Autos Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

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  • 1967 Ford Mustang

    Cult cars emerge regardless of marketing efforts and BMW's MINI is on the verge of joining the Ford Mustang and a select group of other autos that captured the imagination of car lovers.

  • In a few days, a slew of new models will be unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show. Some will blow us away. Some will make us yawn and say, "are you kidding me?" But one in particular will take your breath away. It's the new Rolls Royce Drophead Coupe. Stunning. Impressive. Yowza. I'd use those adjectives to describe the Drophead convertible I rode in and examined while visiting the Rolls Royce Motors headquarters in Goodwood, England.

  • When I walked in to dinner with Ford CEO Alan Mulally on Wednesday night, I knew the menu would include a tasty entree, a sweet dessert, and a  healthy dose of candor. All courtesy of the "outsider" trying to turnaround the struggling automaker. I expected the honesty since that's what I found while covering Mulally as he turned around Boeing Commercial Airplanes. And at this dinner, he was forthright in his praise of Toyota.

  • As I'm reading the December auto sales numbers, it's clear 2006 will be remembered as a bleak one for the big 3. The healthiest of the trio, GM, is still not cash flow positive. And even though the company is in better shape today than a year ago, the fact remains, it's still in a turnaround. Look at their numbers for the final month of the year.

  • While most of us wrapped 2006 with holiday parties and hopefully a few days off - hey, at least that's what I did last week - Chevy and Ford dealers finished a pitched battle to see which brand would wrap up the year as number one in total sales. The winner gets bragging rights as being America's favorite nameplate for cars and trucks. The loser will claim it doesn't matter. The truth is...

  • While the big 3 continue to struggle with costly (both in dollars and human terms) plant closings, the Japanese auto plants are surging.  And the reason for this is America's growing appetite for fuel efficient vehicles. Which reinforces the hangover GM, Ford and Chrysler are feeling from years of focusing on SUV's and pick-up trucks. The latest number from the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association shows...

  • When I heard that Ford CEO Alan Mulally met earlier this month in Tokyo with Toyota CEO Fujio Cho, I wasn't surprised. Nor should Ford investors and fans of the #2 American automaker. This is yet another sign, Mulally is bound and determined to move his company into a more competitive position - even if that means learning from a fierce competitor that is about to pass Ford.

  • As soon as I started reporting on Thursday that Toyota is likely to replace General Motors in 2007 as the world's #1 automaker, the question came up: What's next for the Japanese automaker? Yes, in general terms the company is likely to continue gaining market share in the U.S.   It's currently #3 with 15.3% market share behind ford 17.6% and GM 24.7%. And next year as Ford pulls back fleet sales to rental companies, Toyota is likely to become #2 in the U.S. 

  • The days of the red-hot hybrid are over. You remember those days (last summer) when dealers couldn't keep hybrids in stock because high gas prices pressured nervous buyers to pony up for a fuel efficient car. Fast forward five months, and not only is it easier to find a hybrid, but you can even get a deal on one.

  • The next time someone says, "Boy that is one hot car!"  Keep in mind, while beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the one independent way of measuring the hottest or fastest selling cars is J.D. Power's, "Hot off the Lot" list.   And the latest list confirms what you might suspect: the most in demand models right now are made by...

  • Steve Miller, the CEO of bankrupt parts maker Delphi is stepping down as chief executive and leaving a position he used to force huge changes on the auto industry. Here in Detroit, there will no doubt be plenty of rank and file workers cheering Miller's departure. After all, he is the man who said point blank, "many of you will lose your jobs, and others will likely have their pay cut". Tough medicine no doubt.

  • The Mulally "re-mix" is starting to play out at Ford , and the new CEO isn't waiting long to send a message.  The question is how much this management shake up will go in reviving ford. Long-time Ford employee Derrick Kuzak has been put in charge of global vehicle development after previously serving as Ford's VP of product development. The new job means Kuzak is the man...

  • I just saw a glimpse of Ford's product pipeline, and while there were a few exceptions, what I saw didn't do much to ease concerns that Ford's immediate future is weak. That doesn't mean you should write off Ford, it simply means, in my opinion, it may take a while for Ford to end it's 6 year sales slide.

  • Welcome to Behind the Wheel.  The place to get the story on the newest models hitting the street, as well as the latest trends and people influencing what we drive and what turns our head in showrooms.

  • Add Carlos Ghosn to the growing list of auto executives who are not only committed to developing eco-friendly vehicles, but are actually putting major R & D dollars behind the effort.  Unfortunately for Nissan, the effort will be costlier, and take more time now that the GM alliance idea is dead.

  • After years of being a forgotten brand, Saturn is slowly entering a new orbit that includes higher sales, more relevant models, and recognition by General Motors that it's youngest brand is loaded with potential. Today the automaker announced it would be adding the Astra compact car to it's line-up in late 2007.

  • The latest survey of customer by the J.D. Power shows almost two thirds of Toyota's buyers are return customers.  Toyota supplants Lexus as the top brand for customer loyalty. Lexus was second, followed by Honda, BMW and Scion.  The top American brand is Cadillac at #6, retaining more than 55% of it's buyers.

  • It's that time of year again. The lights are up, "It's a Wonderful Life" will make it's regular airing, and one of the big 3 prepares for what could be some painful changes. This year the holiday "cheer" looks to be coming from Chrysler.

  • Have you driven a Ford lately? Sure, that was a commercial tag line several years ago, but it's a rhetorical question that bears asking right now. And the answer is not a pretty one for the folks in Dearborn.