Detroit Confidential: Overhearing Future Plans at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show

By Jacob Brown | January 18, 2013
"We do not discuss future products." Auto journalists hear that sentence more than any other every year. But sometimes, especially amid the excitement for upcoming new cars making their debuts--and maybe aided by a little "social lubricant"--even the most polished P.R. pros slip up. People say things. Rumors get dispelled, or started. Imagining you have some questions about cars and trucks that debuted at the 2013 North American International Auto Show, we've thoughtfully arranged what we overheard at the Detroit auto show in a Q&A format. If we missed something that you may be wondering, feel free to leave us a comment, and we'll see if anyone on staff has access to the answer. How much is the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette going to cost?
The official line from General Motors was "If you can afford a current Corvette, you'll be able to afford a 2014 Corvette." Rumblings throughout the community seem to indicate that it'll be priced between $55,000 and $60,000 for starters. The models we saw in Detroit were pushing closer to $70,000, however, especially the one with the optional racing buckets.
How long is Chevy going to make the C7 Corvette? The current Corvette went on sale as a 2005 model and will leave in 2013--that's nine model years. Yet, we're hearing that the new seventh-generation Corvette will exit after just six years or so. Might Chevrolet be buckling down for the fuel-economy crunch coming up in 2016, or--since we're playing the speculation game here--is the oft-rumored--and supposedly developed--mid-engine Corvette that was cut short after the company's 2009 bankruptcy making a quick entrance in the car's eighth generation? Why does the Lincoln MKC crossover concept look so production-ready? Because it is. Expect very little to change in the production version of the Lincoln MKC you can buy, such as seats, mirrors, headlights, tail lights, and perhaps thicker pillars for safety reasons. But for all we know, the seats might make it. They're actually the same ones seen in the Lincoln MKZ sedan, but retrimmed. Is Toyota actually going to make the Corolla Furia?
Look at the profile of the Toyota Corolla Furia concept. That's pretty much what you're going to get with the slab sides and raked style. But the wheels, carbon fiber trim, orange paint, and body kit are gone, as are the concept-style headlights and tail lights. Or are they? We hear from a good source that Toyota is considering putting the Furia--or a Corolla that looks a lot like it--into production as a sporty Corolla model, orange paint included. Good, because we like it a lot.
UPDATE: We hear from a good second source that similar wheels and a body kit will likely be offered on a sports package. If you like the wheels, you're in luck. The 2014 BMW 320i makes no sense in the U.S. Or does it? Sold in Canada since the current car's introduction, the 180-horsepower BMW 320i is finally coming to the U.S. at a price undercutting the 328i by $4,000. This makes sense for BMW for a few reasons: 1) The next BMW 1 Series isn't coming to the U.S. for another two years, 2) BMW needs a competitive entry-level product to go against the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, and 3) Why not? It's going to hurt BMW's residual values ever-so-slightly, but it'll introduce many new buyers to the BMW brand, as the 3 Series is the car most shoppers want, and a shorter options list isn't likely to discourage brand fanatics. Why show a BMW Individual custom interior in the 4 Series Concept Coupe when it's not available in low-end BMWs? Believe it or not, BMW Individual custom-tailored options are already available in the new 3 Series; they just have to be custom-ordered with a lengthy and cumbersome process at your local BMW dealer. Secondly, concepts are great at foreshadowing what car companies put into their cars. More widespread use of BMW Individual is coming to the 3 and upcoming 4. We anticipate there will be a marketing push behind it this time. If the BMW M5 has a six-speed manual transmission in the U.S., why doesn't the mechanically identical M6?
It's coming for 2014. You heard it here first. BMW offering a less-sophisticated transmission in the U.S. than the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission offered in the rest of the world as standard equipment is all about customer preferences instead of racetrack priorities. And it's only offered here. God bless America, indeed.
Was Ford smart to show off the Atlas Concept--basically the 2015 Ford F-150--so early? Automakers show off concepts all the time, but the Ford Atlas Concept was more or less the upcoming Ford F-150 pickup truck with a few tacked-on details. Competing automakers come over and check out their rivals, and we're sure Ram and GM engineers looked at the Atlas. It was a good move for Ford because it quashed the buzz surrounding the new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra quite quickly. And with new designs locked into place already, there's very little the competition can do to prepare for the upcoming F-150. On the other hand, other automakers can already get to work for the 2015 model year to brace for the new, more sophisticated Ford. Indeed, there was more good than bad for Ford to come out of showing its cards so far in advance. We're eager to see its specs, as it's anticipated to extensively make use of aluminum. Volvo is dropping five- and six-cylinder engines for an exclusively four-cylinder lineup. How will it compete against the V-6 and V-8 competition? It's true--and very public knowledge--that Volvo is going with an all four-cylinder lineup starting in 2014 when the new XC90 three-row crossover debuts. With the miracle of turbocharging and direct fuel-injection, automakers have easily been able to push more than 300 horsepower out of four-cylinder engines. Adding a hybrid electric motor can put more power to the pavement. We anticipate this is where Volvo is going. It doesn't hurt that the competition from BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz is also downsizing its engines for the sake of more efficiency. When is the Chevrolet Cruze diesel making its North American debut? Next month at the Chicago Auto Show is looking like it's going to be the show for that one. While we've gotten no official details, we hear it's going to to be competitive with the Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Inside GM, rumblings persist that execs are still not embracing the idea of a diesel-powered passenger car with open arms. The idea for a rear-wheel-drive Buick, possibly bringing back the "Grand National" moniker, is real... ...but it's nowhere near being past the planning stages at this point. What's Kia doing this year?
Before the debut of the 2014 Kia Cadenza at the Detroit Auto Show, Kia showed the silhouettes of the cars it plans to introduce this year. We have it on good authority that they are the following:
At next month's Chicago Auto show, we'll see the Kia Forte 5-door, which may be a simple carryover from the overseas Kia Cee'd hatchback. Then it looks like the New York Auto Show will herald the 2014 Kia Forte Koup, Kia Soul, and refreshed Kia Optima. Kia will not be bringing the Rondo/Carens to the U.S., although it will be sold in Canada. In 2014, if not sooner at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, expect Kia to roll out its next Sedona minivan and possibly a larger, more luxurious sedan than the just-debuted Cadenza. How can Porsche justify a $65,000 paint option on the $845,000 918 Spyder? Called "Liquid Metal," the new silver paint color--as explained to us by a representative from Porsche--goes through a 10-coat process, where each coat is sanded smooth before the next one is applied. Where most colors have a metallic "flake" in them to give them the appearance of light bouncing off the car at any angle, Porsche has come up with a method to apply the paint so that all the flakes flow the same direction. It makes the car have a liquid-like appearance. By comparison to your normal metallic paint, the Porsche "Liquid Metal" is applied by hand instead of robot and uses no less than eight more layers than your standard paint. It takes a lot of time to do, which explains why it's so expensive. But if you're complaining about the cost of paint on a car that will inevitably set you back more than $1 million, you have more issues than Porsche's ordering catalog.