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When an automaker launches a new car, particularly one as iconic as the Chevrolet Corvette, it takes a risk. Will people actually buy it? Will customers be turned off by the new styling? Or has the market simply moved on to something new? If General Motors Company [NYSE:GM] had any concerns beforehand it certainly won’t now, as first-year C7 Corvette production already gets close to the last three years of C6 production combined.
According to Corvette Blogger, a graphic shown by GM reveals that 37,288 Corvettes were built in the 2014 model year alone. That’s the third-best number in the modern era (since 1985′s 39,729 sales) after 2005 (37,372) and 2007 (40,561). Both of those totals were C6 Corvettes, obviously, but shows initial demand for the C7 is right on the money, given its similarity to the 2005 Corvette’s sales. Additionally, 35 percent of buyers went for the car’s seven-speed manual, and white has shot up as the second most popular color choice—behind red.
Car sales naturally decline over time, though the C6 was hugely affected by the financial crisis of 2008-2009 and never really recovered. Sales ticked over in the teens since then, so GM will be glad to see a resurgence with the latest C7. It also shows that buyers have responded warmly to the latest Corvette’s styling, whose angular lines and square-shaped rear lights caused some consternation when initially revealed.
That the Corvette has become even more of a performance bargain compared to previous generations—providing 460 horsepower for $53,995—certainly helps, as do innovations like cylinder deactivation to save gas and a hugely improved interior over the C6. It’s comfortably the best-selling sports car in the segment too, with January to July deliveries over three times greater than that of Porsche’s 911. With a 650-horsepower Z06 on the way, a new eight-speed automatic, and production in full swing, the C7 certainly has a bright few years ahead of it.
Should you drive with your pickup truck’s tailgate up or down? It’s an age-old controversy that’s divided drivers for decades. Traditionalists will swear you should leave the tailgate down. Makes sense, right? It would seem to let the air flow more cleanly over the body and through the bed. But there’s also a school of thought that argues trucks are designed to look and operate in a specific manner, and modern design techniques can help channel the airflow properly. So don’t mess with all of that: Leave the tailgate up. Wondering which is true?
To solve this tailgate debate, we went inside the wind tunnel at Ford to test the aerodynamics of the 2015 Ford F-150. The model’s exterior design manager Brad Richards explained that the new truck was designed with purposeful edges and shapes that look imposing, yet still allow the F-150 to maintain strong aerodynamics. “We think this is the toughest F-150 by far, but also the most efficient,” Richards said.
All of this matters, as loyal Ford truck buyers expect the F-150 to look a certain way, but the Blue Oval is also projecting fuel economy gains thanks to the new truck’s use of lightweight aluminum. And no matter how light the truck is, fuel-economy gains could be wiped out with poor aerodynamics. With that in mind, Ford styled the truck to maintain its beefy look, but also beat its predecessor in the wind tunnel. Ford paid close attention to a new, lower air dam, mirrors that were redesigned “a dozen times” and a small lip on the rear tailgate. Acting as a spoiler, the lip allows air to cleanly detach from the body. Thanks to the smoke wand in the wind tunnel, you can actually see the difference tailgate up versus tailgate down in our video below.
Ford remains tight-lipped about the F-150′s fuel economy numbers, but it admits dropping the tailgate wouldincrease drag by about eight per cent – and sandbag fuel economy. Even for older models without the fancy spoiler, you’re hurting efficiency and lowering your gas mileage when driving with the tailgate down, argues Richards. So there’s your verdict, straight from the wind tunnel: Leave the tailgate up.
Would you buy your car again?
If you own a Mercedes, your relationship with your car may be something akin to love (admit it, you’ve gazed longingly at that finely engineered machine). But if you own an Acura or a Dodge, you might feel a little, er, less adoring towards your auto, according to new data.
A survey released Tuesday by the American Customer Satisfaction Index revealed that customers’ satisfaction with both domestic and foreign automakers hit a five-year low this year, falling 1.2% from last year to a score of 82 out of 100. What’s more, satisfaction with 80% of the 21 car brands measured fell as compared to last year (Acura 7267, -0.11% saw the deepest decline at -7%, Cadillac GM, +0.52% the second-steepest decline at -6%), while satisfaction rose for only 10% of the car brands, including Chevrolet and Buick. “The decline among automakers is widespread,” the report revealed. The ACSI Automobile Report 2014 is based on interviews with 4,360 randomly selected consumers who were asked to evaluate their recent purchase (within the last three years) and experiences with automobiles.
Forrest Morgeson, ACSI’s director of research, says that part of the reason we’re seeing this decline is that during the height of the recession automakers were offering a variety of incentives and perks for buying cars, and now many of those have dried up. And now consumers find themselves less satisfied with their auto purchases because they’re not getting as many incentives when buying a car. Furthermore, he adds that the myriad recalls impacting the auto industry recently have made consumers less satisfied with the industry as a whole.
The most-loved car makers include Mercedes-Benz DDAIY, +0.66% which holds its No. 1 spot from last year despite a 2% decline in customer satisfaction, and Subaru 7270, +0.67%Morgeson says that the dominance of Mercedes-Benz isn’t surprising, as luxury cars — thanks to often superior quality and service — often dominate the rankings. Subaru and Volkswagen VLKAF, +0.15% — though not luxury cars — tend to have smaller market share than many bigger brands in America, which helps with customer satisfaction rankings, and very loyal drivers (Morgeson likens them to Apple computer devotees in some ways), which puts them high on the satisfaction list.
On the flip side, Acura, which saw a 7% decline in customer satisfaction over last year, is the most unsatisfying car company to consumers, the ACSI revealed.
Morgeson says that this was a surprising finding and that the researchers aren’t sure why it ranked so low (last year, it ranked in the middle), but says that it’s possible that this brand simply doesn’t meet consumers’ expectations as much as other luxury brands. Acura was closely followed by Chrysler’s Dodge FIATY, +1.18% which saw a 1% decline in customer service over a year prior, and by Jeep and Audi. Some of these brands’ rankings were not surprising because less expensive brands tend to rank lower on the list on average, as they often have slightly lower quality and service than do luxury brands, says Morgeson. Acura, Dodge, Jeep, Audi, BMW and Cadillac did not respond to a request for comment, and Mazda could not be reached for comment.
Automakers are far from the most disliked industries among consumers; that honor goes to Internet (63 out of 100) and cable and pay TV (65) providers and airlines (69). And even the worst-ranked automakers don’t score as low as some of the worst-ranked of those companies.
Still, there’s room for improvement. Unfortunately, for recent car buyers, Morgeson says that one of the best ways for consumers to ensure that they get a car they’re satisfied with is to do their homework before buying. Sites like Edmunds.com, AutoTrader.com and Cars.com can help you get started with the research. Consumer Reports also provides excellent reviews of cars. But, he adds, that voicing your complaints can help you get what you want with a car you own now; escalate your complaints to a higher authority if you’re not getting what you want from the automaker.
The number of new mid-size pickup trucks has dwindled in recent years, leaving many analysts to wonder what might have been.
The speculation will end soon, because a new pair of mid-size trucks is finally nearing showrooms–and in due course, they will offer a high fuel-efficiency diesel engine as an option.
The launch of the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and 2015 GMC Canyon pickups is just a few months away, and General Motors is expecting these small trucks to have a big impact on the market.
Speaking to WardsAuto, Chevy and GMC marketing managers were confident that the new mid-size trucks would win back customers who have switched to other vehicles as the segment has dwindled.
2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71
The previous-generation Colorado and Canyon departed showrooms in 2012, following the discontinuation of the Ford Ranger and Ram Dakota.
That’s left the aging Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma as the only major players.
With fewer choices available, many buyers switched to full-size pickups and crossovers, GM says, but the company believes these customers’ needs haven’t really changed, and can still be best served by a small truck.
GM hopes to lure those customers back with modern designs and more-efficient powertrains.
At launch, base Colorado and Canyon models will come standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, producing 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque. An optional 3.6-liter V-6 will be good for 305 hp and 269 lb-ft.
2015 GMC Canyon
Buyers will be able to choose between rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. A six-speed manual transmission will be offered on business-focused Work Truck models with rear-wheel drive; the rest will get a six-speed automatic.
By late 2015, the Colorado at least will also get a diesel engine option. The 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder will make it the smallest diesel truck on the market.
The only diesel alternatives are the full-size 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and upcoming Nissan Titan, or even larger heavy-duty trucks. That should make the Chevy appealing to buyers who don’t need such a large vehicle to meet their needs.
Prototypes that catch fire aren’t exactly good for a company’s image. Honda found that out recently when an NSX mule got smoky on the Nurburgring. And now Ford is working to deduce why one of its experimental pickups went up in flames this past week.
The incident occurred during testing in California’s Death Valley – a logical but very inconvenient place to combust – on what appears to be the next-generation of Ford’s Super Duty pickup. A statement released by Ford on Monday confirmed that the automaker is looking into the issue.
RELATED: Check out photos of the upcoming 2015 Ford Super Duty Pickup
According to an eyewitness photographer who snapped these images, the fire started near the driver’s side wheel-well before engulfing the heavily camouflaged truck body in around three minutes. Both driver and passenger exited the vehicle safely. After burning for 21 minutes, the fire finally subsided – leaving only the frame, engine block, and “blobs of melted aluminum” according to Fox News.
Ford hasn’t confirmed that the next-gen Super Duty trucks will utilize aluminum body panels like the F-150, but this incident seems to indicate the lightweight bodies might make the jump. Let’s hope so.
Every pickup truck commercial has the brand trying to convince us that its model is the biggest, brawniest vehicle on the block. But Ford and Ram appear ready to really throw down the gauntlet and scrap over the towing figures for their heavy-duty models, and it could potentially end up in court.
The issue revolves around what it means to be best in class. Ford claims that its 2015 F-450 (pictured above) has a maxtow rating of 31,200 pounds, compared to 30,000 pounds for the Ram 3500 (right). However, both companies market these heavy haulers as having the top towing in their class. According to Automotive News, Ford is threatening legal action if Ram doesn’t back down.
The situation isn’t as simple as just comparing the numbers, though. First, the two companies calculate their towing capacities differently. Ram adheres to the SAE J2807 rating, while Ford uses its own internal system. Although, as the company introduces new models, they are certified using the SAE standard. “When an all-new F-Series Super Duty is introduced, it also will use SAE J2807,” said Ford to Autoblog in an emailed statement.
The second issue hinges on whether the F-450 and Ram 3500 are even in the same class at all. The “best-in-class” boast hinges on both trucks belonging to the Department of Transportation’s Class 3 rules, stipulating that above a gross vehicle weight rating of 14,000 pounds, a model moves into Class 4. Ford claims that the F-450 has a GVWR of exactly that amount. However, according to Automotive News, the company removes the spare tire, tire jack and center console to reach that number.
Ford is sticking to its guns, though. “The 2015 F-450 pickup is a Class 3 (10,001 lbs. – 14,000 lbs. GVWR) dual rear-wheel, chassis-certified pickup truck,” said the company in a statement emailed to Autoblog.
Although, Ram isn’t changing course either. “Our best-in-class claim of 30,000 pounds of towing capacity for the 2014 Ram 3500 stands firm in the 350/3500 segment. Additionally, unlike our competitors, our new 2015 Ram 3500 will hold the title and weight capacity while adhering to the SAE J2807 towing test criteria,” said Ram in a statement emailed to Autoblog.
The 2015 Ford F-150′s little 2.7 EcoBoost V6 will be able to tow 8,500 pounds with 325 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque. Official curb weight a 2015 F-150 SuperCrew Lariat, one of the larger models, is a slim 4,942 lbs. The current 3.7 base V6 is dropped for a 3.5, but the 3.5 EcoBoost and V8 from 2014 will remain.2015 Ford F-150: This Is It
The 2015 Ford F-150 has been revealed. The weight savings are massive, 2.7 liter EcoBoost engine is …Read more
While specifics on the smaller F-150s hasn’t been stated officiall, Ford’s Communications Manager Mike Levine tells us that a 2WD SuperCrew (full four-door) 2WD truck with the 2.7 EcoBoost engine is more like 4,500 pounds. That makes a single cab even leaner.
Just went we thought modern safety gear and consumer demand for huge cargo capacities would preclude the possibility of lightweight trucks coming back, it looks like Ford has made good on their promise to put their half-ton golden-goose on a diet while boosting capacities.
The aluminum-bodied 2015 Ford F-150 full-size pickup truck seems like a big gamble for the company.
The redesigned version of Ford’s best-selling model promises to be more fuel-efficient, but many analysts have asked about aluminum’s cost, durability, and ease of repair.
Yet a new study claims that buyers are, if nothing else, intrigued.
The study from research firm UBS found that buyers don’t care what material their trucks are made of if performance is comparable–but became more interested in aluminum the more they learned about it, according to The Detroit News.
2015 Ford F-150
Researchers found that 36 percent of buyers surveyed didn’t care what material their truck was made of, as long as it offered the same capability. About 19 percent preferred steel, 17 percent preferred a mix of steel and aluminum, 3 percent preferred aluminum, and 25 percent said they needed more information.
But the results changed significantly once participants received more information on the2015 F-150′s features.
Forty-three percent of participants said the use of aluminum makes it more likely to buy a truck, while 52 percent of pickup owners who intend to buy a new vehicle in the next six months said they’re extremely likely to consider the 2015 F-150.
Riding on a traditional steel frame, the F-150′s aluminum body is expected to cut up to 700 pounds, which should lead to significant fuel-economy gains. Final specifications and fuel-economy ratings haven’t been released, though.
Neither has pricing, although aluminum costs more than steel. UBS estimates this will add about $600 to the cost of each truck.
Nonetheless, the research firm believes the new F-150 will be quite profitable, claiming pickup buyers are willing to pay an average premium of $3,138 per truck.
That leaves plenty of room for the extra cost of aluminum, although whether buyers will be spooked by potentially higher repair costs remains to be seen. Once the new trucks leave showrooms, body shops will have to retrain and re-equip to work on them.
Buoyed by its success with electric-gasoline hybrid vehicles, Toyota is betting that drivers will embrace hydrogen fuel cells, an even cleaner technology that runs on the energy created by an electrochemical reaction when oxygen in the air combines with hydrogen stored as fuel.
Unlike internal combustion engines which power most vehicles on roads today, a pure hydrogen fuel cell emits no exhaust, only some heat and a trickle of pure water. Fuel cells also boast greater efficiency than the internal combustion process, which expends about two-thirds of the energy in gasoline as heat.
Toyota’s fuel cell car will go on sale before April next year. Despite advantages that are seemingly compelling, the technology has struggled to move beyond its prototypes after several decades of research and development by industry and backing from governments.
For the auto industry in particular, there have been significant hurdles to commercialization including the prohibitive expense of such vehicles. On top of that, fueling stations are almost nonexistent. Doubters also quibble about the green credentials of fuel cells because hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels.
But Satoshi Ogiso, the engineer leading the Toyota project, is confident there’s a market that will grow in significance over time.
Part of Ogiso’s optimism stems from his background. He worked for 20 years on Toyota’s Prius hybrid.
The Prius, which has an electric motor in addition to a regular gasoline engine, was met with extreme skepticism at the start. But it went on to win over the public as a stylish way to limit the environmental damage of motoring. Worldwide sales of Toyota’s hybrids have topped 6 million vehicles since their debut in 1997.
“The environment has become an ever more pressing problem than in 1997,” Ogiso said in an interview at the automaker’s Tokyo office.
“Hydrogen marks an even bigger step than a hybrid. It is our proposal for a totally new kind of car. If you want to experience this new world, if you want to go green, this is it.”
Toyota, which began working on fuel cells in 1992 but won’t disclose how much it has invested, is not the first automaker to produce such a vehicle. Forklifts powered by fuel cells are becoming more common in factories and fuel cell buses have been trialed in some cities. General Motors Co. has also been working on the technology and Honda Motor Co. already sells the FCX Clarity fuel cell sedan in limited numbers and is planning a new fuel cell car, with a more powerful fuel cell stack, next year.
But Toyota’s decision as the world’s top-selling automaker to start commercial production of a fuel cell car is an important boost to the technology’s prospects for wider adoption. Its release will also win the automaker plaudits for corporate responsibility.
“It works to symbolically enhance the automaker’s ecological image,” said Yoshihiro Okumura, auto analyst at Chiba-gin Asset Management.
Toyota’s still-to-be-officially-named vehicle goes on sale in Japan sometime before April 2015, and within a half year after that in the U.S. and Europe.
The four-seater sedan, while sporting an aggressive grille and fluid body curves, looks pretty much like a regular car. Those who have test driven fuel cell vehicles say they have a powerful torque, with quick acceleration, akin to the thrill of driving a sports car. Yet they are quiet like electric cars, purring on the roads with no engine roar.View gallery In this July 14, 2014 photo, a Toyota fuel cell hybrid vehicle is refueled from a mobile hydrogen st …
Ogiso, like many other experts, believes that reliance on gasoline is not sustainable in the long-run particularly with rapid growth in vehicle ownership in developing nations, which could translate into hundreds of millions of additional cars on the roads globally.
Working on the Prius and the fuel cell, he said, was a similar process: Painstakingly tackling the challenge of packaging all the special parts needed for a new type of car.
Like the initial years of the Prius, subsidies and tax breaks are expected to substantially lower the fuel cell price tag in Japan.
Ogiso said at the beginning it cost more than 100 million ($1 million) to build just a test car.
The planned commercial model will sell for about 7 million yen ($70,000). Initially, Toyota had said the car might cost as much as 10 million yen ($100,000). Overseas prices have not yet been announced.
Factoring in subsidies and tax breaks, buyers might be able to get the fuel cell for about 5 million yen ($50,000), said Okumura, the Chiba-gin analyst.
That is still more than double the Prius, which with no frills sells for a little above 2 million yen ($20,000). It no longer gets green subsidies but still is eligible for a 100,000 yen ($1,000) tax break in Japan. Plug-in versions, which sell for nearly 3 million yen ($30,000), get bigger discounts, totaling as much as 420,000 yen ($4,200).View gallery In this July 10, 2014 photo, Toyota Motor Corporation Managing Officer Satoshi Ogiso looks at the im …
Toyota has not given sales projections but says interest in the fuel cell has been strong.
Apart from cost, the other big drawback is lack of hydrogen fueling stations. Only about 30 of them exist throughout Japan so far, although the government is leading a push to get more built in coming months.
Lack of charging stations is also a weakness for electric cars but there are fewer obstacles to establishing and supplying that infrastructure because electricity networks are already in place.
That is one of the reasons why automakers such as Nissan Motor Co. and Tesla Motors are pushing electric vehicles as the most practical way to be a green driver.
“We are a little bit skeptical,” Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said of fuel cells. “Who’s going to build the infrastructure?”
Selling 500 or 1,000 fuel cell vehicles a year might be easy, but getting sales to mass levels, such as 500,000 vehicles or more a year, would be difficult, he said.
Toyota, however, counters that electric cars tend to have limited cruise ranges, relegating them to a niche. Hydrogen fueling takes only three minutes versus several hours to charge an electric vehicle.
The planned fuel cell runs about 700 kilometers (430 miles) on a single hydrogen fueling.
Toru Hatano, auto analyst at IHS Automotive in Tokyo overseeing powertrains, forecasts that only several thousand fuel cell cars will sell per year globally.
“There really isn’t anything good that happens for the consumer by getting a fuel cell,” he said, compared with a hybrid’s savings on gas consumption.
Beyond that, Hatano said hydrogen is now mostly produced from fossil fuels.
“You are using energy to create hydrogen, and then using more energy to pressurize it for storage, and so overall you aren’t saving on energy at all.”
But scientists are working on cleaner ways to make hydrogen, and in theory hydrogen is cheap, plentiful and possibly the next-generation fuel for motorists.
But,underlying the surge in U.S. auto sales is a trend that uncovered in a report this week in which it highlighted the top 10 American-made vehicles.
A noticeable shift in the U.S. auto industry - In its report, which focused on automakers whose vehicles were comprised of at least 75% domestic parts and were built in the U.S., Cars.com notes that just 10 vehicles, total, qualified this year. By comparison, this is down from the 30 vehicles that qualified for ranking in 2011. More and more we’re seeing automakers turn to vendors outside the United States’ borders for cheaper parts in order to cut costs and keep vehicle prices from soaring through the roof.
Of course, not every manufacturer has turned to foreign markets for inexpensive goods. As the American-Made Index demonstrates, there are at least 10 vehicles still left that are built with a minimum of 75% made-in-the-USA parts! One, however continues to stand out among the crowd, taking the top honor as the most “American” vehicle in back-to-back years, and in five of the nine years that has compiled its data.
Do you have a guess to venture as to which vehicle this might be?
However, if you said the Ford F-150 then you’ve hit the bull’s-eye.
Keep these biases in mind Before we dive into what makes the F-150 the most “American” vehicle, we should first tackle two of the primary biases behind the report.
On one hand, its data does help provide insight into which automakers are using U.S.-based parts, which, in turn, could provide clues as to what models consumers are more likely to form an emotional attachment to. In theory, by playing up their patriotic ties the automakers behind the 10 vehicles in the report could improve the marketability of their cars.
Also, we have to take into account that Cars.com’s report doesn’t take emotional attachment, brand history, model history, or feelings of brand patriotism into question when compiling its results. It’s merely focusing on where the parts come from, where it’s manufactured, and how many vehicles sold in the U.S. Period! To that end, there are variables which aren’t fully in play here based on Cars.com’s study.
On the other hand, the third criterion in the American-Made Index (beyond just being manufactured with 75% domestic-made parts and being assembled in the U.S.) focused on total sales. The Ford F-150 has been a staple among the best-selling vehicles for decades, so it’s pretty much a lock to either take the top spot of second place each year based solely on that accord.
Why the F-150 is America’s truck Yet, even with the biases inherent in this report it does indeed shed light on America’s best-selling vehicle, the Ford F-150.
There are a number of reasons Ford’s F-150 continues to sit atop the best-sellers list year in and year out.
Secondly, and tying this in with another survey that was released by Polk just a week ago,Ford ranks the highest of all auto manufacturers when it comes to brand loyalty. Per the Polk study, over a 10-year period 64% of consumers who purchased a Ford were likely to purchase another Ford or Ford-brand vehicle as their next vehicle. By comparison, overall brand loyalty as an average dipped to 51%, representing a somewhat overwhelming number of options now present on the market. What this signifies is that Ford is clearly hitting the mark with consumers when it comes to design, value, new technologies, and fuel-efficiency.
Third, Ford is innovative and the F-150 has been a regular stepping stone to showcase its new innovations. For example, the all-new 2015 F-150 was introduced earlier this year with an aluminum frame which replaces its traditional steel frame. The switch removes about 700 pounds from the final product allowing for better fuel efficiency — but, that’s just the beginning. Shedding 700 pound allows customers the ability to readd options that previously would have been a drag on fuel-efficiency, such as beefing up the payload or tow capacity.
Fourth, the aluminum frame also allows Ford to introduce a number of engine options that require less fuel to power the truck, including a 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine and a 5.0-liter V8. These options make its previous 6.2-liter V8 look like a gas-guzzler and give consumers the confidence that they’re buying a fuel-efficient and cutting edge vehicle that’s not going to be obsolete anytime soon.
Finally, there’s a rich and storied history behind the brand and the F-Series. According to Ford, its F-Series had held the top spot as America’s best-selling truck for a ridiculous 37 years and has been America’s top-selling vehicle for the past 32 years. Consistently remaining in the spotlight as America’s top-selling vehicle implies to consumers that it’s a dependable, well-made vehicle — ergo the motto “Built Ford Tough.”
Combined, these factors would appear to indicate that F-150 sales are unlikely to slow anytime soon. As long as Ford remains innovative and continues to procure the majority of its F-150 parts from within the U.S., there’s a good chance it’ll experience a healthy boost in its bottom line from the patriotic connection that many consumers feel toward the brand.