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The Sunday Column - March 1, 2015


William Maley

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The past couple of weeks at the Cheers & Gears Detroit Garage has been interesting for the past couple of weeks. Last week saw a Fiat 500C Abarth and the week before was a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR. During a conversation with a colleague of mine, the question was asked which car would I feel more comfortable in pushing. The answer I gave surprised him when I said that I would take the 500.

My reasoning for this choice comes down to this; the Lancer Evolution has a lot more exploitation available thanks to computer wizardry and a powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine. You can corner much faster and go a lot quicker than in many vehicles, which can make you feel like the greatest driver in the world. But that only happens to be an illusion; the computer, all-wheel drive, and engine can only do so much to keep the vehicle on the road. If you overcook a corner, don't expect the vehicle to save you.

Then there is the Fiat 500C Abarth. A small car with a small 1.4L turbo engine and front-wheel drive. The limits in this car are much lower than the Evolution, but I feel that it makes a little bit safer and fun to push. I could press the accelerator further to floor and feel like I'm going quicker when in reality I wasn't. Also I knew that it being front-wheel drive meant I would have a hint of understeer if I pushed, which could mean visiting a ditch or something worse. Keep it steady I told myself driving on a curvy bit of road and the Abarth was fine.

I think a lot of this also comes down to knowing my driving habits. I've never been a race track, nor have taken a advanced driving course to improve my skills. The only real skills I have are from driving school and making a number of mistakes in my young age. Maybe that plays into knowing that I don't much of extracting all of the performance of a car - possibly a good thing.

Other thoughts from the week:

  • Cadillac boss Johan de Nysschen did a reader Q&A on Jalopnik this week and dropped some interesting tidbits: A new V6 engine lineup will be revealed sometime this month, the CT6 will 'eventually' get a twin-turbo V8 engine, and the ELR will be getting some significant updates. I would recommend checking out the Q&A.
  • Sticking on the Cadillac tip, I'm currently driving an ATS coupe with the 2.0L turbo and all-wheel drive. Two things I want say about the vehicle.
    1. the 2.0T is so much better than the ATS 3.6 I drove awhile back. Lots of low end punch.
    2. Seeing the new Cadillac emblem up close, still don't like it.

    [*]Chrysler can't seem to catch a break on the nine-speed automatic transmission still. I'm beginning to wonder if it might make sense to kill this current transmission and go back to drawing board.

    [*]Geneva Auto Show kicks off this week and so far the only vehicle I'm excited by is the Kia Sportspace concept. Hopefully a couple other vehicles can amp up the excitement.

    [*]Big congrats to one of our members - GMTruckGuy on getting a new GMC Canyon. Sharp color!


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      EV-curious. That’s what I would call myself. Someone that is interested in EVs but just hasn’t found the right one. There are many aspects of an EV that is appealing to me. Instant torque, quick acceleration, the ability to charge at your house or apartment, and the continuation of creating semi-autonomous driving. It’s all so exciting! I’m ready to go out and trade in my 2016 Volkswagen GTI for one now! Or am I? Let’s take a quick look at a small field of electric vehicles, starting with the brand new 2020 Porsche Taycan.
      The release of the 2020 Porsche Taycan is a feat in and of itself. The car itself is downright sexy, is has a handsome interior, and performance that is pure Porsche. Over 700 HP for the Turbo S model is impressive. It also costs what you would expect an electric super-Porsche would be since the range topping Taycans are coming out first. These are the Turbo and Turbo S which cost over $150,000. After these come onto the market, less expensive and less powerful versions will come. Would this be the car that I will buy? Sure, once I get that CMO position at a major company. This is a dream electric car, but not one that I would consider just yet. 
      What about an attainable electric car? There are a few on the market that cover the bases. Vehicles like the Hyundai Kona Electric, Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf, and others have good to respectable range, decent features, and are not the most expensive vehicles. Average prices of $40,000-$45,000 is a bit steep, but electric cars usually command a premium over gasoline vehicles. They also have good driving aids such as blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control, something that my current car has and is top priority for me. They’re all very good cars but with flaws such as build quality and designs that keep me from considering one. My problem is simple: performance. Electric cars have instant torque at 0 RPM and can be extremely fast. These EVs just don’t cut the mustard for me since they are more about range than blistering speed. For around $45,000, I can get a gas-powered car such as a Genesis G70 3.3T that is faster, has better range, and the safety features I want. Let’s continue from good electric vehicles to “the best”.
      Right now, you are probably thinking: “Anthony, you are forgetting the king of electric vehicles. They are synonymous with electric cars and have a huge cult following.” Guess who that is? Yes, that is of course Tesla. You can’t write about electric cars without talking about Tesla. They are a very S 3 X Y R brand indeed. The Model S introduced expensive but seriously quick electric vehicles. The X brought us an odd but much-needed crossover. The 3 is the bread-and-butter maker with a starting price around $40,000, and acceleration that beats almost all vehicles in its class. The Y hasn’t come out yet but is a crossover version of the 3, and the Roadster is a $250,000 supercar. Even though there are three models currently available, I will focus on the Model 3 Performance since that is the one I am most interested in.
      There is a lot to like about the Model 3 Performance. It has “performance” in its name and with 450 HP, it is one of the quickest sedans I’ve ever driven. The instant torque from the motors is intoxicating and it handles well for a heavy vehicle. Does it tick all the boxes to convert to a Tesla-fanatic? No. Why? The interior. I am not a fan of controlling absolutely everything with a touchscreen and not having my speedometer in front of me.
      The Model 3 Performance can have semi-autonomous driving, but it is a $7,000 option. Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assist system is standard and is regarded to be one of the best, if not the best driver-assist system. Tesla has sold over 250,000 Model 3 vehicles and it is a genuinely amazing feat for a young company. The range is good at over 310 miles. Pricing starts at $55,000 and is fully-loaded around $64,000. If you are okay with the minimal interior and styling, get yourself a Model 3. I personally am not a fan of either of those, so onward we go.
      This brings me to a car I am waiting for: The Polestar 2 fastback. Polestar used to be a sub-division of Volvo, like AMG is to Mercedes-Benz. You can still get Polestar-tune Volvos, but Polestar has branched out into their own brand. The Polestar 2 is their first all-electric car. It has over 250 miles of range, 400 HP, and most import to me, gauges that are straight in front of the driver. The design is bold yet looks like an even more modern version of a Volvo. Since Polestar is a sporty company, the performance upgrades include upgraded shocks, brakes, and bigger wheels with Swedish gold seat belts. You get this package mainly for the gold seat belts. Is it pricey at over $60,000? Yes, but it feels justified for the 408 hp and range of 275 miles. 0-60 is said to be around 4.7 seconds but I suspect it will be lower. Will they sell Tesla Model 3 numbers of them? I highly doubt it since they area new brand, but it should be a great competitor to the Tesla Model 3.
      I like the concept of electric vehicles. I know that one day, there will be one charging at my house. Am I ready for an electric car? Yes. Is there any on the market that jumps out at me and gives me the satisfaction I have for my current car at a reasonable price of around $40,000 new? No.
      Do not get me wrong; there are electric cars that make sense for a multitude of situations. Range and charging are getting better, more features are getting added, and manufacturers are creating electric-only ranges of vehicles that will bring down the costs of more performance-oriented vehicles. I can go in-depth about certain electric cars in a future article. For now, I think I will keep my car and wait until something really catches my eye. That, or wait a few years and hope the Porsche Taycan depreciates enough that I can buy one.
       

      View full article
    • By Anthony Fongaro
      EV-curious. That’s what I would call myself. Someone that is interested in EVs but just hasn’t found the right one. There are many aspects of an EV that is appealing to me. Instant torque, quick acceleration, the ability to charge at your house or apartment, and the continuation of creating semi-autonomous driving. It’s all so exciting! I’m ready to go out and trade in my 2016 Volkswagen GTI for one now! Or am I? Let’s take a quick look at a small field of electric vehicles, starting with the brand new 2020 Porsche Taycan.
      The release of the 2020 Porsche Taycan is a feat in and of itself. The car itself is downright sexy, is has a handsome interior, and performance that is pure Porsche. Over 700 HP for the Turbo S model is impressive. It also costs what you would expect an electric super-Porsche would be since the range topping Taycans are coming out first. These are the Turbo and Turbo S which cost over $150,000. After these come onto the market, less expensive and less powerful versions will come. Would this be the car that I will buy? Sure, once I get that CMO position at a major company. This is a dream electric car, but not one that I would consider just yet. 
      What about an attainable electric car? There are a few on the market that cover the bases. Vehicles like the Hyundai Kona Electric, Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf, and others have good to respectable range, decent features, and are not the most expensive vehicles. Average prices of $40,000-$45,000 is a bit steep, but electric cars usually command a premium over gasoline vehicles. They also have good driving aids such as blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control, something that my current car has and is top priority for me. They’re all very good cars but with flaws such as build quality and designs that keep me from considering one. My problem is simple: performance. Electric cars have instant torque at 0 RPM and can be extremely fast. These EVs just don’t cut the mustard for me since they are more about range than blistering speed. For around $45,000, I can get a gas-powered car such as a Genesis G70 3.3T that is faster, has better range, and the safety features I want. Let’s continue from good electric vehicles to “the best”.
      Right now, you are probably thinking: “Anthony, you are forgetting the king of electric vehicles. They are synonymous with electric cars and have a huge cult following.” Guess who that is? Yes, that is of course Tesla. You can’t write about electric cars without talking about Tesla. They are a very S 3 X Y R brand indeed. The Model S introduced expensive but seriously quick electric vehicles. The X brought us an odd but much-needed crossover. The 3 is the bread-and-butter maker with a starting price around $40,000, and acceleration that beats almost all vehicles in its class. The Y hasn’t come out yet but is a crossover version of the 3, and the Roadster is a $250,000 supercar. Even though there are three models currently available, I will focus on the Model 3 Performance since that is the one I am most interested in.
      There is a lot to like about the Model 3 Performance. It has “performance” in its name and with 450 HP, it is one of the quickest sedans I’ve ever driven. The instant torque from the motors is intoxicating and it handles well for a heavy vehicle. Does it tick all the boxes to convert to a Tesla-fanatic? No. Why? The interior. I am not a fan of controlling absolutely everything with a touchscreen and not having my speedometer in front of me.
      The Model 3 Performance can have semi-autonomous driving, but it is a $7,000 option. Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assist system is standard and is regarded to be one of the best, if not the best driver-assist system. Tesla has sold over 250,000 Model 3 vehicles and it is a genuinely amazing feat for a young company. The range is good at over 310 miles. Pricing starts at $55,000 and is fully-loaded around $64,000. If you are okay with the minimal interior and styling, get yourself a Model 3. I personally am not a fan of either of those, so onward we go.
      This brings me to a car I am waiting for: The Polestar 2 fastback. Polestar used to be a sub-division of Volvo, like AMG is to Mercedes-Benz. You can still get Polestar-tune Volvos, but Polestar has branched out into their own brand. The Polestar 2 is their first all-electric car. It has over 250 miles of range, 400 HP, and most import to me, gauges that are straight in front of the driver. The design is bold yet looks like an even more modern version of a Volvo. Since Polestar is a sporty company, the performance upgrades include upgraded shocks, brakes, and bigger wheels with Swedish gold seat belts. You get this package mainly for the gold seat belts. Is it pricey at over $60,000? Yes, but it feels justified for the 408 hp and range of 275 miles. 0-60 is said to be around 4.7 seconds but I suspect it will be lower. Will they sell Tesla Model 3 numbers of them? I highly doubt it since they area new brand, but it should be a great competitor to the Tesla Model 3.
      I like the concept of electric vehicles. I know that one day, there will be one charging at my house. Am I ready for an electric car? Yes. Is there any on the market that jumps out at me and gives me the satisfaction I have for my current car at a reasonable price of around $40,000 new? No.
      Do not get me wrong; there are electric cars that make sense for a multitude of situations. Range and charging are getting better, more features are getting added, and manufacturers are creating electric-only ranges of vehicles that will bring down the costs of more performance-oriented vehicles. I can go in-depth about certain electric cars in a future article. For now, I think I will keep my car and wait until something really catches my eye. That, or wait a few years and hope the Porsche Taycan depreciates enough that I can buy one.
       
    • By William Maley
      The reaction Peugeot’s return to the U.S. Market a couple weeks back falls into three categories.
      OMG! We're getting exciting French cars again Why is another automaker coming to the U.S.? Split between 1 and 2 I should say that I fall into camp three at the moment. Previously, I was in number one when the rumors began to swirl around about PSA Group - parent company of Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel, and Vauxhall - making a possible return in late 2014. The dreams about possibly seeing a small number of Citroen and DS vehicles running around the U.S. sparked some joy. Peugeot was nowhere to be seen in my fantasy as they were seen to be somewhat bland in terms of their design.
      But once I had my dream play through my head, I began to wonder if this could work out for PSA Group. Despite being seen as the holy grail to many outside automakers, the U.S. is very notorious to break in and keep going forward. Consider these quotes from a 2016 report in Automotive News (Subscription Required).
      So when PSA made their official announcement in 2016, some of my worries began to drift away.
      PSA would also conduct extensive research into the U.S. marketplace to determine which brand would take the charge. The end goal was to possibly have a brand in the country by 2026. Possibly is the keyword as they made clear that could pass on this idea if various conditions weren't met.
      Since that announcement, PSA has been making some inroads into this plan,
      Establishing a North American office and bringing in Larry Dominique (formerly of Nissan and TrueCar) as the head Launching a ride-sharing and car sharing app in various U.S. cities Starting to develop vehicles for the U.S. The most recent announcement of Peugeot as the lead brand surely disappointed some folks as the likes of the C4 Cactus and DS5 would not arriving. But the decision does show the amount of thought and work that has been happening behind the scenes. 
      Still, PSA Group and Peugeot still have a tough hill to climb. Reading through the comments on the article written by Drew, there are two common issues pointed out. One is how Peugeot doesn't have anything unique in their lineup. Two is how Peugeot could be entering a marketplace that is possibly on the verge of a recession.
      Let's begin with design. Out of all of the brands under the PSA umbrella, Peugeot plays it very much safe in terms of design. While the brand has been taking some risks in the past few years (especially with their interiors) they are no-where near the likes of Citroen. This difference is very apparent in the history of the two brands, 
      Peugeot producing vehicles that were efficient and simple. But some of those design could jump in terms of elegance. Citroen pushing the envelope with their designs that are either praised or hated. DS falls under this umbrella as well. My hunch is that PSA figured that sending either Citroen or DS would be problematic because they might not appeal to consumers, and just sit on lots.
      The second reason does hold slightly more water. Signs are beginning to appear that the U.S. economy could be heading towards a recession - a key item being pointed at is the drop in new car sales. If Peugeot was to enter at the present time, the consequences could be severe and put them in a difficult spot.
      But as noted, Peugeot will not be arriving until 2026. That's over six years away and in that time, the economy could be recovering from the recession in question. 
      Time is also the biggest enemy to Peugeot. In six years time, the U.S. marketplace could be in a completely different state than where it stands now. Crossovers and SUVs dominate the sales charts at the moment, but it might be electric vehicles that become the dominant choice. There are also various regulations that may come into fruition, along with the possibility of new tariffs on vehicles built in Europe.
      There’s also the issue of trying to stand out in the U.S. marketplace. Consider this for a moment; there are over forty automakers selling just under 300 or so nameplates. With the prospect of more automakers from China expected to arrive in the next few years, Peugeot might be entering a crowded field. Some of their current models have the looks, but can it combat strong competition that has a long history and reputation in the country?
      One item is very clear, PSA Group isn't stupid. They're taking their time and doing a lot of behind the scenes work before introducing their first models in the U.S. Whether or not this proves to the big success or the white flag being raised remains to be seen.

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      The reaction Peugeot’s return to the U.S. Market a couple weeks back falls into three categories.
      OMG! We're getting exciting French cars again Why is another automaker coming to the U.S.? Split between 1 and 2 I should say that I fall into camp three at the moment. Previously, I was in number one when the rumors began to swirl around about PSA Group - parent company of Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel, and Vauxhall - making a possible return in late 2014. The dreams about possibly seeing a small number of Citroen and DS vehicles running around the U.S. sparked some joy. Peugeot was nowhere to be seen in my fantasy as they were seen to be somewhat bland in terms of their design.
      But once I had my dream play through my head, I began to wonder if this could work out for PSA Group. Despite being seen as the holy grail to many outside automakers, the U.S. is very notorious to break in and keep going forward. Consider these quotes from a 2016 report in Automotive News (Subscription Required).
      So when PSA made their official announcement in 2016, some of my worries began to drift away.
      PSA would also conduct extensive research into the U.S. marketplace to determine which brand would take the charge. The end goal was to possibly have a brand in the country by 2026. Possibly is the keyword as they made clear that could pass on this idea if various conditions weren't met.
      Since that announcement, PSA has been making some inroads into this plan,
      Establishing a North American office and bringing in Larry Dominique (formerly of Nissan and TrueCar) as the head Launching a ride-sharing and car sharing app in various U.S. cities Starting to develop vehicles for the U.S. The most recent announcement of Peugeot as the lead brand surely disappointed some folks as the likes of the C4 Cactus and DS5 would not arriving. But the decision does show the amount of thought and work that has been happening behind the scenes. 
      Still, PSA Group and Peugeot still have a tough hill to climb. Reading through the comments on the article written by Drew, there are two common issues pointed out. One is how Peugeot doesn't have anything unique in their lineup. Two is how Peugeot could be entering a marketplace that is possibly on the verge of a recession.
      Let's begin with design. Out of all of the brands under the PSA umbrella, Peugeot plays it very much safe in terms of design. While the brand has been taking some risks in the past few years (especially with their interiors) they are no-where near the likes of Citroen. This difference is very apparent in the history of the two brands, 
      Peugeot producing vehicles that were efficient and simple. But some of those design could jump in terms of elegance. Citroen pushing the envelope with their designs that are either praised or hated. DS falls under this umbrella as well. My hunch is that PSA figured that sending either Citroen or DS would be problematic because they might not appeal to consumers, and just sit on lots.
      The second reason does hold slightly more water. Signs are beginning to appear that the U.S. economy could be heading towards a recession - a key item being pointed at is the drop in new car sales. If Peugeot was to enter at the present time, the consequences could be severe and put them in a difficult spot.
      But as noted, Peugeot will not be arriving until 2026. That's over six years away and in that time, the economy could be recovering from the recession in question. 
      Time is also the biggest enemy to Peugeot. In six years time, the U.S. marketplace could be in a completely different state than where it stands now. Crossovers and SUVs dominate the sales charts at the moment, but it might be electric vehicles that become the dominant choice. There are also various regulations that may come into fruition, along with the possibility of new tariffs on vehicles built in Europe.
      There’s also the issue of trying to stand out in the U.S. marketplace. Consider this for a moment; there are over forty automakers selling just under 300 or so nameplates. With the prospect of more automakers from China expected to arrive in the next few years, Peugeot might be entering a crowded field. Some of their current models have the looks, but can it combat strong competition that has a long history and reputation in the country?
      One item is very clear, PSA Group isn't stupid. They're taking their time and doing a lot of behind the scenes work before introducing their first models in the U.S. Whether or not this proves to the big success or the white flag being raised remains to be seen.
    • By William Maley
      This year was to be the final Detroit Auto Show to take place in January before the big move to an indoor/outdoor festival of sorts next June. Despite a number of manufacturers announcing they would not be at the show, there was some hope for there be to a surprise. Something that would allow the current incarnation of the show to go out with a bang.
      That did not happen.
      It was thought that Chevrolet would roll out the long-awaited and rumored mid-engined Corvette. But those hopes would be dashed as rumors came out that the project would be delayed up to six months due to a problem with the electrical system. It also gave Toyota a sigh of relief as the Supra wouldn’t be overshadowed by the Corvette - see the Ford GT eating up the attention from the Acura NSX a few years back.
      Even with the anticipation of the Supra coming to Detroit, there was nothing that could be described as being memorable. Most of the vehicles that were revealed seemed to be somewhat phoned in.
      We knew a lot about the Supra including how it would look and what would power it before it arrived on stage. CEO Akio Toyoda actually mentioned in the press conference that it was “one of the industry’s worst kept secrets.” The refreshed Volkswagen Passat was eclipsed by news that a second plant and 1,000 jobs would be added at Chattanooga, along with becoming a sponsor for U.S. Women’s, Men’s, and Youth National teams. Infiniti’s QX Inspiration concept didn’t actually appear at the presentation. It was stuck in the lobby of Cobo Hall due to some sort of malfunction.
        The announcement talking about Ford and Volkswagen’s new alliance? The stage appearance was canceled late on Monday. Instead, we got a conference call and press release providing the details. The big talking point at the show wasn’t about the show. Over the weekend, a water main broke which put most of Downtown Detroit under a boil water advisory. This caused a lot of headaches for visiting media and automotive executives as would have to use bottled water to brush their teeth or wash their hair (this was something I heard a few people mentioned on the show floor). Luckily, I saw this new before heading down to the show and brought a couple liters of water with me to use for tea and brushing my teeth.
      But the water main break serves as a good metaphor for this year’s Detroit Auto Show. It felt a bit discombobulated with a number of manufacturers being MIA and organizers trying to figure out what to do. There was also a noticeable lack of energy surrounding the show. Going into the media center at Cobo, I was expecting to be filled with various journalists and other media. To my surprise, it looked and felt the second day of the show where there was a surprising amount of open space to sit down and begin working. Being on the show floor was the same story. I was amazed at how easily I was able to get photos of cars that had been unveiled only 20 to 30 minutes without having to fight a number of people to get a decent shot.
      There is a lot riding on the move to June next year with organizers planning something like the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the U.K. There promises to be the ability to ride and drive various new vehicles, self-driving vehicles being demonstrated on public roads, “dynamic vehicle debuts,” and much more. A number of automakers and executives have praised this move.
      "I always thought it made sense for Detroit to showcase itself when the weather's nice. All the international press comes here in perhaps our worst weather month of the year. I don't know how many rodeos we can have coming down the street in January,” said Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford earlier this week.
      I wished that shared the same enthusiasm as a number of people with the show moving to June. Call me skeptical or cynical, but I get the feeling that the move will not solve the issue that face a number of automakers; making the case to spend the money to attend another show. A recent piece in Wards Auto says it costs more than million dollars to hold a 25-minute press conference according to sources.
      “…due to exorbitant rates for sound and video production, lighting, drayage, special effects, food, drink and union labor to set up chairs, lay carpet and build ramps for drive-on vehicle unveilings.”
      The past few years have seen more and more automakers hold their own events off-site as they are not only cheaper but allows them to control the message.
      “We can go and create an atmosphere on Sunday night at the Garden Theater for less money and for what we think is an equal or better return on our investment,” said Terry Rhadigan, executive director of communications at General Motors to Wards Auto.
      I think back to a conversation I had last year on the show floor with a friend. I was mentioning how I was feeling somewhat bored and he asked how many Detroit Auto Shows I had attended.
      “I think this is my fourth or fifth,” I said.
      He paused for a moment before saying that was usually around the time someone begins to feel burnt out and wanting something exciting to happen. This popped into my head while walking around the show on Monday as nothing really grabbed my attention in terms of new debuts. There were some bright spots such as Kia Stinger GT police vehicle from Australia and the Toyota Yaris WRC on the show floor. But aside from these and few other vehicles, I felt a bit down. Maybe I had grown weary of the show itself and the noticeable departures of various automakers only compounded it. Or maybe this was the manifestation of a trend that the auto show I had come to know was coming to an end and was only beginning to realize it.
      2020 will be an interesting year to say in the least as organizers begin a new chapter in the auto show’s legacy. Whether it works out or not remains to be seen.
      Pic Credit: William Maley for Cheers & Gears

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