By on December 3, 2020

The Japan Broadcasting Corporation, better known as NHK, reported that the island nation is considering banning new internal combustion engine cars by the mid-2030s this week. While we will continue to maintain that such an effort seems unrealistic when confronting the current realities of the market, Japan’s alleged plan offers a bit more leeway than proposals pitched in parts of Europe and North America. Nippon also finds itself in a better position in the preferred mixed approach of allowing mixed powertrains, which would allow the industry to continue production gasoline-driven hybrids.

For starters, the Asian country has a fairly comprehensive hydrogen fueling network thanks to its small size. It’s also in a position that would make nationwide EV charging more feasible than regions with plenty of wide-open spaces. But automakers aren’t making a peep on the issue, preferring to leave it up to regulators and the market.

(Read More…)

By on November 12, 2020

Details of the upcoming Rivian R1T and R1S electric vehicles leaked just hours ahead of the company sharing some equipment options for the various trims and announcing that the online configurations (allowing you to build your own) will launch on November 16th.

As of now, Rivian’s plan involves offering identical trims for the R1T pickup and R1S SUV — splitting the two body styles into Adventure and Explorer packages. While the former is a bit more upscale, both come with a panoramic roof, vegan upholstery, and are big on connectivity. Wi-Fi is embedded and allows for Rivian to issue over-the-air updates. There’s also the First Edition model, which is effectively a gussied up version of the Adventure going to true believers that booked their EVs well in advance. (Read More…)

By on November 9, 2020

2013 Mazdaspeed 3 - Image: Mazda Canada

We’ve spent the last few years wondering how Mazda’s upmarket push would impact its focus on performance. But keeping tabs gradually devolved into holding out hope that the brand wouldn’t totally snub fun-to-drive products to broaden its appeal. While there’s a wealth of Japanese brands ready to sell you comfortable and well-appointed automobiles, there aren’t many devoting a sizable amount of resources into maintaining engaging driving dynamics for the whole of their lineup. Mazda used to be the exception but now seems interested in banking on its above-average styling and novel luxury aura to drive sales.

It’s not a bad strategy but appears to have come at the expense of performance. Despite Mazda products rarely being famous for the output of their powertrains (unless we’re talking in the context of size), the brand is not making up the difference in handling anymore. It also hasn’t built any new Mazdaspeed performance products in years and doesn’t seem interested in trying.

(Read More…)

By on November 6, 2020

2018 GMC Yukon Denali Ultimate Black Edition

General Motors intends to start selling its full-size SUVs in China and is currently showcasing the Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevy Suburban, Cadillac Escalade, and GMC Yukon Denali at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai. That means these vehicles will be imported rather than being manufactured in-country as part of their government-mandated partnerships with Chinese automotive firms.

Why would GM do this in a nation that’s supposed to be prioritizing hyper-efficient electric vehicles? Well, China is currently the world’s largest car market and is on track to be the only major economy on Earth that will grow during the pandemic  the yuan has already hit a 28-month high against the dollar after the U.S. presidential election started skewing in favor of Joe Biden. Meanwhile, General Motors happens to be one of the region’s largest automakers and competition is stiffing between it and the likes of Volkswagen, Geely, Honda, and Toyota.

(Read More…)

By on October 13, 2020

2018 Volkswagen Arteon cargo - Image: VolkswagenI was thinking about Volkswagen this weekend, as you do. We’ve all seen the recent reports that the company is losing money, betting big on the new electric ID lineup, and about to sell its halo supercar brand Bugatti.

But I think the company has another, product-centric issue in North America as you might’ve guessed by the title above. The Arteon must go.

(Read More…)

By on October 9, 2020

Americans love their pickups but the segment’s sizing has adopted the same methodologies favored by the McNugget industry. Medium-sized trucks are now supersized, leaving full-sized pickups in danger of developing their own gravitational fields. However, it wasn’t all that long ago when the North American market was awash with compact pickups like the original Ford Ranger, Chevrolet S-10, and numerous Japanese alternatives  including the legendary Toyota Hilux (which we just called “the Pickup”). Dodge even had the Dakota for customers who liked D.I.Y. projects but wanted something a little larger and more capable of hauling the necessary materials in a single trip.

Back then, the competition was incredibly fierce. But club cabs gradually evolved into crew cabs and, before anybody knew what happened, every single pickup left on the market had become monstrously large. Though it wasn’t like that everywhere in the world. Plenty of markets still appreciate the handyman’s pickup and Latin America is about to receive an updated one from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. It’s called the 2021 Ram 700 and serves as the spiritual successor of the Ram 50/Mitsubishi Mighty Maxx. (Read More…)

By on October 7, 2020

Mercedes-Benz looks poised to retreat from high-volume compacts. During an online corporate strategy meeting held on Tuesday, Daimler CEO Ola Källenius indicated that the luxury subsidiary may have overextended itself.

“Maybe we went at a bit too far to cover each and every space into each and every segment. Compact particularly comes to mind,” he explained. “This is not where the main thrust should go, we should not become a competitor of the volume makers.”

But the company only has itself to blame for that. Around a quarter of the brand’s annual sales come from compact vehicles and they’ve been taking up a larger share of its product portfolio. Källenius seems to think Mercedes has done enough to broaden its appeal and need to refocus on higher-end vehicles with better margins. “Our [current] strategy is designed to avoid non-core activities,” he said, adding that funds will be prioritized for more profitable products.

“We’re not chasing volume, we’re targeting profitable growth.” (Read More…)

By on October 7, 2020

Bugatti ChironThere have been some turbulent times at Bugatti in the second half of 2020. In addition to wearing a For Sale sign over at Volkswagen’s headquarters, the company is discovering that The Current Year just might not be the best time to create a new and super-exclusive hypercar. So it isn’t.

(Read More…)

By on October 2, 2020

On Friday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the automaker was planning to enter the Indian market in 2021. “Next year for sure,” Musk said in a Twitter response that included a photograph of a T-shirt indicating that “India Wants/Loves Tesla.”

The original poster is probably correct in that assumption, too. While Indian vehicle prices average around the U.S. equivalent of $7,400, many models can be had for far cheaper. Vehicle ownership is also extremely limited, with only around 25 in 1,000 people able to afford one. But Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said the nation had a plan to ensure 15 percent of all new vehicle sales were electric by 2023.

That sounded insanely ambitious to our years when we first heard it in 2018, especially considering India’s original plan called for the same number by 2030 and seemed similarly unrealistic. Central planning rarely goes as mapped but it’s all the rage in most nations now that it can be tied to progressive looking environmental reforms.

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By on October 1, 2020

Even the most capable of race horses eventually reach that day where they’re taken out behind the stables to be shot or stabbed  whatever happens to them after they’ve passed their prime. The same is true in the automotive realm, with the only difference being that the cars are not eventually turned into food for my cat.

Ford has decided to end production of the track-focused Mustang Shelby GT350/R this year. Introduced in 2015, the model uses a 5.2-liter “Voodoo” V8 with a flat-plane crankshaft for some of the nicest naturally aspirated action money can buy. On the current model year (which will also be the last) 526 horsepower is sent through a Tremec six-speed, with performance further aided by a transmission cooler, limited slip rear axle, track-worthy suspension, upgraded Brembo brakes and super-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber.

If you’re one of the few individuals who needs a good track-day vehicle, you could certainly do worse. And now you’ll have to because dealer orders already ended.

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By on September 30, 2020

Volkswagen Group, the largest automotive manufacturer in the world, is reexamining its relationship with high-performance subsidiaries as it continues pouring money into electrification. Burned by a diesel emissions scandal of its own making half a decade ago, VW leadership now views electric cars as the only path forward  especially in regard to its more mainstream brands. While they aren’t getting identical treatments, VW, Audi, Seat, and Skoda are all presumed to be adding EVs to their production lines over the next few years.

Porsche’s long-term strategy also seems heavily dependent on battery power, but the road ahead is much less clear for ultra-premium brands like Lamborghini and Bugatti. With volumes and lineups order of magnitudes smaller than the core brands, Volkswagen would be incurring a gigantic expense to develop upper-echelon performance EVs that might not appeal to their existing fans. The same goes for upscale motorcycle brand Ducati as the two-wheeled world has become divided on electric and gas-powered bikes. Volkswagen’s management board and directors have decided the situation calls for an all-hands meeting in November to decide what should be done and how to remain financially prudent in a period of economic strife.

(Read More…)

By on September 3, 2020

fca

It should come as no shock that the loftiest Jeep Grand Wagoneer will crest the six-figure mark; the automaker said as much when it announced its intention to resurrect the bygone range-topper. It’s not like Cadillac and Lincoln aren’t nudging that barrier (or breaking through it) already.

But getting into a full-size Jeep next year doesn’t have to carry such a high cost. On the same day it revealed its damn-near-production-ready Grand Wagoneer Concept, the automaker talked price. (Read More…)

By on September 3, 2020

vw

Seen in spy photos, in conceptual drawings, and as a prototype, the upcoming Volkswagen ID.4 crossover launches on September 23rd, with the potential to arrive in the greenest U.S. states by year’s end. The vehicle marks the end of a half-decade journey for the automaker that began with a very expensive scandal and ended with a new direction and philosophy.

Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen of America, knows that green doesn’t sell on virtue alone. His aim is to position the ID.4 as a competitor to popular compact crossovers that just happens to be electric. (Read More…)

By on September 3, 2020

fca

Eager to steal some thunder from Ford’s returning Bronco, Jeep pulled the wraps off its upcoming Wrangler 4xe Thursday, revealing an off-roader that might be able to handle your commute without consuming a drop of gas. Oh, and you could probably cruise quietly through some sort of wilderness terrain, too.

Mating a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with two electric motors, the Wrangler 4xe is said to be able to deliver up to 25 miles of all-electric driving. (Read More…)

By on September 3, 2020

FCA

It’s not the production model, but it’s the closest we’ve gotten so far to Jeep’s returning full-size SUV. Sport-utility family, to be clear, as Jeep plans to offer its body-on-frame rig in a variety of flavors.

Entry-level Wagoneer will give way to the high-zoot Grand Wagoneer — a vehicle Fiat Chrysler claims will redefine “American premium” by offering a plug-in hybrid variant and a host of “ultra-premium leading-edge features and technology.”

Alas, the real thing remains distant. Scheduled to go into production in the second quarter of 2021 at Warren Truck Assembly, the actual Grand Wagoneer is heralded by a “vision of what [the] production vehicle could be.”

Feast your eyes. (Read More…)

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