Auto News for March 22 – New Mercedes to debut & classic cars get a new home


 The redesigned 2019 Mercedes C-Class Coupe and Cabriolet along with the AMG C 43 Coupe and Cabriolet will make their World Premiere at the New York Auto Show next week.

 The C-Class Coupe and Cabriolet get a digital cockpit and a new four-cylinder engine on the C 300 and C 300 4MATIC models and upgraded AMG-enhanced 3.0-liter biturbo V6 in the AMG C 43 with 385 horsepower.

 Press days in NYC begin on March 28.

 The plant that once assembled the Dodge Viper will house some of Fiat Chrysler’s collection of concept and historic vehicles. The Conner Center, located in Detroit, has space to house 85 of the nearly 400 vehicles the company has restored.

 Approximately 77,000 of the plant’s nearly 400,000 square-feet of floor space will be dedicated to displaying vehicles like the 1902 Rambler, the oldest in the collection, to one of the most significant, the 1924 Chrysler Touring. Conner’s administrative offices will be converted into nearly 22,000 square-feet of meeting space.

 Production of the Viper ended on Aug. 31, 2017.

 Hundreds of pieces of Viper memorabilia, as well as a few items related to the Plymouth Prowler will be auctioned off to benefit the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

 Wall Mart is expanding its car buying service to 250 stores, up the 14 that served as pilot test centers for the program. The website CarSaver of Miami will run the operation in Wall Mart stores that will help consumers select a car or truck, arrange for test drives at a local dealer and assist in selling of the customer’s current vehicle.

 Used car sales climbed to an all-time high of just over 39 million vehicles in 2017 according to Edmunds. Sales rose 1.6 percent over 2016 helped by a spike in demand caused by two hurricanes that flooded out many private vehicles. Also a glut of off-lease vehicles hit the market last year.

 Edmunds also said leasing is expected to become more expensive as interest rates climb and sales of rental vehicles will slow as more consumers use ride-hailing services.

 Hyundai’s Tucson Sport gets a new, more powerful four cylinder engine that will be exclusive to that model. The 2.4-liter four is rated at 181 horsepower with 174 lb-ft of torque or six more horsepower than is currently offered on the Sport model. It will be matched to a six-speed automatic transmission.

 By a large margin, Tesla shareholders have approved the estimated $2.6 billion pay package for CEO Elon Musk. That amount could go higher if Musk meets certain financial goals for the auto maker including production goals. Wall Street likes the agreement as Tesla shares gained nearly two percent in Wednesday trading.  




Auto News for March 21 – A6 debut & Great Jeeps


 The eighth generation Audi A6 will be revealed in New York next week with a new turbo V6 and standard 48-volt mild hybrid technology, expanded interior, a new damping system that improves driver feedback, and a new infotainment system. The MMI touch response system replaces the rotary dial and the conventional buttons and controls with two large, high resolution touch displays. We should know more about this new Audi after its formal unveiling.

 Jeep is showing off seven concept vehicles for the 52nd annual Moab Easter Safari from March 24 to April first.

 “The Moab Easter Jeep Safari presents a unique and perfect opportunity to collect valuable insight from our most loyal customers,” said Mike Manley, Head of Jeep Brand, FCA.

 Two of them caught my eye, the Wagoneer Roadtrip concept and the Sandstorm concept.

 The Wagoneer should look familiar to even non-Jeep fans. Known as the original luxury 4×4, the 1965 Jeep Wagoneer is rich with heritage and is built to scale the trails of Moab or cruise the vast highways of the western states.

 Built from 1963 to 1991, the Wagoneer was the first four-wheel-drive vehicle mated to an automatic transmission, pioneering the first modern SUV.

 This concept rides on a five inch longer wheelbase, a wider track and sports custom fender flares. The Wagoneer’s off-road capability has been bolstered by a boxed and reinforced frame, Dana 44 front and rear axles with lockers, four-link suspension with coilover springs, and 17-inch steel wheels wrapped in 33-inch BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain tires. 

 Inside, the Wagoneer features original front and rear bench seats, door panels, kick and rear panels, all trimmed in Oxblood-colored leather. A wicker headliner gives the Wagoneer an open, lighter feel and the floor has been bed lined.

 Additional interior details include a custom cooler fashioned from period-correct luggage, and a tool box created from the valve cover of this Wagoneer’s original 230 Tornado OHC-6 engine.

 Inspired by Baja desert racers, the Sandstorm is a Jeep I would love drive. Jeep said it will blitz long, sandy off road courses while also handling daily driving duties.

 It has a longer wheelbase for increased high speed stability, and the rear doors have been chopped for a “cleaner look.” Of course there is an abundance of off road equipment on this eye catching Jeep including heavy-duty front and rear Dynatrac 60 axles with a 5.68 gear ratio, 17-inch beadlock wheels and 39.5-inch BF Goodrich Krawler tires.

 Inside is a custom cage that integrates the chassis, leather-trimmed front seats and unique low-back racing bucket seats in the rear. A racing-inspired cluster and 7-inch off-road GPS unit handle navigation while independent rocker switches control on-board electronics, air compressor and axle lockers. The Sandstorm concept sheds all plastic trim and carpet in favor of a bed lined floor.

 The Jeep Sandstorm is powered by a 6.4-liter V-8 engine from the Mopar performance catalog and is mated to a six-speed manual transmission.


 BMW said this morning it will increase spending for electric and autonomous car technology and that profits this year, at the least, will match those of last year. The company said at its annual news conference in Germany that it will spend a “high three digit million euro amount year on year on new model development and e-mobility and autonomous driving.”

 The BMW Group intends to grow sales of its electrified vehicles to at least 140,000 units globally in 2018 and is targeting more than half a million units on the world’s roads by the end of 2019.

 The Bentley Bentayga Hybrid will feature an innovative satellite navigation system.

 When a destination is programmed into the system, the Bentayga calculates the best combination of electric drive and V6 engine to maximize efficiency over the journey.

 The car automatically engages the correct drive mode for each part of the journey, constantly calculating the best use of battery charge while storing electrical energy for sections of the journey where it is most useful – such as when arriving in the city, where an electric-only range of 31 miles can be utilized.

 A full charge of the battery from a domestic household socket will take 7.5 hours, and customers with an industrial connection installed at home can reduce the charge time to just 2.5 hours.




Auto News for March 20 – VW’s new five passenger SUV

Volkswagen announced it will build a new five passenger SUV, “designed and engineered for the American market,” at its plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

It will ride on the new MSB platform and be a variant of the seven-passenger Atlas. The still unnamed SUV will make its debut at the New York show on March 28th.

Ford is interested in acquiring and restoring the long neglected Michigan Central Railroad station and 18 story office tower in the Corktown district of Detroit, the city’s oldest neighborhood. The building closed in 1988 and has sat idle since, but it also caught the eye of Bill Ford Jr., the company’s executive chairman. A purchase agreement would mark the return of the Blue Oval to the city it left many years ago. Corktown is in the heart of a revitalization effort in the Motor City and purchase of the old train station would be a major boost to those efforts.

A new report concludes that demand for gasoline in March has reached levels that are normally associated with the summer driving season. The Energy Information Administration said U.S. exports continue to trend high accounting for a large chunk of the demand. That has lowered inventories and driven the price of gasoline higher, with motorists paying 26 cents a gallon more than they paid a year ago, according to the AAA. The national average gas price per gallon is now $2.55.

Auto News for March 19 – Now that is a bat wing!

 That race car with the big rear wing is the Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak, the all-electric prototype race car that will complete in the annual hill climb in Colorado on June 24th. Officials said competing in the Race to the Clouds is a valuable test for the general development of electric cars. It will be VW’s first appearance in the race since 1987.

 Lincoln will debut a “production preview” of the Aviator at the New York Auto Show March 28th. It will be the first of two all-new vehicles Lincoln will bring to market in the next couple of years. And where would all this be without the teaser photo?

 If the name sounds familiar, it harks back to a model produced from 2003 to 2005. This latest model will be based on the Ford Explorer platform.

 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into Hyundai and Kia models where air bags failed to deploy in frontal crashes. A total of six crashes resulted in four fatalities and six injuries involving model year 2012 Hyundai Sonatas and 2012-13 Kia Fortes. NHTSA said the problem was related to air bag computers that experienced an electric circuit short and were made by ZF-TRW. The agency it wants to know if other automakers used that computer.

 The Porsche 911 GT 3, Ferrari 488 Pista, and the Lamborghini Huracan Pereformante Spyder, are among the cars revealed at the Geneva show that are most in demand according to the financial firm, JBR Capital. All, shall we say, are rather expensive.






Saturday Road Test – Prius Three – It cruises past gas stations (Well Many Of Them)


                  Toyota Prius Three

                     When MPG Matters

 By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – How do you feel about trips to the gas pump? Do you drive around looking for the least expensive regular unleaded? Do you tire of waiting your turn at that least expensive pump the whole town discovered?

 If you answered yes, and a consistent 50 miles per gallon appeals to you above all else, then the Prius should be on your shopping list.

 There are a number of Prius models these days, the Prius Two, Two Eco, Three and Three Touring, Four and Four Touring all depending on the trim and options you desire, and what you think your monthly payment should be.

 A nicely optioned model Three is the weekend test car and it brought forth a tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio, Multi-Information Display, and Bluetooth hands free phone controls, plus upgraded interior trim.

 A $1,350 Advanced Technology Package included a moonroof, color head-up display, navi and a Hybrid System Indicator. There are ample, and I do mean ample, indicators that tell the operator how frugal, mpg wise, they have been. Sort of like that high school teacher who tortured all with a daily quiz.   

  A 1.8-liter four and two electric motors produced a total of 121 horsepower. A lithium-ion battery pack can propel the Prius for short distances with light use of the go pedal. Four gold stars to Toyota for locating it where it will not cut into storage space.  

 The transmission was an “electronically controlled” CVT.

 While providing excellent gas mileage, the combination really didn’t crank out much in the way of acceleration, a concern when merging onto to interstates or trying to pass slower moving vehicles on country roads.

 Look for a 0-60 in the mid-ten second range.

 The payoff is some impressive economy numbers: EPA ratings of 54 city, 50 highway, for a combined 52 mpg. After a week of interstates, rush hour traffic, and little used country roads, I came away with 51 mpg on regular unleaded naturally.

 Inside, allow me to say that I am no fan of moving the dashboard to the upper center section of the dash. To get a readout one must turn their attention away from the road in an era of too many distracted drivers. Do make sure yours has the head up display.   

 The six-way adjustable driver’s seat was comfortable with a four-way adjustable seat for the front passenger. There was ample head, leg and foot room, but the unorthodox shift pattern will take some getting used to.   

 Visibility is good with one exception. The horizontal bar that runs across the rear window. That was offset to a degree by the backup camera.

 Push button start, wireless smartphone charging, and a cargo area cover were nice touches.

  A 7-inch infotainment screen hangs out just below the instrument panel and it has a lot to do supervising the audio system, navi, backup camera, and Entune App Suite. Tire and wind noise at cruising speeds was not in excess.

 Safety equipment included stability and traction control, lane keeping assist, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, and tire pressure monitoring among others.

 The well optioned Three carried a bottom line price of $30,186 including $865 for transportation.

 So what does all this come to? If you are one who cares about high fuel economy above all else this is a long lasting, well-built car. Should something occur that has signs at the service station showing numbers that make other driver’s eyes water, then you will look like a genius for parking a Prius two through four in your driveway.


 The exterior design does stand out from the crowd.


Auto News for March 16 – Ford bets on Trucks and SUV’s, customers like dealer’s service departments

 Looking into the future, Ford will replace more than 75 percent of its current lineup and add four new trucks and SUVs by the year 2020.

 The word came during “Ford Uncovered” where executives talked about the Blue Oval’s future that may include the demise of at least two car models, according to the Detroit News. Analysts have said that is a growing trend since car sales have tanked as consumers show a strong preference for trucks, SUVs, and crossovers.

 Other upcoming changes:

 New versions of the Escape and Explorer debut next year.  

 Two new off road models, the return of the Bronco and a yet to be named off roader complete with teaser photo.

 By 2020 a lineup of eight SUVs, five of which will offer hybrid powertrains and one battery electric.

 That increased emphasis on hybrids will include a hybrid Mustang along with hybrid options for other Ford and Lincoln products. All of which, the company said, is a hedge against any uptick in gas prices. An interesting move given that demand for hybrids and electric vehicles have been slow in the U.S.

 Ford will cut the time it takes to produce a new model by 20 percent thanks to flexible vehicle architectures and more common parts use.

  Wall Street was eagerly waiting for the Ford future plan, and company shares rose one-half percent on the news and were up slightly in early trading this morning.

 “We’re looking at every part of our business, making it more fit and ensuring that every action we take is driven by what will serve our customers in a way that supports our fitness and performance goals,” said Joe Hinrichs, president, Global Operations.

 The rumor mill says the slow selling Lincoln Continental may be one of the brands that is eliminated down the road.

 Reuters reports Uber is in talks with Toyota to install its self-driving system into that company’s products. The two already have an agreement to share developments on the self-driving front.

 Customers are more satisfied with the service their cars and trucks receive, according to a J.D. Power study out this morning.

 Lexus, and Buick rank highest in their respective segments. The study measures customer satisfaction with service at a franchised dealer or independent service facility.

 An increasing number of customers communicate with their service via text messaging.

 Customers rate dealers higher than non-dealers in 15 of 16 attributes. The most noticeable advantages are amenities offered; comfort of waiting area; and cleanliness of dealership. Non-dealers rate higher in time required to complete vehicle service.

 The vast majority (94%) of customers who take their vehicle in for service indicate that the dealer fixed it right the first time.

 Lexus ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service among luxury brands, with a score of 874. Following in the luxury ranking are Audi (869); Lincoln (868); Porsche (867); and Cadillac (865).

 Buick ranks highest in satisfaction with dealer service among mass market brands, with a score of 860. Following in mass market brands are MINI (850); GMC (837); Chevrolet (829); and Nissan (822).








Auto News for March 15 – Ford Announces Important Recall

Ford is recalling about 1.3 million Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ vehicles because the steering wheel may come loose from the steering column. Involved are model years 2014-18. Ford said it is aware of two accidents that may have been caused by a bolt that may loosen over time if not serviced. Dealers will replace the steering wheel bolt on the vehicle with a longer bolt with more robust thread engagement and larger nylon patch placed properly for proper torque retention— at no cost to customers.

Part of the reason production is slow for the more affordable Tesla Model 3 is defective parts at its Fremont California factor, CNBC reported citing current, unidentified, employees. One said 40 percent of the parts made or received at the plant require additional work. The company said cars coming off the assembly line are reviewed to make sure everyone receives a “perfect car.”

With the report, Tesla shares closed down 4.45 percent yesterday but shares rebounded a bit in early trading this morning.

This much we know for sure about the redesigned 2019 Subaru Forester – it will have different taillights. The company released a teaser picture ahead of the Forester’s debut at the New York show on March 28th the same day Toyota unveils a new RAV4.