Episode 584 – Oil Prices Spike, EcoMotors Teams with Navistar, Beijing’s Hazardous Air

February 22nd, 2011 at 12:19pm

Runtime 8:09

Anti-government protests in Libya have shut down oil production in the North-African country causing the price per barrel to spike overnight.  EcoMotors teamed with Navistar to deliver a production-version of its opposed-piston engine.  The U.S. embassy has rated the air quality in Beijing WORSE than hazardous.  All that and more, plus John gives us his instant impression of the brand-new, 2011 Chrysler 300.


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This is Autoline Daily for February 22, 2011. And now, the news.

The turmoil in the Middle East is starting to have an impact on the automotive industry. In Libya, anti-government protesters are rising up against Muammar Gaddafi, also known as the Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.  There’s a title for you!  The Wall Street Journal reports those protests have shut down oil production in Libya and now oil prices are skyrocketing, up more than $6 a barrel overnight. Oil prices depend on the type of oil and the contract, but a barrel now costs anywhere from $95 to $107 a barrel. Rising gas prices will definitely impact what people buy in the showroom.

And anti-government protests in Bahrain have led to the cancellation of the season opener of the Formula One race series. With so many people unhappy about the lack of jobs, a dead-end future and repressive government policies, it just didn’t seem proper to have the millionaire jet-set crowd drop in over the weekend for a jolly good party. Maybe next year.

Speaking of fuel economy, we’ve been following the story on EcoMotors and how it’s going to work with Navistar. This morning both companies officially announced that Navistar is going to help EcoMotors commercialize the engine, that is, taking it from R&D and making it production-ready. Other investors in EcoMotors include Vinod Khosla, the venture capitalist, and Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. The design that EcoMotors has come up with can boost fuel economy up to 50 percent at lower cost than today’s engines.

But there’s lots of fuel saving technology in the news. Volvo just introduced the diesel plug-in hybrid version of its V60 wagon. Its front wheels are powered by a five-cylinder 2.4-liter turbodiesel and the rear is powered by an electric motor that’s powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. The powertrain also includes a six-speed automatic transmission. The driver can choose between three driving modes just by pushing a button. In what they call Pure mode, the car runs on the electric motor and can travel up to 50 kilometers running on just the battery.  That’s 31 miles. The Hybrid mode, which is the default setting whenever you get into the car, is a combination of the diesel engine and the electric motor which results in fuel consumption of just 1.9 L/100km, or nearly 124 MPG. That’s good for a range of 1,200 kilometers or 745 miles! The last option is Power mode which optimizes the car for the best possible performance and helps it reach zero to 100 kilometers an hour in just under seven seconds. The Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid goes on sale next year.

GM sells the Chevy Cruze all over the globe and offers it with a diesel outside of North America, but GM Inside News says that’s going to change. Sources at GM’s Lordstown plant that builds the Cruze say management told them they will start building a Cruze diesel model for the 2013 model year.  GM Inside News speculates that it could be the same 2.0-liter engine that’s used in Australia for the Holden Cruze CDX. That car produces 147 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque.  Its fuel economy averages 34 MPG.

BMW announced it’s introducing a new sub-brand, one that’s dedicated to eco-friendly vehicles.  This is good news for the environment but something tells me Apple isn’t going to be happy about it.  The company is branding the cars with a lowercase “i,” as in iPod, iPhone or iMac. BMW plans to introduce two models in the lineup in 2013.  The i3, previously known as the Megacity, is a full-on EV, while the i8 is a plug-in hybrid based off BMW’s Vision EfficientDynamics concept.  Both vehicles are built around what the company calls a LifeDrive architecture, a lightweight platform that’s made out of aluminum and carbon fiber.  Again, these cars are expected to launch in 2013.

Now this next story should come as no surprise given China’s “laissez-faire” attitude toward the environment, and that’s being polite.  According to Bloomberg, Beijing’s air quality is rated WORSE than “hazardous” by the U.S. Embassy, and that’s the lowest level on its scale!  In fact it’s so bad it’s classified as “beyond index!”  I wonder if our diplomats and their staff get danger pay for living in Beijing.  That’s up to a 35 percent bonus for working in really, really hazardous areas – like Afghanistan.  This just goes to show you what adding nearly 900,000 cars to the road in a year can do to the environment, especially when there are very loose regulations on pollution.

Coming up next, we’ll take a brief look at what it’s like to drive Chrysler’s latest luxury car.

2011 CHRYSLER 300
Chrysler surprised us with the new models in its line-up because these are more than just minor facelifts. Sure, they changed the sheetmetal, but they changed a lot more than that under the skin. Recently I got a chance to test drive the company’s lineup for 2011 and here’s my impression of Chrysler’s flagship car.

I sure wish we had video of that trip just a few more miles down the road. We were out in the open desert where I got a chance to really open the car up. And the reason we don’t have video of that is because my cameraman was holding on for dear life. Let’s just say that the Chrysler 300 behaves extraordinarily well at Autobahn speeds.

And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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65 Comments to “Episode 584 – Oil Prices Spike, EcoMotors Teams with Navistar, Beijing’s Hazardous Air”

  1. Mark Says:

    Some of the video (if not all) used in the Beijing air pollution segment are actually Shanghai.

  2. tj Martin Says:

    You’ve got to start becoming just a little bit concerned/scared when a Middle East Despot ( Prince of Bahrain ) show more common sense than the Poison Troll ( Bernie Ecclestone ) as it was the Prince not Bernie that cancelled the F1 race .

    But of even more concern should be the fact that a UK Automotive Website will tolerate Anti American , Anti Semitic etc. etc. commentary left and right : but will have you removed should you DARE to say anything Negative on the Site about Ecclestone and his actions of late .

    So much for Free Speech in the UK ! No wonder we booted the ( bleep ) holes out in the late 1700′s .

  3. George Says:


    Does your camera man get “danger pay”?
    Where can I sign up!

  4. HtG Says:

    I do appreciate these recent reviews by John where he pushes the cars out to where the engineers worry about on the limit characteristics.

  5. tj Martin Says:

    Yeah … but the real question with the new 300C is can the thing go around corners ?

    The previous model , in every trim level was a pig in anything but a straight line

  6. G.A.Branigan Says:

    YeeHawww…….Volvo “gets it”.And now it seems that GM “gets it”.Damn……I think I’m gettin th’ vapors……

  7. bob Says:

    But there’s lots of fuel saving technology in the news. Volvo just introduced the diesel plug-in hybrid version of its V60 wagon.

    Now this is the kind of vehicle that HONDA should be offering as an Accord Wagon… IF they had a clue… and kick Hyundai’s ass.

    Honda used to be the MPG queen or king, among all cars sold in the US, for more than a decade, but lost the crown after the Prius became mainstream, and a few years later they are losing it again to the stable of 40 MPG Hyundai Sonatas and Elantras….

  8. bob Says:

    And the rising gas prices will be another huge break to you know who, the current MPG king, HYUNDAI. (The prius will benefit too, I’m sure, esp. when it introduces its two other models, the smaller, higher MPG coupe and the wagon-minivan one)

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    Oh great it’s deja vu all over again with the unreliable middle east oil, maybe Ford will be finally able to sell some Siestas!! I doubt it. If GM does sell a diesel in the Cruze line-up,it maybe the perfect American car for the times.

  10. Bob in Atlanta Says:

    tj @ 2: I read that Bahrain paid Bernie’s syndicate $40M to have the race there, and a bonus $20M to make it the first race of the season. If Bernie backed out, his take would be at stake. If the Prince “delayed” the race, Bernie keeps the cash. Easy decision.

  11. Chuck Grenci Says:

    RE oil prices: The U.S. doesn’t get much oil from Libya (not in the top ten at least); looks like it’s the oil speculators doing their thing again. You know what they say, “any excuse is better than none”.

  12. TJ Martin Says:

    @ BOB

    Aint it just wonderful when the Corporate World ( in this case Ecclestone ) places Profit above and beyond Human Life and Safety .

    Also honestly I can’t imagine Bernie didn’t have a Clause in the Contract that states if the Country/City in question is unable to Host the F1 race due to Security/Weather etc. that the Country /City in question would be held financially responsible for all and any debts / moneys owed incurred .

    So I doubt it was even greed motivating Bernie. Just pure unadulterated lack of concern for his Fellow Man .

  13. tj Martin Says:

    Chuck Grenci ;

    As a matter of fact the US gets ZERO oil from KadaffyDuck and Libya ( WSJ CNBC NPR ) so Speculators it is ( to blame for the oil price spike )

  14. Phoenix Mark Says:

    @ Chuck and tjMartin:
    Oil is a world commodity. If one source “dries up” prices will rise. The countries that do buy oil from Libya will have to buy it elsewhere, which drives up the price.

  15. dcars Says:

    Bernie is happy to take risks with other people’s lives and money.

  16. tj Martin Says:

    @ Phoenix Mark ;

    Its true that oil is a commodity and one source as you say ” drying up ” can affect the overall prices . But it still comes down to the Speculators and the Futures Market on this rise in prices as at this point there is no shortage of Oil . In fact just the opposite is true .


    Too true . Way too true site mate . Its also a bit scary to see the length of Bernie’s reach and influence , at least in the UK as well . Right down to the depths of their Automotive Media .

    You should of seen the email I received today from the magazine ( not racing ) that sent me packing : quoting my post about Bernie and claiming that it ” Upset ” people .

    Hmmn . Wonder who that ” People ” could of been as the post was an indictment against Ecclestone and Ecclestone alone ?

    Scary little Poison Dwarf aint he .

    But hey thats fine .In the future I’ll be voting with my checkbook when it comes to any F1 event , magazine etc. as well as the UK Automotive Media .

  17. GPL Says:

    How long until Intel sues BMW over the i3 tradebrand?

  18. HtG Says:

    tj, can you post your comment here? Or paraphrase.

    You getting the Bower book?

  19. tj Martin Says:

    Phoenix Mark ;

    Case in point . OPEC just stated they can and will make up for any Oil shortfalls due to the protests and unrest

  20. tj Martin Says:

    @ HtG

    What I posted in essence last Friday was to quote the NYTimes reports of Bahrain’s government shooting down mourners in funeral processions : then Bernie’s quote two hours later saying he was convinced all would be resolved in time for the F1 event . I then accused Bernie Dearest of being a heart less SOB who was totally out of touch with reality . I’d quote the post directly but they censored it off the site when they booted moi .

    What’s the ” Bower ” book ?

  21. tj Martin Says:

    @HtG ;

    Are you referring to the Tom Bower Book ” Oil: Money and…. “

  22. tj Martin Says:

    GPL ;

    Unless they’re in cahoots on this I’m waiting to see how long it takes Apple ( iPhone iPad iPod etc. ) to go after BMW ?

    Memories of Peugeot suing Porsche over the 901 moniker coming to mind .

    This one with BMW seems to be a minefield waiting to explode .

  23. tj Martin Says:


    BMW really has stuffed it this time haven’t they ? i8 is also an Intel moniker .

    Ohhhhh this could get real interesting .

    What were those BMW Trade Mark lawyers thinking ?

  24. HtG Says:

    tj, No Angel, is Tom Bower’s authorized biography of BE. Now available on Amazon.co.uk

  25. tj Martin Says:


    The Book .

    On its way to the US this month . Just placed my order .

    If you and anyone else is interested I’ll pass on two previous run ins I’ve had with the good Mr. Ecclestone ( via two friends ) tomorrow .

    He’s a genuine piece of work , but never thought I’d run into his influence on a general automotive forum

  26. HtG Says:

    tj, I’d love to hear some BE stories. I have one myself via my bro-in-law. It’s vague, but BE has some kind of feud with ESPN that keeps him from letting F1 be on their network in the states. Know anything about it?

  27. cwolf Says:

    @ bob: Did’nt think sharing my observations,stated yesterday,should have caused you to have a “H.Smoke moment!”
    Seeing 9 Trans. Connects is note worthy BECAUSE of the small numbers. If the number seen increases,it may indicate small businesses are doing better and/or they are discovering that the Transit is getting noted as a worthy small UTILITY vehicle– nothing more. I,too, have praise for the Equinox,but should not be catigorized with the Transit, so your comment is moot.
    Didn’t show any sign of negativity towards the BMW either. The 2 in service may have been in for scheduled maint. and were not included with the Audi and Merc., whose engines were apart. Appreciative of the advice given me by a couple of “regulars” about reliability,when expressing an interest in diesels a few weeks back, I had time to see for myself. These fellas may not have your educational stature, but to me they have proven themselves quite knowledgable. When you are in the right frame of mind, you also provide valuable input.
    Finally, your comments reguarding ones wealth was not appropriate. My reference to wealth was directed towards the high costs of repairs to maintain european vehicles or to purchase a NEW one. I,personally,view cars as a loosing proposition. Would love to splurge on many fitting my fancy, but am frugal and settle for a realistic compromise. I’ll pass, but don’t discount the fact that a few of us “regulars” may have more wealth than you may comprehend,but have the common sense to spend it wisely. Let’s just say you had a bad day and let’s move forward.

  28. Ron Paris Says:

    Uhh, in every place outside of Michigan it’s ‘camber’ with a short “a” John. As in rhymes with “the color “amber”.

  29. Tom L Says:

    tj take the 300 out for a test drive around corners and tell us what you think.
    I think you will be impressed

  30. tj Martin Says:

    Tom L

    Old 300C (SRT) ? Hated it . New one ? Have to give it a go

  31. tj Martin Says:


    It just hit me that Bernie probably gets a kick back from the book so I canceled the order . Won’t give that SOB a solitary dime if I can avoid it

    Stories tomorrow and yes I have a bit of knowledge on the ESPN debacle

  32. tj Martin Says:


    For what its worth I’m seeing more Transits in KC almost weekly so its caught on here . Good Bad or Indifferent

  33. HtG Says:

    tj, the money goes to Bower, nein? Besides, Herr Bernie doesn’t need the money, he shops at Waitrose.

  34. Tom L Says:

    tj Martin
    If you test the new 300,tell us what you think.
    I was told that it is like it is on rails ( for a large car)

  35. Phil in Burlington Says:

    John….you let me down!
    I’m known in my family and circle of friends as the car nut for my up-to-date knowledge of all things automotive due in large part to watching Autoline daily and Autoline afterhours (heck, I even met you in person at your Woodward show!) So, it came as a surprise when I attended the Toronto International Auto Show this weekend and came across a car that I hadn’t seen any mention of by you or some of the other sites I look at daily like Autoblog and Jalopnik – namely the 2012 Hyundai Accent. Sure it’s no enthusiast car, but I know how impressed you’ve been by the Sonata and Elantra of late that I couldn’t believe I was seeing it in the flesh before hearing about it on your show – what gives, John? :-)

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I saw two Transit Connects today, one used by a local plumbing contractor, and one by Siemens. What does this mean? Not much, except that some businesses, both small and large, are buying TC’s as an alternative to big vans and pickup trucks.

  37. tj Martin Says:


    Guaranteed if its got Bernie’s name in it , any mention of F1 etc. etc. Bernie’s getting a cut . He does nothing that doesn’t in one way or another pay and pay big time .

    Heck Bernie killed off FI ( thats F eye ) magazine ( audiophile ) because it looked like F1

    You should hear the stories of why the Sly Stone movie turned into Indy Car when Sly had F1 in mind .

    A Clue ?

    Bernie wanted $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  38. Ki Gerhart Says:

    Regarding all of this iCRAP, it would seem that Apple beat BMW to market by about a month. The first iPOD hit the market in October, 2001, while iDRIVE equipped cars went on sale in November of ’01.

  39. SalvadorG. Says:

    Great show JohnMc.

    You know the one thing that I haven’t heard from Chrysler (and that I love they would do) is Racing, either the new 300 or the 200; to go againts Cadillac at the SCCA or go Grand-Am or American LeMans. Go Racing! Racing, what a concetp.

  40. bob Says:

    Last night I was wondering on the wrong side of the Tracks… And i was amazed to see the place was full of Ford Transit Connects! Horrified, I uttered a cry, and woke up.

  41. bob Says:

    I got a brochure in the mail from a local mega-dealer and looked at the lease $s

    The CRUZE has a lease MORE expensive than the Malibu! Even tho it is one size smaller.

    The god-awful Honda Crosstour has a lease more expensive than the KING of Minivans for more than a decade, the ODYSSEY, which is a brand new 2011 model too! Apparently Honda is betting that the utter fools that will buy that abomination are as ECON illiterate as they are AUTO illiterate!!!

  42. bob Says:

    And the above was real, not a nightmare, like the streets crawling with… Ford Transit Connects!!!

    (PS I REALLY did not see that nightmare. I have never ever seen a single FTC in the flesh, but its photos are enough to induce vomit… even berofe one smells the interior…LOL)

  43. tj Martin Says:


    Seems the Diesel Cruze was a bit of an over zealous rumor with GM soundly denying we’ll be getting the Diesel Cruze in the US

    (2/23/11 NYTimes online Auto )

    So sorry @ G.A. Branigan but it looks like We/They ( GM ) won’t be getting it . At all . Not the Volvo either . Thank Obama .

  44. tj Martin Says:

    @Bob ;

    I’ve got this recurring automotive nightmare myself , though mines a bit different .

    Alfa Romeo Spider bodied Chrysler 300C’s & JEEP Grand Cherokees , Dodge Bodied FIATs and worse JEEP Wrangler Bodied FIAT Unibody cars running rampant across the TV screen with the likes of Lady Gaga , Eminem and what ever other low life FACE Marchionne can come up with to
    promote the piles of junk .

    I think my Nightmare is much worse , don’t you ?

  45. bob Says:

    # Kit Gerhart Says:
    February 22nd, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    I saw two Transit Connects today, one used by a local plumbing contractor, and one by Siemens. What does this mean? Not much, except that some businesses, both small and large, are buying TC’s as an alternative to big vans and pickup trucks.

    There are 2-3,000 new Connects sold every month. WHy would it be noteworthy if you or others saw a measly one or two on the wrong side of the tracks??? It is not like you saw an Aston Martin or a Rolls, who barely sell 100 each month, or even a Ferrari of any kind, which sell a few hundred?

    I have not seen many Equinoxes, but the FACTS are that they sell TEN TIMES (900%!) more than the pathetic COnnect every single month, and there is NOTHING CWOLF can do about it,… LOL.

  46. bob Says:


    Alfred Brocolli or something, the company that produces all these great and not so great James Bond Movies, has just agreed with Ford Motor Company to use one of its vehicles as Bond’s own car in the next movie.

    To reinvigorate the Ford Transit Connect’s sales, which have been in a deep coma for more than a year, Ford allegedly paid Brocolli $250 million to feature the vehicle as Bond’s personal transportation conveyance. The small delivery van will have ample space for a small camel in the back.

    HOW is this for a nightmare???

  47. bob Says:

    Oh, and before CWOLF makes a lame attempt of a joke about a 7 series in a Bond movie, I will try to protect him from embarassment here: It has ALREADY happened, a 750iL almost identical to mine (even the same shade of Silver, I believe)DID star as Bond’s car in 97′s “Tomorrow Never Dies”!

  48. bob Says:

    TJ: “..rampant across the TV screen with the likes of Lady Gaga , Eminem and what ever other low life FACE Marchionne can come up with to
    promote the piles of junk . ”

    YOu forgot that lamest of the lame Celine Dion, who actually got $13,000,000 from Daimler Chrysler to star in Ads (as if anybody would buy a Chrysler because that retard lame-o Celine pushed them!!!) and none of the terrible ads was ever shown to the public!

    Celine and Eminem.. a pair made in Hell.. or at least in Purgatory!

  49. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I didn’t say there was anything particularly noteworthy about seeing TC’s, but since you mention it, I do see them a lot considering the small numbers sold. The “soccer mom” vehicles like Equinox disappear in the crowd, while the TC’s, both because of their looking different, and their typically being covered with advertised makes them stand out. Also, I suspect they spend a lot more time “in public” than most non-commercial vehicles.

  50. pedro fernandez Says:

    Lest not forget that Ford also sells a passenger version of the TC and I have never seen one around, I wonder how many of those Ford has sold.

  51. HtG Says:

    13 million,bob? If there’s any justice, her husband frittered it away in Vegas.

  52. bob Says:

    HtG: Did not know that the old bald dude had a gambling problem…

  53. bob Says:

    Your Ford Transit Connect is ready, Mister Bond!

  54. HtG Says:

    enjoy, bob


    yeah yeah, it’s a little off topic

  55. bob Says:

    To bring it back to autos..

    “Angelil has been a regular visitor to the casino during his wife’s five-year singing engagement at the hotel, which ends on December 15, and Caesars Palace have revealed his casino losses in 2005 and 2006 total exactly $230,000…”

    I’d rather get myself an entry level Ferrari Italia with the $230k… or a kick-ass 911 Turbo with all the options!

  56. pedro fernandez Says:

    From an Aston Martin to a TC for Mr Bond, I suppose the new Bond girl will be Snooki, and his drink will be Colt 45.

  57. bob Says:

    Hey, it is not JUST a “Trabsit Connect”, it is a “Ford” Transit Connect. Like a “Ford” Siesta-Fiasco! That makes it all right!

  58. tj Martin Says:

    Oh dear me . Mr. Bond has definitely gone a bit ” Down Market ” of late . Must be the fact that the UK’s economy makes ours look healthy right now , so MI6′s cutting the budget way back .

    So should we assume James Bond will be wearing GAP & Mens Warehouse clothing as well ? Seeing as how Brioni prices have gone stratospheric of late .

  59. tj Martin Says:

    The Chrysler Eminem Ad

    All Marchionne will publicly admit to when it comes to the cost of the Ad is it was less than $9 Million .

    Assuming current SuperBowl ad per second rates , production etc etc IF Marchionne isn’t lying thru his teeth ( a first if he isn’t ) I think its fair to assume Eminem got ate least $2 million .

  60. bob Says:

    Gas prices have already gone up a full $0.20 in my area. I filled the tank with $3.19 midgrade (manual sez 89, so I put 89 octane) couple weeks ago, today the cheapest price in a 10 mile radius is $3.39 and the price in the station I used (the $3.19) is now $3.459!

  61. pedro fernandez Says:

    I don’t understand why car makers pay celebrities so much $$$ to advbertise their products, why can’t you instead use the money to make the cars better so they can sell themselves with word of mouth (free ads)

  62. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I haven’t seen a Transit Connect passenger wagon either. It would be a really hard sell, given that you could get a one year old Odyssey or Sienna for tha same money, or less than a new TC.

    The TC wagon is only ~4K cheaper than a new Odyssey LX, MSRP. LX is the bottom trim level Odyssey, but it would be a very luxurious machine compared to the TC, and gets better highway gas mileage.

  63. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I filled my Prius yesterday (regular) for $3.159. It was $3.039 two days ago.

    I bet the resale value of the Prius went up a few hundred bucks in the last week, not that I want to sell it.

  64. Alan Says:


  65. Jimmy R Says:

    Who knows? Apple might actually decide to leave BMW alone when it introduces the i3 and i8. For quite a few years now, I’ve been riding around in my Civic Si, which has “i-VTEC” tattooed on the rear doors, and no one has yet sent me a cease-and-desist order. Maybe Apple won’t be claiming exclusive rights to the lower case letter i, after all.