Sergio Marchionne. Editor-In-Chief's Note: The Fiat Chrysler CEO, answering questions from investors in Amsterdam last week, had the temerity to say that he was backing away from the notion of a "merger" for FCA, and that he would focus instead on developing the company's business plan. "On the Volkswagen issue, on the question if there are ongoing discussions, the answer is no," Marchionne said. The fact is that there will never be "merger" talks associated with FCA, because the only deal that will be made will happen when another automaker buys FCA outright in a "take-it-or-leave-it" deal and sends Marchionne packing. And while I'm at it, Marchionne’s specialty is as a consummate dealmaker, something he actually is truly gifted at, but the rest of his carefully orchestrated persona is total, unmitigated bullshit. Because beyond his dealmaking persona, the stark reality is that he’s nothing more than a carpetbagging mercenary looking for one last big score, and the true Sergio will be exposed once and for all when it comes time for him to acquiesce to the terms dictated to him. And is it no wonder that there are no deals on the horizon for Marchionne and FCA, and that he had to come up with some bullshit about focusing on his "plan"? His recklessness and unbridled hubris have painted him in a corner with no escape in sight. He has assets – Jeep being the one grand slam home run in his quiver – but beyond that the whole enterprise is nothing more than questionable. And when you factor in the money being pissed away on Alfa, it’s even worse than that. I am absolutely certain of one thing in all of this, however, and that is when it all goes down, Marchionne won’t be entering into any negotiations from a position of strength. Instead, he will enter the room as a glorified accountant dressed in an ugly-ass sweater formerly known as “The Great Sergio,” just there trying to get the best deal for his boss. And an entire industry will be licking its chops, looking forward to the day when the Unctuous Prick and his minions are forced to leave the stage, for good. -PMD
Editor-In-Chief's Note: As we said last week, Chevrolet is commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Corvette (and biding its time before the mid-engine C8 makes its debut) with a new Corvette Carbon 65 Edition, which will be offered on the 2018 Grand Sport 3LT and Z06 3LZ models. But beyond all of the carbon fiber used on this car - to the tune of $15,000 - what's the point? Now, if it was offered as part of the next Corvette ZR1 model that is coming I could see it, but beyond the extensive use of carbon there's no reason whatsoever to even bother with the Carbon 65 Edition. And while I'm at it, what gives with the next ZR1? I get that Chevrolet is trying to extract every last dollar out of the outgoing front engine Corvette before the C8 arrives, but the timing of the ZR1 is precarious at best. If the intro is too close to the C8 it will be a non-starter, which is why the ZR1 press event is rumored to be soon. But the Carbon 65 Edition? The Corvette faithful should skip it altogether and wait for the ZR1. -PMD
Editor-In-Chief's Note: Now that I have had time to digest the real impact of the Dodge Demon, it's not sitting well with me. At first glance it's the ultimate Autoextremist vehicle, a raised middle finger to all of the whiners who would take the freedom of driver-operated personal mobility away. But this notion that you can buy a full-on drag racing machine from the factory for the street? It is fraught with peril. FCA points out that all customers who buy the new limited-production 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon receive one full-day session at Bob Bondurant School of High-performance Driving. But who's kidding whom here? That means you have to actually pay to make the trek out there, and the vast majority of Demon customers simply aren't going to bother with that. They're going to walk in to a dealer, give them their money (pricing hasn't been announced) and then drive away in a Challenger powered by a supercharged, 840HP, 6.2-liter HEMI® Demon V-8, which Dodge PR minions insist makes it "the world’s most powerful factory-production V-8 – bar none." How fast? An NHRA-certified 9.65 seconds @ 140 mph. In case you're wondering this is a seriously fast car, and by my estimation simply out of the realm of capability - and talent - for more than 90 percent of the prospective buyers. When building drag racing-specific cars like these, Ford and GM don't attach VIN numbers to them because they're not intended for the street and they know better. But since FCA is desperate for attention, they're skipping that step completely, which is a giant bowl of Not Good. Listen, I applaud the go-for-it spirit of the True Believers out in Auburn Hills behind this project, but without the track-only restrictions, it's simply a recipe for disaster. Our AE Quotes of the Week go to colleague Richard Truett, who, writing for Automotive News had this to say about the Demon: "This won’t be a popular stance, and people will be angry and disagree, but here goes: For FCA to build a car like this, one that can be legally driven off the dealer’s lot, is nothing short of irresponsible. It’s an act of desperation by a company whose cars are getting really old. Consider that the Challenger itself is 8 years old, and the platform it rides on is from well into the last century." And, "There’s a reason drag-centric cars such as this from other automakers or specialty equipment manufacturers aren’t given a vehicle identification number: They present a clear and present danger to not only their drivers, but to the motoring public." I will reiterate that this is a disaster waiting to happen, and it also unfortunately validates - for some - the (hoary) stereotype that the collective "Detroit" is completely out of touch. -PMD
Mercedes-Benz unveiled its Concept A Sedan at the Shanghai Auto Show, telegraphing its next-generation compact vehicle design language. This is what Mercedes PR minions had to say: "Thanks to its purist, surface-focused design featuring reduced lines and gaps, the show car is hot and cool at the same time." Editor-In-Chief's Note: This "hot and cool at the same time" business is played out. So is their other go-to design mantra, "sensual purity," which Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer Daimler AG, blurts out on a regular basis. I get the fact that arrogance is a ubiquitous part of the Mercedes lineup that no one talks about, but this has gotten beyond tedious. There are only two other endeavors that fuel the cottage industry of self absorption as much as the automobile business, and those are Hollywood and the advertising business. -PMD
VW will unveil a third all-electric concept - the I.D. CROZZ - at Auto Shanghai 2017. (Are these guys naming impaired, or what?) VW calls the I.D. CROZZ "a spacious crossover utility vehicle" and says that it will be a key pillar of the new I.D. family based on the Modular Electric Drive Matrix (MEB). The details? 302HP, a top speed of 112 mph and a range of 311 miles on the New European Driving Cycle. The battery can be charged to 80 percent in 30 minutes with a 150 kW DC fast charger. The I.D. CROZZ also has an "I.D. Pilot" mode that allows it to drive autonomously.
Audi is showing the Audi e-tron Sportback at Auto Shanghai, a four-door Gran Turismo concept that's a design study and technology demonstrator for yet another electric car in the Audi product portfolio. The concept comes with a 320 kW electric drive. Audi is coming out with its production e-tron SUV in 2018, with a range of over 500 kilometers (310.7 miles). The production version of the Audi e-tron Sportback will hit showrooms in 2019.
(Mercedes-Benz images)Mercedes-Benz is debuting its updated S-Class Sedan at Auto Shanghai. The German manufacturer has little interest in talking about the driving dynamics of this vehicle apparently, judging by the extensive copy in the press release about the suite of Intelligent Drive features, the comfort and "wellness" features, the dual 12.3" high-resolution displays with a single bonded glass panel, and the new trim options and upholstery offerings. The big news for U.S. customers? The S-Class model range now starts with the S450 and S450 4MATIC powered by a 3.0L V6 biturbo engine that produces 362HP and 369 lb-ft of torque.