2 Million Jeeps – Global Sales Goal

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Jeep sold about 1.4 million SUVs in 2016 and has 2 million Jeeps in its sights.  It is going to take until 2020 or so to sell 2 million Jeeps per year.

At an event showcasing the all new 2017 Jeep Compass, Mike Manley, Head of Jeep, detailed the evolution of Jeep production that could achieve global sales objectives of 2 million Jeeps by 2020.  The Compass is a crossover SUV positioned above the B-Segment Renegade and below the D-Segment Cherokee. Actually, the Cherokee is more of a C/D Segment vehicle. Cherokee is not really big enough to be a full D-Segment vehicle.  At the top of the lineup is the Grand Cherokee which is the heart of Jeep DNA for now.

Jeep’s Capacity Story

There is a dance of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US (FCA) plants that is going to realize substantially more Jeep production.  The dance goes like this…

  • FCA kills Dodge Dart, Jeep Patriot and the old Jeep Compass produced at their huge 407,000 unit capacity plant in Belvidere, Illinois.  Cherokee moves from Toledo, Ohio to Belvidere in 2017.  Estimate a maximum production of Cherokee at 250,000 units.  This means there is room for another vehicle “not yet announced” at Belvidere, says Manley.
  • Toledo adds all new Wrangler off-road SUV during 2017.  Wrangler is selling so well it needs more capacity, but not as much as relieved by moving Cherokee to Belvidere.  Jeep adds a Wrangler-based pickup to Toledo to fill capacity.  This also satisfies demand from dealers and customers for a Jeep pickup.
  • The all-new 2017 Jeep Compass is launched with assembly plants in four countries:  Mexico, India, Brazil and China.  The Mexican plant will supply North America and left hand drive Europe.  The Indian plant will satisfy demand from right hand drive countries including the U.K, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.  Jeep has high expectations for the new Compass as the assembly plant count confirms.
  • Jeep is adding a Jeep Wagoneer to the lineup.  Manley mentions that this could be a “line of Wagoneers” implying that there could be a Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer in Jeep’s future.  Wagoneer will be a body-on-frame SUV.  It will be based on the next-generation Ram pickup but with independent rear suspension.  Manley agrees that “Ford went the right way when they added independent rear suspension to their Expedition to get a great 3rd row seat”.  The speculation is that Wagoneer will be added to FCA’s Sterling Heights assembly plant.  Sterling Heights is being shifted to Ram pickup production after the Chrysler 200 sedan was killed.  The 200 was the only vehicle in Sterling Heights and never achieved anything like FCA’s hoped for volumes.
  • That leaves the “mystery vehicle” to take up the additional capacity at Belvidere.

Given all this attention to plants and plant capacity, 2 million Jeeps looks plausible by the next decade.

New Compass Key to selling 2 million Jeeps

Source: George Peterson, AutoPacific

2017 Jeep Compass in Brief

Based on driving and living with the all-new 2017 Jeep Compass for a short time, the Compass will attract robust sales.  Compass styling is very much traditional Jeep with the seven vertical slot grille, trapezoidal wheel arches and a strong overall style.  Compass has a unique floating roof character that has been adopted from everybody from the Jaguar XJ, Lexus RX SUV, Nissan Murano to the GMC Acadia SUV.  The Compass is one of the only vehicles in white where this really looks cool.

The Compass interior is excellent in the mid-range Latitude model, the top-of-the-line Limited and the aggressive Trailhawk model.  Front seat comfort is outstanding for a vehicle in this class.  The seats are firm without being too stiff.  Visibility is excellent from the driver’s seat.  Everything is easy to reach and see.  Ergonomically, Jeep designers and engineers have done an excellent job.

Compass is powered by the 2.4L Tigershark 4-cylinder engine with 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque.  In North America there are three transmissions.  4×2 models get a 6-speed automatic.  4×4 models get a 9-speed automatic.  Both 4×2 and 4×4 models are available with manual transmissions.  Manual transmission availability is getting rarer and rarer these days.  Likely the wide global distribution of the Compass makes the 6-speed manual readily available.

Performance on-road is adequate.  A 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder with 230-250 horsepower would always be welcome in a vehicle like the Compass.  Off-road, navigating a very technical course, the Compass is very capable.  Clearly, retaining Jeep DNA for off-road fun was an important feature in the development of the Compass.


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Chevrolet Bolt EV Surprises – Range Anxiety Gone

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Image Source: George Peterson

When a Chevrolet manager refers to the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, they inevitably hold up two fingers to guarantee you know they are referring to the Volt.  When they mention the Chevrolet Bolt EV electric vehicle, they always say “Bolt EV”.  “Bolt EV did well in focus groups,” one PR manager stated.  Having done thousands of focus groups over the years, I know how that can be done.

Well, enough of that.  The Chevrolet Bolt EV is the real deal.  It is an electric vehicle purpose-built around a five module battery pack that forms the floor of the car.  These batteries give a maximum range of 238 miles.  AutoPacific’s research on electric vehicles over the years has concluded that the holy grail for EV range is 225 miles to avoid range anxiety.  So Bolt EV achieves that range with a little to spare.

The designed-in-South Korea Bolt EV is a crossover SUV in Chevrolet’s mind.  I see it as more of a 5-door hatchback, but Chevrolet contends its higher seating position and relatively high roof deserve a crossover classification.  Besides, crossovers are selling like hotcakes these days and cars are not.  Bolt EV looks modern with forward sloping character lines that you could see on a crossover today.  OK, it’s a crossover.

The Bolt EV is spacious enough for four people.  Getting in and out is relatively easy but the front A-Pillars are so fast that you have to be careful to duck or else you will hit your head.  The instrument panel in the top model includes a reconfigurable instrument cluster and a 10.2 inch screen in the center stack that provides all the information concerning its electric operation and the usual connectivity features like Bluetooth.  Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are how you get navigation in the car.  There is no resident NAV.  The Bolt EV is available with the typical General Motors driver assistance features like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, lane keeping warning, surround view camera, blind spot warning, etc.

The real surprise comes when driving the Bolt EV.  Its powerpack provides 200-horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque.  This output is like a peppy 1.6L or 1.8L turbo 4-cylinder in a hot hatch small car.  Bolt EV does not have to apologize to anyone on the freeway.  The car can be operated in “one-foot mode” where regenerative braking is activated.  This would be my normal driving mode.  When you lift off the accelerator, the brakes engage to put electricity back into the batteries.  The deceleration can be controlled by a paddle behind the steering wheel.   Using regen, you rarely have to actually press on the brake pedal.

No new car is perfect and the Bolt EV is not.  Where it falls down is in the material selection in the interior.  Lots of hard, glossy plastic.  The lightweight front seats are very hard and the side bolsters are stiff.

The base price of the Bolt EV is $37,495 that results in a $29,995 price after the federal government tax credit (you have to earn about $75,000 to qualify for that tax credit).  If you load the Bolt EV up with all the options, it will top out at around $44,000.

Bolt is on sale now in California and Oregon and will roll out nationally over the year.


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More Aggressive Mustang Near Launch

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Source: Ford Motor Company

Source: Ford Motor Company

Ford is updating its iconic sporty coupe giving us a more aggressive Mustang for 2018.  In industry parlance this could be termed a “front and rear six” meaning the front and rear six inches of the car has been changed.  The 2018 change is a bit more than that.  The front end is the main contributor to the more aggressive Mustang look.  The standard LED headlamps flank a redesigned grille which has a new sporty texture.  The front fenders, front fascia, and hood are all new.  In the rear end, the taillamp graphics are tweaked a bit, not so you’d notice.

Source: Ford Motor Company

Source: Ford Motor Company

The big news in the interior is that the car is now available with a 12-inch re-configurable instrument cluster display.  The display has been lifted from the new Continental luxury car but conveys different information.  This is the “modern” way to go and also demonstrates that the costs of these electronic features are coming down dramatically and quickly.  In addition to the cluster, the seat trim sew patterns have been updated.  There is an available heated steering wheel and the center console has been upgraded with padded knee bolsters.   Ford also adds Driver Assistance features as options such as adaptive cruise control, lane keeping warning and lane keeping assist.

Under the hood, the 3.7L V6 is gone and the 5.0L V8 has been upgraded.  Ford has not yet provided the specifics.  Similarly, the 2.3L EcoBoost 4-cylinder turbo has been upgraded.  There is a 10-speed automatic transmission available, but the the folks who think manual transmissions are appropriate for a sporty coupe, a 6-speed manual is still available.  The chassis has been upgraded to provide more nimble handling.

Ford has been producing the Mustang continuously for over fifty years.  The car has gone through tough times and was almost killed on more than one occasion.  Even when Chevrolet killed the Camaro, Pontiac killed the Firebird and Dodge killed the Challenger, Mustang stayed the course.  There have been a few half-hearted efforts in the history of Mustang, but the 2018 promises to improve the breed.  This update is a mid-cycle change that means we should see a major update in 2020 or 2021.


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Tesla Tops Consideration and Vehicle Satisfaction Results

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Each year there are several surveys of Vehicle Satisfaction in the United States marketplace.  Two of the most respected are from Consumer Reports, the widely read consumer buyer guide and automotive-specialist research company AutoPacific.  Consumer Reports results were released on December 22, 2016.  AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction results were released on June 1, 2016.

The results are similar in some ways.  The differences between AutoPacific’s “Future Consideration” results and Consumer Reports “Would Buy Again” results can be dramatic.  AutoPacific’s “Future Consideration” measures owner loyalty.  That is what percentage of the brand’s present owners would consider the brand again?  AutoPacific also assumes vehicle buyers may be considering more than one brand in the future.  This makes the percentage of consumers considering any one brand usually higher than the more definite “will buy” results from Consumer Reports.

brand-consideration-comparison-vvTesla is tops in all three measurements from Consumer Reports and AutoPacific.  Then the comparisons diverge dramatically.  In AutoPacific’s consideration results, popular domestic brands Ford (4) and Chevrolet (6) are in the top ten.  In CR’s “will buy again” results Chevrolet is 9th and Ford is 15th separated by one percentage point.   Second ranked in CR’s results, Porsche is 8th in AutoPacific’s consideration.  Cadillac is second in AutoPacific’s consideration results but 22nd in CR’s rankings.

An interesting result in AutoPacific’s two measurements is that Ford and Chevrolet are very strongly considered while scoring below the industry average in their vehicle satisfaction scores.  This is testament to the strength of their brand image.

So how can consumers use these divergent messages?  Compare the brands at the top and the bottom of the list and see where there are similarities.  In both Consumer Reports and AutoPacific results, Fiat is at the bottom.  Ram, Fiat Chrysler’s truck-only brand has OK results from CR, but is on the bottom of the AutoPacific future consideration results.  Hot-selling Jeep is towards the bottom in all the measurements.  Should the buyer consider buying a Jeep a risk if owners are hesitant to buy another one?  Would a new Jeep get lower satisfaction scores?  Infiniti gets a pretty good satisfaction score from AutoPacific, but both CR “will buy” and AutoPacific consideration scores are very low.  Something is going on there.

For each brand there is a story.  Data compiled by organizations like Consumer Reports and AutoPacific can go a long way in helping consumers fine tune their consideration set when they are in the market for a new car or light truck.


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2017 Lincoln Continental Replaces Lackluster MKS

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2016 Lincoln MKS

Source: teucy.com – 2016 Lincoln MKS

2017-lincoln-continental                                                      Source:  Lincoln.com – 2017 Lincoln Continental

The Lincoln MKS luxury sedan has not been an overwhelming success. Year to date through November 2016, the MKS sold less than 5,000 units. Lincoln dealers must be breathing a sigh of relief as its replacement, the all-new 2017 Lincoln Continental, arrives at their dealerships. Already in 2016, the Continental has sold almost 3,500 units. The Continental is also out-selling the all-new 2017 Cadillac CT6. While the early sales results are promising, let’s see if the new Continental is an improvement over its predecessor.

Each year, AutoPacific surveys new car and light truck buyers to determine what changes they want in their vehicle. It is particularly interesting to compare the changes that owners want to their vehicle when it is just about to be replaced by the next generation. In this case we will compare the 2016 Lincoln MKS with the MKS’ competitive set (Cadillac XTS, BMW 5-Series, Acura RLX, Audi A6, etc. – $50,000 to $70,000 mid-size luxury sedans). We will also provide AutoPacific’s evaluation of how much the 2017 Lincoln Continental will move the needle.

It becomes immediately obvious, however, that the owners of the MKS are much more traditional in their desires than the likely buyers of the all-new Continental. Compared with the competitive set, MKS owners are ten years older, less likely to be college educated and earn $50,000 less. About 76% of MKS owners are retired compared with 38% of the competitive set.

AutoPacific’s research shows that over 20% of MKS owners want more safety features (40%), technology that is easier to use (36%), better driver’s seat visibility (36%), more distinctive styling (34%), better ease of getting in and out (31%), improved roominess (27%) and better driver’s seat comfort (23%). AutoPacific’s assessment of the all-new 2017 Lincoln Continental is that the new car will substantially improve the results for the car over the MKS. We predict that the owners of the 2017 Lincoln Continental will be a very satisfied bunch.

Here are the results of the major areas MKS owners want improved and our take on Continental compared with the outgoing MKS and its competitive set:

Source: AutoPacific - Changes Owners Want to 2016 Lincoln MKS

Source: AutoPacific – Changes Owners Want to 2016 Lincoln MKS

Safety Features: 40% of MKS owners want more safety features than now compared for 27% of the competitive set. The outgoing car has blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane departure assist available in an expensive technology package. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has the totally modern driver assistance suite available as well, but the features are more seamless in the new car and are available as a $3,100 Technology Package on the $54,000 Reserve model. This package includes: 360-degree camera, Active park assist, Lane-Keeping System, Lane-Keeping alert, Lane-Keeping aid, Driver Alert System, Adaptive cruise control, Pre-Collision assist with Pedestrian Detection, Collision warning, Brake support, Active braking, Auto-dimming rearview mirror, Rain-sensing wipers and Windshield wiper de-icer. Unfortunately, the totally cool LED headlamps are only available as part of a $5,000 Luxury Package that also includes the $1,130 REVEL sound system. Egads! Does this mean the LED headlamps are $3,870?

Technology: As with many vehicles these days, technology is a love it/hate it affair. Compared with the competitive set, the older Lincoln MKS buyer is much more likely to want technology that is easier to use (36% compared with 18%). The MKS uses Lincoln’s much-maligned MyLincoln Touch infotainment system that was glitchy and difficult to use. The 2017 Lincoln Continental uses the new Sync 3 system that is much easier to use and has includes Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto. The new system is much more intuitive, faster, and seems more stable. We wish Lincoln had adopted a larger center stack screen mounted higher in the center of the vehicle. Also, the gray tones Lincoln uses in its graphics are difficult to see because the contrast is subtle. It would be much more satisfying if more vivid colors were used.

The Continental’s instrument cluster is reconfigurable and can provide an overwhelming amount of information or a very simple amount of data. AutoPacific’s complaint with the instrument cluster is that it cannot be made bright enough to see clearly on days with heavy sun loads.

Driver’s Seat Visibility: About 36% of MKS owners want better driver’s seat visibility compared with 22% for the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has good forward visibility, but the visibility to the sides is restricted by the high passenger seat back and headrest and the rear sail panel. The backlite is relatively high and rear seat headrests restrict visibility. The Continental is likely competitive, but not better than its competitors.

Styling: About a third of MKS owners want more distinctive styling. Only about 20% of the competitive set want more distinctive styling. While some criticize the 2017 Lincoln Continental as looking too much like the Bentley Flying Spur, the Lincoln certainly has more presence than its predecessor. We believe the 2017 Continental will be judged as distinctive or more distinctive than its facing competition in next year’s research.

Ease of Getting In and Out: As a person gets older flexibility becomes a challenge. About 31% of the older MKS buyers want the car to be easier to get in and out of. This compares with 23% of the competitive set. The new 2017 Lincoln Continental has a very fast A-Pillar which could interfere with head clearance when getting into the vehicle. The A-Pillar is pushed forward enough that this should not be a problem with the new car. Continental is at least on a par with its competitive set.

Roominess: About 27% of MKS owners want more passenger roominess compared with 22% of the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has a very spacious seating package. Its rear seat is very luxurious and accommodating especially with the $4,300 Rear Seat Package. Since Lincoln is making a concerted effort to sell the Continental in China where it likely will be driven by a chauffeur instead of the owner, the Rear Seat Package is very important. Cosseting the Chinese CEO in the rear seat is what this package is designed to do. Overall, the 2017 Lincoln Continental is more than competitive in terms of passenger roominess.

Driver’s Seat Comfort: About 23% of MKS owners want a more relaxed driver’s seat compared with 10% of the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental evaluated by AutoPacific had Lincoln’s 30-way power seats. Like many features with multiple adjustments, you can adjust it to any position but great. Several AutoPacific staffers loved the adjustability of the seats and especially the adjustable left and right leg thigh support. Starting with the default position may be result in the best overall seat feel. The new Continental’s seat firmness may be a bit too stiff for the traditional Lincoln buyer.

Engine Power: While MKS owners do not particularly want more power or better fuel economy, the 2017 Lincoln Continental is available with powertrain selections that would satisfy almost any type of driver. The base engine is a 305-horsepower 3.7L double overhead cam V6. The mid-level engine is a 335-horsepower 2.7L turbo V6. The top engine is a 400-horsepower 3.0L twin turbo V6. For a company that used to provide only one engine per vehicle, the choices offered are excellent. Driving the all-wheel drive 400-horsepower Continental can be an exhilarating experience.

 

 


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Trump Wins – VehicleVoice Predicted Election Winner in February 2016

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Trump Wins - Campaign Logo

Trump wins predicted by VehicleVoice survey

Trump Wins  In February 2016, AutoPacific fielded a VehicleVoice survey to see how the 2016 Presidential Election would fare.

Ten months ago, VehicleVoice panel members predicted that Donald Trump would win the Presidency.  To refresh your memory, here are the results:

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  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.

It is uncanny that so far in advance this relatively unsophisticated VehicleVoice poll of vehicle owners in the United States could predict the overall winner of the 2016 Presidential contest.  At the time, these results seemed like an out-lier.  In the final analysis, the results were very telling.


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All-New 2017 Honda CR-V – Improved Across the Board

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The 2017 Honda CR-V goes on sale in December 2016.  It’s predecessor, the fourth-generation 2016 Honda CR-V, is on track to sell about 380,000 crossover SUVs in 2016. It is the highest volume crossover SUV and one of the top selling vehicles in the market. In AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award Research the CR-V achieved a score of 690.  This is a fourth place showing in the Mid-Size Crossover SUV segment.  Nissan Rogue (712), Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester place ahead of the 2016 CR-V. In AutoPacific’s 2016 Ideal Vehicle Award Research the CR-V was tied with Rogue in third place (1134 points).   The class leading Subaru Forester (1175) and Mazda CX-5 scored higher.2017 Honda CR-V F34 VV2017 Honda CR-V FV VV

Each year, AutoPacific surveys new car and light truck buyers to determine what changes they want in their vehicle. It is particularly interesting to compare the changes that owners want to their vehicle when it is just about to be replaced by the next generation.  Also, AutoPacific’s research can be measuring stick on how well a manufacturer’s product planners, engineers and designers understand their customers.  Using AutoPacific’s research to determine what changes people wanted in their CR-V, let’s see how well Honda did with their update.

Source: AutoPacific - Radar Chart Showing Changes 2016 Honda CR-V Owners want Compared with Competition

Source: AutoPacific – Radar Chart Showing Changes 2016 Honda CR-V Owners want Compared with Competition

Technology – Still a Challenge as With Most New Generation Vehicles: As with many vehicles these days, technology is a love it/hate it affair. About 25% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want more advanced technology than now. About 30% want the technology they have to be easier to use. The 2016 CR-V has the HondaSensing suite of driver assistance technologies available.  The 2017 version expands on that adding a blind spot information system to the affordable EX model. Technology is still an area that requires a great deal of work, and the 2017 Honda CR-V improves on its predecessor.  About 25% of CR-V’s competitors want more advanced technology as well.  Among competitors, about 34% of 2016 Ford Escape owners want easier to use technology.

Driver’s Seat Visibility – Excellent View: Visibility is a key component in the acceptance of new crossover SUVs. About 29% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want better driver’s seat visibility compared with 27% for competition. The previous CR-V was very competitive, but AutoPacific concludes the fourth generation CR-V is better. The driver’s seating position is excellent.  The hood has been redesigned with more character that gives the driver more reference points in front. Honda has always been generous with glass and it appears the windows are larger. The 2017 CR-V should see better results next year.

Power and Fuel Economy – Going Turbo: About 20% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want more power and acceleration and about 10% would sacrifice power and acceleration for better fuel economy. About 29% of 2016 Nissan Rogue owners want more power and acceleration. The 2017 Honda CR-V adds a 190-horsepower turbocharged 1.5L 4-cylinder in all but the base LX model. The turbo 4 gets both better fuel economy and acceleration and feels sprightlier than its predecessor.   2017 results should be even better than 2016.

 Ride and Handling – Improved Dynamics: About 20% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want easier handing and a softer ride. This compares to just 14% of the owners of its primary competitors wanting easier handling and softer ride.  Honda has improved the ride and handling giving the 2017 CR-V a solid ride with crisp sporty handling. It is not a pillow-soft ride by any means, but gives the confidence that the vehicle will do what the driver demands.

Passenger Roominess – More Rear Seat Room: About 20% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want more passenger room. This compares with about 24% of competition (about 32% of Ford Escape owners want more passenger room). The 2017 Honda CR-V has 2.1-inches more rear seat legroom while increasing the overall length of the vehicle by 1.2 inches. The rear seat seems much more spacious and the 2017 Honda CR-V should fare even better in AutoPacific’s 2017 research.

Exterior Styling – More Distinctive – Upscale: Looking at the all new CR-V, the at-a-glance impression is “more of the same”. CR-V, however, adopts Honda’s more aggressive and distinctive front end design with a heavy dollop of chrome. The taillights are a blatant evolution of the 2016 CR-V. About 16% of 2016 CR-V owners want more distinctive styling. 23% of owners of the 2016 Ford Escape, for instance, want more distinctive styling. It is probably safe to say that the 2017 changes to the CR-V will move the needle towards the more distinctive area.

Cargo Area – Even Better:  2016 Honda CR-V owners are less likely to want more cargo space than the competition – 14% compared to 28%.  The 2017 Honda CR-V adds almost 10-inches to the length of its cargo space.  This makes the all-new CR-V even better than before and substantially better than each of its main competitors.

Overall: The 2017 Honda CR-V has incrementally improved in almost every area. The styling is more distinctive. The powertrain more responsive. The interior is larger within a vehicle that is no bigger than before. Combined with Honda’s outstanding ergonomics, the CR-V, as a product, should be able to sell at about capacity especially at the aggressive pricing Honda has adopted.

Competition does not stand still. The Ford Escape has a substantial upgrade for 2017. The Nissan Rogue is all new for 2017. The 2017 research will show which vehicle’s product development team understood its customers the best and executed the product for them.

 


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All New Honda CR-V Impressive Re-Incarnation

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Honda has imposed an embargo for the new Honda CR-V on technical specifications, driving impressions and pricing, so we can only describe the vehicle and its competitive position in generalities.  The embargo lifts on November 30, 2016.

New Honda CR-V FV VV

New Honda CR-V – all new for 2017 with distinctive front end styling.

Honda Assures Continued Success in Entry XSUV Market  The all new Honda CR-V is an impressive compact crossover SUV.  A pillar of Honda’s product lineup that includes Accord, Civic and Odyssey, the CR-V sells almost 400,000 units per year.  Strong competitors include the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape.  The Nissan Rogue is starting to make waves as well.  The entry crossover SUV category has become the best selling class of vehicle in the United States.  Entry crossover SUV sales are higher than mid-size cars.  The popularity of the segment, and how good this new CR-V is, has led Honda to add more assembly capacity at its Indiana assembly plant in 2017.

Sport utility vehicles have evolved from the hardcore 4x4s of the 1970s to the very easy-t0-live with crossover SUVs of today.  Responding to customer demand for better ride, better fuel economy, the latest electronic and infotainment features, the new crossovers have taken the market by storm.  They are now the vehicles of choice for most female buyers.

In the development of the new Honda CR-V, Honda benchmarked the European BMW X3 to give this mainstream crossover a luxury feel.  They clearly have higher aspirations for the vehicle.  Also, given the sales volume of the CR-V, Honda added standard features in lower trim levels.  Cost efficiencies are substantial when a product approaches the 400,000 unit volume level.

Nwq Honda CR-V F34 VV

New Honda CR-V – all new for 2017 with more muscular styling

More Aggressive Than Past Hondas  Sounding like a Big Three manufacturer of yore, the new Honda CR-V is longer, wider and higher than before.  It has a new turbocharged 4-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission on all but its base LX trim level.   The looks of the new Honda CR-V are an upward evolution of its predecessor.  Styling is more aggressive with more character in the hood and body panels.  The grille is much more aggressive than previously and follows the trend adopted by the new Honda Pilot XSUV and Ridgeline pickup.  The wheel openings are more muscular to accommodate larger tires and wheels.

More Upscale than Typical for This Class  Comparing the new Honda CR-V with the RAV4 and Escape, the CR-V comes across as a product in a class above.  The finish is outstanding, the interior has been substantially upgraded with soft touch materials in critical areas.  As usual, the new Honda CR-V is an ergonomic tour de force.  Visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent.  Reach to the controls is intuitive.  The large electronic instrument cluster is brilliantly lit and provides necessary information.  Responding to customer complaints, the new Honda CR-V adds back a volume control knob for the audio system replacing the slider used previously.  The rear seat is larger than in its predecessor and Honda describes the interior space in the new Honda CR-V as being best in class.

High Volume EX Trim Loaded with Features  The highest volume trim level will be the EX one step above the base LX.   The level of equipment on this model is impressive.  Honda includes Honda Sensing, blind spot warning and cross traffic warning as part of the EX trim level.  Honda Sensing includes adaptive cruise control with low speed follow, collision mitigation braking system, road departure mitigation, and lane keeping assist.  The Honda-exclusive Lane Watch video camera system has been abandoned for the new Honda CR-V.  Blind spot information replaces Lane Watch because owners want blind spot information on both sides of the car and the right-side-only Lane Watch system couldn’t be adapted to show the left side as well.

Best Selling Honda?  Given the excellence of the latest generation CR-V, and the additional production capacity being added, it would not be surprising if the CR-V becomes Honda’s top-selling vehicle.


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Toyota and Lexus dominate the 2016 Motorist Choice Awards

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MCA2016

LOS ANGELESSeptember 27, 2016 – Notable automotive industry research companies IntelliChoice and AutoPacific today announced the winners of the 2016 Motorist Choice Awards. Now in its eleventh year, this esteemed award recognizes vehicles that deliver the compelling and sought after combination of high consumer satisfaction and lower-than-expected ownership costs over time – meeting the needs and expectations of both the heart and the mind.

The Motorist Choice Awards (MCA), which take AutoPacific’s owner satisfaction data from new car and light truck owners and combine those data with IntelliChoice’s cost of ownership rating methodology, provide a reliable guide for new car shoppers. “Automakers know that car buyers are looking for a vehicle that satisfies both their needs and emotional desires, and they want it at a great value,” said Eric Anderson, Director of Data Products for IntelliChoice. “Every Motorist Choice winner does just that by providing a strong long term value and great ownership satisfaction.”

Toyota Leads with 9 Winning Vehicles

Toyota, who had 6 winning vehicles last year, has the most wins again with 9 vehicles between the Toyota and Lexus brands. All 6 of Toyota’s winning vehicles from last year get repeat wins this year, while the Toyota Prius v HEV, Tacoma and Lexus GX 460 are new additions. “Toyota is really continuing to dominate and doing so across a broad spectrum of vehicle segments,” says Dan Hall, vice president of AutoPacific. Toyota has 3 winning vehicles in the car segments and 6 winning vehicles in the truck segments, expanding their MCA success from SUVs into trucks and minivans.

Winning vehicles came from 10 different brands and 8 different manufacturers. Trailing Toyota, but continuing to dominate in the full-size truck and large SUV segments, General Motors has 4 winning vehicles, 3 of which were winners last year; Honda has 3 wins, including the all-new Honda Civic; BMW and Subaru each have 2 wins; and Volvo, FCA and Mazda have 1 winning vehicle each.

Consistent Performances from 16 Vehicles

Of the 23 winning vehicles this year, 16 are repeats from 2015, spread across 9 brands. “With many vehicle awards we find that the list of winners changes year over year as newly designed vehicles enter the marketplace,” says Hall. “Continuing to perform strong in owner satisfaction and cost of ownership while in
the middle or end of the lifecycle speaks volumes about the importance of designing a vehicle with long-term owner satisfaction in mind.” Of those 16 repeat winners, 3 were all-new in 2015, 1 is all new for 2016, and the remaining repeat winners have lifecycles that extend as far back as 2007 (GMC Acadia).

The 2016 Motorist Choice Award Winners:

PASSENGER CARS:

Category Winner
Luxury Car BMW 5-Series
Aspirational Luxury Car Volvo XC70
Large Car Toyota Avalon HEV
Luxury Mid-Size Car Lexus ES 350
Mid-Size Car Subaru Legacy
Premium Compact Car Lexus CT 200h
Compact Car Honda Civic
Economy Car Honda Fit
Sports Car Mazda MX-5
Sporty Car Dodge Challenger

LIGHT DUTY TRUCKS:

Category Winner
Premium Luxury Crossover SUV BMW X5
Luxury Crossover SUV Lexus RX
Large Crossover SUV GMC Acadia
Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV Toyota Highlander
Mid-Size Crossover SUV Honda CR-V
Compact Crossover SUV Subaru Crosstrek
Luxury SUV Lexus GX 460
Large SUV Chevrolet Tahoe
Mid-Size SUV Toyota 4Runner
Heavy-duty Pickup GMC Sierra HD
Light-duty Pickup GMC Sierra 1500
Compact Pickup Toyota Tacoma
Minivan Toyota Prius v HEV

Each year, AutoPacific performs the broadest and most widely followed vehicle satisfaction survey in the U.S. This results in consumer feedback from more than 66,000 new vehicle buyers on a recently purchased model year 2016 vehicle. Using 50 key attributes covering the entire ownership experience, AutoPacific calculates overall vehicle satisfaction for individual models and vehicle segments and announces its annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSA) based on the findings.

Concurrently, IntelliChoice constantly monitors and updates the cost of ownership metrics for more than 2,000 model trim lines to give valuable insight into the financial impact of ownership over a five year period. This analysis is the foundation of the IntelliChoice Best Overall Value of the Year (BOVY) awards, announced each January.

The Motorist Choice Awards combine complementary analyses from both firms into one set of accolades representing vehicles that earn high marks on both sets of criteria. This methodology provides a superior means of evaluating “Best in Class” vehicles that align consumer shopping patterns with probability for both satisfaction and value.

For more details on these categories and the winning vehicles, please visit http://www.IntelliChoice.com and http://www.AutoPacific.com.

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 and its state-of-the-art automotive research facility are in Tustin, California, with an affiliate office in the Detroit area. Since 1986, AutoPacific has provided innovative, methodologically sound, strongly implemented research in addition to expert automotive analysis. AutoPacific is nationally known for its annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards and Ideal Vehicle Awards. Additional information can be found on AutoPacific’s websites: http://www.autopacific.com and http://www.vehiclevoice.com.

About IntelliChoice:

IntelliChoice, part of the Motor Trend Automotive Group, is the market leader in automotive ownership cost and car values analysis. Founded in 1986, IntelliChoice is committed to empowering consumers to make better purchase decisions by providing independent and essential automotive information and tools. Through the motortrend.com website, consumers can research, compare and price new cars and the cost of ownership.  Motor Trend Automotive Group is an operating division of TEN: The Enthusiast Network, the world’s premier transmedia network of enthusiast brands.

About TEN: The Enthusiast Network:

TEN: The Enthusiast Network is the world’s premier transmedia network of enthusiast brands, such as MOTOR TREND, AUTOMOBILE, HOT ROD, SURFER, TRANSWORLD SKATEBOARDING, and GRINDTV. With more than 60 websites, 50 publications, 50 annual events, the Motor Trend OnDemand subscription video-on-demand service, as well as the world’s largest automotive and action/adventure sports media platforms, TEN inspires enthusiasts to pursue their passions. For more information, visit enthusiastnetwork.com.


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Auto Industry is Ahead of Fuel Economy Technology

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The Midterm Evaluation of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards report issued in July 2016 by the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) set the stage for comments on 2022-2025 CAFE standards.  The comment period ends on September 30, 2016 and some congressional leaders have asked for a further 60 day extension to receive comment.  Reading the details of the report is very enlightening and has largely been overlooked by the media.

Fuel Economy to Double from 2012 to 2025  In the rules established in 2012, fuel economy is to double by 2025 and green house gas emissions are to be cut in half.  This would save 12 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of 2012-2025 model year cars and light trucks and save consumers billions of dollars in fuel costs.

Report Under-Estimates Truck Percentage of Light Vehicle Market  At the time the initial rules were set, the truck mix was assumed to be 33% of the light vehicle fleet.  Given today’s low gas prices and the popularity of crossover SUVs, the light truck mix is over 60% of the market today and is projected to grow to over two thirds of the market by 2020.  In the Midterm Evaluation the government agencies show the highest truck mix to be 52% with low fuel prices continuing.  If fuel prices return to peak levels seen during the last decade (not projected), the light truck mix is assumed to be 38%.  Given the reality of the market, both of these estimates are conservative and very low.

Automakers Ahead of Schedule in Meeting Future CAFE Requirements  To date, the Midterm Evaluation concludes “auto manufacturers have over-complied with the program”.  This is a surprising statement from agencies that often accuse the industry with foot dragging in fuel efficiency and safety technologies.  They note that “fuel economy technologies are entering the market at rapid rates” and that the costs of adding these technologies have not been as high as estimated back in 2012.

Consumers Have Accepted Enhanced Powertrains  The report also notes that consumer acceptance of advanced fuel efficiency technology has largely been positive.  Ford’s EcoBoost turbocharged powertrain technologies have been well accepted (and strongly advertised).  Stop/Start technology is becoming more accepted according to AutoPacific’s consumer research.  Stop/Start shuts the engine off when stopped and then restarts the engine immediately when the accelerator is applied.  Some Stop/Start systems are seamless.  Others are rough on start-up. As the systems improve acceptance will improve.

Enhanced Gasoline Powertrains Can Meet 2025 CAFE Standards  To meet 2025 CAFE requirements, the agencies identify several technologies that will play an important part.  Most are enhancements to gasoline powertrains.  Tops on the list are transmissions with 8-speeds or more (70%) .  General Motors and Ford are working together to develop multi-speed transmissions.  More engines will be turbocharged (54%).  Stop/Start will become more commonplace (38%).  The most interesting fact is the report assumes less than 2% of the vehicle fleet will be full electric vehicles and less than 1% will be a plug-in hybrid.  Mild hybrids are estimated to be 14% and full hybrids will be 14% to meet 2025 CAFE.  There is only passing mention of fuel cell vehicles.

Substantial Cost Increases to Meet Future CAFE Standards  Improving fuel economy is not free.  Back in 2012, cost increases of over $3,000 per vehicle were estimated to meet 2025 standards. The cost is now estimated by the agencies to be around $1,250 (over a 2021MY vehicle).  Nowhere in the report does it mention how much the cost to get from 2012 to 2021 is.  The report estimates that meeting the 2022 to 2025 standards will increase lifetime vehicle costs by $87 billion.  This is estimated to be offset by fuel savings of $120 billion and other benefits of $55 billion.  The net benefit is estimated to be $88 billion.  Like many government reports, the arithmetic is vague and the conclusions are shaky.

AutoPacific’s bi-monthly Fuel Price Impact Study shows that consumers are not particularly willing to spend more for a vehicle that is more environmentally friendly.  Consumers also say that their present vehicle is clean enough and the focus should be on cleaning up other sources of pollution.  The Midterm Evaluation does not mention that there has been any research conducted to determine consumers’ willingness to pay substantially more for higher fuel economy vehicles.

Plug-In Electric Vehicles Not Needed to Meet Federal CAFE  Perhaps the most interesting conclusion in the report is that plug-in electric vehicles are not needed to meet the Federal 2025 CAFE standards.  This is not welcome news to Tesla’s Elon Musk or Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn.  The primary reason electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) will impact the overall vehicle fleet are to satisfy California’s mandate for zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) in the fleet.  California’s regulations also are shared with northeastern states.

Even Tougher Standards in the Future?  The report is very complimentary of the auto industry’s progress in adopting enhanced technologies to meet future fuel economy requirements.  While some might hope that this would lead to a reduction in future standards, it might result in even tougher fuel economy goals.


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