By Alex Kalogiannis
I remember when I bought my 2007 Shelby GT 500. It was shortly before Christmas, and I was shopping for gifts when I encountered it. Red, with white stripes all across the top, I couldn’t resist the urge to get a little Christmas gift for myself.
It now sits on the desk in my office.
The 1/15 scale die cast model has been an ever present reminder that I have not driven the genuine article. It’s not even as close as I’ve been to the real thing, I know someone who has one, same colors and everything. He has yet to let me drive it. So, as if set atop a bust of Pallas, my little Shelby taunts me. At this point, the likelihood that I’ll hop into one for some unadulterated thrashing is nil, but I think I’ve resolved the oversight by lighting up the tires of the new one.
By Chris Haak
With apologies to , Toyota is actually cranking it up to one – as in one billion. According to a , Toyota is preparing a costly, $1 billion USD marketing push in an effort to drive US sales upward in the fourth quarter. The $1 billion spend represents a substantial 30-40% increase over what is typically spent in the fourth quarter.
The push will be multifaceted, with some of the money going to subsidized leases and interest rates on loans, some to cash incentives, and some to help dealers with local advertising. The company also plans to ramp up its production in advance of the marketing blitz. In the company spokesman’s words, Toyota plans to “play offense” because you can’t “play defense forever.”
By Kevin Miller
In Frankfurt this week, Saab’s Managing Director Jan Åke Jonsson said the global sales target for the sedan and station wagon versions of the company’s new 9-5 is 40,000 to 50,000 per year, according to . While the car looks great and should be very competitive in the market, the Swedish automaker may have a difficult time moving quite that many units.
As we reported last month, Saab’s new owner is inheriting a fractured dealer network in many parts of the world. GM has announced that the Saab dealer network in Canada is being shut down at the end of this year. Dealer numbers in the US and in several European markets have decreased in the last 18 months. With fewer retailers, thereby located farther from some potential customers, it may be difficult to grow sales of the large 9-5 to the point of being able to sell 50,000 annually. Saab’s Jonsson did state that the company plans to develop a new sales network in the US after the separation from GM is complete, which means that initiative will begin sometime in 2010.
Fortunately, the potential for growth into new markets does exist. Following last week’s announcement that China’s Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings Co. (BIAC) has invested in Koenigsegg Group’s purchase of Saab from GM, it is possible that BIAC could serve as an importer or set up a retail network for the Swedish cars in China. GM introduced Saab to the Chinese market five years ago; fewer than 900 Saab vehicles were sold there in 2008.
By Chris Haak
On the sideline of the Frankfurt Auto Show, Fiat’s CEO told reporters that the situation at Chrysler was even worse than he had known. I’m not quite sure why this is a surprise to him – and maybe it’s not and his statement is intentional PR-speak, but the fact that Chrysler has nothing to show for the 2010 model year aside from a revised interior for the Dodge Caliber, a heavy duty version of the Ram pickup, and a new hood for the unloved Chrysler Sebring that no longer has the strakes on it.
As , Marchionne and his management team was surprised at how little had been done at Chrysler in terms of product development over the past two years – in other words, while Cerberus had stewardship of the company. The product launches that occurred during the Cerberus era – such as the Challenger and half-ton Ram – were products that had been developed during Daimler’s ownership of Chrysler.
Chrysler’s problems predate its purchase by Cerberus Capital Management LP in August 2007. When Chrysler was but a single cog in the DaimlerChrysler global empire, the company didn’t need to do all of its own engineering work. Daimler did large portions of necessary engineering for Chrysler vehicles when Chrysler was part of DiamlerChrysler. Although the alliance obviously wasn’t as successful as Jürgen Schrempp and Bob Eaton thought it would be, Chrysler was in fact able to leverage some of Diamler’s engineering and development resources. As former Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli noted during congressional testimony, Daimler basically “hollowed out” Chrysler during its nine years of ownership, leaving the cast-off as something less than a viable standalone car company.
By Chris Haak
I was in Detroit earlier this year when the Venza made its debut. At the time, Toyota hyped it as a “crossover sedan,” but it’s obviously just a car-based crossover tilted more toward the car/station wagon end of the spectrum, as opposed to offerings like the Honda Pilot on the more truck-like end. I frankly thought that the hype around this vehicle – which is yet another rebodied version of the Toyota Camry (adding the roster that includes the Camry itself, the Highlander, Sienna, Avalon, and now-departed Solara coupe) – was excessive.
Toyota has certainly taken criticisms about its lack of styling boldness to heart over the past few years, and the Venza is probably one of the more attractive shapes to come from the company’s design studios over the past several years. There seems to be a lot of debate about what category the Venza falls under, but really – who cares?
To me, it looks all right (better than the other vehicles from which its platform is derived) with aggressively large wheels, Buick-like “hips” bulging from the rear doors into the rear quarter panels, a bulging set of front fenders, and a giant moonroof that covers nearly the entire roof surface. The bottom line is that I’m probably not in a demographic that the Venza targets, but after spending a week and a half with one provided by Toyota for evaluation, I came to appreciate what a comfortable vehicle it is.
By Andy Bannister
European scrappage schemes – the equivalent of America’s Cash for Clunkers – have been instrumental in turning round new car sales in many markets, but the effects have thrown up some surprising results, not least in Britain where a striking phenomenon has been the startling rise of Hyundai.
They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and for the Koreans this appears to be only too true. Everything changes in a recession, and Hyundai in particular has seized the chance to make that elusive breakthrough into mass-market acceptance.
From being a tiny niche player a few years ago, when its early Pony models were sneered at, Hyundai topped the British sales charts this August, beating both of the traditional market leaders – Ford and GM’s Vauxhall division – in terms of private sales, as opposed to companies, which traditionally buy fleet models from the two big players.
By Brendan Moore
Opel announced during today’s unveiling of the Opel Astra at the Frankfurt Auto Show that it would price their new Astra a surprising 600 euros lower than the VW Golf, a substantial difference in the lower end of the market.
Opel executives said that they intend for the Astra to remain one of the top three cars in Europe in terms of sales volume, and, are obviously serious about that goal in light of the pricing announcement.
By James Wong
There are the greats. And then there is the greatest. Where does the Audi R8 sit? I don’t think I’m qualified to say for sure where it should be in the hierarchy, but fresh in my mind I can only think this: that the R8 is probably the best car I’ve ever driven.
For a car to be put on a pedestal like this (especially an Audi), it has to be something special. Well, for a start, it certainly has the makings of a supercar. Based loosely on the Lamborghini Gallardo, Audi has cleverly placed a lighter V8 into the mid-engined configuration of the chassis. This is no ordinary V8 either – 420PS and 430Nm of torque all spell engineering when you consider that Audi has managed to extract all that from a 4.2L engine. Coincidentally, the same engine is also used in the Audi RS4, albeit in the R8 it is made to be dry-sumped. Audi has also borrowed the manual gearbox from the Gallardo (unique with its metal shift gates), although in the particular example I’ve had acquaintance with, it was equipped with R-tronic, Audi’s version of the E-Gear on the Gallardo. With a kerb weight of just 1560kg, the R8 hits 100km/h in 4.4 seconds, and 200km/h in 14.9 seconds. Mere humans can only just about walk across the hallway in 14.9 seconds.