Valerie Menard

Valerie Menard is a freelance writer and published author with 16 years of reporting about the auto industry for Latino publications.

Honda Issues First Ever Inclusion and Diversity Report

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May 282022
 

Latino Traffic Report has learned that as part of Honda’s efforts to promote equality in its workforce and society, the company today released its inaugural Inclusion & Diversity Report: “Living Our Values.” The report outlines Honda’s commitments to advancing inclusion and diversity and shares recent actions the company has taken, including key initiatives within its workforce and the communities where its associates live and work. The report, which will be released annually, marks the first time the company has publicly shared comprehensive data on the diversity of its operations in the United States, including its workforce, dealers, suppliers, and corporate giving, demonstrating Honda’s focus on transparency and accountability. 

“We initiated this report to emphasize our commitment and share our progress in the areas of inclusion and diversity. The report is an important tool in holding ourselves accountable for continuous improvement,” said Yvette Hunsicker, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility and Inclusion and Diversity at American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “Honda was founded on a strong respect for people, and we are committed to living our values through actions that strengthen equality in our own workplace and in communities across America.”

The company claims that while it has always prioritized aligning its actions with its belief that inclusion and diversity make us stronger, the social awakening of 2020 led Honda to reexamine and renew its efforts in championing fairness, justice and equality. The company committed to several new actions to better reflect the demographic makeup of America within its operations and deepen its support of social justice. One of these actions was to be more transparent in sharing its commitments and beliefs, and the diversity of key stakeholder groups.

The report also outlines new actions Honda has taken over the past two years, including:

  • Improved processes for hiring and promotion by implementing diverse slates of candidates and diverse interview panels, and a more transparent job posting process
  • Revised the company’s social media policy to enable Honda to take action when anyone affiliated with the company posts racist or discriminatory content
  • Prepared Honda leaders throughout the company to hold meaningful discussions with associates about race, with organizational tools that included a leadership check-in conversation guide and manager resource guide to help facilitate candid conversations
  • Provided tools for associates to educate themselves on the topic of social justice
  • Introduced anti-racism and allyship training to leaders and associates to promote social justice and inclusion across Honda’s U.S. operations.

Honda has established specific partnerships with national Latino organizations like the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), The East Los Angeles Community Union (TELACU) Education Foundation (TEF), and since 2003, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund to help undergraduate Latino students achieve their dream of a college education. In 2021 42 percent of the participants in Honda’s Professional Automotive Career Training program were Latino but the report also reveals that Latinos made up only five percent of Honda’s workforce in 2021.

“We have more work to do, but this report shows that Honda is making progress and is deeply committed to creating the inclusion, diversity and equity that is rooted in our values and will make us stronger as a company,” said Hunsicker.

SUV Review: 2022 Acura RDX

 Acura, Reviews  Comments Off on SUV Review: 2022 Acura RDX
May 162022
 
2022 Acura RDX

By Andy Stonehouse

Properly equipped for the winter, which we have an abundance of in Colorado, even the fanciest import sports SUV or sedan makes sense. Smaller, stylish and still speedy, the five-passenger Acura RDX offers great looks and excellent performance.

That was the much happier experience I had with a 2022 edition of Acura’s RDX, a one-size-smaller rendition of the ever-popular MDX, which was delivered, in the winter, with a set of high-performance winter tires (amazingly, this is a rarity, even as my travels take me into a high-altitude climate where I have literally been on traction-challenged ski trips weekly between October and early May). I cannot stress how much that amplified the driving experience and the sense of security, especially as it was the fancier A-Spec Advance Package edition of the vehicle.

2022 Acura

After driving a reasonably similar 2022 Lexus NX and a larger RX sandwiched around the Acura, I feel confident in saying that it’s probably exactly the vehicle I might invest in, if my circumstances called for a flashy, rock-solid and speedy five-passenger SUV. It’s not so tall and gigantic that you can’t reach up to brush snow off the roof, it’s got tons of visual appeal and its 272-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo setup pretty much blew away the NX in every circumstance.

I also got to enjoy Acura’s “super-handling” all-wheel-drive system and its active torque vectoring during snowy outings and then again on a very busy trip to Loveland Ski Area, on the Continental Divide. Both circumstances showed the Ohio-assembled, $52,845 vehicle to be the right size and the right power for the job.

Your feelings on the Acura’s very quiet but hyperstyled cockpit and its overly busy center stack could be an issue, however. Things are still focused around a giant drive mode knob that either lightens the throttle for Snow or apparently throws you into hyperspace in Sport, plus still-curious vertical shift buttons and a broad display screen controlled by a wide, slightly weird touchpad. Unlike most other manufacturers, its traffic data was also 100 percent accurate between the tunnel and Idaho Springs.

2022 Acura RDX

The A-Spec rendition gets more dark trim around the starburst-styled grille, window frames and body panels, plus beautiful multi-spoke 20-inch wheels, and its seats are even sportier than the standard model, with suede inserts and pretty aggressive bolstering. In the back, slightly silly oversized chrome exhaust ports convey the RDX’s somewhat boisterous, sporty character; the seven-lens jewel eye LED headlamps are an equally pleasant (and bright) touch.

I mostly liked that fact that RDX’s mass was never overwhelming or made it feel cumbersome, either on icy surfaces or while running up that horsepower on dry roads. The 10-speed automatic transmission can be pretty actively engaged via paddle shifters, and steering feel and braking capabilities are both accurate and effective.

The 2022 model included the very tangible suspension and dynamics system upgrades, plus wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and built-in Amazon Alexa.

Sí: RDX offers a right-sized mix of power, sportiness and versatility, without the mass and mess of large SUVs.

No: That center stack design is a whole lot to take in, for limited real-world usefulness. But if you like knobs, Acura’s knobs are as ornate as they come.

Andy Stonehouse is a guest contributor to Latino Traffic Report and a freelance automotive journalist based in Lakewood, Colorado. All photos are stock, not as-tested.

Tesla Recalls 594,894 Models

 Recalls  Comments Off on Tesla Recalls 594,894 Models
Apr 272022
 
2022 Model X
2022 Model Y

Latino Traffic Report has learned that Tesla, Inc. (Tesla) is recalling certain 2020-2022 Model Y, Model X, Model S, and 2017-2022 Model 3 vehicles. The Boombox function allows sounds to be played through an external speaker while the vehicle is in motion, which may obscure the Pedestrian Warning System (PWS) sounds. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 141, “Minimum Sound Requirements for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles.” The recall should affect nearly 595,000 vehicles.

2022 Model S
2022 Model 3

Tesla will perform an over-the-air (OTA) software update that will disable the Boombox functionality when the vehicle is in Drive, Neutral and Reverse modes, including Summon and Smart Summon, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed June 6, 2022. Owners may contact Tesla customer service at 1-877-798-3752. Tesla’s number for this recall is SB-22-00-003. Note: This recall supersedes recall 22V-063. Vehicles configured with Summon or Smart Summon and already remedied under 22V-063 will need to have the new remedy software installed.

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.nhtsa.gov.

Hispanic Motor Press Announces 2022 HMPA Winners

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Mar 102022
 
Luxury Vehicle of the Year: Genesis GV70

Latino Traffic Report (LTR) has learned that the Hispanic Motor Press recently announced the winners of the 2022 Hispanic Motor Press Awards (HMPA). The twelfth annual program recognizes the best new vehicles for Hispanic car buyers based on styling, driving satisfaction, technology, safety, environmental impact, mechanical reliability, and value.

Compact Vehicle of the Year: Honda Civic


“With overall manufacturer advancements in power train technology, safety features, infotainment, connectivity, and cleaner mobility, it is more important than ever to guide Hispanic car buyers who represent 30 percent of the growth in new-vehicle sales,” says Ricardo Rodriguez-Long, founder and president of the Hispanic Motor Press. “The 2022 winners offer positive overall ownership experience and are considered significant automobiles in the market, as they meet the needs and desires of Hispanic consumers.”

Family Vehicle of the Year: Kia Carnival

The 2022 model year HMPA winners are:
Family Vehicle of the Year: Kia Carnival
Electric Vehicle (EV) of the Year: Hyundai IONIQ 5
Compact Vehicle of the Year: Honda Civic
Midsize Vehicle of the Year: Buick Enclave
Luxury Vehicle of the Year: Genesis GV70
Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV) of the Year: Mitsubishi Outlander
Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) of the Year: Jeep Grand Wagoneer
Pick-Up Truck of the Year: Ford Maverick
Adventure Vehicle of the Year: Ford Bronco
Best Technology Vehicle of the Year: GMC Hummer

Pick-Up Truck of the Year: Ford Maverick


The 2022 HMPA jurors comprised of independent Hispanic automotive journalists, content creators and industry influencers, including LTR, was selected by the organization’s advisory board. The juror members evaluated over 100 new vehicles during 2021 and into 2022.
Auto manufacturers voluntarily submitted their entries, and the jury panel evaluated the vehicles on their features including overall design, comfort, safety, economy, handling, performance, functionality, infotainment integration, interior design, environmental requirements, driver satisfaction, and price.
The Hispanic Motor Press Awards is the premier independent Hispanic awards presented in the country for the Hispanic community to help, educate, and pre-select the best vehicle options in the market. It also offers scholarship programs for students in communications and journalism.
For more information, visit www.hispanicmotorpress.org. Follow Hispanic Motor Press on Twitter@HMotorPressOrg, Facebook@Hispanicmotorpress or Instagram@hispanicmotorpress

#hispanicmotorpress #hispanicmotorpressawards

Check Engine Light, Oh My!

 Used Car Diary  Comments Off on Check Engine Light, Oh My!
Feb 282022
 

It’s never a good thing when the Check Engine light starts to shine, but on a vehicle with over 200,000 miles, it could be time to panic.

She (my 2007 Toyota Yaris, aka “the Bunny”) had sat for a few weeks with occasional starts while I test drove a succession of vehicles. Check out my Reviews section.

I took it to O’Reilly Auto Parts to get an assessment—it took multiple tries since evening staff seemed less enthusiastic about having to go outside— and was told that three cylinders weren’t firing properly. Oddly, the Yaris seemed to run smoothly although she did lack a bit of pep. With an inspection on the horizon, I opted to take her to the nearest Charles Maund Toyota dealership for an assessment. I’ve done so before because they offer shuttles to and from the dealership and I deal with a specific associate, Walter Ortiz. This may not be the most affordable option but I give points for customer service.

After several days of testing, including a weekend, thankfully I had a test vehicle to drive, I was told that the problem was bad gas and that the fuel lines would need to be cleaned. Total cost was $750 but after a 15 percent discount it came to $634.12. Is that a lot? Most of the fee was for labor costs. It also included a tune-up and free car wash. According to my neighbor, Auto Zone or O’Reilly could have done it for much less.

Regardless, the Bunny’s running like a champ. Thanks to #charlesmaundtoyota and #oreilly.

Ramirez Advances at Hyundai

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Jan 302022
 

Latino Traffic Report (LTR) has learned that Hyundai Motor America (HMA) has promoted Brandon Ramirez to director of Corporate Social Responsibility and External Relations. In this role, Ramirez is responsible for the development and implementation of CSR programs and initiatives in the areas of sustainability, innovation and community engagement. Ramirez is also responsible for promoting Hyundai and Genesis leadership in technology democratization, eco-friendly mobility solutions and customer-centric experiences.

Brandon Ramirez

Ramirez is an old friend to LTR, which has followed his career advancement over the years. Previously, Ramirez was the senior group manager, product public relations at Hyundai Motor North America responsible for communicating the attributes of Hyundai’s entire product lineup to traditional and digital media throughout the country, including auto show strategy, new vehicle launches and ongoing content creation for Hyundai vehicles. Ramirez also spent 13 years leading product development, market launches and lifecycle management for Hyundai’s lineup of cars, CUVs and alternative-powered vehicles. He has extensive multicultural experience serving as the chair of Hyundai’s internal “Amigos Unidos” employee group, which is tasked with community engagement and raising culture awareness at Hyundai.

Congrats to Ramirez and kudos to Hyundai for its commitment to diversity.

SUV Review: 2021 Kia Seltos

 Kia, Reviews  Comments Off on SUV Review: 2021 Kia Seltos
Dec 312021
 

Like the ever-expanding small sport utility vehicle (SUV) segment, Kia’s SUV lineup grew a bit larger in 2021 with the introduction of the Seltos, the middle sibling between the Soul and Sportage models. Latino Traffic Report recently test drove the 2021 Seltos EX with all-wheel drive (AWD) and found that it’s much more than a triplet, it’s a true individual.

Available in five trims, the as-tested EX also sits in the middle of the Seltos lineup. The all-new model bears a distinct exterior, holding onto the tiger nose grille, but its headlamp design could get it mistaken for a Ford, at first glance. Although the test model did not include it, the optional two-tone roof would have individualized the Seltos a bit more.

The advantage of a smaller SUV is improved fuel economy and the Seltos does have an impressive EPA estimated fuel economy of 27 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.  

It’s achieved with a powertrain that includes a 2.0-liter four-cylinder MPI engine producing 146 horsepower and 132 lb.–ft. of torque, matched to an Intelligent Variable Transmission. It averaged 32.2 mpg on the week-long test drive.  A 1.6-liter Turbo GDI engine is available on other trims. Three drive modes, Normal, Eco, Sport, also help maximize the fuel economy and performance.

Inside, the Seltos fluctuates between plain and flashy. The 3.5-inch gauge cluster displays information in an understated black and white, but the stereo includes molded speaker covers in an interesting fractal pattern, heated front seats in a black Sofino leatherette and cloth combination, an eight-inch touchscreen compatible to Apple Car Play or Android Auto, and steering wheel-mounted controls. XM satellite radio, however, was missing. The SX trim adds mood lighting that changes color and intensity based on volume level.

As the name implies, utility is required for an SUV and the Seltos offers 60/40

split rear seats that fold flat as well as recline. Enhanced by a dual-level cargo floor, cargo room reaches 62.8 cubic feet.

The EX trim not only brings AWD for enhanced on-road confidence, it also includes a larger list of standard features, especially on the safety side, like the blind spot collision warning and avoidance assist, rear cross traffic alert (a nice complement to the standard forward collision warning), and a rear seat reminder that alerts owners to check for valuables in the rear seat before exiting the car. Other options included on the test model were a power sunroof, a smart key with remote start, a wireless phone charger, and 17-inch alloy wheels with a striking machine finish.

Starting price on the 2021 Seltos is $23,110. The as-tested price came to $26,885.

Sí: The Seltos offers good fuel efficiency and utility.

No: The display is plain and a blind spot monitor is not standard equipment on all trim levels.

Merry-achi Christmas Tour 2021 Returns to El Paso

 Destinations  Comments Off on Merry-achi Christmas Tour 2021 Returns to El Paso
Dec 082021
 

As travel begins to ramp up during the holidays, El Paso stands ready to welcome visitors.

Latino Traffic Report has learned that the historic Plaza Theatre will bring back a traditional holiday favorite, The Merry-achi Christmas Tour, Sunday, December 19, 2021, 7 p.m. The colorful Mexican celebration, filled with seasonal songs, dance and festive merriment, is a Southwest favorite, featuring the nation’s premiere Sol de México de José Hernández.

Mariachi Sol de México.

A traveling cultural icon, Mariachi Sol de México symbolizes extraordinary musicianship and cross-generational joy. The troupe travels the world as ambassadors of mariachi music, having performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world including Spain, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Venezuela, México, China, and North Korea.

Maestro José Hernández, a proud fifth-generation mariachi musician, and his platinum-selling Sol de México have broken countless barriers in mariachi music, becoming the first mariachi ensemble to be nominated three times for a Grammy Award.

Tickets are $54 and up. To purchase tickets, visit the website, or call 915-231-1100.

Tundra and Wagoneer Get Top Honors at 2021 TAWA Truck Rodeo

 Noticias  Comments Off on Tundra and Wagoneer Get Top Honors at 2021 TAWA Truck Rodeo
Dec 012021
 
2022 Toyota Tundra photo by Kevin McCauley

Latino Traffic Report (LTR) has learned that the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) has named the all-new 2022 Toyota Tundra and the 2022 Grand Wagoneer as the 2022 Truck of Texas and 2022 SUV of Texas, respectively, following the Texas Truck Rodeo, held October 2021 and attended by LTR editor Valerie Menard, a TAWA voting member. Both models were first-time winners.

2022 Grand Wagoneer photo by Kevin McCauley

“At the Texas Truck Rodeo, we get to put dozens of vehicles through their paces both on- and off-road,” said TAWA president Kristin Shaw. “At the end of the day, our members were duly impressed by the updates and technological advancements included in both the 2022 Tundra and the reborn Grand Wagoneer; both were equally capable on the road course and dirt circuit.”

More than 40 Texas Auto Writers Association journalists traveled to Star Hill Ranch outside Austin on October 4-5, to evaluate more than 50 vehicles on an upgraded off-roading course designed for the event. Drivers had the opportunity to drive vehicles on-road as well.

Members voted on the coveted Truck of Texas and SUV of Texas awards as well as eleven sub-categories including Full-Size Pickup Truck of Texas, Off-Road Pickup Truck of Texas, Luxury SUV of Texas, Mid-Size SUV of Texas and Compact SUV of Texas. Vehicles are measured on their interior, exterior, value, performance and personal appeal.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz photo by Valerie Menard

“With Texas as the number-one truck market, these awards have special significance,” said Menard. “I’ve been a member of this organization for more than 20 years and have been attending the annual truck rodeo for about as long. I look forward to it each year.”

While the Tundra and Wagoneer took the top prizes, other standouts for the day included the Hyundai Santa Cruz, which garnered the Compact SUV of Texas honor. Based on the Hyundai Tucson, the Santa Cruz will remind many of the Subaru Brat and while some may resist the urge to call it a pickup, the open bed does offer truck utility and includes a waterproof cooler inside the bed.

2022 Genesis GV70 photo by Kevin McCauley

Sporting a distinctive exterior look and exceptional interior luxury (including multi-zone massager in the front seats), the Genesis GV70 took home the Luxury SUV of Texas award. It has one of the lowest prices in its segment, starting at $52,000. The as-tested price was $64,045 but that pales in comparison to other competitors at the rodeo like the Maserati Levante Trofeo at $160,040 and even the Jeep Grand Wagoneer Series III at $109,580.

This year, the health and safety of all participants remained the top priority. Safety protocols that remained in place after being adopted in 2020 to address the pandemic included sanitizing vehicles between drives and hosting all meals and meetings outdoors. TAWA thanks our participating members, automakers, press fleets and sponsors for their support.

For a full list of award winners go to https://www.texasautowriters.org/truck-of-texas-2022.

Hybrid Review: 2021 Volvo XC90 and XC60

 Reviews, Volvo  Comments Off on Hybrid Review: 2021 Volvo XC90 and XC60
Nov 302021
 
Volvo Cars XC90 Recharge
Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 AWD.

By Andy Stonehouse

After an exciting time in the sizeable Volvo V90 Wagon last fall, I had expected the real, actual SUV version of Volvo’s full-size automobile category to seem impossibly huge, ponderous, and disconnected—kind of like a Swedish Chevy Tahoe. This was not the case with the XC90, except it also was. It’s smaller sibling, the XC60, was more fun to drive.

Volvo’s Flagship SUV, the XC90

XC90 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid

XC90 Plug-In Hybrid Inscription T8 – Seat Configuration

The XC90 is indeed a long and impressively styled and sculpted vehicle, with marvelous details and a very striking set of optional 21-inch glossy wheels to tie it all together. From the outside, it’s a little more obvious that it contains three comfortable rows of six or seven seats where the passengers at the very back get leg room, cargo bins and full amenities.

The newer XC90 T8 Recharge, the 400-horsepower plug-in electric hybrid version of the SUV, belies its moderately grand scale when planted in the driver’s seat. The ride height is more equivalent to a small SUV from other brands, while the cabin does feel broader and more open thanks to the extra head space.

As for that ultra-fancy Recharge hybrid system—my Inscription-level T8 started at $69,750 but was rounded up to a slightly gasp-inducing $81,690 with a gigantic list of options including a $3,200 Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system—well, you get what you pay for, for the most part, though impressive mileage you do not and will not get.

Volvo has emphasized pure power here and the 400 horsepower and 472 lb.–ft. of torque are more Porsche-like, at least on paper, especially with just a 2.0-liter as the main gasoline power source—turbocharged and supercharged to make 313 horses on its own, before the electric boost kicks in.

What I did notice more than anything, besides a pretty mediocre 24.2 overall MPG (it’s rated at 27 combined highway and city MPG by the EPA), was a lot of odd noises, gurgles, inconsistent power delivery and an operating experience that clearly was going to take some getting used to. Even the Orefors crystal gear shifter knob required multiple taps forward or backward to officially get into gear; the learning curve there was a little steep.

Cruising along in the XC90 was no problem, though the gas/electric power handoffs were a little jagged. Properly charged, in warm weather, with the wind blowing the right direction, you are said to have a full … 18 miles of all-electric range?

That’s disappointing, to say the least, especially since it’s such a classy and dignified vehicle, with razor-sharp suspension. It’s stunningly outfitted in leather seating, a fantastic stereo and hand-stitched console, and dash and door inserts that are even more beautiful than in the V90.

The vertically-oriented Sensus navigation/touchscreen system used to seem enormous before Ram started putting full flatscreen TVs aboard their trucks. Volvo’s is easy to use, with a purist simplicity embodied by one knob.

The XC90’s Spritely Sibling, the XC60

Volvo XC60 Recharge

If you’d like a hybrid experience that actually delivers, the one-size smaller XC60 Recharge, base priced at $61,000 and tested at $71,340, channels that very same powertrain into a more sprightly, responsive and semi-decent mileage kind of situation.

Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 IP display.

Besides the slightly hovercraft-styled reality of the vehicle’s four-corner air suspension system, which set itself down on top of curbs when I parked a couple of times, the 60 seems like a more practical use of the electrified platform. That air system is also helpful if you do want to go lightly off-roading, as it will give you significant lift when you want it.

It’s still 400 horsepower, it’s still got just about 19 miles of full-electric range, but I found it easier to push the mileage into the 30-MPG range, depending on how hard you drive it.

All that electric boost shows up more tangibly here and adds extra oomph to what I believe is one of the most pleasant crossovers of its size category— like the 90, it’s super stylish, comfortable and still utilitarian, with a little less of the pure mass.

It’s also more devoid of the shudder, the ambiguity and the disconnected feeling as the hybrid shifts and blends between electric kick and regular gas-engine wallop.

Design is fantastic, from its ultra-anatomical, perforated leather seats and the cream-colored cabin. The dash is low and flat and the A-pillars thin, though the boxy, oversized side mirrors can get in the way of some visibility, and rear headrests can be automatically dropped to provide clearer rear vision.

Rear seating will still accommodate most passengers, though the cabin is a bit more plain back there, with B-pillar mounted air conditioning and heating vents. You’ll also find reasonable storage space (63.3 cubic feet, total), though the under-deck space is largely used up by batteries and the air bottles for the optional lift system.    

Sí: One of the classiest, most attractive and least gawd-awful-gigantic full-size SUVs around, loaded with technology, and simply wonderful to just sit aboard. The kind of car you wish you would get when you grow up.

No: Volvo’s ambitious and aggressive move to an all-electric fleet might start with hybrids, but an almost $82,000 hybrid that gets 24 MPG isn’t impressing anyone.

Andy Stonehouse is a guest contributor to Latino Traffic Report and a freelance automotive journalist based in Golden, Colorado. All photos are stock, not as-tested.