Automotive News - March 2013

Lots Of New Stuff At The New York Auto Show

There are so many new products at this year's New York International Auto Show, and we simply don't have enough space here to describe them all for you. The expo, held at the Jacob Javit's Center in New York runs from March 29 to April 7, 2013. Firstly, Toyota's 2014 Highlander has been completely revised. Although still a utility vehicle, it's silhouette has been softened considerably. It can accommodate up to eight passengers, and is powered by a 3.5 litre V-6 mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid system is still available. Toyota also introduced it's 2014 tC Scion, which features a new interior and new performance upgrades. Honda's 2014 Odyssey has been lightly freshened The company's "big" news was addition of an optional vacuum system, the HondaVAC in the Touring version! There is actually a built-in Shop Vac installed in the rear cargo hold of the vehicle. I think most parent's will agree it's time has come. Acura brought it's new MDX and presents the new RLX that we've already seen at the Montreal and Toronto Auto Shows.

The 2015 Volkswagen GTI

Dealers are only just starting to receive the 2014 models for their showrooms, and already automotive journalists are talking about the 2015 models. Many of which have already been previewed at the various automotive shows this season. We've got the details on Volkswagen's 2015 GTI. To note- Volkswagen's North American models are usually a couple of years behind their European line-up, so there are few surprises once they hit our shores. Unveiled at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, the GTI will leave the Ford Focus ST and the MazdaSpeed3 in it's dust. Like always, the Volkswagen GTI is based on the Golf, the seventh edition of the name and winner of the 2014 European Car of the Year award. The GTI shares the same steel sheets as the Golf, but boasts refinements that are specific to the GTI: a more imposing air deflector in front, a larger air intake, a rear spoiler and a rear diffuser that incorporates stainless steel exhaust tips.

Suzuki Withdraws From Canada

After thirty years of selling it's vehicles in Canada, Suzuki Motor Corp is closing up shop here and leaving the Canadian market. The company's announcement comes hot on the heels of Suzuki declaring bankruptcy in the US in November 2012. At that time the company said that they planned to remain in Canada where their cars were more popular. Canadians are more likely to purchase small, inexpensive vehicles than American car buyers. While small, inexpensive cars are indeed more popular up here than below the 49th parallel, volumes just aren't high enough to justify production runs that catered to North American standards. Canadians represent only 10% of what the US market can offer a manufacturer. Suzuki sold nearly 5,500 cars here in Canada in 2012, but those numbers are not enough to cover the unique design and development expenses incurred during development for the North American market.

Kia To Unveil Cub Concept

On it's home turf at this week's 2013 Seoul Motor Show, Kia is set to debut it's newest concept car, the super mini Kia CUB. It will be unveiled to the public on March 28, one day after the new Kia Soul is displayed for the first time at the show. The company also revealed yet another potential model, the Provo concept car earlier this month at the Geneva Motor show which is set to rival the Mini. The release of CUB concept, a product of Kia's Korean design studio in Korea rather than their California or Frankfurt design centres may suggest that the car will only be available there.

The World's First Diesel Plug-In

The world's first diesel plug-in hybrid vehicle, the Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid, will make it's official US Debut onstage at the New York International Auto Show. This plug-in hybrid will be one of three nominees for the 2013 Green Car of the Year award. The winning vehicle, selected by a panel of 66 automotive journalists from 23 countries around the world, will be announced at the New York show on March 28. Volvo will also unveil it's all new R-Design trimmed models, as well as a new as-yet unnamed addition to the North American Volvo line up.

Barracuda Comeback Closer To Reality?

Following Chrysler's success after the revival of nostalgic brands like the Challenger and Charger, and the redesign of others to bring out their original aesthetics; one can wonder which affectionately remembered 70's car we can look forward to enjoying next. The general consensus is that we will next see the legendary Barracuda rolling off assembly lines. The original Barracuda, a Plymouth, was produced from 1964 to 1974. Originally a fastback A-body coupe, it was initially based on the Plymouth Valiant. Redesigned in 1967 and again in 1970, it is the third generation E-body that we remember most fondly. The E-body allowed the manufacturer to stuff larger engines under it's hood and elevate it to true muscle car status. At the time, the Barracuda shared the same platform with the Challenger.

2014 SRT Viper TA, A Race Car Made For The Road!

The SRT Group (Street And Racing Technology) Division of Chrysler, in collaboration with professional road racers, has created the very exclusive 2014 SRT Viper TA (Time Attack). It's street legal, built for performance enthusiasts who want to run on the 150 road race courses that exist in North America. A little less than a year after the long awaited debut of the 2013 SRT Viper at the New York Auto Show, the 2014 SRT Viper TA will be unveiled to the public on March 27, on the same floor of the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. Based on the regular SRT Viper model, the 2014 SRT Viper TA builds on the capabilities of the legendary hand built American supercar.

Coming In Early Summer, 2013, Jaguar's New Sports Car The F-Type

Jaguar has announced that they will soon launch their new roadster, a car called the F-Type. It's lack of practicality only accentuates the attractiveness of the new F-Type, already considered to be the spiritual successor to the legendary E-Type. The result of this long gestation, which took more than ten years, is a two seater that completely captures the essence of the old E-Type, without falling victim to retro-kitsch. There are two lines that define the shape and cut of this car. The first, running from the nose, gets lost in the doors. The second defines the rear of the car. It sports horizontal headlights, with just a hint of the E-Type in the centre. The V6 is equipped with dual exhaust, while the V8 gets quad.

Nissan to use 25% AHSS

In the interest of reducing vehicle weight and therefore fuel consumption, Nissan has announced it's intention to use AHSS (Advanced High Tensile Strength Steel or steel advanced high yield) in 25% of it's auto parts (measured by weight) by 2017. The company will be expanding it's application of AHSS, including the use of it's 1.2 gigapascal Ultra High Tensile Strength Steel with High Formability in it's upcoming production models. Currently, Nissan is the only company using the material, and it's already in it's new 2013 Infiniti Q50. In addition to better fuel economy, and lighter weight vehicles, there is another advantage to switching to AHSS.

The Fiat 500 GQ Edition

After first being pegged as a 'chick car', Fiat's 500 is undergoing a makeover. Targeting male customers, Fiat has released a new "GQ" edition, aimed at metrosexuals. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a metrosexual is "a usually urban heterosexual male given to enhancing his personal appearance by fastidious grooming, beauty treatments, and fashionable clothes". In Fiat's press release, they presented what they called the Gentleman's Car, a special edition for metropolitan men of the third millennium. It's release is in collaboration of Gentlemen's Quarterly men's magazine which highlights modern fashion and style trends.

Porsche Growing, and Growing Fast

It's always a great sign when automotive manufacturers are hiring, especially when they do it in big numbers. This week Porsche announced that it is hiring 1000 blue collar workers and another 400 engineers for it's Leipzig, Germany manufacturing plant. Already at this location, the company has 1,150 workers who build the company's Porsche Panamera sedan and the Porsche Cayenne mid-size SUV. The facility will build the new 2014 Porsche Macan compact SUV. Once the vehicle hits showroom floors, Porsche will be adding even more employees to fulfil demand on additional assembly lines.

Nissan Quest Minivan Price Drop

As the economy picks up, we're seeing innovation and new models almost everywhere throughout the automotive industry. So many new eco friendly vehicles, impressive sporty luxury cars and thanks to the rebound in the housing industry, new pickup trucks. What we're not seeing though are minivans. With the current popularity of crossovers, are the days of the minivan numbered? GM and Ford have given up, opting to push their new crossovers to families instead. Kia and Volkswagen have also dropped out of the minivan market, though they say it's temporary. Chrysler has owned the minivan segment for well over 25 years, and still continues to enjoy a 50% market share in Canada. Number two and three, Toyota and Honda have held steady with revised versions of their Odyssey and Sienna respectively.

Infiniti QX60 Preview in New York

Is this a new Infiniti model? Actually, no. If you're familiar with the company's 2013 JX35 crossover, you will recognize the QX60. It's essentially the same vehicle with a new badge and a few subtle differences. The new badging system is part of Infiniti's new naming strategy- Q to designate sedans and coupes, and the Q designation for crossovers. At the New York International Auto Show, where the QX60 is on display until April 7, the company announced that a new hybrid version will be released this summer. Infiniti is actively building it's line-up of luxury hybrid vehicles, and the QX60 joins their 2014 Q70 hybrid (the M hybrid) and the already announced 2014 Q50.

Hyundai Promises No Pressure

In a competitive car market where thanks to the internet, customers are extremely well informed before walking into a dealership; automotive manufacturers and sellers are constantly looking for ways to offer more than their competition. This is especially true in the midsize sedan segment. One of the most effective tools that a company can wield to ensure smooth sales and happy customers afterwards is service. When the salesman has your old clunker washed by the guys out back as you sip the latte he handed you while you browse the showroom floor, as a customer you're going to feel looked after. These simple and inexpensive touches can help to quickly turn a browser into a buyer.

BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe

The latest addition to the new segment of 4-door coupes, BMW's 6 Series Gran Coupe joins the circle that includes other German made cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLS, Audi's A7 Sportback and the Volkswagen Passat CC. It comes hot on the heels of the 6 series convertible and the more traditional 2-door coupe. It's the first 4-door model in the history of the 6 Series. A touch longer than the coupe and utilizing a wider wheelbase, the car boasts a low roofline, and long, frameless side windows that contribute to it's low profile. The Gran Coupe's tail lights give a muscular touch to the car's overall look. The Gran Coupe's interior is a mix of sport and elegance, as one should expect in a car that exceeds the $100,000 mark. The premium seating option offers high quality leather bucket seats that are both heated and cooled. It's wide panoramic glass roof tilts to increase the amount of sunlight entering the cabin, thus creating the illusion of more space. Also optional is a super premium, 600 watt Bang & Olufsen 16 speaker sound system.

Mitsubishi And Nissan Join Forces

During a 2010 press conference, Nissan and Mistubishi announced a cooperation between the two companies, and that they would be seeking new opportunities to work together. At the time, the plans were limited to overseas markets, and included a Nissan Van, a Mitsubishi SUV and the sharing of EV charging networks. Their joint venture is called NMKV and their 35 employees are tasked with developing minicars for the Japanese market. They are hoping to unite the strengths of the two companies when it comes to parts sourcing, and vehicle engineering & development. Mitsubishi will definitely benefit from the additional buying power it stands to inherit.

Subaru's Viziv Concept Unveiled in Geneva

In Geneva on Wednesday, Subaru unveiled it's newest concept, the Viziv; a next generation crossover that's indicative of a new direction for Subaru. Featuring a sleekly designed silhouette, the large, hexagonal grille mixes well with hook shaped head and running lights and the powerful looking hood. The car's broad wings and simple side panels contribute, giving it a rugged and dynamic look. In the rear, we find similar patterns as those found on the front. The Mistral Silver Metallic paint job emphasizes the dynamism and elegance of the overall design. Just like the exterior, the Viziv's interior evokes the promise of a dynamic driving performance.

Florida May Require International Driving Permit

There was quite a commotion a few weeks ago, when the State of Florida announced that they would now require possession of an International Driving Permit by non-residents wanting to drive on the state's roads. What was most surprising is that the regulations had been in effect since January 1, 2013! Thanks to the resulting outcry, and perhaps due to a little influence from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on February 14, the State of Florida announced a suspension of the requirement. Just to be clear, the law is not abolished, but rather suspended; while the State ensures that the law conforms with the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, signed in 1949.

Kia Provo Concept At Geneva Auto Show

The 83rd Geneva Motor Show won't open it's doors to the public for a few days, but already, photos of concept cars at the show have begun to circulate. One of them is this beautiful concept, the Kia Provo that combines a look of confidence and agility with technology. This coupe style hatchback does not hide the similarities it shares with the Track'ster, which was unveiled by Kia in Chicago last year. It combines a muscular look with a turbocharged gas engine plus an electric motor creating a hybrid solution for the Provo. The interior is amazing by all counts, the materials used are both luxurious and high-tech.

Volkswagen XL1

Volkswagen's XL1 concept is a diesel-electric hybrid that, thanks to extreme aerodynamics, is the most energy efficient production vehicle in the world. To believe these claims, just take a look at the numbers offered by the German manufacturer. Indeed, the XL1 only consumed 0.9 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres, with an average CO2 emissions of only 21 grams per km. No standard vehicle to date has been able to achieve such results. Surprising everyone, Volkswagen has decided to take this concept to the production stage, and offer a small number of the XL1 for sale. It's a daring bet, because in terms of style and design, the XL1 has no market equivalent.

BMW i3 Concept Becomes Reality

When autoExpert attended the recent Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, one of the highlights was over in BMW's section of the show floor. Normally coming across a concept car is a treat, because while popular, manufacturers don't bring them out very often. This year, BMW brought two. Their i3 concept car definitely caught people's attention. It's not a flashy sports car like many of the concepts seem to be, the company saved all that for it's sporty i8 concept instead. The i3 conjured up memories of the 4th grade, when the teacher asked us to envision cars of the future.

2014 Kia Cadenza

While previously announced in 2011, it seems that it's finally ready! Kia has announced that the 2014 Kia Cadenza will replace the Kia Magentis which, while a decent car, had serious flaws in design and rather inconsistent road handling. The Kia Cadenza is the cousin of the Hyundai Azera, a car that Hyundai sold for a short time in Canada a few years ago. It is still sold in the United States. With this luxury sedan, Kia hopes to rank among such company as the Lexus EX and Acura TL. The new Kia Cadenza has been on display recently, making appearances a few weeks ago at the auto show in Detroit, and the recent Toronto International Auto Show.

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