By on June 16, 2017

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Fairfax, Kansas - Image: General MotorsIn September 2017, General Motors will be forced to lay off a large number of workers at its Kansas City, Kansas assembly plant where the Chevrolet Malibu is built.

Only two days ago we learned General Motors would stretch the Fairfax assembly plant’s summer shutdown by an additional three weeks — from two to five in 2017 — because of excessive Malibu inventory. But as GM seeks to maintain a more reasonable grip on incentives than in the past, the only remaining way of reducing an inventory glut is to stop building so many cars.

Unfortunately for some of GM’s Kansas employees, the announcement of a temporary shutdown — the third this year according to the Kansas City Business Journal — will be an insufficient means of reducing stock. The Kansas City Star reports the number of shifts at the plant will be reduced to two in late September.

After Chevrolet’s U.S. midsize sales rapidly elevated to a 36-year high in calendar year 2016 during the ninth-generation Malibu’s launch, volume has declined hard and fast in early 2017. (Read More…)

By on June 16, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Image: VolkswagenGot your heart set on a 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, one with upsized wheels, stickier tires, bigger brakes, some red piping around the grille, and tartan seats?

I feel you. But Volkswagen’s illustrious GTI range is not about to co-sign any legislation on the other side of the aisle. Atlas? Tiguan? Tiguan Limited? Touareg? T-Roc? Amarok? Westfalia? Eurovan?

No.

“I think with the three [GTI models] we have now, we are set,” Volkswagen board chairman Herbert Diess told Autocar.

Unfortunately for the United States hot hatch market, however, only one-third of Volkswagen’s GTI lineup actually makes it to America.

Maybe a Tiguan GTI wouldn’t be so bad? (Read More…)

By on June 15, 2017

2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro - Image: ToyotaAll across America, Hummer H2s are rolling over in their graves.

What even is a Toyota C-HR? Is the Hyundai Kona an indirect Kia Borrego replacement? The Jeep Renegade shares its platform with… an Italian cute-ute?

But have no fear, dead Hummer. The body-on-frame SUV is here to stay. The surge in crossovers — both the number sold and the number of nameplates available — has not caused the American consumer to leave traditional SUVs behind entirely.

U.S. sales of traditional body-on-frame SUVs are up 7 percent through the first five months of 2017, right on par with the growth rate achieved by the SUV/crossover sector as a whole. (Read More…)

By on June 14, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 - Image: ChevroletGeneral Motors evidently hopes you like the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon the way they are.

The midsize truck twins, which arrived in second-generation form nearly three years ago, won’t be replaced for another five years.  (Read More…)

By on June 14, 2017

2018 Honda Odyssey - Image: HondaThe 2018 Honda Odyssey went on sale three weeks ago. The Chrysler Pacifica has only been on the market for a year. The Toyota Sienna will enjoy another refresh for the 2018 model year.

If ever there was a time in which America’s minivan segment needs to shine, the second-half of 2017 is it.

Minivan sales tumbled 14 percent, year-over-year, through the first five months of 2017. Only 3 percent of the auto industry’s volume is now minivan-derived. Year-over-year volume decreased in nine consecutive months between August 2016 and April 2017.

There are far fewer competitors now than there were a decade ago. Therefore, the minivan market doesn’t need to produce the sort of volume it did a decade ago. However, minivan sales can’t continue to plummet, month after month after month.

Minivan sales need to rise. If they can’t do so now, then when? And if the segment can’t do it with fresh product from Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota, then who can supply the growth? (Read More…)

By on June 13, 2017

2018 Acura TLX V6 A-Spec - Image: Acura

Upon its debut in late 2014, the Acura TLX had big shoes to fill. Not only was the TLX intended to replace the Acura TL, the TLX would also serve, at least in part, as a replacement for the Acura TSX.

Not surprisingly, the TLX never sold as often as that duo did at their peak. Acura sold over 113,000 TLs and TSXs in 2005. Yet by the end of their run, in 2013, Acura managed to sell fewer than 42,000 TLs and TSXs. As a result, the arrival of the Acura TLX — and yes, it’s difficult for both reader and writer to keep the letters straight — was heartily welcomed by Acura dealers. The TLX represented a simpler lineup, one sufficiently spacious car, and 47,080 sales in 2015.

But TLX sales have trailed off rather precipitously ever since, and Acura is counting on a thorough refresh for the 2018 model year to spur TLX demand once again.

And quite a spur it must be. Wards Auto is reporting that Acura’s goals for the facelifted TLX are loftier than ever. (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2017

2016 Volkswagen Polo - Image: Volkswagen UK

It’s a Volkswagen Golf, only slightly smaller and with a more affordable price tag.

Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted?

Maybe not.

The 2017 Volkswagen Polo is a close relation to the Mk7 Golf Americans can get their hands on, and shares the MQB platform that underpins just about everything at the Volkswagen Group except the factories themselves. But in a U.S. market that’s increasingly willing to pay just a bit more for a larger car with essentially no degradation in real-world fuel economy, would the sixth-generation Polo stand a chance?

Probably not, especially given the speed at which subcompact cars are losing sales. (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2017

Mountain Chevrolet GM dealer Glenwood Springs, Colorado - Image: GMAfter U.S. sales of new vehicles declined 2 percent, year-over-year, through the first five months of 2017, forecasters surveyed by Bloomberg are largely in agreement. 2017 will fall well short of 2016’s record auto industry output, sliding to 17.2 million sales from more than 17.5 million in 2016.

There are nevertheless a handful of positives on which optimistic automakers can draw. First, a 17-million-unit sales year still represents a huge number of sales for manufacturers that averaged 12.5 million sales between 2008 and 2012.

Second, the high incentive spending doesn’t appear to be growing higher. Pair that with high average transaction prices and automakers can still earn big profits.

Third, if Washington ever does get around to legislating — no sure bet in this investigative congressional age — then promised tax cuts and infrastructure programs could further elevate demand.

In the meantime, there are causes for concern. (Read More…)

By on June 8, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Malibu - Image: GMThe U.S. auto industry is shrinking. But only by a little bit.

Auto sales through the first five months of 2017 are down just 2 percent, a drop of roughly 140,000 sales across the entire industry. Aside from high inventories and rising incentives, it’s not all doom and gloom. 2016 was the highest-volume year in the history of the American auto industry — a 2-percent drop is hardly catastrophic.

This is therefore not 2009, when virtually every new vehicle suffered decreased volume. Many new vehicles are surging, selling significantly more often this year than last.

But in a declining market, many other nameplates are in fact losing sales. Many sales. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 volume nameplates losing U.S. sales most rapidly. (Read More…)

By on June 8, 2017

2017 Subaru Impreza 5-door Sport - Image: SubaruSubaru of America set an all-time annual sales record in 2009.

You remember 2009, though you’d likely prefer to forget it.

The auto industry all but collapsed as the global economy went into meltdown. After total U.S. new vehicle sales volume fell to a 25-year low in 2008, sales tumbled a further 21 percent in 2009, the worst year for auto sales since 1982.

And yet Subaru of America set a sales record in 2009.

2017 is no 2009. But after surging to record levels in 2016, the U.S. auto industry’s sales volume is once again shrinking, albeit modestly. But Subaru of America president Tom Doll told Automotive News, “We certainly think we’re going to have our ninth consecutive year of record sales.”

No doubt. (Read More…)

By on June 7, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack - Image: Volkswagen

You didn’t seriously think there was a tall, be-cladded wagon that could sell like a Subaru Outback, did you?

And you didn’t think — if such a tall, be-cladded wagon did have the potential to sell as well as a Subaru Outback — that it would be a Volkswagen Golf Alltrack?

Of course you didn’t, not in this post-diesel scandal world. But as the all-conquering Subaru Outback continues to enjoy increased U.S. demand, the latest Outback alternative is already suffering a mild case of DTWS.

Not Dancing With The Stars. Don’t read so fast.

Decreased Tall Wagon Sales.

The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack’s May 2017 performance of only 1,312 sales represented a six-month low. (Read More…)

By on June 6, 2017

Capitol Hyundai San Francisco dealer - Image: Hyundai

Updated at 10:00pm on June 6 with response from Hyundai.

Derrick Hatami, Hyundai Motor America’s vice president of sales for less than two years, has been removed from Hyundai’s leadership team as of today, June 6, 2017.

After record annual volume in the 2016 calendar year, Hyundai’s U.S. sales have been falling fast throughout 2017. Year-over-year, Hyundai volume declined in each of the last six months, including an 18-percent decline in May 2017.

That decline enabled partner brand Kia to outsell Hyundai for the first time in the brands’ U.S. history, evidently a source of embarrassment for Hyundai. Having already forced out the company’s U.S. CEO, Dave Zuchowski, just before Christmas last year after Hyundai’s rapid growth stalled, Derrick Hatami’s departure leaves a hole that will be filled in the interim by Hyundai’s southern regional general manager, Sam Brnovich, according to Automotive News.

Last week, Hyundai wasn’t short on excuses for the company’s poor May performance. This week, the excuses were apparently not good enough. (Read More…)

By on June 6, 2017

2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure - Image: ToyotaIn late 2015, Toyota revealed that the automaker’s increasingly popular RAV4 would be increasingly leaned upon for major U.S. sales volume.

As of five years ago, Toyota USA had never sold more than 200,000 RAV4s on an annual basis. Toyota didn’t touch the 300,000 marker until 2015.

But the goal set in 2015 was loftier: 400,000 U.S. sales of the RAV4 in 2018. An SE trim level helped. Then the RAV4 Hybrid became a real success. Toyota sold 352,154 RAV4s in 2016 and is on track for 380,000 sales in 2017.

What will put the Toyota RAV4 over the hump?

If all goes according to plan, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure that goes on sale in September won’t be a mere oddball offshoot. (Read More…)

By on June 2, 2017

2017 Volkswagen Passat, Image: Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Passat has a roomie.

Production of the Volkswagen Atlas, Volkswagen of America’s first three-row SUV and the automaker’s first three-row vehicle since the Dodge Grand Caravan-derived Volkswagen Routan fled the scene in 2014, began earlier this year in Chattanooga, Tennessee, previously known as the Passat’s factory.

The first 1,610 copies of the Atlas were sold in May 2017.

Volkswagen, which built the Tennessee assembly plant as part of a goal that would see the brand selling 800,000 vehicles in America per year by 2018, originally intended to build 150,000 vehicles annually in Chattanooga. Only half that capacity was used last year.

If the Volkswagen Atlas becomes the hit the Volkswagen Passat never was, what might that say about the North Americanized Volkswagen Passat’s future?  (Read More…)

By on June 2, 2017

2017 Ford F150 XLT SuperCrew Towing, Image: FordWith its Ford and Lincoln brands, the Ford Motor Company reported 240,250 U.S. sales in May 2017, a 2-percent year-over-year improvement.

General Motors, which has outsold Ford Motor Company in 14 consecutive months, sold 237,364 new vehicles in May 2017, a 1-percent year-over-year drop.

In May 2017, for the first time since March of last year, the Ford Motor Company outsold General Motors.

The Mark Fields era at Ford, a period in which the company’s value crumbled, is over. But if Fields took the blame for what ailed Ford, doesn’t he get the credit for what went right? Besides a handsome severance package, the Mark Fields era ended with Ford Motor Company out in front of General Motors.

But how did Ford make it happen? With pickups and fleets.

(Read More…)

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