Listen to “AD #2814 – Germany Has an Inventory Problem; Toyota Reveals New Harrier SUV; Acura RDX A-Spec Impressions” on Spreaker.
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0:07 Germany Has an Inventory Problem
0:50 Spain Has an EV Infrastructure Problem
1:35 Automakers Postpone Plant Reopening
2:22 Toyota Reveals New Harrier SUV for Japan
3:18 Mid-Engine Mustang Prototype Identified
3:48 VW Puts Dealer Loaner Fleet to Good Use
4:30 FCA Modifies Popular Super Bowl Ad
5:04 R.I.P. Sir Stirling Moss
6:23 How Roadside Assistance Requests Have Changed
8:03 Acura RDX A-Spec Impressions
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GERMANY HAS AN INVENTORY PROBLEM
Here are some of the updates from around the world about how the virus crisis is impacting the auto industry. In Germany, the VDA, which is the auto industry’s lobbying group is asking Chancellor Angela Merkel to allow car sales as soon as possible. Inventory is piling up and it’s threatening bankruptcy throughout the supply chain. The VDA says production can’t start until the cars sitting in inventory are sold off because there is no place to put the new ones. While its the German industry that has formally brought this issue to the forefront, it’s a problem facing every automaker in every country in the world.
SPAIN HAS AN EV INFRASTRUCTURE PROBLEM
Now over to Spain, where the auto industry could face an existential threat. Automakers, especially in Europe, will prioritize production of electric vehicles as they get back on their feet. But Spain does not have much of an EV infrastructure. Bloomberg reports that part of the problem is that Spain is not the home market for any automaker. While SEAT is based in Spain, it’s owned by Volkswagen, and VW is concentrating its EV production and supply chain in Germany. The Spanish industry was facing problems before the virus broke out, and now ANFAC, the industry lobbying group, says a shock plan will be needed for the industry to recover.
AUTOMAKERS POSTPONE PLANT REOPENINGS
Now to the ‘States, where automakers keep postponing their plans to reopen their plants. Volkswagen, Honda and Hyundai originally thought they’d re-open today, while Subaru and Mercedes thought they’d reopen next week, and Nissan by the end of the month. Now most of them have pushed that back to May 6, but GM and Ford say they’re keeping their plants closed indefinitely, and that’s probably the most accurate call so far.
TOYOTA REVEALS NEW HARRIER SUV
Toyota unveiled the newest version of its Harrier SUV for Japan, which is a rebadged version of the Lexus RX. It now rides on Toyota’s New Global Architecture and features an all-new design. The shape of the lower grille looks more like the shape of Lexus’ spindle grille, the rear taillights stretch across the entire rear end and the shape of the rear end in-profile looks like a toned down version of the Aston Martin DBX. But the Harrier’s signature headlamps remain. Under the hood is an option for a 2.0L 4-cylinder mated to a CVT and front- or all-wheel drive or a hybrid setup that combines a 2.5L engine with all-wheel drive. While the shape of the overall interior is similar to the outgoing model, it looks less cluttered and a little more modern. The new Harrier is scheduled to come out around June.
MYSTERY MID-ENGINE MUSTANG PROTOTYPE IDENTIFIED
Last week, Ford showed off pictures of a mid-engine Mustang prototype from the 1960s. It claimed it wasn’t part of the Mach 2 program but a lot of you weren’t buying that. And you can now give yourself a pat on the back, as it’s been confirmed that this is a Mach 2 by Ford archivists and one of the designers that worked on the program. But these pictures are all that’s left of the car because its whereabouts are unknown.
VW PUTS DEALER LOANER FLEET TO GOOD USE
Many dealership loaner vehicles aren’t being used right now so Volkswagen is putting its to good use. In the U.S., VW has about 7,000 vehicles in its dealer loaner fleet and is encouraging dealers to offer pickup and delivery services in their communities, like transporting masks and gowns or dropping off supplies to someone stuck at home. Only one dealership employee will be in each vehicle and because Volkswagen will offer a daily stipend to cover fuel and lease costs, there’s no charge to the person or group requesting the service. All you have to do is call your local dealer.
FCA MODIFIES SUPER BOWL AD TO PROMOTE SOCIAL DISTANCING
One of the most popular ads from this year’s Super Bowl is back. To help promote social distancing, Jeep updated its Bill Murray “Groundhog Day” commercial with a message to stay at home. It starts off by saying it understands every day is starting to seem the same, then cuts to Bill Murray in bed listening to “I Got You Babe” on the clock radio. The new ad is part of a larger social media campaign from FCA, across all of its brands to encourage drivers to stay off the road.
STIRLING MOSS PASSES AWAY
The racing world lost one of its legends over the weekend. Sir Stirling Moss died peacefully at home on Sunday at the age of 90. He won 212 races over his career, drove 107 different types of cars, including for Ferrari, Jaguar, Maserati and Mercedes-Benz. Yet, despite all his success, Moss is like the European version of Dan Marino, he never won a title. So, he’s been described as “the greatest driver never to win the World Championship.”
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Even though there’s fewer people out on the road these days, there’s still going to be breakdowns and accidents. Sean talked with Cathy Orrico from Agero, a company that provides driver assistance and vehicle services, and she said roadside assistance requests have changed since the coronavirus outbreak.
Cathy Orrico, Agero
“We’ve got a business intelligence team that created a report for us. So, every morning I see the activity and we can look at it day to day, week over week, month over month. And in general, volume is down for all of our customers but there are certain pockets in the automotive segment that are not as impacted as others. So certain brands still have a lot of activity going on. So, our job is to make sure, whether these folks are on the side of the road with a flat tire or they got a battery issue or they’re in an accident. Our job is to get there and keep them safe and get them off the side of the road. Things that have changed a little bit, there’s a concern about the social distancing, so safety. So, some of the requests that are a little bit different now. Before they may want to drive in a tow truck to get dropped off to the dealership or they may ask for us, we offer alternative transportation. So, in months past we would say ‘could I get you a lift?’ Whereas today, they’re not quite so interested in being around other people, so that whole notion of taking care of their car and then making sure they’re taken care of separately, safely, is a little bit different.”
ACURA RDX A-SPEC IMPRESSIONS
I’ve been test driving an Acura RDX A-Spec this week. This 5-seater, small SUV is a blast to drive. It’s equipped with Super Handling All Wheel Drive, which maybe isn’t the most clever name, but it really works. Essentially it refers to torque vectoring and you can literally feel the torque flowing from one side of the RDX to keep you firmly planted while cornering. It’s powered by a 2-liter turbo that cranks out 272 horsepower, which works out to 136 horsepower per liter, which is quite impressive. I remember when only racing engines delivered more than a hundred horses per liter. When you step into the throttle the power comes on in a rush, but thanks to all wheel drive and torque vectoring you don’t get any wheelspin or torque steer. Just point where you want to go and mash the gas pedal. When you accelerate hard, the engine has got a good guttural sound, but you still get that coarseness that is common to all four bangers. The A-spec is a trim package, not so much a performance package. It offers some styling add-ons, generous amounts of leather and some suede on the seats, bigger tires and 20-inch wheels and the ELS premium sound system. That power and performance comes at a cost. It’s only rated at 23 miles to the gallon. The one I drove cost $47,195, which includes $995 for the destination charge. I’ve never been much of a fan of Acrua’s styling, but to my eye the RDX is the best resolved of all the rest. The bottom line: I truly enjoyed driving the RDX and would recommend it to any enthusiast who’s looking for a small SUV to put in their stable.
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John McElroy is an influential thought leader in the automotive industry. He is a journalist, lecturer, commentator and entrepreneur. He created “Autoline Daily,” the first industry webcast of industry news and analysis.