As 2019 barrel towards us, so do the promises of change. Ford’s truck competitors step up to play ball and the automaker sees its F-series sales slightly wobbling. But the whispers of a serious Ford and Volkswagen partnership begin to grow louder, signaling some new beginnings in the new year. Dodge has some revisions for its flagship muscle car up its sleeve. And changes in the 2019 F1 rules already have the paddock grumbling. Plus, fresh Honda enthusiasts came out in full-force to support the third annual Vtec Autumn Speed Festival.
Ford F-Series Sales Dropping
The Ford F-series pickup trucks are the best-selling automobiles in the United States, so even a small drop in sales spurs big talk. F-series sales fell 0.9% in November, compared to last year. Granted, the company still sold over 70,000 trucks and has held that pace for the past nine months, but it appears the blue badge may be feeling the pressure from competitors. Overall truck sales continue to grow, with GM and Chrysler demanding their market share. GM sales rose 8.2% in November, as FCA’s swelled an incredible 42%.
Ford still leads the pack, but its rivals are ready to play ball. Both GM and FCA have completely redesigned the Silverado and RAM 1500 for 2019, with heavy discounts making outgoing models look more attractive. But while Ford may be selling less trucks overall, what it is pushing is at a higher profit. And as the automaker scraps sedans to focus on trucks and crossovers, resurrects the Ranger and Bronco models, and prepares for an F-series redesign in 2020, there’s a good chance it’ll regain that strong lead.
Ford and Volkswagen Take Their Relationship to the Next Level
But as we said, 2019 ushers in great change. And those who fall behind get left behind. Bigger is better—for now. But as electric and autonomous technologies continue to improve, drop in price, and capture consumer attention, automakers know they need a fallback plan. In November, Ford and Volkswagen confirmed an alliance on commercial vehicle production, with advanced talks about other potential ventures continuing behind closed doors. Last week, VW CEO Herbert Diess was in Washington to talk auto tariffs with President Trump. He told the press that the VW-Ford relationship is strong, spurring CNBC to report that a deal could be announced as soon as January.
In the race for new technologies, it makes sense that automakers would pool their efforts, especially as tech giants like Google and UBER squeeze onto the playing field. As part of its recovery from Dieselgate, VW has doubled down on EV efforts. The automaker recently announced its plan to produce 15 million vehicles based on the new MEB platform, pledging to invest more than 11 billion euros in EV and autonomous technologies. Ford could share that financial burden, providing factories for production as well as a strong American reputation. In return, Ford gains an ally who dominates the sedan and luxury market share, with powerful holdings in European, Latin American, and Chinese markets (where Ford continues to struggle).
The key to a happy marriage is filling in each other’s gaps, right? Time will tell if this Ford and Volkswagen relationship is a full commitment or casual courtship.
Challenger GT gets Rear Wheel Drive Counterpart
Ford and Volkswagen aren’t the only auto manufacturers gearing up for changes in the new year. Dodge has a few revisions in the works as well. We’ve already talked about the completely bonkers and drool-worthy SRT Hellcat Redeye—the 797-hp spawn of Hellcat and Demon parentage. But the Dodge Challenger GT, previously all-wheel only, gains a rear-drive model for 2019. It will remain a V6-modeled car, gaining a new front splitter, new hood scoops, and performance-tuned suspension. This is not a replacement of the AWD model, rather an addition to the existing sub-model.
F1 Titan Taken By Surprise with 2019 F1 Rules
On the racing front, rule updates for 2019 Formula 1 are already facing divided responses. As part of a larger push to make the sport more exciting—with major changes coming in 2021—the new regulations package is meant to get the ball rolling by improving overtaking. According to the BBC, “the number of passes has drastically reduced in the last two years, leading to a lot of criticism of the aero changes introduced in 2017. To remedy the situation, the FIA and F1 had brought in the first set of steps of the aero changes in 2019.”
The rule changes are essentially put in place to reduce the amount of turbulence for racers as they tail the car in front of them. The new, wider front wing design is meant to limit downforce, but many officials remain skeptical. “Our simulations show that nothing changes. Overtaking is just as difficult. The whole exercise just costs us money,” said Red Bull’s Helmut Marko back in November.
Additionally, Mercedes recently reported experiencing a setback in their engine design, in trying to keep up with the changes to 2019 F1 rules. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff stated that their hopes to make bigger performance gains from a new engine design had fallen through. Whether Merc is just playing the underdog is up for debate. But as they gun for their sixth consecutive championship, engine performance is of the utmost importance—especially as the competition will supposedly have less difficulty approaching from the rear.
Vtec Autumn Speed Festival
On a positive note, the Vtec Autumn Speed Festival reminded us that sometimes change is decidedly good. The event, held at the Big Willow Track at the Willow Springs International Speedway in Rosamond, California, draws Honda enthusiasts from all over to meet, greet, and compete.
This year’s festival pulled in a huge influx of newcomers, a welcome change to veteran VTEC members looking for fresh talent and exciting competition. Autumn Speed aims to bring people together over their shared passion. And as that family grows, so does the fun.