Auto blogSat, 26 Jul 2014 12:00:00 EST
Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:30:00 EST
Both of America's domestic luxury brands seem to be stuck in neutral.
It's ironic that Cadillac and Lincoln got new bosses within days of each other this month. It's also a commentary on the fact both of America's domestic luxury brands seem to be stuck in neutral.
Let's say you just got a big promotion at work or the kids are moving out of the house, and you finally have some extra money. You decide to blow it all at once and treat yourself by upgrading your ride. Naturally, you look to a luxury automaker. What do you choose?
Models like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class may be tailor-made to introduce buyers to the premium segment, but a new study finds that they don't garner the highest rates of non-luxury customer conquests. It turns out that a Volvo leads among folks moving up to a premium brand, and it isn't even one that's made anymore, at that.
A recent study by Polk and IHS Automotive looked at what models had the highest rates of buyers upgrading from a non-luxury segment. The information comes from its new vehicle registration data through April 2014. All ten top models boasted conquest rates of over 50 percent, but the Volvo C70 led the field with 68.01 percent of its customers coming from non-premium brands.
Johan de Nysschen, the (now former) president of Infiniti, has officially jumped ship. The 54-year-old, who also spent time as the chief executive for Audi USA, has taken the position of president at Cadillac, following a two-year stint at the Nissan-owned luxury brand. In his new role, the 54-year-old will be responsible "for all aspects of Cadillac globally," according to a statement from General Motors.
"Johan brings to our company vast experience in the development and proper execution of luxury automotive brands," said GM President Dan Ammann, de Nysschen's new boss. "With over 20 years in this exact space, especially in the development of the Audi brand, his track record proves he is the perfect executive to lead Cadillac for the long term."
"I have for some time now been impressed by how the new General Motors has been transformed into a formidable force in the industry," de Nysschen said in a statement. "The combination of strong corporate leadership and exceptional engineering resources presents the perfect combination to restore Cadillac to its place among global premium brands."
The name of the game these days in the luxury marketplace is premium compacts. BMW has the 1 Series and 2 Series, Mercedes the A-Class, B-Class, CLA and GLA, Audi has the A1 and A3, even Lexus has the CT 200h. Among the last to get in on the action is Infiniti, but that's all about to change.
Nissan's luxury brand has been working towards a premium compact for some time, revealing the Q30 concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year and signing a new deal with Daimler to help develop and produce it. Now it seems that both it and a crossover version have been approved for production.
The news comes from Andy Palmer, Nissan's UK-based COO, chairman of Infiniti and one of the company's top executives under CEO Carlos Ghosn. Late last week Palmer tweeted the following:
It's official, folks: After initial reports last week indicated that Mercedes-Benz was preparing to begin assembly at the Nissan plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico, the two parent companies have announced just that. Only instead of using the existing Nissan plant at the site (in operation since 1992), Daimler and the Renault-Nissan Alliance have announced a joint venture to build a new one alongside it.
The latest stage in the growing French-German-Japanese collaboration is part of a new collaboration that will see Infiniti and Mercedes jointly develop and build a line of compact premium vehicles, with the first Infiniti models set to roll off the assembly line in 2017 and the first Benzes to follow a year later. Neither party announced exactly which models that would encompass, but Mercedes already has a robust line of small vehicles (including the A-Class, B-Class, CLA and GLA), and Infiniti has long been toying with the idea of slotting in something smaller below the Q50.
The billion-euro project, split evenly between the two industrial giants, is set to create 5,700 new jobs in Mexico. In addition to the Aguascalientes project, Infiniti and Mercedes are also undertaking joint production of four-cylinder engines (initially for the C-Class and Q50) in Decherd, Tennessee, from which they will be exported around the world. By the time the new factory in Mexico reaches full capacity in 2021, it will have the capability to produce 300,000 vehicles annually. That's on top of the 850,000 vehicles the existing facility is capable of handling.
The recall of faulty airbag inflators supplied by Takata has exploded today to grow to seven automakers. In most cases, only models in certain high-humidity regions were affected because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found in its investigation that moisture played a roll in determining whether there would be a problem. However, some companies opted for national campaigns. The exact number of affected models for these campaigns isn't yet known at this time.
BMW is recalling an undisclosed number of 325i, 325Xi, 330i and 330Xi models from the 2001 through 2005 model years and the 2001-2006 model year versions of the 325Ci and 330Ci for the driver side and passenger side inflators. Only vehicles currently registered in Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands are covered under this recall.
Neither Chrysler's filing with NHTSA nor its press release list the specific models affected, but a company spokesperson told Autoblog that at this time it only covers the driver and passenger side inflators for the 2006 Dodge Charger in Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands
Back in March, Infiniti announced that it would be adding a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder to its Q50 line for European and Chinese buyers. Now, we know where that engine will be built.
Nissan's Decherd, TN facility will receive the $319-million investment, which will see a separate, dedicated line for the Infiniti engines. According to Automotive News, this is more than a line running alongside the Nissan operations - the Infiniti facility will sport its own unique architecture and interior lighting, in a bid to distinguish the premium line from its mass-market parent company.
The logistics of all this do seem, on the surface, quite screwy. Building a new engine on one continent for a car built on another that will eventually go on sale on a third doesn't seem too bright, although there is a catch here. The new engine will also find its way into the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which will kick off production in Vance, AL later this year.
When most luxury automakers started getting into SUVs and crossovers, they started at with the largest models, but have gradually been getting smaller. Think Lexus and the LX, Audi and the Q7, or BMW and the X5, and you'll see what we mean, because each of them has been steadily downsizing its crossovers ever since. But Infiniti is going even smaller. At least, in China, anyway.
That's where the luxury marque from Nissan will soon be offering the new Infiniti ESQ. The smallest of Infiniti crossovers has been developed in China, exclusively for the Chinese market to meet Chinese tastes. It shares its underpinnings with the Nissan Juke, but instead of starting with the base model, Infiniti China has started with the more potent Juke Nismo - complete with 1.6-liter turbo four producing 197 horsepower - and added on premium accoutrements. The exterior that appears to be differentiated by a new grille and wheels, featuring the ESQ logo instead of Infiniti's, but the same quirky styling that sets the Juke apart. Though all we can of the interior is the steering wheel, you can bet that Infiniti gave the ESQ a more luxurious cabin space, too.
Infiniti's global communications manager Stefan Wienmann told Autoblog that the company is "expanding [its] portfolio not only globally but also specifically in China," adding the ESQ to a market-specific lineup that includes long-wheelbase versions of the Q50 sedan and QX50 crossover. "We see specific sales opportunities in this segment," explains Wienmann, adding that a targeted project like the ESQ "also enables us to gain experience in positioning a new premium model to the 'new millennials', a customer group that is very important to us."
Enthusiasts have been clamoring for Infiniti to build a car like the Q50 Eau Rouge for years. In concept form, it employs the GT-R's much-loved 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6, tuned to produce 560 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque, with the whole works slid underneath fetching luxury sedan bodywork with carbon fiber aero aids. At this point, the model is rumored to be all but certain for production. The company recently even put Sebastian Vettel in one to show it off. However, Infiniti President Johan de Nysschen is suggesting that the model's lifetime could be brief, limited and rather expensive.
The Infiniti boss recently gave a long interview to Motor Trend that spilled a lot of beans about the Eau Rouge. While he refused to officially admit that the super sedan was on the way, he admits that he's "pushing the Eau Rouge concept for commercialization."
According to de Nysschen, if built, the production version will hew closely to the concept with the engine from the GT-R, but the seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive system will come from the Q70. And while that would make the Eau Rouge a performance powerhouse, it might also be a rarity on the road:
Nissan has announced a small recall affecting 334 vehicles built just a few months back. 2014 Nissan Rogue and Pathfinder and 2014 Infiniti QX60 CUVs built between March 7 and March 10, 2014 could be susceptible to a loose lug nut on the passenger side wheels.
We shouldn't have to explain why a loose lug is a bit of an issue. Thankfully, it's also a ridiculously easy fix. Nissan obviously recommends reporting to your local dealer - and it will begin notifying owners of affected vehicles - but this is one of those rare recalls that has an easy DIY element to it.
Take a look below for a brief bulletin from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.