Episode 222 – Paice Sues Toyota, GM Executives Under Fire, Audi President Belittles Volt

September 4th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:09

A company called Paice claims Toyota violated its patents for hybrids and is seeking a ban on all imports of Toyota hybrids to the U.S. GM Chairman Ed Whitacre is telling executives they’ve got 12 weeks to show significant progress in sales, market share and profitability. Audi of America’s president calls the Chevy Volt “a car for idiots.” All that and more, plus a preview of this week’s episode of Autoline, about the merits of the Cash for Clunkers program.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. A lawsuit could ban the Toyota Prius from the American market. GM’s chairman gives GM management 12 weeks, or else. Audi of America’s president calls the Chevy Volt a car for idiots.

Up next, we’ll fill you in on all the details.

This is Autoline Daily for Friday, September 4, 2009, episode 222. And now, the news.

Uh-oh, even more trouble for Toyota. Bloomberg reports that a company called Paice claims that Toyota violated its patents for hybrids and is seeking a ban on all imports of the Prius and other Toyota hybrids into the United States. Before you think this is crazy, Paice sued Toyota for five counts of patent infringement in 2005 and won on three of them. Paice was founded by Russian inventor Alex Severinsky, and several retired auto executives from General Motors, Ford and the Robert Bosch company. In fact, I interviewed these people on Autoline Detroit nine years ago. You can find that interview in our archives, it’s show number 528. And while the video quality is lousy, the audio is OK.

Fascinating article in today’s Detroit Free Press. Tom Walsh reports that GM chairman Ed Whitacre is telling GM executives that they’ve got 12 weeks to show significant progress in sales, market share and profitability, or heads will roll. That would seem to put Mark LaNeve, the head of sales, in the cross hairs. And it also puts enormous pressure on GM Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson, and Chief Financial Officer Ray Young.

Another twist in the drama over the sale of Opel. According to the AP, Opel’s labor union threatened to withdraw all the concessions they’ve already agreed to if General Motors winds up keeping Opel. Essentially what the union is telling General Motors is, “If you don’t sell us, we’ll run you out of business.”

Johan de Nysschen , the president of Audi of America, is making waves over comments he made about the Chevy Volt. According to an article on MSN Autos, he dismissed the plug-in electric, calling it “a car for idiots.” He also said, “No one is going to pay a $15,000 premium for a car that competes with a Corolla.” OUCH! Them are fightin’ words. He went on to predict that the Volt will be a flop and require government subsidies to sell. It’s no secret de Nysschen is a big proponent of diesels, but who knew he had such contempt for electrics.

Speaking of Audi, it just announced the pricing for its A3 front-wheel-drive TDI diesel. Available in showrooms this November, it gets 30 MPG in the city and 42 on the highway. Pricing starts at $30,775 which sounds pretty pricey to me.

A lot more news leaks coming out just prior to the Frankfurt Motor Show. Volvo is set to unveil an updated C70 convertible. The drop-top features a restyled body and a new instrument panel with more luxurious materials and details. Citroen will show off its new DS3 supermini. The car focuses on style through personalization. Drivers can customize their DS3 with things like unique roof trim and mirror housings, while inside they can choose fabric colors, dashboard appliqués and more. It’s sort of like a French take on Scion, I guess. Lastly, Ford is set to reveal a new C-Max. The compact MPV will advance the company’s “kinetic” design theme, and feature a brand-new EcoBoost engine – a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that Ford showed in the Lincoln Concept C at the Detroit Auto Show last January.

Coming up next, a preview of this week’s episode of Autoline, where we argue about the merits of the Cash for Clunkers program.

On this week’s episode of Autoline Detroit we dove into the latest sales figures to try to get to the bottom of whether the Cash for Clunkers program really did what it was supposed to do. We’ll show you a little clip of that, picking up the discussion with Keith Naughton from Bloomberg and Drew Winter from Ward’s.

You can watch the entire show, which includes Rebecca Lindland from IHS Global Insight at autolinedetroit.tv right now.

Wo-hoo, it’s Friday, which means it’s time to announce the winner of this week’s trivia contest. We challenged you to tell us the name of the Old Chrysler, the one that’s got all the bad assets and is still in bankruptcy. And the correct answer is, Old CarCo.

And this week’s winner is Bob Clark of Enfield, Connecticut. Congratulations Bob, you’ve just won a Nissan Xterra t-shirt.

That wraps up this show, and for those of you watching in the US, have a safe labor day holiday weekend. We’ll see y’all next Tuesday.

83 Comments to “Episode 222 – Paice Sues Toyota, GM Executives Under Fire, Audi President Belittles Volt”

  1. Jim Sachetti Says:

    Great show, AD is improving constantly, I bet it will get another Emmy.. Autoline after hours is also great and a riot, but I am not sure if it qualifies for Emmy consideration.

    However, when you look at the clip for the “cash for clunkers” discussion, you can see why GM and Chrysler went Broke. The discussers show the same focus on short-term patches instead of addressing long-term viability and especially profitability, which will never happen with inferior product at fire-sale prices subsidized by you and me the US taxpayers.

  2. Nick Stevens Says:

    John is right, the excellent Audi A3 TDI is pricey, esp. if you add a few options and the $30k becomes $42k!

    But all new cars are expensive, compared to getting them 3 years later, off-lease, or even later.

    I bet if you want 3 years you can get an off-lease A3 TDI for less than 20k. Now who in his right mind would prefer a Kia or Hyundai econobox instead? Only if one has not driven and owned one of the “big 3″ german Luxury-performance car makers. (4 if you include Porsche)

  3. Nick Stevens Says:

    I meant, if you WAIT, not want, three years, above.

  4. Russell Lombardo Says:

    Though a bit over-the-top in Audi’s comment, I can’t help but agree that a $40K electric car from anyone (not just GM) will be a sales challenge.

    If you can buy a comparably sized car, again from any manufacturer, for $15K less, it would certainly take a long time to recoup the price difference.

    I think the Volt will appeal to a small niche group of buyers in a similar manner to the Prius. It certainly will not be a game changer for GM.

  5. dcars Says:

    Interesting comments coming from Opel’s German union. The new GM board doesn’t sound like it give in to threats. I wonder if GM has the capacity in other places outside of Germany. I’m sure Eastern Europe, Belgium and Britain etc. need work and would love to have the jobs.
    The child-like reaction of Audi and the other car companies indicates that the Volt is scaring them into a very hostile state. Lets hope GM can keep their promises.

  6. Drew Says:

    The Audi A3 may seem pricey to you at $30k, but I will take the Audi any day over the bloated, overweight whale machines that the USA is making lately (Ford Taurus, Mustang, and many Chryslers).

    A bright spot MIGHT be the new Chevy Equinox SUV, which claims 32mpg on the highway……but I wonder if the 4-cylinder in the Equinox is sufficienly powered?

  7. Dave Says:

    c4c looks good now, but next summer sales will be down and all these cars being built will be discounted yet again. history will repeat sales will be bad and cars dicounted and car companies loosing $$$$. As for the Volt the will be a flop, not because of the car but because of price. If it COULD come in at 25 to 30 a bit more than a Toyota and Honda hybrid than it would sell. But the Volt will be 45 to 50 grand after dealer mark up!!!! WILL BE A BIG FLOP and looser for GM.

    I would be perfect for the VOLT I drive about 5 miles to work, the VOLT would be great I would never need gas…but not at that price

  8. Hermann the German Says:

    Hey where’s Pedro Fernandez?

    When is it ever strictly rational to buy most cars? If VOLT is for idiots, tell me how much it’s worth to spend over 100K for an R8 whose performance you’ll hardly scratch? So many cars have performance that people pay for but enjoy only in their fantasies. VOLT buyers will get their money’s worth.

  9. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Volts for Dolts……well said.While some think 30k for a diesel Audi is too much,it is a bargain.Look at the price tag of the volt…..nuff said.

    So,when GM’s Whitacre ends up canning everyone,who will can him?Dropping Pontiac in favor of Buick is just plain dumb.The volt is overpriced dumb,keeping gmc is also dumb.If customers won’t buy a chevy truck,but will buy the same truck badged as a jimmy=more dumb.Buy a damn F150 and enjoy a real pickup.

  10. Nick Stevens Says:

    Herrmann,

    Cars are as rational purchases as are marrying a spouse. Wake up.

    The people who want a car as an appliance get a Corolla, or even a Buick, and decide more or less rationally, and not emotionally.

    But most other people do NOT view cars like that. They see the cars as their clothes, as extensions of themselves, as representatives of themselves. People that feel comfortable in a Corvette would not be caught dead in a Buick, even a well-made one.

    People who buy R8s do not use them as daily commuters. R8s are in supercar territrory, more than a 911. Owners take them to meets, tracks, etc.

  11. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @Pedro:sorry I had to bail last night on AAH’s.Family emergency and I had to go.

  12. Hermann the German Says:

    Nick S
    I can’t say I am exactly in phase with your irony or reserve.

  13. Alex Kovnat Says:

    For the sake of the road-going public, let us all hope Paice and Toyota will settle out of court.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If the $30K A3 has all of the stuff standard that would optional on a TDI Jetta wagon, it is not that overpriced. If you have to get another $6K of options to make it comparably equipped to a $26K Jetta TDI wagon, the Audi is way overpriced.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Russel Lombardo wrote:
    “I think the Volt will appeal to a small niche group of buyers in a similar manner to the Prius. It certainly will not be a game changer for GM”

    The Prius is way beyond being a niche car, with US sales of well over 100K a year. It is a very practical “do everything” car for a lot of people. The jury is still out on the Volt, but the price is going to have come down a lot from the projected $40K for it to be anything but a niche vehicle.

  16. Todd Turner Says:

    GM loves to advertise HIGHWAY fuel economy. Never mind it’s totally irrelevant to most real-world driving. It’s not thanks to the engine it’s more the gearing GM likes to use. I happen to like the high-end gearing for highway speeds, it’s provides a relaxed and quite cruise. So what if you have to down shift occasionally to pass or for an in climb, isn’t that what gears are for? Personally, I’d like the feds to step in on this issue (since it seems to be the only way to get honesty in advertising) if you are going to advertise only ONE number it should be the combined number.

    I won’t touch the Audi thing with a 10-foot pole, and I am NO fan of the Volt, which think is super-bloated in hyperbole, but isn’t the A3 basically a premium version of a car that does compete with the Corolla?

    Opel sees this as an opportunity to regain independence, and be German again, that is ALL this is about.

  17. Willi Says:

    Nick, what planet are you on? the fashion industry sells crap i’d never wear, and people buy tons of overpriced crap from India and every other country in the east – why are we comparing the Volt with a Prius or a Corolla, it hasn’t even sold one yet, it has no sales numbers and the price will certainly change once it does sell …

  18. Wayne Says:

    Not to be petty, John, but we have “Labour Day” north of the border as well.
    Great shows. The Detroit 3 need to introduce small diesels and improve their interiors (especially Chrysler)in order to attract more buyers. I would certainly be interested in a new Dodge Dakota with a diesel to replace my 9 year old one I presently have for my daily driver. Our 2008 Caravan interior looks like a chemical company’s ultimate wet dream. Way too much cheapo plastic!! Relatives that work for Chrysler comment on this on a regular basis. Attractive interiors help sell cars and the Detroit 3 need to wake up.

  19. Nick Stevens Says:

    Herrmann,

    I was not at all trying to be ironic, I meant every word I wrote.

  20. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Nick, what planet are you on?”

    Right now I’m on travel. I’m the alien that abducted that loon the wife of the new Japanese Prime Minister. I am not making this up either, look at the loon’s comments. God save japan if her husband is as nuts as she is. Or Buddha anyway.

  21. Nick Stevens Says:

    “# Kit Gerhart Says:
    September 4th, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    If the $30K A3 has all of the stuff standard that would optional on a TDI Jetta wagon,”

    I’m afraid it does not, it may bave a few more than the jetta, but there is a ton extra options you can buy on the Audi, that’s why they expect the price to be from the base $30k to $42k.

    ” it is not that overpriced. If you have to get another $6K of options to make it comparably equipped to a $26K Jetta TDI wagon, the Audi is way overpriced.”

    Most luxury cars are overpriced, that’s why they have huge profit margins, while compacts have far lower margins for the imports, while the domestics can’t even make a cent of profit on them.

    If $ is a major factor, again, your best bet is to buy used, from the owner if possible, or an off-lease Certified if you want almost as new and with a warranty.

  22. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    To Volt or not to Volt, that is the question. If history has taught us anything, then the Volt is going to be a very niche car, just like the EV1 was. After it died of natural causes, envirowackos started lamenting it, blaming GM for pulling the plug on it. They failed to mention it did not sell. ps if China brings that $20k EV here, then the Volt is certainly dead on arrival.

  23. Willi Says:

    not too many automotive folk will want to talk about used cars … the value drops 5 grand by the time it rolls off the lot – but then again, there won’t be any good deals on used cars if new cars don’t get sold in the first place …

  24. Jim Sachetti Says:

    Even though the Volt looks like a desperate “Hail Mary” pass for bankrupt and troubled GM, the car that will actually make or break GM will not be the low-volume, “halo car” Volt but the fuel efficient no-nonsense compact the CRUZE which looks far better than the Cobalt and its Cavalier Ancestors.

  25. Jim Sachetti Says:

    Pedro:

    “To Volt or not to Volt, that is the question. If history has taught us anything, then the Volt is going to be a very niche car, just like the EV1 was.

    After it died of natural causes, envirowackos started lamenting it, blaming GM for pulling the plug on it.

    They failed to mention it did not sell.

    if China brings that $20k EV here, then the Volt is certainly dead on arrival.”

    Very very good points, I agree 100%.

    Except that the Volt will be far more useful than the pure-electric, for commuting only, science project POS that EV1 that only a Hollywood Loon Automotive illiterate would love..

  26. diffrunt Says:

    Drew mentioned the 2010 Equinox , so I want to say this olwrench is impressed w/mine ,
    (1500 mi) especially since OnStar recalibbed my ECM as I drove along, bringing mileage avg up to the promised 32. Now if someone could figure out how to quieten strut suspension—–

  27. Hermann the German Says:

    Thanks for having made this so easy Nick.

  28. Jim Sachetti Says:

    diffrunt:

    Your AVERAGE is 32 mPG? what speeds are you doing and what kind of an engine does this Crossover have? It seems it is fairly heavy at about 4,000 lbs, and aerodynamically it is not designed for maximum MPG.

    IS it a Hybrid??

  29. Peter Says:

    Hi John,

    Canadians celebrate Labour Day this weekend also. Notice the spelling.

    I listen on a regular basis even when overseas.

  30. Nick Stevens Says:

    # Hermann the German Says:
    September 4th, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks for having made this so easy Nick.

    Huh? Ich bin nicht sicher dass wir einander verstanden haben.

  31. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Thanks for the comment GA, hope everything turned out ok.

  32. Jim Sachetti Says:

    # Hermann the German Says:
    “…. VOLT buyers will get their money’s worth.”

    Could you do the math for me please? Even after they get thei r$s worth by ROBBING ME, the long-suffering US taxpayer, at the tune of $7.500 for each little Cobalt-Volt produced, that still leaves the volt at $32,500. There is no way this corolla-sized vehicle will procude so much fuel savings that the huge $15,000+ difference from a $18,000 corolla will ever be recovered.

    But if you did the math, I’d love to check it out for you. Even if you do a million miles with the VOlt, as long as gas is $2.50, fuggedaboutit. And if you do a million miles, how many $5,000-$10,000 batteries will you have to replace?

    It is utterly silly. At least if you take an A8 to the track and do a few laps, you will feel REAL GOOOOOD.

  33. Willi Says:

    ich hab’s schon verstanden …

  34. Nick Stevens Says:

    Dan vielleicht koennen sie zo den anderen hier erklaeren

  35. Nick Stevens Says:

    Dann, not Dan. Damn.

  36. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Why on earth would this Johan dude give a damn about the Volt or any other electric car?, Hey J. just concentrate on improving your company’s quality ratings and don’t worry about the Volt. People who go for Audi would never even look at the Volt or any electric car

  37. Hermann the German Says:

    Jim Sachetti, my narrow point has only been that if somebody wants to spend a lot of money on a pricey technology, then the numbers don’t mean anything compared to the emotional rewards. For instance, a convertible mustang, like my neighbor’s, cost a bit more. It spends most of its life in the garage, deprived of Vitamin D. But for my neighbor his money was well spent since it makes him feel good. You just can’t rationalize emotion, nor do any math.

  38. Willi Says:

    genau

  39. Salvador G. Says:

    JohnMcElroy, Do you know if anybody has lease a Volt for testing or something of the sort???
    -I like to know what kind of feedback is GM getting for this car. I really hope for them to prove the President of Audi US. wrong.

  40. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Pedro wrote:
    “People who go for Audi would never even look at the Volt or any electric car.”

    That is not true. I would certainly cross-shop a plug-in hybrid like Volt against an Audi A3 TDI, if the Volt turns out to work ok, and if the price comes down from the $40K now rumored. One probably wouldn’t expect a Ferarri owner to buy a Prius, but I know someone who has two Ferraris, and a Prius as a “daily driver.”

  41. dcars Says:

    I believe that the Johan de Nysschen is afraid of the Volt because it will destroy the diesel car sales. If you can get a car that essentially runs on electricity why bother with an a over priced oil burning Audi? the auto companies are making big bets on future car technology. The Germans are betting on diesels. The Japanese and Americans are betting on hybrids.

  42. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Kit: I just met a guy that has a Hummer and just bought a Smart, so I suppose there are nut jobs who will go from one extreme to the next, but at $40k? when you can get a hybrid for almost half the cost, that Volt is going to be a hard sell.

  43. G.A.Branigan Says:

    The volt at 40k is way over priced,and it does not have cross country capabilities.The Audi tdi most certainly is an all weather cross country machine.Another thing about the volt,although it might be okay in moderate temps,how will those batteries hold up in the extremes of northern winters,or the triple digit temps in say AZ?To lay out 40k for an unproven vehicle in an anything but ideal location,at least to me,makes no sense.JMHO…

  44. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    @GA What do you mean that the Volt does not have cross-country capabilities? If you keep adding gas to the tank, it will keep going,like a hybrid, right? but the mpg’s won’t be anywhere near where they are supposed to be.

  45. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @Pedro:yeah,I know.But it wouldn’t be like a hybrid because the engine doesn’t divert any energy to recharging the batteries.If it’s a small engine designed to run only once in awhile,it will take a massive dump on a cross country trip.I believe it wasn’t designed for that type of use,I could definately be wrong on this.Also,I haven’t heard if it has the system to generate electric from using the brakes.Relying solely on plug-in to recharge the batteries will,in my estimation,take more of the appeal out of it.Especially at 40k.Lotta money for a fancy golf cart.

  46. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    @GA So, basically the gas engine is like a backup energy supply in case you go over the 40??? mile range. Now it makes even less sense to pick this car over a hybrid, especially the upcoming Prius plug-in hybrid. I wouldn’t be surprised if the feds come up with some kind of clunker plan just for the Volt if it doesn’t sell well.

  47. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Volt runs strictly from the electric motors. The generator starts up when the batteries are below a certain percentage of charge. When driving on the highway, the generator will cycle on when the batteries are down to maybe 15%, and turn off when the batteries are at about 90% or so. When the engine/generator is running, it is charging the battery at a rate equal to the output of the generator, minus the current the motor is using to propel the car at the time. The Volt will use regenerative braking.

    To me, the concept of how the Volt works is quite interesting, and it may work quite well. I’m going to want to wait and see before I’d consider buying it, though, and would certainly wait for the price to come down to near the Prius.

  48. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @Kit: didn’t John report that the engine in the volt only runs the electric motors,and does not recharge the batteries?I seem to remember thats how it went.

  49. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I don’t remember how John’s article was worded, but unless the car is accelerating hard or climbing a hill, the generator is putting out more power than it takes to make the car go, so the battery is getting charged. If the batteries weren’t there, it would work pretty much like a diesel-electric railroad locomotive. The batteries, however, make the ~40 miles of engine-free travel possible, and their stored energy makes faster acceleration and higher (non-continuous) top speed possible than the car would have with the engine-generator only.

  50. G.A.Branigan Says:

    http://www.popsci.com/cars/article/2009-05/test-drive-chevy-volt?page

  51. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The thing I’m really curious about is what MPG the Volt will get if you start with a full gas tank and an almost-empty battery. The power transfer with batteries, generators, and motors sounds really inefficient because of all the “stages” involved between the gas engine and the road. The area where efficiency could be very good, though, is the gas engine presumably running at peak efficiency in regard to rpm and load, or not be running at all. I’m looking forward to learning the “real” highway mileage this car will get.

  52. G.A.Branigan Says:

    What I see is a 1.4L gas engine trying to muscle around a very heavy car…..when the battery runs out.If that engine is a smaller version of the all aluminum ecotec,forget it.I had the 2.9L ecotec and it was pure junk,just as bad as the 5 cyl ET.True the engine drives the generator to power the electric motors,but for how long can it do it? Again I feel it is not designed to take on a long trip,just around town.

  53. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    John has reported that the Volt’s engine will only keep the electric motors running when the batteries get weak, it does not recharge the batteries, so unless you plug it in, the batteries will not recharge. Big disadvantage in my opinion.

  54. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It takes about 20-30 hp to move a normal car 70 mph on level ground. The 1.4 liter engine will produce somewhere around 100 hp. When the battery is low enough that the engine cranks up, the “extra” hp beyond the 20 some it takes to make the car go highway speed will be charging the battery. On the rare occasions when the right pedal is on the floor, you will be drawing down the battery a little, even when the engine is running. Then, after you are done passing, climbing the hill, or whatever, the battery will be charging again. When driving on the interstate on a long trip, the engine will start and stop as the battery goes above and below the intended charge status.

    This is not just an “around town” design, unless you want to never put gas in the tank. The engine and generator are there to make it a “do everything” car, as long as it has as much cabin room as you need.

  55. G.A.Branigan Says:

    QKit:The engine does not charge the batteries at all.

  56. Kit Gerhart Says:

    G. A.
    The engine DOES INDEED charge the batteries. I guess I’m not doing a good enough job of explaining it. I’ll try to think of a better way of explaining.

  57. G.A.Branigan Says:

    below is an excerp from the link that I posted.It says the gas engine only powers the electric motors….thats it.Am I reading it wrong?

    “The Volt—which, in case you haven’t heard, is an extended-range electric car that runs 40 miles on a single charge of its huge lithium-ion battery pack before a 1.4-liter I4 flex-fuel engine kicks in to power the electric motor and keep you going until you run out of gas—is a Hail Mary pass from what was once the greatest automaker on the planet.”

  58. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Say, you are using a laptop computer. You can run it on the battery for 2-3 hours on a fully charged battery. When the battery is run down, the computer will automatically shut down. Then, if you plug in the charger, you can use the computer again, but the battery will also be charging. The charger will be powering the computer AND charging the battery. This is similar to what would be going on with a plug-in hybrid car like the Volt. When the engine is running, it is powering the car, but is also charging the battery at the same time. In the case of the car, the faster you are going, the more hills you are climbing, etc., the longer it will take to fully charge the battery from the engine powered generator.

  59. G.A.Branigan Says:

    and I found another article that supports what you say Kit,in that the gas engine also recharges the batteries,which makes alot more sense.Ah what th’ hell.I drive a jeep anyways and I am waiting (not patiently either)for a diesel wrangler.

  60. Kit Gerhart Says:

    This is from the Popular Mechanics website:

    “2. Generator
    The 53-kw generator, powered by the engine, can recharge the battery in about 30 minutes and, under certain driving conditions, send current directly to the motor.”

    This would be about 70hp rather than the 100 I said, but the basics of the concept of “how it works” are the same.

  61. Kit Gerhart Says:

    FIAT has a some good, 4 cylinder diesels, so one might find its way into the Wrangler. They probably also have some 6 cylinder diesels that might fit.

  62. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Fiat owns Iveco.They make diesels,and trucks.In fact it looks like since daimler pulled the Sprinter from the dodge line,it may be replaced by a similar Iveco diesel van.There is a bunch of us Wrangler JK people who have been emailing both Chrysler and Fiat asking for a 4 cyl diesel for our JK’s.Absolutley no response from either.Not a good sign.Is this a sign of how things are to be?

  63. Wayne Says:

    We can only hope that the new owners of Chrysler listen to potential customers and consider offering diesels in their smaller trucks and SUVs/crossovers. A relative drives a diesel powered BMW in Germany and it is quieter than many gas powered vehicles, gets great fuel economy and has plenty of get-up-and-go (great for the Autobahn!). The emissions restictions in the U.S. may be a bit of a hurdle for Fiat to either import or produce diesels for the North American market???? They are going to have to be innovative and have a great marketing strategy to gain back customer confidence in Chrysler. Here’s hoping they get it right!

  64. Jim Sachetti Says:

    “# Hermann the German Says:
    September 4th, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Jim Sachetti, my narrow point has only been that if somebody wants to spend a lot of money on a pricey technology, then the numbers don’t mean anything compared to the emotional rewards. ”

    SUre, didn’t I make a similar point in my previous post? look it up. But the question is, how many shop like that, and how many primarily want a reliable car, that does not look like an Aztek and has good resale value and adequate safety etc?

    There are 100,000-150,000 Mustangs sold in a good year, but there are 300,000 Focuses and 200,000 Fusions and 200,000 Escapes, all of which look really boring, and that’s just if you stay within Ford, if you go outside, there are 400,000 Corollas and 500,000 Camrys and 350,000 Civics and 450,000 Accords, none of which looks like a Ferarri.

    “For instance, a convertible mustang, like my neighbor’s, cost a bit more. It spends most of its life in the garage, deprived of Vitamin D. But for my neighbor his money was well spent since it makes him feel good. You just can’t rationalize emotion, nor do any math.”

    Is your neighbor Female? I had a landlady back in Wash DC in 2003 who wanted a Mercedes E-class convertible 93-95 vintage, she claimed it was better than therapy to take one out for a spin. I, on the other hand, would feel unsafe in most convertibles, and the sunroof (and some of today’s cars have huge ones) and windows down are plenty of openings for me.

  65. hermann the german Says:

    Jim, personally I wouldn’t spend so much for VOLT. And when I shopped the Prius I did the math for a range of prices per gallon of gas. Of course, we both know it’s hard to overcome the purchase premium. But the first VOLTs will not be produced in large numbers. GM will only sell about 5 or 10 thousand a year, if I’m not wrong. There have to be enough early adopters that just neeeeed it.

    Also, we can’t only consider the interests of the purchaser, because an economy is founded on the exchange of value. For Japan, a country with nearly no hydrocarbon energy, it is strategically important to lead in battery electric technology.(Does anybody here know if it is still US law to bar sales of petroleum from Alaska to Japan. You can bet the Japanese would love to forget about supplies from the gulf) If Toyota lose some money on Prius, the Japanese can still reasonably think that they are benefiting. This is also why it makes sense for Honda to develop hydrogen propulsion (yes I know the feed stock for hydrogen is natural gas. But, that’s today)

    Second, we’re all arguing about the first generation of VOLT. If you look in Autoline’s main viewer mail menu, there is a letter where a GM representative implies future VOLTs will be able to download power to the grid. What this could mean is that an owner could charge his car at night during off peak, but then sell back stored electricity to the grid during peak hours. Many states force the electrical utility to buy power from individuals, and this forms part of the economy for home solar.

    So if we get a little imaginative, then a future VOLTer, will be able to drive down their cost of ownership one bit at a time. And if GM becomes the industry leader in hybrids, they may be able to sell such drivetrains to other OEMs. This would create volume on the line which would exceed GM’s own EREV units. Remember, GM has sold AC and hydramatics to other OEMs.

    Conclusion, we need to argue beyond the initial VOLT production years.

  66. Jim Sachetti Says:

    Just to focus on one of your points

    “And if GM becomes the industry leader in hybrids, they may be able to ..”

    Not a chance in Hell of that happening, given GM’s utter incompetence. Fat stronger players have failed to shake Toyota’s Dominance in the Hybrid Sector, which is even bigger than the Germans’ dominance in the Diesel sector. Honda tried and failed. It is basically impossible, so GM should better focus on its excellent Opel Diesels and related Euro experience to bring them here as well, when gas goes up again.

    AND despite that the Prius is a fantastic and unbelievably, for its complexity, reliable car, a Jetta diesel gets the same highway mpg and is a far more satisfying car to drive.

    Now if you change the above from just Hybrids (BTW, Ford’s little slimy VP Mark Fields all but admitted yesterday that FOrd is losing $ , still, in every one of its hybrids it sells), to plug-in Hybrids, and if they bring their cost down substantially , and if my granma was able to fly like a bird, …

  67. Jim Sachetti Says:

    “Also, we can’t only consider the interests of the purchaser, because an economy is founded on the exchange of value. For Japan, a country with nearly no hydrocarbon energy, it is strategically important to lead in battery electric technology”

    Both the SOviets and the Japanese tried strong government intervention in markets and both have failed miserably.. Yes, even Japan, which is mired in a 20 year lifeless economic recession. I have zero, less than zero, trust to the damned fools in Wash DC, and the debacle of the cars for clunkers is only the latest reminder.

    We should price gas at its correct price, which of course is NOT the $2.50 or even the $4 it went last summer, but more like $6 and $8 a gallon, if you include, as you should, all the “externalities” (cost to defend oil lanes, environlental damage, pollution, congestion losses etc) and let the consumer choose.

    That would bring the price to what it is in Europe, where the higher gas prices are used as a convenient way to get tax revenue as well as encourage consumers to buy sensible econoboxes with 60 MPG Diesels. And they laugh a tthe hybrids and electrics and plug-in hybrids and all that nonsense.

  68. hermann the german Says:

    Jim, While I agree that gas is underpriced in the states, I think that we require a lower price point to get people to buy more efficient cars. And from what I gather Ford and GM are planning for higher future prices. This will let them sell a more balanced line, more economically. I wish them good fortune.

    As to the advantages of diesel, I keep in mind that a gallon of diesel simply contains more energy than a gallon of gas. The 30% mileage advantage of a diesel is 15% accounted for by there being more carbons to oxidize in a gallon of diesel. Gas is a less energy dense synthetic.

    Another wrinkle is that our environmental standards make diesel engines more expensive to manufacture than in Europe. I understand that Mercedes is just eating the costs when it sells in the US. Maybe the like was considered by Honda when they dropped out of diesel. (I am biased toward Honda, as my Civic gets ~43mpg going 75mph; If I do a little drafting, anyway.)

  69. hermann the german Says:

    crxn…I should have said that the 30% advantage of diesel cars is half due to the higher energy content of diesel.

  70. John Says:

    Ok I will make it 70 comments.

    All this talk about EVs and Hybrids made me think we are still at day one in this technology.

    Here is how it is being developed for the consumer and racing.

    see:
    http://grid1.tv/#browse/media_vault/under_the_hood?id=9_139

  71. Jim Sachetti Says:

    “Jim, While I agree that gas is underpriced in the states, I think that we require a lower price point to get people to buy more efficient cars.”

    I am not sure what you mean above, a lower price for the car itself? then I agree, but re gas, its price has to be higher if you want to reduce our dependence on oil imports. because even if we achieve the 35 MPG CAFE (with a lot of pain and suffering) a few years from now, if gas prices return to dirt-cheap levels, people, acting rationally, will just drive more miles. I know I will and I have when that happened before (int he 80s and 90s).

    ” And from what I gather Ford and GM are planning for higher future prices.”

    McElroy keeps telling us. I don’t know which consumers will agree and buy the orvepriced crap. Not me, what I have is perfectly safe and adequate, and I plan to keep it for a total of 20 years or until it drops dead. (I donated my previous Honda 1990 Accord in 08, and it came close to 20 and to dropping dead)

    ” This will let them sell a more balanced line, more economically. I wish them good fortune.”

    The consumer will have the last word. They will buy the econoboxes as long as gas prices are high, but when they plummet, they will go buy what they like, big powerful and safe vehicles, maybe used if new ones are not like that.

  72. John Says:

    Here is the “BIG” picture on “Green Jobs”, CO2 Restrictions, EVs, Hybrids, and why it is really being “pushed” … by “The Green Collar Economy” , and NOT by consumer DEMAND.

    “The agenda laid out in Van Jones’s book, “The Green Collar Economy,” which we now know is an attempt to achieve radical ends, is squarely within the mainstream of the political left and the Democratic Party. He urged adoption of a carbon cap-and-trade program, renewable electricity mandates including Al Gore’s outlandish and impossible goal of eliminating fossil fuel use by 2018, large taxpayer-funded green jobs programs, a so-called smart grid for electricity, more mass-transit subsidies, higher fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, federal funding for organic farms, a ban on new coal plants, expanded ethanol mandates, and even a spirited, multiple page pitch for a cash-for-clunkers program he called it “Hoopties for Hybrids.”

    see: “How Van Jones Happened and What We Need to Do Next”

    Phil Kerpen – FOXNews.com – September 06, 2009

    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2009/09/06/phil-kerpen-van-jones-resign/

  73. Jim Sachetti Says:

    John, Heads up: I assume you know that Van Jones has already quit the Obama Admin a couple days ago?

  74. John Says:

    Jim,

    I think it was 12:12 am Sunday Sept. 6, 2009.
    that Van Jones has moved his “fight” elsewhere.

    Van Jones is not gone. He is part of the “Green Jobs Radical Network”.

    Why does the U.S. not have large amounts of Diesel automobiles?

    Why does the U.S. not use its huge natural gas resources for automotive transportation?

    Could it be because they produce CO2 ?

    The market is being distorted by hidden regulation.

    A take one guess who is behind it.

    see:
    http://www.americansforprosperity.org/files/GreenJobs_Network1.pdf

  75. Kit Says:

    John,

    1) The U.S. does not have many diesel cars because fuel is cheap, so it is not worth the bother for more than a few car companies (VW, MB, and now BMW) to clean them up and sell them here.

    2) It would take a huge infrastructure to refuel natural gas cars, except for people who have gas at home. Also, there is less energy per pound of nat. gas, so you wouldn’t have nearly the driving range of a gasoline or diesel car with the same amount of space and weight devoted to fuel. Natural gas, which is methane (CH4) produces less CO2 than gasoline or diesel, so CO2 emission is not the reason for not using nat. gas rather than other fuels.

    Also, when FOX “News” describes something as “left wing radical liberal” or such things, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. After all, the network of O’Reilly, Hannity, Beck, et. al. can not really be considered an unbiased purveyor of information.

  76. Kit Gerhart Says:

    John,

    1) The U.S. does not have many diesel cars because fuel is cheap, so it is not worth the bother for more than a few car companies (VW, MB, and now BMW) to clean them up and sell them here.

    2) It would take a huge infrastructure to refuel natural gas cars, except for people who have gas at home. Also, there is less energy per pound of nat. gas, so you wouldn’t have nearly the driving range of a gasoline or diesel car with the same amount of space and weight devoted to fuel. Natural gas, which is methane (CH4) produces less CO2 than gasoline or diesel, so CO2 emission is not the reason for not using nat. gas rather than other fuels.

    Also, when FOX “News” describes something as “left wing radical liberal” or such things, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. After all, the network of O’Reilly, Hannity, Beck, et. al. can not really be considered an unbiased purveyor of information.

  77. John Says:

    CNG has more CO2 than a EV.

    The pratcical aspect of recharging a EV in a parking lot or parked on a city street has huge infrastructure problems.

    Steven Chu (U.S. Energy Secretary)- “He is a vocal advocate for more research into alternative energy and nuclear power, arguing that a shift away from fossil fuels is essential to combat global warming.”

    From:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Chu

    As for Fox News. If the “media” was not so busy “carrying Obama’s water”, there may have been more than one ray of “sun light” on this issue for me to use as a reference.

    The real story now is how the “media” did NOT cover Van Jones and the “Green Collar Economy” that is forcing “a car for idiots.” transportation design on the U.S.

    From: “Journalistic bias and the story we didn’t get”

    “Byron York looked for stories including the words “Van Jones controversy” using Nexis, the premier news search engine. He obtained some interesting results on how much was published by mainstream journalists before Sept. 4:

    Total words about the Van Jones controversy in the New York Times: 0.
    Total words about the Van Jones controversy in the Washington Post: 0.
    Total words about the Van Jones controversy on NBC Nightly News: 0.
    Total words about the Van Jones controversy on ABC World News: 0.
    Total words about the Van Jones controversy on CBS Evening News: 0. ”

    http://www.examiner.com/x-21266-Seattle-Conservative-Culture-Examiner~y2009m9d7-Journalistic-bias-and-the-story-we-didnt-get

    If you watched John McElroy last Thursday, there is a concern about the future glut of small cars.

    Mabey Obama has a “crisis” planned to get oil to $400 a barrel to fix that problem.

    What I do know is we have a HUGE amount of Natural Gas.

    Chevrolet Makes a CNG vehicle called the Optra CNG Magna Estate.
    http://www.chevroletsingapore.com/swf/cng/cnge.html

    If we really wanted to tap into our domestic natural gas for individual vehicles we could set up a better network of CNG refueling stations.

    see:
    http://www.cleanenergyfuels.com/stations/califs_laoc.html

    I can’t count how many times John McElroy has asked why the U.S. Government won’t adjust the diesel U.S. standards to equal the European standard so that the U.S. can not benefit from diesel economy that Europe enjoys.

    So, since the new Chevrolet Cruze is brand new, it will be “worth the bother” to have a clean economical Diesel for the U.S. Market. Right?
    “Two engines: 1.4-liter turbo or 1.8-liter turbo-diesel”

    see:
    http://www.jdpower.com/autos/articles/2011-Chevrolet-Cruze-Preview

  78. Kit Gerhart Says:

    John,

    Burning natural gas to run a car emits A LOT LESS CO2 than running an EV using electricity made by burning coal. Nearly all of the electricity in my original home state of Indiana is from coal fired plants, and about 57% of all the electricity in the US is from coal. I agree that charging EV’s in parking lots and on the street presents huge infrastructure problems, just like natural gas fuel stations, and I’ve mentioned that on this forum in the past.

    As far as diesel cars, I like them and would like to see more of them, but the market is why there aren’t many of them available in the US. If VW can sell their very good four cylinder TDI for a less than $2000 premium over the five cyl. gas engine in a Jetta, it can’t be that huge a deal to meet the current US standards for diesels. If fuel gets more expensive and stays that way, there will be more diesels sold here. As far as the US adopting the EU standards, that would be fine for most of the country, but not in some metropolitan areas. Even though today’s Euro diesels are pretty clean, they are not clean enough that you’d want to have millions of them in LA.

    The reason there is so little in the news about the Van Jones “controversy” is probably that there is no controversy involved. By the way, I DID hear about his resigning the administration on NPR, which some people consider to have a liberal bias.

  79. Kit Gerhart Says:

    A test of the CNG-fueled Honda Civic GX is available at:
    http://alternativefuels.about.com/od/naturalgasvehiclereviews/fr/2009HondaGX.htm

    The bottom line is that it drives very well, about like a regular Civic, but loses about half its range and most of its trunk to the CNG conversion. Still, it could be a good commuter car for a lot of people.

  80. Nick Stevens Says:

    Kit Says: “The U.S. does not have many diesel cars because fuel is cheap”

    That is one major reason, the other is that diesels are far more expensive to manufacture than gas engines for the same car or truck.

  81. John Says:

    Thanks for the good dialogue about transportation fuels.

    Many agree it will take every reasonable alternative to make progress in this area.

    But, if we have more natural gas than anything else, how can CNG cars be pushed to the curb ?
    Check the price of natural gas today.

    If diesel works in Europe, it will work here. Don’t sell them in California.

    As the price of EVs come down their niche will grow.

    With imported batteries or lithium, there will be no energy independence.

    As I see it, the U.S. STILL DOES NOT HAVE A LOGICAL ENERGY PLAN FOR TRANSPORTATION.

    At best it is fragmented, and guided by special interests with agendas that do not align with the majority of the driving public.

    The “tail will not wag the dog”.

    And, if the only way to “nudge” and “push” the people into tiny cars, is to raise fuel prices by tax or a “crisis”, then any economic recovery will be doomed.

    The spike in gas prices in the summer of 2008 was the trigger that crashed the economic “house of cards”.

    The market and the dollar are fragile. We do not have a strong foundation to build a strong growing economy because the politicians will not let the market correct.

    More stimulus, More political giveaway programs, More DEBT, and still NO LOGICAL ENERGY PLAN.

    Our leaders are UTTER MORONS.

  82. Roy Says:

    An extended range electric vehicle with a 40 mile electric only range starts to make sense for a lot of people if the premium gets down to $5000 to $7500 for a gas savings payback of about 5 years or less. A $15k premium needs $5+ gasoline to start making sense, but early buyers of the Volt will not be buying it based on a rational financial decision. The sales numbers will probably be modest, but higher gas prices and lower battery cost could combine to eventually make extended range electrics a significant part of the market.

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