The Truth About Cars » QOTD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 17 Apr 2015 16:18:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Question Of The Day: What’s the Next Big Automotive Segment? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/whats-next-big-automotive-segment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/whats-next-big-automotive-segment/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 14:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1025505 Well, folks, I can confidently tell you right now what the hot new segment is: small luxury crossovers. Have you noticed this? These things are now everywhere, commonplace, ubiquitous. As popular as Apple laptops with organic food stickers on a liberal arts campus. Now, you might be thinking that you already knew this, because luxury […]

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Well, folks, I can confidently tell you right now what the hot new segment is: small luxury crossovers. Have you noticed this? These things are now everywhere, commonplace, ubiquitous. As popular as Apple laptops with organic food stickers on a liberal arts campus.

Now, you might be thinking that you already knew this, because luxury crossovers have been everywhere for years. The Lexus RX. The BMW X5. The Acura MDX. A bunch of other luxury SUVs with “X” in the name, in order to signify all-terrain capabilities, even though the tire pressure light would come on if you rolled over anything larger than a desk lamp.

But I’m not referring to the uncool, outmoded old guard of luxury SUVs. I’m talking about all the new smaller models, which have somehow popped up without warning entirely within the last two years. There is, for example, the BMW X1. The Buick Encore. The Audi Q3. The Lexus NX. The Mercedes-Benz GLA. All additions to the lineup for their respective automakers. All tiny luxury SUVs. And all on sale within the last 18 months.

And it’s not just happening in the luxury realm. Even mainstream automakers are jumping on the bandwagon of what I am calling subcompact SUVs, with several new models joining this previously undiscovered segment within the last six months. Think about it: the Chevrolet Trax. The Mazda CX-3. The Honda HR-V. The Jeep Renegade. All new compact crossovers, all recently on sale, all part of a hot new segment, and if you’re still driving around in a boring ol’ midsize sedan, well then you just aren’t cool anymore, are you?

Could we have predicted these things coming? Possibly. I mean, SUVs are so hot right now that we should’ve seen the fact that there would soon be SUVs of all sizes, from subcompact to public bus. So this doesn’t surprise me too much, and if you’ve been paying attention, it shouldn’t surprise you, either.

What has always surprised me, however, is the Subaru Outback. Nobody could’ve seen that coming. Here’s a car company that sells a wagon in a country where nobody wants wagons, with standard all-wheel drive that’s unnecessary to half the citizens, and by God they simply raise it up and change the wheels and they’ve carved out a niche that has now lasted for two decades.

The Outback is so popular that nobody else even plays in the segment. It’s the Jeep Wrangler effect, essentially. Companies look at the Outback and the Jeep Wrangler, and they see how easy the concept would be to replicate, so they get in there and they make their own version, and then they learn that the people don’t want their stupid knock-off, they want a Wrangler, dammit, no matter how many windshield wipers Toyota tries put on the thing.

Not all segments are as successful. For example: at some point during the 1990s, Ford thought it would be a good idea to create a two-wheel drive pickup truck with a bed cover and call it a Lincoln. I can only imagine the excitement as this thing was building up to launch. Jac Nasser was probably doing interviews, grinning ear to ear in that way that made his eyebrows contort like a cartoon character’s, telling everyone that Ford had the hot new product. And then the thing came out, and they sold roughly 24 of them, 19 of which went to wives of Lincoln dealers.

General Motors isn’t blameless for bizarre segmentation, either. I will literally never forget the first time I saw a photograph of the GMC Envoy XUV, which was a long-wheelbase version of the GMC Envoy with a retractable-roof cargo area designed to add extra practicality for hauling huge items like grandfather clocks and palm trees. In fact, early press photos showed just that: the driver, apparently an antiques dealer – who could only afford one vehicle for both family and work purposes – hauling around a grandfather clock in his retractable cargo area. Of course, General Motors forgot one issue when designing this car, namely that nobody in the history of the world has ever wanted to haul around a grandfather clock in their midsize SUV.

So my point here is that when it comes to creating new segments, you have winners — like the X1 and the Outback — and you have losers, like the Envoy XUV and the Lincoln Blackwood. So it’s hard to come up with new segments, because sometimes it ends up being a waste of money.

Fortunately, it isn’t hard for us to come up with new segments, because we aren’t spending any money. We’re not the head of a car company, and we’re not going to put these ideas into development. But just in case you were… what segment would you add? What do you think will heat up next? What vehicles do you think the auto industry is sorely lacking?

I’m eager to hear your ideas. They can’t be worse than the grandfather clock.

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Question Of The Day: Japan’s Future Classics http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-japans-future-classics/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-japans-future-classics/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 14:18:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1010146 When a publication like Barron’s is getting in on the “Japanese classic car” story, you can be sure that this is more than just a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon of aging boomers looking to buy the 240Z they lusted after in high school. It also helps that most Japanese cars, save for the Toyota 2000GT and an all-original […]

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When a publication like Barron’s is getting in on the “Japanese classic car” story, you can be sure that this is more than just a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon of aging boomers looking to buy the 240Z they lusted after in high school. It also helps that most Japanese cars, save for the Toyota 2000GT and an all-original Nissan Skyline GT-R “Hakosuka” with the original S20 engine, are within the reach of most potential classic car investors.

Aside from obvious candidates like the Acura NSX and the Toyota Supra Turbo, I think that there are some solid gems that will fetch decent money or be otherwise desirable in the future. Front and center is the Acura Integra Type-R. Most of them have been crashed, stolen or modified. I don’t think they’ll ever hit the same heights as a Hemi Cuda, but they occupy a similar place in the imagination of the Fast and Furious generation. I’d also add the Mitsubishi Evo and the third-generation Mazda RX-7 for similar reasons. Any other candidates?

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Question Of The Day: Will The CR-V Continue To Be America’s Best-Selling Honda? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-will-cr-v-continue-americas-best-selling-honda/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-will-cr-v-continue-americas-best-selling-honda/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:21:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1008298 After averaging around than 230,000 U.S. sales between 2007 and 2013, a period in which Honda averaged 295,000 annual Civic sales and 324,000 annual Accord sales, the CR-V was the second-best-selling Honda in America for the first time ever in 2014. Much of the CR-V’s Civic-besting work was done in a second half which saw Civic […]

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2015 Honda CR-VAfter averaging around than 230,000 U.S. sales between 2007 and 2013, a period in which Honda averaged 295,000 annual Civic sales and 324,000 annual Accord sales, the CR-V was the second-best-selling Honda in America for the first time ever in 2014.

Much of the CR-V’s Civic-besting work was done in a second half which saw Civic volume slide 10%. Moreover, 54% of the CR-V’s 2014 U.S. volume was generated in a strong second-half.

But the CR-V didn’t stop with the Civic. In each of 2014’s final three months, the CR-V also outsold the Accord, America’s second-best-selling car.

A brief spurt of extraordinary achievement? Perhaps not. In the first month of 2015, the CR-V was once again the best-selling Honda in America.

The CR-V outsold the Accord by 2129 units in October; the Civic by 5103. In November, the gap widened considerably, with the CR-V outselling the Accord by 7103 units; the Civic by 9318. In the final month of 2014, as Accord volume slid 2% year-over-year, the CR-V outsold the midsize Honda by 780 units; the Civic 7032. In the fourth-quarter of 2014, American Honda reported 94,004 CR-V sales, equal to 28% of the brand’s total, up from 23% the same period one year earlier.

Honda sales chart 2014-2015The Civic’s share of Honda’s pie fell from 26% in the fourth-quarter of 2013 to 22%. The Accord’s share slid from 26% to 25%.

Then, in concert with its fifth consecutive month as America’s top-selling SUV/crossover, the CR-V was the top Honda for the fourth month running in January 2015. As non-CR-V Hondas collectively achieved a 7% year-over-year improvement, equal to 4415 extra sales compared with January 2014, CR-V volume jumped 27%, or 4979 units.

In fact, despite being outsold by Nissan, the Honda brand reported record January sales in 2015, with no large amount of thanks to their car division, which slipped 1.5%. But in addition to a record January from the CR-V, a clear-out of remaining second-gen Pilots helped the bigger Honda crossover to a near-doubling of January volume: 12,315 units, up 89% from 6224 in January 2014.

The CR-V is not alone in its car-conquering ways. Pickup trucks aside, the Escape, America’s second-best-selling utility vehicle, was Ford’s top seller in each of the last five months, although it trailed the Fusion by a scant 648 units at year’s end. The Escape was Ford’s best-selling non-pickup-truck in 2011, 2012, 2013, as well.

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

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Question Of The Day: Has Acura Fooled Us All? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-acura-fooled-us/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-acura-fooled-us/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 17:57:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1004850 If you ask any automotive enthusiast about Acura, you’re likely to get approximately the same response. “Oh, ACURA?” they’ll say, with a look of disgust, as if they were just informed their flight is experiencing mechanical issues and will be stopping in Des Moines. “Acura used to be so cool. And now…” And then they […]

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If you ask any automotive enthusiast about Acura, you’re likely to get approximately the same response. “Oh, ACURA?” they’ll say, with a look of disgust, as if they were just informed their flight is experiencing mechanical issues and will be stopping in Des Moines. “Acura used to be so cool. And now…”

And then they dazzle you with all the ways that Acura used to be cool. The Integra. The RSX. The NSX. The Vigor. The Legend Coupe with that cool 6-speed manual transmission and those oversized alloy wheels. Then they tell you about how Acura was so cool that you couldn’t leave an Integra Type-R outside the grocery store for five minutes without some car theft ring stealing it and dumping the stripped shell in a ditch in a part of town where train tracks outnumber living trees.

But now?

Acura is BORING, car enthusiasts say. They’ve lost their direction, their purpose, their progress. Acura is the automotive equivalent to that time Robert Downey, Jr. told his agent that yes, it does seem like a good idea to do that Shaggy Dog movie where I play an evil geneticist who kidnaps a sacred, shape-shifting dog from a Tibetan monastery.

And car enthusiasts may have a point, because Acura is hardly as exciting as it once was Think about it: a brand formerly consumed by manual transmissions and sharp handling has now given way to the torque converter, the ventilated seat, and a dual infotainment setup with more total screen inches than my parents’ living room. So where the hell did they go wrong?

Or… did they?

I say this because I recently discovered that Acura’s two SUVs – inexplicably named the RDX and MDX – are two of today’s best-selling luxury crossovers. And this is no easy feat: in today’s world, everybody sells a luxury SUV. BMW has five of them. So does Mercedes. Lexus is going to create twenty-six luxury SUVs, one for every letter of the alphabet (followed by the letter “X”), each uglier than the last, until finally they come out with the ZX 350, which looks like a desktop fax machine on wheels.

And leading the charge through all this is… Acura? The brand that forgot enthusiasts? The brand that gave up on the fun car?

It isn’t just SUVs where Acura seems to be making a killing. Take, for example, the Acura TL, which is a midsize sedan known for its transmission problems (1999-2003), good looks (2004-2008), and scary-looking beak nose (2009-2013). Well, guess what? The TL is also insanely popular. Seriously: you cannot drive through an HOA-controlled condo complex in the Los Angeles suburbs without seeing at least a dozen TLs, all in various nondescript colors that Acura calls something like Pearl Stormcloud Metallic.

Admittedly, the TL is now dead; replaced instead by a new model called the TLX. But guess what? It has an expanded engine lineup, a wider variety of features, lower pricing, and a normal front end that doesn’t make it look like an automotive killing machine. I’m guessing this won’t lead to fewer sales.

Now, I’m not to say Acura is without faults. We all know about the bizarre ZDX, which cost like fifty grand and had a backseat designed for a headless turtle. And then there’s the ILX, which is little more than a cynical Honda Civic clone with an unfortunate markup. And of course, there’s also the RLX, which is still on sale in the same way that John Glenn is still alive: you have to check the Wikipedia page every few months just to make sure.

But what I’ve noticed is that Acura actually does pretty damn well for being a company that “turned its back” on automotive enthusiasts, and “lost its direction.” So well, in fact, that you have to wonder if “losing its direction” happened precisely on purpose. In fact, you kind of have to wonder if Acura’s direction isn’t really lost at all.

So what do you think? Am I wrong? Is Acura a directionless, formless blob of a luxury car company? Or, by ignoring automotive enthusiasts, have they found a better direction?

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Question Of The Day: Has Mazda Lost Its Zoom? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-mazda-lost-zoom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-mazda-lost-zoom/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 14:26:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=999250 Ladies and gentlemen, today I must reveal a depressing opinion about Mazda: I believe they no longer zoom. Yes, folks, that’s right: I believe that Mazda, everyone’s favorite “zoom zoom” brand, once home to all the cool “zoom zoom” cars, is no longer in the “zoom zoom” business. In fact, if they were to make […]

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Ladies and gentlemen, today I must reveal a depressing opinion about Mazda: I believe they no longer zoom.

Yes, folks, that’s right: I believe that Mazda, everyone’s favorite “zoom zoom” brand, once home to all the cool “zoom zoom” cars, is no longer in the “zoom zoom” business. In fact, if they were to make those commercials again today, the little boy would say “sip sip,” and the ad would show Mazda’s lineup slowly descending a hill in top gear in order to maximize average fuel economy.

For those of you who have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, allow me to back up a bit. The year was 2005 – or possibly 2002, I have no idea – and Mazda was putting out these “zoom zoom” commercials in order to point out how it was more fun than all the other automakers. What would happen in these ads was:

1. A little boy – inexplicably dressed in funeral attire – would stand by the side of the road and whisper “zoom zoom” while the camera panned uncomfortably close to him.

2. They’d start playing this high-energy song, whose entire lyrics – this is true – were “Zoom
ZOOM zoom! Yeah zoom zoom zoom zoom zoom.”

3. The entire Mazda lineup – including the B-Series, which was an outdated small pickup that moved with the grace of a garage door – would speed recklessly through the desert, uprooting sagebrush and various species of lizards.

Although I’d love to make fun of these commercials, I must admit that I actually enjoyed them immensely. You got the sense, when you were watching them, that Mazda was cool and fun and youthful, and other people must’ve agreed, because how else do you explain them selling all those yellow Protege5s?

More importantly, however, Mazda of ten years ago had the exciting lineup to justify these ads. There was the high-performance MazdaSpeed6, which had more power than the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. There was the sporty MazdaSpeed3, which had more power than the Acura NSX. And there was the RX-8, which consumed more oil than a NASCAR race. And who can forget the turbocharged MazdaSpeed Miata, which soon gave way to the highly enjoyable “NC” MX-5?

But in my opinion, the brand long since has changed.

Now, before I assail Mazda for making un-zoomy products, I should note that they aren’t currently using the “zoom zoom” tagline anywhere in their advertising. In fact, a quick trip to their website reveals they aren’t using any slogan, and instead their press images primarily involve bright red vehicles in dimly lit settings.

And it’s a good thing that Mazda has abandoned its “zoom zoom” slogan, because the brand isn’t really in the zoomy business any longer. I think many of you agree with me here, or at least call me names in the comments.

To help prove my point, consider the Mazda6, which is the single most attractive midsize sedan in human history. Seriously: when we all die, and humanity moves on, there will come a day, deep in the future, when the curator at the Louvre says: “We need to make room for the 2014 Mazda6. Can we move the small, faded painting of that grinning woman? Lisa something?”

But here’s the problem: as beautiful as the new Mazda6 is, it isn’t sporty. Oh, sure, it handles a little better than most competitors, and it has big wheels that make it look like an expensive luxury car; the kind of luxury car that might have illuminated door sills and free baked goods in the dealership waiting area.

But its most powerful engine makes 174 horsepower. One seventy four. This is Honda Civic territory. This is Ford Focus territory. This is 1990s family sedan territory. And to make matters worse, another unfortunate Mazda6 fact: every single competitor offers more power. Even the Toyota Camry – long considered the automotive version of un-lined typing paper –has a V6 version that makes 268 horses and reaches 60 mph in under 6 seconds.

It isn’t just the Mazda6 that’s got me worried. While Ford’s subcompact Fiesta has a high-performance version with 184 horsepower, the tiny Mazda2 is saddled with only 100. While the Volkswagen Golf R is about to debut with 296 horsepower, there still isn’t a MazdaSpeed3 – though some rumors say it’s on the way. The brand of the RX-7 and RX-8 now makes three SUVs and a minivan. And instead of pursuing speed, Mazda has instead earned the EPA’s distinction of most fuel-efficient automaker – an honor, yes, but not a zoomy one.

But if you aren’t yet convinced that the fun is gone from Mazda, here’s the real kicker: that zoom-zoom kid? The one in the commercials? Who got all excited about the Mazda6 powersliding over an endangered turtle habitat? He’s at Notre Dame Law School, where he’s currently on the dean’s list. The dean’s list!!! In other words: even the zoom-zoom kid has given up on having fun!

Now, I admit that Mazda is just now coming out with the all-new MX-5 Miata, which is the brand’s link to the high-performance world. And I understand that some of you might think that this alone makes Mazda sporty. But here’s my counterargument: Ferrari.

Ferrari, as you know, makes bright red sports cars for people who spend more time tending to their hair than their children. But they also make an oddly proportioned station wagon with a hood so large that it could serve as a landing area for remote-controlled drones. But is Ferrari a station wagon maker? No! They’re a sports car maker that happens to have a station wagon – just as Mazda is a mainstream, gas mileagy brand that happens to have a cool little sports car.

I also admit that Mazda products are generally more fun to drive than their counterparts at Honda, Toyota, Nissan, or other brands. But does this justify Mazda’s image as a “sporty” automaker? Does a slightly better steering feel and improved cornering abilities still make Mazda a “zoom zoom” brand? In my opinion, it just isn’t the same – but what say you? Has Mazda lost its zoom?

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Question Of The Day: How Long Until Atmospheric Ferraris Rise In Price? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-long-atmospheric-ferraris-rise-price/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/question-day-long-atmospheric-ferraris-rise-price/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2015 16:09:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=993106 Today marked the introduction of the second turbocharged Ferrari, the 488 GTB. Replacing the 458 Italia, the 488 is another move towards the eventual replacement of naturally aspirated Ferrari engines with turbocharged units. Ferrari’s engineers are on record as stating that they “don’t like turbos” and are moving towards them solely for regulatory compliance reasons. […]

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Today marked the introduction of the second turbocharged Ferrari, the 488 GTB. Replacing the 458 Italia, the 488 is another move towards the eventual replacement of naturally aspirated Ferrari engines with turbocharged units.

Ferrari’s engineers are on record as stating that they “don’t like turbos” and are moving towards them solely for regulatory compliance reasons. By all accounts, the new California T is about as good as a turbocharged engine can get in terms of throttle response and driver engagement. The new 488 GTB gets a downsized 3.9L V8 (versus 4.5 in the old car) making a massive 661 horsepower and 560 lb-ft of torque – 64 more than the 458 Speciale that Jack was enamored with during R&T’s Performance Car of the Year test.

But Hooniverse editor and TTAC contributor Kamil Kaluski raised an interesting point. Will Ferrari values rise for the pre-turbo models, similar to air-cooled Porsches?

FullSizeRender (2)

Moving from N/A to turbo engines doesn’t represent a wholesale change in character the way that the shift from air to water cooling did for Porsche. But it’s not out of the question. Let us know your thoughts.

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Would You Buy a Used Rental Car? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/buy-used-rental-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/buy-used-rental-car/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 11:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=990522 Most car enthusiasts know that rental cars are the most abused vehicles on the road. We know this, of course, because we are the ones who abuse them. Seriously: when a normal person picks up a rental car, they see it as little more than basic transportation. A simple, cheap vehicle designed to bring them […]

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Most car enthusiasts know that rental cars are the most abused vehicles on the road. We know this, of course, because we are the ones who abuse them.

Seriously: when a normal person picks up a rental car, they see it as little more than basic transportation. A simple, cheap vehicle designed to bring them from the Houston airport to a suburban office park, where they will give a presentation about something like The Efficacy of Automated Stapler Software to a company with a nondescript name like “RidgeTech” or “The Matheson Group.”

But car enthusiasts see it differently. When a car enthusiast gets inside a rental car, he doesn’t wonder where the lights are, or how to turn on the wipers. Instead, he thinks: How fast can I go before it locks me out of park? And then he tests this, repeatedly, until finally the transmission dies, at which point he goes home and tells his friends that whatever Chrysler he rented is an unreliable piece of shit.

For further proof of how car enthusiasts beat on rental cars, allow me to share my most recent rental car experience. It was in Europe, and I was tremendously excited, because I had rental car insurance. When a customer eagerly opts for rental car insurance, this is a bad sign. If you run a rental car company, and the customer asks “Can I get even MORE rental car insurance?”, you can be pretty sure you will never see the car again with all of its doors attached.

So anyway: I rented something small and pathetic, some French car called the C-Elysee, and it was awful. I mean, truly terrible. It was ugly, it was cheap, it was boring, it was plasticky, and it accelerated at the same rate as melting ice. So I decided that the best thing to do – the best way to really enjoy this car – would be to pull the handbrake in every possible situation, including when stopping at red lights.

Now, it’s been about six months since this trip, so this car has probably found its way into the hands of a real customer by now. A normal person, maybe even a young driver, highly excited to receive her very first car, with absolutely no knowledge that a previous driver drove 37 miles of the French Riviera with the handbrake up “just to see if it would let me.”

But here’s the thing about modern cars: in large part, they can usually take the abuse. I say this because I spent a summer in college working for Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and I discovered that modern cars are capable of handling just about anything that modern car renters can do to them. Blowout on the highway? No problem. Mud in the trunk? Not a worry. Didn’t realize the parking brake was in the footwell, so you drove around with it engaged all weekend? Who cares!

Indeed, it seems that modern cars are almost manufactured to the lowest common denominator. It’s as if, when an automobile engineer is designing a vehicle, he thinks to himself: what about the guy who tucks in his shirt even though he doesn’t have a belt? And then they add a bunch more screws and nuts and bolts just to make sure even that guy doesn’t break the thing.

And so today’s question is this. We all know how much rental cars can be abused – whether intentionally or unintentionally, whether by car enthusiasts or complete idiots. And yet, we all know how reliable modern cars are: the days of breakdowns and mechanical failures and unexplained noises are generally over, unless you’re driving a Land Rover. So is a used rental car worthy of your consideration? Is it an acceptable possibility? And if not: at what price would you change your mind?

Me, I’d have no problem buying a used rental car, provided it a) passes a thorough mechanical inspection, b) feels perfectly fine on a test drive, and c) is not a Dodge Avenger. What about you?


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Question Of The Day: Can Nissan Sell 100,000 Titans Annually? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-can-nissan-sell-100000-titans-annually/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-can-nissan-sell-100000-titans-annually/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 13:35:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988698 In the nameplate’s best-ever year, Nissan sold 86,945 Titans in the United States. Nissan USA wants to sell 100,000 Titans annually when the new model, with its more extensive lineup, arrives for the 2016 model year. • Titan sales declined 20% in 2014 • Titan volume peaked at 87K in 2005 • F-Series, GM, Ram […]

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2016 Nissan Titan XDIn the nameplate’s best-ever year, Nissan sold 86,945 Titans in the United States.

Nissan USA wants to sell 100,000 Titans annually when the new model, with its more extensive lineup, arrives for the 2016 model year.


• Titan sales declined 20% in 2014

• Titan volume peaked at 87K in 2005

• F-Series, GM, Ram combined for 1.9M full-size truck sales in 2014


A 15% uptick from that record-setting year – the Titan’s second full year in the U.S., 2005 – doesn’t sound like an insurmountable leap forward. But an increase to 100,000 units would represent a six-fold improvement over the Titan’s U.S. sales average from the last three years.

According to Automotive News, Nissan North America’s chairman, Jose Munoz, told a crowd at the J.D. Power Automotive Summit that their aspirations are “modest,” and that when it comes to the automaker’s expectations for the Titan, “We’re very bullish.”

But is it reasonable to expect that the Titan could penetrate the market with Toyota Tundra-like force?

With 118,493 sales in 2014, Toyota USA reported their best Tundra sales year since 2008 and earned 5.7% market share in the full-size category. Nissan feels that less than 5% market share in the full-size category, “would be considered by us as not very successful.”

2016 Nissan Titan XDIn other words, Nissan needs to sell Titans at a record-setting pace even though the market for full-size trucks, at least in 2014, was down 16% compared with 2005, when Titan volume was at its previous best.

To earn 5% market share in the full-size truck category in 2014, Nissan would have needed to sell 103,000 Titans. Nissan sold 12,527 Titans in 2014.

Recent performances may mean very little aside from the fact that, without so much as a facelift or new powertrain, the first-gen Titan became something of a laughingstock in the truck world. In 2004, Nissan was marketing a 305-horsepower, 5.6L V8-powered truck with a 5-speed automatic and an EPA-rated 17 mpg on the highway at a time when Ford was offering a 231-horsepower, 4.6L V8, a 4-speed automatic, and 17 mpg on the highway. Fair enough.

2016 Nissan Titan XDA decade later, however, Nissan was still selling the same truck (albeit with 12 more ponies), but it was up against gas-fired six and eight-cylinder pickups from Ram with EPA highway ratings between 21 and 23 miles per gallon, 305 or 395 horsepower, and 8-speed automatics. The lack of redevelopment may not have done the Titan nameplate any favours, particularly not in a category where hundreds of thousands of buyers have already attached their loyalty to top-selling trucks.

But the new Titan is most definitely new. There will be an available Cummins diesel, a semi-heavy-duty XD version with a unique frame, and more available configurations across the board. Nissan will therefore be tackling a far larger portion of the pickup market. But will they do so with as much success as they anticipate and apparently require?

Here’s a scenario full of assumptions that would work in the new Titan’s favour. The full-size truck market grows 8% in 2015, just as it did in 2014, and then does so again in 2016, when the Titan is readily available. Now the full-size market is nearly the same size as it was in 2005, when the Titan performed at its best. With 2.41 million sales to split and Nissan needing 100,000 units (equal to 4.1% market share), the competitors must only generate 2.31 million sales. (They generated 2,053,721 sales in 2014.) This would mean that the F-Series, Silverado, Sierra, Ram, and Tundra collectively rose 12.5% over the course of two years, a healthy boost to their own volume which would still, in turn, create space for bigger Titan numbers, too.

2016 Nissan Titan XD interiorIn other words, growth in the overall truck market would allow the Titan to expand its volume without needing to steal sales from the established players, something it didn’t need to do in its 2004 debut year, either. That year, full-size sales jumped by 177,000 units, or 8%, and Nissan added more than 80,000 of those sales.

And if the full-size truck market doesn’t grow? If plans for growth are stalled by the shocking success of a revitalized small/midsize truck segment? If there is substantial growth but consumers don’t take kindly to the Titan’s new face? If Nissan is taken aback by Detroit’s willingness to incentivize their trucks at all cost to avoid losing market share? In those cases, all bets are off.

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

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QOTD: When Did BMW Lose Its Edge? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/qotd-bmw-lose-edge/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/qotd-bmw-lose-edge/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 17:11:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988002 Twenty years ago, BMW was the coolest automaker in the world. I know this because I – as a young lad of less than ten, growing up in the 1990s – desperately wanted my father to purchase a BMW. And he – as a rational, middle-aged man in his 40s – ended up in a […]

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Twenty years ago, BMW was the coolest automaker in the world. I know this because I – as a young lad of less than ten, growing up in the 1990s – desperately wanted my father to purchase a BMW. And he – as a rational, middle-aged man in his 40s – ended up in a Camry with cloth seats and a tape player. He wasn’t the BMW type. He wasn’t cool enough. Back then, few were.

Remember the BMW of yore? The sharknose 6 Series. That late-1990s 7 Series (E38) that looked like the kind of thing the devil would drive, if he was late to a board meeting in Hell. The beautiful mid-1990s 5 Series (E34), and the perfect late-1990s 5 Series (E39) that followed it. The Z8. The Z3, which – although it hasn’t aged well – came out to universal acclaim in the mid-90s, and made its way into a Bond movie soon after. And then there was the 3 Series: the E30. The E36. The E46. The brand’s bread-and-butter, perfectly executed, perfectly sized, perfect to drive.

Little did we know, it was the brand’s all-time peak.

Twenty years later, here we are: the BMW of now. Gran Coupes. Gran Turismos. xDrive35i. Sports activity vehicles. iDrive. And a front-wheel drive electric car with a trim level called Giga World. I swear that if a meeting ever took place between the two BMW eras, 1990s BMW would punch 2010s BMW in the face and give it a wedgie while it was lying on the ground.

Things have gotten so bad that there’s kind of a running understanding among modern car enthusiasts that BMW has turned to crap. It’s like when you’re on a boat, and you’re rapidly taking on water. Nobody says you’re taking on water, but it’s plain to see: there you are, in the middle of the ocean, with minnows swimming around your ankles.

Essentially, the problems are as follows: the cars are bloated. The segments make no sense. The names are bizarre. And what the hell is the 2 Series Active Sports Tourer? Is that a joke? Are we supposed to pretend that thing simply doesn’t exist?

So my question today is: what the hell happened? Where did BMW go wrong? When did the once almighty BMW, the ambassador of cool, the diplomat of debonair (eh? EH?!), finally go off into the deep end and lose the plot? I’ll give you my theory – and below, you can submit yours.

My theory: it wasn’t a car that caused BMW to lose it. It was an all-out, no-holds-barred sales-chasing mentality; the kind of mentality Chrysler has with the rental fleets. I think it was this strategy – and not the vehicles themselves – that led to the decline of BMW. Essentially, it was the moment the automaker went from “How can we make this car cooler?” to “Why don’t we have a vehicle in the all-wheel drive rhombus segment?”

Of course, the “sell everything” mentality dramatically affected the products. Out went the careful styling decisions and the restrained lineup; in came segment-busting products and low-payment lease deals. The 3 Series grew huge. The X1 came into existence. And the 5 Series went from “desirable and stealthy” to “enormous and anonymous.”

But in my opinion, none of that would’ve happened if BMW had remained happy with the status quo: build cool cars, and sell a lot of them. Not tons of them, mind you. Not zillions. Not eleven crossovers and twelve variants of the 3 Series. But enough cars to generate a big profit while retaining the “cool guy” image.

So, what say you? Where do you think BMW took a wrong turn?

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Question Of The Day: Would You Accept A V6 EcoBoost Mustang http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-accept-v6-ecoboost-mustang/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-accept-v6-ecoboost-mustang/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 18:38:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=984617 I’m sure there’s a good reason it hasn’t been done yet, but I’m going to ask for it anyways: how about a 3.5L EcoBoost V6 Mustang? Why not call it a Shelby GT500? In an era where the Mustang V6 Performance Pack can put down respectable acceleration and lap times, it’s reasonable to expect that […]

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I’m sure there’s a good reason it hasn’t been done yet, but I’m going to ask for it anyways: how about a 3.5L EcoBoost V6 Mustang? Why not call it a Shelby GT500?

In an era where the Mustang V6 Performance Pack can put down respectable acceleration and lap times, it’s reasonable to expect that the public is ready for a high performance V6 twin-turbo pony car. Take the all-new anti-lag equipped 3.5L EB from the Raptor, crank the boost up to the GT’s 600+ horsepower output. Add a stick shift or the new 10-speed. You have a Hellcat competitor that also ties into Ford’s EcoBoost motorsports push.

I’m aware that the mere notion of a V6 EcoBoost Shelby GT500 will make the V8 faithful have a stroke, so maybe it needs another moniker. Call it the Cobra. Or the SVO. The Twin Turbo setup was a popular modification for the famed ’03-’04 “Terminator” Cobra. I think my proposed Mustang would be a hit, even with two fewer cylinders. It’s only a matter of time until Chevrolet get’s the same setup in the next-gen Camaro.

 

 

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Quote Of The Day: The Golden Fleece http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/quote-day-golden-fleece/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/quote-day-golden-fleece/#comments Thu, 08 Jan 2015 22:23:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=974194 Today’s Quote of the Day actually comes from someone I know, with a used car question. “this guy im sleeping with wants to sell me 05 caliber 125k [77,000 miles] for $6k. Good deal?”  You don’t need to be a North Georgia used car salesman to know that this is a deal that delivers a 5-6x […]

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Today’s Quote of the Day actually comes from someone I know, with a used car question.

“this guy im sleeping with wants to sell me 05 caliber 125k [77,000 miles] for $6k. Good deal?” 

You don’t need to be a North Georgia used car salesman to know that this is a deal that delivers a 5-6x ROI on your $1,000 Manheim Special Caliber.

As it turns out, the gentleman selling the Caliber has no less than four lots and drives an Aston Martin and a late model Gallardo. Clearly, I’m in the wrong business.

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Question Of The Day, Grandma Edition: Why Are EVs So Odd Looking? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-grandma-edition-evs-odd-looking/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/question-day-grandma-edition-evs-odd-looking/#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 16:46:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=971530 Today’s QOTD comes from Grandma, who is on vacation in Florida. Grandma writes: i have a a chevy sonic rental.  i parked it, it is so small it was a breeze   lots of 2014 mercedes sitting in dealer lots here.  saw 2 bmw electric cars.  the back lights look like the kia soul.  it […]

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Today’s QOTD comes from Grandma, who is on vacation in Florida. Grandma writes:

i have a a chevy sonic rental.  i parked it, it is so small it was a breeze   lots of 2014 mercedes sitting in dealer lots here.  saw 2 bmw electric cars.  the back lights look like the kia soul.  it looks cute, but none of the beemer [sic] sophistication.  don’t know why they have to make electric cars look so quirky.
Upon further questioning, it appears Grandma was asking about the BMW i3. Sixt is now renting out the i3 in the South Florida area, complete with burnt orange paint and giant Sixt logos. I didn’t really have a good answer for her, other than “people want to be seen driving an electric car”. In her mind, a Bimmer is still something you buy to show that you’ve “arrived” – but it’s not as good as a “Jag-you-are”.

 

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Question Of The Day: What Do You Drive? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/question-day-drive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/question-day-drive/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 17:06:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=955850 Today’s Question of the Day is remarkably simple, but it took a reader suggestion to make it appear. Reader David J. wrote in this morning, stating TTAC is not short of opinions about cars. I would like to see each submitted state the car or truck, SUV, etc he or she owns or leases. Here’s […]

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Today’s Question of the Day is remarkably simple, but it took a reader suggestion to make it appear.

Reader David J. wrote in this morning, stating

TTAC is not short of opinions about cars. I would like to see each submitted state the car or truck, SUV, etc he or she owns or leases. Here’s a start for me: own a 2010 model Prius V and a 2014 Audi Q5.

We know that some commenters are linked with certain cars (Davefromcalgary and his Verano 2.0T 6MT, CoreyDL and his Audi) but I’d be interested to see a snapshot of what everyone else drives.

I’ll start: 2015 Mazda3 Sport. Previous cars are a 2003 Mazda Miata Shinsen, a 1998 Volvo V70 (5-speed manual) and a 1997 Miata in British Racing Green.

 

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Question Of The Day: This Time It’s Different? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/question-day-time-different/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/question-day-time-different/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 15:51:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=952161 On the news of OPEC’s decision to keep oil production at current levels, there is almost certainly going to be a rout in the price of oil. As of this writing, Gasoline futures are below the $2 mark, while West Texas Intermediate (the North American crude oil benchmark) is sitting at about $71.50, down from […]

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On the news of OPEC’s decision to keep oil production at current levels, there is almost certainly going to be a rout in the price of oil.

As of this writing, Gasoline futures are below the $2 mark, while West Texas Intermediate (the North American crude oil benchmark) is sitting at about $71.50, down from a high of $105 this summer. Gas prices are sure to sink even lower alongside the expected dip in crude.

The big question in my mind is how this will influence consumer behavior in the auto sector. Since the Great Financial Crisis, auto makers have positioned themselves for marked increases in fuel economy, spurred by equal parts consumer demand and government mandates (CAFE and Euro emissions regulations). This has manifested itself in everything from incremental (more efficient powertrains) to extreme (the aluminum F-150).

With gasoline at record highs, the demand for smaller, fuel-efficient cars is acute. But when the price dips, consumers tend to forget about the hard times and gravitate back towards pickups, SUVs and all manner of gas guzzlers.

Or do they?

Over the following months, we’ll be able to track what happens to auto sales and the price of gasoline. Our sales guru Tim Cain will be able to plot the results in one of his trademark charts.

Personally, I suspect that we’ll see more short-term thinking when it comes to vehicle purchases. Sales of SUVs, trucks and larger crossovers will keep rising. Small crossovers will eat into sales of passenger cars, likely stealing market share from compact cars once nameplates like the Chevrolet Trax and Honda HR-V hit the market. The hard times will quickly be forgotten…until the next rise in gas prices and economic contraction. In the mean time, it’s going to be a rough market for hybrids and EVs.

But I’m curious to hear what you have to say. With no formal training in economics or business, all I can do is go with my gut. I’m curious to hear your analysis, whether its rooted in the same methodology as mine, or something more concrete and quantitative.

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QOTD: Another Member Of The Brown Wagon Club? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/qotd-another-member-brown-wagon-club/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/qotd-another-member-brown-wagon-club/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:32:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933906 While helping my grandmother hunt for a new car, I tried to steer her towards a Mazda3 Sport. She didn’t take to the “game changer” (which is the tagline for the car’s marketing campaign, not an attempt to cash in on my catch phrase), but I did notice a similar example on the lot. This […]

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While helping my grandmother hunt for a new car, I tried to steer her towards a Mazda3 Sport. She didn’t take to the “game changer” (which is the tagline for the car’s marketing campaign, not an attempt to cash in on my catch phrase), but I did notice a similar example on the lot.

This color, called “Titanium Flash”, looks more like brown to me. As far as I’m concerned, the line between station wagon, hatchback and CUV has been sufficiently blurred that this can qualify as a member of the mythical brown wagon species – and you can get it in a manual as well. I’ll defer to the B&B on this one, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s time to count every possible example to help shore up ranks.

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Question Of The Day: The Narcissism Of Small Differences http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/question-day-narcissism-small-differences/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/question-day-narcissism-small-differences/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 13:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=927562   “When you decide to be something, you can be it. That’s what they don’t tell you in the church. When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I’m saying to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?” – Jack Nicholson, The Departed […]

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“When you decide to be something, you can be it. That’s what they don’t tell you in the church. When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I’m saying to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?” – Jack Nicholson, The Departed

So why is the Mercedes-Benz GLA a crossover, and a Porsche Macan is a crossover, but something like a Mazda3 Sport is a hatchback?

Well, two reasons

  1. CAFE
  2. Calling something a crossover makes it sell. Calling it a wagon or a hatchback does the opposite.

This, of course, is the opposite of what happens in the strange, insular world of automotive enthusiasm. There is a reflexive hatred of anything CUV, even when the CUV in question, like the Mazda CX-5, drives better than some passenger cars. Or witness the gnashing of teeth that accompanied the Audi Allroad’s rise and the death of the Audi A4 Avant. Both vehicles drive like lifeless appliances for those who think a Toyota Venza is beneath their station in life. But the Allroad attracted the scorn of countless forum posters, even though the two cars are basically the same, minus some cladding and a raised ride height that has zero effect on handling dynamics.

2015-Mazda3-Manual-03

As tempting as it is to rail against the ill-informed knee-jerk disdain for crossovers, I’ll bring it back to the original question. What is the tangible difference between the GLA “crossover” and the Mazda3 Sport “hatchback”? Why does one raise the ire of enthusiasts merely by virtue of its classification (a discrete criticism on its own, rather than being lumped in with the idea of a front-drive, entry level Benz) while an identical car is lauded with Hossanas for carrying to hatchback/pseudo-wagon torch.

Over to you, B&B.

Photo Credit: Alex Nunez/Road & Track

*For the record, I think the base GLA is a cheap, nasty looking thing designed to fleece the terminally self-conscious out of their $299 each month. I’d take the Mazda3 all day, every day. But the 345 horsepower GLA45 AMG? Well, that’s another story.

**As far as the CUV hatred phenomenon goes:  You might think they are the worst attributes of an SUV and a car combined in one, but millions of Americans couldn’t care less, and have very rational reasons for buying them, nor are they in the grip of some false consciousness and in need of a vanguard to liberate their minds from the shackles of automotive marketing. Get over it, or start buying new station wagons in meaningful numbers again.

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QOTD: Regulation Is Ruining Car Design http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-regulation-is-ruining-car-design/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-regulation-is-ruining-car-design/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 14:42:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=838721 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 […]

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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.

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QOTD: Bring Back the Unibody Pickup? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-bring-back-the-unibody-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-bring-back-the-unibody-pickup/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 13:35:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=837665 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 […]

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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?

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QOTD: A Robot Car That Kills You? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-a-robot-car-that-kills-you/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-a-robot-car-that-kills-you/#comments Fri, 30 May 2014 17:22:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=834481 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 […]

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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.

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QOTD: Nassim Taleb Sums Up The Problem With Our Favorite Car Makers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-nassim-taleb-sums-up-the-problem-with-our-favorite-car-makers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-nassim-taleb-sums-up-the-problem-with-our-favorite-car-makers/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 11:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=829009 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 […]

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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.

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QOTD: Why There Will Be No “Made In China” Lexus Products http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-why-there-will-be-no-made-in-china-lexus-products/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/qotd-why-there-will-be-no-made-in-china-lexus-products/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 14:02:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=815530 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 […]

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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”.

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QOTD: In Defense Of The Toyota Camry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-in-defense-of-the-toyota-camry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-in-defense-of-the-toyota-camry/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=809426 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 […]

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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.

 

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QOTD: Volkswagen Golf GTD Looking Less Likely For America – Is The Audi A3 To Blame? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-volkswagen-golf-gtd-looking-less-likely-for-america-is-the-audi-a3-to-blame/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-volkswagen-golf-gtd-looking-less-likely-for-america-is-the-audi-a3-to-blame/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 13:42:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=802082 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 […]

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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.

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QOTD: At What Price Connectivity? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-at-what-price-connectivity/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-at-what-price-connectivity/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 15:36:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797689 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 […]

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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.

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QOTD: Honda Insight Failed Because Of Marketing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-honda-insight-failed-because-of-marketing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-honda-insight-failed-because-of-marketing/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 21:47:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=789305 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 […]

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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.

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