September 11th, 2012 at 12:00pm
Chrysler just gave its dealers a sneak peek at what’s coming down the product pipeline and there are some interesting revelations. Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piëch has a rosy prediction for his company’s performance in China next year. General Motors is lending a helping hand to those less fortunate. All that and more plus a look at what GM can get its European operations back on track.
Welcome to Autoline Daily for Tuesday the 11th of September, 2012. A somber day for the United States as we remember the lives lost 11 years ago. I’m Todd Lassa from Motor Trend bringing you happier news from the world of cars.
First up, some short tidbits. GM is lending a helping hand to those less fortunate. It’s partnered with a Detroit charity to turn leftover sound-deadener into insulated garments for homeless people. The company donated enough material to make 400 of these coats that can convert into sleeping bags.
ACCORDing TO HONDA
Honda announced pricing for the new Accord. The ever-popular sedan starts at $21,680. The coupe’s base MSRP is a little more at $23,350. These prices exclude about 800 bucks for shipping and handling. The 2013 Accord should start arriving at Honda dealerships across the U.S. on September 19th.
VIPER PRICING SLITHERS OUT
Speaking of money, Chrysler’s SRT group revealed what the next-gen Viper is going to cost. This 10-cylinder supercar opens up at $97,395. The hopped up GTS model starts at $120,395, about one Accord Coupe more than the standard Viper. Prices exclude two grand in destination charges.
PIËCH’S POSITIVE PREDICTION
Despite a slowdown in the market, Volkswagen expects strong sales in China next year. According to Bloomberg, the Chairman of the company, Ferdinand Piech, predicts VW Group sales will grow by at least 9 percent in 2013. So far this year the company’s sales are up 10 percent. VW is investing $18 billion in China through 2016 to boost production in the country.
General Motors is refuting a Reuters report from yesterday that says the company is losing nearly $50,000 on every Volt it builds. The company says Reuters’ number is wrong because it distributes product development costs across the number of Volts sold instead of distributing it across the lifetime volume of the program. GM says the technology will be used in several future products, which will help bring down manufacturing and purchasing costs. GM says this will eventually lead to profitability for the Volt and its other EVs.
THE COMEBACK KID (subscription required)
Is there an automaker more resilient than Chrysler? How many times has this company bounced back from the brink of oblivion? Now with Fiat at the helm it’s doing it again, and it’s doing it properly. Pentastar product is the best it’s ever been, and it’s going to get even better. Dealers just got a sneak peek at what’s in the pipeline. The Wall Street Journal reports dealers were shown about half a dozen new models that are due to land in showrooms over the next year and a half. That lineup supposedly included a completely overhauled Chrysler 200 sedan with a nine-speed automatic transmission and up to 38 miles per gallon. It could hit the street in the first quarter of 2014. A new small Jeep and an overhauled Liberty were also revealed as was a new model called the Chrysler 100, which is based on the Dodge Dart. Exciting times.
Up next, my thoughts on how GM can get its European operations back on track.
GM’S EUROPEAN STAYCATION
I was one of the auto pundits who supported General Motors when it kept Opel/Vauxhall rather than sell it to Magna.
The question, in light of the European Union financial crisis, is whether there is a future there for anyone in the auto business. Even Volkswagen, which dominates Europe the way GM dominated the U.S. from the 1950s to the ‘70s, has reportedly sliced its internal European sales targets by 150,000 units for the rest of 2012.
Like North America before the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies, Europe has too much capacity. GM’s recent alliance with Peugeot-Citroen looks like a bad idea, but keeping Opel/Vauxhall remains a good idea. Western Europe is still a big, important market, and every global automaker needs to be there. Interim GM Europe chief Steve Girsky must correct a long, steep slide that came when Jack Smith and Ignaki Lopez cheapened the brands.
GM is trying to make Chevrolet its commodity brand in Europe, and push Opel back to where it was through the ‘70s, as a credible Audi competitor. This strategy will take time and money. Opel/Vauxhall should get one of GM’s new rear-drive platforms for a halo model or two, something even Audi can’t do. The question is whether GM’s current management has the patience and discipline to make this happen.
Finally, a personal note. Eleven years ago today, on my 43rd birthday, I attended the Frankfurt motor show for the first time. I was one of a handful of auto journalists who spent the next few days driving the new Honda Civic Si hatchback through Germany, as other American journalists waited for a flight that would allow them back into the United States after Osama bin Laden’s terrorist attacks.
On Saturday, September 15, as part of that Honda press trip, we attended the first major race held at the new Lausitzring. We were heartened that each of the Indy cars in the race, piloted by an international cast of drivers, wore American flag decals in honor of those who died in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania earlier that week.
Alessandro Zanardi was leading the race in the closing laps when he pulled out of the pits on cold tires. He spun at turn one, into the path of Alex Tagliani, who t-boned Zanardi’s car. We watched in horror as a medevac helicopter stood by for what seemed like hours before Zanardi was flown to the hospital.
When we boarded the bus for nearby Dresden, word was Zanardi had died. He survived, of course, though his legs were amputated.
Last week, Zanardi won a gold medal in Paralympics cycling at the Brands Hatch circuit. He finished 27 seconds ahead of the silver medalist. Now Zanardi wants to collect on Jimmy Vasser’s promise that he could drive one of Vasser’s Indy cars if he won gold.
Zanardi’s win serves as a reminder that Indycar and F1 drivers are not the same as you and me. Alex Zanardi’s competitive spirit and optimism serves as an honor to those who died four days before his terrible crash.
And on that note we’ve reached the end of the line for today’s show. I’m Todd Lassa of Motor Trend. Thanks for your time and I’ll see you next time!