Here we go, AutoInfluence is back with coverage of the Geneva Auto Show, and some of the top automotive news headlines that have surrounded it. So let’s get down to it.
Kicking things off, speculation is swirling regarding the possibility of Ford’s decision to bridge the gap between their base EcoBoost engine, and the optional V8 found under the hood of the Mustang. The introduction of a mid-range Mustang is likely to mean that 2020 might bring two different variants of the turbocharged four-cylinder 2.3-liter engine. It’s likely that the base 335 hp engine, would be positioned below a more powerful version. In fact, paperwork filed with the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) seems to support this rumor. The expectation being that Ford plans to reposition the mid-range Mustang as a legitimate challenger to the 335 hp Camaro, and let it go like hell.
Which brings us to another major headline under the Ford media banner, the continued buzz surrounding the all-electric Mustang-inspired crossover. Proving that Ford is serious about its electrification strategy is one thing, but tying it back to Henry Ford II’s instruction given to Ford’s racing team when challenging Ferrari at LeMans back in the 60’s Henry Ford II’s feels inspired. That instruction, to “go like hell” is now being referred by Ford’s executive chairman Bill Ford, as to what people should expect from the yet-to-be-named crossover. Time will tell as to whether or not the vehicle lives up to expectations, but the first official photo teased and speculative concept art has plenty of people fascinated by this compelling new offering.
After 8 years, the Chevy Cruze was finally laid to rest as the last North American Cruze, its windshield draped with an American flag, rolled off the assembly line at GM’s Lordstown OH plant. The closure of the facility marks the first of five North American plant closures planned by 2019, and accounts for 1700 hourly positions potentially being eliminated for good. And with that in mind, everyone here at AutoInfluence offers their condolences to the affected GM employees, and well wishes for the future. But the closure represents another marker in the restructuring designed to support the introduction of new crossovers, hybrid and EV offerings, as well as autonomous vehicles to follow. What that means in terms of job creation down the line, remains to be seen.
On the flip side of the coin, FCA has announced a $4.5 Billion investment in the creation of a new assembly plant, as well as increased production at five other facilities, leading to the creation of 6500 jobs. The yet-to-be-finalized plans will support the next-gen Jeep Grand Cherokee, Wagoneer, Grand Wagoneer Dodge Durango, as well as a three-row Jeep and other plug-in variants. It also fuels opportunity in the production of Pentastar engines and metal stamping. A far cry from the restructuring woes experienced by GM, FCA’s plans convey the strength of their crossover and SUV lineups, devoid of the coupe and sedan styles whose dwindling domestic sales are forcing the rearrangement of most lineups.
And while the Jeep brand has never been the first name on people’s lips when it comes to fuel-efficiency or low-missions, their announcement that plug-in hybrids of both the Renegade and Compass were introduced at the Geneva Auto Show. Speculation is that these European variants will be introduced for 2020, and both vehicles are likely to enjoy up to 240 horsepower courtesy of the combustion-electric engine hybrids. Granted, there are no public plans to release these offerings domestically, but it may certainly give a hint of stateside changes to come.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has recognized the Honda HR-Vas a Top Safety Pick, recognizing the strength of the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver assistive features and updates to its frontal crash performance.
Honda is also enjoying their recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a leader in energy-efficiency. Celebrated for offering both the highest average fuel economy and the lowest C02 emissions of any automaker’s fleet, it would appear that Honda ranks among the automakers with the most promising immediate future in store. According to Robert Bienefeld, VP of Energy and Environmental policy at America Honda Motor Company, “ Honda is proud to play a leading role in the move toward a more efficient, low-emissions mobility further and it’s encouraging to see the industry as a whole making significant gains” adding “there’s a lot of work still to be done, but with record sales and production of Honda electrified vehicles and more planned, we are committed to continue improving our fuel economy performance.”
Which segues perfectly into what could be Honda’s next move, as speculated based on comments made at the Geneva Auto Show. In a conversation regarding all-electric powertrains, the feasibility of an EV Civic Type R was raised. Kohei Hitomi, a project lead for Honda, replied to the proposal by stating, “We think it’d be quite easy to achieve Type R performance with a full EV right now, but Type R isn’t just about performance. It’s also about handling, operation, and drivability. We don’t think it’s as simple as replacing that with electric power. That’s not the right direction for Type R.” Reading between the lines, many have suggested the greater likelihood of a hybrid powertrain to enhance the existing Type R formula. But at this point, that’s little more than speculation…
Speaking of EV offerings, the Nissan Leaf has reached the 400,000 cumulative sales milestone targeting the half-million mark by early 2020. But Nissan is certainly feeling the increasing heat from Tesla, whose Model 3 recently passed the 200,000 sales mark, with plans to double that number this year, and hit the half million point at around the same time. How Nissan will continue to fare against the threat of Tesla (and other EV competitors) remains to be seen.
And Nissan has also introduced a formal partnership with Rocky Ridge Trucks to offer seven new performance packages for several of their offerings, including the Titan, Titan XD, Armada and Frontier. The inclusion of new, and more rugged features, cater to the current proclivity towards offroad capabilities. According to Fred DePerez, VP of Nissan North America’s Business Unit, “We’ve found there remains great opportunity within the truck and enthusiast market – and these big, bad, custom-lifted Rocky Ridge-warranted Nissan trucks are definitely going to drive excitement and traffic to Nissan showrooms for a closer look.”
Hyundai has provided their first look at the 2020 Hyundai Sonata, displaying the next wave of bolder design philosophies that the automaker is playing with. And while the full reveal will be coming next month at the New York International Auto Show, and Hyundai’s remaining tight-lipped on features and performance numbers until that time, the sportier coupe-inspired styling paints a pretty picture for Sonata sales to come.
And, despite some snarky criticism from both the automotive and comic fanbase, Hyundai has is now selling the ‘Iron Man Edition’ of the Hyundai Kona. A clear tie-in to Marvel Comics’ upcoming blockbuster, AVENGERS: ENDGAME (complete with Avengers, Stark Industries and Iron Man badging) there are approximately 7,000 Iron Man Kona’s being made available worldwide. Not that Tony Stark would ever be content with a budget crossover that maxes out at 175 horsepower, but it was a neat idea to ride out combined excitement over both the Kona and the upcoming film.
And for the fifth consecutive year, BMW has maintained the distinction of leading the nation in automotive exports, by value, as reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Stemming primarily from the Spartanburg South Carolina production facility (to the tune of 81%) it’s a reassuring statement of domestic production. It’s also an interesting point of celebration, considering the 25th anniversary of that particular facility, which is celebrating having passed the 4.5 millionth BMW produced in South Carolina – credited with the manufacture of 1400 vehicles per day.
But….if you’re worried that we’re not going to get around to talking about the Geneva International Motor Show? Well, fret not. Held from March 7th through the 17th, the tentpole show has had industry journalists running around crazy, ready to deliver their perspective on some of the high-level concepts and technological advances on display. And if you think we’re going to be any different, well, someone’s going to be disappointed. (Psssst…that person is you)
But for the rest of you, here we go…
While the Geneva Motor Show is most widely celebrated for higher-end offerings (many of which, we’ll get to) one of the most newsworthy offerings comes from Mazda, in the form of their precariously named CX-30 compact crossover. Slotting between the CX-3 and CX-5, the CX-30 is built upon the same platform as the Mazda 3 hatchback albeit with increased maneuverability, functionality, comfort and space. In fact, the CX-30 boasts as much rear legroom as the CX-5 as well as a confident helping of cargo space. And while there’s no confirmation of such a thing, one can only assume that the CX-30 is will also herald in a change to Mazda’s naming strategy for new models.
But while the Mazda CX-30 is the car of tomorrow, we start edging towards the cars of the next decade when we introduce the Nissan IMQ concept, a futuristic hybrid crossover straight out of the sci-fi movies of yesteryear. Capable of 335 hp, the IMQ is no slouch, but its touches like the upright front fascia, frameless windows, floating glass roof and camera relays that really make the Nissan IMQ concept feel like a glimpse into the future.
But, as mentioned in our last episode, one of our most anticipated headlines going into the Geneva Show was VW’s announcement they’d be reintroducing the classic Dune Buggy in some form or fashion. And introduce they did, positioning the ID Buggy concept (built upon VW’s MEB platform) as a futuristic, technicolor dune raider. Far from practical, the Buggy concept features touch controls, and over twenty small touchscreen displays. Cool, for sure. But we won’t hold our breath for actual production models, and certainly not ones that mirror the concept model on the floor at Geneva.
Next up the Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake, best described by Car and Driver as a “more practical version of an impractical car that isn’t all that practical”. Placing function behind form, the CLA is a compact four-door coupe variant of the A-class with a low-swooping roofline. The 2nd-gen Shooting Brake looks good, but performance numbers equal to the standard CLA makes it little more than a pretty face, amidst attention-grabbing offerings. The promise of an all-wheel drive CLA45S capable of 415 horsepower does a little more to excite us. Not that it matters to U.S. drivers, since the Shooting Brake will continue its lack of stateside presence.
But Mercedes also debuted an updated GLC-Class for 2020 (hot on the heels of the mid cycle refresh the the C-Class in enjoying in 2019). Featuring restyled head and taillights, it will also receive new exterior colors and options in terms of wheels. With an updated 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the new GLC300 (as it will be identified in the U.S.) will enjoy 255 hp (a 14 point jump) with 273 lb-ft of torque. The tech-centric offering includes Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment software, accessible through a 10.2-inch high-res touchscreen as well as new inclusions in driver-assistive features like lane-change assist and route-based speed adaptation.
Audi had previously announced their intention to introduce no less than a dozen fully-electric cars by 2025, and the Q4 e-Tron concept was introduced with the intention of debuting the production model by the end of 2020, or early 2021. Featuring a more rounded variation of the angular aesthetic that Audi has been employing as of late, the Q4 displays a softer design philosophy. But, powered by paired electric motors and an 82-kilowatt battery, there’s nothing soft about its 301 horsepower rating or the quick-charge technology that makes a 30 minute / 80% charge possible. It’ll be interesting to see the Q4 evolve further with time.
After a string of recent victories resulting from their global re-emergence, Alfa Romeo came to Geneva eager to show off their new Tomale concept. A premium compact SUV, the Tonale is the first plug-in hybrid offering from Alfa Romeo, while still boasting the multi-mode DNA driving capabilities so widely celebrated in the sporting Alfa Romeo lineup. There are no real details regarding the Tonale’s ratings at this time, but it’s certainly another inspired project worth keeping an eye on.
And Bentley used the Geneva show to unveil a reinvisioned Bentayga which it bills as the world’s fastest production SUV. With a top-speed of 190 mph, the 626 hp 664 lb-ft of torque Bentayga will be capable of a 3.9 second jump to 60mph. Not bad for an SUV. Dubbed the Bentayga Speed, the variant will feature distinctive features like a tailgate spoiler, bumper grilles, dark-tint headlights and body-colored side skirts as well as special 22-inch 10-spoke wheels in either silver, dark tint or black. Bentley will begin accepting orders later this year.
But it’s the streamlined Aston Martin Vanquish that presents the most optimistic vision of the automaker’s future challenging the likes of Ferrari’s F8 Tribute, Lamborhini’s Huracan and McLaren’s 720S. The mid engine supercar will be powered by a twin-turbo V6 churning out something in the vicinity of 700hp, but its the sleek, futuristic design that makes the boldest of impressions. While no physical concept was present, the artistic concept drawings shared with the Geneva crowd painted a more-than promising picture.
Replacing the 488 GTB, Ferrari has unveiled their F8 Tributo, a successor that pairs an 88 LB weight reduction with a twin turbo 3.9-liter V8. Channeling 720 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque, the F8 is capable of a 2.9 second sprint to 60, a 7.8 sprint to 124 mph and a top speed of 211 mph.
And Bugatti earns the distinction of offering the “Most Expensive New Car Ever Sold” thanks to their reveal of the $18.9 million “La Voiture Noire” a shadowy 1479-hp monster that celebrates Bugatti’s 110 anniversary. Powered by a quad-turbo W-16 engine, the Noire channels 1180 lb-ft of torque and is the closest thing to a real-world Batmobile that we’ve ever seen,
But it’s the Koenigsegg team who gains our top pick from the Geneva show with their (up to) 1600hp Jesko hypercar. Presented in stark white (a ballsy move, if you ask us) the $3 million boasts a boomerang wing that drives 2200 LBS of downforce, while the top-speed Jesko reduces the wing size to secure a top speed of 314 mph. The seven clutch, three gear, nine speed transmission is a beast, and its selection of curves and valleys make it one of the most appreciable reveals of the show.
So that about wraps things up for our coverage of the Geneva Motor Show. As mentioned earlier, the New York Auto Show arrives next month – but up until then, we’ll continue to keep you up to speed on the latest and greatest of automotive headlines.
This has been AutoInfluence…thanks for listening.