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 July 26, 2013. Chrysler’s stay of execution, Cadillac axes the wreath, Bentley rediscovers its SUV mojo, Jaguar gets serious about small cars, and the 2015 Honda Fit offers a ray of hope for subcompact loyalists - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
Will they or won’t they? The flip-flop on whether Chrysler was going to kill the popular Dodge Grand Caravan minivan and the slow-selling Dodge Avenger at the end of their current product cycles went from ‘yes’ back to ‘no’ this week with the revelation that the Pentastar plans to push forward with each of these vehicles, as is, for at least the next few years. Specifically, the Detroit News is reporting that the Avenger will live on until 2015, while the Grand Caravan has received a stay of execution until 2017. Rounding out the list of vehicles that will go a few more rounds before a redesign is the Jeep Wrangler, which will hold out until 2018 before it benefits from a fresh platform.
This turnaround flies in the face of plans detailed earlier in the year by Chrysler that would have seen both the Avenger and Grand Caravan phased out in the near future. There was no replacement scheduled for the mid-size Dodge sedan, but the Grand Caravan’s erasure was designed to make more room for the Chrysler Town & Country, which is the minivan’s more upscale mechanical twin.
Cadillac has seen no shortage of changes made to its logo, which has worn the wreath laurel for the last ten years. The next-generation Cadillac badge is almost upon us, with the new emblem scheduled for a unveiling at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance this coming August. The new design will embrace a ‘high tech’ look that the brand feels is more in tune with its current lineup of sedans and SUVs. Although the wreath might be a bit old fashioned, it’s worth noting that this logo saw Cadillac through its most fruitful period in the last 30 years, in which important revitalizing models like the Cadillac CTS and Cadillac ATS sedans were introduced.
The world’s most expensive SUV – with a price tag approaching $240,000 USD – is set to be unleashed upon the world in 2016. Bentley has elected to brave the slings and arrows of purists and honestly, anyone with eyeballs, and leave the negative reception of last year’s EXP 9 F SUV concept behind in the pursuit of a cleaner, clean-slate visual design. The EXP 9 F raised the hackles of both automotive fans and Bentley’s Volkswagen corporate overlords alike with its bulging, non-athletic proportions, and the automaker has promised to correct these flaws with the upcoming iteration of the truck. The Bentley SUV will most likely share a platform with the Porsche Cayenne, and it will go up against similarly upscale people movers from rivals like Maserati.
It’s no secret that Jaguar wants a piece of the entry-level action as a way of growing its brand from its current niche status, but this week the Financial Times revealed just how serious the British marque really is about establishing a compact car beachhead. Jaguar will be making the same extensive use of lightweight aluminum in the construction of its compact cars as it currently does in its more expensive mid and full-size models, and it will be investing billions of dollars in developing a line-up of sedans, wagons, and crossovers sharing the same small platform. The idea is to position Jaguar to compete hard against BMW 3 Series, which currently holds the title as the king of the sporty luxury compacts. Jaguar has not made an official comment on the Financial Times report, but is expected to confirm the news at the Frankfurt auto show in just over a month’s time.
The first generation Honda Fit – at least, the model that made it to America – was sprightly and fun to drive, and while the second iteration of the subcompact hatchback retained the car’s immense practicality, it lost some of its charisma out on the road. Enter the 2014 Honda Fit, an all-new model that is intended to help point Honda back on the path toward building interesting, rather than simply competent automobiles. More angular and aggressively styled than the current edition of the Fit, the redesigned Honda will gain a sedan option in the United States, as well as a new hybrid drivetrain. Furthermore, the car will gain a vastly improved interior treatment as well as a driving experience that is more engaging overall.