Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mini's Not So Small Lineup

BMW’s iconic Small Car brand has been expanding rather rapidly as of late, by adding a 2 seat coupe and Roadster, the Clubman Wagon, the Countryman Crossover and the upcoming Paceman. Mini is showing no signs of stopping; they created quite a stir earlier this year at the Geneva Auto Show when they pulled back the curtains on the Rocketman, a quirky yet lovable concept that embodies everything a Mini is supposed to be. The Rocketman is about a foot shorter than the standard Mini hatch, so its dimensions are closer to that of the original mini, but it also combines the modern elements of the brand. Public response on the Rocketman was so positive that BMW green lighted the car almost immediately, this is where the problem lies, the R56 MINI Platform is engineered for small or compact vehicles, and the Rocketman is a an A-Segment car. For some reason probably cost cutting the extensive use of carbon fiber has been foregone for the production version, replaced by Steel. Rumor has it that original prototypes of the car, riding on a chopped version or R56 ran into weight problems, due to the Rocketman’s size, this left BMW with a car that had no platform. Instead of going back to the drawing board and developing a new platform which would have cost them a pretty penny, BMW has reportedly looked to Toyota to supply a platform. It may be possible that the Rocketman will be underpinned by the same platform that carries Toyota’s Aygo, and its Citroen and Peugeot cousins. Unfortunately this potential platform change could mean the end product could have a higher msrp, because more R&D would be put into keeping the Rocketman’s shapely form. But the Rocketman isn’t the only MINI in the news lately, as reports indicate a cargo variant of the Clubman, a successor to the last cargo MINI, which left the market in 1982. The transformation will be very simple; the rear glass will be replaced with metal, like almost all other cargo-ready vehicles. Rumor has it the MINI Cargo will also feature some exterior details to set it apart from its standard variant. The car is rumored to bow along with the production Rocketman at Geneva.

SAAB: Don't Count Me Out Just Yet

About a week ago a story surfaced that SAAB had thrown in the towel and the PheoniX platform had been sold to youngman, this is not true and the entire company may have been given the opportunity to do as the platform’s namesake did and rise from the dead. SAAB is Showing that it won’t go down without a fight, the latest development in a two year saga that the terminally ill Swedish brand has endured, has the now officially bankrupt carmaker in talks with The Turkish government, and Mahindra, an Indian automaker, who has been attempting to make a presence in the US for some time now, in a last ditch attempt to ward off SAAB’s looming liquidation. These new prospects could be more fruitful than the Youngman & Pan Dai ones because SAAB’s former parent GM may feel safer if their intellectual property is not in China, so there is a possibility they will approve these potential takeover packages. Originally there were 27 potential buyers for SAAB, I wonder why none of them have stepped in ?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Alpha Based RWD Buick Coupe?

A while Back GM held a sort of open house for the North Hollywood Design Center, Journalists were invited in to watch the Unveiling of the Cadillac ULC concept, and were allowed to wander the building to get a glimpse of its development, the Studio contained many mock ups, mostly from Cadillac, but other brands were represented as well. Most of these mockups were supposedly dead, although the Cadillac Ciel, is almost Identical to several of them, so perhaps some of the Bucks are just slightly different from future vehicles or concepts. At any rate I believe allot of information can be gleaned from the photos. Ever since the pictures were published I have been pouring over them, trying to pick up on details that were missed, and I believe I may have. This is purely speculation, but Bob Lutz has said that Pontiac was to get a Sporty RWD car based on a Cadillac platform, probably Alpha. At the Design center there were shelves of mockups, the center two shelves are rumored to be solely Alpha based Bucks, possibly studies for the ATS and next Gen CTS, All but two of them are Cadillacs. Nestled among the Caddies were two others a Buick & a Pontiac, allot of blogs focused on the Pontiac, probably because the brand had recently shut its doors, the pictures of what could have been were like salt on the wounds. The Buick when largely unnoticed, until the other night when I was looking at it again, I noticed something funny about the wheels, and after looking closely I determined they bore a Pontiac arrowhead. This certainly threw me for a loop, but then I started thinking, what If designers borrowed a frame for a Pontiac Mock Up and built a Buick around it? It’s among the range of possibilities, and due to the cars placement on the shelves this could be the first glimpse of Buick’s Alpha car. I know a logo is hardly enough to base much on, but for the RWD fans out there here is a glimmer of hope for you. Design wise the car is quite nice, though hopefully any production versions that could come from this will receive some attention to the front end. Many cues seem to come from the Riviera Coupe Concept, and the Lower front fascia inductions are really different looking, and are repeated in the indentations on the lover doorskin. Again it’s not much to go on, but we can hope right?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lotus The Next SAAB?

Proton, the Company that purchased Lotus in 1996 is being pushed by investors to unload the 59 year old British Sports car brand. Proton is a manufacturer of standard bread and butter production cars in Malaysia, who is controlled by the government, who is looking at selling the entire company. As of right now Proton is determined to hold on to Lotus, but if the parent company is sold there is no telling whether or not  its new owner will decide to keep the little niche brand. In 2010 at the Paris Auto show Lotus unveiled six new future models and it became clear that they were seriously taking aim at brands like Porsche or Aston Martin, The new cars include the 2013 Espirit, the 2013 Elan, the 2014 Elite, the 2014 Evora, the 2015 Elise and the 2015 Eterne along with an upcoming citycar dubbed Ethos, which a production date has not been announced for. Lotus is not just launching new cars, but their own in house 4.8L V8 engine which will debut with the 2013 Espirit. All of these products and their gorgeous design language could be dead if Proton is sold in the near future. History has not exactly been kind to Lotus; the brand has been passed from company to company, since GM unloaded it in 1993 it has had three owners. Looking at this situation I keep thinking that lotus has allot in common with SAAB, does this spell out the end for Lotus? No. But the similarities are eerie. It would be awful to see a brand with such promise go defunct or change to a new owner with a different direction in mind for the brand. I had a math teacher who owned an Elise, and I know she would be devastated if anything happened to Lotus. I personally am most excited for the Eterne, Panamera killer, and I will definitely miss it if it doesn’t see production.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hemera 2.0 Eterniti's Refreshed Super SUV

Earlier this year news broke of a new British manufacturer called Eterniti, launching an Ultra Luxury Crossover called the Hemera, which was to be unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Initially many people thought it was a joke, or an unnamed company testing the waters for a new SUV (initial speculation rested on Aston Martin, who after the Lagonda debacle is not likely taking any chances on their future SUV). Really All that Existed of Eterniti at the time was a sketch, and a name for it, That name is quite possibly one of the worst names used yet in this century so far, Hemera. The name Hemera to me just sounds like something that urgently needs the attention of a doctor, and once the Frankfurt auto show had come and gone, and the Hemera went largely unnoticed, it was clear that the Heavily Cayenne based SUV, which retained nearly all the sheetmetal, needed another kind of doctor, A plastic Surgeon. The Hemera was sent back to the studio for a minor nip and tuck, by the time it remerged it had lost the Porsche sourced headlamps, the Original Hemera’s widened body has been retained, but a few new bits of bright work have been thrown at it, A new more cleaner front end, and presumably a new rear as well help resolve the appearance a bit, and help make the car a tad more attractive.  Overall the original car’s Hot Wheels look has been softened, which in my opinion is a good thing somehow it looks a bit less like it’s Porsche cousin, even though the two are still very similar. Expect more in April or as soon as it is leaked.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lancia Offering New Options On Chrysler Sourced Models

Lancia Has very controversially been rebranding a trio of Chryslers for European sales, of course not without upgrading interior materials, and adding a few Traditional design elements, much the same way that Chrysler’s European Division has re badged the Delta and Ypsilon. To sweeten the already feature rich cars; Lancia has added a few new options that unfortunately may never see our shores. For the Voyager Minivan they now offer a line of specially designed children’s seats, new tires, a new bike carrier, and a very spacious tent A La Aztek, the Tent is one feature I would love to get here in America, it may even add some kind of excitement to the Minivan for me, it looks like the perfect thing for a large family who enjoys the wilderness. The Thema, known as the Chrysler 300 in our market, will offer a new series of 20” wheels, a set of roof racks to expand the car’s capability, and much like our American Version the Thema will be offered with a wide selection of grills, however these appear to be unique to the European Market, The grills will be offered in both Chrome and Body Color, The one shown in the first official photo is quite nice, and I would like to see them reach our shores as well. There is no word on whether or not the Lancia Badged 200 convertible, dubbed Flavio, will receive options like these has yet to be determined, but considering this is considered by many people to be the least desirable of the three I think it would be a bright Idea.
 Check Out Photos Of Some Of the Packages Here:

Sonic BOOM!

Remember The Sonic Boom Concept from this year's SEMA show? According to GMI the car has been confirmed for production by a very reliable source. Of course it will be toned down for production, but considering it uses many parts from the Z-Spec bin, it should look very similar to the show car. The original concept was essentially a car built around the sound system, it is unclear how much of this will remain in production, but we can assume it will at least have an upgraded audio system, and maybe the addition of MyLink

Teaser Tuesday: Buick Encore Update

Buick teased yet another picture of its very Subaru like Encore; this week’s picture came with no new info, and none has leaked since the tidbits of information on the Mokka surfaced late last week. What we can see of the Encore’s rearward styling in this new photo is very Subaru like, but also shares some cues with Pontiac’s Last wagon, the Vibe, right down to the Opel version’s light use of cladding, to me this looks more like a baby VUE than a Baby Enclave. I maintain my statements that I think this would be better in Saturn’s lineup, but this may be a great seller for Buick, that is if they don’t slap some astronomical price tag on it. Thankfully these new photos show that the images that were leaked about 2 weeks ago are Chops, as the rear DLO doesn’t have the foreword sweeping Lancia like edge that the chops had. The Encore appears to have the scalloped bone line like the Regal and Verano, which would give it a more signature Buick look, despite the rest of the sheet metal being decidedly Saturnesque. The Profile DLO has a slight unconventional kick up like the one found on the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, the taillights don’t appear to be LED based, but I could be wrong. Personally I’d like the roof rack to have a little less plastic, or they could just take it off, it might give the car a more premium appearance. This might throw a little heat Acura, Infinity, & maybe even Lexus’s way, but I think to become a Buick it should have more resolved sheet metal. It should help retain some Pontiac and Saturn customers, so this could be a very good thing for Buick, because the VUE and the Vibe sold pretty well, but it might make it harder to justify shelling out $36,600 for an entry level Enclave, or $37,785 for a fully loaded Regal GS.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays

This just my way of wishing everyone a safe, fun holiday season, here is a winter themed ad from the Last year that Edsels looked like Edsels, and not Pontiacs

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Opel's New Mokka, The Encore's Cousin From Accross The Pond

The Buick Encore’s European cousin Under the Opel brand has been officialy name Mokka, a name originally rumored to be used on Opel’s upcoming Supermini, dubbed Project Junior. The Mokka will bow at Geneva a few months after we see the North American Encore for the first time.New information about the Mokka has leaked, which helps paint a better picture of what we will see when the curtains are pulled back from Buick’s upcoming crossover. The Car’s length will be around 14 feet long, and may be priced In the $23,000 USD range, Both the Encore and the Mokka will offer all-wheel drive as an option. The Car is now confirmed to be riding on the Gamma platform with the Sonic and the Corsa. Rumor has it Opel is going after cars like the Nissan Juke and the Skoda Yeti with the Mokka, which is interesting because a few months ago there were rumors floating around that Chevrolet would launch a sub-equinox model in NA to compete with the juke. So there is more evidence that we will see A Chevrolet version, possibly carrying the Strobe Moniker in the near future.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The One That Got Away: The 2013 SAAB 9-3

The current 9-3 is about 9 to 10 years old, and though over its lengthy production line it has received a series of nose jobs and minor updates, its Age is definitely showing, and its sales are slowing. The 9-3 was slated to be replaced by a new model for the 2013 model year; the next 9-3 would have spawned a sedan, a convertible, a 3 door hatch, and a wagon. The cars styling was previewed by the much lauded F-Body like Phoenix concept, and recently grainy images of what was rumored to be the next 9-3 leaked. An advanced hybrid system was also rumored, riding on the 90% new Phoenix platform, which is a version of GM’s Epsilon one platform modified beyond recognition. Only ten percent of the platform was to be carried over to the longer lower and wider phoenix.  The platform was to be extremely flexible, capable of underpinning everything from the next 9-3 to an all-new 9-7 flagship (no relation to the 9-7X) however for cars smaller than the 9-3, like the rumored 9-2 the platform would have become too expensive, so SAAB looked into using BMW’s Mini platform.  The phoenix platform may still have life in it, even if Saab doesn’t because two parties have shown interest in purchasing the rights to the platform, and SAAB’s advanced android based infotainment system IQon, Youngman, and the Turkish government, the latter has shown interest in creating a car brand, and hopes to acquire the platform to build a car around. There is still time for a new investor to save SAAB but time is running out fast for the unique Swedish Brand