Episode 871 – Audi Plans Mexico Plant, GM Bi-fuel Trucks Ain’t Cheap, Eye-popping Battery Cost

April 18th, 2012 at 12:15pm

Runtime: 9:04

Volkswagen is expected to announce it plans to build an Audi factory in Mexico. GM announced that bi-fuel versions of the 2013 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 will cost $11,000 over the price of a conventionally powered truck. Ford CEO Alan Mulally says the battery used in the electric version of the Focus costs between $12,000 and $15,000. All that and more, plus Autoline Daily correspondent Isaac Bouchard takes a look at the all-new 2013 Ford Escape.

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Hello again, and welcome to another episode of Autoline Daily. It’s Wednesday, April 18, 2012 – we are smack-dab in the middle of the week. I’m David Kiley, Editor-in-Chief of AOL Autos, thanks for joining us today. McElroy is still out gallivanting, but he should be back for tomorrow’s show. Anyway, here’s the latest news.

Volkswagen is expected to announce it plans to build an Audi factory in Mexico so the brand can better compete with BMW and Mercedes in the U.S. According to The Detroit News, reports out of Germany say the plant will start building the Q5 in 2015. The company wants to boost sales in the U.S. to 200,000 units annually by 2018. Last year Audi sold a tick more than 117,000 vehicles in the American market.

Diesel-powered cars and trucks are starting to gain momentum in the U.S. More automakers are offering them in the American market and that’s helping boost sales. Compared to 2011, diesel sales were up 35 percent in the first three months of the year. Hybrid sales were up 37 percent in the first quarter, but as we’ve pointed out, there are far fewer diesels in the market than hybrids.

General Motors announced pricing for its new bi-fuel trucks and they ain’t cheap. Versions of the 2013 Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra 2500 HD, which can run on both compressed natural gas and gasoline, will cost $11,000 over the price of a conventionally powered truck. But the company says customers can save up to $10,000 over three years, depending on their driving habits.

A quick comment from me on Natural Gas. Not too long ago I drove the Honda Civic CNG, the only passenger car you and I can buy that runs on natural gas. Other than a smaller then optimal trunk space, it was a pleasure to drive and a breeze to fill the tank at a public station. Natural gas prices are the lowest prices today than they have been in more than a decade. And the U.S. is practically the Saudi Arabia of nat-gas. C’mon! This is stupid. It would be nothing to build out an infrastructure at retailers to pump natural gas. And the oil companies would have real competition for vehicular fuel stock. And never mind bi-fuel drivetrains. We ought to have a whole new flock of nat-gas vehicles hitting the market in the next decade, but we don’t. And that, my friends, is just plain stupid.


Back to the news . . .

EYE-POPPING BATTERY COST (subscription required)
Aside from MSRP figures, or the cost of options on a vehicle, pricing information is a closely guarded industry secret. You almost never hear an automaker say “we have $4,722 worth of steel in this vehicle,” or “the engine cost us $1,700 to manufacture.” But the key qualifier here is “almost.” Ford CEO Alan Mulally let the kitty out of the sack earlier this week by announcing the cost of the battery used in the electric version of the Focus. Speaking at a green conference in California, he said the 23 kilowatt-hour packs cost between $12,000 and $15,000! With prices like that it’s no wonder electric vehicles are so expensive. The base price of the Ford Focus Electric is just about $40,000 before the tax incentives kick in to knock the price down.

Infiniti may be kicking things up a notch. If the buzz on Autoblog and MotorTrend is true, the Japanese luxury brand could be working on a mega-power G-model. As it stands, the performance version of this popular car is pretty modest compared to what BMW’s M division or the folks at AMG deliver. But that could change. Infiniti may be developing a 530-horsepower, twin-turbocharged version of the G. Again, that’s 530 horsepower! The next-generation of the car is expected to come out in the summer of 2014.

The new Lincoln MKZ is pretty polarizing. A lot of people absolutely LOVE it – others, not so much. But here’s some good news if you don’t like the car’s grille. According to Autoblog – a fine member of the AOL family – Ford’s design honcho J Mays said not every new Lincoln will necessarily share the MKZ’s face. He said the overall shape will remain the same but the texture inside the grille perimeter can be different. I guess it’s kind of like painting by number.

Yesterday we gave you a look at the new Focus Electric, today it’s another new Ford. After the break, we’ll fill you in on the brand new 2013 Escape.

Another day, another new-car launch. Autoline Correspondent Isaac Bouchard is still in the San Francisco area testing new vehicles. With the latest from the West Coast, here he is.

(Today’s feature on the 2013 Ford Escape is only available in the video version of the program.)

Like Isaac just said, the 2013 Escape looks really good and it’s loaded with technology, but it’s entering one of the most cutthroat segments in the business. Is that going to be enough for it to compete? We’ll have to wait and see once it goes on sale later this year.

And with that, we’ve come to the end of another episode of Autoline Daily. Again, I’m David Kiley, Editor-in-Chief of AOL Autos. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next time.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog and WardsAuto.com

43 Comments to “Episode 871 – Audi Plans Mexico Plant, GM Bi-fuel Trucks Ain’t Cheap, Eye-popping Battery Cost”

  1. Kit Gerhart Says:

    That’s nice that GM is going to sell CNG/Gasoline monster trucks. Now, if someone would do the same with CARS.

  2. Chuck@GM Says:

    We ought to be taking a serious look at moving to CNG and leaving the remains of dead dinosaurs and fish to Class 8 trucks and other diesels.

  3. Kit Gerhart Says:

    According to AW, the new Escape will need premium gas, when equipped with the 2.0 turbo. That doesn’t seem such a good idea, given the market segment the Escape competes in.

  4. Brett Says:

    Good job of showing me the new 2013 Escape without actually showing me the new 2013 Escape.

  5. buzzerd Says:

    I think Brett nailed it.

  6. XA351GT Says:

    Looks like the government doesn’t want CNG to displace petro fuels as it would upset their re-election coffers as oil companies and Pharm companies tend to be their biggest donaters. Realisticlly if there is a shift to CNG you’ll see that low low price for the fuel go up marketly with increased demand. At least though there may be a real competition to oil company monopalies of fuel sources for passenger vehicles.

  7. C-Tech Says:

    @ #1
    Kit, I have seen some CNG/Gas auto conversions and the CNG tank and protection gear does take up a fair amount of trunk or interior space in a car, even a full sized car. In an SUV I think it also makes more sense as in a full sized pickup.
    I think I am missing something with the “Kick Open” tailgate release. Do you still need to unlock the Escape with your keyfob? If so, then would the woman in the video have to put down the cooler to get out the keyfob? If the surface was slippery near the rear of the Escape, isn’t there a fair chance that the “kick” will lead to a “fall” on your behind?

    The Infiniti G is one of the nicest looking cars, especially in black, that I have seen (imho). I hope they continue the yrend in its styling. Now the G will have the horses to back up its looks.
    With everyone, including Audi, hoping to “sell more vehicles in the U.S.” I hope the economy improves enough to accomodate everyone!

  8. C-Tech Says:

    @ #3 and #5
    I think you both nailed it!

  9. XA351GT Says:

    C-Tech ,my guess is there is a sensor that detects the key fob in your pocket and allows it to work with your foot or anyone that knows hows these tailgates work could just wave their foot and open the vehicle.

  10. I-M Buell Says:

    I find this somewhat questionable, that ” there are far fewer diesels in the market than hybrids”….huh?! Maybe if your only looking at cars but if you include non-commercial pick up I don’t know how that could be.

  11. pedro fernandez Says:

    Hmmm! let me see, no interior shots of the Escape! I guess I have to go to another website to be able to see it, hello!! car review 101: SHOW the interior as well as the exterior, why bother showing the engines? That was really lame!

  12. Lex Says:

    Why no mention in today’s show about the shortage of CDT used in automotive manufacturing? CDT is only available from one plant in Germany that recently had a fire? Didn’t the OEMs learn from the Japanese Earthquake not to single source vital components and chemicals?

    OMG about CNG! If the Petroleum Companies, OEM’s and Federal Government have nothing to gain from the nationwide use of CNG in vehicles then of course it will go nowhere. The US Energy Policy is to run the Middle East dry at any cost to the US Taxpayer and then charge them three times as much for our oil supplies then they charged us.

    We would all be better off building Natural Gas and/or Waste to Fuel electrical powerplants near garbage dumps. Recycle what you can and Burn the rest is a Better Plan!

  13. Chuck@GM Says:

    @12 Which is precisely why the market needs to rule, not the federales.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I suspect David meant there are far fewer diesel CARS, SUV’S, AND LIGHT DUTY TRUCKS than hybrids. As far as diesel cars in the U.S., there are only two manufactures, VW/Audi and Mercedes-Benz. BMW is dropping the diesel 3 Series. There will be some new ones from Audi and Chevy next year, though.

    Almost everyone has hybrid cars, though some of them, like the BMW 7 Series and MB S-Class don’t make much sense. If you are buying a $100K car, you probably don’t care much about fuel cost, and those two don’t even get very good mpg, 20 and 21 combined, respectively, for the big BMW and Benz hybrids.

  15. G.A.Branigan Says:

    For the last 2 years diesel fuel in my neck of the woods has been over 4 bux a gallon.With the new federal regs put on diesels,once powerful and ECONOMICAL diesel pickups are now getting low mpg as their gasoline powered counter-parts.Way to go feds.

    CNG….great if you can get it.Our state some years ago was going to put in a pipeline just for cng.The tree-huggers got it nixed.I’m on my second vehicle that is flex-fuel rated for E-85.There isn’t a pump within 2oo miles of me that has it.

    No matter what the latest and greatest fuel alternatives that become available for us to use,they are useless without the needed infrastructure to bring in said alternate fuels.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The diesel big pickups never made sense, except for heavy towing. The engines are too big to get good fuel economy empty, compared with today’s gas burners. If you are going to pull a triple axle Airstream, or a couple back hoes, the diesels make sense. If you are going to use it to carry one person and a couple bags of groceries, typical use of pickups in the U.S., the gasser is much more cost effective.

    The 4 cylinder version of that Cummins used in the Dodge pickup would probably get good mpg in a light duty pickup, lightly loaded, and would have adequate power.

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, the CNG Civic loses trunk space. I’m wondering if it also loses space for a regular gas tank, and that is why they didn’t make it dual fuel.

  18. guybob Says:


  19. C-Tech Says:

    @ #12
    Lex, I think John did cover this shortage 2 episodes ago.

  20. 012345 Says:

    Nevermind the styling, change the name of the darn car.

  21. Darren Says:

    LNG/CNG or propane natural gas powered vehicles are abundant in Asia, Just about every cab runs on it and even 19 wheelers have some large tanks strapped to back of cab. THE SOLUTION TO OUR ENERGY NEEDS !

  22. Drew Says:

    Kit (#3), I believe the Escape 2.0L EcoBoost will run on regular fuel, albeit with lower peak HP and torque values.

  23. buzzerd Says:

    Ford’s site says “regular fuel” for the 2.0

  24. Alex Kovnat Says:

    > General Motors announced pricing
    > for its new bi-fuel trucks and
    > they ain’t cheap.

    I’m sure that as more and more of them are built, the OEM’s will advance along the learning curve and the cost will come down.

    One way to make natural gas vehicles less costly, would be to design them from the engine crankshaft centerline outwards to run on NG only, without also being able to run on gasoline. Of course such vehicles would then be confined to areas where there are NG refueling facilities, but for some operators (i.e. school buses, various commercial vehicles) this may not be a problem.

  25. cwolf Says:

    John Mac., Only a few of the reviews you personally conducted have been informative and the rest have not been worth the effort. Too many distant exterior shots,glancing interior shots,at best,no view of cargo area with seats up and folded. Isaac was a smooth talker,though;He must be in sales or marketing,but unlike DeLorenzo,was halfway entertaining. Now…If only Ford would beef-up their rotors,maybe they wouldn’t warp so fast! And where’s the diesel that was promised last year?

  26. pedro fernandez Says:

    cwolf these are not really tests or reviews. they simply go to the manufacturers introductions, where they loan you a car for a little bit and you get to drive around, but I know what you’re saying, I’ve seen guys and gals on youtube being more informative and thorough, perhaps someone should take a look at a few of those and get some ideas on how to do a proper consumer test drive without having to go a test track, a couple of those, Mediamart and mpgomatic actually rent the cars they test out and do it solo without any crew whatsover.

  27. cwolf Says:

    I had thoughts of looking into the MKZ,but lost my desire to buy car made in Mexico..even if it comes with a “green card” pasted on the window!

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    Cwolf its NAFTA, remember NAFTA? it was supposed to be for OUR benefit, LOL what a joke, once again Americans got screwed by their own leaders

  29. cwolf Says:

    Thanks pedro +1

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I suppose it will use regular without damage, but I’m surprise they didn’t tune it to be “regular recommended,” given its market segment. Of course, maybe it is, and AW was wrong on their web site.

  31. C-Tech Says:

    @ #24
    Ford has sold a bi-fuel F150 which was converted by Roush. From what I understand the Ford 150 conversion cost about $8,000 over the price of the truck. Your CNG tank goes in a box behind the cab taking up some bed space.

  32. cwolf Says:

    EV battery costs,according to Left Lane News,reported costs are actually declining. In fact,there are about 400,000 batteries out there and in a few years the stash will almost double. My crystal ball reads a continued,if not sharp,reduction in price to continue. Yet,I don’t think they will call it a “fire sale!”

  33. Kit Gerhart Says:

    A vehicle that runs on only natural gas has very limited useful, since there is no place to fuel it unless you have your own setup at home. That’s the problem with the Civic. The closest place to refuel a CNG to my place in Florida is about 80 miles away, on the other side of Orlando.

  34. pedro fernandez Says:

    Yet you can fill up barbeque tanks just about anywhere, Walmart, BJ’s Costco could join the movement because they have gas stations in most places.

  35. C-Tech Says:

    @ #24
    Thinking about a clean sheet CNG motor, if I recall correctly, one of the problems Mazda and GM had with the rotary engine was was getting it to meet pollution requirements. Since CNG/LPG burns cleaner than gasoline, would a CNG rotary engine be practical? It would be a smooth, compact, powerful, engine in a fwd configuration. Can anyone with more technical experience than me comment on that? Kit?
    @ #33
    By the way Kit, Honda sells a home refueling system with the CNG Civic (nicknamed “Phil”) for about $1,400.

  36. cwolf Says:

    Kit, movind to Orlando,just so you could have a car that ran on natural gas could be a great career move! Doing so would display the ideal characteristics to land a job with Disney as Goofy! Just fun’in ya!

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The gas grill tank setups could refill a limited number of propane fueled cars, but if there many of them, it wouldn’t work. The only propane vehicles I have seen are fork lifts anyway.

    There is city gas many/most places in the U.S., so maybe it wouldn’t be too big of deal to set up to sell gas for CNG vehicles.

    If I were still in Indiana full time, a car like the CNG Civic would work for me, if it would also run on petrol or diesel. I could easily set up a fueling ststion in my garage for local driving, but would need to be able to use other fuel for “road trip.”

  38. HtG Says:

    I like the impressions John gives of cars he has been driving. He sometimes gets cars for several days at a time, like the time he had a fling with the Leaf. I also think he makes the choice not to go into many of the same details we can find elsewhere. The day he starts sporting a pocket square, there may be a problem.
    CNG. A week ago I saw NY State selling off several CNG Civics on ebay. They had around 150K and were pretty beat up, but they’re gone now. These cars were in Albany.

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’m pretty certain a rotary could be set up to run on CNG or LPG(propane) and would work fine, but rotary engines have mostly disappeared because they are inherently less efficient than today’s piston engines. Also, they are more expensive to make. They have very good power/weight, though.

  40. Jesse W. Henry Says:

    To clarify the couple of questions on the Escape that have mostly been answered.

    To get the full 240HP you need to run premium it only makes 231HP on regular (according to Ford) it will run on both just like the new 5.0 in the Mustang. The 1.6 Ecoboost also has different power levels on premium and regular fuel.

    The only way to get the automatic opening rear hatch is on a trim level with push button start. It is not a stand alone option. The car senses the “key” as you approach and allows the “kick” function to work. If you don’t have the key in your pocket you are out of luck even if the car is unlocked.

  41. Jonathan Brown Says:

    David Kiley…

    I almost fell off the chair in my office as I listened to my daily automotive fix of autoline.tv and heard your commanding voice reminding me of this past weeks autoblog podcast.

    Great to hear your insights on autoline.tv and I have been enjoying AOL’s expanding role in reporting automotive news..

    Excellent show…fantastic perspectives and insights and thanks for filling in for our also favorite automotive journalist John McElroy…

    PS…Autoblog podcast is also a personal weekly favorite! Big props to Dan Roth, Chris Shunk, Chris Paukart and of course our autoline.tv friend Zach Bowman.

    Jonathan Brown aka lifetime auto enthusiast!!!!

    One last request……We want C7 news sooner rather than later……..

  42. T. Bejma Says:


    My neighbor works for the company that converts F150′s to CNG (not Roush) and he says that if EVERY car in the US went to CNG, our overall usage of Natural Gas would only go up 3%! This is due to the large amount of natural gas currently being consumed in the US for heat, cooking, industrial use, etc…

  43. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Interesting. If that is correct, we should certainly be using more of it in areas where it would be easy to set up fueling stations. There isn’t gas running down every interstate, but there IS city gas in most American cities.

    Methane, the main constituent of natural gas, had a very high octane rating, so engines built to run only on natural gas could have high compression, and generally be tuned for more power and efficiency than dual fuel engines. Of course, then you have “range anxiety,” until and unless there are a large number of fueling stations. Dual fuel vehicle address that problem, but with a compromise.