Chrysler Canada president and Dodge brand CEO Reid Bigland confirmed in an interview recently that Dodge offers only a sedan version of its upcoming Dart compact, even though the best-selling compact vehicles in this country offer multiple body styles.
In an interview on the floor of the Canadian International Auto Show, Bigland said sedans represent 90 per cent of the compact segment, and 25 per cent of the overall Canadian new-car (not including truck) marketplace, so the company wants to focus on one mainstream product to launch itself back into the compact car game.
"We're going to go right up the middle of where the demand is," said Bigland, although he acknowledged that hatchbacks and two-door coupes have helped the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra and Mazda3 become the best-selling cars in Canada. "Right now, the evidence is overwhelmingly on a four-door sedan."
That "right now" caveat may give faint hope to fans of the Dart, set to go on sale in the second quarter, but who may wish for other body styles. Bigland admitted that other body styles may be more practical, while defending Dodge's former hatchback-only Dodge Caliber compact.
"I don't think the Caliber has soured anyone [at Chrysler]on hatchbacks," said Bigland, while not venturing any estimate or giving any concrete indication of when a five-door or coupe version of the Dart may become available. "There's a functionality edge with the hatchback, no doubt."
However, the new Dart will offer one uniquely practical option at launch: the industry's first cordless recharger for one's cellphone. There will be a pad and sleeve setup offered as an accessory through Mopar – it will be available first on the Dart – and will cost about $200, said Mopar president Pietro Gorlier. It will then roll out into other pricier Chrysler products such as the Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee, Gorlier said at the show.
Audi to unveil new A3 in Geneva
Speaking of hatch-to-sedan transformations, Audi will unveil its new-generation A3 in hatchback form at the Geneva auto show next month, but will reportedly only sell a sedan version in North America when it arrives here in 2014.
That A3 sedan will replace the current A3 that's now only available as a compact five-door hatchback, trade journal Automotive News reported this week, and the new body style is expected to help increase the baby Audi's sales appeal – and perhaps differentiate it from the five-door Volkswagen GTI.
The new A3 will be unveiled in Geneva as a five-door hatchback model, with Europe also set to receive three-door, sedan and convertible versions. A sedan A3 concept was shown at last year's Geneva auto show, which may suggest that enthusiast magazine Road & Track may be more accurate with its estimate of the A3 sedan's arrival early next year, as a 2014 model.
An Audi Canada spokesperson this week could not confirm when the new A3 would arrive north of the border, or in what body style(s), or when production would start on European A3s.
Ferrari to unleash new super-car
A successor to the 599 Fiorano GTB coupe will be unveiled at the Geneva auto show in March, with various reports suggesting at least 700 hp to come from the revised V12 engine.
The car will be revealed online before its auto show debut, with a teaser video unveiled at Ferrari.com that promises the scoop on Feb. 29. That's assuming of course that the info hasn't been found out and made public on the code-named F620GT before then.
"A revolutionary new car that delivers extreme performance and unprecedented power output," said Ferrari CEO Luca di Montezemolo about the next-generation V-12, in a statement confirming the car's unveiling in Geneva. The current 599 is a front-engine GT that may have the same type of engine as Lamborghini's V-12 Aventador, but not the Lambo's handling and style-enhancing engine placement just behind the driver.
Germany's Auto Bild magazine reported that this sports car will offer at least 700 hp from a revised 6.3-litre V-12, with power to the rear wheels via Ferrari's new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
More tantalizingly, an electrically boosted version of this engine will be the heart of a replacement for the dearly departed Enzo supercar, and is set to debut this fall, reported Automobile magazine. This will be the Aventador rival, as it will achieve approximately 920 hp in total, after a Formula One KERS-style electric boost function.
Ontario moves to encourage more EV test drives
If you've had an Ontario dealer refuse you a test drive of a plug-in vehicle, as I have, the province moved earlier this month to make it easier for buyers to get seat time in these quieter but pricier low or zero local emissions vehicles.
The Ontario government provides a rebate of up to $8,500 on all new plug-in vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Chevrolet Volt, provided the vehicles didn't travel more than 500 km. While many dealers couldn't offer test drives because they simply didn't have the vehicles in stock, those that did often refused test drives for the supply-restricted vehicles due to the dealer's fear of putting too many kilometres on the car and therefore making it ineligible for the Ontario EV rebate.
So as of Feb. 10, the province has increased the EV mileage limit from 500 to 2,000 km, Ontario Ministry of Transportation spokesperson Bob Nichols confirmed this week.
"The change reflects the fact that dealers have to permit more test drives for electric vehicles compared to conventional vehicles to make purchasers comfortable with the technology," said Nichols. "It improves access to demo vehicles for consumers yet still ensures that vehicles are still sold as quickly as possible to the public."