February 14th, 2011 at 12:12pm
Inventory levels are increasing in the American market, a sure sign that automakers are making too many cars. Lamborghini will unveil a new flagship supercar at the Geneva Motor Show, called the Aventador, which is expected to cost more than $370,000! The average fuel economy of new light-vehicles sold in the U.S. fell last year. All that and more, plus a look at the new 2012 Ford Focus.
This is Autoline Daily for January 14, 2011. And now, the news.
INVENTORY LEVELS INCREASING (subscription required)
Several voices in the auto industry are warning that automakers could lapse back into overproducing vehicles, then increasing their incentives to sell them. John Krafcik from Hyundai and Mike Jackson from AutoNation have been warning about this. Now Ward’s reports that inventory levels are increasing in the American market, a sure sign that automakers are making too many cars. In December the industry had an average of 55 days of inventory. One month later that jumped to 71 days. Amongst the major automakers, Chrysler has the highest level of 89 days, but even companies that traditionally run with lower inventory saw their days’ supply go up. Honda is now running with 80 days, Toyota with 76. And then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, Audi has the lowest day’s supply, with 31. But that’s actually too low. Customers are complaining they have to wait months to get the car they want.
SHANGHAI’S LICENSE PLATE PRICES SOAR
But they’d be complaining a lot more if they were buying a car in China. Or I should say, they’d be complaining about the price of license plates. In Shanghai, which is limiting how many license plates it will allow, demand for second-hand plates sent prices soaring. According to Gasgoo, second-hand license plates cost $6,600. The price for a new one is nearly $5,900. Some drivers tried to buy plates from other cities or provinces where the cost is lower, but Shanghai police say they will fine drivers caught in the city during peak hours without the proper plates. And that is what is forcing up the price of second hand ones.
Of course, if you’re buying a new Lamborghini, the price of the plates will seem insignificant. Bloomberg reports Lamborghini will unveil a new flagship supercar at the Geneva Motor Show. Called the Aventador, it’s expected to cost more than $370,000! Powered by a 700-horsepower V-12 engine it should be able to blitz from 0 to 100 kilometers an hour in just 2.9 seconds! Top speed is estimated at 350 kilometers an hour – that’s almost 220 miles an hour! If this sounds like your kind of car, Lamborghini is already taking orders. Look for Aventadors in showrooms in the second-quarter of the year.
THAILAND NEAR TOP 10 IN PRODUCTION (subscription required)
Just to show you how much the auto industry is changing, Thailand is set to become one of the top-10 car-producing countries in the world. According to Ward’s, Thailand will build 1.8 million vehicles this year and it will pass the 2 million mark in the next few years. Currently Thailand is ranked number 14 in the world behind the United Kingdom. The growth in Thailand’s auto industry is attributed to its strong economy and investments from foreign companies, especially China.
AVERAGE FUEL ECONOMY DROPS IN U.S. (subscription required)
Old habits die hard. Americans seem to have already forgotten the energy price-spike of 2008 when gas hit $4.00 per gallon. According to Ward’s, the average fuel economy of new light-vehicles sold in the U.S. fell last year as pickups and crossovers gained in popularity. Year-over-year the score dropped 0.2 percent to 22.2 miles per gallon – roughly 10.6 L/100 km. Blame it on relatively cheap fuel and a resurgence in the commercial-fleet sector, which outpaced the rest of the industry. Consumers turned away from small cars in 2010 with the C-segment losing nearly two points of market share. Instead, they bought crossovers, pushing their share to almost 25 percent.
FOUR QUESTIONS FOR RAY LaHOOD
Last week Ray LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, announced the results of an exhaustive study by the National Academy of Science and NASA into runaway Toyotas. Some safety advocates say there are mysterious electromagnetic gremlins that cause Toyotas to accelerate violently out of control. But the best scientific minds in the country couldn’t find anything wrong with Toyotas. I have said all along that this is a problem with human error. People are hitting the gas, when they think they’re hitting the brake. Here are four questions that I would like to see the safety advocates and the Department of Transportation try to answer.
1. How come there are no reports of sudden, unintended acceleration involving Toyotas with manual transmissions? There should be at least a small percentage involving manuals, but there are none.
2. How come there are no reported problems of sudden, unintended acceleration outside of North America? Why does this pretty much only happen in America?
3. How come this problem mostly involves senior citizens, and how come most of them are women? If this is an electronic problem, how come it manages to mostly find older drivers?
4. How come it’s rarely mentioned that this is a problem that has been around for years and affects all major manufacturers?
Like I said, driver error explains all these anomalies. But that’s not going to stop the plaintiff attorneys for suing Toyota for hundreds of millions of dollars. And while they will get rich, it is not going to make this problem go away.
Last week I told you about a new podcast in the Autoline lineup. It’s called RoundAbout and you can catch the most recent one in the John’s Journal section of our website, at AutolineDetroit.tv. You can also subscribe to it in iTunes or the Zune Marketplace. The latest show is called “Indulgence” and features Mike Levine of PickupTrucks.com. Good stuff, check it out.
Coming up next, a look at the new Ford Focus. Back right after this.
2012 FORD FOCUS
The C-segment is really heating up. The Chevy Cruze is making strong headway in the market, Hyundai’s new Elantra is a solid offering and Ford is about to launch its redesigned Focus. With a full report, here’s Craig Cole.
We’re in Hollywood, California on the Sunset Strip no less in front of a hotel with supposedly more rock and roll history than the 2012 Ford Focus has new features, and that is a lot. Come on, let’s jump in this thing and take it for a spin.
After years of waiting we’re finally getting the same version of the Focus as Europe, which should be music to enthusiasts’ ears. The car has grown in both size and sophistication but it still knows how to have fun.
Underneath that trendy sheetmetal its updated chassis provides a rewarding driving experience. The ride is firm yet forgiving and body roll is minimal. But the real shocker here is the steering. It’s probably the best electrically boosted setup I’ve ever tested. Dive into a corner and everything feels tight and controlled.
Of course what’s under the hood also plays a huge role in how a car drives. Fortunately Ford made some smart changes there as well.
The Duratec engine is smooth and quiet. Its 160 horsepower has a lot of top-end pull, but I found it a little weak in the torque department even though 146 pound-feet looks good on paper. The car’s curb weigh doesn’t help the situation. It tips the scales at nearly 3,000 pounds which is roughly 300 pounds more than today’s model, making for a power-to-weight ratio of roughly 18.5.
With this car Ford has declared war on inefficiency. It’s fired a salvo of fuel-saving features at it to maximize the MPGs. Certain models are expected to return up to 40 miles per gallon on the highway. That’s just 5.9 L/100 km.
Not only does Ford expect the 2012 Focus to appeal to buyers looking for BOTH fuel economy AND fun driving dynamics but also for what it offers inside. This thing is loaded for technology, some of which you can’t even get on vehicles costing twice as much.
And some of those available features include MyFord Touch, push-button start, Active Park Assist and even a backup camera. But how much does it cost?
Of course buyers that want more can push the price into the mid 20s which is Fusion territory. But no matter where the Focus fits in Ford’s lineup it’s ready to rock and roll.
The Hollywood Bowl is the ultimate for any performer. When you take this stage you know you’ve made it. The 2012 Ford Focus has all the features it needs to be a star, and all that’s left is to see how well it performs on the showroom floor. Reporting from Hollywood, California, I’m Craig Cole.
In the U.S. the 2012 Focus will be offered in two body styles – a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback. It will also be available in four trim levels, S, SE, SEL and Titanium. Look for it at dealerships soon.
Don’t’ forget to tune into Open Line for the only automotive discussion where you can participate. Join host Michelle Naranjo tonight starting at 8 p.m. Eastern time for Open Line.
And that’s today’s report on the latest news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.