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VW GTD (Uli_Sonntag/Volkswagen)
VW GTD (Uli_Sonntag/Volkswagen)

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Volkswagen teeing up new fuel-friendly rides for North America? Add to ...

Volkswagen will reportedly start bringing a range of new fuel-efficient products to North America in the next three years, that will include the next-generation Polo subcompact, a small crossover based on the same MQB platform and a diesel version of the Golf-based GTI called the GTD.

Whether all or any of these vehicles will make it to Canada has not been officially confirmed. However, with the the near-identical lineups and automotive standards currebtly in the two countries, all three seem likely to arrive if the United States receives them.

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An VW of America spokesperson told Motor Trend online recently that the next-generation Polo and the related Buick Encore-sized crossover will be sold in the United States, although not for at least the next three years.

The reason for the move to bring in the new models came down to increasingly stringent corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) requirements, the auto enthusiast outlet said, standards that have been adopted in Canada as well.

Before that, however, will come the VW GTD, the oil burner for GTI enthusiasts, likely by the 2016 model year, trade publication Automotive News reported recently, quoting Andreas Valbuena, Volkswagen product manager for the Golf in the United States. It will offer 184 hp and a hefty 280 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-litre TDI engine to Europeans by this summer, and will come in at a higher price than the gasoline GTI in the United States, but below the all-wheel-drive Golf R, said Valbuena, which in Canada would put it in the vicinity of 32 large.

Hertz offering exotic car rentals

With the summer travel season upon us, folks heading to Florida can book exotic cars as well as more practical high-end four-door luxury machines from Hertz’s new Dream Car fleet, which it launched at the end of June.

Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, Porsches and Nissan GT-Rs are among a number of high-end makes and models available.

Other cities in the United States will be added by the end of July, most of them in the sun belt states of California, Texas, and Arizona, as well as in major cities such as New York (out of JFK airport), Chicago, Seattle, Las Vegas and Boston.

A total of 35 U.S. cities will have such cars available in this first phase, with more to be announced later, although there are no plans to expand the program into Canada, according to Richard Broome, vice-president of communications for Hertz.

But pricing will be the same for Canadian and U.S. customers, between about $400 (all prices U.S.) and $2,000 per day, he wrote in an e-mail this week.

The most exotic of the cars will only be available through the new hertzdreamcars.com website.

However, some of the Porsches and Mercedes-Benzes can be booked now through the regular Hertz website.

Those models actually start at $350/day and include 75 miles, and $0.49 per mile after that.

The Aston Martin Vantage and Audi R8 start at $1,000/day plus $3 for every mile after one’s allotted 75, with the Bentleys and Italian exotics starting at $1,500 per day with the same $3 mileage charge.

Other two-door performance machines available include the SRT Viper, Ferrari F430 convertible and California, Lamborghini Gallardo, or Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.

Those travelling with more than two people, or just looking for more space, can also opt for the Tesla Model S, Range Rover Sport, Cadillac CTS-V or Mercedes-Benz C and E63 AMG models.

EV buyers in the U.S. have more options

Battery electric vehicle manufacturers in the United States have announced a number of measures recently to address the longer refuelling times and battery replacement cost concerns often put forth by EV critics, with unique steps taken by Tesla (quick-change battery swaps), Nissan and Smart (battery lease programs) in the past couple months.

But none of these manufacturer measures have been confirmed to be coming to Canada at any point soon, in contrast to other such initiatives, and may not come at all.

Tesla announced in late May that it plans to include super-quick battery swapping stations at its Supercharger solar-powered quick charge stations, which will allow Model S owners the ability to exceed its maximum 425 km range without stopping for an hour for a full charge. At a demonstration event at Tesla’s design studio in California, a Model S battery was swapped out in 90 seconds, taking about half the time of an Audi A7 filling up at a local Los Angeles gas station.

“The choice is basically between fast and free,” said Elon Musk, Tesla’s enigmatic CEO at a demonstration event in California, with the fast (hour-long from empty) charging available to all owners for free – forever, he insisted – while a battery swap would cost $60-$80, with you picking up your own battery fully charged on the return trip, or keeping it, and paying for the difference in remaining capacity.

The first battery swap stations will be in California, with the Washington-Boston corridor up next.

No plans for a battery swap station in Canada yet, said Tesla spokesperson Shanna Hendriks, though fast charging will be available at Supercharger stations planned in the Windsor-to-Montreal corridor by the end of this year.

Nissan announced a plan in the United States to alleviate fears of the high cost of battery replacement, with the company making new or nearly new batteries available for $100 a month. This comes after its additional warranty guarantee of a minimum of 70 per cent capacity after five years or 100,000 km, which Nissan Canada extended to its customers as well. But this new measure, meant to address fears of a multi-thousand-dollar bill for a new battery pack, only applies in the United States.

Smart came up with a plan where one could lease the battery pack, as well as leasing or buying the vehicle, and making either option available for a total of $199 a month. In this way, buyers could either have the same $199 payment throughout the life of the vehicle, or a smaller battery-only payment after paying the car off (sans battery) off, and never have to worry about only being able to travel 70 per cent as far on a charge.

But again, there’s no such option to lease the battery in Canada, “at this point,” said a Mercedes-Benz Canada spokesperson.

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