Auto blogFri, 26 Sep 2014
We love Motor Trend's annual World's Greatest Drag Race video. Now back for its fourth appearance, the idea of lining some of the world's fastest cars up for a ten-wide, straight-line, full-throttle run is, well... it's pretty freaking badass.
The lineup this year boasts some impressively fast cars to be sure. The group of ten includes the following darlings: Alfa Romeo 4C, BMW i8, BMW M4, Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Ford Fiesta ST, Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, Nissan GT-R Nismo, Porsche 911 Turbo S, Subaru WRX STI and, last but not least, the Volkswagen GTI. Give us any one of those for the weekend, and we're happy to take the keys.
It must be said though, that for a publication that draws as much water as Motor Trend does, there are some big cars that we might expect to be here instead. The Lamborghini Huracán or Ferrari 458 Speciale would have added some exotic flare to the list, and the omissions of the Chevy Corvette Stingray (for the second year in a row) and the Dodge Challenger Hellcat are real head-scratchers.
While Jay Leno's Garage was conceived to highlight the wonders of The Big Chin's eponymous storage facility, Leno does occasionally get out an into the larger world. Pebble Beach and the festivities around Monterey recently provided a great excuse for a road trip, and Leno seemingly had a pretty full dance card.
In an episode aptly dubbed The Ultimate Car Week, our host takes us through a pretty representative selection of great things to see in and around Pebble. Starting with a ride-along in a steam car, Jay manages to check in on the latest McLaren supercar and drive the Alfa Romeo 4C along the way. Oh, and he takes a good look at the all-new Corvette Z06 (next to the original Z06) before hitting the Concourse d'Elegance, too.
Chrysler has announced to two key appointments to its senior leadership, both of them taking immediate effect. First up is Reid Bigland, who has been named head of the Alfa Romeo brand for North America. Bigland has served until now as head of the Ram Truck brand, a portfolio he now hands over to Robert Hegbloom, who had served until now as its director.
As a result of the appointments, both Bigland and Hegbloom will take up seats on Chrysler's NAFTA Leadership Team, and Bigland will also join the Fiat Chrysler Group Executive Council - the highest decision-making body in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles empire.
As per Sergio Marchionne's leadership style, Bigland will continue to serve in two major capacities, maintaining his role as president and CEO of Chrysler Canada. Other senior executives who hold multiple key portfolios include Harald Wester (who serves as the group's Chief Technology Officer and also overseas Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Abarth), Olivier Francois (group Chief Marketing Officer and head of the Fiat brand) and Michael Manley (head of the Asia-Pacific region and the Jeep brand).
Behind the vanguard of numerous Jeep models, two Chryslers, a smattering of Fiats and Alfa Romeos and local production through a joint venture with Guangzhou Automotive Group (GAG), Fiat Chrysler wants to increase sales in China more than six-fold by 2018. The group sold 130,000 cars in China in 2013, the aim for 2018 being 850,000 cars.
Ultimately it's expected that the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, Wrangler, Renegade, the coming Grand Wagoneer and a sub-Renegade-sized crossover will either be built in or exported to the People's Republic. The Chrysler Town & Country and 300 will join the export list in 2016 and 2018 respectively, according to a report in Automotive News.
With a number of those vehicles not in production or perhaps even envisaged yet, and others not due on the local market until 2018, it will be interesting to see how Fiat Chrysler plans to achieve the target in the specified timeframe. The joint venture with GAG builds two products now, the Dodge Dart-based Fiat Viaggio launched two years ago - supposedly designed just for China - and the just-launched Fiat Ottimo, a hatchback version of the Viaggio. Fiat projected 300,000 Viagio sales in its first two years, that number has been adjusted downward to 94,000 and there doesn't appear to be an analyst alive that sees a good future for Fiat in China's overrun mainstream market. Still, last year's 130,000 group sales in China is a huge jump from 2012 sales of 66,000 units, but less than half the 300,000 units it projected.
Following this week's Fiat Chrysler extravaganza, where the Italian-American manufacturer announced its plans for the next five years, the Autoblog staff was cautiously optimistic of the company's future. Investors? Not so much.
Fiat saw its shares tumble 12 percent in Wednesday's trading, falling from 8.67 euros ($12.06 at today's rates) to 7.44 euros ($10.35) as of this writing, with blame partly going to the Italian half of the FCA marriage, which recorded a pretty significant drop in profits during the first quarter of this year.
The plan, which will cost around $77 billion over the next several years, is facing criticism from investors thanks in part to a 1.4-percent drop in Fiat's first-quarter profits, to 622 million euros ($862 million). That figure is also short of Bloomberg analysts' projections, which predicted $1.18 billion in profits before taxes, interest and one-time items.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, you've no doubt read about all of the big future product news coming out of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles today. We had individual brand reports from Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Maserati and even Ferrari, but in the interest of simplifying and summarizing, we're going to list out the hard facts once more. Of course, with all of this still off in the future, there's still the possibility that a few changes will be made. But as of what we know right now, here's what's coming, and what's going away.
2014: Refreshed 300/300C, debuting at Los Angeles Auto Show
Mon, 28 Apr 2014
Alfa Romeo will go back to being the brand people admire, according to CEO Harald Wester.
After a few streams of news on the various brands in the Fiat Chrysler family, here's the deluge we've been waiting for - Alfa Romeo. The legendary Italian brand is being pointed towards a renaissance, as shown by the brand's five-year plan.
According to a report in Automotive News that quotes "people familiar with the matter," the next big play in Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne's plan for Alfa Romeo is to break it off from Fiat Group Automobiles and set it up as a separate company within the Fiat empire, giving it the same structure as Ferrari and Maserati. The idea, say the sources, is that a transparent, standalone Alfa Romeo that has to justify its every move could clearly prove its success in the public financial statements it would have to report, finally achieving Marchionne's aim of making Alfa Romeo "a credible business proposition."
That, of course, assumes that Alfa Romeo will make a success of it. The brand hasn't made a profit in any year of Marchionne's decade at the helm; sales last year fell to numbers not seen in almost half a century and its new product offensive might not include the two vehicles currently responsible for 99 percent of its sales. We're told that the brand's six new models will begin arriving in 2016 - a roadster, a midsize sedan and large sedan, a compact SUV and large SUV, and a large coupe.
Marchionne aims to expand Alfa's global appeal in several ways, the first by stressing that they are Italian products that 'belong' to Italy. This is the stance that appears to have put the kibosh on the roadster twinned with the coming Mazda MX-5/Miata. Alfa Romeos will all be made in their home country, and if they take off they'll help bandage Fiat's problem with underused plant capacity, a bugbear that is just as problematic culturally and politically as financially. Top-tier trims would use V6 engines developed by Ferrari, and global access would get a boost by selling Alfa Romeos in Jeep's 1,700 international dealerships.
A report in Bloomberg adds more details to the plans for Alfa Romeo's fourth turnaround plan in Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne's tenure, and this time Ferrari is apparently going to be part of the show. In December Automotive News Europe reported that a new Maserati-derived rear-drive architecture would be the centerpiece at Alfa Romeo, as well as coming Chrysler and Dodge products. At the time, ANE said the platform would support a new midsize sedan and wagon perhaps to be called Giulia, a fullsize sedan and a midsize crossover, with retail appearance of the product initiative commencing perhaps as soon as next year. It would be part of Fiat's $12.3-billion spend on new models and European recovery.
The Bloomberg report says that particulars haven't been finalized, but the plan is to have six new Alfas appear over the next five years, two of which would be SUVs. The futures of the Mito and Giulietta, two of the three cars Alfa currently sells and 99 percent of sales last year, aren't assured, meaning that the lineup in six years could be seven cars (including the 4C), six of which we haven't any definitive clue of yet. The top-tier versions of those cars, according to the report - perhaps the Quadrifoglio Verde - "will be equipped with motors developed by Ferrari."
Marchionne wants to get sales up to 300,000 units per year when the lineup is complete, pairing Alfa sales with Jeep's global dealer network to open up the retail channel. That kind of volume would get Fiat's Italian plants back in business properly, even though Marchionne's stance on Italy-only Alfa production would mean the end of the anticipated roadster that was to be twinned with the coming Mazda MX-5 Miata. Alfa's direction will be laid out in Detroit in May as part of the overall strategy presentation for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.
Alfa giveth and Alfa taketh away. With apologies to Job (he has gone through a lot, after all), that's how things are looking at the Italian automaker - whether it's the promise of new products or its impending return to the North American market. But it's especially true when it comes to new roadsters.
While Alfa Romeo is expected to unveil the 4C Spider at the Geneva Motor Show this week, reports are now suggesting that its other roadster project is being called into question. That project is a joint venture between Fiat and Mazda, which was set to produce a version of its next MX-5 Miata as an Alfa Romeo, and was even changing the design to accommodate Alfa's requirements.
Now it appears, however, that the whole project in doubt. The problem seems to stem from Sergio Marchionne's pronouncements that, as long as he's in charge, there won't be an Alfa Romeo built outside of Italy.