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. Fri, 06 Mar 2015 21:47:21 +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 Review: 2015 Honda CR-V Touring (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-honda-cr-v-touring-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-honda-cr-v-touring-video/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 21:24:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1004938 Refreshed, redesigned or updated, whatever you want to call the changes to the CR-V for the 2015 model year, it’s hard to argue with this model’s success. The CR-V isn’t just the best-selling compact crossover in America, it’s the best-selling crossover period and the 7th best-selling vehicle overall. With sales success on the line Honda […]

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2015 Honda CR-V Exterior Front

Refreshed, redesigned or updated, whatever you want to call the changes to the CR-V for the 2015 model year, it’s hard to argue with this model’s success. The CR-V isn’t just the best-selling compact crossover in America, it’s the best-selling crossover period and the 7th best-selling vehicle overall. With sales success on the line Honda did what any Japanese company would do: make minor changes that give you more of what shoppers want without upsetting the apple cart. Does that make the CR-V just right? Or is it a compact bore-box?

Honda gave the CR-V its last redesign as a 2012 model year vehicle. The “old Honda” would have allowed the CR-V age unchanged for 5-6 years, but the new Honda seems to prefer making incremental changes to keep things fresh. While the 2012 CR-V wasn’t the same kind of mis-step the press thought the 2012 Civic was, competition is fierce and the 2012-2014 CR-V’s performance and fuel economy weren’t exactly compelling.

Exterior

Because this is a refresh and not a redesign, none of the “hard points” in the vehicle changed. Up front we get more modern looking headlamps with LED DRLs in most models and the fog lamps became rectangular. The grill has lost the Ford-like horizontal slats in favor of a simpler design with a larger Honda logo and a chrome “smile” reminiscent of the Accord and Civic. Changes to the rear are similar with new lamp modules, a tweaked bumper with silver painted inserts, more chrome on the tailgate and a style that still reminds me of a Volvo wagon in a way.

2015 Honda CR-V Dashboard

Interior

The CR-V’s interior slots somewhere between the Civic and the Accord in terms of both quality and theme. The instrument cluster is [thankfully] styled after the Accord with a large central speedometer flanked by three additional physical gauges.  The small monochrome LCD in the center of the speedometer is still a novel concept, but five years after Honda launched this look it is starting to feel dated compared to the large color LCDs you find in some of the competition. The dashboard and doors are a combination of hard and soft plastics which is again a middle road between the Civic and the Accord. For 2015 Honda has added a few extra features to keep things fresh including a standard console armrest, telescoping sun visors and rear HVAC vents. Since the CR-V never suffered from the unfortunate amount of questionable plastics that the 2012 Civic had, Honda spent the interior budget largely on the infotainment system.

2015 Honda CR-V HondaLink.CR2Infotainment

Base CR-V LX models get a 4-speaker 160-watt sound system controlled by large physical buttons and the same small screen that also handles trip computer functions (at the top of the picture above). Thankfully EX and above (which are the majority of sales) use essentially the same 7-inch touchscreen system found in the current Honda Civic with physical buttons instead of touch-controls. Dubbed HondaLink Next Generation, this is not the same system you find in the Accord. Rather it is Honda’s lower cost alternative which I think is also a better value. While there aren’t as many built-in features as you find in the Accord, this system has all the basics like Pandora and Aha streaming, Bluetooth and USB/iDevice integration and available factory navigation. Unlike many systems however it also supports iPhone integrated navigation via a $60 app. (Sorry Android users, there is no love for you at this time.) Unlike the BrinGo navigation we find in certain GM products, this solution doesn’t just store data on the phone and have the head unit render the mapping interface. Instead the iPhone is generating all the video and processing touch inputs but the head unit is displaying the video via an HDMI cable. Shoppers should note that this is not Apple CarPlay but Honda’s own solution that was created prior to CarPlay and is not upgradeable to support Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. For occasional nav users this represents a significant discount over the factory software (assuming you have an iPhone) but there are some limitations. Your iPhone has to stay on the nav app for the system to work, so if you check your email at a stop light, the nav map will disappear. Your iPhone’s data plan will of course get consumed and if you’re out of a coverage area then your mapping will be limited or non-existent depending on how much your device has cached.

 

honda-diagram-1Drivetrain

The biggest change for 2015 is under the hood where we find a revised version of the 2.4L “EarthDreams” four-cylinder engine we saw in the 2013 Honda Accord. For 2015 Honda has added counter-rotating balance shafts to try and help cancel out some of the vibrations. Power stays the same as before at 185 ponies, but torque is up to 181 lb-ft and across a broader range than in 2014.

In order to improve efficiency, Honda does something a little different with this 2.4L engine, they offset the cylinders about 8mm from the engine’s centerline. This trades reduced friction for increased vibration, hence the need for the additional balance shafts. The balance shafts certainly help, but some customers have complained about the added vibration especially at idle and indeed it is not as smooth as the 2014 model. Is the vibration worth a 4 MPG bump in the city and 3 MPG improvement overall? I’d say so, but be sure to sound off in the comment section. Also improving economy is an AWD capable version of the CVT found in the Accord bumping the numbers to 27 / 34 / 29 (City / Highway / Combined) for FWD models and 26 / 33 / 28 for AWD.

Front Wheel Drive Biased Transverse AWD System, Drawing Courtesy of Alex L. DykesAWD Controversy

My favorite Swedish magazine, Teknikens Värld, has a winter capability test where they put the test vehicle on a slope and the front wheels on rollers. The test is to see if 100% of the engine power can be sent to the rear wheels. Note that the 100% is essential here, because the incline and front wheels on the rollers makes sure no traction exists on the front axle. The CR-V failed this test because Honda’s AWD control system is programed to not lock the clutch pack if it detects zero traction up front and 100% in the rear. It also appears that traction control was disabled in the test. (The CR-V is not designed to be RWD essentially.) You will note in the diagram above that this type of system can lock the center clutch pack and get a 50/50 power split front/rear like a vehicle with a traditional transfer case, or it can slip that clutch pack to vary things from 100/0 to 50/50 assuming no wheel slip.

When wheel slip occurs, something different happens. Say just one front wheel sips. The front differential, being an open unit would send power to the wheel that is slipping, this action essentially causes the power balance to shift to the rear up to a power balance around 20/80. Leaving the traction control on, the slipping front wheel would be braked until it was spinning the same relative rate as the others. This would return the system to a 50/50 power balance because even if the front wheel was up in the air, the brakes on that wheel would be “consuming” the 50% of the power on that axle to maintain the power balance. The CR-V’s AWD system is designed to operate in this 50/50 window without issue. With your front wheels on ice and your rear wheels on tarmac, the front wheels will always have some traction and the traction control will help keep things in balance. Similarly in off-camber situations in snow with one wheel in the air, the brake based system will keep things in line. Pop the CR-V up on rollers however and the system things something is wrong.

The bottom line is that the CR-V is not a Jeep Cherokee, it was not designed with locking differentials and not designed with the Rubicon Trail in mind. It was however designed with the urban jungle and 2015 snowpocalypse in mind and 99.9% of shoppers will never even know there was a controversy. If you’re the 0.01% of shoppers that lives in a roller factory, there could be an issue of course. Is the Jeep system “superior?” Yes, but for most folks it’s also overkill.

2015 Honda CR-V EarthDreams 2.4L Engine-001

Drive

The popularity of the CR-V is no surprise when you get behind the wheel. The CR-V drives like a slightly taller Accord which makes sense as the ground clearance has dropped over time as the CR-V has transformed from trucklet to tall wagon. The compact CUV doesn’t handle as well as the Mazda CX-5, but the wide tires, relatively light curb weight and moderately firm suspension certainly place the CUV at top end of the segment.

Thanks to the improved torque band and the continuously variable transmission (CVT) that has a much lower starting ratio than the old 5-speed (13.3:1 vs 11.7:1), the CR-V is notably faster off the line and hit 60 MPH nearly second faster than the 2014 model. Similarly the higher effective “top gear” ratio is the key to the CR-V’s large jump in the fuel economy score. As with the Accord and Civic which also use Honda’s new CVT tech, the CR-V’s transmission changes ratios much more rapidly than the Nissan Rogue’s more traditional CVT. The feel is more like a stepped automatic’s downshift than the rubber-bandy feeling you get in the Nissan.

2015 Honda CR-V Instrument Cluster-001

Thanks to the programming of the CVT, fuel economy has indeed improved over the 2014 model coming in at 27.5 MPG, just 1/2 an MPG shy of the EPA rating for our AWD tester despite my commute over a 2,200ft mountain pass daily. Thanks to the lower torque band of the EarthDreams engine, the CVT can keep the engine at a lower and more efficient RPM more of the time. Unfortunately higher torque outputs at low RPMs tend to highlight the new engine’s cylinder offset which, as I said earlier, trades smoothness for efficiency. Many of you on Facebook asked if I encountered the vibrations that some shoppers have complained about and indeed I did. Was it bad? No. Was it noticeable? Yes. Would it keep me from buying the CR-V over something else? No, because for me the MPG improvement is enough of an incentive to overlook it.

2015 also brings some tweaks to the suspension and sound insulation improving ride and cabin noise by a hair. Perhaps the biggest change for the CR-V out on the road has nothing to do with the driveline or suspension however, it’s the infusion of some Acura driving aids. The new Touring model comes standard with radar adaptive cruise control, a lane keeping system that steers you back into your lane and Acura’s Collision Mitigating Braking System or CMBS which will autonomously brake the vehicle if it believes a collision is imminent and you’re going above 10 MPH. While this isn’t breaking any ground, it does help the CR-V stay competitive with the Forester’s camera-based EyeSight system and the Cherokee’s latest radar based features. The Honda system isn’t as smooth as the Jeep system, but it is more natural than the Subaru system, works better in poor weather where the camera systems become less functional and supports a broader range of speeds.

2015 Honda CR-V Exterior.CR2

Ranging between $23,445 and $32,895 the CR-V straddles the middle in this segment after you’ve adjusted for feature content. The Forester is less expensive and more capable, but the interior is more down-market, no surprise since the standard AWD means it starts about $2,500 less than a comparable Honda. The Cherokee is the most rugged and capable vehicle in this segment but the off-road ability takes a toll on cargo room and handling while bumping the curb weight north of 4,000lbs in some trims. The RAV4’s latest redesign saw the demise of the optional 3rd row and the V6, (the two prime reasons for buying a RAV4 over the CR-V) and the addition of plenty of questionable plastics on the inside. Mazda’s CX-5 handles extremely well but isn’t as comfortable or as large inside and until the 2016 model arrives, the infotainment system is archaic.

Oddly enough, the fact that the CR-V fails to be the best in the segment in any particular category is actually the key to its success. It’s easy to create the cheapest or best off-road compact crossover (the bar is after all kind of low), a little harder to make the best handling crossover, but making a crossover that averages consistently high marks in every category is quite an undertaking. While the CR-V’s AWD system has received bad press, the same thing applies there. The AWD system isn’t the most capable in this segment but it is perfectly acceptable and won’t leave you stranded on your way to Aspen. The CR-V may lack the charm it once had, but it is still the best all-around vehicle in this segment.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.2

0-60: 7.79

1/4 mile: 16.4 Seconds @ 87.5 MPH

2015 Honda CR-V Cargo Area.CR2 2015 Honda CR-V Cargo Area 2015 Honda CR-V Cargo Area-001 2015 Honda CR-V Console.CR2 2015 Honda CR-V Dash.CR2 2015 Honda CR-V Dashboard 2015 Honda CR-V Dashboard-001 2015 Honda CR-V Dashboard-002 2015 Honda CR-V Exterior Front.CR2 2015 Honda CR-V Exterior Front 2015 Honda CR-V Exterior Rear 2015 Honda CR-V Exterior Side 2015 Honda CR-V Exterior.CR2 2015 Honda CR-V Exterior.CR2-001 2015 Honda CR-V Exterior 2015 Honda CR-V Exterior-001 2015 Honda CR-V Exterior-002 2015 Honda CR-V HondaLink.CR2 2015 Honda CR-V Infotainment 2015 Honda CR-V Instrument Cluster 2015 Honda CR-V Instrument Cluster-001 2015 Honda CR-V Interior 2015 Honda CR-V Interior-001 2015 Honda CR-V Trip Computer.CR2

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FCA Canada CEO: Reports Of The Grand Caravan’s Demise Are Exaggerated http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/fca-canada-ceo-reports-grand-caravans-demise-exaggerated/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/fca-canada-ceo-reports-grand-caravans-demise-exaggerated/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 17:10:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1017098 Although the Chrysler Town & Country will be FCA’s main minivan nameplate going forward, the Dodge Grand Caravan will stick around longer than many people have expected. Speaking to the Windsor Star, FCA Canada CEO Reig Bigland said that the Grand Caravan would continue to be produced past the introduction of the new Town & […]

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2014_Dodge_Grand_Caravan_RT_1198940

Although the Chrysler Town & Country will be FCA’s main minivan nameplate going forward, the Dodge Grand Caravan will stick around longer than many people have expected.

Speaking to the Windsor Star, FCA Canada CEO Reig Bigland said that the Grand Caravan would continue to be produced past the introduction of the new Town & Country, stating

“The Dodge Grand Caravan is still here, it’s going to be here throughout all of 2015, 2016…I’m not going to give any time frame, but at the launch of the next-generation Town and Country we will continue to have the Grand Caravan and I have not speculated as to when or even if the Dodge Grand Caravan will go away,”

Previous comments by FCA boss Sergio Marchionne suggest that the old model Grand Caravan will disappear by 2017, as regulatory concerns will make it impossible to sell in North America. The strategy of running two different vans on two different platforms has been something that hasn’t been explored in the automotive media.

If this is indeed the case, then it would allow FCA to sell the all-new minivan with the latest technology at a more premium price point while retaining the volume that comes from selling both vans. Both vans would ostensibly be built at the Windsor, Ontario plant, with a new flexible architecture eventually accommodating an all-new crossover vehicle built on that platform.

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Insurers, Suppliers Face Potential Disruption From Autonomous Vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/insurers-suppliers-face-potential-disruption-autonomous-vehicles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/insurers-suppliers-face-potential-disruption-autonomous-vehicles/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 16:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1016754 Work in the insurance industry? Ever wonder what life would be like insuring the owners of autonomous vehicles? The Wall Street Journal reports insurers Cincinnati Financial, Mercury General and Travelers, along with supplier LKQ, are warning investors that autonomous technology would one day come to disrupt the way insurers and suppliers do business. How? For […]

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Google Autonomous Clown Car Amid Wind Turbines

Work in the insurance industry? Ever wonder what life would be like insuring the owners of autonomous vehicles?

The Wall Street Journal reports insurers Cincinnati Financial, Mercury General and Travelers, along with supplier LKQ, are warning investors that autonomous technology would one day come to disrupt the way insurers and suppliers do business.

How? For insurers, decreased demand for certain policies, changes in policy marketing, pricing and underwriting, and predicting risk when the driver no longer drives. For suppliers, declines in accident rates and repairs from those that do occur, leading to less demand for parts overall.

Barclays insurance analyst Jay Gelb, however, says insurers would have plenty of time to prepare for the autonomous future, especially since such vehicles are more complex; thus, requiring more money to fix them. He adds that it was “hard to see how a product that has been in place for more than a century is just going to go away” because a different breed of vehicle is just now entering the development phase.

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Smart Follows Opel Out Of Australia Amid Weak Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/smart-follows-opel-australia-amid-weak-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/smart-follows-opel-australia-amid-weak-sales/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 15:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1016730 In 2013, Opel left Australia amid poor sales in the land down under. This year, it’s Smart that is bowing out of the market. Just-Auto reports the Smart ForTwo would soon return to Europe after finding little success in Australia, due mainly to consumers not wanting to pay a premium on a city car; the […]

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Smart-fortwo-BoConcept-Edition-2014-51

In 2013, Opel left Australia amid poor sales in the land down under. This year, it’s Smart that is bowing out of the market.

Just-Auto reports the Smart ForTwo would soon return to Europe after finding little success in Australia, due mainly to consumers not wanting to pay a premium on a city car; the ForTwo’s $18,990 AUD ($14,727 USD) price is nearly on par with the much bigger, more roomier Toyota Corolla.

Since arriving in 2003, Smart has sold over 4,400 of its models, 3,517 being the aforementioned ForTwo. However, demand began to fall in 2005, and reached a point that by 2013, the brand only took orders online. Additionally, only 22 ForTwos have been sold in 2015 so far as the Australian market recovers.

Mercedes-Benz said it would continue to offer parts and service for the vehicles, and would do its best to move the remaining 60 days’ worth of inventory before Smart’s days in Australia came to a close.

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Schockmel: CLEPA Members Ready For Autonomous Opportunities http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/schockmel-clepa-members-ready-autonomous-opportunities/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/schockmel-clepa-members-ready-autonomous-opportunities/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1016706 Amid the glitz and glamour of the 2015 Geneva Auto Show, European auto supplier group CLEPA proclaimed its members would have a part to play in the autonomous game. According to Just-Auto, group CEO Paul Schockmel said that the move toward autonomous driving was gaining steam, and that suppliers would be a huge part of […]

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Volvo-Autonomous-Drive

Amid the glitz and glamour of the 2015 Geneva Auto Show, European auto supplier group CLEPA proclaimed its members would have a part to play in the autonomous game.

According to Just-Auto, group CEO Paul Schockmel said that the move toward autonomous driving was gaining steam, and that suppliers would be a huge part of the movement:

This is the story which is not only changing cars, but the entire automotive industry and [is] a societal change. I am very much focussing on this because I feel for our members, we have to follow this very strongly and we see huge business opportunities. There will also be challenges with new players coming in – I see this in a positive way because there are opportunities.

Already, Volvo is experimenting with autonomous technology through a plan to introduce 100 vehicles so-equipped to its home city of Gothenburg, Sweden in 2017. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom government approved measures to allow driverless testing on public roads, providing funding for tests in Greenwich, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry. The government also is developing certification standards for autonomous vehicles.

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Junkyard Find: 1990 Infiniti Q45 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1990-infiniti-q45/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1990-infiniti-q45/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 14:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1016786 A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to own a well-preserved 1990s Japanese luxury car, and my first choice was the Infiniti Q45. Well, it turned out that just about every example of the Q45 got completely trashed by about 2005, and so I found a very nice Coach Edition LS400. Still, though, […]

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06 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinA few years ago, I decided that I wanted to own a well-preserved 1990s Japanese luxury car, and my first choice was the Infiniti Q45. Well, it turned out that just about every example of the Q45 got completely trashed by about 2005, and so I found a very nice Coach Edition LS400. Still, though, I love the early Q45’s weirdness and its Nissan President origins, and so I shot this first-year example that I found in California.
05 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese were seriously luxurious and powerful cars for their day, but most of them weren’t cared for so well once they went to their second owners.
03 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one just barely made it past 150,000 miles.

There is no compromise at any speed.

Take a long, hard test drive.

In Japan, it was called the Nissan Infiniti Q45.

I couldn’t find the weird US-market “Zen” Q45 ad, but here’s the Japanese counterpart.

01 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1990 Infiniti Q45 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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While You Were Sleeping: March 6th, 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/sleeping-march-6th-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/sleeping-march-6th-2015/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 13:56:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1017026 Take a look at this graphic. It’s the best look at the new Chevrolet Malibu (front and center) and Camaro (to the right). Volkswagen to invest $1 billion in Tiguan production in Mexico. Ford will focus on Ecoboost engines as diesel sales decline in Europe. The City of Chicago lost millions of dollars on a […]

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chevy-car-preview

Take a look at this graphic. It’s the best look at the new Chevrolet Malibu (front and center) and Camaro (to the right).

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Volkswagen USA’s Sales Decline Begins Anew In February 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/volkswagen-usas-sales-decline-begins-anew-february-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/volkswagen-usas-sales-decline-begins-anew-february-2015/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 13:28:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1016930 The Volkswagen brand had arrested its sales decline in the United States. After 18 consecutive months of decreased year-over-year volume, Volkswagen sales increased in October, November, December, and January. • Everything but the Golf drops • Golf R returns • Total Golf sales up 138% Granted, those increased sales appeared only in comparison to the prior […]

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VW USA February sales chartThe Volkswagen brand had arrested its sales decline in the United States. After 18 consecutive months of decreased year-over-year volume, Volkswagen sales increased in October, November, December, and January.


• Everything but the Golf drops

• Golf R returns

• Total Golf sales up 138%


Granted, those increased sales appeared only in comparison to the prior year period, when Volkswagen was in the middle of an 18-month downward streak. Compared with the equivalent period two years earlier, VW of America sales tumbled 12% in October 2014, 14% in November, 23% in December, and 19% in January 2015. Moreover, the reported yeear-over-year improvements were mostly slight: 8% in October, 3% in November, 0.1% in December, and 0.04% in January.

Perhaps Volkswagen was simply regressing toward the mean, rather than stopping a oncoming train in its tracks. February volume slid 5% in a market which grew 5%.

Even with some new product in Volkswagen showrooms – overall Golf volume more than doubled to 3921, an increase of 2272 units – the losses reported by the brand’s other models brought the brand down by 1402 sales compared with February 2014; by 5746 compared with February 2013.

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI whiteNon-Golf volume slid 14% as Beetle sales plummeted 30%, the departing Eos plunged 40%, the aged CC was down 57%, Tiguan and Passat sales dropped 10%, and Touareg volume fell 8%.

Overall Jetta volume was down 9%, but much of that decline was due to the severe slowdown of Jetta SportWagen sales – the Mk7 Golf wagon will actually be a Golf. The Jetta sedan was a relatively stable corner of the Volkswagen lineup. Sales dropped by just 4%, a loss of only 378 sales, year-over-year. It accounts for 38% of Volkswagen USA’s sales through the first two months of 2015.

Regardless, the addition of 362 Golf R sales (the previous model ended its run last summer), 130 e-Golfs, a doubling of GTI volume, and a 119% increase in Golf sales didn’t turn Volkswagen into even a moderately high-volume brand. After averaging 36,500 monthly sales in 2012 and appearing like a brand that could turn on the jets in America, it became readily apparent that a luxury SUV and an undersized and overpriced small crossover weren’t going to cut it in a market which veered away from cars toward utility vehicles. Of equal or greater importance was the fact that the brand’s core cars, Jetta and Passat, had significant initial appeal but ranked low in terms of long-lasting desirability.

That’s not to say Jetta interest completely dried up. It’s America’s 17th-best-selling car so far this year and ranked 13th in 2014. But as the standard-bearer for a brand with lofty goals, the volume it generates is simply not sufficient to form the basis of a high-volume automaker in the United States.

As a result of all the brand’s issues, Volkswagen’s February market share tumbled to 2% in 2015, down from 2.3% in February 2014, 2.6% in February 2013, and 2.7% in February 2012.

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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Question Of The Day: Why Are Automakers Still Allowed to Use Combination Turn Signal Brake Lights? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-automakers-still-allowed-use-combination-turn-signal-brake-lights/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-automakers-still-allowed-use-combination-turn-signal-brake-lights/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 13:21:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1016962 In the past, I’ve written these “Question of the Day” columns with an open-ended question in mind; a question that invites serious participation from you, the highly educated TTAC reader. Well, today, I’m going to try a different approach: I’m just going to tell you what I think, and hope you’ll agree with me. The […]

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Chrysler_300_chrome_tail_light_b-1

In the past, I’ve written these “Question of the Day” columns with an open-ended question in mind; a question that invites serious participation from you, the highly educated TTAC reader. Well, today, I’m going to try a different approach: I’m just going to tell you what I think, and hope you’ll agree with me. The topic is combination turn signal-brake lights, which are the stupidest thing that currently exists in the auto industry.

Yes, folks, that’s right: stupider, even, than the Jeep Compass.

For those of you who aren’t exactly sure what I’m talking about, allow me to explain myself. I’ll use the Chrysler 300 as an example, although it certainly isn’t the only offender.

Here’s what happens: you get behind a Chrysler 300, and it’s slowing down, so the brake lights come on. Suddenly, the driver – who is undoubtedly trying to locate the Uber rider who hailed him – puts on the turn signal to make a sharp right turn. And what happens? The right brake light goes away entirely.

The reason for this is that the Chrysler 300 still uses rear lamps that combine the brake light and the turn signal. So if you’re in a 300 and you have your foot on the brake and your right turn signal on, you only have one working brake light – on the left side – plus the third brake light in the center. On the right, your brake light is blinking. I have no idea if this is a cost-cutting measure or a retro styling cue, but by God it sure reminds me of cars from the 1970s.

This especially came to my attention the other day because we got this big snowstorm here in Philadelphia, and I got up behind a guy in a late-1990s Buick Century who had his hazard lights on. Now, I’m not totally opposed to hazard lights in a severe snowstorm, because they create an extra layer of visibility for other drivers. But there was a problem with this particular hazard light decision. And that problem was? You guessed it: his brake lights were also his turn signals!!!

So this guy is driving down the street in a major snowstorm with his turn signals blinking and absolutely no brake lights at all! And the worst part is, he has done this as a safety precaution! He truly believes he is creating more visibility for himself and his Buick Century. When in reality, nobody behind him has any idea whether he’s accelerating, or slamming on his brakes, or merely confused about which direction he wants to turn.

The interesting thing about all this is that these brake light-turn signal combinations aren’t outlawed. If you’re an automaker, not only does it not matter if your turn signal is orange or red, but it doesn’t even matter if your turn signal reduces the amount of brake light power on the back of your car by one-third. Mind you, this regulatory decision comes to you from a federal government who dictates that a Lotus Elise must have an emergency inside trunk latch, even though its cargo area can barely fit a power drill.

Now, I get why this brake-light-turn-signal combo platter went on in the 1960s and 1970s. It made cars simpler, it made them cheaper, and it made them easier to engineer and build. Plus, back in the 1970s, nobody cared about safety. Back in the 1970s, if you ran out of cereal, you’d just reach into your wall and eat some asbestos. That’s how things were back then.

But in modern times – in a world where every car has a backup camera, and side airbags, and front airbags, and knee airbags, and stability control, and traction control, and a system that will unlock your doors using a signal from space – I must ask how the hell it’s possible that we’re allowing brake-light-turn-signal combinations to run rampant on our society.

And so, today’s question is this: how the hell are these brake-light-turn-signal combinations still legal? Why doesn’t somebody do anything about it? For the love of God, can’t we put a stop to it? And, most importantly: what does asbestos taste like?

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Report: Autonomous Vehicles Radically Altering Landscape In Coming Decades http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/report-autonomous-vehicles-radically-altering-landscape-coming-decades/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/report-autonomous-vehicles-radically-altering-landscape-coming-decades/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 13:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1016682 Seven years from now, commercial and industrial autonomous vehicles could set a path toward a a future where the cityscape and beyond are radically changed. According to Detroit Free Press, a report by consulting firm McKinsey titled “Autonomous Driving — 10 Ways in Which Autonomous Vehicles Could Reshape Our Lives” forecasts as much, with the […]

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Lexus Autonomous Car

Seven years from now, commercial and industrial autonomous vehicles could set a path toward a a future where the cityscape and beyond are radically changed.

According to Detroit Free Press, a report by consulting firm McKinsey titled “Autonomous Driving — 10 Ways in Which Autonomous Vehicles Could Reshape Our Lives” forecasts as much, with the outcome being that most vehicles on the road within the next few decades will be autonomous. Automotive practice chief Hans-Werner Kaas explains:

Autonomous vehicles will have a gradual step-by-step adoption. First, there will be pay-per-usage models. These vehicles will be alternatives to cars. They will make mobility available in smaller incremental units.

Meanwhile, autonomous technology is already present in the industrial sector, such as Australian mining company Rio Tinto’s fleet of 53 autonomous dump trucks at one of its iron ore mines in western Australia. Kaas says vehicles like those trucks “are defined environments where you have defined routes,” leading to greater control overall.

The report goes on to state that body shops would have less work due to fewer fender-benders between autonomous vehicles, while service techs would need extensive training to maintain the array of systems used by the vehicles; insurance companies would have to adapt as well.

Finally, more parking spaces would be in need of repurposing: by 2050, up to 5.7 billion square meters would be converted into something else as a result of how autonomous vehicles handle such things. The report adds that the shift to near-autonomy would take two decades to accomplish.

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Continental AG Interested In Partnering With Apple In Car Project http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/continental-ag-interested-partnering-apple-car-project/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/continental-ag-interested-partnering-apple-car-project/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 12:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1016658 Whether or not Apple is actually building a car, German tire manufacturer Continental AG wants in. Reuters reports CEO Elmar Degenhart said his company would be interested in teaming up with the tech giant as a partner if the latter decides to enter the automotive industry as a car manufacturer. Degenhart added that he was […]

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IMSA Continental Tire Challenge Mosing Porsche Cayman

Whether or not Apple is actually building a car, German tire manufacturer Continental AG wants in.

Reuters reports CEO Elmar Degenhart said his company would be interested in teaming up with the tech giant as a partner if the latter decides to enter the automotive industry as a car manufacturer. Degenhart added that he was impressed with Apple’s “excellent reputation on information and communication systems,” as well as its financial strength.

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Next-Gen Jeep Wrangler To Have Diesel, 8-Speed Auto Combo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/next-gen-jeep-wrangler-diesel-8-speed-auto-combo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/next-gen-jeep-wrangler-diesel-8-speed-auto-combo/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 11:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1016634 We’ve said the next Jeep Wrangler would have diesel power, as well as an eight-speed auto. Now, both will be paired with each other. Autoblog reports the specific combo is a 3-liter EcoDiesel V6 mated to a ZF eight-speed auto, following similar pairings in the Grand Cherokee and the Ram 1500. When asked for official […]

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2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

We’ve said the next Jeep Wrangler would have diesel power, as well as an eight-speed auto. Now, both will be paired with each other.

Autoblog reports the specific combo is a 3-liter EcoDiesel V6 mated to a ZF eight-speed auto, following similar pairings in the Grand Cherokee and the Ram 1500. When asked for official confirmation from the brand, however, representative Gabrielle Schulte said that her employer does not comment on speculation.

As for when one might be able to battle the Rubicon — or the Rubicon Outlet Mall — in a diesel-driven, eight-speed automatic Wrangler, Autoblog‘s source couldn’t confirm the model year such a beast would appear in showrooms.

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My First and Most Recent Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/first-recent-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/first-recent-cars/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 23:09:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1014778 Not long ago my mother moved into an assisted living facility and I’ve been cleaning through her house. After observing her, my daughters, my sisters, and my maternal aunts I’ve figured out that there’s likely an OCD gene on one of their X chromosomes. Of course, my daughters got that bit of genetic material from […]

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IMG_0004

Not long ago my mother moved into an assisted living facility and I’ve been cleaning through her house. After observing her, my daughters, my sisters, and my maternal aunts I’ve figured out that there’s likely an OCD gene on one of their X chromosomes. Of course, my daughters got that bit of genetic material from their dear old dad. Hey, just because I have 60+ egg crates filled with about 15 years worth of automotive press kits doesn’t mean that I hoard things. Anyhow, while cleaning I came across a box that looked like it hadn’t been touched since January of 1966, when we moved to the house that I’m now going through. Most of the things in the box were detritus, stuff that could have been thrown away before the move. However, as I was rifling through the fabric scraps and what have you, something bright red caught my eye.

IMG_0029

It was a pressed steel toy car, looking very much like an early 1960s Rambler station wagon. Something about it seemed very familiar and then it came to me: it was my first toy car. I remembered playing with it on the living floor of our house on Ward in northwest Detroit. One wheel was bent up into the body and another was completely missing, but it was mostly intact and in pretty nice shape considering it was more than a half century old. By the time we moved from that house I was already eleven years old so I probably hadn’t played with it in years by then, but mom does save things, which explains how it survived to make the move.

IMG_0030

My dad had a 1961 Rambler American two door in white. I would have been about six years old at the time and I’m guessing that maybe my parents got me a toy to match one of the family cars. I also remember from that same general time the larger, very detailed plastic scale car models that my brother and I got when our parents bought a ’61 Pontiac Catalina and our grandfather got his latest Olds 98, but this wasn’t one of those dealer models, just an inexpensive pressed steel toy, perhaps made in Japan, though I can’t find any maker’s mark.

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It so happens that I also just got a new toy car at the Henry Ford Museum when I was there to do a story on their Engines Exposed exhibition. The HFM is one of the tourist attractions around the country that still has vintage Mold-A-Rama machines. Developed in the 1950s by an inventor named J.H. “Tike” Miller, working with a coin operated vending company that is now the large foodservice firm known as Aramark, Mold-A-Ramas are small *injection molding machines that produce waxy plastic souvenirs while you watch them operate. They caught on big at the 1964 New York World’s Fair where there were at least 150 of the machines making everything from Sinclair Oil dinosaurs to coin banks.

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To people jaded by 3D printers, Mold-A-Ramas may not seem like much, but in the jet age they fascinated adults and children alike. The machines must have been well engineered because a couple of family owned businesses still operate a number of the 50 year old machines at tourist attractions in Florida and the midwest. As with just about everything that predates the digital age, there are folks who collect new and vintage Mold-A-Rama toys. If, like musician Jack White, you want your very own Mold-A-Rama unit, a reconditioned one will cost you about $15,000, custom molds extra.

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At the Ford museum you can get Mold A Rama statuettes of Henry Ford and plastic busts of Abraham Lincoln along with models of some of the museum’s more notable vehicles, like the Kennedy assassination presidential limousine. While the museum is independent of the Ford Motor Company, the firm and the Ford family are important patrons of the institution. Perhaps that’s why near the museum’s entrance a couple of the molding machines made miniature Ford products, a recent F-150 and a 1965 Mustang. I’m not much of a pickup truck fan, so I opted for the pony car, which was molded in a bright red, matching my first toy car. When I retrieved it from the hopper, I noticed that one side of the base reads “Ford Rouge Factory Tour”. I took the current Rouge plant tour soon after it was restarted a few years ago and I don’t recall seeing a Mold-A-Rama machine in the reception center so that may be a vintage mold from when the tour walked right next to the assembly line and visitors watched hot steel being poured from the vantage of the steel plant’s catwalk.

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Regular readers will know that I check out ease of child car seat use in my reviews because I regularly babysit my grandson, who will be three years old in a couple of months. He makes “vroom vroom” and “pshew” noises with the “fast cars” in the box of toys I keep for him here. I guess playing with cars is something that we car guys never grow out of. I can’t think of any adult car enthusiasts that I know that don’t have at least one scale model of a car or some other kind of toy car. I bet you can remember your first toy car and I’m also willing to bet that you’ve bought some kind of toy car for yourself or for someone else in recent memory. Please tell us about them.

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*The Mold-A-Rama process seems to me to be a cross between injection and blow molding since a blast of compressed air is used to hollow out the part.

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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Dude, Where’s My Cheap Gasoline? The Truth about Oil Part III http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/dude-wheres-cheap-gasoline-truth-oil-part-iii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/dude-wheres-cheap-gasoline-truth-oil-part-iii/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 22:36:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1016578   If you drive a Tesla, Leaf or a Volt, you may not have been to a gas pump lately. For the rest of us you’re probably wondering how in the Hell did he get it so wrong! There are some pretty amazing things happening in the oil industry, and a perfect storm gathered to […]

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Workers of French oil giant Total and the SFDM Society, and SNCF railway workers block the entrance of the deposit of the society SFDM near the oil refinery of Donges

 

If you drive a Tesla, Leaf or a Volt, you may not have been to a gas pump lately. For the rest of us you’re probably wondering how in the Hell did he get it so wrong! There are some pretty amazing things happening in the oil industry, and a perfect storm gathered to spike gasoline prices in the short term, and has set up a tidal wave of oil that could completely collapse both crude oil and refined fuel products just as the summer driving season begins.

To get an idea of what is going on, you need to look at three charts, which paint a fascinating picture. First, take a look at West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil prices (NYMEX short contract).

chart1

Next, take a look at ethanol futures (short contract):

chart2

And finally, take a look at gasoline futures (short contract):

chart3

The price of oil was very volatile in the month of February. WTI hit a basement on January 28, 2015 of $44.08 per barrel, and then rose 21-1/2% in just 20 days, closing at $53.56 on February 17th. It has since dropped 8% in just six more days, which is as much data that was available as of this writing. If we were talking about equities, I would be calling this a classic “dead cat bounce.”

Now look at the price of gasoline futures.  At the same time oil started to go up, gasoline prices spiked up even faster, with one key difference, the prices have largely kept going up, settling in at just under $2.00 per gallon even as oil went back down.

If we look at ethanol we can see another, apparently disconnected trend, with ethanol prices dropping and not mirroring the increase in gasoline futures, trading in a rather narrow band of about fifteen cents in February. What in the name of the Wild World of Sports is going on here?

The biggest driver of rising gasoline prices, as much as a dollar a gallon in just a month in places like California, has been caused by a significant number of disruptions to US refinery capabilities in just the last 30 days:

There has been massive disruption to oil refining capabilities causing the price of gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel to skyrocket. US refinery utilization is normally at 81% to 85%, a 20% loss of capacity just from the strike, has created a situation where less motor fuel is being produced to meet the needs of the buyers lined up for products. Supply of gasoline has tightened, so the prices have gone up.

According to the US Energy Information Association, Weekly US Refiner and Blender Adjusted Net Production of Finished Motor Gasoline hit an all-time production record of 10,195,000 barrels per day in December of 2014. By the week of February 6th, production had dropped a whopping 15%. Gasoline production is tied more to just-in-time economics, so disruptions in refinery capacity due to accidents, weather, normal seasonal transition from winter to summer blends, and work stoppages have swift impacts to prices. So, now you understand why gasoline prices have shot up, but what about oil?

Oil prices spiked, bouncing off the $44 basement, and have settled in to a narrow range of $49 to $50 a barrel. The reason these two trend lines have disconnected, with gasoline continuing to climb up and oil starting to decline again is simple economics of supply and demand. Refiners buy crude oil to turn it into finished motor fuels. But if refiners are offline due to strikes, accidents, weather, seasonal change over, or all of the above, then they are buying less oil, and that is exactly what is happening.

Crude oil markets are faced with a no win situation. They can either cancel contracts on the oil they promised to buy, and pay huge penalties on top of an already battered market, or they can accept the oil and stockpile it in storage tanks waiting for the refinery disruptions to end. With fall 2015 oil futures at higher prices than the current market, oil producers have little incentive to send their oil to refiners anyway, so they’re incentivized to stockpile, which is exactly what they’re doing. Currently, the United States is producing and importing about one-million excess barrels of crude oil a day.

This issue of over capacity has gotten worse because of the Flanagan South Pipeline. Haven’t heard of it? It hasn’t been very news worthy because Flanagan South isn’t USDA prime click bait that generates the fury of a thousand suns that headlines around Keystone XL create. The 36” pipe went online in November, and is now pumping 550,000 barrels a day of heavy oil from western Canada directly to the United States through Pontiac, Michigan. It is what Keystone XL is proposed to do, already happening today.  Huge amounts of crude oil from Canada oil sands are moving to Illinois refineries and Cushing, Oklahoma for storage.

Here is the critical problem. The United States is running out of room to store oil.  By April every forecast is indicating the United States will be at tank top. Producers are already signing leases for oil tankers to store crude oil off the coasts of the United States in anticipation of hitting the top for onshore storage. The 13 pipelines that flow into Cushing, Oklahoma are pouring 1.7 million barrels of oil a day into the facility.

It is a perfect storm coming together. Diminished refinery capacity nationwide sent gasoline prices up swiftly, but reduced the need for crude oil at the same time. Crude oil producers having no incentive to send their oil down to the Gulf of Mexico refineries for production and export, because current futures prices indicate more profit can be made if they wait, and the refineries can’t use it anyway because of the strike. Record amounts of oil are already in place and have reached the critical point where all possible storage for crude oil will be filled up.

Fine, so why doesn’t China just buy the stuff, or Europe, or Brazil? China oil consumption is down as their economy has cooled and Europe had a rather normal winter and near flat economic growth. The fundamental issue of too much oil and not enough consumption hasn’t changed. What has changed for the short term is a tightening of gasoline supply within the United States causing a temporary spike in gasoline prices.

So what happens if we top out in April? Commodity price Armageddon is what happens. Oil will start to flow southward and refiners will be under huge pressure to increase output, into a market with an oversupply problem as it is. Refiners will be under huge pressure to settle with the United Steelworkers union to get production back up.The price of oil and motor fuels will have nowhere to go but down, and there is a growing chorus of analysts saying that crude oil will drop to below $30 a barrel, and take gasoline with it.

If the crude oil has nowhere to go, producers will be forced to throttle back production. That means any plunge in both oil and gasoline prices will be short lived. The pendulum will swing back the other way as the supply tightens quickly, and that ugly price spike that I wrote about coming in 2016 right around the time of US elections, that would be the next step.

I still think it’s still OK to plan that cross country drive in your Challenger Hellcat, but maybe time it closer to Labor Day.

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Study: Millennial Fastest-Growing Auto Lending Segment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/study-millennial-fastest-growing-auto-lending-segment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/study-millennial-fastest-growing-auto-lending-segment/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 15:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1015978 Alleged to not be interested in cars or driving them, millennials are the fastest-growing segment of car buyers as far as lending goes, per a new study. According to Automotive News, credit-reporting company TransUnion found the group represented 27 percent of overall auto loans and lease originations made in 2014, up from just 16 percent […]

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hipster lyft millennials

Alleged to not be interested in cars or driving them, millennials are the fastest-growing segment of car buyers as far as lending goes, per a new study.

According to Automotive News, credit-reporting company TransUnion found the group represented 27 percent of overall auto loans and lease originations made in 2014, up from just 16 percent in 2009. Senior vice president and automotive business leader Jason Laky says this is due to both an improving economy and millennials’ entering into the next phase of their lives:

They’re maturing into their adulthood. They’re getting to the point where they’re employed, they’re having families, they’re moving to a place where they’re financing just like previous generations.

Meanwhile, Gen Xers were the largest segment in auto lending, accounting for 34 percent of loans and originations in 2014. Boomers followed close behind with 32 percent, down from 34 percent in 2013. Average balances per generation are $21,779 for Gen X, $21,055 for boomers, and $18,678 for millennials, the last group experiencing the largest jump in average outstanding balances at 4.1 percent.

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Junkyard Find: 1972 Volvo 145 Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1973-volvo-145-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1973-volvo-145-station-wagon/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1014482 If you listen to those who claim to love the Volvo 140, every example of the breed is extremely valuable and must be saved… and yet there’s a greater disparity between the Talking The Talk Quotient (TTTQ) and the Walking The Walk Quotient (WTWQ) seen among self-proclaimed Volvo fanatics than found among aficionados of any […]

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15 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIf you listen to those who claim to love the Volvo 140, every example of the breed is extremely valuable and must be saved… and yet there’s a greater disparity between the Talking The Talk Quotient (TTTQ) and the Walking The Walk Quotient (WTWQ) seen among self-proclaimed Volvo fanatics than found among aficionados of any other marque. Yes, the TTTQ:WTWQ value approaches something like 100:1 when it comes to the poor old Volvo 140, a car whose basic design lived on well into the 1990s (in the form of the 140-descendent 240), and so almost none of these cars get rescued when they get down-at-the-heels (and the same goes for 240s). Here’s a San Francisco Bay Area 145 that shows signs of being well-cared-for during its first 15 years and then forgotten in a side yard for the following quarter-century.
18 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIn this series so far, we’ve seen quite a few 140s, including this ’68 142, this ’69 145, this ’71 144, and this ’71 142. (plus there’s this bonus 164, which was based on the 140).
07 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car was full of registration receipts, smog-check certificates, and other stuff dating from the middle 1970s to the late 1980s. I didn’t find anything newer than that, so odds are that the car broke and then sat outdoors for decades.
01 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt appears that the car’s owner did a lot of camping and outdoor-type activities. Most of the maps date from the late 1960s and early 1970s.
14 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNow that’s what your organized Volvo owner does!
29 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou need to know what the weather is like when you’re heading to Mt. Lassen, and so you need this Radio Shack weather-band radio that transmits through the car’s AM radio.
19 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFour-wheel disc brakes were extremely rare on US-market vehicles when the first 140s appeared for the 1967 model year, and even front disc brakes weren’t universal as late as the early 1970s.
26 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPlanning makes your camping trip go better!
StreetViewI thought I’d removed all the identifying stuff in the photos, but couple of readers were able to figure out the car’s former address (from a photograph of registration paperwork that I’d missed) and find it on Google Street View. I’ve removed that photograph (don’t want enraged Volvo fanatics tracking down the former owner), but have now added a photo of the car before it got towed away— MM.

01 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 28 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 29 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 30 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 31 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 32 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 33 - 1973 Volvo 145 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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European Review: Škoda Octavia G-TEC Natural Gas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/european-review-skoda-octavia-g-tec-natural-gas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/european-review-skoda-octavia-g-tec-natural-gas/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1008938 I have talked about diesel, manual wagons in this space a few times already, so you probably know that I don’t like them. I don’t like their clatter and I don’t like their limited rev range and turbo surge. I don’t like the massive servicing costs of the common-rail ones, which is the price you […]

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I have talked about diesel, manual wagons in this space a few times already, so you probably know that I don’t like them. I don’t like their clatter and I don’t like their limited rev range and turbo surge. I don’t like the massive servicing costs of the common-rail ones, which is the price you pay for the reduction in clatter. And I hate the tons of soot they spit out.

There is one thing, though, at which they are hard to beat. It’s providing a combination of practicality and driving fun combined with fantastic fuel mileage. But hard to beat doesn’t mean impossible to beat. So, let me introduce a car that should, in theory, kick the diesel, manual wagon’s arse at its own game. The Škoda Octavia 1.4 TSI G-TEC.

What it is? In essence, it’s the only car anyone in the world needs. Which is what they say about the VW Golf, and they’re right. But this is also a Golf. Just a bit bigger, and a little bit cheaper. With lots more space inside. The rear seat legroom rivals that of the 5-series BMW, the trunk is huge, and everything is built just a little bit worse than a Golf, to fit in the Sloan’s Piech’s plan of the brand ladder.

Under its hood resides a downsized, turbocharged 1.4 TSI engine, offering a 138hp in its standard form. But this is not a standard car. This one has been factory fitted with a CNG fuel system. Under the trunk floor, there is a huge tank storing just 15 kilograms of compressed natural gas, while the original 50-litre (13.2 gallons) tank kept intact. Together, they offer a range of about 600 miles in normal driving (or 1,000 miles under “economy run” conditions), with 200 miles of those 600 in CNG-burning mode.

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The CNG brings great advantage in running costs – in the EU, it costs about half as much compared to gasoline, mile-for-mile. And at first, there are no significant differences between the ordinary gasoline-powered car and this one. There are sublte details, like the second fuel gauge instead of a water temp gauge in the tachometer, or the second fuel cap under the fuel door. There is also a slightly higher trunk floor, and the lack of a spare tire. Other than that, it’s just like ordinary car. The switching between fuels is automatic, and you won’t even notice it. The trip computer provides info about distance to empty on both fuels together, and each of them individually. Everything is nice and easy.

Under real life European conditions, this car gets about as cheap to run as it gets. With consumption of less than 4kg of CNG per 100km, it is possible achieve the cost of about $0.04 per kilometer ($0.06 per mile). At our electricity prices, about equals the cost of driving a Tesla in the same manner. As a matter of fact, I’m working on getting those two together to perform a real-life running cost comparison test. I have a strong feeling that Octavia may actually win.

At the same time, the CNG powered car still offers the smooth, quiet operation of gasoline engine, as well as its wide rev range. Couple that with an extremely nice interior, great build quality and top-notch suspension (the G-TEC, unlike other lower-powered Octavias, gets a multi-link axle in the rear), and you should have a clear winner on your hands. Even when I take into consideration that no real-life G-TEC will look like my press tester, which came as a top-trim Elegance model complete with navigation, automatic parking, lane assist, adaptive cruise control, heated leather seats front and rear, power everything including seats and tailgate etc., the car that is likely to get ordered by a typical customer (some mid-trim level with only a few options, costing maybe $25,000 with VAT and not $40k with VAT like the tested example) will look and function pretty well for what it is.

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The downside? Lack of power. Turns out there’s more to G-TEC’s modifications than just adding a second system, and it’s not just a different mapping, either. The company doesn’t talk about it much in its PR materials, but the G-TEC engine has a different camshaft and a different turbocharger from the gasoline version, thus slashing both power and torque curves. The result is a car that is, in real-life, slower than the lesser 1.2 TSI version, with power and torque seriously lacking in low rev-range.

Unlike a typical TSI engine, you have to rev it like an old N/A 1.6 four-cylinder. On Czech roads, with lots of corners and heavy traffic, this makes any kind of fast driving significantly uncomfortable – I once had to rush the G-TEC a bit, when I woke up just an hour and a half before I had to appear at lunch, in a town nearly 100 miles away. I made it, but overtaking on country roads was a pain and driving at 100+ mph on the highway required near-constant full throttle. This also meant that the fuel consumption skyrocketed from 4kg/100km to about twice that.

The other downside? The combination of small CNG tank with a sparse CNG station network in Europe. Two hundred miles on a tank is really not much, and with maybe one in 10 or 20 gas stations carrying CNG, you will probably end up running on an empty CNG tank quite often, burning more expensive gasoline instead. But even then, the 1.4 TSI is quite a frugal car, though nothing to write home about. Also, it is quite interesting that even when burning gasoline, the engine doesn’t get any of the lost horses back.

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In theory, the CNG cars combine a gasoline engine’s smooth, quiet power, with even better economy than diesel. And the G-TEC delivers at about 85% of this. As long as you’re leisurely, relaxed driver, you can achieve unparalleled fuel econmy, beating even some electric cars. But if you tend to rush, the car lacks in power significantly. The solution would probably be to offer the G-TEC version of the more powerful 1.8 TSI as well – and we can only hope we will get one, soon. With that, the obnoxious diesel, manual wagon can finally be taken out and shot, as it deserves.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz and serves as editor-in-chief at www.USmotors.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a ratty Chrysler LHS. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

Photos: David Marek

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Marchionne: Fiat Will Never Again Be ‘A General Brand’ In Europe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/marchionne-fiat-will-never-general-brand-europe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/marchionne-fiat-will-never-general-brand-europe/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1015962 Once a mass-market player in Europe, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne says Fiat will never again be as such. According to Automotive News Europe, Marchionne made the proclamation during this year’s Geneva Auto Show: In terms of the scope of a mass producer of vehicles, Fiat (brand) no longer offers — and it never intends to […]

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Once a mass-market player in Europe, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne says Fiat will never again be as such.

According to Automotive News Europe, Marchionne made the proclamation during this year’s Geneva Auto Show:

In terms of the scope of a mass producer of vehicles, Fiat (brand) no longer offers — and it never intends to have — a full range of product of the kind mass brands have. Fiat will lose its appeal as a general brand and it will focus on what it does best.

He adds that “the economics are not there” to keep Fiat in the mass-market arena as far as investments are concerned, and has no plans to claw back lost market share in Europe. As such, Marchionne has refocused the brand’s European lineup toward smaller cars like the 500 range, the Panda, and upcoming replacements for the Bravo and Punto.

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Piston Slap: A Snowpocalypse Kills Old Cars? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-snowpocalypse-kills-old-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-snowpocalypse-kills-old-cars/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 13:30:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1014906   TTAC Commentator Pete Zaitcev writes: Dear Sajeev: Here’s a qustion that’s not “what car should I buy”. My town had a “snowpocalypse” event: it was 65F for a week, then an inch or two of snow fell and the temperatures fell into low 30s for a day. The usual followed, like a miniature Atlanta. But what surprised me the […]

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So much for the Freezing Fire oxymoron. (photo courtesy: dailymail.co.uk)

TTAC Commentator Pete Zaitcev writes:

Dear Sajeev:

Here’s a qustion that’s not “what car should I buy”. My town had a “snowpocalypse” event: it was 65F for a week, then an inch or two of snow fell and the temperatures fell into low 30s for a day. The usual followed, like a miniature Atlanta. But what surprised me the most was the number of broken cars parked alongside highways. They didn’t fall to accidents, they just stopped. But why?

I can imagine one guy being silly enough to eschew 50/50 antifrieze and get a block cracked. But there were dozens of them all over, and they ran until they stopped. So, probably not heat/cold as such.

None of cars I saw was brand-new. I saw BMWs, Fords, even Acuras. My personal suspicion is that electrics got salt water into them.

Is that a reasonable suspicion?

Is this something I can test for?

Sajeev answers:

The odds of salt water (or anything else) getting in there is unlikely. Modern engine electronics are quite impervious to the elements, short of an underhood steam cleaning.

Crystal Ballin’ the reason for so much Hooptie Snowstorm Fail is tough.  Maybe they’re running on worn out batteries or alternators that finally died, where one component finally killed the other. It wouldn’t be the first time!

Or maybe…umm…I’m sticking with a combination of dying battery and worn alternator. Especially considering how temperature changes can wreak havoc on a conventional lead-acid battery. New cars have new batteries, right? 

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

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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Ford Readying Chevrolet Bolt Rival For Los Angeles Reveal http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/ford-readying-chevrolet-bolt-rival-los-angeles-reveal/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/ford-readying-chevrolet-bolt-rival-los-angeles-reveal/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 13:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1015938 Not one to be left in the dust, Ford is preparing a rival low-cost EV to go after the Chevrolet Bolt for a Los Angeles reveal this year. AutoGuide reports the plug-in EV would be a stand-alone model instead of a repurposed product like a Fiesta or Focus. Ford hopes to beat Chevrolet to the […]

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Not one to be left in the dust, Ford is preparing a rival low-cost EV to go after the Chevrolet Bolt for a Los Angeles reveal this year.

AutoGuide reports the plug-in EV would be a stand-alone model instead of a repurposed product like a Fiesta or Focus. Ford hopes to beat Chevrolet to the punch with a production version before the Bolt hits showrooms in 2017, though both vehicles would likely reach customers before Tesla’s low-cost Model 3 sees the light of day.

Though little else has been found on this project, a concept version of Ford’s Bolt is expected to bow at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

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Kia Sportspace Heading To Production Within 18 Months http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/kia-sportspace-heading-production-within-18-months/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/kia-sportspace-heading-production-within-18-months/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 12:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1015914 Eighteen months from now, the Kia Sportspace will make the leap from the design studio to European showrooms. According to Top Gear, Kia Europe CEO Michael Cole says the estate is part of the automaker’s plans to “enter segments that [Kia’s] not in to support [its] growth. In Europe particularly the D-segment wagon is a […]

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Eighteen months from now, the Kia Sportspace will make the leap from the design studio to European showrooms.

According to Top Gear, Kia Europe CEO Michael Cole says the estate is part of the automaker’s plans to “enter segments that [Kia’s] not in to support [its] growth. In Europe particularly the D-segment wagon is a volume segment, so it’s worth going for.”

The Sportspace is also leading the way toward a sportier, performance-oriented direction for Kia, which currently includes the green-lit twin-turbo V6 GT. Though the estate boasts Optima’s T-Hybrid diesel-electric powertrain — whose output of 170 horsepower is directed to the front when the estate’s temporary AWD is not in use — Cole says a high-performance version could come “much further down the line.”

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Automakers Continue Support Of Electric Vehicles Despite Weak Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/automakers-continue-support-electric-vehicles-despite-weak-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/automakers-continue-support-electric-vehicles-despite-weak-sales/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 11:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1015890 Though sales of electric vehicles are still weak, automakers are not giving up on them over the long term. Reporting from the floor of the 2015 Geneva Auto Show, Autoblog says that technology is important to help automakers meet ever-stringent emissions standards, especially those in China, where heavy air pollution limits how many cars are […]

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2015 BMW i3

Though sales of electric vehicles are still weak, automakers are not giving up on them over the long term.

Reporting from the floor of the 2015 Geneva Auto Show, Autoblog says that technology is important to help automakers meet ever-stringent emissions standards, especially those in China, where heavy air pollution limits how many cars are registered annually. BMW AG CEO Norbert Reithofer said as much when stating that his company cannot leave EVs like the i3 behind, proclaiming such vehicles would be in demand in the future.

Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche says hybrids were “truly attractive cars that represent the best of both worlds” as his and other companies cross the bridge toward a zero-emission future. However, Zetsche adds that the battery technology needed to get to the other side — long-lasting battery packs — are at least five years away.

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Chevrolet Axes Slow Selling Orlando In Canada http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/chevrolet-axes-slow-selling-orlando-canada/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/chevrolet-axes-slow-selling-orlando-canada/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 22:51:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1015338 The Canadian-market Chevrolet Orlando is dead, according to sales analyst Timothy Cain. Thanks to some sleuthing, Cain discovered that GM Canada quietly killed off the Orlando for 2015. The Orlando never managed to make a dent in the Canada small minivan market, despite being the right car for Canadian market and road conditions. More than […]

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The Canadian-market Chevrolet Orlando is dead, according to sales analyst Timothy Cain. Thanks to some sleuthing, Cain discovered that GM Canada quietly killed off the Orlando for 2015.

The Orlando never managed to make a dent in the Canada small minivan market, despite being the right car for Canadian market and road conditions. More than likely, the sub-$20,000 Dodge Caravan Canada Value Package stole away customers who wanted an affordable minivan that can haul a couple of kids and their hockey bags. The success of the Caravan has always been a thorn in the side of other small vans like the Mazda5 and Kia Rondo.

 

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Chevrolet Colorado Chassis Cab Debuts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/chevrolet-colorado-chassis-cab-debuts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/chevrolet-colorado-chassis-cab-debuts/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 20:36:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1015290 For those who must have a chassis cab in something smaller than a full-size truck, Chevrolet’s got you covered. Available in two-wheel drive V6 format, the Colorado chassis cab can be ordered by checking the box for the ZW9 package. At around $300 less than the equivalent truck with a bed, the chassis cab gets […]

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2015 Chevrolet Colorado box delete package

For those who must have a chassis cab in something smaller than a full-size truck, Chevrolet’s got you covered.

Available in two-wheel drive V6 format, the Colorado chassis cab can be ordered by checking the box for the ZW9 package. At around $300 less than the equivalent truck with a bed, the chassis cab gets you  comes with a set  of temporary taillights mounted to the frame ends, a full-size spare, a Z82 trailer package and a limited-slip differential. Payload is set at 2,000 lbs.

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A Very “Euro” Way To Hand Out That Free Candy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/euro-way-hand-free-candy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/euro-way-hand-free-candy/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 19:53:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1015226 Twenty-four years ago, noted wearer-of-Givenchy-sweatsuits-with-burgundy-trim DJ Quik lamented that, thanks to the pervasive influence of gangster rap, everywhere he went was just like Compton. The same thing is happening with the American commercial-vehicle landscape. The first to fall was the hoary old unibody Dodge van, which yielded to the rust-prone Sprinter. Next was the E-Series, […]

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The 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris

Twenty-four years ago, noted wearer-of-Givenchy-sweatsuits-with-burgundy-trim DJ Quik lamented that, thanks to the pervasive influence of gangster rap, everywhere he went was just like Compton. The same thing is happening with the American commercial-vehicle landscape. The first to fall was the hoary old unibody Dodge van, which yielded to the rust-prone Sprinter. Next was the E-Series, nee Econoline, which bowed-out this year in favor of the Euro-style full-sized Transit. Only the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana are left to carry the glinting banner on which waves the heraldic American-van shield of a bleeding hand (from trying to wrench on short-hood vehicles), a one-dollar bill (to signify the aggressive cost-cutting which has come to dominate that business) a bar of candy (calling to mind the child molesters and creeps who formed the tertiary van market) and the symbols “O-” (the old universal-donor blood type, required for anyone who crashed a van above walking pace).

Mercedes started this party in the USA, of course, but they’ve been late to the intermediate-van game. The Metris, announced at a work-truck show in Indianapolis, will fix that oversight.

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris

The Metris starts at $29,945 for cargo and $33,495 for the passenger models. Who’s going to buy the latter, I wonder? It’s larger than the Transit Connect or the Nissan NV200.

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris

The sole available engine is a four-cylinder gasoline model that delivers 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque to the rear-wheels via a 7-speed automatic transmission.

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo Van

Everywhere else in the world, this is the “Vito” van, beloved steed of German plumbers and anybody else who wants to spend more money than you’d drop on, say, a Renault Kangoo. But here it’s “Metris”, presumably because “Vito” suggests Brando in his chunky forties and this Metris is meant to be more Al Pacino in Godfather II.

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo Van

I cannot imagine the Metris will set the market on fire when it arrives. This is an exceptionally price-sensitive market, as I learned to my annoyance when I sold E-150s for a living, and Mercedes no longer carries the bulletproof quality reputation that would have made spending half again the price of a Transit Connect a no-brainer in 1982. We’ll just have to see. In the meantime, consider this: a passenger-model Metris carries more people than a CLA250, with more dignity.

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