August 24th, 2010 at 12:19pm
Some Chrysler dealers in the U.S. are less enthusiastic about the Fiat 500 than you’d think. Woo-hoo, we’re saving the planet! U.S. gasoline consumption in July fell .03 percent compared to the same time last year. Toyota is retooling to make its factories more flexible. All that and more, plus we drive the 2011 Ford Edge.
Hello again! It’s me, Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics. Welcome to another episode of Autoline Daily! It’s Tuesday, August 24, 2010, and here’s what’s going on in the global automotive world.
DEALERS COOL TO THE CINQUECENTO (subscription required)
We all know the Cinquecento is coming to the U.S. late this year. It should give Chrysler a solid AND unique offering in the subcompact segment. It has already generated a lot of buzz in America, but dealers are less enthusiastic about the car than you’d think. The Wall Street Journal reports that some store owners are apprehensive about the investments they have to make to construct stand-alone Fiat buildings. With the economy in the toilet they’re having trouble selling the cars they already have on their lots. On top of that, Chrysler keeps adding brands – first they broke-out Ram truck, and now Fiat’s getting thrown into the mix – which could cause problems from a marketing standpoint. But company CEO Sergio Marchionne says this multi-brand strategy can work because Chrysler’s brands don’t overlap like GM’s did. Chrysler plans to outline its Fiat 500 strategy to some 600 dealers later this month. Dealers have until September 22 to submit proposals for how they will meet Fiat franchise requirements.
U.S. GASOLINE CONSUMPTION FALLS
Yay, we’re saving the planet! According to the American Petroleum Institute, U.S. gasoline consumption in July fell point zero three (.03) percent compared to the same time last year– yep, it was down three-hundredths of a percent to 9.3 million barrels a day. But there’s a catch. While Americans used less GAS last month, OVERALL oil demand was up 3.8 percent. Low-sulfur distillates – the stuff used to make diesel fuel – shot up 11.6 percent. Jet fuel demand was up nearly 7 percent. Blame the improving economy for the increase. The API says this slight economic uptick could have led to an increase in commercial trucking and more aircraft activity, resulting in a boost in oil demand.
Toyota has a reputation for its flexible plants that can build several vehicles at one factory, but when car sales started going downhill two years ago the company found out it needed to be even more flexible. According to the Detroit News, Toyota has spent $600 million to retool its plants in North America in order to make them more flexible. For example, its Texas plant is now building both the Tacoma and Tundra and its plant in Indiana can now build the Highlander and Sequoia on the same line, even though the Highlander has a unibody frame and the Sequoia has a body-on-frame structure. Thanks to the changes, Toyota’s plants in the U.S. are running at 90 percent capacity and next year the company expects them to be running at full capacity.
TOYOTA HIRING IN MISSISSIPPI
And speaking of Toyota manufacturing in the U.S., the company announced it has resumed hiring at its factory in Mississippi which will build Corollas starting next year. The company had stopped construction of the plant during last year’s downturn.
SCOTCH WHISKEY FOR FUEL . . . SORT OF (subscription required)
Usually when you combine whisky and driving the results aren’t good, but in this case it’s the car that consumes the alcohol. According to Ward’s, researchers at Scotland’s Edinburgh Napier University have created biofuel from whiskey-distilling byproducts. The leftovers can be used to make butanol, which has 30 percent more energy than ethanol. And like ethanol, butanol can be combined with gasoline to run a car’s engine, but researchers believe it’s also powerful enough to run an engine on its own without combining it with gasoline.
To keep its lineup looking fresh, Nissan just announced a mild update of the Murano. Arriving at dealerships next month, the enhanced crossover gets a revised grille, new tail lights and redesigned 18-inch wheels, among other changes. There’s also a new exterior color available – Graphite Blue – and a new type of wood trim. Inside, the 2011 Murano gets a host of minor updates including power lumbar for the driver’s seat, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a heated steering wheel.
Speaking of crossovers . . . after the break we’ll take a look at Ford’s redesigned twenty-eleven Edge.
2011 FORD EDGE
Last week Autoline Daily got a chance to drive the redesigned Ford Edge. Here’s a look at what’s new for twenty-eleven. Seamus McElroy filed this report.
Since coming out in 2006 the Ford Edge has sold more than 400,000 models which makes it the best-selling vehicle in the mid-size crossover segment according to Ford. For 2011 the company reworked the vehicle, and even though Ford says it’s only a “refresh, ” a whole lot has changed from the previous model.
That’s the new infotainment system from Ford which is integrated with Sync. If you want to learn more about the system click the link in the transcript for our overview we did earlier in the year.
But let’s get back to the Edge, which offers more than just a new look.
And next year Ford will offer customers the option to choose a 2.0L EcoBoost inline-four engine as well.
Standard 18-inch tires which are wider than the previous model’s, help give the Edge a confident feel on the road. But that wasn’t the only thing done to improve the ride. The suspension was completely redone and the brake system was reworked which feels stiffer and more responsive than the previous model.
The 2011 Edge is being shipped as we speak and pricing starts just under $28,000, which is several hundred dollars less than the outgoing model.
Thanks for that report, Seamus.
And that’s a wrap for today’s show. Again, I’m Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics. Have a great rest of your day – however much of it is left – and I’ll see you back here tomorrow.