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It’s Your Weekly Auto News, Featuring ‘Space Orange”!

Lexus LC 500h prototype in Space Orange, as featured in this week's Automotive News headlines for the week of May 17th

Annnnd we’re back…

AutoInfluence with all of your automotive news headlines for this week of May 17th.

Starting with…

Ford

Much to the chagrin of stateside enthusiasts, Ford unveiled the wagon-styled variant of the Focus ST, an offering that isn’t available in the U.S. Offering a welcome 58 cubic feet of passenger / cargo space, the European ST Wagon is available with both a 2.3-liter turbocharged I4 that’s rated for 276 horse, while a 2.0-liter diesel variant serves up 187 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The Focus ST wagon will be opened up for European sales, beginning this summer.

Ford has expanded a recall on Fusion sedans produced between 2013-16 due to risk of rollaway. The recall, which was prompted by one report of injury and three reports of property damage, is a continuation of a recall initiated just a few days prior. The original recall was based around 550,000 vehicles, consisting of both Fusions and Escapes, produced from 2013-14. The expanded recall adds another 270,000 Fusions by opening up the applicable range of model years. The cause of the problem is reported as faulty shifter cable bushings, which could detach themselves from the transmission, allowing the vehicle to be in a different gear than what is shown on the display. As such, a parked vehicle might actually be in gear. This also coincides with the recall of 2500 midsize Rangers, also susceptible to rollaway due to faulty transmission shift cable bracket fasteners. As such, Ford is urging all Fusion, Escape and Ranger owners to utilize their parking brake – just as an added precaution.

Credited to over saturation within the segment, sales of the Ford Explorer dropped 1.5% during the first quarter of 2019. With the impending release of the all-new 2020 Explorer, Ford has decided to reduce the price of the 2019 Explorer by $3,000 during the month of May, an extension of the discount previously offered in April. The discount is good through July 1st, as is the offer of 0% APR for well-qualified buyers. That said, terms and conditions do apply, so those interested should definitely seek out the fine print.

GM / GMC / Buick

An investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently focused on a past GM recall, specifically a 2016 recall of over 3,000 Colorado and Canyon midsize pickups built between January and March of 2015. The recall, centered around a wiring issue which compromised steering while in motion, is being called into question – under suspicion that it should have included up to 115,000 vehicles. Fortunately, no injuries have been reported. The findings have yet to be determined.

It’s another slow news week at General Motors this week (and let’s be honest, in general) but, after a banner quarter for the GMC Acadia (which enjoyed a 4% jump, giving the Acadia its best quarter ever) GMC has decided to discount select models by as much as 16% for the month of may. Equating, in some cases, to a discount of over $8,000 it’s believed that this is an attempt to maintain momentum through Q2.

Buick seems to be taking a similar approach with the Enclave, despite a 27% increase in Q1 sales. An 18% discount is being offered on all 2018 Buick Enclave models, with the exception of the base (1SV) trim. Of course, our traditional advice stands, so be sure to review all terms and conditions if interested.

FCA / RAM / Jeep

Last month we had reported on FCA’s planned purchase of European emissions credits from Tesla. While no financials had been released at the time, it appears the deal will cost FCA the approximate equivalent of $2 billion. With FCAs plans to launch a number of plug-in hybrids and fully electrified offerings, their current strategy is to utilize the purchased credits until they can meet European emissions standards on their own, which is expected to be sometime after 2022.

FCA has initiated a recall of 6,886 RAM 1500 4×4 pickups in Canada due to risk of the driveshaft detaching itself. Affecting 2018 and 2019 models, the root cause appears to have been a welding issue which will be repaired with the installation of an entirely new rear driveshaft. Affected parties will be notified by mail.

And in a peripheral headline, hundreds of members of the Jeep Community, in and around Highlands Ranch, CO honored 18-year old Kendrick Castillo, one of the high school students who had charged an armed invader at STEM School Highland Ranch losing his life in an attempt to disarm the gunman. The tribute, which took place before Castillo’s memorial service, was intended to honor the fallen civilian hero through his love of Jeeps and off-roading. The procession consisted of hundreds of Jeeps, and was led by officers from the Douglas Country Sheriff’s Dept. AutoInfluence would, of course, like to offer our respectful condolences to the friends and family of Kendrick Castillo, and the Highland Ranch community during this time of healing.

Lexus

Last week, one of the literal highlights of the 2019 Barcelona Motor Show was Lexus’ reveal of their LC 500h hybrid prototype, in a hue referred to as ‘Space Orange’. The bold and vibrant color, presented in a gloss-free matte finish was intended to represent a new area that the automaker plans to innovate from within. Inventive color choices are nothing new to today’s automotive landscape, nor are matching interior accents. They do however, feel fresh for Lexus, whose more refined (and dare we say subdued) color palettes might benefit from some revitalization, at least in the eye of a wider consumer base.

Honda

This week, thee team over at Honda shared the news that they were partnering with an Ohio-based electric utility company, American Electric Power, to develop a 2nd life for used EV batteries. Certainly a facet of the ever-evolving sustainability story, albeit one that we don’t hear about enough, the topic of battery recycling or repurposing will be an important step in furthering the integration of cleaner energy consumption and renewable energies. Honda, who plans to reduce their CO2 emissions by 50% as of 2050, certainly seems to be leading the charge in this regard.

Nissan

Nissan continues to move forward in their rebuilding efforts, despite CEO Hiroto Saikawa’s claims from this week that they had hit “rock bottom”. The claim is based on a 28% drop in their annual operating profit, equating to over $2 billion. The struggles, currently being pinned on disgraced former CEO Carlos Ghosn are felt in a 9.3% downturn in sales for the previous fiscal year. The current state of Nissan has also prompted the automaker to adjust their 2022 revenue target, originally projected at $150 billion, and now reduced to $132 billion.

But in more forward-thinking news, Nissan has aligned themselves with Tesla, at least philosophically in criticizing automakers who are basing their autonomy strategies around Lidar. Nissan has doubled-down on their plan to incorporate a combination of camera feeds, radar and sonar sensors to facilitate 3D mapping, and empowering their vehicles to “see” their surroundings in the most thorough and accurate manner possible.

Hyundai / KIA

Manual transmissions are a hot-button topic these days, with many automakers deciding to ‘jump ship’ and abandon any remaining models that boast them. On the the other hand, some other automakers seem equally eager to embrace the driver-centric novelty of the manual. But among the former, Hyundai is among the most recent, in sharing their decision to drop the manual option from the 2020 Elantra. Serving up either their Intelligent CVT or a seven-speed double clutch transmission, the Elantra will also enjoy upgrades to the Hyundai SmartSense safety suite for 2020.

Here at AutoInfluence, we’ve talked about our surprise of our own appreciation for the KIA Telluride on more than one occasion. That said, the Telluride has enjoyed some distinctive recognition this week earning both “Best Mid” and “Best Full-Size Family Utility Vehicle” honors from the Northwest Automotive Press Association. And moving from ‘Mudfest’ to the first-ever ‘Texas Off-Road Invitational’ held by the Texas Motor Press Association, the Telluride also walked away with Top Honors in the SUV category. Solid praise on both accounts.

Mazda

It only took four hours for Mazda to sell out the highly coveted limited edition 30th Anniversary MX-5 Miata the they first unveiled back in February. So, by popular stateside demand, they have decided to increase the U.S. allotment of 500 units – by another 143 units. And tying back to a previous story, it’s worth noting that Mazda did specify that 76% of soft-top Miata owners prefer a manual gearbox, while that number jumps even higher, up to 86% when it comes to the RF variant.

Volkswagen / Audi

Like Nissan and Tesla, VW stands as one of the automakers most aggressively pushing responsible electrification – and doing so largely on their own terms. It was recently reported that VW would be shouldering some of the burden in procurement of resources and manufacturing efforts related to EV Battery production. That said, VW is also working with Silicon Valley startup QuantumScape to develop solid state batteries, designed to power a vehicle across its entire life without significant charge degradation. Their reported intention is to introduce this technology as its 2nd-gen battery offering, sometime between 2025 and 2030.

But in the meantime, VW has announced that they are setting up two plants of their own in China – intended to support production of 600,000 vehicles under their new MEB dedicated battery platform. Despite following on the heels of Tesla’s plan to create their own production facilities outside Shanghai, the projected numbers achievable by VW’s imply the possibility that they might be outproducing Tesla once things get rolling.

Over in Ingolstadt Germany, Audi is tackling traffic flow and traffic-related accidents through their V2I service, which connects their vehicles to traffic lights. The program provides driver notifications as to whether or not they will make a light change based on calculation of speed and distance. The intention is to minimize the risk of uncertainty or erratic driving, while integrating connective technologies that will further the development of self-driving vehicles. The program is also expected to roll into other European cities from 2020 on.

BMW

The BMW is celebrating the 35th anniversary of the M5 with a limited edition run of only 350 units (35 of which are headed to the U.S.) Referred to as the M5 Edition 35 Years, the vehicles will feature a special matte exterior color called BMW Individual Frozen Dark Grey II. Based on the M5 Competition, the vehicles come powered by a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 paired with an eight-speed automatic, channeling an enticing 617 horsepower rating. Starting price is expected to start around $128,995.

Mercedes-Benz

And Dietmar Exler, who has served as Mercedes-Benz CEO since CEO has announced that he’ll be stepping down from his position, after leading the brand to three consecutive luxury sales titles. What this means for the Mercedes-Benz in short or long term, remains to be seen.

But regardless, Mercedes-Benz reaffirmed their projected plans of having a 50% electrified lineup by 2030, with an extended plan to boast a carbon-neutral manufacturing and operational footprint by 2039. An impressive timeline, considering that equates to less than three product cycles.

And that about wraps things up for this week’s Automotive News. As always, join us next week for more headlines of interest and, in the meantime, say hi to your mom for me…

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