Episode #392 of the Autoblog Podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, and Chris Paukert talk about recent confessions by Autoblog Editors, the unconfirmed rumors that the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat will show up at the Woodward Dream Cruise, and the release of the North American Car and Truck of the Year long list. We start with what's in the garage and finish up with some of your questions, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Check out the new rundown below with times for topics, and you can follow along down below with our Q&A. Thanks for listening!
Autoblog Podcast #392:
Autoblog editors come clean
Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to debut at Woodward Dream Cruise
NACTOY long list released
In The Autoblog Garage:
2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe
2015 Subaru Legacy Limited
2015 Audi S8
2015 Alfa Romeo 4C
Hosts: Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, Chris Paukert
Intro and Garage - 00:00
Editor Confessions - 34:48
Hellcat Charger Unveil - 59:56
NACTOY Long List - 01:09:51
Q&A - 01:25:43
Get the podcast:
[UStream] Listen live on Mondays at 10 PM Eastern at UStream
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To American enthusiasts, nothing might say rock n' roll quite like a classic muscle car. But that doesn't preclude the Europeans from trying. Volkswagen has partnered with Fender for its premium audio systems, and now Alfa Romeo is teaming up with some rocking powerhouses as well.
The Italian automaker is collaborating with Harrison Custom Guitar Works to create the limited-edition axe you see here. The electric guitar is designed around Alfa's iconic grille and uses automotive materials like aluminum and carbon fiber as well as traditional guitar woods like poplar, maple, ebony and Korina. The cross-bars, pickups, tail piece and bridge are CNC-machined from aluminum billet. Only 11 examples will be made, each taking eight months to construct, and priced at £4,000 (about $6,800 at current exchange rates).
At the same time Alfa has also created a one-off MiTo concept car together with Marshall Amplification. The hatchback packs a custom Marshall JVM 50-watt amp and a pair of 12-inch 75-watt speakers, but has also been decked out with gold-mesh trim on the grille, head- and taillight surrounds, side mirrors, door handles and lower bumper - just like a Marshall stack - while the interior has been worked over with Marshall treadplates, white piping and gold trim. The shift knob has even been replaced by a Shure SH55 microphone.
Though the collaborations look like something straight out of This Is Spinal Tap (with a touch of The Graduate thrown in for good measure), they'll both be showcased at a special screening in London of another rock documentary: Sound City, directed by Foo Fighters frontman (and former Nirvana drummer) Dave Grohl. You can, however, check them out in the pair of image galleries and the press releases below.
Continue reading Alfa Romeo turns it up to 11 with Harrison guitars and Marshall amps
The dissonance between first look and first wheel turn was jarring.
Alfa Romeo had chosen a suitably hip venue in which to showcase the coupe that will mark the brand's honest-to-God return to the US market - a graffiti-festooned warehouse housing a boutique furniture company in San Francisco's Mission District. The curvilinear sports car proved a lovely stylistic counterpoint to its concrete and metal backdrop while feeling perfectly synced with the eye-watering square-footage prices of the environs. Where the young, rich, beautiful people gather, the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C will be a star.
And wherever they drive, expect things to get pretty loud. No sooner had I doubled over, dropped into the driver's seat, and fired to life the Alfa's utterly raucous little 1.7-liter engine, did the 'symphony' of the 4C begin. An introductory note of an inevitable chin scrape as I pulled out of the hipster parking lot and into the street was quickly followed by the uncivilized racket of the engine warming up, with only wafer-thin glass to filter the hubbub just behind my head. At a cold idle, the sound isn't unlike what I'd imagine it would be like to live inside of a Volkswagen TDI engine bay.
Thankfully, as traffic cleared and The City's streets turned swiftly into undulating coastal roads, the experiential delta between heartthrob looks and project-car manners started to shrink. Unlike the last Alfas to be sold en masse on our shores, this is no beautiful boulevardier. What the 4C is, however, is hot hell's own driver's car.
The last time the Chrysler Group was part of another automaker, we saw the death of the Plymouth brand. Now, with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in place of DaimlerChrysler, we could see more brands shuttered. At least, that's what analysts think FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne should do.
With Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Ferrari, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and the Fiat commercial unit, there are some analysts that think that there are too many mouths to feed at FCA, and that the levels of growth Marchionne is aiming for will only be possible if some brands are cut loose. This isn't the first time Marchionne's ambitious growth plan has seen outside criticism.
"If it was not for Brazil, where it is the number one brand, Marchionne should simply kill the Fiat brand," Phillipe Houchois of London-based UBS, told Automotive News. A London-based consultant at International Strategy & Investment, meanwhile, thinks that the American side of the equation needs pruning, telling AN "it could be Dodge or Chrysler, but not Dodge and Chrysler."
"The cross mixing of brands is going to destroy the fabric of the brand. A brand is a precious thing," Marchionne told AN. Considering that view, it's hard not to see the point being made the analysts.
Which of Fiat Chrysler's brands do you think should be on the chopping block? Would you rather see Chrysler or Dodge go the way of Lancia? Should the Fiat brand just be folded, despite its strong success in the burgeoning Brazilian market? Have your say in Comments.
We're out in California driving the Alfa Romeo 4C as we write this - which is the good news. The bad news is that we can't offer up any driving impressions of the car for another few days. On the other hand, we can provide a few interesting non-driving-based tidbits from the launch program, with which to further enlighten you about Alfa's upcoming "compact supercar" (that descriptor comes direct from Alfa CEO Harald Wester, for what it's worth).
So, for starters, the price. When Matt Davis drove the European-spec 4C in the fall of last year, he guestimated that the starting price for the US would hover around $55,000. As it turns out, that was a pretty good guess. Eventually, the starting bill on a 4C will be $53,900, plus a significant $1,295 for destination, netting out to $55,195 out the door.
That price might sound inline with what you'd expect for an Italian quasi-supercar, but it's not likely what you'll actually pay if you buy one. We're told that $62k to $65k will be the sweet spot for 4C sales in the US. What's more, if you simply have to have a 2015 model, you'll have to pony up a healthy $69,695 (that's including destination), for one of just 500 examples of the launch edition that will be sold here this year. In addition to a serialized plaque that will certify your historic purchase, the launch edition cars get the larger optional wheels in a dark-finish, the sport suspension, sport exhaust, and some other bits and bobs.
Finally, while we're happy to report that the curb weight of the feather-light 4C will stay below the magical 2,500-pound mark (2,495 lbs., wet), it has still gained some 342 pounds versus the European-spec car. The added weight is down to a beefier carbon-fiber tub and additional US safety equipment. It's also fair to mention that the ultra-light European model was arrived upon thanks to a homologation rule with the EU, that (among other things) will limit 4C sales on the continent to just 1,000 units per year. We'd expect that to evolve as the model stays on sale.
Stay tuned for our full review of the car, thick carbon-fiber and all, early next week.
Alfa Romeo's return to North America has been a long time coming, which has given us plenty of time to wonder: Will the now-merged Fiat-Chrysler let Fiat dealers sell Alfas, or will the shapely Italians be available in Maserati dealers? The answer we've been waiting for? Both.
Auburn Hills has just released the list of 86 initial dealers that will be authorized to sell the Alfa Romeo 4C (Autoblog senior editor Seyth Miersma is driving one today in San Francisco, incidentally), setting the groundwork for a larger Alfa Romeo lineup to follow. The list includes 82 dealers across 33 states and four more in Canada. Though the vast majority are expanding upmarket from Fiat studios, a few are branching downmarket from Maserati dealers - not a one of them, in case you were wondering, having expanded from a Ferrari showroom.
The highest concentration of dealers will be found in California, Texas and Florida, but while you might have thought Little Italy would be a prime location, there won't be a single dealer in Manhattan. Not in any of the five boroughs, in fact, so if you live in New York, you'll have to trek out to Larchmont in Westchester or Somerville, New Jersey, to place your order. Of course, that's at least the case for now, as Alfa plans to eventually expand to over 300 dealers in North America. In the meantime, you can check out the full list in the press release below to see how close you are to a new Alfa dealer.
Continue reading Alfa Romeo franchises 86 dealers across North America
Behind the vanguard of numerous Jeep models, two Chryslers, a smattering of Fiats and Alfa Romeos and local production through a joint venture with Guangzhou Automotive Group (GAG), Fiat Chrysler wants to increase sales in China more than six-fold by 2018. The group sold 130,000 cars in China in 2013, the aim for 2018 being 850,000 cars.
Ultimately it's expected that the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, Wrangler, Renegade, the coming Grand Wagoneer and a sub-Renegade-sized crossover will either be built in or exported to the People's Republic. The Chrysler Town & Country and 300 will join the export list in 2016 and 2018 respectively, according to a report in Automotive News.
With a number of those vehicles not in production or perhaps even envisaged yet, and others not due on the local market until 2018, it will be interesting to see how Fiat Chrysler plans to achieve the target in the specified timeframe. The joint venture with GAG builds two products now, the Dodge Dart-based Fiat Viaggio launched two years ago - supposedly designed just for China - and the just-launched Fiat Ottimo, a hatchback version of the Viaggio. Fiat projected 300,000 Viagio sales in its first two years, that number has been adjusted downward to 94,000 and there doesn't appear to be an analyst alive that sees a good future for Fiat in China's overrun mainstream market. Still, last year's 130,000 group sales in China is a huge jump from 2012 sales of 66,000 units, but less than half the 300,000 units it projected.
Jeep, on the other hand, is in a much better position as a "tough," aspirational brand and made plenty of noise for the locals with four styling concepts at this year's Beijing Motor Show. Nevertheless, while much lower pricing on locally-built models, the expanded dealership network and projected 2015 sales of 53,000 Jeep products will assist in the push, finding those additional hundreds of thousands of units leaves a lot of ground to cover. The 850K number represents about 12 percent of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' global sales target of nearly seven million units by 2018.
Following this week's Fiat Chrysler extravaganza, where the Italian-American manufacturer announced its plans for the next five years, the Autoblog staff was cautiously optimistic of the company's future. Investors? Not so much.
Fiat saw its shares tumble 12 percent in Wednesday's trading, falling from 8.67 euros ($12.06 at today's rates) to 7.44 euros ($10.35) as of this writing, with blame partly going to the Italian half of the FCA marriage, which recorded a pretty significant drop in profits during the first quarter of this year.
The plan, which will cost around $77 billion over the next several years, is facing criticism from investors thanks in part to a 1.4-percent drop in Fiat's first-quarter profits, to 622 million euros ($862 million). That figure is also short of Bloomberg analysts' projections, which predicted $1.18 billion in profits before taxes, interest and one-time items.
Marchionne's goal of dramatically increasing sales before 2018 is a particularly big point of contention.
"If you start your 2014-2018 plan with an extremely weak quarter, nobody will give you the credit that you will achieve your targets," Jens Schattner, a Frankfurt-based automotive analyst told Bloomberg. "If it was so easy just to launch new products to be successful in this industry, why wouldn't everybody do exactly the same."
Some of the concerns are even simpler, though.
"These brands need a huge amount of work to get where they need to be. The world changes very slowly and you have brands at the bottom of the pile in many regions. It's not going to happen overnight," said Harald Hendrikse, a London-based analyst for Nomura Holdings.
Alfa Romeo and Maserati are perhaps the biggest points of concern, each brand facing its fair share of struggles over the years. Marchionne's goal of dramatically increasing sales (over five-fold for Alfa and nearly as much for Maserati) before 2018 is a particularly big point of contention.
"The aspiration is big but the questions are bigger," said Erik Gordon, a business professor at the University of Michigan. "Can Fiat do enough to turn Alfa into a big, profitable brand? Are there enough Maserati buyers to make Fiat a global player?"
While we like what we saw earlier this week in Auburn Hills, it seems fairly clear that there will be a number of bumps in the road along the way. Whether the analysts' concerns end up being correct, though, remains to be seen.
We're usually pretty enthused every time Turn 10 Studios unveils another of its monthly car packs for Forza Motorsport 5. It means we'll have an entirely new batch of vehicles to play with when the work day finally ends, whether that means we race, tune, style or simply crash them. This latest car pack, though, the Meguiar's Car Pack, is arguably one of the most interesting that we've seen.
On the surface, there are some pretty standard cars here. The BMW M3 DTM car is going to be an extremely cool addition to the game, as is the Aston Martin V12 Zagato. Where this car pack gets interesting, though, are in the number of classics on offer. Sure, a 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air might not be too special in a game like Forza. We could say the same of a 1967 Chevelle. What about an Aston Martin DBR1, though? Or the bootlegger's dream - the 1940 Ford De Luxe Coupe? Yes, there are some seriously weird gems in this car pack.
Both the 1973 Mazda RX-3 and the underappreciated, Lotus-tuned Ford Cortina are featured here, while we can add one more Alfa Romeo to Forza's stable with the gorgeous 1986 GTV-6 (this writer is still holding out hope for the appearance of a Montreal or SZ in a future car pack). Rounding out the group is the Dodge Dart Hemi Super Stock.
Turn 10 put together a short video composed of in-game footage of the cars. Scroll down and have a peak at the video, as well as the press release, which describes each car. The Meguiar's Car Pack for Forza Motorsport5 is currently available for download, and costs $9.99 (naturally, it's free for Season Pass owners).
Continue reading Classic metal may make new Forza 5 pack our favorite ever [w/video]
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, you've no doubt read about all of the big future product news coming out of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles today. We had individual brand reports from Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Maserati and even Ferrari, but in the interest of simplifying and summarizing, we're going to list out the hard facts once more. Of course, with all of this still off in the future, there's still the possibility that a few changes will be made. But as of what we know right now, here's what's coming, and what's going away.
2014: Refreshed 300/300C, debuting at Los Angeles Auto Show
2016: 100 C-segment sedan launches; Town & Country minivan launches, complete with PHEV version
2017: 200 sedan gets a mid-cycle refresh; all-new fullsize crossover launches, complete with PHEV version
2016: new Dart and Dart SRT arrive; new Journey arrives; Grand Caravan minivan dies with the arrival of new Chrysler Town & Country. Join our siblings at AOL Autos to reflect on the loss of the first mainstream minivan.
2017: new Journey SRT arrives; Durango refreshed
2018: new B-segment sedan and hatch arrive; new Challenger and Challenger SRT arrive; new Charger and Charger SRT arrive
2014: Renegade launches
2015: Grand Cherokee refreshed
2016: 75th anniversary of Jeep; Compass and Patriot die; all-new C-segment SUV launches; Cherokee refreshed
2017: Renegade refreshed; all-new Wrangler launches; all-new Grand Cherokee launches
2018: all-new Grand Wagoneer launches
2014: ProMaster diesel launches; ProMaster City launches
2018: all-new Ram HD launches; all-new Commercial heavy-duty truck launches; Ram chassis cab major update launches
2015: 500X launches; new "specialty" car launches
2014: GranTurismo and GranCabrio die
2015: Levante SUV launches
2016: Alfieri Coupe launches
2017: Alfieri Cabrio launches
2018: GranTurismo launches
2014: 4C and 4C Spider launch
2015: all-new midsize vehicle launches (not necessarily for US)
2016-2018: two all-new compacts launch; one all-new midsize vehicle launches; one all-new fullsize vehicle launches; two all-new utility vehicles launch; one new "specialty" vehicle launches (note: not all are necessarily for US)
2014-2018: one new vehicle launches each year
Indeed, there's a lot to talk about regarding the five-year plan for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Be sure to give us your two cents, in Comments.