August 25th, 2010 at 12:30pm
The U.S. federal government is investigating at least 20 dealerships that may have violated the rules of last year’s cash-for-clunkers program. Hyundai and Renault reveal a couple new cars at the 2010 Moscow International Motor Show. BYD is in trouble with the Chinese government for illegally building factories on farmland. All that and more, plus guest-host Jim Hall sounds off on some of the perks and pitfalls of electric vehicles.
Hey, it’s me again! Jim Hall here from 2953 Analytics. Welcome to Autoline Daily for Wednesday the 25th of August, 2010. As always, here’s what’s going on in the automotive world.
The federal government is investigating at least 20 dealerships that may have violated the rules of last year’s Car Allowance Rebate System – the U.S. cash-for-clunkers program. According to USA Today, auditors report that as much as $94 million in rebates may be ineligible due to a lack of proper documentation. That’s about 3.3 percent of all the claims submitted. There were other issues reported as well – for instance, some dealers allegedly shipped cars overseas that were meant to be destroyed. So far nine different stores have paid a combined total of nearly $72,000 in fines. Altogether this is a remarkably small amount of fraud to uncover given the scope of a $3 billion government program involving nearly 19,000 dealerships and almost 700,000 new-car buyers.
Over in Russia the 2010 Moscow International Motor Show is underway and we’ve got a few reveals to share with you. Renault introduced its future flagship sedan called the Latitude. Two engines are available when it goes on sale, a 2.0-liter gasser mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission and a 2.5-liter V-6 paired with a six-speed automatic. More engines will be available later. As you’d expect for a flagship model, the Latitude features a generous helping of luxury features… some of ‘em seen on much more expensive cars. The driver’s seat has a massager with four-different settings and it has an air-quality control system that features an ionizer that spreads fragrance throughout the cabin. The Latitude launches in Russia this fall and then will be released in 50 countries around the world.
HYUNDAI CONCEPT RB
Hyundai also revealed a subcompact vehicle called the Concept RB. Hyundai says the front-end of the concept will be mostly retained for the production version. When it goes on sale, customers will have the option to choose either a 1.4-liter or a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gas engine which comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission or it can be mated to a four-speed automatic. The vehicle will be built in Russia and goes on sale in the country next spring.
BYD IN TROUBLE OVER LAND USE
Earlier in the week we reported that Chinese automaker BYD, which is backed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, wasn’t meeting sales expectations and as a result the company reported a weaker profit than expected. But now the company has even more problems. According to Bloomberg, the Chinese government is considering punishing the company for illegally building factories on farmland. Even though the company owns the land, it’s zoned for agricultural use. China is struggling with growing its economy while at the same time maintaining enough land to grow food for its citizens. Analysts fear that if the government doesn’t make an example of BYD and punish them, companies will continue to build illegally on farmland.
ZEROSHIFT GEARBOX FOR EVs (subscription required)
Ward’s reports that a British company called Zeroshift Ltd. has developed a new kind of multi-speed gearbox that can extend the range and boost the battery life of EVs by up to 10 percent! That’s double digits! This could allow automakers to use smaller, lighter electric motors to save weight and cost. The company claims the transmission does not require any kind of clutch and can change gears seamlessly thanks to its unique design. Zeroshift replaced the synchromesh found in a conventional manual gearbox with a pair of interlocking rings that change ratios without interrupting torque flow.
MITSUBISHI SLASHES i-MiEV PRICE (subscription required)
Mitsubishi has slashed the launch price of its i-MiEV electric car in the U.K. According to Ward’s, the MSRP has dropped by a whopping 25 percent to – drum roll please – a-more-affordable-but-still-outrageous £28,990. That’s nearly 45,000 U.S. dollars. Keep in mind, that’s the price BEFORE a £5,000 government incentive. The i-MiEV is set to go on sale January 1.
NISSAN LEAF PRE-ORDERS (subscription required)
In still more electric news, Ward’s reports that some 18,000 people in the U.S. have put money down to buy a Nissan LEAF. The next step for these intenders is to convert their deposits into dealer orders. The car goes on sale in the U.S. this December. Initially the electric hatchback will be imported from Nissan’s Oppama plant in Japan with North American production set to begin later next year.
Hey, speaking of electric vehicles, coming up after the break a few of my thoughts on weird combination of wisdom and folly of EVs.
EVs THE NEW OLDSMOBILE DIESEL?
Have no doubts, electric vehicles are coming and will become a part of the automotive landscape no one will be able to ignore.
For manufacturers, the benefits of EVs are significant
• Zero emission cert costs
• Saves billions on a global basis
• CAFÉ perk
For SOME customers they will be the perfect compliment to the family fleet.
• Home fueling
• Cheap to fill… in some parts of the country
• Unique driving experience
Early adopters will be techno-junkies, aggressive environmentalists and the prototypical early-adopter
As used cars, pure EVs will be something of a challenge
• Paths to becoming a Used Car are challenging
• No garage, no fuel
• “Mooch” fueling from friends and family
• Getting ICED
Of course putting a small internal-combustion engine on the car to keep the batteries charged eliminates most of these shortcomings.
The intrigue of ownership for pure EVs may be something only the first buyer experiences. There is aa distinct possibility that used EVs could become a drug on the market. Like a late-seventies Oldsmobile diesel.
And remember; make Autoline Daily your first-stop for the latest news and the best analysis in the global automotive industry. Again, I’m Jim Hall from 2953 Analytics. Thanks for watching, McElroy’s back in the driver’s seat tomorrow.