May 24th, 2011 at 11:40am
For more than 50 years the Arabian Peninsula has fueled the modern world, but the easy pickens are rapidly becoming slim pickens as supplies of high-quality light-crude oil dwindle. Louis Renault’s heirs are suing the French government for seizing the company back in 1944 and not providing them with any compensation. Mercedes-Benz is seriously considering bringing its Vito utility van to the U.S. as a compliment to the larger Sprinter. All that and more, plus we attempt a bit of a cannonball run in Kia’s new SX vehicles.
This is Autoline Daily for May 24, 2011. And now, the news.
EASY PICKENS BECOMING SLIM PICKENS (subscription required)
For more than 50 years the Arabian Peninsula has fueled the modern world, but the easy pickens are rapidly becoming slim pickens. According to The Wall Street Journal, supplies of high-quality light-oil that’s easy to drill are starting to dry up. So Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are turning to the billions of barrels of heavy petroleum still trapped beneath the desert. This stuff can be as thick as molasses, which makes it harder – and more expensive – to access and refine. The fact that Gulf countries are even thinking about tapping these reserves shows just how much demand there is for petro these days. To be fair, heavy oil is still an abundant resource in the Middle East. Experts estimate there are nearly 80 BILLION recoverable barrels of this stuff laying around. For more on this fascinating story hit the link in today’s show notes on our website, AutolineDetroit.tv.
TOYOTA CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVING
Back when Toyota was getting pounded in the media over quality problems, recalls and the unintended acceleration issues, it formed an independent panel of outside experts in the United States to advise it what to do. First off, they recommended the company form a Chief Safety Officer. They also said Toyota followed a top-down management style with too many decisions made in Japan. That prevented its managers in North America from taking the initiative to solve quality and safety issues. They also suggested that Toyota allot more time to developing new products in order to do more testing for safety. Toyota thanked the panel for its input and said it would start implementing its suggestions.
LOUIS RENAULT’S GHOST
Louis Renault built his first car in 1898 and went on to build one of the greatest car companies in the world. During World War I his company built the FT tank, which influenced tank design ever since, since it was the first tank with a rotating turret. But in World War II he collaborated with the Nazis, and upon his death in 1944 the French government nationalized the car company. Fast forward to today and Louis Renault’s heirs are suing the French government for seizing the company and not providing any compensation. Bloomberg reports that they could get up to $140 million, which would have been the value of Louis’ holdings in the company in 1944.
MANAGEMENT MASHUP (subscription required)
And in related news, sort of, Carlos Tavares, who currently runs Nissan’s operations in the Americas, will likely go to Renault as the No. 2 executive there, reporting to Carlos Ghosn. That position had been held by Patrick Pelata until he resigned after the botched espionage case which accused the Chinese of stealing electric-car technology from Renault, but which turned out not to be true.
VIVA LA VITO!
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a great workhorse. To build on its success, Autoblog reports the company is seriously considering bringing its smaller Vito van to the U.S. For a little perspective, this thing is a bit bigger than a Transit Connect but smaller than an E-Series. Sounds like a great option to me.
CHEVY CRUZE5 (subscription required)
GM just hosted a media event in South Korea for the Chevy Cruze5. According to Ward’s, this hatchback should be available in the country soon. It will be exported to Europe later this year. Base price is 17 million won, less than $16,000. As you’d expect, a 1.8-liter gasoline engine and a 2.0-liter turbodiesel are available. No word if it will ever be offered in North America, so all you hatchback lovers out there . . . don’t hold your breath.
Uh, oh! Perhaps Warren Buffett needs to pay attention to this next story. Chinese automaker BYD, a company Buffett invested in, is boasting about how well its electric vehicle, the E6, performed as a taxi cab during a one-year trial run. However, according to China Auto Web, the Kunpeng Electric Taxi Company which operates the fleet is telling a different story. The general manager of Kunpeng says the company has lost a lot of money using BYD’s EV as a taxi. Even though it does save a lot on fuel costs, the E6 is three times more expensive than a regular taxi cab, and parts and service cost twice as much. And because it needs to recharged throughout the day it can’t earn as much as a regular taxi. During the one-year trial period Kunpeng has lost 7 million yuan, just over a million dollars, using BYD’s E6.
REDESIGNED LANCIA YPSILON
Lancia unveiled the Ypsilon earlier this year at the Geneva Auto Show and is now getting ready for its release next month in Europe. The B-segment vehicle is designed to look like a three-door but it’s actually a five-door and can seat up to five people. The Ypsilon is available with three different engines, a gasoline, a turbodiesel and a bi-fuel one that can run on gasoline or LPG. Start/stop technology is also available. Fuel economy for the gasoline engines range from 48 to 62 MPG and the diesel gets a combined 56 MPG. The bi-fuel model doesn’t have numbers yet. Last month we reported that Chrysler WON’T bring a rebadged version of the Ypsilon to the North American market, but in Great Britain and Ireland it WILL be sold as a Chrysler.
Coming up next, we hit the road in Kia’s brand-new Sportage SX.
Kia is pushing into new market segments. Its SX lineup is designed to offer buyers a premium, sporty driving experience. Autoline Daily correspondent Craig Cole takes to Florida’s Freeways to try and test them all out.
Thanks for that feature, Craig.
And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global automotive industry, thanks for watching , we’ll see you tomorrow.