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 24, 2012. A lighter Golf, novel approaches to regenerative braking, the Audi Quattro Concept, Mitsubishi CEO's tough love, and the Ford Fiesta ST - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
Mazda and Land Rover aren't the only car companies thinking hard about weight reduction - the next edition of the Volkswagen Golf compact hatchback will tip the scales at roughly 220 lbs lighter than the current model, according to a report from Bloomberg. The Golf, which currently can't quite match the straight-line or handling performance of some of its competitors (or the fuel economy, unless purchased with a turbodiesel engine under the hood) would substantially benefit from this lightening strategy. Using a higher grade of steel makes the weight loss possible, with Volkswagen claiming as much as a 23 percent increase in fuel efficiency for the hatchback. The redesigned Golf won't make it to the United States until at least 2014.
02. Mazda, Nissan Use Regenerative Technology To Power Vehicle Lighting
Regenerative braking is no longer restricted to hybrid models. A story published by Automotive News describes how both Nissan and Mazda have found novel applications for this technology, which can capture some of the energy generated by a vehicle's braking system and convert it into electricity. The Nissan Serena, a minivan built for the Japanese market, uses its regenerative brakes to keep an auxiliary battery charged and ready for use by the automobile's lights and other electrical systems. The upcoming Mazda Mazda6 uses a capacitor to store electricity grabbed from the brakes and then distributes it to various vehicle systems, including climate control. Each system, when combined with an engine start/stop system, improves fuel economy by roughly 10 percent.
03. Audi Quattro Tribute Model On The Way?
Auto Bild is claiming that the Audi Quattro Concept could be on its way to production as early as 2015. The Audi Quattro Concept was initially introduced in 2010 as a high performance coupe that shared a link back to the two-door Ur Quattro models that dominated rally racing in the 1980's. Audi has apparently pushed development to the point where the vehicle is sharing technology with the Audi S5, features a curb weight of approximately 3,000 lbs, and boasts 375 horsepower from a five-cylinder turbocharged engine. The Quattro could conceivably slot in as a more spacious option for Audi fans interested in the TT RS but not willing to give up so much day-to-day practicality.
04. Mitsubishi Australia CEO Bad-Mouths Own Product
How bad are things at Mitsubishi? How about having to deal with a PR nightmare where the newly-appointed CEO of the brand's Australian operations openly questioned why anyone would actually fork over their hard-earned cash and purchase one of his company's products. The Sydney Morning Herald has quoted Mutsuhiro Oshikiri as saying "I don't know why people buy a Mitsubishi" and "the product is too old,", neither of which come across as votes of confidence for an automaker that has struggled with dramatic lineup cuts and the unwillingness to invest in new platforms for close to a decade. No word on whether Oshikiri has a plan to remedy his perceived concerns with Mitsubishi.
05. Ford Fiesta ST A Go
The Ford Focus ST is almost here, and it looks like it might not be long before the high performance hatchback is joined by a subcompact pocket rocket in the form of the Ford Fiesta ST. At a driving event this past week, Ford engineers confirmed to Autobytel the existence of plans to introduce a production version of the Fiesta ST prototype that made the rounds of the auto show circuit in 2011. The sources we spoke to mentioned that the turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine found in the European Fiesta ST would also make an appearance in the U.S. market model, where it would most likely generate in the neighborhood of 180 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque.