A jointly developed Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti compact car will be produced for each brand, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche confirmed at the Frankfurt auto show, though neither he nor his Nissan-Renault CEO counterpart, Carlos Ghosn, would confirm when it would arrive – nor whether the vehicle would be produced in Mexico, as has been rumoured.
Zetsche confirmed the arrival of the new compact cars at a Daimler AG media roundtable during Frankfurt’s preview days last week, but didn’t expound on the project at a later joint press conference with Ghosn to detail the growing participation between the two auto makers. The companies referred to how the Daimler-Nissan/Renault co-operation started in 2010 with three Europe-focused projects, but that mandate has now increased to 10 co-operative programs, with the hunt still on for more.
“We’ve come much further in this relationship than originally planned,” said Zetsche, sitting next to Ghosn at the Q and A session. “I’m pretty optimistic we’ll find other ground for co-operation.”
One of the three original projects was the co-development of the next generation of Smart car, to debut in 2014 after a four-door Smart FourJoy concept was unveiled at the show. The production Smart will share a platform and engineering with the upcoming Renault Twingo in Europe, though when and if the four-door version of the Smart will make it to North America is unconfirmed. Subsequent joint projects include the production of four-cylinder engines for the upcoming new-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class at Nissan’s Decherd, Tenn., plant, as well as an unnamed Infiniti vehicle by mid-2014. Ghosn confirmed that this C-Class also will be built at Nissan’s Sunderland plant in England, which the company had earlier confirmed would also start producing a production version of the Infiniti Q30 hatchback that was introduced in Frankfurt.
With all this talk of Daimler-Nissan co-operation, when asked if the increasingly frequent co-development projects between the companies could eventually lead to a marriage, Ghosn was quick to respond. “I don’t know if it’s a marriage or a fiancée or a casual encounter,” said Ghosn. “But we have projects, and then we get together, not the other way around.”
Zetsche also reflected on the failed co-operation between Daimler and Chrysler, which left both companies reeling financially, but especially the Detroit-based auto maker, which soon after their split went through bankruptcy protection. “You learn more from your failures than your successes, and that marriage started in heaven, but didn’t finish there.”
The issue of all these joint projects eventually competing with each other in the market also came up, but the potential cost savings and production advantages are seen by both to outweigh any potential market competition.
“Frankly, there are some overlaps, such as between Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz [models],” admitted Ghosn. “But the cross-shopping between the two brands is very limited.”
Exotic Pagani Huayra arrives in Canada
The exotic 720-horsepower Pagani Huayra has arrived in Canada, with the Toronto-based Pfaff Automotive dealership group announcing recently that it will be the exclusive Canadian distributor of the highly regarded million-dollar-plus two-seater. It will be on sale in Toronto, with plans to sell it in Vancouver by the end of the year.
Pfaff brought out the Huayra (pronounced wai-rah) to high-end preview events in both cities earlier this month, the low-slung Italian car brazenly showing off its twin turbocharged AMG-derived 6.0-litre V-12 engine mounted behind its two seats. Its torque figure is even higher than its stratospheric pony count, its 740 lb-ft able to power the lightweight (1,350-kilogram) supercar from rest to 60 mph (96 km/h) in a reported 3.3 seconds.
With a seven-speed sequential gearbox, with a single clutch to save weight, the car will be sold from the group’s McLaren dealerships. No official Canadian price was announced for the Italian exotic, produced near Modena but, in this snack bracket, if you have to ask …
Electric and diesel runs vie for attention
A number of recent cross-Canada and cross-continent plug-in car and diesel vehicle marathons are either running now or have wrapped up in the past week or two, all with the goal of highlighting the possibilities and advantages of each alternative drivetrain across vast expanses of land. The most ambitious of these is the E-Mazing Race, simply because many of the vehicles participating are battery electric vehicles with no provision for any energy-dense fossil fuel to help cross the wide-open spaces that span the continent. The race’s organizers bill it as the World’s longest EV race, which officially kicked off Sept. 3 in Seattle and concludes in Summerside, P.E.I., on Sept. 22.
Despite the name, the event is more of a plug-in rally chase, with contestants earning points for charging at various free Sun Country Highway chargers along the route. The event is meant to showcase and highlight the long-distance potential of plug-in cars – even BEVs – as well as the extensive route of public and free Sun Country Highway chargers, especially to Americans living close to the Canadian border. The route runs along the Trans-Canada highway, though it takes meandering stops for publicity and charging station routing purposes, which is why the event will take 17 days. In addition, contestants are not expected to sleep in their vehicles.
Drivers in the “Truth in 48” Audi diesel challenge had a much tighter schedule: The goal was to make it from Torrance, Calif., (near Los Angeles) to the opposite end of the country, in New York City, in 48 hours. This had the team of eight drivers sleeping in the back seat of their Audi TDIs, using diesel versions of the A6, A7 and Q5 crossover. The drivers arrived at their Manhattan Audi dealer destination in 46 hours and nine minutes, after having stopped only four times for diesel fuel.
The drive covered 2,850 miles (4,560 kilometres, and despite arriving almost two hours before their self-imposed deadline, the experienced hyper-milers still managed to beat the vehicle’s highway EPA fuel consumption numbers by 12 to 25 per cent, according to Audi.
A similar promotional cross-Canada trip in a new Chevrolet Cruze Diesel that started in Vancouver and ended Aug. 30 in Halifax covered 5,956 kilometres in eight days, using 250.9 litres of diesel fuel, for an average of 4.3 litres/100 km. VW is planning a similar cross-Canada promotional jaunt in the next few weeks as well.
On the same coast, but at the opposite side of the fuel consumption spectrum, the Targa Newfoundland rally also runs this week. This event is one of three internationally sanctioned Targas in the world, running through towns and back roads of Newfoundland. It can be followed at targanewfoundlandnews.com.