By on April 3, 2012

“For 100 years, people have been dreaming about flying cars,” says, well, a promotion video that attempts to drum up investor interest for a flying car. Despite many attempts, we don’t see many flying cars, nether flying, nor driving. At TTAC, the story is as old as the old Farago-era layout. Fear not, flying cars will be here, real soon now, promise. One will even be at the New York Auto Show. Read More >

By on November 29, 2011

TTAC has long held that GM should have initially sold the Volt as a Cadillac, putting its newest, most high-tech drivetrain in a luxury car that could support its high list price. Of course the bailout made a CadiVolt a touch too elitist, which led to GM canceling production plans for its Converj Concept coupe. But with plans back on to sell a Converj-inspired ELR coupe, a new question arises: can Cadillac really charge significantly more than the Volt’s $40k-ish MSRP without doing more than simply rebodying the Volt in Cadillac’s Art & Science styling? Automotive News [sub]‘s Rick Kranz reckons Cadillac could do more, and thinks that the ELR could end up with rear-wheel drive.

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By on November 9, 2011

With traditional compact pickups growing into the new “midsized” segment, Scion has long been tipped as a likely candidate to lead the US market back towards smaller, car-based pickup trucks. And, Scion’s VP Jack Hollis tells TTAC’s sister site Autoguide that such a vehicle, though not a certainty, could be possible.

Versus other vehicles, I can’t say it’s priority one. I’m very interested in it. A lot of prospective owners are interested in it and every meeting I have in Japan, I’m asking, what else can we do.

Hollis reveals that he has, in the past, pushed for an imported Daihatsu pickup for Scion’s US lineup, but that regulatory issues killed the business case. But now he’s suggesting that Scion and Daihatsu might jointly develop a small, fuel-efficient pickup… just as Subaru and Toyota/Scion developed the FT-86 together. If that happens, I’d expect something larger than Daihatsu’s typical kei-style trucks, for reasons hinted at in the video above. And to help you understand the legacy that a Daihatsu-Scion pickup might draw upon, here are a few random images of Daihatsu “trucks” (or possible inspirations) through the ages.

By on November 3, 2011

FordInsideNews reports

According to two independent sources within FoMoCo, FIN has learned that Lincoln has killed off plans for the MkC. Instead, Lincoln will focus all compact energies upon their new CUV, which is internally named the MkD. According to one source, Ford feared that the MkC would cannibalize sales of the larger MkZ sedan… According to a source who has seen the “MkD,” the Escape based CUV sports a design that is more of a tall hatch rather than a traditional CUV. When it comes to interior dimensions, it will be slightly less than that of the Escape

OK, let’s get this straight: a Focus-based “MKC” competes with the MXZ but a next-gen Escape-based CUV doesn’t compete with the MKX? It’s good to see Lincoln trying to focus its efforts, but it’s hard to say that a reborn Mercury Mariner is the place to be focusing. Meanwhile, this wasn’t the only spooky news coming out Ford’s struggling luxury brand over Halloween weekend…

Read More >

By on September 11, 2011

Dow Jones cites a report in Der Spiegel Magazine which claims that GM Vice Chairman for Corporate Strategy Steve Girsky

has made enquiries at BMW to start discussions on “far-reaching joint projects.”

According to Dow Jones, the Spiegel article does not cite any specific source for its information, and TTAC has not yet been able to find the original article online. According to Dow Jones, GM is

 primarily interesting in gasoline and diesel engines… General Motors is at an advanced stage in developing a fuel cell and could offer co-operation in that field… The technology behind GM’s Opel Ampera electric vehicle would also be of interest to BMW, according to the report.

GM has not yet responded to TTAC’s request for comment. A similar rumor was floated by Handelsblatt around this time last year, but BMW was quick to quash it. Are things different this time, or is GM still struggling with unrequited desire? We’ll let you know as soon as possible…

By on September 8, 2011

In a blog item bemoaning the likely imminent death of the Honda Ridgeline, Automotive News [sub] Product Editor Rick Kranz accuses Honda of “abandoning” its funky pickup by failing to update its styling or hardware since it was introduced in 2005. His point seems to be that the Ridgeline was a decent enough niche product that withered on the vine… and the sales numbers certainly seem to support that thesis. But if you compare Ridgeline to other Japanese-brand compact-midsized pickups, you find that Toyota and Nissan saw similar drops in volume over a similar time period… as did practically all non-full-size pickups. So could Honda have done more for the Ridgeline, or was its decline inevitable? While you’re pondering that mystery, consider this: Kranz points to the last sentence of a months-old piece for one of those zombie rumors that never really got any play:

Based on conversations with industry sources, the story said a smaller pickup is under consideration, derived from the CR-V platform.

Presuming less payload and towing capacity than the Ridgeline, I can’t imagine why a smaller pickup based on a front-drive platform would be a more successful product formula for Honda.

On the other hand, a CR-V-based pickup is something that hasn’t been tried for decades in this market… and it wouldn’t compete nearly as directly with the cheap full-sizers that are killing the “compact” (actually midsized) pickups. So, is Kranz’s logic sound, or could a CR-V-based pickup mix up the market? Faith springs eternal for me when it comes to efficient utility vehicles… but what say you?

By on August 8, 2011

About a minute into this clip, the auto industry’s most ubiquitous reporter John McElroy reveals that he’s seen three future Lincoln concepts and insists that they

definitely signal that a big change is coming.

What he doesn’t say: what they look like or what the “big change” is… which is enough to make any inveterate skeptic wonder whether McElroy is shooting straight or if saying what he did was a condition of being shown the “future products.” What McElroy does reveal is that Lincoln now has

its own unique design studio located within Ford’s product development center in Dearborn Michigan, with its own unique design team. That has not been done in modern times.

Unfortunately, as Cadillac’s recent history proves, new design is just part of the successful luxury brand equation. Unique platforms are another. Strong marketing is another. Lincoln may be taking the first steps in the right direction, but it’s got a long, long way to go…

By on August 3, 2011

Edmunds Autoobserver reports that Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed in today’s Q2 analyst call that

“we’re in discussions with [Toyota] for a deal that is an order of magnitude larger than [the previous, $100m deal].” A Tesla official later confirmed to AutoObserver that by “order of magnitude,” Musk was stating that the 8-year-old company was discussing a $1 billion deal with the world’s largest automaker.

Holy Shnikeys! Check out Tesla’s Q2 shareholder letter here.

[UPDATE: So, what's going on? Toyota Japan reps are on break until Saturday, and we're still waiting on word from ToMoCo's US operations. Ask us to speculate, and we'd guess it has something to do with the NUMMI plant Toyota sold Tesla (the joint Tesla-Toyota RAV4 EV will be produced and sold to the public, but a plant has not yet been named. A joint venture at NUMMI makes sense because Tesla can't fill it to capacity alone. On the other hand, Wards reports that Toyota may be leaning towards Ontario as a production site for the RAV4 EV). Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk aren't saying anything for now either. Musk was last seen talking about saving humanity by helping it become a multiplanetary species... let's just hope we find out something else about this "billion dollar" deal before Elon decamps for Burning Man later this month.]

By on June 27, 2011

Having seen its RX-8 banned from Europe for flunking emissions tests, Mazda may be going to extreme lengths to improve the efficiency of its next-gen rotary engine (codenamed 16x) which has been in development since 2007. Autocar reports

The 16X’s capacity has been raised from 1304cc to 1600cc, and it is also physically smaller and partly built from aluminium. The changes are designed to improve two of the biggest issues with rotary engine performance: fuel economy and torque delivery.

The Mazda source said the new engine “needed a smaller hole on the wall [of the combustion chamber]” as a result of eliminating the space-hungry normal spark plug. He also admitted to Autocar that the use of laser ignition “was absolutely possible”.

Recent advances in Japan have created high-power lasers made from ceramics that measure just 9mm in diameter and 11mm in length, easily small enough to fit into a car engine.

Not only would laser ignition allow the 16x to burn leaner, it would also allow more precise control of ignition points and timing. More importantly, it would cement the Wankel rotary’s status as the least-necessary, most overly-complex and thoroughly awesome engine ever created. And they say emissions standards always make cars less interesting…

By on June 16, 2011

According to Auto Motor und Sport, this Opel “Junior” city car (A-Segment) could be sold in the US if Opel isn’t sold first and if union boss Klaus Franz gets his way. Though GM has ruled out selling the Opel brand in the US, Franz tells AM und S that

I can see strong demand for this car in the cities of the East and West coasts.

But if the Opel brand is off the table, what will this car be sold as? There’s been no rumor yet of a Buick-branded microcar, but Cadillac did recently show an A-Segment concept, called the ULC, that could tip the strategy for this car’s US-market design and branding. It’s just too bad TTAC’s Best and Brightest answered the question “Does Cadillac Need A MINI-Fighter?” with a resounding “NO”. But would a ULC-style micro-Caddy be any less appealing than a baby Buick? This car will be a tough sell coming from any of GM’s remaining brands, but with CAFE increases in the cards (and as prices rising anyway) this may an unavoidable conundrum.

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