Welcome to Auto Influence Weekly Automotive News. This week, we look back at the week of January 28th, leading up to (and including) Super Bowl 53 and the automotive influences that helped to make it what it was.
But first, a quick reminder that the Chicago Auto Show will be taking place at McCormick Place from February 9th to 18th. As one would expect, the nation’s longest running out show will feature an array of reveals, production models and concept vehicles from 36 of the world’s leading manufacturers. And with an anticipated focus on the evolving truck segment, we are looking forward to some of the reveals to come, all of which we’ll recount for you at home.
That said, let’s get on with the news.
In a recent interview with Automobile Magazine, Hau Thai-Thang, Ford’s VP of Product Development and Purchasing elaborated the company’s “5 Platform Strategy” which would eliminate four primary platforms, as well as any platforms that serve as the basis for an isolated model (such as the Mustang S550 platform). The strategy, expected to expose $25.5 billion in efficiencies, will focus on a front-wheel drive platform (such as the Focus and Fiesta) a rear-wheel platform (as on the Aviator and Explorer) a body-on-frame platform (as with the F-150) a commercial vehicle platform (as with the next-gen Transit) and a battery-electric platform.
And the automotive press went wild over a July 2017 patent filing, just made public, which provides some highly-anticipated insights into the proposed Ford Mustang Hybrid. Having received an understandably mixed response regarding the fusion of performance and eco-friendliness, purists have been clear about their doubts. That said, Ford’s promise to deliver V8 power and even more low-end torque seems to be quelling some of the concern, especially since the patent filing seems to feature a V8 (although it does specify that the engine specification is inconsequential to the patent application). That application, for a “twin motor drive system for hybrid vehicle” indicates a longitudinally mounted engine sending power to the rear wheels, with a single electric motor mounted on each of the front wheels. “It’s a glimpse of the future,” says Ford’s North American production communications boss Mike Levine, adding,” We are excited to show you more in the future. Stay tuned.”
GENERAL MOTORS / CHEVY
GM has endured its fair share of criticisms as of late, and the latest might just be their decision to reduce the duration of their Complimentary Scheduled Maintenance Plan on 2019 models. Previously extended across two-to-three visits (depending on brand) Chevy, GMC, Buick and Cadillac owners will now receive coverage on their first scheduled maintenance visit. GM has yet to confirm the factors behind the decision, but it’s fairly safe to assume that it results from simple cost-cutting.
Facing down extreme weather conditions courtesy of the polar vortex, General Motors honored a request from Consumers Energy to suspend operations at 12 Michigan production facilities last week. The request, intended to conserve energy affected various Assembly, Stamping facilities (among others) in Orion, Pontiac, Flint, Lansing and Warren.
And Chevy has confirmed that they’re expanding their use of the 10-speed automatic transmission to their supercharged Camaro ZL1 1LE coupe as of February. Adding $1595 to the base price of $72,195 the upgrade is expected to improve upon the 3.5 second sprint to 60 boasted by the manual transmission configuration.
Kicking things off for Toyota, let’s take a minute to appreciate the RAV4 Hybrid Super Bowl commercial which introduced the world to Toni Harris, a Free Safety from East Los Angeles College who received scholarship offer from Bethany College, making her one of the first female non-kickers on a college football roster. Drawing parallels with the self-proclaimed NFL hopeful, Toyota presented its hybrid RAV4 as a genuine game-changer.
With the aforementioned Chicago Auto Show coming up, one of the most-anticipated reveals come via the 2020 Toyota Tacoma. Having mentioned the teaser photo in last week’s episode, fans seem eager to confirm just how changed this next-gen Taco will be. Only time will tell, but we’ll be sure to cover when that reveal takes place.
And speaking of speculation, it seems to abound regarding the possibility of Toyota retiring the floundering Sienna from its lineup. Speaking frankly, the only surprise regarding the dry-up of the minivan segment is that it hadn’t reached completion a decade ago. But with a 21% drop in sales between 2017 and 2018, it would appear that the writing is on the wall for the tired Sienna, last redesigned in 2010.
And finally, it’s expected that the 2020 Yaris Hatchback might be built upon a Mazda platform, rather than being discontinued in the US. Toyota’s lineup has experienced some confusion in recent years, especially during the elimination of its Scion brand. As part of some very intentional decision-making, the possibility of this change might just prove to be the Yaris’ salvation in terms of bolstering U.S. sales, but we’ll have to wait for the New York Auto Show in April to get more information.
Thanks to the 2019 editions of their compact CX-5 and three-row CX-9, Mazda has once again found themselves among Car and Driver’s picks for the 10 Best Trucks and SUVs of 2019. This distinction marks the second consecutive placement for the CX-5, with Car and Driver stating, “The Mazda CX-5 provides luxury-grade interior refinement at solidly nonluxury prices; ride and handling that feel sized up from a Miata, rather than dumbed down for mass-market appeal; and an exterior that bucks the boxy conventions of its segment in favor of something significantly more elegant. But most of all, there’s the sense that the CX-5 was designed for people like us—people who love to drive.”
It also marks the third consecutive appearance for the CX-9, which the publication also showered with praise stating, “Nothing in this class can match the CX-9’s dynamic competence. It’s not even close, friends. If you need a three-row SUV, you will not find a better-driving, more satisfying one than the Mazda CX-9. Period. Take a gander at the flowing curves and taut lines of the CX-9. Inspect its tasteful adornment. Inside, you will find one of the most handsome arrangements of materials in the segment. A mass-market family vehicle needn’t look and feel like a plastic storage bin. And you need not pilot a rudderless barge down the shipping lanes of middle age.”
In terms of Mazda’s inclusion in the upcoming Chicago Auto Show, one of the most highly anticipated reveals comes in the form of the 30th Anniversary edition of the MX-5 Miata. Not much has been offered in terms of teasers, but both hopes and anticipations levels are high.
Switching gears, Hyundai delivered another one of our favorite Super Bowl ads this year. Advertising their Shopper Assurance program, the commercial features actor Jason Bateman as an elevator operator, delivering people to experiences considered “more enjoyable” than car-buying. Experiences such as…
And Hyundai has also taken great pride in announcing a string of recognitions earned by their 2018 lineup, from a number of organizations.
- 2018 “Sonata NAIAS Readers Choice Award”
- 2018 Elantra GT included in “Popular Mechanics Best Compact”
- 2018 Hyundai Kona “TMPA Crossover of the Year”
- 2018 Hyundai Kona, Ioniq Electric & Ioniq Hybrid Blue “ACEE Greenest Vehicles”
And production has begun on the first round of KIA’s Niro EV, the limited release with a 239-mile range, due to arrive in 12 states by late-February. For those interested, those states will be California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington.
An Audi makes its appearance in this week’s news, thanks to their delivery of another of our Super Bowl commercial ads. Featuring the Audi e-Tron, the commercial tugged at heartstrings while reminding us just how “wrong” it can feel when a commercial gets it “right”. In it, a man is reunited with his grandfather in the afterlife and teasers with e-Tron, before being yanked back to reality following a near-death experience.
And, as if it wasn’t enough publicity to host the event at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the automaker offers a worthy wrap-up to our Super Bowl picks with their “Say the Word” commercial, featuring the new A-Class. In it, a man gains almost godlike powers, and is able to control the world around him. As a side-note, if you have yet to see the commercials (or feel, like we do, that audio just doesn’t do them justice) you can find the links in the description of this podcast.
Winding things down, and providing yet-another-reminder that “the future is here”, Arizona has followed California and Michigan to become the third U.S. state to offer digital license plates as an option for motorists. Setting aside the niche appeal of the sun-resistant displays (called RPlates) and the convenience of digital renewals, such technology also makes it easier for law enforcement to identify unlawful driving, revocation of license or registration, lack of required insurances, expired tags, or even theft. So…buyer beware.
And finally, you can expect AutoInfluence to keep you up to date in the coming weeks as to the top headlines of the Chicago Auto Show. But on top of that, we’ll also be ramping up for the Geneva Auto Show coming next month. In other words, there’s a lot going on across the automotive landscape, and we’ll be there for all of it.
So, have a great rest of your week, and we’ll be back with you before you known it.
This has been AutoInfluence. Thanks for listening.