August 3rd, 2009 at 12:00pm
Look for a mad scramble in the U.S. Congress as it tries to find funding for the cash-for-clunkers program. Nissan took the wraps off its new electric car, called the LEAF. Honda announced it will recall 440,000 vehicles in the American market to fix an airbag defect. All that and more, plus a look at Lexus’ new dedicated hybrid, the HS 250h.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. Congress looks under the couch cushions to find more cash for clunkers. Nissan unveils its new EV. And Honda issues a big recall due to defects.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Monday, August 3, 2009. And now, the news.
Look for a mad scramble in the U.S. Congress today as they try to find a couple of billion dollars lying around that they can put into the cash-for-clunkers program. But based on how quickly they burned through the first billion, even if they do find extra money, it won’t last very long. The burn rate is a billion dollars a week and you have to wonder how long a government that is broke can keep that kind of scheme going.
The AFP reports that the political pressure is building in Germany to support Magna’s bid to buy part of Opel. General Motor has suggested it would prefer investment group RHJ to buy part of Opel while German politicians are clearly in favor of Magna, which has promised not to slash German jobs. This is now becoming an issue where state and national politicians are jumping into the fight. I believe GM is worried that Magna will share its technology and intellectual property with Russian automaker GAZ, whose chairman is now Bo Anderson, the former head of purchasing at GM.
Honda announced it will recall 440,000 vehicles in the American market to fix an airbag defect. The recall includes 2001-2002 Accords, 2001 Civics, and 2002-2003 Acura TLs. When an airbag goes off, the casing can rupture into shrapnel, sending metal fragments through the airbag. One person has been killed and several injured due to the defect.
Riot police in South Korea strengthened their siege of a Ssangyong Motors plant after talks fell apart between management and the union. According to the AFP, after talks collapsed yesterday, riot police moved in to try and remove protesters but further clashes ensued. Workers have occupied the factory since May in protest of the company’s decision to cut jobs.
Yesterday Nissan took the wraps off its new electric car, called the LEAF. It’s a five-passenger hatchback that features a 90 kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack that should give it a range of 160 kilometers or about 100 miles. The company says it can be charged to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes. Nissan is emphasizing affordability with the LEAF but it hasn’t mentioned how much it will cost. It’s scheduled to launch LATE next year in Japan, the U.S. and Europe.
In other electric news, BMW announced that it named the battery partner for its upcoming “Megacity” hybrid project. SB LiMotive is a 50:50 joint venture between Bosch and Samsung, and should give the automaker access to state-of-the-art lithium-ion technology. Currently BMW has 600 MINI E’s undergoing real-world testing. Information gathered from this experiment should help in the development of its next-generation electric vehicles which are expected to come out in the next few years.
Coming up next, a look at Lexus’ new dedicated hybrid, we’ll be back right after this.
Later this summer Lexus is launching a new sedan that’s designed to slot between its sporty IS and luxurious ES models.
But the new HS 250h is not just another four-door family car. It represents a big first for the company and the auto industry as well.
And speaking of one, hybrids focus on a single thing, fuel economy. Lexus engineers fought to squeeze every mile per gallon they could out of the HS. With that goal in mind, it features the brand’s first four-cylinder engine, and it’s paired with a continuously-variable transmission. Combined output for the gas engine and the electric motor totals 187 horsepower.
Like the hybrid version of the RX crossover, the powertrain also features an exhaust heat recovery system. When the weather is cold it helps the engine reach operating temperature faster, improving fuel economy. Careful attention to aerodynamics also helped boost efficiency. All told, the eco-friendly engineering delivers an estimated fuel economy rating of 35 city, 34 highway (6.7 and 6.9 L/100 km, respectively) with a respectable 0-60 time of around 8.4 seconds. Bringing the green theme full circle, 30 percent of car’s interior and trunk surfaces are made of plant-based bio-plastic.
With all of this hybrid talk you may think the car is just a gussied-up Prius, but there’s more to it than that. It shares an architecture with the Toyota Avensis, a midsized family car sold around the globe. Plus it sports a totally different interior with luxury features like semi-aniline leather and a top-shelf Mark Levinson sound system.
Additionally, navigation-equipped models come with the company’s new remote touch interface that debuted on the redesigned RX crossover. It works like a computer mouse and offers distinctive haptic feedback.
Look for this segment-founding hybrid to start arriving at dealerships late this summer. But stay tuned for more updates, because pricing hasn’t been announced yet.
And don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours, Thursday at 7 PM eastern when our special guest will be Kurt Ritter, who runs Toyota’s advertising, and who used to do it for Chevrolet. I’m sure we’ll get some good comparisons between how GM and Toyota do business.
And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.