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By on February 21, 2020

The annual Automotive Franchise Activity Report asserts that the number of new-car dealerships in the United States has shrunk for the first time since 2013. The difference is marginal when viewed from a national perspective, but could support prior theories that larger dealer networks are consolidating while smaller, less competitive shops are being forced out of the market. The report claims the total number of storefronts fell from 18,294 in 2018 to 18,195 at the start of 2020. Dealership throughput was similarly down, decreasing by eight units from 2018 to 940.

While not particularly alarming, the figures do seem to mirror national population trends when placed under a microscope. The states that lost the highest number of showrooms  tended to be regions that had the most trouble preventing people from moving.  Read More >

By on February 21, 2020

It seems a rowdy (or perhaps lonely) Valentine’s Day evening turned into a somnambulant early morning in Troy, Michigan, where police responded to a report of more than one driver asleep in a McDonald’s drive-thru lane at the same time.

If you’ve ever found yourself stuck behind a solitary crossover or minivan in which every last occupant is ordering a full meal — with very specific condiment criteria — this boozy drive-thru tale could be your worst nightmare. Read More >

By on February 21, 2020

Volvo’s released some attractive cars lately, with the full-size S90 and V90 arguably being the best of the bunch. Not wanting to beach its boat on the perilous shores of bad taste, the manufacturer has issued mild visual updates to both for the 2021 model year. Bumpers have been lowered slightly, with LED fog lamps, a new tail lamp design (V90 only), redesigned spoiler, and sequential turn signals polishing off the updated exterior.

The company also plans to make its 48-volt mild hybrid system standard in more models, though this may only pertain to Europe. Most other changes relate to customization, with Volvo offering new exterior colors (including two-tone options), additional wheel designs from which to choose, and some new interior materials — like wool and fancy “leather-free” upholstery.  Read More >

By on February 21, 2020

ford

Given that domestic full-size pickups generate more money for their respective builders than a war bonds drive, every redesign is fraught with danger.

OEMs walk an especially fine line in this segment, fearful of making a vehicle too bland or too similar to the previous generation, but understandably nervous about breaking out of the box and alienating loyal return customers. Polarizing styling isn’t a recipe for success — the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado taught us a lesson about that (though GM might disagree).

As it prepares for a launch later this year, spy shots of the upcoming Ford F-150 reveal enough to show Ford’s playing it safe… but not too safe. Read More >

By on February 21, 2020

Tesla’s Model Y has already started production, scheduled to reach consumers by the end of March, but until today there was no official range rating. That’s all changed now, and those standing in line for the automaker’s new compact crossover have reason to smile. Read More >

By on February 21, 2020

Forgive us for mentioning the coronavirus, or whatever it’s called now, once again. As the highly infectious illness spreads in China (and now South Korea and Iran), a staggering piece of data shows what happens to a country’s auto sales when the one-party state won’t let citizens leave their home. Read More >

By on February 21, 2020

Tesla won its day in German court Thursday, with the Berlin-Brandenburg judiciary brushing aside an injunction that halted the clearing of 92 hectares (227 acres) of forest. The electric automaker needed those woods gone in order to build a new assembly plant serving European customers.

Unfortunately for Tesla, opposition came in the form of environmentalists who, for some reason, didn’t like the idea of paving paradise to build an electric car factory. While the logging can now continue, Tesla still doesn’t have the go-ahead to built the massive Gigafactory itself. Read More >

By on February 21, 2020

infiniti nissan factory japan

Yep, we’re still talking about the damned coronavirus. But how could we not, with the situation being obfuscated from all sides as the outbreak just seems to worsen? Both Japan and South Korea have reported their first deaths relating to the virus; meanwhile, the unsettling theory that 2019-nCoV was created in a Chinese laboratory has grown by leaps and bounds.

While the mainstream media has dismissed this as an unfounded conspiracy, loads of circumstantial evidence published by reputable sources leave one wondering. Our favorite is that the exotic meat market initially pegged as the disease’s point of origin was across the the street from (get this) a viral disease laboratory. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has repeatedly pushed for the virus’ origin to be found, saying “We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases,” only to be framed as an alarmist crank.

There was also a Chinese coverup (similar to SARS) that kicked off when police detained eight doctors in Wuhan for attempting to warn the public of a potential outbreak. The point here is that nobody seems ready to give (or even search for) answers in China. Naturally, this has left people confused and scared, rather than just scared. Read More >

By on February 21, 2020

ford

TTAC’s own Ronnie Schreiber writes:

Sajeev,

How many spark plugs do you think a Model T “trembler” ignition coil can fire simultaneously?

I’m foolishly trying to make a spark plug-based Chanukah menorah (candelabra), so I need to have as many as nine plugs sparking at the same time. I could use individual coils but those run about $100 each and I don’t want to spend a thousand bucks on this project.

Yes, I know the voltages are dangerous. Read More >

By on February 20, 2020

Aston Martin is canceling is mid-engined Valkyrie racer and stalling EV development until 2025 as it reassess both the racing and industry landscapes. The Valkyrie was originally scheduled to commence its racing career in Silverstone this fall, before moving on to the main event — the 24 Hours of Le Mans — in 2021. Now, the company says it will halt development on the racer while it reorganizes under new investor Lawrence Stroll (Red Bull is out) and the Racing Point F1 team.

This appears to leave Toyota as the only big-boy factory team participating in the LM Hypercar division for its introductory season. Despite assurances that factory LMP1 teams had an interest in the class, they haven’t been clamoring to get involved. Peugeot and Glickenhaus are technically still in the running, though neither appear to have expended the same kind of cash as Toyota or Aston and are likewise presumed to pull out before the season starts.

This must be confusing for the FIA, as Hypercar was seen by the World Endurance Championship as an affordable alternative to P1 while also allowing manufacturers to adhere more closely to signature body styles that the prototypes would allow. It was assumed automakers would love this, as it allowed for more direct marketing ins and some overlap with the prototype cars.

Read More >

By on February 20, 2020

Denizens of the United States, you should forget about the word “Golf” and just focus on the “GTI” designation. That’s all you’ll really need to know about, what with Volkswagen opting to ditch the slow-selling Golf in favor of the hotter (GTI) and hottest (R) variants of its compact hatch.

The final inhabitants of a rejiggered U.S. product lineup have yet to be set in stone, but the GTO variant of the upcoming eighth-generation Golf is surely on its way. Today brought our first glimpse of the model. Read More >

By on February 20, 2020

It could be argued that a large portion of the Chinese economy has been propped up by government programs, with electric vehicles making one of the best examples. With a vested interest in battery technology, China did everything it could to encourage industry players to focus on EVs while subsidizing their purchase by consumers. The end result was a country with the highest number of alternative-energy vehicles in the world — and more automotive automotive startups than it knew what to do with.

While the plan was always to force accelerated competition by getting new manufacturing firms to duke it out for supremacy, EV sales were also supposed to remain sky high. Yet they didn’t. China’s auto market began running out of steam far earlier than everyone assumed. When the country nixed electric-vehicle subsidies over the summer, the segment went into a tailspin, with every successive month returning negative growth.

China would like to see things turn around, so it’s mulling the prospect of reintroducing incentives to get EVs into more driveways.  Read More >

By on February 20, 2020

JLR/YouTube

Automakers go to great pains to show off their vehicles in the best possible light. Via the deft touch of their respective marketing teams, ordinary machines suddenly grow the ability to do the impossible: getting the hopelessly nerdy guy his dream girl, soothing inconsolable babies, and performing feats of strength that would leave even Frank aghast.

In official pictures and film, the worst fate to befall a vehicle is normally an artistic splattering of mud around the wheel wells. Perfection is always a car wash away.

Not so in the “ad” just released by Jaguar Land Rover, which piggybacks on the exploits of a filmmaking team and gives them all the marketing support they ask for in return. Despite JLR using a Bond movie to its benefit, it’s good to see a vehicle being put to its full potential in a commercial — and sustaining damage in the process. It harkens back to those old Volvo ads of yore, in which abuse factors heavily. Read More >

By on February 20, 2020

The original and well-known Ferrari 365 was a V12 grand tourer in production from 1966 to 1971. Its primary successor — the 365 GTB/4 (Daytona) also made a name for itself in short order.

Sitting in relative obscurity, however, was the Daytona’s ignored cousin, the 365 GTC/4.

Read More >

By on February 20, 2020

In the most recent installment of Your Author’s CPO Volkswagen Follies, I shared the slow process which was the purchase of my 2019 Golf Sportwagen. At the end of that piece, I mentioned it was already at the dealer for a rattle after two weeks of ownership.

It’s back in my possession now, and it’s fixed. Any bets on how long it took, and how many trips were made to the dealer’s service center?

Read More >

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