So much is going on across the automotive landscape. Here are some of the top stories.
The British-Malaysian-German three-way?
From the international grapevine department: there is widespread speculation that an announcement could happen at any moment indicating that Volkswagen has inked a deal to purchase 51-percent of Malaysian automaker Proton. Proton and VW have been working together closely since 2005.
While this means absolutely nothing to most American consumers, die-hard car people know that Proton is the parent company of Lotus. Like many small-volume sports car makers, Lotus has been shuffled around between more parents than an average American foster child.
VW’s rumored investment is obviously fueled more by interest in Proton’s small car production than in anything about Lotus. VW, however, would certainly get access to one of the best automotive engineering firms, Lotus Engineering, as well as the Elise platform. This could make an interesting VW sports car much more plausible.
Proton did a great job helping the oft money-troubled Lotus turn things around. It seems just like yesterday when a lack of cash and company-wide disorganization translated to no US-spec Elise and an Esprit with roots dating back to the Ford administration. Under the Proton ownership, Lotus and Lotus Engineering thrived with a successful American market Elise program and a wonderfully responsive American marketing group.
With so much exciting innovation (including working on the ZAP prototype discussed earlier on The Four Wheel Drift,) hopefully VW will keep funds and other support flying in.
New Tundra hits the streets
I was driving my family to dinner when I pulled up to a large truck at a light. I instantly recognized it as the new Tundra. Describing the Tundra in one word is easy: huge. Actually, it compares pretty well to the Silverado, F-150 and Titan, but for some reason, it appears so much larger.
Despite what it looks like in pictures, the Tundra looks better in person. It won’t win any beauty awards – it has nothing on the great aggressive looks of the F-150 and Titan. Consider it like the first Bangleized BMW 7-Series, awkward in pictures, but actually somewhat interesting in the flesh.
I had the opportunity to sit inside the Tundra yesterday — unfortunately time and weather did not permit driving. First impression is that it is quite comfortable. The interior is very car-like, with a lower ceiling than one would expect in a full-sized pickup. (Tall guys will need to take off their hardhats or Stetsons prior to entering.) Ergonomics are excellent.
One concern is the amount of faux-aluminum painted plastic. In a truck designed for work, this material will scratch and look horrible within weeks.
Chrysler announces jobs cuts and plant closures…and since GM might be buying them, can count on more in the future.
By now you have probably heard about Chrysler’s job cuts and proposed plant closures. Before anyone starts calling DaimlerChrysler the next GM and Ford, one must keep in mind that DCX is in much better shape.
While DCX’s stock price has gone down since the 1998 merger, the stock price is actually up significantly since September 2001. Looking back, the early stock decline was based on the financial reporting irregularities. Mercedes then ran into quality and sales issues.
There is speculation that Dr. Z’s comments regarding the job cuts and plant closures mean they are looking for a buyer for Chrysler Corp. With the extent of engineering and part sharing, don’t count on this. Furthermore, the only companies in a financial position to swing a buyout Chrysler Corp are Toyota, Honda, VW and BMW. None of these companies have any need for Chrysler, even though it outsold Ford last month. Of course, this hasn’t stopped GM…which just leaked that it is in talks to possibly buy Chrysler from Daimler Benz.
We’ll admit — a GM-Chrysler merger caught us totally off-guard. Maybe, it’s because there isn’t a good reason for either company to go through with it.