Friday, January 21, 2011

Ferrari FF

Company press releases often throw around the world "revolutionary" as if they are indeed planning a revolution, but instead they are usually just hyping up their latest econobox which is just as boxy and economic as all the others. In the case of the Ferrari FF (Ferrari Four) the use of the word is actually justified as the 612 Scaglietti replacement is a significant departure from everything the brand has done before. Ferrari's new four seater is its first four wheel drive hatchback, perhaps the first modern vehicle actually deserving of the much overused term shooting-brake. In any case the FF is probably one of the largest hatches in the world at 193 inches, this gives the Ferrari four seater 16 cubic feet of luggage capacity. In what is probably a first for Ferrari the rear seats fold to give you 28 cubic feet of carrying capacity making the FF the first Ferrari approved for Costco run duty. Four wheel drive is another new technology to the Ferrari brand. Ferrari claims that its patented 4RM four wheel drive system weighs only half of a typical all wheel drive system. Powering the FF is a 651 horsepower direct injected 6.3 liter V12. Interestingly enough that is the same power output as the Ferrari Enzo with an additional 19 lb-ft of torque, an excellent example of technological progress. The addition of direct injection and a start-stop system (a first for a production Ferrari as well) gives the FF a 33% bump in fuel economy when compared to its predecessor, a two wheel drive car that had 120 fewer horsepower. The performance of the FF will undoubtedly be superb, however the biggest water cooler talk about the FF will be its styling. Reminiscent of the cult status Z3 " the Clown Shoe" Coupe in its profile the styling will be a hot topic for some time. Mostly because it is just too unusual to see a 300,000 dollar+ hatchback. Whatever your opinion of the styling it is refreshing and laudable to see a company pushing the boundaries of design when they could have easily followed their traditional formula and still sell every example that they made. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if people are willing to buy a 209 mph hatchback or if they will go for something more conventional like the Lamborghini Estoque sedan.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 NAIAS Day One

The 2011 NAIAS has started and it's time to consider the three best concepts of day one. In typical Honda fashion the Honda Civic and Civic coupe concepts are thinly veiled versions of the upcoming production models. The sedan Civic is particularly well executed and shows a sleeker version of the current sedan. With minimal changes to production the Civic looks poised to capture the styling lead in the compact segment with a great balance between clean and adventurous styling.The coupe concept doesn't look bad either but is not as well executed as the sedan.

Ford scores a nomination for its Vertrek concept which previews the next generation Ford Escape that is set to take a major departure from its current boxiness. The Vertrek gives a good indication of the Kuga inspired direction that the Escape will take, aside from the pillarless window design it should be a fair representation of the popular crossover. Ford promises improved aerodynamics with this new design. The compact CUV segment is experiencing tremendous growth and styling is likely to play a great role in this trendy segment.

Rounding out day one is the Kia KV7 concept. Its clean take on the minivan concept deserves recognition. From some angles it resembles the crowd pleasing Volkswagen Microbus concept of yesteryear, the last "cool" minivan.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 Sales In Review

December 2010 proved to be a very good month for the auto industry with most brands posting significant increases in sales over last December. In fact, Mini and Mercedes-Benz posted best December sales in their company history. 2010 as a year on the whole also proved to be much better for the auto industry compared to the past few years. All brands save Toyota and Suzuki were able to improve their sales compared to 2009. Even the recently discontinued Mercury brand was able to improve by a percentage point to close out its existence. General Motor's premium divisions led all brands with Buick improving by 51.9% and Cadillac with 34.7% respectively. Hyundai and Ford bested all of the other mainstream competition with 24 and 21% improvements. The 21% sales improvement allowed Ford to outsell Chevrolet and Toyota for the year. Hyundai, Kia and Audi all had banner years selling more than every before. Take a look at the chart below to see how everyone did in 2010 compared to 2009.

December also marked the start of sales of the all electric Nissan Leaf and the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt. Electric mobility is of to a slow start with the Volt winning the first battle with 326 sales compared to only 19 Leafs for Nissan.