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 26, 2012. A new small-block Chevy V-8, redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks, the death of the Acura ZDX, Ford's Raptor finishing school, and a smaller Mitsubishi Lancer - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
A media storm of hullabaloo celebrated this week's announcement of the new eight-cylinder engine that will find its way under the hood of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette. Although boasting 99 percent new parts compared to the family of engines it replaces, the LT V-8 still displaces 6.2-liters and maintains the company's decades-old pushrod technology. Highlighting the new features that come with the LT family of engines are cylinder deactivation, direct fuel injection, and variable valve timing. The version of the motor found in the base Corvette will develop no less than 450 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque, which is a healthy increase over the current 'Vette's stock numbers.
The LT1 is an important development for Chevrolet, but it's not the only critical product redesign coming down the pipeline for General Motors. On December 13 the automaker will debut the all-new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size trucks, which contribute significantly to the company's final sales tallies each and every year. GM has so far teased fans with a shot of the projector headlights affixed to the front ends of each truck, but dramatically different styling, better fuel efficiency, and a revised range of drivetrains are expected to be amongst the key changes made to the vehicles.
There has never been a market for the Acura ZDX crossover vehicle, and the Japanese premium brand has finally admitted that fact with the announcement that 2013 will be its final year of production. Confusingly dubbed a 'coupe' despite the presence of four doors and a jacked-up suspension system, the Acura ZDX rarely left showroom floors as buyers were puzzled by its branding, confounded by its high price and lack of utility (four passenger seating, minimal cargo space), and unimpressed with its performance. The 'four-door coupe' trend that swept across the industry a few years ago has claimed several victims, including the equally-unloved BMW 5 Series GT, with the ZDX merely the latest such vehicle to bite the dust.
The 2013 SVT Raptor truck is a vehicle that was designed to be driven over some of the harshest terrain on the planet at a rapid rate of speed. This is not exactly a skill set that most pickup buyers have mastered tooling around in more standard production fare like the Ford F-150 that the Raptor is based on, and in recognition of this Ford has launched the Ford Racing Raptor Assault Program to help train Raptor fans in the finer points of off-roading. The program, which is run at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, offers both a 22 acre 'high-speed off-road short course' and a 900-acre 'desert racing course,' and participants will benefit from world-class instruction from professional drivers familiar with the ins and outs of jumping dunes and scaling rock faces.
The Motor Report has published a story that would seem to indicate that Mitsubishi plans to scale down the upcoming Lancer redesign. Scheduled to appear in 2014, the next Mitsubishi Lancer sedan would ride on a smaller platform than that which underpins the current model. The move doesn't necessarily indicate that the Lancer will switch from the compact to the subcompact class of automobiles, but it does show that Mitsubishi is serious about re-orienting its lineup to maximize fuel efficiency (lighter, smaller cars) and court urban dwellers rather than a broader range of potential buyers. How many customers will be lining up to purchase a Lancer, given the brand's well-publicized pull-back from the North American market, is another issue.