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Falls Church Dealers Dish on Latest Auto Trends

Walid Mohamad, an 11-year car sales veteran, shows off the 2016 Honda Pilot at Bill Page Honda. (Photo: Patricia Leslie/News-Press)
Walid Mohamad, an 11-year car sales veteran, shows off the 2016 Honda Pilot at Bill Page Honda. (Photo: Patricia Leslie/News-Press)

The thrill is gone, hybrids. Boxy is sexy no more. Sayonara, battery-operated cars. Goodbye, keys. Welcome, more technology and safety features.

These are some of the assessments about new cars gathered from car sales managers and salesmen in and around town.

“Hybrid sales lost their thrill” when they got dumped from HOV lanes, says Basher El-Fiky, the sales director for Infiniti at Tysons Corner.

Now, many buyers are looking for the mid-sized (seven passenger) SUV at his lot, more popular than the bigger model, not so much because of cheaper gas prices, but because the price tag is lower, El-Fiky said.

At Bill Page Honda, Walid Mohamad, an 11-year car sales veteran who sells about a car a day, says the newly designed 2016 Honda Pilot is made to accommodate the “smaller is better” consumer attitude.

The Pilot still seats eight, but the body of the car is smaller, and it’s not as clunky as it used to be. “People don’t want the box look any more,” Mohamad said, while giving a tour of new cars at the dealership on Arlington Boulevard.

“Now we have this brand new look,” with sleeker lines,” and he climbed in the third row of seats to show how easy they are to reach.

What about colors? Anything new?

Well, “pearl” is certainly attractive.

Honda’s names could belong to women’s cosmetics.

You can have “White Orchid,” “Obsidian Blue,” “Copper Sunset,” “Misty Green” (almost black), “White Diamond” (“a little bit yellower than “‘White Orchid,’”) or “Modern Steel”?

Or try “Urban Titanium.” And five have “pearl” attached as surnames. “Across the board,” Infiniti’s El-Fiky said, “white is the most popular color.” He paused. “White or black.” Infinities have “intelligent cruise control, lane shift prevention blind spots, and blind spot warnings.”

What about something for the driver who falls asleep on the interstate?

“We can’t keep drivers from falling asleep,” he said seriously. Infiniti does have “cameras galore.” Cameras to the side of you, cameras in the front, cameras in the rear. They are options. Danny Kreps is the general sales manager at Don Beyer Volvo in Falls Church where the future is all about technology and independent cars.

Volvo has cameras, too, fitted with a laser guide which stops the car from hitting other vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

Volvo’s goal is to make “the best seat in the house, in the car.” Cars are becoming more “customer specific.” “The state of the art tells us that the safest way to move humans in cars is to have smarter cars than humans,” Kreps said. “Ultimately, the future will be autonomous or self-driving cars.”

Volvo prides itself on “city safety architecture,” or safety features which have helped keep Volvo drivers free from fatalities. Standards on the 2016 Volvo XC 90 include lane departure warnings and driver alert controls which tell how frequently the driver is leaving lanes, and if too often, the car tells the driver to stop and take a break.

Also, buyers may choose a “haptic” steering wheel which vibrates as a warning if the driver is dozing.

Another option is the ability of the car to steer itself back to the lane, Kreps said. Improved cooling systems, oil technologies, and engines mean fewer oil changes, some spanning 10,000 miles between them, Kreps said. Volvo also has “telematics” which summons emergency personnel whenever an air bag is deployed.

Ryan Jones is the car sales manager at Stohlman Volkswagen of Tysons where sales of battery operated cars have fallen in the last few months.

“Gas prices have a lot to do with it,” Jones said. Consumers are looking for all wheel drive, reliability, safety, and gas mileage, and his cars meet all the criteria, he said.

Something which remains standard on all lots is: “It’s a great time to buy or lease a car!” Interest rates are at bottom, Kreps said, and drivers can “get more car now for less money.”