March 31st, 2011 at 11:34am
Yesterday President Obama called for the United States to reduce its dependence on oil – a goal every president since Nixon has stated – we’ll see how it goes this time around. Buick is working on a rebadged version of the Opel Ampera. Chevrolet teases the upcoming 2013 Malibu. All that and more, plus we take a look at a technology called near-field communication that supplier company Visteon has found a variety of automotive uses for.
This is Autoline Daily for the last day in March, 2011. And now, the news.
AN OILY INTERVENTION
Yesterday President Obama called for the United States to reduce its dependence on oil. Of course, that’s the same goal set by presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II. And every time the U.S. says it has to get off oil, Americans just use more of it. I once met an expert in the oil industry who told me that the United States does have an energy policy and it goes like this: “We don’t want you to use oil, but we’re going to do everything we can to make sure it’s as cheap and plentiful as possible.” As every economist knows, if you want people to use less of something, raise the price. A tax on oil phased in over time would produce miracles. I would make it a tax on OPEC oil. The U.S. imports roughly half the oil it uses. And half those imports come from OPEC. In other words, if the U.S. could reduce its oil consumption by 25 percent, or even boost production by 25 percent we could kiss OPEC goodbye.
One way to reduce oil consumption is by driving electric cars. Now Bloomberg reports that General Motors is developing a Buick using the same platform as the Chevy Volt. According to their sources, designers and engineers are grafting a Buick front-end on the Opel Ampera. If the car gets approved by management it’s expected to go on sale sometime in 2013. One big challenge is making the Buick model more luxurious than the Volt. But if the car is only getting a new front-end it sure sounds like GM is going back to the bad old days of badge engineering.
Speaking of EVs, Kia unveiled an electric concept car at the Seoul Motor Show. Called the Naimo, it’s a B-segment car with a number of unique features. The wraparound windshield doesn’t have a wiper blade, instead it uses a high-intensity air jet at the base of the windshield that performs what Kia calls an ‘air wiper’ function. The rear-view mirrors are replaced with cameras installed in the A-pillars. To make getting in and out easier, the B-pillar was eliminated and the doors open suicide style. Powering the Naimo is an electric motor that’s mated to a 27 kWh lithium-ion battery. It’s got a range of 200 kilometers which is about 124 miles.
“SPECTACULAR FAILURES” (subscription required)
Despite all this activity with electric cars, Ward’s reports that most EV startups are in a financially precarious position. Even more telling, in the next year or so there will be 70 electric cars and plug-ins hitting the market. It quotes Mickey Bly, who’s in charge of electric cars and hybrids at General Motors as saying there will be spectacular failures amongst EV companies this year. Even so, J.D. Power sees the market for electric cars growing. It predicts there will be annual sales in the U.S. of 100,000 units in 2020; Europe will see sales of 742,000; China 332,000 and Japan 100,000. That would put global sales at 1.3 million electric cars a year, which sounds impressive until you realize that’s less than 2 percent of all car sales.
CHEVY TEASES NEXT-GEN MALIBU
Chevy showed a sneak peek of the all new 2013 Malibu. Not many details were announced, and all we get is this happy snap of a tail light. Showing how important this car is globally for Chevy, the new Malibu will actually debut at the Shanghai Auto Show. But it will also be revealed on Chevy’s Facebook page, coinciding with the reveal in Shanghai. People can post questions during the reveal on Facebook or Twitter and they will be answered by members from Chevy during a live Q&A session.
IT’S THE POWER OF LOVE SOUND
If you’ve spent more than five minutes in the driver’s seat you’ve heard someone with a big subwoofer in their car. But did you know that “boom, boom, boom” can be used for more than just annoying other motorists? We found this clip on Autoblog. A guy outfitted his 2001 Chevy Tahoe with a crazy sound system. Just how insane? Well, it takes 10 batteries and three alternators to power it! It features four 18-inch subwoofers, 13 amps and a host of other speakers. Altogether it’s enough juice to LITERALLY shred a phonebook! Turn on the ‘woofers and watch the tornado! I wonder how this guy’s not deaf.
Coming up next, a look at new technology that will help you find your car keys.
FORGET ME NOT
Are you like me? Do you often misplace your car keys? For those of us that do, Visteon has a solution.
For those of you that don’t know, NFC stands for near-field communication, which is a term used to describe short-range wireless technology. Visteon’s system also allows you to do things remotely like starting the car, setting the temperature or other functions. And it can locate your car and tell you where you parked. Now all I’ve got to do is remember to keep my phone charged.
Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tonight, when our guest will be Joel Piaskowski, who heads up all exterior design for Ford in the Americas. Join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, for the best insider information on what’s going on in the auto industry. And Mark Phelan from the Detroit Free Press will also be stopping by. That’s tonight, on Autoline After Hours.
And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global auto industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.