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By on April 24, 2017

2017 Civic Type R (European Version)

“Tested on the Nürburgring,” is just the latest eye-rolling claim to be adopted by automakers desperate to instill a new product with an air of sportiness.

“Nürburgring?!” being the anticipated reaction. “Well, the Germans aren’t going to let just any minivan on that track … ”

There’s much guilt to go around. Just as a Ram maintenance truck trundling down the runway at Edwards Air Force Base is not a space shuttle or F-35, running some laps on the famed circuit does not a supercar make. Still, the track’s allure persists, especially among marketing types.

Sometimes, an achievement crops up that makes the typing of “Nürburgring” an acceptable practice — specifically, the setting of a record. Read More >

By on April 24, 2017

2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Culver City - Image: Cadillac“Levels that were once seen as excessive are now sustainable.”
—Uwe Ellinghaus, Chief Marketing Officer, Cadillac

Cadillac expects to see auto sales in the United States in calendar year 2017 fall just below 2016’s best-ever results, which GM’s premium brand considers a positive sign for the U.S. auto industry and Cadillac.

While the decline reported America’s auto industry in March 2017 drew headlines because 2017’s first-quarter encompassed three consecutive months of year-over-year decline, Cadillac’s chief marketing officer, Uwe Ellinghaus, views the results through another lens.

“What they call a cooling off I say is the best thing that has ever happened,” Ellinghaus told Automotive News. “We don’t see that the party is over. It’s continuing.”

Cadillac? Party? Huh? Read More >

By on April 24, 2017

Dildo, NL Road Sign, Image: shankar s./Flickr

Mercifully, at least to those of us living in the Snow Belt or in the Great White North, the official start of summer is only 57 days away. You know what that means: swimming pools, grilling meat, and — for gearheads — road trips.

I’m of firm belief the journey is half the fun, especially if you’re taking the Queen Family Truckster somewhere new. The countries on either side of the 49th parallel are filled with random and bizarre roadside bric-a-brac, some of it fit for discussion on this website, some of it — as we shall see — is straight from Hugh Hefner’s imagination.

Read More >

By on April 24, 2017

2000 Oldsmobile Intrigue in Arizona wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Oldsmobile Division had just six years to live when the Intrigue appeared in the 1998 model year, and this car was Oldsmobile’s final version of the long-lived GM W platform. I see thousands of W-bodies every year, during my junkyard travels, but it takes a special one to make me reach for my camera. Say, a supercharged Daytona 500 Edition Grand Prix, or a Lumina Euro, or a genuine Phoenix Open-badged Intrigue.

Here’s an example of the latter car that I found languishing in a Phoenix wrecking yard, just 30 miles from the Phoenix Open’s high-zoot venue. Read More >

By on April 23, 2017

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon - Image: FCA

When we announced that the Dodge Demon would have a MSRP below six-figures, the comments section was immediately populated with discussions on how that might not be the case once the strip-focused Challenger arrives in showrooms. The limited supply of early Hellcats came at a significant premium and, for a time, even gently used models were going for the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of a new one.

Gouging on the Demon seems even more assured since FCA has stated that it will be limited production to a mere 3,300 units in North America. Obviously, there is no way in hell to avoid dealer markup on a vehicle like this one but Dodge seems to think it has found a way to attenuate the matter.

Read More >

By on April 23, 2017

BMW track day

For the most part, crash avoidance and driver assistance technology is a welcome addition addition to the automotive landscape. While they can be a little invasive sometimes, they’re usually doing what they’re supposed to and helping to save the lives of drivers who may have had a momentary lapse in judgment or focus. However, there is a lot of worry over how lane assistance or emergency braking software will behave when you bring a streetcar to the track.

Several chapters of the BMW Car Club of America and the Porsche Club of America have already decided to forbid any vehicle equipped with aids. The fear is that track day organizers or instructors could be found liable if a car suddenly jerks right when it approaches the apex of a corner or suddenly decelerate when in close proximity to other vehicles. A driver might be caught off-guard if a car unexpectedly takes over and be unsure how to mitigate inputs they were unprepared for.

The bottom line is that newer cars are finding themselves in danger of being banned wholesale, and that’s just not going to work if track days are to continue in the years to come.

Read More >

By on April 22, 2017

autonomous testing tesla

Poor Generation X. Isolated, ignored and cynical, they brought us great music in the early-to-mid 1990s, but their opinion on self-driving cars and autonomous safety features just isn’t important.

At least, that’s the feeling you get while reading the results of J.D. Power’s U.S. Tech Choice Study. The company polled 8,500 Americans who bought a vehicle during the past five years, asking them how they felt about the emerging technology.

Naturally, large generation gaps appeared, not the least of which was the elimination of Gen Xers in favor of the opinions of Boomers, Generation Y and Z. So, how does the opinions of the largest car-buying cohort compare to that of the newest? Read More >

By on April 22, 2017

2015 Volkswagen Golf family, Image: Volkswagen of America

April has brought good news to diesel lovers and haters on both sides of the border.

After spending the winter (and the better part of last fall) jealously eyeing their southern neighbor’s buyback and compensation program, Canadian owners can now apply for that longed-for envelope of Volkswagen cash, as well as a one-way-ticket to hell for their emissions-rigged TDI model.

On Friday, the automaker settled court cases in Ontario and Quebec, paving the way for a 2.0-liter diesel settlement program that starts next week. The models involved are the same as in the U.S. — 105,000 units in all — and owners and lessees face similar choices as their American counterparts.

Unlike the recent shadowy roll-out of half-fixed 2015 models in the U.S., several Canadian dealers are proudly advertising the availability of “new” TDIs. Read More >

By on April 21, 2017

570gt mclaren

Here is sentence that nobody has ever uttered: “Honey, you have to take the kids to school in the McLaren today because the Kia is in the shop and it’s our only other mode of transportation.”

Despite this, the automaker that has continuously brought the world road-going hypercars and track day darlings has also considered building a car with a backseat for quite some time. While most supercar manufacturers have at least mulled over something for the entire family, McLaren seems among the worst-suited for the task.  Read More >

By on April 21, 2017

2017 Honda CR-V - Image: Honda

It’s really a matter of when, instead of a question of “will it?”

This week’s Shanghai auto show saw the premiere of an electrified Honda CR-V that should hit Chinese dealers in the second half of this year. When that vehicle will get a chance to battle rivals on American turf remains a secret, but it’s abundantly clear that the model has a future on this continent. Read More >

By on April 21, 2017

2015-Volkswagen-Golf-SportWagen-09
Oh my God, it’s finally almost over. After a 10-year conspiracy and almost 600,000 rigged diesel cars, VW’s legal battle with the United States is coming to an end. Volkswagen pled guilty last month to conspiracy to commit fraud and the obstruction of justice after it was caught cheating on emissions tests in 2015, and we’ve been eagerly waiting the verdict and subsequent punishment.

Today, a U.S. judge ordered the automaker to observe three years of probation and shell out a $2.8 billion criminal fine. The sum, which Steph Willems has informed me equates to 135,168 VW Golfs — after delivery and rounding up to the closest car — is in addition to the company’s $1.5 billion in civil penalties,  $4.7 billion in mandatory anti-pollution initiatives, and $11.2 billion diesel buyback program.  Read More >

By on April 21, 2017

Ford Fairlane Mall

The majority of today’s youth culture develops online but, for a number of years, it shared that space with the former cornerstone of American society — the mall. However, the once-great shopping center has fallen out of fashion along with wide-leg jeans and Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Since the late 1990s, most malls have gradually morphed into half-empty shanty towns or been abandoned entirely.

As part of Ford’s reoccurring requirement to appear forward thinking and socially conscious — as well as an immediate need for a location to house gobs of employees while it continues work on its Dearborn headquarters — the automaker had decided to make use of the partially abandoned Fairlane Mall. It may be the best implementation of its current focus on corporate citizenship and sustainability to date.   Read More >

By on April 21, 2017

BMW 4 Series

To industry watchers, the manual transmission’s future seems as rosy as that of the Steve Miller Band, circa 1983.

Automakers on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific have pried the stick shift out of an ever-increasing number of vehicles, and some manufacturers have chosen to drop the technology altogether. With market share reaching never-before-seen lows, the three-pedal lifestyle seems headed towards an unavoidable (and imminent) grave.

Blame technology. Blame laziness. Blame yourself.

Over in Munich, the sentiment seems quite similar. BMW has long occupied the ranks of true driver’s cars, but its leaders make no bones about the brand’s eventual abandonment of the row-your-own transmission, even in relatively stick-happy Europe. Lately, even dual-clutch transmissions appear to be in Bimmer’s bad books. And as for an American solution to its manual transmission problem, well, forget that. Read More >

By on April 21, 2017

exp

I had an interesting conversation with a old friend of mine over the weekend. When I met this fellow, he was past 30 years old, unemployed, living with his mother, lacking both a goal and a direction. He stayed that way into his early 40, when another friend of mine and I pulled some strings to get him a tech job. I exhaustively back-filled his resume with imaginary work and ensured that at least some of it would check out if necessary. For about six months, I surreptitiously trained him on-the-job and picked up his slack while he learned the trade. I figured he would thrive from there …

… and I was right, In fact, he wound up as a Very Important Executive Type for a major tech firm. He’s so important now, and so well-compensated, that he has become bored. Much of our Sunday brunch consisted of him lecturing me about all the opportunities I was missing out in California, both financial and, er, gynecological. The only response I had to this was that the most important opportunity in my life is the opportunity to be a present-and-accounted-for father to my son, so I was gonna stay in Hicksville, Ohio, until that particular job is finished.

Having agreed to disagree on the future desired course of our lives, we made small talk about various tech-industry trends and buzzwords. “As a platform architect,” he noted, causing me to choke a little bit because my allergen-buzzword-receptors became permanently overloaded around the time people started adding the phrase “as a service” to everything, “I’ve come to realize that my job is actually to limit choice. You can’t give people a bunch of choices, even if there are several very good options available. You narrow it down. My job is to narrow it down into a decision that any idiot can safely make, because most executives are idiots who were promoted solely on the basis of their height.”

It was then that I experienced what the Buddhists call satori, or enlightenment, in the matter of the Ford EXP and Mercury LN7.

Read More >

By on April 21, 2017

[Image: Wikimedia Comonns]

As Venezuela descends even further into economic and social turmoil, and as mass demonstrations turn violent, we learned yesterday that General Motors’ Valencia assembly plant is no longer in the hands of General Motors.

The plant, which has sat idle for months, was “unexpectedly taken by the public authorities, preventing normal operations,” the automaker stated. Supposedly, the reason for seizing the asset lies in a 17-year-old lawsuit filed by a disgruntled dealer group angry over torn-up contracts. The dealers wanted billions of dollars in compensation — a sum that GM said “exceeds all logic.”

A new report has shed more light on the automaker’s situation, revealing that the government wasn’t the first group to seize the factory and bar the doors. Read More >

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