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 25, 2014. Buick gets convertible fever, the Opel Ampera coasts silently into the sunset, GM offers eight-speed gearboxes at last, Volkswagen axes a pair of underperformers, and you may have to fight for your right to drive a Hellcat - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. Buick To Add A Convertible For 2016
When's the last time the wind blew your hair back in a Buick? I honestly can't remember either, but a little research tells me that back in 1982 the Buick Riviera was available in drop-top form, which means that in 2016 the upcoming convertible from Buick will be the first from the brand in more than two decades. Relief is on its way: the Automotive News is predicting that Buick will import the Opel Cascada, a four-seat ragtop sold exclusively in Europe, within the next two years. The Cascada has already been borrowed by corporate sibling Holden for sales Down Under, and the attractively-styled front-wheel drive model features a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that can be paired with either a manual or an automatic six-speed transmission.
02. European Volt - the Opel Ampera - Has Been Canceled
Less cheerful news from GM indicates that the Opel Ampera, which is a restyled version of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, is being dropped from the brand's European line-up. The reason? Slow sales, with only 332 models leaving showrooms during the first four months of 2014. Opel hasn't completely given up on the concept of a green flagship, with a statement from the automaker claiming that the Ampera will be replaced with an electric car before 2018. There is no word on whether the Ampera's successor will be all-electric or follow the same extended-range hybrid design as the Volt.
03. GM To Unleash Fleet Of Eight-Speed Gearboxes
It was an open secret, but now it's official: General Motors will be installing eight-speed automatic transmissions in most of its full-size pickups and truck-based SUVs. That means that for 2015, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra will enjoy a much smoother driving experience, and most likely better fuel mileage to boot. The GMC Yukon, and GMC Yukon XL will also gain the high tech gearbox.
There's a catch, however: you have to order the 6.2-liter V-8 engine to join the eight-speed club, which leaves out non-Denali Yukons and Yukon XLs, along with all Chevrolet Tahoes and Chevrolet Suburbans. It's reasonable to expect that with time, the 5.3-liter V-8 that is also available with these models will receive the eight-speed treatment, although the 4.3-liter V-6 found in the pickups might be the odd man out indefinitely. No word from Cadillac as to when the Escalade would join the eight-ratio club, but you can bet it will be sooner rather than later.
04. Volkswagen Routan and Volkswagen Eos Join List Of Dead-For-2015 Cars
The list of the dead for 2015 continues to get longer and longer as Volkswagen has announced that the Volkswagen Eos convertible and Volkswagen Routan minivan will be dropped from the line-up. The Routan was no real surprise, given that this re-badged Chrysler product had never really found an audience and failed to provide VW with the volume sales they were after. The Eos was a much more competent vehicle but one that had been forgotten in recent years and left to wither on the vine without any meaningful updates being made to its features or drivetrain. Volkswagen intends to offer a Final Edition version of the Eos to clear out inventory for the 2015 model year, while the Routan gets no such send-off and won't be seen for 2015.
05. Only 1,200 Hellcats? Better Get Yours Quick
A rumor is floating around the Chrysler may limit production of the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat - yes, the Hellcat of 707 horsepower fame - to just 1,200 units. At first glance this would seem to be an unusual move given the popularity of the Challenger and its affordable sub-$60k MSRP, but it's one that has precedent: only a few thousand Challenger Shakers were produced in 2014, and they sold out almost immediately. SRT is denying that a hard limit has been placed on the number of Hellcats that will be built, but the division has also been unwilling to discuss how the vehicles will be allocated to various dealers, or how many will be available during the initial run.