Episode 946 – Renault Looks to Africa, Ford Expands in China, CNG Powered Ram 2500

August 9th, 2012 at 11:45am

Runtime: 6:58

Renault is making a big push into Africa in hopes of boosting sales. Right now it’s building the largest assembly plant on the continent. Ford’s commercial vehicle partner, Jiangling Motors will take a stake in the Taiyuan Changan Heavy Truck Company, allowing the Dearborn automaker to expand into China’s heavy-duty truck market. Chrysler is set to introduce a CNG version of the Ram 2500 HD pickup truck later this month. All that and more, plus guest host Peter De Lorenzo sounds off on a group of governors joining forces to “save” the auto industry.

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Welcome to Autoline Daily, it’s Thursday, August 9, 2012, and I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, bringing you the latest news from the automotive beat. And now, THE NEWS!

The economic crisis in Europe is causing all kinds of problems. It’s especially impacting the car business. In spite of this, German automakers are doing quite well, though the same cannot be said for their French counterparts. The Germans ran to emerging markets – especially China – to increase their sales volume and now Renault is trying the same strategy, but with a twist. Bloomberg reports the company is making a big push into Africa in hopes of boosting sales. Right now it’s building the largest assembly plant on the continent. The 1 billion-Euro facility is in the Moroccan city of Tangier, located at the Strait of Gibraltar. It will have an annual capacity of 400,000 units, dwarfing other plants in Africa. Renault will build several low-cost Dacia models there.

In related news, Greece is in a financial meltdown. The Southern-European country faces huge unemployment and a falling standard of living as thousands of businesses close their doors. This is bad news for the auto industry as Greeks shun cars, but it’s good for another sector of the economy. Bicycle-makers are seeing a sales boom as people turn to low-cost transportation. In 2011 more than 200,000 bicycles were sold, up about 25 percent compared to 2010. That pace shows no signs of slowing down this year.

Automakers have been flooding the Chinese market with passenger vehicles the last several years to boost sales, but now Ford is expanding into the heavy-duty truck market in the country. According to Bloomberg, Ford’s commercial vehicle partner, Jiangling Motors will spend up to $42 million to acquire Taiyuan Changan Heavy Truck Company. The expansion is part of the company’s plan to introduce 15 new models in China by 2015. But this is a very interesting development, especially since Ford sold off its heavy duty truck business to Daimler a decade ago.

Chrysler is set to introduce a CNG version of the Ram 2500 HD pick-up truck. According to WardsAuto, the truck is powered by a 5.7 liter HEMI V8 that runs on both gasoline and compressed natural gas and is only available as 4×4. The truck is aimed at customers looking to save on fuel costs but it doesn’t have the same utility as a regular Ram. Two 34-gallon tanks for the CNG are in the flatbed and its towing capacity is lower, 7,600 pounds compared to 10,400 pounds for a comparable gas-powered Ram. The Ram 2500 CNG is for fleet customers only and has a starting price of just over $46,000.

The announcement that Dodge was pulling out of NASCAR at the end of this season was really no surprise. After Penske Racing – its only front-line team – decided to switch to Ford for the 2013 season, Dodge simply didn’t have quality teams left of any consequence to field their cars. Dodge leaving NASCAR is yet another sign that the series is in decline, with ticket sales and revenue falling for the past five years. But it’s also a sign that Sergio Marchionne & Co. never had the stomach for NASCAR and he and his Italian brain trust won’t miss it. Besides, Dodge has brought the Viper racing program back to the American Le Mans Series so they’ll be plenty busy trying to earn their chops back against BMW, Corvette, Ferrari and Porsche. If you want more details on the Dodge pullout from NASCAR, read my “Fumes” column on Autoextremist.com.

Up next . . . state governors are joining forces to save the U.S. auto industry, or so they’d have you believe . . .

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is forming an auto caucus comprised of a bipartisan group of four governors to support policies aimed at boosting the U.S. auto industry. Snyder revealed his National Governors Auto Caucus yesterday in a speech at the Center for Automotive Research’s annual Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Michigan. Snyder, along with Govs. Jay Nixon, D-Mo.; Bill Haslam, R-Tenn.; and Pat Quinn, D-Ill., are founding members, although it will be open to all governors. The goal of the caucus is to provide “a forum for governors to discuss bipartisan, noncontroversial issues related to the industry and its 8 million jobs,” the governors said in a statement. “The caucus will explore broad policy frameworks, initiatives and developments that impact the industry at large and are consistent with a strong auto manufacturing presence in the country.”

Good luck with that, Rick. When I hear terms like “broad policy frameworks” and “initiatives” all that means is more hand wringing and posturing by a group of Pollyanna Politicians hoping that things will be different. Well, hoping and hand wringing isn’t going to make one bit of difference, especially when you have politicians in Washington and Northern California armed with the stated mission of eradicating the automobile from the U.S.

Wake up and smell the coffee, Rick, It’s going to take a lot more than a Governors Caucus to make a dent in the growing movement to lynch the automobile.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for Thursday, August ninth.

And that’s also the end of today’s show, but make sure you check out tonight’s episode of Autoline After Hours. I’ll be there along with Johnny Mac plus Michelle Krebs from Edmunds.com and Karl Brauer of TotalCarScore.com. The LIVE show starts at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time at Autoline.tv. Be there or . . . well, just BE THERE.

Closing things out, I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist. Thanks for your patronage and we’ll see you this evening.

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23 Comments to “Episode 946 – Renault Looks to Africa, Ford Expands in China, CNG Powered Ram 2500”

  1. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’m sorry to see Dodge leave NASCAR, even though I’m not much of a NASCAR fan. If the race cars actually had to be the same configuration as what they are named after, everyone would use Dodges. It would be hard for a front drive V6 to compete with a rear drive V8.

    Anyway, with Penske going to Ford, there was no way Dodge would continue. Penske will get more money from Ford, and we all know Roger needs the money–NOT.

  2. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Agree with you Kit; Dodge may be going from the pan into the fire (in regard to dropping NASCAR and heading to the even more competitive sport car racing). Viper looks pretty good but the competition is more than just ‘stiff’ over there; they (SRT) have got a lot of catching up to do.

  3. HtG Says:

    You gotta keep in mind, Chuck, that ‘over there’ there’s some wiggle-wagglery-skullbuggery going on in the category of how many horsies you get to squeeze with your hammer footsie.

    Clear enough?

  4. Lex Says:

    It is a mistake for Dodge to leave NASCAR. The only way NASCAR will rebuild fan loyalty is to use OEM bodies in white so that what wins on Sunday you can buy on Monday.

    I took a long look at the new 2013 Honda Accord and realized that Honda took the grill off the 2011 CR-V and slapped it onto the front of the 2013 Accord. This is real laziness. What is going on with those guys at Honda Design Studio? Honda has great vehicles but ill timed production refreshes which do not give Honda products a similar and familar face. Honda the competition is catching up so you better wake up!

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    CR just put out a report on 4 vehicles to avoid including the new Civic and Prius C?????? Are they trying to counteract all the years where they were seen as fanboys of Japanese cars? really, the Civic is not as good as it once was, but that is not enough to issue a warning, ditto for the C. From all the reviews I’ve read it give excellent MPG’s without much compromise.

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    CR didn’t seem to consider that the “C” in Prius C, is for “city car,” a function it performs very well.

    As far as the Civic, it is rough around the edges by today’s standards, but still a competent, reliable car. Honda had better wake up soon, though, because there a lot of other competent, reliable cars out there that are better than the Civic in other ways, and sooner or later, even the Honda faithful will begin to notice.

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit I don’t get Honda; their Fit, CRV, Odyssey and Pilot are still on top of their class, yet they are messing up their bread and butter cars like Civic and Accord, but you know they sell so well and have a such a loyal following, I guess the Honda folks don’t think they need to tinker with them much, ditto for the Corolla.

  8. Chuck Grenci Says:

    #3 Herman, as nebulous as you made your reply, “I am hip to your jive’. :) I, for sure, know they ‘whacked’ Corvettes power to even the playing field. Remember, the old days, when one manufacturer fell behind and they did something to become competitive (not whine for parity from the sanctioning body). I guess it will be, wait and see (for Viper). Their first outing, last weekend, they were trailing the pack (but said they were happy to finish). Maybe they aren’t going to whine after all; we’ll have to see.

  9. guybob Says:


  10. Phoenix Mark Says:

    Hey Peter,

    Maybe the Governors are getting together for discussions on how not to cut each other’s throats when it comes to state tax incentives. You know the story, State A offers auto company 1 million if not billions of dollars of tax breaks to locate its new factor in state A. Then, State B offers auto company 2 million more for it to locate in its state. The only thing the US needs to work on is making sure they locate factories here and not in Mexico are Canada.

  11. Phoenix Mark Says:

    … Mexico or Canada.

  12. C-Tech Says:

    Renault may be on the cutting edge in Africa, getting a foothold before anyone else.

    Even though there has been a decline in ticket sales at NASCAR events (during a recession, imagine that) the fan base is very strong and NASCAR fans are brand loyal. The reason to return to NASCAR now, is as strong as it was under Iaccoca is probably still valid now. Marcionne would be smart to listen to the dealers demand for an entry back into NASCAR. It will require spending some money like Toyota and Ford, but as a brand investment that will most likely pay off.

    Although there is reason to suspect many politicains, the cacus may very well pay off in competing for plants and jobs with other regions.

  13. Brett Says:

    I started following NASCAR Grand National auto racing in 1962. I stopped following it about three years ago. The franchise is decaying with the 3rd generation at the reigns. I was sad for a while, but I don’t miss it anymore at all.

    “the growing movement to lynch the automobile” sounds a bit paranoid to me. Sorry.

  14. W L Simpson Says:

    The demise of NASCAR began when it’s name became a lie.

  15. pedro fernandez Says:

    Yeah, the non-existent 2 door Camry kind of put a damper on the whole NASCAR thing! What’s next a Sonata?

  16. bob e k Says:

    NASCAR….”Not A Stock CAR”….no real coupes, no V8s, can’t buy one at a dealer..mock up race car replica’s …front & rear end facsimile…expensive,loud,one big drinking party..HEE HAW

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Peter, I don’t really think a lot of people in Washington and California want to “eradicate the automobile,” but maybe they would rather see fewer 6000 pound trucks used to carry one person around town.

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    #17 wouldn’t we all! or most of us at least.

  19. pedro fernandez Says:

    According to Yahoo autos, Jetta is losing sales like crazy, wasn’t that car uber-hot just a few months ago, what happened? did the folks wake up from their nightmare buying spree, did the quality issues prop up and bite new owners?

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    Re #19, so is the Cruze, again, quality issues word of mouth?

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I certainly would, but if you look at what’s on the road, there seem to be a lot of people who still like to drive the least efficient vehicles available.

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Suspect reliability may be hurting Jetta, but it is now about the oldest product VW sells in the U.S. The new Passat is selling well, and may be taking away sales. Also, the main appeal of the Jetta would seem to be the availability of the TDI, and with “cheaper” gas than a while back, those sales may be off. Just guessing on that one.

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