November 9th, 2012 at 11:47am
The NADA estimates that 200,000 vehicles were destroyed by Super Storm Sandy, but that figure may be overblown. Ford’s factories in North America are operating at 114 percent capacity which is really adding to its bottom line. Are women better drivers than men? That is what one website out of England tries to answer. All that and more, plus on Autoline This Week John sits down with a panel of materials experts to discuss future high-strength and lightweight materials that will be used in cars.
Hello and welcome to the Friday edition of Autoline Daily. TGIF! Coming up later, we’ll reveal the topic for this week’s poll, but first the news…
DAMAGE ESTIMATES OVERBLOWN
Yesterday we reported that the National Auto Dealers Association estimates that around 200,000 vehicles were damaged because of Hurricane Sandy. But the AP reports that number is completely overblown. It looked at data supplied by major insurance companies and so far those agencies have only received 31,000 damage claims. More claims are expected to come since cleanup efforts are still ongoing but the rate is already slowing down.
FORD SLASHES COSTS IN U.S.
Ford posted a third quarter operating profit of $2 billion, with North America delivering an impressive 12 percent profit margin. A key reason is that Ford has boosted its factory use in North America to an amazing 114 percent capacity utilization. It’s getting that with overtime and three shift operations. A rule of thumb in the industry is that automakers break even at 80 percent capacity, anything over that drops to the bottom line. At 114 percent capacity, Ford’s factories are simply screaming along.
Peugeot depends on the European market more than most manufacturers, 62 percent of sales compared to 42 percent for Volkswagen. With Europe in an economic tailspin, that means the company suffered more than others. Yesterday Peugeot’s stock hit its lowest price since 1985, at 2.21 euros. Now the carmaker will offer a bare-bone sedan, the 301, which is a stretched version of Peugeot’s 208 hatchback. It will sell the 301 in Eastern Europe, Africa and South America. Peugeot better hope it works because this could really end up hurting it’s brand image.
CARBON IN THE HOOD
Now for some developments on the materials front. Automakers are keenly interested in using carbon fiber, and the experts tell me that the hood of a car could be one of the most popular applications. That’s because carbon fiber does a great job of dissipating energy without deflecting much. It’s ideal for the pedestrian impact tests. With steel or aluminum hoods, automakers have to raise the trailing edge of the hood, or use pyrotechnic hinges to pop it up. Volvo even uses an airbag on the hood of some models. Otherwise the hood deflect so much that it hits the top of the engine and that’s when pedestrian head injuries occur. Even though carbon fiber hoods are expensive, if you can get rid of pyrotechnic hinges and sensors and airbags, the extra cost isn’t that much.
WOMEN DRIVE BETTER THAN MEN?
Read it and weep, guys. A study out of England by a website called Carrentals.com says the statistics show that women are better drivers than men. It says men get in more accidents, get more speeding tickets, and are not as good at identifying traffic signs and signals. I don’t know, just because they get in fewer accidents and don’t speed as much, does that really mean they’re better drivers?
As we reported earlier in the week, Toyota is trying to decide what design changes it can make to the Prius to increase its sales. This is a tough one. Do you alter the silhouette that’s become synonymous with the hybrid segment? Or do you do something bold? Well, that’s the subject of this week’s Autoline Poll. What should Toyota do? Take an evolutionary approach, make a revolutionary change or leave it EXACTLY the way it is?
Let us know what you would do by clicking the Poll link under today’s show on Autoline.tv. Tune in Monday when we’ll review the results.
Earlier in the show we talked about carbon fiber, but aluminum can provide a significant weight savings, too. But it’s more expensive than steel and requires special manufacturing techniques. So what’s the future look like for aluminum in cars? That’s coming up next.
AUTOLINE THIS WEEK
On Autoline This Week I sit down with a panel of materials experts to discuss future high-strength and lightweight materials that will be used in cars. In the following clip Ganesh Panneer from Novelis explains the benefits of using aluminum in cars.
Also joining me for that show is Rose Ryntz from IAC and Blake Zuidema from ArcelorMittal. And you can watch that entire show right now on website, Autoline.tv.
And that brings us to the end of another week of following the latest developments in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you on Monday.