Annnnd we’re back, AutoInfluence on Friday, April 26th with all the automotive news headlines you could ask for, while celebrating a holiday that (we think) deserves to be made into a three-day weekend. But we’ll get back to that in a few minutes…let’s get down to the news!
As we’ve reported time and time again, the decisions being made by Ford CEO Jim Hackett and the rest of Ford’s management team have resulted in mixed perceptions, but certainly seem to be pointing the giant in the right direction. At least that’s the general consensus this week, with Ford’s stock jumping by more than 8% in extended training on Thursday. This equates to an adjusted earnings per share of $.44 versus the forecast of $.27 per share which might be a flash in the pan but hHow Ford has fared-to-date in 2019 differs significantly depending on the terms of assessment. At this point, it’s fair to say that their horizon seems to be lit more favorably than certain domestic competitors. While being interviewed by CNBC, Ford CFO Bob Shanks shared his belief that “the ship is starting to turn after a lot of work on the fitness of the business, rethinking the product portfolio and working on a number of alliances” while still acknowledging that they “have a lot of work to do.”
Last week, we had reported on Jim Hackett’s indication that Ford was pumping the brakes on their aggressive pursuit of autonomy. And while his statements might be described as ‘vague’ at best, implying that the race towards self-driving vehicles was being hindered more by weak infrastructure and demand than by lack of OEM readiness, perception of Ford’s strategy might have received some welcome refinement this week. Having announced last month the construction plans for a new Michigan plant dedicated to autonomous vehicles, it seemed that Ford was itching to go head-to-head against the likes of Tesla and Waymo. And with Marcy Klevorn, Ford’s President of Mobility announcing that the company aims to have 100 self-driving vehicles on the road by the end of the year, it would seem that we should have digested Hackett’s recent statement with more grains of salt. Klevorn went on to clarify that Ford is focusing on what they call “complex miles”, favoring congested urban areas and commuter routes rife with both traffic and construction delays. To date, they have chosen Miami and Washington D.C. as their preferred test areas, with a third city to be added later this year.
And Lincoln’s President Joy Falotico went on record to Automotive News recently, acknowledging the company’s decade-long recession-fueled identity crisis. But despite that acknowledgment, and modest reductions to the company’s global projections, an 11% jump in Q1 indicates positive forward motion. Credited to the offering of more fresh, compelling products like the redesigned Navigator and Nautilus Falotico, conveyed a clear sense of the brand’s strengths describing Lincoln as a “luxury boutique” rather than a “shopping mall”. That said, it’ll be interesting to observe the avenues in which Lincoln directs their energies in the next few years to come.
General Motors / Chevy / GMC
As of late General Motors headlines might have lacked a sense of positivity, but a press conference held on Thursday included this announcement from CEO Mary Barra in regard to the Bowling Green Kentucky plant responsible for manufacturing of the C8 mid engine Corvette. “I am exceptionally pleased to announce this afternoon that we will be adding a second shift and more than 400 hourly jobs in Bowling Green to support the next generation of the Corvette and increase the plant’s workforce to more than 1300 employees.” This of course bodes well in terms of forecasting interest in the C8, but is also a welcome uptick in positivity for GM-centered news stories, being built around the employment opportunities they are creating.
And the Chevy Traverse has received some refinement, at least in terms of powertrain options with the decision to discontinue the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. This leaves the 3.6-liter V6 paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission as the sole option, besting the discontinued option by 53hp with a modest reduction in torque rating.
For those interested in the iconic Camaro, many 2018 models have now been made available with discounts of as much as 15%. While the official explanation dances around the annual desire of making room for new models, it is worth mentioning that the Camaro has been all-but-bested by Dodge muscle car offerings. That said, Chevy shows no signs of backing down, and has reaffirmed that not only is the Camaro is here to stay for the foreseeable future but Chevy intends for them to remain competitive.
And speaking of discounts, GMC has made the decision to discount their Terrain SUV by as much as 18%. Extended to current non-GM owners and qualified lessees in the U.S, the offer extends to non base trim models with delivery being taken by April 30th.
Some of you might recall the ‘Granite’ nameplate, an SUV concept first registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office back in 2009, then unveiled by GMC back in 2010 with no real forward motion after that. GM has continued to re-register the name in 2010 and 2015 respectively, but has once more re-upped their interest in the name this month. Could the GMC Granite, in some form, be finally edging towards a debut after a decade of development?
Only time will tell.
FCA / Dodge / Jeep / Mopar
But no…we mustn’t dwell. No. Not today. We can’t. Not on ‘HEMI DAY’!
[Zach: You’re Fired!]
That’s right! Today, April 26th is “the annual celebration of all things Hemi” and honors debut of the 426 Hemi over fifty years ago. And to celebrate, Mopar has opened the floor for preorders of their 1,000 horsepower “Hellephant” crate engine, which offers a heart-pounding 950 lb-ft of torque. Priced to start around $29,995 anyone interested in ordering, or simply learning more, can visit www.cratehemi.com.
Of all the various expansions and hiring waves we’ve reported on as of late, FCA’s plans in Detroit rank among the most significant. With the planned fusion of two existing plants into a single Jeep assembly plant and modernization of another plant, FCA plans to invest $5.8 million dollars towards the staffing of 4,950 positions which are being created. This is, of course, only part of the $13.8 million being invested into community improvements, education and workforce training which, in turn, is part of FCA’s pending $2.5B plans.
Just a few minutes ago, we’d alluded to Chevy being bested by Dodge in the muscle car category. To be more specific, we’re talking about the Challenger having overtaken the Camaro for the number two spot. And while the gap between the respective sales for each (along with the lead enjoyed by the Mustang) ebb and flow, this remains a great time to be part of what automotive pundits call “an extremely emotional segment”. But in our opinion, no-one does a buzz model quite like Dodge and we’re still trying to calm down from the Stars & Stripe Edition of the Challenger that we’d discussed last week. Factor in recent discussion of the R/T Scat Pack Widebody, and it’s clear that nobody is doing it better than Dodge in terms of inventing (or reinventing) genuinely organic throwbacks to a beloved and bygone era. It speaks to the passion so commonly associated with the muscle car community In other words, if Chevy intends to remain competitive, they’ve got their work cut out or them.
Over to Jeep…
Last month’s reveal of the 2020 Jeep Gladiator pricing (starting around $35,040 MSRP) has a lot of people eager for the formal release, slated for mid-summer. But qualified lessees might be interested in knowing that a base Gladiator Sport with a six-speed manual transmission is available for a two year lease, for as little as $143 a month (with a $3,504 downpayment). Of course, pricing and participation may vary, and higher trim levels like the overland and Rubicon should be expected to fall in around the mid-$300 range.
Toyota / Lexus
Toyota’s pursuit of a hydrogen-centric fuel cell future has now formally expanded into a desire for ‘zero emission trucking’ with the unveiling of their first FCET offering, a partnership between Toyota and Tractor Trailer giant Kenworth. FCET (or Fuel Cell Electric Truck) is the culmination of a few years worth of testing, and this first model offers a 300 mile range, with 10 truck being deployed for use in the greater L.A. area.
And Toyota has announced a two separate recalls, related to approximately 270 (2019) Siennas and 43,000 Yaris Liftback and Hatchbacks made between 2015-2017. The Sienna recall surrounds a weld issue related on the passenger side front doors which could trigger the airbag sensor causing inadvertent deployment. The Yaris recall is based around corrosion of the wire harnesses which connect side airbag sensors to the airbag control unit, and could cause similar issues. As always, those who think their vehicle might be included in the recall can log on to toyota.com/recall and enter their VIN# for confirmation. Since notifications will be sent out by mid-June, we’d certainly suggest you get a jump on it.
On the Lexus side, the 2020 RC F is about to make it’s big screen debut on June 14th thanks to the release of Sony Pictures ‘Men in Black: International’. And while real world consumers might not feel a compulsion to protect the earth from the scum of the universe, it’s hard not to appreciate the sleek design, best-in-class power-to-weight ratio and 472hp courtesy of its efficient. Gotta love a fitting automotive cross-marketing campaign.
Hyundai / Kia
And Hyundai has announced their creation of a smartphone app (or as they call it a “smartphone electric-vehicle pairing-based performance-adjustment technology”) which allows Hyundai and KIA EV owners to control seven sets of performance parameters from their smartphone. Those seven sets include: ignition, maximum torque output, acceleration, top speed, deceleration responsiveness, regenerative braking and climate-control energy usage. With 23 EV offerings set for release by 2025, this is timely connective technology. That said, there’s no real timeline for U.S. rollout (or a rollout, in general).
And having mentioned the appearance of the 2020 Lexus RC F on movie screens this summer, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out the appearance of the 528hp Audi E-Tron GT in this weekend’s release of ‘Avengers: Endgame’. Offering a 3.5 second sprint to 62mph, a top speed of 149 mph and 250 miles of range the E-Tron is a near perfect fit for billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark (and a far better fit than that, dare we say, that ill-fitting Iron Man Edition fo the Hyundai Kona).
Oh Shit. Hopefully we didn’t just spoil the Endgame
Well, we’re as shocked as you are to learn that we’ve come to the end of this week’s edition, almost as if every automaker breathed a collective sigh of relief after the madness of this month’s barrage of autoshows. But, as always, we’ll be back next week with all the automotive news headlines out there rolled into one neat little package and served up by yours truly. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get out there and celebrate Hemi Day in style.