By on March 20, 2017

2017 BMW 4 Series Convertible – Image: BMW

Choice is good for car buyers. But in the never-ending quest to produce incremental volume gains, the planet’s largest premium auto brands agree that certain niches are quickly becoming untenable.

Known for questioning in 2014 whether the global sports car market would ever recover from its post-recession collapse, BMW sales boss Ian Robertson told Car And Driver earlier this month that “some body styles will be removed in the future.”

Meanwhile, the head of Mercedes-Benz Dieter Zetsche said at the Geneva auto show that the lack of Chinese uptake for specialty cars “makes the business case for these vehicles less easy.”

Yet long before a model cull returns us to the days of tidy luxury lineups — 3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series, and 8 Series as the 1990s intended! — premium German marques will first introduce a slew of new models. And the body styles destined for removal? Likely not the silly four-door coupes and impractical SUVs you love to hate. (Read More…)

By on March 16, 2017

2017 Toyota Corolla iM rear – Image: © Timothy Cain

A year and a half since Scion introduced the iM in the United States, little more than a year since Toyota announced the Scion brand’s discontinuation, and six months since the Scion iM began to operate as the Toyota Corolla iM, almost every Toyota Corolla buyer chooses the inferior Corolla sedan instead of this hatchback.

Fortunately, the iM generates more sales activity for Toyota than it did for Scion. Over the last four months, for instance, the Corolla iM produced 6,548 U.S. sales, up 34 percent compared to the year-before figure claimed by the Scion iM.

After spending a week with the refreshed 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE sedan in January and the last week with the 2017 Toyota Corolla iM, it’s clear the iM is the superior Corolla. It’s clear that a far greater percentage of the 28,000 monthly American Corolla buyers should be choosing this car.

But they don’t. And they won’t. And there are a number of reasons why. (Read More…)

By on March 15, 2017

All Porsche 911 Turbos - Image: Porsche

Meet the new Porsche 911, Porsche will say in two years, same as the old Porsche 911. Same as the 911 before that, which was same as the old 911 before that and, well, you get the picture.

If you’re looking for the kind of revolutionary design changeover seen when Ford introduced a new Mustang in 2005 or Dodge unveiled a new Ram for 1994 or Hyundai debuted the 2011 Sonata, you’re looking at the wrong automaker.

This is the Porsche 911 we’re talking about, the car that causes other automakers to believe they, too, can merely tinker with existing models to please loyalists and protect their resale values. (We’re looking at you, Chevrolet Camaro.) This is the Porsche 911, a car that still carries its engine where Camrys carry groceries. This is the Porsche 911, a vibrant $90,450–201,450 ode to success that sells more often than budget-minded Toyota sports cars and Buick convertibles.

There’s absolutely no reason to change it. As a result, the Porsche 911 that will drop in 2019, CAR Magazine has revealed, will scarcely be distinguishable from the outgoing 911. (Read More…)

By on March 14, 2017

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack/SportWagen - Images: Volkswagen

It’s no Subaru Outback, soaring toward the top of sales charts with all the force of an automaker riding a decade-long wave of rapid U.S. growth. But the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, launched in the United States last autumn, is steadily earning a place as the most important Volkswagen wagon. By far.

In fact, the Golf Alltrack is quickly becoming the bright spot in Volkswagen of America’s Golf lineup and the Volkswagen brand’s overall hierarchy. Not surprisingly, the Alltrack is also dimming the spotlight previously shone upon the Golf SportWagen. (Read More…)

By on March 13, 2017

2018 Lexus LC500 front – Image: Lexus

Lexus has lofty goals for the new LC performance coupe, a two-car range encompassing V8 and V6 hybrid cars. The Lexus LC, Toyota’s premium division hopes, will attract 400 buyers in America per month.

That’s a big number.

Granted, Toyota sells more than 1,000 Camrys in the United States every day. In fact, Lexus sells 300 copies of the RX, America’s all-conquering premium utility vehicle, every day.

But the 2018 Lexus LC is not America’s best-selling midsize car 15 years running, nor is the LC the dominant luxury crossover in a market gone gaga for luxury crossovers. The Lexus LC, on the other hand, is a $92,995–106,295 Japanese coupe. 400 monthly sales for a two-door priced in that stratosphere is truly a big number.

And Lexus believes it will outsell the Jaguar F-Type, Porsche Cayman, Mercedes-Benz SLC, and Audi TT. Lexus believes the LC will sell roughly three times more often than the Nissan GT-R ever has. Lexus intends to attract more buyers with the LC than Mercedes-Benz can with The Establishment, the SL-Class; more buyers than BMW attracts with the vast BMW 6 Series range.

Why? Lexus certainly has its reasons. (Read More…)

By on March 9, 2017

2017 Subaru Outback - Image: Subaru

“Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go South, young man, go South and grow up with the country.” —Not Horace Greeley

Subaru generates 60 percent of its global sales in the United States. For a Japanese brand that still relies on imports for half of its volume in its largest market, Subaru knows that 60-percent reliance on America is way too high.

Subaru needs strength in other markets. Subaru needs to diversify its portfolio. Subaru needs another America.

Unfortunately for Subaru, history suggests the brand won’t quickly find strength in other markets. History suggests Subaru’s attempts to diversify its portfolio won’t succeed.

Fortunately for Subaru, however, there is more America.

“It’s true we want to increase sales in other countries, but in terms of the place with the best chance to increase sales, it has to be America’s Sun Belt,” Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, CEO at Subaru’s Fuji Heavy Industries parent company, told Bloomberg.

In other words, Subaru wants to add some New Orleans to its order of New Hampshire; Burlington with a side of Birmingham; Kennebunkport supplemented with a dose of Port St. Lucie. (Read More…)

By on March 8, 2017

2017 Buick LaCrosse - Image: Buick

In 2016, as General Motors launched an all-new Buick LaCrosse for the 2017 model year, sales of the LaCrosse fell to an all-time annual low.

But wait a second. Transition years are difficult for any model. Clearance of the outgoing model ends, production of the new model is ramping up, availability at dealers is limited, and the product mix is often skewed toward less affordable models.

Nevertheless, cognizant of the fact that 2016 wasn’t likely to be a great year for the Buick LaCrosse, it’s still easy to declare that 2016 was an awful year for the Buick LaCrosse. Sales were 70-percent lower last year than in 2005, when U.S. LaCrosse sales peaked. Even compared with 2014, U.S. LaCrosse sales were nearly chopped in half in 2016.

And at the current pace, 2017 will be much, much, much worse. (Read More…)

By on March 6, 2017

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro – Image: Toyota

Nearly two and a half years since General Motors increased the number of offerings in the midsize pickup truck sector by two-thirds, and nine months since Honda revitalized its unique Ridgeline offering, we’re once again in need of new midsize pickup truck nameplates.

America’s pickup truck category began 2017 with a bang, growing by more than 7 percent and easily outpacing an industry that declined by more than 1 percent in the first one-sixth of 2017.

Yet virtually all of that growth — fully 90 percent — was fuelled not by midsize pickups but by the stalwarts: full-size trucks.  (Read More…)

By on March 2, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid – Image: ChevrloletAside from the Volkswagen Passat’s 40-percent year-over-year uptick, every automaker competing in America’s midsize sedan segment suffered from declining volume in February 2017.

The midsize car category tumbled 19 percent, a loss of more than 34,000 sales.

February 2017 marked the twelfth consecutive month of year-over-year declines for midsize car sales in America.


This is the ninth edition of TTAC’s Midsize Sedan Deathwatch. The midsize sedan as we know it — “midsizedus sedanicus” in the original latin — isn’t going anywhere any time soon, but the ongoing sales contraction will result in a reduction of mainstream intermediate sedans in the U.S. market. 

How do we know? It already has.


The Passat’s exceptional year-over-year uptick by no means represents healthy volume for the big Volkswagen. But the bigger story from February’s results was the horrific nosedive performed by Detroit nameplates: one discontinued nameplate, one of the older members of the midsize fleet, the newest member of the midsize fleet, and one semi-premium niche player. (Read More…)

By on March 1, 2017

2017 Honda CR-V Touring – Image: Honda

Auto sales declined by a modest 1 percent in the United States in February 2017, dragged down by plunging sales at numerous Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brands and sharp declines at Toyota Motor Corp. and Hyundai-Kia. Ford Motor Company sales slid 4 percent because of a 26-percent decline in car sales at the Ford division.

Across much of the industry, there were signs of rude health, particularly if the car sector is ignored. Of the 20 most popular cars in America — a group topped by the Toyota Camry — 16 nameplates generated fewer sales this February than last. Yet America’s five leading utility vehicles (Rogue, CR-V, RAV4, Escape, Equinox) combined for more than 25,000 additional February sales in 2017. And while minivan sales plunged by a fifth, U.S. pickup truck sales were up 10 percent because of full-size truck strength.

These stark contradictions produced a market that produced slightly degraded numbers in one of the two traditionally weakest months on the calendar. Now one-sixth of the way into 2017, the poor selling season should be behind us.  (Read More…)

By on February 27, 2017

2017 Mazda CX-3 AWD – Image: Mazda USA

Operating in the burgeoning subcompact crossover market that’s soon to welcome new entries from Toyota and Ford, the still fresh Mazda CX-3 is already suffering from declining sales.

And the CX-3 is not declining from a particularly high and lofty point achieved earlier in its short lifecycle. There was no hot start for the Mazda CX-3, no early high-volume response to hyped-up demand from which sales would inevitably decrease.

Over the last three months, U.S. sales of the Mazda CX-3’s direct competitors have grown 21 percent, year-over-year. Yet sales of the CX-3 during the same period have declined 4 percent.

The Mazda CX-3 is a new model, only on sale for a year and a half. It’s attractive and highly regarded by reviewers. Yet sales are slowing at the very same time as sales of its competitors are flourishing.

Mazda doesn’t intend to chase volume for volume’s sake, but Mazda does intend to get the CX-3 product mix right before the CX-3 is labelled a flop. (Read More…)

By on February 22, 2017

2009 Toyota Venza - Image: Toyota Canada

Maybe they should have called it the Toyota Camry SportWagon.

Maybe it wouldn’t have made a hint of a difference.

The first-generation Toyota Venza lingered for seven model years in the United States, ending its run with MY2015 before managing to collect 593 sales since, including four in January 2017. (They’re not easy to clear out, apparently.)

But the end of the Venza’s U.S. run in June 2015 was not the end for the Venza in America. Venza production at the Georgetown, Kentucky, assembly plant continued through the first 11 months of 2016 because of insatiable Canadian demand.

Well, now that demand has been sated. The Toyota Venza is officially dead. Kaput. Gone. Defunct.

Did it have to be this way?  (Read More…)

By on February 21, 2017

2017 Ford Transit and Transit Connect - Image: Ford

On the surface, little Euro vans seem to make so much sense. Not every contractor needs a football field’s worth of space behind two front seats.

City-friendly exterior dimensions, a more affordable price tag, and four-cylinder fuel economy should, in theory, cause Bob the Builder or Handy Manny to take a serious look.

But enticing as the idea sounds, the value quotient proffered by 2017’s crop of five small commercial vans simply doesn’t add up for the overwhelming majority of commercial van buyers. Sure, the Ford Transit Connect may be a decent deal. But the Ford Transit is a comparatively great deal.

As a result, full-size commercial van sales are consistently on the rise. But small commercial van sales? Plunging like Paul the Plumber. (Read More…)

By on February 13, 2017

2017 Nissan Titan King Cab - Image: Nissan

By broadening its lineup, rethinking the dealer approach, and focusing on prime markets, Nissan intends to increase its Titan pickup truck’s share of America’s full-size market to 5 percent.

5 percent. One in twenty trucks. One Titan for every 19 Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, Ram P/U, GMC Sierra, and Toyota Tundra.

That doesn’t sound so crazy, does it?

Nah, at least until you realize that in 2016, Nissan sold fewer than 22,000 Titans, or slightly less than 1 percent market share. (Read More…)

By on February 10, 2017

2017 Nissan Rogue SL - Image: Nissan

In January 2017, the best-selling SUV/crossover in America was the Honda CR-V.

In calendar year 2016, the best-selling SUV/crossover in America was the Honda CR-V.

But in December 2016 and the preceding three months, the best-selling SUV/crossover in America was the Nissan Rogue, sales of which rose to record November levels in 2016, record January levels last month, and all-time record levels of 40,477 units in December 2016.

Not the most powerful, refined, reliable, or dynamically competent, the Rogue is nevertheless Nissan’s most popular vehicle in America and a hugely consequential member of the SUV sector.

Yet the sheriff in town is wearing a new uniform, the Rogue is about to be joined by a new sibling, and 2017 is the second-generation Rogue’s fourth model year. Can Nissan continue to grow U.S. Rogue sales by more than 17 percent per month, and can Nissan make the Rogue America’s top-selling utility vehicle on a consistent basis? (Read More…)

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