Feb 192018
 

Four months after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, Nancy Navales is on a phone interview talking about the storm’s aftermath.

Her voice seems not just happy, but hopeful.

Toyota de Puerto Rico Vice President Nancy Navales (second from left with Red Cross workers during storm recovery) was left without power in her home four months after Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico.

She uses words like “resilient.” Her colleagues choose descriptors like “heroic” and “spirited.”
And on the other end of that call, from a comfortable chair in an undamaged building, it’s hard to imagine how these words apply to an island nearly destroyed last September.

Hundreds lost their lives. Thousands lost their homes. Months after the storm, traffic lights still don’t work. Countless businesses remain shuttered. On the day of that call, 40 percent of the island was still without power, and that included Navales’s home.

“You start to settle into a new normalcy,” she says. “Everything changes after something like this. But as Puerto Ricans, we bounce back. Ultimately, you get into a rhythm of functioning around these new issues that you face.”

But what comes next? Well, a few hours after that call, power was unexpectedly restored to Navales’s home.

That’s where the optimism comes in.

The Storm
For 23 years, Navales has been a team member at Toyota de Puerto Rico (TdPR), Toyota’s sales arm on the island, working her way up to her current role of vice president. Like the island itself, Toyota is in her blood.

More than that, the 106 other team members, contingent workers and support staff that make up TdPR are part of her extended family, and she’s part of theirs.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that, in the most dire circumstances, TdPR’s people joined forces to take on whatever Hurricane Maria left in her wake.

“The storm brought a higher level of anxiety,” says Hector Rivera, TdPR’s director of sales. “I have been amazed by how many people are reaching out to each other. That happens throughout the whole island. The anxiety has bought some good vibes.”

Maria hit on Wednesday, Sept. 20. The next day, a skeleton crew showed up to work at TdPR.
By the next Monday, all departments were represented. Just a week after that, TdPR was running at full strength, even as team members brought their children to work because schools were still closed. In a way, the folks at TdPR were lucky. No team members, contingents or support staff were injured by a storm that claimed more than 500 lives. Further, only a few suffered property loss.

Soon, team members began participating in charity efforts to help the island, handing out Thanksgiving dinner to victims and hosting a party, plus handing out supplies, when a local school reopened.

Still, the people of TdPR needed help. So Toyota’s Emergency Response Program (TERP) provided team members with funds up to the maximum allotted $2,500 to replace essential items, while TdPR pitched in an additional $500 for each person.

Meanwhile, TMNA sent a chartered plane carrying more than 53,000 pounds of supplies to their TdPR brethren.

“Toyota’s DNA is to care for people,” says Rafael Reyes, TdPR’s customer service director. “And this is proof. It’s a very humbling and gratifying experience to work for a company that really cares for their people.”

About two months after Maria, a group of TMNA executives—including CEO Jim Lentz and Senior Vice President, Automotive Operations Bill Fay—visited TdPR to address team members and bring supplies. Fay was blown away by what he saw.

“They’re still coming to work every day,” he says. “Still supporting the dealers and the overall Toyota effort. They’re helping each other out personally, which has been touching all our hearts. They’ve persevered and made a very bad situation a positive one for the company and each other.

Extended Family
Indeed, at the same time, TdPR was trying to track down team members, it was scrambling to contact dealers to assess property damage. And that’s where TdPR shined during the recovery.

TdPR supports 23 dealers on the main island, and two others in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which was also hammered by Maria. Everyone was in uncharted territory. “This was unprecedented,” Reyes says. “This was the worst storm in 80 years. All of our dealers and the people in our office, none of us had seen anything like this.”

Cell phone towers were down, newspapers couldn’t print. Television wasn’t an option. So TdPR placed ads on the single AM radio station still broadcasting to the island, asking dealers to check in at an 800 number.

If they didn’t hear from a dealer, TdPR team members drove through tarnished streets to make contact in person.

“We tried to make a quick assessment of where they were in terms of their people, their buildings, what kind of damage was on the property from the vehicles to everything else related,” Rivera says. “We put together a snapshot of the major damage and the major hurdles we had to clear.”

As expected, the damage was devastating. TdPR’s 25 dealerships suffered an estimated $9 million in building and sign damage.

Financially, TdPR gave dealers some relief.

“We provided some support on parts purchases and collections,” Navales says. “We also advanced them some warranty payments.”

Once the island’s citizens began putting their lives back together, customers began trickling into the dealerships. With most stores running on generators, their service lanes began to fill up with damaged vehicles. Many who lost cars showed up seeking to replace them.

While pent-up demand is normal after a natural disaster, it speaks to the will of the dealers and their employees that they could handle the rush at the same time they were rebuilding their own lives.

About two months after Hurricane Maria, a group of TMNA executives – including CEO Jim Lentz and Senior Vice President, Automotive Operations Bill Fay (pictured) – visited Toyota de Puerto Rico to address team members and bring supplies.

“The day after the storm, our dealers were out there sweeping and doing whatever they needed to be ready to help their customers,” Rivera says.

“The dealer sentiment was ‘I have to open for my employees, and I have to take care of my customers,’” Reyes says. “That mindset enabled them to serve customers almost immediately. Many of them by the Monday after the storm.”

Predictably, September and October sales were among TdPR’s worst ever. But November’s 3,112 in sales were the best since 2006. And that was followed by their best December since 2007, moving 3,076 vehicles.

Looking Forward
So here we are, nearly five months after Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico reeling. Life isn’t back to normal yet. No one knows if it ever will be.

But after all this, those words still ring out: Resilient. Heroic. Spirited. Navales, Rivera and Reyes talk of a people that can’t be defeated by a storm. Of a workforce that will do anything to serve customers in the worst of times. Of dealers who understand that their role in the community goes far beyond selling cars.

“It’s been crazy during the last few months and people want to get back to work, want to contribute and engage, want to have fun,” Navales says. “Holidays were celebrated with or without power. Within all that craziness, it’s clear that Puerto Ricans are the most resilient people I know.”

Feb 082018
 

Auto shows may offer a first look, but automotive launches give journalists a first impression of a new or redesigned vehicle. At the recent launch of the redesigned 2018 Hyundai Sonata and all-new 2018 Elantra GT in Charleston, South Carolina, attended by Latino Traffic Report, two features made a big impression—the blind spot monitoring system and six-speed manual transmission.

Hyundai has been known to take risks to set itself apart from its competitors, like its five-year/60,000-mile, fully transferable bumper-to-bumper warranty. For the 2018 Sonata, Hyundai makes another bold move by adding a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert to the Sonata’s list of standard equipment, setting it apart in the midsize sedan segment. At the launch, John Shon, senior manager, Hyundai product planning, admitted that this is the most requested feature by customers.

Created at Hyundai’s California design studio, the 2018 Sonata improves on looks, accented by the new cascading grille, sculpted hood, LED daytime running lights, and catamaran shape on the lower bumper, as well as, essentials.

Choices abound when it comes to powertrains with three available engines and transmissions—a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, a 2.4-liter gasoline direct injected engine matched to a six-speed automatic, and 1.6-liter turbo matched to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. All transmissions are include Shiftronic simulated manual shifting.

While a hybrid and plug-in hybrid will be available, the best fuel economy from the three powertrains mentioned, will be the 1.6-liter turbo unique to the Eco trim with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Powered by the 2.0-liter turbo, the test model Sonata Limited at the launch averaged 28.8 mpg.

As for other new technology, a wireless charging pad for Android phones is available as is Lane Keep Assist with Driver Attention Alert, a heated steering wheel, and smart cruise control.

Built in the United States at the Alabama assembly plant, the 2018 Sonata has a starting price of $22,935.

 

Elantra GT

With a silhouette that bears more resemblance to a wagon than a hatch, the all-new five-door 2018 Elantra GT presents an interesting option in the compact segment. Even more refreshing, however, is that it also comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, and not just on the base trim.

If offered at all, most manual transmissions are used by manufacturers to lower the starting price on the base model, which is sold as-is, i.e. without the chance to add available options. Equipping both trims, the Elantra GT and GT Sport, with a manual transmission means that aficionados, like yours truly, can drive a stick with access to upgrades and features like a blind spot monitor (standard on the GT Sport) or smart cruise control. The GT Sport also gets a unique red shift knob.

The appeal for a hatch is convenience and the GT fulfills that expectation offering nearly 25 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seat and 55.1 cu. ft. with the 60/40- split rear seat folded flat.

Standard features include a rearview camera, eight-inch display audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and individual tire pressure display, another great feature. Have you ever tried to figure out what tire needs air without it?

Interior, 2018 Elantra GT Sport.

Like the Sonata, the Elantra offers unique four cylinder powertrains for both trim levels. The 2.0-liter powers the GT with 161 horsepower and 150 ft.–lb. of torque. While the manual transmission is standard, a six-speed automatic is available. The GT Sport is powered by the 1.5-liter turbo with 201 peak horsepower, 195 ft.–lb. of torque and offers a seven-speed automatic as an option.

Fans of new technology will appreciate the new Blue Link skill for Amazon Alexa that links an Alexa-enabled device, like an Amazon Echo or Dot, to start the car.

Pricing for the 2018 Elantra GT starts at $20,235.

At the launch, both vehicles performed nicely and should attract buyer attention. Offered in a wide range of trim levels, the fact that all Sonatas now include the blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert creates a win-win, from the base to the top-of-the-line. The compact five-door segment offers versatility and economy. With a manual transmission available on both Elantra GTs, Hyundai’s five-door hatch surpasses expectations.

 

 

Feb 032018
 

2011 Kia Forte

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Kia Motors America (Kia) is recalling certain 2012-2014 Forte and Forte Koup vehicles. The brake pedal stopper pad can deteriorate allowing the brake light switch plunger to remain extended when the brake pedal is released.
This will allow the brake lights to remain illuminated continuously. It can also allow the shift lever to be moved without depressing the brake pedal, or activate the engine management brake pedal override feature. If the brake light switch plunger does not retract as it should when the brake pedal is not being pressed, the brake lights

2014 Kia Forte Koup

may stay illuminated preventing accurate communication to following vehicles that the vehicle is slowing or stopping. Additionally, if the brake switch plunger is not retracted, then the transmission can be shifted out of PARK without depressing the brake pedal. Either condition increases the risk of a crash.

Kia will notify owners, and dealers will replace the brake pedal stopper pad, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin January 30, 2018. Owners may contact Kia customer service at 1-800-333-4542. Kia’s number for this recall is SC158.
Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Jan 292018
 

The Lexus IS 350 in Wimberley, TX.

Launched in 1989, Lexus easily carved out a niche in the premium segment with its reliability and exceptional customer service. But while it was upscale, it wasn’t sexy. Sporting a new design DNA, Lexus has clearly evolved from bland to brilliant. Sitting on Rioja Red leather seats, I recently drove the Lexis IS 350 during a weeklong test for Latino Traffic Report.

For some, the new face of Lexus, led by the signature spindle grille, can be polarizing, but it definitely has fans. According to Lexus, when the second-generation IS took on the new Lexus look in 2013, it became so popular that the restyled 2017 version only involved minor adjustments to its exterior appearance.

The third generation IS originally came in three trim levels but for 2018, that was reduced to two available trim levels, the 300 (200t is now the 300) and 350 that I tested. Horsepower increases by five in 2018 across all powertrains, including the specially tuned 3.5-liter V6 on the 350 that now produces 311 horsepower and 277 lb.–ft. of peak torque and is matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It responded with instant speed, accelerating from zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.6 seconds. While all-wheel drive is available, I drove the rear-wheel-drive model with the eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission. Additional powertrains include a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder matched to an eight speed multi-mode automatic or the 3.5-liter matched to a six-speed automatic.

A sporty car should hug the road not float above it, especially on curves, plus the steering should be tight and responsive. Lexus achieves this with the Drive Mode Select system, standard on all IS trims. This technology comes with Eco, Normal, Snow, and Sport modes to customize the ride and handling. To save gas, select Eco, but for a sportier experience, select Sport. For an additional $3,155, the test model included the F Sport package, ramping up its sportiness further with Sport S/S+ mode which I engaged for tighter handling on a curvy road on the way to Wimberley, TX.

While the IS 350 should achieve and EPA estimated fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, I averaged 21.9 mpg.

The IS also included safety features, starting with the standard Lexus Safety System+ that included advanced technology like the pre-collision warning system, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. However, I was surprised to find that the blind spot warning system was a stand-alone option for $600. At this price point it should be standard. For 2018, however, the Enform Safety and Service Connect systems are complimentary for the first ten years.

Pricing for the 2018 Lexus IS starts at $38,820. The as-tested price, including the blind spot monitor, came to $49,530.

Sí: The Lexus IS 350 embraces its sportiness, enhanced by exceptional technology plus the red leather seats were gorgeous.

No: While an affordable option, a blind spot monitor should be a standard feature on a premium brand.

Jan 192018
 

With the majestic Colorado Rockies as a backdrop, Volkswagen launched the second generation of its popular compact sport utility vehicle (SUV), the 2018 Tiguan. Latino Traffic Report attended the event in Denver, Colorado, where the Tiguan tackled the terrain and the altitude.

On the outside, the all-new Tiguan shares several design cues with its larger sibling, the 2018 Atlas, namely, the grille, headlamps, and taillights.

Powered by an updated 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged TSI engine, with 184 horsepower and 221 lb.–ft. of torque, and matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the compact SUV should gain an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Tiguans equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive (AWD) will earn just one mpg less in the city. At the launch, I averaged 26.1 mpg in the SEL Premium AWD. The 2.0-liter turbo did struggle on inclines and there was some turbo lag. Of course, the elevation certainly didn’t help.

Active Control, a unique feature with 4Motion, also allows more intrepid drivers to chose among four driving modes—On-road, Snow, Off-road, and Custom Off-road. To fine tune the On-road experience further, four additional modes—Normal, Sport, Eco, and Custom—can be engaged with the push of a button. Along curvy mountain climbs and descents, I tested the Sport mode. It improved handling via tighter steering but didn’t offer a noticeable increase in power.

The new Tiguan tackles the versatility challenge by adding 10.6 inches in length, giving it up to 58 percent more cargo space than the current model. It also includes a 50/50 split third row third-row seat, suitable for children, on entry-level trims with front-wheel drive (FWD) and makes it available on models with VW 4Motion AWD technology. The 40/20/40 split second-row bench can recline and slide seven inches fore and aft. Both rows fold down to create a maximum of 65.7 cubic feet of cargo room.

With four available trim levels, S, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium, there’s quite a gap between standard features from the base to the top-of-the-line model, amounting to a difference in value of more than $10,000.

On the outside, the base has halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, foglights with a cornering function, heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn-signal indicators, and 17-inch wheels. By comparison, the SEL Premium comes with 19-inch wheels, LED headlights with the Adaptive Front-lighting System, rain-sensing wipers, and power-folding exterior mirrors with puddle lights. For added convenience, the SEL Premium also includes the foot-activated, hands-free Easy Open power liftgate.

Standard cloth seats in the all-new Tiguan

Standard safety features on all models include a rearview camera and Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, unique to VW. The Premium SEL adds an overhead view camera, Active Blind Spot Monitor w/ Rear Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and Park Distance Control among other features.

Standard creature comforts include a multi-function steering wheel, cloth seats with a nice quilted pattern, cruise control, a 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen with AM/FM radio and one USB port, Bluetooth, VW Car-Net App-Connect, and the MIB II infotainment system.

The SEL Premium adds a panoramic sunroof, an eight-inch touchscreen, heated leather seats and steering wheel, two more USB ports, a power driver’s seat with memory, keyless start, and the Fender premium audio system.

With a bolder design on the outside, the 2018 Tiguan bears the new face of VW, but it also improves on essentials with more room and technology.

Pricing for the 2018 Tiguan starts at $25,495 and $37,150 for the SEL Premium.

 

Jan 152018
 

Henio Arcangeli, senior vice president of the Automobile Division of American Honda Motor Co., accepts the award for 2018 North American Car of the Year for the Honda Accord at the 2018 North American International Auto Show on 1/15/18.

DETROIT (January 15, 2018) – Latino Traffic Report (LTR) has learned that the Honda Accord, Volvo XC60, and Lincoln Navigator were crowned as the winners of the 2018 North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards today at the North American International Auto Show.

The awards are among the most prestigious in the industry because they are chosen by a panel of more than 60 jurors from print, online and broadcast media across the United States and Canada. Votes were tallied confidentially by Deloitte LLP and remained sealed until they were announced today by NACTOY officers, president Mark Phelan, vice president Matt DeLorenzo and secretary-treasurer Lauren Fix at Cobo Center in Detroit.

The three winners each stood out in their segments for different reasons.

“Honda seems to have executed some sort of magic trick—not only is this tenth generation Accord far sleeker and more decisively styled than its predecessor, it’s somehow roomier inside, too,” said Chris Paukert, a NACTOY juror and managing editor of Road Show by CNET. “Even in low-end trims, it drives well and offers a strong amount of standard equipment.”

According to Henio Arcangeli, Jr., senior vice president of the Automobile Division and general manager of Honda Sales, American Honda Motor Co., Inc, “Honda took a clean-sheet approach to reinventing America’s most popular car, and we couldn’t be prouder to receive this honor for Accord as the North American Car of the Year,” he said. “We’re especially proud for the production associates in Ohio where Accord has been built to the highest quality standards for over 35 years.”

Standing next to the all-new Volvo XC60, Anders Gustafsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars USA holds the award for 2018 North American Utility of the Year won by the 2018 XC60.

The XC60 is the second Volvo in three years to win the coveted award after the XC90 won in 2016. “Like the XC90, the XC60 offers Volvo’s distinct brand of luxury and it may even be more appealing than its bigger brother. The ride is exemplary, and when smartly equipped, it is a fine value,” said NACTOY juror and freelance auto writer Kirk Bell.

“We are so proud the XC60 has won this prestigious award,” said Anders Gustafsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars USA. “It is a very tough competition and we thank all the judges for recognizing the great style, technology, and engineering in the XC60.

Kumar Galhotra, president, The Lincoln Motor Company holds the 2018 Truck of the Year award for the all-new Lincoln Navigator.

NACTOY Juror Ron Sessions of the New York Daily News said, “The 2018 Navigator received a more dramatic update than its Ford Expedition sibling and its impact for the brand will be stronger as a result. With its design now aligned with the Continental, the Navigator becomes an even more important image—and the profit-maker for Lincoln.”

Accepting the award for Lincoln was Kumar Galhotra, president, The Lincoln Motor Company. “Lincoln is honored to be named the best among such a strong field of competitors,” he said. “The entire Lincoln team is very proud of the work that was done to create a truly differentiated, luxury Lincoln experience in our all-new Navigator.”

Chosen from dozens of new vehicles, jurors evaluated the finalists based on segment leadership, innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar. The process started in June 2017 by determining vehicle eligibility and includes three rounds of voting. LTR attended the launches of the XC60 and Accord last year and can attest that these vehicles are class leaders.

Now in their twenty-fourth year, the awards are selected by a group of respected automotive journals with lifetime appointments to the jury, distinguishing them from other industry awards distributed by a single publication, website, radio,  or television station. For a list of all the nominees go to For more about NACTOY and its history: http://northamericancaroftheyear.org/.

Jan 032018
 

Kidde plastic handle fire extinguishers

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling certain Kidde Plastic-Handle or Push Button ‘Pindicator’ Fire Extinguishers sold through Mopar service parts to equip various Chrysler, Dodge, and RAM vehicles. These extinguishers may become clogged, preventing the extinguisher from discharging as expected or requiring excessive force to activate the extinguisher. Additionally, in certain models, the nozzle may detach from the valve assembly with enough force that it could cause injury and also render the product inoperable. For a full list of the affected fire extinguisher models visit: https://static.nhtsa.gov/odi/rcl/2017/RMISC-17E062-5427.pdf

Kidde push-button Pindicator fire extinguishers

If the fire extinguisher does not function properly, it can increase the risk of injury in the event of a fire.

Chrysler will notify owners, instructing them to contact Kidde for a replacement fire extinguisher, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin February 9, 2018. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403, or Kidde customer service toll-free at 1-855-271-0773, or online at www.kidde.com and click on “Product Safety Recall” for more information. Chrysler’s number for this recall is T83.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Dec 312017
 

Sales figures affirm Subaru’s appeal to car buyers—December marked the seventy-third consecutive month of yearly month-over-month growth for the company. So what does Subaru offer that others don’t? Perhaps it’s the standard symmetrical all-wheel-drive (AWD)? Or the consistent high marks in consumer publications? Or could it be those Subaru ads about love? On a recent test drive for Latino Traffic Report, the Impreza 2.0i Sport sedan offered clues by living up to its name with impressive new technology and performance.

According to the automaker, 2017 was the ninth consecutive year of record sales for Subaru of America and the tenth consecutive year of sales increases, assisted in part by the Impreza’s popularity. For 2017, the manufacturer redesigned its stalwart compact sedan and hatchback, and to mark the occasion moved Impreza production to the United States, specifically, its Lafayette, IN plant.

On the outside, the Impreza sports Subaru’s new design DNA, namely, the hexagonal grille and hawk-eye headlights. Black cloth seats with red accent stitching, simulated carbon fiber trim, aluminum pedals, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift handle, and a CVT shift boot, accentuated the interior on the this trim.

The compact segment excels at economy and fuel efficiency, but the Impreza did have fun-to-drive moments as well, assisted in part by 70-percent increased rigidity and a lower center of gravity.

The new and improved 2.0-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine with direct fuel injection that now produces 152 horses and 145 lb.–ft. of torque, also helped. It’s matched to a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a seven-speed manual mode function with steering wheel paddle shifters. While I didn’t test it, I was happy to find that a five-speed manual is standard on the Base and Sport trim levels. The Impreza should achieve an EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. The Sport model I tested should achieve a little less. I averaged 29.8 mpg during the weeklong test drive.

Subaru ramps up its competitiveness with standard entertainment features like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Aha and Pandora, a multi-function display with fuel economy information, the Starlink multimedia system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth wireless capability, iPod control, and smartphone integration. Standard convenience features include a 60/40-split rear seat, cruise control, keyless access as well as an AM/FM stereo and single disc CD player. The test model added, heated front seats, push-button start and an 8.0-inch touchscreen for the Starlink multimedia system.

Standard safety features include, Vehicle Dynamics Control, symmetrical AWD, 24-hour roadside assistance, and a rear vision camera.
The test model also included the available four-way tire pressure monitoring system, a one-year subscription to STARLINK Safety Plus package, EyeSight driver assist technology ($2,945) with adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, blind spot detection, and rear cross traffic alert as well as a moonroof and the Harman/Kardon audio system,

Available in four trim levels—Base, Premium, Sport and Limited—pricing for the 2018 Impreza starts at $19,355. The as-tested pricing came to $26,550.

Sí the Impreza offers a great value in the segment, starting with the standard symmetrical AWD.

No: Acceleration is a little sluggish and I would like more than eighteen presets for the radio.

Dec 212017
 

Southwest Airlines is proud to announce a line of upcycled fashion accessories as a result of a multi-year collaboration with Mexican fashion label Carla Fern‡ández that will upcycle hundreds of pounds of leather from seat covers into goods in the coming months. Check out the products at http://carlafernandez.com/en.

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Southwest Airlines will partner with Mexican fashion label Carla Fernández to upcycle hundreds of pounds of leather from airplane seat covers into fashion accessories in the coming month. Part of a multi-year collaboration, the line of products from LUV Seat: Mexico,  are created from used leather seat covers and handcrafted by indigenous artisans in seven Mexican communities, range from shoes and bags to ponchos and key chains.

LUV Seat: Mexico is an expansion of Southwest’s Repurpose with Purpose global sustainability initiative, which began in 2013 following the Evolve retrofit program that replaced the aircraft leather seat covers. By providing leather to Carla Fernández, Southwest® reduces the amount of waste the airline sends to landfills while also generating social and economic opportunities for communities.

“Southwest Airlines is proud to partner with Carla Fernández on LUV Seat: Mexico as a part of our Repurpose with Purpose program,” said Bill Tiffany, Southwest Airlines vice president Supply Chain Management.  “Through this impactful program, indigenous artisans have been able to incorporate their trades into the designs to create some incredible pieces while learning essential economic development skills through entrepreneurial training programs.”

Fernández worked with artisans in seven different communities throughout Mexico who specialize in creating textile and embroidery designs and handcrafts that preserve the country’s rich cultural heritage. The Carla Fernández brand’s work combines centuries-old techniques and long-standing traditions in the creation of their designs. The artisans are compensated as they learn how to develop new products and skills.

“Working with the Southwest team on this project, which seeks to create social and economic impact, has been a great experience for us,” says Fernández, who founded her eponymous label in 2000. “We feel we have found friends and partners after a couple of years of constant communication and hard work in delivering these great products.”

A change agent and an innovator, bringing new meaning to luxury fashion, the Carla Fernández team travels throughout Mexico visiting communities of artisans that specialize in handmade textiles, utilizing centuries-old indigenous techniques. The Mexico-City based fashion label is inspired by the geometrics and textile richness of Mexico. The brand has gained international acclaim for its approach to preserving the rich cultural heritage of Mexico’s indigenous communities.

“We are confident that LUV Seat: Mexico will be a success and we know it will be a benchmark for other similar endeavors,” she added.

 

Dec 112017
 

If you produced America’s best-selling car for over 41 years, you might tread lightly with a redesign. If ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Happily, Honda didn’t play it safe with the all-new 2018 Honda Accord and Latino Traffic Report was at the launch in Vermont for a chance to drive it.

Introduced to the United States in 1976, the Accord is the second-longest-running automotive nameplate in Honda’s history, after the Civic. Popular from the get-go, the Accord remains a top-seller in its segment. According to Honda: “Since its introduction, American car buyers have purchased more Accords than any other passenger car, with total U.S. sales exceeding 13 million vehicles.”

The classic midsize sedan’s groundbreaking redesign begins with an all-new body with a lower, wider stance, a lighter and more rigid unibody structure, new LED headlamps that sharply resemble those of Honda’s higher-end brand, Acura, a sweeping greenhouse, a bold front fascia, and a longer and lower hood. These features combine to create a more upscale appearance than the previous model.

The new body adds 1.9 inches of added rear legroom while overall passenger volume increases by 2.5 cubic feet and trunk space, grows to 16.7 cubic feet on all models.

Under the hood, the V6 is no longer an option, but the tenth generation Accord can be powered by three four-cylinder engines, including Accord’s two new turbos—a 1.5-liter direct-injected turbo with dual Variable Timing Control (VTC) 192 horses and 192 lb.–ft. of torque, and a 2.0-liter direct-injected turbo with dual VTC and 252 hp and 273 lb.–ft. of torque. Both can be matched to a six-speed manual transmission on the Sport trim. A Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) can be mated to the 1.5- liter and a new ten-speed automatic transmission is available to pair with the 2.0-liter. Both engines and configurations were available to drive at the launch as well as the third-generation 2018 Honda Accord hybrid. All models at the launch performed handily, including both engines, as did the hybrid.

As a staunch fan of manual transmissions, it’s a treat to have this option, especially in this segment much less on two trim levels. Most manual transmission remain available as a method of bringing the price point down but by offering the manual on two trims, enthusiasts like me can also get features like a blind spot monitor, standard on the 2.0-liter.

At the launch, only fuel economy figures for the 1.5-liter were available. Matched to the six-speed manual transmission, the Accord Sport should achieve 26 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. We achieved an average of 32 mpg at the launch. The CVT will achieve one mpg better than the manual in the city on the Sport trim but on other trims it earns four mpgs more in the city and three mpgs better on the highway.

Standard safety features, like Collision Mitigation and Adaptive Cruse Control, are included with Honda Sensing as well as the new Traffic Sign Recognition system that scans speed limit signs and updates the map display immediately.

Standard creature comforts on the Accord include dual zone climate control, push button start, a capless fuel filler, a customizable seven-inch TFT digital display in the gauge cluster, seven-inch audio display (with knobs), and USB audio interface. Higher-end features include an eight-inch audio display, heated leather seats (front and back), a power moonroof, Head-Up Display, wireless phone charging (Android only), and Honda satellite-linked navigation.

With manual transmissions available on two trims and a new sporty upscale exterior, the 2018 Accord should continue to dominate a crowded segment.

Built at Honda’s Marysville, Ohio auto plant since 1982, pricing for the 2018 Honda Accord starts at $24,445 with destination fees.