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, 19 Sep 2014 13:00:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 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 Chevrolet, Honda Give CNG Passenger Cars Another Chance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chevrolet-honda-give-cng-passenger-cars-another-chance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chevrolet-honda-give-cng-passenger-cars-another-chance/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915178 Aside from a few trucks, some taxis and a fair number of buses, natural gas doesn’t receive a lot of play in the alternative energy game in comparison to darlings such as electric power and hydrogen. Despite this condition, Chevrolet and Honda are both ready to push natural gas onto commuters and efficiency-minded consumers alike. […]

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Aside from a few trucks, some taxis and a fair number of buses, natural gas doesn’t receive a lot of play in the alternative energy game in comparison to darlings such as electric power and hydrogen. Despite this condition, Chevrolet and Honda are both ready to push natural gas onto commuters and efficiency-minded consumers alike.

The Detroit News reports Honda recently introduced a new generation of its Civic Natural Gas model, featuring amenities like heated leather seats and premium sound systems the previous model lacked. Chevrolet, on the other hand, plans to bring a dual-fuel Impala to the party in a few months, being able to use either CNG or gasoline depending on the situation.

Though both brands are willing to give CNG passenger cars another shot, not too many others are as willing. Most automakers believe there’s no money or demand to be found in the alternative fuel, legislators are too focused on the in-crowd of energy solutions, and environmentalists are playing the long game instead of being in the present.

As for the vehicles themselves, both models will come straight from the factory with the same warranties as their gasoline-powered siblings, with the expectation of greater confidence in CNG from the consumer as a result. The Civic and Impala will likely drum up competition among other CNG vehicle manufacturers for the first time in a decade, as well.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Fiat Uno (Brazil Domestic Market) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-fiat-uno-brazil-domestic-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-fiat-uno-brazil-domestic-market/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914930 Launched at a time when the new car market in Brazil is relatively stagnant, the new Fiat Novo Uno is causing less of a stir compared to when the round square themed Uno was launched four years ago. There are no lines at dealers and people’s attentions are divided among upstart competitors like the Ford Ka […]

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Launched at a time when the new car market in Brazil is relatively stagnant, the new Fiat Novo Uno is causing less of a stir compared to when the round square themed Uno was launched four years ago. There are no lines at dealers and people’s attentions are divided among upstart competitors like the Ford Ka and Volkswagen up! The Uno had to come hard in order to remain a relevant player, capable of attracting the new Brazilian consumer that demands more in terms of comfort, finishing, content and safety.

Can this Uno face off the competition and remain among the top sellers in Brazil?

With the demise of the Mille, Uno nameplate sales took a hit, though the car kept its top 3 ranking. However, new competition kept underscoring how outdated the car was. First, the Asian competition appeared; the  Toyota Etios (mechanically efficient) and Hyundai HB20 ( great design) showed how dated the Uno was. Then, Chevrolet conjured up its Onix (mobile connectivity), Renault launched the Sandero (size, content). Each one traded on its own merits, but all were priced higher than the Uno and were not direct competitors (Fiat has the Palio to face those down). Of late though, the almost simultaneous emergence of Ka and up!, both directly aimed at the Uno, in size and pricing, left the Uno looking downtrodden and old.

Looking at the car from the outside I couldn’t avoid feeling disappointed, as I positively adored the outgoing model’s design. The hood now has a heavy crease running through it, and the headlights lost some of the square-ness that has forever been part of the Uno’s heritage. It has lost some of the playfulness of the original design and has a more aggressive and generic visage, vaguely reminiscent of some small Asian cars. It also makes concessions to modern sensibilities and the bumpers look more aggressive and pronounced, lending the car a more robust look that will appeal to many. On the Sporting model, the bumpers are frankly ridiculous, but again remit to something vaguely Asian and surely Evo and Imprezza fans will not mind. Plus, it does have a double central chromes exhaust tips and square wheels, I’ll give it that!

Spending more time and taking in the details, it becomes clear Fiat did sweat it out. The front bumper design gives it a lower stance, the backlights have a dazzling mini squares motif that looks novel and interesting, and the frontal section is now highlighted by being painted black. The side mirrors have a new shape and include small, tasteful, square blinkers. The wipers have new stalks and true flat blades. The handles are new and include the key lock. I’m sure I’d would have found more had I spent more time, but enough of Uno arcana.

Fiat-Uno-Attractive-2

Stepping inside is where we see Fiat really spent (some) money. It now has a design reminiscent of what FCA has been lavishing on American Chrysler products and seen for the first time in a Fiat. Attractive, it works well in this small car and suggests modernity. The steering wheel is new and has buttons to control many functions. The plastics are better than ever, with textures and splashes of color, highly-configurable and dependent on version. It does seem Fiat understands that Brazilian private buyers are not interested in absolutely Spartan cars anymore. To do this, Fiat added hearty doses of interactive technology and connectivity. This was made possible because the new Uno sports a more advanced electronic architecture and as such has more computing power and can offer features like color display in the instrument cluster with many more functions than before, automatic left mirror tilt down when reverse is engaged, creep function and even an OEM back up camera. Fabrics can now be seen on the doors and in the back, the fold down seats can optionally be 60/40, in which case it offers a three point seat belt even for the middle passenger, a first for a car in this segment in Brazil. Finally, it offers three headrests in the back, which is, unfortunately, something most competitors don’t.

Fiat-Uno-Way-3

As before, since it’s the same car, internal roominess is not that great, especially in light of the new launches. The seat cushions are still short and don’t offer enough thigh support, which can be tiring on long trips though, in Fiat tradition, it is placed high and offers a good, upright seating position. The steering wheel is slightly skewed, and the pedals are placed rather tightly. The trunk is now smallish for the category, beating only the Ka’s. However, all the controls are light and easy to use (and yes, durable) and the Uno offers some equipment still rare on other Brazilian cars like an internal rear hatch release mechanism and gas cap opener, while power window commands are now on the doors as ergonomics recommends.  All in all, an agreeable place to spend time that though configured for five, is more comfortable for four.

Mechanically the car does not stand out to the enthusiast anymore. The engines are holdovers from the previous cars and their age is showing, especially when compared to Ford’s and VW’s spiffy new three cylinders. The Fire EVO 1.0 is good for about 75 horses, while the 1.4 Fire EVO puts forth 88. Though a hefty total of the torque is available at low RPMs, both engines offer low top speeds (the smaller unit doesn’t crack 100 mph) and slow 0 to 60 times. While both Ka and up! 1.0s do this feat at around 14 seconds, the 1.0 Uno takes more than 18, while the 1.4 is more competitive. Fuel economy is average to good for the class and driven carefully can achieve high numbers. The 1.0 at least feels good and is a rounder engine, while the 1.4’s behavior is squarer (it doesn’t like to rev). Fiat has addressed these problems in a roundabout way by adding more sound insulation and new engine mounts. Also, being an in-line 4 cylinder, the vibrations noticed in the three cylinder engines is absent and the noise is better, but time moves on and most competitors’ motors, 3 or 4 cylinders, are surely better. I know they’re here Fiat, so where are the MultiAirs?

Driving the car, it is feels soft and comfortable. Nevertheless, Fiat has changed the specifications for shock absorbers and added insulation. It has also reinforced the Uno’s underlying structure to make it pass Latin NCap’s testing. This has not only added safety, but also affected the car’s behavior as the car is a bit heavier, but more planted and feels more solid. Around town, it is probably still the most comfortable in its class, being extraordinarily light and pliant. Out on the road, however, the car rolls too much. Of course, a more experienced Fiat driver knows this and knows he can force it some more. At that point, it settles down nicely and takes curves well. Most however, let off at the first sign of roll, making it more of a cruiser than a canyon carver. The new competition, specifically the Ka and up!, show that these relative low limits are not necessary as they combine comfort and sportiness much more convincingly.

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Finally, what may make Brazilians still pick the Uno in great numbers is the new added-in technology. As mentioned, the new electronic harness permits more electronic prowess. The 1.4s can be had with Fiat’s Dualogic single clutch automated transmission that makes do without a lever. In its place, there are buttons (and vague references to Ferrari technology in Uno literature) and shift paddles. In the Fiat line, this is the best implementation yet. Faster than before, shifts are done more suavely and the increased intelligence allows the unit to hold a gear when it perceives the driver’s intention to gun it. Though it doesn’t have a true hill holder function, it does have a creep function that will allow the car to slowly move forward at lower speeds and even on some inclines, which will of course help launch. Though a technology that is rougher than true automatics and double clutch automated systems, its simpler cost and ease of use is gaining ground and automating even the smallest Brazilian cars.

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The Uno is also the first small car that offers a Start and Stop system in Brazil. In fact, it will be the first car in the world that uses such a system even when running on ethanol. Fully automatic, it turns the car off when in neutral and stopped. It turns the car back on in 0.4 seconds when the clutch is depressed (it will not be offered, for now, on the Dualogic-equipped cars) and the functioning is quite seamless, so much so that a distracted driver might not even notice. It also re-fires the engine if the car is stopped for over 165 seconds, if the battery is stressed by high use of accessories, if there is a loss in braking power and if the car moves at more than 3 km/h. It won’t work in the warm up phase or if the battery is at under 75 percent capacity. It will also fire the car up again if the air conditioning is on and the engine is stopped for more than 60 seconds. Thankfully, as even that measure may not be enough in a hot country like Brazil, the system can easily be turned off at the flick of a button. INMETRO, the official Brazilian weight, measurements and balances agency rates the system’s impact on fuel economy at just 3 percent while Fiat claims as much as 20 can be had in cities like São Paulo at rush hour where traffic doesn’t move.

That’s the Fiat Uno then. A market leader under pressure by newer rivals. Adding a touch of razzle dazzle technology, some piecemeal mechanical improvements, a sprinkling of safety enhancements and a completely new interior, the Uno adds on to its strengths in the South American markets it is sold (reliability, ease of repair, economy, colors and beaucoup personalization possibilities). Though now outclassed mechanically, it still has what it takes to keep selling. Would I buy one now? Only if I got a spanking good deal or intended to keep the car for a very long time. The use of proven technology and engines virtually guarantee ease of mind, even to the new Brazilian consumer.

 

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Toyota Tercel SR5 4WD Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/junkyard-find-1984-toyota-tercel-sr5-4wd-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/junkyard-find-1984-toyota-tercel-sr5-4wd-wagon/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914002 I’ve owned quite a few Tercel wagons of this generation (though most of mine were the common-in-California front-wheel-drive type), and I respect these things for their simplicity, cargo capacity, and reliability. True, they were underpowered and not exactly inspiring to drive, but they could be very lovable. Living in Denver, I see these cars just […]

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20 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’ve owned quite a few Tercel wagons of this generation (though most of mine were the common-in-California front-wheel-drive type), and I respect these things for their simplicity, cargo capacity, and reliability. True, they were underpowered and not exactly inspiring to drive, but they could be very lovable. Living in Denver, I see these cars just about every time I hit the junkyard, but mostly they don’t seem special enough to merit photographing. Realizing that this one is 30 years old, however, inspired me to pull out the camera.
17 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSold in New Mexico, died in Colorado. There’s some rust, but more of the paint-burned-off/snow-buildup variety than the cancerous Midwestern type,
18 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou are awesome!
19 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe notorious “ice maker” next to the license plate. I’ve never been fully clear on what you got with the SR5 package, which was available on just about everything Toyota sold in the 1980s.
06 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 3A engine was harder to kill than rats and cockroaches combined.
04 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBecause the driver had to select front- or four-wheel-drive manually, many owners of these no-center-differential-equipped cars tore up tires and/or wore out drivetrain components by driving 365 days a year on dry pavement in the 4WD setting. Probably most of those Tercel 4WD owners bought Subarus after this happened.
05 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith the air conditioning turned off, you were jamming econo.
09 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI was able to skip chaining up when driving Donner pass in the winter in FWD Tercels, simply by picking up this emblem at the junkyard and adding it to my cars. Easiest 4WD conversion ever!

01 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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The Lexus IS Is Competing Again http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/lexus-competes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/lexus-competes/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 12:24:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912810 In the United States, Lexus has sold in excess of 5000 copies of the IS twice in the last nine months, having not done so even once since August 2008. Five times in the last nine months, Lexus has sold more than 4000 copies, having only sold more than 4000 ISs once in the previous […]

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2014 Lexus ISIn the United States, Lexus has sold in excess of 5000 copies of the IS twice in the last nine months, having not done so even once since August 2008.

Five times in the last nine months, Lexus has sold more than 4000 copies, having only sold more than 4000 ISs once in the previous 44 months.

U.S. Lexus IS volume has increased on a year-over-year basis in each of the last 14 months, although six of those year-over-year comparisons include prior-year results from the IS’s worst sales year (2012) since 2005.

In its segment, the IS trails only the premium-brand-leading BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Granted, the Audi A4, though relatively appealing even now, is as old as the hills. Also, while Infiniti’s Q50 trails the IS by 10,305 units, the Q50/G sedan combo is narrowly ahead of the Lexus.

Cadillac ATS volume has plunged 20% so far this year as total Cadillac passenger car volume has tumbled 15%. Volvo S60 sales are down 15% to 14,684 units, 18,743 sales back of the IS. The S60 trailed the IS by just 1672 units at this point one year ago.

The tide has clearly turned. In both 2011 and 2012, even Acura’s TSX was a more popular choice than the IS. Year-to-date IS sales in America are up 77%. The rapid growth rate has slowed as year-over-year comparisons now include results from both years, both 2014 and 2013, of the current, third-generation IS. August sales jumped 20% to 5312, more than the figure managed by the traditional second-ranked C-Class.

That C-Class, however, is now being replaced by a much more competitive, wildly more modern C. Will that car put the brakes on the IS’s ascent? It’s possible. One could argue that the brash IS with its massive spindle grille and controversial interior targets a different buyer. But we don’t determine which vehicles consumers will decide to cross-shop.

TTAC_3-Series-sales-chart-August-2014-YTDThe IS has nevertheless regained the status of a major player in the category. Lexus is on pace for the IS’s first year since 2007 with more than 50,000 sales. Not surprisingly, the IS has once again become important to traditionally RX-dependant Lexus. Through the first eight months of 2013, the IS accounted for just 11% of Lexus’s U.S. volume; the RX and ES 66%.

The RX/ES portion has fallen to 58% in 2014, however, as the IS now generates 17% of Lexus volume. You’re not surprised to learn, therefore, that Lexus outsold BMW and Mercedes-Benz in both July and August.

One thing is certain, the IS is not close to challenging the top-selling BMW in terms of U.S. sales. No entry-level premium sports sedan is, nor are any about to. The 3-Series range is massive, from the 320i sedan which undercuts the base IS by a few thousand dollars, to hatchback versions of both the 3-Series and 4-Series (which BMW USA still includes in the 3er’s total), countless powertrain options, and even a wagon. Not that BMW necessarily needs such broad appeal for the 3-Series to top the sales charts. The margins of victory are typically fairly large.

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Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Coast to Coast 2014 – Crossing Georgia and Tennessee http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/best-selling-cars-around-globe-coast-coast-2014-crossing-georgia-tennessee/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/best-selling-cars-around-globe-coast-coast-2014-crossing-georgia-tennessee/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 12:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914218 30 mpg average in a full-size pick-up truck is possible: the proof. I started this New York to Los Angeles Coast to Coast trip by driving South along the East Coast all the way through to Charleston SC and Savannah GA. It’s now time to go north-west, taking Interstate 16 to Macon then the 75 through to Chattanooga, […]

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30 mpg30 mpg average in a full-size pick-up truck is possible: the proof.

I started this New York to Los Angeles Coast to Coast trip by driving South along the East Coast all the way through to Charleston SC and Savannah GA. It’s now time to go north-west, taking Interstate 16 to Macon then the 75 through to Chattanooga, Tennessee via Atlanta, and continuing on the 24 to Nashville. A total of 585 miles (940 km) from Savannah to Nashville, the longest daily stretch so far in this Coast to Coast trip. And this is where Albert – my Ram 1500 EcoDiesel pick-up truck – met his match in the form of a bright yellow Peterbilt truck, and beat his fuel economy record to reach a very symbolic milestone…

Full report below the jump.

Albert Peterbilt 2Albert rubbing shoulders with a Peterbilt truck

At the last update (Savannah), Albert’s average mpg since the start of this road trip was 27.1. That was already on par with this model’s advertised highway mpg average (27) even though my trip has included quite a lot of city driving so far, notably in Manhattan for 3 excruciating hours of virtual standstill. The combination of a relatively low speed limit across Georgia highways (varying between 60 and 70 mpg), extensive use of cruise control and virtually 100% highway for 9 hours has lifted my pick-up truck’s average mpg to a very symbolic 30 mpg by the time I arrived in my Nashville motel.

New York NashvilleUS Coast to Coast trip so far. Picture courtesy of Google Maps

This means that since my departure from New York, I traveled 1,664 miles (2,678 km) on just 55.5 gallons of diesel. For those of you who are reading this outside of the United States, it won’t mean much unless I translate this fuel consumption into 210 litres or 8.1 litres/100 km. Back to the US, where I have to admit a 30 mpg average for a full-size pick-up truck had every local I shared it with raising their eyebrows. Fuel economy had not been much of a concern for full-size pick-up buyers. Then we saw the Great Recession, spikes in gas prices and a raft of economy-concious powertrains. Chrysler is the first to offer a diesel engine on a base (“1500″) full-size pick-up truck, lifting the mpg average to new heights. Advertised at 28 mpg highway in its 4×2 version and 27 as a 4×4 (the one I’m driving), the Ram 1500 has the best fuel economy in its category, and I completely verified it today. Big tick.

Kia Optima. Picture courtesy of motortrend.comThe Kia Optima is the Hero of the Day…

Now which vehicles did Albert have the pleasure of crossing on our way through Georgia? It should be noted first that I did the entire trip on the highway and only stopped at a couple of exits to rest, refuel and eat, and obviously this impacts the type of vehicles I have spotted and will describe here. Final note is I did not stop in Atlanta (sorry!) simply and sadly for lack of time, and after I left Chattanooga in Tennessee, it was night time which meant I could not recognize most of the cars on the other side of the highway, limiting my findings on Tennessee for now.

Hyundai Elantra. Picture courtesy of motortrend.com…with the Hyundai Elantra not far behind.

Once again we have a very unique vehicle landscape on Georgian highways. The Car of the Day is… wait for it… the Kia Optima, going from extremely discreet so far despite its #26 year-to-date ranking in the US overall (#15 passenger car) to contender for #1 passenger car – no less! There is a very simple explanation for this sudden change of heart: the Optima is manufactured locally in West Point GA… The Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento, manufactured in the same plant, are much less frequent than the Optima on Georgia highways but still frankly above the numbers I spotted up until now. The other very impressive model today is the is the Hyundai Elantra, also a contender to the title of #1 passenger car in Georgia based on my observations, and manufactured in neighbouring Alabama.

VW Passat ChattanoogaNot that many VW Passats near Chattanooga…

I can already hear some of you wondering out loud whether I saw lots of VW Passats in Chattanooga, Tennessee where they are manufactured. And the answer is no. I paid special attention to this very model the entire day to try and get a feel for its success (or lack therof) as we approached the border with Tennessee and I specifically drove in and around town to try and spot a surge in popularity for the VW sedan. The result: I saw my first Passat of the day 70 miles before Chattanooga (some 300 miles after leaving Savannah), only two in Chattanooga itself and around (if anything I saw more Jettas than usual but this model is manufactured in Mexico) and 3 between Chattanooga and Dalton in Tennessee. In other words, had I not known the Passat was manufactured here, I wouldn’t have noticed anything abnormal.

Albert Peterbilt 1

Apart from the Optima/Elantra surge, pick-up trucks continue to rule the roost in this region and their ratio to the overall traffic keeps increasing, rising to almost 50% in Georgia’s heartland but receding somewhat as we get North and into Tennessee towards Nashville. Other models spotted in higher than expected numbers across Georgia include the Ford Focus – truly popuar for the first time in this trip, the new generation Toyota Highlander – not seen at these levels since New York, the Ford Taurus, Nissan Versa Note, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, Nissan Sentra, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Dart, Jeep Cherokee, Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger.

Chevrolet Suburban2015 Chevrolet Suburban

All-in-all, mid-size sedans dominate the Georgian landscape as they do nationally, with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima the most popular. A special mention once again to the new generation Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban – GMC Yukon/Yukon XL combo, spotted on the highway as if it was a Top 10 model, and to the defunct 2007 Saturn Sky: none in the 1500 miles coming up to the first one spotted and a total of 3 today!

2007 Saturn Sky2007 Saturn Sky

I will close this update by thanking the Peterbilt of Atlanta dealership in Jackson GA for letting me roam their massive parking lots, loiter for a good hour waiting for the sun to come back and take hundreds of pictures of Albert in various settings along with their trucks. To the salesman who drove to me in his golf buggy to apologetically let me know that the dealership had to close now: it’s ok. I got it all in the can! Next update will be on Nashville, Tennessee.

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Howes: No Escape Yet From Recall Woes For General Motors http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/howes-escape-yet-recall-woes-general-motors/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/howes-escape-yet-recall-woes-general-motors/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 12:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915162 After running the gauntlet of congressional hearings, numerous recalls and personnel firings under the dark cloud of scandal created in the wake of the February 2014 recall crisis, General Motors believes it’s ready to turn the page, that everything is now in the rear view. Not so fast. The Detroit News‘ own Daniel Howes states […]

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GM RenCen Storm Clouds

After running the gauntlet of congressional hearings, numerous recalls and personnel firings under the dark cloud of scandal created in the wake of the February 2014 recall crisis, General Motors believes it’s ready to turn the page, that everything is now in the rear view.

Not so fast.

The Detroit News‘ own Daniel Howes states that the next chapter of the story has just begun, with the combination of this week’s congressional hearing — where National Highway Traffic Safety Administration director David Friedman experienced the lash from the Senate Commerce Committee — and the revelation of 131 fatality claims submitted to the victim compensation plan GM hired compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg to run.

The transparency and independence granted to Feinberg — including weekly updates on the number and types of claims submitted and approved/rejected — and the open-ended nature of the fund itself as far as compensation is concerned are both likely to further dent the automaker’s reputation until the last claims are put through the paces mid-2015.

Further, with investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission nowhere near close to completion, as well as the possibility of Attorney General Eric Holder bringing the hammer down on GM or its lower-level execs in the same manner as Toyota suffered, it may be a long time before the automaker’s reputation recovers to what it once was.

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Tesla Appeals NJ Franchise Statute, May Win Via Legislation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/tesla-appeals-nj-franchise-statute-may-win-via-legislation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/tesla-appeals-nj-franchise-statute-may-win-via-legislation/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 11:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915130 Months after the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission forced Tesla to stop directly selling its vehicles to the public, the automaker’s appeal moves closer to its day in court. Automotive News reports the appeal, made in March of 2014, proclaims that Tesla has a right to sell its cars with its business model, as the […]

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Tesla Model S Burnout

Months after the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission forced Tesla to stop directly selling its vehicles to the public, the automaker’s appeal moves closer to its day in court.

Automotive News reports the appeal, made in March of 2014, proclaims that Tesla has a right to sell its cars with its business model, as the state’s franchise statute does not apply to the automaker — no franchise agreements were ever made — the MVC overstepped its bounds by enforcing the statute, and the statute itself violates the state’s constitution in part.

That said, the case may not need to see the light of day, as two bills in the state senate would allow Tesla to continue doing business its way, with some limits. The first would give the automaker four stores to itself — two of which are already in operation — with any more to be franchised. Two service facilities would also be required of Tesla were the bill to pass. The second bill would update the franchise statute.

Both bills are expected to be voted upon by late September at the earliest.

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IRS Plug-In Vehicle Credit Cap Data Lacking Accuracy, Detail http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/irs-plug-vehicle-credit-cap-data-lacking-accuracy-detail/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/irs-plug-vehicle-credit-cap-data-lacking-accuracy-detail/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 10:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915098 In 2008, Congress passed a tax bill that would provide a credit of up to $7,500 for customers who purchase plug-in vehicles as a way to encourage adoption of cleaner vehicles. The credit would last in full for the first 200,000 units an automaker sold, then phased out over the course of 12 months. The […]

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A general view of the Internal Revenue Service Building in Washington

In 2008, Congress passed a tax bill that would provide a credit of up to $7,500 for customers who purchase plug-in vehicles as a way to encourage adoption of cleaner vehicles. The credit would last in full for the first 200,000 units an automaker sold, then phased out over the course of 12 months.

The problem? The agency responsible for handling the credit, the Internal Revenue Service, has no clue as to where things stand as far as that cap is concerned, despite every automaker that sells a plug-in model reporting the figures every quarter, as required by law.

AutoblogGreen reports that despite the fact that no automaker has yet to hit the cap, the IRS website meant to help consumers in their decision as to whether or not to purchase a plug-in vehicle is as dysfunctional as the legislative branch that passed the tax credit in the first place.

From the vehicles listed on the site — only six out of 24 vehicles from various manufacturers are listed — to the reported number of vehicles sold not matching up with what the automakers send to the agency per quarter, the IRS is dropping the ball on consumers who might want a plug-in in part because of the credit. This lack of attention to detail could knock new owners upside the head when the credit they thought they were going to receive ends up being less than desired.

When asked why the current situation exists, along with how the IRS receives and interprets its data regarding the credit cap, a representative stated that for a model to be listed on the site, a waiver must be submitted to the agency by the automaker in question. Both Chevrolet and Tesla, however, would beg to differ, as best explained by Tesla representative Liz Jarvis-Shean:

We’re compliant with reporting our quarterly US sales to the IRS and submit this information to the IRS shortly after each quarter’s close. One would assume that if Model S owners were having issues with this, you’d have heard about it.

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A 21st Century 240D http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/21st-century-240d/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/21st-century-240d/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:16:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914898 The Mercedes-Benz ML is the latest victim of powertrain downsizing, but this time, it’s the diesel version that’s getting its cylinder count trimmed. For 2015, the ML350, with its 3.0L V6 diesel, will be killed off, replaced by an ML250, using the 2.1L 4-cylinder diesel used in the GLK and E-Class diesel. While the old […]

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The Mercedes-Benz ML is the latest victim of powertrain downsizing, but this time, it’s the diesel version that’s getting its cylinder count trimmed.

For 2015, the ML350, with its 3.0L V6 diesel, will be killed off, replaced by an ML250, using the 2.1L 4-cylinder diesel used in the GLK and E-Class diesel. While the old V6 was good for 240 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque, the new 4-cylinder will put down 200 horsepower and 362 lb-ft. Fuel economy is said to improve with the new mill, but a big car and a small engine tends to sometimes hurt real world figures, as the smaller mill must work harder to motivate the same amount of mass. Official fuel economy and towing ratings will be released later.

While AutoGuide.com quotes an M-B product manager as saying that the change comes from consumer demand for increased fuel economy, you can bet that CAFE had a lot to do with this change. Mercedes-Benz sells plenty of gas-guzzling cars, SUVs and AMG models and has been fined over $260 million for not meeting CAFE standards. No surprise that M-B has been a vocal opponent of the regime, which it says favors large trucks and SUVs.

So what better way to juice their CAFE averages than by saddling a large SUV with a tiny diesel engine? It’s not like this is something unknown for Mercedes-Benz. How many gutless, MB-TEX equipped 240Ds did they foist upon the American public, painted in hideous hues and sold at prices far beyond what many Americans expected a Cadillac or Lincoln to sticker at. Decades later, you’ll still have to fork out a $50,725 base price for the privilege of driving an ML250 BlueTec.

We may not exactly be in the Second Malaise Era – not with the advances made in automotive safety, fuel economy and power outputs, that let us have a 22 mpg Hellcat – but this ML250 is mostly definitely a modern day Brougham. Or a 250TD, if you prefer.

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Behold, The Leafamino http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/behold-leafamino/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/behold-leafamino/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 19:37:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914794 Engineers at Nissan’s Arizona proving grounds have created a one-off pickup truck variant of the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf truck was apparently built to haul people and goods around Nissan’s campus, but is apparently “not very tough”. I can’t say its terribly appealing to me, but I’m sure there are a few of you who […]

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Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s

Engineers at Nissan’s Arizona proving grounds have created a one-off pickup truck variant of the Nissan Leaf.

The Leaf truck was apparently built to haul people and goods around Nissan’s campus, but is apparently “not very tough”. I can’t say its terribly appealing to me, but I’m sure there are a few of you who would gladly disagree.

Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s

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Volvo Will Only Appear At Three Major Auto Shows http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/volvo-will-appear-three-major-auto-shows/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/volvo-will-appear-three-major-auto-shows/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 19:30:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914746 A report in Canada’s The Globe and Mail claims that Volvo is withdrawing from all but three major world auto shows – Detroit, Paris and one unnamed auto show in Asia – as part of a new marketing strategy. According to a Volvo spokesperson, the new display format, which will debut at Paris, will be “unlike what […]

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A report in Canada’s The Globe and Mail claims that Volvo is withdrawing from all but three major world auto shows – Detroit, Paris and one unnamed auto show in Asia – as part of a new marketing strategy.

According to a Volvo spokesperson, the new display format, which will debut at Paris, will be “unlike what anybody has seen before.” Volvo recently sold a run of 1,927 2016 XC90 SUVs in an online pre-sale campaign, with the entire allocation being sold off in less than two days, and may be feeling a bit optimistic about doing things differently. But not all of their dealers are thrilled. Toronto-area dealers have banded together to stake out a spot at the Toronto Auto Show, and although Volvo Canada has endorsed the initiative, the display will be funded entirely by the dealer body.

 

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Captives To Face CFPB Oversight http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/captives-face-cfpb-oversight/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/captives-face-cfpb-oversight/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 18:06:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914466 New rules being announced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would mean that the captive finance arms would be subject to oversight from the CFPB. Automotive News reports that the CFPB will now have jurisdiction over “nonbank lenders” that  “make, acquire, or refinance 10,000 or more loans or leases in a year.” This rule would encompass […]

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New rules being announced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would mean that the captive finance arms would be subject to oversight from the CFPB.

Automotive News reports that the CFPB will now have jurisdiction over “nonbank lenders” that  “make, acquire, or refinance 10,000 or more loans or leases in a year.” This rule would encompass virtually all captive finance arms, covering a total of 38 lenders that originate roughly 90 percent of nonbank auto loans and leases.

Until now, the CFPB has not defined its cutoff point for overseeing “larger participants”, which largely included financial institutions. But the new definition brings auto maker finance arms under the CFPBs umbrella, something which has been expected for some time.

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Toyota Boosting Capacity To Crank Out More Tacomas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/toyota-boosting-capacity-crank-tacomas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/toyota-boosting-capacity-crank-tacomas/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:33:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914474 Toyota’s lone Mexican assembly plant will boost output by as much as 40 percent to increase production of the Tacoma mid-size pickup truck starting in April, 2015. Automotive News is reporting that the Baja California plant, which handles final assembly duties from CKD kits, will produce 89,000 Tacomas annually, up from 63,000. The move comes […]

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Toyota’s lone Mexican assembly plant will boost output by as much as 40 percent to increase production of the Tacoma mid-size pickup truck starting in April, 2015.

Automotive News is reporting that the Baja California plant, which handles final assembly duties from CKD kits, will produce 89,000 Tacomas annually, up from 63,000. The move comes as GM announced a third shift at the Missouri plant that builds the upcoming Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size trucks, which have yet to go on sale.

The Tacoma is expected to be redesigned in 2016 to better compete with the GM mid-sizers. While Tacoma sales have been down year-to-date, the full-size Tundra has seen an increase, and moving production away from Toyota’s Texas truck plant could allow for more Tundras to be built to help satisfy demand.

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A Hot Hatch Polo Match http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/hot-hatch-polo-match/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/hot-hatch-polo-match/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:15:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914410 At 155 inches long, the current Volkswagen Polo fits neatly in between the size of the MK1 and MK2 Volkswagen GTI hatchbacks. That’s a foot shorter than the current MK7, and in GTI trim, an enticing competitor to the Ford Fiesta ST. For 2015, the Polo GTI gets a nice bump in power. Out goes […]

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At 155 inches long, the current Volkswagen Polo fits neatly in between the size of the MK1 and MK2 Volkswagen GTI hatchbacks. That’s a foot shorter than the current MK7, and in GTI trim, an enticing competitor to the Ford Fiesta ST.

For 2015, the Polo GTI gets a nice bump in power. Out goes the nifty twincharged 1.4L 4-cylinder, in favor of VW’s corporate 1.8L turbo mill. With 189 horsepower and about 2600 lbs to move around, the Polo GTI just nips the Fiesta ST to 60 mph (6.7 seconds, versus 6.9 for the Ford) while offering a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed DSG, as well as a nicer looking interior.

Unfortunately, the Polo GTI is not in the cards for North America. A shame, since the new MK7 platform has now morphed into something beyond a mere compact hatchback in terms of size. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the Fiesta ST and Fiat 500 Abarth have both shown that there is a market for hot hatches that are still small in stature. And for all its technical brilliance, the GTI, as Jack mentioned, just lacks that ineffable quality that puts a smile on your face – something that the Fiesta ST has in spades. The economics of importing a subcompact for sale in America are likely tough to justify for VW, but that won’t stop me from lusting after a Polo GTI.

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Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Coast to Coast 2014 – Savannah GA http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/best-selling-cars-around-globe-coast-coast-2014-savannah-ga/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/best-selling-cars-around-globe-coast-coast-2014-savannah-ga/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:36:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914202 Albert in the Avenue of the Oaks – Wormsloe Plantation Historic Site in Savannah, GA Now that we have gone through New York City, Washington DC through Virginia, North & South Carolina and Charleston, it’s time to travel further South along the East Coast of the United States and the Interstate 95 to Georgia – the birthplace of Martin Luther […]

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Albert Savannah 2Albert in the Avenue of the Oaks – Wormsloe Plantation Historic Site in Savannah, GA

Now that we have gone through New York CityWashington DC through Virginia, North & South Carolina and Charleston, it’s time to travel further South along the East Coast of the United States and the Interstate 95 to Georgia – the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr and Ray Charles. But first, I’ll give you my first impressions on running a full-size pick-up on diesel in the US.

Full report below the jump…

Chevrolet Silverado 1500 WT. Picture courtesy ChevroletThe Chevrolet Silverado Work Truck is the Hero in Town in Savannah

By now I have had the opportunity to fill up Albert – my Ram 1500 EcoDiesel for the trip – a couple of times and test his range: approximately 660 miles (1060 km), which is more than I expected. I also ended up spending less money than I thought (US$77) to rejuvenate Albert with 20 gallons of diesel so he could continue to faithfully lead me along in this Coast to Coast trip.

A few quirks about running on diesel in the US: as opposed to France for example where up to 80% of new cars sold in the country run on diesel, not all service stations offer diesel, especially when you step away from the main highways -an interesting find when you start to run low and the next 3 stations you pass only have unleaded. On highway exits, I would say on average 50% to 75% of stations have offered diesel so far.

Albert refuelling 1Albert next to one of his Heavy Duty big bruvas

The other big surprise is the price. In Europe, one of the main reasons for choosing a diesel vehicle – on top of the fact that it is more fuel efficient – is its price, significantly lower than unleaded although that price difference has narrowed over the past few years. In the US, diesel is always more expensive, by at least 50 cents a gallon – a very significant margin. Starting off in New York where gas prices are much higher($4.50+ a gallon), I have noticed prices going down steadily as I was driving South to reach about $3.15 a gallon (unleaded) and $3.65 (diesel).

Ford F250 SavannahFord F250 in Savannah GA

Third surprise: for diesel, prices differ depending on your method of payment, with credit a full 6 cents per gallon more expensive than cash. I had never encountered that type of distinction before, and this does not apply to unleaded (for now). Most Americans don’t actually need to walk inside the station’s building if they’re paying with a card, as all pumps are equipped with swipe machines. Having a non-American credit card, I had to pay in advance each time and I had estimated (and paid) my first fill-up to be $100 but the pump put on full stops at ‘only’ $77.

Matt Savannah 2Good old me with Albert

Lastly, an update on Albert’s fuel economy, now standing at an excellent 27.1 mpg after a little bit more than 1,000 miles travelled (1,600 km). This Ram 1500 EcoDiesel 4×4’s advertised fuel economy being 27 mpg highway, we are now right on target, even though my trip hasn’t been all highway.

Ram 1500 Chrysler 200Quick check for size: Albert with a previous gen Chrysler 200

Onto the Savannah vehicle landscape, and although we are only 107 miles away from Charleston, this is a different state and a different landscape altogether. Georgia is another Ford F-Series State but for the first time during this trip, the Chevrolet Silverado is genuinely threatening it for the title of most frequent vehicle spotted in the streets of Savannah, making the Silverado Work Truck (with black plastic grille and bumpers like Albert) the Hero in Town.

Chevrolet Silverado Work Truck SavannahChevrolet Silverado Work Truck in Savannah GA

While in Charleston the Ford F250 was surprisingly more popular that its little brother the F150, in Savannah the ‘logical’ order is back with the F150 seemingly more successful. However even when adding up F150, F250 and F350, we still only come level with the new generation Silverado. But wait there are more surprises in the Savannah vehicle landscape…

Albert closeup SavannahAlbert on the Isle of Hope in Savannah GA

Based on my observations uptown, downtown, in Garden City, Port Wentworth, Vernon River and the Isle of Hope, along with the Silverado/F-Series tandem, other very successful models here include the GMC Sierra, surprisingly frequent, the Toyota Corolla – seemingly the most popular new passenger car in town, the Toyota Tundra back to levels last seen in Northern Virginia, the Ram pick-up, Honda Accord and Toyota Tacoma, also way above its national level here in Savannah. That’s it for the Southern belle, next we are crossing Georgia on our way to Nashville, Tennessee…

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and writes a blog dedicated to tracking car sales around the globe: BestSellingCarsBlog

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House Dems Take Republicans To Task Over NHTSA Report http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/house-dems-take-republicans-task-nhtsa-report/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/house-dems-take-republicans-task-nhtsa-report/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914338 In the wake of a report written by Republican members of the United States House of Representatives regarding the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration inability to find and link evidence regarding General Motors’ involvement in the design and implementation of an ignition switch now linked to 54 accidents and 19 fatalities, two Democrat members took […]

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Henry Waxman

In the wake of a report written by Republican members of the United States House of Representatives regarding the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration inability to find and link evidence regarding General Motors’ involvement in the design and implementation of an ignition switch now linked to 54 accidents and 19 fatalities, two Democrat members took the report’s authors to task.

The Detroit News reports Representatives Henry A. Waxman of California and Diana DeGette of Colorado, both members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee whose Republican majority penned the report, proclaim the report ignores GM’s role in the problems leading up to the February 2014 recall crisis that saw 2.6 million vehicles recalled in one go, placing the blame squarely upon the automaker’s shoulders.

The duo also laid criticism upon Republicans in both houses of Congress for not moving faster on legislation meant to prevent disasters like the one experienced by GM:

There is still time to improve auto safety in this country and to demand more from both car companies and regulators. Republicans should act quickly to pass legislation that solves the auto safety problems they identified in their report.

Meanwhile, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, who had planned to bring automotive safety legislation up for consideration back in July, said he wasn’t decided on the matter. He explained that while Congress would continue to look for answers and build toward solving them, the “NHTSA was part of the problem and is going to have to be part of the solution.”

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Maserati Biturbo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/junkyard-find-1981-maserati-biturbo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/junkyard-find-1981-maserati-biturbo/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913882 Your typical Maserati Biturbo isn’t worth much these days, which means that the cost/benefit analysis of one sitting under a tarp in the driveway often results in a trip to the nearest wrecking yard. In this series so far, we’ve seen this super-rare ’86 Biturbo Spyder, this not-so-rare ’84 Biturbo, and today’s first-year ’81 ’84 […]

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08 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYour typical Maserati Biturbo isn’t worth much these days, which means that the cost/benefit analysis of one sitting under a tarp in the driveway often results in a trip to the nearest wrecking yard. In this series so far, we’ve seen this super-rare ’86 Biturbo Spyder, this not-so-rare ’84 Biturbo, and today’s first-year ’81 ’84 Biturbo. All three of these cars were photographed in California, one in Los Angeles and the other two in Oakland, and it’s a safe bet than none of them had driven on the street in the decade prior to arriving in the wrecking yard.
03 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot even 75,000 miles on the clock.
07 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe hood-release mechanism was broken and I didn’t feel like futzing with it in order to see if some local tuner kid had grabbed the turbochargers.
04 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere are valuable Maseratis, and then there are cars like this one and the Chrysler TC By Maserati.

01 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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The Volkswagen Eos Is Dead: Here’s Why http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/volkswagen-eos-dead-heres/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/volkswagen-eos-dead-heres/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:09:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912786 RX-8, FJ Cruiser, XLR: just some of the recent nameplates which at one time generated healthy sales activity in the U.S., but after slowly fading in un-updated form, were put out to pasture. Now we can add to that list the Volkswagen Eos. Cars like the Eos, which major on style over practicality, are prone […]

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2012 Volkswagen EosRX-8, FJ Cruiser, XLR: just some of the recent nameplates which at one time generated healthy sales activity in the U.S., but after slowly fading in un-updated form, were put out to pasture. Now we can add to that list the Volkswagen Eos.

Cars like the Eos, which major on style over practicality, are prone to early bouts of desirability which wanes as newer, fresher, brighter, bolder, faster machines enter the fray. It’s not surprising to see interest in these vehicles dry up more quickly than it does with a midsize sedan or smaller crossover.

Consider the Chevrolet Equinox. Sales in the Equinox’s category have been steadily rising – vehicles such as the top-selling Honda CR-V and Ford Escape recorded record-high U.S. sales in 2013. But they are newer examples of the breed. The Equinox, on the other hand, was introduced in second-generation form for the 2010 model year. Yet in 2013 it, too, posted record-high U.S. volume.

On the other side of that coin, consider the Chevrolet Corvette. Although it’s a relatively common car for a vehicle of its type, at least in the United States, Corvette sales in its sixth iteration declined sharply in 2007, 2008, and 2009 and didn’t recover as the overall size of the new car market grew somewhat in 2010, growing only slightly in 2011 and 2012.

New is necessary. Corvette sales, now in C7 Stingray form, jumped 166% in the fourth quarter of 2013 and are up 236% so far this year. The Corvette is on track for its best U.S. sales year since 2006.

The Volkswagen Eos is certainly no Corvette, but neither were the Mazda RX-8, Toyota FJ Cruiser, or Cadillac XLR. (Actually, the XLR was sort of a Corvette.) The point stands, regardless. An automaker can’t introduce a sporty little convertible, even one without trackday intentions, and expect consumer interest to remain level during its tenure.

The first and only Eos has been around since the latter portion of 2006, when Mercury was selling a Montego – when Mercury was – and when an Eos buyer could have also looked at a Pontiac G6 GTP convertible.

Though facelifted, the Eos was always as it always was. Equipped with Volkswagen’s ubiquitous 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder or, in the early part of its lifespan, a 3.2L V6, the Eos was a relatively attractive front-wheel-drive convertible. Along with the front-wheel-drive Volvo C70, it was tasked with fighting premium Germans from below and affordable droptop performance cars from above.

Most definitely from above. Back in the beginning, Mazda would sell you an MX-5 PRHT for about $5000 less.

And yet, the Eos was a new thing, and thus, when Mazda USA sold 15,075 more affordable MX-5s in 2007, Volkswagen sold 12,744 Eos convertibles. And in 2008, the Eos actually outsold the MX-5. The Eos outsold the MX-5 again in 2010 and 2011. Isn’t this a recipe for printing money? Sell the more expensive car, the one that shares a great number of parts with countless other high-volume machines?

Yes, it was, until Volkswagen invited a Beetle Convertible back to the party. Volkswagen USA sold 4178 Eos cabrios in 2013 (down from a peak of 12,837 in 2008), a figure which compares unfavourably with Volkswagen’s 18,050 Beetle Convertible sales. That’s more than the Eos’s total from all of 2012, 2013, and the first eight months of 2014 combined.

The Eos is dead because, by VW’s choice, it hasn’t been at all new since 2006 and because, by VW’s choice, the iconic and ancient Beetle nameplate became new again.

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Supplier Believes Lightweight Steel Has A Place In Light-Duty Pickups http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/supplier-believes-lightweight-steel-place-light-duty-pickups/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/supplier-believes-lightweight-steel-place-light-duty-pickups/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914322 Though Ford is going all in on aluminum for its upcoming F-150, with General Motors following suit soon after, one supplier believes lightweight steel can be just as effective as the alloy best known for holding beer and keeping turkeys juicy in the oven. Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal is offering two such solutions for helping light-duty pickups […]

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Though Ford is going all in on aluminum for its upcoming F-150, with General Motors following suit soon after, one supplier believes lightweight steel can be just as effective as the alloy best known for holding beer and keeping turkeys juicy in the oven.

Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal is offering two such solutions for helping light-duty pickups meet ever-tightening CAFE mandates, going so far as to rebuild a 2009 model using newer steel components for a 23 percent reduction of 384 pounds in comparison to a similar 2014 model.

In contrast, the 2015 F-150 gains a 732-pound loss over the outgoing 2014 version on the truck scale, a result of extensive use of aluminum in the body panels throughout the new truck.

No matter the solution, both offerings would likely find a place at the table as every automaker fights to hit a CAFE-mandated fleet average of 54.5 mpg by 2025. That said, aluminum may be going up to bat more times than lightweight steel alloys in order to meet the target.

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Rolls-Royce Receives Largest-Ever Fleet Order For Macau Luxury Hotel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/rolls-royce-receives-largest-ever-fleet-order-macau-luxury-hotel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/rolls-royce-receives-largest-ever-fleet-order-macau-luxury-hotel/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 11:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914250 If one were so inclined to visit Macau for a bit of gambling, they could hitch a ride to their hotel through one of the many cabs running throughout the city. However, those who will stay at entrepreneur Stephen Hung’s Louis XIII hotel upon its opening in 2016 will be able to paint the town […]

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If one were so inclined to visit Macau for a bit of gambling, they could hitch a ride to their hotel through one of the many cabs running throughout the city. However, those who will stay at entrepreneur Stephen Hung’s Louis XIII hotel upon its opening in 2016 will be able to paint the town red in a red Rolls-Royce.

Hung’s purchase of 30 Rolls-Royce Bespoke Extended Wheelbase Phantoms is not only the largest fleet order of such vehicles ever for the luxury automaker, but two of the fleet will be the most expensive units ever assembled.

Twenty-eight of the bespoke fleet will have plenty of interesting touches to the exterior and interior — likely designed to match the hotel through and through — including bespoke clocks from Graff Luxury Watches. The remaining duo will also boast added gold-plated accents decorating the Phantoms’ skin and interior space.

As for when one might be able to hitch a ride in one of these Phantoms, the fleet will go in service at the same time the Louis XIII hotel opens its doors in 2016. For its part, Rolls-Royce will have a hand in designing the parking and driveway spaces for the fleet to navigate, as well as train chauffeurs on how to properly drive and handle the bespoke vehicles.

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2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat Delivers EPA-Rated 22 MPG Highway http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/2015-challenger-srt-hellcat-delivers-epa-rated-22-mpg-highway/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/2015-challenger-srt-hellcat-delivers-epa-rated-22-mpg-highway/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 10:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914234 Most customers purchasing a 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat aren’t likely considering fuel economy as a reason for wanting one of the most brutal machines ever assembled. That said, the pony car is fairly efficient on the highway in comparison to more exotic fare. The lieutenant to the Charger Hellcat’s general, the Challenger Hellcat delivers […]

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2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat

Most customers purchasing a 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat aren’t likely considering fuel economy as a reason for wanting one of the most brutal machines ever assembled. That said, the pony car is fairly efficient on the highway in comparison to more exotic fare.

The lieutenant to the Charger Hellcat’s general, the Challenger Hellcat delivers an EPA rating of 22 highway via its eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic, losing only a single mpg for those who opt to row their own boats through a six-speed manual. Chrysler notes the highest rating comes from the auto’s 7.03 gear ratio spread, allowing the elephant to be that efficient on the highway more often.

In comparison, exotic beasts like the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster, Aston Martin Vanquish and Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT deliver similar amounts of firepower to the battlefield, but only manage to put out 18 mpg to 19 mpg in so doing.

Furthermore, unlike the six-figure price tags for said exotics — of which only the Aventador comes closest in matching horsepower with the supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI Hellcat, the others falling just under 600 horses — the Challenger comes in at just under $60,000. Not a bad place to be, one would suppose.

Figures for city and combined mpg were not announced as of this writing.

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The Mustang Embargo Is Done http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/mustang-embargo-done/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/mustang-embargo-done/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 18:42:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913850 Ah, it’s the sad truth that the only way I’ll ever be on the cover of anything is if I’m wearing a helmet. So it is here, as I drag a loaner-helmet-wearing passenger around the Motown Mile. So. What do you want to know about the Mustang? A collection of PCOTY Mustang impressions can be […]

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Ah, it’s the sad truth that the only way I’ll ever be on the cover of anything is if I’m wearing a helmet. So it is here, as I drag a loaner-helmet-wearing passenger around the Motown Mile.

So. What do you want to know about the Mustang?

A collection of PCOTY Mustang impressions can be found on the R&T site as of an hour ago. To what I’ve written there, I’ll add the following: This Mustang is a step beyond its competition into the bigger world of RWD performance sedans like the 3-Series BMW and its competitors. No, it’s not as space-efficient as something like an Infiniti Q50, but it offers a significant power advantage over those cars at an equally significant price savings.

On a fast back road, the Mustang really comes alive. It works with you everywhere you need it to. Even the brakes are better than they used to be — although if you really want to track the thing you’ll want to invest some of that price differential into a set of real six-piston stoppers. It’s a winner in every sense of the term. The wait is over, and it’s justified.

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TTAC Salutes The Lincoln Motor Company http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/ttac-salutes-lincoln-motor-company/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/ttac-salutes-lincoln-motor-company/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 16:52:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913802 Last year, TTAC reviewed the Lincoln MKZ, and found it wanting. Poor build quality, sub-par fuel economy and questionable value for money led me to write a review that, while accurate in its portrayal of the cars faults, went above and beyond the call of duty as far as verbal vitriol was concerned. We all know […]

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Last year, TTAC reviewed the Lincoln MKZ, and found it wanting. Poor build quality, sub-par fuel economy and questionable value for money led me to write a review that, while accurate in its portrayal of the cars faults, went above and beyond the call of duty as far as verbal vitriol was concerned. We all know what happened next, and in the end, it was only due to an outpouring of support from the B&B that TTAC was given access to Ford’s press fleet again. Note that in that time, we didn’t once drive a Lincoln.

This week marks the first time that TTAC is back in a Lincoln since that episode. I’m driving a fully loaded 2.3L Ecoboost MKC, which is the Lincoln Motor Company’s version of the Ford Escape. My biggest bone of contention with the MKZ was that it didn’t offer anything particularly compelling that would tempt me to buy one over a Ford Fusion. The MKC doesn’t appear to have that problem. Check back next week for the full review. In the mean time, we salute the Lincoln Motor Company for putting the episode behind them and having the courage to invite us to test out their newest wares.

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GM Already Adding Third Shift At Mid-Size Truck Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/gm-already-adding-third-shift-mid-size-truck-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/gm-already-adding-third-shift-mid-size-truck-plant/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 16:04:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913754 GM’s new mid-size pickup trucks aren’t even on sale yet, but the auto maker is already preparing to add a third shift at its Wentzville, Missouri assembly plant, which will result in 750 additional jobs. The third shift will come online in early 2015. GM claims to have received as many as 30,000 dealer orders […]

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GM’s new mid-size pickup trucks aren’t even on sale yet, but the auto maker is already preparing to add a third shift at its Wentzville, Missouri assembly plant, which will result in 750 additional jobs.

The third shift will come online in early 2015. GM claims to have received as many as 30,000 dealer orders for the mid-sizers so far – whether they end up in customer hands without major incentives or discounts is a whole other matter.

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Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Coast to Coast 2014 – Charleston SC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/best-selling-cars-around-globe-coast-coast-2014-charleston-sc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/best-selling-cars-around-globe-coast-coast-2014-charleston-sc/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 15:05:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913602 Ford F250 in Charleston SC After driving from Washington DC through Virginia, North & South Carolina, we are now in Charleston SC. I know a lot of you live in town and have already predicted the type of cars I would see depending on which area of town I travel to. So I need to preface my observations […]

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1. Ford F250 Charleston 2Ford F250 in Charleston SC

After driving from Washington DC through Virginia, North & South Carolina, we are now in Charleston SC. I know a lot of you live in town and have already predicted the type of cars I would see depending on which area of town I travel to. So I need to preface my observations by saying I spent some time in North Charleston, Downtown Charleston and Ashley River as this will impact the landscape I have observed.

Full Report below the jump.

2. Ford F150 Ranger Charleston 21973 Ford F150 Ranger in Charleston SC

The first observation is the strength of the Chrysler brand in this area compared to the regions I previously traversed, with the 300 and 200 (both the previous Sebring-facelift generation and the spectacular current one) more frequent as well as quite a few Pacifica indicating very solid sales when the model was still part of the Chrysler range. More significantly, Charleston is the first city where I could spot a very clear heritage of pick-up trucks with many older models parked throughout town, showing a decades-long history of domination of this type of vehicle.

3. Albert Charleston 1Albert pretending to be a big Charleston home owner…

And of course a lot more new pick-ups here than I have seen so far, with the usual suspects leading the way: the Ford F-Series is the most popular, with the Chevrolet Silverado, Ram and Toyota Tacoma also strong but not that many GMC Sierra or Toyota Tundra. Getting more granular, Charleston is the first city where I’m noticing the popularity of the F250 and, to a lesser extent, F350 variants as opposed to the F150. Ford doesn’t easily share sales split by variant, grouping each one into the “F-Series” nameplate, partly to ensure its best-seller the #1 overall spot each year, whereas the F250 and up differ quite significantly from the F150.

4. Albert Charleston 2…and again…

During my last US trip about 6-7 years ago, I had hardly noticed any other variant other than the F150. In Charleston, the most popular F-Series truck was not the F150 but the F250, sometimes in a 2-door variant I didn’t even know existed. This is a pretty significant evolution that seems to have happened only during the last generation of the model. Further cities visited along this trip will confirm that trend as you will see.

5. Dodge Ram vintage 2 Charleston1981 Dodge Ram in Charleston SC

2015 Ford F1502015 Ford F150

I am in touch with Ford US to try and establish the ratio of F250 and F350 within F-Series sales nationally, as this would be a great indication of where this trend is going. To me another hint is the new generation F150 which will hit dealerships this November, arguably closer to the current F250/350 than the F150 – confirming my observations. In any case, I am nominating the Ford F250 as the Hero in Town for Charleston.

6. Ford F250 Charleston 6Ford F250 in Charleston SC

There are also a lot more tradesman/base variants on the road, like the one I am driving – Albert is feeling more and more at home on this trip.

7. Toyota Corolla CharlestonToyota Corolla in Charleston SC

On the opposite end of the scale, Charleston drivers also seem to love particularly small cars, with a lot more Nissan Versa Note, new Honda Fit and Hyundai Accent here than up until now. As it has now been the case everywhere I’ve been so far, the new generation Chevrolet Tahoe / Suburban / GMC Yukon / XL is appearing in the streets way more often than its national ranking would lead us to expect. When is this going to stop and why is this nameplate not ranking higher overall?

8. Albert Charleston 3Albert in Charleston SC

One last observations is a surprisingly strong number of Honda Element, which seem to simply have been among the best-sellers in Charleston at the height of its career, as well as already quite a few new generation GMC Acadia. Next step: Savannah in Georgia. Stay tuned!

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and writes a blog dedicated to tracking car sales around the globe: BestSellingCarsBlog

9. Ram 1500 Nissan Sentra CharlestonQuick size check: Albert vs. Nissan Sentra

10. Ford F250 Charleston 4Ford F250 (previous gen)

11. Ford F250 vintage CharlestonFord F250

13. Albert Charleston 4Albert with one of his Heavy Duty bros

14. Chevrolet Silverado CharlestonChevrolet Silverado

15. Chevrolet Silverado vintage CharlestonChevrolet Silverado

Chrysler 200 Jeep Wrangler CharlestonJeep Wrangler and Chrysler 200

Dodge Ram Vintage Charleston1981 Dodge Ram

Ford Explorer CharlestonFord Explorer

Ford F150 vintage CharlestonFord F150

Ford F250 Charleston 1Ford F250

Ford F250 Charleston 3Ford F250 (previous gen)

Ford F250 Charleston 5Ford F250

Nissan Versa Note CharlestonNissan Versa Note

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