Month: August 2019


Jim Hackett is not a prototypical car guy. Nor is he a straight-line thinker or talker. But after more than two years as CEO of Ford, amid some head-scratching and skepticism, his unorthodox methods and esoteric train of thought are making some sense and showing signs they might pay off.

The former Steelcase CEO has a business history and affinity with Ford executive chairman Bill Ford, which led to Hackett first becoming a board member and then CEO after Mark Fields was let go.

Hackett is fully aware of his outsider status and the controversy surrounding his tenure. But he’s convinced he is setting Ford on the right course with a mix of traditional Rust Belt ways—yet more cost cutting—and new ideas about what people want from a vehicle.

Ford raised eyebrows with plans to ditch traditional sedans for car-platform vehicles sporting different body shapes. And the automaker disappointed Wall Street with promises (but few details) of electric and autonomous vehicles.

It’s only recently that actions have spoken louder than words with vehicle launches and burgeoning partnerships with VW, Rivian, and Argo AI to get future tech on the road faster. Ford stock remains below $10 a share, but analysts have started to appreciate the execution of Hackett’s plans and forecast earnings to increase, citing the restructuring, product mix, partnerships, and strategic actions.

Hackett continues to view a future where technology is the star but in a seamless, almost recessive role, working in the background to improve the vehicle and how the driver interacts with it.

He’s also taking a page from Tesla CEO Elon Musk in mulling over how manufacturing and IT processes can change. Hackett likes to tell the story of the Mustang he ordered for his wife that was quarantined for a bad part. “They lose her car, and it doesn’t come for 95 days,â€� he recalls. “I ask, ‘What’s the average time for delivery?’ They say, ‘81 days.’ I say, ‘What was it 20 years ago?’ They say, ‘81 days.’ Unacceptable today when overnight parcels from Amazon have changed people’s expectations,â€� especially when Ford can roll a new F-150 off the assembly line every 53 seconds.

Hackett likes this kind of “undercover bossâ€� peek. He recently had senior executives don jeans and join him at a dealership where they watched customers fill out service orders and technicians wrench on cars. They also observed old-school IT practices in a world that moves at the speed of fingers on a smartphone. “I’m staring at all these processes, saying, ‘They haven’t shrunk fast enough, or they haven’t sped up.’ It’s not our finest depiction of being modern.â€�

Because of these real-world experiences, “I’m spending all my time thinking about the future of the factory and the future of IT systems right now,� he says. He’s asking questions such as why the FordPass app can start a car on a cold morning but can’t also open the garage door. “This actually is a hint into the way my brain thinks.�

To get others thinking the same way, he has worked to shed the company’s Mad Men look and feel with assistants guarding access to executives and too many walls and org charts to break down. He removed a third of the bureaucracy and cut thousands of jobs. “It’s starting to feel like our team,� he recently told the board.

How long will Hackett stay in the job to see his vision through? “Well, I got to have that discussion with my wife of 43 years first, and then one of my best friends is Bill Ford, so I’ll have that discussion, but we don’t talk about it,� he says. “I didn’t come into the job saying, ‘I got X amount of time.’�

Hackett, at 64, doesn’t want to lose younger executives eying his seat. “The bigger issue is to make sure we have the right succession and I get out of the way for the next team,� he says. A succession plan is in place with strong candidates. Obvious frontrunners are president of automotive Joe Hinrichs, who runs daily operations globally, and president of new businesses, technology, and strategy Jim Farley, who is focused on the future. “We have lots of options,� Hackett says with confidence.

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Subaru has announced pricing for the 2020 Forester. While it brings a modest bump over the 2019 model, the 2020 Subaru Forester comes with a few extra features that drivers will appreciate out on the road.

Those comprise of enhancements to the standard EyeSight driver-assist suite, which now includes lane centering and lane departure prevention, as well as a rear seat reminder to alert drivers to check the second row after a drive. The 2020 Forester starts at $25,505 in base trim, a $235 increase over last year’s $25,270 starting price.

That vehicle, like all other Forester trims, is powered by a 2.5-liter flat-four engine sending 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque through a CVT to Subaru’s signature all-wheel-drive system. The entry-level Base trim is shod with 17-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, LED headlights, and black side mirrors.

Next up is the Premium trim, which gains 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails and spoiler, tinted glass, and a moonroof. Inside, the steering wheel is leather-wrapped, front seats are heated and power-adjustable for the driver, and the multifunction information display becomes a color LCD unit. It also comes with X-Mode, Subaru’s off-road driving system with hill descent control. Premium starts at $28,405, a $735 increase.

Sport trim does what it says on the badge by adding sporty drive modes and paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Inside, LCD displays are upgraded with performance data and the cargo area gets convenient LED lighting. Sport models can be distinguished by their blacked-out fascia and red trim on the lower body edges and roof rack, LED foglamps, and side mirrors with turn signals. Technology upgrades include keyless entry with push-button start. The Forester Sport starts at $30,005, which also represents a $235 bump.

Above that is the Limited trim, which can be distinguished by 18-inch wheels and body-color side mirrors. Its interior gets nicer with perforated leather seating surfaces, a leather-wrapped shifter, and silver metallic accent trim. Conveniences include dual-zone climate control, dual USB ports, and a power rear tailgate. Driver-assist functions expand to include rear cross-traffic alert, lane change assist, blind-spot detection, and steering-adaptive LED headlights. The Limited starts at $32,105, up $335 from last year.

Topping the Forester range is the Touring trim. Trim-specific 18-inch wheels and chrome exterior trim set it apart from lesser models. Inside, a larger 8.0-inch infotainment display, upgraded audio system, and additional upholstery colors to choose from are added. Driver monitoring with facial recognition and reverse automatic braking are added as standard. It’s the most expensive Forester at $35,605, which like the Limited is up $335.

Despite the price hike, it’s unlikely Subaru will see any slowdown in Forester sales. The brand has enjoyed six consecutive years of selling more than 10,000 Foresters monthly, with the 2 millionth Forester sold in July 2019. That’s not surprising, given all that it has to offer.

Source: Subaru

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If you’re into cars, chances are you’ve not only heard of the U.K.’s Top Gear but also watched at least a few episodes of it—it’s the most popular TV show about cars and driving in the world, after all. But even if you’re not really into cars, there’s plenty to enjoy, as the oddball trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May horse around with pretty much anything that moves under its own power—or doesn’t. Now nearly the whole series—more than 170 episodes spanning 240 hours of programming—is joining the existing 4,000 hours and 7,000 episodes of automotive entertainment already on the MotorTrend app for iOS and Android, including shows like Roadkill, HOT ROD Garage, Dirt Every Day, Head 2 Head, and Wheeler Dealers.

Even if you’ve seen every episode of Top Gear U.K. or you’re completely new to the series, the arrival of 25 seasons on MotorTrend is reason to celebrate. To get you started, here is a list of the 10 highest-rated episodes according to viewer rankings on IMDb. (Note: The episodes are arranged by season and number as you’ll find them in the MotorTrend app.)


  1. Top Gear: Vietnam Special – Specials Season 1, Episode 2

With just eight days to traverse 1,000 miles of Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh City to Ha Long Bay on motorcycles that might better be called scooters, the Clarkson/Hammond/May trio are the focus of this episode rather than the machinery—though the characters of Hammond’s Minsk, May’s Honda Super Cub, and Clarkson’s Piaggio Vespa all lend color to the debacle.


  1. Top Gear: Bolivia Special – Specials Season 1, Episode 3

Once again Hammond, May, and Clarkson face a 1,000-mile trek—but this time through the Amazon rainforest, over the Andes, and to the Chilean coast, in used off-roaders bought for less than $5,000. Their chariots? May bought a Suzuki Samurai, Clarkson snagged a Range Rover Classic, and Hammond landed a Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40. Let’s just say none of the vehicles was delivered as expected, making for an interesting time for the crew.


  1. Cheap High-Mileage SUV Challenge – Season 22, Episode 8

The challenge of finding a good classic car to own and drive is something many enthusiasts has felt at one time or another. In this episode, May, Hammond, and Clarkson feel this pain acutely, being forced to find a cheap car that’s still worthy of the “classic� title. In the end, May winds up with a Peugeot 304 S Cabriolet, Hammond with an MGB GT, and Clarkson, looking like King Koopa in Mario Kart, ends up behind the wheel of a Fiat 124. Unlike so many Top Gear U.K. challenges, however, the guys get several months to improve and restore their cars before facing a range of tests including a car meet, track testing, and a classic-car show.


  1. Top Gear: Africa Special Part 1 – Specials Season 1, Episode 6

This two-part special sees the gang headed for source of the Nile river in sub-$2,000 cars bought in the U.K. Starting in Uganda and searching through Tanzania and the Serengeti, this episode combines some fantastic wagons (BMW 528i, Subaru WRX, and Volvo 850R) with a pair of topics not often addressed in vehicular video but which make a natural fit: exploration and geography.


  1. Top Gear: Burma Special Part 2 – Specials Season 1, Episode 9

Revisiting the namesake of the 1957 movie based on the 1952 book by Pierre Boulle, this episode sees Clarkson, Hammond, and May traveling across Thailand in rather unlikely vehicles: Isuzu and Hino commercial trucks (one of which has a crane on the back—May’s, naturally). Along the way, they face numerous challenges, but none is greater than the final task of building an actual bridge capable of supporting their heavy trucks to reach their destination—except, perhaps, finding the actual River Kwai.


  1. Top Gear: Botswana Special – Specials Season 1, Episode 11

This episode is beloved to many Top Gear U.K. fans because it was the genesis story for one of the best man-car love stories on the show, featuring Richard Hammond and his 1963 Opel Kadett, which he names Oliver. Clarkson’s Lancia Beta and May’s Mercedes-Benz 230E also bring plenty of excitement—err, frustration?—to the party, too, as the three attempt to cross the harsh and beautiful terrain of Botswana.


  1. Top Gear: Middle East Special – Specials Season 1, Episode 5

While it’s unlikely anyone could confuse Hammond, Clarkson, and May for the Three Wise Men (well, maybe May), they nevertheless set out to replicate their biblical journey, although on much more modern mounts, including a Mazda MX-5 (Clarkson), a BMW Z3 (May), and a Fiat Barchetta (Hammond). Crossing Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Jordan on their way to Israel, the road trip traversed the region just months before the Arab Spring.


  1. The Boys Build Their Own Motorhomes – Season 15, Episode 4

This episode encapsulates the sheer ludicrous inanity of the Top Gear U.K. ethos as well as any, and that’s what makes it brilliant. Hammond starts with a Land Rover 110, converting it into an expandable camper—sensible enough, no? But then May kicks it into overdrive with his Lotus Excel bedecked with a shuttle-style pod complete with escape chute. And for the final push into ludicrous, Clarkson tops a Citroën CX with not one, not two, but three stories of apartment building, complete with landscaping. If it sounds unbelievable, it is. Predictably, it all ends badly.


  1. Volkswagen Touareg vs. Swedish Snowmobiles – Season 15, Episode 5

While the top-billed shenanigans on this episode see a tweaked Volkswagen Touareg facing off against a Swedish snowmobile-racing duo, the real heart of the episode is about pure speed, with May taking the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport to Ehra-Lessien for a run to 258 mph—that’s right, Captain Slow isn’t so slow after all, at least when he’s driving a Veyron Super Sport.


  1. The Boys and the Stig Race Across St. Petersburg – Season 22, Episode 1

After losing the race across London, the Top Gear U.K. team head to St. Petersburg to seek redemption for the Renault Twizy city car, this time pitted against Clarkson on a hovercraft, Hammond on a fancy bicycle, and The Stig on public transit. We also get a special appearance from the Lamborghini Huracán, reviewed by Hammond.


Honorable Mention: U.S. Roadtrip Special – Specials Season 1, Episode 10

If you’re American and you’ve already seen this episode, you’re probably amazed the three plucky Brits aren’t dead by the end. If you haven’t, trust us, you’ll be wondering the same thing before long. Digging deep into the stereotypes of the American Redneck—justified or not—the trio travel from Miami to New Orleans in $1,000 cars: For Hammond, a Dodge Ram pickup; for Clarkson, a Chevy Camaro RS; and for May, a Cadillac Brougham. Hilarity and potential homicide ensues.

The ultimate Top Gear U.K. collection is now available on the MotorTrend streaming service. Sign up for a free trial to binge the largest collection of Top Gear U.K. entertainment!

And that’s not all! Every Tuesday starting September 3, MotorTrend will add to its incredible Top Gear U.K. collection with exclusive new episodes of Best of Top Gear U.K., as well as full seasons of related series including Richard Hammond’s Crash Course and James May’s Cars of the People. In all, MotorTrend will roll out 40 Best of Top Gear U.K. episodes, and 46 episodes of motoring content from the BBC in addition to future seasons of Top Gear U.K.

This story originally appeared on Automobile Magazine.

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