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 8, 2014. A new Chevrolet Volt is on its way, the U.S. Senate looks to sharpen the NHTSA's teeth, GM makes a smart pricing decision regarding its mid-size pickups, Hyundai hints at a Juke competitor, and the list of 'most hackable' cars turns out to be much less frightening than it sounds - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. Next-Generation Chevrolet Volt To Debut At 2015 Detroit Show
We're going to get a new version of the Chevrolet Volt in just five months time according to General Motors, which has announced that the updated edition of the extended-range hybrid will debut at the Detroit auto show in January of 2015. This is good news, as it will potentially quell the disappointment of those who didn't see the much more expensive, and much more stylish Cadillac ELR (which is based on the Volt platform), as offering any real improvement on the electric drivetrain's basics. There are no details available as yet regarding the Volt, but the very fact that Chevrolet is persevering with the car despite slow sales indicates that it is willing to continue to be a pioneer in the growing EV segment.
02. Senate Bill Could Hold Auto Employees Criminally Responsible For Unreported Safety Violations
Line-workers and middle-managers across the country were startled this week at the proposed bill from Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) that would criminalize the act of not reporting a safety issue, or even participating in actions that could lead to a safety violation for an automobile. This is far-reaching legislation that could potentially impact aftermarket and secondhand car sales as well, depending on how it is interpreted by the courts. The NHTSA does not currently have the ability to level criminal charges related to recall-related delays or cover-ups, relying instead on a system of fines to patrol the industry.
03. GM Slashes Prices On New Mid-Size Colorado And Canyon Pickups
One of the key arguments against mid-size and compact pickups is that the price savings between their ilk and their full-size brethren is not great enough to make up for the loss in utility and towing capability. In an effort to combat this mindset, General Motors is aggressively pricing the new Chevrolet Colorado at $20,100 for its extended cab base model, which is not only about $5,500 cheaper than the entry-level regular cab Chevrolet Silverado, but also a whopping $10,000 less than a Double Cab (read: extended) Silverado (GMC Canyon and GMC Sierra pickups will follow a similar pricing structure).
This pricing distance is maintained as one climbs each truck's respective trim ladder, especially when taking into account similarly-equipped models. Of course, the Colorado remains smaller than the Silverado, with a concomitant drop in capability, but at least it's no longer a question of pure economics when choosing between a mid-size and full-size truck.
04. Nissan Juke To Face Korean Rival In Two Years Time
If anyone can match the funky styling of the inimitable Nissan Juke with a competitive compact crossover, it's definitely Hyundai, a company that's proven it's not afraid to push the envelope of what an affordable vehicle should look like. Edmunds is claiming that the next subcompact crossover from Hyundai will follow in the footsteps of the unusual Veloster hatchback and confront the Juke with an in-your-face design of its own that stands apart from other segment offerings. The vehicle is slated to hit dealerships by 2017, a timeframe which could see it facing off against a refreshed version of the Juke.
05. Is Your Car On The 'Most Hackable' List? Don't Worry - It's Not What It Sounds Like
In a move calculated to draw the breathless attention of media outlets everywhere, two security engineers - Charlie Miller and Christopher Valasek - released a list of the 'most hackable' cars this week at the 20145 Black Hat USA conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. 'Black hat' is a term given to those who attack computer systems and networks with nefarious intent, but before you rush online to find the list and see if your car happens to be on it, it's important to understand that the 'study' performed by the two engineers contains no actual hacking exploits, or even any first-hand attempts to compromise the vehicles in question. Instead, the pair analyzed characteristics of each automobile's remotely-accessible systems and generated their list based on the probability that a car could be hacked.
If this sounds a bit disingenuous to you, then you are not alone - identifying specific exploits in a vehicle's systems and then reporting them publicly so that they can be corrected by manufacturers is one thing, but claiming that certain vehicles are more susceptible to being compromised without providing specific proof isn't nearly as helpful - and in fact, obfuscates the very real issue of automotive systems security. As it stands, the companies whose models are implicated by the list have issued statements indicating that they are looking in to the allegations, despite a lack of any evidence related to real-world hacks or exploits.