Episode 73 – U.S. Car Sales Plummet, Bangle Leaves BMW, ArvinMeritor Diesel Hybrid

February 4th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 6:30

Car sales in the U.S. fall off at a scary rate, dropping 40 percent from a year ago. Chris Bangle shocks the automotive design community and leaves BMW. ArvinMeritor presents Wal-Mart with a diesel hybrid, heavy-duty truck. All that and more, plus John answers viewer questions about the “cash for clunkers” program governments are considering in the “You Said It!” segment.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Car sales in the U.S. fall off at a scary rate. Chris Bangle shocks the automotive design community. And ArvinMeritor comes up with a diesel hybrid heavy duty truck.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, February 4, 2009. And now, the news.

Last month, car sales in the American market dropped to their lowest in over a quarter of a century, and the drop off is frightening. Total sales came to only 655,000 units (subscription required), according to Ward’s, down 40 percent from a year ago, and a 26 percent drop from the month before. On an annualized basis the sales rate is down to only 9.5 million units. Indeed, the AP reports that sales in the U.S. dropped off so much that China surpassed it to become the biggest automotive market in the world, at least for the month.

Chrysler, General Motors and Suzuki saw their sales fall by more than 50 percent in the American market. But Hyundai saw sales rise nearly 10 percent, thanks to its Assurance Program, where buyers can walk away from their car loan if they lose their job. Subaru saw sales rise nearly 4 percent. And Jaguar was up 13 percent.

The U.S. Senate approved legislation to make the interest paid on car loans tax deductible. Autoblog reports that writing off the interest on car loans should amount to an annual savings of roughly $1,500 for a car costing $25,000.

Influential and controversial car designer Chris Bangle is leaving BMW (subscription required) after almost 17 years with the company. He’s departing to pursue design-related endeavors outside the automotive industry. Bangle is probably best known for the trunk design on the 7 Series, which became known as the Bangle butt. Adrian van Hooydonk will take over design at BMW, and interestingly, it was Adrian who actually came up with the Bangle butt.

ArvinMeritor presented Wal-Mart with a prototype hybrid diesel, heavy-duty truck. Powered by lithium-ion batteries, the truck can travel up to 48 MPH with just the electric motor. The hybrid drivetrain was developed in collaboration with Navistar and Cummins. Collectively, truck fleets spent about $111 billion on diesel fuel in 2007. Obviously a diesel hybrid would help cut way into that number.

Automotive News reports that Maybach has the highest depreciation rates of any car on the market (subscription required). During the first year of ownership, a new Maybach 62S loses $183 thousand dollars off its half-a-million-dollar sticker price. That’s a 39 percent drop in the span of a year. The Rolls-Royce Phantom, by comparison, loses “only” about $100 thousand dollars, or 24 percent.

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!

And now it’s time for some of your feedback.

This is “You Said It!” Every day we get lots of comments and questions from you, our viewers. “You Said It!” gives me a chance to respond.

Howard Remeta wrote in to comment on our report that governments around the world are looking at offering cash for anyone who turns in an old clunker and buys a new fuel efficient car. We noted that Texas already has a similar program, but the old cars have to be at least 10 years old and have failed an emissions test. I commented that most of those kinds of buyers do not buy new cars, and Howard said,

“I agree with John. Anyone driving a car that is at least 10 years old, will not be buying a new car. They are used car people.”

But Tom Cain does not agree.

“That’s ludicrous!” he says. “Why would you assume that someone driving a 10-plus year-old vehicle not buy a new one? Some of us like to get the full value out of our purchases! I’m driving a 14 year-old Chevy truck that is pretty much worn out. I’m about to buy a new one to replace it. I expect to drive the new one that long as well.”

And then Derek wrote in with a clever comment on how to game the system. “As I think about it,” he says “I’m kind of liking the Clunker Clause. I’m in the market for a new people mover for my growing family so I’d be happy to go to Joe’s Used Car Sales down the road and drop $300 on an old Ford Escort only to trade it in on the Chrysler Town & Country EV due out in 2010. I’d gladly let the government take the hit on the new car. Otherwise, it’s a one or two year-old Sienna for us.”

You know, our report on the “cash for clunkers” program generated a lot of comments and you can still get in on the debate. We’ve just implemented a brand new way sending us a video OR audio comment. Just click on the “You Said It!” link in the sidebar of the Autoline Daily page and you’ll see how to leave us a video or audio comment. Check it out, it’s pretty cool.

And don’t forget, we’ve got an event coming up this Friday you don’t want to miss. We’re hosting a live webcast with Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, the chief economist at Ford. She’ll give us the company’s forecast for how the economy will do this year and a lot more. You’ll be able to post comments and questions during the interview, so start thinking about what you’d like to ask. Again, this live webcast is Friday at noon Eastern-Standard Time or 1700 Greenwich Mean on both of our websites, AutolineDaily.com and AutolineDetroit.tv.

Anyway, that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

3 Comments to “Episode 73 – U.S. Car Sales Plummet, Bangle Leaves BMW, ArvinMeritor Diesel Hybrid”

  1. Todd Turner Says:

    How can Jaguar sales be up when then don’t report sales?

  2. G.A.branigan Says:

    I guess I’ll postpone buying a new maybach,LOL.I don’t believe that the people who can and do buy those extreme luxobarges really care.Kudos to ArvinMeritor for a hybrid diesel,a tractor trailer no less.Seems to me that there is a proliferation of fuel saving technologies……….what took so long? I learned my lessons back in the early seventies.I won’t feed a V-8,and find little need for a V-6.I would love a 4 cyl diesel that can run on b50 or better right from the factory with no warranty issues.Someday.

  3. John McElroy Says:

    To Todd Turner: Ward’s does report Jaguar sales, though I don’t know how they get the numbers. Ward’s says Jag sold 780 cars in the U.S. market last month, compared to 664 a year ago, but down from 1,006 in December.