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. Tue, 01 Sep 2015 14:00:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Mergers Don’t Make Better Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/aotd-mergers-dont-make-better-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/aotd-mergers-dont-make-better-cars/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 14:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157218 Mergers don’t excite me. I’m not excited about the prospect of walking in to my neighborhood Jeep/Chevy/Buick/Dodge/GMC superstore and thumbing through the soul-less car stocks like a weekend trip to Costco. Bark makes a good business case that Mazda and Subaru could help each other in worldwide sales, and brings up some interesting short-term mashups: rotary engines […]

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FCA US LLC HQ WTFBBQ

Mergers don’t excite me.

I’m not excited about the prospect of walking in to my neighborhood Jeep/Chevy/Buick/Dodge/GMC superstore and thumbing through the soul-less car stocks like a weekend trip to Costco.

Bark makes a good business case that Mazda and Subaru could help each other in worldwide sales, and brings up some interesting short-term mashups: rotary engines with all-wheel drive, a boxer in a Miata, et al. All those things sound fun like monster trucks and cans of Pabst on a Friday night.

But in reality, despite repeated calls from automakers that consolidation will mean the car business can stay “in business,” mergers don’t make better products — but they try to make shareholders happy, if they can even do that (see: Suzuki-Volkswagen, page 231 of your textbook). Shared R&D is often synonymous with “badge engineering” (Cimarron) and when it’s not, well, just look at Saab.

If history has taught us anything, mergers simply leave car people left out in the cold. 

After Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ CEO Sergio Marchionne said this weekend that he’d press for consolidation — whether GM liked it or not — it got me thinking about how it would impact consumers.

In our theoretical world of a GM-Fiat merger on Sept. 1, 2015, there’d be signatures; on Sept. 1, 2020, there’d be cars. And by the looks of most automotive mergers in the past, they wouldn’t be all that good.

History is littered with failed automotive marriages (Ford and its polygamous relationship with European luxury brands, GM and Saab … and Suzuki … and Subaru … and …) with successful partnerships being the exception — not the rule. For every Renault-Nissans, there are three DaimlerChryslers.

If GM and Fiat were to elope tomorrow in all likelihood the platforms would stay where they are for a while — maybe an engine swap here and there — and the marquee stuff would live on. GM would still sell the Corvette, Jeep would still sell the Wrangler. (And the Viper would probably die to death, again.)

But at risk would be unremarkable mass-market cars built to appease a bottom line for a merger that started off with a profit to make. Sergio said the marriage could produce $30 billion a year in EBITDA, and you’d figure they’d be out for every dime. Remember: If GM killed Pontiac once, why not do it again with Dodge?

There’s also the risk of massive recalls on a scale we’ve never seen before. If you put a shared part, designed and built to a budget, on 15 million cars we’d be wise to buy stock in Advil — NHTSA will need all of it.

Perhaps for everyday consumers the differences would be hardly noticeable. The post-merger cars could blend together in a way they already have been blending for the last five years, and normal consumers couldn’t — and wouldn’t — care less.

But for car people, any merger means fewer products on the road and the cars foisted upon us would march closer to a joyless appliance, like our refrigerators.

And I can’t stand cars that are cold.

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Corrupt Red Light Camera Company Sued By Chicago for $300M http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/corrupt-red-light-camera-company-sued-chicago-300m/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/corrupt-red-light-camera-company-sued-chicago-300m/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:15:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157554 Chicago wants $300 million from the company it hired to photograph, ticket and follow drivers after it was revealed that executives bribed city officials for the contract, the Chicago Tribune is reporting. Executives for Redflex paid over $2 million to city officials through a bag man for the $124 million contract from the city, which started […]

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Red light camera in Beaverton, Oregon

Chicago wants $300 million from the company it hired to photograph, ticket and follow drivers after it was revealed that executives bribed city officials for the contract, the Chicago Tribune is reporting.

Executives for Redflex paid over $2 million to city officials through a bag man for the $124 million contract from the city, which started in 2003. City officials are suing for roughly triple that amount, including penalties.

Redflex has been accused of handing out thousands of unnecessary tickets to motorists, including 13,000 in Chicago alone, according to the Tribune. 

The CEO of Redflex, Karen Finley, stepped down after pleading guilty to bribery charges. The city official accused of accepting the $2 million in bribe payments, John Bills, is facing federal charges later this year.

The controversial cameras face an uncertain future in many cities. Officials in Tampa are reviewing that city’s contract that fines motorists more than $150 per offense, with the contracting company pocketing nearly half that amount. The cameras don’t produce significant revenue, Tampa officials say, and the cameras may not make problematic intersections any safer.

“When I saw the numbers of the money and where the money is going right now, that’s money being taken out of our city and it’s quite a large amount,” Tampa City Council member Yolie Capin told the Tampa Tribune. “We felt it should be used for engineering those problematic intersections.”

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2016 Audi Q3 Quattro Review – New-To-You Utility [w/ Video] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/2016-audi-q3-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/2016-audi-q3-review-video/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1155553 2016 Audi Q3 Prestige 2.0-liter, DOHC I-4, CVVT (200 horsepower @ 5,100-6,000 rpm; 207 lbs-ft @ 1,700-5,000 rpm) 6-speed Tiptronic automatic 20 city/28 highway/23 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 20.2 mpg (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: Prestige Trim, Quattro AWD, Sport Package Base Price: $34,625* As Tested: $42,175* * Prices include $925 destination charge. Audi’s Q3 isn’t a new vehicle by any stretch. […]

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2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-002

2016 Audi Q3 Prestige

2.0-liter, DOHC I-4, CVVT (200 horsepower @ 5,100-6,000 rpm; 207 lbs-ft @ 1,700-5,000 rpm)

6-speed Tiptronic automatic

20 city/28 highway/23 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

20.2 mpg (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Prestige Trim, Quattro AWD, Sport Package

Base Price:
$34,625*
As Tested:

$42,175*

* Prices include $925 destination charge.

Audi’s Q3 isn’t a new vehicle by any stretch. It was first launched in 2011 but didn’t make it to America until the 2015 model year. That’s because the Q3 plays in a segment that’s new to us — the even-smaller compact luxury crossover. This form factor isn’t new to the rest of the world, but until Land Rover brought the Range Rover Evoque to America and BMW followed up with the X1, there wasn’t a real focus on small luxury soft-roaders.

With crossovers being the latest craze and every luxury brand looking to move down-market to capture fresh young buyers, it was only a matter of time till Mercedes and Audi joined the party with the GLA and the Q3. With a “low” $33,700 starting MSRP, the baby Audi is the more practical counterpart to Audi’s sharp-looking A3 sedan. Although CamCord shoppers have to give up a great deal of room to upgrade to the A3, the Q3 has the potential to be a more sensible option.

Exterior
Outside, the Q3 plays the same farm girl card as the majority of the Audi lineup. The wholesome sheetmetal is attractive, but completely devoid of the dramatic styling cues that grace the new GLA. Closer inspection reveals that the headlamps and grille design are different from the 2015 Q5. That’s because the Q3 was one of the first Audis to wear the brand’s latest front end design. The sharper lines, crisper angles and new headlamp design can also be seen on the next generation Q5. The look is fresh and instantly recognizable, but some may call it is so restrained that it is almost boring. 

At 172.6 inches long, the Q3 is nearly a foot shorter than the X3, Q5, NX or XC60. That means the Q3 is aimed squarely at the BMW X1, Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes GLA. Unlike the GLA and X1, the Q3’s side profile screams miniaturized SUV, not jacked up hatchback.

The rear design is 8/10ths Q5 despite being totally unrelated. Unlike most crossovers, the tail lamps are housed solely on the hatch itself. You’d think that this would allow the opening to be larger, but access is somewhat limited much like its bigger brother Q5. Total cargo room suffers more than you would think since Audi decided to give the rear window a more dramatic rake than on its other crossovers.

2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard

Interior
Like the exterior, the interior design is simple almost to the point of being plain. Although the A3 came to the USA before the Q3, the latter houses an older design and that explains why the interior looks more like the rest of the Audi line up, not the minimalist design we see in the A3. Our model didn’t have the optional wood trim ($350) but I recommend it as it helps break up the black-on-black-on-black interior in our model. Also on the must-have list are the optional sport seats that add extending seat bottom cushions. Audi’s usual attention to detail is easily seen in the interior where fit and finish is notably higher than the mass-market Escape, CR-V or Tiguan.

In an unusual move, Audi makes 12-way power front seats standard and equips them with 4-way power lumbar support. This puts front seat adjustability above the GLA, which skimps on passenger seat comfort to keep the price low. Also surprising, leather seating surfaces are standard while most luxury brands have moved to imitation leather as the base material. The optional sport seats are the most comfortable seats in this segment, according to my back, besting the BMW and Mercedes. Helping my marriage out during the week I had the Q3, the passenger seat is just as comfortable (eliminating the complaints I received when I tested the RDX and GLA). Like Audi’s A3, the Q3 lacks driver’s seat memory, an odd omission when you can find that feature on less expensive Kias, not to mention the Range Rover, BMW and Mercedes. Heck, Mercedes even gives the front passenger standard 3 position seat memory.

Thanks to the Q3’s upright profile, the rear seats are surprisingly accommodating. Although combined front and rear legroom figures are lower than the Q5 and the overall vehicle is smaller than the larger Audi, the Q3 was better able to handle a rearward facing child seat behind a front passenger. The difference is down to the shape of the Q3’s dash which allows the right front seat to move farther forward, freeing up more room in the back. Headroom was equally impressive despite the panoramic moonroof. BMW is claiming a hair more room in the 2016 X1 which will mean the Audi and BMW are the best options if you plan on carrying folks in the rear. On the other hand, the GLA has a more cramped rear bench and my head touched the ceiling unless I leaned inboard. When it comes to cargo hauling, the Q3’s hold is 33-percent smaller than the next size crossover and right about the same as your average midsize sedan.

2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard-004

Infotainment
The Germans have cornered the market in controller-knob based infotainment systems since BMW first introduced iDrive in 2001. Since then, BMW and Audi have been in a gadget arms race. Taken as a whole, MMI isn’t as intuitive as iDrive with more confusing menus and illogical button placement. While I’m sure you would get used to it over time, even after a week I found myself needing to stare at the array of buttons for way too long to find what I needed. If you have another Audi in the family, the Q3’s MMI button placement will take even more getting used to since they dropped it in the dash, not the center console. On the flip side, this means you’re less likely to spill your drink on your MMI controller.

On the flip side, MMI has probably one of the most advanced feature sets on the market thanks to their well-executed Google integration. While iDrive allows you to search for Google results (as do a number of other systems), MMI takes it a step further and overlays your traditional map images with Google satellite imagery and even allows you to zoom in and view Google Street View images so you can “creep” your neighbors. On the down side, the Google map function requires a $15-$30 a month subscription after the first few years for the built-in cellular modem, and the system has troubles downloading maps fast enough when traveling at freeway speeds, leaving you with a blank screen at times.

Although navigation and the Google Map love is optional, the large LCD and iPod integration are standard, things not found in the 2015 Mercedes GLA. Likely due to the Q3’s standard LCD and upcoming 2016 X1, Mercedes has announced the 2016+ GLA will get a 7-inch LCD standard.

2016 Audi Q3 Engine-001

Drivetrain
Nestled sideways under the hood is one of VW/Audi’s ubiquitous 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engines. Despite having the latest in direct injection and variable valve timing tech, the engine is a little short on twist. Output comes in at 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. This is essentially the same as the related Volkswagen Tiguan, but notably lower than the X1 (228 hp/258 lb-ft), Evoque (240 hp/250 lb-ft) or the GLA (208 hp/258 lb-ft). This is also lower than the nearly identical 2.0-liter engine in the Q5, which produces 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque in 2015 and 245 hp, 273 lb-ft in the upcoming next generation Q5.

In order to keep costs down, American bound Q3 models ditch Audi’s 7-speed dual clutch for a more traditional 6-speed Tiptronic automatic. This means that in addition to being down on power, the Q5 is short on gears. Although 6-speeds is the norm in the mass-market segment, the GLA has a 7-speed DCT, the X1 uses an 8-speed and the Evoque a 9-speed. While the engine is partly to blame, the lack of gears has a distinct impact on fuel economy and acceleration. Despite being heavier, producing more power, and being faster to 60, the larger Q5 2.0T nets the same EPA combined score of 23 mpg in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive models. That’s behind the 24 mpg rating for the Evoque, 27 mpg for the 2015 X1 and significantly lower than the 29 mpg delivered by the GLA 250. In a week of mixed driving, our Q3 averaged under 21 mpg.

2016 Audi Q3 Instrument Cluster

Drive
Out on the road, the first thing you need to know is that the rear wheel drive 2015 BMW X1 is not long for this world. While you may find them on dealer lots now, between the time I had the Q3 and me writing this review BMW announced the new FWD-based X1 will be arriving in the fall. This means two things. First, if you want a small luxury crossover with tail-happy RWD dynamics, you need to hurry. Second, TTAC hasn’t driven the new X1 so it’s not possible to comment on it in an intelligent fashion, but we can make some educated assumptions.

BMW is making all US-bound X1 models AWD. The logic is likely driving dynamics (like Jaguar with their ill-fated X-Type sedan) and not supposed off-road ability as found in the Land Rover Evoque. That sets the BMW apart from the Audi and Mercedes which both have front-wheel drive. Standard all-wheel drive solves the traction and torque steer problems found in a front driver, but it does little to address the nearly 60/40 weight balance found in most transverse engined vehicles. While the 2016 X1 may be the best balanced in this shoe box sized category, 56/44 (front/rear) is a far cry from BMW’s almost religious dedication to 50/50 weight balanced vehicles. This means that when chucking your 2016 crossover into a corner, the BMW no longer has a neutral handling advantage, and it’s where the strangely wide tires on the Q3 make a surprising difference.

2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-010

BMW shoes the new X1 with 225-width tires, the narrowest in the segment, while the GLA and Evoque start with 235s. Audi starts with 235s on the base model, but the Premium trim and an $800 option on the base model kick the rubber up two sizes to 255/40R18s — two sizes larger than the GLA 45 AMG and three sizes ahead of the X1. While suspension tuning obviously plays a big role in road holding, the Audi starts with more grip and then adds an excellent suspension to boot. Despite the wide 40-series tires, the Q3’s suspension is tuned more compliant than the GLA 250 and lacks the unsettled behavior on broken pavement I noted in the Evoque. While BMW’s FWD models I’ve tested in Europe aren’t as dynamic as their RWD models, they are excellent for front drivers.

Although there is clearly more body roll in the Audi than in the GLA or GLA AMG, the Audi is quite simply more sure footed. Sure, the GLA is lighter at about 3,500lbs vs the Q3’s nearly 3,700, but the 200 pound difference can’t make up for the wider rubber on the Audi. While the 2015 BMW X1 with the M Sport package was the best handling vehicle in this segment by a hair, 2016 transfers the crown to the Q3. (And the difference in 2015 was smaller than X1 buyers would like to admit.)

2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-012

On the downside, the Q3’s heritage does reveal. You see, the Q3 is not based on VW-Audi’s new MQB platform like the current Golf and A3, instead related to the older A3. That shows itself in steering feel. There isn’t any. While the rest of the competition also employs electric power steering, the Q3’s rack is particularly vague, although it is precise and well weighted. Also a problem is the Q3’s acceleration. The Audi’s 0-60 acceleration time clocked in at 7.6 seconds, slower than a Hybrid Camry and about the same as a Honda CR-V. That’s 8/10ths slower than the Evoque, a full second slower than the GLA 250 and 1.3 seconds behind BMW’s claim for the new 2016 X1. That’s before we consider the 2016 Mercedes GLA 45 AMG with its blistering 4.3 second 0-60 sprint thanks to a whopping 375 horsepower.

Although the Q3 is slower and thirstier than the GLA, value, interior accommodations and handling are where the Audi shines. Even though the $33,700 starting price of the Q3 is higher than the 2015 GLA 250 at $31,300, the Audi comes with standard leather seating, dual-zone climate control, xenon headlamps, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and keyless go, backup camera, iPod interface, auto dimming mirror, and HD and SiriusXM radio. All of these are extra on the Mercedes. This makes a comparably equipped GLA $3,000 more than the Audi. The Evoque is the most expensive, running $7,000-10,000 more than the Q3, and the 2016 X1 starts at $34,800 and would crest $37,000 when equipped comparably to a base Q3.

2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-011

The surprising thing about the Q3’s pricing structure is how slowly the pricing builds compared to the other luxury options. This makes the Q3 perhaps the easiest upsell from a Hyundai Tucson or a VW Tiguan. Hyundai’s 2016 Tucson Limited ranges from $29,900-34,900 with equipment levels similar to a $33,700-39,000 Q3 making the bump a reasonable $5,000 or so. That’s much narrower than the distance between the Tuscon and GLA 250, which would end up $6,400-10,000 more when comparably equipped. The Range Rover Evoque? The Baby Rover is by far the premium entry and will set you back $15,000-20,000 more than a comparable Hyundai.

I know it sounds odd to compare an Audi and a Hyundai. In most other segments I would say it’s an inappropriate comparison. However, this crop of “inexpensive” luxury vehicles was designed to attract mainstream brand shoppers, so the comparison makes sense. In this light, the Q3 also makes sense. It’s a much easier up-sell over a mainstream crossover while delivering a luxury brand, luxury interior and the best handling in the segment. The X1 and GLA are faster to 60, the Mercedes is arguably a more premium brand and the Evoque offers a level of customization that higher-end luxury shoppers demand, but none of them is as easy of a cross-shop with the top-end mainstream CUVs. For that value proposition and handling performance the Q3 is my favorite entry in this segment, and it’s a new engine and 7-speed DCT away from perfection. Let’s hope someone at Audi is listening.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.85 Seconds

0-60: 7.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16 Seconds @ 89.2 MPH

2016 Audi Q3 Cargo Area 2016 Audi Q3 Cargo Area-001 2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard 2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard-001 2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard-002 2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard-003 2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard-004 2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard-005 2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard-006 2016 Audi Q3 Engine 2016 Audi Q3 Engine-001 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-001 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-002 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-003 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-004 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-007 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-008 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-009 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-010 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-011 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-012 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-013 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-014 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-015 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-016 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-017 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-018 2016 Audi Q3 Front Seats 2016 Audi Q3 Grille 2016 Audi Q3 Grille-001 2016 Audi Q3 Headlamps 2016 Audi Q3 HVAC Controls 2016 Audi Q3 Instrument Cluster 2016 Audi Q3 Instrument Cluster-001 2016 Audi Q3 Seat Controls 2016 Audi Q3 Seats 2016 Audi Q3 Seats-001

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Piston Slap: Justy-fied Freestylin’ over CVTs, Part V http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/piston-slap-justy-fied-freestylin-cvts-part-v/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/piston-slap-justy-fied-freestylin-cvts-part-v/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156466   TTAC commentator Anomaly149 writes: Sajeev, here’s one for you: I have a CVT-equipped 2004 Saturn Ion Quad Coupe with ~140,000 miles. While you can write a book on the things that are weird with the car (key won’t release from cylinder sometimes unless you push this button inside the steering column, sometimes the neutral safety […]

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TTAC commentator Anomaly149 writes:

Sajeev, here’s one for you:

I have a CVT-equipped 2004 Saturn Ion Quad Coupe with ~140,000 miles. While you can write a book on the things that are weird with the car (key won’t release from cylinder sometimes unless you push this button inside the steering column, sometimes the neutral safety switch actuator machine-guns when stopped at a stoplight, it eats front sway links like it’s a contest, etc.), so far it’s been reliable and efficient.

The thing I’m worried about is the longevity of that CVT. I’ve read a lot of bad things, and recently the transmission has started “shifting” hard from a stop. Sometimes the vehicle starts moving from a stop with a fairly violent jolt, even if the gas pedal is barely pressed. The problem is very intermittent, but has been getting a little more frequent. The dealer says they find nothing wrong. Is this worth investigating? Do they even make repair parts for these CVTs anymore?

I’d love to keep the car running a bit longer, but the last thing I need is a dead transmission on an hour-long commute.

Sajeev answers:

Wow. You got 140,000 miles out of a VTi transaxle: the centerpiece of terrible ideas leading up to GM’s decision to burn 2 billion to NOT buy Fiat.

No surprise TTAC did the Death Watch thang, but Farago himself couldn’t imagine a world where Fiat dusts off a classic move, hostile takeover style.

Does anyone remember the VTi and the lawsuit? Repair or rebuilding is out of the question: consider yourself lucky and shop for a new vehicle. Or perform a gearbox swap with a Delta-bodied GM product with a more conventional auto or manual transmission, if you are the “save and restomod” type. I did quite like the Cobalt XFE I tested way back — it was super-cheap fun!

And don’t laugh, an ION Quad Coupe is the AMC Pacer of the last decade: the restomod route isn’t totally stupid, especially if you can cram LS4-FTW into the Delta’s engine bay. A more believable 5-speed automatic swap sounds pretty sweet.

I’d do this in a heartbeat. Parts will be dirt cheap, especially if you buy a complete car on Craigslist. Take out the gearbox, spend a weekend swap, scrap the rest and lose less than a grand on the deal.

Or just sell it now while it runs, telling the new owner about the swap and it’s future as the next AMC Pacer.

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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You Can Pay $2.5 Million For a Volkswagen Now http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/can-pay-2-5-million-volkswagen-now/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/can-pay-2-5-million-volkswagen-now/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 20:30:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157306 Bugatti’s successor to the Veyron, the Chiron (are those pronounced similarly?) will reportedly cost $2.5 million, according to Car. The hyper car, which was shown to prospective owners in France, will be a quad turbo, W-16 that produces more than 1,400 horsepower. According to the report, the car will make its debut in Geneva next […]

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Bugatti Veyron Pur Sang

Bugatti’s successor to the Veyron, the Chiron (are those pronounced similarly?) will reportedly cost $2.5 million, according to Car.

The hyper car, which was shown to prospective owners in France, will be a quad turbo, W-16 that produces more than 1,400 horsepower. According to the report, the car will make its debut in Geneva next year.

The price hike is roughly $200,000 over the Veyron, which started at $1.7 million and eventually ballooned to $2.3 million by the end of its production. While the price difference is enough for your own personal fleet of Volkswagen GTIs, how big does your yacht need to be anyway?

Car says that more than a few prospective buyers have raised their hands for the new car — somewhere between 10 and 99 (Double-digit isn’t a very descriptive modifier, Car) and that they expect the Chiron’s top speed to approach 300 mph.

Bugatti has said the plan is to build 500 cars — 1 Chiron for $2.5 million and 499 Special Editions that will cost much, much more.

A few prototypes have been spotted around Los Angeles International Airport and other locales, but it’s unclear how Bugatti will spit in the face of physics this time around.

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The Biggest Car Interior Makers Are Now Companies We’ve Never Heard Of http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/biggest-car-interior-makers-now-companies-weve-never-heard/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/biggest-car-interior-makers-now-companies-weve-never-heard/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 17:30:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157170 On Monday, Magna International completed its sale of its interior business to Grupo Antolin, a Spanish firm that’s relatively unknown outside of Spain. That’s on top of Johnson Control International getting out of the interior business, along with other automakers and suppliers, as John McElroy pointed out in a well-written column for Autoblog. Magna’s sale underscores […]

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magnastronach Picture courtesy deadlysins.info

On Monday, Magna International completed its sale of its interior business to Grupo Antolin, a Spanish firm that’s relatively unknown outside of Spain.

That’s on top of Johnson Control International getting out of the interior business, along with other automakers and suppliers, as John McElroy pointed out in a well-written column for Autoblog.

Magna’s sale underscores the fact that the car-making business — and especially their interiors — isn’t exactly lucrative for most suppliers.

For what it’s worth, the sale helps reduce Magna’s exposure to a recently volatile Canadian currency, but long-term, Magna didn’t see margins improving on interiors and got out.

Instead, Magna’s looking at transmissions and other automotive parts — like other suppliers — as a better source of revenue and margins for a healthier bottom line.

(His concern is shared by Sergio Marchionne, who has a few ideas about consolidation.)

Like McElroy points out, the large players in the interior business, now Grupo Antolin and Yanfeng, are relative unknowns in a business where sales are brisk and cheaper is always better.

In short, hold on to your door handles.

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Honda Won’t Sell Tiny S660 in America, Because of Course Not http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/honda-wont-sell-tiny-s660-america-course-not/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/honda-wont-sell-tiny-s660-america-course-not/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 16:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157082 Honda won’t import its tiny S660 convertible to the United States because we are a nation of giant people who drive giant cars, Automotive News is reporting. John Mendel, executive vice president for Honda, said three weeks ago that the S660 could bring some “spice” to the American Honda lineup, but apparently he looked at […]

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Honda won’t import its tiny S660 convertible to the United States because we are a nation of giant people who drive giant cars, Automotive News is reporting.

John Mendel, executive vice president for Honda, said three weeks ago that the S660 could bring some “spice” to the American Honda lineup, but apparently he looked at a nearby parking lot and changed his mind.

“When the practicalities of the market come in, and the car only so big, that might not be the best car for the U.S. market,” Mendel told Automotive News. “It might be better for India or China or somewhere else.”

Mendel said the “baby NSX” rendering that came out was a “design study” from their R&D labs in California, but stopped short of saying anything further about that car.

According to the report, the long-awaited Civic Type R should arrive in North America next year, which means we won’t have to make do with the Civic Si and exciting redesigned CR-Z as the fastest Hondas money can buy much longer.

Honda is expected to reveal its next-generation Civic at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September.

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Columnist: Consumer Reports ‘Prostituted’ Itself With Tesla Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/columnist-consumer-reports-prostituted-tesla-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/columnist-consumer-reports-prostituted-tesla-review/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 15:30:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157098 Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins (great name) slammed Consumer Reports for its glowing review and better-than-perfect score for the Tesla Model S P85D, in part, because the $127,000 car still qualifies for a government tax break. “Prostitute is not too strong a word,” he wrote. “… (Consumer Reports) is shilling not only for the […]

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2012 Tesla Model S

Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins (great name) slammed Consumer Reports for its glowing review and better-than-perfect score for the Tesla Model S P85D, in part, because the $127,000 car still qualifies for a government tax break.

“Prostitute is not too strong a word,” he wrote. “… (Consumer Reports) is shilling not only for the car but the government policies that subsidize it.”

Jenkins takes aim at the state and federal tax incentives still available for the vehicle — which are going away in many places — and at the magazine for hyping its review so heavily, and subsequently giving it away for free on its subscription-based website.

Jenkins’ point is re-enforced by the fact that Consumer Reports sent to media an embargoed statement summarizing their review the day before it was published, which is unusual for the consumer magazine.

Included in the statement:

“The P85D represents a glimpse into the future of automotive technology in which cars will be more energy-efficient than ever, while still delivering a terrific blend of performance and practicality,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports director of automotive testing in the statement. “The Tesla is a shining example of how higher fuel economy standards can be achieved without sacrificing performance.”

Jenkins aimed at that performance by saying that if Consumer Reports was concerned with energy efficiency, it wouldn’t hype the battery draining “insane” and “ludicrous” speed modes in its review.

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Hammer Time: A Shotgun Hit & Run http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/hammer-time-shotgun-hit-run/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/hammer-time-shotgun-hit-run/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 15:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1091953 “Honey? I just got into an accident!” she said. My body experienced an instant adrenaline rush as my mind wandered through the worst “what if?” possibility of that moment, something like the image above. My wife… Hospital… Pain… Medical bills… The other driver… “Is everyone okay?” I asked in reply. “Yeah, everyone’s fine. We moved […]

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“Honey? I just got into an accident!” she said.

My body experienced an instant adrenaline rush as my mind wandered through the worst “what if?” possibility of that moment, something like the image above.

My wife… Hospital… Pain… Medical bills… The other driver…

“Is everyone okay?” I asked in reply.

“Yeah, everyone’s fine. We moved the cars and we’re now on the side of the road.”

Thank God! When I got there, this is what greeted me.

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Thankfully, my wife had this Prius which was battered and bloodied, but still able to drive with what we call in the car business, “a whiskey lick”.

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The other car, which dim-wittedly cut across two lanes of traffic, had simonized its own rear passenger doors, along with the rear quarter panel.

The other driver was far, far away, and within a few moments we both figured out why. The car wasn’t his. To make matters worse, he was going to change his story now that the cars got moved.

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There was a small pile of orange debris where the impact took place to the right of the manhole, but for the next hour and change I would be stuck dealing with one of the many humanoid scumbags that we unfortunately find in our travels.

Stories were told and fabricated, and in the end the cop exclaimed, “I’m just going to let the insurance companies fight this one out!”

My wife wasn’t found at fault but the damage was done. The other driver’s insurance wanted to take the case to arbitration and, because we only had fleet insurance (through my dealership), we were only covered for what we hit — not what hits us.

The damage inflicted on our car would be stuck in legal limbo for months on end, so I decided to get a bit… creative. I perused the dealer auctions to see what was out there that would make my wife happy.

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That list was painfully short. She wanted what she already had and Toyota only exported about 5,000 of these hybrids a year to North America from 2001 to 2003. These hybrids usually find themselves overseas sooner rather than later. The picture above is from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Older hybrids are becoming enormously popular in countries that don’t subsidize the purchase of diesel fuel — and rightfully so due to their over-engineering and outstanding fuel economy.

It took a couple of weeks to find one… at a salvage auction. When your car is smashed, flooded, burnt, or scratched up like an abandoned 60-year-old roller rink, it winds up at a salvage auction where everyone from junkyards to exporters get to bid on the remnants.

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This particular 2002 Toyota Prius was the same exact car as my wife’s daily driver. It looks green to me, but light blue to nearly everybody else. Yep, I’m hopelessly colorblind when it comes to the greenish blue hues of modern cars.

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The Prius had been sent on a one-way trip to the salvage auction due to a nice little whack on the rear bumper.

The cost of replacing that entire bumper assembly, straightening the frame, and blending the paint on this vehicle to OEM specs was too much for USAA. So they wrote their customer a check and brought this first generation Prius to Copart, which liquidates about two million salvage vehicles a year for insurance companies.

Was I really going to put my wife in a vehicle that already had frame damage?

Hell No! Not in this life, and hopefully not the next one either if I’m fortunate enough to meet and marry her all over again. However, I did have one not so small psychological issue.

My wife likes to stick with what works for her. Friends. House. Husband. She rarely buys and never sells. The same is true for her daily driver. That Prius is not only ‘cute’ but also offers fantastic visibility and averages her about 40 mpg. Those are the only two things she cares about. Luxury? Sport? Doesn’t matter a lick. She loves a car where she can see everything around her and hates the super-sized models. Minivans and SUVs are not her thing.

I couldn’t sell her car. So I wound up buying that bumper-less Prius for $1,050 plus a bit over $300 worth of inflated seller fees. The plan was to simply replace the panels for her car and re-sell what was left.

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I tossed the bad bumper onto the passenger side seats and took the car to a body shop. And then I quickly changed my mind.

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As a guy who used to inspect, appraise and liquidate over 10,000 vehicles every year for an auto finance company during, I got to know the difference between a physically sound vehicle, and one that’s probably worth more dead than alive.

A moderate impact like this is typically considered minor frame damage, while one that manages to smash up the C-pillar (the near vertical supports to the sides of your rear window) is considered a death blow for almost all older cars. It would take about $700 to make everything right on this car and then I could sell it after a state inspection and a rebuilt title.

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The frame got straightened. A rear bumper assembly and a tail light were ordered. Some paint blending and a small battery replacement (thank God it wasn’t the big one). Now had a $2,200 Prius with 40,000 fewer miles than my wife’s daily driver. A nasty rainstorm and about a thousand miles of driving confirmed that the car was as good as used!

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So it’s easy to figure out what happened next, right? Yep. I gave it to her. In this case “her” was a long-time customer whose daughter is taking classes at UNC Chapel Hill. I showed her pictures of the way the car was before the repairs were made, and she had it checked out by her mechanic.

She signed the paperwork which included an addendum for the salvage history, and that was that along with a $700 down payment.

In two years, I’ll either have a $4,500 gain, or in two months I’ll be sweating a $1,500 loss. That’s the risk you take when you self-finance cars. Lucky for me, “The Bank of Steve” tries to play a conservative game when it comes to financing folks, and I tend to say no to a lot more people than I say yes. My customer was successful with a 2000 Prizm they now owned, so hopefully the Prius will be her second keeper.

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So that part of my life was solved until I got home that evening.

Wife with earnest smile: “Have you found another Prius like mine?”

Remembering that I haven’t forgot about finding her impossible dream: “Oh… ummm….. what do you think about a Versa?”

Wife, in mild snark mode: “What do you think about a glockenspiel? I have no idea what a Versa is. Is it blue?”

“Well… umm… it’s black. Like my coffee.”

Wife jokingly turning the screws: “Let’s see if you can find a blue one! I’ll keep driving my car in the meantime.”

Thankfully I have some time to unscrew this situation, but how about you? Have you ever been in the unenviable position of trying to find a used car for a family member who is a bit… selective? Feel free to share any wrecks of a mental or physical nature that came afterwards.

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Terrorists Could Make Autonomous Cars A Security Nightmare http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/terrorists-make-autonomous-cars-security-nightmare/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/terrorists-make-autonomous-cars-security-nightmare/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 14:30:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157026 Self-driving cars could usher in a new form of terrorism, an investment analyst writes (via SlashDot). Alex Rubalcava, who is an investment advisor in California, says that autonomous cars would be “the greatest force multiplier to emerge in decades for criminals and terrorists. “A future Timothy McVeigh will not need to drive a truck full of […]

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Google Autonomous Vehicle Prototype Circa December 2014

Self-driving cars could usher in a new form of terrorism, an investment analyst writes (via SlashDot).

Alex Rubalcava, who is an investment advisor in California, says that autonomous cars would be “the greatest force multiplier to emerge in decades for criminals and terrorists.

“A future Timothy McVeigh will not need to drive a truck full of fertilizer to the place he intends to detonate it. A burner email account, a prepaid debit card purchased with cash, and an account, tied to that burner email, with an AV car service will get him a long way to being able to place explosives near crowds, without ever being there himself.”

Criminals in Denver have already used burners, pre-paid cards and fake names to rent Car2go cars for drive-by shootings.

Rubalcava’s discussion of the risk that autonomous cars may bring to international security is a short few paragraphs in a much longer market analysis on those cars and their potential investors.

Included in his assessment is that dense urban centers may spread out (suburban sprawl all over again) if self-driving cars can shuttle us back and forth to work without their drivers actually being awake. Rubalcava also speculates that an average autonomous car could travel twice as far as a normal car, up to 50,000 miles per year if the driver doesn’t have to actually drive, and that the cost per mile for an autonomous car will be significantly lower than an average car, which would increase consumption.

(And he correctly points out that very few companies that develop technologies make it long enough to mass produce them, i.e. 1990s dot-coms.)

Even though much of his analysis is dedicated toward financial issues and scaling autonomous cars for a global market, Rubalcava says that investors should be wary of initial government intervention to mitigate security risks that a self-driving bomb car could pose. Beyond that, autonomous cars will be hugely profitable — maybe before we’re all dead.

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Bucky Fuller’s Dymaxion Car – Invention Ahead of Its Time or Death Trap? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/bucky-fullers-dymaxion-car-invention-ahead-time-death-trap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/bucky-fullers-dymaxion-car-invention-ahead-time-death-trap/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 14:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156546 To be completely honest, I’ve never really understood all the adulation showered upon Buckminster Fuller. Yes, I know he was a visionary who popularized (but did not invent) the geodesic dome, which has some practical applications, but a lot of his innovations seem to me to be just a bit crackpotish. With the exception of […]

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To be completely honest, I’ve never really understood all the adulation showered upon Buckminster Fuller. Yes, I know he was a visionary who popularized (but did not invent) the geodesic dome, which has some practical applications, but a lot of his innovations seem to me to be just a bit crackpotish. With the exception of the aforementioned domes, few of his other projects were fully practical. Take his Dymaxion car for example.

Fuller, in fact, didn’t like to call it a car since he saw it as the first stage in developing a vehicle that could both fly like an airplane and taxi on the ground like an automobile. He originally envisioned it to have inflatable wings. However, like many other of Fuller’s concepts, those wings were strictly conceptual and required improvements in materials science and manufacturing before they could be effected. The same was true of the “jet stilts” Fuller proposed as propulsion units; the development of real jet engines wouldn’t take place for at least another decade.

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Fuller had no formal training as an engineer, which may explain the Dymaxion’s unusual layout and chassis. It’s a three wheeler in a reverse trike configuration, with the front wheels driven by a flathead Ford V8 engine mounted midship, behind the passenger compartment and in front of the rear wheel. The front wheels are just for propelling the car, they do not steer. The single rear wheel is responsible for steering the car. It has up to 90 degrees of lock so the Dymaxion could pivot on its own axis, making parking easy. For reasons unclear to me, Fuller decided to use two separate frames, one to support the body and the other to support the rear-mounted drivetrain, hinging the two frames with a pivot near the front wheels. While the rear wheel was suspended, according to the sources I found, the front wheels were fixed.

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Fuller had his drinking buddy, sculptor Isamu Noguchi, design the Dymaxion’s teardrop shape. Aerodynamics — then called streamlining — was in its infancy, but in modern wind tunnel testing the Dymaxion car has been shown to have an optimum low drag shape. The body was fabricated with aluminum skin mounted on an ash wood frame, with a large removable canvas roof.

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A total of three Dymaxion cars were completed. The initial plan was to sell them commercially and the first Dymaxion car was put on display at the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. Unfortunately, a politician trying to get a closer look at the Dymaxion as it approached the fair grounds, managed to hit it with his own car, overturning the prototype and killing its driver. Chicago politics being what it was, the politician fled the scene and his involvement was left out of the news stories, resulting in the Dymaxion car unfairly getting the reputation as a death trap. Investors abandoned the project and the company Fuller started to produce the Dymaxion car folded.

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While the reputation was not earned, it appears that the Dymaxion car still wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to drive. It was very difficult to drive in a cross wind, and its aircraft shape created lift at speed, causing the rear wheel to lose ground contact and making it impossible to steer the vehicle. Overheating was also a problem. Though there was a rooftop snorkel intended to draw in cool air, the heat in the engine compartment created positive pressure, reversing the air flow. Fuller knew of the shortcomings and stated that the Dymaxion “was an invention that could not be made available to the general public without considerable improvements.” He also only allowed trained drivers to pilot the prototypes.

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Only one of the three prototypes has survived and, until a recent restoration, it was not in operating condition. Jeff Lane of the Lane Motor Museum commissioned the fabrication of an accurate replica of the first prototype, which Lane felt was the purest expression of Fuller’s vision. Most of the work was done in the Czech Republic, with the eight year build being completed last year. To celebrate, Lane drove the replica from the museum’s home in Nashville to the concours held on Amelia Island in Florida. It took three days. “It was OK,” Mr. Lane told the Wall Street Journal. “You have to look ahead and watch the grade of the road.” Crosswinds are also a problem, with the vehicle wanting to steer into the wind.

You also have to pay attention to how the road is crowned. Both Dan Neil of the WSJ, and Autoweek, when Lane gave them access to the Dymaxion, report that driving it is a white knuckle experience. The single rear wheel wants to go downhill away from the crown of the road, making the car pivot, requiring corrective input from the driver. Because that back wheel is also suspended by what amounts to a huge swing arm, the corrections can induce oscillations, which Neil compared to the wobbling of a grocery cart’s bad caster. Autoweek said that driving the Dymaxion was “terrifying”, the scariest thing they’d ever driven.

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One can only imagine what it was like to drive as designed. Though the replica is accurate, hydraulic systems replaced cable actuated brakes and steering on the original and the steering, which Fuller designed to take an interminable 35 turns to go lock to lock, has been quickened to just six turns, making the needed constant corrections a bit easier.

I spoke with Lane when he was displaying the Dymaxion car as a featured special vehicle at the 2015 Concours of America at St. John’s. Interestingly, when I asked him how it drove, his remarks echoed those of oddball car collector Myron Vernis’ description of how the Davis Divan (another three wheeler, though with a traditional trike layout) drove: kind of scary.

Photos by the author. You can see the full gallery of photos here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Chart Of The Day: Subaru Sets Monthly U.S. WRX/STI Sales Record In July 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/chart-day-subaru-sets-monthly-u-s-wrxsti-sales-record-july-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/chart-day-subaru-sets-monthly-u-s-wrxsti-sales-record-july-2015/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 13:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1144009 After two consecutive years of growth, including record-setting U.S. sales achievements in 2014, what does the Subaru WRX do for an encore performance? An all-time monthly record of 3,716 WRX/STI sales in July 2015 starts the second-half off strongly after a first-half in which sales of Subaru’s rally-inspired nameplate jumped ahead of last year’s sales […]

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After two consecutive years of growth, including record-setting U.S. sales achievements in 2014, what does the Subaru WRX do for an encore performance?

An all-time monthly record of 3,716 WRX/STI sales in July 2015 starts the second-half off strongly after a first-half in which sales of Subaru’s rally-inspired nameplate jumped ahead of last year’s sales pace by 14 percent.

When setting a brand-wide sales record in 2014, Subaru’s WRX/STI-specific record of 25,492 units accounted for 5 percent of the brand’s total U.S. sales volume.

Last month, however, the WRX/STI tandem produced more than 7 percent of all Subaru USA sales, up from 4 percent at this time last year thanks to an 85-percent year-over-year improvement.

Subaru WRX:STI pie chart TTAC

Subaru sales in July shot beyond 50,000 units for the first time since August of last year.

With massive increases through the first seven months of 2015, Subaru has already sold more WRX/STIs this year than in all of 2013, when sales were beginning to surge. Subaru is on track for significantly more than 30,000 WRX/STI sales in calendar year 2015.

Combined, Volkswagen’s Golf GTI and Golf R are on track for approximately 25,000 U.S. sales in 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. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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Junkyard Find: 2007 Kia Sedona, Wisconsin Hippie Fingerpaint-n-Stickers Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/junkyard-find-2007-kia-sedona-wisconsin-hippie-fingerpaint-n-stickers-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/junkyard-find-2007-kia-sedona-wisconsin-hippie-fingerpaint-n-stickers-edition/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 12:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1155121 I had the opportunity to visit a Green Bay wrecking yard earlier this month. Most of the inventory was made up of the 10-to-15-year-old GM and Chrysler midsize sedans you’d expect in the Upper Midwest, but I also found this eight-year-old Kia Sedona that had been converted into a Wisconsin Culture Wars Fighting Vehicle (prior […]

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11 - 2007 Kia Sedona in junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

I had the opportunity to visit a Green Bay wrecking yard earlier this month. Most of the inventory was made up of the 10-to-15-year-old GM and Chrysler midsize sedans you’d expect in the Upper Midwest, but I also found this eight-year-old Kia Sedona that had been converted into a Wisconsin Culture Wars Fighting Vehicle (prior to getting wrecked and scrapped before its tenth birthday).
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New-ish minivans tend to hold their value well enough to be worth fixing when crashed, but not when they’ve been covered with ineradicable layers of paint and bumper stickers.

08 - 2007 Kia Sedona in junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Wisconsin has had a high-temperature political landscape going back to the 19th century, producing politicians such as Senator Joseph McCarthy and “Fighting Bob” La Follette. Right now, Governor Scott Walker is working to finish the job that the Kohlers and the Taft-Hartley Act started, destroying organized labor and its allies once and for all and bringing about either Morning In America (if you’re a Buick-driving resident of the suburbs) or a fascist theocracy (if you’re an import-driving urban-dweller).

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In most junkyards, I see about ten junkyard vehicles covered in right-wing stickers for every one with a lot of lefty stickers (here in Colorado, vape-juice stickers outnumber both), but fingerpainting a vehicle remains a weapon of the progressive left only.

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Still, I think the revolution would be better served by a Porsche Ultra High-speed Urban Reconnaissance Unit than a Sedona.

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QOTD: What Merger Would You Be Excited To See? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-merger-excited-see/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-merger-excited-see/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 11:07:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156490 Sergio Marchionne is determined to merge with somebody. He’s kind of like that guy who doesn’t have a date at Senior Prom, and just goes anyway, hoping to score a dance with the Prom Queen. It’s as if the modern marketplace is his very own version of Sixteen Candles, and he’s James Spader rocking a 944. […]

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Subaru BRZ and Mazda MX-5

Sergio Marchionne is determined to merge with somebody. He’s kind of like that guy who doesn’t have a date at Senior Prom, and just goes anyway, hoping to score a dance with the Prom Queen. It’s as if the modern marketplace is his very own version of Sixteen Candles, and he’s James Spader rocking a 944. Or something. I gotta be honest, I never watched the movie.

Well, I’m not sure if Mary Barra is the Prom Queen or not, but Sergio seems to think she is. Yet, I’m not sure the idea of a GM/FCA merger has auto enthusiasts feeling all hot and bothered; is there a merger out there that would?

Here’s my idea. I’d like to see a Mazda/Subaru merger. Does it make business sense? Eh, maybe. Mazda has seen record profits in the European market in the last two years, growing at a much faster rate than anyone expected in both Germany and the UK. They’re also growing decently in the Japanese market, and they’re holding their own in China, despite a lack of Chinese-only models.

But North America? Not so much. Mazda has never been able to get much of a foothold in the highly competitive mid-sized sedan market, nor do they do particularly well in the C segment, despite having well-reviewed entries in both. Their year-over-year growth in America is basically flat through July 2015.

However, Subaru is growing like mad — almost too quickly. They are teetering between a growth model and a profit model, as their American sales growth is reaching double digits due to an almost fanatically loyal customer base. How can Subaru grow without compromising what it is that makes them so “authentic”?

Easy. Merge with Mazda, which has specifically stated that they are looking to trade profit for growth in the near future. Subaru could do some brand engineering and send the popular Outback over to Mazda. Call it the CX-Whatever. Mazda, in turn, could share the new ND Miata with Subie, which might make up for the relatively disappointing BRZ, itself down about 30 percent YOY. I mean, they wouldn’t, but they could!

If you really wanna get cray cray…why not merge the all-wheel drive goodness of Subaru with the rotary madness of Mazda and come up with some high-revving, all-wheel drive rally and autocross monster? Let’s call it the RX-10, just because that sounds much cooler than RX-9.

I like my idea, but I bet that you, the B&B, have an even better one. So let’s hear your merger ideas. What two automotive companies could merge into an ever better one?

[Photo by Kevin McCauley]

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Marchionne Calls For GM Takeover Just Short of Hostile http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/marchionne-calls-for-gm-takeover-just-short-of-hostile/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/marchionne-calls-for-gm-takeover-just-short-of-hostile/#comments Sun, 30 Aug 2015 22:59:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156418 We have to hand it to Larry P. Vellequette at Automotive News for getting FCA’s Don Marchionne riled up. In addition to getting Sergio talking yesterday about automakers having a history of bending the unions over, the outspoken executive has now called for a General Motors takeover via a series of hugs increasing in their intensity each time. […]

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Sergio and 1.4L Turbo MultiAir in better times at Dundee. Chrysler Photo

We have to hand it to Larry P. Vellequette at Automotive News for getting FCA’s Don Marchionne riled up. In addition to getting Sergio talking yesterday about automakers having a history of bending the unions over, the outspoken executive has now called for a General Motors takeover via a series of hugs increasing in their intensity each time.

“There are varying degrees of hugs. I can hug you nicely, I can hug you tightly, I can hug you like a bear, I can really hug you,” said Marchionne to Vellequette. “Everything starts with physical contact. Then it can degrade, but it starts with physical contact.”

And no, that’s not even the best part.

Marchionne asserts he and the board of directors have no choice but to pursue General Motors based on the numbers.

“We’re not talking about marginal improvement in margins,” Marchionne said, “we’re talking about cataclysmic changes in performance, just huge.”

And how sweet is that EBITDA figure?

“Look, the combined entity can make $30 billion a year in cash. Thirty. Just think about that fucking number. In steady-state environments, it’ll make me $28 to $30 billion.”

Yet, General Motors refuses to look at the numbers, with GM CEO Mary Barra stating in June that GM is busy “merging with ourselves.”

The relatively short piece from Automotive News is filled with that will likely become a Greatest Hits album for both Vellequette and Marchionne with lines like:

“It would be unconscionable not to force a partner,” he said

“I’ve offered to sit down with them and take them through the numbers,” said the Italian-Canadian CEO as he sipped an espresso and swiped through documents on his tablet, giving his visitors a cursory look at various charts and graphs he says make his case.

“They won’t listen. And that kind of abject refusal to engage … the capital markets won’t understand why you are rejecting the discussion.

“You may reject the deal but you can’t reject the discussion. If you’re refusing to talk to me, and you have seen nothing, you either think you’re above it all, or you think the capital markets are full of schmucks that owe you something.”

“There have been responses of people who have shown interest in discussing,” he said. “Are they the people I wanted to get the response from? The answer is probably not. There are people who are interested in doing deals. I’m not interested in doing deals with them … because there’s a better deal.”

“Why,” asked a high-ranking GM executive, “should [GM] bail out FCA?”

Asked directly, a GM spokesman wouldn’t call Marchionne’s analysis wrong but said GM officials believe the company and its shareholders are better off on their own.

Last emphasis mine.

If GM officials think that shareholders want anything other than increased profits, those officials are going to be in for a rude awakening — when they’re out of jobs after the dust has settled.

Everyone, especially a shareholder, has a price.

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2016 Smart Fortwo Won’t Hit Magic 40 MPG http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2016-smart-fortwo-wont-hit-magic-40-mpg/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2016-smart-fortwo-wont-hit-magic-40-mpg/#comments Sun, 30 Aug 2015 16:04:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156354 The next-generation Smart Fortwo, expected to go on sale in North America shortly, won’t achieve the magical 40-mpg benchmark in highway driving, reports Car & Driver. Fuel economy for the Mercedes microcar will stay similar to the current generation at 33 mpg city and 39 mpg highway when equipped with the automatic transmission. Manual models will […]

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The next-generation Smart Fortwo, expected to go on sale in North America shortly, won’t achieve the magical 40-mpg benchmark in highway driving, reports Car & Driver.

Fuel economy for the Mercedes microcar will stay similar to the current generation at 33 mpg city and 39 mpg highway when equipped with the automatic transmission. Manual models will get the same highway fuel economy, but give up 1 mpg on the city cycle.

Not all is bad. Performance of the 2016 Smart Fortwo will increase thanks to a 19 horsepower bump in output, from 70 hp to 89 hp. Torque receives a relatively massive increase from 68 lb-ft to 100 lb-ft.

Those looking for increased efficiency will be able to shell out for the Fortwo Electric Drive toward the end of next year, but prepare to spend big bucks for it if the current model is any indication. The base price of the Fortwo ED is $25,000 before federal and local incentives in the U.S.

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BMW Didn’t Receive “Save The Manuals” Christmas Card for MY2016, Retaliates [UPDATE] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/bmw-didnt-receive-save-the-manuals-christmas-card-for-my2016-retaliates/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/bmw-didnt-receive-save-the-manuals-christmas-card-for-my2016-retaliates/#comments Sun, 30 Aug 2015 15:30:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1155962 UPDATE: According to commenter krhodes1 and Facebook commenter Michael Smith, the 228i manual (order code 162A) is still available and there is a bug in the configurator. Which reminds me, you should like The Truth About Cars on Facebook. Jalopnik is reporting that a number of BMW models — namely the 228i, 328i, and 428i […]

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UPDATE: According to commenter krhodes1 and Facebook commenter Michael Smith, the 228i manual (order code 162A) is still available and there is a bug in the configurator. Which reminds me, you should like The Truth About Cars on Facebook.

Jalopnik is reporting that a number of BMW models — namely the 228i, 328i, and 428i — have lost their manual options for 2016. BMW’s online configurator for the 2016 model year shows the cars as automatic-only options, effectively making the manual transmission a premium option by forcing manual-loving customers into higher trims.

Does this mean the end of the manual transmission as we know it? Probably not. (Yet.)

The models relieved of their manual transmission options represent the base models in their respective ranges, with the exception of the 320i. The base model 3-Series will still be available with a manual gearbox. Aside from the 320i, the 235i, 340i, and 435i are the new entry models for the row-your-own set.

This should come as no surprise considering more and more BMW customers are opting for the automatic, even those who purchase M cars such as the M3 and M4.

What is surprising is that these models have already been engineered and tested with manual transmissions and BMW is opting not to offer them even though the costs have already been incurred. Automakers typically wait for a generational change before dropping stick shift options, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with BMW.

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Attention Californians: Here’s Your 2016 Toyota Prius http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/attention-californians-heres-your-2016-toyota-prius/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/attention-californians-heres-your-2016-toyota-prius/#comments Sun, 30 Aug 2015 15:21:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156298 The next-generation Toyota Prius, set to be revealed on September 8 in Las Vegas, has been caught without camouflage as it sits in what looks to be an aircraft hold. The undisputed hybrid sales leader picks up numerous design cues from the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, including its swept-back headlights and triangular fog light […]

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The next-generation Toyota Prius, set to be revealed on September 8 in Las Vegas, has been caught without camouflage as it sits in what looks to be an aircraft hold.

The undisputed hybrid sales leader picks up numerous design cues from the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, including its swept-back headlights and triangular fog light pods.

Details on the new Prius are unknown at this point, but expect a more-refined interior, increased battery capacity for up to 35 miles of all-electric driving, and increased efficiency from the drivetrain. Inductive charging remains a possibility. The Prius will also be built atop the Toyota New Global Architecture (TGNA).

Last updated in 2011 with a mild refresh, sales of the Toyota Prius have fallen since 2007 and 2008 amidst lower gas prices.

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[Source: Prius Club Malaysia]

 

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VIDEO: Ford GT LM GTE Sounds Like A Four-wheeled Warzone http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/video-ford-gt-lm-gte-sounds-like-a-four-wheeled-warzone/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/video-ford-gt-lm-gte-sounds-like-a-four-wheeled-warzone/#comments Sun, 30 Aug 2015 14:58:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156250 Ford is out at Sebring testing their newest toy — the Ford GT LM GTE — in preparation for the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship. Thankfully, someone was on location and captured a few laps on video. I’d like to personally thank this intrepid track video reporter. The car sounds like a four-wheeled warzone, completely with […]

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Ford is out at Sebring testing their newest toy — the Ford GT LM GTE — in preparation for the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship. Thankfully, someone was on location and captured a few laps on video.

I’d like to personally thank this intrepid track video reporter. The car sounds like a four-wheeled warzone, completely with six turbocharged AK-47-esque cylinders.

Ford’s third iteration of the GT will be more track ready than its immediate predecessor. The Blue Oval plans to bring the pain to Ferrari at LeMans next year — and every other possible competitor in the GTE category.

Sitting just ahead of the rear wheels is a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 with the horsepower knob turned up to 600.

Those looking to buy a street-legal version of the Ford GT will have to go through an application process and be accepted by Ford before parting with an estimated $350,000 in exchange for the car.

Maybe Bernie Ecclestone should buy 24 of these engines for Formula 1 next year.

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Suzuki: “I Feel Refreshed” After Win Against Volkswagen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/suzuki-i-feel-refreshed-after-win-against-volkswagen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/suzuki-i-feel-refreshed-after-win-against-volkswagen/#comments Sun, 30 Aug 2015 14:22:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156202 Osamu Suzuki (middle right), chairman of Suzuki Motor Corporation, can finally celebrate his biggest win. After a failed alliance with Volkswagen put Suzuki — the chairman and company — on the back foot for almost four years, the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce in London has decided in the Japanese company’s […]

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Volkswagen and Suzuki agreed to establish a comprehensive partnership

Osamu Suzuki (middle right), chairman of Suzuki Motor Corporation, can finally celebrate his biggest win. After a failed alliance with Volkswagen put Suzuki — the chairman and company — on the back foot for almost four years, the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce in London has decided in the Japanese company’s favor. Suzuki will purchase back their own stock from Volkswagen.

Suzuki received news of the ruling Saturday and filed the information with the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Sunday.

“It’s good that a resolution came. I feel refreshed. It’s like clearing a bone stuck in my throat,” said to reporters gathered at a news conference in Tokyo, reports Automotive News. “I’m very satisfied with the resolution. Through it, Suzuki was able to attain its biggest objective.”

In a statement released today, Suzuki Motor Corporation “requested Volkswagen AG to terminate their business and capital alliance through amicable negotiation. However, as VW failed to respond to Suzuki’s request, Suzuki served on 18 November 2011 a notice of termination of the Framework Agreement that was made with VW. Further, on 24 November 2011, based on the parties’ agreement, Suzuki filed a request for arbitration in London, which is the place of arbitration with the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce.”

The tribunal found in favor for Suzuki in two areas: a termination of the “Framework Agreement” and Volkswagen’s divestment of shared in Suzuki.

From Suzuki:

The Tribunal found that the Framework Agreement was validly terminated by Suzuki’s notice of termination dated 18 November 2011 mentioned above, such termination being effective from 18 May 2012.

The Tribunal upheld Suzuki’s claim regarding VW’s disposal of its shares in Suzuki and ordered VW to divest forthwith those shares to Suzuki or a third party designated by Suzuki using a method which is reasonably determined by Suzuki.

Volkswagen’s 19.9-percent share in Suzuki will be purchased by the Japanese company through the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

However, Suzuki could still incur financial penalties later, as Volkswagen’s counterclaim of breach of contract was also partially upheld. That claim will be “addressed in a further stage of the arbitration,” stated Suzuki Motor Corporation. According to Volkswagen in a statement, Suzuki “failed to give Volkswagen last-call rights for the delivery of diesel engines. Volkswagen reserves the right to claim damages against Suzuki.”

The official end of the alliance will likely trigger more succession planning for the Japanese auto and motorcycle manufacturer. In June 2015, Osamu Suzuki appointed his eldest son, Toshihiro, to the role of president.

 

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Marchionne: “To Be Perfectly Honest, We’ve All Fucked with the UAW, Right? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/marchionne-to-be-perfectly-honest-weve-all-fucked-with-the-uaw-right/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/marchionne-to-be-perfectly-honest-weve-all-fucked-with-the-uaw-right/#comments Sat, 29 Aug 2015 15:15:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1155986 Sergio Marchionne seems to be taking a different tactic in this year’s UAW negotiations. Instead of threatening to take product out of North America and send it to China, the head of FCA is playing to the hearts and minds of the union membership, even going so far as to admit all automakers have screwed workers […]

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Sergio Marchionne seems to be taking a different tactic in this year’s UAW negotiations. Instead of threatening to take product out of North America and send it to China, the head of FCA is playing to the hearts and minds of the union membership, even going so far as to admit all automakers have screwed workers in the past.

“To be perfectly honest, we’ve all fucked with the UAW, right? We were threatened by them, so we took all the pickup trucks that we sell — and 90 percent of those pickup trucks are sold in this country, right — we took it away, and then we delocalized them” Marchionne told Automotive News’ Larry P. Vellequette.

Marchionne believes he and UAW President Dennis Williams “share a view about the fact that, in some fashion, to the extent that we are successful in creating wealth out of these car companies, real wealth, then we should be able to distribute that,” he said.

Bringing Mexican pickup production back to the United States would be a massive win for the UAW. Since March 2014, Ram has sold fewer than 30,000 pickups only once (January 2015).

Ram pickups are built at FCA’s Warren Assembly Plant in Michigan and Saltillo Truck Assembly.

“What a wonderful idea, distributing cash when you have it,” Marchionne said.

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Toyota Wants $500 From Canadian Owners To Fix Odometers (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/toyota-wants-500-canadian-owners-fix-odometers-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/toyota-wants-500-canadian-owners-fix-odometers-video/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 20:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1155522 Owners of some Toyota cars in Canada say that the Japanese automaker is asking them to foot the bill for replacement odometers due to a glitch that won’t allow the gauges to roll over after 299,999 kilometers, CTV is reporting (via AutoFocus). The glitchy odometers are found in 2003-2008 Toyota Matrix and Corolla models, and […]

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Toyota Odometer Stuck

Owners of some Toyota cars in Canada say that the Japanese automaker is asking them to foot the bill for replacement odometers due to a glitch that won’t allow the gauges to roll over after 299,999 kilometers, CTV is reporting (via AutoFocus).

The glitchy odometers are found in 2003-2008 Toyota Matrix and Corolla models, and some 2004 and 2005 Toyota Prius models.

There are a few videos on YouTube of people expecting to hit 300,000, but they never do.

We reached out to a Toyota spokesman in the U.S. but haven’t heard back. According to the CTV report, Toyota is replacing the odometer but asking owners to pay for the replacement (for now).

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Can Ford Control Ford GT Ownership Through Applications? Lexus Did http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/can-ford-control-ford-gt-ownership-applications-lexus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/can-ford-control-ford-gt-ownership-applications-lexus/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 19:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1155385 If Ford wants to control sales of its extremely small production of Ford GT and vet its owners, it only needs to look at the Lexus playbook from 2010 to see how. On Thursday, Ford’s Group Vice President for Global Product Development and Chief Technical Officer Raj Nair told a group of last-gen Ford GT […]

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If Ford wants to control sales of its extremely small production of Ford GT and vet its owners, it only needs to look at the Lexus playbook from 2010 to see how.

On Thursday, Ford’s Group Vice President for Global Product Development and Chief Technical Officer Raj Nair told a group of last-gen Ford GT owners that it would ask potential owners to submit an application through the automaker to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the supercar. Official pricing for the car hasn’t been announced, nor has the criteria for ownership been made public.

Ford said it would only make available 250 cars each year worldwide. There are more than 3,200 dealerships in America alone and more than 7,500 worldwide.

If all this sounds familiar (as in, 500 Lexus LF-A cars at $400,000 for thousands of Toyota dealers) you might be right.

In 2010, Autoblog detailed the extraordinary process that potential LF-A buyers had to go through to qualify to buy the car.

Included was a “lease” option with $60,000 in deposits required before getting the car, $297,000 due upon receipt of the car, and a $93,000 option to buy the car after the 24-month lease expired. The “lease” amount was $12,398.44 per month.

Ford hasn’t announced how much it will sell the Ford GT for, or how it would collect that money, but it appears that every part of the buying process for the supercar will be unique to the Ford GT alone.

In 2005, when the last generation of Ford GTs were sold in America, the first cars were going nearly $100,000 over the MSRP price, as chronicled by the defunct FordGTPrices.com. As production ramped up on that car in 2006, prices eventually normalized to MSRP, but as the former site’s administrator Paul Allen told us, the 4,000+ volume of the last generation car and the 250-per-year production of this car makes it a whole different animal.

In its bulletin to dealers, Ford said it would make available to dealership owners a separate number of cars — available by application as well — for them to buy. Those cars would still come from the 250 produced each year, but a Ford spokesman declined to say how many would be allocated to dealer owners.

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Is This The 2017 Elantra in a South Korean Factory? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2017-elantra-south-korean-factory/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2017-elantra-south-korean-factory/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 18:19:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1155465 Korean site Auto Tribune it says it received of the new 2017 Hyundai Elantra in a South Korean factory taken by a contract employee. It looks roughly similar to the sketches we saw earlier this month from Hyundai, although its grille isn’t as dynamic and the South Korean car has doors. The front’s design features the same […]

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Korean site Auto Tribune it says it received of the new 2017 Hyundai Elantra in a South Korean factory taken by a contract employee. It looks roughly similar to the sketches we saw earlier this month from Hyundai, although its grille isn’t as dynamic and the South Korean car has doors.

The front’s design features the same large, hexagonal grille and the sleeker, lower headlights. The taillamps are decidedly different as well.

The next-generation Elantra is scheduled to be unveiled in November at the Los Angeles auto show. 

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Inside the Elantra will have a much bigger steering wheel and different control layout.

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According to Auto Tribune, the Elantra will sport a 1.6-liter GDI under the hood.

 

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Burning Man Van Creeps Out Kids Like No Van Can http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/burning-man-van-creeps-kids-like-no-van-can/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/burning-man-van-creeps-kids-like-no-van-can/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 18:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1155425 A white panel van with the words “Free Candy” emblazoned on the side and smeared handprints creeped out enough people in Sacramento that KHTK just had to report on it (via Boing Boing). The van appeared in neighborhoods around the area — even parked next to a school bus — when residents became concerned. “It […]

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Creepy Van

A white panel van with the words “Free Candy” emblazoned on the side and smeared handprints creeped out enough people in Sacramento that KHTK just had to report on it (via Boing Boing).

The van appeared in neighborhoods around the area — even parked next to a school bus — when residents became concerned.

“It just felt like they were trying to track kids and it just gave me a creepy feeling,” said the mother of Lawrence Bellow, 12, who took a picture of the van.

The news station tracked down the owner, who said they were heading to Burning Man in Nevada.

“It was a joke. It’s nice to know that if was there actually a creepy white van around that people would be taking notice of that,” said a friend of the owner.

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