• Mazda wants crossovers to be 50 percent of US sales

    September 20, 2015

    It’s no secret that consumers can’t get enough of crossovers, and in light of that Mazda wants at least 50 percent of its US sales to be such vehicles.

    Speaking with Automotive News, Mazda’s global marketing chief Masahiro Moro said that would like to see, in two to three years, Mazda achieve annual sales of 300,000 vehicles in the US. The quickest path he sees to that goal is by feeding America’s insatiable hunger for crossovers.

    Currently, sales of Mazda’s CX-3, CX-5 and CX-9 represent about 40 percent of Mazda’s sales. However, that the Mazda CX-5 is the one doing all the heavy lifting in that figure, as the sprightly new Mazda CX-3 has just debuted very competitively in the compact crossover segment, and a completely redesigned Mazda CX-9 is scheduled to launch soon.

    Until now, Mazda has been too dependent on sales of low-margin compacts like the Mazda 3, thinks Moro. The model accounted for 46 percent of the company’s sales in 2010. Moreover, those customers saw the car as a stepping stone brand, and would leave Mazda for another brand in their next purchase. Brand loyalty is at an all-time low, but Moro believes crossover buyers are much more likely to stay with the marque.

    Live Photos by Ronan Glon.

  • Kia green-lights Optima wagon

    September 20, 2015
    Eager to increase its presence on the recovering European new car market, Kia has announced that it will take on rivals Volkswagen, Renault and Mazda with a station wagon version of the new Optima.

    The still nameless Optima wagon will presumably look similar to the Sportspace concept (pictured) that was shown earlier this year at the Geneva Motor show. That means it will be nearly identical to the Optima sedan from the front bumper to the B-pillar, but beyond that it will stand out thanks to a longer roof line, a rakish D-pillar and horizontal tail lamps.

    The Optima wagon will borrow the bulk of its mechanical components from its sedan counterpart, so buyers in Europe will be able to choose from a wide palette of gasoline- and diesel-burning four-cylinder engines, and either an automatic or a manual transmission. Badged GT, top-spec models will get a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill tuned to make approximately 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque.

    Look for the Kia Optima station wagon to make its debut next year at the Geneva Motor Show and go on sale across the Old Continent shortly after. Kia hasn’t talked about availability yet, but we’d be surprised if the wagon makes the trip across the Atlantic.

    Photos by Ronan Glon.

  • Next Renault Megane RS hot hatch coming in 2017

    September 20, 2015
    The all-new 2016 Megane was introduced earlier this week at the Frankfurt Motor Show, but Renault has announced that the next generation of the Megane RS hot hatch isn’t scheduled to arrive until the first half of 2017 at the very earliest.

    The next Megane RS is shaping up to be equal parts evolution and revolution. For starters, Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker confirmed the next RS will exclusively be available as a four-door hatchback, a first in the nameplate’s history, because the two-door coupe model has been deep-sixed.

    “On one hand we need to increase our line-up with new crossovers because we didn’t have any crossovers, we need to expand into trucks, we need to keep present in the normal segments and in the meantime we need to not finish with 60 variations and just keep adding. So we had to cut some variants somewhere,” explained van den Acker in an interview with Australian website Motoring.

    Technical details are still a little vague but another Renault executive hinted that the new model will likely need to pack over 300 horsepower — 25 more than the current model — in order to keep up with the competition, notably the Volkswagen Golf R and the Honda Civic Type R. The RS won’t get a hybrid drivetrain, though RenaultSport openly admits it will have to adopt a gasoline-electric setup in the not-too-distant future to comply with upcoming emissions regulations.

    Purists will scoff at the idea of a four-door RS, but they’ll at least be satisfied to hear that the next-gen model will most likely retain the current car’s manual transmission. However, all-wheel drive has been categorically ruled out for the time being, meaning the 300 ponies will all be sent to the front wheels.

    The 2017 Renault Megane RS will be presented to the public either next year at the Paris Motor Show or the following spring at the Geneva Motor Show.

  • It’s official: Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge is dead

    September 20, 2015

    Though the writing was on the wall as early as 10 months ago, it is now official: the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge is dead.

    Based on an Infiniti Q50 sedan, the Eau Rouge would have been powered by the hair-melting 560-horse twin-turbo V6 from the Nissan GT-R, underpinned by its unflappable all-wheel-drive system, and served as a halo car for the luxury brand.

    However, in an interview with Car magazine at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show, Infiniti vice-president Francois Goupil de Bouille corroborated what we had assumed for months. “After we evaluated sales numbers, we realized it was not realistic to produce it. It was just too costly. That was it.”

    However, de Bouille left the possibility of future Infiniti performance models open. He did not confirm whether the rumors of an even higher-end GT-R-powered sedan — along the lines of an Aston Martin or Lamborghini Estoque instead of a BMW M3 or Mercedes AMG C63 rival — were of substance.

    Given Nissan’s penchant for crossovers these days, however, it may not be surprising if they build an Eau Rogue instead. After all, they’ve already GT-R-ified the Juke.