Reborn Ford Ranger Closing in on No.2 In Segment, but Overall Midsize Truck Market Share Is Stalling
The arrival of a reincarnated Ford Ranger in 2019, along with the debut of the Jeep Gladiator, caused midsize truck market share to climb to a 13-year high in America’s pickup category. In fact, over the span of six years, midsize trucks nearly doubled their share of America’s truck market.
The primary cause of those market share gains, the new Ranger, ended its abbreviated first sales year on the midsize podium roughly 33,000 sales back of the Chevrolet Colorado.
In the early days of 2020, however, the Ford Ranger is running nearly dead even with the Colorado. But no longer is the Ranger driving the midsize pickup truck market forward. The segment’s share of the truck market is backsliding.
Volkswagen Group has announced that its sales declined 23 percent against the previous year, to 2 million deliveries, from January through March of this year. Based upon last week’s assessment of the ailing European market, the region seems to have contributed quite a bit to VW’s downfall. However, the company said it is optimistic that the Chinese market will soon recover as the coronavirus pandemic loses strength in the region.
As the manufacturer’s largest market, Volkswagen has a lot riding on China coming out of this in once piece. There certainly have been a surplus of articles claiming the nation is on the fast track to economic restoration, but we’ve also heard enough conflicting reports on the status of its convalescence that it’s difficult to feel confident of anything. What exactly is in store for VW and other automakers doing business in China?
Center-left political/culture magazine The Atlantic dropped an interesting piece onto the Web Tuesday. In it, author Robinson Meyer lays out a case, based in part on the Trump administration’s own writings, that the fuel economy rollback approved in late March will actually cost jobs and reduce the amount Americans drive.
Meyer piggybacks off his previous reporting, suggesting the Department of Transportation froze out the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of California while working on the rollback. He further suggests, by citing passages from the 2,000-page report the administration prepared on the rollback (officially dubbed Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles, or SAFE), that 13,500 automotive-related jobs will be lost.
Try as we might, there’s just no way to know everything about the contemporary offerings of all car manufacturers, even if consideration is limited in scope to North America. Invariably, our mental encyclopedia is missing a few pages. That means sometimes, we should consider the unknowns of our automotive knowledge.
Allow me to explain.
As we attempt to wean ourselves off endless discussions the new coronavirus, we’ve noticed there’s not exactly a glut of alternative news out there. Trade shows are being delayed, factories are being idled, and the whole world seems to be in standby mode as we attempt to stall the spread of COVID-19 following its migration out of China.
Regional quarantines in Asia were already doing a number on supply chains, and it wasn’t long before manufacturers around the world began idling production to further slow the virus’s spread. By the beginning of March, it was becoming quite clear that auto sales would suffer significant impacts as people spent the next several weeks isolated in their own homes. Now, the push is on to assess just how much this whole ordeal will impact an OEM’s bottom line.
Still in the midst of a $1.4-billion restructuring plan that aims to cut 10 percent of its workforce, Mercedes-Benz is reconsidering what its product lineup should look like moving ahead. While most of the doomed models will be chosen due to lackluster demand (e.g. X-Class pickup) plenty will be nixed as a result of tightening emission laws. Mercedes parent Daimler issued two profit warnings in 2019 after the luxury brand was fined $960 million in an emissions-cheating settlement. Like many automakers, it was also hemorrhaging cash through its investments in electrification.
An apt analogy for the automotive industry’s stampede toward EVs would be lemmings hurling themselves off a seaside cliff — but not because of the popular misconception that the critters are intentionally committing mass suicide. When lemmings collectively off themselves, it’s the result of migratory behavior gone awry. They simply bunch up and move in a singular direction, largely unaware of the consequences.
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.
Not that there’s ever a good time for a global pandemic threat, but the coronavirus currently sweeping through Asia really could have scheduled itself more conveniently. China was already in the midst of an economic downturn when the virus reared its ugly head, with the country’s automotive sector having just moved backward for the second year in a row. The outbreak, centered in the Hubei province’s capital of Wuhan, is guaranteed to worsen the issue.
Responsible for about a tenth of China’s automotive manufacturing power, the region has basically gone dark since the outbreak picked up steam late last month. Over 50 million people are now presumed to be under house arrest due to the Chinese quarantine. Forbidden from going outside, they’re hardly likely to risk infection and government ire just to put for a few hours at their local factory. They also aren’t going to run out to their nearest dealership to support the ailing economy — but that’d be the first place to go after the sequestration ends.
If I were in their shoes, I certainly wouldn’t be taking the bus for a while.
Jaguar Land Rover has decided to stall production at two of its British factories for several weeks. Starting in late February, JLR intends to stop work at both its Castle Bromwich Assembly and Solihull plants until the end of March. The factories won’t be totally inactive for the duration; the manufacturer claims there will be half days intermixed with full-day closures.
Unlike the bulk of plant idlings taking place across the globe (though mostly in China), this has nothing to do with the coronavirus. While the outbreak has begun disrupting supply chains as the PRC attempts to keep the illness in check by barring people inside their homes, JLR said it’s stalling UK production to address falling demand and Brexit complications — the latter of which is beginning to feel like a lame excuse.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra went to New York on Wednesday to hold an investor conference. The day’s theme was: convincing everyone that GM deserves a higher valuation because, like Tesla, it’s supposed to be more than a car company.
While it seems slightly presumptuous for GM to expect the same overblown share price when Tesla probably doesn’t deserve it, either, the Good Book is supposed to say something about getting what you ask for. Still, having not read it in a while, I sincerely doubt it was referencing giant corporations or huge amounts of money.
Barra and company are attempting to show that GM hasn’t sat back on electrification and the same kind of advanced automotive technologies that wooed Tesla investors. Nobody said the rival automaker’s name during their speech, of course. Of course, they wouldn’t really need to, either.
Ralf Speth, the longtime CEO of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), is stepping down. Parent company Tata Motors confirmed the move, saying Speth would continue serving as a non-executive vice chairman on the board holding company and advisor to JLR.
At 64, Speth is easing into retirement after having led the company for the last ten years. He’s scheduled to leave his post in September, having spent the brunt of his tenure expanding the company’s global footprint.
Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of the Tata Sons holding company, said a search committee has been formed will work closely with him to identify a suitable successor in the coming months. But news of Speth’s prospective replacement followed closely after the retirement announcement.
Renault has appointed the former boss of Volkswagen Group’s Seat brand, Luca de Meo, as its new chief executive. Eager to remove former CEO Thierry Bollore and further distance itself from any ties to Carlos Ghosn, the company has been without an official leader since October.
The automaker made an announcement Tuesday, saying that after a selection process led by the Governance and Compensation Committee, the Board of Directors under the chairmanship of Jean-Dominique Senard had settled on de Meo.
Clotilde Delbos, currently serving as interim CEO, will continue to assume her functions until Luca takes office at the beginning of July. Viewed as the most-likely successor since 2019, de Meo was simply waiting out the non-compete clause in his contract with VW. His official hiring still needs approval from Renault shareholders, with the next meeting taking place in April.
Ford Motor Co. has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit with almost 2 million owners and former owners of Focus and Fiesta models equipped with the now infamous six-speed dual-clutch PowerShift transmission. Internally referenced as the DSP6, the unit was a known problem prior to installation. Last year’s scathing report in the Detroit Free Press showed its dark history in gory detail, indicating the automaker had painted itself into a corner and ignored warnings from both engineers and legal advisors not to use the DSP6.
Complaints of vehicles shuddering and stalling, bizarre delays between gear changes, and even full-blown failures to go into gear began streaming in — leaving Ford to pick up the pieces and attempt to downplay the failure as much as possible. Unfortunately, more engineers came forward to bash the transmission over its development and implementation. Johnny-on-the-spot for the topic, the Detroit Free Press recently reported that Ford agreed to settle — with one of the lawyers brokering the deal saying the payout could exceed $100 million.
We’ve also learned how much money Ford spent repurchasing defective vehicles through a voluntary arbitration program conducted during the legal appeal. Court documents state the company bought back 2,666 vehicles for around $47,500,000 between October 2017 and December 2019.
Anybody with more than a casual interest in the automotive industry will tell you the relationship between Nissan and Renault is falling apart. Even the alliance’s founder, executive-on-the-run Carlos Ghosn, says it’s on the cusp of going under. But existing employees have tried to be a little more optimistic, acknowledging that the business partnership has become strained while making suggestions to correct its course.
One plan involves pushing more collaborative projects, which is one of the main reasons for forming an industrial alliance. Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard has already said both sides are committed to making the partnership succeed, citing joint projects as a primary focus. Alliance engineers will meet in Japan at the end of January to discuss new development programs — and attempt to revive a few that fell by the wayside.
Porsche Cars North America is the latest automaker to join the expanding list of manufacturers abandoning monthly sales reports in favor of a quarterly format. Detroit has made the changeover entirely, with General Motors swapping to quarterly reports in 2018, only to be followed by Ford and Fiat Chrysler the following year. While Asian manufacturers tend to prefer monthly updates, both Hyundai and Nissan are considering trying quarterly reports within the next twelve months.
As for the German manufacturer, Automotive News cited Porsche as wanting to keep a better eye on the bigger picture. But the plan also runs some risks, especially when some automakers are on the monthly schedule and others report just four times per year.
While I don’t particularly agree with all the criticisms Lee Iacocca has thrown at Japan, his most polarizing claim (published in Playboy, no less) — that its citizens certainly know Jeep because “they saw enough of them in World War II” — has bizarrely continued to ring true. As far as American automotive brands go, Jeep has been Japan’s favorite for a while. And it only needed to tamp down its relationship to “The Big One” slightly to get there.
However, the sales game is always relative.
Despite being one of the fastest-growing brands on the market, Jeep only netted itself 13,360 deliveries in Japan for 2019. But consistent growth since 2013 has to account for something, especially when the overall market is performing so poorly. At the very least, it shows American brands can make some amount of headway on a nut Iacocca believed uncrackable.
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.
Silly naming convention aside – what’s with the misplace period and the dual z’s/zeds, Volkswagen? – the Volkswagen ID. Space Vizzion Concept is meant to preview something sleek.
A drag coefficient of 0.24 is nothing to sneeze at, indeed. Had my crappy CAD designs gotten that sort of number in eighth grade, perhaps I’ve have earned an A and would be designing cars instead of writing about them.
In our question of the day post last Wednesday, we asked you to submit the vehicles that left you wondering what the manufacturers behind them were thinking. Today, we’ll take the opposite tack and focus our attention on the automotive products which came along at exactly the right time.
The Rare Rides series has featured a string of two-door vehicles lately, with representation from marques around the globe. Today’s Rare Ride is sleek and also has two doors. It hailed from the Vignale factory around the same time as the 850 featured here.
Let’s check out a very rare 125 Vignale Samantha.
Innocenti made a name for itself by manufacturing vehicles from British Motors (BMC) under license in Italy. We reported on one of the brand’s later offerings previously, with the hot hatch Innocenti Mini de Tomaso from 1978.
Today we’ll have a look at one of the company’s earlier works: A classic British roadster for which Innocenti ordered up a new body.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Groupe PSA both confirmed their intention to merge on Thursday, verifying reports that the pair were in the final stages of approving the deal. The arrangement will be a 50-50 share swap, with the new company’s shares listed on the New York, Paris and Milan stock exchanges.
The duo hope to finalize a deal in the coming weeks to create a group with 8.7 million in annual vehicle sales. That would make it the fourth-largest automaker in the world — behind Volkswagen, Toyota and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance.
“There is still plenty of work to do before we reach a formal agreement, but what’s clear is that the opportunity that represents for both companies is very compelling,” FCA head Mike Manley told Reuters. It would appear the arrangement is getting plenty of support. French and Italian leadership have both endorsed the move, provided there are no significant job losses in either country.
Watching Mitsubishi return from death’s door has been less exciting than the first part of this sentence makes it sound. Part of that stems from the automaker’s position as a multinational corporation that has lost its way and not some down-on-his-luck boxer you’re supposed to be rooting for in a movie. Even if you were inclined to clap for corporate comebacks, Mitsubishi hasn’t earned its standing ovation just yet.
While the brand’s U.S. sales have improved every year since 2013, progress has been gradual. Last year, Mitsubishi moved 118,074 autos inside America — the best it has managed since before the Great Recession, but nowhere near its 2002 high of 345,915 deliveries. That might paint the situation a bit darker than it actually is, however.
Mitsubishi has actually managed to retain customers in China far better than it could in the U.S. and its European sales are higher than they’ve ever been. The Japanese firm also has a strong footprint in numerous developing markets around the world. But North America has historically been an extremely important market for Mitsubishi, and it wants its market share back, so it’s making some additional changes.
In last Wednesday’s Question of the Day post, we discussed vehicles ruined by the facelifts foisted upon them by their manufacturers. This week we will flip the question around and consider the most successful examples of automotive nip/tucks; the ones subtle enough to look great, yet noticeable enough to catch a second glance.
Face lifts are a tricky balancing act when it comes to automobiles. A well-done lift can enhance looks while bringing youth or perhaps modernity to what was previously dated. But taken too far, results can end up cartoony, or even grotesque. We got a small dose of this particular topic recently on a Question of the Day post that covered bad Nineties sports car design from America. Specifically, we took a look at how Ford altered the appearance of the Mercury Cougar four times over its last few years as a personal luxury coupe. Today, we are all about face lifts and how they can go wrong.
Yesterday, TTAC reported on a leaked video (quickly confirmed by Ford) that showed an all-new “Mustang-inspired” model due for debut in November. A sleek, four-door CUV appears on the screen. Highlighted in silhouette, its design represents so many familiar Mustang cues. It’s the Mustang of the future, and it’s a future that will be electric and have four doors.
We began our story of the Lancia Delta with its conception and birth. Taking its place as the small family hatchback in Lancia’s lineup, it was quickly worked into something much faster and more aggressive. Let’s find out just how far Lancia went with its creative editing.
Rare Rides is partial to the unique motoring opportunities offered by French manufacturers. Among many Citroëns featured here, recently a Talbot-Lago coupe wowed the eyes with its style and price. Today we’ll take a look at another French coupe that’s a bit more affordable.
It’s an unrestored Panhard 24 from 1964.
Your author first heard about Wiesmann on Top Gear in the early 2000s, while watching Jeremy Clarkson drive what appeared to be a very well-constructed roadster around a track. After that particular episode I never heard of Wiesmann again, and promptly forgot the company existed.
Turns out they made more than a singular roadster. Today we learn about the Wiesmann brand — and this particular 2010 GT MF 4 coupe.
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.
Bizzarrini — a name which conjures images of, well, probably nothing for most people. In the Sixties, Bizzarrini was a short-lived auto manufacturer, but after the company’s demise, the name popped up once more in the early Nineties.
Let’s find out a little more about this one-of-one BZ 2001.
In the recent Shelby CSX Rare Rides entry, long-term commenter 28-Cars-Later suggested some sporty competitors to the Shelby, all of which cost the same according to the state of Michigan. Japan, Germany, and America are well-represented in today’s trio.
Which one sets your sporty-small-car heart aflame in ’88?
General Motors is moving Cadillac marketing chief Deborah Wahl up the food chain by appointing her as its global chief marketing officer — a position which has sat unfilled since 2012.
The previous CMO, Joel Ewanick, was removed by former CEO Dan Akerson over a costly Chevrolet-Manchester United sponsorship deal blew up in his face. Officially, General Motors said Ewanick “failed to meet the expectations the company has of an employee” and left the position vacant, distributing its duties among other other employees — primarily Chevrolet’s now-retired CMO Tim Mahoney.
Wahl, 56, joined Cadillac in 2018, helping the brand further distance itself from the botched “Dare Greatly” advertising campaign. However, we’re not yet certain its freshened marketing materials are truly a cut from a different cloth. Several of the new spots carry over the same vague messaging, just with a bit more focus on product. Then again, perhaps the highbrow content is simply going over our heads.
In the late Eighties, American auto manufacturers still sold large, traditional luxury sedans in decent numbers. Their aging sedan consumer base fondly remembered the vinyl and chrome of yesteryear and still relished brougham-style accoutrements.
Up for consideration today are three comfortable, luxury-oriented sedans from 1988. It’s hard to lose here.
Former Renault-Nissan Alliance director Arnaud Deboeuf is leaving Renault to chase sunnier pursuits at French rival PSA. It’s no secret that the relationship between Nissan and Renault has become severely strained, however, Deboeuf’s departure throws more light on how personal issues are impacting the broader business. He effectively blamed Renault CEO Thierry Bolloré for his leaving the alliance.
“Thierry Bolloré told me no one wanted to work with me … and that I could not go to work at Nissan either,” Deboeuf explained in a final letter to his colleges.
Rare Rides introduced the Panhard brand to the series a while back, showcasing the little 24. The miniature coupe would end up as the last passenger car offering from the brand before it was stomped out by its parent, Citroën.
Today we’ll take a look at an even smaller Panhard from 1963. It’s a rare PL 17 convertible, in even rarer Tigre guise.
In Part I of the TVR M Series story, we covered the new model range TVR developed based upon its dual core principles of lightness and roadster. And while things progressed without major issue for the first few model years, the latter half of the M’s life was fraught with adversity, mishaps, and a case of oversharing. Prepare for government intervention!
Before Audi revolutionized rallying and four-wheel drive cars with the Ur-Quattro circa 1980, the company made front-drive vehicles underpinned by Volkswagen platforms (some things never change). Today’s Rare Ride 5000 hails from the waning days of Audi’s front-drive era, not long before an all-new 5000 set the template for aerodynamic sedan design.
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- Beachy Asphalt only works to keep the dirt road below it dry, and it is the dry dirt that holds up the asphalt surface to make a smooth road surface. Once the asphalt cracks or a spring wells up and the dirt gets wet, all bets are off. It is usually due to a spring that perennial potholes form. They are very hard to get rid of.
- JamesG I’m the owner of the featured car that’s currently on EBay. Thanks for such a nice write up on these automobiles. Mine happens to be in excellent condition and the photos don’t do it justice. The HT4100 isn’t as bad as some made them out to be and they can go 200k miles with proper maintenance. I also own a 79 w/the analog fuel injected 5.7 350 which should have been used through 1985 but ever-increasing CAFE regulations called for more economical power plants which made GM shelve this great motor.
- Jeff S Adam on Rare Classic Cars recently bought a pristine 71 Kenosha Cadillac.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY-G2dExgXE&ab_channel=RareClassicCars%26AutomotiveHistory
- Jeff S Wouldn't most of the large suvs in NYC be livery vehicles? If so that would be hurting those who make their living by driving for hire.
- EBFlex Yes their mass transit is great if you want to be beat within an inch of your life or pushed onto the tracks by some random psycho.