Auto News for Sept. 1 – August Sales A Mixed Bag

 General Motors was the only one of the Detroit three to post an August sales gain, with the numbers moving lower for both Ford and Fiat Chrysler, according to data just out this morning.

 Retail deliveries picked up 4 percent at the General and if one adds in commercial deliveries, GM posted a 7.5 percent sales increase.

 “We had a very strong month, and grew our retail and commercial fleet business on the strength of robust crossover sales at all four of our brands,” said Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of Sales Operations. “But our focus is on the unfolding crisis in Texas and what we can do to help our customers, employees, dealers and everyone else impacted by the flooding.” A sentiment echoed by other car makers.

 Chevrolet reported its best August since 2004 and best crossover month ever. Leading the charge were the Traverse, Equinox, and Trax.

 But over at Ford, sales fell 2.1 percent despite a 15 per cent increase in demand for the F-150 pickup, particularly the high-trim level Super Duty trucks. Ford cars were off 9 percent while SUV demand declined 11.6 percent. Lincoln sales were down 7.6 percent last month.

 Jeep Compass and Renegade models recorded their best August sales ever but overall Fiat Chrysler reported sales fell 11 percent, partially due to a planned cut back in fleet sales.

 Elsewhere:

 August was not kind to Nissan with total group sales falling 13.1 percent with car sales falling across the board with the exception of the Sentra and Leaf models. In the truck category, sales were generally lower with the exception of the Titan pickup and the Armada.  

 On a daily selling rate basis, Toyota said sales increased 2.8 percent with the RAV4 posting an all-time record for back-to-back monthly sales.

 Year over year sales rose 9 percent at VW with demand for the redesigned Tiguan and new Atlas SUV just starting to gain traction, as it were. Interesting that sales of the Beetle coupe were lower but more people took home the convertible model.

 Audi posted a gain of 2.8 percent as the Q7 and the new Q5 and A5 Sportback helped drive the numbers higher. “We are in the midst of our biggest product rollout in our U.S. history and consumers are responding to the designs, the technology and the brand’s reputation for dependability,” said Cian O’Brien, chief operating officer, Audi of America.

 Kia sales declined roughly one percent.

 The average price for a new vehicle rose $243 last month to $34,648, an increase of seven tenths of one percent from one year earlier, according to Kelley Blue Book. It pointed out that the gain is “far lower” than the 2 to 3 percent increases in the first half of the year. When it came to trucks and mid-size cars, prices actually went down last month, KBB said.

 

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Auto News for Aug. 31 – Best Vehicles For Dogs. AARRFFF!!!

 Looking ahead to the holiday weekend, Autotrader is out with a list of the five best vehicles for those who want to take their dog along. It considered a number of criteria, include an airy cabin, a containment barrier to keep a dog from bouncing back and forth between seating rows, fold-flat seats, and a rear lift gate for easy loading of a pet carrier. The top five vehicles are:

 Chrysler Pacifica  

 Nissan Pathfinder

 Toyota 4Runner

 VW Tiguan

 Volvo XC90

The Pathfinder, 4Runner and Tiguan are 2016 models.

 GM will break ground in mid-2018 on a 36,000 square foot expansion of its design studios in Warren, Michigan. “We can only begin to predict how mobility will change in future generations,” said Michael Simcoe, vice president of Global Design. “Investing in our creative and skilled team and providing them with inspiring, modern spaces, new technologies and more ways to work together will foster innovation that leads to real solutions for customers.” The new addition will double the size of GM’s design studios.

 The 2018 Hyundai Sonata has earned the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s highest award for safety, Top Safety Pick+. This applies to cars with optional front crash prevention and dynamic bending headlights.

 Tesla announced that production costs have eased for some battery packs so it is cutting the price of some of its cars. The P110D Model S and X gets a $5,000 price chop while the Model S and Model S 100D had a price cut of $3,500, according to Motor Trend.

  

 

 

 

Auto News for Aug. 30 – Electric Mini Coming!

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 Mini has unveiled an electric concept car to “showcase its take on future personal mobility in the city” and announced it will introduce an all-electric production model in 2019. It will follow the electric MINI E unveiled as a field test car back in 2008 and the plug-in hybrid drive Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 presented in the spring of 2017. In the future, all electrified products from the MINI brand will be grouped together under the “MINI Electric” banner. The concept will make its debut at the Frankfurt auto show next month.

 Thanks to Hurricane Harvey, the average price of gas nationwide rose four cents to $2.37 a gallon one of the largest one week price surges seen this summer, according to the AAA.  About one quarter of oil refining capacity in the Gulf Coast had been taken offline, according to forecasts by Oil Price Information Service.

 Over the weekend, Valero reported its facilities in Corpus Christi and Three Rivers sustained “substantial refinery impacts” and the company is evaluating infrastructure needs to determine when the refineries can resume operations. Some analysts are forecasting a gas price increase of 10 to 20 cents a gallon, while others see even bigger price hikes.

 Experts say the huge hurricane will also impact August auto sales to the tune of 20,000 to 40,000 vehicles according to Cox Automotive. Houston is one the nation’s top ten auto markets and hundreds of auto dealers have been affected by the high winds and unprecedented rain fall. The Detroit News said dealers may have to wait for weeks to fully determine the damage to their properties.

  

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 Ford and Dominos are studying the role that self-driving cars can play in pizza delivery. One would assume if it works 100 percent one day there would be no driver to tip.    

 Over the next several weeks, randomly-selected Domino’s customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan will have the opportunity to receive their delivery order from a Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle, which will be manually-driven by a Ford safety engineer and staffed with researchers.

 Customers who agree to participate will be able to track the delivery vehicle through GPS using an upgraded version of Domino’s Tracker. Among the issues are how people would feel about going outside to get their food, and how, I would think, they would feel if it were raining or snowing.

 At the auto show in Frankfurt, Germany next month BMW will reveal the i3s electric with more power, some trim alterations and a sport suspension. Tech changes give the i3s a performance boost with a 184 horsepower electric motor with 199-lb-ft of torque. That compares with 170/184 in the existing model.

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 BMW cited a 0-60 in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 100 mph. Compared to the current model that is a four-tenths of a second increase in 0-60 and 7 mph in top speed. A two-cylinder gas engine is available that will increase overall range from 97 to 180 miles. In the picture, the i3s is the one to the right.

 A new study concludes customers are less satisfied with their domestic cars than those who purchased an import. The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index said GM was the only one of the Detroit three to post a gain in customer satisfaction this year. Ford and Fiat Chrysler received lower scores.

 Toyota is the highest scoring company in the mass-market category and among luxury vehicles with Lexus. Overall, Subaru came in second, GMC third, followed by Hyundai, Kia, and Mazda. The report is based on 3,934 customer surveys.

 A fuel pump that could fail and cause a car to stall has VW recalling almost 281,000 cars. Involved are the 2009-16 CC sedan and the 2006-10 Passat with the four cylinder gas engine. Owners will receive a recall notice in the mail. VW said it has not received any indication of a crash of injuries tied to the fuel pumps.

 

 

Auto News for Aug. 28 – VW Milestone & and Impreza Convertible

150- million 1 

 A Volkswagen milestone! The 150 millionth VW left the assembly line in Wolfsburg, Germany today. Golfs and Beetles and what have you are now being manufactured at over 50 production sites in 14 countries. A blue Golf GTE hybrid was the anniversary car.

 This year Volkswagen is launching over 10 new models worldwide and promising 19 new SUVs in total by 2020.   And it said one million electric Volkswagens are to hit the road by 2025.

 It all began on December 27, 1945 with the Type 1 Käfer. In the post-war era, it was the Volkswagen Beetle that initially shaped the automobile industry. (I have owned a few. Anyone remember the Sun Bug?)

Snow tunnel race

 It was sled dog versus Land Rover racing in an underground snow tunnel in Finland. The maker of off roaders took the husky dogs to the tunnel to help prepare them for winter championship races. The undulating tunnel is carved into bedrock 115 feet below ground level and kept at a constant 2 degrees below freezing. The Land Rover won the race, but what observers said was a “dog’s hair.”

Aston Martin DB 11

 Aston Martin has been turning out some world class performance cars of late, and it’s making money doing so. Today it reported a 94 percent increase in revenues on rising demand for the DB11. That reverses the loss Aston reported in the first six months of last year. During the second quarter, Aston Martin launched the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 variant of the DB11, which combines a top speed of 187 mph with the most fuel efficient powertrain on offer by the company. It also announced plans for its first all-electric, zero-emission model: the limited-edition RapidE set to begin production in 2019.

 As you may have heard gas prices are expected to rise due to Hurricane Harvey shutting down one-fifth of the nation’s production. Gas futures rose Sunday and Monday in electronic trading, according to CNBC. Experts think it will be a week or two before we see the increases at our local stations and some experts think prices may go up between 7 and 15 cents a gallon.

 

 Ever want to own a Subaru Impreza convertible? A what you may ask? Well there is one for sale at the Subaru dealer in Manchester, N.H. A plaque shows the one off conversion was completed by Newport Specialty Cars of California back in 2011. Various reports say this company has a reputation of high quality work. With just over 9,000 miles on it, the car is listed for $26,967. Might be just the thing for a trip through the White Mountain foliage.  

   

 

 

 

 

Saturday First Drive – 2018 Toyota Camry

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                    All Dressed UP!  

 By Ron Amadon

 ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The order came down from on high at Toyota headquarters. Stop building boring cars!

 Designers heeded that call when they produced the eighth generation Camry, edging far out on a limb to achieve their goal – a car that could be instantly distinguished from 200 yards away. They sure did that!

 It has long been a decorum dictum in the auto industry that if you have a best seller, which the Camry has been for 15 years, you don’t mess with it. But mess with it they did sparking a controversy over all those lines and creases, finishing with what they call an “exterior with an unexpected attitude.”

 About the new design Toyota said, “…the new Camry offers traditional owners who have come to love the model’s civility and reliability, an opportunity to shed their inhibitions and take a drive on the wild side.”

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 “From the beginning, the development team wanted to expand the appeal of the Camry,” said Chief Engineer Masato Katsumata: “We wanted to make an impact with current owners, to shake things up and leave a lasting impression with current and new owners.”

 Some like that new sporty new attitude while others believe Toyota has fallen out of the tree. Count me among those who like it – very much.

 Nowhere is it written that all mid-sized sedans have to look alike. I have in the past, and almost always will, applaud those who think outside the box.

 And here is another reason the design should click. The changing face of the potential Camry buyer. Probably driving a Corolla now, and not as conservative as the past Camry crowd. They want something sporty and exciting as they move up the Toyota ladder. And there is nothing in this new design, even in the entry level “L” model, which screams econobox.

 Confidently, let me predict that the “Keen Look” design philosophy will be enough to keep them coming into Toyota showrooms while attracting new buyers seeking a sedan that offers high quality, exacting build quality, and long life.

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 So what are we dealing with here once past the cosmetics?

 A totally new car riding on TNGA or Toyota’s New Global Architecture platform, new engines, a driver centric dash panel, and a bigger trunk among other items. About the only thing that is carried over, a representative told me, is the word “Toyota” on the exterior.

 Non-hybrid models are offered with a choice of two engines. A 2.5-liter 4 with 203 horsepower at 6,600 rpm in the LE, SE, XLE, models. And 184 lb-ft of torque at 6,600 rpm

 Opt for the XSE and get 3 more horsepower and two more lb-ft of torque.

 Or the 3.5-liter 6 with 301 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 267 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm. The test car I drove had the six and was quick to get up to speed on a parkway in cahoots with the responsive and standard eight speed automatic.

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 The gas sipper is the base L model with 29 city, 41 highway for a combined 34 mpg. The six in XSE trim is rated at 22 city, 32 highway for a combined 26 mpg. They run on 87 octane regular.

 All models come with a package called “Safety Sense-P” with pre-collision and pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane departure warning and automatic high beam dimming. A package on the test Camry brought ten airbags and blind spot monitor.  

 The XSE that I drove had among other items, LED headlights and LED Daytime Running Lights with auto on/off, LED taillights, plus color-keyed heated outside mirrors with turn signal.

 Also 19-inch alloy wheels, P235/40R19 tires, and believe it or not on a Camry, dual exhaust with quad chrome tips. A long panoramic glass roof will keep all passengers in touch with current sky conditions.

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 The new “S-curve” center console is cantered a bit toward the driver making for easy reach to the controls while providing more space for the front seat passenger. Look to the center dash and what do you see but KNOBS, boys and girls!!!

 Knobs control the audio system and ventilation. While that is not as big a deal as Taylor Swift’s new single, they are most welcome around the 8 inch touchscreen. It was almost like Toyota said of those incomprehensible touch screens found elsewhere, “Look What You Made Me Do.”  

 It should be known that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not offered on any Camry models.

 The leather trimmed front seats with 8 way power adjustment were comfortable and even tall operators should be comfy in the new interior. An outside feels like temperature of 100 plus means I did not turn on the seat heaters. Taller passengers to the rear will discover ample leg room, but some hairs might come in contact with the roof. The walk in freezer like A/C kept the interior perfectly comfortable.

 On a short test drive, the Camry was generally quiet with just a bit of noise as the tires encountered the expansion strips of a concrete highway. Handling seemed to be improved over the earlier models while not sacrificing the ride. More on this will have to await a trip to West Virginia where straight roads are as rare as a still with neon lights.

 The base L model starts at $23,495, with the base XSE six-cylinder starting at $34,950. With a few options such as Paint Protection Film, the first drive model totaled out at $36,523 with delivery.  

 Now the Camry will do battle with the Honda Accord that was also redesigned for 2018. Even with a short introductory drive it was clear that the Camry will be a strong competitor.

 Production began June 28 at the plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.

  

Auto News for Aug. 25 – The Most Comfortable Seats?

How comfortable are the seats in your current ride? If you are driving a new Audi A3, very comfortable according to a just released report from J.D. Power.
The study asks new-vehicle owners to rate the quality of their vehicle’s seats and seat belts with respect to whether they have experienced defects/malfunctions or design problems during the first 90 days of ownership.

2017 Audi A3 Sedan--3001

And the Magna supplied seats to Audi took the top prize in the luxury car segment. Lear’s seats in the Chevrolet Cruze won the compact car class, while Adient’s seats for the Kia Cadenza topped the midsize/large car category. In the luxury SUV category, Ardient’s chairs in the Porsche Cayenne took home the award.

California leads the world in sales of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles but that doesn’t mean they are run away best sellers. Globally, over 1,600 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles were sold or leased in the first half of 2017, according to Information Trends. More than 1,000 of these vehicles were sold in California, the only state in the U.S. where these vehicles are commercially available.

Less than 500 of these vehicles were sold in Japan and Korea. In Europe, only 5 percent of these vehicles were sold. Sales are infinitesimal mainly due to the limited number of hydrogen stations.

The upcoming Volvo XC40 tackles the question we all face in driving – where to put stuff.
It moved the audio speakers out of the doors to create room for a laptop and a tablet or a couple of water bottles.
The center console provides space for coins, cards or charging cables with wireless charging for your smart phone. A fold away hook has been added to the glove box for securing small bags.

There is a storage space under the front seats for a mini tablet or other small items. Slots are provided in the dash for credit and service cards making them readily available when needed. Very handy on a long journey but owners must, of course, remember to remove those cards at trip’s end.

Under the center console arm rest, there is a bin big enough to accommodate a tissue box. Better yet a removable bin allows owners to quickly dispose of waste.

“A lot we have done with the XC40 is based on extensive consumer insight. With the XC40, we declare the end of clutter, making sure that everything is within arms-reach but also out of sight. It’s about clearing the clutter so you can clear your mind,” concludes Louiza Atcheba, Model Brand Manager for the 40 Series.