Annnnd we’re back, AutoInfluence with all the current auto news that you can handle. In fact, there’s quite a bit to cover this week — with lots of stuff on the horizon, as well. That’s right, we’re easing into major motor show season and you won’t want to miss a beat of it.
Ford / Lincoln
While the Newsweek was light overall for Ford and Lincoln, the stories that did come up appear to be based almost exclusively around the automaker’s EV initiatives. First, came spy photos of the heavily camouflaged Mustang-inspired SUV which has captivated our interest since last year. There were certainly no new details to share, but it’s always promising once we start seeing test mules out there on the roadways. The vehicle is slated for a 2020 release, for the 2021 model year.
And of course, it will be followed by the oft-lamented EV version of the F-150 pickup. But it appears that there will be two midsize electric SUV offerings joining the ranks, in the immediate future as well. Expected to be be offered alongside the Ford Edge and Lincoln Nautilus, these two SUVS are part of the wider plan at Ford to offer 40 new models, including hybrid, plug-in and 16 full EV offerings.
GM / Chevy
And in the spirit of continuing the EV conversation, GM has been awarded $9.1 million in funding from the US Department of Energy to research and develop solid-state battery technologies. To put the goal of this grant into perspective, EV’s (such as the Chevy Bolt, for example) make use of lithium-ion batteries, where lithium-ions are suspenses inside of a liquid. A solid-state battery replaces that liquid with a conductive glass, reducing heat, and increasing the energy capacity of that battery by up to 2.5x (at least) based on current technologies. That said, the cost and complexity of these batteries makes them currently unsuitable for automotive use. It appears that GM aims to change that.
But speaking of the Chevy Bolt, the 2020 model year introduces a 21-point jump in all electric range bringing the Bolt from 238 miles to 259 miles. This 8% increase comes as a result of refinements in the lithium-ion battery pack (which we’d just touched on) which pumps its capacity from 60kwh up to 66kwh. This improvement however, helps the Bolt to best the likes of the Tesla Model 3 in terms of range (at 240 miles) as well as the Kia Soul (at 243 miles) and Hyundai Kona (at 258 miles).
FCA / Dodge / RAM / Jeep
While it’s been quite a few weeks since we reported on the failed merger talks between FCA and French automaker Renault, it was reported this week that (as expected) discussion between the two automotive powerhouses had resumed . While there’s not much in the way of new details, the scope of this potential merger merits a ‘refresher course’. Should the two automakers join forces, it would create the world’s third largest automaker in terms of volume accounting for an estimated annual production of around 15 million vehicles. We’ll continue to share details of these discussions as they’re revealed.
And with that said, the surprising trend of light news on the domestic front continues through Dodge, RAM and Jeep, rounding out our FCA headlines and bringing us to…
Toyota / Lexus
Toyota has released pricing for their 2020 Camry TRD, slated for release next month. At a starting price of $32,035 MSRP Toyota Racing Development’s version of the Camry provides the least-expensive means of scoring Toyota’s 301-hp V6 powertrain, undercutting both the Camry XSE and (by a much larger gap) the Avalon TRD. And while the Camry TRD will steer clear of luxury-based amenities like leather interior and driver assistive tech, the sacrifice of creature comforts allows for it to be tricked out with performance-minded features, while still maintaining its accessible price point. Setting aside powertrain and the superficial appeal of its aggressive body design, the TRD boasts a unique suspension and upsized brakes. The former includes specially tuned dampers paired with stiffer springs which reduce the TRD’s ride height by over half an inch. The latter is based on the .9-inch increase in rotor diameter and use of dual-piston calipers. Factor in a TRD-exclusive exhaust, wider lightweight wheels and a retooled chassis and its easy to see why the Camry TRD has so many enthusiasts ready and waiting for its release.
And with next year’s Summer Olympics coming to Tokyo, Toyota has clarified their role in the ceremonies. In the more grand scheme, the automaker will be deploying some 3700 vehicles to fill various transportation roles during the major event. But two particular roles of interest will be Toyota’s role as a torch bearer, and in leading the marathon event. Torch duties will be relegated to a working version of the Concept-i, a self-driving vehicle capable of Level 4 autonomy and equipped with AI technology designed to ‘understand’ and interact with humans. This is in addition to the Concept-i’s role of marshaling and leading the marathon, itself. It has yet to be confirmed if the Concept-i will be driving itself during these duties, but one can only assume that it will be (at least in some capacity) based on the size of the global viewing audience and need for wider buy-in on autonomy.
And rumor has it that Lexus will be unveiling a new EV concept at the Tokyo Motor Show in October. Expected to be a small electric hatchback designed for urban use, there’s plenty of speculation regarding the offering, including some implication that it will be based on the LF-SA concept which Lexus VP Koji Sato had indicated might accurately represent the future of the Lexus brand. Time, of course, will tell.
Honda / Acura
Honda announced details regarding the 2020 Honda Civic Si coup and sedan this week. Slated to arrive at dealers on September 6th the sport-tuned Civic Si will be priced to start around $25,000 MSRP, will feature a number of updates to front and rear styling, as well as more responsive acceleration and the Honda Sensing Suite of driver-assistive and safety technologies. Powered by a 1.5-liter DI turbocharged I4 engine paired with a 6-speed manual transmission, the Civic Si is rated for 205-hp and 192 lb-ft of torque.
At Monterey Car Week, Acura had crowds cheering for this Type S concept based on the second-gen TLX sedan. Combined with the speculation that a second Type S will be a variant of either the RDX or MDX, Acura certainly has the consumer’s ear. According to John Ikeda, Acura VP, “We’ve been evolving the brand into more youthful, more energetic designs. Everyone at Acura is aligned around performance. This is the time for the Type S.” Overall, it appears that the revived Type S will have significant influence over the Acura lineup as a whole, and we’ll begin to see that change start to unfold sometime next year.
Nissan / Infiniti
Members of Nissan and Infiniti’s North American teams, as well as customers, are likely to be aware of a data center power outage which took place in the last week – one that (despite prompt restoration) has nearly crippled certain business applications in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. This means that some dealers have had to revert to manual processes, while others might have had difficulty ordering both vehicles and even parts. Nissan has assured customers and dealer employees alike that they “are working to restore affected services as quickly as possible” but “do not have an estimated timeline at this time”.
And automotive journalists are reading between the lines when it comes to Nissan’s plans for the current-gen GT-R. Having previously reported that the GT-R (which is fast approaching teenage status) could go as long as another 20 years without any major changes, there’s certainly been some positive response to Nissan’s hint at a long-term commitment to the popular vehicle. That said, there is some sense of concern when it comes to the need for timely and regular updates. Now, logic would tell us that discussion of a hybrid or EV overhaul would still happen sooner (rather than later). But the absence to-date of test mules or prototypes would indicate that we’re still several years off. The consensus? We should probably expect the next gen GT-R within the next ten years, regardless of those earlier statements. What updates might come in the meantime, remains to be seen.
With its official reveal slated for next month’s Frankfurt Motor Show, Hyundai has released an animated tease of their new EV concept – a tease which you can view by visiting this blog on autoinfluence.com. The vehicle, which goes by the name 『45』 (yes, those Japanese parentheses are actually parts of its name) is intended to represent the automaker’s 45-year legacy, and a launch-point for their EV future. With the expectation of a retro-futuristic vibe, Hyundai’s press release read as follows
“The new concept accentuates the forward-driven design direction while exploring the evolution of Hyundai’s ‘Sensuous Sportiness’ design language. ‘Sensuous’ stands for enhanced emotional values that customers can experience through design, and ‘Sportiness’ is determined to implement those values through innovative mobility solutions.”
You can expect further updates from Frankfurt next month, right here at AutoInfluence.com
And Hyundai has continued to rake into various recognitions this week. First the organization was recognized as a ‘Military Friendly Employer’ by VIQTORY, a veteran-owned business which assists the military community in obtaining civilian employment. On a model-level, the Accent, Santa Fe and Tucson were named by U.S. News & World Report among their picks for the ‘Best Cars for Teens’ and both the the 2020 Sonata and Le Fil Rouge concept were listed as finalists at the 2019 International Design Excellence Awards. In a list of noteworthy accolades, veteran-friendly, safe and nice to look at rank pretty high in our opinion. So, well done, Hyundai.
Volkswagen / Audi / Porsche
Over at Volkswagen, a large number of recent headlines have been built around the automakers rebranding initiatives, conveying their intent to make a clean breake from ‘the dark times’ known as Dieselgate, while allowing for a clean start. The most recent component of that initiative seems to be VW’s new logo, which abandons their skeuomorphic blue & silver 3D badging for a simplified, flat black and white roundel. Expected to debut on the new MkVIII Golf, the new logo has already been teased in the brand’s ‘Hello Light’ ad campaign as well as on certain concept vehicles.
And Volkswagen denied any interest in acquiring stake in Tesla this week, after the supposed interest in doing so by VW CEO Herbert Diess had been reported. With a VW spokesperson calling the reports “completely unfounded” and “pure speculation”, VW was actually doing Tesla kind of a favor. In fact, Tesla shares rose 2% in premarket trading as a direct result of VW’s denial.
And Audi has answered the call, with their confirmation that the latest RS6 Avant will be offered in North America, for the first time. The aggressively styled all-wheel drive RS6 Avant comes powered by a twin-turbo hybrid 4.0-liter V8 paired to an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission. It wrangles 591hp, produces 590 lb-ft of torque and sprints to 60mph in 3.6 seconds. You can even opt for the ‘Dynamic’ or ‘Dynamic Package Plus’ packages which updates its speed threshold to 174 and 190 mph respectively, while adding mechanically operated central differential that can direct up to 70% of the Avant’s power to its front wheels, or up to 85% to its rear, as needed. Pricing and timeline for North American release, have yet to be revealed.
Having mentioned the upcoming Frankfurt Motor Show, Audi is teasing their plans to present four distinct concepts at the show. We’re no math experts, but that’s one concept for each of Audi’s four rings. Of course, we’ll be covering all the details of those four concepts: including the Aicon sedan, PB18 grand tourer and AI:ME hatchback. But it’s the Audi AI: Trail Quattro which seems to have sparked plenty of buzz this week. Pitched as a futuristic off-roader, the AI feels like the love-child of a Mars Rover and Batman’s tumbler, in terms of its general aesthetic. More to come at the time of reveal, in Frankfurt.
And the all-new fully electric Porsche Taycan has joined forces with Apple Music, to offer what has been called “the first fully integrated music streaming experience”. With Apple Music allowing subscribers to stream over 50 million songs, curated playlists and ad-free airplay its hard to argue the appeal. New and existing Porsche owners get up to 6 months free of Apple music, with additional perk of complimentary in-car internet data for 3 years if the buyer opts for external antenna and a Roaming package.
Frankfurt will also introduce the production version of the Mercedes-Benz EQV, first teased earlier this ear in Geneva. The passenger van, which accommodates up to eight passengers, ranks as the first fully-electric MPV, with an estimated range of 249 miles and an output rating of around 201hp.
And that about wraps thing up for AutoInfluence this week. As mentioned several times during this podcast, we have the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show coming up in a few weeks. Running from Thursday September 12th to the 22nd, meaning there’ll be no shortage of reasons to keep coming back for the latest current auto news updates to come.
And then we’ll have the Tokyo Motor Show from October 23rd to November 4th.
And then of course, there’s the LA Auto Show from November 22nd to December 1st.
In other words, we’ll be here every week with the headlines, reveals and concepts that you’ll want to know about. And all we ask for in return, is something so simple — just say hi to your mom for me.