Sunday, October 4, 2015

Summer Product Introductions Part VIII, Plus: Midsize Pickup Trucks,Muscle Cars, and Off-Roaders

Alexander Carabitses

Hello to all!  This is my second post in two days, which is something I don't normally do, but given how much product news there is to cover, combined with the desire to state my opinions on the design of the fourth generation Prius, it is kind of necessary this time around.  Just a reminder, the new Prius is going to be unveiled on September 8, 2015 and the photos that were posted on the blog are leaked unofficial photos that a bunch of media outlets picked up.   There will be more information on the Toyota Prius in a future post that will probably appear a few weeks from now.  Anyway, on with the unveils.

Honda's CR-Z is currently performing way below expectations, but that hasn't stopped the refreshed 2016 Honda CR-Z from coming to town.  The only updates on the outside are LED head and tail lamps, along with a new air dam.  The inside now has an armrest and an electronic parking brake. The car pictured below is a Japanese version, but this car will arrive on our shores in time for Christmas.
(Image credited to and Honda)

Honda also unveiled a new crossover in Indonesia this week, called the B-RV.  All you need to know is that it's a seven passenger crossover that won't be sold in the U.S.
(Image credited to and Honda)

If you live in China, listen up, if not, please don't listen up.  Wuling has just unveiled the Hong Guang S1 MPV.  Powered by a 1.5 liter P-Tec DVVT engine, this redesigned MPV is sure to win the hearts of Chinese buyers.
(Image credited to and Wuling)

Next up, we have the 2017 Kia Sportage, which will debut in Frankfurt.  No powertrain details were disclosed, but Kia did say in the official press release that the car has a longer wheelbase.  Kia only released some photos and described the design, which was inspired by the Provo Concept from Frankfurt in 2013.
(Image credited to and Kia)

Smart has unveiled the 2017 Fortwo Cabriolet, which will officially debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show.  It features a similar folding soft design that's similar to the previous generation.  Both a 1.0 liter 3 cylinder 70 horsepower engine and a 0.9 liter turbocharged 3 cylinder engine with 90 horsepower are on offer.  Both engines will be mated to either a 5 speed manual or a 6 speed twinamic dual clutch transmission.  The car itself has a stiffer structure for safety purposes.
(Image credited to and Smart)

I have good news and bad news folks.  The good news: there will be a 2016 Chrysler 300 SRT.   The bad news: it won't be sold in North America, due to poor sales and FCA's focus on making SRT a Dodge sub-brand.  Right now, the only reason that the Grand Cherokee SRT hasn't been axed is that it sells very well.  Now, countries in Oceania, the Middle East, and South Africa will get this model, which features similar updates to that of the regular 300, along with the 6.4 liter Hemi V-8, which makes 470 horsepower and is mated to an 8 speed automatic transmission.
(Image credited to and Chrysler)

Future Products from Ford and Chrysler

While summer vacation began with reports of FCA postponing the launches of many new products, now comes word that several new products will be added to the pipeline.  FCA had a dealer conference in Las Vegas, and it was here that several exciting new products were announced.  First up is the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Track Hawk.  The vehicle will be launched one year from now and feature the 707 horsepower Hellcat engine, with 0-60 mph to be hit in 3.5 seconds.  Enough said.  

Chrysler also announced that there would be a new performance package for the Dart called the GLH package (Goes Like Hell).  The GLH badge harkens back to an era where Carroll Shelby tuned Dodge Omnis back in the K-Car era.  According to the dealers, the package will be sold along side the long awaited Dart SRT-4.  

Finally, it is my pleasure to announce that the Plymouth Barracuda is finally back, only now it is a Dodge, and the good news is that it will likely be sold alongside the Challenger.  The only catch is that this will be exclusively a convertible.  However, it will still be rear wheel drive, as it will be built on the Alfa Romeo Giulia's platform, with the same being said for the next generation Challenger and Charger.   The new Charger is said to be influenced by the 1999 Charger Concept, and apparently both the Charger and Barracuda will go on sale within the next two years, which is awesome news.

OK, let us not forget about Ford, who announced that while the Focus and C-Max are being moved out of the Wayne assembly plant in 2018, the next generation Ranger will move in, and will share the assembly line with a reborn Ford Bronco.  While the Bronco is great news for Ford fans, as well as the company as it will finally be able to compete with the Jeep Wrangler and the long rumored GMC off-roader, the Ranger is also very interesting for other reasons.

The Ford Ranger: Another "I told you so" delivered to Ford by a Chevy Colorado.

After an 8 year absence, the Ford Ranger is back, but only after impressive sales of GM's midsize pickup trucks clearly sent a message to Ford.  Right now, the Ranger is being used as a bargaining tool by Ford as they negotiate a new labor contract with the UAW, which is like pulling teeth.  At any rate, this is another addition to the reborn mid-size pickup truck segment.  The Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon have been on sale for a year now, while the new Toyota Tacoma is just going on sale, soon to be followed by a new Honda Ridgeline, next year.  

Nissan also sells a mid-size pickup called the Frontier, which is sold as the Navarra in overseas markets.  The Navarra was redesigned one year ago, but the Frontier still hasn't seen similar updates, which is strange, but its likely that the truck will see some major changes eventually.

Will Ram ever enter this market again, especially since Fiat is building a new midsize pickup?  The answer is "no" because apparently,  having a really fuel efficient full-size pickup truck could lead to overlap with a smaller pickup truck that gets the same fuel economy.  Believe me, I don't think fuel economy is the only thing driving midsize pickup truck sales, and with fuel economy regulations cracking down on full-sized pickups, Ford and GM will soon be chasing the Ram Eco Diesel, despite the fact that they will have smaller fuel efficient pickup trucks.  Point being, don't count out Ram just yet.

In global markets, there are other brands that offer midsize pickups, like the Mazda BT-50.  Will it ever cross the pond?  Not likely, because it would cost a lot of money to make a US specific model.  The same thing can be said for the Mitsubishi Triton, which has recently been redesigned, seeing as how Mitsubishi has other things to worry about in the US, like gaining more market share and selling what they currently offer.  Even if mid-sized pickups became the next big thing, I doubt Mitsubishi would be successful, seeing as how they aren't successful in the crossover segment which is red hot right now, although, to be fair, their sales are improving.  Oh, and Volkswagen makes a mid-size pickup of their own, called the Amarok, and that brand may be working on a US model, if recent spy photos are to be believed.

What about Isuzu?  Yeah, Isuzu, the first Japanese brand to sell vehicles in the US market. They only sell a midsize pickup and a midsize SUV, both of which were co-developed with GM, so why not import the pickup?  To answer that question, either refer back to the last paragraph, or look at the global market Chevy Colorado, and then look back at the one that's sold here.  Believe it or not, the global market truck came first and has been heavily modified to become what you will find at your local Chevy dealership.  Now, how much sense does it make for Isuzu to invest that much money into a US relaunch, not to mention the fact that they would have to upgrade the truck in order for it to be successful in the US.  Oh, and don't forget the truck would be their one product, because mid-size body-on-frame SUVs don't sell well in the US anymore. Toyota is the only brand that offers one (the 4Runner), and no, the Wrangler doesn't quite fall into that category.  It is the same reason that Ford will launch a Bronco and not the next-generation Endeavor in the US, and why GM hasn't relaunched the Trailblazer.  The point is, even if this segment is red hot, it would be a waste of money for Isuzu to relaunch in the US because they wouldn't turn a profit on one model alone.

As you can see, there is a common trend of needing to upgrade mid-sized pickup trucks in order to sell them in the US.  It is why Toyota sells the Hilux everywhere, except the US, while we get the Tacoma.  Both trucks are quite different, just like the two Chevy Colorados.  However, it seems likely that Ford will implement their "One- Ford" strategy on this model as well, meaning that Ford will launch a truly global mid-size pickup.  Nissan did this 10 years ago with what is the current generation Frontier, but while its foreign sibling has been updated, the Frontier still hasn't, but the updates will still take place in the not too distant future.  Mid-size pickups are used quite differently in global markets than they are in the US, which makes selling a global pickup truck difficult; there is a reason that Nissan is the only brand that does it.  Ford is taking just as big of a risk as GM did one year ago, if this new Ranger is a global pickup truck; it will be interesting to see how it turns out.  Keep in mind, the new labor deal didn't create this product, it only made the media aware of its existence.  Like I predicted one year ago (although I never published this prediction), despite the sales success of the new F-150, if GM's mid-size pickups proved to be successful, Ford would have no choice but to relaunch the Ranger, if it wanted to stay competitive.

Now I know some people will blame the Chicken Tax on why more smaller pickups aren't sold here, but trust me, Mitsubishi had a plant in the US they could have used if they wanted to sell a pickup truck in the US, but with that plant up for sale, its too little too late.   Mazda could also do the same, along with VW, while only Isuzu would have the "I can't get around the Chicken Tax"excuse.  However, the profits wouldn't be generated with all of the tooling change, and everything that would have to be changed on the US-spec vehicle itself.  However, there may be hope in this area, as there have been negotiations to end the chicken tax, which would allow these pickup trucks to be sold in the US, but believe me, I still don't see a flurry of these global midsize pickups making it to the US without major modifications, seeing as how they weren't designed for with the US in mind  to begin with.  Plus, from what I've read the removal of the Chicken Tax would come gradually anyway.

Anyway, that is my insight on the matter.  I hope you enjoyed the post, and for the convenience of the reader, I have posted a picture of every midsize pickup I was talking about, just to avoid confusion  and to help you compare the pickups, market by market.

Now, go build a garage with enough room for a new Ford Bronco, Dodge Barracuda, Dodge Charger, and Jeep Grand Cherokee Track Hawk.  Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

(2016 Toyota Hilux, sold in global markets.  Image credited to and Toyota)

(The made for the USA Toyota tacoma.  Image credited to and Toyota)

(The current generation Chevrolet Colorado, sold in global markets.  Image credited to and Chevrolet)

(2015 Chevrolet Colorado, US-spec. Image credited to and Chevrolet)

(2015 GMC Canyon.  Image credited to and GMC)

(2016 Ford Ranger, sold in global markets.  Image credited to and Ford)

(2016 Mazda BT-50, sold in global markets.  Image credited to and Mazda)

(2016 Mitsubishi Triton, sold in global markets. Image credited to and Mitsubishi)

(2016 Nissan Frontier, US spec. Image credited to

(2016 Nissan Navarra, soon to be next-gem Frontier.  Image credited to 2015 and Nissan)

(2016 Honda Rigeline teaser sketch.  Image credited to and Honda)

(2016 Isuzu D-Max ,sold in global markets. Image credited to and Isuzu)

(2015 Volkswagen Amarok, sold in global markets. Image credited to and VW)

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