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.

Read More >

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.

By on May 18, 2011

When Chrysler Group Design boss Ralph Gilles said yesterday that “nothing has changed from the Five Year Plan,” I failed to mention one of the issues that made his statement less than entirely accurate: the planned “mid-sized pickup” which was supposed to debut as a 2011 model. The planned unibody pickup was labeled as “under consideration” at the time, and since nobody has mentioned it since (and because Honda’s Ridgeline has been losing sales), most industry watchers seemed to think the idea was stillborn. Not so, reports wheels.ca. Citing insiders and suppliers briefed on the program, Wheels says the new truck will be built in Windsor, Ontario on Chrysler Group’s minivan platform as

an insurance policy that the plant will continue on three shifts at full capacity.

Which isn’t as thrilling a justification as, say, “the compact pickup market has been shamefully neglected for years, and rising gas prices and CAFE standards make well-developed, modern, fuel-efficient pickups a no-brainer,” but it will have to do. And since Chrysler is reportedly targeting only 15k-20k units per year, it’s not particularly surprising either. In honor of Chrysler’s return to front-drive, compact pickups, be sure to check out the Curbside Classic on its progenitor, the Dodge Rampage.

By on May 11, 2011

Apparently possessing the institutional memory of sperm, the auto media is once again trotting out the 50-year-old rumor that will never die: OMG, the new Corvette is going to be mid-engined! Or, as we are so fond of saying around here, not. The madness started earlier this week, when GM North America boss Mark Reuss blew his dog whistle by hinting that the C7 Corvette would be “completely different.” The media needed no further encouragement to trot out the mid-engine rumor once again. As Paul Niedermeyer has pointed out, the mid-engined ‘vette speculation has been an industry institution since Zora Arkus Duntov posed proudly with his CERV I concept in 1959.  Besides, Corvette engineers have been emphasizing the C7′s evolutionary nature for some time. Reuss’s hints could be about something as mundane and pre-signaled as a split rear window, or as out-there as Two-Mode hybrid option. Hoping for more is, I fear, would amount to a failure to learn the lessons of history.

By on May 10, 2011

One of Bertel and my favorite Chinese car blogs, ChinaCarNews, has been reporting since October than the next-generation of MG/Roewe midsized sedans would be based on GM’s Global Midsized (Epsilon II) chassis (which underpins Buick LaCrosse/Regal and the new Chevy Malibu), and now the rest of the media appears to be catching up. From InsideLine to Autocar, everyone’s running with the story that MG/Roewe, which is owned by GM’s main Chinese partner SAIC, is working on an Epsi II-based MG7 for launch in the 2015 timeframe. According to InsideLine

[In 2015], the MG7/Roewe 750 sedan replacement appears some 15 years after the debut of the Rover 75 they’re based on. A coupelike four-door, it uses GM’s Epsilon platform and will be powered by 2.0 and 2.4 four-cylinder gasoline engines and a 1.9 diesel, all with dual-clutch transmissions.

GM and SAIC signed a Memorandum Of Understanding back in October [.DOC file here], which included the provision that, in addition to developing a next-gen electric architecture,

SAIC and GM anticipate sharing an additional vehicle architecture and powertrain application in an effort to help reduce development costs and benefit from economies of scale.

This could explain MG/Roewe’s rumored use of the Epsilon II chassis, but for the moment GM dismisses these rumors as “speculation.” And no wonder: even GM hasn’t announced when it will offer a dual-clutch transmission in its Global Midsized platform. Chances are, The General will want to offer that combination before its Chinese partners use it to beef up its MG/Roewe brands, which have been in product rehab for some time now.

By on March 23, 2011

Reflecting on the recently-previewed Chevy Colorado Concept, Automotive News [sub]‘s Rick Krantz notes

During an interview this year at the Detroit auto show, Jamie Hresko, then vice president of GM global powertrain engineering, strongly suggested the automaker was exploring a new mid-sized pickup. He resigned in late February to pursue other opportunities.

To meet proposed higher U.S. fuel economy and lower emissions standards, automakers that sell in the United States eventually will need to develop a leaner range of pickups, Hresko said.

At some point, especially with the likelihood of higher gasoline prices down the road, a smaller, lighter-weight pickup is inevitable…

Read More >

By on February 15, 2011


The Daily Beast reports:

As General Motors Co. gets closer to emerging from government oversight, the automaker is trying to hire Bob Lutz, its former chief of vehicle development, as a consultant…
The U.S. Treasury has opposed Lutz’s appointment on the grounds that, since he left the company last May, paying him so close to his retirement could look like a sweetheart payout. The government could soften its opposition in three months, once a year has passed since Lutz’s retirement.

Could it be true? Could the man credited with all of GM’s success and none of its failures really be coming back for more? More to the point, as a consultant? Bob’s current gigs are advising an electric scooter company and the Lotus “revival”… does GM really want to put itself in that company? Oh, who are we kidding? We want Lutz back. The industry just seems so damn boring without him…

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