What’s in a Name?

At the recent New York Auto Show, I had the opportunity to speak with Andrew Smith, Executive Director of Global Design at Cadillac about the new CT6.

Andrew said the design was deliberately polarizing.  Not everyone will like it, but those that do, will embrace the new sheet metal language.  I complimented him on the illusion of the short front overhang of the vehicle, giving it a racing, almost snub nose appearance in profile.  It was a deliberate attempt at making the vehicle look larger than it is, with the added benefit of maximizing the wheelbase for a more comfortable ride.  It’s a skillful illusion, as the nose protrudes as much as any vehicle’s, and the effect is taut and lean for a very large car.  I commented on the homage to the late 1970s Seville with the suggestion of a bustle-back (which dates back to the 1930’s, and has been seen in a number of GM vehicles over the years) and it adds to the visual interest of the rear.  Andrew smiled at the reference, and we compared notes on the success of the BMW 750’s bustle back on sales (it was the biggest selling 7 series in BMW’s history at that time).

 

Like a number of luxury manufacturers, Cadillac is changing the formula for naming its vehicles.  In the past, this car would have been know as the XTS, the flagship of the line.  Its replacement, the CT6, borrows from its slightly smaller sibling, the CTS, with the S changing to a ‘6’.  When the CTS is replaced in a few years (it was pretty much all new last year), it will undergo a re-naming, and the ATS will come to a similar fate.  We’ll see if the naming scheme confuses buyers or positions the vehicles in their minds the way Cadillac intends.

 

Los Angeles 2013 Day 1

A number of world debuts by BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and others were highlights of the first day of the Los Angeles Auto Show. Among them:

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Cadillac Elmiraj concept

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Lincoln MKC small crossover SUV

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Subaru WRX

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BMW 4 Series Cabriolet

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BMW i8 EV

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Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Final Edition

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Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo concept

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Mercedes-Benz GLA small crossover SUV

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Volkswagen Cross Blue Coupe

There are more to come.  The Porsche Macan, Jaguar F-Type Coupe, BMW X4 Crossover and Infiniti Q30 Crossover are on my list for photos today.

Note the emphasis on the small crossover, especially in the luxury segment.  Mercedes-Benz (GLA), BMW (X4), Lincoln (MKC), Infiniti (Q30) all have new vehicles coming.  With a new push for fuel efficient, low emission vehicles, and buyers who want to move down from their current behemoths without giving up any luxury features, the marketplace has spoken and the manufacturers are listening.  Audi has a Q3 coming, and Lexus teased a LF-NX compact crossover this past fall at the Frankfurt auto show.

I had a great conversation with a BMW designer.  We discussed the use of run-flat tires on much of the BMW line-up.  He said that they are now working with the third generation of run-flat tires, and that they are much improved and not worthy of their current reputation for a harsh ride.  He admitted that the ride is firm, and that the tires are not as compliant as regular tires.

However, he pointed out one fact that I hadn’t considered.  The safety factor.

If a run-flat tire loses air pressure on the highway, the vehicle can still be controlled and driven, albeit at a lower speed. I’m not talking about a catastrophic failure, where the tire has hit something and is badly damaged.  If you hit a sharp object and the tire is punctured, the tire will still function.  Not so with a normal tire.  He has put run-flat tires on his wife’s car.

Martin went on to tell me about the wind blocker used in the 4 Series Cabriolet.  This version of the Cabriolet has a fold-down rear seat, allowing for a much-needed pass-through from the very tiny trunk.  But, fold the rear seat forward, and you’ll find the wind blocker, neatly stowed.  It’s not in your garage or basement gathering dust. It’s kept in the car, where it’s needed.  It needs to be moved when you want to use the pass-through, but that’s a minor inconvenience.  The wind blocker is light, can be used at 200 km/h without being knocked down, and is easily installed by one person.

Martin also reiterated BMW’s commitment to quality. If the new 4 Series is any indication, this is holding true.  The last generation of 3 Series sedans and coupes seemed to suffer from hard plastics, and interiors that didn’t fit with the price paid.  BMW seems to be getting back on track.

Having been a part of it…

The Big Apple is in full spring mode.  Construction crews abound, traffic is a mess, road crews are fixing pot holes, the Yankees will win the World Series (just ask, go ahead and ask anyone) and the tulips and daffodils are in imminent bloom.

As a matter of fact, there has been much consternation about the Yankees’ chances this year. With the Blue Jays so active in the off season, Alex Rodriguez injured and this season being the swan song of Mariano Rivera, the Yankees are by no means the favourite to win the American League East.  That’d be the Blue Jays.

The New York Auto Show opened to a phalanx of tire kickers and enthusiasts on March 29; by 11am it was difficult to get near the vehicles.  The frenzy of activity so early in the show must give manufacturers, their suppliers and employees some confidence, given the turmoil in the industry resulting from the recession. Continue reading