June 7th, 2012 at 11:30am
Ford and GM are in a dispute over tow-ratings for pickup trucks. Car dealers in China are complaining about growing inventory levels that are hurting their profits. Jaguar designers recently “deconstructed” a model of its XF sedan by destroying it with axes. All that and more, plus we take a look at the new Scion iQ.
Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily for June 7. I’m John McElroy and here’s the latest of what’s happening in the automotive industry.
BMW DEVELOPS 7-SPEED MANUAL
I remember when a four-speed manual was considered the hot ticket to have. But now the Porsche 911 features a seven-speed manual transmission, and according to patent filings we found on Autoblog, BMW is also working on a stick-shift with one forward gear for every day of the week. It’s reported the Bavarian automaker is also developing a shift-by-wire system to prevent drivers from inadvertently grabbing the wrong gear. It would prevent so-called “money shifts” – costly mistakes that can destroy a car’s engine by mechanically over-revving it or ruin a clutch disk. The setup would feature a coupling filled with an electromagnetic fluid that could change viscosity to prevent the lever from making a shift. It may sound like it’s pie-in-the-sky, but it is an ingenious idea.
GM & FORD FEUD OVER TOW RATINGS
Ford and GM love trying to one-up another, whether it’s in advertising, in products or even with arguments between their executives. Now the dispute is about tow ratings for pickup trucks. Ford and GM, along with Japanese automakers, agreed to new SAE guidelines for tow ratings that start for 2013 models as a way to better compare trucks. Toyota already adopted the standards and GM released info on its 2013 trucks using the new ratings. But the new standards usually result in lower tow ratings. So, according to Pickuptrucks.com, Ford will not adopt the new ratings until the redesigned F-series hits the market in a few years. GM released a statement criticizing “its competitors” for not using the standards, and then changed its tow-ratings to the pre-SAE ratings even though the new numbers were already released.
INVENTORY IN CHINA GROWS
Car dealers in China are complaining because inventory levels are climbing to unsustainable levels. From April to May, inventory levels shot from 45 days to 60 days. What makes all that inventory all the more astonishing is that in 2010 China had 16,000 dealerships but now has 21,000. And yet Bloomberg reports that automakers believe the car market in China is about to grow strongly again and they say those inventory levels are not a problem. Chinese car dealers report that their profit margins are declining because they have to discount those cars to reduce their inventory levels.
U.S. INVENTORY LEVELS (subscription required)
By comparison, in the U.S. market, inventory levels stand at an average of 53 days, according to Ward’s. And that is considered low for this time of year. Inventory levels range from a low of 24 days for BMW, 25 days for Hyundai and Kia, all the way up to 104 days for Lincoln and 106 days for Cadillac.
IMPORTS TO CHINA SOAR
Despite China’s 25 percent tariff on imported cars, import sales are soaring. According to Gasgoo, imports were up nearly 22 percent to 88,000 vehicles in April compared to last year. For the first quarter, over 372,000 vehicles were imported into China, an increase of 21 percent compared to 2011. And over half of the passenger vehicle imports are SUVs. German luxury automakers dominate import sales. BMW is number one, followed by Mercedes, VW, Audi and Lexus, in that order.
JAGUAR XF GETS THE AXE
In spite of the advanced computer modeling that’s available today, automotive designers still mock cars up in clay. There’s just something about working the material by hand and seeing a vehicle in real life that can’t be replicated by bits and bytes. But what happens to these clay models when a vehicle goes into production? Do they get stuck in a museum? Are they recycled? Well, Jaguar recently “deconstructed” a model of its XF sedan. And by deconstruction I mean the designers attacked it with axes, destroying all of their hard work with a few merciless blows. That small mountain of foam and clay didn’t stand a chance!
Coming up next, we’ll take a look at the new Scion iQ.
2012 SCION iQ
(The 2012 Scion iQ review is only available in the video version of today’s program.)
So far sales of the iQ are relatively weak, running at fewer than 1,000 cars a month in the American market.
Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tonight starting at 6 p.m. Eastern Time. Our guest will be Dan Kapp, who is in charge of advanced powertrain engineering at Ford. We’ll be talking about where they go from here with their EcoBoost program. So join me and that inimitable Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, for the best insider discussion in the world of cars.
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching we’ll see you tomorrow.