Episode 90 – Forecasts Downgraded, Honda Explores Ethanol, Toyota Bio-mass Car

February 27th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 6:53

JD Power and Ford lower their sales forecasts for the year by one million units. Honda will build an R&D facility in Japan to work toward cellulosic ethanol production. Toyota explores making cars from biomass to minimize environmental impact and weight. All that and more, plus a look at Lincoln’s new MKT crossover.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. JD Power and Ford lower their sales forecasts. Honda builds an ethanol R&D facility. And Toyota explores making cars from biomass.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Friday, February 27, 2009. And now, the news.

Car sales in the American market are bad and J.D. Power seems to be getting more pessimistic, because it just lowered its forecast for the year. Power shaved 1 million units off its forecast and says sales this year will only hit 10.4 million cars and trucks. The Detroit Free Press reports that Ford also knocked a million units off its forecast, but it has a much wider range of where sales could come in, anywhere from 10.5 to 12.5 million vehicles.

Honda announced it will build an R&D facility to work toward cellulosic ethanol production. The R&D facility will be built within the Kazusa Akademia Park in Japan. Japanese automakers tend to lag in flex-fuel vehicles, though I imagine Honda learned a thing or two about ethanol in the IRL since Indy cars now run on ethanol and Honda is the sole engine supplier for the 500 at the Brickyard.

Volvo will unveil the refreshed S80 at next week’s Geneva Motor Show. Volvo designers gave the car a more upscale and luxurious feel, and made it lower, longer and wider than before. They also gave it a new grille. Inside it offers stitched leather, aluminum dials and metal trim on the wheel and gear selector. It’s offered with an all-new twin-turbo five-cylinder 2.4-liter turbodiesel and also available with an upgraded 2.4 liter diesel. The S80 goes on sale this spring.

Future cars might just be made out of plants, even seaweed. Ford is using soy-based foam in some of its seats and now Toyota is tinkering with natural materials. This is the 1/X concept. It’s a plug-in hybrid with carbon fiber-reinforced plastic throughout the body and frame. Some of the resins were derived from natural materials, to minimize environmental impact and mass. The 1/X concept tips the scales at a featherweight 925 pounds.

Anyone with a good scanner can copy anything these days, so Virginia is ditching color photos on its drivers’ licenses. Autoblog reports that the state is using lasers to literally etch a driver’s photo into the license. This makes them difficult to counterfeit. The reason they’re only black and white is that lasers can’t do color, at least not yet.

And we couldn’t resist this one from Autoblog. Let this be a warning to those who want dark tinted windows on their car. A guy went missing in Gainesville, Florida for five days and probably would never been found except that a resident called police to report a 2001 BMW 330i had been parked in the same spot all that time. When the police checked it out they found the guy was dead in the back seat. But they also noticed that the car had been ticketed seven times. There were seven parking tickets under the windshield wiper but no one ever noticed there was a dead guy in the back seat.

Coming up next, a look at Lincoln’s new MKT crossover, we’ll be back right after this.

At last year’s Detroit Auto Show Lincoln took the wraps off a concept vehicle called the MKT. At this year’s show the production version of this luxury crossover took center stage.

Lincoln designers stayed true to the concept and its unique look, keeping the big, toothy grille and bulging backside.

The MKT’s fresh look is matched by lots of new features. Ever since SYNC came out Ford’s been making a big push for technology. Advanced electronics are spreading across all of its vehicles and the MKT gets plenty of new features, from rain-sensing wipers to an automatic parking system.

On the hardware side of things two different engines are offered. A 268 horsepower V6 is standard and Lincoln claims it’ll deliver segment-leading fuel economy. A twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 is optional, delivering an estimated 355 horsepower. Both engines are matched to a six-speed automatic transmission that can be controlled with paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.

The MKT has a luxurious interior with stitched trim panels. Ice-blue gauges face the driver, while some models have a center console that flows back to the second row seats where it houses a mini refrigerator. Just like other Ford crossovers, the third-row folds flat into the floor for more cargo capacity and it tips backwards to make a comfortable seat for tailgating.

The 2010 Lincoln MKT will be swimming in a sea of competitors when it goes on sale late this summer. The brand is no doubt hoping its distinctive style and laundry list of tech features will set it apart from its rivals.

Ok, it’s Friday. Time to announce the winner of this week’s trivia contest. Since Saab has recently run into some … trouble … we challenged you to identify what year General Motors acquired the Swedish automaker. And it was a rip-roaring year – Germany was united, again, the pilot episode of Seinfeld debuted and Iraq invaded Kuwait. The correct answer is, it was 1990.

As always my crack team has randomly selected today’s winner from the pool of correct responses. Pookie, the envelope please! And this week’s winner is… Ben Cox of Greenville, South Carolina! Congratulations Ben, you’ve just won two pieces of Saab memorabilia, a leather business card holder and a wine stopper.

Anyway, that brings us to the end of today’s show, but don’t forget, you can always get podcasts, transcripts and a whole lot more on our website, AutolineDaily.com. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next week.

10 Comments to “Episode 90 – Forecasts Downgraded, Honda Explores Ethanol, Toyota Bio-mass Car”

  1. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Henry Ford built a car body out of hemp.I have seen the b&w film clip of him bashing it with a sledgehammer.The powers that be could also make a damn fine biofuel out of hemp….oops,thats a four letter word.The MKT:hmmm,does the word fugly ring a bell? Laid out with all kinds of gadgets and technology,it’s ugly to the bone.Whats up with that?

  2. Tom Cain Says:

    So, now we know that Cheech and Chong drove a Ford in “Up in Smoke”!!!

  3. Alex Kovnat Says:

    I’m happy to hear Honda is putting their money into cellulosic ethanol.

    Ethanol has been criticized as a boondoggle, but there are legitimate reasons for considering it as an automotive fuel. It has a wonderfully high antiknock (octane) rating, at least 100. That’s better than even premium gasoline.

    During the mid-1980′s, General Motors modified a Buick Turbo Regal to run on M85 (85% methanol, 15% gasoline) and got good results. I’d like to see how well a present-day supercharged or turbocharged car would perform, if modified to take advantage of Brazil-style 96% ethanol or commercially available E85.

  4. Ron Peterson Says:

    Ethanol should be converted to ETBE which has fewer compatibility issues with gasoline. ETBE is an oxygenate and does boost octane.

  5. John Says:

    This description says it all.

    “its unique look, keeping the big, toothy grille and bulging backside.”

    Cars are visual like women and should be easy on the eyes.

    That MKT looks like a fish you toss back.

  6. John McElroy Says:

    @G.A.: Actually Ford made body panels out of a soy based material, not hemp. Henry saw all kinds of possibilities with soy. He always drank soy milk and even soy-based ice cream, and always wanted his family and friends to to the same, much to their disgust. When I first got into the business in the late 1970′s there were still soy fields growing less than a mile north of the company’s HQ, the last remnant of Henry’s foray into soy.

  7. Salvador G. Says:

    Biomass… Biomass!

    Why not garbage? Woudn’t that be better for the environment?? I mean, car companies will now become big farm companies requiring extremes amount of land so they can make cars…

    Garbage on the other hand, is the gift mankind keeps on giving. :)

    RECYCLE, PEOPLE… RECYCLE.

    ps. which reminds me, JOHN Mc. Whatever happen to that companie trying to make fuel out of garbage??? Didn’t GM bought it a while ago and if so, whats been goin on since??

  8. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Sorry John but ya got it wrong…
    http://www.hempcar.org/ford.shtml

  9. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I know it’s a “taboo” subject John and I apologize in advance,but here’s a video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxlj6fgQ-ZU

  10. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Has anybody read up the new Consumers Report auto issue, if you go by them nothing much has changed in reliability. The Chrysler Sebring is still considered the worst car made here. Honda Subaru and Toyota are still at the top, and the other domestics have gotten better. It seems that after so many years of building cars, Chrysler can’t still get it right.