Buy a LaFerrari prototype, VW’s lost Phaeton, Kanye’s foam car

Mecum

A trio of LaFerrari prototypes is headed to auction

Intake: Three test mules used in the development of Ferrari’s LaFerrari will take center stage at Mecum Auctions at Monterey Car Week. The first prototype, dubbed M4, is from 2011, uses the platform from the 458 Italia, but somehow squeezes in the V-12 engine. It was built to test the main mechanical components of the car and check emissions. Next up is the 2012 phase two F150 Mulotipo MP1 which has moved on to a pre-production carbon tub and gets a second-generation version of the V-12 plus the HY-KERS hybrid system. Lastly comes the 2014 F150 Prototipe Preserie PS1 which is a pre-production model complete with final bodywork and a leather-lined interior. Each car comes with Ferrari Classiche certification to prove its authenticity. Oh by the way, if front-engined Ferraris are more to your taste, Mecum also has a pre-production F12 tdf from 2014 up for grabs.

Exhaust: It’s rare for carmakers to sell prototypes, but Ferrari seldom loses the opportunity to make money. Each car represents a different phase in the program, so if you already own Ferrari’s first hybrid hypercar, scooping these mules could enable you to end up with the complete LaFerrari story. Although the cars have racked up the miles in testing it’s unclear whether their new owner will be able to register them for road use. —Nik Berg

Toyota’s EV tax credits enter going, going, gone phase 

Intake: Surpassing the 200,000 unit allotment of government subsidies for EVs is a right of passage for the major manufacturers. GM is already there, Tesla too. Now Toyota, on the brink of launching its first BEV, the bZ4X, has also cleared the threshold, according to Bloomberg. The company sold 3,876 plug-in hybrid cars in June, bringing its total number of partial electric vehicles (which meet the criteria to qualify for the full $7500 tax rebate offered by the federal government) to more than 200,000. The eligibility phase-out begins two quarters after the 200,000th vehicle is sold, which means there is still time for buyers interested in the bZ4X to reap the full benefit. That said, only certain dealers in certain states even have bZ4Xs currently, so sourcing one in a timely manner might be tough. Toyota will have to navigate the rest of the bZ4X rollout—and its foibles—with the prospect of weakened incentive in the near-term. According to Automotive News, that means Toyota’s rebate could be knocked down to $3750 as soon as January of next year and reduced to zero by October of 2023. Lobbyists are hard at work in Washington trying to raise that 200,000-unit eligibility cap, but for the time being, Toyota’s waning credits will be a hurdle in the sales room for the bZ4X.

Exhaust: In a weird way, you could view Toyota’s situation as the marque becoming a victim of its own success. Toyota’s plug-in hybrid dominance with models like the Prius Prime and the RAV4 Prime effectually proved that its offerings would have sold regardless of the added incentives in tow. Heading into uncharted all-electric waters, exhausting the kickback isn’t ideal for a nationwide ramp-up of a new BEV. On the plus side, CUVs have sold incredibly well under the Toyota’s badge. In an interview with Automotive News, Bob Carter, Toyota Motor North America’s executive vice president of sales said that the company is considering lowering the price of the bZ4X to combat the lost incentives. “When you’re out [of tax credits], you enter a step-down phase, so we’re planning for that.” — Bryan Gerould

Meet the VW Phaeton successor axed by VW

Intake: Volkswagen’s ambitious assault on the upper echelons of the auto market is now 20 years old. It was 2002 when the over-engineered, but ultimately under-performing, Phaeton was launched. Chairman Ferdinand Piëch wanted the Phaeton to lift the entire VW brand with a model that featured a truly luxurious cabin of 30-layer wood veneer, leather, and chrome. Pneumatic suspension with adaptive damping provided a plush ride, while effortless performance came from the range-topping W-12 engine as seen in Audi’s A8. However, in its bid to keep the VW family resemblance, the Phaeton ended up looking like a slightly bloated Passat. What captain of industry would want to arrive at a meeting in a car that could be mistaken for one driven by their sales staff?

The Phaeton was phased out in 2016, but VW had a successor all ready to go. As you can see in the photos, the D2 was far more svelte than the first generation. It was built on the brand’s MLB platform to take a wide range of engines, and pioneered the Innovision Cockpit that would make its debut in the 2018 Touareg—a vehicle that buyers actually wanted.

Exhaust: Piëch’s plan for the Phaeton gave it a sales target of 20,000 a year but it never came close. In 2013,  for example, less than 6000 cars were built, which meant the VW lost money on every one of them—by some calculations as much as €28,000 ($28,454) per unit. According to analyst Max Warburton, the Phaeton was one of the “most loss-making European cars of modern times.” Canning Piëch’s pet project was clearly the right move, even if the D2 did look more desirable. — Nik Berg

SEMA will place a greater emphasis on EV conversions this year

E-10 Chevy pickup electric conversion SEMA 2019
Brandan Gillogly

Intake: SEMA’s North Hall will feature an expanded section dedicated to electric vehicles including new EV platforms and conversions. “The EV aftermarket is evolving quickly and continues to change; we’re curating a unique collection of the latest products related to electric vehicles and the aftermarket,” said Tom Gattuso, SEMA vice president of events. “SEMA Electrified will help businesses see the latest trends and understand how the EV market has evolved. Visitors will gain an understanding of the advancements and opportunities for the future.” SEMA was a key sponsor of a new bill in California that would provide eligible motorists who EV-swapped their vehicle that was originally powered by a gasoline- or diesel-burning engine with a $2000 rebate to help offset the cost. That bill passed unanimously in the lower state legislature, the California Assembly, last June. The bill now awaits a vote in California’s upper state legislature, the California Senate.

Exhaust: There have been increasing numbers of EV conversions on display at SEMA, some of which we’ve covered at previous shows, but the aftermarket for EV conversions is still in its infancy, making the swap to electric power far more daunting than your typical engine swap. While many enthusiasts are turned off by the silent powertrains, it’s in SEMA’s interest to help the fledgling companies that enable hobbyists to complete these kinds of conversions. Doing so makes for a bigger tent and SEMA needs all the support it can get to help fight for all enthusiasts. Strangely, both General Motors and Ford will be absent at SEMA 2022, which is unfortunate as both are gearing up to offer electric crate motors to help such conversions along. — Brandan Gillogly

Kanye West wants to build a car … out of foam?

Donda Industrial Design Donda Foam vehicle teaser
Donda Industrial Design

Intake: Donda Industrial Design, musician Kanye West’s newest business venture, teased a potential concept vehicle yesterday. Lead by newly-appointed Head of Industrial Design—and famous footwear designer—Steven Smith, the rapper’s industrial design arm was rather reticent in the details about its concept ride. According to the teaser, though, which includes a crude rendering of the cab-forward truck, the “Donda Foam Vehicle” is conceptualized, designed, and manufactured in the United States. Donda, an in-house agency named after the musician’s late mother, was founded in 2011 by West. While the firm has dipped its toe in everything from footwear to professional athletics, this is the first foray into vehicle design.

Exhaust: Let the speculation—and subsequent hype—over Kanye West’s Donda Foam Vehicle begin. The last great American diva has a knack for staying in the spotlight between albums. His foam roller certainly has the rumor mill churning, from hypothesized powerplant to expected materials. First, it’s important to know that the rapper has a history with off-road vehicles, as he amassed a fleet of ATVs and 4×4 trucks at his Wyoming ranch. Most notable among West’s fleet is at least one Ukrainian Sherp—he was filmed driving the extreme off-road buggy through a McDonalds drive through for a Super Bowl commercial. It’s no surprise, then, that his concept vehicle borrows a similar cab-over design. Second, ’Ye is tight with Elon Musk, who was reportedly at the rapper’s listening party for his latest album Donda 2. In addition to looking wildly similar to Musk’s Cybertruck, EV devotees are pointing at Tesla as possible powertrain provider. And finally, head of Donda Industrial Design Steven Smith is revered in the footwear industry as the “Godfather of Dad Shoes.” His chunky foam-heavy designs will likely play into the overall look and composition of the Donda Foam Vehicle. — Cameron Neveu

Hyundai is testing a performance version of the Ioniq 5 at the ’Ring

Intake: YouTube channel CarSpyMedia has spotted what appears to be a performance version of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 EV testing at the Nürburgring. It’s possible that what you’re seeing here will eventually be called the Ioniq 5 N, the initial foray into pure EVs for Hyundai’s fledgling N performance brand. The looming question, of course, is whether the new EV can capture some of the magic that made the now-departed Veloster N so special, but from this video, we at least know it can take some abuse from the Green Hell. The Ioniq 5 shares its Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) with Kia’s EV6. We know that Kia is planning a sportier version of the EV6, dubbed the EV6 GT, that will boast 576 hp and a 0–60 time of around 3.5 seconds. Expect the Ioniq 5 N to post similar performance numbers.

Exhaust: Unlike some of the other marques building performance EVs in-house, Hyundai has a competitive advantage in its still-standing partnership with Croatian EV powerhouse Rimac. The technical agreement has already produced some promising fruit, such as the all-electric 810-hp RM20e and a mad-scientist coupe that pairs a plug-in Rimac drivetrain with a hydrogen fuel-cell converter. While both of those projects still feel a bit pie-in-the-sky, an Ioniq 5 N seems like an attainable, near-term goal. Expect to learn more on July 15, Hyundai’s “N Day.” — Nathan Petroelje

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