AD #1378 – Hybrids Struggle in Cali, 2015 Chrysler 200 is Hot, HMI Concept for Autonomous Cars

May 15th, 2014 at 11:44am

Runtime: 6:55

- Hybrids Struggle in Golden State
- U.S. Heavy-Duty Truck Sales Up
- 2015 Chrysler 200 Off to Good Start
- Musk Sees Need for 200 Gigafactories
- Honda to Supply Formula Lites
- HMI Concept for Autonomous Vehicles

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. I’m Sean McElroy filling in for John once again but let’s look at today’s top stories.

Car sales in the largest market in the U.S. are off to a good start this year. According to the California New Car Dealers Association, sales in the Golden State are up 5.4% in the first quarter. Dealers expect to sell around 1.8 million new vehicles in the state this year. But interestingly, even in California hybrids are struggling to sell. As we’ve reported, hybrid sales are falling nationwide and in California their market share has fallen from about 7% in 2013 to 6% this year. Sales of plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles are up in California, suggesting that hybrid owners are just migrating to these new segments. Jeep is the fastest growing brand in the state but the Japanese brands continue to dominate in California, accounting for nearly half of new car sales in the market.

And in other sales news, sales of medium and heavy duty trucks were up in April. Wards reports that commercial truck sales were up over 11% compared to a year ago. And through the first four months of the year sales are up 13%. This is a good sign because heavy duty truck sales traditionally point to where the economy is heading.

The 2015 Chrysler 200 is off to a good start. The company received 10,000 orders the first day it was available and the total is now close to 20,000, which will allow the company to run its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, where the 200 is built, at full capacity through mid-July. While the new 200 is having a strong start, the company’s other midsize sedan, the Dodge Dart, is struggling. Through April just over 22,000 Dart’s have been sold, a drop of 30% compared to a year ago.

Tesla is close to breaking ground on its first Gigafactory but company CEO, Elon Musk says there will be a need for a whole lot more of these $5 billion facilities. He says the need for lower-cost lithium batteries and power storage will require hundreds of the factories. By 2020 just one Gigafactory could produce more lithium-ion batteries than were produced worldwide in 2013 and reduce the cost of lithium-ion cells by 30%.

Last year Honda announced it was getting back into Formula 1, supplying engines for McLaren, and now the automaker will be the official engine supplier to a new professional racing series, called Formula Lites. The series aim is to develop young, professional drivers and will use the automaker’s 2.4L 4-cylinder unit, called K24. Formula Lites will race at select events this year with a full schedule of events planned for next year.

Coming up next, a look at how Visteon is making it easier for driver’s to keep their eyes on the road.

Last month we showed you a Human Machine Interface concept from automotive supplier Visteon that features gesture recognition and 3D graphics. The company is also developing another HMI concept for use with autonomous vehicles. Here’s a video Visteon put together to explain how it works.

(Visteon HMI concept for autonomous vehicles can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show.)

Pretty cool stuff.

We’ve got a great Autoline After Hours planned tonight. Here’s AAH co-host Gary Vasilash with a preview of this evenings show.

(Autoline After Hours promo can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show.)

That’s a wrap for today. Thanks for watching and have a great day.

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27 Comments to “AD #1378 – Hybrids Struggle in Cali, 2015 Chrysler 200 is Hot, HMI Concept for Autonomous Cars”

  1. marshy Says:

    Visteon is demoing some impressive technology. Now that their system can tell where you are looking, what obligation does it impart on the designers/manufacturers to ensure that the user is actually looking down the road and not at all the fancy crap in the dash?

    How long is the system supposed to allow the driver to navel gaze while hurtling along at 75?

    Does the screen go blank with a message saying lookup after 4 seconds? 2 seconds?

  2. G.A.Branigan Says:

    That video clip shows that demo driver looking everywhere except at the road? No matter what the oems do,it is still distracted driving.

  3. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Hybrid sales may be down in California, but Prius still outsold F-150 during the first quarter in the Golden State. California is not a typical market in the U.S.

  4. M360 Says:

    John – What’s going on at GM in regard to recalls? I read in the Detroit News that the government is urging GM to recall 6 million trucks/SUVs for brake lines. I also see that the 2014 Malibu has been recalled, and we all know about the ignition switch recall on the Saturn ION / Chevrolet Cobalt. Is GM just becoming more aware of defects on its own, or is the government becoming more suspicious of GM?

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    4, I suspect GM is being more careful, and recalling vehicles “sooner rather than later” to avoid problems like with the Cobalt et. al.

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    GM is gonna have to start admitting that the last assembly point is at the local dealership service dept.

  7. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The last assembly point for my MINI was my condo parking lot. The car has been generally reliable, but the bolt for the striker on the passenger door was finger tight, or rather, finger loose.

  8. Brett Says:

    If the car is doing the driving, what difference does it make how long you stare at the dashboard. That was the point of the video, no? It is a demonstration of a technology they’re developing for use in future autonomous vehicles.

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    This giant GM recall is gonna do more harm than good, I am already hearing people say: “See, that is why I won’t buy an American car ever again”

  10. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I’m having my doubts about buying a Colorado.I think I will just wait and see what other oems come out with in the midsize truck dept.

  11. Bob Wilson Says:

    My understanding is only the Toyota Prius-Plugin meets the requirements for the “Green Clean Air Vehicle Stickers.” In contrast the following are 2014 Green sticker compliant: BMW i3 REx, Cadillac ELR, Chevy Volt, Ford C-Max Energi, Ford Fusion Energi, Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid. We have seen a uptick in the Ford hybrids suggesting they may be picking up some conquest sales too.

    We also see the pure electrics are also doing good as they have ready access to the “White Clean Air Vehicle Stickers.” Given a choice between being stuck in traffic or riding in the limited access lanes, these stickers are a powerful sales incentive.

    Bob Wilson, Huntsville, AL

  12. cwolf Says:

    Since long term reliability and cost data has not matured for hybreds and other battery driven cars, I’ve been reading up on the air-hybred Peugeot has planned for the EU in 2016. The system is actually a nitrogen filled capacitor with a secondary cylinder recovery system recharged during braking or when the engine is in operation. Based upon my experience with this type of capacitor used on heavy presses, I believe Peugeot may be on to something. I do not know the pressures involved, but I expect claims of 60% utilization and over 90% reliability more than realistic. This may very well capture the attension of many of todays hybred and pure EV buyers if this system functions as good as I think it could.

  13. Earl Says:

    Nice to hear that Chrysler is getting off to a good start on the new 200. They’ve been getting some good press and hopefully the car is reliable.

  14. BobMan Says:

    Dear God!!! Whatever happened to drivers actually DRIVING? It’s really scaring me when these auto companies come up with additional things for drivers to do. So many folks can’t control their need to stay connected nowadays and risk other peoples desire to stay alive. I for one say, “Enough is enough!”. When do providers of these “technologies” become culpable for what’s happening out on the roads?

  15. cwolf Says:

    For what it’s worth; Based solely upon my sourses, I am told many of GM’s top people have become aware of the fact that the number of recalls have flourished since outsourcing many components to foreign countries. Some may want to have suppliers closer to the factory in need, to better control the product. Many other makers use these same suppliers and have similar problems, but they are not in the lime light. Don’t be surprised if T Bejma becomes a bit busier in the future. I have a hunch the UAW has their finger in this to to decrease the % foreign parts. You have to admit, the auto’s are not the problem, the components are!

  16. pedro fernandez Says:

    cwolf of course it’s the components, all cars are made from thousands of components and even though we still don’t have Chinese made cars here, we have a lot of Chinese made car parts here and that alone is enough to cause all these problems, from personal experience, I assure you that Chinese parts mostly are crap!!

  17. cwolf Says:

    pedro, do you believe the many transplants have the same problems as the Detroit 3 with their suppliers? Or is it possible there is some benifit the transplants have by including more US content into their product than the Detroit, once all “American” product? This was my point.

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    I can only speak from recent experience I had with my car and the crappy Chinese made parts that failed after only a couple of months, I had to insist on US made parts (at a higher cost) so they would not go bad after only a couple of months, I am sure a lot of OEM’s are using foreign made parts to save money as well.

  19. XA351GT Says:

    Dear Autoline, You’ve been saying big truck sales are up now for 2 or 3 years and that it is a indicator that the economy is improving. Can you please tell it to hurry up? I don’t know if the economy will ever truly recover until we get this gridlock in DC moving.

  20. XA351GT Says:

    Well if Hybrids are struggling in Cali ,it can’t be good for the rest of the country. I guess we should pour more billions into this boondoggle . How many so-called green companies took billions of taxpayer dollars and have gone belly up ? It’s time to use that money to improve the current technology. Also EPA if you want to improve the MPGs of cars get rid of the E-fuels. They kill mileage .I’m afraid the only green they are concerned with is on money.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Hybrids aren’t “struggling” in California. Prius outsells F-150 there. Sales of hybrids are down, slightly, because non plug-in cars can no longer use car pool lanes without a passenger. There is no big mystery here.

  22. C-Tech Says:

    The Dodge Dart is considered mid-sized? I thought it competed with the Ford Focus and Nissan Altima?

  23. XA351GT Says:

    Okay Kit if it makes you feel better to compare a entire segment of the market against ONE vehicle to prove your point. I’ll stand by what was reported.

  24. XA351GT Says:

    Kit also a contributing factor of hybrid sales being down is the government money that was being thrown at them so people would buy them has been reduced. When you have to give thousands of dollars in discounts to move them at there is a problem.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    24, Yeah, any special “incentives” make a difference, and there are gov incentives on plug-in cars, both financial, and special lane usage privileges, but not on regular hybrids.

    Another reason hybrid sales might be down is this. Almost half of hybrid sales are to one car, Prius, and the current generation is near the end of its run. I suspect Prius sales, and therefore hybrid sales will get a bump when the next generation Prius comes along in a year or so.

  26. ukendoit Says:

    The Vistion HMeye is designed for the TRANSITION to autonomous vehicles. Once the vehicles become FULLY automomous, there would be no need to track if/when the driver’s eyes are on the road, because the driver will be the vehicle itself. Eventually, there may not even be a “driver’s seat”.
    As opposed to an “additional distraction” this is intended to provide less distraction, enabling the driver to keep hands on the wheel and eyes more on the road than the “old” way of reaching for radio or HVAC knobs and looking down to see what you are doing. In theory, it sounds ideal to be able to control things quickly with a glance or eye twitch after one is prolific at using it, but I wonder what the learning curve is to get good at using it and how many people would wait to perfect its use before heading out on the streets.

  27. pedro fernandez Says:

    The Dart was made to fill in for the Caliber and the Avenger as well, but they need a small car of their own, perhaps some Fiat variant that they could adapt for the US market.