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 2, 2013. Chrysler distances itself from hybrids, the Volt gets cheaper, Volkswagen attempts to squeeze blood from the wagon stone, the ghost of the fifth-generation Pontiac GTO, and finding room for a new Chevrolet Trailblazer - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
Remember just a few short years ago when Chrysler dazzled us all with its range of proposed electric and hybrid models that we were told were on the cusp of production? Well, it would seem like that was just a tease, as the automaker announced this week that it was no longer interested in producing these types of vehicles - at least, not until customers were willing to pony up the extra cash that their more exotic drivetrains command. Chrysler and Fiat executives pointed to the fact that for the most part, the market simply hasn't embraced hybrid and EV vehicles on a large scale, and as a result there was no compelling business model for the company to follow. Chrysler is the only domestic automaker without a concrete hybrid strategy.
General Motors seems to be proving Chrysler's point with its decision to cut a hefty $5,000 from the price of the 2014 Chevrolet Volt. The effort is being made in order to convince a greater number of buyers to invest in the brand's flagship electric vehicle, which will retail for $34,995. The automobile also qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit. Sales of the Volt had been challenged by other electric models at more competitive price points, although few offer the same type of technology and driving range found in the Chevrolet. GM is more comfortable reducing its asking price for the EV next year due to the introduction of production efficiencies that have further reduced its not-insubstantial build cost.
The wagon market is a small one in the United States, and it's largely dominated by crossover-like vehicles from Subaru, Volvo, and Audi. Volkswagen, however, has determined that slow sales equals room for growth, and as such the brand is considering importing a tall-riding all-wheel drive wagon in the near future. The Automotive News is reporting that the model, which could resemble the recent Alltrack concept, will be based on the same platform as the Volkswagen Golf and would appear at the end of next year as a complement to the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen (also a Golf derivative). Currently, the Subaru Outback wagon is far and away the sales leader in its category, but VW hopes to carve out at least a small slice of its 100,000-plus units sold per year.
Road and Track has published a Q&A with former GM honcho Bob Lutz that points to the exist of a replacement for the Pontiac GTO that was briefly available in the United States in the mid-2000s. Lutz claims that a full-scale clay model of the next-generation GTO was built, and that it would have been built using the same Holden-based platform as the Pontiac G8 sedan. The Australian GTO coupe was a slow seller for the now-defunct brand, but the updated model could have conceivably taken care of several of its performance deficits and styling issues and transformed the model into a true grand touring / muscle car contender. As it stands, we'll never know what might have been.
The Chevrolet Trailblazer might have left American dealerships in 2009, but it's still available in other parts of the world - albeit as a significantly different design. Edmunds has published an article that explores the possibility of Chevrolet bringing the now more-compact Trailblazer back to the United States, where it would go on sale as a 2015 model. The real question, however, is where does the Trailblazer fit into the grand scheme of things for Chevrolet, which current offers the Equinox as its compact crossover offering. GM is keen to add yet another SUV to the Chevy lineup, but to give it the form of a small unibody offering like the Thai-built Trailblazer would seem to undercut Equinox sales and cause confusion at the entry-level - especially given that it seems unlikely that the new Trailblazer would be able to match the towing capacity and interior volume that made the first-generation model popular.