Are Automakers Using V-8 Engines As An Emotional Bait?
What are carmakers focusing on – developing quality EVs or coming up with V-8 engines in their products?by Sidd Dhimaan, on
The world is moving towards electrification faster than we can digest. While many of us are looking forward to clean mobility, some enthusiasts and purists are dreading it and want to enjoy internal combustion engines while they last. Automakers have been reducing the number of cylinders under the hood in the name of “efficiency” for a long time now, but that didn’t mean V-8s weren’t in demand. But, with major strides being done in electrification technology lately, the demise of V-8s will be sooner than expected.
However, many vehicles are being offered now with V-8 engine options. This is pretty much against the tide, but very welcoming, to say the least. So, the question here is, are automakers trying to use V-8s as an emotional bait to lure in customers and build a loyal base heading into the future, or is this the last hurrah before V-8s finally slip into oblivion?
There’s More Emotion To It Than Science
V-8s have been in existence ever since the dawn of mass-produced cars. The first V-8 engine that was built in significant numbers was the Cadillac L-Head mill that was in production for over two decades from the 1910s to the 1930s.
Six-pot mills slowly became mainstream and were seen as a good substitute for the eight-cylinder engines. However, instead of going into the history books forever, automakers kept them in production and V-8s were soon looked upon as something prestigious, something that could satisfy the adrenaline rush. Does it mean that we purists have had a soft corner for V-8s for almost a century now?
Fast forward to the present day. EVs are rising to power and in the next few decades, internal combustion engines will become extinct. However, the urge to own big V-8s is on the rise, and this has prompted automakers to offer them to us once again. Is it because V-8s will be the first of the internal combustion engines to go under the ax? Will we have the same euphoria when V-8s are gone are V-6s are about to get chopped? Well, it seems true for now, but only time will tell.
Speak to a non-enthusiast who knows something about engines and he will shun you down for justifying why V-8s should exist. To think of it, the existence of V-8s doesn’t make much sense. When compared to engines with fewer cylinders, V-8s are heavy, require more working parts and can be more complex to repair, cause more harm to the environment, and are much more expensive. Automakers have nearly replicated the “need” of a V-8 into a V-6 to near perfection.
Not Even Ford Could Convince The World That A V-6 Was Better Than a V-8
Take Ford, for instance. The automaker introduced the F-150 Raptor in 2009 and launched it with two V-8 engine options. However, both of them were dropped in favor of a V-6, which was cost-efficient and fuel-efficient.
There was a fair bit of backlash, but Ford refused to offer a V-8. The same happened with the third-gen, but Ford announced a Raptor R that will feature a V-8. At the onset, it looks like a move to counter the Ram 1500 TRX’s offense; but it’s much more than that. Ford introduced a new exhaust system on the 2021 Raptor to make it sound like a V-8. It could’ve offered a supercharged version of the V-6 with better power outputs to take on the 1500 TRX.
This is a company that did everything possible to convince people that this V-6 is as good as a V-8. So, why would it add a new model to the lineup when its only unique selling point over the standard Raptor is a V-8? That’s because we enthusiasts want the two extra cylinders and don’t care about how good or versatile, or environment-friendlier, or cheaper the V-6s are. And, when people are ready to pay the price for it, you just plonk the V-8 under the hood and charge a bomb for it. Sounds like a win-win situation, doesn’t it? In fact, such is the demand that Ford is even developing a new pushrod V-8 that will be plonked under the hoods of the F-150 and the Mustang.
V-8 Sales Are Increasing Slowly But Surely
All right, let’s talk numbers here. In 2020, a total of 14.67 million vehicles were sold in the U.S., down 13.8-percent from 2019’s 17.02 million sales figure. The same trend was seen in EVs as well. The sales were down from 331,000 examples in 2019 to 296,000 in 2020. The sale of V-8s, however, increased by a small margin instead of dropping.
According to IHS Markit, V-8-powered vehicles accounted for 15.3-percent of all sales, excluding EVs, which was an improvement of 0.8-percent from the last year. Of these, 72-percent were full-size pickup trucks. The outlet also noted that half of Mustang, Dodge Charger, and Camaro models sold were V-8s.
It seems like the need of the hour is to focus on electrification, but is that actually happening? Doesn’t seem like it.
But, Ford isn’t the only automaker in the current scenario. The Jeep Wrangler has been around the block for a long time and it never featured a V-8. The last time we saw a V-8 mill plonked in a familiar body was in its spiritual predecessor, the Jeep 1981 CJ-7 where it came with a 5.0-liter mill that made 125 horses and 220 pound-feet of torque. Jeep has denied us Wrangler V-8 for decades now, but decided to offer it as a way to counter-attack the Ford Bronco.
Before the launch, the Bronco had all the momentum and it looked like a true-blue competitor to the Wrangler that could dethrone it. So, what did Jeep do? It threw a Hail Mary hours before the Bronco’s launch and shifted back all the momentum. The Ford Bronco is arguably a better package (at least on paper for now), but the V-8 Wrangler has pulled more strings and the lack of Bronco V-8 hit Ford quite hard. How’s that for an emotional bait?
It’s Not Just Trucks - People Want V-8 Cars Too!
This isn’t the case with just trucks and off-roaders. Seeing that V-8s are a hot commodity, automakers are trying to capitalize on this in other segments, too.
Land Rover announced a Defender V-8 not too long ago, which honestly doesn’t make sense when more than half the engine options are equipped with either mild- or plug-in hybrid systems. But, V-8s are in demand and Land Rover decided to jump on the wagon.
Sedans are supposedly a dying breed, but Lexus recently introduced the IS 500 F Sport which came with a V-8. While it came with a naturally-aspirated engine, the Japanese automaker is working on a new V-8 with twin-turbos that will be plonked in a reincarnated ‘IS F’ moniker. It will further be used in various other products, too.
V-8 Love Could Be a Generational Problem
At a time when EV sales are supposed to rise and V-8’s sales decline, we are seeing an opposite trend. Given that they will eventually fade away, V-8s are looking all the more desirable and there’s a demand for the same. The future generations might be able to live with the fake sounds from EVs, but we’ve grown up feeling the engine vibrations and hearing those burbles from the big engine. When you know death is on the horizon, you’d want to cherish every moment with the loved one. It’s the same case here which automakers know and are thus introducing V-8s instead of retiring them.
On the flip side, does this mean the automakers are pushing the mainstream emergence of electric vehicles to fulfill the cravings of the enthusiasts? If carmakers are spending their resources on V-8s, does this mean when push comes to shove, we’ll have half-baked EVs at our disposal? Doesn’t seem like it, but this is a double-edged sword wherein automakers will also bear the brunt for getting too close to the fire; the fire being the extra revenue that they are earning by using V-8s as the emotional bait. Who’s to say that governments won’t impose heavy fines on the ‘defaulting’ automakers for not complying with the protocols?
The point of this exercise is not to play the blame-game with any automaker, but to understand the reasoning behind the V-8 resurrection. The bottom line is to generate more revenue, but is reviving eight-pot mills the best strategy at the moment? From a carmaker and enthusiast’s point-of-view, the answer is a resounding yes. Almost every automaker has set a deadline to eradicate internal combustion engines in its entirety in the near future. Automakers started ditching V-8s long back and limited them only to necessary models. It had numerous benefits, obviously, but why are they offering them again when electrification is the future? Will it mess with the timelines of switching to EVs? Given how some countries have set a deadline for fuel-powered cars to be eradicated, this may upset that progression and trend leading up to that point. All said and done, it will take longer for automakers to stop producing the eight-pot mills and get them off the roads than expected.