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AutoPacific 2018 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards

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AutoPacific Announces 2018 Vehicle Satisfaction AwardsGenesis Most Satisfying Premium Brand; Nissan Earns Most Wins, Top Score Goes to Chevrolet Traverse

The results of AutoPacific’s 22nd annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSAs) identify 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 58,000 owners of new 2017 and 2018 cars and light trucks.

“VSAs provide consumers with insight into which vehicles are giving owners a satisfying ownership experience,” says AutoPacific president George Peterson. AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Awards objectively measure owner satisfaction with 40 separate attributes ranging from seating comfort and interior quality to driving performance.“AutoPacific VSAs are unique in their inclusion of importance in the calculations,” explains Peterson. “Not only do we measure owner satisfaction, but we also measure how important each attribute was to owners in their shopping process, resulting in a satisfaction score representative of demanding owners.”

Trucks Most Satisfying

Reflecting the booming sales of trucks in the USA, trucks – pickups, sport utility vehicles and minivans – are much more satisfying than cars.  SUVs, both traditional and crossovers, are the most satisfying truck categories.

Genesis Reaches Top

Luxury brand Genesis, in its second year in the market, wins top luxury brand, edging out second place Lexus and achieving the highest brand satisfaction score to date. “In just two years, Genesis has reached a level of owner satisfaction unattained by more established luxury brands,” says Peterson. In addition to the most satisfying luxury brand, Genesis G90 wins the Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Luxury Car for the second year in a row.

Nissan Claims Most Brand Wins

Five Nissan vehicles win Vehicle Satisfaction Awards for their respective segments: the Nissan Titan, Murano, Maxima, LEAF and 370Z. “Not only does Nissan have the most brand wins for the second year in a row, the Maxima and Murano have been unbeatable since their redesigns were introduced to the market,” says Peterson. The Murano crossover has its 4thwin since its 2015 redesign and the Maxima has its 3rdwin since its 2016 redesign. New for 2018, this is the first win for the LEAF, winning in the growing Mainstream EV segment, the second win for the Titan and the first win for the 370Z. Two Infiniti crossovers, the QX80 and QX60, are also 2018 VSA winners.

Five All-New or Redesigned Vehicles Top Their Segment

Of the twenty-six winning vehicles, five were redesigned for the 2018 model year, including the top-scoring Chevrolet Traverse, which greatly exceeds the score of its nearest competitor, Toyota C-HR, a new entry in a highly competitive and growing segment, and Nissan LEAF, a clear winner over competing mainstream EVs. Also winning with their new designs are the all-new Honda Odyssey and Hyundai Accent. “The success of redesigned vehicles speaks to the efforts of product planners and designers who spend years researching and designing in the hopes of hitting the mark with consumers,” says Peterson.

American and Korean Brands Share Most Satisfying Popular Brand Title

GMC is the most satisfying popular brand for the second year in a row, but this year it shares its title with Hyundai and Ram. “Having two strong American truck brands and a Korean brand known for its cars is pretty incredible,” says Peterson. Although GMC has won several times, it is the first brand win for Ram and Hyundai.

2018 VEHICLE SATISFACTION AWARD WINNERS

Most Satisfying Vehicle Overall: Chevrolet Traverse

Highest Satisfaction Premium Brand: Genesis

Highest Satisfaction Popular Brand: 3-way tie: GMC, Hyundai, Ram

Passenger Cars

  • Luxury Car:  Genesis G90 (2ndyear)
  • Aspirational Luxury Car:  Lexus IS
  • Luxury Mid-Size Car:  Nissan Maxima (3rdyear)
  • Large Car:  Dodge Charger
  • Mid-Size Car:  Hyundai Sonata
  • Premium Compact Car:  Audi A3
  • Compact Car:  Hyundai Elantra
  • Mainstream EV Car:  Nissan LEAF
  • Economy Car:  Hyundai Accent
  • Sports Car:  Nissan 370Z
  • Sporty Car:  Dodge Challenger (2ndyear)

Light Trucks

  • Light Duty Pickup:  Nissan Titan (2ndyear)
  • Heavy Duty Pickup:  GMC Sierra HD
  • Mid-Size Pickup:  Honda Ridgeline (2ndyear)
  • Luxury SUV:  Infiniti QX80
  • Large SUV:  Toyota Sequoia
  • Mid-Size SUV:Toyota 4Runner (tie)
  • Mid-Size SUV:  Jeep Grand Cherokee (tie; 2ndyear)
  • Premium Luxury XSUV:  Mercedes-Benz GLS
  • Luxury XSUV:Infiniti QX60
  • Large XSUV:  Chevrolet Traverse
  • Premium Mid-Size XSUV:  Nissan Murano (4thyear)
  • Mid-Size XSUV:  Honda CR-V
  • Compact XSUV:  Toyota C-HR
  • Minivan: Honda Odyssey (tie)
  • Minivan:  Toyota Sienna (tie)

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2018 Hyundai Kona Added to Fast Erupting Small XSUV Segment

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The all new 2018 Hyundai Kona small crossover SUV (XSUV) has just been shown to the press in an event held, wait for it, on the Kona Coast of The Big Island of Hawaii.  There were 23 or 24 Konas on hand for the journalists to drive around the island.  So, this was a pretty big event for Hyundai Motor America (HMA).

In AutoPacific’s 2017 Small XSUV Consultancy, 38 XSUVs with a wheelbase of 110-inches or less are included.  There were enough data to do complete analyses on that many individual vehicles.  There are an additional seven all new small XSUVs on sale now but too new to have been included in the AutoPacific database.  That makes 45 entries in the small XSUV category.  Now comes the 2018 Hyundai Kona wading into the fray.2018 Hyundai Kona F34 View2018 Hyundai Kona Side View2018 Hyundai Kona R34 View

Hyundai Late to the Small XSUV Game  Hyundai is a bit late to the game with its B-Segment small XSUV.  Hyundai mostly thinks “CARS” and was forced kicking and screaming to develop another small SUV.  Before the Kona was developed, Hyundai Motor Corporation (HMC) offered Hyundai Motor America a small XSUV developed mainly for India.  Luckily for HMA, their parent company did not push that down their throats and the result is the Kona – a bit late, but a whole lot better.  Next year, an even smaller A-segment XSUV will be introduced along with a larger range topping three row seven passenger XSUV (like the old Veracruz).  So, it appears HMC got religion and is providing HMA with what it needs to compete.

Trucks to Reign as Cars are De-emphasized  As carmakers begin providing what consumers are really asking for – crossover SUVs – the shift from traditional three-box (hood, cabin, trunk) cars will accelerate and the two-box bodystyle will predominate.  Truck sales (pickups, SUVs and minivans) outpaced cars in 2010 and now account for about 64% of the market.  Crossover SUVs first outsold traditional (body-on-frame) SUVs in 2004 and never looked back.  As the small XSUV segment matures, it should command between 17% and 20% of the market of light cars and trucks in the USA.

Kona Competitive Set per Hyundai Motor AmericaHugely Competitive Segment  Hyundai’s planners identify eight primary competitors for the 2018 Hyundai Kona – Chevy Trax, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Toyota C-HR, Subaru Crosstrek, Mazda CX-3, Ford EcoSport and Nissan Kicks.  With 45-plus entries in its size category sold by popular brands and premium brands alike, Kona goes up against some solid heavyweights.

Kona Styling    The proportions of the 2018 Hyundai Kona are different.  It has a long hood with long front overhang and a very short rear overhang.  Stylists have achieved a aggressiveness and muscularity in a small package.    The front end is has the Hyundai shield grille flanked by large headlights buried in a charcoal surround.  LED running lights top the front fascia just at the leading edge of the hood.   The bodyside has bold character lines flowing towards the rear.  The wheel arches are swathed in charcoal cladding.  The cladding may be overdone, but Kona appears to pull it off pretty well.  Once you study the Kona for awhile, it grows on you.

Kona Size – Smaller, But Does Not Feel Small  Among Kona’s competitive set, it has the shortest overall length (164.0-inches).  Its wheelbase (102.4-inches) is pretty much in line with competition.  The cockpit feels spacious and its dimensions are in line with its competition.  The rear seat is a skosh small with only the Toyota C-HR having less rear seat legroom.  While you might think Kona skimped on cargo area it has not.  Its 19.2 cubic foot cargo area is mid pack.  Only the Honda HR-V and Subaru Crosstrek larger.

2018 Hyundai Kona CockpitPowertrains – About What You’d Expect in this Class of XSUV  There are two engine/transmission combinations.  The base engine is a Nu 2.0L Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder with 147-horsepower and 132-lb.ft of torque.  The 2.0L is teamed with a 6-speed automatic transmission.  The base engine powers the lower two of the four Kona models.  The top engine is the Gamma 1.6L GDI 4-cylinder Turbo mated to a 7-speed EcoShift DCT.  It has 175-horsepower and 195-lb.ft. of torque.  Both powertrains are rated at 30mpg combined city/highway fuel economy.  All wheel drive is available on both powertrains and all models.

Hyundai SmartSense  Kona is available with an array of driver assistance technologies in the Hyundai SmartSense Suite.  SmartSense includes forward collision-avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision warning, lane keeping assist, high beam assist, blind spot warning and driver attention warning.  In AutoPacific research, a blind spot warning system is a feature with very high demand.  Hyundai has made it standard on the Sonata mid-size car, but in the Kona it is standard one-step up from the base SE model in the SEL model.  Still, this is good compared with competitive installations.

Attractive Pricing  The base SE model starts at $19,500 (without destination).  The highest volume model likely will be the SEL with a starting price of $21,150.  It is available with a $1,500 technology package. The next step is the Limited at $24,700.  Check all the boxes until there are no more and you come to the Unlimited model at $27,400.  The Unlimited is where you get an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, head-up display and  the full Hyundai SmartSense suite of safety features.

No Vehicle is Perfect  As vehicles and technology evolve buyers are expecting more.  For instance, the 2018 Hyundai Kona has an 8-way power driver seat available, but only manual adjustment (without a height adjustment) is available on the passenger side.  Cruise control is standard, but adaptive cruise control that most buyers expect today is not yet available.  Hyundai’s planners hint that adaptive cruise is only a short time away.

In Summary  The 2018 Hyundai Kona promises to be a very competitive entry in the small XSUV category.  A buyer won’t miss much, if anything at all, if they select a Kona.  This is a vehicle that Hyundai Motor America has needed and has been waiting for.  Now it is up the dealers and marketing/advertising folks to get Kona into the consideration sets of prospective buyers.  It should do very well.


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2018 Jeep Wrangler Now Can Be an Every Day Driver

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2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara – High Volume Model

All New 2018 Jeep Wrangler

One of the major challenges for Jeep in the major re-design of the 2018 Jeep Wrangler – the 4th Gen Wrangler – was how to maintain its ultimate off-road capability while making it easier to live with day-to-day.  Jeep says “we are maintaining and enhancing tradition.”  And they are.   Previous Wranglers were capable off-road, but abusive on-road.  Generally, a Wrangler owner would only keep it for two or three years and then move into a vehicle that was softer, and more compliant.  It was a one-time vehicle.  Probably it was one of those things where the happiest days were when you bought it and then when you got rid of it.  The market for nearly-new Wranglers is robust among avid off-roaders.

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler has a simple model lineup.  There are 2-door and 4-door bodystyles.  The 2-door is available in Sport and Rubicon models and represents 25% to 33% of the bodystyle mix.  The 4-door Wrangler Unlimited immediately outsold the 2-door and has two-thirds to three-quarters of the bodystyle mix.  The 4-door is available in Sport, Sport S, Sahara and Rubicon models.

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler is new from the ground up and, while keeping the character of its predecessors, fixes the issues the may have prevented someone from keeping theirs for a long time.  The new Wrangler is a vehicle you can drive day-to-day in comfort for years.  The design is unmistakably Wrangler, and at-a-glance, many folks will not be able to tell the difference.  It looks tough and capable.  Still hard-core.  Sure the grille is laid back a bit and so is the windshield.  This improves its brick-like aerodynamics by a few percentage points (9% improvement).  The belt-line is lower providing much larger side windows that provide better visibility.

In a head nod to off-roaders, the doors of the 2018 Jeep Wrangler can be removed.  The windshield can fold down.  The roof can open or come off depending on which roof you have.  There is a wide selection of tops – two hardtops, the “Sky One-Touch” power top, and a soft top are available.  The Wrangler can be completely closed or completely open depending on climate, terrain and how dusty you want to get.

The doors, hood, fenders and windshield frame are aluminum to save weight.  The swing gate is magnesium.  All in the quest for lighter weight and more responsive handling.

Improving driving comfort was a central objective for the Wrangler engineering team.   There have to be trade-offs between on-road riding comfort and off-road capability.  Jeep has done an outstanding job with the 2018 Jeep Wrangler in achieving those objectives.  Unlike its predecessors, the new Wrangler has a supple ride with good wheel travel.  This is not what owners of previous generation Wranglers experienced.  The ride is so good, you would expect off-road capability to be sacrificed, but it is not.

Powertrain and 4×4 Choices

There are two powertrains available at launch.  The base engine is the tried-and-true 3.6L Pentastar V6 with 285-horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.  The V6 provides plenty of grunt that Wrangler owners are accustomed to.  The new premium engine is a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder mild hybrid with eTorque technology.  The 4-cylinder has 270-horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.  The personality between the two is dramatically different.  The V6 is solid and purposeful.  The 4-cylinder turbo feels like it has more finesse.  It is very responsive and revs willingly.  Also, it is very quiet.  Made in Italy and derived from the Alfa Romeo 4-cylinder found in the Guilia and Stelvio, the 4-cylinder is a very happy engine that will provide satisfying driving in all conditions.  The 4-cylinder turbo will be a $1,000 option over the V6.  Driving off-road, both were extremely capable.

Two transmissions are available on the V6 – an 8-speed automatic and a 6-speed manual.  The 4-cylinder is automatic only.  A diesel will be added to the lineup in 2019 and a plug-in hybrid in 2020.

The 2018 Jeep Wrangler has a fully boxed frame that is lighter weight than its predecessor.  There are several 4×4 choices.  Command Trac is on the lower line Sport and mid-line Sahara models.  The most capable Wrangler is the Rubicon that gets the Rock Trac 4×4 system.  Rubicon also includes an electronic locking differential and front sway bar disconnect.  At the press event in the Tucson, Arizona desert the off-road portion of the drive used Rubicon model Wranglers, but Jeep engineers said that a Sahara could also transverse the course with little problem.  One defining characteristic of the Rubicon is the front fender height.  To accommodate larger tires that many Wrangler owners fit to their vehicles, the front fenders are mounted two inches higher than the Sport or Sahara models.

Comfort and Convenience Technology

Gone are the days when a hard-core off-roader was a Spartan machine with few amenities.  The 2018 Jeep Wrangler provides all the creature comforts and conveniences a buyer of modern vehicles have come to expect.  Of course there is a center screen featuring FCA’s Uconnect infotainment system.  Depending on model and equipment, the screen size is 5.0, 7.0 or 8.4 inches.  The instrument cluster is available with a 7-inch TFT display that has over 100 ways to personalize it for the driver.  Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available.  The rear camera with dynamic grid lines is standard.  Blind spot monitoring and  rear cross path detection is available.  One thing missing that would have been a benefit to off-roaders is a 360 degree camera.  In tight off-road situations without a spotter a 360-degree camera can help the vehicle maneuver between obstacles.  Maybe as a running change.

Pricing

Wrangler pricing ranges from $26,995 for a 2-door Sport  ($3,000 higher than the base 2017 model) to $40,495 for a 4-door Rubicon.  The center of mass will be the 4-door Sahara model that lists for $37,345.  There is a $1,195 destination charge.  So the new Wrangler is not cheap by any means, and Jeep expects to sell 250,000 worldwide each year, but given the significant upgrades to the product these prices seem reasonable.  Of course, a fully optioned Rubicon can probably hit $50,000 or more that some proud buyer will be happy to pay to drive this ultimate off-roader.

#2018jeepwrangler #2018wrangler #jeepwrangler #newjeepwrangler

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Jeep Renegade Survives Costco Challenge

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2017 Jeep Renegade Deserthawk

Having a new Jeep Renegade Trailhawk over the long July 4th weekend, I took it to Costco for the quarterly bird seed, cat food replenishment.  At first I was wondering if the Renegade was up to the task.  Does a small crossover SUV have the capacity to take the load?

There were fourteen bags of bird seed and two of cat food.  Plus the package of 30 rolls of toilet paper.  Would they fit?  Plus, would they fit with the other stuff we bought?  Removing the tonneau cover over the cargo area and folding the rear seats were required to fit in the load.  There was room to spare.  Probably could have doubled the number of bird seed and cat food bags.

Renegade Survives Costco Run

Renegade Easily Takes Load from Costco

Small Crossover SUVs are Very Capable  Even the smallest of the new generation crossover SUVs are extremely capable as this brief test shows.  The booming sales of small and mid-size crossover SUVs is the reason sales of traditional passenger cars are down.  Responding to what vehicle buyers have been telling us they want since the late 1980s, the new crossovers fit the bill.  They are easy to get into and out of.  You don’t have to drop down into one like in a car.  The seating position is chair like.  Your legs are not extended forward.  More glass and the higher seating position provide optimum visibility.  The fold down rear seat combined with an open rear cargo area maximize load carrying capability.

Trailhawk “Deserthawk”  This Jeep Renegade had the Deserthawk 4×4 package ($1,395) to yield the ultimate off-road Renegade.  It is another answer from Jeep on their old saying “a Jeep is for the occasional use prerogative”.  On-road or off-road, the Deserthawk can do it all.  Taking this particular Renegade off-road even with the full load, would have been no problem.  The challenge would be to keep the cargo in place, or to fill it even more deeply so nothing could move around.

Pricing for Everybody  Not only can the Jeep Renegade carry an impressive amount of cargo and be capable off-road, the vehicle can be loaded with amenities.  The base price for the front wheel drive Sport model is $17,995.  The Trailhawk is $26,895.  Adding practically all the optional features and selecting the Deserthawk package you can pay $33,265.  At that level you get a blind spot monitoring system, UConnect navigation system, automatic temperature control, Selec-Terrain 4×4 system, hill descent control, hill start assist, and more.  One thing oddly missing is a remote liftgate release. There is a nice blank spot on the key fob for that feature, but it is not there.  Go figure.  In July 2017, Jeep is offering a lease discount of $4,250.

Powertrain a Bit Balky  The 180-horsepower 2.4L 4-cylinder Multi-Air engine is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission.  This combination is fine most of the time around town, but when you need to quickly accelerate there is an unwelcome hesitation.  Slam the accelerator to the floor, wait, wait, then the engine decides you really do want full power and it gives it to you.  Too much hesitation for my book. Maybe an owner would learn to compensate after driving the Renegade for a week or so.


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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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AutoPacific 2016 Ideal Vehicle Award

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AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle AwardAutoPacific surveys new car and light truck buyers annually to determine how satisfied they are with their vehicle and what changes they want made.  Based on this owner research, AutoPacific calculates the vehicles that owners want changed the least.  The people who have purchased the vehicle are the people it was designed for.  The data result in the AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award.  Every year there are some results that stand out.  The 2016 awards are no different.  Here are some highlights:

•  The top brand overall is Tesla – a one car brand at the time of the research, but that one car is on target with its buyers.  The Tesla Model S is the top ranked Luxury Car.

•  The top popular brand is GMC – for the third year in a row.

•  The most ideal vehicle, overall, is the Volvo XC70.

•  Subaru swept the crossover SUV categories in which it competes with the Outback winning the Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV category, the Forester winning the Mid-Size SUV category and the Crosstrek winning the Compact Crossover SUV category.  That is a very impressive sweep.

Multiple year winners include:

•  Jeep Grand Cherokee – winning the last six years in a row

•  Volkswagen Golf – winning the last three years in a row and six of the last ten years

•  Chevrolet Colorado – for the second year in a row

•  Subaru Outback – for the second year in a row

•  Subaru Forester – for the second year in a row

That Tesla has won so early in its lifetime is a testament to its planning, design and engineering teams.  Maybe Tesla does not have the bureaucracy that bogs down bigger companies and allows it to effectively target the affluent buyers of its first vehicle.

Jeep has been fine-tuning the Grand Cherokee since the early 1990s.  The fact that it has won the Ideal Vehicle Award for six years in a row shows that Jeep really does know what Grand Cherokee owners want.

The string of Ideal Vehicle Awards won by the Volkswagen Golf over the past ten years is impressive.

Finally, Subaru has solved the equation of successful small and mid-size crossover SUVs.  Subaru sales have been steadily increasing and the Ideal Vehicle Award wins show the company understands crossover SUVs.  Of course their “LOVE” advertising and dog-centric messages don’t hurt either.


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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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2016 Hyundai Tucson – Compact XSUV Benchmark?

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Raising the Bar in a Competitive Segment  The Koreans keep getting better and the new 2016 Hyundai Tucson (product code TL) is an example of how Hyundai has executed a segment-beater.  Competing against big sellers Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Jeep Cherokee, Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-5, etc. the new Tucson checks all the boxes.  It is well styled and immediately identifiable as a Hyundai (looks almost too much like the Santa Fe Sport).  It has a great package – good visibility, spacious front and rear seating, good cargo room, easy ingress/egress.  The fit and finish is excellent inside and out.  The interior trim materials have moved upwards – almost up to the next higher price class.

MY16 Hyundai Tucson

MY16 Hyundai Tucson

MY16 Hyundai Tucson

MY16 Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai Fell Behind in Segment – 2016 Hyundai Tucson Provides Conquest Opportunity  The product is good enough to begin some serious conquesting.  As the compact crossover SUV market has boomed over the past several years (growing 14.9% 2015CYTD), Hyundai has been left with a less-than-competitive product capable of selling around 45,000 per year.  As such, Hyundai Motor America’s share of the segment slipped from about 6% to 2.5%.  Some of that is due to capacity constraints from its Korean plant.  A new plant in the Czech Republic has come on line and will be supplying Europe freeing up Korean capacity.  With the new Tucson on sale in August, 2015, HMA’s volume is expected to rise to 56,200 in 2015 and up to 90,000 or higher in 2016.  The 2015 Hyundai Tucson is good enough to pull that off if there is strong marketing support behind the vehicle (the last generation was essentially a “launch and leave” proposition with little marketing support).  At 90,000 units, the Tucson will have about 6% of the segment.

Pre-Family Market Target  Who will buy the 2016 Hyundai Tucson?  HMA sees this as the entry targeted at “pre-family” singles and couples.  Tucson is 8.5-inches shorter than the Santa Fe Sport that is targeted at “post-family” couples who no longer need the seven-passenger three row capacity of the 8.5-inch longer (than Santa Fe Sport) Santa Fe.  Santa Fe is targeted at “core families”.  Tucson democratizes technology by offering most of the latest gee whiz electronic features available on higher classes of products.

Hyundai describes its styling as bold and confident and it certainly comes across that way.  It has a slightly more vertical windshield that helps ingress to the front seats.  Tucson adopts Hyundai’s new corporate face with the hexagonal grille.  From the side view, the Tucson is lean and wedgy.  Exterior styling was by Hyundai’s European studio.  The interior was styled in California.  Ergonomics are outstanding with controls placed where expected.  There is an 8-inch information screen with navigation and Hyundai’s BlueLink interface.  The only criticism is with map graphics that don’t show enough detail and seem to show only major arteries, not the interesting spur roads you pass.

MY16 Hyundai Tucson

MY16 Hyundai Tucson

Powertrain OK but Full Throttle is Disappointing  The base engine is Hyundai’s Nu 2.0L GDI 4-cylinder that has 164-horsepower and 151 lb ft of torque.  The 2.0 L mileage figures are 23/31/26mpg.  The 2.0L gets a six-speed automatic transmission.  The optional engine, and the engine on the majority of Tucson models, is the Gamma 1.6L 4-cylinder Turbo with 175-horsepower and 195 lb ft of torque.  The 1.6L mileage figures are 26/33/29mpg).  The 1.6L gets a seven-speed dual clutch transmission.  You definitely want the higher torque 1.6L Turbo.  The torque is the key to performance feel.  In the examples of the Tucson I drove, there was a noticeable lag when full throttle acceleration was wanted or needed from a stop (with traffic approaching, for instance).  Pedal to the metal was disappointing.  On a part throttle take off, this was not evident.  It seemed to happen only when you really wanted the oomph.  This is a characteristic an owner will learn over time, but Hyundai should sort it out ASAP.


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2016 Ford Explorer – Major Minor Change

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The 2016 Ford Explorer marks the 25th anniversary of the vehicle line.  When it launched as a 1991 model, the Explorer redefined what a sport utility vehicle should be – it was a high volume SUV with 4-doors (Ford wrongly estimated 4-door sales would be 30% of the mix – later, it became 100%).  7,000,000 sales later, Ford is launching a nicely updated mid-cycle product change.  When the 2016 Ford Explorer launches, most people won’t be able to tell the difference from the present Explorer.  While the vehicle’s sheetmetal ahead of the A-Pillar is all new and the liftgate and taillamps are all new, the differences are subtle to the casual observer. So while the change for 2016 is major, its appearance change is minor.2016 Ford Explorer F34 VehicleVoice2016 Ford Explorer R34 VehicleVoice

 


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2016 Honda HR-V – Perfectly Pleasant

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2016 Honda HR-V F34Honda launches its all-new 2016 HR-V sub-compact crossover sport utility vehicle in May, 2015.  The 2016 Honda HR-V, based on Honda’s diminutive Fit sub-compact, is very spacious for what it is.  The interior – at least the passenger compartment – feels about as big as the larger Honda CR-V.  HR-V’s wheelbase is only a half inch shorter than CR-V allowing the big seating area, but its overall length is about ten inches shorter – less cargo room.  The front seating area feels wider than you would expect in a vehicle this small.  Ingress and egress are easy to the front seats.  The rear seats are a bit tight.  You have to maneuver your feet to get between the B-pillar and the seat and there is not much knee room.  Cargo room is larger than it looks.  The best feature Honda takes from the architecture of the Fit are the “Magic Seat” rear seats that flip and fold several ways to maximize the flexibility of the area behind the front seats.


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