August 31st, 2012 at 11:45am
The Ford Focus is the world’s best-selling car in the first six months of the year. Fiat will unveil a new 4×4 version of the Panda at the Paris Auto Show. A gallon of unleaded gasoline now costs about $9.50 a gallon in some regions of Italy! All that and more, plus a preview of Autoline This Week, where we take you inside Bob Lutz’s garage.
Well, we’ve made it through another week. It’s Friday the last working day in August, so let’s wrap it up and get to the news right now.
FORD FOCUS NO. 1 IN WORLD
Congratulations Ford Focus. You’re the best selling car in the world so far this year, nearly 490,000 Focuses or is it Foci?, were sold in the first six months of the year. The Toyota Corolla is number two with over 460,000 sold. Looks like that One Ford idea is really paying off.
FORD SUED OVER PATENT INFRINGEMENT
Speaking of Ford, the company is accused of patent infringement. According to Bloomberg, a lawsuit filed by TMC Fuel Injection System accuses the automaker of selling F-150s with its fuel-injection system that it received a patent for in 2008. Ford began discussions with the inventor back in 2004 to license the system but that fell apart in 2008 when Ford allegedly said it wasn’t interested in the technology. The system increases the dynamic range of the fuel injection system to boost performance and improve fuel economy by up to 35 percent in the city. Ford had no comment.
NEW FIAT PANDA 4X4
We’re getting more new product leaks in front of the Paris auto show. Fiat will unveil a new 4×4 version of the Panda, making this the only four-wheel-drive vehicle in its segment. It sounds pretty serious, with two differentials that can be electronically locked at speeds under 50 kilometers an hour, or about 35 mph. It’s powered by a 0.9-liter gasoline engine with 85 horsepower, or with a 1.3-liter diesel with 75 horsepower. From a styling standpoint note how they put some brightwork under the front and rear bumpers to make it look like it has skid plates. Fiat first introduced the Panda model 30 years ago.
GAS PRICES SKYROCKET IN ITALY
And here’s why that Panda has such dinky engines. A gallon of unleaded gasoline now costs about $9.50 a gallon in some regions of Italy! You can blame the European debt crisis, which has forced the Italian government to raise taxes on fuel to help cover its debts. Fuel prices may be outrageous in Italy but they’re actually worse in Norway, where a gallon of petrol can cost more than 10 bucks.
AIR SUSPENSION FOR COMMERCIAL TRUCKS
Now to the commercial-vehicle side of the business. Meritor WABCO has developed an electronically controlled air suspension for heavy commercial vehicles. The system is much more efficient than mechanical setups because it’s lighter and uses less air, and because the electronically controlled suspension ONLY adjusts to changes in load. Mechanical systems react to every bump in the road. All that extra adjustment consumes air, which causes a truck’s compressor to run more often, wasting fuel. An electronically controlled suspension can also help improve traction. If wheel slippage is detected loads can be transferred fore and aft from one drive axle to another. More than 3 million of these systems have been sold globally.
RANGE-EXTENDED ROTARY ENGINE
Mazda officially announced that it is continuing to develop the Wankel engine. Amazingly the small Japanese automaker is working on a range-extended vehicle that could launch as soon as next year! A rotary powerplant is perfect for this sort of electric vehicle. They’re very compact and lightweight, which makes packaging a breeze and they can be pretty efficient when operated at a constant RPM. On the subject of the Wankel engine, we recently interviewed a guy that thinks he’s solved all of its problems. Look for that in a future episode of Autoline Daily.
Coming up next, a look at Bob Lutz’s garage and at how Toyota develops new cars.
LAST NIGHT ON AFTER HOURS
We’ve got two great shows to promo here. Last night we had Randy Stephens, the chief engineer of the Toyota Avalon on Autoline After Hours. Let me tell you. All you product development people, especially those of you who work on the Chevy Impala, Ford Taurus, Chrysler 300, Nissan Maxima, Hyundai Azera, and Buick Lacrosse ought to be watching that show. There’s some great inside info on how Toyota developed this car.
AUTOLINE THIS WEEK
And then check out Autoline This Week where we take you inside Bob Lutz’s garage. Many of you saw the After Hours version of this show, but the television version edits it down to the best of the best. Here’s a small sample of that show.
Your can watch that show right now on Autoline.tv or check out our YouTube channel as well.
Also, make sure you tune in to RoundAbout tonight. It starts at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time on our website, Autoline.tv. It’s a great way to kick off the long weekend, so don’t miss it.
Remember, Monday is the Labor Day holiday here in the United States, and we will gratefully take the day off. So have a great weekend and we’ll see you back here on Tuesday.