November 28th, 2012 at 12:05pm
In an effort to move production out of Japan, Honda wants to boost exports from the U.S. Ram Truck is launching a new commercial truck division called Ram Commercial. It will even offer a full-sized van based on the Fiat Ducato. Diesel powered cars are starting to catch on in the American market, up over 25 percent through October this year. All that and more, plus guest host Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics gives his thoughts on the state of electric vehicles.
Thanks, Johnny. How’s the weather out there? Oh, did we lose him? Anyway, hello and welcome to another episode of Autoline Daily. It’s Wednesday, the 28th of November. And as John said, I’m Jim Hall from 2953 Analytics — only that evil brother of mine calls me “Jimmy.” Let’s get to the news, shall we?
HONDA TO BOOST U.S. EXPORTS
In an effort to battle the strong value of the yen, Honda’s CEO says he wants to boost exports from the U.S. According to the Wall Street Journal, last year the company exported 55,000 vehicles from North America but Honda says they could raise that to 200,000 units, thanks to increased capacity at its plants and a new factory in Mexico. The move is part of a broader effort to move production out of Japan. Exports from its home country account for just 28 percent of Honda’s global sales.
DIESEL SALES OUTPACE MARKET IN U.S.
Diesel powered cars are starting to catch on in the American market. According to a new study from the Diesel Technology Forum, clean diesel sales are up over 25 percent through October this year, to around 104,000 units. While it’s still a small fraction of the overall market, the Forum forecasts the number of diesels in the U.S. will nearly double in the next year and a half. And by the end of the decade diesel sales in North America are expected to reach over 900,000 units. We shall see.
NEW RAM COMMERCIAL DIVISION
Ram Truck is launching a new division called Ram Commercial. It will focus on the growing commercial truck market that has been dominated by Ford and GM. The new division will offer a full line of industrial strength vans and trucks that will have the Tradesman trim level available on all models. The lineup will consist of current vehicles like Ram 1500 Tradesman and Ram C/V Tradesman cargo van, but will also offer an all-new full-size van called Ram ProMaster Tradesman based on the Fiat Ducato. The van will be significantly redesigned with familiar Ram Truck styling cues, offering features and powertrains preferred by North American customers.
FORD INTRODUCES FIESTA ST
Ford introduced the Fiesta ST to the American market yesterday. The ST will have a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine that produces an estimated 197 horsepower and 214 foot-pounds of torque. Puting cars like the Mini Cooper S and Chevrolet Sonic RS in its crosshairs. It will also offer a precision sport-tuned suspension, an upgraded 4-wheel disc brake system, electric power-steering, and a six-speed manual transmission. The Fiesta ST will go on sale late next year.
Coming up next, my thoughts on electric vehicles.
Thanks to the California ZEV mandate and the EU CO2 requirements electric vehicles, pretty serious electric vehicles, are here. To be sure, the business case for most of these products is flimsier than a Laura Scudders potato chip and easier to see through than a piece of onion skin, but they’re here.
And, for this petrolhead, one of the biggest problems is that there isn’t single one of ‘em that is styled to reflect the radical change that powers it. The Coda is the best example of what looks to be a regular compact sedan, a twenty-year-old compact sedan, with a grille that looks too small. I know it’s what I refer to as an Expedient Electric, a regular IC production model repurposed for propulsion by zooming electron. And it’s not the only one.
Two of the better Expedient Electrics, the Ford Focus Electric and the Chevy Spark EV are differentiated from there longer-range petroleum-stoked variants by there grilles. Their Grilles! Why do these cars even have grilles? The thermal loads from electric drive are vastly lower than that of IC propulsion.
Nissan’s Leaf has a large flip-up charge port door where you’d expect a grille on any other 5-door C-Class hatchback. Now it’s a dedicated electric so that’s the kind of stuff you’d expect. But in spite of starting with a clean sheet, the Leaf is visually differentiated from other compact hatchbacks by weird details like its serpentine tail lamps snaking their way up the cars C-pillars and blue-tinted chrome. Other than a few details, nothing on the Leaf communicates what it is.
The same is true for Tesla’s impressive Model S. The award-winning car has a radical package that has been fully optimized for electric drive. There’s a large trunk under the hood, a cabin with room for five to be seated comfortably and a large flat-floor rear cargo area under a big hatch. Tesla even offers optional rear-facing child seats for the back not unlike Mom’s wood-paneled Country Cousin Ranch Master station wagon. But outside the Tesla is nothing more than an attractive, contemporary six-light four-door executive sedan. It even has a grille it doesn’t need.
Where is the modern EV that immediately communications how advanced it is?
Today at the Los Angeles auto show, BMW will pull the wraps off its upcoming i3 Megacity EV. When I first looked at the photos of the car, I thought “This is the one! It’ll communicate how advanced it is at a glance.” Then I saw the nose. There in front of Dr.-Ing. Reithofer, God and everybody are the much loved (and totally unnecessary) are the twin kidneys that comprise BMW frontal identity. I don’t get it.
But enough of my rant. The modern EV is here and is a fixture of the future. Design aside, the products have appeal beyond their function as tool of legislative compliance.
On the automakers part, what company wouldn’t want to be free of the burden of emissions and fuel economy engineering, testing, validation and certification. Across a global medium-to-large manufacturer the savings could get into ten figures. But this kind of freedom comes at a price. Piece cost. The technology to build vehicle that approaches the performance levels consumers have come to expect from today’s internal combustion vehicles is anything but cheap. Still, with volume comes a degree of economies of scale-based cost reduction. So in theory, the cost of advanced EV tech should be viewed as an investment where the payoff is reduced certification costs.
I just wish somebody would do an EV as Tomorrow’s Car rather hiding some significant technology under insignificant sheetmetal.
And just another reminder, today is the day Autoline is broadcasting LIVE from the floor of the LA Auto Show. John will be talking to top-level executives at the show like Tim Mahoney from Volkswagen, Tom Doll from Subaru, Anthony Foulk from Audi and many others. As usual, the crew will be going completely wireless to give you a first-hand walking tour of the show floor. So, make sure you tune in today at 4PM Eastern Time, 1PM Pacific for the live show. You’ll find everything, including a full guest list at Autoline.tv.
And that’s all for today’s show. Once again I’m Jim Hall from 2953 Analytics, thanks for watching and I‘ll be seeing you.