications, such as Ad Age and Tide magazine (an advertising trade journal, not to be confused with Time), calling out GM and Curtice’s behavior in the matter.

Speaking of the letters, Kilgore chose one from a reader to pass along with one of his own – calling for a way to settle the issue reasonably – to Curtice. The letter, by Roy Brenholts of Columbus, Ohio, stated that Brenholts would trade one of his two Cadillacs for a Ford instead of trading the Ford he owned for a Chevrolet, adding that he would avoid Cadillac until GM stopped their “Hitlerite attitude” toward the newspaper.

The meeting between Curtice and Kilgore led to two letters being published back-to-back in early July. Curtice wrote that breaking off relations with the WSJ was better than suing – though he wouldn’t hesitate to consider the latter next time – but that he never intended to interfere with editorial. Kilgore, in return, noted that the flow of information – weekly sales figures, news releases et al – had come back to normal, his paper had the right to publish news from authorized and unauthorized sources, and he, not the advertisers, would be the final arbiter in what was published in the first place. This established the WSJ as a newspaper with unflappable independence and integrity before the public in so doing.

[Photo credit: Robert Emperley/Flickr]

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2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Improves Over 2015 Model In Fuel Economy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2016-mazda-mx-5-miata-improves-2015-model-fuel-economy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2016-mazda-mx-5-miata-improves-2015-model-fuel-economy/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:13:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053529 Owners of the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata will experience better fuel economy compared to the outgoing 2015 model. Those who choose to pair the roadster’s 2.0-liter Skyactiv I4 with a six-speed automatic will see EPA-rated numbers of 27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and 30 mpg combined, according to Edmunds. Those who pick the manual […]

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Mazda North American Operations MX5Club

Owners of the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata will experience better fuel economy compared to the outgoing 2015 model.

Those who choose to pair the roadster’s 2.0-liter Skyactiv I4 with a six-speed automatic will see EPA-rated numbers of 27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and 30 mpg combined, according to Edmunds. Those who pick the manual six-speed, meanwhile, will the same mpg figures in the city and combined, but lose 2 mpg on the highway.

The new ratings are a 29 percent improvement over the 2015 model, whose six-speed auto or manual/2.0-liter I4 combo netted 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined; the five-speed manual had the same highway figure, but gained 1 mpg in the city and 2 mpg combined in comparison.

The improvements are likely linked to the loss of 150 pounds in weight for both 2016 variants, coming to 2,332 for the manual and 2,381 for the auto.

As far as what else the MX-5 Miata has in store for new and old fans alike, Jack Baruth went behind-the-scenes not too long ago to bring back his impressions on the next-gen roadster.

[Photo credit: Mazda]

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Dispatches do Brasil: Renault Re-Invents Itself in Latin America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053257 Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for […]

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Renault Logan

Renault Logan

Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for more, the French company is showing its new plans that will deeply affect their operations in Latin America at large and shake up their manufacturing base in South America, most especially Mercosur (namely Brazil and Argentina).

When their Ayrton Senna factory was opened in São José dos Pinhais in Paraná state, their line was in tune to what they produced in Europe. They offered the Clio, Kangoo, Mégane and Scénic. With an emphasis on safety, even the lowly Clio offered dual frontal airbags. At that time, the relative parity between the Brazilian real and American dollar allowed them to import systems such as the aforementioned airbags on the cheap. The minivan Scénic offered space for five, a large trunk, modular seating and became a favorite for families. The Mégane and Kangoo meanwhile suffered at the hands of more established competition and never made a dent in Volkswagen Golf, Fiat Stilo or Ford Focus sales. The Fiat Doblò passenger and commercial versions plus the Uno-based Fiat Fiorino conspired to keep the Kangoo down.

In the Brazilian market, reception was mixed. At the entry level, the Clio had lukewarm success. The majority of compact level car buyers are not exactly flush with money, so buying a new entry into that market was seen as a risky proposition. The Scénic and other minivans slowly, but surely, decimated the station wagons then available on the market. Together with Citroën minivans, Renault owned that market. As it became a favorite, the prices of this type of car rose above the rest of the competition and became expensive to buy.

Undeniably, Renault and other French makes suffered a perception problem. While most think their engines are robust and can take the pressure, suspension systems were and remain under suspicion in the eyes of Brazilian consumers. So, despite placing rather high in consumer satisfaction surveys, Renaults take a hit at re-sale time.

Brazilian Clio

Brazilian Clio

Over the years the American dollar and euro appreciated against the Brazilian real and growing sales plateaued. Renault’s reaction was to cheapen their offerings. Soon, the Clio lost its airbags, losing its appeal to the better off buyers that seemed to favor it over the VW Gol or Fiat Uno. When it was re-designed, it kept the previous car’s internal design. A new Scénic was launched in Europe, but citing cost complications, Renault chose to keep building the old one. Renault also tried to gain market penetration by locally building and selling a Mégane sedan and station wagon. Inevitably, Renault’s line became outmoded and nothing on offer in Europe was sold here.

Of course, errors in reading the market collaborated to their downfall. In the early 2000s, Renault was challenging Ford for fourth place in the Brazilian market. Ford reacted by launching the EcoSport and new Fiesta, new engines, and soon saw the distance between it and Renault grow. Besides the cheapening and non-updating of the line, beginner errors abounded. In Brazil, the Scénic was a solid middle class car, even higher middle class, and not the cheap and cheerful family transportation pod it was in Europe. As such, Brazilian dealers clamored for black and silver Scénics while the French continued offering it in purple, red and other colors the middle class rejected. The Clio, besides keeping the same interiors forever, never changed wheel cover designs or had new versions launched (tricks in which the traditional Brazilian Big Four – Fiat, GM, Volkswagen and Ford – are experts).

In the late 2000s, Renault re-made itself in Brazil. The Scénic was gone. The Kangoo was now only a commercial vehicle. The Clio soldiered on unmolested and seemingly only existed so Renault could keep a foot in the entry-level market. A solution was found though and it was the result of the deepening of the synergies and integration within the scope of the global Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Renault underwent the so-called “Dacia-lization” (Dacia being a Romanian company that Renault uses as its low-cost brand in Europe). The Logan, Sandero and eventually the Duster were launched. In spite of the insipid design, the cars used a Renault-Dacia version of a modern Nissan platform. The Logan family’s claim to fame and a space in the market was that it offered a lot of space for modest prices. Size-wise similar to Focus and Toyota Corolla type cars (sometimes even bigger, trunks tended to be larger), but priced similarly to smaller cars like Gol or Fiat Siena, they appealed to a more rational buyer. After a few years, with the launch of the Duster CUV, Renault was again encroaching on Ford and distancing itself from the Asian brands that were finally “acclimatizing” (by offering compact cars similar to market favorites) to Brazil and had been threatening Renault’s (by then traditional) fifth place in Brazilian sales rankings.

Nov-Ford-Ka-SEL-2015 (3)

As the 2000s became the 2010s, Renault was again under assault. Competition grew. Everybody copied their idea of a larger cars for more modest prices. Fiat launched a bigger Palio and a Grand Siena. Volkswagen do Brasil got into the compact sedan market again with its Voyage. Ford brought the new Fiesta and conjured up the highly competitive new Ka. GM came strong based off of its GM Korea know-how and re-invented themselves in Brazil, becoming the leader of in-car mobile electronics. Toyota got serious in Brazil and the Etios family has been gaining ground, horrible design notwithstanding, based on modern mechanics and a good ride. Hyundai’s HB20 has done the opposite: it has conquered image conscious consumers due to the success of it fluidic design language, in spite of the bad ride. All these companies and cars offered up new technologies and engines, bringing more fuel economy to buyers, extra gadgets and crept up on the Logan family’s cost benefit advantage.

Reacting, Renault has launched a re-designed Logan and Sandero. Though the new designs have been well-accepted and increased sales, this growth has been deemed insufficient. Both Hyundai and Toyota routinely sell more than Renault on a monthly basis and could soon take fifth place in overall sales. As such, Renault studied its South American operations and has cooked up a plan.

Renault Oroch Concept

Renault Oroch Concept

An “un-Dacia-lization” of sorts seems to be in place. Logan and Sandero production is being moved to Argentina. The company is investing heavily in their ancient Santa Isabela factory in that country. Duster production will be kept in Brazil and soon the Oroch pickup (based on the Duster and rumored to be a 1 ton pickup) will be launched. From what the press has been able to piece together, both Duster and Moroch will be produced off of the current platform and updates will be infrequent, following the age-old strategy of competing on price and, also, space. The Duster is larger than EcoSport and the recently launched Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V and Peugeot 2008. The Moroch will dwarf the current Fiat Strada (new, larger version of which has been seen tooling around the factory), VW Saveiro and the old-as-the-hills, barely competitive Chevrolet Montana.

The Moroch however is an indication of the deepening of the CUV event horizon presciently seen by our recently departed Derek Kreindler. Renault is going all-CUV-in. The Renault Captur, a current Clio-based mini CUV is a foregone conclusion. Renault is not even hiding it anymore and it has been seen around the factory in Paraná and on highway tests. This lends credence to the thesis Renault is re-inventing itself. The new Brazilian Clio, the same again as the Euro Clio, should also appear soon, albeit placed in a category above the current Brazilian Clio’s status. Suppliers also say Renault is quoting prices for a sedan version of the Clio (non-existent in Europe) and indicative of the soon to come demise of its midsize sedan offering, the Fluence. Informed journalists in Brazil have stated that the Espace, Renault’s large (and former) minivan, which has turned into a sort of a CUV, is slated to be introduced in Brazil in 2016 as a locally-produced offering.

The current Brazilian Clio is also on its last days. Though reports are conflicting, either a version of Nissan’s own low-cost brand Datsun Go will be built here in Brazil, or a version of the concept recently shown in world Auto Shows by Nissan called the Sway (supposedly an early version of a substitute for the March/Micra line), could gain a Renault badge and come strong in the lower echelons of the Brazilian market.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, besides the heavy modernizing investments at the local plant and the responsibility of building the Logan family, current cars will remain in production. And very interestingly, the new Frontier/Navara pickup that will used by Mercedes Benz to offer its own global midsize pickup (compact PU for Americans) will also gain a Renault badge for sale, initially, all over Latin America. Internally called the Raptur, this will be Renault’s first incursion into the traditional midsize pickup market. It is an important step and will allow Renault to compete in an important market spanning the entirety of Latin America. Coming soon (reports say early 2016) you could soon take your pick and buy your midsize pickup in your preferred flavor – Nissan, Mercedes or Renault – as they will all be built side-by-side at the Argentinian factory.

The next few years will be very important for Renault in Latin America. It will keep and modernize entry-level cars. It will continue offering competitively priced compact cars that offer a bit more and are the bulk of the Brazilian market. It will make new tries, with new product, to gain a presence in upper middle-class garages by “Euro-pizing” its Brazilian production. It will sell CUVs for all pockets. Pickups, small and large will further broaden Renault’s Latin American presence.

If this will be enough to keep Toyota and Hyundai at bay remains to be seen. However, it seems if they will be offering cars, CUVs and trucks, the market wants. Sounds like a plan.

Brazilian Clio Ayrton Senna Factory Hyundai HB20 Nissan Frontier Renault Oroch Concept Santa Isabela Factory Renault Logan Renault Captur European Clio Renault Fluence Renault Kangoo Express Toyota Etios

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More Legislators Move To Ban Red Light Cameras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/legislators-move-ban-red-light-cameras/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/legislators-move-ban-red-light-cameras/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 15:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053273 The bane of many a motorist and freedom advocate alike, the red light camera’s days may be drawing to a close as more governments move to ban them. Over the past two months alone, legislators in California, Illinois and Texas have moved to do away with the devices based on both civil rights and financial […]

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Red light camera in Beaverton, Oregon

The bane of many a motorist and freedom advocate alike, the red light camera’s days may be drawing to a close as more governments move to ban them.

Over the past two months alone, legislators in California, Illinois and Texas have moved to do away with the devices based on both civil rights and financial concerns, Business Insider reports. The bans in California and Texas would be statewide if made into law, while Illinois’ ban would only apply to suburbs outside of Chicago and other communities with local authority.

The three states join 10 others that have imposed bans on red light cameras and another 19 that never bothered with the issue in the first place. The devices have garnered criticism from those who were caught by them, then received tickets in the mail, all without a chance to defend themselves under due process.

Meanwhile, the cities that once had them in place – such as the majority of the 110 municipalities in California that used red light cameras; only 39 of the 110 remain currently – took them down when they found that revenue from tickets issued didn’t do much to fill the coffers in the first place.

[Photo credit: Chris Phan/Flickr]

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Chevrolet Sonic’s U.S. Subcompact Market Share Is Plunging – Started Near The Top Now It’s Here http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/chevrolet-sonics-u-s-subcompact-market-share-plunging-started-near-top-now/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/chevrolet-sonics-u-s-subcompact-market-share-plunging-started-near-top-now/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 14:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053129 GM’s share of America’s subcompact segment fell below 10% in the first-quarter of 2015 as Chevrolet Sonic volume tumbled 53%, year-over-year. As a whole, the subcompact category is in decline in early 2015, but a large part of the category’s 9% drop can be attributed to the Sonic. Sales of the Sonic decreased by nearly […]

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Chevrolet Sonic sales chart

GM’s share of America’s subcompact segment fell below 10% in the first-quarter of 2015 as Chevrolet Sonic volume tumbled 53%, year-over-year.

As a whole, the subcompact category is in decline in early 2015, but a large part of the category’s 9% drop can be attributed to the Sonic. Sales of the Sonic decreased by nearly 13,000 units over the last three months.

The Sonic ranked as the second-best-selling subcompact in the United States through the first three months of 2014, a position it held at this stage of 2013 and in each of the last three calendar years.

But through the first three months of 2015, the Sonic is America’s fifth-best-selling subcompact, 25,683 sales back of the top-selling Nissan Versa, a vehicle it trailed by fewer than 11,000 units at this stage in 2014.

In 2014’s first-quarter, the Sonic’s market share climbed to 19% thanks to a 4124-unit improvement year-over-year. A market share drop of nearly ten percentage points just one year later is a shock to GM’s small car system.

2015 Chevrolet Sonic lineup

Chevrolet Spark sales are down 5% this year. Chevrolet Cruze volume is off by 7%. Overall Chevrolet car sales are down 17%. Likewise, General Motors car volume in the U.S. is down 17%, a 45,487-unit deficit (year-over-year) that’s been erased by a 21% surge in light trucks, including a 48,046-unit increase among pickup trucks.

GM has known for quite some time that demand for the Sonic was way below previous expectations. Automotive News reported three months ago that Sonic production at the Orion plant in Michigan would be suspended to clear out a Sonic glut.

But it’s taking a while. At the beginning of this month, GM had a 160-day supply of Sonics. That’s well down from the 258-day supply one month earlier, but still well in excess of the 59-day average across the industry.

Meanwhile, the Sonic isn’t the only subcompact suffering from a downturn. The aging Ford Fiesta is down 22% this year. Kia Rio volume has plunged 37%. The Mazda 2, in a replacement phase, is down 94%. But none of those holes are as large as the one left by the dramatically less popular Sonic, without which the subcompact category would be up 1% in early 2015.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Junkyard Find: 1983 Mazda RX-7 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/junkyard-find-1983-mazda-rx-7/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/junkyard-find-1983-mazda-rx-7/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 13:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052833 First-generation RX-7s aren’t as common in self-service wrecking yards as they were five years ago, but it’s not hard to find a couple in a typical large yard in the Los Angeles or San Francisco areas. Most of the time I don’t photograph these cars, but we’ve seen this ’79, this ’79, this ’80, and […]

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12 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

First-generation RX-7s aren’t as common in self-service wrecking yards as they were five years ago, but it’s not hard to find a couple in a typical large yard in the Los Angeles or San Francisco areas. Most of the time I don’t photograph these cars, but we’ve seen this ’79, this ’79, this ’80, and this ’85 so far in this series, and now we’ve got today’s beat-looking but low-mile ’83 from Northern California.
03 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Do you suppose this is the actual mileage, or did the speedometer cable break in 1991? It seems unlikely that the car has 1,068,798.3 miles on it.

01 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

While California’s tailpipe-emission limits in 1983 seemed incredibly strict by the standards of the other 49 states in 1983, these grams-per-mile numbers are filthy compared to current standards. For example: in 1983, your new California car could spew 0.7 grams of nitrogen oxides per mile; in 2015, the limit is 0.05 grams/mile.

14 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

I hope these “GS” emblems weren’t applied by Mazda. At least it has the beautiful rotareeeee.

The more you look, the more you like!

11 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Is This Cycle World Presenter Stoned? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/cycle-world-presenter-stoned/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/cycle-world-presenter-stoned/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 11:30:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053065 Cycle World, regarded as one of the best motorcycle magazines despite its horrible print design, picks ten “bikes with character” for their latest video. This chum can only remember five of them. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Marc Cernicky and the guys at Cycle World are just having a laugh (after all, it was recorded on […]

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Cycle World, regarded as one of the best motorcycle magazines despite its horrible print design, picks ten “bikes with character” for their latest video. This chum can only remember five of them.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Marc Cernicky and the guys at Cycle World are just having a laugh (after all, it was recorded on 4/20). Or maybe Marc is just straight-up high out of his mind.

[Source: Boing Boing]

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QOTD: Do You Have To Be Showy To Sell Cars? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-showy-sell-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-showy-sell-cars/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 10:30:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053033 I recently realized that Porsche – once noted for producing subtle, performance-focused alternatives to crazy, emotional Italian vehicles – has officially become the German equivalent of Lamborghini. Consider the 911 GT3. When the GT3 first came out back in the early 2000s, it was one of the most subtle performance cars on the road. It […]

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Porsche-911-GT3-RS-07

I recently realized that Porsche – once noted for producing subtle, performance-focused alternatives to crazy, emotional Italian vehicles – has officially become the German equivalent of Lamborghini.

Consider the 911 GT3. When the GT3 first came out back in the early 2000s, it was one of the most subtle performance cars on the road. It had slightly different wheels, slightly updated bodywork, and a slightly enlarged wing. That was it. There was no other way you could possibly know you were dealing with a car that could run rings around any Ferrari on the race track.

Well, that isn’t the case anymore. The latest GT3 has huge wheels. Huge inlets and scoops and air intakes and cooling ducts. Major changes to the bodywork that say “Look at me! I’m a GT3!” And a giant rear wing that could – truly and honestly – double as a desk, or a park bench, or the kind of table you use to mount a circular saw and cut wood, plus the occasional finger.

The GT3 RS is even worse. Back when the 997.2 GT3 RS came out, it was already becoming clear that Porsche had diverted from its status as a formerly great purveyor of subtle sports cars. But in case you weren’t sure, they painted the wheels red, stuck an even larger wing on the back, and stuck red “checkered flag” decals down the sides. I can’t even imagine being seen in this car.

It’s not just the 911 that seems to be more ostentatious than ever before. The rest of the Porsche lineup has also embraced the changes: there are now giant wheels where there used to be average-sized ones. There are huge LED running lights on the front. The Panamera is about as subtle as a brick through a window.

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG. Photo courtesy Autoblog

But it isn’t just Porsche who’s making these changes. When I was growing up, base-model Mercedes products were really restrained. You had dull, simple wheels, and dull, simple designs, and some of them even had black plastic cladding on the bottom to remind everyone that no, this person didn’t opt for a high-performance version or the most expensive S-Class.

Well, that seems to have changed. In 2015, there is no possible way to distinguish AMG cars from non-AMG cars unless you get a look under the hood. I have especially noticed this on the CLA: I once drove the CLA45 AMG, and I thought it was amazing, so I always get very excited when I see a CLA45 on the roads. Except it’s almost never an actual CLA45. It’s usually just a CLA250, with a bigger bumper, and bigger wheels, and even factory AMG badging as part of some annoying “AMG Sport Package.”

Audi, too, is playing this game. Remember the B5 S4, the early-2000s model that offered only subtle updates — painted rocker panels and different wheels — over the standard model? Today’s Audi “S” and “RS” cars are far different. They’re subtle, but showy. They have huge grilles, and big wheels, and obvious body kits. They’re like the kid who raises his hand in class and casually mentions that his dad is a CEO.

This annoys me, because I’ve always enjoyed the automotive “sleeper.” I once had a Mercedes E63 AMG station wagon painted metallic gold that looked – to the vast majority of observers – like the kind of car your grandfather would buy once he got too old to climb up into SUVs. But to people who knew, it was a monster: 500 horsepower, giant V8, Ferrari-style acceleration. It was one of the most exciting cars I’ve ever driven, largely because no one had any idea what it was capable of.

But in today’s world, we’ve gone the other way. More and more modern cars are offering the look of a fast car without the actual goods to back it up. How did this happen? Why did this happen? And in today’s automotive world, is it really necessary to be showy in order to sell cars?

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While You Were Sleeping: Oregon To Allow Lane Splitting, Australia Opening Borders and Andy Wilman Quits http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping-oregon-allow-lane-splitting-australia-opening-borders-andy-wilman-quits/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping-oregon-allow-lane-splitting-australia-opening-borders-andy-wilman-quits/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 10:20:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053009 After their automotive industry has been slowly devastated over the last decade, Australia may open its borders to private imports of new and like-new cars. Top Gear producer Andy Wilman quits show (BBC) Goodbye, Andy. We’ll see you soon. Nissan Australia boss frustrated with uninformed politicians (CarAdvice) Holy shit, Australia has no idea what it wants to […]

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Pontiac G8 GT rear with Australian license plate

After their automotive industry has been slowly devastated over the last decade, Australia may open its borders to private imports of new and like-new cars.

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Mercedes Eyeing Crossovers For Maybach, smart Brands http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/mercedes-eyeing-crossovers-maybach-smart-brands/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/mercedes-eyeing-crossovers-maybach-smart-brands/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 06:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053545 Not too long ago, Mercedes didn’t have plans for either a Maybach or smart crossover. Looks like those plans have changed. Should the Mercedes-Maybach sub-brand gain a crossover to place alongside the S600 and Pullman models, sales and marketing boss Ola Kallenius says the Mercedes GLS set for 2017 would be “the more likely scenario,” […]

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Mercedes-Maybach 01

Not too long ago, Mercedes didn’t have plans for either a Maybach or smart crossover. Looks like those plans have changed.

Should the Mercedes-Maybach sub-brand gain a crossover to place alongside the S600 and Pullman models, sales and marketing boss Ola Kallenius says the Mercedes GLS set for 2017 would be “the more likely scenario,” Autocar reports.

The GLS would differ from the current GL/GLS model, as it would be based upon the S-Class’ current architecture to better go up against other high-end luxury SUVs and crossovers. It would also be powered by the same 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 found in the S600 as well as a 4.0-liter V8 possible for tax purposes in China. Diesel, however, would be out of the question, as Mercedes expects to move the GLS in China and the U.S. where diesel isn’t on the radar of most motorists.

Meanwhile, smart could gain an SUV or crossover based on the forfour/Renault Twingo platform, a move that would bring greater use to said platform beyond its current role. The vehicle would likely improve smart’s long-term profit margins, though Daimler AG chief Dieter Zetsche cautions there would be some engineering challenges involved with the platform’s rear-engine, rear-drive design.

[Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz]

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Saudi Prince Offers Bentleys To Pilots In Yemen Bombing Raid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/saudi-prince-offers-bentleys-pilots-yemen-bombing-raid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/saudi-prince-offers-bentleys-pilots-yemen-bombing-raid/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 20:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052425 After the end of the first phase of a military campaign in Yemen, one Saudi prince decided to reward the pilots with Bentleys for a job well done. Saudi royal family member Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal tweeted that he would give the 100 pilots involved in the bombing operation 100 Bentleys “in appreciation of their […]

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2016-bentley-continental-gt-17

After the end of the first phase of a military campaign in Yemen, one Saudi prince decided to reward the pilots with Bentleys for a job well done.

Saudi royal family member Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal tweeted that he would give the 100 pilots involved in the bombing operation 100 Bentleys “in appreciation of their role” in said operation, the BBC reports. The tweet was shared over 28,000 times and favorited by over 5,000, with many praising the prince for his “generosity.”

However, those affected by the bombing weren’t too thrilled by the proposal. One Yemeni chastised the gesture, stating that no ambulances would be coming to the hospitals the pilots likely helped fill. Others noted the disparity between Al-Waleed’s wealth and the poverty among those in Yemen, with one Jordanian saying “100 or 200 lives for a Bentley” was how “cheap” a human life was for the Saudis.

The original tweet was eventually deleted, with Saudi media reporting the account as having been hacked; the prince himself did not claim this happened.

[Photo credit: Bentley]

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Marchionne Isn’t Finding Any Potential Dates For Marriage http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/marchionne-isnt-finding-potential-dates-marriage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/marchionne-isnt-finding-potential-dates-marriage/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 19:09:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052385 Though FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne is still looking to merge his company with another automaker, no one is all that willing to tie the knot. Despite Marchionne’s quest to consolidate the industry by leading by example, he’s managed to strike out in some way with Ford, General Motors, Peugeot, Renault-Nissan and Volkswagen. Regarding GM, CEO Mary […]

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2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus

Though FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne is still looking to merge his company with another automaker, no one is all that willing to tie the knot.

Despite Marchionne’s quest to consolidate the industry by leading by example, he’s managed to strike out in some way with Ford, General Motors, Peugeot, Renault-Nissan and Volkswagen.

Regarding GM, CEO Mary Barra stated Thursday that her company already had plans of its own and that it wasn’t interested in consolidation with another automaker, according to Detroit Free Press:

We laid out a comprehensive plan that takes us through the early part of next decade. We’re already in that top tier. We have a well-articulated plan and we are not going to entertain anything that would distract us from achieving that plan.

Meanwhile, a proposed tie-up with Volkswagen came to naught, though Marchionne stated such a thing was never in the cards in the first place, despite claims by VW Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch of having met with FCA officials to discuss buying a part or all of FCA.

Though there are still other smaller automakers Marchionne could pursue in the spirit of consolidation, like Mazda and Tata, there’s the issue of his own company’s performance as of late. Already stuck with large debts, Forbes states profitability is a major issue among shareholders regarding the automaker. In the U.S. alone, the issue stems from its pursuit of sales volume over profit via aggressive incentivizing. As a result, margins remain at 4 percent and pre-tax earnings have climbed a mere $2.7 billion, even with revenues doubling by $40 billion since the start of the new decade. Thus, no company would likely consider consolidating with FCA.

As for why Marchionne is banging the drum of consolidation, especially as far as his company is concerned, it comes down to survival in the face of competition from outsiders like Google and Apple. The arrival of non-traditional companies like the two tech giants could force automakers to keep up with the pace of change such companies would set the further the latter group digs into the former.

For now, though, the FCA CEO laments the difficulty in finding a partner, going as far as to provide Bloomberg with a metaphor about the search earlier this month:

One of the most difficult things to do is to get the turkey to invite himself to Thanksgiving dinner.

[Photo credit: FCA]

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General Motors Doing Well In Midsize Truck Segment, Success May Not Last http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/general-motors-well-midsize-truck-segment-success-may-not-last/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/general-motors-well-midsize-truck-segment-success-may-not-last/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 18:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052369 General Motors’ return to the midsize truck segment has done wonders for the automaker and the market, but skeptics aren’t sure how long that will last. Ever since the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins left for the showroom last fall, the segment has grown to over 2 percent of the overall U.S. new-vehicle market […]

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2015 Chevrolet Colorado front side 2

General Motors’ return to the midsize truck segment has done wonders for the automaker and the market, but skeptics aren’t sure how long that will last.

Ever since the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins left for the showroom last fall, the segment has grown to over 2 percent of the overall U.S. new-vehicle market from 1.4 percent last summer, Reuters reports. Industry execs add that as many as 500,000 midsize pickups could be sold this year, double what was sold in 2014.

However, IHS Automotive analyst Tom Libby found that 9 out of 10 Colorado and Canyon owners traded in other GM cars and trucks for the smaller pickups, with over 16 percent coming from ownership of Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras alone. Libby warns this could be a sign of undercutting of sales of models with higher margins.

GM execs and dealers, on the other hand, are happy with the midsize twins. GM President Dan Ammann called the duo a “very good investment,” while GMC’s director of marketing, Rich Latek, says the midsize segment as a whole is “a sleeper segment with huge opportunity.” AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson adds the Colorado and Canyon happen to have been the right trucks to come at the right time to give the segment a shot in the arm.

The party may not last for the duo, though. LMC Automotive notes that the segment would hold at 2 percent for this year, then slip back down by 2020. Meanwhile, the twins would fizzle out from projected sales of 74,000 for the Colorado and 29,500 for the Canyon this year, falling 8.4 percent and 21 percent over the next five years.

[Photo credit: Blake Z. Rong/The Truth About Cars]

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Fifth-Gen Honda Step WGN Debuts With New 2016 Civic Engine, Tailgate System http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/fifth-gen-honda-step-wgn-debuts-new-2016-civic-engine-tailgate-system/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/fifth-gen-honda-step-wgn-debuts-new-2016-civic-engine-tailgate-system/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 17:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052169 Honda revealed the fifth-gen Step WGN for the Japanese market Thursday, which not only features a new flexible tailgate, but the same engine planned for the 2016 Civic. The main draw for the seven-passenger Step WGN is the “Waku Waku” tailgate, which can be lifted up in most circumstances, or can be opened from the side […]

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Honda Step WGN 01

Honda revealed the fifth-gen Step WGN for the Japanese market Thursday, which not only features a new flexible tailgate, but the same engine planned for the 2016 Civic.

The main draw for the seven-passenger Step WGN is the “Waku Waku” tailgate, which can be lifted up in most circumstances, or can be opened from the side via the tailgate’s sub-door. The sub-door has three levels of opening angles, allowing greater ease of access to cargo for occupants when the kei van is parked in a tight space, such as a shopping center or home garage. Third-row passengers can also use the door to exit without opening the full tailgate when the door is paired with the third-row 60-40 Magic Seat.

Under the hood is the 1.5-liter direct-injection VTEC turbo set to provide power for the 2016 Civic. Horsepower and torque figures were not mentioned at this time, but Honda claims output is “equivalent to that of a 2.4-litre engine even while driving with multiple passengers and on hilly roads.” Power is directed to the front or all four corners via CVT.

[Photo credit: Honda]

Honda Step WGN Gallery

Honda Step WGN 01 Honda Step WGN 05 Honda Step WGN 09 Honda Step WGN 02 Honda Step WGN 06 Honda Step WGN 10 Honda Step WGN 07 Honda Step WGN 08

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