Catching a problem early usually means avoiding it, but in GM’s case it’s looking like the opposite will prove true.
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It’s hard out there for a sports car manufacturer, especially if it is owned by a larger company.
Over the last 17-years, Lotus has not made a profit for its parent company. That was not such a big deal since Lotus was seen as more of a high-class brand name for the Malaysian state-owned Proton. However, just earlier this year, Proton sold its 42.7% stake in Lotus to DRB-Hicom, one of the largest private companies in Malaysia. Generally, private companies are much more concerned with making a profit rather than owning a company just for its prestige.
Now word comes from Lotus CEO Dany Bahar, that the future of Lotus’ production is in jeopardy, as development for new models like the updated Esprit have been suspended. In fact, Bahar was “completely taken aback” when he learned at the Geneva Auto Show, that the entire Proton group would enter a three-month “lockdown.”
That means, only normal trading activities would be allowed, hence all future developments have been suspended. This lockdown will even effect its recently announced models like the Exige S and the Evora GTE. The new Esprit will now likely be pushed to a 2014 launch, which means the concept would be nearly five-years old when it hits the road.
That is, if DRB-Hicom even decides to keep Lotus. Rumors suggest that they will want to off-load the unprofitable Lotus brand, which means Bahar has to find a savior for Lotus very quickly.
For now, Lotus’ motor sport activities, the opening of their new showroom on Regent Street in London, and its participation at this years Goodwood Festival of Speed as the featured marque will continue. Let’s hope Lotus can survive through its current dilemma.
GALLERY: Lotus Esprit
Not to be left out of the fun, Lexus is joining the Super Bowl action with an ad of its own.
The first time the company is running an ad during the big game, this 30-second spot will star the 2013 GS. Titled “The Beast,” the commercial features the GS breaking free of a silver metal box, proving that “change cannot be contained.” At the end of the commercial, you can see four additional containers in the background – according to Lexus, these represent new models that will be revealed later this year.
“The Beast” will air during the end of the first quarter, but just watch it after the jump if you can’t wait a few more days to see it.
The past 20 years were pretty stable in the automotive industry. Mostly predictable releases with a steady rate for manufacturers to introduce new models that seemed like a consistant recipe for success.
Then, suddenly with the start of the current model year, things changed. In fact, it looks like this is just the start of a serious upswing in new releases. According to a story published on CNN Money, the auto industry replaced 16 percent of its fleet annually between 1991 and 2011.
That figure jumped to 23 percent with the 2012 model year, which started in October. Apparently keeping this fresh is the snake oil for successful car companies, because next year that number will grow to 32 percent, effectively doubling the rate new models hit the market. Given this manufacturer mayhem, we decided to round up the new cars you should expect to see soon.
Honda is an interesting case as they’ve recognized that their luxury brand, Acura, is simply being outdone by the competition at every turn. They decided to completely redesign their line to quell complaints that their cars are little more than rebadged Hondas. The first to look for: their new ILX compact sedan. As for Honda, they are already planning to release a new generation Civic after the media chastised them for an uninspired release.
Next up, Nissan. While they don’t hold a big market share in the U.S., Carlos Ghosn, their CEO is making plans to expand the 8.2 percent they have now to ten by 2015. In order to do that, they are revamping half of their entire line. Nissan is targeting the burgeoning EV market with their Leaf, which first became available last year. Look for updated Altimas, Sentras and Pathfinders in the near future.
Toyota suffered after the tsunami, but is coming back with a fury. The automaker is releasing a brand-new sports car, the FR-S, developed in partnership with Subaru and set to sell with a Scion badge. The RAV-4 and Lexus ES sedan will also get updates.
Chrysler will move toward smaller cars, something the brand has historically struggled with. The shrinkage can be attributed to Fiat, their new owners, and how their new 40 mpg Dodge Dart borrows heavily from the Italian engineers.
Ford and GM are trying to hang on to their chunky market shares, 17 and 19.7 percent respectively. Both companies are following the industry strategy: refreshing their popular sellers and releasing redesigned cars in their luxury brands. Look for a re-engineered Lincoln MKZ from Ford and Cadillac‘s new compact ATS and larger XTS sedans from GM.
Finally, there are some changes in the pipeline for German luxury cars. Audi just confirmed that their compact Q3 SUV will be sold in the U.S., along with the re-release of the compact A2 sedan. Mercedes-Benz is opting to offer their smaller B-Series and A-Series cars to remain competitive in the Yankee market.
[Source: CNN Money]
Mitsubishi has achieved decent amounts of success with the i-MiEV electric car in its home land, and also in Europe, where this model is also sold badged as a Peugeot iOn.
Next month, the i-MiEV will be going on sale in America (called simply the “i” in our market), which will no doubt increase sales numbers of this innovative commuter car.
Not ones to rest on their laurels, Mitsubishi has announced an ambitious plan to electrify themselves, by producing eight electric-vehicles by 2016. These will include plug-in hybrids and full electric vehicles.
Part of this new plan is to produce small SUV’s and light trucks which will attract farmers, contractors, and others who use light trucks as part of their work.
Mitsubishi is well under way with this new project, and expects to put its electric truck on sale globally by April 2013. It’s not clear if the light truck will be part of Mitsubishi’s North American line-up, but its other electric vehicles will be available here.
Mitsubishi hopes to sell 42,000 electric vehicles in 2012, double the number it moved this fiscal year. The American market is a crucial part of Mitsubishi’s goals. The “i” car as mentioned before will go on sale soon with a starting price of $29,125, minus the Government rebates.
[Source: Automotive News]
Let’s hope this alliance will bear better fruit this time around, as Maserati is set to unveil their Kubang SUV concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.
The Kubang, which will be the first SUV to wear a Maserati badge, will be based on the chassis of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. While power will be provided by an Italian engine (Maserati uses Ferrari engines in their cars), the vehicle is expected to be produced in America at Chrysler’s Jefferson North facility.
The Kubang concept was last seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show back in September, and while we cannot confirm if the Detroit unveil will be of the same vehicle or something different, we do know that Maserati will unveil an SUV at the N.A.I.A.S.
Put the two together and its easy to figure out that possibly a more production ready version of the Kubang will bow in Detroit.
We will be covering the Detroit auto show and will bring you all the latest news from the show, as it happens.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]
While the city of Detroit is preparing itself to host the next major auto show on the global calender in January, Hyundai is looking to the future and preparing a concept for the Geneva Motor Show in March.
Their latest concept is called i-oniq and it is the work of Hyundai’s European research and development center in Russelsheim, Germany.
This latest concept is described by its chief designer Thomas Burkle as a “fluidic sculpture.” Burkle said, “two strong arched curves define the silhouette of i-oniq, creating a playful contrast between the sharp character lines and soft but muscular features.”
More information on this concept will be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show.
German auto giant Volkswagen wants a piece of the action and is now planning to bring its Evoque-fighter to the market by 2014. This new model will sit on a modified Golf platform.
VW’s R&D boss Ulrich Hackenberg says he thinks the crossover segment will continue grow and that customers want the high seating position with muscular style and sporty driving dynamics.
VW recently showed a concept of this new vehicle at the Tokyo Motor Show, called the Cross Coupe. While the concept was a plug-in hybrid, the production model will have many different petrol and diesel engines on option, with either a normal hybrid or a plug-in hybrid at some point in its life.
Even a longer, seven-seater version is planned, primarily for the American market. The target date for this new stylish SUV is 2014, which gives Range Rover plenty of time to sell as many Evoques as it can, before the competition arrives to take pieces out of its pie.
GALLERY: VW Cross Coupe
Honda is having a pretty tough year compared to its competitors, with an unsuccessful North American Civic refresh and the floods in Thailand hurting their production. Just how tough has this year been for Honda? They’re the only large automaker to post a US sales decline last month, when total sales jumped 14-percent throughout the industry.
Honda is now looking towards the future however, as competitors continue to cut into their sales with their total market share having dropped to 9-percent in 2011 from 10.5-percent. Honda’s immediate goals to turn it all around is to ramp up production on its new Civic and CR-V that will go on sale this month. They’re also aiming to release plenty of new models within the next two years, hoping to gain back its market share.
Next year’s models will be powered by the new powerplants that Honda showed off at the Tokyo Motor Show, claiming that they’ll lead the industry in fuel efficiency. And despite all the negative press surrounding the new Civic, Honda is optimistic that sales will continue to grow for its number one model.
[Source: Automotive News]
Next year, Ferrari will bid farewell to the aging 599 GTB, but not before giving it one last special edition model.
This next one will be called the 599 GTB 60F1 Edition and it is to commemorate 60-years since Ferrari won its first race in Formula 1 back in July of 1951, at the Silverstone circuit.
This new car will not only commemorate Froilan Gonzalez, who drove the 375 F1 back in 1951, but also Fernando Alonso, who secured the teams first win in the 2011 season.
So as a tribute, a plaque featuring the signatures of Gonzalez and Alonso will be affixed to the dashboard.
Technically these special edition models aren’t much different from the regular 599 GTB, so there is no extra power on tap. However, all the 60F1 special editions will come standard with the Handling Grand Turismo Evoluzione (HGTE) package.
The 60F1 will also feature three special paint schemes:
The 375 F1 livery pays tribute to Gonzalez’s car and is painted in the darker red of historic Ferrari race cars.
The 150th Italia livery is based on the 2011 racer as driven by Alonso and features white A-pillars and buttresses, and white lower front bumper, with painted mudguards and a discreet white paint on the hood. This one also features the tri-colors of the Italian flag on the rear spoiler.
The 150th Italia Livery 2 is completely red, apart from the white lip on the front bumper.
All special edition models also get the Ferrari fender shields and satin finished 20-inch alloy wheels. You will also get grippier rubber for better handling.
Inside, you will either find a four-point racing harness in blue and red (as per all the F1 cars on the 2011 grid), or a regular three-point belt in red for markets that do not alloy four-point harnesses for road cars.
The Euro-spec models will get seats by Sabelt, while the American version will be fitted with Recaro seats. Both types of seats will feature a material called Superfabric which provides more grip.
So if you want to own a piece of Ferrari history, make your way to your local dealer and place your order. All these models will be delivered in 2012.
Gallery: Ferrari 599 GTB 60F1
The last time Mazda offered a coupe model based on the underpinnings of its mid-size sedan, it was called the MX-6. It was quite popular in its day, and two-generation of models had been produced before Mazda pulled the plug on the
sports sporty car back in 1997.
Now a unnamed senior company source has revealed that the new Mazda6 will spawn a coupe model, which will be based on the stunning Takeri concept car, which was a hit at the recent Tokyo Motor Show.
While the new sedan model of the Mazda6 is expected to hit the market in early 2013, the coupe version might arrive a year later. The coupe will follow the principals of other new Mazda SkyActiv vehicles, while adding new technologies like i-Eloop, which is Mazda’s version of a regenerative braking system which can help improve economy by 10%.
While European markets will likely get a 2.0-liter petrol and 2.2-liter diesel engines, the North American model could also be offered with a V6 engine. Only time will tell.
For nearly two decades, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (more commonly known as just the ‘Evo’) has been the benchmark sports sedan around the world. It might have arrived a bit late in the American market, only going on sale in 2003 with the Evo VIII model, but it has well-established itself as a giant killer in the industry and is currently the only Mitsubishi product with an enthusiasts following.
However, earlier in the year there were rumors that the Evo might get killed off. Thankfully, those are not true but according to company insiders, a plug-in hybrid Evo will be launched within three-years time.
It is believed that the hybrid Evo will make do with a diesel-electric combination to further cut down on its environmental footprint. But since diesel is not very popular in markets like Japan and America, it might also very well be available with a gasoline-electric system. So the next Evo might offer different mechanical specifications for different markets.
The new Evo will also get an updated version of Mitsubishi’s S-WAC all-wheel drive system for even better handling, and like the current model, will be the halo model for the company.
If you own a small volume, exotic car company that is working hard to build its pedigree and customer base, there is perhaps no better place than Dubai to launch your new product.
While in recent years, this popular tourist spot of the United Arab Emirates might have gone through its own fair share of financial problems, there are still plenty of rich residents who can indulge themselves with the latest and fastest cars money can buy.
So it should come as no surprise that SSC (Shelby Super Cars) has decided to launch their new car, the Tuatara, at the Dubai Motor Show.
The Tuatara, which is named after a very fast lizard, has been shown to the public before, but that show car was just a body on a rolling chassis. The car SSC is showing in Dubai is the real deal, and thus gives us the first glimpse of its actual interior.
Thankfully the interior keeps the theme of its outrageous exterior. There are plenty of heads-up display screens to keep both the driver and passenger well informed about their progress, while the design looks something out of Star Wars.
You also now get a starter button that initiates a countdown of red lights before firing up that massive 6.8-liter, twin-turbo V8, which produces a barely believable 1350-hp.
SSC claims that the Tuatara is capable of hitting 275-mph, a claim they will have to verify at some point. To prove their car is not just a straight line missile, SSC will also take this car to the Nurburgring to see how it stacks up against other supercars from around the world. We wish them all the best.
Gallery: SSC Tuatara
Well if you happen to live in Kia’s home market of S. Korea, you could look into their newest offering, dubbed the Ray.
While the name might sound similar to the sea creature, the Kia Ray is neither sleek or stealthy. What it is, is a boxy city car for people who live in major metropolitan cities like Seoul.
The skin is very much in keeping with the style of all modern Kia’s, so it has a wide grille accented with chrome, plus L.E.D. daytime running lights.
What lies under the skin is anybody’s guess at the moment, although it could very possibly be carrying the three-cylinder, 1.0-liter engine or the four-cylinder, 1.25-liter engine currently offered in the Picanto, a model Kia sells in Asia and Europe, but not North America. An electric version of the Ray is also rumored.
It is also believed that while the Ray does not use the Picanto platform, much of the hardware will be shared between the two models to reduce cost.
What will surely be very unique to the Ray is the way its doors are arranged. While the rear door behind the driver opens conventionally, the rear passenger door slides, like in a minivan.
The Kia Ray might not make it to the North American market, but it could be headed to showrooms in other Asian markets like China.
While Suzuki cars might not be very popular in North America, in its home market of Japan, they are a very big deal indeed. So to serve their home market, Suzuki is bringing a trio of concept cars for the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show. These are the Regina, Q Concept and the Swift EV Hybrid.
The Regina is a lightweight city car that can seat four, and despite just having a gasoline engine, should manage 72.3-mpg. Apart from the low weight, its low drag co-efficient also helps it achieve its impressive fuel economy figures. Suzuki didn’t mention the exact Cd figure but says its 10% lower than similar sized city cars.
GALLERY: Suzuki Regina Concept
Japanese car firm Toyota is already a world leader in hybrid technology. Now it seems, Toyota wants to have a similar strangle hold of the fuel-cell market.
According to vice-president of product planning and marketing for Toyota Europe, Alain Uyttenhoven, Toyota is planning on selling a few thousand fuel-cell vehicles starting in 2015. Sales are expected to be low due to the price required to make the vehicles. Since the technology is new and thus expensive to produce, each vehicle could sell for as much as $138,000.
The price means that it would attract the most eco-minded drivers and government agencies looking to put more green in their footprint.
For 2012, Toyota will offer a plug-in hybrid version of the Prius along with the regular Prius models. The plug-in version uses the same Hybrid Synergy Drive system as the regular version, but since it has a much larger 4.4 kwh lithium-ion battery pack, it can travel 13-miles on electric mode alone. Since the battery pack is not very big, it takes just 3-hours to fully charge from a standard 120v household outlet, or just 1.5-hours from a 240v system. Once the battery is depleted, you can continue the journey using the normal Prius hybrid drive system.
Since the inception of the Subaru WRX and STI models, they have thus far been linked to the ho-hum Impreza compact sedan/hatch. While that saved Subaru a lot of money in developing a new platform in the past, and they have done a phenomenal job transforming a boring family car into a supercar hunting sportscar, for some the Impreza link is this car’s only downfall.
Subaru too wants its WRX and STI models to now be taken more seriously and hence from 2013 are going to unveil new versions which will be based on a unique platform.
We first reported on this news back in July, when this was just in a speculation stage. But now it seems the WRX and STI will form their own models, separating them from the Impreza.
So while there is a brand new Impreza being launched for the 2012 model year, the old (or shall we say current) WRX and STI will soldier on for one more year.
As for the 2013 WRX and STI models, lots is still being speculated about what powertrain this car will have. One rumor circulating the web is that it’ll be powered by a 1.6-liter, boxer four-cylinder motor with a massive turbo-charger, and it will be capable of producing 270-hp. Could the next STi sport around 350-hp? Only time will tell.
GALLERY: 2011 Subaru WRX STI
[Source: Car and Driver]
The straight-sixes are coming, brand spanking new straight-sixes are coming. But not from Munich, instead from Stuttgart!
Traditionally, it has been BMW that has been most well known for producing straight-six engines. However, according to some recent reports, BMW might be abandoning their straight six motors in favor of turbo-charged, inline four-cylinder motors and V6s.
Now, according to a European source, Mercedes-Benz will soon start producing straight sixes, possibly in both single and twin-turbo configurations, to replace their thirsty V8 engines. The straight-six motors will be offered in both petrol and diesel configurations, so it seems they are very serious with their plans with these new engines.
While most people associate BMW with straight-six engines, history buffs (like us) will tell you that Mercedes-Benz was among the first companies to ever produce a straight-six engine, 100 years ago with a massive 10-liter motor that produced 75 hp. Mercedes-Benz produced its first diesel straight-six in 1934. Their last petrol straight-six was offered until 1996 in the 300E.
These new straight-six engines should arrive by 2015.
The Audi TT has been among us for a long, long time. While the original model wasn’t great, it sold in huge numbers. The second generation model was much better to drive, but has not sold in the same capacity.
To keep the public interested in the TT, Audi keeps coming up with newer, more powerful versions of this car. There was the TT-S, which was followed by a the oh-so-awesome TT-RS. Now word comes that Audi is working on a even more potent model, which could possibly be called the TT-RS Plus.
According to industry moles, this new model will use an upgraded version of the current, 2.5-liter, five-cylinder, turbo-charged motor. Power is expected to rise from 340 hp to 385 hp. That should make it quite fast. It should be lighter also, by as much as 130 lbs, thanks to no back seats, so expect this to be the best TT ever.
Since Audi is looking to replace the current TT in 2013, this new hot version will be the last hurrah for this model. Not much else is known at the moment, but we will keep you posted.
GALLERY: Audi TT-RS
It has been well over a decade when Mercedes-Benz first opened its plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. What might have started out as just a production facility for the ML model has grown to accommodate production of the R-class, GLK-class and in 2014 will also produce the C-class for North American consumption.
But the news gets even better as Mercedes-Benz is now planning to add another model to its portfolio and it will also be built in the States. The vehicle is rumored to be the MLC, which will be Merc’s answer to the BMW X6.
Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Daimler Board of Management and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars said: “This new model from the Tuscaloosa plant is an important element of our growth strategy. It is one of the ten additional models which we will introduce within the next four years alone across all segments.”
This project will see this German brand investing $350-million and create an additional 400 new jobs, which is great news for the economy.
Given how hotly contested the full-size pickup truck market has become in recent years, those manufacturers participating are constantly looking for ways to one-up each other. Most recently, in the half-ton segment, Ram has attempted to do such a thing by going after the fleet crowd with its 2012 model year 1500 Tradesman Heavy Duty.
Although only offered as a no frills work truck, which means just two-wheel drive, a regular cab and eight foot box, the Heavy Duty Tradesman is essentially a half-ton, entry-level rig with 3/4 ton cargo and towing capacity, something the brand believes will appeal to value conscious commercial buyers during these hard, Dickensian times. Besting both Ford and GM’s current entry level work trucks in terms of loading and hauling capability doesn’t hurt either.
Ram has also been playing around with other 1500 options and features, in the Express line, for example, buyers can now opt for Quad and Crew Cab configurations, as well as a Ram box bed in six foot, four-inch configuration.
Considering that the Express Quad starts at $28,050 and the Crew version at $30,010 (with standard 5.7-liter Hemi V8 no less) these new configurations and the HD Tradesman should be enough of an incentive for more folks to consider stopping by their local Ram showroom.
GALLERY: RAM 1500 Tradesman HD
Before the Mulsanne, Bentley had the Arnage luxury sedan, which over the years was also offered as a convertible called the Azure and a coupe called the Brooklands.
Since the Mulsanne was launched in 2010, it has so far been only offered as a one-size fits all luxury sedan. Now according to Bentley’s CEO Wolfgang Durheimer, all that will change very soon.
In a recent interview, he talked about expanding their current line-up. Durheimer said; “With the Mulsanne we get requests all the time for a longer wheelbase model, for instance. The question is whether we do it as a special order or put it on the model line. We are evaluating it, but I have no doubt we could also sell that type of car in the US and China.”
He also added that a coupe and convertible model could possibly be added on this platform.
He went on to say that he also wants to expand the Continental-series line-up. They already offer a coupe, sedan and convertible on this platform, but perhaps could go into lighter-weight models and special models.
With Bentley looking to expand their product line, they must be confident that the world’s economy will do better in coming years. We hope so.
Mazda spoke about new gasoline engines during a recent presentation, and also touched on the possibility of offering a clever new diesel engine to our market, but they didn’t mention anything about hybrids.
But just because they didn’t say anything, doesn’t mean they aren’t working on one. According to some spy photo’s circulating the web, it is working on a hybrid version of the Mazda6. However, rather than spend huge amounts of money on developing their own bespoke hybrid system, Mazda has signed a licensing agreement with Toyota over the use of its hybrid tech.
The Mazda6 hybrid test mule confirms its Toyota roots as the gear-lever in these prototypes have been lifted out of the Prius. Mazda says that while the technology is borrowed, the tuning will be all Mazda’s own, so the drive feel will be unique to them.
Will the hybrid model have an affect on Mazda’s plans to launch diesel models in North America? We hope not.
[Source: Car and Driver]
However, the Europeans have always had a thing for wagons, especially fast ones, and have never stopped making them, although not many on this side of the Atlantic buy them.
The solution, make a cool wagon and call it something different altogether, e.g. Shooting Brake. It’s been a name given to fast wagons in the past, and now Mercedes-Benz will use this name for two of its newest models, the CLS and the CLC.
The CLS Shooting Brake has been expected for a long time now, and will be similar to the concept version which has been shown at motor shows around the world.
Engine choices for the CLS Shooting Brake will be similar to other CLS models, while the CLC will get a host of new engines, including four-cylinder turbos.
Expect these new models to start hitting the showrooms by late 2012.
GALLERY: Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake Concept
[Source: Auto News]