Category: Product Planning

By on December 11, 2019

2018 Dodge Durango SRT

Despite the current-generation Dodge Durango seemingly having been put into production immediately after the solar protoplanetary disk focused enough cosmic debris to assemble our humble little planet, it still moves in decent volumes in the United States. Officially in service since MY2011 (a little more recent than previously stated), sales of the 3rd-gen Durango are still going strong near the end of its life cycle. Deliveries run about 65,000 per year. That’s roughly the same annual volume it’s had since a mild refresh in 2014, and rather impressive considering the model has gone largely unchanged — save for a few performance-focused updates in its later years.

Unfortunately, this heavyweight doesn’t offer idyllic fuel economy. It’s decent for a vehicle with a curb weight between 4,500 and 5,500 pounds, and I’m routinely impressed with the highway miles Dodge manages to eek out from its big V8s, but it’s not ambitious in an era where maximizing mileage is an almost mandatory pursuit. The best the Durango can muster is 19 city/26 highway with its entry-level Pentastar V6.

That is, until the mild-hybrid variant arrives in 2020.  Read More >

By on November 5, 2019

Image: Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, by Corey Lewis

“How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?” – Charles de Gaulle

I have a friend, one whose living room is decked out in red shag carpeting, who often jokes that his tastes in fashion and other trappings of life tend to straddle the line between respectable and… over the top. Cheeseball, in other words. Many times I’ll find myself suggesting, in that delicate manner long-time friends are so good at, that perhaps he’s teetered off that fence and fallen solidly on the wrong side of it.

In the auto realm, cheese is more than ever relegated to the aftermarket, but perhaps OEMs haven’t left this dairy product entirely in the past? Read More >

By on November 4, 2019

Celebrating 30 years of existence, Infiniti announced it was time for a sea change this week. While sales have improved since the recession, last year saw a modest decline in volume that carried over into 2019 in a big way. Year to date, Nissan volume is down 6 percent, with Infiniti posting a 17.1-percent loss — we discussed this earlier in the day, if you’re interested.

Most of this saga is occuring in the United States, where Infiniti sources the bulk of its sales. China and Europe are footnotes for the manufacturer. Yet Infiniti would very much like to improve its global appeal, so it’s banking on EV adoption as being the next global consumer craze.

Considering how many countries are embracing stringent emission goals, Nissan’s premium arm could be making a wise choice. However, the U.S. hasn’t been quite so eager to push (or embrace) automotive electrification — meaning Infiniti could be endangering the one market that’s keeping it afloat. Unfortunately, the status quo doesn’t seem to be working, either — encouraging the automaker to adopt alternative powertrains and design cues in the coming years.  Read More >

By on October 25, 2019
Yesterday, TTAC reported on a leaked video (quickly confirmed by Ford) that showed an all-new “Mustang-inspired” model due for debut in November. A sleek, four-door CUV appears on the screen. Highlighted in silhouette, its design represents so many familiar Mustang cues. It’s the Mustang of the future, and it’s a future that will be electric and have four doors.
By on October 1, 2019

Despite delivering what could be considered a desirable premium EV with the I-Pace, Jaguar Land Rover admits it’s not entirely sold on the idea of electric sport utility vehicles. Due to their size, SUVs and crossovers are inherently heavier than traditional sedans — placing them at odds with the goal of maximizing efficiency.

More mass means diminished range. While this can be offset by a manufacturer installing larger battery packs, that increases costs and ultimately adds more heft to the single heaviest component in an EV. Large electrics bring other issues to the engineering table, too.

“The larger the vehicle the larger the aero challenge. If you’re not careful you end up with such big batteries and you make the vehicles so heavy that as you race down the autobahn the range disappears,” Nick Rogers, JLR’s head of engineering, told media at the company’s revamped engineering and design center in Gaydon, England. Read More >

By on September 17, 2019

Audi Q8 Concept NAIAS Rear, Image: © 2017 Jeff Wilson/The Truth About Cars

Yesterday, the illustrious and quite tall Matthew Guy asked about the most linguistically pleasing model names. I tossed out the AMC Ambassador as a model that rolls off the tongue in a flood of satisfaction.

AMC Ambassador — it’s like one of those old, alliteration-addicted British airliners like the Bristol Brabazon or Vickers Vanguard. Actually, one airliner to roll out of the UK at the time was the Airspeed Ambassador, so AMC’s biggest offering had a friend on the other side of the pond.

While we’re not here today to talk about names per se, we are about to delve into wordplay again. What automotive term gets under your skin? Read More >

By on September 12, 2019

Image: Audi

You might not have noticed but Audi has been quietly reducing the complexity of its lineup by eliminating certain content combinations, often in select markets. Here, the biggest change was the elimination of the manual gearbox for 2019. But Audi said it needed to be done due to there being an abysmally low take rate for besticked vehicles in North America.

Apparently, the automaker is just getting warmed up on tamping down the configurations. In an recent chat with Autocar, Audi CEO Bram Schot said there was plenty more work to be done. Having already reduced the number of model variants in certain regions by 27 percent, compared to last year’s options, the CEO said the manufacturer still wasn’t where it wanted to be.  Read More >

By on September 12, 2019

Mazda’s Salamanca plant is adding the CX-30 to its production line, ensuring its cars-and-crossovers strategy launches as planned. With the Mexican facility already manufacturing the Mazda3, it’s not a shock to see the compact added to the factory lineup as the pair utilize the same platform. In fact, Salamanca is already undergoing retooling to make sure it can incorporate the CX-30 and there were swirling rumors that the company’s official factory announcement would happen sometime this month.

While no formal announcement has been made, the company confirmed the move with Automotive News on Wednesday. Miguel Barbeyto, president of Mazda Mexico, said the facility had been selected partially due to the CX-30’s role as a global product. Mexico has free-trade agreements with numerous nations that Mazda believes will help it efficiently distribute Mexican-made product throughout Europe and North/South America.  Read More >

By on September 11, 2019

Naming a car is difficult. All the best predatory animals have been taken and getting creative often results in the certain parts of the world thinking you’ve intentionally named your car something hilarious. Chevrolet’s Nova is the classic example, but modern automobiles still run into trouble. Hyundai’s Kona falls on Portuguese ears as the most vulgar synonym for vagina (an oddly common theme among car monikers) and Audi’s e-Tron translates roughly into French as “turd.” It’s no wonder so many automakers simply forgo issuing real names, opting instead for an alphanumeric jumble.

When Volkswagen began previewing concept versions of its electrified ID lineup, models used a bizarre naming strategy. Maybe titles like Roomzz, Buzz, Crozz, and Vizzion sound better in German, but they didn’t play well here. VW’s solution to the problem has been to simply assign their production counterparts with a number — and it’s looking like that will be continue to be the case.

While the brand was showcasing the new ID.3 hatchback at the Frankfurt Motor Show this week, it also teased a follow-up model that will actually make its way stateside. Originally dubbed the Crozz, the car is now named simply “ID.4.”  Read More >

By on September 9, 2019

nissan imx concept

Despite bringing the electric Leaf to market while the rest of the industry was still scratching its head over how to handle EVs, Nissan has since lost its lead. Eager to get back into the race, the automaker is putting together what it hopes will be a market-friendly model utilizing battery power. It previewed a pre-production concept to U.S. dealers last month.

While the clandestine nature of its debut leaves a lot up in the air, it’s clearly aimed at besting the latest and greatest coming from rival manufacturers. Range will be in the neighborhood of 300 miles, with room for five and sprightly acceleration. The shape? Crossover, obviously.  Read More >

By on September 4, 2019

Last year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced a €5 billion plan to set the table for more palatable electric vehicles — including hybrids — and boost capacity utilization at its Italian facilities. Roughly one fifth of that total will go toward the launch of a compact crossover from Alfa Romeo and Fiat’s upcoming Panda hybrid.

Numerous Italian trade unions (AQCF, FIM, FISMIC, UGLM, and UILM), after speaking with the manufacturer, have confirmed the Pomigliano plant will undergo some retooling in preparation for the new models. Meanwhile, FCA confirmed the cost to Reuters — stipulating that the total investment for the two models would be “closer to 1 billion than 500 million euros.”  Read More >

By on August 12, 2019

While public interest in crossovers has encouraged Nissan to rejigger its global offerings, the automaker has refused to abandon small sedans. It’s something we’ve seen across the board with Japanese automakers. As the crossover craze hit full swing, both Toyota and Honda said that abandoning entry-level automobiles might mean leaving first-time buyers behind. Despite crossovers bringing in more customers and money, small sedans and hatchbacks have a tendency to reel in new, young customers. Japanese brands sees the prospect of gaining life-long patrons as an advantage, especially as other automakers (*ahem, the Detroit Three*) shift away from such vehicles.

Nissan’s situation is more complicated. It can’t ignore its bottom line after last months’s dismal financial report, and rumors abound that it will soon begin to pair down its lineup. However, that will not involve culling its small-car offerings.  Read More >

By on July 31, 2019

The news of Nissan’s recent financial trouble brought attention right where it needs to be: on lackluster product. In our most recent reporting regarding Nissan’s sales woes, I was asked in the comments whether I had any ideas for improvement. Well that got me thinking (and worked up), and it turns out I do have ideas, and they fall into three major categories.

Read More >

By on July 22, 2019

With Oliver Zipse confirmed as BMW’s new chief executive, practically everyone theorized on how he was going to shake up the strategy established under former-CEO Harald Krüger — which revolved around gradually introducing more EVs via a highly flexible architecture. While we were disinclined to agree, a swath of industry experts and media outlets claimed this was a terrible blueprint for the brand and expected Zipse to come up with something different.

However, he looks to be offering more of the same. That begs the question as to why Krüger actually left the company and taints the validity of suggestions that his product strategy was internally viewed as a failureRead More >

By on July 22, 2019

Mini might not make sense as a automotive company anymore, at least not in the United States. Consumer tastes have shifted away from small cars and practically everyone is interested in crossovers these days. While this issue has been less pronounced in Europe, where the Mini has enjoyed an uptick in sales, the brand has been struggling in North America. U.S. volumes are comparatively low and have been on the decline since 2015. It’s not a total disaster, but annual deliveries have been wallowing south of 50,000 units for a couple of years now. Nobody can pretend there isn’t a problem.

The fix, according to parent company BMW Group, is to fill up Mini’s product portfolio with crossover vehicles while also giving the little Hardtop a bit of love.  Read More >

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