Hyundai has released detailed preview images of the all-new Hyundai Santa Fe that will debut early next month at the New York auto show, as will a bevy of other reworked crossovers and SUVs that include a revised Toyota Venza and the production version of a new unibody 2013 Nissan Pathfinder.
The 2013 Santa Fe will be the third generation of Hyundai's larger five-seat crossover, and will help bring its look into the more modern "fluidic sculpture" design language, which has helped propel the Hyundai Elantra to the top of the car sales charts. This latest flavour of the design theme is dubbed "Storm Edge."
The Santa Fe used to offer a small third-row seat, though Hyundai Canada officials have said that a lack of buyer interest and limited cargo room with all three rows up led to its demise a few years back. No official word yet on whether the third-seat option would return to the new Santa Fe, which would help differentiate the larger CUV from its smaller five-seat Tucson sibling as well as compete with vehicles such as the Dodge Journey and Toyota RAV4. A close examination of the side view of the released digital renderings shows no evidence of a third row, and limited glass area behind the rear door supports that theory.
But Hyundai U.S. CEO John Krafcik reportedly said last month that Hyundai needed more six- and seven-passenger vehicles, since only its refined but quickly aging Veracruz offers seven seats.
Toyota was less forthcoming with visuals of the revised Venza, also headed for a New York debut, releasing only a teaser headlight image so far. However, it said the front-drive five-seater will receive a revised grille, new taillights and fog lamps and new 19-inch wheel designs. Four-cylinder and V-6 versions will continue on, as will an all-wheel-drive option.
Designed by Toyota's Calty Design studios in California, the Venza was largely engineered by its Michigan-based Technical Center, and built in its Kentucky plant only for North America. It has been a rare styling home run in the Toyota lineup, selling well even in a crowded CUV/SUV Toyota lineup that also includes the RAV4, Highlander, 4Runner and FJ Cruiser at overlapping $25,000-$37,000 price points.
Toyota will likely also show off the revised Lexus RX 350, complete with new "spindle" grille and an interesting F-Sport version that looks slightly more aggressive. The face-lifted 2013 RX was first shown at the Geneva auto show earlier this month.
Nissan's new-generation 2013 Pathfinder loses its characteristic rear door handles integrated into the C-pillar, as well as its off-road-friendly but bulkier body-on-frame construction, both of which may disappoint some Pathfinder fans, judging from online reactions to a "concept" production preview of the SUV at the Detroit show in January.
What the Pathfinder will newly offer is seven standard seats, as shared with the similarly new Infiniti JX, as well as a standard V-6 and new-generation CVT. Four-wheel drive will be offered, though it's unclear yet if a rear-drive model will become available in Canada, as it is in the United States, or if it will stay 4WD here only.
U.S. sets green-car plan
U.S. President Barack Obama recently unveiled a plan to invest $4.7-billion (U.S.) to increase the number of affordable fuel-saving alternative technologies available in the United States, including increased incentives for plug-in electric vehicles as well as other forms of alternative energy vehicles including natural gas and fuel cells, a potentially key shift in U.S. energy policy.
The proposal includes a plan to increase the maximum federal tax incentives from $7,500 to $10,000, make the rebates applicable at the dealership instead of having to wait until after taxes are filed and refunded as with the current tax credit, as well as extend out the incentive to natural gas, fuel cell, and other alternative vehicles.
Obama also would like to eliminate the caps on sales for each individual company to receive these awards, thus encouraging manufacturers to develop and sell as many alternative vehicles as possible, the U.S. government ramping down only the incentives' total number and value by 2020.
The proposals mark a more "fuel-neutral" approach to alternative fuel development, which previously favoured plug-in electrics and a cleaner energy grid, a path advocated by many environmental groups as well.
"If we are going to control our energy future, then we've got to have an all-of-the-above strategy," Obama said at a Daimler truck plant in North Carolina last week.
The majority of this new money would go to these incentives, while $1-billion would go towards a "Race to the Top" challenge for communities to encourage advanced vehicle adoption of any type. It would involve 10 to 15 model communities to invest in the necessary infrastructure, remove regulatory barriers, and create local incentives to support deployment of advanced vehicles at critical mass. New money was also announced towards its EV Everywhere program, which funds research into lowering the cost of batteries, fast charging stations, and lightweight materials.
And no, still no word of a Canadian federal alternative energy plan for vehicles.
Ford reworks MyFord Sync for F-Series HD pickups
New Platinum luxury versions of Ford's heavy-duty pickups will receive Ford's high-tech but widely panned MyFord Touch system, though newly upgraded with real buttons and knobs to address some of the most common complaints about the system.
Like BMW's iDrive, Ford will likely continually evolve the MyFord Sync system, while it has also discussed pouring more effort into explaining the system to both salespeople and customers. Ford said the MyFord Touch system was modified to make it easier for drivers wearing work gloves.
Both Consumer Reports and J.D. Power have reported a high number of reported owner problems with the systems.
Mazda drops CX-7 in U.S.
To help fight financial woes that included $1.2-billion (U.S.) in losses last year, Mazda is shedding jobs in the United States through voluntary buyouts, as well as cutting the CX-7 in favour of the newer CX-5, though the CX-7's fate in Canada seems safe, at least for the near term.
A spokesperson for Mazda Canada said the CX-7 would be sold alongside the CX-5, at least for the time being, Auto123.com reported this week.
Trade magazine Automotive News reported this week that the company was having a difficult time financially since Ford jettisoned its stake in the Japanese company, which has also been hit hard by the high price of the yen, since most of its vehicles are built there.