Auto blogFri, 17 Jan 2014 15:45:00 EST
Twenty-six years after it was introduced at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, the much anticipated fourth generation Mazda MX-5 Miata will meet the press at the 2015 Chicago show. A piece in Autocar refines some of the details on the larger, lighter Miata that a Mazda insider has said will be "our best-looking car ever."
The company has relented on the quest for the metric tonne, the 1000-kilogram (2,200-pound) target too difficult to achieve in light of cost constraints. You can still expect it to lose a generous dollop of weight - Autocar says a curb weight of 1,100 kg (2,420 pounds) will still make it the lightest in its class. And Mazda will be stressing a fun driving experience through light weight and a modest amount of naturally-aspirated horsepower. Engine capacities of 1.5 and 2.0 liters are expected. Sounds familiar (and good), right?
The Miata's interpretation of Kodo design will be veer from that found on the Mazda3 and Mazda6, with "very clean and simple" lines marking out "more muscular proportions" and elongated bodywork on a longer wheelbase. A stretched engine bay will make room for the current Skyactiv engine and perhaps the future Skyactiv 2 powerplants, initial reports suggesting there could be a 30-percent increase in fuel economy from the moment it arrives.
Episode #360 of the Autoblog podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth and Jeff Ross discuss the 2015 Ford Mustang, reports of the latest plan to bring Alfa Romeo back to the US, Chevrolet leaving Europe and Holden closing down in Australia, and the price barrier that's holding down potential EV buyers. Dan also interviewed Jacques Brent, Ford's marketing manager for the 2015 Mustang and Sebastian Ruta and Joe Oh from Blipshift. We start with what's in the garage and finish up with some of your questions, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. You can follow along after the jump with our Q&A. Thanks for listening!
Autoblog Podcast #360:
Naturally, you'd expect a massive automaker like Fiat to have an in-depth plan to exit the current European-market doldrums, and you'd expect that plan to include plenty of new vehicles to attract those precious buyers that still remain despite the financial downturn. And you'd be right, though Fiat does seem to have a few unexpected twists up its corporate sleeve.
Perhaps the biggest shocker is a report that Fiat will completely drop the Punto, a car with mass-market appeal aimed at small-car buyers cross-shopping the popular Volkswagen Polo. Its replacement will be a five-door Fiat 500 aimed at upmarket buyers (sounds awfully similar to the 500L) that will be built in Poland. Lower-end customers will reportedly be served by variants of the Fiat Panda.
Borrowing a page from the BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen playbook, reports Automotive News, Fiat is said to have plans to reignite production at its Italian factories by retooling them to build high-end vehicles from Maserati and Alfa Romeo. These will be marketed as premium products, built by skilled Italian workers (who are paid wages that are 75-percent higher than those building Fiats in Poland), and will be sold around the world.
Every year Evo stages its Car of the Year test, bringing the best performance cars in the world to one location for an epic shootout. This year the magazine pitted eight CotY finalists against each other on Route Napoleon in Southern France - Evo claims it's the "best road in the world" - and then proceeded to nitpick the smallest of faults on each car until the winner could be named. You see, this year's lineup of machines was just so good that only one car obviously wasn't CotY material from the get-go. Can you guess which one judging from the list below?
- Aston Martin V12 Vantage S
- Audi R8 V10 Plus
Fans of simple, lightweight motoring, rejoice - we now have images of the next-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata undergoing testing at der Nürburgring Nordschleife. Now, to be fair, this isn't some lightly camouflaged example that will give us a great peak of what the next Miata, which will also become the next Alfa Romeo Spider, will look like. This is a mule, with the new bits hidden under a current Miata's body. That doesn't mean there aren't a few scraps of valuable information here, though.
According to our flock of camera-toting spies at the Nürburgring, the next Miata is likely to grow a bit, as new models are wont to do. In particular, it will be longer and wider, and the wheelbase is likely going to be stretched, based on the shape of the wheel wells and doors. Both of those factors will add more space in the cabin.
Those are the big indications provided by these photos, but while the MX-5 might be growing, it's a safe bet based on these images that it, and the (likely pricier) Alfa, will retain the classic, long-hood, short-deck styling that so typifies rear-drive roadsters.
On average, Fiat dealers have only been selling about 17 cars a month.
We've been wondering for some time how Fiat dealers in North America have been getting along with just one model range in their showrooms up until recently. Franchisees spent millions building, stocking and manning sleek new 'studio' showrooms, only to have but a single model to sell, the cherubic 500. And even with its many derivatives, the Cinquecento is still an inexpensive model with its attendant lower margins. Perhaps it should come as no surprise then, that just 45 percent of US Fiat dealers are said to be profitable.
According to Edmunds, Mazda engineers are pressuring the company to create more rear-wheel-drive models, in an effort to better differentiate itself from its rivals. This push is reportedly coming from middle and senior engineers within the company, and these folks at Mazda believe this rear-drive strategy would allow the automaker to produce more distinctive, fun to drive cars. Mazda discontinued the rear-drive (and rotary-engined) RX-8 a few years ago, leaving the MX-5 Miata as the company's only RWD offering.
As enthusiasts, we're fully on board with Mazda offering more rear-drive cars, but unsurprisingly, the company's top management isn't exactly keen on the idea - and with good reason. First and foremost, the cost associated with redesigning fresh architecture for new models would be very high, and considering the fact that Mazda hasn't exactly been raking in the dough lately, an expensive new venture like this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. What's more, Mazda's latest front-drive models - the Mazda3, Mazda6 and CX-5 - have been very well-received, and are helping the company gain sales momentum.
But that doesn't mean there aren't other options. Edmunds reminds us that Mazda is already partnering with Alfa Romeo on the next-generation Miata, and if this collaboration is successful, perhaps the relationship could bear additional fruit. After all, Alfa Romeo is said to be working on returning to its rear-wheel-drive roots, so Mazda's engineers might be able to make a case for more RWD goodness after all.
Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was unsurprisingly frank when asked by reporters about potential investments in Italian manufacturing for Alfa Romeo and Maserati, giving the Italian government the ultimatum, "Italy should decide if they want [Alfa Romeo's relaunch] to happen here or not as Fiat and Chrysler have several alternatives." Them's fightin' words.
Fiat's issue with the government stems directly from its courtroom clashes with the Fiom labor union. The two are currently embroiled in proceedings over longer shifts and shorter breaks, as Fiom has so far refused to sign a new contract citing revised labor laws that it says are anti-union.
According to Bloomberg, Fiat will be spending over $2.5 billion on development of eight new Alfas and six new Maseratis, in a bid to wrest some of the luxury pie away from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. But that's only going to happen if the government is willing to play ball and make life easier on Fiat.
Automotive News reports Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has issued a written apology for his comments regarding his decision to stick with an Italian engine for the upcoming Alfa Romeo 4C. As you may recall, back in January, Marchionne was quoted as saying, "I cannot come up with a schlock product, I just won't. I won't put an American engine into that car. With all due respect to my American friends, it has to be a wop engine." The CEO penned an apology to the Italian American ONE VOICE Coalition for using the racial epithet, saying that he made the comment in jest. Marchionne also said he realizes his remarks were unacceptable.
ONE VOICE, an organization aimed at fighting discrimination and stereotyping of Italian Americans, thanked Marchionne, Chrysler and Fiat for the apology. Marchionne is an Italian-born Canadian citizen, and he's gotten in trouble for other comments in the past. In 2011, he called high interest rates Chrysler was paying to the Canadian government "shyster rates." He apologized a day later.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced Maserati and Alfa Romeo are recalling certain Quattroporte, Granturismo and 8C models over potentially faulty tie rod ends. According to NHTSA, 2005-2008 Quattroporte, 2008 Granturismo and 2008 8C units may have been assembled with tie rod ends that have insufficient corrosion protection. As such, the components may rust, weaken and potentially fail. If that happens, the driver could lose control of the vehicle and cause an accident.
Maserati and Alfa Romeo will contact owners and replace the tie rod end assemblies once the recall gets underway in June. All told, 7,438 vehicles are impacted by the recall. You can read the full NHTSA notice below for more information.