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First Drive: 2016 Honda Civic Coupe

by on Feb.22, 2016

The 2016 Honda Civic is the latest in a line of coupes dating to the first Civic 2-door in 1993.

A few generations back, the Honda Civic Coupe was the car of choice for the tuner crowd. And for good reason, the Civic Coupe was attractive, affordable and easy to modify.

The last two generations didn’t quite click, however, and for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was a seeming drought at the Honda design studios, the last couple of Civic Coupes clearly falling into the boring category.

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Now comes an all-new version and if the decidedly unscientific study we conducted during a couple days of driving offer any indication, the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe clearly serves up the eye candy. But how does it do on the road? And is the Coupe Honda needs to win back those hot young buyers it’s struggled to win back in recent years?

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Acura Hopes Revised ILX Can Gain Momentum in Booming Compact Luxury Market

Update delivers more power, technology and improved appearance.

by on Nov.21, 2014

Acura's Mike Accavitti introduces the 2016 version of the Acura ILX this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

In the high-tech world, companies like Apple often go for what’s known as “first-mover advantage.” By that logic, Acura should be dominating the booming compact luxury sedan segment with its once-groundbreaking ILX model. But things haven’t worked out as the maker hoped.

The ILX has been struggling to simply hold its momentum as newer entries like the Audi A3 and segment-leading Mercedes-Benz CLA race to market. Sales of the Acura offering tumbled 19.3% last month and are off 16.2% for the full calendar-year.

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So, the luxury arm of Honda Motor Co. has a lot riding on the 2016 version of the Acura ILX that was unveiled this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The updated model comes as an unusually early mid-cycle refresh, and aims to address the shortfalls of the original by tweaking its appearance, boosting its power and adding plenty of new technology. (more…)

Cadillac Working on Possible CLA, A3 Fighter

Detroit maker reportedly working on rear-drive subcompact.

by on Aug.18, 2014

The ATS may not be Cadillac's smallest offering in the near future. The company is contemplating a Audi A3/Mercedes-Benz CLA fighter.

It’s turning into a busy season for Cadillac, what with a string of new product launches ahead, and a new global boss set to report to work this week – and former Infiniti chief Johan de Nysschen will be facing some tough decisions when he settles in at his new office at Detroit’s Renaissance Center.

One of the most critical could be whether or not to proceed with a new small sedan Cadillac has apparently begun pulling together, a vehicle that could target one of the world’s fastest-growing luxury niches. With Caddy now looking beyond American shores for its future growth, taking on the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLA and Audi A3 could be critical.

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The new entry, if approved, would differ from some of the competition – such as the front-drive CLA – by sticking with rear-wheel-drive, though an all-wheel package apparently also would be in the works, according to an interview Cadillac marketing chief Uwe Ellinghaus had with Car & Driver magazine. Critically, it would slot under the smallest model in the current Caddy line-up: the ATS. (more…)

Though Revenues Slip, VW Beats Q2 Earnings Expectation

Audi drives profit surge.

by on Jul.31, 2014

VW CEO Martin Winterkorn wants to balance profitability and aggressive growth going forward.

The world’s second-largest automaker beat expectations with a strong second quarter profit, up 14.1%, despite a decline in revenues.

The Thursday release of Volkswagen AG’s earnings revealed that its biggest luxury line, Audi AG, helped offset some problems at its namesake brand. The report came as VW begins a major effort to shift its focus from raw growth to a more profitable expansion plan, with Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn planning to cut costs and boost productivity.

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“In light of the continued strong competitive pressures, the tense situation in some emerging economies and the fundamental technical and economic changes happening in our industry, we are working hard to create all the conditions we need today to ensure success tomorrow,” the CEO said in a statement accompanying the earnings release.

VW earned 3.25 billion Euros, or $4.35 billion, during the second quarter, up from 2.85 billion during the same period a year ago. The consensus of 13 industry analysts polled by the Bloomberg news service had anticipated earnings of 3.31 billion Euros.

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Audi Adds TDI Sportback to A3 Line-Up

Diesel will join plug-in hybrid version of new wagon.

by on Apr.16, 2014

Audi is adding two new vehicles to its A3 lineup: a Sportback diesel and a Sportback e-tron, which is a plug-in hybrid.

The latest-generation Audi A3 has only just gone on sale but the German maker is already expanding the range of offerings for the small car line.

That will now include two high-mileage versions of the A3 Sportback – or wagon, if you prefer. A diesel version will roll into showrooms next year, joining the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, the maker’s new plug-in hybrid.

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The fact that Audi will soon have two versions of the Sportback in the entry-level A3 line-up is significant considering it seemed bound and determined to abandon the wagon for the U.S. market not all that long ago.  But it got a different message from prior owners. (more…)

Audi Goes Plug-n-Play

Maker’s new infotainment system will be upgradeable.

by on Mar.21, 2014

Audi developed a high-tech interior for its new A3.

As millions of early OnStar users discovered, in-car technology can quickly go out of date. They found their systems shut off when the maker switched from analog to digital a few years back.

Unlike plug-n-play desktop and laptop computers, today’s in-car systems usually can’t be updated as new technology comes out.  You either buy a new car or suffer with a slow user interface or an outdated display.

High-Tech News!

But Audi is about to shift directions in a bid to deliver in-car technology that can keep pace with the rapid changes of consumer electronics.  The new 2015 Audi A3, for example, will have a more computer-like graphic display system from NVIDIA, one of the top suppliers for desktop and laptop manufacturers.  A couple years from now, a motorist would be able to simply swap out the original video display card for a newer, presumably faster and higher-resolution one.

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Audi Eager to Launch New A3

Audi hopes compact model will echo success of Mercedes CLA.

by on Mar.12, 2014

The all-new 2015 Audi A3 is coming to America and will be offered in four different versions.

Audi plans to kick off sales of the new A3 early next month with events at every dealership in the U.S. and Scott Keogh, president of Audi of America, says he is looking forward to the upcoming duel with Mercedes-Benz for buyers looking for a luxury car starting a shade under $30,000.

There’s little doubt the market is interested considering the rousing demand for the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA since its introduction last autumn.  In fact, Daimler AG chief executive officer Dieter Zetsche recently said the Mercedes biggest challenge right now is getting more cars to sell since demand is so strong. And Audi’s rival says about 80% of CLA customers are new to the Mercedes brand.

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But Audi thinks it can fight back with the next-generation A3 which made its debut in Europe last year but is only now coming to the States in sedan form.  And much as the CLA has lifted the fortunes of Mercedes, which last year became the luxury market’s top-seller in the U.S., Audi hopes it can lift itself out of its distant third-place status, a seemingly realistic goal considering it became the world’s best-selling luxury brand for the first two months of 2014, nudging aside BMW.

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How Low Can They Go? Competition Heats up for Entry-Lux Buyers

Audi debuting A3 at $29,900 to take on Mercedes CLA.

by on Jan.17, 2014

The all-new 2015 Audi A3 is coming to America in four different versions.

Audi will introduce its completely redesigned 2015 A3 sedan at a starting price of just $29,900, about $4,000 lower than the maker’s current base model, the A4.  That means Audi also will match the price of the new Mercedes-Benz CLA, currently one of the hottest products on the U.S. market.

The Audi A3 and Mercedes CLA are part of a wave of new entry-lux vehicles – a list also including makers like Lincoln, Cadillac and Lexus – that are meant to attract buyers who might traditionally opt for mainstream brand offerings but who would like a vehicle with a more upscale cache.

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“We’re seeing buyers we’ve never seen before in our stores,” Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, says about the impact of the new CLA coupe-like sedan. The model is perhaps the German maker’s biggest success story in the U.S. ever, with an estimated 80% of its buyers coming from outside the Mercedes brand.

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Aiming for #1, Audi Investing Over $30 Billion

But BMW, Mercedes aren’t ready to roll over.

by on Dec.27, 2013

Audi is looking to add a wide range of new models. The Sport Quattro Concept is shown here.

It’s a race to the finish as the year winds down and BMW and Mercedes-Benz ramp up their efforts to position themselves as America’s best-selling luxury brands, a battle they’re repeating in other markets around the world.

But the two makers are spending a lot of time looking over their corporate shoulders lately as the upstart Audi takes aim – and rolls out a massive investment program that it hopes will make it the world’s biggest luxury brand before the end of the decade.

The Last Word!

The Volkswagen AG luxury brand has announced plans to spend 22 billion euros, or $30.3 billion, between now and 2018, to add new models, bolster its presence in the emerging electric vehicle market, and add capacity around the world.

“We are now decisively steering toward our next milestone,” said Audi CEO Rupert Stadler in a statement outlining Audi’s expansion plan. “This is why we’re keeping our foot on the gas pedal regarding investments.”

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Audi Rolls out Four Versions of 2015 A3 Compact

Maker plans to grow sales with lineup expansion.

by on Nov.21, 2013

The all-new 2015 Audi A3 is coming to America in four different versions.

Audi unveiled four different version of its compact 2015 A3, which it plans to put on sale in North America over the next several months, as it looks to continue growing sales in the United States in the coming years.

Scott Keogh, Audi USA president, made it plain that the new A3 sedan its three variations are a critical element in the effort to expand Audi’s sales base in the U.S. The launch of the new A3 represents a new chapter for the brand in the U.S, he said.

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“We needed to prove ourselves to the U.S. market and the U.S. consumer. Not proof with gimmicks, sales stunts, or discounts – but proof through a sustainable business model,” Keogh said. (more…)