No automotive journalist worth his/her salt is going to promote a rumor as a bona fide story. There is too much to lose reputation-wise by cooking up a story and going with it.
That said, we’ve heard our share of rumors or have enough information about a future product or company plans to occasionally speculate what may be on the horizon. That forms a good basis for following a story as it develops.
We’ve all followed rumors these past few years about what the next-generation Corvette (C8) might look like and put up with endless teasers for the Toyota Supra (what a long wait). Both models are here and we’re glad the speculation has been put to rest. But other rumors are in the wings and this time we’re sharing a few of the stories we think have merit.
5 Rumors We’re Following
1. Jeep Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer – It isn’t a secret Jeep plans to push beyond the Grand Cherokee to tackle the full-size SUV market. We wondered if Ram would get its own Tahoe/Suburban fighter, but it appears that they won’t. Instead, Fiat Chrysler’s SUV brand will see at least one new model next year. Will it be the Wagoneer, the Grand Wagoneer, or both? Our best guess is that a Wagoneer with an assortment of engine choices rivaling the Ram 1500 will debut first. It’ll cover the $55-$75,000 range just as models from Ford, Chevrolet, and GMC do right now. However, we doubt Jeep will stop there. A grand variant replete with real wood pore trim, the finest leathers, carbon fiber embellishments, and cutting-edge tech and safety features seems likely. This one will push the Jeep’s price above $100,000 and take it all to the Range Rover.
2. Ford Raptor Extraordinaire – You must know that Ford isn’t about to cede the Raptor’s dominance quietly to Ram when the 1500 TRX debuts. The hotted-up Ram looks every bit the “apex predator” the brand claims it is. After all, when a Hellcat engine inspires a truck, you expect it to do great things. We think a future Raptor will challenge the TRX with the supercharged 5.2-liter V8 engine powering the Mustang GT500. Rated at least 700 horsepower, the engine was supposed to serve as the “send-off” for the current-generation Raptor, but that’s not happening. Instead, when the new Raptor debuts in the next year, the TRX’s stay on top of the off-road prowess world may very well prove a brief one.
3. The Camaro gets an extension – Ever since the Chevrolet Camaro returned, it has offered a solid entry in the sport coupe segment. But in recent years, sales have fallen, even with an updated model following in 2015. The Mustang continues to outsell the competition, but the aged Dodge Challenger now outsells the Camaro. And the Challenger does this without a convertible option. Rumors that the Camaro would not survive beyond 2023 began surfacing last year. We think these rumors have merit as it is difficult to justify building a vehicle that sells only 60,000 units annually. But before you think the Camaro will once again be canceled, we’re not convinced that it will. We think a future model based on the same architecture underpinning the Cadillac CT4/CT5 is possible. We also think that once more Corvette models debut, a Cadillac variant will reappear. There’s more of a connection between Cadillac and Chevrolet on the performance side than you may realize. Think: shared cost savings.
4. Return of the Nissan Xterra – An all-new Nissan Frontier is waiting in the wings. This year, we got a taste of the powertrain in the 2020 Frontier and loved it! Nissan’s Frontier is a solid model and we think the new truck will present a formidable challenge to the competition, including the Toyota Tacoma. What’s missing is an SUV variant. Just as the Tacoma and 4Runner share the same platform, the Frontier and Xterra once did as well. We know Nissan is looking closely at bringing back the Xterra just as Armada and Titan sales wither. Nissan might kill off its full-size models and keep with the volume sellers instead. The Frontier has a proven track record and a revived Xterra would benefit from that.
5. More mergers, additional acquisitions – COVID-19 has certainly taken a hit on the automotive industry. Sales plummeted, billions of dollars have been lost, and consumer sentiment is uncertain. We know Fiat Chrysler and the PSA Groupe are set to conclude their merger in 2021. But that won’t be the last one. Ford is an attractive merger candidate and profitable too – its AI unit is propping the company, although its stock price remains quite low. We think GM will widen its partnership with Honda to produce EVs, but we don’t expect the two companies to merge. But if the Chinese manufacturers begin selling cars in the U.S., we think a lot will change. Companies like Hyundai-Kia may rethink their independence and form a strategic alliance or an outright merger to remain strong enough to survive long term. Our best guess is that any one of the smaller emerging EV manufacturers such as Lucid, Rivian, and Bollinger Motors will eventually be absorbed. But not Tesla.
How about you? What rumors have you heard? Some may sound outlandish but often the talk is based on substantive information that has been discussed before. We think one of the biggest blockbuster deals will be announced next year with the Volkswagen Group as one of the key players.