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Five for Friday: Five Thoughts About the Auto Industry for October 14, 2011

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
October 14, 2011
3 min. Reading Time

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 October 14, 2011. Let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.

01. Mazda Will Forge Ahead With SkyActiv Rotary Engine

The Mazda RX-8 might be dead, with a special Japan-only edition called the Spirit R marking the last 1,000 examples of the model before the end of this year, but it would seem that its rotary engine will live on. Mazda's public relations department has announced on Twitter that the company is currently working on a new rotary design that will make use of the brand's SkyActiv fuel efficiency technology.

The RX-8 was notorious for poor fuel economy, and while SkyActiv might not make its successor the most economical option on the market, it could very well ensure that the vehicle isn't passed over by potential buyers due to a dismal EPA rating.

02. Dodge Grand Caravan To Be Phased Out

After months of speculation, the fate of Chrysler's minivan twins has been decided. Automotive News is reporting that the Dodge Grand Caravan will leave the company's lineup in 2013, to be replaced by a new crossover vehicle. In a surprise move, Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Chrysler, also told the publication that the new crossover will additionally force the mid-size Dodge Avenger sedan out of the marketplace.

The new family vehicle, which will be based on a Fiat platform, will ostensibly be designed so as to appeal to buyers of both the Avenger and the Grand Caravan, which indicates that it will not necessarily take the from of a full-size people mover. The Chrysler Town & Country will continue on as the sole minivan in the brand's portfolio. The Grand Caravan and the Avenger are two of the first casualties in Chrysler's campaign to eliminate badge-engineered vehicles from its corporate stable.

03. Chevrolet Colorado Pickup Spawns SUV, But Probably Not For U.S. Market

Hot on the heels of the news that the next-generation Chevrolet Colorado mid-size pickup truck will definitely be sold in the United States comes the announcement that the Colorado's platform will serve as the basis for a new Chevrolet SUV. The fresh sport-utility vehicle will be dubbed the Chevrolet Trailblazer, a name familiar from its use in the recent past on another mid-size SUV available from the domestic brand.

The new Chevrolet TrailBlazer is currently slated to be sold in global markets, with no intention to offer it in the United States. Chevrolet's current SUV lineup would indeed make it awkward to introduce another, similarly-sized option alongside the Chevrolet Equinox. However, given that General Motors also initially denied that it would sell the Chevrolet Colorado in the U.S., it's entirely possible that by the time the Trailblazer becomes available in Asia in 2012 there will also be plans in place to import it to America.


04. Nissan's New In-House Hybrid Impresses

Nissan has released details regarding its first in-house hybrid system, which will make its way into the company's showrooms starting in 2013. The new hybrid drivetrain will replace the battery-assisted setup currently available in the Altima Hybrid, a design which is licensed from Toyota and which incorporates the Japanese rival's Hybrid Synergy Drive technology.

The Nissan hybrid system borrows liberally from the one used in the Infiniti M luxury sedan, swapping out the V-6 for a four-cylinder engine and making use of a supercharger to ensure solid power delivery along with improved fuel mileage. Although Nissan has stated that it will discontinue the Altima Hybrid, logically the mid-size sedan would be the first vehicle to receive the new and improved battery-powered drivetrain in the near future. A spokesman for the company stated that the hybrid design would offer the same amount of power as a 3.5-liter motor and that it would be paired with an all-new version of Nissan's Xtronic continuously-variable automatic transmission.

05. Volvo To Introduce Anti-Roadkill Safety System

Pedestrian detection and avoidance systems are already available from a wide range of automakers, but Volvo will be taking things a step further in the near future with the introduction of a safety system that is specifically designed to detect the presence of animals on the roadside. Automotive News reports that the Volvo feature will not only make use of infra-red and radar technology to keep a watchful eye on lurking deer, rabbits and raccoons, but that the system will even be able to automatically apply the brakes and stop the car if it determines that a collision is imminent.

Volvo engineers spent a significant period of time "getting to know the enemy" by studying the moose population in heavily-wooded northern Sweden. This is not the first time that the Scandinavian automaker has used the behavior of moose as a benchmark for its safety features, as Volvo's "Moose Avoidance Test" has been employed as a way of calibrating the electronic stability systems found on its cars for a number of years.


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