By on May 15, 2020

While Kia has managed to add a fair number of crossovers to its lineup, successfully catching up to modern consumer tastes, it hasn’t scarified sedans to make that happen. According to the manufacturer, this is because high-riding utility vehicles fail to match the driving experience of a ground-hugging sedan — something Korean automakers have a keen interest in since Hyundai launched N-badged performance models and Kia dropped the Stinger on our heads.

Once famous for their commitment to budget-friendly models frequently mentioned in amber alerts, the duo now manufacture vehicles people actually want to buy at a price that’s frequently difficult to criticize. Following Hyundai/Kia for the last few years has been analogous to that scene in every teen drama where the awkwardly nerdy girl comes down the stairs for prom dressed to the nines and brimming with newfound confidence. Except in the Hyundai/Kia version, she winks suggestively and offers to pitch in for dinner.

Having convinced themselves that they’ve found a winning strategy, Koran automakers are doubling down on what’s worked already. That includes maintaining a clear distinction between crossovers and sedans — the latter of which Kia believes holds the secret to enjoying yourself behind the wheel.  (Read More…)

By on March 31, 2020

As the status of the North American Honda Fit remains unknown, its more evolved global sibling (the Jazz) hasn’t held our interest. With sales of economy vehicles still losing ground to crossovers and U.S. Fit volume going from modest to borderline meager over the last five years, there’s a good chance Honda may not bother updating it here.

The 2020 Euro-market reboot only offers a hybrid drivetrain — a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle engine mated to a 96-kW synchronous AC motor — and adds a plethora of standard safety tech and connectivity features. While other markets will see internal-combustion version, the best Honda has on offer is a pint-sized i-VTEC (988 cc) making 120 horsepower. Frankly, it doesn’t seem like a good fit for this market and may explain the company’s reluctance to confirm anything for North America. But Honda has made some changes that we hope carry over to all of its future products, regardless of the name carried on the rear hatch or the engine lurking beneath the hood.  (Read More…)

By on March 2, 2020

While fleet participation helped Nissan boost its sales volume for years, management feels it hasn’t done the company any favors in terms of profitability. As such, the company says it wants to take the 2020 Sentra out of the rental circuit. If you borrow a vehicle from rental agencies more than never, you’ve probably noticed Nissan’s compact sedan is often the default choice when the supply of Chevrolet Sonics or Toyota Corollas dries up.

Expect less of this moving forward, but be warned it’s not the dream scenario you envisioned. First off, there will undoubtedly be leftover 2019 models on rental lots for some time. Secondly, Nissan improved the 2020 Sentra to a point where you might actually prefer it. The manufacturer made no small effort effort to shore up the sedan’s ride quality, handling, comfort, tech and visual aesthetics for the new generation — succeeding rather well, according to our own Tim Healey. It also has a new 2.0-liter motor offering superior vigor versus its anemic 1.8-liter predecessor. With more on offer, Nissan figured it was a better idea to try it out on customers first, rather than assuming its rightful place is in a rental fleet.  (Read More…)

By on January 16, 2020

The yellow front splitter guards on Dodge’s Charger and Challenger have become a major point of conflict among automotive enthusiasts. In one corner, we have traditionalists who believe protective coverings used for shipping have no business appearing on a road-going car. In the other? A bunch of maniacs who think keeping the guards on adds something to the aesthetics, sort of like how you see people maintaining the stickers and tags on a new baseball cap.

Your author has seen a Challenger where the protectors had been on so long, they became sun-bleached and had started to lose their color. Dodge/SRT design boss Mark Trostle expressed his distaste for the trend in October, saying the guards were never part of the concept drawings and basically just ruin the paint.

Despite the issue causing a ruckus online, including some top-shelf trolling, some people still refuse to take them off. Dodge appears to have a plan, however. It’s swapping the protective coverings’ coloring from yellow to hot pink, presumably in an effort to discourage the trend.  (Read More…)

By on January 8, 2020

Cadillac’s recent decision to move its corporate emblem to the top of the grille was, apparently, a very controversial one. While older models carried the badge dead center, current models have allowed the symbol to creep nearer to the hood latch. We failed to notice any riots in the streets over the change, but Cadillac Society contends there are a contingent of customers who don’t appreciate the new look.

It also has the answers for why General Motors thought the modification necessary. (Read More…)

By on November 14, 2019

Image: GM

A new report from Edmunds tries to make a case against Ford and General Motors placing their small- and medium-sized cars on an iceberg and setting it adrift. We don’t even need to see the metrics to agree. Ditching cars for higher-margin crossovers and SUVs always seemed a little short-sighted. Without entry-level models, you’re likely to get fewer entry-level (i.e. new) customers, and several of the models axed from North American lineups happened to be the most enjoyable to drive.

Selfishly, we like to see plenty of variety among mainstream brands.

Edmunds’ concern isn’t so much about Ford and GM losing money; rather, it’s more about the automakers setting themselves up for failure further down the line. The analysis revealed that 42 percent of Cruze and Focus owners are choosing to stay in the passenger car segment, rather than spending a little (or lot) more to purchase crossovers and SUVs. Meanwhile, 23 percent of Cruze owners and 31 percent of Focus owners who traded in their car in 2019 ended up buying something similar from a competing automaker(Read More…)

By on August 23, 2019

With Mercedes-Benz already offering illuminated badges as a factory option, we knew it was only a matter of time before BMW responded. According to Bimmerpostdealerships will soon offer “Chrome Iconic Glow Kidney Grilles” as an option.

The accessory is exactly what it sounds like. BMW either looks to be trying to steal a bit of Mercedes’ thunder or this is a touching tribute to Mercury vehicles from the early 1990s. Obviously, we’re hoping it’s the latter scenario.  (Read More…)

By on July 1, 2019

While Mazda’s vehicles are often praised for being handsome and playing host to desirable driving dynamics, the latter half of that arrangement has become less important in recent years. Remember the last time you saw a Zoom-Zoom ad? Neither do we.

That’s because Mazda isn’t the same brand anymore. While some of its budget-minded performance chops remain intact (MX-5), the prevailing shift has been toward luxury — which is kind of a nebulous concept these days. In the most general sense, it means Mazda is pushing for higher-margin vehicles and fancier showrooms. But it’s not a guaranteed strategy for winning… or losing, for that matter.  (Read More…)

By on March 1, 2019

Last week, Kia teased a mystery concept bound for a Geneva Motor Show unveiling as a way to show off its consistently improving skills in automotive design. With a second batch of teaser photos cropping up on Thursday, it’s now abundantly clear the brand made no small effort to create a shining beacon of vehicular style. But it also happens to have more screens than the TSA, indicating that Kia willingly engaged in one of this year’s biggest concept car styling trends.

Truthfully, the display bandwagon probably left town in 2018 — about the time when Byton revealed a crossover at CES with a screen that literally replaced the entire dashboard, plus one mounted on the steering wheel for good measure. The company could be seen disappearing beyond the horizon, whipping its horses while other manufacturers attempted to catch up and climb aboard.

Now, Kia is holding the reins. And it’s laughing maniacally.  (Read More…)

By on January 3, 2019

electrify-america-ev-charging-station, Electrify America

Perhaps — but Norway treats EV owners like royalty.

Battery electric vehicles are not subject to most of that country’s automotive taxes, are subsidized via credits, and are frequently offered free parking and charging points as a way to further encourage drivers to get away from gasoline and diesel. Norway is also working aggressively toward banning all gas-powered vehicles by 2025.

According to Reuters, the strategy is working. The independent Norwegian Road Federation (NRF) said Wednesday that electric cars rose to 31.2 percent of all sales last year. EVs represented 20.8 percent of the country’s overall sales in 2017 and just 5.5 percent in 2013.  (Read More…)

By on December 27, 2018

Like 26-year-olds playing oddly mature high schoolers in films and on TV, some trends evolve into industry standards — the go-to blueprint for success. If the big guys are doing it, then by God, the creators say, so will we. This is the way to go.

The auto industry functions much like Hollywood in this regard, though the major players would insist that careful and predictive analysis of consumer buying behavior are behind their pursuit of the Next. Big. Thing. In crafting the vehicular landscape OEMs are convinced will make you hot, trends materialize. Rivals swerve into the same lane, desperate not to be left behind. Suddenly, once-unique attributes become ubiquitous. Departures become the norm. Think tailfins in the late 1950s, landau roofs in the late ’60s to early ’80s, plastic cladding in the late ’90s/early ’00s, and ginormous, child-swallowing grilles in the 2010s.

As there’s too many trends to mention, why don’t you list some you’d like to see hurled into the sun in the New Year? (Read More…)

By on September 19, 2018

We’ve long bemoaned the death of the manual transmission. But with few practical advantages other than being more enjoyable to a limited subset of the population, it’s quickly (and understandably) slipping into obscurity. It’s not alone. Based on research conducted by online automotive marketplace CarGurus, the good ol’ handbrake is also rapidly losing relevance as automakers shift their focus to electronic parking brakes.

Isolating its research to the United Kingdom, CarGurus claims just 37 percent of new cars leave the factory with a traditional, mechanical brake lever. And those that still have them are typically bargain-focused nameplates like Suzuki and Dacia. Considering neither of those brands sell any models here, the number is likely even lower in the United States.  (Read More…)

By on September 12, 2018

Nissan is ending sales of its last two compact cars in Europe and Russia, citing a the growing demand for crossover vehicles as the reason. The automaker stopped producing the Pulsar hatchback for Europe in June and says it will end production of the Almera sedan in Russia later this year. Both models are the sister car to our own Nissan Sentra.

The Pulsar was launched in 2014 to give Nissan a fighter for the competitive compact-featherweight category and fill a gap left in the brand’s European range in the wake of the discontinued N16 Almera. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the sales success Nissan hoped for. The Pulsar never quite managed to match the N16’s volume. Nissan’s decision to abandon it leaves the Leaf EV as the only non-utility compact sold by the manufacturer in the region.  (Read More…)

By on July 2, 2018

Image: Honda
As the industry stresses about the new vehicle market taking it easy for the foreseeable future, there’s one aspect of it that’s of particular concern: car sales. After dominating the field for so long, passenger car sales fell below half of the market just a few years ago. That gap continued to widen through 2018.

Automakers responded by shifting output towards utility vehicles and crossovers. Ford ultimately decided to abandon the majority of its passenger cars in the United States as other manufacturers scramble to adjust their lineup to account for consumer tastes. However, these changes are also helping to push shoppers further away from cars. Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimates that 71 percent of vehicle introductions for the 2019 through 2022 model years will be light trucks.

Some automakers still believe cars hold an importance that’s not to be ignored. True, some models still sell incredibly well. But the general assumption is that they’ll continue losing relevance in the coming years. It’s likely to take another energy crisis or major shift in consumer preference to turn back the tide of crossover vehicles.  (Read More…)

By on May 22, 2018

Ford’s announcement that it will eventually eliminate every sedan from its domestic lineup has forced the automotive media to consider which automaker will be next to cart theirs off to the guillotine. Due to the growing popularity of crossovers and their inherent profitability, it’s probably just a matter of time until another manufacturer tosses all of its sedans in a burlap sack and drowns them in the proverbial river.

General Motors seems ready to abandon the Chevrolet Impala and Sonic, and Cadillac’s ATS, CTS, and XTS will soon be replaced by two unnamed sedans. Buick’s Lacrosse also looks to be a likely candidate for execution, and rumors exist that Caddy’s CT6 may also be destined for death. However, while rumors swell that American automakers are just years away from from killing the four-door car, Subaru says sedans remain totally relevant.

As a smaller but rapidly growing manufacturer (domestic sales have tripled since 2010), it’s dangerous for the brand to become too reliant on a single segment. If the market suddenly shifts, Subaru knows it’s better not to get caught with its pants down. In fact, it’s almost as if the company’s national manager of product communications, Dominick Infante, is counting on that.  (Read More…)

Recent Comments

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