Auto News for March 31


I was reading an auto repair column in the Boston Herald and was surprised when someone wrote in about electrical problems with his Volvo. In explaining the problem, the writer said he never wears a seat belt. The column’s author said that in this day and age if he didn’t wear this life saving device, there was nothing he could do for him regarding the electrical problem. I agree and am amazed there are still people out there that do not buckle up.

Of course the other day I received an inquiry as to why automakers stopped offering ashtrays.

Would you like to be GM CEO Mary Barra going before a congressional committee tomorrow about GM’s handling of the ignition switch failures? Lawmakers will want to know why the automaker didn’t act more quickly to address the problem when it first became aware of them in 2001. She will have, to use that classic old TV show line, “a lot of ‘splaining to do.”

The automaker has announced it will replace the ignition switch in all model years of its Chevy Cobalt, HHR, Pontiac G5, Solstice and Saturn Ion and Sky in the U.S. “since faulty switches may have been used to repair the vehicles.”

Wall Street will take a close look at March auto sales figures that will be revealed tomorrow.

Bloomberg News is reporting that Toyota will display a refreshed Camry at the New York Auto Show next month. The company is hinting that this might be a more substantial change that the typical “refreshing.” The best-selling auto in the nation for the past 12 years, the Camry does battle against the Fusion, Accord, and Altima.

Experian Automotive said a record number of consumers decided to lease their new car last quarter rather than buy it. Leases made up 28.4% of all new vehicle financing. Why? The monthly payment was less, but as Experian points out that saving could be lost at the end of the lease agreement if the consumer exceeded the mileage limit.


Saturday Road Test – Kia Soul

Scion xB & Kia Soul 007


2014 Kia Soul

One Fun Ride

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD – There is no big V8, not even a turbo four under the hood, and a manual shift was nowhere to be found.

The price tag will probably not require customers to take a second job to make the payments and yet this is one fun car to drive.

One of Kia’s best sellers, the 2014 Soul has undergone a revamp that might not be visible when viewed from the outside, unless your 2014 is parked next to a 2013. There are suspension changes that soften up the ride a bit, and there are marginal gains in interior room, an area that was already fairly spacious.

Certainly one will notice higher quality materials inside and there is more cargo room, some 61 cubic feet with the 60/40 split rear seat folded down. And yes, two adults can fit in the back easily – well when you put the seats back up!

There are three trim levels again, Base, Plus and Exclaim and there are two engine options. They start with the 1.6 liter four with 130 horsepower and 118 lb-ft of torque. One can get a six-speed manual with that engine, but the test car has the six-speed automatic. I think most owners will opt for the more powerful 2.0-liter four on the Plus and Exclaim with 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque that comes only with the automatic six. It is worth noting that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Soul its highest rating in crash tests.

Best of all, the Soul is still nimble and agile to drive with lots of room for 6’ tall drivers and passengers up front. Visibility is good, the instruments and controls are easy to figure out and come readily to hand.

Kia said “If you think about droplets falling into a still pond, you being to visualize the inspiration” for the interior design. Well there are a lot of circles.

Scion xB & Kia Soul 012

For its price range, the test Soul was quiet out on the interstates and was not upset by winter time potholes. Kia claims a 28.7 percent gain in torsional rigidity.

Fuel economy wise, the Soul is rated at 23 city, 31 highway for a combined 26 mpg. I came in at 28.

The base model comes with power windows, door locks, and heated outside mirrors, a telescoping steering wheel and a six speaker AM/FM/MP3 audio unit, Bluetooth hands free wireless technology, satellite radio and USB/AUX inputs. The base price starts at $14,900.

Move up a notch to the “Plus” and get 17 inch alloy wheels, outside mirror turn signal indicators, floor console storage box with armrest, rear camera display and rear seat center armrest. Base price for the Plus is $18,400.

And in keeping with the Kia tradition, there are long lists of options to make this Soul your own.

The tested Soul Exclaim, or ! in Kia speak, came with a $2,600 Sun and Sound package that included automatic climate control, sunroof, Navi and a nice 8” information screen, an Infinity sound system, and those all-important speaker lights.

There was also a $2,500 “Whole Shabang Package” with HID headlights, push button start, leather seat trim, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, and a heated steering wheel among other goodies.

Add that all up and you come up with an MSRP of a still rather reasonable $26,195 with delivery added in.

I would recommend the Soul to anyone looking for a fun small runabout with excellent quality and the promise of long life. You might even be prompted to take home a hamster as a pet.

Scion xB & Kia Soul 016

Auto News for March 28

Ford will add 300 jobs and invest $500-million in its Lima, Ohio, engine plant. It will produce the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine for the next generation F-150 pickup.

They are not saying much about it, but GM’s Opel plant in Germany will produce a Buick for sale here in the states in the second half of this decade. Opel will invest $337-million in the plant in Ruesselsheim, Germany.

Toyota is recalling about 119,000 Avalon models because the front airbags could inadvertently deploy. It said no crashes or deaths have resulted, according to the Detroit News. The recall covered 2004-04 models. Toyota said certain circuits within the airbag control module may be susceptible to damage if exposed to electrical noise from other components. In some circumstances, the front airbags could then deploy.

2015 Chrysler 200 Limited

The EPA said the upcoming Chrysler 200 will deliver a combined 28 mpg when it goes on sale June 30. That breaks down to 23 mpg in the city and 36 mpg highway when equipped with the 2.4-liter Tigershark four cylinder engine. According to the Detroit Free Press, that is better than the Ford Fusion but not as good as the Mazda6 or Honda Accord when similarly equipped.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited

Auto writers in New England have named the Jeep Grand Cherokee their “Official Winter Vehicle” for the fourth consecutive year. They said the EcoDiesel engine and eight-speed transmission won them over following an extreme winter even for hardy long-time residents.

Toyota, Buick and Lexus dealers deliver the best customer experience in the annual ranking by the Temkin Group. Subaru just missed out cracking the top three. Chrysler tumbled down the ranking to a “poor” rating this year coming as the lowest ranked auto dealer. Temkin is a customer experience research and consulting firm.

Auto News for March 27

Mary barra

GM CEO Mary Barra took part in five online videos answering customer questions about the ignition switch recall involving more than 1.5 million vehicles. She said the company intends to make the recall as smooth as possible for customers and “we will learn from this and we will be a better company.” Next week she will appear before two committees on Capitol Hill.

Kelley Blue Book predicts March auto sales will be 2.2 percent higher than the total posted a year ago. Chrysler is expected to report the biggest increase at 7.2 percent while GM is expected to be up only four-tenths and Ford up one percent. Thanks to demand for the Camry and RAV4, Toyota is predicted to see a 2.3 percent increase. In terms of models, compact crossover will continue to lead industry gains, accord to KBB. says online auto parts purchasers are far from experts, that men claim to know more but 35 percent of women say they are knowledgeable or expert when it comes to parts purchases. It surveyed over 700 online auto part shoppers.

The head-up display market should be worth $8.3 billion by the year 2020 according to MarketsandMarkets. It said the industry will be aided by active safety systems and growth in high end and luxury vehicles.

And the number of women attending the recent Chicago Auto Show rose to a record 54 percent of the total crowd. Women said they went to the show for fun, while a majority of men said they were checking out vehicles they may buy one day. Women said they wanted to see new vehicles and “learn about new electronic features.”


Auto News for March 26

A  software problem that may deactivate front seat passenger airbags has caused Nissan to announce the recall of almost 989,000 vehicles. No accidents have been reported. Affected are 2013-14 model Altima models, along with the Leaf, Pathfinder and Sentra. The Infiniti KX35 is also included from model year 2013.

Sonata 2

We will have to wait for the New York Auto Show to get further information on it for our market, but Hyundai has taken the wraps off the 2015 Sonata that it will sell in its home market. It is said to be a bit bigger than the 2014, with more space inside and upgraded materials.

On the fiftieth anniversary of his win at the 24 hours of Le Mans, Bob Bondurant has been inducted into the Sports Car Club of America’s Hall of Fame. He was also cited for his many other wins and creation of a well-known race driver training programs. It was the first SCCA certified school for racing licenses.


Auto News for March 25

Mustang - Empire State

Some people will be able to get their first look at the 2015 Mustang from rather lofty heights – The observatory on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building in New York City. A team will take apart a prototype Mustang on the street level, load the parts into freight elevators and reassemble the car 1,454’ up. Ford did the same thing about 50 years ago when it introduced the car. “We’re thrilled to be visiting the architectural landmark that has been the heart of the Manhattan skyline for 83 years …” said Ford Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields. The car will be on display April 16-17.

Ford also said its Explorer SUV has become the nation’s most popular cop car. Team it up with the Taurus police car, and Ford claims they amount to almost half of all police vehicles sold, according to the Detroit Free Press and R.L. Polk stats. It worth noting that among officers that I have talked to, off the record of course, they virtually all said they miss their Crown Vics over the Chevy’s and Dodges they now have, but all of them also echoed these sentiments, “They were gas hogs though.”

Buick says its OnStar 4G LTE system will be a built-in hot spot allowing occupants to browse the net, download movies and send email on up to seven devices at once. Will those riding in the front passenger seat now send text messages to the kiddos out back?

It needs restoration but there is only 40,000 miles on the clock and it could be worth $100,000 or more. We are talking about an extremely rare 1939 Lagonda V12 Hooper that will be auctioned off by Silverstone Auctions on April 12th. It has been in storage for the past 13 years. And the sale comes at a time when rumors are flying that Aston Martin is set to re-launch the Lagonda name with a new luxury Sport Utility.

Ferrari kept down the number of cars it built to preserve “their exclusivity and value over time,” it said. Yet the company saw record results in terms of revenues, profit and its financial position in its 2013 balance sheet. Revenues rose 5%.

Auto News for March 24

2015 Nissan Murano Teaser 

Nissan will reveal the 2015 Murano at the upcoming auto show in New York City. All it is saying is that the new model will preview a design language for future production vehicles.

 Acura will show off its 2015 TLX at the Gotham show and will be carry either a 2.4-liter four or a 3.5-liter six. The four gets a new 8-speed dual clutch transmission with the six mated to a new 9-speed tranny. That 9-speed will probably be the only thing that an Acura will ever have in common with a Jeep.

 An airbag on a motorcycle? Ducati has announced the first production cycle wirelessly integrated with airbag riding jackets. It uses sensors built into the bike’s electronics to assess the bike’s dynamic situation and deploy only when subjected to a genuine accident scenario. The airbag deployment inside both the rider and passenger jackets occurs in just 45 milliseconds, thus the maker says, “considerably reducing the risk of injury upon impact.” The new model will hit the market in May.