Hennessey juices GM triplets, time-capsule Countach, VW 4×4 to crib Ranger platform?


Hennessey H650 package gives GM full-size SUVs 650 hp

Intake: Hennessey just announced its H650 upgrade for the Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon, and Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban siblings that takes each SUV’s 6.2-liter V-8 up to 650 hp with a 2.9-liter supercharger, charge cooler, upgraded pushrods, and a stainless steel, cat-back exhaust. The company claims the H650 package knocks a second off quarter-mile elapsed times and the upgrades are backed by a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty.

Exhaust: If an Escalade-V is a bit too flashy for you, or if you can’t get your hands on one of those 682-hp luxo-cruisers, then Hennessey’s upgrade seems like the next best thing. The $27,950 price tag for the package and its installation is quite steep, but it’s $10,000 less than the step between the Escalade-V and the next-highest Escalade trim—although the Escalade-V adds more than just power. If the H650 package makes the six-two sound as mean as the “LT4.5” found in the Escalade-V, Hennessey may be onto something. — Brandan Gillogly

“Nomads” hurt automakers’ brand loyalty

Audi Q8 e-tron quattro chronos gray front three-quarter

Intake: A study by S&P Global has identified eight automotive brands that are subject to the “nomad challenge”—in other words, they struggle to hang on to first-time customers for a second or third purchase. Such consumers may be “nomads,” migrating from one brand to the next. The eight afflicted brands are Acura, Mercedes-Benz, Ram, Dodge, Audi, Mazda, GMC, and Volkswagen. Tesla leads the pack of manufacturers that have strong brand loyalty: just 39 percent of Tesla customers buy their next vehicle from a company other than Tesla. “Brands that fail to transform nomads into loyalists not only lose out on the immediate sale to the nomad but also [on] the future loyalty benefit they could have provided as loyalists,” said Erin Gomez, associate director of consulting for S&P Global, speaking to Automotive News.

Exhaust: Besides at Tesla, the study says customer retention is also high at Subaru, Jeep, Kia, Hyundai, and BMW. It’s critically important to hang onto customers once you make that first sale, and some brands are doing better at it than others. — Steven Cole Smith

Time-capsule Lamborghini Countach goes under the hammer

RM Sotheby's

Intake: A 1990 Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary Edition which has covered less than 160 miles since new, despite having three owners in the last 33 years, will be a star of RM Sotheby’s Arizona auction on January 26. The car’s original bill of sale shows that it was delivered to its first keeper with 138 km (82 miles) on the odometer and that it cost $275,000 at the time. In 17 years of ownership, the Lambo accumulated just eight miles before it was sold back to Clark Motor Company in Ohio, the dealer which originally supplied it. The Countach was sold again in 2010 and lived in a private collection until 2020, when the current owner bought it. In all, less than 80 additional miles have been added to the clock since the Countach was first delivered. Its 5.2-liter V-12 engine won’t even be run-in, although the car has had a recent service to confirm all is in working order. RM Sotheby’s estimates this time-capsule Countach will fetch $750,000–$1 million.

Exhaust: In the unlikely event that the next buyer wishes to actually drive this Countach, the first thing he or she will have to do is replace the 33-year-old Pirelli P Zero tires. But, let’s face it, that’s not going to happen. This Lamborghini will simply be transported to another climate-controlled private collection and never be seen in public until prices have risen sufficiently for it to be auctioned off again. And those prices likely will rise—quite quickly. Values of #1 (Concours) and #2 (Excellent) condition Countaches have more than doubled since late 2021, and it’s not unreasonable to expect the values of these wedgey wonders to continue to climb, even if the growth isn’t as dramatic as it was during 2020–2022. – Nik Berg

Volkswagen wants a rugged electric 4×4 based on the Ford Ranger

Intake: According to a new report from Autocar, Volkswagen has revived plans to build a rugged, electric 4×4—known internally as the ID. Ruggdzz—underpinned by a ladder-frame chassis borrowed from the Ford Ranger. The ID. Ruggdzz was first revealed at a media event in 2019, although the project was put on hold in late 2020 due to the rocky launch of VW’s first EV, the European-only ID. 3. The Ranger chassis currently forms the bones of Volkswagen’s Amarok, a mid-size pickup sold globally outside of the U.S. In an interview with Autocar at the launch of the new Amarok in South Africa in December, VW Commercial Vehicles CEO Carsten Intra noted engineers were indeed working on getting the Amarok/Ranger platform to accommodate electric motors and batteries. The timeline for the debut of the ID. Ruggdzz is unclear.

Exhaust: What would such a project mean for the revived Scout brand, Volkswagen says will bring an all-electric, off-roady pickup and SUV to market here in the States? As of late last year, Volkswagen was busy courting Taiwanese electronics powerhouse Foxconn as a partner for Scout EV production. It seems unlikely that VW would also ask Ford to hop in bed for such a deal, so in our eyes, this ID. Ruggdzz is an entirely separate model. Despite Scout’s extremely American brand cachet, wouldn’t it make more sense to jump through the hoops to make its truck a global model? — Nathan Petroelje

Maserati Grecale starts under $65,000

Maserati Grecale front three-quarter

Intake: Maserati has priced the all-new Grecale SUV. It starts at $63,500 for the entry-level GT trim. That gets you the base, 296-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder—you’ll have to upgrade to the $102,500 Trofeo if you want the twin-turbo, 526-hp V-6, or you can slot in between the two models with the $72,900 Modena, which has a 325-hp four-cylinder. For reference, the larger Levante GT with the V-6 starts at $90,700. Shipping is not included in the prices.

Exhaust: To our way of thinking, under $65,000 seems pretty reasonable to be able to tell people you drive a Maserati, but you won’t impress too many of them if you mention you only have 296 horses. — SCS

Honda forms new business division to accelerate EV shift

Sony Honda Afeela Prototype side profile

Intake: Honda is creating a new business unit within the company to speed up Big H’s shift to an all-electric future, according to a new report from Automotive News. The new unit will consolidate Honda’s strategy for electrification and the development of new automobiles, motorcycles, and power products such as generators. Part of the shift will also involve combining six regional operations into three larger ones: North America, China and other associated regions including Japan, and a region that covers the rest of Asia and all of Europe. Condensing regional operations aims to “rapidly develop the implementation of resource shifts in accordance with the future lineup strategy in line with the electrification acceleration,” a spokesperson told AN in a briefing. Last year, Honda said it wanted to roll out 30 new EVs globally by 2030, in which it would also be producing 2 million EVs annually.

Exhuast: Lots of corporate speak in that last sentence but you can translate it thus: “We’re behind the competition when it comes to getting EVs to market, and these moves are going to help us play catch-up.” Honda does already have a partnership in place with General Motors that will produce one EV by 2024 (the Honda Prologue) and another model for Acura (called the ZDX) due the same year, but it needs to gather steam in producing its own EVs following the early fruits of the GM partnership. — Nathan Petroelje

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    The 3-ton “performance” SUV is completely lost on me. I’m outmoded, however, as I think performance cars should be light, nimble, and fun to drive on all roads (and a manual transmission is a must). The high performance picknup truck is my head scratcher category too. But to each his own.

    Electric vehicles are getting big/ heavy too, that’s what US buyers seem to want. Big trucks and SUV’s, and big flashy electric vehicles.

    The $275,000 would be worth $1,392,631.99 if invetsed at just 5% interest.
    If it double since 2021, this would have been finacially irresponsible for 30 years.

    I would have eaten the cake.

    If one invested $275,000 in the S&P 500 in 1990, it would be worth $6,000,000 today. The Countach, never driven, never enjoyed, needing maintenance, insurance and storage for 33 years appreciated to a maximum of $1,000,000. $5,000,000+ in lost appreciation for the sole pleasure of owning a garage queen. Not a great investment, as most people eventually find out.

    $65k for a 4 cylinder and under 300hp. Oh and Maserati reliability? Yeah sign me up! (for bankruptcy).

    Hennessey upgrades are pricey. Does Callaway have an option that isn’t also super pricey?

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