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, 28 Nov 2014 15:49:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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 Chart Of The Day: Gas Prices, Trucks And Automobiles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/chart-day-gas-prices-trucks-automobiles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/chart-day-gas-prices-trucks-automobiles/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 15:49:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=952969 Courtesy of our own Tim Cain. The fain green line represents gas prices, starting from the peak price of crude oil in 2014. Elsewhere, we see market share figures for passenger cars, SUVs/CUVs and pickup trucks. We’ll be keeping an eye on this as the months roll on. Crude oil dipped below $70 a barrel […]

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Courtesy of our own Tim Cain. The fain green line represents gas prices, starting from the peak price of crude oil in 2014. Elsewhere, we see market share figures for passenger cars, SUVs/CUVs and pickup trucks. We’ll be keeping an eye on this as the months roll on. Crude oil dipped below $70 a barrel today – truly a black Friday for world oil markets. Let’s see how consumers respond in terms of new vehicle choices.

 

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Capsule Review: 2015 Toyota Yaris http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/capsule-review-2015-toyota-yaris/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/capsule-review-2015-toyota-yaris/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 15:04:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=952633 2015 promises to be a big year for Toyota. The US market is increasingly important for Japan, Inc., and that market is growing. 16.4 million new light-vehicles are expected to be sold in the US in 2014, and 2015 estimates are as high as 17 million. The updated Camry will help capture a large slice […]

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2015 promises to be a big year for Toyota. The US market is increasingly important for Japan, Inc., and that market is growing. 16.4 million new light-vehicles are expected to be sold in the US in 2014, and 2015 estimates are as high as 17 million. The updated Camry will help capture a large slice of that growth, but you need competent product across the board when every basis point counts.

Yaris sales have never led the subcompact segment, but they’ve become particularly soft lately with over 50% going to fleet buyers. The new “European flavor” of the refreshed 2015 Yaris is arriving without a moment to spare then.

Will the refresh be enough to return the Yaris to relevance, or can we still only say that “it’s a car”?

The Yaris’ changes do not represent a full redesign, but this isn’t just an aesthetic nip and tuck at the hands of the French design team either. Interior, exterior and suspension tweaks are all welcome changes to the three- and five-door hatchback configurations. The sedan layout, dead since 2012, stays buried.

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On the outside, buyers will immediately notice the new corporate fascia. A lower windshield angle, reshaped side mirrors and underbody shields aid aerodynamics. 15-in. wheels are steel on the base L trim and alloy on the LE. The SE meanwhile, receives distinctive 16-in. wheels, LED daytime running lights and piano black trim. It isn’t a dramatically more aggressive look than before, but I think the additions are cohesive in a way previous iterations of the Corolla S never managed. Amusingly, the enormous single-blade windshield wiper also returns.

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The interior is both more conventional and more functional than before. Ergonomics are better, which is to say that the cupholders are no long in front of the air vents. HVAC performance is also improved, but some popular features like heated seats aren’t available. I was genuinely impressed by the steering wheel though – the stitching was good, the leather was of decent quality considering the price point and the indents in the shape fit my hands exceptionally well.

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Perhaps the brightest aspect of the outgoing Yaris was its steering in SE configuration (Car & Driver was particularly outspoken in their praise). That steering tune is now standard across all trim levels. Chassis stiffness increases thanks to 36 additional spot welds, enabling Toyota to reduce spring rates compared to 2014. Shoppers will notice the welcome increase in compliance. The short 98.8-in. wheelbase still causes some back-and-forth pitching over expansion joints though, and large bumps upset the whole car as a unit.

On the upside, stability at speed is better than expected. Wider tires are more effective in resisting tramlining than before. The front sway bar, now solid across all trims, and stiffer torsion bar in the rear both do their part to increase the sense of precision. Overall capability won’t threaten true hot hatches like the Fiesta ST, but the package is certainly well-sorted and fun.

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Toyota says road and wind noise are both reduced thanks to 25% more sound deadening than before. I won’t dispute that. However, being that they planned on keeping the same 1.5 liter four cylinder, they should have added more. Allow me to offer a roundabout explanation:

The Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris both entered the US market in model year 2007. The Honda utilized a 1.5L inline four making 109 horsepower, while the Yaris’ 1.5 made 106. Fast-forward to 2015. Both models have been multiple times updated. The Honda now wrings 130 horses from 1.5 liters. The Toyota? Still 106.

Make sure to close the barn doors at night because you need every last horse on the road too. The engine note is pervasive at nearly all speeds, and it isn’t always pleasant. Keeping up with traffic isn’t Mission: Impossible on relatively flat terrain, but 2,500 RPM shifts won’t keep up pace during rush hour either. Whereas the Fit maximizes its engine output with a new CVT transmission, the Yaris soldiers on with the same 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual. If you kvetched about this gearbox back in Jack’s 2013 review, you may as well copy-paste your comments here – they’re still fully relevant.

Fun fact: With yesteryear’s automatic, the EPA rates the Yaris just 1 mpg better on the highway than the four-cylinder Camry. Midsizers have certainly made greater efficiency gains than subcompacts over the last few years, but this is still a dubious distinction for the Yaris. The EPA calls for 30/32/36 with the autobox and 30/33/37 with the 5-speed manual.

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For a few buyers though, that sort of powertrain continuity could be a selling point if construed as an indicator of reliability. In that case, you’ll likely also be pleased with the ease of servicing it. Lay a newspaper on the ground under the engine bay, open the hood and stare straight down – there’s enough space around the block to read entire stories. Compared to the plastic-shrouded aggravation DIY-types frequently have to endure these days, it’s a welcome surprise.

Every change Toyota made to the Yaris was for the better, the proven powertrain will probably start every time you twist the ignition for the next 20 years and pricing increases are modest versus 2014 models. The changes barely keep pace with the segment though. This refresh is almost certainly a stopgap measure, a placeholder for the fully redesigned version being developed with Mazda. In the meantime, the 2015 Yaris is an improved vehicle whose buyers still can’t say much beyond the fact that “It’s a car”.

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Subaru’s WRX/STi Is Outselling The BRZ and FR-S Twins Combined http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/subarus-wrxsti-outselling-brz-fr-s-twins-combined/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/subarus-wrxsti-outselling-brz-fr-s-twins-combined/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 13:54:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=950417 Through the first ten months of 2014, Subaru has sold 19,969 copies of their Impreza-based WRX and STi, 996 more than the number of Toyobaru sports cars sold in America this year. WRX/STi sales are up 35% through the end of October 2014, a 140% increase compared with the full 2010 calendar year, 45% compared […]

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2015 Subaru WRX STiThrough the first ten months of 2014, Subaru has sold 19,969 copies of their Impreza-based WRX and STi, 996 more than the number of Toyobaru sports cars sold in America this year.

WRX/STi sales are up 35% through the end of October 2014, a 140% increase compared with the full 2010 calendar year, 45% compared with all of 2011, 47% compared with 2012, and 11% compared with all of 2013.

2014, as you know, is not over yet. Subaru USA has been selling just under 2000 WRXs and STis per month.

Year-over-year volume has increased in 24 consecutive months. Nearly three out of every ten Imprezas sold is either a WRX or an STi.

The sports car market may be drying up, but it’s not dead yet. Scion, with 12,293 FR-S sales this year, and Subaru, with 6680 BRZ sales, have combined for 18,973 sales in 2014. Yes, that’s down 18% from the 23,126 sold in the first ten months of 2013. True, monthly BRZ volume peaked 20 months ago in March 2013. And no, FR-S sales haven’t topped 2000 units since the car’s first full month on sale, June 2012, and monthly FR-S volume has twice fallen into three-digits this year. Sports cars tend to do this. They surge with early interest and quickly decline with age.

But ignoring the standards set by Detroit muscle – 182,196 Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger sales this year – these are relatively popular cars, given the category in which they compete. Two-doors which sell more often than the FR-S aren’t nonexistent (Audi A5, Mini Cooper Hardtop, the three-door Hyundai Veloster, Volkswagen’s Beetle, the Chevrolet Corvette, Fiat 500, and the aforementioned trio), nor are they direct rivals for the Toyobaru twins.

Other places for sport compact-like money? Unfortunately, automakers don’t routinely release specific sales figures for models like the Civic Si, Focus and Fiesta ST, or Abarth 500s. Sales of the outgoing Mazda MX-5 Miata are down 20% to 4143 in 2014. The Volkswagen Golf GTI, however, is up 23% to 13,848 U.S. sales year-to-date.

Yet unlike the Impreza’s increasingly popular sporting iterations, the GTI isn’t outselling the combined Scion/Subaru pairing. The WRX/STi has done that in five of the last seven months; in seven of the last ten.

In 2013, the FR-S and BRZ combined for 26,914 year-end sales while the WRX/STi duo managed 17,969. In 2014, the coin has been flipped to reveal a very different side.

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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Toyota’s LFA Works Now Home To Mirai FCV Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/toyotas-lfa-works-now-home-mirai-fcv-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/toyotas-lfa-works-now-home-mirai-fcv-production/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 13:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=952529 Remember when Herr Schmitt took us for a TTAC exclusive into the workshop that made the Lexus LFA? It’s now the home of the Toyota Mirai. Automotive News reports Toyota gave its FCV to the LFA Works — located behind the Motomachi plant in Toyota City, Japan — because the facility’s attention to detail and […]

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Remember when Herr Schmitt took us for a TTAC exclusive into the workshop that made the Lexus LFA? It’s now the home of the Toyota Mirai.

Automotive News reports Toyota gave its FCV to the LFA Works — located behind the Motomachi plant in Toyota City, Japan — because the facility’s attention to detail and better tools (i.e., hands) than any of the more “ultra-efficient,” machine-powered factories under the automaker’s watch.

Because of the Mirai’s hand-built nature — the powertrain and other components are assembled in Toyota’s Honsha plant, then brought over to the LFA Works for final assembly — executive vice president for domestic sales Masamoto Maekawa warns supplies will be limited, with only 700 planned for the first year, 200 of which are already on-order:

Each unit is carefully built with utmost care. So therefore, the production volume might be limited. During the initial stages, delivery time might be delayed. The 200 orders are mostly from government and corporate fleets.

Prior to the Mirai, the small workshop made limited-edition models, including a $10,000, 100-unit run of carbon fiber bicycles marketed to well-off Lexus owners, a carbon-fiber roof for special performance variant of the Toyota Mark X, and of course, the 500 LFAs assembled between 2010 and 2012.

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Toyota Recalls 57K Over Takata Airbags http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/toyota-recalls-57k-takata-airbags/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/toyota-recalls-57k-takata-airbags/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 12:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=952505 Toyota issued Thursday a global recall of 57,000 vehicles affected by the Takata airbag crisis. Reuters reports the majority of the vehicles — 40,000 — were sold in the automaker’s home market of Japan, while 6,000 are in Europe and the rest scattered around the world excluding the North American market. The models affected are […]

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Toyota issued Thursday a global recall of 57,000 vehicles affected by the Takata airbag crisis.

Reuters reports the majority of the vehicles — 40,000 — were sold in the automaker’s home market of Japan, while 6,000 are in Europe and the rest scattered around the world excluding the North American market. The models affected are the Vitz/Yaris and the RAV4, and were assembled between December 2002 and March 2004.

Additionally, Toyota subsidiary Daihatsu recalled 27,571 Miras assembled for sale in Japan between December 2002 and May 2003 for the same issue, marking the brand’s first Takata-related recall.

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Mercedes Bringing AMG To The Masses With New Line http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/mercedes-bringing-amg-masses-new-line/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/mercedes-bringing-amg-masses-new-line/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 11:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=952473 Is the raw power of the Mercedes-AMG lineup too much, but you still covet the name? The Teutonic marque has something just for you. An effort to make the sub-brand more accessible to the masses, Mercedes-Benz is introducing the AMG Sport line, which will slot between the restrained main collection and the more brutal AMG […]

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Mercedes-AMG 2014

Is the raw power of the Mercedes-AMG lineup too much, but you still covet the name? The Teutonic marque has something just for you.

An effort to make the sub-brand more accessible to the masses, Mercedes-Benz is introducing the AMG Sport line, which will slot between the restrained main collection and the more brutal AMG portfolio. Mercedes-AMG chair Tobias Moers explains:

The new Sport models represent a convincing proposition for our customers: genuine sports car technology becomes accessible, appealing to an even broader-ranging clientele worldwide. For all our dynamic growth, we remain true to our brand claim of “Driving Performance.”

All AMG Sport models will have AWD standard, and will come with more powerful engines and special braking and chassis components, all with the goal of bringing the AMG driving experience to the driver who isn’t ready to go all in. The first two models are set to make their debut at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

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Bugatti Royale: The Most Magnificent Car In The World? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/bugatti-royale-magnificent-car-world/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/bugatti-royale-magnificent-car-world/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 18:30:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=951737 Our friends over at Jalopnik ran a post on cars so important to you that you’d make a pilgrimage to see them. I really can’t quibble with the ten *cars that made their final cut, mostly because I’ve seen and photographed three of them myself, a Chrysler Turbine Car, the Gulf Oil liveried Ford GT40 that twice […]

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Full gallery here

Full gallery here

Our friends over at Jalopnik ran a post on cars so important to you that you’d make a pilgrimage to see them. I really can’t quibble with the ten *cars that made their final cut, mostly because I’ve seen and photographed three of them myself, a Chrysler Turbine Car, the Gulf Oil liveried Ford GT40 that twice won at LeMans, and a Bugatti Royale. Now fortunately for me, my pilgrimage to see those cars didn’t involve crossing an ocean or getting on an airplane. It was more like getting on the Southfield freeway and driving 20 minutes to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearbon, Michigan. The museum is surely pilgrimage-worthy as it owns one of the eight extant Chrysler Turbines, one of the six Bugatti Royales that were made, and for a while the 1968-69 LeMans winner was in the museum’s Racing In America exhibit while the 1967 LeMans winning Ford Mk IV was being repaired. We recently looked at the Mk IV and not long ago featured the Gulf colored GT40, plus the Chrysler Turbine cars are pretty well known, so this is a good opportunity to talk about the Bugatti Royale.

Click here to view the embedded video.


Start the video and click on the settings icon to select 2D or your choice of 3D formats

There are cars that are special. If you get a chance to see a Duesenberg Model J with your own eyes, you immediately understand why “It’s a Duesey!” became an idiom for supreme excellence. Likewise, a Cord 810, so low slung and radical for its day, will grab your eyes when sitting a midst the Packards and Cadillacs of that era. The same is true of the 1956 Continental Mark II, considered one of the most beautiful cars ever made, hand assembled with visible build quality. Any one of those cars could be the centerpiece of a magnificent car collection, so it takes a superbly magnificent automobile to make a Duesenberg, a Cord and a Continental look almost ordinary, a little less special. The Ford museum’s Bugatti Royale sits right next to those illustrious automobiles and it does exactly that. Duesenbergs are large, impressive cars, but it’s possible that when the word massive was coined, it was waiting for the Royale to illustrate its dictionary entry. It’s not just big, it is a beautiful and stunning piece of human creation.

Ferraris have a prancing horse. Bugattis have a prancing elephant, sculpted by Ettore Bugatti's brother, Rembrandt Bugatti. Full gallery here.

Ferraris have a prancing horse. Bugattis have a dancing elephant, sculpted by Ettore Bugatti’s brother, Rembrandt Bugatti. Full gallery here.

Ettore Bugatti planned to build 25 Royales, also known as the Type 41, hoping to sell them, as the name indicated, to royalty. Unfortunately for Bugatti, the Great Depression had depressed the market for $30,000 automobiles, a bit more than a half million 2014 U.S. dollars. By comparison, when the Ford V8 was introduced in 1932 it’s starting price was $495. Henry Ford sold over 300,000 cars in 1932. Ettore Bugatti ended up making only 6 Royales and while ’32 Fords are indeed some of the most collectible cars you’ll find, the Bugatti Royale takes collectible a few quantum leaps higher.

Of those six Royales, two of them are in the French national automobile museum, the confiscated Schlumpf brothers’ collection. Volkswagen, which owns the Bugatti brand, owns a third. A fourth is in a private collection in Switzerland and the fifth is part of the Blackhawk collection. So if you want to see a Bugatti Royale, you’re going to have to go to either Europe or California… or Detroit. Well, properly speaking Dearborn. As mentioned, the Henry Ford Museum’s Driving America exhibit contains a number of great and historically significant cars, but the jewel in the collection has to be Bugatti chassis no. 41-121, known as the Cabriolet Weinberger. 41-121 has a colorful history, traveling all around the world before ending up in Dearborn.

Ordered for his personal use by Dr. Joseph Fuchs, a German who was successful at both his vocation, medicine, and his avocation, racing cars. Delivered in 1931, Dr. Fuchs contracted with the Weinberger coachbuilding company of Munich to body the the 169.3-inch wheelbase chassis. He took delivery the following year.

Soon after Adolph Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany and the Nazis came to power in 1933, Fuchs first went to Switzerland before traveling on to Shanghai, China, then a pretty wide open city. When considering refugees from the Nazis and their connection to Shanghai, one might conclude that Dr. Fuchs may have been Jewish, but none of my research indicates that he was other than a German who didn’t like the Nazis.

Fuchs had the massive car shipped to China but in 1937, with imperial Japanese soldiers advancing in the south of China he left Asia for North America, first moving to Canada and then to New York City. The winter of 1937-38 was a cold one in the Big Apple and the block for the model J’s 12.7 liter straight eight engine froze up and cracked. After unsuccessfully trying to sell it the car was sold for scrap to a junkyard in the Bronx.

One of the things that made Bugattis advanced for their day was the extensive use of aluminum. Amazingly, the aluminum intensive car survived early World War II era scrap drives.

In 1943, Charles Chayne, the chief engineer for Buick and one of the pioneers of the car collecting hobby, found out about the junkyard Bugatti and bought it, shipping it back to Detroit. Following the end of hostilities, in 1946 he started to repair the engine and restore the Bugatti in general, finishing it the following year.

Today we’d call it a restomod because Chayne wanted it to be a driver, not a museum piece. He replaced the original single carburetor with four Stromberg units mounted on a custom intake manifold (possibly of his own design). For all of his advanced ideas, Ettore Bugatti was set in his ways and he never stopped using mechanically activated brakes (Henry Ford also was a fan of mechanical brakes). To drive the car safely Chayne had the braking system swtiched to hydraulics. The car’s original black finish was repainted in oyster white, with a contrasting dark character stripe featuring Chayne’s monogram on the door. A tall man, Chayne also modified the interior to fit him better.

Charles and Esther Chayne donated the Bugatti Royale Weinberger Cabriolet to the Henry Ford Museum in late 1950s. For most of the time since then it’s been on static display but seven years ago the museum hired Classic & Exotic Services, a high end Detroit area restoration shop to get it running so it could be driven onto the show field at the Meadow Brook Concours (now the Concours of America at St. John’s).

Many people who have never visited the Henry Ford Museum are under the mistaken impression that its transportation collection must focus on Ford automobiles. While there certainly are many historically significant Fords, it’s a well curated museum that gives credit wherever it is due. If you make an automtive pilgrimage to the Dearborn museum, you’ll see marques from around the world of cars and trucks, so it shouldn’t surprise you that one of biggest stars of Henry Ford’s museum’s collection is a French masterpiece with Buick connections.

*The top ten pilgrimage cars post at Jalopnik lists a Type 57 Bugatti as being at the Henry Ford Museum, but something must have gotten lost in translation because the commenter credited with making that suggestion actually mentioned the Bugatti Royale at the Ford museum, not a Type 57 (you can see a Type 57 Bugatti that was a best-of-show winner at Amelia Island in 2012 here). As far as I’ve been able to determine, the Henry Ford Museum does not have a Type 57 in its collection. Also, the Jalopnik article says that you can see the 1968-69 LeMans winning Gulf livery Ford GT40 at the Henry Ford Museum but, as was pointed out in a recent TTAC post and mentioned above, that car was on temporary loan to the Henry Ford while the museum’s own 1967 LeMans winning Gurney/Foyt Ford Mk IV was being repaired and preserved. Now that the Mk IV has been fixed, the Gulf liveried car has been returned to its owner.

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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Question Of The Day: This Time It’s Different? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/question-day-time-different/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/question-day-time-different/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 15:51:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=952161 On the news of OPEC’s decision to keep oil production at current levels, there is almost certainly going to be a rout in the price of oil. As of this writing, Gasoline futures are below the $2 mark, while West Texas Intermediate (the North American crude oil benchmark) is sitting at about $71.50, down from […]

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On the news of OPEC’s decision to keep oil production at current levels, there is almost certainly going to be a rout in the price of oil.

As of this writing, Gasoline futures are below the $2 mark, while West Texas Intermediate (the North American crude oil benchmark) is sitting at about $71.50, down from a high of $105 this summer. Gas prices are sure to sink even lower alongside the expected dip in crude.

The big question in my mind is how this will influence consumer behavior in the auto sector. Since the Great Financial Crisis, auto makers have positioned themselves for marked increases in fuel economy, spurred by equal parts consumer demand and government mandates (CAFE and Euro emissions regulations). This has manifested itself in everything from incremental (more efficient powertrains) to extreme (the aluminum F-150).

With gasoline at record highs, the demand for smaller, fuel-efficient cars is acute. But when the price dips, consumers tend to forget about the hard times and gravitate back towards pickups, SUVs and all manner of gas guzzlers.

Or do they?

Over the following months, we’ll be able to track what happens to auto sales and the price of gasoline. Our sales guru Tim Cain will be able to plot the results in one of his trademark charts.

Personally, I suspect that we’ll see more short-term thinking when it comes to vehicle purchases. Sales of SUVs, trucks and larger crossovers will keep rising. Small crossovers will eat into sales of passenger cars, likely stealing market share from compact cars once nameplates like the Chevrolet Trax and Honda HR-V hit the market. The hard times will quickly be forgotten…until the next rise in gas prices and economic contraction. In the mean time, it’s going to be a rough market for hybrids and EVs.

But I’m curious to hear what you have to say. With no formal training in economics or business, all I can do is go with my gut. I’m curious to hear your analysis, whether its rooted in the same methodology as mine, or something more concrete and quantitative.

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Surprise, Surprise, The Scion iM Looks Just Like An Auris http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/surprise-surprise-scion-im-looks-just-like-auris/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/surprise-surprise-scion-im-looks-just-like-auris/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 15:31:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=952137 When the Scion iM makes its way over to our shores in 2015, it will ditch the aggro-blue paint job and the import tuner bodykit. How do we know this? Logic dictates that a mainstream car would look, well, mainstream. Oh, and spy photos. Our friends at AutoGuide got their hands on spy photos of […]

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When the Scion iM makes its way over to our shores in 2015, it will ditch the aggro-blue paint job and the import tuner bodykit. How do we know this? Logic dictates that a mainstream car would look, well, mainstream. Oh, and spy photos.

Our friends at AutoGuide got their hands on spy photos of the Scion iM, which shows the car looking identical to an Auris. Personally, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing, but I’m past my tuner years. Fans of the Toyota Matrix will probably concur.

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Coast to Coast 2014: Among Coffins, Furnaces And Devils In Death Valley http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/coast-coast-2014-among-coffins-furnaces-devils-death-valley/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/coast-coast-2014-among-coffins-furnaces-devils-death-valley/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 14:36:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=952105 Albert’s first incursion below sea level at Badwater, Death Valley CA * You can see all the USA Coast to Coast Reports here! * We now leave Las Vegas to enter the final state of this Coast to Coast trip: California. Crossing the state line, we enter Death Valley National Park and this is the perfect location for […]

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Albert Badwater with sea levelAlbert’s first incursion below sea level at Badwater, Death Valley CA

You can see all the USA Coast to Coast Reports here! *

We now leave Las Vegas to enter the final state of this Coast to Coast trip: California. Crossing the state line, we enter Death Valley National Park and this is the perfect location for an extended photo session with Albert. I give you the Photo Report, California sales data, Death Valley trivia and a review of how Albert coped with Death Valley heat below.

Ford F-150 AmargosaFord F-150 at Amargosa Hotel, Death Valley Junction CA

Just past Nevada is Death Valley Junction, home of the sleepy Amargosa Hotel and… Opera House. Yep. In the middle of the desert. We almost missed this gem and are so glad we persevered despite windows decidedly harbouring a ‘closed until further notice’ look. The Amargosa Opera House, aka Martha Becket’s Opera House (more detail on www.amargosaoperahouse.com), has a fantastic story worth relating here.

In March 1967 while finishing her One Woman Show tour of America, actress, dancer, choreographer and painter Marta Becket came to Death Valley Junction to repair a flat tire at the former service station. While exploring the abandoned buildings, Marta found the old social hall in pretty bad disrepair. She rented the building, moved in and has lived here ever since! Marta began performing to empty seats as she was not known yet, so she decided to paint an audience as murals inside the Opera House. She began performing to a live audience in February 1968 and did so for over 40 years. Now aged 90, Marta still lives in a room in the adjacent Amargosa Hotel, but was resting when we visited. We would definitely have said hi otherwise!

Amargosa (2000), Todd Robinson’s documentary about Marta Becket, won a 2003 Emmy Award for cinematographer Curt Apduhan.

3. Albert Death Valley 1There’s no denying it now Albert…

Less than 20 miles further West from Death Valley Junction is the actual entrance of Death Valley National Park and time for Albert to prove he’s been here with a pose next to the road sign above. It was late September when we visited so still in the midst of summer. As its name indicates, Death Valley is a pretty extreme place to be finding ourselves in. The free Visitor Guide and Map available at information points peppered through the park airs stark warnings for all visitors. Among them:

  • Clothing keeps you cooler. If you are not wearing a shirt, sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat you are not prepared to walk anywhere in Death Valley! 
  • The most common cause of death in the park is not heat but single car accidents. A moment of inattention can send you, your car and your loved ones flipping into the rocky desert! 

Death valley deaths

But this remains my favourite warning:

  • Do not rely on technology! Your cell phone will not work in most of the park. GPS devices frequently tell Death Valley visitors to turn off well-travelled roads, and take “shortcuts” over the desert and into canyons. Common sense and good judgement are far more reliable

Sadly, Death Valley keeps justifying its name year after year and this Summer there has been 2 heat-related deaths in the valley.

4. Death ValleyThe view upon Death Valley from Coffin Peak

But how hot is it really in Death Valley? Based on temperatures recorded at the official weather station at Furnace Creek down at what felt like the hottest point in the entire National Park, the average maximum temperature is at its coldest in December at 65°F (18°C) but reaches 110°F in June (43°C), 116°F in July (47°C), 115°F in August (46°C) and 106°F in September (41°C). True to form, Albert’s exterior temperature gauge was stuck at a balmy 105°F (40°C) the entire time we were down the Valley. Not that impressive? Wait there’s more…

5. Chevrolet Impala Coffin PeakChevrolet Impala in Coffin Peak, Death Valley CA

The highest temperature ever recorded on earth was at Furnace Creek on 10 July 1913 at 134°F (57°C). A high temperature of 129°F (54°C) is the closest we have come to tying this record and was recorded on 17 July 1998, 6 July 2007 and 30 June 2013. The heat is coming back strong as you can see… Another interesting record is the driest stretch of weather: only 0.64 inches of rain over 40 months between 1931 and 1934.

6. Albert mpg Coffin PeakAlbert’s mpg average right after the Coffin Peak climb – still a very good 24.2 mpg.

One way to escape the heat is to climb the steep paved road to Coffin Peak and Dante’s View, easily the most breathtaking viewpoint in the park, more than 5000ft (1524m) above the floor of Death Valley. From here you can simultaneously spot the highest and lowest points in the contiguous USA: Mount Whitney at 14,505ft and Badwater at 282ft below see level. The climb is harsh but Albert hardly noticed, with no overheating, no engine ventilation on for decades after we parked (contrary to all other vehicles parked here) and a fuel economy average down, granted, but to a still very impressive 24.2 mpg – that’s higher than the EPA average for the all-new 2015 Ford F-150. This would end up being the lowest mpg Albert would display in the entire trip.

7. Chevrolet Spark Coffin PeakChevy Spark and a slew of rentals at Coffin Peak, Death Valley CA

Expectedly, being almost a tourist-only region, 95% of vehicles in circulation in Death Valley are rentals, but interestingly people haven’t seemed to shy away from the smallest, arguably more ‘tender’ options in these harsh conditions like the bright red Chevy Spark pictured above or the Nissan Versa. The traditional rental staples as described in my Monument Valley report are back with a vengeance: Chevy Impala, Tahoe and Suburban as well as GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, along with the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave as pictured above in Coffin Peak.

8. Albert Coffin Peak 3Albert in Coffin Peak, Death Valley CA

All in all though, the most frequent car in Death Valley is a rental Ford Mustang, seemingly the preferred way to complete a one-day tour from Vegas. I remember last time I was in Vegas there were special offers for 1-day Mustang convertible rentals that made them cheaper than the smallest car available – difficult not to be tempted, and apparently these ‘special’ offers are still on to this date. Talking about the devil/Mustang, I saw a camouflaged 2015 model zip past Albert as well as a hardly-camouflaged Jaguar XE. Death Valley is a notorious extreme weather testing ground and each summer day a couple of manufacturers are torturing prototypes on the valley’s roads. Last time I was here in 1995, I saw a string of Smart Fortwos a full 3 years prior to their European launch, and at the time they weren’t even scheduled for a North American career which made their presence here all the more interesting…

9. Chevron Furnace Creek 1Lucky we didn’t have to refuel here… (in Furnace Creek, Death Valley CA – 22 Sept 2014)

9b. Chevron Shoshone…nor here! (in Shoshone, Death Valley CA – 22 Sept 2014)

Remoteness and being in one of the worst places in the world for a car breakdown have encouraged service stations in the Valley to practice simply outrageous gas prices, a full 2 dollars per gallon above the prices that were the norm in Las Vegas at the time of our visit (see pictures above). These have receded by now but remain way above the national average. According to Gasbuddy.com, as at 27 November the Furnace Creek Chevron station (first picture) was selling Regular Gasoline at $4.22 per gallon and Diesel at $4.51. Shoshone Chevron prices were unavailable, but should still be at a shamefully extravagant $4.50 Gas and $5 Diesel even if they decreased at roughly the same rate as in Furnace Creek. That’s close to double the national average! Funny thing is Shoshone is much closer to ‘civilisation’ than Furnace Creek yet gas prices are even higher.

10. Ford E-350 Furnace CreekFord E-350 in Furnace Creek, Death Valley CA

Furnace Creek perfectly earned its name by displaying a hair dryer-like heated wind that grips you to never leave you alone as soon as you leave the car, making your eyes water. Even though the visitor centre encourages to turn off air con in the car to lessen strain on the cars and minimise the risk of breakdown, I knew Albert wouldn’t let us down, and he didn’t. In fact, our Ram 1500 ecodiesel was at its best in the heat and a mix of gravel roads and seemingly infinite stretches of bitumen. This workhorse is made for galloping.

11. Albert Devils Golf Course 3Albert at Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

Another attraction right in the bed of Death Valley is Devil’s Golf Course, an immense area of crystallised salt deposited by ancient salt lakes and eroded by wind and rain into jagged spires. So incredibly serrated that “only the devil could play golf on such rough links.”  On a windy day (not when we were there), you can apparently hear a metallic cracking sound as the salt pinnacles expand and contract.

12. Devils Golf Course 2Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

13. Devils Golf Course 3Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

14. BadwaterBadwater, Death Valley CA

Finally our last stop in Death Valley was Badwater, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (read the Americas) at 282ft or 85.5m below see level. Death Valley belongs to a worldwide geographic rogues. Finding oneself below sea level is an extremely rare occurrence, a map displayed at Badwaters actually shows only 16 other ‘minus’ locations worldwide, including the Dead Sea in Jordan/Israel at -1360ft / -414m, Lake Assal in Djibouti at – 508ft / – 155m and Lake Eyre in Australia at -49ft / -15m. Like most of these locations, Death Valley was not created by a river’s erosion. Movements in the earth’s crust have dropped it to such great depths.

14. Matt BadwaterIt’s bloody hot out here! In Badwater, Death Valley CA

We’ll finish on the official best-sellers in California, although as we have seen earlier, these do not translate into the car landscape of Death Valley, but are rather a reflection of the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets.

Best-sellers in California – Full Year 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Toyota Prius (all models) 69,728
2 Honda Civic 66,982
3 Honda Accord 63,194
4 Toyota Camry 56,788
5 Toyota Corolla 52,167
6 Ford F-Series 41,671
7 Honda CR-V 31,850
8 Nissan Altima 31,029
9 Toyota Tacoma 28,182
10 BMW 3 Series 27,026

California is the second state and in this trip after New York to not feature any pickup truck in its official Top 5 best-sellers, with the Ford F-Series ranking at a paltry 6th place, and the Toyota Tacoma at #9. One can argue the Honda Civic is the real Californian best-seller, as the entire Prius family (including the c small car and the v MPV) is accounted for in its sales figure. Honda also brilliantly places the Accord at #3 and the CR-V at #7 while Toyota positions the Camry at #4 and Corolla at #5. Very impressive performance of the BMW 3 Series in 10th place with over 27,000 sales.

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a car sales statistics website and consultancy: BestSellingCars which just celebrated its 4th anniversary.

Many thanks to David Curry for the photos in this report.

15. Toyota Corolla BadwaterToyota Corolla in Badwater, Death Valley CA

Albert Devils Golf Course 1Albert at Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

AmargosaDeath Valley Junction CA

Amargosa HotelAmargosa Hotel, Death Valley Junction CA

Albert NevadaAlbert in Nevada just before the California state line 

Land Rover Freelander AmargosaLand Rover Freelander at Death Valley Junction, CA

Dodge Ram 3500 AmargosaDodge Ram 3500 at Death Valley Junction CA

Albert AmargosaAlbert at Amargosa Hotel, Death Valley Junction CA

Nissan Sentra Coffin PeakNissan Sentra in Coffin Peak, Death Valley CA

Albert Coffin Peak 1Albert Coffin Peak 2Albert in Coffin Peak, Death Valley CA

Chevron Furnace Creek 2Chevron Furnace Creek, Death Valley CA

Furnace Creek RanchFurnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley CA

Devils Golf Course 1Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

Albert Devils Golf Course 2Albert at Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

Chevrolet Tahoe BadwaterChevrolet Tahoe in Badwater, Death Valley CA

Albert BadwaterAlbert in Badwater, Death Valley CA

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All The Minis Are Down Except The One That Counts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/minis-except-one-counts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/minis-except-one-counts/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 13:38:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=950297 They’ve been certified, although not with the fuel economy figures we first heard. They’re available, although many Mini buyers will want their cars individually tailored. And as a result, U.S. sales of Mini’s core model – the one they call the Hardtop – jumped 64% in October 2014. All other Mini variants posted fewer sales […]

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2015 Mini Cooper SThey’ve been certified, although not with the fuel economy figures we first heard. They’re available, although many Mini buyers will want their cars individually tailored. And as a result, U.S. sales of Mini’s core model – the one they call the Hardtop – jumped 64% in October 2014.

All other Mini variants posted fewer sales in October 2014 than in October 2013. In some cases, the declines represented significant losses.

As the current Clubman is phased out, sales of the elongated Mini slid 98% to just 15, a loss of 932 units. Convertible sales slid 20%; Roadster volume was chopped in half, year-over-year. The Coupe, always rare and expected to soon die along with the Roadster, was down 74% to just 24 units. Paceman volume slid 42%. The Countryman, the best-selling Mini bodystyle over the first ten months of 2014 with a 7% increase in year-to-date sales, was down 9%.

As a result, the massive 1068-unit increase from Mini’s best-selling model was overshadowed by declines from the brand’s six other cars, resulting in a 7% loss for the brand in October 2014. Through the first ten months of 2014, Mini USA volume is down 20%. After generating 19% of BMW of North America’s volume at this point in 2013, Mini has produced just 14% of the company’s sales in 2014.

mini usa sales chartYet the bright spot couldn’t be brighter. This is not an obscure improvement from one of the brand’s mostly ignored cars. The Hardtop, Mini’s most traditional three-door hatchback, in Cooper and Cooper S form, is Mini. It is likely the brand’s least opinion-dividing car. It’s also their most affordable model.

This car was sorely needed in Mini showrooms. Total non-Countryman/Paceman sales were down 7% in 2013 as the Hardtop variant fell 8%. Cooper Hardtop sales had decreased on a year-over-year basis in 18 of 20 months leading up to October. Through the first three-quarters of 2014, Hardtop volume was down 36%, a loss of 7501 units.

We may not see huge 64% improvements added to the Mini Cooper Hardtop’s sales each month in the near future, and whatever gains it does achieve may be offset by continued losses of other models, and then buoyed again by the arrival of a five-door. But as a sign that Mini’s still kickin’, October’s total for the brand’s most popular model was an especially strong one.

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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NHTSA Orders Takata To Recall Airbags By December 2 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/nhtsa-orders-takata-recall-airbags-december-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/nhtsa-orders-takata-recall-airbags-december-2/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=951985 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is ordering Takata to conduct a nationwide recall of its airbags, while Honda was found to have issued Takata-related recalls as early as 2002. Reuters learned the automaker called back 2,686 vehicles — including the 2000 Honda Accord and Acura TL — in March of 2002, citing a November […]

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2000 Acura TL

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is ordering Takata to conduct a nationwide recall of its airbags, while Honda was found to have issued Takata-related recalls as early as 2002.

Reuters learned the automaker called back 2,686 vehicles — including the 2000 Honda Accord and Acura TL — in March of 2002, citing a November 2001 report from a dealer who witnessed an “improper deployment” of a Takata airbag in an Accord. The incident prompted both the automaker and the supplier to investigate, leading to the recall months later.

The recall, which focused on passenger airbags deploying due to improper welds, could further plunge Honda into hot water with federal regulators, especially since Honda North America executive vice president Rick Schostek testified before Congress that the first time his employer had known of an airbag failure was in 2004. The NHTSA is “actively investigating” the automaker presently, using information going back to 1998 in so doing.

The agency also formally issued an order to Takata to declare a nationwide recall by December 2 of the driver-side airbags at-fault for a number of injuries and fatalities due to catastrophic failure upon deployment. Per Bloomberg, should the supplier fail to meet the deadline, the NHTSA will force the recall, and fine the company $7,000 for every violation found. Takata representative Toyohiro Hishikawa said the company’s execs were discussing how best to respond to the letter.

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2015 Chevrolet SS Now Available With Six-Speed Manual http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/2015-chevrolet-ss-now-available-six-speed-manual/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/2015-chevrolet-ss-now-available-six-speed-manual/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 12:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=951913 Wanted a Chevrolet SS, but wanted to row your own? Your ship has arrived. AutoGuide reports the 2015 SS can be had with either a six-speed auto or, new for this year, a six-speed manual. Either option won’t add onto the $46,740 base price, with the only costly options being the $900 sunroof and the […]

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2014-Chevy-SS-00181

Wanted a Chevrolet SS, but wanted to row your own? Your ship has arrived.

AutoGuide reports the 2015 SS can be had with either a six-speed auto or, new for this year, a six-speed manual. Either option won’t add onto the $46,740 base price, with the only costly options being the $900 sunroof and the $500 full-size spare. Leather seating and Chevrolet’s MyLink system are standard.

Out back, the manual comes with a 3.70 gear ratio, more aggressive than the 3.27 paired with the auto. Power to the back comes from a 6.2-liter V8 delivering the same figure for horsepower and torque: 415.

Annual production of the SS is limited to 2,500, a run that will likely cease when Holden closes its last Australian factory in 2017.

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Alfa Romeo Sedan Entering Showrooms Next June http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/alfa-romeo-sedan-entering-showrooms-next-june/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/alfa-romeo-sedan-entering-showrooms-next-june/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 11:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=951881 Right now, the only Alfa Romeo anyone in the United States can buy is the 4C, a model one of our B&B recently talked about in their ownership AMA. By next June, though, a sedan could be on the showroom floor, as well. Automotive News Europe reports the sedan — codenamed 952 — will be […]

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alfa-romeo-159-3.2-7

Right now, the only Alfa Romeo anyone in the United States can buy is the 4C, a model one of our B&B recently talked about in their ownership AMA. By next June, though, a sedan could be on the showroom floor, as well.

Automotive News Europe reports the sedan — codenamed 952 — will be the successor to the 159, and will be positioned between the BMW 3 and 5 series. As for the name, it was to have been dubbed the Giulia when it was expected to go on sale this year, but will have a new name instead.

The new sedan is part of eight models set to help build up Alfa Romeo’s portfolio by 2018, leading field that will include a midsize SUV and a large flagship sedan. The portfolio expansion is part of an overall plan to boost the brand’s sales, with a goal of 400,000 sold annually by 2018, and a jump from nil to 150,000/year in the North American market in the same period.

As for the 4C, the first few U.S.-bound models will sell for $70,000 once they leave the container dock, while the $55,000 base model will follow later. Those cars will head for 84 Fiat and Maserati dealers in the U.S. and Canada, a number that will expand to 200 by the end of 2015.

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GM Recalls 988 Dealerships http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/gm-recall-988-dealerships/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/gm-recall-988-dealerships/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 16:44:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=947185 In an unprecedented move that has sent chills down the white-belted spines of American car dealers, General Motors has declared nearly 1,000 of its 4,355 US retailers as “unfit and downright dangerous” to its customers and will be recalled immediately. GM Vice-President of Franchise Dealer Relations Bentley Reuss said in a news conference in Detroit […]

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Closed Chevy Store Courtesy rekarchitects.con

In an unprecedented move that has sent chills down the white-belted spines of American car dealers, General Motors has declared nearly 1,000 of its 4,355 US retailers as “unfit and downright dangerous” to its customers and will be recalled immediately.

GM Vice-President of Franchise Dealer Relations Bentley Reuss said in a news conference in Detroit today that the manufacturer was, “equally concerned about our customers’ emotional and mental well-being as we were with their physical health when we did the ignition recall. When GM dealers berate car buyers, throw the keys to the their trades on the roof and fail to disclose products like Lifetime Tire Nitrogen on their contracts, it hurts our mutual clients.”

Reuss noted that an independent survey of recent buyers of GM products identified 988 dealers who handled the sales process poorly. Reuss was quick to point out this was not a termination of the affected retailers’ dealer agreements as that would be prohibited by state auto dealers franchise laws. “We had a ton of our recall lawyers about to bolt to Takata,” said Reuss. “We put them to work reviewing the state laws and they found there was nothing prohibiting a manufacturer from recalling a dealer when customer’s mental health was put in danger by a dealer.”

When asked about why this groundbreaking action was taken, in spite of the company’s excellent showing in the recent J. D. Power Sales Satisfaction survey, Reuss laughed and said, “You mean J.D. Monopoly? We and our dealers control that survey 100%. Let’s just say that it is amazing what free oil changes can do. We did our own independent survey which yielded accurate results.”

Reuss admitted that the dealer abuse of car buyers had been going on “for some time” but that GM senior management was never told about it until earlier this year and that the person in charge of customer satisfaction initiatives has been fired.

Empty-Car-Lot-Courtesy aldersonarts.com

Reaction from the recalled dealers was predictable. Said David White, owner of Brandywine Chevrolet in suburban Philadelphia, “Its ironic that when business is bad, GM wants you to move the iron at any cost, customer satisfaction be damned.  We’ve sold a ton of cars for Chevy and this is the thanks we get. The funny thing is that our local GM factory guy was in my office when the announcement came out and he was not told about it. It didn’t stop him from trying to sell us some of those crappy Volts, though.”

Recalled dealers’ inventory will be shipped to the nearest same-franchise dealership, with the exception of the Corvette which will be redistributed at “the local Zone Manager’s discretion,” said Reuss.

Reuss noted that their review also uncovered 28 Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Saab stores still in operation despite the elimination of those franchises in the late 2000’s. Those retailers will be terminated rather than recalled. “Those dealerships were actually showing great customer satisfaction numbers so we are sad to see them go. Again,” said Reuss.

Tesla stock rose on the GM recall news, though founder Elon Musk said, “There goes our plans to partner with Cadillac next year to sell our cars.”

If you couldn’t already tell, this is a satirical article. -Ed.

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Editorial: The Last Of The Manual Acuras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/editorial-last-manual-acuras/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/editorial-last-manual-acuras/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:49:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=951625 As part of Acura’s plans to “rationalize” (as the b-school buzzword goes) the ILX’s powertrains, the 6-speed stick shift is dead, replaced by an all-new 8-speed dual clutch gearbox. It also marks the end of an era for the brand. Acura has slowly killed off the manual in successive product lines. The now-dead TL and […]

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2016 Acura ILX

As part of Acura’s plans to “rationalize” (as the b-school buzzword goes) the ILX’s powertrains, the 6-speed stick shift is dead, replaced by an all-new 8-speed dual clutch gearbox. It also marks the end of an era for the brand.

Acura has slowly killed off the manual in successive product lines. The now-dead TL and TSX were notable for offering manual gearboxes that represented the best of what Honda had to offer: crisp-shifting stick shifts that were the benchmark for modern day manuals. They were easily as good as any Miata gearbox, and it’s still hard to believe that such amazing manual transmissions were created for a front-drive transverse application. In my mind, they’ve never been equaled.

I wish I could say it was a surprising development, but this is how things are shaking out. Lexus is devoid of manuals, and the only Infiniti with three-pedals is the Q60 Coupe – a model set to be replaced next year. There’s a very good chance it will return sans a stick shift. If you want one of Honda’s world famous manuals, you still have some options: the Fit, Civic and Accord can be had that way. There will even be an HR-V that lets you row your own. But we’re all acutely aware that it’s not the same thing.

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Dispatches do Brasil: Shattered Glass And Small Pickups http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/dispatches-brasil-shattered-glass-small-pickups/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/dispatches-brasil-shattered-glass-small-pickups/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:31:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=951553 Youthful exuberance or nihilism? Urban despair or boredom? Lack of repression and punishment or the inevitable result of the marked differences in income and social-economic status in Brazil? All these questions sprang into my mind as I walked back to the car and saw it there, its back hatch window violated by a brick. A […]

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Youthful exuberance or nihilism? Urban despair or boredom? Lack of repression and punishment or the inevitable result of the marked differences in income and social-economic status in Brazil? All these questions sprang into my mind as I walked back to the car and saw it there, its back hatch window violated by a brick.

A quick stop at the supermarket became a full-blown shopping excursion, so instead of the 10 minute affair, it takes longer, much longer. As luck would have it, the parking lot was full, so I parked on a side street off to the side of the place. A mere hour later I return and the Sandero is there, looking forlorn, the back window smashed. Looking around I see everyone going about their business and avoiding eye contact, so no witness I guess. I quickly survey the damage, put the purchases on top of the many millions of glass shreds on the back seat, open the hatch and all the books, sweater and umbrella I had there are still there. I take off my shirt to brush aside as best I can the glass on the driver’s seat and, as there is nothing I can do, I get in and decide to head back home. Before going off in that direction, I feel the need to drive around the block once to see if I could make out anything or anyone suspicious. Glad I did because as now I think I can understand what happened.

Back a ways from where I had parked the car, there is a house undergoing some construction. The work nearly done, the workers put excess bricks out on the sidewalk and somebody would surely come collect them up later. Some simpleton must have walked by, seen the bricks, picked one up on a whim and decided to smash my car window in, for “fun” I guess. Being that the incident happened in the middle of the morning with plenty of people around, it seems to me the most plausible explanation. I decide to put it down to youthful exuberance or nihilism…

Living in Brazil, being 43 years of age, and driving (officially) since the age of 20, besides owning a car since 18, I am not unduly bothered by this. Sure it sucks, but I had never before been the victim of any sort of violence. I have never been mugged, my car has never been broken into, nor any of the houses I’ve lived in. To be honest, not many of my friends have suffered this kind of thing either. It could be that Belo Horizonte is still a nicer, calmer sort of place than Rio or São Paulo. Or it could just be that there is a huge personal security business feeding and feeding off of a sort of generalized fear, creating something bigger out of something that exists, but that they only stand to benefit from, blowing it out of proportion.

What I am bothered by though is my insurance company’s handling of the matter. Smashed windows are covered, but it will take a week for it to be fixed. It takes them that much time for them to set me up on a date with a company specialized in changing car windows, or one day more for a technician to pay me a house call and change the window on my premises. What is a day more, I think, so I set the house visit. In traditional Brazilian business practice, the visit would happen at any time during commercial hours (from 8am to 6pm), so I guess I’m stuck home for the day.

The technician arrives around 10 and I immediately notice his car. A mini-truck, it is the famous Chevrolet Montana, exported to Mexico and similar to the often discussed on TTAC Fiat Strada and Volkswagen Saveiro. Due to clever packaging and some well-designed accessories, the Montana is very well equipped for this business. As examples, the man’s tools are all contained in a tray he can easily pull from under the window’s support mechanism, which in its turn can carry around 10 window panes I believe. Capable of hauling around 600 or so kilos and served with a 106hp, 1.4 engine, the trucklet is capable of serving this and other business applications more than adequately.

As the man worked, I took pictures of his car. Surprisingly to me, this one was equipped with air conditioning. I am very happy to see this as I realize Brazilian businesses are finally giving their employees a degree of necessary respect. As a car guy, I naturally ask him how old the car is and he tells me it is two years old.  He has driven almost 150,000 kilometers in it over the period serving Belo Horizonte and other cities in a 250 kilometer radius. To my eyes the interior looks sharp after all this while, with the same gimmicky flat-bottomed steering wheel sold to private buyers. The fabrics have held up well too, though I do notice the driver’s seat is covered. Simple stuff, but made to last.

The worker tells me the car has not skipped a beat in this time and mileage. The company is fastidious about maintenance and believes the preventive sort is the way to go. As such, it has gone in for a dealer pit-stop every 10 thousand kilometers as GM recommends. Using Brazilian ethanol-laced gasoline (to the tune of 30% sugarcane content), the car returns a steady 8 to 10 km/l in the city and about 15 on the road (the car has a system to monitor the driver, so that figure seems good to me). This small GM power unit is quite square, meaning it doesn’t like to rev, but has ample low end torque and will provide adequate economy if driven conservatively.

I ask him how long they keep the cars and he tells me the Montana will be gone by year-end. The company will then buy a new batch and it could be any of the small trucks available in the Brazilian market, Strada, Saveiro or a Chevy again. I ask him his preference, he smiles coyly and says he’d pick the Saveiro. I inquire as to why and he says that truck is a much better looker and that guys and gals talk to him about it though for different reasons…

After about half an hour his work is done and he goes off to change another couple of windows. As I see the little Montana speeding away, I can’t help but ponder on my friends at TTAC, most especially my American ones. How would their experience compare? I decide that if such a service exists there, the technician would have showed up in some sort of V8 Ecoline van, or F250. That thought conjures up right away the word “why”. The Montana availed itself of the job at hand nicely, doing it so economically, capably and reliability.

I can’t help but to think on the American lifestyle and its consequences. Everything seems so big and can be done and had so cheaply. However, it does seem that my amigos americanos are enamored of bringing a machine gun to what essentially amounts to a knife fight (most small business applications like home repairs and maintenance and such). Or, alternatively, it could just be that the rest of the world is just too poor and unable to enjoy the finer things in life.

Unlike my smashed window and the brick laying the car, I have no answer for that question, nothing to plausibly base an opinion on. As such we use the instruments at hand, and here in Brazil and elsewhere, U.S. included, I foresee a long future for the car-based mini-truck. Somehow I suspect though the future for full size pickups, even if all-aluminum, especially for use in mundane tasks, may probably not be so bright.

 

 

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Coast to Coast 2014: Las Vegas, Nevada http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/coast-coast-2014-las-vegas-nevada/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/coast-coast-2014-las-vegas-nevada/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:18:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=951513 Tonka-tuned Ford F-150. How perfectly Vegas. * You can see all the USA Coast to Coast Reports here! * We are now leaving in our path beautiful Monument Valley to drive through Arizona and arrive in Las Vegas, Nevada. A very different official Top 5 best-selling models than the entirety of the dozen states we have just crossed, some […]

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Ford F-150 Tonka Las VegasTonka-tuned Ford F-150. How perfectly Vegas.

You can see all the USA Coast to Coast Reports here! *

We are now leaving in our path beautiful Monument Valley to drive through Arizona and arrive in Las Vegas, Nevada. A very different official Top 5 best-selling models than the entirety of the dozen states we have just crossed, some crazy Vegas vehicles, the traditional car landscape analysis and all the things you didn’t think you needed to know about the state of Nevada are below.

Nissan Versa Albert Las VegasNissan Versa with Albert and um.. Las Vegas in the background 

Although Nevada is mostly desert and happens to be the driest state in the entire United States, its name comes from the Spanish nevada, meaning “snow-covered”, after the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range now almost completely located in California. Confused? I was too. Daytime summer temperatures rise as high as 125 °F (52 °C) compared to nighttime winters getting as cold as −50 °F (−46 °C). Surely one of the widest temperature differences in the whole country. The land corresponding to present day Nevada used to be part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, becoming Mexico in 1821, then gained by the United States in 1848 after the Mexican-American War. Nevada became the 36th state in 1864, as the second of two states added to the Union during the Civil War- the first being West Virginia).

Chevrolet C3500 Las VegasChevrolet C3500 in Las Vegas NV

Population-wise, talking about Nevada roughly equates talking about Las Vegas, as over two thirds of the 2.8m strong population of the state lives in the Clark County – Las Vegas metropolitan area. This also means around 75% of all cars roaming the state do so in or around Las Vegas, having a big impact on which nameplates are the most popular here as we’ll see shortly.  With a population of just 40,000 in 1900, Nevada was then and by far the least populated state in the country, however establishment of legalised gambling and lenient marriage and divorce laws transformed the state into a major tourist destination, with the myriad of jobs associated with it. Also, Nevada is the only state where prostitution is legal, though it is illegal in Clark County and Washoe County which contain Las Vegas and Reno, respectively.

Albert Nissan Versa Note Las VegasAlbert smartly posing next to an Albertsons sign and Nissan Versa Note near Henderson NV (one of the fastest growing cities in the USA)

From the end of World War II onwards all the way up to 2003, Nevada’s population was the fastest-growing in the US percentage-wise. For example, between 1990 and 2000, Nevada’s population increased 66%, while the USA’s population as a whole increased by just 13%. This population increase owes a lot to immigration rather than natural growth, and today, the majority of the population in Las Vegas and Reno (the two main metropolitan areas in the state) was born in another state or country. Also worthy of note is the fact that in 2010, illegal immigrants constituted an estimated 8.8% of the population, the highest percentage of any state in the country.

Nowadays the fastest-growing areas have ‘migrated’ (no pun intended) to the outskirts of Las Vegas, with northern suburbs Henderson and North Las Vegas among the USA’s top 20 fastest-growing cities of over 100,000. Final piece of trivia: the capital importance of tourism in Nevada translates into a record: the most hotel rooms per capita in the United States. Nevada has one hotel room for every 14 residents, compared to a national average of one hotel room per 67 residents.

5. Nissan Altima Las VegasThe Nissan Altima, not the Ford F-150, is the best-selling vehicle in Nevada. 

Best-selling light vehicles in Nevada – Full Year 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Nissan Altima 4,590
2 Toyota Corolla 3,923
3 Hyundai Elantra 3,280
4 Toyota Camry 3,243
5 Ford F-150 2,781

Source: JATO Dynamics

Instead of speculating any further, now that you know everything worth knowing about Nevada, let’s get straight into official sales figures, courtesy of JATO Dynamics. And what a different sales charts this is. Due to the almost total urbanisation of the population, pickup sales are very, very much lower than almost every other state in the country. The best-selling pickup is, expectedly, the Ford F-150 but it only ranks 5th here with just 60% of the leader’s sales. If you have been following this series for a while now the best-seller in Nevada won’t really be a surprise…

6. Toyota Corolla Las VegasThe Toyota Corolla is #2 in Nevada. Here in Las Vegas about to get a hair cut AND a tattoo.

We have seen that as we get closer to Mexico, Nissan gets stronger and stronger in the sales charts. This reflects the growing share of Hispanics in the states’ population and their preference for Japanese and Korean brands, notably Nissan which is by far the most popular manufacturer in Mexico with 1 in every 4 sales. The Nissan Altima then very logically takes the lead of the Nevada sales charts in 2013, with 17% more sales than the Toyota Corolla, making its first appearance in the official Top 5 of any state we have crossed so far at #2. The Hyundai Elantra and Toyota Camry make up the rest of a Top 4 100% non-American. For more detail on the car buying preferences of America’s ethnic population check out the New Mexico article here.

7. Toyota Tundra Las VegasWalmart and Toyota Tundra: two staples of the Las Vegas landscape.

Outside the official Top 5 best-sellers, the following nameplates struck me as particularly successful in Las Vegas. The Nissan Versa is the (rental) Hero in Town, with the Sentra also very frequent. We’ve seen that pickup trucks are markedly less popular here than almost all states we have visited so far bar perhaps New York and Washington DC, and this is verified in Vegas streets. The Toyota Tundra could come as ‘high’ as #2 pickup truck in Vegas after the F-150 based on its frequency in the areas of town I have visited – though that doesn’t mean it would rank inside the overall Top 10 or even Top 20. I also spotted a few new generation Chrysler 200 (almost certainly rentals) and an unusually high amount of Toyota Avalon.

Ford F-150 Las Vegas 2Ford F-150 in Las Vegas NV

Not unlike in Albuquerque, driving away from the overly touristic Vegas Strip is the perfect way to get lost in deserted streets and come face-to-face with a flurry of cool, vintage pickups, some of them almost in mint condition. Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado of all ages still grace the back streets of Las Vegas today.

Las Vegas street sceneLas Vegas street scene

The taxis in circulation in the city are also a unique mix of previous gens Chevy Impala and Malibu, previous gen Ford Escape hybrid, Dodge Grand Caravan, Scion xB (the first time I see such an important a fleet of Scion taxis during this trip) and Toyota Prius. Trying to be eco-friendly here, the taxis of Las Vegas, as if to try and be forgiven for all the sinning (?) happening on a daily basis in town.

Las Vegas street scene 2Las Vegas street scene

I know what you’re thinking: here I am writing a report about Las Vegas and there hasn’t been any exclamation mark in sight yet. The casinos! The Strip! The gambling! The lights! The Wynn Hotel! The wedding chapels inside the casinos! The Cirque du Soleil shows! Alcohol! Drugs! Food buffets! Cigars! Vice! I guess I must be getting old, or I have been here too many times already. This is the third time in fact, and although the first two left me mesmerised by so much excess, so much money flowing into oblivion and so much air conditioning in the middle of the desert, this time I found Vegas tired.

Dodge Ram Las VegasDodge Ram at Casino Royale, Las Vegas NV

Perhaps it was just me that was starting to get tired, with now almost 5000 miles since my New York departure. I found the Beatles Cirque du Soleil show very professional, enthusiastic but copy-pasted, the Strip actually rather depressing under the rain, and the Top of the World panoramic restaurant’s waitresses’ smile just that tad bit too forced to make us feel really welcome. But I’m sure Vegas will be reborn shortly, as it has done so many times in the past.

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a car sales statistics website and consultancy: BestSellingCars which just celebrated its 4th anniversary.

Many thanks to David Curry for the photos in this report.

Nissan Sentra Las VegasNissan Sentra in Las Vegas NV

Ford F-150 Las VegasFord F-150 in Las Vegas NV

Albert Toyota 4Runner Las VegasAlbert and Toyota 4Runner in Las Vegas NV

Chevrolet Impala detail Las VegasChevrolet Impala detail in Las Vegas NV

Hummer Las VegasHummer and Encore/Wynn twin hotels in Las Vegas NV

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Tesla: New Model X Orders To Be Fulfilled ‘Well Into 2016′ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/tesla-new-model-x-orders-fulfilled-well-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/tesla-new-model-x-orders-fulfilled-well-2016/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=951497 Planning to order a Model X before doing battle on Black Thanksgiving? You may be waiting until Black Thanksgiving 2016 before yours arrives in the driveway, red bow attached. Jalopnik reports a letter sent by Tesla to those already on the early adoption list that the Model X will come with the D’s dual-motor, all-wheel […]

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Planning to order a Model X before doing battle on Black Thanksgiving? You may be waiting until Black Thanksgiving 2016 before yours arrives in the driveway, red bow attached.

Jalopnik reports a letter sent by Tesla to those already on the early adoption list that the Model X will come with the D’s dual-motor, all-wheel drive system, that the EV SUV would be the first of its kind to have towing capability, and that those who are signing up to own or lease an X will be waiting well into 2016 before they finally turn up; the first models are due in driveways Q3 2015, for comparison.

For now, the company is beta-testing the X in its factory, with crash testing due in the future. Tesla is also working with “the best rack and accessory companies in the world to have elegant carrying solutions” for the SUV, as its optional tow hitch can also accommodate ski and bike racks with little effect on aerodynamics.

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Volkswagen LT 28 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/junkyard-find-1973-volkswagen-lt-28/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/junkyard-find-1973-volkswagen-lt-28/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=950569 As far as I know, the Volkswagen LT van was never sold new in the United States, and this is the first one I’ve ever seen in an American wrecking yard. At first glance, I assumed it was some sort of Grumman or specialty body on a Big Three chassis. But as soon as I […]

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18 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAs far as I know, the Volkswagen LT van was never sold new in the United States, and this is the first one I’ve ever seen in an American wrecking yard. At first glance, I assumed it was some sort of Grumman or specialty body on a Big Three chassis.
09 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBut as soon as I saw this VW/Audi four-cylinder in the front, I knew I was looking at something German (and incredibly, dangerously slow).
06 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt makes sense that someone in the San Francisco Bay Area would want to drive a European-market box truck, and it has the stickers to suit that image.
10 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLooks like a very useful vehicle for urban deliveries, though extended highway drives must have been pretty miserable with double-digit horsepower moving this big box.
15 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPlenty of cargo space.

01 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Takata, Honda Under Government Spotlight At Home http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/takata-honda-government-spotlight-home/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/takata-honda-government-spotlight-home/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=951465 Takata and Honda are both coming under the gun at home, on order of Japan Transport Minister Akihiro Ota. Bloomberg reports the transport minister ordered the formation of a special task force to oversee the 2.54 million vehicles under recall in Japan over the Takata airbags onboard. The ministry also announced that it would probe […]

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Japanese-government-weighs-in-on-Takata-airbag-debacle

Takata and Honda are both coming under the gun at home, on order of Japan Transport Minister Akihiro Ota.

Bloomberg reports the transport minister ordered the formation of a special task force to oversee the 2.54 million vehicles under recall in Japan over the Takata airbags onboard. The ministry also announced that it would probe Honda’s reporting errors in the United States, where 1,729 injury and/or death claims weren’t reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration between 2003 and 2014.

Regarding the errors, Honda President Takanobu Ito reiterated that his company misunderstood the the responsibility it was supposed to take in reporting said claims to the agency, that management made several mistakes in filing procedure.

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Midsize Aston Fusion Is Ford’s Bright Car Light http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/fusion-still-fords-bright-car-light/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/fusion-still-fords-bright-car-light/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:27:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=950257 Ford division car sales in the United States are down 4% in 2014. The automaker’s eight-nameplate passenger car lineup, including two Lincolns, is down 3.8% over the last ten months. Imagine how much worse it would be without the Fusion, sales of which have risen 6.2% to 263,431 units this year. After the Fusion broke […]

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Ford Fusion sales chartFord division car sales in the United States are down 4% in 2014. The automaker’s eight-nameplate passenger car lineup, including two Lincolns, is down 3.8% over the last ten months.

Imagine how much worse it would be without the Fusion, sales of which have risen 6.2% to 263,431 units this year. After the Fusion broke its 2011 sales record last year, 2014 is bound to be an improved year again, as the midsize Ford is on track to break through the 300K barrier for the first time ever. The last time a Ford car generated more than 300,000 U.S. sales in a single year was with the Taurus in 2005, the year the Fusion went on sale.

Exclude the Fusion from Ford’s passenger car sales equation and year-to-date car volume at the Ford brand would be down 9.9% in 2014.

C-Max sales have fallen 23% compared with ten-month results from 2013, the C-Max’s first full year on the market. The Fiesta is down 9.6% compared with 2013, the nameplate’s best year so far. Focus volume has fallen 6.8% this year after sliding 4.6% in 2013. The Taurus and Taurus Police Interceptor are down 20.4%, a loss of 14,179 units. The Mustang, in a very public replacement phase, is down just 2.6%.

An aging product lineup is a clear cause of disappointing results, as is Ford’s decreasing interest in boosting volume through fleet sales. The Fiesta, though refreshed, has been on sale since the end of 2010’s second-quarter, and there are newer, more spacious subcompacts available. The Focus has been facelifted for MY2015, but that will be its fourth model year. The Taurus competes in a dying segment, and there are far fresher faces there, as well. As for the Mustang, a genuine volume producer for the Blue Oval in America, a far more drastic decline would have been understandable.

Ford Fusion. Picture courtesy of netcarshow.comMeanwhile, over at Lincoln, MKS sales have tumbled 24.5% in 2014, the car’s seventh – and worst – year of availability. MKZ sales are up 9.7% this year but have decreased in each of the last five months, falling 13.8% since the beginning of June. Lincoln sales are up 9% during that five-month period thanks to extra sales from the new MKC, 8615 of which have been sold since going on sale in May.

Low volume from the majority of FoMoCo’s cars have been countered, though not completely counteracted, by the Fusion’s strength and by strong utility vehicle sales. (The Edge, Escape, Expedition, Explorer, Flex, MKC, MKT, MKX, and Navigator have combined for 620,759 year-to-date sales, up 2.9%, compared with 688,981 total Ford/Lincoln car sales.) The Fusion is America’s fourth-best-selling midsize car, and its share of the segment has grown from approximately 12.1% during the first ten months of 2013 to 12.8% in 2014.

Fusion volume has increased by 15,398 units in 2014, compared with 24,246 extra Accord sales 20,008 extra Camry sales, and 9176 extra Altima sales. Overall midsize sales are stagnant; Fusion volume is up 6.2%. It leads the fifth-ranked midsize car, Hyundai’s Sonata, by nearly 83,000 units.

Among Detroit brand cars, regardless of size, nothing sells as often as the Fusion. The Chevrolet Cruze comes closest, with 232,403 units so far this year, a 9.7% improvement.

As for the pleasure the Fusion brings the Ford brand, consider this: 36.5% of Ford brand car sales in the first ten months of 2013 were Fusions. That number has shot up to 40.3% in 2014. Over the last six months, Fusion volume has improved 13.3%.

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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Online Publication Believes Tesla Is Under SEC Investigation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/online-publication-believes-tesla-sec-investigation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/online-publication-believes-tesla-sec-investigation/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=951433 Tesla may be under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, based upon speculation by an online publication whose modus operandi involves filing Freedom of Information Act requests. AutoblogGreen reports an online publication called Probes Reporter filed a FOIA request with the SEC about Tesla, along with a number of corporations the publication is interested […]

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2013 Tesla Model S P85 Fishing boat

Tesla may be under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, based upon speculation by an online publication whose modus operandi involves filing Freedom of Information Act requests.

AutoblogGreen reports an online publication called Probes Reporter filed a FOIA request with the SEC about Tesla, along with a number of corporations the publication is interested in learning more about.

Based on the responses received, the publication reads the tea leaves to determine if the SEC is investigating a given company. The request regarding Tesla was denied per a letter from the agency, citing the “law enforcement exemption” aspect of FOIA as the reason. Thus, Probes Reporter suspects Tesla is being investigated in an “undisclosed probe,” and added the company to its watch list.

As for what Tesla itself has to say, representative Liz Jarvis-Shean says her employer doesn’t comment on rumors and speculation.

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Piston Slap: Take My (Suspension) Abuse And Like It? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-take-suspension-abuse-like/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-take-suspension-abuse-like/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 12:58:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949833   Sam writes: Hello, I have a 2006 Mazda 3 S with 120,000 miles on it. I live in Oakland Ca, where the pot holes shoot back. I blew out a front strut a last year and had both front struts replaced. After replacement, one of the struts squeaks like a rusty spring at slow […]

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Or not? (photo courtesy: www.mazda3forums.com)

Sam writes:

Hello,

I have a 2006 Mazda 3 S with 120,000 miles on it. I live in Oakland Ca, where the pot holes shoot back. I blew out a front strut a last year and had both front struts replaced. After replacement, one of the struts squeaks like a rusty spring at slow speeds and is annoying. What is actually driving me crazy is a week ago the other front strut started making loud thunking under acceleration at slow speeds.

My mechanic, whom is one of the good ones, replaced both front shock mounts, assuming this would fix the problem. It didn’t, but one of them was all shredded. Now, I feel like I’m going down the rabbit hole, there are engine mounts and sway bar bushings that can be replaced, but this shouldn’t be so complicated.

My car is supposed to take my abuse and like it.

Sajeev answers:

Excuse me Son, but when in the history of Autoblogging did a (non-Ranger based) high mileage Mazda ever take suspension abuse? Have you not listened to my screeds re: Panther Love?

Stupidity aside, engine mounts are kinda easy to check and it’s likely your problem, as discussed before.  And sway bar bushings are cheap and usually easy to swap. This car is an 8-ish year old non-Panther with over 100k on the clock. Aside from big things like engines/transmissions/etc, be cool with any wear item failing at this point. It won’t happen often, but being “cool with it” is the right state of mind at this age.

Your mechanic is probably doing the right thing.  Problem is, cars aren’t built like they used to.

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Not built like they used to? Damn right!  No more tune ups before 100k, engines are that good.  Suspensions don’t need regular lubrication, though DIY-ers wouldn’t mind a greasable zerk fitting renaissance. Read the owner’s manual?  Only if I can’t get the dash to talk to my smarty-phone or adjust the clock for daylight savings time.

How does this prove my original point?

Cars are now so good that we set ‘em and forget ‘em.  Even with tighter suspensions, higher revving engines, loads of fragile(ish) electronics and idiotically thin tires, a modern car with over 100k will be in better shape than one from 25+ years ago. Especially when applying the same amount of maintenance. Hell, good luck getting that older car to even run past 100k with a modern car’s servicing regiment. 

 

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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Mitsubishi Confirms Mirage Sedan For US Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/mitsubishi-confirms-mirage-sedan-us-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/mitsubishi-confirms-mirage-sedan-us-market/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 12:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=951393 Looking for a cheap new car that isn’t a hatchback? Mitsubishi might just have what you need. According to Motor Trend, Mitsubishi Motors North America executive vice president Don Swearingen proclaimed that the Mirage sedan — already on sale in Thailand as the Attrage — would arrive in U.S. showrooms within the next year or […]

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Looking for a cheap new car that isn’t a hatchback? Mitsubishi might just have what you need.

According to Motor Trend, Mitsubishi Motors North America executive vice president Don Swearingen proclaimed that the Mirage sedan — already on sale in Thailand as the Attrage — would arrive in U.S. showrooms within the next year or two.

Like the Mirage hatch (which we reviewed not too long ago), the sedan is powered by a 1.2-liter three-pot mated to either a CVT or five-speed manual.

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