Friday, 26 April 2019

Once-dead compact pickup is poised for a comeback: Ford, Hyundai, maybe even VW jump in

NEW YORK - Pickups have gotten so big, that it might be time for something small.
With sales booming and prices rising for full-size and midsize trucks, automakers are now poised to revive the compact pickup in a test of how far they can go before buyers say no more.
At the New York Auto Show on Wednesday, the Toyota Yaris Adventure zoomed onto the screen during a press conference, showcasing an unusual blend of body styles.
"A subcompact car and a pickup truck coming together as one?" Toyota general manager Jack Hollis said. "Honestly, with the amazing reaction to it, maybe we should make it for real!"
He was joking.
But like many good wisecracks, there's a little bit of truth in there.
In this case, the truth is that multiple automakers are bringing back the long-lost small pickup, which perished earlier this century as pickups grew bigger and full-size trucks tightened their grip on the hearts of American drivers:
• Volkswagen brought a pickup concept called the Tarok to the New York Auto Show "to gauge market reaction for a truly versatile and compact entry-level pickup."
• Hyundai is planning a mashup of a pickup and a small SUV after introducing a concept called the Santa Cruz at the 2015 Detroit auto show. The vehicle will come "a little later" than 2020, said Hyundai Chief Operating Officer Brian Smith, and doesn't yet have an official name.
• Ford is planning a compact pickup in the U.S. to go along with its recently revived Ranger, which was once considered a compact but has turned into a midsize model.
Taken together, these efforts amount to the next chapter in the pickup wars raging in the auto industry. First-quarter pickup sales have ballooned 30 percent from the same period in 2014, rising to 659,105 vehicles, according to car-buying advice site Edmunds.olkswagen North America CEO Scott Keogh told USA TODAY there may be an opportunity for a compact pickup like the Tarok that provides the "versatility of a pickup truck" with "good value, good fuel efficiency" and sensible packaging.
"We see a lot of these urbanists who want to get out, and this is a smart vehicle to do that in," he said. "An optimist could say there is no market, so let's go invent it."
One reason why it might work: Full-size and midsize pickups have become increasingly expensive in recent years as they've become more popular.
Americans are paying an average of $49,713 for full-size pickups in 2019, up about 47 percent from $33,828 in 2009, according to Edmunds. And they're paying $34,322 for midsize trucks, up 45 percent over the same time period.
"The smaller trucks have a good selling proposition" for buyers who don't want to break the bank, Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell said.But she noted that midsize pickups like the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma can be had for much cheaper than the industry average. So a compact pickup would have to do much more than compete on price.
"People still want the functions of a pickup truck, not some quirky concept," Caldwell said.
The Hyundai Santa Cruz SUV-pickup blend aims to hit the sweet spot. "This is going to appeal to people who don't necessarily see themselves as pickup truck drivers, but they want the utility of having an open bed," Hyundai's Smith said.
Pickups provide Americans with a sense of freedom, flexibility and fun. They feel like they can haul anything and go anywhere. So anyone trying to make a compact pickup would need to pay homage to that frame of mind.
"People want to feel like they can be outside," Stephanie Brinley, auto analyst at IHS Markit. "There's a sense of freedom and escape that people want to have."To be sure, consumers are famously loyal to the traditional Detroit Three brands for full-size pickups - namely the Ford F-series, Ram, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.
About 7 in 10 full-size pickup buyers prefer domestic brands, according to Cox Automotive. But only 3 in 10 midsize buyers seek out domestic brands.
"Full-size buyers are the most loyal in the industry," Autotrader analyst Michelle Krebs said in an email. "Smaller truck buyers are the least" loyal, which provides an entryway for newcomers.
"Up until now, automakers haven't been willing to pull the trigger," said Brinley. "We may be in this space and time where it begins to make more sense."
Not everyone's convinced there's an opportunity for a compact entrant.
At Honda, the Ridgeline midsize pickup won the North American Truck of the Year award in 2017. But Honda's not harboring dreams of going any smaller.
"I don't think so," said Henio Arcangeli, Jr., general manager of Honda in the U.S. "I think this is America, and people like big things."


Thursday, 25 April 2019

Here Are All The 2019 Vehicles You Can Still Get With A Stick Shift

Photocredit: Getty
Photocredit: Getty
Pundits say that if you want to truly confound a millennial, put him or her behind the wheel of a car with a manual transmission.
To be sure, not only is the number of cars, trucks and sport-utility vehicles available with a stick shift dwindling, few young drivers are learning how to shift for themselves these days. To help preserve what is fast becoming a lost art, classic-car insurer Hagerty is teaming up with the Skip Barber Racing School to teach young drivers, among other motoring skills, how to work a stick and a clutch.
The newly created Hagerty Driving Academy is conducting a series of 40 events nationwide at iconic racetracks that include Road Atlanta, Lime Rock Park, New Jersey Motorsports Park and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. In addition to mastering a manual, students will learn accident avoidance maneuvers, drive on an autocross course and spend time piloting a number of vintage vehicles. Click here for a schedule of upcoming events.
"Hardly anyone teaches driving a manual transmission anymore," says Hagerty CEO McKeel Hagerty. "But we think it's a fantastic skill for all drivers to have.
Unfortunately, fewer new vehicles are offering manual transmissions than ever. While 47 percent of all new vehicles offered a stick shift as recently as 2006, it's now at around 20 percent. Manual-shift models currently account for a slim 2 percent of the new-vehicle market.
While manual transmissions are a dying breed they're not dead yet. We found a considerable list of model lines that continue to offer a manual gearbox for 2019. As one might imagine, price-sensitive small cars and sporty cars - especially the Europeans (manuals are still relatively popular across the Atlantic) - are the most likely to include a stick-shift selection. Beyond that it's far slimmer pickings, with only two midsize sedans and zero full-size pickup trucks offering them this year.
And at that, they can be hard to find. A manual may limited to a particular engine or specific trim levels within a given vehicle line. What's more, dealers don't usually keep many manually equipped models in stock due to the lack of demand.
If you don't mind working a clutch, here are the vehicles you can still get with a manual transmission for the 2019 model year; if availability is restricted we've noted which trim levels are available with a stick:
Small Cars
  • Chevrolet Sonic
  • Chevrolet Spark
  • Ford Fiesta
  • Honda Civic Sedan (LX, Sport, Si)
  • Honda Civic Hatchback (Sport, Type R)
  • Honda Fit (LX, Sport, EX)
  • Hyundai Accent (SE)
  • Hyundai Elantra (SE, Sport)
  • Hyundai Elantra GT
  • Kia Forte (FE)
  • Kia Soul (Base)
  • Mini Cooper Clubman
  • Mini Cooper Hardtop/Coupe/Convertible
  • Mitsubishi Mirage (ES)
  • Nissan Sentra (S, NISMO)
  • Nissan Versa (S sedan)
  • Subaru Impreza (2.0i, 2.0i Sport)
  • Subaru WRX/STI
  • Toyota Corolla (SE)
  • Toyota Corolla Hatchback
  • Toyota Yaris (L, LE)
  • Volkswagen Golf/GTI/R/Sportwagen/Alltrack
  • Volkswagen Jetta (S)
Midsize Cars
  • Honda Accord (Sport, Sport 2.0T)
  • Mazda6 (Sport)
Sporty Cars
  • BMW 230i Coupe (RWD)
  • BMW 430i Coupe (RWD)
  • BMW 440i Coupe
  • BMW M2 Coupe
  • BMW M240i
  • BMW M4
  • BMW M6 Gran Coupe
  • Cadillac ATS-V Coupe
  • Chevrolet Camaro
  • Chevrolet Corvette
  • Dodge Challenger (R/T and Hellcat)
  • Fiat 124 Spider
  • Fiat 500
  • Ford Mustang
  • Genesis G70 (2.0-liter RWD)
  • Honda Civic Coupe (Sport, Si)
  • Hyundai Veloster (2.0, Turbo, Turbo R-Spec, N)
  • Jaguar F-Type (Base V6 RWD, R-Dynamic RWD)
  • Lotus Evora
  • Mazda MX-5 Miata
  • Nissan 370Z
  • Porsche 718 Boxster
  • Porsche 718 Cayman
  • Porsche 911 (except Turbo, Turbo S, GT3 RS)
  • Subaru BRZ
  • Toyota 86
Sport-Utility Vehicles
  • 500X (Pop FWD)
  • Jeep Compass (Sport, 4WD Latitude)
  • Jeep Wrangler (V6)
  • Mini Cooper Countryman (except S FWD and SE AWD)
  • Mitsubishi Outlander Sport (ES 2.0 FWD)
  • Subaru Crosstrek (Base, Premium)
Midsize Pickup Trucks
  • Chevrolet Colorado (Base/Work Truck 2.5-liter RWD Extended Cab)
  • GMC Canyon (SL/Canyon 2.5-liter RWD Extended Cab)
  • Nissan Frontier (King Cab: S RWD, SV RWD; Crew Cab: S RWD, SV 4WD, Pro-4X)
  • Toyota Tacoma (SR V6, TRD, TRD Sport Double Cab 4WD)


Thursday, 18 April 2019

Subaru premieres next-generation 2020 Outback

New York - Subaru debuted its all-new 2020 Outback as the automaker continues to improve U.S. sales with its crossover-heavy lineup.
The Outback wagon is Subaru's top-selling vehicle in the U.S. Through the first quarter of the year, the automaker sold nearly 42,000 of them, which was down slightly from last year as buyers opted for the newer Forester. Overall Subaru sales were up to 156,754 through March, up 4.7 percent for the year.
The new Outback aims to continue that momentum when it goes on sale in the fall. The automaker is planning seven trim levels. It comes with standard symmetrical all-wheel drive, and Subaru's driver-assist technology suite.
The exterior gets some changes to give the Outback a more rugged look.
It also gets new engine options. Subaru is offering a turbocharged engine standard on the Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT and Touring XT models. It's a 2.4-liter boxer engine that delivers 260 horsepower at 5,600 rpms and 277 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpms. That steps up from the standard 2.5-liter boxer engine that delivers 182 horsepower at 5,800 rpms and 176 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpms.
All 2020 models have a Lineartronic CVT transmission. That helps the 2.5-liter engine boast a 600-mile range on a single tank of gas, according to Subaru. The automaker is estimating a 26-mpg city and 33-mpg highway fuel economy rating for the standard engine. The turbocharged engine is estimated at 23 mpg and 30 mpg, respectively.
The standard driver-assist package includes adaptive cruise-control with lane-centering and a segment-exclusive DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System that uses an infrared camera and facial-recognition technology to check the driver for signs of fatigue or distraction. When it does, the vehicle will warn the driver and passengers with audio or visual cues. 
The Outback also comes standard with steering-responsive LED headlamps, reverse automatic-braking, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert. The 2020 model also has a "front view monitor" to capture images in the driver's blind spots and display them on the standard 11.6-inch screen on the center console.
The 2020 Outback boasts 75.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded down. Roof rails with retractable crossbars and tie-downs are standard.
Inside, the 2020 model gets new entertainment perks with a larger touchscreen display. The vehicle now has on-screen controls for audio, air conditioning and heat, and other features. It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming. The vehicle can also get over-the-air updates. 
Subaru plans to announce pricing for the Outback closer to the fall launch.


Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Mercedes goes boxy with 'Baby G-Wagen' GLB concept

SHANGHAI - Mercedes-Benz is carving out yet another niche in the burgeoning crossover market with a new small people mover - this one styled like a traditional SUV - underscoring the rapid fragmentation of the segment and a practice once common in the car market.
The German luxury automaker introduced the concept GLB - a new MFA2 platform companion to the GLA - on the eve of the Shanghai auto show.
The GLB, referred to as the Baby G-Wagen, has an 111-inch wheelbase and fits up to seven people.
The concept is powered by a four-cylinder engine that delivers 224 hp. The GLB also features all-wheel drive and an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.
"It's a functional, small SUV, more of a people mover, whereas the GLA is sportier," Greg Barnes, president of Bill Ussery Motors in Coral Gables, Fla., and chairman of Mercedes-Benz's dealer board.
Pricing and launch dates for the GLB have not been disclosed but dealers expect it to hit U.S. showrooms in the fourth quarter.
In the U.S., the GLB will compete with the Lexus NX, Cadillac XT4 and BMW X1. In China, the model will go up against BMW X1 and Audi Q3.
Meeting a niche
The GLB, which slots between the entry-level GLA and the GLC, adds another crossover in the Mercedes showroom aimed at entry-level luxury customers. Overall, sales of luxury compact crossovers rose 13 percent in the first quarter, making it one of the fastest-growing product segments.
The GLA is compromised on interior space and utility, limiting its appeal, since one of the primary reasons people prefer crossovers is their practicality and functionality, said Ed Kim, analyst with AutoPacific.
The GLB will offer a slightly larger and more functional package, a function of its boxy dimensions, Kim said.
"The GLB class will likely outperform the GLA class in the U.S. market thanks to its greater utility, and American customers tend to like boxier and more traditional upright SUV proportions like the GLB class will have," Kim said.
Being on the large side for the segment - with three-row seating - the GLB, however, risks cannibalizing some GLC sales.
Mercedes "will have to carefully position the GLB class to minimize negative impact on GLC class sales," Kim said.
The GLB concept is powered by a M260 four-cylinder gasoline engine. The cylinder bore is widened at the lower end of the cylinder liners to minimize friction and thereby lower fuel consumption. The pistons feature cooling ducts for more efficient combustion. The aluminum four-valve cylinder head features a variable-valve timing system that can increase fuel efficiency or boost the engine's performance.
Utility exterior
The GLB concept has the muscular exterior proportions and luxurious interior similar to the discontinued Mercedes GLK.
For the first time in a compact model by Mercedes-Benz, the GLB's third-row seat is equipped with two additional single seats that can be folded for extra cargo capacity. The third-row seats fit two medium-sized occupants, Mercedes notes.
The GLB is also equipped with Mercedes' new multimedia system - Mercedes-Benz User Experience.


Friday, 12 April 2019

Chevy’s new mid-engined C8 Corvette is coming July 18

The countdown is on.
There are fewer than 100 days until the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette will finally be revealed.
GM has confirmed the heavily anticipated new mid-engined 'Vette will be introduced to the public on July 18th, likely at a standalone event, and will go into production later this year.
The car world has been waiting with bated breath for this confirmation, speculating about what would be and when it would come to pass.
Now that the 'when' has been solved for, it's just the 'what' that remains uncertain.
According to Car & Driver, the C8 Corvette, which Chevy calls "the most anticipated Corvette ever," will debut in Stingray form, likely with an altered version of the outgoing model's 6.2-litre V8 making somewhere around 500 horses.
That will be mated to a dual-clutch seven-speed auto gearbox, with no option for a manual. Sorry.
High-performance trims are expected to follow, including a Z06, ZR1 and a top-of-the-model-line hybrid rumoured to answer to the name Zora and harness nearly 1,000 horsepower of combined combustion and electric power.
The obvious big news is the placement of that engine. For the first time ever, the Corvette will get a mid-engine layout, which has resulted in some significant changes to the car's overall profile. These recent official shots of the camouflaged car represent the most detailed and official look to date.
When further details about the Corvette are revealed, you can bet that we'll have them, but if you want to get it straight from the horse's mouth, you can sign up for updates from Chevrolet here.


Wednesday, 10 April 2019

New Escape Designed for Life’s Adventures

The 2020 Ford Escape made its worldwide debut April 2nd. The Escape is built on the company’s new global platform that made its first appearance on the redesigned Euro 2019 Ford Focus. This will be the first vehicle sold in North America using the new platform. 200 pounds lighter, and with four variants of the Escape, Ford has left no stone unturned in the redesign of this popular vehicle. Engine options include a base of 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder, a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, a hybrid model and an Escape plug-in hybrid.
The plug in hybrid is the biggest news, as Ford is bringing back electrification to the vehicle for 2020. Both the Escape Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid have a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle hybrid four-cylinder engine. Ford hasn’t released any official EPA numbers on the electric range for the plug-in but the target is 30-plus miles.  The PHEV uses a 14.4kWh battery pack and has a combined 209 horsepower. Ford says the battery will reach a full charge on a Level 2 charger in about 3.5 hours.
Unlike some plug-ins that use  EV power immediately, Ford has four modes to select from. "Auto EV" lets the car decide. "EV Now" forces the powertrain to exclusively use electric power. "EV Later" switches it to full gas power motoring, and then "EV Charge" allows the battery to charge while driving.
Ford has also updated its gas-only EcoBoost engine options for the Escape, producing a 6 percent boost in efficiency. Towing is rated for a maximum of 3,500 pounds for the 2.0-litre EcoBoost and 2,000 pounds with the 1.5 litre and 1,500 pounds for both hybrid versions.  To further conserve fuel, the 1.5 litre EcoBoost also features cylinder deactivation, a Ford first for North America.
Ford has made changes to the exterior of the 2020 Escape as well. The vehicle has taken on an entirely new styling. It’s lower, wider and longer with a discernable grille. The interior has also been updated with increased space and enhanced visibility.
It also borrows the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster from the Explorer that will be available optionally. A Sync 3 infotainment system will play on the 8-inch infotainment screen for SE models and up, so it will have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Escape comes standard with Ford Co-Pilot 360 and makes available other driver assist features including Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go and Lane-Centering.
The new Escape will be available in S, SE, SE Sport, SEL and Titanium trim levels this fall. Every configuration except for the Plug-In Hybrid will be available initially, with the PHEV version following in spring 2020.


Friday, 5 April 2019

Canada’s push for ZEVs is real

The federal budget 2019, announced in February by the Minister of Finance Bill Morneau reveals a strong push towards a more electrified future in Canada.
On March 29, the Government of Canada delved into a deeper discussion about their plan to build a “clean economy,” indicating that the budget is making significant investments towards that goal by, for example, expanding the network of zero-emission vehicle charging and refuelling stations. And also by creating new incentives for both consumers and businesses to purchase ZEVs.
“Starting this year, it is no longer free to pollute anywhere in Canada. Our clean growth and climate action plan is expected to result in the biggest drop in carbon pollution in the history of Canada’s emissions reporting — while creating more good, well-paying jobs in the clean economy and making life more affordable for Canadians,” said Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
The budget also allocates funds to lowering the cost of energy by boosting energy efficiency in residential, commercial and multi-unit buildings.
New infrastructure is also meant to create cleaner communities. This goal will be topped-up through a major municipal infrastructure investment to help communities fund their own infrastructure projects.
The government also aims to work with provinces and territories to develop a framework for a more electric future that not only focuses on urban areas, but rural and remote communities as well.
Another goal is to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030, and funds in the budget aim to help these workers and communities “find and act on new opportunities” through skills training and business diversification.
The Government of Canada wants to reach a new-vehicle sales target of 100 per cent ZEVs by 2040. The goal is to reach 10 per cent sales by 2025, and 30 per cent sales by 2030. The federal budget clearly indicates that this is an important target that the government will strive to reach.


Thursday, 4 April 2019

This is the No. 1 car among millennials, according to a new study of insurance data

The 2013 Honda Accord, at the Chicago Auto Show, February, 2013.
Young people are often said to splurge on indulgences - avocado toast, for example, or daily coffee. When it comes to the cars they drive, however, that doesn't seem to hold true.
Insurance comparison website QuoteWizard, which is owned by LendingTree, dug into its 2018 insurance quote data for drivers aged 22 to 37 "to find the most common vehicles driven by millennials."
The answer: More affordable ones. The No. 1 car among millennials, they found, was the Honda Accord.
The data did not make clear whether young people were buying these cars new or used, or getting them as gifts. Still, it was striking to QuoteWizard that the most popular choices among millennials were "among the cheaper cars on the road."
Of the top 10, eight are small to mid-sized cars, says QuoteWizard, which tend to cost less. The data shows that millennials "tend to drive cheaper sedans" instead of the SUVs and trucks favored by older generations, the site concludes.
Here are the top 10 most popular car brands among millennials and their average MSRPs:

Honda Accord

Average MSRP: $23,720

Nissan Altima

Average MSRP: $23,900
Honda Civic
Average MSRP: $19,450

Toyota Camry

Average MSRP: $23,945

Hyundai Sonata

Average MSRP: $22,500

Chevrolet Impala

Average MSRP: $28,020

Ford F-150

Average MSRP: $28,155

Toyota Corolla

Average MSRP: $18,700

Ford Focus

Average MSRP: $17,950

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Average MSRP: $31,945
Millennials may be spending less on cars because they have less money to spend. While "millennials are making more than ever for the 22 to 37 age group," QuoteWizard cites, "they still earn significantly less than their Gen-X and baby boomer counterparts." Plus, they must often contend with the cost of housing and student loans.
And finances aren't everything. "Earning less money and being buried by debt is a huge factor," says QuoteWizard, but "this doesn't paint the entire picture of why millennials prefer cheaper cars. Urbanization trends show that millennials are happier living in big cities. They're also moving to cities at a higher rate in the last nine years than they did in the 2000s."
Also, "living in urban cities gives millennials more options like public transit [and] ride-sharing services. All these alternative options create less of a need for cars, let alone expensive ones."

Stick with your car for 'as long as you can,' experts say

If you are in the market for a car, experts advise to get only what you can afford and not to buy new.
While it's tempting to splurge, best-selling author of "The Automatic Millionaire" David Bach has said that can be the "single worst financial decision millennials will ever make."
"Nothing you will do in your lifetime, realistically, will waste more money than buying a new car," he told CNBC Make It.
In a blog post, best-selling author of "Women and Money" Suze Orman suggested you fall in love not with an expensive car but with a retirement or savings account, or a home: "Those are assets that, over time, may increase in value. A car will never increase in value. It is a depreciating asset that loses 20 percent of its value in the first year."
If you already have an auto loan, look into some refinancing options, especially if you have good credit. A "prime" or "super prime" score could help you with financing. And if you're still working on your score, stick with your current car for "as long as you can," wrote Orman.
The bottom line is, the less money you spend on a car, the more you can put toward other important priorities. And that's a good step toward building financial security.