Category Archive:

Daimler Offers Van Customers MasterSolutions To Their Upfitting Needs

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Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with a MasterSolutions upfit package. (Photo by Ed Kim)

As published on Forbes.com

Daimler’s Sprinter commercial van has been a pioneer in the North American market, introducing commercial customers here to the tall and slab-sided European-style van format all the way back in 2001. Today, this format’s U.S. sales surpass that of the traditional American-style van as the latest full-size commercial vans from Ford and FIAT Chrysler Automobiles have followed Sprinter’s lead.


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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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2015 Ford F-150 Is the Game-Changer We’ve Expected

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2015 Ford F-150The Ford half-ton pickup, the F-150, is the top selling vehicle in the USA – car or truck.  For the 2015 model year, Ford launches an all new F-150.  And it is literally ALL NEW.  In most model changes, there are numerous parts carried over from previous generations.  The 2015 Ford F-150 is so completely re-done that there are probably no common part numbers with the 2014 model.  The body is all aluminum with the exception of a “quiet steel” dash panel (between the engine compartment and the passenger compartment).  You can lift the military grade front fender with one finger.  The aluminum panels are not welded as in steel bodied vehicles they are riveted and glued.  The result is a stiffer vehicle that feels even more robust than its predecessor. Ford says the use of aluminum has yielded a reduction in weight by up to 700 pounds.2015 Ford F-150 F342015 Ford F-150 R34

The interior width in the cab is two inches wider than before.  The aluminum structure allows the pillars to be smaller while meeting or exceeding all relevant safety standards.  With thinner pillars, driver’s visibility is improved.  The belt line has been dropped by an inch increasing downward visibility as well.

The 2015 Ford F-150 is available with a Regular Cab (2-door), SuperCab (extended cab with rear access doors) and SuperCrew (4-doors) cab style.  There are three box lengths:  5 1/2, 6 1/2 and 8 feet.

Feature Laden:  All those gee whiz things we have been seeing on luxury cars recently, you know, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot information system, active park assist, rear view camera, reverse sensing system, 360-degree cameras, LED accent lights, LED everything lights, information screen in the instrument cluster and MyFord Touch in the center display, are available on the 2015 Ford F-150.  The lighting strategy for the truck is probably the best in the industry.  When all the boxes are checked, there are LED accents for the headlamps and taillamps that communicate the F-150’s DNA. There are LED headlamps available.  There are LED lamps in the bed to improve nighttime visibility.  Of course, there are puddle lamps below the outside rear view mirrors, but there are also LED spot lamps on the top corners of the mirrors to allow the area beside the vehicle to be illuminated (now, if these could be used to blast the car beside you, the good ol’ boys in Texas driving with their open bottles could have a hoot).2015 Ford F-150 Cockpit

The Interior:  In the lower models of the 2015 Ford F-150 you get what you expect from a base truck.  Lots of plastic, cloth seats (comfortable), minimal equipment.  There are five basic trim levels: XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum.  By the time you get up to King Ranch or Platinum you could be riding in a Lincoln.

Wide Powertrain Lineup:  While the 2015 Ford F-150 does not offer a diesel, it does have four gasoline engines.  The base engine is a 3.5L naturally aspirated V6 with 283-horsepower and 255 lb. ft. of torque.  The first step up and expected to be the highest volume powerplant is a 325HP 2.7L EcoBoost V6 with 375 lb. ft. of torque.  This is about the power of a small displacement V8 in half the size.  There are two top-of-the line engines based on what you want to do with the truck.  The 365HP 3.5L EcoBoost V6 has 420 lb. ft of torque.  The sole V8 in the line-up is the 385HP 5.0L V8 with 387 lb. ft of torque.  The 3.5L EcoBoost has the highest trailer towing rating of 12,200 lbs.


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GM’s 2015MY Full Size SUVs

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GM’s 2015MY Full Size SUVs  General Motors has launched its new-for-2015MY full size SUVs.  While you might wonder why they care about launching these behemoths when the segment has fallen at the hands of expensive gasoline, these are mighty profit generators for the General even at relatively low volumes.  Last year, GM launched the pickups upon which these SUVs are based – the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra.  When they were launched these pickups were criticized because their styling was so evolutionary from their GMT900 predecessors.  But, it turns out that GM planners and engineers really know their stuff and the pickups have won kudos for their capability.  The Silverado was named the North American Truck of the Year.


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2008 Toyota Tundra Supercharged TRD

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TRD Tundra.jpgThis past weekend I wanted the most horsepower on my block. That’s pretty tough on my block, where horsepower seems to trump everything. Rationality is heresy on a block of 9 homes that includes a BMW M6, a Jaguar XKR, a Chrysler 300C SRT8 and a host of other badges of courage.
A simple V8 Would Not Do
A simple V8 would not do, but we’re fortunate enough to have a 2008 Toyota Tundra Supercharged by TRD. Some cars offer the power and handling go to give the driver a feeling of “point and shoot”. In the case of the Tundra, “just shoot” will do. The mother of all Tundras is built off of the regular cab, to keep it light. The TRD-designed and developed supercharger boosts horsepower from 381 to 504, and torque from 401 pound-feet up to 550 lb-ft. Start the motor, listen to the whine of your neighbors, I mean, the supercharger. Tap the accelerator and feel your spine align. Tap the brakes and the 16-inch cross-drilled rotors will stop your watch. Load it with manure (I did) and see how truly pointless this vehicle is. Pointless in a good way. Like 150 proof Vodka is pointless.
Which makes me wonder. Today the only auto press I hear relates to bankruptcy, compact cars, and hybrids. Among many others, the Chevrolet Corvette, Cadillac XLR and Acura NSX are postponed. How long will the Obama Administration’s latest comments be more important than horsepower?


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Truck Market: Where is it Going? How Do F-150 and Ram Stack Up?

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With two new and important full-size pickup trucks this fall, at a time of extreme economic uncertainty, what do we see happening to the market in general? And how does the F-150 stack up against the Ram? Since our correspondent Jim Hossack attended both Ford and Ram driving previews, we asked him for some comments. Here we go!

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2009 Ford F-150 XLT

What’s happening in the Full-Size Light Duty Pickup market?
Contrary to mass media reports, the full-size light duty pickup market is not dead. In fact, after a few tough months, it is coming back – in terms of share of industry if not actual number of units sold.
The auto industry is down by around 4 million units compared with 2007CY. Full-size pickup share of industry fell from 15.2 percent in August 2007 to as low as 8.6 percent on May 2008, but has rebounded to 15.8 percent in September 2008. In part that may be a reaction to fuel prices, which increased and then decreased, in part it a recent compensation for deferred purchases earlier this summer, and in part due to ridiculously low transaction prices as Dodge and Ford clear out showrooms of the old trucks. It is also worthwhile to remember that holding onto 15.8 percent of a much smaller market still means a dramatic decrease in overall F-150 sales. If and when the economy recovers, half-ton pickup sales volume will recover, depending on how drastic the next fuel price spike is.
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2009 Dodge Ram Sport


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2009 Ford F-150: First Drive

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VehicleVoice correspondent Jim Hossack attended a 2009 Ford F-150 driving preview – and reports that it was well worth it. The Dodge Ram is the other big truck news of this season, so we decided to bring you reviews of both trucks this week.
Hossack says Ford put on a very thorough, very professional series of presentation, with plenty of opportunity to evaluate the new F-150 and facing competition under a variety of circumstances. Hossack was about as impressed with the passion and enthusiasm of the guys working on the program as with the truck itself.

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Exhaust Note #1: It’s Pickup Week at VehicleVoice!

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(editor’s note: VehicleVoice will now kick off each new week with Exhaust Note, a weekly rant or rave of automotive industry insight. Here’s our first…enjoy!)

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Pickups Are At Our Core
Like ‘em or not, big pickups remain a staple of the American automotive industry, representing one of the biggest chunks of the U.S. automotive market in terms of sales. Last year, full-size pickups represented over 2.1 million sales, or just over 13% of all new light vehicles sold, and AutoPacific, VehicleVoice’s parent company, forecasts sales to remain over the 2-million mark through 2013.
What gives? Aren’t all of the green messages getting through to people? Why aren’t people ditching these guzzlers in big numbers? The fact of the matter is that big pickups are core and central to our lives. Just think about all the goods and services that are delivered by pickups, and all the livelihoods they contribute to. Or, think about the way that they enable people’s hobbies and interests. In the auto industry, we often talk about new vehicles’ innovative flexibility and utility features, but when you think about it, the good ol’ pickup is the very definition of those words. Their appeal is democratic in the truest sense of the word; for rich or for poor, for young or for old, for men or for women, for work or for play, the pickup just simply works.


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Sterling Bullet – AKA Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500

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Sterling Bullet Badge.jpg

We must have been asleep at the switch. Not paying as close attention to the medium truck market as we do to the light truck market, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staffers were tipped to the Sterling Bullet by our colleague Bill Senefsky of Automotive West Group. Actually Sterling went public with the Bullet on March 6. Public introduction is in late Fall, 2007.
Sterling Bullet F34.jpg

Apparently Dodge dealers are a bit “miffed” by Sterling getting this hardcore work truck. The question has to be asked, however, what will be the future of the Sterling Bullet when Chrysler Group is spun away from DaimlerChrysler? Will there be a clause in the deal maintaining the product or will it be still-born?
The Sterling Bullet is a mild derivative of the heavy duty Dodge Ram. Part of DaimlerChrysler’s Freightliner universe, Sterling got its mitts on the 6.7L Cummins turbo diesel Ram and put its own front fenders lights and grille on the body in white. Their website shows two cabstyles – regular cab and quad cab – unlike Dodge, there is no Mega Cab. There is also no “pickup” version but several commercial versions – “Wrecker”, “Flatbed”, “Dump”, “Crane”, “Contractor”, “Box”, “Tow”, “Service”. The Bullet is available in 4×2 and 4×4 versions with either cabstyle.
Sterling Bullet Chassis Cab.jpg

The press release for the Bullet is below the fold.


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Let's Talk Cars: Exclusive Test Drives – Audi's New RS4 – M3 Killer – and a Big Red Fire Truck – Life Saver

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Welcome to Let’s Talk Cars

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This week on Let’s Talk Cars, exclusive, red hot test drives. And we’re not just being metaphorical here.

First, VehicleVoice correspondent David Barrett revisits his racing past when he hops inside Audi’s new RS4 to spend a few hours roaring through Pasadena’s Old Town and whipping past the Rose Bowl. With 420 horses, the latest Quattro AWD setup and a purring/screaming V8 motor, the RS4 is everything you’d ever want a sports sedan to be, and then some. The sound alone makes this podcast special.

Plus, a ride in a big red fire truck, (a 1997 Seagrave Triple Apparatus to be exact) courtesy of the Los Angeles Fire Department. Find out what it’s like to maneuver a truck that weighs over 40,000 pounds through the crowded city streets of downtown Hollywood. Sparky says this is the best job in the Department.

Yeah, this week’s Let’s Talk Cars is red hot.

Show Rundown
02:06 Exclusive Test Drive – Audi’s New RS4: David Barrett, VehicleVoice contributor
13:36 Exclusive Test Drive – LAFD Fire Engine: Brett Sparkman, LAFD Engineer


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