Autofield Blog

Mazda: Looks Great, Less Gas


By: Gary S. Vasilash 16. October 2014

Although Mazda is a mass-market manufacturer of vehicles, its market isn’t all that mass because the people at Mazda intensely focus on those who are interested in driving. Consequently, the engineers pay a whole lot of attention to acceleration, ride and handling, ergonomics, and the like.

And the designers create cars that are as striking to look at as they are to drive.

Mazda6

(People often cite the Ford Fusion as the most stylish midsize sedan. I’d argue that the reason they do that is because they haven’t seen the Mazda6. That is, through September, there have been, according to Autodata, 240,585 Fusions delivered and just 41,861 Mazda6s. So the odds of seeing one are less.)

Anyway, it is most impressive that this company that is focusing on the driver and the driving experience has, for the second year in a row, been named the most-fuel efficient auto manufacturer in the U.S. by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the EPA’s “Light Duty Fuel Economy Trends” report, Mazda’s fleet-wide adjusted fuel economy performance for model year 2013 is 28.1 mpg. (It also has the lowest adjusted CO2 emissions, at 316.)

Honda is second, followed by Subaru, Nissan, VW, Toyota, BMW, Daimler, Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler.

And it is interesting to note that there is a non-trivial spread between first and last places. Fiat Chrysler came in at 20.9.

Presumably those HEMIs and Ram sales had something to do with that.


2014 Honda Civic EX-L w/Navi


By: Gary S. Vasilash 15. October 2014

Here are four words that the folks at Honda probably wouldn’t like to hear:

“Is this the Accord?”

Mind you, the question was asked in a way of admiration.

The question was asked by a person who once owned an Accord and who likes the brand.

But the car in question is the Civic, the one just below the Accord in the Honda lineup.

2014 Honda Civic Sedan

And this person thought that this was the bigger sedan because it seemed to her that it has the size and the substance of something ostensibly more substantial.

This person was taken with the whole package.

Of course, the problem conceivably is that were said person in the market for a new sedan, she might opt for the Civic rather than the Accord. And one can only assume that Honda would probably like for her to opt for the Accord rather than vice versa.

Admittedly, the Accord is a bigger car. It is 189.2 in. long and 72.8 in. wide. The Civic is nearly 10 in. shorter (179.4 in.) and about 4 in. thinner (69.0 in.)

Still, the passenger volume difference is one cubic foot: 93.1 vs. 92.1.

That amount of space is nothing to sniff at, of course, but the roominess of the Civic is sufficient for most of the people that I know.

The Civic is well equipped on the interior, with things that are becoming more common but are still somewhat unexpected in this compact category, such as pushbutton start with a pushbutton that has a certain substance to it, not something that seems as though it might be found on a car by Little Tikes.

2014 Honda Civic Sedan

The vehicle features what was, once, a “controversial” two level instrument cluster; some people like it, some people don’t. But if it is additional information that you are looking for, you’re hard pressed to find a car that offers it. And when you do find them, chances are you have to keep hitting a button on the steering wheel followed by another push of another button as you scroll and select, select and scroll, to get the information.

The Civic has a clever feature (one, I must confess, I first encountered on the Accord) that is activated when you put the right turn signal on. The 7-in color display shows a camera view of what is on the right side and behind the vehicle.

One of the characteristics of Hondas is that they are ergonomically designed, and this is what is clearly evident in the Civic.

Although the car as-driven is in the top trim level, EX-L, it does seem as though the Civic is a car that is a bit of an overachiever. For one thing, a few years ago Honda was savaged for having a non-competitive interior on the previous generation of the car and since then, people at all levels of the organization seem to have gotten the memo and upped the game significantly. For another thing, the competitive set—and now the traditional domestics are actually in the game with the likes of the Focus and the Cruze—has gotten only stronger, so if you’re going to play to win the customer, you’ve got to play hard. And for still another, while the Civic was once the entry-level Honda, since 2006 the Fit has been available, so the Civic needs to be at a higher premium in terms of what it offers.

2014 Honda Civic Sedan

The 143-hp engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission. The goal here is to achieve good fuel economy. (For those who are looking for something significantly more spirited, there is the 205-hp, six-speed manual Civic Si sedan.)

A question that begins to occur is how much car does a person need if the purpose of the car is simply to commute in comfort? Apparently, the average vehicle occupancy in the U.S. is less than two people (although it is on the order of 1.67, I’ve yet to see a 0.67 person), so the Civic has room to spare and amenities to boot.

Selected specs

Engine: 1.8-liter, DOHC, i-VTEC I4

Horsepower: 143 @ 6,500 rpm

Torque: 129 @ 4,300 rpm

Transmission: Continuously variable

Steering: Electric-power assisted rack and pinion

Wheelbase: 105.1 in.

Length: 179.4 in.

Width: 69.0 in.

Height: 56.5 in.

Curb weight: 2,930 lb.

Seating capacity: 5

Passenger volume: 92.1-cu-ft.

Cargo volume: 12.5 cu-ft.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 30/39/33 mpg


Big Brands Around the Planet


By: Gary S. Vasilash 14. October 2014

Last week, Interbrand released its 2014 Best Global Brands ranking. Why is this of any interest in the automotive space?

A few reasons, really.

One is that vehicle manufacturers spend a tremendous amount of money to bring people to their brands and, they hope, subsequently their showrooms. Last year, GM, Ford, Toyota, and Fiat Chrysler were among the top-10 advertising spenders in the U.S.

Second is that top brands have a higher value in the market. That makes the company more valuable overall. This can make it easier for them to do things like raise money for investments.

Third is that top brands tend to be things that people aspire to being associated with. People want to be associated with the leaders. This can turn into more sales.

Toyota

Biggest of the global automotive brands

The methodology that Interbrand used to calculate brand valuation included the following metrics:

· The brand has to derive at least 30% of its revenue outside of its home region (remember: this is a global survey)

· It must have “a significant presence” in Asia, Europe and North America and broad coverage in emerging markets

In addition to which, they expected the brands to be economically sound and delivering a return above its cost of capital.

So, how did the vehicle manufacturers do?

Pretty good.

There were 14 companies (including Harley-Davidson, which Interbrand categories in “Automotive,” and which is not bad company to keep) in the top 100.

Two made it into the top 10: Toyota at 8 and Mercedes-Benz at 10. The people in Munich must have been annoyed that BMW came in at 11.

Honda made the top 20, at 20.

Then VW shows up in 31st position, just behind Pampers and ahead of Kellogg’s.

Ford is in 39th place, an 18% gain compared to last year. Hyundai is in 40th, having made a 16% improvement.

Audi, in 45th, made a whopping 27% gain. Another big mover is Nissan, in 56th, whose brand fortunes increased by 23%.

Porsche comes in at 60. Kia makes the list at 74. Then it is Chevrolet at 82, bracketed between delivery service company DHL and fashion purveyor Ralph Lauren.

Harley is at 87. Land Rover, new to the list, is at 91.

The Japanese, German and Korean brands are all strong. The performance of U.S.-based companies certainly shows the domestic-centric nature of their brands. One Ford is paying off for that company. As Chevy’s footprint around the globe is being decreased, chances are that it might not even reach 82 next year.


On Auto Engines and Executives


By: Gary S. Vasilash 13. October 2014

Although the 2015 Ford F-150 is widely known for its pioneering use of aluminum on a light-duty pickup, there is more to the vehicle than its sheet metal.

One other important factor is found under that aluminum hood (and it is interesting to note that the F-150 has had an aluminum hood since 2004).

2015 Ford F-150 2.7L EcoBoost

The 2015 F-150 is the first Ford model to get an all-new 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine.

The engine, explains Steve Gill, Ford chief engineer, Global Engine Engineering, Powertrain Product Development, produces 325-hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. It provides enough oomph for a maximum tow rating of 8,500 lb., which Ford reckons handles about 90% of the needs of light-truck customers.

Gill explains the new engine in some detail (e.g., compacted graphite iron block, fracture-split main bearing caps, etc.) on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.”

And he’s brought along a 3D-printed model of the engine to help point out some of the features.

In addition to which, Frank Marcus of Motor Trend, Keith Naughton of Bloomberg, and I discuss a variety of subjects, ranging from Sergio Marchionne’s recent comments (to Bloomberg) about his retirement date (2018) and the possibility of their being greater consolidation in the global auto industry to a study conducted for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety on driver distraction caused by less-than-capable in-car telematics systems.

And you can see it here:

 

 


The M88A2: A Different Kind of Exotic


By: Gary S. Vasilash 10. October 2014

Although the exotic vehicles we tend to write about here have four wheels and not a wheeled track, it caught our eye that when it comes to modifying these vehicles, the price tag is most certainly in the ultra-high category, so. . . .

That is, the U.S. Army has awarded a $153.6-million contract to BAE Systems to convert 53 M88A1 recovery vehicles to the M88A2 Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift Evacuation System (HERCULES).

BAE

That’s right: 53 vehicles; $153.6-million.

But know that this is a non-trivial mod.

That is, the HERCULES version features a 70,000-lb. boom that is able to hoist and tow twice the weight of the earlier version, the M88A1. It carries a 70-ton constant pull winch and 280 ft. of cable.

It is said to be the “only vehicle” capable to recovering the M1 Abrams tank, as well as the heaviest mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) variants.

As for other specs of the M88A2:

· Overall length: 338 in.

· Width: 144 in.

· Height: 124 in.

· Horsepower: 1,050 @ 2,400 rpm

· Top speed: 30 mph

· Personnel capacity: 7

· Cruising range: 300 miles

· GVWR: 140,000 lb.

Looking at that GVWR: the name “HERCULES” is certainly appropriate.




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