Category: Product Planning

By on December 2, 2020

After teasing, promises, and COVID-related delays, the Infiniti QX55 debuted a few weeks ago, as Infiniti eagerly drew direct comparisons between their new “classy” successor and the departed FX35/45. You might remember that shapely SUV headed to its demise in 2017 after it was left to rot for a few years, then renamed QX70. Infiniti chose to ignore its final QX70 name in the press materials and call it FX instead, which says something about their branding strategy, doesn’t it?

Today I’m here to tell you this “new car” is a perfect example of exactly what’s wrong at Infiniti, and the changes needed years ago, not sometime in the future.

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By on November 11, 2020

ford logoAs we reported a couple of weeks ago, Ford is set to debut its new E-Transit electric van tomorrow. An announcement was made yesterday regarding the Transit’s production location. And the new van brings along some cash, and jobs as well.

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By on October 27, 2020

Mercedes-Benz has been committed to building many of its vehicles in North America for some time, and has bestowed an important and ultra expensive new version of the GLS upon its plant in Alabama. At around $200,000, it will be the most expensive passenger vehicle produced in the United States. It’s an on-trend holiday gift for your spouse in The Current Year!

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By on October 12, 2020

Just like the updated Ridgeline pickup we reported last week, the rest of the Honda brand is going more macho as well. The company’s former spokesperson has been replaced in favor of WWE fan favorite wrestler John Cena.

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By on October 7, 2020

Bugatti ChironThere have been some turbulent times at Bugatti in the second half of 2020. In addition to wearing a For Sale sign over at Volkswagen’s headquarters, the company is discovering that The Current Year just might not be the best time to create a new and super-exclusive hypercar. So it isn’t.

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By on October 5, 2020

Image: TeslaTesla continues their aggressive plans for dominance in the EV market. As we reported last week, the company has ambitious plans to enter the Indian market next year. While that market will certainly require a cheaper model than what the company sells now, Tesla’s on it. The brand intends to drive toward EV adoption with better, longer-lasting batteries and less expensive models.

And on Friday, word leaked of a deal over in Germany that’s an important part of Tesla’s expansion plan.

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By on October 1, 2020

Even the most capable of race horses eventually reach that day where they’re taken out behind the stables to be shot or stabbed  whatever happens to them after they’ve passed their prime. The same is true in the automotive realm, with the only difference being that the cars are not eventually turned into food for my cat.

Ford has decided to end production of the track-focused Mustang Shelby GT350/R this year. Introduced in 2015, the model uses a 5.2-liter “Voodoo” V8 with a flat-plane crankshaft for some of the nicest naturally aspirated action money can buy. On the current model year (which will also be the last) 526 horsepower is sent through a Tremec six-speed, with performance further aided by a transmission cooler, limited slip rear axle, track-worthy suspension, upgraded Brembo brakes and super-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber.

If you’re one of the few individuals who needs a good track-day vehicle, you could certainly do worse. And now you’ll have to because dealer orders already ended.

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By on September 30, 2020

Volkswagen Group, the largest automotive manufacturer in the world, is reexamining its relationship with high-performance subsidiaries as it continues pouring money into electrification. Burned by a diesel emissions scandal of its own making half a decade ago, VW leadership now views electric cars as the only path forward  especially in regard to its more mainstream brands. While they aren’t getting identical treatments, VW, Audi, Seat, and Skoda are all presumed to be adding EVs to their production lines over the next few years.

Porsche’s long-term strategy also seems heavily dependent on battery power, but the road ahead is much less clear for ultra-premium brands like Lamborghini and Bugatti. With volumes and lineups order of magnitudes smaller than the core brands, Volkswagen would be incurring a gigantic expense to develop upper-echelon performance EVs that might not appeal to their existing fans. The same goes for upscale motorcycle brand Ducati as the two-wheeled world has become divided on electric and gas-powered bikes. Volkswagen’s management board and directors have decided the situation calls for an all-hands meeting in November to decide what should be done and how to remain financially prudent in a period of economic strife.

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By on June 9, 2020

Since the dawn of the new century, the automotive industry has been forced to revise electrification timelines for a cavalcade of reasons. Development programs have proven costly, the economy has taken a turn (or turns) for the worse, customers haven’t responded in great numbers, and the materials necessary for battery have been in short supply for many. Throw in the trouble some companies have had with programming such cars or ending up with electric vehicles that want for truly enviable range and you’re beginning to see the whole, problematic enchilada.

It wasn’t all that long ago that General Motors promised over 20 new all-electric models by 2023. Granted, this promise was made in 2017 — during a time when the industry couldn’t possibly have foreseen the global hardships that would befall us or known we’d have the ability to remember what was said just a few years prior. The messaging has changed, either because mainstream automakers cannot provide the kind of cars that will continue to spur EV adoption, or because they no longer hold much interest in trying.  Read More >

By on May 29, 2020

2019 Dodge Challenger T/A 392

Dodge has been rumored to be working on a Challenger American Club Racer (ACR) for a while, encouraging your author to enact Google Alerts anytime the applicable terms crop up online. We hit pay dirt Thursday when Allpar issued insider information on the vehicle’s progress.

While you may have encountered previous ACR models from Dodge, most were likely within striking distance of a racetrack or beating your britches off in virtual racing experiences. The formula is basic, even if the execution is not. Dodge models with a preexisting racing pedigree are modified to be more track worthy; typical alterations include upgraded tires/wheels, adjustable suspensions, bigger brakes, closer gearing, slick aerodynamics, and aggressive weight reductions that throw NVH concerns to the wind. They’re track-day monsters, with all other responsibilities being secondary.  Read More >

By on May 14, 2020

Toyota

Lexus hasn’t been quiet about its need for crossovers. The brand went into the fad (it can’t last forever) underprepared with a fleet largely comprised of sedans; now it’s rumored to be developing a sub-$30,000 product following the launch of its subcompact UX model.

While a little surprising that Toyota’s luxury arm would pursue such a modestly priced vehicle, especially since it previously said cheap cars were a nonstarter, itty-bitty crossovers are in fashion right these days— and probably a good way to increase sales volume in select markets. Such a car would also give Lexus an opportunity add another model with a smaller-than-average carbon footprint, pleasing government regulators.

Serving as the basis for this hypothetical model will be the Toyota Yaris Cross. The Lexus allegedly carries the BX name and will serve as an unlikely candidate for the North American landscape. It may, however, see action in Europe and Asia if the manufacturer decides to pull the trigger.  Read More >

By on May 8, 2020

New Tesla Roadster

Tesla CEO Elon Musk appeared on the Joe Rogan Podcast this week, mentioning that the resurrected Roadster stands to see less love as the company turns its focus to other projects. Rogan, who already owns a Model S P100D and is an avid car collector, said he was interested in picking up the new Roadster once it becomes available. To that, Musk had some bad news. Higher-volume cars would have to come first.

“Roadster is kind of like dessert,” he said. “We gotta get the meat and potatoes and greens and stuff.”

The rest of the interview saw the two men discuss Musk’s opposition to unconstitutional lockdown orders resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as humanity’s growing need for symbiosis with technology in order to ensure we’re not left behind as artificial intelligence begins to surpass us — boring stuff that has nothing to do with cars.  Read More >

By on May 4, 2020

A lot of people gripe about BMW losing its edge. Formerly reserved for the greatest performance vehicles in its lineup, the M designation has migrated to encompass a rather large subset of the BMW fleet. While this has undoubtedly helped the brand boost its sales for years, it also muddied the waters of what constitutes an M.

In the past, BMW’s M vehicles denoted a marked increase in horsepower and real-world performance. Now they’re intermixed with M Sport trims that split the difference between standard fare and bonkers M in terms of output. And they haven’t been turning up the dial lately. In fact, the performance division of all German automakers seem to have slowed down on maximizing performance while the core business prioritizes fuel efficiency and electrification — largely because it’s expected of them by regulators.

It may not be so cut and dried. BMW CEO Markus Flasch has taken a keen interest in the M division, saying “we have to be very careful to preserve what M stands for” while evolving the brand. More recently, he said the automaker had no intent to cap output to appease anyone, claiming that the company’s performance arm has to think carefully about the future.  Read More >

By on March 6, 2020

Back in 2013, Aston Martin signed a deal with Daimler to supply the next generation of its performance vehicles with Mercedes-AMG engines and electrical systems. That arrangement is now coming to an end, as AMG has decided to replace its 4.0-liter V8 with a hybridized four-cylinder unit that’s more efficient. While the older Mercedes-sourced mill will linger in Aston Martin’s Vantage, DB11, and DBX luxury crossover, the manufacturer will eventually need to find its replacement.

Fortunately, it already has a motor in mind.  Read More >

By on March 4, 2020

Still in the midst of a $1.4-billion restructuring plan that aims to cut 10 percent of its workforce, Mercedes-Benz is reconsidering what its product lineup should look like moving ahead. While most of the doomed models will be chosen due to lackluster demand (e.g. X-Class pickup) plenty will be nixed as a result of tightening emission laws. Mercedes parent Daimler issued two profit warnings in 2019 after the luxury brand was fined $960 million in an emissions-cheating settlement. Like many automakers, it was also hemorrhaging cash through its investments in electrification.

An apt analogy for the automotive industry’s stampede toward EVs would be lemmings hurling themselves off a seaside cliff — but not because of the popular misconception that the critters are intentionally committing mass suicide. When lemmings collectively off themselves, it’s the result of migratory behavior gone awry. They simply bunch up and move in a singular direction, largely unaware of the consequences.  Read More >

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