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 January 13, 2012. The Detroit auto show unveilings of the new Ford Fusion, Acura NSX Concept and the 2013 Cadillac ATS, Smart's super-low lease rate, the Chevrolet Corvette 427 Convertible and the BMW X4 - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
Several important new products were introduced at the 2012 edition of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this past week, but two of the most compelling came from Ford and Acura. The 2013 Ford Fusion is an all-new version of the brand's bread and butter mid-size sedan, and the latest model now offers the most attractive styling in its segment. Hints of Aston Martin are bolstered by the availability of gasoline, hybrid and plug-in hybrid editions of the Fusion, with as much as 47-mpg highway available from the sedan.
Acura's unveiling of the Acura NSX Concept gave show attendees hope that the wayward premium brand might be on track to recovering some semblance of an identity amongst luxury car buyers. The Acura NSX Concept is far more aggressively styled than the original NSX supercar, and it also promises an all-wheel drive, hybrid V-6 setup that is distinctly not in the spirit of the automobile that received design input from the late Ayrton Senna. The fresh NSX Concept is, however, exciting - and excitement is exactly what has been missing from the brand's lineup for quite some time. Honda CEO Takanobu Ito promised that a production NSX based largely on the concept vehicle would be on the way within the next three years.02. Smart Drops Lease Rates to $99, But Will Anyone Notice?
In yet another attempt to gain any sort of sales traction in the American market, Smart has announced an ultra-low monthly lease rate for the Smart fortwo subcompact coupe of just $99 after a $999 down payment. According to the Automotive News, this bargain-basement lease pricing represents a drop of up to $70 compared to what buyers were expected to pay for the car throughout 2011.
With only 87 dealerships in the United States, fuel economy that is less than stellar and questionable practicality, few drivers on this side of the Atlantic have elected to pick up a Smart car at any price. It seems unlikely that the new lease rate will have much of an impact on America's indifference to the city car - at least not until significant updates are made to the current model.03. Chevrolet Blesses C6 Corvette With Special 427 Convertible Edition
The current generation of the Chevrolet Corvette sports car - known as the C6 - is due to be replaced in the near future, and with the 60th anniversary of the iconic model looming in 2013 the domestic brand has elected to celebrate with a special edition. The 2013 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Convertible will offer drop-top lovers the chance to get behind the wheel of an open-air Corvette that features the heart of the Z06 performance model.
The 427 Convertible will come with the same 7.0-liter V-8 engine that makes 505 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque in the Z06, along with Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension, track-ready rubber and carbon fiber body panels that help to keep the vehicle's weight down to just 3,355 lbs. This will allow the high-powered Corvette 427 Convertible to rip down the quarter mile in less than 12 seconds, as well launch itself to 60-mph in under four seconds. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with each and every 427 Convertible, and the vehicle's top speed is listed as an eyebrow-raising (and hairstyle-destroying) 190-mph.04. BMW Announced New X4 Crossover
In its continual quest to occupy as many product niches as possible, BMW has declared that it will build a new small crossover vehicle dubbed the BMW X4. An article published by the Automotive News details how the BMW X4 will slot in between the X3 and X5 crossovers and feature "couple-like" styling that could be reminiscent of the larger BMW X6.
The small BMW X3 crossover has been a significant sales success for the brand since its recent redesign, and the company is hoping that some of that same compact magic will rub off onto the undoubtedly pricier BMW X4 coupe, which will be built at the same Spartanburg, S.C. plant.05. 2013 Cadillac ATS Takes On BMW 3 Series, Audi A4
The 2013 Cadillac ATS was another darling of the 2012 Detroit auto show, and its low curb weight, available turbocharged four-cylinder engine and top-of-the-line, 320-plus horsepower V-6 option make it the most competent entry-level compact sedan ever introduced by the luxury car company. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the 2013 Cadillac ATS, which will also be sold in coupe and convertible editions down the line, is the fact that it is targeted squarely at the market dominance of vehicles like the BMW 3 Series and the Audi A4.
Cadillac is hopeful that the ATS will be able to win over premium Euro fans with agile handling, reasonable pricing and solid acceleration. With the CTS moving up-market in order to better tangle with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the BMW 5 Series, the Cadillac ATS is positioned as the company's new entry point, and the vehicle that will be charged with attracting fresh blood to the brand. Initial reactions to the ATS - especially how it compares behind the wheel to the segment-leading 3 Series - could go a long way towards dictating its sales success.