Daily News Briefs: April 18, 2012

Here's what we have our eye on today:

  • A shortage on auto resin, used for brake and fuel lines, could take months to mend, Reuters reports. Evonik Industries, whose German plant suffered an explosion on March 31, said the damaged factory will be at least partially offline for three months or more. Evonik and French chemical company Arkema make nearly half the world's nylon resin supply, an analyst told USA Today Tuesday. Automakers convened Tuesday in Detroit to address the shortage, which was already strained by high demand from solar companies. Automotive News reports automakers plan to monitor the situation, but none have announced production cutbacks yet.
  • As Republicans blame President Barack Obama for high gas prices, Obama proposed new oversight Tuesday on oil speculators, CNNMoney reports. It's a controversial issue: Some have argued speculators are responsible for double-digit percentage increases in the price of oil, but others disagree. Obama's proposal would expand funding for market oversight and require oil traders to pony up more of their own cash for transactions.
  • Analysts told Automotive News that the Dodge Dart's sub-$16,000 starting price hits the right spot, but reliability will determine the car's market success. The compact sedan, which hits dealerships in June, comes from a brand still known for subpar reliability despite sales chief Reid Bigland telling us last February that Chrysler has implemented a "maniacal" focus on quality. Still, the need for reliability could be overstated: The Chevrolet Cruze has awful reliability, but that hasn't stopped hordes of buyers.
  • Volkswagen will announce a North American location for its forthcoming Audi plant today. The German automaker's luxury subsidiary will likely place the factory in Mexico, sources told The Detroit News, despite the automaker denying such reports last week. It wouldn't be the first luxury car built south of the border: Mexican auto plants assemble the Cadillac SRX, Lincoln MKZ and some Cadillac Escalades.
By Kelsey Mays | April 18, 2012 | Comments (1)

Ford Never Considered a Production Interceptor


One of the surprise hits of last year’s Detroit auto show was the Ford Interceptor concept. The large sedan could take on the Chrysler 300C in terms of rear-wheel-drive, muscular sedans. It was over-the-top, aggressive and people really liked it. Today, in a story about the future of Ford design, we learn the Interceptor concept never had a chance of being produced.

This is a perfect illustration of how backward-thinking some American automakers have been. German companies rarely build a concept that isn’t a foreshadowing of a future model, and even Japanese brands rarely show a concept at U.S. shows that won’t hit an assembly line. New Ford CEO Alan Mulally says he’s bringing that same thinking back to Ford.

Besides the Ford Fairlane — now called Flex — almost all of Ford’s concepts since 2003 were non-starters, including the Reflex, Shelby GR-1, Syn U.S., Bronco and the Shelby Cobra. This year’s auto-show season is fast approaching, and we’ll be able to judge Ford’s new strategy in the flesh in just a few months. 

Redesigning Ford: Freeman Thomas Aims to Produce Another Hit
(The Detroit News)

2007 Detroit Auto Show: Ford Interceptor Video
Building the Ford Interceptor Concept
2007 Detroit Auto Show: Ford Interceptor Concept

By David Thomas | July 11, 2007 | Comments (13)

2008 Porsche Cayenne Photo Gallery


Porsche unveiled a slightly restyled and more powerful Cayenne, Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo at the Detroit auto show in January. Today we found a bevy of new photos from Porsche that weren’t available the day we broke the news about the updates. The new Cayenne goes on sale next month. Click the link below for access to the gallery.

By David Thomas | February 23, 2007 | Comments (2)

Detroit Auto Show on NBC Sunday


What do you do when you’re competing against two of the most anticipated NFL games of the year? If you’re NBC, you air your Detroit auto show coverage. We’re still amazed that the network airs the pre-recorded special on the final day the show is open to the public, and against huge competition. The two-hour special starts at 1 p.m. EST this Sunday, so it will have one hour of no NFL game on another network, but most people we know watch at least an hour of pregame. Guess that means we’ll be setting the DVR.

By David Thomas | January 19, 2007 | Comments (4)

Detroit Auto Show Crowds Shrinking


The 100th anniversary of the Detroit auto show features dozens of exciting cars, but for the third straight year attendance is down. Holiday traffic didn’t help yesterday, and traffic for the first two public days of the show was down 9% from last year. One local restaurateur said his business was down 25% compared to recent years.

At only $12 a ticket per adult, the Detroit show is far from an expensive day of entertainment, and many automakers spent thousands of dollars updating their displays with extravagant lighting and, of course, wild new concept and production cars. Detroit's local economy has been suffering for years, but with excitement over downtown sports venues for the Detroit Tigers and Lions, it’s not as if suburbanites don't know where the action is and how to get there.

[Slow Auto Show Pinches Neighbors, The Detroit News]

By David Thomas | January 16, 2007 | Comments (3)

Car Design Trend of 2007: Side Vents


You’ve seen side vents before — we all have. They’re the little inlets on the side of a car, usually between the front fender and front door. In some applications, like the BMW M3, they actually serve a purpose; most allow hot air in the engine bay to escape outside, while others are just for show. We couldn’t believe how many we saw on both concept and production cars at the Detroit auto show, almost all of which are just for show. Keep reading to see how many we found, then try to guess the car they belong to. For the answer, hover your mouse above the picture. That’s the Lincoln MKR Concept above.

By David Thomas | January 15, 2007 | Comments (6)

Smart Car to Arrive in 2008, But Safety Concerns Linger


Talk to a Smart rep about the ForTwo minicar, and the discussion invariably turns to safety. That’s because the public’s reaction to the ForTwo seems to hinge largely on what people think of its crashworthiness. That ought to be expected when you market a car half the length of a New York taxicab.

The ForTwo is scheduled to hit showrooms in early 2008. Smart representatives are quick to point out its bevy of safety features, as well as its projected crash-test results. Even so, some experts remain skeptical, warning that drivers of small cars like the ForTwo have an increased risk of personal injury if they get hit by a larger vehicle.

The ForTwo’s appearance at the Detroit auto show carries unfortunate timing. Last month, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tested several small cars, including the Chevy Aveo and Honda Fit, and five of the eight models — including some with advanced safety features like side curtain airbags — fared poorly.

By Kelsey Mays | January 12, 2007 | Comments (37)

Detroit Auto Show Diversions


We've already told you which concept and production cars were the big winners and losers at the Detroit auto show, but that’s not all there is to see and do when you get to Cobo Hall. Check out what else we saw on a quick tour of the place.

Michelin's Bibendum even made it to the show, though I found him in the Michigan Hall basement.

By Mike Hanley | January 12, 2007 | Comments (1)

2007 Detroit Auto Show: Production Car Winners and Losers


Concept cars are fun to look at, but it’s the production vehicles at the Detroit auto show that will actually be at dealerships this year. Seeing these vehicles in person greatly influences our opinions, and a few really surprised us under the show lights. Again, Joe Wiesenfelder, Mike Hanley and David Thomas run through the big winners and losers fighting for your hard-earned dollars.

2008 Cadillac CTS

DT: Winner
Like the Volt concept, the Cadillac CTS was a winner for GM; I don’t think anything else at the show came close to competing. The exterior is a challenging design and the interior is vastly improved. This will sell better than the original.

JW: Winner
Ironically, the original CTS was the model that showed GM had a clue — a willingness to take chances with styling and an understanding that performance matters. The car's main weakness was its interior. The 2008 is far better in this and every other aspect I didn't like about Gen. 1. Dave's right that it will sell better. If it drives well, it has car of the year written all over it.

MH: Winner
Cadillac raised its game with the CTS' new interior, which equals or bests those of its competitors. From many angles it reminds me of a 7/8-scale STS, and that's not a bad thing in my book.

By David Thomas | January 11, 2007 | Comments (19)

A Closer Look at the 2008 Ford Focus Interior


One of the most openly discussed and debated debuts of a production car at this year’s Detroit show was the new Ford Focus. Commenters and even our staffers are divided on it. Whatever your stance, one aspect that hasn’t been addressed fully is how good the interior looks. Here’s what I noticed when I got some seat time with it.

By David Thomas | January 11, 2007 | Comments (17)

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