“F” AS IN “FANTASTIC.
Jaguar will put its F-Type show car into production, starting in 2004, announced Wolfgang Reitzle, head of Ford Motor Co.’s Premier Automotive Group. Originally introduced at the 2000 North American International Auto Show, in Detroit, the F-type is a sleek roadster reminiscent of the original Jaguar E-Type. “The future for Jaguar is doing really emotional engineering,” declared Reitzle. Unlike other, recent additions to the Jaguar lineup, the open-topped two-seater will not share platforms with more mundane Ford products. But Jaguar officials admit they’re facing a challenge translating the F-Type show car into a production vehicle. The prototype may look great on a stand, but it won’t meet government regulations without serious modification. The trick will be to keep the final F-Type design as close as possible to the roadster that was declared the most striking product of the 2000 Detroit auto show.
FEEL THE VIBE. Using a trio of “slam” poets to set a hip mood, General Motors’ Pontiac division pulled the wraps off its new, youth-oriented Vibe hatchback. The five-door will go into production late this year at the NUMMI assembly plant GM operates in a joint venture with Toyota, in Fremont, Calif. The platform and about half the components on Vibe are shared with the next-generation Toyota Corolla, also slated for an ’03 model-year launch. That includes the 1.8-liter, 130-horsepower in-line four-cylinder engine, which features Toyota’s intelligent, variable valve timing. An all-wheel-drive system, and four-wheel anti-lock brakes will be optional. Vibe bears a striking resemblance to the five-door version of the Ford Focus—with which the new Pontiac will compete. And, like the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Vibe’s rear and front passenger seats will be able to fold down, creating up to 57 cubic feet of cargo space. The new hatchback will come with a first-of-its-kind, 110-volt power outlet on the dash for operating a laptop computer or portable devices.
COVERING THE BASES.
Ford will become one of the world’s dominant luxury car manufacturers, Reitzle insisted, during a speech to the Motor Press Guild. But its long-term success will depend on developing the “synergies” of its six luxury car brands: Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. Reitzle acknowledged the success of Mercedes-Benz, which has been able to stretch its brand to cover a vast array of products. But that won’t be possible with Ford Motor Co.’s luxury brands, such as Jaguar. Instead, he suggested, the collective brands of the Premier Automotive Group “will cover all the segments and have the same (overall) volume” of Mercedes.
POWER RANGER. Could the Dodge Powerbox become the second hybrid-electric vehicle in the Chrysler lineup? That’s a definite possibility hinted the automaker’s product development director, Richard Schaum. The prototype is a so-called “through-the-road” hybrid, with a CNG-fueled, 250-horsepower supercharged V-6 powering the rear wheels, and a 70-hp electric motor for the front axle. The Powerbox’s batteries are recharged by recapturing energy normally lost during braking or coasting. The combination drivetrain should yield significant improvements in performance and fuel economy—as well as a 350-mile range, Schaum estimated. Dodge plans to produce a hybrid version of the Durango in 2003, but whether Powerbox will go into production is uncertain, Schaum cautioned. “The technical feasibility is there. The economic feasibility is always a challenge with hybrids,” because of the added complexity. Still, Schaum hinted the prototype “could be a precursor of things to come in ’04 or ’05.”