Filed under: SUV , Truck , Ford , Jeep , Nissan , Toyota , Off-Road , Ram Nearly every automaker doing business in the SUV or pickup truck segments offers a package designed to improve the off-road capabilities of its wares. But, of course, not all such factory kits are created equal. How, then, to separate the wheat from the chaff? Gather each of them up and put them through their paces, naturally. The folks from Four Wheeler and PickupTrucks.com joined forces to run just such a comparison test, with the winner named the Ultimate Factory 4×4. A total of seven vehicles showed up to the fight: the 2012 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor , 2013 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon , 2012 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X and Xterra PRO-4X , 2012 Ram Power Wagon , and 2012 Toyota 4Runner Trail and Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series . With the contestants in place, the whole crew put each vehicle through a battery of tests that included skidpad and acceleration measurements, a hillclimb, a rocky stairstep course and a rock garden. Considering the nature of the beasts, on-road ride and comfort were not part of the routine. So, which four-wheeler ended up on top? Click here to read the results, and don’t act like you’re surprised by the victor.
Filed under: Car Buying , Toyota After dealing with flailing global economies, numerous recalls and safety allegations and then the depleted inventory from the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Experian Automotive says that Toyota is finally back on top when it comes to consumer loyalty in the US. Toyota edged out General Motors and Ford Motor Company to grab this loyalty crown for the first time since the third quarter of 2009. The metric for this title was determined by owners of a vehicle choosing from the same corporate automaker for their next vehicle purchase. For Toyota, this means that 47.3 percent of its current customers will purchase a Scion , Lexus or Toyota model as their next car compared to 46.2 percent for GM and 46 percent for Ford. Honda and Hyundai rounded out the top five in this list. In terms of individual brand loyalty – when buyers come back to the same brand – Ford took the spot in this category with 44.7 percent of buyers returning to the Ford showroom for their next purchase, including six cars in the top 10 for overall loyalty. Ford Fusion customers are the most loyal with 59.9 percent buying another Ford, but Flex , Edge , Five Hundred, Escape and Fiesta are all in the top 10. Oddly enough, the top vehicle among brand loyalty was the Chevrolet Sonic (which has only been on the market for less than a year – we’re not sure what to make of that…) with 60.3 percent of its buyers trading in for another Chevy product. Other interesting facts to note from Experian Automotive’s study include the median age of vehicles has increased from 9.8 years up to 10.8 years since 2008, indicating that people are keeping their cars for an extra year before trading them in. Besides Toyota, Chrysler was the only automaker listed as having increased its market share and vehicle purchases in the second quarter of this year.
Filed under: Car Buying , Budget , Sedan , Technology , Ford , Toyota , Design/Style As 2013 Ford Fusions begin rolling into dealerships, Ford can say that it has finally created the mythical Toyota Camry fighter. It’s something we’ve heard again and again from Detroit’s carmakers, always poised but never able to deliver a midsize sedan that will outsell the venerable Camry. This time, however, Ford may have a case. Offering five powertrains, including a 47 mpg gas-electric hybrid, a powerful 2-liter model, all wrapped in a sexy exterior, the Fusion makes a strong case that it deserves a spot at the top of America’s most cutthroat segment. But numbers don’t lie. Last year, Ford sold 248,000 Fusions. This year, sales are up 7.7 percent through August at 181,000 cars, making the Fusion Detroit’s top selling midsize car in America. But it’s not even close to the top selling midsize car in the U.S., it’s not even the third best selling midsize sedan. The Camry is on a big rebound. It has sold 280,000 cars this year alone, and sales are up 37 percent.
Filed under: Truck , Work , Ford , Toyota , Volkswagen , Holden , Australia , Diesel PickupTrucks.com has turned to its friends in Australia for a look at a few of the most popular midsize pickups found Down Under. The result is the Global Pickup Shootout that pits the reigning-champion Toyota Hilux against the Holden Colorado , Volkswagen Amarok and the Ford Ranger . Each truck was faced with a battery of tests that included on-road and off-road performance as well as design and value evaluations. How did the results shake out? The Toyota Hilux, which hasn’t seen a significant update since 2005, is clearly starting to show its age. The truck consistently found itself at the back of the pack, which resulted in a fourth-place finish overall with 29 points. By comparison, the third-place Volkswagen Amarok performed well in the overall value and design segments, but fell behind elsewhere. The German pickup took home 34 points in the evaluation. The real story here is just how close the first, second and third-place finishers were in the shootout. The Holden Colorado went home with just two more points than the Amarok, thanks largely to its first-place off-road performance, but fell to the Ford Ranger by just one point.
Filed under: Car Buying , Chrysler , Ford , Toyota , Volkswagen Global marketing and communications firm Strategic Vision has announced the results of its annual Total Quality Index. In the 2012 edition of the study, Volkswagen Group of America achieved the highest rating in Total Quality. This marks the German automaker’s second year of achieving the accolade. According to the press release from Strategic Vision, the runner up spot was actually a tie between Chrysler Group and Ford Motor Company. Strategic Vision factored in vehicles like the Audi A4 and A8 , as well as notable VW vehicles like the Golf , Eos , and Tiguan in its study. The study also pointed to the quality of vehicles like the Flex , F-150 , as well as the Fiat 500 for such a tight finish between Ford and Chrysler. Toyota came out with the fewest reported problems of any brand. According to the study, only 17% of Toyota owners reported having problems. Strategic vision says this was its closest finish in “Total Quality” that it has ever reported. According to the release, “Customers are increasingly defining ‘quality’ holistically and using Total Quality in their decisions.” In assessing the Total Quality Awards, Strategic Vision calculated the results from surveys sent out to 45,390 individuals who purchased new 2012 model year vehicles from September to December of 2011.
Filed under: Sedan , Truck , Ford , Honda , Toyota Put on your flag shorts and Liberty Bell hat. Cars.com has released its American-Made Index , proclaiming that four out of the top five American-made vehicles are Japanese brands. The Toyota Camry , built in Kentucky, was ranked the most American vehicle sold today, with the Michigan-built Ford F-150 coming in as the second-most American vehicle. The Honda Accord , Toyota Sienna and Honda Pilot round out the top five. And yes, all of these models are available in red, white or blue. Cars.com’s criteria for selecting the most American vehicle includes sales volume, percentage of American sourced parts and where the vehicle is assembled. Vehicles must have at least 75 percent domestic parts to even qualify for the list, which kept the F-150 off last year. However, the accounting system devised by Cars.com was called “flawed” by the American Automotive Policy Council , which represents Detroit’s car makers in Washington D.C. “The truth is: Three of the 16 major automakers doing business in the U.S. – Chrysler, Ford and GM – produce more than half the cars assembled here, use twice as many U.S.
Filed under: Car Buying , Chevrolet , Chrysler , Ford , GM , Honda , Toyota Ask any sales and marketing executive from Chrysler , Ford or General Motors what their company’s greatest challenge is and they will unequivocally reply, “California.” The Golden State accounts for 12.5 percent of all new car sales in the United States, but even more importantly, it is seen as a bellwether for the nation. As the home of the entertainment and consumer electronics industries, California has an outsized reach into our nation’s popular culture – but Californians have historically been among the least receptive to domestic products. There’s some evidence that trend may be changing, as domestic market share has been improving in the recent years, according to Forbes . Ford has seen its Blue Oval brand improve from seven percent in 2008 to over nine percent last year. Chevrolet topped six percent last year after three years of growth. Even Chrysler, which had a market share of less than four percent in 2010, has seen growth – to five percent in 2011 and almost six percent so far this year. Still, those numbers are a pittance compared to the import brands. According to The Detroit News , domestic automakers have a combined 30.8 percent share in California, well below their 44.3 percent national average. The domestics’ recent growth in California – the Japanese and Korean manufacturers’ “home turf” – has certainly been helped by supply shortages at Honda and Toyota , companies beset by natural disasters last year. If domestic automakers are going to continue to take share from foreign competition, they’re going to have to have more success stories like the recent surge in Chevrolet Volt sales, a phenomenon spurred by the availability of High Occupancy Vehicle lane stickers for GM’s plug-in hybrid.
Filed under: Car Buying , Etc. , Ford , Honda , Hyundai , Lexus , Toyota ALG reports both Ford and Hyundai have seen substantial jumps in their respective perceived quality, with the Blue Oval enjoying a 37 percent jump since 2008. Hyundai, meanwhile, has seen its figures increase by 25 percent over the same five years. For industry watchers, the news should offer no real shock. Both manufacturers have been on a new-product warpath, offering models laden with fresh design, efficient drivetrain options and plenty of technology while steadily increasing quality. The increase has been enough to push Ford to fourth on the list of brands with the highest perceived quality with a score of 70.5. That score puts Ford just behind Subaru with a score of 71.1. Ford and Hyundai may have had strong showings, but Honda has snagged top honors among mainstream brands with an 81.3 perceived quality score, followed by Toyota with 80.1. Lexus walked away with the highest rank among luxury brands, followed by Mercedes-Benz and BMW . Cadillac , Lincoln and Jaguar , meanwhile, all fell below the luxury average of 71.2 points.