December 9th, 2011 at 12:00pm
General Motors is going to change battery suppliers. It had been buying batteries from LG Chem, now it will switch to batteries from A123. A new study shows there are now more electric car charging stations in the United States than there are gas stations that sell E-85 fuel. Taiwanese automaker Luxgen revealed its latest car, the Luxgen5. All that and more, plus a look at Hyundai’s funky looking new car, the Veloster.
This is Autoline Daily for what they call December 9th, I call it Friday. And here’s some of the latest developments to hit the automotive industry.
GM CHANGES BATTERY SUPPLIER
In a story that refuses to go away, the latest news with the Chevrolet Volt is that GM is going to change battery suppliers. It had been buying lithium-metal-oxide batteries from LG Chem. Now it will switch to lithium-phosphate batteries from A123. The lithium-phosphate batteries are less likely to catch fire if damaged, but they hold about 10 percent less energy, so that could impact the Volt’s pure-electric driving range.
In related EV news, Tesla’s stock was downgraded yesterday by Morgan Stanley, which cut its target price for the stock by 37 percent. This is significant because up to now Morgan Stanley had been a rah-rah cheerleader for Tesla and EVs in general. It previously predicted that electric cars would hit 8.5 percent of global sales by 2025. Now it is cutting that forecast to only 4.5 percent. It says EVs are just not ready for prime time, something we’ve been saying on Autoline Daily for years.
EV STATIONS OUTNUMBER E-85 STATIONS
And yet, a new study shows there are now more electric car charging stations in the United States than there are gas stations that sell E-85 fuel. This, despite the fact there are only a little over 16,000 electric cars in the country, compared to 7.6 million vehicles that can run on E-85. And folks, that’s the kind of imbalance you get in the marketplace when the government tries to pick winners and losers.
TOYOTA’S THAILAND TROUBLES (pdf file)
Toyota has slashed its net-profit forecast for the next fiscal year. The Japanese giant cut its earnings estimate by more than 50 percent to roughly $2.3 billion. It revised the figure because of what’s going on in Thailand. Widespread flooding has had a HUGE impact on the auto industry. Who knew Thailand was such an important manufacturing center for Toyota? I sure didn’t. In fact, this flooding may have a bigger impact on Toyota than the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March.
Taiwanese automaker Luxgen revealed its latest car, the Luxgen5. This thing may be a sedan, but it’s by no means a sports sedan given what’s available in the engine compartment. A 1.8-liter four is the base powerplant, serving up 150 horsepower. A 2.0-liter turbo is the up-level offering, but don’t get excited. Horsepower is a measly 170. But what it lacks in on-road performance it makes for with technology. Luxgen partnered with handset maker HTC to develop the car’s Android-based infotainment system called THINK+. To learn more, hit the link in today’s show notes on our website, Autoline.tv.
BMW BEGINS EXPORTING OUT OF CHINA
In another sign of China’s growing influence in the auto world, BMW just began exporting long-wheel base versions of the 5 Series out of China to the Middle East. BMW builds the car with its joint venture partner Brilliance. This is very significant. BMW is the first major automaker to export luxury cars out of China. Mark you calendar, folks. This represents a big step for China.
PANG DA FIRE SALE
And yet, while one part of the Chinese industry takes a big step forward, another takes a big step back. Pang Da, one of the nation’s largest dealer networks, is offering huge discounts ranging from 10 to 30 percent. Here’s my Autoline Insight. Car sales are slowing down in China, so you can expect some discounting to happen. But 30 percent? That shows they’re in a full-blown panic. Remember, Pang Da was one the company’s investing in Saab. It bought $63 million worth of cars, which also got it a 25 percent stake in the company. It then committed to sink another $150 million into it. We don’t how much it did put in, but it is going to lose all that money. My bet is that Pang Da desperately needs cash right now, and that’s why you’re seeing these massive discounts.
The Veloster caught a lot of attention when it was revealed earlier this year at the Detroit Auto Show. But interestingly it was another type of motorized vehicle that inspired its design.
And highlighting the funky design is a hidden door for passengers to get into the rear, but good luck trying to get into the back seat if you’re tall. I’m 6 foot 1 and I didn’t even attempt to squeeze back there.
Powering the Veloster is an all-new 1.6-liter four-cylinder with direct injection which can be mated to either a six-speed manual or dual-clutch transmission. Fuel economy is 28 MPG in the city and 40 on the highway.
The Veloster is also available with Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system, a navigation system with a back-up camera and a number of safety features.
Hyundai hopes to attract a new generation of buyers with the Veloster, and says it’s intended to be a halo car. But not in the traditional sense.
Hyundai’s been on a roll lately, so it will be interesting to see if the Veloster can continue the company’s success and be the reverse halo Hyundai wants it be.
Thanks for that report Seamus. The starting price is just over $18,000 with the manual, and just over $19,000 with the automatic. You know, I especially like the styling on the Veloster. It’s a very interesting combination of shapes and lines, and looks alone are going to attract people to this car.
Hey, have you heard of “Dungeons and Dealers”? It’s the new gameshow the RoundAbout crew developed where you get to manage your own dealership. Craig Cole has all the details over at RoAb HQ.
Well, I have to say, if you haven’t heard of Dungeons and Dealers, you haven’t been watching enough RoundAbout! We’ve teased and teased you, but finally it’s here. We’ll be playing it tonight, with guest panelist Chris Sawyer from TheVirtualDriver.com. And his VIRTUAL dealership is “Imperious Motors.” You can tune in to find out what bizarre lineup of cars he’ll be selling, plus all the weird and cool car news of the week. Join us at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time at Autoline.tv.
And that’s wraps up our reports for this week. Thanks for tuning in, we’ll see you back here on Monday.