July 21st, 2010 at 12:00pm
Honda’s new CEO Takanobu Ito says battery research has accelerated since he’s taken over the company. Another Japanese auto company is hit with a strike in China but is the government deliberately allowing all these strikes to occur? Jeep and Mopar will be the first in the industry to offer customers off-road camper trailers. All that and more, plus John answers your questions in the “You Said It!” segment.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
This is Autoline Daily for July 21, 2010. And now the news.
ANOTHER STRIKE IN CHINA
Just when it seems like one labor dispute is settled in China, another one pops up and again it’s at a Japanese-owned company. According to Reuters, workers at Omron, an auto electronics supplier, have gone on strike for higher wages. What I am told by industry insiders is that the Chinese government is okay with the strikes. It knows it has to let wages go up, but it wants to let foreign-owned companies take the brunt of any labor strikes, specifically Japanese-owned companies. I haven’t been able to verify this, but so far the strikes have only been at Japanese companies.
HONDA CHANGES EV STRATEGY
When Takeo Fukui was CEO of Honda, the company didn’t pursue electric vehicles as intensely as its competition, but things are starting to change now that new CEO Takanobu Ito is in charge. According to Bloomberg, the company announced it will begin selling a pure-electric vehicle by 2012 and will also have a plug-in electric on the market the same year. Ito says battery research has accelerated since he’s taken over and part of that is being spurred-on by California’s mandate that large automakers must sell 60,000 electrics or plug-ins between 2012 and 2014.
NEW FORD EXPLORER
Ford showed the media the new Explorer yesterday, and while all that information is embargoed until Monday, we can piece together some of the things the company already publicly announced to learn more about it. For example, Ford says with its four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, the new Explorer will get the same highway fuel economy as a V-6 Toyota Camry, which would be 28 miles per gallon. But I believe Ford wants to hit 30 miles per gallon, or 7.8 liters per 100 kilometers, just like it did with the V-6 Mustang which gets 31 MPG on the highway. 30 miles per gallon is a magic number and would shatter people’s perceptions that SUVs are only gas guzzlers. And that could bring more people back into the SUV segment.
GM & CHRYSLER DEALERS MAKE MORE MONEY
So what happens when you get rid of 2,000 car dealers, which is exactly what GM and Chrysler did? Well, the ones that survived start making a lot more money. Bloomberg says that the big publicly traded retailers in the American market, including the Penske Automotive Group, AutoNation and Sonic Automotive, will post their strongest sales in several years. Even though a federal watchdog criticized the automotive task force this week for not considering the impact on unemployment when it told GM and Chrysler to get rid of so many dealers, Bloomberg quotes a spokesman from Penske as saying Detroit’s automakers still have too many dealers. A typical Toyota dealer still sells twice as many cars as a typical dealer for GM, Ford or Chrysler.
JEEP OFF-ROAD CAMPER TRAILER (login required)
Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? In a move that seems blatantly obvious, Jeep and Mopar will be the first in the industry to offer customers off-road camper trailers. Two models will be available, the Trail and the Extreme Trail. Both are styled after the Jeep Wrangler, but more importantly, they’re designed to match the 4×4’s off-road capabilities. The campers are built around a tubular-aluminum frame and feature a torsion-bar/trailing-arm suspension setup. The Trail-edition offers 76 inches of headroom, a queen-sized bed and enough space to sleep four people. It also delivers 12 inches of ground clearance. The Extreme model ups that to 15 inches, thanks to a heavy-duty frame and an underbody skid plate. These campers also use the same wheels as the Wrangler so if you get a flat tire on the trail you can always swap out the vehicle’s spare. Both models will be available at dealerships in August as a Mopar accessory. Base MSRP for the Trail Edition is $10,000 while the Extreme Trail starts at 12 grand.
PARTY ON THE AUTOBAHN!
Here’s a story that gives new meaning to the phrase “life in the fast lane.” In an event to celebrate its Ruhr region, Germany threw a GIGANTIC party … on the Autobahn! According to the BBC, a 40-mile stretch of highway between the cities of Duisburg and Dortmund was closed to traffic and opened to the people! Party organizers provided some 20,000 tables so people could eat, drink and socialize. It’s estimated that as many as 3 million people showed up to the event. In fact, it was so crowded that the road had to be closed to cyclists due to traffic jams! And thanks to ITN News on YouTube for the video clips.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
And now it’s time for some of your feedback.
Grant Fisher from Mississauga in Canada saw our report on the J.D. Power APEAL study, which showed that the Big Three topped the imports for the first time ever and he writes in with a correction. “In your report about J.D. Power, ‘APEAL’ should be spelt ‘Appeal.’ I know we have different spellings of words in Canada vs. U.S. (i.e. cheque vs check) but I think you’re off on the spelling of ‘APEAL.’”
Grant, we like it when viewers like you correct us if we get something wrong, but in this case we actually got it right. APEAL is a name for a study that stands for Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout. And we have a correction for you. The past tense of spell is spelled, not spelt.
Yesterday we reported that Mercedes is developing a nine-speed transmission and I asked if anyone remembered the Mitsubishi Twin-Stick transmission. Ken Stadden did. He writes in to say, “My parents had a Twin-Stick Plymouth Champ around 1980 that was a four-speed plus a low-range/high-range lever. I figured out how to shift it sequentially (some shifts required two hands) but two of the eight speeds were virtual duplicates of each other, so effectively it was a six-speed. Still pretty good for the day! (My folks thought I was nuts, by the way.)
Ken, you were shifting with two hands? Your folks were right!
Don MacConnel saw our report that the latest generation of Ford’s Sync system can recognize 10,000 different commands. He says, “Ford’s voice recognition was already cool but with an extended vocabulary I wonder what it will do when I cuss out other drivers? Maybe it will say, ‘Calm down Don.’”
Don, the way these electronic systems are progressing, it’s going to grab you by the throat and wash your mouth out with soap.
And that is it for today’s top news in the global auto industry. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll see you tomorrow.