February 28th, 2012 at 12:00pm
China is “getting the lead out,” and this time it’s an American company that’s in trouble. Indicators say the boom times are just getting started for heavy trucks. Holden starts production on an LPG version of the ever-popular Commodore. All that and more, plus we walk around the Scion iQ with head honcho Jack Hollis.
This is Autoline Daily for February 28th, and now, the news.
GET THE LEAD OUT
And it’s lead-acid batteries that are in the news. China shut down a plant owned by Johnson Controls in Shanghai, saying lead emissions from the plant poisoned 49 children who live in the area. Johnson Controls disagrees with those conclusions, saying it operated well below local and national regulations. Is it just me or does it seem that China is getting very good at prosecuting foreign companies? Meanwhile, JCI says that the cost of lead-acid batteries in the U.S. will be going up (subscription required) by a few dollars because of tighter regulations on lead emissions at battery factories.
Interesting aside here. Back as recently as the 1970s, when lead brazing was commonly used to join the roof and rear quarter panels in cars, the men who worked in the body shops were given a glass of milk to drink after their shift. The theory was that the milk would wash the lead out of your body. I don’t know where they ever got that idea, but by the early 1980s lead was banned from body shops in the U.S.
TRUCK BOOM JUST GETTING STARTED
We’ve been following the heavy commercial-truck market here at Autoline Daily because of the astounding growth that segment is going through. And it looks like the good news is only getting started. A study from the Boston Consulting Group says that the market for commercial trucks with a gross-vehicle-weight of at least 3.5 tons will be booming in the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China. There are roughly 5 million of these trucks sold worldwide today. That’s expected to jump to 6.8 million by the end of the decade.
LPG HOLDEN COMMODORE (subscription required)
Holden, GM’s Australian subsidiary, has just started production of an LPG-powered Commodore. WardsAuto reports this large car has been extensively re-engineered to run on liquefied-petroleum gas. In Australia, domestically produced LPG is 30 percent cheaper than gasoline. The LPG Commodore has a modified 3.6-liter V-6 engine, with a special fuel-delivery system and a 12.2:1 compression ratio. LPG has a high octane rating. Output is 240 horsepower with 235 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy on the Australian driving cycle works out to 19.9 miles per gallon, or 11.8 L/100km. Fuel is contained in a 22.2-gallon aluminum tank that does not limit trunk space. The LPG option is about 37-hundred U.S. dollars, but buyers can apply for a 21-hundred dollar tax credit. Not only is LPG cheap, it has much less carbon than gasoline.
MOPAR EXPANDING GLOBALLY
Chrysler’s Mopar brand is expanding into more and more markets. It just landed in China and the United Arab Emirates, and now it’s got South America in its sights. The Motor Parts division just set up shop in Argentina and Brazil, stocking tens-of-thousands of fixins’ to support the company’s Chrysler, Jeep, Ddoge and Ram brands there.
A few weeks ago we saw sketches, now Kia released photos of its new flagship sedan. This rear-wheel-drive K9 goes on sale in the Korean market in the first half of the year. But is Peter Schreyer, Kia’s designer taking the safe road? We think the K9 kind of looks like a soggy Infiniti M with a Bengal butt. The front-third could have been stolen from Maserati. We’ll likely have more details on this car next month once the Geneva Motor Show opens its doors.
The smart fortwo has been a miserable sales failure, but that’s not stopping big automakers from making more small cars. Coming up next, Jack Hollis from Scion takes us through the new iQ.
Can you sell dinky little cars in big volumes, especially in the American market where small cars historically have done poorly? Scion thinks you can. And that’s why we have none other than Jack Hollis, the vice president of Scion to take us through the car.
(This content only available in today’s video)
I liked everything about the iQ except its continuously variable transmission. I felt it took away from the driving pleasure. But other than that the iQ is a good little car.
And that wraps up today’s report. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.