Auto News for May 9 – Beetle’s Future Up In The Air

Volkswagen has promised big changes in its lineup, and now Motor Trend and Autocar say the Beetle may get the ax, or just the hardtop may be discontinued. Others say the car may disappear for a spell and come back as an electric.

The nationwide average price for regular unleaded gasoline is $2.35 per gallon, which is four cents less than one week and one month ago, and 14 cents more than the same date last year, said AAA. Last week, 46 states saw prices drop – some by at least 9 cents – with prices remaining steady in other parts of the country. The trending decline is due to an unseasonable glut of gasoline in the U.S. market, record high refinery production rates, moderate demand and a recent drop in crude oil prices.

GMC announced that its new Terrain will carry an MSRP of $25,970 when it goes on sale this summer. Initially it will be offered with a 2.0-liter turbo followed later with a 1.5 liter turbo and a 1.6 turbo diesel. The top of the line Terrain Denali AWD will start at $40,245.

Ford will conduct its annual meeting of shareholders on Thursday. For the first time, the meeting will be conducted through an audio broadcast accessible from a computer, tablet or smart phone device. While some argue this gives management more power over how the meeting is conducted, the audio only meeting is gaining in popularity. The NY Times said it was used by 154 companies last year.

A Week of Fit-ness

 

                                Honda Fit

                         A Good Fit for Many

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD.  – It frankly surprised me, and perhaps will strike you the same way to learn the subcompact Honda Fit has been with us for ten years now.

 And it is still tailored to carry lots of cargo with 52.7 cubic feet available with the rear seats down. If it is people you want to carry, adults will find ample space out back if the seats are up, of course! The EPA said the Fit has the interior space of a mid-size car.

 Lots of windows means great visibility for all occupants, and the interior has a bright and cheery look to it. Fit and finish were of the expected Honda high quality.

 So-called “Magic Seats” will fold in various ways to accommodate stuff that you would never, at first blush, think could be hauled in a subcompact car.

 The 1.5 liter four delivers 130 horsepower @ 6,800 rpm and 114 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,600 rpm. With the CVT transmission, EPA economy ratings come in at 32 city, 37 highway for a combined 34 mpg, on regular unleaded. In lots of stop and go traffic and some interstate trips, I ended the week “stuck in the middle” at 35 mpg. Look for a 0-60 in the upper 8 second range.

 Standard features on all models include auto on-off headlights, LED brake lights, Bluetooth and a center storage console with armrest. Items such as Push Button Start, a one-touch operated moonroof, 7-inch touchscreen with next-generation HondaLink, and heated leather seats are among the available upgrades and included on the EXL Navi model.

 The EX-L also adds heated power side mirrors with integrated turn indicators, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, plus a 180-watt audio system with 6 speakers.

 One potentially maddening feature was the screen mounted sliding touch control for volume level. It was difficult to adjust while driving, but that was offset by a volume button on the steering wheel.

 The Honda Link system does not match up to Android phones, but does match with an iPhone.

 Safety wise, the Fit has received a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Standard safety features include Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, Brake Assist, and Honda’s next-generation advanced body structure.

 Okay, let’s hit the road.

 Around town the Fit is a treat to drive. It eased into tight parking spaces, there was adequate power to keep up with traffic, and while I have not driven one, I would imagine the stick shift model would be fun to take out on a back road.

 On the interstates, the CVT created a lot of noise as speed built on entry, but everything settled down once up to speed. Overall noise levels were on par with other subcompact offerings.

 There was ample room up front for a 6’ tall driver, and I appreciated the driver seat height adjustment and Honda LaneWatch – the best blind spot detector on the market.

 With all that cargo space out back, this should qualify as a crossover or small SUV – thus right in line with what people are buying these days.

 One cannot overlook Honda’s reputation for years of stress free driving. Yours truly put 88,000 on a Civic years ago we recorded 100,000 plus worry free miles on a Mrs. Auto Evaluator’s Accord.

 Prices start at $16,090 for an LX model with a 6-speed manual. Next up is the EX with a base of $18,000 even. The lineup tops out with the test Fit with a CVT and Navi at $21,365.

 With no optional equipment and delivery factored in the test Fit rolled out at $22,240.

If someone asked me, “Should I buy a Fit” the answer would be yes.

  Some Stats: 

 1.5 liter four 130 hp @ 6,600 rpm

 Torque: 114 @ 4,600 rpm

 Transmissions: 6-Speed Manual or CVT with Sport Mode

 Turning Diameter: 35.1’

 And it comes with a Compact Spare Tire!

 160 inches long, 67 inches wide and 99.6 inches tall.

 

 

 

 

Auto News for May 5

 Musings:

 Mary-land has outlawed the practice of using a hand held mobile device while driving and offenders face a $300 fine. From what I have observed, this is the most disregarded law on the state’s books.

 It is amazing in this part of the world how many drivers forget to turn their headlights on at night.

 Also amazing. From what I have seen in supermarket parking lots, how many drivers back out of a parking space and never look to see if any pedestrians or big trucks are behind their vehicle. Many drive late models, which makes one wonder if they do not know they have a backup camera.

 New car dealers should be required to explain in easy to understand terms how the safety equipment, audio devices, and touch screens work.

 Disagree? I had a new car owner ask me this week how to turn on the headlights.

 It is still easier to turn a knob to adjust heating/ventilation or an audio system then try to hit an icon on a screen at speed.

 Poor interstate highway design puts drivers at risk. Especially when you have a situation where at merge points motorists are trying to go in three possible directions at 60 mph.

 Don’t get too excited about full self-driving cars and trucks. They are years and years away due to technology constraints, legal matters, and the answer to these questions. Who is liable when the technology fails? And how does the car guide itself on poorly marked roads, snow covered highways and on foggy nights?

 The person who invented the drive-thru at banks, fast food restaurants etc., should have received some kind of prestigious award. Not to forget the inventor of coffee.

 When will people start buying cars again?

 The stick shift is not dead and those who love to drive should rejoice.

 The summer driving season is here, or is coming shortly across the land. Flowers are blooming, baseball is being played, (gladiator style in Boston) and there is little to match the joy of driving a Mazda Miata for a full day over rural roads with the top down. Well, maybe one exception when farmers are, shall we say, “Fertilizing” their fields. (This is a family site.)

 The Hyundai Elantra is a great car with a manual tranny.

 If I hit the Powerball look for a Porsche 911 in the driveway.

 Virtually everything Mazda makes is a fun drive. But sales are lagging of late.

 After years of fighting rust on cars and trucks in winter climes, who thought it would be a good idea of paint new cars and trucks rust color?

 Elsewhere:

 The 2018 Porsche 911 GT3 lapped the famed Nordschleife track at the Nurburgring in 7 minutes and 12.7 seconds. That is a whopping 12.3 seconds faster than the previous model. A few years ago lap times like this could only ever be achieved by thoroughbred race cars with slick tires.

 Toyota has opened a $154 million expanded R&D facility in York Township, Mich. on the 40th anniversary of its North American research and development operations.

 And this has nothing to do with motoring, but it must be said. Henning Mankell is likely the best mystery writer of modern times.

 

 

 

 

  

Auto News for May 4 – A New Model A?

  In its latest survey of the strongest brands, the Harris Poll said Mercedes reclaimed the Luxury Automotive Brand of the Year honor from Lexus. Toyota maintained the Non-Luxury Automotive Brand of the Year for the third consecutive year. Mercedes and Toyota scores ranked in the top 25 percent of all brands measured, across all industries.

 Elon Musk said Tesla is on track to start producing the Model 3 this summer. For its latest quarter, Tesla reported a bigger loss than expected but also noted that sales and revenue were higher. The Model 3 will be Tesla’s lowest priced model starting at an expected $35,000 but analysts believe most of them will be around the $50K mark with options. In pre-market trading this morning, Tesla shares were down just shy of 2.5 percent.

 Ford was not the only auto company with a Model A. Mitsubishi’s first car back in 1917 was also called the Model A and was based on an existing Fiat. Now Mitsu will team with West Coast Customs to recreate that historic car. The recreated body will be bolted on to the platform of today’s Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Electric to celebrate Mitsubishi’s centennial.

 “We’re proud to be a 100-year-old brand with a rich heritage in the automotive landscape. The Mitsubishi Model A is the vehicle that paved the way for many other unique and exciting models over the years and we’re excited to re-design it with West Coast Customs,” said Francine Harsini, senior director, marketing at MMNA. “The Mitsubishi Model A will feature all the distinctive aspects of the 1917 vehicle, but will be built on the PHEV platform and offer the latest in automotive technology.” Work will be completed this summer.

 The trainer of this year’s Kentucky Derby winner will be awarded a special edition Ram 2500 series truck. It is part of the brand’s sponsorship of Churchill Downs and the derby. The exterior of the “Brilliant Black” truck includes blue Kentucky Derby 143rd logos on the left and right rear panels and a hand-painted Kentucky Derby rose badge on the front grille. And the winner will never have to clean out its stall.

 

 

 

 

Auto News for May 3 – Some Posted April Sales Gains!

 While industry wide auto sales were almost 5 percent lower in April, some makers did post gains:

 Hyundai up 1 percent.

 Subaru demand rose 4 percent, its best April ever. Impreza, Outback and Forester demand mainly.

 Volkswagen up 1.6 percent.

 Porsche said April sales rose 2.2 percent and are 3.4 percent higher for the year. Panamera sales were particularly strong.

 Audi sold a record 18,711 vehicles in April, and a 5 percent gain over a year earlier. Q5, Q7, & A4 were the main reasons why.

 Despite that bit of good news, Kelley Blue was not optimistic for the full year.

 “After a weaker-than-expected March, it’s becoming more likely that 2017 will be the first down year for the industry since 2009,” said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

 After a record year of sales in 2016 and seven consecutive year-over-year sales increases, Kelley Blue Book’s forecast for 2017 calls for sales in the range of 16.8 million to 17.3 million units, which represents a 1 to 4 percent decrease from last year.

 Wall Street was not optimistic either with shares of GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler closing lower after the Detroit Three reported weaker April sales. Overall industry numbers have now been lower for four straight months.

In the truck market, the Ram outsold the Chevy Silverado for the second month in a row. The Ford F-150 remains the most popular truck in the land a position it has held almost since the days of Columbus.

 Sales of the Nissan Titan and the Honda Ridgeline moved higher. Nissan has now rounded out the Titan lineup while the Ridgeline is all new after being off the market for two years.

 Down in West Point, Georgia workers at the Kia plant celebrated the production of the plant’s one millionth Sorento. Production began back in November of 2009.

 

 

 

 

Auto News for May 2 – April Sales Lower for the Detroit Three

 Auto makers will spend the day reporting in April sales and if most of the forecasters are correct, the number of vehicles rolling off dealer lots will be below those of one year earlier.

 The first to report was Ford where overall U.S. sales declined 7.2 percent year over year. But there was some good news – average transaction prices increased $1,900 last month. Sales of Ford’s big F-150 truck were down fractionally, but average transaction pricing rose $3,700. Demand rose for the Escape and Expedition.

 Total sales fell six percent at GM due, it said, to one less selling day in April over last year. Demand was strong for crossovers accounting for almost one third of all deliveries, compared to one in four five years ago. Average transaction prices rose more than $600 per unit to approximately $35,000.

 “When you look at the broader economy, including a strong job market, rising wages, low inflation and low interest rates, and couple them to low fuel prices and strong consumer confidence, you have everything you need for auto sales to weather headwinds and remain at or near historic highs,” said Mustafa Mohatarem, GM chief economist.

 

 April sales fell 7 percent at Fiat Chrysler as the company reduces sales to the daily rental segment. Retail sales were down a total of three percent. Ram truck sales rose 5 percent and demand was higher for the Dodge Journey Crossover, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the Pacifica minivan.

 Continuing the theme, Toyota said overall sales were off 4.4 percent. Lexus sales declined 11 percent while the Toyota brand was off 3.5 percent. Lexus has high hopes for the LC500 and the LC500h that will be introduced later this month. April demand mirrored other makers with strong sales of the RAV4 crossover, trucks and the Highlander SUV.

 We all like it when prices go down, and that is what happened to gasoline in the past week. AAA said the average price of a gallon of unleaded fell three cents to $2.39 a gallon. But that is 18 cents more than the national average one year earlier. AAA said we are seeing low demand across the country and ample supplies.