• 2017 Chrysler Pacifica fuel efficiency rivals Honda Odyssey

    March 9, 2016

    The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica has closed the fuel-efficiency gap with the segment-leading Honda Odyssey.

    Redesigned and renamed for the latest model year, the Pacifica has received an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 28 mpg rating for the highway cycle, 18 mpg in the city and 22 mpg combined.

    The highway benchmark is good enough to match the Odyssey, however Honda’s offering maintains a marginal lead in the city cycle with 19 mpg. Both share the same 22-mpg combined rating.

    The figures are said to represent a 12-percent increase in fuel efficiency over the fifth-generation Town & Country, which had remained on the market for more than eight years without a major redesign. FCA credits its Pentastar V6 engine and nine-speed transmission as primary contributors to the mpg jump. Engineers and designers also achieved a drag coefficient of .300.

    The Pacifica will receive engine stop-start technology at a later date, followed by a hybrid variant in the second half of the year. The electrified minivan is expected to travel for 30 miles on battery power alone, with an estimated relative efficiency rating of 80 MPGe.

    The 2017 Pacifica will be headed to showrooms across the country sometime this spring.

  • Hyundai recalls Equus, Genesis to resolve wiper failures

    March 9, 2016

    Hyundai is preparing to recall aging Genesis and Equus sedans to address a problem with the windshield wipers.

    Some wiper motors were manufactured with a cover seal that is prone to degradation over time. Water can eventually enter the internal components, corroding the motor’s printed circuit board. In some cases, the motor becomes intermittently or permanently disabled.

    “If the windshield wipers become inoperative during inclement weather, driver visibility could be reduced, increasing the risk of a crash,” the company notes.

    The defective motor seals were used in the 2012 Genesis and the 2011-2013 Equus, affecting a total of 18,700 vehicles in the US market. An early sign of potential trouble emerged almost immediately in October 2010 with the first field failure, though the second incident was not logged for three more years. Hyundai initially believed the issue had limited effect on wiper operation, however a deeper investigation eventually raised safety concerns and led to the recall.

    The company claims to be unaware of any accidents or injuries associated with the defect.

  • Maserati to stall Alfieri launch?

    March 9, 2016

    Maserati may be stalling its development plans for the Alfieri coupe.

    First unveiled two years ago in Geneva, the Alfieri was presented as a sleek 2+2 coupe that demonstrates the brand’s future design language. The company was not shy in labeling it a ‘more exclusive’ rival to the Porsche 911 and Jaguar F-Type.

    An executive late in 2014 reportedly confirmed that the concept would spawn a production car of the same name, led by a hardtop coupe in 2016 and a convertible the following year. Maserati North Europe marketing head James Cowan suggested the new entry might not be a “big seller,” but would serve as an important halo vehicle.

    Asked at the latest Geneva show to clarify if the Alfieri’s is still on track to debut this year, brand chief Harald Wester dodged the inquiry with a “no comment” response, according to Motoring.

    “The next one will be substitution of GranTursimo, GranCabrio by successors,” he added. “We already had discussion about Alfieri and I don’t want to go into details.”

    The Alfieri concept was unveiled after a year of high gasoline prices and entering a year of extreme growth for the company, with 2014 sales up by 171 percent in the US. The subsequent falloff in gas prices has encouraged FCA to shuffle resources from cars to SUVs. The brand is also exiting a lackluster sales year as US deliveries shrank by 9.6 percent in 2015.

    The Levante has taken an increasingly important role in Maserati’s ambitious plan to reach 75,000 global sales by 2018, more than doubling its 2015 numbers. It is unclear if decision-makers put the Alfieri on the back burner to help fast-track the Levante. Now running a few years behind schedule, the SUV was initially expected to borrow a Jeep platform before the company changed tack and moved forward with a “100 percent Maserati” build.

    Separate reports last year suggested FCA stalled at least a dozen new or redesigned models across several brands, including Maserati, as it courted potential merger partners. The company has not yet succeeded in finding a suitor to help share development costs.

    Live images by Ronan Glon.

  • Chrysler 200 factory to remain idle into April

    March 9, 2016

    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has reportedly extended the inventory-correction shutdown at its Sterling Heights factory as Chrysler 200 sales remain sluggish.

    The company idled the assembly lines on February 1 and expected to resume production by March 14. A Detroit News report suggests the hiatus will now stretch until April 4, providing three additional weeks for dealers to sell existing stock.

    The second-generation Chrysler 200 arrived in showrooms by mid-2014. Demand surged early in 2015, resulting in a 52-percent jump over 2014′s full-year numbers. Growth quickly receded toward the end of the year, however, with a 47-percent drop in December.

    The backward trend appears to have accelerated entering 2016, as deliveries collapsed by 61 percent for February and March combined.

    Consumer Reports derided the redesigned 200 as the “worst car of 2015,” a title once held by the first-generation model. FCA chief Sergio Marchionne has even publicly acknowledged at least one complaint, calling the company’s designers ‘dummies’ for the cramped rear-seat entry.

    The company does not appear too worried about any broader implications surrounding the 200′s struggles. Jeep sales continue to soar, thanks to a general boom in SUV and crossover popularity. Expecting fuel prices to remain low in the near- to mid-term, the automaker plans to focus its development resources on high-riding models rather than cars.

    Marchionne previously promised the Chrysler 200 and the Dodge Dart will “run their course,” though future generations could be built by another automaker and rebadged for FCA’s brand portfolio.

  • Pressure mounts on automakers to address recalls

    March 9, 2016

    Automotive manufacturers are resorting to increasingly creative tactics in an effort to reach the owners of millions of recalled vehicles still on U.S. roads.

    Bloomberg reports (via Automotive News) that some manufacturers are now pursuing far more proactive and unconventional methods, taking advantage of mediums usually reserved for advertising, marketing or PR campaigns to inform potential owners of the need to have their vehicles’ defects addressed.

    Honda, which has been asking media outlets (including Leftlane) to encourage their audiences to participate in recall campaigns, has been utilizing catered social media (including Twitter and Facebook) and online advertising platforms in an attempt to reach owners. The same algorithms that can cater advertising to certain audiences can be used to determine potential owners of recalled vehicles.

    GM has utilized similar strategies in an attempt to reach owners of vehicles equipped with faulty ignition switches, even going so far as to create specialized advertisements that have run on YouTube and Pandora, among other services.

    But it appears that nothing is off the table at this point. Honda has even utilized local sporting events to generate awareness of its ongoing Takata airbag recall.

    Typically, automakers contact registered owners of vehicles subject to recall campaigns via traditional communications methods. Mail, phone, and email are all used to varying degrees depending on the contact information provided by customers at the time of purchase and whether the vehicles are still registered in the names of the original owners.