May 18th, 2010 at 12:00pm
General Motors is worried about the future because it’s losing money in Europe, sales in China are slowing down and it has to spend a lot of money in North America for tooling and equipment. Pricing for the Nissan Leaf is all over the map, literally. Porsche proves the legitimacy of flywheel hybrids at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring in Germany. All that and more, plus an interview with Ernst Lieb, the President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Hey, it’s Tuesday, May 18, 2010 and here’s what’s happening in the global auto world.
OPEL DRAGS-DOWN GM
Even though General Motors turned in a first-quarter net profit of $863 million, the company admits it’s by no means out of the woods. The Wall Street Journal reports that GM is worried about how much money it’s losing in Europe, that sales in China are slowing down, and that it’s going to have to spend a lot more money on tooling and equipment in North America. Here’s my Autoline insight. I’ve talked to some Wall Street analysts who think GM made a big mistake holding on to Opel. “They should have sold it when they had the chance,” one analyst told me, “they need billions of euros from European governments to restructure Opel, but now those governments have to spend billions of euros to bail out Greece.” Personally, I thought it was pretty smart of GM to hold on to Opel, but if it can’t get the money to restructure it, Opel could lose money for years to come.
HONDA DISSES EVs
Honda is doing a lot of research on electric cars, and it’s even going to bring an electric car to market. But it really doesn’t have a lot of confidence that EVs will sell very well. Bloomberg quotes Honda’s top R&D executive, Tomohiko Kawanabe, as saying that customers will not accept the limited range of the EVs or tolerate how long they take to recharge. It says global EV sales will only reach 1 percent of the market by 2020.
LEAF PRICES ALL OVER THE MAP (subscription required)
Of course, Nissan is gung-ho on electrics. But the pricing of its LEAF electric car is literally all over the map. Depending on where you live, you could pay a lot more than someone else in the world. In the U.K. the LEAF costs £28,000 or $41,000. But you can get government incentives that drop it to £23,350 or $33,800. In Japan the LEAF starts at $40,660. But in the U.S. the base price of the LEAF starts at $32,780 and with a $7,500 federal tax credit that price drops to $25,280. Nissan has not exactly explained why Americans can buy the car for $8,000 cheaper than those in Europe or Japan.
NISSAN GT-R GETS MORE HORSES
And just to balance its zeal for EVs, Autoblog reports that Nissan is rumored to be increasing the output of its GT-R supercar. How does 500 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque sound to you? Look for better brakes, upgraded aerodynamic parts and a revised suspension system to compliment the power boost.
CHRYSLER SUES CHINESE AUTOMAKER
Chrysler is taking legal action against a Chinese company it accuses of copying the design of the Jeep Hurricane concept vehicle. According to Bloomberg, Chrysler filed a suit with the U.S. International Trade Commission against the Xingyue Group Co. over the design of its Jeepzter vehicle. Earlier in the month Chrysler filed a trademark-infringement lawsuit against three companies selling Jeepzters in the U.S. And the company is also looking to block imports of the vehicle to the U.S.
Last weekend at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring race in Germany Porsche debuted its 911 GT3 R with a flywheel-hybrid drivetrain. That’s right, this hybrid uses a flywheel to generate electricity instead of batteries to store it. Over 200 cars started the race and even though it didn’t win, the flywheel Porsche made a STRONG showing. Within the first hour it was sparring for first-place, but got a flat tire, and dropped to the back of the pack. Then charged to the front again, thanks in part to its 25 percent fuel-efficiency advantage which means it needed fewer pit stops. But it done blowed-up towards the end of the race, allowing a BMW M3 to take the checkered flag. Even so, the writing is on the wall. This proves the legitimacy of flywheel hybrid technology.
DRIVER DISTRACTION PROBLEM
Speaking of racing, Autoblog has this clip from a rally in New Zealand where a driver piloting a Mitsubishi Evo overturned the car because of a full moon. No, they weren’t racing at night, somebody mooned the car as it flashed past, distracting the driver enough that the car ended up on its roof. Let this be a lesson to us all. Keep your pants on!
People hate SUVs don’t they? Nobody wants to buy SUVs anymore, right? Well, somebody forgot to tell the people who buy SUVs from Mercedes-Benz. We have that coming up, right after this.
Even though SUVs were supposed to fall out of favor, and they have to some extent, automakers still sell a lot of them – especially in the luxury segment. Recently we ran across Ernst Lieb, the head of Mercedes-Benz USA, and asked him how their SUVs are selling.
If you want to watch the whole interview we shot with Ernst Lieb, the CEO of Mercedes-Benz North America, click-over to the John’s Journal page of our website, AutolineDetroit.tv. You can check it out right now.
Alright guys, that’ll wrap things up for today’s installment of Autoline Daily. As always, thanks for watching, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow.