By on September 8, 2017

Adam Levine and James Valentine with Honda Civic

While Honda has a long and storied automotive history, it has lost much of its luster in recent years. We won’t fault the Accord, as many of us have deemed it miraculous, nor the CR-V, which continues to gain sales momentum as the rest of the industry slows. But something definitely went wrong.

Pinpointing the first misstep is difficult, however. It might have been that we became accustomed to decades of repeated success, followed by a series of middling models that weren’t bad but showcased limited progression in the new millennium — past Civics being a prime example. Maybe it started with the sudden influx of recalls, kicked off by a reputation-crippling 11 million units equipped with Takata’s infamous and extremely dangerous airbags. Perhaps it was when Honda thought it would be a good idea to replace a simple volume knob with a touch-sensitive slider or its untenable partnership with Maroon 5 and Nick Cannon in 2013.

We could speculate endlessly. But the point is that Honda knows it screwed up somewhere along the line and has become trapped by a more stifling version of the methodology that once made it great. It’s now seeking a way out.  (Read More…)

By on July 9, 2017

Toyota Camry Assembly Factory Georgetown

Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, is going to great lengths to tell the world his company is only going to get better in the years to come — proving to his employer that he knows exactly what his job entails. In addition to explaining how the brand’s new modular architecture will give assembly lines much-needed flexibility, this week also had him announcing Toyota won’t dawdle anymore on getting product into consumer hands.

“I think we’re going to be quicker to market,” Lentz announced to the press at Toyota’s brand new $1 billion Texas headquarters on Thursday. “Before if you were part of the sales organization, you had your own legal team [and] HR team, so there was a lot of redundancy across the organization … we were able to streamline that and, with a lot of the headcount changes, we were able to hire more engineers to our operation in Ann Arbor, as we continue to develop vehicles here in North America, for North America.”   (Read More…)

By on June 13, 2017

Tim Cook, Image: iphonedigital/flickr

Apple has been perpetually flip-flopping in terms of developing autonomous vehicles. In 2014, the company was rumored to have begun work on an autonomous electric car, codenamed “Project Titan,” with hundreds of employees devoted solely to its development.

Management issues and logistical problems impaired its progress, leading Apple to abandon the project. Since then, Bob Mansfield has fronted a renewed effort to focus on building an autonomous driving system rather than a complete car. At least, that was everyone’s best guess, as the company has been semi-secretive about its mission since day one.

That changed on Tuesday, when CEO Tim Cook confirmed that Apple does indeed have a self-driving development program. The chief executive even went so far as to call it “the mother of all A.I. projects.” That’s quite the claim to make, considering making the tech work on a car is half the battle and Apple has no practical experience building an autonomous vehicle.  (Read More…)

By on April 7, 2017

subaru emblem logo

Subaru is an automaker known for offering a highly specific brand identity and a quality product, but compelling styling has always been low on its list of priorities. While acknowledging the retro charm of its earliest Japanese models, it can be said that the company has never produced a particularly handsome automobile. The SVX was futuristic and interesting, but it wasn’t overtly sexy. And the visual appeal of the old bug-eye WRX or BRAT hinges entirely upon how oddball they were.

After 63 years in the business, Subaru finally wants to change that and place a stronger emphasis on design. However, despite having the least visually stimulating lineup in recent memory, the company could probably stay the course and still be fine. Subaru has done incredibly well in the United States. Annual U.S. deliveries hovered around 187,000 vehicles from 2002 to 2008 but grew fiercely in the following years. Subaru had a record-breaking 615,132 sales in 2016 and looks prepared to break that record this year.

So, why even bother changing anything when the current recipe works so well? (Read More…)

By on March 20, 2017

2017-Mitsubishi-Outlander-Sport-Limited-Edition-Front

Mitsubishi is stalling the much-needed redesigns of its Outlander SUV and Outlander Sport compact crossover as engineers explore ways of sharing components with Nissan.

This means that, until the Outlander Sport gets its proposed downsizing, Mitsubishi could have two vehicles sharing a segment and potential customers when the 2018 Eclipse Cross hits dealerships. Both Outlanders were expected to assume a new form to better distance themselves from the Eclipse Cross compact crossover and each other. While they don’t look much alike, the Cross’ dimensions are only an inch-and-a-half away from the Sport.

It may make good financial sense to appropriate Nissan parts and platforms, but Mitsubishi would be shooting itself in the foot by having two models in the same segment — even if it were only for a year or two. Considering how important crossovers and SUVs are for the North American market, there is little benefit in bringing in the flashy new Eclipse Cross just to rob sales from another model.  (Read More…)

By on April 13, 2016

CU-ICAR/Toyota uBox concept (Image: Toyota)

It’s a bit like Scooby-Doo meets A Clockwork Orange.

Graduate students at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) spent two years working with Toyota to create the ideal vehicle for the next age demographic to leap into the car-buying fray: Generation Z.

No, we’re not talking about some stodgy Millennial born in 1985, with his cardigans and Dodge Journey. Generation Z refers to the cohort born in the late 1990s (at the earliest) onward, and these are the people automakers are going to start targeting right … about … now.

(Read More…)

By on August 8, 2014

Elon Musk + Akio Toyoda

Just four years ago, Tesla and Toyota entered into a relationship where the former would supply battery packs for the latter’s RAV4 EV. In turn, Toyota invested $50 million in Tesla, and sold the NUMMI facility — which Toyota once shared with General Motors — for $42 million. Things have changed, in the sage words of Bob Dylan.

(Read More…)

By on May 20, 2014

Google self-driving car

Google’s autonomous vehicle research has come far over the five years since the Silicon Valley giant started down the road. Though more is yet be accomplished before the future comes, Google is ready to move forward with the next phase of its research work: jumping from test units into the real world.

(Read More…)

By on May 13, 2014

2014 Volkswagen Touareg

Volkswagen enthusiasts could soon have a 10-speed transmission to go with their 10-speed bicycles, as the automaker released more details on its 10-speed DSG unit currently in the works during this year’s Vienna Motor Symposium.

(Read More…)

By on March 27, 2012

With the government still waiting to see how much it will get out of its equity in General Motors, The General seems to be attracting more of the media commentary than Chrysler these days. And not without good reason: GM saw the greatest drop in market share last month of any Detroit automaker, its government-hyped Volt is flopping, Opel continues to be an open sore and it can’t help but flaunt its cluelessness about youth marketing. But interest in GM’s shortcomings seems to be driven by little more than election-year political implications, which Chrysler was able to avoid by borrowing cash and misleadingly claiming to have squared up with the American taxpayer. After all, Chrysler is facing just as many challenges as GM, if not more. And despite having formally closed the bailout chapter of its history, Chrysler’s performance still bears on the decision to rescue America’s weakest major automaker.

(Read More…)

By on December 21, 2011

Ever since Steve Girsky an his “merry band of hatchet men” touched down in Rüsselsheim, Bertel has been warning that GM’s European division was about to embark on a serious cutting binge. But our worst fears, namely that Opel could go away entirely, have yet to be realized. Instead it seems that self-destructive mutilation will be attempted first, in order to stem the gushing red ink at Opel where at least €1b in losses are expected next year. Automotive News Europe [sub] reports that the first round of cuts will hit Opel’s Internationalen Technischen Entwicklungszentrum (ITEZ, “International Technical Development Center), as an IG Metall union document foresees some 1,420 product development position cuts (from a staff of some 6,000).

(Read More…)

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