HERE IS A COREY —
As of ten months ago, Ford Motor Co. launched the FordPass app which the company claims to have been a learning experience. The application, which is available in both Canada and the United States, has forced the automotive developer to alter their way of thinking into that of a technology start-up company. Developed over 18 months and updated every 30 days with new tweaks, patches, or new features (some of which have since fallen through), the app is currently limited to only three of Ford’s vehicles –the Fusion, the Escapee, and the F-150. While some aspects have been considered a flop, this branch into automotive tech has made the Ford Motor Co. a bit of a pioneer, both generating interest in and conversation about the brand while laying the groundwork for a new stream of revenue. Moreover, these tech advancements have the potential to prevent cars crashes, saving you an extra trip to Richard Wojcik’s Funeral Chapel
According to Elena Ford, vice president, global dealer and consumer experience, the company is “very optimistic” after only a year on the market, stating that they have “launched a global app that’s a one-stop shop for customers.” The application enables users to remotely unlock and start their cars, find and pay for parking, check fuel levels, schedule their vehicles to start at a specific time automatically, contact their dealer, schedule maintenance, and more.
While Ford has gone on record stating that the FordPass app could be their “most revolutionary [platform] yet”, some have not been so sure. Sam Abuelsamid, senior research analyst at Navigant Research has stated that “It definitely has a lot of potential, and we’re going to see similar apps and services from other OEMs … But the potential that was built in there has not been realized yet because the partners really aren’t in place.” One such example is the possible rewards program that the company suggested upon the app’s launch in which they would partner with companies such as McDonald’s or 7-Eleven so that Ford customers could collect points and redeem them for merchandise and experiences. Instead of providing what they hoped for, however, FordPass instead has a virtual rewards program which gives customers badges. FordPass was also supposed to partner with FlightCar to permit travelling customers to park near an airport free of charge and to rent out their vehicle to other drivers while away. However, as FlightCar went out of business shortly after the app launched, the plans were quickly cancelled.
One of the big problems with the Ford application is that some drivers will need multiple apps in order to acquire all services needed. Recently, the company integrated its previously separate Ford Credit app into FordPass and offers a FordPay virtual wallet to pay for services within the app. Nonetheless, the automaker still needs to work with other programs like Chariot in order to provide the best service it can to Ford customers.
The CH-R was initially revealed back in 2015 as a model of the Toyota Scion; however, as the Scion has flubbed out of existence last year, with Toyota claiming that they no longer needed the model in order to attract younger markets, the CH-R is now slated to take its place. While still retaining the spirit of the Scion which was geared towards younger consumers, the “Coupe High-Rider” is meant to provide stylish transportation at an affordable price without becoming too upmarket with customization options and trims.
While the C-HR isn’t restricted to the “mono-spec” package of the Scion, it is very limited in its options. The base model comes with an XLE trim, which for those unfamiliar with the Toyota brand, is pretty high-end. A safety package including radar cruise control, automatic energy breaking, and lane-departure alert with steering assist, comes standard with the XLE. The vehicle also comes with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, easily adjustable seats, alloy wheels, LED running lights, and a rear spoiler. The only other trim option offered for the C-HR is the XLE Premium, which has extras such as fog lights, auto-folding mirrors, power lumbar supports, and blind-spot monitoring. Neither version has any leather-seating option, sunroof, four-wheel drive, nor any wheel, engine or tire upgrades available, nor do they come with a navigation function on the 7-inch touch screen. Eventually, Toyota said in a statement, they will be able to bring more extras into the later models with multiple trim options and adding in an interior navigation system, however, right now the priority is to provide an affordable vehicle that looks good, handles well, and will be a driver-focused experience.
The general manager of the Toyota brand, Bill Fay stated that the brand is targeted towards “millennials, or millennials-at-heart” and that the automaker expects to sell 30 000 of the crossovers this year in the United States alone, and several more in Canada (although official stats were not given), increasing to roughly 60 000 next year. The XLE starts at $26 475 Canadian, including standard equipment and shipping whereas the XLE Premium is only a little more at $28,075 Canadian, including shipping. Toyota has stated that both trims have received a fuel efficiency rating of just 8.7 L/100km in the city, 7.5 L/100km on the highway and 8.2 L/100km combined, making them cost-efficient to drive as well as to buy.
In an announcement made just this past Thursday, the company stated that the Toyota CH-R is set to be released May 1 as a 2018 model in Canada, and will cost $24,690, plus destination charges.
As of last October, Hyundai Motor’s quarterly net profit has dipped to its lowest point in four years –partially due to a protracted strike at home as well as weaknesses in their emerging markets. Hyundai further announced that roughly 1 000 company executives will take a 10 percent pay cut as they prepared to fall short of sales targets for the second year in a row. In light of this, this year’s Hyundai Sonata is revamped and redesigned in hopes of recovery and to reverse the fall in sales for the sedan. In both the United States and Canada, sedans have been losing ground in favour of crossovers and SUVs which have been gained popularity amidst lower fuel prices. Officially, Canadian sales of the Sonata have been in a direct decline for five years, having dropped from a peak of 16 343 in 2011 to a meager 10 191 in 2016.
The new design, which has also been compared to the latest Elantra, also by Hyundai, boasts a larger and deeper grille with a horizontal-bar insert on base models and a mesh design on the Sonata Turbo. The 2.0T model features more stylish design cues with blackout trim on the front along with a black chrome finish on its lower side body, door handles and rear lamps as well as chrome accents on the rear diffuser and integrated exhaust outlets. The altered design of the Sonata, with its altered sheet metal, its sleek curves and its bigger grille, is a throwback to the Sonata designs of 2009 which helped revive its North American market but received mixed reviews in the more conservative spheres of South Korea. Similar to the 2009 model, Hyundai is aiming for an affordable price that will encourage car buyers to turn away from SUVs and crossovers in this uncertain economy. The variants offered with the new model include revised tail lamp graphics and multiple detail refinements while new, model-specific 17-inch and 18-inch alloy wheel options have also been made available for customization.
The outside design isn’t the only aspect of the vehicle that has received upgraded options for customization. The cabin of the 2018 Sonata can now be altered with various trims, new steering wheels, user-friendly HVAC controls, wireless smartphone charging capabilities, a rear-seat USB charge port, as well as support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The turbo also features a
shift-knob so that the driver can select Comfort, Eco, Sport, or Smart drive modes with ease.
According to a spokesperson for the automaker, the 2018 Sonata is tentatively scheduled for release later this summer; however, there is no official word on pricing, nor any other additional details to be offered at this point in time.
As of March 2nd, Magna International started building the BMW 5 Series in Graz, Austria –the first step in an aggressive expansion of the Canadian parts company’s auto-assembly business. The production is said to be split between the plant in Austria and the one in Dingolfing, Germany. According to Günther Apfalter, President of Magna Europe and Magna Steyr, “the new collaboration emphasizes our customer’s continued trust in our contract manufacturing capability and our unmatched leadership position in this area.” By 2019, Magna International estimates their annual assembly sales will be between $6.6 billion USD and $7.1 billion and they hope to reach approximately 200,000 vehicles per year by 2018. Magna CEO Don Walker states that “this tremendous expected growth in assembly sales and volumes is a testament to Magna Steyr’s complete-vehicle expertise and the deep trust that OEMs have in Magna”.
While this is not the first time that Magna International has built for BMW –the partnership between Magna and the BMW Group began in 2001and the vehicles they’ve manufactured include the BMW X3 in 2003, the MINI Countryman in 2010, and the MINI Paceman in 2012), the BMW 5 Series is only the beginning of the company’s expansion. According to Walker, the company will follow up the vehicle with two Jaguar models as well as two other, as of yet, unspecified vehicles. The first of the Jaguar models is said to be the Jaguar I-Pace battery electric vehicle, which was previewed at the Los Angeles auto show back in November. The production models of the I-Pace are slated to go on sale in mid-2018 rivalling the EVs planned by German competitors Audi and Mercedes-Benz. The second JLR model to be produced by Magna at the facility in Austria will be announced later this year.
Magna is a leading global automotive supplier with 309 manufacturing operations and 99 product development, engineering and sales centres in 29 countries. In Magna’s official statement on the partnership with BMW and JLR, they “have complete vehicle engineering and contract manufacturing expertise, as well as product capabilities which include body, chassis, exterior, seating, powertrain, electronic, active driver assistance, vision, closure and roof systems” making them one of the largest auto-manufacturers in the world and one of the best. The company also ranks No. 3 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers, with worldwide sales of original equipment parts of $32.1 billion in 2015. Magna expects to increase production levels over the next two years with many more contracts in the works.
Ontario Automotive Dealers Warned about run of Theft
Dealerships across Southern Ontario have been notified by the police to make sure that their higher-end vehicles are secure and that their keys are locked up tight due to a recent string of thefts from dealerships across the province. While the vehicles were stolen from a variety of locations, the most common victims were dealerships. Thus, the police have warned that dealerships should take precautions to protect themselves by keeping the keys to the vehicles securely locked inside the dealership. They have also been encouraged to monitor the length of any test drives of their vehicles, and flange exhaust pipes for dust collection using rotary machines.
The stolen vehicles have been a mixture of both new and used, therefore they are being targeted based on different criteria. According to police statement, the perpetrators were seeking out vehicles that matched the description of those that have already been exported into the United States and would then alter the Vehicle Identification Number and sell the stolen vehicle on Kijiji. According to Waterloo Regional Police Service Det. Const. Dan Schaus, “the vehicles were cloned to look like vehicles that were already exported” and therefore, unless a buyer was able to obtain a history of the vehicle they were purchasing, they would be unable to know whether or not it was stolen. He further stated that the stolen vehicles were “an even mix” of multiple brands including: Acura, GM, Mercedes, Ford, and BMW.
One of the agencies from which vehicles were taken was keeping the keys to its new cars inside of a lockbox, sealed inside the locked cars themselves. According to police statement, the perpetrators broke the window of the cars in order to get into the vehicles and then proceeded to break the lock boxes to get the keys. However, that was not the only method used. In some cases, the perpetrators would take vehicles by renting the car that they wanted and then having a duplicate key made up. Once the vehicle was returned to the dealership, they would then come back to steal the car. In one particular case, an entire auto carrier containing seven vehicles bound for used auto dealerships was taken from a truck stop.
As of yet, two people have been arrested in connection with the thefts and nine high-end and luxury cars have been seized, however, the investigation is still ongoing and police believe that there are more vehicles involved. According to Schaus, “We are confident we have two of the main participants in this criminal activity in custody. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other vehicles we haven’t been able to recover…There are still leads [the police are] following up on as other vehicles that have been re-identified”.