Category: Features

By on January 21, 2020

Chrysler has certainly changed since emerging from the ashes of the Maxwell Motor Company in 1925, spending the better part of the 20th century purveying all manner of car to the American public. The current century has seen the company merge with Daimler, followed by Fiat. Now it’s cozying up to PSA Group, leaving many to wonder what purpose Chrysler serves beyond being the corporate namesake.

Officially, the merger isn’t supposed to impact any FCA or PSA brands. But the Chrysler brand isn’t exactly a model of industrial health. Its current lineup consists of four vehicles, one of which (Voyager) is just the lower-trim version of the non-hybrid Pacifica. The minivan sales are enviable, comprising over half of all vehicles sold within the segment for the United States last year — if you incorporate the Dodge Caravan — but Chrysler’s overall trajectory leaves much to be desired.  Read More >

By on January 20, 2020

While other manufacturers are downsizing engines and sticking turbos anywhere they’ll fit, Mazda has attempted to maintain a home for naturally aspirated motors — engines it believes should be sized appropriately for their intended application. On paper, this appears to be giving the competition an edge. Yet Mazda remains committed to offering the right tool for the job, introducing naturally aspirated Skyactiv engines with unusually high compression ratios. The latest, Skyactiv-X, combines spark-controlled gasoline combustion and compression-ignition diesel tech with a 24-volt mild-hybrid system.

The system delivers 178 horsepower and 164 lb-ft of torque in 2.0-liter guise, plus MPG improvements of up to 20 percent vs the old Skyactiv-G. But there’s a problem. With Mazda attempting to go upmarket, an economy-focused powertrain has to deliver in whatever region it’s sold, and introductory Skyactiv-X units are now viewed as too small for the United States. The result? The technology’s delayed arrival in North America, despite its deployment via the new 2.0 liter found in the 2020 Mazda 3 and CX-30 sold in Japan and Europe.  Read More >

By on January 20, 2020

nissan

Japanese executives traditionally take company failings very personally, often performing penance in the wake of scandals and downturns. In the case of fresh-on-the-job Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida, his punishment for the automaker’s dismal financial situation and tumbling sales was an earful from a group of angry U.S. dealers.

The dealers let Uchida have it during a recent meeting at Nissan’s U.S. headquarters — the first such meeting since Uchida’s elevation to CEO late last year. It’s not like he didn’t ask for it. Read More >

By on January 15, 2020

Thanks largely to its status as a niche product, the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ have been on deathwatch for years. But their saving grace as stellar machines to drive has kept them from being abandoned. The Toyobaru Twins still receive quite a bit of love, even if the affection is not spread around all that liberally. Despite this, both models are expected to receive a successor.

While a quick glance at their sales record makes this seem like a losing strategy, Toyota remains obsessed with rebuilding its reputation within motorsport (often with help from another manufacturer). Toyota head Akio Toyoda has even expressed a personal dream of returning to an era where the company has revived — or replaced — its most iconic performance models. The Supra and 86 are already here, leaving room for the Celica and/or MR2. Ditching the 86 would be a step backwards, even if it only moved 3,398 units in the United States last year — its worst showing to date.  Read More >

By on January 13, 2020

When your author’s 2019 Golf SportWagen (to be revealed soon) went into the shop for warranty work after just two weeks of ownership, the dealer provided a service loaner for a couple days (or four). And it was a brand new Passat, but one company PR would never release into the hands of any journalist: the most basic version.

Let’s see if the spacious S sedan is an Ace of Base.

Read More >

By on January 13, 2020

gm

The upper tier of GMC’s midsize Canyon line revealed their enlarged faces Monday, heralding a similar treatment on lesser trims. Like the recent Acadia crossover, the mid-cycle refresh arriving for the 2021 model year sees the Canyon grille gain significant height, joining a revamped bumper and headlamps that mimic the larger Sierra.

Canyon also ditches the former All Terrain trim in favor of a sexier off-road-themed moniker: AT4. Read More >

By on January 10, 2020

“Famous flicks, Mr. Connery,” the fake Alex Trebek once said to the fake Scottish actor on SNL. The unspoken word in that long-ago sketch isn’t something you’d encourage your young kids to say, but it did help the career of many beloved stand-up comics.

Which brings us, oddly, to Subaru. The (predominantly) all-wheel-drive brand has crafted a very wholesome image of itself over the years, delighting children and seniors alike with its heavy use of canine actors in its ads. But there’s nothing wholesome about a vehicle that appeared this week at the Singapore Motor Show: the Forester Ultimate Customized Kit Special edition.

FUCKS, for short. Read More >

By on January 9, 2020

2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited X

I knew I might need wheels during a week-long trip to Los Angeles. I was hoping for something well-suited for a run over the Angeles Crest Highway.

Instead, a Jeep Grand Cherokee was the vehicle available. I hadn’t driven one in years, but I’ve always been fond of the current generation — a generation that is aging rapidly. Would the ravages of time sour my opinions?

Short answer: No. While aging, the Grand Cherokee remains a pleasant SUV for around-town commuting, with off-road capability in its back pocket.

Read More >

By on January 8, 2020

Image: Kia Motors

The other day, we told you about Subaru bucking the industry’s cooling trend to scratch out yet another record year-end sales tally. A full year of Ascent production catapulted the brand over a hurdle that, without the new model, it would have failed to clear.

Nothing beats a new three-row crossover for hiking sales, boosting ATPs, and growing margins.

It’s something the members of Hyundai Motor Group know well. Both Hyundai and Kia have a brace of crossovers to thank for the solid sales gains enjoyed in 2019. Read More >

By on January 8, 2020

I’ve shared my experience in choosing a suitable replacement for my Subaru Outback recently. And while that mission was accomplished successfully at the end of December (story coming soon), I was left with a tale to share about a particular dealership and its “customer service.”

Time for a quick story about how not to treat the customer.

Read More >

By on January 7, 2020

Not Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, mind you, but Chrysler. The brand. The maker of such diverse nameplates as the 300, which debuted in 2004, or the Pacifica and its ilk. Or the — wait, no, that’s it.

It’s easy to poke fun at Chrysler The Brand these days, what with Jeep and Ram doing the heavy lifting in terms of sales. As Matthew Guy recently told you, Ram bench-pressed some exceptionally heavy stacks this past year, sailing to new sales heights on the strength of two full-size pickups and a new HD model. Chrysler, barely mentioned in FCA’s recent five-year product plan, sunk to its lowest standing in decades.

Get this brand a new product that’s not just a variant of an existing minivan. Read More >

By on January 6, 2020

Too bad about the others. After admitting that it probably should have reconsidered the new-for-2019 Mazda 3’s U.S. pricing strategy, the Hiroshima-based automaker can sit back and look at last year’s results in full. Topping that page is a 7.2 percent sales decline — the result of volume slippage among all nameplates but one.

Nothing beats a compact crossover for surefire popularity. Read More >

By on January 3, 2020

Back in early October, after Subaru’s 93-month streak of year-over-year sales increases came to an end for a variety of reasons, Subaru of America CEO Thomas J. Doll said the brand was still “on target to achieve our 700,000-vehicle sales goal for 2019, marking 12 consecutive years of sales increases.”

Despite a cooling new vehicle market, Subaru’s meteoric rise in the U.S. and its stable of all-wheel drive vehicles made the sales target appear an achievable goal. Turns out it was.

Subaru just barely cleared the bar, earning it another record. Read More >

By on January 2, 2020

Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan seemed an epic affair, but the man who was reportedly smuggled out of the country in a musical instrument case by mercenaries posing as a Gregorian band wants to make one thing clear.

The former Renault CEO and Nissan chairman added to the story via a statement released Thursday. Read More >

By on December 20, 2019

Earlier this fall, word arose that Fiat Chrysler had resurrected a practice from the bad old days of the company — a sales bank of unallocated vehicles churned out by over-productive factories and pushed on dealers with little use for them. The company claimed otherwise, saying that its new “predictive analytics” system was simply in the process of being refined to better guide the flow of certain models and configurations to dealers.

With 2019 nearly at an end, unordered inventory is once again on the rise, Bloomberg reports. And not by any small amount, either. In response, FCA is reportedly pulling out all the stops to get these vehicles into consumers’ hands before 2020. Read More >

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