No Reading Allowed: Just a silly fast 180 mph SUV


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Don’t be surprised when these 3 types of cars flood the market


By: Mark Phelan/Detroit Free Press
Get ready for a flood of new vehicles unlike what you’ve seen before as automakers explore three market niches that are primed for growth.
As car companies de-emphasize production of low-profit sedans, at least two new classes of SUV-type vehicles are coming — prestigious midsize and basic transportation.

We may also see the return of compact pickups like the old Chevrolet S-10 and the modest Japanese pickups that helped Toyota and Nissan build their reputation for durable, inexpensive vehicles.

Smokin’ hot SUVs

First up: Five-passenger midsize SUVs that are loaded with style, not extra seats.

Ford and Nissan cottoned on to demand for these models years before other automakers.

The Ford Edge and Nissan Murano set the pace for the class with striking looks, roomy interiors and advanced features. They look good, command top dollar and compete with luxury SUVs like the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 for thousands of dollars less.

The 2019 Chevy Blazer that was recently revealed is the first of the new midsize SUVs to break cover. It goes on sale early in 2019.

At least one more will debut from a Japanese competitor later this year, and Hyundai is reworking its Santa Fe family for a ritzier appeal.

The expected boom in these vehicles comes as buyers desert midsize and full-size sedans like the Ford Taurus and Hyundai Sonata.

Those customers want all the latest infotainment and driver assistance features, plus room to carry two couples to dinner comfortably.

Most automakers ignored five-passenger midsize SUVs until recently. They thought the big bucks were in selling six- and seven-passenger family hauling SUVs like Ford Explorer Toyota Highlander.

Those models are beginning to get some of the mom-mobile image that plagues minivans. The up-and-coming status symbol is spending as much or more on a slightly smaller, but really good looking SUV that says you’ve got plans beyond taking the soccer team for ice cream.

Just don’t call it a wagon

Automakers may quit building small, entry-level cars, but the people who bought those inexpensive models will still need transportation.

One answer, small SUV “ish” vehicles that look vaguely like an SUV but scrimp on features like all-wheel-drive, navigation systems and touch screens.

They’re the spiritual successors to the old Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix. Those cars  were basically Corolla station wagons with optional AWD, but their main appeal lay in a smidgeon more ground clearance and styling looked almost indefinably tougher than other small cars.

The new Nissan Kicks is a great example. Plastic cladding around the wheel wells and extra ground clearance belie its base price of $17,990, making it look just classy enough to be a first new car a young buyer isn’t embarrassed to arrive in.

As sales of subcompact cars like the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic trickle down to nothing, other brands will try to match the Kicks’ ability to look costlier than it is.

Return of compact pickup

Compact pickups’ first surge of popularity came when a generation of college grads discovered they cost less than a small sedan, had all the room a young single person needed, and came with a veneer of capability, even if they couldn’t tow or haul much.

Rising prices of midsize pickups and compact SUVs have convinced some automakers to study a revival of the truly small pickup, models that are three-fourths the size of a Chevy Colorado, or maybe even as small as the rather comical car-based 1980s Subaru Brat.

Today’s midsize pickups are as big as a full-size pickup 35 years ago. That could open the door for a return to some really small pickups with low prices to attract first-time buyers.

Contact Mark Phelan: mmphelan@freepress.com or 313-222-6731. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan.

Give me a car with a stick….. NO SUV’s for me!


One wonders what Henry Ford, would think?  The car company bearing his name, will soon stop making cars.   With the exception of the Mustang (The Chinese love Mustangs) and a Chinese built Focus, that’s it.  Ford Motor Company will build Suv’s and Trucks.

Ford wasn’t the first.  Chrysler unofficially killed the car in 2016.  The first and only cars built and designed after Chrysler’s shotgun marriage to Fiat, the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 were officially put down in 2017.    The remaining cars, the Dodge Charger and Challenger along with the Chrysler 300 are still moving out of dealerships on a nearly 15 year old platform and should  live on until Fiat mergers with another company or Fiat derides to kill the Dodge, Chrysler and ironically Fiat (in America)   The Fiat, has to be the loneliest dealerships in America ,with one SUV that no one seems to be interested in.

Unlike Ford and Chrysler, GM will continue to build sedans but fewer of them.  They will eventually convert some of its car plants to build more profitable SUV and trucks.

Bentley has a SUV,  the Bentayga, Audi, BMW, Porsche and Mercedes are designing more SUV’s as you read this.  Ferrari, YES! FERRARI! will introduce an SUV in 2019!  

This is the Lamborghini Urus (a stripped down version is available for 200K)

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None of these gas robbing beasts are available with an manual transmission.

Manual transmission cars are rapidly disappearing from the landscape.   I’m one of the 3% of Americans purest, who still want to row their own gears.  I love the feel and control of a car with a manuel gearbox.   It’s an sensation you can’t get with an automatic.  One of the advantages of owning a stick in America. Your car will be one of last cars stolen from the shopping center parking lot.

3% means fewer automakers are building cars with manuel gearboxes.   They are available on compact and subcompact cars.  Toyota no longer offers a stick on its midsized Camry.   Mazda’s Model 6, has the stick on its base model only, meaning..if you want something with a sunroof and  a few other niceties, forgetabout it!   Only Honda’s Accord offers a manual gearbox on every model and engine, now if I could only get past that ugly nose.   With the exception of their Fuel Cell and Hybrid models. Honda is the only automaker that offers a stick on all of their cars.  .

I would like to blame the popularity of the SUV’s for the demise of the stick.  But there are other factors.     The manual shifting car was once the most fuel efficient, they were staples in Europe and other parts of the world.  Today with computer monitored 8, 9 and 10 speed automatics combined with  small displacement turbo charged engines, the manuals along with the V8 engine are in their last days.

the RISE of the Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV)

Some say, it’s about the height, they feel safer.  Others say its the utility,  they can buy cases of toilet paper at Costco. Since this is the vehicle of choice for many boring mortals, the thrill of driving is quickly dying.

Most of the successful SUV’s sold, are crossovers built on a car platform.  These are lighter, more nimble and more fuel efficient than truck based SUV’s   If your car junkie like me, who reads everything automotive,  you’ll notice few auto Journalist get excited about SUV’s .  Yes they, will say this SUV’s handles well, but there isn’t any excitement unless its an expensize and powerful European SUV.

With one or two exceptions, there isnt much passion for the SUV.   The Automotive press has a lot of love for cars like the Volkswagen Golf GTI and the Mazda Miata, and their ability to carve through the curves, they don’t share the same enthusiasm for the Volkswagen Tiguan or the Mazda CX9 Suv’s

If I had a large family and needed extra space, I would choose the Chrysler Pacifica or Honda Odyssey, Mini Van over any SUV. (YES, A MINIVAN!)  They drive about the same as SUV, and on average they have more room (especially the Pacifica, with those nifty seats that fold into the floor -now thats utility!)  they cost less to operate and they carry more stuff than SUV’s.

 

While cars wont totally fade, I predict the manual gearbox like CD players will be history by 2030

The Future Is

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Your next, next car will be electric.  Many countries has chosen 2025 to limit the number of internal combustion vehicles sold in their respective counties  California, hopes to have five million emission free cars on the road by 2030.  China 7 million by 2025.  India says 30% of the cars sold must be emission free by 2030.

Once, there is a standard for building batteries, there will be more electric cars on the roads.   Electric cars having fewer parts than a combustion engine results in lower manufactoring cost for automakers.  Gone are complex transmissions, and electric car has 30% fewer parts than a conventional car.    Will there be Electric SUV’s yes, as for manuel gearboxes?

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CityFella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are the American auto manufacturers giving up on cars?


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A few years ago, familiar American nameplates started to disappear, Plymouth, Mercury, Oldsmobile, Pontiac victims of overcapacity.    These models share most components with other corporate models.   Plymouth shared engines, suspensions with Chrysler and Dodge. Mercury with Ford and Lincoln.   Chevrolet, Buick shared parts with Oldsmobile and Pontiac.

American manufactures have long struggled building fuel efficient cars. This was evident in the 70’s when fuel charges increased and in low supply.   Toyota, Nissan and other Japanese automakers flourished and established a sizable foothold on the American market.  While then the big four ,General Motors, Chrysler, Ford and American Motors struggled.

Where American dominate, is trucks. The Ford F-150, has been the best selling vehicle in the United States for more the 30 years.  At GM and Chrysler its the same, trucks.  While they sold more cars,  profit was in the truck business.

Today, trucks and SUV’s are the best selling vehicles. In 2016, Chrysler announced they were discontinuing the Dodge Dart and the Chrysler 200 to focus on Suv’s and trucks.   Chrysler currently sells three car models, Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger all three model share the same platform that dates back to 2005.   Chrysler sells 8 Suv models.

Last month the Ford Motor Company announced in the next few years they plan to discontinue every car except the Focus Hatchback which will be assembled in China and the Mustang.   They cite profitability.

General Motors, said they may discontinue the Chevy Sonic and the slow selling Impala.

Every Automaker is experiencing slower auto sales .  However, none of the Japanese and  Korean auto makers plan to discontinue car.   For 2018, GM released an all new Buick Regal sportback and wagon.  Toyota introduced an all new Camry and Avalon.  Honda, an all new Accord.   Nissan a new Altima.  Volkswagen and Subaru have introduced all new models.

Could History Repeat Itself ?

A lot of capitol is needed to build  fuel efficient vehicles.   The industry has spent hundreds of millions to develop and build new fuel efficient, engines and transmissions in addition to being fuel efficient the vehicles are laden with mandated safety equipment.

Ford was one of first american automaker to equip most of their car and truck fleet with turbo charged engines and aluminum it its truck and Suv’s.  While GM and Chrysler truck fleet have the old school V8 engines, Ford uses smaller displacement 4 and 6 cylinder turbo engines.  The investment has paid huge dividends for Ford.  Demand is up for the F-150 pickup.  The full size Ford  Expedition and one hundred thousand dollar Black Label Lincoln Navigators are flying off dealer lots.

American automakers have historically resisted building fuel efficient cars.  The fuel crises in the seventies took a toll an American automakers as car buyers bought smaller more fuel efficient cars.    Toyota, Datsun (Nissan) flourished and gained a major foothold in the North American Market. Chrysler went bankrupt.  (A loan from the Government saved Chrysler)

American automakers hasn’t successfully found the secret sauce in building a small car.  But they were coming close.  Instead of starting with a fresh piece a paper, they imported existing models from their foreign subsidiaries.   The Ford Focus and the Chevy Cruze are built on a global platform.  What they aren’t, is profitable.

Low gas prices has driven the market. The hot segment is the compact SUV and the large SUV’s,  Toyota’s Rav’s 4 and Nissan’s Rogue are on fire.  With gasoline prices on the rise, will history repeat itself?     Ford unlike Toyota ,has not expanded their hybrid technology.  Toyota has three hybrid passenger cars, and two Suv’s .   Ford currently has two hybrid passengers cars .  Ford says future  F-150, Mustang, Explorer, Escape and returning Bronco with have hybrid options.  However there is no specific date to when these vehicles will come to market.   Gasoline prices nations wide as of this date is $2.92 a gallon (a three year high) by late summer, based on current projections we may see $3.60.  (California $4.20) .  History:  Should fuel prices remain high, it will have an impact on sales.

Who will Survive? 

Of the domestic automakers. Chrysler is by far, the most vulnerable to high fuel prices, the only fuel efficient car option is the slow selling Fiat 500.    Ford can weather the storm for 2018 and they have the option of extending the execution date of its Fusions and Fiesta’s currently piled high on dealers lots.   General Motors has the best mix of cars and trucks.   It currently offers a diesel option on a few of its Suv’s, it has the successful electric Chevy Bolt and can quickly adapt that technology to future models.

The Competition?

If fuel prices continue to increase, the Japanese and Korean automakers are in the best position. Toyota and Nissan has the largest selections.  Nissan is the only foreign automakers to offer compact to full size trucks and full size cargo/passenger vans.

Volkswagen wants to be a serious player in the North American Market, its has a well rounded fleet with vehicles achieving 40mpg.    In the last few years VW has  introduced an astounding, 6 new models with a new luxury midsize due this fall. For 2018, the company now has a new 6 year 72,000 mile, bumper to bumper warranty in the US.  Unlike Hyundai/Kia the warranty is completely transferable.

The Hyundai Group, which saw a dramatic drop in sales of its mid size Sonata and Optima mid size sedans.  Is committed to sedan . Despite slow sales, Hyundai  has introduced 3 new hybrids and four subcompact and compact cars.  Hyundai is planning to bring an all electric Suv, the Hyundai Kona to market this fall with a range of 250 miles.

Ford was the only American automaker that survived the last economic downturn.  Will their plans for the North American market hurt them in the long run?   FCA has had several lives in North America, will their reliance on an Suv’s and trucks finally seal their fate?   Will General Motors follow suit?

News at 11

Cityfella

 

 

 

 

Big Luxury SUV’s “Detroit is Crushing Competition”


Photos: 2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label

Top Row, Lincoln Black Label Navigator Bottom Row Cadillac Escapade 

By Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press

Detroit knows big SUVs.  It knows how to make ’em. It knows how to sell ’em.

Automakers based in Detroit or Dearborn have built nearly one of every three large luxury SUVs sold this year.

Still, orders for the Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade continue to roll in.

Large luxury SUV sales have grown 12.5% through March compared with the same time last year. While a relatively small segment, the vehicles deliver the biggest profit margin.

“They’re money machines,” said John McElroy, a longtime industry observer and TV host of “Autoline.”

In fact, the segment is growing more than six times faster than light vehicles.

Lincoln is unable to fill the orders as fast as they come in, so the company doesn’t have a clear picture of the Navigator’s full potential at this point.

“These two truck-based SUVs are really at the heart of what Detroit has done well,” said Brian Moody, executive editor of Autotrader. “Big trucks, lots of power. Five years ago, I thought Lincoln wasn’t ever going to get it. I feel like someone finally said, ‘We’ve got to stop chasing other people and be who we are.’ In life, isn’t that always the best advice?”

Prices are setting records for Ford Motor Co.

The average transaction price for the 2018 Lincoln Navigator topped $80,000 per vehicle in March, showing strong growth, noted Erich Merkle, U.S. sales analyst for Ford.

Plus, Ford and General Motors make an even higher return on their investment because the companies run massive production of full-size trucks that share a platform and mechanical components with the SUVs.

“The luxury SUV was originally a product of Detroit. Now they’re standing their ground and digging in their heels,” said Dave Sullivan, a product analysis manager at AutoPacific Inc. “It’s just not something any Asian or European brand could pull off. They just can’t get away with some of the more brash, in-your-face, larger-than-life styling that the Detroit brands do.”

During the first three months of 2018, shoppers purchased 40,521 large luxury SUVs, up from 36,008 a year earlier. Escalade saw 8% growth while Navigator jumped 63%. With the addition of the Range Rover Velar, Land Rover sales jumped 39% in the large luxury SUV segment. The Infiniti QX80 is the only other model experiencing an increase, at 5%.

At the same time, sales have fallen for the Mercedes GLS, Lexus LX, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport.

The Detroit 2 appear to be getting stronger.

“Since the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra are such high-volume products and economies of scale are easily achieved, this gives the American automakers a significant advantage over the competition when it comes to research and development,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of data strategy at Edmunds.

With “full credit to Lincoln,” the Navigator launch has focused attention on the full size luxury SUV segment and Escalade has benefited, said Jim Cain, senior manager of sales reporting at General Motors. Anytime there’s growth in luxury, it reflects overall consumer confidence in the economy, he said.

Meanwhile, the new Navigator has redefined Lincoln.

“The redesigned Lincoln Navigator is the hot new vehicle for shoppers who like their SUVs large, luxurious and eye-catching, which is a problem for the long-reigning champion in that category, the Cadillac Escalade,” Caldwell said.

“While Cadillac is working hard to shift their development from cars to SUVs, the new Lincoln SUVs have gained an edge quickly and pose a much larger threat to the burgeoning Cadillac utility lineup than anticipated.”

In March 2017, only 8% of Escalade shoppers also looked at Navigator. Last month, 22% of Escalade customers also looked at Navigator, Edmunds data shows.

Meanwhile, the Navigator shopper statistics remained constant.

In March 2017, 14% of Navigator shoppers also looked at Escalade. Last month, 15% of Navigator customers also looked at Escalade.

Now Cadillac is offering $10,000 discounts to Escalade owners through May 2018 to “keep them in the family,” Cain said. The sum is considered notable and comes in the last year of production for the current model of Escalade.

General Motors is watching Navigator carefully. One analyst compared the intense competition to the legendary battle between the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro.

Adam Jonas, head of global auto research for Morgan Stanley, estimated the Escalade creates about $1 billion in profit for GM annually.

No question, Navigator is wooing customers from competitors.

Kirk English, a retired supermarket store director from Reno, Nev., is waiting patiently for delivery of the $81,205 black velvet Navigator Reserve he ordered in mid-January.

“The Navigator was built Feb. 5. I have contacted Lincoln to get my ‘toy’ out of Kentucky and into California,” English said. “I had to drive to California to buy my Navigator because there is no dealership in Reno. Hopefully this will be resolved soon.”

Don Sadler, a communications executive from Miami, reports the delivery delay is over for his $92,495 Navigator Reserve L. Celebration may include a road trip to Key West, “and a vodka rocks is definitely on the agenda.”

Lincoln spokeswoman Angie Kozleski, who acknowledged delivery delays due to a national rail car shortage, said, “We’re working to get our vehicles into the hands of customers and dealers as fast as possible.”

Navigator is built in Louisville, Ky., while Escalade is manufactured in Arlington, Texas.

Fiat Chrysler is developing a large luxury SUV expected to be called the Jeep Grand Wagoneer in an attempt to capture a piece of the action.

Big Man Rides @ 2017 Sacramento International Auto Show


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You asked for it and were back “Big Man Rides” and we’ve  invaded the 2017 International Auto Show, a great venue to see what fits a Big Man or plus woman.

Just as a reminder I stand 6.4 and weight over three hundred pounds(a big man!)

The Sacramento International Auto Show is a third tiered auto show.  Its not New York ,Detroit or Los Angeles No new or innovative models No unavailing’s. and many of the manufactures present were not staffed. which is unfortunate.   Missing in Action in Sacramento was Land Rover, Jaguar, Genesis,Mini, Volvo,Mercedes, Cadillac, and Tesla.

Also missing was some new models from Ford and Lincoln.  Ford new Ecosport SUV and the new for 2018 Ford Expedition and Lincoln’s Navigator was shut tight.  The New Buick Regal was missing .

The Good The Bad,  The Ugly and Surprises from the 2017 Sacramento International Auto show

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Crowd Pleasers

People waiting to sit in these vehicles 

1.  Lexus LC5000

2. Acura NSX

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3. Lincoln Continental

4. Chrysler Pacifica

 

For the second year in a row. More people wanted to test drive Fiat/Chrysler Vehicles *

People waiting in lines to test drive the Charger, Challenger, Chrysler 300,Pacifica and Durango

*However, there was no waiting for any of the Fiat’s

The Good

You get for what you pay for and Chevy, Ford and Toyota brought their A game!

America’s Three best selling car makes had professional representatives to answers any and all questions.  With tablets in hand, the representatives could direct show attendees to a dealership near their home.

 

Ford had a giant display and a drive simulator.  At Toyota,well dressed professionals were available to answer questions.  But the nod goes to Chevrolet, the representatives unlike Ford and Toyota were well spaced all over there floor readily available to answer questions about every Chevy on the floor.  I wish they would have featured the well received Bolt.

 

The Bad

White or Grey?

The worst exhibitor by an Elk Grove inch was the local dealer Niello .   The Audi/BMW dealership shared a room with Roseville Infinity.   None  of the vehicles  had power with made seat adjustments impossible.   Neither dealership staffed the exhibit (11am) no one was available to answer questions about these fifty to seventy thousand dollar vehicles.

 

The Ugly

 Alfa Romeo has returned to the american market after a 20 years absence.

These sexy beasts were left in the lots at Niello

 Someone at Niello,thought randomly placing a bland white Giulia with an Irish leaf on the Italian car near the Honda exhibit, was a good idea .

“Surprises” 

Honda introduced an all new Odyssey for 2018.  But if Sacramento is an indication, the year old Chrysler Pacifica was the clearly the crowd favorite.

 

 

Family Wars 

All new Honda Accord vs Toyota Camry

 

 

 

Both cars are handsome. Cost cutting is more evident in the Accord, it seems narrow. While the Camry has more front seat room, leg and width, the Accord has more rear leg room.  Camry’s Interior is absolutely un Camry, its sexy.  (did I say that?)

 

Lil Sleeper 2018 Honda Fit

 

I didn’t!    you might.  I was able to get in this tiny car and close the door.  That says a lot.   If your a big guy and not 6.4, this car may be worth a look.   Inside with the rear seats down is amazing.

 

Biggest Surprise

2018 Subaru Impreza 

Subaru?  The 2018 may not look much different than the 2017. However its all new on a new platform.  I was very surprised by the front leg room (Sorry Accord) and the room overall. The build quality is German like and for 2018 Subaru offers Apple car play and Android Auto.  When you factor in all wheel drive 38 on the highway and Subaru’s reputation for safety for less the 25K  and its good looking.   For singles and small families who occasionally travel to Tahoe or Reno.  This is da Stuff!

 

“No dark Interiors”

2018 Chevrolet Traverse

 

 

Clean lines, roomy, and no dark boring interiors

 

Volkswagen Up’s its the ante 

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2018 Tiguan

 

They may have a winner in the 3 row midsize SUV  The 2018 Atlas is extremely roomy.  My 6’1 friend sat in the third row and lived.

 

Takeways 

Room to Spare

Cars made by General Motors ( Buick Cadillac Chevrolet GMC)   Hyundai (Kia)  Volkswagen ( Audi Porsche Volkswagen) on average seem to have a bit more leg/ hip room then the other automakers

 

Interiors (Something other than Black) 

BMW  Hyundai (Kia)  Lexus  Volkswagen  General Motors

 

“Big Man Rides”

Were back, we will be testing cars beginning with The Chevy Bolt.