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 February 10, 2012. BMW's impressively efficient 3 Series, GM's Windows of Opportunity, Hyundai's proposed luxury sub-brand, Toyota Prius c pricing and Volvo's animal detection system - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. BMW Gas Engine Delivers Better-Than-Diesel MPG
The diesel-powered BMW 335d was meant to offer luxury car shoppers a fuel efficient entry-level luxury car that still had enough guts to be interesting to drive. The turbodiesel 3 Series offered 265 horsepower and 425 lb-ft of torque along with fuel economy figures of 23 miles per gallon in city driving and 36 miles per gallon on the highway.
The 335d's drivetrain has yet to be ported over to the all-new 2012 BMW 3 Series, and a quick look at the specs of the base BMW 328i provides a clue as to why. The 328i is outfitted with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is good for 240 horses and 260 lb-ft of torque. More impressive, however, is its EPA efficiency rating of 24 miles per gallon around town and 36 miles per gallon on the highway, an improvement over the diesel car that is made possible in part by the lighter curb weight of the fresh design, as well as its eight-speed automatic transmission. Not only that, but according to Automobile Magazine the 328i is also quicker despite the power gap between it and the older 335d.
02. GM Demonstrates Rear Window Screen Tech
Imagine if it were possible to keep the children entertained on long road trip by transforming your minivan or SUV's rear windows into some kind of interactive tablet? This is exactly the concept behind the "Windows of Opportunity" technology that was recently demonstrated by General Motors. The concept transforms the rear glass of any vehicle into interactive displays that provide information about the outside world thanks to special apps that can identify the scenery and access relevant data. There are also apps that allow for drawing on each window, share content currently being displayed on other vehicles equipped with the same system, and listen, share and stream music.
The technology, which makes use of 'smart glass' instead of standard safety glass, is unlikely to make its way into mass-produced vehicles any time soon. The reasons are not just technical - the safety issues surrounding interactive vehicle displays that could potentially block out the outside world for the driver (on top of distracting them from the road ahead) are significant.
03. Hyundai Considers Creating Genesis Sub-Brand
When Hyundai first introduced the Hyundai Genesis flagship luxury sedan just a few short years ago there was uncertainty surrounding the acceptance of a high end automobile from a brand that had traditionally been focused on providing value. This was reflected in some aspects of how the Genesis sedan was marketed, including the option of debadging the Hyundai logo from the vehicle and the different ownership experience provided to buyers of the Genesis.
Hyundai may be ready to take the next step towards further separating its luxury products from the rest of its lineup. The Automotive News is reporting that company executives are pondering a Genesis sub-brand that would encompass the Hyundai Genesis, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and the Hyundai Equus. Each of these vehicles would lose the Hyundai name from their badging and marketing but would remain available at Hyundai dealerships - in effect creating a captive premium division for the Korean automaker. The decision to proceed with the proposed marketing split would most likely be made by the end of this year in order to coincide with the next-generation versions of Hyundai's two top-tier sedans.
04. Toyota Prius C Pricing Announced
The 2012 Toyota Prius c is the newest member of Toyota's all-hybrid Prius brand. It also holds the distinction of being the smallest Prius-badged vehicle available and the title of the most fuel-efficiency non-plug-in hybrid on the market in city driving (53 miles per gallon, to go with a highway rating of 46 miles per gallon). A fourth laurel has recently been laid at the Prius c's rubberized feet - the lowest price tag out of all of Toyota's hybrid automobiles.
The 2012 Toyota Prius c features an MSRP of $18,950, a figure which can be inflated all the way up to $23,230 for the top of the line edition of the hybrid. This makes the Prius c just $600 more expensive than the Honda Insight, its slightly larger battery-assisted competitor, and a whopping $5,050 less than the standard Toyota Prius. By positioning the Prius c at such an affordable price point, Toyota has fired a serious warning shot across Honda's bow and taken away a considerable competitive advantage previously enjoyed by the Insight.
05. Volvo Turns Its Watchful Eye To Animal Safety
With pedestrian safety technology in the bag, Volvo is turning its high tech digital eyes towards protecting drivers from another common road hazard: animals. Volvo is currently developing an active safety system that is capable of detecting the presence of animals on the road ahead, and presumably also those lurking on the shoulder ready to pounce in front of unsuspecting motorists. The detection equipment being experimented with by Volvo incorporates video cameras and radar, and the goal is to be able to intervene and stop the car should a moose or stray dog be picked up prior to the driver reacting to its presence. The Automotive News states that this system will not be available in a production car for at least a few more years.