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 August 10, 2012. Dodge leaves NASCAR, Chrysler partners with Sprint, the redesigned Lexus LS, Mazda's new car diet, and Mitsubishi's Mirage gambit - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
It's not the first time, and it's probably not the last time that Chrysler has pulled its support of a popular racing series. Ralph Gilles, who is responsible for both SRT and motorsports at Chrysler, announced this week that Dodge will no longer be participating in NASCAR stock car racing. The reason for the move has been labeled as the decision by Penske Racing end its partnership with Dodge in Sprint Cup, which leaves the brand without the necessary structure to put forward a competitive program. This puts the redesigned 2013 Dodge Charger Cup car out in the cold, as Gilles communicated that no other sponsorship or team package was presented that would allow the automaker to maintain the necessary foothold in the series. The decision puts an end to roughly 12 years of continuous participation in NASCAR by Dodge.
02. Chrysler Uconnect To Offer Cellular Connectivity Without Need For Smartphone
Infotainment systems that make use of a Bluetooth smartphone connection to access the Internet have grown increasingly common in automobiles at a surprisingly wide range of price points. Chrysler's next-generation Uconnect infotainment system, however, will bypass the need for a smartphone and instead offer direct connectivity to the Sprint cellular network. The technology, which is set to be first deployed in the 2013 editions of both the RAM 1500 and the SRT Viper, will offer Internet access and the ability to create a Wi-Fi hotspot in the car for a monthly subscription fee. Will the system appeal to drivers who already pay for one data plan on their phone and who may not be anxious to pony up for a second set of monthly charges?
03. Lexus LS Redesign Doesn't Stray Too Far From The Previous Model
The 2013 Lexus LS has been unveiled, and unsurprisingly the Japanese luxury brand has elected to largely play it safe when it comes to messing with its flagship sedan's formula. The new Lexus LS features the same, angular front fascia treatment that has by now spread across almost the entire Lexus lineup, giving the car a more aggressive personality than in years past. In terms of overall size and shape the 2013 LS is a close match to its predecessor, and horsepower is up by six ponies from the same 4.6-liter V-8 engine, bringing the total to 386 for rear-wheel drive models and a puzzling 359 if optional all-wheel drive is ordered. A new F Sport edition of the car that tightens up the suspension system, adds a limited-slip differential, and a few other performance goodies makes its debut, and the LS can still be had in a 438 horsepower hybrid. Inside, the car has seen more dramatic revisions, pushing the LS into a higher class of comfort and style.
04. Mazda Makes Lightness Pledge
Mazda has always taken Colin Chapman's admonishment to 'add lightness' to heart, building some of the least heavy sports cars, sedans, and crossovers on the market. Of these, the Mazda MX-5 Miata and the Mazda CX-5 are particular standouts, vehicles that challenge the established notions of how much a roadster or an SUV should actually weigh. The company has revealed its goal to push the boundaries of lightness even further by removing roughly 220 lbs from each of its models as they go through their next redesign - and then repeating this accomplishment with successive product cycles. Removing excess weight doesn't just improve the performance of an automobile, it can also have a significant impact on fuel mileage, which is an important consideration for all car companies and Mazda in particular with the recent implementation of its new Skyactiv engine technology.
05. Does Anyone Want The Mitsubishi Mirage?
According to the Automotive News, Mitsubishi is considering importing the Mitsubishi Mirage subcompact to the United States, where it would conceivably wow entry-level shoppers with its 64-mpg fuel efficiency rating. The real question, however, is whether buyers would actually want to get behind the wheel of a three-cylinder automobile from a brand that has pulled back from almost its entire North American lineup in 2002 due to customer apathy. Years of failing to invest in product development have finally caught up with Mitsubishi, and it seems unlikely that a low-feature vehicle like the Mirage could hope to outsell options like the Scion iQ.