We’ve all been there: January 1st nears, excitement builds, and you set a lofty goal for yourself. Eat healthier. Hit the gym 5 days a week. Engage friends and family in conversations that are not exclusively about cars. You know, your typical New Year’s resolution. In the following weeks, Whole Foods will record record sales and gym memberships will spike. But by mid-February or so, we’ll return to our old habits, and my loved ones will still be trying to remember which seemingly random collection of letters and numbers is made by Cadillac and which by Mercedes-Benz. Our resolutions—promises we made and agreed to stand behind—have become more akin to suggestions. They’re now goals to strive for and be congratulated on, not requirements by which to live. Don’t feel too bad: as it turns out, the auto industry isn’t too different.
In The Tempest, William Shakespeare once wrote, “what’s past is prologue.” The quotation implies that one’s history can dictate his or her future actions. It’s written outside the United States National Archives Building, and I had a particularly intelligent and entertaining professor who reflected on it often. Looking at the auto industry, it’s clear that the sentiment extends beyond Shakespeare’s verse.
New automotive technologies emerge every year. We covered some of them last week. Some, like the airbag or the seat belt, have ushered in a new era of motoring, changing the landscape forever. Others fall flat—despite Saab’s creative thinking with the 9000 Prometheus, steering via joystick never really got off the ground (the Prometheus didn’t even make it to production). What I find most interesting is looking back on these advancements and seeing how they’ve impacted cars today, despite their often lackluster starts.
Sales of new vehicles, from nearly all brands, fell a combined 6 percent last month, but one brand defied the trend and set a new sales record.
Jeep managed to move more than 90,000 vehicles in May, a new record and an increase of nearly 14 percent over the same month last year. Even more remarkable is that May 2016 was two days shorter than May 2015.
Ford sales were down 6.6 percent, GMC went down 14.3 percent, and Chevrolet fell 18.6 percent. FCA’s other brands didn’t fare as well as Jeep, with Chrysler falling 18.5 percent and Fiat down 18.9 percent. Ram sales were flat.
All these percentages can be translated into one very interesting fact: Americans have fallen in love with Jeep.
The automotive world is currently in a state of flux. The business giants of Europe, Asia, and (perhaps most of all) Detroit may have made their billions off the internal combustion engine, but now, in order to stay relevant in a changing social and geologic climate, they are tasked with finding clean alternatives to petrol-powered products. Henry Ford may have put the world on wheels, but now automotive magnates are becoming responsible for helping keep the world healthy.
To most people, spring means longer days, sunny skies, and flowers in bloom. For us, however, spring also means great deals on outgoing model-year vehicles. While some cars, like the Honda Civic and Mitsubishi Outlander, received enormous changes between the 2015 and 2016 model years, others enjoyed more modest enhancements or were complete holdovers from the year before. It’s these cars — the unchanged models — that we want to find.
Every neighborhood has one. The guy with the monstrous SUV and a driveway covered in ice. No matter how shiny their brand new snow-blower is (they usually have a snowblower), when the white stuff starts to accumulate, they hop in their Suburban, step on the gas, and let the 4-wheel drive do the rest. The machine specifically designed to clear driveways never even gets primed — why let your hands freeze pushing that contraption around when your SUV isn’t even really stuck?
We had just finished considering whether or not our current car would be held in such high regard if it came packaged with a different badge on the steering wheel. Would it elicit stares and draw myriad cell phones, all pointed in our direction, as it does now? Surely, plush carpeting and massaging seats are common enough nowadays to be found in a Kia K900 or a Hyundai Equus, let alone one of the more and more ubiquitous luxury brands. Was our car really so special?
Then we saw it. Driven by what very well may have been a chauffeur, a brand spanking new Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG pulled alongside us and, sure enough, compelled my co-driver to utter the following:
Do you know what Boston-area people are really sick of right now? Snow. There has been lots and lots of snow the past month. Too much snow—and this isn’t your everyday winter fatigue talking. We have a very good reason to be done with snow here in Boston. New England suburbs and cities are cramped enough without 7+ feet of snow. Snow currently occupies every parking space in city, traffic couldn’t be worse, and the MBTA (public transportation for the Greater Boston area) will not be able to operate at full capacity for close to a month. Bostonians are taking it on the chin, and there’s only so much more this we can take.