They say change is the only constant in life, and the auto industry has experienced quite its share lately. Perhaps nowhere was this more evident than at the Geneva International Motor Show. But pay attention to recent headlines, and you’ll see plenty of things shaking up across all segments of car culture. FCA expands its investments in Detroit, including setting aside billions of dollars for the future production of plug-in hybrid and all-electric Jeep models. Aftermarket juggernaut, Keystone Automotive, rolls out Phase 2 of its Parts Via program, a sales network that attempts to alleviate e-commerce woes by bridging the gap between online shoppers and local brick and mortar retail outlets. And even enthusiasts are feeling the winds of change, as many of their favorite sports continue to face the challenges of complicated rules packages, restricting regulations, and fluctuating audience participation.
Geneva International Motor Show
Last week, Bloomberg reported that the automotive hoopla on display at the Geneva International Motor Show, was “quickly overshadowed by talk of wholesale industrial restructuring.”
Specifically? Things are changing.
Instead of confident platitudes and praise for new vehicle models, big wig execs spent a large amount of press time discussing mergers and strategic partnerships. The vague threat that the auto industry has been facing is beginning to take a clearer shape. And to automakers, it feels serious.
The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend
As we reported earlier, rival brands BMW and Daimler have already pledged over $1.1 billion on a new joint venture. Addressing services from car-sharing and ride-hailing to parking and charging, the goal is to eventually transition into autonomous driving technology. French manufacturer PSA (parent company of Peugeot, Citroen, and Opel) is hitting the big-budget classifieds for its own match-made-in-heaven. Among those potentially swiping right are GM, Jaguar-Land Rover, and FCA. (Considering FCA’s recent plans to expand, we recommend Bachelor #3.)
Bloomberg says Volkswagen is getting in on the action, too, sharing its new MEB electric-car technology with a small but successful EV start-up in Germany. This comes on the heels of the automaker’s confirmation of an alliance with Ford back in November, as well as its announcement in December that after 2026, no new combustion engines will be produced for VW vehicles.
So, if you’ve been bummed out lately to find that many of your favorite brands, parts suppliers, and automakers are actually owned by boring investment-firm types, we’re sad to say: This is only the beginning. While we did get to see some interesting reveals at the Geneva International Motor Show, the most significant was that the suits are reshuffling the deck in the hopes of gaining a better hand.
FCA Expands in Detroit
FCA is making moves to upgrade its Michigan facilities with a $4.5 billion investment. Additionally, the automaker has confirmed plans to build a new assembly plant in the Motor City to accommodate the growing demand for its Jeep and RAM products.
In 2016, FCA led the exodus from passenger car production by retooling its manufacturing plants to focus solely on SUV and truck production. The strategy appears to be working, as consumers have already been gifted the award-winning JL Wrangler and RAM 1500 models, as well as the resurrection of a Jeep-badged pickup, the Gladiator. In the works are the next-gen Grand Cherokee and an “unspecified, new three-row Jeep model,” according to news outlets. (That’s in addition to the new Jeep Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer coming down the pike.)
CEO Mike Manley stated that this next step in business development allows the Jeep brand to enter entirely new market spaces that “offer significant margin opportunities and will enable new electrified Jeep products, including at least four plug-in hybrid vehicles and the flexibility to produce fully battery-electric vehicles.”
2020 Gladiator Will Have a Role in New F&F Movie
And speaking of new opportunities, rumors floating on JeepGladiatorForum.com say that the new 2020 Jeep Gladiator will be making an appearance in the upcoming Fast & Furious 9: Hobbs & Shaw.
The next installment in the never-ending franchise is currently being filmed in Kauai, Hawaii and is set to be released late this summer. A local resident and JGF-user spotted the two Jeep trucks while coming out of Costco and snapped the video below.
No word yet on what kind of role the Gladiator trucks will play in the movie, but as the forum points out, “They do look great covered in some mud!”
Keystone Automotive Initiates Phase 2 of Parts Via Program
The annual Keystone BIG Show wrapped up this weekend in Grapevine, Texas. Amid the exciting new product showcases and merchandising innovations was the distributor’s launch of the second phase of its Parts Via program, a sales network designed to expand e-commerce reach to local merchants.
The program originated in 2017, connecting online sales with brick-and-mortar businesses via a “Buy Now” button. Phase 2 enhances the service with a consumer-facing website, marketplace store, and loyalty program for members. The concept is simple: consumers visiting one of Keystone’s brand partners’ websites purchase a product and are then given the option to either have it shipped to their home or directly to their local parts supplier where they can access installation services. The Parts Via program handles all the order processing, warehousing, and delivery, streamlining the supply chain network. The theory is that by providing online shoppers with accurate product information, reviews, convenient delivery options, and reliable customer support, the program can help eliminate the buyer trend of hopping from site to site and better predict purchasing patterns. Additionally, by looping in supplier partners and dealers, as well as local businesses, everyone gets a piece of the pie.
“We recognized early on that a consumer’s path to purchase is one with many forks, and the decisions made by them along their journey impact where the final purchase is made,” says Keystone president, Bill Rogers. “We wanted to build a program that put our partners in the best competitive position to capture the sale regardless of where and when a consumer chooses to buy something, whether it is in a store or online.”
Phase 2 rolled out at the BIG Show this weekend with a new website preview featuring improved delivery options, product look-up, and appointment scheduling abilities for installation services.
Champion Oil Sponsors 2019 Hyper Racing PA 600 Micro Sprint Speedweek
One aftermarket leader seeing continued success for 2019 is Champion Oil, who recently announced it will be a 2019 sponsor of Hyper Racing PA 600 Micro Sprint Speedweek.
A globally recognized industry leader in specialty lubricants for over 60 years, Champion Oil’s new line of Fully Synthetic Micro Sprint Racing Oils are the first purpose-built engine oils specially formulated to provide unmatched protection and performance in wet-clutch Micro Sprint engines.
According to the company, the oils “deliver track-proven, race-winning performance,” thanks to “a robust formulation, including specially designed wet-clutch additives, and premium synthetic base stocks.”
The wingless 600cc micro sprints will participate in a five-race showcase this year, beginning Wednesday, July 31st at the Championship Energy Action Track USA in Kutztown, PA. For more information on race times and locations, click here.
Around the Circuit
Plenty of exciting events are inching their way up the calendar. The LA Classic Auto Show kicks off this weekend at the OC Fair and Event Center, with funnyman Adam Carolla hosting the 2-day festival celebrating all-things-classic. From hobbyists to celebrities, amateurs to industry experts, all are welcome and all are represented.
Those seeking a little more zoom can head down to the Gainesville Raceway in Florida for the 50th Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, running March 14 – 17. Commemorating five decades, this event is set to be a special one with several NHRA legends in attendance. Among them, the most successful driver in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series history, John Force, is looking to take his 150th career win. Get more information here.
Off-roaders coming off the high from this past weekend’s Mint 400 can keep excitement levels up with the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series’ SoCal Shootout in San Bernardino, California this coming Saturday. Blending West Coast vibes with traditional Midwest short-course racing, the event promises intense 4×4 action in all shapes and sizes.
In NASCAR, Kyle Busch celebrates a weekend sweep, taking the NASCAR Xfinity Series win on Saturday and a Sunday triumph in the Monster Energy Cup Series. This is the 12th two-race weekend sweep of his career, 52nd victory in the Cup Series, and his 199th overall win in NASCAR’s top three series.
And as usual, drama in Formula 1 continues to swirl. This time, with Mercedes’ darling Lewis Hamilton expecting to be out-performed by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who wowed during Barcelona’s pre-season testing. Hamilton, who claimed his fifth title last season, says he and his team don’t mind the challenge. “We will fight. It just means we have to work harder, but I am really proud of what our team has done already,” he said. But Vettel himself may face some steeper competition from his new teammate and prodigy, Charles Leclerc recently recruited from Sauber (now Alfa Romeo Racing).
And bigger than all the players is continued stress of new vehicle regulations and racing rules, as well as the possibility of a messy ‘no-deal Brexit’ (whose official deadline is fast approaching). A no-deal result could cause some difficult travel issues for many teams.