Monday, April 30, 2007

GM Brands - Live or Die?

I'm sure you've heard by now about the piece in Fortune (my least favorite source for automotive content) about what GM should do to get back in the game...

It's strange to me how a company that is as large and successful as GM, is the only one of the 'big 3' that isn't either in serious trouble or for sale...is considered by so many journalists as a failure.

So, Toyota sold more cars world-wide than GM in the first quarter of 2007...okay. The margin is still tight and with GM's turn-around plan fully in motion, there is no reason to believe that their market share slide will not slow, stop, or even turn around soon.

But, let's accept for a moment the concept that they have not changed enough structurally and need to do more drastic things to match the Toyota machine...do they need to slice off brands and shrink down to a more manageable size?

Fortune suggests killing off Saab, Hummer, Buick, and Pontiac. Moving GMC to a commercial-only vehicle brand, repositioning Saturn as a Scion killer, and leaving Cadillac and Chevrolet as full-line brands to compete against Lexus and Toyota.

Well - I doubt I'd go nearly that far. But, the idea of bringing some coherency to the GM lineup has some appeal.

Here's my plan for GM's brands:

Saab - this brand has no place in GM's future. As a global luxury brand - it competes with Cadillac. As a competitor to Volvo - it ends up in the no-mans land between Buick and Cadillac. As a beloved quirky brand of hatchbacks and a favorite of college profs everywhere...you're killing me with a lack of attention/attempts to mold the brand into something it isn't and shouldn't be. Find a company that could understand what Saab is about and sell it to them ASAP.

Hummer - the brand everyone loves to hate, but a success story if ever there was one. Who would have ever thought that GM could have a viable competitor to Jeep so soon after launch. Sure, there are other GM brands with trucks, but Hummer has such focus and such credibility as a producer of off-road vehicles that this brand will go down as one of the success stories of the early 21st century.

Will it sell in huge numbers? No. Should GM keep it anyway? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This brand shows exactly what laser-like focus on a brand's mission gives you. Everyone knows a Hummer on sight, everyone knows what it can do, and it is true to these brand traits from top to bottom.

Not to mention, that it doesn't cost a lot to keep them around and they don't compete at bit with anything else GM sells (incremental profit - thy name is Hummer).

GMC - in the dictionary under 'redundant'... GMC sells rebadged Chevrolet trucks and, in the case of the Acadia, a rebadged Saturn. I understand this brand is cheap to maintain and successful in certain markets...but unless GM is serious about 'Professional Grade' enough to drop the crossovers and light-duty trucks from GMC and drop all heavy-duty trucks from Chevy - leaving GMC as a heavy-duty and commercial truck division, then just kill them and let Sierra buyers get Silverados. I can't imagine that the extra dealer body and marketing efforts are made up for by the incremental GMC buyer who would not ever buy a Chevrolet.

Chevrolet - full line, all the time. Assuming that Chevrolet keeps their truck line (it will), then Chevy can easily become the full-line brand that Toyota is. Chevrolet should be your source for everything from micro-cars through leather-lined Impalas. It is a hodge-podge brand that can be just about anything to anyone with a smattering of high-performance products, mainstream front and rear-drive product, trucks, etc.

Cadillac - 'Standard of the World' in the making. Cadillac will be a major beneficiary of a lean, mean GM. The money saved by not supporting Saab product development and GMC can be funneled into an expansion of Cadillac into a true Mercedes/BMW killer. A smaller-than-CTS sedan and coupe, a CTS coupe and wagon, a smaller-than-XLR sports car, a small SUV, as well as an ultra sedan and coupe on the upper end would book-end GM's offerings on the upper end.

Pontiac - focused like Hummer only for the on-road enthusiast. Word is that Pontiac is going all rear-drive. This is going to tick off the Pontiac dealers that are used to being a sporty Chevy...but the success of Pontiac needs to be by offering something focused. A rear-drive line, from a sub-compact through a Grand Prix sized rear driver (the new G8) in sedans/coupes/convertibles...allowing for a resurrected GTO, the Solstice, and possibly a Firebird (as more of a 2-seat, smaller, V-8 equivalent to the GTO) - then Pontiac will mean something. Think of Pontiac as a rear-drive Mazda without the SUVs and minivans and you will see the idea.

Buick or Saturn - pick one. As you have likely heard, Buick is going after Lexus (but given Lexus is totally in Cadillac price territory...why?). Saturn is expanding with sophisticated and stylish product to compete against imports (how antiquated a niche is that in this day and age?). Both are aiming at front-drive for the majority of the lineup. However, Saturn is going for everything from mid-teens hatchbacks (the Astra) through mid-30's crossovers (Outlook).

Buick is at the early stages of a resurgence with the Enclave SUV (based on the same platform as the Saturn Outlook) and will have mid and large sedans (and coupes?) as its basis.

GM needs to make a decision here. Buick or Saturn, but not both.

Saturn is becoming a full-line manufacturer (which seems to get in the way of Chevrolet). However, on the plus side, they have a young buyer and a great reputation through their dealer body and no-hassle philosophy.

Buick, on the plus side has decades of history, loyal buyers, and would carry a stately, elegant, American Jaguar aesthetic quite well. As a softer, less sporty, front-drive alternative to Cadillac's rear-drive lineup - it could work. However, with its aging buyers and less focused niche, I'm not sure how it will fit in with smaller Cadillacs and larger Chevrolets.

I can make a case for either, but better if Chevrolet is limited to softer, middle-of-the-road, tuning for their larger stuff and by merging Buick and Saturn into a single entity that sells sophisticated, stylish, near-luxury product.

So, for me, the ultimate GM would be one that sells Saab, kills GMC, merges Buick and Saturn, moves Pontiac into a hard-core sports brand, and gives the savings to Chevrolet and Cadillac to compete with Toyota and BMW, all the while spending a little bit of money giving Hummer 3 or 4 models that are various sizes of the hard-core off-roader concept.

It isn't as shocking and likely to get me press as Fortune's story...but it might be the one that gives GM an even better shot at long-term success.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Mitsubishi Evo X unveiled - and Road and Track's renderings of the Subaru WRX STI

The good folks over at Mitsubishi have unveiled this picture of an 'exterior styling study' for the Evolution X (Evo X for us in the USA).

Expect this to be identical to the production Evo that we'll see later this year, packing 300-ish horsepower, and more electronic do-dads than you can shake a stick at (including an available dual-clutch automatic similar to the DSG sold by VW).

Also, today Road and Track put an article up on their website showing renderings of the new Evo (so you can compare against the official pic above) as well as their take on what the next WRX STI will look like.

Enjoy.

Road and Track: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X vs. Subaru Impreza WRX STI

Friday, April 20, 2007

More pics of the Buick Riviera concept

Check out these great shots of the new Buick Riviera concept. This was designed in China at GM's design studio there.

Buick is GM's most successful brand in China and the designers/engineers there will be working with their US counterparts to develop a cohesive brand image for Buick in both countries (currently, China has cars badged as Buicks that don't exactly resemble what we get here).

Expect this design language (itself showing signs of the swoop-y styling of the Enclave) to heavily influence the future face of Buick for many years to come.

All I can say is, 'it is about time'.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

TCC Spies 2009 Mazda6

The Mazda6 has been quite a successful car for both Mazda - making it a legitimate player in the mid-sized sedan game, and Ford - server as the basis for most of their new mid-sized product (Fusion, Milan, Edge).

So, the redesign of the Mazda6 is a big deal - and the folks over at the Car Connection have spotted the new car in disguise.

Ford's versions of the platform were stretched and the new 6 takes advantage of the extra room in the 2nd generation car seen here.

Expect stronger family resemblance to the RX-8, MX-5 (Miata), and the CX crossovers with defined front fender bulges and swoopy light clusters front and rear.

Expect the new 6 to debut later this year.

Read all about it over at:

The Car Connection: 2009 Mazda6 Spied

Bangled Again - BMW shows CS concept 4-door coupe at Shanghai

Yep, more news from Shanghai. This time from BMW with a preview of their upcoming Mercedes CLS, 4-door coupe, competitor.

Larger in length and width than even the grand-daddy 7-series BMW, the CS also previews the future of the Chris Bangle, flame-surfacing, design ethic.

New are much larger kidney grills, large air intakes in the lower corners of the front fascia (echoed in the rear with integrated exhaust tips), and even more of the concave/convex complexity that has become a BMW hallmark (and is influencing design from manufacturers the world over - for good or bad, your choice).

Expect the production version of this concept to appear in approximately a year.

More fun from Shanghai - Audi CrossCoupe Quattro

This Shanghai Auto Show (in China, for the geographically impaired) is turning out to be quite the international-league auto show.

Today we have Audi's new CrossCoupe Quattro concept that is almost certainly a strong preview of the upcoming Q5 SUV.

Expect the production Q5 to look almost exactly like this concept (perhaps with something other than the impossible to keep clean cream-colored dash and floor).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

More pics of the Buick Riviera concept

The folks over at the Hollywood Extra blog have shown us all some more pictures of the Buick Riviera concept that will debut at the Shanghai Auto Show.

I'm really liking how the Enclave style translates into an elegant, sporty package.

I'd expect this to preview a product for both the Chinese and US markets for the end of the decade.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Chinese owned Rover (Roewe) shows styling promise

1. Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corp (SAIC) purchased the assetts of UK's Rover brand.

2. SAIC is stymied in its plan to re-launch the Rover brand when Ford excercised it's option to purchase the Rover brand from BMW.

3. SAIC renames Rover as Roewe and continues with plans to bring re-launch the cars anyway.

4. We get to see the first of the newly freshened Rover/Roewe cars in the W2 concept shown here. Unlike some product we've seen lately from companies that shall remain nameless (I'm looking at you Subaru)...SAIC is showing that they have some styling chops.

There are several established players in the world car market that should be nervous (assuming Roewe can get quality down as well).

Buick Riviera Concept

Buick's Chinese arm is preparing a concept coupe for the Shanghai Auto show.

Digging up the classic Riviera name, this coupe seems to show how some of the Buick design language from the Enclave might make it to a sportier package.

Since Buick in the US and China are committed to working closely from now on, we should see some of this design language influence Buicks we can by in the USA as well.

This would make a great Zeta-based coupe for Buick (assuming GM continues down the Zeta-for-everyone path - currently on hold pending new US regulations for fuel economy/CO2 emissions).

More details and pics as they are released.

Friday, April 13, 2007

GM to show next E-Flex vehicle in Frankfurt

The good folks at Winding Road are reporting on a statement made by Bob Lutz at last week's NY Auto Show about the follow-on to the Chevy Volt concept.

Another E-Flex vehicle (a battery powered vehicle with a supplementary engine/power source to extend range) will be shown at the Frankfurt show in September, likely badged as an Opel.

Expect this E-Flex to use a biodiesel engine as the 'range extender' and to have a unique body to that of the Volt.

GM still plans on putting an E-Flex powered vehicle into production in 2010 - barring any unforeseen problems getting the Li-Ion battery technology scaled up to allow electric-only operation for 30-40 miles.

See the video of the interview at:

Winding Road: Bob Lutz - New Volt-based Concept will Debut in Frankfurt

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

GM reconsidering all their cool rear drive plans?

I mentioned earlier today that government or consumer action would possibly cause the automakers to change their product mix...I really didn't expect to see a concrete example the same day.

Over at Winding Road, they are reporting that Bob Lutz is saber-rattling that GM might have to hold off on some of their most exciting upcoming product to see what the Bush Administration does with regard to CAFE (fuel economy) rules, etc.

In the report, they claim that the Camaro is a done deal, but most everything else is now being reconsidered. This could include the Alpha platform (next Pontiac G6 and Cadillac BLS), rear drive replacements for the Chevy Impala and Monte Carlo, as well as rear-drive Buicks, etc.

The issue, according to Lutz is that they don't know how they'd get 30% better economy from these platforms.

My take? They think they know how to get there - but aren't sure yet. So, the benefits of mentioning product cancellations (possibly causing Washington to enact less aggressive new rules) outweigh the bad PR of looking less eco-friendly.

Come on, Bob...you can't talk about how green GM is and how hard you are working on all this cool technology and then claim that you can't figure out how to make RWD as efficient as FWD...it makes you and GM look like you don't know what you are doing (at best) or are lobbying away our future to save a buck (at worst).

Read about it at:

Winding Road: Lutz - Most of GM's Rear-Drive Future 'On Hold' Due to Possible Regulation Changes

Check your politics at the door - changes in the auto business and global warming.

Our world is changing.

Dispute the causes all you want, but the truth is that our climate is changing and we can either sit on our hands or we can do everything in our power to try to stabilize the climate (using the things we agree we can control) and protect the lives we've all become accustomed to (whether that means having to run your A/C a certain number of days a year or keeping your beach house above the ocean - though the whole in-house aquarium thing might become a selling point down the road).

There are countless little things that we can do as individuals to try to help. They all center around using less energy (either directly or in the things we buy).

Since this is a blog about cars...I'm not here to talk to you about switching to florescent light-bulbs (though that would be a cheap and easy start, if you are interested).

Ultimately, there are decisions that need to be made with regard to what we choose to drive. Evaluations need to be made about what we really need in a car and what the environmental impact of said choice will be. Since CO2 is a direct by-product of the amount of fuel you burn, the flip-side of this coin is that you can not believe in global warming as a human caused phenomenon and still justify a low CO2 emitting choice on the basis of fuel savings or reducing our national consumption of oil.

Of course, the decisions may get made for us in light of the US Environmental Protection Agency's new mandate (via the US Supreme Court) to regulate CO2 emissions as an official pollutant. This may force our and automakers' hands with regard to vehicle choice.

I, for one, would much rather make conservation choices now and send a message to automakers - giving them a head start - then to live through another 1980's fiasco where awful cars get built to meet a deadline from the government.

As consumers and/or government shift their thinking and make environmental factors part of the buying decision/production requirements, automakers will add offerings (or alter current offerings) in response.

...and what companies are best positioned to take advantage of this shift most quickly? A couple names might not surprise you, but I'm sure one will. You can also check out the latest report from the Union of Concerned Scientists rating relative pollution (including CO2) from the major automakers - even though they disagree with one of my choices below.

Honda, already an established producer of economical cars has made an enviable position for itself with its hybrid models, but also its new Fit hatchback. The Fit is a roomy, versatile, economical product - all while being quite a little go kart that keeps you from feeling like you sacrificed driving fun for your lower carbon footprint. Combined with Honda's IMA hybrid technology that can easily be retrofitted to just about any product they make and they could quickly put a hybrid of just about any product on the road.

Toyota, the 800lb gorilla of the current eco-car movement (even though they sell plenty of guzzlers as well) has their green poster child Prius (as well as the related hybrid versions of several Toyota and Lexus products). Less expensive are the eco friendly cars in the Scion line (xD and xB) as well as the Toyota branded Yaris sedan and hatch. Toyota certainly has a nice niche carved out for itself with products in several categories that would make nice alternatives to its competition all while providing higher economy (and subsequently lower CO2 emissions).

Now for the unexpected player in this 3-way eco race...GM.

'What?!' I hear you saying. 'Isn't GM a long-in-the-tooth sign of everything that is wrong in the auto industry? Aren't they a company that has made their name selling low-mileage, CO2-spewing, low-tech junk for decades.' - not anymore (not to mention that their reputation of selling low-economy is way overblown) . Witness the following:

GM developed arguably the most sophisticated electric vehicle ever to see production, the EV1, in the 1990's. Lack of customer acceptance killed that electric car - GM was well within their rights to pull them all back in - given the legal requirements to keep parts on the shelf for years after they went out of production. The only reason you've heard that they 'killed the electric car' is because some very influential and money-ed individuals in Hollywood had their feathers ruffled when GM wouldn't give them exactly what they wanted.

GM is a global company with incredible reach with regards to technology that they can bring to bear. They have subsidiaries with incredible expertise in technologies as diverse as electric powertrains, biofuels, diesel, fuel cells, and efficiency increasing technologies for the workhorse gasoline engines.

One example of this is the 'skateboard' chassis that they have had in development for years. It would allow a wide range of hydrogen fuel-cell products to be brought to market quickly and cheaply (of course, first we would have to see significant efficiency gains for the fuel cells and a hydrogen infrastructure for refueling).

A second example is the recent Volt concept from Chevrolet - using a technology GM calls 'E-Flex' the architecture shown by this concept is much closer to reality than the 'skateboard' in that it uses existing electric powertrain elements from hybrid cars and allows for a supplementary power unit that could be a conventional gas engine, a diesel, a small fuel cell, or any of a wide range of biofuel options. The E-Flex concept would allow for high effective fuel efficiency products that could also leverage recharging via a conventional wall-outlet (and therefore drawing power from what could be a more eco-friendly point source of pollution).

A third example is GM's broad investment in ethanol fuels. Millions of GM vehicles already on the road could be fueled by an E85 blend of gasoline and ethanol - and, once ethanol production is shifted away from a corn-only system, would be close to carbon neutral. Saab is the GM subsidiary that is taking the lead in ethanol vehicles and has recently shown a Saab 9-5 wagon that is optimized to run on E100 (100% ethanol).

Forth and most recent is GM's serious consideration of micro or city cars. These are quite a bit smaller than some of the smaller cars available already on the US market - but would be recognized immediately in Europe or Asia. GM is preparing to have 4-seat cars that would have 1.0 litre gas or diesel engines, perhaps with hybrid technology as well and seating for 4 adults. At the New York Auto Show, they showed 3 different flavors of this class of car, a micro crossover called the Trax, a 4-door shrunken version of the Chevy HHR (or PT Cruiser, if you prefer) called the Groove, and then a tiny 3-door with a sporty vibe that looks like a shrunken version of Honda's Fit.

So, as you can see, while our cars might get smaller with smaller engines (or no engines whatsoever) - regulations that might force lower CO2 emissions won't put consumers into quite the bind that you might expect. Some manufacturers are already set to provide what the market will need and others will follow suit. And, once consumers realize the fun and functionality that can be had in these packages - we will all be able to breath a bit easier.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Lexus breaks the 100k barrier with the LS600h L

Lexus has released the final tidbit of info on their new hybrid flagship.

The price.

Going on sale in June 2007, the LS600h L is a hybrid version of the LS600 L, long-wheelbase version of the Lexus' largest sedan. The base MSRP will be $104000.

The LS600h is unique in the Lexus line, not only in having a hybrid powertrain, but is also the only LS to have all-wheel drive, a continually variable transmission, and meets the Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) standard.

At this point, there are no actual fuel economy figures, but Lexus is claiming that the 430hp sedan will have efficiency equal or better than that of V-6, all-wheel drive, mid-sized sedans - with performance on par with V-12 powered competitors.

Friday, April 06, 2007

More Seoul Auto Show debuts - Hyundai Veloster

Now that we are done hearing of the concepts the major automakers debuted at the New York show, we are starting to hear reports of concepts shown at the 'other' major show starting this week - the Seoul Auto Show in Seoul, South Korea.

Yesterday, we showed you the Kia KND-4 concept and now we have a sport-coupe concept from Hyundai - the Veloster.

Expect this to preview some styling elements we might see in the new Tiburon, though this concept is one step smaller and could preview a brand new, Elantra-based coupe.

This concept also furthers the automakers fascination with coupes that are really 2-door, steeply-raked sport wagons...which the automakers see as a way to get customers buying sporty 2-doors again (by tempering their natural lack of utility with an extra-large cargo area out back).

See some more pictures over at:

Winding Road: Hyundai Unveils Veloster Coupe Concept in Seoul

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Kia shows off KND-4 concept...but not in New York

You'd be forgiven if you thought the New York Auto Show is the only event going on this week...but this debut would prove you wrong.

Kia debuted today their KND-4 3-door SUV concept at the Seoul Motor Show.

Interesting is if you take this concept together with the previously shown Kue concept (shown below) from earlier this year...the styling elements that are common likely are a strong indicator of the styling of a new Kia SUV to hit the market within the next two years and further to styling elements that we'll see on other Kia products as well.

I'd criticize this for being derivative in styling...but what SUV is truely unique, styling-wise?

Read more about the concept over at:

Winding Road: Kia Debuts KND-4 Concept in Seoul

Lexus LX570 unveiled

Lexus took the opportunity of this year's New York Auto Show to debut their big, bad version of the Toyota Land Cruiser - the LX570.

Underhood, the new LX is packing a version of the Tundra's 5.7l V-8 (381hp and over 400lb*ft of torque) giving an 8500lb tow rating. This works out to over 100hp and a ton more towing capacity than the vehicle it replaces.

The LX is a technological tour de force with an electro-hydraulic suspension with height control, has a cross linking technology that ties opposing corners together and uses energy from opposite corners to help counter-act road forces.

Active Height Control does the standard things such systems do (lowering the vehicle at highway speed and raising things up by 3 inches when the 4wd is shifted into low range).

On the interior front are an extra inch of width as well as 4 inches of extra length. Crash protection comes in the form of 10 airbags that include dual front bags, dual front knee bags, side bags for the front two rows, as well as curtain bags for all three rows.

See even more pics over at:

LeftLane News: 2008 Lexus LX 570 unveiled

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

2009 Ford Flex

Ford is in desperate need of product that shows that they are not ready to go just yet to go belly-up.

They need something that shows that they have intelligent minds behind the scenes that know exactly what customers really want and are working late nights to bring it to them before all the money runs out and Ford becomes a footnote in the early 21st century automotive history.

The Flex...unfortunately, is not that product.

Looking like a, somehow, less attractive version of the Fairlane concept, the Flex is being billed as a crossover for families (neo-minivan). While it has a few unique elements (incredibly angular styling, available refrigerator, etc...it comes across, especially with blacked out pillars and a white roof as Ford's 7-seat answer to the Mini Cooper.

Also, the obvious question is 'does Ford need _another_ 3-row, available AWD, V-6 crossover/wagon/thing? Exactly how is this serving a different need than the Freestyle (or as it is now known - Taurus X). Now Ford has 2 5-seat people movers in the Escape and Edge and 2 7-seaters in the Flex and Taurus X...wouldn't the duplicated development have been better spent in improving the products that _don't_ compete with other Ford products?

Oh well...I guess time will tell.

See more pics over at:

Winding Road: New York Auto Show: A Fairlane by any Other Name - Ford Debuts '09 Flex

GM Unveils all three microcar concepts

As you may remember from earlier, GM teased us about a 3-concept roll-out at the New York auto show, with pictures of the Trax concept.

Today, we get more details on the Trax, Beat, and Groove as well as the ability to vote for our favorite at vote4chevrolet.com

Each concept has a slightly different take on what an A-class car can be (this is similar to the class of car that the Smart ForTwo and ForFour exist in - they are aimed at urban dwellers where ability to park in small spaces and economy are prime concerns).

Trax, the concept we've already seen a teaser for, is a crossover slant on the microcar. It packs, in addition to its 1-litre gas engine, a battery pack and electric motor that power the rear wheels - providing a low-cost 4wd system.

Groove is aimed at being a more retro take on the microcar concept, though the overall look seems to be similar to the just shown 2nd generation Scion xB. It is powered by a 1-litre diesel engine.

Beat, unlike the other two concepts, is a 3-door hatch. It is aimed at a sportier driver / tuner audience and carries the design language previewed earlier this year on the WRC concept. True to the sportier mission, the Beat packs a 1.2l turbocharged engine (though putting power down through an automatic transmission).

Be sure to vote for your preferred version over at vote4chevrolet.com - the winner will likely inspire a production microcar from GM for sale in the US market (assuming the Smart ForTwo does well here).

VW Jetta gets update and wagon


2008 will bring a slightly updated Jetta to the US. Included will be the mildly anticipated wagon replacement.

Proving that the folks responsible for the good-looking A4 (platform name, no relation to the Audi) Jetta and Jetta wagon have long since lost influence at VW...the 08 Jetta shows no sign of abandoning the 'look-at-me' chrome grill and continues the fascination with bland tail-light design that brought Toyota Corolla tail-lights to the sedan and now give us the most anonymous lights imaginable for the wagon.

On the plus-side, 08 will bring the return of the TDi diesel engine, now with BlueTec and in a 2.0l size (up from the previous 1.9l TDi). Additional powertrain updates include a 20hp bump for the 2.5l 5-cylinder (now at 170).

Read more about it at the best VW site around:

VWVortex: 2008 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen

Could someone please loan Subaru a designer - Tribeca refresh

Okay, Subaru has gone for years without a real stylist on staff...then they decided to try one out and he forced a design language he couldn't get Alfa Romeo to accept on them (you can't blame them...what did they know about design and this guy was an 'expert')...the result was the B9 Tribeca...a dumb name with a front end that nobody seemed to like.

So, instead of firing the bad designer and hiring a better one...Subaru had a knee-jerk reaction and went back to their old ways.

The results we've already seen are the bland Impreza.

Now we get the refreshed Tribeca (note the lack of the B9 which Subaru is dropping with the refreshed front styling). Unfortunately, the Tribeca, while still stylish from the A-pillar back, now looks like the Chrysler Pacifica from there forward.

Again, I ask...could someone please loan Subaru a designer before it is too late?

Chrysler Crossfire cancelled

I've always liked the Crossfire - or at least really wanted to.

The styling, while not nearly as edgy as its namesake concept car, was provocative, unique, and showed Chrysler's (now lost, it seems) flare for design.

Unfortunately, given Chrysler's tie-up with Mercedes, the car that ultimately got produced had a cheap feeling interior (which is odd since it is shared with the Mercedes SLK on which it is based), poor handling, and a weak powertrain.

Ultimately, sales suffered and the last Crossfire will roll off the assembly line this summer.

I only wonder what the Crossfire could have been if Chrysler's German masters hadn't been holding it back.

Winding Road: Chrysler Crossfire to be Euthanized this Summer

Mini Clubman S spotted


Of course, we knew all along that the stretched Mini Cooper (the Clubman) would get the turbo treatment of the Cooper S...now WorldCarFans has the spy shots to prove it.

Check out their pics of the turbo Clubman (Clubman S?) testing:

WorldCarFans.com: Spy Photos: Mini Clubman S

2008 Jeep Liberty

Well, this should have been expected...Dodge gets the Liberty platform to develop the Nitro...so why wouldn't the next Liberty take the platform back from Dodge and give us a new Liberty that looks pretty much like a Jeep-ified Nitro. Or maybe it is just the offspring of a Nitro and a Jeep Commander.

Unique to the Liberty, besides some styling details, is what Jeep is calling the 'Sky Slider' roof. Not a conventional big sunroof since Jeep's is fabric, covers from the front seat almost to the hatch, and can be opened from the front or rear and any combination of the two.

Retained are the independent front suspension that had Jeep faithful howling when the original Liberty came out (to replace the XJ Cherokee), prompting the name change in the North American market (the Liberty still goes by Cherokee in Europe). However, we now get a new 5-link rear suspension (sounds like an independent arrangement to me)...I can just imagine the hate-mail Jeep will get now.

It appears that Jeep's product planners hear the faithful screaming about 'not a real Jeep' and think that means it isn't square enough, needs a fabric roof (how very Wrangler), and needs a snappy press release touting the heritage of Jeep...it's a shame they don't understand their own ad copy.

Monday, April 02, 2007

More pics of the 2008 Subaru WRX

As we get closer to the New York Auto Show, we are getting more details of products that will debut. Today we have the first official pictures of the new Subaru Impreza sedan as well as better pictures of the wagon replacement/hatch and the interior.

Unlike some of the pictures we saw earlier, that were scans from the latest issue of Motor Trend, these pics show the hatch in a better light. We're still a bit iff-y on the front-end (so you can expect that Subaru is already hard at work at a better look for the 2010 model since they are renown for their Impreza freshenings on pretty much that schedule anyway.

Powertrain details are also out, and it appears that we'll have to wait for a year or two to see serious performance upgrades for the standard WRX. The 2008 is going to keep the standard 2.5l turbo, flat-four with the same power output (though the rpm for both the horsepower and torque peak are both a touch lower now).

It will be interesting to see how competitive the new Impreza will be with the Mitsubishi Lancer and the Evo X and, assuming the Impreza is not class-leading, how long it will take Subaru to adjust.

More details later this week after the debut.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Preview - 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee

As yet another preview of what was to be a New York Auto Show debut - Jeep has shown some details of the 2008 refreshed Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Of note are the updated headlights (now curved at the top and the bottom), availability of the new SIRIUS Backseat TV and MyGiG entertainment systems, updated interior styling, and the addition of the 3.0l common-rail diesel V-6 and an updated 4.7l V-8 with additional power and flex-fuel capability.

Another interesting detail is that a large portion of the lower front fascia (including the fog lights) is removable for better approach angles when off-roading.

More details closer to the official NY debut.