Category Archives: SUVs and Crossovers

2017 Chicago Auto Show

setting-up-cas17-marqueeOpening breakfast of the two-day media preview started with bacon, which is always a good way to begin for me.  The opening remarks by Jill Ciminillo, the new president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), lead me to believe I am not alone because she mentioned it twice.

The Head of Design-Global for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA), Ottawa born design genius Ralph Gilles, keynoted the breakfast meeting with a presentation that grabbed the attention of all in the room.  Usually these talks are full of facts and figures suited more for the investor meetings and boardroom thrashings by stakeholders, and are often boringly self-serving dribble.  Not this one.

Gilles talked Sci-Fi, AI, Sentience and Infinite Memory.  He tipped his hat to his competitors, like BMW and Tesla, and he tossed out questions like, “Have any of you yet heard of BINA48 Hanson Robotics?” then left it there with a teaser slide.  I will definitely look them up.

There were, of course, some facts and figures, and bragging on the new nameplates added to the FCA Group – Alfa Romeo and Maserati.  But it wasn’t just info dump, Gilles is head of design for these guys, too, and he said stay tuned for cool stuff for “a whole new generation” from Maserati.  I cannot wait.

JEEP is in an exciting space as well.  One on one Gilles told me he was very excited about the “dual personality of the new Renegade and the expanding personality of the Grand Cherokee” models.  One of the factoids thrown out was that overall JEEP sales have climbed from 497,000 units in 2008 to 1,200,000 in 2016.

 

durangosrt
Dodge Durango SRT Unveiling

The Dodge Durango SRT, said Gilles, will be unveiled today.  Some already say it is one bad-ass machine, the “supercharged 7-passenger Charger that sounds like a muscle car”.  And speaking of Dodge, the passion of the MOPAR Car Clubs around the world are matched by the fervor of the Alfa Romeo fans, a factor in their acquisition of the nameplate.FIAT is looking into bringing its larger platform to the US market as the FIAT Toro truck is already #1 in Latin America, according to Mr. Gilles.

And then about the future, the designer had an awesome concept vehicle to talk about (the vehicle itself is on a slow boat to China for the Beijing Auto Show).  It began with a group of a couple dozen millennials picked by Gilles to answer, “What does your generation want?”  Answers came as questions like, Why do we need a grille if it’s electric, Why can’t we move the wheels out to the max if there’s no engine compartment, and Why won’t my car talk to me nicely?

PORTAL is something unlike any concept I have ever seen, a ‘third room’ of your living space, and the promotional video said it all with images, no words.  So I am just offering eye candy here.

PORTAL eye candy video on YouTube

Finally, no surprise, the MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year went to the Chrysler Pacifica, and after accepting the award for FCA-NA, Bruce Velisek, Director – Chrysler Brand at FCA Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, gave me the best sound bite ever – “the Pacifica makes parenting easier, and life better.  We’re making mini vans sexy again.”

 

Founded in 1991, and now in its 26th year, the Midwest Automotive Media Association comprises 278 automotive journalists and public relations professionals from 25 states, D.C. and Canada.  Jim Mateja, MAMA’s first president and automotive writer for the Chicago Tribune for over 45 years, recently passed away and was honored at the breakfast to a round of applause.

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bmw-cycle-selfie

 

Douglas Black is a futurist, historian, writer and photographer based in Chicago.  He also writes historical fiction under the name Duke Pierce Reade, including the online serial anthology THE RED AND THE GOLD found on Channillo.com

 

Next POTUS Rides The Beast 2.0 – Whoever It Is

POTUS Limo on test track
POTUS Limo on test track

by Douglas Black  August 11, 2016

The presidential limousine is always a big deal.  Woodrow Wilson was partial to Pierce-Arrows and FDR enjoyed a cigar in the Sunshine Special.  JFK thru Jimmy Carter cruised the Lincoln X-100, suicide doors and all.  Obama has a Cadillac referred to as ‘The Beast,’ will be altered for the next President of the United States. My friends at the website Autoblog.com managed to capture photos of the vehicle testing.

According to Joel Patel of Autoblog, “The Beast 2.0 will follow closely behind the current presidential limousine that’s built upon a rugged commercial truck with a sedan-like body.”   Instead of utilizing components from the now-retired Cadillac STS, the new presidential limo borrows parts from the new Escalade.  Still bomb-proof, the prototype sports LED headlights for better gas mileage (what??), has a more angular grille that features Cadillac’s wreathless crest (branding is crucial).

beast1-1

There’s no word on whether the Beast 2.0 will be ready in time for zipping to and from Inaugural Balls in January, but the stealthy photographers reported that GM recently stepped up its testing for the limousine at its Milford Proving Grounds.

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DouglasBlack at CAS2015 1 Douglas Black is a writer and photographer in Chicago.

Trucks Surge, Crossovers Debut

February 21, 2016  by Douglas Black

It was quite predictable.  As the great recession ebbs vehicle sales are up.  And America hit the powerball number as well with gas prices half of what they were two years ago, pushing sport utility and pickup truck sales to record numbers.

Tacoma TRD Pro
Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Debut

The heavy hitters like GM, Ford, Dodge RAM, and Toyota were showing their big guns this week at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show.  Toyota’s debut reveal was the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro pickup, while Ford released the new 2017 Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package, expanding its Explorer line up to six models, which also includes the Explorer Base, XLT, Limited, Sport and Platinum Edition.

2017 Ford Escape
2017 Ford Escape

2017-Ford-Escape-4 Ford made this announcement, along with unveiling the 2017 Ford Escape sport utility vehicle during the Media Breakfast where keynote speaker Mark LaNeve, Ford’s Vice President, U.S. Marketing, SaFord Escape1les and Service said Crossover SUVs are the fastest growing segment in overall sales, and expected to grow over five years.

According to LaNeve, the millennial generation, specifically active lifestyle young adults ages 25-35 years old, are opening their wallets to crossover utility vehicles, contrary to the notion that they are less interested in car ownership than previous generations.

2017 Kia Niro
2017 Kia Niro

2017-Kia-Niro-4 2017-Kia-Niro-6Other producers are taking notice as well.  KIA is expanding their product line with the all-new 2017 Kia Niro hybrid subcompact crossover vehicle, or as Kia describes it, a hybrid utility vehicle. Designed at Kia’s design centers in Calif., the Niro features high-tech safety features including blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, advanced smart cruise control, lane departure warning and lane change assist, making this a perfect vehicle for young families with active lifestyles.

New Wave of E-Cars Better, But…

TESLA X-Model CUV
TESLA X-Model CUV

by Douglas Black, enerficiency on the road, April 29, 2013

Electric vehicles are getting better.  Mainstream automakers are investing big money into designs that are “not too weird”.  And reliability is improving.

Some  recently unveiled concept vehicles hint at what we may expect to see on the road, or plugged into charging stations, in the next 5 to 10 years.

Renault, a company known for utilitarian ruggedness (think military tanks) as well as high performance racing, introduced the Twizy, a single seater city car with a top speed of around 100 kph.  We see this as a great delivery vehicle for fast food joints.

(See the Popular Science story  “New Twizy Electric Car is Part Formula One, Part Mario Cart” )

Don’t know about the name, though.  perhaps something more “green” sounding would be better for an environmentally conscious offering like this.

Renault Twizy F1
Renault Twizy
Renault Twizy F1
Renault Twizy F1
Renault Twizy F1
Renault Twizy F1

And like Global Warming, the cost of gasoline goes up in a roller coaster fashion.  Sometimes down.  Sometimes up.  But in the long run, higher.

So these electric cars make sense in the long run because they cost nothing to drive, right?  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

While power use efficiencies of products from refrigerators to light;bulbs, and even the building we work and live in have improved dramatically over the past decade, use has increased.  Why?  More gadgets to plug in and charge.

Laptops, notebooks, cell phones, drill, flashlights, and so it goes.  As I sit here in a coffee shop writing this, all but one of my fellow coffee sippers is plugged into something, tapping or scrolling away.  The sole holdout is an older guy reading the racing newspaper (yes, paper) for Kentucky Derby tips.  But he is on the phone getting tips as well, so we can surmise that the phone must be plugged in somewhere, sometime to charge.

A recent report published by the Edison Foundation says at current rates the number of battery powered electric vehicles on the road could reach 30 million in the next 20 years.  The demand on our nations power grid as it stands now cannot handle that kind of load.

So either everyone will have a small power plant at their home or office of the solar variety, or we need to build more power plants.  The latter is more likely to happen, as industrial scale plants generate a base load, or 24-7 generation.  Distributed generation solar from your office rooftop offers its service as the environment dictates.

Nuclear power generation contributes no greenhouse gas emissions, no harmful particulates or mercury  as coal or natural gas plants will.  But Nuclear takes years to build.  Now is the time to begin.

More on this argument in future blogs.

Source – The Detroit Bureau

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Douglas Black
Douglas Black

About Douglas Black

Douglas Black is a photojournalist and

green technologies analyst out of Chicago,

and is currently Managing Producer for

ENERSPEC/enerficiency and Hot Flying Rats!

Earlier Douglas promoted greentech in Detroit as

Senior Marketing Strategist and Architect.

Connect on Google Plus

TESLA Downshift

TESLA X
TESLA X

by Douglas Black, enerficiency On The Road, march 11, 2013

In an attempt to fly below the radar of auto bloggers like me, Tesla buried a kernel in its recent annual report; the Model X won’t be arriving any time this year. The gull-winged SUV model has been pushed back to a late 2014 release, as the S model  will be the e-sportscar maker’s focus for the time being, report my friends at engadget.com.

The company, skippered by billionaire and space pioneer Elon Musk, sees “increased sales volume potential” in its Model S series.

TESLA X-Model CUV
TESLA X-Model CUV

Tesla plans to deliver some 20,000 Model S vehicles in 2013, with around 4,500 of those happening in Q1, according to their Q4 2012 report.  European purchasers can expect their deliveries in “summer” and owners in Asia will see their new Tesla S series “late this year”.

Musk also told investors that it plans to “spend significantly less on capital expenditures” in 2013 compared to 2012, helping to (hopefully) generate “slightly positive net income on a non-GAAP basis” in Q1 2013.

This is all better news than the recent NYT brouhaha involving battery range and tow trucks.  I personally had a Tesla experience that was rather positive, although I did not do the driving.   Read more about my recent e-car rally in Chicago.

SEE Related story.

Teslas S at celsius101 Rally
Teslas S at celsius101 Rally

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Douglas Black
Douglas Black

About Douglas Black

Douglas Black is a photojournalist and

green technologies analyst out of Chicago,

and is currently Managing Producer for

ENERSPEC/enerficiency and Hot Flying Rats!

Earlier Douglas promoted greentech in Detroit as

Senior Marketing Strategist and Architect.

Connect on Google Plus

Not Your Momma’s Grocery Getter

by Douglas Black, enerficiency On The Road

This Looks Fun!
This Looks Fun!

My God!  How fun would THIS be!  Where do I get in line?  We need an amusement park for grownups with just stupid crazy attractions like this.

Two brand new 2013 RS 4 Avants with bonnet mounted paintball guns take over a military aircraft hangar and go head to head in the ultimate paintball duel.

Related Grocery Getters

See More about this Hot Flying Rat!  the Audi RS4 Avant

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Douglas Black
Douglas Black

About Douglas Black

Douglas Black is a photojournalist and

green technologies analyst out of Chicago,

and is currently Managing Producer for

ENERSPEC/enerficiency and Hot Flying Rats!

Earlier Douglas promoted greentech in Detroit as

Senior Marketing Strategist and Architect.

Connect on Google Plus