Friday, August 31, 2012

Ford Flubs Focus First, Fixes, Fails Flat

Yesterday, Ford's 350 millionth vehicle rolled off the lines. It was a Ford Focus, and an occasion to celebrate an even more auspicious record: The Ford Focus "is the world's best-selling car for the first half of 2012," says a Ford press release. Media from Associated Press to Autoblog obediently announced the record. The record went down in a hail of protests.

The Wall Street Journal deemed it below its ethics to parrot a press lease and asked questions. Answers in hand, they write:

"The company announced on Friday that through seven months of 2012, the car had sold 522,000 units around the world, making it the best-selling single nameplate vehicle, ahead of the Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf. Outselling the Corolla, which similarly is a model sold around the world, would be a great accomplishment for Ford.

But according to Toyota, the Focus actually hasn't outsold the Corolla. Through that same seven-month period, it said it has sold 722,000 vehicles. Ford, when notified about the difference, said they made a mistake and issued a new press release, saying they actually sold 489,616 units in a six month period – not seven months – and the Toyota Corolla had sold 462,187 units. They also, in the new release, attributed those numbers to IHS Automotive, an independent auto research and forecasting firm that tracks data like global sales."

That should settle it, no? No, says the WSJ.

Toyota says it sold 603,840 in that same six-month period. Which would give the Corolla a slight lead of 114,224 units over the Focus. IHS and Ford overlooked what is familiar to TTAC readers: The Corolla goes by different names in different countries, where it is known as the Matrix, Corolla Axio, Corilla Fielder, Corolla Rumion, and we possibly missed some.

Even if you only count global sales of the Corolla sedan and Auris hatchback, the two body styles available on the globally-sold Focus, that would give 524,000 units to the Corolla, which would still be ahead of the Focus, says Toyota.

Ford should know better than to rely on IHS Automotive. Its predecessor, IHS Global Insight, once received the nickname "Global Oversight" in the business for consistently erroneous numbers. In November 2009, IHS Global Oversight infamously crowned Volkswagen as the World's largest automaker. A month later, Volkswagen ended the year correctly in place 3.

IHS concedes that its worldview is a bit blurred, as its numbers cover only 90% of the world and "the 10 percent that we miss out on may be in countries where Toyota is strong," Christopher Hopson of IHS told the Journal.

In the end, muses a gracious Wall Street Journal, "it's fair to say both companies are selling a lot of cars, even if no one can agree on how many."

PS: Flagwavers, take note: The 350 millionth Ford and allegedly best-selling Focus rolled off the assembly lines in Thailand, at Ford's Rayong plant.

from The Truth About Cars

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Mazda, Alfa Romeo Roadster Could Be The Start Of A Beautiful Friendship

While discussing the future of a Mazda/Fiat collaboration last week, one industry insider trusted by TTAC had this to say

"It's a bit like a first dance during the sixth grade…the Roadster, I mean. They're leaving room for Jesus, but still able to cop a feel if they're lucky."

Now we've got more info on the Alfa/Mazda collaboration, and the possibility of more co-operation between Fiat and Japan's last auto maker.

Speaking to the media, Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi said that while the two roadsters would share weight-saving technology, powertrains and price points would differ. The new MX-5 would use a Skyactiv motor, while the Alfa would be an upscale product. Yamanouchi also had this to say regarding future partnerships between the two brands

"We want to achieve success with the MX-5 and Spyder project first," he continued. "We can learn more about each other and see what opportunities exist.

It's pretty plain to see that this is all but a confirmation of future products being develop side by side. The synergies are there; Fiat has the economies of scale to help Mazda make it worthwhile. Mazda is independent, a distinct disadvantage in this era (even with Sumitomo in the background), but has the engineering expertise and an Asian market foothold.

from The Truth About Cars

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2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee: What's Changed

Most significant changes:
A new, more rugged model joins the lineup
Price change: TBA
On sale: October
Which should you buy, 2012 or 2013? Without 2013 pricing, we can't make a recommendation 

Jeep adds a new off-road-oriented model to the Grand Cherokee roster for 2013. The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk adds capability-enhancing gear and specific exterior styling cues for a more rugged look. Also for 2013, Overland Summit models get more standard features and a new interior color choice.

Jeep's largest SUV returns for model-year 2013 in Laredo, Limited, Overland and Overland Summit trims. The Trailhawk model uses the 290-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 or the 360-hp, 5.7-liter V-8. Five- and six-speed automatic transmissions also return. No word yet on the eight-speed automatic transmission or diesel engine expected to debut this year. 

Standard features on the Trailhawk version include the Quadra-Lift air suspension, Selec-Terrain system with hill descent control, 18-inch Goodyear Silent Armor tires with Kevlar reinforcement and rock rail and underbody protection. V-8 models can add a rear electronic limited-slip differential. The air suspension system, also available on other models, features five driver-selectable height settings and offers up to 4.1 inches of lift. The Selec-Terrain system has five settings that tailor the SUV's response to five different driving conditions: sand/mud, sport, auto, snow and rock.

Trailhawk-specific styling updates distinguish the model from the lineup, such as red Trailhawk and Trail Rated badges and tow hooks; a hood decal and accent stripe; five-spoke 18-inch aluminum wheels; black-surround headlamps; and gray-painted grille surround with matching side mirrors. Inside, the new model gets black suede and leather performance seats with red contrast stitching, the Trailhawk logo and Mopar floormats.

For 2013, Jeep is also adding more standard features to the Overland Summit trim, including the Front Park Assist system, power-folding outside mirrors and headlight washers. The model is also now available with black or saddle-colored Nappa leather seats. There's no word yet on pricing, but the Trailhawk model will go on sale in October.

Research the Jeep Grand Cherokee
Diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee Coming Next Year
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2013 Dodge Grand Caravan: What's Changed


  • Most significant changes: Cheaper base model; new standard and optional equipment across the linep
  • Price change: American Value Package model lowers its base price by $1,000.
  • On sale: This fall
  • Which should you buy, 2012 or 2013? If the base minivan appeals, it's even cheaper for 2013.

For 2013, Dodge is lowering the Grand Caravan's starting price by $1,000; prices stay the same for the other versions. The 2013 Grand Caravan in base American Value Package trim starts at $20,990, including a $995 destination charge. The base AVP model again joins SE, SXT, Crew and R/T trim levels.

Power still comes from the 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6. Standard features on the lower-price entry model include seven airbags, second-row in-floor storage bins, third-row Stow 'n Go seating, power windows, locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry and cruise control.

Standard on AVP is a second-row bench seat, replacing other models' buckets. The bench reclines, folds and is removable.  In other Grand Caravan lineup news, a new Blu-ray video player, which Dodge calls and industry exclusive, will be available on Crew and R/T versions. It can play Blu-ray discs and DVDs. The dual-screen system offers a screen resolution four times higher than non-Blu-ray systems, according to the automaker. It also has an HDMI input for other devices.

New-for-2013 standards across the board include 17-inch wheels (up from 16s) and trailer-sway control. Options such as a Black/Sandstorm interior color scheme and 17-inch aluminum wheels are new for 2013.

Dodge calls the AVP model "the most affordable seven-passenger vehicle in the United States," according to a statement. It goes on sale this fall. Pricing is below and includes a $995 destination charge.

SE with AVP: $20,990 (2012: $21,990)
SXT: $27,490
Crew: $29,490         
R/T: $30,990

Research the 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan's Ultimate Minivan Shootout
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2013 Jeep Wrangler Moab Edition: The ‘Tweener of the Wrangler Lineup

2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited MOAB Edition

Named in recognition of the of mountainous Utah region that plays host to the annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari, the newest addition to the Wrangler lineup aims to bridge the gap between Rubicon ruggedness and Sahara style. The Moab is available in either two-door Wrangler or four-door Wrangler Unlimited guise. Just so onlookers are aware of the Moab's uniqueness, distinguishing exterior features include steel bumpers front and rear, rock sliders on the sills, and a sculpted hood. Color choice is limited to black, white, and a quartet of cheekily named Jeep signature hues: Gecko, Dozer, Crush, and Rock Lobster; fender flares come only in matte black. Read full story »

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Jeep Introduces Off-Road-Friendlier Grand Cherokee Trailhawk for 2013

2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

In stock form, Jeep's Grand Cherokee already more than lives up to the promise of its Trail-Rated badge, but the company is introducing a new model for those who yearn for even more off-road chops. The newest Grand Cherokee variant is called the Trailhawk, and it was previewed this past spring at Jeep's annual Moab Easter Safari off-road event. In fact, the production Trailhawk is pretty much the same as the concept rig; that's fine by us, since we thought the concept looked pretty darn cool.

Read full story »

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2013 Chrysler 300 Glacier Edition: It’s for Stylish Snowbelters

2013 Chrysler 300 Glacier Edition

Chrysler implemented a series of mild equipment changes to the 2013 300 lineup, but it also added a new, slick-looking all-wheel-drive model called the Glacier edition. Targeted at style-conscious buyers in snowbelt states, the Glacier edition packages all-wheel drive and a unique interior with many of the essential ingredients that set the urban-chic 300S apart from the rest of the 300 family. READ MORE ››

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2013 Chrysler 300: Pentastar V-6 Engine Standard Across the Lineup, Hemi V-8 Optional

2013 Chrysler 300

Chrysler has announced a series of running equipment and model changes for the 2013 300 sedan, and the gist is this: The 292-hp, 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic introduced to the line last year now are standard on every 2013 300. Worry not, fans of old-school V-8 muscle: Chrysler's 363-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 and its corresponding five-speed automatic—the same powertrain found under the hood of our long-term 300C—still is available as an option on all 300 models save for the base trim level. Read full story »

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Incentives Stable In August, But Automakers Are Getting Good At Hiding Them


People keep their eyes on automaker incentives for various reasons. Customers are hunting deals. Analysts hunt carmakers that are sitting on a glut of cars. Incentive numbers don't always tell the full story, says Edmunds. In August, incentive spend was subdued and stable. Automakers and dealers have become adept in camouflage though, and the reported stability of incentive spending doesn't factor in some of the "hidden incentives."

Says Edmunds Vice Chairman Jeremy Anwyl:

"Automakers and dealers have been very creative this summer with how they're packaging their deals and boosting sales numbers, whether through controversial stair-step incentive programs or by working with lenders to expand credit. Many of these programs are essentially impossible to quantify, but their cost to the manufacturers is real."

BMW made headlines it did not want to make with a special offer to dealers on the last day of July. The Wall Street Journal reported that dealers received discounts of as much as $7,000 per 2012-model car, as long as each vehicle was reported as sold on that day only. The cars could then be offered to retail buyers at strong discounts with dealers still turning a good profit.

Average True Cost of Incentives (TCI) by Car Manufacturer
Manufacturer August '12 July '12 August '11 MoM YoY
Chrysler $2,761 $2,777 $2,909 -0.60% -5.10%
Ford $2,844 $2,763 $2,680 2.90% 6.10%
GM $3,147 $3,194 $3,096 -1.50% 1.60%
Honda $1,554 $1,224 $1,666 27.00% -6.70%
Nissan $2,623 $2,869 $2,457 -8.60% 6.80%
Toyota $1,676 $1,623 $2,206 3.30% -24.00%
Industry $2,274 $2,237 $2,385 1.70% -4.70%

from The Truth About Cars

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Are White Cars Really Popular Because of Apple?

The person ultimately responsible for choosing colors for BMW cars, Sandy McGill, the other day attributed today's popularity of white cars to the influence of Apple on consumers and designers.

Prior to Apple, white was associated with things like refrigerators or the tiles in your bathroom. Apple made white valuable.

Raphael Orlove over at Jalopnik is skeptical about that claim. So am I. Raph thinks that white cars are cool, literally, that they reflect heat and consumers don't want to get into a hot car. McGill's claims, though, at first glance seem to be backed up by DuPont's annual Color Popularity Report for 2011 that shows that 22% of new cars sold in the world were white, tied with silver. However, if you look at the historical data, white and lighter colors have been increasing in popularity for decades, long before Apple embraced white as their primary (no pun intended) design color.

I have, perhaps, a unique perspective on the topic. From 1982 to 2002, I worked in DuPont Automotive's main car paint R&D laboratory in Troy, Michigan, originally as a technician but ultimately doing IT support. I've worked with the people who prepare those color popularity reports. I also worked with a lot of Apple computers. When I came into the IT department at the lab, DuPont at the time was the largest corporate user of Macintosh computers. Before the introduction of the iMac in 1998, Apple computers were a kind of off-white grey with maybe a hint of beige.

It seems to me that Apple didn't embrace pure white as a design color until the introduction of the iPod in 2001. According to DuPont, though, by the year 2000 white was already the most popular car color. It's entirely possible that Apple's design ethos has influenced car color choices since then, and the Jaguar XF Supercharged on my driveway for a review is indeed Polaris White, but as I said, the trend towards white cars began a long time ago.

Just to be sure, I checked with a couple of experts, Gregg Schmidt at DuPont and Steve Klein of Your Mac Expert. Klein says that Apple first started using white as a design color with the iMac G3, released in 1998. Most people think of the original iMac as being mainly translucent blue, but it was actually available in 13 colors, one of them called Snow was white. However, Snow wasn't the bright white that we now associate with Apple, it was translucent. According to my Mac expert (disclaimer: Steve is a first cousin of mine), the first bright white Mac was the iMac G4, introduced in 2002. The all white early iPod was introduced in 2001.

Schmidt, at DuPont, sent me the following chart showing the top two colors for selected years going back to 1960.

As you can see, white was the second most popular color not just in 1990, when Apples weren't white, but it was also the second most popular color in 1960, when Steve Wozniak was in grade school and Steve Jobs was in kindergarten. As you can see from the timeline below, white's popularity in 1960 may have been an outlier, but those 1990 statistics were part of a general trend towards lighter colors, with silver or grey being about as popular as white. Today over half of cars sold are one of those three light colors. By 2000, before Apple embraced white in a big way, white was already the  most popular color on trucks, vans, SUVs and luxury cars.

1953 – DuPont starts recording automotive color popularity.    Popular colors were medium blues, dark greens, and aqua colors.  Solid black, Ivory White, light beige and light gray were the neutral color spaces.

1960 – Metallic finishes are gaining popularity as medium brown and medium blue are popular.  

1970 – Browns, golds and olive greens are popular.

1980 – Light brown, gold, and beiges were popular.  Light blue was popular on full size and compact cars, dark blue was popular on trucks.

1990 – Trending towards lighter colors.  

2000 – White pearl gaining popularity on luxury vehicles.  Silver is the most popular on full and intermediate and white is most popular on Trucks, Vans, SUV's, and luxury vehicles.

2010 – White is most popular overall in North America but Silver is #1 Global color.  Black is used to support a luxurious look in all segments.

Since white has been a popular color choice since the 1950s, it's acceptance is really nothing new. What is new, at least in recent years, is a greater appreciation of brown cars. Worldwide, 5% of new cars last year were brown or beige. My fellow BCAS members rejoice. Apparently, what was formerly considered boring and reflective of malaise is now considered to be 'authentic'. Jane Harrington, who manages color for DuPont's competitor PPG, says that now brown is associated with luxury: "Think of the experience of good coffee, good chocolate, great pieces of wood. You're seeing it across the crafts industry: more genuine materials, something that has longevity. The handmade quality people are looking for in luxury."

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don't worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Pictures From The Chengdu Motor Show. The What?

You are familiar with that toothy grin. But have you ever heard of the Chengdu Motor Show?  The annual affair in the city of 14 million in China's Southwest is gaining in importance as the car industry reaches into China's vast hinterlands and to demographics that just yesterday were thought to live under a rock. The Chengdu show is the perfect stage to show off cars that appeal to China's masses of all strata. Here are the first impressions.

TTAC didn't go to the show. We will be in Chengdu next week as guests of the Global Automotive Forum, and three days of spicy Sichuan cuisine is enough. Our friend Tycho de Feyter of Carnewschina has a solid handle on the show anyways.

Ford announced only two days ago that the Lincoln brand would come to China in 2014. Today we see  three Lincolns arriving at the exhibition hall for the Chengdu Auto Show.

The Chevrolet Malibu 1.6 Turbo has been launched on the China auto market, priced at 209.900 yuan  ($33,000).

The 1.6 turbo comes with 180hp and 235nm, mated to a 6-speed manual.

The monster Cadillac CTS-V Coupe was officially launched on the China auto market during the first day of the Chengdu Auto Show. Price is set at 1.28 million yuan or 202.000 USD. The CTS-V Coupe is powered by a 6.2 liter supercharged V8  with  556hp and 747nm. Cadillac already sells the CTS sedan in China but only with the 3.0 and 3.6 V-sixes.

The star of the show is the new Jetta.  Two were seen driving around in downtown Chengdu on the day before the show – without license plates. The new Jetta replaces the ancient Jetta MK2, which coincidentally can be seen right behind the two new cars.

This is the new Volkswagen (China) Jetta debuted earlier today and will be launched in China before the end of this year.

Despite other rumors from Brazil (that got lost in a tempest in the Oriental tea pot), the new Jetta swill definitely be based on Volkswagen's PQ25 platform  which also underpins the new Volkswagen Santana which is expected to debut at the Guangzhou Auto Show in November.

The new Jetta will be made in China by the FAW-Volkswagen joint venture, it will be produced in Changchun and in a new factory in Chengdu. Engines: 1.4 with 89bhp or a 1.6 with 109bhp, mated to a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.


A new arrival from Germany: The Mercedes-Benz B-class. The B-class is imported, there are no plans yet for local production. Prices start at 278.000 yuan ($44,000) and end at 328.000 yuan ($52,000). Two engines: B180 with 122hp and the B200 with 156hp. The first B's will be delivered to customers late next month.

For more Chengdu coverage, head over to Carnewschina. They will be on it all week.

from The Truth About Cars

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