Behind the Wheel News

News from Dodge, Mitsubishi, VW, Lexus, Nissan, Hertz, and more

VW Launches Alexa-Guided Test Drives

Dealer response is mixed to Volkswagen’s recent announcement that some shoppers could soon schedule in-person Alexa-guided test drives. The approximately 30-minute-long test drive is enabled through an Echo Auto device on the vehicle’s dashboard, VW says. The automaker did not immediately respond to a Wards request for more details about the program that will soon only offer such test drives in select markets with the ID.4 SUV.

Ram Mulls Return of Midsize Pickup

It’s been 11 years since Ram offered a midsize pickup, and it appears the brand is considering getting back into the segment. Before it makes a move, Ram wants dealers to get a look at its vision. Ram CEO Mike Koval Jr. said he’s considering showing retailers an early concept of a midsize truck in March “to gauge their interest.” It’s not clear at this point if the concept would be a rendering or a physical mockup. The potential new pickup would compete against Ford’s Ranger, GM’s Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, the Nissan Frontier and Toyota’s popular Tacoma.

Nissan’s New EV to Debut Late Fall

The Ariya compact crossover, Nissan Motor Co.’s first new electric vehicle in more than a decade, arrives in late fall. The 2023 Nissan Ariya will start at $44,485, with the top variant beginning at $61,485. All prices include a $1,295 shipping charge. The Japan-made Ariya will not qualify for a $7,500 federal EV tax credit under new eligibility rules at launch. Automakers must now assemble EVs and plug-in hybrids in North America to qualify.

Mitsubishi’s U.S. Comeback Picks up Momentum

Despite rising interest rates and an uncertain supply chain, Mitsubishi is marking its 40th anniversary in the United States with rising sales, new products and plans to revive the Ralliart sub-brand. However, there was no word on whether it would revive its popular EVO performance compact.

Meanwhile, the redesigned Mitsubishi Outlander and its soon-to-arrive plug-in hybrid variant are more than an infusion of new blood into an anemic product lineup of just four nameplates for the Japanese automaker. The midsize crossovers are billed as a launch pad to propel Mitsubishi beyond its low six-digit annual volumes and bargain-brand status.

Mark Chaffin, Mitsubishi Motor North America CEO, told, “We needed to reinvent and evolve our brand in the U.S.” Mitsubishi was sent reeling by the subprime loan disaster ahead of the Great Recession. The Japanese brand’s sales sank during the recession — along with the rest of the auto industry’s — and its product line grew old, prompting speculation the brand might withdraw from the U.S. market. The company also saw a reduction in dealerships during the period, which contributed to the brand’s near demise in the United States.

Hertz Teams up with BP Oil for EV Chargers

Hertz is teaming up with oil giant BP to build a new network of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the United States. The rental car giant — which in the last year has announced deals to purchase a total of up to 340,000 EVs from Tesla, Polestar and General Motors by 2027 — is working with a unit of BP to install thousands of new chargers at its U.S. locations.

Lexus Announces Extension to Safety Connect and Service Connect Trial Periods

Lexus recently announced additional peace of mind to assist when the unexpected occurs. Safety Connect and Service Connect, a suite of available services that help drivers stay secure while on the road, are now available with up to a 10-year trial on select Lexus models. The suite of available Safety Connect services includes 24-hour emergency assistance, 24-hour enhanced roadside assistance, automatic collision notification and stolen vehicle locator. Service Connect offers vehicle health reports and detailed maintenance reminders with the ability to link a preferred Lexus dealer with select Lexus vehicles.

GM EV Commitment Still Has Skeptics

In a surprise move, General Motors Co. recently joined forces with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to recommend tougher emissions rules for passenger vehicles. But skeptics remain unconvinced by the company’s professed commitment to going green, citing GM’s history of battling tougher fuel economy rules.

GM and the EDF are recommending that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establish standards ensuring at least 50 percent of new vehicles sold by 2030 are zero-emitting while achieving a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a roadmap that matches up nicely with GM’s plan to make all of its own models electric by 2035.

Skeptics have advanced the idea that GM’s move to total EVs was part of a secret backroom deal with the Obama Administration to further the left’s climate goals when it bailed out a bankrupt GM, giving the United Auto Workers union a portion of the company while leaving stockholders high and dry.

German and Japanese Brands Dominate J.D. Power Loyalty Report

Brand loyalty is increasing among new-vehicle buyers, fueled by the current vehicle shortage, J.D. Power said in a recently released study. For the first time, the analytics firm broke its loyalty study into five segment categories — including premium car, premium SUV, mass market car, mass market SUV and truck. A company’s loyalty score, which is the percentage of new-car buyers who return to the same brand when trading their old vehicle, was measured from transaction data from September 2021 through August 2022.

Ford Unveils Big, Gas-Powered Pickup that will Fuel Its EV Future

Ford Motor Co.’s redesigned F-Series Super Duty pickup may lack the sex appeal of the recently debuted new Mustang, but this hulking warhorse is critical to funding the automaker’s electric future.

The new Super Duty pickup is the antithesis of an electric vehicle. According to Ford, it received a thorough overhaul that includes a new 6.8-liter, V8 gasoline engine and a new 6.7-liter diesel engine to go along with a massive 7.3-liter gas engine the automotive media has dubbed “Godzilla.” In its largest configuration, the truck stands over 6 and 1/2 feet tall and stretches more than 22 feet.

To Ford, this truck isn’t so much about saving the planet as it is about keeping it turning. According to the automaker, the Super Duty generates more in annual revenue than Southwest Airlines Co., which last year booked $15.8 billion in sales. It dominates commercial sales to construction crews, utilities, mining companies and emergency-response teams, and has twice the market share of rivals, Ford said.