Annnnd we’re back…AutoInfluence with your current auto news headlines for the week of July 19th…including yesterday’s long-awaited reveal of the mid-engine C8 Corvette Stingray, rumors of Ford taking aim at the Gladiator, and a complete refusal to mention Area 51 (well, except for just then). So let’s get down to it.
Providing an update from last week’s episode, regarding Ford’s controversy surrounding the DPS6 transmission – the Detroit Free Press had reported that Ford “knowingly launched two low-priced, fuel-efficient cars with defective transmissions and continued selling the troubled Focus and Fiesta despite thousands of complaints and an avalanche of repairs”. This week Ford offered a formal rebuttal to the claims, which some felt was a response not to the DFP claims, but to the call for review by Congress, specifically by the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. As one might expect, the statement aims to explain the scenario from Ford’s perspective and rationalize their actions against certain claims. It’s pretty lengthy, so we won’t bore you here but, for those interested, you can find a link to the Transcript – which includes annotations from the DFP – here
And the rumor mill continues to whirl regarding the possibility of an offroad pickup variant of the upcoming Ford Bronco, the latter of which is slated for a mid-2020 debut. While it’s merely speculation at this point, most every trade publication seems to be running with the story, along with the indication that Ford plans to present the vehicle as a direct competitor to the truck-styled yet trail-ready Jeep Gladiator. And while it’s easy to see how easy it would be to launch such an offering using the existing Ranger / Bronco underpinnings, it’s unlikely that we’d see such a vehicle debut anytime in the next three years. In fact, it seems equally unlikely that Ford will show their cards in regard to this project anytime soon – leaving us to wonder if they’re simply chumming the waters to test consumer interest in the idea.
GM / Chevy
This past Thursday. July 18th, was the day Corvette fans had been long-waiting for, with reveal of the mid-engine C8 Corvette Stingray taking place inside of a converted WWII hangar in Tustin, California. Considered to be the most dramatic reengineering of the Corvette across its storied 66-year history, the rear-placement of the engine, adjustable suspension with GPS-linked memory and surprising storage options seemed to tick a lot of boxes, delivering on the high level of anticipation that had awaited it. If you’re interested in taking a closer look at The Reveal, you can check it out Detroit News here.
Below, you’ll also find a link to Chevy’s official Press Announcement which provides a full breakdown of specs, options and capabilities.
And considering how big of a headline this reveal was, it’s hardly surprising that there’s wasn’t a whole hell of a lot of other things going on elsewhere at GM. That said, let’s keep moving on.
FCA / Jeep
Despite strong performance over the last three years, FCA was subjected to the sting of Wall Street this week, after Goldman Sachs chose to initiate a “sell” rating in their recommendations to investors. Prompted by what they perceived as a limited scope for further earnings, Goldman Sach’s assessment forced FCA shares to plummet in value by 5.1%. Granted this might be little more than just a ‘blip’, but regulatory issues in Europe, volatility in Latin American economies and the automaker’s perceived failure at keeping up with the technological advancements of other competitors were listed as prime factors in the Goldman Sachs assessment.
The 2019 Jeep Wrangler seems to be held in high regard by the team over at Kelley Blue Book, having made their list of the ’10 Best SUVs under $30,000’ and topping the rankings of ‘Best Resale Value’ and ‘5-Year Cost to Own Value’. But after beating out 350 other models for various citations, it has earned KBB’s coveted pick for ‘Most Awarded Car of 2019’ for “Delivering an unmatched combination of leading 4×4 capability, increased fuel efficiency courtesy of several powertrain options, including a new 2.0-liter mild hybrid with eTorque technology, more ride comfort, more interior comfort and advancements in safety and technology”. Kudos to everyone involved.
Toyota / Lexus
While it was a relatively slow news week over at Toyota and Lexus it has been alleged that, beginning in 2022, both lineups will have begun migrating to a standardized platform. That platform will be Mazda-sourced, rear-wheel drive and powered by an inline-six engine. Of course, this kind of news isn’t much of a surprise based on the close relationship between Toyota and Mazda, but it does lend a sense of credence to the rumblings of a full-blown merger – even if execs from both teams have been clear in their denial of that possibility.
Honda / Acura
Now, just a moment ago, we’d talked about Jeep’s success in the eyes of Kelley Blue Book. But over at Honda, congratulations are also in order, with the automaker establishing itself as their ‘Most Awarded Brand’ for 2019. Credited to the inclusion fo the Accord, Civic, CR-V and Odyssey among their ’10 Most Awarded Cars’ list and the Accord, Civic, Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, CR-V, Odyssey and Pilot all ranking among their ‘Best Buy’ picks. Suffice it to say, that another round of kudos seems apropos.
Honda’s stateside presence in the EV market to-date has been lackluster, to say the least. Sure, there’s the Clarity EV, but it seems fair to describe that particular offering as ‘somewhat unpopular’. That said, Honda has since released it’s first European offering built, from the ground up, to be an electric vehicle. And now, they’ve confirmed that U.S. vehicles will be built upon an all-new modular platform, beginning in 2025. According to Ayumu Matsuo, Honda’s managing officer, “This new architecture is designed to achieve smooth driving and highly efficient packaging. We believe it will meet the needs of customers who like our C-segment and D-segment models.” The platform is expected to deliver both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive versions and has been described as ‘battery cell agnostic’ meaning that it can use a wider range of batteries, from a wider variety of suppliers.
And in dealerships across the county, Acura fans can now find the 2020 Acura MDX and MDX Sport Hybrid available for purchase. Priced to start at $44,400 and $52,900 respectively, the appeal of the MDX is accentuated by its standing as the best-selling three-row luxury SUV of all time, and seven consecutive years of outselling almost all of their competitors.
Hyundai / KIA
While its certainly subject to change as deemed appropriate, Hyundai has released a tentative breakdown of their 2020 lineup indicating which models will be change, and go unchanged, in the model year to come. In terms of full carryovers, models that will remain unchanged include the Elantra GT, Veloster, Veloster N, Santa Fe, Nexo, Kona, Kona Electric and Tucson. Models which will receive a fresh debut include the Palisade, Venue, Sonata and Sonata Hybrid. This leaves small changes to be made to the Accent, Elantra and Ioniq.
And Hyundai has announced their creation of the world’s first Active Shift Control transmission, which improves efficiency by assessing gear shifts 500 times every second to prompt adjustments to the transmission rotation speed, allowing for expedited shift times. This allows it to transcend the trappings of conventional hybrids where the absence of torque converters extend shift times due to energy loss. Set to make its debut in the new Sonata Hybrid, the ASC has been built almost exclusively for integration into Hyundai and Kia’s hybrid offerings.
Nissan has issued a recall for 91,319 light-duty Titan pickups – equipped with gasoline engines – and built between April 2016 and October 2018 (Editorial Correction: Recording accidentally states October ‘2019’). The recall centers around the alternator’s wiring harness which may, or may not , have been damaged during installation. That damage could cause an electrical short, leading to such minor issues as interior light flickers and such major issues as a full engine stall. That said the fix is a basic one, and notifications have already been sent out to affected consumers.
And in what might be described as the strangest story of the week, Tesla’s all-new Roadster (currently slated for production in 2021) sparked some buzz, courtesy of the optional SpaceX package that will be made available for it. The impressive core specs for the base Roadster allow for 620 miles of all-electric range as well as a 1.9 second sprint to 60mph. But on top of that, the SpaceX package will include cold air thrusters, which are basically the automotive equivalent of small rocket engines. Designed to “dramatically improve acceleration, top speed, braking and cornering” it was even suggested that SpaceX may “even allow a Tesla to fly” or at least “hover”. In fact, Elon Musk addressed the possibility of a Tesla Roadster Hover Test on Twitter, indicating that one might take place by the end of 2020. That’s it. Flying cars are right around the corner.
Which wraps things up for us pretty quickly today – so if you hate to see us go, but love to watch us leave, you are in luck. As always, join us here next week for all your current auto news headlines and…yup…you guessed it…say hi to your mom for me.