A Thought For The Holidays…

Christmas at Rice Park 2
Photo by Randy Stern

Before you read this…I must explain. No, this has nothing to do with the automobile. I believe I said I would do things that are connected to it. This one is sort of connected.

I wrote this back in 1995 when I saw a crisis in a community I belonged to. It was a crisis of priorities – family, yes, but what if you said you welcome “all” and not welcome those who really have no where to go on a given family-oriented holiday? At the time, the response was nil. I have seen things evolve from this since I first wrote this. The spirit of this piece has evolved from community to culture – and I’m glad someone has taken the spirit of this piece to heart. Maybe several someones…

It was originally written for Thanksgiving, but you could also mean any holiday – including Christmas.

I’ve blathered on enough. Here you go…and Happy Holidays!

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My Favorite Vehicles of 2014

2014 Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally
All Photos by Randy Stern

It is that moment V&R readers have been waiting for…

Every year, I get the opportunity to drive a lot of vehicles. Some vehicles have been driven for around 15-20 minutes; others for as long as a week. In 2014, I averaged more than a vehicle a week…frankly, I lost count. Not that I record each vehicle when I drive it…it has been a year where it has been a mix of great vehicles too many to recall.

Every year, I do a list of my favorite cars for a given year. This was reflected upon a calendar year’s worth of cars, trucks, Crossover/SUVs and vans to not just pick my favorites…but to fit them into a “best of” format for our gratification.

For 2014, they are…

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Historiography: A Now Common Sight

2008 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP
All Photos by Randy Stern

Have you ever wondered why certain cars are still on the road?

This is not to dismiss a particular vehicle, but to point out something that has scratched heads amongst enthusiasts and people in the automotive world. In every community or region, one car has popped up that made you think “why are they still running?” “Did they really sell that many of them?”

The interesting point about such vehicles is the fact that the brand no longer exists. These are mobile orphans that defy the laws of vehicular life.

One such car is the Pontiac Grand Prix. Seeing so many on the road these days from North Dakota into Iowa, Illinois and Michigan point to one such success General Motors had in spite of bankruptcy and recalls. For a car that shared a platform across most of the brands prior to 2009, this one continues to drive on.

You do not see just one or two. Continue reading

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2014 MAMA Spring Rally
Photo for Victory & Reseda

The Victory & Reseda that you know and love is about to change.

You may have noticed something about the URL. It has gone away. The site has reverted back to the original randystern.net web address as part of a refocusing of V&R’s efforts as a source for automotive content.

Attempts to elevate V&R from just being a blog to something akin to the rest of the small digital web outlets covering the automotive industry and lifestyle were successful. However, name recognition and other intangibles thwarted its course towards a higher level of success and relevance.

Also, I have found some new traction with some outlets of late that help in building my portfolio. Continue reading

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300 at 60

2015 Chrysler 300 C – introduced at the 2014 LA Auto Show. All Photos by Randy Stern

The week before, I was at the LA Auto Show to attends as many press conferences as possible. There was one I was asked to be at, however.

Back at June at the Chelsea Proving Grounds outside of Ann Arbor, Chrysler brand CEO Al Gardner asked if I was going to Los Angeles for the show. I hesitated, but it did cross my mind. Yet, I had a hunch. After the Dodge Charger was revised, the only logical next debut would be the revised 2015 Chrysler 300. I asked Gardner if there was a reason to go. After a few winks, nudges and “say no mores,” the equation was made.

My hunch was correct. I attended the Chrysler presser and witnessed the changes to the 300. I remarked on how much work they did on the big sedan. Its new front end, front fenders and rear end were well executed. They also reshuffled the trim lineup to emulate a current model formula. On top of the 300C is the Platinum model – the new flagship for the brand. Perhaps it is appropriate to do this since Gardner wants to make Chrysler a mainstream brand on par with Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, etc.

There was a lot more to report on the new 2015 Chrysler 300 from L.A. Continue reading

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Super-Duper-Sized Luxury

2015 Cadillac ESV Luxury - All Photos by Jimmy Dinsmore

2015 Cadillac ESV Luxury – All Photos by Jimmy Dinsmore

A Victory & Reseda Review of the 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV

There’s big and then there’s enormous. Perhaps that’s what the E stands for in ESV, as in my tester for the week: the 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV.

What makes this Escalade an extra Extra Special Vehicle (see what I did there) is its size and stature. The Escalade is a full-size, luxurious SUV. In fact, on the Mt. Rushmore of luxury SUVs, the Escalade is George Washington. But the Escalade ESV is bigger, bolder and more aggressive looking than regular Escalade.

Remodeled for the 2015 model year, the Escalade is now in its fourth generation. Continue reading

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Los Angeles 2014: An Experience

2014 Vehicle of The Year Award Presentation
Randy presenting the 2014 Victory & Reseda Vehicle of The Year Award to Tim Kuniskis, CEO of Dodge, at the 2014 LA Auto Show. Photo for Victory & Reseda

I walked away from the 2014 LA Auto Show with some clarity. The operative word here is “some.”

It was a serious show, if you consider the temper of the debuts. The subcompact crossover segment has three more entries to this emerging market. Scion is setting a new course on product with the first of two new vehicles coming to Toyota’s youthful brand, and Cadillac has fired a broadside on BMW with the ATS-V. In order to become mainstream, Chrysler revised the 300 for a more aggressive stance and much needed additions to be the best of all worlds.

The highlight was the presenting of the 2014 Vehicle of The Year award to Tim Kuniskis, the CEO of Dodge. Before the photo op with 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT, Kuniskis looked at the award for longer than most people pay notice to it. I wasn’t sure if he was judging the award and its small weight against others he will surely receive during this model year. But, I was glad Kuniskis and the folks at Fiat Chrysler Automobile accepted this VOTY – its second for the Dodge brand an the OEM. Since I already had a connection with Kuniskis, the short time with the award was resonant. I felt even prouder on this hand off than any other in the past.

There were more headlines. Continue reading

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Los Angeles 2014: A Preview

City Hall
Photo by Randy Stern

My youth in Los Angeles was mainly shaped by one constant event: Encountering the automobile.

The best way to do so was at a local auto show. In 1971, Los Angeles had two. The one our family attended was called the Auto Expo, which concentrated on imports from Europe and Japan. The larger Auto Show was one I eventually attended either by myself or with a friend. My last auto show in Southern California was the LA Auto Show sometime in the mid-1980s. I remember being there at night and had to take the Ventura Boulevard/Reseda Boulevard RTD express from Hill Street in Downtown Los Angeles.

Three decades later, I return to the LA Auto Show as a credentialed member of the media for the first time.

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Life in Three Rows

2015 Chevrolet Traverse LTZ AWD
2015 Chevrolet Traverse LTZ AWD. All photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2015 Chevrolet Traverse

So, you got a family. There are plenty of folks like you. Your friends, too. They are also growing through their teenage years. Three-row crossovers – not all of them are equal and accommodating.

Your dilemma is very common. However, you already nixed the minivan because you want that eight-inch ground clearance for taking on difficult roads. Yet, you want space for people in all three rows.

Oh, what will you do?

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Lexus@25: The Rise of the ES

1990 Lexus ES 250
The Forgotten Lexus. All Photos by Randy Stern

Let’s call this the “Marcia Syndrome.”

If you were a fan of “The Brady Bunch,” you will understand where I am going with this. The middle sister, Jan, would always be jealous of Marcia, the eldest, because of all of the things she would get away with. In frustration, Jan would bellow “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” It was her vent in questioning her unimportance to the Brady family – or the perceived unimportance of Jan.

Twenty-five years ago, Lexus sold “Marcia” and “Jan” alongside each other as their first offerings as a brand. “Marcia” was the LS 400, the most touted car of 1990. It challenged the notion of what a flagship was at the time with advanced technology, a solid powertrain and luxury that matches up with the rest of the world. It became the first car from Japan to compete on an equal playing field with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

“Jan” was the ES 250.

Many people paid attention to the LS 400, as it was the star attraction at Lexus. They passed up the ES 250 simply because no justified its price. Of course some pundits ruined the car by pondering whether that price justified a gussied-up Toyota Camry without a B-pillar.

As Lexus celebrates its quarter century of existence, it seems that the tables have turned on its original models. “Marcia” is sold at a steady rate and has been equaled, if not exceeded, by its competitors in the flagship field. However, one would argue that the LS 460 and LS 600h L are still serious players in a game where trumping each other with more advanced technology, active safety features and levels of luxury is the name of the game.

Meanwhile, “Jan” has become the big seller amongst passenger cars at Lexus. Though second behind the RX crossover, the ES lineup found plenty of consumers who find its high value and great comfort major plusses. For every LS sold, 7-8 ES models also drive out the same dealership.

Looks like “Jan” got her revenge.

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