The Truth About Cars » Ford http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 21 May 2015 20:00:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Ford http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com While You Were Sleeping: Mazda Says Driving Matters, New HiLux and Ford F-150 Trailer Backup Assist Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/while-you-were-sleeping-mazda-says-driving-matters-new-hilux-and-ford-f-150-trailer-backup-assist-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/while-you-were-sleeping-mazda-says-driving-matters-new-hilux-and-ford-f-150-trailer-backup-assist-revealed/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 10:39:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071898 After being stuck in Nashville for an extra unscheduled 24 hours and spending the following 12 hours bouncing from airport to airport, I can easily say that air travel is horrible. Conversely, Mazda is extolling the emotional virtues of driving in a new ad campaign. Here’s what happened overnight. Mazda’s new mantra: ‘Driving Matters’ (Automotive News) […]

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DriversLife+Screengrab5

After being stuck in Nashville for an extra unscheduled 24 hours and spending the following 12 hours bouncing from airport to airport, I can easily say that air travel is horrible. Conversely, Mazda is extolling the emotional virtues of driving in a new ad campaign.

Here’s what happened overnight.

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Crapwagon Outtake: 2004 Ford Focus SVT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/crapwagon-outtake-2004-ford-focus-svt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/crapwagon-outtake-2004-ford-focus-svt/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 11:45:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1068826 For decades, compact cars from Dearborn were miserable. Blue Oval enthusiasts in North America looked longingly at the rally-bred Escorts in the UK and Europe, wondering when the promised “world car” would cross the Atlantic. Improbably, I was one of those guys. I bought a 2000 Focus sedan (ZTS model with the twincam Zetec) with […]

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For decades, compact cars from Dearborn were miserable. Blue Oval enthusiasts in North America looked longingly at the rally-bred Escorts in the UK and Europe, wondering when the promised “world car” would cross the Atlantic.

Improbably, I was one of those guys. I bought a 2000 Focus sedan (ZTS model with the twincam Zetec) with six months and 6000 miles on the odo, and flogged it for seven years and about a dozen recalls. Should have listened to my Dad, who always warned against buying a first-year model.

These days, we have it good, with FiSTs and FoSTs, and a real RS on the horizon. But in those dreary days of the early aughts, the only compact with sporting intentions came with the SVT badge, like this 2004 model. A couple dozen seem to be up for grabs across the web at any given time, so these aren’t particularly unusual or rare. The $6k price tag seems to be the middle of the typical range.

Nonetheless, the SVT Focus is a great hot-hatch bargain, with plenty of potential on track or in autocross. Despite my flawed history with the nameplate, I’d love to see a blue five-door in my driveway.

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Long-Term Tester Update: FiSTing Around at the Autocross http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/long-term-tester-update-fisting-around-autocross/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/long-term-tester-update-fisting-around-autocross/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 11:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055833 Ever since I wrote this post about autocross back in November, there’s been something that has really bothered me about the way a lot of people responded to it. People seemed to have read the headline, reacted immediately, and then actively and somewhat irresponsibly made my post into something it wasn’t – I never said autocross was […]

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Bark's Fiesta at autocross

Ever since I wrote this post about autocross back in November, there’s been something that has really bothered me about the way a lot of people responded to it. People seemed to have read the headline, reacted immediately, and then actively and somewhat irresponsibly made my post into something it wasn’t – I never said autocross was easy, or that it wasn’t a heck of a lot of fun, or that I was any good at it. I never said autocross was a bad idea, or a waste of time, or even that wheel-to-wheel racing was better. I just said it wasn’t racing – a statement, by the way, that the SCCA agrees with (they prefer to call it a “driving skill contest”).

Despite this, the responders on various forums (the post was shared over two thousand times) mostly fell into one of the two following categories:

  1. “That guy sucks at autocross and here’s my screenshot of one time that I beat him.” Duh. I specifically said I wasn’t that good at it. I’d like to congratulate you on your excellent reading comprehension. Of course, they cherry-picked results that supported their statements. They never took screenshots of the times I won trophies at both National Tours and ProSolos in highly subscribed classes. There was one guy in particular who was super excited to point out that he beat me by over a second at a local autocross. He also, of course, neglected to point out that I was co-driving a friend’s totally stock car (in a Street Touring class) that was nearly completely undriveable due to a combination of worn tires and stock suspension (my friend, who was a multiple national champion, actually finished behind me that day with all dirty runs). He also neglected to mention that, despite this, I beat his girlfriend by a large margin, but that’s probably because he didn’t want me to point out that I had a significant weight advantage over his girlfriend. That’s fine – if I can make somebody feel better about themselves, I’m happy to do it.
  2. “He’s right, and road racing is way better and manlier.” Come on, man. I didn’t say that. Both autocross and wheel-to-wheel racing have their own merits. I actually really like local autocross. I just feel like the people on the national scene take it a little too seriously at times. I mean, at the end of the day, we’re all still driving around a parking lot at speeds that wouldn’t impress your average teenaged Driver’s Ed student.

That all being said, there have been times in the last three years where I really missed autocrossing. Since I now have my Fiesta ST, which appears to be the car to beat now in SCCA “H Street” Solo, I thought I’d take it out to see how well it performed as a totally stock, out-of-the-box autocrosser. To find out, I headed over to my local region’s website and registered for the next autocross.

I have to admit, I was a tad curious to see how I’d be received by the locals. After all, I hadn’t autocrossed with them in about three years, and I wrote an article that appeared to many to diminish their favorite hobby. However, I needn’t have worried: they’re all much nicer and better people than anybody has to right to expect them to be. Think about it: the average autocross lifer is somebody who’s glad to give up his entire Sunday for the benefit of others. He’s up at 6 a.m., laying out a course with cones that he knows people are going to complain about because it doesn’t suit their car. Or he’s staying late to pack up the trailer, long after everybody has gotten their plastic trophies and gone home. He does this knowing he’ll receive exactly zero pay and likely zero thanks from his fellow competitors. That kind of person likely spends exactly zero time worrying what somebody like me thinks about him.

However, I was surprised to see how much of the club had turned over since my last event. Out of the fifty-seven participants, I probably only recognized a dozen or so. Of that dozen, at least ten of them made a point of saying how happy they were to see me out again. They shook my hand, came over and checked out the Fiesta, and wished me good luck. I replied I would definitely need it. Autocrossing isn’t like riding a bike, after all. It’s a skill that greatly diminishes with time. Besides, I’d never autocrossed a front-wheel drive car before. I was pretty certain I’d be giving a whole new crop of people a result they’d be able to screenshot for the forum of their choice. Oh, well – what the hell. Let’s go check out the course.

Hand-drawn track map

This is an approximate rendering of the course as drawn by the course designer, a local legend simply known as “Bucky” to all. As you can see, Bucky did a great job of including several different elements on a lot that is slightly larger than a Bolivian postage stamp. As I walked the course, I counted at least three corners that really made me think hard about how to enter and exit them, especially in a car about which I had very little knowledge of how it would behave.

My only other H Street competition for the day was a young man who had finished second overall in the previous event in his 2013 Honda Civic Si on BFGoodrich Rivals – in other words, he had real autocross tires. I had OEM Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires on my whip that could best be described as “crap”, but which would actually be considered illegal at a national event because of their 140 treadwear rating. (This opens up another can of worms about the silliness of the SCCA rule book: how can a car be illegal for street class as it sits new on a lot?) I didn’t like my chances.

Okay, so I’m about a thousand or so words into this update and I haven’t mentioned anything about how the car performed. Oops. Let’s do that now.

054

For my first run, at approximately 10:30 a.m., there were still wet spots on the ground from the previous night’s rain and it was roughly 45 degrees. The Bridgestones did not care for that combination of conditions AT ALL. After I turned off AdvanceTrac completely for my first run, the tires spun on a 3,000 RPM launch all the way from the start to the first slalom cone, after which they clunked into place when I upshifted into second. The slightest nudge of throttle in the slalom threatened to send the back end around on me, so I settled in nicely at moderate throttle and headed out of the slalom into the first turnaround.

For autocrossing purposes, the Fiesta doesn’t need any more brakes than it has in stock trim. It quickly scrubbed off speed, and I was pleased by the low-end grunt of the EcoBoost in second gear as I came out of the left hander into the only straightaway on course. I came close to the limiter in second gear before getting on the brakes again for the sweeper in front of the trailer, tossing the car sideways and kicking the tail slightly out as I exited the turn. The torque vectoring is somewhat surprising if you’ve never experienced it; my initial reaction was to stop accelerating, but the Fiesta proved up to the task if I kept my foot in it. One can definitely feel the little Ford working to keep the right amount of power heading to the right wheel under slight shock compression, but it always feels sure-footed and steady, even as the Bridgestones gave way and started sliding a bit sideways.

I hit a cone nobody else hit all day; I crushed the entry cone as I came up to the final turn before the exit. Why did I do such a thing? Because the Fiesta goes where you point it. That section of the course was a bit off camber and I was expecting a bit of tail-happiness and slip sliding around the turn. Nope. The ST just stuck and turned. Oops. Plus one. I came in slightly faster than my competitor in the Civic for my first run, and he was also plus a couple of cones. Yay! I didn’t suck as bad as I feared I might.

With each run, I learned a bit more about what the Fiesta could and couldn’t do. I began to seriously curse the Bridgestones, as they simply weren’t up to what I was asking of them in the corners, especially with such little heat in them. Even so, the Fiesta showed it was the real deal. The suspension that can be a bit jarring on the open road is perfectly suited for a lower-grip autocross surface. It handled elevation and camber changes effortlessly. I think somebody could have a shot at a national trophy in one of these sleds with just a set of Bridgestone RE71Rs or BFG Rivals and some lightweight wheels. The car is so well-sorted out of the box it doesn’t need much else. In that sense, it reminded me of the Mazda RX-8 when it first showed up on the scene a little over a decade ago.

The young man in the Civic and I both found a little more time over our six runs for the day, but he found about eight tenths of a second more than I did and claimed the victory. After the first of two heats, he was second overall and I was fifth out of about twenty-seven cars. For a bone stock car with a rusty driver, I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Autocross results

The good news? If you’re just planning to go and have fun at a local autocross a few times a year, you can drive your stock Fiesta ST directly to the lot and have a blast. The car will easily handle the wear and tear of the event with minimal impact. The Bridgestones, while not super fun for autocross, could last through a couple of hundred runs and still have thousands of miles left for the street. You’ll be competitive with just about anybody, and you’ll be able to do it for nothing out of pocket other than your monthly Fiesta ST payment.

The bad news? I’m currently looking at wheel/tire combos online. I’m researching sway bars. I’m contemplating better shocks. I’m considering renewing my SCCA membership. I even put one of my old ProSolo trophy license plates on the front of the car.

You know why? Because the Fiesta ST reminded me of something I had forgotten somewhere on the way to one of those national events somewhere in the middle of nowhere: Autocrossing a good course with a bunch of good people is a pretty decent way to spend thirty-five bucks and a Sunday afternoon.

Curse you, autocross. I guess we haven’t broken up yet, after all.

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PSA Peugeot-Citroën, Ford Renewing Small Diesel Engine Tie-Up http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/psa-peugeot-citroen-ford-renewing-small-diesel-engine-tie/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/psa-peugeot-citroen-ford-renewing-small-diesel-engine-tie/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 16:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1063578 A tie-up between PSA Peugeot-Citroën and Ford involving small diesel engines will be extended in time for the former’s new diesel family debut. The extension comes ahead of PSA’s new DV-R diesels’ showroom debut, set for 2017 through 2018, Automotive News Europe reports. Variants of the DV-R family, which all will be compliant with Euro […]

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PSA Ford TTAC Style

A tie-up between PSA Peugeot-Citroën and Ford involving small diesel engines will be extended in time for the former’s new diesel family debut.

The extension comes ahead of PSA’s new DV-R diesels’ showroom debut, set for 2017 through 2018, Automotive News Europe reports. Variants of the DV-R family, which all will be compliant with Euro 6.2 emissions standards set to go into effect by 2017, will find their way into Ford models at the same time.

PSA is investing €60 million ($67.4 million USD) into producing 640,000 units of the engines per year in Douvrin, France starting in 2017, with 640,000 more to depart annually from Tremery, France from 2018 forward. Some of those engines will head across the Channel to a Ford facility in the United Kingdom for final assembly beginning in the same period.

The partnership between the two automakers has been ongoing since 1998, though Ford dropped PSA diesels above 2.0 liters in displacement in 2012 when PSA was briefly tied-up with General Motors.

The latest extension is expected to be signed this summer, ensuring the partnership lasts beyond the 2017 deadline for the current agreement.

[Image credit: PSA Peugeot-Citroën and Ford]

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Crapwagon Outtake: 1988 Ford Festiva Turbo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/crapwagon-outtake-festive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/crapwagon-outtake-festive/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 13:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1057314 The “big engine in a small car” theme has been with car enthusiasts for generations. GTO, Sunbeam Tiger, Cobra, Monster Miata: plenty of enthusiasts, both in the boardrooms and in garages across the globe, know that more power plus less mass equates to speed. Some enthusiasts, like Carroll Shelby, had plenty of financial backing to […]

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The “big engine in a small car” theme has been with car enthusiasts for generations. GTO, Sunbeam Tiger, Cobra, Monster Miata: plenty of enthusiasts, both in the boardrooms and in garages across the globe, know that more power plus less mass equates to speed.

Some enthusiasts, like Carroll Shelby, had plenty of financial backing to explore these whims. Some, like the mad genius who cooked up this Ford Festiva, worked with slightly smaller budgets.

The Mazda turbo under the flaming bonnet isn’t too much of a stretch. The Festiva was designed by Mazda, built by Kia and originally carried an anemic version of the venerable B-series Mazda four cylinder. The seller claims over 200hp out of the Mercury Capri-sourced twincam B6T, which could be a handful if the chassis isn’t well tuned.

Clearly, the car is a work in progress that needs sorting, especially visually. A single color paint job, sans flames and faux blower intake, would go a long way to making this a sleeper. The alloys, looking a bit like the vaunted Volk TE-37, actually look decent on this car.

Making “sissy passengers wet themselves” is a bold claim. The gutted interior will make cleanup easier.

h/t to Jose Diaz

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Ford UAW Members Meet To Receive Info On Leaving Union http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-uaw-members-meet-receive-info-leaving-union/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-uaw-members-meet-receive-info-leaving-union/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 17:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1057010 UAW members at Ford’s Sterling Heights, Mich. plant met to gain advice on how to leave the union or stop paying dues under Michigan’s new right-to-work law. Two meetings were held Wednesday to discuss the topic ahead of the union’s impending contract negotiations with the Detroit Three, Detroit Free Press reports. While some will, indeed, […]

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UAW Hall at Bowling Green, Kentucky

UAW members at Ford’s Sterling Heights, Mich. plant met to gain advice on how to leave the union or stop paying dues under Michigan’s new right-to-work law.

Two meetings were held Wednesday to discuss the topic ahead of the union’s impending contract negotiations with the Detroit Three, Detroit Free Press reports. While some will, indeed, bid farewell to the union while still being allowed to continue working on the factory floor, labor experts don’t see a mass exodus from the UAW in the foreseeable future.

At one of the meetings in Sterling Heights, plant worker and right-to-work proponent Brian Pannebecker proclaimed that union members should send a message to the UAW by not paying any more dues until it addressed its members’ needs. He added that the right-to-work law wasn’t an effort to destroy or do away with unions, but one meant to use the collective bargaining process to the members’ advantage.

Michigan’s law prohibits employers from requiring employees to pay union dues in order to work. In turn, those who opt-out of dues cannot vote on union contracts, but the unions must represent those workers in matters of conflict within a given company.

[Photo credit: Michael Miller/Flickr/CC BY 2.0]

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While You Were Sleeping: 137 Shelbys, Eight Cylinder Porsches and One Lost Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping-137-shelbys-eight-cylinder-porsches-one-lost-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping-137-shelbys-eight-cylinder-porsches-one-lost-car/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 10:28:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055585 In Los Angeles and Detroit, Ford took the covers off their two track-ready Mustangs – the GT350 and GT350R. And Ford is only going to build 137 of them for 2015. Ehh? Theft Stats with Keys Left Inside Vehicle (NCIB) “For the years 2012 through 2014, at total of 126,603 vehicles were reported stolen with […]

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Ford Shelby GT350

In Los Angeles and Detroit, Ford took the covers off their two track-ready Mustangs – the GT350 and GT350R.

And Ford is only going to build 137 of them for 2015. Ehh?

What we’re driving this week:

Only two of us have press vehicles this week and both are full-size sedans, albeit aimed at very different consumers.

  • Alex Dykes is driving around in the brand new 2015 Dodge Charger R/T
  • Mark Stevenson (that’s me) is cruising in the top-trim 2015 Toyota Avalon Limited

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While You Were Sleeping: No Holden Volt, Super Troopers 2, and Meeke Gets a Win http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping-no-holden-volt-super-troopers-2-meeke-gets-win/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping-no-holden-volt-super-troopers-2-meeke-gets-win/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 10:03:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054985 The second-generation Chevrolet Volt won’t go on sale in Australia as GM will not convert it to right-hand drive. The Holden Volt is dead (CarAdvice) It appears a Holden version of the second-generation Volt will not come to fruition as General Motors has decided not to build the car in right-hand drive. Bolt still on the table. […]

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Mary Barra and Chevrolet Volt at NAIAS 2015

The second-generation Chevrolet Volt won’t go on sale in Australia as GM will not convert it to right-hand drive.

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Dispatches do Brasil: Renault Re-Invents Itself in Latin America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053257 Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for […]

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Renault Logan

Renault Logan

Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for more, the French company is showing its new plans that will deeply affect their operations in Latin America at large and shake up their manufacturing base in South America, most especially Mercosur (namely Brazil and Argentina).

When their Ayrton Senna factory was opened in São José dos Pinhais in Paraná state, their line was in tune to what they produced in Europe. They offered the Clio, Kangoo, Mégane and Scénic. With an emphasis on safety, even the lowly Clio offered dual frontal airbags. At that time, the relative parity between the Brazilian real and American dollar allowed them to import systems such as the aforementioned airbags on the cheap. The minivan Scénic offered space for five, a large trunk, modular seating and became a favorite for families. The Mégane and Kangoo meanwhile suffered at the hands of more established competition and never made a dent in Volkswagen Golf, Fiat Stilo or Ford Focus sales. The Fiat Doblò passenger and commercial versions plus the Uno-based Fiat Fiorino conspired to keep the Kangoo down.

In the Brazilian market, reception was mixed. At the entry level, the Clio had lukewarm success. The majority of compact level car buyers are not exactly flush with money, so buying a new entry into that market was seen as a risky proposition. The Scénic and other minivans slowly, but surely, decimated the station wagons then available on the market. Together with Citroën minivans, Renault owned that market. As it became a favorite, the prices of this type of car rose above the rest of the competition and became expensive to buy.

Undeniably, Renault and other French makes suffered a perception problem. While most think their engines are robust and can take the pressure, suspension systems were and remain under suspicion in the eyes of Brazilian consumers. So, despite placing rather high in consumer satisfaction surveys, Renaults take a hit at re-sale time.

Brazilian Clio

Brazilian Clio

Over the years the American dollar and euro appreciated against the Brazilian real and growing sales plateaued. Renault’s reaction was to cheapen their offerings. Soon, the Clio lost its airbags, losing its appeal to the better off buyers that seemed to favor it over the VW Gol or Fiat Uno. When it was re-designed, it kept the previous car’s internal design. A new Scénic was launched in Europe, but citing cost complications, Renault chose to keep building the old one. Renault also tried to gain market penetration by locally building and selling a Mégane sedan and station wagon. Inevitably, Renault’s line became outmoded and nothing on offer in Europe was sold here.

Of course, errors in reading the market collaborated to their downfall. In the early 2000s, Renault was challenging Ford for fourth place in the Brazilian market. Ford reacted by launching the EcoSport and new Fiesta, new engines, and soon saw the distance between it and Renault grow. Besides the cheapening and non-updating of the line, beginner errors abounded. In Brazil, the Scénic was a solid middle class car, even higher middle class, and not the cheap and cheerful family transportation pod it was in Europe. As such, Brazilian dealers clamored for black and silver Scénics while the French continued offering it in purple, red and other colors the middle class rejected. The Clio, besides keeping the same interiors forever, never changed wheel cover designs or had new versions launched (tricks in which the traditional Brazilian Big Four – Fiat, GM, Volkswagen and Ford – are experts).

In the late 2000s, Renault re-made itself in Brazil. The Scénic was gone. The Kangoo was now only a commercial vehicle. The Clio soldiered on unmolested and seemingly only existed so Renault could keep a foot in the entry-level market. A solution was found though and it was the result of the deepening of the synergies and integration within the scope of the global Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Renault underwent the so-called “Dacia-lization” (Dacia being a Romanian company that Renault uses as its low-cost brand in Europe). The Logan, Sandero and eventually the Duster were launched. In spite of the insipid design, the cars used a Renault-Dacia version of a modern Nissan platform. The Logan family’s claim to fame and a space in the market was that it offered a lot of space for modest prices. Size-wise similar to Focus and Toyota Corolla type cars (sometimes even bigger, trunks tended to be larger), but priced similarly to smaller cars like Gol or Fiat Siena, they appealed to a more rational buyer. After a few years, with the launch of the Duster CUV, Renault was again encroaching on Ford and distancing itself from the Asian brands that were finally “acclimatizing” (by offering compact cars similar to market favorites) to Brazil and had been threatening Renault’s (by then traditional) fifth place in Brazilian sales rankings.

Nov-Ford-Ka-SEL-2015 (3)

As the 2000s became the 2010s, Renault was again under assault. Competition grew. Everybody copied their idea of a larger cars for more modest prices. Fiat launched a bigger Palio and a Grand Siena. Volkswagen do Brasil got into the compact sedan market again with its Voyage. Ford brought the new Fiesta and conjured up the highly competitive new Ka. GM came strong based off of its GM Korea know-how and re-invented themselves in Brazil, becoming the leader of in-car mobile electronics. Toyota got serious in Brazil and the Etios family has been gaining ground, horrible design notwithstanding, based on modern mechanics and a good ride. Hyundai’s HB20 has done the opposite: it has conquered image conscious consumers due to the success of it fluidic design language, in spite of the bad ride. All these companies and cars offered up new technologies and engines, bringing more fuel economy to buyers, extra gadgets and crept up on the Logan family’s cost benefit advantage.

Reacting, Renault has launched a re-designed Logan and Sandero. Though the new designs have been well-accepted and increased sales, this growth has been deemed insufficient. Both Hyundai and Toyota routinely sell more than Renault on a monthly basis and could soon take fifth place in overall sales. As such, Renault studied its South American operations and has cooked up a plan.

Renault Oroch Concept

Renault Oroch Concept

An “un-Dacia-lization” of sorts seems to be in place. Logan and Sandero production is being moved to Argentina. The company is investing heavily in their ancient Santa Isabela factory in that country. Duster production will be kept in Brazil and soon the Oroch pickup (based on the Duster and rumored to be a 1 ton pickup) will be launched. From what the press has been able to piece together, both Duster and Moroch will be produced off of the current platform and updates will be infrequent, following the age-old strategy of competing on price and, also, space. The Duster is larger than EcoSport and the recently launched Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V and Peugeot 2008. The Moroch will dwarf the current Fiat Strada (new, larger version of which has been seen tooling around the factory), VW Saveiro and the old-as-the-hills, barely competitive Chevrolet Montana.

The Moroch however is an indication of the deepening of the CUV event horizon presciently seen by our recently departed Derek Kreindler. Renault is going all-CUV-in. The Renault Captur, a current Clio-based mini CUV is a foregone conclusion. Renault is not even hiding it anymore and it has been seen around the factory in Paraná and on highway tests. This lends credence to the thesis Renault is re-inventing itself. The new Brazilian Clio, the same again as the Euro Clio, should also appear soon, albeit placed in a category above the current Brazilian Clio’s status. Suppliers also say Renault is quoting prices for a sedan version of the Clio (non-existent in Europe) and indicative of the soon to come demise of its midsize sedan offering, the Fluence. Informed journalists in Brazil have stated that the Espace, Renault’s large (and former) minivan, which has turned into a sort of a CUV, is slated to be introduced in Brazil in 2016 as a locally-produced offering.

The current Brazilian Clio is also on its last days. Though reports are conflicting, either a version of Nissan’s own low-cost brand Datsun Go will be built here in Brazil, or a version of the concept recently shown in world Auto Shows by Nissan called the Sway (supposedly an early version of a substitute for the March/Micra line), could gain a Renault badge and come strong in the lower echelons of the Brazilian market.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, besides the heavy modernizing investments at the local plant and the responsibility of building the Logan family, current cars will remain in production. And very interestingly, the new Frontier/Navara pickup that will used by Mercedes Benz to offer its own global midsize pickup (compact PU for Americans) will also gain a Renault badge for sale, initially, all over Latin America. Internally called the Raptur, this will be Renault’s first incursion into the traditional midsize pickup market. It is an important step and will allow Renault to compete in an important market spanning the entirety of Latin America. Coming soon (reports say early 2016) you could soon take your pick and buy your midsize pickup in your preferred flavor – Nissan, Mercedes or Renault – as they will all be built side-by-side at the Argentinian factory.

The next few years will be very important for Renault in Latin America. It will keep and modernize entry-level cars. It will continue offering competitively priced compact cars that offer a bit more and are the bulk of the Brazilian market. It will make new tries, with new product, to gain a presence in upper middle-class garages by “Euro-pizing” its Brazilian production. It will sell CUVs for all pockets. Pickups, small and large will further broaden Renault’s Latin American presence.

If this will be enough to keep Toyota and Hyundai at bay remains to be seen. However, it seems if they will be offering cars, CUVs and trucks, the market wants. Sounds like a plan.

Brazilian Clio Ayrton Senna Factory Hyundai HB20 Nissan Frontier Renault Oroch Concept Santa Isabela Factory Renault Logan Renault Captur European Clio Renault Fluence Renault Kangoo Express Toyota Etios

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Marchionne Isn’t Finding Any Potential Dates For Marriage http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/marchionne-isnt-finding-potential-dates-marriage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/marchionne-isnt-finding-potential-dates-marriage/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 19:09:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052385 Though FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne is still looking to merge his company with another automaker, no one is all that willing to tie the knot. Despite Marchionne’s quest to consolidate the industry by leading by example, he’s managed to strike out in some way with Ford, General Motors, Peugeot, Renault-Nissan and Volkswagen. Regarding GM, CEO Mary […]

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2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus

Though FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne is still looking to merge his company with another automaker, no one is all that willing to tie the knot.

Despite Marchionne’s quest to consolidate the industry by leading by example, he’s managed to strike out in some way with Ford, General Motors, Peugeot, Renault-Nissan and Volkswagen.

Regarding GM, CEO Mary Barra stated Thursday that her company already had plans of its own and that it wasn’t interested in consolidation with another automaker, according to Detroit Free Press:

We laid out a comprehensive plan that takes us through the early part of next decade. We’re already in that top tier. We have a well-articulated plan and we are not going to entertain anything that would distract us from achieving that plan.

Meanwhile, a proposed tie-up with Volkswagen came to naught, though Marchionne stated such a thing was never in the cards in the first place, despite claims by VW Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch of having met with FCA officials to discuss buying a part or all of FCA.

Though there are still other smaller automakers Marchionne could pursue in the spirit of consolidation, like Mazda and Tata, there’s the issue of his own company’s performance as of late. Already stuck with large debts, Forbes states profitability is a major issue among shareholders regarding the automaker. In the U.S. alone, the issue stems from its pursuit of sales volume over profit via aggressive incentivizing. As a result, margins remain at 4 percent and pre-tax earnings have climbed a mere $2.7 billion, even with revenues doubling by $40 billion since the start of the new decade. Thus, no company would likely consider consolidating with FCA.

As for why Marchionne is banging the drum of consolidation, especially as far as his company is concerned, it comes down to survival in the face of competition from outsiders like Google and Apple. The arrival of non-traditional companies like the two tech giants could force automakers to keep up with the pace of change such companies would set the further the latter group digs into the former.

For now, though, the FCA CEO laments the difficulty in finding a partner, going as far as to provide Bloomberg with a metaphor about the search earlier this month:

One of the most difficult things to do is to get the turkey to invite himself to Thanksgiving dinner.

[Photo credit: FCA]

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No Fixed Abode: They Paved Manuals, and Put Up a Four-Door Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/no-fixed-abode-paved-manuals-put-four-door-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/no-fixed-abode-paved-manuals-put-four-door-coupe/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 12:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1051649 I come to bury Derek Kreindler, not to praise him. No, wait. I come to praise Derek, not to bury him. Scratch that. I come to agree with Derek, and to disagree with him. And to agree with him again. Wait a minute, it will make sense. One of the several admirable ways in which […]

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inteior

I come to bury Derek Kreindler, not to praise him.

No, wait.

I come to praise Derek, not to bury him.

Scratch that.

I come to agree with Derek, and to disagree with him. And to agree with him again. Wait a minute, it will make sense.

One of the several admirable ways in which my erstwhile boss and even more erstwhile employee diverged from conventional auto-journo thinking was his relentless focus on the real reasons behind automobile manufacturers’ product-planning decisions. Every time some writer for Social Justice Hooning And European Vacations trotted out the usual complaints about the lack of brown diesel-powered, stick-shifted, MB-Tex-interior, E30-sized station wagons, Derek would unleash hell on the poor fellow, pointing out that American consumers get the model mix they’re getting because it is the model mix for which they have voted, again and again, with their wallets. He never tired of forcibly redirecting the assignment of responsibility for today’s tepid dealership inventory from the OEMs to the buyers.

In doing this, he was breaking the fourth wall of automotive journalism a bit. Everybody in the business talks to the same product planners and has access to the same numbers, but nobody wants to annoy the reader by pointing out his culpability in the disappearance of enthusiast-focused automobiles. It’s a funny double standard. You’re allowed to injure the customer by pretending that the Porsche IMS issue and a hundred other similarly offensive quality problems don’t exist, you’re allowed to screw him over by puff-piecing junk product, but you’re not allowed to add insult to those injuries. Instead, the writer conspires with the reader after a fashion, by pretending to believe that the reader is ready to buy a brown diesel manual wagon the moment one appears. This gratifies the reader, who as a consumer of automotive media fancies himself to be quite different from the two million other people who took delivery of a CR-V-shaped nonentity-mobile in the past year. All those other people bought CR-V-esque things because they are idiots, but he did so because the hipster wagon of his dreams did not happen to be available. This mild conspiracy is widely held to benefit all parties involved and it leads to many people writing very complimentary things in the comments section – but Derek didn’t play that.

Young Mr. K’s refusal to give new-car buyers a pass on that matter, even if they were valued members of the B&B, was both admirable and charming. Yet as a grizzled old veteran of the showroom sales floor, I have to wonder if all of the blame for – say, the existence of the BMW X4 – can be placed directly on the shoulders of the American middle class. Could there be another reason that we, the *ahem* enlightened cognoscenti showing our black fleece in uneven and miniscule distribution among endless flocks of white sheep, cannot get the cars that we are truly ready to buy?

Or, to strip the veneer of genericity from the question – why the fuck did I have to buy a two-door car in order to get a manual transmission in a Honda Accord V6?

08accordex-l-v6_27.jpg

Let’s apply Derek’s reasoning to that question. Is it because nobody wants a V6 manual Accord sedan? I doubt that. Somebody wants it. I want it. I’ve talked to other people who bought a stick-shift coupe or an auto sedan because they couldn’t have the manual sedan they wanted. The problem is that we, the Would-Be Stick Sedan Buyers Of America (WBSSBOA), are not Honda customers. We think we are, and the auto-journo-industrial complex pretends that we are, and the TV ads pretend that we are, but we are not.

We are the customers of Honda dealerships. Honda dealerships, in turn, are the customers of Honda. When Honda sells a car to the floorplan bank of a dealership, son, that car is sold in Honda’s eyes and it doesn’t matter if it sits behind the detail shop for seven years before getting a temp tag on it. In practice, of course, dealerships almost always move the metal sooner than that, even when the metal is garbage. And in exchange for agreeing to borrow money to buy millions of dollars’ worth of inventory that they then have to sell using regional TV spots and newspaper ads and free popcorn and deceptive business practices and whatnot, the dealers get to tell Honda just how the fuck it’s gonna be. Their power is not absolute – note that you can now have A/C and/or a stereo factory-installed in a Honda, which breaks the heart of the scumbag dealers who loved the profit from those add-ons the way John Bonham loved alcohol – but it is formidable.

1995 Ford Explorer

Now let’s sit down for a moment so Uncle Jack can tell you a story. In 1995, I worked at a very small Ford dealership. We had room on our lot for fewer than 200 cars and trucks of all kinds, period, point blank. But you can bet your sweet bippy that at least ten of those trucks would be absolutely identical Explorer 4WD XLT 945A package trucks in Medium Willow Green. Why? Because we could sell every one we got. If an eleventh Explorer 4WD XLT 945A package truck in Medium Willow Green showed up and we didn’t have room for it, we’d make the service employees park down the street.

How many Explorer Eddie Bauer trucks did we have? Never more than two, and usually none. It was simple. The Bauers didn’t sell in volume significant enough to justify keeping one in stock. Ninety-five percent of the people who came on the lot looking for a Bauer could be moved to an XLT 945A. The reverse was not true, because the Bauer cost so much more to lease due to its lack of “top to bottom sticker discount”, a concept on which I shall perorate further some other time.

“But Jack,” you say, “why didn’t you keep five Willow Green XLTs in stock and five Bauers (or, G-d help me, Limiteds) in stock?” Good question. The answer is simple. We could never be assured of a constant allocation stream for Willow Green XLTs. So we needed to get every one we could get, even if it meant occasionally having fifteen in stock, because that way we didn’t ever face a situation where we sold six of them in a weekend (happened All. The. Time.) and had none left. Faced with a choice between the certainty of selling a Willow Green XLT and the possibility of selling a red Bauer, we chose the XLT, in bulk, constantly.

Every Ford model had the equivalent of the Willow Green XLT. For the Escort, it was the cheapo LX hatchback in Jade Green. For the Taurus, it was the GL sedan in silver. For the F-150, it was the XLT supercab in red. We could not afford to be out of stock on these items. Being out of stock on these items would lead to losing the customer to another dealer who had these items in stock.

As a result, our under-200-unit dealership lot, viewed from the air, had a very monocultural look to it. We really only sold about twenty different combinations of model and equipment. Everything else was a special order. If you special ordered, you could have that black Explorer Limited 2WD. But you’d wait. And this is America, where people don’t wait.

Skoda Showroom, UK

If you go to Europe, on the other hand, you’ll see that car showrooms are just that — showrooms. You look at the car they have, then you order the car you want. You are the customer. The dealership is the delivery method. This method is so radically different in all of its implications for the underlying business practices that I feel it should be repeated:

And swear I meant that there so much that they give that line a rewind

In Europe, You are the customer. The dealership is the delivery method.

In America, the dealer is the customer. And the dealer wants quick-turning inventory. He does not have a lot of space to store that inventory and he doesn’t have unlimited funds with which to purchase it. Therefore, it isn’t just important a potential in-stock unit have a buyer; it’s important it have a buyer right now.

Let’s say that Honda brought the V6 manual sedan back. And let’s say that they needed a minimum production run of 10,000 in order to make it worthwhile. That’s about eleven units for every Honda dealer in America. Can the dealers sell eleven manual V6 sedans each in a year? I bet they could. But they would rather have that spot for an automatic I-4 sedan, because that car is a guaranteed quick sale. They can sell that spot in the lot more than eleven times a year with an I-4 automatic EX. And here’s the thing: they can use that spot on their lot for an I-4 EX in another color, which keeps customers on their lot. Customers like seeing all the available colors of a car in stock. It helps sell cars that aren’t in that color, because it creates the illusion of choice. Towards that end, we always had one white XLT 945A next to the green ones – so people could look at it and then buy the green one. So the reason you can’t get a manual V6 sedan is simple: the dealer loses money keeping it in stock, even if/when it sells, compared to the potential for stocking more popular choices in that space.

Why can’t you special-order a V6 manual sedan? The same reason Honda wouldn’t sell me a brown V6 manual coupe, even if I paid extra and waited for it. Manufacturers are extremely allergic to small-batch production. Honda does not want to sell 2,000 special-order manual V6 sedans a year. It creates an entire extra model to EPA certify and put in the brochure and observe for recalls. It’s too much hassle. Similarly, they don’t want to sell 500 brown V6 manual coupes. Better to force that small buyer group into just a few colors.

“But Jack,” you’re saying, “you’re describing conditions that have been in place for thirty years. What’s changed?” Well, what’s changed is the model mix, particularly at manufacturers like BMW. It’s exploded. They used to make one 3 Series – the 320i – and it had two doors, no choice. Now they make so many variants of the Three that some of them are called Fours and others are called X3s and others are called X4s and cut-down ones are called X1 and 2 Series.

The BMW dealer of 1980 just needed space for a few 320i coupes. Today’s BMW dealer needs guaranteed in-stock inventory of no fewer than a dozen highly popular variants of the 3 Series. When the X4 debuted, your local BMW dealer needed to make room on its lot to stock, say, five X4s in silver with Premium and cold weather packages. Where’d that space come from? Did it come from high-profit stuff like the 760Li or M6 Gran Coupe?

Of course not. It came from oddballs, the 328i Sport manuals, the Z4s, the non-DCT M3s. The space came from inventory that doesn’t have a guaranteed turn. The same is true for the V6 manual Accord, which used to be available for sale even though it was low-volume. That space can be better used for the HR-V or a Pilot Touring or any of the dozen-plus other vehicles Honda didn’t sell in this country twenty years ago. Where do you think the space for the repugnant CLA comes from at your local Benz shop? Not from gloss-black S-Classes with basic option packages. Not from GLE350s or whatever they’re called now. It comes from manual SLK250s and C250 Sports.

Is there a fix for the situation? In the short term, absolutely not. In the long term, it is possible that local assembly and more flexible supply lines could reduce the wait time for new-vehicle orders to a window that the average American could accept. Say, one week. I think if BMW could deliver a 3-Series to its customers seven days after they specced it out, as many as half of those customers would choose a custom order. Too bad that scenario won’t come true until long after the last vestige of character has been entirely removed from all available automobiles. By the time Honda can just-in-time me a brown V6 manual Accord with cloth interior and 17″ wheels, it won’t be possible to make one.

In the meantime, what can you do? It’s simple. Buy something weird. Order something the dealer doesn’t have. A different color. An odd combination of options. A lime-green coupe with a brown interior. Vote with your wallet for something else. Doesn’t matter what it is. Because when you order a car from the factory and refuse to consent to taking a dealer-traded vehicle or the next-best thing they have in stock, you become something you’ve never been before.

You become an automaker’s customer.

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Ford Vignale Mondeo Ready To Deliver Total Package To Europe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-vignale-mondeo-ready-deliver-total-package-europe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-vignale-mondeo-ready-deliver-total-package-europe/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 17:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1049993 It’s brown, it can be had as a wagon with diesel power and a manual, but like the new Taurus in China, the Ford Vignale Mondeo will never come here. The Vignale Mondeo is the first of the upscale Vignale models to emerge from Ford of Europe’s Vignale Centre in Valencia, Spain. The centre will also […]

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Ford Vignale Mondeo

It’s brown, it can be had as a wagon with diesel power and a manual, but like the new Taurus in China, the Ford Vignale Mondeo will never come here.

The Vignale Mondeo is the first of the upscale Vignale models to emerge from Ford of Europe’s Vignale Centre in Valencia, Spain. The centre will also be responsible for bringing the S-Max Vignale to European showrooms later this year. Pre-orders for the Mondeo are set for May, with interested customers able to place those orders in-person at one of the so-called Vignale Lounges inside FoE’s new flagship FordStores across Europe.

And what will those new Vignale owners receive when they take delivery of their wagon or sedan? For starters, power comes from either a 2.0-liter EcoBoost producing 202 and 237 horses, a 2.0-liter TDCi diesel good for 178 horses, a twin-turbo 2.0-liter TDCi delivering 207 horsepower, or a hybrid powertrain capable of 185 horsepower. The EcoBoost models send their power through a six-speed auto, while the diesels go through either a six-speed manual or a PowerShift automatic. Either way, the power is directed to the front or (on occasion) all four corners as determined by Ford’s iAWD intelligent all-wheel drive system.

Outside, the Vignale Mondeo can be had in a handful of shades, including an exclusive brown tone called Vignale Nocciola. Chrome door details, 18-inch alloys, and high-gloss front and side exterior trim pieces contribute to the “sleek, emotive design” of the Mondeo, says Ford.

Inside, heavy use of sound-deadening insulation and acoustic glass help keep NVH levels down, while active noise cancellation ensures that the engine noise will never dominate one’s enjoyment of Vivaldi’s “Spring,” as played through Sony’s DAB 12-speaker audio/navigation system.

Other features include: Sync 2 connected-vehicle system; traffic sign recognition; dynamic LED headlights; inflatable rear seat belts; heated steering wheel; pre-collision assist; quilted leather seating with tuxedo stitching; custom luggage and other fashion accessories; and a wide array of Vignale-branded bespoke services, as handled by “a dedicated Vignale relationship manager.”

While North American consumers won’t have a Vignale of any sort to consider, Lincoln’s comeback is more than enough to push aside the thought of a “Vignale All the Things” Fusion.

FordVignale_Mondeo_4door_01 FordVignale_Mondeo_4door_12 FordVignale_Mondeo_Wagon_05 FordVignale_Mondeo_Wagon_01 FordVignale_Mondeo_Wagon_02 FordVignale_Collection_16 FordVignale_Mondeo_Wagon_03 FordVignale_Mondeo_Wagon_04 FordVignale_Collection_18 FordVignale_Collection_14 FordVignale_Mondeo_4door_02

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U.S. Ford Mustang Sales Boom In March 2015: Mustang Outsells Lincoln; Outsells Camaro And Challenger Combined http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/u-s-ford-mustang-sales-boom-march-2015-mustang-outsells-lincoln-outsells-camaro-challenger-combined/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/u-s-ford-mustang-sales-boom-march-2015-mustang-outsells-lincoln-outsells-camaro-challenger-combined/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 14:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1048441 The Ford Mustang outsold the whole Lincoln brand by a 1.5-to-1 count in March. U.S. Mustang volume has, not surprisingly, risen sharply since the age of the sixth-generation model began. March’s tally, however, was particularly notable, not just because of the way in which Mustang volume made Lincoln’s abysmal total appear even worse (Lincoln sales […]

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04-2015-ford-mustang-1The Ford Mustang outsold the whole Lincoln brand by a 1.5-to-1 count in March. U.S. Mustang volume has, not surprisingly, risen sharply since the age of the sixth-generation model began.

March’s tally, however, was particularly notable, not just because of the way in which Mustang volume made Lincoln’s abysmal total appear even worse (Lincoln sales slid 3%, year-over-year, to just 8695 units) but because the Mustang outsold the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, combined.

That won’t become a long-term trend. General Motors is already gradually leaking details of its next Camaro. The Challenger, meanwhile, is selling better than ever. Sales have only increased on an annual basis since Dodge brought the nameplate back in 2008.

Nevertheless, the Mustang’s March total of 12,663 U.S. sales was, according to Ford, the “best performance in eight years.”

More precisely, Mustang volume hasn’t been this healthy on a monthly basis since June 2007.

Car
March
2015
March
2014
%
Change
3 mos.
2015
3 mos.
2014
%
Change
Ford Mustang
12,663 9,305 36.1% 29,811 19,596 52.1%
Dodge Challenger
6,110 4,882 25.2% 15,957 11,034 44.6%
Chevrolet Camaro
5,956 8,624 -30.9% 17,320 19,568 -11.5%
Total
24,729
22,811 8.4% 63,088 50,198 25.7%

Remember the summer of oh-seven? Yeah, Bush was president, Craig Biggio was still playing baseball, and you were singing all the words to Umbrella in a rented Caliber. More importantly, the Camaro hadn’t returned from its lengthy hiatus, and the Challenger was still months away from being available for order.

In that era, 12,781 Mustang sales wasn’t all that impressive. Ford averaged nearly 14,000 monthly Mustang sales in the United States the year before.

But in 2015, when the overall passenger car market isn’t quite as large and in decline, when competitors of various types are attempting to steal sales, when most other Ford cars posting decreased volume, the Mustang’s surge to 12,663 March sales is rather impressive.

The Mustang was America’s 18th-best-selling car in March 2015 and finished the month just 68 sales back of the 17th-ranked Kia Soul. Besting vehicles like the Subaru Outback and Volkswagen Jetta, the Mustang accounted for 17% of Ford brand car sales, significantly more than the Taurus, Taurus Police Interceptor, Fiesta, and C-Max combined.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Challenger year-to-date figures updated, intiially published with Charger Q1 figures.

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Shanghai 2015: Chinese Domestic Market Ford Taurus Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/shanghai-2015-chinese-domestic-market-ford-taurus-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/shanghai-2015-chinese-domestic-market-ford-taurus-revealed/#comments Sun, 19 Apr 2015 19:28:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1047689 Bowing at the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show, the Ford Taurus’ arrival marks the sedan’s first-ever appearance in the Chinese market. The new Taurus is one of 15 new vehicles Ford intends to bring to China by 2015. It’s set to be assembled at the automaker’s recently opened Changan Ford Hangzhou factory, a flexible-assembly facility with […]

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Taurus_02

Bowing at the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show, the Ford Taurus’ arrival marks the sedan’s first-ever appearance in the Chinese market.

The new Taurus is one of 15 new vehicles Ford intends to bring to China by 2015. It’s set to be assembled at the automaker’s recently opened Changan Ford Hangzhou factory, a flexible-assembly facility with an investment of $760 million and an annual production of 250,000 units.

Power for the sedan comes from a 2.7-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V6, though power figures weren’t stated at this time. Meanwhile, rear passengers can enjoy power-reclining seats with optional adjustable lumbar support and massage function, fold-down center cushion that boasts a control panel for AC, seat functions and infotainment, and plenty of leg, shoulder, head and hip room thanks to the cabin design and 9.7 feet of length in the wheel base (16 feet overall).

Other features include: 25 different places to store items inside the cabin; cup holders that can adjust to different sizes of tea bottles; a panoramic sunroof whose front panel slides over the rear to ensure better rear-passenger headroom; leather seating and wood and chrome trim pieces; and extensive use of NVH-reducing materials and technologies.

New Ford Taurus Taurus_02 Taurus_03 Taurus_04 Taurus_05 Taurus_06 Taurus_07 Taurus_09

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Long-term Tester Update: Fiesta ST on the Free-Love Freeway http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/long-term-tester-update-fiesta-st-free-love-freeway/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/long-term-tester-update-fiesta-st-free-love-freeway/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 16:18:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046394 “Whoa, hold on. A car hauler is actively trying to run me off the road.” Yesterday, I was talking to my older brother via Bluetooth while driving home from Louisville when, for the third time in approximately ninety miles of highway driving, a trucker was moving over on me in a way that clearly indicated […]

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“Whoa, hold on. A car hauler is actively trying to run me off the road.”

Yesterday, I was talking to my older brother via Bluetooth while driving home from Louisville when, for the third time in approximately ninety miles of highway driving, a trucker was moving over on me in a way that clearly indicated that he hadn’t seen me. Not in the passive aggressive way that truckers normally do, when they put on a blinker and start moving slowly in expectation that you’ll just get out of their way—no, this was a straight-up swing out into what he perceived to be an empty lane. I quickly checked my mirrors and accelerated into the adjacent lane.

“You in the FiST?” my brother asked.

“But of course!” I replied.

Such is the danger of driving a B segment car on the highways of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

In the weeks since I last updated you on my leasership of my 2015 Fiesta ST, I’ve had the opportunity to put some serious highway miles on it. After its first month of living with me, when I racked up a whopping 500 miles or so as the snow and ice pummeled the Midwest, I’ve since put an additional 1800 miles on the clock for a total of 2300. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s 2300 miles that didn’t go on my Boss 302 (come on, equity building!), but equally important is that I did 2300 miles at a combined 30 MPG as opposed to a combined 18 MPG.

Although the Fiesta ST doesn’t necessarily require premium fuel, it’s much happier drinking 93 octane than 87—I’ve noticed about 33 MPG highway on 87 versus 35 MPG on 93. There is also a noticeable torque difference. In theory, the ECU can tell the difference when you use regular versus premium and adjusts the ignition timing accordingly. In practice, the car feels better on 93. For highway cruising, though, it doesn’t matter much.

As good as the Fiesta is on back roads, for long stretches of highway miles, it can leave a little to be desired. The stiffly sprung suspension does not care for potholes at all, and the long, cold winter of Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana seems to have created more than I can remember in years past. There’s no such thing as mindless driving behind the wheel of the ST—one divot in the middle of a lane can ruin your day, or in my case, your alignment. A particularly nasty bump on I-64 in Kentucky seems to have knocked my alignment off ever so slightly, to the point where the steering wheel is listing a bit to the right. I’ll have to get that looked at this week.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the Fiesta ST is invisible to truckers. Not only that, it also appears to be invisible to Tahoes and F-250s. I am typically forced into evasive action about once a day if there’s even a bit of traffic around me.

Visibility out of the rear windshield is a bit limited (especially with track decals), and the truck-style side mirrors take a bit of getting used to.

013

 

There are pluses, however. It’s surprisingly quiet on the freeway. Tire and wind noise are minimal, even at speeds approaching triple digits. The Bluetooth works flawlessly, and it’s even suitable for taking a conference call—nobody will know that you’re in the car. I don’t have the Recaro seat option in my car, and I’m actually pretty glad about that when it comes to highway driving. Although I fit in them just fine, one doesn’t always want to be gripped like a glove when driving 250 miles at a time. The standard seats have lumbar support, but I like it best without it.

I’ve had exactly zero issues with MyFordTouch so far. The navigation system is excellent for daily usage—easily the best I’ve used in a car. Mrs. Bark used it to navigate her way out of a closed highway situation last weekend, saving her over an hour. While I have no plans to extend my Sirius trial, I have to admit that it’s useful for traveling longer distances, or for driving through areas where my phone can’t easily stream Spotify.

Okay, so this bit doesn’t have anything to do with freeway driving, but I wanted to include it anyway. There’s this little button on the center console. I pressed it a few times during the day, but nothing seemed to happen.

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But at night, it’s a different story. Observe:

Click here to view the embedded video.

I know, it’s a little dorky, but I dig it.

In the next month, I’ll be taking the ST to its first autocross (where I expect to be stoned by angry jorts-wearers) as well as its first track day. I look forward to sharing those experiences with you, as well.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Rude Remarks? GO!

 

 

 

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Best-In-A-Decade March 2015 Ford Explorer Sales Cause Us To Remember Times Gone By http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/best-decade-march-2015-ford-explorer-sales-cause-us-remember-times-gone/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/best-decade-march-2015-ford-explorer-sales-cause-us-remember-times-gone/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:18:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1044946 In the lead-up to the launch of a refreshed 2016 Ford Explorer, March 2015 sales of the current model rose to the highest March output since 2005 and the highest monthly level regardless of season since July 2005. Explorer volume jumped 19% to 23,058 in March 2015, a total made up of 2293 Police Interceptor […]

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Ford SUV sales chart March 2015In the lead-up to the launch of a refreshed 2016 Ford Explorer, March 2015 sales of the current model rose to the highest March output since 2005 and the highest monthly level regardless of season since July 2005.

Explorer volume jumped 19% to 23,058 in March 2015, a total made up of 2293 Police Interceptor Utilities (up 45%) and 20,765 civilian Explorers (up 17%).

In a month which saw particularly strong results from the Nissan Rogue and Chevrolet Equinox, the Explorer ranked sixth among America’s best-selling SUVs and crossovers. (With consistently strong performances from the CR-V, Escape, and RAV4, it’s not reasonable to think the Explorer could routinely stand on the podium.)

But those are all smaller CUVs. Among vehicles which come standard with a third row of seating, the Explorer outsold the next-best-selling three-row crossover, Toyota’s Highlander, by more than 10,019 units and the best-selling minivan, Toyota’s Sienna, by 10,203 sales.

2015 Ford ExplorerCombined, GM sold 24,197 copies of their Lambda-platform (Traverse, Acadia, Enclave) crossovers, a 2% year-over-year gain. But in the interest of full disclosure, Ford also sold 1848 copies of the Flex, which takes the Ford brand’s three-row CUV total up to a Lambda-besting 24,906 units.

That’s besides the point, however. The real story is the return to high-volume status for the Explorer. Last America’s top-selling SUV nine years ago, the Explorer has improved upon its 2006 total in each of the last two years. If the current rate of improvement holds through the next three-quarters, Ford will sell more than 260,000 Explorers in the U.S. this year, the highest total since 2004. March 2015 sales marked the first time since May of last year, which had marked the best month of Explorer sales since July 2005, that Ford had sold more than 20,000 Explorers in a single month. But Explorer sales have increased in 13 consecutive months.

Last month’s 23,058-unit tally was down 7% compared to the previous best March of 2005, but there’s a key difference between the two performances. In March 2005, sales tumbled 17%, a loss of 5000 units compared with March 2004. 2005 was to be the third consecutive year of decline in what would become a seven-year streak. March 2015, on the other hand, marked a 19%, 3700-unit improvement. 2015 is set to be the sixth consecutive year of improved Explorer sales.

Granted, the Explorer isn’t back to historic levels yet, nor is it likely to get back there. Ford averaged 405,000 annual Explorer sales in the U.S. during the decade between 1995 and 2004. The utility vehicle sector has broadened significantly since then, and the competition between nameplates, not to mention the changing tastes of consumers, hasn’t allowed a single SUV/CUV nameplate to come within 60,000 units of the 400K mark since Ford sold 373,000 Explorers twelve years ago.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Ford To Announce $2.5B Investment In Mexico On 90th Anniversary http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-announce-2-5b-investment-mexico-90th-anniversary/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-announce-2-5b-investment-mexico-90th-anniversary/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1044762 This Friday, Ford will announce a $2.5-billion investment plan for two of its factories in Mexico. According to Reuters, Ford will spend $1.3 billion to expand its engine production facility in northern Chihuahua for two new diesels, with the remaining $1.2 billion to go a transmission plant in Guanajuato. A government representative said the Chihuahua […]

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Ford Chihuahua Plant in Mexico

This Friday, Ford will announce a $2.5-billion investment plan for two of its factories in Mexico.

According to Reuters, Ford will spend $1.3 billion to expand its engine production facility in northern Chihuahua for two new diesels, with the remaining $1.2 billion to go a transmission plant in Guanajuato. A government representative said the Chihuahua investment would create 4,000 jobs as a result.

The announcement will be made in Mexico City in celebration of Ford’s 90th anniversary in Mexico, with Mexico president Enrique Peña Nieto set to attend. Ford’s previous major investment occurred in 2008, when the automaker spent $3 billion to update the Cuautitlan plant for production of the Fiesta.

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Published Ford Patent Reveals 11-Speed Automatic Transmission http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/published-ford-patent-reveals-11-speed-automatic-transmission/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/published-ford-patent-reveals-11-speed-automatic-transmission/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 10:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1043146 Ten-speed transmissions not enough? Ford is turning it up to 11 with an 11-speed automatic waiting in the wings. AutoGuide reports the patent application for the 11-speed was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in early October of 2013, with schematics like the one above showing various combinations of clutches, brakes and gearing. […]

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Ford 11-Speed Transmission Schematic

Ten-speed transmissions not enough? Ford is turning it up to 11 with an 11-speed automatic waiting in the wings.

AutoGuide reports the patent application for the 11-speed was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in early October of 2013, with schematics like the one above showing various combinations of clutches, brakes and gearing.

As for when such a thing will arrive to direct power for an F-150 or a GT, representative Paul Seredynski wouldn’t give confirmation, stating that Ford submits ideas to the patent office “as a normal course of business” in protecting new ideas, and is not an indication of any future plans or products. Until then, consumers will have to settle for the 10-speed unit set for the 2017 Raptor.

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Ford, Toyota Missing Amid Subcompact Crossover Boom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-toyota-missing-amid-subcompact-crossover-boom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-toyota-missing-amid-subcompact-crossover-boom/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1039593 What do Ford and Toyota have in common as far as subcompact crossovers go? They’re the only ones without such a thing in their respective USDM lineups. Detroit Free Press says that while “city-sized” crossovers like the Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade and Buick Encore — the last one being the catalyst for the current mini-CUV […]

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2014 Ford EcoSport

What do Ford and Toyota have in common as far as subcompact crossovers go? They’re the only ones without such a thing in their respective USDM lineups.

Detroit Free Press says that while “city-sized” crossovers like the Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade and Buick Encore — the last one being the catalyst for the current mini-CUV boom — are doing well for themselves in the United States, Ford and Toyota are nowhere to be seen. Kelly Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer explains:

The small SUV trend is undeniable. These vehicles are hot, with the potential to easily sell in the tens of thousands or more. Neither Ford nor Toyota has shown any plans to jump into this space, which seems crazy given the revenue both companies generate from their other SUV lines.

Though Toyota is tight-lipped about its product plans in this segment, Ford has the EcoSport to consider. That said, the latter is taking a “wait-and-see” approach in bringing the subcompact to the United States, according to Edmunds.com analyst Jeremy Acevedo, adding that Ford could bring the EcoSport up to USDM spec if it made sense to do so.

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Bark’s Bites: The Good, The Not-As-Good, and The Ugly: Part Four http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-four/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-four/#comments Sun, 05 Apr 2015 19:56:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1038409 All right, it’s the big close! The one we’ve all been waiting for! Will Bark show his fanboi colors as somebody who owns not one, not two, but THREE Fords? Does GM actually do anything well? Is Chrysler on the road back to respectability? Does anybody really like articles with questions like this? Let’s go! […]

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All right, it’s the big close! The one we’ve all been waiting for! Will Bark show his fanboi colors as somebody who owns not one, not two, but THREE Fords? Does GM actually do anything well? Is Chrysler on the road back to respectability? Does anybody really like articles with questions like this? Let’s go!

FCA/CHRYSLER

The Good:

I can go ahead and put JEEP here. Yes, I’m aware of the Compass. I’m even aware of the Patriot.

But the Cherokee has been better than expected, both from a performance perspective and a sales perspective. I’m consistently shocked as I travel the country about just how many of them I see everywhere—they aren’t a regional success, like some cars. They’re everywhere. And the growth is magnificent—the Cherokee continues to climb up the sales charts every single month. It’s come a long way since DK (that’s Derek Kreindler, not Drift King) reviewed it those many moons ago.

To be honest, though, I’d step up to the Grand Cherokee, if it were my money (or my dad’s). It’s the best SUV for the money in today’s marketplace. In fact, you might even be able to take that “for the money” qualifier off of it. We used one to take a crew of four to last year’s New York International Auto Show from Columbus, Ohio to LaGuardia airport. We had to take a Ford Edge back. We were all sad.

And what else can be said or needs to be said about the Wrangler? It’s a goddamned icon. It’s great. We should all be lucky as to have a reason to own one at some point in our lives.

We should all take a moment, as automotive enthusiasts, to recognize that we need to be grateful that the Charger and the 300 still exist. There’s really nothing more American than a full-sized, RWD sedan that can go like hell in a straight line. It straight up befuddles me that Ford and GM just hand over this segment of the business to Chrysler without a fight—if you want a real 300/Charger fighter, you have to go to Hyundai. That just ain’t right, people.

It’s hard to believe that there are now just three vehicles that are sold under the Chrysler brand in America. Luckily, the 200 is no longer an embarrassment to that once-great marque. It outsells the Sonata now, which was probably an unthinkable accomplishment in the last generation of 200s. The rest of the car is now a match for the remarkable Pentastar engine, especially when matched to the 9-speed automatic. My only complaint about the 200 is the dearth of colors that it’s available in. Go build one on the Chrysler site and try to make one that doesn’t look boring as heck. It’s tough.

The Viper goes here. I dare you to tell it that it doesn’t.

Don’t look now, but the RAM lineup is ever-so-quietly sneaking up on the F-150 and Silverado/Sierra twins, and it may have even overtaken them. In fact, if I were buying an entry-level pickup truck today, the RAM 1500 would be my personal choice. There’s a guy in my little Kentucky hamlet who owns a big, yellow “RUMBLE BEE,” and I have jealousy pangs every time that I see it.

The Not-As-Good:

This hurts, but I have to put the Challenger here. Listen, it’s not that I don’t love the Chally, because I totally do. I was moments away from buying one. And I love that FCA has embraced the true nature of the Challenger by building a Hellcat variant of it. But if you stack up the Challenger against its competition—the all-new Mustang and the soon-to-be all new Camaro—it’s genuinely difficult to make a case for buying one. If you have no sporting pretense at all, if you just wanna go fast in a straight line and then have a comfortable cruiser the other 99.9% of your car’s life, then the Challenger is for you. But if you ever have any ideas about taking it to a track that actually has turns in it, then you’d be silly for not buying the Camaro or Mustang. And while the Mustang and Camaro are markedly better on a track than a Chally, the Chally isn’t that much better for daily driving. I drive what is potentially the least comfortable Mustang there is every day, and never once do I think, “Boy, if only I’d bought that leather-seated, softly-sprung Challenger SRT-8 instead.” Does being a very, very good 3rd place out of three mean that you go here, or up there? Oh, boy. I think it means you go here. Sorry, Challenger.

The inventor of the minivan has been surpassed. The Grand Caravan is still a fantastic value, simply because it’s available at under $20K in many parts of the country after rebates and discounts, but neither the GC nor the Town & Country are going to win any comparison tests any time soon. Did you guys know I own a Town & Country, btw? I do. Long story.

The Ugly:

The Journey suuuuuuuuuuucks. It’s so bad. Every time that I have to take one off of rental row, I silently ask God what I did to deserve such a fate. The Pentastar versions are borderline tolerable, but the four-cylinders that are mated to four-speed automatics are miserable places to be. I get why they exist—I mean, special finance has to be available on a crossover somewhere—but, man. The Journey is just light-years behind the competition. Unless you have a beacon score of less than 600, you have much, much better options.

One also has to wonder how Dodge botched the Dart so badly. Terrible engine options and manual-only at launch doomed this car. I’d be curious to know exactly what the market days supply is for the Dart—every CDJR dealership I visit has at least twenty of them on the lot, and nobody’s buying them. Also—why no SRT version? Why not dig up the old SRT-4 Neon engine and throw it in there?

The Fiat 500. I just can’t. A close friend of mine got an Abarth. He sold it six months later and got a Fiesta ST. I think that about wraps up my feelings on that car.

 

FORD

The Good:

It’s hard not to start this list with the Mustang. In order to dislike this generation of Mustang, you really have to want to dislike it. I admit, I was skeptical. But of you who called me out were right—the new Mustang is just better than the old one. Independent Rear Suspension has been a revelation. Ford is providing warranty support for people who want to boost their EcoBoosts through the roof. And the Shelby. Oh, goodness. It’s just pure perfection. I still don’t like the rear end of it, and I’m not 100% convinced that I’ll be trading my Boss for the GT350 when it arrives, but it’s clear that Ford has, dare I say, a game-changer on its hands here. They’re not going to reach their goal of 100K sold this year—they’ll smash it and probably sell 120-140k.

The Fiesta ST/Focus ST. I can’t think of another car that so many people in the automotive journalism field have opened up their wallets to buy new. I don’t think of myself as a journalist in any way, shape, or form, but I certainly think that Zach Bowman and Matt Farah qualify (but does Lieberman’s purchase cancel them out?).  When that many people who write about cars for a living (many of whom have so many testers delivered to them that they have no need to actually buy a car) sink their own money into a car, do you really even need to question its greatness any more? While I certainly think the Fiesta is the better driving of the two, for anybody who actually needs to make his ST into a daily driving machine, the FoST is the better choice.

Is there a better driver in the mid-sized sedan category than the Fusion? I’d say there are equals, but nothing better. Is there a better looking midsizer than the Fusion? No way. Where the Accord, Camry, and Altima blend in, the Fusion is much more likely to make your neighbors think you got a raise, even in SE trim.

The Not-As-Good

When I bought my own Flex in late 2013 (which, by the way, is “Good” but sells like it’s “Ugly”), I also test drove the new Escape. I loved it at the time, but it was just too small for my growing family’s needs. I still would have put it in the “Good” category up until quite recently, however, when I rented an Escape EcoBoost for a drive from Lexington, KY, to Myrtle Beach, SC. OH MY GOD THE FUEL ECONOMY! I think that it would have been cheaper to fly. The EcoBoost 1.6 in the SE is supposed to average 32 MPG—I think I saw around 21. That, combined with the completely non-intuitive version of SYNC that you get on the SE, drops it into the “Not-As-Good” category.

As good as the ST version of the Fiesta is, the regular Fiesta is just…meh. I totally supported Caroline’s decision to get a Sonic over a Fiesta (say, doesn’t she owe us a one-year review of the Sonic?). Virtually none of the fun of the ST makes its way down into the SE. It’s not terrible—although the transmission problems are a bit scary—but I wouldn’t pick it over the competition.

The Explorer is just okay. I would never, ever buy one over a Grand Cherokee, and it’s just about even with the Highlander for me. It’s funny—it’s essentially the same car as the Flex, just lifted up a bit. For some reason, that changes everything. I don’t know why (other than the storage is compromised), but it does.

Here’s the biggest secret in the car business today—Ford dealers are scared to death about the F-150. They’ll whisper to you that Ford made a huge mistake by going aluminum. They’ll privately tell you that the Silverado might be a better value. They worry that the Colorado is eating into their sales. Truth be told, at the end of the year, the F-150 will still come out on top, but I can definitely tell you that Ford dealers aren’t nearly as confident in their halo car as they used to be.

The Ugly:

Will somebody put the Ford Taurus out of its misery? There is literally no reason for anybody to buy this car, or its stablemate, the MKS. The Impala, the Avalon, hell, even the Azera are better—and that’s only if you’re considering FWD! The Charger/300 and Genesis shame the Taurus, too. A rare miss from the Mulally era, the Taurus needs to be replaced immediately. Hmmm, if only somebody had suggested this a year ago.

The Edge needs to die or be replaced. It’s become redundant in its own lineup, and it’s noticeably older than any of its competitors.

I think LINCOLN is going in the right direction. Really, I do. The MKC is a good entry into a crowded marketplace (although, again, that fuel mileage). The rest of the lineup needs help. They need the Continental in the worst way—not because I think it will help sell one more MKZ, because I’m not sure that it will. But if it’s everything that it appears to be, it will be the first step in restoring some “premium” to the brand. Right now, there is literally not a single reason to buy a Lincoln over the Titanium version of the Ford that’s sitting across the showroom from it. Make the Continental. Make a bad-ass, four-door Mustang saloon for around $45k. Then we’ll talk.

 

GENERAL MOTORS

The Good:

Any “Good” list at GM has to start with the Corvette. It’s the best sports car, per dollar, in the universe. The biggest barrier to my purchase of a Shelby GT350 isn’t the cost of the SuperStang—it’s the fact that I have to drive past a GM dealer every day. The dealer where I bought my G8 and my Equinox has been purchased by a friend of mine, and he constantly tortures me with GM employee pricing on a Stingray. I’ve already gotten past the stigma of being a “RUSTANG” owner—I think I could overcome the gold chains and chesthair vibe of the Vette, too. It’s just gorgeous—I’ve yet to see a color that doesn’t look great on it. The fact that I live within a three-hour drive of the National Corvette Museum and its 4200′ straightaway doesn’t help my primal urge to buy one, either. We’ll see.

I predicted earlier in the year that the Colorado/Canyon twins would be a sales failure. Turns out that I’m an idiot. Do they sell as well as the Silverado/Sierra? No, of course not. But GM dealers are literally selling every single one that they can get. Here’s a fun game—go to www.gmc.com and search for Canyons in your area. Now, in theory, they are supposed to start at around $21K. IF you can find one with 50 miles of you, which is a big if unless you live in a big metro area, see, if you can find one for less than $30k. There are 5 within 100 miles of me, and the cheapest one is $31k. Every GMC dealer I talk to says that they haven’t even gotten one on the lot that stickers for under $30k, and most of the special orders are for trucks nearer to $40k. Same thing from the Chevy dealers that I talk to with the Colorado—I was able to find one for $23K, but all of the other examples within 100 miles were at least $34K. I know! I don’t get it either! I drove a GMC Canyon and found it to be just okay, but I’m admittedly not a big pickup guy. The market says they’re good, so I’m gonna take the market’s word for it.

My biggest personal surprise as I have written this series? The fact that I’m going to put BUICK here. Seriously. I kinda dig everything they’ve got going on right now. I’m not sure that I’d actually buy any of them, personally, but I love the fact that the Encore and the Regal exist in this marketplace. And of the full-sized FWD land barges out there, the Lacrosse AWD would be my pick (if I were tied-up, had a gun stuck to my head, and forced to choose one). Did you know that Buick, as a brand, outsells Audi, Acura, and Infiniti? It’s true.

The Sonic definitely goes here. Surprised? I would be too, except that I’ve personally put a few hundred miles on an LTZ hatch, and found it to be very, very good. I think that this might be an example of a car that becomes an exponentially greater value as a late-model, CPO car as opposed to new, more so than your average vehicle. When I see the sticker prices on new Sonics at dealerships, my eyes tend to roll back in my head a bit.

I like the Impala. It’s a shame that such a high percentage of them are sold in rental fleets, because I think that GM has somewhat diminished the Impala by making it seem like a “rental special.” A close friend and colleague has a V6 LT, and it’s a great car. If somebody wants a reliable, powerful car that seats four adults comfortably, and couldn’t care less about driving dynamics…why not pick the Impala?

I am going to reserve judgment on the new Camaro until I see it in the flesh. I would have put the old SS and V6 in the “Not-As-Good” category, and the 1LE and Z/28 in the “Good.”

The Not-As-Good:

The Spark isn’t bad for what it is—I’ve had one or two as rentals, and while they are painfully slow, they aren’t as small inside as you’d think. The interiors are actually quite good, with comfortable seats and gauges that will seem familiar to Millennial types. I think the new one is going to be a marked improvement over the existing model, too.

I struggle with where to put the Cruze. I think I’d pick several of its competitors ahead of it, but would I? Civic? Probably not. Corolla? Definitely not. Elantra? No. Senta? Nope. Focus? Probably. So doesn’t that mean I think it’s the second best car in the segment? So why am I so blah about it? A friend and colleague has been driving his about 50K a year for the past three years with virtually no issues and great fuel economy. I don’t know. I can’t get excited at all about the Cruze, mostly because I every time that I drive one, the seats freaking kill my back. So it goes here.

I think that time has caught up a bit with the Equinox and Terrain. When I bought mine in 2011, I felt it was clearly the best choice in the segment. In 2015, I don’t think I can say the same.  Observed fuel economy has never been what GM claimed it would be. The dash and the infotainment feel old in 2015. I’d definitely pick the CR-V and CX-5 over the Equinox/Terrain now, and probably the Escape, too. That being said, it is absolutely the number one choice of traveling salespeople everywhere.

I really wish that GM would figure out what the heck they’re doing with the SS. They fixed the two issues with it—the lack of a manual transmission and the suspension—and then continued to put zero advertising push behind it. If I were just evaluating the SS based on the car itself, it would go in the “Good” category, no questions asked. I mean, Road and Track dared to compare it to what many consider the greatest sports sedan of all fucking time and it held its own. But I can’t reward GM for this half-baked strategy.

The Ugly:

The Traverse/Enclave/Acadia. Ugh. Gross. Overpriced, unreliable, ugly, old. GM needs to do better in this segment.

The old Malibu would definitely have gone here. It’s mindblowing that GM can’t be competitive in the mid-sized FWD sedan playing field. I guess we’ll all see what the new version has in store for us, but I don’t have high expectations.

I’m sorry, Johan, but I gotta put CADILLAC here. I was in a GM store in Indiana last week that had a genuine, no bullshit price of $24,995 on the windshield of an ATS, against a sticker of $35k. I mean, seriously. Is this what the brand has become? Only Volkswagen is shrinking its market share at a faster rate (which seems impossible, what with the miraculous Golf flying out of showrooms nationwide). If you took the Escalade out of the numbers, Caddy would be down twenty freaking percent year over year in a new car market that is actually up over five percent. You’ve GOT to fix your supposed volume sellers, the ATS and CTS, or whatever the hell you’re gonna call them in your numeric naming strategy that was so successful over at your previous employer. Yes, the ATS-V and CTS-V look pretty impressive, but we all know those things aren’t gonna sell in volume that will actually impact your bottom line in any meaningful way.

———————————————————————————————————————————————

So, there you have it. Eleven thousand words or so from one man’s perspective on every major car manufacturer. You don’t have to agree with me—hell, I’m not sure that I agree with me—but I hope that it helped us all realize a few things:

  1. Every car maker has promise
  2. Every car maker can screw things up royally
  3. Most of the world lies somewhere between “rocks” and “sucks

I would never count out a car maker. Every single OEM we discussed has cars I’d love to have in my own driveway, and cars that I would never dream of buying. Three years ago today, I had never owned a Ford. Today, I own three. I’ve owned (in order) cars from Volkswagen, Infiniti, Porsche, Hyundai, Mazda, Scion, Pontiac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, and Subaru.

As long as you continue to vote with your dollars, you can shape the automotive world to be whatever you want it to be. If you want sportier cars, buy them. If you want V8s, buy them. If you want manual transmissions, buy them. Somewhere, some automaker wants your business.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crapwagon Outtake: Tabula Rasa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/crapwagon-outtake-tabula-rasa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/crapwagon-outtake-tabula-rasa/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 13:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031169 Last week’s Hillman Husky/Miata swap provided the example for what I view as the best of both worlds – old European car with an entirely new drivetrain. Here’s a half-way finished example that could be turned into a real firecracker – provided you have the patience of Mother Teresa. “Never buy someone’s project car – […]

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1965-Ford-Cortina-Front

Last week’s Hillman Husky/Miata swap provided the example for what I view as the best of both worlds – old European car with an entirely new drivetrain. Here’s a half-way finished example that could be turned into a real firecracker – provided you have the patience of Mother Teresa.

“Never buy someone’s project car – it’s like buying a half finished Science Fair experiment” were the immortal words of a relative, who has managed to keep his 2002 WRX free from modifications, theft or general abuse. It may be the last of its kind in such good condition. I’ve kept that mantra in my head for some time, but I could be tempted to stray for this.

This 1965 Ford Cortina is very much a work in progress, save for an already swapped in 1.8L Ford Zetec motor. My first inclination for a project like this would be for a Miata swap. But let’s face it, the B6 is underpowered and the later BP engines are miserable, torqueless boat anchors. I’ve had two of them already, and I hope that I avoid it on my next Miata. At the very least, the Zetec has a bit more charm than the BP.

Unfortunately, the rest of the car needs work. Suspension, brakes and if possible, the steering would be upgraded to modern spec. You’re already $9,500 in the hole for the car, and all of that could easily double it. On the other hand, you’ve got a modern day Lotus Cortina so good that even Jim Clark couldn’t have dreamed of it.

 

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Williams: UAW Vows To ‘Bridge The Gap’ Between The Tiers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/williams-uaw-vows-bridge-gap-tiers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/williams-uaw-vows-bridge-gap-tiers/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029753 During his speech at the 2015 UAW Bargaining Convention in Detroit, president Dennis Williams proclaimed that the time for sacrifice and tiers are over. According to Automotive News, Williams stated before the 900-strong delegates inside Cobo Center that the UAW’s goal was to “raise everybody up and bridge the gap” between Tier 1 and Tier […]

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UAW Wages

During his speech at the 2015 UAW Bargaining Convention in Detroit, president Dennis Williams proclaimed that the time for sacrifice and tiers are over.

According to Automotive News, Williams stated before the 900-strong delegates inside Cobo Center that the UAW’s goal was to “raise everybody up and bridge the gap” between Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees in the union’s upcoming contract talks with the Detroit Three: FCA US, Ford and General Motors.

Not only did he vow to roll back Tier 2 toward Tier 1, he had this to say about Ford’s and GM’s desire to create a third tier for lower-skilled employees:

We’ve got too many damn tiers now!

Though preventing a Tier 3 from occurring could be a possibility, bringing Tier 2 on par with Tier 1 may prove difficult for Williams and the UAW.

Established in 2007 as a temporary measure to help the Detroit Three weather the storm of the oncoming Great Recession, the two-tier wage system is now firmly entrenched among the trio, with FCA holding the most Tier 2 employees at 42 percent of its workforce. Around 33,000 employees hired since the middle of 2011 are Tier 2, making up 29 percent of the overall Detroit Three’s 137,000 employees.

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Lincoln Continental Concept? We’ll Do You One Better http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/lincoln-continental-concept-well-one-better/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/lincoln-continental-concept-well-one-better/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 21:03:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029441 The rest of the blogosphere is breathlessly heralding the return of the Lincoln Continental. They’re two years behind the curve. The Lincoln Continental concept might be coming, but the next Lincoln large sedan will be the production Continental. Unfortunately, it won’t be like the JFK-era sedan, but rather a front-drive CD platform car with Ecoboost […]

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lincoln-continental-dev-page-1

The rest of the blogosphere is breathlessly heralding the return of the Lincoln Continental. They’re two years behind the curve.

The Lincoln Continental concept might be coming, but the next Lincoln large sedan will be the production Continental. Unfortunately, it won’t be like the JFK-era sedan, but rather a front-drive CD platform car with Ecoboost V6s and some design language that mirrors the Chevrolet Impala. Why? Because it’s made for Chinese customers who want to be driven in comfort, not for Americans who like to drive. The next Continental is even carrying the codename “Project GOBI” within Lincoln, and internal documents seen by TTAC emphasize “rear seat comfort and amenities” as a key feature of the car.

But there’s still a ray of sunshine for Lincoln fans. There’s going to be a real RWD Lincoln on the way. But it’s a crossover.

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2015 Ford S-Max Can Drive 55 Via Intelligent Speed Limiter http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-ford-s-max-can-drive-55-via-intelligent-speed-limiter/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-ford-s-max-can-drive-55-via-intelligent-speed-limiter/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 14:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028945 Can’t drive 55? If you’re behind the wheel of a 2015 Ford S-Max, you’ll have no choice, thanks to its Intelligent Speed Limiter. Ford of Europe says its limiter, being first offered on the seven-seat crossover, can allow drivers to set a maximum speed manually that can be dialed up or down in 5 kph […]

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2015 Ford S-Max Intelligent Speed Limiter - TTAC Zaibatsu Style

Can’t drive 55? If you’re behind the wheel of a 2015 Ford S-Max, you’ll have no choice, thanks to its Intelligent Speed Limiter.

Ford of Europe says its limiter, being first offered on the seven-seat crossover, can allow drivers to set a maximum speed manually that can be dialed up or down in 5 kph (5 mph) increments, as well as doing all the work for the driver.

The latter is accomplished through traffic-sign recognition technology, which provides the driver with speed limit information, cancellation signs and overtaking restrictions via the S-Max’s instrument cluster. Functionality begins at 30 kph (20 mph), and ends at 200 kph (120 mph), and drivers can set a speed tolerance of 5 kph above the limit.

Active safety chief Stefan Knappes says the system is meant to remove “one of the stresses of driving, helping ensure customers remain within the legal speed limit,” explaining that drivers sometimes aren’t aware of their speed until an accident or a fine occurs. The system will hit the road in Europe this summer, when the first S-Max deliveries begin.

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New York 2015: NAFTA-Spec Ford Focus RS Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-nafta-spec-ford-focus-rs-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-nafta-spec-ford-focus-rs-revealed/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:14:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029161 The 2016 Ford Focus RS will make its North American debut in New York, featuring some different alloys and a new shade of blue paint. While specs remain the same, the RS won’t go on sale until spring of 2016.  

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ford-focus-rs-01-1

The 2016 Ford Focus RS will make its North American debut in New York, featuring some different alloys and a new shade of blue paint.

While specs remain the same, the RS won’t go on sale until spring of 2016.

 

ford-focus-rs-01-1 ford-focus-rs-02-1 ford-focus-rs-03-1 ford-focus-rs-04-1 ford-focus-rs-05-1 ford-focus-rs-06-1 ford-focus-rs-07-1 ford-focus-rs-08-1 ford-focus-rs-09-1

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