How long will the 'golden age' of performance last?
Plus: Analysis on the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF and Lincoln Navigator
Industry leaders have some time before regulations elevate the Corporate Average Fuel Economy level in 2025. Even then, they expect cars rippling with power to survive in some form.
"Is it the end of an era," I don't think so," said Ola Källenius, Daimler AG board member for Mercedes-Benz cars marketing and sales. "That performance element of individual mobility I don't think will ever go away."
Källenius, who oversaw the company's AMG division from 2010-2013, expects it to continue to grow. Last year, AMG sold a record 68,875 units around the world, an increase of 44.6 percent over 2014, with strong growth in the US, China, and Germany.
Still, there's always the potential for gas to spike, and pending fuel economy regulations are looming. That could lead AMG to add electrification to its products, Källenius said, pointing to the electric SLS as a test case.
Chevy is also thinking ahead, said Al Oppenheiser, chief engineer of the Camaro. He wouldn't bite when asked about electrification for the Camaro (he did say "never say never"), but admitted in 2025 "it's going to be pretty tough to sell V8s."
For now, things are rosy for muscle cars, and Chevy confidently showcased the 640-hp Camaro ZL1 in coupe and convertible form in New York. "I think that this is truly the golden age of performance," Oppenheiser said.
It's hard to disagree.
News & Analysis
News: The 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF was a show-stopper in New York.
Analysis: There was a palpable energy when this RF — for Retractable Fastback — was revealed the night before the show at a trendy off-site venue near the Hudson River. Even as a parade of SUVs and flashy luxury cars rolled out the rest of the week, the Miata remained a hot topic. The Retractable Fastback is really a clever targa top, with part of the roof stowing behind the seats, adding about 100 pounds compared to the standard convertible. It makes the car more practical and arguably more attractive. The RF continues Mazda's tradition of selling the Miata with a hardtop variant. The first and second generations offered a detachable one, and a power retractable hardtop (a $1,700 option) was available on third-gen models. Judging by its reception in New York, the RF could prove to be even more popular than its predecessors.
News: Lincoln is launching a new version of the Navigator in 2017.
Analysis: It makes a lot of sense. SUVs are hot. Large SUVs are lucrative. Lincoln already has the brand strength in this space – Navigator is its most-recognized nameplate – and has the resources to build a compelling product. Even with its semi-recent light refresh, the Navigator is getting long in the tooth, and sales have dropped 6.8 percent this year. It was time to either dramatically remake the ute or drop it. Wisely, Lincoln is sticking with the Navigator, and the concept in New York suggests a compelling future for the venerable SUV.
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