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Mazda Premium Strategy to Surprise Competitors

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Mazda Premium is the objective for the Mazda brand in the future.  Mazda realizes it is a mainstream brand but wants to become premium.  In the minds of the car buyer, Mazda competes with Toyota, Honda and Nissan.  Mazda has limited resources and needs to husband them.  To achieve Mazda Premium positioning, its products must be executed to meet or beat premium brand competitors.  This requires targeted benchmarking against more expensive vehicles in the same product category.

CX-5 Latest Mazda Premium Vehicle  At the press launch of the 2017 Mazda CX-5 mid-size crossover SUV (XSUV) in San Diego, Mazda detailed its competitive strategy.  The Mazda product development team did not closely benchmark the usual suspects.  The CX-5 will be sold against Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage.  To go against premium brands, the CX-5 team benchmarked luxury brand XSUVs like Audi Q3, BMW X1, Lexus NX, Mercedes GLA.  To show how deep they have benchmarked premium XSUVs, the Jaguar F-Pace was even included on one comparison chart.

The new Mazda CX-5 is a 5-passenger XSUV slotted below the 7-passenger CX-9 introduced last year.  The CX-5 completes Mazda’s evolution to its Kudo design theme that stresses the “soul of motion”.  The styling is striking and clearly differentiated from its German and Japanese competitors.  Mazda states that “every element has been designed to be in a class above”.

To demonstrate the superiority of the premium-designed CX-5 over its luxury competition, Mazda provided these premium vehicles as comparisons to drive through downtown San Diego.  While we cannot yet discuss the driving experience, we can reveal that the CX-5 arguably looks and drives better than premium brand XSUVs costing about $10,000 more.

In reality, it will take years for Mazda to achieve premium brand status.  Executed consistently and effectively, Mazda Premium will ultimately achieve a stronger image with Mazda dealers and customers.  Mazda Premium will allow Mazda to achieve higher per-unit profitability.  Ultimately, Mazda Premium will allow Mazda to be positioned at a premium brand like Acura or Buick if all goes as planned.  Competing against Audi, BMW, Lexus, Jaguar and Mercedes is still a ways off.


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Genesis G90 – Genesis Flagship – Worthy Premium Luxury Competitor?

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2017 Genesis G90 F34 VVThe Genesis G90 is the flagship of the new Genesis lineup.  It will be on the market in September, 2016.  Genesis is positioning the G90 against the top-of-the line Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus sedans.  The question is can it compete?

Size is Competitive with Lexus, Mercedes, BMW  From a size perspective, the Genesis G90 is within inches of its competitors.  It is a bit bigger than the Lexus LS460.  It is about the same size as the Lexus LS460L, however.  That is the extended length LS.  It is a couple of inches shy in wheelbase and overall length to the BMW 7-Series.  It is a couple of inches shorter than the Mercedes S-Class.  Its interior volume is a bit bigger than the S-Class.  Let’s call it a toss up when looking at size.

Powertrain Choices – Base V6 TT with Optional V8  The base Genesis G90 powertrain is a 3.3L Twin-Turbo GDI (gasoline direct injected) V6 with 365 horsepower and 376 lb.ft. of torque.  About 80% of G90 volume will be the V6.  Base-to-base, G90 loses to the competition with standard V8s.  Lexus’ 4.6L V8 has 386 horsepower.  The Mercedes 4.7L bi-turbo V8 has 449 horsepower.  But Genesis’ V6 has more horsewpower than BMW’s base 3.0L Twin-Turbo V6 that has 320 horsepower. The optional Genesis engine is the 5.0L GDI V8 with 420 horsepower and 383 lb.ft of torque.  The BMW 750i with its 4.4L Twin-Turbo V8 has 445 horsepower.  So Genesis’ V8 is a bit below the German V8s.

So what?  The Genesis G90 with the Twin-Turbo V6 performs very well.  Teamed with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the G90 has excellent performance.  Power is delivered smoothly and continuously.  The powertrain is seamless and unobtrusive.  There are only two options – V8 and All wheel drive.  Driving the V6 with both rear and all wheel drive, we did not feel any noticeable difference.  It wasn’t snowing.

Genesis planners want to have an interior that is “whisper quiet” and the NVH of the car delivers.  The interior is quiet.  Conversation is easy at any speed.

Rumor has it that Hyundai called in Lotus Engineering to help fine tune the G90s suspension.  True or not, the suspension feels biased towards a German feel – purposeful and taut.  It is not the cushy, absorbent feel provided by the Lexus LS.  Handling is stable with little body lean.  Nothing not to like.

On the Road to Autonomous Driving  The Genesis G90 is loaded with standard driver assist and safety features.  Many standard features on the G90 are in optional packages on the competition.  As more and more is being written about autonomous driving, the G90 has some features that qualify.  With standard adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist the G90 can cruise in heavy traffic pretty much autonomously.  But, if the driver has their hands off the wheel for longer than 13-seconds, the car insists you touch the wheel again.

I found the lane keeping assist pretty accurate on twisty mountain roads in British Columbia, but there were a couple of times the car was obviously going to overshoot a lane marker and I had to take over.  I would be confident in using this in heavy Los Angeles Freeway gridlock, but would stay attentive when on the twisties.

Base Pricing Guess – $65,000 – $70,000  Genesis is not ready to divulge pricing for the G90 yet.  As brands usually say at a press event prior to introduction, pricing will be set closer to the release date.  But the pricing of the competition can show the general area the G90 will be priced.  The more-powerful V8-only S-Class has a base price of $95,650.  G90 will not be that high.  The less powerful in-line 6-cylinder BMW is priced at $81,500.  A 750i V8 is priced at $97,600.  The lowest priced facing competitor is the Lexus LS at $72,520.  But lets look at the Genesis sister ship the G80.  The G80 starts at $41,400 with a 311-horsepower 3.8L V6.  Check all the boxes and you get the G80 up to $50,350.  The V8 G80 is $54,550 fully equipped.  Any guess at what the base price for a rear wheel drive G90 with the V6 would be?  Our guess is the base price will be between $65,000 and $70,000.  For a V8 G90 with All Wheel Drive?  Maybe $75,000.  I could be high.


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New Genesis Brand – Bbalee Bbalee

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Image Source: Genesis Motors USA

Image Source: Genesis Motors USA

The new Genesis brand of luxury vehicles has been launched with Hyundaispeed!  Bbalee!  Bbalee!  Quick, quick in Korean.

Finally, Hyundai Launches a Luxury Brand  After years of deliberation, argument, and negotiation, Hyundai has launched the new Genesis brand.  Hyundai officially announced the new Genesis brand in November 2015.  Erwin Raphael was appointed head of Genesis in March 2016.  The new Genesis brand goes public in September, 2016.  That is quick – bbalee, bbalee!

In reality, the new Genesis brand is not a big deal.  The brand will have only six vehicles by 2021.  This does not approach the dozens of models offered by Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus.

But wait.  That is wrong, Genesis is a BIG DEAL!  Genesis is the only luxury car brand launched after 1990 that has a deep pockets major manufacturer behind it.  Tesla, launched in 2004, is questionably viable in the long term.

Hyundai has decided after years of consideration that a stand-alone luxury brand is a BIG DEAL.  The resources of Hyundai are committed to guarantee its success.  Hyundai presently has about 835 dealers in the United States.  The new Genesis brand will launch with about 300.  These have been selected with great care.  The Genesis Institute will train dealer salespeople across the country.

Aggressive Launch Marketing  The new Genesis brand launches with all guns blazing.  Genesis launches as the luxury car sponsor for the National Football League.  They are the sponsor for the Los Angeles Open golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club.  These sponsorships are sure to make a splash.  By early 2017, awide cross-section of American car buyers will know Genesis as a brand.  They will know Genesis now exists as a brand rather than just a few car lines resting atop the Hyundai Motor America lineup.  This will get the new Genesis brand and the two vehicles it will initially have to sell – the G90 and G80 – on the radar of people who have money to spend on their next new vehicle.

While Genesis vehicles promise to be outstanding, the brand’s commitment to its customers is a cornerstone of its existence.  Genesis wants to take the customer experience to a whole new level beyond Lexus, Mercedes and BMW.

Respect for Time  Respect for the Genesis Customers’ time is of paramount importance.  Time is precious and cannot be replaced.  So lets call this the Genesis “Respect Initiative”.  Tthe features of this “respect initiative,” hovever, last only for 3-years and 36,000 miles.  The 3/36 commitment results from Genesis management estimates that up to 80% of Genesis vehicles will be leased and the majority of those leases will be for 3-years and 36,000 miles.  During the “respect period” Genesis owners/lessees will get full maintenance, valet service, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, navigation map updates, 24/7 roadside assistance with concierge service, and Genesis Connected Services.  It would not be a surprise if Genesis has a comprehensive CPO (certified pre-owned used car) program in place by the time the first vehicles come off lease that would extend the “Respect Period” for subsequent owners.

Genesis Uses Hyundai’s In-House Advertising Agency – Innocean  While Genesis is a stand-alone brand, it accelerated its launch by using Innocean as its advertising agency.  Innocean is owned by Hyundai and also handles advertising for Hyundai brand vehicles.  By using Innocean, Genesis gets a known quantity without lengthy reviews to select from numerous agencies vying for the job through lengthy and expensive reviews.  Also, there is likely a “family discount” for using the in-house agency in there somewhere.

When asked by an advertising-savvy media member how the new Genesis brand will target its buyers after the NFL and LA Open hoopla, Genesis and their agency will “respectfully” target anyone who can afford to buy their cars.  Genesis head Erwin Raphael contends they have no specific target buyer in mind – no age range, gender, or ethnicity.  They are just targeting the ability to pay a certain lease fee for their G90 and G80 sedans.  And after the brand is launched with heavy advertising and sponsorships, specific groups will be emphasized using Internet messaging and social media.

Product is the Foundation Leading to The Genesis Customer Experience  Presently, there are six vehicles planned for the Genesis lineup.  There are four cars and two SUVs.  The G80 luxury sedan is on sale now.  It is a 5-Series/E-Class competitor.  The all new G90 (formerly Hyundai Equus) luxury sedan goes on sale in September.  It is a competitor to the Lexus LS, Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series.  Later comes a BMW 3-Series competitor – the Genesis G70.  Then a near luxury sport coupe is launched.   There will be a mid-luxury sport utility vehicle and a near luxury SUV.  Frankly, they cannot get these SUVs on the market quickly enough.

Based on driving the G90 and G80, Genesis products promise to give the best entries in the competitive set a solid run for their money.  Initially, they will be value propositions.  You will get more features and content for your money.  Such a deal!


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Infiniti QX30 – Infiniti Joins Small Luxury XSUV Battle

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2017 Infiniti QX30 - VehicleVoice

Image by: George Peterson

Infiniti QX30 Launched  One of the fastest growing product segments is the Luxury Small Crossover SUV (XSUV) category.  Infiniti has been a bit late to the party as there are already 33 small XSUVs on the market.  Eight of those are luxury brand XSUVs:  the Acura RDX has been out since 2013 in its second incarnation, Audi Q3 out since 2014, BMW X1 out since 2014, Land Rover Discovery Sport out since 2016, Lexus NX200t out since 2015, Lincoln MKC out since 2015, Mercedes GLA since 2015, Range Rover Evoque out since 2012.  Launch of the Infiniti QX30, while a bit late, pretty much has every brand in the fray.

Infiniti enters the fray with the Infiniti QX30, making it the 34th member in the small XSUV market and 9th luxury brand XSUV.  Remember, QX is the Infiniti nomenclature for SUVs whether they are body-on-frame SUVs (QX80) or crossover SUVs (QX70, QX60, QX50).  Infiniti cars carry names that begin with a simple “Q”.

All USA QX30s Classified as Trucks  The Infiniti QX30 is a highly styled small crossover available in front wheel drive and all wheel drive powertrain configurations.  In other markets the all drive model is called “Q30” indicating Infiniti is classifying it as an hatchback car.  In the USA, both versions are classified as trucks.

Dramatic Infiniti Design Cues Differentiate QX30   The Infiniti QX30 is sporty and curvaceous like most Infiniti models.  It has bulging front fenders sweeping back and down with a strong character line.  Infiniti decribes the character lines as “dramatic and turbulent”.  The windshield is very fast flowing into a steeply dropping roofline. The front end is instantly recognizable as an Infiniti with its unique “double-arch” grille.  In the side view, Infiniti’s signature crescent-shaped C-pillar further differentiates the vehicle.  There is a lot going on there, but it works very well in this small XSUV.

Infiniti QX30 and Mercedes GLA Share Platform  To keep the investment in line the Infiniti QX30 is assembled in Sunderland, England alongside the Mercedes-Benz GLA.  QX30 and GLA share platforms, but Infiniti has loaded its entry with all the latest high tech electronic gadgetry available.

Engine Power at the Low End of Competitive Range  The 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine is shared with the GLA and is manufactured by Daimler in Kolleda, Germany.  Power output is 208 horsepower with 258 lb-ft of torque.  Compared with other luxury XSUVs this power output is anemic.  Driving the QX30, the performance is adequate, even pleasant, but a power output of between 230 and 240 horsepower would be more expected from an engine with these specifications.

The engine is mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission.


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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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“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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Expressive 2016 Lexus RX350 on the Way

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Lexus RX350 SnoutsLexus Spindle Grille Gets Even Bigger  You might have noticed that Lexus products are getting a bit more expressive as the brand tries to broaden its customer base.  A bit more expressive may be an understatement for the new RX350.  The now-trademark Lexus spindle grille goes to new lengths in the 2016 Lexus RX350.  The gaping snout is so large that it impinges on the approach angle of the crossover SUV.  It is gigantic!  This is the fourth generation RX350.  If you can remember back to 1998, the RX350 was the first premium brand crossover SUV.  It started a trend that almost every premium brand has since copied – car-based, unit body, good ride, maneuverable, fuel efficient, quiet, good performance.

The predecessor to the 2016 Lexus RX350 was clearly a derivative of the Toyota Camry/Lexus ES350.  In fact the instrument panel was so plain it looked like it was right out of a Camry.  The styling was essentially characterless, but it remained the top selling Lexus.Bouncy Castle Pentagon Princess buy

2016_Lexus_RX_350_SVNew RX350 Designed to Broaden Appeal  Lexus’ top engineer described the new RX as being derived from the Toyota Highlander, but contends it is dramatically different.  Compared with its predecessor, the new Lexus is about 5-inches longer with a 2-inch longer wheelbase.  The character of the vehicle has been moved up a notch and the 2016 Lexus RX350 looks like it will easily remain the top selling Lexus nameplate.  In addition to the grille, the exterior styling approaches “wild”.  It has a “floating roof” where a black glass panel crosses the D-Pillar to give the impression that the roof hovers above the rear quarters.  There are character lines swooping from the front fenders, the rear quarters, the rocker panels.  Busy, busy, busy.

All of this new “interest” is designed to broaden the appeal of the RX.  Previously, the RX was primarily a woman’s car.  It was a car that took kids to school and to soccer practice and was seen parked in front of the beauty salon.  But the new RX is designed to also appeal to younger males while not turning off the traditional RX buyer.  Brian Bolain, the Lexus Corporate Manager of Marketing, says that research conducted by Toyota Motor Sales confirms that they have met the objectives: 1) keep traditional buyers, 2) attract more males, 3) attract younger buyers, 4) and with the F-Sport attract buyers wanting a more sporty look that is different from the base vehicle.

2016 Lexus RX350 IPIts instrument panel looks like it is out of a Lexus GS350 rather than a Camry.  The ingress/egress is easy.  Visibility is pretty good.  The seats are comfortable.  The interior trim is upgraded compared with its predecessor.  All in all, the 2016 Lexus RX350 comes across as completely new crossover SUV with more distinction inside and out that should appeal to a wider range of buyers.

Power Upgraded  The base vehicle is powered by a 295-horsepower 3.5L V6 engine that operates on either Otto cycle or Atkinson cycle depending on engine loads.  The V6 is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.  The hybrid RX450h has 259-horsepower V6 that when combined with the hybrid motors yields a total 308-horsepower.  The sporty F-Sport package is available on both the RX350 and RX450h. The F-Sport has upgraded interior trip, sports seats, unique grille and exterior ornamentation.  The F-Sport chassis is upgraded and an optional adjustable suspension is available.

Mark Levinson Clari-Fi Premium Audio  As usual, Lexus has teamed with Harman Automotive’s Mark Levinson sound system team for a very high quality premium audio system.  Using Mark Levinson’s Clari-Fi technology, the system analyzes and improves the audio quality of all types of compressed, digital sources like SiriusXM radio or MP3 tracks.  The idea is to fill in the up-to-90% of the original audio content lost through compression.  The system works very well delivering clear, full music, but what would you expect from an 835 watt, 15 speaker/12 location, 10-channel system.

Dynamics – Seamless  Driving the 2016 Lexus RX350 is seamless.  The ride is smooth, handling flat.  Performance is adequate.  It is very quiet in the cabin except when some road surfaces excite the Michelin Ever Grip Technology tires.  Ergonomics are good.  Circling back around to performance.  The F-Sport package is a trim and chassis option only.  There is no performance upgrade with F-Sport.  To really appeal to the younger, more enthusiastic male buyer it would be appropriate for the F-Sport to have power output above the 308-horsepower hybrid.  A 10% power bump from 295 to 325-horsepower would be nice.

The one bitch several members of the media voiced was that a navigation system should be standard on any vehicle base priced over $30,000.  Optional on the 2016 Lexus RX350.

Base price for the 2016 Lexus RX350 will be below $45,000.  The vehicle is still assembled in Cambridge, Ontario.  It will be in dealerships beginning in November 2015.


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2016 Honda Accord Mid-Cycle Updates

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As Honda has done with the CR-V, the 2016 Honda Accord gets subtle, but important updates leading up to its August 19 debut for the sedan and August 26 launch of the coupe.  Adding the Honda Sensing suite of electronic features brings the Accord equal or superior to competition in terms of electronic driver’s aids.  Costing a mere $1,000 Honda Sensing is available on every model of the Accord.  Honda Sensing includes adaptive cruise control, Lane Keeping Assist, Road Departure Mitigation, Collision Mitigation Braking – all features that can one day be part of an autonomous car.2016 Honda Accord Touring F342016 Honda Accord Sedan R34

On the outside the Accord has new styling for its front and rear six inches.  The grille, front fascia and headlamps are new as are the taillamps.  This improves Accord’s slightly clumsy front and rear styling for the present car. Engines are unchanged with a 3.5L V6 and 2.4L I4, but the 4-cylinder highway fuel economy has improved by 1-mpg to 37mpg.  City and combined numbers are unchanged.  This improvement results from aerodynamics and friction improvements.  Overall, Honda has gone through the Accord finessing each system:  high performance shocks, better control for the electric power steering system, aluminum hood on the sedan, larger front disc brakes on the Sport and Touring models.

The interior has been upgraded with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available in the Display Audio system.  The instrument panel has been upgraded with new gauges and accents.  The interior trim has upgraded materials and fabrics.  The center console has been redesigned to be more functional with today’s smartphones.2016 Honda Accord Cockpit

Because the 2016 Honda Accord is a high volume sedan and coupe, it can maintain pricing discipline.  The base LX model price remains the same at $22,925.  The top of the line Touring model is $35,400 including destination and with all boxes checked.

Just for fun, comparing the Accord Sedan to the Lexus GS350 yields a surprise.  The two cars are almost identical in size with the Lexus having a longer wheelbase for its rear wheel drive set-up.  Interior wise, the Accord is actually larger than the Lexus in several important dimensions.  Accord’s 3.5L V6 gets 28 fewer horsepower than the Lexus’ 3.5L V6, but it still feels good.  So saving about $23,000 getting a fully loaded Accord Touring versus a Lexus GS might make good sense.


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AutoPacific 2015 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards

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Owners rate Kia K900 top car, Ford F-150 top truck. Tesla Top Brand

TUSTIN, Calif. (July 8, 2015) – AutoPacific today announced its 19th annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSAs), identifying the most satisfying vehicles on 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 66,000 owners of new 2015 model year cars and light trucks.

“2015 represents a year of diversity,” says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. “Competition is fierce and no one automaker dominates the results.” The 2015 winners are spread across nearly every manufacturer, with wins by 9 out of 11 automakers. General Motors receives the most wins with 5, followed by Kia and Nissan, with 4 and 3 wins, respectively. Honda, Toyota, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobile), Volkswagen and Ford follow with 2 wins each. Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai each take home 1 win.

“For the 2015 model year, there are 274 models and 33 brands from which to choose a new vehicle,” says Peterson. “It can be daunting for consumers to sort through all of those options and try to predict which one will work best for them in the long run. AutoPacific VSAs help to give them a strong starting point.”

The average VSA score for 2015 is 25-points higher than in 2014 confirming products and customer handling are improving markedly. The brands with the greatest year-over-year improvements are Jaguar – improving eleven positions; Volkswagen – improving ten positions; Ford – improving nine positions.

The Kia K900 – Kia’s range topping luxury car – set an all time high and wins AutoPacific’s President’s Award. This award is given only when the overall score tops the previous high score. Interestingly, the all-new aluminum bodied Ford F-150 would have won this award if the Kia was not in the running.  The previous President’s Award winners were the 2014 Mercedes S-Class and the 2010 Hyundai Sonata.

Korean Manufacturers Take Over Top Spot in Satisfaction

Tesla, a domestic brand with only one vehicle, is the top scoring brand overall.  General Motors’ GMC division is the top scoring mainstream brand.  In aggregate, Korean brands are the top source of high scoring vehicles.  With 5 winning vehicles, including the top ranking Kia K900, Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai come out on top in combined average score, taking over the position previously held by European manufacturers. “Kia and Hyundai are continually improving owner satisfaction in key areas like reliability and quality, yet are also hitting the mark with safety, braking, handling, styling and seat comfort, not to mention a very satisfying warranty program,” explains 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.

“In many cases, an extremely satisfying vehicle is not the car or truck that has the best absolute build quality or the best safety rating,” says Peterson. “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.”

Brand SummaryVehicle Summary

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


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Lexus RC-F

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TRack 2

 

Monticello Raceway, Monticello, New York

Lexus is pushing forward with the F. This time with the all-new 2015 RC F sports coupe. Outfitted with a 467 horsepower 5.0 liter V8 with a close-ratio eight speed automatic transmission, this coupe delivers on Lexus’ promise to continue the fight in the luxury performance arena.

The Look

Showing it’s relationship to the LF-NX Concept shown at the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show, the RC’s exterior design is aggressive. The rising beltline and stretched head and tail lamps give the vehicle an athletic look. The spindle grille contains the “F” motif repeated in the mesh with cooling ducts moving air to the vehicle’s oil coolers. Of course, the front hood is raised to accommodate the V8 and send the right message to other drivers.

Grille

 

The Sound

In the past Lexus’ were promoted with the promise of a silent powertrain. Not true today. The RC F has a larger-diameter exhaust system designed to reduce
backpressure and sound powerful, especially under acceleration. But Lexus has taken it beyond the exterior sound. Active Sound Control (ASC), lets the driver control enhanced exhaust, intake and mechanical sounds within the cabin. An electronic control unit mounted beneath the instrument panel (yes, in the cabin) takes input from engine sounds, including varying engine speed, vehicle speed and throttle position and generates powertrain sound within the vehicle. Cheating? You decide. But it’s pretty easy to get used to.

The Drive

Tuned at both the Fuji Speedway (which is the reason for the F moniker) and the Nürburgring, the RC F is clearly intended to be more than a daily driver. While Lexus may not be the first brand name that comes to mind when thinking of track days, this vehicle is more evidence that the Lexus image is continuing to change. AutoPacific joined media from around the world to test the RC F at Monticello. Aside from one trip mowing the lawn, we can attest to the true performance nature of the RC F.

The Data

 

EnginePerformance


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