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 15, 2013. Fisker leaves Fisker, a Scion FR-S sedan, an EcoBoosted Lincoln Navigator, Volvo's potential return to U.S. wagon market, and BMW's range anxiety strategy - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. Henrik Fisker Leaves His Namesake
If you kept an accurate count of the number of car companies that keep ties with the founder that granted them their name, then you'd have a very short list. That particular club got even smaller this week when it was announced that Henrik Fisker was leaving Fisker Automotive after a dispute with the company's other executives. Henrik had been serving as Fisker's executive chairman, and disagreement about the automaker's future business plans came to a head on March 13 when he unceremoniously resigned his position. There has been no public ill will between the two parties since the split, but Fisker Automotive is facing a difficult road ahead due to production problems and few sales to buoy its financial prospects.
02. Scion FR-S Sedan In The Works?
The Toyota's U.K. blog has posted an interview with Tetsuya Tada, the chief engineer for the project that spawned the Toyota GT86/Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ compact sports coupes, in which he discusses the potential for the vehicle's platform to underpin more than just the hardtop and convertible versions of the car that already exist. In fact, Tada mentions that initially the team pursued both a wagon and a sedan version of the GT86 before being told to focus exclusively on the coupe. Given that Toyota is currently attempting to build a sub-brand around the Prius 'family' of hybrids, is the idea of a GT86/FR-S 'family' of compact vehicles really that far-fetched? A rear-wheel drive Scion sedan would definitely shake-up the entry-level segment, especially if it offered similar handling to the FR-S coupe.
03. Ford To Shake Up Full-Size SUV Family
Speaking of families, Ford Motor Company will likely be making some major changes to the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator full-size SUVs when they are eventually redesigned. Motor Trend is reporting that the Navigator will drop its current eight-cylinder engine in favor of an EcoBoost V-6, but that the Expedition will most likely add EcoBoost as an optional alternative to its V-8 drivetrain. The twin-turbo, 3.5-liter V-6 will offer significantly more power than the either the Navigator or the Expedition's current 310 horse mill, and it will also offer better fuel economy. The Expedition will graduate from a 5.4-liter engine to a 5.0-liter that would provide slightly less overall output compared to the EcoBoost model (360 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque).
04. Volvo May Return To U.S. Wagon Market
For decades Volvo stood tall as one of the most consistent purveyors of wagons in the United States, with its large V70 series of family haulers outlasting its domestic and Japanese competitors. A few short years ago Volvo elected to completely withdraw its wagon offerings from North America and make crossovers the focus of its multi-passenger, cargo-hauling strategy in a move that disappointed loyal fans but which was borne out by low overall sales of this particular class of vehicle.
The Automotive News has published a report claiming that Volvo might be on the verge of backtracking on its wagon-marketing decision. Volvo dealers state-side are clamoring for new product, and the Volvo V60 wagon (currently available in Europe) could very well be the first candidate for expanding the brand's current American lineup. The Volvo V60 would be smaller than the V70 but somewhat larger than the entry-level V50, and it would give Volvo franchise owners a fifth model with which to tempt potential buyers. The decision as to whether the V60 will be loaded onto ships pointed towards the New World will be made by this summer.
05. BMW Introduces Loaner Car Program To Combat EV Range Anxiety
One of the chief concerns when purchasing an electric car is what to do when you need to take a trip whose distance outstrips the vehicle's battery range. In a world where charging stations are still few and far between, this is a worry that keeps many would-be electric adopters from buying a new battery-powered automobile. BMW is attempting to alleviate this fear by offering 'access' to a gas-powered automobile to all buyers of the BMW i3 electric car. This second vehicle will be made available for those i3 owners who need to travel long distances (more than the 100-mile range of the i3 on a full charge) and who are worried that they won't be able to make the trip using battery power.
Details about the loaner car program have yet to be made available, but they should trickle out before the BMW i3 goes on sale in the spring of 2014. Nissan currently offers a similar limited-access program to a gas-powered car for owners of the Nissan LEAF electric vehicle.
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