Exhaust Notes: Italian Jeeps, Suzuki demand spike, BMW free ideas
Our semiregular roundup of the latest automotive news and musings from around the Web.
This week, Fiat announces plans to build Jeeps in Italy, Suzuki sees a postmortem uptick in sales, and BMW executives get their hands on technology they haven't invented.
Italian-built Jeeps a go for 2014
We know that Jeep is busy replacing the Liberty, Patriot and Compass with brand-new versions based on Fiat platforms that we'll start seeing late in 2013 and 2014. But there's another future Jeep, confirmed on Thursday by Fiat, that will be based on the Italian automaker's 500X, shown above in July with Fiat executive Olivier Francois. The 500X is based on a new platform that also underpins the 500L, a taller, stretched version of the 500 hatchback. Like the MINI Countryman, this car-based Jeep will retain all-wheel drive but introduce a small, genuinely sporty footprint, the likes of which Jeep has never seen before.
Fiat will spend $1.3 billion on a new Italian plant that will make Fiat and Jeep vehicles, a move that may add life support to the region's struggling automotive sales and manufacturing cutbacks. Whatever happens, we hope this new Jeep is truer to the brand's rugged core and made with higher-quality materials than the Compass.
More people want Suzukis, but it's too late
Like a human brain that sparks neurons after its body has died, Suzuki is facing a postmortem phenomenon -- and it could last for months. The automaker, which announced in November that it was pulling out of the U.S., is doing so well with its zero-percent APR financing and cash rebates that it's importing an additional 2,500 cars before closing up shop sometime next year. Sales jumped 22 percent in November and and will likely post a double-digit increase in December, according to Automotive News.
Yesterday, the Suzuki Kizashi earned a stellar crash rating in a new test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. While it joined the Accord and beat every midsize car, including the top-selling Camry, Suzuki's gutted public-relations department didn't even send out a memo. But the fire will soon be snuffed out. Nearly all of Suzuki's 219 dealerships have agreed to a factory settlement and will close or convert to service-only departments by next year.
Local Motors announces winners in BMW design competition
Local Motors, the Arizona kit-car builder, has thousands of talented, budding car designers looking for a break from a major automaker. Their drawings and ideas led to the Rally Fighter, the industry's first "crowd-sourced" production vehicle. BMW, which was to be the engine supplier for the Rally Fighter, hosted a competition with the Local Motors community to dream up car technology that could be used in city environments.
Several of the concepts are quite good, such as a vehicle that lights up dark sidewalks for pedestrians and a plan to keep cars connected even when parked, so that a parking space could show up on a car's navigation display precisely when it becomes free. Of course, what this really does is give BMW access to take other people's clever ideas and not pay them any royalties. While the winner received a $7,500 prize and a trip to the BMW factory in Munich, that's the kind of change automakers find in their sofas.
Without any pending patents -- an expensive, time-consuming practice for an individual -- Local Motors designers may never get proper credit or payment for their innovations. I suppose that's all fine and dandy when they're drafting sketches for a tiny automaker like Local Motors, but for BMW? C'mon, wake up and get paid.
Fiat, an Italian company already is a majority owner of Chrysler, currently owning 58.5% and has promised to increase it's ownership incrementally every 6 months until it owns 75.1% of Chrysler.
Fiat will build this Jeep in Italy and import it to the US for sale. It'll be based on the Fiat 500X platform which will make it a little smaller than the current Liberty. Like I said, "Imported to Detroit". The number of models Detroit is importing to America from their overseas locations is staggering. What's even more sad, is that they're selling these models to Americans and Americans are belieiving they are supporting their home country by doing so. In fact their supporting the foreign country's labor force, not the laid off Detroit auto workers, the foreign countries infrastructure...not the shuttered American car factories and dealerships, and the foreign country's economy...when America's economy has for the first time in history, had it's credit rating downgraded and is in the greatest debt in it's history. To add insult to injury, Detroit automaker's stock prices are far from their pre-bailout period which in turn, puts America in BILIIONS of Detroit DEBT that will be here for future Americans to pay for.
What percentage of Detroit automobiles are still made, assembled or designed in America as compared to those in foreign countries?
Now, what will the percentages look like one year after the "right to work" law takes effect?
I'm prediciting few answers to these questions yet plenty of displacement, quantifying, import bashing and blaming others.
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