Commentary: Mitsubishi + Nissan + Renault = ???

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage
Photo by Randy Stern

It has happened.

“It” being the folding of Mitsubishi Motors into the Renault Nissan Alliance. It was announced at a press conference with Alliance chairman Carlos Ghosn stating that he will chair Mitsubishi, as well as Renault and Nissan. A summary of management changes were announced to cover the entire Alliance, but in particular Nissan and Mitsubishi.

Surprised? Not really…maybe a tad.

Continue reading

Posted in Automotive Industry, Commentary | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Making the Claim

2017 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription
2017 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Volvo XC90

You know you’re the baddest thing around when you can pat yourself on the back and make audacious statements.

That is why I enjoyed the career of Muhammad Ali. He talked his talk and backed it up in the ring. Ali was human, after all.

In a non-human sense, a few things can do exactly what Ali did in his career as a boxer. Marketers make bold statements about their products, extoll the virtues of excellence of its use and self-congratulate themselves when some entity gives them award for being the best of everything in its wake.

On researching the vehicle in question, I came upon its photo on the front page of the brand’s USA website and saw a very audacious statement typed through it. It states that this vehicle was “The most awarded SUV of The Century.” I had to think a bit about this statement. Then, I realized that this Century has only existed for 16 years – perhaps they could be right about that part.

The “most awarded” piece was the part that I had to scroll through my brain on. Yes, it won Motor Trend’s SUV of The Year last year. It also won this year’s North American Truck/Utility of The Year. It also scored many, many accolades from consumer sites to my esteemed media guild, the Midwest Automotive Media Association, awarding our “Family Car of The Year” trophy at this year’s Chicago Auto Show. Perhaps this brand was right – this vehicle scored a hell of a lot of hardware in its first year of sale.

Continue reading

Posted in Automobile Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

High on a Plynth

2016 Lexus RC 200t F Sport
2016 Lexus RC 200t F Sport – All Photos by Randy Stern

This is one of my favorite coupes…

I know…I have too many favorite coupes. Yes, the mind changes a few yards to the wind on regular occasion, but life is fluid. So is my engagement with the automobile. With one already winning my heart with its experience, another one can come along and sweep me on my feet. Life works that way sometimes…

However, I must be more specific. There is a distinction between “coupe,” “sports car,” “grand tourer” and anything else in this category and beyond. If we know these terms well, we try to distinguish each one for their respective machine. I’ll admit that these lines have been blurred, but one can parse out a specific car based on a specific class or genre of automobile.

While the Lexus RC remains one of my favorite automobiles of all time, the Porsche 911 simply joined it. If we must be specific, these two do not belong on the same phylum – that is, if I break out the RC F from the others in the lineup. Still, an RC F is considered different than a 911…

Excuse me, while I let out a primal scream.

Continue reading

Posted in Automobile Lifestyle, Automobile Reviews, Automobile Writing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Saving “Big Money” and Making Life Easier

What’s that jingle, again? – Photo by Randy Stern

You’re a car guy or woman. You have a project you must do at your home, townhome, condominium, mobile home…so forth. Yet, you need to get stuff…a lot of stuff.

The problem is that your car is inadequate to do the job. Trunk space is fine, even hatchback space. If you have a crossover or SUV, you might limitations with them, too. Minivans could do the job, but that rear suspension could sag under weight and the mess you might leave behind would take some to clean up. You could borrow the neighbor’s pickup truck, but when was the last time you actually drove one of them? You know how big they really are and they do sit higher than the vehicle that you are actually drive.

Oh, I forgot that in order to do said project, you would have to go to a home improvement center.

Continue reading

Posted in Automobile Lifestyle, Consumer Advice | Leave a comment

Commentary: How to Label Thyself

Photo courtesy of General Motors

Photo courtesy of General Motors

We used to call them “divisions” when I was a kid.

Divisions were the name given for what we call “brands” today. They denoted a specific marque – another term used elsewhere of the same thing. It is all labeling, when you think about it.

It is also a business-motivated crap shoot. General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler reduced the number of brands over the years. Gone are Oldsmobile, Plymouth, Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, Eagle, Mercury, Merkur, Lancia, and Saab – to name a few. Meanwhile, Honda, Toyota, Infiniti and Hyundai have added premium brands to their roster – Acura, Lexus, Infiniti and Genesis, respectively. This marketing business can be heady, at times. It also keeps the consumers on their toes when it comes to their shopping lists.

This is all great and good, but there is another twist to the whole machination of vehicle marketing – sub branding.

So, what the hell is a “sub brand?” Continue reading

Posted in Automotive Industry, Commentary | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Brock Yates: 1933-2016

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Photo courtesy of Google Images and Speedvision/FOX Networks

How did you learn how to read?

My reading experience started with “Dick and Jane,” but it was enhanced by reading what we call the “buff books.” The latter is a term used for the monthly magazines published to cover the automotive industry and entertain its enthusiasts. I can cite many writers who have contributed to balancing the mundane education I received from the Los Angeles Unified School District with their exploits in the car universe.

If one did stand out, it is because he got a deal to turn his exploits in Car and Driver into some of my favorite movies of all time. A Hollywood deal is a bigger prize than anything an automotive scribe can achieve.

That deal involved some real-life exploits of the Car and Driver columnist and their paean to Erwin “Cannonball” Baker. The name might not be familiar to you, but the movie with nickname attached to it should. However, Adrienne Barbeau, Sammy Davis, Jr. or Burt Reynolds were involved in the original Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dashes of the early 1970s. With Dan Gurney in tow, this motley crew of protesters against the changing safety-fed landscape of American motoring accomplish the run from New York City to the Portofino Inn on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in just 35 hours and 54 minutes – covering a distance of 2,863 miles.

And, we, as an automotive readership lapped up these exploits…and laughed our butts off in the process. It was all because of one writer’s crazy idea.

Continue reading

Posted in Automobile Writing, Obituary | Leave a comment

Heading Home

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate AWD – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

A soundtrack can empower the driver. Rather, it could be just a song.

In my iPhone are 200 songs. One in particular became the soundtrack for my journey home from the 2016 Midwest Automotive Media Association Fall Rally and 25th Anniversary. It is somewhere among the greatest hits of my lifetime and some of the tracks I specifically remembered from my high school days listening to KROQ and KDAY back in Los Angeles.

The song in question is called “Heading Home” by Electronic Dance Music artist and producer Griffin – also known as a New York City native named Dan Griffith – with vocals by Australia’s Josef Salvat. The track is an aural landscape that echoes the call of the wandering soul wanting to head back home. If you listen to it anywhere – in my case through the northeastern swath of Iowa – you the echo becoming a call to come home soon.

There were other tracks that help along the way. One of them was an old 1980s chestnut from a group called Wire Train – one of the groups that defined the 415 Records sound. Their classic song, “Chamber of Hellos,” became an intersection that brought Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Chicago and the Iowa landscape together. It was a strange geographical mixture from such a textural sound unique to the New Wave/Alternative scene in San Francisco in the early-to-mid 1980s.

I could name others, such as the Sub Focus remix of deadmau5’s “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” and “Home” from EDM artist Topic with Nico Santos on vocals. They all came alive while traversing the Iowa and Cedar River flows through a set of Infinity speakers and its accompanying audio reproduction technology.

A soundtrack is nothing without a landscape. Continue reading

Posted in General | Leave a comment

#MAMA16FR – 25 Years in The Making

A typical Wednesday morning at Autobahn Country Club – All Photos by Randy Stern

Why is the Midwest Automotive Media Association such an honor to be a member of?

A discussion with one of its board members came up with a few reasons. We have a great core group of journalist members – mostly from the Chicagoland area, but within our region, too. We also have great affiliate members from the manufacturers and other automotive-based businesses. A recent poll of public relations personnel from the automotive industry ranked two of MAMA’s events within the Top Three – the Spring rally at Road America and the Fall Rally, held annually at Autobahn Country Club near Joliet, Illinois.

Last year, I had the privilege to attend both of these events. They are indeed great programs full of interactivity, networking and camaraderie. While the Spring Rally can be seen as intense, the Fall Rally has a laid back feel with its smaller scale and tighter safety measures on the track.

This year was very different for me in terms of participation in MAMA. Due to my hospitalization in April, I bowed out of the Spring Rally. I was told by my colleagues that I was indeed missed. To make up for lost time and engagement, I made plans to attend the Fall Rally.

There was special incentive to attend this year’s Fall Rally. It would be the celebration of MAMA’s 25th Anniversary. From a communication between the head of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and the Chicago Tribune’s Jim Mateja in 1991, MAMA grew into an integrative organization with hundreds of members stretched out within its regional borders. I am among a few members based in Minnesota.

This is a proud group of media and industry professionals. Continue reading

Posted in Automobile Previews, Automobile Reviews, Automobile Writing, Automotive Industry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Historiography: The Crown Jewel of Chrysler

2014 10,000 Lakes Concours d'Elegance
1955 Imperial – All Photos by Randy Stern

Once there was a time when the USA ruled the Luxury Car Field.

There were plenty of players during times when our country was thriving – the 1920s and after World War II. There was a common company that were a part of these good times. During the Roaring 1920s, Walter P. Chrysler set up shop by creating his own company. In the 1950s, Chrysler Corporation would venture further into the luxury car market with its own brand.

As Cadillac and Lincoln were about to leap into a new frontier, Chrysler decided it was time to take the most expensive model of its lineup and give it a brand of its own. The name was Imperial.

Chrysler’s Imperial began as a plan to compete against the luxury car field head on. In 1926, the Chrysler Imperial featured the new company’s most powerful engine – an enlarged six-cylinder designed to match what Cadillac, Lincoln, Packard and Duesenberg had to offer. We should mention other luxury car brands that were entertaining the big money being thrown around during the 1920s, such as Pierce-Arrow, Marmon…that’s just naming a few. What Chrysler did was to keep the Imperial at the top of his young lineup, while marketing it to the well-heeled, alongside more mid-to-upper priced models wearing the Chrysler seal badge.

Continue reading

Posted in Historiography | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Road to #MAMA16FR…and Then Some

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport at Journey's End
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 GT AWC – All Photos by Randy Stern

I love taking road trips.

There are two ways to take this. When a time constraint is imposed, road trips can be harrowing, frustrating and counteractive. All I can fixate is the time I have to be there, or the time promised to the person (or people) on the end of the road. It feels like an extended auto race, where there are no driver changes, quick stops for food, fuel and toilet use and it is all speed all the way through. I fear for those who see me at the end of such trips.

However, a good road trip is one where there is the luxury of time. There is also the extra incentive to explore and enjoy new surroundings. There are some cases where I rediscover places I have been before. There is always time to enjoy the drive, eat when I need to and get there relaxed…maybe a bit tired from the drive.

In working with vehicles for publication, I found that when I have one that I have worked with before, there is an incentive to repurpose the story to frame an adventure…or, just a road trip. Lately, that has been true with the 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, the 2016 GMC Sierra Denali and the 2016 Chrysler 200. In total, four states were covered by these vehicles for the purpose of your reading pleasure.

Which leads me to talk about this next vehicle…and the road trip I put it through.

Continue reading

Posted in Automobile Reviews, Road Trips, Travel Writing | Tagged | Leave a comment