By on August 17, 2017

EcoBoost Mustang Burnout, Ford Motor Co.

If you believe certain segments of the media, we’ll soon be able to avoid the drudgery of turning a steering wheel, pressing and releasing pedals, and — gasp! — shifting gears.

The inevitable onset of self-driving vehicles, tech aficionados and urbanists tell us, will bring traffic fatalities down to zero, somehow remove all congestion from the road, and turn our lives into a never-ending sojourn of blissful tranquility. Never again will you take that aimless and unprogrammed late-night drive, just for the hell of it. Never again will you bother with buying and owning a car. Automakers will simply turn their driverless cars loose, emptying driveways while filling streets with hands-off ride-sharing pods.

Not so fast, says Ford’s newly minted CEO. (Read More…)

By on August 17, 2017

2017-hyundai-next-gen-fuel-cell-suv, Image: Hyundai

Hyundai isn’t about to let Tesla hog all the eco glory. The automaker has announced a near-term roadmap for green vehicle production, promising 31 hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric, and fuel cell models by 2020, shared between the Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis brands.

Having already joined the fray with its compact Ioniq, offered in hybrid, plug-in, and EV flavors, the company wants a larger presence in the fledgling (but growing) EV scene. To this end, it’s planning long-range, high-end EVs built on a dedicated platform, as well as a much-needed crossover that dispenses with gas stations altogether. The Kona, which arrives in the U.S. in gas-powered guise this winter, serves as a body donor.

Will a 242-mile electric crossover give Elon Musk reason to sweat? (Read More…)

By on August 16, 2017

2017 Honda Civic hatchback - Image: Honda

The lifespan of an average car-model usually lasts a half-decade before the automaker shells out for a full redesign, unless it’s a Nissan Frontier or Lincoln Navigator. That’s more or less the rule at Honda when it comes to the top-selling compact car in North America, the Civic.

While the eighth-generation Civic soldiered on for a lengthy six years, Honda sold the preceding seventh, sixth, fifth, and fourth versions of the model for either four or five years. Thanks to a boring design and lackluster reviews, the automaker spirited the ninth-gen model off of dealer lots after just four years, but not before adding extra content and style via an emergency 2013 model year refresh.

We’re now hearing the current generation — larger than ever before, radically redesigned for 2016, and a sales leader in a shrinking segment — won’t see a full redesign until the 2022 model year. That’s a six-year stretch. A stretch where automakers will be scrambling to hold on to compact-car market share in a land flush with small crossovers. (Read More…)

By on August 14, 2017

2018 Hyundai Kona - Image: Hyundai

Getting a new or redesigned model off the drawing board and into showrooms isn’t like designing and posting a meme on Facebook. It’s time consuming, and automakers run the risk of being left behind as rivals cash in on the latest hot bodystyle or styling trend.

Hyundai knows this, having underestimated the buying public’s affection for anything with a high ride height and rear liftgate. The Korean automaker made a bundle on its well-fleshed-out car lineup following the recession, but the seismic shift towards SUVs and crossovers left it scrambling to bolster its three-vehicle utility lineup. The result? Stagnant sales.

This won’t happen under a new plan, the company’s senior vice president of design claims. Hyundai’s hitting the product throttle. (Read More…)

By on August 13, 2017

Ford Ranger Raptor, Image: Spiedbilde/The Truth About Cars

This ties in nicely with an earlier post detailing the only two options available for midsize pickup buyers wanting more off-road prowess. For now, it’s Chevrolet and Toyota’s arena. Both GM and Toyota dominate the midsize pickup segment — a class that saw its U.S. market share rise to 17 percent of total pickup sales last year.

However, Ford’s late-to-the-game Ranger pickup, arriving on these shores in 2019 as a 2020 model, should bring a third player to the midsize mud and rock jamboree. It might not carry the Raptor name made famous by its bigger brother F-150, but this spied test vehicle shows Ford isn’t willing to send the Ranger to America wearing just work clothes. (Read More…)

By on August 8, 2017

tesla model 3

Tesla Motors launched the Model 3 last month and has been scrambling to improve production volume as over 500,000 eagerly await delivery. However, by the time Tesla hits its targeted production rate of 10,000 units per week in 2018, it is still going to have months — if not a full year — of orders sizzling on the back burner.

It’s not the worst problem to have, since each reservation holder tossed down a $1,000 deposit. But CEO Elon Musk is aware that meeting demand is going to be an uphill battle. “We’re going to go through at least six months of manufacturing hell,” Musk told the press ahead of Model 3 launch event.

With the company already having spent over $2 billion in capital this year, restocking the safe is probably a good idea. As an upstart automaker framing itself as going into battle with traditional manufacturers, Tesla is issuing $1.5 billion in junky war bonds to fund the coming onslaught.  (Read More…)

By on August 2, 2017

2018 Volkswagen T-Roc

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. No, not the unveiling of Fiat Chrysler’s pavement-incinerating Dodge Demon, nor Tesla’s world — no, universe-saving Model 3.

No, the hottest thing in the land is the crossover, and no crossover breaks with staid utility vehicle norms quite like Volkswagen’s radical, two-door, pillarless, targa-top creation, the compact T-Roc. Hold on, that was the concept. Scratch that. The four-door, fixed-roof, happily pillared product of the concept’s metamorphosis will soon get its time in the spotlight, having been green-lit for production by a profit-focused VW.

The T-Roc, which kept the 2014 concept’s name despite dropping its ready-for-the-beach bodystyle, gets its big reveal on August 23rd, ahead of a global premiere at next month’s Frankfurt Auto Show. Can you handle it? (Read More…)

By on August 1, 2017

2017 Jeep® Wrangler Unlimited Sahara - Image: Jeep

As we told you yesterday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is spooked. He can’t count on diesel engines for fuel economy gains anymore — at least, not for long. With governments big and small braying for lower emissions and cracking down on the use of diesel vehicles, FCA’s future lineup requires a gas-sipping solution.

And so, after sitting on the fence for years, the Auburn Hills automaker (which still carries a big, albeit shrinking, debt) has given in. It’ll pour money into electrifying its lineup. In five years, 50-percent of its models should boast some form of electric propulsion, Marchionne claims.

As we’ve learned from the past, FCA’s product promises — and especially its timelines — carry a big grain of salt. But let’s say the company sticks to its goal. And, because this question can go any way the author chooses, you’re replacing Marchionne at the helm. (Read More…)

By on July 31, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Bolt - Image: Chevrolet

When you think about it, it all adds up. There was no way the powertrain of the Chevrolet Bolt, America’s first reasonably priced long-range electric vehicle, was ever going to remain solely the domain of one vehicle. General Motor’s CEO, Mary Barra, alluded to as much following the Bolt’s introduction.

While the 238-mile Bolt is already sold in Europe as the Opel Ampera-e, and in China as the Buick Velite 5, those vehicles don’t amount to much more than simple badge swaps. However, a new report claims U.S. buyers could see a Buick crossover based on the Bolt, and soon. (Read More…)

By on July 31, 2017

2017 Jeep Compass

It’s no secret that hybrids and fully electric vehicles are about as appealing to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne as a crisp, button-up shirt. The FCA boss once famously railed against his company’s sole electric offering — the tiny, money-losing Fiat 500e — for losing $10,000 for every unit sold. Placating California doesn’t come cheap.

Still, Marchionne isn’t alone in distrusting the plug. Subaru and Mazda have shown a similar aversion to electrification, though even those automakers concede it’s a losing battle. In a conference call with investors late last week, Marchionne admitted defeat, outlining a plan to add electric motors to a significant chunk of FCA’s fleet in the coming years. One division stands to go the way of Volvo, with electric motors planned for each new car introduced after 2019.

What prompted the shift in thinking? Diesel, and the public’s growing distrust in compression-ignition engines. (Read More…)

By on July 28, 2017

2017 Cadillac CT6 - Image: Cadillac

Lately, it seems everyone wants to talk about Cadillac sedans. Too bad few people want to buy one. The future of the storied brand’s traditional passenger car offerings was recently called into question by a report claiming two Cadillac sedans, including the CT6, are slated for execution.

Hashtag fake news, brand president Johan de Nysschen responded. In a reply only slightly less vague than the initial report itself, the brand president said no sedan models were on the chopping block. Nope, the Cadillac lineup will strut into the 2020s with three sedans, he said, making no mention of the fact Cadillac has four sedans.

Okay, so we knew the aging (but facelifted for 2018) XTS had no long-term future. But what about the survivors? In a recent interview, de Nysschen spelled out the plan. (Read More…)

By on July 25, 2017

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

Toyota, the company that came out with the Prius in the 1990s and decided it had perfected the electric car, may be looking regain its EV advantage by 2022. It’s not something you’d expect to hear, considering Japan’s largest automaker has lagged behind in terms of competitive electric development for the last few years.

While its hybrid program got the drop on the competition, it subsequently favored hydrogen fuel cells over purely electric vehicles as the next automotive epoch — creating a bit of an industrial dinosaur.

Fortunately, Toyota has no shortage of muscles to flex. Once news broke that Toyota was earnestly considering electric R&D, everyone speculated it would be competitive at roughly the same time as other automakers. Not so. On Tuesday, Japanese newspaper Chunichi Shimbun reported Toyota has quietly upped its game to surpass them.  (Read More…)

By on July 25, 2017

2018 Hyundai Sonata sunroof - Image: Hyundai“It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your roofs.” — Not Nelly, 2002

Citing weight reduction and consequent improvements in fuel economy, Hyundai Motor America has removed the panoramic sunroof from every Sonata model for the 2018 model year.

Is the move away from vast sunroofs, spanning the breadth and length of the roof, back to conventional sunroofs truly going to result in measurable real-world fuel savings? No. Even a major engineering change such as the Sonata 2.0T’s new eight-speed automatic doesn’t translate to meaningful fuel efficiency gains: the combined EPA fuel economy for the 2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T remains the same as it was in 2017 at 26 miles per gallon.

Nor is the reduction of high-mounted panoramic sunroof’s weight and the subsequent lowering of the Sonata’s center of gravity going to be a major boon to the everyday handling of a mainstream midsize sedan.

Maybe the 2018 Sonata’s handling improves, unnoticeably. Perhaps the Sonata becomes more fuel efficient, insignificantly. But the real reason Hyundai has removed the panoramic sunroof from the 2018 Sonata? Blame Vitamin D. (Read More…)

By on July 24, 2017

2017-ford-fiesta-hatchback

After months of speculation as to the fate of the Ford Fiesta in North America, as well as months of hazy non-answers from communications staff, Ford Motor Company’s B-segment program manager, Robert Stiller, has stated that the subcompact car segment in Dearborn is dead.

No more Ford Fiesta.

After going on sale in the U.S. in mid-2010 as a 2011 model, the Fiesta’s American seems destined to end this year. Buyers in Europe and overseas — always a reliable draw for itty-bitty cars — are guaranteed a seventh-generation model. Oh boy, do they ever receive a new model. The 2018 Fiesta bows not just as a three- or five-door hatch, but also in luxurious Vignale and soft-roading Active trims.

Over here? Hug your 1.0-liter EcoBoosts tightly and shed a tear, Fiesta fans. The little guy appears doomed for the chopping block. Can Ford interest you in a subcompact crossover? (Read More…)

By on July 22, 2017

2018 Cadillac XTS, Image: General Motors

You can’t compare the traditional passenger car segment to the Titanic speeding towards an iceberg, as the once market-leading segment tore its hull open on that crossover-shaped berg long ago. Cars, especially in North America, are rapidly taking on water and sinking by the bow.

Against this backdrop, a recent — and unconfirmed — report predicting looming death for six General Motors car models came as no shock, though it did raise questions. Would GM really drop a famous nameplate like the Chevrolet Volt? The Cadillac CT6 is barely more than a year old — surely the division wouldn’t go to the expense of building a flagship, then take it behind the barn?

The deaths foretold in the Reuters report would be carried out by 2020, the source claimed. While he didn’t speak to the lifespan of the Volt or the Chevrolet Sonic and Impala, nor the Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen responded by saying Cadillac’s four-sedan lineup remains safe. Yep, those three sedans will be just fine, he said. Wait, what? (Read More…)

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