By Charles Krome
While there were no doubt plenty of newsworthy vehicle introductions at the recent New York International Auto Show, one of the most important announcements at the event didn’t have anything to do with a specific new car or truck: It was the launch of the latest component of the Hyundai Assurance program, which now guarantees the trade-in value of the automaker’s new vehicles. The move is a key part of Hyundai’s shift away from being a “value brand” that competes primarily on affordability to acting more as a mainstream player that also can attract some premium buyers.
As part of this effort, the trade-in program also effectively replaces the previous Hyundai Assurance campaign, which offered protection to buyers in case of a sudden job loss.
By Chris Haak
About a year ago, Kia ventured into new territory with its first mainstream vehicle above the $30,000 line. The brand that was once proud to tout its Rio subcompact as the cheapest car sold in America was on its way upmarket, where the profit margins are fatter, where buyers don’t default to your vehicles
Fast forward a year later, and the 2011 Sorento has firmly established itself as Kia’s flagship vehicle in the US. Not only is it the most expensive Kia sold in the US, but it’s also the company’s best-selling vehicle, and the Korean automaker’s first US-built vehicle. From the 2011 Sorento’s launch in January 2010 through December 31, some 108,202 of the attractive crossovers found buyers. The next-best selling Kia was the Forte compact, which had 68,500 sales, or 37 percent fewer.
By Charles Krome
I can still see it sitting in my driveway, “a creature so fearsome, so terrible, so mind-bendingly large that those of you with weak constitutions may want to leave the—” … oh, wait a minute … that’s actually from an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. But it does give you a hint of the kind of thing that was running through my head when the friendly folks from Chevrolet dropped off my latest tester.
This was the biggest of the big boys, a heavy-duty Silverado 3500 dually with a 6.6-liter Duramax diesel V8, four-wheel drive, a crew cab and the 8-foot-long bed. All told, the monster stretched 259 inches in length—essentially a Honda Fit parked in front of a Smart fortwo—and weighed in at a tidy 7,878 lbs.
By Chris Haak
On the sidelines of the 2011 New York International Auto Show, I had the opportunity to sit down for a brief interview with Mark Reuss, the president of GM North America. Going into the interview, I knew a bit about Reuss’ background; he’s famously the son of former GM president Lloyd Reuss, and he’s an engineer by training (having led engineering efforts in GM’s large luxury vehicles and created the GM Performance Division that spawned the likes of the V-series Cadillacs). He also served a stint in GM’s Asia-Pacific region, leading the company’s operations in Australia and New Zealand and serving as Holden’s managing director for about two years.
My conversation with him occurred just a few hours after he had revealed the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu and Malibu Eco to the US media. Although, like all new-vehicle press conferences, the Malibu reveal was scripted and teleprompter-driven, Reuss was calm and at-ease when taking questions. His easy conversational style, free of management-speak buzzwords like “synergy” and “efficiency,” was refreshing to hear from a senior person. He came across as an intelligent guy who knows what needs to be done to move GM forward as the company heads toward General Motors Company’s second anniversary this summer.
By Roger Boylan
The last RAV4 I was in was the original cute ute, a ‘97 with a stick shift, a bare-naked spare tire stuck to its backside and 120 horses under the hood. It was solid enough for its small size, but pretty noisy on the highway, with mediocre interior comfort and, as I recall, fuel economy that was OK, no more. But it had Energizer Bunny-like endurance, and aging models can be had cheap, which is why I still see them gathering bird poo under wilting trees in our local student ghetto, where beerstained sofas and old cars go to die.
Over in the posher precincts is where you must seek today’s RAV4, although you might not recognize it when you find it. It’s about as different from its humble ancestor as it could be, short of having evolved into a Lamborghini, or a bus–of both of which it could be said to have elements, being much faster, especially in the V6 version, than its predecessor, and offering a more spacious interior than the old RAV, while remaining manageably compact externally.
By Chris Haak
There was too much to cover everything that happened in New York in separate articles, while still doing everything justice, so we’ll delve into some bullet points. We already noted a few news items in the introductory post for day one, but let’s dig a big deeper into those.
The day began with the opening breakfast, and Nissan’s Chairman of the Americas, Carlos Tavares – a potential replacement for Renault’s newly-departed COO Patrick Pelata, who was taken down by that company’s spy scandal. There wasn’t much to report from there, but Tavares did note that Nissan would resume accepting Leaf reservations in that car’s launch states on May 1. He also added that the Infiniti JX crossover – which will be the brand’s first three-row crossover – will be produced in the US. Tavares discussed some vehicle-production shifts that will move Frontier and XTerra production from Smyrna, Tennessee to Canton, Mississippi. That will then allow the next-generation Rogue to shift production from Japan to Tennessee, which is part of Nissan’s plan to increase production in the Americas from 1.1 million units to 1.7 million units. By 2015, 85 percent of Nissan vehicles sold in the Americas will be built here, up from 69 percent currently.
By Chris Haak
Back in January, Honda used the Detroit Auto Show to debut lightly-disguised concept versions of its 2012 Civic coupe and sedan. We covered that here already back then, so there’s no need to rehash all of that. In a nutshell, the new Civic is safer, more comfortable, and more efficient than the car it replaces. It’s also slightly – and I mean slightly – better looking than the 2011 car, with a bit more character and visual interest, and more resolved C-pillar treatment, particularly for the sedan.
The car actually went on sale today, April 20, so it’s a good thing that Honda’s press conference wasn’t bumped to day two of the show. The biggest news that we got today on the Civic was pricing and fuel economy figures, neither of which had been confirmed until now.
By Chris Haak
Nissan’s Versa, which competes against subcompacts such as the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris, has the value proposition of being the “big small car,” and indeed, the current Versa is a relative value. It’s a good car that accomplishes the rare feat of “small on the outside, big on the inside,” but is saddled with oddball looks, as if its designers spent a little too much time with its French cousins from Renault.
Today in New York, the Japanese automaker showed its next-generation Versa (also known as Tiida in other parts of the world). It’s clear that the 2012 Versa’s designers tried very hard to give the car a more fluid, dynamic, upscale shape. It’s not clear, however, that they completely succeeded.