August 14th, 2012 at 12:11pm
The IIHS just found a new way to destroy cars. The organization recently developed a test to simulate crashing into a tree, with numerous models failing with flying colors. BMW is allowing its dealers to reprogram its Stop-Start system so owners will not have to disable it each time the car is started. John talks with Candice Wheeler, a Technical Fellow at GM R&D about alternative fuels that are less alternative and more fuel. All that and more, plus a look at Chrysler’s quality testing.
Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily for August 14th. I’m John McElroy and here are some of the latest developments in the automotive industry.
IIHS DEBUTS NEW TEST
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is making its crash tests tougher. It just added a new small overlap frontal crash test, in which 25 percent of a car’s front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall barrier at 40 mph which is supposed to mimic crashing into a tree or utility pole. Eleven mid-size luxury or near luxury sedans were tested and only the Acura TL and Volvo S60 received good ratings while the Infiniti G earned an acceptable rating. The Acura TSX, BMW 3-series, Lincoln MKZ and VW CC were rated marginal. The Mercedes C-class, Lexus IS and ES, and Audi A4 were rated poor. The IIHS says this will help reduce the number of deaths from frontal crashes but to me it looks like this test is just designed to peel the side of a car off.
BMW STOP… START
Start/Stop systems help automakers meet fuel economy standards but many drivers don’t like them. In our experience BMW may have the worst stop/start system in the business, especially in the 328 and 528. And maybe that’s why BMW will allow dealers to re-program the system. Owners can already turn off the stop/start by pushing a button on the dash, however once you turn the car off, it is reactivated the next time you start the car. Now BMW is allowing owners to activate a system that will start the car in the same mode as it was when it was shut down.
ALTERNATIVE FUELS GET LESS ALTERNATIVE
Automakers are getting to be very bullish on what they call “drop-in” fuels. These are synthetic fuels that can be used in gasoline or diesel engines without any modifications. They can be made from bio-mass, which gets melted down in a pyrolysis process without any oxygen. That forms a sort of sludge that is like crude oil that can then be processed into anything from bunker fuel to high octane gasoline. Or drop-in fuels can be synthesized from natural gas. The advantage is that it’s a liquid that could be distributed just as gasoline is today. Here’s Candace Wheeler, a Technical Fellow at GM R&D, and one of the foremost experts on fuels in the world.
That segment is from an upcoming episode of our television show, Autoline This Week, and we’ll let you know when that show is going to run.
CAR QUOTAS REBUFFED IN CHINA
Officials in the Chinese city of Xi’an are backing off a proposal to limit the number of cars in the city. They wanted to deal with the city’s traffic and pollution problems, but the public raised a howl, because they want to buy new cars. Other cities including Guanzhjou and Beijing already limit car registrations and have seen car sales plummet. According to China Daily, sales in Beijing fell 56 percent after limits were enacted. And these limits hit domestic Chinese automakers harder than the foreign automakers. Even so, analysts in the People’s Republic believe other cities will adopt limits to ease congestion and pollution problems.
Have you ever wanted to be a car designer? Well, here’s your chance. Domino’s Pizza says its drivers cover over 10 million miles every week delivering pizzas. To make those miles a bit more interesting the company is launching a five-part contest today, asking the pizza eating public to design the ultimate delivery vehicle. After the contest ends February 19th, the company says it will build a prototype based off the winning designs. Better get your crayons out now!
Chrysler has not exactly set the charts on fire when it comes to any of the quality ratings. Coming up after the break we’ll show you what the company is doing to make sure its cars are defect free, particularly the new Dodge Dart.
To help control variability, Chrysler is staggering the launch of the Dart. It just started building models with the dual clutch transmission last week. And other models will be phased in only as the company is sure that the quality is right. Unfortunately, it will be another year before these improvements are reflected in the quality ratings from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports. So we’re going to have to wait and see it Chrysler’s new quality procedures are really paying off.
Remember, we have a great show coming up Thursday night when that Autoextremist and I head over to Woodward Avenue to do Autoline After Hours with the Dream Cruisers as the backdrop. Our pals Jim Hall and Mark Phelan will be joining us, and we’re also going to have our friends from Mopar and some surprise guests stopping by, so catch all the action this Thursday night right here at Autoline.tv.
And that wraps up today’s report. Thanks for joining us here, we’ll see you tomorrow.