November 23rd, 2010 at 12:00pm
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certified the Nissan LEAF at 99 miles per gallon — 2.3 liters per 100 kilometers — on a combined driving-cycle. GM is rumored to be reintroducing the Holden Commodore in the U.S. Even though the American auto bailouts are still controversial, a recent poll indicates that opposition to them is dropping. All that and more, plus a look at a new type of EV charger.
This is Autoline Daily for November 23, 2010. And now, the news.
YOUR MILEAGE WILL VARY
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finally decided how it’s going to measure the fuel economy of electric cars. And it certified the Nissan LEAF at 99 miles per gallon, that’s 2.3 liters per 100 kilometers. It also works out to 106 MPGs in the city and 92 on the highway. The EPA calculates “fuel economy” for EVs based on a formula where one gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 33.7 kW-hrs of electricity. The feds also certified the LEAF’s driving range at 73 miles. That falls a little bit short of Nissan’s initial estimates of 100 miles. As always, your mileage WILL vary.
THE G8 STRIKES BACK (subscription required)
Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes so will the Pontiac G8 . . . sort of, and if the rumors are true, that is. According to Ward’s, GM is planning on reintroducing the Holden Commodore in the U.S. The rear-wheel-drive sedan would be imported from Australia again, but this time with a Chevy badge since, you know, Pontiac got Oldsmobiled. The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Commodore appears “odds-on” to make a return to North America, which should happen within the lifespan of the current model. The paper goes on, saying that legalizing it for the U.S. would be relatively painless since the work was already done for the G8. With Chevy bringing the Caprice back for police duty, offering a retail version makes perfect sense.
RECALLED RENTALS RAISING RANCOR
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating how quickly rental-car companies fix vehicles once a recall has been issued. According to the Detroit News, the agency is looking at 3 million vehicles from the Detroit Three that were sold to rental companies. There is no law currently that requires them to fix the vehicles before they can return to service, however, most recalls are for minor issues and most companies repair vehicles once they get a notice, but that can take months in some cases. Since most people ignore recalls anyway, perhaps this is the government’s way of enforcing the issue.
AMERICANS WARMING TO AUTO BAILOUTS
Although it still remains a controversial topic, opposition to the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler is falling. According to a study conducted by Rasmussen Reports, opposition to the bailouts is under 50 percent for the first time since the government agreed to loan the automakers the money. Because the two companies are doing so much better and because GM finally went public last week, people are optimistic the money will be returned. The poll found half of Americans say it’s “very likely” or “somewhat likely” the loans will be repaid fully. However, the Treasury Department recently said taxpayers will lose $17 billion on the $85 billion given to GM, Chrysler and their financial units.
OLD HABITS DIE HARD (subscription required)
But while the American people feel better about the auto industry, Ward’s reports that suppliers are worried. They believe that automakers are going back to their old ways of doing business, meaning unrelenting pressure to cut prices if they want new contracts. They also complain that their workloads and speed of execution are leading to exhaustion among their workers.
OBAMA HIGH ON HYBRIDS
As we’ve pointed out numerous times on Autoline Daily, hybrids don’t sell very well in the American market. They only account for a little bit more than 2 percent of all new-car sales, and half of those sales go to the Toyota Prius. That means every other hybrid on the market, and according to Ward’s, there are 24 of them, are complete failures, at least from a sales standpoint. And now Bloomberg reports that as hybrids have failed in the marketplace, the Obama Administration is stepping in. In fact, it has bought almost 25 percent of all the hybrids produced by Ford and General Motors. All this calls into question how well plug-in hybrids or electric cars are going to sell. After all, they’re going to be even more expensive than today’s hybrids. And you have to wonder how long this segment can continue if it can only survive with massive government subsidies.
With all those electric cars coming out there is potentially a booming market for companies that make the chargers needed to keep those EVs on the road. Up next we’ll take a look at one of those companies, one that I bet you never heard of before.
Electric cars are not going to go very far unless people have easy access to chargers. That’s why so many companies are getting into the business. Companies like GE, AeroVironment, Lear and Coulomb. But besides the chargers, you need companies that can install them. That’s why General Motors contracted a company called SPX, to be able to install chargers in people’s homes. Maybe you’ve never heard of SPX before. It’s a company that generally sells specialty tools to car dealerships and independent job shops. So why would GM select SPX to install chargers for electric cars? Tanvir Arfi is the President of Global Service Solutions, for SPX
“SPX is in the business of all kinds of workshop equipment, all kinds of special service tools and diagnostic equipment that today we sell at over 300,000 independent and franchised aftermarket repair stations across the country, including almost 22,000 dealerships across the country. And so we have this experience in getting that technology installed at nearly 300,000 locations across the country and then supporting that over the life of that program.”
GM contracted SPX to install what it’s calling its Voltec charger, a hard-wired unit that runs on 220 volts and would be installed in your garage. One of the clever aspects of the Voltec charger is that it has a light built into the head of the unit, so if you’re fishing around in the dark in your garage, trying to plug it in, the light makes it very convenient. But SPX has come up with its own design as well, which it believes offers a couple of advantages. Most garage chargers will be hard-wired to the wall so they cannot be moved very easily. SPX came up with a design that gives owners more flexibility.
“Couple of interesting tidbits that this charger has, that we thought would be interesting to the consumer. One is that this is a plug-in charger for a standard 220 volt outlet. What we would do is in your garage there would be a dedicated 220 volt outlet. The charger is mounted by that outlet and plugged in, however, the charger can be taken off because it’s on a hinge, and you can move to a different location or to a different garage, if you have more than one.”
SPX will start selling its own charger in the U.S. market early in the first quarter of 2011, and once it gets certified in Europe it will start selling it there later in the year.
And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.