June 13th, 2011 at 12:02pm
A Plexiglas Pontiac display car from the 1939 world’s fair is slated to hit the RM auction block this summer. China is recalling its electric taxicabs after one burst into flames recently due to faulty wiring and battery leaks. California is proposing targets for EV sales in their state that would mandate 14 percent of new cars be EVs by 2025. All that and more, plus John reports on Hyundai’s fight to be top dog in the fuel economy war.
This is Autoline Daily for June 13, 2011. And now, the news.
GOLDEN STATE MANDATE (subscription required)
Here we go again. California is dredging up another proposal forcing car companies to sell thousands of electric vehicles or zero-emission cars. According to the Wall Street Journal, the proposal requires that 5.5 percent of all new-car sales by 2018 would have to be zero-emission. That amounts to 81,000 vehicles. That number would rise to 14 percent by 2025, translating into 227,000 electric or fuel-cell cars. The rule applies to automakers that sell 20,000 vehicles or more a year in the state. But the car companies say there isn’t enough demand and that the infrastructure to support them isn’t there yet. Here’s my Autoline Insight. This is the third time that California has tried to force the issue on EVs. The prior efforts failed because while you can force automakers to build electric cars, you can’t force consumers to buy them. And not enough people bought them.
Speaking of troubles with electric cars, Nissan is running into problems delivering the LEAF to customers. And the problems started well before the earthquake in Japan. Some people have been mistakenly dropped from the waiting list after plunking down $99 to reserve an order. Bloomberg reports there have been technical glitches and communication problems that caused the delays, now compounded by the devastation of the earthquake. And the delays could take a toll. Some customers worry that California’s $5,000 rebate program for EVs may run out of money next month. That rebate program may be extended, but cut in half. Nissan expected to sell 20,000 LEAFS this year in the U.S. market, now it’s cutting that number in half.
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF FLAMING TAXIS
China is also running into problems with EVs. China Auto Web reports that the city of Hangzhou pulled 30 Zoyte M300 taxicabs from the streets after one caught fire several months ago. Investigators found leaky battery cells, damaged insulation between battery cells and short circuits, one of which ignited the car’s back seats. The battery maker wasn’t blamed for the incident because the EV wasn’t properly converted for taxicab use. The remaining taxicabs in the fleet have been modified and are using redesigned battery packs.
MAXIMUM HYBRIDS (subscription required)
Now that Ford is going to sell the C-Max in the U.S. market only as a hybrid, it will likely drop one of its other hybrid models. Ward’s reports that Ford will drop either the Fusion hybrid of the Escape hybrid. I’d say it’s more likely going to be the Escape, since it has a similar footprint to the C-Max and Ford is going to want to direct as many hybrid buyers as possible into the C-Max.
SAAB SAGA (subscription required)
Saab has sold part of the company to yet another Chinese automaker. It just agreed to sell 30 percent of the company to the Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co. Last month it sold 24 percent to automobile distributor Pangda. If approved by Chinese authorities, Youngman would also be able to build Saabs in China. BAIC, another Chinese company, already has the rights to build the previous 9-3 and 9-5 models.
REINVENTING THE (STEERING) WHEEL
In high-tech news, a team of researchers from several universities in Germany are working on a touch-screen-enabled steering wheel. According to Physorg.com, they’ve created a prototype model that allows drivers to adjust audio volume or change the navigation map without taking their eyes off the road. Popular touch-screen gestures like pinch-to-zoom and hand writing recognition are baked into the system. If you’re concerned about safety, don’t worry; it HAS NOT been fitted to a vehicle. So far all testing has been done on a simulator. The researchers claim the prototype greatly reduces the amount of time drivers take their eyes off the road.
This next one’s for all you history buffs out there. We found it on Hemmings.com via Autoblog. An awesome pre-war automotive relic is going up for auction next month. During the 1940s GM built a tiny number of cars with clear plastic bodies to showcase their internal parts. One of these see-through specials, a four-door Pontiac, is crossing the RM auction block at St. John’s, in Plymouth, Michigan. This ghostly car was built for the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair. With a flathead-six under the hood and ORIGINAL all-white tires, it’s estimated to bring in anywhere from 275 thousand to 475 thousand dollars. Amazingly this car is a runner, but it only has 86 miles on the odometer. It’s understandable why it hasn’t been driver very much over the past 70-plus years. Hopefully the seller is being “transparent” and the car has a “clear” title.
Coming up next, we’ll see what Hyundai’s doing in the fuel economy war that’s going on right now.
FUEL ECONOMY FIGHT
There’s a war going on right now and it’s being fought on a global front. Automakers are at each-other’s throats battling for sales, profits and share – both market and mind. What’s really amazing is how far Hyundai’s come in the last five years. Its showroom success is due in no small part to fuel efficiency. And some of its newest cars deliver eye-popping economy.
When it comes to fuel economy, with today’s technology, it seems like the sky’s the limit. Automakers keep one-upping each other with every vehicle redesign.
Of course he doesn’t say what these technologies are, but with direct fuel injection in place turbocharging and downsizing seem like logical next steps. And who knows . . . Hyundai may even be bringing a Diesel to the ‘States. It wouldn’t surprise me given how aggressive it is in battling the competition.
And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global automotive industry, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.