Monthly Archives: December 2014

Can Chrysler Rise From the Ashes?

Chrysler has dug itself a big hole but will this new car help them regain some of their brand? Did I find it at all ironic that on the same day I was driving a refreshed 2015 Chrysler 300 the brand’s parent company, FCA, announced it would no longer utilize ”Chrysler” as part of the corporation’s official name? Maybe a little. But the truth is, names in this industry seem to have as much staying power as the price of oil. Just when it seems like things have stabilized, everything changes. And while dropping “Chrysler” from the corporate title feels like putting down the last vestiges of a once-pround American icon, that name will continue to appear where it matters most to consumers, in advertising messages, on dealership signs, and adorning the bodywork of vehicles coming from the Chrysler division of FCA. And if these vehicles display substantial improvements in the areas of styling, performance, fuel efficiency and quality, the Chrysler brand will become a more respected global brand regardless of corporate naming conventions. We’re already seeing the effect of improved Chrysler product at Kelley Blue Book, where brand sales and consideration have risen in recent months.

Which brings me back to the 2015 Chrysler 300, a nameplate celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. As a fan of automotive history I’ve always appreciated the philosophy behind Chrysler’s 300 (a premium car offering both luxury and performance) even as the nameplate’s reality underwent some uninspired growing pains over the past six decades. But ten years ago the 300 entered it’s most promising era yet, returning to a V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive platform offering the kind of performance and luxury inspired by the original model. The 300 experienced a substantial makeover four years ago, at which time the exterior styling, interior quality and drivetrains were all updated. For 2015 all three areas have been reworked again, starting with updated styling that includes a 33 percent larger mesh grille, a new ‘floating” Chrysler 300 emblem within that grille, and a new lower grille to tie it all together. Lighting elements have been improved as well, with LED daytime running lights and full LED tail lights (these now sit flush with the trunk lid) as standard equipment. Reduced exterior chrome accents and optional LED fog lights and headlights round out the exterior changes.

The 2015 Chrysler 300′s updated interior reflects a similar design philosophy, combining the best of modern technology with a straightforward approach. The most obvious change is the 300′s new rotary shifter, which attaches to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The rotary knob replaces the large autostick shifter, streamlining the center console’s appearance and effectively coordinating with a cleaner, simpler center stack featuring fewer buttons and knobs. The gauge cluster also benefits from updated technology, with a new 7-inch digital display screen between the analog gauges. Everything from system warnings to odometer and fuel status information to navigation guidance can be shown here, while new steering wheel controls make it easy to configure the screen. This gauge cluster display is in additional to the standard 8.4-inch central touchscreen, which returns for 2015 with updated UConnect access features like a mobile app that let’s drivers start the engine and lock or unlock the doors while away from the car. Perhaps the biggest news for techies is the 300′s new mobile wifi hotspot, making internet access available for passengers without a cell phone.

That 8-speed transmission attaches to either a 3.6-liter V6 or 5.7-liter V8. Both powerplants are carry-overs, and both benefit from the transmission’s wide range of gearing to maximize acceleration and fuel efficiency. The 3.6-liter V6 still makes 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, but fuel efficiency jumps to 19 mpg city and 31 mpg highway for rear-wheel-drive models (18/27 mpg for all-wheel-drive versions).   With the FCA dropping them, will Chryslers new 300 bring them back to life?

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How To Stay Safe During Christmas

Christmas is often spent on the roads.  Whether it’s traveling back and forth to the mall for presents or to your in-laws you will spent some time on the road over the holiday season.  Here are our tips to keep you and your family safe these holidays.

Avoid alcohol.  If you are planning on drinking then organise a sober driver or get a taxi.  If you think you might be tempted to jump behind the wheel after a few to many it might pay to taxi to the event to remove the temptation!

Be courteous to other road users. Most people understand that if you are towing a caravan or boat you are restricted 90km/h and often that speed is too fast.  If you are towing or driving slow, keep an eye in your side and rear vision mirrors for traffic building up and look for opportunities to pull to the shoulder and let people pass.

Don’t text and drive.  Vodafone’s DriveSafe auto-replies to text messages to say you are driving.  There’s also free apps like Drive Safely

Get your vehicle checked.  Just because it passed it’s last WOF doesn’t mean your vehicle is safe.  VTNZ will check your vehicle for just $20 with a WOF inspection or $30 without a WOF inspection.

Take care overtaking.  Ensure you will have 100 metres of clear road ahead of you once you have finished passing.  Keep a reasonable distance from the vehicle you wish to overtake so you can accelerate before overtaking.

Keep a safe following distance from the vehicle in front; remember the two-second rule for normal conditions and the four second rule when wet or towing.

Pick a fixed point on the roadway – e.g. a road sign, mailbox, line/crack/patch in the road. After the car ahead passes a given fixed point, the front of one’s car should pass the same point no less than two seconds later.

Pay attention to your high and low beam.  Dip your headlights as soon as you see an oncoming vehicle.  If you are on windy roads and don’t require high beam then try to avoid using it as it can be hard to dip your headlights in time.

Avoid fatigue.  Get a good rest the night before, take breaks and share the driving.  When driving at night avoid staring at the lights of oncoming vehicles.

Expect the unexpected!  Overseas drivers were involved in more than 400 crashes on New Zealand roads last year.  Failure to keep left, poor handling and fatigue were the leading causes of deadly crashes.

Drive to the conditions. It’s not always safe to drive at the speed limit.  If there’s been rain after a long fine patch roads often become slippery with oil deposits that have built up.  Wind gusts can make your vehicle less stable and bright sun can reduce your vision, especially when the sun is lower in the sky.

Follow these tips to ensure a great holiday.

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How Will Car Dealerships Compete With The Web?

The internet is nothing new, however the purchasing patterns of customers have changed dramatically in the past 10 years.  You go to Amazon.com to buy a book or a television. You can pick up a couch at Etsy.com. You can purchase an entire vacation – flights, hotels and a rental car – at Expedia.com. The opportunities to empty your wallet are but a few clicks away.

But are you willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars over the Internet on your next set of wheels? According to many recent studies, an increasing number say, bring it on. In a poll of 1,002 people in the U.S. by Edmunds.com conducted this year, 83 per cent indicated they would love to avoid the haggle associated with purchasing a car in a dealership; one in five said they would rather give up sex for a month than go through the traditional car-buying experience. Another worldwide study of 10,000 people by Capgemini (a global consulting and technology firm based in France) for Cars Online found that 44 per cent of car buyers expect to purchase their next vehicle over the Internet

While the options for purchasing a vehicle online are relatively limited, auto makers and dealerships are slowly recognizing consumers’ embrace of the Internet when it comes to making their second-largest purchase. But all of this still doesn’t mean the end of the brick-and-mortar dealership just yet.

In August, Volvo opened sales for its latest XC90 SUV model online and sold the first lot of 1,927 in just 47 hours, with 61 of those going to Canadian buyers. After paying a deposit online, the buyer was obligated to visit a local dealership to secure financing before picking up the XC90 vehicle early next year.

“In Canada, the core business of most car retailers is the service, and if you ask retailers where they sustain their business, it’s on the service side,” says Margareta Mahlstedt, vice-president of marketing with Volvo Canada. “So, for us, it’s a way of making the time invested in the upfront purchase less from a retailer’s perspective and, at the same time, increasing their car park and opportunities for service.

“We don’t want it to ever be a pure retail transaction online, at least not now because that’s not what the market is ready for.”

The internet is already a driving force for car consumers, whether they buy online or not. McKinsey Global Institute research showed that the average number of dealership visits by car buyers has dropped from five in 2005 to less than two today, a result of people visiting manufacturers’ websites and reading car reviews before actually going to see any car.

And this should be good for the car business, says Michael Hatch, chief economist for the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA). “It means that the person walking through the doors is already nearer to purchasing a car, whereas, in the past, people just came in to kick the tires and take a look.”

Still, a car is not a computer nor a pair of jeans. Most customers want to touch the leather, see the sparkle of the paint and take in that new-car smell before they lay down their money. More and more, however, Many dealers are coping with the new realities by adapting the Apple retail sales model, notably by equipping their sales reps with tablet computers, as Audi Downtown in Toronto will soon do. The car maker itself offers an interactive app, the Audi Configurator, enabling consumers to spec and price a vehicle, and point them to nearby dealers. BMW is placing product geniuses on the front line at dealerships to answer questions before handing over customers to a sales person, averting the pressure of the initial interaction. Lexus and Mercedes are developing similar models with “Lexperts” and “product concierges.”

Customers are walking through the doors with more knowledge than ever. Some websites provide prices, sales incentives and even compare deals on the same car from different dealerships.   Will car dealerships be able to keep up?

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James Bonds New Ride

James Bond has always loved Aston Martins, and Aston Martin loves James Bond.  Aston Martin says that James Bond’s next car also previews the brand’s new look.

The DB10 two-door coupe, built exclusively for the next installment in the Bond film franchise, “Spectre,” overhauls a design language first used by the V12 Vanquish in 2001.

“The DB10 gives a glimpse to the future design direction for the next generation of Aston Martins,” the company said in a statement.

Aston Martin chose not to sit the DB10 on the new platform it is developing for future generations of cars. Instead it will sits on the VH (vertical/horizontal) platform and will be powered by a 4.7-liter V-8 engine, a company spokeswoman told Automotive News Europe.

The engine is sourced by Ford and also used in the V8 Vantage.

All 10 units of the DB10 will be used in filming the movie, Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer tweeted Thursday.

The DB10 is fully driveable, according to Aston, and has already been tested by actor Daniel Craig, who plays James Bond.

Aston Martin announced earlier this year it is developing a new architecture to update the range but hasn’t said when it will appear on a new car. IHS Automotive recently told Automotive News Europe that it didn’t expect to see cars built on the platform until 2016 at the earliest. In addition, Aston Martin has an agreement with Daimler’s performance arm, AMG, to buy 4.0-liter turbocharged V-8s for its new models.

Aston is struggling financially as it announced a pre-tax loss of 25.4 million pounds (32.3 million euros) for 2013, according to a Reuters report. Investment firm InvestIndustrial bought a 37.5 percent stake in Aston Martin in 2012.

The reveal of the James Bond DB10 is the first big event at the firm since Palmer, a former top executive at Nissan, joined as CEO in September. Palmer tweeted a picture of himself unveiling the car at a UK event on Thursday to announce the film title, saying, “I challenge anyone to tell me I don’t have the best job in the car industry.” “Spectre” will be in theaters starting Nov. 6, 2015.  With the newest Aston Martin being revealed will the movie push sales like it has in the past?

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