Auto News for April 30 – Corolla Hatch & 9 mill Subarus

Toyota this morning unveiled the 2019 Corolla Hatchback with a 2.0-liter four that will be offered with a six speed manual transmission or a CVT.

The new four is good for 168 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque and is smaller, quieter and lighter than the previous 1.8- liter that it replaces. Further, the hatch joins other Toyota models using the new TNGA platform and some will be offered with a sport suspension.

Standard equipment will include Entune 3.0 with Apply CarPlay and Amazon Alexa Connectivity, doing their thing via an 8 inch touchscreen. Climate controls are located below the screen.

The equipment lineup goes like this:

SE grade is equipped with single-zone automatic climate control, leather shift knob, and paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel. An electronic parking brake, three-door SmartKey system, automatic up/down windows, and two front USB outlets are standard as well.

XSE grade adds dual-zone climate control, combination leather (leather with mélange-like fabric) seating, heated front seats, and eight-way power driver’s seat. XSE’s instrument panel and doors receive unique stitching, and behind the multifunction steering wheel, a 7-inch TFT Multi-Information Display shows vehicle information, turn-by-turn navigation, and various vehicle settings (including those pertaining to Lane Departure Alert, Lane Tracing Assist, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, and Blind Spot Monitor).

The new hatchback will appear in showrooms this summer.

After 12 years and more than 2.1 million vehicles produced, the last Jeep Wrangler JK rolled off the line at the Toledo Supplier Park, making room for the all-new Jeep truck, which will launch in the first half of 2019.

Employees marked the occasion by taking pictures with the white 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited, which will become one of the Jeep brand’s show properties.

Manufacturing capacity for the new Jeep truck was created by moving production of the next generation Jeep Wrangler to the north side of the Toledo Assembly Complex.

Subaru of America, Inc. today announced the sale of its nine-millionth vehicle in the U.S. The new owner took delivery of a 2018 Subaru Crosstrek at a Subaru retail facility in Arkansas.

It was sold to a radiation oncologist who also owns a 2005 Subaru Baja.




The Saga of a McLaren in Rural Vermont


McLaren 720S

From Woking To Vermont

First Look

By Ron Amadon

The scene is a back porch in rural Vermont, in an area called the Northeast Kingdom, a more grandeous name than conservative New England Yankees would normally tolerate. But it was there when most of them grew up, so why change it now?

The hottest topic in town is that rich New Yorker who just settled in to a huge new mansion with acres of land that stretches along the shores of Crystal Lake.

Who is he? Why did he move way up here? Why they say his property is worth more than a good share of the town of Barton!

Something like this has never happened so it has supplanted the normal conversion about ice out on the lake, how bad the winter was, how the maple syrup season was terrible, and will the tourists, slim as they are in numbers this far north, return this summer and, not to forget, should we all stay up late to see Hockey Night in Canada?

Not only has this wealthy New Yorker settled in, but he stays pretty much to himself thus only stocking the fires of speculative talk, And did you hear, he won big in the lottery?

Then there is this car he bought.

Mind you, mud spattered pickups are the height of fashion up here, not high powered two seat cars that rumor has it cost more than some houses in town.

“Word is that it is very low to the ground so it won’t be worth a damn this winter. And the engine is out back where the trunk’s supposed to be,” said Fred, a long time Barton homeowner, shaking his head.

“Can’t imagine why they would do that,” said neighbor Tom. “Folks say it’s the only one in Vermont, so ya wonder where he would get it fixed if it breaks down on that back road to Newport.”

Fred’s just-past-teen-years son Bob enters, rumored to be the town car expert.

“It is called the McLaren 720s, and it is nearly all hand made in a place called Woking, England. And it is super-fast with a twin turbo charged and intercooled V8 with 710 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque.”

“Fred, did you follow any of that?” said Tom.

“Naa, he lost me after called.”

Yet Bob felt a duty to educate the old folks.

“Out on (Interstate) 91 it can scat from zero to sixty in 2.7 seconds or almost as fast as an eye blink, with a top speed of 212 miles an hour. Get ya down to Montpelier in the blink of an eye,” said a getting excited Bob.

Tom chirped up with a, “Not that you would want to go there.”

“It should be something on all the back roads with a 1.10 g road handling number with a lightweight carbon fiber chassis based on a carbon fiber “tub” construction.” And Bob was just getting cranked up.

“So it’s made out of a tub?” Fred inquired.

“No,” Bob quickly injected and moved on to the sculpted body shape, aluminum and composite bodywork around the “Monocage II” structure.

“On wild Saturday nights, our cop car could use a cage for the drunks,” Tom countered.

“My girlfriend said she got a ride in it the other day,” as Bob plowed ahead, “and the doors open straight up into the air!”

“Son, have you been sampling that funny weed,” Fred interrupted.

“Inside there are three drive mode controls, Comfort, Speed and Track, some very high grade leather, room for small luggage behind the two seats, and lots of Alcantara,” Bob gushed.

“Wasn’t Alcantara the trumpet player in that band on Craftsbury Common last summer?” Tom asked. “So what was the ride like?”

“He went real fast on the old road to Derby Line, and she said it was a good thing the seats really grabbed her body as did the seat belts. But the car really hugged the road like nothing she had ever experienced.”

“Thought her hair was a little grayer when she was here for dinner the other night,” Fred said.

How much does this car cost, Tom wanted to know?

“Not sure, but one like it in a magazine sold for $378,215,” Bob said.

“Damn good thing he won the lottery,” Tom concluded.



The above is a total work of fiction regarding the Vermonters but the facts and figures about this wonderful creation of a Supercar are all correct. Could this dialog actually have happened in the Green Mountain State? Ask Bernie.

McLaren 720s Specs:

Mid-engine rear wheel drive

Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic with manual shifts

Wheelbase: 105.1 inches

Length: 178.9

Width: 78 inches

Weight: 3161 pounds

Ground Clearance: 4.2 inches

Desirability? Off the charts.



Auto News for April 27 – GM will stick with its sedans

General Motors is not ready to join Ford in drastically reducing the number of sedans that it manufactures. Yesterday, Ford announced that in the future it will make only the Mustang and a new Focus Active compact.

GM officials said, while announcing quarterly earnings, that it still sees some opportunities in the car market, as long as costs are controlled despite continuing consumer demand for SUV’s, crossovers, and trucks.

CEO Mary Barra said while the sedan market may be dwindling, GM feels there is still opportunity there, according to the Detroit News.

Various reports have said GM will stop making two Chevrolet models, the Impala and Sonic.

Both Honda and Mazda have issued profit warnings for the current fiscal year, blaming the strong yen that could dull earnings.

J.D. Power agrees with a forecast from Edmunds that April auto sales will take a tumble. Power sees sales 1.3 percent lower keeping in mind that there were two fewer selling days compared to April of 2017. Put together sales figures from March and April of this year, Power said retails sales will be down “only modestly from last year.”

A troubling report from AAA. More than one hit-and-run crash occurs every minute on U.S. roads. These resulted in 2,049 deaths in 2016 – the highest number on record and a 60 percent increase since 2009. With the number of hit-and-run crashes on the rise, AAA is calling for drivers to be alert on the road in order to avoid a deadly crash and always remain on the scene if a crash occurs.

Per capita, New Mexico, Louisiana and Florida have the highest rate of fatal hit-and-run crashes while New Hampshire, Maine and Minnesota have the lowest rates.

The report found that most victims of fatal hit-and-run crashes are pedestrians or bicyclists.



Auto News for April 26 (take two)

Please see earlier report on Ford’s future plans.

GM topped Wall Street forecasts for earnings per share and revenue in the first quarter thanks to strong demand for its crossovers. There were some setbacks financially due to restructuring of its operations in South Korea and the retooling of some plants that will manufacture a restyled full size pickup. GM officials said the numbers were in line with their expectations.

Both GM and Ford shares moved higher in pre-market trading on Wall Street.

Just before the opening bell, Fiat Chrysler posted first quarter earnings that were a record for the company, thanks in part to strong sales of its Jeep brand. FCA earned a profit of $1.2 billion. Earnings per share of 80 cents were about in line with analyst expectations. Jeep sales rose 37 percent worldwide. Reuters reported that FCA reduced its debts by more than expected in the quarter, a key goal of CEO Sergio Marchionne. FCA could be cash positive by late this year.

April auto sales will drop 19 percent compared to March, and 6 per cent from April of 2017, according to a new forecast from Edmunds. Analysts note that there were 24 selling days in April this year, compared to 26 last year.

“April’s sales slip may seem disheartening, but the spike we saw in March was an anomaly considering our expectations for 2018,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis.

Mack Trucks plans to have a fully electric trash truck in 2019. The first models will be tested in New York City.

The Carfax database has topped twenty billion records at a time when it is believed to be the largest vehicle history database in the world. The twenty billionth record loaded into the Carfax database is an accident reported in Tennessee for a 2010 Toyota Prius.

Volvo Cars aims for fully electric cars to make up 50 per cent of its sales by 2025, the company announced today.

The announcement builds on Volvo’ 2017 announcement that all new models released from 2019 will be available as either a mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid or battery electric vehicle.







Auto News For April 26- Ford to exit almost all of the car biz

Here is the official announcement from Ford about its future product:

“Building a winning portfolio and focusing on products and markets where Ford can win. For example, by 2020, almost 90 percent of the Ford portfolio in North America will be trucks, utilities and commercial vehicles. Given declining consumer demand and product profitability, the company will not invest in next generations of traditional Ford sedans for North America. Over the next few years, the Ford car portfolio in North America will transition to two vehicles – the best-selling Mustang and the all-new Focus Active crossover coming out next year. The company is also exploring new “white space” vehicle silhouettes that combine the best attributes of cars and utilities, such as higher ride height, space and versatility.”

“Making a full commitment to new propulsion choices, including adding hybrid-electric powertrains to high-volume, profitable vehicles like the F-150, Mustang, Explorer, Escape and Bronco. The company’s battery electric vehicle rollout starts in 2020 with a performance utility, and it will bring 16 battery-electric vehicles to market by 2022.”

Going away will be the Taurus, Fiesta, Fusion, C-Max, and Focus sedan in a radical redesign of the Blue Oval’s offerings. The Detroit News reported that the new Focus will appear in the U.S. next year and be imported from China.

The company goal is to cut operating costs by $22.5 by the year 2022 and capital spending by $5 billion from 2019 to 2022.

Many of the cuts will come from sales and marketing officials said. Ford’s chief financial officer said the company is considering selling or exiting operations in Europe and South Africa.

While the auto fleet will be drastically reduced Ford plans to introduce five new SUV’s over the next two years, along with the already announced Ranger pickup.

Analysts told the Detroit News that Ford’s move in the auto market makes sense given where the market is. Another said Ford realized that it no longer can be all things to all people.

The lone survivor among the current automobile offerings is pictured.

We shall return with more news later this morning when GM announces earnings.






Auto News for April 24 – Ford Update & Sticker Shock Gas Prices

 Attention Ford Fans. For a look at what’s going on at the automaker and its new leader here is a link to a story in this morning’s New York Times.

 “Like seeing Grandpa in a whole new light,” is the way Car and Driver described the just unveiled 2019 Toyota Avalon.

 Avalon is now on a new platform, Toyota’s TNGA. While at first glimpse the car may seem longer, it is and it isn’t. Wheelbase is up by a whole two inches but the car itself is less than an inch longer.

 There is a new V6, with 301-horsepower, 267-lb.-ft. and a 215-net-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder Hybrid System II with 650-volt electric motor and a CVT. The V6 gets an 8-speed automatic.

 Some of the top-of-the-line models feature real wood trim and some aluminum. Apple CarPlay is on board but no word on Android Auto.

 Screen wise, there is a 9.0 touchscreen for infotainment and a color head-up display to keep you on the right side of the law.

 All those who climb on board will get a charge out of the new Avalon with its five USB ports.

 The new model will appear in showrooms next month from the Toyota plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. Toyota set a starting price of $35,500.

 Here is the latest on gas prices, and the news is not good.

 “Pump prices are causing sticker shock across the country,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “Gas is selling at $2.26 or more at every gas station in America. More so, 13 percent of stations have pump prices set at $3 or more.”

 In California, prices of $4 or more are not uncommon.

 The Energy Information Administration said demand is at the highest level ever for the month of April and exceeds typical summer demand measurements.

 As demand skyrockets, gas prices increased across the country on the week with five states seeing double-digit jumps. The national average ticked up a nickel to $2.76.

 One study concluded that rising gas prices will consume whatever benefits many received from the recently passed tax cut bill.

 Ward’s Automotive is out with its top ten interiors for 2018. The winners are:

Chevrolet Equinox

Hyundai Kona

Infiniti QX50

Kia Stinger

Lexus LS 500

Lincoln Navigator

Porsche Panamera

Ram 1500

Range Rover Velar

Toyota Camry

 It is good to see the Ram truck in there, with an interior that is anything but truck like.

 Starting today, more than seven million owners of eligible Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles can have their Amazon packages delivered inside their vehicle using Amazon Key. In-Car Delivery comes at no extra cost for Amazon Prime members with an active OnStar account and is available in 37 U.S. cities and surrounding areas, with more cities to follow.






Auto News for April 23

Volkswagen has formally unveiled the I.D. R Pikes Peak, a “supercar” that will compete in the hill climb on June 24.*
It weighs less than 2,500 lbs and produces 680 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, giving it a 0-60 time of 2.25 seconds—faster than even Formula 1 and Formula E cars.

In case you wondered about the name, VW said the “R”, is synonymous with performance cars, and the “I.D.”, the symbol of its smart E-technology.

“The hill climb on Pikes Peak will definitely be a real acid test for the electric drive. Customers have always benefitted from the findings made in motorsport, and we expect to take these findings and use them as a valuable impetus for the development of future I.D. model,” said Dr. Frank Welsch, of Volkswagen.

Say hello to the Volvo S90 Ambience Concept said to be “an industry first sensory experience.”

Passengers can personalize the car’s atmosphere by using a smartphone app to choose one of seven visual themes synchronized with audio and scent.

The visual element transforms the car’s ceiling according to the selected theme – including Northern Lights, Scandinavian Forest, Swan Lake, Archipelago and Rain – each providing a different mood scaling from relaxing to invigorating. There is also a Nocturnal theme for resting, while Freedom gives a boost of fresh and uplifting energy.

The synchronized audio plays through the car’s Bowers & Wilkins sound system, which includes small tweeters in the headrest.

Each theme is matched with one of four bespoke scents, created by Byredo, which deploys simultaneously from a portal in the center console.

In short, “The design explores how people feel inside the car and enables them to influence their own mood and well-being.”

Some of these features may be incorporated into production models. Certainly the person on the picture looks comfy!

Soon you will be able to take your Aston Martin into your living room. Well, sort of. The company has added its name to a line of handcrafted furniture previewed at the Milan Design Week. The full collection of furniture from Formitalia will go on sale in September.

GM has reached agreement with labor unions in South Korea on wages and other benefits. In return, GM will not consider filing for bankruptcy and may receive assistance from the South Korean government.

*A date correction from an earlier report.

Saturday Road Test – Fun Mazda 3


Mazda 3 Grand Touring

In a word – FUN!

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Hey, people are starting to realize that you can have fun driving a compact sedan made by a company that 98 years ago manufactured corks.

Sales of the compact Mazda 3 rose 8.7 percent in March as overall Mazda sales gained a substantial 35.7 percent. To a growing number, “Driving does matter!”

It was a most enjoyable week piloting the Grand Touring Edition model with its responsive 2.5-liter four churning out 184 horsepower at 5,700 rpm with 185 lb-ft of torque at 3,250 rpm.

Matched to a six speed automatic with paddle shifts, the 3 got a 10 rating along favored rural roads with its excellent handling, power and braking. Gear changes were quick and smooth and frankly when I was caught in rush hour stop and go traffic with emphasis on stop, I did not miss the optional six speed manual.


Look for a 0-60 in about 7 seconds with good gas mileage, an issue that might become more important with predictions of rising petrol prices as the spring and summer driving seasons emerge. (This assumes it will eventually stop snowing in the Midwest.)
EPA rates the 2.5-liter automatic at 27 mpg city, 36 highway for a combined 30 mpg which was my average for the week. It runs on regular unleaded.


With top-of-the-line trim, nice touches abounded indoors. A 6-way adjustable leather clad driver’s seat with manual lumbar adjustment, heated front seats, leather wrapped wheel, dual climate control, and a moonroof were present along with Mazda’s rather unique 7-inch infotainment screen.

It is largely controlled by a large knob on the center console that requires only a minimum amount of get acquainted time, and thank you Mazda for that.

A 9-speaker Bose audio system produced some fine sounds, most welcome on a jaunt to West Virginia where you simply have to listen to Willie Nelson in live concert. Thus, the state and the music are a perfect match.

Rear seat room was excellent for this size car, and adults will be comfy back there for medium to longish trips.

All of the expected safety equipment was on board, most of it standard equipment.
A $1,600 Premium Equipment Package added high beam control, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist, radar cruise control, plus smart brake support.

The latter stops the car if a hazard is detected between two and 18 mph if the driver has not hit the brake pedal.

Out on the highway the ride is just a tad on the stiff side, but that is the trade-off for the great handling. Interior noise was not an issue on a legal 70 mph interstate, where the real life limit was closer to 80.

Handy in such circumstances was the head up display that not only gives you your speed but the posted limit, handy if you unknowingly enter “radar alley.”
With the Appearance Package, ($1,300) and the above mentioned Premium Equipment Package, the MSRP came to a very reasonable $28,470 for a well-equipped four door sedan.

And as you cruise along deserted back roads you can exclaim, “Jimba ittai-a” which is

Mazda’s philosophy of good harmony between car and driver.


Mazda was founded in 1920 as Toyo Kogyo Cork Ltd., manufacturing cork and later heavy machinery.