March 5th, 2012 at 11:45am
California and a handful of other states are following Nevada’s lead in allowing autonomous cars. Renault is introducing a new “square” gasoline engine inspired by F1 racing. GM will start selling trucks that can run on gasoline and natural gas. All that and more, plus Seamus McElroy has a look at the new Fiat 500 Abarth.
Hello and welcome to this Monday edition of Autoline Daily for the fifth of March.
SLOW SELLING EVs
Last Friday General Motors announced it will shut down production of the Chevrolet Volt for five weeks because of slow sales that caused inventory to balloon up. That made national headlines and lit up the anti-Government-Motors crowd that has vilified the Volt. Specifically, Chevy has a whopping 154 days of inventory for the Volt. But guess what? The Volt actually outsold the Nissan Leaf by 2-to-1 last month. And it outsold the Mitsubishi i by more than 40-to-1. So if you think that GM is having problems with slow-selling electric cars, Nissan and Mitsubishi must be pulling their hair out. Remember, by the end of the year Nissan is supposed to open its plant in Tennessee that can build 200,000 battery packs and 150,000 more Leafs a year.
LOOK MA, NO HANDS!
California just took a step towards allowing autonomous cars on its roads by introducing legislation that will allow that to happen. Nevada was the first state in the U.S. to enact legislation allowing autonomous cars. Bloomberg reports that Hawaii, Oklahoma, Florida and Arizona are in the process of doing the same thing. While autonomous cars are not yet ready for sale, proponents want to make sure the laws are on the books that will be ready for them.
BYD WORKING ON AUTONOMY
And over in China, BYD announced that it is working on what it calls Remote Control Driving Technology that will allow cars to park themselves in spots where its too tight to open the doors, as well as turn right and left at low speeds.
FILL IT UP WITH GAS, AND GAS
If you’re hungry for alternative fuels GM has your meal ticket. Late this year the company will offer dual-fuel versions of the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado. Both heavy-duty pickups will be able to run on either gasoline or compressed natural gas. With both tanks topped off the driving range should exceed 650 miles or well over 1,000 kilometers. The trucks will be assembled at GM’s plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana and then shipped to a separate supplier for conversion to CNG and will go on sale in April.
CHRYSLER #1 IN CANADA
It’s no secret; Chrysler is roaring back. Overall its U.S. sales were up 35 percent last month. And it’s not just happening in America. Chrysler jumped to the No. 1 selling spot in Canada last month for the second month in a row. Wrangler sales were up 37 percent compared to the same time last year, but more impressively, car sales, lead by the 200 and 300, DOUBLED.
RENAULT F1-INSPIRED FOUR BANGER (subscription required)
Renault is introducing a new gasoline engine, a 1.2-liter four-cylinder that’s going in the redesigned Megane. It delivers an impressive 115 horsepower with fuel consumption of just 5L/100 km – that’s about 47 miles per gallon. This is a “square” engine meaning the bore very closely matches the stroke. This allows for big valves and easy breathing – something Renault learned from its F1 racing program. It also features a friction-reducing graphite coating on the pistons. Renault hopes this powerplant will be a popular choice in Russia and China where customers favor gasoline over diesel.
The Fiat 500 came nowhere close to its sales target in the American market last year, but something that could help bring more people into the showroom is the introduction of the Abarth version that puts some more zip into making this car move.
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Thanks for that report, Seamus. Say, did a Jewish engineer actually come up with the design of the original Volkswagen Beetle and did Hitler rip him off? Be sure to join us for Autoline After Hours where we’ll be talking with the author of a book that claims just that. Join me and the Autoextremist Peter De Lorenzo for the best insider information in the business.
But that wraps up today’s report. Thanks for joining us, we’ll be right back here tomorrow.