five for friday
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 August 22, 2014. Volvo's all-or-nothing product play, Ford's future hybrid strategy, the Honda CR-Z gets supercharged, the Dodge Viper might follow suit, and Infiniti pushes for a bigger family tree - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
'There is no second chance.' Those are the chilling words quoted by Bloomberg in a recent interview with the CEO of Volvo, Hakan Samuelsson. Samuelsson was referring to the upcoming 2015 Volvo XC90, the next-generation edition of the brand's full-size SUV. As I mentioned in last week's column, the current XC90 is over a decade old and no longer competitive, and if the new XC90 doesn't attract the attention of consumers who may have completely forgotten about Volvo SUVs in the interim, Samuelsson's phrasing leaves little room for doubt: this could the end of the line for Volvo as an automaker. The company is investing $11 billion in its upcoming product renewal, which will be spearheaded by the XC90.
The Automotive News is reporting that Ford intends to produce a fresh batch of hybrid cars intended to take the fight more directly to the class-leading Toyota Prius. Although still several years away - the first version of the compact won't arrive until 2018 - like the Ford C-Max it will be marketed as a dedicated hybrid with no gas-only counterpart. Expect the Ford hybrid to be roughly the same size as the existing C-Max, if not the same shape, as it's unclear whether the Blue Oval will go the sedan or hatchback route with the upcoming model.
The Honda CR-Z Hybrid sports car has long been criticized for, well, not being all that sporty. That changes a bit with the announcement of the Honda Performance Development supercharged kit of the CR-Z, which improves total system output for the hatchback to 197 horses and 176 lb-ft of torque. That's almost 70 extra horsepower compared to the bone-stock model, and it can be combined with a limited-slip front differential that is also available from HPD. The supercharger is only compatible with versions of the Honda CR-Z that are outfitted with its available six-speed manual transmission.
No one's really buying the Dodge Viper, which is problematic for a company that just poured significant development dollars into producing the latest and greatest edition of this iconic supercar. Allpar claims that the solution for Dodge might be to add a supercharger to the mix - sort of like they did with the Challenger SRT Hellcat - and squeeze even more grunt out of the Viper's enormous 10-cylinder engine. Currently the Viper's 8.4-liter mill is good for 640 horses and 600 lb-ft of twist, but those figures could jump up to as much as 800 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque after the supercharger in question has been outfitted. Allpar's article states that prototypes featuring this particular drivetrain configuration are about to commence testing at Chrysler.
Infiniti's sales doldrums are well-noted, but the company isn't sitting idly by waiting for a miracle to ignite customer interest. According to a report in Autoblog, five additional Infiniti models are on their way over the course of the next few years in a bid to improve the overall Infiniti lineup to 13 vehicles. I've already discussed Infiniti's desire to spread out its IPL performance goodies across more vehicles than just its entry-level coupe, and it turns out that these potent editions also figure into the company's future plans. The first new Infinitis to hit the streets will most likely be the compact Infiniti QX30 crossover and the Q30 hatchback on which it is based.
Photo by Megan Green