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Trucks Rule at Chicago Auto Show – and Across the U.S.

Automakers race to add new products, more capacity.

by on Feb.12, 2016

The Chevrolet Trax is one of the newest utes from GM, and sales are outstripping supply.

Chevrolet faces the sort of challenge most automakers can only dream of. Its various pickup plants are operating at full, three-shift capacity and can’t build any more trucks. If anything, says marketing executive Sandor Piszar, that means the bowtie brand is losing possible sales.

“The toughest part is keeping up with demand,” said Piszar, during a conversation at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show’s media preview. “We’re running flat out at all our plants.”

Picking up on the Trends!

Actually, Chevy isn’t entirely unique. Hyundai is struggling to keep up with demand for utility vehicles like the Tucson, shifting capacity at its plant in Alabama to build more of the mid-range Santa Fe Sport. Ford, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan, with rare exception, every automaker spoke with is laying out plans to boost truck capacity and, in many cases, add more truck models.


Ford Hints at SUV, Crossover Product Future

Maker seems focused Wrangler-like option.

by on Feb.12, 2016

Could this Ford Bronco concept shown a decade ago could serve as a template for a new SUV.

With the industry undergoing what many product planners now thinks is a permanent shift toward utility vehicles of every description, Ford Motor Co., which kicked off the boom in sport utility vehicles, back in the 1990s, offered a few broad hints about the four new SUVs and crossovers it is planning to introduce during the next four years.

Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of marketing, sales and service, said he could not offer any details about the vehicles that are in the company’s product pipeline. But he did offer some suggesting about what Ford’s future product portfolio.

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“We don’t have a mini (crossover) that could slip into the company’s line-up underneath the Ford Escape,” LaNeve said. (more…)

Ram Bolstering Off-Road Reputation with New Truck

Brand catering to needs of non-tarmac users.

by on Feb.12, 2016

Ram debuted its 2017 2500 4x4 Off-road at the Chicago Auto Show. The brand is looking to make inroads with off-roaders.

With truck sales booming and competition intensifying, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is looking for a way to shore up its position with truck enthusiasts of all kinds who either enjoy or need to take their trucks off road.

“Truck customers require a wide range of off-road capability options and Ram trucks are designed and engineered for the full spectrum,” said Bob Hegbloom, head of the Ram Truck Brand. “We want to be the leader in off-road,” he added during a press conference during previews for the upcoming Chicago Auto Show.

Truck News!

“Anyone who spends most days on the outskirts of a job site or the weekend on the shore of a favorite fishing hole will benefit from the standard features on our new Ram 2500 4×4 Off-road Package,” he said. (more…)

Volvo Targeting 800,000 in Global Sales by 2020

Kerssemakers says new small cars are next growth area.

by on Feb.12, 2016

Volvo CEO Lex Kerssemakers outlined the maker's plans to develop a family of small cars it will share with Geely Motors.

Volvo is pushing ahead with the development of a new family of small cars that it will share with its Chinese parent, Geely Motors.

The work on new architecture will is being completed at Volvo’s Technical Center in Gothenburg, Sweden, Lex Kerssemakers, president and chief executive officer of Volvo Cars USA, said after a luncheon speech to the Economic Club of Chicago.

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“We had the expertise in Gothenburg, but the modular architecture, which will support several different models in the future, will be shared with other Geely’s growing automotive empire,” said Kerssemakers, who headed up Volvo’s product planning staff at one point during his long career with Volvo. (more…)

Toyota Tacoma Clambers Back into TRD Pro Series Family

New model include GoPro windshield mount.

by on Feb.11, 2016

The 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is the maker's third entry in the TRD Pro Series joining Tundra and 4Runner.

Toyota is looking to continue its foray into the off-road ready truck segment with the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro, joining the Tundra and 4Runner models in the series.

Coming out this fall, the new model is aimed “squarely at extreme off-roading enthusiasts who challenge themselves and their trucks and SUV’s in some of the harshest conditions,” the automaker proclaims.

Truck News!

The new midsize entry will roll out of the factory ready to tackle tough terrain powered by a 3.5-Liter V6 DOHC 24-valve direct-injection Atkinson-cycle engine with VVT-iW (Variable Valve Timing- intelligent Wide) intake and VVT-I exhaust. (more…)

Kia Offers Two New Battery Options for 2017 Optima Sedan

Updated hybrid and Kia’s first plug-in make Chicago debut.

by on Feb.11, 2016

Kia is adding a plug-in hybrid version of the Optima fo4 2016, getting up to 27 miles a charge.

Little Korean carmaker Kia has never been shy about bucking trends. And it’s ready to prove that again at the Chicago Auto Show.

Kia is heading into the Windy City with not just one, not just two, but three new battery-based products set to reach U.S. showrooms for the 2017 model-year. That includes both the updated Kia Optima Hybrid, but also the new Kia Optima PHEV, the Korean carmaker’s first plug-in hybrid.

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Along with the new Kia Niro, a compact crossover hybrid, the two Optima models are part of the carmaker’s grand plan to triple the number of battery-based models in its fleet by 2020. But whether they’ll gain traction in a market more focused on trucks is far from certain. (more…)

Mercedes Targets Current and Future ‘One Percenters’

Maker debuts new Sprinter van, AMG-built racer.

by on Feb.11, 2016

Mercedes is adding another entry to its Sprinter commercial van line-up: the Worker.

Mercedes-Benz appears to be trying to cater to the “1%” crowd as well as those who may aspire to be part of that group with its latest two efforts.

The German maker introduced another option in its commercial van line-up at the Chicago Auto Show: the Sprinter Worker.

Keep on Truckin'!

Starting at just $32,495, the Sprinter Worker will offer the simplest and most straightforward equipment and packaging within the Sprinter Van model line, which includes the 2500 and heavy-duty 3500 models.  (more…)

SUV Sales to Remain High, Ford’s LaNeve Says

Ford planning four all-new SUVs.

by on Feb.11, 2016

Ford's Mark LaNeve said today that he expects SUV sales to remain strong and Ford plans to add four new iterations to capitalize on the trend.

With the popularity of sport utility vehicles expanding worldwide among young and older buyers, Ford Motor Co. plans to capitalize on the trend by adding four new SUV nameplates to the company’s product portfolio within the next four years.

Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of marketing, sales and service, said during breakfast meeting that opened the Chicago Auto Show that demographics hold the key to the continued growth of the SUV market.

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“As members of the 80-million strong millennial age group enter their prime child rearing years, a leading indicator of more SUV sales, nearly 80 million aging baby boomers continue to prefer their SUVs,” he said. (more…)

Ram Powers Up with Chicago Debut of 2017 Power Wagon

A pickup for serious off-roaders.

by on Feb.11, 2016

The 2017 Ram Power Wagon harkens back to the automaker's past off-road brutes.

Ram is rolling its new Power Wagon onto the stage at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center, but buyers are more likely to head for the hills and dales, and just about anywhere else they can check out the capabilities of the brand’s most serious off-road pickup.

Based on the Ram 2500 4×4 HD Crew Cab, the 2017 Ram Power Wagon aims to deliver the best of both worlds. It’s designed to slog through mud and crawl over rocks, but its also got plenty of creature comforts you wouldn’t traditionally find in a serious off-roader.

Muscle Up!

“The Ram Power Wagon is an off-road, all-access pass, removing the limitations, instilling confidence and allowing owners to reach areas of recreation and lifestyle not attainable with any other pickup,” said Ram boss Mike Manley. (more…)

Nissan Ships New Armada to Chicago

First remake of big SUV in 13 years.

by on Feb.10, 2016

The 2017 Nissan Armada gets its first makeover in more than a decade in time for the Chicago Auto Show.

The fleet is in. The battleship-sized Nissan Armada is getting a complete makeover for 2017, and not a moment too soon, considering it’s been 13 years since the full-size SUV got its last big update.

The Japanese maker says it has touched on virtually every aspect of the Armada, down to the bolt holes in its frame. It gets a new platform, newly redesigned body, all-new suspension, a new 390 horsepower V-8 and a variety of new safety and convenience technologies that Nissan hopes will make it more competitive with rivals such as the Toyota Sequoia and Chevrolet Tahoe.

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“While the new Armada is intended primarily for family adventures here in North America, Armada owners will benefit from its underpinnings as a strong, durable and authentic full-size SUV with ruggedness to spare,” said Nissan VP Michael Bunce, head of North American product planning. (more…)