Episode 16 – U.S. October Car Sales Plummet, More Small Cars for Europe, Natural Gas Civic

November 4th, 2008 at 12:00pm

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U.S. October car sales plummet by more than a third, but a couple of companies managed the situation better than others. Toyota and Citroen introduce two new small cars for Europe. Ford unveils a new version of its F-150 pickup at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. All that and more, plus a test drive of Honda’s natural gas-powered Civic.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. U.S. October car sales plummet. More small cars for Europe. And a test drive of the CNG Civic.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, November 4, 2008. And now, the news.

We got the numbers for October car sales in the American market, and they look terrible. Ward’s reports that light vehicle sales dropped 34.5 percent to an annualized rate of only 10.5 million units. Not only did sales drop year-over-year, they fell 13 percent from September to October, which shows the market continues to weaken.

A couple of companies managed the situation better than others. Toyota sales from September to October were off only 6.3 percent, and Ford was only off 2.8 percent. Toyota faired better thanks to the Corolla, which in the September to October time frame went up 11 percent. And Ford sold 10,000 more F-series pick-ups than the month before.

Oh yeah, yesterday we showed you the new Lincoln MKS ads and wondered if they’d move the metal. Well, they did. MKS sales month-over-month were up 1.5 percent. Not much, but they were up.

We’re getting more and more entertainment in our cars these days. AT&T and RaySat Broadcasting unveiled what they’re calling CruiseCast, which will bring 22 satellite video channels into a vehicle. The service will be sold though auto dealerships and in the aftermarket when it debuts next spring. And on the heels of that announcement Delphi and Autonet Mobile agreed to market and develop Internet-connectivity products for OEMs, with the aim to provide access to e-mail, the web, and games.

Small cars continue to grow in popularity in Europe. Toyota announced it will unveil the all-new AYGO at the Bologna Motor Show in Italy next month. The AYGO is aimed at decreasing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The AYGO is one of 13 new models Toyota will introduce throughout the course of 2009 in Europe.

And French automaker Citroen has refreshed its tiny C1 city car. The company has restyled the front-end of the vehicle, making the grille more pronounced. With a 1-liter gasoline engine it only uses 4.5 liters per 100 kilometers. That’s 52 miles to the gallon. And it only emits 109 grams of CO2 per kilometer.

At the complete opposite end of the spectrum Ford unveiled a new version of its F-150 pickup at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. Called the Raptor, it’s designed to be a hard-core off road vehicle. It features hardware like special shocks and tires, a reworked suspension, and a track that’s seven inches wider than a regular F-150. Sometime after it launches Ford will make its all-new and much talked about 6.2-liter V-8 available.
Coming up next, in today’s feature story we look at Honda’s natural gas-powered Civic. We’ll be back, right after this.

Billionaire oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens argues the U.S. would reduce its use of imported oil by 30 percent, if drivers switched to vehicles that run on natural gas. There’s one problem though.

Today, in the U.S., Honda is the only automaker that sells a CNG car, the Civic GX. So I asked Honda to send me one, to find out for myself what its like to drive a CNG car.

There are a few drawbacks to driving a CNG car however.

This could be a huge problem because even though all major cities have natural gas outlets, it’s not like they’re on every other street corner.

Honda will sell you a home refilling station, called Phill (yes, two “L’s”), which taps into the natural gas line in your home. But this method takes 16 hours to fill a tank! And Phill will set you back $5,500.

But clearly, the conversion cost is the biggest road block. A Civic GX costs $6,800 more than a comparable model with a gasoline engine.

So while converting our vehicles to run on natural gas would cut emissions and reduce our dependence on oil, it remains a very expensive option.

Don’t forget, tomorrow is our “You Said It!” segment. This is my chance each week to respond to your comments and questions. So, if you want your voice heard, post a comment to AutolineDaily.tv or, even better, send us a video. Just post your masterpiece to YouTube and send the link to viewermail@autolinedetroit.tv.

Anyway, that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

6 Comments to “Episode 16 – U.S. October Car Sales Plummet, More Small Cars for Europe, Natural Gas Civic”

  1. Justin Says:

    Hi Mr. McElroy I have a question. Even though Ford’s Mercury Brand is scheduled to receive a refreshed Milan in 2010 and a small car in 2010 as a 2011 model but do you really think Ford’s Premium Brand has a future? Thanks Mr. McElroy.

  2. PEDRO Says:

    John: do you suppose we’ll get the aygo in this country as an entry level no frills economy car like the old beetle used to be? I think the best way to save gas is to work on e85 hybrid cars, ten we’ll be able to save a lot of oil.

  3. Reggie Says:

    Mr. McElroy: I have a question. I was thinking about the proposed merger between GM and Chrysler and as we all know this would lead to job cuts, etc., and it looks like the government won’t fund the deal, anyway. What if GM proposed a merger with Honda, there would be fewer American job losses and GM would finally gain market share in the car market especially the west coast (with the Accord and civic)? Granted GM doesn’t have the cash, however, it seems as if they wouldn’t have a problem raising cash, with everyone knowing that GM would merge with a company that’s known for making quality cars and GM is known for making quality trucks and SUVS. It seems as if a merger of this nature would be the perfect auto giant, taking a dominant share on all aspects of the car industry including cars, trucks, and SUV’s (so no matter where the market goes, GM would be ready to compete). What would be the pros and cons to a merger like this, even if GM did a hostile take over (assuming they can raise the cash needed)?

  4. John McElroy Says:

    Reggie,

    First off, Japanese automakers have never and probably will never buy or merge with a non-Japanese car company.

    Second, why in the world would Honda ever agree to merging with GM? They don’t need GM.

    Third, GM can’t even raise the cash to keep its own operations going, much less raise the money needed to buy Honda.

    There are the cons, I don’t see any pros.

  5. Larry S. Reed Says:

    John,

    I absolutely love your Autoline Daily – keep up the outstanding work.

    Even though painful, I am willing to pay the $6,800 for the natural gas conversion price but what is even more important over the time of ownership is the ongoing costs of using CNG. At $4 a gallon for unleaded gas on a car that gets 20 MPG it costs $.20 a mile to fuel a car. ( I think we all know that the present low price of gas will be short lived.)

    My question is.

    How much will it cost per mile to drive a car when it costs $5,500 to fill up the tank?

    You said that the fuel gauge on the Honda went down alarmingly fast. Big OUCH.

  6. John Says:

    “Billionaire oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens argues the U.S. would reduce its use of imported oil by 30 percent, if drivers switched to vehicles that run on natural gas.”

    John, T Boone Pickens’ 30 percent reduction of imported oil in his plan comes from switching large over the road semi 18 wheel trucks to natural gas. This would displace the large amounts of diesel fuel consumed by the trucking industry.