It’s Friday once again, which means it’s time for another round of my Five For Friday: Five Thoughts about the Auto Industry forJuly 6, 2012. Sergio Pininfarina passes away, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class EV, the Fiat 500X, Volvo's NHTSA troubles, and VW strong-arms Porsche - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
Sergio Pininfarina, a man responsible for some of the most beautiful and important vehicle designs to have ever hit the market, died this past week at the age of 85. As the chairman of Pininfarina S.p.A. between 1966 and 2006, he oversaw the development of several exceptional vehicles, including automotive icons like the Ferrari F40, the Ferrari Testarossa, the Ferrari 250 GT, and the Ferrari Enzo. He also had a hand in well-received non-exotics like the Peugeot 406 Coupe and a number of Fiat and Alfa Romeo products. Pininfarina was a major force behind Ferrari's push into mid-engine automobiles, defining the performance legacy that would become one of the brand's signature characteristics for decades.
02. Mercedes-Benz B-Class To Gain EV Variant
Not only will Mercedes-Benz be bringing the B-Class compact front-wheel drive car to the American market in the very near future, but the automaker has also decided to sell an electric version of the hatchback across the Atlantic. The Mercedes-Benz B-Class EV will take the place of a planned hybrid version of the vehicle, and according to a report in the Automotive News the vehicle's electric motor and battery packs will be provided by Tesla Motors, which is working in partnership with Mercedes-Benz. No details have been released regarding power or range. The B-Class EV is expected to debut in 2014, after a flood of small Mercedes-Benz products reach U.S. dealerships the year before.
03. Fiat 500X Crossover On The Way
Autoweek has published an article discussing the Fiat 500X, a subcompact crossover vehicle that will be arriving in the United States at roughly the same time as the B-Class EV. Fiat, which appears to be following MINI's lead by producing a family of small cars that share the same general styling traits, is planning to also use the 500X's platform as the basis for a subcompact Jeep which will follow it to market by the summer of 2014. The Fiat 500X is larger than the current FIAT 500 coupe, will come with the option of all-wheel drive, and will in theory compete against the MINI Countryman for the attention of those shopping in this ultra-niche segment.
04. Volvo Faces Safety-Related Fine
Volvo, a company known for building some of the world's safest cars, was given a harsh wake-up call in the form of a $1.5 million fine from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for failing to properly report vehicle recalls that occurred in 2010 and 2012. NHTSA claims that the Swedish automaker did not adhere to government regulations concerning the deadlines for notifying the Administration of safety-related issues with their vehicles - specifically, six recalls that affected almost every car and crossover in the Volvo lineup during the two model years associated with the penalty. Volvo is not fighting the judgment, and released a short statement apologizing for the delay. From a legal standpoint, car companies must contact NHTSA within five days of becoming aware of serious safety problems with a given product.
05. VW Wins Battle For Control of Porsche
Autocar is reporting that VW Group will soon be officially taking control of the remaining 50.1% of Porsche that currently lies outside of the company's ownership. The price tag associated with assuming total ownership of Porsche is said to be $5.54 billion. Porsche and Volkswagen have spent much of the past decade locked in a complicated and at times comical struggle for dominance, with buy-out attempts initiated by both sides and the specter of the world economic crisis threatening to shut the lights off at Porsche due to the complicated machinations of the organization's Volkswagen takeover bid. The most recent chapter in the saga took three years to iron out, with the pair of antagonists only agreeing to terms at the beginning of July. Porsche officially becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of VW Group on August 1.