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 March 14, 2014. The Nurburgring is finally sold, Acura attempts to avoid looking into the abyss, Toyota enlists Mazda's aid in the subcompact segment, Spyker wants to sell you a bond, and MINI scales back - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. Nurburgring Sold - This Time, For Sure
Rumors of the famed Nurburgring race course's sale have been greatly exaggerated in the past (including in this very column), as suitor after suitor has dropped out after making initial overtures to purchase the facility. It would appear that - fingers crossed - this time there's a real transfer of ownership about to take place, with auto parts giant Capricorn Group taking the reigns. Bloomberg reports that Capricorn Group will be paying over $139 million for the pleasure of buying the circuit, which was built in 1927 and which covers 937 acres. The Capricorn Group bid came hot on the heels of news that an American company had also made noise about purchasing the Nurburgring, an offer that was ultimately rejected in favor of the Düsseldorf-based Capricorn. The 'Ring had fallen into insolvency after years of being mismanaged by the local government.
02. Acura To Become Its Own Division, Will Anyone Notice?
Acura is about to become the Acura Division, a name change and organizational re-orientation that is intended to officially split the premium automaker from its Honda sibling in the American market. The question is: does it really matter? Acura has fallen from being the first Japanese luxury brand in the United States to an also-ran that has had difficulty separating its products from its Honda parent's offerings. With so little reason to purchase an Acura over almost any other luxury automobile, and with a lack of identity so profound that even new vehicle launches are greeted with the industry equivalent of a shrug, Acura has a long way to go before it can once again be taken seriously as a contender for upscale customers.
03. Toyota Goes Skyactiv
When the next-generation Toyota Yaris goes on sale in 2015, it's going to drive a lot more like a Mazda than a 'Yota. There's a very simple reason for this fact: according to the Automotive News, Toyota is ceding production of the Yaris replacement to Mazda's Mexican factories. Not only that, but the new subcompact will be motivated by one of Mazda's Skyactiv four-cylinder engines. Toyota will still design the inside and the outside of the vehicle - which means we'll continue to see a conservative look for the Yaris - but underneath the skin it's pure Mazda, most likely based on a version of the upcoming Mazda2's replacement platform.
Spyker, the Dutch supercar builder that became embroiled in a legal morass when it purchased the assets of a bankrupt Saab from an equally-bankrupt General Motors, is looking to a novel fundraising method to assist in building its next model. The B6 Venator is projected to cost roughly 125,000 euros, but in order to generate enough cash to get the car built, Spyker is selling bonds to would-be customers. The bonds themselves cost 100,000 euros, which means there will still be a lump sum payment required before Spyker will deliver a B6 Venator. Innovative strategy or Ponzi scheme in the making? At least there's no legal requirement to trade your bond for a supercar unless you really want to - each one can be cashed out after three years. CNN Money is reporting that 100 bonds in total will be issued.
05. No Seven-Seat MINI On The Horizon After All
MINI purists have no doubt already left the building after the wholesale expansion of the automaker's lineup past the subcompact space and into the crossover and roadster market, but for those who have clung to the brand's historic past, you'll be happy to know that the company has kiboshed plans to make a seven-seat vehicle bearing the MINI name. Auto Express reports that there will be no stretched MINI Clubman in the future, as that would push the company's credibility in the subcompact space to the limit. The Automotive News has also published an article describing how MINI might also contract at the other end of the spectrum and not renew the two-door MINI Paceman crossover, the MINI Coupe, or the MINI Roadster when they reach the end of their lifecycle in order to focus on core models like the Cooper hatchback.
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