September 26th, 2011 at 11:00am
Despite a poor economy, car sales continue to grow in not only the U.S. but around the world. Toyota just introduced its first mini-car in Japan, called the “Pixis Space.” Ford CEO Alan Mulally said Ford may make electric vehicles in China, but didn’t say when. All that and more, plus a look at Mazda’s new SKYACTIV technology.
This is Autoline Daily for September 26, 2011. And here’s what’s happening in the wonderful world of the automobile.
CAR SALES GROW DESPITE POOR ECONOMY
The economic headlines these days look as dire as they come. The global economy is slowing down, the financial system is tottering, unemployment is stubbornly high and yet car sales are doing pretty good. Sales in the American market are expected to finish strongly this month, up ahead of last month, and Ford says sales of its F-Series pickups are the best they’ve been in five months.
GLOBAL SALES UP (subscription required)
And it’s not just in the U.S. Ward’s reports that global sales were up more than 7 percent last month, and that includes a 12 percent increase in Europe, yes despite all the headlines about the meltdown in the Euro zone. Sales were up in South America, the NAFTA region, and Asia. The only major markets where sales were down were in India and Japan.
CAR SALES TO CONTINUE GROWTH
So how come car sales can be going so strong in the face of so much dire economic news? Because as bad as things seem to be, the vast majority of people still have jobs. And they need cars, especially since so many of them postponed buying one during the Great Recession of 2008. Forecasting can be a dangerous occupation, but the forecasters say sales are going to get even better.
TOYOTA PIXIS SPACE
Toyota just introduced its first mini-car in Japan, called the “Pixis Space.” It’s actually manufactured by Daihatsu, a subsidiary of Toyota. Starting price for this kei car is less than $15,000. Toyota plans to introduce two additional mini-models in Japan, but has not announced when they’ll go on sale. Overall, the company is aiming to sell some 60,000 mini-cars per year in Japan, a modest number compared to Honda, which moved 160,000 last year.
STAINLESS STEEL EXHAUST MANIFOLD (subscription required)
Engineers are constantly looking for ways to make vehicles lighter to deliver better fuel economy. According to Ward’s, a prime target for weight reduction is exhaust manifolds. More and more automakers are making them out of stainless steel instead of cast iron. This can reduce weight by up to 50 percent, which translates into a 10 or 15 pound savings! Another benefit of sheet-metal manifolds is that they have smooth internal passages, which gives them better flow characteristics.
BIZARRE PRIUS AD
Earlier in the year at the Detroit Auto Show, Toyota unveiled new vehicles that will join the Prius lineup. And to let consumers know it’s expanding the Prius lineup, the company just created this bizarre commercial to get the message out. Plenty of computer animation was involved but those are real actors you’re looking at. So what do you think of the ad? Is it cool or just creepy?
FORD MAY DEVELOP EVs IN CHINA
Last week GM announced it will develop electric cars in China with its partner SAIC. Now Bloomberg reports Ford is considering doing the same. Speaking at a groundbreaking for an engine plant in China, CEO Alan Mulally said Ford may make EVs in China, but didn’t say when. Automakers must share EV technology with Chinese partners in order for the cars to qualify for tax credits. The government wants 1 million EVs on the road by 2015. At the same event, Mulally also said Ford is considering introducing Lincoln into the Chinese market as well.
I’m Isaac Bouchard outside Vancouver, British Columbia, and I’m driving on the wrong side of the car. That report’s coming up.
MAZDA SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY
I’m in the mountains outside of Vancouver, BC. As you know, Canadians drive on the left as we do in the states and I’m in a right-hand drive car. That’s not the only unusual thing about this Mazda. This is an advanced prototype for what they’re calling their SKYACTIV technology.
The way Mazda met those engineering challenges was to redesign six key elements that, among other things, will take weight out of the car, increasing mileage and decreasing emissions. So when they’re released, SKYACTIV vehicles will offer one of two new engines — a gasoline and a diesel — two new transmissions — a manual and an automatic, as well as a new body and a new chassis . . . everything lighter, stronger and more efficient than current models.
SKYACTIV fits perfectly with Mazda’s legacy of iconoclastic, groundbreaking engineering — things like the rotary engine and the reinvention of the affordable sports car with the Miata.
These prototypes are our first taste of what’s to come; next up is the freshened Mazda3 with a SKYACTIV engine and transmission. This will be followed by the first full-Skyactiv Mazda, the CX-5, in 2012.
In Vancouver, British Columbia, this is Isaac Bouchard for Autoline Daily.
Thanks for that report Isaac. And that wraps up today’s report on the global news in the automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.