V&R in 2012 – A Look Ahead

The question remains: What would make this site completely awesome?

This year already yielded some huge advances for the site. Through new connections, a wider social media presence and some leaps and an expansion of outlets for my writing, the groundwork has been laid for an extraordinary 2012.

That is, of course, if the economy would be of help on my end.

If, perchance, that the economy is indeed improving and I am able to gain traction through this phase of economic recovery, there are a lot of plans for V&R. All it takes is some hard work, some opportunities and some miracles thrown in.

Sometimes, it's good to make some plans for the upcoming year. What vehicles would be reviewed on this site (and Lavender Magazine)? What events should I attend for coverage in V&R and Lavender? What crazy ideas I might have to bring you closer to these two outlets (and more)?

It's a Dart!

Remember the Dodge-Alfa Romeo compact I "speculated" a month or so ago? Well…it's got a name…

Much to the glee of everyone even remotely not in the automotive industry, the Dart name is a throwback to a simpler time. The nomenclature's reappearance was received with such joy never seen of any automobile in a very long time. It received huge media coverage – one of the television outlets in the Twin Cities had a piece on the Dart's return.

Perhaps I should explain why everyone went absolutely ecstatic over Chrysler's announcement of their new compact's name.

Distilling a Big News Day

"A journalist's job is never done."

The quote above was tweeted on Tuesday while in the midst of taking photos across downtown Minneapolis and fielding a round of press releases on my Blackberry. When automotive journalists get news from the industry, we try our best to analyze it for you. Some opinion comes out, but only based on analysis rather than pure editorial.

Over the past few days, General Motors rattled off a series of news flashes that certainly grabbed my attention. Some of it was expected – the confirmation that Chevrolet Colorado mid-size truck will be built and sold in the USA, for one. Others came as quite a surprise – especially the announcement of two electric vehicles.

The overall analysis I'd give on all of the news from GM was the fact that they are on their way towards fulfilling some promises they made years ago on the direction they wanted to go with their business. The globalization of Chevrolet with a singular product strategy stretching from the Spark city car to a truck and SUV line made for both industrialized and developing markets worldwide. The announcements Chevrolet made not only were marked as a paean to their Centennial celebration, but rather a roadmap towards the next century for the brand.

For Cadillac, their announcements marked further advancement of the redefining of the brand. Years after the original CTS changed the way luxury buyers saw the old crest-and-wreath, the image of their smallest sedan since the Cimarron going around the Nurburgring created quite the buzz. Add the introduction of the new CUE infotainment system and the conversation changes about Cadillac's future. It certainly is looking very bright.

To decipher this mountain of news, it is my job to walk you through all of it the only way I can…

Just follow along, if you can.

The Speculator: The Next Toyota Corolla

This was a break out year for the compact car.

When the year began, fuel prices scaled up towards the $4.00 a gallon threshold. The result was a rise in smaller vehicles – passenger cars and crossovers.

The newer products caught the wave of compact car growth by outnumbering sales of everything else. The Chevrolet Cruze outsold the Toyota Camry two months in a row this spring. The Hyundai Elantra led all models as the company's sales skyrocketed in the wake of sales losses elsewhere. The segment is still growing with other new introductions: The Ford Focus, the Volkswagen Jetta and the Honda Civic. Dodge will introduce their new compact at the North American International Auto Show this coming January.

For the longest time, there was one compact that outsold them all: The Toyota Corolla. With every new model that had been introduced over the past 18 months, sales of the Corolla began to slip every month. Partly, this was because of the challenges presented to Toyota during the recall crisis.

It appears that the Corolla is due for a generational change. The world's best selling passenger car had been soldering on for a bit longer than expected. However, Toyota knows how to come back from being down…it's in their culture.

The Speculator: Lincoln's Future

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid 3

"How do we solve a problem like Maria?"

If you've seen "The Sound of Music" a few times, you have to wonder why these nuns would have a problem with Julie Andrews in the first place! Then again, she would become the nanny for the Von Trapp family, have their children deal with their absentee father by becoming a world famous signing troupe, and then escape the Nazis out of Austria so they could live freely somewhere else.

Now that I can recite this concise story line from "The Sound of Music," I guess I could retain my Gay Card…

However, I see the line above as a metaphor. My camp side (which is not how I roll, BTW) gives me the permission to use this metaphor whenever I see an issue in the automotive industry. It helps me understand why there is such a problem and what kind of solution could I figure out if I had enough clout in the boardroom.

What's the problem now? Or, rather, who's the Maria this time around?

The Speculator: Dodge's New Compact

With the compact market climbing into prominence in the past year, there is still a feeling that something is still missing from the party. But, what would be missing here? Or, rather, who?

Back in November of 2009, Sergio Marchionne revealed how Chrysler will be able to get back to prominence by 2014 – with Fiat's help. Part of the plan was to develop a series of automobiles from then-new platform that would envelop about four automotive segments for both Fiat and Chrysler. Fiat's C-Evo platform was seen as Chrysler's savior…but it means a whole lot more.

The first product off of this platform was not a Chrysler. Rather, it was an Alfa Romeo – the Giulietta. This important compact was designed to face off against the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Renault Megane, Opel/Vauxhall Astra…and so forth. The new Alfa was well received in Europe and is packed with the right stuff to battle in this segment on the other side of the pond.

Obviously, there will be more products coming off of the same platform in the years to come. One of which will be revealed in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. This product alone is perhaps the most important of anything either Fiat S.p.A. or Chrysler Group LLC would have coming down the line.

After "Auld Lang Sine" has died down for another New Year's, Dodge's new compact car will be revealed to the universe.

The Speculator: GM's Mid-Sized Global Pickup

We pundits think we know everything about the automobile industry to try to fix it.

It's not true. As much as we know about this industry, we can analyze, criticize, express opinions and make recommendations to the companies. Yet, we do not have the power to actually change anything.

Some of us can dream, though.

Part of dreaming about the industry is rooted in the reality of gathering news, discussing it with our counterparts and colleagues alike. Understanding the reasons behind a new release or hoping that a rumor is indeed fact (or fiction). Ultimately, we can express our thoughts with some grounding for you to understand what we're on about.