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 July 19, 2013. The Nissan Altima Coupe gets cut, as does the MINI Clubvan, the Chevrolet Cruze redesign is pushed back, Volkswagen opens an old wound, and the next-generation BMW M4 goes on a diet - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. Nissan Altima Coupe Put Out To Pasture
We all knew it was coming, but it’s finally official: the two-door version of the Nissan Altima, orphaned by the recent redesign of the sedan, will call 2013 its final model year. After losing its 270 horsepower V-6, and not benefiting from the same sweeping updates given to its four-door companion, it was clear that the Nissan Altima Coupe was an afterthought at the Japanese automaker. The Coupe could, of course, return at some future date, but sales momentum for affordable two-door vehicles without ties to the muscle car / retro design segment is relatively weak, leading me to believe that we've seen the last of this sporty variant of Nissan's popular family car.
02. MINI Clubvan Gone Too - But Nobody Noticed
Green Car Reports has published an article describing how a vehicle few people even knew was on sale beat the Altima to the scrap heap. The MINI Clubvan, which was a cargo version of the Clubman wagon, made it to market early in 2013 but was eventually nixed by MINI after a mere 50 models actually connected with commercial buyers. Green Car Reports quotes MINI as blaming the Chicken Tax levy on small trucks as being a big part of the vehicle's lack of appeal amongst U.S. buyers, with the assertion that outside of America the Clubvan enjoys a healthy following. The small dimensions of the Clubvan also most likely had something to do with its cool reception, especially in the face of the many other compact to mid-size cargo haulers out there at or around its price point.
03. Chevrolet Cruze Redesign Pushed Back To 2015
The Chevrolet Cruze has been an unabashed success for General Motors, with U.S. compact sedan shoppers taking to the entry-level car as quickly as overseas fans. A refresh of the current design - introduced in 2010 - is in the cards, but it's going to be a bit of wait before we get to sample the improvements. According to Reuters, Chevrolet has marked 2016 as the model year target for the all-new Cruze, which means 2015 on the calendar. Strong sales allow GM to keep coasting on the Cruze's goodwill, but it's important not to let its best-ever compact sedan die on the vine in the face of competitors that will most certainly not rest until the car has been knocked down a peg or two.
04. Volkswagen Takes Second Gamble On Phaeton
The Volkswagen Phaeton became the punch line to a long list of jokes when it failed to gain any kind of sales traction amongst American buyers its first time around. The high end VW just didn't resonate with buyers more accustomed to associating the German brand with affordable transportation. Things have changed for Volkswagen since the Phaeton was yanked from the U.S. market in 2006, however, which has prompted Bloomberg to speculate that the time might be ripe for the full-size sedan to make a return. The website points to the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit as a likely spot for a new Phaeton (the vehicle is still sold in Europe) to be unveiled. As it originally did, the car would compete closely with VW's own Audi A8 platform-mate, which begs the question as to why Volkswagen is so eager to cannibalize its own sales - or tarnish its image with another poor-selling, very expensive flagship that few have asked to be built.
05. Next-Generation BMW M4 To Be Lighter
It's certainly unusual to see the phrase 'BMW M4,' but we're all going to have to get used to it as the automaker splits the 3 Series sedan and wagon from the 4 Series coupe and convertible product lines. Top Gear is reporting that the BMW M4, which is the new M3 Coupe, will maintain its performance dominance in the import luxury scene by way of returning to its lightweight roots. Extensive use of exotic alloys and materials will push the M4 away from the somewhat portly status of the current M3, and a turbocharged drivetrain will mark another first for the class-leading coupe. The BMW M4 is at least 18 months away from breaking cover.