The Truth About Cars » QOTD The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 26 Jul 2014 01:30:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » QOTD QOTD: Regulation Is Ruining Car Design Mon, 09 Jun 2014 14:42:33 +0000 Opel-Monza-Concept-17

Today’s installment of Quote of the Day comes from Mark Adams, design chief for Opel/Vauxhall and creator of the Monza concept, which is expected to set the design direction for the two brands in the near future – assuming that regulations don’t get in the way.

Speaking to Automotive News Europe, Adams opined that  “In the last five to 10 years designing cars has gotten a hell of a lot tougher”, with much of the blame going towards regulation. The twin forces of fuel economy and pedestrian safety standards have converged to create very specific parameters for automotive design – hence the proliferation of high hoods, blunt front ends and the “reverse tear drop” shape on so many three-box vehicles. This specific form provides an easy way around all of those requirements, at the cost of an increasingly homogenous cohort of new cars.

]]> 210
QOTD: Bring Back the Unibody Pickup? Thu, 05 Jun 2014 13:35:55 +0000 1024px-SubaruBaja

For decades, the formula for a successful pickup design in America has been pretty much the same. Design a simple ladder-frame chassis, drop in the biggest engine you can find, give it a front-engine rear-drive layout with an optional transfer case, and start raking in the money. From time to time, however, manufacturers have tried to swim against the current.

The last true unibody pickup (one without any type of traditional ladder frame) sold in the United States was the Subaru Baja, which ended production in 2006. A derivative of the Legacy/Outback platform, the Baja was Subaru’s attempt to cash in on the mid-2000s vogue for “sport utility trucks:” part-SUV hybrids like the Ford Explorer Sport Trac and the Chevrolet Avalanche. While those more successful models were selling well over 50,000 a year at their peak, the Subie barely managed to shift 30,000 examples in a four year run. With its funky body cladding, exposed rollbars, and limited utility compared to those other truck-based SUTs with traditional ladder-frame chassis, the Baja never managed to become anything but a niche product. Even so, it followed in a long lineage of experiments with unibody construction for pickups.

The golden age of the unibody pickup was the 60s, when every major manufacturer offered at least one. Ford had the Falcon-derived Ranchero, as well as a pickup based on the Econoline van. (The 1961-63 full-size F100 is often cited as an example of a unibody pickup design, but as Mike Levine explains here, this is technically incorrect. The ‘61-63 still had a ladder frame underneath its single-piece body.) Chevrolet had a similar offering in the Corvair Greenbrier pickup, although the more popular El Camino utilized a ladder frame. Dodge got in the unibody game with the pickup version of its A100 van. The pickup version of the Type 2 Volkswagen Transporter was increasingly popular in the burgeoning small truck segment before it became a target of the infamous Chicken Tax. That tariff also kept out the Japanese, who might otherwise have attempted to sell car-based pickups such as the Toyota Corona PU. The most popular of all these unibody pickups was the Falcon Ranchero. It offered meaningful size and economy advantages over the full-size trucks of the time, and was available with a greater number of creature comforts.

Many of these unibody pickups disappeared in the 70s, as compact, conventionally engineered Japanese pickups became more widely available. Many of these were captive imports sold by the Big 3, who utilized tricks like importing cab-chassis units separately to avoid the Chicken Tax. Unibody pickups didn’t reappear again until the 1980s. The Subaru BRAT was the first of these, followed by the Rabbit-based Volkswagen Pick-Up. The Volkswagen PU was an attempt to squeeze more volume out of the disappointingly slow-selling Rabbit; the Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp were similar attempts to expand the use of Chrysler’s L Platform. Neither of those was particularly successful, with both the Volkswagen and Rampage/Scamp cancelled after only three years. The BRAT was reasonably popular, lasting in the US market until 1987. The Jeep Comanche was based on the unibody XJ Cherokee, but used a ladder frame to strengthen the superstructure. Around 190,000 units were produced before new Jeep owner Chrysler called it quits in 1992; the company didn’t want the Comanche cannibalizing Dodge’s truck offerings. After that, there were no more unibody trucks in the United States until the introduction of the Baja. Cheap gas and a slew of competitive ladder-frame pickups meant that the incentive to develop a unibody pickup was limited.

Like Subaru, Honda tried to cash in on the SUT trend with the Ridgeline. Although based off the unibody Odyssey minivan, the Ridgeline utilizes a hybrid chassis setup that incorporates a box frame. Sales have been disappointing, with the model scheduled to go out of production this month, although a sequel has been promised by Honda. The Ridgeline is often cited by midsize truck pessimists as emblematic of the reasons the segment has gone into decline. The truck offers no serious fuel economy advantage over a full-sizer. It also has a smaller bed, a lower tow rating, and less power, all in a footprint not much smaller than that of a full-size. Attempting to straddle segments was the Ridgeline’s doom. Buyers who wanted power, room, towing and hauling capability, and who didn’t care about mileage bought Avalanches, Sport Tracs, and full-sizers. Economy-minded individuals went for the cheaper, more utilitarian options like the Frontier and Tacoma. None of these alternatives were particularly great on gas, but neither was the Ridgeline; and they all offered price and/or capability advantages that the Ridgeline didn’t have. That doesn’t mean, however, that the unibody truck should necessarily go the way of the dodo.

The greatest argument against a renaissance in the small-to-midsize truck segment is profitability. Small trucks often have thin margins, and it’s hard to justify separate development programs for unique platforms. That’s ultimately what killed the Ranger in the United States, as well as the Dakota. GM is spreading out the development cost of the new Colorado/Canyon by making it a world market vehicle, but it remains to be seen if this strategy will work. Only the Tacoma has proven to be a consistent winner in the US market, and it also has the advantage of being globally sold; the same is true of the new Frontier. A US-only compact truck platform is a mistake. Repealing the Chicken Tax might open up the market to more imports, but ideally a compact truck would be developed from a platform already in use in the US. This would lower the cost of federalization, while at the same time increasing the margin derived from already existing platforms. That’s where unibody design comes in.

America is awash in unibody CUVs, whose platforms could be utilized to make compact and midsize trucks. The Chevrolet Montana/Tornado has been mentioned by small-truck aficionados as a possible import, but the cost of certifying it for American sale would probably be prohibitive. Instead, it would make more sense for GM to develop a small truck from either the Theta or Epsilon architectures, both of which have already been adapted for the American market. A small truck based on the Equinox, for example, might be profitably produced for the American market. If a small truck can offer significant price or fuel economy advantages over full-sizers, it can justify its existence against highly competitive full-size offerings. Even so, doubts remain about the segment’s overall viability. FCA chairman Sergio Marchionne recently alluded to this when discussing possible plans for a future compact pickup in the United States. Could a unibody truck be the savior of the compact truck segment?

]]> 331
QOTD: A Robot Car That Kills You? Fri, 30 May 2014 17:22:48 +0000 google-self-driving-car1

Writing in the National Post, Matt Gurney discusses a darker side of autonomous cars, one that many people (especially this writer, who is not exactly familiar with the rational, linear type of operation that is involved with coding)

In a recent interview with PopSci, Patrick Lin, an associate philosophy professor and director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University, proposed a hypothetical scenario that sums up the problem. You’re driving along in your robo-car, and your tire blows out. The computer in control rapidly concludes that your car is moving too quickly and has too much momentum to come to a safe stop, and there is traffic ahead. Since an accident is inevitable, the computer shifts from collision avoidance to collision mitigation, and concludes that the least destructive outcome is to steer your car to a catastrophic outcome — over a cliff, into a tree — and thus avoid a collision with another vehicle.

The raw numbers favour such an outcome. Loss of life and property is minimized — an objectively desirable outcome. But the downside is this: Your car just wrote you off and killed you to save someone else.

This situation, as Gurney writes, involves being a passenger in a device that is “…may be programmed, in certain circumstances, to write us off in order to save someone else?”

I’m not an expert on autonomous cars, or computer science, or robotics, or ethics, or government regulation. I am not going to go down the path of “people will never accept autonomous cars because driving is freedom”, because I just don’t think it’s true anymore.

But I do feel that autonomous cars represent something else: another techno-utopian initiative dreamed up by rational, linear thinking engineers that are incapable (sometimes biologically) of understanding the human and cultural intangibles that are an integral part of our existence. The idea of a coldly utilitarian device that would sacrifice human life based on a set of calculations is not something that will be well received. And the people behind self-driving cars may not understand this.

]]> 126
QOTD: Nassim Taleb Sums Up The Problem With Our Favorite Car Makers Fri, 23 May 2014 11:00:37 +0000 BMW-2-Series-Active-Tourer

In roughly 50 words, author Nassim Taleb neatly summarizes the answer to every essay ever penned about how “Car Company X Has Lost Its Way”.

Speaking about our higher education system and its flaws, Taleb writes

“This is the natural evolution of every enterprise under the curse of success: from making a good into selling the good, into progressively selling what looks like the good, then going bust after they run out of suckers and the story repeats itself …”

From Honda to BMW to Lamborghini, it’s difficult to look around and not see examples of this phenomenon at work. On the other hand, there is Lotus, a company that has arguably avoided this trap, while also avoiding any semblance of profitability. But I don’t have the benefit of context and life experience compared to many of the B&B.

Personally, I think that the vehicle above is most symbolic of what Taleb is describing: a front-drive BMW minivan wearing an “M Sport” appearance package. Is there anything further from the platonic ideal of “The Ultimate Driving Machine”?

But I also want your opinion. I want to hear who has fallen into this trap, who had avoided it, who is most in danger and why this is complete and utter BS. Post your reply in the comments.

]]> 110
QOTD: Why There Will Be No “Made In China” Lexus Products Mon, 05 May 2014 14:02:35 +0000 01-lexus-nx-concept-1

Currently, there is only one Lexus plant outside of Japan. A Toyota factory in Cambridge, Ontario makes the Lexus RX crossover, while Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant will come online in 2015. Like other Japanese auto makers, Toyota is moving towards a localization of its production facilities, but one thing they won’t be doing is producing Lexus vehicles in China.

Speaking at the Beijing Auto Show, Lexus head Tokuo Fukuichi said

“We are often asked whether we plan to manufacture Lexus cars in China. But the question is whether our brand has earned the trust of customers. If a brand is really trusted, it can sell its products wherever they are manufactured. But Lexus has not yet achieved such a status.” 

Building an automotive luxury brand is a decades long process. Audi is an overnight success nearly 40 years in the making, while Infiniti is now on the slow, long road to lifting themselves up out of the doldrums of Tier 2 luxury. Lexus has arguably been the most successful Japanese effort at a Tier 1 luxury brand, but they still have work to do. In world markets (specifically Western Europe), Lexus does not enjoy the same footing as it does in the United States, and has only been on sale in Japan since 2005.

In Fukuichi’s estimation, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz (not to mention, Cadillac and Infiniti) can all do what Lexus cannot: build cars in China without harming brand perception. This is a big problem for Lexus – it must import its cars from Japan (and the NAFTA zone) and sell them at a higher price thanks to import tariffs and other duties. But it’s also a deliberate calculation on the part of Lexus.

If any of the German brands suffered quality problems from Chinese made cars, their customers would likely forgive them, due to the burning desire to have four rings, a three pointed star or two blue triangles on the hood of their car. But nobody feels the same pull for the stylized “L”.

]]> 21
QOTD: In Defense Of The Toyota Camry Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:00:23 +0000


We treat the physical results of capitalism as though they were an inevitability. In 1955, no captain of industry, prince, or potentate could buy a car as good as a Toyota Camry, to say nothing of a 2014 Mustang, the quintessential American Everyman’s car. But who notices the marvel that is a Toyota Camry? 

-Kevin Williamson, The National Review

TTAC is not like most car blogs – and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Last week, the introduction of the newly refreshed Toyota Camry was the most popular article on the site. I couldn’t be happier.

Before we delve in to the Camry, it’s worth discussing one of Williamson’s major points – which will undoubtedly be too politically charged for some – that the average consumer has never had it better in terms of the kinds of goods they can afford, even with a relatively modest salary. These goods, in turn, increase their quality of life, and are not just frivolous expenditures.

The enthusiast press loves to discuss how the new Mustang is the equal of the 370Z or the M3, but for most Americans, the delta between a Camry and a Lexus ES350 – or some European luxury cars – has never been narrower.  The Camry is definitely not the car I’d buy if I was looking for a mid-size sedan (it would be a Honda Accord or a Mazda6 with a manual, if you care). But I can appreciate it in the same way as Kevin Williamson, in that building and selling such an outstanding car for $25,000 is a Herculian task.

WARNING: Tangential missive below

Even if the National Review might strike you as too far from your political leanings, I feel privileged to be able to write for a site that is open to these sorts of discussions, even when politics – and the Camry itself – are “hot button” issues. The internet offers a lot of places to discuss the typical car guy things: statistical urination contests (also known as bench racing), race-to-the-bottom displays of status signalling (whereby contestants aim to profess their undying love for increasingly obscure variants of automobiles) and corporate strategy as dictated by the holder of an Associates Degree with 7 years experiences as a consumer electronics Sales Consultant (inevitably, lots of rear-drive sports cars, body-on-frame SUVs etc).

As far as I know, this is the only place where we can discuss things like incentives, inventory,fuel economy and safety regulations and other topics that would put most Forza-addicted controller-clutchers to sleep, even though they literally dictate the way automobiles are engineered, designed, marketed and sold.

In most corners of the enthusiast world, the Camry is symbolic for what “car enthusiasts” despise; a basic appliance, uninteresting to look at or drive, using relatively simple, proven technology, available with only two pedals, often being sold in some shade of taupe. Only at TTAC could this car attract a following precisely because of those attributes. Then again, it’s really not that bad to drive.


]]> 296
QOTD: Volkswagen Golf GTD Looking Less Likely For America – Is The Audi A3 To Blame? Thu, 17 Apr 2014 13:42:47 +0000 2014-volkswagen-golf-gtd

Despite promises of the Volkswagen Golf GTD making its way to America, Automotive News is reporting that the prospect of VW’s diesel hot hatch arriving in America is looking like a dim prospect.

According to AN, the high output version of VW’s 2.0L TDI engine can’t be built in Volkswagen’s Mexican factory that supplies the engines for Golf in North America (though it does build the standard TDI engine). Although VW wouldn’t elaborate, the cost of the GTD (factoring in the engine, which would have to be imported from Germany), would make the GTD cost prohibitive for North America.

On the other hand, VW will have no less than three additional hatchbacks for North America: a lower priced version of the Golf TDI, a TDI Golf Sportwagen and the Audi A3 TDI Sportback. Given the small market share for diesels, it’s possible that Volkswagen is satisfied that these models will sufficiently cover the diesel hatchback market in America.

Previous, VW was projecting that the GTD would account for as much as 10 percent of Golf TDI sales. But it’s possible that VW was scared off by a last-minute product plan change over at Audi. The A3 TDI Sportback wasn’t initially planned for America, but enthusiast demand apparently spurred Audi to import it to America.

The A3 TDI will likely run close to the GTD’s projected $27,000 price tag – close enough that VW may have been worried about cannibalization between the two cars. Unlike Europe, America has neither the demand for diesels, hatchbacks or manuals (the A3 TDI is only offered with a dual-clutch transmission) to support two similarly priced entrants with little differentiation.

]]> 17
QOTD: At What Price Connectivity? Mon, 14 Apr 2014 15:36:17 +0000 Caterham_7_Roadsport_SV

From this week’s Automotive News, editor Jason Stein talks to former Hyundai CEO and now TrueCar board member John Krafcik about connected cars

“Do you notice that as we talk about increased connectivity in the car, we are also talking about being less connected with the car?” Krafcik asks through a phone line. “Connectivity and autonomy. Sounds like those are at odds with each other, hey?”

Krafcik, who owns a Caterham and a Porsche 911, is one executive who can speak with authority on the inverse relationship between in-car connectivity and feeling a connection with one’s automobile. Unfortunately, we seem to be moving inexorably towards the “connected car” model, at the expense of feeling connected to our cars – and most people don’t seem to mind one bit.

]]> 38
QOTD: Honda Insight Failed Because Of Marketing Mon, 07 Apr 2014 21:47:59 +0000 2010_Honda_Insight_LX_--_10-03-2009

Did the second-generation Honda Insight fail in the marketplace because of a lack of marketing resources? If you said “yes”, then you may want to look at a gig at American Honda.

Speaking to Ward’s Auto Honda’s Jeff Conrad, the Insight, which was generally regarded as a far cry from the class-leading Toyota Prius, failed not because of its rather coarse hybrid system or its Prius-aping styling, but from the lack of marketing resources. Said Conrad

“We had an initial launch, we spent a few dollars, but then we wanted to grow volume in other places, and that’s where the marketing dollars went.”

Far from the 90,000 units Honda aimed for annually, the Insight sold just under 21,000 units in 2010, its best year ever.  Meanwhile, Prius is to hybrid as Hoover is to vacuum cleaner.

]]> 78
QOTD: How Long Will The Cadillac ELR Last? Thu, 03 Apr 2014 11:00:18 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

So far, Cadillac has moved just 180 units of the ELR in 2014 – at that pace, Cadillac stands to sell just 720 units in 2014, far short of the often-stated 2,000-3,000 unit annual sales target.

Even worse is the inventory picture. According to, there are 1,077 ELRs available at dealers, which could translate to almost a year’s supply of the $76,000 plug-in hybrid.

The ELR is unequivocally a flop: between the absurd price tag, the fiasco erupting over Cadillac’s now-infamous TV ad and the early recall of the car, the launch of Cadillac’s “green” halo car could not have gone any worse. The only question is, how long will it last?

Personally, I think that it won’t make it past the 2015 model year. Dealers are already inundated with inventory, including multiple examples of the Saks Fifth Avenue tie-in cars, and the market for a $76k Cadillac version of the Volt is just not that large.

]]> 158
QOTD: Italian Government Auctions 1,500 Cars. What’s Your Pick? Fri, 28 Mar 2014 22:28:45 +0000 20140328_italy2

Via Zero Hedge, we have a listing put up by the Italian government of 1,500 luxury cars that are being auctioned off. Italy, which is deep in the throes of austerity, is doing the wise thing from an optics perspective, as the cars have come to symbolize government waste and unnecessary opulence.

While most of the stock consists of diesel Alfa Romeo 166 and Lancia Thesis models, there are some oddities at both ends of the spectrum. Random Italian detritus, like the Fiat Croma and Lancia Dedra, populates the ranks as well, along with a few BMW 525d sedans. There are also a number of Maserati Quattroportes (apparently procured because they were the cheapest armored sedans available….right) as well as a Jaguar S-Type R.

You can peruse the Ebay listings here, and tell us what you’d pick out of the current lot of 25 cars. At first glance, the Thesis would have been my choice, but they appear to be automatics. The Alfa’s seem to be stick shift, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s a no brainer. If only they were wagons.

]]> 32
QOTD: What’s Buick’s Next Niche? Wed, 26 Mar 2014 09:00:39 +0000 Opel_Adam_1.4_Glam_–_Frontansicht,_15._Januar_2014,_Düsseldorf

Industry sources tell TTAC that Buick is due for a new niche car in the next couple of years, and it could only be one of two models.

According to our sources, the nameplate will be a low-volume car that is expected to attract someone who might otherwise be interested in a Verano. That narrows it down to two choices: the Adam subcompact, or the Cascada.

The Adam, sold as an Opel in Europe, will also be badged as a Buick for the Chinese market. GM’s new small, turbocharged engine family seems to be a good fit for the car, which was heavily touted at the new engine’s introduction. According to Jalopnikthe Adam would apparently be packaged with a new three-cylinder engine. How that might fit with the Buick brand would be an interesting question, as the Vernao and other cars are often touted as offering a quiet ride and superior NVH characteristics. But having a small car that appeals to younger buys wouldn’t be the worst thing. I never thought the Encore would work, but I was dead wrong.


The other possibility is the Cascada, a four-seat ragtop based on the Verano. While convertibles are hardly the strongest segment, the death of the Chrysler 200 has left a giant void in the market for an American convertible that isn’t a pony car. Believe it or not, consumers (and of course, rental fleets) are interested in a front-drive ragtop that places more emphasis on comfort than speed, and the Cascada could fill that void nicely.

The big question is, what will it be? I’m going to hedge my bets and say…both. I really do believe both products will arrive on our shores first, but the Adam might be the one that gets here first. B&B, time for you to play armchair product planner and make your case for one or the other.

]]> 40
QOTD: What Do You Want Covered At NAIAS Thu, 09 Jan 2014 11:00:46 +0000 CoboHallDetroit

The first NAIAS press day I ever attended was in 2010. The auto industry was just finding its feet again after coming off record low sales. Discretion was the order of the day, with Ford unveiling the 2011 5.0 Mustang off-site, as fuel economy, alternative powertrains and other politically correct “stories” took precedence of power and brawn. Nancy Pelosi walked the show floor. For the first time in years, there’s an air of confidence surrounding the show. The industry appears to have found its legs again, the OEMs are making money, and a host of important debuts are set to be unveiled. Let us know what you’d like to see covered. We’ll make sure to have our photographers snapping pictures while myself and Juan bring you all the info.

]]> 44
QOTD: Your Automotive Predictions For 2014 Fri, 03 Jan 2014 13:00:27 +0000 Fusion-Titanium-front-quarter-450x337

Two years ago, I sat here pontificating about the 2012 Ford Fusion and its potential to be a “game changer” in the mid-size sedan market. Without any kind of concrete claim, it’s difficult for me to gloat about the accuracy of my claim, or for you, the B&B, to mock me for my over-exuberance (ok, it’s not). But this year, I’ve got something better: a prediction market of sorts, for the automotive industry. And it’s open to everyone.

-Jeep will sell about 125,000 units of the Cherokee in 2014, it’s first full year of sales. The Cherokee is too polarizing, and upper trim models get expensive. Toldeo is currently building 220,000 Wranglers per year for global consumption, with 141,000 of those sold in the US, where dealers can’t seem to keep them on the lots. They want to do another 250,000 units globally for the Cherokee, but I’m not sure they can sustain the current pace of 10,000 units a month, which I ascribe mostly to pent-up demand.

-Cherokee will be outsold by the 2014 Nissan Rogue, which is sufficiently bland enough to appeal to crossover buyers, while Nissan’s substantial dealer network, neutral brand image and ability to both crank Rogues out at Smyrna and finance practically anyone will help give it the edge. The CR-V and Escape will remain on top.

-The full-size segment will continue to decline, as crossovers eat away at this segment and every other passenger car segment in North America. Ford will not replace the Taurus with a next-generation, as sales of both the Explorer and its Police Interceptor version make such a car redundant.

-Small crossovers will continue to be all the rage in Europe, and one of the few growth spots in a flaccid new car market. Hyundai will launch its entrant in 2014.

-The shine will wear off of the Cadillac ATS, now that Cadillac PR isn’t paying attention, and the CTS V-Sport is basking in the warm glow of the hometown hype machine. Like the Camaro before it, the enthusiast press will cease its hyperbolic praise of the smallest Cadillac and call it for what it is: a competent, but not fully baked alternative to the Germans and Lexus.

BONUS: The mainstream automotive media (the big four buff books and enthusiast-oriented online publications) will continue to place themselves and their own tastes ahead of providing value to their readers. The Ford Explorer, which was criticized for abandoning its body-on-frame construction and becoming a “boring crossover”, is on track to have its best year since 2006, and as of the end of November, was America’s best-selling large SUV, proving an example of how out-of-touch the average buffet-circuit-and-diesel-wagon-lover is with the rest of the world.

If you have any, list them below. And come January 1, 2015, feel free to mock me mercilessly for the ones I get wrong. We can review my winners and losers – and yours as well.


]]> 125
QOTD: Better Off Mainstream? Wed, 27 Nov 2013 15:30:39 +0000 SONY DSC

Speaking at a preview event for the next-generation Hyundai Genesis, Hyundai CEO John Krafcik defended his company’s decision to forgo establishing a seperate luxury channel for cars like the Genesis and Equus. While the rationale put forth usually revolves around the exorbitantly expensive pricetag for launching a new brand and an all-new sales network, Krafcik put it from another angle.

Speaking to Automotive News, Krafcik remarked

“I do believe that when the three premium Japanese brands were launched, it was during a certain time in the industry when there was a certain optimism about where the industry was headed,” he said.

“I really believe that if those three companies had a chance to really think about their path, they might have taken the path that we chose.”

The epoch that saw the launch of Infiniti, Acura and Lexus was the peak of Japan’s “bubble”, when Japanese automakers seemed to have limitless budgets for new vehicle R&D, marketing (think of those wacky home-market ads with Hollywood star endorsements) and sales channels (whether it was new luxury brands in America or multiple sales channels in Japan).

At the time, the rationale was that a Nissan President or Toyota Aristo was suitable for sale with a more plebian badge in Japan, but American consumers would not be willing to shell out premium car money for a luxury sedan sold alongside a Corolla or a Civic, no matter how good it was.

Nearly three decades on and Acura is largely confined to America and China, while Infiniti seems to be stuck in the mud as far as becoming a global luxury brand. Even Lexus, which has become a household name on par with BMW or Mercedes-Benz, hasn’t made any kind of dent in Europe. Do you agree with Krafcik’s assessment? Let us know in the comments.

]]> 136
QOTD: Pump Up The Volume Fri, 25 Oct 2013 14:59:26 +0000 mercedes_is_betting_a_lot_on_smaller_cars_with_the_new_a_cla_large_104251

With the wraps finally off the BMW 2-Series, we now have a full slate of entry-level products from the German luxury designed to bring a whole new demographic into the arms of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. As much hand wringing as there is over the possible brand dilution going on here (all in the name of ever more important volume), it’s a damn good time to be a German car fan with around $30k to spend.



The Mercedes-Benz CLA is the first to hit the market, with the all-important sub$30,000 pricepoint. $29,900 gets you a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and swoopy, pseudo-CLS styling. But you won’t be staying there for long – pretty much everything is an option, and the price can creep upward really quickly.


For the same $29,900, Audi will also offer you a same sedan that is front-drive, with an engine 200cc smaller and the same “looks like a big Audi, till a big Audi pull up” styling. The A3 at least has a fair bit of standard equipment: xenon lights, leather and a moonroof are all standard.

digital post production: Ole Bunger

Of the Germans, only BMW has breached the $30,000 barrier, with its all new 228i, which starts at $33,025. But the 228i offers two things that the Audi and M-B can’t give you at any price: rear-wheel drive and a manual transmission. Of course, it’s also got two doors, while the other have four.

Tell me which one you’d prefer in the comments, or if you’d rather have a W-Body paid for in cash because owning one of these past the warranty period is an exercise is masochism.

]]> 80
QOTD: How About A TTAC Hot Wheels Series Wed, 16 Oct 2013 11:30:13 +0000 Mazda_Miata_Red

Over on Jalopnik’s Opposite Lock section, Juan Barnett raised the idea of having a “Jalopnik” series of Hot Wheels cars that would best represent the site. Everything from a Miata to an RS6 Avant to a Merkur XR4Ti was thrown around for the hypothetical 5-car collection. How about one for our august publication?

At first I thought about switching out Hot Wheels cars for the very JDM Tomica line, but then we’d be unable to include our favorite American Iron

If I were to have my pick, it would be something like this:

1) Any Panther (which model is up for debate)

2) Murilee’s Project Car Hell Impala

3) VW Jetta TDI Sportwagon in Brown

4) Jack’s Green S5

5) Chrysler Minivan

Honorable mentions include the latest V6 Mustang, the 2014 Toyota Corolla, NormSV650′s 40 MPG Saab, any of the BigTruckSeriesReview@Youtube’s SRT products and Zackman’s Impala.

Of course, these selections would likely be doomed to commercial failure. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go rip the NSX Concept out of the blister card.

]]> 35
QOTD: They Want How Much For A Cadillac ELR? Fri, 11 Oct 2013 19:55:45 +0000 2014-Cadillac-ELR-_12_-450x300

Pricing for the Cadillac ELR has been announced, and the swoopy Caddy coupe with the Voltec powertrain has been stickered at an astonishing $75,995, not including the $7,500 federal tax credit as well as other incentives.

One can make the argument that there will be a market for a premium plug-in that wealthy buyers can write off as an expense in one form another, personally, I think GM is out of their mind.

While the ELR gets a more powerful powertrain, Cadillac’s CUE system, improved regen braking capabilities and Batmobile-esque looks, the nearly $76k sticker price puts it within a few thousand dollars of the Tesla Model S 85 kWh Performance model. Fans of the Voltec powertrain can argue that the plug-in system is superior with respect to range and not being stranded on the side of the road, but I’d argue that in the green car space, nothing can touch a Tesla as far as image, cachet and status are concerned. And many people shopping for such a car are cognizant of that. I’m not sure that the ELR, positioned as a “green flagship” for Cadillac can command that kind of money.

]]> 128
Answers: Missing Automotive Details Fri, 30 Aug 2013 11:00:43 +0000 Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 10.07.14 AM

Gather ‘round, everyone, because it’s now time for the third installment of my recent “Question of the Day” spurt. Today, I’m listing the answers to my pressing and highly important question, “What automotive details are you missing?” In my original post, I named a few missed details – all brilliant – and asked you to provide your opinion on some others. These are the posts I felt were most deserving of inclusion here. (In other words, these are the posts I most agreed with.)

Automatic Up Windows – davefromcalgary

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 10.01.14 AM

I’ve never understood why automakers are willing to include windows and a sunroof that open automatically, but they can’t make the very same windows and sunroof close automatically. User davefromcalgary – a man named Mark who lives in the Des Plaines, Illinois, area – feels the same way. This is a missing detail that you notice a lot, especially if you spend a lot of time going through drive-thrus.

Split Rear Hatches – meefer

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 10.02.00 AM

Here’s a feature we all should have. In most SUVs or hatchbacks, you can’t really do much sitting once you’ve opened the tailgate. That’s a shame. The reason for this is that most tailgates are one-piece units that pop up in their entirety, meaning you’d have to slink down to the bumper height if you want to sit down when the tailgate is open.

This isn’t the case in a few cars, such as the Range Rover and the Honda Element. More automakers should adopt this design, or at least consider adopting this design before ultimately banishing it for being too expensive. It’s the thought that counts.

Rain Gutters – drtwofish

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 10.03.42 AM

In my Range Rover, the window switches are mounted so close to the exterior of the vehicle that they may as well be on the wing mirror. The result is that when you put down the window and there’s even the slightest bit of rain, or even the residue of rain, the water sloshes down on the window switches and you have to deal with whatever happens when rain gets inside a Land Rover window switch. (In other words: complete vehicle shutdown.)

This problem isn’t the case on cars that have rain gutters, as drtwofish brilliantly points out. Sadly, I don’t think anyone is doing this anymore. It’s a great detail and it’s sorely missed, likely in the name of style.

Turn Signal Lane Changer – ezeolla

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 10.04.23 AM

This is a great feature that’s very much missed on cars that don’t have it. Here’s how it works: you want to make a lane change on the highway, but you don’t want to devote any part of your attention to holding down the turn signal lever so people can see where you plan to go. The solution is the “lane changer,” which provides three quick flashes with the slight push of the signal stalk. This feature is sorely missed in vehicles that don’t have it, which is way too many.

Speed Limits on Navigation Systems – jacob_coulter

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 10.05.46 AM

I’ve driven cars with this feature and it’s absolutely awesome. Imagine cruising down the road and you realize that you have absolutely no idea what the speed limit is. So you glance down and… there it is! Then you can immediately slow down, or maybe speed up. It doesn’t matter. The point is there’s a clear indication, right there in the gauge cluster, that helps you with this highly important matter. After all, isn’t the speed limit just as important as, say, your battery voltage?

Cornering Lights – most TTAC users

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 10.06.13 AM

Automakers, if you’re listening, here’s an easy one: put cornering lights on your vehicles. A few brands already have them, but it seems like a lot of people want them back. This surprises me, as I find them to be rather unhelpful, not unlike memory seating for the passenger side. But people seem to like them.

For those who don’t know, cornering lights activate with the turn signals at low speeds to illuminate the curb you’re about to run over. These days, they’re mostly used on Nissan products.

Vent Windows – most TTAC users

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 10.06.39 AM

Here’s another topic suggested by an inordinate amount of the TTAC populace. Another explanation for those who don’t know: vent windows are at the very base and front of a car’s driver and passenger windows. They were common in the past because they could blow some amount of air into the cabin, but not a huge amount of air.

Apparently, people want these to come back. Surely, they were discontinued when mirrors needed to be powered, then heated, then include turn signals, which requires the amount of wiring in a wing mirror to be roughly equal to the amount of wiring in Jamaica.

And so there you have it, folks: today’s missing automotive details. Are you listening, automakers? We don’t have very complex demands. We just want some rain gutters, vent windows, and windows that go up automatically. Is that too much to ask?

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

]]> 192
QOTD: What Automotive Details Are You Missing? Wed, 07 Aug 2013 16:40:46 +0000 Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 12.21.46 PM

OK, folks: time for one last question of the day (for now, anyway). As you know, we’ve covered the best automotive details and the worst automotive details, both of which garnered well over 200 comments. Interestingly, the “worst” thread got about 100 more comments than the “best” thread, proving that we TTACers are a “glass is half empty” kind of crowd.

With that knowledge in mind, I’ve decided to ask one more pressing question: what automotive details are you missing? In other words: you’re driving down the road and you think to yourself: Why the hell doesn’t it have that? And then you get even more upset when someone tells you that the latest subcompact General Motors vehicle does have that, and it’s standard.

These can be from your own car, a friend’s car, or the industry as whole. And with that in mind, let’s get started:

Convertible Top Open/Close With Key Fob

At Porsche, I discovered that all European convertible models have a feature that allows the convertible top to open and close with the press of a key fob button. Hold down the unlock button in your 911 Cabriolet, for example, and the windows and top all go down. Seems brilliant, right?

Except that feature isn’t offered in the States, presumably for liability reasons. You know: because an American will place a baby on the roof of a convertible, press the button, then sue the automaker for $25 million, which will turn into $95 million once the jurors start crying.

Sliding Doors

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 12.20.53 PM

If you’ve been to Europe, chances are you’ve seen the Peugeot 1007, which was recently voted the coolest car ever in a scientific poll taken on the Peugeot 1007 Facebook group.

I love the 1007 because it’s unique in one very important way: it features sliding doors, and it isn’t a minivan. The doors aren’t for the rear passengers, you see, but for the front seats. This allows you to park virtually anywhere and get out of your car, making it the exact opposite of the Ford GT.

Swiveling Headlights

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 12.20.15 PM

I know, I know, a few luxury cars have this. And that means in about 10 years, all cars will have it. But to me, that moment couldn’t come soon enough. I think swiveling headlights are one of the greatest things currently offered: they save your neck in dark corners, and they seem to shine exactly where you want them to.

Rear-Facing Third-Row Seats


I used to own a car with rear-facing third-row seats, which qualifies me as to be an expert on the hotly contested issue of: Should cars have rear-facing third row seats?

The answer is, of course: yes they should. Because let’s be honest: rear-facing third-row seats pretty much always lead to a happy childhood. Also, for those who believe they aren’t safe, here’s a thought: in a rear-end collision, wouldn’t you rather have your legs get hit than the back of your head? I thought so.

Hands-Free Texting


If you’re like me, you view texting as a necessary evil with which we, as a society, are forced to cope. And if you’re like me, you probably send the occasional text message at a traffic light. Well, guess what? Most people are not like me. Most people are texting at all hours of the day and night, including while driving down the street, the highway, the alley, and, occasionally, the sidewalk.

I recently read a study on texting that said around 60 percent of 13-to-25-year-olds consider it the preferred method of communication. And since texting is so easy to distract us from driving, this is something that automakers will need to integrate better in the coming years. Voice controls? Mind controls? I don’t know. But something.

So, TTAC, what details are you missing? And don’t worry: I promise we’ll have “answers of the day” posts coming soon.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

]]> 287
QOTD: What Are The Worst Automotive Details? Fri, 02 Aug 2013 18:30:11 +0000 Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 12.15.37 PM

It’s time to devote yet another column to automotive details. The sharp-minded among us may be annoyed by this, since I already covered this subject last week. But this time, things are different. This time, it’s negative. And negative sells. I know that because I live in Atlanta, home of CNN, who drives around in large panel trucks with huge printed signs on each side that say: “HAVE YOU SEEN SOMETHING BLOODY? TWEET US!”

Anyway: negative automotive details. I’ve got a few suggestions and, as always, I’m asking for your help to uncover more. For those of you curious as to why I’ve done so many question-and-answer posts lately, I promise there is a reason, namely that I’m going out of town in two weeks and I want to compile all the answers into a few posts that you can read while I’m gone. But also it’s because I love reading the responses, to the point where I was up last time until 2 a.m. Googling “BMW glovebox flashlight.”

Here are my nominations for some of the worst automotive details, based on a few of the cars I’ve owned. Feel free to share yours.

Range Rover Parking Sensors

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 12.14.03 PM

It’s hard for me to believe that any single thing is more infuriating than the parking sensors on my Range Rover. (Re-reading this sentence, it sounds like someone who might say: “I just can’t get the temperature of my spa quite right.”) Seriously, though: I often think that I would gladly come home and discover that a burglar entered my home, stole all of my clothes, then let in a two-year-old child who drew all over the walls in Sharpie, all if it meant I no longer had to deal with my Range Rover parking sensors.

This is the problem. I’m backing into a parking space, so the sensors automatically activate. That’s great. They start beeping. Beep. Beep. Beep. Perfect. Then I get closer. Beep beep. Beep beep. Then I get super close. Beeeeeeeep. Exactly what I want to hear. So I stop parking and place the vehicle in park. And what happens next? You guessed it: Beeeeeeeep! Once the sensor goes on, it does not turn off, even if the vehicle is no longer in gear. So you’re parked and maybe you’re waiting for someone, and you just sit there listening to Beeeeeeep! And yes, you can manually turn off the sensor, but then you must manually turn it back on again when you’re trying to leave.

If you happen to know the person who designed these sensors, kindly provide me with their address so I can dispatch a crew of clothes-stealing burglars and creative, marker-wielding two-year-olds.

Mercedes Next Track Steering Wheel

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 12.14.54 PM

Owning a Mercedes is an unusual decision that I strongly recommend you only make if you can stomach a) tremendous depreciation, or b) substantial maintenance costs. In fact, it’s often both of those things, and never neither.

The detail that upset me most about Mercedes ownership, however, was none of that. It was the lack of a steering wheel ‘next track’ button.

Allow me to explain. The steering wheel of most Mercedes models, like any luxury car, is covered with buttons. On my 2007 E-Class, the total number was eight, just to be precise. But this is where the anger comes in: of those eight buttons, not one controlled the next stereo track! Instead, we had volume, phone, and four buttons for the “driver information center,” which you use approximately once a month when people ask: What kinda mileage duzzis thing get?

Gated Automatic Transmissions

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 12.15.54 PM

I will never in my life understand why gated automatic transmissions exist. One of you out there in readerland probably has a completely valid explanation that makes perfect sense in your mind, but trust me: you’ve never had to explain it to an elderly person in the hot sun.

I once worked at a large rental car agency, and we had to deliver a car to an elderly driver after her previous rental, a Dodge Avenger, broke down. (Shocking, right?) So we brought her a Suzuki Forenza, which has a gated automatic shifter, and I spent the next 30 minutes attempting to explain how it works. Unfortunately, I was at a loss for words when she asked why it works that way. I still am.

Cadillac CTS Foot-Mounted Parking Brake

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 12.16.47 PM

Before I got my current CTS-V Wagon, I had a CTS-V sedan, which was a fairly decent car in many ways – except for one glaring detail. No, I’m not talking about the plastic center stack, which derived its material from a Playskool toy. I am instead referring to the foot-mounted parking brake.

You’re probably thinking: What’s the big deal? A lot of cars have foot-mounted parking brakes! And that’s very true. The difference, however, is that most of those cars don’t have manual transmissions. The CTS-V did. That meant there were four pedals in the driver footwell, and the one you never wanted to press was directly next to the one you had to press each time you changed gear.

So, folks, what are your worst automotive details? It’s Friday night and my girlfriend is out of town, which can only mean one thing: 2 a.m. automotive Googling. Bring it on.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

]]> 373
QOTD: What Are The Best Automotive Details? Fri, 26 Jul 2013 17:25:57 +0000 Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 1.13.43 PM

Today’s topic is: details. Or, as Anthony Weiner eloquently puts it while sexting: “deets.”

Details are highly important in the creation of any modern automobile. I wish someone had told this to the people who built my Cadillac. They were less focused on details and more on the big picture, which I believe was something along the lines of: We have to get out of the Renaissance Center by 6 pm or else we’ll have to drive through downtown Detroit in the dark.

So my car is missing a few details. I’ve already discussed the tilt-down mirrors, which most of you described as the single most annoying feature in the history of the automobile, right up there with the hand crank starter. But how about the back windows, which are auto-down but not auto-up? Or the lack of automatic wipers? Or how the rear hatch will only lift when the car is in park, presumably due to some legal department weenie who insisted that otherwise it might open while driving, causing passengers to unbuckle their belts, hurl themselves towards the cargo area, and sue GM for negligence?

Maybe I’m splitting hairs. After all, they got the big stuff right. Like, for example, how it has 556 horsepower. That was an important one, and they really nailed it, and I’m certain of that every time I put my foot down and believe, for a split second, that I’m actually the pilot of Air Nippon’s daily nonstop from Los Angeles to Tokyo.

I was considering details the other day as I sat in the arrivals lane at the Atlanta Airport, frantically pressing the “hatch open” button to get my girlfriend’s bags in the trunk while a police officer yelled at me to move my vehicle. It was at this moment I realized there are still some detail-obsessed car companies out there, and some really cool details, a few of which I will name now. You’re welcome to add more, or at least send this to your friends at Cadillac, though I strongly suggest doing so before 6 pm. Here goes:

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Atomic Tail Lights

Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 1.13.57 PM

I’m going to say it right now: this is the coolest thing in the car industry today. I know what you’re thinking: The car industry has dual clutch transmissions and V-12 engines and self-leveling suspension and the FORD RAPTOR and you think the coolest thing is the tail lights on a hybrid family sedan?!

And the answer is: yes. Yes I do. That’s because they’re in the shape of an atomic particle, which is cool mainly because they don’t have to be. They could’ve been normal tail lights, or even General Motors tail lights, which light up about nine seconds after the center-mounted brake light comes on.

Volkswagen Golf Hatch Handle

Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 1.14.43 PM

This is also really cool. You walk up to the back of a Golf. You want to open the hatch. You look around. You push buttons on the key fob. The GTI doesn’t even have a power tailgate that can piss you off for not opening in “Drive.” You have no idea what to do. The bad guys are chasing you. And then you realize: the “VW” emblem doubles as a hatchback handle.

This is one of the better elements in modern automotive design, though I say this as someone who truly believes the Nissan Juke looks pretty nice. It lets the emblem be front and center on the hatch while simultaneously keeping the rear free of clutter from a handle. Perfect.

Volvo Climate Control Switches

Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 1.15.11 PM

I cannot tell you how many times this situation has happened to me:

1. Passenger gets in.
2. Passenger does not like current temperature.
3. Passenger begins fiddling with controls.
4. Twelve seconds later, the rear heater is on, as is the defroster, and possibly the hazard lights.

In Volvos, this problem is largely eliminated because you control where the air goes by simply pressing a diagram of a human being. This is incredibly easy, unless maybe you’re a dog and you want your tail to be heated. In that case, you simply slobber all over the gear lever until you get home, at which point you can lie in the sun for the rest of the afternoon.

Ford Focus Gas Tank


In a normal car, sheetmetal is placed in some handsome, well-thought-out manner that took a team of stylists six months of hard work to arrange, and then the production people cut out a rather obvious circle somewhere in back so you can put in fuel.

Not so in the Ford Focus hatchback. The Focus hatch’s gas tank is integrated into the lines on the car’s passenger side tail light, which means you can barely even tell it’s there. Of course, the Focus Electric ruins this unique touch by including a circle on a front fender for the electric charger. But that’s probably an EV driver status symbol.

So, TTAC, what are your favorite automotive details? I’m genuinely interested in the answers to this, as everyone seems to know of a few unique touches in their own cars – so please don’t hold back. And if someone from Cadillac happens to stop by: Why the hell do I need to be in Park to switch to a different memory seat setting?

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

]]> 267
QOTD: What Should We Rent Next? Mon, 22 Jul 2013 15:52:22 +0000 photo-45-450x337

It’s no secret that over here at TTAC, we like to pay for it – at least when it comes to test cars. Sure, we do go to the press fleet frequently, but when time and budget allow, abusing our Hertz #1 Club Gold membership is a great way to get behind the wheel of select automobiles.

For starters, press fleet vehicles tend to be heavily optioned variants of popular models, the kind that most shoppers would never drive off the lot. Rental cars, on the other hand, are typically “fleet specials”, with base powertrains and few options. If you’re lucky, you might wind up with an Impala LT instead of an LS, or a Camry Sport rather than the stripped-out LE model. They also live much harsher lives than press vehicles and tend to come with more miles on the clock, giving us a better idea of how the cars will hold up under harsh conditions.

Let us know what rental cars you’d like to see reviewed. While Jack is known for his reviews of straight up rental cars, I am not afraid of going to Zipcar to get impressions of vehicles that aren’t available in the fleet (or are off-limits to TTAC).

Let us know what you’d like to see in the comments.

]]> 68
QOTD: The No-Frills Luxury Car? Not As Crazy As It Sounds Wed, 10 Jul 2013 14:33:44 +0000 2010-Lincoln-Town-Car-Sedan-Signature-Limited-4dr-Sedan-Interior

An increasing trend I’ve been noticing is the increasing discomfort that older buyers are experiencing with luxury cars. Even the more tech savvy of the lot are getting frustrated with the rapid influx of technology in their cars of choice.

In the past year, I’ve had two older gentleman ask me for lower-tech alternatives in the luxury segment. One man in his 80′s was interested in a Lincoln MKT, but ended up purchasing a Lexus LS460 after being unable to get a handle on MyLincoln Touch. Another in his mid 60′s, who religiously buys Lexus ES350s, is now looking at a Hyundai Azera after being frustrated with the new mouse-style control for the Lexus infotainment system.

Doug DeMuro brought up a great point on his Kinja blog, namely, what are older buyers gravitating towards when every luxury brand seems committed to attracting younger buyers. Yes, this makes good business sense, lest you become Buick, saddled with a customer base that is literally dying off. But why ignore your customer base, which actually has the money to buy your cars? Why does the Cadillac XTS, a car that will only be bought by those in the over 45-set, offer CUE, a notoriously bad touch-sensitive infotainment system? The XTS is the kind of car that should be elegant but simply laid out for ease of us. A driving experience laden with distractions and repeatedly stabbing a haptic feedback control is the antithesis of luxury.

I wonder if the tide will eventually turn back to traditional buttons, simpler layouts and less reliance on complex, fragile electronic systems. As public beta testing and increasingly disposable electronics become the norm, cars have the opportunity to be a beacon of resilience and quality. But I don’t think I’d be on that.

]]> 177
Dan Ammann Disses Deutschland’s Drive For Volume Tue, 14 May 2013 13:00:36 +0000 Cadillac_ATS_at_NAIAS_2012_(6677990619)

Cadillac may be gunning too hard for Germany’s domain of rear-drive sports sedans, but one area where The Standard of the World won’t be gunning for them is in the volume race. GM CFO Dan Ammann told Automotive News that unlike BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, “We’re not going to be in every single segment that they’re in”.

“In some ways, I think that not having the pressure to sell the last incremental car at whatever cost … is actually not a bad place to be right now. Continuing to move down price points, and microsegmentation of all of these little categories, all seems to be driven by a sort of volume-at-all-costs mentality,” Ammann said. “What that does long term for brand health I think remains to be seen.”

Now, it’s true that Cadillac is working with a different set of circumstances than the Germans. For one, its product and sales base is much smaller than globally-integrated German luxury marques. And frankly, Cadillac should expand a little if it wants to make a real run at Europe and China. A small crossover to compete against the Audi Q3 wouldn’t be a bad idea, along with a brand new Cadillac SRX.

On the other hand, I’m glad that Ammann feels no need to pursue this strategy of going for every last niche. In the long run, I think it will do some damage to luxury brands if they keep moving too down market, as their premium position will be diluted by making the brand too accessible. Europe is plagued by a declining car market, an aging population and a lost generation of young consumers. Their auto makers have to do something to make their products accessible to the next generation. Like Jaguar Land Rover, Cadillac isn’t as exposed to these problems as Europe’s auto makers. Their big markets (the United States and China, India and the UK for JLR) have both economics and demographics on their side. Refraining from the “volume or bust” mindset is a luxury they can afford to indulge in.

]]> 21