Annnnd we’re back…AutoInfluence kicking down the door to the month of May with all your automotive news. But don’t worry. We promise we’ll rehang the door once we’re done here (it’s the least we could do, since we forget to say hi to your mom in last week’s episode…)
Ford / Lincoln
This week Ford announced a new partnership with retail giant Amazon, where eligible Ford and Lincoln owners who subscribe to Amazon Prime can have deliveries made securely to their vehicle. The service will be offered to Ford vehicles (2017 and newer) and Lincoln vehicles (2018 and newer) equipped with the FordPass and Lincoln Connect apps. By linking an Amazon Prime account to the app, users receive a notification of any pending delivery. They can then authorize the delivery, grant (or block) access and will receive a notification that the vehicle has been re-secured. Presented as an alternative to unattended home deliveries, where there can be an inherent risk of theft or weather damage, this ‘Key by Amazon’ service is being touted as the first of many secure concierge services to come as a result of connective automotive technologies. And it looks like on-demand car washes (including interior cleans and detailing) are right around the corner.
And speaking of FordPass, the company’s recently-appointed Chief Customer Experience Officer, Elena Ford, is addressing it as part of their new strategy to establish long-term brand loyalty. FordPass, for example, has been designed to ‘elevate the customer experience by creating a single mobile platform where owners can monitor their vehicles, find parking spaces or make service appointments’. Ford is also expanding the reach of their Mobile Service Pilot service which (like Amazon deliveries and carwashes) provides the convenience of onsite vehicle maintenance and light service, being facilitated at your home or place of employment. According to Ford, “The customer experience is the most important area we can invest in to become the world’s most trusted company. The real measure of our success as a company is keeping customers’ loyalty over time.”
But how far does loyalty go? News headlines across the country this past week shared the troubling story of a Virginia man who who was arrested for allegedly shooting two individuals (one of whom he also stabbed) over a debate as to which was better: Ford or Chevy. While these sort of debates are nothing new- and police have indicate the possible influence of alcohol and /or narcotics – the fact that 56-year old Mark Turner would wound both his girlfriend and her son over such a trivial matter is a good reminder that loyalty is fine, but there’s still a limit to how far it should go.
GM / Chevy / GMC
General Motors was recognized by the Environmental Protecting Agency this week, earning the 29th spot on the EPA’s National Top 100 List of Green Power Users. The only automotive company included on the list, GM was applauded for their use of landfill gas, wind and solar energy power sources to the tune of 430 million kilowatt-hours. Roughly equivalent to the annual energy consumption of 40,000 American homes, the usage represents approximately 10% of the energy consumed in the automaker’s U.S. operations.
And this week, GM confirmed the long-swirling rumors that they would be pursuing the creation of an electrified pick-up trick, although it has to be confirmed if the offering will fall under the Chevy banner, that of GMC, or both. The conversation is nothing new, with prior comments being made regarding the company’s intention to build an all-electric future. But with Rivian and Tesla leading the charge, and Ford’s highly publicized EV truck development, GM could certainly be criticized for waiting as long as they did to provide the confirmation.
An interesting footnote in terms of GM’s truck offerings, spy shots of a lightly-camoflauged 2020 Silverado HD surfaced this week – touting both the MutliPro tailgate and CarbonPro box which, to-date, has been exclusive to the Sierra. Will such distinctive features make their way across the aisle to the Silverado in 2020? Only time will tell…
Speaking of GM change-ups for 2020, it was announced that there will be a couple less options for diesel-powered all-wheel drive crossovers available in the marketplace. This is due to the fact that both the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain will lose AWD in the year to come, at least in terms of the turbodiesel configuration which will now be front-wheel drive only.
And Chevy has been applauded by a number of Camaro traditionalists in their reveal of the 2020 Camaro SS, which addresses certain divisive features of the 2019 refresh that had been met with a mixed response. More specifically, the front fascia of most recent model year offering had included a contrasting black crossbar emblazoned with the bowtie emblem. For 2020 the crossbar will be restored to body color, and the bowtie will be centrally placed in the grille. But who has two thumbs and actually appreciated Chevy’s attempt at trying something aggressive and new? This guy…
Now we’ve spoken a lot about the C8 mid engine Corvette over the past year, but anyone interested in one (for ownership, or even test-driving) might need to perform some due diligence in order to find a dealership who has them in inventory. In order to do so, dealerships must qualify as either a ‘Corvette’ or ‘Signature Corvette’ dealer. This requires an investment of $5,000 minimum to accommodate the purchase of training materials, a certified training session in Las Vegas, and specialty tools required to service the vehicle. Also offered is participation in the C8 Mobile Tour, where factory-approved experts visit the dealership with a pair of new C8 ‘Vettes for training and assistance in ordering. That said, the latter which cost dealerships a whopping $16G for one day, or $25g for two; so it might not be an ideal fit for every dealership.
FCA / Jeep
For FCA fans like myself, things have been unsettlingly quiet on the Dodge, RAM and Jeep fronts this week [Zach laughs maniacally]. That said, some spy photos of a camouflaged pickup were snagged this week and (while some might be inclined to think the vehicle was a RAM 1500) others are suggesting it might have been a test mule for the Grand Wagoneer, currently slated for 2021. Since the full-size SUV will be manufactured in the same plant as the RAM 1500, this is no real surprise. But, it has gotten people talking about the likelihood that the Wagoneer’s chassis will exist in the same space as the RAM, albeit with the independent rear suspension that we’ve previously touched on.
This week, there were a number of headlines surrounding Aaron Morvant, the owner of a 2007 Toyota Tundra which just became the world’s second Million Mile Tundra. But what’s really interesting about this story is that both of the seven-digit vehicles are based out of Louisiana, and serviced by Greg LeBlanc Toyota. That said, we’re starting a pool here in the office regarding the third Million Mile Tundra and whether or not it comes from Louisiana. Anyone else want in on this action?
And Toyota has recently announced a number of upgrades to be enjoyed courtesy of the 2020 Toyota Prius Prime hybrid. Such updates include (i) the addition of a fifth-seat to accommodate greater comfort (ii) standardization of Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM and Amazon Alexa compatibility (iii) and inclusion of two rear-cabin USB ports, in addition to some cosmetic and convenience tweaks that help to support the twenty-year favorite in these more competitive times.
Honda / Acura
Honda and Acura have announced a 94,000 vehicle recall due to issues with the timing belts, after the warning siren was sounded by 15 separate warranty claims. While there have been no injuries or crashes related to the issue, the risk of engine damage (especially while in motion) shouldn’t be taken lightly. Thus owners of 2019 Honda Odyssey, 2018-19 Honda Pilot, 2018-2019 Acura MDX, 2019 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid and 2019 Acura TLX should confirm if their vehicles are included as part of the recall.
But in happier news the 2020 Acura RDX arrived at dealerships and showrooms this week. Fueled by ten consecutive months of record sales, the best-selling luxury SUV has enjoyed banner year receiving countless accolades from the likes of Autotrader and U.S. News and World Report, as we all as Popular Science and Business Insider. To-date, the third-gen offering also Top Safety Pick+ status courtesy of the IIHS and a 5-Star Rating from the NHTSA.
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Nissan Z, but the automaker has announced that the drop-top 370Z Roadster variant, first introduced for the 2010 model year, would be discontinued stateside for the 2020 model year. The future of both the Z and Nissan’s GT-R remain cloudy at best, but at the NAIAS Nissan Chief Product Specialist Hiroshi Tamura claimed the both remain “very important” to the brand (whatever that means).
A few minutes ago, we had mentioned changes to some GM crossovers, with both the Equinox
And Terrain ditching all-wheel drive turbodiesel options. That said, it does present an opportunity for Mazda’s diesel-powered CX-5, noting its superior horsepower and torque ratings (despite nominally lower fuel economy ratings).
KIA / Genesis
Following its enthusiastic reception, the 2020 Kia Telluride continues to garner recognition – this time from the Texas Auto Writers Association as part of their annual Roundup earning their pricks for “CUV of Texas” and “Mid-Size CUV”.
And Genesis has gone on record with their re-emergence strategy, following a dip in franchise locations as they restructure their retail network to pursue a heightened luxury sales experience. At the beginning of 2018, the Hyundai-owned luxury brand boasted 352 U.S. franchise locations, a number that would drop to 178 in a span of twelve months. They now estimate that they will have bolstered those numbers by April 2020, expecting to reach 300-325 locations by that time.
And the Volkswagen Group of America has announced the launch of their inclusive ‘Mobility Initiative’ designed to redefine vehicle technologies, user experience and mobility services around the needs of disability groups. “Transportation is the key to full participation in society,” said Scott Keogh, president and CEO adding, “”and for individuals with disabilities today, the options can be limited. Volkswagen is known as the people’s car company, and as the technology allows, we want to design vehicles that are more accessible”.
It should really be no surprise, but tech-centric Tesla has just earned top honors from Consumer Reports in the evaluation of their infotainment system, in a wide-scale comparison of over 60,000 vehicles. Earning a 86% satisfaction rate, other areas of praise include Tesla’s smartphone integration. For the sake of anyone interested, BMW, Genesis, Ford / Lincoln and FCA rounded out the top five – while bottom rankings went to Mazda, Acura, Honda and Lexus respectively.
And that’s about it for us – in what has been another slow auto news week. As always, join us next Friday for another roundup of industry headlines and rumors you might want to hear. And until then, say hi to your mom for me.