100 Hot Cars

Just Car Blog

The 2014 Chevy Camaro Comes Home 20
Posted by Kurt Ernst in 2014 Chevrolet Camaro, Automotive, Chevrolet, Industry, Kurt on 12 20th, 2012

The current, 2013 Chevy Camaro RS – image: GM Corp

Though recognized as an icon of Americana, the Chevrolet Camaro has a dirty little secret that casual fans of the car probably don’t know: the current version isn’t built in the United States. Since the new model was launched in 2009, production has been handled exclusively by GM’s Oshawa Assembly Plant, located in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

That changes when the next generation of Camaro begins production sometime in 2014. Assembly will be moved to General Motor’s Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant in Lansing, Michigan. The official reason is “lower capital investment and improved production efficiencies,” but the issue is far more complex that a simple sentence makes it sound.

First, the Zeta-platform Camaro is the only rear-drive car built on the Oshawa line, which adds to the complexity of assembly. When production shifts to Lansing, the next-generation Camaro will be built alongside other rear-drive cars, such as the Cadillac ATS and the Cadillac CTS. Word is that the next Camaro will also share GM’s Alpha platform with the Cadillac ATS, so building both under the same roof makes good financial sense.

As for the Oshawa plant, the trade-off is that it will continue to produce the Chevy Impala when the next generation launches in 2014. The Impala will join other Oshawa-built front-wheel drive cars, including the Cadillac XTS, the Chevy Equinox and the Buick Regal.

Infiniti Embracing Lincoln Concept Of Meaningless Names 18
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, car names, Industry, Infiniti, Kurt on 12 18th, 2012

Infiniti’s new naming strategy

One of the things we love about Infiniti is this: its product names instantly tell us the model and the engine size we’re dealing with. The Infiniti G37, for example, is the brand’s compact sedan (or coupe, or convertible), powered by the 3.7-liter V-6. The QX56 is the big SUV, powered by a 5.6-liter V-8.

Not any more, since for the 2014 model year Infiniti is adopting bizarre nomenclature that identifies vehicles by their “hierarchy within a range.” The G, M, EX, FX, JX and QX prefixes will all be dropped, too, with cars carrying the “Q” designator and crossovers or SUVs wearing the QX name. The G37 sedan (or actually, it’s replacement, due to debut at the Detroit Auto Show) will become the Q50, while the M sedan will become the Q70. The G series coupe and convertible will split the difference, with both being called the Q60.

Taking the Q70 as an example, buyers will have to choose between the 3.7-liter V-6, the 5.6-liter V-8 and the 3.5-liter hybrid, but none of those choices are reflected in the name. Drop the Q70 name on us, and we’ll have no idea which model you’re talking about. On the plus side, we suppose that M37 buyers (sorry, we meant Q70 buyers) will no longer be singled out for ridicule for buying the smaller engine, since a Q70 is a Q70 is a Q70.

To be frank, we hate Lincoln’s naming convention, and we fail to see how adopting a similar meaningless naming strategy will sell even one more Infiniti vehicle. In fact, it’s likely to just confuse buyers, giving them one more reason to hit the Lexus and Audi dealers first. If you’re trying to grow brand awareness and market share, it seems like a step in the wrong direction to us.

Investindustrial Commits To Buying Stake In Aston Martin 7
Posted by Kurt Ernst in ASTON MARTIN, Automotive, Industry, Investors, Kurt on 12 7th, 2012

The Aston Martin DB9 – image: Aston Martin

The future for luxury sports car builder Aston Martin just got a little bit brighter, as European equity fund Investindustrial has committed to buying a 37.5-percent stake in Aston Martin from current owner Investment Dar. The deal is said to be worth some 190 million euros, the equivalent of $246 million.

As Bloomberg reports, Aston Martin hopes Investindustrial can work the same magic as it applied to premium motorcycle brand Ducati. Under Investindustrial’s ownership, Ducati’s new worth grew to the 860 million euros ($1.1 billion) paid by the Volkswagen group last April.

To up Aston Martin’s sales, Investindustrial will focus on growing the model range and shoring up its aging dealer network. Previous owner Investment Dar lacked the funding to contribute to Aston’s growth, so Investindustrial’s cash is badly needed if Aston Martin is to compete against premium brands backed by larger automakers.

This much is clear: something needs to be done, and done quickly, to halt Aston Martin’s plummeting sales. Through September, global sales have dropped by 20-percent compared to 2011, leaving the company with an operating loss of 3.6 million pounds ($5.77 million).

Tesla Is In The Black Per Tweet By Elon Musk 6
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, electric cars, Industry, Kurt, News, Tesla on 12 6th, 2012

Tesla’s Model S electric sedan – image: Tesla Motors

While we’d be the first to say that electric cars, based on current technology and pricing, remain a long shot, the odds just improved for at least one electric car manufacturer. After missing a projection that the company would see a profit in November, Musk told followers on Twitter, “Am happy to report that Tesla was narrowly cash flow positive last week.”

According to Bloomberg, the message ended with, “Continued improvement expected through year end.” That makes sense, as sales of the Tesla Model S sedan are beginning to ramp up. A $2,500 price increase on the luxury sport sedan will go into effect in January, prompting buyers on the fence to place orders (or “make reservations,” in Tesla-speak) before year end.

Ironically, the news caused Tesla stock to drop by 2.1 percent at yesterday’s close in New York. “Narrowly cash flow positive” is still not enough to fill investors with confidence, and Tesla still has a ways to go in terms of ramping up production. The good news, however, is that the company appears to be on its way towards consistent profitability.

More Bad News For Aston Martin: Moody’s Puts Company On Downgrade Watch 4
Posted by Kurt Ernst in ASTON MARTIN, Automotive, Credit Rating, Industry, Kurt on 12 4th, 2012

2013 Aston Martin Vanquish – image: Aston Martin

Just last week we told you that two buyers were vying for a share in Aston Martin, up for grabs from current owner Investment Dar. That’s where the good news ends and the bad news starts; Investment Dar was hoping to get $800 million for its 64-percent stake in the company, but the bids received from Investindustrial and Mahindra & Mahindra were significantly below this amount.

Now comes word from Bloomberg (via Motor Authority) that Moody’s Investors Service has placed Aston Martin on downgrade watch, signaling a possible credit downgrade from the automaker’s already-shaky B3 rating. Moody’s cites Aston Martin’s negative cash flow in the third quarter and total cash dropping below $40 million as the primary reasons for the downgrade watch.

A credit rating of B3 already signals a “high credit risk,” so downgrading the company further certainly won’t help it attract new investors. Nonetheless, Aston Martin is in dialogue to offer new shares to investors to raise additional capital required for growth.

Longer term, the big question is whether or not Aston Martin can survive on its current product mix of high-end luxury sports cars. Without a full-line offering to lower fuel economy numbers to acceptable levels in both the U.S. and Europe, Aston Martin’s credit rating may be only a temporary concern.