December 16th, 2009 at 12:09pm
One analyst says pent-up demand and easier credit could lead to a car sales jump of 20 percent next year in the U.S. GM chairman Ed Whitacre announced that the company will repay all its government loans by next June. At the push of a button, OnStar will tell you where Santa Claus is. All that and more, plus John answers your questions in the “You Said It!” segment.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. Car sales could soar in the American market next year. GM says it will repay the government by June. And at the push of a button, OnStar will tell you where Santa Claus is.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, December 16, 2009. And now, the news.
Could next year turn out to be a whole lot better for automakers in the American market than anyone expected? The Center for Automotive Research, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, says pent-up demand and easier credit could lead to a sales jump of 20 percent in 2010. The Detroit Free Press reports that Sean McAlinden, the chief economist at the Center for Automotive Research, predicts sales will hit 12.4 million units next year, substantially above most forecasts out there. He says sales will still be lousy through the spring, but will start to pick up after that. If he is right, the auto industry just got an early Christmas present.
And maybe that rosy outlook led to some more good news for the industry. Yesterday, GM chairman Ed Whitacre, announced that the company will repay all its government loans by next June. Reuters reports that GM will repay $8 billion to the U.S. and Canadian governments over the next 6 months. I imagine that will be enough to satisfy the government to lift its pay cap for executives, which would make it a lot easier for GM to recruit a new CEO. But remember the government has a lot more money into GM than the loans it provided. And it will have to wait for GM to do an IPO before it can sell stock and try to get more of the taxpayer’s money back.
China is the largest car market in the world, but its an even larger market for electric bikes. According to Gasgoo, e-bike sales are expected to hit 20 million this year compared with 12 million cars. The bikes are powered by rechargeable batteries and are popular due to their low cost, only $360 for high-end models, and are more convenient for getting around congested cities.
Chevy will offer wireless internet in select models. According to the Detroit Free Press, it’s a dealer-installed system that will allow users to get online, inside and around the car. It costs $200 and service is $30 a month, although for a higher fee it can be upgraded. It’s on the Equinox, Traverse, Silverado, Tahoe, Suburban, Avalanche and Express.
And GM will allow kids to track Santa Claus via OnStar. Starting on Christmas Eve, OnStar subscribers just need to press the blue OnStar button to have an adviser share Santa’s whereabouts. NORAD, which has tracked Santa for over 50 years, has partnered with OnStar to provide the service.
Renault has ended speculation that it’s going to pull out of Formula 1. According to the Wall Street Journal, the French automaker will continue to race, but it’s going to sell a majority of its outfit to Luxemburg-based private investment firm Genii Capital. In other F1 news, the New York Times reports that retired driver Michael Schumacher is close to signing on with Mercedes to compete in the series next year.
Speaking of Mercedes, Inside Line reports that late next year the company will drop its naturally-aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 in favor of a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter engine. The company’s AMG eight isn’t the only powerplant getting booted; mainstream Mercedes models are moving to forced induction as well.
And in more related news, Bloomberg reports that the future of Maybach may be in doubt. The retro-named, super-luxury brand has not competed very well with other top-shelf marques like Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Last year it only moved 300 cars compared to 1,400 Rollers and nearly 8,000 Bentleys. But Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche says they’re still committed to the brand.
The Daily Mail reports that a British photographer named Andy Willsheer miraculously cheated death at Pomona Raceway in California. As he stood alongside the track, an out-of-control funnycar nearly hopped the barrier and took him out. Incredibly, he cheated death and even got away with some amazing photos! Here you can see just how close things got. Luckily both Willsheer and the car’s driver were unharmed.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
And now it’s time for some of your feedback. Here’s my chance to showcase some of your comments and letters.
HyundaiSmoke wrote in to say that Fiat still makes poor quality cars and asks, “Why did our government allow Chrysler to make a deal with this POS Automaker, who will only lead them to inevitable doom?”
Well, Hyundaismoke, the government did the deal with Fiat because it was the only deal on the table. And even if you think that Fiat will lead Chrysler to inevitable doom, it doesn’t matter. Because if Fiat had not come along, Chrysler would have ceased to exist about six months ago.
Perry Cartwright wrote to say that we sort of misquoted Johann de Nysschen, the president of Audi of America, when we said he’s falling in “love with diesels.” He says, “Your attribution of “falling in love” that you gave to Mr. de Nysschen’s National Press Club appearance seems intentionally skewed by your own opinion.”
Perry, I know Johan de Nysschen very well. I’ve interviewed him numerous times, had him as a guest on Autoline Detroit on several occasions, I went to the Sebring 12 hours with him a couple of years back, I was at the Indy 500 with him this year. I even went to Elton John’s party on Oscar night with him a couple of years ago. I consider him a friend. And I can you I did not intentionally skew what he said, that man loves diesels.
And along those lines, dcars wrote in to say, “Johan de Nysschen wants to flood the American market with German diesels. If the Volt, LEAF and Prius are getting over 100 MPG the Germans won’t have a chance.”
Dcars, you may be right. But don’t forget, the lithium-ion batteries in those cars are super expensive. There’s also the inconvenience of finding a place to plug them in. That means plug-ins and EVs have some big hurdles to overcome while the diesel engine is ready to go right now.
And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.