July 19th, 2011 at 12:01pm
The White House and automakers are warming up for a big fight over where the next round of fuel-economy standards should be set. Daimler is merging smart and Mercedes-Benz dealerships. Is it trying to recreate BMW’s success when it introduced the new MINI? According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, Volvo’s City Safety system on the XC60 SUV has dramatically reduced insurance claims. All that and more, plus a look at Hyundai’s updated Genesis sedan.
This is Autoline Daily for July 19, 2011. And here’s what’s happening in the auto industry right now.
FUEL ECONOMY FIGHT
The White House and automakers are warming up for a big fight over where the next round of fuel-economy standards should be set. Steven Chu, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, was in Detroit yesterday to talk up battery developments for electric cars. That’s because the Obama Administration is counting heavily on electric cars to meet its proposed CAFE standard of 56.2 miles per gallon. But even Secretary Chu admits there’s only a 50-50 chance batteries will be plentiful and affordable by 2021. And he’s an optimist! There has been a slew of slowdowns and cancellations in the EV world lately. JCI wants to back out of its battery joint venture with Saft. Renault has delayed construction of its battery plant in France. And there are rumors Nissan will delay building EVs and batteries in the U.S. Secretary Chu also visited battery maker A123’s plant in the Detroit area to celebrate them hiring their 1,000th employee. So far the Department of Energy has granted $249 million to A123 to make batteries in Michigan. That means it has cost $249,000 to create each of those jobs. Now, that cost may drop over time, but it certainly calls into question whether electric cars will be cost effective any time soon.
Daimler’s smart brand is going nowhere, but that isn’t stopping the company from pushing forward. Building on what Roger Penske and his team did, it’s merging smart dealerships into Mercedes-Benz dealerships. We tracked down Ernest Lieb, the President and CEO of MB USA at the 2012 M-Class launch by a river in Montana last week and here’s the latest.
Sounds like Mercedes is trying to do what BMW did with MINI, that is, create a desirable AND profitable sub-brand. But we don’t see that happening until smart gets its new products based on a platform from Renault.
CITY SAFETY SUCCESS
A new study from the Highway Loss Data Institute says the Volvo XC60 gets into fewer low-speed crashes than competitors thanks to the company’s new crash-avoidance system called City Safety. HLDI analysts compared insurance claims for the 2010 XC60 with City Safety to midsize luxury SUVs and other Volvos. They found insurance claims were down 27 percent compared to other midsize SUVs. Claims for injuries were down by half. City Safety helps drivers avoid low-speed crashes by using an infrared laser to monitor the area in front of the vehicle when traveling at speeds of about two to 19 miles an hour. The car will automatically put on the brakes to prevent a crash if the driver doesn’t react.
MANHATTAN TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT
To cut down traffic jams in Midtown Manhattan, the city installed electronic sensors and cameras in a 110-block area so technicians can regulate traffic. The technology will allow traffic engineers to identify congested areas and control traffic lights to free up traffic. The system only cost $1.6 million to install. I love this idea. Instead of leaving it up to individual motorists, controlling traffic flow as a system will have a dramatic improvement that will also improve fuel economy and reduce accidents.
TAKE A BITE OUT OF CRIME!
One would-be Norwegian carnapper found out the hard that way nothin’ runs like a Deere. Autoblog reports the man in question tried to snag himself a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but a nearby farmer caught wind of the illicit activity and put his tractor-mounted forklift to good use. The steel skids impaled the front of the car, and some quick hydraulic action had the Benz airborne. Tourists got everything on video. What I don’t understand is why the crook sat in the driver’s seat until the Scandinavian constabulary arrived! I guess it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to be a thief. Remember kids, crime doesn’t pay!
2012 HYUNDAI GENESIS
Hyundai just introduced the latest version of its luxury sedan, the Genesis. The 2012 model has been upgraded and has more features. Seamus McElroy filed this report.
The 2012 model features a refreshed design and improved engines.
Direct injection is added to the 3.8-liter V-6, boosting its output 15 percent to 333 horsepower. And thanks to other improvements its fuel economy is slightly better too. The Genesis is still offered with a 4.6-liter V-8 (17/26MPG). But new for 2012 is a 5.0-liter V-8 with direct injection, available on the new R-Spec model. This is the most powerful Hyundai engine ever, with 429 horsepower. Fuel economy for this engine is 16 MPG in the city and 25 on the highway. Also new under the hood is an eight-speed automatic transmission developed in-house by Hyundai.
As I mentioned, a new model, called the R-spec, is added to the lineup. In addition to the new 5.0 liter V-8, it also has its own unique touches.
The R-Spec isn’t all that’s new. The standard Genesis also features an updated exterior.
The 2012 Genesis is also available with a number of safety features including electronic stability control, eight airbags, active head restraints and a newly developed lane departure warning system.
The starting price for the V-6 is just over $35,000. The 4.6-liter V-8 starts at just over $45,000, and the R-Spec with the 5.0-liter V-8 is just over $47,000.
Thanks for that report Seamus.
Did you know that Henry Ford actually started the $5 day back in 1913, not because he was a benevolent visionary, but because the turnover at his factories was so high, he needed to bribe workers to stay on the job? The moving assembly line created such an alienating working environment that people hated to work in the plants. So is there an alternative to the moving assembly line? That’s the topic on Autoline After Hours with former GM employee and author, Tom Crumm. His book, “What Is Good For General Motors?” proposes a new way to make cars. Join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, for the best insider discussion this Thursday night on AAH.
And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global auto industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.