As the holiday season draws to a close and the new year rolls in, the automotive industrial machine pushes on. Exciting new vehicles are set to debut soon, including 2020 models of the Ford Explorer, Mustang GT500, Land Rover Defender, Toyota Supra, as well as the elusive C8 Corvette and Ford Bronco. FCA continues to pump out more JL Wranglers than dealers currently know what to do with. Toyotas betting BIG on a robot-led future. And VW continues to dump giant sums of cash into building an EV infrastructure for its grand electric vision—just as it reports some “abnormalities” in the emissions-control software of its EA 189 engine. (Whoops.) Could this be the return of Dieselgate?
Lookin’ Good for the New Year
Even though looming tariffs are throwing a wrench in projected sales forecasts, major automakers still have some exciting releases set for 2019.
Bigger is Better
Ford recently announced the 2020 Ford Explorer will debut January 9, just ahead of the Detroit Auto Show. Riding on a new rear-wheel drive platform, the 2020 Explorer will offer both a performance ST variant and an electric-hybrid option. Time’s they are a-changin’, and so is your familiar family-friendly, three-row SUV.
Looking for something further upmarket? Camouflaged 2020 Defenders are set to be roving around the States next month, sporting an all-new exterior and interior design. No detailed specs are available yet, but we can expect plenty of modern tech, high-quality materials, and an Ingenium family engine. Here’s hoping for a reveal at next month’s auto show.
The Need for Speed
Also set to drop in the new year is the new Toyota Supra and Mustang GT500. Toyota’s revived sports car will see a BMW-sourced turbocharged I-6 under the hood and a 0-60 time of less than 5 seconds. The new Shelby GT500, sporting a 700-hp supercharged V-8, will debut as Ford’s most powerful production car to date. Both have planned reveals at the Detroit Auto Show in January.
Just a Tease
Still playing hard to get for the new year are the C8 Corvette and well-teased Ford Bronco. The new Chevy supercar, which gains a mid-engine platform, was originally expected to debut next month in Detroit. Whether GM is building suspense, picking a better-attended auto show, or working out rumored electrical system issues on the new model remains to be seen. Looks like fans will have to hold on a little longer… perhaps until New York in April?!
And what about that Bronco, huh?? Ford’s been building more suspense than a Hitchcock film, confirming its return back in 2017, building hype for two years, and most recently “leaking” photos from a dealer meeting last October. And now? Nothin’. While we don’t expect a true debut until 2020, we sure are getting antsy for a prototype peek. (You hear that, Ford?)
JL Wrangler Inventory Grows Like Bunnies
The JL Wrangler rounds out an astounding year, entering the fourth quarter with sales already higher than the previous year’s totals. But despite the model’s success, it seems FCA’s expectations were a little bit higher. Like, Stage Mom higher. Automotive News reported last week that, “supplies of unsold Wranglers at U.S. dealerships (or on their way there) have ballooned to well more than 100 days in each of the past three months” with dealers holding “roughly double or even triple the supply that they traditionally carried with the previous JK version of the Wrangler.”
While the bump in production allows FCA to sell the Wrangler to new markets, current dealerships are feeling the heat. As they face the odd problem of struggling to clear their lots of a high-demand item, many blame the new JL’s inflated price. Compared to last year, four-door Wranglers are up $3,550 while two-doors saw a $3,950 price bump.
We’re sure there’s a method to FCA’s madness, so despite the boost in JL Wrangler inventory, don’t expect any incentives come springtime.
Toyota Bets BIG on Robots
Apparently years of cautionary Science Fiction mean nothing to Toyota, who is putting billions of dollars into the development of family-friendly, live-in robots designed to help with everything from folding laundry to tidying up a room. With good intentions, Toyota hopes to address the growing problem of elder care in Japan. A country where, Bloomberg reports, “a quarter of the population is over 65 and millions of seniors live alone.”
Experiments have remained largely that—experiments. But since 2015, Toyota has opened an AI Research Institute in Silicon Valley, set up a $100 million fund for investing in robotics-centered startups, and revamped its own Partner Robot division. Its newest android, the T-HR3, allows users to operate it via a type of VR-headset. The hope is that one day it could provide surrogate movement for the bedridden and disabled, as well as aid disaster relief efforts in areas too dangerous for emergency responders.
We applaud the generous and optimistic vision of the future but have to ask… Does no one remember the Robot’s Revenge episode of The Jetsons?!
Is VW Headed for Dieselgate 2.0?
It appears that despite Volkswagen’s ambitious dedication to an EV-led future, Dieselgate continues to follow it like a crazy ex-girlfriend. Committed to boosting its current electric car lineup from two to 20 by 2025, VW is investing billions of euros into its plans to become a leader in electric mobility… and cleaning up its reputation in the process.
Most recently, the automaker introduced its innovative quick-charging stations aimed at aiding the transition to a more EV-friendly society. Based on the same battery pack used in the MEB platform, the stations are easy to move and fast to charge. Seventeen-minutes-fast to be exact. Additionally, MotorTrend reports that each station can charge four vehicles at a time, up to fifteen total, before needing to be recharged itself. Although, if plugged into a power supply (traditional, solar, wind, whatever), the station can supply continuous charging.
Revolutionary and convenient, this is a big win for VW. One that will hopefully overshadow its recent issues with the 1.2-liter EA 189 engine. It appears that despite recalling and “fixing” millions of cars with cheating emissions systems, roughly 500,000 rides on the road may still be sporting illegal software. There is a possibility it isn’t illegal, but Volkswagen is taking NO chances after feeling the PR and financial burn of Dieselgate 1.0. The company reported the potential problem almost immediately to Germany’s transport authority, the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt. We’ll have to wait a few weeks to see where the investigation leads.