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Tesla Under Assault as Wave of New EVs Come to Market

Mercedes-EQ’s first entry set to target Model 3.

by on Aug.30, 2018

Tesla's Model 3 production has been the focus of the company much of the year, but now Elon Musk is going to need to look over his shoulder.

Its been a rocky road for Tesla during the past year, the automaker struggling to get production of its critical Model 3 under control. But just as the factory in Fremont, California, gets into gear, Tesla is facing a new problem that could prove equally challenging.

Jaguar fired the first shot recently with the launch of its I-Pace battery-electric vehicle. Now, Mercedes-Benz is getting ready to plug in, but rather than target a pricey niche, the electric EQ C crossover the German maker will introduce next week takes direct aim at Tesla’s mainstream-priced Model 3.

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And the assault will only accelerate in the months to come, new long-range EV entries popping up at an ever-increasing pace over the next few years to the point that, by some estimates, there could be as many as 100 alternatives in U.S. showrooms by very early in the decade. (more…)

Lexus, Volvo Tie for Top Spot in New Brand Survey

Overall, consumers slightly happier with ownership experience.

by on Aug.30, 2018

Volvo tied with Lexus for the top brand honors in the latest ACSI survey, receiving its highest score ever.

Vehicle owners in the U.S. are slightly happier with their ownership experience this year than last year, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index.

The index, which is the result of surveys of car owners on their overall service and product experience with specific auto brands, creates a score between 1 to 100. According to the latest edition, the industry-wide score for 2018 is 82, up from 81 in 2017.

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“Car owners are often highly satisfied—they’ve kicked the tires enough times that they’re happy with their decision when they buy,” said David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI.  (more…)

2019 Hyundai Elantra: More Than the Typical Mid-Cycle Refresh

Compact sedan gets major sheet metal update, new “light guide” technology.

by on Aug.22, 2018

The 2019 Hyundai Elantra gets a major makeover, including front end lights and sheet metal.

Most vehicles undergo modest “mid-cycle” updates three to four years after coming to market, though those usually consist of minor, and often indistinguishable tweaks to soft plastic parts, and the addition of perhaps a few new technology features.

But when the 2019 Hyundai Elantra comes to market this autumn, motorists shouldn’t have any trouble recognizing the changes. The compact sedan unveiled Tuesday evening at an event in Park City, Utah has undergone an unusually extensive makeover for a mid-cycle update, one that includes extensive revisions to the sheet metal up front, as well as the introduction of an eye-catching new feature dubbed a “light guide.” And all but the base version of the 2019 Elantra will now get an extensive array of high-tech safety features.

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“The changes we’re making to the Elantra shows our commitment to this segment,” despite the broad market shift from conventional passenger cars to SUVs and other light trucks, said Mike O’Brien, the head of product planning for Hyundai Motor America.

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Exclusive: Hyundai Santa Cruz Set for Launch

Final development work now underway, says Hyundai’s U.S. CEO

by on Aug.22, 2018

Hyundai is aiming the production version of the Santa Cruz at youthful "Urban Adventurers."

Hyundai is locking down the final engineering and design details for its first-ever pickup truck and will launch it by late 2020 or 2021, TheDetroitBureau.com has learned.

Originally unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in January 2015, the Santa Cruz was originally seen as just as a styling exercise, but the response the concept received was solid enough to convince the Korean carmaker that it should consider taking it into production. Until now, however, Hyundai officials have been coy about whether that actually would happen and, if so, when.

Cruz on In!

“We just had a meeting to look at the design,” Kyung Soo “Ken” Lee, Hyundai Motor America’s CEO told TheDetroitBureau.com during a brief conversation about the truck on Tuesday evening. The plan is to “launch it in the U.S. market in 2020” or sometime soon afterwards, he said.

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First Drive: 2019 Honda Pilot

Building on strength, fixing the weaknesses.

by on Aug.21, 2018

The 2019 Honda Pilot offers four terrain control modes to handle off-road conditions.

Nose up, front right wheel spinning in the air. That’s not the pose you normally expect to find yourself in while driving a Honda Pilot. Like most modern SUVs, its buyers are traditionally looking for a people-mover rather than an off-roader — which made for something of a surprise when we joined Honda for a first drive of the 2019 Pilot last week in farm country a few hours north of Los Angeles.

The event included the requisite drive route mixing freeway and local roads but also worked in an off-road stretch which, while brief, managed to demonstrate that the 2019 Honda Pilot isn’t just another, interchangeable soft-roader but a surprisingly competent update of what is already one of the American market’s best-selling vehicles.

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The fact that Honda is updating the Pilot at all might come as a surprise considering the current, third-generation model made its debut in the 2016 model-year. And so, as you might expect, the changes are, on the whole, relatively modest, but Honda’s product development team did a good job of picking precisely what to target. That included some subtle exterior updates, improvements to the Pilot’s drivetrain, the addition of a hands-free liftgate and some welcome revisions of its infotainment system, notably the return of a volume knob.

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Nissan Looks to Expand Production in China, Secure No. 3 Spot

Toyota, Honda and Ford also looking to grow sales.

by on Aug.20, 2018

Nissan President and CEO Hiroto Saikawa laid out plans to grow sales in China by 2022.

Nissan Corp. is wasting no time playing catch up with General Motors and Volkswagen AG in China, nor is it wasting money spending $900 million to ramp up its vehicle production in the country.

Working with its Chinese joint-venture partner Dongfeng Group, Nissan’s plans call for expansion of production capacity during the next few years to 2.1 million vehicles annually, according to Reuters.

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Currently, Nissan sold 1.5 million vehicles last year in China, trailing GM and VW which put out about 4 million vehicles each. It wants to sell 2.6 million by 2022, and secure the No. 3 spot in the country by then, according to reports. (more…)

Odyssey, Pacifica Top IIHS 2018-19 Minivan Rankings

Toyota Sienna falls from top ranking.

by on Aug.16, 2018

The Honda Odyssey earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2018-19.

The competition among minivans is already tight and the most recent ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for the current model year have only made that wrestling match tighter.

The Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Odyssey are 2018 Top Safety Picks. They were among the qualifiers when IIHS announced initial winners of the 2018 awards last December. Both earned a superior rating for front crash prevention and have acceptable-rated headlights. Better headlights would have secured Top Safety Pick+ awards – the group’s top rating – for these minivans.

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To earn a 2018 Top Safety Pick, according to IIHS, a vehicle must have good ratings in all IIHS crashworthiness tests except the passenger-side test. Other requirements are a front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating and headlights that earn an acceptable or good rating.  (more…)

Ford Wants a Premium for All-New Ranger Pickup

Base model to start at $4,000 over Chevrolet Colorado.

by on Aug.14, 2018

Ford will offer a wide range of Ranger body styles, beds and powertrain configurations.

After a lengthy absence, the Ford Ranger is about ready to return to the U.S. market and shoppers now can price and build their own version of the midsize pickup at a special micro-site the Detroit automaker has launched.

Set to reach showrooms early next year, Ford will be offering a wide array of body styles, bed and powertrain options, ranging from the base, 4×2 SuperCab XL with a six-foot box, up to the more lavishly equipped 4×4 SuperCrew Lariat with a five-foot cargo box.

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But the heavily updated version of the global Ranger launched earlier in the decade won’t come cheap. The 2019 pickup will carry a starting price of $24,300 plus $1,095 in delivery fees. That’s about $4,000 more than its cross-town competition, the base, extended cab version of the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado starting at $20,500. And for truck buyers on a tight budget, the aging Nissan Frontier starts at just $18,900.

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Honda Adds Upgraded Safety Tech on 10th-Gen Civic

New option ups the safety factor for new Civic.

by on Aug.14, 2018

The 10th-generation Honda Civic gets a new "Sport" update as well as the Honda Sensing safety technology.

Honda is making its “Honda Sensing” driver assistance technology standard on the 2019 Honda Civic sedan and coupe.

The suite of safety technology, which includes collision mitigation braking with forward collision warning; road departure mitigation, incorporating lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control, is standard or available equipment on all Honda car and light truck nameplates, Honda officials noted.

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The 10th-generation Civic line-up for the 2019 model year will also include updated styling and new Sport trim for both body styles. (more…)

Light Trucks Dominating Honda’s Familiar Sedan, Coupe Lines This Year

Pilot shows the real momentum in brand’s line-up.

by on Aug.06, 2018

Strong momentum for the Pilot means Honda's trucks will likely outsell passenger cars, including the all-new Accord, this year.

Its traditionally been known for popular sedans and coupes like the Accord and Civic, but unless there’s a sudden shift in demand, Honda will end the year with its light truck line-up dominating its U.S. sales.

The automaker’s luxury arm, Acura, has largely been dependent on crossovers like the RDX and MDX for a number of years, but Honda had continued to buck the light truck trend – at least until this year. Through the end of July, Honda-branded utility vehicles, minivans and pickups rang up sales of 434,169 vehicles in the U.S., while familiar passenger car models managed only 406,357 sales.

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The shift in demand is leading Japan’s second-largest automaker to not only shift production at its North American assembly lines, but also look at its product mix. During the last several years, Honda has added the entry-level HR-V crossover to its line-up and brought back the Ridgeline pickup. Few observers would be surprised to see it follow the path of crosstown rivals Toyota and Honda and add even more light trucks to its portfolio in the years ahead. (more…)