Throwback Review: Homely?

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2008 Ford Focus SE 4-Door – Photo by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda Throwback Review of the 2008 Ford Focus

One of my favorite cars in the first decade of the 21st Century has been the Ford Focus. From my first sampling, I enjoyed the idea of a European Ford recreated without too many deviations from the original design. Every one of them has been a four-door sedan, mainly an SE model. I got a car with quality materials, loads of room, a spunky motor, a smooth ride and fantastic handling.

Yet, I knew I had to face my own words when it came to the latest redesign of the North American Focus. At first, I was livid about how Mark Fields danced around the redesign calling it a “bold move.” Fields had to because an angry motoring public hoped to get a stateside version of the latest European Focus on a platform shared with the Mazda3 and Volvo C30/S40/V50. We felt that the bolder move than the elimination of the hatchbacks and wagon in favor of a fish-out-of-water two-door coupe. They kept the four-door sedan, though. At least that helped to ease the temper a bit.

While the Europeans are enjoying the facelift of their second generation Focus, Latin American markets are stuck on the first revision of the first generation Focus. In-between these versions of the global car is our very own, Warren, Michigan-built Ford compact. Call it Version 1.4

What I sampled was a 2008 North American Focus SE sedan that surprised me. The surprise was not the ease of the eye on how the new design looked in the flesh. Simply, Ford did not mess with a good thing underneath this car.

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#VOTY17: It is Now Time to #VOTE4VOTY!

2017 Honda Civic Sport Touring Hatchback
All Photos by Randy Stern

The scores have been tabulated. The Panel has convened and given their input on the Long List. Therefore there is only one last step to take: Your vote!

It is now time to #VOTE4VOTY!

What are you voting for? The five finalists for #VOTY17.

They came from a field of 41 nominees. Each one scrutinized by various attributes to finally compile a score good enough for your consideration. These five survived the test of objective and subjective input. A panel of 23 journalists and influencers weighed in to provide their feedback on the Long List. Not to mention your social media engagement was measured towards deciding these five finalists.

And, now, you get to vote for one of the following Finalists for #VOTY17… Continue reading

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Remember “Fun?”

2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road  Premium
2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD OFf Road – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Toyota 4Runner

Little do I measure the power of what this website could do for you. Yet, I wonder if it actually did for at least one particular vehicle.

What I am referring to was a review I did almost two years ago for a certain very hard to find SUV from Toyota. With that one vehicle, I must have lit a spark under your feet.

The 2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro piqued your interest. You even bought them – not exact a TRD Pro, but a 4Runner nonetheless. The last Polar Run rally saw a few 4Runners – including one its organizers who have since made his “burrito” into a paean to Ivan “Ironman” Stewart, right down to the 1980s factory team livery striping.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that this has become one of the hottest vehicles in Toyota’s lineup this year. So far in 2017, the 4Runner saw a 15.7% jump in sales over the same 10-month period in 2016. It ranks third behind the RAV4 and Highlander in year-to-year growth in all of Toyota in the USA. In October 2017 alone, it saw the highest jump of any single Toyota model sold across the USA of 35.7% over the same period in 2016.

It could be that there is a market for a real, honest-to-goodness four-wheel drive SUV that can do anything, go anywhere and offers no apologies. This is how you exactly describe the Toyota 4Runner.

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Historiography: The Centennial of a Bitter Rivalry

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All Photos by Randy Stern

A hundred years ago, the truck market grew by two luminary nameplates.

In 1917, Ford introduced their first truck – the TT. The next year saw Chevrolet answer with their One Ton. Both trucks addressed the one-ton payload market with a platform to build off – a basic heavy-duty frame, a powerful engine and supreme capability Americans needed in the post-World War I era.

The story of Chevrolet’s and Ford’s trucks could be told separately. The truth is that their histories have been linked over these past 100 years as these rivals try to outdo each other. The truck engineers and designers at Ford and General Motors have been playing “can you top this” on the most profitable vehicle ever created. If Ford came up with something groundbreaking, Chevrolet (and GMC) will have an answer.

Obviously, this retelling of this century-old Chevrolet-Ford truck rivalry could not ignore those other manufacturers who dared to battle with these two brands. You might see a reference to, say, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, International Harvester/Navistar, Studebaker, or any other truck manufacturer that sold to the many businesses, farms and individuals who needed – or wanted – a truck.

As the Armistice was being finalized in Europe, we look at how the two best selling trucks in the world began their 100-year dominance of this market.

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Commentary: This Space is Sponsored By…

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Photo by Randy Stern

Did you know that such-and-such automotive brand is the proud sponsor of such-and-such sports team?

Yes, sponsorship. It is all about how proud a sports team, award, event, charity, building, and so forth is to be tied into a money-making enterprise that almost everyone is interested in. It is the tie that bridges A to B for its fans towards potential customers.

Thirty years ago, sponsorships worked on several levels. Perhaps, one could observe that it is now out of control. Everyone is sponsoring everything – even down to the minute item.

Since this is an automotive website, I will concentrate on brands, OEMs, and suppliers that lend their name to some form of sponsorship. Though they are not exclusive in the proliferation of attaching their good name to something that we might get behind. Banking and financial institutions, airlines, energy companies, retailers, websites, major employers, food and beverage companies…everyone’s got their name affixed to something!

Shall I name a few…automotive ones, in particular?

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Throwback Review: Not Going Uphill

2008 Kia Rondo 1
2008 Kia Rondo LX-V6 – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda “Throwback Review” of the 2008 Kia Rondo

It survived crappy roads. It survived an onslaught of snow, sleet and ice just a few days away from Christmas. It was able to accomplish the final vestiges of Holiday shopping by swallowing whole a lot of goodies.

Yet, it is one of the ugliest things I’ve ever driven.

The Kia Rondo, known as the Carens elsewhere outside of North America, is a contraption that wants a personality. It does have a purpose as a lightweight people mover sold as an alternative to standard minivans. For example: the Kia Sedona/Carnival. Kia is calling it a “crossover” in this market because no one has any idea that vehicles of this size are known as multi-purpose vehicles and are the rage of families on at least two other continents.

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Throwback Review: Is The New One Better Than The Last One?

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2009 Mazda6i Sport 4-door. All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda Throwback review of the 2009 Mazda6

When you love a car so much, you fear that any changes to it would be too revolutionary for its own good. A vehicle goes through generations with each one building upon the success from the previous one. In many cases, you can see improvements upon what was missing from the last model.

A bit of history is in order. My brother bought our family’s first Mazda: A 1979 626 2-door coupe. It came from a lineage of Capellas, which began in the states as the RX-2. The 626 was a piston-engined Mazda aimed at the Toyota Corona/Datsun 710 crowd. In fact, the 626’s direct competition was the popular first generation Honda Accord, despite lacking a hatchback for its 2-door model. That was fine because the 626 drove like a Japanese imitation of a BMW 2002. Well…to me, it did!

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#VOTY17: All About These 41 Nominees

2017 Honda Civic Sport Touring hatchback
Photo by Randy Stern

Choosing a #VOTY is not an easy task.

The steps taken to get to the awarding of it can be a mix of emotion. It’s energetic, because of the chase of information needed to score the evaluation part of the process, along with capturing each social media engagement and impression. It;’s frustrating, because of the task of waiting for the panel to deliver their votes to determine the finalists. It’s satisfying because the end product is an accomplishment.

In reviewing the Long List for #VOTY17, it is not whether each of the 41 nominee vehicles is the best of the best. It is what’s inside these nominees.

Here is what you should know about #VOTY17 so far…

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Tokyo 2017: The Big, Luxurious Star of Imperial Importance

Photos courtesy of the Toyota Motor Corporation



The Tokyo Motor Show used to be the hub for all things Japanese – including new production models. It seems that this recent edition of Japan’s key auto show focused on concepts and technology than a new product.

There was one new product that actually sparked a lot of interest. Just one. And, it’s a big one.

In Japan, the Toyota Century was the limousine of choice for the Imperial Household and the highest personage in the country’s society – in government and in business. The front-engine, rear-drive sedan was made for Japanese consumption only, though some seeped their way into other countries.

The Century is indeed a special car. Made mostly by hand at a special plant since 1967, it is based on the domestic Crown model with a specific mission in mind. Earlier models had V8 power, except for the last generation’s V12 engine. It was never offered with Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive nor catered to a global audience beyond Japan and the few places where the Century has shown up.

At the Tokyo Motor Show, a new Toyota Century was introduced. Continue reading

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Commentary: Commuting Is Bad For Your Health

Hennepin Avenue as a Two-Way Street

In social media, something will pop up that will spark some form of interest.

It could be a headline – though, some may take caution to determine whether it is a decent article or some click-bait that has nothing to do with the intended subject matter. It could be certain topics that affect the work I do and your readership.

Recently, an E-mail came from my LinkedIn account that did catch my eye. After clicking on the link, I came upon the hashtag #MiserableCommutes. The short piece also came with the title “Longer commutes increasing loneliness.” This sounds interesting. Let’s see what it says…

First of all, it was a set of statistics – but not without a starting sentence that hits the nail on the head. It is true that the increase in the length of a commute does result in employee dissatisfaction. If we look at major North American cities, where does our worker base live in relation to job centers? Let me get to that in a bit, because there are too many examples of this right near V&R’s base of operations of the Twin Cities.

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