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Five Biggest Impacts from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show

January 15th, 2016

Last week I wrote about seven Detroit Auto Show debuts to watch. The only one I got remotely wrong was the 2017 Chrysler Town & Country, but that was only because FCA pulled a fast one and changed that vehicle’s name to the Chrysler Pacifica.

Here are the five vehicles that made the biggest impact at the North American International Auto Show, which runs through Jan. 24 at Detroit’s Cobo Hall.

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New Honda Ridgeline Could Redefine the Midsize Pickup

January 15th, 2016

2017-Honda-Ridgeline

The Honda Ridgeline is all the truck you’ll ever need.

Not the truck that languished on dealer lots between 2003 and 2014. That Ridgeline lasted far longer than it should have and became something of a laughing stock in the truck world.

It’s unfortunate, really, because the past-generation Ridgeline was good enough at doing the things most truck owners do with their trucks. By which I mean get stuck in the same traffic jams as the rest of us, sometimes while hauling a couch.

The new Honda Ridgeline, which debuted at the North American International Auto Show, is similar, but could also revolutionize how we see midsize trucks.

If people buy it, that is.

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Yes, That’s a Volvo

January 11th, 2016

2016-Volvo-XC90

Volvo is about to become more popular than ever.

The Swedish automaker gained a reputation for safety as early as the 1920s, when Managing Director Assar Gabrielsson said,

Cars are driven by people. The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo, therefore, is and must remain, safety.

That’s a sentiment that remains with the company to this day. More recently, the principles of design, comfort, and performance have also played a large part in the company’s strategy.

With new models on the way, Volvo is evolving from the old days of “boxy-but-good” to a new era of innovation in technology and design.

The 2016 XC90 is a bit of an oxymoron because it’s the first all-new vehicle the company has introduced since being sold by Ford and picked up China’s Geely Automotive. Even under Chinese ownership, the XC90 is the most Swedish Volvo the company has built in decades.

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Mercedes-Benz’s Turnaround Looks a Lot Like Audi’s

January 7th, 2016

2017-mercedes-benz-gls

There’s a German automaker in the midst of a turnaround. The company has redesigned many of its vehicles and has plans to introduce additional models, including sedans, crossovers, and SUVs.

The brand is also forging ahead with plans for dedicated electric vehicles and cars with advanced autonomous driving technology.

The front-end design has evolved over the years into a signature look that the automaker hopes to expand into new models, while continuing to push design limits in future concept vehicles.

The automaker has also sworn off trends such as convertible SUVs and 2-door SUVs in favor of more traditional sedans, SUVs, and crossovers.

We’re talking about the new face of Mercedes-Benz.

But could the German car giant be gunning for some of Audi’s success?

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Downgraded Tow Capacity Leads to Lawsuit for GM

December 30th, 2015

2014 GMC Sierra 1500 denali-crewcab-front-view-towing

Think of all the numbers you have to compare when shopping for a truck. You’ve got engine displacement, horsepower, torque, transmission speeds, fuel economy, gear ratios, cargo capacity, and, of course, towing capacity.

Not all of those numbers are relevant to all truck shoppers. Some guys just need to handle an occasional Home Depot run, while others need to routinely max out their rig’s tow capacity.

The guys and gals who buy trucks based on how much they can tow put a lot of trust into the fact that the ratings are accurate. Tow ratings are based on the amount of torque it takes to launch from a stop, keep a trailer going at speed, and slow it to a stop within an acceptable distance.

Obviously some dangerous situations can arise if a truck tows more weight than intended. But what happens if an automaker advertises a high tow rating, sells trucks based on that rating, and then revises it downward later?

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End of 2015 a Great Time to Buy a Used Car

December 24th, 2015

2013 Audi Q3 vail-28If you have any money left over after buying all those holiday presents, now is a great time to consider buying a used car.

Prices Are Down
As reported here at CarGurus, the average price of a used car is down approximately 3 percent from the annual peak in May 2015. Prices are projected to drop by another 1.5 percent through the end of January.

Don’t delay, though. As mentioned in more detail below, you might want to get that used car before Dec. 31, if possible, for tax reasons.

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More Changes Coming for Ford Trucks

December 21st, 2015

2016_ford_f-150

Ford sure enjoys shaking up the truck industry.

In recent years, the maker of the best-selling trucks in America was the first to introduce a turbocharged V6 to the full-size pickup market and build a truck with aluminum body panels.

Both moves were huge gambles–Ford risked the loss of market share, not to mention the ridicule of truck buyers and competitors alike.

An amazing thing happened, though. People continued to buy the trucks in droves and competitors have announced plans to follow Ford’s path.

Now it looks like Ford will push the limits again.

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Don’t Be the Next Victim of a Rollover Accident

December 18th, 2015

Jeep-grand-Cherokee_rollover

Cars can roll over more easily than you might think.

In the time it takes to blink, a driver can be cruising the highway and then suddenly find his or her vehicle tumbling side-over-side.

According to SaferCar.gov, 33 percent of all passenger-vehicle fatalities are caused by rollovers.

You might read that and assume it won’t happen to you because you’re a safe driver, but let me tell you a quick story.

Earlier this week, on her way to work, my wife witnessed a rollover accident. The morning was cold and snowy, but the highway looked dry. As she merged onto the highway, she discovered it was covered in a thin, invisible layer of ice. A brand new SUV in front of her began to fishtail. The vehicle, moving at about 60 miles per hour, slid onto the soft shoulder, which sent it into an airborne flip. The SUV landed on its roof, crushing it, then rolled at least four times before coming to rest upside down.

It all happened within a matter of seconds.

That could have been my wife. Or your wife. Or you. Rollover accidents are especially scary, but there are ways to minimize your risk.

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Mazda Steps Forward to Take on the Subaru Outback

December 17th, 2015

mazda-koeru-front

The original Subaru Outback ultimately changed the landscape of the auto business. That first Outback was just a Legacy wagon with a lift and some body cladding, but it ultimately resulted in a whole new class of vehicle.

The irony here is that Subaru is the only automaker to see major commercial success with the sedan-like crossover. Others have tried, but so far the Outback is the only car of its kind to routinely sell in large volumes year after year, and it has evolved today into one of the best all-wheel-drive family wagons/crossovers that money can buy.

It’s a lucrative market but no one else has succeeded with an Outback-like wagon because no one else can do it like Subaru.

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EPA Scrutinizes BMW X5 Diesel: It’s Approved!

December 15th, 2015

2014-bmw-x5-xdrive35d

I don’t envy the automaker trying to get a diesel approved for the U.S. market right now.

The Environmental Protection Agency is on high alert after Volkswagen managed to dupe it and sell a half-million highly polluting cars right under its nose. Now, any automaker that hopes to sell diesels in the U.S. will first need to submit the vehicles in question to rigorous examination and testing by the highly suspicious agency before being given the green light to stock dealers.

Getting the EPA’s sign-off was supremely difficult even before the VW scandal. It was so hard, in fact, that Volkswagen deemed it easier to engineer a cheat device than to engineer a car that could pass the strict emissions requirements.

Automotive News opened a story on the topic with this quote:

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