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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wall Street Journal Test Drive: Fisker Karma

The Fisker Karma is a plug-in hybrid luxury sports sedan. The Karma can switch between the electric Stealth Mode or Sport Mode which uses fuel. The Fisker Karma is a very attractive vehicle and I am sure that there a people on the waiting list for this car. Check out the Wall Street Journal's review of the new Fisker Karma on their new YouTube channel "Off Duty":

Link to Fisker Karma Review: http://youtu.be/nXZn5d30eGo


The Wall Street Journal's YouTube channel "Off Duty" features lifestyle videos about music, fashion, and cars.

What are your thoughts on the Fisker Karma?

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Early Thoughts: 2013 Volvo V40

The 2013 Volvo V40 is a beautiful car!!! This car will compete against the Audi A3 and other entry level luxury  vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Infiniti. The car will be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show.

In Europe the V40 will have the option of a 1.6L turbo-diesel inline-four producing 115 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque or a turbocharged 2.5L I-5 producing 254 horsepower. Other engine choices include a 1.6L turbo inline-four, and a 2.0L turbocharged diesel. The V40 will also be equipped with Volvo's brake energy regeneration and an engine start/stop system. The City Safety system and Pedestrian Safety function will also be options.

The Volvo V40 should hit European showrooms this summer. It has been said that this vehicle will not make it's way to the United States. But I hope that is not true. Volvo would be a CRAZY not to bring this car over here. I feel that Volvo needs more models in their lineup and this would be a great addition. I have to say that Volvo has outdone itself again with their designs.

Check back for more details when the Volvo V40 is unveiled.

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Review: Top Gear

Top Gear is a British television show about cars. The show is hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May. BBC Worldwide Americas got in contact with me asking me to review Season 17 of Top Gear. I had heard of Top Gear before but I was never eager in watching the show. I was wondering if I was going to like the it mainly because it was a British show. I have seen a lot of British shows and don't find them enjoyable. After watching Top Gear I don't feel that way about all British shows. I can say that I really liked watching Top Gear. While I find Top Gear very enjoyable, I will say that British humor still hasn't caught up to me.

One of my favorite segments, "Celebrities in a Reasonably Priced Car", featured Alice Cooper, Rowan Atkinson, Ross Noble, and Sebastian Vettel. Every time I watched this segment I wondered if any of them were going to break any records. I don't think I could be in that position because I would be extremely nervous and especially because I don't know how to drive stick (I'm from NYC). One on my favorite challenges was finding the world's best hot hatchback. I think for me this was one of the most enjoyable challenges. Another highlight from the show was when James May was driving the Range Rover Evoque in California's Death Valley. He had to get out of Death Valley to pick up Cher. I already knew that he was not going to be picking up the real Cher but an impersonator. But May's reaction when picking up the Cher impersonator was priceless!

Another interesting segment was the electric car challenge. Jeremy Clarkson drove a Nissan Leaf and James  May drove a Peugeot iOn. The Nissan Leaf is definitely the better looking car out of the two. I knew that they were going to have trouble before they reached their destination. The best part was when they were tying to find a place to plug up the cars so that they could charge. By Clarkson and May going off to do various activities I know that the charging process took a very LONG time.

The funniest segment was when the boys were making a cheaper train transportation method. They attached campers to cars which I did not think was going to work. But I was definitely proven wrong when those cars started to move on the train tracks. When Clarkson made a detour on the other track, I laughed when a train appeared because I seen it coming.The hosts really made it enjoyable to watch and showed that no option was off the table.

I think that Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May have great chemistry. There are plenty of shows that have co-hosts but there is no chemistry between them (The Car Show). They really show how passionate they are about automobiles, which is a plus in my book. My favorite of the three has to be Richard Hammond. When watching a show about cars, I want to see people who are just as passionate as I am and the hosts deliver that.

I want to thank Deborah Schonfeld from BBC Worldwide Americas for getting in contact with me and sending me Season 17 of Top Gear!, I truly enjoyed it! Top Gear is my new favorite show. This show is very interesting and offers a lot of excitement for viewers. There are tons of people who don't agree with the show due to their experiments and love for speed. But in the end you can't please everyone, someone will always find a problem. I don't think that this show encourages people to drive fast and etc its just a show about cars, speed should be expected. The show has been on for a long time and the formula that they have come up with works. So if it isn't broken then don't fix it. My expectations weren't too high before I watched the series but my expectations have surely changed. If anyone is a "real" car enthusiast they should definitely check out Top Gear! I know I will be watching from now on.

Are you a fan of Top Gear?

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Interview: German Luxury Sales and the Luxury Car Market

I recently had an interview with Doug Scott who is Sr. Vice President of GfK Automotive. He has more than 29 years of experience in the automotive and marketing research industries. He has also worked with automakers such as Toyota, Chrysler, and Subaru. Mr. Scott was a national research manager for Toyota Motor Sales before joining GfK. GfK Automotive  conducts research for the global automotive industry.

My interview with Doug Scott focused on the German Luxury Car Brands and the Luxury Car Market. Check out the interview below:


Why are German luxury brands sales up?
Three things have occurred: 1. Lexus did get hurt by Toyota's quality issues from 2009-10.  2. All Japanese manufacturers got hit hard by the tsunami earthquake which hurt production. 3. The floods in Thailand created issues for parts. The fact is that Mercedes-Benz and BMW are coming back from the downturn with no tarnish, no basic issues, or structural issues. Audi from 2007 to present has really been on a major growth pattern. Audi's sales have risen by 15 or 20 % a year.

Is value even important anymore when considering a luxury vehicle?
Two things have occured. Lexus up until the quality issues was challenging Mercedes-Benz.. The Toyota product quality issues took some of the wind out of sales. Acura and Infiniti were selling on value and price but never got the luster in terms of brand prestige and value. Value needs to be looked at from two angles, prestige and aspiration. The Japanese luxury manufacturers have always been more reasonably priced. One thing that is hurting the Japanese automakers is the yen situation. The dollar to the yen is terrible for the Japanese. That hurts the Japanese in terms of exporting.

Japanese brands?
How do I maximize volume in the luxury side of the market? One could argue that you start down with the neo-luxury area of the market. 3-series..etc. You don't have to start with a flagship but you have to build up towards it. I think that the Japanese wouldn't want to perliferate models, they're trying to build their brands. There is a volume issue that impacts the Japanese automakers and they need to make sure that they have enough volume for their current dealers. These brands aren't nearly as established as Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Lexus has been positioned to take on Mercedes-Benz. Lexus has to add to its brand luster as it tries to get back on track. I think that at some point Acura and Infiniti need to have a flagship sedan. The lack of flagship sedans is what really hurts them.

What do you think the Japanese luxury brands need to do in order to increase sales?
I definitely think that they have to balance their cars and trucks. They have to spend more time on the development of their vehicles. For example, if you want to tackle the BMW 3-series, you have to have a car such as the Infiniti G37 to consistently handle their driving dynamics really well. If you are fighting Mercedes-Benz you have to build a flagship for prestige and you have to have volume sedans.  There is work to be done on brand building, it is far from over for the Japanese luxury automakers.

What are your thoughts on Lincoln and Cadillac?
Cadillac really began shifting it's portfolio in 2002. Is there a such thing a domestic luxury? At the end of the day the benchmark is the German luxury automakers. You don't want to be an American luxury brand you want to be an international luxury brand. Lincoln is far behind Cadillac, there is a huge prestige gap. Cadillac is doing all the right things.

I think that Lincoln needs a rear-wheel drive vehicle. That is synomous, it does not mean that you need to have all of your cars have to be mechanically equivalent to the German brands. The BMW 3 series is rear-wheel drive, they set the standard. There is no short cut pass. Cadillac is the poster child for that you cannot jump over stages. Cadillac has been focusing on handling, performance, and luxury image. They have spent millions of dollars over the years but are just now getting credibility. Lincoln has to get on the luxury path. There is no jumping over stages to get that credibility. Luxury and driving performance is key, which is no easy path.


Will German luxury brands always be the benchmark for luxury?
Certainly for the forseable furture.  The fact is that they have not been getting hit with quality issues, and been providing a flagship sedan.


I want to thank Adrienne Nardella for setting up this interview. I also want to thank Doug Scott for taking the time to answer my questions and for always willing to chat with me about the auto industry!

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Revealed: 2013 GMC Acadia

The 2013 GMC Acadia has been unveiled at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show.

The most noticeable change is the Acadia's new three-bar grill. The Acadia also gets standard LED daytime running lamps up front. In the back the Acadia gets a wrap around rear glass.

The Acadia is still powered by a 3.6L V6 engine that pushes out 288 hp to the front-wheels. The engine will be paired with a new Hydra-Matic 6-speed automatic transmission. AWD is still an option.

There will now be a 2013 Acadia Denali. The Denali trim has a honeycomb grill, new wheels, and more standard features.

I love the refreshed exterior of the Acadia, especially the new grill. I think that it gives the Acadia a more aggressive look that fits well with the rest of it's GMC family.

Is the new grill a hit or a miss?

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Revealed: 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe & GT

The 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe and Elantra GT were unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show.

The Elantra Coupe is 0.4 inches longer than the Elantra sedan. The Elantra GT rides on a 104.3 inch wheelbase. Both vehicles are powered by a 1.8L Nu Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing 4-cylinder engine. The engine is rated at 148 hp and 131 lb ft. of torque. This engine has the option of being paired with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. Both cars will have a sport tuned suspension. The coupe is rated at 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway with the manual transmission. The GT is rated at 28 mpg city and 39 mpg highway with either manual or automatic transmission.

The Elantra coupe will come standard with electronic push-button start and Bluetooth. The Elantra GT comes standard with iPod, USB, and aux input, satellite radio, and Bluetooth.

The Coupe will go on sale in the Spring and the GT will go on sale in the Summer.

I am a big fan of Hyundai's recent design so I knew the Elantra Coupe and GT were going to be lookers. Hyundai seems to want it's hand in just about every niche of the car market and I don't blame them. With the success of the new Elantra, I'm sure the Coupe and GT will be successful too!


How do you feel about the 2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe and GT?

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Refreshed: 2013 Nissan 370Z

The 2013 Nissan 370Z is making it's debut at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show.

The biggest changes to the 370Z take place in the front of the car. There are now vertical LED daytime running lamps, that are on the edge of the bumper. The base model coupe gets new 18in alloy rims. Sport Package models get new 19in alloy rims and red-painted brake calipers. Magma Red and Midnight Blue are two new exterior colors that will be offered.

Nissan decided not to make any changes under the hood. The 370Z will still be powered by a 3.7L DOHC V6 engine producing 332 horsepower. This engine can be paired with either a 6-speed manual transmission or 7-speed automatic transmission.

The 2013 Nissan 370Z will go on sale in June.

2013 Nissan 370Z Video

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