Episode 1015 – Ford’s First Plug-in Hybrid, Toyota Sues Mexico, BMW Goes For Gold

November 15th, 2012 at 11:47am

Runtime: 7:48

Ford throws their hat into the plug-in hybrid ring with the C-MAX Energi and hopes to land some blows on the Toyota Prius. Toyota is suing the Mexican government, but why the lawsuit was filed may surprise you. BMW is using its resources to build a two-man bobsled for the Olympics, however it’s not for the German team. All that and more, plus we take a look into the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.

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Welcome to Autoline Daily, where the news just never stops.

When it comes to hybrids, General Motors is putting its money on plug-ins. GM’s Mary Barra, who heads up product development, says plug-ins can change the way people commute and will play a significant role in GM’s product portfolio. Maybe GM is just conceding the non plug-in hybrid market to Toyota, which commands 75 percent of the segment. GM says it will sell a cumulative 500,000 electrified vehicles by 2017. That includes extended range electrics like the Chevrolet Volt, and e-Assist vehicles such as the Buick LaCrosse.

Speaking of plug-ins, we got to drive Ford’s first plug-in hybrid the C-MAX Energi in the San Francisco Bay area yesterday. Ford made it very evident that they have Toyota’s Prius in their crosshairs. And with a vehicle that drives as well as the C-MAX Energi they may get their shot off. Thanks to a brand new 144 horse-power 2.0 liter Atkinson cycle engine this vehicle accelerates quite well. It is also the lowest priced and has the best fuel economy in the segment. But we did find the gasoline engine to be a little noisy when it engages, and the battery pack really eats up trunk space.

In other Bay area news, an algae-based biofuel, known as Biodiesel B20, went on sale Tuesday in areas around San Francisco. The biodiesel is made from 20 percent algae and 80 percent petroleum. It sells for about $4.25 a gallon, which is about the same as the average price of diesel in California and already has been used in trials by the military and industrial companies. It’s all very promising, but this is only a month long trial.

Here’s a story that slipped through the cracks. Toyota is suing the Mexican government to prevent it from establishing fuel economy standards. The company known for its fuel efficiency is opposing Mexico’s efforts to copy US fuel economy standards. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the country is proposing that automakers meet an average of 35 mpg for its fleets by 2016. However, in September Toyota and a group representing Mexico’s auto industry filed a lawsuit against the government to stop the new requirement but that was overturned in court last week. But the process is getting held up again because Chrysler just filed its own injunction to stop the standards.

Starting this month Europe will start labeling tires to let consumers know what they are buying. Tires will be rated on their traction on wet roads and on their impact on fuel efficiency. They will be rated on an A-to-G scale with an A being the highest. Tires can cost anywhere from 45 euros to 200 euros in Europe but regulators hope the new system will let consumers know what they are buying. Low-cost tires from Asia are flooding the European market. Chinese, Korean and other non-European brands made up nearly a quarter of the tire market in Europe last year.

BMW North America is going to use its resources to develop a two-man bobsled for the US Olympic team. So far they’re only releasing this sketch, but BMW’s advance design studio, Designworks USA, has already built a prototype using its knowledge in lightweight materials, aerodynamics and chassis dynamics. Of course, for the last three Olympics running the Germans won the gold medals in 2-man bobsled. I can only imagine the German team’s reaction to learning a pre-eminent German company is going to help the American Olympic team. Vot, are dey krazy?

(2013 Chevy Malibu can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show)

Wow, 6.3 seconds for a 0 to 60 run is really quick for a car like that. By the way, so far sales of the Malibu are up about 4 percent this year.

We have a great Autoline After Hours tonight where we’ll be diving deep into the new Ford Fusion, as well as getting into some of the backstory to the big news stories going on in the industry. Join me and Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, tonight starting at 6 pm Eastern time.

And that wraps up today’s report, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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38 Comments to “Episode 1015 – Ford’s First Plug-in Hybrid, Toyota Sues Mexico, BMW Goes For Gold”

  1. Lex Says:

    When is General Motors going to offer a vehicle similar to the Ford C-Max in the United States?
    The Orlando or Trax could be possibilities.

  2. pedro fernandez Says:

    Malibu sales up 4% ONLY? after the introduction of an all new model, that is pretty weak, folks, I guess buyers just don’t see that much different between this and the outgoing model, or they’re just waiting for the new Fusion, which by all accounts, is better than the Chevy by leaps and bounds.

  3. C-Tech Says:

    I hear these numbers from GM about electric and hybrid electric cars by 2017. To an old tech like myself, why does this sound like the GM prediction for Diesels in the early 80′s?

  4. C-Tech Says:

    The Malibu sales are up by “only” 4% is pretty good considering the fact that for 2013 Chevy had the Eco (hybrid) model availible first, followed by the 2.4L which only now arriving in larger numbers at dealership. The turbo models are just getting to dealers so there has not been a full range availible.

  5. C-Tech Says:

    What does the Atkinson-cycle engine mean?

  6. shan Says:

    Starting price for Malibu, $29k plus, ouch, who are buying these cars?? That’s about the same as most student loans these days for a mediocre college. I haven’ had a car payment in like 15 years. It’s a horrible investment.

  7. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The C-Max should sell well, if it does as well in mpg relative to its ratings as the various Priuses. The Energi, though, makes little sense for most people, as is the case with the plug-in Prius. The range is limited, and unless you accelerate very gently, the engine is going to run fairly often, even with a charge in the battery. The plug-in C-Max is $5750 more expensive than the regular one, and the price difference is similar, or greater, between the regular and plug-in Prius.

    It seems that GM just doesn’t want to get into the hybrid business in a serious way. The mild hybrid Malibu eco gets only slightly better mpg than a regular 4 cylinder Camry, but with extra complexity. Unless the Chevy’s system is really cheap to make, I don’t see the point. Some would say they are smart not to do serious hybrids like Prius, Camry, and Fusion hybrids, but those cars do, in fact, get a lot better mpg than non-hybrids. The Camry hybrid gets more than 50% better city mpg than the 4 cylinder non-hybrid, both in the EPA cycle, and CR’s tests. The EPA city rating of the new Fusion hybrid is more than double that of the regular one. The highway mpg advantage of the hybrids is much smaller, percentage-wise.

  8. Kit Gerhart Says:

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atkinson_cycle

    It’s a good article.

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The base price of the new Malibu is $22K and change, a lot less than the turbo, but used cars are still a much better proposition for those on a budget.

  10. ColoradoKid Says:

    # 5

    Here’s a pretty good explanation in as good as Wikipedia is capable of being ;


    As to post #3 that got me to laughing :o ! My response to GM’s Pie in the Sky wishful thinking being ;

    Sure GM wants to sell 500,000 E/V’s over the next few years .

    And I want to be making as much per month as Mitt Romney – have Frank Zappa’s ghost elected President in 2014 – Santa Claus to be real – And GM to have finally paid back the US tax payers the billions they owe us ( $24.6 billion last I saw )

    My wishes undoubtedly having a better chance of coming true than GM’s . By a country mile ;-)

  11. ColoradoKid Says:

    #8 great minds think alike ;-)

  12. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If you want really good gas mileage, the Fusion hybrid is certainly a lot better. If you want simple, intuitive controls, the Chevy is better.

    The Fusion certainly looks flashier, but we’ll see how its look stands the test of time, after there are a lot of them on the road.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit the old Fusion was based on the Mazda 6, a pretty reliable car, the new one will be based on the Mondeo, whose previous variants did not do very well in the states, even though it was highly regarded in Europe.

  14. HtG Says:


    The algae produced diesel in CA was made by Solazyme, which feeds sugars in biomasses to their special algae that in turn yield about 90% oil. This compares with about 10-15% for regular algae. They don’t use a solar process, rather they ferment the sugar source in stndard industrial equipment. Switchgrass was mentioned.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Wasn’t the last Mondeo sold in the U.S. the Mystique/Contour?

  16. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Four percent increase for the new Malibu doesn’t sound too bad to me either; the old car was pretty darn good (and styling wise, to me and some others, even superior to the new one). In this very highly contested segment, the choices are plentiful and to a certain extent, there are no real losers (in this class); let the consumer finally have an almost no lose scenario when deciding when buying a midsize. While I’m sure Chevy wants to gain (in this segment), holding their own would also not be a bad thing.

  17. ColoradoKid Says:

    I’ll have to side with Pedro on the 4% thing . Say what one will – make all the excuses and justifications one wants : a 4% increase in sales is barely worth the mention and most assuredly is not indicative of any level of success on behalf of GM/Chevy . I would also add that in GM’s current precarious financial position , ” Holding their Own ” is nowheres near good enough in any of the automotive segments they’re trying to compete in . GM is in desperate need of a ‘ Winner ‘ Something they’ve yet to come up with lately . Fact is with the likes of the Volt on the books , its been more like massive and expensive losers one after another

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The new Corvette might be a “winner.”

  19. ColoradoKid Says:

    @ Kit Gerhart – I just go word from a French associate on the state of things between PSA and BMW/MINI and its not good . According to what he’s reading in the French automotive press the relationship is all but over . For the moment PSA will finish its tenure ( current contract ) building the motors for the MINI , but will have no part in any future engines as they are soon to be replaced . So in civilian terms the divorce is immanent , but at the moment they’re legally separated . With the PSA backing away from GM events recently having zero effect on their future . e.g . Its over . BMW is currently in the process of developing the new motors on their own ( 4cyl – 3cyl -Hybrid – Diesel etc ) and possibly seeking out another partner . With PSA not benefiting one iota from those developments .

  20. ColoradoKid Says:

    #18 Won’t sell enough to make a bit of difference . I should of been more clear and said a Mass Market winner . My fault

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, I was being a little facetious mentioning the Corvette.

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It makes sense that BMW might want to do their own smaller engines for front drivers, especially now that they will use a lot more of them with the upcoming front drive 1 series. I doubt if PSA’s precarious situation helped in continuing that relationship either though.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit, I believe the T-Bird and the Jaguar X type both came from the same Mondeo, not exactly setting the auto world on fire, those 2, The X type was particularly bad and almost killed the brand.

  24. pedro fernandez Says:

    The redesigned Camry had a big sale increase in 2012, despite the fact that it was still the same platform that they have used since the early part of the new century, but with enough changes inside, out and the drive-train that people noticed when they drove it.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The new Malibu started out only as the mild hybrid version, which might have led to a slow start. Next year will tell a more complete story, now that they have the base 2.5 and the turbo. That is a tough market in the US, though, in generic front drive sedans.

  26. C-Tech Says:

    @ #24 Was the big increase in Camry sales due to the slow down in production the previous year because of the Tsunami?

  27. C-Tech Says:

    The T-Bird and X-Type Jag were based on the Mondeo, however I believe their problem was more so the competition with the BMW 3 series and the Mercedes C-Class. Hard to upgrade a mid-price platform to premiun price status. They were nice cars and I would buy a used one.

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    I don’t know how that affected the Camry since the car and most of its parts are built here, regardless, the few people I met who bought one, expressed to me that they liked the “luxury” feel of it compared to others in the class, I suppose they meant, both a quiet interior and supple ride, the same thing enthusiasts loathe about it.

  29. C-Tech Says:

    @ #8 and #10 Thanks

  30. C-Tech Says:

    A good friend bought a Camry and likes it for those reasons. The other reasons why many people buy a Camry is that it is perceived as the safe purchase.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The X Type was Mondeo-based. I’d forgotten about that one, but the Thunderbird, along with the Lincoln LS, was on the same rear drive platform as the S Type.

  32. C-Tech Says:

    @ #31 You beat me to the correction. The T-Bird Lincoln LS and Jaguar S-type were on the same chassis. Top Gear actually liked the supercharged S-type.

  33. Bob e k Says:

    I believe the 2013 Malibu with all the models now available will show a nice percentage jump ..and the 2014 Impala will be a big winner along with the freshened Traverse,

  34. pedro fernandez Says:

    Lincoln LS was a very nice car, much better than the T Bird, yes now I remember, a co-worker bought a manual X-type, he started to hate the thing soon after he bought it. ended up trading it in at a big loss.

  35. W L Simpson Says:

    Malibu shoulda had a nice (not Maxx) wagon since 08. The 08 sedan had amazing NVH reduction , &
    good looks too.

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    My Malibu Maxx was a nice car, except for being a lot thirstier than a Prius.

  37. ColoradoKid Says:

    @ Kit Gerhart

    A BMW/MINI update . Seems the scuttlebutt in the UK is now saying Toyota will be partnering with BMW on future MINI engines . Initial reports said Toyota and BMW would only be sharing Diesel technology , but the GM and now TATA news with PSA has furthered the relationship to include petrol engines as well . You heard it here first

  38. M360 Says:

    #5 – Check out Jay Leno’s Garage on-line for the Atkinson-cycle engine. He and his Ford guest explain it along with the Fusion Energi. Jay takes you for a ride in the all-electric Focus. Cool stuff.
    John – You stated a few months back that there are 28 models that are EV/Hybrid variants. An AAH show just comparing and contrasting what’s on the market today would great, along with your Autoline insights.