Each week we compile the best announcements and developments from the world of cars. Here are the topics you can’t miss from August 4 through August 10.
Jaguar is America’s Fastest-Growing Automaker
For years Jaguar has been an also-ran next to competitors like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi. They always offered interesting cars with a distinct British flair, but that was never enough to elevate them to the forefront of the luxury car market.
That’s all changing, with Jaguar posting a massive 59% sales growth over the first seven months of 2016. Meanwhile BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi have all seen sales losses compared to last year. So what’s driving this change?
The introduction of Jaguar’s new F-Pace SUV is the main contributor. American car buyers are flocking to the stylish crossover, which offers real competition to cars like the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Audi Q5. Jaguar’s new XE sedan, aimed squarely at mainstays like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C Class, and Audi A4, is the least expensive car Jaguar has offered in years and will likely further increase their sales growth.
It’s an impressive effort from a brand that has spent too much time on the sidelines. If you haven’t seen Jaguar’s new cars yet, we suggest you check them out.
New Automaker on the Horizon: Skoda
Have you ever heard of Skoda? The Czech car brand (part of the Volkswagen Auto Group) has existed since 1895 with a major presence in Europe. Skoda vehicles have never been sold in the United States, but that could be about to change: Skoda’s CEO was quoted as saying “When we talk about our plans until 2025, then you cannot leave out one of the most important car markets in the world. Therefore, we examine under what conditions and with what cars the entrance to the U.S. market would be possible.”
Perhaps in anticipation of their launch, Skoda has trademarked the names of some of their most popular vehicles in the United States. You might be seeing Skoda sedans like the Octavia or Superb, or a Yeti crossover on the road, with hybrid options likely. Enthusiasts should take note of Skoda’s “vRS” moniker, which is reserved for their performance-oriented trim levels. We’ll find out soon if Skoda will make its way to our shores.
Over 800,000 Fords Affected by Door Recall
When you get in your car and shut the door, you have a reasonable expectation that it’s going to stay shut until you’ve safely arrived at your destination. That’s not the case for over 800,000 Ford vehicles – a faulty component can allow doors to swing open while the car is in motion.
This is clearly a safety issue, and one injury has already been reported. Affected models are the 2013-15 C-Max, 2013-15 Escape, 2012-15 Focus, 2015 Mustang, 2014-16 Transit Connect, and 2015 Lincoln MKC. It seems hotter climates can cause the bad component to deteriorate faster, so Ford drivers in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Oregon and Washington should expect a letter from Ford in the mail soon.
Regardless of location, we suggest all Ford drivers check their VIN for recalls right away.
More Airbag Recalls: 8 Million Affected
The Takata airbag recall we reported on previously is far from over, but there’s another potential airbag recall on the way. After a motorist in Canada was killed by an exploding inflator, the NHTSA is opening an investigation into airbags manufactured by ARC Automotive. Over 8 million ARC airbags were installed in vehicles made by General Motors, Chrysler, Hyundai, and Kia. Drivers of those vehicles should monitor this story as it develops.
High-Tech Transmission Recalled
Another day, another recall. This time the nine-speed automatic transmission in many Chrysler, Jeep, Fiat, Land Rover, and Honda vehicles is being recalled for a range of problems.
The transmission, manufactured by ZF, has an improperly crimped wire which can cause faulty sensor signals. This can lead to rough shifting, acceleration surges, slow downshifting, drops into neutral while the vehicle is driving, and rollaways after park has been selected. Three drivers claimed they were run over when they got out of their cars after selecting park – similar to when actor Anton Yelchin when was killed by his Jeep.
Over half a million vehicles are affected by this recall, and It’s unfortunate how common recalls are these days. Fortunately, it’s easy for car owners to check their vehicle’s VIN to see if they’re affected.
Don’t Plug in an Electric Car – Refill it?
One of the main drawbacks of owning an electric car are the long times needed to recharge the battery. It’s much more convenient to be able to stop at a station and fill up the gas tank. A new startup aims to split the difference between the simplicity of filling up a tank and the promise of zero-emissions driving with their prototype of a refillable battery.
Germany-based NanoFlowcell showcased their innovative technology with a striking concept car at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. Today’s electric cars use a solid-state battery to hold a charge, but NanoFlowcell’s approach uses an electrolytic liquid that can store electricity. The idea is that a driver can fill up their vehicle’s tank at a station, just like they do with gasoline. However instead of fossil fuels in the pump, spent electrolyte liquid is drained and replaced with charged liquid.
This clever idea is still in its early stages and has many challenges to overcome before it’s ready for the road. Still, NanoFlowcell’s technology would make electric car ownership much easier by significantly reducing the time needed to recharge.
Bring on the Aston Martins
The world can be an ugly place – until you see an Aston Martin. The boutique British automaker just released its stunning DB11 grand tourer, but they’re already hard at work on what’s next: Aston Martin’s CEO has promised seven new cars over the next seven years.
This aggressive product launch strategy will diversify Aston’s product offerings and help them grow for the future. A new Vanquish, the more sporty compatriot to Aston’s “DB” badged grand tourers, will likely pack a more powerful version of the DB11’s V12. A new Vantage is also due, which will use the twin turbo V8 from the AMG GT as part of Aston’s partnership with Mercedes-Benz. Perhaps most surprising is the company’s intention to bring their DBX concept – a high-riding coupe that’s not quite an SUV – to life. The range will be topped by an Formula 1-inspired hypercar previewed by the AM-RB 001 concept.
Mix in at least one ultra-luxury sedan, a mid-engine supercar, and convertible versions of the above mentioned models, and Aston Martin’s lineup will be bigger and more diverse than ever before. This is great news for anyone who appreciates the beauty and elegance their cars bring to the road.