See below the break for photos from our trip to the 2013 New York International Auto Show:
The 2013 Dodge Dart is aimed at young buyers, many of whom may not have enough money to buy one. The fix? Crowdfund it.
On Sunday, Chrysler will launch the Dodge Dart Registry with a TV ad (video below) during the NFL NFC championship. Powered by crowdfunding site RocketHub, the program lets buyers register to have friends and family donate towards their Dart purchase. Contributors can sponsor individual parts, so dad can pitch in for the engine and grandma for the steering wheel.
Dodge’s marketing for the Dart has centered on its “New Rules” slogan. ”Now, ‘New Rules’ transcends not only how we design, build and market a car, but redefines how consumers can purchase a new vehicle by mobilizing friends and family to help,” said Oliver Francois, Chief Marketing Officer at Chrysler.
Even if the program doesn’t upend the auto industry’s purchasing model or motivate hordes of people to start buying their family members Darts, Dodge’s main goal is get a social media and brand image boost among a generation that’s used to funding things on Kickstarter.
See Dodge’s TV ad for the Registry after the break.
Nissan’s been working hard to cut costs on its Leaf EV, and now consumers will see some of the benefits. With U.S. production of the revised 2013 Leaf ramping up, Nissan has announced a major price cut — the base price is down by $6,400 to $28,800 ($21,300 after the $7,500 federal EV tax credit). That makes the Leaf the cheapest 5-seat EV sold in America (the Smart Electric Drive is cheaper, at $25,000, but it’s a 2-seater).
Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee factory builds the 2013 Leaf on the same line as the gas-powered Altima and Maxima sedans, and nearby plants produce both the Leaf’s motor and the lithium-ion cells for its battery pack. Nissan can produce 150,000 Leafs and 200,000 batteries annually in Tennessee.
“With nearly 50,000 Leafs on the road globally, we are the leaders in zero emissions vehicles and our class-leading product just got better,” said Billy Hayes, Global Vice President of Leaf sales for Nissan. “From the very outset, Nissan has continuously advanced and refined the affordable zero emissions vehicle ownership experience. Now customers won’t have to pay a premium for owning a green car that’s really fun to drive, and that’s exciting.”
Nissan says the 2013 Leaf will have slightly more driving range than the 2012 model, due to better aerodynamics (drag coefficient cut from 0.29 to 0.28), regenerative braking, and energy management. New options include 6.6 kW charger, leather seats, black upholstery, two new exterior colors, new alloy wheels, longer sun visors, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The trip computer, which used to only show a bar graph for battery charge, now also gives a state-of-charge percentage. The charging port door up front is now lighted and lockable, and Nissan has added a driver-selectable “B” driving mode to that increases regenerative braking.
The 2013 model retains the same powertrain: an 80 kW (107 HP), 187 lb-ft motor driving the front wheels. The battery pack remains at 24 kWh, but the onboard charger has been moved from the trunk area to the hood, getting rid of a hump in the rear cargo floor.
The new base-model LEAF S ($28,800 MSRP) has an 3.6 kW onboard charger, push button Start, Bluetooth phone system, power door locks, CD/MP3 player, and a 12V power outlet. No cruise control, though.
The LEAF SV ($31,820) adds cruise control, a 6.6 kW onboard charger, more efficient heating system, better sound system, 7″ LCD screen, GPS navigation system with CARWINGS telematics, and 16″ aluminum alloy wheels. The 2013 SV is $3,380 cheaper than the 2012 model.
The top-end LEAF SL ($34,840) gets standard LED headlights, a 480V DC fast charge port, photovoltaic solar panel rear spoiler, leather seats, and redesigned 17″ alloy wheels — for $2,410 less than the 2012 SL.
The SV and SL get an optional AroundView monitor system, which uses cameras around the car to create a top-down view of the car’s surroundings, and a 7-speaker energy-efficient audio system from Bose.
Nissan will also continue its incentivized lease offers on the 2013 Leaf, starting with a three-year lease at $199 per month.
The new prices mean that the most expensive 2013 Leaf (SL, $34,840) is now cheaper than the cheapest 2012 model was (SV, $35,200)– and in California, which adds its own $2,500 EV tax credit on top of the $7,500 federal credit, the base Leaf S will cost just $18,800.
The 2013 Leaf should hit dealers by early February.
Mercedes-Benz just unveiled its new “four-door coupe,” the 2014 CLA-Class. If the car’s baby-CLS looks are anything to go by, BMW’s 1-Series may have to watch its back.
The new compact sports sedan is based on the latest A-Class hatchback and shares the smaller car’s sleek styling and complex surfaces. Most impressive of all is the CLA’s drag coefficient (Cd) of just 0.23 (0.22 for the CLA 180 BlueEFFICIENCY edition for other markets), which makes the CLA the most aerodynamic car in production (the only car with a lower Cd was GM’s 1990s electric car, the EV1, at 0.195). To achieve this, Mercedes engineers focused on underbody paneling, side-view mirrors, and aerodynamic wheels.
Mercedes will equip the CLA with a variety of engines: the CLA 180 gets a 1.6L I4 engine good for 122 HP / 147 lb-ft and 0-62 mph in 9.3 sec. The CLA 250 packs a 2.0L engine, 211 HP / 258 lb-ft, and 0-62 mph in 6.7 sec. For diesel fans, the CLA 220 CDI gets a 2.2L block that puts out 170 HP, pushing the car to 62 mph in 8.2 seconds. Transission options will be a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and a 6-speed manual. Mercedes will probably bring only the CLA 250 to America, with the automatic in tow.
Of course, the company’s in-house tuner, AMG, is working on a hopped-up version. The CLA45 AMG packs a turbocharged version of the 2.0L I4, producing over 350 HP / 295 lb-ft. That’s a lot of muscle for such a small car.
Inside the cockpit, you’ll find Mercedes’ latest COMAND infotainment system, which includes Garmin-powered navigation with real-time traffic and Google Street View imagery, internet radio, Facebook / Twitter support, real-time location sharing, and for iPhone users, Siri integration. Among the options are ambient fiber-optic lighting and a large panoramic sunroof. The car gets an array of hand-me-down safety features from the E-Class, such as drowsiness detection and radar-based collision prevention with adaptive brake assist.
Slotting in under the C-Class, the CLA is on track to hit U.S. dealers later this year, starting at around $30,000.
In 2014, every Infiniti car will be renamed to start with “Q” — G37 will become Q50 — and every crossover/SUV will become “QX” – QX70 instead of FX50.
Auto journalists have mostly condemned the move, saying Infiniti is sacrificing years of work building brand recognition for each model. But it’s actually a pretty good idea, because not only does Nissan’s luxury division lack model recall (how many people are M45-fanatics?), but it’s had trouble building a unique image for itself as a whole. Some products are soft sedans targeting Lexus, others are sporty coupes with BMW in their gunsights, and of course their big SUVs target the likes of Mercedes, Cadillac, and Range Rover.
Now Infiniti will focus only on Audi, and the new names will shift the focus from “M45″ or “EX37″ to “Infiniti.” It’s no different from Audi, which calls every car “A” and every crossover “Q.” Stronger brands like Mercedes-Benz can afford to call their different models by different brand names (C, E, S, etc.), with the subsequent number indicating engine size / variant, but for Infiniti, it’s probably more important to build the mother brand.
Acura faced the same issue some years ago. They used to have names for their cars — who doesn’t remember the Integra or Legend — but those names completely overshadowed the brand, hence the Legend’s successor being named RL, for instance. Acura, though, has other problems to deal with– it still beats Audi and Infiniti in sales but has a muddled brand image and is losing its luxury edge on the product side (the ILX, for instance, is a barely disguised Civic). They also have an unclear naming system– the MDX and RDX are SUVs, but RLX and ILX are sedans, with the TL sitting between them.
Sales-wise, Infiniti is already in the same range as Audi (about 100,000 per year in the U.S.), but Audi aspires to join the big leagues soon — Mercedes and BMW each sell roughly 200,000 per year in America — and has a more defined brand image than Infiniti.
Life can never be certain for Japanese luxury brands in America these days– even Lexus is looking to revamp its brand image to appeal to younger crowds.
Bigfoot 4×4, the pioneering monster truck, has gone electric. Bigfoot #20, the first-ever electric monster truck, drops the old methanol-burning V8 engine for a 260 kW electric motor delivering 850 lb-ft of torque.
Monster trucks might seem like unlikely candidates for electrification, but they actually make a lot of sense. They don’t drive very far — so driving range is not an issue — and the shows are generally indoors, so fewer emissions would clean up the air for spectators.
Some people come for the tremendous roar the trucks make– which a silent electric truck would eliminate. But the fascinating thing about the Bigfoot EV is that because it’s so quiet, you can actually hear the metal and glass being crushed beneath it, for the first time ever– as this video shows:
Unlike the latest electric cars on the market, which use advanced lithium-ion batteries, Bigfoot’s using 12V lead-acid car batteries. That’s because one of Bigfoot’s longtime sponsors is a lead-acid battery manufacturer, EnerSys, which provided the truck’s 30 batteries, totaling 360V. The batteries alone weigh 1,140 pounds. They’re also only rated at 400 deep-discharge cycles, but that shouldn’t be a problem because unlike EVs for consumers, these don’t need to last for a decade.
Bigfoot’s new truck has six additional batteries to run the steering system and brakes, and like all modern monster trucks, it’s a fully custom tube frame, with a fiberglass body on top. It has a ProFab transfer case, custom-built driveshafts, heavy-duty ZF planetary axles with internal wet disc brakes, monster truck standard 66-inch Firestone flotation tires mounted on 25-inch steel wheels, eight nitrogen-charged Knight Stalker monster truck racing shocks, and custom limiting straps to prevent over-extension.
For now the Bigfoot EV will be used in displays and parades, but the company’s looking at performing public car crushes or even entering competitive shows with the new truck.
If monster trucks are going to make the evolutionary leap to electric power, then who best to do it but the team that invented the sport almost 40 years ago?
Source: Bigfoot 4×4
Ever wonder why electric sports car maker Tesla has carefully avoided the word “dealership” in describing its stores? Turns out 48 of the 50 US states have laws in place restricting or prohibiting automakers from selling cars directly to consumers. This is why almost every car dealership in America is independently owned and operated. Tesla’s, however, are owned and run by Tesla itself.
Now the company is being challenged in four states– Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Oregon — by dealer groups (and in Illinois, by the Secretary of State).
Tesla claims it hasn’t run afoul of the dealer franchise laws because most of its stores don’t actually sell cars to consumers– they just provide information and direct interested customers to Tesla’s website, where they can customize and order their car. Dealer interest groups argue that because Tesla’s showroom employees facilitate sales, there’s really no difference. Bill Underriner, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), said:
“Tesla may not yet recognize the value of the independent, franchised dealer system, but as its sales increase, NADA is confident it will re-examine its business model…Other companies such as Daewoo did. All companies should be complying with existing laws in the same way dealers are required to.”
The EV startup currently operates in 10 states and the District of Columbia, with 17 showrooms, and another 6 opening this fall.
Tesla’s showroom experience was developed by its vice president of sales, George Blankenship– a former Apple executive who built Apple’s amazingly successful, product-focused, soft-sell retail experience and aims to recreate it at Tesla’s new stores.
The factory stores are mostly located in malls, showing off Tesla’s technology to consumers where and when they wouldn’t normally be thinking about cars. Blankenship said:
“We do what we’re capable of doing, and we do whatever they let us do. It’s unique for each location. If we can’t be a dealer in a mall, we won’t do reservations on-site. We tell people where to go on our Web site to make a reservation.”
Will Tesla succumb to the pressure and sign on traditional car dealerships, or will it continue to forge its own path?
Read on after the break.
Daimler’s kicking off the ad campaign for its tiny new 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive with a pretty neat advertisement that…well…features the car’s last few moments on Earth. See the video below (after the break).
The 2013 Fortwo Electric Drive is actually the third-generation electric variant of the Smart microcar. When it hits U.S. early next year, the Fortwo ED3 will be the cheapest electric car in America, at $25,000 (or $28,000 for the convertible) before federal and state incentives– meaning $17,500 after the $7,500 federal EV tax credit. That compares to $14,890 for a comparable variant of the gasoline Fortwo (or $12,490 for the stripped “Pure” model).
The third-gen Fortwo ED offers a 55 kW motor, 17.6 kWh lithium-ion battery, 78 mph top speed, 90 mi range per charge (EPA rating will probably be around 65 mi), fast-charging port, smartphone connectivity, LED driving lights, and lots more, all in a curb weight of 1,808 lb. One unique feature is a 22 kW on-board charger (compared to 3.3 kW in the Nissan Leaf and 6.6 kW in Ford’s Focus Electric), fully charging the car in under an hour.
Interestingly, the new car goes 0-60 mph in 11.5 seconds, which is not terribly fast but eats the 2nd-gen Fortwo ED alive (22.6 sec) and even beats the standard gasoline Fortwo (14.5 sec, powered by a 70 hp, 1.0L 3-cylinder). More importantly, like most electric cars, the Fortwo ED produces a lot of torque (96 lb-ft, vs. 68 for the gas model), making it faster off the line (0-37 mph in 4.8 sec) and more fun in urban environments– which is where Smarts are at home anyway.
An upgraded BRABUS-tuned edition will boost motor output to 60 kW, increase top speed to 81 mph, drop 0-60 mph to 10.1 sec, and add several styling tweaks, for around $7,000 extra.
Pre-orders are open at Smart’s website.
Read on to see more photos and the new Smart Fortwo Electric Drive ad video.
Gullwing doors, shockingly shiny blue finish, white wheels, a sports car-stomping 740 horsepower, and… no exhaust pipe?
That’s what was on tap at AMG as Mercedes-Benz’s performance division unveiled its 2014 SLS AMG Electric Drive supercar at the Paris Motor Show. The electrified SLS is a production version of Mercedes’ earlier SLS AMG E-Cell concept and is the most powerful series-production electric vehicle ever. It’s also the most expensive Mercedes road car to date (minus the Maybach line and race-homologation street cars like the CLK-GTR).
Four drive motors (one per corner) provide permanent four-wheel-drive and deliver 552 kW — or 740 hp – and a potent 738 lb-ft of torque. That gives the Electric Drive a 177 hp and 259 lb-ft advantage over the 6.2L V8 in the normal SLS AMG. The EV goes 0-60 mph in 3.9 sec and is electronically limited to 155 mph. 60 kWh of batteries yield 155 miles of driving range.
Despite the added weight of the 1,200 lb battery pack, the Electric Drive is just 0.2 sec slower to 60 mph than the gasoline car, and the four-wheel-drive and low center of gravity should improve traction and some aspects of handling. To counteract the battery weight, AMG replaced much of the standard car’s aluminum structure with carbon fiber and gave the car a redesigned suspension, carbon-fiber ceramic brakes, and a battery pack that fills the former transmission tunnel and fuel tank areas. Body mods are limited to a grille insert, badging, new bumper trim (where the exhaust pipes would be), and a crazy chromed blue color (at least on the demo car).
The normal SLS AMG has an obnoxiously loud exhaust note, so to prevent Electric Drive owners from being envious, the EV includes a sound generation feature. At the press of a “power button,” the car’s sound system will emit a “typical AMG sound tailored for each driving situation.”
Deliveries begin in June 2013. If you’re in Germany, all you need to do is fork over €416,500 (the equivalent of $540,000, including a 19% sales tax). For reference, that’s more than double what the standard SLS AMG costs (€177,310 to start). That’s probably more due to the carbon fiber structure than all the EV components, though.
Electric vehicles are now seen as the future of the auto industry, but the latest EV on the block is a bit too small to carry passengers. Scientists led by Ben Feringa of the University of Groningen have developed the world’s small electric car– a single molecule with four motors. Nanocars have been created before, but they’ve been propelled by scanning microscopes, light, or heat, rather than electricity.
Feringa’s team had previously developed molecular motors, so they attached four such motors to a synthetic molecule. When electrons are fired at the car (no batteries needed!), the molecular motors change shape, pushing the nanocar forward across a copper surface. Since the four wheels are propelled independently, the car can be steered as well.
The system is run at low temperatures in a vacuum to keep the molecules at rest — otherwise they’d move around naturally. Eventually, Feringa’s team aims to be able to control the vehicle at room temperature and have it travel longer distances. This could lead to the development of more complex nanomachines in the future.
Interestingly, some of the nanocar’s features may come to full-size EVs in the near future. Independent wheel hub motors are over a century old (and powered Ferdinand Porsche‘s first car in 1900), but may finally hit production in a few years’ time. At the same time, research efforts are focusing on wireless power transmission– imagine electrified highways that bypass local battery storage entirely. It may not work at room temperature yet, but it seems this nanocar does have today’s macro-cars beat in a few areas.