AD #1169 – Focus EV Price Cut, OnStar Gets Its Time in the Sun, GM Considers Euro Van for U.S.

July 11th, 2013 at 11:53am

Runtime: 8:50

Another major automaker announces a significant price drop for its EV. OnStar teams up with another company to store electricity from solar panels in the batteries of a Chevy Volt for later use. According to reports, General Motors and Peugeot are in talks about selling a rebadged version of one of the French automakers commercial vans in the U.S. All that and more, plus a look at the big brother in Fiat’s lineup, the 500L.

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. Let’s get to the latest news.

Sales of electric cars in the U.S. market are up 183 percent so far this year. That’s a spectacular increase, but when you dig into the numbers they show some real challenges. Prices of EVs have been slashed this year. Ford is the latest to announce it’s chopping the price of the Focus EV by $4,000. Automakers claim they’re making technological improvements that are cutting costs, but the real reason is that EVs simply are not selling in the numbers that automakers expected. Ford has only sold 901 Focus EVs this year. Total EV sales in the U.S. have only hit 12,400 electric cars. Now IHS Automotive is lowering its global forecast for EV sales. It had forecast that EVs would reach 2.2 percent of the global industry in 2020. It now says they will only hit 0.7 percent. I think all this EV hype is finally starting to run into reality.

Of course, you can do cool things with EVs. GM says it sees the future of electric vehicle charging as a marriage between renewable energy and battery storage. So OnStar is partnering with TimberRock Energy Solutions, to store solar power in the batteries of a Chevy Volt. OnStar developed algorithms to control the charging, which allows the owner to capture the sun’s energy, then sell that energy back into the grid during peak loads. So far this is a development project using a fleet of four Volts.

It started some years back with the Sprinter, and now it looks like another American car company will sell a European commercial van in the U.S. According to Reuters, General Motors and Peugeot are in talks about selling a rebadged version of one of the French automakers commercial vans in the U.S. As you know, Ford will start selling its European Transit van in the U.S. next year and the Ram ProMaster which goes on sale later this year is a rebadged Fiat Ducato. It’s amazing to see how commercial vans designed in Europe are about to take over the U.S. segment.

BMW is showing a concept vehicle called the Active Tourer. One of the features that caught our eye is that it has an integrated bicycle carrier that will accommodate two bicycles inside the vehicle. Of course, you have to pull the wheels and the seats off the bikes for them to fit. BMW says this arrangement is perfect for parking outside of congested city areas, then biking into town.

As we’ve reported, Beijing and Shanghai have imposed restrictions on new car purchases in an effort to reduce traffic and pollution. And it looks like the limits will spread throughout China. Bloomberg reports that eight more cities in China are likely to pass their own limits on car purchases. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers says this could cut vehicle deliveries by 400,000 units or about 2 percent of total sales. I think that as more cities are forced to do this the impact could be greater.

The people over at Ram decided they needed a pickup with a little more attitude. So they came up with the Black Express. The truck is based on the Ram 1500 Express but things like black 20-inch wheels, blacked-out front and rear facia and no side badges help set this version apart from the rest. It comes with the 5.7 liter HEMI V8 and the standard 6-speed automatic. The Black Express will be out later this month and will carry a $1,000 premium over a base Express counterpart.

2014 FIAT 500L
The FIAT brand has come a long way since its American relaunch just over 2 years ago when it had only 30 studios or dealerships across the country. Today there are more than 200 selling different versions of the its famous 500 bringing in a variety of new customers. And now as it moves to expand the brand passed the 500, Fiat is doing it with the car’s big brother called the 500L.

(Interview about where customers come from can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show.)

Fiat calls its car an emotional purchase bought by a majority of men who happen to be married. That seems to be the perfect built-in audience for this larger and longer version of the 500.

(Interviews for marketing and engineering can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show.)

And those customers can get their first look at the 500L right now. The car which is built in Serbia is arriving at Fiat studios across the country.

Remember when you were a kid and went in a tent for the first time and were amazed by how big it looked inside. That’s what happens when you get in the 500L. You can’t believe how big it is inside.

By the way Art Anderson who you just saw in that package is our guest tonight on Autoline After Hours. So if you have more questions about the 500L, be sure to join us tonight live at 6 pm Eastern time at or you can always get the podcast version tomorrow. So join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo for the best insider discussions in the industry.

And that wraps up today’s report. Thanks for watching and please join us again tomorrow.

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34 Comments to “AD #1169 – Focus EV Price Cut, OnStar Gets Its Time in the Sun, GM Considers Euro Van for U.S.”

  1. G.A.Branigan Says:

    The new Ram ‘Black Express’ will be a hit I think….with the younger crowd.meanwhile GM is doing their latest……smoking weed with the jeep boys and doing nothing.

  2. HtG Says:

    Here’s a Bloomberg article on how smartphones are challenging carcos own OE displays and profits. Sorry titans of industry, but I do not think you can compete with or for the talent at Google or Apple et al, and product cycles in silicon run rings around everyone but rabbits.


  3. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ HtG: LMAO…..thanx for the article.OnStar is a joke….an expensive one at that.I just got yet another offer from OnStar for a 3 month summer renewal for 40 or 50 bux I think.I delete it as soon as I open it.They send me these every so often,just like sirius sat.I don’t need that stuff at the prices they charge.I can buy a good Garmin for a couple of hundred bux and update it via online for free,forever.

  4. Brett Says:

    I believe one strong reason for better take up of EVs is that the improvements touted for our economy the past year or so are mostly on paper. I was making about $80k in 2004. I was making $50k in 2006 and now make $35k doing essentially the same job (I.T.) after three years of unemployment.

    People just don’t have the discretionary funds to buy into unfamiliar technology if they have any discretionary funds at all. Heck, we’ve got a paid-for 2006 Outlander we bought new back in the “good times” and I’m pottering around Florida in a 24 year old, beat to Hell Mitsubishi Eclipse with no A/C that we bought used about sixteen years ago. I’d replace it with a Mitsubishi “i” in a heartbeat if I could afford to do so.

    I honestly do not believe that I am singularly unique in these circumstances. There’s a whole bunch of people just barely scraping by right now.

  5. Brett Says:

    “reason for LACK of better take up”


  6. HtG Says:

    3 GA, like Dan Akerson, the rest of the world understands that maps are about advertising revenue. When you use maps like Google’s, you bet you’ll see places to shop or visit. Do you think Larry and Sergei want to share the money with a private equity, telecom guy that used to work in what Steve Jobs called “orifices?” (I’m sure Chris Preuss knows ‘xactly what I’m talking about)

  7. Bradley Says:

    OnStar…nothing constructive to say.

  8. Earl Says:

    That comment that 80% of the sales of the 500 are coming from outside the Chrysler group. Does that mean that 80% of the sales are to people that didn’t own a Chrysler product before? If so Sergio & Co better make sure their putting out a product that is reliable and equally durable.

  9. T. Bejma Says:

    From late in yesterday’s show (actually this morning)

    “E_W Says:
    July 11th, 2013 at 8:59 am
    Do you have any thoughts on GM’s recent decision to no longer provide production statistics? It was my understanding that suppliers use that information to get an accurate gauge of manufacturer’s needs. How could this affect the industry?”

    GM’s announcement was that it was not going to provide production planning information “TO THE PUBLIC”, it will still continue to provide it to suppliers/dealer’s etc. but because competitors were using the information to undercut GM sales use it for adjusting incentives, it did not make sense to just put the data out for everyone to use. Several automakers keep this information to themselves, so this is nothing new.

    Onstar: I like it. I like being able to push the button, talk to a person and have them enter my destination, tell me what is around and even recommend a good restaurant. I also like getting a vehicle diagnostic report dumped into my email box every month that even has tire pressure information. I also like being able to get information on a Check Engine Light while I am driving down the road to make sure it is not something serious. Not ONE of these things can be done by ANYTHING but ONSTAR.

  10. T. Bejma Says:

    Another from yesterday’s show…

    G.A.Branigan Says:
    July 11th, 2013 at 11:24 am
    … I made it no secret that I much prefer chevy trucks.However I think they dropped the ball on the 14 full size twins and have to end up playing catch up yet again…

    Where do you think we dropped it G.A.? I have driven them and they are WAAAAYYYY better then the current model. Engine, drivability, interior are all leaps and bounds above the current model. Sure, exterior design is not radical, but then neither was the GMT800 to GMT900 and we still sold a ton.

  11. HtG Says:

    9 TB, I think map features on Google and Iphone will be all over businesses and restaurants that are nearby drivers. It’s a goal.

  12. T. Bejma Says:


    Definitely, I am already seeing it on my fav GPS App – WAZE. Advertisers pop up whenever you are in range. Not many now, but soon to be more, for sure. I just think it is less distracting to talk to the Onstar operator, then to look on the “tiny” smartphone screen while driving, and I, for one, am willing to pay for it.

  13. HtG Says:

    12 I’m confused here, TB. Google bought Waze but now Apple is copying them?

    These guys are predatory disruptors of other peoples’ business.

  14. Roger T Says:

    Maybe this is me, but I just don’t get it. This car would need to be spectacular in some measure to have me get over its exterior design. It’s so wrong! Is it just me or do large Fiat 500s & bloated Mini models just spoil the image these brands were based on to begin with? I feel as puzzled as the day I saw that “interesting” looking SUV, then subsequently 4 door sedan design from Porsche. It’s official – auto industry is shameless.

  15. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ T Bejma:It’s no secret that I am a truck person.pretty much always have been,and the chevies were my favorites.It’s not the design where they dropped the ball,it’s the lack of a diesel option for the 1/2 tons,lack of an 8 speed trans.I know for a fact the more forward gears you have the better to stay in your powerband,and the better mpg one gets.

    T,I buy trucks and use them.I am in no way a ‘lifestyle’ poser.Gm,and I’ve said this before,has the best off road pkg for my uses and have no complaints about that,but they fall short in the areas I mentioned.Nissan for 2015 will have a Cummins ISF diesel option with an 8 or 9 spd trans.GM’s position on a diesel 1/2 ton is they don’t need it.Hey,I do.

    And get this,for close to the same price as a Silverado configured the way I want it,I’ll be able to get a similar Ram with a diesel.This is why I am not ‘brand loyal’ T.I keep my options open and buy what best suits my needs.

  16. HtG Says:

    Do you consider service departments, TB? Didn’t Toyota need to learn that guys working their truck need it fixed pronto?

  17. dave marsh Says:

    looking at the 500L – I see a lot of PT cruiser type feel there – If it is marketed correctly, it could see similar success.

  18. Chuck @ GM Says:

    @GA #3 OnStar:The maps and stuff like getting your doors unlocked if you locked your keys in the vehicle is secondary nice to haves in my alleged mind to the option of Onstar can call in an emergency when your cell phone can’t. And if you’re an offroader there’s no doubt places where neither will work, but OnStar will reach farther than your cell phone all day. It can also call when your cell phone could also, but you’re out cold and the OnStar operator can tell the first responders exactly where you are. According to the OnStar website you can get basic Safe and Sound for $19 a month or $228/yr. You’ve heard the commercials, Emergency Services and Automatic Crash response may not be worth it to you, and that’s fine. But at $19/month it seems pretty cheap to me to have that capability. Plus you get remote link mobile app, Stolen Vehicle assist, roadside assistance, and vehicle diagnostics, stuff one might be inclined to use more often. We have the Turn by Turn Navigation and use it occasionally when on vacation. We tend to go places not in the plan so it comes in handy.

    So yeah I agree, there’s probably even better navigation devices than OnStar out there, and if that’s all you’d use OnStar for, your doing the right thing. But it’s much more than a navigation device, and hardly a joke.

  19. XA351GT Says:

    Well I guess Euro vans are taking over seeing US made and designed ones are being killed off. Mopar got rid of the RAM van a long time ago it seems and Ford is killing the E series vans. So if GM axes the Chevy and GMC van they’ll all be gone and yay we’ll have nothing ,but stupid looking vans here to. I remember when vans were cool. Too bad like station wagons someone decide that minivans were cooler ( read that as cheaper to build and bigger profit) . Now minivans are on the endangered list as crossover SUVs are the in thing.

  20. Chuck @ GM Says:

    @16 & HtG: I don’t really know how or what criteria was used to decide which dealers got left behind during the bankruptcy. But I am pretty sure it wasn’t because they were the stellar dealerships. And understand that dealers aren’t part of GM. They are “privately” owned and operated. That’s why if you’ve got a problem with a dealer or your vehicle that you can’t get resolved after a try or 2, you should call the 800 number in the back of your owners manual. Nobody would tell you that’s a gauranteed way to get your vehicle repaired, there are so many different situations. But the 800 number is GM, not someone else. We all want you to be happy with your vehicle.

    Before I came to GM to work, I got hosed big time by a dealer in California, I know what it’s like. I was in the LA area, the incident happened in Central Valley, and cost me about $400 bucks plus whatever they charged GM. I just wished I’d have known about the 800 number, it may have been resolved better.

  21. HtG Says:

    20 Chuck, I was hoping to be diplomatic. I was wondering what a long time truck owner like GA experiences. My own dim recollections of using a Chevy was that service was fine, and I understand Ford is on top of taking care of guys that work with their truck. (surely, you know I’m biased pro GM. I know it)

  22. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Chuck: I can reach out half way across the country from my vehicle,with no problem,24/7.I don’t need a cell phone for that,or OnStar.I’m a licensed ham,and have been since 1990.I’ve never locked my keys in the vehicle yet either,although if I did I believe the going rate around here is around 35 bux for a locksmith to come out do get in.

    @ HtG: I don’t understand your question in regard to my truck experiences.

  23. HtG Says:

    Does service at the dealer affect what you’re going to buy, GA? You’ve had trucks for years and you do maintenance yourself. So I’m curious how you decide what to buy, beyond the car itself. I know I’ve had uneven experiences within Honda.

  24. HtG Says:

    23 cont’d

    I keep a mental record of 4 local dealers where I have had fine service(not all Honda). This knowledge is affecting which cars I will consider buying. I also have records of shopping at dealers, and again past experience is powerful.

  25. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ HtG: Some of the single worst dealer experience in reference to service was a chevy dealership.I did buy another chevy,(2 more actually),but at a different dealership in a different county. In 96 I bought a new 97 Dodge Ram 1500,slt Laramie that I loved…until the winter then the trans would make god awful metal on metal sounds when going into reverse (auto trans).I took it back to the dealership on average twice a winter for 3 years to get it rebuilt,under warranty,no problems/arguments etc.Under NYS law,I could have lemon lawed it,but I loved the truck,and the dealership was the best ever,so I just picked out a new whatever to drive for a couple of days while they fixed my trans.

    My thing for chevies is the 4×4 driveline.I just ‘feel’ they did a much better job then the others.I love the Eaton G-80 auto locker in the rear diff,and it is a world of difference between that and a limited slip.I also prefer the pushrod engines which keeps me away from ford.I bought a 03 5.4 2 valve cammer and around 30k the phasers were going out and ford wouldn’t cover it.In 05 I bought another new ford with the 5.4 3 valve and it ran like shit right from the get go.The dealership said it was normal.With chevies,usually no problems,as good power as the other offerings but smoother running then the others,and usually better mpg.

  26. HtG Says:

    “… ran like shit right from the get go….”
    -you’re making me laugh

  27. HtG Says:

    Here’s a link to some PR NewYork’s governor Cuomo did with ABC to publicize the crackdown on texting while driving. Around here, it’s like driving is incidental to being connected to one’s own private cosmos.

  28. kevin m Says:


  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I wonder if they would sell the Peugeot vans with 4 cylinder diesels and manual transmissions, like they have in Europe. That could be a problem with selling them in the U.S.

  30. john897 Says:

    John, I know your not a fan of EV’s, but it is the future and I have little doubts about this. Like anything else, people will resist something new even when it’s better. Read the book “Future Shock” by Alvin Toffler and you will better understand what I’m saying.

    As a retired EE from GM, I can tell you electric motors have huge advantages over an ICE. I’ve seen electric motors in the plant run for over ten years 24/7 w/o any problems except for minor brief maintenance.

    Batteries will only get cheaper as we delve into battery research and that won’t happen if no one are first building these cars.

    Thanks for your daily news. I love to read them everyday.

  31. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Until ‘range anxiety’,faster charge rates,and more charging stations are available,ev’s will remain at near bottom of the food chain.

  32. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, pure EV’s will be a small niche for a long time to come, but even with their limited range, they will work for most people, most of the time. The price needs to come down, though, and appartment dwellers need a place to plug them in.

  33. FRANK Says:


  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If you get inside, and/or drive them, you can tell quite a lot of difference. The new one is better. Yeah, the styling is for those who don’t want to scream “I’d rather be driving a Kenworth.”