Don't Be Fooled: The U.S. Auto Sales Party Is Coming to an End

First Up 01/04/19

Jan. 4, 2019

The Fun New Corolla Hatchback Puts the Toy in Toyota

The Wall Street JournalThe new Toyota Corolla Hatchback is a real hatchback economy car, with a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine bolted to a six-speed manual transmission (a CVT automatic is an $1,100 option). Dan Neil, in The Wall Street Journal, says he sees a lot of nostalgia for a great, cheap, simple car that one bonds with early in life. Could the Toyota Corolla Hatchback ever be one of those? Well, it’s cheap enough to love. Click here to see it. The base SE trim stickers at $20,920, delivered; but for three grand more you can get the full-boat XSE, which turns the niceness up a notch. Low-speed forward collision warning is standard with all trims. This radar-based system can help prevent device-distracted drivers—our sons and daughters, remember—from causing stupid and expensive fender-benders that get Dad out of a meeting. It would be easy to have feelings for a car that saved you so. The XSE trim represents a long list of little comforts that add up to a lot of car for the budget. Click here for the full list. How’s the Hatchback to drive? It’s... interesting. For the full review, click here.

GM, Ford, Toyota Sales Fall in December, But Auto Industry Posts Surprisingly Solid 2018

U.S. auto sales appear to have enjoyed a surprising, albeit slight uptick in 2018, according to analyst estimates. With automakers reporting their full-year and December sales on Thursday, analysts said the industry likely outperformed their original expectations despite concerns about a cooling global economy and rising interest rates. estimated full-year sales of 17.3 million vehicles, while Cox Automotive projected a "modest uptick" to 17.2 million. Sales totaled about 17.2 million in 2017. "Consumers here are looking at their personal financial situation, and ... the data and the confidence right up through December suggest that they still assess that very favorably," Ford sales analyst Erich Merkle told USA Today. The industry appears to have achieved its fourth straight year above 17 million vehicles. At its trough this century, sales dipped to 10.4 million in 2009 during the Great Recession. The all-time record high was 17.6 million in 2016. The year 2019 may not look quite as nice as the last several years. Stock-market volatility is rattling investors, and rising interest rates are increasing the cost of car payments. To see how individual brands performed last month and last year, click here.

Infiniti Previews Electric Future with SUV Concept

Taking another step toward an electric future, Infiniti today revealed the QX Inspiration electric concept ahead of its of its introduction at the Detroit auto show on Jan. 14. According to the Detroit News, the QX Inspiration SUV is Infiniti’s second design concept in as many North American International Auto Shows, following the sleek Q Inspiration sedan that debuted in January 2018. Click here to see it. With the U.S. auto market hog-wild for utes, the QX Inspiration positions the automaker to go into production with its first electrified vehicle for the 2021 model year. With its Q-ship, Infiniti hopes to catch up to luxury competitors in hot pursuit of EV pioneer Tesla. Jaguar brought its first crossover EV, the I-Pace, to market in late 2018 and Audi is following it with the e-tron SUV this year. Without a gas engine under the hood, Infiniti also says the QX Inspiration foreshadows production vehicles with "spacious, lounge-like interiors." Infiniti only released a photograph of the QX concept's exterior, but expect the interior to contain elements of the Q sedan concept's roomy interior, including a wrap-around dash screen and hand-crafted design touches. Click here for more.

Don't Be Fooled: The U.S. Auto Sales Party Is Coming to an End

Carmakers have enjoyed an extended run of near-record U.S. sales and fat profits. But this year, it looks as if the party really will start to end. Bloomberg reports that interest rates are on the rise. The average price of a new vehicle has hit record levels, which is pushing some buyers out of the market. And don’t let the surprise squeaker of a 2018 sales gain fool you: Automakers kept the numbers up partly by selling more cars to rental companies. On top of that, President Donald Trump’s tax cut helped support demand in 2018, especially for corporate buyers who added to their fleets. But a fourth-quarter decline at General Motors Co. shows the boost could be a sugar rush that won’t last long. The biggest U.S. automaker’s deliveries fell at a faster rate in the last three months of the year than for all of 2018, suggesting demand is weakening, said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive, which is forecasting sales to slow further in 2019. “For some automakers, the slowdown has already begun,” he said. For more on what that could mean for dealers in 2019, click here.

Hyundai Elevate 'Walking Car' Will Strut its Stuff at CES

Hyundai is set to unleash a gigantic “walking car” concept at CES next Monday that looks like it escaped from a Star Wars set. Details on the “Elevate” have not been released, but a teaser image depicts a vehicle with wheels mounted to articulated limbs that can apparently lift the cab to great heights as it crosses the roughest terrain. According to FOX News, Hyundai calls it the Ultimate Mobility Vehicle and has rendered it with a red cross livery, suggesting its use as a rescue vehicle. Click here for a picture. The legs appear to have at least three joints each. Those are presumably what allow the vehicle to “drive, walk, or even climb over the most treacherous terrain,” as stated in the press release. The Elevate comes from the automaker’s Center for Robotic-Augmented Design in Living Experiences, or CRADLE, which acts as both a venture capital arm and a research and development lab for future technologies. For the full story, click here.

Around the Web

Why You Might Want to Wrap Your Car Fob in Foil [Detroit Free Press]

Cars that Still Qualify for the $7,500 EV Tax Credit [AutoBlog]

U.S.-bound Car Carrier on Fire In Pacific; Said to Hold Nissans [TTAC]

11 Untouched 1994 BMW 5 Series Have Been Discovered in a Bulgarian Factory [Jalopnik]