By on August 17, 2017

2017 BMW Z4 Roadster Concept - Image: BimmerfileThis is not the next BMW Z4.

But it’s very likely an accurate portrayal of what the production version of BMW’s third-generation Z4 (and successor to the Z3) will look like when it goes on sale next year.

Love it or hate it, the BMW Roadster Concept that BMW will officially unveil in Pebble Beach later today is an eye-catching followup to the departing Z4 that appeared eight years ago. Now we wait to see whether the next Z4, which shares its underpinnings with the reborn Toyota Supra, will attract any buyers.

U.S. sales of the Z4 plunged by more than 90 percent between 2003 and 2015.  (Read More…)

By on August 17, 2017

2017 Ford F-150 Towing - Image: FordThe Ford F-Series was the planet’s best-selling line of new vehicles in the first half of 2017. Boosted by a 9-percent year-over-year global sales increase, the broad F-Series range produced 519,000 total sales in 2017’s first six months, according to JATO Dynamics, about 47,000 more sales than the second-ranked Toyota Corolla.

The F-Series wasn’t the only pickup truck on the list of Earth’s 20 most popular vehicles in 2017, to date. FCA’s Ram P/U lineup ranked 11th and the Chevrolet Silverado grabbed the 15th position. The United States market, on its own, accounts for the overwhelming majority of global sales generated by these full-size pickup families: more than 80 percent for the F-Series, just under 80 percent for the Ram, and nearly 90 percent for the Silverado.

Utility vehicles, meanwhile, earned seven of the top 20 positions. And while seven of the nine cars sold less often in the first half of 2017 than in the equivalent period in 2016, six of the seven crossovers reported year-over-year improvements. (Read More…)

By on August 16, 2017

2018 Buick LaCrosse - Image: BuickAs General Motors seeks to get the company’s U.S. inventory down to the industry average of 70 days’ supply by the end of 2017, once-prominent passenger cars are inhibiting the company from achieving its vital goal.

At Cadillac, where even the company’s three utility vehicles have far more than 70 days of stock, the brand’s four car nameplates have 137 days’ supply. At Chevrolet, where the brand’s somewhat excessive light truck inventory is largely due to an intentional increase in Silverado stock, there’s a 128-day supply of passenger cars. Granted, that figure is worsened by a stop-sale on Chevrolet Sparks that limited the city car to only 1,132 U.S. sales in the last three months and by a necessary Corvette stockpile in advance of a Bowling Green shutdown.

But it’s at Buick, where new and old designs alike are suffering from dramatically lower-than-anticipated demand, that GM’s inventory reduction methodology doesn’t seem to be taking hold. According to Automotive News, Buick dealers have enough LaCrosses in stock to last until the July 4th holiday next summer.

How did Buick develop such a LaCrosse glut, and is there a silver lining to this black inventory cloud? (Read More…)

By on August 15, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Touring - Image: HondaThe Honda Accord is by no means a younger sibling, operating as the senior member of American Honda’s fleet.

More specifically, the 2018 Honda Accord will never be viewed as the little brother in the American Honda family, not with these substantial dimensions and MSRPs that reach deep into the $30Ks.

But the 10th-generation Accord is still a Honda. Just a Honda. Merely a Honda. Only a Honda. And while you might expect Honda to enjoy technological hand-me-downs from the automaker’s upmarket Acura brand, that’s not the way it works. Not when it comes to the Accord.

As a result, we’ll wait and see which hand-me-ups appear on the next all-new Acura, the third-generation 2019 Acura RDX. (Read More…)

By on August 15, 2017

2016 Toyota Avalon - Image: ToyotaU.S. sales of full-size, volume-brand sedans fell 17 percent in the first seven months of 2017, a sharp drop following noteworthy declines in each of the last three years. Despite the growth the market has seen since the auto industry’s collapse in 2009, big sedans have lost 37 percent of their U.S. sales volume over the last four years.

Compared with 2013, that’s 18,000 fewer sales for the segment every month. Even compared with 2016, that’s 6,500 fewer sales every month.

In what was historically a fleet-dependent corner of the passenger-car market, many automakers’ reduced emphasis on sales to daily rental companies plays a major role. Numerous players in the segment also attempted to move upmarket, further away from the midsize cars that now offer the requisite interior volume. It hasn’t turned out so well for some. Remember the Mitsubishi Diamante and Mercury Montego? We’ll soon forget the discontinued Hyundai Azera. The Ford Taurus is likely not long for this market, either.

Yet in a market that’s lost 17 percent of its sales this year, the Toyota Avalon has shed 28 percent of its year-to-date volume, a loss of 7,475 sales. With an all-new 2018 Camry set to generate more than its fair share of Toyota sedan sales, does the Avalon even deserve a place in Toyota’s 2018 lineup?

Indeed it does, as Toyota will launch the fifth-generation, TNGA-based Avalon in 2018. “We’re committed to Avalon,” says Toyota North America’s executive vice president for sales, Bob Carter. (Read More…)

By on August 11, 2017

2006 Toyota Camry XLE - Image: Toyota“This was the harshest move in consumer preference the industry has ever seen.”
– Bob Carter, Executive Vice President, Toyota North America

37 percent of the new vehicles sold in the United States in the first seven months of 2017 were passenger cars. That’s correct. 63 percent of the new vehicles now sold in America are pickup trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and vans.

But how did we get to this 37-percent basement? When did we get here? How long did it take to get here? And is it really the basement? (Read More…)

By on August 9, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan - Image: VolkswagenAfter steady declines even prior to the diesel emissions scandal of nearly two years ago, Volkswagen of America took another serious hit in 2016 — the best year on record for the auto industry. Compared with 2012, Volkswagen volume sank by 85,000 sales last year.

But by the end of 2016, Volkswagen’s U.S. sales volume was beginning to rise again. True, that rise was in comparison with a true low — Volkswagen sales in the final one-sixth of 2016 were up 22 percent year-over-year but were 17-percent lower than in the same period of 2012 — but Volkswagen was bouncing back.

The bounce back continued through the first half of 2017, with Volkswagen sales through June up 8 percent despite the market’s 2-percent downturn.

Perhaps July was just a blip on the radar. But Volkswagen’s eight-month streak of improvement screeched to a halt last month as the U.S. auto industry reported its most significant losses of the year, and as Volkswagen’s new SUV lineup continues to dip its toes in American waters. (Read More…)

By on August 9, 2017

2016 Toyota Prius Four - Image: ToyotaIf current marketplace trends hold, the Toyota Prius will not be America’s best-selling hybrid by next year.

The steep rate of decline experienced by the Prius in 2017 is no surprise. For one thing, it’s a continuation of the decline we saw earlier in the fourth-gen Prius’ tenure. For another, there are new Prius competitors, such as the Hyundai Ioniq and Toyota’s highly efficient 2018 Camry Hybrid. But the Prius’s rapid slide — sales are down by a third so far this year — is also what Toyota predicted at the turn of the calendar.

Yet even if the rate of Prius decline suddenly and unexpectedly slows, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Toyota Prius, long the dominant hybrid in America, holds onto its crown as the top seller for long.

The victor in 2018 will, however, almost certainly be a Toyota. (Read More…)

By on August 8, 2017

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio - Image: FCACritics love the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

And they hate it.

American luxury car buyers, however, are increasingly interested. The Alfa Romeo Giulia lineup has been available since the tail end of 2016. And every month, right through the spring and into the summer, stories of breakdowns and limp-home modes and on-track failures had no apparent impact on increased demand.

July 2017 was the Alfa Romeo Giulia’s best month on the U.S. market to date. (Read More…)

By on August 5, 2017

2017 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso - Image: FCAJuly 2017 was the first month in which we could ascertain the year-over-year U.S. sales direction of the one-year-old Fiat 124 Spider.

That direction is down.

In fact, the rate of year-over-year decline — 124 Spider sales fell only 6 percent in a passenger car market that was down 15 percent — was by no means severe. But it’s yet another sign that when American roadster buyers want a Mazda Miata, they buy a Mazda Miata. (Read More…)

By on August 4, 2017

2017 Cadillac ATSL China - Image: GM ChinaExpand your horizons. See the forest, not just the trees. Look west of the Pacific Coast Highway.

Cadillac sales plunged in the United States in July 2017, dropping by more than a fifth to only 11,227 units. That 22-percent dive was the worst for Cadillac’s U.S. operations since April of last year. The 11,227-sale result represented a five-month low for Cadillac in the United States and the lowest-volume since 2011.

But Cadillac is increasingly a less U.S.-centric automotive brand. Just three short years ago, two-thirds of Cadillac’s volume was produced in its American home market. Fast forward to July 2017 and the majority of Cadillac’s volume isn’t produced in the market where it’s suffering from such dwindling demand.

Rather, Cadillac generates the bulk of its global volume outside of America, where Cadillac demand is rapidly increasing. (Read More…)

By on August 3, 2017

2017 Subaru Impreza Limited - Image: SubaruGlobal Subaru operating income rose 19 percent to $1.06 billion in the quarter ending June 30. Net income was up 4 percent to $733 million on an 11-percent revenue increase to $8.9 billion.

Why?

Subaru’s long since gone to look for America. And while U.S. auto sales keep on slowing — falling for a seventh consecutive month in July 2017, for example — Subaru’s U.S. sales keep on rising. July, in which Subaru begins the current fiscal year’s second quarter, was Subaru’s 68th consecutive year-over-year monthly increase.

The U.S. market generated six out of every ten global Subaru sales between April and June. (Read More…)

By on August 3, 2017

2016 Toyota RAV4 Limited - Image: ToyotaToyota Motor North America’s executive vice president for sales, Bob Carter, is not ready to rain down doom and gloom on the state of the U.S. auto market.

From Toyota’s perspective, even the July results — 2017’s seventh consecutive month of decline, and the worst decline yet — didn’t represent the end of the American auto industry as we know it. In fact, total Toyota/Lexus U.S. volume actually increased 4 percent despite a shorter sales month than in July 2016.

While aware of the overall climate, in which Toyota sales are down more than 2 percent this year, Toyota’s U.S. sales boss says he’s “energized,” according to Automotive News“The industry is not at a pace where it was in 2016 — we didn’t expect it to be at the pace of 2016,” Carter says, “but it’s still very healthy.”

And not without good reason. (Read More…)

By on August 2, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry production line - Image: ToyotaWe learned early in July that many of the early 2018 Toyota Camrys available in Toyota’s U.S. showrooms wouldn’t be built in Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky, assembly plant.

Through June, not a single one of the 2016 and 2017 Camrys sold in America were imported. But all of the 2018 Toyota Camrys sold in July came across the Pacific from Japan.

Granted, most of the Camrys leaving Toyota showrooms are still old new Camrys, not new new Camrys. (Read More…)

By on August 1, 2017

2017 Audi A4 - Image: AudiJuly 2017 auto sales were expected to decline for a seventh consecutive month, sliding further and faster than at any point this year. In the end, with incentive spending up 5 percent, U.S. auto sales dropped 7 percent in July 2017, a year-over-year decrease worth roughly 105,000 sales.

Detroit was to blame for much of the losses, in part because of steep reductions in fleet volume. General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles combined to lose 76,000 sales. General Motors came within 4,050 sales of losing the top seller’s crown to Toyota as GM July volume fell to a five-year low. At Ford Motor Company, total Ford/Lincoln volume fell to a six-month low. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles suffered steep declines at Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, and Fiat.

Detroit automakers were by no means the only manufacturers losing U.S. auto sales in June. The Honda brand was down 2 percent, Nissan slid 4 percent, Kia and Volkswagen both fell 6 percent, and Hyundai plunged 30 percent.

But there were also bright spots. Audi sales rose 3 percent for its 79th consecutive monthly increase. Subaru sales, rising 7 percent in July, improved for a 68th consecutive month. And at Toyota, where the RAV4 was by far and away America’s top-selling utility vehicle in July, total volume rose 4 percent to 193,155 units, the best month for the brand in 2017 and the second-best of the last two years.  (Read More…)

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