• Mercedes Sprinter 4×4 likely headed stateside

    December 10, 2013

    Though the Sprinter 4×4 was originally announced as a Europe-only model, Mercedes-Benz has decided that it will likely also offer the van in the United States.

    As its name suggests, the Sprinter 4×4 is a variant of Mercedes’ full-size van that has been fortified for inclement weather and off-road excursions with an all-wheel-drive system. The setup features push-button activation and a fixed 35/65 output split between the front and rear axles, while four inches of additional ground clearance further enhance capability.

    Those interested in venturing far beyond the beaten path can opt for a low-range transfer case.

    In the United States, buyers should plan on a 188 horsepower, 325 lb-ft of torque 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 mated to a five-speed automatic as the only powertain option. The 2.1-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder and six-speed manual available in Europe aren’t likely to make it across the pond.

    The Sprinter 4×4 should arrive in U.S. showrooms no later than 2015, according to an Automotive News report. As with Mercedes’ other Sprinter models, it will also be marketed under the Freightliner brand.

    For the complete story on the Sprinter 4×4, check out the debut article here.

  • Nissan to build Datsuns in Mexico?

    December 10, 2013

    Nissan’s CEO says that the automaker may build inexpensive vehicles bearing the revived Datsun nameplate in Mexico for export primarily to South America.

    “We’re launching Datsun in India and Indonesia, and we feel it’s going to be very successful,” CEO Carlos Ghosn said. “So we say, why not in South America?”

    Speaking at Nissan’s new plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico, where production began last month, Ghosn indicated that Datsun-badged vehicles could eventually be built there to supply South America and potentially other markets in Latin America. Since Datsun’s resurrection has just begun, Nissan hasn’t dedicated any assembly plants to the brand.

    Instead, Datsun-badged vehicles like the $6,500 Datsun Go that will launch in India in February, are being sourced from other Nissan plants elsewhere. A larger model called the Go+ was also recently announced.

    Mexico is gearing up to be an even bigger producer of Nissans, however. Over the next few years, Nissan plans to be building a staggering 1 million vehicles in Mexico to primarily supply markets in North, Central and South America.

    Ghosn didn’t give any hint that the Datusn nameplate might eventually return to the United States, however.

  • Study finds GM bailout saved 1.2M jobs

    December 10, 2013

    The United States’ bailout of General Motors saved about 1.2 million jobs and helped preserve $39.4 billion in personal and social insurance tax collections between 2009 and 2010, a new study finds.

    Released by the Center for Automotive Research on Monday, the study found that the effects of the bailout were even more profound when Chrysler was included, with the government’s intervention saving 2.6 million jobs and $105.3 billion in transfer payments and personal and social insurance tax collections. The bailout also saved an estimated $284.4 billion in personal income.

    “Any complete cost-benefit assessment of the federal assistance to GM in its restructuring must consider the total net returns to the public investment…” researchers Sean McAlinden and Debra Maranger Menk wrote in “The Effect on the U.S. Economy of the Successful Restructuring of General Motors.”

    McAlinden and Menk added: “If the U.S. government had refused to assist (GM and Chrysler)… in a financial crisis of unprecedented proportions, then the whole U.S. economy was operating without a safety net, with the exception of course, of the banking system.”

    The Treasury Department expects to lose $9.7 billion on its $49.5 billion bailout of GM.

  • Lexus teases next F performance model

    December 10, 2013

    Lexus has released a single teaser image that previews its next F performance model, which will be unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in January.

    The image was not accompanied by any details concerning the car, leaving its identity in doubt.

    It’s possible that the mystery machine could be the next generation of Lexus’ IS F sedan, or the long-rumored BMW M5-rivaling GS F. However, given the overall shape and LED design of the headlight, as well as the prominent parallel character line, it seems more likely that the teaser depicts the F version of Lexus’ recently-unveiled RC (a closer look at the resemblance is available here).

    The RC is a sleek coupe based off the IS compact luxury sedan that’s intended to do battle with models like the BMW 4-Series. The F variant could feature a high-powered V8 similar in concept to the current IS F’s 5.0-liter unit. An eight-speed automatic would likely be the sole option for routing power to the rear wheels.

    Lexus hopes to one day build its F division into a genuine rival for BMW M and Mercedes AMG. The Japanese luxury brand has enjoyed success with its latest round of F Sport offerings – essentially sport packages with a number of different aesthetic and handling tweaks depending on the model – but it currently has only one dedicated, full-bore offering, the aging IS F.

    However, the upcoming F model should breath new life into the F division and better establish it in the automotive performance pantheon.

  • 2015 Chevrolet Corvette to get eight-speed automatic

    December 10, 2013

    Although the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray launched with a carryover six-speed automatic, the sports car will soon benefit from a new eight-speed transmission, a Society of Automotive Engineers technical paper has confirmed.

    A preview of the paper, briefly posted to the SAE’s website and subsequently removed, revealed that the eight-speed automatic will arrive on the Corvette’s options list for the 2015 model year.

    Dubbed the 8L90, the rear-wheel-drive gearbox will offer an overall ratio spread of 7.0 and a shorter first gear for quicker acceleration. As the current Corvette six-speed automatic is capable of 28 mpg on the highway, the octa-cog unit could boost freeway mileage to 30 mpg or higher – not too shabby for a 455-horsepower performance machine.

    The SAE paper also notes that the eight-speed will be able to handle torque output of up to 738 lb-ft. That means it could potentially be offered in the next iteration of the Corvette Z06, which to this point has only been available with manual transmissions. Of course, we’ll have to wait until next month’s Detroit Auto Show to see what Chevrolet decides to do.

    While pure speculation at this point, we wouldn’t be surprised if the new gearbox eventually found its way into GM’s full-size pickups as a counter to the Ram 1500 eight-speed.

    Photo by Andrew Ganz.