November 30th, 2011 at 12:00pm
The Center for Automotive Research says that the U.S. auto industry is going to add 190,000 jobs in the next four years. Volkswagen introduced a plug-in hybrid SUV concept at the Tokyo Motor Show called the Cross Coupe. And Honda unveiled seven new concepts in Tokyo, all of which are electric. All that and more, plus John answers your questions and comments in the “You Said It!” segment.
This is Autoline Daily for November 30th, which means we’ve come to the end of another month. Time marches on, and things change.
U.S. AUTO INDUSTRY WILL ADD JOBS
And just to show you how much things have changed, we have two mind-boggling developments to report. First, the Center for Automotive Research says that the U.S. auto industry is going to add 190,000 jobs in the next four years. Next year alone the industry will add 60,000 jobs. While most of those jobs will be for factory workers, especially at supplier companies, about 12,000 white-collar jobs will be added as well. As car sales continue to move upward, automakers and suppliers are straining to keep up with demand.
U.S. EXPORTS MORE FUEL THAN IT IMPORTS (subscription required)
Here’s the next mind-boggling report. For the first time in 61 years the United States will become a net exporter of petroleum products. You heard me right, the Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. is exporting more gasoline, diesel and refined products than it imports. What changed? First, unemployment. Americans aren’t using as much gasoline because so many people are out of work. Next, ethanol. Big increases in ethanol production mixed in with gasoline have reduced the need for oil. Third, horizontal drilling and fracking are dramatically increasing oil and natural gas production. All that makes it possible for the US to export more than it imports. But all those exports are keeping demand high and that’s why prices at the pump have not gone down very much.
VW CROSS COUPE CONCEPT
VW introduced a plug-in hybrid SUV concept at the Tokyo Motor Show called the Cross Coupe, which the company says is a hint at its future design. I think the front end looks very VW, but it’s also reminiscent of the Volvo You Concept in my opinion. The all-wheel-drive four-seater is shorter than a Tiguan and is powered by two electric motors and a direct-injected turbocharged gasoline engine. Based on the European driving cycle its fuel economy is 87 miles per gallon. And the company says the Cross Coupe’s range is over 530 miles when you factor in electric-only driving.
HONDA’S TOKYO REVEALS
The Tokyo Motor Show is officially under way and Honda is making a big splash. The capital “H” is showing off seven, yes SEVEN different concepts. The list includes two-, three- and four-wheeled vehicles, all of which are electric.
First up, the AC-X. This nice-looking four-door sedan features a plug-in hybrid drivetrain and it could hint at what future production models will look like.
Next we have the Micro Commuter Concept. It’s a futuristic city-car that’s the result of collaboration between Honda’s automotive and motorcycle divisions. One of its claims to fame is a customizable exterior, but we’re not sure how that works.
The company hasn’t released much information about the tentatively named Small Sports EV, but it’s supposedly designed to maximize driving fun while delivering excellent environmental performance.
In two-wheeled news, the Motor Compo is an itty-bitty commuter scooter. But it’s more than just an electrified bike. It can be loaded into the Micro Commuter Concept AND its battery pack can be used for electrical power.
The RC-E is an all-electric motorcycle designed to compete with other sport bikes in the 250cc class. As you’d expect, Honda says it’s fun to ride.
The sole three-wheeler on the list is called the E-Canopy. It looks like a strange combination of a bike, a scooter and a rickshaw. Beyond commuting, the company says it could also be used for (very) light-duty delivery work when fitted with a trunk.
Wrapping things up, the Townwalker is another four-wheeled conveyance – but this one is 100 percent mobility scooter. It looks like a futuristic Hoveround! It may not take you all the way to the Grand Canyon, but it is designed to be loaded into a car as its seat and handlebars fold away.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
YOU SAID IT!
And now it’s time for some of your feedback.
Drake Nailon likes the new sport coupe from Subaru and Toyota, and doesn’t like the criticism they’re getting. “Wow…a lightweight sports coupe comes to market and all any one can do is gripe about their looks and compare them to Lame Ducks like the Solstice? These cars are not meant to be lightning fast though I’m sure they will be quick. The idea behind them, is a light weight RWD sports coupe with outstanding handling that can be driven at 8-10 tenths on public roads and be fun to drive. Like its fore bearer the AE86 Corolla GTS. These should be a blast to drive and be affordable to buy and own. I for one can’t wait.”
I agree Drake, but the only problem I see is that both Toyota and Subaru will be selling the same car. The sales potential of this car was relatively small to begin with, so unless the two automakers decide to divvy up which markets in the world they’ll sell them, each one will hurt the other.
NathanDM78 is sick and tired of us in the media criticizing Saab. “I’m really tired of all these reviews (saying) Saab is dying. Dear automotive journalist: STFU and let Saab take care of its business. Have you all forgotten BMW was near extinction in the 60′s with bankruptcy? Lamborghini was dead before Audi bought them. Mini before BMW? Saab has great cars.”
But apparently Red Affinity doesn’t quite see it that way. “I’m 26. I’m not sure if I’m a target for Saab’s, but I find none of their cars appealing for me to look into. Where did GM/Saab go so wrong?”
Look, here’s the problem with Saab. Even in its best days it only sold about 120,000 cars world wide. That’s less than half the production from a typical assembly plant. You can’t run a global car company on half a plant’s production, not at the prices that Saab is able to get. While the company has had some cool cars in its history, they always appealed to a very small segment of the car-buying public. And while NathanDM78 may not like it, it’s the job of us journalists to point out the ugly truth.
Armydray13 likes the Autoextremist and is blown away that Mazda is moving production to Mexico because it can export cars to so many markets thanks to Mexico’s free-trade agreements. “Peter is a cool dude, and I’m glad you two are buds. Wow, can’t believe Mexico has that many more free trade agreements than the US. Aren’t we supposed to be the one that is the free country?”
Yes, it was amazing to learn that Mexico has 41 free-trade agreements while the U.S. has 17.
And speaking of the Autoextremist, join him and me tomorrow night for Autoline After Hours, which you can watch at Autoline.tv. We’ll be talking with a buddy of mine, Michael Pickholtz, who is an inventor and engineer. Does Detroit’s culture encourage people like him, or is it choking them off? Join us for that discussion, which is going to be a good one.
But that wraps up today’s report. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.