Auto News for March 9

 The Honda Clarity lineup will expand with the introduction of an electric model and a plug-in hybrid to be introduced at the New York Auto Show in April. They will join the current hydrogen fuel cell model. The Clarity Electric, Honda said, will be the first affordable, midsize, five-passenger battery electric vehicle while the plug-in hybrid, will be the volume leader in the series, combining an all-electric driving range rating in excess of 40 miles with a hyper-efficient gasoline-hybrid extended range mode. Honda has announced its intention to make two-thirds of its global auto sales from electrified vehicles by 2030. 

 McLaren has introduced the second generation of its Super Series – the three seat 720S and it will be fast! Consider a twin turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 rated at a whopping 710 horsepower that takes it from a standing start to 60 in a pulse raising 2.8 seconds. It will also be a more fashionable McLaren with lots of consumer choices such as Bridge of Weir leather with lots of stitching inside with an abundance of Alcantara. The 720S is said to be lighter, faster and more dynamically capable then its 650S predecessor. Look for a starting price of $284,475 when the new model hits the market in May. Oh, top speed at the track is 212 mph.

 California has approved Uber’s request to test self- driving cars in the state, but it will not be allowed to pick up passengers and the cars must have a human on board to take control if necessary. Last December Uber and the state were at odds when the company used self-drivers on the streets of San Francisco without a permit.

 Nissan has introduced a King Cab version of its Titan and Titan 😄 full size pickups with seating for six. Commercial users can check a rear seat delete option. Nissan said the Titan lineup is now complete with three body configurations, three bed lengths and a range of grade levels and equipment packages.

 

 

Auto News for March 8 – Feeling Good About Autonomous Cars?

 Three-quarters of drivers report feeling afraid to ride in a self-driving car, and only 10 percent report that they’d actually feel safer sharing the roads with driverless vehicles, according to a survey just released by AAA. However, 59% want autonomous features in their next vehicle. This marked contrast suggests that drivers are ready embrace autonomous technology, but they are not yet ready to give up full control.

  “U.S. drivers may experience the driver assistance technologies in their cars today and feel they don’t work consistently enough to replace a human driver – and they’re correct,” said Greg Brannon, director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations.

  “While these technologies will continue to improve over time, it’s important that consumers understand that today’s systems require your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel,” he added.

 The head of Fiat Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne, suggested to reporters at the Geneva show that one day Volkswagen would come calling to discuss some sort of alliance with his company. Now Reuters reports that VW’s Chief Executive said his company is not ready for talks about anything as it continues to deal with the diesel engine scandal. Marchionne has also been shunned by GM regarding any kind of the match up. 

 Mazda said the revamped CX-5 that will arrive on dealer lots later this month will carry an MSRP of $24,045. All models come standard with the 2.5 four and six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, with Mazda’s all-wheel drive available on all trim levels.

 Hyundai has revealed a Fuel Cell concept car in Geneva that it said represents the next step toward creating a zero emission “Hydrogen Energy Society.” An internal air humidifier recycles water emitted by the hydrogen system to create a more comfortable interior. Hyundai said its new technology is 20 percent lighter and achieves 10 percent greater efficiency over its current Tucson fuel cell vehicle. The concept is said to have a range of 800 kilometers or about 497 miles.

 Also in Geneva, Mercedes-AMG debuted a high performance hybrid sedan concept with a total output of 805 horsepower and a 0-60 sprint in less than three seconds. Mercedes said the concept “gives a sneak preview of the exterior design coming to the series production model.” The concept sports a 4.0-liter V8 biturbo engine, electric motors, all-wheel drive and three operating modes.

 Toyota said its C-HR compact crossover will carry an MSRP of $22,500 when it hits showrooms next month with “bold, eye catching style.” CH-R stands for Coupe High-Rider. One feature will prevent certain multimedia menus from being selected while the vehicle is in motion. Another will maintain full force braking at all four wheels even if the driver reduces the pressure on the pedal. Once the operator depresses the accelerator, the brakes will release.

 

 

Auto News for March 7 – Civic Type R, Porsche 911 GT3 To Raise Your Blood Pressure

 

 The long awaited and much talked about Honda Civic Type R made its global debut today at the Geneva show. It will be the first R-badged Honda to be offered here in the states and you won’t have to wait long to buy one – it will go on sale in late spring.

 Honda is talking about a mid-$30k price range.

 A 2.0-liter i-VTEC DI TURBO: 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. of torque means it should be grand fun to drive. The engine will be mated exclusively to a short-throw 6-speed manual transmission with rev matching capability – employing automatic throttle blips for smoother shifts and power delivery. Decisive stopping power comes from Brembo 4-pot aluminum calipers.

 The Type R features three driving modes: Comfort, Sport (default) and +R. The driver selectable modes adjust steering and throttle response, transmission rev-matching, Vehicle Stability Assist and the Adaptive Damper System. Utilizing new, three-chamber dampers, individual stroke sensors and three vehicle-G sensors, the new damper system offers a wider range of variability for ride comfort and dynamic handling response.

 If all that is not enough, a 540-watt, 12-speaker audio system with SiriusXM 2.0, HD Radio and Pandora compatibility is standard.

  It is not going out on a limb to say demand for the Type R should be off the charts here.

 And talk about performance! Porsche announced a new 911 GT3 with a 4.0-liter flat six good for 500 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque. A redesigned chassis with Rear Axle Steering and systematic lightweight construction is specifically tuned to produce superior driving dynamics.

 Thanks to a power-to-weight ratio of 6.4 pounds per hp, the 911 GT3 feels very much at home on the test track. With the standard seven-speed dual-clutch transmission — specifically constructed and tuned for the GT3 — the 3,153 pound two-seater accelerates from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.2 seconds with a top track speed of 197 miles per hour.

 For purists, Porsche will also offer the 911 GT3 with a six-speed manual transmission. With this transmission the GT3 weighs in at 3,116 pounds, allowing it to achieve a top track speed of 198 miles per hour and hit 60 mph in 3.8 seconds.

 The redesigned chassis with Rear Axle Steering and systematic lightweight construction is specifically tuned to produce superior driving dynamics in conjunction with the naturally aspirated engine.

 The 2018 911 GT3 is scheduled to reach U.S. dealers in fall 2017. The base MSRP will be $143,600, excluding the $1,050 delivery, processing, and handling fee.

 Volvo Cars today revealed a new version of one of its best sellers – a new XC60, which represents around 30 per cent of Volvo’s total global sales. Of course it is fully-loaded with new technology. A new safety system called Oncoming Lane Mitigation uses steer assist to help mitigate head-on collisions, while Volvo’s Blind Spot Indication System reduces the risk of lane-changing collisions.

 There are a number of powertrains that will be available in Europe, and this morning it is not clear which one will be coming to the U.S. But a plug in hybrid will deliver 407 horsepower and a 0-62 run in just 5.3 seconds. Production will being in mid-April in Sweden.

 

Auto News for March 6 – GM Agrees To Sell Opel

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  For $2.2 billion General Motors will sell its European operations, Opel, and its British based Vauxhall brand to PSA Group, the two companies announced this morning.

 It is expected the two auto makers will close the deal by year’s end if necessary regulatory hurdles are cleared.

 PSA chief Carlos Tavares has a track record for turning money losing operations around and now will focus on Opel, a company that has been in the red since 1999.

 “For GM, this represents another major step in the ongoing work that is driving our improved performance and accelerating our momentum. We are reshaping our company and delivering consistent, record results for our owners through disciplined capital allocation to our higher-return investments in our core automotive business and in new technologies that are enabling us to lead the future of personal mobility,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra.

 “We are confident that the Opel/Vauxhall turnaround will significantly accelerate with our support, while respecting the commitments made by GM to the Opel/Vauxhall employees,” said Tavares.

 Once the deal is completed PSA Group will become Europe’s second largest automaker behind VW.

 It will face many hurdles to turning Opel/Vauxhall around including the fact the two companies make duplicate automobiles. There is also concern in Germany and Great Britain about possible job cuts down the road.

 The transaction will allow substantial economies of scale and synergies in purchasing, manufacturing and R&D. GM predicts Opel/Vauxhall will generate a positive operational free cash flow by 2020.

 GM said the deal will strengthen its core business, support its continued deployment of resources to higher-return opportunities including in advanced technologies driving the future, and unlock significant value for shareholders.

  And the General will continue selling Chevrolet and Cadillac vehicles in Europe.

 Pictured are Carlos Tavares, chairman of the Managing Board of PSA, and Mary Barra, GM chairman and chief executive officer, at this morning’s press conference in Paris.

 It will be interesting to see if this sets off a new round of rumors about additional auto industry mergers.

 Elsewhere:

 An announcement may come as early as Tuesday on a plan to reduce the requirement that automakers produce a fleet wide fuel economy rating of 54 miles per gallon by 2015, the New York Times reported. This would reflect consumer demand for larger trucks and SUV’s in monthly sales reports. Exactly what the rollback in fuel economy and emissions might entail is not clear this morning. Meeting the current standard would cost the industry $200 billion according to a trade group report. Those who support the 54 mpg target said it would save consumers trillions of dollars in fuel costs and they argue the standard is achievable.

 When it comes to how auto companies deal with customer inquiries received over the internet, Porsche leads the pact for the second year in a row, according to Pied Piper, an automotive mystery shopping company. For 2016 dealers responded to half of the customer inquiries within 30 minutes, but one customer in eleven failed to receive a response of any type within 24 hours. Among the largest manufacturers in the 2016 study, Ford was ranked highest, with Toyota, Honda and Nissan close behind, all above the industry average.

 

Saturday Road Test – Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription –

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Volvo S90 T6 AWD Inscription

People Will Notice

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – In the luxury car field one would be hard pressed to find a car that captured the attention of virtually every adult that watched it pass.

While fueling up one day, a man and then a woman came up wanting to know what it was and to say how handsome the S90 was. Many pedestrians gave a thumbs up to this sedan with the coupe like styling. And that’s without seeing the interior.

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It was a relaxing Swedish modern, in the best sense of the word, with a hushed elegance of leather covered surfaces with contrasting stitching, walnut wood inlays and bright colors – the direct opposite of the all back interiors in too many cars.

A note on the seats. Volvo has a long history of making some of the most comfortable seats in the industry and the new guy in town continues that tradition. They were, of course, multiple ways adjustable for driver and passenger with the operator also able to adjust side bolsters. Napa leather covered as well as heated and cooled.

Two adults sitting in back will urge you to take the long way around to your destination, the seats are that good.

Two changes are recommend for the absolutely beautiful interior. Some padding would be welcome along the center console where the side of the driver’s knee rests. And the headlight stalk, which was a little tricky to operate at first, should be illuminated.

Your eye will probably quickly center on the huge 9” screen at the center of the dash. Virtually everything you want is there – navigation, audio, climate control, and all vehicle settings plus a few things I never discovered during a week of driving.

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Part of my testing procedure with any vehicle is to find how many of the basic items, audio, ventilation, navi, and the all-important etc., I can set up without consulting the owner’s manual.

Volvo’s system allowed most of them to be found with a minimum of fuss, but I would strongly recommend that new owners get a through briefing on the system from a dealer before setting off for home. Not that it is all that complex, especially for the millions who have used a tablet computer, but because there is so much there.

Not there was the CD player, living instead under the center console. It was a two-step process on the screen to get it going, where on many cars you insert the disk and there is instant sound.

And what sound it was!!! The optional $2,650 Bowers & Wilkins system was simply the best I have ever heard in an automobile. Incredible crispness in mid-range and treble ranges with enough base to rattle your belt buckle. If you can conjure up the bucks for this system, do so. Think of it as an out of season Christmas gift.

Safety? Well that is another Volvo tradition. The S90 won a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

There was semi-autonomous “Pilot Assist” software on the test car which allows it to accelerate, decelerate, come to a complete stop and steer in road conditions with clear lane markings.

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So what makes this go? A supercharged and turbocharged four that prefers premium fuel with 316 hp @ 5,700 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque @ 2,200 rpm. It was matched to an 8 speed automatic. AWD.

This sedan version of the XC-90 wagon reached the mile a minute mark in 5.9 seconds with a top speed of 133. The EPA rates it at 22/31/25 mpg and I registered 23 for the week.

Operators will like the smooth shifts and the abundance of torque in the low end plus more than enough boost for entering interstates and tackling long grades over mountains.

Excellent handling, yes, but virtually no feedback from the steering wheel, however Volvo is hardly alone on that score.

Exit and entrance ramps and favorite rural roads were fun again but there was slightly more road noise in the cabin than expected. Look for that to be addressed in future models, I am sure.

For long trips, the S90 would be the exact opposite of the cramped interior of a jetliner. While there is no charge for carry-on bags there is a generous 14 cubic foot trunk to carry them in. Hmmm, maybe check with the driver about those carry on fees.

 The test Inscription model had a long list of options that added up to $12,160. Among them were “Thor’s Hammer daytime running lights,” (this is a Viking car after all), walnut wood inlays, 4-zone climate control with a cooled and quite large glove box, 19” alloy wheels “in Silver Diamond Cut,” head up display, and much more.

Get a complete lesson on that center screen to make your early days with the S90 more enjoyable. Then appreciate how this ride coddles you for the next 100,000 miles. I would rate the S90 Inscription as an exceptional buy for the $66,105 asking price.

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Auto News for March 3 – GM PSA Deal May Be Near

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 GM is edging ever closer to selling its European Operations to PSA Group unnamed sources have told news organizations. Intense talks are scheduled throughout the weekend according to Bloomberg and a meeting may be held with top labor leaders, all with an eye toward making the deal official on Monday. But don’t place any money on that bet quite yet. An agreement would make Peugeot/Citroen Europe’s second largest auto maker.

 The average amount financed for new and used vehicles has hit record highs, making longer-term loans more popular among consumers, according to a new report from experian. The average loan amount for a new vehicle reached a record high of $30,621 in the fourth quarter of 2016. The report also showed the number of consumers opting for auto loans with terms of 73 to 84 months on their new vehicles increased from 29 percent in Q4 2015 to 32.1 percent in Q4 2016. Consumers are extending loan terms, getting a short-term lease or opting for a used vehicle to get what they want while staying within their monthly budget, the report said. The average monthly payment for a new vehicle is now $506.

porsche-teaser

 Porsche will expand its Panamera lineup introducing the Sport Turismo model at the Geneva show next Tuesday. There will be four models, with enthusiasts most interested in the Sport model with up to 550 horsepower on tap. 0-60 in 3.4 seconds. It will feature increased luggage space and 4+1 seating. The two outer seats take the form of individual seats producing a 2+1 configuration in the rear. As an option, the Panamera Sport Turismo is also available in a four-seat configuration with two electrically adjustable individual seats in the back. Look for the new lineup to show up here near the end of the year. Prices will start at $96,200.

 That much talked about Jeep Wrangler based pickup will debut in late 2019, according to the Detroit News. Details are a little thin this early on. The company is said to be hunting for a name for the new truck, perhaps something used in Jeep’s storied past.

 How windy was it in Dearborn Michigan? Enough to tear a large Ford emblem sign off the south side of the company’s world headquarters building. The emblem on the north side is still in place.

 Ford is recalling approximately 32,000 2016-17 Ford Edge, 2016-17 Lincoln MKX and 2017 Lincoln Continental vehicles to replace the driver frontal airbag module. Ford was notified by Takata that certain driver frontal airbag cushions installed in these vehicles may not inflate as intended. This concern is not related to Takata’s ammonium nitrate airbag inflators that are subject to propellant degradation and potential rupture in a crash.

In the affected vehicles, in the event of driver frontal airbag deployment, the airbag may not completely fill, or the airbag cushion may detach from the airbag module due to misalignment of components within the airbag module.

 

 

Auto News for March 2

Auto News for March 2               

(Correcting the best-selling car.)

 Auto and truck sales were basically flat in February, according to the Wall St. Journal.

 General Motors was the only one of the Detroit Big Three to say it sold more vehicles last month, with sales up 4.2 percent. It was aided by strong demand for its pickup trucks – Chevrolet Silverado demand was up 17 percent.

 Ford sales were off 4 percent, but the company said it sold a record amount of SUV’s and F-Series pickups rode into March with an 8.7 percent gain. Consumers were not buying cars, a continuation of the now long running trend. Blue Oval car sales fell 24 percent compared to February of 2016.

 Things were not much better at Fiat Chrysler with a 10.1 percent sales decline overall with Jeep sales falling 15 percent from last year. Ram trucks were the bright light with four percent more of them rolling off dealer lots.

 Toyota reported a 7.2 percent decline in sales with Lexus sales off 20.6 percent. Yet SUV sales posted their best ever February, up just over 14 percent with thanks to the Highlander, RAV4 and 4Runner.

 Honda reported total February sales of 121,686 Honda and Acura vehicles, an increase of 2.3 percent over February 2016 and a new record for the month. “The new CR-V is exceeding our own expectations with production and deliveries now fully up to speed,” said Jeff Conrad, senior vice president and general manager of the Honda Division. Demand for the smaller HR-V was also strong.

Elsewhere:

 Smiles continued at Subaru with record February sales, up 8.3 percent year over year and the 63rd consecutive month of yearly month over month growth. It was the best February ever for Outback, Forester, Crosstrek and WRX/WRX STI.

 February sales were also strong at Audi up 17 percent with the Q5, Q7 SUVs and the A4 sedan leading the volume gains.

 A smaller 0.3 percent gain was reported by BMW in February

 Nissan said total sales for February 2017 reached 135,740 units, an increase of 4 percent over the prior year and a February record. And the beat goes on – crossovers, trucks and SUVs set a February record.

 The much talked about warm weather over parts of the country aided Mazda’s sales efforts as the MX-5 Miata sports car posted its best February figures since 2006. Customers also were shopping for the CX-5 and the CX-9.

 Volkswagen reported sales of 25,145 units delivered in February, a 12.7 percent increase over February 2016. With 48,655 units delivered year-to-date in 2017, the company is reporting an increase of 14.75 percent in year-over-year sales.

A couple of other notes. The Nissan Rogue was the top selling vehicle that was not a pickup truck. The best-selling car was the Toyota Camry.