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 November 11, 2011. Volvo's Polestar power boost, MyFord Touch and a much-needed upgrade, demo Volts going on sale, Nissan's full-size passenger van gambit and Chrysler's disappearing dual-clutch transmission - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. Volvo Introduces Factory Polestar Power Boost
Volvo has never been known for its high performance leanings, despite having offered limited-run R editions of its V70 wagon and S60 sedan that provided a jump in power over their standard cousins. In an effort to inject a little more excitement into its lineup the Swedish brand has elected to partner with Polestar, a tuning company that has made a living out of making Volvos faster for both the street and the track. Volvo buyers will soon be able to purchase a tuning package from Polestar that can be installed right at the dealership.
The option will be made available with turbocharged T5 editions of the Volvo C30, Volvo C70, Volvo S40 and Volvo V50, and will adjust ECU settings so as to ramp up engine output to the tune of 23 additional horses and 29 more lb-ft of twist. The entire package will cost a mere $1,295 and will maintain the factory warranty while not penalizing drivers in terms of fuel economy.
02. MyFord Touch To Be Overhauled In The Near Future
MyFord Touch was initially touted as a revolution in the way drivers interacted with their automobiles. The digital gauge package and interface system has not been universally embraced by Ford buyers, with many complaints lodged about bugs that make it difficult to use as well as reports of confusion over its less-than-intuitive design. After months of mounting criticism of MyFord Touch, the Dearborn-based automaker has announced that it will be offering an upgrade of the system to all current owners, one which will be shipped on a USB drive that can be plugged into each of the vehicles featuring the system and performed automatically.
The new software, which will be ready to go in early 2012, will be sent to owners of the Ford Focus, Ford Explorer, Ford Edge and the Lincoln MKX. The new system will come standard on the 2012 Ford Escape, 2012 Ford Flex and the 2013 Ford Taurus. A total of 250,000 vehicles will be affected by the upgrade.
03. GM Releases Chevrolet Volt Demos Into The Wild
Last week I mentioned that General Motors remained optimistic about its goal of selling 5,000 Chevrolet Volts over the course of the next two months, and that it felt that an increased supply of inventory would make that goal more feasible than it might at first seem. As part of the effort to ensure that as many Volts as possible leave the showroom floor before the books close on 2011 Chevrolet has given its dealers permission to sell the demo models that they currently have in stock.
An article published by the Automotive News claims that this will make a further 2,300 Chevrolet Volt hybrids available on the market. The move comes after months of GM requiring that those dealerships housing a Volt demonstrator retain the vehicle indefinitely in order to allow curious shoppers the chance to sample the all-new automobile.
04. Nissan Brings Full-Size Passenger Van To Market
The Nissan NV joined the full-size cargo van wars earlier this year, providing an alternative to domestic options in the utility-focused contractor segment. The Japanese car company has decided to roll out a passenger version of the NV that will go head-to-head with the Chevrolet Express and Ford E-Series that have traditionally dominated the category. The 12-passenger Nissan NV3500 HD will be offered exclusively in full-ton trim, and will feature either a 385 horsepower V-8 or, strangely, a 261 horsepower V-6. It is difficult to imagine such a heavy vehicle being sold in great numbers with a six-cylinder gasoline engine under the hood, and Nissan does not currently offer a diesel drivetrain in North America, which means that the V-8 will most likely see the highest take rate. Retail versions of the van will be offered, but most sale efforts will be aimed squarely at fleet buyers.
05. No Chrysler Dual-Clutch Gearbox In The Cards After All
Chrysler's introduction of a six-speed automatic transmission in the revamped 2011 Chrysler 200 and 2011 Dodge Avenger sedans was initially billed as an interim step prior to the release of a new dual-clutch automated manual gearbox for both vehicles. According to a Chrysler spokesperson, however, that initial strategy has been placed on the back burner, in large part because of the wave of criticism that has washed over Ford's dual-clutch gearbox that was installed in the Ford Focus compact car. The Car Connection reports that while a dual-clutch unit will eventually find its way into the Chrysler lineup, it won't happen until the company has been able to engineer the transmission to feel more like the smooth, standard automatics that small to mid-size domestic vehicle buyers are used to.