Autofield Blog

Infiniti Q80: A Concept, Right?


By: Gary S. Vasilash 12. September 2014

It’s going to be a few weeks until Infiniti reveals the Q80 Inspiration at the Paris Motor Show, at the Parc des Expositions de Versailles on October 2, but they have released this photographic tease:

nfiniti Q80 Inspiration: The premium progressive

The company says “Its very dimensions place the Q80 Inspiration clearly at the peak of the Infiniti range,” and while they didn’t provide those dimensions, given the fact that it is an “80” and presently the largest number in the sedan lineup is “70,” it is a bigger car. The Q70L is 202-in. long and has a 120.1-in. wheelbase, so presumably it is somewhat longer than that.

Infiniti describes the Q80 Inspiration as a “low-slung, ingeniously aggressive four-passenger fastback.” Given the roofline of this image, “low-slung” seems to be an understatement. And that makes it seem as though at least two of those four-passengers are going to have to be rather short or they’re going to be enduring a crooked neck.

But after all, it is a concept, n’est-ce pas?


Made in Michigan


By: Gary S. Vasilash 11. September 2014

These are automotive rearview cameras:

MAGNA INTERNATIONAL INC. - Produces 10 millionth rearview camera

They are the sort of thing that you’d image would be produced in a place like China, Thailand, India, or some other country far, far away from Michigan.

Come 2018, there are going to be a whole lot of rearview cameras made and deployed because the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced a rule that calls for some sort of rear-visibility technology on all vehicles under 10,000 lb., which pretty much includes all light cars and trucks. And cameras fit the bill.

But speaking of a whole lot of cameras, that picture is of product from Magna International Inc.

What’s notable is that they were produced in a 130,000-square-foot facility. . .in Holly, Michigan.

What’s more: Magna Electronics Holly has produced 10-million of them.

And according to Magna, it is the only rearview camera maker in the U.S.

Who knew?

(Of course, Magna has facilities elsewhere, too. As Swamy Kotagiri, Magna Chief Technical Officer, pointed out, “With engineering and manufacturing teams in the U.S., Germany and China, Magna is uniquely positioned to support our global customers with our innovative camera technology.” This is one of the few times that you’ll see a quote from an executive where the word “uniquely” really does apply, given the U.S.-based camera manufacturing status.)


An EV Challenge


By: Gary S. Vasilash 10. September 2014

One of the challenges that auto companies face when it comes to selling (or more likely leasing) electric vehicles (EVs) is that not only must they convince potential customers of the viability and reliability of the vehicles, not only must they do tremendous work explaining that while it is pretty much like a car it doesn’t make any engine noise because it doesn’t have an engine, not only must they try to overcome the objection that the range is limited even though the person who may buy the car is likely not to regularly commute for a distance that is even a fraction of the total potential battery range. . . they must also help develop the infrastructure for the EVs.

2015 Soul EV

This would be like car companies having to install their own gas stations.

Weeks before Kia Motors America is putting the Soul EV on the market in California the company announced that it is installing 17 DC fast chargers. This, the company notes, is in addition to the 198 fast chargers that are already existing in California. They have developed a UVO EVServices telematics app for smartphones that allow Soul EV owners to locate charging stations (and yes, this can be accomplished in the car via the standard 8-inch touchscreen), and the company has partnered with Greenlots, a company that provides access to a network of charge stations.

Kia is installing 50-kW Terra 53 CJ DC fast chargers from ABB in select Kia dealerships. It has established partnerships with Bosch, Leviton and Aerovironment for Level 2 at-home charging stations.

Orth Hedrick, Kia Motors America vp of product planning, said, “Our customers are making a sincere effort to be eco-conscious.”

Clearly Kia—like other OEMs—is making more than a sincere effort to make sure that those customers have the infrastructure they need for their EVs to operate seamlessly and effectively.

AOGHS

AOGH photo

According to the American Oil & Gas Historical Society, the first gas station was a Gulf station that opened in Pittsburgh in 1913. The organization points out that there is a competing claim that the first was a Standard Oil station in Seattle in 1907.

But note that it isn’t a Ford station or a Chevrolet station. Those companies were busy perfecting cars, not dispensing gas.


Volvo: XC90 to Provide Traction?


By: Gary S. Vasilash 9. September 2014

Volvo introduced its first XC90 in 2002. There have been a lot of changes in the market—and to Volvo—since then, to put it mildly.

And it is now launching its second XC90 crossover.

XC90

To make it more special, last week it offered 1,927 vehicles—the number signifying the year Volvo was established—for sale on line.

These individually numbered “first edition” cars have a special badge on the tailgate as well as special door sill plates.

The 1,927 vehicles were sold out in 47 hours.

Said Alain Visser, senior vice president, Marketing, Sales and Customer Service, Volvo Car Group, “We are very pleased, but not really surprised.”

He ought to be.

Last month in the U.S., according to Autodata, Volvo delivered a total of 4,960 vehicles, cars and crossovers. The single biggest seller was the XC60, of which 1,792 were delivered.

While the First Edition sale was global, according to Volvo, the greatest number purchased was in the U.S. With the company’s sales off 10.5% year-to-date, the 1,927 is impressive.

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Breaking Down the Numbers—the August Auto Sales Numbers


By: Gary S. Vasilash 8. September 2014

This is Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey. If you watched football on TV this past weekend, chances are better than good that you saw McConaughey. Oh yes, and the Lincoln MKC.

Lincoln Launches MKC Campaign Featuring Matthew McConaughey

McConaughey is appearing in a series of advertisements for this compact crossover. Jon Pence, chief creative officer of Hudson Rouge, the outfit that produced the ads, said that McConaughey is “authentic” in the sense that he certainly seems to believe in the brand and, presumably, the MKC.

The point of this is not the actor, not the reality, but the MKC.

Because last week, the industry reported its sales numbers. And the numbers for Lincoln were probably not what the people at the brand hoped for. At least that’s what I think. Joe White of the Wall Street Journal is not so sure.

According to numbers from Ford comparing August ’14 with August ‘13:

MKZ -22%

MKS -48%

MKX -5.6%

MKT -43.2%

Navigator -12.9%

Not good.

But they’re rolling out with MKC. In August, 1,760 were sold. As this is, as the Lincoln folks like to say, “the first-ever Lincoln MKC,” there is nothing to compare it with.

John McElroy, host of Autoline After Hours, notes that it is not a good thing for the MKZ’s numbers to be off, that the brand needs momentum in the car category.

But then Joe White comes back with an interesting observation. Take the number of MKZs sold last August—3,652—and subtract the number sold this August—2841. That is a difference of 811. So, in effect, he suggests, it may be that the people who might have otherwise gone for an MKZ went for an MKC, so the company comes out ahead.

As is the case of a comeback that you’d wished you made but only came up with it a few hours later, given that a competitor, say, Audi, had a sales increase of 22.1% in August compared to Lincoln’s 0.6% decrease, that it sold more than twice as many vehicles—17,101 vs. 8,146—then the people who are sitting in the top-level offices at the Ford Motor Company are going to have to think long and hard about things, perhaps chanting “China, China, China,” where Lincoln is supposed to do very well.

But then Dave Sullivan, an analyst at AutoPacific, points out, in real-time, not ex-post-facto like my Audi observation, that there is a hefty tariff placed on vehicles imported into China, and as the MKC is currently being built only in Kentucky, and the competitors (e.g., Audi) have joint-venture operations in China so they’re not paying the toll, even that could be problematic for Lincoln.

If you’re interested in the dissection of the sales numbers, then watch White, Sullivan, McElroy, and me in this edition of Autoline After Hours.

And we do talk about things other than the sales numbers, like Elon Musk’s announcement that Telsa is going to build a $500-million battery plant in Nevada and the fact that Renault-Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn seems to be losing top-staff at a remarkably brisk pace:




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