May 19th, 2011 at 11:52am
Earlier this week the Consumer Federation of America said that Americans overwhelmingly support raising the fuel economy standard to over 60 miles per gallon . . . but they have no idea what it’s going to cost them! Audi’s next-generation A6 Avant is scheduled for take off late this summer. There’s a storm brewing between Johnson Controls and its battery partner, French company Saft Groupe. All that and more, plus John responds to your questions and comments in the “You Said It!” segment.
This is Autoline Daily for May 19, 2011. And now, the news.
THE HIGH PRICE OF HIGH EFFICIENCY
Earlier this week the Consumer Federation of America said that Americans overwhelmingly support raising the fuel economy standard to over 60 miles per gallon. Well maybe the people answering that survey had no idea what that would really cost them. According to economist Sean McAlinden at the Center For Automotive Research, to develop a fleet of vehicles that maintain today’s performance levels and get an average of 62 miles per gallon, would push the average cost of each vehicle to be over $55,000. He says that would cripple car sales, forcing more than a quarter of a million people out of work. Remember, this would require extremely expensive technology to boost the fuel economy of trucks to meet the standards.
I would also point out that we’ve had fuel economy standards for 33 years, that they’ve been tightened up several times over the years, and yet the U.S. today uses far more oil for cars and trucks than it did when those standards started. When the country goes into a recession, fuel consumption does temporarily drop, but then it goes right back up when the economy recovers. If we want to reduce our dependence on oil, the CAFÉ standards are not the way to go. We’ve got over three decades of evidence that they haven’t reduced our dependence on oil, not by one drop.
WE WANT THE A6 AVANT!
Audi’s next-generation A6 Avant is ready for action . . . almost. The company is showing it off in this artsy-fartsy video. The popular wagon delivers more features, more luxury and more efficiency – up to 18 percent better fuel economy than its predecessor. And just like the sedan, the Avant offers a dizzying array of powertrain permutations, including six engine options – two gasoline and four diesel – as well as three transmissions – manual, dual-clutch automatic or continuously variable. Front-wheel drive is standard but quattro is an available option. The A6 Avant arrives at European showrooms late this summer with a starting price of roughly 41,000 Euros, about $59,000. Put it all together – with its utility, styling and efficiency – and we think it’s another vehicle Audi won’t be able to build enough of.
There’s a storm brewing between Johnson Controls and its battery partner, French company Saft Groupe. The Wall Street Journal reports JCI wants to end their five-year joint venture because the industry is moving so quickly right now the partnership is holding them back. But Saft opposes the move, claiming it “sees no legitimate grounds” for the divorce. It says it lost $24 million last year from its 49 percent stake in the venture.
THAT’S K9, NOT CANINE
Before it brings its electric passenger cars to North America, Chinese automaker BYD, along with the Canadian company, East Wind Group will assemble electric buses in Windsor, Ontario. According to the Windsor Star, the bus, called the K9, was designed and developed by BYD and will be assembled from complete, knock-down kits in Windsor. The K9 is smaller than most municipal buses. It has a range of 300 kilometers or 186 miles and a top speed of just 43 MPH or 70 km/h. BYD says it takes six hours to charge using a 120 or 240 volt outlets or it can be charged in a half hour using a rapid charger BYD developed.
And speaking of electric vehicles, GM announced that it will shutdown its Detroit-Hamtramck plant where it builds the Volt for four weeks starting in June. The company will make upgrades so it can assemble more Volts and get ready to build the 2013 Malibu. As a result, GM says sales of Volts will be restricted for the next three months before production resumes. However, the Volt will be available nationwide as well as ready for export to Europe, China and Canada by the end of the year. With the upgrades annual capacity for the Volt is 60,000 units. Production of the 2013 Malibu starts next year and I think this is the real reason for the shutdown.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
HtG saw our story that that Porsche may build cars outside of Germany for the first time and wrote in to correct us. “Porsche may build outside of der Vaterland? John, I think they did this with the original Boxsters, which were made Finland. (almost the Vaterland).
Drat, he’s right. They were assembled by a company called Valmet in Finland. I guess we should have said this would be the first time that Porsche ever built its own manufacturing facility outside of Germany.
Dale Leonard has been watching our coverage of the up-and-down fortunes at Saab, and it’s pretty clear where he comes down on this story. He says, “Go-Victor-Go….Save that SAAB !!!!!!!!!!!!”
Dale, as you know, I hope he can pull it off, but I think you all know how I think this story is going to end. And I don’t think it’s going to end well.
Jesse saw our story on how, at their plants in the United States, Toyota and Volkswagen will fire workers who smoke, even if they don’t smoke at work. He says, “Yet another assault on smokers! When will it end? I quit several years ago but this nonsense still annoys the crap out of me!!”
Jesse, I agree. I don’t smoke, I hate cigarettes, but what people want to do on their own time is their own business. All a company has to do is charge them a little bit more on their insurance premiums.
SlimJim saw our report that Toyota will open a plant in the U.S. to make Corollas, where we said they now come in from Japan. He too had to correct us. “The Corolla is made in Canada and Japan, but mostly Canada for the N.A. market.”
RAFI KHAN watched our coverage of the new Honda Civic and wrote in to say, “John,
As soon as you said, “Honda is limiting production of the Civic due to the disaster. I thought you’d say, ‘the disaster that’s the styling of the ‘new’ Civic.’ It’s really, really sad that after owning four Hondas, my next new car won’t be a Honda. Not only are the new Hondas ugly (and getting uglier), but they aren’t the trend-setters they once were in terms of fuel-economy and reliability. Hyundai/Kia today are what Honda and Toyota were years ago.”
Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. Join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, for the best insider information of what’s going on in the industry.
And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.