When Lamborghini went into the Geneva Show for the mass public unveiling of its Gallardo successor, the Huracán, the company said that through a series of private showings, it had already booked orders for 700 units. Given that the vehicle has a rumored price tag in excess of $300,000, that’s a fairly robust order book.
(It may be interesting to note that the Gallardo, which is the most successful Lambo ever from the point of view of sales, had a 10-year run, during which time 14,022 vehicles were produced.)
The Huracán has a structure produce with a combination of composites and aluminum. Consequently, the car has a dry weight of just 3,135 lb. Given that it has a 5.2-liter, naturally aspirated V10 engine that produces 610 hp, that translates into 5.1 lb. per horsepower, which explains why the car can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in just 3.2 seconds. (And while on the subject of the powertrain, know that there is a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. In addition to which, there is an electronically controlled four-wheel-drive system.)
This is no bare-bones speed racer, however, as the interior includes a 12.3-in. full-color TFT display for its instrumentation, and Nappa leather and Alcantara adorn the inside surfaces.
Of course, most of us probably can’t afford a Lamborghini Huracán. We probably can, however, afford an Automobili Lamborghini ballpoint pen, which is offered on the company’s website for just $29.00 (tax, shipping, etc. extra).
To be a first-rate supplier nowadays doesn’t simply mean making parts, components or systems to spec. You’ve got to go above and beyond to prove not only your competency, but your creativity and competitive advantage, as well.
Case in point: Magna International, which has developed a concept vehicle that it is displaying at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, the MILA Blue.
This is the seventh MILA that the supplier of products (body, chassis, interior, seating, powertrain, electronics, etc.), engineering services, and contract manufacturing has produced. “MILA” is an acronym for “Magna Innovative Lightweight Automobile.”
The innovation derives largely from both the hybrid powertrain and the overall vehicular structure. It uses compressed natural gas for fuel. It is a city car (A-segment), and it has been determined that because the vehicle is comparatively light—an estimated 300 kg lighter than a conventional A-segment vehicle—it can motor along in stop-and-go traffic at up to 39 km/h using electric power.
The four-seat vehicle has a multi-material construction, including aluminum, magnesium and composites. Instead of having plastic interior trim covering up unsightly surfaces, the structural components are designed so that they are visible and appealing.
As European automakers look for ways to reduce CO2 emissions in order to comply with regulations that go into effect in 2021 (up until last week, they were to go into effect in 2020) calling for no more than 95 g CO2/km, the MILA Blue produces <49 g/km.
That’s an innovative supplier and then some.
So, what is the biggest selling nameplate in the world? Is it the Toyota Corolla (and the cars that are Corolla that happen to have another name but are still Corollas)? Or is it the Ford Focus (and a Focus is a Focus is a Focus--worldwide)?
Here’s another question related to that: Who cares?
(This, of course, assumes that you aren’t in Ford or Toyota marketing. And apparently the answer is Focus.)
If you are buying a car, do you really care if someone on the other side of the planet has one just like yours? That might be a disincentive to buy it. Seriously: you go on vacation to some far off place, and there’s someone wearing the same Nikes that you have on your feet climbing into a car that is exactly like the one you left in the long-term lot at the airport back home.
It is, of course, all about bragging rights for the companies in question.
But in the case of the Focus, certainly, there is another advantage. It’s this: the U.S. market now has the Focus that people in other parts of the world have had, and that Focus was a really, really good Focus. A lot of that has to do with the fact that in other parts of the world they don’t have big cars like the Taurus or big trucks like the F-150. For a number of years (and sadly it seems that that number has grown all too large) Ford had a focus on the Taurus and made sure they were making it a competitive and desirable car. And then there were the pickups that are so important to the Ford brand. In addition to which, there was the whole sport utility phenomenon that was a key element in the Ford U.S. strategy.
But times have changed, and compact cars are crucial.
So from the sheet metal in, the current generation Focus that is on the highways and byways of the U.S. (and in all those other countries) is designed and engineered at higher levels than was the case when it wasn’t as important a car.
One of the things that strikes me about how much care was taken in developing the Focus is something that you’ll use numerous times throughout the period of time you own the car yet is something that you probably don’t necessarily think a whole lot about.
It’s the fuel-filler door. Generally, these doors are square or round. A whole is punched in a rear quarter panel and the door is affixed. It’s almost a “who cares”? (This is not to be dismissive of those who have to design and engineer the doors, because there is more to it than this cursory description gives it.)
Check out the fuel filler door on the Focus—assuming that you can find it. It is cleverly designed into the right rear quarter panel. It has a shape closely akin to a diamond. It is positioned on an angle.
It is not something that is simply there. It is deliberate. Conscious.
You can tell a lot about a car by the little things. And the design of that door says a tremendous amount about the Focus.
Mind you, this doesn’t come without a price. The base price for this Focus, which has the top trim Titanium level, is $24,115. Yes, a compact car. The options (e.g., special paint, navigation package) add $1,190. And as you also need to pay delivery--$795—you’re looking at a sticker that says “Total MSRP $26,100.”
Yes, a compact car.
So a question is: Is it worth it?
I think so.
It’s got the goods, like leather-trimmed front seats, pushbutton staring, Sony audio and Sync with MyFordTouch (that worked as planned, so know that not all systems are somehow plagued). It has a 2.0-liter gasoline direct-injected engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. It is roomy for a compact, and while some might think that the hatchback version—which has an exterior design that is far more appealing than the sedan—might be a bit space-constrained compared to the sedan, the interior dimensions for humans in both versions are identical, with the exception of the hatch giving up 0.1-in. in rear headroom to the sedan (37.9 in. vs. 38 in.). Stuff-wise, the space behind the second row of the hatch is 23.8 cu. ft.; the trunk in the sedan is 13.2 cu. ft.
But it is not a cheap car. But importantly, it is not cheap in both senses of the word: It is not inexpensive. It is not shoddily made. Arguably, it is world class.
Engine: 2.0-liter Ti-VCT, FFV I4
Horsepower: 160 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 146 lb-ft @ 4,450 rpm
Materials: Aluminum block and head
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Steering: Rack and pinion with EPAS
Wheelbase: 104.3 in.
Length: 171.6 in.
Width: 71.8 in.
Height: 57.7 in.
Curb weight: 2.948 lb.
EPA: 26/37/30 mpg city/highway/combined
A primary rationalization for the use of carbon fiber for automotive structures—like the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid vehicle—is that it is light, it can allow the creation of exotic forms like, well, the 2+2 vehicle in question, and it is quite strong.
Light, formable, strong.
Just the sorts of things that one might look for in their luggage, particularly if (1) they are going to be transporting their luggage in a >$136,000 i8 and (2) they buy their accessories from Louis Vuitton.
Just listen to Adrian van Hooydonk, senior vice president, BMW Group Design: “The use of CFRP [carbon fiber reinforced plastic] in the revolutionary BMW i8 sports car is indicative of an intelligent lightweight construction philosophy. And Louis Vuitton has demonstrated a similar belief in innovation, aesthetics and lightweight design in creating an exclusive luggage collection tailored perfectly to the new BMW i8.”
Yes, the Weekender GM i8, Garment Bag i8, Business Case i8, and Weekender PM i8 are all fabricated with carbon fiber.
Of course, carbon fiber may have a variety of benefits going for it, but hand-graspability isn’t one of them. So the handles are made of leather. As is the covering of the carbon-fiber based seats in the i8.
The Geneva Motor Show is upon us. So because most of us aren’t going to be there, and because Detroit Free Press Auto Critic Mark Phelan has something of a soft-spot for the event in Geneva, he talks about how this year’s show seems, unlike those in past years, to be a place were more straightforward cars are being presented, not those which are somewhat more conceptually baroque. Phelan suggests, perhaps, that this is an indication that the western European auto market is coming back and various OEMs want to get their saleable products front and center, rather than their more imaginative ones.
Keith Naughton is with Bloomberg News. He writes for Bloomberg BusinessWeek. And as he is Detroit-based, he knows a lot about the business of the automobile business. Last week, Detroit’s biggest automaker, General Motors, found itself having to explain a problem that has led to the recall of nearly 1.4-million vehicles. A problem that, in GM’s own words, “may have caused or contributed to the non-deployment of the frontal airbags” in 31 cases “involving 13 front-seat fatalities.” Naughton explains that as this is GM CEO Mary Barra’s first big on-the-job crisis, it is absolutely essential that she get in front of this.
Consumer Reports is out with its automotive issue. It is a publication that is undoubtedly poured over at kitchen tables across the country by those who are considering a new vehicle purchase. What car did CR decide is the absolute best overall? The Tesla Model S. Its choices are reconsidered by Phelan, Naughton and me in the opening segment of this edition of “Autoline After Hours.”
And then there’s the guest, a woman who has tremendous experience and background at Ford Motor Company engineering an array of vehicles, including the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. Elaine Bannon is now the chief engineer of the Lincoln Navigator, a substantially reengineered product that will be arriving in showrooms this fall, a vehicle that is something of a flagship (OK, it is big, with the extended length 2015 SUV being 222.3 in. long, giving rise to ocean liner metaphors) for the Lincoln marque.
2015 Lincoln Navigator
Bannon explains some of the engineering behind the new Navigator and explains the relevance of this massive vehicle in an age where things seem to be more micro than macro. (Here’s a hint: some 70% of Navigator customers go buy another one.)
All that and more can be found right here: