Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Buick LaCrosse Doing Well in China

While General Motors' total U.S. sales have been hard hit this year, the redesigned Buick LaCrosse is seeing explosive growth in China since launching this summer -- demonstrating the importance of the 106-year-old Buick brand in GM's portfolio.
Sales of the LaCrosse sedan jumped almost threefold in China during the first two full months of sales of the redesigned large sedan compared with last year.
GM sold more than 20,500 LaCrosse sedans in China during August and September, compared with about 7,000 during the same two-month period a year ago, according to company figures.
Those monthly totals are the highest the LaCrosse has had since being introduced to the Chinese market in 2006.
The redesigned LaCrosse has been widely praised by industry analysts but still faces an uphill fight in the United States, where the Buick brand has not been as well received.
In China, however, the brand is considered a premium player and its sales also are helped by a blazing overall sales market.
"You've got a great brand, and you've got a marvelously executed vehicle," said industry analyst Erich Merkle, president of "It's like fire and gasoline, you can get a great explosion out of it."
U.S. sales of the LaCrosse, while down for the year, are also picking up compared with earlier in the year.

GM Getting Back on Track on the Balance Sheet

For the first time in 21 months, General Motors is on track to see its first monthly sales increase compared to the same time period a year ago, the company said.
While official results will be announced next week, all signs point to a good month, according to Mike DiGiovanni, GM's executive director of global market and industry analysis.
“We’re really having a good October,” he said.
DiGiovanni added that about 95% of the sales for the month are coming from the company’s four core U.S. brands — Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. A year ago, those brands comprised about 85% of the company’s sales.
GM is in the process of winding down Pontiac and Saturn and selling off Hummer and Saab after emerging from bankruptcy in July.
“We’re clearly getting behind us the brands we’re phasing out,” he said.
GM sold 168,719 vehicles in October 2008, which was a 45.1% decrease from the same month in 2007, according to Autodata Corp.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mazda3 Still Makes Great Sense

The 2010 version of Mazda's hugely popular Mazda3 sedan seems to smile at its front end, which is fitting, because you're sure to smile if you drive this machine.

There are two four-cylinder engines to select from, and the fun, darting driving qualities that the car has been known for over the years are still present.

In addition to the sedan, the Mazda3 still is available as a five-door hatchback.

Both have front-wheel drive.

The latest version has a new five-point grille that Mazda calls its new “global face.”

The look is handsome, upscale and has a sportscar wedge to its profile and the smile in front. Inside, the cockpit has gotten more sophisticated and plush, with refined shapes and expansive pieces of black and toned plastic.

The entry-level Mazda3 “i” is equipped with a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to either a five-speed manual or automatic transmission. The sportier “s” model comes with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that the Mazda6 has and that pumps out 167 horsepower. The larger engine gets a six-speed manual transmission as standard and the same optional five-speed automatic as the base car. The base engine does a competent job of producing commute-worthy power, and with the five-speed automatic, it's reasonably swift for lane changes and highway passes.

The 2.5-liter four picks up nicely in most gears and feels very refined. Both trannies are good, but the automatic's manual shift mode really lets the car fulfill its intended purpose.

Fuel economy rates from 25/33 mpg for the smaller engine with the manual gearbox, to 22/29 mpg for the larger engine with the automatic-- very impressive.
The Mazda3's athletic suspension delivers the promise of “zoom zoom” from behind the wheel. The engineers seem to have made the new car more resilient.
Mazda calls the 3 a five-passenger car, but in reality, it is more comfortable with only four onboard.

Ingress and egress are good, and with fold-down rear seats, the trunk capacity grows considerably. The lift-over height is high, though, and the opening to the trunk is a bit narrow. Interior headroom is a major issue for tall backseat passengers--and if you order the sunroof, drivers will need to ratchet the front seat down to avoid bumping the Mazda3's headline.
The Mazda3's crisp, responsive handling and standard anti-lock brakes go a long way toward avoiding a crash.

Six standard airbags, active head restraints, and carefully engineered crush zones help you survive an accident when the handling can't help you avoid it.

Optional dynamic stability control and traction control are standard on higher-end models of the Mazda3 but not offered on base versions.
The original Mazda3 sets itself apart from its competitors in many ways, one being the availability of features that you can’t find in other compacts.

The 2010 Mazda3 continues this trend with first-in-class bi-xenon adaptive lighting standard on the Grand Touring model.

A three-position memory function has been added to cars equipped with power seats—another first for the segment and not offered on any competitor's compact car.

A navigation system is available.

Other available features include a Bose 10-speaker premium surround sound system, Bluetooth connectivity for cell phones and portable media players, a dock for iPods, and Sirius Satellite Radio.

An advanced keyless entry system includes push-button engine starting. The Mazda3 options list also includes rain-sensing wipers, a sunroof, leather upholstery, and heated seats and side mirrors.

Our tester, which had manual transmission, had a very reasonable sticker price of $18,965.

The Mazda3 is a great buy for those seeking a bit of luxury and driving enjoyment, and a not too expensive price.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Legacy of Value: Subaru Still a Leader

Its looks say middle-class and mid-size.

But the value, quality and fuel economy say the 2010 Subaru Legacy is at or near the head of its class when it comes to the competitive sedan market.

Subaru has enlarged its five-passenger Legacy for this model year. But it has given it a starting sticker price of around $20,700, which ranks it as the lowest-priced all-wheel drive sedan on the U.S. market.
The 2010 Legacy can also score points in fuel economy, with its 23 mpg city/ 31 highway ratings (with the continuously variable transmission, which boosts the base price by about $1,000).
Subaru says that those numbers are also best in class.

Subaru has always been known for building quality vehicles, and the Legacy has always been known as a good sedan.

Problem was the Legacy was a little too smallish for people who needed to haul around other people and maybe a few items.

Not anymore.

The latest Legacy's wheelbase is 3.2 inches longer, and the body is 3.2 inches taller and 3.6 inches wider.

But the growth is managed efficiently.

The body parts that go beyond the front and back wheels barely grew, making overall length only 1.4 inches longer than the previous generation.

But inside, there are four more inches of rear-seat legroom, so it's now up to 37.8 inches, thanks to improved engineering.

Front seat legroom remains a robust 43 inches.

Those of us who are on the tall side also appreciate the Legacy's rear-seat headroom of 37.5 inches.

Subaru says shoulder room is better too.

But people also carry stuff, and they can do so with Legacy's bigger trunk -- now 14.7 cubic feet.

Interior styling improves nicely, with the tester having very comfortable and attractive fabric seats and a quality plastic trim on the inside of the doors.

Interior noise is minimal, and the comfort and convenience make it pleasant for driver and passenger.

Subaru offers three all-wheel drive systems for the Legacy, including a 2.5i Premium with base, 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and CVT. The all-wheel drive system is such that the continuously variable transfer clutch was electronically managed to distribute power among the front and rear wheels as driving conditions determined.

The Legacy offers its highest torque of 170 pounds-feet, and power overall is certainly adequate and steady.

Subaru changed the engine a bit for this model year and with its new Lineartronic CVT, the powertrain efficiently supplies power and strong fuel economy.

In a weeklong test drive with the 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine, my fuel economy was about 23 mpg in city and highway driving.

Plus, Subaru says you can go almost 500 miles before needing a fill-up in the Legacy with four-cylinder engine and CVT, thanks to the larger fuel tank.

The CVT optimizes mileage by manipulating without set gears and giving variability among gear ratios.

The Legacy has standard paddle shifters on the steering wheel if you wish to get a more spirited feel from the shifting.

And while you might not think you need all-wheel-drive, it's nice to have not just on snowy roads but also rainy roads where you need more traction.

The tester carried a sticker price of $29,141, including satellite radio and premium audio system.

The Legacy of great quality and value carries on.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chrysler Divides Dodge into Car, Truck Groups

Chrysler's new Italian management on Monday announced a surprise shake-up of the automaker's executive team, saying two recently appointed brand CEOs have left and that it was splitting Dodge into two groups, one focusing on trucks and the other on cars.

The moves marked the second management reorganization since Fiat took control of Chrysler on June 10 when it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Peter Fong, president and CEO of the Chrysler brand and the company's top sales executive, and Michael Accavitti, president and CEO of the Dodge brand, abruptly left the company, Fong for personal reasons and Accavitti to pursue other interests, Chrysler said in a statement.

Sales of Chrysler Group LLC vehicles, which consist of the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands, are down 39 percent for the first nine months of the year. Chrysler also was caught unprepared for the government'sCash for Clunkers program and had too few small vehicles on dealer lots to benefit much from the rebates.

READ MORE:;_ylt=AuURTAG8M.o2wtHZuLlMoZGs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFmYmpmc2xwBHBvcwMxMDQEc2VjA2FjY29yZGlvbl9idXNpbmVzcwRzbGsDY2hyeXNsZXJzcGxp