Self-driving cars are coming. Thanks to visions of Skynet and Terminators, this is a frightening proposition to many people. Rather than being seen as an unparalleled convenience, autonomous cars have often been viewed as a soul-sucking leech on the driving experience. But that’s a shame, because if you begin to see cars as appliances, the appeal of an autonomous automobile is enormous.
“Lexus is like Neiman Marcus. The quality isn’t that much better than what you’d get at a discount store, yet it’s incredibly expensive.”
Those aren’t my words, mind you. I’ve owned a Lexus and found it exceptionally nice, though certainly not overly thrilling. Those are the words of my lovely wife, who has very engrained perceptions about certain car brands.
She associates Lexus with spiffed-up Toyotas and doesn’t see the added-value proposition of the L logo on the grille.
That’s a sentiment that obviously isn’t widely shared, because Lexus remains one of the best-selling luxury car brands in America. Lexus has, however, suffered from a lack of performance and design credibility, especially when compared with BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz.
Lexus knows it has a problem in those areas and has determined to do something about it.
The best marketing device for a startup company is mystery.
Mystery builds intrigue and interest. It makes people wonder what the company is up to and how its products will influence life as we know it. The larger a new company is, the more it can play up the mystery aspect of what it has to offer.
Faraday Future is a perfect example.
With billions of dollars in backing and plans to build a $1 billion manufacturing facility, along with months of hinting at a new car that promises to change the way we see cars, Faraday is primed to hit the big leagues and potentially change the auto industry as we know it.
Unless it under-delivers on its promises. Then it becomes nothing more than a modern-day Segway.
And guess what? It under-delivered.
In 2006 a friend’s dad bought a new $150,000 Ford GT. It was low to the ground and sleek. I stood next to the car and towered over the roof as I wondered how a guy could afford to buy such an exclusive supercar.
A week later he bought one for his wife.
I never got to drive either of the cars, but I did see them every day as my friend was picked up from work by one of her parents. That was when I fell in love with the GT.
The GT was only produced for the 2005 and 2006 model years, then silently slipped into the past. Today those cars are worth far more than they were a decade ago, with some selling for upwards of $300,000 each.
At last year’s Detroit Auto Show, Ford surprised show-goers with a concept for an all-new GT. This year we could see the production-ready version, but this time prices might make used versions look downright affordable.
It would be considered sacrilege to change some things in the auto industry.
Specifically, I’m thinking of things like the shape of the Porsche 911, the rear-wheel-drive Mustang, and the V8 Corvette. A 911 with a boxier shape, a front-wheel-drive ‘Stang, or a 4-cylinder Corvette just might be enough to throw the earth off its orbit and disrupt the threads that hold our society together.
It’s pretty safe to say that none of those things will ever happen, but a new trademark filing by General Motors has some Corvette purists wondering if their beloved American supercar will trade its fossil fuel power for a set of recharging electrons.
If you’re one of the people who doesn’t believe Chevy would ever mess with the formula that made the Corvette an American legend, you might want to sit down for this one:
You know you’re among a different class of buyer when the vehicles on your shopping list cost more than most homes in the United States.
The new Bentley Bentayga is the luxury brand’s first venture into the SUV market. It’s brutish and sleek, powerful and graceful. With a starting price of about $229,000, it’s also wildly expensive and can quickly eclipse the $300,000 mark with the right options ticked.
Buyers will get the world’s fastest production SUV thanks to a twin-turbo 6.0-liter W12 that makes a mighty 600-hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. Top speed is estimated at about 185 miles per hour.
We know this vehicle is far from what most people can afford, so why do we bring it up?
Because it makes other cars look darn appealing.
Would you want a hypercar that can knock the wind out of passengers?
We could argue that the hypercar era was ushered in by the 2003 Ferrari Enzo, then secured with the introduction of the Bugatti Veyron. Some might even say that McLaren brought us into the world of hypercars with the 1992 F1.
The last decade has seen a veritable explosion of hypercars, and the next one from Bugatti could be the one to knock the wind out of all of them.
Assuming there’s a priority to build it.
If you don’t know anything else about the company, you might think it could be a local utility that provides electricity to Detroit homes. It could also be an electrical repair company that serves residential and commercial needs in the Detroit area…or it could even be a Detroit startup electric automaker.
With a name like that we certainly assume we know at least one thing about the company: That it does its bidding in the great city of Detroit.
Except in this case, it doesn’t. Believe it or not, electric carmaker Detroit Electric doesn’t even do business in the United States of America.
I can’t say I’ll miss the Viper.
About 15 years ago a friend of mine had a 1994 version that we enjoyed flinging along twisty back roads. The car was fun, and we got lots of attention (and third-degree calf burns from the ill-placed exhaust). The Viper was perfect for young adults in the late 1990s, but it doesn’t have a place now.
FCA has realized that fact, too, and come 2017, the venerable Viper will end production. There is no replacement car in the works.
Now might be a good time to go after Audi.
With the appalling news coming from the VW/Audi camp over the last week, competitors will probably line up to take shots at the automaker while it’s down. Assuming, of course, those competing automakers didn’t also create a way to fool the EPA and pawn dirty diesels off as clean.
To get our attention off the great diesel scandal, let’s turn for a moment to a story about good old-fashioned hybrid technology and a couple of Audi competitors.