July 20th, 2010 at 12:00pm
Toyota and Paice LLC have settled their patent dispute over hybrid technology. Nissan is said to be working on an electric sports car that uses parts from its LEAF EV. The dealerships GM and Chrysler were forced to close when they went through bankruptcy are, not surprisingly, making unemployment numbers worse. All that and more, plus a look at how the luxury-vehicle sales race in the U.S. is heating up and how BMW plans to stay on top.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, July 20, 2010, and now the news.
TOYOTA AND PAICE SETTLE
For over a year now we’ve been following the story of a small company called Paice LLC that held some of the most basic patents on hybrids, and had sued Toyota for patent infringement. It even filed suit with the International Trade Commission to block Toyota from importing hybrids into the American market. Well, now Toyota has decided it better not take any more risks with lawsuits, so yesterday it agreed to settle-up with Paice. Bloomberg reports that the terms of the settlement were not divulged, but Toyota will pay Paice more royalties for its patents. Earlier this month, the Ford Motor Company also agreed to pay royalties to Paice for the hybrids that it builds.
MORE HYBRID TRUCKS WILL BE NEEDED
And speaking of hybrids, a top engineer at GM says that they’re going to play a big role to meet fuel economy standards for light trucks in the U.S. According to Ward’s, Gary Smyth, the executive director of North American Science Labs for GM, says that hitting the 35.5 MPG average by 2016 “will be a challenge with trucks” and that GM is “looking at significant hybridization to make it happen.” He says that even if the 2016 standards can be met without using hybrids, going forward they’ll still be important because the EPA and NHTSA are already looking at tougher standards beyond 2016. Currently GM is the only automaker that offers a hybrid truck, but a base hybrid Silverado costs $10,000 more than a base Silverado without hybrid technology.
WATCH OUT, TESLA
And sticking with green cars for the moment, on the heels of hearing comedian Jay Leno criticize the Chevy Volt for not being cool looking; Edmunds Inside Line reports that Nissan will make an electric sports car using technology from the LEAF. No other details to report but Edmunds speculates that the car could either be based on the 370Z or the Infiniti Essence concept.
FANNING THE UNEMPLOYMENT FLAMES
The Detroit News reports that all those dealers that GM and Chrysler closed down as part of their bankruptcy proceedings made the unemployment numbers worse, according to a report from a federal watchdog. When the automotive task force dictated that the automakers get rid of around 2,000 dealers, it did not take into account the impact that would have on unemployment, the report says. But Congress stepped in and allowed those dealers to appeal their terminations. About 700 of them will be reinstated. I would remind our viewers that GM and Chrysler were dictated the terms of bankruptcy, to get it done in record time. They were literally told how many dealers they had to close, but I would also add, they were very eager to close them.
TRANSMISSION ARMS RACE
Six-speed transmissions really started spreading throughout the market a few years ago. Today, these advanced gearboxes are in everything from midsize family sedans to heavy-duty pickup trucks. Taking the numbers game one-step further – literally – Mercedes-Benz trumped the trend with a seven-speed automatic. Lexus followed suit, topping them with an eight. Now BMW and Audi both offer eight-speed automatic transmissions, but Autocar reports that Mercedes is working on a nine! The new gearbox would be used with large-displacement engines, supposedly offering huge improvements in fuel economy and C02 emissions. Interestingly, Mercedes engineers say nine ratios are the most that’s technically possible and the most that customers will be able to cope with. Anybody remember the Twin Stick transmission that Mitsubishi sold back in the early 80’s? Didn’t that thing have the equivalent of 10 different ratios?
Speaking of numbers….Rolling 100,000 miles on the odometer is kind of a big deal. 200,000 is worth celebrating, and 300,000, well, it’s almost unheard of. But Irv Gordon smashes all of these scores with his 1966 Volvo P1800. According to the Detroit Free Press, this red two-door has – get this – 2.8-million miles on it! That’s 4.5 million kilometers. Making the feat even more impressive, the car has the same engine, the same axles, the same transmission and even the same radio. Gordon is a retired science teacher from New York who just turned 70 last week. He hopes to pass the 3-million mark by his 73rd birthday. He says he’s not sure what he’ll do with the car when it reaches that milestone, but he’d consider selling it … one dollar for every mile on the odometer, but something tells me he’ll keep on driving it.
Mercedes and Audi are in the sweet spot of their product cadence right now, but BMW says “just wait ‘til next year.” More on that, right after this.
U.S. LUXURY SALES RACE
BMW has clawed its way past Lexus to claim the top spot in the luxury segment in the American market. But Mercedes and Audi are now growing faster than BMW. But we recently caught up with Richard Brekus, the head of sales for BMW North America, who says they’re not worried. It all has to do with the product cycle of the competition. And while Mercedes and Audi are strong now, BMW likes what it has coming next year.
The race for sales leadership for luxury cars in the American market is really tight right now, with BMW, Lexus and Mercedes all vying for the top spot. But like I said, right now BMW is in the lead.
And that is it for the top news in today’s global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.