Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia's Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part VI)

We return to the story of Kia’s midsize and larger sedans today, around the point when Kia found itself under the watchful eye of Hyundai. The larger South Korean company purchased a controlling stake in its competition in 1998, which meant big changes to Kia’s product almost immediately after.

The union led to the first full-size luxury sedan Kia developed from the ground up, the Opirus (Amanti to you). It turned out the Amanti was the derivative and rather ugly sedan few in North America desired, though it fared a bit better elsewhere. But by the time the Amanti arrived, Kia was already selling a new midsize that North Americans did want. Let’s talk Optima.

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Subaru Rolls Out 2023 Crosstrek, Largely Stays the Course

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – or at least that’s the tack Subaru of America seems to be taking with their popular Crosstrek. Forging ahead for the 2023 model year, the little tall wagon crossover sees a microscopic bump in price and the addition of different paint options. There’s also a new trim level for those of you who play ridiculously detailed games of Car Bingo.

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Report: Ferrari Plotting Italian EV Assembly Line

Ferrari is rumored to be preparing a third assembly line in Maranello, Italy, dedicated for electric vehicles. The automaker has already purchased land near the facility and is presumed to make an official announcement on June 16th when it’s scheduled to present its four-year business plan.

As usual, this comes from a major media outlet that cited unnamed sources from within the industry. Though, considering the luxury sports car manufacturer’s confirmation that it would begin producing hybrid and all-electric automobiles, it’s more than plausible. Ferrari’s first battery electric vehicles are scheduled to arrive in 2025 and it still needs somewhere to build them.

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Rare Rides Icons: Lamborghini's Front-Engine Grand Touring Coupes (Part I)

I was reminded the other day (by Facebook) about a particularly beautiful coupe I’d photographed at a local car show in 2014. It had two doors, a big engine in the front, svelte and restrained styling, and a Lamborghini badge on the nose. It’s easy to forget that Lamborghini made elegant grand touring coupes long before it got to the likes of the outrageous Countach or LM002. We start at the beginning, with the company’s very first prototype, the 350GTV.

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Black Market Gasoline Now Available On West Coast

Now that fuel prices are approaching levels you probably never thought you’d see in your lifetime, black-market gasoline has become a thing. Local reports coming out of Nevada are claiming that thieves have begun loading up trucks with stolen gas so they can sell it at a discount. Considering the average price per gallon now exceeds $5.50 for the region, it’s easy to see why some people might be willing to roll the dice and buy discounted fuel of an unknown origin.

But the most lucrative scheme is to transport stolen gas into California, where the prices exceed $6.30 across the state. Here, thieves can sell their ill-gotten petroleum at broader margins. But it takes a special kind of vehicle and a little planning not to blow the additional profit on the trip itself. Tankers aren’t exactly easy to come by and are hardly the least-suspicious way to haul around stolen fuel, so thieves are modifying trucks and vans that can pass as light-duty vehicles.

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Biden Admin Proposes Minimum Standards for EV Charging

With the Biden administration hoping to transition the United States toward all-electric vehicles, it has set a goal of commissioning the construction of a nationwide network of 500,000 EV charging stations by 2030. But saying you’re going to do something as part of a $1-trillion infrastructure plan is a lot easier than actually doing it because there are a lot of steps that have to be taken before a plan can effectively be put into action. This is called planning and it’s something the government occasionally engages in to ensure a program is successful. As such, the Biden administration is issuing a series of standards and requirements for federally funded electric vehicle charging stations.

“To support the transition to electric vehicles, we must build a national charging network that makes finding a charge as easy as filling up at a gas station,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “These new ground rules will help create a network of EV chargers across the country that are convenient, affordable, reliable and accessible for all Americans.”

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Nissan Tweaks Altima, Adds Tech and Offers VC Turbo Engine

Despite the propensity of most North American shoppers to gravitate solidly towards crossovers and SUVs, there remain a few gloriously stubborn souls who prefer the look and feel of a four-door midsize sedan. This explains why a vanishingly few companies still sell the things, taking advantage of holes in the marketplace left by the exodus of brands such as Ford.

Nissan has decided to re-up its Altima for 2022, giving it a nose job and infusing its interior with updated technology.

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U.S. Congress Holds Hearing on Increased Traffic Deaths

A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee conducted a hearing to discuss surging traffic deaths on Wednesday. In 2021, traffic deaths surged by over 10 percent over the previous year for a grand total of 42,915 roadway fatalities. But 2020 also represented a sizable 7 percent increase over 2019, despite there being overwhelming evidence that substantially less driving was done during nationwide COVID lockdowns.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee chair holding the hearing, stated that now was the time to hold a meeting on the issue — as last year represented the single highest increase in traffic deaths since the NHTSA started keeping track in 1975.

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2023 Toyota Sequoia, TRD Pro Priced — Prepare to Pay a Pretty Penny

The 2023 Toyota Sequoia is going to remain atop the brand’s SUV ladder, with a planned sticker price based at $58,300.

The TRD Pro version, which is top-of-the-line and off-road-oriented, will start at $76,900.

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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Stutz, Stop and Go Fast (Part XIII)

We pick up the Stutz story once again today after we reached the conclusion of the neoclassical Blackhawk coupe’s life in 1985. The coupe that sold so well in the Seventies with its exaggerated Exner styling was watered down considerably in the Eighties when it switched from its original 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix roots to those of a 1980 two-door Pontiac Bonneville.

However, even though the Blackhawk was the headline and best-known product from the Stutz neoclassical company, it was not the only car in the portfolio. First up: the Bearcat.

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U.S. Asks Mexico to Investigate Stellantis' Labor Practices

The United States has requested that Mexico investigate worker rights violations that were alleged to have taken place at one of the parts factories owned by Stellantis. Officials are curious about what’s been happening at Teksid Hierro de Mexico, a facility located in the border state of Coahuila that’s responsible for manufacturing iron casings, in regard to unionization. According to U.S. officials, this is the fourth such complaint under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Having supplanted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed into law by the Clinton administration in 1993, USMCA sought to rebalance trade laws the Trump administration believed had disadvantaged the United States. However, it also sought to advance worker protections in Mexico and give employees an easier pathway toward unionization.

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Apple Wants All the Screens In Your Car

If you’re like the vast majority of Americans, you have a smartphone in your pocket. And while the original purpose of these mobile devices was ostensibly for talking to other people, the truth is most of us use them for anything but talking to people.

Including interfacing with the system of modern cars. Android and Apple have been refining the abilities of Android Auto and CarPlay, respectively, for the last few years. Now, Cupertino wants to take that relationship further – a lot further.

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Goodyear Recalls Tire Nobody Uses Anymore

Goodyear has agreed to recall more than 173,000 intended for commercial delivery vehicles and RVs nearly two decades after the last one was manufactured. The company’s G159 tires have been under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) since December of 2017 and the recall comes in the wake of years of lawsuits alleging the rubber contributed to a series of fatal accidents dating back to 1998.

Despite no new claims having launched in years, court orders and settlement agreements delayed an order to make corporate data pertaining to the tire-buying public for five full years. The NHTSA didn’t even launch a formal investigation until late in 2017, followed by the recent announcement that the agency has pushed Goodyear into a recall for a tire that ended production during the Bush administration.

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2021 Ford Bronco Investigated Over Reports of Engine Failure [UPDATED]

Complaints of “catastrophic engine failure” involving the 2021 Ford Bronco have led to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) initiating a Federal Safety Investigation.

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Mercedes Recalling Almost One Million Cars Over Bad Brake Boosters

Over the weekend, Mercedes-Benz announced a global recall campaign encompassing nearly a million vehicles it believes could be afflicted with faulty brake boosters.

“We have found that in some of those vehicles, the function of the brake booster could be affected by advanced corrosion in the joint area of the housing,” the automaker explained in a statement.

While the issue is global, the United States is believed to account for roughly 300,000 units, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) advising against driving any vehicle involved in the recall. Affected units will undoubtedly offer lowered braking performance and can even cause total brake failure in some instances. Rare or not, the NHTSA feels this one is simply too risky to chance.

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Rental Review: The 2020 Audi A5 Sportback, a Bit Damp

It’s a new week, and I’m back with another German car Rental Review for your enjoyment! Today’s rental is one of two American market entrants into the premium compact five-door liftback segment, and not a car one expects to find in an Enterprise lot. Presenting a 2020 Audi A5 Sportback, two years and 50,000 rental miles later.

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Toyota Has Expansion Plans for bZ Family

Toyota plans on having seven models in its bZ family of EVs by 2025, according to Motor1. Scheduled to arrive in the late spring, the bZ4X crossover will be the first of those models, as you likely know. And there are more on the way.

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Study Claims EV Charging Reliability Is a Problem

Researchers with the University of California, Berkeley, are pouring cold water of the premise that electric vehicle charging stations will require less maintenance than traditional fueling solutions. The study, which examined 657 individual connectors between 181 public fast-charging stations in the San Francisco Bay area found that about 23 percent were nonfunctional.

That seems quite a bit higher than the number of fuel pumps that might be down at any given station, though the pertinent question is why those EV charging points were inoperable.

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Refreshed Hyundai Venue Appears

Fans of vaguely crossover-ish subcompact vehicles from South Korea’s best-known automaker will be happy to learn the little Hyundai Venue is apparently receiving mid-cycle styling tweaks. Popping up on the company’s official website for its market in India and first noted this morning by the sleuths at CarScoops, the next Venue appears to be taking a few cues from its big brother, the Palisade.

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2022 Kia Sorento Hybrid Review - Three Rows*, Thirty-Seven MPG

As I and others on these virtual pages have noted time and again, electric vehicles are Not Quite Ready For Primetime in much of the country for most people. We don’t have a charging infrastructure ready to support the types of driving most do on a regular basis, nor do we have the collective will to change our driving habits to suit an all-electric lifestyle.

And yet gasoline prices continue to climb. I spotted regular unleaded at $4.99 per gallon this weekend – if that number seems quaintly laughable by the time this hits the presses, my apologies. I’m taking a hard look at the driving my family needs to do, and strongly reconsidering what best fits my driveway and my budget.

Some sort of electrification is coming sooner rather than later to each of us if we aren’t there already. Two-plus decades of hybrids have proven the reliabilities of the technologies involved. A roomy family-sized vehicle, much like this 2022 Kia Sorento Hybrid, should take the sting out of what had once been a realm reserved for Spartan subcompacts.

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Abandoned History: Ford's Cruise-O-Matic and the C Family of Automatic Transmissions (Part II)

We continue our Abandoned History coverage of the Ford Cruise-O-Matic transmission today, shortly after the three-speed automatic established itself as a reliable motivation source for Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury products. Developed by the Warner Gear division of Borg-Warner, the new automatic caught Ford up to the competition as far as an automatic offering was concerned. Efficient and economical to build, Studebaker got in on the Cruise-O-Matic action for their cars too.

After the box proved itself on Ford and Mercury cars, it spread to the luxurious ’55 Lincoln lineup where it replaced the four-speed GM Hydra-Matic. We pick up there, as efforts got underway to improve upon the original Borg-Warner design and add whiz-bang features. This entry doesn’t end up where you’d expect.

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Ford Talks Future, Including Keeping a Manual in the Mustang - For Now

Dearborn has big plans in store, committing to adding more than six thousand jobs to its manufacturing concerns in the Midwest while bringing half that many again into the fold as full-time workers from their current roster of temporary employees. Also of interest to this site? Mention was made of the imminent arrival of the new Ranger – already shown in other markets – and the next Mustang.

And good news gearheads: The next iteration of the Blue Oval pony car will keep its manual transmission.

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Report: U.S. Automotive Market in Rough Shape

The U.S. light-vehicle market doesn’t appear to be in the best health. While many automakers now opt against issuing monthly sales reports, those that still do are posting some pretty brutal numbers.

This does not bode well for an industry that seemed pretty certain that 2022 would be its recovery year. However, it is on-brand with the slew of announcements made by manufacturers warning about supply constraints and an inability to manufacture at scale. There has also been a growing sense that some consumers may be shunning vehicles that have spent the last several months trading well above what seems rational. Wholesale pricing actually declined by roughly 6 percent since the January record. Though you may not see that represented on dealer lots or even have noticed if it was because last month still saw transactions averaging 14 percent higher than they were last year.

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Rare Rides Icons: The Lincoln Mark Series Cars, Feeling Continental (Part VI)

We pick up the story of Lincoln’s Mark series cars once again today, at a low point in the coupe’s history. The intensely expensive development and launch of the new Continental marque arrived at exactly the wrong time for Ford.

Shortly after the family-owned company spent $21 million ($227 million adj.) on the launch of its new super-luxury brand, the company had its IPO. That meant the big money poured into the black hole that was Continental was visible to everyone who cared to see, including shareholders. The pressure was just too much, and the Continental brand was canceled in 1956 by Henry Ford II, just a year after the Mark II entered production.

But let’s back up a year, right as the Mark II went on sale. Management of the Continental Division knew the singular, hand-assembled model was not enough to keep the company going. They needed to save and make more money, and fast.

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Ford Decides Paying for Ads Is Stupid

Ford CEO Jim Farley has said he sees little reason for the automaker to bother using traditional advertising campaigns for electric vehicles. Considering how often I see the Ford logo grace whatever screen I happen to be peering into, this would seem to go against everything I’ve been conditioned to accept. However the company believes its EVs practically sell themselves already, with the executive noting that the Mach-E has been sold out for quite some time.

“I’m not convinced we need public advertising for [electric vehicles] if we do our job,” Farley said during Wednesday’s Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference.

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Rare Rides Icons: The Ford Festiva, a Subcompact and Worldwide Kia by Mazda (Part IV)

We reached a conclusion to the first Ford Festiva (or Kia Pride, Mazda 121, SAIPA, etc.) in our last installment, which saw the little hatchback finalize its Ford duties in 1993 and its Kia responsibilities in 2000. And while it continues life today as a Wallyscar in Tunisia, our coverage here moves on to Ford’s not-so-anticipated follow-up entry to Festiva, another Festiva! It’s an Aspire to you.

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Toyota Adds Woodland Edition to RAV4 Hybrid

If the Venn Diagram of your friends has an overlap of people who like all-terrain tires and hybrid powertrains (you may need a magnifying glass to find that sliver), then Toyota has a solution. Enter the RAV4 Hybrid Woodland, an all-wheel-drive machine featuring TRD-tuned suspenders and an efficient four-banger hybrid engine.

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How Shanghai Lockdowns Are Changing the Auto Industry

While the semiconductor shortage was long considered the excuse par excellence for why the automotive sector couldn’t produce enough vehicles during the pandemic, some manufacturers have begun pivoting to blaming supply chains that have been stymied by Chinese lockdowns. Toyota is probably the best-known example. But the matter is hardly limited to a singular automaker and market analysts have already been sounding the alarm bell that strict COVID-19 restrictions in Asia will effectively guarantee prolonged industrial hardship around the globe.

Back in April, Shenzhen was emerging from a month-long lockdown. However, the resulting downtime severely diminished the tech hub’s output which exacerbated global component shortages. While Chinese state-run media claimed regional factories maintained full-scale production during the period, the reality was quite a bit different. Meanwhile, Shanghai has remained under harsh restrictions since March and more look to be on the horizon. As an important industrial center and the world’s busiest port by far, the situation has created an intense backlog of container ships that are presumed to create some of the sustained problems that we’re about to explore.

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The New RX: A Prescription for Lexus Crossovers

Those of you with checkered shirts in yer closet and a few pogs still kicking around may recall it was the original Lexus RX from the late ‘90s which arguably kicked off the “tall wagon” car-based luxury crossover craze. Sure, the first Ford Explorer put us all on a path to what we see in suburban driveways today, but it was the RX which placed them in the hands of moneyed types.

Lexus introduced a new RX yesterday near its home base in Texas, expanding the number of powertrains and (finally) dumping the ill-advised three-row model. And, oh yeah – we need to have a conversation about that grille.

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London Fog: Land Rover Launches Three-Row Defender

If one simply must always take a septet of their closest mates with them into the countryside, they’ll be thrilled to know Land Rover has finally launched a long-promised three-row variant of the Defender. Called the 130, a number which no longer has much to do with its wheelbase, the veddy British truck features an extended body for greater interior space.

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Rental Review: The 2021 BMW 530i XDrive, Interference at No Cost to You

As a fan of the midsize luxury sedan class, it’s sad to see how many manufacturers have given up on the segment. The German trio still has their stalwarts, but Japan gave up in 2020 (RIP Lexus GS), the only American still in the ring is the Cadillac CT5, and its outlier status is accompanied by newcomer Genesis with the G80.

It’s a dying class, which is why your author was especially pleased to spend the Memorial Day weekend with a longstanding headliner of the German luxury sedan genre: A 2021 BMW 5-Series.

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Could Minivans Become Popular Again?

While often derided as highly unfashionable, minivans really are the Swiss Army knife of vehicles. They’re people haulers, cargo carriers, mobile campsites, and can even improvise as work vehicles for when a utility van (the Leatherman of vehicles) is unavailable. Minivans also drive more like cars than the brutes occupying the SUV and pickup segment, making them easier for some drivers to live with.

With vans having enjoyed a cultural renaissance during the 1970s, minivans hit the ground running in the mid-1980s and continued to swell in popularity until the millennium. By then, North Americans were buying an estimated 1.5 million minivans a year. But that’s also where society decided to apply the brakes. Sport utility vehicles and crossovers have effectively supplanted the van as the default family conveyance — though recent sales figures have suggested those dying flames are now being rekindled.

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Chinese Lockdowns Force Toyota to Cut Production Again

The automotive industry has basically resigned itself to running with lessened production for the foreseeable future. A significant number of automakers have suggested that it might be more lucrative to scale back output, reduce overhead, and focus on achieving broader margins per car during this prolonged period of economic and logistical duress. However, Toyota started the year saying it would do its utmost to raise production output as a way to make up for losses incurred during the pandemic. The company even said it anticipated things to gradually normalize through the spring.

Unfortunately, things have not gone according to plan. By March, the Japanese automaker had lowered its output goal for the fiscal year by 500,000 global units. Another 20 percent was lopped off for the month of April and leadership began expressing concerns that those preexisting goals might be totally untenable. While there were moments with the target actually rose, Toyota has repeatedly been forced to walk those claims back as the realities of the market dashed its dreams. Now, the company is once again cutting planned output for the month of June over supply chain issues with China.

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Survey Suggests Americans Still Doubt EVs [UPDATED]

While plug-in vehicles are catching on in Europe, representing 21 percent of all new registrations in the first quarter of 2022, they’ve been less popular in the United States. Only about 5.2 percent of American registrations were of the plug-in variety (representing hybrid and purely electric vehicles) during the same timeframe. Despite the industry spending billions to develop and market these vehicles, with some progress being made, the overall take rate within North America remains underwhelming.

Ardent fans of battery based powertrains will undoubtedly disagree. But a couple of studies came out this month that drove the point home. Autolist’s Annual Electric Survey dropped earlier this month, effectively outlining why EVs haven’t been able to make more headway in the states.

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Kia Rumored to End Stinger and K5 Production, Brand Says Nah

Following reports that the Hyundai Sonata may not be long for this world, there have been rumbling that the fate of the Kia Stinger and K5 sedan may also be in jeopardy.

The reasoning is obvious. After years of crossovers seeing an increased share of the global market, automakers have been dumping sedans so they can sell products that come with higher margins. A sizable percentage of the population has also been sold on the theory that higher-riding vehicles are automatically safer than their road-hugging counterparts. While that is endlessly debatable between models, there are aspects of crossovers that make real sense for the modern era. Storage capacity is typically better than what you’d find on a similarly sized sedan and the lengthened suspension travel can help the vehicle absorb the impact of pothole-laden streets that seem to be cropping up everywhere.

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Lancia Returns With 10-Year Restoration Plan

Stellantis has been discussing the prospect of reviving the Lancia brand for months, hinting that the returning Delta would even be part of the deal. While technically still active, the historic Italian company has devolved into a swath of rebadged Chrysler products and now produces the Ypsilon (based on the Fiat 500) as its singular offering in Europe.

However, some die-hard fans of the nameplate took umbrage with the matter after it was revealed that the Delta would be an all-electric vehicle in October of 2021. As time went on, the manufacturer vowed that the model would be a worthy successor to performance models like the HF Integrale. But continued insisting upon electrification being an essential component of Lancia’s revival and has formally introduced its overarching plan for the marque.

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Stellantis Paying $300 Million in Emission Fines, Seeking Plea Deal

Stellantis has reportedly agreed to plead guilty to criminal conspiracy charges relating to emissions requirements on over 100,000 diesel-powered Ram and Jeep products sold in the United States. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) was previously on the hook for $800 million in civil penalties over a so-called “defeat device” equipped to the automaker’s 3.0-liter turbo-diesel engine. Allegations began in 2017 as regulators were hunting for compliance violations in the wake of Volkswagen’s massive emissions scandal from a couple of years earlier.

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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Kia's Larger and Full-size Sedans (Part V)

In our last installment of Kia’s larger sedan history, we covered the midsize Credos. The Credos was an important first for Kia, as the first midsize the company produced where it had a bit of leeway with the design. Ultimately, the Credos hid its Mazda 626 bones decently well and did a good impersonation of a late Nineties Ford Contour after a refresh.

But just as Kia settled into Mazda platforms and designing their own sedans, the goalposts were moved courtesy of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Kia was left without much money, and few options. We pick up there.

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Hyundai Recalls Accents, Elantras Due to Seatbelt Pretensioner Problems

Hyundai has widened a recall for so-called ‘exploding seatbelts’ to 239,000 vehicles. Model-year 2019-2022 Accents and 2021-2023 Elantras are the targets of the recall.

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Toyota 4Runner Gets TRD Stripes for 40th Birthday

While hardly the most modern vehicle in Toyota’s lineup, the 4Runner has developed a reputation for being a versatile body-on-frame SUV with the ability to actually tackle off-road trails — rather than simply looking the part.

This year, the model is celebrating its 40th birthday and Toyota has opted to issue a special edition limited to 4,040 examples. The vehicle in question comes with the 4Runner’s 4.0-liter V6, five-speed automatic transmission, and some visual embellishments designed to set the vehicle apart. These include bronze-colored wheels, bronze-colored badging, and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) stripes down the side. But those are just the broad strokes.

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Volkswagen Board Displeased With Current Software Situation

Last week, Volkswagen’s supervisory board reportedly told management that it needed to work on improving the company’s software division. Though that should hardly be surprising considering how often digital glitches have delayed product launches and forced the automaker to issue sweeping recalls.

Software gremlins stymied the launch of numerous ID-badged EVs, the Mk8 Golf, and a handful of other vehicles from VW Group’s many subsidiaries. But the issues have persisted, with customers citing electrical troubles and noting that the automaker’s novel touchscreen interfaces are brutally unresponsive. Some of the problems were deemed so heinous that the company eventually recalled literally every current-generation Golf sold within its native Germany. But it’s going to have to do a lot more if it’s serious about leveraging computer code as the cornerstone of an evolving business model and the board of directors seems keenly aware of that fact.

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Report: Hyundai Sonata is On the Way Out

The Hyundai Sonata, the venerable mid-sized sedan from South Korea, may be nearing the end of its production run soon.

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Abandoned History: Ford's Cruise-O-Matic and the C Family of Automatic Transmissions (Part I)

As we finished up our coverage of General Motors’ Turbo-Hydramatic family of transmissions, I asked which gearbox you might like to see covered next by Abandoned History. The comments honed in on Ford, and the various versions of the C family of automatics. Fine by me! Today we head back to the Fifties to learn about the genesis of all the Cs. It was the extremely Fifties-sounding Cruise-O-Matic, built with pride in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Mercedes Ending Dealer Sales Model in Europe

Following word that Mercedes-Benz wanted to refocus on producing high-end luxury vehicles with loftier profit margins, the German automaker has decided to eliminate dealerships in Europe so it can move on a direct-sales model similar to what’s offered by Tesla.

The company is reportedly eliminating up to 20 percent of its dealerships in its home country and roughly 10 percent globally (with a focus on Europe). This follows previous assertions by Mercedes that half of the brand’s domestic sales will be done via an “agency model” by 2023. Following an agreement with its own dealer network, the company said late in 2021 that it would begin eliminating the traditional scheme of dealers buying their vehicle stock based on market conditions with consumers coming in to haggle. The new plan puts more financial pressure on Mercedes and eliminates any chance of price negotiation. Meanwhile, dealers will get some cash for every vehicle sold and whatever after-sales services they can render.

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Average Age of U.S. Light Vehicles Older Than Ever

S&P Global Mobility has reported that the average U.S. automobile is now 12.2 years old, which it said represented a 2 percent increase since 2021. While relatively modest, the general trend for the last five years has been for vehicles to get older as drivers attempted to milk more life from beleaguered hardware.

Much of this has been attributed to North America’s broadening wealth gap and general improvements in vehicle longevity. If you look back at Department of Transportation data from the 1990s, the average age of a car was under nine years. By 2007, the typical car would see its 10th birthday before scrappage and the number has continued to climb from there. Much of that is due to households having to make do with tighter budgets, which was arguably made easier by modern powertrains that can easily exceed 100,000 miles before needing any serious maintenance.

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Rare Rides Icons: The Lincoln Mark Series Cars, Feeling Continental (Part V)

We arrive today at the fifth installment of our Rare Rides Icons coverage on the Lincoln Mark series cars. Thus far we covered the first Continental of the late Thirties, and Ford’s desire to go ultra luxury with the Mark II sold under the newly minted Continental Division. The Mark that debuted for the 1956 model year was Mid-century in its styling, built of top quality components, and constructed in a methodically controlled manner via a QC program that consisted of seven initiatives.

It was time to put the new Continental Mark II coupe on sale.

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Electric Vehicle Registrations Surge Across the U.S.

Continuing a nationwide & industry trend towards more electric vehicles, more Americans are registering EVs.

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Rare Rides: The Wallyscar Brand, From Tunisia With Pride

Today’s topic is an automaker you’ve likely never heard of. It’s a small company that was founded not that long ago, offers vehicles in very limited markets, and produces around 600 vehicles per year. Its product is based upon old ideas from other manufacturers, all done up in fiberglass until very recently. Let’s enter the wonderful world of Wallyscar.

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Mercedes to Focus on Premium Luxury Vehicles Again

Mercedes-Benz has said it will cut back its entry-level offers to better prioritize premium vehicles with loftier margins. While this strategy has become relatively uncommon throughout the industry, even among some mainstream brands, Mercedes has historically been synonymous with high-end luxury cars. One wonders why it bothered chasing volume to begin with, especially since it doesn’t seem to have panned out for the company.

While executives had previously hinted at its revised strategy in interviews, Mercedes officially unveiled its plan to investors on Thursday. The German brand will focus investments on top-of-the-heap models like the S-Class at the expense of entry-level products that have failed to garner juicy profits.

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Rare Rides Icons: The Ford Festiva, a Subcompact and Worldwide Kia by Mazda (Part III)

We return to the Ford Festiva once again today, as the subcompact Mazda-designed hatchback stormed North American shores. It did so wearing a Ford badge and a South Korean VIN, courtesy of a Kia factory. But North America wasn’t the only place it landed.

As we learned last time, the Festiva was built in several different countries and assumed many identities over an extensive history. The Festiva still has not reached the end of its life, but we’ll cover that in a separate article. We pick up today in North America, circa 1987.

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BMW i4s Shipping With Apple CarPlay, Android Auto After All

Earlier reports that the BMW i4 would ship without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, with the smartphone-mirroring systems set to be installed via over-the-air updates at a later time, appear to be incorrect.

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Ford Recalls 39K Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators Due to Fire Risk

Ford has recalled 39,000 2021 model-year Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators due to a fire risk.

Owners are being asked to park their vehicles outdoors until the company can address the issues.

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Toyota Infuses Various Models With Appearance Trims

The vast majority of TTAC readership is well acquainted with the manufacturer propensity to throw paint-n-wallpaper at a particular model in the years following its introduction, hoping the resultant noise made in the press from dweebs like myself will keep the thing top of mind when shoppers hit the dealer lots in search of new metal.

That game continues for the ’23 model year (and will do so until the sun explodes) with Toyota introducing new packages on the Tacoma, Tundra, and Sienna. We’ve rolled them into one news post rather than subjecting you to three.

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2024 Honda Prologue Design Teased

Honda has begun teasing out the electric Prologue in earnest, with its latest offering being a sketch of what appears to be a lifted Civic. Though what we’re actually seeing is the brand’s newest “adventure-ready” SUV tapping into the same inoffensive design language that now graces the ever-popular sedan.

The styling is neutral, perhaps even a little dull. But it’s unlikely to put anybody in a bad mood and is still rounded off in all the places one would expect from an EV. The Prologue looks as though it could come from Lucid, just with a dash of rugged design from Rivian and underpinned by Honda’s current design language. There’s little to gripe about, though there’s also not much to ogle.

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Three-Row Defender to Officially Appear on May 31

If you prefer to share your Land Rover with 7 of yer mates while on the way to a fox hunt, the British brand will soon have just the rig for you. Set to be called the Defender 130, it’ll stretch the existing SUV by more than a few inches to make room for extra passengers.

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Why Are Traffic Deaths Increasing While People Are Driving Less?

The latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is confirming what local agencies have already been suggesting. Last year represented another sizable increase in U.S. roadway fatalities, pitching up by 10.5 percent over the elevated death rate witnessed in 2020. The agency has estimated that 42,915 people were killed in 2021, whereas 2020 resulted in 38,824 fatalities — a 7.1-percent increase over the declines seen in 2019. While the current situation is not nearly as bad as the rates witnessed during the 1970s, this still represents the highest per capita fatalities in sixteen years and everyone is trying to get a handle on why.

Traffic deaths have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic, confusing everyone who counts crashes because the supporting data also shows that there was a lot less driving being done during the period. Historically, years where people are disinclined from hitting the road due to a beleaguered economy tend to represent far fewer traffic-related fatalities. We can see this happening in 1942 when the U.S. braced itself to enter World War II by rationing everything from fuel to rubber. Another glaring example takes place in 1932, as the nation reached the darkest point in the Great Depression. In fact, there are very few examples of per capita improvements in on-road deaths from the pre-war period, and those that do exist coincide directly with economic recession.

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NADA Wants to Stop Catalytic Converter Theft

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and a dozen related trade groups are petitioning Congress to crack down on stolen catalytic converters. The emission control devices are loaded up with valuable metals and are relatively easy to steal if you’re slim enough to get beneath a parked car and happen to have a reciprocating saw handy — making them prime targets for cash strapped criminals, especially now that material prices are on the rise.

Cities across the country have reported an increase in catalytic converter theft this year. While a majority of police departments are estimating a year-over-year increase of under 40 percent, some have said their figures are substantially larger. In March, Las Vegas Police Department estimated there were 87 percent more vehicles with hacked apart exhaust pipes in 2022. Philadelphia was even higher, reporting a staggering 172 percent increase in dismantled exhaust systems.

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Abandoned History: General Motors' Turbo-Hydramatic Transmissions (Part III)

We return to the Turbo-Hydramatic once more today, and our third installment sees us at a critical point in the timeline of the automatic transmission. Fuel economy pressure from the government and performance demands of the consumer increased considerably in the intervening years since the THM’s debut in 1964. That meant the creation of lighter, more compact, and cheaper versions of the Turbo-Hydramatic compared to its flagship shifter, the THM400. GM branched out into the likes of the THM350, THM250, and the very problematic THM200.

In 1987, GM stepped away from the traditional THM naming scheme and switched to a new combination of letters and numbers. Number of gears, layout, and strength combined to turn the THM400 into the 3L80. But the hefty gearbox was already limited by then to heavier truck applications; passenger cars moved on to four forward gears after the dawn of the Eighties.

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Mercedes Teases New GLC

Automakers remain enamored with slowly teasing new and upcoming products, choosing to release dribs and drabs of information rather than smacking us in the face with all the details at once. Cynics in our audience will (rightly) point out it gives us a news story to run. Congratulations, Sherlock – you’re totally onto us.

Next up is a shadowy image of the next GLC crossover from Mercedes-Benz. That’s the bite-sized machine that serves as a gateway drug introductory model for many customers to the three-pointed star lifestyle in an endless quest to one-up the neighbors.

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Renault Sells Russian Assets for 1 Rouble, Moscow Takes Over to Revive Moskvitch

News surfaced yesterday that Renault has decided to sell its Russia operations and stake in Lada for the grand sum of 1 rouble (or double that amount, depending on the source). For those playing at home, a single unit of Russian currency is presently worth 1.5 cents in America as of this writing.

Following that announcement, reporters at The Moscow Times said the country quickly nationalized a major factory belonging to Renault, marking one of (if not the) first major transfer of private assets into state control since the invasion of Ukraine.

What does Russia plan to do with the facility? Kickstart production of the Moskvitch, of course.

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  • ToolGuy @Matt, let me throw this at you:Let's say I drive a typical ICE vehicle 15,000 miles/year at a typical 18 mpg (observed). Let's say fuel is $4.50/gallon and electricity cost for my EV will be one-third of my gasoline cost - so replacing the ICE with an EV would save me $2,500 per year. Let's say I keep my vehicles 8 years. That's $20,000 in fuel savings over the life of the vehicle.If the vehicles have equal capabilities and are otherwise comparable, a rational typical consumer should be willing to pay up to a $20,000 premium for the EV over the ICE. (More if they drive more.)TL;DR: Why do they cost more? Because they are worth it (potentially).
  • Inside Looking Out Why EBFlex dominates this EV discussion? Just because he is a Ford expert?
  • Marky S. Very nice article and photos. I am a HUGE Edsel fan. I have always been fascinated with the "Charlie Brown of Cars." Allow me to make a minor correction to add here: the Pacer line was the second-from-bottom rung Edsel, not the entry-level trim. That would be the Edsel Ranger for 1958. It had the widest array of body styles. The Ranger 2-door sedan (with a "B-pillar", not a pillarless hardtop), was priced at $2,484. So, the Ranger and Pacer both used the smaller Ford body. The next two upscale Edsel's were based on the Mercury body, are were: Corsair, and, top-line Citation. Although the 1959 style is my fav. I would love a '58 Edsel Pacer 4-door hardtop sedan!
  • Lou_BC Stupid to kill the 6ft box in the crewcab. That's the most common Canyon/Colorado trim I see. That kills the utility of a small truck. The extended cab was a poor seller so that makes sense. GM should have kept the diesel. It's a decent engine that mates well with the 6 speed. Fuel economy is impressive.
  • Lou_BC High end EV's are selling well. Car companies are taking advantage of that fact. I see quite a few $100k pickups in my travels so why is that ok but $100k EV's are bad? The cynical side of me sees car companies tack on 8k premiums to EV's around the time we see governments up EV credits. Coincidence? No fooking way.