Auto News for Sept. 30

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It is the oldest Ford dealer in the United States continuously operating in the same location and building. Marshall Ford, in the small town of Marshall, Virginia, west of Washington, D.C., has survived The Great Depression, 18 recessions and 25 presidential elections over its 100 years. The Model T was the first car offered by Marshall back in 1915. Ford would ship them by train to the local depot where Marshall would pick them up and complete final assembly using the wooden shipping crates as floor boards. Current owners David Baird and Thomas O’Brien are holding an open house this weekend to mark the anniversary. They say they are looking forward to another century in the biz housed in a two story building that looks more like a dwelling than a place that sells aluminum bodied F-150’s.

Mazda concept

Mazda will hold the world premiere of a new sports car concept at the Tokyo Motor Show on Oct. 30. It also released a teaser photo that seems to show a hatchback design. Mazda said the car “maintains a sense of lineage and authenticity, appearing almost to condense Mazda’s entire history of sports car development into a single model.” And that’s all we know at this point. Wonder if it might sport a rotary engine?

Model X

After a two year delay Tesla has unveiled its Model X sport utility at its plant in Fremont, California. Featuring what have been called “Falcon Doors”, the X can carry up to seven passengers, is said to have a range of 257 miles with all wheel drive and a 0-60 run of just 3.2 seconds in its best performance mode. Sensors will keep the doors from striking cars, garage walls, even people. The X will take on luxury and sporty SUV’s from Porsche, BMW and Mercedes. If you are interested, be aware of the 20,000 pre-orders that are already on the books. Tesla said the estimated delivery for new reservations for the only all-electric SUV on the market is the latter half of 2016. Prices can hit $142,000 for the upscale version. Base prices were not released. Next up? The Model 3, a lower cost sedan that may hit showrooms in 2017.

The United Auto Workers has sent Ford a five day strike notice over local issues at the Kansas City Assembly plant in Missouri. It produces the nation’s best-selling vehicle, the F-150. A company spokesman said he is confident the automaker will be able to reach a “fair and competitive” agreement with the union.

Green Car Journal is rescinding the “Green Car of the Year” awards given the 2009 VW Jetta TDI and the 2010 Audi A3 TDI. The journal said rescinding the awards was “unfortunate but appropriate.”

The head of Volkswagen’s China and Skoda operations is taking over as CEO of the newly created North American Region. Dr. Winfried Vahland will assume his new duties on November first. Job One should be restoring customer confidence in the brand.

 

 

 

 

Auto News for Sept. 29

Vanity plate on a Smart car viewed yesterday:

“High IQ”

Vanity plate on a Toyota van:

“No taxi”

Volkswagen has a plan to refit diesel powered vehicles equipped with software that allowed them to skirt emissions tests, both Reuters and the Wall St. Journal reported this morning. The company was facing an Oct. 7 deadline to come up with a plan. VW’s new chief, Matthias Mueller, made the announcement in a closed door meeting with about 1,000 managers in Germany. Details are to be submitted to regulators, and if they buy in, owners will be asked to visit dealers for a diesel retro fit. With 11 million vehicles worldwide that carry the controversial diesel engine software, this would be one of the biggest recalls in auto history.

Dow Jones announced that Volkswagen shares will be removed from its Sustainability indexes after the close of trading Oct. 5. The index ranks members on economic, environmental, and social issues.

Lear Corp., an auto parts supplier, will build a six-story innovation and design center in downtown Detroit. It will be housed in a renovated 128-year-old building that once was home to a cigar maker. Good news for the beleaguered Motor City.

And good news for Fiat Chrysler. The Postal Service will purchase 9,113 of its Ram ProMaster cargo vans for delivery of large packages.

 

Auto News for Sept. 28

The new CEO at Volkswagen has a huge plate load of things to worry about as he starts his first full week on the job. Former Porsche Chief Matthias Muller has to figure out a way to restore consumer confidence in the brand, deal with any number of lawsuits and government investigations of its emissions software, and meet an October 7th German government deadline on how and when it will bring its diesels in line with pollution laws, according to a German newspaper. And new revelations indicate that VW received a warning from Bosch in 2007 about using its software to circumvent pollution regulations, according other newspaper reports. Switzerland has temporarily banned the sale of diesels with the controversial software.

Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO of the VW Passenger Cars Brand, said the automaker is “working at full speed on a solution” that it will present to the public “as swiftly as possible.”

How is General Motors doing without a deal with Fiat Chrysler? We will find out on October 21 when GM announces third quarter results. Look for trucks and SUV’s to shore up the old bottom line.

Rolls

Rolls-Royce announced that its president of North American operations, Eric Shepherd, is leaving on New Year’s Day. He will be succeeded by Pedro Mota who will join Rolls from Porsche of North America where he served as vice president.

CLubman

Mini announced its refurbished Clubman will carry a starting price of $24,100 for the Cooper Model. The Cooper S variant will start at $27,650, both sans shipping charges. Owners seeking a luxury touch can specify Indigo blue-dyed leather seats with diamond-stitching in the “pattern of classic English Chesterfield sofas”, or Burgundy leather with environmentally friendly Dinamica trim. It is a mico-fiber and its maker guarantees eco-sustainability.

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Road Test – 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

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2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

First Drive

By Ron Amadon

ALEXANDRIA, VA. – May we all raise a glass to Mazda for more than a quarter century of Miata motoring fun and then add a hosanna or three for the engineers and designers who made it even better for 2016.

Before we detail the changes, let me assuage one major concern Miata fans might have. It is still the most fun that those of us with humble incomes can have on four wheels.

Mazda started with a total redesign of the exterior giving the Miata a more aggressive stance. It is nearly a half-inch lower, the wheelbase is shorter but the car is now 2.5 inches wider for those keeping score.

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The new model is about 150 pounds lighter with a curb weight of 2,332 pounds when equipped with the six speed manual transmission. There are various factors that aided that effort – aluminum exterior panels except the windshield frame and doors, and they even trimmed a few pounds from the air conditioner.

The comfortable seats are more than 35-percent thinner than the outgoing model owing to a net and urethane seat material replacing traditional springs. This, in turn, allowed engineers to remove approximately 17 lbs. from each seat and position them lower in the MX-5 for an improved center of gravity, enhanced visibility and an extra notch in the rearward seat adjustment. There was plenty of legroom for my 6’ tall bod and the new seat holds one firmly in place during exuberant cornering.

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All models will come with a 2.0-liter four rated at 155 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 148 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm. It can be matched with one of the very finest six speed manual shifts that one can find on the world market. From the very first time you move out, the shifter and transmission are as familiar as something you have been driving for, oh, fifty years or so. While I can’t imagine owning the Miata with anything else, a six speed automatic is an option.

Work your way through the gears and the 2016 feels quicker than the stats indicate as the engine and exhaust make all the right sounds. While Mazda does not quote 0-60 figures, results that I have seen put it just a touch over and a touch under six seconds. Top speed is 125.

EPA estimates are 27/34/30 mpg for the six speed manual and virtually the same for the automatic.

Settle into the cockpit and everything comes readily to hand and eye. Reach out and the stubby shift lever is right where it should be. The easy to read instruments are right at eye level and the pedals come readily to foot. It is all part of what the maker calls its human-centric driving position.

There is a new MAZDA CONNECT infotainment system with a seven inch full color touch screen display with voice command available on the Club and Grand touring models.

The double wishbone front suspension and rear multilink set up is carried over and made for superb handling in short drives near president one’s Mount Vernon. I can’t wait to take one out to the more challenging roads of West Virginia.

Wind buffeting is well contained with the top down, and Mazda has made some changes so it can be easily raised in seconds from the driver’s seat should a fall shower quickly pop up.

The sportier Club model I drove had the Brembo/BBS Package that adds lightweight, mean looking forged 17-inch BBS wheels, Brembo front brakes with red-painted calipers at all four wheels, a rear bumper skirt and side sill extensions.

It is well worth the extra $3,400. Add in $300 for the “Soul Red” paint and the test car came to a reasonable $33,120. The base price for a Sport model is $24,915 while the Grand Touring checks in at $30,065 base.

Mazda had a goal of making this a fun car to drive. Not the fastest set of wheels on the road, and not the most spacious. But the most balanced and fun to drive reasonably priced sports car on the road today.

Take my word for it. Take one out for a test drive and you will discover just how much fun driving can be.

Heck, even the monthly payment is easy to live with.

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Auto News for Sept. 25

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Volkswagen’s board of directors is meeting today and both Reuters and the Wall Street Journal quote sources that say that the head of the Porsche division will be named CEO. Matthias Mueller would replace Martin Winterkorn who stepped down in the wake of the diesel engine emission crisis. Mueller is said to have the backing of the family that controls a majority stake in VW. There is the possibility that the board will announce the ouster of other top level managers.

A German auto magazine, Auto Bild, has clarified its statement regarding high levels of emissions from a tested BMW X3. The magazine said there are no indications of tampering by the automaker. BMW said it is seeking additional details of the testing by the International Council on Clean Transportation. BMW said it does not manipulate or rig any emissions tests and “adheres to all local testing requirements…” It added that no specific details of the test have yet been provided and “therefore we cannot explain these results.”

This morning the parent of Mercedes Benz said a defeat device that illegitimately reduces emissions during testing “has never been and will never be used at Daimler.” It said the technical programming of their engines adheres to all legal requirements and it has “no knowledge of measures that indicate our vehicles did not meet legally required standards” and it will willingly provide any vehicle for testing.

The Detroit News reports that the proposed contract between Fiat Chrysler and the United Auto workers is running into early opposition. A majority of union members voted against ratification at plants in Sterling Heights and Warren, Michigan. Yet a union official in Kokomo Indiana said a majority of salaried workers approve the proposed contract. The voting at other plants continues today.

Hyundai is recalling 470,000 Sonata sedans from model years 2011-12 that could lead to a new engine being installed. The recall covers Sonata’s with the 2.0-liter or 2.4-liter engines. It said debris may not have been removed from the crankshaft during manufacturing. This can restrict oil flow and result in engine failure. Dealers will perform an inspection and replace engine assemblies if necessary for free. Further, Hyundai will increase the engine warranty to 10 years or 120,000 miles.

September auto sales are on pace for the strongest selling rate of any month in more than a decade, according to J.D. Power thanks to strong demand over the Labor Day holiday. Light vehicle sales are projected to approach 1.2 million units, a 10.2 percent increase on a selling-day adjusted basis, and the strongest sales volume for the month since 2004. Pickups and SUV’s combined account for 57.8 percent of all new sales. That is the highest figure since July 2005.

 

Auto News for Sept. 24

Volkswagen has accepted the resignation of CEO Martin Winterkorn who said he was shocked and stunned “that misconduct on such a scale was possible…” While reiterating that he had no knowledge of the emissions software that rocked the company he added that VW “needs a fresh start” and that he was “clearing the way” for that to occur by resigning.

The Executive Committee of VW’s board of directors said recommendations for a new CEO will be discussed at Friday’s full board meeting and it expects “further personnel consequences in the next days.”

Among the German media there is speculation that Porsche executive Matthias Muller may be offered the CEO’s position.

Those responsible for the emissions software may face criminal actions in Germany, and there are calls both in Europe and the U.S. for changes in the way governments carry out pollution testing in cars and trucks. Critics say current testing procedures unfairly favor manufacturers.

A number of law firms in the U.S. are talking about or filing class action suits on behalf of consumers who own the affected diesels and are concerned about resale value.

Here at home, the Public Interest Research Group said Volkswagen should be required to buy back diesels with the emissions software.

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17FordF350KingRanch_4594_HR

Ford’s heavy duty pickup is going aluminum. The 2017 F-350 that is pictured will feature an aluminum-alloy body, a new high strength steel frame and up to seven cameras to make the “Super Duty the ultimate tow vehicle.” It will go on sale late next year with a choice of three engines up to a 6.8 liter V10.

2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71 in motion

Not to be outdone, Chevy introduced its 2016 Silverado at a most likely place – the Texas State Fair in Dallas. It will be available with additional 8-speed transmissions, added safety equipment and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Pickup sales are up 33 percent so far this year, Chevy claims.

 

 

 

Auto News for Sept. 23

In the political world it comes down to “what did he know and when did he know it.” That is what the Volkswagen board of directors has to figure out when considering the future of CEO Martin Winterkorn. He met today with a delegation of board members ahead of a full board meeting on Friday. Auto analysts overseas say Winterkorn had to know about the emissions devices that produced one kind of result in formal testing, and another when the diesel powered car was driven on the highway. Eleven million cars worldwide are involved in what some are calling “Diesel Gate”. Automotive News said Friday’s meeting was previously scheduled to consider extending Winterkorn’s contract with VW. Stay tuned.

2017 Buick LaCrosse will feature many Avenir-inspired design cues and introduce the new face of Buick.  LaCrosse will make its global debut in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The 2016 models are rolling out and now, just nine months into 2015, we can start looking forward to the 2017 models. Buick has released a teaser photo of the 2017 LaCrosse that it says gets it styling from the Avenir concept. The design was inspired, Buick said, by the 1954 Wildcat II concept and will be the face of all new models by 2018. The LaCrosse will ride on an all-new chassis with a five link rear suspension. It will have its coming out party at the Los Angeles Auto Show later this year.

I know a thing or three about motorcades in Washington, D.C. having been a part of more than a few. But this one was REALLY different. Imagine a traffic clogging motorcade of more than 20 huge black SUV’s with a tiny Fiat 500L in the middle. That is what Pope Francis rode in from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to the Vatican’s diplomatic mission in Washington.

2015 marks the 90th anniversary of Chrysler. It was founded back in 1925 by Walter P. Chrysler when he realized his dream of creating his own company. Some of the memorable nameplates were the Airflow, Imperial, New Yorker and 300. The company’s first offering sold for just $1,565 without a 7” full color computer screen!