October 12th, 2012 at 12:00pm
John McElroy gets a first-hand sample of Continental’s semi-autonomous Traffic Jam Assist technology. Big truck sales hit the brakes in September. MINI wants to know: what sort of “coffee driver” are you? All that and more, plus a preview of Autoline This Week, which delves into the state of the used car business.
Welcome to Autoline Daily as we cover what has got to be the coolest industry in the world. Thanks for joining us.
SEMI-AUTONOMY IN 3 YEARS?
I recently got a chance to go for a ride in a semi-autonomous car, a modified Volkswagen Passat that is a development car from Continental, the giant German auto supplier. Essentially, it uses adaptive cruise control that also does the steering. Take a look.
(This video clip of Continental’s autonomous technology only available in the video version of today’s show.)
Continental calls the system Traffic Jam Assist. It works remarkably well, and Conti says it will be showroom-ready in only three years time and will probably be priced less than an optional sunroof.
SHED A LITTLE LIGHT
Earlier in the week we reported that a new Porsche 911 S lapped the Nurburgring in 7:37.9, beating out cars like the Corvette ZR-1, Nissan GT-R, Lexus LF-A and Ferrari 458 Italia. “But wait a minute,” some of you wrote in to say. “We’ve seen those other cars beat that time, so what gives?” Well, it turns out that the times that get quoted depend on the track configuration, the season in which the time was turned, and what kind of tires were used. Porsche used the old pit lane configuration, which can add 200 meters to the lap distance. Check out Wikipedia for a great chart of the best lap times at the Nurburgring.
BIG TRUCK SALES SHRINK (subscription required)
Sales of big trucks have been growing all year but that streak snapped last month. According to WardsAuto, sales of medium and heavy duty trucks fell nearly 3 percent in September to just over 26,500 units, compared to the same period last year. But despite the drop, sales of big trucks are up nearly 20 percent so far this year. However the decrease in sales in September is something to keep an eye since trucks sales are an indicator of where the economy is heading.
NISSAN TO BUILD ENGINES IN TN
Earlier this year, Nissan broke ground on a new engine plant in Tennessee, as part of a collaboration with Daimler. The facility will build 4-cylinder engines for both Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz. Production starts in 2014 and the plant will have the capacity to manufacture 250,000 engines a year. The Mercedes engines will be shipped to the company’s plant in Alabama where they will be used for the C-Class. But the two companies are partnering up on a lot more. The next generation smart will be built off a Renault platform and last month we reported that Renault-Nissan will license automatic transmission technology from Daimler which will be built by Nissan’s subsidiary Jatco.
C-MAX ENERGI GETS 100 MPGe STAMP
Ford has jumped in the ring of plug-in hybrids with its C-MAX Energi, and so far it’s one of the most fuel-efficient ever produced. It received an EPA-certified 108 MPGe in the city and a combined MPGe of 100. That is one full combined MPGe better than the Nissan LEAF and five better than the Toyota Prius plug-in, and two better than the Chevy Volt. It is also the most affordable, with a starting price of just under $30,000 after a federal tax credit and including destination and delivery costs.
CAN COFFEE REFLECT DRIVING?
How do you drive your coffee? Well that is what MINI of Netherlands if asking. They are offering a free cup of coffee with your test drive. But the interesting part is they equipped the car with sensors that evaluated the driver’s style. The data was then placed into a special coffee maker that produces a blend based on your driving style. If you were a pedal-to-the-medal type driver you received a short but strong coffee, and if timid you received a watered-down espresso. So it begs the question, what kind of coffee driver are you?
Coming up next, there’s a big change taking place on the used car side of the business. Dealers are getting trade ins with the highest miles on them that they’ve ever seen.
On Autoline This Week the show is all about what’s going on in the used car side of the business. Due to the collapse of the economy four years ago and the Cash For Clunkers program, dealers are now getting trade-ins with more miles on them, a lot more.
(Our preview of Autoline This Week is only available in the video version of today’s show.)
By the way, my guests on the show are Ricky Beggs from Black Book, Ron MacEachern from a big dealer group called the Suburban Collection, and Steve Finlay, the editor of WardAuto Dealer Business. You can catch that entire show right now at www.Autoline.tv.
And that brings us to the end of covering another week’s worth of the latest developments in the coolest industry in the world. Thanks for joining us, we will be back here on Monday.