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Archive for the ‘Car Politics’ Category

A New Pacifica and the Future of Chrysler

June 21st, 2016

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Once a mainstay on American highways, Chrysler is now driving toward an uncertain future. Its partnership with Daimler-Benz has been replaced by one with Fiat, and while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has kept its head above water (thanks to America’s obsession with pickup trucks and the unyielding power of Jeep brand loyalty), the rest of the business raises more than a few questions. What is Fiat’s true future in the U.S. market? Will Alfa Romeo and its Giulia succeed today after a reputation for unreliability sunk them in 1995? And with only a midsize sedan with a questionable future, a full-size stalwart in a shrinking segment, and the 2017 Pacifica in a crossover-crazy era, can Chrysler stay afloat?

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New England Motor Press Announces 2016 Winter Cars of the Year

May 31st, 2016

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With this past year being a rare exception, winters in New England are a serious business. So, when the New England Motor Press Association gets together to award the best winter vehicles of the year, the industry takes notice.

Although the typical winter’s day this year was more hospitable than during the past few years, the official winter testing day for NEMPA’s auto experts was still a bitterly cold, windy affair – complete with weather service advisories instructing people to stay inside (just check out our Infiniti QX50 impression for proof). Undeterred, we gathered at Bugsy Lawlor’s Automotion garage to test the best winter rigs of the year.

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Coming Soon: The Fall of the Pickup?

May 12th, 2016

2016 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited Crew Cab 4x4

Remember the build up to the housing market crash in 2007 and 2008? Only a few people saw it coming, while everyone else wrote off the impending doom as an impossible occurrence. Most analysts felt the housing market was simply too big and too strong to fail, but here we are a good eight years later still trying to pick up the pieces.

The next crash won’t be nearly as large in scale and certainly won’t impact the economy of the United States, but it could bring down at least one automaker, put the hurt on thousands of car dealers, and potentially change the landscape of vehicle production in this country.

I’m talking about the death of the pickup.

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Ford’s Mexico Announcement Sparks Controversy

April 11th, 2016

Ford_Fiesta_ST

Ford is moving to Mexico.

Well, not really, but you’d think so based on the reaction of some politicians after Ford announced plans to expand and build more vehicles in Mexico.

The Detroit automaker said it will invest $1.6 billion in a new Mexican facility and create 2,800 jobs by 2020, with construction expected to begin this summer. The plant will build small cars for export to the United States.

This is probably a good development for American car buyers because it means more affordable vehicles on dealer lots. Not everyone sees it that way, though.

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EPA Asks Volkswagen to Build Electric Cars

February 24th, 2016

2015-VW-e-Golf

Volkswagen is like the kid who got caught lying to his parents.

When a kid lies, his parents may punish him by taking away his allowance, making him apologize, and possibly making him pay back the people to whom he lied.

If those punishments don’t work, or if the lie was particularly heinous, a parent might ask his or her child to contribute to solving the problem that caused the lie in the first place.

We all know that VW got caught lying to the government (and its customers) by using technology to cheat emissions tests on nearly 600,000 cars. We’re about five months into the scandal and there still isn’t a plan in place to compensate customers or fix the affected vehicles. Volkswagen will undoubtedly be fined billions of dollars for the lie and face lawsuits, but now the U.S. government has also asked the carmaker to go a step further and build cars that make lying about emissions impossible.

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Cars of the Presidential Candidates

February 15th, 2016

1997_lamborghini_diablo

Today is President’s Day. It’s a day for us to sit back, relax, and contemplate the cars of the presidents.

Well, I guess we are supposed to reflect on all the great things American presidents have accomplished over the last couple of centuries while looking forward to what the next four years could bring.

Presidents typically aren’t known for their cars, because they are chauffeured from early on in their political careers and in their presidential campaigns. They are more familiar with the back seats of luxury SUVs and limos than with the driver’s seat of the Chevrolets and Fords that their constituents drive.

On this President’s Day, let’s take a moment and look at the vehicles of some of the front-runners. Maybe doing so will point us in the direction of who might be best in touch with American drivers.

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NHTSA Administrator Talks Autonomous Driving

February 10th, 2016

MIT Transportation Event

Remember all the recall-related headlines of the past two years? Those manufacturer errors account for only about 2% of deaths on the road. Conversely, 94% of lives lost in motor-vehicle accidents are due to human error. These are startling numbers, which lead to sobering realizations. Back in 1970, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was formed to study our highways and roads in an effort to minimize the risks associated with driving. As technology has advanced, this administration’s scope and responsibilities have advanced as well. Dr. Mark Rosekind, the current NHTSA Administrator, spoke with Bryan Reimer, of the New England University Transportation Center and MIT’s AgeLab, regarding the NHTSA’s role in the current and future state of autonomous driving technology.

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Should We Tax Gas While It’s Cheap?

February 10th, 2016

low_gas_prices

Who doesn’t love low gas prices?

There’s a certain glee that one gets while driving through a city or down a highway and seeing those glowing gas station signs displaying prices that start with a one.

As of this writing, the national average price of regular unleaded is $1.77. You can fill up a thirsty Tahoe for around $45, which is a huge relief when compared with the $100 fill-ups that were common just a few short years ago.

When gas prices are this low, sales of SUVs and pickups go through the roof, while electric vehicles tend to languish on dealer lots for much longer.

The president has a plan that he hopes could spark some EV sales and help reduce consumption of cheap, easily available gasoline. The odds of his plan being implemented, though, aren’t good.

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Volkswagen Scandal Gets Stranger

January 14th, 2016

VW's Matthias Muller

So now Volkswagen didn’t lie.

If you’ve been following the VW emissions saga with even an occasional passing glance, you know that the German automaker was caught in the midst of a lie. There’s incredibly compelling evidence that the company lied to the U.S. government about the emissions of its cars and lied to consumers who purchased those cars.

The problem, of course, was a piece of software that detected when a vehicle was being tested for emissions, allowing the car to emit acceptable levels of exhaust during testing before returning to its normal toxic-fume-spewing self once back on the road.

In the midst of a lawsuit with the United States, VW CEO Matthias Müller now says his company never lied, and the problem can be attributed to a “technical problem.”

Excuse us, but… what?

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GM, Ford Invest in Industry Changing Technology

January 8th, 2016

GM-Lyft

The automotive industry could change more in the next five years than it did in the last 50.

Think about the last five decades. We’ve seen cars get bigger, faster, safer, and more fuel efficient, but we haven’t seen any radical changes in the way cars are built, marketed, sold, or driven. Our car culture is built on a fossil-fueled desire for personal transportation and the freedom to go wherever we please whenever we choose.

Things are changing, though. Ride-sharing programs are gaining in popularity and cars that can drive themselves don’t seem to be very far behind.

Here’s one of the surest signs of coming change: General Motors just placed a $500 million bet that ride sharing is the wave of the future.

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