New year, new questions for automakers
What will 2013 bring to car lovers, automakers and shoppers? Here are some of the questions on my screen as the year begins:
• Can Chrysler engineers and designers develop a great off-road-capable Jeep Liberty replacement based on a Fiat vehicle architecture?
They'd better, or Chrysler-Fiat's bold promises to expand Jeep's model line and boost global sales will prove as empty as Daimler's vow that the Compass and Patriot would herald a golden age for Jeep.
Beyond off-road ability, questions facing the Liberty replacement include whether its styling will be retro or modern, and what Jeep will call it.
• Is this the year plug-in hybrids take off?
They cost more than regular hybrids, but the ability to go extended distances on battery power before the gasoline engines take over is very appealing.
At the low end, the Toyota Prius and Honda Accord plug-ins offer 11 to 13 miles of EPA-rated battery range. Ford's Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi plug-ins aim for 20 to 22 miles of electric driving, while the Cadillac ELR should deliver 35 to 38 miles.
• Can Ford rehabilitate its MyFordTouch and Sync controls, or will they damage the brand's reputation further?
Ford's controls enchant some owners, but they've devastated the brand's quality and reliability ratings from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports. With no big vehicle introductions imminent, this would be a good time for Ford to change the narrative by debugging or deleting the systems' most controversial aspects.
• Are Honda's upgrades enough to save the Civic?
The critical response to the latest version of Honda's most important car was brutal, bad enough that the former benchmark compact got an emergency update for 2013.
Honda improved the interior materials, added some standard equipment and tweaked the exterior styling just a year after the new Civic went on sale.
The disappointing Civic lent credence to voices saying the automaker had lost its edge. It's hard to regain momentum when your most important car has stalled.
• Will people buy BMW's electric cars?
BMW's audacious “i” brand of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles will hit the road with the battery-powered i3 later this year and the i8 plug-in in 2014.
The i3 concept has the look of a sporty compact crossover, with rear-wheel drive and a 170-horsepower motor. The i8 hews closer to the classic BMW formula: It's long, low and lovely. Its electric motor and gasoline engine produce 354 horsepower. Details like price and performance for the production models are TBD.
•Can Mercedes-Benz regain relevance?
Mercedes has slipped a long way from the pinnacle of luxury it occupied for a century. None of its current models come up when the conversation turns to the most advanced, opulent, stylish or exciting vehicles.
Mercedes needs to stake a claim for the mantle of luxury leadership or risk losing it forever. The all-new S-class flagship and Merc's new family of A-class compacts coming in 2013 will tell the tale.
Mark Phelan is the auto critic for the Detroit Free Press; email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Coal miner Alpha Natural Resources files for bankruptcy
- Shell shovels millions into proposed Beaver County plant site
- Muni bond funds stressed
- Hillary Clinton calls out GOP on trade embargo on Cuba
- Extended oil slump takes toll
- When it comes to home ownership, Hispanics finding locked doors
- Off-duty but on call: Suits seek overtime
- FirstEnergy to build coal waste processing facility in Beaver County
- Small business hangs on fate of Export-Import Bank
- Bond funds hold onto cash
- Tech Q&A: Why you should test your router