Auto News for Dec. 31

I think the auto news story of the year is not the robust sales, or the new models, or the GM ignition story. Nay, nay! I tend to go with what puts money in consumer’s pockets, and in that case, the story of the year is lower gas prices. Experts say consumers are saving $450-million on gas these days, and for the average family that can mean an extra $25 to $75 a month in savings. Already, many are seeing prices below $2 a gallon. Enjoy it while it lasts.

As you know, cheap gas has improved consumer confidence and that has driven up auto and truck sales. TrueCar is predicting that sales will increase a vigorous 9.5 percent this month compared to one year earlier. “What a way to close out this blockbuster year for the industry,” said John Krafcik, President of TrueCar. He said automakers will be “grinning as they close the books this year.”

The folks who should know, Allied Van Lines, report that more people moved to Texas this year than any other state. Florida was the second most popular move in state followed by Arizona, South Carolina and Colorado.

NADA reports that the Corvette Stingray retained more of its value than any other brand this year, or 84.7 percent. The Subaru Forester also did well, holding on to 81.8 percent of its value. On the other side of the scale, the Mitsubishi Mirage performed the worst, holding only 54.5 percent of its MSRP.

The Auto News column will resume on January 2. And on Saturday, my choices for Car and Truck of the Year will be revealed. Don’t miss it!

 

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Auto News for Dec. 30

James May

Top Gear’s James May has picked his 13 most significant cars of all time just ahead of a major Classic Car show in London. And he hopes to set off a wide ranging pub debate over those choices. Among the six “obvious” choices:

1886 Benz Motorwagen. “People will argue about this, but the Benz Motorwagen was the first true car as we would understand it.”

1908 Ford Model T. “The brilliance of the Model T is the way that it was made, rather than the car itself.”

1938 Volkswagen Beetle. “It became the world’s best selling single-platform car, even though the early models were pretty horrendous to drive.”

1959 Austin Mini. “An original Mini is incredibly uncomfortable and a bit hairy if you crash it, but also fantastic to drive.”

1964 Ford Mustang. “In the first six months of its life it was the fastest selling car in history. It’s the car that democratised style and performance.”

1997 Toyota Prius. “It was the first mainstream car of my lifetime that caused people to rethink the basics of how a car should work.”

And the six “Bloody-minded” choices are:

1901 Waverley Electric. “At the beginning of the 20th century, electric car outsold petrol-powered cars in parts of America. They were clean, quiet and didn’t make ladies’ skirts grubby.”

1906 Cadillac Model K. “The real hero of the mass-produced car story isn’t Ford’s Model T but the Cadillac Model K.”

1933 Standard Superior. “It is widely accepted that Josef Ganz, a respected Jewish engineer, came up with the basic layout and philosophy of the Beetle.”

1972 Honda Civic. “The original Civic was a compact, lively and fuel efficient car that was well made and almost faultlessly reliable.”

1980 Lada Riva. “The Russian-built, Fiat 124-derived, Riva did more than any other to put communism on wheels.”

2009 Bruno ExoMars Rover. “Autonomous, self-sustaining and suitable for use on other planets, it is surely the world’s most advanced all-terrain vehicle.”

He would not disclose the 13th selection that he said “looms largest in my motoring life” saying we would have to wait until the London show opens early next month.

I would add the ’63 Corvette Coupe to the list with the divided rear window because it was such a profound design change for the car, a design that in many ways carries on to this day. Heck, they even brought back the Stingray name.

Also the Mazda Miata that proved there is still a market for a modest but highly entertaining two seater providing that it is well made and long lasting. Unlike previous sports cars from Britain, Miata owners don’t have to carry a toolbox and spare parts along.

Fiat Chrysler is recalling 67,000 Ram trucks from model years 2006-07 the repair a clutch problem that could allow the truck to unexpectedly move forward. Involved in the recall are Ram 1500, 2500, and 3500 series trucks along with Dakota and Mitsubishi Raider trucks, all with manual transmissions.

For the first time in its history, Subaru has sold 500,000 vehicles in a single calendar year. That’s not bad for a brand that racked up just 187,699 calendar year sales in 2008. Years ago I had the pleasure of owning an original Brat that in 90,000 miles of driving in New England never got stuck, never had an unscheduled maintenance stop, and tamed a mid-winter snow storm to take my bride-to-be and I to a lovely dinner in an old New Hampshire inn on our first date.

 

 

 

Auto News for Dec. 29

Welcome back and I hope everyone had a pleasant holiday!!!

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Fortune has named GM’s Mary Barra as Crisis Manager of the Year saying she has “expertly navigated one of the most difficult years imaginable.” They cited her desire to fix the faulty ignition problem and change the management environment that lead to the crisis.

tesla coupe

Early next year, Tesla will drive its roadster from San Francisco to L-A to demonstrate what it claims is a range of 400 miles or so on a single charge. It said the addition of a new battery, tires and other improvements moves the roadster to a range thought to be reserved for cars powered by plain old gasoline. Stay tuned.

Know anyone who owns a Cadillac ELR, the brand’s plug-in hybrid? It has been a slow seller blamed mainly on its nearly $76,000 price tag that many felt was way too much for a Chevy Volt based vehicle. Cady dealers have moved only about 1,192 of them this year according to Automotive News.

If you love reading about new models and design concepts, mark your calendar for January 12th. That is the first press day for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Among other things, we will see the long teased Honda NSX, a new Mercedes coupe and a seven seat SUV from Audi. Chevy will unveil the next generation Volt, and if the rumor mill is correct, Buick may show off a two seat convertible. That is just a hint of what will be hyped to the walls during the show and you can check back right here for complete coverage.

A select few will get to drive an Aston Martin on ice at the Crested Butte resort in the Rockies. This is a ten acre surface will consume more than 250 man hours to construct in time for the February 2015 event. Under expert guidance, participants will test and hone their driving skills in a series of braking, cornering and handling exercises before taking on the mile long frozen road course. You can find out more at:

Astonmartindriving.com

Sounds like more fun than hockey.

 

 

 

 

Auto News for Dec. 24

The road test and auto news computers have been shut down for the holiday. May you and yours have a safe trip to your destination. And as I have said many times before, may one of your dreams come true in the New Year. Corvette ZO6?

Auto News for Dec. 23

An insurance industry group has concluded that cars are becoming safer. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says the number of vehicles earning one of its two top awards has jumped to 71 this year from just 39 a year ago. And the number earnings it Top Safety Pick + award has increased by 11 despite a tougher standard for front crash prevention. It wants more automakers to offer automatic braking technology on their future products.

On the other side of the ledger, a Colorado man lost control of his 707 horsepower Challenger Hellcat about an hour after driving it off a dealer’s lot. The State Patrol said the owner lost control, left the road and struck a tree head on. The Hellcat was destroyed but none of the occupants were injured. See the paragraph above.

ShelbyGT350_01_HR

Ford will auction off the first publicly available Shelby GT350 Mustang at the Barrett-Jackson Auction in Arizona next month. All proceeds will benefit JDRF, the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes research. The car boasts a 5.2-liter V8 and will be the first from Ford with a flat-plane crankshaft – a design usually reserved for race cars. Output is said to be 500 horsepower with a torque peak of more than 400 lb-ft.

As the year slowly comes to a close, that means some vehicles are leaving the marketplace. They include the Acura TL and TSX, Cadillac CTS wagon, and the Dodge Avenger will avenge no more. Also going away are the Chrysler 200 convertible, Nissan Cube, Honda Insight, and the Toyota FJ Cruiser that was a bad idea from the start with its impossibly cramped interior, poor visibility. It    proved why concept vehicles should not necessarily be brought directly to market.

 

Auto News for Dec. 22

Audi RS 5 special edition

Audi is offering a very limited edition of its high performance RS 5 coupe with Crimson Red Fine Nappa leather interior, embossed sport seats, and the 4.2 liter V8. It should be great fun to drive with 450 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque and a 0-60 of just 4.5 seconds topping out at 174 mph on the track. It will come with a 7-speed S-tronic transmission but only 75 will be produced for the U.S. market.

Total global production of the Mazda6 has now topped three million units about 12 years and nine months after production began. It is the second fastest time for a Mazda model to reach three million units following the 3.

The headlines say it all: “US gas prices fall 25 cents per gallon.” “Will Gas Prices drop below $2?” Analyst Trilby Lundberg said they are likely to continue dropping. Her study concludes that the lowest gas prices are in Tulsa Oklahoma at $2.06 a gallon, but I have seen pictures that show prices below $2 in some locations. CNN reports that regular unleaded is going for $1.998 in Springfield, Missouri.  Enjoy during your holiday trips if that big storm forecast to hit most of the eastern and southern states doesn’t disrupt your plans.

Gas may be cheap, but rental cars are not in Florida over the holidays, according to CheapCarRental.net. With a daily rental rate of $133 for the cheapest available car, West Palm Beach ranks highest in the state and second most expensive in the entire country. That price tag, the company said, represents an increase of close to 600%. We need a drone that can carry passengers.

 

 

Saturday Road Test – Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T

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Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T

Sport to a Point

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD – The Sonata has built up a reputation through the years as a comfortable sedan with a load of standard equipment that is very easy to live with day in and day out.

For 2015 the plant in Montgomery, Alabama, added a Sport 2.0T model to the lineup. It is powered by a 2.0 liter turbo four with 245 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque @ 1,350 – 4,000 rpm. For the typical operator that translates into more than adequate low end grunt especially in the “Sport” mode, selected via a button on the center console. It allowed the six-speed automatic to hold gears longer, the opposite of the “Eco” setting.

In normal driving the turbo felt lively and Motor Trend rang up a 0-60 in 8.0 seconds, a nudge slower than some of its competition, but more than adequate for most Sonata shoppers.

The Sport 2.0T adds a different rear bumper fascia, quad exhaust tips and 18-inch alloy wheels. A flat bottom steering wheel is added along with paddle shifts that worked fine but blocked the driver’s view of the stalks for headlights and windshield wipers. On the test car, strangely enough, the stalks were not lighted.

Our old friends at the EPA rate this car at 23 mpg in the city, 32 on the highway for a combined 26 mpg. I came out at 23 in holiday traffic and 25 highway.

Standard equipment included Blind Spot Detection, stability control, Tire Pressure Monitor, rearview camera, heated front seats, Dual Automatic Temperature Control, satellite radio, Bluetooth, HID headlights and LED taillights.

With multiple power adjustments, the front seats were very comfortable with lumbar variations enough to appease most backs. Two not overly tall adults will find the rear seats more than acceptable.

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Ahead of the driver were white in black instruments – always the best combination. Between the tach and speedo was a screen with a wide variety of information at the operator’s beck and call.

There was fine hauling space in the trunk rated at 16.3 cubic feet.

With no navi on the test car, the radio functions and that’s all there was, resided in the rather small 5” center dash screen with redundant controls on the steering wheel. For a base system, the sounds were just fine.

Should you want navi, you will find it tucked into the one and only option package for the Sport 2.0T priced at a hefty $4,950. The “Ultimate Package” contains a long list of features, safety and otherwise, as well as a 9-speaker Infinity audio system. If all you want is navi, check out the much less expensive offerings from Best Buy and other outlets.

The car was quiet on the highway thanks to added sound proofing for 2015. It was no problem to merge with fast moving semis on I-70 and long drives would be a no brainer. “This is nice. I will go one more exit,” and one more and so forth, I thought.

Yet handling was calibrated toward a smooth rather than truly sporty ride – probably what most Sonata owners are seeking.

So what about prices? With zero options, the test car carried an MSRP of $29,510. With the big option package that moves up to $34,460. How you feel about all that depends on your monthly payment expectations.

Frugal shoppers might want to examine other models in the Sonata lineup to get the exact combination of ingredients they want.

You will end up with a very pleasant set of wheels, a long list of standard equipment and that 10 year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

If you are in the market for a sedan, you really should take a Sonata for a spin.

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