Annnnd we’re back, AutoInfluence with the updates you’ve been waiting for surrounding the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, plus some reported sales numbers across the industry, and every other headline we could dig up to keep you up to speed on current auto news over these past September weeks so, with plenty to cover, let’s get down to it.
2019 International Motor Show Germany
The 2019 International Motor Show kicked off in Frankfurt Germany last week displaying some the expected array of cool concepts and impactful reveals.
Audi AI: Trail Quattro
In a series of autonomous concept vehicles, the AI: Trail is unique in its aggressive off-road design. Riding on rugged 22-inch wheels, the Trail offers a lot of forward-thinking trail-ready elements, but let’s talk about what is easily the coolest of those features: Audi Light Pathfinders. Trading in traditional low/high-beam lighting, the Trail is equipped with five rotorless LED video-equipped drones (yes, drones) to illuminate the path ahead and even provide the driver with an advance view of what’s to come.
Here’s a look:
BMW 4 Series
Providing a sneak peak of what a next-gen 3 Series might look like, this BMW concept departs from BMW’s elegant and refined design philosophy to create something more bold, aggressive and (dare we say it) American? Argue that last part all you want, but there’s something decisively Detroitian in the concept’s design, especially in terms of its body style and oversized hood. There really aren’t any technical specs for this concept, but its visual impact strikes a decisive note.
Here’s a look:
The second of this year’s vehicles to debut using Volkswagen’s MEB platform, the Tavascan cranks out 306 hp, sprints to 60mph in 6.5 seconds and serves up 250 miles of all-electric range. Like the 4 Series before it, the Tavascan is still only in concept stage – but it certainly echoes real-word design philosophy more than a lot of concepts and limited editions being highlighted in Frankfurt.
Here’s a look:
(All-Electric) Porsche Taycan
The first production ready all-electric offering to emerge from Porsche, the Taycan will be offered up in three distinct versions: two of which include the Turbo and the Turbo S. We don’t know much about the mysterious third verison, but the Turbo cranks out 670hp and 626 lb-ft of torque, and can reach 60mph in 3 seconds flat and run the quarter mile in 11.1 seconds thanks to a 2.5-second overboost. The Turbo S pumps those numbers up to 750p and 774 lb-ft of torque, trimming those times down to 2.6 and 10.8 seconds respectively. For either, top speed comes in around 162 mph. But it’s the attainable real-world range of 256-279 miles that really seals the deal in making this a standout offering from Porsche.
Here’s a look:
2020 Land Rover Defender
Making its return to the U.S. after a two-decade absence, the Land Rover Defender has been resurrected from its 2016 slumber representing the first genuine refresh the model has enjoyed since 2012. There’s the two door Defender 90, or four-door Defender 110, both of which offer up to 8.5-inches of ground clearance with an additional 3-inches gains through the vehicles of-road height setting. With a smoother, streamlined design Defender models come powered by either a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 capable of 296hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, or a 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 hybrid, with 395 hp and 406 lb-ft. Loaded with tech, the Defender leaves literally no luxury stone unturned.
Here’s a look:
Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS Concept
Best described as something out of the Tron movie series, the EQS Concept equates to an electrified version of the S-Class, with Level 3 autonomous capability. Boasting 435-mile range and the ability to recharge up to 80% in less than 20 minutes, the EQS feels like a genuine, next-gen offering. Of course, this is furthered by the continuous 360-degree illuminated strip of 940 individual LEDs on 188 circuit boards that make up the EQS’s distinctive front fascia.
Here’s a look:
The all-electric Sian represents Lamborghini’s first foray into the realm of electrification. It comes powered by a V12 engine subsidized by a 48-volt motors which substitutes a traditional lithium-ion battery for a super capacitor which is “three times more powerful than a battery of the same weight, and three times lighter than a battery producing the same power”. Wrangling 819 horses and sprinting to 62 m[h in 2.8 seconds, the Sian is bound to catch a lot of attention. But only 63 well-financed should expect to own this limited edition offering.
Here’s a look:
You don’t have to be Pennywise the Dancing Clown to appreciate claims that the Ramsmobile RM-X2 ‘multipurpose hypercar’ floats. The Belarus-based SUV is served up in four models, including the Devil’s Touch trim which claims to be inspired by such odd bedfellows as “Luxury and darkness! Technology and mysticism”.
Powered by either a 6.2-liter LT5 V8 or a 6.6-liter Duramax diesel V8, the RM-X2 can be optioned with 40-inch tires, a 24-inch wide tread, B7 bulletproof body armor and even (wait for it) a hookah. That’s right, we’re not sure who the target audience is for the Ramsmobile RM-X2 is – but with a starting price tag of $999,999 (and the promise of a $3M variant) you can be sure that ‘practicality’ might not rank too high in their automotive decision-making process.
Those were just some of the initial models to catch our eyes. Be sure to let us know what you think of any or all of them in the comments below. But in the meantime, let’s move on the headlines from September, thus far.
Ford / Lincoln
Every once in a while, an automaker releases a commercial or marketing campaign that’s clever or compelling enough that we choose to share it here. And while Ford’s new television spot for the 2020 Ford Explorer didn’t grab our attention right off the bat, we have to admit to a few chuckles starting around the :40 mark.
If you want to check it out for yourself:
(Of course, now we’re all thinking about rotisserie chicken…)
This week, we’ll be sharing August sales numbers (whenever available) as a slew of them have been released, reflecting positive growth among a number of automakers. Lincoln, for example, seems to have turned a corner with sales leaping in double-digit increments for several models in the month of August. In fact, some were up by as much as 33%. An impressive start in what is effectively the earliest days of their restructuring, Lincoln now claims to be guided by four distinct (if not ‘artistically vague’) principles: Beauty, Gliding, Human and Sanctuary. It will be interesting to see how the aging brand fares along these next few years of expected change, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted as development arise.
GM / Chevy / GMC / Buick
And of course, the big news this past week has been the United Auto Workers union walking out of General Motors this past Sunday. With contract negotiations having broken down, the walk out marks the first strike in over a decade, affecting roughly 49,000 GM workers across various geographies. While it’s still early days for the strike, salaries and recent changes made to the cost of healthcare are at the top of the negotiation docket, with discussion of automation, outsourcing and offshoring adding to the sense of urgency. On Thursday, the Vice President of the UAW reported that “some progress” had been made, but that “there are still many of our memberships’ issues that remain unresolved”. It was reported that meetings will continue into this weekend and beyond if an agreement can’t be met. And of course, it goes without saying that – whatever happens within the confines of these GM & UAW discussions – will inevitably affect the likes of Ford and FCA, as well.
GM has issued a 3.8 million unit recall in the U.S. and Canada, to repair a brake issue. Fueled by reports of 113 crashes and 13 injuries, the recall affects Chevy Silverados and GMC Sierra 1500, 2500 and 3500 models produced between 2014-2018. It also affects Chevy Suburban, Tahoe and GMC Yukon produced between 2015-2018 and Cadillac Escalade produced between 2015-2017. The issue addresses the pump in the power-assist brakes, and the fact that (over time) it generates a decreasing amount of vacuum power needed, increasing both the vehicle’s stopping distance and inherent risk of crash. Following nearly a year-long investigation, the recall took effect on September 6th, with the repair involving a recalibration of the electronic brake control module at no cost to the customer.
Chevy has announced that their convertible variant of the 2020 Chevy Corvette C8 Stingray will be released on October 2nd of this year. While there have been no hard numbers released, the expectation is that the convertible will be priced a minimum of $4500 higher than its hardtop sibling, and that it will display a slight increase in base weight due to structural reinforcement.
Any owners of the 2020 Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave should be aware of a current recall, affecting roughly 3400 vehicles. The issue revolves around possible cracks in a right-hand frame rail in the engine compartment, which could reduce crash performance. Dealers will be inspecting and, as needed, replacing vehicles at no cost to the consumer.
FCA / Dodge / RAM / Jeep
In Frankfurt, it was revealed that talk of mergers between Fiat-Chrysler and French automaker Renault were no ongoing. Explaining quite succinctly that such talks were “in the past” Renault’s CEO specified that the offer made was “no longer on the table”. It was also made clear that the primary focus for the parent group was overseeing the recovery of Nissan and the appointment of a new CEO for that brand.
It’s already been a great year for the RAM 1500, and now those successes are furthered by its recognition by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as a Top Safety Pick+. When equipped with adaptive LED projector headlamps, automatic emergency braking and forward collision mitigation, the 2020 RAM 1500 is certainly deserving of the recognition. But it bears more fruit simple to the fact that no other full-size pickup has earned the distinction.
This week, the FCA brands seemed to take home the lion’s share of recognition from AutoPacific in their 2019 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. Based on input from more than 50,000 new vehicle owners, AutoPacific determined that RAM was the top brand overall, with the 1500 being named best full-size pickup, the Jeep Grand Cherokee ranking as best-in-class midsize SUV, the Dodge Challenger earning best Sporty Car and the Chrysler 300 being recognized as the best among the Large Car category.
Recent spy photos have sparked some discussion as to whether or not a new version of the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is in the works. With the next-gen 2021 Grand Cherokee slated for a mid-2020 debut, time is ticking, but the appearance of a Trackhawk (photographed next to a Demon) boasting what may be a concealed hood scoop has people talking. The question, of course, is whether or not a next-gen Trackhawk might boast the 808hp supercharged V8, making it top dog among performance SUVs. That said, it’s little more than rampant speculation.
Toyota / Lexus
Toyota announced that they had experience their best-ever sales numbers on a volume basis for the month of August this year, selling 218.403 units, an increase of 12.3%. Lexus also showed improved numbers, up 4.6% on a volume basis with 29,931 units sold. Individual Toyota models that stood out in terms of August 2019 sales included the Highlander (up 21.7%) the RAV4 (up 17.2%) the Corolla (up 15.2%) the Tacoma (up 14.8%) the 4-Runner (up 3.1%) the C-HR (up 29.1%) the Prius (up 1.8R%). On the Lexus side, individual highlights for August 2019 included the RC (up 47.4%) the ES (up 20.3%) the LX (up 9.9%) and the RX (up 7.6%).
The refreshed Camry has been on a bit of a winning streak following 2018’s impressive sales numbers on the sporty SE and XSE variants, with the Avalon receiving the same treatment in 2019. And now both the Camry and Avalon on receiving track-tuned TRD variants. With a 3.5-liter V6 paired to an 8-speed automatic, both models deliver 301 horsepower with a sport-tuned soundtrack channeled through a TRD-tuned cat-back dual exhaust. With upsized 12.9-inch diameter rotors and dual-dual-piston calipers, the new models will offer improved braking with added body control, handling and precision served up via a lower stance, reduced center of gravity and and specially-tuned suspension. The Camry TRD arrives on dealer lots this month, priced to start around $31,040 MSRP while the Avalon TRD is already making waves at its starting price point of $42,300 MSRP.
With thirteen years under its belt as the best-selling midsize pickup in America, the third-gen Toyota Tacoma introduces a handful of new features for 2020, further sweetening the already impressive 32 configurations served up. These upgrades include (i) upgraded multimedia with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa capability (ii) an electronic power-adjustable seat on most v6 models (iii) a new multi-terrain monitor and panoramic view monitor on top grades (iv) new LED headlamps on Limited and TRD models and (v) Toyota Safety Sense standard on all Tacoma grades.
And Toyota has announced that they will be investing $391 million into their San Antonio TX truck assembly plant, which brings the automaker’s total investment in the facility over the $3 billion mark. This is part of a more broad strategy by the automaker to invest $13 billion into their U.S. facilities over the next five years.
Honda / Acura
Having mentioned the impressive numbers put up by Toyota and Lexus, we’d be remiss if we failed to acknowledge those reported by Honda and Acura. The former reported 158,804 units sold, marking a 19.6% overall increased. The latter reported 15,189 units sold, a .8% increase. But these numbers were enough to achieve all-time monthly sales records for American Honda, with the CR-V, Passport and ILX singled out for their respective best month numbers.
This week brought the formal announcement regarding Honda’s introduction of the 2020 CR-V Hybrid to be built in the automaker’s Greensburg, Indiana plant. Following the success of the Accord Hybrid and Insight, the CR-V marks Honda’s third electrified offering to be introduced. Powered by the pairing of two electric motors with a 2.0-liter engine, estimated peak horsepower falls in around 212 (a 22-point jump) with the expectation of a 50% increase in EPA-estimated fuel economy.
Hyundai / Kia
While everyday news might be a little lacking on the Hyundai front, KIA was another automaker to throw up some impressive numbers with 60,730 units sold – representing a 12.7% increase over August 2018. Those sales included best-ever numbers for the Kia Sportage and Forte, and a spike in sales for the all-new Telluride.
And despite an initially warm reception, it appears that the future of the Kia Stinger might be in question due to slow sales. Admitting that sales weren’t going as well as they’d hoped, Kia has made it clear that a 2nd-gen Stinger might not even be in the cards, at least in its current form. Whether or not Kia chooses to evolve it into something else, an EV offering for example, remains to be seen.
Nissan / Infiniti
Since Nissan headlines are littered with talks of new CEOs and the kind of bureaucratic nonsense we’re simply not that interested in, there’s not a whole lot to talk about. That said, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has revealed an investigation surrounding the Nissan Rogue. Over 840 Rogue drivers have reported that the driver-assistive automatic braking system has a tendency to engage, even in the absence of an actual obstruction. The issue, has been linked to reports of 14 crashes and five injuries. Nissan has been prompt in offering a recall with software update intended to improve the efficiency and performance of the system, but time will tell if the NHTSA holds them to a higher level of accountability.
Unfortunately for Infiniti, US sales were down for the month of August to the tune of about 14.9% month-over-month and 12.7% year-over-year. In fact, the only Infiniti model to come out with positive numbers was the QX60 with a 21.8% gain for August, and a 4.4% increase year-to-date.
And Mazda has reported an increase of 6.5% in sales over August of last year, despite lagging in year-to-date numbers by around 11.5%. The CX-5 has reported its best-ever August with 15,592 units sold as did the CX-3 with 2,024 units.
On the heels of the Tokyo Motor Show, the rumor mill continues to churn in regard to the possibility of a Mazda RX-9 making it’s debut sometime in the future. Discovery of a recent patent filing by Mazda reveals a double-wishbone front suspension, with the powertrain placed behind the axle in a front-mid engine style layout. This difference from traditional Mazda design, and expectation that an RX-9 would be built on an independent platform all its own, is simply fuel to an ongoing conversation. Mazda, however, has given no timeline or confirmation outside of the concept stage.
Despite having endured their fair share of drama and compromised consumer trust, Volkswagen managed to report some positive sales numbers, up 9.8% overall for the month of August and 6.6% overall YTD. In terms of the month of August, 2019 ranks as the automaker’s best since 2013. Standout performers include the Tiguan (up 50% for August, and 28% YTD) the Jetta (up 32% YTD) and the Atlas (up an impressive 103% for August, and 39% YTD).
Elon Musk has made it clear that Tesla won’t be letting Porsche have all the fun setting speed records with the EV Taycan. Faithful to their tongue-in-cheek approach, the upstart automaker has announced that they’ll be upgrading their Mel Brooks / Spaceball-inspired Ludicrous Mode with…yep, you guessed it… Plaid Mode. Considering that Ludicrous Model empowers a Tesla Model S to sprint to to 60mph from a dead stop in under 2.5 seconds, it’ll be interesting to see how Plaid Mode performs. The new drive mode will be made available on Model S, X and at some point the Roadster.
Jaguar Land Rover
And almost just as surprising as those VW numbers, Jaguar Land Rover managed to come out in the black for the month of August with a combined gain of 6.7%, and 8% year-over-year. Those, of course, are averaged numbers with Jaguar coming out on top with a 17.8% gain for August and 9.4% gain year-to-date. Land Rover only earned 1.4% and 7.4% gains, respectively.
And that about wraps things up for us this week at AutoInfluence.
Thanks for letting us bring you up to speed and, of course, we’ll be back next week with more headlines. And in the meantime, say hi to your mom for me.