By on June 18, 2017

2.0 turbo engine Buick, Image: General Motors

Rising emissions regulations are forcing many automakers to adopt forced induction across the board. While some, like Mazda and Honda, have been milking naturally aspirated engines for all their worth, even they have turned to turbochargers to do some of the heavy lifting. General Motors has more than doubled North American sales of vehicles with turbo motors — going from roughly 288,000 units in 2011 to 712,000 in 2016, 23 percent of its total volume.

GM’s powertrain lineup has changed dramatically. A decade ago, only a handful of its models came with a turbo option, while just under half of today’s fleet uses some form of forced induction. The trend is set to continue for the 2018 model year, boosting the carmaker’s share of turbocharged offerings above the 50 percent mark. (Read More…)

By on June 16, 2017

5th Gen Honda Civic TEAL, Public Domain

We took it for granted at the time, but automakers provided us with a cornucopia of lavish colors in the mid-1990s. While dark greens were the most popular hue of the day, there was no shortage of teal, deep red, beige, gold, dark blue, metallic purple, and burnt orange cruising down the boulevard, tempting us like a mobile bag of Wild Berry Skittles.

Then, in 2001, every single car in North America was legally required to be painted silver. It seemed like a neat idea to everyone at the time but, as reality set in, society soon realized its grievous error. Ashamed at our inability to choose correctly, society then decided to abandon color entirely. White returned to take its bland place at the top of the heap in 2006 and has stayed there ever since. Globally, white accounted for 38 percent of all cars manufactured in 2016. America’s current penchant for wild colors like black, silver, and gray lessens its continental death grip to a more-modest 25 percent.

The global obsession with grayscale is supposed to change, however, as blue seems poised for a comeback.  (Read More…)

By on June 9, 2017

Front Pedestrian Braking, a new active safety technology available on the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu and 2016 Cadillac CT6, is one of many safety features tested at General Motors' new Active Safety Test Area at the Milford Proving Ground in Milford, Michigan. Image: Jeffrey Sauger/General Motors

There was a time when seat belts were considered unnecessary, reserved as an optional extra for motorists who ventured out onto roadways in a state of white-knuckle fear. What pathetic bags of flesh, many thought, wrapping themselves in a polyester harness because they can’t handle themselves on the road — thinking it will save them from the reckoning of sheet metal and glass.

We know better now. Seat belts are proven life savers and advanced restraint systems are compulsory for both automakers and occupants. That will likely be the path of automatic emergency braking takes as well. Nissan announced Thursday it would make auto braking systems standard on a large portion of 2018 models sold in the United States. Toyota is doing the same. But the technology is not yet ubiquitous, nor has it acquired universal public approval. Many worry it could be too invasive or provide a false sense of invincibility, so it could be a while before AEB becomes expected equipment on all new models.  (Read More…)

By on April 30, 2017

2018 Lexus LS F-SPORT

With crossovers on the rise, and more car-like than ever, Toyota’a global branding chief Tokuo Fukuichi knows that Lexus sedans need to offer more to customers or prepare to join the Tyrannosaurus rex in extinction. Lexus has shifted to become SUV-inclusive, but sedans still comprise a large portion of its lineup.

Lexus’ strategy is to improve the driving dynamics on its sedans to a level that crossovers cannot match, using the lower center of gravity to their advantage. It also wants to make its more traditional cars more appealing to a broader and less-stodgy consumer base. Assuming the plan works, Toyota’s premium brand won’t need to engage in any automotive genocide, eliminating sedans altogether. However, like any automaker, Lexus is still likely to transform its lineup to appease on-trend demands — which could include a station wagon.  (Read More…)

By on April 25, 2017

mazda cx-5

Mazda’s North American Operations has named Dino Bernacchi as its chief marketing officer, a position created specifically to aid the automaker in establishing itself as a premium brand.

The manufacturer has taken steps to ditch its economical heritage for nearly a year as it pushes upmarket. Model redesigns have followed a cohesive, sleek trend while the company zeroes in on a future “premium, pricey model” to secure its new identity.

Until then, image is everything for Mazda. The brand doesn’t seem interested in swapping over to a luxury-focused lineup or changing its production philosophy. While Mazda had what was arguably the most aesthetically appealing booth at the New York auto show (even if Porsche and Volvo had the better snacks), most of its vehicles still start below $25,000.  (Read More…)

By on April 6, 2017

IAA trade show

Frankfurt is the real deal when it comes to trade events. Germany’s International Motor Show is the oldest and, frequently, the largest exhibition of new vehicles and automotive engineering on the planet. However, some important automakers are deciding not to bother with it this year.

The event’s organizer, Germany’s VDA industry association, has confirmed that several automakers have cancelled on the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung in September 2017. While there will still be over 50 individual brands from Europe, Asia, and the United States, a few of the heavier hitters are following the trend of taking their marketing money off the floor and rerouting it back into digital advertising.  (Read More…)

By on March 24, 2017

2016 BMw X1 white

Europe always seemed like a safe haven for the sort of car lover who turns up their nose over North America’s obsession with the sport utility vehicle. That’s now changing, as European demand for SUVs and crossovers continued to grow in 2016. While it may have a penchance for slightly smaller models, the EU saw disproportionately high sales of compact crossovers last year.

In total, SUV sales accounted for 25 percent of all European passenger vehicle sales in 2016 — up from 21 percent the previous year. That doesn’t quite equal the United States’ fervent addiction but, if the European Union keeps this pace, it’ll be less than a decade before it closes the gap.  (Read More…)

By on November 27, 2016

dealership

Have you ever wondered why the model year and actual calendar year of production vehicles rarely coincide? Do you ever notice American-made cars have a tendency to come out almost comically early? Have you ever wondered why?

The answer is as uniquely American as the question itself, revolving around agriculture, consumer culture, and television.

(Read More…)

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