Auto News for Jan. 22

The Detroit show is over and now the auto world’s attention has moved south to Chicago and its show next month.

HOnda Pilot teaser

Honda announced this morning it will display the redesigned Pilot in the Windy City on Feb. 12. Further, Honda will release “details and styling direction for its forthcoming Ridgeline truck” at the show. It should look a lot like the Pilot that will appear in showrooms this summer. And that is about all we know at this moment except for the teaser photo.

Mitsubishi says it will celebrate “the return of a legend” at the Chicago show on the same date. A poster showed an SUV in shadow against a desert surrounding. And as that once famous TV detective said, “that’s the name of that tune.”

How do you feel about self-driving cars? A poll of drivers in Britain shows that almost two thirds of the 1,350 consumers surveyed would buy one. Backers did agree that there were issues that still much be addressed such as “who pays if the system fails and you have a crash …”

GM will expand the market for its Spark EV from California and Oregon to Maryland, the car’s first appearance on the East Coast. GM claims a range of 82 miles or so on a full charge.

Cadillac will upgrade its dealer network with new concepts for facilities, network development, and high-technology showroom systems. It is talking about 700 boutique locations with a “highly trained sales and service staff and luxury amenities.” Virtual showrooms would allow customers to configure and envision multiple models, color and interior choices on interactive digital displays, or potentially even holograms.



Auto News for Jan. 21

Who sold more vehicles worldwide than anyone else last year? It was Toyota for the third year in a row topping VW and GM with 10.2 million vehicles rolling into new owner’s driveways. But Toyota predicted that sales will not be as robust this year citing an expected sales decline on its home turf.

Toyota also broke ground on its new North American headquarter in Plano, Texas. It is expected to be ready for occupancy in late 2016 or early 2017.


To mark its win at the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1995, McLaren will produce a special edition 650S complete with the roof mounted snorkel air intake. Only 50 coupes will be produced worldwide with deliveries to begin later this year. With a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 good for 641 horsepower, a run to 60 will take just 3.0 seconds with a track top speed of 207 mph. There will be lots of black leather and Alcantara inside with a dedication plate identifying the limited nature of the model.

This is rather unique. In Britain at least, Jaguar Land Rover is showing off its “Bike Sense” research. It will tap the drive on the shoulder and ring a bicycle bell inside the car to help prevent accidents involving bicycles and motorcycles. It said the top of the seat will extend to “tap” the drive on the left or right shoulder depending on where the bike is coming from. A matrix of LED lights on the window sills, dashboard and pillars will glow amber and then red as the bike approaches.


Auto News for Jan. 20

The Mustang is going global. Ford said the first shipments are headed for Asia with an arrival in Europe midyear. The addition of a right hand drive will allow the Mustang to be exported to more than 25 markets around the world.

AAA reports that gas is now selling for less than $2 a gallon in 28 states. The national average is $2.05 a gallon for unleaded regular, a rather steep discount from the $3.29 of one year earlier.

BMW’s motorcycle division did well last year ringing up record sales of over 120,000 vehicles, a gain of 7.2 percent from 2013.

Audi R8 racer

Two Audi R8 LMS models have been entered in the 24 hours of Daytona race to be held January 24-25. The R8 finished second last season and captured a win two years ago. Plus it makes for an eye catching picture, don’t you think?

Nissan claims the Leaf is the best-selling electric in Europe for the fourth year in a row.

Auto News for Jan. 19

NADA said for the first time in two decades, wholesale prices of used vehicles increased in December up three-tenths of a percent. In years past, December prices fell 1.4 percent on average. Increased consumer confidence helped fuel this year’s gain.

Porsche 918

The Robb Report has named the Porsche 918 its Car of the Year for its “ground breaking technology” that took gas-electrics to a whole new level for the rich. It is powered by a 4.6-liter V8 delivering 608 horsepower at a screaming 9,150 if you refuse to lighten up your right foot, yet there is still more power to tap. If you add in the two electric motors, then you are looking at 887 horsepower with a staggering 944 lb-ft of torque. How fast? About 2.5 seconds 0-60 said Porsche. Yes, it is expensive but so is everything else in the Robb Report.

To our north, Canadian auto writers have released their finalists for Car of the Year. They are the Hyundai Genesis, Mercedes C300 4MATIC, Subaru Legacy and the U.S. winner, the VW Golf. Finalists for Utility Vehicle of the year are the Ford F-150, Porsche Macan S, and the Subaru Outback. The winners will be announced Feb. 12.

Harley Davidson has signed a deal with Sturgis, South Dakota making it the official motorcycle of the annual rally for the next 75 years. An open air pavilion for future events will be constructed in the downtown area from bricks removed from the 100-year old former Harley headquarters in Milwaukee. Harley and Sturgis will be partners through the year 2090.



The Detroit Auto Show – A Final Look

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD – There were so many new models uncovered at the Detroit show that some got left behind in the uproar over the Ford GT and the Acura NSX.

buick convertible2016 Buick Cascada Convertible

Buick Cascada

If Buick wants to lower its demographic, this Opel based convertible just might be the ticket. In fact, it will be the first Buick convertible to be offered in the U.S. in 25 years when its hits showrooms in early 2016. Cascada is said to be a 2+2 with a 200 horsepower 1.6 liter turbocharged four good for an estimated 221 lb-ft of torque tied to a six speed automatic. It will feature the HiPer Strut front suspension from two other Buick models and a solid rear axle to the rear. It is almost 185 inches long, or the same as the Lexus IS. No word on prices yet, but it would be fair to predict that Buick should sell a ton of these.

Volvo S60 Cross Country

Volvo S60 Cross Country

It is a crossover sedan that was introduced at a time when consumers are gobbling up such things at dealers. It is jacked up 2.5 inches more than a S60 sedan to give it a more rugged appearance with the same capabilities as Volvo’s Cross Country wagons. Of course it will come with all-wheel drive, up to 19 inch tires, and a 2.0-liter five cylinder turbo under the hood rated at 250 horsepower and we will have to see if Volvo will offer a diesel here. Look for it in showrooms on a limited basis this summer. Is it something for Subaru owners to trade up to?

Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 (C 292) 2014

Mercedes GLE63 S Coupe

Mercedes goes high performance stuffing a 5.5-liter V8 under the hood of a four door that will pump out 577 horsepower and 561 lb-ft of torque tied to a nine speed automatic. It is fast? Try on 4.2 seconds from a dead stop to a mile a minute. There are all kinds of goodies, such as an air suspension, unique damper struts and high performance braking system, not to forget the five operating modes. Mercedes dealers will welcome it in August.

Other tidbits:

Honda indicated that the new Pilot will debut in late spring or early summer and it will be followed by a new Ridgeline. Honda will offer a plug in hybrid by 2018.

Say howdy to the Bentley Bentayga, the brand’s first crossover vehicle. The luxury carmaker said the name comes partly from its founder, Taiga, the world’s largest transcontinental snow forest and Tayga, a mountain peak in the Canary Islands. Other than disclosing the name, we learned little about it other than it will probably be expensive, revealed to the world later this year and go on sale in 2016.

New Ford GT

And I have to say again, that Ford absolutely blew me away with the GT. I don’t believe anyone saw that coming and it is simply wonderful that an automaker can expand itself into the world of limited production high performance, beautifully styled GT cars about the time we thought gas mileage and beeping safety features had taken over. The twin turbo V6 will produce more than 600 horsepower and keep company with all other exotics when it goes into production in 2016. We knew that Acura NSX was coming but not this puppy.

And here’s an interesting question. Will GM respond?

The road test column will resume next Saturday.

Auto Rant for Jan. 16

There is no auto news that can’t wait until Monday so indulge me for some observations.

Here we are just 16 days into the New Year and I already I have my OMG moment!

I was driving through a new shopping area yesterday, in front of the overpriced steak house that will easily charge you three plus figures for dinner. They are so snobby they opened a new outlet with valet parking without so much as taking out an ad. Three figures for dinner always struck me as a bit much considering that with any luck you will flush it down the toilet the next day, but I digress.

Ahead of me at the intersection was a fine Porsche 911 Carrera, clearly just out of the showroom. The car gave a short lurch and died. This occurred three more times and  OMG, it occurred to me that this fellow went out and laid down possibly six figures for a car and DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO DRIVE A STICK! Lurch, die twice more and his right arm goes up as if to signal that he knows there is someone behind him who writes about cars and he WILL get the hang of this.

Lurch, die. Then the light dawns, and he remembers that one must give it a little gas to successfully get through the intersection before Congress and the White House agree on something. Or it snows again. The Porsche snorts and a bit of smoke comes out of the exhaust in a display of indignation, I thought.

Yet, we did succeed in making it through the intersection, and while he may have been heading for the overpriced yet popular coffee shop, he makes a hasty exit out of the shopping area and by now is probably hiding in Arizona. Well … maybe only Virginia where a dealer is installing a new clutch. Porsche makes a very fine 7-speed twin clutch automatic tranny and one wonders why in holy schnitzel he didn’t opt for it.

I opted for the overpriced coffee shop, (they know who they are since their name ends in bucks) using up a portion of a Christmas gift card. While waiting for my selection I noticed they had a sales pitch for even higher priced beans all presumably crafted in a tiny mountain village under ideal conditions in South or Central America and handpicked only after 2 pm by the grandson of Juan Valdez who washes his hands at least twice a day.

As I left, parked next to me was a BMW i3 – probably the ugliest car on the road today. Even Mrs. Auto Writer agrees. “What is that” she asked when seeing her first one on the road in a tone that clearly indicated disapproval. Despite its technical advantages, and especially when viewed from the rear, it looks like the product of German designers who suffered from too much time at the Oktoberfest.

A shame since the i8 is such a spectacular automotive feat.

To go with the overpriced java, I headed to that dying breed called a book store where I shelled out $11.50 before taxes for Top Gear’s “Massive Shiny Awards Issue.” It is one wonderful read and the graphics and art work are far ahead of the car mags produced here. Beyond the overpriced watches, some which actually tell time, and the Uniglo selvedge jeans, is an eye popping night picture of the interior of the Porsche challenging Mercedes-AMG GT S. It is like you are right in the car with the driver! 0-100km in just 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 193 mph.

And they had the sand, as the British would say, to name the Citroen Cactus as Hatchback of the Year. Jolly good I say.

Moving on past the Egg Dosso sign, there is the excellent choice of the new Audi TT as Coupe of the Year, and the Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta as Cabriolet of the Year. Oh Lord, what will happen to that company with the ouster of the man who knew what the prancing stallion was all about, Luca di Montezemolo.

That brings us to the overall Car of the Year, the above mentioned BMW i8 that demonstrates what some of the great minds of the auto industry can do when they are set free. If this is the future, bring it on. 1.5 liters that can keep up with the 911! No kidding.

Next week is the auto show here in Washington that usually makes little news. But this year they are having a day long talk fest on Capitol Hill and displaying lots of cars made in this country outside the still being repaired dome.  Now I don’t know about you, but why would one stand around in predicted 38 degree weather to see a bunch of cars when the very next day one can see them in the warmth of the convention center?

Inside, earthy topics such as “Understanding why we aren’t driving more vehicles powered by natural gas” will be discussed. I will leave the connection between that energy form and Capitol Hill to you, but the simple answer is there are NO refueling stations.

One that should really pack them in is “Why the historic vehicle register was created with the Library of Congress”

And Cadillac’s Johan de Nysschen will tell us his plans for the ailing luxury automaker and how much he hates the press.

Should be fun.

Auto News for Jan. 15


Ford and Life360 are backing a new app that will tell family and friends when someone is behind the wheel, and encourage them not to text that person until they receive a follow up message when the driver is no longer operating the vehicle. It will also allow drivers to check the latest location of family members.

Google is in talks with automakers and suppliers regarding self-driving cars. “At some point, we’re going to be looking to find partners to build complete vehicles, and bring that technology to market,” said Chris Urmson, director of self-driving cars at Google. He said that day will dawn when the technology is “safe and ready.” Urmson was interviewed by Automotive News.

A report from J.D. Power concludes that even with low gas prices, fuel economy is “the most influential factor” among the majority of new vehicle shoppers. Fourteen percent of new vehicle owners cited gas mileage as the most important factor in the company’s poll. Power said that consumers know that “the cost of fuel will likely increase during the time they own their vehicle.” Exterior look/design is the top reason consumers avoid a particular vehicle followed by cost and interior design. The poll was conducted among 30,000 owners.

GM is reporting a second consecutive year for record global sales, this time totaling 9.9 vehicles. But it trailed VW in that department, with Toyota yet to report.