Weekly Recap: Automakers rethink the definition of luxury
Plus: Notes On NHTSA, Kurt Busch And The Mercedes G63 AMG
The Detroit Auto Show was strong evidence of this reality. It's not enough to offer attractive and well-appointed cars and SUVs anymore. Luxury brands that want to be competitive need to invest in everything from high-powered supercars to clever hybrids. To be relevant, you need to be green and mean – and everything in between.
As General Motors product chief Mark Reuss said after the reveal of the 640-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V: "We are not leaving anything on the table."
He was speaking for Cadillac, but he might as well have been speaking for the luxury car market.
The CTS-V debuted in Detroit about an hour after Lexus surprised showgoers with the reveal of the RC F GT3 race car and then announced ambitious plans to return to competitive racing. That almost overshadowed the fact Lexus had just revealed another potent addition to its growing F line, the 467-hp GS F.
But for luxury brands, it's not just about maximum horsepower for well-heeled enthusiasts or decadent amenities for the Grey Poupon set. Strong competition from all corners has forced automakers to refine and expand their lineups in ways unforeseen even a few years ago.
Case in point: Mercedes-Benz finally has an answer to the BMW X6, rolling out the GLE coupe in Detroit. The X6, which blends coupe-like styling cues with some of the functionality of an SUV, debuted in 2008. Back then it was a punchline, but seven years and more than 260,000 sales later, the X6's success has compelled Benz to respond.
Mercedes – one of the strongest proponents of diesel technology – also debuted the C350 plug-in hybrid sedan, which promises a range of 20 miles on electricity, though fuel economy figures were not announced. The car pairs Mercedes' well-received 208-hp turbocharged four-cylinder with an electric motor for total output of 275 hp and 443 pound-feet of torque.
Meanwhile, Infiniti will add the Q30 hatchback to its lineup by the end of the year, new president Roland Krüger reiterated in Detroit. It's expected to be joined by a crossover variant, and the additions will help strengthen Infiniti in the United States and abroad.
"While we're expanding our product line, we're also expanding our market reach," he said.
That's something echoed by Jaguar executives, who are preparing to launch the brand's first crossover, the F-Pace, in 2016. The vehicle shares underpinnings with Jaguar's upcoming small sedan, the XE, and the F-Pace is designed for enthusiast buyers who need a crossover. But it's still a new experience for Jaguar, whose heritage was built on the racing circuits of Europe.
"The world wants crossovers and SUVs – that's a fact of life," Jaguar design director Ian Callum said.
Companies must move quickly or risk falling behind in the luxury market, which is too lucrative and too competitive for a moment of complacency. The luxury auto market is projected to grow 9.8 percent in 2015 to $116.7 billion in sales, according to research by TrueCar Inc.
That's a lot of money, and more is on the way. Reuss is right. It would be foolish to leave anything on the table.
Other News And Notes
More recalls loom, new NHTSA chief says
New National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief Mark Rosekind was among the luminaries who stopped by the Detroit Auto Show, and he said more recalls could be in store for the industry. He argued recalls can be a sign the system is working and wants to increase the rate at which they are fixed. It's currently about 70 percent, as many owners are unaware or ignore notices. Rosekind plans to grow NHTSA's staff and its investigative powers to handle the recall load. He wants to add to the agency's punitive power and increase the maximum fine it can assess to $300 million.
Kurt Busch testifies ex-girlfriend is assassin
Things did happen outside of Detroit this week, and the most startling involved former NASCAR champion Kurt Busch. He testified that his ex-girlfriend is a trained assassin during court proceedings in Delaware, according to the Associated Press. Busch is accused by Patricia Driscoll of repeatedly hitting her head against the wall of his trailer at Dover International Speedway. He has denied the allegations, and the case is under investigation.
Busch's testimony came during a hearing over a no-contact order, which Driscoll is seeking. Busch also recounted an incident in Texas where Driscoll went out dressed in camouflage and returned later in a blood-stained gown. Driscoll told the AP that Busch's testimony was "ludicrous." A ruling on the order could come in late January.
New Mercedes G63 AMG due this year
Even farther away from the Detroit show, Mercedes continued development work on the G63 AMG in Sweden, as captured by our spy shooter. The shots (click on the picture for the fully gallery) show the neon green G63 wrapped in zebra camouflage tackling the snow. We're hearing it will have still have a 5.5-liter twin turbo V8, and it's expected to debut this year.
- Most and least efficient car companies
- Fastest-depreciating cars in the United States
- Find and compare 2017 Models