Posts By: Timothy Cain

By on June 26, 2019

2019 Volvo Cars USA full lineup - Image: Volvo

Thanks to the increasing popularity of its two most affordable models, 2019 appears to be the year in which Volvo’s U.S. operations will appear firmly and solidly back on track.

For the first time since 2007, Volvo is set to sell more than 100,000 vehicles in the United States. At the current 6 percent growth rate, Volvo is on track for a 12-year high. 60 years since the Swedish brand landed in America, and nearly a decade since its U.S. ownership phase ended at the hands of Ford, the now Chinese-owned marque is on the ascent for very much the same reason it was when setting sales records in 2004.

A mix of popular utility vehicles and growth from its entry-level models. (Read More…)

By on June 25, 2019

You needn’t be an automotive writer to know that when a key is tossed in your direction, you catch it. If it’s the key to a winter-garaged, low-mileage, 2005 Lexus LS430, you grab the key and run. I rode to a work two weeks ago on the new Suzuki DR-Z400SM with which I replaced my 2013 Scion […]

By on May 29, 2019

2020 Toyota Supra – Image: Toyota Canada“You only produce one car less than the demand for the vehicle,” the late Sergio Marchionne said of Ferrari’s founding marketplace strategy. Of course, that translates to thousands more cars per year than it did in decades past. But Ferrari remains largely committed to that principle.

Now, in Ferrari-like language, Toyota says, “We’re operating on the basis that it’s better to have one too few than far too many,” when it comes to the new Supra.

Toyota spokesperson Nancy Hubbell revealed to TTAC early sales goals for the fifth-generation Supra that are distinctly tempered compared with the lofty expectations Toyota divulged the last time it launched a high-end coupe. (Read More…)

By on May 23, 2019

2013 Scion FRS front snow - Image: © Timothy Cain

A lot of life changes occurred in conjunction with the sale of my old website, GoodCarBadCar. We also sold the family home in Nova Scotia, moved to rural Prince Edward Island, and quickly began spending more time behind the wheel of a Husqvarna lawn tractor than behind the wheel of any car.

From an automotive standpoint, however, the major ensuing change involved the acquisition of an older Miata. A lifelong dream became a 14-month possession, costing scarcely a dollar while entirely living up to expectations. But with a second toy acquired, in the form of a Suzuki Kingquad, attempting to justify the use of a seasonal two-seater seemed laughable considering there are two young children at home.

Naturally, I sold the Miata and bought that famed minivan alternative, a 2013 Scion FR-S. (Our family vehicle is a 2018 Honda Odyssey.)

10 months later, with most of the time spent on winter tires, the FR-S is gone. It was just too practical. Too flexible. Too reasonable. Too functional. Too pragmatic. (Read More…)

By on April 24, 2019

2004 Toyota Camry LE V6 - Image: © Timothy CainThe story of the 340,000-mile 2004 Toyota Camry LE V6 that became the 15-winter story of a 347,000-mile Camry now belongs to another author.

My in-laws’ beautifully-maintained Camry ticked up to 352,000 miles – 567,013 kilometres on the odometer, to be precise – when they finally replaced their stalwart sedan with a 2019 Kia Optima.

The decision was not prompted by a breakdown. The Camry isn’t destined for a junkyard. It’s not being parted out.

We listed the Camry for $1,200 on Kijiji, quickly fielded 26 inquiries, and ended up selling this famous Camry to, you guessed it, a Camry owner who wants to add to his Camry stable. (Read More…)

By on April 22, 2019

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Skyactiv-D - Image: Mazda

Finally.

Mazda’s promised diesel-powered CX-5 is now open for pre-order in the United States, years after we began chronicling the Skyactiv-D’s lethargic march to North America.

TTAC’s coverage of Mazda diesel delays goes back nearly six years, when the future of Mazda’s Skyactiv-D was linked to a future Mazda 6. It was a story that received more attention in 2014. Eventually, in late 2016, there was confirmation of a Mazda CX-5 diesel. Arrival date: second half of 2017.

By the second half of 2017, however, the timing of the diesel CX-5’s arrival was unknown. Fast forward past a promising NHTSA filing, then a CARB certification, and then the release of EPA fuel economy ratings to the 2019 New York International Auto Show.

The Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD Diesel is ready, Mazda insists. But at $42,045, there’s simply no reason for its existence in America. (Read More…)

By on March 26, 2019

2020 Toyota Corolla - Image: Toyota CanadaPromises that “This will be the sedan that saves cars” and “The passenger car comeback starts here” are so 2017.

2018 welcomed the arrival of high expectations in the form of an all-new Toyota Camry and an all-new Honda Accord. The results were predictable, if not in the eyes of automaker CEOs, then surely for the rest of us. Camry and Accord sales each fell to a seven-year low, the refreshed Hyundai Sonata plunged to a 15-year low, and Mazda 6 volume hit an all-time annual low.

Now it’s time for an all-new version of the Toyota Corolla.  Rather than suggest the Corolla will revitalize the compact car segment by generating renewed demand across the board and ending a mass migration to crossovers, Toyota’s prediction is much more realistic.

According to Toyota, sales of the all-new-much-improved Corolla will decline. (Read More…)

By on March 25, 2019

2019 Nissan LEAF Plus - Image: NissanWhat does the electric car market look like? And what does the electric car market look like where you live?

Those two closely worded questions may well produce dramatically different answers.

Read enough hot takes on Twitter, unempirical features in tech media, and opinion pieces in the mainstream media and you could be left believing there’s no one left in need of a pickup truck, no one who needs to drive any meaningful distance, no one whose vehicular needs couldn’t be met by a scooter, and certainly no one who wouldn’t be satisfied by a sketchily-built electric car with disappearing doorhandles.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the origins of such beliefs, in part, stem from the locations in which they’re written: San Francisco, Manhattan, and Los Angeles, for example.

But what does the electric car market look like outside of the urban bubble? (Read More…)

By on February 26, 2019

America’s appetite for intermediate sedans is disappearing, as the queasiness consumers feel when faced with the prospect of buying a family sedan seems to be settled only by the consumption of crossovers.

They go down smooth.

This isn’t news, of course. TTAC began a close, monthly watch of the U.S. midsize sedan sector in August 2016. Since then, the demise of individual midsize nameplates has continued, and the numbers associated with the segment’s sales performance – as we chronicled earlier this month – have grown more frightening.

Yet there are signs that, at least on the retail front, the midsize sedan segment’s American decline could be levelling off. And that moderation is coinciding with something you might not have anticipated: rising average transaction prices. (Read More…)

By on February 19, 2019

2017 NAIAS 2018 Toyota Camry launch - Image: Toyota“Can we stop the shrinking of the segment?” American Honda boss Jeff Conrad said when launching the 10th-gen Accord. “We think we can at least slow it down.”

“When you get into next year and you look at 2018,” Toyota’s Jack Hollis said two years ago when discussing the arrival of an all-new Camry, “I believe with these three products and the excitement they bring back to that segment, I don’t see it falling anymore.” In fact, said Hollis, “When you have new entries and you have a full-year of those sales next year, I think you will see flat to slightly up.”

Meanwhile, Hyundai anticipated that a mere refresh of the Sonata for the 2018 model year would “reinvigorate” the nameplate.

The arrival of the 10th-generation Honda Accord did not slow down the shrinkage. Toyota was incorrect – the midsize segment was not “flat to slightly up” in 2018. And no, the Hyundai Sonata has in no way been reinvigorated.

The rate at which sales of midsize sedans are falling suggests fewer than 1 million of these vehicles will be sold in America within two years, equal to a 58-percent drop in just half a decade.  (Read More…)

By on January 21, 2019

2017 Nissan Versa Note - Image: NissanAmerica’s demand for subcompact cars tumbled 26 percent in 2018, yet another result that points to the eventual demise of all but a few B-segment cars.

2018’s sharp drop – equal to roughly 94,000 fewer sales in the core eight-car subcompact category – follows an equally harsh decline in 2017, when the segment lost more than 95,000 units. Led by a sharp reduction in sales of the top-selling Nissan Versa and year-over-year percentage declines of more than 29 per cent for the Chevrolet Sonic, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Toyota Prius C, and Toyota Yaris, the category’s volume has fallen 48 percent since 2014.

And before you say, “Well, cars are all unpopular these days,” keep 2018’s five million-plus car buyers in mind. Car buyers do, in fact, still exist.

But subcompact car buyers are disappearing much, much faster than car buyers at large. And it may well be because the product execution of subcompact cars is really rather poor.  (Read More…)

By on January 16, 2019

“When I look at the new Imperial,” Chrysler Corporation chairman Lee Iacocca said in 1980, “I see an electronic marvel.”

He may have been reaching.

“We understand the speed with which we have to act,” Chrysler Group CEO Bob Nardelli said in mid-2008, months before Chrysler’s collapse showed that whatever understanding there was did not find itself successfully implemented.

More recently, however, in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ recap of its brands’ 2018 U.S. sales performance, the company’s own take on the Chrysler marque’s results was stunningly honest. “Overall,” FCA said in its press release, “the brand has seen some softening during the year following the continued wind-down of the Chrysler 200 and the Town & Country.”

Ya don’t say. (Read More…)

By on December 18, 2018

2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e - Image: Toyota

As America’s new vehicle market shifts to vehicles with four driven wheels, greater ride height, and dog-friendly tailgates, it seems more than sensible for the Toyota Prius to take part in some community outreach.

The Prius, America’s 10th-best-selling car just a decade ago, can keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Or, the Prius can make a significant change – via available “independent electric, magnet-less rear motor” – to offer all-wheel drive, one of the feature sets that’s drawing car buyers away from cars.

And that’s exactly what Toyota has done for the otherwise refreshed 2019 Prius (reviewed last week by our own Matt Posky). In a manner of speaking, Toyota expects big things from the Prius AWD-e: 25 percent of Prius customers, to be precise.

But one-fourth of all Prius volume is not what it used to be. In fact, it’s a far cry from what it used to be. A mere fraction of what it used to be. One-quarter of all Prius volume will make the Prius AWD-e barely more common than the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. (Read More…)

By on December 14, 2018

Image: Toyota

One year ago, the Nissan Altima, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Highlander, and Ford Fusion were all significantly more popular than the Toyota Tacoma. The Altima, for example, sold 32-percent more often than the Tacoma, which was generating record volume in 2017.

Fast forward one year, however, and the Tacoma is operating at an entirely different level. It now outsells the Altima, Grand Cherokee, Sentra, Highlander, and Fusion, and by large margins in some cases. To say the Tacoma is America’s best-selling midsize pickup truck would be to wildly understate its success. To say the Tacoma is America’s fourth-best-selling pickup truck would be to minimize its playing field.

Through the end of November 2018, the Tacoma now ranks among America’s 15 best-selling vehicles outright. This is not a cult following. Calling it a Taco doesn’t reserve your place in an exclusive club. You now see enough of them in the run of a day to easily spot the differences between a TRD Sport, a TRD Off-Road, and a TRD Pro.

The Toyota Tacoma is now mainstream. (Read More…)

By on November 26, 2018

2013 Scion FRS navy winter - Image: © Timothy CainI’m beginning to worry that many vehicles I once fervently desired to own will never again appear on my shortlist of possible daily drivers.

These vehicles, from the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Fiesta ST to the Audi S4 and Porsche Macan and numerous others in between, possess one of two common traits. Their internal combustion engines send power either to the front or all four wheels.

I don’t want to be that guy; I don’t want there to be any hint of sounding like this. You know the kind of guy I’m talking about: a real, living, breathing version of the 14-year-old forum addict who, never having driven any car of any kind, suffers all manner of teenage angst over the very notion that BMW sells all-wheel-drive M cars while scolding Ford for emasculating the Mustang GT350R with electronic aids.

But a hard-hitting winter manifested itself early on Prince Edward Island, and I’m worried that the fun quotient exhibited by a 2013 Scion FR-S could never be replicated by a front or all-wheel-drive car. (Read More…)

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