August 18th, 2010 at 10:00am
Porsche gives you even more than you need . . . for the price of a compact car. General Motors seeks out so-called cornerstone investors as it readies an IPO. A new hotel aimed at auto enthusiasts goes all out. All that and more, plus a look at Mercedes’ redesigned R-Class.
This is Autoline Daily for August 18, 2010. And now, the news.
SACRE BLEU, IT’S SOUTH KOREAN!
French autoworkers and the French government are up in arms over Renault’s plans to import a new luxury car from South Korea. A version of the Renault Samsung R5 will be unveiled next week, and Bloomberg reports that it could trigger worker protests at the Paris Auto Show at the end of next month. Renault owns Korean automaker Samsung, so it makes sense for it to import the car from Korea. But the French government still owns 15 percent of Renault, and it wants the French company to use French workers to make that car. And this is part of the challenge when dealing with government ownership.
GM WANTS CORNERSTONE INVESTORS
And speaking of government ownership . . . Reuters reports that GM is trying to get what are called cornerstone investors to buy its stock when it finally goes public. Those are big investment institutions and pension funds. The idea is that if the big institutions will invest in GM, that will give other investors the courage to follow suit. I would add that cornerstone investors are the kind of investors who buy a stock and sit on it for a long time. That could give GM’s stock price stability, which would allow the government to sell a huge chunk of its holdings without diluting the price of the stock.
USED CAR SALES PICKING UP
New car sales in the American market are flat, and while used car sales are down, they’re growing. That’s because, as expected in tough economic times, car buyers are moving from new to used. Ward’s reports that historically, used-car sales were 2.5 times higher than new. Today, they’re 3.6 times higher than new-car sales. However, the used-car market isn’t what it used to be. Typically, there are 40 million used cars sold in the U.S. every year. Last year that dropped to 35.5 million. This year they should hit 37 million.
PORSCHE PUMPS UP THE POWER
If waaaaay too much just isn’t enough, next month Porsche will start offering a turbo power kit on the Panamera that boosts output from 500 to 540 horsepower! That bump cuts the 0 – 100 kilometers an hour time to just 3.9 seconds. Top speed is a whisker shy of 190 miles an hour! Icing on the cake, Porsche claims that Panameras fitted with the Powerkit consume no more fuel than stock versions of the turbocharged car. Not surprisingly, this upgrade is not cheap. At $21,730 it’s as expensive as a loaded compact car. Starting in November, a month after its introduction, Porsche will offer the Powerkit as a retrofit upgrade.
WE’LL LEAVE THE HEADLIGHTS ON FOR YOU
This one comes from the Telegraph, but we found it on Autoblog. If you’re traveling through the Stuttgart area of Germany and you need a place to rest your head, check out the Meilenwerk V-8 Hotel. As its big-block name suggests, this is NOT your typical chain. With 34 different rooms it’s the ultimate place for gear-heads to stay. Each room features a different theme and some pretty wild décor. For instance, you can spend the night in an F1-themed room with stickers and checkered flags hanging on the walls. If movies are more your thing, you can sleep under the stars in the drive-in-themed room. There’s even a service-station room complete with a gas pump and bed made from a Volkswagen Beetle! Rates vary depending on season, but the top-of-the-line Zeppelin Suite is about $490 per night.
The Mercedes R-class has been highly controversial since it debuted. Controversial because of its styling. So Mercedes decided it better tweak the way it looks, and we’ll show you what they did, right after this.
The Mercedes R-class hasn’t exactly set the world on fire since it came out a couple of years ago. Now the company has made a number of design changes to try and get sales moving again, as Seamus McElroy reports.
And the 2011 R-Class is no exception. It’s pretty much the same model as before but there are a few changes. Most notably the front end which has been completely redesigned.
The updated front-end not only freshens up the model but it also shares characteristics with the other SUVs in Mercedes line-up.
In addition to a slightly altered rear-end there aren’t many other changes. It comes with the same engine options as before. The R350 BlueTEC V-6 diesel and a 3.5-liter V-6 gas engine. Both are mated to a seven-speed automatic and both are all-wheel drive.
New materials and color combinations are about the only new features in the interior but it’s just as roomy as before. The long-wheel-base version, which is what we’ll get here in the ‘States, seats six people in three rows and has an option for a seventh seat.
As you’d expect, the R is loaded with infotainment and safety technology, including what Mercedes calls its PRE-SAFE system, which is a combination of safety technologies including airbags, active head rests and a tire pressure monitoring system. New for 2011 is the option to add Blind Spot Assist to the package, which warns the driver about vehicle’s in their blind spot.
Pricing for the gas version starts just over $51,000 and the diesel is about $1,500 more on top of that.
Look for the R-Class in dealer showrooms this month in the U.S.
Thanks for that report, Seamus. The R-class is one of the lowest-selling models in Mercedes’ line-up but last month sales shot up 56 percent over the month before.
One more thing before we go. Join us TONIGHT for our special Dream Cruise-Edition of Autoline After Hours. We’re webcasting LIVE from Woodward Avenue to celebrate the largest automotive-themed event in the world, and you’re invited! Join us either in person or via the web. You can visit the Balmoral Centre at 13 ½ mile road and Woodward this afternoon OR you can log on to our website, AutolineDetroit.tv. Either way the action’s scheduled to start at 5:45PM ET. Check it out; this is going to be good.