August 31st, 2009 at 12:09pm
GM says “nyet” to the Russians who want a stake in Opel. Hybrids and EVs face a critical rare-earth metals shortage. BMW unveils a dramatic new concept boasting M-car performance with hybrid fuel economy. All that and more, plus we drive two German diesels head to head.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. GM says “nyet” to the Russians. Hybrids and EVs face a critical metals shortage. BMW unveils a dramatic new concept car. And we test-drive two diesels.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Monday, August 31, 2009. And now, the latest auto news.
Reports out of Germany say that General Motors does not want the Russians involved in any takeover of Opel. The AFP reports that an article in German magazine Der Speigel claims the U.S. government, which now owns 60 percent of GM does not want the Russians involved. But the German government denies these reports.
Let me give you some background on what’s really going on. Earlier this year, GM’s vice president of purchasing, Bo Anderson, left GM to become chairman and CEO of the Russian automaker GAZ. GM is not happy that Anderson left the company and even more upset that he went with GAZ, which is tied in with Russian investment bank Sberbank, which is Magna’s partner to buy part of Opel. GM knows that Bo Anderson is a pretty smart guy and could do a lot of damage if he got technology from GM and Opel. So it’s not only for strategic reasons GM doesn’t want GAZ to get Opel. It’s personal.
A report from Reuters says there could be a shortage of the rare-earth metals that are needed to make hybrid cars. It quotes one strategic metals expert calling the Toyota Prius “the biggest user of rare earths of any object in the world.” These metals include neodymium, which is needed to make the powerful magnets used for electric motors in hybrids, and lanthanum, which is needed to make hybrid batteries. China, which is the largest producer of rare-earth metals, is beginning to limit exports so its home industries can have access to them. New mines are being opened in California and Canada, but experts say demand will soon exceed supply.
And maybe billionaire investor Warren Buffet saw these reports because word out of China is that he wants to acquire more of BYD, the Chinese company that makes lithium batteries and electric cars. Gasgoo reports that BYD is deciding whether it should sell him more of the company. Buffet bought a 10-percent stake in BYD last year for $230 million and has already made a billion-dollar profit on that investment.
Another automaker has unveiled a new concept car ahead of the Frankfurt Motor Show – this time BMW spilled the beans. The Vision EfficientDynamics is a plug-in hybrid that aims to combine M-car performance with super-low emissions. It has a 98-cell lithium polymer battery pack that delivers an electric-only range of 50 kilometers, or about 31 miles. It features a three-cylinder diesel engine and two electric motors that deliver a combined 356 horsepower and a walloping 590 pound-feet of torque. The company says it will sprint from zero to 100 kilometers an hour in 4.8 seconds with fuel consumption around 3.8 L/100 km, or about 62 miles per gallon. It’s great that BMW was able to combine performance and efficiency like this, but man, the styling, especially at the back end. We can’t blame Chris Bengal for this thing.
Ford finally released details on its brand-new, heavy-duty diesel engine. Codenamed “Scorpion,” the 6.7-liter PowerStroke is an in-house design that will replace the company’s current Navistar-built engine. Like other modern diesels, it features a long list of advanced technologies, like piezoelectric fuel injectors and a compacted-graphite iron, or CGI block that’s twice as strong as regular cast iron. It also has twin turbochargers, which are mounted in the valley of the “V” so they take up less space. They’re also of a new design. Essentially two-in-one, they share the same housing and shaft. Ford says this layout helps cut lag without sacrificing boost pressure. The PowerStroke engine should be fully-compatible with blended, B20 fuel. Look for it to debut on the Ford’s 2011 Super-Duty Pickup.
And speaking of diesels, coming up next, a look at a couple of diesel-powered cars we just had in the Autoline garage, we’ll be back right after this.
Diesels are a tough sell in the U.S. market. Most of the American public doesn’t think about diesels when it comes to fuel economy. They think about hybrids. But we’re starting to see more choices when it comes to diesel-powered cars. And I just had a chance to drive two of them.
And that’ll do it for today’s top auto news. As always, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.