January 23rd, 2013 at 12:01pm
As Europe continues to slump, more factories are on the chopping block. John McElroy is out testing the 2014 Subaru Forester and he has an impressive demo of the vehicle’s all-wheel drive capabilities. And, maybe automakers should stick to what they’re good at; a new study suggests car nav systems can’t compare to smart phones. All that and more, plus Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, is back with his recipe for maximizing the potential of Corvette. See what his new lineup would look like.
Hello and welcome to today’s installment of Autoline Daily. It is Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 and I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, filling in for John who’s out driving the new 2014 Subaru Forester. Later in the show we’ll see one feature on the car that really impressed him. Anyway, here’s what’s happening in the automotive industry today.
MORE EUROPEAN PLANT CLOSURES
As Europe continues to slump, automakers are taking action to stop the bleeding. Renault is asking workers to take a pay freeze this year, in exchange for boosting production in France. In addition, the company is also seeking to cut 7,500 jobs through voluntary departures, and workers wages would increase by less than one percent the next two years. Union leaders say if they don’t reach an agreement, the company will close plants in France. And in related news, GM may close an Opel factory two years ahead of schedule. Originally the company planned to shutdown its Bochum plant, which makes the Zafira, in 2016 but that could be bumped up to the end of next year when a labor agreement is set to expire. A report from WardsAuto estimates that Europe’s annual over capacity is at 3 million units.
BEIJING CRACKS DOWN ON SMOG
The city of Beijing announced new legislation to control air pollution. Under the new rules, drivers could face fines close to $500 if their vehicle exceeds emission limits. And factories would have to shut down when smog levels are high. In fact, Hyundai had to suspend production at its Beijing facility over the weekend due to the high levels of air pollution.
OBAMA KEEPS LaHOOD
Now that President Obama has been sworn in for a second term, he is looking to replace several cabinet members but he won’t have to look for a new Transportation secretary. Bloomberg reports that Ray LaHood will be staying at his current position for at least part of Obama’s second term.
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
Do you think that the navigation system on your phone is better than the one in your car? If so, you’re not alone. According to a recent study by J.D. Power and Associates, fewer drivers are satisfied with their factory-installed navigation system. 47 percent of owners say they use a downloaded app on their smartphone for navigation, compared with 37 percent the previous year. The study also shows that 6 of the top 10 most frequent issues with factory-installed nav systems are with the input and selection controls.
2014 SUBARU FORESTER
As I mentioned earlier in the show, John is in Arizona test driving the new 2014 Subaru Forester but one of the things that really impressed him was how the new all-wheel drive system works on super slippery surfaces.
(The demo of the 2014 Subaru Forester is only available in the video version of today’s program.)
On yesterday’s Autoline Daily, I talked about how I think GM just doesn’t get how to properly market the Corvette. Coming up next, how I would fix the iconic sports car.
HOW TO FIX CORVETTE
As I stated yesterday, despite their protestations to the contrary, GM marketers not only don’t get the Corvette, they don’t even know where to begin to understand how to fix it. I would say that is a major problem. To have an iconic vehicle with the status of the Corvette and not know what to do with it is tantamount to being Porsche and not knowing how to market the 911.
What would I do different? How about everything?
I’ve heard the argument almost since the day I was born: “We put a little bit of Corvette in all of our Chevys.” The premise is lure customers into the showroom with the Corvette, and sell them (insert Chevy model name here). The idea that a halo car will sell your other products is as old of an axiom that there is in this business. But that axiom has clearly run its course when it comes to Corvette and Chevrolet. Especially now that Chevrolet is going global with a mixture of funky-fun small cars that no one much cares about. What does Corvette have to do with Chevrolet when it really comes right down to it? Nostalgia? That doesn’t count for much in this, the most competitive market in automotive history.
The Corvette should have a higher plateau to aim for. Which is why I’d make Corvette a brand unto itself. If GM can position Cadillac and Chevrolet as global bands, then the Corvette deserves to be a global brand too. Just because the power of the Corvette name has been underutilized up until now, that doesn’t mean it can’t be polished into something much more.
Next, besides relocating the Corvette brand headquarters as far away from GM’s RenCen headquarters as I could get it, I would completely and thoroughly upend the Corvette product portfolio, from top to bottom. Instead of multiple variations of one Corvette, I would have three Corvettes. (And I’d like to thank Josiah LaColla for his scintillating and imaginative illustrations, by the way.)
My new Corvette lineup would look like this:
First, I would introduce an all-new 2016 Corvette Stingray. Not to be confused with the current car, this will be the entry level Corvette that the non-boomers are clamoring for. And no, you won’t find any reptilian nightmare design influences here either. Imagine a car with a footprint longer, wider and lower than the discontinued Solstice/Sky twins but with a fresh design that would harken back to the original Stingray, with Corvair Monza SS concept overtones. Available in a roadster only (that means no hardtop, removable or otherwise), this car would have a Twin-Turbo V6 with 375HP, 7-speed manual (only) gearbox, 50-50 weight distribution, an aggressive-fun driving dynamic profile and a target curb weight of 2,800 pounds. And round taillights, of course. Price? $39,995 base with minimal option packages available. It would come in at $49,995, fully loaded.
Second would be the 2016 Corvette SS. This would be the newly-introduced C7 with about 25 percent of the overwrought and overdone surface detailing removed. Meaning a complete rethink of the side vents and associated detailing would be undertaken, moving the car away from its vaguely Nissan GT-R overtones and more in keeping with great Corvettes of the past. And the back end would be completely redesigned to include round taillights and a more subtle seductiveness, without compromising its GT racing mission. This would still be the mainstream Corvette, one that the Corvette faithful would be very happy with on a day in, day out basis.
And finally I’d like to introduce you to the 2018 Corvette Chaparral. Yes, you heard that correctly. The Corvette Chaparral. This is the car that the Corvette faithful have been clamoring to have for decades. With Jim Hall’s blessing, of course, this would be a clean-sheet, mid-engined Corvette for the ages. This machine would boast every ounce of GM technological know-how plus every current and future trick in the book available. Carbon fiber chassis and body structure with the use of advanced technical materials throughout. Twin-Turbo, Direct-Injected 800HP LT1 V8 with hybrid assist. 10-speed dual range sequential automatic. Extremely limited production cadence of 1000 vehicles over a 42-month build sequence. No excuses and no “what ifs.” The Corvette Chaparral would have it all and then some. Price point? $175,000. Its stated mission beyond, of course, giving Corvette enthusiasts their ultimate fantasy? To kick Audi, BMW, McLaren and Porsche’s ass at Le Mans and deliver the first overall win for an American manufacturer there since 1969.
This product portfolio would accomplish several things. First of all it would put to rest the undeliverable notion that the Corvette can be adjusted to skew younger. That’s notgonnahappen. But you can do an entry-level Corvette that would address that idea elegantly and emotionally, while adhering to the legacy of one of the all-time great cars: the original ’59 Sting Ray. Secondly, it would give the Corvette – now Corvette SS – some breathing room to be better. It would fulfill its role as the car that the Corvette aficionados would savor and relish for years to come. And finally, the Corvette Chaparral would put the new global brand Corvette on the map. A car that would be mentioned with the other super cars of the world as a matter of fact, not as a matter of surprise.
The Corvette deserves better. Much better. Here’s to the idea of a future for Corvette that exceeds even my most colorful imagination.
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for Wednesday, January 23.
And that also brings us to the end of today’s show. Once again, I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, thanks for watching and I will see you next time.