Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Car FYI's 2014 In Reverse Part 1

Photo Credit: General Motors

2014 is coming to a close providing what has been a year's worth of memories. As a follower of automotive culture, I have been highs and lows shaping what has been the past 12 months. The auto sector for 2014 consisted of exciting new designs, evolutions in technology and visions of a thrilling future. Conversely, some high-profile fails have also left a negative impression.

With the conclusion of 2014, I want to some automotive-related highlights for this year. The following is Car FYI's first grouping of

Most Spectacular Vehicle Launch of 2014: (Tie) 2015 Ford Mustang and 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

For 2014, despite all the movements in the realm of electric-powered driving and autonomous driving technology, the human driver has been rewarded handsomely. A new crop of gasoline-fuelled sports cars and high-performance vehicles has explored new heights in design as well as horsepower.

Arriving ahead of the Ford Mustang’s 50th anniversary, the 2015 version of the beloved pony car was a magnificent guiding light to the future of the vehicle as the past was being celebrated. Ingredients such as a 5.0-liter V-8 as well as hardtop and convertible variants of the 2015 Mustang won over enthusiasts. On the other hand, new Ford styling inspired by the Evos concept car and a four-cylinder EcoBoost engine has provided the American sports car with the meaningful adjustments to modern motoring times.

2015 Ford Mustang
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

When I watched the unveiling of the new Mazda MX-5 Miata, I thought back to 2013 when Chevrolet created a major Sunday night stir launching the seventh-generation Corvette ahead of the North American International Auto Show. The reception for the Corvette Stingray flooded the Internet in a way rarely observed by an automobile. Mazda tried very hard to make the introduction of their latest iteration roadster strike the same note. In a live webcast accompanied by the legendary rock band Duran Duran, it is reasonable to say the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata was worth the fuss. Cutting-edge styling and Mazda’s SkyActiv technology gave the MX-5 Miata a refreshing bolder look.

Most Important Vehicle Launch of 2014: 2015 Ford F-150

While the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette Z06 attracted the most attention of cameras at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, another American-made debut represented an important part of the automotive sector on this continent. The best-selling truck in the Unites States and Canada, the latest-generation half-ton version of Ford’s F-Series line unveiled earlier this year contained a rich assortment of new technology rethinking the way we see the typical pickup truck.

2015 Ford F-150
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

While recent decades scrubbed the image of a pickup trucks being thin on innovation compared to cars, the 2015 Ford F-150 is a massive step forward. Aluminum body panels considerably reduce the weight of the new F-150 allowing it to more efficiently work. A diverse four-powerplant line-up now features two powerful yet fuel-efficient EcoBoost engines. An eight-cylinder powerplant remains the cream of the F-150 crop. A 385-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 with the 2015 F-160 touts a 16 percent greater power-to-weight ratio than the previous truck.

The 2015 Ford F-150 represented an interesting conflict; evolve the half-ton pickup truck in order to maintain status quo popularity. Fortunately, for Ford and the new F-150, interest in the new aluminum truck philosophy appears to be strong.


Most Stunning Concept Car: Chevrolet Chaparral 2X VGT

At the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, the world was introduced to a Chevrolet concept car creation we can certifiably say in confidence is not production-bound. Exploring the full flexibility afforded to a concept car, Chevrolet’s Chaparral 2X VGT is not designed for this world; it’s built for the virtual world of Gran Turismo 6 on the Sony Playstation 3. Features found with the Chaparral 2X VGT include active aerodynamics and is moved by an electric-charged, 900-horsepower laser beam-energy propulsion system.


2014 Concept Car Most Desired for Production: Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge

Unveiled at the Detroit show, the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge presented a four-door sedan concept remodelled through a host of Formula 1 inspired touches and a Nissan GT-R powerplant. Working with corporate partner Red Bull Racing, a Q50 sedan received carbon fiber exterior pieces, 20-inch forged alloy wheels and a performance-themed steering wheel fitted with Formula 1 paddle shifters. The centerpiece of the Q50 Eau Rouge was a 560-horsepower, 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine borrowed from Nissan’s supercar. This sport luxury sedan concept displayed by Infiniti was tailored as a fighter against the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG.

Photo Credit: Nissan/Infiniti

Based on the composition of the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge, the concept vehicle appeared to be on the fast track to production if public demand dictated. Indeed popular, the Q50 Eau Rouge first viewed as a production reality during the summer of this year. However, an issue regarding the usage of the Eau Rouge name and recent hints that Infiniti has lost interest in the 560-horsepower sport sedan has potentially derailed the Q50 Eau Rouge. In the final days of this year, questions swirl whether the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge will have a future or will be dropped like the ball in New York’s Times Square.

Biggest Blunders by an Auto Company: (Tie) GM Ignition Recall and Chrysler/FCA Shakedown of Canadian Governments

Unfortunately, no highlight of 2014 can go without mention of the General Motors ignition switch bombshell. Affecting roughly 29 million vehicles sold by General Motors from 1997 to 2014, a simple keychain can result in vehicles shutting off without notice to the motorist. The ignition switch flaw has proven fatal linked to 38 deaths as of December with at least two deaths occurring in Canada. An avalanche of damning information such as how long General Motors was aware of the ignition problem was enough to gain attention from the United States congress. While the US federal government levied a hefty 35 million-dollar fine against GM, Canadian governments have not taken any similar actions. It is not entirely clear what effect this major recall is having to their current automotive sales. While numbers have not deteriorated heavily, some buyers may be turned away from GM brands.

A completely different, less troubling topic, I also want to acknowledge another public relations blunder in Canada itself. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ attitude in acquiring funding from the Canadian provincial and federal governments as assurance for future production attracted a lot of attention earlier this year. A matter of days before the 2014 Canadian International AutoShow, it was announced FCA was seeking an astronomical amount between 700 and 800 million dollars of government support for their Windsor and Bramalea assembly plants. While government aid to business is practically commonplace in any part of this economic world, FCA asked for a sizable sum by comparison to recent deals with Ford Motor Company and Honda. Part of Ford’s $700-million upgrade to their Oakville plant that included the continuing production of the Edge crossover vehicle, $142-million was provided from the government. In what turned out to be an even better deal, Honda’s $857-million upgrade to their Alliston operations required 10 percent from the Government of Ontario.

At the 2014 Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto, FCA chairman Sergio Marchionne served as the keynote speaker opening media day. Surprisingly (unsure if it was a matter of stubborn bravery or a miscalculated overconfidence), Marchionne participated in a Q&A session where just one topic was on the mind of reporters. Asked to defend his company’s funding request, the FCA chairman suggested how other regions have been luring business with considerable deals. To me, that came off as a not-so subtle way of saying FCA will move their Canadian operations unless they get what they request. It’s disappointing since this fails to emphasize the proven dedication and competence of Canadian workers. FCA later retracted their requests but this recent action has made the company’s future in Canada less certain.

Biggest Broken Promise by an Automaker: Mazda’s Diesel Production Car Launch in United States and Canada

Mazda SkyActiv Prototype Race Car
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

When Mazda previewed the 2012 Mazda6 several years ago, the Japanese based auto company expressed their intentions to bring a diesel powerplant to the North American marketplace. Branded as the SkyActiv-D, Mazda’s diesel engine was available in the European market where alternative fuel to gasoline is highly popular. As for North America, a diesel-powered Mazda6 would be the first car of its type sold by a Japanese auto brand. During the gas price spike of 2008, Toyota and Nissan were both rumoured to have considered selling diesel-engined passenger cars in the United States but neither company followed through with concrete results.

Scheduled for release for the 2014 model year Mazda6 as well as the CX-5 crossover utility vehicle, a 2.2-liter SkyActiv-D twin-turbocharged engine boasted the potential of producing V-8 torque while providing fuel economy equal to a hybrid. Despite promoting their devotion to diesel technology in North America (promotion that included competing in professional sports car racing), the SkyActiv-D engine is not available in dealerships in the United States or Canada as the year closes. Mazda did announce a delay in the development of their diesel engine for the North American market and has not removed mention of the SkyActiv-D from their websites. Some sources now say it could be 2015 or 2016 when the diesel powerplant will be available on Mazda products.


Most Uninspired Car Brand: Acura

It has been no secret in recent years that Honda product line-ups could be described as “styling challenged”. In honesty, the Honda auto company has not historically been a design leader for production cars. Focused on solid powertrains, Honda and Acura brands were long regarded as technologically-advanced through V-TEC engines. As engine development of other auto companies evolved, Honda’s advantage has been eroded. Competing against their ideologically of building solid vehicles, that planning his placed design and high-tech toys on the backburner. For 2014, it’s a shame to see Acura has appeared too grounded in Honda’s general approach to automotive engineering.

Maintaining a technological pace with other luxury brands through the inclusion of Super Handling all-wheel drive, LED headlights and a dual-clutch transmission in their vehicles, Acura is not seen as a leader in any aspect of premium motoring. A handsome, sporty sedan, the high-anticipated introduction TLX largely retains the vanilla image of Acura. Maybe following the polarizing existence of the ZDX crossover, Acura has lost its nerve in creating something dramatic.

2014 Acura TLX Realtime Race Car

In a few weeks time, Acura will officially announce the revival of the NSX with a full-fledged production model. Though the gasoline/electric hybrid is eagerly awaited, Acura’s three-year tease of the supercar has watered-down some of the excitement since the road-going version’s specs have largely been unveiled by several concept cars. However, the presence of a new Acura NSX could only be a positive for roads of the world.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tesla Roadster Woos Owners/Critics with 3.0 Upgrade

When the Tesla Roadster debuted in 2008, many were skeptical for the prospects of an auto company headquartered in California building exclusively electric vehicles. In the movie "Revenge of the Electric Car", the early struggles of the organization headed by PayPal founder Elon Musk clearly illustrated a deep sea of mud to trek through for Tesla Motors. Despite some production troubles, the Roadster did gain enough attention to keep the company in business. Development and successful launch of Motor Trend Car of the Year winning Tesla Model S cemented that the struggles were worth it. Advertised by Tesla Motors as the Roadster 3.0 package, the electric car automaker serves two interests; current owners of their initial automobiles with a tempting modification and those they intend to win over by proving gains in electric vehicle technology.

The main goal of Tesla's Roadster 3.0 package is to increase the potential of electrified performance pleasure by increasing its range. A battery pack containing a higher-capacity cell is the main ingredient to the Roadster 3.0 package. Holding 31 percent more energy than the previous lithium-ion battery cells, the total battery capacity for the Tesla Roadster with the range-extending upgrade is 70 kWh (up from 56 kWh).

Along with increasing battery capacity, the Tesla Roadster 3.0 package also include measures for reducing air and mechanical resistance. A refined aerodynamic body kit trims the electric sports car's drag coefficient by 15 percent. The 0.31 drag coefficient achieved through the new body improvements is equal to the aerodynamics reported by the Pagani HuayraServing as the third area of improvement with the Roadster 3.0 package enhancements, rolling resistance has been reduced by new tires, better wheel bearings a lowered brake drag.

According to Tesla Motors, all Roadster 3.0 package improvements made to the all-electric two-seat sports car will allow the vehicle to travel beyond 400 miles. In a few weeks time, Tesla will demonstrate the improved range of the Tesla Roadster in a non-stop drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles (a 381.8-mile trip according to Google Maps). Owners of the Tesla Roadster can schedule the first appointments for the Roadster 3.0 upgrades by the spring of 2015. Tesla Motors also teases this recent tuning will not be the only improvement the electric automaker plans for their Roadster.

Coming at the end of a year where automakers received attention for massive recalls, Tesla Motors' news is an unusual circumstance when a car company announcements vehicle changes for something rather than a safety issue. A few years ago, I pondered the notion whether we could expect manufacturers to release updates to sold vehicles could become a normal occurrence. Naturally, since automobiles are quickly becoming connectible, software updates to infotainment is a definite future. What truly had me interested in the coming years of automobiles was updates to improve performance. The quirky Tesla Motors gained attention with the 2.5 upgrade of their electric Roadster in 2010 but the actions of a more than century-old Ford Motor Company during the same timespan also proved intriguing. Months after releasing their Super Duty truck with a 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 turbocharged diesel engine, Ford invited early buyers back to dealerships for a performance enhancement that added 65 pound-feet of torque to the truck. The move was directed as a counterstrike against the General Motors' Duramax diesel engine that briefly bettered the Ford Super Duty.

Tesla Motors claims there are no immediate packages being created for exploring improvements to the Model S.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Car FYI Holiday Gift List: Mattel Hot Wheels Die Cast Cars

Location: Various On-line retailers and stores

Price: $1-189.99

This next Car FYI Gift List idea is a bit on the nose but can not be underestimated in its appeal.

Young or old, Hot Wheels lead the way into the hearts of true car fans. For budding automotive enthusiasts, Hot Wheels provide an extension of imagination and basically hours of fun either on specialized tracks or practically anywhere else. For adults, Hot Wheels captures past memories as well as a continuing passion for automobile. Providing myself only the occasional indulgence, I was fortunate to find two vehicles etched in my childhood. First being Knight Rider's K.I.T.T. in Super Pursuit Mode and the second was Herbie the Love Bug. Larger, high-detail replicas are also provided through the Hot Wheels Elite line.

The vehicle shown in the picture is the special San Diego Comic-Con version of the Darth Vader car part of the recently unveiled Hot Wheels Star Wars line. Right now on, one example of the Comic-Con vehicle is selling for $189.99 US. While not as beautifully displayed, the same vehicle is also available in traditional blister packs for $3-6. Having already released a 2015 collection of vehicles, the 2015 Ford F-150, Ferrari 599 XX and McLaren P1 are part of the new set.

Car FYI Holiday Gift List: Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Model Car and Pen

Location: Mercedes Benz Collection

Price: $145.95

One of the most iconic Mercedes-Benz production vehicles ever built, the 300 SL Gullwing was derived from a winning race car. The unique opening doors, the first-ever application of fuel injection to a performance car and limited in production to just 1,400 examples from 1954 to 1957, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing is a prized vehicle among high-end collectors.

While the full-sized 300 SL Gullwing could demand over $300,000 at a top auction, the gift item-oriented Mercedes-Benz Collection offers a smaller, more affordable alternative for fans of the 1950s supercar. Part of their 2014 Holiday Star line of lifestyle accessories, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Model Car and Pen features a 1:43 scale die cast replica of the classic Gullwing sports car painted in Fire Engine Red. A black ballpoint pen with red accents is destined to be moved by a pleased writer when they are looking at the miniaturized 300 SL. The die cast and the pen come in an engraved gift box. 

Granted the nearly $150 price tag for a Model Car and Pen set is quite steep (especially since the same item is selling on the US Mercedes-Benz site for $108). Maybe the other Holiday Star items such as Classic Tea Set or four-piece Ornament Set could prove to be a more affordable choice.    

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

CAR FYI Holiday Gift List: OPI Ford Mustang Nail Lacquer Collection

Location: Sparkle Canada
Price: $39.21

The Ford Mustang has long had a strong relationship with women during its 50 years in the marketplace. This allegiance was forged early in the production of the famous American classic. Ford has reported "the first retail produced Mustang” was purchased by school teacher Gail Wise in Chicago. Ahead of the introduction of the brand-new 2015 Ford Mustang, one lifestyle product was released specifically tailored to the pony car’s faithful female followers.

OPI Ford Mustang Nail Lacquer Collection Described as a limited-edition nail lacquer collection, the Ford Mustang-themed products come in six colours. The list of categorized colours include ‘Race Red‘, a golden pearl ‘50 Years of Style‘, black ‘Queen of the Road‘, pinkish ‘Girl Love Ponies‘, ‘The Sky’s My Limit’ aqua hue and ‘Angel with a Leadfoot’ consisting of a celestial white. According to OPI Co-Founder and EVP Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, “These lacquers celebrate a woman’s pursuit of excitement and invite OPI fans to accentuate their personal style and embrace Mustang’s adventurous spirit through color,”. The special Mustang branded nail lacquer is available in a set or can be purchased individually.

Canadian online nail polish retailer Sparkle currently has the six-pack OPI Ford Mustang Nail Lacquer Collection listed at $39.21.

Car FYI Holiday Gift List: Mopar HEMI Original Blueprint Reproduction

Price: 250.95 US

Location: Mopar Authetic Gear (US Site)

This year, Mopar celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 426 HEMI racing engine. While Chrysler Corporation had utilized powerplants utilizing hemispherical chambers since the 1950s, the 426 cubic-inch version (nicknamed the Elephant) was considered the zenith of their HEMI development. Developed as a racing engine, Chrysler intended to win the Daytona 500 with the Tom Hoover-designed 426 HEMI V-8. At the 1964 Daytona 500, Richard Petty lead a top-three sweep at the track powered by the Chrysler engine. Aside from stock car racing, the 426 HEMI engine would also become a force in professional drag racing. Street Chrysler products equipped with the Elephant was and remains a prized example of Mopar muscle car performance.

As a special treat for hard-core Mopar fans, a reproduction of the blueprint for the groundbreaking performance is provided as a high-quality piece. Chrysler’s A864 HEMI® Cylinder Block Line Drawing has been replicated and imprinted on a 72” x 20” polyester material. Priced at $250.95 US, the Mopar HEMI Original Blueprint Reproduction is strictly limited in production. Only 50 reproductions of the engine blueprint will be made. Each Mopar HEMI Original Blueprint Reproduction print will include a letter of authenticity signed by Tom Hoover as well as the Mopar CEO Pietro Gorlier.

Also available as authentic items from Chrysler (or more appropriately Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or FCA) is a full line of HEMI 50th anniversary being sold at clearance prices.

Monday, December 22, 2014

200-Mile Per Hour 2016 Cadillac CTS-V Unveiled Ahead of NAIAS

Right now, many children are studying their family Christmas trees studying whether the gifts addressed to them will be the highly desired toy or the less intriguing clothing item. When we were young, we were taught waiting would be rewarded on December 25th (sometimes Christmas Eve depending on the family tradition). Sometimes, the anxiety of delivering a gift could prove difficult for the gift giver. Cadillac just couldn't wait until January's North American International Auto Show to show the world their latest gift to the performance luxury sedan market. The latest iteration of the General Motors' premium brand's beloved performance luxury, the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V sedan has arrived ahead of Santa Claus' sleigh.

At First Glance:

It could be said from the debut of the 2014 Cadillac CTS sedan that engineers were provided with quite an elegantly athletic shape to work with when creating the third-generation version of their V-8 sport luxury sedan. The larger, polished look of the latest CTS served as an already striking. Upping the ante with the 2016 CTS-V, performance artists at Cadillac has applied a number of distinguishing touches to their latest sedan.

Topped the front-end with a new engine cover, the carbon fiber hood of the 2016 CTS-V is near identical to the design used on the 455-horsepower Cadillac ATS-V. An optional Carbon Fiber package allows the lightweight engineered material be used to accent the vent, front splitter and rear diffuser of the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V sedan. The front of the new CTS-V has been reshaped for optimized aerodynamics and feature larger air inlets. Upper and lower grille sections feature a mesh covering completed by a smaller Cadillac emblem.

Wider fenders accommodate Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires mounted to 19-inch forged aluminum wheels. Chevrolet SS-like side vents and a large rear deck lid spoiler is also found on the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V conveying greater dynamics for the four-door sedan.

Momentum and Control:

When the first-generation CTS-V was introduced in 2004, 400 horsepower provided some more than satisfactory movement for the sedan. In 2009, the larger hood for the second incarnation of the Cadillac CTS-V packed a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 LSA engine generating 556 horsepower. For 2016, the natural progression of the CTS-V had observers expecting more than 600 horsepower from the vehicle. Achieving a new plateau for American super luxury sedans, the official output rating for the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V is rated at 640 horsepower and 630 pound-feet of torque.

An all-new 6.2-liter V-8 engine powers the third-generation CTS-V. Conforming with the LT4 engine design (also used to propel the all-new Chevrolet Corvette Z06), the 2016 CTS-V operates with a more efficient supercharger unit using smaller diameter rotors. The reduced diameter allows boosted power at a lower RPM range granting the vehicle extra responsiveness. The all-aluminum Cadillac powerplant also features intelligent control through gasoline direct injection and Active Fuel Management.

Rear-wheel propulsion from the 2016 CTS-V's engine will be channelled through an eight-speed automatic transmission featuring steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. Employing Performance Algorithm Shifting, Cadillac touts that the automatic transmission on the new CTS-V operates more quickly than dual-clutch gearboxes that are growing in popular among European automakers. Estimated to reach a top speed of 200 miles per hour, the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V's 0 to 60-mile per hour acceleration time is rated at 3.7 seconds.

A 25 percent stiffer structure made possible with additional bracing has insured competent all-around handling and performance for the 640-horsepower Cadillac sedan. Performance Traction Management provides four selectable driving modes that allows the driver to match handling to specific conditions. The latest application of GM's Magnetic Ride Control dampers, ZF Steering System Servotronic II electric power steering, standard electronic limited-slip differential and high-performance Brembo brakes promises to make the 2016 CTS-V one of the greatest driving sport sedans.

The Cabin:

Inside, the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V immediately informs the driver how performance and luxury can exist at the same time in such a glorious presentation. Offered in one of three color combinations (Jet Black, Jet Black with Light Platinum accents and Saffron with Jet Black accents), the 2016 CTS-V's interior employs decorate stitching touches. Standard front seating consist of heated and ventilated semi-aniline leather/sueded microfiber seats with 20-way adjustment. Buyers could also opt for more aggressively-shaped Recaro performance seats.

Technology also receives an upgrade with the 2016 model year variant of the Cadillac CTS-V. A 12.3-inch instrument display provided ahead of the motorist is accompanied by a full-colour heads-up display. Cadillac's CUE infotainment system serves as the control centre for navigation, connecting Bluetooth enabled devices and interacting with Siri Eyes Free devices. Performance Data Recorder (a video capture system that debuted on the Chevrolet Corvette) equipped on the CTS-V is viewable on the CUE touchscreen. Wireless inductive phone charging and OnStar 4G LTE connectivity are also high-tech cabin details.  

Final Notes:

Stepping across the 200-mile per hour line where supercars are defined, Cadillac has squarely targeted the BMW M5, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG and indirectly the Audi RS7 Sportback with their latest CTS-V.

While the CTS-V has been the vanguard for Cadillac's V-Series performance, the twin-turbocharged ATS-V is set to take more of a center stage role for the brand. The Cadillac ATS-V is already set to replace the past-generation CTS-V on the race track. Will the 640-horsepower 2016 Cadillac CTS-V be seen as an high-powered boulevard cruiser?

No More Words: Chrysler To Be Simply Known as FCA

Some believe that companies are living entities similar to other creatures on this planet. Certainly businesses can be fostered into valuable members of human society when properly encouraged. Like individuals, companies are also required to pay taxes in a fair civilization (although many elect to declare their residence in a civilization that results in the smallest tax bill).

Businesses can even be adored to an extent as brands and products can assemble a strong following. The automotive sector contains some of the deepest connections where people have grown all attached to a product name. The Chevrolet Corvette is envied for being a sports car embodying American performance while the Jeep Wrangler epitomizes classic utility. Even the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic enjoy a fondness among North American motorists as trusted transportation. These types of associations are highly valued to the point even a minor change has the potential of completely ostracizing audiences. When Fiat merged with Chrysler, an instant raucous arose among United States nationalists disliking the idea that an Italian-based company would gain control one of what used to be part of the "Big Three" automakers. Heading into 2015, another change will officially take place altering the way Chrysler will be seen in a corporate sense.

Effective as of the mid-part of December, Chrysler Group will be known as FCA US L.L.C. (Limited Liability Company). An acronym for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, FCA was introduced earlier this year as the global parent company for the newly merged operations. While the Chrysler operations is now referred to as FCA US, the Fiat S.p.A. in Italy will adopt the name FCA Italy S.p.A. (it's unclear if the Canadian subsidiary and other regions have followed suit). The new name was prominently enacted this year when FCA was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Though the Chrysler name remains part of the new corporate brand, it is the first time since the formation of Chrysler in 1925 that the name will not be used in full. Originally called Chrysler Corporation, a merger/buyoff affecting the organization by Daimler-Benz between 1998 to 2007 resulted in the adaptation of the name DaimlerChrysler. The auto corporation existed as Chrysler L.L.C. until the 2009 bankruptcy where it evolved to Chrysler Group.

Since the FCA US name change occurs only in the corporate realm, there does not appear to be much fallout to the change. The Chrysler brand, along with Dodge, Ram and Fiat brands, are unaffected by the use of FCA US.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Car FYI Holiday Gift List: The Mega Bloks Canadian Tire Ice Truck

Are you still seeking that ideal gift for that car lover in your life? Young and old, the attraction of four-wheeled vehicles has long-served as a source of amusement. While some of us would identify our ideal Christmas or holiday gift with 707 horsepower flowing to the rear wheels of a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, a majority of enthusiasts can be won over by a fun, thoughtful surprise related to the automobiles. For this reason, Car FYI has compiled several gift ideas for the Canadian automotive fan. Recognizing the assorted tastes of individuals enchanted by car culture, maybe one suggestion will guide the gift-giver or perhaps the self-gifter.

Starting off the 2014 Holiday Gift List, I share with you an item that definitely caught my eye. On the first day of 2014, retailer Canadian Tire created a chillingly awesome commercial for the MotoMaster Eliminator battery. Premiering during the January 1st Winter Classic NHL match with the Detroit Red Wings facing off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, a truck shaped by 11,000 pounds of ice blocks rolled to demonstrate the winter-handling endurance of their battery. The commercials were a massive hit and generated intrigue for the Ice Truck. Not a computer effect, the Ice Truck indeed really existed sculpted with the aid of Iceculture and was powered by a non-ice chassis from a real truck.

As the end of this year nears, Canadian Tire reminds us of their clever, cool marketing. Selling replicas scaled models of their Ice Truck, another product developed in partnership with fellow Canadian-based company Mega Bloks allows Canadian Tire's Ice Truck to be assembled without the worry of melting.

A 486-piece building set, the Mega Bloks World Builders Canadian Tire Ice Truck regularly retails at $34.99. Recently becoming an uncle, I had just recently become aware at the price of connecting block building sets and have been astonished at the expense. I've looked at some Lego set and was blown away as many greatly exceed $50.  

Part of me also questions the idea of having themed building sets that only promote the construction of an item in one form. Isn't the idea of building blocks to have children explore their imaginations to construct their own creations? I do know many of these themed sets are popular and some can even be quite valuable. Vintage Lego Canada Post mail vans produced in the 1980s can go for upwards to over $300 on Ebay. In a most recent surge in Lego popular thanks to the recently released movie, the cost of play sets are continuing to soar. Mega Bloks is viewed as a knock-off version of Lego but still generates interest (case in point, Mattel brought the block maker's parent company earlier this year).

Opening up the Mega Bloks Canadian Tire Ice Truck building set, I followed the instructions closely. Some of the bags come with numbers of them. Just ignore the numbering because it served no redeemable purpose to assembling the set. Despite the few moments of frustration finding specific piece in a pile of Mega Bloks bricks, the building, tool set and truck went together smoothly. Remembering my time as a child, I do concern myself with the small detectable tools included in the kit. With the Canadian Tire Ice Truck set rated for five years and up, the lifespan of the little Mega Bloks accessories could be short.

Of course, the most thrilling part of the complete build was assembling the ice truck. Consisting largely of transparent blocks, an ice-like finish shimmers though the built vehicle. Under the hood, the Mega Bloks kit also included a MotoMaster Eliminator battery.

Also included in the kit are three Canadian Tire-branded figures with articulating movement that out-flexes a Lego man or Lego woman. It is also impressive that the set seems rather robust when built precisely to the instructions ideal for hours of play for children. However taking roughly three hours for me to assemble the entire Mega Bloks set, the build process according to the instructions was fairly elaborate. It strikes me I may not be the only adult who will have to assemble the set (at least, initially).

The Mega Bloks Master Builder Canadian Tire Ice Truck is currently available exclusively at Canadian Tire retailers. Link to Site

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jaguar Land Rover's Bold Vision for Future with 360 Virtual Urban Windscreen

If you own a modern vehicle, chances are at least one pair of uncomfortably large roof pillars have possibly caused you grief while maneuvering. Larger pillars exist these days are necessitated to structurally toughen the vehicle for improved handling and to meet modern crash-resistance. While smaller roof pillars on older cars encouraged drivers to look around, the modern wisdom is to drive more dependently with mirrors. Despite serving their purpose, mirrors are not always trusted by drivers. Making the pillars virtually invisible, Jaguar Land Rover's new technology concept has the potential of reducing city collisions.

Called a 360 Virtual Urban Windscreen, Jaguar Land Rover uses array of high-tech devices to deliver a maximum field of view for the motorist. Inside, a screen is installed on each pillar of the vehicle's cabin is supported by cameras. The live video feeds from the camera positions are relayed onto the pillar displays providing an unobstructed perspective of the outer surroundings. The system would ultimately end blind spots and potentially prevent accidents. The system intelligently tracks the movement of the driver's head movement left or right and automatically makes the necessary pillars transparent. 

Jaguar Land Rover have previously exhibited similar principles of the 360 Virtual Urban Windscreen earlier this year. At the New York Auto Show, Land Rover showed off a concept known as the Transparent Hood. With the Transparent Hood, cameras at the front of the vehicle transmitted images through a heads-up display system creating an augmented view over the hood panel. The Transparent Hood was touted as a unique feature for off-roading as it would allow drivers to operate with an expanded vision of every rock or obstacle traveling under the vehicle.

"Our ultimate aim is to reduce road accidents and enhance the urban driving experience. The Jaguar Land Rover research team is developing this technology to improve visibility and to give the driver with the right information at the right time. If we can keep the driver's eyes on the road ahead and present information in a non-distracting way, we can help drivers make better decisions in the most demanding and congested driving environments." said Jaguar Land Rover's Director of Research and Technology Dr. Wolfgang Epple regarding the 360 Virtual Urban Windscreen. Jaguar Land Rover is envisioning the 360 Virtual Urban Windscreen being connected to an automotive cloud-based computing interface. Possible enhancement to the virtual viewing system is greater integration with the environment such as street signs and points of interest.

Another technology under development by the car maker is called 'Follow-MeGhost Car Navigation'. Placing a virtual vehicle in the heads-up display ahead of the driver, Jaguar Land Rover's 'Follow-MeGhost Car Navigation' technology is being promoted as a more effective to turn-by-turn navigation directions.

Jaguar Land Rover has not placed a timeline for when or if their high-tech driving aids will is installed in production cars.

Information and photo source: Jaguar Land Rover

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ford Performance Promises to be New United Front for Blue Oval Excitement

High-speed performance cars convey an international language. Through the emission of sound from a sports car`s exhaust, the translation more efficient than any program on with Rosetta Stone software is realized. Despite the internationally recognized sound of performance, not all speed demons on four wheels have a voice in every major country in the world. Some cars are delayed travel to continents while others are created to satisfy a specific country (though envied across the planet). In a time where reaching a global market is becoming more important for auto companies, performance cars must become world travelers. The Nissan Skyline/GTR was denied to North Americans until the 2008. On the opposite side of the coin, the North American staple Ford Mustang featured a limited international presence until the introduction of the 2015 model year vehicle. Along with the Mustang, Ford's organization of their region performance entities will insure a single sport model can roam the Interstate, Autobahn or the Trans-Canada Highway in the future.

An all-new performance division, Ford Motor Company is consolidating their Ford Racing, SVT (Special Vehicle Team) and Team RS operations into a single, dedicated group. Ford Performance will become the universal organization not only for the United States but for the global marketplace. Managing street and race track activities, Ford Performance will be afforded a full array of resources in the pursuit of enhancing vehicle momentum. Aerodynamics, powertrain, electronics and weight reduction are some of the areas where Ford Performance specialists will be seeking advantages against their competition. Mercedes-Benz had long unified its performance behind AMG while more recently Nissan announced the wider use of their NISMO brand name in motorsports and high-performance products. Ford Performance will maintain engineering services across the world as well as an all-new American-based technical centre in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A special vehicle team with an increased global view, Ford Performance creations will be built for a wider distribution. Among the first of what will be 12 or more Ford Performance products to be accessible on a wide world market is the upcoming Ford Focus RS. The RS products have been one of the sought-after by North American motorists with a passion for super sport compacts. With specs and designs yet to be publicly unveiled, it could be said safely the new Ford Focus RS is going to outperform the Focus ST model. For its traditional European audiences of the Focus RS, they were last accustomed to a 301-horsepower vehicle capable of blitzing from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in 5.9 seconds. “To earn the RS badge, the vehicle has to be a no-compromise driver’s car that can deliver exceptional performance on the track when required while providing excellent every day driving,” said Ford's group vice president of Global Product Development Raj Nair.

The new Focus RS is likely to be unveiled sometime next year. Following the introduction of the first globally available Ford Focus RS, the remainder of vehicles arriving from the Ford Performance team are expected for the course of the next five years.

Information and photo source: Ford Motor Company

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mercedes-Benz Celebrates Formula 1 World Championship with Special SL 63 AMG

To say the 2014 Formula 1 season ended well for the Mercedes AMG team would be a grand understatement. With Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg driving the W05 Hybrid race car, the team captured victory in 16 of season’s 19 events. In qualifying, one of the Mercedes AMG drivers prevailed with the pole position in all but one race (Williams’ Felipe Massa propelled by a customer Mercedes-Benz power unit won the Austrian Grand Prix’s pole). As Lewis Hamilton overcame a mid-season gap to triumph over teammate Rosberg for his second World Drivers’ Championship, Mercedes-Benz captured the honour of proclaiming themselves the toast of the paddock among teams. After five seasons for the Mercedes AMG organization gave glimpses of potential, quick adjustment to new rules for the 2014 Formula 1 vehicles netted the factory-based team the manufacturers’ championship. Since the manufacturers’ trophy in the series was not established until 1958 (three years after Mercedes-Benz pulled out of competition as a constructor), the title was the first for the German auto manufacturer as a team.

When the 2014 Formula 1 season ended, Mercedes-Benz entered into a highly celebratory mood. Along with the driver, team and corporate parties, the German automaker commemorated their successful year with a special product. 38 Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG convertibles will be presented as the “World Championship 2014 Collector’s Edition”.

Powered by a 585-horsepower, 5.5-liter biturbo engine, the Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG World Championship 2014 Collector’s Edition models are equally divided between two styling themes. Distinctively defined, 19 cars will be feature a designo night black magno body color devoted to World Drivers’ Championship Lewis Hamilton while the other 19 will be finished in designo cashmere white magno dedicated to Nico Rosberg. Each car will represent a specific track on the 2014 Formula 1 tour. Hand-embroidered floor mats and engraved center console badging will identify which track the special edition Mercedes-Benz convertible represents. Essentially, every vehicle produced through the World Championship 2014 Collector’s Edition will be one of a kind. All 38 examples of the Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG World Championship 2014 Collector’s Edition will include the AMG Driver’s package, a Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system and the Magic Sky Control roof.

The SL 63 AMG World Championship 2014 Collector’s Edition vehicles, an already limited production quantity, will be snatched up at quicker paced based on how Mercedes-Benz is selling their unique convertibles. Buyers are offered the opportunity of acquiring the track specific models in both the Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg variation of the World Championship 2014 Collector’s Edition. For instance, a purchaser for the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve models could be bought for €629,510 (equating to over 908,200 Canadian dollars). Buying the Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg edition models together is presented at a discounted price considering Mercedes-Benz charges €320,110 (461,852 in Canadian dollars) for a single vehicle.

Besides the bragging rights of owning the Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG World Championship 2014 Collector’s Edition, some additional perks are being provided to purchasers of the special edition convertible. Each buyer will receive an invitation to the opening race of the 2015 Formula 1 season in Melbourne, Australia, an special IWC Ingenieur chronograph watch, signed F1 book and helmet worn by one of the Mercedes AMG team drivers. Mercedes-Benz has also arranged for a ceremonial turnover of the SL 63 AMG World Championship 2014 Collector’s Edition vehicles at next year’s German Grand Prix.

Information and photo source: Daimler AG

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Canada's Most Stolen Cars by Region for 2014

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

In a previous post, I shared the results compiled by the Insurance Bureau of Canada on the top-10 most frequently stolen vehicles in this country for 2014. Having already shared the story of the nation's most frequently stolen vehicles, the organization also created lists relating to regions of Canada shining a spotlight on the fact that thieves in certain provinces prey upon specific automobiles. Dividing Canada into five areas, there is indeed major differences in the types of vehicles stolen.

Prairies and Territories

Encompassing four provinces and three territories in Canada, pickup truck thefts appear to dominate the mindset of thieves. Eight of the top-10 most targeted vehicles on the list for the region are Ford Super Duty pickup trucks. These numbers of this region of Canada has clearly resonated with the regional trends as the 2007 Ford F-250 Super Duty made the top of both lists.

Two vehicles of note on the list for the prairies is the 1998 Plymouth Neon and 1997 Dodge Stratus. The only cars on the list for the western part of Canada, Chrysler products such as the Neon and Stratus have been considered easy targets for thieves. It wasn't until 1999 that the Dodge Stratus provided an option of a Sentry Key that makes the car more difficult to steal. The prairies and Canadian territories region will not be the only place where late 1990s Chrysler products will make top-10 listing.

1 2007 Ford F250 Super Duty 4WD
2 2007 Ford F350 Super Duty 4WD
3 2006 Ford F350 Super Duty 4WD
4 2005 Ford F250 Super Duty 4WD
5 2000 Ford F250 Super Duty 2WD
6 2006 Ford F250 Super Duty 4WD
7 1998 Plymouth Neon 2DR
8 2005 Ford F350 Super Duty 4WD
9 1997 Dodge Stratus 4DR
10 2004 Ford F250 Super Duty 4WD


Previously mentioning Chrysler products, thieves in the Maritimes appear to be seeking out a member of the company's Jeep brand. The four-door 1999 Jeep Cherokee is at the top of the chart apparently coveted for its four-wheel drive capability. Another Chrysler product is also found on the top-10 most frequently stolen vehicle list for the region. The 2006 Dodge Charger with a HEMI V-8 engine has proven enticing enough to be classified as the fourth most targeted vehicle in Maritime provinces. The Charger has also been popular on similar surveys in the United States lately sought after for its high-performance powerplants. The remainder on the top-10 list for the Maritimes is a mixed bag of vehicle makes and types racing from the 2001 Mazda Tribute to the 2003 Cadillac Deville sedan.  

1 1999 Jeep Cherokee 4DR 4WD
2 2006 Acura MDX 4DR 4WD
3 1999 Toyota 4Runner 4DR 4WD
4 2006 Dodge Charger V8
5 2001 Mazda Tribute 4DR AWD
6 2005 Chevrolet/GMC Suburban/Yukon XL
7 2003 Cadillac Deville
8 2005 Nissan Titan
9 2009 Acura TL
10 2006 Subaru Legacy Wagon AWD


A region of major contrast to the rest of Canada, the province of Ontario's list of most frequently stolen vehicles contain a number of unique characteristics. Ontario is one of two regions in the country where the thieves appear to aggressively pursue later model vehicles. In every other region of Canada, no car older than 2009 appears on the list. In Ontario, three cars are 2010 or older. Also differing from other regions of Canada is not one pickup truck is found in Ontario's top-10 most frequently stolen vehicle list.

It appears the V-TEC powered Honda products are still a tempting vehicle to thieves. In the first and third spot of the most frequently stolen vehicle in Ontario is the Acura RSX Type S. The 2002 and 2003 model year RSX coupes (sandwiching a BMW X6 AWD crossover) are joined by the 2008 TL Type S placing Acura branded vehicles in in three of the ten spots on the Ontario chart. Toyota registers a total of four times on the list with the Highlander crossover vehicle accounting for three. Also notice on the chart that Toyota vehicles range from 2010 to 2013.

1 2003 Acura RSX Type S
2 2009 BMW X6 AWD
3 2002 Acura RSX Type S
4 2013 Toyota Highlander 4WD
5 2013 Toyota 4Runner 4WD
6 1997 Plymouth Breeze
7 2008 Acura TL Type S
8 2006 Range Rover Sport 4WD
9 2012 Toyota Highlander 4WD
10 2010 Toyota Highlander 4WD


Historically touted as a province notorious for organized car thefts, it was previously reported that 17,766 vehicles have been stolen in 2013. While still high in Canada, the overall frequency of stealing vehicles in Quebec have actually declined in recent years. Car thieves in Quebec have focused almost entirely on utility and utility-leaning vehicles on the 2014 list for most frequently stolen cars in the region.

Matching the national list, the 2007 Ford F-250 Super Duty is once again presented at the peak position. In second place, Quebec vehicle theft patterns show a similar favouritism for imported products. Behind the 2007 Ford F-250 Super Duty, the 2013 Lexus RX350 shows again that skilled perpetrators can bypass modern anti-theft measures for a vehicle worth the effort. With Lexus being a Toyota brand, it was not the only product from the auto brand appearing on the list. The 2010 and 2013 Highlander as well as the FJ Cruiser also made the top-10 in Quebec. In third place is the two-door version of the 1999 Acura Integra. 

1 2007 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4WD
2 2013 Lexus RX350
3 1999 Acura Integra 2DR
4 2006 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4WD
5 2007 Ford F-350 Super Duty 4WD
6 2010 Toyota Highlander
7 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser
8 2004 Infiniti FX 35
9 2005 Ford F-350 Super Duty
10 2013 Toyota Highlander

Monday, December 8, 2014

Ford F-Series Super Duty Trucks Among Most Stolen Vehicles in Canada

In most cases, automakers appreciate it when their vehicles are found at the top of charts. In Canada, Ford Motor Company has contently watched as their F-Series truck line has been a hot commodity. On-road and off-road capacities for Ford's pickup trucks has been reflected year after year. As a matter of fact, 48 years of sales-topping performances in its class reveals the Canadian popularity for this dependable work vehicle. Coveted among hard-working individuals and businesses, the Ford F-Series has unfortunately become a magnet for thieves.

A report released on Wednesday by the Insurance Bureau of Canada highlighted the top-10 most stolen vehicles in this country. On the national chart, Ford F-Series trucks appeared on the list a total of seven times. With Ford F-Series pickups taking the top three positions on the list, the 2003 Cadillac Escalade is positioned in fourth place as the highest vehicle not to be a Ford truck. Other than the F-Series and Escalade, the Honda Civic took the final two spots on the Canada-wide most stolen vehicle ranking. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the province of Alberta have seen a 50 percent rise in the thefts of the Ford trucks. Rick Dubin, Vice-President for the Investigative Service for the organization also stated, "What's more, for the first time in years, 3 stolen F-series trucks, intended for export, were seized at the ports of Montreal and Halifax."

Within the national list for most stolen vehicles, there is a few interesting tidbits. While the Ford F-Series dominated the chart, none are the typically abundant F-150 models. Evidently, based on the 2014 list, thieves are finding greater value in the brand's more powerful Super Duty variants. Five of the Ford trucks consists of 2003-2007 model years of the one-ton F-350. At the top of the chart, the 2007 Ford F-350 pickup truck is the most stolen in Canada. Remaining two Ford trucks on the list is the 2006 and 2007 model year F-250. Including the Cadillac Escalade, eight of the top ten automobiles in the national theft list are truck-based products.

Also in the national ranking, no vehicles produced beyond 2007 have even made the list. For Canada overall, the oldest model year vehicle appearing in the top-10 for theft risk was the 1999 Honda Civic (the 2000 model also made the list). Advancements made in anti-theft protection and even vehicle tracking services have made causal theft more difficult with new vehicles. On the 2001 Civic, Honda incorporated additional theft deterrent such as an electric immobilizer system.

However, the Insurance Bureau of Canada also cautions that 20 percent of thefts took place when vehicles had keys inside. The organization additionally warns that more organized thieves are continuing to target high-end automobiles. One theft ring was recently cracked by Toronto police called "Project Yellowbird".

Top-10 Most Stolen Vehicles in Canada

1 2007 Ford F-350
2 2006 Ford F-350
3 2007 Ford F-250
4 2003 Cadillac Escalade
5 2005 Ford F-250
6 1999 Honda Civic
7 2004 Ford F-350
8 2006 Ford F-250
9 2000 Honda Civic
10 2003 Ford F-350

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Electric Car Company Tesla Opens All-New Store in Montreal

Red Telsa Model S

With months of cold, snowy weather, vast landmass and limited charging stations outside pockets of urban areas, electric vehicles currently face a tough road in Canada. A company driven technological visionary Elon Musk, Tesla Motors has not been deterred from expanding their dealership network north of the 49th parallel. The first Canadian Tesla store opened at Toronto's Yorkdale Shopping Centre in late 2012. Since the Toronto store opening, Tesla expanded west adding a sales outlet on Vancouver's Robson Street and added a several service outlets. This weekend, the city of Montreal receives increased attention from the electric car maker with the christening of a new store inside the large French-Canadian city.

Opening with a VIP celebration Friday night, Tesla's latest Montreal sales and service center came alive on Ferrier street. During the weekend, the mood of the dealership will be electric as the showroom welcomes the public to explore a range of technologies such their recently-announced Autopilot and Dual Motor setup. Part of the grand opening weekend includes hosted tech talks and the first opportunity for prospective owners to schedule appointments to drive the Model S at the location.

Technically Tesla's second branch in Quebec, this location is billed as offering the best manner for seeing the electric-powered brand. The first location positioned in the Montreal suburb of Laval has operated see late 2012 in a small outlet. The size and placement of the Laval sales office has led to its being classified as a temporary solution during the construction of the Montreal location. The new location is also only the third in Canada equipped to supply sales and service on the Tesla Model S (the others being in Laval as well as in Toronto on Lawrence Avenue East).

Presenting a unique sale concept for the Model S luxury sedan, Tesla has generated praise as well as resistance in the United States. Tesla Motors' direct from the auto manufacturer sales model has been heavily opposed by the states of Texas and recently Michigan. In Quebec, the electric car company has been greeted more warmly. Quebec's provincial government minister of energy and natural resources Mr. Jacques Daoust replied in a statement, "The arrival of a company like Tesla Motors has thus add to our leading expertise in diversified and complementary areas, such as the manufacture of batteries and charging". Minister Pierre Arcand who is responsible for Quebec's Plan Nord also welcomed Tesla's appearance in the province as a way forward for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Below is a 3-D video I captured during my visit of the Tesla store at Toronto's Yorkdale Shipping Centre: