May 2nd, 2012 at 12:12pm
After what seems like an eternity, Ford is taking orders for the hotly anticipated Focus ST, but at what price? The Aptera we thought was dead in the ground is being “zapped” back to life by a Chinese company. German scientists are developing smart tires that can change their tread to match driving conditions. All that and more, plus a full report on April car sales.
Welcome to Autoline Daily for May 2nd. I’m John McElroy and we’re going to have a full report on April sales in the American market later in the show, but first let’s take a look at some of the latest product news.
AT LONG LA-ST
It feels like we’ve been waiting about 20 years for this, but Ford finally opened the order books for its highly anticipated Focus ST. At last you can build and price one on its American website. This 2013 model is powered by a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine. It’s officially rated at 252 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, which should make this little five-door scream. In fact, a source inside the company tells us its top speed is 148 miles an hour! The Focus ST is offered exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission. Base price is just about $25,000, including shipping and handling charges. If you load it up with options it’ll set you back just about 31,000. No fuel economy figures have been revealed nor has the release date, so stay tuned.
APTERA ZAPPED BACK TO LIFE
What’s old is new again, or in this case, what’s dead is alive. According to Autoblog Green, the super aerodynamic – and super defunct Aptera 2e is being revived. It was spotted at the Beijing Auto Show. A Chinese company called Zap Jonway has apparently bought the body molds and plans to start building cars. It’s reported they also plan to ship them to the United States where powertrains would be installed. But due to some legal issues it seems pretty unlikely Apteras will ever be sold in America.
Scientists in Germany are developing tires that adapt to weather conditions or any kind of road surface. According to Motor Authority, embedded sensors in the tire automatically adjust for optimum grip and fuel efficiency. In other words, the tread pattern will change or reconfigure to get the best performance. Flexible actuators, piezo-ceramic actuators, shape memory alloys and other smart materials, are all used to make it work. As you can probably guess it will be years before these tires are ready for the public to use but hopefully it’s not too long because it sure would be nice not to worry about putting snow tires on during the winter.
India has the Tata Nano and now China has the Zoyte Z100. According to China Car Times, it’s the cheapest car in the Chinese market at a starting price of just $3,700. Powering the Z100 is a 1.0 liter engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission. But it could just be a copy of the Suzuki Alto. Zoyte purchased another Chinese company which built the Alto under license. We don’t know if this is a legal replica or not, but they sure look like twins to me.
Coming up next, we have a lot to learn from what the market is telling us. We do a deep dive into April car sales.
APRIL 2012 SALES
New car sales in April in the American market show that the market is well above a year ago, but somewhat softer than the prior month. Total sales came to nearly 1.2 million vehicles, up 15 percent, which WardsAuto says translates into a SAAR of almost 14.4 million. But sales were down 1.6 percent compared to March.
The top five gainers in the market included Daimler, which was up 44 percent. Typically we’d just call it Mercedes-Benz, but take a look at this! Smart was up 84 percent. Even so, total smart sales were only 764 cars, so don’t get too excited. Chrysler continues to stun everyone and posted another 35 percent jump, VW-Audi was up 27 percent Toyota 25 percent and Porsche 22 percent.
The Toyota Camry continues to be the best selling car in America but it just barely edged out the Honda Accord. Clearly the two Japanese juggernauts are regaining their foothold after a disastrous year ago April which was just after the earthquake hit. The Chevy Malibu, Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata all finished close to each other. And while the Nissan Altima blew everyone away in March with sales of 41,000 cars, clearly it pulled a lot of customers forward, because in April sales fell 60 percent.
Toyota and Honda also dominated small car sales with the Corolla and Civic. The Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze were well behind them, but look who broke into the top five in this segment: the Volkswagen Jetta. Amazingly, VW pulled ahead of Nissan, Hyundai and Kia.
On the truck side the Ford F-series continues to easily lead the segment, but look at the Ram pick-up which saw a 34 percent jump. Looks like they’re clearing out the inventory to clear the decks for the redesigned Ram that comes out later this year. If I were Chevy I’d be nervous about Ram closing the gap with Silverado.
In the hot compact crossover segment, Honda easily led the way with the CR-V, but a surprise was the strength of the Chevy Equinox, which edged out the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV-4 and Nissan Rogue.
Electric car sales continued to disappoint. While sales of the Chevy Volt were up 233 percent compared to a year ago, total sales only came to 1,462 cars which was actually a 25 percent drop from the month before. Nissan LEAF sales were a paltry 370 cars, while Mitsubishi only managed to sell 79 i’s.
Sales of hybrids, EVs and cars with E-assist, shot up 80 percent over a year ago, but almost all of that is thanks to the Toyota Prius. The sedan, the v and the c now account for 41 percent of all hybrid sales. Even so, hybrid sales were down 2.4 percent from March, which means they fell more than the overall market, even with sky-high gasoline prices.
That wraps up our sales report, but before we go, be sure to join us Thursday night for Autoline After Hours. Our guest will be Bill Coughlin from Ford and the guy who is responsible for bringing TechShop to Detroit. You’ll be amazed why he did this.
Anyway, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.