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 September 23, 2011. Let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. OnStar Tracks Your Vehicle Even After Service Cancellation
That's right - even if you don't currently have an OnStar account, the company can still track your movements and potentially sell them off to the highest bidder. Most likely the data will be purchased by state governments interested in analyzing traffic patterns and road usage statistics, but the potential exists for marketers and law enforcement to also get a peek at your OnStar driving logs without you ever knowing about it. It is unclear whether former customers will be given the opportunity to opt out of being tracked and completely sever their car's connection to the OnStar network.
02. 2012 BMW 6 Series Gains All-Wheel Drive
The 2012 BMW 6 Series coupe and convertible are now sold with the option of all-wheel drive. The decision to equip the full-size two-door luxury cruiser with four-wheel locomotion was no doubt the result of market pressure from other luxury GT manufacturers which have increasingly added this feature to products in an effort to provide the smooth delivery of higher and higher levels of horsepower. The introduction of all-wheel drive also makes the BMW 6 Series a more viable year-round option in winter climates, where buyers are often reluctant to swallow a high dollar MSRP for a vehicle that can only be enjoyed during the brief summer months.
03. Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid On The Way
According to Car and Driver, Volkswagen will be bringing a hybrid edition of the Volkswagen Jetta sedan to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this coming January. The move is somewhat surprising for the German automaker, which had previously relied on its efficient turbodiesel engines to handle the demands of fuel economy-focused customers in the United States and Europe.
Diesel motors just haven't resonated with buyers with quite the same strength as gasoline / electric drivetrains, however, and VW's move is an admission that in order to continue to expand its lineup it will have to explore niches that it had previously avoided. The Volkswagen Jetta hybrid will be sold as a 2013 model and will be shown in production form in Detroit. Fuel mileage for the new battery-assisted automobile is predicted to be in the mid-40-mpg range.
04. Lexus LS High Performance Edition Spied In Europe
The eagle eyes at AutoGuide have managed to snag intriguing photographs of a new Lexus LS model that appears to borrow extensively from the same aerodynamic box of goodies typically used to outfit full-on racing sedans. The vehicle, which has been lapping the Nurburgring, is apparently an official factory effort from Toyota Motorsport GmbH, and is said to pack a 650 horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 under the hood that may also sport a pair of turbochargers on its way to generating a substantial 524 lb-ft of torque.
The Lexus LS has always been respected for its high end luxury and calm, comforting ride, but it has never been able to match the same handling or performance experience offered by competitors like the BMW 7 Series. Toyota and Lexus are officially not commenting on the mystery automobile, but its slick looks and jaw-dropping power numbers indicate that the luxury brand could be considering a special model that would inject some much-needed spice into its full-size sedan stable.
05. Remember That Jeep Pickup Kit? Factory-Built Hauler Still A Long Way Off
So far, Jeep has sold roughly 300 JK-8 Independence kits, which convert the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited into a legitimate pickup with an open cargo bed. The kit, which was introduced earlier this year, was released in part to gauge buyer interest in a full-on Jeep pickup truck, a vehicle which has not been offered by the off-road oriented brand since the early 1990's.
The Automotive News interviewed Jeep CEO Michael Manley this past week and asked him about the chance that the strong interest shown in the Mopar accessory kit could translate into a factory-built Jeep Wrangler pickup in the near future. Manley indicated that while the company was impressed with how many Wrangler owners have stepped up to the plate to have their SUVs disassembled and then rebuilt in the image of a pickup, it was unfortunately not fiscally possible to introduce a factory Wrangler pickup until 2015 at the earliest. That time frame coincides with the next-generation refresh for the perennial trail warrior.