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Three Thoughts about the Auto Industry for April 15, 2011

It was a somewhat slow week in the automotive world, due in part to the lull before the storm that is the upcoming New York auto show.  Still, there were a few interesting stories that broke over the last seven days that are worth discussing.  Let’s take a look at three thoughts about the auto industry for April 15, 2011.

1 – Dodge Viper Development Continues

The rawest domestic sports car on the market, the Dodge Viper, was retired this past model year in anticipation of a redesign that would see input from Chrysler’s corporate parent, Fiat.  The car company has confirmed that current testing is using a leftover 2010 chassis (presumably working out drivetrain details), and that the upcoming Viper will lose a little bit of its primal charm through the introduction of standard stability control.  Speculation abounds regarding just how watered down the next Viper might be – not in terms of performance, but in terms of character – when it debuts late in 2013.

There’s no question that a Corvette-like American sports car that is more livable on a daily basis than previous versions of the Viper would sell well, but Dodge would be giving up significant track cred and image equity by going down this particular development path.

2 – Is Scion Going to Give Us a New Sports Coupe?

Scion is Toyota’s youth division, but it has never really gone for the jugular in terms of attracting drivers by way of offering exciting, sport-oriented automobiles.  Instead, Scion has focused on affordability, style and quirkiness (witness the toaster-shaped Scion xB, a personal favorite of mine).  Rumors have been circulating that Scion might gain a halo car of sorts in the form of a rebadged Toyota FT-86, the new rear-wheel drive sports coupe being co-developed with Subaru.  A recent video teaser dropped onto YouTube by Scion seems to confirm this possibility, showing the front profile of a mystery coupe that will be unveiled April 20th at the New York auto show.  Scion will be covering the reveal live at sciondimension.com

A fun-to-drive two-door could be just want Scion needs to help it gain street cred versus popular compact tuner cars like the Honda Civic Si.

3 – Ford Expands F-150 Recall

Although it had tried to restrict the recent recall of the Ford F-150 pickup to just 144,000 examples, Ford has conceded to the NHTSA’s demands and bumped that number up by an additional 1.2 million trucks.  The problem, which affects airbags in F-150 and Lincoln Mark LT vehicles built between 2004 and 2006, could potentially cause airbags to deploy during normal driving.  Understandably, anyone who owns one of these two trucks within the recall’s model year range should check in with their dealership to make sure that their airbag system is taken care of.

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