By on July 22, 2019

With Oliver Zipse confirmed as BMW’s new chief executive, practically everyone theorized on how he was going to shake up the strategy established under former-CEO Harald Krüger — which revolved around gradually introducing more EVs via a highly flexible architecture. While we were disinclined to agree, a swath of industry experts and media outlets claimed this was a terrible blueprint for the brand and expected Zipse to come up with something different.

However, he looks to be offering more of the same. That begs the question as to why Krüger actually left the company and taints the validity of suggestions that his product strategy was internally viewed as a failure(Read More…)

By on June 4, 2019

Volkswagen has been flagrantly displaying new pickups at trade shows for a couple of years now, and with good reason. Domestic trucks have grown very large. In 1993, you could still purchase the Ford F-Series in a format where its maximum length did not exceed 197 inches. Today, the F-150 gets no smaller than 209 inches with a standard cab. Meanwhile, the now mid-sized Ranger, sold only in SuperCab and SuperCrew guise, grew from to 181 inches in overall length to a whopping 211 inches within the same timeframe.

The supersizing of the North American pickup created an interesting opportunity for manufacturers, and Volkswagen took notice(Read More…)

By on June 3, 2019

We, like everyone else, bemoaned Cadillac’s new V-Series models for seeming underpowered. And yet the company now suggests that putting a lid on power was part of the plan all along. Apparently, GM claims, shoppers were being scared off by the CTS-V’s big numbers.

“There was, frankly, some people who were intimidated by the cars,” GM President Mark Reuss elaborated last week, according to Automotive News. “When we did a [V-Series], they were hammers … There’s some intimidation there.”

While undoubtedly true of some customers, is Cadillac certain that’s the message they want to impart? No matter how you slice this cadaver, the fact remains that the brand is still delivering two V-Series entrants that fail to impress on paper the way their predecessors did. We’ll happily admit that horsepower isn’t everything, but you cannot lead with how the CT4-V’s improved efficiency and lighter curb weight will make it a better car than the ATS-V its replaces when all anyone can notice is a glaring horsepower disparity.  (Read More…)

By on May 14, 2019

Planned successor for Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, Ola Källenius, says Mercedes-Benz will significantly reduce development costs under his supervision by accelerating alliances throughout the industry. This, of course, has everything to do with electric cars, as that’s all auto executives seem capable of discussing anymore.

“The cost structure of the electric car is above that of the combustion engine car. We are working hard on lowering this,” Källenius said on Monday. “We need to work on the cost of vehicle architectures. From where we are now, we need to make a significant step by 2025 in terms of cost.” (Read More…)

By on April 23, 2019

Lincoln, eager to avoid the fate of Mercury, has spent years attempting to turn itself around. It’s a slow-and-steady kind of race. Rather than try to dazzle the public with a slick marketing campaign (confusing, perhaps – Ed.), Lincoln’s sticking to the fundamentals. Bludgeoned by the Great Recession, Lincoln’s sales actually began their steady decline in 2004, though by that time it had been losing market share for almost a decade.

Fortunately, things improved. While still far removed from its former strength, Lincoln’s annual domestic volume has stabilized at just above 100,000 units. Chasing sales will always be important for an automaker, but it’s not the main focus for Ford’s luxury nameplate. The brand believes that, if it can improve as a premium marque, volume will follow.  (Read More…)

By on January 21, 2019

Cadillac is at a crossroads. While the brand has enjoyed growth in Asia, domestic volume never fully recovered from the Great Recession. It’s come back a bit, with sales dipping and rising between years, but hasn’t managed to keep pace with the overall market. As of 2018, Cadillac possesses the lowest share of the U.S. market in the brand’s recorded history. Fortunately, the fourth-quarter arrival of the XT4 helped to Cadillac stabilize sales as the year drew to an end.

However, General Motors wants the luxury arm to become a legitimate success and prove the automaker’s effort to develop advanced powertrains and new technologies weren’t in vain. Cadillac is positioned to become manufacturer’s leading electric brand and GM’s newly appointed president, Mark Reuss, has acknowledged this is sort of its last chance at greatness.  (Read More…)

By on November 13, 2018

Tesla Model S Grey - Image: Tesla

Hoping to simplify vehicle assembly, Tesla tweaked its online car configurator over the weekend, culling numerous options from both the Model S and X. This translates into a price bump for more-basic models and a few dollars saved on the higher trims, but less choice overall. The Model S ($78,000) and X 75D ($84,000) now cost a grand more and offer improved interiors, but the 100D units cost $500 less than before. Meanwhile, all trims play host to a slimmer options list.

It was an expected move, as the brand has previously limited options to grease the wheels of production. Elon Musk said the company would embrace further streamlining to “simplify the product offerings” last month, but it’s a little surprising how far the company went.  (Read More…)

By on September 28, 2018

Kia Stinger Detroit Auto Show, Image KIA Motors

Hyundai has clearly committed itself to sporting models. While we’re positive the new N badge will attach itself to a handful of undeserving models in the years to come, go-fast versions of the overseas i30 and North American Veloster show it won’t be the norm. The brand seems to have hit upon something and intends to keep funneling high-performance models through its N sub-brand.

Now with a sporting model of its own, Kia wants in on the fun. But the Stinger GT looks to be in a safe place as the company’s premiere performance model for a while. Rather than focusing on lap times, the Korean brand intends to build smaller range of GT models with an emphasis on everyday performance. That could be a kinder way of saying “watered down,” or simply an admission that Kia wants fun-loving automobiles but knows it can’t step on Hyundai’s toes. (Read More…)

By on September 17, 2018

hyundai-sonata-eco-grille logo

Hyundai has a problem to solve. Interest rates are on the rise, car buying is on the decline, and it has a newish luxury division forced to share showrooms with its regular models — most of which are moving out of the bargain bin.

However, rather than continue incentivizing the crap out of its vehicles, the automaker has decided to improve its dealership experience. There’s no official word on the amount of hugs Hyundai plans to dole out to prospective buyers, but the automaker does claim it wants to instill a warm fuzzy feeling in its clientele.* (Read More…)

By on May 2, 2018

2018 Genesis G70 lineup - Image: Genesis

Ever since Hyundai launched Genesis as a separate luxury brand, there’s been plenty of confusion as to how to distribute its vehicles. The company initially said Genesis would have an entirely separate U.S. dealer network within three years. Then it said existing Hyundai retailers could continue to sell luxury models if they met a certain criteria, but noted many would become ineligible as standalone stores became the norm.

Now Genesis is saying all Hyundai dealers are in the running, but they’ll need to have separate facilities for the luxury brand if they want to sell them. While the change isn’t drastic, it’s the third time the brand’s parent company has revised its dealer strategy, leaving us confused as to what the automaker’s plan was all along.  (Read More…)

By on February 12, 2018

nissan emblem badge logo

Nissan has long-standing tradition in North America of being a bargain brand. While the automaker fields plenty of affordable options with a base MSRP undercutting that of its rivals, it has also leaned on aggressive incentivizing and heavy fleet sales. This helped Nissan chase volume in the U.S., but CEO Hiroto Saikawa is no longer convinced it’s a winning strategy.

He’s tasking Denis Le Vot, Nissan’s new North American boss, to improve profitability and brand value after the company’s operating profit dipped 50 percent in the region in the last quarter of 2017.

It’s a tall order for Le Vot, who has only had a little over one month to settle into being the regional chairman for the brand, and Saikawa is only giving him another two to figure out how to pull it off. However, he’s hinting at a strategy that eases off dealers, offers fewer market incentives, and ditches a reliance on fleet sales.  (Read More…)

By on December 6, 2017

2017 Cadillac XT5 - Image: Cadillac

Project Pinnacle hasn’t been incredibly popular with dealerships. Low approval ratings required multiple revisions of the plan, and dealers still found themselves irritated with the final version. There was a lengthy delay, refusal of noncompliant stores to accept General Motors’ buyout plan, and difficulties ensuring eligible shops adhered to the plan’s high standards of service.

Cadillac now says it will weigh customer satisfaction scores and compliance with brand standards more than actual sales volumes when determining U.S. dealer bonuses for 2018. The reason for this comes down to so many dealerships not meeting this year’s sales targets. That’s good news for those smaller outlets that were upset with Pinnacle to begin with(Read More…)

By on May 10, 2017

Ford badge emblem logo

The board of directors at Ford Motor Company will be seeking answers from CEO Mark Fields on how the brand’s mobility strategy played a role in its lackluster annual earnings report. Inside sources claim board members made extra time leading up to Thursday’s annual shareholders meeting to discuss the company’s future with the CEO.

Fields has promoted Ford’s evolution into a mobility company ever since taking the helm in 2014 — something investors haven’t been particularly receptive of. During Fields’ tenure as CEO, shares in the company have fallen by 35 percent. However, with tech-focused companies typically receiving above-average valuations, the methodology behind his strategy appears sound. Ford has spent billions on the development of autonomous technology and showcased mobility concepts that even Tesla hasn’t bothered with.

While many seem too impractical or far-fetched to deserve serious attention, the capital behind its self-driving efforts have kept Ford near the front of the pack in the autonomous race. So, what’s the problem?  (Read More…)

By on November 7, 2016

Genesis store, Round Rock Texas

There’s no denying the strategy behind Hyundai’s Genesis Motors luxury brand is unusual. By its very nature, the contrived launch of a new Korean luxury marque — more than a century after the dawn of America’s favourite luxury brand, Mercedes-Benz — is going to differ in a multitude of ways.

Genesis intends to maximize the possibility for consumers to shop for their cars online, for instance. And Genesis owners won’t need to take cars to dealers for servicing — valets will provide pickup and delivery.

Yet one aspect of a new brand’s U.S. launch is nevertheless set in stone: dealers.

Genesis Motors has 350 dealers inside Hyundai’s U.S. showrooms, Wards Auto reports. Genesis Motors’ general manager Erwin Raphael wants a different number.

A smaller number. (Read More…)

By on October 17, 2016

2017 Honda CR-V

The coming out party for Honda’s new CR-V has been distinctly lacking in fanfare. The compact crossover debutante hasn’t skipped the ball entirely, but she is certainly being a bit of a wallflower.

Honda’s low-key intro is intentional, as making a big to-do about the model would be a minor disaster at this juncture. It’s a lesson other automakers would be wise to heed. (Read More…)

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