In a period defined by massive corporate upheaval at Ford Motor Company in the wake of the firing of Ford CEO Mark Fields last year. More shock-waves emanated out of Dearborn, MI earlier today with Ford’s announcement that it has fired President of Ford North America Raj Nair over allegations of “inappropriate behavior.”
It’s not clear what Nair did that led to his sudden departure from the company, but Ford’s statement does reveal that Nair was under investigation for “inappropriate behavior” after allegations were made by an anonymous filer. The investigation uncovered behavior that was “inconsistent with the company’s code of conduct.” Nair’s firing comes after the departures of several high profile business leaders either by voluntary acts or firings for sexual misconduct, though it is too early to determine if that indeed occur with Nair.
‘We made this decision after a thorough review and careful consideration,” stated Ford CEO Jim Hackett in a separate statement. “Ford is deeply committed to providing and nurturing a safe and respectful culture and we expect our leaders to fully uphold these values.”
Nair for his part apologized, though he did not elaborate on the events that led up to this decision.
‘I sincerely regret that there have been instances where I have not exhibited leadership behaviors consistent with the principles that the company and I have always espoused” Nair said in Ford’s official statement.
No formal replacement has been announced, but prior to today’s events, Nair had been at the helm of Ford’s U.S. operations since June of 2017 when he assumed the role a short time after the firing of Ford CEO Mark Fields in May of 2017. Prior to this he was the head of global product development as well as a chief technical officer in Ford’s ranks.
When the 2019 Hyundai Veloster N made its first appearance alongside its revamped mainstream cousins at the 2018 North American International Auto Show, it sent shock waves through Cobo Center, and the entire world thanks to its 275 horsepower turbocharged four cylinder engine, as well as its suite of performance upgrades. However, it appears that the hot hatch was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg with a massive brand extension in the wings.
In a recent interview with Car & Driver magazine, Albert Biermann chief of the N brand revealed that the N moniker could trickle its way throughout Hyundai’s vehicle lineup in a manner similar to Mercedes and its AMG sub brand. Dubbed “N Sport” these models would not be all out offerings like the Veloster N, but each one would feature distinctive sporty styling and features to help them stand out on dealer lots.
“Each model will be tuned for a more sporty driving experience” stated Biermann. “They will also feature a few visual updates inside and out. What they won’t get, though, will be things like a different engine, bigger brakes, or a whole new suspension and axles.”
It’s unknown how many models will get the N Sport package, but while crossovers like the Kona and the Santa Fe will likely receive half baked “performance styling” packages. Our attention is focused on the Elantra and Elantra GT models, which could see a much more extensive upgrade. Designed to challenge rivals such as the Honda Civic and Volkswagen Golf, the duo could receive slightly stiffened suspensions, unique interior accents, as well as tweaked versions of their turbocharged 1.6 liter four cylinder engines to draw in younger buyers. We also hold out hope that the Elantra GT will eventually get its time to shine, and have an N package of its own, especially since its European twin (the i30) has such an option and it would be cool alongside the Veloster N.
Look for more information on the N Sport range to be revealed once the Veloster N has had some time to formally enter the marketplace. Speaking of that model, pricing still has not been revealed as of this writing, but Hyundai promises that it will be a “compelling affordability option.”
Volkswagen’s ongoing monkey scandal has claimed its first victim with the resignation of the company’s chief of external and government relations.
This resignation follows on the heels of the current controversy encircling animal experiments sponsored by the German auto company, that featured diesel equipped Beetles gassing monkeys in an effort to prove that diesel exhaust fumes were safe to breathe. The use of monkeys as subjects is controversial, considering how similar they are to humans especially when it comes to internal anatomy.
Volkswagen revealed that it has accepted a proposal by Steg himself that he step down from his post, and assume full responsibility for the experiments that were revealed in a piece posted by the New York Times last week. “Mr Steg has declared that he will take full responsibility. I respect that,” stated company CEO Matthias Muller.
In the fore-mentioned piece, it was revealed that Steg was among a small group of people who worked with EUGT, the research institute that came up with the experiment, and was ultimately disbanded last year on behalf of Volkswagen. This stunning admission also raises questions about whether the company’s board of directors (Steg’s superiors) was aware of the experiments. For their part, the company has repeatedly denied that it had any prior knowledge of the experiments, and that they were never discussed in board meetings.
As for Steg he had an impressive resume of service prior to his resignation, with the 57 year old lobbyist lending his expertise to former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder, as well as German opposition leader Frank Walter-Steinmeier, before taking up his post at Volkswagen in early 2012.
While the investigation is still ongoing, Volkswagen has named a temporary successor with the appointment of Jens Hanefeld who is currently responsible for tackling international and European issues for the company. VW claims that Hanefeld will be carrying on in an acting capacity until the investigation is finished, but we will not be surprised if Hanefeld’s appointment morphs into a permanent spot for the seasoned executive.
Prior to the unveiling of the 2019 Veloster at the 2018 North American International Auto Show, the Hyundai Veloster seemed to be a shoo in candidate for vehicles that were about to be axed. Its odd proportions made it not that great of a hatchback, and its driving manners (even in Turbo guise) were nothing to write home about. In an age where the crossover is slowly surpassing the car as king of the jungle, killing it seemed like a good choice. But alas, it has been redesigned, and the 2019 Veloster’s fine details make us glad that it has been given a second crack at redefining itself.
The similarities between it and its predecessor are obvious to see, with the base and turbo Velosters carrying over their 2.0 liter and 1.6 liter engines into the new model year. The 1.6 liter turbo retains its 201 horsepower figure, but the base naturally aspirated 2.0 liter gets some air blown into its lungs, and it now makes a healthy 147 horsepower (a gain of over 15 horsepower.) Six speed manual transmissions are standard across the board, but the base Veloster can be equipped with an optional 6-speed automatic, wheras the Veloster Turbo works with a 7-speed dual clutch unit.
The exterior styling retains its odd asymmetrical layout, with two doors on one side, and a lone door on the opposite side, but it is more refined, and the front fascia in particular gives it more of a resemblance to the recently launched Elantra GT. The rear fascia is still a hit or miss affair, but we will give Hyundai props for putting a solid effort in making the funky rear end more chiseled and angular than its decidedly more rounded ancestor.
The biggest news however, is that the Veloster also has been given a special task for 2019, launching the N performance brand in the U.S. market. While it is NOT the good looking i30 based N hatchback that Europe gets, Hyundai engineers made sure that no detail was spared in creating our country’s potent hot hatch offering. The front and rear fascias are exclusive to the N model, and all new brake ducts help keep the brakes cool under hard track work. Aggressive rocker panels, red accent lines, and an equally slick shade of light blue help the N stand out from its lesser siblings, and also gives notice to potential opponents wondering whats in store for them should they choose to take it on head to head.
N Velosters also benefit from sticky Michelin Pilot SuperSport tires with even stickier Pirelli P-Zero summer tires and optional 19-inch wheels enhancing the ready to race aura even further. Braking comes from standard 13 inch front brake rotors and 11.8 units in the rear. Naturally, N will also have bigger 13.6 and 12.4 inch rotors (front and rear respectively) available as options. A high flow active exhaust provides an exclamation point to the rear of the car, which has been equipped with a rear diffuser, a roof mounted spoiler, and plenty of chiseled creases. The front of the car incorporates an integrated splitter, and it looks good in person.
The interior of the N Veloster even gets its fair share of upgrades, including an N designed steering wheel, N emblazoned shift lever, and unique sport seats with good amounts of bolstering to keep occupants firmly in place during sharp cornering. it also retains some of the Velosters funky charm, and we look forward to spending more time with the N Veloster in the near future to see if it can hold its ground against the Volkswagen GTI and the Focus ST.
Look for the 2019 Hyundai Veloster and Veloster N to go on sale later this year, but for buyers that can’t wait that long, and happen to own a copy of Forza Motorsport 7. Hyundai is working with game developer Turn 10 on a free DLC pack for the game that features both the N and its slightly milder sibling the Veloster Turbo.
Mercedes-Benz likes to claim that the G-Class is in an elite class, and that it is even a true automotive icon. While its hard to not look past some of its cruder elements, its also really hard to argue otherwise considering the elite pedigree that this long lasting nameplate has gained over the years, But even an icon needs to evolve from time to time to keep its status on the totem pole, and Mercedes-Benz is keen on doing just that for the 2019 model year.
Exterior updates may seem very minimal at first glance, but a closer look reveals smoother surfaces, reshaped front headlights, slimmer signal lights, new wheels, and lightly tweaked taillights. Thankfully the basic boxy look is kept intact, and that should please the legions of eager loyalists that have turned what was once a pet project for the Austrian military, into a cult hit that has withstood the test of time for several decades now. When you look at the cold hard numbers, the G-Class scores minimal gains throughout with length increasing by 2.1 inches, width measuring in 4.8 inches wider, and a small 0.3 inch gain in height.
These gains make themselves apparent in the interior, where the 2019 G-Class boasts more room for passengers especially in the rear. This is certainly an improvement over the old G-Class which had tight accommodations back there especially for a vehicle of its size. The long wheelbase as well as a slight tweak to the location of the rear seats helps create 6 extra inches of interior room which should please taller passengers looking to stretch out on long trips.
Interior quality has also seen a massive leap, with softer plastics, more leather appointments, and healthy splashes of chrome trim scattered throughout. There are still elements of past G-Class iterations present with a notable one being the dash mounted grab handle on the passenger side of the cabin, as well as the relative lack of front mounted cup holders.
While the cushier interior and the removal of the front solid axle may make it seem that the 2019 G-Class has gone soft at first glance, but a closer look reveals that the core elements of the G-Class are still present and accounted for. Those include the novel three locking differentials, a low range gear, as well as potent approach and breakover angles. lastly the independent front suspension may signal the end of an era for the once all solid axle G-Class, but look for on-road behavior to drastically improve as well as increased civility over rougher terrain.
When the 2019 G-Class initially arrives in dealerships, it will be offered only as a G550 model with the same 4.0 liter biturbo V8 as its outgoing predecessor which in and of itself is not that bad of a situation. This V8 is a favorite among buyers, and the old adage holds itself true “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”It’s 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque are nothing to balk at either, with the engine benefiting from an all new nine speed automatic transmission. Buyers will also be pleased to hear that Mercedes engineers finally pitched the ancient recirculating ball steering setup for an electrically assisted rack and pinion steering gear. While it will most likely not be the blinding bolt of revelation that many expected in terms of involvement, it should be a noticeable improvement over the old G-Class.
Pricing for the 2019 G-Class will be revealed closer to its official market launch in late 2018. After the G550 has a chance to formally plant itself in the marketplace, other variants will follow suit including AMG versions in 2019. It is currently unknown if Mercedes will produce another V12 AMG G-Class, but if not, look for one of the V8 models to pick up the slack while returning slightly better fuel economy.
With the mid-size pickup truck market seeing a resurgence in relevance after years of steady decline, automakers are more focused than ever at delivering a new wave of affordable pickup truck options. Chevrolet and GMC lead the way with the revamped Colorado and Canyon, and sold more than 145,000 units combined for the 2016 model year. This wave of success helped jump start the Ranger’s long journey back into the U.S. market after a long absence.
The last iteration of Ranger left the U.S. back in 2011, and loyalists were incensed at Ford’s decision to axe it. However, that Ranger was left to stagnate prior to its demise, and was known more for its antiquity than offering anything modern to consumers. While it was gone from our shores, its international market sibling began racking up sales abroad especially in Asia, Europe, and New Zealand. Naturally, Ford chose to retain much of that version’s charm, but made several revisions to help it be able to adapt to stricter U.S. regulations. A fully boxed ladder frame with six cross members makes up the bones that hold up this beast of burden together. While the frame may appear to be a mere duplicate of its global cousin’s, Ford revealed that several major revisions were made mostly in regards to safety. Engineers reinforced the front and the rear of the frame to help create a sturdy mounting location for the front and rear steel bumpers, as well as other revisions to help it comply with U.S. crash tests. Ford revealed that it will also offer an optional integrated trailer hitch receiver for buyers that want to have some towing chops to go with their Ranger sized purchase.
Unlike the bigger F-150 and its heavy duty cousins, the 2019 Ranger bucks Ford’s recent push for aluminium extensive construction, and arrives with a mostly steel body with the aluminum hood and tailgate standing out as the lone exceptions. Engineers also made an effort to tighten and create more consistent panel gaps than the global version and it features a revised front fascia with U.S. market exclusive lighting elements. Short overhangs help ensure good approach angles front and rear, though we expect the rumored “Raptor” variant to cater to buyers that aim to formally rock crawl on challenging off-road trails. Monotube dampers are mounted at all four corners, with a control arm style front suspension complimenting the rear live axle setup.
Wheras its predecessor had two engine offerings, Ford is keeping things simple when it comes to performance, with all 2019 Rangers coming equipped with Ford’s 2.3 liter EcoBoost four cylinder engine. No V6 option will be offered, and Ford did not discuss Ranger performance figures in today’s release. But this engine also sees duty in the Ford Explorer and Mustang, so look for potential figures to reside roughly at the 300 horsepower mark, with 345 to 350 lb-ft of torque on tap. The 10-speed automatic is the same unit that is mounted to the F-150, but engineers were forced to use a smaller case to help it fit into the Ranger’s more compact layout. Buyers will be able to choose from either rear or four wheel drive, with the latter option featuring a two speed transfer case with 4Low 4 High and 2 High capability. An optional electronically controlled differential will also be available as an option on select models.
At launch the 2019 Ford Ranger will arrive in FX2 and FX4 guise with both models getting the fore-mentioned electronic diff as standard equipment, as well as other off-road grade goodies including all-terrain tires, off-road oriented dampers, steel skid plates, and plenty of FX badges. While designed for off road adventures, both models have the same ride height, with Ford claiming that it designed the entire Ranger lineup to qualify as “high riders.” Naturally, FX4 models push the envelope further, and come equipped with a Terrain Management system that features four modes (Normal, Grass, Gravel and Snow.) Each mode tailors the transmission shift points, throttle response, as well as the traction and stability control systems to help the Ranger adapt to all kinds of terrain. A new Trail Control system allows the truck to utilize cruise control-esque features for off-road driving, and even allows drivers to tap on the brake pedal to set a lower speed without turning the system off.
The trim level hierarchy is also refreshingly simple, and will be familiar to hardcore Ford loyalists, especially pickup truck buyers. Like the F-150, XL trim serves as the entry level Ranger trim, with XLT and Lariat versions gradually adding more luxury features to the Ranger’s bag of tricks. The 2019 Ranger will launch with eight different exterior color options as well as eight different wheel designs in 17 and 18-inch sizes. LED head and tail lights are on the options list along with puddle lamps, in box cargo lighting, and Ford’s Smart Trailer tow connector system that alerts drivers to potential issues with the wiring of their trailer.
The Ranger’s interior has been significantly overhauled, and buyers that were familiar with the old Ranger’s functional but decidedly crude interior will be blown away by what they see. The cabin can now house five occupants, and features under seat storage in the rear, as well as dual LCD info screens in the instrument panel. The optional SYNC 3 infotainment system features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Ford’s Ford+Alexa personal -assistant functionality, optional navigation software, and an 8.0 inch center mounted color touchscreen. Reflecting Ford’s drive to be a mobility based company, 4G LTE connectivity with support for up to 10 devices is optional, with AC power units, and a B&O Play premium audio system also joining the options list.
Safety is also a virtue in the 2019 Ford Ranger, and buyers will be pleased to hear that Automated emergency braking is standard across the lineup with Lane departure warning, Lane keep assist, and blind spot monitoring with trailer coverage making their appearance on XLT and above models. Look for these items to allow the Ranger to be on par with the Colorado/Canyon in this area, and it also reflects the progress that Ford has made since the demise of the original Ranger.
While the Ranger was tailored more towards off-road enthusiasts versus traditional commercial buyers, we still expect it to resonate well with small businesses, especially those that want capability, but need a smaller package than the F-150 to achieve these goals. Look for the 2019 Ford Ranger to hit showrooms in early 2019, with more information being revealed closer to its formal launch.
The unveiling of the Mercedes Project ONE hybrid hypercar and the Aston Martin Valkyrie has shown that automakers are willing to push the boundaries of green technology beyond using it merely as a way of increasing fuel economy. The one automaker that has been strangely absent is one of the pioneers of modern hybrid tech, Toyota. The Japanese auto giant is keen on jumping into the act, and has unveiled the GR Super Sport concept at the prestigious Tokyo Auto Salon.
The latest in a recent string of concept and production vehicles to wear the GR (Gazoo Racing) badge, the Super Sport is perhaps the wildest and most spectacular concept that we have seen yet. The concept draws much of its styling inspiration from Toyota’s past LMP1 entries, with the look having a strong resemblance to its most recent entry, the TS050. This family link also shows in its performance hardware, with power coming from a 2.7 liter biturbo V6 that’s capable of pumping out 986 horsepower, and is part of a potent hybrid system. 18-inch wheels shod in massive 330/710 R18 tires help keep the GR Super Sport composed on the track, while the rear mounted exhaust produces an authoritative soundtrack.
Aerodynamic efficiency is also at the forefront of the GR Sport’s mission in life, and this is achieved with a massive front splitter as well as an equally potent rear diffuser, which also enhances the GR Super Sports aesthetic appeal to a high degree. A rear wing generates much needed downforce, and the absence of the rear window and side mirrors forced engineers to utilize a novel camera system, with two mounted rearwards, and the remaining pair located on the front fenders, which look like they are floating in the air from certain angles.
The real question here is whether the GR Super Sport will make the same leap to production that the Valkyrie and Project ONE achieved? Or if it will remain a one off fantasy. Toyota’s vagueness on the subject certainly doesn’t shed any insight with the company only claiming that “It will be some time before you all have the opportunity to get behind the wheel.” However, concept cars like this do typically preview the next generation of performance models for a company, so there could be a slim chance of a production version appearing in some shape or form in the near future.
In a bid to inject newfound vigor into its commercial truck division, Chevrolet has revealed that it plans to return to this key arena with the all new Silverado 4500 and 5500 commercial trucks.
Following in the tire tracks of its predecessor the Kodiak, the 4500 and 5500 aim to carve a slice into a big sales pie that has long been dominated by Ford and Ram. Size is a dominant theme here, and both models embrace this “bigger is better” motif with gusto,while still retaining the handsome lines that define the current generation Silverado.
The front fascia and massive crossbar chrome grille drive home this point especially the way that they are paired with the big rig style hood. The stacked headlights also look handsome, and should help these beasts have a distinctive nighttime presence.
Chevrolet did not release performance specs for the 4500 and 5500, but did reveal that both would be avaible in either regular or double cab layout and offer buyers rear or all-wheel drive. Like in past iterations of the Kodiak, look for these rigs to be a diesel only affair, with Allison transmissions channeling the power to the road.
Chevrolet did not confirm if any consumer versions of the 4500 and 5500 will be made, but we suspect they will be a commercial only affair. While the Kodiak and its sibling the GMC Topkick did have a small number of examples built with pickup beds (thanks to aftermarket tuners,) expect Chevrolet to avoid the additional costs of offering such a configuration from the factory.
Chevrolet will be revealing more information and images when the trucks make their debut at the 2018 Work Truck Show in Indianapolis, but we’ll keep our ears peeled for a tantalizing morsel during our coverage of the 2018 North American International Auto Show next week.
Remember back when the SSC Tuatara was first teased on the vast expanses of the internet? I sure do, it was back in 2011, a time when Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV, Arab Spring was in full swing, and SSC had big plans for its world beating hypercar.
Named after a species of lizard native to New Zealand, the vehicular Tuatara was supposed to be a follow up to the utterly bonkers SSC Ultimate Aero which started a brief game of anything you can do I can do better with Volkswagen’s crown jewel the Bugatti Veyron. The Tuatara was supposed to be the figurative sequel to the Aero’s world shattering debut.
Unfortunately like the fore-mentioned reptile, the Tuatara proved to be a rare sight with the planned hypercar not making production as of this writing. In fact SSC itself has proven to be an elusive entity with the company releasing few press releases, and equally few glimpses at its new products. Like before the latest teaser follows typical SSC procedure and doesn’t reveal too much about how the Tuatara has been updated since its 2011 conception.
From the lone photo it appears that SSC is indeed building a car with slick looking headlights, as well as an interesting spoiler that promises to deliver maximum down force. The look is certainly more aggressive but it also has a slight futuristic vibe that does make the car standout even when hiding in the shadows. Our best guess is that it is indeed the Tuatara given how similar the original looks when compared to the car featured in SSC’s newest photo.
Times have certainly changed since the Tuatara was first unleashed, and perhaps SSC has managed to make some improvements to the Tuatara during its long absence away from the limelight. We hope for a bump in horsepower as well as better aerodynamic and interior treatments for lucky occupants.
When Jeep first unveiled the revived Jeep Cherokee back in 2014, fans of the storied nameplate cheered its arrival but were noticeably shocked by its exterior styling which was a curious mixture of odd futuristic elements and tacked on Jeep traits. FCA vowed to resolve some of these styling missteps, and has unveiled the 2019 Jeep Cherokee ahead of its debut at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
A key change is the addition of new headlights which incorporate the daytime running lights and the main projectors into a single combined unit. While this revised front fascia is still a love it or hate it affair, it should allow the Cherokee to resonate better with buyers especially against some of its rivals.
The tweaks to the rear fascia are decidedly more modest, but new tail lights and a tweaked rear bumper design give it a more sophisticated look, and allows the Cherokee to mesh better with its siblings the Compass and the Grand Cherokee. The interior updates are much harder to spot, but our eyes spot new metallic trim accents, as well as a new seat trim design. Look for performance hardware to be largely unchanged, with the 2.4 liter four cylinder and 3.2 liter V6 present and accounted for.
Look for more information to be revealed at the 2018 North American International Auto Show especially in regards to performance figures and final pricing.