Cadillac is one of the most closely watched companies in the industry today as it works to reestablish itself as a competitive brand in the luxury space. While sales of luxury cars have recovered faster than a camera finds a Kardashian, Cadillac’s sales have been anemic.
Cadillac finished 2014 down 6.5% compared with 2013 sales (which also had been down, but only 0.5%), and through March of this year, it’s sales are down 6.8%.
And this is in spite of the fact that Cadillac, with cars like the ATS and CTS, has strong sedan offerings in the showroom. Arguably, those two cars are more than competitive in their respective spaces. Yet through March, ATS sales are off 20.4% and CTS sales are down 39.5%.
One place that Cadillac is pinning some of its hopes for substantial recovery is with the CT6 that was introduced at the New York Auto Show and which will become available later this year.
But is the CT6 the car that Cadillac really needs to reverse its fortunes?
That is the basis of a lively discussion with Mark Phelan, auto critic for the Detroit Free Press, Aaron Gold of cars.about.com, freelance auto writer Chris Paukert, and me on this week’s edition of “Autoline After Hours.”
In addition to which, the news last week that Cadillac is reducing the price of its extended-range electric ELR by $10,000 (going to $65,995, including delivery) while increasing the capabilities and performance of that car (which Phelan and I are most impressed with, although the market doesn’t share our ardor, as only 1,310 were sold in 2014), leads to a broader discussion of electric vehicles—and remarkably, it doesn’t turn into a disquisition about Tesla.
You, too, can drive Fast & Furious
All that, and we even get into what the uber-popular Furious 7 means as regards the interest, or lack thereof, among young people when it comes to cars.
You can see it here:
While Nissan may not have been the first OEM to offer it, but its “Around View Monitor” (AVM) technology is (1) impressive and (2) widely available throughout the company’s lineup, not just something that’s kept for top-of-the-line models.
Essentially, AVM provides an image on the center console screen that shows the vehicle from directly above. The vehicle is a rendered image, but the surroundings are real, as there are four super-wide angle (180-degree), high-resolution cameras (located in the front, rear and on the side view mirrors). The output of those cameras is stitched together so the driver, such as when parking the car, can see what’s around the vehicle, including the lines on the asphalt in parking lots.
This technology is evidentially robust. At least that is an assessment than can be made predicated on the fact that Nissan is providing its AVM technology to the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and Topy Industries, a manufacturer of robot crawling devices.
Under development are robotic, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). They are being made to search underwater for natural resources.
The ROVs will be equipped with AVM so they can avoid obstacles as they are directed by “drivers” far above them, on the surface of the seas in ships.
Think of it as nearly autonomous (robotic vehicle) driving.
As you may have heard, there was a bit of a contretemps between the heads of design for Bentley and Lincoln (Luc Donckerwolke and David Woodhouse, respectively) regarding the design of and the name of the Lincoln Continental Concept, or at least Donckerolke suggested that Lincoln ripped off the design of the Bentley Flying Spur, and then there is the issue of the name “Continental,” which has associations with both vehicle manufacturers (though Lincoln has the edge on that one).
Which brings us to Istanbul.
But we’ll leave Lincoln behind.
The St. Regis Istanbul hotel has opened its Bentley Suite. Yes, rooms with a view (of Macka Park and the Bosporus). A living room, bedroom, dressing room, powder room, and one-and-a-half baths that feature “a curvaceous design inspired by the Bentley Continental GT.”
The marble floor in the foyer has insets inspired by the design of Continental wheels. The sofa in the living room is made with Bentley seat leather; there is the signature Bentley diamond upholstery stitching. The overhead lighting are predicated on the headlamps as well as a fixture that is predicated on the Nurburgring. The wet bar is predicated on the design and the materials used for a Bentley dashboard. There is a cabinet in the bar that contains three Breitling clocks. And as smoking, presumably, is still on the up-and-up at the St. Regis Istanbul, there is a hand-crafted humidor, built in the Bentley woodshop.
As is becoming increasingly apparent, luxury cars today are not just about the cars, but about the “experiences” associated with them.
Still, let’s say that you drive your Bentley Continental GT to Istanbul. Do you really want to sleep in one, too? If so, well, there’s always the car.
One of the features of modern transportation is the orange traffic cone, which is usually spotted in seemingly endless lines. As in roadway construction projects.
Overall, there are approximately 12-million miles of paved roads on the planet and 8-million unpaved (so says WolframAlpha, and a quick check of the CIA’s The World Factbook shows that there are a kilometer after kilometer of unpaved roads in places that you might not expect: while it might not be particularly surprising to learn that in Afghanistan there are 29,800 km of unpaved roads and 12,350 km of paved roads (as of 2006), it is probably somewhat more startling to learn that in the U.S., of the 6,586,610 km of roadways, 2,281,895 km are unpaved (as of 2012)).
Clearly, there are plenty of rough surfaces to go around (and in places like Michigan, one could make the argument that some of the paved roads are really unpaved, at least in condition).
This look at paved roads stems from the ongoing development at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars to produce what its chairman and CEO, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, described as a vehicle that “offers the luxury of a Rolls-Royce” yet be one “that can cross any terrain.”
While this might appear to be a Rolls modified for inclusion in a publication like Dub, it is actually an engineering mule for Rolls’s “Project Cullinan”
Or, as one might expect, a sport-utility vehicle.
The undertaking was announced in February of this year. An engineering mule—based on a shortened Phantom Series II body—is now on the road, as the engineers work to develop an all-wheel drive suspension for the vehicle that is to deliver “Rolls-Royce’s hallmark ‘magic-carpet’ ride not only on the road, but off-road too.”
So in addition to running on paved roads (the United Kingdom has 394,428 km of paved roads; the CIA doesn’t indicate what the unpaved dimensions are; and in Germany, as Rolls-Royce is part of BMW, the kilometers paved are 645,000, and again no unpaved information), the mule will be run on test surfaces including “Belgian Pavé, cobblestones, corrugated concrete, noise development and measurement surfaces, resonance road, and acceleration bumps.” (Or they could just drive on Haggerty Road between Five and Six Mile roads in Livonia, Michigan, and call it good.)
The name of the development program is “Project Cullinan.”
While it is not spelled out what “Cullinan” refers to, it is likely a reference to the Cullinan diamond that was discovered in South Africa in 1905, the largest gem-quality rock ever discovered. It weighs on the order of 3106.75 carats, or 1.37 pounds (admittedly before it was turned into nine individual gems).
While looking into the Cullinan, I found that it is the largest non-carbonado diamond.
As for the largest carbonado diamond: it weighs 3167 carat, or about 1.4 pounds.
Its name, however, is one that the people at Rolls probably wouldn’t be in favor of, though the people at FCA would love it: Sergio.
The Renault-Nissan Alliance was established in 1999, as the French and the Japanese companies realized that cooperation would be more beneficial than competition.
In 2001, the Renault Clio went into production at the Nissan plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico. In 2002, the Nissan March went on sale in Japan, the first car based on a platform common to Renault and Nissan (B-platform).
Since then, the Alliance has continued on, with the two automakers sharing capabilities and technologies.
In 2010, Daimler entered the picture, as it began to work with the Alliance on programs.
Last fall, the Renault Twingo and the Daimler smart fortwo and fourfour were introduced; the vehicles were jointly developed by the companies.
A few months earlier, Nissan and Daimler announced they’d be building a plant in Aguascalientes for a jointly developed premium compact vehicle. The Infiniti is to launch in 2017 and the Mercedes in 2018.
And speaking of Infiniti and Mercedes: this past June, joint production of a 2-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine began at a newly established Nissan and Daimler powertrain facility in Decherd, Tennessee. Initial application: European versions of the Infiniti Q50 sports sedan and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
And speaking of engines, Renault is supplying a 1.6-liter diesel that’s used in the C-Class as well as a 1-liter and 900-cc engines for the smart forfour and fortwo
Meanwhile, the two companies continue to supply each other with powertrains. In September, Renault began supplying 1.6-liter diesel engines for both the new Mercedes C-Class and the Mercedes Vito van. Renault is also supplying a 1-liter, 3-cylinder naturally aspirated gasoline engine and a 900cc turbocharged, 3-cylinder gasoline unit for the smart forfour and smart fortwo.
In addition to which, Nissan is supplying Daimler’s Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation with NV350 commercial vans.
And speaking of trucks, last week Daimler and the Renault-Nissan Alliance announced that Nissan and Daimler will be developing a new pickup truck for Mercedes. The truck will be engineered and designed by Daimler, yet share some of the architecture of the Nissan NP300 midsize pickup.
The Nissan NP300 is produced in a Renault plant in Cordoba, Argentina. The Mercedes truck will be built there, too.
In addition to which, Renault and Nissan are already at work developing a truck for Renault, also using NP300 as a basis. This one-ton truck will go into production next year at Nissan’s plant in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
Then all three trucks will be built at the plant in Argentina, as well as at a Nissan plant in Barcelona, Spain.
This is not about trucks. This is about the global OEMs working together in a rather deep way. It is often said that the powertrain is the key differentiator between one automotive company and another, yet these companies are sharing. And what is more distinctive about a company that the pickup it puts on the market? Yet here we have the three companies collaborating on three different but genetically related pickups.
The companies are amortizing engineering costs. The companies are amortizing production costs.
While Renault and Nissan have cross-ownership in their association, Daimler is simply working with the companies on more than a dozen projects.
Clearly, this sort of working together has benefits not only to the manufacturers, but presumably to the customers, as well.