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 December 7, 2012. The all-new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, Coda's financial woes, black box data recorders, Fiat's VW-targeting rebates, and the EPA investigation of Ford's MPG claims - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and 2014 GMC Sierra Introduced
With 16 percent of General Motors' gross profits each year derived from these two models, the redesign of the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and 2013 GMC Sierra full-size pickups is an important milestone for the domestic brand. This week the public was given its first glimpse at the pair of trucks, which sport revised but not dramatically different styling along with a big improvement in interior quality.
A familiar trio of engines - a 4.3-liter V-6, a 5.3-liter V-8, and a 6.2-liter V-8 - were announced for the trucks, and while horsepower and fuel efficiency figures remain a mystery the drivetrains offer direct fuel injection and cylinder deactivation across the board. GM is hoping to make up for sagging sales in the face of more advanced pickups on offer from Ford and Dodge.
02. Coda On Its Way Out?
Coda, the electric automobile manufacturer that has been struggling to sell production versions of its affordable battery-powered sedan, recently announced that no fewer than 50 employees were being laid off as part of a downsizing program at the company. The Coda sedan is priced at $38,000, but demand for the vehicle has been tepid with less than 40 examples having been sold in California through the summer according to Automotive News. Coda is a Chinese concern that has been focused on raising capital and battling the poor publicity surrounding its lackluster crash test ratings from earlier this year. The company has also failed to open any of the new dealerships it had planned for 2012, leading to speculation that it may be forced to withdraw from the market.
03. Black Boxes On The Way In All Passenger Vehicles
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has published a proposal that would require every new light passenger vehicle sold in the United States to be outfitted with a 'black box' data recorder. The recorder would keep track of information such as rate of speed, throttle position, brake position, and other details that could be then used in the investigation of a crash.
Currently, these devices are installed in almost every vehicle on the market, but they are usually only used by automakers looking into specific accidents related to recalls. The NHTSA has responded to privacy concerns about the information collected by these devices by requiring the consent of a vehicle owner before the data can be used by a third party. Whether this consent requirement will hold up in a civil or criminal court, however, is unexplored territory.
04. Chrysler And Fiat Target VW Owners With Rebates
It might be dirty pool, but Sergio Marchionne isn't above making a tempting offer to owners of vehicles that the Fiat CEO considers direct competitors to his own products. American Volkswagen owners can now take advantage of a new $1,000 rebate on any new Chrysler or Fiat product - a bonus offer that is applicable whether the VW in question is traded in or not. The offer is a spillover from a conflict between Fiat and Volkswagen in the European market, where the battle for a share of the shrinking number of buyers for new cars has reached a fever pitch.
05. EPA To Put Ford Fusion Hybrid, Ford C-Max Hybrid MPG Under Microscope
By now the discrepancy between Ford's posted fuel mileage for the new 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Ford C-Max Hybrid vehicles (each of which share the same drivetrain) and what Consumer Reports has published from their real-world testing has become common knowledge. With a gap of between 17 and 21 percent between the window sticker's 47-mpg combined rating and what is appearing at the fuel pump, the EPA has stepped in to investigate whether Ford is guilty of fraud - or at the very least, over-exuberance - in their advertising. According to the Detroit News, the EPA has so far been cautious in how it has approached the issue, stating that hybrid vehicles can offer a significant variance depending on driving style and on how often the electric motor is used exclusively of the gasoline drivetrain.
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