With a majority of automakers snubbing the upcoming auto show in Detroit, there’s not likely to be much to talk about in terms of new product beyond the next-generation Ford Mustang. But there are interesting things happening elsewhere on the planet if we’re using interesting as a polite euphemism for strange.
General Motors’ joint operation in China, SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co., is releasing a poverty-tier convertible that makes the long-dead Chrysler Sebring look positively decadent by comparison. Based on the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV – a boxy microcar that only measures 114.8 inches in length – the Cabrio will be a limited production convertible requiring Chinese customers to participate in a lottery.
Ford’s latest addition has officially arrived, with the compact pickup showing off its surprise standard hybrid powertrain. While we knew there would be a hybrid motor, we weren’t anticipating it coming as default equipment — especially since it seemed important that the manufacturer keep it priced a healthy distance from the midsized Ranger.
However, the Maverick starts at $21,490, distancing itself from its bigger brother by a few grand and maintaining a healthy amount of financial space from the unibody Honda Ridgeline. We’re likewise dubious that Hyundai will be able to price the upcoming Santa Cruz low enough to match the Ford. Though we’re going to need to dig a little deeper before any serious assessments can be made as to whether or not that’s meaningful. It could turn out to be a complete dud, nullifying any value its price tag represents.
Last week, Toyota financial results for the fiscal year that ended March 31st were announced. Vehicle sales totaled 7,646,000, a decrease of 1,309,000 units, or a little less than 15 percent compared to the previous fiscal year.
Net revenue was $256.7 billion, an 8.8 percent decrease. Operating income decreased from $22.6 billion to $20.7 billion, while income before taxes amounted to $27.6 billion. Net income was up from $19.2 billion to $21.1 billion.
The Bronco family, as Ford calls the trifecta composed of the Bronco Two-Door, Four-Door, and Bronco Sport, has a singular mission: to leverage the fond memories and emotions generated by a storied nameplate to lure new buyers to the brand, boosting the automaker’s volume and profitability.
Despite the pandemic, Ford’s expectations haven’t changed. And the ideal buyers of any member of the Bronco family isn’t someone who can take advantage of Plan Pricing.
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.
Cooperation and borrowing between auto manufacturers is nothing new, and it isn’t always a bad thing. For example, look what happened in the 1980s when Lincoln borrowed a BMW inline-six turbodiesel for its Continental Mark VII luxury coupe. Oh, maybe that’s not the best example. But two events this week have led to a couple of new examples for us to ponder.
How do you think these cooperative automotive projects will fare?
Audi’s first electric sport utility vehicle, the much-touted E-Tron, will arrive at dealerships a month later than anticipated. According to the automaker, a software development issue has stymied the rollout.
While nothing has reportedly busted, Audi claims it needs to obtain the necessary regulatory clearances for some ones and zeros that were modified during the development process. Normally, we would assume the applicable agencies would have been informed of this in advance, but we don’t know what Audi changed. All the manufacturer admits to is that alterations were made to benefit the customer.
What do buyers like? Ultra-lux trims and big-bucks window stickers, that’s what. At least, that’s the gist of General Motors’ media run-down of the new 2019 Buick Regal Avenir — the third vehicle in the Buick stable to undergo the high-zoot treatment, and a model we uncovered last week.
“Avenir” debuted on the revamped-for-2018 Enclave, then made its way to the LaCrosse sedan. It exists because Denali exists, and Buick saw what the addition of that sub-brand did for GMC sales, to say nothing of average transaction price and profits. After crunching some numbers, Buick decided the Regal Sportback was the next obvious candidate for the brand’s “highest expression of luxury.”
For years, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class represented all the cutting-edge automotive wizardly you could hope to see trickle down into plebeian cars. That honor now belongs to the Audi A8. While Mercedes recently revamped the S-Class to better compete with Audi, the A8 is back with a vengeance — proclaiming itself, once again, to be the future of automobiles.
Now that “luxury car” really means “technology buffet,” Audi has adorned the 2019 A8 with the very best it can offer, hoping to find its way back into the premium vehicle market’s good graces.
It’s always nice to see a station wagon in North America. Crossovers may have caught on faster than fidget spinners in a wildfire, but they’ll never be able to offer the same diving dynamics of a lower-slug automobile — leaving room for wagons to persist.
Likewise, rebranding estate cars as shooting brakes or “sportbrakes” is helping give the niche segment some much-needed panache, extending its appeal beyond the true believers. Wagons have long since become an endangered species in certain parts of the world but, thanks to conservation efforts from several carmakers, we might not lose them entirely.
One of those companies is Jaguar. It has yet to abandon the cargo-happy bodystyle and has even seen fit to bring the XF Sportbrake to the United States for the very first time — possibly because it realizes wagon lovers are now one of the most underserved demographics in autodom.
Audi issued a press release today to remind the world that it’s going to be Germany’s preeminent source for sport utility vehicles. While every major automaker is making a push into the segment, Volkswagen Group has assigned Audi with one of the largest.
Today, the company outlined its production strategy for the forthcoming Q4 and Q8 models, reaffirming its claim that crossovers could account for half of its global sales in the very near future. By 2019, Audi will have expanded its SUV lineup to include seven individual models and increased its overall production volume to meet the growing demand.
Lucid Motors’ production EV turned out to be a much more reasonable entry than anyone expected. The media buzz was that LM’s Air would be a super-sedan offering up to 1,000 horsepower and a 400 mile range — a real Tesla killer. With a 1,000 horses and instantaneous torque, it would actually shame just about everything else on the road, regardless of how it was powered. However, as is so often the case with EV startups, the reality is significantly more nuanced than the hype.
That doesn’t mean Lucid can’t be a massive thorn in Tesla’s side, though. Looking over the freshly released details of the Air reveals a highly competitive base model (on paper) and, since this is the base model, there remains room for that ludicrously powerful and extravagantly priced car we were promised.
In the interim, consumers will just have to be satisfied with a much more affordable unit, but it still outdoes the base model Tesla in terms of power, range, and price.
Volkswagen showcased its second-generation Tiguan at the 2016 Frankfurt Auto Show, so it is a little underwhelming to see another one at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. However, the Frankfurt debut was the Euro-spec model. A modestly sized SUV simply won’t do for a nation that has experienced decades of drive-through grease burgers, cross-country camping excursions, and massive expanses of multi-lane highways. America has bigger people, bigger roads, and more junk to haul around.
A perfectly adequate-sized vehicle in Europe is a tiny baby’s toy in the United States — and we all know which country Volkswagen is eager to please right now. With this in mind, the German automaker delivered a stretched version of the Tiguan crossover specifically for North American consumers.
All that leg-stretching, snot-nosed kid-hauling, hockey equipment-carrying, ATV-lugging space that new vehicle buyers so desperately crave comes at a premium.
Thanks to this insatiable thirst for crossovers, SUVs, and pickups, the average new vehicle transaction price jumped to a new record in 2016. Good news for manufacturers, but also for those selling their old ride.