Super Duty – Ford’s Super Capable 2017 Pickups

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Ford’s F-Series Super Duty pickups are all new for the 2017 model year.  The Super Duty line includes the F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 heavy duty pickups.

All-New For Real  The term all new here is an actual fact because the last time the Super Duty was all new was over a decade ago.  The high volume F-150 light duty full size pickup was all new and all aluminum for 2016.  The Super Duty follows a year later, but Ford says the product update cadence should be shorter for both the F-150 and the Super Duties in the future.

2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty King Ranch

Image by: George Peterson

Borrows from F-150, Then Goes on Steroids  For this iteration the Super Duty pickups share the aluminum cabs of the F-150 – regular cab, Super Cab and Crew Cab.  Each of these cabs is longer than that on the old Super Duty.  Then everything changes.  The front end styling is very different, tougher and stronger looking than the pretty darn strong looking F-150.  The pickup box is upgraded to handle the more severe workload of a vehicle designed for construction crews and trailer towing.  The fully-boxed frame has been substantially upgraded with the center section frame rails 1.5 inches taller than previously.

Venerable Twin-I-Beam Suspension Retained and Upgraded  The Twin-I-Beam front suspension has been upgraded and remains a very important Super Duty unique selling proposition.  According to Doug Scott, head of Ford truck marketing, there was a lot of discussion about retaining the venerable, but very strong Twin-I-Beam front suspension.  There was one contingent within Ford that wanted a more contemporary front suspension similar to Chevrolet Silverado.   But buyers of the Super Duty rely on the over-designed Twin-I-Beam for durability in extreme abuse situations.  Super-computer simulations of the suspension design have eliminated the quirkiness of the previous set-up that tended to wander a bit on the open road.

Unique Interior  Although the Super Duty shares the F-150’s cabs, the interior in the Super Duty is unique to the line.  The “Active Motion” seats are designed for heavier duty application and long seat time.  They are comfortable for hours on the road.  The instrument panel is unique and much more industrial looking than in the F-150.  There is a wide center console that can accommodate files or a laptop computer.  The console top is an armrest in normal driving or a desk when necessary.

Feature Laden  The list of available advanced features is an arm long.  Most would be expected in an up-market car, but in a heavy duty pickup they are extraordinary.  Super Duty gets Sync 3 available with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.  There is a 360-degree camera set-up that is extremely useful when parking or off-roading.  Activating the camera allows you to see the obstacles near the vehicle and avoid them.  The Super Duty can have as many as SEVEN cameras.  Lane departure warning, blind spot information and adaptive cruise control systems are available.  Adaptive steering is available that adjusts the steering ratio based on driver input.

Powerful Power Stroke Diesel is the Volume Engine Choice  The available powertrains include the second generation Power Stroke diesel that will be the high volume engine.  The 6.7L V8 diesel has 440-horsepower and 920 lb. ft. of torque.  That’s right – 920 lb. ft.  The diesel is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.  The diesel pulls, and pulls, and pulls.  There is a 6.2L V8 gas engine with 385-horsepower and 430 lb. ft. of torque.  On chassis-cab models Ford’s 6.8L V10 is available.

Driving the Super Duty  The Super Duty is a delight to drive for such a big truck.  The 4×4 King Ranch F-250 Crew Cab (~$78,000) was easy to drive and easy to maneuver if you have a lot of space.  The unloaded ride was good depending on road surface.  Because of the stiff 4×4 suspension the ride over choppy roads was a bit uncomfortable.  The power of the 6.7L Power Stroke diesel was very impressive.


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2017 Fiat 124 Spider – Japanese Roadster with Italian Flair

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2017 Fiat 124 Spider F34 450Fiat Turns to Mazda for Iconic Sports Car  About 50 years after first launching the Fiat 124 Spider in the United States, Fiat is launching a new Spider in Summer 2016.  The last time the Fiat 124 Spider was sold in the USA was in 1983.  To gain a desirable roadster without having to develop the car themselves, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) turned to Mazda.

Fiat wants the 124 Spider to re-establish the sporty image of the brand and communicate “fun, joyous and optimistic” motoring.

Basically, the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider is a reskinned Mazda Miata propelled by a Fiat MultiAir Turbo 4-cylinder engine.

Unique Exterior Styling  Take the outstanding Mazda MX-5 Miata and breathe Italian-ness on it and you have the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider.  With the rear wheel drive Mazda roadster platform as a base, Fiat has done an excellent job differentiating their little roadster from the Miata.   The proportions are definitely Miata, but the Fiat body is 5.5-inches longer with much of the length increase going to the trunk.  The exterior styling is different, maybe a bit more upscale looking.  The front end has a hexagonal grille with a honeycomb mesh flanked by styled headlamps.  It has a friendly face.  The rear has sharp horizontal LED taillamps.  Both the front and rear designs are reminiscent of the original 124 Spider.

Minor Interior Differentiation  The interior is lifted directly from the Miata with material upgrades here and there.  The seats are very comfortable and supportive with a unique sew style.  Two seat trim colors are available, black and saddle.  The saddle seat trim is very upscale looking and radio speakers in the headrests are a nice touch.  The interior has been optimized for quietness.  Being a roadster, wind buffeting can be a real problem, so care was taken in the windshield header and side window design to minimize buffeting at speed.  The top is one of the best features of the Fiat 124 Spider.  It can be opened or closed with one hand from either front seat.  Brilliant!

Unique Turbo Engine from Italy  The Fiat 124 Spider is powered by Fiat’s 1.4L MultiAir Turbo 4-cylinder engine with 160-horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque.  The engine block has been modified for longitudinal installation in the platform and to mate with Mazda’s excellent 6-speed manual transmission and 6-speed automatic transmission.

The suspension has been tuned a bit differently and the ride seems a bit more supple than on the Miata.  Handling is crisp as befits the short wheelbase.

Pricing Essentially Equivalent with Miata  There are three trim levels:  Classica, Lusso and Abarth.  There is also a 124 unit special edition car at launch – Prima Edizione Lusso (check all the boxes, unique blue color = $35,000).  The base Classica model is priced at $24,995 with the 6-speed manual transmission.  Destination charges are $995.  About 60% of the Fiat 124 Spider buyers are expected to opt for the automatic transmission that adds $1,350 to the price.  The volume model likely will be the $27,495 Lusso model that adds automatic headlamps, fog lamps, rain sensing wipers, automatic temperature control, leatherette and piano black instrument panel inserts, and 7-inch touch screen.  Selecting the sportiest Abarth model is $28,195.  When compared with the Miata, Lusso seems like a deal compared with the Miata Grand Touring ($31,270) except the Grand Touring Miata is fully loaded.  To get that level of equipment on the Fiat 124 Spider adds another $3,795 to the price putting the Fiat only $20 higher than the Miata (Fiat destination charge is $160 higher than Mazda – puts actual price difference at $180 higher than Miata).


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Most Satisfying Auto Brands For 2016 – Tesla on Top

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This article was first published on Forbes.com on June 9, 2016

AutoPacVSAlogo450Tesla Tops Auto Brand Satisfaction for Second Year in a Row  Tesla owners are the most satisfied overall among all car and light truck owners according to the results of AutoPacific‘s 2016 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research.  The annual study includes over 65,000 respondents for 2016 and covers 273 vehicles sold in the United States.

Tesla owners are almost unanimous in agreeing the Tesla is fun to drive, powerful, eco-friendly, upscale, safe, distinctive and expensive.  These are not people who are really looking for the greenest car around, they want a car that makes a statement and can tear away from almost every other car when the light turns green.  The fact that Tesla has been the top-ranking brand in AutoPacific’s research two years in a row is testament not only to how much Tesla buyers like their product, but at how well the brand has been positioned.  Of course, Tesla today is a one-car brand and that one car has really resonated with its owners.  Things may be different when data for the Model X and Model 3 are included in the years to come.

Other luxury brands trail Tesla.  Cadillac, Lexus and Lincoln are next in satisfaction, then comes a surprise.

Kia Top Ranked Popular Brand  Kia is ranked fifth overall and is the top popular brand in the research.  This is quite a feat for a Korean brand that was just an asterisk fifteen years ago.  Clearly, Kia products are capable of competing with the best.  The Kia Optima mid-size sedan was third overall behind the Cadillac Escalade Luxury SUV and the Mercedes S-Class Luxury Car.  These cost about three times what the Optima would cost.  Kia owners see their vehicles as safe, fun to drive, comforting, a good value from a trusted brand.  While these attributes are above the results for the industry as a whole, they bear little resemblance to the magnitude of the Tesla results.

 Here are the top ten most satisfying brands:
    1.   Tesla
    2.   Cadillac
    3.   Lexus
    4.   Lincoln
    5.   Kia
    6.   Infiniti
    7.   Volvo
    8.   BMW
    9.   Acura
    10.   Mercedes-Benz

 

 


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AutoPacific Announces 2016 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards

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VSA logo 2

TUSTIN, Calif. (June 8, 2016) – AutoPacific today announced its 20th annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSAs), identifying the most satisfying vehicles in the market. An industry benchmark for measuring how satisfied an owner is with his/her new vehicle, VSAs are based on survey responses from over 65,000 owners of new 2015 and 2016 model year cars and light trucks.

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of AutoPacific recognizing the most satisfying vehicles and providing consumers a way to streamline their search for the perfect vehicle,” says AutoPacific president George Peterson. AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Awards objectively measure owner satisfaction with 50 separate attributes ranging from interior comfort and styling to fuel economy and performance. “VSAs look at the big picture, which includes owners’ experiences with their vehicle’s quality and safety, but also goes deeper into the heart of the ownership experience.”

A Year of Shake Ups

After years of American brands taking the top spot for most satisfying popular, non-luxury, brand, Korean manufacturer Kia has taken over. “Kia has been coming on strong for years and has won many individual vehicle awards,” says Peterson, “but this year they dominated among popular, non-luxury, brands, with a total brand score that is 16 points higher than the nearest competitor, GMC.”

Tesla is the most satisfying premium brand for the second year in a row. “Tesla was new to the survey results in 2015 and won the top premium brand award by a considerable margin (23 points). They hold the top spot this year, though Cadillac has closed the gap considerably with the highly satisfying Escalade and increases in owner satisfaction across their lineup,” explains Peterson.

This year also marks the first year that neither Ford Motor Company nor Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has a winning vehicle. “Over the years, Ford has consistently had high-scoring trucks and SUVs while Lincoln has had several luxury car winners,” says Peterson. “Historically, FCA has not been as strong; however, the Jeep Grand Cherokee was on a 5 year winning streak and had that taken away by the Toyota 4Runner this year.”

Overall for 2016, General Motors receives the most wins with 7, followed by Kia and Nissan each with 4, Mercedes-Benz with 3, and Hyundai and Toyota each with 2 wins. Volvo, Honda and Tesla each take home 1 win.

In a market where vehicles continue to raise the bar for owner satisfaction, AutoPacific recognizes another President’s Award winner this year: the 2016 Cadillac Escalade. This award is given only when the overall score tops the previous high score. The previous President’s Award winners were the 2015 Kia K900, 2014 Mercedes S-Class and the 2010 Hyundai Sonata.

Six All-New or Redesigned Vehicles Top Their Segment

Of the twenty-three winning vehicles, six of them had been redesigned for the 2016 model year, including the Kia Optima, Nissan Maxima, Chevrolet Camaro, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Lexus RX, and Hyundai Tucson. “Product planners hold their breath after the release of a new, or redesigned, vehicle, hoping that all their research, designing and planning has successful results,” says Peterson who worked as a product planner prior to founding AutoPacific thirty years ago. “While six of the winning vehicles were redesigned for the 2016 model year, the Kia Optima and Chevrolet Camaro have greatly exceeded the scores of their nearest segment competitors.”

2016 VEHICLE SATISFACTION AWARD WINNERS

President’s Award (Highest VSA Score to Date): Cadillac Escalade

Most Satisfying Vehicle Overall: Cadillac Escalade

Highest Satisfaction Premium Brand: Tesla

Highest Satisfaction Popular Brand: Kia

 

PASSENGER CARS:

Luxury Car

Aspirational Luxury Car

Luxury Mid-Size Car

Large Car

Mid-Size Car

Premium Compact Car

Compact Car

Economy Car

Sports Car

Sporty Car

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Volvo S60/V60

Nissan Maxima

Hyundai Azera

Kia Optima

Mercedes-Benz CLA

Kia Soul

Honda Fit

Chevrolet Corvette

Chevrolet Camaro

LIGHT TRUCKS:

Light Duty Pickup

Heavy Duty Pickup

Compact Pickup

Luxury SUV

Large SUV

Mid-Size SUV

Premium Luxury Crossover SUV

Luxury Crossover SUV

Large Crossover SUV

Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV

Mid-Size Crossover SUV

Compact Crossover SUV

Minivan

GMC Sierra 1500

GMC Sierra HD

Nissan Frontier

Cadillac Escalade

Chevrolet Suburban

Toyota 4Runner

Mercedes-Benz GLE

Lexus RX

GMC Acadia

Nissan Murano

Nissan Rogue

Hyundai Tucson

Kia Sedona

About AutoPacific

AutoPacific is a future-oriented automotive marketing and product-consulting firm. Every year AutoPacific publishes a wide variety of syndicated studies on the automotive industry. The firm also conducts extensive proprietary research and consulting for auto manufacturers, distributors, marketers and suppliers worldwide. Company headquarters are in Tustin, California, with an affiliate office in the Detroit area. Additional information about AutoPacific and the Vehicle Satisfaction Awards can be found on AutoPacific’s websites: www.autopacific.com and www.vehiclevoice.com.

Contacts

Dan Hall dan.hall@autopacific.com 714.838.4234

George Peterson george.peterson@autopacific.com 714.838.4234

Posted in: Awards

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New CX-9 Is Key In Mazda’s Attempt To Be Premium Brand

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This article appeared in Forbes Auto:  May 23, 2016

Photo Credit: George Peterson

Photo Credit: George Peterson

Mazda has always been a brand different from most. It built its image on rotary engines that were fun to drive, but tough to make. Challenges from emissions and fuel economy regulations doomed the rotary early in the 21st century. Production ceased in 2012 with the demise of the Mazda RX-8 sports car. Mazda’s gorgeous Vision R coupe shown at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show demonstrates Mazda hasn’t given up on the rotary, but admits only a small group of dedicated engineers are presently working on it. But the rotary engine is just part of the Mazda story.

The Ford Days to Independence  From 1979 through 2009, Ford Motor had an increasing equity stake in Mazda Motor. Starting with 7% stake in 1979, Ford increased its position in Mazda until it had effective control with 33.3% of the company. Mazda and Ford teamed up on several car platforms where Mazda’s design expertise opened the eyes of Ford engineers to new more efficient techniques.

As the Great Recession deepened and Ford was struggling for liquidity, Ford divested its shares in Mazda and the company became independent in 2009. The result was a stand-alone brand with good products, but low volumes. In 2011, Mazda raised $1.9 billion to guarantee its future viability and develop its SkyActiv platform now underpinning its cars and crossover SUVs. With the introduction of the Mazda CX-9 crossover SUV in mid-2016, the transition to SkyActiv is complete.

For Mazda’s 2016 Fiscal Year, the company sold a bit over 1.5 million vehicles world wide and had a net income of ¥134 billion (~$1 billion). Prospects are even better going forward as Mazda entered a technology sharing agreement with Toyota in May 2015.

Repositioning “Zoom Zoom” to “Driving Matters”  Now the stage is set for Mazda to reposition itself. In the United States, Mazda wants to be perceived as an upscale mainstream brand similar to Acura. Acura has always seemed like an upscale domestic brand (and not particularly successful), so this positioning may make sense.

One of the first things Mazda has done to facilitate this change is change its advertising tag line from “Zoom Zoom” to “Driving Matters.” “Zoom Zoom” has been around seemingly forever, since about 2000. At first, Mazda’s products did not live up to the “Zoom Zoom” tag line, so now that they do, the tag line is changed to a more mature “Driving Matters”. “Zoom Zoom” is still there, but in a secondary position to “Driving Matters”.

“Driving Matters” fits with the attitude that people who buy a Mazda product are more enthusiastic about driving than buyers of most other mainstream brands. Mazda does not want to sell an appliance – transportation from point A to point B – they want to sell a vehicle with an active, sporty driving experience that their owners embrace.

Mazda Vehicles Deliver More of a Premium Ambiance  Along with repositioning the message, Mazda’s products have been achieving higher transaction prices at their dealers. Much of this results from selling a richer mix of vehicles with about 50% of the CX-5 being the upper middle Grand Touring model and the CX-9 having a projected 40% being the Grand Touring model (then combined with the Touring model, Touring plus Grand Touring are expected to be 70% of the CX-9 mix). No longer wanting to be a “cheap and cheerful” brand, Mazda will not be the cheapest in any segment. It wants to be best. Simply, the brand is chasing a better quality of business.


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Lincoln Navigator Wows at New York Auto Show

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Photo Source: Lincoln Motor Company

Photo Source: Lincoln Motor Company

Navigator – First Luxury SUV  Lincoln launched the Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) Market in 1997 when it launched the first generation of the Navigator.  Navigator was a derivative of the Ford Expedition Full Size SUV and proved to be an instant success.  Loaded with the appropriate amount of technology and bling for the time, Navigator hit a chord with upscale families that wanted something more than a minivan or full size SUV.  The first Navigator was somewhat tame by today’s standards, but provided the sophistication, size, power and price people coveting this kind of transportation.  It took Cadillac two years to respond with the Escalade – a quick-to-market response to Navigator.

A Battle of Bling Between Lincoln and Cadillac  The first generation Navigator was to last for five model years (1997 through 2002) when it was replaced by the 2003 Navigator which raised the bar in the American Luxury SUV category. It adopted independent rear suspension which allowed for the rear load floor to be dropped by 7-inches and for a commodious third row seat to be installed.  To this day, General Motors full size SUVs have not matched Lincoln’s third row seat package, much less Escalade.  Cadillac evolved into a bling-mobile (one Cadillac marketer described the vehicle as having seven layers of chrome).  Lincoln responded with a gaudy Navigator in 2007 that seemingly had chrome haphazardly thrown at every bodypanel.  While Escalade had a major refresh in 2015 incorporating Cadillac’s vertical LED light pipe daytime running lights in the front, Lincoln freshened the front styling of the Navigator incorporating the clumsy winged grille style that appeared on its vehicles during the decade.  Navigator also dropped its V8 powertrain replacing it with a more powerful EcoBoost V6.  The lower weight and higher power of the EcoBoost transformed the handling of the Navigator.

But that brings us to the future.

Photo Source: Lincoln Motor Company

Photo Source: Lincoln Motor Company

Style Evolution Yields a Range Rover Look-Alike  The next generation Lincoln Navigator concept has been shown at the 2016 New York Auto Show and it is an absolute WOW. Like Lincoln did in 2015 when they stealthily introduced the Continental concept at New York, the Navigator concept was kept very quiet until its initial reveal.  With this new Navigator, Lincoln takes a different tack towards elegance, sophistication and quietness – a Personal Santuary.  The new Navigator adopts new Lincoln styling cues like the strongly trapezoidal grille opening, Lincoln logo mesh grille, headlamps accented by LED running lights.  The front end is very strong looking.  The rear appearance adopts Lincoln’s horizontal full-width taillamp treatment.  The bodyside, however, comes across much like a Range Rover with similar accent lines and window graphics.  Different, but similar.  You might remember Bentley accused Lincoln of plagiarizing the style of its Flying Spur.  Might Range Rover make the same complaint with the new Navigator?

Lincoln says the new Navigator is its “most spacious ever”, but the exterior style seems to make it appear a bit less bulky.  This is good.

Photo Source: Lincoln Motor Company

Photo Source: Lincoln Motor Company

The concept is shown with gull-wing doors and “concertina” side steps for easier access.  These are certainly there for the concept reveal and will not appear in production.


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Iconic Stutz Still Exists – Warren Liu Wants to Resurrect It

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There have been over 1,800 car brands in the United States auto industry since 1896.  Entrepreneurs and enthusiasts saw the American auto industry as a way to make a name for themselves and, hopefully, a lot of money.  This set off a wave of industrial Darwinism that continues today.  Car brands came and went with startling regularity.  Some brands launched and died quickly and are now just a faint memory if remembered at all.  It would take a real automotive history buff to remember the Adria, or the Carhartt, or the Hackett.  Some more recent brands are still fresh in our memory like Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Mercury, Plymouth, Hummer and Saturn.  Today, there are 40 car brands on sale in the United States.  Some names are so strong that they keep coming back in one form or another.

Logo Credit:  Stutz Motor Car of America

Logo Credit: Stutz Motor Car of America

Stutz Sold 35,000 Cars Until Falling to the Great Depression

A once-storied name in the American luxury auto industry still exists – Stutz.  Stutz would be 104 years old today if it were still producing cars. They were famous for the Stutz Bearcat and Stutz Blackhawk. Stutz made fast cars for racing and luxury cars for the wealthy. While they were known as “The King of Cars” in the late teens, the company could not make it through the Depression and stopped production at its Indianapolis, Indiana factory in 1935. While Stutz was in business it sold about 35,000 cars.

If you are a reader of Clive Cussler adventure novels, Isaac Bell one of Cussler’s protagonists frequently drives a Bearcat while working as an early 1900s private detective. Cussler, an avid car collector, usually features iconic cars from the past in his books.

Kings of Bling – Excalibur, Stutz, Clenet

In the 1960s and 1970s three of the most flamboyant personal cars were produced – the Excalibur from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the resurrected Stutz fabricated near Turin, Italy and the Clenet from Santa Barbara, California. These were highly styled and high priced personal cars sold to celebrities, royalty and the filthy rich. The word bling had not been coined the way we use it today, but these cars were over-the-top with bling.

Stutz Motor Car of America

Seeing the Excalibur have reasonable success in the late ‘60s (Excalibur sold 3,200 cars from 1965 through 1989), and wanting a strong American name from the past that still resonated among luxury car marques, Stutz Motor Car of America resurrected the name in 1968.

Photo Credit:  Stutz Motor Car of America

Photo Credit: Stutz Motor Car of America

Renowned Chrysler stylist Virgil Exner designed a new Blackhawk coupe in 1970 based on the Pontiac Grand Prix. In an age where styling excess was de rigeur, Exner’s flamboyant design attracted buyers like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Lucille Ball. At one point, a Stutz model was the highest priced car in the world. From 1970 through 1995 over 600 cars were produced.

Another flamboyant car that should not be ignored was the Clenet. Clenet made about 430 cars from 1977 through 1982.


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Infiniti Upgrades Mid-Size Vehicles Mid-Cycle

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Nissan’s luxury brand, Infiniti, is upgrading its two mid-size entries in the middle of their product cycle.  This is not unusual these days as carmakers attempt to keep up with new technologies and keep fresh products available to their buyers.  Infiniti’s one-two punch comes with new powertrains for the Q50 (nee G35/37) rear wheel drive mid-size sedan and freshened styling for the QX60 (nee JX35) front wheel drive/AWD mid-size crossover SUV.

The Q50 changes target enthusiasts and the QX60 changes target families.  Let’s talk about the Q50 first.

Infiniti Q50 models equipped with the 3.0-liter V6 twin-turbo 400 hp engine are designated as the Q50 Red Sport 400 and feature unique staggered 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and 245/40R19 front/265/35R19 rear summer performance run-flat tires, as well as unique exhaust tips. These changes help to assert the car’s performance credentials and add to its aggressive, confident aura.

Q50 Powertrain Updates  Infiniti positions the Q50 against the Lexus IS and the BMW 3-Series.  To us, it is closer to the Lexus GS350 in size and ambiance, but priced lower.  Q50 looks the same as before.  Its changes come in the form of new engines.  The top-of-the-line is the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400.  What does all that mean?  The “400” is for the 400-horsepower twin turbo 3.0L V6 engine.  “Red Sport” refers to the red “S” sport badge on the fenders and rear of the vehicle.  The Red Sport 400 is very flexible from easily lumping around town in stop and go traffic, to quickly running rural roads.  With several drive selections from Eco to Sport+ available, the personality of the car can transform dramatically.  In Sport + mode throwing the car around sharp curves over undulating terrain is a blast.  A fully loaded Q50 Red Sport 400 should set you back around $55,000 although pricing has not been finalized.  About 20%-25% of Q50 mix will be Red Sport 400 models.

Rounding out the new powertrain news for the Q50 is the high volume engine which is a de-tuned version of the Red Sport 400 – a twin turbo V6 with 300-horsepower.  This will be on 50%-60% of the volume.  The Infiniti Q50 2.0t is powered by an all-new base engine developed with Daimler – a turbo 2.0L 4-cylinder with 208-horsepower.  This will be on about 20%-25% of the Q50s sold.  The power output of the 4-cylinder seems pretty anemic.  Other 2.0L turbo 4s on offer today are more common with between 230 and 240-horsepower.  Some even have as much as 270-horsepower.  Infiniti says only the basic engine design is from Daimler.  All the accessories and systems engineering were by Nissan engineers.  The engine is produced in Infiniti’s Decherd, Tennessee Engine Plant.

2016 Infiniti QX60-550px

QX60 Freshening Moderately Extensive  The QX60 is Infiniti’s mid-market family hauler.  It is in the middle of an SUV lineup that includes the flagship QX80 (formerly QX56), the “urban gorilla” QX70 (nee FX35/45/50).  Below the QX60 is the QX50 (nee EX35) and the upcoming QX30 (based on a Mercedes 5-door bodystyle).

The 2016 QX60 looks pretty much the same as the 2016 model, but it does have new front and rear styling that evolves slightly from the 2015 version. The grille and headlamps are new and now de rigeur LED accent running lights are part of the headlamp design.  Outside mirror-mounted turn signals are standard. The taillamps and liftgate are new, but look similar to their predecessor.  Inside, the seat trim is new with more intricate sew styles.  The instrument panel upper is softer and looks more appropriate for luxury brand vehicle.  Driver assist technologies abound.

Responding to criticisms about ride control and handling, Nissan upgraded the suspension.  While ride comfort was excellent, body lean in cornering was excessive.  The update to the suspension yields a vehicle that is more confident feeling, more nimble and lighter on its feet.  This is a very positive move forward.

While these updates to Infiniti’s mid-market entries are not earth shaking, they keep the vehicles fresh and up-to-date.  The changes to the QX60 are more extensive, but the powertrain changes to the Q50 will get the most attention.  Both are good moves.


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Car Owners Select Trump Over Other Candidates

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Vote ImageThis article was posted in Forbes.com blog, Friday, February 19, 2016 (http://www.forbes.com/sites/georgepeterson1/2016/02/19/car-owners-select-trump/#6e8407941b81).

“Just the facts, ma’am”, said Joe Friday.  Here are the results from a 1,100 respondent AutoPacific national internet survey asking vehicle owners what their political leanings are and who they would prefer for President come November.

The poll is not overwhelmingly scientific.  It does not look at preferences based on political affiliation or likelihood to vote.  It simply asks who they would prefer for President and does show some very interesting results.

Political Leanings  What are the political leanings of car (and truck) owners?  About 36% describe themselves as Independent with Ford (33%), Toyota (30%), Honda (24%), Chevrolet (20%) and Subaru (20%) the brands most likely to identify as Independent.  About 34% describe themselves as Republican with Ford (27%), Toyota (23%), Chevrolet (19%) the top three.  About 25% describe themselves as Democrat with Toyota (30%), Honda (23%) and Subaru (17%) the top three.  Libertarians account for about 5% of the sample with Toyota (35%), Ford (31%), Honda (23%), Chevrolet (23%) as their top four brands.

The most “Republican” brands are Lexus (45%), GMC (43%), Infiniti (39%), Jeep (36%), and Audi (36%).  The most “Democrat” brands are Tesla (37%), Fiat (35%), and Land Rover (32%)

Trump Wins Overall  Among the presidential candidates of any party, Donald Trump is the top preference (24%), followed by Hillary Clinton (18%), Bernie Sanders (17%), Ted Cruz (9%), and Marco Rubio (7%).  The remaining candidates are all under 5% with Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina having pulled out of the race after the New Hampshire primary.

Brand Owners Most Likely to Select…  The owners of brands most likely to select Donald Trump are GMC (31%), Mitsubishi (31%), Scion (30%), Ford (25%), Jeep (25%), Buick (25%), and Cadillac (25%).  No FIAT owners would prefer Trump.  The brands most likely to select Hillary Clinton are Mercedes-Benz (25%), Infiniti (25%), Tesla (25%), BMW (24%), Cadillac (24%).  The brands most likely to select Bernie Sanders are Fiat (44%), MINI (41%), Tesla (35%), Volvo (32%), Mazda (28%), Volkswagen (28%), Scion (27%), Subaru (27%), Toyota (25%).

Trump Profile  Those vehicle owners who prefer Donald Trump are likely to own domestic mainstream brands.  About 57% have a college education and about 36% have a household income over $100,000.  Contrary to other surveys Trump does well among the youngest vehicle owners capturing about 33% aged 18-29 years old.   The lowest preference for Trump is among vehicle owners in their 30s at 15%.  All other age groups prefer Trump in the 22%-28% range.

Clinton Profile  Brands with stronger preference for Hillary Clinton tend to be luxury brands.  About 76% have a college degree and about 45% have a household income over $100,000.  Preference for Clinton by age group is strongest among the 60-69 age group with 22% preferring Clinton – about equal to Trump in that age group.  Lowest preference for Clinton is among the youngest with just 9% of the 18-29 year old group preferring her.

Sanders Profile  Bernie Sanders attracts both mainstream and luxury brands.  The owner profile of these brands suggest a more liberal mindset. About 60% have a college degree and about 35% have a household income over $100,000.  Strongest preference for Sanders is among 30-39 year olds (26%), among 18-29 year olds (21%) and among 40-49 year olds (21%).  This confirms Sanders preference among younger vehicle owners.

There are many polls being cited during these early weeks of a long, long election cycle.  Results are all over the map with Trump generally on top for the Republican nomination followed by Ted Cruz.  In the race for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders is putting up a surprisingly strong anti-establishment fight.  It will be interesting to refer back to these results in November to see who will be our next President.  If the vote were held today among owners of cars and trucks, the winner would be Trump by a narrow margin.


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“Trucks” to Continue to Outsell Cars – XSUV Segment

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500 wide Car Truck Sales 1987-2021500 wide Car Truck Mix 1987-2021AutoPacific, an automotive specialist research and product planning consultancy, forecasts that trucks, including XSUVs will be about 60% of the market for the foreseeable future.  In fact, reading the crystal ball for the next five years, this percentage of the mix may be low.  The charts above detail how cars and truck sales and market penetration have evolved since 1987 and the forecast for the future.

The hottest product segment in the American light vehicle market is the crossover SUV (XSUV).  A crossover SUV can be as large as a Chevrolet Traverse or as small as a Chevrolet Trax.  There are dozens of XSUVs in between.  And there will be more.

The XSUV segment has become so hot because this type of vehicle corrects the criticisms buyers had of traditional SUVs which sold very well, but were not optimal.  Buyers wanted products that were not hard-core off-roaders, but more civilized and city friendly.  The SUV market exploded in the early 1990s with the introduction of the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee.  It wasn’t until 1996 that the crossover SUV began slipping into the marketplace.  First the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V appeared.  They were followed by the luxury crossover RX300.  Clearly the manufacturers were listening and reacting.

Here are just a few of the things we know about the evolution of the SUV market over the next five years…

Cadillac  Cadillac states that it has too few XSUVs (one, the upcoming XT5) and wants to add two or three more to its lineup while adding one more car as a range topper between now and 2020.

Buick  Buick is adding the small Envision XSUV to its lineup this Spring.  Envision is assembled in China.

FCA Drops Cars to Add XSUV and Pickup Capacity  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is dropping its Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart in favor of more capacity for XSUVs and pickups.  The Ram pickup will take over the FCA Sterling Heights, Michigan Plant when the Chrysler 200 is dropped.  FCA’s huge Belvidere, Ilinois plant will be populated by XSUVs when the Jeep Compass and Patriot plus the Dodge Dart fade away.

Toyota Pushing RAV4  Toyota Motor Sales has stated that they would not be surprised if the RAV4 XSUV overtook the Camry mid-size car as its best selling product.  Camry was the best selling car in the USA in 2015.

Lexus will add a 3-row XSUV above the RX350 in the next few years.500 wide SUV XSUV Sales 1987-2021500 wide SUV XSUV Mix of SUV 1987-2021

 

The charts above show the impact of crossover SUVs on the light truck market.  Huge volume increase and market share increase.

Hyundai Aggressively Adding XSUV Capacity  Hyundai is replacing 50,000 units of car capacity in its Montgomery, Alabama assembly plant with the Santa Fe Sport.  That drops capacity for the Hyundai Sonata and Elantra from 400,000 to 350,000 units per year.  Hyundai admits that they underestimated the demand for XSUVs years ago.  This capacity move reacts to market demand and dealer pressure to get Hyundai dealers more XSUVs that are easier to sell and require less incentives and discounting.

Hyundai will add 45,000 units to its Tucson compact XSUV volume this year.  Built in South Korea, Tucson has been limited because it is popular around the world and the vehicle was capacity constrained.

Hyundai also recognizes there is a hole at the bottom of their XSUV lineup and are adding a sub-compact B-Segment XSUV to fill that hole.  There is a possibility that a smaller A-Segment XSUV will replace the Hyundai Accent hatchback.


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