January 24th, 2012 at 12:00pm
It’s predicted that in four or five years Russia will be the largest car market in Europe – beating out Germany. General Motors is putting enormous pressure on Opel to finally become profitable again, and now the company is in talks with SAIC to sell cars in China. Automakers fight for every ounce of weight they can take out of their vehicles. Today’s bulky and bloated lead-acid batteries are prime, low-hanging fruit that’s ready for pickin’. All that and more, plus a look at the new 2012 Honda CR-V.
This is Autoline Daily for January 24th. And now, the news, which today is dominated by what’s going on in Europe.
RUSSIA OVERTAKING GERMANY (subscription required)
The financial crisis in Europe has a lot of people worried, but according to WardsAuto, the head of Ford of Europe is not one of them. Stephen Odell says the debt crisis “won’t put the brakes on the world.” Ford analysts predict European car sales will decline slightly from 2011. But in a fascinating side note, Steve Odell also predicts that in four or five years Russia will be the largest car market in Europe – beating out Germany. Demographics are on Russia’s side. It’s home to around 143 million people, Germany has about 82 million.
OPEL LOOKS EAST FOR PROFITS
General Motors is putting enormous pressure on Opel to finally become profitable again. Now Bloomberg reports that Opel is in talks with SAIC to sell cars in China. SAIC already has a joint venture with GM, so this is a logical step. But Opel is talking about exporting cars from Europe to China, where they’ll be slapped with a 25 percent import tax. And while Chinese car buyers will happily pay higher prices for imported Mercedes, BMWs, Audis and Porsches, it’s not likely that Opel is going to enjoy that level of acceptance. And besides, Opel’s real problems are with excess capacity. Until GM addresses that problem, nothing is going to make Opel profitable.
BATTLE OF THE BULGE: “LARD-ASSID” BATTERIES (subscription required)
Automakers fight for every ounce of weight they can take out of a vehicle. Today’s bulky and bloated lead-acid batteries are prime, low-hanging fruit that’s ready for pickin’. Paving the way for their demise, WardsAuto reports Germany’s VDA just adopted a 48-volt standard for vehicles with electric assistance – AKA mild hybrids. French supplier Valeo is working on a new type of lithium-ion battery for the job and it weighs just 11 pounds. Lead clunkers tip the scales at around 44 pounds – or more! It’s interesting; the industry has been talking about abandoning the 12 volt system for 20 years or better. But it’s no surprise automakers are dragging their feet. Look how long it took for them to switch to 12-volt technology. Cars still ran on 6-volt electrical systems well into the 1950s.
FOUR-DOOR VOLKSWAGEN UP
Volkswagen is showing off the four-door version of the up! before it goes on sale. It has the same engines, trim levels and dimensions as the two-door model. It will be first made available in Germany in March and then will be launched in the rest of Europe by early summer. Pricing for the four-door up! in Germany starts around $13,400 which is just over $600 more than the two-door model.
Well, it’s official. Saab’s North American operations will be liquidated. Earlier this month, 80 percent of the employees were laid off and the headquarters will be closed next month. Currently the company is trying to sell its U.S. parts distribution business and dealers are expected to decide this week if they will file for bankruptcy or wait for the final liquidation.
DART TO BUILD ON GIULIETTA’S SUCCESS
As you know, the upcoming Dodge Dart is based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. And now Alfa is bragging that the Giulietta is the best-selling hatchback it’s ever offered. Last year Alfa sold 80,000 Giuliettas in Europe, with about 45,000 sold in Italy. The Dodge Dart will be replacing the Dodge Caliber and last year only 35,000 Calibers were sold in the American market. Now, that doesn’t mean the Dart will sell as well as the Giulietta, but it’s got to be a good omen.
This is the 4th generation of the CR-V which gets a new look, both inside and out.
The seating position is lower and more sedan-like than the previous CR-V but I actually prefer the old setup which is more SUV-like.
Under the hood is an updated 2.4 liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is 23 MPG city and 31 highway for the two-wheel-drive model, and 22 MPG city and 30 highway for AWD. That’s an improvement of 2 MPG in combined driving for both versions. Currently the AWD model makes up 65 percent of sales, and the company expects that to be the case with the new model.
Other new standard features include Bluetooth, Honda’s i-MID display and a multi-angle rearview camera. And it’s also equipped with electronic power steering for the first time.
Like the new Civic it’s hard to say that the 2012 CR-V is significantly better than the outgoing model. It’s in a growing and competitive segment, so we’ll just have to wait and see if the CR-V’s improvements are enough for it to remain on top.
2012 HONDA CR-V
Thanks for that report Seamus. The 2012 CR-V just went on sale. Pricing starts at just over $23,000 and the top-trim model with navigation and AWD begins at over $30,000. The CR-V was one of the finalists for the North American Truck of the Year award.
A programming note here. We’re going to be webcasting LIVE from the Washington D.C. auto show starting at noon on Thursday. Some of the guests that I’ll be interviewing include Margo Oge, who runs that part of the EPA that oversees all vehicle regulation, Roland Hwang, an environmentalist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Phil Mutaugh, former GM executive now with the electric car manufacturer CODA and Jake Jones from Daimler Benz. And you can help me interview them. I’d love to get the questions that you’d like to ask these people. Go to our website Autoline.tv. Go to the John’s Journal section of the website, scroll down to where it says submit your questions to our Washington D.C. guests and click on the link to submit your questions. I’ll bet this will be a lively discussion.
But that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.