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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 23, 2012. new Chevrolet Volt power cords, the end of the Mercedes-Benz R-Class, Toyota resists low-budget temptation, Scion FR-S pricing and the 2012 Honda Crosstour Concept - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
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01. Chevrolet Volt Power Cord Replacement
The Chevrolet Volt is part of a new voluntary safety campaign, this one involving the cord used to connect the electric car to a 120-volt power source. Although General Motors is positioning the move as one that is designed to provide more 'consistent' charging (according to an article published by The Detroit News), the decision could also have been inspired by reports from the summer of 2011 involving 120-volt charging units that overheated to the point where they were impossible to touch. The upgrade involves installing a thicker cord that will be more durable than the current arrangement and which should provide Chevrolet Volt owners greater protection from heat if that issue should rear its head once more. The replacement charging unit is available free of charge at any Chevrolet dealership.
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02. Mercedes-Benz R-Class To Disappear From U.S. Showrooms
Good Car Bad Car is reporting that Mercedes-Benz will be canceling sales of the Mercedes-Benz R-Class crossover in the American market at the end of the current model year. Also known as the 'Mercedes-Benz minivan' due to its decidedly Town & Country-esque shape, the vehicle has become a victim of an increasing lack of interest on the part of luxury shoppers in the United States. Peak R-Class sales occurred in 2006 when 18,168 of the unusual premium crossovers were sold, but by 2011 that tally had fallen to just 2,385. So far, less than 300 Mercedes-Benz R-Class models have left dealer lots in 2012.
Few will miss the Mercedes-Benz R-Class, which became lost in a sea of much more attractive and capable sport-utility vehicles offered by the brand. Anonymous looks and the discomfort that luxury car buyers felt with purchasing a van wearing the Silver Star logo doomed the R-Class to a fate not even the intervention of a short-lived AMG trim could prevent from coming to pass. Mercedes-Benz will continue to sell the R-Class, which is built in Alabama, in the Canadian, Mexican and Chinese markets.
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03. Toyota Vows To Not Chase Low-End Market
It's a familiar story by now: Toyota, blinded by the ferocity with which it approached its quest to unseat General Motors as the highest volume-selling car company in the world, lost sight of its quality control standards and descended into a period where questionable designs left the assembly line. Although the brand has largely recovered from that black mark on its recent history, the Automotive News has published comments by Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda that reinforce the automaker's decision to stay focused on quality and avoid participating in a race to the bottom in the ultra-affordable car market.
Toyoda addressed the decision made by companies such as Nissan and Volkswagen to develop sub-brands that specifically targeted shoppers of high volume, very cheap basic transportation in the South American, Asian and European market. He stated that Toyota would avoid the temptation to bolster its bottom line with thin margins on inexpensive automobiles and instead focus on continuing to serve its current customer base while maintaining positive, sustainable growth rather pursuing than relentless expansion.
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04. 2013 Scion FR-S Pricing Announced
Toyota has released pricing details for the North American edition of the Toyota GT-86 compact coupe, which is being marketed as the Scion FR-S. The 2013 Scion FR-S will retail for an MSRP of $24,200, with the option of swapping out the vehicle's standard six-speed manual transmission for a six-speed automatic at an additional cost of $1,100.
Scion had been aiming to offer the 2013 Scion FR-S for under $25,000. The 200 horsepower coupe has been designed to offer neutral handling from its lightweight chassis and was conceived in the spirit of the Toyota Corolla AE86 that became a favorite amongst drifters and budget racers in the 1980s. At its current price point the Scion FR-S will be competing directly against vehicles the much more powerful, 274 horsepower Hyundai Genesis Coupe (MSRP $24,250) and the 305 horsepower Ford Mustang (MSRP $22,200).
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05. Honda To Bring New Crosstour Concept to NY Auto Show, World Collectively Shrugs Shoulders
Chances are you haven't seen too many Honda Crosstours on the road over the past few years, as the vehicle sold fewer than 17,000 units in 2011 on a downward spiral from the 25,927 models moved the year before. The Honda Crosstour was intended to offer Honda Accord fans a more practical, wagon-like version of the popular sedan, but the vehicle's awkward visuals and middling cargo space made it an also-ran in the crossover segment and the butt of an unending stream of jokes in the media.
Despite a general lack of interest in the vehicle, Honda will be bringing the 2013 Honda Crosstour Concept to the New York Auto Show next month. Given that the last few Honda concepts have greatly resembled either current or future production vehicles, it remains to be seen whether the brand will embrace the chance to dramatically restyle the Crosstour's tepid looks or whether the concept will instead offer a minor refresh of the teardrop shape of the existing crossover.
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