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 May 4, 2012. Flashing headlight free speech, GM's Super Bowl kiss-off, Polestar's M3 fighter, the death of the Subaru Tribeca and the Cadillac Escalade's stay of execution - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
There's no question law enforcement offices aren't fans of the practice, but is it actually illegal? I'm talking, of course, about the practice of flashing your lights to alert oncoming motorists of the presence of a speed trap. A recent court decision in Florida has given highway communicators across the country a boost thanks to the ruling that a resident who was ticketed for using his headlights to warn other drivers of police vehicles parked on the side of the road was exercising his constitutionally-protected right to free speech.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the same defendant has also launched a class-action lawsuit against the Florida Highway Patrol along the same lines. Apparently, there was already a court order on the books dating back to 2005 prohibiting officers for ticketing under the 'driving while flashing aftermarket emergency lights' statute when the true reason for the stop was notifying other drivers of a speed trap - a court order that the defendant claims Florida Highway Patrol officers routinely violate.
Last week I wrote about GM's decision to walk away from paid advertising on Facebook, with the claim that their $10 million budget for this particular outlet was better spent elsewhere. According to the Automotive News, General Motors has passed a similar judgment on the 2013 Super Bowl, releasing a statement that points at the recent $500,000 price increase for 30 seconds of airtime as the primary driver behind the behemoth's decision to pass on the country's most extravagant advertising spectacle. It will cost $4 million for a half-minute commercial on the CBS broadcast of the 2013 Super Bowl.
GM was careful this week to make the point that it is not reducing its ad budget whatsoever. Rather, the company is taking a long, hard look at what represents an effective advertising spend and what is simply excessive for the reach and response that the automaker is looking for. General Motors spent just under $4 billion on ads around the world in 2010.
Swedish automotive news outlets are abuzz with the news that Volvo's tuning partner Polestar Performance is targeting two of the biggest names in European sports sedans with its next-generation take on the Volvo S60. Although the company currently offers a range of power upgrades for the stock mid-size S60 sedan, it would appear that a much broader mandate aimed at taking on both AMG and BMW M is in the offing for the race-oriented speed shop.
WorldCarFans.com has published spy photos of an S60 said to be powered by a version of the 4.4-liter V-8 found under the hood of the Volvo XC90 crossover vehicle, a unit that has already been adapted for racing purposes by boutique automaker Noble to produce 641 turbocharged horsepower. All-wheel drive and a sequential transmission also appear to be in the cards for a hotted-up S60 that would take on the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and the BMW M3 should it make it to market around 2014.
Motor Trend is calling the death of the Subaru Tribeca, the full-size crossover that ever since its introduction in 2005 has seem almost like an afterthought in the Japanese brand's advertising materials. The vehicle, which is rarely seen outside of Subaru showrooms, simply never caught the attention of U.S. buyers who were more accustomed to seeking a mid-size Forester or Outback whenever the crossover bug bit.
Awkward styling on early models didn't help, with fewer than 3,000 of the vehicles sold in both 2010 and 2011, respectively. Motor Trend quotes a Subaru representative as claiming the vehicle will be available as a 2013 model, but no information concerning a potential refresh past that date was available. At its peak, sales of the large crossover reached 11,000 units.
The Cadillac Escalade will be avoiding the Tribeca's fate thanks to a decision by General Motors to keep the full-frame SUV afloat for at least a few more years. Although concerns about the Escalade's larger-than-life reputation and equally thirsty fuel mileage had executives within the company wondering if the presence of the super-ute was actually hurting Cadillac's image, the profitability of the model was hard to ignore.
The Detroit Bureau has published an article describing how the Escalade will continue to be based on the same platform as GM's full-size pickups past the 2015 model year after a significant refresh that could bring with it several different powertrain options. Fuel efficiency will be a focus, but not the be-all, end-all of the Escalade, as Cadillac has discovered that there exists a core group of buyers who are willing to overlook the heavy SUV's gasoline gluttony in favor of its other, more appealing attributes.