Archive for May, 2013
Recently, Chevrolet officials announced they were in the midst of an aggressive new-product rollout across the globe, with 25 new or significantly redesigned vehicles. One of them is the Chevrolet Malibu, which will get a freshening for 2014 just one model year after being redesigned.
Today, General Motors announced seven upgrades to the popular midsize car. They include . . .
Revised front-end appearance. GM says that the front-end appearance is “influenced by the all-new Impala” and meant to create a more cohesive look across Chevy’s sedan lineup. Below are side-by-side pics of the 2013 and 2014 Malibus, and underneath is the 2014 Malibu compared to the 2014 Impala.
I’ve written some about key events on my journey to becoming a car guy. One event was asking my father about the 307 badge on his Nova, and a decade or so later came my being hired to work at a service station. A somewhat less momentous—though still significant—incident fell in between those events, in the autumn of 1977.
Tom had a great idea with his “You Might Be a Gen-X Car Guy” post, but that youngster had the misfortune of being born too late. The really interesting stuff came during the Baby Boomer years. So I created my own list based on my . . . uh . . . longer period of “experience.”
We Americans like our pickups. In fact, we like them so much that we purchased about two million midsize and large examples last year. But, it seems, we’re pretty picky about who we buy our pickups from. We’re open to buying our big trucks from Chevrolet, Ford, and Ram, and we’re pretty happy with the midsize trucks from Nissan (Frontier) and Toyota (Tacoma), but after that, things get murkier. Toyota and Nissan, for example, sell large pickups, but neither maker has met with anything like the sales success of Chevy or Ford.
When Saad Chehab, president and CEO of the Chrysler Brand, spoke at a press event recently, he described the Chrysler 300 as “kind of like a chameleon.” The automaker has taken what once was considered an “old man’s car” and tried to transform it into a ride for a wide spectrum of individuals.
With a sticker price of $356,290 nicely equipped, the Rolls-Royce Ghost ought to be refined. And after just a few short miles behind the wheel, I was impressed by the car’s overall silkiness. But, while the ride is smooth to the point of mimicking large watercraft, it is the drivetrain polish that really got my attention.
I’m not suggesting that this is a problem; I am just sharing a fascinating tidbit: Of the 31 separate Toyota, Scion, and Lexus models for which Automotive News reports sales, four models alone account for more than half of that volume. Just four.
Toyota Motor Sales, USA sold nearly 2.1 million cars in the U.S. during calendar year 2012. Combining for a hefty 1.1 million of those sales are the Camry, Corolla (including Matrix), Prius (all versions), and RAV4.[table “23” not found /]
What this means is open to interpretation. Three of these big-volume vehicles fall into what Ford recently began calling the “Super Segment,” specifically compact and midsize cars and compact crossovers. These segments have enjoyed the bulk of the post-recession auto-sales boom.
However, despite Ford’s success in these categories, we see that its Super Segment plus dedicated hybrid (SSPDH) performance trails Toyota’s by a wide margin:[table “24” not found /]
Part of Ford’s problem here is that the C-MAX is nowhere near as well-established as the Prius. Additionally, there are strong sales and then there are Camry sales. In 2012, Toyota’s midsize sedan accounted for nearly 3 percent of all new vehicle sales in the U.S.
Note: See Consumer Guide Automotive’s detailed review of the 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid.
I got into the Ford C-MAX Hybrid this weekend, and a number of things caught my attention—good and bad.
Most impressively, C-MAX is remarkably sprightly for a hybrid. It’s quick off the line, and power delivery is strong and smooth. Moreover, it has plenty of juice for merging and passing. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder/CVT powertrain is the same one that’s in the Ford Fusion Hybrid, which we’ve also lauded. Honestly, this powerplant feels nothing like the fussy, wussy hybrid engines of a few years back. It actually feels like a normally aspirated V6.
In more than 200 miles of driving, my Consumer Guide colleagues and I have averaged around 34 mpg in the C-MAX. That’s awesome for a car with such “go,” but it’s alarmingly low for a vehicle that is EPA rated at 47 mpg city/47 highway. We’re not the first to call out this discrepancy. In fact, it’s become a national story, and in April C-MAX Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid owners in Pennsylvania sued Ford for false mileage claims.
While channel surfing on a lazy weekend afternoon about five years ago, I stumbled across a program called Wheeler Dealers, airing on Discovery Channel’s HD Theater (now called Velocity TV). The premise of this British television show was fairly simple. Former car dealer Mike Brewer would purchase a “modern classic” car, hand it off to expert mechanic Edd China for a light-to-moderate restoration, and then sell it in the hopes of making a profit.
The first several seasons focused on affordable vehicles. Some that might be familiar to U.S. audiences include the Porsche 924, Saab 900 Turbo, Toyota MR2, Jeep CJ, Chevrolet Corvette C4, and Lexus LS400. Others featured U.K. or other Euro-centric models, including the Ford Capri (dubbed Britain’s Mustang), Austin Mini, Peugeot 205 GTi, and Lancia Delta Integrale.
Brewer’s charisma and China’s ability to fix pretty much anything has allowed Wheeler Dealers to develop quite a following both in the U.K. and abroad. Though the featured cars have become more expensive over the years, the overall concept remains unchanged. It’s must-see television if you’re even remotely interested in cars.