The Truth About Cars » america http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 31 Aug 2015 12:00:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » america http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 2015 Ford Mustang GT Review – No Longer A One-Trick Pony (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ford-mustang-gt-review-no-longer-one-trick-pony-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ford-mustang-gt-review-no-longer-one-trick-pony-video/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 16:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1149057 2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium 5.0-liter, DOHC V-8, CVVT (435 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 400 lbs-ft @ 4,240 rpm) 6-speed Getrag MT82 manual 15 city/25 highway/19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 18.2 mpg (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: GT Premium Trim, Ruby Red Paint, 401A Package, Performance Package, Adaptive Cruise Control, Navigation, Recaro Seats Base Price: $30,875* As Tested: $45,470* * All prices include $900 destination charge. Ford’s Mustang is […]

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2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-010

2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium

5.0-liter, DOHC V-8, CVVT (435 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 400 lbs-ft @ 4,240 rpm)

6-speed Getrag MT82 manual

15 city/25 highway/19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

18.2 mpg (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: GT Premium Trim, Ruby Red Paint, 401A Package, Performance Package, Adaptive Cruise Control, Navigation, Recaro Seats

Base Price:
$30,875*
As Tested:

$45,470*

* All prices include $900 destination charge.

Ford’s Mustang is as American as the hot dog and KFC Double Down, but for 2015 it received an internationally-focused makeover. Since 1964, the Mustang has been the place to find a large V8, a manual transmission and a solid rear axle. That solid axle has been a point of contention for foreign auto journalists who frequently compared the Ford’s handling to a pickup truck, and decried the GT as a one-trick pony: the car that was excellent in a straight line at a drag strip — and that was about it. That’s a problem when Ford’s new mission is greater harmony in their lineup worldwide.

While 2015 retains the large V8 engine, manual transmission and rear wheel drive we’ve all come to know and love, it brings the first completely independent suspension to every Mustang in over 50 years. Also big news for 2015 is the resurrection of a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, something we haven’t seen since the Fox body Mustang of the early 1990s. In a nod to our friends in Old Blighty, a factory-made right hand drive model is also in the works. All of these changes are because this Mustang is suddenly thrust into a much bigger pool of competitors.

Can Ford teach this pony some new tricks to compensate?


Exterior
The first thing you’ll notice about the new Mustang is the Aston Martin meets Fusion meets Mustang styling. The sheetmetal looks more elegant and more intentional than before. While the 2014 looked cartoonish from some angles, the 6th generation ‘Stang doesn’t seem to have a bad angle to be found. It’s clear Ford not only spent more time styling their new 2-door, but is also spending more on stamping the metal as we have more curves and angles providing visual interest. The front quarter panel for instance rises up, then curves back down to meet the hood panel, giving the front of the Mustang something of a “proto-fin.” We’re hyped that 2016 will bring back turn signals integrated into the hood vents (visible to the driver) in certain trims.

2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-014

All Mustang models now come standard with HID headlamps, a nice touch in a segment that generally lacks modern lighting. Out back, the sequential turn signals are now made from LED strips inside large vertical plastic housings with deep recesses between the lamp modules. The look is striking, but proved more effort to clean than I had considered.

The sleek profile belies the sixth generation’s shrinkage of about two inches versus the out outgoing model. The loss in length helps the Mustang slightly in international markets where the Ford is considered a large two-door. In terms of comparisons, the Mustang is nearly a foot longer than the BMW M235i we recently reviewed, about the same size as a 435i, and a foot shorter than a Dodge Challenger. The main reason for the long body, of course, is the massive engine bay designed to longitudinally accommodate large engines.

There was a great deal of speculation about Ford’s right-sizing program. Would a weight reduction be part of the package? The answer is no, the Mustang has actually gained a little weight in this generation. Contrary to the earlier rampant “weightgate” speculation, curb weight is up just 20 to 80 pounds, depending on how you compare a 2014 trim to a 2015 trim.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-004

Interior
The one area that didn’t receive as much attention is the interior. The style is fresh and instantly recognizable as a Mustang, but we only get an incremental improvement in the feel of the parts. There are still plenty of hard plastics lower in the interior including the center console and areas where your knee and leg are likely to rest. (Remember that the Mustang starts under $24,000.) The new steering wheel is loaded with buttons, but thankfully I found the layout intuitive. Lovers of thick-rimmed steering wheels will be disappointed to find that the tiller is no thicker than the Ford Edge we recently tested.

When looking at the Mustang parked next to a BMW 2-Series, you might assume the Ford would be larger inside. You would be wrong. The Mustang and the 2016 Camaro have about the same amount of front and rear seat legroom as the baby Bimmer, with the Mustang actually being slightly smaller inside. This mainly has to do with the position of the engine in the Mustang and the size of the engine bay which makes the nose longer to give it a proportion similar to a British sports coupé. Meanwhile, BMW pushes the engine a little further back making the overall packaging more compact. On the upside, the Mustang has more footwell room making it more comfortable for folks with larger feet.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-011

Our tester had the nearly $1,600 optional Recaro seat package. If you track your car regularly, and need the aggressive bolstering, and are about my size or smaller, get them. Everyone else should avoid them entirely. The standard seats are softer and more comfortable, they offer more lumbar support and the Premium trim of the Mustang would normally get memory-linked power seats, adjustable lumbar support as well as heating and ventilation. All of those features are given up for the Recago logo, and it’s just not a good trade. A quick spin in a dealer provided GT without the Recaro seats, but with the Performance Package, confirmed that the firmer suspension is also easier to live with if you get the base seats. The difference is more pronounced when you consider the Mustang comes with very comfortable seats in every other version, beating the current Camaro and Challenger easily, and are actually quite competitive with the standard seats in the 2-Series, 4-Series and Lexus RC.

Hop in the back and you are reminded the Mustang is best described as a “2+2 coupé” where the last digit is a little smaller than the first. While not as tight as a Jaguar XK, the back seat should be reserved for small children or your legless friends. With the driver’s seat adjusted comfortably for my 6-foot frame, there was a 3-inch gap between my seat back and the rear seat bottom cushion. (I prefer an upright position when driving a manual.) Convertible shoppers will be pleased to know that rear headroom actually increases if you chose the rag top. At 13.5 cubic feet, the Mustang’s trunk is also similar in size to the BMW 2-Series, but Ford thankfully uses hidden hinges to make the most out of the trunk. You should know that the optional ShakerPro speaker package consumes just over a cubic foot of space.

2015 Mustang My Ford Touch

Infotainment
Our pony car had Ford’s optional MyFord Touch infotainment system. This software is due to be replaced in 2016 by Ford’s completely redesigned SYNC3 system. MFT is one of the most maligned infotainment systems on the market, but it is also one of the most fully featured. Even in 2015, there are still mainline brands that don’t offer voice command of your USB-connected music library. At this point, Ford has addressed most of the major issues that plagued MFT, except for the speed. Interacting with the touchscreen requires patience as screen changes are considerably slower than the Hyundai, Chrysler and GM alternatives. SYNC includes an integrated telematics system that emails vehicle health reports, allows you to call a concierge, request emergency assistance and knows when your airbags have gone off. On the downside, this system is dependant on a paired Bluetooth phone to actually make the calls — so if you’ve forgotten your phone and you get in an accident, the car can’t dial for help.

Our tester included the optional navigation software and the up-level ShakerPro branded speaker system. The 12-speaker system uses a trunk mounted subwoofer, a dash-mounted center channel speaker and a 550-watt 9-channel amp. The system is certainly tuned with a significant bass punch, but overall it is still well balanced. It had no problems rocking my Vanilla Ice album all the way to A1A Beachfront Avenue.

2015 Forg Mustang GT Engine-003

Drivetrain
The big engine news for 2015 isn’t that the 3.7-liter V-6 lost a few ponies, or even that Vanilla’s five-point-oh is still available; it’s that we have the first four-cylinder Mustang in quite some time. To make room for the new EcoBoost mill, Ford de-tuned the V6 slightly to 300 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 280 lb-ft of twist at 4,000. That means that unlike the Camaro, the four-cylinder is an upgrade, not the base engine. Checking the EcoBoost box gives you 310 horsepower at a lower 5,500 rpm and a whopping 320 lb-ft at a low 3,000 rpm. But I’m here to talk about what separates this American from the European and Asian options. Five. Point. Oh. Revving up to 7,000 rpm and featuring twin independent variable valve timing, the Coyote V-8’s only modern omission is direct-injection. Power comes in at 435 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 400 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm. (The recently announced 5.2-liter V-8 Shelby is a perfect example of naturally aspirated engine designs vs turbo engine design. The 2016 Shelby GT350 will bump power by 91 horsepower but torque by only 29 lb-ft. Compared to the twin-turbo German V8s, the horsepower is similar but torque is notably lower.)

Unusual in 2015, even in performance cars, is your choice of manual or automatic transmissions on all models (in 2016, the Shelby will be manual only) and your choice doesn’t interfere with the options packages. That means you can get the GT and EcoBoost Mustangs with radar cruise control, all the goodies and still get the 6-speed stick. (There have been some complaints about the Getrag MT82 manual transmission but I didn’t experience an unusual shift feel during my week. Be sure to let us know if you’ve had a problem with yours in the comment section below. There has been quite a bit of forum buzz regarding “clunks and thunks”.) Also a little unusual these days is the option of multiple rear axle ratios. For those that are unfamiliar, axle ratios are the final “link” in the chain for your drivetrain. The transmission’s 3.65:1 first gear ratio is multiplied by the rear axle you chose — 3.31, 3.55 or 3.73 — to get the effective total ratio of 12:1, 12.9:1, or 13.6:1. (All three ratios are available in the EcoBoost model but just the 3.55 and 3.73 are offered in the GT). That has a big impact on acceleration and fuel economy since the 6th gear ratios have the same variance. The available axle ratios are why fuel economy has dropped in the V-6’s EPA test, as Ford is no longer offering the 2.73:1 rear axle in the V-6 like they did in 2014. This means the base V-6 in 2015 is much peppier, but the MPGs drop two steps. This is where the EcoBoost model steps in with 31 or 32 mpg combined (depending on the transmission) despite giving you more power, more torque and a more aggressive rear axle ratio than the base 2014 V-6. On the downside, power and economy figures for the 5.0 and 2.3 are based on premium unleaded.

2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-001

Drive
Over twenty years ago, I was learning to drive on my neighbor’s 1988 2.3-liter four-cylinder Mustang LX with a shot clutch. My how times have changed. Back then 300 horsepower was a pipe dream, the GT’s 6.3 second 0-60 time was rad to the max and a 32 mpg Mustang was as likely as a blue unicorn. Even ten years ago, the thought that the Mustang would be serious competition to the imports was wishful thinking, but the sixth-generation pony offers 300 horses standard, the mid-range model gets over 30 mpg on the highway, and every version is faster to 60 than it was in 1988. Combined with a more refined and capable suspension, this is that unicorn.

The 2014 Mustang’s rear end got upset on broken pavement and felt heavy in the corners. The 2015 feels composed and significantly lighter in comparison, despite actually being heavier. The GT still feels slightly front heavy in the corners, no surprise with a large V8 under the hood, but the EcoBoost model feels much better balanced. Thanks to the gearing and tire selection, all versions are tail happy when prodded. Next year brings us a new Camaro with a Cadillac ATS-derived chassis and suspension, something that bodes very well for the bowtie brand as well. However, this is 2015 and the current Camaro is a notch behind the outgoing Mustang. Absolute handling is obviously a factor of your tire choice, and ours was equipped with the optional Pirelli PZero summer rubber in a staggered 255/40R19 front, 275/40R19 rear setup. In an interesting twist, the suspension is quite firm but there’s more body roll than you’d expect.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-007

If you’re a traditionalist, fear not. The Mustang, especially our GT tester, is still about well-priced straight-line performance. The V-6 will sprint to 60 in 5.8 seconds, the turbo will do it in 5.6, and our GT in a swift 4.6 seconds with launch control enabled and the 6-speed manual. A nice touch: Unlike many cars out there with launch control, Ford keeps it crazy simple. Once enabled in the LCD between the speedo and tach. it stays on. Period. That means you don’t have to worry about fiddling with menus; you just floor it, release the clutch and let the nannies do their thing. The car retains the setting even through ignition cycles. You can improve things further by double-tapping the traction control button and enabling sport mode which allows a little more action in the rear. (Note: Ford says that both systems should be used on the track only. Sure…) Of course, you’ve probably also heard about Ford’s nifty line lock feature that allows perfect burnouts every time without wearing your rear brake pads.

The GT’s 7,000 rpm redline means that the ‘Stang sings like a high-revving European sports coupé more than a Camaro or Challenger. Since all the ponies come to a trot at 6,500 rpm, you’ll spend a great deal of time at those lofty heights. The good news is thanks to the throttle mapping and general character of the 2015, it revs easily, happily and sounds great while doing it.

2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-009

Thanks to electric power steering, the Mustang’s wheel is as numb as most of the competition, although BMW and Nissan manage to transmit more road feel in the M235i and 370Z. Skipping the Performance Package makes the GT more driveable on a daily basis in terms of suspension tuning, and in that form the body roll seems well-balanced with the spring firmness. The downside of skipping the pack is the reduced grip. If I were shopping in this segment I’d probably skip the package and use the cash to swap in some sticky rubber. If you do get the package, I suggest some stiffer sway bars.

Ford set the base price for 2015 low — very low. At $23,800, the Mustang undercuts the Camaro and Genesis Coupé by $3,000 and the 370Z by nearly $6,000. That means that for the price of the base 2.0-liter, 275-horsepower 2016 Camaro, or the Genesis Coupé V-6, you could get a 2.3-liter EcoBoost ‘Stang with an option or two. A base Z will cost you more than a well-equipped V-6 Ford or only about $2,500 less than a Mustang GT. At $32,850, the BMW 228i is a whopping $7,550 more than the more powerful EcoBoost model, and the M235i is $11,850 more than a Mustang GT. Why all this focus on the M235i? Because the Mustang actually reminded me a great deal of the small BMW. The Mustang finally feels light and nimble, and at the same time the M235i feels far more substantial than small BMWs of the past. While the BMW does feel more refined, the delta has never been smaller. With previous generations, one could have argued that the BMW’s greater refinement was worth $10,000. With this generation, I wouldn’t pay more than $1,000 for the extra feel in the BMW. That’s a problem because in order for the M235i to be as fast as our $45,470 tester, you would need to add the 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, both of which would make it less fun. Better in the rain, but less fun. The added hardware also makes the M235i xDrive tip the scales at 3,695 pounds, just 10 pounds lighter than the Ford, and still considerably more expensive. Although the BMW’s suspension is better sorted and more settled, if you shod them with identical tires, the Mustang will be right on the 2-Series’ bumper.

Is the Mustang perfect? No. I wish the interior was a little more comfortable and the automatic transmission needs a few more gears in order to match the competition. Hyundai, BMW, GM and Chrysler have gone 8-speed and even Nissan is one cog higher at 7 in the 370Z. That means there is still a toll to be paid for selecting the automatic, while the competition’s slushboxes promise improved fuel economy and improved acceleration. Still, the Ford holds true to what the Mustang has always promised: performance at a reasonable price. The big news is that those reasonable prices come with surprisingly few compromises and it’s entirely possible to consider the Mustang as a value alternative to a German coupé. Comparing a Pony Car to a compact German coupé used to be ridiculous, but this pony is a blue unicorn that’s learned a few tricks.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.0 Seconds

0-60: 4.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13 Seconds @ 112 MPH

2015 Ford Mustang Exterior 2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-001 2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-002 2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-003 2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-004 2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-005 2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-006 2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-007 2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-008 2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-009 2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-010 2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-011 2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-012 2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-013 2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-014 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-001 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-002 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-003 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-004 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-005 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-006 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-007 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-008 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-009 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-010 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-011 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-012 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-013 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-014 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-015 2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-016 2015 Ford Mustang Trunk 2015 Ford Mustang Trunk-001 2015 Ford Mustang Trunk-002 2015 Forg Mustang GT Engine 2015 Forg Mustang GT Engine-001 2015 Forg Mustang GT Engine-002 2015 Forg Mustang GT Engine-003

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TTAC Forum Aurum: Corvette Show for Crazy Dough http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/forum-corvette-show-crazy-dough/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/forum-corvette-show-crazy-dough/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 18:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1137554 A Tampa-area man knows how to sell his 1993 Corvette like a boss — with girls and guns and stuff. Our own Chris Tonn is talking about the car in the forums. This Craigslist entry doesn’t detail the 1993 Chevrolet Corvette “Show Car” all that much, but it does make up for the lack of specifics […]

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1993 Corvette

A Tampa-area man knows how to sell his 1993 Corvette like a boss — with girls and guns and stuff. Our own Chris Tonn is talking about the car in the forums.

This Craigslist entry doesn’t detail the 1993 Chevrolet Corvette “Show Car” all that much, but it does make up for the lack of specifics with an abundance of “experience.”

Like aforementioned chicks and trophies and guns.

(H/T to Murilee Martin who should be scored on the official’s sheet with an assist.)

The automatic convertible, presumably with some miles on it, has won more than 20 “BEST in SHOW” competitions, according to the listing.

According to the photos, the car has seats and seatbelts, four wheels (five if you count the steering wheel), a five asterisk rating and probably some familiarity with whiskey rock in its cassette deck.

For only $26,000, it could be yours. Or, you know, about three times what the car is worth.

00606_cC9CGxCOGAv_600x450 00r0r_7t62xOuTAf_600x450 00d0d_9Y3sohXLEM3_600x450 1993 Corvette

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Suzuki Wanted to Sell Re-badged Jetta Hybrid in the US http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/suzuki-wanted-to-sell-re-badged-jetta-hybrid-in-the-us/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/suzuki-wanted-to-sell-re-badged-jetta-hybrid-in-the-us/#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2015 20:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1134585 In a detailed report on the failed alliance between Suzuki and Volkswagen, Automotive News reports that the Japanese automaker wanted to re-badge and sell Volkswagen Jetta Hybrids in the U.S. before the company eventually decided to close up its local sales arm. The report, which came out on Monday, is a play-by-play of what happened […]

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2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

In a detailed report on the failed alliance between Suzuki and Volkswagen, Automotive News reports that the Japanese automaker wanted to re-badge and sell Volkswagen Jetta Hybrids in the U.S. before the company eventually decided to close up its local sales arm.

The report, which came out on Monday, is a play-by-play of what happened from the time Suzuki CEO Osamu Suzuki and Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn first shook hands in 2009, to when Suzuki announced it was cutting its losses, up to today as the automakers struggle over VW’s 19.9-percent ownership of the Japanese automaker.

The original agreement, which would open the door for Suzuki to use advantaged Volkswagen powertrain technology while also giving VW a view into Suzuki’s Indian success, is said to have not been respected by Volkswagen.

From Automotive News:

“The alliance is meaningless,” Harayama told his interlocutor, according to internal Suzuki documents chronicling the demise of the alliance that were obtained by Automotive News.

“Our engineers have lost the desire to cooperate with VW.”

A tipping point, Harayama added, came during an earlier top management meeting. The Suzuki side presented VW CEO Martin Winterkorn a list of complaints. But the tactic backfired.

According to Suzuki’s version of events, instead of contemplating Suzuki’s suggestions for mending relations, the ticked-off German surprised the Japanese by pounding the table in irritation.

“With this, we understood that it is impossible to work with top management to resolve the front-line problems,” Harayama told an off-guard Wittig, who insisted he hadn’t come to the meeting to negotiate with Harayama. “We want a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer about whether we will hold joint discussions,” Harayama demanded before excusing himself to catch his flight home.

The conclusion of the failed alliance won’t be known until a decision is made by the ICC International Court of Arbitration. However, there are some interesting tidbits to take away from the report, such as Suzuki’s want for Volkswagen cars to badge as their own.

At one point in the negotiations, Suzuki hoped VW would supply its Jetta Hybrid sedan and other vehicles through Suzuki’s North American sales network, the documents revealed. Tweaking its own cars to meet American specifications increased Suzuki’s development man-hours by half.

“It is becoming difficult for Suzuki, a company focused on compact cars, to bring together a North American product line sufficient to continue operating a N. American sales network,” Suzuki said in one document before the tie-up that outlined the items it wanted incorporated into a VW agreement. “The development cost burden is heavy.”

If you have a chance (and a subscription to Automotive News), the report is worth a read. However, you might want to read Matt Hardigree’s take on reading business stories immediately after.

 

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TTAC Open Forum: Go Celebrate Some Independence. We Are. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ttac-open-forum-go-celebrate-some-independence-we-are/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ttac-open-forum-go-celebrate-some-independence-we-are/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 19:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1107345 It’s time to shut it down. Go home. Pack it in. It’s time to wrestle up the family, pets and vacation implements, hit the open road and leave the Internet behind for a few days. Since a number of commenters and writers wished myself (along with Tim and Brendan) a Happy Canada Day earlier this […]

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What would Hunter say? (courtesy pro.corbis.com)It’s time to shut it down. Go home. Pack it in. It’s time to wrestle up the family, pets and vacation implements, hit the open road and leave the Internet behind for a few days.

Since a number of commenters and writers wished myself (along with Tim and Brendan) a Happy Canada Day earlier this week, I wish all our American readers the best this 239th Day of Independence. (Eds Note: Only a Canadian would say “Day of Independence.” — Aaron)

Those of you stuck at your desks for the rest of the day, consider this comment thread all yours. I’ll be enjoying the most American-Canadian car possible – a Charger – and enjoying a little bit of what I haven’t been able to do much of since joining TTAC: actual driving.

We will have a trickle of content over the weekend before normal service resumes Monday.

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Capsule Review: 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia 2.0 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-1983-ford-sierra-ghia-2-0/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-1983-ford-sierra-ghia-2-0/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 13:44:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=981897     “Wait! Is that a…” “Are you British?”  “I haven’t seen one of these since I left Venezuela as a teenager, only rich people had Sierras!” Behold random responses from gawkers of TTAC’s Project Car. The surprises continue after several hundred miles under the Ford Sierra’s belt, as life with this fish out of water is […]

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“Wait! Is that a…”

“Are you British?”

 “I haven’t seen one of these since I left Venezuela as a teenager, only rich people had Sierras!”

Behold random responses from gawkers of TTAC’s Project Car. The surprises continue after several hundred miles under the Ford Sierra’s belt, as life with this fish out of water is far from a compromise.

424093_10150542670218269_1278572108_n

To see it is to not know it: like most hyper-futuristic designs past their prime, a head turner in conservative 1982 England is a familiar profile in conservative 2015 Texas.  Aside from the steering wheel on the wrong side!

But critical eyes notice the Ghia’s grille-free nose and alien headlights. The conversation’s tenor changes: there’s no better compliment to Mr. Uwe Bahnsen and his gifted team than the subtle and thoughtful reactions a Sierra earns a full thirty-three years after liftoff.

Get behind the wheel and the modern theme continues, because it drives like a newer vehicle.

Reasonable drag coefficient (.34) and almost nothing frontal area aside, the finest late-70s technology helps the Sierra match (or trump) the manners of new vehicles at most (legal) speeds.  Strut front suspension with rack-and-pinion steering is right, even without modern aluminum componentry. The semi-trailing arm rear looks modern-ish with exposed webbing on the differential: credit the beginnings of finite element analysis.

(photo courtesy: Ford Press Release)

At 2500-ish lbs, the ho-hum Ford Sierra is a balanced rear-wheel drive, fully-Germanic chassis on a family car body. Which means that roads normally tortured by flaccid CUVs now tango with something Miata-sized.

Captain Mike, the mastermind of this plan, behind the wheel at the Nürburgring.

Thrills start at the tiller: no power assist means road feel harkens to a dance with a soul mate. Manual steering effort is no chore with 165mm wide tires that rarely lack grip on city streets. Emergency maneuvers are effortless, understeer is progressive with the possibility of gentle, controlled oversteer.

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Go round-abouting and the Sierra hangs tight as speeds near 25mph. Above 25 and the front wheels howl as your grin grows. Add a dab of oppo, scandinavian flicks, badass drifter talk blah-blah-blah: with more go-juice, steering modulation and you could duplicate this:

Fiesta THIS.

Like all Sierras thrashed-then-trashed in Europe, its a joy to drift at low speeds even if hamstringed by saggy, original springs and plush dampers. But it’s a pleasant ride/handling tradeoff.  Potholes disappear with 80-series sidewalls smoothing imperfections to the point the big-rimmed Rolls Royce Phantom hangs its NVH-soaked head in shame. How Britishy!

Too bad about the buzzy powertrain: 105 bigger-than-you-think horses from a 2.0L OHC four-banger (sporting a large 2bbl Weber) means the Sierra rarely struggles, but makes a helluva ruckus.

It’s a wonderful powerband: diesel-like torque from a standstill with a smooth-ish (but L-O-U-D) demeanor all the way to 6000 emissions control free revs. The 3-speed auto schools modern units with an effortless 1-2 upshift and a reassuring push to 3rd at full throttle: all autoboxes should shift this sweet.

Brakes?  Credit the light weight for the Sierra’s discs/drums bringing the machine down from 60mph with the hustle of a modern machine. ABS would help, ditto weight adding life-saving technology like airbags, larger door bars, etc.  I reckon with today’s weight shedding tech (aluminum engines, plastic hoods/intakes, etc) offsetting the safety goodies, the Sierra’s fighting form wouldn’t gain a pound.

In the right place. (photo courtesy: Ford Motor Company)

And Ghia spec Ford Sierras are a nice place for average Americans and most Europeans, aside from the previous owner’s decision to order it sans air conditioning: antique English vehicle shopping FTW, SON MATE!

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Fleet-spec Sierras don’t stand a chance, but the real wood trim and buffet-worthy options list protect Ghias from modern motoring irrelevance. Power windows (front 2 or 4), crank moonroof, adjustable reading lamps and a four-speaker cassette stereo are far from impressive. But heated seats, roll up rear sunshades, headlight washers and a gen-u-wine electronic trip computer are touches you’d pay extra for even today.

Mediocre overall, as integration is the killer app.

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Because 1980s. (photo courtesy: Ford Motor Company)

The dash, less radical than the wraparound polycarbonate bumpers, organizes controls in zones for easy use: one to the right of the gauges, another to the left, a third atop the center stack (dark chocolate) and a 4th in the lighter brown region. It’s charming in a proto-modern, Atari 2600 human factors kind of way.

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The interior bits are from a dumber era in polymer construction, yet texture/fit/finish from the doors, vent registers, levers and switches is pure Germanic craftsmanship. Aside from the (period excellent) brown velour, the interior’s aged well.

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But goodness, those seats are magical.  Don’t let the benign seams fool you: the Ghia sucks you in, cradling you. All passengers get thick, luxurious cushions with brilliant thigh support and Volvo-worthy head restraints. Even the Velcro-like velour provides impressive lateral support for everyone but latex-wearing fetishists.

While the stereo is barely adequate, while the vintage Hitachi deck’s discman input smartphone jack provides turn-by-turn Google navigation and streaming audio, don’t forget the tunes held in a handy hatchback with 42.4 cu-ft of space!

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And the beat goes brown.

Considering fuel economy numbers near 30mpg for highway-skewed driving (no overdrive) the Ford Sierra is an antique you could daily drive. (Just find one with A/C.)

But the original MKI design asks for more. It deserves more. 

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Back on the trailer for big upgrades: more gears, power and period-correct emissions processing for a powertrain worthy of that efficient body.

Yes, this Sierra has the power of contemporary V8s in a superior chassis. And it’s quite the time capsule, even difficult to find in Europe…but at what cost to cutting-edge design?

Next time you see TTAC’s Ford Sierra, prepare for an even larger threat to the notion of a modern car!

 

2012-03-10_15-31-20_63-XL 314875_239307882787242_35442316_n 190755_175144755870222_1403373_n IMG_4441 252857_191309494253748_372970_n 254272_191309870920377_8346766_n 1005039_10151858112953269_1584136033_n 559672_10151672335673269_340180691_n 66933_10151644286878269_1675348576_n IMG_4444 10678751_10152458015928269_5632059352482689779_n 424093_10150542670218269_1278572108_n IMG_4437

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Volkswagen’s American Phaeton Will Start At $70k, Will Surely Fail Again http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/volkswagens-american-phaeton-will-start-70k/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/volkswagens-american-phaeton-will-start-70k/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 15:15:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=916994 Hot on the heels of Volkswagen’s apparent plans for a Chinese-market luxury sedan, Automotive News is reporting that Volkswagen’s next-generation Phaeton, destined for the American market once again, will start at $70,000. According to AN, the next Phaeton will include a plug-in hybrid, as well as a V8 TDI engine. A W12 is also expected to make […]

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Hot on the heels of Volkswagen’s apparent plans for a Chinese-market luxury sedan, Automotive News is reporting that Volkswagen’s next-generation Phaeton, destined for the American market once again, will start at $70,000.

According to AN, the next Phaeton will include a plug-in hybrid, as well as a V8 TDI engine. A W12 is also expected to make a return, though this will likely not be sold in the United States.

Despite sorely needing a larger crossover and a refresh for key products like the Jetta, Volkswagen is persisting with their dream of selling a high-end sedan in the United States, at a price point that is encroaching on their premium marques like Audi and Porsche. The Phaeton, for all its engineering excellence, was a massive flop in the United States. 

On the other hand, the product VW most sorely needs in America, is conspicuously absent from their lineup, and VW has only just settled on where it will be produced, after a round of serious horse trading and internecine squabbling. The Phaeton, according to AN, has apparently been completed already, but VW seems content to continue the current car’s production run, owing to its popularity in China.

This, dear readers, is a great example of how the company continually seems to misunderstand the American market. Rather than get to work on plugging the biggest hole in its lineup, the company persists on a fool’s errand masquerading as a vanity project.

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Lotus Ceases Sales Of Road Cars In America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/lotus-ceases-sales-road-cars-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/lotus-ceases-sales-road-cars-america/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 13:54:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=916314 As of 2015, Lotus will no longer sell road cars in the United States, as sales of the Evora sports car come to an end. Car and Driver reports that a waiver granted to the Evora for its lack of smart airbags has come to an end, and Lotus won’t be making any modifications to […]

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As of 2015, Lotus will no longer sell road cars in the United States, as sales of the Evora sports car come to an end.

Car and Driver reports that a waiver granted to the Evora for its lack of smart airbags has come to an end, and Lotus won’t be making any modifications to help it comply with U.S regulations. That will leave Lotus with only a lineup of track-only variants of the Elise and Exige.

Lotus is also in the midst of mass layoffs at its UK headquarters, and both signs bode ill for the boutique sports car maker. Selling off the remainder of US-spec Evora inventory will take some time, but its unlikely that selling non-street legal cars will be enough to keep the American arm of Lotus afloat in the forseeable future.

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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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Piston Slap: A Grey Market Global Ranger? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-global-ranger-management/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-global-ranger-management/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:57:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912394 H.Y. writes: Hi Sajeev, the global Ford Ranger is still sold overseas now.  What are the challenges for a person to import a modern used Ranger these days? how much addedcostsontopofthepurchase/transport price? 25% truck import duty?  even with a 4-door model ? how much paper work?  US customs, EPA, State safety inspection, DMV plate? what if the truck […]

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H.Y. writes:
Hi Sajeev, the global Ford Ranger is still sold overseas now.  What are the challenges for a person to import a modern used Ranger these days?
  • how much addedcostsontopofthepurchase/transport price?
    • 25% truck import duty?  even with a 4-door model ?
  • how much paper work?  US customs, EPA, State safety inspection, DMV plate?
  • what if the truck has a broken or no engine/transmission, would that make the import any easier/cheaper?
    • if it has no engine, install a local used engine in the US?
  • does it matter if the truck is from Mexico,Thailand, South America…?  any easier rules?
    • RHD personal vehicle is allowed in the US?
Thanks.

Sajeev answers:

Importing a Global Ranger?  Oh hell no!  As per NHTSA:

“As a general rule, a motor vehicle less than 25 years old must comply with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) to be imported on a permanent basis.”

There’s a reason why I imported my Sierra.  Well, aside from the sheer stupidity of wanting a brown jellybean-shaped hatchback from London: it was also over 25 years old.  It just comes in like any other car, and depending on your state, obtaining a title involves extra paperwork, classic car insurance and a (sometimes) basic vehicle inspection. No need to get federal approval over emissions tests, crash standards, noise regulations and who the hell knows what else?

So it’s time to give up. Instead buy one of the Last Great Compact Trucks in the USA:  especially since I got 30.1 MPG in my 2.3L Duratec 5-speed Ranger on a recent trip to San Antonio/Austin/Round Rock in mostly highway driving.

The time, money and stress you’ll avoid makes you forget about that cool Global Ranger.  Console yourself with one of these 25 year old beauties:  it sure worked for me.

 

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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Question Of The Day: America’s Finest Hour http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/question-of-the-day-americas-finest-hour/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/question-of-the-day-americas-finest-hour/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 14:34:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=858657 In honor of Independence Day, I’d like to pose a simple question to you all. What is America’s Finest Automotive Hour? As many of you know, I have not lived that many years on this earth, and so I lack the context to properly look back upon America’s auto industry and judge for myself. A […]

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In honor of Independence Day, I’d like to pose a simple question to you all. What is America’s Finest Automotive Hour?

As many of you know, I have not lived that many years on this earth, and so I lack the context to properly look back upon America’s auto industry and judge for myself. A few things come to mind: the Ford Taurus, the Chrysler minivans and the LS1 V8 come to mind as beacons of innovation. The Ford Fiesta ST and Jeep Grand Cherokee stand out as “fun to drive” all-stars. I am constantly blown away by all three domestic pickup trucks, which I think represent the finest American-made vehicles at any price.

But I’m Canadian. And old enough to be your kid (in many cases). Tell us what you think stands out as a high point for the American automobile. The best answers submitted by the end of business will get highlighted in a separate post.

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Keystone Vote Looms Amid Iraq Implosion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/keystone-vote-looms-amid-iraq-implosion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/keystone-vote-looms-amid-iraq-implosion/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:22:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=844745 Global oil prices are on the rise as the crisis in Iraq contributes to market instability. Large chunks of Iraq’s oil production infrastructure have fallen under militant control, leading to a sharp drop in output. Meanwhile, Canadian officials are upset with the Obama administration’s handling of the Keystone pipeline. They contend that the inaction on […]

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Global oil prices are on the rise as the crisis in Iraq contributes to market instability. Large chunks of Iraq’s oil production infrastructure have fallen under militant control, leading to a sharp drop in output. Meanwhile, Canadian officials are upset with the Obama administration’s handling of the Keystone pipeline. They contend that the inaction on Keystone is keeping millions of barrels of Alberta crude from reaching more profitable markets.

Bloomberg reports that market analysts are divided on how much the Iraq crisis will influence crude prices in the future. This isn’t particularly surprising, given the number of variables in that still-developing situation. However, all observers expect that the price will only go up. The price of Brent crude on the London exchange has already crested $113 a barrel as of June 13; this is the highest level since last September. In the United States, West Texas crude is near $107, also the highest price since the previous September. Most forecasters expect oil to reach around $120 a barrel by the fourth quarter, when rising demand will also drive up prices. Longtime oilman T. Boone Pickens told CNBC that a complete shutdown of Iraqi production could drive oil into the $150-200 range by destabilizing world markets.

Part of the problem is attributable to the OPEC oil cartel’s difficulties in increasing supply. Since the Libyan revolution, oil production in that key OPEC member has declined precipitously to barely 10% of previous output. Meanwhile, fluctuating production in Nigeria and other OPEC members has introduced more volatility into the supply and demand curve. A report issued by the International Energy Agency last week states that Iraq could provide up to 45% of all growth in global oil output through 2020. As militants from the hyper-violent Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) group overrun ever-larger swaths of the country and curb down production, that future is looking cloudy.

The latest Iraq crisis comes just as negotiations surrounding the embattled Keystone XL pipeline are finally coming to a head. The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will likely vote this week to approve the pipeline. The bill under consideration is an attempt to sidestep the regulatory approval process, which critics say the Obama Administration has intentionally drawn out. The bill is unlikely to make it far in the Senate, due to general gridlock as well as the opposition of several key Senators.

The government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is displeased with the Obama administration’s perceived stalling on the pipeline. Finance Minister Joe Oliver and Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford have both criticized Obama, stating that continued delay of the pipeline is hurting the Canadian economy. Currently, crude from the Alberta oil sands is undervalued due to a transportation bottleneck, leading to lower prices. The Canadian Chamber of Congress estimates that this bottleneck is costing the Canadian economy as much as $50 million a day in lost revenue. Therein lies the contradiction at the heart of the dispute.

Environmental concerns and global warming have long been cited as the Obama administration’s reasons for drawing out the Keystone approval process. In reality, the economics of the pipeline are heavily skewed in Canada’s favor, to the possible detriment U.S. consumers. Keystone is the most visible manifestation of the long-term goal of Canadian energy companies to find markets outside the U.S. As the Wall Street Journal explains, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Harper government freely admit, Keystone’s biggest benefit will be to Canadian oil producers, not American consumers. Keystone will enable them to export oil outside of the low-priced American market to higher-priced markets in Asia, Europe, and the developing world. Keeping Canadian crude from hitting world markets is in the best interests of the U.S., but not the Canadians. Of course, it’s not exactly kosher to say that out loud, considering that the United States is still getting about half its oil imports from Canada.

Given that, the “solution” to the Canadian oil price problem is probably going to be built entirely on Canadian soil. Oil companies are already developing a “Plan B” system of trans-Canada pipelines, should Keystone not be approved. Even so, the long-term viability of the Alberta oil sands depends on a relatively high minimum price floor. The highly adulterated quality of that oil, and the resulting expense of processing and refining it, means that Albertan production can only be profitable when the price of oil is relatively high.  This reason combined with new technology is the explanation for why Canadian tar sands haven’t been highly productive until recently. A worldwide decline in the price of oil, such as what happened in the 1980s and 1990s, could still be devastating to tar sands production.

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Iran Is Open For Business: 1.5 Million Annual Unit Sales At Stake http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/iran-is-open-for-business-1-5-million-annual-unit-sales-at-stake/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/iran-is-open-for-business-1-5-million-annual-unit-sales-at-stake/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 18:21:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=664114 Weeks prior to the historic deal reached between Iran and the “P5+1″ group of nations, TTAC reported on some of the machinations going on behind the scenes regarded the United States, France and their respective auto industries ability to do business in Iran. We put forth the theory that any deal with Iran would be […]

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Weeks prior to the historic deal reached between Iran and the “P5+1″ group of nations, TTAC reported on some of the machinations going on behind the scenes regarded the United States, France and their respective auto industries ability to do business in Iran. We put forth the theory that any deal with Iran would be a boon to auto manufacturers, who would have access to a market expected to be worth 1.5 million units in a few short years, with a very young population and a standard of living that is substantially better than many highly touted emerging markets.

At the time of publication, we encountered significant dismissal, if not disagreement. But as it turned out, negotiations had been ongoing since the start of 2013, and the preliminary deal appears to make the auto industry a big winner.

Within the next 6 months, the auto industry is expected to inject as much as $500 million into Iran. The auto industry, currently worth over 1 million units annually, will be a hotly contested ground for foreign firms looking to break into the market.

Despite apparently being muscled out of Iran by their alliance with General Motors, PSA’s arrangement with GM is now as good as dead, and that means that PSA has the chance to claw their way back to the top of Iran’s market. Last year, PSA sold nearly 458,000 units in Iran (CKD kits which are being erroneously referred to as spare parts kits). Renault, which sold roughly 100,000 Logans in Iran last year, will also be able to resume business.

But American firms also appear to have designs on Iran’s auto market, with French firms becoming increasingly concerned that American companies are trying to muscle them out of Iran. Speaking to Just-Auto, an unnamed official from IKCO, PSA’s former partner in Iran, said

“This is a new day for automakers. More than [just] previous partners, we can also host more automakers which are interested to come to invest in the automotive sector of Iran.”

French officials have previously asserted that GM’s desire to have PSA end its relationship with IKCO was a way to clear out Iran’s auto market prior to the resumption of trade between the two countries. Indeed, the sanctions regime, as well as pressure from GM, caused Renault and PSA respectively, to withdraw from Iran – leaving a 585,000 unit hole in a 1.2 million unit marketplace.

Previous TTAC reports have outlined how GM officials have been clandestinely meeting with Iranian officials via intermediaries – at the time it appeared to be in violation of sanctions, but new information, asserting that high-level talks between the two countries had been going on since early 2013, have given those discussions some legitimacy.

But now, Iran is open for business not just for GM or any other American firm, but auto makers in Germany, Italy and beyond. The broader questions – whether the deal between Iran and the West is a good one, or whether it’s worth negotiating such a deal in return for the associated economic opportunities – are best left for another arena. What’s germane to our discussion is the future of Iran’s auto market and who stands to benefit.

A foothold, if not outright dominance, of a major emerging market is substantial prize for any automaker forced to compete in a mature global market with an over-saturation of brands and increasing need for volume and scale. Prior to the deal, auto makers were looking to Indonesia, South Africa  and other markets that are substantially poorer, with lesser prospects for growth. The BCG report on emerging markets even shied away from speculating on Iran due to political instability. But all of a sudden, Iran is now open for business, and by the end of the decade, its auto market is expected to be 50 percent larger than Australia’s. It’s unclear which auto makers will rush in to this market. But Iran appears to be wasting no time.

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Generation Why: 2013 Even Worse For Young Car Buyers, But The Dream Is Still Alive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/generation-why-2013-even-worse-for-young-car-buyers-but-the-dream-is-still-alive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/generation-why-2013-even-worse-for-young-car-buyers-but-the-dream-is-still-alive/#comments Fri, 08 Nov 2013 15:33:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=645770 A study by Edmunds on the buying habits of millennials shows that 2013 was not a particularly good year for young car buyers. Despite making good headway in 2012, 2013 saw those gains practically eroded, as a weak job market and rising home prices helped stymie any growth in market share for automotive consumers aged 18-34. […]

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A study by Edmunds on the buying habits of millennials shows that 2013 was not a particularly good year for young car buyers. Despite making good headway in 2012, 2013 saw those gains practically eroded, as a weak job market and rising home prices helped stymie any growth in market share for automotive consumers aged 18-34.

The Edmunds study adds support to the two major points that Generation Why has been propagating from the start: that the lack of interest in cars among young people is largely rooted in poor economic prospects, and that their interest in the automobile goes beyond utilitarian considerations

Millennials’ car-buying patterns in 2012 and in 2013 both lend support to the theory that their weaker car-buying compared to previous generations stems from economic constraints rather than from a preference to not drive. Plus, what they bought in 2013 continues to suggest that Millennials do see cars as more than a means to get around. Even with their decreased share of overall sales in 2013, Millennials did not slack off on buying luxury and sports cars. The share of Millennial purchases from the luxury segment increased slightly. And, in every income group except the highest ($150,000 and over), aged 25-to-34 Millennials continued to buy luxury cars to a similar extent or more as older buyers with same income. Likewise, in nearly every income group, 18-to-24 year old Millennials continued to purchase a greater share of entry and midrange sports cars than the older buyers. These Millennial buying choices suggest an interest in cars that will translate into more purchases when economic conditions allow, just as in 2012.

Edmunds Chief Economist Lacey Plache raises an interesting point: new car sales among young people could continue to disappoint as the economic recovery passes them by. If this is the case, then OEMs should being to take notice. Not just that the oft-cited meme of “kids aren’t into cars” is false, but that a whole segment of the population is being systematically shut out of buying a new car. Rather than continuing to push high-content subcompact and compact cars at Generation Y, perhaps it might be time to shift gears to something simpler and more robust, but with the “cheap chic” appeal of a brand like H&M or Zara. Perhaps a brand like Mitsubishi could reinvent itself as the “frugalista” option, and borrow some product from that other fashionably cheap brand they are now in an alliance with…

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Audi Delays Q3’s US Debut Due To Regulatory Issue http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/audi-delays-q3s-us-debut-due-to-regulatory-issue/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/audi-delays-q3s-us-debut-due-to-regulatory-issue/#comments Tue, 08 Oct 2013 11:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=614649 The Audi Q3 won’t be coming to the United States for a couple of years, according to Car and Driver. The issue stems from the Q3’s approach angle, which is not sufficient to be classified as a “light truck” in America. Why does this matter? Well, CAFE of course. Crossovers, as car like as they […]

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The Audi Q3 won’t be coming to the United States for a couple of years, according to Car and Driver. The issue stems from the Q3’s approach angle, which is not sufficient to be classified as a “light truck” in America. Why does this matter? Well, CAFE of course. Crossovers, as car like as they may be, are more beneficial for auto makers looking to meet CAFE standards, and Audi isn’t going to all this trouble to have the Q3 come over as a car.

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Editorial: The Future Is Here At Nissan – Just Not In The Way You’re Expecting http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/editorial-the-future-is-here-at-nissan-just-not-in-the-way-youre-expecting/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/editorial-the-future-is-here-at-nissan-just-not-in-the-way-youre-expecting/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=501481 The big news this past week from Nissan: lots of old iron at Pebble Beach, concept car test drives for sympathetic journalists and a pledge to have autonomous cars ready (but not on sale) for 2020. More interesting than that is news of Nissan’s booming exports from America. Some say that this is the “new […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

The big news this past week from Nissan: lots of old iron at Pebble Beach, concept car test drives for sympathetic journalists and a pledge to have autonomous cars ready (but not on sale) for 2020. More interesting than that is news of Nissan’s booming exports from America. Some say that this is the “new normal” – Japanese OEMs expanding their manufacturing base in America as they leave Japan en masse to both insulate themselves from a volatile yen, take advantage of America’s welcoming manufacturing climate and shed a reliance on Japan’s aging and declining population. And even more interesting than that is how it was presented.

The clip above, which is packaged like a broadcast news report, actually comes from Nissan’s internal communications team in Tokyo. Rather than just issuing a press release, Nissan is looking to have an even greater role in influencing the conversation (awful word I know, but it’s apt). They aren’t just disseminating information to journalists: they are cutting them out entirely. Whatever discussions we may have at TTAC over the efficacy of automotive media or the competency of its press corps, this is a significant development. I don’t think it’s inconceivable that one day, brands will have a stranglehold on the automotive discourse.

Press cars and press trip invites are one way that brands currently manage who has access to product and people, and these are used as both carrots and sticks. In a way, it’s hard to fault PR people for this practice. PR staff, by definition, are committed to disseminating their client’s story, even if it runs counter to the findings of a journalist. Not caring about these perks is one way to subvert the established order, as former EIC Ed Niedermeyer successfully did during his tenure. Even when doing so, it’s possible to get information from internal sources and third-party outlets. But Nissan appears to be going a step further.

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VW Repeats Patterns Of Bad Behavior, Revives Phaeton For North America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/vw-repeats-patterns-of-bad-behavior-revives-phaeton-for-north-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/vw-repeats-patterns-of-bad-behavior-revives-phaeton-for-north-america/#comments Wed, 17 Jul 2013 16:15:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495571 Having failed to learn from previous mistakes, Volkswagen is inexplicably bringing the Phaeton back to North America, despite being totally contradictory to their push downmarket to appeal to mainstream American car shoppers. The Phaeton could return as soon as January, with an unveiling at the 2014 North American International Auto Show. According to Martin Winterkorn, […]

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Having failed to learn from previous mistakes, Volkswagen is inexplicably bringing the Phaeton back to North America, despite being totally contradictory to their push downmarket to appeal to mainstream American car shoppers.

The Phaeton could return as soon as January, with an unveiling at the 2014 North American International Auto Show. According to Martin Winterkorn, the Phaeton is essential to Volkswagen’s plans for America.

“A brand as large as Volkswagen needs a halo project in the upscale segment…We’ve seen what happens to brands that don’t have that kind of project.”

A few things seem more pressing right now than re-introducing an expensive luxury sedan wearing a VW badge. For one, introducing a mid-size crossover (or two) should be a priority for VW, given its importance in the American marketplace. Figuring out where it will be made (along with the associated labor issues) is also a more pressing matter than the new Phaeton.

It’s also hard to reconcile how a premium sedan will fit with Volkswagen’s Americanized lineup of sub-$15k Jettas and Camry-fighting Passats. These products are being sold on the promise of value-for-money and other attributes Americans typically value. But other products, like the Passat CC, Touraeg and even to an extent, the Golf, are holdouts of the more “European” Volkswagen, featuring nicer interior materials, bolder styling and in some cases, higher price points. Despite attempting to re-jig their lineup towards the value end of the spectrum, VW still doesn’t seem to know what direction it wants to go in and sales are starting to reflect that. Inventories are high, incentives are abundant and its gotten to the point where layoffs are occurring at Chattanooga because of the slow paces of sales. Introducing the Phaeton will pull it increasingly in one direction. Whether it’s the right one is up for debate.

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The Chevrolet SS We Should Have Gotten http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/the-chevrolet-ss-we-should-have-gotten/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/the-chevrolet-ss-we-should-have-gotten/#comments Wed, 29 May 2013 14:36:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489956 While we get the Chevrolet SS with a naturally aspirated small-block V8 and a two-pedal transmission, customers in the UK get a much more aggressive package. A Vauxhall in name only, the VXR8 GTS gets the supercharged 6.2L V8 from the Camaro ZL1 putting down 576 horsepower, and has the option of a 6-speed manual gearbox as […]

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While we get the Chevrolet SS with a naturally aspirated small-block V8 and a two-pedal transmission, customers in the UK get a much more aggressive package.

A Vauxhall in name only, the VXR8 GTS gets the supercharged 6.2L V8 from the Camaro ZL1 putting down 576 horsepower, and has the option of a 6-speed manual gearbox as well as an automatic. Magnetic ride shocks, torque vectoring and a manettino-style dial that can adjust a whole range of parameters (like ESC calibration, launch control, exhaust volume and steering feel) are also included. But it all comes at a price. At around 55,000 pounds, the VXR8 is about 25 percent cheaper than an equivalent BMW M5. Our Chevrolet SS will probably come in at around half the price of a US spec M5. I also tend to prefer the more subtle exterior of our SS – but that was the chief complaint against the Pontiac GTO, so what do I know?

Visit our Chevy SS Forum for discussions on the Chevy SS.

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Ghosn Issues VW-Like Sales Goal To America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/ghosn-issues-vw-like-sales-goal-to-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/ghosn-issues-vw-like-sales-goal-to-america/#comments Mon, 13 May 2013 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=488218 Weaker than expected growth in the United States has led Carlos Ghosn to issue an even more ambitious goal; double Nissan’s sales by 2017. Nissan North America sold 1,141,656 vehicles in the United States last year, with just over 1 million of those vehicles coming from the Nissan brand. To achieve Ghosn’s goal, Nissan will have to post […]

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Carlos Ghosn. Photo courtesy Bertel Schmitt.

Weaker than expected growth in the United States has led Carlos Ghosn to issue an even more ambitious goal; double Nissan’s sales by 2017.

Nissan North America sold 1,141,656 vehicles in the United States last year, with just over 1 million of those vehicles coming from the Nissan brand. To achieve Ghosn’s goal, Nissan will have to post 18 percent gains every year for the next four years.

Automotive News reports that some of the blame has been placed on production issues, while Nissan is also looking to boost efficiencies at the retail level to help increase sales. Nissan wants to double the number of unit sales per outlet by the end of fiscal year 2017, from 959. By comparison, Toyota sells 1,491 units per franchise while Honda sells 1,220. Adding dealers in the West, Midwest and Northeast is also a possibility.

To say that Nissan’s plan is aggressive is an understatement. When Volkswagen issued their call for 800,000 units in the United States, it set a target date nearly a decade into the future, and matched it with a strong product push targeted squarely at the tastes and budgets of U.S. consumers. While there’s still another 5 years to go, Volkswagen is already at 438,133 units in the U.S. as of last year.

With Europe in the toilet and Japan and China looking shaky, America is one side of Ghosn’s magic coin (the other being low cost cars), since it’s a locale where auto sales are not in freefall. Ghosn’s pursuit of marketshare for Nissan is reflected in the newest round of products, like the Versa, Sentra, Pathfinder and Altima, which emphasize comfort, interior space and value. In this context, their decision to slash prices to make their cars more competitive in online comparisons makes sense. With such a short timeframe and such a far-fetched target, every little bit will help move Nissan across the board.

 

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Switzerland Loves Old American Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/switzerland-loves-old-american-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/switzerland-loves-old-american-cars/#comments Thu, 18 Apr 2013 15:33:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485350 My girlfriend and I recently vacationed in Zurich. Anyone who’s ever been to Switzerland will be surprised by this, since it’s possibly the least romantic place in human history. Seriously: instead of flowers, stuffed animals and chocolate, Swiss couples exchange presents like a well-built lamp, oddly-shaped stainless steel kitchen utensils, and … chocolate. And then […]

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My girlfriend and I recently vacationed in Zurich. Anyone who’s ever been to Switzerland will be surprised by this, since it’s possibly the least romantic place in human history. Seriously: instead of flowers, stuffed animals and chocolate, Swiss couples exchange presents like a well-built lamp, oddly-shaped stainless steel kitchen utensils, and … chocolate. And then they shake hands and sleep in two separate very sturdy beds.

Beyond the pragmatic, stoic nature of the Swiss, Switzerland has one other major issue: it’s really expensive. And I don’t mean in the usual American traveler “Oh it’s Europe and things are expensive” way. I mean my girlfriend and I were walking down a street in Zurich and saw, in a shop window, a coat hanger that cost 45 francs. The dollar-to-franc exchange rate, for those who are curious, is roughly one-to-one. So they wanted 45 dollars for a coat hanger. Presented with chocolate, it would’ve made a great gift for a Swiss wife.

But…

You might think I’m trying to dissuade you from visiting Switzerland, but I’m not. I’m just trying to convince you not to take your significant other, unless she (or he – the Swiss would be OK with that) absolutely loves the color gray and evenly-spaced concrete sidewalk slabs. On the contrary, I think the TTAC crowd would really enjoy a trip to Switzerland for precisely one reason: the Swiss absolutely love old American cars.

My girlfriend and I arrived in Zurich on a Saturday night and immediately began seeing them. An old Cadillac Eldorado here; a 1980s Caprice there. Zurich is absolutely filled with AMG Mercedes and “S” model Audis, but it doesn’t require a very keen eye to also see big old American cars that most Americans have long since forgotten, unless we’re a TTAC commenter.

Interestingly, it isn’t just old cars that the Swiss lust after. Remember that rather awful Buick Regal they made from 1988 to 1996? You know the car I’m talking about: it’s the default choice for senior center parking permits. (“Ma’am, which vehicle do you have? 1994 Buick Regal, or Other?”) The Swiss have those. And as you can see below, the Swiss also have the 1986-1991 Buick Skylark, despite the best efforts of General Motors to make sure they fell apart after about seven years.

Even more interestingly, the Swiss keep all of these cars in absolutely perfect condition. Seriously, when was the last time you saw an ’86-’91 Skylark with its original wheels and a grille badge? This has happened only twice in history: this guy’s car in Switzerland, and the president of Buick’s car for about six months in 1987 until a hubcap fell victim to a Detroit pothole.

The Swiss Are Crazy

Clearly, the Swiss are crazy. But it’s not because they love old American cars. It’s because they want to drive them in Switzerland.

Let’s go back to my earlier remarks about how expensive everything is in Switzerland. It’s not just coat hangers: the average liter of petrol costs 1.4 Euros. I know what you’re thinking: I have no idea how much that is! Neither do I, but Google tells me it translates to $1.84 per liter, or more than $7.00 per gallon. I can verify this because I had a BMW 128d rental car in Switzerland, and filling it up required payment via cash, credit, or kidney.

It’s not just the cost that makes old Detroit iron (note my use of the term “old Detroit iron,” like a car journalist from the ‘90s) so absurd in Switzerland. It’s the size of Swiss cities. Anyone who’s been to Europe will agree: the roads were designed for vehicles sized somewhere between a horse and an original Fiat 500. Everything else is ungainly. I once rented a GLK in Europe and it felt like I was riding a piano down the sidewalk.

The size issue is no different in Switzerland. The roads haven’t been enlarged to compensate for K5 Blazers and Gran Torino station wagons, meaning that actually driving one of these things requires a) constant fear of running into something, and b) encyclopedic knowledge of gas station locations. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to attempt it.

So Why Do They?

This question has bugged me ever since I visited Switzerland. I immediately came home and researched it, but found absolutely nothing on the psyche of the Swiss that would explain why they might choose to pilot these 18-foot, gas-guzzling behemoths down the smallest streets in the world.

I did discover that vehicle importation laws are rather relaxed in Switzerland. That means as long as you can pass various safety inspections, you can drive pretty much whatever you want. This, of course, explains the perfect condition of all the cars.

But it doesn’t explain the reason for them. Except that maybe, beyond the drab buildings, spotless streets and perfectly-groomed lawns, the Swiss secretly enjoy a Sunday morning drive just as much as the rest of us. As long as it’s in some old Detroit iron.

And before you ask: yes, every single one of these pictures was taken on a single day in Switzerland.

Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Court OKs Suzuki Bankruptcy Plans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/court-oks-suzuki-bankruptcy-plans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/court-oks-suzuki-bankruptcy-plans/#comments Mon, 04 Mar 2013 11:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479909 The 30 year run of Suzuki auto sales in the United States is one step closer to coming to an end, as a California bankruptcy court approved Suzuki’s restructuring plans. Suzuki Motor of America will be the new entity responsible for selling motorcycles and powersports equipment once Suzuki sells off its remaining new car inventory. […]

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The 30 year run of Suzuki auto sales in the United States is one step closer to coming to an end, as a California bankruptcy court approved Suzuki’s restructuring plans.

Suzuki Motor of America will be the new entity responsible for selling motorcycles and powersports equipment once Suzuki sells off its remaining new car inventory. Meanwhile, Suzuki sales outlets will continue to honor warranties and provide parts and service for the company’s automobiles.

A report by Automotive News scribe and Suzuki expert Ryan Beene highlights a bleak picture for Suzuki; sales fell from over 100,000 units in 2007 to a paltry 25,357 units in 2012 – about as many Camrys as Toyota sells in a month. An unfavorable exchange rate and contraction in the sub-prime auto market ultimately spelled doom for the auto maker in America.

Fans of the brand hoping for a return look to be out of luck as well. Chairman Osamu Suzuki ruled out a future return to America, stating

“Taking into account the issue of the exchange rates and the fact that we have no future outlook for making large vehicles, I think re-entry would be extremely hopeless.”

As for the status of Suzuki’s inventory – if you want an SX4 or Kizashi, you better act fast. A Suzuky spokesman was unable to tell Beene how many cars were left in America, while cars.com listed just 1376 Suzuki cars nationwide.

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1 Million EV Goal Absent From State Of The Union http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/1-million-ev-goal-absent-from-state-of-the-union/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/1-million-ev-goal-absent-from-state-of-the-union/#comments Wed, 13 Feb 2013 16:30:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477360 Those who watched the State of the Union address last night and have an interest in autos may have noticed a conspicuous absence; Barack Obama failed to mention his goal of putting 1 million EVs on the road by 2015. Obama last mentioned the figure in 2011, stating At the California Institute of Technology, they’re […]

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Those who watched the State of the Union address last night and have an interest in autos may have noticed a conspicuous absence; Barack Obama failed to mention his goal of putting 1 million EVs on the road by 2015.

Obama last mentioned the figure in 2011, stating

At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

Since then, the figure has been absent from the address. In 2012 did see Obama promise to  “…not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany…” Well, we all know what happened to A123 Systems.

 

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Is VW’s Target Audience Beta Males or Alpha Females? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/is-vws-target-audience-beta-males-or-alpha-females/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/is-vws-target-audience-beta-males-or-alpha-females/#comments Thu, 24 Jan 2013 13:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=474903   Considering that it seems as though every other commercial on television follows the doofus male wise female plot, the new VW Passat commercial released just in time for the run up to the Super Bowl is hardly the most egregiously misandrist (yes, Virginia, despite what your spellchecker says, it is a word). With a tagline […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Considering that it seems as though every other commercial on television follows the doofus male wise female plot, the new VW Passat commercial released just in time for the run up to the Super Bowl is hardly the most egregiously misandrist (yes, Virginia, despite what your spellchecker says, it is a word). With a tagline of “Pass down something he will be grateful for”, the ad shows a father in a shirt and tie teaching his son how to throw a baseball, in front of a Passat sitting in their driveway. Completely clueless about the mechanics of throwing overhand, but convinced of his knowledge of the subject, dad has form that makes “throwing like a girl” a compliment by comparison. He looks like a cross between someone putting shot and a gooney bird trying to land. The son dutifully imitates dad’s form, but with a skeptical look on his face. Neither can get the ball anywhere near the target.  I’m not sure the ad is on target either.

This isn’t VW’s first attempt at a little father-son humor. Their “Darth Vader” Super Bowl ad last year was found to be endearing by millions (though I thought it had a touch of cruelty in it), and a number of people see warm humor and not misandry in the current Passat ad. On the other hand, that’s not a universal assessment and the negative reaction to the commercial by some has me asking the question: just who is Volkswagen trying to sell Passats to with this ad in the first place?  There also appears to be some pushback from men who don’t like patronizing companies that patronize or demean them. Rather than sell them Passats, the commercial might be harming the VW brand with men.

Dr. Helen Smith is a Tennessee based child psychologist who works with violent teens. Her husband Glenn Reynolds is a law professor in Knoxville. Dr. Helen, as she apparently prefers to be called, is that rara avis, a woman who not only likes men, but is willing in these oh so PC days, to swim against the stream of so-called gender feminism and actually decry male bashing.

A reader sent Dr. Smith a note about the commercial, prompting her post, Can dads do anything right?, asking her readers how they think the ad portrays men and boys. Of more relevance to TTAC and our audience here is the comment her original correspondent made, “I have no idea how this will sell cars, or to whom.”

To be sure, not all of the reactions, from men as well as women, have been negative. In a 100+ comment long reply thread to Smith’s posting of the ad, a number of people found the ad inoffensive, even humorous. A few people were happy that the ad showed a father and son actually engaged with each other (lo how the might have fallen). Still, many men, and even some women were offended at the portrayal of yet another incompetent father. Even more interesting to me as a car guy was the number of people who reacted by saying that they were so offended by the ad that they will no longer even consider buying a Passat or other VW product. It reminded me of how some folks like to use the term Government Motors in describing why they won’t buy that company’s products. Actually, at least a couple of the comments say they won’t buy GM products and now they’ll do the same with VWs.

Now I’m sure that some of you are saying, “so what if some troglodyte right wingers are offended? Times have changed. White males aren’t in charge anymore. Who cares what a bunch of bitter clingers say?”

Who cares? Ferdinand Piech maybe, though he might be too arrogant to notice. The United States is a key market in Piech’s delusion of grandeur plans for VW’s multimillion unit expansion by the end of the decade, and while marketing consumer goods in America does tend to target women, who are indeed the deciders in the vast majority of consumer purchase decision in the U.S., the single most important part of the North American light vehicle market, pickup trucks,  is almost exclusively marketed to men. VW isn’t the only company that knows that boys imitate their fathers. Unlike the boy in that Silverado ad, though,  the boy in the VW ad doesn’t play with a toy truck. Volkswagen doesn’t sell pickup trucks in the US market.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Perhaps the VW brand is deliberately avoiding a big burly male marketing image, showing men being domestic, not quite so aggressively male, because their product line is directed at women and domesticated males. When was the last time you saw a Volkwagen commercial that touted one of their cars as a canyon carving autobahn brenner? Maybe, at least in North America, Audi is VAG’s brand for masculine alphas and VW is their car for women and beta providers with adolescent rockstar fantasies.

So what do you think? Does the ad offend you. Do you think it will cost VW sales?

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 dig deeper 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 – RJS

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QOTD: What Does American Luxury Even Mean? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/qotd-what-does-american-luxury-even-mean/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/qotd-what-does-american-luxury-even-mean/#comments Tue, 04 Dec 2012 14:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=469047 Nearly everyone was unanimous in their assessment that Lincoln’s re-branding campaign is an unmitigated disaster unfolding in slow motion; from the name change to Lincoln Motor Company to the bizarre tie-up with Jimmy Fallon and the marketing-buzzword laden BS the whole thing reeks of inaction disguised in the form of sophisticated marketing efforts. The most […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Nearly everyone was unanimous in their assessment that Lincoln’s re-branding campaign is an unmitigated disaster unfolding in slow motion; from the name change to Lincoln Motor Company to the bizarre tie-up with Jimmy Fallon and the marketing-buzzword laden BS the whole thing reeks of inaction disguised in the form of sophisticated marketing efforts.

The most interesting angle in this mess is the fact that American luxury cars are in such a shambles that Lincoln’s biggest threat doesn’t really come from Cadillac, but from Ford itself.

Cadillac and Lincoln are on two entirely different planets. Lincoln is stuck under the shadow of its sibling, the Blue Oval. Ford’s offering are mechanically identical, packed with nearly all of the same content and retail for thousands less – with the possibility of carrying a more attractive emblem on the hood. None of Lincoln’s product offer any kind of unique proposition. The best Lincoln on sale today is actually Korean, as the Hyundai Equus does a damn good job of approximating the driver and passenger experience of a Town Car. Make of that what you will.

At least Cadillac has some kind of vision. The Standard of the World really wants to be better than Europe’s finest, and the ATS is a fine effort, except for one small detail; the only reason it’s been able to grab the brass ring from the BMW 3-Series is because the current car is one of the weaker efforts put forth by the Roundel. Put an E90 328i next to any ATS and you understand that the ATS comes pretty close to being a great car, but misses the mark.

The rest of Cadillac’s lineup is doesn’t exactly hold to it though. The CTS is long in the tooth, the V Series are irrelevant to all but the most diehard car geeks and the XTS is still languishing in premium sedan obscurity. About the only car in the lineup with any kind of social capital is the Escalade, which endures as the vulgarian chariot of choice for those with more money than discretion.

The only real concrete vision of what an American luxury car should be comes from Chrysler, of all places. The 300 makes a bold visual statement, comes with a range of sophisticated powertrain options and finally has an interior that is worthy of being praised. And what value, too. A base 300, with the 292 horsepower V6 and 8-speed automatic transmission, starts at a hair under $30,000. I don’t even think I’d get the V8, heretical as it may be. It won’t have the driving dynamics of an import car, but when was an American car ever supposed to be able to clock off a sub 8-minute ‘Ring time? Best of all, it occupies that long-dormant niche that used to be the domain of Oldsmobile and even Pontiac. It was a luxury car that told everyone you’d arrived, but wasn’t sufficiently extravagant that your clients felt that they were being fleeced. No wonder both my Grandfathers were Mopar men.

But that’s just me. I’m not even American (though the 300 is built not too far from my home). Let’s consider this a thought exercise. Run wild with your ideas about American luxury, what it was, what it is and what it should be.

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Suzuki Death Watch 8: A Eulogy Due To Incompetence http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/suzuki-death-watch-8-a-eulogy-due-to-incompetence/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/suzuki-death-watch-8-a-eulogy-due-to-incompetence/#comments Tue, 06 Nov 2012 21:07:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=466103 When the news came out last night of American Suzuki Motor Corporation (ASMC) filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, I was glad to be validated in my suspicions, but sad that a potentially great opportunity had been wasted due to mismanagement and short-sightedness on behalf of its Japanese management. In other regions, Suzuki does an excellent […]

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When the news came out last night of American Suzuki Motor Corporation (ASMC) filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, I was glad to be validated in my suspicions, but sad that a potentially great opportunity had been wasted due to mismanagement and short-sightedness on behalf of its Japanese management.

In other regions, Suzuki does an excellent job catering to the needs of each domestic market. In India, through their long time partnership with Maruti (which has since turned into full ownership of the once state-owned automaker), Suzuki enjoys double digit market share that is the envy of every other automaker in the country. Maruti Suzuki has control over product, they understand the needs of Indians looking for new cars, and they have enough financial input into SMC’s bottom line that the executives in Japan have no choice but to listen.

In North America, things haven’t been as pleasant for the plucky automaker. After dealing with a toxic review from Consumer Reports in the late 80s, saddled with a narrow range of vehicles and General Motors input throughout the 90s, and burdened with selling Korean shitboxes in the 2000s after a joint venture purchase of Daewoo with GM and SAIC, the car maker didn’t have a chance. Or did it?

Suzuki is, unfortunately, broken at the top and ASMC’s Chapter 11 filing is not necessarily the fault of those working in Brea, California. During my conversations with a number of current and former ASMC employees over the last few months, there was definitely a sense that those in charge in Japan either planned for the automotive division to fail, resulting in the Chapter 11 filing, or were complicit in listening to Chairman Osamu Suzuki’s incompetence and didn’t want to piss off the boss. Or both.

During one particular conversation with a former ranking ASMC employee, Osamu was described as “a senile old man that has absolutely no idea what he is doing.” That same former employee also stated the reason for the end of the Volkswagen-Suzuki tie-up wasn’t due to Volkswagen attempting to poach Suzuki for all it was worth or the rank and file engineers not getting along. Instead, Osamu merely “changed his mind”, invented a story to fit his modus operandi, and blasted it to the media as much as he possibly could. No wonder then, when the end of the partnership came to light in the press, Volkswagen’s reply was “we have absolutely no idea what is going on.”

With a company head like Osamu calling the shots, doing what he can to keep Suzuki under his absolute control, it is no wonder ASMC failed in the US. His judgement has been highly impaired for years and there is nobody in a position to kick him off the throne.

And that absolute control is what brings us to the other reason Suzuki has failed to make a massive presence in North America over the last 15 years: who has the power? For every Japanese brand that decides to bring their vehicles to the North American market, their local American headquarters are the nerve center for much of the product planning. Toyota Japan doesn’t plan the next Tundra. Even Nissan’s reincarnation of the Z car, the 350, was mainly worked in the United Stated because that is where they knew they would realize most of their sales. But, ASMC had absolutely no control over what they sold, save for the Equator and some packaging on other vehicles. ASMC didn’t request certain models be built for the American market. ASMC was told what they would sell, whether they liked it or not.

ASMC’s target over the last couple of years has been to make a profit without haven’t to invest in its portfolio in order to pull it off (or at least that is what everyone has been told). There is no such thing as a legitimate business that requires no input. That’s a Ponzi scheme. Unfortunately for employees, dealers, and brand loyalists, the people running this scheme are not the ones who are going to have to pay for it in the end.

Suzuki Canada, with its lackluster range of vehicles, has been in the same boat, selling even less selection than that of its sister to the south. So, even though Suzuki Canada says everything is good in the Great White North, just remember the same people are at the helm in Japan, and there is no geopolitical border for incompetence.

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Suzuki Death Watch 7: Inside The Horrible Dysfunction At American Suzuki http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/suzuki-death-watch-7-inside-the-horrible-dysfunction-at-american-suzuki/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/suzuki-death-watch-7-inside-the-horrible-dysfunction-at-american-suzuki/#comments Tue, 06 Nov 2012 18:24:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=466089 Late last night, we were contacted by an employee of American Suzuki Motors Corp, who reached out to TTAC to vent his frustrations regarding the downfall of ASMC’s auto business. The picture painted by this employee is one of a highly dysfunctional operation, focused only on tomorrow and never beyond that, a revolving door of […]

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Late last night, we were contacted by an employee of American Suzuki Motors Corp, who reached out to TTAC to vent his frustrations regarding the downfall of ASMC’s auto business. The picture painted by this employee is one of a highly dysfunctional operation, focused only on tomorrow and never beyond that, a revolving door of Japanese management and deep antipathy for American workers.

Though we’ve confirmed the identity of this Suzuki employee, they wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of their remarks.

Over the course of our Death Watch, one of the most persistent claims that we’ve heard on background has been the appalling corporate culture that exists at ASMC. American workers were apparently mistreated by the Japanese managers brought in to run the company for a year or two, and had little investment in the success of ASMC.
According to the subject of our interview, it was worse than that.
“I have been here 5 years. In this time, we have gone though several regime changes. Most of the Japanese management lasted here about a year or two at most, then sent back to Japan for reassignment to other countries,.
“Here at Suzuki, us American workers are not to speak directly to them. We must go through our department managers. The Japanese do not make eye contact with anyone, even in passing in the office. Many of us American workers took this as a huge insult. I know I do.”
Observers have long criticized Suzuki for their lack of fresh product. Our insider paints a picture of a division starved for product and totally at the mercy of inept and weak management.
The latest and current group of Japanese managers were brought in back in May 2011. There sole purpose has been cutting costs and searching only to become profitable, by any means necessary. This lead to a huge lack of any marketing, advertising, or just general word of Suzuki products. 
American managers, who have been lucky enough to keep their positions, they mostly just agree with whatever the Japanese say, for fear of losing their positions. Anyone who seems to have an opinion other than what the Japanese have is either quickly shunned or later terminated during these layoff periods. They say nothing and just go along with whatever is the plan of the day…they do not have any say in product planning.
How it works is they place dealer orders early in the model year and hope that Japan agrees with these numbers. However, they have always been at the mercy of what SMC is willing to produce and ship to the United States.Most of their dealer network is starved for product and parts at this time, and has been for a while. 
Our insider identifies April 2008 as the begining of the end for ASMC’s car business. Rick Suzuki, chairman of ASMC, admonished the employees for not meeting the 5 year goal of selling half a million cars, despite record sales numbers at the time. Bonuses and raises were suspended, and layoffs were instituted until the division became profitable. The biggest hit for the automotive side seemed to occur on the marketing end
 By April 2009, we had laid off approximately 15% of our workforce. Layoffs occured in all divisions at that time.  By summer of 2010, ASMC had let go of most of their PR/Media Department, and hired Questus as a consultant. However, as you know, there have only been very limited advertising and marketing for most Suzuki products. They did produce a Kizashi Kicks campaign, but with minimal success. The public just didn’t buy a Kizashi was a competitor to higher end luxuy vehicle like Audi and Mercedes that they featured in these commercials and on the website. They did place a Super Bowl ad, but only in about 15 markets, mostly on in the Northeast. The Cash for Clunkers program did help sales at the time, but it was not deemed as a success here by the Japanese. There have been constant rounds of random downsizing since the first layoffs of 2009. Most occur every 6-12 months. Yesterday was the biggest round since April of 2009, with almost 70 people being terminated including the all automotive field representatives.
The Japanese consider us to be an automotive company first, everything else is secondary. However, most people can only remember the Samauri. They had no idea that we were even still in business as an auto manufacturer!  We only had a 0.02% market share here in America. The main reason was that no one knew us. I doubt today if anyone cares about the chapter 11 filing. Most are probably gonna say to themselves, “Suzuki made cars??”
When asked what Suzuki did right over the last 5 years, our insider was characteristically blunt; “Honestly…” he said “dropping the auto division.  He continues
The lack of management and communication here lead many employees to become hopeless about auto. The ones who worked hard and tried to make a difference were treated poorly by the Japanese as well as their immediate managers and either were later terminated or left on their own accord.
We should have an even better picture later on, with a eulogy from Suzuki Death Watch founder Mark Stevenson, where even more information from within ASMC will be discussed. It only gets bleaker.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity

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