Monthly Archives: September 2014

Breeze life away

1963 Mercury Monterey 'Breezeway' sedan, spotted in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan.

1963 Mercury Monterey ‘Breezeway’ sedan, spotted in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan.

There was so much happening in the early 1960s, one can be forgiven for not noticing the roofline on a mid-range Ford Motor Company product.

The Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Space Race and the JFK assassination all competed for national attention in that era. But behind all the drama (not to mention the drinking and smoking), there was a movement afoot to set the often wayward middle child of the Ford family (Mercury… we’re talking Mercury) on a new and distinctive path.

While the Fords of the late 1950s were understated and didn’t go in for the styling excesses of the higher end GM and Chrysler models of the time, Mercury and Lincoln embraced them.

Fast-forward to the early 60s. Fords remained relatively conservative in appearance (read: safe) thanks to lessons learned from their short-lived 1960 styling experiment, while Lincoln had scrapped its former gargantuan and gaudy 1958-1960 body to create a timeless classic – the 1961 Continental.

The Mercury division was left somewhere in the middle, unsure of whether to appear as an uplevel Ford or a stripped Lincoln. In preparing for the 1963model year, Mercury seized on a styling cue originally marketed in their ’57 Turnpike Cruiser as a way of setting themselves apart from the other divisions.

It was impossible not to smoke ALL THE TIME in the Mad Men era, and this 1963 ad showed how the Breezeway could change your life.

It was impossible not to smoke ALL THE TIME in the Mad Men era, and this 1963 ad showed how the Breezeway could change your life.

The reverse-slanted, retractable rear window was just one neat-o, futuristic gimmick on a car now semi-infamous for being full of them. The Turnpike Cruiser was the ultimate Space Age dream car, but that era has now passed.

The rear window idea, however, had legs. Not only was there comfort and convenience attributes in having a back window that could open up, out of the rain, but it would make for a noticeably different roofline – something that would help set Mercury apart from both Ford and Lincoln.

For 1963, the ‘Breezeway’ roof (as it was marketed) became available on the Monterey. In addition to the distinctive roof, the ’63 Merc set itself apart from its other stablemates by way of a strong beltline and slightly concave side panels, as well as a set of triple taillights. A big 390-cubic inch V-8 came standard and provided plenty of muscle to move the large sedan around. A 427-cubic inch V-8 was optional.

Advertising at the time called attention to the new roof, depicting pleasant scenes brought about by that overhanging roofline and retractable window. One ad showed a bird taking shelter from a rainstorm under the rear lip, while others showed happy people venting their cigarette smoke out the back of the passenger cabin.

The Breezeway roof treatment set Mercury vehicles apart from their Ford siblings from 1963 to 1968.

The Breezeway roof treatment set Mercury vehicles apart from their Ford siblings from 1963 to 1968.

For 1964, Mercury resurrected the higher-end Montclair and Park Lane nameplates and applied the Breezeway roof treatment to them. In ’65, designers tried to bring the model line even more upscale by giving the Mercs a Lincoln-like front end, while reducing the number of models with Breezeway roofs.

Buyers liked the Lincoln front end (offered at a much lower price than the actual luxury division) but preferred a formal roofline for sedans. This trend carried over into the similar-styled ’66 models.

For the last two years the Breezeway roof was offered (1967 and ’68), the design changed completely in order for the car to adopt the sloping beltline with ‘shoulder’ over the rear fenders that was so popular at the time. The Breezeway roof now sloped  towards the front of the car like a conventional roof, except with a slight overhang that allowed the rear window to be rolled down a couple of inches.

While the ventilation effect could still be achieved, air conditioning was now becoming commonplace, and features like the Breezeway were no longer needed, or marketable.

Though it disappeared after just six model years, the Breezeway represented an interesting and successful attempt to get noticed in a turbulent and confusing time for the auto industry. Still distinctive after all these years, well-preserved models like the mint example I found in rural Saskatchewan really stand out.

It’s easy to see the appeal in a Breezeway.

Class(ic) act

The 2015 Volkswagen Classic offers retro styling cues and more standard equipment at a price that undercuts a stock Beetle (photo: Volkswagen of America)

The 2015 Volkswagen Classic offers retro styling cues and more standard equipment at a price that undercuts a stock Beetle (photo: Volkswagen of America)

If you’ve been waiting since 1997 to get your hands on a special kind of Volkswagen (New) Beetle, your long wait is over.

For 2015, buyers can sign on the dotted line for a VW Beetle Classic – a value-oriented model that offers upgraded standard equipment and retro styling cues at a price that undercuts that of the base model.

Volkswagen of America announced on Sept. 23 the immediate release of these limited-edition models, which they say come in at $1,500 lower than a base Beetle with automatic.

Powered by a 1.8-litre turbo four (the same as the base model), the Beetle Classic’s most noticeable styling departure is its attractive retro wheels, which feature a chrome centre cap, blacked-out spokes and a chrome outer ring. It’s a style I’ve always liked, but I’d never imagined what they’d do for the looks of a Beetle until now.

Besides the new rims (and a decklid spoiler that I find totally out of place on a ‘Classic’ model), the car comes equipped with classy leather-wrapped handbrake lever and shift knob, as well as two-tone leatherette upholstery. A Sirius XM satellite radio and navigation system are also standard, as is a 6-speed automatic transmission.

For a vehicle whose name and historical lineage predates World War Two, it’s weird that an automatic transmission would come standard on this model. However, if you can’t drive a stick but just LOVE Beetles, this is your chance to get what you want while saving money at the same time.

The Classic still has a lower starting price than a base Beetle equipped with a manual transmission.

Volkswagen Beetle sales are not a huge part of the company’s revenue stream, but they do seem to stay consistent over time. The Classic is clearly a way for VW to craft some renewed attention for the model and possibly achieve a sales bump as well.

Being a limited-edition model, buyers can choose from three basic paint colours – black, silver and white – when they slap down their $20,195 (U.S.) for their new retro ride.

Too bad about the spoiler and tranny, though.




Shakedown Cruze

The next-generation Cruze will aim for significantly improved fuel economy.

The next-generation Cruze will aim for significantly improved fuel economy.

Chevy Cruze buyers can expect more choice starting with the second-generation 2016 model.

The GM Authority blog dished out almost all that can be said of the future Cruze last week, revealing that the new car will come with new Ecotec engines (note: pural), less weight, and an optional 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that could be standard on high end models.

A partnership between GM and a Chinese company is behind the creation of this new transmission. The 6-speed automatic and manual will continue to be offered in the Cruze line.

All of these changes to the popular Chevy compact are designed to make the vehicle more competitive, as well as more fuel efficient. Sources are saying mileage gains will be 14 – 21% higher than the first generation Cruze.

That kind of a bump is considerable, given that the original model wasn’t exactly known as a gas guzzler.

Chevy marked a milestone in August, as the 3 millionth Cruze rolled off the GM assembly line in Lordstown, Ohio. When it was introduced in late 2010 as a 2011 model, the Cruze was a significant departure from the bland-as-dry-toast Cobalt that preceded it (not to mention the Cavalier…). Rather than being an also-ran whose only appeal lay in a low starting price, the Cruze offered competitive equipment and technology.

At the time, having a diminutive turbo engine of less than a litre-and-a-half displacement as the volume powerplant seemed daring, but the industry has clearly moved in that direction since then. It helped that summer, 2010 marked a spike in gas prices that continues to this day.

The 2016 Cruze will launch sometime in late 2015.


Big in Japan

2014 Toyota Avalon: more style, less dust.

2014 Toyota Avalon: more style, less dust.

This won’t come as a shock to anyone who read my earlier post about being a land yacht-ophile, but I have always respected the Toyota Avalon.

It’s okay to be big, and yes, it’s okay to appeal to an older demographic that just wants a large, reliable car. A conservatively styled one, at that. One that  would prefer to pamper an owner, rather than get their blood pumping.

That was not an old person joke.

Since its debut in 1995, the Avalon has always seemed like something of an anomaly. Why does Toyota, a brand known for economic, compact cars, insist on fielding a large car offering? One would think the ubiquitous (and large-ish) Camry and the offerings of luxury division Lexus would cover the lion’s share of customer’s wants and desires.

First generation (1995-1999) Toyota Avalon, featuring the absence of straight lines that characterized the decade in automotive styling (photo: TTTNIS/Wikimedia)

First generation (1995-1999) Toyota Avalon, featuring the near absence of straight lines that characterized the decade in automotive styling (photo: TTTNIS/Wikimedia)

Yet here we are, having now passed the 20th anniversary of the Avalon (first produced Feb. 21, 1994), now in its fourth generation. Clearly, the model has legs, and a purpose in the lineup. Hell, Toyota sells around 5,500 of them a month in the U.S., and sales numbers are higher now than they were two, three, four years ago.

What’s going on, and how did we get here?

As the flagship of a make, but not a company, the Avalon always made do with a single engine/transmission choice – just like its razor-sharp predecessor, the Cressida, and like other contemporary flagships. After all, who needs choice when you’ve already got it all?

For the first decade of its existence, through an extremely safe restyling job and evolutionary equipment improvements, the Avalon kept its 3.0-litre V-6 and 4-speed automatic. Let’s be clear – this isn’t exciting stuff.

Though it was always based on a stretched Camry platform, Toyota saw fit to make the body larger starting in 1999, possibly to set it apart from other Japanese sedans and position it to better rival traditional American comfort cruisers.

The Avalon quickly gained the nickname ‘Japanese Buick’, for reasons obvious to everyone.

Second generation (2000-2004) Avalon. Someone had to battle the all-new Impala. (image: IFCAR/Wikimedia)

Second generation (2000-2004) Avalon. Someone had to battle the all-new Impala. (image: IFCAR/Wikimedia)

In 2005, the Avalon grew again – both in body size as well as engine displacement. At 3.5-litres, the sole engine choice made a very respectable 280hp, while the transmission gained a cog and, for whatever reason, ‘manumatic’ shifting capability. Find me one retiree who rowed the gears on his Avalon…

Sadly, the third-generation Avalon did away with the 3-person front bench seat, a move that further set it apart from traditional American cars (which were, by then, endangered).  As far as I know, this was this the last time a Japanese car offered a front bench.

Against a backdrop of financial upheaval in world markets and the near collapse of the American auto industry, the Avalon plodded a safe course through the late 2000’s. The model remained in the Toyota stable, but some would argue it played things a little too safe.

Third generation (2005-2012) was the chrome-iest and most American of the 'Japanese Buicks'. (image: IFCAR/Wikimedia)

Third generation (2005-2012) was the chrome-iest and most American of the ‘Japanese Buicks’ (Image: IFCAR/Wikimedia)

During the seven years the third-generation model was produced, buyers could be forgiven for thinking it had gone out of production, such was its invisibility.

A 6-speed transmission was added to keep things mechanically up to date, while the body underwent subtle styling changes. The 2011-2012 models liberally slapped on the front-end chrome, making it the most American looking of all of the Japanese Buicks.

Then, things changed. Possibly to give it a new lease on life, for 2013 the Avalon dared to break out of its safe room, confronting potential (and return) buyers with… a full-body design change. Its super-wide lower grille opening, flowing roofline and pleasingly creased sheetmetal might have turned off some buyers, but could easily have brought more on board.

Baby got bustle...

Baby got bustle…

No longer invisible, the Avalon began offering a secondary drivetrain option for the first time in its two decade existence. In this case, a gas-electric hybrid drivetrain (utilizing the Camry’s 2.5-litre four-cylinder), a needed addition to reach those ever-higher EPA-mandated mileage numbers.

The 6-speed automatic carries over as the sole transmission.

Clearly, the significant restyle had an impact on the buying public, as Avalon sales shot up starting in December, 2012 – the first month the fourth-generation model went on sale. See the link below for those numbers.

Time will tell whether the Avalon remains in Toyota’s lineup for the foreseeable future, but given the ride it’s been on over the past 20 years (and the current sales volumes), I doubt we’ll see it disappear anytime soon.


Southern belle

1930 Ford Model A Town Sedan, spotted in Charleston, South Carolina.

1930 Ford Model A Town Sedan, spotted in Charleston, South Carolina.

Anything with Henry Ford’s name stamped on it commands respect in America, even today.

That titan of industrialization, efficiency and ingenuity continues to hover over the western world with his ephemeral presence, like a spiritual elder still capable of instilling lessons in the youngest generation.

Everything Henry touched remains steeped in glowing, historical reverence, which is why it was such a treat to come across this pristine antique Ford in the warm gaslight of Charleston, South Carolina.

A mild breeze was blowing that night, as I strolled through the polite, temperate city that started the Civil War. And there she was – parked under a streetlight, her yellow wheel hubs and spokes matching the painted limestone of a nearby home and the crushed leaves underfoot.

The 1930 Ford Model A Town Sedan was a classy model for its era, but this example didn’t have the sidemounts that would really complete the package. Still, who can complain?

History collided that night. An 84-year-old car parking in the heart of a city 260 years its elder. If the country’s history was a stage play, both the car and the city would play larger-than-average roles.

Lookin' civilized in the South.

Lookin’ civilized in the South.

The Ford Model A – Henry’s second runaway hit – is not a rare classic car. In fact, it’s one of the most common.

Between October 20, 1927 and March, 1932, Ford produced 4,849,340 Model A’s in a limitless variety of styles. So many were produced that parts are still plentiful, all these years later.

The Model A was conceived to replace the once phenomenally popular (but now rapidly aging) Model T, amid newfound competition from other automakers. The new model, like its predecessor, was designed to be durable, affordable, and easy to manufacture, but now boasted modern features and a dash of style.

The rock-solid, 201-cubic inch 4-cylinder under the Model A’s hood made 40 horsepower, and was mated to a 3-speed unsynchronized gearbox. Unlike the Model T, the Model A used the 3-pedal setup American drivers were becoming accustomed to.

Innovation was a Ford hallmark, and the new car didn’t disappoint – the Model A was the first vehicle to use windshield safety glass.

Henry Ford (1863-1947) was getting long in the tooth by the late Twenties, and didn’t feel like bothering to have a hand in the design of the car. This was likely for the best, as by that time, the Model T – which Ford still saw as adequate – was looking awfully primitive and stodgy.

Henry Ford, left, and his long-suffering only son Edsel are seen in this archive pic.

Henry Ford, left, and his long-suffering only son Edsel are seen in this archive pic.

A design team headed up by Henry’s son (and Ford Motor Company president) Edsel Ford came up with a proper style for the new vehicle. And, unlike before, they made sure buyers of a new Model A could pick from a choice of colours.

Tough, versatile, and cheap (the starting price undercut $400), Model A’s continued to fly out of showrooms even after the stock market crash and subsequent onset of the Great Depression. Good thing they were built Ford tough, as many drivers were forced to keep them a lot longer than expected (or even live in them) due to the financial conditions of the time.

Edsel Ford didn’t outlive his father (he died of stomach cancer in 1943 at age 49), but the Model A will outlive all of us.

Thousands of examples of the relatively affordable classic roam the roadways of North America each summer (never quite reaching their claimed to speed of 65 mph), and new parts for the simplistic drivetrain are as close as a visit to Google.

“I am not a number!”

Patrick McGoohan, in The Prisoner (1967-68).

Patrick McGoohan, in The Prisoner (1967-68).

Every now and then, a group of us gets to talking about car commercials, and I get yet another chance to mention my favourite vehicle ad of all time.

No, not Lee Iacocca’s “If you can find a better car, buy it” Chrysler commercial from 1982 (though that is a classic, and pure marketing genious). I’m talking print ads.

TV commercials can be entertaining, but print ads can be everything their motion picture brethren are, too – visually arresting, thought provoking, emotionally stimulating – everything that a good commercial needs to sell you a product you don’t really need (but really, really want).

Long ago, at the dawn of the 21st century, I wrote a paper for a university advertising course I had enrolled in as a fun elective. We had just finished studying the eras of modern advertising – examining print ads from the Victorian era to the 1990s and learning the key themes that dominated each era.

I choose to focus my paper on – what else? – the world of automotive advertising, something that had always fascinated me.

Though it embraced counter-culture identity, Chrysler's hippie-era ads still equate belonging to a group with happiness, satisfaction and status.

Though it embraced counter-culture identity, Chrysler’s hippie-era ads still equate belonging to a group with happiness, satisfaction and status.

Focusing on the latter half of the 20th century, I worked through the counter-culture era (a period exploited by the Chrysler division, with its ‘Dodge Material’ and ‘Scat Pack’ ads), before moving on to the ‘Value Era’ of oil crisis/recession-plagued America in the mid ’70s to early ’80s (“$17 less than Caprice!”).

Rather than focusing on lifestyles, the Value Era emphasized respect for pocketbooks and bank accounts. Clearly, not the sexy, titillating stuff that had proceeded it.

A very annoying era followed these, one that seemed to define the 1990s. If you wanted to sell a car, dishwasher, or anything else in the ’90s, you had to make the buyer aware that they’d be joining a community.

Yes, the buyer would now be part of a quasi-commune populated by like-minded, like-interested people. “You’re really not alone when you buy this product, see? There are others like you.”

Depending on your world view, it was either a comforting, cosy sentiment, or an individual-destroying collectivist nightmare. And no car company adopted this strategy more than plastic-clad GM division Saturn.

Describing itself as “A different kind of company” (um, what?), Saturn’s commercials were festooned with members of the Saturn-buying community. Their print ads were part classic sales pitch, part family reunion newsletter.

A memorable 1996 episode of the sitcom Ellen poked fun at the Saturn ad campaign, depicting the title character’s friend purchasing a new ‘Rapture’, only to find herself an unwilling member of a creepy cult-like collective. After overbearing, stalker-like requests to join baseball teams and attend picnics, Ellen is forced to ‘rescue’ her friend, eventually breaking her lease agreement by holding a Rapture sedan hostage with a cigarette lighter.

"It's okay - you can embrace your individuality now." (image: Jaguar)

“It’s okay – you can embrace your individuality now.” (image: Jaguar)

I wrote my term paper towards the end of this cloying era, or maybe at the very beginning of a new one. At the time, one memorable ad stood out – one that spoke to me personally while shattering the message spread by the likes of Saturn.

The ad, which appeared around 1999 (give or take a year) was for the Jaguar XK8 convertible – a beautiful car whether coupe or drop top. Pictured in the ad was a man driving solo (and fast) down a twisty, shade-dappled highway, with the message “Live vicariously through yourself”.

Who doesn’t want to be the guy piloting that Jag? I mean, really?

That sort of appeal is easy to understand, after all, all car ads want you to picture yourself in the driver’s seat. However, the message being telegraphed by Jaguar was decidedly different from that of the community-minded Saturn.

Live vicariously… through yourself.

Some could see this message as being indulgent, selfish and consumerist. A hedonist celebration of capitalism’s ill-gotten gains. I, on the other hand, see it as a big middle finger to the concept of collectivism – a celebration of the individual. A message that it’s okay to go your own way and enjoy life on your own terms.

Oh! Oh! Pick me! (image: Jaguar)

Oh! Oh! Pick me! (image: Jaguar)

That one can still exist and participate within a society without having to adopt all of its norms and expectations.

That this ad originated from the country that brought us the Libertarian-themed 1960s TV show The Prisoner maybe shouldn’t come as a surprise.

(See show intro and highlights,  including McGoohan’s bitchin’ Lotus Seven, here:

Another ad for the XK8 carried the theme along with a similar, if somewhat confusing, message.

The turn of the century now seems a lifetime away, and I couldn’t begin to describe the era of advertising we now find ourselves in. Like most normal people, I try to avoid exposure to commercials as much as humanly possible.

Still, by thumbing its nose at the establishment and prevailing attitudes, Jaguar cranked out a real gem of an ad all those years ago. By reacting – and rebelling – against the norm, Jaguar created a new counter-culture.

A counter-culture of one.



Hot 200?

The 2015 Chrysler 200 has little in common with its predecessor (photo:

The 2015 Chrysler 200 has little in common with its predecessor (Image: Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles)

When it comes to refreshed car models, no American vehicle departs more drastically from its predecessor than the new Chrysler 200.

Ditching the tall, bulbous body left over from the 2007-2010 Sebring, the new 200 brought with it a flowing, Audi-like roofline and body, competitive drivetrains, a taught chassis (Fiat-Chrysler’s Compact U.S. Wide platform), and upgraded interior.

In short, the 2015 Chrysler 200 was designed to be everything the 2014 200 wasn’t.

With all these attributes, the refreshed sedan was sure to be a sales hit, right?

No, there’s never a guarantee of that. The 200 leapt into an ultra-competitive field of capable mid-size vehicles, starting at a price point much higher than its bargain basement priced predecessor.

Older, Sebring-based 200’s might have flown off dealer lots thanks to drastic markdowns and fleet sales, but that can help create a stigma around a vehicle. The new 200 had to sell itself on content, not cost.

Amid a strong marketing campaign emphasizing its class-leading technology and mileage (9 speeds, people!), the new 200 went on sale in spring of 2014, on the heels of the coldest winter in decades for most of North America.

Sales figures from March to June of this year show far fewer 200 purchases than in 2013. Then, something interesting happens as summer rolls around.

In June and July, in both the U.S. and Canada, sales top monthly figures from the previous year.

In July, in the U.S., the 200 managed 8,159 sales (compared to 8,122 in 2013), while in Canada the tally was 1,331, compared to the previous year’s 947.

In August, 10,810 units rolled off U.S. lots, compared to 10,139 the year before. In Canada, Chrysler moved 1,100 examples of the new model, up from 886 in 2013.

These numbers can’t tell us the reasons behind the surge in sales, nor can they (at this point, anyway) reveal whether the rise will be sustained over time. Still, looking at it from a distance, it would be easy to speculate that the new 200 has attracted the interest of discerning buyers (who are no longer simply looking for the cheapest mid-size on the market).



Soul decision

Socket to me: the 2015 Kia Soul EV (photo: Kia)

Socket to me: the 2015 Kia Soul EV (photo: Kia)

Who’s been lying awake lately, unable to sleep due to the news of a pending all-electric version of an existing car model?


Exhilarating or not, that’s the news surrounding Kia and their funky/cool/edgy/different/fill-in-the-blank Soul. This fall, an EV version of the compact 4-door wagon goes on sale in select U.S. states (hint: mainly northern blue ones), and will be helped along in the Rumbling State by 17 Kia fast-charging stations.

Other states and those living in the white mass north of the border can expect their Soul EV’s to arrive in 2015.

Going by factory glamour shots, funky/cool/edgy/different colour schemes and a front fascia that says ‘no’ to incoming air will make the Soul EV stand out from its gas-sipping brethren. Official media releases claim a driving range of 200 kilometres, agile handling, “class-leading” acceleration, and a top speed of 145 km/h.

(Official blurb here:

That acceleration comes by way of a 109-horsepower electric motor making 210 lb.-ft. of torque, doled out in a big spoonful by a 1-speed automatic transmission. Contrast these numbers with the base (1.6-litre) gasoline Soul, which makes 130 hp but a paltry 118 lb.-ft. of torque.

The uplevel 2.0-litre rings in at 151 lb.-ft of grunt.

The range of the all-electric Soul doesn’t challenge the Tesla Model S, but it does top that of the Ford Focus EV and Nissan Leaf by a little bit.

Adam Levine in 2013 (photo: Twitter)

Adam Levine in 2013 (photo: Twitter)

The announcement of the Soul EV’s attributes and California charging network comes hot on the heels of a splashy commercial aired during August’s MTV Video Music Awards (aka the #VMA’s – OMG, LOL, WTF!).

That commercial – better known as the newest ‘hamster ad’ – served to pimp a new Maroon 5 track and was accompanied by a cringeworthy media release of its own.

(Strap yourself in and read it here:

While I’m loathe to call any attention to the infuriating and insufferable Adam Levine, I’m linking the commercial here, if only to provide context to the gaspingly earnest media release (“geek chic”??!).

Despite all of this uber-hip fanfare, the biggest boon to the Kia Soul’s fortunes in the recent past has actually been… (wait for it!)… the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Francis in 2013 (photo:

Pope Francis in 2013 (photo:

During a tour of South Korea earlier this summer, the often-unpredictable Pope Francis (who has shunned the Vatican’s armoured vehicle fleet) tooled around in a black Kia Soul. This wasn’t altogether unexpected from a pontiff who previously made headlines for scoring a great deal on a 1984 Renault hatchback.

It has since been reported that the high-profile run-in with the pontiff led to an unexpected payout for Kia.

Orders for the Soul – a niche vehicle on that side of the ocean, too – jumped 62.5% during the week of his visit.

Kia Motors was apparently so tickled by the attention given to the country’s auto industry, they’ve offered to ship the very same Soul to the Vatican as a personal gift to Francis. There, the Soul will join the ’84 Renault and a used Ford Focus the pontiff has recently been seen in.

Pope Francis cruises in a Kia Soul (in Seoul), August, 2014. (Photo: Yonhap/EPA)

Pope Francis cruises in a Kia Soul (in Seoul), August, 2014. (Photo: Yonhap/EPA)

The EV version of the Soul is a welcome development in a vehicle market that has cooled on the whole electric thing over the past year or so. Yes, automakers new to the electric game (such as Kia and BMW) are jumping into the EV fray with their own offerings, while improvements in existing models continue, but some of that excitement that surrounded the EV world circa 2010 is missing.

Maybe this sense of ‘ordinary’ is a good thing, as it shows that these vehicles – and the thought of them – are becoming more normalized and commonplace in the eyes of the public.