John's Journal: John McElroy's multimedia blog about the automotive industry

Archive for the ‘John’s Journal’ Category

AUTOLINE ON AUTOBLOG: Car Prices are set to Soar

May 30th, 2008 at 3:09pm

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Thanks to sky high gasoline prices, most people are reeling from the cost of driving their cars. But that was just the first jolt. Now we’re going to see a big jump in the cost of buying cars, both new and used.

Why am I so sure car prices are going up? Easy. All you have to do is look at . . .

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AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Hyundai’s Refreshed Sonata

May 27th, 2008 at 5:18pm

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Hyundai LogoHyundai is updating its popular Sonata midsize sedan with a bunch of changes for 2009.

The current Sonata launched back in 2006. It’s a solid, sharp-looking car, but Hyundai is making it even better by giving it some important updates.

Designers have restyled the front and rear ends and completely overhauled the dashboard. The changes on the exterior are pretty minor, but the new instrument panel looks like it came right out of a Lexus.

Hyundai also improved both of the Sonata’s engines. The base four cylinder now has 175 horsepower and best-in-class fuel economy of 22 in the city and 32 on the highway. The optional V6 now makes 15 more horsepower at 249 and it also gets better gas mileage.

Even with all of these improvements the Sonata is still a great value. Base, four cylinder models start at about $19,000 while fully-loaded ones top out around 26 grand.

Click an above image to see larger photos of the 2009 Hyundai Sonata

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Honda’s Real Name

May 22nd, 2008 at 6:15pm

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WWJ Newsradio 950

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Here all these years, I always thought that the official name of Honda is the Honda Motor Company. But that’s really not what it is.

I was startled to stumble across a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission when Honda filed its annual report to them. I say startled because I was stunned to see that Honda’s official name is actually Honda Giken Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha.

What’s that? Well what we’ve always known as the “Honda Motor Company, Inc.” is actually the English translation of its official Japanese name. The Kabushiki Kaisha is sort of similar to our word for corporation.

Now, I always knew that Mazda’s real name is Toyo Kogyo, but for all these year I never knew that Honda was actually Honda Giken Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha.

Stay Left, Look Right

May 20th, 2008 at 3:01pm

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If you’re ever in a foreign country that drives on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, it may look like a piece of cake to jump behind the wheel and go for a spin. In reality though it can be very challenging. Right turns are like left turns, freeway exits are on the left and worst of all the turn signal and wiper stalks are flipped around. If you ever have to drive on the left side of the road here are a few tips that should make you a safer driver.

Video after the jump …

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AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: BMW Expands Spartanburg Plant

May 20th, 2008 at 12:43pm

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WWJ Newsradio 950

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BMW Roundel

BMW likes making cars in America, so much so that it’s going to expand production here.

BMW broke ground for its first U.S. assembly plant in Spartanburg South Carolina in 1992. Since then the facility has become the exclusive assembly plant for Z4 coupes, roadsters and M models, the X5 sport activity vehicle and the upcoming X6 sport activity coupe. In fact, the plant produces left and right-hand drive versions of all these vehicles for global export.

Right now BMW is working on a $750 million plant expansion. Which will boost annual capacity from 160,000 vehicles today to 240,000 by 2012. With the sinking value of the dollar the U.S. is about to become a major exporter of cars and trucks and BMW plans to play a big roll in that.

Spartanburg Spartanburg Spartanburg

Click an above image to see larger photos of BMW’s Spartanburg plant

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Flybrids Pack a lot of Energy

May 19th, 2008 at 5:00pm

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WWJ Newsradio 950

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Flybrids are a new kind of hybrid that use a flywheel to store energy. That’s right, they don’t use batteries.

You know those toy cars you push along the carpet so the wheels will get an internal flywheel spinning, then let it go and watch it scoot across the floor?Well a flybrid is the same idea, only fancier. A flybrid is a hybrid that uses a flywheel.

During braking the car is slowed down by diverting all that energy through a CVT into the flywheel, which gets the flywheel spinning. And it spins with ferocious intensity. The flywheel is a small cylinder made of carbon and steel that only weighs about ten pounds, is encased in a vacuum, and spins over 64,000 rpm. To express that in more impressive terms, the outer edge of the flywheel is traveling at Mach 3.3!

And that, folks, represents a lot of energy. So much energy that you can use it to accelerate a car, the same way traditional hybrids do, only they do it with batteries, and a flywheel is a lot cheaper than batteries.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Optimized Wheel Bearings

May 19th, 2008 at 2:49pm

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WWJ Newsradio 950

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The Timken Company is known all over the world for making bearings, and now they’ve developed one that could really help improve fuel economy.

Timken has built a roller bearing that minimizes friction. They’ve designed it to have what they call “optimized geometry.” What that means is they engineered it to be lighter and thinner than regular bearings. They also changed the design of the internal rollers so they fit closer together. These changes result in a 30 percent reduction in resistance which can add up to a three percent improvement in vehicle fuel economy.

This new design also runs quieter and cooler than traditional roller bearings. All this shows is the nitty-gritty details the auto industry is getting into as it leaves no stone unturned in its quest for more miles to the gallon.

AUTOLINE ON AUTOBLOG: A First-Hand Look at Ford’s EcoBoost Technology

May 16th, 2008 at 1:17pm

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A look inside Ford’s EcoBoost technology

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I just spent a day at Ford’s proving grounds driving a number of vehicles that use Eco-boost technology, which is the centerpiece of the company’s strategy to improve fuel economy. I wish I could tell you more about my driving impressions of these Fords, but all that information is embargoed for now. What I can say is . . .

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AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen

May 16th, 2008 at 1:00pm

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WWJ Newsradio 950

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Volkswagen has a tradition of selling station wagons that goes back farther than you might think.

For 50 years, Volkswagen has been importing station wagons to the U.S. Yes, 50 years. Remember the original Microbus was actually called a station wagon when it first came to this country. And now vee-dub is continuing the tradition with its all-new 2009 Jetta Sportwagen.

The wagon is pretty much the same as the sedan inside and out. But it offers a power-sliding panoramic sunroof and carries all the other items customers expect on new cars today, like DVD navigation, a rearview camera, six airbags and electronic stability control.

Pricing for the Jetta Sportwagen isn’t official yet, but expect the base model to start around $19,000, while a turbo version will start at just over $26,000. Look for the Sportwagen to hit showroom floors in July.

Jetta Front Small Jetta Front Small Jetta Side Small Jetta Back Small

Click an above image to see larger photos of the Jetta Sportwagen

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: UAW Miffed at Ford and CAW

May 16th, 2008 at 11:10am

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WWJ Newsradio 950

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Ford and the CAW just agreed to a contract that’s going to be really hard to swallow for GM and Chrysler and the UAW.

The CAW says it has an agreement with Ford for a new contract that doesn’t involve two-tier wages. I’m sure that didn’t go over well with the UAW, which made major concessions to Ford last year on this issue.

And GM and Chrysler are going to want to get two-tier wages out of the CAW to help them get competitive, and to keep the labor peace with the UAW.

So why would Ford do this? Because later this year it launches the Flex, an extremelyFord Logo important crossover for Ford, and which is built in Canada. In today’s market, the company can not afford to miss launching this vehicle on time. And so it bought labor peace from the CAW, which is really going to irk Chrysler, GM and the UAW.