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 8, 2013. SRT8 Core models, the 2014 Toyota Tundra takes a bow, self-driving cars not ready for prime time, the BMW 3 Series GT, and Fiat’s low-market play - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. Want A Cheaper SRT Model? Chrysler Has You Covered
There are always a group of performance car fans out there who are lusting after high-horsepower editions of sedans and coupes but who simply aren’t willing to pay top dollar for the unwanted luxury features and comforts that come with them. In recognition of this fact, Chrysler is producing several new ‘Core’ versions of its SRT models, slashing prices to accommodate tire-shredding shenanigans. With nearly $7,000 in savings on the MSRP of the Chrysler 300 SRT8 Core versus the standard SRT8, and $6,000 for the Dodge Challenger SRT8 Core, it’s clear that at least some equipment had to have been left behind on the chopping block. Details as to what is missing from these vehicles has yet to be released, but special interior accents and unique badging help to identify the Core models versus their standard siblings.
02. Redesigned Toyota Tundra Falls Short Of Major Change
The 2014 Toyota Tundra was unveiled yesterday at the Chicago Auto Show, and while the vehicle’s exterior styling has been revamped and its interior improved in terms of quality and features (especially in the safety department), it would be a stretch to call this latest-generation Tundra a major step up from the previous model. The most glaring omission from the list of enhancements made to the Toyota Tundra is in the engine department, where the vehicle’s three drivetrain options carry over unchanged for 2014. Toyota’s small slice of the full-size pickup market also looks to remain status quo for at least the near future in the face of dramatic improvements nearly across the board made to the full-size trucks produced by Ram, General Motors, and Ford.
03. Self-Driving Cars Not Around The Corner
The hype around Google’s self-driving car, which makes use of computerized systems and high-definition video cameras in order to pilot itself safely through traffic, would seem to indicate that this technology could become commercial reality in as few as five years. At least, that’s what Google executives would have us believe, as this particular party line is often repeated when meeting with the press. Federal regulators, on the other hand, aren’t quite as optimistic about a timeline for blending autonomous automobiles with human-driven vehicles on America’s roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cites the need to completely revise safety standards as a major stumbling block to the adoption of this technology, while the insurance agency struggles with the liability implications of cars without actual drivers.
04. BMW Crossover Glut Continues With 3 Series Gran Turismo
It’s a car that no one asked for, and it comes in the wake of a similar model that fizzled in the United States when it was introduced a few short years ago. The 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo, or GT, is a sort-of-hatchback, maybe-crossover edition of the luxury brand’s entry-level sedan that is longer, taller, and somewhat larger inside than the 3 Series wagon. Riding on an extended wheelbase, the 3 Series GT offers a legroom upgrade for rear seat passengers as well as one more cubic foot of cargo space, but from the outside the proportions are not nearly as graceful as on other versions of the 3 Series.
Perhaps most telling is the fate of the BMW 5 Series GT, a hatchback edition of the mid-size sedan that made the same alterations to its namesake sedan’s size but tacked on a 7 Series price tag. Meant to replace the 5 Series wagon, the vehicle was an absolute failure for BMW, and the fact that the 3 Series GT is being introduced alongside its wagon counterpart indicates that BMW is more cautious about the chances for the new model being embraced by the Bimmer faithful.
05. Fiat Thinking Downmarket?
The race to the bottom of the automobile market might soon gain another competitor. According to the Automotive News, Fiat is reportedly considering a plan to join Nissan (via Datsun) in the development of a sub-brand specifically targeted at ultra-low budget automobile buyers. The vehicles, which would be sold in emerging markets such as India and China, would go up against Dacia’s current offerings and would consist of basic transportation models designed to a price, not a standard. What’s holding Fiat back? It’s still not clear how much profit can be made on cars that barely meet minimum standards of safety and performance, especially given the lack of gravy-making options and premium features for these vehicles.