Two (Hundred) If By Sea: Crossing Lake Michigan on a Car Ferry

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The Memorial Day holiday marks the official start of summer for many people, kicking off a season full of road trips for family vacations in far-off destinations. I recently took a bit of a driving tour myself, from the Cars.com Detroit Bureau home office in Ann Arbor, Mich., to the annual Spring Rally of the Midwest Automotive Media Association at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. My ride for the voyage: the new 2013 Lincoln MKZ, Ford's great hope for trying to keep the struggling luxury brand relevant and appealing to young premium segment shoppers.

But instead of taking the meandering road route around Lake Michigan through Indiana, Chicago and Milwaukee and on to Elkhart Lake, I decided to try one of the two car ferries running from Michigan to Wisconsin, crossing the lake and shaving miles (but not necessarily hours) off my trip.

By Aaron Bragman | May 31, 2013 | Comments (1)

April's Fastest- and Slowest-Selling Cars

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April's fastest-selling cars mixed luxury models with recent redesigns and, oddly enough, a few oldies. The Audi Q5 and Q7 — frequent speedy sellers despite their age — met the likes of the BMW X3, Land Rover Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and Lincoln MKZ. A couple 2014 redesigns also made the list: the Subaru Forester and Chevrolet Impala.

It's good news for Ford's Lincoln division, whose redesigned MKZ has been hampered by production setbacks during its launch. Both the MKZ and MKZ Hybrid were among April's fastest-selling cars, reprising the cars' March appearance — but with a key difference. As we reported on April 2, March's brisk sales pace didn't translate into higher sales, but that changed in April. Lincoln shoppers bought 4,012 MKZs and MKZ Hybrids, up 115.4% versus April 2012. It was the best month in the nameplate's seven-year history, Ford proclaimed.

A few oddball cars often land among the fastest sellers, and April was no exception. The current Scion xB hatchback hit dealerships in May 2007 while Nissan introduced the current Frontier pickup truck at the 2004 Detroit auto show. In car years, the elder Nissan is somewhere between actors Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer — and it hasn't aged as well. But the Frontier and xB spent little time on dealer lots in April, and both have minimal incentives. Go figure.

April's slowest sellers document the continuing sales trickle for two cars: the Acura ILX Hybrid and Chevrolet Malibu Eco. Both variants make up a good chunk of their respective nameplates in Cars.com new-car inventory, but they took 150 and 229 days, respectively, to move. Contrast that with April's 51-day monthly average, which stayed about even with March (48 days) but came in a bit slower than April 2012's 45 days.

Here are March's fastest and slowest sellers:

By Kelsey Mays | May 2, 2013 | Comments (1)

March's Fastest- and Slowest-Selling Cars

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We won't have March sales results until later today, but the month's fastest- and slowest-selling cars depict that a couple automakers are catching a break. With a faster-charging option, more cargo space and a lower starting price, the 2013 Nissan Leaf landed a spot among March's fastest-selling cars — this after meeting less than half of Nissan's sales expectations in 2011 and 2012. In March, the all-electric hatchback averaged just seven days to sell. Leaf sales increased 13% through February, so we'll see if Nissan's little EV pulled off an automotive Florida Gulf Coast University last month — or if the faster pace drove few actual sales.

Meanwhile, the redesigned Lincoln MKZ, which was beleaguered by a slow ramp-up in dealer supply, also hit its stride. Lincoln dealers needed just 14 days on average to sell an MKZ. That beat rivals like the Lexus ES 350 (35 days, on average) and Acura TL (50 days). Other movers include the usual slate of redesigns, from the redesigned Subaru Forester to Toyota's fourth-generation RAV4. Flagship luxury SUVs had their day, too: Mercedes-Benz's GL-Class marked its sixth month on the list, and Land Rover's Range Rover flagship had its third.

Despite a cooler March versus last year's record warmth, SUVs represented a similar share of the month's fastest-selling cars. Nine of March's 17 fastest-selling cars were SUVs; that's about even with March 2012, when eight of 17 fast sellers were SUVs.

By Kelsey Mays | April 2, 2013 | Comments (4)

Five New Cars Earn IIHS Top Safety Pick+

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Well, that was a quick turnaround. Just seven months after eight of 11 luxury cars blew the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's new small-overlap frontal test, all five cars in the latest IIHS small-overlap test scored Acceptable or Good — the top two of four possible scores.

The 2014 Mazda6 sedan, 2013 Honda Civic Coupe and Civic Sedan, 2013 Volvo XC60 SUV and 2013 Lincoln MKZ sedan passed IIHS' most challenging frontal test, which simulates a 40-mph impact with a rigid barrier that overlaps just 25% of the front of a car. All five cars earned IIHS' Top Safety Pick+ ("plus") honor, a rank above Top Safety Pick status.

IIHS said in 2012 that some 10,000 annual highway deaths in the U.S. occur from frontal collisions, and nearly a quarter of those occur because of so-called small overlap situations.

The 2013 MKZ is the first car that documents an automaker's improvement in the same test. In August 2012, its predecessor scored poorly, allowing a belted crash-test dummy to careen toward the A-pillar rather than the front airbag. The redesigned MKZ offered better front-airbag protection, earning the car an Acceptable score. The Mazda6 scored Acceptable, too.

By Kelsey Mays | March 7, 2013 | Comments (0)

Lincoln Expects 2013 MKZ Supply to Hit Full Speed by April

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Looking for Lincoln's redesigned 2013 MKZ or MKZ Hybrid that you saw advertised during the Super Bowl? You might have to wait a while. Cars.com national inventory has just 781 new 2013 MKZs in stock. That’s a drought compared to the rival Acura TL and Lexus ES, which each have more than 6,000 new 2013 sedans on Cars.com.

Blame a slow ramp up for the redesigned car, which went on sale late last year. The Detroit News reports Lincoln dealers should have enough cars to sell by April.

Those dealers sold just 453 MKZs in January. That's down 73% from January 2012 when the midsize luxury sedan was Lincoln's best-selling model. The plunge hobbled Lincoln sales to a 32-year low, notes Ward's Auto via Bloomberg News. The torpid sales pace came because Lincoln heightened its quality inspections, Ford sales chief Ken Czubay told Bloomberg on Feb. 1.

By Kelsey Mays | February 11, 2013 | Comments (3)

2013 Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ, Mercedes-Benz C-Class Join NHTSA's Five-Star Club

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Several new vehicles joined the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's five-star club today, earning the top score of five stars overall in crash tests performed by NHTSA. New inductees are the 2013 Ford Fusion, 2013 Lincoln MKZ and the 2013 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Meanwhile, the all-new 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid and redesigned 2013 Nissan Sentra didn't fare as well, with both having to settle for four stars overall.

The Fusion's and MKZ's front-, all-wheel-drive and hybrid models all received five stars in the frontal crash test and four-star ratings in side and rollover crash tests. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class' rear- and all-wheel-drive models scored five stars in the side crash test and four stars in frontal and rollover crash tests.

Both the C-Max Hybrid and Sentra fell short, receiving five-star scores in only the side crash test and four stars in the other two tests.

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By Matt Schmitz | January 18, 2013 | Comments (0)

2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid EPA Rated at 45 MPG

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With the MKZ Hybrid, Lincoln has set its sights set on its direct competitor, the Lexus ES 300h, and just scored major points in the fuel-economy department. The EPA gave the 2013 MKZ Hybrid a rating of 45 mpg across the board: city/highway/combined. The ES 300h is rated at 40/39 mpg city/highway. 

For model-year 2013, the Lincoln's midsize sedan gets a fresh face, more features and new powertrains for the regular and hybrid models. The hybrid uses a version of the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid's powertrain: It teams a 141-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a 47-hp electric motor for a total of 188-hp. The ES 300h, however, offers 200-hp from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor.

Rather than pay a price premium for the hybrid model, which is common, the 2013 MKZ starts at $36,800, including destination. This is also the base price of the MKZ lineup. The 2013 Lexus ES 300h starts at $39,745, including destination, which is $2,750 more than the 2013 ES 350. 

The MKZ Hybrid goes on sale later this year.

Related
Research the 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
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By Jennifer Geiger | October 17, 2012 | Comments (6)

Leasing a Lincoln MKZ? You Can Trade Early for a 2012

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Remember when Ford's Lincoln division was America's best-selling luxury brand? You probably don't; it was more than two decades ago. Today, the Lexus RX outsells Lincoln's five-car lineup combined. But Ford pledged resources toward its luxury brand — perhaps easier since it doesn't have Mercury to deal with — and now it's pulling lease customers back to help sales. The Detroit News reports Lincoln dealers will offer current MKZ lessees the chance to end their lease up to six months early if they trade for a 2012 MKZ. The program lasts through Dec. 31, according to the Detroit News.

In an industry up 13%, Lincoln sales fell 3% last month. The brand needs to clear out 2012 MKZ inventory ahead of launching the redesigned 2013 MKZ, which is trickling into dealerships now. It may not have much work to do. Lincoln dealers began this month with a 54-day supply of MKZ sedans, according to Automotive News. That falls below the industry's 58-day average — and well below the MKZ's siblings. By contrast, Lincoln dealers have a 152-day supply of MKS sedans.

Lincoln spokesman Timothy Elliott confirmed the move, saying Lincoln MKZ or MKZ Hybrid lessees can waive their leases up to 6 months early if they buy or lease a 2012 MKZ or MKZ Hybrid.

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2013 Lincoln MKZ Priced at $36,800
Research the Lincoln lineup
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By Kelsey Mays | October 11, 2012 | Comments (1)

Mercedes, Lexus and Audi Fail Latest IIHS Crash Tests

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The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4 and two Lexus sedans — the IS 250/350 and the outgoing ES 350 — failed the latest round of IIHS frontal tests.

As we reported Monday, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s new offset frontal-barrier test simulates a 40-mph collision with a rigid barrier that overlaps just 25% of the car. The test simulates a front-corner collision with a tree, a pole or another vehicle, a scenario that is responsible for almost 25% of front crashes that seriously injure or kill someone in front, IIHS says. The new test will augment the agency's existing frontal test, which crashes a car at 40 mph against a deformable barrier that overlaps 40% of the front.

"Outside of some automakers’ proving grounds, such a test isn’t currently conducted anywhere else in the United States or Europe," IIHS said in a statement, noting that despite an increasing number of cars that score well in frontal crash tests, some 10,000 highway deaths still come from frontal collisions each year.

By Kelsey Mays | August 14, 2012 | Comments (30)

2013 Lincoln MKZ Priced at $36,800

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When the 2013 Lincoln MKZ goes on sale later this year, the premium midsize sedan will start at $36,800, including an $875 destination charge. That's $1,170 more than the outgoing model, but according to Lincoln, the new MKZ costs $175 less than the starting price of its main competitor, the 2013 Lexus ES 350.

For model-year 2013, the MKZ gets a fresh face, more features and new powertrains for the regular and hybrid models. It will be available in Premiere, Select, Reserve and Preferred trim levels. Standard features include the 240-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, Sync with MyLincoln Touch multimedia system, remote start, and LED headlights and taillamps. Newly available this year are inflatable rear seat belts and a huge 15.2-square-foot glass sunroof; the latter is a $2,995 option.

By Jennifer Geiger | July 24, 2012 | Comments (3)

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