2017 Ford Focus RS Review

Huge thank you to Muzi Ford in Needham, Massachusetts for allowing me to take a look at the 2017 Ford Focus RS. The RS is the ultimate year round vehicle for car enthusiasts, as it’s performance and AWD drivetrain lets the driver have fun on the road, the track, and in the winter.

Here’s the full review of the Focus RS. Also, visit Muzi Ford’s website to check out their extensive Ford inventory!

http://www.muziford.com

You Have $15,000, Do You Buy Or Lease A Car?

If you have $15,000 in cash, do you buy or lease a car? Actually, I’m going to make it more interesting. If you have $10,000 in cash would you buy or lease a car?

Having scanned through forums and Reddit, there are many young, and even older consumers, who ask the same question, usually with the same amount of money in hand asking for car buying advice. Now, if your commute to work and weekend trips make your annual mileage higher than 12,000 a year, then buying is the better option. But what about those who are driving around 8,000 – 10,000 miles a year. Would you still be so hasty to buy instead of lease?

Most people feel that leasing costs you more in the long run. But does it really? True, your car payments could be higher per month, but because it’s a new car, you won’t have to factor in major maintenance costs. At $10,000 – $15,000, you’re not going to end up with what you want. Certified pre-owned, you’re looking at the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, or Toyota Corolla to name a few. Used can be a case of trick or treat. There’s always diamonds in the rough, but more often than not, you’ll end up with someone else’s problem. Mechanical failure is likely, factoring into the overall cost of the car, while it’s aging, and every year the resale value is slowly tanking. You either wind up with a money pit, or a decent car that will last you a few years before maintenance issues could arise.

Now let’s look to leasing. You have $10,000 – $15,000 in hand and you’re visiting local dealership websites comparing lease offers and deciding which one works best for you. You stumble upon a great deal. Your local Ford dealership down the street has a lease offer for a new Ford Escape SE; $4,173 due at signing, $159 a month for 24 months. If my math is correct, for those 2 years it will cost you a grand total of $7,989, not including oil changes and annual maintenance. You’re saving $2,000 in the long run, which will be two grand more saved up for your next lease. If you buy a $10,000 car, you’re looking at a world of unknowns.

So the choice. A new Ford Escape SE or an 8 year old car with 50,000+ miles on it. $8,000 overall in 24 months, or $10,000, plus maintenance that will inevitably happen sometime during your ownership of the car.

Another example; this time you have $15,000. Now I’m sure you can find some sweetheart deal for a 6+ year old Infiniti G35 or G37 or an older BMW 3 Series, but again let’s factor in unforeseen maintenance. But you decide, “I’ll lease instead because I want to drive a new car”. Here are the potential options you have. Let me just say this is all predicated on what the dealerships in your area are offering. Here’s a few from my neck of the woods.

Audi A3: $2,694 downpayment, $299 a month for 36 months = $13,458

BMW X1: $4,000 downpayment, $239 a month for 36 months = $12,604

BMW 320i X-Drive: 4,000 downpayment, $239 a month for 36 months = $12,604 (Same offer as the X1)

Infiniti Q40: $1,499 downpayment, $229 a month for 39 months = $10,430

Lexus IS 250: $1,599 downpayment, 349 a month for 36 months = $14,163

These are just some of the deals that are out there. They all cost under $15,000 within the three year window you have the car. Most come with leather seats, heated seats, bluetooth, navigation, and electric sunroof. So think about it for a minute. You can have a luxury car for the same price, or less than if you bought a certified pre-owned Honda Civic. There are even better offers out there if you don’t want to spend $15,000.

After seeing this, would you still buy or would you lease?

Acura Is Going Automatic, Leaving One Model Left With Manual In 2016

The consumer markets have spoken and one auto manufacturer has listened. Acura will soon be offering only automatics in their lineup, and in 2016 only the ILX will have a manual transmission. A new era in the automotive market is upon us, and while I can hear the groans from the car enthusiasts who swear by the manual transmission, paddle shifters is that kid on the block who’s taken over and everyone now follows.

The original story posted on Car and Driver goes through Acura’s transition thoroughly. The company that brought us the Integra is realizing that consumers don’t want the manual transmission, and there are a few theories as to why this is happening. For one, automatics are getting great gas mileage, a stronghold and persuasive buying point manuals once had.

Some people are blaming the non-car enthusiasts for this change, but let’s think about the sports cars and exotics that now offer paddle shifters. Ford Mustangs offer automatics, and for a while now, Ferrari has put paddle shifters in their cars. Most notably, the LaFerrari doesn’t even come with a traditional manual. Every car in-between Ford and Ferrari that attracted hardcore car enthusiasts and were for people who could drive manuals are now available in automatics or auto shift. This is the direction car manufacturers have gone, and with manuals only making up 6% of the market, demand is dwindling for a clutch.

With touch screens, navigation systems, iPhones, and other devices that distract drivers, the last thing most consumers want is to worry about shifting. Yes, the purists out there will say that manual is the only way to thoroughly enjoy a car, but an overwhelming majority of drivers, including car enthusiasts, are finding auto shift and automatics to be just as much fun. Let’s also remember the demographics here as well. With most people moving back into the city, having to upshift and downshift at every intersection and being in traffic on the highways is a chore most people don’t want to add when commuting.

Is there a place for manuals? Absolutely. For Acura however, most of their car buyers use their Acura’s as daily drivers, and with the Honda-owned company not offering much in the sports car market, most of the manual transmission lovers will have to look to older models to get their fill. Otherwise they’ll have to change brands, but even Lexus and Infiniti are beginning to change along with consumer demand.

At the end of the day, the goal for any company that sells products is to increase sales. As mentioned earlier, manuals only make up 6% of the market, which means 94% of consumers want an automatic or paddle shifters. Cars with manual transmissions really are a dying breed, and maybe some automakers will still offer traditional manuals on models they know have a cult following of loyal consumers.

The entire auto industry is in the midst of a revolution, and with electric cars gaining traction, who knows what other components will be different in cars in 5-10 years.

Acura is seeing the change and they’re going to listen to consumers. Other car manufacturers will follow suit, and are already moving away from the manual transmission but still offering it on some of their models. It’s truly amazing what consumer buying power can do, and with the advances we’re seeing in the auto industry, this change to going automatic and auto shift was bound to happen.

Off-Roading In New Hampshire: 3 Feet of Snow? No Problem

New England, especially the Boston area, has gotten hit hard the past three weeks with Nor’easters and blizzards. In New Hampshire, a group of guys are enjoying the relentless snow by taking their full size SUV’s off-road.

The Ford Excursion, Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, and Land Rover LR3 took on the snow like champs. With vehicles like these, it’s hard not to have a good time. Who said adults can’t have fun in the snow too?

These guys are going to have at least another week of fun and fresh snow with the recent snowstorm, and another possibly hitting next weekend. Skiing and snowboarding is cool, but taking on three feet of snow in a heated interior, maybe a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in your hand, and off-roading with friends just seems to take winter sports to a whole new level of enjoyment.

Will The Ford Focus RS Bring Performance Packages To Cheaper Vehicles?

The Ford Focus RS is no doubt a game changer in the auto industry. For the first time, Ford is bringing their performance packaged Focus RS to the United States, which has also raised the question of whether we’ll see an RS version of the Fiesta. By doing this however, Ford would be awakening some sleeping giants in the auto world who are waiting for their moment to break free and start offering performance vehicles to the average consumer. This could also have an impact on Subaru’s turf as the WRX STI hasn’t had many challengers, if any since the Mitsubishi Lancer’s steep decent into irrelevancy. This may also eventually reach Volkswagen’s stake in the hatchback market if other car companies start following suit.

Toyota is already mulling over the idea of unleashing the TRD performance packages for the Camry, and one could then speculate on whether the Toyota Corolla will get the same treatment. For the past few years Ford has been going at it with Toyota and Honda to become the top dog in annual sales, and with the RS line, it’s very possible that consumers may start looking to performance. Toyota already realizes this, and are at least looking into getting in on the action.

Prior to the Focus RS’s unveiling, the Subaru WRX STI and the Volkswagen GTI were sitting comfortably in their respective markets. The GTI has always been the favorite for hatchbacks and are extremely popular, even with the Focus ST being priced in the same neighborhood. Now with an AWD Focus, Ford has some leverage to entice consumers to look at other options besides the GTI. The Subaru WRX STI on the other hand will be harder to dethrone, as car manufactures who’ve tried to compete with Subaru ultimately failed, and it will take some time for Ford to convince consumers in that market to make the switch.

In the past year or so, we’ve seen almost every car manufacturer get in on a new, emerging market. BMW and Mercedes Benz are now duking it out with the X6 and GLE in a market that could be gaining some traction. Right now it seems that performance packaged hatchbacks and compact sedans could become the latest trend in the automotive world. What we’re witnessing is an intensity in competition between automakers that really hasn’t been seen since the dawn of the muscle car. In the past, car companies would be unique and try selling based on a feature or design that no one else could offer. Now it appears that to stay alive, auto brands are continuously attempting to improve an existing design.

Up until recently, no one tried to advance on the WRX STI and the GTI’s turf, but with Ford making the bold move to bring a version of the Focus that was being sold outside the United States to America, we may see other car brands do the same. Honda will not be bringing over the Civic Type R until at least 2017, but you can believe that if Toyota starts selling TRD packaged Camry’s and Corolla’s, Honda will start feeling the pressure to sell a quality performance car.

Consumers are going to have variety in almost every market. Now it comes down to personal preference. The diehard GTI and WRX STI fans will be reluctant to switch to a different brand, but for Millennials who are starting to buy cars, they may look to new brands, and etch their own buying habits in stone.

Mazda: The Face Of A New Trend In The Auto Industry

Mazda 6
AlBargan / Foter / CC BY-ND

The past five to ten years for the auto industry has seen countless innovations and changes, from cars being more economical, smaller SUV’s, to auto manufacturers changing their identity to keep up with the times. Mazda is one of many manufacturers who changed their lineup to appeal to all generations with their new designs and models that range across the spectrum of the auto world. A company that was primarily sports car driven with the Miata and RX-7, is now continuously finding ways to add on to what they’ve built in the past decade.

The Mazda 3, Mazda 6, CX-5, and CX-9 have created a solid foundation for the Japanese auto maker to build on. The 3 and 6 are beginning to compete against tough competition, as sedans priced between $20,000 – $30,000 have become extremely competitive. Because of this, auto brands are releasing some of the best looking cars in the segment. The Chrysler 200, Ford Focus and Fusion, Honda Civic and Accord, Subaru Impreza and Legacy, and Mazda’s 3 and 6 might just be the most options consumers have ever had in the compact to mid-size sedan segment. With that being said, a new trend in the auto industry is here, and you can thank the Germans for that.

Mercedes Benz, Audi, and BMW are in a battle of their own, fighting for position and dominating the smaller luxury car market. This fight for a majority stake in the $30,000 – $40,000 range has trickled down to companies who primarily sell cars $10,000 cheaper. Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Subaru, Mazda, and Hyundai know that if they don’t start jockeying for position in their respected segment, they’ll become victims to the big three in Germany. Consumers are beginning to see the opportunities that BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz have opened up and are now buying A3’s, CLA’s, and BMW X1’s. After two strong years for the Germans, the other auto manufacturers have had to throw a few punches of their own.

Think about it. Did you ever think you’d see the day when a Honda Fit or Civic would have a touch screen in their dashboards? Mazda’s, Subaru’s, and Hyundai’s are looking more high class which is making the consumer very bold in this segment. Four-door sedans, hatchbacks, and crossovers are the new, hot toys on the market. Sports cars are seeing a decline in sales, and despite lower gas prices, consumers aren’t buying bigger SUV’s like they once did.

We are going to continue seeing the auto industry changing, but for the better. Right now, as consumers, we’re like kids in a candy store and the auto manufactures continue coming out with new things to try. Mazda is about to unleash the new CX-3 which will take a bite in the small crossover segment, Honda is still going strong with the models they’re selling, Subaru continues to change their model’s appearances to entice buyers, Ford is pushing the Titanium trims of the Focus and Fusion, and Chrysler’s 200 not only looks classy, but now offers a V-6 engine under the hood that supplies 295 HP.

This is an amazing time to be in the market for a car. You can buy new or used, or lease which will put you behind the wheel of these new cars. Best of all, dealerships are offering great lease deals, especially around the holidays. Heading into 2015, you don’t have to own a BMW, Audi, or Mercedes Benz to drive a nice a car that provides luxury and a quiet interior.

Auto Marketing: Are Car Manufacturers Becoming Too Much Alike?

Let’s go back in time for a minute to the late 1990’s to early 2000’s in the automotive world. What has changed since those days? Are consumers more confused now than ever? Are car manufacturers becoming too much the same, losing that individuality and no longer catering to the loyal customers they’ve had for probably generations? These are the questions that no one is asking, and in an industry that is constantly changing, why have blurred lines appeared where consumers can’t decide on what the better brand is, and instead just go along with tradition?

In the late 90’s if you wanted luxury you probably would buy a Mercedes Benz, BMW, or Cadillac. For the average family vehicle that was reliable and safe you’d go with the Honda, Toyota, Subaru, or Volvo. The young and dangerous teenager who wants speed would maybe look at a Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, or Pontiac Firebird. And for the person that wanted a pickup truck, Dodge, Chevy, GMC, and Ford were constantly advertising on TV to appeal to that specific person.

However, today there is such a variety of vehicles in the same price range that often get forgotten, not because they’re of poor quality, but they’re neither marketed correctly nor presented as an individual car manufacturer that stands out from the competition. For example, the average consumer who has no loyal ties to one specific brand will look in multiple categories such as, fuel economy, safety, performance and price. Yet most likely, they’ll only compare the car brands and models that are most prevalent in their lives that have been marketed to them constantly over the years.

As I wrote in a previous article, the 2015 Chrysler 200 is priced from $21,000 to $31,000, putting it in the same price range as the Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Jetta, Honda Civic and Accord, the Mazda 6 and the list could continue on for a while. What the average consumer who wants performance while still owning a four door sedan doesn’t realize is that the 200 comes with a V6 engine that supplies 295 horsepower, completely blowing away the competition in it’s class in performance. Any one of the cars listed are also subjected to the same reality that poor marketing and a person’s personal preference completely drives their buying habits.

Let’s take a look at the new crossover SUV market that is constantly growing that includes the BMW X1 and the all new Audi Q3. Besides looking good, and for BMW and Audi the brand recognition, what do they really have to offer that other manufacturers can’t? Because luxury brands are now entering markets that are now rivaling Ford, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Mazda, consumers will now look to just the luxury brands and skip over what the traditional brands in that price range offer.

What used to be a black and white market has now become an array of colors, and while that is great news for the consumer, the manufacturers may end up losing in the end. If the consumer wants a small compact sedan, they’re going to be attracted to the Audi A3 or Mercedes Benz CLA without looking at what the other auto brands have to offer. The sports car market has remained the same over the years, as there is still a price margin wide enough where younger consumers will look to the American muscle cars over the BMW 2 series and others in that category.

The auto market has certainly become competitive, but along with it is the loss of individuality. Most have LED lights, leather seats, MP3 capability, power windows, keyless entry, and other technologies and comforts that were only found on the most luxurious of brands in the late 90’s. There needs to be better marketing strategies from auto manufacturers, whether that be target advertising, or mass marketing that reaches a variety of different people. BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz will be catering to a whole new audience; the audience that once bought Hondas, Toyotas, Volkswagens and Fords. TV commercials aren’t enough anymore as brand recognition is enough for consumers to get fixated on one manufacturer.

Right now there are multiple options at all different price ranges, but the consumer doesn’t know it. These auto manufacturers need to become unique again and cater to the specific audience they knew would buy their brand for many years to come. For the time being, the German luxury car segment is taking over, and if the other manufactures don’t step up their game, they’ll be in a for a rude awakening if and when Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz introduce the smaller vehicles they’ve been selling in Europe.