With its first mall store opening this week in Canada, the Tesla Model S is starting to pile up significant Car of The Year awards and accolades, including separate COTY trophies from Automobile and Motor Trend magazine. It received similar honours from search engine Yahoo!, as well as being recognized as one of Time magazine's Inventions of the Year for 2012, the only vehicle to make the list.
This is the first time that a fully electric vehicle has won a mainstream Car of the Year award from any of the big U.S. buff books, never mind two. The plug-in Chevrolet Volt won Automobile's 2011 COTY award, before it also won the similar but perhaps higher-profile title from Motor Trend, as well as the North American COTY award.
The Tesla Model S won't win the latter award this year, as it doesn't appear on the 2013 finalist short list available now on the group's website. The Model S was lauded by both magazines for its realistic 426-km range, futuristic but not geeky exterior design, value versus the luxury car giants, and BMW M5-busting performance.
Perhaps even more importantly, it's a statement car, an impudent rebuttal to mainstream auto makers that say there's no future in electric cars, or that the technology is a long way from being ready. Yes, mainstream pricing may still be an issue, but the Model S is opening many enthusiast hearts to the notion that no gas doesn't mean no real-world practicality, while keeping high levels of driving fun.
Mazda to build Toyota subcompact in Mexico
Mazda announced recently that it will build a subcompact vehicle for Toyota at its new plant in Mexico in 2015, further evidence of an increasingly tight-knit global automotive marketplace wary of profitability and over-capacity challenges.
The Mazda plant, under construction in Salamanca, is scheduled to open by March, 2014, and will build the next-generation Mazda2 and Mazda3. Both of these cars currently come from Japan to North America, but the high yen to dollar value makes it difficult, if not impossible, for Mazda to stay price-competitive – and profitable – in these two price sensitive segments.
"The subcompact Toyota-brand vehicle, to be based on the Mazda2, is to start production around the summer of 2015 at a pace of 50,000 units per year and will be sold through Toyota dealerships," said a recent joint statement from the two companies. This line suggests that the Toyota vehicle would be the Yaris, which is also built in Japan for North American consumers now.
However, it could also mean that Toyota is planning a unique Scion model separate from its Toyota-brand subcompact, perhaps similar to the arrangement Toyota has with Subaru for it to produce the Scion FR-S for Toyota at Subaru's Ota plant in Japan, a car also known as the Toyota GT-86 outside North America.
Mini Cooper five-door coming
Spy shots of a five-door version of the Mini Cooper suggests that a more practical Mini Cooper hatchback is on the way. Next year, it will likely replace the awkward long-door Clubman, which has a suicide-door opening on the passenger side only, Britain's Autocar magazine reports.
This will help it compete with upscale but fun hatchbacks like the Audi A3 hatchback and Volkswagen Golf GTI. The spy shots revealed a five-door with a centrally mounted exhaust, which suggests it is a performance variant.