January 17th, 2012 at 12:00pm
All the world is watching the Eurozone right now, and the news is very pessimistic as consumer confidence plummets and unemployment rises. But maybe some new product will help. Fiat will introduce a five-door version of its scrappy little 500 at the Geneva Motor Show in March. A great bit of news for Chrysler: it can’t keep up with demand for the Jeep Wrangler. All that and more, plus a look at Mazda’s Skyactiv technology.
This is Autoline Daily for January 17th and it’s time to track the latest developments in the automotive industry.
All the world is watching the Eurozone right now, and the news is very pessimistic. Bloomberg reports consumer confidence is plummeting, unemployment is rising and the economy is slowing. Obviously, this is bad news for car sales. Last year registrations fell 1.4 percent to 13.6 million units as four of the region’s top five markets contracted. Fiat, PSA and Renault had the largest declines of all automakers.
But maybe some new product will help. According to The Detroit Free Press, Fiat will introduce a five-door version of its scrappy little 500 at the Geneva Motor Show in March. No details about the vehicle are known, but it would certainly have to be stretched to accommodate the extra openings. The Cinquecento wagon – our name – will also be offered in the U.S., where it would hopefully boost sales of the slow-selling model. The company moved just under 20,000 of the little guys last year, less than half of what it planned.
JEEP’S RED-HOT WRANGLER
But while the Fiat 500 fell flat on its face, Chrysler can’t keep up with demand for the Jeep Wrangler. According to the Toledo Blade, the company will increase production by 100 units a day at its Toledo Assembly plant, the only location that builds the Wrangler. Sales of the Wrangler were up 30 percent last year, and that’s just counting in the American market.
A CALL TO PRIVATIZATION
There’s an interesting article on the China Car Times that argues that Chinese automakers need to be privatized in order to succeed. Almost all carmakers in China are state owned and the author argues this hurts them because they listen to the government more than they listen to their customers. They expanded recklessly because of cheap loans, they lack accountability and they rely too much on profits created by joint ventures with foreign automakers. Until things change, it’s likely to get worse for domestic Chinese brands because consumers just aren’t interested in them. Last year Chinese domestic brands were down 3 percent while foreign brands were up 5 percent.
There’s a public hearing being held in Detroit today on the 54.5 mile per gallon fuel economy standard. A number of people have asked me if I would attend that meeting, but I’m not going. Why? For what? The hearings are over populated with environmental and labor leaders and the same old tired list of activists, and we already know what they’re going to say before they even say it. You’ll hear a lot of blah-blah-blah about how the American people are solidly in favor of higher standards, and that they demand more hybrids and electric cars, despite the fact that this is the very same public that does not buy very many hybrids or electrics. To me, it’s amazing to watch the environmental and labor public relations machines crank up to get in the news. The UAW which never, ever contacts me on anything has bombarded me with e-mails to try and get me to attend. Same with the Environmental Defense Fund. You know, maybe I’d go if I thought I would learn something. But I don’t need another lesson in the attempted brainwashing of the American public.
Mazda has a suite of technologies called Skyactiv. It’s kind of a dumb name, but it involves an interesting approach to boosting fuel economy. More about that after the break.
RACE TO THE TOP
Automakers are in a race to the top . . . the top of the fuel-economy charts. From downsized, turbocharged engines to hybrids, they keep one-upping each other. Despite all the high-tech stuff available today, the good ol’ internal-combustion engine still has A TON of life left in it, and that’s the route Mazda is taking.
I’ve actually been test driving a 2012 Mazda3 five-door this week, but it’s got a manual transmission, not the automatic they just talked about. It’s a nice, simple car, but maybe a little bit underpowered.
Autoline is going to be webcasting LIVE from the Washington DC auto show next week, where we’ll be talking with some of the top regulators and legislators in the nation’s capital. We’ve also got some free tickets to the show to give away. If you live in the DC area and want to attend the show, shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I think we’ll limit two to a customer and get your request in early because these things tend to go fast.
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.