December 23rd, 2011 at 11:30am
Hyundai just named Christopher Chapman as its Chief Designer in the U.S. He’ll be responsible for new vehicle and concept designs. Biodiesel incentives are set to expire at the end of the year in the U.S. Edmunds predicts that car sales will end up at 12.8 million units in the U.S. this year. All that and more, plus a look at the brand new Buick Verano.
This is Autoline Daily for December 23rd, bringing us to the last show that we’re doing this year since we’ll be off next week. But that’s next week, let’s now go to the news of the day.
HYUNDAI’S NEW CHIEF DESIGNER
Hyundai just named Christopher Chapman as its Chief Designer in the U.S. He will work out of Hyundai’s Design Center in California and will be responsible for new vehicle and concept designs. Chapman previously worked at Isuzu and BMW. He graduated from Art Center in Pasadena, California.
BIODIESEL INCENTIVES SET TO EXPIRE (subscription required)
While EVs have had no trouble getting billions of dollars in government support, biofuels have been largely ignored as a way to reduce our dependence on oil. In fact, biodiesel incentives are set to expire at the end of the year in the U.S. Biodiesel production tripled this year to a record 802 million gallons, thanks to all the incentives for producing it.
SPAIN #2 IN PRODUCTION IN EUROPE (subscription required)
I always thought that the order in which countries make the most cars in Europe would be Germany, France, Italy and England. But noooooo! Ward’s reports that Spain is the second-largest vehicle manufacturer on the Continent. In fact, with 2.3 million vehicles rolling off the assembly lines, this is the third year in a row that Spain out produced France, Italy and England.
CAR SALES EXPECTED TO GROW
Speaking of sales, Edmunds sees them finishing out the year strong in the American market, or at least strong as measured in the “new normal.” It predicts 1.2 million new cars will be sold this month, and that the year will end up at 12.8 million. That’s not very good by historical standards, but still, it’s up a million units over a year ago. Edmunds specifically says that Chrysler and GM are going to have a blow-out month with sales up 30 percent or better.
CONTI’S POPULAR SAFETY SYSTEMS
Now for some news from our friends at German supplier company Continental. 2011 turned out to be a great year for them. They’re selling an ever-increasing number of electronic-stability-control systems because they’re becoming mandatory in more and more markets. The popularity of advanced driver-assistance technology is also adding to the bottom line. Conti is the supplier of Volvo’s “City Safety” system. Ford of Europe offers a similar technology, “Active City Stop.” On the Focus it’s a 350 Euro option, and amazingly the take rate is 40 percent! Continental also tells us that Fiat is putting technologies like this into smaller, cheaper vehicles, like the Panda. They also hint that Chrysler will offer them in the near future as well.
With Europe’s economy on the edge of recession again Volkswagen seems to have perfect timing with their new UP! small car. According to Autoblog, the UP! could retail for about $13,000 in the ‘States and come equipped with a three-cylinder engine that earns 50 miles per gallon. Zero to 60 takes about 13 seconds, and top speed is 107 miles per hour thanks to the engines 74 horsepower output. The UP! is VW’s first volume car with a three-cylinder engine. The 2,000 pound vehicle seems to defy physics. It delivers five stars in European crash testing.
I’m Craig Cole at Lincoln Center in Manhattan and I’m ready to introduce you to the new star in Buick’s lineup. That story is coming right up.
Manhattan’s Upper-West Side is home to some of the priciest real estate in the country, and home owners who can afford it. And those are the exact buyers Buick has been targeting the last few years with products like its LaCrosse, Enclave and now the new Verano sedan.
This four-door is one of the only players in the premium-compact sliver of the market. It’s a big step above other C-segment offerings, but it’s not quite as pricey as cars like the Acura TSX or Lexus IS250.
One of the first things you notice about the Verano is its size. It shares the same foundation as the Chevy Cruze, so it’s pretty small, at least by traditional Buick standards. But the family resemblance is strong; it looks just like a three-fifths scale LaCrosse. This familiarity extends to the powertrain as well.
For now, all Veranos are hauled around by a 2.4-liter Ecotec engine that’s good for 180 horsepower. It’s matched to a slick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. From a standstill, 60 miles an hour takes around 8.6 seconds, so don’t plan on out running that Camaro in the next lane. A 2.0-liter turbo will be available a little later.
As with the rest of brand’s lineup, silence is an important attribute AND a major selling point.
Helping keep unwanted racket at bay, the Verano is literally stuffed with all kinds of baffles, blankets and foam. Buick showed off its secret sauce in a special cutaway display model. Following the same recipe they’ve used elsewhere, engineers have cooked up a ghostly quiet C-segment sedan.
Of course it’s not all decimals and decibels. Buick also focused on design with this car, especially on the interior.
And some of those high-end features include soft materials throughout the cabin, buttery smooth leather and five, yes, FIVE different interior color combinations – two with cloth seats and three with leather. That much choice is almost unheard of today, especially in a small car. If you’re wondering, the signature hue is called Choccachino and it features turquoise-colored stitching for a nice contrast.
While the Verano isn’t much fun to drive, it is smooth and very quiet, which makes it feel like a bigger, more expensive car. It’s a welcome addition to Buick’s lineup, pushing the brand into a smaller, more affordable segment. Starting price is about $23,500, INCLUDING the destination charge. Check every box on the options list and plan on spending about 30 grand.
Thanks for that report Craig.
And make sure you check out this week’s episode of RoundAbout. The gang is looking back at the predictions they made last year for 2011. Were the RoAb oracles accurate? Did their forecasts come true? Listen! That’s what you’ll have to do! Where else? Autoline.tv.
And that wraps up the last report for Autoline Daily for 2011. We’ll be taking next week off, so have a great holiday, and we’ll see you back here on January 2, of 2012.