Auto News for Jan. 31

Kia is out with a sneak peek of the Cross GT, a styling concept that it will unveil at the Chicago Auto Show next month. It is said to be a “premium Crossover Utility Vehicle” that is larger than the Sorento.

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Ford says its hybrid market share rose nearly 9% in December from year earlier levels. The slick looking Fusion hybrid set an all-time monthly sales record in December and Ford claims that nearly 70% of sales were conquest sales, meaning people traded in something other than a Ford product. It claims the Fusion Hybrid rolls off dealer lots at a faster pace than any vehicle in the lineup.

Let’s hope this doesn’t start an argument… but a Pulse Opinion Research poll shows little agreement on who calls the shots when it comes to buying a new car. Seventy-two percent of men say they have the most influence on the buying decision while 60% of women feel they do.

The Detroit News says Chrysler-Fiat has some ambitious plans for the future. It reported that two Alfa Romeos and four Fiat models will come to these shores in 2015. Two Dodges and one Chrysler will be refreshed in 2014. That was the word from CEO Sergio Marchionne during a conference call. Also upcoming in 2014 will be an all new Chrysler 200 with a 9 (!) speed transmission.

 

Worldwide, Toyota is recalling 1.3 million vehicles. Involved are 2003-04 Corollas and Corolla Matrix models and 2006-12 Lexus IS models. The company said the Corollas may have a faulty air bag and the Lexus models could have defective wipers. GM is recalling 135,000 Pontiac Vibes built in the same California plant as the Matrix.

Since Coffee is a key part of any early morning drive, and because I thought this was a nifty story, I include the following. Order a cup at a new Detroit coffee house, and the beans travel from their resting place to the grinder and brewer on clear pneumatic tubes. The operator of the “Roasting Plant” shop said the beans fly over the customer’s head, according to the Detroit Free Press. Makes one wonder if the decaf beans go slower. At any rate, it’s neat to report on some good news out of downtown Detroit. Read more about the flying coffee beans at:

http://www.freep.com/article/20130131/BUSINESS06/301310187/Roasting-Plant-opens-in-Detroit-with-beans-flying-through-tubes

 

Auto News for Jan. 30

Auto News for Jan. 30

By Ron Amadon
The opening of Qatar Auto Show caught my eye considering the wealth of that country. And sure enough, the first hypercar designed in the Middle East will be unveiled there. The LykanHypersport features diamond encrusted LED lights! Only seven will be produced and the (base) price will be nearly $3.4 million. Hey, Rolls owners must something to trade up to!

Chrysler has reported preliminary net income of $1.7 billion for 2012, up from $183-million a year earlier. CEO Sergio Marchionne indicated there is still room to grow saying, “the enterprise we are crafting is not complete.” The company said Chrysler Group’s U.S. sales in December marked the 33rd consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains. But recent reports indicate that sales of the compact Dodge Dart were below expectations. Better results came from the Ram truck, Jeep Grand Cherokee and two Chrysler models, the 200 & 300.

Kelly Blue Book is out with its Top Ten Cars for Winter Driving. Some are predictable such as the Audi Allroad and Subaru Outback. But the Ferrari FF? KBB said “with seating for four, tremendous traction (from its four wheel drive,) and a top speed of 208 mph the $300,000 FF will whisk you to the ski chalet in record time.”

Harley Davidson is doing well. The company announced that worldwide retail sales rose 7.5% in the fourth quarter and 6.2% for the full year. It predicts that shipments will increase from 4 ½% to 6 ½% this year.

Auto News for Jan. 29

Auto News for Jan. 29
By Ron Amadon

In an effort to make New York City a more tranquil place, officials put up signs saying, “Don’t Honk” and promising a $350 fine. Now the city is taking down the signs admitting tacitly that making New Yorker’s give up their horns is like asking them to give up good delis and the Yankees. Excessive honking is still against the law, but seldom enforced according to the New York Times.
Ford has reported fourth quarter earnings of 31 cents a share and that topped analyst’s estimates of a quarter per share. Quarterly revenue rose five percent and that too topped estimates. The Blue Oval said sales were up in every region except Europe. Ford raised its expected European loss for 2013 to $2-billion from about $1.5- billion this year.
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Reuters reports the city of Detroit is edging toward bankruptcy – It would be the largest municipal filing in this country. The state of Michigan is going over the city’s books and could appoint an emergency financial manager.

Car buyers in this country have generally been reluctant to buy diesel powered cars. But GM will take the wraps off a diesel powered Chevy Cruze at the Chicago Auto Show. It could hit showrooms in April or May.

Kid Rock will partner with Harley Davidson to promote its products during the cycle maker’s 110th anniversary

Auto News for Jan. 28

Auto News for Jan. 28

By Ron Amadon

Back from the wilds of Utah! Coming soon will be an old west tale of a vehicle that can cuddle you in luxury and still take on the most demanding off road trails. If you are well heeled that is. And while John Ford shot westerns here with John Wayne this rig is NOT an Explorer.

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The 2014 Toyota Tundra pickup will be unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show next month. If you would like to see it live, check out this link at 9 AM Central Time on Feb. 7.
http://new.livestream.com/toyota

Globally, Toyota sold 9.7 million vehicles last year to become the world’s top seller. Toyota upped the estimate that it released last month.

Ford releases its quarterly earnings report tomorrow, and Wall Street will be more than an interested spectator. Barclays recently downgraded Ford shares saying they are fairly valued at current levels.

A BMW Riley Daytona prototype captured the 24 hour race at Daytona. The Ganassi Racing Team finished 22 seconds ahead of Wayne Taylor’s Team Corvette.

If Old Man Winter gets you down, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is coming up from March 8-10. It is one of the premier auto shows and this year will honor the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911 and the legendary Ford GT. A fleet of Cadillac concept cars from the Motorama shows of the 1950’s will be displayed. They were the work of Harley Earl, who shall we say, was a rather famous designer of that era.

Saturday Road Test

C-Max 1C-Max 6

 

2013 Ford C-Max

Forget First Impressions

By Ron Amadon

HARPER’S FERRY, WVA – Ford’s idea of worldwide platform sharing brought the C-Max Hybrid to these shores from Europe where Top Gear called it tough to beat.

After a week behind the wheel of a “Blue Candy Metallic Tint” C-Max I would have to agree with their assessment. Aimed squarely at the Toyota Prius V, the C-Max is 7.4 inches shorter, three inches wider, and nearly three inches taller than the V.
And while beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, I would have to say the C-Max tops the V in exterior design hands down especially when viewed from the rear.
Yet to tell the truth, the Ford was slow to win me over. Despite a 10-way adjustable power driver’s seat, I could never get comfortable for more than a half-hour or so. It took two days to find just the right spot, just in time for trip over the hills around this historic town.
But first a couple of stints on interstates were on tap, where the C-Max rolled along in splendid silence – enough so that one had to keep a sharp eye on speed because it was very easy to exceed the 65 mph limit. Gee, I didn’t realize I just hit 80!
Seldom heard from was the Atkinson cycle inline-4 that Ford rates at 141 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. Torque comes to 129 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm. Juiced by an electric motor and Lithium-ion battery for a combined horsepower rating of 188, the little Ford had more than enough power to blend into interstate traffic.
It made a very satisfying roar when the revs were building and then slipped into the background when the desired speed was achieved. Wind and road noise were also well controlled.
It will hit 60 from a stop in the eight second range, much quicker than the 10 seconds required in the Prius V.

The Ford’s size was a delight on West Virginia’s narrow roads that are populated by more pickup trucks than anything else. While no sports car, the C-Max handled better than expected for this class of vehicle with a minimum of body roll, and good feedback to the driver.
Fuel economy wise, the Prius V is EPA rated at 44 mpg city and 40 on the highway. The EPA said the Ford is rated at 47 mpg in both city and highway operation. I averaged 37.6 mpg, but much of that was in rural areas of a state where flat land and straight stretches of roadway are as rare as a roadside still these days. Many drivers, I am sure, will top the 40 mpg mark. The C-Max is happy on regular unleaded.

The interior was a nice mix of colors with more head, arm and shoulder room than I have experienced in some time. Ford smartly separated the ventilation controls from the audio system, but left in automatic mode the system had to be button punch started each time the car was fired up.

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A $2,215 option package brought the controversial My Ford/Sync system along for the ride. I was able to eventually program in favorite satellite channels and adjust the sound quality – chalking that up as a win for the home team. I did not find the owner’s manual much help here. Fortunately, the Sony supplied sound system was very good.
In addition to the color screen atop the center stack, a wide variety of information can be selected in the window to the left of the speedo. It can tell if you have been naughty or nice economically speaking.

Thanks to the tall roof and an overall good design, passengers to the rear will also have oodles of room in all directions, for a total seating capacity of five. There are no sliding doors, (that would ruin the design I believe) and the rear seats fold flat for cargo.

Hauling space comes to 52.6 cubic feet, well below the 67.3 that the Prius offers thanks to the Toyota’s additional length.
It felt rock solid over bumpy roads, had more pep and better handling than expected, more than acceptable economy, ( in my estimation), and a price tag that was right in line with the competition.
The top of the line SEL model I tested came to $31,605 with $2,610 worth of options. A base model starts at $25,995.
You should test a C-Max if you are in the market for a roomy hybrid that can carry you 500 miles between stops. I would need coffee way before that!

C-Max 7

 

Auto News for Jan. 22

By Ron Amadon
Please Note: This column will not be published on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I will be off to the wilds of Utah where access to the Internet may be limited. We shall return on Saturday with the weekly road test.

NASCAR and Mobil have extended their relationship making Mobil 1 the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR” through 2017. Mobil has had a partnership with NASCAR for 11 years.

Subaru announced pricing for its 2014 Forester. The base model will start at $21,995 working up the ladder to $27,995 for the turbocharged model with premium trim.
As a follow up to an earlier item, businessman and NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick had the winning bid for the first 2014 Corvette Stingray. His offer of $1.05 million was the best at an auction in Arizona. Proceeds will go to an auto design school in Detroit.

An autographed press kit for that ‘Vette sold for $4,300 on eBay with those proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.

The Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid is now on sale at select outlets in New York and California. It carries an MSRP of $39,780 and Honda claims it tops all plug-in competitors in economy at 115 MPGe which is the way the EPA measures such things.

McLaren will celebrate its 50th anniversary in September having just rocked the Paris Auto Show with its P1 concept. Its Formula One team has won more races than any other constructor. This year the company will open its 50th global dealership ahead of the worldwide launch of the P1.

Auto News for Jan. 21

By Ron Amadon

Didn’t want you to miss this – Forbes reports that three diesel race cars will run on beef tallow, pork lard and chicken fat. The Mazdas will feed off waste left over from Tyson Foods processing plant. No one can accuse these race car drivers of being chicken.

What car could be worth $4.2 million? The answer is the original Batmobile used in the TV series in the 60’s. That is how much it sold for at an auction in Scottsdale, Arz. For the more frugal minded, the 1958 Corvette owned by GM Chairman Dan Akerson went for just $270,000. He will donate the money to Habitat for Humanity in Detroit.

The latest word on Alfa Romeo’s return to the U.S. is now somewhere toward the end of the year. CEO Sergio Marchionne said a lightweight, rear wheel drive sports car called the 4C is the candidate for re-entry. If and when it appears, there have been other missed deadlines; it would be the first Alfa to be sold on these shores since 1995.

A friend of mine once said that the big auto show was the only reason to go to Detroit in winter. He might be right. The Detroit Free Press reports that the show attracted over 100,000 fans on each of its first two days of public viewing.

One of the paper’s columnist’s, Ellen Creager, selected the Ford Transit Connect Wagon as the top road trip vehicle of the show.

Pike Research predicts more than 1.8 million plug in electric vehicles will be sold in the U.S. over the next eight years.