Born at the turn of the Eighties during a very lackluster period in the American automotive landscape, the Chevrolet Citation was a successful entry into the hot compact segment. It debuted to immediate sales success as a budget used car buy and won a major award. Could it be the ultimate economy car for the Eighties?
It’s Citation time.
The Suzuki Kizashi was not a great car. That said, it certainly wasn’t a bad car – and I don’t think I’ll court controversy by saying that the car, launched nearly in tandem with news that Suzuki was withdrawing from the U.S. market, never really got a fair shake. It was a car that, for a reasonable-ish $27,000, could be had with a manual transmission and all-wheel-drive. That, along with a willing chassis and some “ drivers’ car” marketing, makes for a great story. “I coulda been a contender,” and all that.
There was another marketing pitch for the little Suzuki Kizashi that lives rent-free in my brain, though. It’s the one where Suzuki compares the Kizashi to its racy GSX-R sport bikes and all-conquering, big-bore hyperbike, the Hayabusa, and makes the case that the Kizashi might just be a four-wheeled Suzuki motorcycle that you can strap some child seats into.
Would a simple engine swap be enough to make the Kizashi a sports car for the ages? Let’s find out.
Honda’s Ridgeline pickup is a really good truck.
It also has a bias towards on-road performance, unibody construction, and a reputation for being a truck for urban and suburban use.
In other words, it’s not rugged enough, despite a recent makeover that made the styling more macho.
Today’s Rare Ride is one of just nine Alfa Romeo TZ3s built in 2010 by Zagato. Priced at over $1 million at the time, every example was immediately sold to a collector who put it in an alarmed garage somewhere warm and sunny, and then didn’t drive it.
However, underneath the fanciful Zagato bodywork was a platform few million-dollar class collectors covet for their garage.
You have to feel for the people in charge of marketing the Chevy Bolt. After months of news stories about the company’s first mainstream EV bursting into flames in customers’ garages and various statements blaming everyone from the battery manufacturer to the charging stations to the owners themselves for failing to stick to the NHTSA safety recommendations, General Motors launched a massive recall.
Genesis presented its vision a sustainable future on Thursday and settled upon total electrification, just like every other automaker. Hyundai’s luxury component plans to become a “100-percent zero-emission vehicle brand by 2030” but foresees the need to wait until 2025 to transition its fleet entirely over to battery and hydrogen power.
Does it mean anything? If the automotive industry’s prior promises of automated driving and EV sales are anything to go by, probably not. However, electrification has gotten a major kick in the pants over the last few years as governments have ramped up regulator pressures and the sector has been flooded with money to help the cause. So there’s certainly a chance, just like when you play the lottery.
This week, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (the largest automotive lobby in existence) released a set of principles relating to the EV charging infrastructure that it believes will be absolutely necessary to spur consumer adoption of electric and alternative energy vehicles in the United States.
“For the auto industry’s transition to electrification to be successful, customers will need access to affordable and convenient charging and hydrogen fueling, easy-to-understand utility rate structures that reward off-peak charging, and improved charging times,” John Bozzella, CEO of the alliance, said on Wednesday. “And we must also work together to grow EV sales without leaving low-income, rural or disadvantaged communities behind.”
That’s corporate-speak for “we need to stop catering to wealthy buyers and the government needs to pay for as much of this as possible.”
Ford has decided to revive the Ranger Splash appearance package that was a common sight in the 1990s. However, the current version has just about as much to do with the original graphics as the trucks do with each other. Rather than adding a splash of color along the side of the pickup (like on the original) Ford has elected to go with black vinyl and a little bit of orange. Though it does help the truck stand out a bit more, especially when combined with the remaining accouterments, it’s not all that reminiscent of the original look.
Meanwhile, an ocean away, Europeans are getting the “Very Gay Raptor Ranger” in the most pathetic example of corporate pandering in recent memory. But let’s start with the Splash.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has identified another traffic incident pertaining to Tesla’s driver assistance features and emergency vehicles, making the current tally twelve. These wrecks have been a matter of focus for the agency ever since it opened a probe to determine whether or not Autopilot can handle hiccups in the road caused by scenes where flares, cones, disabled automobiles, and first responders coalesce.
Though concerns remain that Tesla is being singled out unjustly when there’s little evidence to suggest that other manufacturers are providing more capable systems. Tesla’s issues appear to be heavily influenced by irresponsible marketing that makes it seem as though its vehicles are self-driving when no manufacturer can make that claim. U.S. regulators now want to place more restrictions on vehicles boasting autonomous features and, thus far, Tesla has been behind on those trends. But it’s hard to support claims that they make vehicles safer when none seem as effective as they should be.
The Nineties W202 C-Class was Mercedes’ second-ever compact car offering, after its debut small car the 190. Not made of the heritage-level materials of the 190, the W202 cars were largely trashed at the bottom of their depreciation curve a decade ago by second and third owners.
Said trashing is why today’s very clean example is so unusual.
They say that the first auto race happened about five minutes after the second car was built, and there was probably an obvious winner (heck, the first “official” US auto race only had six starters, and two finishers). But progress begets parity. Before long, the cars started to get closer to one another in terms of performance and the drivers’ relative talents became more and more important to ensuring victories – but talent is a tough thing to eyeball. You need something a little more precise.
What you need, is a watch. Ideally, something you can depend on to deliver accurate results, lap after lap, shine or rain. Maybe something Swiss, you know?
The average cost of owning a vehicle is now $9,666 per year, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). While the sum is up substantially over the 2019 average of $9,282, 2020 was sitting at a much tighter $9,561.
Of course, none of this means anything to you unless you happen to drive the most typical vehicle in the most likely manner imaginable. The problem with coming up with a representative figure is that it doesn’t actually represent any one driver or automobile. But AAA was good enough to provide some basic calculation tools to help determine where you fall on the spectrum and some pointers on how to bring those rates down. Though the biggest factor remains which hunk of metal happens to be occupying your driveway.
GMC introduced an interesting concept at Colorado’s Overland Expo Mountain West 2021 this week and the timing couldn’t have been better. While North America has always appreciated off-road vehicles, there’s been an overnight explosion in the number of people considering 4×4 adventuring as a hobby. Troubled times have encouraged individuals to embrace the kind of cars that can tackle any terrain while doubling as a mobile campsite, and the Canyon AT4 OVRLANDX Off-Road Concept certainly seems capable.
Although the hypothetical production model probably has a better chance of becoming canvases for online influences than carrying anybody through a genuine disaster. This is something GMC likewise appears hip to, as the whole point of the concept SUV is to show what can be done with the Canyon, a little creativity, and a wad of cash reserved for aftermarket accessories.
When it launched in 1994, the original Dodge Neon was a different kind of car – and not just because it looked fun and friendly while the outgoing Shadow it replaced was trying very hard to look sporty by the end.
It was different because of its ads, which were simple and non-threatening. The car was kept simple inside, too. A 2.0-liter engine was standard (available in 132 horsepower with a SOHC head or 150 hp with DOHC), and could be had with a 5-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission. You could get power front windows, but rear windows were crank-only. What’s more, the cars were genuinely fun to drive in almost any trim level, leading our very own Matthew Guy to label it as one of the best, unheralded performance cars of its day.
Which, I mean, that’s great and all. But what if Chrysler had made a different call with the Neon powertrain? What if we could go back in time again, Sam Beckett-style, and fill the space under the Neon’s hood with the 175 hp turbocharged engine from the Dodge Omni GLH-S, would that car have ended up as an “unheralded” performance car, or one of the all-time classic sport compacts?
Let’s talk it through.
General Motors now requires salaried employees operating in the United States to disclose their coronavirus vaccination status. As confirmed by the automaker on Thursday, the decision is supposed to help the company determine what percentage of its own workforce is vaccinated so it can make better decisions about which safety protocols to implement. But your author is under the assumption that “as many as possible” will always be the preferred answer.
Earlier in the month, GM forced all salaried employees to disclose whether or not they were immunized for COVID-19 using the automaker’s internal network. Those answering to the affirmative were required to submit proof of vaccination by last Monday. But it sounds as though the manufacturer is just getting warmed up for more invasive activities.
Lordstown Motors has entered into the phase where an EV startup has to tread water now that everyone knows it failed to disclose various production hurdles and shared inaccurate information about the pre-orders it has been bragging about. The only thing offsetting this bad situation is that our misgivings regarding Lordstown could probably be a little worse. Nikola and Faraday Future told some real whoppers, while the Ohio-based company appeared to have at least one toe dipped in the waters of truth. But we can’t exactly call lying a little less than the competition a major triumph.
It remains a bad situation, particularly because Lordstown lost CEO Steve Burns almost immediately after stating the company was “highly dependent” on his leadership in June. However, the firm said it had remedied the situation by appointing Daniel Ninivaggi as the new chief executive on Friday.
Ford had been rumored to be developing a pickup variant of the Bronco with the assumed strategy of competing with the likes of Jeep’s Gladiator by 2024. However, reports have surfaced that Blue Oval is notifying suppliers the program is being abandoned. While we knew that there was supposed to be another Bronco vehicle in development, Ford never confirmed it and it was unclear exactly how far along the program had managed to get. But as the company continued introducing new trucks (e.g. Maverick and Lightning) we were over here wondering how far the pickup market could realistically be stretched.
Apparently, so did Ford.
In Part V of the Rare Rides series on the Eagle Premier, I mentioned an abandoned project at Chrysler called Liberty. Announced in 1985, Liberty was supposed to be a direct challenge to GM’s recently announced Saturn brand. Or it wasn’t, depending on what day of the week Liberty was addressed.
Chrysler’s PR department and CEO Lee Iacocca seemed at odds on what the Liberty project was, but they were both sure it was very important and it would build something, probably.
The Takata airbag recall was the largest in the automotive industry. So large, in fact, that we don’t actually know how many defective units are still floating around out there.
With the recall encompassing over 100 million airbag inflators sold around the world with the potential to kill occupants with shrapnel, keeping tabs was always going to be difficult. But Blomberg is reporting that it’s effectively impossible to account for all of them, noting that there are parts of the planet where the affected customers weren’t ever notified. We still haven’t even managed to fix all the units we knew were shipped in the United States, with at least 14 million potentially deadly inflators still presumed to be on the road as of July.
Software updates. Precisely when we had to start having a conversation about software updates – over the air or otherwise – in an automotive context isn’t something I can answer. We didn’t have them for about 100 years. Then, we did. What’s more, it seems like everyone is more or less OK with that, but should they be? Are these software updates really making your car better, or are they slowly throttling back your car’s performance and functionality in a bid to frustrate you into buying a new one?
Let’s take a few minutes to explore the possibilities.
On Wednesday, Ford Motor Co. told employees that it would delay plans for on-site work due to coronavirus concerns relating to the delta variant. Non-site-dependent staff are being told they stay home for the rest of 2021, while line workers will still be required to come in so long as there’s a job to be done — creating a dichotomy between white and blue-collar workers.
While Ford has encouraged some teams to come back to the office for various projects, it has repeatedly delayed its return-to-work timeline. Workers now being told to stay home until 2022 were previously informed they’d be coming back to the office in October. Before that, everyone thought it would be business as usual by the summer. Now the company is adopting a policy that has most people staying home even after 2022 as often as possible while it considers mandating vaccines.
While the Ram ProMaster vans may be a few steps behind their rivals in terms of towing, it’s quite competitive when you stick to the more basic trims. The ProMaster shines brightest when left in its more basic configurations but gets left behind when you start cross-shopping something else and decide you’re willing to spend more money to get all-wheel drive, a larger cargo hold, or increased gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR). Despite being a great option for budget-conscious delivery firms, tradesmen, or someone looking to DIY a recreational vehicle, the Ram can’t be optioned to spread its wings quite as broadly as its competitors.
However, the manufacturer is hoping to entice customers with several new tech inclusions for the 2022 model year, including an upgraded nine-speed transmission and a new dashboard.
Mazda has announced pricing for its first all-electric vehicle and it’s not exactly coming across like a square deal. The manufacturer has announced the base model will start at $33,470 before an obligatory $1,175 destination charge. But the small crossover is only capable of completing 100 miles on a single charge, making it seem as if Mazda designed the car specifically to mock EV advocates.
While we frequently chide electric vehicles for skimping on the fundamentals, Mazda’s take on the segment is inexcusable. There were battery driven vehicles debuting a decade earlier with modestly sized packs capable of covering similar distances to the MX-30. Those considering one would almost certainly be better served by a Nissan Leaf and it doesn’t even need to be a brand new one. However Mazda is doing what it can to sweeten the pot, resulting in some interesting marketing decisions.
Following the PSA-FCA merger that resulted in Stellantis, Dodge has been promising that it would reinvent muscle cars to become all-electric vehicles. This rattled many Mopar fans, with the hardest day being when the automaker teased what was undoubtedly an EV concept inspired by the original Dodge Charger in July. In an act of true sacrilege, it even carried the Fratzog logo worn by many Chrysler products from the era.
This week, Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis provided a loose timeline for the company’s planned EV offensive and what we might expect. He also acknowledged that the company knows that some fans of the brand are filled to the brim with trepidation at the prospect of an electric muscle car.
To many children of the 1970s and 80s, the Pontiac Fiero is something of a tragic figure. Its mid-engine chassis and clean, sporty lines made performance promises that its 2.5L OHV, 92 horsepower “Iron Duke” could never deliver on. Even later models, with their 140 HP, 2.8L V6 engines were disappointments – albeit lesser ones. Despite continuous improvements, the car was only in production for four years, and ultimately became more sought-after as the basis for a number of ill-conceived Faux-rrari kit cars than for what it was … but it didn’t have to be this way.
Across town, Pontiac’s GM stablemate Oldsmobile had something that could have changed the fate of Pontiac’s Fiero – and maybe the Chevrolet Corvette’s, too – and that’s the subject of this first engine swap fantasy file: the Quad 4.
On Friday, General Motors announced that its recall of the Chevrolet Bolt would result in a loss of $1 billion. But only after it expanded the campaign to encompass every electric vehicle it has produced. Rather than a single $800-million defect requiring fire-prone models to come back for repairs, GM is now confronting two problems and including Bolts (and Bolt EUVs) from 2019 onwards. The automaker has said this will necessitate an additional billion-dollar financial setback.
Keen to avoid being the recipient of the swelling public outrage, the manufacturer has been trying to shift criticism onto battery supplier LG Chem. The South Korean firm has been involved in numerous fire-related recalls pertaining to electric vehicles and GM would very much like to remind you of that, rather than take the blame for building and selling EVs that it’s advising customers not to charge too much or park anywhere near their home.
There’s new hotness in the compact-car segment, especially among the sportier models.
Since Volkswagen has two compact models — the mainstream Jetta and the spiced-up Jetta GLI — it probably can’t sit idly by in a year in which Subaru drops a new WRX, the Honda Civic is all-new (with sporty versions coming soon), and Hyundai has taken the wraps off the Elantra N sport sedan. An Acura Integra is also on the way, and it might be priced in the same range.
That makes it time for a refresh.
Stellantis is recalling 212,373 Ram vehicles over issues relating to the side-mounted airbag inflators. Relevant safety reports were filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration earlier in the month and describe circumstances somewhat similar to the nightmare that preceded the Takata airbag recall. Inflator components exposed to moisture may have a tendency to lose components or outright rupture, potentially spraying the interior with metal fragments.
The Ram inflators are believed to have been exposed to unnecessary levels of moisture during the manufacturing process, resulting in a weakening of the materials under pressure. FCA US (which is the name used on the NHTSA report, rather than the global Stellantis) started an investigation in December of 2020 after it had determined some pickups had been installed with side-curtain airbags with defective inflators. The company traced the issue all the way back to the 2015 model year.
The fifth entry in our Rare Rides series on the Eagle Premier brings us to 1988. The Premier was newly on sale after a delayed introduction, and the company building it was not the same company that spent years designing it.
Chrysler was in charge of the Premier’s fate.
“The times they are a-changin’” sang Bob Dylan in the early 1960s. The legacy of the song can be seen as to how, no matter the year, it always finds a way to relate to contemporary life.
Take electric vehicles, for example. In just a decade, electric vehicles went from almost non-existent to Tesla selling hundreds of thousands each year. Furthermore, numerous global automakers have released their own EVs and/or pledged to have their entire model lineup be exclusively electrified by the end of the current decade.
Despite being one of the only manufacturers not to incur heavy production losses over the global semiconductor shortage, Toyota has announced that its luck has finally run out. The automaker is estimating that it will need to cut assembly by 40 percent this September.
It’s not alone. Both Ford and General Motors have announced they’re also stifling production this week to account for a deficit of chips. Even Volkswagen Group has been cautioning that it might schedule more downtime going into the fall. But that’s basically been the story for all of 2021. Toyota just happens to be the newest inductee.
Having distinguished itself from the rest of the Hyundai Motor Group, Genesis has been furnishing desirable luxury vehicles that are a little easier on your pocketbook than what’s on offer from Germany. But it’s still inextricably linked to its corporate family, which recently introduced the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 to make sure everyone knows they’re not snubbing electrification. Not wanting to be left out, Genesis has revealed something riding on the E-GMP platform as well.
Unfortunately, it’s kind of hideous.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is considering increasing penalties for automakers that fail to meet fuel-efficiency requirements. Though this could be considered a restoration of older standards, depending upon your perspective.
Shortly before leaving office, President Donald Trump postponed a regulation from the last days of the Obama administration that would have effectively doubled fines for vehicle manufacturers failing to meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements. Automakers had been complaining that the rule would have dramatically increased operating costs, suggesting that would trickle down to vehicle pricing and give manufacturers selling carbon credits an unfair advantage.
Since last night’s unveiling of the 2023 Nissan Z, I’ve been chewing over my thoughts on the car. Is it good, or is it another misfire from a brand that’s struggling to recapture glory days?
After exerting far too much brainpower on the question — I’d rather ponder what’s for lunch — I’ve arrived at my answer.
The Renault group’s high profile chairman had been assassinated in fall 1986 by French extremists, and the company’s new chair, Raymond Lévy, was experiencing pressure from all sides.
Lincoln has refreshed the Navigator, giving both the standard and long-wheelbase SUV new features. While there have also been some changes made to the flagship vehicle’s design, the company is not straying far from what it already knows works. But that doesn’t mean everything is exactly as it should be.
Despite adding some desirable tech, Lincoln has tweaked the turbocharged, 3.5-liter V6 to produce less horsepower than before. The 2022 model year produces 440 horsepower and 510 ft-lb of torque, whereas the previous version offered 450 hp. Considering Ford has yet to release EPA-certified economy figures, we’re betting this was done to boost efficiency. Compression ratios are also different, with the 2022 MY running 10.5:1 rather than the previous 10.0:1.
There’s a great scene in The Commitments where Jimmy Rabbitte, the main kid, puts an ad in his local paper to recruit talent for his band. If you’ve never seen the movie, it’s definitely worth the two-hour – a er, commitment (sorry), but that’s off-topic. Rabbitte puts out this ad, and would-be musicians knock on his door. When he opens the door, he asks them one question: Who are your influences?
It’s a great question, isn’t it? It cuts through lots of the usual interview BS and small-talk and hand-wringing and gets right to the meat. In The Commitments, the right answers were Al Green, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding. Over at Hyundai/Kia, however, it seems like the right answers were Lancia Delta, Lancia Stratos, and Porsche 959.
What the heck is Jo talking about this time? I’m glad you asked.
We continue our coverage today of the Eagle Premier from over 30 years ago. Parts I and II detailed the inception of the AMC-Renault joint project, and the technical aspects of what was a pretty advanced (or quirky) family sedan.
The time had come to put this all-new AMC offering on sale, but Premier arrived alongside some very unfortunate historical circumstances.
The Consumer Technology Association has announced that it will require all CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show) attendees to be vaccinated. Organizers have stated that everyone planning on going to the trade event will be required to “provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination” if they’ve any hope of being granted entry.
“Based on today’s science, we understand vaccines offer us the best hope for stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CTA, explained. “We all play a part in ending the pandemic through encouraging vaccinations and implementing the right safety protocols. We are taking on our responsibility by requiring proof of vaccination to attend CES 2022 in Las Vegas.”
The Chevrolet Bolt has become the focus of negative attention following some fire incidents that were believed to be related to battery components. After two recalls, General Motors has decided to replace the battery modules of every model that could be impacted — rather than focusing on units with proven defects.
While it’s undoubtedly going to cost the company a fortune, this is probably the correct move. The implications of negative publicity stemming from repeat vehicle fires have a tendency to linger and be blown up to larger-than-life proportions. This is especially true if an automaker rushed that vehicle to market to better wrangle the segment. Just ask Ford about the Pinto if you’ve any doubts.
Jeep has decided to jump in the expensive end of the SUV pool with the truck-based Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer. By now you’ve read Tim’s reviews of the brutes and had time to make up your mind if Jeep is on the right track or not with its ‘different lengths of sausage’ approach to styling. Hey, it works for Audi.
Drilling down into the minutiae of trims and features is always fun. Let’s see if we can parse The Right Spec from the maze of options on offer in this segment’s newest player.
Last month, General Motors filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Ford’s use of the term BlueCruise for its SAE Level 2 advanced driving assistance suite. GM has argued the phrase is too close to its own SuperCruise system and wants Blue Oval to ditch the name for something else. Ford recently filed a motion asking the US District Court in San Francisco to throw out the case, as it believes the term cruise is common enough to qualify as ubiquitous.
This is the industrial equivalent of two of your friends screeching at each other because one of them wanted to name their youngest son Landon while the other already named their kid Langston. Though the manufacturer’s feud may be dumber because it’s not exactly like we’ve recently started affixing the word cruise to the systems found inside automobiles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been keeping tabs on Tesla’s Autopilot for years, sometimes giving crashes involving the system a bit more attention than they otherwise would have. But the extra scrutiny seemed to dissipate as practically every automaker on the planet introduced their own advanced driving suites and Telsa seemed to preemptively adhere to fast-approaching government regulations (and industry norm) by introducing driver-monitoring cameras.
On Friday, the NHTSA returned to business as usual and announced it had opened a preliminary evaluation of Autopilot to determine if there were any problems with the system. The agency has claimed it received at least 11 verifiable crash reports since 2018 where a Tesla product struck at least one vehicle that was already at the scene of an accident. It’s sort of a weird metric but allegedly worthy of the NHTSA wanting to look into every model the company produced between 2014 and 2021. However, actually reading the report makes it sound like the agency is more preoccupied with how Tesla’s system engaged with drivers, rather than establishing the true effectiveness of Autopilot as a system.
The reviews are breaking today on the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer. As Jeep resurrects one of its most historical full-size nameplates from a three-decade slumber, it’s getting a lot of positive press coverage. But Jeep is in for a world of disappointment in a couple of years.