Sunday, August 02, 2015

Automotive Reporter/Biz News for Wk of 8-3-2015

I mentioned last week that my first, brand-new car was a 1976 Honda Civic CVCC Hatchback. Even back then they were called rice-burners, and I was viewed with some disdain by my peers. But, hey—there had been this thing called an Oil Embargo, and gasoline prices were on the rise. The Civic may have been made in Japan, but it was made for the U.S.

Fast-forward 40-years, and in an ironic turnabout, Korean drivers may now begin ordering US-built 2015 Chevrolet Impala’s—the first time the brand is introducing a full-size sedan domestically. Cars destined for Korea will be assembled at GM’s Hamtramck Assembly plant in Detroit. 

The Korean-Impala (“The Krimpala?”) will be strikingly similar to its US brothers, but the Korean-only vehicles will have folding side mirrors, electronic toll collection capability, and heated rear seats.

Don’t try this at home.
BMW’s new 7-Series sedan is prominently featured in the 5th edition of the Mission: Impossible film series, “Rogue Nation,” reprising the partnership  with Paramount in “Ghost Protocol” in 2011.

“The 2016 BMW 7 Series sets a new benchmark in lightweight design, driving dynamics, comfort, intelligent connectivity and intuitive operation,” the company’s press release exhorts. The car apparently can also traverse several levels of stair steps, and is capable of launching itself, in reverse, into space, and landing end-over-end, keeping driver and passengers intact. (Remember, it’s a movie.)

The association with MI-5 is not without promotional benefit. BMW is also initiating a “Mission to Drive” marketing campaign around this weekend’s motive release, should you choose to accept it. Additionally, the all-new BMW 7 Series features the world’s first Gesture Control. Pre-selected hand movements in the vicinity of the center console enable you to adjust the audio volume control, and accept or reject incoming phone calls, among other functions. Yes, I suppose you can program it to respond to that hand gesture, too.

I give the film a “7” on my 1-10 scale of entertainment and excitement. “Rogue” has a tall hill to climb this summer, competing against “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and the next James Bond serial, “Spectre.” 

Speaking of spies, more and more drivers believe vehicle hacking will be a growing problem in coming years, and may temper their buying tastes for new cars. Most respondents to a new Kelly Blue Book survey on vehicle hacking do not believe there will ever be a permanent solution to the problem.

In the survey, 72% of drivers were aware of the recent Jeep Cherokee hacking incident. 70% perceived Fiat vehicles the most vulnerable to hacking, including FIAT, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, and RAM. Interestingly, slightly more than half of the drivers questioned would consider paying a monthly fee to guarantee their car was hack-proof, up to about $8/month for the peace of mind.

Elio CEO Paul Elio
Just one month after launching its crowdfunding campaign under new investing rules, Elio Motors says it has received non-binding indicators of interest worth over $25-million. The company used the StartEngine crowdfunding platform to get the word out, and the potential orders rolling in.

The money raised will help fund next year’s roll-out of Elio’s three-wheel enclosed vehicle. The unorthodox car is expected to sell for $6,800 and deliver 84mpg. The company says it has taken over 45,000 reservations for the cars.

In a very self-serving comparison piece by, the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata will offer 90% of the Porsche experience at about 50% of the price. 

Yes, they did a side-by-side comparison of the new ND with a 2015 Porsche Boxster, looking at all the usual areas, like horsepower, zero-to-60 times, and curb weight. You scoff? There are some amazing similarities.

While the new Miata has a smaller, 2-Liter 4-cylinder engine than the Boxster's 2.7-Liter flat six, the Miata trails the Boxster by only 0.3 seconds in a race from 0-60. And remember, it’s a lot less expensive than the high-priced spread. 

The 2016 Miata's $24,915 base price is less than half the cost of the 2015 Boxster's base MSRP of $52,395.
The chart is displayed below, or you can download it here.
I don’t think the Mazda folks are really going to have to work this hard to sell the new MX-5.

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