News of the next Alfa Romeo Spider sharing its technology with the Mazda MX-5 led to some speculation that the Spider would be a more expensive version of the MX-5, perhaps with a bespoke powertrain and styling. Not quite.
Everyone expecting there would be some kind of droptop Aventador – after all, what’s the point of a supercar if the people who bullied you in high school can’t see how rich and successful you are? But we weren’t expecting this.
Luxury roadsters have always been niche vehicles. With the economic implosion over the last decade, that niche has become even smaller. Last year the Mercedes SLK and BMW Z4 each sold less than 3,500 units on our shores, down from over 10,000 each back in 2006 and Canadian sales are roughly a tenth of that. While Mercedes is likely crying in their delicious geflügelsuppe, roadster shoppers benefit by being able to drive one of the most exclusive Mercedes models available on our shores. While the last model awkwardly aped the unholy union of a Mercdes F1 car and a bottlenose dolphin, the new model sells itself with sexy new sheet metal, 29 MPG on the highway and a $54,800 base price.
Do you badly want a new mid-engined Porsche? Is the Boxster/Cayman combo still a bit rich for your blood, given the weak economy? Chances are you have been waiting patiently for news about Porsche’s “Baby Boxster,” the long-discussed, entry-level, flat-four-powered version of Volkswagen’s Bluesport concept. The sad news: you may be waiting quite a bit longer. In an interview with the FT Deutschland, Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller says
There is no decision to develop this car into production. The decision is due soon, but they may well drag on into next year
Why? Well that’s easy: Porsche’s number one priority is to remain the world’s most profitable automaker, with “at least” a 15% operating margin and a 21% return on capital. And it can hit its 200k sales by 2018 goal without adding a sixth or seventh model… thanks to the fact that its fifth model is an entry-level SUV, called the Cajun.
Slightly over 11 years ago, Jaguar set the car world’s heart a-flutter with the sleek, stunning F-Type concept. Shortly thereafter they said they’d build it, and relentless hype (including a totally unconvincing C&D “First Drive Review” featuring no actual driving impressions) followed. As the years dragged on, it soon became clear that Jaguar would not be building the achingly gorgeous sub-XK roadster (a decision that Robert Farago called “a shocking miscalculation“). But now, with mules already prowling the British countryside, a new baby Jag roadster concept is coming to the Frankfurt Auto Show… and Jaguar tells Autocar it will be a “precursor” to the coming production model. As a big fan of Ian Callum’s work, I’m sure it will look absolutely delicious… but if this somehow turns out to be another F-Type-style tease, Jaguar will be dead to me forever. [UPDATE: video preview after the jump]
With VW wading into the budget roadster segment with its forthcoming BlueSport mid-engine roadster, it seems that Kia wants in on the action as well. Reports are surfacing in Europe and the US that the Korean automaker is making good on Peter Schreyer’s threats, and is developing its first roadster since it bought up the tooling and IP for Lotus’s front-drive Elan, which it sold in Korea between 1996 and 1999.
In 2007 Jaguar started the most intensive make-over in the brand’s history with the redesigned XK. While the look was drop-dead gorgeous, the interior was more evolution than revolution when you consider the direction the XF and new XJ have taken. Now that the world has managed to catch its breath after the shock of the XF and XJ’s ultra-chic modern styling, Jaguar decided to give the XK a thorough refresh in 2010.
There’s a great playground in Berkeley, near the Rose Garden, that has a two-story tall twisted and banked concrete slide down the side of a hill, of the sort that cities would never build again in our modern liability-freaked danger-averse era. Blissfully unaware of this, the local kids use torn-up cardboard boxes to reduce their friction and go even faster. While I watched, one kid went sailing off the end, landing flat on his back. He stood up and did a high-five with one of his friends, grinning from ear to ear. “That was hella cool!”
There I was yesterday, nattering away about how Tesla can’t keep its focus, unaware that Tesla was releasing “Version 2.5″ of its Roadster EV. And by the looks of it, Tesla is almost taking the “Ferrari of Silicon Valley” thing too far, by giving its latest roadster a Ferrari 599 GTO-style red-and-black paint job. What Tesla clearly hasn’t learned from Ferrari however, is that you need to offer more than a revised fascia, improved heat management and an optional back-up camera if you want to trumpet something as new. This is what the industry refers to as a facelift or a new model-year. Still, it doesn’t look half bad…
MINI’s new six-model lineup gets an early preview, as the Cooper, Convertible, Clubman, Countryman, Coupe and Roadster meet up outside MINI’s plant in Oxford, England. The Countryman SUV won’t arrive in the states until February 2011, with the Coupe and Roadster following by six and 12 months respectively.
With all the drama surrounding Alfa Romeo’s future, it’s heartening to see that the brand is still taking the time to work on core competencies like the emotional drop-top two-seater. Nobody knows for sure if Alfa will survive past the end of this year, but if they do, this is probably how they should celebrate. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has been urging Alfa to “find religion,” and soon… happily, the 2uettottanta Concept sure looks like the work of true believers. With just a little Pontiac Solstice thrown in for good measure.
I’ve been warned before by the B&B not to read too much into the forward-looking statements in SEC filings, especially the ones where companies ruminate over all the things that could still go wrong with their struggling firms. These legal disclosures of worst-case-scenarios often reflect unlikely scenarios and can be downright misleading, so we held off from diving too deep into Tesla’s IPO S-1 filing [complete document here]. Others around the web have jumped in without compunction, and this week has yielded a steady drip of troubling revelations. It’s a wild and woolly collection of issues, but given that people are going to be asked to invest in this nightmare of a company, it’s only fair that we give the grievances an airing.
We overlooked a key point in our write-up on Tesla’s IPO plans: the profits Elon Musk has been touting are a mirage. As this balance sheet from Tesla’s IPO prospectus [read the whole thing at the SEC here, it's a giggle] proves, Tesla might have fudged a one-month profit, but the company is hardly on a sustainable footing. Unless you consider seven million bucks in “gross profit” (including Zero Emissions Vehicle credits) enough to offset a nearly $29m operating loss, in which case, I’d like to talk to you about underwriting TTAC’s budget. This also puts into Tesla’s disclosure that it faces declining revenue into some scary perspective. Notch another one up for Farragoian skepticism…
Think the new Z4 is a bloated boulevard cruiser unworthy of the roadster-implying Z badge? We’d tend to agree. Which is why we were chuffed to see renderings of a possible BMW 1 Series-based Z2 roadster in the most recent Auto Motor und Sport (print edition). Several Einser engines will be available say AM und S, up to and including the 306 hp 135i engine. BMW M division boss Kay Segler even hints that an M car based on the 1 series is in the works. This roadster seems like as good a variant as any for the treatment.