By on September 19, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Ohio assembly plant - Image: HondaAmerican Honda’s vice president for sales, Ray Mikiciuk, won’t provide a firm forecast for sales of the 10th-generation Honda Accord. But as far as next year goes, “I don’t expect to sell fewer Accords in 2018 with this great new product,” Mikiciuk tells CNBC.

With belief in the company’s new product, Honda has invested $267 million into its Marysville, Ohio, plant where the Accord, Acura TLX, and Acura ILX are assembled. With 300 additional employees, American Honda is following the lead of Toyota’s all-new 2018 Camry.

At the Camry’s Georgetown, Kentucky, assembly plant, production of the new TNGA-based Camry required Toyota to build up its employee count to the highest level ever. That’s certainly not the way rivals are approaching America’s midsize segment. You’ll recall that General Motors cut Chevrolet Malibu production — and consequently, jobs — in Kansas City earlier this summer. Prior to the new Camry’s launch this summer, the Malibu was the freshest midsize sedan on the block, yet Malibu sales have plunged by more than a fifth in 2017.

Ohio production of the 2018 Honda Accord began yesterday, September 18th. But what do Honda’s vague sales forecasts mean in the broader American midsize segment?

More market share. (Read More…)

By on September 15, 2017

Genesis G70

Ever since Hyundai spun Genesis off into its own premium brand, we’ve been trying to figure out where it best fits. While an Asian brand, it lacks the quirkiness of most of its Japanese equivalents. It’s also not flashy like most American luxury makes. That leaves Europe and, from an aesthetics perspective, that’s probably the region Genesis spends most of its time focused on beating. It’s easy to imagine that somewhere in South Korea there’s a boardroom filled with dozens of dart boards plastered with photos of the C-Class and 3 Series, each riddled with holes.

However, the fledgling brand lacked a midsize entrant and you can’t really throw down in that part of the world without one. Fortunately, the solution to the brand’s problems is almost ready. Called the G70, it was revealed Friday at the automaker’s design center in Namyang, Korea — and subsequently announced for North America in early 2018, as a 2019 model.

Just showing up won’t be enough, so Genesis has done everything it can to ensure buyers can have the G70 on their terms and at a reasonable price. The brand has already proven it can compete on the premium landscape with its G80 and G90, but with the way it talks about the new midsize, it’s starting to sound like it also wants to dominate it.  (Read More…)

By on September 13, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry XSE white - Image: ToyotaThe launch of the all-new 2018 Toyota Camry began in July 2017 and delivered a big boost to America’s best-selling midsize car in August 2017.

As its competitors combined for a 12-percent loss valued at nearly 16,000 fewer sales than in August 2016, Toyota Camry sales jumped 13 percent, a gain of 4,187 sales. That figure includes 6,805 new-gen Camrys imported from Japan, where the Camry’s home market factory is being relied upon while Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky, assembly plant gathers steam for the entirely different Toyota New Global Architecture.

With falling sales across much of the category and rising volume at the top seller, Toyota got exactly what it called for in August 2017: a huge market share increase. But did the Camry provide the rumored boost to the segment overall? Quite clearly no, not yet. (Read More…)

By on August 24, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Malibu Premier vs. Malibu L - Images: Chevrolet.comSometimes the little things make a big difference. Body color door handles, for example, can take a simple compact car from appearing fit for penalty box duty to appearing worthy of driveway placement. Swap those black side mouldings and matte black mirror housings for body color paint and you’re home free.

In other instances, the absence of foglights in foglight housings turns a decent front fascia into a disappointment. A bigger front air dam has the potential to suggest the addition of horsepower. Chrome window surrounds, upgraded lighting, metallic paint, and red-trimmed grilles can add a premium aura to otherwise pitiful products.

Oh, and don’t forget the wheels. Wheels can cover a multitude of design errors.

But does any car benefit more from big, stylish wheels; body colour mirrors; and LED daytime running lights than the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu? And does any car suffer more from small wheels with puffy tires, black mirrors, and stock lighting than the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu? (Read More…)

By on August 18, 2017

Karen Radley Acura screenshot - Image: Karen Radley Acura websiteIt made perfect sense. In 2009, when Hyundai wanted customers to view its new Genesis luxury sedan as a premium bit of kit, Hyundai did not compare the Genesis to the Sonata. In an early marketing campaign, Hyundai’s voiceover said the Genesis is “as spacious as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, yet priced like a C-Class.”

When the time came to market the Genesis R-Spec, Hyundai reached way upmarket to compare 0-60 mph times with the Porsche Panamera. Hyundai wasn’t under the mistaken impression that the Genesis would steal thousands of sales from $100,000 Benzes and Porsches. But Hyundai was crafting an image. Hyundai didn’t require you to believe that the Genesis was a viable S-Class alternative — the company just wanted you to understand that this is premium-oriented S-Class-sized sedan at a C-Class-like price.

Long before the Hyundai Genesis tried to cultivate a premium persona, Acura was failing to keep up with Lexus in the quest to be viewed as a true luxury rival for the German establishment. It’s still a problem. So Acura dealers are now just trying to make sure you understand that the Acura TLX is better than the Audi A4 Lexus ES Infiniti Q50 2018 Honda Accord. (Read More…)

By on August 11, 2017

2018 Honda Accord

One reason why this post was published Wednesday instead of earlier in the week is that I was at a Chicago-area event where Honda PR was presenting the all-new Accord to local media.

This particular presentation was unusual in that Honda focused less on the new car’s specs and features and more on a major question that’s hovering over the midsize-sedan class – namely, will the segment even exist in a few years? Or will crossovers (CUVs) have fully taken over by then?

(Read More…)

By on August 2, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry production line - Image: ToyotaWe learned early in July that many of the early 2018 Toyota Camrys available in Toyota’s U.S. showrooms wouldn’t be built in Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky, assembly plant.

Through June, not a single one of the 2016 and 2017 Camrys sold in America were imported. But all of the 2018 Toyota Camrys sold in July came across the Pacific from Japan.

Granted, most of the Camrys leaving Toyota showrooms are still old new Camrys, not new new Camrys. (Read More…)

By on August 1, 2017

2011-2015-2018 Hyundai Sonatas - Images: HyundaiAfter the forgotten third-generation car, the odd and bulbous fourth-generation car, and the dull fifth-generation car, the sixth Hyundai Sonata was unveiled at the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show. It was surprising, even shocking, that Hyundai so dramatically transformed its staid midsize car into a radical “fluidic sculpture” sedan.

In the United States, after averaging 132,000 sales over the previous half-decade, the Hyundai Sonata exploded. By 2012, Hyundai sold more than 230,000 copies, and the Sonata averaged 215,000 U.S. sales between 2010 and 2014, a 63-percent increase compared with the previous half-decade average.

The momentum was not sustained. The seventh-generation Hyundai Sonata debuted in the United States at 2014’s New York International Auto Show. Where did the fun go? Where was the drama, the cat-like headlamps, the desire to stand out from the pack?

“We went from a very striking design, to a very beautiful car, but it just didn’t turn heads like the car before it did,” Hyundai Motor America’s vice president of product planning, Mike O’Brien, tells Automotive News. (Read More…)

By on July 27, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Touring - Image: HondaThe 2018 Honda Accord will be assembled in Marysville, Ohio. The overwhelming majority of its sales will occur in the United States of America. Its dimensions, inside and out, suit the U.S. market. In 2016, the Accord ranked second on Cars.com’s American-Made Index.

Open its trunk and a family of bald eagles fly out, having successfully incubated apple pies, having binge-watched every season of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. There’s a subtle Statue of Liberty easter egg on the windshield, Hollywood signs engraved in its cupholders, and a 3D hologram of Mount Rushmore featuring a fifth character — Soichiro Honda — that emerges from the glovebox if you shift the manual transmission into sixth, say VTEC three times, and spit over your left shoulder.

The Accord, according to lead exterior designer Tetsuji Morikawa, “is an American car.”

To make sure of that, however, Morikawa said the design team, “wanted to feel like Americans.” And they wanted to finish their design of the 10th-generation Accord in the United States, not Japan. (Read More…)

By on July 14, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Touring

After a brief history lesson underscoring just how important the Accord has been to North America throughout the last four decades, Honda unveiled the 10th generation of its midsize sedan to a semi-enthusiastic audience in Detroit today.

To be fair, it’s not the most exciting segment occupying the automotive landscape, but it is one of the most important — despite losing significant ground to crossovers and SUVs over the last few years. Honda clearly doesn’t want the Accord relegated exclusively to unimaginative buyers needing nothing more than basic transportation and fleet sales.

Despite sinking sales, automakers aren’t giving up on the midsize sedan, and Honda has placed some genuine effort behind the new Accord. That doesn’t mean they’ve converted it into a heart-stopping thrill ride, nor should they, since that’s not the kind of car it’s supposed to be. But they’ve taken steps to ensure the vehicle has improved in meaningful ways. While that didn’t stop Jeff Conrad, senior vice president of American Honda, from claiming it was “unquestionably the most dramatic remake of the Accord that we’ve ever done” at the unveiling, there is truth in that statement.

However, some the biggest changes coming to the 2018 Accord are what you won’t find in the upgraded model. (Read More…)

By on June 28, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry SE white - Image: ToyotaExcited at the prospect of an all-new midsize sedan despite a drastic decrease in demand for midsize sedans, Toyota is ramping up employment at the Camry’s assembly plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.

With 700 additional manufacturing workers helping to launch the 2018 Toyota Camry, employment at Toyota’s Kentucky facility grew to 8,000, more than at any point in the plant’s three-decade history.

Toyota also builds Avalons and Lexus ES350s in Georgetown. (The Venza, a former Georgetown wagon, is dead.) But it’s the Camry, especially this all-new 2018 Camry, that will bring glory to the Kentucky plant if glory can indeed be brought.

Jack Hollis, the Toyota division’s group vice president and general manager, strongly believes the Camry is the beginning of a pro-sedan wave in America. In an extended interview with Autoline, Hollis spoke highly of the 2018 Camry’s potential, and of the potential for the entire car sector once the Camry stimulates demand.

“I think you’re going to see the entire sedan market pick up,” Hollis told Autoline, before hedging only a bit. “We’ll see a year from now.” (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry Canada reveal - Image: Toyota Canada

The all-new 2018 Toyota Camry’s new 2.5-liter four-cylinder base engine generates 203 horsepower in the entry-level model, 206 horsepower in the 2018 Camry XSE.

This means the eighth-generation Camry offers the most standard horsepower of any car in America’s midsize segment, at least for the time being.

We know not yet what the 2018 Honda Accord will bring. Honda released some engine details last Friday, including information that reveals the death of the Accord’s V6 and future reliance on the 1.5-liter turbo from the Civic and CR-V — as well as the 2.0-liter turbo from the Civic Type R. But we don’t know how much power Honda, notoriously not a participant in any horsepower war, will allow the Accord’s basic 1.5T to produce.

Meanwhile, the Camry’s upgrade engine continues to be a 3.5-liter V6, and Toyota’s gone and done the right thing with that powerplant, too. Moar powah. (Read More…)

By on June 9, 2017

2018 Next Generation Honda Accord Camo - Image: HondaThe 10th generation of Honda’s venerable Accord will debut for 2018 without a V6 engine option.

A few months later to the all-new midsize party than the next-generation 2018 Toyota Camry, the new Accord will not follow the Camry’s entrenched path of providing customers with a base four-cylinder and a V6 upgrade.

Instead, Honda will make do with the 1.5-liter turbocharged four already under the hood of the 10th-generation Civic and the fifth-generation Honda CR-V. As an upgrade, Honda will offer the 2.0-liter turbocharged unit from the 2018 Honda Civic Type R. In both cases, Honda has not yet revealed the power output. Honda will continue with an Accord Hybrid, as well.

But the V6 is a goner. (Read More…)

By on June 2, 2017

2017 Volkswagen Passat, Image: Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Passat has a roomie.

Production of the Volkswagen Atlas, Volkswagen of America’s first three-row SUV and the automaker’s first three-row vehicle since the Dodge Grand Caravan-derived Volkswagen Routan fled the scene in 2014, began earlier this year in Chattanooga, Tennessee, previously known as the Passat’s factory.

The first 1,610 copies of the Atlas were sold in May 2017.

Volkswagen, which built the Tennessee assembly plant as part of a goal that would see the brand selling 800,000 vehicles in America per year by 2018, originally intended to build 150,000 vehicles annually in Chattanooga. Only half that capacity was used last year.

If the Volkswagen Atlas becomes the hit the Volkswagen Passat never was, what might that say about the North Americanized Volkswagen Passat’s future?  (Read More…)

By on May 2, 2017

lexus-es-silver-lining-metallic-gallery-overlay-1204x677-lex-esg-my16-0011

In a manner of speaking, that is. A recent report cast doubt on the future of Lexus’ rear-drive performance sedan, the GS, claiming that development of a next-generation model was off the table. That would make next year the GS’ last.

While Lexus wouldn’t confirm the report, a spokesperson’s choice of words was enough to add to the rumor. In a marketplace that’s big on SUVs and downright miserable to cars, it would make sense for Lexus to get ahead of the “too many cars” problem faced by the likes of Hyundai and pare down its lineup.

Now, another report says Lexus will call on a different model to fill the gap. (Read More…)

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