Just Car Blog
|Is Audi Looking To Buy Alfa Romeo?||
We’re filing this one in the “unconfirmed rumor” bin, but it’s strange enough that it just may be true. Ward’s Auto is reporting that German automaker Audi is close to reaching a deal with Fiat to acquire the assets of the Alfa Romeo brand, as well as Fiat’s Pomigliano assembly plant.
While Pomigliano currently assembles the Fiat Panda, it was constructed in the 1960s as an Alfa Romeo assembly plant, meaning the facility would be going full-circle. Word is that Audi may also be looking to acquire the Magneti Marelli auto parts brand, which is an easy way for Fiat to raise much-needed cash. It would certainly be odd, however, if Audi controlled the supply of spare parts and accessories for the Fiat brand.
A spokesman for Audi, Juergen De Graeve, said only, “There is no substance in the news,” which is essentially the same thing the brand said about rumors it would acquire motorcycle manufacturer Ducati, right before the deal was inked. For its part, Alfa Romeo is only saying, “we do not comment on speculative rumors.”
Alfa Romeo is currently a brand in turmoil, and it’s not adding much to Fiat’s coffers. Given Fiat’s struggles in the European market, a sale of Alfa Romeo to the Volkswagen Group would help its bottom line, while likely assuring a solid future for the Alfa Romeo brand, which needs more products and better distribution to survive.
We’re not buying into this just yet (after all, Monday IS April Fool’s Day), but we’d be the first to admit that it’s possible. Given the potential benefits for all parties involved, we hope the rumors turn out to be true.
|Next Mazda MX-5 To Make More With Less||
We’re still about two years away from the introduction of the next Mazda MX-5 Miata, which means it’s about time to crank up the rumor machine. We know for a fact that Mazda will build the next Alfa Romeo Spider on the MX-5′s platform, under contract to Fiat. We also know (or strongly suspect, based on information from Mazda) that the next MX-5 will have a target weight of just 1,000 kilograms, or 2,200 pounds. That puts it in the ballpark of the original 1989 version, which was significantly smaller than today’s MX-5. Expect the next car to be downsized as well, probably close to the dimensions of the original.
Now, WhatCar (via Left Lane News) is reporting that the next MX-5 will have a level of personalization on par with the MINI Cooper, in order to “help a customer’s relationship with the car,” in the words of Mazda designer Akira Tamatani. Thrust will reportedly come from a 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, expected to produce around 200 horsepower. There are no torque figures to speculate on just yet, but we certainly hope that the small-displacement, forced-induction engine will match (or beat) today’s 140 pound-feet of torque.
If you think the next Mazda MX-5 is going soft, don’t despair: word is that a stripped-down super-light version, aimed at autocrossers and track-day junkies, is also in the works.
|Rumor Mill: Ferrari May Be Planning 620 HP 458 Monte Carlo Edition||
Most times, as the age of a particular performance vehicle starts to mount, the manufacturer tends to introduce a hard-core ‘performance-boosted’ version of the said vehicle. Ferrari has passionately taken this very approach in the past and they are expected to do so again with the 562 hp Ferrari 458 Italia introducing a 620 horsepower 458 Monte Carlo edition.
Over the years, some of the most notable late model Ferrari’s to receive a special one-off performance-boost treatment were the F430 into the 430 Scuderia, the 599 GTB Fiorano into the 599 GTO, and the 360 Modena into the 360 Challenge Stradale. Each of these added performance variations of Ferrari vehicles not only added power, but they improved suspension geometry, lightened the chassis thanks to a stripped interior and other lightweight components, upgraded the brakes and added some functional visual aesthetics.
The new Ferrari 458 Monte Carlo, as reported rumors suggest, is expected to be nothing short of Ferrari’s best when it comes to re-engineering an already capable exotic vehicle. The name of the Ferrari 458 Monte Carlo pays homage to where the famous Monaco Grand Prix is held. It would also be fitting that Ferrari unveils this rumored 458 Monte Carlo in Monaco.
|Toyota Supra Rumor Mill Gets New Life: New Supra Won’t be a Hybrid||
The infamous ‘return of the Toyota Supra’ rumor’s beaten corpse has somehow turned up once again to receive blows across its heavily deteriorated left-over skull. The most recent news to come out of the media-o-sphere, is that the Toyota Supra will return and will NOT be a hybrid, according to Top Gear who recently spoke to Scion FR-S chief engineer Tetsuya Tada.
The return of the Supra is bound to happen. Even though the Supra rumor mill has spun a bearing or two in the recent years, it tends to get resurrected with a fresh set of forged pistons and connecting rods every-so-often.
During Top Gear’s interview with Tada, he mentions his “next sports car” he wants “to make a big… ‘wow’.” He also concluded that he wants “to give the world a shock” and ”rear-engined, rear-driven cars – and even mid-ship designs – are OK. But if you want to make an enjoyable sports car, it should be front-engined, rear-drive.” Tada is also adamant that the next sports car will use a pure gasoline drivetrain, potentially debunking the idea for a hybrid.
It is conceivable that Toyota has interest in sparking excitement among car enthusiasts around the world, especially after the conception of the FR-S/BRZ. Even though they had Subaru’s help with the FR-S, Toyota remains well-capable of introducing a ‘wow-factor’ sports car. Only this time, as suggested by sources, the new Supra could be a joint venture with BMW based off of their 6 Series. Let the games begin!
|2014 BMW M3 Could Pack a 480 horsepower 3.2-liter Inline Six-Cylinder Engine||
The rumor mill is churning today as a result of Bimmer Today reporting that the next BMW M3 (F80) will receive as much as 480 horsepower from a 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder engine. Obviously, to generate that much power, over 60 ponies more than the outgoing naturally aspirated S65 V8, forced induction will play a part in the new engine’s makeup.
Reportedly we will get to see the new M3 as a concept car at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. The new engine is said to be rated at a base horsepower figure of 450 while a performance package could peak it out at 480 horsepower. We will be sure to opt for this ‘performance package’ if we have the change to get our hands on one.
If this rumor holds true, we will continue to hope that the weight is reduced to truly make the newest M3 (or M4) a Bavarian rocket-ship.
|IS BMW Back To Planning A New M1?||
BMW’s supercar, the M1, only saw production from 1979 until 1981. Less than 500 were ever built, making surviving examples rare and expensive. Many were raced, which decreases your odds of finding a street car survivor even further.
In 2008, BMW showed its M1 Homage Concept (pictured above) to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the M1. Rumors that the car would see production turned out to be false, but the upcoming i8 performance hybrid was said to be heavily influenced by the M1 Homage Concept.
Now comes word from Automibilwoche (via Left Lane News) that a new M1 isn’t entirely off the table. BMW, it seems, wants a halo sports car to go head to head with the Audi R8, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and the Porsche 911 Turbo, and a new M1 could do wonders for the company’s image.
Word is that the car will use a unique chassis, likely constructed from aluminum instead of carbon fiber to reduce costs. Expect power to come from a twin-turbo V-8, with output likely to be in the range of 650 horsepower. Since light weight is the key to performance, BMW is said to be shooting for a curb weight of 2,800 pounds, which is ambitious for just about anything with a V-8 under the hood.
We’d love to see a new M1, but question whether or not the global economy can sustain yet another supercar. We’re sure BMW is asking the same questions, which means that the accountants may wind up overruling the engineers.
|Alfa Romeo 4C Coming To Market Earlier Than Thought: Report||
For fan of the Alfa Romeo brand, its return to the United States can’t happen fast enough. The same holds true for parent company Fiat, where Alfa Romeo’s aging product line isn’t contributing as expected to the bottom line. New cars, destined for the U.S. market, will help to change that, and none is more eagerly awaited than the 4C mid-engine, rear drive sport coupe.
As Left Lane News reminds us, the 4C debuted in concept form at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. The concept was a stunner, and the idea of an affordable (or semi-affordable, depending upon your perspective) Italian sports car spread like wildfire. The 4C will likely be priced in Corvette territory, and will feature a carbon fiber monocoque wrapped in carbon composite materials. Power will come from a 1.75-liter turbocharged four, said to be good for 296 horsepower and a 0-60 mph time of around 4.5 seconds.
Britain’s Autocar is reporting that the production version of the Alfa Romeo 4C could debut next summer, not at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show as originally projected. If that’s the case, production cars could hit dealer inventory by the end of 2013, or in early 2014.
We say it’s still a roll of the dice, since Fiat head Sergio Marchionne is known to be a perfectionist when it comes to new models. The 4C will be a flagship car meant to resurrect an historically significant brand, so it’s even more critical that Alfa gets the car right the first time. Color us cautiously optimistic, if not convinced.
|Porsche Cancels Plans For A Sub-Boxster Roadster: Report||
When it comes to reports about future models from Porsche, here’s a bit of free advice: believe about half of what you hear. Earlier this year, sources reported that Porsche had stopped work on an entry-level sports car that was to slot in below the Boxster. Why? Because the sales gains wouldn’t offset the dilution of the brand, and because Porsche (at that moment, anyway) had its eyes on higher-end, higher-performance models with larger profit margins.
Fast forward to March, when Porsche insisted that the sub-Boxster, code named the 551, was very much alive but possibly delayed for a “new generation” of buyers. Now comes word from Automotive News (subscription required) that plans for an entry-level roadster have been scrapped in fear of alienating traditional Porsche customers. In other words, not everyone is supposed to be able to afford a Porsche.
Rumors of a new sedan in the Porsche lineup have been downplayed, too. Last week, some outlets reported that Porsche had begun work on a smaller version of the Panamera, in order to combat sales of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. This actually makes some financial sense, since the Panamera sedan has been a sales success for the brand.
Now comes word that Porsche has “no immediate plans” to develop such a model, although it could be added to the product line in five or six years. In other words, Porsche is neither confirming nor denying any reports of future models at this time, but don’t expect that to stop the rumor mill.
|Lamborghini Aventador Roadster To Wear Targa Roof: Report||
If you were hoping the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster would pack a slick, power-retractable hardtop like Ferrari’s 458 Italia, it appears you’re out of luck. If reports from Italy’s Quattroroute are correct, the topless Aventador will come to market with a removable targa roof, similar to that used by Bugatti on the Veyron Grand Sport.
The Aventador Roadster’s top panels will be made from carbon fiber or carbon composite, and will be split in the middle for easy removal or deployment. That may make them small enough to carry on board the Aventador, eliminating the need to decide on topless motoring before leaving the garage (like the Veyron Grand Sport, whose roof can’t be stored on board the car).
As for the “why,” the answer is relatively simple: adding any kind of folding top, whether manual or powered, would add more weight and would require redesign of the Aventador’s intricate engine cover. Not only is such a redesign cost-prohibitive, but it also would added significantly to the car’s development time.
Assuming, of course, that the car actually exists. Lamborghini is neither confirming nor denying a topless Aventador, which means we’ll have to wait until the international auto show schedule resumes this fall before any official announcements are made.
|BMW And Hyundai Consider Sharing Engine Development Costs: Report||
New engines are needed to meet ever-tightening global fuel economy and emission standards, and engines are incredibly expensive to develop, test and put into production. The cost to develop a new engine family can range between $1.3 and $2.6 billion dollars, and no automaker wants to pay that tab alone if they can split the cost with another partner.
BMW already has cooperative relationships in place with PSA/Peugeot/Citroen, Toyota and Daimler, and is allegedly in discussion with General Motors as well. Now comes word from Automotive News, citing German source Automobil Produktion, that BMW may also be in talks with Hyundai over future engine development.
Speculation surfaced after Hyundai Chairman Chung Mong-koo’s son, Chung Eui-sun, allegedly met with top BMW managers in Munich, although the purpose of the meeting (if it actually took place) wasn’t clear. While both BMW and Hyundai could benefit from sharing powertrain development costs, Hyundai could have been in Munich to pitch other business opportunities (like the use of its high strength steel) as well.
In typical German fashion, BMW denied comment on the report, saying only that “further co-operation partners are currently not foreseen.”
|Rumor Mill Stirs Up More Chevrolet SS Performance Sedan Details||
From recent reports, it seems Chevrolet has something up their sleeves hinting towards a new “SS” branded name potentially for an upcoming rear-wheel-drive performance sedan. We already know of a new Holden Commodore being the basis for Chevrolet’s new Caprice police interceptor, but what about a consumer version of what may be a new Chevy SS model?
New repots have surfaced about the a trademark application made for the “SS” name, in addition to OnStar accidently confirming a “SS Performance” name on their Mobile App RemoteLink site. Now, the rumor mill is spinning faster than ever with new speculations from Car and Driver stating that a new Chevrolet SuperSport Sedan will have the underpinnings of the Zeta platform powered by the 6.2-liter V8 from the Camaro. Moreover, GM’s new 3.6-liter V6 engine found in the new 2012 Buick LaCrosse is rumored to be part of this new Chevy SuperSport Sedan’s lower trim levels with 320 horsepower. As you may already know, the Zeta platform is the basis of the current Camaro. A sedan from Chevrolet based on the Zeta platform will most certainly be rear-wheel-drive and a true competitor against other performance sedans. In a way, you can think of this as the return of the Pontiac G8… and most enthusiasts know how much of a prize vehicle the G8 was and still is today.
To further support the mysterious Chevy SS Sedan speculations, a new model from Chevrolet is expected to compete in the 2013 NASCAR season, which happens to be the same year that this new “SS” model should be launched. Sounds like we have it all figured out, at least for now.
|Lexus Planning Uber-Exclusive LFA II Supercar: Report||
Consider this: For the price of a single Lexus LFA, you could buy three Nissan GT-Rs and still have plenty left over for track days, gas, tires and brakes. The Nissan, at roughly a quarter of the price of the LFA, is actually quicker from 0-60 mph and in the quarter mile. Yes, the GT-R gives up some 10 seconds around the Nürburgring to the LFA Nürburgring Edition, but the last GT-R to lap the ring for an official time was a 2011 model, and it ran on a semi-wet track. A 2013 GT-R, on a dry track, would likely produce a much closer lap time.
What the GT-R doesn’t offer is exclusivity. Nissan builds thousands of them, whereas Lexus is only building 500 LFAs, ever. Despite a rough start to sales caused by the global recession, Lexus claims to be doing well with the LFA at the moment. So well that Autoguide reports an LFA II supercar is in the works.
Don’t expect the LFA II to be just slightly faster and a bit more expensive. In fact, sources say the LFA II will be twice the car at twice the price. Expect performance to legitimately challenge the fastest cars in the world, and expect the price tag to range from $800,000 to a million dollars per car. That sum buys you greater exclusivity, too, since only 100 copies will reportedly be built.
Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s CEO, is said to be behind the LFA II project, which is supposed to further Toyota’s reputation for building performance cars. Frankly, we’re puzzled, since building unattainable supercars is hardly a way to draw buyers into showrooms. If Toyota wants to establish itself as a performance car company, it would be better served to build more affordable sports cars like Scion FR-S, which mere mortals can afford to buy and drive.
|Is Audi Looking To Buy Ducati?||
These are troubled times for the powersports industry, and even well established motorcycle brands are struggling to survive. In most countries, a motorcycle is seen as a luxury purchase, requiring significant disposable income, and that’s in short supply in both Europe and America. Ducati, the Italian manufacturer best known for its V-twin sport bikes, was reportedly put up for sale by its current owner last month. The asking price is a reasonable-sounding one billion euros ($1.3 billion), and several automotive brands are said to have shown interest.
AMG, the tuning arm of Mercedes-Benz, is one such company. AMG and Ducati have cooperated on marketing campaigns in the past, and both brands are targeting a common demographic of well-heeled adrenaline junkies. Volkswagen was another company whose name came up in conversation, and even India’s Mahindra was said to be making inquiries.
Now comes word from Left Lane News, via Car, that Audi will likely become the next owner of Ducati. Reports say that that Audi has signed an agreement giving it first right of refusal, as long as it makes a final decision by the middle of next month. Rumor has it that Audi isn’t offering anywhere near the billion euro asking price; in fact, Audi is said to be offering just 100 million euros ($131 million), but has agreed to pay off all of Ducati’s (significant) existing debt.
Whoever buys Ducati will need to have patience and deep pockets. While the bike maker’s product catalog is diverse enough to attract a wide variety of buyers, Ducatis have long had a reputation of being costly to maintain and repair. A small dealer base, at least compared to Japanese brands, doesn’t help move units, either.
We hope the rumors prove to be true and that Audi and Ducati can come to terms. Losing Saab is one thing, but we don’t even want to ponder the thought of a world without Ducati.
|Sale Of Spyker In Progress: Report||
Saab’s bankruptcy has hit parent company Swedish Automobile (Swan) hard. Expenses related to the bankruptcy have left Swan with liquidity problems, and its now faced with the prospects of selling its supercar brand, Spyker, or shuttering the operation entirely.
As Left Lane News tells us, the deal to sell Spyker to Connecticut-based North Street Capital has fallen apart, leaving Swan scrambling to find a new buyer. Swan CEO Victor Muller says that a new deal to sell Spyker is “in progress,” but the departure of three members of Swan’s supervisory board seems to indicate otherwise.
All three stepped down due to “differences of opinion” with Muller on funding alternatives for Swan, as well as the future of both Swan and Spyker. The group’s departure leaves only Muller on the supervisory board, and Swan’s CEO insists that all options for Spyker, including obtaining new funding, remain open.
Given the difficulty of finding reliable funding for mainstream brand Saab, it seems highly unlikely that anyone would sink money into a relatively obscure boutique brand like Spyker. Unless the supercar builder is sold and sold quickly, it’s fate will likely be the same as Saab’s.
|Will Dodge Drop The Challenger From Its Lineup In 2013?||
If you’re in the market for a pony car, it’s easy to overlook the Dodge Challenger. In SRT8 form, it’s more expensive than a Mustang GT or a Camaro 2SS, and it’s a noticeably larger car. That’s a plus when you’re on a long-distance roadtrip, where the big Dodge swallows miles like a sumo wrestler downing a plate of freshly-rolled toro maki. It’s a big minus when it comes to things like track days, where the super-sized Challenger just can’t keep up with its pony car rivals.
The Challenger’s platform, which came from Mercedes-Benz and also underpins the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300, is also getting up in years. With new CAFE standards looming on the horizon, Chrysler may not be able to justify three XXL, Hemi-powered muscle cars. That’s why rumors of the Challenger’s potential demise don’t surprise us all that much.
Motor Trend is reporting that the Challenger could be dropped from the Dodge lineup after the 2013 model year, replaced by a new front-engine, rear-drive pony car called the Barracuda. It would be smaller and lighter than the current Challenger, and could even share a platform with a range of Alfa Romeo coupes and sedans. It would also revive a legendary brand, even if the nameplate’s originator (Plymouth) has been resigned to the dustbin of automotive history.
What Chrysler would use to power the car is anyone’s guess. Dropping in the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 from the current Challenger would make a smaller car far too nose-heavy, and it wouldn’t do much to bring up Chrysler’s fuel economy numbers. Ditto with its existing 5.7-liter V-8, which seems to call for an entirely new V-8 engine. Unless, that is, Ford and Chevy go the forced-induction V-6 route for future Camaros and Mustangs, in which case expect the same from Chrysler.
We’re fans of the current Challenger, but we don’t love it enough to want one in our garage. A smaller, more sporting rear-drive coupe from Chrysler would certainly be interesting to us, especially if it’s priced on par with the Mustang and Camaro.