Reaching an end to another year, 365 days can be summed up by a number of successes and failures; the same can be said for the automotive field of 2012.
Vehicle premiere, discontinuation of models, safety recalls and other tidbits of news have been the subject matter for this as well as other automobile resources this past year. In what is a traditional pattern among news outlets, this article is taking time to look back at what the previous 12 months brought to car culture. The following examples are some spotlight moments involving automobiles in 2012.
Viper Returns as SRT Brand Vehicle
The discontinuation of the Viper supercar took the cherry off the top of the automaker’s sundae in 2010. Accepting the fact that a very potent Dodge Challenger SRT8 maintained some performance creditability for the Chrysler division, fans venomously desired the high-performance vehicle behind a reptile-inspired name. A car steered by a culture even the auto company was not immune to, the New York Auto Show marked the return of the Viper supercar. Under the newly assembled, performance-oriented SRT brand, a 640-horsepower V-10 engined dream machine materialized. Back with a vengeance, the SRT Viper took a bite at the American Le Mans Series with the Viper GTS-R for selected 2012 events starting at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Hyundai-Kia Busted on Fuel Economy Miscalculation
For anyone who has purchased a new car and boiled with outraged when fuel mileage was not as advertised, 2012 brought some high profile attention to this costly pet peeve. After an investigation by the United States EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) into 13 Hyundai and Kia brand vehicles the Hyundai Motor Company was pressed to knowledge they misstated fuel economy. Affecting popular products built between the 2011 to 2013 model year, Hyundai Elantra, Santa Fe as well as the Kia Shortage are some of the vehicles revealed to receive less fuel mileage than originally stated. The worst offender in terms of fuel economy was the automatic-equipped Kia Soul observed in producing six miles per gallon less in highway gas mileage.
Upon admitting the error, Kia and Hyundai owners of affected vehicles by lower fuel economy received special debit cards that will reimburse for the increased fuel consumption. Estimated to cost 100 million dollars, some civil attorneys filing suits to the problem could potentially make the price higher. There are many indications now the Hyundai-Kia fuel economy embarrassment could be etching the soil of even more investigations into misquoted fuel calculations. Bad news for automakers, the news has been terrific for lawyers filing class-action lawsuits.
Audi Hybrid Claims Historic Le Mans Win
The 2012 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was a technological showcase. Occupying paddock 56 was the radical Nissan Deltawing race car exhibiting clever lightweight engineering as an unclassified experimental entrant in the race. In the fight for victory in the prototype category, Audi’s R18 e-tron quattro diesel powerplant combined with an electric motor became the biggest newsmaker of the sports car season. Fielded by Team Joest, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro was brought to the Circuit de la Sarthe with just a single race of development. For the Le Mans 24-hour race, the two hybrid race machines entered by Audi crossed the finish line first and second place. The Audi R18 e-tron quattro became the first hybrid vehicle to win the French sports car classic.
Battle of the Super Pony Cars
As sharply rising fleet fuel economy averages threatens to put a cap on horsepower (or at least the way will get performance in future new cars), there is a very real possibility that free-spirited, American supercars could eventually be forced to practice more civility. Acting as a refreshingly defiant scene in the face of zero-emissions vehicles as well as downsized powerplants, Ford and Chevrolet grabbed pony car performance echelons untouched from a factory-prepped version.
Rolling out the 580-horsepower Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 early in the year, General Motors’ pre-production enthusiasm was hindered by Ford’s latest Shelby GT500. Seeing the high-performance Camaro in the horizon, the response from Ford was a 662-horsepower presented as a 2013 model year vehicle. The latest motoring extremes of the supercharger-induced Ford Shelby GT500 and the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 revisited the muscle car era where street-going horsepower was not subject to compromises. However, with both vehicles north of the $50,000-range, the super pony car lifestyle is about as accessible as an entry-level Tesla Model S.
Sun Sets on Suzuki’s Automotive Business
In November, American Suzuki Motor Corporation filed for bankruptcy and announced the winding down of their 27-year effort of distributing automobiles to the United States. Operating as a very small vehicle niche in later years, sales of vehicles like the Grand Vitara crossover and the Kizashi sedan in the United States were ultimately not enough sustain the product line-up for the future. Despite concerns that Suzuki vehicles could now possess lower resale values as part supplies and customer support after warranty periods will be tainted, sales of automobiles have been showing an upward pattern ending off November claiming by 22 percent compared to 2011.
Chrysler, Dodge Drops NASCAR Effort After 2012 Season
After five wins and 23 top-ten finishes on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup tour, Brad Keselowski claimed the 2012 stock car title. Driving a Dodge Charger, it was the first time since 1975 that the brand powered a competitor to the series championship. With the triumph in 2012 came realization that 2013 will not feature a title defence from a Dodge. Early in 2012, Keselowski’s NASCAR team Penske Racing had announced a switch to Ford for the upcoming season. Unable to find a suitable anchor team in the present NASCAR series or the Nationwide Series, Chrysler chose to pull the plug on support of racing activities. It also means the sharp-looking 2013 Sprint Cup version of the Dodge Charger will not be joining the Chevrolet SS and Ford Fusion on NASCAR race tracks.
Brad Keselowski was also involved in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series moment of glory with Chrysler Group. Ryan Blaney won the September race at Iowa Speedway driving a Keselowski-owned Ram pickup truck. The first victory for the Ram brand, Blaney’s win was the first for a Chrysler division truck since March of 2008.
Tesla Shocks Many with Model S
A car that almost didn’t come to be as Elon Musk’s all-electric automaker has been tethering on financial disaster, Tesla’s luxury four-door sedan certainly made a charge forward in the battery-powered car segment.
An eye-catching sports sedan, technological innovation at the heart of the Tesla Model S. Safe to say the Tesla Model S is not likely to become an all-electric equivalent to the Ford Model T in changing the way we travel. However, requiring around $50,000 (after government tax credits) for a base example, the price of the Model S positioned at roughly half of their outgoing Roadster. Tesla is showing electric vehicle can edge towards cost effectiveness.
Nine years since the Toyota Prius, two years after the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, the Tesla Model S became the 2013 Motor Trend’s Car of the Year. The award’s first all electric vehicle winner the Model S sedan was admired for its technological as well as design. At this point, only one of the company’s harsher critics Mitt Romney could be quieter than the Tesla Model S sedan’s electric motor. For the record, I am tiring of the electric vehicle puns as much as I suspect readers are.
Battery Blunders for Electric Vehicles
As electric cars have become more prevalent, it is perhaps inevitable that electric vehicles join the rest of the production car culture with the occasional recall. However, with so many new electrified vehicles entering the marketplace in 2012, quite a bit of noise was created around some popular battery-dependant cars.
At the beginning of 2012, the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt was placed under a safety recall after a federal crash test later led to a fire. Linked to a damaged battery coolant system following the crash, the Chevy Volt’s problem was quickly addressed.
Another plug-in hybrid car, the Fisker Karma, has been connected to more troublesome battery saga. A late 2011 recall of the Karma because of a battery fire risk was only a start to a series of teething problems resulting with a start-up auto company and their new vehicle. Similar to the Chevrolet Volt, the cooling system for the Karma’s battery was the culprit that time as well as a later recall in August. The Fisker Karma was also the recipient of a lot of embarrassment when a Consumer Reports test vehicle shut down during evaluation. Ultimately found to be a construction flaw at Fisker’s battery supplier A123 Systems, the issue compounded issues with the latter company. Entered into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October, A123 Systems was ultimately sold to Wanxiang America Corporation founded by Chinese businessperson Lu Guanqiu.
Google Revolutionizing How People Will Not Drive
In 2012, the Google driverless car or self-driving car fleet has achieved over 300,000 miles of travel with 50,000 performed without a human driver. Despite the many concerns regarding autonomous vehicles roaming the roads and highways, work by Google is continuing to gain steam.
2012 saw new freedoms introduced for the Google driverless Car project as the state of Nevada and California where tests can be performed on public roads. Unrelated to Google, mining company Rio Tinto announced they were created a driverless train for operating in Western Australia by 2014. A popular cultural icon among anyone following technology, the Google driverless car concept was also a subject of a NASCAR April Fool’s Day joke. As the driverless vehicles earned the right to operate on roadways, it is unclear if the car had to pose for an ugly license card picture.
Information source: A123 Systems, Audi AG, Chrysler Group, Google, NASCAR, Suzuki, Tesla Motors
Photo source: Audi AG, Bryan Czobat/Autostock, Chris Nagy, Google