It’s Friday once again, which means it’s time for another round of my Five For Friday: Five Thoughts about the Auto Industry for April 27, 2012. The CTS Wagon and Coupe could be moving on, Fisker owns an empty factory, Mercedes-Benz Magic Sky Control for side glass, the Scion xB and xD near their final curtain and Ford finds an innovative use for its excess cash - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
Cadillac stunned the luxury world when it introduced its first-ever station wagon as a 2010 model. The Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon maintained the pleasing driving dynamics of the popular CTS sedan and gave the brand an additional foothold in the premium family car segment. The Sport Wagon was followed shortly thereafter by the CTS Coupe, which presented a dramatic, two-door interpretation of the automaker's Art and Science design language.
An article published by Car and Driver suggests that while Cadillac remains committed to keeping both a wagon and a coupe in their current lineup, those two vehicles might not keep their CTS badging. Although no decisions have been set in stone at this time, there is evidence that Cadillac could shuffle the CTS coupe to a somewhat smaller model that would bridge the gap between the compact ATS and the next-generation CTS which is pegged to grow in size. The future of the CTS wagon is less certain, given that stretching it out could threaten Cadillac SRX crossover sales and forcing it down market might see it competing uncomfortably against premium hatchbacks.
02. More Troubles For Fisker?
USA Today is reporting that electric car manufacturer Fisker is in worse shape than industry analysis might have speculated. The evidence provided is that a manufacturing plant that Fisker purchased from General Motors sits empty, with a skeleton crew of workers employed to keep the dust from piling on too thick and the state government keeping the lights on by paying the relevant utility bills. A fresh round of layoffs has shrunk Fisker's worker presence at the facility, and given that the company relies on federal funding to refurbish the plant - and build the electric vehicle it intends to produce there - its future seems uncertain. There is as of yet no firm date for the Fisker Atlantic sedan, which was recently shown off at the New York Auto Show, to hit the streets.
03. Mercedes-Benz Ponders Magic Sky Control Side Windows
Mercedes-Benz current offers its Magic Sky Control feature, which can automatically polarize glass moonroof panels from transparent to a dark tint, in the Mercedes-Benz SL and Mercedes-Benz SLK. The technology makes use of crystals embedded in the glass which respond to an electric charge, and the German company is now considering installing it as side glass on several of its models in order to enhance the privacy of those traveling within the confines of its sedans and other vehicles.
Motor Trend reports that Magic Sky Control would be installed on rear windows only once the company figures out how to cram the technology into a glass panel that is small enough to fit into a door when rolled down while still offering the same level of opacity. The automaker is also wary of running afoul of the myriad tint laws that crisscross the United States, especially since in its current configuration Magic Sky Control blocks 80 percent of incoming light. This is not an issue for a roof panel, but could quickly become a problem for owners living in jurisdictions that have very specific rules regarding side visibility.
04. Say It Ain't So! Scion xB To Stop Production
When the Scion xB first came out the boxy compact crossover was affectionately labeled 'the toaster' by fans of its upright styling and quirky personality. Although the second generation xB rounded out many of the sharp angles that had made the original model so appealing, the vehicle still occupied a very particular niche in the entry-level market.
According to a report from Ward's Auto, that niche might have finally shrunk to the point where Scion is looking to move on and replace it with an entirely new automobile. The Scion xB only sold 17,000 examples in 2010, which is less than a third of the sales performance it posted during the height of its popularity. Also on the chopping block is the Scion xD, a subcompact hatchback that never really hit its stride in the United States. There is no word on what vehicles might replace the xB or xD, but it will certainly be difficult for Scion to make the same kind of style impact that the original 'toaster' brought to the table eight years ago.
05. Ford To Start Stuffing Seats With Dolla' Dolla' Bills
How expensive is oil? It's pricey enough that Ford is now considering moving away from petroleum-based materials in its automotive interiors in order to embrace stuffing its seat cushions with…cash. Ford, already a pioneer in the use of sustainable production materials such as soy foam and recycled denim in its automobiles, is looking at incorporating shredded U.S. currency notes into its passenger compartments.
Once taken out of circulation and tapped to be destroyed via shredding, dollar bills apparently make excellent sound deadeners as well as potential upholstery studding. Recycled cash would join the two pairs of blue jeans and 25 plastic soda bottles found within the interiors of certain Ford products.