AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: CAFE and CO2 Fines are set to Increase

August 29th, 2008 at 9:00am

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To make sure the car companies get the message to boost fuel economy, the government is putting more teeth in its regulations.

Any automaker that does not meet the fuel economy regulations has to pay a fine. In fact, they have to pay $5.50 for every tenth of a mile per gallon that they miss the standard by, and they have to multiply that times their total production.

But some companies, like BMW, Porsche and Mercedes just happily pay the fines and go on with their business. So now NHTSA wants to nearly double that penalty to $10 for every tenth of a mile per gallon.

Then there’s the EPA’s upcoming CO2 regulations that are part of the Clean Air Act. Now with that there are no fines. If a car company doesn’t meet that standard they’re liable to criminal penalties. And this is why you will soon be hearing the big European car companies complaining why they can’t meet the new U.S. regulations.


August 28th, 2008 at 4:42pm

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Silverado XFEIn response to high gas prices GM is coming out with a special pickup truck model that’s geared for better fuel economy.

To try and protect its market share in the full-size pickup segment, GM’s coming out with what it’s calling XFE models, which stands for extra fuel economy. The Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra XFE models are two-wheel-drive-only, equipped with a 5.3-liter V8 that’s mated to a six-speed transmission and can also run on E85.

To improve aerodynamics GM engineers added a tonneau cover on the bed, extended the front air dam, lowered the suspension and revised the chassis tuning. To cut weight they added aluminum wheels and lower control arms.
Even so, all that only improved fuel economy by one mile per gallon, and it shows just how hard it is to tweak a truck to get better gas mileage.

AUTOLINE ON AUTOBLOG: The Downside to Lithium Batteries

August 27th, 2008 at 9:00am

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Uh-oh. In the pell-mell race to develop lithium-ion batteries for plug-ins, EVs and hybrids, has any automaker taken a hard look at where all that lithium is going to come from? Guess what? Not only are global lithium supplies . . .

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AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: The Global Auto Market is Booming

August 26th, 2008 at 5:30pm

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The automotive market is all doom and gloom, until you step back and look at it on a global basis.

Last year, the car companies of the world built 73 million new vehicles. That was a jump of 4 million vehicles compared to the year before, which was 3 million more than the year before that, and 2 million more than the year before that.

So where is all this automotive growth taking place? Well we all know that China and India are growing strong, but guess what? There are many other countries growing far faster than them. Last year, for example, the fastest growing car market in the world, on a percentage basis, was Slovakia. The next fastest growing market was Uzbekistan, followed by Hungary, and then Ukraine.

Who would have ever thought that countries like these would be powering the growth in the auto industry? Just goes to show how much the world has changed, and why there’s so much opportunity for those who compete in the global market.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: U.S. Car Market up for Grabs

August 26th, 2008 at 12:32pm

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In the coming decade, Detroit’s Big Three automakers have an opportunity to completely reinvent themselves.

We’re going to see big changes in the American market in the next decade. All kinds of vehicles with alternative power-trains will be showing up in showrooms. Hybrids, plug-ins, pure EVs, clean diesels, you name it.

Thanks to fuel economy regulations and higher gas prices, automakers are going to have to retool their entire fleets of vehicles. And all of them will have to do that, not just the Detroit three.

But GM, Ford and Chrysler have a golden opportunity here, because if they can be on the leading-edge of this new technology, depending on the model and the segment, they’ll have their best shot at recapturing some of the market share they’ve lost.

Scuderi Split-Cycle Engine

August 23rd, 2008 at 11:00am

Runtime: 3:15

They can run on two, four and even six strokes. There’s an Otto cycle, an Atkinson cycle and a Miller cycle, to name a few. But one company headquartered in Massachusetts is developing an internal combustion engine that runs in a completely different way. The Scuderi Group is working on what it calls a split-cycle engine, and it’s unlike any other ICE out there.

Video after the jump …

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AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Hyundai’s Luxurious Genesis

August 22nd, 2008 at 8:00pm

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Hyundai Genesis

Hyundai is coming out with its first true luxury car and it’s aimed right at Lexus, BMW and Mercedes, but there’s just one little problem that’s going to hold it back.

The Hyundai Genesis is a beautifully designed and engineered sedan that is going to show the automotive world that this Korean car company can make cars like the best of them. All the stats and specifications show that it meets or beats the top luxury brands in the world.

But that word brand is what’s going to prevent the Genesis from putting any kind of dent in Lexus’ or Mercedes’ or BMW’s sales. People who aspire to those brands are not going to buy a Hyundai, no matter how good it is.

The American management at Hyundai successfully fought against the Korean’s to launch a new luxury brand in America. But the Genesis is so good that my guess is the Korean management will want to revisit this issue in the near future.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: The All-New Chevy Camaro

August 22nd, 2008 at 3:00pm

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The Chevy Camaro is as American as apple pie, with a little help from some other countries in the world.

Several years after the concept version was introduced GM finally unveiled the production version of the Chevy Camaro. But don’t get too excited just yet, it won’t hit showrooms until next year.

The exterior design is very similar to the concept, with that V-shaped grill and gills in the rear quarter panels especially stand out. Inside the design is a blend of classic and contemporary looks. For example, the gauges on the center counsel cluster are sort of like the ones on the ’69 Camaro but now they have LED back lighting and there’s an optional LED ambient lighting package.

Despite being such an iconic American car, the Camaro is actuially a product of GM’s global development process. The design was done in the United States, the engineering was done in Australia and the car will be assembled in Canada.

Click an above image to see larger photos of the all-new Chevy Camaro

Special FX

August 19th, 2008 at 2:45pm

Infiniti FX Video Player

Runtime: 5:11

Infiniti has redesigned its sporty crossover vehicle, the FX, for 2009. Building on the success of the original it features more power, more technology and more features all wrapped in a package with more style. The company even made it more fun-to-drive. But is more enough in today’s fiercely competitive market?

Video after the jump …

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AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Kia Borrego Enters the Mid-Size SUV Segment

August 18th, 2008 at 6:09pm

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Kia Borrego

Kia is one of the few car companies that’s on track to set a sales record this year. And it hopes it can pile up more sales numbers with its newest SUV.

The Kia Borrego is a body-on-frame seven-passenger SUV that you can get with either a 276 horsepower V6 or a 337 horsepower V8.That eight, by the way, is hooked up to a six-speed ZF transmission and the whole package will pull a 7,500 pound trailer, which is mighty impressive.

The downside, of course, as it is with any big SUV, is the fuel economy. The V8 with four-wheel-drive is rated at 15 in the city and 20 on the highway. The two-wheel-drive V6 version is only one mile per gallon better than that.

Base price of the Kia Borrego starts just over $26,000, but a loaded version can easily hit $38,000. And while the Borrego is a very competitive vehicle, we’ll have to see if the Kia brand can support that kind of price tag.