February 23rd, 2011 at 12:00pm
Analysts are saying don’t be surprised if GM’s fourth-quarter earnings are not that good because it had to spend money on developing and introducing new vehicles. MINI will debut a concept in Geneva called the Rocketman, which is smaller than any car it builds now. Aston Martin just introduced its latest sportscar, called the Virage, which is powered by a hand-built 6.0-liter V-12 that cranks out 490 horsepower. All that and more, plus John answers your questions about ethanol, the Toyota Prius and much more in the “You Said It!” segment.
This is Autoline Daily for February 23, 2011. And now, the news.
NEW VEHICLES CUT INTO GM’S PROFIT
When GM announces its fourth-quarter earnings, analysts are saying don’t be surprised if they’re not that good because Ford and Daimler also posted poor Q4 profits. The reason? The high costs associated with developing and introducing new vehicles. Analysts believe GM’s fourth quarter could be the smallest quarterly profit it reports since the company emerged from bankruptcy. Plus, CEO Dan Akerson is pushing the company to speed up the introduction of new models and all automakers are facing higher material costs. Even so, GM’s fourth-quarter net income could top $1 billion. Isn’t it amazing when a billion-dollar profit isn’t very impressive?
DENISE JOHNSON LEAVES GM
And speaking of General Motors, Denise Johnson, the head of the company’s Brazilian operations, abruptly left the company. Bloomberg reports that she left to “pursue new career opportunities” which sure sounds like she was pushed out to me. Strange. Just a while ago GM was touting her as a rising star in the company.
CHINA’S BIG EV AMBITIONS
President Obama says he wants to see 1 million electric vehicles on the road in the United States by 2015. That means counting every EV sold for each of the next five years. But China has much greater ambitions. It wants to be building and selling 1 million EVs a year by then, and it’s ready to spend $15 billion to help subsidize manufacturing those vehicles. All I can say is that they better hope that EVs really catch on, because if they don’t that’s a lot of money to wash down the drain.
BIG GOALS FOR YOUNGMAN LOTUS
Speaking of China, they have so many car companies over there it’s hard to keep track of them all. There’s one called Youngman Lotus that only sold a paltry 30,000 cars in China last year. But this little company has big plans. It says it will sell 700,000 cars in just a couple of years. We say: fat chance! Interestingly, Youngman Lotus gets the Lotus name because the first car it sold was a rebadged Proton, the company that now owns Lotus. Lotus Engineering is now involved in a joint venture with Youngman, which allows its cars to carry a badge that says Engineered by Lotus.
I’M A (MINI) ROCKETMAN
Now to Europe. Believe it or not today’s MINI is HUGE. Park one next to an original and you’ll see what I’m talking about. In fact, the company thinks it may be too big for some markets, which is why it’s going back to its roots. Debuting in Geneva, the Rocketman concept is a much smaller car than what MINI builds now. It’s similarly sized to the original model, which means TINY. It features three doors, three-plus-one seating and a body that’s slightly longer than three meters. With a footprint that small it’s pretty obvious this thing is all about fuel efficiency. To maximize its MPGs the Rocketman is built around a carbon spaceframe PLUS it features other weight-saving details. As for fuel consumption, the company says it should average around 3.0 L/100 KM – about 78 U.S. miles per gallon – but that being said we have no idea what’s under the hood. I’d say it’s got to be some sort of hybrid, though.
ASTON MARTIN VIRAGE
In related news, Aston Martin is set to show off its latest sportscar. Called the Virage, which is French for bend or turn, it’s positioned between the DB9 and the DBS, supposedly splitting the difference between luxury and sport. Under the hood it’s powered by a hand-built 6.0-liter V-12 that cranks out 490 horsepower. Inside just about everything is covered in leather – SEVEN cows’ worth in fact. Look for the Virage – and its drop-top sibling – at Aston Martin dealerships around the world right now. Oh yeah, and bring your checkbook. This thing ain’t cheap.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
And now it’s time for some of your feedback.
Jim saw our story on how features like power windows that used to only be on luxury cars are now standard equipment on even some of the cheapest cars, he makes this observation, “Speaking of power windows, how many times do you say to a passenger to ‘roll down your window’ even though there are no longer window cranks. Old habits die off slowly.”
Boy, ain’t that the truth. I still say roll down your window.
Michael saw our report on the fight over E15 gasoline in the U.S. and says, “I don’t know whether or not ethanol content in gasoline will harm my 1993 engine, but it certainly HAS harmed my Toro snow blower. Took it back to where I got it, and the guy tells me that gasoline containing ethanol will fry the carb. He goes on to say that Mobil and BP are two that do still supply non-ethanol gasoline.”
Michael, I don’t think that’s true about Mobil and BP. I don’t think you can buy pure gasoline in any major metropolitan area anymore. The EPA mandates what they call an oxygenate in gasoline to make it burn cleaner, so metropolitan areas can come into compliance with the Clean Air Act. And about the only oxygenate that’s EPA-approved right now is ethanol, and that’s been the case for nearly two decades.
Kit Gerhart heard me say that I wasn’t impressed that a Chevy Cruze with a diesel would only get 34 MPGs combined, and he points out that, “The combined rating for the Jetta TDI is 34, so if a Cruze diesel could do 34, it’s where is should be.”
Kit, good point, I stand corrected.
Richard S. saw our report on how a Toyota Prius gets different fuel economy ratings in different countries because of different test procedures. I pointed out that in the U.S. the Prius is rated at 50 miles per gallon, but its rated at 60 MPGs in the UK, so he says, “John, you did not mention whether the economy ratings for the different countries took into account that a U.S. gallon is 25 percent smaller than a UK gallon. That could explain most of the difference between the U.S. and British economy ratings because a British quart has 40 ounces while the US quart has 32 ounces. So a British gallon has five U.S. quarts or 160 ounces. If you do the math, the exact economy ratings would be very close – 50 MPG US is the same as 62.5 MPG UK.”
Richard, thanks for making that point but we did take that into account in our comparison. In fact, that’s why we also gave the comparison in liters per 100 kilometers. But I like the fact that you questioned us on it.
Tokyokurisu saw our report on the Nissan Moco and wrote in to say, “Lol….Nissan Moco. Translation from Spanish = “Booger.”
All I can say is that you learn something new everyday on Autoline Daily.
And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.