Auto Notes - February 2017
A record breaker. When all the dust settled and the final counts were tabulated, U.S. vehicle sales for 2016 totaled 17.55 million, breaking 2015 sales by .04 percent. As noted in our previous column, truck and SUV sales were the sales leaders as sedans in general were sluggish sellers.
For Toyota, SUVs and trucks totaled 63 percent of sales in 2016, followed closely by Ford with 61 percent in that segment; Chevy’s Colorado pickup had its best year since 2005, and had its best December sales since 2004 (up 20 percent) and Trax, Equinos, and Traverse models rose sharply; GMC’s lineup had calendar year records; and the Nissan Rogue SUV, with a record-setting December at 40,477, had total sales of 329,904 for the year, leading Nissan to a record-setting year in the U.S. at 1,426,013 units.
Cool concept. Toyota introduced its new Concept-I at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Designed by Toyota’s CALTY Design Research in Newport Beach, Calif., the concept was created around the philosophy of “kinetic warmth,” a belief that mobility technology should be warm, welcoming, and fun.
The concept was developed with a focus on building an immersive and energetic user experience, the automaker said, adding that the Concept-I leverages the power of an advanced artificial intelligence (AI) system to anticipate driver’s needs.
The AI system enhances driver safety and is combined with visual and haptic (the sense of touching) stimuli to augment communication based on driver responsiveness. It does that by monitoring driver attention and road conditions, then increases automated driving support as needed. Using an AI agent nicknamed Yui, which is centered on the car’s dashboard, the concept has the ability to use light, sound, and touch to communicate critical data to the driver. Yui even greets drivers as they approach the vehicle, and it provides messages about upcoming turns or hazards, as well as advising what drive mode the vehicle is in at any given time. Is this the foundation for an upcoming autonomous car from Toyota?
Detroit highlights. As always, dozens of global and North American debuts were held at the North American International Auto Show in January. In addition to production introductions, concepts abounded, including Volkswagen’s I.D Buzz concept, a modernized all-electric, autonomous version of the Microbus.
Debuts in Detroit included the 2018 Honda Odyssey minivan with a new engine, interior and exterior styling updates, and plentiful new technology and electronics; the 2018 Toyota Camry with four- and six-cylinder and hybrid models; the redesigned 2018 Audi SQ5, a sporty compact SUV; the 2018 Kia Stinger, a rear-wheel-drive performance sedan; and the redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Traverse SUV.
Also introduced were the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport; the 2018 Lexus LS; BMW 5 Series, including the 530e and 540i models; several Mercedes-Benz models, including the 2018 E-Class; and others.
Ford officially announced the return of two iconic products, the midsize Ranger pickup, due out in 2019, and the Ford Bronco SUV that will hit the market in 2020.
The 2017 North American Car, Truck, and Utility of the Year were also announced in Detroit. Judged by 57 independent automotive journalists, this year’s winners are the Chevrolet Bolt, Honda Ridgeline, and Chrysler Pacifica (minivans and SUVs compete in the Utility category).