Episode 281 – Sales Soar In Asia, New NHTSA Leader, EPA Debates Ethanol Blend

December 1st, 2009 at 12:50pm

Runtime 6:34

Car sales are soaring in Japan, India and China. President Obama is expected to announce his nomination to head NHTSA. The EPA is expected to announce, whether or not to increase the ethanol blend that’s mixed in gasoline. All that and more, plus a look at the Volkswagen’s hydrogen-powered Tiguan.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Car sales are soaring in Japan, India and China. President Obama names a new head of NHTSA. And the EPA debates whether to increase the blend rate for ethanol.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, December 1, 2009. And now, the news.

In a sign that the global economy is making a comeback, sales of new cars are soaring in Japan. Bloomberg reports that sales jumped 36% in Japan last month, which is the fourth straight increase ever since the government started offering generous incentives to spur car sales. Toyota was up 29%, Nissan was up 33%, and Honda saw sales surge an eye popping 73%.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that the same sort of thing is happening in India (subscription required). Maruti, the biggest automaker in India, which is affiliated with Suzuki, saw sales jump an impressive 67%. Hyundai was up 29%, and Honda was up 24%. Of course this compares sales to a year ago, when the Indian economy, like every one else’s was collapsing.

Now over to China, where car sales have been booming all year long thanks to government incentives and a red hot economy. Gasgoo reports that China’s Ministry of Finance and its top economic planner says the country will not only keep those incentives, it will broaden them to include even more models. Up to now, those incentives cut the sales tax in half on cars with engines of 1.6 liters or smaller. The new incentives will include all models.

Also in China….Last week we reported that Geely management refused to tell Volvo’s union leaders where it was getting the money to takeover the company, well now we know. According to Reuters, the company is looking for at least $1 billion in loans from Chinese banks to finance the $1.8 billion deal and has already secured loans from three different banks.

President Obama is expected to announce today his nomination to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to the Detroit News, David Strickland, a former Congressional aide who has helped work on automotive safety and environmental legislation in the past, is the President’s pick. The agency has been run by an interim administrator for the last 10 months, after Obama’s first choice was dropped due to concerns from environmentalists.

And while we’re speaking of the government, the Detroit News reports, that the EPA is expected to announce today, whether or not to increase the amount of ethanol that’s mixed in with gasoline. Currently the mix is at 10% and the agency will decide if that should increase to 15%. Automakers are against the increase until further testing is done on whether the increase could harm engines which may delay the EPA’s decision.

Coming up next, a look at the Volkswagen’s hydrogen-powered Tiguan.

As you know, Volkswagen recently invited us to Germany to test its new, sixth-generation Golf. While we were there, the company also showcased some of the advanced technology it’s working on. Among other things, Vee-Dub let us drive its fuel cell-powered Tiguan HyMotion. Here’s a closer look at what it’s like behind the wheel.

Since electric motors produce so much torque, this hydrogen-powered crossover moves off the line with authority. Acceleration is surprisingly brisk, with zero to 60 taking about 14 seconds. Top end is 93 miles an hour, not that we got anywhere close to that speed on our short test. These performance numbers are surprisingly livable, especially given the HyMotion Tiguan’s relatively low power output.

TOTAL output from the powertrain is 100 kilowatts or about 134 horsepower. Acceleration is smooth and feels totally normal, but braking was another story. The pedal was very squishy and difficult to modulate. This is probably because engineers have to fine-tune the regenerative braking.

The Fuel Cell Tiguan holds 3.2 kilograms of hydrogen in tanks mounted under the floor, which gives it a 160 mile range. The 22 kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack is mounted beneath the cargo area in the back, meaning NO interior space is lost.

GM, and of course Honda, have both been pushing hydrogen as a possible fuel of the future. It’s good to know other automakers are doing the same. Now all they have to do is drive down the cost and complexity of fuels cells and make hydrogen affordable and readily available. Good luck.

Don’t forget to tune in for our live webcast from the LA auto show tomorrow at 11:30 AM Pacific time, that’s 2:30 PM eastern time, and 1930 GMT. We have a lineup of people coming on the show to give you the latest news, as it breaks, from the floor of the show. And then on Thursday night, Autoline After Hours will also be coming to you live from LA. Join us for two great shows.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next week.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, The Auto Channel, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

53 Comments to “Episode 281 – Sales Soar In Asia, New NHTSA Leader, EPA Debates Ethanol Blend”

  1. G.A.Branigan Says:

    10% to 15%,yet why is there NO mention of mandating the SAME requirements for BIO-DIESEL??? There is a wide gap between the two.True,diesels haven’t gained in popularity here…..YET,but trucks and trains sure could go for that..right?

    With more and more diesel vehicles headed our way you would think the EPA would be looking at ALL fuels used in everyday commerce and business/pleasure.Wonder when they’ll “get it”.

  2. dcars Says:

    Now I understand all the VW hype. I believe Hydrogen is the fuel of the future, but its going to take awhile to figure out how to refine it from something other than petroleum.
    I have a question for the bloggers and John. Whats in your drive way? I’ve got an 06 Honda Accord (mine), an 09 Nissan Rogue(wife’s) and a 99 Ford Escort ZX2 (daughter).

  3. Ed Arcuri Says:

    If the pests in Washington want to sell more ethanol, they should require E85 pumps in greater number. There are many vehicles already on the road that would burn it if the drivers could find it!
    . . .and G.A.; they will get it when we make them get it. We passively accept too much that our government does. It’s up to us to school them.

  4. EAB Says:

    Ok, a bit of common sense here. E85 has a reduction in it’s efficiency, but there is also a corresponding drop in price. I have been suffering a 5% plus reduction in MPG since they mandated we put 10% ethanol in our gasoline. Now they want to add more? Also, the reason an E85 car is certified for such is that it eliminates rubber and such from the fuel system. Just how much ethanol can they put in before we start having issues with 100,000 mile + cars like mine? Also, I have no proof here, but to me it stands to reason that ethanol may knock some gunk loose in the fuel system. I don’t like 10% and I sure as hell won’t like even more than 10%.

  5. Nick Stevens Says:

    Fuel cells never had a chance, and after decades of promises that they are only “ten years away”, the usual suspects changed their tune to “20 years away”. Not even in 100 years. NOT with ZERO iunfrastructure, LUDICROUSLY SMALL RANGE, and, above all, ASTRONOMICAL Building costs!!! As recently as a few days ago, the fuel cell types were bragging that they were able to reduce the cost from about a million per POS Escort-sized non-luxury compact car, to the mere cost of a … $400,000 Rolls ROyce Phantom.

    Give me an effing break!

  6. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Dcars:Good question,Mine=2008 Jeep Wrangler JK.
    My wifes:2009 Ford Focus SEL.

  7. dcars Says:

    I have one e85 pump near me. The only car i had that could use it, was totaled before they put the pump in! The Wrangler is very cool!

  8. Max Christensen Says:

    @ Dcars ….. glad you asked and it will be interesting to see what all of us drive.

    My driveway is all MoPar! A 2008 Dodge Durango; a 2008 Dodge Avenger; and a 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan Sport

    As a note, the Caravan has over 233,000 miles on it and still runs, looks and drives GREAT! All of those miles are one-owner miles and the drivetrain has never been touched other than for routine maintenance. We don’t really need it, but for less than $200 a year (license & insurance) I have an awesome “spare” to drive when the weather is really bad or I have something big to haul. There aren’t very many vehicles anymore that you can actually put a 4×8 sheet of plywood in, laying flat on the floor with the rear door (or tailgate) shut.

  9. Dave Says:

    I dont get the total cost of these fuel cell cars. BMW had cars a few years ago that burned Hydrogen and the car and engine were basicly the same a gas burning and they sold then to the public. I know that the vehicle used 2x the Hydrogen to gas, but than you can have you big cars. Why when we talk Hydrogen it is these fuel cell “space tech” cars.

    And as of now it takes more energy to make Hydrogen out of water than it worth,

  10. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    The EPA should call this new gas: “gas for clunkers” because that’s what most cars are gonna turn into after using this crap for a few months. I know people that can use E85 and won’t do it because they report lower mpg’s. slower acceleration and they don’t trust what it could do to their car in the long run.

  11. Jim Thykeson Says:

    Europe and Asia will get the alt-fuel vehicles before we do, because their govt’s. are not the pawns of controlling industries; i.e. read petrol companies. I want glaciers back!, I want 4 seasons! I want a future for the earth! Not going to happen with big-oil running the show. Get ready for a full-blown eco-collapse!

  12. dcars Says:

    I never see anyone at the pump using E85. A Turbo charged Saab reportedly could run better on e85 but I think GM didn’t bother selling that version here. Variable compression ratios seam to make it e85 work better? Is that correct?

  13. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Variable timing,not compression ratio.

  14. Andrew Charles Says:

    E85 should produce faster acceleration, not slower, since it often results in more power being available than regular gasoline, and never less. Drivers and mechanics in Australia are worried about E10, even though that is the standard blend the same vehicles have used in Europe and North America for years, and since E10 became standard in those markets, vehicle reliability has actually improved quite a lot.

  15. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Dcars: The compression ratio can not be altered once the engine is built.General rule of thumb,the higher the compression,the higher the octane requirements to prevent detonation (knocking).

  16. Andrew Charles Says:

    FYI, GM also reports a big jump in Indian sales—65% in November following a 15% increase in October.

  17. Syclone Says:

    E85 is a great idea, however the infrastructure and the vast number of legacy automobiles make it cost prohibitive to attempt it at the current time. If ALL the manufacturers get on the bandwagon and build every new car and truck to operate on E85, in ten years or so it will be a practical launch. Sufficient E85 plants should be up and running to meet the potential demand. One catch however; it has to have a clear price advantage; Hyundai knew better than to compete with Toyota & Honda on price when they entered the sales game – new (or different) energy has the same business model.

  18. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Why is it that the domestics make some of their new cars available in other countries b4 they sell them here. Foreign makes do the opposite, what the hell? Cruze already being sold in EU and India, same for Fiesta and new model Focus.

  19. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    FYI E85 has less energy than reg gas thus giving you less mpg’s, shorter range, long term use could easily damage internal engine parts which will end up costing you more in the long run, if you must save gas, get a hybrid.

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I don’t like the idea of E15, given that E10 is what the car companies have designed most of their fuel systems to use. Maybe E15 would be ok, but we don’t know for sure. There are a zillion E85 vehicles out there sold amid lots of hype, especially from GM. If there is an excess of ethanol around, there need to be more E85 pumps. If current gas pumps are compatible with E-85, it would be easy to put E85 in one or two pumps at large stations that now have about 20 pumps, like a RaceTrac station near me in Florida.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’m a “snow bird” with homes in Florida and Indiana. I’m the only driver, but I like variety in cars. Here’s what I have:

    ’06 Chevy Malibu Maxx
    ’06 Mini Cooper
    ’89 Dodge Caravan (one of 405 with 2.5 turbo/5- speed manual power train)
    ’86 VW Cabriolet

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Pedro Fernandez Says:
    December 1st, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    “Why is it that the domestics make some of their new cars available in other countries b4 they sell them here. Foreign makes do the opposite, what the hell? Cruze already being sold in EU and India, same for Fiesta and new model Focus.”

    Ford makes a lot of cars in other parts of the world that they never sell here, as do all of the European and Asian car companies. We are lucky that Ford is going to sell the Fiesta here at all. Unfortunately, we probably won’t get any of the good power trains, like the diesels. Ford never sold the second generation Focus here because they figured, probably correctly, that Americans wouldn’t pay the price for the newer and better Focus built on the platform of the Mazda 3.

    Also, regarding selling cars elsewhere before selling them in the US, VW almost always sells the “new” version of the Golf in Europe a year or two before selling it here.

  23. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Kit: do you suppose that as the new car market here shrinks, we’ll get even less different new models over here, while growing markets like China and India will get more? Japanese sales are up, but that doesn’t help anyone else other than their own makes due to their protectionist policies.

  24. John W Says:

    00 Chrysler Cirrus 89k miles
    07 Wrangler 4-door 47k miles

  25. Tony Gray Says:

    Hot off the wire: Fritz Henderson just resigned at GM.

  26. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Old fritz bailed on the sinking gm ship….LMFAO!!

    @ John W.:Good on you with a jk.I love my 2dr,but with a DIESEL all of them will be soo much better.

    As to the new EU Focus selling here: With my wife,she loves her Focus and would have me get her another one when ready…irregardless of the cost.I tried my best to talk her into a Fusion,no joy.


    WAKE UP. POLITICIANS!!!!!!!!!!

  28. C-tech Says:

    @Dcars, I drive a 1996 GMC S-15 Jimmy daily (179,000+ miles still going on the original engine and trans)and my spare is a 96 Chrysler LHS (134,000 miles all original drivetrain), and the better half has a 98 Mitsu Eclipse (220,000+ miles – new head).

  29. C-tech Says:

    Fritz Splitz from GM! Good move for GM? G.A., according to some Chrysler sources There will be a North American Diesel JK for 2011. Keep your fingers crossed. In talking about small functional wagons, why doesn’t anyone like the Jeep Patriot?

  30. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ C-tech:According to Sergio Macaroni “Jeep is the anchor of Chrysler”.They (Fiat) owns Iveco which builds commercial and military vehicles as well as clean diesels.Having said that,I also know that they have been bombarded with emails requesting a diesel option for the JK specifically ;}>

  31. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    I wonder if there’s any human that could pull GM out of its abyss, maybe they could use that Honda robot.

  32. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    China’s Sales are sweet, I just love hearing more and more about these guys everyday!!!

    I just wish VW, Hyundai, GM, ETC…. bring more of their Diesel Trucks from Europe. The Current Gen Hyundai Tuscon Diesel gets 41 MPG When converted to SAE in England, the Next Gen will even be better. I want Access to that!!!

  33. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Pedro Fernandez Says:
    December 1st, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    “Kit: do you suppose that as the new car market here shrinks, we’ll get even less different new models over here, while growing markets like China and India will get more? Japanese sales are up, but that doesn’t help anyone else other than their own makes due to their protectionist policies.”

    My guess is that as long as gas stays at its current price range, not much will change as far as new cars in the US market. If gas goes up to $5.00/gallon and stays there, we would see a lot more cars of the type that dominate most EU and Asian markets, especially small, by American standards, hatchbacks and wagons. Also, we’d get more of the efficient engines including 4 cylinder diesels.

  34. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    The Trucking and Shipping companies probably even have a special lobby in Washington to prevent the EPA from approving as many passenger Diesel car and trucks as possible.

    An Influx of passenger Diesels could make Diesel more competitive, thus more expensive driving the cost of doing business to unacceptably high levels for their industry.

    Who knows, that could evensend a ripple effect through the rest of the economy? However, as a Diesel truck lover I dont care. In reference to the Trucking Industry, as my dad said when something got too difficult to the point to where its was unacceptable, “That’s Tough T-ty son, change and adapt.”

    Also, that’s what Biodiesel is for.

  35. dcars Says:

    Nice cars that are very well taken car of. Thanks for the technical info.

  36. John V Says:

    I have a 1996 Olds 98, a 2007 Jeep Patriot FWD, and a 2009 Chrysler Town and Country. My wife loves that Patriot.
    Both the Jeep and the Olds get about 22 mpg in town, but the Olds is the mileage leader on the highway at about 29 mpg (a little less in winter, a little more in summer). The van (3.8L) is a gussler that gets 24 mpg if driven at 60 mph on the highway and 14 in town.
    In a previous life I worked with the GM Evaporative Emissions Center of Expertise (COE). One thing the team had learned was seals that were reliable for petroleum were not so great for alcohols like ethanol and seals that were reliable for alcohols were not so great for petroleum. I never understood the chemistry, but we had data that pointed to 15% alcohol as the worst proportion to expose any elastomer seals to. That was over 15 years ago, so I imagine flex fuel vehicles have a good solution. I’ll avoid the 15% stuff with my current cars until people learn more.

  37. Jim Sachetti Says:

    “# Tony Gray Says:
    December 1st, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Hot off the wire: Fritz Henderson just resigned at GM.”

    Not really, they fired his incompetent a$$.

    Henderson was no better than the disastrous WAgoner, another clueless, arrogant insider that embodied all that was wrong with that almost third-world government bureaucracy of a white elephant

    Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    Has GM finally, finally learned Ford’s lesson?

    GET AN OUTSIDER as the new CEO!

    They made a good first step, they named Ed WHitacre, NOT a GM person, to be interim chair.

  38. Jim Sachetti Says:

    “# Pedro Fernandez Says:
    December 1st, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    I wonder if there’s any human that could pull GM out of its abyss, maybe they could use that Honda robot.”

    Did you see the November sales nos, Pedro? Honda needs serious help itself. The Civic, that used to sell from 35 to a max of 53,000 a month, sold 13, thirteen (!!!) thousand only, and, amazingly, the CR-V actually sold more copies than the civic.

    Which goes back to our discussion about WAGONS, people really want them and most makers are not offering them!!!!

  39. Jeff Cunningham Says:

    ’88 Acura Legend Coupe, 319k trouble free, delightful miles

    ’87 Camry Wagon, 234k trouble free miles

    ’03 Ford Expedition, now the ex-wife’s commuting car… what a waste!

    ’06 Toyota Highlander, 54k miles

    All in beautiful San Diego (La Jolla)

  40. Jim Sachetti Says:



    CHina sales up 107% in Nov, GM China sales up 93%

    Go east, young man!

  41. Jim Sachetti Says:


    you GOT to see this! A poster alleging to be Henderson’s “effing daughter” (her words!) calls everybody else “effing idiots” (SIC) and blasts whiteacre and GM now that they fired her incompetent walrus of a dad, and promises never to buy a GM vehicle again !!!!

    Read the original posting on Facebook in the link!!!

    How do you say “Sore Loser”?

  42. Dave Says:

    E85, in the US, is a joke. Made from corn that is the dumbest thing, burning food and feed that drives up mthe prices on everything. If they made it out of sugarcane, like others or switch grass the best way to make it then it would be great. OHH there is no lobbist in DC for weeds, switch grass!!!

  43. Nick Stevens Says:


    The New US spec Ford Fiesta. 40 MPG EPA Hwy.

    And looking good.

    Just what the Doctor Ordered.

    The Fiesta will fill a huge gap in the Ford Lineup, which has compacts (FOcus) and mid-sized models (Fusion) and full-sized (Taurus) but not yet a subcompact (Fiesta!), while its cometitors already do (Aveo, Fit, Yaris) with varied degrees of success or failure.

    I predict the Fiesta will be a HUGE, HUGE hit, esp. if gas prices return to above $3 and $4 levels.

  44. Nick Stevens Says:

    E85, in the US, is a joke.

    Fully Agree

  45. Jim Sachetti Says:


    While the Fiesta sure is impressive, it will only be a huge hit not only if gas prices return to higher levels, but also if Ford prices it competitively.

  46. Nick Stevens Says:



    The 907,000 mile Honda Accord 90 LX

    ( I also owned a 90 LX, but a 5-speed coupe silver, until I donated it to charity in May 08)

    Read any more stories from REAL owners and their Long Lived Hondas on the same site.m

  47. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Here’s another article about the Fiesta:


    This one says the mileage will be 29/38 with a manual and 30/38 with the dual clutch automatic. If this auto box works as well as VW’s DSG, it will be a great asset to the Fiesta.

    As I had expected, there will be one engine, a 1.6 liter gas unit. There will be no performance engine or high efficiency diesel in America, at least for now. Still, Fiesta will be a great addition to Ford’s lineup. The next generation Focus should also be a great additiion, IF the hatch and/or wagon return. If not, the Focus will be another boring, not-too-practical smallish sedan not that much better than the current Focus.

  48. Nick Stevens Says:

    If the actual EPA MPG highway no is 38 and not 40 MPG, it will be a major setback. A subcompact should be able to exceed the psychological 40 MPG level to be attractive, as many compacts are in the high 30s already.

    a 5-door hatchback Fiesta or Focus is a very efficient design, it is essentially a very small wagon. And the cheapest dimension for a manufacturer to increase interior volume is sure the Height, while the length is the most expensive one. In addition, many people above a certain age, but even the younger ones, prefer the easy to enter, high seating position of a small but tall wagon or crossover.

  49. Nick Stevens Says:

    Kit, your own article says that you can get 40 MPG with a package (I assume at extra cost. It will probably include low rolling resistance tires and the usual stuff. GM also offers high-er MPG versions of the CObalt already.

    “. A fuel economy package boosts the highway number to 40 mpg; the city fuel economy is unchanged.

    Read more: http://www.autoweek.com/article/20091202/LOSANGELES/912029996#ixzz0YXvlBLKF

  50. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Nick Stevens Says:
    December 2nd, 2009 at 10:46 am

    “Kit, your own article says that you can get 40 MPG with a package”

    I just mentioned the mileage of the “standard” version in my earlier post. I guess I should have mentioned the “best available” numbers if I was going to state the mileage numbers at all. Sorry ’bout that.

  51. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    At this point does it really matter who the GM CEO is? Changing the captain would have done nothing to prevent the Titanic from sinking. Jim: maybe Honda needs to change their marketing strategy of keeping inventories low thus artificially keeping prices high to help their dealers make a bigger profit.

  52. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    The Fiesta s great but with the Compacts and Subcompacts, coming from everybody 40MPG will be on the Low Average by 2011.

    The guys from cross town with that Chevy Viva (Aveo Replacement) for Example will get 47 MPG. I follow These small cars intensely, and the Fiesta could be a Dud compared to the More Powerful and More fuel Efficeint Product coming out.

    The Fiesta is not tiny for a small car, its Yaris Sized, and that’s Smaller than every Compact/Subcompact on the market execpt the MINI.


    Fiesta-40 MPG/118 HP

    The Others:
    Rio-41 MPG/122 HP
    Viva-47 MPG/110 HP
    Mini-43 MPG/135 HP
    Cruze-44 MPG/140 HP
    Accent-45 MPG/140 HP
    Versa-42 MPG/135 HP
    Micra-48 MPG/106 HP
    Civic-42 MPG/140 HP
    A-Class-42 MPG/128 HP
    Polo-40 MPG/123 HP

    You see where this is going……..

  53. Edward Lipman Says:

    I say that I should have a choice on whether to have gas with Ethanol in it for my cars.
    There is a station here in Charleston S C that sells gas without ethanol for about 75 cents MORE a gallon.
    There is a station in the Detroit area that sells E85 at the SAME price as regular E10. I thought E85 was supposed to be cheaper,
    Just what the &&^%^ is going on here ?
    Maybe now that Fritz is GONE will we finally have REBADGED cars here ? I want the Holden Commodore here as the new Impala SS with a M6 trans. YEA ! ! ! Just like the 94 to 96 Impala with ALL the COP CAR stuff.