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 31, 2012. The Buick Regal's price boost, the undead Mazda rotary engine, a larger Suzuki SX4, the uncertain fate of the Mazda Mazda2, and BMW swaps 'is' for M Performance - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
The 2012 Buick Regal has been a key part of the premium brand's makeover - and with the new turbocharged edition of the Verano on the way to take its place between the least expensive Buick and the entry-level Regal, a pricing adjustment is about to affect 2013 models. The 2013 Buick Regal will start at an MSRP of $29,015, which is almost $2,000 more than the 2012's sticker price. It also doesn't help that all 2013 Regals will start out with an eAssist light hybrid drivetrain, an expensive piece of technology that used to be an option but now helps to jack up the cost of parking a Buick Regal in your driveway. Those who are uninterested in the eAssist feature and want a deal on a Regal would do well to pick up a 2012 model while inventory is still kicking around the lot.
02. The Rotary Engine Isn't Exactly Dead At Mazda
Although the Mazda RX-8's disappearance from the North American market had many thinking that the days of rotary engines were over at the Japanese automaker, a new report from Autocar is claiming that the unique power plant might be making a return - albeit in an unusual guise. Mazda's CEO Takashi Yamanouchi has revealed that the company is developing a 'range-extending' version of the rotary engine that is intended to be combined with a hybrid electric system. According to Yamanouchi, the special performance characteristics of rotary engines make them ideal in a range-extending role. There was no word on when this type of drivetrain would make it into a production car.
03. Will A New SX4 Save Suzuki?
Suzuki's automotive division has withered to a shadow of its former self in the United States, with dealerships few and far between and sales figures miniscule despite a reasonably competitive lineup. Although many in the industry have predicted that the company will soon excuse itself from the American marketplace, Whatcar? is reporting that Suzuki has pegged its hopes on an updated edition of the Suzuki SX4 compact hatchback and crossover to help turn its fortunes around. The new SX4 will be larger than the current model, and could enable the automaker compete harder against other value-focused offerings from Kia and Chevrolet. The fresh SX4 won't arrive until sometime before 2015, which still leaves plenty of time for Suzuki to change its mind about its tenuous relationship with U.S. car buyers.
04. Mazda MAZDA2 Might Not Be Long For This World
Although the rotary engine might not be dead at Mazda, the MAZDA2 subcompact hatchback might soon be. The Automotive News has published a story detailing the frustration of Mazda executives with the MAZDA2's slow sales. Although the vehicle has only been available for two years, its weak performance during that time could be enough to send it back to Japan for good once its 2014 redesign window arrives. Instead of attempting to prop up the MAZDA2, Mazda will instead focus on pushing the MAZDA3 and other vehicles featuring its Skyactiv fuel-saving technologies - automobiles which are already volume leaders for the brand.
05. BMW 'is' To Become BMW M Performance
It used to be relatively common to see the letters 'is' appended to the trunk lid of a BMW. These days, 'is' is reserved for special and sporty models that can be found in the 3 Series, 1 Series, and Z4 lineup, but according to Car and Driver the vowel and its consonant companion will soon be gone for good. In their place will be M Performance branding, which represents an expansion of BMW's decision to offer tuned editions of its automobiles that wear the M badge but don't push into the hardcore market space reserved for vehicles like the BMW M3 and the BMW M5. By 2014, shoppers will begin to encounter M235i badges in the showroom, as the 1 Series coupe move to its own unique model and drops the 'is' moniker from its top trim level. An M335i will be available even sooner, debuting sometime in 2013.