Good Oil: Merc ute, Mazda milestone, and a floating bridge?
‘Show and tell’ from Mercedes
Mercedes-Benz is very clearly a manufacturer with plenty of good news. The carmaker has had a couple of stellar years of growth, during which it has issued forth more new models than a Tyra Banks-fronted reality TV show.
And now, in a move which has surprised many in the industry, Mercedes-Benz has gone total “show and tell”, revealing to customers and competitors alike its full schedule of planned new releases for the next 18 months.
Usually details of forthcoming models are closely guarded secrets, drip-fed to the public by hyperbole-drenched product planning and marketing teams. You’ll get hints, “design directions”, “production studies”; that sort of thing. And sure, generally speaking — between loose-lipped employees and photographers outside test tracks — new modelsbecome the worst-kept secrets.
But a mainstream manufacturer essentially pushing “Send All” on an email containing its upcoming products’ PowerPoint preso is unheard of. The Good Oil suggests Mercedes-Benz must be feeling extremely bullish about its fortunes for a couple of years.
So what does the report say? It confirms a number of new and updated models are on the horizon, including a high-performance edition and a convertible version of the raucous Mercedes-AMG GT sports car.
There is also an upgraded S-Class planned as well as — and this is genuinely surprising — a softroad-themed take on the E-Class estate. It’ll be known as the E-Class All Terrain and is designed to appeal to customers who bought Audi’s slightly-jacked-up A6 Allroad.
The most interesting news for local Mercedes-Benz fans, however, is the confirmation of a premium double cab one-tonner to target the Volkswagen Amarok in the “premium ute” niche (which we just invented).
Potentially to be known as a GLT-Class, the ute is expected to arrive at the beginning of 2018.
So exciting news there for tradies who have lackeys in mud-covered Hiluxes doing the actual work.
Highway to Hellfjorden
Norway is considering a sort of vehicular take on Kelly Tarlton’s Sealife Aquarium. — but without the windows, sharks and shop.
For many years, Norwegian engineers have concluded that the only agreeably safe way to span the country’s enormous fjords is with suspension bridges. But in some instances even these aren’t suitable.
Why not try something straight out of the James Bond Villain Underground Construction Handbook?
Floating underwater tunnels have never been built on a large scale, but the Norwegian Public Roads Administration has set aside NZ$35 billion to construct a prototype.
Floating? Yes, well it gets rid of all that underwater tunnelling nonsense and, what with many of the fjords up to a mile deep, tunnels are generally impractical. Unless they’re strapped to pontoons near the surface of course …
The road system, or “underwater bridge”, will feature two tunnels suspended 30m under the surface and held fast by large floating pontoons.
It will be flexible enough to cope with tides and currents although if you suffer from any sort of transport-inspired motion sickness, it may be better to keep going the long way round.
So MX-5 passes millionth milestone — meh
Milestones in vehicle manufacturing have been celebrated in the public eye ever since Henry Ford did a stock take and realised his company had produced 100,000 Model Ts.
These days we’re used to seeing PR shots of uncomfortable-looking line-workers being forced by management to look cheerful while surrounding the 500,000th, millionth or five millionth example of whatever it is they’ve been screwing together for the past couple of decades.
And then the car goes out on tour, so regional marketing managers and dealer principals all have to stare admirably, shake hands and pose for photos with the same model they’ve had in their showrooms forever, but with some stickers on it and possibly some balloons tied to the wing mirrors. Here at The Good Oil we reckon this all seems a bit strange.
We got to thinking about it because the millionth Mazda MX-5 is doing the rounds; touring dealerships and raceways all over North America over the next couple of months.
Now, we love a good MX-5. It’s probably the purest, simplest, fun-est compact sports car on the market right now that doesn’t have a six-figure price tag — or anything close to a six figure price tag — attached.
That there are a million of them is great and not at all surprising either. Well done.
But what would possess anyone to make a special trip to a dealership and look at this celebratory unit? It’s not even in a special colour or anything.
That’s the problem with a million of something. Perversely, it just no longer feels uniquely special.
1940 YEAR Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapses (third largest suspension bridge at the time)
1991 METRES Longest suspension bridge in existence (the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan)
1801 YEAR First modern suspension bridge built in Pennsylvania by James Finley, who patented the method
27 DEATHS During construction of the Brooklyn Bridge (1869-1883)