Auto News for Feb. 28 – FCA-Geely Were Talking – Pedestrian Accidents On The Rise

 One of China’s automakers, Geely, approached Fiat Chrysler about a possible takeover offer last year, but the two sides were unable to come to any agreement in informal talks, according to Bloomberg News. The head of Geely then made a $9-billion investment in Daimler (Mercedes) and became its largest shareholder. Geely owns the Swedish automaker, Volvo.

 Nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes last year and a group said that raises a “red flag” in the traffic safety community. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association made the projection from preliminary data submitted by the states.

 “Two recent trends present an interesting correlation with rising pedestrian fatalities: the growth in smartphone use nationally and the legalization of recreational marijuana in several states. While the report does not find or imply a definitive link between these factors and pedestrian deaths, it is widely accepted both smartphones and marijuana can impair the attention and judgment necessary to navigate roadways safely behind the wheel and on foot,” the group said.

 The seven states and D.C. that legalized recreational marijuana use between 2012 and 2016 experienced a collective 16.4% increase in pedestrian fatalities for the first half of 2017, while all other states saw a combined 5.8% decrease, the association said.

 Two cities, Montclair California and Honolulu have passed laws making it illegal to use a smartphone while crossing a street.

 But officials said you have both distracted pedestrians and distracted drivers and “You can’t out-regulate distraction.”

  So what to do about all this remains up in the air.

  Ford has created the world’s largest billboard and has its claim certified by Guinness World Records. The size of 20 tennis courts, the billboard promotes the new Ford EcoSport SUV in Madrid, Spain.

 The automaker has selected Miami as the site of a test program for its self-driving cars, with a human on board for safety reasons. Initially, it will collect mapping data, test customer reaction to food being delivered by autonomous vehicles that will not be allowed to double-park to make a Dominos delivery, and it is partnering with Postmates to bring other goodies to residents.

Miami’s mayor said it is “preparation” for what’s to come in the future.

 Autotrader has named the best interiors in vehicles that sell for under $50,000. They are:

 Audi Q5

 BMW i3

 Buck Enclave

 Genesis G80

Kia Stinger

Lincoln Continental

Mazda CX-9 Signature

Mercedes C-Class

Ram 1500

Volvo VC60

 “Aside from being used as transportation, drivers also want their vehicle to be a comfortable place, with quality materials that are laid out in a logical, thoughtful manner, and that may even be as eye-catching as the exterior,” Autotrader said.

 February new vehicle sales will fall 3 percent but transaction prices are expected to go up, according to J.D. Power.  

 “The industry is expected to deliver mixed results in February, with a decline in retail sales volume, higher transaction prices and the potential for the first year-over-year drop in incentive spending in more than four years,” said Thomas King, Senior Vice President of the Data and Analytics Division at J.D. Power. 

 Basically, incentives have been cut back in the hot market for SUV’s, trucks and crossovers.

 The average new-vehicle retail transaction price to date in February is $32,237, a record for the month.

 And for the first 18 days, trucks accounted for 67 percent of new vehicles sales, the highest level ever for February.

 Automakers will release February sales figures tomorrow.



Auto News for Feb. 27 – Gas prices lower, but that will change.

 Gas prices continue to go down with the national average now at $2.52 a gallon, the cheapest pump price seen this month, according to AAA. But the decline this week was only a penny, and the auto club said it does not expect the trend of lower prices to continue as we near the Spring driving season. 

 Aston Martin is reporting its highest unit sales in nine years driven by the DB11 making the fourth quarter the strongest in the group’s history. It said rising demand in North America aided the strong showing. Looking ahead, Aston is predicting further improvement this year with the launch of the DB11 Volante, new Vantage and Vanquish replacement.

Aston Martin

 The DB11 is pictured.

 Jaguar will introduce its first all-electric vehicle, the I-PACE, on social media on March first, ahead of its formal introduction at the Geneva show on March 6th. It said “thousands of prospective customers” have already indicated they want one. Full pricing and specifications will be announced following the Geneva introduction.

 “The all-electric I-PACE is not only a pioneer within our business, it promises to revolutionize the industry.  Never before have I been so excited for a launch – the world is watching with great anticipation and I cannot wait for the world to see everything we have achieved with this car,” said Director of Design, Ian Callum.

Jaguar PACE family

Jaguar released the overhead photo of the PACE family.

You can watch the reveal March 1 at 5PM Eastern:

 A study in Great Britain shows that important safety features such as automatic braking, lane keeping assistance and blind spot warning, are “significantly” increasing the cost of car repair bills. The sensors are “often housed in vulnerable areas of the car,” such as behind bumpers, and are causing a steep increase in the cost of replacing traditionally cheaper parts sometimes by as much as 123%.  

  Steve Huntingford, editor of Britain’s What Car?, said: “The advanced active safety technology available on modern cars has undoubtedly helped to reduce accidents and save lives. However, in future we need improved housings for these systems and sensors that can recalibrate themselves.”

 Presumably, the same cost differences are relevant here in the U.S.







Auto News for Feb. 26 – VW Crossover Droptop Coming!

Volkswagen will offer an SUV convertible based on its new T-ROC. On its European site, Volks said the new offering will be produced in the first half of 2020.

Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen brand, says: “Volkswagen is evolving into an SUV brand. The T-Roc is already setting new standards in the compact SUV segment. With the cabriolet based on the T-Roc, we will be adding a highly emotional model to the range.”

It will be produced in Germany at the plant in Osnabrück. Volks said by 2020, about 40 percent of the vehicles it produces will be SUV’s or about 20 models.

Currently, Osnabrück assembles the Volkswagen Tiguan and the Porsche Cayman.

Motor Trend has a video that offers some hints as to what the next generation Audi A6 will look like. You can check it out at:

In the nice gesture department, U-Haul is offering 30 days free self-storage to Arkansas residents who have been or will be impacted by flooding across the state. Severe storms have produced heavy rain across the state over the last several days.

The replica 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the Fifteen-Millionth Ford (a 1927 Ford Model T), the 1984 Plymouth Voyager Minivan, the 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback from the movie Bullitt, and the 1918 Cadillac Type 57 will all be featured as part of the Historic Vehicle Association’s fourth annual Cars at the Capital exhibition during the month of April.

They are, respectively, the 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 21st, and 4th vehicles to have been added to the National Historic Vehicle Register in recognition of their significance in American automotive history.

Each vehicle will be exhibited on the National Mall in illuminated glass display cases between the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the National Gallery of Art.

Saturday Road Test – 2018 Mazda CX-5 – A Crossover for the Lady in Red



                       2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring

   By Ron Amadon

 DAMASCUS, MD. – Mazda makes a big deal out of the color of this weekend’s test vehicle, an eye catching “Soul Red Crystal Metallic” because “deep inside our subconscious, red symbolizes passion, aggressiveness and importance…”

 It certainly is an attractive color that is applied in a three-step process and features “extremely thin aluminum flake all made to a uniform size.”

 And if red worked so well for Ferrari over the years, why not for Mazda when applied to one of the most fun to drive crossover/SUV’s that you can find on the market?

 The public is catching on. In January, the CX-5 recorded its 10th consecutive record sales month and remained Mazda’s top seller in the U.S.  

 Right from the start, it earned some of my gold stars for its comfortable seats, and enough adjustments that the “just right” driving position was achieved in less than a minute. Can’t say that about many vehicles.

 Interior fit, finish, and materials were all first class, and there was an abundance of features on this top-of-the-line model, such as a head-up display, heated front and rear seats, and heated steering wheel.

 Not to forget the power rear liftgate, power sliding glass sunroof, leather trimmed seats, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, 6-way adjustable passenger seat, Bose 10-speaker sound system, Navi, plus driver’s seat memory among other welcome items.

 A big old chrome knob on the center console commands the infotainment screen, and it is something one can master in a short period.

 To the rear was a slightly smaller cargo capacity than rival Honda CR-V, 30.9 cubic feet of storage with the seats in place, and almost 60 cubes with them folded. 

 A very quiet interior out on the interstates allowed full occupant appreciation of the superb Bose sound system and its 10 speakers. Even wide open, the sunroof did not generate much wind noise. (The fact that I could drive with it open in mid-February gives you some idea of how our Maryland winter has unfolded.)

 So what makes it go?

 A 2.5-liter four with 187 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 186-lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm matched to a six-speed automatic transmission that was quick to respond to driver input. It is satisfied with 87 octane, and is EPA rated at  24/30/26 mpg. I registered 26.

 New cylinder-deactivation technology, Mazda said, can reduce fuel consumption by shutting down the two outside cylinders when not needed. A diesel is said to be in the works.

 Acceleration was quick enough to ease one’s way on to a busy interstate and more than enough to put slow moving 18-wheelers in the rear view mirror up my favorite mountain pass. Excellent handling beyond what one might expect in a crossover, matched with that eager engine and transmission, made twisting back roads fun.

 The Grand Touring rode on 19 inch wheels and P225/55R rubber.

 OF course there was a plentiful list of safety equipment and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2017 gave the CX-5 its highest rating, Top Safety Pick+.

 Prices start at $24,150 for an entry level model with the base price of the Grand Touring at $30,945 with All-Wheel Drive, and $29,645 with FWD.

 In glorious red or any other color, the CX-5 is the best choice for someone, and there are thousands of them, who is looking for a midsized crossover.


 The CX-5 recently received a “Recommended” rating from Consumer Reports.


Auto News Special Report – Consumer Report’s Top Picks for 2018


 By Ron Amadon

 A surprise at the top, a big gain for one of the Detroit three, and Toyota has something to crow about.

 All this and more came to light when the consumer magazine unveiled its latest top picks at the National Press Club in D.C. before the Washington Automotive Press Association.

 Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury brand, was the surprise first place finisher in the Car Brand Rankings pushing last year’s top finisher, Audi, into second place.

 CR noted that with just two models tested Genesis had an easier time to get things right than Audi with its wider range of models. Genesis scored high in CR’s testing and owner satisfaction scores, to overcome “average reliability.”

 Following Genesis and Audi in the top ten were BMW, Lexus, Porsche, Kia, Subaru, Tesla, Honda and Toyota.

 One of the big gainers from last year’s report was Chrysler, which moved into the 11th spot on the strength of its popular Pacifica van. Its rivals finished thusly: Ford came in 20th of 34, and Chevrolet was 23rd.

 The brands that dropped the most were Buick and Acura both due to declining reliability of some of their models. Yet both finished in the middle of the pack.

 At the bottom of the 34 brands mentioned were Mitsubishi, Alfa Romeo, Land Rover, Jeep and Fiat in number 34 position.

 “CR does not recommend any of the Fiat models it has tested. Ten other brands, including Jeep, Land Rover, Alfa Romeo, Mitsubishi, Jaguar, GMC, Dodge, Mini, Cadillac, and Volvo also do not have any tested vehicles that CR recommends.”

 When it comes to individual models four Toyotas were cited, the most of any manufacturer – the Camry, Corolla, Highlander, and Sienna minivan.

 The Corolla and Camry were first time picks along with the Chevrolet Bolt, Kia Optima, Ford F-150, BMW X3, and Audi A4.

 Chevrolet’s all-electric Bolt won the magazine’s first award in the Compact Green Car Category, CR saying it “delivers very good range, brisk acceleration and tight handling at a mainstream price of $38,424 as tested.”

 Three of the top ten picks were repeat winners from last year: Chevrolet Impala, Subaru Forester, and Toyota Highlander.

 To be considered a Top Pick, a vehicle has to perform well in CR testing, and in the areas of predicted reliability, owner satisfaction and safety. Reliability and satisfaction data come from more than a half million responses received from CR’s subscribers.

 The breakdown by category:

  Best Compact Car: Toyota Corolla

  Midsized Car: Toyota Camry

  Large Car: Chevrolet Impala

  Compact SUV: Subaru Forester

  Midsized SUV: Toyota Highlander

  Luxury Compact SUV: BMW X 3

  Minivan: Toyota Sienna

  Compact Green Car: Chevrolet Bolt

  Luxury Compact Car: Audi A4

  Full Size Pickup: Ford F-150

  Agree? Disagree? Let the debate begin!





Auto News for Feb. 20 – Shakeup at Ford – New Santa Fe

 Ford has ousted its executive vice president and president, North America, Raj Nair, who is “departing from Ford effective immediately.”

 The automaker said Nair’s behavior was inconsistent with its code of conduct.

 “Ford is deeply committed to providing and nurturing a safe and respectful culture and we expect our leaders to fully uphold these values,” said President and CEO Jim Hackett.

 He had served as president of Ford North America since June of 2017.

 Hyundai has revealed a new Santa Fe at its headquarters in Seoul.  

 It is not clear which engines will make their way to our shores, but probably not the newly offered diesel and it is not clear what size the U.S. model will be. We may learn more when the new model makes its debut at the Geneva show in March. We do have two pictures to display this morning.

 Used car prices on average fell 0.6 percent in January according to J.D. Power. The slight dip was driven by the premium vehicle segment, which is said is typical for this time of year.

 One thing the upcoming Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV will offer is a “Viewing Suite.”

 It is automatically deployed at the touch of a button. “Two rear-facing, beautifully contemporary, finest leather chairs and a cocktail table gracefully emerge from within the rear compartment of Cullinan.”

 So the owner can take in the scenery, view a sports event or “even watch their children take part in their school sports day.”

The idea, if they go off road, is to bring “beautiful furniture to the most remote places.”




Auto News for Feb. 21 – Very Powerful Porsches!

 But First:

 It was a good year for Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat Chrysler, who was paid $11.95 million last year in base salary and bonuses. He also received some stock in the company that he had turned around and noncash compensation such as insurance premiums. But that is less than GM and Ford paid their leaders. Marchionne has announced he will retire in April of next year and his successor is expected to come from within the company.

 Porsche set a new lap record for street legal sports cars on the 12.8 mile Nürburgring-Nordschleife with the 2018 911 GT2 RS. The best lap time of 6:47.3 minutes even surpassed internal expectations. “This result makes it official: The GT2 RS is not only the most powerful, but also the fastest 911 model ever built,” said Porsche.

The heart of the high-performance sports car is a twin turbo flat-six engine producing 700 horsepower. This enables the two seater weighing 3,241 pounds to accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.7 seconds. The top track speed of the rear-wheel drive Coupé is 211 miles per hour.

 At the upcoming Geneva show, Porsche will unveil the 520 horsepower GT3 RS with 346 lb-ft of torque. It sports a 0-60 in just three seconds and a top track speed of 193 mph. Porsche calls it’s the most powerful naturally aspirated series production 911 ever. The engine is mated to a specifically tuned seven-speed PDK transmission. It is expected to reach U.S. dealers in fall 2018. The MSRP is $187,500, not including available options or the $1,050 delivery, processing and handling fee.

 (Where are those Powerball tickets?)

 The national gas price average has been steadily decreasing for nearly two weeks dropping from the year-to-date high of $2.61 (on February 5) to today’s national average of $2.53, said AAA. Motorists in nearly every state are paying less on the week with Midwest and Southern states seeing the largest price drops at the pump.

 Today’s national gas price average is 4 cents less than one week ago, 1 cent more than a month ago, but 25 cents more than a year ago.