Category: Features

By on October 16, 2019

The dam on the Chevrolet Corvette C8 embargo broke in a big, big way yesterday, with Motor Trend shoving their story in their remaining readers’ inboxes around 5:30 am yesterday. Everybody else who had early access to the car (Road & Track, Car and Driver, The Digital Publication Formerly Known As Autoweek, etc.) quickly followed suit, and by the end of the day you had all the Corvette news you could handle splayed all over the internet like Hope Solo. Don’t search that at work.

There were some good takes on the C8, including this excellent lap of Thunderhill by FOB (Friend of Bark) Travis Okulski. But then there was a very, very bad one by Car and Driver, entitled Race Track Hot Throwdown Of All Throwdowns: The C8 Tells The C7 To Step Outside! Okay, it wasn’t actually called that, but it may as well as been. The idea was to compare the C8 Corvette Z51 againsta C7 Corvette Z51 on a racing surface and see which one was faster.

I’ll save you the click and let you know that C/D discovered that the C8 could lap Grattan Raceway in 1:26.1, while the best the C7 could muster was a 1:27.0. The C8 was faster! All hail the new mid-engined Playskool disaster!

Except, of course, they’re wrong. Here’s why.

Read More >

By on October 15, 2019

No one really expected electric pickup trucks to take off as a concept, save for the people developing them. While EVs still need to improve their maximum range to truly surpass combustion-reliant vehicles, modern examples perform much better than their predecessors. But battery size and vehicle weight remain important issues for the segment, making the idea of an electric work vehicle seem about as useful as an edible diaper.

Then the concepts started arriving, sucking far less than most of us expected. There were loads of new ideas, like interesting storage solutions and auxiliary power ports for tools — all stemming from electrification. What’s more is that the vehicle itself seems like it could benefit from the instant torque and lower center of gravity furnished by electric powertrains. Battery packs can also be made larger (improving range), as pickups have more areas to stash cells without intruding into the passenger compartment. Maybe this wasn’t a dumb idea after all.

Ford and General Motors have both confirmed the development of electric pickups, with the former currently running prototypes. Meanwhile, Rivian and Bollinger have already shown off their designs. EV darling Tesla had a truck it wanted to debut over the summer, but the model saw its release pushed back. Now, CEO Elon Musk has confirmed that the vehicle will emerge next month.  Read More >

By on October 11, 2019

Our last update on the GM-UAW strike revolved around union reps playing hardball on issues like health care, wages, temporary employees, skilled trades, and job security. The United Auto Workers sent General Motors’ proposals back, holding its nose in disapproval.

With the strike now roughly one month deep and looking like it may disrupt the automaker’s well-laid plans, GM is firing back by suggesting the workers’ union is intentionally wasting everybody’s time. The company’s latest contract offer was issued Monday, with the union having yet to offer any formal feedback. Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra even joined negotiations on Wednesday in an effort to speed up discussions. But the UAW has said it will only issue a counter proposal after five separate committees address a “series of issues” and the automaker publicly furnishes its suggestions.

“We object to having bargaining placed on hold pending a resolution of these five areas,” Scott Sandefur, GM’s vice president of North American labor relations, wrote to UAW Vice President Terry Dittes on Thursday. “As we have urged repeatedly, we should engage in bargaining over all issues around-the-clock to get an agreement.”  Read More >

By on October 9, 2019

For its last model year, the Cadillac ATS boasted rear-wheel drive, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and an MSRP of $35,495 plus destination. Two years later, the newest and smallest addition to the Cadillac range keeps the recipe more or less the same, only the starting price of the 2020 CT4 rings in a couple grand lower.

Less power, less price, but perhaps more buyers? Read More >

By on October 9, 2019

While not the core focus of this website, we’ve often chronicled Harley-Davidson’s missteps as a way of predicting issues that might crop up for manufacturers specializing in four-wheeled transportation.

You see, the iconically American motorcycle brand has painted itself into a corner. By leveraging its established fan base, sales swelled through the 1990s. Unfortunately, the United States’ interest in motorcycles plummeted once the Great Recession hit. H-D was not exempt, enduring the worst of it as its stock price declined 42 percent over the last five years.

As the recessional dust cleared, rival manufactures panicked and shifted away from larger bikes aimed at experienced riders with more money to spend. Japanese companies began furnishing smaller, inexpensive models they hoped would encourage new riders. Harley Davidson waited longer to do this, launching two competitively priced, entry-level models that were still larger than seemed prudent.

Despite the industry seeing slightly improved volumes in the years following 2010, the last two have seen negative growth and annual sales totalling less than half of their pre-recession peak. Hoping to find new riders somewhere, H-D again shifted tactics by building child-sized scooters and the all-electric LiveWire.  Read More >

By on October 4, 2019

2019 INFINITI QX50

Infiniti’s sales took a tumble in September, dropping 44 percent (43.9 percent, to be exact) compared to September 2018.

Last year, Nissan’s luxury brand sold 12,536 units in September, while just 7,031 units left dealer lots this time around. The brand is also down 16.5 percent over the first nine months of the year.

Bigger picture, the industry has been hit by six months of sales declines in 2019, and all large automakers, Asian or American, were facing large drops (double digits, in many cases) in September. The good news for the industry is that the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate (SAAR) checked in around 17.16 million units across all brands – a healthy number despite the sales declines.

Read More >

By on October 4, 2019

Image: Ford

Ford Motor Company may have sidelined thousands of 2020 Ford Explorers and Lincoln Aviators due to hazy manufacturing issues, but it seems many vehicles slipped through the quality dragnet and into the hands of consumers.

You saw a eyebrow-raising walkaround of a dealer-fresh Aviator here the other week. Owners, however, get to slip behind the wheel and, in some cases, experience a bewildering array of symptoms. Read More >

By on October 3, 2019

Jesus!” 

The poor server at the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible launch had just dumped an entire tray of backwash onto her chest, thanks to the raucous, deafening, unholy rumble of the C8.R Corvette that had been started and revved up nearly fifty feet away from her. I stifled my laugh and reassured her from my nearby hi-top table.

“Don’t worry,” I said to her as she stood there shaking with a combination of laughter and disgust. “I don’t think anybody else saw that.”

If you want to read all about how great the new Corvette Stingray Convertible is, I encourage you to go to your web browser and read any one of the literally hundreds of stories that were posted the instant the embargo dropped last night. There, you will be able to read all about the nearly 500 horsepower and the 3-second zero-to-60 times and the 16-second-folding-hardtop and the $67,499 price tag, plus you’ll be able to see some very flattering photos of an orange Vette that have been photoshopped within a pixel of their lives. I was doing “Triometrics” at the hotel while everybody else was breathlessly regurgitating the stats, so I apologize that you’re only getting this vital information this morning instead of last night.

But, if you want to read about how the Corvette Stingray Convertible is the ugliest, most Playskool looking car I’ve ever seen in person, plus some stuff about how the C8.R shows us how terribly executed the coupe/convertible is, stick around and click the jump.

Read More >

By on September 30, 2019

Hauntings normally don’t cost the homeowner $40 million, but that’s what Fiat Chrysler faces after over-reporting monthly vehicle sales for a period of several years. Late last week, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission hit FCA with a fine for its now-corrected sales reporting practices, claiming the automaker misled investors.

FCA’s sales reporting trickery is also behind a lawsuit filed against the company by one of its top executives. Read More >

By on September 27, 2019

2020 Mazda 3 Hatchback - Image: Mazda2018 was the worst year for U.S. sales of the Mazda 3 since Bill Clinton was president. Back in 2000, the last time Mazda failed to sell more than 65,000 compacts, the Mazda 3 wasn’t even the Mazda 3 – it was the Mazda Protege.

Of course, 2018 was a different kind of year for Mazda’s primary passenger car. Mazda was putting its aging, third-generation Mazda 3 out to pasture in an increasingly anti-car market; preparing instead to launch a stylish new Mazda 3 with an all-wheel-drive option that would (theoretically) steer buyers away from crossovers.

That new car, however, is faring far worse in the U.S. market. Buyers are steering clear of Mazda’s newest car. Year-over-year, Mazda 3 volume is down by more than a fifth. In fact, 2019 is on track to be the lowest-volume year of the Protege/3 era.

Mazda is responding with a 2020 Mazda 3 that will hit the market with a higher base price. And significantly higher equipment levels. Read More >

By on September 26, 2019

2019 Subaru AScent - Image: Subaru

Subaru didn’t believe the Ascent would add much to the brand’s monthly U.S. sales totals.

A year ago, it looked like Subaru’s forecasts were right on target. Roughly 5,000 U.S. sales per month? Check. Incremental brand-wide growth? Of course. Negligible impact on competitors? Indeed.

But the Ascent’s early capacity for helping Subaru keep its loyal customers loyal has evolved into something quite a bit more useful for the constantly-growing Japanese brand. Ascent volume is rising, rapidly so, and Subaru’s unparalleled streak of year-over-year sales growth – now at 93 consecutive months – now appears in little danger of collapsing. Read More >

By on September 25, 2019

Image: 2017 Dodge Journey SE, via FCA

We’ve already looked at the Nissan Sentra today, so it’s time to focus on the Dodge Journey. Yes, we’re all about the common man here at TTAC.

If it somehow escaped your attention, and we’re not sure how it could, we’re here to tell you that the Journey will stage a return for 2020, continuing a lineage that’s attracted only minor changes since the model’s appearance at the tail end of the Bush administration. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but Fiat Chrysler has a way of changing plans at the last minute. Read More >

By on September 24, 2019

2019 Nissan Altima

Nissan is recalling over 1.2 million late-model vehicles out of fear that drivers will shift into reverse and see nothing on their infotainment screens. The recall affects 2018 and 2019 models of almost the entire Nissan and Infiniti stable.

Because the backup camera on the affected vehicles can be adjusted to the point that no view of the area behind the vehicle remains, Nissan finds itself in violation of federal safety rules. The problem is not that the image can be adjusted, but that the obscured view will remain after the driver restarts the vehicle and shifts into reverse.

The list of models is a long one. Read More >

By on September 20, 2019

2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Package

During Ford’s product presentation, held just north of the famed Golden Gate bridge on a chilly Bay Area morning in September, one of the men who worked on the 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Package trotted out a not unexpected comparison.

He brought up the old LX trim available on Fox-body Mustangs of yore, and compared today’s four-cylinder Mustang to that model.

It’s not the world’s worst comparison, although the LX back then was available with the same renowned 5.0-liter (yes, I know it that it’s really a 4.9) V8 that was under the hood of the GT. The LX’s claim to fame was that it was lighter, cheaper, and perhaps less expensive to insure, while still offering V8 power and a five-speed stick. That’s why your author bought a used ’89 example in the late 1990s.

As someone who owned that LX Fox body for five years, I sniggered a bit, since the Mustang parked in front of us had just half the cylinder count, but of course today’s turbocharged four-banger could smoke the V8 of yore. I understood where Ford was going with this, though – the EcoBoost Mustang High Performance Package is meant to be the value performance buy, and not just a rental-fleet darling or the car for Mustang shoppers who care more about show than go.

Of course, when I relayed this spiel to the ne’er do wells in the TTAC Slack channel, contributor Chris Tonn shot back “SVO”, typed out repeatedly, a la Nicholson’s manuscript in The Shining.

Read More >

By on September 19, 2019

Despite sales of the Infiniti Q50 looking a little light this year, Nissan’s luxury arm has decided the model moves in numbers substantial enough to keep it on offer. The same cannot be said for the vehicle’s entry level 2.0-liter turbo, however. The motor will be going away for the 2020 model year, leaving the twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 as the sedan’s only available powerplant.

Replacing the base 2.0 Pure will be the 3.0t Pure. While a seven-speed automatic transmission continues sending power to the rear wheels (AWD is optional), base models now produce a claimed 300 horsepower. Considering the old 2.0-liter only produced 208 hp, you might think the change comes with a hefty price increase. But you’d be wrong. Infiniti is only asking for $36,400 (plus a $1,025 destination fee) for the base level Q50. That’s just $750 more than last year’s base model four banger. Read More >

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