Auto News for March 31 – Your New Steering Wheel

 Honda said its new horn Emojis enables drivers to safely express emotions such as the “Rush Hour” Emojis which “helps share the pain of being stuck in traffic with other drivers.” The “Happy Honda Honk” enables the driver to say ‘hello’ to passersby, while the Dog Emoji is silent to drivers but warns canines of approaching vehicles.

 “Horns have been around for over a century, but little has been done to make these sound-making devices a personal expression of the driver’s emotions like we’re doing with the all-new Honda Odyssey,” said Alice Alerto, the Honda engineer in charge of horn development. “We have exhaustively researched and tested these new Honda Horn Emojis to offer the industry’s most advanced in-vehicle technology in the minivan segment.”

 The extra buttons will be offered as standard equipment on the 2018 Odyssey minivan this spring.

 It is 18 months in prison for a man in Great Britain who, officials said, deliberately crashed a fake Ferrari into a friend’s Audi to collect insurance money. It was determined that car was not a Ferrari but disguised MR-2 Toyota.

 April is National Car Care Month so take your car or truck to lunch – at least once.

 Lexus and Kia deliver the best customer experience of any auto dealers according to a study from Temkin. Lexus took the top spot of the 21 dealers in this year’s ratings earning a score of 77% while Kia came in second with a 74 % score. Chevrolet and Toyota came in third and fourth respectively.

 Temkin asked 10,000 consumers to evaluate their recent experiences across three dimensions: success (can you do what you want to do?), effort (how easy is it to work with the company?), and emotion (how do you feel about the interactions?).



Auto News for March 30 – Ford Recalls, VW To Sell Diesels Again

 Ford has issued a recall for approximately 230,000 vehicles. They are the 2014 Escape, 2014-15 Fiesta ST, 2013-14 Fusion and 2013-15 Transit Connect vehicles equipped with 1.6-liter GTDI engines. Ford’s investigation of these vehicles has identified a risk of under-hood fires.

 In the affected vehicles, a lack of coolant circulation could cause an engine to overheat, resulting in a crack in the cylinder head. A cracked cylinder head can result in a pressurized oil leak. Oil that comes into contact with a hot engine surface increases the risk of a fire in the engine compartment.

 Ford is aware of 29 reports of fire associated with this issue in the United States and Canada. No injuries have been reported.

 Volkswagen said it has received EPA approval to sell 2015 diesels after they have been updated with new emission software. Repairs are not likely to begin until next year. The software update is a requirement of the EPA and the California Air Resources Board and more details on the sale will be released in the future. VW said the sale will involve about 67,000 diesels.

 So how is the industry doing? Here is one take from an expert:

 “If you only look at the sales numbers, it could be tempting to say that the industry is just as strong as it was a year ago,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis. “But there are several areas of concern this year lurking just below the surface. Inventories have reached levels not seen in more than a decade, and incentives are rising. We’re also seeing an increase in loan duration and indications of an increase in subprime lending, both of which demonstrate sales aren’t coming as easily as they used to.”

 Edmunds predicts that March new vehicle sales will increase 2 percent compared to March of 2016 and first quarter sales will be essentially flat from the first quarter of last year.

 On the brighter side, it expects a 21 percent sales gain compared to February of this year.

 Auto makers will release sales figures next week.

 The Automotive Hall of Fame will induct four new members in July. They are Alberto Bombassei, president of Brembo; August Fruehauf (1868-1930), inventor of the semi-trailer and founder of the Fruehauf Trailer Company; Jack Roush, founder, CEO, and co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing and Chairman of Roush Enterprises; and Edward Welburn, retired General Motors VP of Global Design. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Automotive Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.





Auto News for March 29 – Your Brain & Navi Systems

 Maybe this explains why people drive off the end of a pier when relying on their poor Navi system. A study in Scientific American said using a Navi minimizes the activity of a specific area of the brain. Two regions of the brain are utilized when you are finding your own way.

 Going electric! The famed Harrods department store in London has added an electric van from Nissan to its fleet. But believe it or not this is not Harrods first electric. In 1919, the store used solid tired American Walker electric vans, and later built its own fleet of 60 juiced vans.

 Autocar is asking readers to select the world’s most revolutionary car. The British auto mag said the top three thus far are the Honda NSX, Mazda MX-5, and the VW Golf GTI. The winners will be announced in May.

 Mercedes Benz parent company, Daimler, had some good news for its shareholders – “”Daimler has had a lot of success in its history of more than 130 years, but our company has never been as successful as now,” said   Manfred Bischoff, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Daimler.

 In the first two months of this year, Mercedes sold 351,243 vehicles (retail; +15.6%), said the brand’s leader, Dieter Zetsche. Mercedes posted its 48th record sales month in succession in February primarily due to strong demand for the new E-Class sedan.  

 Looking ahead, MB will add an All-Terrain vehicle, upgrade several models and introduce an all new S-Class.

 There is a new study that shows what words resonate with various consumer groups as they consider a new vehicle. Mentioning “power” struck a chord with several groups, as it helps to describe the experience of driving the vehicle in a relatable way. “Luxury” also stood out in vehicle descriptions that referred directly to luxury vehicles, as well as those that simply had luxury-like features or a luxurious feel, said CDK Global, the backers of the study.

 The word “bigger” did not resonate with women. The word “design” did nothing for Generation-X while “Performance” resonated much more. Most parents felt that both “sound” and “tech” were low priorities. They preferred “Trunk,” “Nice,” and “Leased.”  

Auto News for March 28 – Ford & Honda Making Big U.S. Plant Improvements



 Ford is going to spend some big bucks on three of its Michigan plants:

 A total of $850 million at the Michigan Assembly Plant to support return of Ford Ranger, Bronco

 A $150 million investment and 130 jobs at Romeo Engine plant expands capacity for engine components for several vehicles, including Ranger and Bronco

 And a $200 million investment for advanced data center in Michigan supports Ford’s expansion to an auto and mobility company.

 The work at the Michigan Assembly Plant begins next May. Ford said it will take just four weeks to remove and reinstall the tooling necessary to build the new Ford Ranger and Ford Bronco.

 It will be nice to see those two models back on the road.

 But Ford is not alone. Honda will invest $85 million in its Alabama plant to improve manufacturing flexibility as well as prepare for future models and technologies. The plant produces the Odyssey, Pilot and Ridgeline trucks, and the Acura MDX.

 Kind of a mixed bag on the auto front this morning. On the one hand, the March reading on Consumer Confidence hit its highest level in 16 years. Auto firms like this since confident consumers are more likely to go shopping for hot new wheels. On the other hand, J.D. Power reported that new vehicles are sitting on lots for about 70 days, and that is the longest amount of time since July of 2009. Analysts say it now takes about one week longer to move a car or truck than it did at this time last year. It might be that the sales bubble we have seen is slowing running out of air.

 Select customers will be able to rent a 2017 BMW X3 at National Car Rental for a limited time. It will be offered only to Executive and Executive Elite club members.

 Here is something you might want to watch. “Recoil 4,” a seven-minute thrill ride through the streets of Havana, Cuba, was released today and is available at Produced by Sweatpants Media and presented by Toyo, the storyline features World Champion off-road racer, “Ballistic” B.J. Baldwin racing in his 850-horsepower trophy truck from an all-night dominos game to meet up with his race team on the opposite side of the island. Cuba had been off limits for years to American filmmakers.

 California officials say more than one million defective airbag inflators remain unrepaired in the southern part of the state. Leaders have launched an urgent, region-wide effort to encourage affected drivers to get a free repair. If you own a 2001 and 2002 Honda Civic, the 2001 and 2002 Honda Accord, the 2002 and 2003 Acura TL, the 2002 Honda Odyssey, the 2002 Honda CR-V, the 2003 Acura CL and the 2003 Honda Pilot check with your dealer today to get a much needed repair.

 Almost six in 10 operators, some 59 percent, think that self-driving cars will eliminate the problem of distracted driving. Two-thirds of men think this, compared with just over half of women (66 percent to 52 percent, respectively). The results of a Harris Poll conducted for Erie Insurance. While it might be nice some believe to completely kick back and let the car do the driving, experts say the time for that is likely a long way off.



Saturday Road Test – Volvo XC60 T6 Inscription – It Coddles You



              2017 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Inscription

                     Want These Seats In All Cars

 By Ron Amadon

POINT OF ROCKS, MD. – A stretch break after a long day behind the wheel. As I walked around the classic old train station here I realized how great the seats were in this wagon.

 No big surprise really, since Volvo has had about the best seats in the business for years. But these 8-way adjustable, leather clad chairs with 3-position memory were exceptional. And if you want heat for your cold bottom on a frosty morning, believe me, you will not keep it on the highest heat setting for very long. Go quickly back to setting #1 of three. But they do test these cars in the Arctic.

 When it comes to comfort I gave this Volvo with the never ending name my highest rating – I would be ready tomorrow to take it cross country stopping for good only at that barrier known as the Pacific Ocean.

 And how times have changed. Remember when any hot Detroit iron had a big V8, in fact HAD to have a V8, if were to be seriously considered as a performance car.

 Remember the 1968 Chevy Nova SS with a 396 cubic inch V8 good for 375 horsepower and a 0-60 in 5.9 tire burning seconds?

 Skip forward today. Volvo has scrubbed its five cylinder engine in favor of a four. A 2.0-liter four that is both turbo charged and supercharged. A total of 302 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm and 295 lb-ft or torque at 2,100 rpm. A 0-60 in about 6.5 seconds.

 Today’s technology has given us a four cylinder engine that lags the Chevy by about a half second, with half the cylinders – something that would not even be a dream when the SS Nova was doing its thing.

 Matched to an 8-speed automatic, the Volvo felt quick in all aspects of driving. Particularly with a foot to the floor pass of an aging semi loping along a rural road.

 Of course the All-Wheel Drive would come in handy in areas where Old Man Winter is not ready to cede the turf to the sweetness of spring.

 Officials at EPA rate the combo at 20 mpg city, 27 highway, and 22 mpg combined. I think I was having too much fun with the turbos and came in at 19.6 mpg. It runs on premium unleaded.

 Was the Volvo perfect? No, but what car is? Some additional sound proofing would be welcome and perhaps a slight softening of the ride quality that was a tad on the stiff side.

 Also in keeping with Volvo’s reputation for safety, there was all the expected equipment on the test wagon including a $2,500 Advanced Package, with Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning, Pedestrian/Cyclist Detection, Distance and Driver alerts, a hyper Lane Departure Warning, and road sign information.

 No surprise that the XC60 received a top five star rating in government crash tests.

 The interior was easy on the eyes with elegant wood trim and an overall feel of Swedish Modern. A rather large sunroof was most welcome when there was a touch of warm weather. The rear seats were comfortable, but leg room was a bit on the short side if the front passenger reclines his or her seat.

 There is an abundant 67 cubic feet of storage space with the second row seats folded, or 30.8 cubes with them up.

 And Volvo is not done with the XC60 yet, despite the fact that it is the brand’s best seller. A new XC60 was introduced to the world at the Geneva Auto Show.

 Brand new is a plug-in Hybrid delivering 407 horsepower and a 0-62 mph in just 5.3 seconds. The turbo and supercharged four continues and picks up some horsepower to 320.  

 A semi-autonomous program, called Pilot Assist, is an option while Oncoming Lane Mitigation helps to avoid head-on collisions and Blind Spot Indication helps reduce the risk of lane changing collisions, Volvo said.

 FYI, Volvo does not call the new XC60 a wagon, but a “premium SUV.” That can’t hurt sales here in USA.

 Our test T6 was a top-of-the-line Inscription model with $6,210 worth of options that included Dual Outboard Two Stage Child Booster Seats and Interior Air Quality System.

 Add in $995 for delivery, and the MSRP came to $53,555.   

 Spacious and comfortable with an admirable safety record, the XC60 is well worth checking out if you are not ready to join the crossover/SUV crowd.

 If you are, then wait for the new one!









Auto News for March 24 – What Brand Tires Do You Buy?

 Owners that need to replace their tires are likely to purchase the same brand that was originally fitted on their new vehicle, according to the J.D. Power study. Sixty-two percent purchased either Michelin (21%), Goodyear (12%), Continental (11%), Bridgestone (11%) or Pirelli (7%), while 38% purchased other brands.

 Toyota is using a billboard to advertise its Mirai fuel cell vehicle that backers say actually cleans the air around it. The billboard uses a titanium dioxide coated vinyl to purify the surrounding air. When oxygen reacts with the energized titanium dioxide catalyst, NOx is converted to nitrate and removed from the air. The light-activated, smog-reducing billboards continue to purify the air as long as light, humidity, airflow and the titanium dioxide coating is present. Thirty seven such billboards are in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.

 The limited edition Mirai combines hydrogen and oxygen to make electricity onboard, while emitting nothing but water vapor.  It has the highest EPA estimated driving range rating of any zero emission electric vehicle on the market, at 312 miles, and offers an EPA estimated 67 mpge city/highway/combined. Currently it is only offered in California.


  The first of what could be a new Buick has rolled off the assembly line in in Germany. The Opel Insignia, reports indicate, will replace the Buick Regal in hatchback and sports wagon form. Opel’s version is lighter by 400 pounds from the older model, and will feature all-wheel drive, and the expected safety features.

Auto News for March 23 – The Most Desired Dozen

 Autotrader said there are a dozen vehicles that shoppers simply “must see and experience to believe.” To be considered a vehicle must be of the current or next model year, and feature a base price of under $75,000. The winners are:

Audi Q7

Chevrolet Bolt

Chrysler Pacifica

Ford F-150 Raptor

Honda CR-V

Jaguar F-Pace

Kia Sportage

Lincoln Continental

Mazda CX-9

Nissan Armada

Porsche 718 Cayman

Subaru Impreza

 Fans of the Vespa Italian scooter will be delighted to hear that the world’s oldest scoot is currently up for auction at Catawiki, an online auction site. Catawiki’s experts say the scooter, with chassis number 1003, is the third Vespa ever made by Piaggio, the Italian manufacturer. The Vespa is from Piaggio’s “0 series,” which was comprised of 60 prototype scooters; the first two prototypes are no longer in existence. In 1953, the release of the Audrey Hepburn movie “Roman Holiday” – a movie that features the scooter in a prominent role – put Vespa on the path to today’s cult status. The selling price could be well over $300,000!

 It was 15 years ago that Mini came to the United States. The car not the skirt. Parent BMW said it has delivered more than 725,000 Minis in that time. The lineup has grown from a single hardtop to four models and a “fiercely loyal owner base,” BMW said.

 Ford announced this morning that earnings per share in the first quarter may not match Wall Street expectations. It may also report a lower pretax profit for the year. It cited lower fleet sales, and added spending for warranties, investments, and commodities. Ford shares moved lower following the announcement.





Auto News for March 22 – BMW’s Big Plans

  BMW announced it will launch 40 new or revised models over the next two years after it slipped behind rival Mercedes in worldwide luxury sales. Particular emphasis will be placed on the top end of the premium segment. By 2020, BMW is targeting significant sales volume growth in this area with the addition of a number of new models, including the BMW X7, a full size, three row crossover. A smaller X2 SUV will also join the lineup. Further, BMW is also promising more electric and plug-in vehicles.

 Anyone but me remember the Austin-Healey 3000 sports car of the 1960’s? A 1967 model, the very last off the production line, will be auctioned off in Great Britain next month. For the past 45 years, the 3000 has had just one owner. The right hand drive car has 56,000 miles on the clock and benefitted from a fresh restoration a year ago. It is expected to go for some big bucks. Or should I say pounds?

 Mazda Motorsports has for some time offered a pure racing model of its convertible MX-5. It now has added the hardtop to its competition lineup. Deliveries begin next month of the MX-5 Global Cup hardtop racer through Mazda Motorsports. Those who race can now compete in   SCCA and NASA Club Racing and in the Pirelli World Challenge TCA class.

 The redesigned Honda CR-V has received a Top Safety Plus crash test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That is the group’s highest award. To earn it a vehicle must have good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. It also must have an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating and headlights that earn an acceptable or good rating. IIHS said the CR-V headlights in the Touring model earned an acceptable rating.





Auto News for March 21 – Warts & All Owners Love Tesla


 Tesla will discontinue the Model S with the 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack saying most customers were ordering the car with an upgrade – the 75-kilowatt battery pack.

 A new J.D. Power study concludes that Q.C. problems associated with the Tesla Model S and the Model X have little influence on the affection owners have for these cars and the brand. “Spending $100,000 or more on a vehicle that has so many problems usually would have a dramatically negative effect on sales and brand perception. Right now, though, Tesla seems immune from such disenchanted customers,” said Kathleen Rizk, director, global automotive consulting at Power.

 Buyers see themselves as pioneers who enjoy being early adopters of new technology. Yet consumers who buy the lower priced upcoming Model 3 are expected to be less forgiving. “When consumers buy a mass-market car priced around $35,000 that will be their primary mode of transportation, the degree of expectation will increase immensely,” Rizk said. “We’ve seen that with other well-liked brands, whether or not it involves an electric vehicle.”

 Once again, AAA says gas prices have remained stable nationwide in the past week. The average pump price is now $2.29 a gallon. But if that doesn’t seem like a bargain you are correct. Drivers are paying 31 cents more per gallon on average compared to last year, AAA said.

 My eyes are always attracted to headlines that state the obvious. Here is one I just discovered. “Auto Insurance Discounts Are Useful for Saving Money.” Really?