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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Large…and In Charge

2015 GMC Yukon at Dave's Southern Grille
2015 GMC Yukon SLT 4WD. All photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2015 GMC Yukon

It is true what they said about General Motors’ large SUVs – they are indeed large and in charge.

They remain very popular with families who need a true three-row vehicle with excellent cargo space without resorting to a minivan. If you go anywhere, you will find at least a few at any shopping center, big box retailer, school parking lot, city park…and so on. Families who own them love them to death. Livery service operators love them equally, as they have become the new “town car” – order an Uber on your phone and one of those big black GM SUVs will come pick you up.

Some have said that GM’s big SUV essentially nullified the minivan market. Not entirely true. Some also said that they are too big to have around and needs to be eliminated for a softer car-based version. Not even going to happen.

Why would anyone hate on success?

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The Matrix of Flagships

2015 Kia K900 VIP 003
2015 Kia K900. All photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2015 Kia K900

Morpheus offered a choice for us.

During Super Bowl XLIIIX, Kia presented us with their new flagship the K900 with a paean to “The Matrix” film series. By bringing in Laurence Fishburne to play Morpheus again, Kia wanted us to make a choice between the luxury we are used to and the K900. Morpheus could have handed over the blue-tagged key and sent the puzzled couple on its way. Yet, the couple became curious and choose the red-tagged key to the K900.

What happened afterwards would elicit the following reaction from Keanu Reeves’ Neo: “Whoa.”

Flash forward several months. The K900 arrived to see if that couple made the right choice or not. Certainly, Kia made a lot of promises on how it would change luxury cars. There were some questions on how it would be audacious enough to think it would play with the “blue-tagged key” crowd.

Well, does it?

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Commentary: When Carmmunity Goes Wrong

Ricekiller in Champlin
An example of Carmmunity done right. Photo by Randy Stern

We hate to see some of the things we enjoy as enthusiasts and carmmunity members simply disappear. Even worse, when these outlets for enthusiasm go away or change drastically because of the actions of a few.

Recently, social media provided fodder for this issue. One such video went viral of a person in a Ford Mustang at a shopping center parking lot evade local law enforcement. This was done with the help of some of the people who might be connected with the person in the Mustang. The incident was filmed, but no clearly enough to see what happened before or after this incident.

The other two incidents hit close to home. The FOX affiliate showed a report of a local business property owner in Nordeast Minneapolis who was beaten after he told a group of street racers to leave. This racing group held these races on the street in front of his property for years – illegally. The business property owner reported to be calm when he asked them to clear the road and leave. Instead, he wound up in the hospital with injuries, including several staples in his head. There are now reports that counter some of the story in regards to the “victim.”

Lastly, a local meet held at a shopping mall parking lot was finally shut down by local law enforcement in Burnsville. This was due to some participants doing burnouts and speeding excessively when leaving the property. There was a fight that also went down at the same meet prior to the eventual shut down and relocation to an undisclosed location.

These incidents are nothing new. Continue reading

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Down the Middle

2014 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD 002
2014 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD. All photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2014 Toyota RAV4

There is a lot of truth to current rise of the compact crossover/SUV.

The momentum in this class is driven by meeting the customer’s needs. These are also laden with truths. Crossover/SUV customers are not encumbered with many children in their family. They want fuel efficiency in their vehicle and is fine with four-cylinder power. They also want all-wheel drive capability – or, at least the option of getting it. Larger crossover/SUVs are too damn expensive.

In the mid-1990s, SUVs were multiplying at a huge rate. The call to expand the smaller side of this segment was made for Toyota to create a car-based model that had the capability of its body-on-frame competitors. The RAV4 seemed like a funny name, but it is the global model designation for Toyota’s entry up against the likes of the Suzuki Sidekick, Geo/Chevrolet Tracker and others not made by the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario.

For years, the RAV4 ruled the segment. Continue reading

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Commentary: Living Jake’s Dream

A look at Jake’s lot. Photo by Randy Stern

How did we first encounter our love for cars? How does it manifest today?

If we did a random poll of you, the dealer lot may have been one of the first places you fell in love with the automobile. In many cities and towns, the local dealership stood as a place of dreams. The rows of cars, trucks and SUVs enticed and lured you to see them up close and personal. Someday, you want to drive one. Someday, you might find one of them at your home.

They become magical places at the start of the new car cycle. In my day, one date denoted the arrival of the next model year. That day brought banners, window clings and the updated vehicles to the forefront. The feel of a new car brochure – a guide to what’s new to even the casual observer – was a welcomed gift to the car fan. Even before my time, kids were given actual model cars of the latest and greatest as a reminder of what’s new for their favorite brand. Mom and Dad watched as the child’s delight was shared by their enthusiasm for the new model year.

Of course, things have changed. Instead of new model year launches, dealerships still draw the public to check out the latest and greatest. Even those who have a fleeting interest in the automobile.

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VOTY ’14: …And The Winner Is…

2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack
All photos by BobbiLe Marie N’Diaye/BobbiLe Ba Photography

This Victory & Reseda Vehicle of The Year Award was seen as the most competitive field ever brought together. The forty cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers and minivans represented a diverse group that was strong across the board. Making a solid decision to narrow it down to ten was not easy, either. The panel offered their choices that ranged almost across the entire forty vehicle Long List.

Then, it was your turn. And, you came in droves. This year’s VOTY yielded the highest polling turnout in its eight-year history. Your say made it easier to pick a winner. This is why V&R has touted this as an award born on social media with the power of a public voice to make the final choice.

V&R might not be on par with larger media conglomerates or more popular websites. But, for one short moment, this site might as well be.

For all of this, there is a winner that will be awarded – hopefully – November 18-19 at the LA Auto Show.

Based on a total of vehicle evaluation points, social media engagement, panel feedback and your votes, the 2014 Victory & Reseda Vehicle of The Year is… Continue reading

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