With Lincoln abandoning the tradition Panther platform Town Car and moving to the awkwardly shaped MKT for its offerings to livery fleet operators, you might think that Cadillac would aggressively market their new XTS to the “black car” industry. The XTS, like the outgoing Town Car, is a traditionally styled luxury sedan. Cadillac just announced it’s plans going forward for professional vehicles, and while they are indeed based on the XTS. Cadillac will be appealing to fleet operators that want to offer something a bit more luxurious to their customers than the decontented Town Cars of recent years.
Though we haven’t even seen a production version yet, Cadillac’s forthcoming XTS has already lived a full, controversy-laden life. Initially suggested as a replacement for the DTS/STS, the Cadillac faithful quickly recoiled at the idea of a luxury “flagship” based on a stretched version of the Epsilon II midsized platform that underpins the Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Malibu. But with the Cadillac Ciel Concept showing the way forward for a “true” Caddy flagship which will eventually become the brand’s standard-bearer, the XTS’s role has been somewhat redefined. Expectations for the XTS were walked back by GM CEO Dan Akerson, who famously said that it was
not going to blow the doors off, but will be very competitive
And this week the enigma that is the XTS only deepened, as Cadillac announced two bits of seemingly contradictory information about it: first, that it would spearhead a new high-tech interface (see video above) and second, that it would mark GM’s return to the livery car business.
The debate over July’s sales results is going to heat up again with this infographic showing the fleet and retail results for the major US brands. And one thing is clear: Toyota and Honda’s tumble from the top was not disguised by a huge bump in fleet sales. Though retail volume at the top two Japanese brands dropped by between 20 and 30 percent, both cut way back on fleet sales as well… which is a highly recommendable move when supply problems hit. After all, you have to squeeze every last penny out of the remaining volume until inventory levels even out. On the other hand, both Ford and GM cranked up fleet volume last month, with Ford’s fleet percentage leaping to an industry-leading 31%. That gives Ford the lowest retail percentage of all major automakers, with GM only five points ahead. Chrysler was the only other major OEM under 90% for the month, at 84%. So those who argue that domestics are taking over the industry need to dial back their expectations a bit for the moment: between the supply issues and the fleet picture, it’s too early to determine what exactly is going on in the industry. But if the domestics trim back on fleet and Toyota and Honda continue to lose volume over the month of August, then we can start talking about the kinds of seismic shifts that some are already reading in the sales numbers.
Nissan’s NV200-based entrant into New York City’s Taxi of Tomorrow contest has won the contract (reportedly worth over a billion dollars), reports Reuters, beating out two other finalists, one based on Ford’s Transit Connect, the other from Turkey’s Karsan Otomotiv. The decision may be taking a few New Yorkers by surprise, as Reuters reports that the Turkish entrant’s clear glass ceiling made it a crowd favorite, and that
Karsan also hoped to gain favour with city officials by promising to assemble the cars in Brooklyn, vowing to use union labour. The plant would have marked a return of auto-making to the city for first time in about a century.
Though New Yorkers may have preferred a locally-built model to take over from the 16 vehicles currently serving as NYC Taxis, the NV200 seems like a sweet little van. So congratulations, Nissan… now, are we ready to start talking about a civilian version?
With Sprinter back under the Mercedes sign, Chrysler Group is looking to Europe and Fiat’s Doblò (above) and larger Ducato to expand back into the commercial van segment, starting next year. The European commercial vans are a far cry from the last Ram-branded body-on-frame vans, as the Doblò is actually based on a 108.5 inch wheelbase version of Fiat’s SCCS platform, a development of GM’s Gamma subcompact platform. As a result, the front-drive Doblò comes with engines ranging from 1.3 to 2.0 liters, and are largely powered by diesel engines. The Doblò is available in everything from a two-door chassis cab pickup, a three-, four- or five-door panel van, or a five-door passenger configuration.Because the new Ram commercial vehicles will be imported starting next year, expect only the van variants to avoid the “chicken tax.“
The larger, rear-drive Ducato offers a dizzying number of body variants, with wheelbases ranging from 118.1 inches to 149.6 inches, and offers only diesel engines in displacements from 2.2 to 3.0 liters with 100-155 HP. Until we get more details, it’s impossible to know which versions of these vehicles will come to the US, and whether the diesel and (for possibly even natural gas) versions will come as well. But the real question remains the same as it was a year ago:
how will these Euro-derived efficiency-oriented urban haulers jive with the Ram brand’s overbearingly bro-magnon branding?
You’d think that a place with “taxation without representation” on its license plates would pay close attention to fiscal decisions, but according to a fascinating Washington Post story, when it comes to cars, all bets are off. District of Columbia Council Chairman Kwame Brown has claimed for months that his leased Lincoln Navigator was simply issued to him by the District, but thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, it has been discovered that Brown simply bullied his way into a $1,900/month “fully loaded” Navigator lease that had to be sourced all the way from Kansas City.
The story might just seem aggravating if you may be asked to pay for D.C.’s $440m budget shortfall, but it’s also a fascinating insight into government vehicle sourcing. We’ve covered some strange government vehicle purchases before, but we’ve never before seen exactly how politicians go about securing their unnecessarily flash rides. The key: just insist on the best and don’t take no for an answer. Read the whole thing. [Hat Tip: Brady Holt]
Ford’s sales momentum continues unabated, as the Blue Oval has announced that its January sales were up 25 percent over January 2009 [full release in PDF format here]. Sales were led by a a strong performance from Ford-branded cars, which were up 54 percent as a category, with individual nameplates logging gains ranging from 33 percent (Focus, 10,389 units) to 121 percent (Taurus, 3,768 units). Ford Crossovers and SUVs were up 16.7 and 12.9 percent respectively, with most of the volume gains coming from CUVs like the Escape (+28.6%, 10,753) and Edge (+25.5%, 6,243 units). Ford truck sales were up 14.5 percent, with heavy commercial vehicles falling and the Ranger recording a strong 47.3 percent gain to 4,143 units.
Maybe Auto Bild missed the memo that police fleet Ford Crown Victorias have been called “Interceptor” since 1992. Either way, they’re arguing that Ford’s new “all-new Interceptor” should be a production version of 2006′s Ford Interceptor Concept. “With it the police’s new transportation would not only be more modern, but also properly cool,” they deadpan. “Ford has to assert itself to remain the dominant supplier of service vehicles. Starting with the Interceptor wouldn’t be bad: the concept looks cool. Next to it, the Crown Victoria looks like a real dinosaur,” is the sage conclusion. Not to mention a luxuriously spacious vehicle. Sorry guys, but short of the Interceptor’s influence on the Taurus (which will most likely underpin the “all new Interceptor”), this one sounds way too cool for reality.