Is the Diesel D.O.A.?

October 3rd, 2008 at 6:17pm

As published by
WardsAuto.comI’m a big fan of diesels. Or, I should say I’m a big fan of common-rail, direct-injection, turbo diesels. They offer terrific fuel economy, performance and value. I love the way they drive.

That’s why I was sure diesels would take the American car market by storm, just like they have in Europe. But now a trio of circumstances are conspiring to choke off the diesel’s sales potential on both sides of the Atlantic. It all has to do with fuel prices, emissions regulations, and alternative technologies.

In the last year diesel fuel prices have soared both in Europe and the U.S. Historically, diesel was always significantly cheaper than gasoline, especially in European countries. Today, diesel costs about the same as petrol in Europe and it’s significantly more expensive than gasoline in the U.S. For the vast majority of car buyers, higher pump prices for diesel is a deal killer.

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AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: There’s no need to Raise the Driving Age

October 3rd, 2008 at 9:30am

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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The insurance companies want to raise the driving age from 16 to 18, but there’s a better way to deal with younger drivers.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is calling for the minimum driving age to be raised from 16 to 17 or even 18 years old. They base that on the fact that young drivers have more accidents than older ones. But that’s nothing new, it’s always been the case.

A better solution would be to make driver’s training a lot more effective. Most teens who get their license have never driven in the dark, or in the snow or ice. They’ve often never been in rush hour traffic and some have never even been on an expressway.

By teaching teens better driving skills and getting them more experience, and combining that with a graduated license system like Michigan is using to great effect, we could greatly lower traffic accidents with teens and let them keep on driving.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: DOT Wants a 90 Percent Fatality Reduction

October 2nd, 2008 at 2:28pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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The transportation department wants to drastically reduce traffic fatalities by adopting what they’re calling a BHAG.

Every year in the United States there are 6 million traffic accidents that kill over 41,000 people and that costs the country $230 billion. But the Department of Transportation is adopting a goal of slashing those fatalities by 90 percent by the year 2030.

Paul Brubaker, the head of R&D at the DOT, says that’s what they call a BHAG, a big hairy audacious goal. But he says technology is going to make that possible, by allowing cars to electronically communicate with each other.

With sensors and GPS, it’s possible to make it impossible for cars to crash into each other. It’s all part of what’s being called the connected car program. And it’s a technology that should start showing up sometime after 2013.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Ford’s wants the Youngest line-up in the Industry

October 1st, 2008 at 6:00pm

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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The best way to get customers into your showrooms is to have the newest products out there, and in that regard Ford says it’s going to meet or beat Toyota.

Ford says that by the end of next year the average age of the models in its showrooms are only going to be three to three and a half years old, and it claims that’ll be the same or better than Toyota.

To achieve that it’s going to start refreshing its models every three years. Then, it will have a significant redesign after six years and then a refresh three years after that. This is a very clever plan. Refreshing a design every three years versus the four to five that’s the norm in the industry today is going to cost more at first, but it enables Ford to stretch out the life of a platform to 12 years versus the normal eight years today and that’s going to save a ton of money. In other words, it puts newer designs in the showrooms at the same time it cuts costs.

AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: There’s Plenty of Corn for Ethanol

October 1st, 2008 at 9:38am

As heard on
WWJ Newsradio 950

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CornThere’s a lot of controversy over using corn to make ethanol, but here’s what the people who grow the corn have to say about that.

According to the agricultural department, about 22 percent of all the corn grown in the United States now goes into making ethanol. But thanks to a bumper crop last year, and what looks like another bumper crop this year, more corn is being devoted to both ethanol and livestock feed.

Last year there was a 1.5 billion bushel surplus of corn, and this year there’s expected to be another billion bushels on top of that. Some critics say wheat prices have jumped because farmers are dropping that crop in favor of corn, but again, the Agricultural Department says wheat production is the highest its been in 10 years.

No doubt there will still be plenty of controversy of using food to make fuel, but another telling fact is that almost all commodity prices are now coming down, including the price of corn.