Last week was a lot like the British ocean liner Lusitania; it got sunk, but this time around it wasn’t the Kaiser’s fault. Instead of falling prey to a German U-Boat it was torpedoed by the New York Auto Show.
AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
Top 10 Affordable Rear-Wheel-Drive Cars
Lawmakers in Washington D.C. and California are armed with a legislative battleaxe and they’re bringing it to bear against the automotive industry. Fuel-economy regulations are hitting like a war hammer, disrupting the market and crushing carmakers. In a mad dash to meet upcoming CAFE standards manufacturers are dramatically shifting their product offerings. Downsized vehicles, hybrid drivetrains and diesel engines are some of the tools in their defensive arsenals.
One unfortunate victim of this efficiency stampede is rear-wheel drive. Slowly but surely over the last 30 years automakers have made the switch to front-drive, a layout that’s more economical in a number of ways. But not everyone is content driving a Nissan Sentra, or getting by in a minivan. For enthusiasts that care about performance rear-wheel drive is king, but it’s a monarch that’s under siege. Keeping the dream alive, here’s a list of the Top 10 (reasonably) affordable RWD cars on the market today. Act fast before they’re gone in a puff of tire smoke.
Dodge is bringing a touch of style to the seven-passenger vehicles in its lineup. Starting a little later this year Grand Caravan, Durango and Journey buyers will have the option of ordering a unique “Blacktop” package on these vehicles, which adds a healthy dose of design flair without breaking the bank.
Ford made several important product announcements at a media event in Detroit this morning. Borrowing from its global portfolio, the Dearborn-based automaker is bringing an impressive array of commercial vehicles to the North American market, including a brand-new version of the Transit Connect.
Last week, Chrysler announced delivery of four plug-in hybrid Town & Country minivans to the Auburn Hills city of Michigan as the initial part of an extensive two-year hybrid development project worth $25.8 million. Today, company delivered eight more units to the Duke Energy utility company as part of the two-year project.
As the only minivan to boast a plug-in hybrid powertrain in combination with flex-fuel capability, Chrysler also revealed the specifications of its new plug-in Town & Country.
Nissan has announced a recall on Quest minivans manufactured from July 29, 2010 through February 21, 2012.
Due to a flaw in its software programming, an insufficient supply of fuel to the engine may occur when the Quest is driven slowly along a descent or idling on a decline with a 1/4 tank of fuel or less. In some cases, the engine may stall.
To address this problem, Nissan will notify affected Quest owners to bring their car to a local Nissan dealer for a reprogramming of its engine control module, free of charge.
Nissan will begin the recall process during mid March 2012. A total of 23,531 units are potentially affected. Concerned Nissan owners may also contact customer service at 1-800-647-7261.
Based on a tidy Ford Fiesta platform, the heart of the B-MAX is Ford’s clever 1.0-liter Ecoboost engine producing 123-hp while reaching an equally impressive 59 mpg. The tiniest powerplant of the Ecoboost family, the innovative direct-injected turbocharged engine is exclusive for the European market for now but will eventually make its way into the North American and Chinese markets as well. For those looking for something even more frugal than the Ecoboost, Ford also offers a diesel B-MAX fitted with a Durotorq TDCi engine.
To set the Ford B-MAX apart from the competition in its class, Ford approached the new mini-minivan with a focus on functional design. The B-MAX features wide-open access for drivers, passengers and luggage. Minimizing obstructions, the center B-pillars are integrated into the doors. Ford also promises to present supreme craftsmanship as well as high quality materials, flexible seating arrangements and class-leading cargo room.
Chairman and CEO of Ford Europe, Stephen Odell, said, “The B-MAX combines an exciting, innovative design with features that only previously have been found in bigger cars. It’s a brand new car that responds to the needs of an increasing number of customers who want more from their small cars.”
Stay tuned for more information on the C-MAX when Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally performs the unveiling at the upcoming 2012 Geneva Motor Show.
GALLERY: Ford B-MAX
Amid news of an introduction for both the Cadillac ATS and Chevrolet Sonic RS at this year’s 2012 North American International Auto Show comes news of a third vehicle – a Buick crossover – that will also make its debut.
The crossover will reportedly be based on a platform that underpins the Opel Meriva (above) though it will ditch the minivan-look for a more traditional crossover bodystyle. The Meriva also shares a platform with the Chevrolet Sonic, though dimensions and powertrain choices have not been revealed. A small four-cylinder turbo with forced induction is a likely candidate. The Meriva is about 5 inches shorter than a Sonic, and it would be reasonable to expect GM to make the car larger to suit North American tastes.
[Source: Automotive News]
The South Korean auto market has long been dominated by domestic automakers like Hyundai and Kia, but Toyota is planning to make a play by sending 6,000 American-built Camrys to South Korea.
Deliveries will begin starting in January, 2012. Toyota has been exporting the Sienna minivan since November, and also sells the Corolla, Prius and RAV4. Toyota is evidently looking to take advantage of a new free-trade agreement signed between the U.S. and South Korea, as well as take advantage of favorable exchange rates between Korea and the U.S.
Our big question is, with Korean cars (especially Camry competitors like the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima) so good noawadays, why would any Korean consumers even bother buying them.
[Source: Wall Street Journal]
Canadians should get ready to kiss the Chrysler Town and Country goodbye, as Chrysler seeks to trim its minivan lineup down to a single nameplate – but the opposite will be occurring in the United States, with the Dodge Caravan getting the axe, as the Caravan will now become the exclusive minivan sold by Chrysler LLC in the Great White North.
The Caravan is wildly popular in Canada, accounting for 70 percent of the Canadian minivan market alone, and is the third best selling nameplate in the country. Unlike the United States, the Caravan is sold at a number of price points, from a sub-$20,000 base model to premium versions that breach Dodge’s usual $30,000 price ceiling. Caravans are popular as commercial vehicles, family haulers and even as police cars in a number of locales.
On the other hand, the Town and Country outsells the Caravan by a 2:1 ratio in the United States, which has a far smaller minivan segment. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said that two minivan replacements would bow in 2013 – a large three row crossover, as well as a traditional minivan with sliding doors.
When the changeover occurs, the Town and Country will be the only nameplate left standing in America. But things seem to be moving in the opposite direction for the Great White North.
[Source: Detroit News]
Charles Preston, bought himself a used Chrysler Town & Country minivan from Thrifty, a rental car office, for $14,000. But then, when Charles brought the Chrysler to the garage to get its brakes checked out, the mechanic took a look at the window mechanism as well to figure out why it failed to roll down.
Upon taking the door panel out, the shop was shocked to discover the cause of the problem was actually $500,000 worth of cocaine. Preston is a psychologist from Santa Monica, California and wanted to use the van to deliver food to the homeless.
Unknowingly getting himself in the middle of one of the most bizarre drug seizures in recent memory, the police advised Preston to return the van to Thrifty and have it checked for tracking devices as well. When management at Thrifty heard the story, they offered to replace Preston’s van with a “clean” example.
Police officer Sgt. Jason Dwyer, told the Mercury News. “If somebody is motivated to track down that van and doesn’t want any witnesses, then some physical harm could come to the owner. That’s a lot of dope to be misplaced.”
[Source: Mercury News]
The Toyota Sienna and the Dodge Grand Caravan are neck-in-neck to become the top selling minivan of 2011. What it will come down to will most likely be determined by parts availability and end-of-year consumer deals… and perhaps a fleet transaction could pull one automaker ahead of the rest?
Here’s what it looks like so far. As of the end of October, the Dodge Grand Caravan was in first place with 92,930 sales, followed closely by the Toyota Sienna with 91,955 sales. In third is the Honda Odyssey with 86,436 sales and in fourth is the Chrysler Town & Country with 78,255 sales.
There are a few factors that could make or break this race for the top spot. The first is parts availability, and with the earthquake and tsunami drastically affecting production, Japanese minivan sales could suffer. Another is end of year deals, and to really make a push for the close of 2011, both Toyota and Dodge could pull out some pretty sweet sale prices to give the automakers’ respective vehicles an edge in the competition. Finally, fleet sales could turn out to be the secret weapon that drives one competitor out above the rest. Dodge, Chrysler and Toyota sell minivans to fleets, but Honda doesn’t, so a final fleet push could be just what cinches the race.
What minivan do you think will win the race? And is Chrysler crazy for having announced it will discontinue the Grand Caravan?
[Source: Automotive News]
Produced at Toyota’s Princeton, Indiana plant, the Sienna has long been a top seller in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Now, scheduled early this November, South Korea will mark the Sienna’s first distribution outside of North America.
Toyota has been exporting U.S. built vehicles since 1988 and the addition of South Korea bumps the number of countries that will receive U.S. built Toyota vehicles to 19. Models that are currently exported included the Toyota Avalon sedan of Georgetown, Kentucky, the Sequoia SUV of Princeton, Indiana and the Tacoma/Tundra pickup of San Antonio, Texas.
Yoshimi Inaba, president and COO of Toyota Motor North America, Inc. is optimistic of Sienna’s success in South Korea, “Toyota’s North American operations are constantly working to identify and expand new export opportunities for the vehicles we produce here, building on our extensive investments in auto production, research and development in the U.S. and helping to maintain a strong, stable base of jobs… With this development and other possible achievements in the future, we hope to continue boosting exports from our North American operations.”
Toyota North America has exported about 100,000 units for calendar year 2010. Initial sales of the Sienna in the South Korean market is a modest 600 units annually.
GALLERY: 2012 Sienna
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the 2009 Honda Odyssey for a possible liftgate malfunction.
The Odyssey’s power liftgate is said to close unexpectedly, and NHTSA has received seven complaints so far, with two of the complaints resulting in injury after the owners were unexpectedly struck with the liftgate. An estimated 20,000 vehicles are affected. A recall may be initiated if NHTSA deems it necessary.
[Source: Automotive News]
The 2012 Ford Focus will get a 1.0L 3-Cylinder Ecoboost engine, but it will only be offered in the North American market. Ford says that the motor will make 118 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque at just 1300 rpm.
An overboost feature will provide short bursts of up to 147 lb-ft of torque, while the flywheel and front pulley are designed to reduce vibrations without the need for a balance shaft. Ford says that the engine will also be used on the European C-Max van and the B-Max crossover.
[Source: Left Lane News]
Fans of Italian cars should prepare to dry heave, as Lancia has just released an image of their new Flavia Cabrio, looking like a poorly rebadged Chrysler 200.
The only engine available is a 175-horsepower 2.4-liter V6 mated to a 6-speed automatic. Thrilling. Lancia will also get a re-badged Chrysler Town & Country, known as the Voyager as part of their rejuvenated, Chrysler-infused lineup. You can check back for AutoGuide’s for live Frankfurt coverage starting on September 13th.
Hit the jump to see the press release below
For next year, Toyota will start offering AC electric outlets as an option on the Prius hybrid so drivers can plug in accessories or appliances to their car. Toyota developed the idea through the March 11 earthquake disaster in which people used the Toyota Estima hybrid van (pictured above) as a source of emergency electricity when the power went out.
Toyota eventually wants to add the AC outlet to the entire hybrid line, however the option will only be offered in Japan initially because of concerns regarding different voltages and safety regulations. Toyota demonstrated the option earlier today in the city of Sendai with the Prius was equipped with Japan’s standard 100-volt AC plug. The car was able to power appliances such as a fan, hotpot and refrigerator. Toyota officials noted that with one full tank of gasoline, the Prius can supply power at full output for two days.
[Source: Automotive News]