Automotive News - February 2014

Child Seats: What You Need To Know

Having a child is one of the most beautiful moments in life. But we can not know everything, and sometimes it is very easy to overlook the most basic precautions. Car seats for children seem very simple, but in fact, there are many rules governing their use, manufacturer and maintenance. As our children are the most valuable thing we have, it is important to know these rules. First, some statistics. Did you know that collisions are the leading cause of preventable trauma deaths of Canadian children aged one to nine years? The proper use of a child seat or suitable restraint device reduces the risk of death by 71 percent, and the risk of serious injury by 67 percent. Unfortunately, by reading the statistics, we can see that 44% to 81% of child seats are used incorrectly.

2015 Nissan Micra: Blowing Away The Competition

Last week Nissan Canada announced that their little Micra will be offered at a starting price of $9,998. Under $10,000 it will be the cheapest car in this country. At that price we wouldn't expect any extras or additional equipment, but for getting from point A to point B, this can easily be the case when comparing used cars as well. What is more interesting is that Nissan is going to upset plans made by some other manufacturers with the Micra. There are not many competitors in this city car category. We can think of five to rival the Micra; the Fiat 500, Scion iQ, the smart, the Chevrolet Spark and the Mitsubishi Mirage. The first three have only two doors, and are therefore less practical than the Micra, leaving only the Spark and the Mirage.

Ford Edge Concept: More Than Just A Glimpse Of The Production Model

Visitors to the Toronto Auto Show were able to get a first hand look at the Ford Edge concept vehicle. Much more than simply a concept, it's very close to being a production model, one that will likely find itself in dealerships as a 2015 model. At the show, we also learned that the production of the next generation Edge for the entire global market, it is currently distributed in about 60 countries, will be carried out at the company's Oakville ON assembly plant. The Oakville plant benefited from a $700 million investment, which was announced last September; to better meet growing global demand and to save 2,800 jobs. The Ford Edge and Flex and the Lincoln MKX and MKT vehicles are assembled there.

2015 Subaru Legacy: Because The Competition Is Fierce

Competition in the mid-size car segment is fierce. The Subaru Legacy received a slight update last year, but it really needed a more in depth overhaul to truly compete. The Mazda6, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima are all cars that rely on good looks to attract buyers. With it's angular shape, the Legacy had to be redesigned quickly. We were promised that the Legacy Concept, to be presented in Detroit and Montreal would offer a smooth silhouette, both muscular and modern, but few believed, especially since Subaru had disappointed WRX fans in Los Angeles by straying too far from it's concept vehicle.

AutoConnect Showcase

One of the great things that the Toronto auto show has to offer is variety, something that some other shows don't do so well. Not only does it have hundreds of thousands of square feet dedicated to the newest and shiniest that automakers are showing off, it has large amounts of real estate dedicated to other automotive interests. There are areas that focus on green cars and their technology, classic cars, even tuner cars. New this year is an area called the AutoConnect Zone, which highlights the newest technology that keeps us safe and connected in our cars, and brings us closer to autonomous driving. It's a great opportunity to learn and to be amazed. Right now most of us are thrilled to simply enjoy internet connectivity and the features it offers in our cars, but that is just the very beginning. Many of these gadgets are on display at the AutoConnect showcase, some of which can even be tried out first hand. At this year's auto show in Toronto, one can experience many of these features first hand, thanks to the full-scale 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class simulator. Visitors are invited to hop in an try out the simulated driver experience to experience the various technologies which include "hands-off" steering and other advanced driver-assistance technologies. The simulator will convince you that you're driving on the German Autobahn at high speeds, while enjoying crash avoidance and driver assistance features.

Ford At The Toronto Auto Show

Ford made a big splash and a lot of friends at this year's Toronto auto show. They probably had the largest stage in the place, and a heck of a lot of real estate on the floor. Perhaps they were thinking that this was their year to shine, after Chevy stole everyone's attention last year with the new Corvette and Chrysler showed off a new Viper. Ford has the brand new Mustang with them this year, but it was a little anticlimactic since we've seen it for months online, and they've brought it to several recent auto shows. Ford seemed to understand this, since it wasn't their showcase vehicle in Toronto, and of course, it won't be available for a few more months. Ford is launching 16 new vehicles this year in North America, 23 globally. Ford had more important vehicles to highlight in Toronto. The company has a huge PR mission ahead of themselves, as they seek to convince the public that the new 2015 Ford F-150 made of aluminum will be just as tough as it's popular predecessors. This message is being pushed and hard, wherever anyone is in hearing range, with special emphasis of "military-grade aluminum" being slipped into the conversation at every opportunity.

Marchionne Speaks At Toronto Auto Show

Sergio Marchionne, CEO & President of Fiat S.p.A. and of course, top guy at Chrysler addressed us media types at this year's auto show in Toronto. In his keynote speech, Marchionne first apologized for the troubles and chaos caused when the North American auto industry seemed to self destruct, requiring bailouts and bankruptcies to set itself straight again. He listed numerous mistakes made by the industry six years ago and said that they would all do a better job thanks to refinancing and reorganization. Eager to get "past the past", Marchionne then praised the direction that the auto industry is taking, as it restabilizes and is starting to show strength not seen in nearly a decade. He spoke of the industry's renewed vitality and of it's return to profitability. He pointed out that there were 1.7 million new cars and trucks sold in Canada last year, and we are on track for more this year.

AJAC- Canadian Car And Truck Of The Year Awards- Exclusive Interview!

Auto Expert was front and centre at this year's Canadian Car Of The Year awards, presented by AJAC- the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada. Mazda's Mazda6 was declared the 2014 Canadian Car of the Year, beating out the Corvette Stingray and little sister Mazda3. The brand new Jeep Cherokee took top honours as Canadian Truck of the Year, over the Kia Sorrento and the Acura MDX. About 80 members of AJAC gathered in Niagara last fall to test each of the 174 eligible vehicles, all on the same day under the same conditions. All details, ranging from safety features to cargo space are examined and rated. Votes were cast, results tabulated by KPMG, and twelve category winners were announced in December. Each of these category winners was eligible to win the Car of the Year award. Mazda won three of the 12 categories, and Kia and General Motors each took two apiece. Auto Expert was in attendance as the official winners were announced at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto.

2014 Canadian International Auto Show

It's that time again, the Toronto auto show is back! We were lucky enough to get an early preview, away from the crowds and had a blast. I'll be writing more in depth about everything over the next few days, but here are the highlights of what is going on at the Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS): Auto Expert was front and centre as the winners (Chrysler and Mazda) were announced at the AJAC awards, and as the Canadian Black Book awards for best retained value were presented. We met Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat S.p.A., and listened to Ford Canada CEO Dianne Craig announce that the Ford Edge utility vehicle will be made in Oakville, ON.

2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe Gets Makeover

Boasting sporty proportions and sensuous lines, this large coupe has reclaimed it's place at the head of Mercedes' table. The S-Class was always considered the pinnacle of the company's range, and the car that was previously known as the CL has been deservedly renamed the S class. The CL was not a big seller, selling only 476 units in the U.S. last year, but it was the car that got all of the newest and greatest technology first. On the newly redesigned model, that practice continues. The new S-class model will receive features such as a heads-up display and active curve tilting. This advanced new feature allows a vehicle to lean into curves, just like a motorcycle driver does. This will reduce the lateral acceleration that acts upon the occupants of the vehicle. It's also got all of the safety and convenience features found in the sedan version, including the company's Intelligent Drive package of semiautomated driving features. These include autonomous braking, night vision, pedestrian detection, lane and cross-traffic assistance, adaptive high beams and radar-based distance control.

CAA-Quebec: The Oil Industry Is Profiting

For the last seven years, the CAA's Quebec branch has been analyzing the daily gas prices throughout all regions of Quebec, and then prepares an annual report, one that makes us cringe every time. It will be of little surprise to you then, to learn that in 2013, Quebecers have paid far too much for their gas. In 2013, the price of a barrel of crude oil fell slightly, as did the costs to refine it. Motorists should then have been able to enjoy better prices at the pump, yet that did not happen. Instead, the retail profit margins increased by an average of 14 percent, which means that the industry as a whole has earned significantly higher profits as well.

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage: Environmental Winner

Nearly every week a new car-related record is published. The AJAC, the ALG, the JD Power, in addition to announcements made by every website and magazine that is related to automobiles, there is something for everyone. This time around, it's the Automotive Science Group (ASG) who did a study on the life of 1,300 vehicles in nine categories, to determine the best 2014 models based on environmental, economic, social and global factors. Using vehicle characteristics and other indicators, particularly complex algorithms, ASG was able to ascertain the best models. ASG claims that since their judgements are based on data, they are more accurate than subjective claims made by auto reviewers. Allow us to doubt! As a result, the ASG study crowned the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage as the conventionally powered vehicle that offers the smallest footprint of all 2014 models distributed in North America. With an estimated fuel consumption of 40 mpg and a weight of less than 2,000 pounds, it's life cycle establishes the Mirage as an example of vehicles built to be environmentally conscious while remaining competitive in the market. The life cycle includes the extraction of natural resources, assembly, distribution, mileage driven, gasoline consumed during use, and final recycling of the vehicle at the end of it's useful life.

Trying Out Electric Cars With CAA-Quebec

The Montreal International Auto Show, 2014 edition, drew 200,753 people who attended to witness 48 Canadian unveilings, custom cars, blood bank and VIP evening. This year, the Benefit Preview raised a record $641,759.40 to be awarded to six hospital foundations throughout greater Montreal. What stood out most were the electric vehicle test drives sponsored by CAA-Quebec. Each year, this activity has become more popular with show visitors. This year, 2,481 drivers and passengers have climbed into one of the vehicles offered to take a test drive. The Chevy Volt and Nissan LEF were clearly the most popular models. The Tesla S, a car worth over $80,000 was also available, it's attractive looks were a crowd pleaser. It's not every day that you can try out a car like this.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class and G: Two Winners

115,285 readers of the German automotive magazine Motor & Sport participated in a survey to determine the best vehicles of 2014. 384 models from 36 manufacturers in ten categories had the chance to be chosen by readers. This is the 38th time that the popular magazine has conducted the poll. Two Mercedes-Benz luxury vehicles distinguished themselves in this survey. The large Mercedes-Benz S-Class won the award in the luxury car category with nearly 25 percent of the vote. It beat out the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe in second place. Audi's A8 and the Porsche Panamera tied for third place on the podium.

2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad

The Dodge Journey is trying to toughen up it's image a little bit. It's rivals are all rugged and outdoorsy, and the Journey wants to play too. To accomplish this, Dodge is launching a new version called the Crossroad, to be introduced at the Chicago Auto Show. The 2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad is actually just a new trim level, that should fit between the SXT and Limited models, distinguishing itself with styling add-ons. It's a little less polished, but it's still a three-row, 7 seat crossover. The Dodge Journey itself is generally more likely to appeal to minivan moms, but this model might attract those with a slightly adventurous sense of self.

SKYACTIV Technology: What Is It?

Mazda is relying heavily on it's SKYACTIV technology. We've all seen the advertisements boasting of it's benefits. But what exactly is SKYACTIV? Without going into too many technical details, we will try to demystify this huge undertaking that reinvents everything we thought we knew about cars. Several manufacturers are making considerable efforts to develop hybrid or electric cars to meet the upcoming CAFE requirements. Mazda is as well, but according to forecasts, 12 percent of all cars in North America and 23 percent of those in Europe will continue to be powered by a conventional engine in the year 2020. This means that the majority of people will be driving vehicles that are equipped with an internal combustion engine, not hybrid or electric.

VW Beetle Celebrates 65 Years In U.S.

There are few iconic cars out there that Americans identify with. The Ford Mustang, and the Corvette, sure; but they are American made so it's to be expected. The German made Volkswagen Beetle is definitely a standout though, having an important place in both history and nostalgia for car lovers in the U.S. The Beetle is considered the fourth most important car in automotive history. Sixty five years after it's arrival, Volkswagen is celebrating with a classic photo set. To mark the occasion, Volkswagen is issuing a gallery of photographic images featuring a 1949 Type 1 next to a 2014 Beetle. The Volkswagen Beetle arrived in the U.S. four years after operations resumed in Wolfsburg, Germany after the second world war. Originally called the Type 1 Beetle, the British occupying forces used the cars as light transport, but the cars were not taken seriously. The British actually tried to give the company away for free to Ford, unsuccessfully. Ford's chairman at the time famously said: "I don't think what we're being offered here is worth a damn!" I imagine that Ford lived to regret that decision, now that Volkswagen has become the second largest automaker in the world.

2014 Super Bowl Commercials

For non-football fans like myself, the best part of the Super Bowl are the commercials. Especially the car commercials. Here's a round up of this year's best automotive Super Bowl commercials. In Honda's ad to promote the importance of automotive safety, they enlist actor Bruce Willis to ask viewers to hug someone who matters to them. Audi shows us the terrible consequences of compromise in their ad featuring the Doberwawa. The 2015 Chevy Silverado gives us a lesson in romance with a prize bull making his way to a romantic encounter. GM sat out of the Super Bowl last year, preferring to allocate their advertising dollars elsewhere. This year they sprung for a second ad spot during the Super Bowl, this one highlighting World Cancer Day.

The 2015 Volvo V60 Sportswagon Now Available

Mark Engelen, President and CEO of Volvo Canada, unveiled the 2015 V60 Sportswagon at it's Canadian premiere at the Montreal International Auto Show. At the same time, he said that the V60 would be immediately available at all Volvo dealers, starting at the suggested price of $39,800. Orders for several of these vehicles had already been reserved in advance. We can therefore assume that there is indeed an interest in these cars. This car will be joining the Volvo family worldwide. The V60 Sportswagon has a very sporty silhouette that moves away from the traditional family vehicle. What remains is Volvo's continued tradition of not compromising on safety. A new, sophisticated software program has extended the information available, including a blind spot alert and lane departure warning systems. Volvo's City Safety program now works at speeds of up to 50 km/h and also detects both pedestrians and cyclists.

The Original Porsche Found In A Barn, And It's Electric

The very first Porsche ever made, built in 1898 has been unearthed in a shed in Austria, Ferdinand Porsche's home country, in nearly pristine condition. Best known for it's performance sports cars, Porsche has recently experimented with electric powered vehicles, notably the new hybrid 918 Spyder. However, the company is hardly new to electric vehicles. The 1898 Porsche recently found in a barn was the company's first EV. Called the Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton model, it is the first car design ever produced by company founder Ferdinand Porsche. He was 22 years old and working for a company called Jakon Lohner & Company, who made luxury vehicles for Europe's royalty. Porsche engraved a "P1" mark onto the car's parts.

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