Not sure how this was brought up, but what if I was involved with product development at some automotive manufacturer somewhere…
It is a dangerous thing to even consider. Just like my colleagues in the automotive media corps, we think we know what is best for the industry. Our vision is to hope that the OEMs would listen to our pleas of products that would satisfy the world. Instead, we only think they would solely please us. Hence this is the danger in considering the "what if" statement above.
However, I began to think about some conversations I had with some friends, colleagues and complete social media strangers to think what would be good additions to our market. Moreover, what products would be seen as grand improvements on other already being sold – or, unsold – in North America. Would there be a product that could help a brand? Or, is there a better solution to solve a void in the current lineup?
Normally, "The Speculator" is used to take known information to frame the possibilities of key future products. Not this time. It is all purely my own thoughts and ideas with some kernels of known information. This all would almost be purely placed in the realm of imagination, to be honest.
Then again, these could come true. Well, perhaps it would be great if all of it were true. Who knows? Maybe someone else is thinking the same thing at some R&D center somewhere on this planet…
My product ideas are as follows…
THE RETURN OF THE MITSUBISHI SPORTS CAR: If Mitsubishi is looking to regain ground in the USA, they have to add some more spice to the lineup. Granted, the new Outlander is helping some with the Mirage waiting in the wings. There is already talk of a new Lancer with a more sustainable Evolution model. The rumors are flying as to other models that could join the growing lineup, however I might have something that would bring the enthusiasts back to the three-diamond brand.
Remember the Starion? If you are my age, you recalled the splash the two-seat, rear-drive, turbocharged sports coupe made upon the West Coast enthusiast crowd. It challenged the likes of the Nissan 300ZX, Toyota Supra, Porsche 944, the Chevrolet Camaro/Pontiac Firebird and the Ford Mustang. My idea of a new sports car for Mitsubishi is a rear-drive, front engine, two-seat or two-plus-two coupe that is sleeker than any coupe ever made by Mitsubishi.
Power would come from the Evo: The 4B11T. The sports car would turn the engine around for rear wheel drive, but retain a lot of its power. I would give it 280 horsepower with the 2.0litre turbocharged engine. Transmissions would be new: a six-speed manual and a six-speed twin-clutch semi-automatic. To answer the critics on the lack of all-wheel drive on the Toyota/Subaru GT86/BRZ/FR-S, a special All-Wheel Control system would be optional – if not standard. The question is not where to put the differential, but rather how it would be used. Think “track tuned” applications – better still, the best handling sports car possible.
Since the talk of the next Evo is with added electrification (or, full electrification), that driveline could be placed in the sports car. Though I prefer it would not – despite the looming of the Porsche 918 and Acura NSX with their own electric motors onboard. Nonetheless, this sports car should shatter everything one considers in something under $37,500 – with a target curb weight of 3,000 pounds and a larger fuel tank than the Evo.
FORD'S GLOBAL BIG SEDAN: It is known that Ford will pull out of Australia as a manufacturer in a couple of years. It is also know that there had been some discussion of a unified large car that serves Australia and North America. The details are simply a tug-of-war: Australians prefer rear drive, while the North Americans are used to the front wheels being driven. What is the solution to placates a smaller scale of the OneFord strategy?
My idea is to bring back the rear-drive platform. It would be based on the upcoming Mustang, but it would also be from a flexible platform off of an existing vehicle line. The rear-drive lineup would also accommodate all-wheel drive and make that available in all markets. Engines range from the 2.0litre EcoBoost turbocharged four to the big 3.5litre EcoBoost twin-turbocharged V6. At 365 horsepower (or more), that would be the performance engine for all markets. It would seat five, but with more accommodation for all markets. You could also bet on a high level of content and technology – even a new generation of MyFord Touch and SYNC.
Would it spawn a Lincoln model? The MKZ has been gaining ground lately, so it would seem natural for a Lincoln model to be developed. It would have to have its own design inside and out and an exclusive V6 lineup – the 3.7litre and the 3.5litre EcoBoost. What about crossovers? Of course! I would expect the Explorer replacement as a global product (replacing the Australian Territory and with potential sales in other markets outside of North America and Oceania). This would also spawn a three-row Lincoln MKX/T replacement.
Obviously, this would be a product that would be built in North America – preferably one with a fair trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand. This might not be called the Falcon is some markets, though I wonder if the Taurus name would survive this new car either. Fairmont does not serve as a good memory in the States as it did in Australia. Maybe the Fairlane, perhaps? Or, do we just leave it as the Taurus/Falcon?
BUICK'S FLAGSHIP: There had been many flagship concepts touted for Buick. Most of which had been either coupes or convertibles for the brand. They resonate well with the Chinese with some doubting interest on this side of the Pacific. What if Buick went ahead with a flagship car? What would that be? How would it be exclusive without any rub against Cadillac?
The idea I have harkens back to 1963. Granted, the personal luxury coupe has been a bygone idea, but somehow two-door cars are slowly coming back. The upcoming Cadillac ELR is a two-door, right? This Buick would have rear-wheel drive on an extended Alpha platform and a selection of engines that includes some form of electrification. The 3.6litre V6 is indeed on the list, but not Cadillac's twin-turbo version of the same engine. The Buick may have to do with a single turbine strapped onto the 3.6litre for a balanced drive. That should be good for 375-390 horsepower. I would expect all-wheel drive and some version of the eAssist light hybrid system to the regular V6 as at least an option.
The four-seat idea means having room for four adults. Sounds like the 1963 Riviera to me! It would mean employing new-to-GM rear seat access systems giving adults a chance to get in and out of the rear seat. Think of the Mercedes-Benz W216 CL (or upcoming S-Class Coupe) as inspiration for this new coupe. That alone would indicate the kind of aspirations this new take on the Personal Luxury Coupe is heading for.
Why a coupe and not a sedan as Buick's flagship? To reiterate, it is to avoid the overlap with Cadillac. The XTS and the proposed next level sedan serves a purpose for General Motors consumers looking to have a large sedan to drive. A large four-place coupe serves a unique function that is not for volume, but to bring out more of the brand's image further. My proposed price point would be $50,000-55,000 – about half the price of a Mercedes-Benz CL.
HOW FIAT (AND CHRYSLER) WOULD PLAY "GLOBAL GOLFING": The revised product plan is beginning to ferment again with hopes of seeing the next move from Fiat for Chrysler in the upcoming months. With the new Jeep Cherokee targeted for fall production, the question remains as to how flexible the CUS-Wide platform will become – and not just for North America. It could just mean using the basic C-Evo platform for this next idea of mine.
What Fiat needs is not just a contender against the Volkswagen Golf, but one that would actually equal and battle with the global compact hatch leader. To do so, it would have to take the best of the C-Evo and CUS-Wide and create something more in tune for the global marketplace. Since the current contender, the Bravo, will become more of a crossover in its next iteration, the door is open for (a) a Golf/GTI contender for Europe, (b) an additional product for Fiat studios in North America and (c) a cool car for the rest of the world. Even better, I would even build this in North America.
The design inspiration is truly Fiat. It has to be its own car – no Chrysler Group or Fiat 500 influence whatsoever. Expect Blue&Me and UConnect to integrate into an infotainment powerhouse with flexible readout per market. Power would come from the 1.4litre MultiAir engine family – turbocharged models a must. I would also include a larger turbocharged MultiAir four-cylinder – similar to Alfa Romeo's 1750cc turbocharged unit – badged as an Abarth. Displacement would be somewhere between 1.8 and 2.0litres. The target for the slightly larger, but mighty turbocharged MultiAir is 230 horsepower. Outside of North America, the requisite MultiJet turbodiesels are a part of the package, though it would be nice of one would show up on this side of the Atlantic for once. No Tigersharks would make its way onto the new compact Fiat hatch. Expect six-speed gearboxes all around in both manual and dual-clutch automatic.
The point of the new compact Fiat is to add flavor to the Dodge Dart/Fiat Viaggio and the upcoming Chrysler 100/Lancia hatch. The Abarth model alone could be massaged to compete against the Opel/Vauxhall Astra OPC/VXR, Ford Focus ST and the Renaultsport Megane, as well as the GTI. More importantly, this could be a huge contender in the hottest market in the world – if packaged right.