January 5th, 2012 at 12:07pm
Move over Nano, there’s a new ultra-cheap car in town! Indian automaker Bajaj introduced a new low-priced vehicle called the RE60. Fiat just increased its stake in Chrysler. It now controls 58.5 percent of the Auburn Hills-based automaker. Tata had a big day at the New Delhi Auto Expo, showing off several new products and concepts. All that and more, plus a look at December sales.
This is Autoline Daily for January 5th. After the break we’ll get into December sales numbers, but for now, the news.
BAJAJ’S “LUXURY” RICKSHAW
Move over Nano, there’s a new ultra-cheap car in town! Yesterday, Indian automaker Bajaj introduced a new low-priced vehicle called the RE60. Notice I said “vehicle,” the company is not calling it a car, instead, referring to it as a “four wheeler.” Pretty generic, after all, shopping carts have four wheels, too. The RE60 is not aimed at everyday consumers, but instead at rickshaw drivers. It has luxury amenities not currently available on today’s tuck-tucks – things like a hard-top roof, windows and – GASP – seat belts! Bajaj did not announce a price, but rickshaws in India typically cost about $2,200 dollars. One analyst estimated the RE60 would cost about 25 percent more, which would bring the total to about $2,800.
FIAT UPS STAKE IN CHRYSLER
Some important news for Chrysler. Fiat just increased its stake in the Auburn Hills-based automaker. It now owns 58.5 percent. Surprisingly, the yet-to-be-revealed Dodge Dart is the reason for this announcement. Back in 2009 Chrysler promised the U.S. Treasury Department it would produce and sell a mass-market vehicle in the United States that delivers an unadjusted, combined fuel-economy rating of 40 miles per gallon. The Treasury said, you do that, and we’ll let you take more ownership in Chrysler. We’ll have the latest on the Dart on Monday, so stay tuned.
The California Air Resources Board is looking to cut the carbon content of fuel. It wants to clean up the state’s air by pulling 10 percent of the carbon out of today’s gasoline and diesel by 2020. It also wants to boost fuel efficiency to 55 MPG by 2025. This will save drivers money at the pump, but of course, will cost them thousands of dollars up front when they purchase a new vehicle. Carmakers and oil companies are resisting with Ford leading the fight. You can bet this is a story we’ll be watching closely.
NEW DAY FOR TATA AT NEW DELHI EXPO
Tata had a big day at the New Delhi Auto Expo, showing off several new vehicles and concepts. The next-generation Safari Storme is an SUV powered by a 2.2-liter engine mated to a five-speed automatic. Tata also revealed a concept version of the Nano that can run on gasoline and CNG. Next is a diesel-hybrid concept called the Indigo Manza, which Tata claims is both a series and a parallel hybrid. A solar panel mounted to the roof helps charge the battery as well. And lastly, the company also showed a fuel-cell bus concept called the Starbus, Tata says it’s up to three times more efficient than a conventionally powered bus.
BMW’S DETROIT REVEALS
Speaking of new reveals, BMW is previewing what it will have at next week’s Detroit Auto Show. The sixth-generation 3 Series will be on display, and now it comes in three different trim levels. All of its engine feature BMW’s TwinPower Turbo technology and are mated to an eight-speed automatic. Making its world premiere is BMW’s ActiveHybrid 5, which gets 40 miles per gallon city and 44 on the highway based on European test cycles. Next up is the M5, which will debut an all-new 4.4-liter V-8 with its TwinPower Turbo technology. It delivers an eye-popping 560 horsepower and 605 lb-ft. And lastly is BMW’s i concepts. The i3 is the company’s first pure-electric vehicle, which features lightweight materials and design. And the i8 is a plug-in hybrid that combines the electric drive system of the i3 with a three-cylinder engine.
Coming up next, a look at how car sales finished up in the American market last month. And the numbers are impressive.
DECEMBER SALES: A GREAT END TO 2011 (subscription required)
December was a good month for selling new vehicles in the American market. Ward’s reports that sales came in at more than 1.2 million units, up nearly 9 percent compared to a year ago. And that translates into a seasonally annualized rate of 13.5 million vehicles. And truck sales grew faster than car sales.
Indeed, some trucks posted spectacular increases. Sales of the Jeep Grand Cherokee surpassed 17,000 units, a 36 percent increase. Ford sold over 68,000 F-Series pickups, and that’s the kind of sales number that we haven’t heard about in years. All told, trucks accounted for more than 52 percent of the market.
While car sales did not increase as much as trucks, they were up. And once again the Toyota Camry grabbed the No. 1 sales slot with nearly 33,500 units sold. Everyone else was far behind. But one area of note: sales of the Honda Accord were down 40 percent. In fact, the Accord just barely outsold the Hyundai Sonata. Honda just managed to sell 327 more Accords.
In fact, Honda was one of the few automakers to see its sales go down last month. It was down nearly 19 percent. While some individual brands saw sales go down, Honda was the only major manufacturer to lose sales and market share.
The biggest winners include Mercedes, up 49 percent; Kia, up 42 percent; Chrysler, up 37 percent; and Volkswagen, up 36 percent. Those are massive year-over-year gains.
Interestingly, Asian automakers lost 3 points of market share. The US automakers grabbed 1.7 of those points, while the Europeans grabbed 1.3.
For the industry, this was a very good month, at least as measured in the “new normal.” It gives automakers good momentum to carry into 2012, and the numbers suggest the market could grow by close to a million units this year
But it will definitely be a dog fight. The Japanese automakers will now have the production they need to fight their way back, the Koreans hope to get more volume, the Europeans believe they’re only going to grow, and the Americans say they’re only getting started. As an industry enthusiast, I can’t wait to watch the battle.
Don’t forget to join us tonight for Autoline After Hours. We’ll be going behind the scenes at the Detroit Auto Show, so join me and the Autoextremist, Peter DeLorenzo for the best insider discussion in this business. You can catch that at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time tonight at Autoline.tv.
And next week we’ll be webcasting live from the Detroit Show at noon on both days. The Chrysler Group is our signature sponsor of those shows, and we’ll be interviewing some of the top executives in the industry as we’ll as showing you the latest cars revealed at the show. You can catch all that at Autoline.tv as well.
But that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.