Episode 200 – CARS Funds Debated, Corvette Unveils Racecar, Ford Boosts Natural Material Use

August 5th, 2009 at 12:28pm

Runtime 7:57

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid predicts that the $2 billion addition to cash for clunkers will pass by Friday. Corvette will introduce a new racecar this weekend to compete in the GT2 category of the American Le Mans Series. Ford is looking to increase the amount of natural materials it uses in vehicles. All that and more, plus John gives us his take on the Lexus HS 250h.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. More news on the U.S. CARS program. Chevy readies a new Corvette racecar for the American Le Mans. And Ford looks into more plant-based materials.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, August 5, 2009. I’m Murray Feldman from Fox 2 News here in Detroit, filling in for John who’s still out of town. And that’s too bad, because today is a very special day. This is the 200th episode of Autoline Daily. Congratulations John and crew, here’s to the next 200. I’ll try save you a piece of cake. Anyway, here’s today’s news.

The cash-for-clunkers saga continues with news on several fronts. We’ll start in Washington where the Senate is still stuck on re-funding the program. However, the Detroit News reports, that Majority Leader Harry Reid predicts that they will, in fact, pass the $2 billion dollar addition by Friday, which is when the Senate goes on vacation. And now the head of the Democrats is backed up by his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, who says his party will not block a vote on more clunker money.

Once those funds are back in the system, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood predicts that this 2 billion should keep the program running until at least Labor Day, though the way consumers burned through that first billion in just one week we’ll have to see.

And finally, more government figures tell us that the Ford Focus was the number 1 clunker purchase across the country, but don’t cry for the imports. It turns out that the rest of the top five are all Japanese. Toyota’s Corolla finished as the second-biggest seller with the Honda Civic third and then back to Toyota with Prius and Camry rounding out the top five.

And speaking of scrappage plans, according to the AFP, Germany had a 30 percent boost in car sales for July, thanks to its own cash for clunkers scheme. Overall, sales in Germany are up 27 percent this year.

It already uses soy-based foam in some of its models, but Ford is looking to increase the amount of natural materials in its vehicles. Scientists at the company’s European Research Center in Germany are looking into a compound called “liquid wood.” The material is made from scrap wood chips and fibers – kind of like particle board – and offers a green alternative to petroleum-based plastic. It’s injection mold-able which means in the future it could be used for interior trim.

Honeywell developed a new, more environmentally friendly air conditioning refrigerant, and it just got approved for use in Japan. The new formula, called HFO-1234yf does significantly less damage to the environment when it’s released into the atmosphere. Refrigerants are rated on a scale according to their global warming potential, or GWP for short. 134a, the refrigerant currently in use has a GWP of 1,300. Honeywell’s new formula is rated at only FOUR! The approval by Japanese regulators is an important step toward its wide-scale adoption and the reduction of greenhouse gasses.

Today, the White House will announce which companies will receive grants for advanced battery research and plug-in development. According to the Detroit News, $2.4 billion will be awarded to 48 different companies. $1.5 billion will go toward producing batteries and their components, $500 million will be used for producing electric drive components, and the other $400 million will be awarded to test plug-in hybrids and pure electrics.

Corvette will introduce a new car this weekend at the Mid-Ohio race track to compete in the GT2 category of the American Le Mans Series. The car, called the C6.R, is based on the Corvette ZR1, and thanks to series rules the car will use many production-based components from it, like the body design, aluminum frame and chassis, as well as the steering system. Although unique to the race car will be a 6.0-liter small block V8 that puts out 470 horsepower. The C6.R will compete in the remainder of races left for the year.

Coming up next, John gives us his take on the newest Lexus hybrid, we’ll be right back after this.

Earlier in the week we previewed the Lexus HS 250h, the company’s newest hybrid model and the industry’s first dedicated, luxury hybrid. Recently John got some time behind the wheel of the new Lexus, and here’s a little of what he thinks about this groundbreaking model.

If you want to see the rest of McElroy’s review of the new Lexus HS 250h, jump over to the John’s Journal page of our website. There you can watch his entire test drive – and a whole lot more – a little later this afternoon.

Anyway, that’ll do it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. I’m Murray Feldman from Fox 2 News, Detroit. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

21 Comments to “Episode 200 – CARS Funds Debated, Corvette Unveils Racecar, Ford Boosts Natural Material Use”

  1. Drew Says:

    I wonder how many people who participate in Cash For Clunkers are really QUALIFIED to get a loan for the new car??

    How many will not be able to make the payments and have Operation Repo come and get their vehicles……unless Barney Frank doesn’t allow them to be repo’d.

  2. Dave Says:

    The big question will be the car sales numbers for the next year. This program just pulled sales forward and the car companys are going to get hammered in the next year when they dont sell much at all.

    And GREAT job on the 200th show, I love it and watch it every day

  3. Alex Kovnat Says:

    Congratulations to Autoline on the occasion today of Episode 200!

  4. Dcars Says:

    I took advantage of the CARS program and greatly appreciate the money. FYI, the new car gets 10 mpg better than the old car. I hope I don’t need Barney Frank in the future.

  5. Chuck Says:

    Actually Dave, I believe technically your correct, it will draw from future sales. However, since sales for the most part of the last year have been way below what is normal “replacement” purchases, that the sales due to ‘clunker’ rebates will siphon off that pent up potential.

    What I find really interesting is that for years, the Big 3 have been demonized for the terrible practice of rebates, that kept their lines moving to pay for fixed and structural costs that don’t go away when sales stop or slow. Now the Government has for all intents and purposes gotten into the rebate game, and when they ran out of money, Congress couldn’t run fast enough to find more to keep it going.

  6. Roger T Says:

    The Lexus HS 250h mouse thing seems nice but looks goofy where it was placed, especially after seeing the new Taurus center stack. Same comment for the borrowed prius shifter and the overdone mirror-less A-pillar. By the way, my 2001 Crown Victoria had the mirror mounted on the door and I don’t think people saw that as a lux-appointment.

  7. Tom Cain Says:

    The thing I’m still curious about is will the IRS surprise these Clunker folks with an income tax bill on that $4500?

  8. Jim Hamilton Says:

    Good to finally see the new GT2 C6.R in the press ! I’d be at Mid Ohio if I could and will be at the Mosport round in August and the Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta in Sept. to see the new ‘Vettes ! GO JAKE !!
    Corvette and the ALMS in general should get Press credit as being the GREEN racing series, the ‘Vettes have used E85 and more eco-friendly lubricants (as well as more green technology in their design and construction)for years !! AND there’s a full hybrid racing in ALMS’s proto-type class ! Give them some recognition for trying !
    Come on NASCAR, stop using i930′s technology and go green ! Heck, even F1 has KERS (although political infighting will likely doom it for next season). Being green might give you some credibility beyond being the fastest, most dangerous, soap opera in the world !
    I’m as much a racing freak as you’ll find and I want to see greener racing ! Just make the green motors sound cool, the diesels are too mundane ! Speed and Eco-friendliness are not mutually exclusive !

  9. Dan B. Says:

    Now, will there be a hangover in the new car market once clunker sales are done? I’m guessing sales will drop quite a bit.

  10. Chuck Grenci Says:

    First of all, congrats on the 200th edition of Autoline Daily (what a stroke of genius to begin the program in the first place).

    Kudos to the Chevrolet Corvette Racing team for continuing with the GT2 class (and having the foresight that racing will benefit the brand, not just use money that might be thought to be used elsewhere); money well spent in my opinion.

    And finally, good deal on the liquid wood and the new refrigerant (a little perplexed that Honeywell develops it, and Japan approves it first; shouldn’t the U.S. have grabbed that ‘brass ring’ first?

  11. Dan Clemons Says:

    Thanks Murray for sitting in for John. You do a terrific job!

  12. John Says:

    Soy-based foam…“liquid wood.”… does it decay faster than petroleum-based plastic and foam ?

    Drew, Dave, Chuck, Tom, and Dan, I agree with all of your points. Where is Pedro ? Cash for Clunkers will pull sales forward, make people buy cars they can’t afford, but most of all…Cash for Clunkers will pull disposable income from other segments of U.S. Consumer Spending.

    There is only “X” amount of consumer disposable income in any given market at any given point in time. This government giveaway will help dealers, their families, the car industry, and the car supply network in the short run at the expense of the rest of the businesses in the country that depend on consumer disposable income.

    CNBC today has been “cheer-leading” the back-to-school seasonal retail sales as the next great “hope” for wall street earnings. Good luck with that. Mom and Dad just bought a car they can’t afford.

    The Corvette C6.R should be fun to watch.

    John McElroy and Crew, Congratulations on the first 200 shows.

    You guys do an Excellent Job!

  13. pedro Fernandez Says:

    I may be an old fart, but please car designers leave the computer screens and mice at home where they belong, not in cars, I ‘ll take buttons and dials and knobs instead, thank you. John is right I dont see a lot of potential for this Lexus, it might just take a few customers away from Prius, but that’s about it, I believe.

  14. Kim B. Foster Says:

    As a Canadian, I’d like to know when our politicians are going to pass their proposed $3500 Cash for Cars program. It would help. All of the car companies have us paying over $1200 for freight on each vehicle and the Ontario sales tax is 13%. Our politicians need to pull themselves away from the summer BBQ (more pork anyone?)circuit and get this proposal passed. They are not back in parliament until the end of September. Canadian secondary parts suppliers and steel mills are not going to survive at this rate.

  15. Guy, Lakeland, FL Says:

    Congrats to John and the team, I have to say that I enjoyed watching all 200 episodes. Keep up the great reporting. You’re way ahead of Automotive News & AutoWeek daily Webcast!

  16. C-Tech Says:

    As a guy who works in a dealership destroying the engines in those clunkers, it appears to me the customers who are taking advantage of the program are people who have ok or better credit, cars they would have kept until they needed an engine or trans, and some work trucks. I doubt this incentive program “pulled forward” many buyers, after all for those who buy a new car every 3-5 years, their vehicles don’t qualify based on value.

  17. pedro Fernandez Says:

    I think this clunker plan has become contagious, I know of 3 people that went ahead and purchased new cars this week w/o trading in any clunker, they just traded in their old cars for brand new ones and they supossedly got good deals.

  18. pedro Fernandez Says:

    C-tech. would you say some of those traded “clunkers” are worth keeping on the road, as just basic transportation for people who cannot afford to buy new cars?

  19. dcars Says:

    My 98 blazer could have stayed on the road longer, but I put off doing some repairs knowing that the program was coming. If it didn’t happen, I would have fixed it.

  20. C-Tech Says:

    Pedro, of 24 clunkers, I personally would have saved the 87 Firebird Formula with the Corvette engine (L-88 I think), the 2001 Cherokee Limited, and the 4 cyl Cherokee. About 8 of the 24 were in good shape, perfect for a low income person. The rest (3 Ford Explorers, an Econoline van, a Mercedes 560 sedan with mostly missing interior) should have been crushed years ago. The buy-here, pay-here used car lots are scrambling for cars.

  21. JIm Thykeson Says:

    Germany made $27 mill. with their CARS program; fantastic! Thats great news for BMW, Mercedes, and Audi, as it should be. But they wern’t subsidizing Ford and GM as well. Their program (which we copied) was an excersise in protectionism in order to save their auto industry. We try and do the same thing and its high-jacked by the foreign companies! Won’t we ever learn! A ‘German’ built Focus is no. 1…pathetic.