Believe It Or Not, Engines Are About To Get Bigger

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Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.

1st Gear: The Re-Embiggening Of The Engines

Over the past decade, the trend with engines has been downsizing, pretty much across the board. Turbocharged 2.0-liter fours are ubiquitous on nearly every model; small car motors have shrunk to 1.5 liters and three or even two cylinders in many cases, especially in non-U.S. markets.


But an exclusive from Reuters details how these downsized engines have presented Dieselgate-like problems with real-world CO2 and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and now the response is to make engines bigger again—and more hybridized.

Carmakers’ smallest European engines, when driven at higher loads than current tests allow, far exceed legal emissions levels. Heat from the souped-up turbos generates diesel NOx up to 15 times over the limit; gasoline equivalents lose fuel-efficiency and spew fine particles and carbon monoxide.

“They might be doing OK in the current European test cycle, but in the real world they are not performing,” said Pavan Potluri, an analyst with influential forecaster IHS Automotive.

“So there’s actually a bit of ‘upsizing’ going on, particularly in diesel.”

For example:

GM will not replace its current 1.2-litre diesel when the engines are updated on a new architecture arriving in 2019, people with knowledge of the matter said. The smallest engine in the range will be 25-30 percent bigger.

VW is replacing its 1.4 liter three-cylinder diesel with a four-cylinder 1.6 for cars like the Polo, they said, while Renault is planning a near-10 percent enlargement to its 1.6 liter R9M diesel, which had replaced a 1.9-litre model in 2011.


The story notes that this phenomenon is primarily for European market engines, and that in North America and China, more downsizing can still reduce emissions. But analysts predict that in the future, “downsizing will mean you take a smaller engine and add an electric motor to it.”

2nd Gear: Lynk & Co. Could Be America’s First Chinese Brand

Chinese cars are inevitable in the U.S. In fact, with a handful of models, they’re already here. But which Chinese brand will be the first to launch in the States? It could very well be Lynk & Co., the oddly named Geely brand that Reuters reports is designed to go mainstream so Volvo can focus on the luxury market. And it’s coming to America.

The brand will be used to launch the first vehicle based on the Complex Modular Architecture (CMA) platform developed by Geely and Swedish automaker Volvo, which Geely acquired from Ford Motor six years ago.

[...] The brand will launch with an SUV and sedan is also under development for the new brand, sources told Reuters in April, The marque’s cars would first be sold in China and later in the U.S. and Europe, the sources said.

The cars will be sold through Geely’s existing dealership network in China, said one individual with direct knowledge of the plan. New factories will be set up to make cars for the new brand and once it is established in China it will export to other markets, the person said.


The latest crop of Volvos have certainly been impressive. If Geely really wants this brand to take off in our market, they’ll have to pull a repeat—not the tiny, noisy, polluting Chinese that can’t meet our safety standards.

3rd Gear: San Francisco Maven

Maven, General Motors’ Zipcar competitor, is now expanding into its ninth market: San Francisco. Via Reuters:

Maven’s entry into one of the nation’s leading technology hubs puts it squarely in competition a number of car-sharing programs such as Zipcar and Getaround that are already popular in the city.

Maven’s markets now include Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., among other cities. The quick growth signals General Motors’ (GM.N) aggressive push to cater to millennials and urban professionals who do not want the burden of car ownership.

“Either GM spends money to convince someone who doesn’t want a car to buy a car, or spends it getting into another business,” said Dan Grossman, Maven’s chief operating officer.


Has anyone tried this service yet? Is it any good? I was a Zipcar user for a short period when I was without a car in Washington D.C., until I got frustrated with all the costs and decided to just buy a damn car and deal with keeping it in the city. But I’m not most people. Maybe Maven is a better alternative.

4th Gear: That Could Have Been Awkward

Honda unveiled the 2017 CR-V, the crossover everyone buys, at a special event in Detroit of all places yesterday. The same place and time where a media drive for the Chevrolet Cruze (which we weren’t invited to because Chevy is still mad at me for binning that Camaro last year, and they invite everyone except us to these things) was going too. Awkward! Except the two brands worked to coordinate around each other, which is nice, reports The Detroit Free Press:

“I’d like to quickly mention how pleased we are that we could combine forces with our (public relations) colleagues at General Motors so our media friends on the Cruise drive could join us today and experience both activities,” Honda spokesman Steve Kinkade said before the CR-V was revealed.

But why did Honda reveal the CR-V, its second-best selling vehicle, in Detroit at a produce market?

Mostly, it was a timing issue. Honda prefers to keep the production versions of its new cars and trucks under wraps until no more than a few months before they go on sale. The New York Auto Show, held in late March, was likely too early. The Los Angeles Auto Show, scheduled for the middle of next month, was too late.


5th Gear: Alfa’s SUV Debuts In LA

More and more automakers are eschewing auto shows for big debuts, but the Alfa Romeo Stelvio crossover will be one of the big draws at next month’s Los Angeles Auto Show. It’s a critical product for the luxury brand’s rebirth, just like all luxury crossovers, because those are all anyone buys anymore. Here’s what else to expect, via The Detroit News:

Fiat Chrysler declined to comment on any details of the SUV, which is expected to be one of two major debuts for the company. The other is the North American debut of the all-new Jeep Compass, which made its global debut last month in Brazil.

Other confirmed debuts for the LA Auto Show include the turbocharged Civic Si from Honda, the new fifth-generation Land Rover Discovery and the pocket-size smart ForTwo Electric Drive cabriolet. Mercedes-Benz will show three models for the first time in the U.S., including the AMG GT Roadster, G550 4x4 Squared and the track-ready AMG GT R.

The Alfa Romeo SUV will be the brand’s second all-new vehicle since its return to the United States in 2014. The first was the Alfa Romeo Giulia, which arrived in domestic showrooms last month after several delays.


Should be a fun show.


Reverse: Elwood Haynes!


Neutral: How Can Chinese Brands Become Successful In America?

There definitely seems to be a negative perception around Chinese brands at the moment, for a variety of reasons—some legit, some not. How can they pull it off the way Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and other Asian imports have done?