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By on June 24, 2019

Mini Cooper 5-door production line Oxford - Image: BMW UK

Like most brands focused on smaller vehicles, Mini is not faring particularly well in the United States and dealers have grown annoyed. Some have even decided to take BMW to court over its handling of the brand, including one owned by former Mini dealer council chair David Peterson.

The allegations? BMW of North America breached its dealership agreement by failing to effectively promote and develop the Mini brand as promised.

Deciding whether or not BMW is truly at fault should prove exceedingly difficult. But Mini is clearly struggling. Over a third of its annual volume goes to the Countryman — its only crossover model. The rest of its sales are broken up between the numerous variations of its iconic small car, which isn’t occupying the “hot segment” at present. With a not-so-diverse lineup and MSRPs better suited to larger vehicles, Mini’s annual sales have been dwindling since 2013 and failed to surpass 45,000 U.S. deliveries in 2018. Unfortunately, 2019 is already on track to be markedly worse. Read More >

By on June 24, 2019

Following rumors that Audi’s E-Tron would have to be delayed due to issues with battery supplier LG Chem and some unforeseen “software development” problems, Volkswagen Group’s plan to build 330,000 electric vehicles per year in Zwickau, Germany, by 2021 appeared to possess a plot hole the size of the Grand Canyon.

The EV problem is not unique to Volkswagen. Other manufacturers hoping to build electric cars have also been struggling with factory retooling, high development costs, and in-demand battery suppliers that are more than willing to change their prices. However VW claims to have solved some of these issues, at least for a while, citing new investments in China and multiple partnerships with battery concerns. Read More >

By on June 24, 2019

2019 Chevrolet Blazer front quarter

As I’ve been reviewing cars for this venerable publication for nearly three years, I’ve noticed how easy it is to become jaded about new cars. While I’m not like some journalists, getting handed keys to six figure exotics every week, I am rather lucky to experience cars on a regular basis that frequently cost more than I’d likely ever spend with my own money.

I’m reminded of this most often when something unusual graces my driveway, and a neighbor strikes up a conversation — or when I’m walking back to the car from the supermarket and someone is waiting to ask about the car. It doesn’t happen often — but this new 2019 Chevrolet Blazer RS seemingly compels conversation.

Plan your trips accordingly.

Read More >

By on June 24, 2019

It’s a question that I often joked about in relation to racing in LeMons competition. The joke being that small fires are normal for $500 crap cans and don’t necessarily warrant a pit stop (this is not actually true). As I stopped the not-a-crapcan GT350 in the pits to have grass cleared from the grille openings, I heard someone yell, “Fire!”

Knowing the probable source of the combustion, there was just one thing to do… drive. Read More >

By on June 24, 2019

1988 Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon in Colorado wrecking yard, RH view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Toyota Tercel 4WD Station Wagon, known in its homeland as the Sprinter Carib, sold very well in Colorado, where I live, and tended to be both reliable and well-loved by owners. I still see them in wrecking yards here, so many that I don’t photograph any but the most interesting. This one in a Denver yard had an impressive-even-by-Toyota-standards odometer reading, so it made the cut for a Junkyard Find. Read More >

By on June 24, 2019

Image: Subaru

Subaru was one of the few automakers experiencing growth going into the Great Recession. When the financial crisis struck in earnest, Subaru’s volume briefly dipped to pre-recession levels before resuming its climb. Thanks largely to an enviable public image and desirable lineup, Subaru’s annual deliveries tripled between 2009 and 2018 inside the United States.

However Subaru’s quality rankings have lapsed in its quest to meet elevated demand. There has been a surge in recalls for the brand and some unsavory claims coming from the factory. According to internal documents seen by Automotive News, one of the primary reasons for this was due to rampant supply chain issues. The papers indicate that nearly half of Subaru’s suppliers were recently operating at quality levels below the company’s internal targets. Subaru is currently overhauling its own production processes and working with suppliers to improve quality and avoid developing a poor reputation with customers.  Read More >

By on June 24, 2019

If we were to have told you a few short years ago that The General would soon be producing mass copies of a rear-drive vehicle powered by a turbocharged straight six diesel, you’d have had us committed to the nearest madhouse. After all, such a bumf reads like sport European sedan from the eighties, when cars were cars and most passengers were terrified.

But it isn’t a sports sedan, nor even a performance coupe. Getting inline at GM these days means moving into a Silverado half-ton pickup truck, the latest entrant from the Detroit Three in a quickly escalating war of diesel supremacy in trucks not competing in the Dreadnought-class. These are the volume trucks, folks, and all of the diesel powertrains — Ford, Chevy, and Ram — displace an identical 3.0L from their six cylinders.

Differences abound between the three, causing your friendly neighborhood gearhead’s mind to temporarily out of control, even more so than it does after his third ration of Lamb’s Rum. Let’s dive in and decipher it all.

Read More >

By on June 24, 2019

What would you call a car designed in France out of parts from a Jeep, then built in Portugal by a company which previously ceased to exist?

UMM.

Read More >

By on June 22, 2019

Unlike Chevrolet, GMC doesn’t just stop off on the way home from the store to introduce a new vehicle. It doesn’t get up in the middle of the night for a glass of water and create a new crossover before turning in.

The new Blazer and upcoming sort-of subcompact Trailblazer have no equals in GMC’s restrained lineup. Nor does the Traverse. Or Trax. GMC puts its pants on one leg at a time, but the rumor mill won’t stop churning out discourse on a potential new entry from America’s truck brand. And one name keeps coming up. Read More >

By on June 21, 2019

With Jaguar’s XJ sedan on its way out, the company is actively working on a replacement using its new Modular Longitudinal Architecture (MLA). Like many modern platforms, MLA can be be adapted for use in electric, plug-in hybrid, and mild-hybrid applications… and the automotive firm no doubt plans to squeeze every dime it can out of that built-in versatility.

Following the debut of a large premium sedan that’s supposed to replace the XJ sometime next year, MLA will see action at Land Rover — underpinning the new Ranger Rover in 2021. Eventually the automaker intends to use MLA as the basis for most future models, hopefully reducing development and manufacturing costs after posting a $4.6 billion loss earlier this year.  Read More >

By on June 21, 2019

us-capitol, public domain

Capitol Hill was the scene of some high-school drama this week after representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) reportedly refused to sit at the same table while discussing fueling regulations with the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

As petty as this seems, it illustrates the overall situation rather well. White House officials terminated talks with California in February, citing an inability to progress the debate. Meanwhile, CARB has been claiming the Trump administration doesn’t want to hear its case and has instead sought to strip the state of its ability to self regulate in order to pass reforms that would freeze national emissions standards at 2020 levels though 2026.

Thursday’s congressional bickering helped paint a clearer picture of what the communications breakdown looked like.  Read More >

By on June 21, 2019

A Mazda inline-six cylinder engine developed for a rear wheel-drive-based platform has been industry knowledge since news broke in May. But new reporting from Best Car in Japan confirm that Toyota/Lexus and Mazda will share that rear wheel-drive platform and inline-six engine.

Mazda’s inline-six engine development will include Skyativ-X (gasoline) and Skyativ-D (diesel) variants, mounted longitudinally. Additionally, a 48-volt mild-hybrid electrical system and all-wheel-drive variants will be offered. The question is what this has to do with Toyota. Read More >

By on June 21, 2019

If there’s one thing I loved about spending time in the offices of General Managers and dealership principals, it was hearing about the harebrained schemes they had to bring customers into the dealership. GMs see an average of 80 or more vendors every single month — there’s always a new piece of software, a new way to buy inventory, even a new way to wash the windows. Invariably, due to some combination of pressure to meet unrealistic sales goals and the attractiveness of the sales rep, managers would fall for something that would make me shake my rather large head in disbelief.

The tough part was always maintaining a straight face when they told me about their plans. One of my fondest memories was listening to a GM explain that he had canceled all of his third party advertisers and ordered two Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tubemen. I wasn’t entirely surprised to see that the store was out of business 90 days later.

But one of my all-time, tried and true favorites is the “gypsy sale.” Click the jump to see our friend Greg’s question about these direct mail pieces and whether or not they actually work. Read More >

By on June 21, 2019

Ford is planning on sharing some big, GT-related news for America’s birthday. On Friday, the company said that it would be making “a special Ford GT supercar announcement” during a dedicated press conference at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed on July 4th.

While that’s the correct date, it’s taking place in the wrong country. But we assume Ford has good reason for that. We’re betting this is some performance-plus variant of the model aimed at achieving enviable lap times. As the Goodwood hill climb is all about the beating a stopwatch, perhaps Ford intends on showing the world what its new car can do. Read More >

By on June 21, 2019

Workers represented by Local UAW 892 went on strike last night in Saline, Michigan. The union’s contract with Faurecia Interiors Systems, which expired on June 1st, was given a three-week contract extension to provide for negotiations. But, with no new deal on the table, employees walked out Friday at midnight. They’re demanding better wages, improved working conditions and profit sharing.

Plant workers have been complaining about conditions inside the plant to local media and online for several months, often citing plumbing issues and a leaky roof as the facility’s biggest problems.  Read More >

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