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    Afterthoughts: LA Auto Show Report Card


    • Which Vehicles Earned A Place On the Honor Roll and Which Ones Need to See the Principal?

    This year's Los Angeles Auto Show proved to be much better than first expected. When the news hit back in October of some the vehicles that were to debut, the show's organizers listed the Buick LaCrosse and Nissan Sentra as the big stars. Oh dear, this year's show was going to be a snoozefest.

     

    But as we saw in the past week, the LA showed proved to be exciting. There were a number of surprises, along with vehicles that stole the show. Of course, there were the vehicles that maybe should have passed on LA Auto Show.

     

    It is that time to grade the vehicles and find out which ones are the top of the class and which ones need to head to detention.

     

    Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio: Incomplete
    Despite Alfa Romeo rolling out the Giulia Quadrifoglio again and providing some juicy information (505 Horsepower, 7:39 lap time on the Nürburgring, $70,000 starting price tag), I still don't believe this car actually exists. Blame Alfa Romeo's track record of pushing back dates. Also, we haven't seen what the lower trim models will look like. The only details are a turbo 2.0L four-cylinder with 276 horsepower and all-wheel drive.

     

    Buick LaCrosse: Incomplete
    This car would get a high grade with an impressive interior, updated 3.6L V6, and a number of new tech and safety features. But there is one thing that is giving me pause; the LaCrosse's exterior. We knew that elements of Avenir concept shown in Detroit would influence the next LaCrosse and they are there. But something is a bit off and I can't put my finger onto it. This is a vehicle that I need to see in person before handing out a final grade.

     

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider: C-
    While Fiat does deserve a lot of credit for making their Miata-based roadster look much different, it badly needs to go back to the drawing board. Yes, it looks like the 60's 124 Spider. But this modern interpretation is ungainly. Also, could Fiat have done a little bit more to the interior? The only item that is saving this from a lower grade? The turbocharged 1.6 from the 500 Abarth.

     

    2017 Ford Escape: C
    Oh Ford, what have you done to the Escape? I understand that you are trying to bring it in line with the Edge, but the new face looks very awkward. On the plus side, the troublesome 1.6L EcoBoost has been shown the door with the 1.5L EcoBoost taking its place.

     

    2017 GMC Canyon Denali: C+
    Having to wait till late 2016 for this model is kind of a disappointment. Also, I'm afraid to see what the pricetag on this luxury version will be. Hopefully, GMC has the luxury appointments that can justify the price.

     

    2016 Honda Civic Coupe: A
    I'm shocked that I like the new Civic Coupe a lot. The production model mostly stays true to the concept minus a couple of things (the large rear wing and center mounted exhaust). It is quite the sharp-looking compact. When was the last time you could say that about a Honda? S2000 maybe?

     

    2017 Hyundai Elantra: C
    I'm getting a bit worried about Hyundai's car designs. The Sonata was a snoozer compared to the last one and new Elantra... well looks like the current one. It seems like they are taking a little bit more risk with their crossovers and I want them to take some of that and put them into their cars once again. But I will say the upcoming Elantra Eco model has me very interested.

     

    2017 Infiniti QX30: B-
    Now I like the standard Q30 as it looks quite sharp. Somehow I don't like the QX30 as much despite it being the same model with just a few inches of added ground clearance. Also, how come I can get AWD on the QX30 and not the Q30?

     

    2017 Kia Sportage: A-
    Kia continues their trend of producing sharp looking vehicles with new Sportage. The interior looks to be a giant leap ahead of the previous model. Oddly, the Sportage doesn't have small-displacement turbo option like the Tucson. One hope I have the new Sportage: Improved ride characteristics.

     

    Lamborghini Huracán LP 580-2: B+
    Rear drive Huracán? Uh, where do I sign up? But I'm wondering why it only produces 398 pound-feet of torque. I know most buy a Lamborghini buy it for looks, but a little bit more torque isn't a bad thing.

     

    2017 Lincoln MKZ: B-
    This was something completely out of left field. I don't think many knew that Lincoln was planning to show off anything besides the Continental (something we expect to see next year). There are some good parts to the 2017 model like the new front end which gives Lincoln a bit more of an identity. There's also this interesting feature of actual buttons for the center stack. (OK, that's a bit cold. But we're glad to see actual buttons again.) But then there are some questionable items. The big one being the 400 horsepower twin-turbo V6. Why? I mean it's awesome, but it also brings up concerns about what Lincoln sees itself as. It is a luxury brand trying to fill a space of what it means to be an American luxury car or is it trying to be like every other luxury car on sale? At least the MKZ was being talked about, something you couldn't say about Lincoln since the Continental concept.

     

    2017 Mazda CX-9: A+
    When I drove the current Mazda CX-9 last year, it was in dire need of a replacement as it was aging quite fast. The new CX-9 looks to be a real contender with sharp looks (bigger CX-5 isn't a bad thing), luxurious interior, and having the full suite of Skyactiv technologies. Doesn't hurt the engine is also turbocharged. Best in show? I think so.

    2017 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class: C
    I know that it's a refresh and appreciate Mercedes improving the SL's interior. But I wish they could have gone a little bit farther with the exterior aside from a new grille. This is a vehicle that deserves more.

     

    2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport/2017 Mirage: D+
    Mitsubishi, I know that you are in the process of a plan to get you back on stable ground and sales are on the rise. But you could have done so much more to these models. A new front end for the Outlander Sport? Four more horsepower and a tweaked front end for the Mirage? A little bit more money in these cars could have done so much to these.

    2016 Nissan Sentra: C-
    During the press conference of the Sentra, Nissan's senior vice president of sales and marketing Fred Diaz said this was the year of the sedan at the company. Oddly the only model we remember from 'year of the sedan' is the Maxima. While the Sentra did get some elements of the Maxima in the front end, the rest of design matches up with the current Sentra. Nissan's 'year of the truck' for next year will hopefully be more exciting.

     

    2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible: B
    This is one of those vehicles that make you wonder why? But I'll admit that it looks quite sharp. Who knows, this might have a better chance at succeeding than the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet.

     

    Subaru Impreza Sedan Concept: A-
    Much like the hatchback counterpart we saw in Japan, the Impreza Sedan is quite the stunner. Now whether the production model looks like the concept remains to be seen. But considering Subaru's recent track record, this is something we're bit concerned about. At least the Impreza will be debuting a new modular platform that will underpin future Subaru models.

     

    Volkswagen America's CEO Apologizes Again: C+
    Volkswagen's apology tour continues with the CEO of the American branch, Michael Horn apologizing during Volkswagen's press conference. Look Volkswagen, we know that you are sorry about the whole diesel emission mess. But you don't need to keep apologizing at every event. It is getting to the point where if someone brings up a question not related to the scandal, you'll be saying sorry. Work on trying to get a fix out there.

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    I think the Sentra grade is too generous! It's a limp attempt at a refresh on one of the segments worst cars.

     

    Now this is a personal nitpick, but I'm surprised you find no fault with the hugely derivative MKZ front end design (400 hp drivetrain notwithstanding), while the Buick Lacrosse gets a TBD.

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    I share your concerns about the Giulia, albeit to a lesser extent. I think the car is probably further along than they're letting on as far as planning, but the development dollars aren't there.

    Also, I read that the QF gets its power running 35 pounds of boost. That's exciting for many reasons, not all of them necessarily good.

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      Hyundai - Chances of happening: 0 to 3.5%
      Hyundai is currently on a roll in many markets with an impressive lineup. But that wasn’t always the case. For example, the Korean automaker partnered with Chrysler to sell a rebadged version of the Hyundai Accent in Mexico, the Dodge Altitude in the oughts. This was because Hyundai wasn’t in the Mexican market untill last year. Going with Hyundai gives FCA access to a well-rounded if a bit boring looking midsize sedan (Sonata) and recently redesigned compact (Elantra). 
      But Hyundai is very constrained on production. All of Hyundai’s factories are working overtime on getting vehicles onto dealer lots. Hyundai is also beginning to change some of their production capacity to focus on building crossovers to meet the growing demand for utility vehicles. The possibility of FCA getting any vehicles are very slim.
       



      Mazda - Chances of happening: 10 to 35%
      The most recent partnership FCA has developed is with Mazda. A few years back, the two announced a deal where the next-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata would form the basis for a new Alfa Romeo Spyder. But Alfa Romeo decided to go their own way and the Miata deal fell into Fiat’s lap. The end result was the 124 Spider which debuted at the LA Auto Show. Extending the partnership would be beneficial for Mazda. The Japanese automaker would have more vehicles on the ground, albeit with different badges. 
      But this partnership could bring some problems. If Mazda was to give the 3 and 6 to FCA, they would be essentially competing with itself. Also, would FCA want to make any changes to the 3 and 6? They already did this with the 124 Spider and there are concerns about reliability due to the changes made.
       



      Volkswagen - Chances of happening: 0 to 2%
      I’ll admit this is quite the long shot. The two automakers have been bickering at each other for a few years when it comes to Alfa Romeo. (To be honest, I would like to see what Volkswagen could do with Alfa Romeo. They could actually get models out on time. But I digress. -WM) So why would Volkswagen want to enter a partnership with FCA? Well, they could use the money considering the amount of trouble they are in with diesel emissions. Also, the two did have a relationship with producing a version of the Chrysler Town & Country/Dodge Caravan for the German automaker - the Volkswagen Routan. 
      But Volkswagen is currently dealing with the fallout of the diesel emission scandal and doing a partnership with an another automaker isn’t at the top of their priority list. Also, would you really want to drive a Chrysler Passat? How about a Dodge Jetta?
       



      PSA Peugeot Citroen: Chances of happening: 0 to 2%
      This idea was put out there by Richard Truett of Automotive News. His argument for going with the French automakers is this: ‘The replacements must not be available here from any other manufacturer.’ This makes sense as it would solve one of the biggest problems with going with automaker already in the U.S. - Competing with itself. It would also give the PSA Peugeot Citroen a barometer of whether or not it should make a return to the market. There have been rumors here and there about the French automaker considering a return. 
      But there are a number of problems with this solution. If a deal was reached, getting the vehicles into the U.S. Market would take a fair amount of time and money - getting it certified, making changes, performing emission and crash tests. Also, PSA Peugeot Citroen is still in a recovery process after being very close to bankruptcy two years back. They announced a profit in the first half of 2015 and sales are starting to climb back. Considering something like this would be considered too risky for French automaker.
       
      Chinese Automaker: Chances of happening: 1 to 10%
      The last possibility for a possible partnership is going with one of the Chinese automakers. A number have expressed interest in selling vehicles in the U.S., and a few have come to the various auto shows to gauge interest. But no one has made the full commitment. If FCA was to somehow to make a partnership with a Chinese automaker, it could give them an idea of how their models could fare.
       
      But there is a glaring issue with this - aside from the concerns about safety and quality. There is already a sentiment of people who don’t like the idea of automakers of importing vehicles built in China - the Volvo S60 Inscription and soon the Buick Envision. If FCA was to import Chinese vehicles wearing Chrysler and Dodge badges, this could end up a disaster in the court of public opinion.
       
      So there is the list of possible contenders that FCA could partner with. We’ll have to sit and wait to see if FCA makes any decision on a possible partnership. But one thing is clear, there is a small group of automakers that would even entertain this.


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    • By William Maley
      A couple of weeks ago, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne made headlines when he announced that the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart would run their course - i.e. no second generation. Instead, the company would focus on building utility vehicles. This threw everyone in the automotive press into a frenzy with equal groups calling Marchionne a genius or a lunatic. But Marchionne also mentioned that the 200 and Dart could continue on if a partner could be found and build vehicles under a contract, a.k.a. badge engineering.
       
      This move presents a lot of risk for FCA. Badge engineered vehicles have never been a true success for anyone. There is also an added risk of trying to find the right partner to build these new vehicles.
       
      I have decided to figure out a possible list of suitors that FCA could go for. Some of these suitors have a history with the brand while others don’t have any history at all.
       
      Mitsubishi - Chances of happening: 1 to 10%
      The Japanese automaker has a long history with Chrysler. During the late 70’s to mid-nineties, Chrysler imported a number of Mitsubishi vehicles to rebadge and sell (Colt, Colt Vista, Conquest, and Sapporo to name a few). Then there was Diamond Star Motors - a joint venture between the two of developing and building a group of coupes - Eagle Talon, Mitsubishi Eclipse, and Plymouth Laser. Even now, Mitsubishi allows Chrysler to sell a rebadged version of the Mirage G4 sedan - the Dodge Attitude in Mexico.
       
      But Mitsubishi doesn’t have a midsize sedan. A few years back, the company announced a joint partnership with Nissan/Renault to develop a new midsize sedan. However the partnership was dissolved and Mitsubishi was back to square one. Then there is the case of the Lancer compact sedan. While most automakers have introduced new or refreshed versions, the Lancer has stayed the same. More concerning is Mitsubishi not having a real plan for the next one or a timeframe.
       
      To put it bluntly, Mitsubishi is currently marooned at sea with no sign of help coming for their car lineup.
       



      Hyundai - Chances of happening: 0 to 3.5%
      Hyundai is currently on a roll in many markets with an impressive lineup. But that wasn’t always the case. For example, the Korean automaker partnered with Chrysler to sell a rebadged version of the Hyundai Accent in Mexico, the Dodge Altitude in the oughts. This was because Hyundai wasn’t in the Mexican market untill last year. Going with Hyundai gives FCA access to a well-rounded if a bit boring looking midsize sedan (Sonata) and recently redesigned compact (Elantra). 
      But Hyundai is very constrained on production. All of Hyundai’s factories are working overtime on getting vehicles onto dealer lots. Hyundai is also beginning to change some of their production capacity to focus on building crossovers to meet the growing demand for utility vehicles. The possibility of FCA getting any vehicles are very slim.
       



      Mazda - Chances of happening: 10 to 35%
      The most recent partnership FCA has developed is with Mazda. A few years back, the two announced a deal where the next-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata would form the basis for a new Alfa Romeo Spyder. But Alfa Romeo decided to go their own way and the Miata deal fell into Fiat’s lap. The end result was the 124 Spider which debuted at the LA Auto Show. Extending the partnership would be beneficial for Mazda. The Japanese automaker would have more vehicles on the ground, albeit with different badges. 
      But this partnership could bring some problems. If Mazda was to give the 3 and 6 to FCA, they would be essentially competing with itself. Also, would FCA want to make any changes to the 3 and 6? They already did this with the 124 Spider and there are concerns about reliability due to the changes made.
       



      Volkswagen - Chances of happening: 0 to 2%
      I’ll admit this is quite the long shot. The two automakers have been bickering at each other for a few years when it comes to Alfa Romeo. (To be honest, I would like to see what Volkswagen could do with Alfa Romeo. They could actually get models out on time. But I digress. -WM) So why would Volkswagen want to enter a partnership with FCA? Well, they could use the money considering the amount of trouble they are in with diesel emissions. Also, the two did have a relationship with producing a version of the Chrysler Town & Country/Dodge Caravan for the German automaker - the Volkswagen Routan. 
      But Volkswagen is currently dealing with the fallout of the diesel emission scandal and doing a partnership with an another automaker isn’t at the top of their priority list. Also, would you really want to drive a Chrysler Passat? How about a Dodge Jetta?
       



      PSA Peugeot Citroen: Chances of happening: 0 to 2%
      This idea was put out there by Richard Truett of Automotive News. His argument for going with the French automakers is this: ‘The replacements must not be available here from any other manufacturer.’ This makes sense as it would solve one of the biggest problems with going with automaker already in the U.S. - Competing with itself. It would also give the PSA Peugeot Citroen a barometer of whether or not it should make a return to the market. There have been rumors here and there about the French automaker considering a return. 
      But there are a number of problems with this solution. If a deal was reached, getting the vehicles into the U.S. Market would take a fair amount of time and money - getting it certified, making changes, performing emission and crash tests. Also, PSA Peugeot Citroen is still in a recovery process after being very close to bankruptcy two years back. They announced a profit in the first half of 2015 and sales are starting to climb back. Considering something like this would be considered too risky for French automaker.
       
      Chinese Automaker: Chances of happening: 1 to 10%
      The last possibility for a possible partnership is going with one of the Chinese automakers. A number have expressed interest in selling vehicles in the U.S., and a few have come to the various auto shows to gauge interest. But no one has made the full commitment. If FCA was to somehow to make a partnership with a Chinese automaker, it could give them an idea of how their models could fare.
       
      But there is a glaring issue with this - aside from the concerns about safety and quality. There is already a sentiment of people who don’t like the idea of automakers of importing vehicles built in China - the Volvo S60 Inscription and soon the Buick Envision. If FCA was to import Chinese vehicles wearing Chrysler and Dodge badges, this could end up a disaster in the court of public opinion.
       
      So there is the list of possible contenders that FCA could partner with. We’ll have to sit and wait to see if FCA makes any decision on a possible partnership. But one thing is clear, there is a small group of automakers that would even entertain this.
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