June 20th, 2012 at 11:54am
Ward’s reports despite a falling SAAR last month it is sticking with its sales forecast for the year of 14.5 million units, citing growing employment and consumer confidence. Toyota says their Lexus brand has nine, as in one more than eight, LFAs remaining. Sales of the $375,000 vehicle have almost reached the end of the planned 500 car production run. In autonomous car news, Europe’s SARTRE program to enable follow the leader style road trains on highways recently completed its first public road test. The test featured three Volvo cars following a Volvo truck on a Spanish highway at 53 mph. All that and more, plus You said It!
Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. I’m John McElroy and here’s the news.
SALES DOWN, NOT OUT
As we pointed out some weeks back, the annualized sales rate for new cars in the U.S. market slowed substantially in May. The SAAR dropped from the 14.5 million rate it had been running all year down to only 13.7 million. But not to worry, say the number crunchers at WardsAuto. They say as long as employment and consumer confidence grow, so will car sales and they’re sticking to their forecast of 14.5 million new vehicle sales for the year. In fact, Ward’s says evidence is growing of pent-up demand that could push the SAAR to 16 million units, but not until 2018.
LEXUS LFA NEARLY SOLDOUT
If you want to buy the fastest super car ever to come out of Japan, you better you’re your wallet and run to the nearest Lexus store. Toyota says it only has 9 LFA’s left to sell in the world, out of a production run of 500 cars. The 510 horsepower, V-10, carbon fiber, super-car starts at $375,000. The LFA started production in late 2010.
FOLLOW THE LEADER
Earlier in the year we reported about a project in Europe called SARTRE, or Safe Road Trains for the Environment, which envisions platoons of cars autonomously following a lead truck down the freeway. The vehicles that follow use radar and cameras to monitor the lead vehicle and a wireless internet connection allows them to mimic the lead truck’s movements. The first public road test was just completed in Spain using a Volvo truck as the lead vehicle. It was followed by another truck and three Volvo cars. The test covered 200 kilometers or 124 miles. The vehicles were spaced 6 meters apart or about 20 feet while traveling about 85km/h or about 53 MPH.
TWIZY DROPS 2ND SHIFT
In another sign electric vehicles aren’t ready for primetime, Renault just cancelled the second shift of production for its Twizy model even though it was launched just four months ago. According to WardsAuto, Renault says the extra shift was used to meet advanced orders but analysts say the limited run didn’t justify training the workers. The company says it can now build 20,000 Twizy’s annually.
A BIG CAR FOR THE EVERYMAN
European buyers looking for a big inexpensive car don’t have the same variety to choose from compared to American buyers, even with the stoppage of Crown Vic production. Czech automaker Skoda released photos of its large affordable car, the Rapid, which will be available next month. The car focuses on being spacious, economical, and durable. Skoda’s sister company under the VW umbrella, SEAT, will also get a version of the Rapid called the Toledo. Both vehicles will be built in the Czech Republic, making the Toledo the first SEAT branded car built there.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
Jon M. says, “It just cracks me up when I hear modern diesel engines referred to as clean diesels. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. I understand why they’re referred to as clean and I don’t disagree with it or object to it. It just sounds like such an oxymoron, kind of like putting an extra filter on a cigarette and calling it healthy.”
Jon, diesel engines in the U.S. are now as clean as gasoline engines. But the companies promoting diesels know that most of the public doesn’t know that yet. And so they’re calling them clean diesels to turn public perception around.
HtG saw my editorial on the need for what I call Formula None, a new racing series with no rules whatsoever. But he has a simpler solution. “I’d just like to see racing become interesting again. Lessen the dependence on aerodynamic grip so that cars can race close to each other, and take away engine displacement and wide slick tires so the driver can just light it up.”
HtG, I like your idea a lot, but for me it’s just a stepping stone to Formula None.
Wim van Acker says, “You mentioned the BMW i8 is priced in Germany at EUR 103,000 (= $125,000). And that it will compete against the Fisker Karma priced at $103,000. That seems like an easy win for Fisker, being $22,000 cheaper. IF … the $103,000 Fisker Karma price you mentioned is the price in Germany. John, is it? Or is the $103,000 Fisker price the price in the U.S.?”
Wim, the price of $103,000 that we cited for the Fisker Karma is the mid-model version in the U.S. In Germany the same mid-model version costs €111,300, or about $141,000 at current exchange rates. Thanks for the question because it forced me to look all this up.
Lex saw our report on the new Acura ILX and wonders, “Why would anyone pay $25K+ for a Acura ILX when you can get a Honda Accord EX or EXL with premium options at that price?”
Lex, you are too rational. It’s all about the status and prestige of owning a car with a more premium brand name.
C-Tech wants to know, “Will Renault ultimately need to try to re-enter the North American market to increase sales?”
Well, technically C-Tech, Renault is already selling cars in North America. It sells a number of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in Mexico. By the way, so do Peugeot, Fiat and Alfa Romeo. But to your question, I think Nissan would not want to see its partner competing for sales in the U.S. or Canadian markets, unless it only offered models in segments where they don’t compete. And since Nissan offers a very wide line-up, I don’t know where Renault would fit in. But next time we get the chance we’ll put that question to Carlos Ghosn, since he’s the CEO of both companies.
Say don’t forget to join us for Autoline After Hours tomorrow starting at 6 pm eastern time. Actually, I should say join us for our party as we celebrate the 15th anniversary of Autoline. That’s right, it’s going to be an on-line party, which I think will be an internet first, at least in the automotive media business. We’re going to have a great collection of guests coming on the show, and of course the Autoextremist Peter DeLorenzo will be here with some of the best insider talk of what’s happening in the world of automobiles.
But that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching.