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 May 24, 2013. Chevy's cheap Spark EV lease, Ford Australia: Beyond Thunderdome, VW's TDI headache, Honda's secret backbone, and Infiniti's German crossover - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. Chevrolet Offers $199 Lease On Spark EV
In a bid to sell a subcompact electric hatchback to what has been widely perceived as its largest demographic - young city dwellers - Chevrolet has put together a compelling price package for the Chevrolet Spark EV. The battery-powered version of the Spark will retail for $27,495, a figure that drops to roughly $20,000 after factoring in tax credits. More importantly, General Motors is offering a $199 per month lease with the small car, which is well within the realm of the affordable for most new car shoppers. The Chevrolet Spark EV lease deal is only available in the California and Oregon markets where the subcompact will be making its debut this summer.
02. Ford Australia Calls It Quits
Ford Australia, the driving force behind iconic models such as the Falcon XB and of course the 'ute, will be closing its doors in three years time. A shrinking market, which has seen sales of homegrown Australian Ford models nearly halved over the course of the last decade, sounded the death knell for the brand. Ford Australia will soldier forward until 2016 with its current lineup intact, at which point it will shutter its factories and leave Ford's international offerings as the only Blue Oval models to be sold in the country. The situation for GM's Holden subsidiary, also based in Australia, looks equally dire, and many predict that Holden will follow Ford Australia into history within the same time period.
03. Volkswagen Forced To Refit TDI Models To Keep Them Gas-Free
It's almost like a joke stolen out of a stand-up routine: someone fills their diesel-powered car with gasoline, and then gets upset / confused when it breaks down on the highway. Well, no one at Volkswagen, the most popular diesel car manufacturer in the United States, is laughing too hard at a recent recall that will see just over 250,000 TDI models undergo a retrofit to protect them from the perils of non-diesel fuel.
It seems that owners can't be trusted to put the right nozzle in VW's TDI fuel fillers, forcing the company to install special neck caps and misfueling guards that will ward off the smaller nozzles of gasoline pumps and accept only larger diesel pump nozzles. The move comes after an NHTSA investigation of fuel pump failures in TDI models that lead to the discovery of a surprisingly high volume of gasoline in the fuel tanks of almost every one of the 160 diesel VWs that had suffered from this particular type of breakdown.
04. Honda's Five Core Models Carry Entire U.S. Lineup
Autoline Daily has published a rather startling breakdown of Honda's American vehicle sales. The Japanese brand apparently relies almost entirely on five specific models in the United States, with the Civic, the Accord, the Pilot, the CR-V, and the Odyssey accounting for over 90 percent of its yearly sales. The most shocking conclusion that can be drawn from this data comes from the realization that Honda actually sells 11 product lines in the U.S. With less than half of its nameplates moving metal out of the door, the remaining six - including vehicles like the Ridgeline pickup, the CR-Z hybrid hatchback, the subcompact Fit, and the entry-level hybrid Insight - are essentially irrelevant. In fact, Honda could cull them from the herd and not suffer any real financial ill effects associated with their absence, with such a move perhaps adding black ink to the bottom line through the reduction in floor and warehouse space at dealerships and port facilities, not to mention savings in advertising as well as overseas transportation.
05. Infiniti And Mercedes-Benz May Cooperate On Crossover
Infiniti's quest to expand its offerings in the United States might not be restricted solely to the restructuring of the top end of its lineup. Left Lane News is reporting that Nissan and Mercedes-Benz are considering a plan to adapt the German automaker's compact front-wheel drive platform used to underpin the GLA-Class as a potential launching point for a new small crossover for Infiniti. The vehicle, which would be known as the QX30 under the company's fresh nomenclature, would maintain the sporty, windswept looks of current Infiniti crossovers like the EX and FX, and would import a small, turbocharged four-cylinder engine from Mercedes-Benz alongside its outsourced chassis.
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