Is Having The BRZ In Subaru’s Lineup A Waste Of Time?

When you think of Subaru you probably picture a Forester or Outback navigating through the woods on a dirt road, or a WRX STI racing on a rally circuit. AWD is it’s specialty, the ability that allows drivers to get from point A to point B throughout the winter, and give the owner a peace of mind when they get behind the wheel in treacherous driving situations. Subaru has never been known to appeal to the RWD, sports car community, and instead reaches the consumer who wants off-road capability or a vehicle that is immune to most, if not all weather conditions. The Subaru BRZ does not fit that mold and never will.

Last year Subaru managed to sell 7,500 BRZ’s, and during the best monthly sales, none of the figures reached 1,000 cars sold. Because Scion, Toyota, and Subaru collaborated on the BRZ/FR-S, Subaru isn’t taking a major risk, or one in which they’re not going to deal with the consequences of poor sales solely. Two other manufactures are also on the ship that appears to be sinking. The real question is whether Subaru is wasting their time with having the BRZ in their lineup.

Starting at $25,500, the BRZ is just a mere $1,000 cheaper than the base version of the WRX. They’re two completely different cars, but one offers more horsepower, AWD, four doors, and tradition, while the other is basically a rebadged Toyota. In the eyes of consumers the WRX’s 268 hp, coupled with a manual transmission, is more appealing than a 200 hp coupe. While they both are in different classes, the WRX will steal sales away from the BRZ because it offers more.

For Scion, the FR-S makes sense because they don’t have another sports car in their lineup that will compete in sales. The tC is cheaper with less horsepower, while the FR-S is more of a traditional performance coupe that attracts younger consumers who want a car with power. For the Toyota owned company, the FR-S isn’t as big of a waste of time, and in fact is seeing double the sales as the BRZ, and that’s because of the consumers that Scion attracts.

At the end of the day, there is no difference between the BRZ and FR-S except the badge on the front. The biggest variable however is the loyal consumers for both auto brands. Subaru is seeing limited sales, and from a numbers standpoint, they’re wasting their time by selling a coupe. Due to having a sports sedan within the same price range, the BRZ isn’t a great fit for the company. Scion on the other hand desperately needs the FR-S to succeed, and because of their minimal lineup range, the sports coupe can and will see better sales figures than it will for Subaru.

The BRZ was an experiment, one in which Subaru could see if they could make some noise in the sports coupe market. Because they have a tradition set on AWD and off-road capability, consumers aren’t flocking to Subaru dealerships to buy a RWD coupe that doesn’t fit in the AWD dominated lineup. Sales figures could rise, but it’s very unlikely. The remaining question is, how long will they keep the BRZ in their lineup before they cut their losses and move on?

What is Scion’s Identity? Do They Even Have One?

This week at the New York International Auto Show, Scion unveiled their all new iA sedan and iM hatchback that will be going on sale at the end of 2015. Scion, which is owned by Toyota, really has only one car that they can truly call they own, the tC, while the rest of their lineup is either rebadged Toyota’s that are sold in Europe and Asia, or they have cars that aren’t even built by their parent company. The FR-S was a collaboration by Toyota and Subaru, and can be bought as a Subaru, the BRZ.

What is Scion? Were they originally Toyota’s cheap brand that sold to younger consumers, or are they now a combination of cheaper vehicles and a lab rat for other car companies to see what they could come with without putting their badge on the car? The iA is essentially the new Mazda 2 sedan, and was also a collaboration with Toyota by Mazda. The iM is a rebadged Toyota Auris and will be what takes the place of the Toyota Matrix, and will give Scion the opportunity to try increasing sales in the hatchback market. Both cars will be starting anywhere between $16,000 – $20,000 when they hit the market, and with a very lackluster group of vehicles that are currently within that price range, the iA and iM could see some strong sales.

The biggest issue facing Scion is that their sales figures aren’t as strong as they were back in 2005. Scion was the new kid on the block offering cheaper cars for younger drivers, but today, the tC and FR-S are the only Scions that younger consumers want to get behind the wheel of, and when it comes to the FR-S, they can choose to visit a Subaru dealer instead.

Out of the two, the iM has a better chance of succeeding than the iA. While great fuel economy and cheaper starting price for the iA might go a long way in helping consumers decide whether to buy the car or not, the iM being a hatchback, might be more appealing to younger consumers.

Toyota has a lineup consisting of cars that compete with Honda, Ford, and Chevrolet, while their luxury division, Lexus, is taking on BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi, and Infiniti. It would be great if Scion became both cheap for younger consumers, while being the performance division for Toyota. The tC and FR-S are good starts, but if Toyota could offer a Celica (which in essence is the tC) MR-2 or some original sports car badged as a Scion, the perception of the brand would change completely overnight. Right now it seems like Scion is everyone’s ginny pig, and that’s what is confusing consumers. The Toyota owned company is now 13 years old, it’s time to start maturing and offering original cars that aren’t rebadged by other Japanese brands or Toyota itself.

Consumer Reports Has Buick In Top 10 Brands, Regal Best Sports Sedan

To most car owners, Consumer Reports’ findings are always suspect and are never truly accurate. Because they base part of their reports on the reviews of their subscribers, the findings can be a bit distorted. While they do test these cars themselves, they’re also using other forms of secondary statistics to decide which vehicles and brands are worthy to be put into the top 10. Shockingly, the Buick Regal gets best in the sports sedan class while the Buick Brand gets places in 7th behind Porsche, Subaru, and Audi in the top 10 auto brands.

Buick finds themselves among some of the most well-known brands in the industry, and it’s rather interesting how Consumer Reports came up with the findings. The real question is, based on what? Price? Reliability? Performance? It should be noted that the Buick Regal is in fact a rebadged Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, so no matter what your take is on this report, apparently having your car built in Germany can make all the difference when it comes to quality.

The Regal is priced between $29,000 – $40,000 putting it in the price range of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Volvo S60, and Infiniti G37/Q40 to name a few. That’s some worthy competition to be up against and to beat out. The one factor that hasn’t been taken into consideration is long term reliability, and seeing as though they’re basing these findings on the 2015 models, we can’t tell if the Regal is better overall in the sports sedan category when it comes to reliability.

When it comes to the Buick brand itself, they are making better cars, but that might be due to the rebadging of Opel’s. Buick is certainly selling nicer cars than a few years ago, but to put them in the same sentence as Porsche, Subaru, Audi, and Lexus in the top 10 auto brands is far too early and very bold.

The other shocker from this report is the Chevy Impala’s rank as best in the large sedan class. Again, I want to know what it’s based on. I’ll respect the honors it’s receiving if I could understand why exactly this car is better than all the other large sedans on the market. Even when it comes to Buick, I just want an explanation as to why and not just a graph showing me that the Buick Regal is best in the sports sedan class.

What do you think? Cars are not one of Consumer Reports’ strong suits, but I do agree with Subaru’s dominance in the mid-sized sedan and compact car classes. Who do you think should have gotten the honors in the sports sedan and large sedan classes? Do you agree that the Buick Regal is the best sports sedan, or Buick is a top 10 auto brand?

Consumer reports also left out the hatchback class, but we all know the GTI would have gone home with that award.

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.

Subaru Owners of America: We Envy You

After six feet of snow in a matter of three weeks, we’re waving the white flag. Subaru owners of America, you’ve made the best decision of your lives because you bought arguably the best winter vehicles on the market today. AWD and a history of long lasting quality is a worthy adversary for what mother nature throws at us during the winter. For those of you who are on the fence about whether to buy a Subaru or not, watch these videos or look out your window, you’ll see why owning these vehicles will make your lives better.

Time and time again Subaru’s have come up big in the clutch when driving in snow. In fact, during storms, Subaru’s are really the only brand that dominates the roads besides pickup trucks and plow operators. These vehicles were made for weather in New England and continue to stand the test of time. After this winter, when the snow piles are melted and people can get back to shopping, there is no doubt that Subaru sales figures will skyrocket.

Who cares about the CVT transmissions and very limited horsepower, at the end of the day these owners aren’t complaining about being stuck in snow and are instead warm inside their houses. If there is one thing that winter of 2015 has taught us, Subaru + AWD = the ultimate winter vehicle. A couple of more winters like these and state officials will have to make it mandatory to own one.

I think it’s safe to say we’re all sick of winter. If two foot snow storms are becoming the norm in New England, maybe it’s time to trade in the FWD sedan and move up to a more capable winter vehicle.

Winter In New England: Never Buy A Front Wheel Drive Car

Have you had enough of winter yet? We sure have. Between shoveling out the driveway, getting stuck on unplowed roads, fishtailing down city streets, and not feeling invincible like the car ads show, makes us extremely tired of snow this year. But guess what? We still have another month or so of winter left, and with a front wheel drive car, patience has run out. Unless you’re a young kid who likes snow drifting in parking lots, RWD will get you nowhere in this weather, and at times FWD is no better. That leaves us with one choice. AWD crossovers, SUV’s, and sedans. Are we complaining? No.

The biggest issue with front wheel drive is that you have no traction in the back. You may make it around the corner, but the back end always gets loose, even with stability and traction control on. Older vehicles are more prone to these problems due to loss of power, and this is very noticeable when going uphill. The prime remedy is to always winterize your car, put on snow tires, and go the whole 9 yards, but weather chooses no favorites and it will stop you dead in your tracks.

When it comes to RWD, you might as well attach a RV trailer on the back of the car because it will expend all your energy and concentration to make it home in a timely manner. Because all the power comes from the back, you have to stabilize the weight ratio as the engine is in the front which causes a nightmare if you get stuck in a rut. Personally, we never understood why RWD was ever considered to be a great idea for driving in the northern reaches of the country, but that decision is up to the buyer.

After surviving six feet of snow in less than three weeks, we’ve decided that AWD and four wheel drive is the only answer to making it through unplowed surfaces. Go on Youtube and Instagram and you’ll find Subarus going through snow as if it was cotton candy, and a BMW dealership in Massachusetts showed the power of BMW’s AWD system as it made it out of a snowbank surrounding the car.

If you still want a RWD or front wheel drive vehicle after winter of 2015, all power to you. We’re done with fishtailing and watching drivers with AWD facing no adversity while we’re trying to correct the wheel because the rear tires feel like they’re on banana peels.

Some people would say all the fun cars are RWD, but we beg to differ. You can’t tell us that cutting through snow in a Subaru and feeling unstoppable for a season is better than snow drifting. Having to put a shovel in the trunk and constantly debating whether you can make it through that snow pile or up that unplowed street has changed our perceptions of winter driving. Yes, for the first storm it seems fun, but when you’re actually trying to get from point A to point B in one piece, AWD seems like the best alternative.

This winter will be over in a few months, at least that’s what we’re hoping. By then maybe FWD and RWD cars will seem more appealing, but for the time being, AWD systems, whether that be Quattro or X-drive, Subarus or Volvos, SUV’s or crossovers, are the only vehicles we want to be behind the wheel of until late April.

Volvo Has Caught The Cross Country Bug. XC S60 and XC V60?

Volvo is a company in transition. Under new ownership after being sold by Ford, Volvo has had difficulty in distancing itself from it’s past. Much of the designs and components of their older models such as the S60 and discontinued S40 were based off of Ford, and for the S60, there are major changes underway to get rid of the old blueprint and start fresh in 2015. Well they’ve certainly done that by unveiling their new XC version of the S60. With a height adjustment of 2.5 inches, Volvo is moving away from their traditional sedan and have suddenly come up with a Subaru-like, height-adjusted, tough terrain beating car and station wagon.

The addition to the XC family has already caused confusion with the media as there is an XC V60 and a XC60 now, but the difference being one is a station wagon and the other a crossover. What are Volvo’s future plans, what segment are they trying to enter, and who exactly are they competing against with their new XC lineup? These questions seem to go unanswered, but one could speculate that they’re trying to be the more luxurious Subaru by offering AWD across their product line, or their bringing Subaru-like engineering to the luxury car market, a segment that hasn’t been capitalized as of yet. But is there a demand for it?

Volvos primarily sell better in the states with winter climates as their AWD systems are a luxury during the late fall and winter months during the year. It’s very possible that they’re trying to target a specific market that either likes off-road capabilities or prefers something other than Subaru without sacrificing the AWD and year round durability.

However, the redesigned Volvo XC90 might contradict that theory as Volvo unveiled the R-design trim that will surely take on the BMW X5 and Audi Q5. It appears the Swedish automaker is trying to take on multiple segments at once, while also innovating along the way. They have a triple turbocharged engine in the works that could revolutionize the car industry while also continuing to perfect their safety features on their cars.

It will be interesting to see the reception the XC S60 gets when it enters Volvo dealerships early this year. Personally, I see the XC V60 doing better as Subaru has lived off the AWD station wagons for years, and it’s possible Volvo can experience that same success. Great things are happening up in Sweden these days, and let’s hope we continue to see these changes as Volvos have become very luxury-based cars over the past 5 years or so.

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.

Whether You Prefer Automatic or Manual, Don’t Get A CVT

Automotive Rhythms / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

For the die-hard gear-head, manual transmissions will always be what they swear by as it’s the only true way to experience every aspect of a sports car. But in the 21st century we’re given an array of different transmission types that allow the driver to either cruise in automatic, or have some fun by shifting into a non pure form of manual. However, whether you prefer an automatic or manual, the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) will most likely ruin your driving experience.

CVT’s can be found on most Japanese cars including the Subaru WRX, which as a car enthusiast, makes me cringe at the thought that the four-door sports car doesn’t get a more driver-friendly transmission. Some may wonder what’s the difference between a CVT and a regular transmission. When you floor the gas pedal you don’t get the full experience of hearing the transmission changing gears. Every kid can relate to the sound of the engine going through the gears, and if you own a CVT, you’ll never get to hear the switch to the new gear.

If you’re more concerned about fuel economy, a CVT would be the better choice as it’s designed to help save gas when you’re accelerating. The Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Subaru Legacy to name a few, are some of the models that have a CVT in them, but out of those three, the Legacy doesn’t get anywhere near the MPG’s of the Corolla and Civic. The 3.6R limited trim of the Legacy gets 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, but that does get overshadowed by the fact that there is a CVT transmission in the car. What’s the point in having the sportier version of a sedan when you can’t fully enjoy the revs and changes of gears?

Sports cars, and versions with a sports package should be enjoyed to the greatest extent. To put a CVT into a car that was built for the car enthusiast or the one who wanted to floor the gas pedal completely defeats the purpose of manufacturing the car at all. Other than a few ideal situations and how the car is used, a CVT would be useful in the city, but if you intend to take the car onto the open roads, don’t expect to feel the rush and excitement of accelerating on the highway and hearing the transmission go through the gears.

Acura Going AWD To Compete With Subaru and Audi?

CIAS 2013 - 2014 Acura RLX
MSVG / Foter / CC BY

According to a report by Automotive News, Acura is looking to make AWD standard on all their models and go the route of Subaru and Audi. But is it too late for the Honda-owned luxury car manufacturer?

While going AWD creates benefits for the consumer, Acura has to distinguish themselves from Subaru and Audi first. What is the Acura brand? Who are they marketing to, and are they a luxury car company, or more similar to Subaru who market to consumers that need AWD to deal with snow and difficult terrain?
Subaru has already built up a strong tradition of manufacturing durable and long lasting AWD sedans and station wagons, and their Impreza and Legacy are in a league of their own that’s very difficult to break through and compete.

Audi on the other hand is pure luxury that offers AWD as standard, but their cars are predicated on luxury more than off-road capability. Their sedans and smaller crossovers are competing against BMW and Mercedes Benz, and it would be a mistake for Acura to jump into the fray and compete against the best the automotive world has to offer.

Acura needs to change their image, or promote the brand that displays a definte direction so consumers know exactly what they’re buying. Introducing a crossover SUV wouldn’t be a bad place to start, and then figure out where their sedans compete in the automotive market. 

AWD is the right answer, but to the wrong question. Consumers don’t know where Acura fits in the luxury market, and they have no idea whether it’s a luxury brand or not, especially with the changes they’ve made to their lineup by getting rid of the TL and TSX. Acura has a lot of questions to answer and evaluate where their brand stands among its competitors, but when it comes to standardizing AWD on all their models, they’re on the right track.