CES 2015 might as well be called the 2015 Automotive Tech Show, as OEMs and tech companies flock to show off their cutting-edge wares in Las Vegas.
Motorhead Magazine somehow finagled a complete shutdown of the Mazda Turnpike in Japan. What’d they do with it? Raced a bunch of cars, naturally. Watch every commuter’s dream brought to life in this cool video.
There are countless Car of the Year awards handed out each year, and naturally, Europe has its own way of doing things. Every year, a panel of jurists representing seven publications in seven different languages and seven different countries get together to name their joint Car of the Year. The panel released a list of 32 candidates back in July, and it has now whittled that list down to seven nominees.
The list consists of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, the Citroën C4 Cactus (shown), the Ford Mondeo, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the Nissan Qashqai, the Renault Twingo and the Volkswagen Passat. Of those seven, only two are available in the US – those being the Mondeo (sold Stateside as the Fusion) and the C-Class. The Passat is an entirely different model in North America, the Qashqai isn’t offered here, Citroën and Renault don’t even participate in our market and the BMW 2 Series is represented here only by the completely different coupe and convertible.
Expect the one and only recipient of the 2015 Car of the Year award to be announced at the Geneva Motor Show this coming March, and while you’re waiting, you can place your guesses for the eventual winner in Comments.
Now there’s an attention-grabbing headline, eh? Although the answer to the riddle – pickup trucks and SUVs – might be somehow deflating, the numbers involved deserve a going over. According to TrueCar’s figures (click on the table to enlarge), six of the year’s ten best-selling vehicles in the US that sell for a transaction price above $50,000 are body-on-frame, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the only foreigner to crack the top five.
Every enthusiast knows that pickup trucks are ‘Murica’s most popular vehicle by a colossal margin, and there have been plenty of reports about the popularity of luxuriously appointed trucks and SUVs, but compare these figures from TrueCar: 70 percent of Chevrolet Tahoe sales have a transaction price above $50K, and The Bowtie is expected to make $3.9 billion in revenue on 66,945 predicted high-dollar sales; 95.1 percent of E-Class sales break $50K, so the German company will make $4.0 billion on 67,006 predicted sales in that pricing sphere. It’s about the only time you’ll see the Tahoe ranked right next to Mercedes’ bread-and-butter sedan. Ram is ahead of those two with $4.2B coming from $50K-plus sales. The Ford F-Series does almost as much revenue as the next three combined, with an expected $10.8 billion coming from sales of trucks over $50K – more than a quarter of the model’s total sales, when a base F-150 can be had for about $26,000.
Yes, the Germans make a lot more money on fewer sales, but considering the comparison, the bottom line isn’t too troubled by such facts. Weighing like-for-like, the full-size Ford walks it in every category; elsewhere, the Chevrolet Silverado outsells the Ram, but the Ram outsells the Chevy by 6.7 percent above $50K. And for all the flak GMC takes over swapping out grilles, the Sierra also outsells the Chevy in the well-appointed segment, 16.1 percent of sales versus 11 percent – the Professional Grade brand is a huge profit center for The General. You’ll find more info in the TrueCar press release below.
Since Takata has decided not to take the lead concerning potential issues with its airbag inflators, the automakers have. Perhaps that’s unsurprising, since it’s the automakers, not Takata, that will take a beating on the dealership floor if consumers decide its models are a health hazards. The Detroit News reports that Toyota, Honda, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Subaru met in a hotel conference room near the Detroit Metropolitan Airport last week to sort out a way to understand the technical issues involved.
So far, faulty airbag inflators have been ruled the cause of five deaths and 50 injuries around the world, but neither Takata nor investigators understands exactly why the inflators are malfunctioning. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently asked Takata to issue a national recall, Takata declined, citing a minuscule failure rate and the fact that it’s still investigating the issue. Toyota and Honda then made an industry-wide appeal for “a coordinated, comprehensive testing program” that would pinpoint the problem inflators and get them replaced, and that’s what the Detroit meeting was about.
Numerous issues, however, will make this a long row to hoe: simply getting the parts to replace the nearly 20 million inflators in cars recalled around the world so far – even working with other suppliers – will take a years, but more importantly, no one knows if the replacement inflators currently being installed will suffer the same issue. Answers will hopefully come quickly with Takata, the ten automakers and NHTSA all independently investigating the problem.
Car and Driver is keeping new blood pumping into its annual 10Best cars list with three new entries making it on for 2015 and a perennial favorite falling off. Among the biggest shocks this year is that the BMW 3 Series and 4 Series are no longer named, despite years of some portion of that lineup earning a mention. In another surprise, the Tesla Model S (specifically in S 60 trim to fit under the $80,000 cost cap) makes it to the 2015 roster and is the only electrically motivated member of the group.
Despite the loss of the 3 Series, BMW isn’t entirely shut out this year, because the M235i gets its name on the list. Car and Driver argues that the little coupe feels like a welcome throwback to the E46 chassis M3 of the early 2000s. In addition to the Model S, the final newbie to the annual group is the 2015 Ford Mustang GT. The inclusion of these new members knocks the Audi A6/A7 family and Ford Fiesta ST out from the 2014 rundown.
The 2015 10Best cars list certainly seems to have something for everyone from the hot hatch fan to the family man and even the green car driver, thanks to the addition of the Tesla. Head over to Car and Driver to read its detailed explanations for each vehicle’s inclusion, but if you’ve got a difference of opinion or just really like the list, let us know in Comments.
Lengthy vehicle development times make it difficult for automakers to cut and run from the supplier.
You might expect automakers to be fleeing any connection with beleaguered supplier Takata in the wake of the company’s exploding airbag inflator crisis. After all, with a Senate hearing, pending lawsuit, plummeting stock value and demand for a national recall, the tier-one supplier isn’t at its strongest right now. However, years of cooperation mean that automakers are standing by Takata, and necessity may be playing a role, as well.
About 39 percent of Takata’s business comes from airbags, and seatbelts make up another significant chunk of the operation too, says Bloomberg. The long-term relationships and lengthy vehicle development times make it difficult for automakers to cut and run from the supplier. “Takata has so much product breadth that I don’t really see that they could just disappear,” said AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan to Bloomberg.
For example, Takata helped develop the unique front center airbag with General Motors in models like the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave. Outside of safety tech, it is also a partner with Ford on the adaptive steering system available on the upcoming 2015 Edge.
These long-lasting partnerships make change difficult now that there’s a problem. According to Reuters, automakers claim it would take a year or longer to set up with a different supplier for replacement airbag inflators. Switching to a completely different part for the repairs might not be a viable option either, because of the engineering time needed.
BMW is taking action, though. According to Reuters, the Bavarian brand is working with the supplier to move inflator production from Monclova, Mexico, to a Takata factory in Freiburg, Germany. The Mexican plant may be the source of some of the faulty parts.