The Autoweek Dispatch, 4\/3\/20: Happy (?) Spring!
Well, we made it through March! This week automakers continued transitioning into medical-supply companies, with the racing community also now getting in on the act, making ventilators, respirators, masks, you name it. Makes us wonder which automaker or racing team is going to be the first to do branded masks. Just curious. Anyway, here’s what’s happening in the car world:
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Quit now and work on getting a real job that can help pay for your racing in a few years. I don’t make the rules, it’s just the ugly reality. You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket. Just know your odds of winning are lower than getting struck by lightning on the way to the store. No matter what, there’s always going to be someone that has it better than you. Be thankful for what you have. Not just in racing, in life.”
— Multi-time Pirelli World Challenge champion Peter Cunningham, talking to Autoweek about what he’d say to young people who want to go racing. That last part is very sound advice, especially right now.
Needless to say our first Autoweek Talks features in April just had to center around fools and included features on the Pontiac Aztek getting the last laugh and how the DeltaWing racer was a laughingstock to some and an innovative breakthrough to others. We also took a look at BMW’s iDrive controller. Foolish or foolproof?
Actual on-track racing action has been basically stagnant for the last three weeks and it looks like for the foreseeable future—Formula 1 might not start until August, to give one example.
In the meantime the racing world has begun mimicking the production-car side of the biz both in terms of furloughs and pay cuts, but at the same time pitching in with money and manufacturing expertise to fight COVID-19.
Sanctioning bodies also continued ramping up their virtual events. And love ’em or not, it looks like those are doing well, at least initially: Sunday’s virtual NASCAR race supposedly drew 1.3 million viewers, incredibly making it the week’s second-most viewed sporting event, behind only the WWE’s Friday Night Smackdown on Fox. Granted, live sporting events are nonexistent at the moment and we’re all stuck at home but still, not bad.
And yes, we’re trying our hand at virtual-racing yet again against our Car and Driver and Road & Track Hearst Autos brethren, with the third round of the Forza Work from Home Cup 2020 this afternoon (4/3) from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on our Twitch channel. Gluttons for punishment, we are. Meanwhile we’ll be updating the site constantly. You’ll know what’s new when we do.
CAR NEWS AND NOTES
In addition to the Detroit and Paris auto shows being canceled, first-quarter auto sales were in the dumper thanks to a nasty March. No surprise there. What was a bit surprising was they weren’t down as much as some might have guessed, about 12% on average. Not all automakers have posted results yet, but we do know General Motors, Toyota, FCA, Nissan, BMW and Ford all experienced first-quarter sales decreases, while Ram, Kia and Lincoln sales were actually up. (Speaking of Ford, word on the street is its GT350 is dead for the 2021 model year, but Dearborn could be reviving the Mach 1 name.)
Here’s the thing, though: We can only imagine April sales being much more brutal. Most states are now under a lockdown, but that means different things in different areas. Some dealerships are open, some are performing service only, some aren’t allowed to sell cars at all. In some states the rules differ county by county! On the bright side, it looks like the global COVID-19 quarantine is cleaning up the Earth, so we got that going for us. … Stay tuned, April is going to be a newsy month.
WHAT WE’RE DRIVING
Driving a 626-hp Bentley Bentayga Speed, Mark Vaughn couldn’t resist the temptation to … take it to Home Depot?!? Yes, that’s what he did, finding the W12-powered beast well up to the task. Oh, he drove it properly too, running it up Angeles Crest Highway and getting a chance to exercise the 48-volt active antiroll bars. And? Check out Vaughn’s story to find out what $238 grand gets you these days.
We’ve also been spending time in Mercedes-Benz’s significantly less expensive GLB and are finding the new-for-2020 crossover good looking in sort of a cool/chunky way, with amazing packaging.
MOSTLY ODDS, SOME ENDS
The vintage-car scene is taking a page from racing and holding a virtual car show. It is what it sounds like. On April 11, Michigan’s Gilmore Car Museum will host the show on its website, with classes and awards and the whole shootin’ match. You have to enter photos of your car by April 9 to participate, and our story tells you how to do that. Then you can just sit back and enjoy scrolling through all the vintage-car photos on Gilmore’s dedicated show page.
You’ll want to give the 103rd “Autoweek Podcast” a listen. Natalie Neff joins Jake Lingeman, Graham Kozak, Wesley Wren and Patrick Carone (checking in from the Big Apple) to discuss, among other things, Lingeman’s love of BMW’s iDrive and Kozak’s cultural analysis of the Pontiac Aztek. Later in the show, Matt Weaver, Mike Pryson and Robin Warner join Wren to discuss the latest in racing. Well, sim racing that is. The group evaluates NASCAR’s televised sim races and what it all means. Weaver also gives an update on NASCAR’s Next Gen Cup car.
After the motorsport section, Wes Raynal leads Kozak and Wren in a discussion of the latest news stories, including cancellations of both the Detroit and Paris shows. Wrapping the show, Vaughn talks about his recent time with the Bentayga while Raynal weighs in on his time with BMW’s X5 M Competition and Lingeman reviews the new Mini Electric.
As always we’re around all weekend keeping our eagle eyes on and reporting the sanctioning bodies’ and automakers’ global efforts to maneuver through the coronavirus pandemic. Check back often and as always, please stay safe!
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