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 9, 2012. Suzuki fades to black, Mitsubishi claims it won't follow its countryman's lead, Hyundai and Kia get caught out on fuel efficiency claims, nine-speed automatic transmissions top the charts, and no more Boss 302 Mustangs - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. Fare Thee Well, Suzuki
In a move that surprised almost no one in the industry, American Suzuki Motor Corp. has announced its bankruptcy and subsequent exit from the U.S. market. Suzuki, which offered a lineup consisting of a mid-size pickup, compact entry-level hatchbacks, sedans, and crossovers, an SUV, and a mid-size sedan (the well-received Kizashi) had suffered from an almost complete lack of public awareness of its products. The shrinking number of Suzuki dealerships in the United States also played a role alongside the lack of advertising spending in ending the brand's American tenure.
The company will convert a certain number of its current dealerships into service centers that will continue to honor warranty claims. Suzuki will also maintain its ATV and motorcycle presence in the U.S. and will not stop selling passenger cars in Europe and Japan, where it enjoys significantly more success.
02. Mitsubishi Digs In Its Heels
Mitsubishi, another Japanese automaker that seems to have lost its way in the United States, would seem to be the next likely candidate to follow Suzuki back across the ocean to its home market. Well aware of the sea of media and industry eyes turning to scrutinize his company, Mitsubishi president Osamu Masuko took the opportunity to pledge his commitment to continuing U.S. operations. According to an interview published by the Automotive News, Masuko stated that Mitsubishi wasn't going anywhere, and that despite plummeting sales - a state of affairs that the president attributes to the conscious decision to shrink the company's lineup - Mitsubishi will be introducing new vehicles over the course of the next few years.
03. Hyundai, Kia Will Compensate Owners For Fuel Economy Mistake
Hyundai and Kia, having been caught up in an EPA audit that revealed that the majority of its vehicles do not actually meet the fuel economy figures advertised on their Monroney stickers, will be paying customers directly for their error. Debit cards will be provided to current owners containing a cash amount reflecting the difference in gas costs reflected by the initially publicized fuel mileage rating and the actual rating. Hyundai and Kia will also throw in a 15 percent bonus on top of that figure in order to further compensate irate customers.
Mileage for Kia and Hyundai vehicles dropped between one mile per gallon and six miles per gallon, depending on the model. Hyundai was also forced to stop advertising its claim that it offered more 40-mpg models than any other car company. The Korean giant blames the error on a legitimate engineering snafu, and not a deliberate attempt to mislead shoppers. Regardless, a $775 million civil lawsuit has already been leveled against the company by owners displeased with the revelation that they had been sold vehicles that were less efficient than they had originally been lead to believe. 900,000 automobiles are affected by the issue in the U.S. alone.
04. Are Nine Speeds The Limit For Auto Trannies?
The race to develop an automatic transmission offering as many as 10 or 11 forward gears may be slowing down in the near future. Although eight-speed autos are currently available, and nine-speeds are in development, the Automotive News is quoting the CEO of ZF, one of the world's foremost gearbox manufacturers, as saying that the latter figure could very well represent the apex of what is desirable in a passenger car. ZF's position is that while more gears can always be stuffed into a tranny casing, at a certain point the efficiency or performance that they bring to the equation simply doesn't equal their development or production costs. A theoretically perfect gearbox is roughly 11 percent better than current designs in terms of efficiency, which indicates that 10 and 11 speed units do not have much room for improvement.
05. Ford Mustang Boss 302 Marks End Of Production
The 2014 Ford Mustang isn’t currently available at dealerships, but when it does bow the GT, V6 and Shelby GT500 models won’t be joined by the Boss 302. In an effort to match the original two-year production runs of the historical edition of the car that the Boss 302 was based on, the Blue Oval has elected not to produce the track-ready version of the car for the upcoming model year. This is not a surprise to hardcore Mustang fans, who had been aware from the start of Ford's public intentions to build the special coupe for only a two-year period, but some might be disappointed by the fact that they won’t be able to walk in to a Ford dealer and make a deposit on a brand new, road-course-ready pony car complete with TracKey. This special feature unlocks extra performance from the Boss 302 by re-adjusting more than 200 engine parameters, squeezing as much power as possible from its 5.0-liter mill.
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