December 20th, 2010 at 12:00pm
An analysis of Toyota by Goldman Sachs Japan predicts the automaker will lose global market share. Hyundai plans to start commercial production of fuel-cell cars by 2015. Volkswagen says it wants to be No. 1 in electric-vehicle sales in China by 2018. All that and more, plus a look at the new vehicle that shocked everyone by ending up as one of the finalists for the North American Truck of the Year award.
This is Autoline Daily for December 20, 2010. And now, the news.
TOYOTA TURN AROUND YEARS AWAY (subscription required)
Looks like Toyota is going to be facing problems for some years to come. An analysis of the company by Goldman Sachs Japan predicts the automaker will lose global market share. Part of the company’s problems stem from the ongoing weakness in its home market of Japan, where Toyota is posting an operating loss. Europe and India are cited as other problem areas for Toyota. The report says that Toyota will not start to turn around until it comes out with the next-generation Camry in the American market next summer, and with a new entry-level family car in China in two to three years’ time.
RARE-EARTH MINE REOPENS IN U.S. (subscription required)
Here’s a story we’ve been following quite a bit on Autoline Daily. You all know how China slashed its exports of rare-earth metals, which are needed to make hybrids and electric cars, as well as all kinds of electronics and military equipment. Well, the Wall Street Journal reports the United States is going to reopen its rare-earth mine in California. The U.S. used to be the prime source of rare-earth metals until 2002 when the mine was closed for environmental reasons. But the new owners of the mine say they can solve these environmental issues, and environmentalists seem to be willing to go along with them. China says it’s cutting back on its rare-earth exports because of environmental issues.
VW AIMS FOR No. 1 IN EV SALES IN CHINA
And speaking of China, rare-earth metals and electric cars, Volkswagen says it wants to be the No. 1 electric-car maker in China. According to Bloomberg, VW is already the largest foreign automaker in the country and wants to be No. 1 in EV sales by 2018. VW will spend more than 10 billion euros over the next five years in China to help boost production.
MERCEDES LEASING FUEL-CELL CARS IN U.S.
Even though electric cars are getting all the headlines these days, automakers have not given up on fuel-cell cars. Mercedes-Benz is now offering the B-Class F-Cell for lease to California residents. But because of the extremely scarce number of refueling stations, Mercedes is conducting its own vetting process to decide who can lease one. Powered by an electric motor, the F-Cell uses a fuel-cell stack to generate electricity and a lithium-ion battery to store it. Mercedes says it has a range of 240 miles.
HYUNDAI PLANS FUEL-CELL PRODUCTION
And speaking of fuel-cell cars, Bloomberg reports that Hyundai plans to start commercial production of fuel-cell cars by 2015. The model will be an upgrade of the Tucson IX, a fuel-cell SUV introduced in 2008. The range of the new car is more than 400 miles which is more than a 50 percent improvement from the previous model.
FORD REVEALS NORTH AMERICAN C-MAX
But electrics and fuel cell cars are facing a moving target. Today’s conventional cars just keep getting better. Take Ford’s new C-Max, which was designed and engineered in Europe. The company just revealed the North American version of this compact people mover. Ford is billing it as a “five-plus-two,” that is, it’s designed for five passengers with room for two children in the third row. As with other recent Fords, the C-Max comes loaded with technology. It gets active park assist, the company’s MyFord Touch user interface and a really cool hands-free liftgate. With the keyfob in his or her possession all a driver has to do to open the hatch is wave their foot under the rear bumper. It’s great for when you have an armful of packages. Under the hood it gets either a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter powerplant or a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine, which I got to test a few months back. It’s AWESOME. Look for the North American version of the Ford C-Max to make its formal debut at the Detroit Auto Show next month.
Car accidents are – at least for the time being – an unavoidable fact of life for drivers. They’re dangerous, wasteful and above all aggravating, but one group is looking to capitalize on them. “Crashvertising,” as it’s called, aims to combine advertising with accidents. Here’s how it works. When a car crash gets reported on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, a team of “crashvertisers” is dispatched. At the scene of the accident they hold up banners, setup special safety triangles and give away SWAG to advertise companies and products to the motorists who are trapped in the traffic bottleneck. Now, before you blow a head gasket keep in mind this is just satire, it’s not for real. But I wouldn’t be surprised if someone does use “Crashvertising” in the future.
Coming up next, a look at the new vehicle that shocked everyone by ending up as one of the finalists for the North American Truck of the Year award.
I’m on the jury for the North American Car and Truck of the Year award. And I think we all knew that the Jeep Grand Cherokee would end up on the list of finalists for the award. But I think we were all shocked when the new Dodge Durango ended up there too. Yes, they are built in the same plant, going down the same line, but they are different vehicles. I was out on the media launch for the Durango, and here’s my reaction to it.
We’ll know in a couple of weeks whether the Durango gets named as North American Truck of the Year, where it’s up against the Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer. That announcement will be made at the Detroit Auto show.
Don’t forget to tune in to Open Line tonight which gives you the opportunity to join in on all the talk of what’s going on with cars. Or just sit back and listen. But it’s the only show I know where the audience can jump in any time it wants to. Join host Michelle Naranjo tonight starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, on Open Line.
And that brings us to the end of today’s report on the latest news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.