The Speculator: May I Suggest…?

Holden Colorado7 - Photo courtesy of General Motors
Holden Colorado7 – Photo courtesy of General Motors

OK, what if I were some product developer for some automotive manufacturer? If given the license to develop new vehicles for the automotive market, what could I come up with?

"Oh, this has got to be good…"

After more than 15 years of covering this industry, I'm sure that I can have some license on using my imagination to consider the possibilities of products in the marketplace. It also helps to understand demographics and to which populations would buy certain vehicles. This is not just some exercise on what I would like to see out there in our showrooms. But, rather, an exploration of "what if" there was something people would love to own, even if it meant feeding a niche market.

In this Speculator piece, I began to study, review and imagine what products would be awesome for the USA automotive marketplace. Of course, there will be considerations regarding upcoming CAFE regulatory updates and other emissions considerations.

In all, it is time to have some fun…don't you think?

GMC MID-SIZED SUV: We have been asking for this product, since General Motors is absent in the real SUV marketplace. The truth is that GM needs to play in the sandbox with Jeep, Land Rover and Toyota when it comes to hardcore off-road machines. With Ford developing the upcoming Bronco, it would be best to bring over the three-row, Chevrolet Colorado-based SUV from the Asia-Pacific market here. It would have to be built at the Wentzville, Missouri plant near St. Louis, alongside the Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups. To adapt to our tastes, both the exterior and interior would have to be adapted to GMC's design language tenets – squared off wheel arches, bold three-bar grille, and uprated interior. Power would come in two ways – the 3.6-liter V6 and the Duramax 2.8-liter turbocharged diesel. It should feature a six-speed automatic transmission, a two-speed transfer case and All-Terrain/Z71 suspension components. Why GMC? The brand needs products to distinguish itself further from Chevrolet’s truck and SUV product line. Would it come in a Denali model? Great idea! hink of this as a great alternative to the LR4 or Range Rover Sport (for less money).

Fiat Tipo hatchback - Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Fiat Tipo hatchback – Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

FIAT COMPACT SEDAN/HATCHBACK: This year's Geneva Auto Show sparked some thought about the new Tipo and the possibility that Fiat needs to expand its lineup further from the 500 style and to fill the gaps that will be empty with the impending loss of the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200. The Tipo rides on an existing platform, currently shared with the Fiat 500L, 500X and Jeep Renegade. The engine choices are simple: a 1.4-liter Multiair turbo and the 2.4-liter Tigershark. Manuals and automatics – including the ZF-designed nine-speed automatic – should be considered. What will throw off customers at Fiat Studios is the "conventional" design of the Tipo, especially in sedan form. Add the five-door hatchback, and you have a solid choice for customers. There is one caveat – quality must improve to make it compete against the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra…and so forth.

MITSUBISHI NEW COMPACT SEDAN: The Lancer is almost at end of life. There are many rumors as to how to replace it…in particular, the Evolution. The reality is…we have no clue. However, Mitsubishi needs new product. The 2017 Mirage and G4 were updated to improve their stature in this market. The Outlander and Outlander Sport were also updated. The Lancer got a facelift and saw its more powerful models shelved for good. Fine. Let's do this: See what Nissan can do for its controlling stake in the company. The solution is easy. Look at what Nissan and its alliance partner Renault can provide Mitsubishi for its key markets. If the Lancer is the only model that needs to be replaced, somewhere within the alliance – Dacia and Samsung, included – will be a good compliment to the Mirage/G4. I would bring in the Renault Fluence and/or Renault Samsung SM3. It would take a new front clip to meet Mitsubishi's design standards, an engine upgrade to the 2.0-liter or 2.4-liter (if either fits underneath the hood), plenty of three-diamond badges, and the inclusion of the Z.E. model to compliment the Outlander PHEV in the lineup (and to replace the i-MIEV). The question is whether this car will come from Turkey or the Republic of Korea.

2016 Scion iM - All Photos by Randy Stern
2016 Scion iM – Photo by Randy Stern

TOYOTA COROLLA iM GTS: If your memory is as long as mine, then you can recall the Toyota Corolla FX16 GTS from 1987. It was strictly a badass hatch that rattled sabers with the likes of the Volkswagen GTI. Toyota can play this game again, now that Scion is folding their products onto the Toyota lineup. This is what I propose: take the Corolla hatchback (formerly the Scion iM), take out the cylinder head of its 1.8-liter engine, replace it with a better breathing, higher performance one, add on a turbocharger and an intercooler. The result should be somewhere between 200-220 horsepower. Tack on a performance-orientated six-speed manual transmission and add a choice of a six-speed automatic or dual-clutch transmission. Slap on some performance rubber and hotter wheels. Upgrade the interior with sportier seats, a turbo boost gauge and other sporty goodies. What you have is an image car for Toyota – one that will excite enthusiasts to return to the brand. You know, you could build this at the Cambridge, Ontario plant alongside the sedans…

PORSCHE 911 CARRERA RS (or GTS): Another 911 model?!? Yes, but think about this for a moment. When Porsche develops race-ready 911s, they are usually the GT3 variety. Their boxer engines are tuned well into the 500-plus horsepower range. And, these models usually fetch a sticker price of $175,000 and beyond. What if you want the excitement of a GT3 RS or 911 R, but don't care about high horsepower and its hardcore motorsports feel? What if you want something that reminds you of the "old days," such as the 2.7 Carrera? With the 991.2, there is potential for a race-bred Carrera that fits in the $125,000-150,000 range with about, say, 450-475 horsepower on tap. The idea is to keep the performance high with he right amount of specification. You have to have the Sports Chrono package standard. This model should be either one of two things: A 911 version of the popular GTS trim found across the Porsche lineup or a heritage-influenced model with a concentration on performance and driving dynamics. This could be the best of all worlds for the 911 enthusiast.

KIA GLOBAL COMPACT LINEUP: Why do we have the Cerato/Forte for some markets, and the C'eed for others? Both models are up for an update soon, and it’s about time there should be one singular product for the entire world to enjoy! Engine specs can vary for market, but let's agree on a world-beating product that can be produced anywhere with a design that will knock all of us off our feet. It starts with a body style strategy: Four-door sedan, five-door hatchback, three-door hatchback, two-door coupe. You select which body styles you want to sell in each market, but you create strong continuity in design inside and out and basic engineering points. You also create a performance model that will challenge the likes of the Volkswagen GTI, Ford Focus ST and Subaru WRX. The point is to make a single product line that can meet and exceed all competitors in its wake, anywhere in the world. It also means deciding on a single name. I have a feeling this could be a huge hit for Kia.

MG GS - Photo courtesy of via Google
MG GS – Photo courtesy of via Google

MY OWN CAR LINE: I love all of the OEMs and brands sold in this country. However, I still feel the potential of a value car brand that offers great accommodations, solid performance, great fuel economy and a nod to the enthusiast is still a viable option for consumers in this country. If I were to create an import car distributer business, set up a dealership network and align myself with various systems to keep the network afloat – including parts distribution and so forth – what would I actually sell? How about the Chinese-designed, British (or Chinese) assembled MG lineup? It may take extensive Federalization, but once that is accomplished, the 5-door hatchback MG 6 (probably renamed the MG E), the MG GT sedan and the MG GS crossover could be sold right here. Their diesel engines will be supplanted by gas engines, including ones from Toyota (the smaller in-house engines would probably not pass emissions and the Toyota units are built in the USA, along with their gearboxes). Prices would be competitive, but it depends on how they will play out between the exchange with the British Pound Sterling and Chinese Yuan. I think it might work, even if volumes were small. Heck, I set up my headquarters here in Minnesota…

I know neither of these ideas will ever see the light of day. But, one can dream, right? Or, hope…

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