Auto News for June 26 – Takata Bankruptcy Filing

As expected, airbag maker Takata filed for bankruptcy in Japan and here in the U.S. today and will be sold to a Chinese/American firm. Details at:

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/2017/06/26/takata-bankruptcy-filing/103194254/

2017 Jeep® Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition

Two Ohio-built SUVs from Fiat Chrysler topped Cars.com’s 2017 American-Made Index: the Jeep Wrangler (including the Wrangler Unlimited four-door) and Jeep Cherokee. Their domestic-parts content were among the highest figures observed in this year’s AMI: 74 percent for the Wrangler, 75 percent for the Wrangler Unlimited and 70 percent for the Cherokee. All engines and nearly all transmissions for the Wrangler and Cherokee hail from the U.S., and FCA assembles both nameplates in Toledo, Ohio.

The Ford Taurus came in third, followed by the Honda Ridgeline and Acura RDX.

New vehicle sales are forecast to fall nearly 4 percent this month. “Kelley Blue Book projects June will be yet another down month of sales with expected declines in both fleet and retail,” said Tim Fleming, analyst for KBB. “With manufacturers continuing to announce production cuts at their plants following weaker consumer demand, it all but solidifies 2017 as a down year.”

June would be the fourth month in a row that the Seasonally Adjusted Annual (sales) Rate would fall below 17 million, or the longest period since September 2014.

Ford Motor Company is likely to lose the most market share of the major manufacturers, projected at 1 percent. The declines can be primarily attributed to an expected drop in fleet sales, KBB said.

A top official at Lamborghini said at the Automotive News Europe Congress that the company is considering the creation of a four seat sports car. It may arrive in 2025 to 2030 time frame.

 

Saturday Road Test – Mazda6 FUN!

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Mazda6 Grand Touring

Grand Fun Touring Indeed

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – It is rare, but there are times when you first enter a new car and everything, the driving position, controls and seat comfort are just right.
No need for endless adjustments, or dog earing the owner’s manual to go about various routine operations.

You settle in and the driving position, smaller steering wheel, instruments, etc., send a clear message to the brain that THIS is going to be a fun drive.
And the Mazda6 was just that. (That is not a typo. Mazda does not include a space between the a and the 6.)

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All those shoppers who plunked down money for a crossover, SUV or truck are missing out on a great ride.

In addition to strong performance and superb handling, comes good value. Opt for the top of the list Grand Touring trim package and you gain a head up display, navi, 8 way power adjustable driver’s seat, 6 way adjustable passenger seat, trunk lid spoiler, additional safety items, and shift paddles among other goodies.

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Add in the new for 2017 GT Premium Package for $2,500 and pick up Nappa Leather trimmed upholstery, heated rear seats and steering wheel, a brake regeneration system that is said to slightly improve gas mileage, grille shutters and a black headliner.
Along with some other minor optional items and including delivery, this Mazda leaves the dealer lot for a more than reasonable $34,530.

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Your trip home will be powered by the 2.5-liter four with 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque matched to a six speed automatic. From a standing start a mile-a-minute comes up in about 7.5 seconds. It feels faster from the driver’s seat. A stick shift is available on some models for do it yourselfers.

If you contain yourself, and it’s not easy, 35 mpg is doable on the highway said the EPA with 27 around town for a combined 30. I came in at 30.

“Driving Matters” says Mazda in its advertising, and here is where this sedan stands out from all of the competition.

It just hangs in there on rural, curve laden roads. The engine, transmission, and suspension work in perfect harmony to elicit smiles on the operator’s face. The fun is only enhanced by the new G-Vectoring System that takes various steps, such as reducing torque, to maintain tire contact with the pavement and step up stability.

Yet if a long day looms ahead on boring interstates, you will appreciate the extra sound deadening that Mazda added for 2017.

The exterior style elicited compliments virtually everywhere I went during the week long test. The most often heard comment was, “What is that. That’s pretty.”

Other notes:

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A six foot tall adult can be comfortable in the rear seat with a six footer ahead of them.

Placing your favorite satellite channels in the memory bank requires a few too many steps using the console mounted knob and the center dash mounted info screen. Once set, the favorites were easy to access. It should also be easier to move from satellite to FM for instance.

Reliability has been excellent for the 6, now celebrating its 15th year on the market and, from what I have been told, owners love them.
If you like to drive and are looking for a midsize sedan there is only one test drive to take – The Mazda6!

Auto News for June 23 – A Surprise Guest!

It’s true! An Indiana meeting of the Rolls-Royce owners club that should draw more than 1,000 classic models will be joined by the “world’s largest plumbing manufacturer,” TOTO.
The vanity plate on the silver Audi caught my eye as the two of us, and about a thousand other motorists, rolled along at 30 mph under the speed limit on the Washington Beltway in late morning rush.
“NO PNDL” was the plate and it instantly triggered good feelings in my soul. A stick is always more fun to drive rather than an automatic, right?
Wrong! Bumper-to-bumper stop and go traffic for two-and-one-half-hours from Northern Virginia to home base in Maryland in the heart of the evening rush made me realize that my best friend was the smooth automatic in my test Kia. Well that and the excellent A/C that mitigated the 90+ degree heat and very high humidity that could be rung out of anyone’s shirt after more than 5 minutes exposure.
As semi after semi with their multi speed manual trannies inched along with me I thought, “Those guys must have left legs and ankles like a star defensive lineman in the NFL, or performer in WWE.”
Meanwhile:
BMW will introduce an “all-new” X3 on Monday at its plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The 2018 model is said to be larger, lighter and riding on a whole new platform.
Subaru announced that its refreshed 2018 Legacy will carry a starting price of $22,195, a gain of $200 over the 2017 model. The new Outback model starts at $25,895, an increase of $250. Both will arrive in dealer showrooms late this summer.

Ferrari GTB
The 3.9-liter twin turbo V8 that powers the Ferrari 488 GTB and other models has been named International Engine of the Year. This is only the second time that an engine has captured the top award two years in a row.
“The Ferrari V8 is all about amazing power delivery, precision, drive ability and a wonderful soundtrack, too. One day soon it’ll be a classic in its own right; indeed I think it is already,” said Tony Robinson, founder of the International Engine of the Year Awards. The power plant cranks out 661 horsepower and will propel the 488GTB to 60 in just 3.0 seconds.

Auto News for June 22 – Kia, Genesis Top Survey

 Kia K900Genisus coupe 

 J.D. Power is out with its annual report on the number of problems experienced during the first 90 days of ownership of a new vehicle. It’s conclusion?

 New-vehicle quality is at its highest level ever, improving a significant 8% from last year, with improvements across seven of the eight categories measured, with 27 of the 33 brands in the study improving their quality compared with 2016.

 That is not to say there are no problems, and the leading area is well known.

 Audio/communication/entertainment/navigation continues to be the area where new vehicle owners experience the most glitches. But even there, we see a 2.8 percent improvement over 2016.

 Kia ranks highest in overall initial quality for a second consecutive year, and its brother in law, Genesis, ranks second overall. They were followed by Porsche, with Ford and Ram tied for fourth. On the other end of the chart were Jaguar and Fiat.

 The most improved brand was Mini. Other improved brands were Ram, Acura, Volvo, and Ford.

 The parent company receiving the most model-level awards for its various brands is Hyundai with five model-level awards, followed by General Motors and BMW, each with four.

 Power’s Initial Quality Study is based on responses from nearly 80,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2017 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership.

 This Independence Day, a record-breaking 44.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home, taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways, according to AAA. With 1.25 million more travelers than last year, 2017 will be marked as the most traveled Independence Day holiday weekend ever. “Combined, strong employment, rising incomes and higher consumer confidence bode well for the travel industry, in particular this Independence Day weekend,” said Bill Sutherland.  A total of 37.5 million Americans will drive to their destinations, an increase of 2.9 percent over last year.

 The national average gas price is four cents cheaper than this same time last year and a contributing factor to the increase in travelers on the roads this Independence Day.

 We advised you earlier of AAA’s prediction that oil prices will likely continue to fall this month. Yesterday, they hit a low not seen since last November. On world markets this morning, crude was off another 15 cents all on worries that supply will exceed demand. So there is the chance that over time this price decline might show up at your favorite gas pump.  

 Reuters reports this morning that Takata will file for bankruptcy protection on Monday. It faces billions of dollars in liability losses around the world. The filing is expected to come in Tokyo.

 Driverless shuttle vans are coming to the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Two 15 passenger all-electric vehicles will be circling the campus this fall.

 Bloomberg reports Tesla has reached an agreement with Shanghai to explore the idea of setting up vehicle production there.

 

 

Auto News for June 21 – Focus Prod. to China

Ford announced that its all-new 2019 Focus will initially come from China with “additional variants” coming from Europe later.
“No U.S. hourly employees will be out of a job tied to the new manufacturing plan for Focus. Production of the current North American Focus at the Michigan Assembly Plant continues through mid-2018. Following that, the plant will be converted to produce the Ranger midsize pickup truck in late 2018 and the Bronco midsize SUV in 2020,” Ford announced.

The plan will save $1 billion in investment costs over an earlier proposal to manufacture the Focus in Mexico. Ford cancelled that plan earlier this year.

Further, Ford announced a $900 million investment in its Kentucky plant to build the new Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator. That move, the company said, would secure “1,000 U.S. hourly jobs…”

These are the first major announcements since Jim Hackett replaced Mark Fields as Ford’s CEO.

The Detroit Free Press said Ford currently manufactures the Focus at two China plants.

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Toyota’s redesigned 2018 Camry will carry a starting price of $23,495 for the base “L” model on up to a $34,950 start for the top-of-the-line XSE V6. Those prices do not include shipping. The new Camry is due in showrooms late this summer with more horsepower for the gas and hybrid models and “Class-Leading” estimated fuel economy. It will be offered in five trim models.

Inside is a 10-inch color Head-Up Display; a seven-inch multi-information display within the instrument cluster, and an eight-inch audio/navigation/HVAC control panel that’s integrated into the center console in a “modern, flush-surface design.”

New powertrains include a 2.5-liter four and a 3.5-liter V6 paired with a new eight speed automatic. The 2.5 is rated at 206 horsepower and 176 hp in the hybrid. A total of 301 horsepower is the rating for the V6 with 267 lb-ft of torque.

Younger drivers alert! A “Guest Drive Monitor” is available, so be careful behind the wheel.
Most of the Camrys sold in North America are assembled at the Georgetown, Kentucky plant.

FCA US LLC Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

Dodge has announced how its limited edition 840-horsepower Demon will be allocated to its dealers.

To be eligible to order a Challenger SRT Demon, dealers must have sold more than one SRT Hellcat in the last 12 months.
Dealer allocation will be based on 60 percent SRT Hellcat and 40 percent Charger and Challenger sales performance.
Dealers can only order as many Demons as they are allocated.
Demons sold at or below MSRP will receive priority scheduling resulting in lower serial numbers.
Demons sold for a price that exceeds MSRP will be produced after priority production is completed.

The drag strip ready car will carry an MSRP of $84,995 including a $1,700 gas guzzler tax. Production of limited-edition, serialized, single model-year (3,000 United States/300 Canada) Demon begins later this summer; deliveries to Dodge//SRT dealers to begin this fall.

It is being called the “biggest single investment in Bosch’s more than 130 year history.” The German firm will construct a $1.1 billion plant that will produce chips that can be used in a variety of ways including autonomous cars. Construction of the plant in Dresden, Germany, will be complete in 2019 the company said to meet the growing demand for semiconductors. It claims that every car sold has an average of nine chips made by the company.

Auto News for June 20 – Gas – Cheap-Good Yes?

This past week more than half of gas stations nationwide were selling petrol for less than the national average of $2.29, according to the AAA. At 56 percent of stations, consumers could fill up for less than $2.24 as prices dropped in all but four states. Prices in South Carolina have fallen below $2 a gallon the auto club said, while California is close to dropping below $3 a gallon. While demand hit new heights over the Memorial Day weekend, it has dropped in the first half of June. Increased production could lead to even lower prices for the rest of this month, the auto club concluded.

Mercedes-Benz Concept A Sedan, 2017
Automotive News reports Mercedes will offer a more affordable “A” class sedan here in the U.S. Dealers got a chance to see the new model at a recent gathering in Florida, but there has been nothing officially released by M-B. But an “A” class concept was teased at the recent auto show in Shanghai. That vehicle was, give or take an inch or two, the size to the CLA sedan that is now on the market.
At the show, Mercedes said this marks a whole new design.

“Our Concept “A” Sedan shows that the time of creases is over”, said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer Daimler AG. “With its perfect proportions and a sensual treatment of surfaces with reduced lines, it is the next milestone of Sensual Purity and has the potential to introduce a new design era.”

The front end is marked by Power Domes and the “deep Panamericana grille tilted toward the front,” MB said of the concept.

Thus far, there is no indication when the new A Class will appear here, and certainly it will not carry forth all of the styling touches of the concept. But MB is hoping that a lower price will attract younger buyers to the brand who will stick around when it comes to trade up time.

A 500-page report has concluded that Tesla was not at fault in a fatal 2016 crash of a Model S with a semi. The National Transportation Safety Board said the car was being operated in autopilot mode, and the driver, who was killed in the accident, was advised several times by the cars’ systems to take control of the vehicle prior to the collision. NTSB said the operator kept his hands off the wheel “for the vast majority of the trip.”

And various reports say Tesla is close to a deal that would allow the company to manufacture cars in China.

Auto News for June 19- Accord Teased!

 

 

 

2018 Honda Accord Concept Sketch

 This morning, Honda released a drawing of what its new Accord will look like when it is unveiled on July 14. It will be the 10th generation of the midsize sedan and in May the Accord was the top selling sedan in the country. Earlier, Honda announced the 2018 model will come with a choice of two direct-injected and turbocharged engines paired with either a 10-speed automatic, a CVT, or a 6 speed manual transmission. But the V6 has turned up missing. The sedan is said to have undergone a complete remake from the ground up.

 The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq received the 2017 Green Good Design Award from the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies. Ioniq is the first eco vehicle to offer three distinct electrified powertrains on a single, dedicated vehicle platform – the Ioniq Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid and Electric models. Stick around. I will have more on this car in the near future.

 Ever want to experience what a good idea your seat belt is when your car flips over? Now a special “Tumbling Car” will give passengers an experience of just how vital a seatbelt is in a moving car. The Tumbling Car will take passengers for a spin – quite literally – while showing how their seatbelt will hold them in place, even when the car is rotating or hanging upside-down. It’s a spectacular reminder that you should always wear your seatbelt.

 This rather unique car will be on display and demonstrated at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK starting June 29th. Wish it would head to these shores.

 A combination of record numbers of miles driven, increased frequency and severity of collisions, and extreme weather has crimped U.S. auto insurer profitability, resulting in rate increases for 26% of customers and a strain on customer satisfaction.

 According to the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Auto Insurance Study released today, price satisfaction declined this year, even as other areas of the overall customer experience have improved.

 The study finds that the number of customers receiving an annual rate increase of more than $200 per vehicle has more than doubled during the past four years, and that’s having a profound effect on customer satisfaction. Power said auto insurers have to do a better job of improving the perception of value in the services they provide.

 The least satisfied customers are in Texas following a rash of losses stemming from hail storms.