Episode 463 – Some Dealers Cool To Cinquecento, U.S. Gasoline Consumption Falls, Toyota Retools

August 24th, 2010 at 12:19pm

Runtime 7:19

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.

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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 RETOOLS
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.

MURANO MULLIGAN
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.

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14 Comments to “Episode 463 – Some Dealers Cool To Cinquecento, U.S. Gasoline Consumption Falls, Toyota Retools”

  1. Buzzerd Says:

    I don’t think 22″ wheels on the Edge are quite big enough, I think they need to go to 30′s.
    With Toyota having so many issues with quality is it a good idea to be building that many different products on the same line?

  2. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Let me take a stab at the reduction (really flat actually) gasoline consumption. I think that ‘the regular guy’ is still hurting and is trying to save money wherever possible. Even with gasoline prices flat (and rumored to get even lower after Labor Day), this is an area where when you need to stretch a/your dollar. excessive motoring is a good place to start. The rest of the economy, although not up to speed, is crawling out of its doldrums and is beginning to consume more fuel. If the economy does kick-start then you’ll see the private increase in consumption again as ‘trickle down’ begins to take hold.

  3. Mark Says:

    Seamus’ voice sounds completely bored in his reviews. A real downer. Please have him drink coffee or something before we does his next review.

  4. tj Martin Says:

    Chuck Grenci ;

    I’d say your assessment of the ” Gas Consumption Reduction ” is right on the Money .

    Toss a couple of more dollars in everyones back pocket and those gas consumption figures will once again go right thru the roof .

  5. Brett Cammack Says:

    I’m surprised at the sales figures quoted for the Ford Edge. I hardly ever see one on the road. Lots of Rav4s, Outlanders, and the new small and midsized GM crossovers, but few Edges.

    Odd.

  6. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Seamus Sounds like a documentarian, which is perfectly fine. We wanted to find out about the car in the first place.

    Maybe Seamus could do a documentary for Autoline about the reasons why Gen Y lacks the interest in cars like they used to, and about the gearheads that are in Gen Y?

    2 parts- an hour long each. Or, something like that.

  7. Reality Check Says:

    Brett – I’m surprised at your surprise. Here in “fly-over” country a Rav4, Outlander, or Murano, is seen about as often as a Dodo bird. Whereas sightings of GM crossovers and Edges are a common occurrence. You must live on the “left coast” – that place where everyone believes if it’s built in Japan it must be better.

  8. Alex Kovnat Says:

    >SCOTCH WHISKEY FOR FUEL . SORT OF

    Its always nice to hear about waste materials being put to good use. We should also note that waste grease from restaurants can be esterified with methanol to make Bio-Diesel.

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    Poor Chrysler dealers, after years of peddling below-par products now they get top do it all over with the POS 500. Soon they’ll be begging for the return of the Neon.

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Speaking of Chrysler cars with bad reputations, I have seen 3 OmniRizons in the last two days. They must have been much better cars than Chevettes. The last model year for both OmniRizons and Chevettes was 1987, and it has been months since I have seen a Chevette on the road.

  11. Deion Byrd Says:

    In reference to the 2011 Ford Edge, i’ve been reading several complaints on youtube about the amazing technology in it and the different ways to access it. These people claim that MyFord Touch is just more stuff to destract drivers. Please tell these people that they don’t have to operate, for instance,the navigation system by using voice, touch screen, and the steering wheel controls all at once. They have the option of picking which way is most comfortable for them. And if they dislike the fantastic technology in the Edge that much then they can go buy a stripped version and stop complaining.

  12. HtG Says:

    Roll ‘em Jimbo!

  13. MJB Says:

    I like Jim Hall. I think he’s the best fill-in for McElroy, followed closely by the news anchor (can’t remember his name).

    However, I must agree with a couple of posts here that Seamus needs to step his game up. Just because cars by nature are mechanical devices doesn’t mean the person presenting them to us must do it in a purely mundain, unexciting, hum-drum mechanical way. After all, cars are not merely utilitarian mechanisms. They’re also a source of excitement and expression – or at least, they should be.

    So how’s about it Seamus? Give us some of that excitement and expression. We know you can do it, so just do it already.

  14. MJB Says:

    One more note, Seamus…

    Don’t read the script. BE the script. OWN that automotive analysis, man!