Ferrari. Editor-In-Chief's Note: Now that Sergio Marchionne has added the title of CEO of Ferrari to his megalomaniac resume, expect more Ferrari "worlds" to be built and more Ferrari boutiques to pop up in luxury shopping centers all over the world. Oh, and expect Ferrari production to be upped to 10,000 vehicles per year. Marchionne's mission with Ferrari? Revenue generation, Baby! Brand integrity - or what's left of it anyway - be damned. Cue the Wicked Witch of the West, "Oh what a world, what a world." -PMD
VW has introduced the most powerful version of its famed GTI, the Golf GTI Clubsport S. A pure two-seater based on the Golf GTI Clubsport, the S delivers 228 kW/310 PS; 280 pound-feet of torque between 1,700 and 5.300 rpm; 0 to 62 mph in 5.8 seconds; a top speed of 162 mph; and an unladen weight that has been reduced to 2,883 pounds. Quick? The S smashed the existing lap record for front-wheel-drive production cars on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, with a time of 7 minutes, 49.21 seconds. The production run will be limited to 400 cars worldwide, 100 of which will be delivered to customers in Germany. Colors will be limited to those of the original GTI: “Tornado Red,” “Pure White” and “Deep Black Pearl Effect,” with the roof painted black. The Clubsport S is only available in the two-door model with a manual gearbox.
GOOGLE IN FINAL NEGOTIATIONS WITH FIAT CHRYSLER ON AN ADVANCED TECHNICAL PARTNERSHIP.
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
©2016 Autoextremist.com, Inc.
April 28, 2016, 10:30 a.m., Detroit. Google, the all-seeing and all-knowing technical juggernaut, is in the late stages of negotiating an advanced technical partnership with Fiat Chrysler, according to a source with direct knowledge of the ongoing discussions. John Krafcik, CEO of Google's Self-Driving Cars operation and Sergio Marchionne, CEO of FCA, began talks not long after the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas back in January, and have been in final negotiations over the last three weeks.
On the surface, this is a puzzling development, as FCA is the least technically savvy company in the car business by far. But that may be exactly what Krafcik wants. Why? Though the deal in the short term is said to include development of an autonomous version of FCA's new Pacifica minivan, it's the longer-term prospects that are of particular interest to Krafcik. It means that Google will have access to manufacturing capability and an existing dealer network for the distribution of its future vehicles, something the tech icon has clearly lacked.
Krafcik, a savvy industry veteran, has gone on record in recent weeks about this very subject. He is acutely aware that despite Google's flashy, "we can do anything we want" arrogance, without having the serious capability to build the cars and somewhere to service them, Google's Self-Driving Car program is going nowhere, fast. Lending gravitas to the proceedings is the fact that Google is planning to build a major technical center just west of Novi, a suburb of Detroit.
For Marchionne's part, this is almost the Hail Mary pass he was looking for. As I commented two weeks ago, in my column entitled "The Fools On The Hill", Marchionne and FCA are completely out of options, and without a key technical partner going forward FCA is facing the prospect of making the Jeep and Ram Truck franchises available to the highest bidder, in effect "parting out" the company in desperation.
But almost is the operative word here, because no matter how encompassing this linkup is with Google, I have serious doubts that it will be enough to keep FCA afloat, unless, of course, Marchionne and FCA Chairman and Fiat heir, John Elkann, are devising a plan to cede control of FCA in the U.S. to Google and cashing out for a huge dollar figure - somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-$14 billion - so that they can return to Italy, wallets overflowing.
FCA would not comment on this story. And Johnny Luu, Communications, Self-Driving Cars, had this obligatory response, "... we have a policy to not comment on rumor or speculation."
BMW is tweaking the range of the i3, its compact electric car. Thanks to the higher storage density of the lithium ion cells, the BMW i3 (94 Ah) now has a capacity of 33 kilowatt hours (kWh). Though the battery dimensions remain unchanged, there's over 50 per cent range increase in the standard NEDC cycle, which equals 300 kilometers instead of 190 kilometers. BMW insists that even in everyday use, in bad weather conditions and with the air conditioning or heating turned on, 200 kilometers of range can be achieved on one full battery charge. The driving performance figures of the 125 kW/170HP hybrid synchronous electric motor remain unchanged.
STAYING THE COURSE.
After six months devoid of press cars, we received a 2016 Audi TT last week. Handsome in its Ibis White livery, the 2016 version of the TT is even more of a departure from the original. And that's not a bad thing. I had an earlier TT of my own and I loved the purity of the design, but I didn't much like the way it performed - at all. The throttle tip-in with the turbo motor was erratic, hard to modulate and thus annoying; and the car seemed to emphasize style over driver enjoyment, with a not-ready-for-prime-time demeanor. The 2016 iteration is light years better in every respect. As for the design, yes, the original was alluring, but this new car is crisply rendered and progressive in look and feel, and taken as a total package it is a far superior machine. The True Believers at Audi are magicians when it comes to massaging the VW Group's architectures/parts bin, and though the VW GTI and Golf R models are outstanding (and less expensive), the TT has enough je ne sais quoi to make it interesting and worth considering in its own right. Is it an alternative to the Porsche Cayman? No, of course not. The Cayman is in a completely different dimension of execution and desirability. But the TT does have its merits. More of an everyday sports car without the lofty aspirations and expectations - or the price tag - I enjoyed this TT for what it is as it performed admirably both in the urban slog as well as the occasional burst of manic, high-speed Detroit freeway work. Though hotter models are available - the 292HP TTS and the upcoming 400HP TT RS - I think I would opt for this standard TT because it performs comfortably within its Audi-esque envelope. Maybe the more compelling question is would I get one over a VW R? That would depend on how much I wanted the sports car look. Realistically, even though the Audi has some singular touches that are very attractive - and one that is very unattractive (see below) - I'd opt for the R. -PMD
2016 Audi TT Coupe 2.0T quattro S tronic: $50,025 (as reviewed). $42,000 Base Price; Ibis White; Black Interior; 2.0-liter TFSI 4-cylinder with 220HP and 258 lbs-ft of torque; quattro all-wheel-drive system; Six-speed Tiptronic transmission; 18" 5-double-spoke dynamic design wheels with 245/40 summer tires; Electronic Stability Control (ESC); Ventilated front (12.3") and solid rear (11.8") disc brakes; Anti-lock brake system (ABS) with brake assist; Adaptive rear spoiler, includes manual operation option; Audi virtual cockpit; Full LED headlights (DRLs, low/high beams, turn signals); LED taillights with dynamic turn signals; Heated exterior mirrors; Audi advanced key, Audi drive select; 12 -way power adjustable heated front sport seats with lumbar adjustment; Alcantara/leather interior; 50/50 split folding rear seat; Audi sound system with AM/FM/SAT/1CD audio with SD card reader; SIRIUS Satellite radio (with three-month complimentary subscription); Three-spoke, leather-wrapped, multifunction flat-bottom steering wheel with shift paddles; LED interior lighting; Automatic climate control; Garage door opener (HomeLink); preparation for mobile phone (Bluetooth) with audio streaming; Audi MMI touch with voice control; Audi music interface with two USB ports and a 3.5mm aux-in; Audi dimming interior with compass; Parking system (rear acoustic sensors); Rain and light sensor; Technology Package - Audi MMI Navigation Plus, Audi connect with online services (six-month subscription), Audi side assist, Auto-dimming power folding exterior mirrors, Parking system plus with rear view camera - $3,250; 19" Wheel Package - 5-arm star design wheels, 245/35 summer tires - $1000; S Sport Seat Package - Fine Nappa leather interior, S sport seats with diamond stitching - $1,000; Bang & Olufsen Sound System, $950; Front filler panel; Destination charge, $925.
Adherence to Brand Image: The TT absolutely exudes Audi-ness everywhere you look. The exterior design and interior detailing are typically Audi, meaning executed to a high - and attractive - level. It fits the brand to, ahem, a "T". One major annoyance, however, was the fact that when you shut it off you hear the "heartbeat" sound effect used at the end of their TV commercials. I assume you can turn that unmitigated bullshit off, but if you can't, I wouldn't even give the car a moment's consideration. That little detail smacks of the Audi USA "brain-trust" listening to the dulcet tones of their own thought balloons a little too much. Really annoying, especially since the Audi advertising of late ain't all that. -PMD
Editor's Note: Normally, this would appear in our Reader Mail section, but we thought it would be more appropriate for "On The Table" this week. -WG
Little Red Corvette.
Peter, I was wondering your thoughts on Chevrolet's “little red Corvette” Prince tribute ad? My modern political correctness compliance filter strained long moments as to why not do this, however, creativity fortunately triumphed. I thought it was probably one of the most brilliant ideas I have seen from GM marketing in perhaps decades. Simple, elegant, iconic. Opportunistic.
Given the dismal automotive marketing and advertising campaigns, perhaps it is worth mentioning.
Editor-In-Chief's Note: I thought the print ad was brilliantly conceived and elegantly rendered, certainly the best thing to come out of a Chevrolet advertising agency in years. I actually found it to be puzzling, however, because the current Chevrolet work that exists now - especially the excruciatingly tedious "clinic/focus group" TV spots - is so incredibly uninspired and tedious, that I am shocked the agency could muster the creativity to pull it off. But, that said, it was a superb effort, no matter how it came about. -PMD
Editor's Note: Ford has just released “The Cutting Edge” - the second of five chapters in “The Return,” which is a long-form documentary that follows the development of both the street car and race car versions of the Ford GT from the decision to build the cars to the return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Watch chapter one, "The Decision," here. (FYI: The Autoextremist makes a cameo appearance in chapter one.) -WG