January 4th, 2013 at 12:00pm
Car sales figures for the American market in 2012 are out, and they ended the year with a bang. Two manufacturers will demonstrate their autonomous vehicle technology at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. DuPont-Honeywell’s A/C refrigerant failed Daimler’s safety tests, but one company is sticking with it, all the same. All that and more, plus John McElroy reveals the identity of the vehicle he found rusting away in the woods while out skiing.
Wow, we’ve already come to the end of the first work week of the new year. Time’s a wastin’, so let’s get to today’s news.
US CAR SALES ROCKET AHEAD
Car sales in the American market ended 2012 with a bang. Sales shot up more than 13 percent in December, with the SAAR hitting 15.3 million units. The top 5 gainers for the year were VW, up 35 percent, Toyota up 26 percent, Subaru was right on its heels, Honda was up 24 percent and Chrysler was up almost 21 percent. The bottom 5 performers were Mitsubishi, down a whopping 27 percent, Suzuki, which announced a couple of months ago that it’s dropping out of the American market was down almost 5 percent, Volvo was up only about 1 percent, GM was up less than 4 percent and Ford up just over 4 percent. The total market for the year grew by more than 13 percent, so even though GM, Ford and Volvo saw their sales go up, they actually lost market share. According to Ward’s, total light vehicle sales for the year came in at 14.4 million vehicles. All in all, sales were up 1.7 million vehicles over last year, and that folks is a really impressive improvement.
AND NOW, FOR MY NEXT TRICK…
But, you know, there’s a difference between the number of cars that get sold and the number that actually get registered. Last night on Autoline After Hours, Anthony Pratt, the forecaster for the RL Polk company, which tracks registrations, said that every year the number of cars that get registered come in about 100,000 vehicles lower than the number of sales the automakers report. By the way you can watch that entire show right now and we get into some of the reasons why registrations and sales never match up. Even so, no one really knows what’s happened to those cars.
Here at Autoline we’ve been talking up autonomous cars for a number of years, and now the technology is starting to achieve critical mass. At next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Lexus and Audi will demonstrate their autonomous vehicle technology. Lexus is teasing us with this very brief video of a LS 600h equipped with driverless technology. And the Wall Street Journal reports that Audi will show off a car that can find a parking space and park itself without a driver. As you know Google is testing autonomous technology using a Toyota Prius but both companies say they are developing the technology separately. Look for more details about Lexus’s and Audi’s cars next week.
REFRIGERANT DEBATE HEATS UP
Yesterday we reported that Daimler said it would not use the new A/C refrigerant called 1234yf that was developed by DuPont-Honeywell, because it failed Daimler’s own safety tests. But GM says that it is sticking with the refrigerant after it, along with Honeywell and a group of 13 other automakers, conducted additional crash tests and computer simulations. It passed their tests with flying colors. GM currently uses 1234yf in the Cadillac XTS, the European version of the Chevy Malibu and will convert most of its vehicles to use it in the next five years.
Two days ago we showed you these pictures I took out in the woods while I was cross country skiing in one of the state parks in Michigan. I found this rusted out car and asked all of you to help me figure out what it is. The clearest clue of how to search for this is the name Spitfire cast into the top of the cylinder head. We got a ton of people commenting on this and I especially want to thank Htg, Drew, Patrick, Steve, David, Tom and there’s even more of you out there who determined that it is most likely a 1953 Chrysler Windsor Deluxe. How it got out there in the middle of the woods, we’ll never know. But I sure appreciate everyone helping me in trying to figure out what it is.
So which automaker is going to win the coveted North American Truck and Utility of the Year Award? That is coming up next.
NA TRUCK AND UTILITY OF THE YEAR
(NATOY can only be viewed of the video version of today’s show.)
On Autoline This Week I asked a couple of my fellow jurors on the North American Truck and Utility of the Year to come on the show and talk about the finalists for the award. Joining me for the show are Tony Swan from Car And Driver.com and Michelle Krebs from Edmunds.com. We got into all the plusses and minuses of the three finalists, and also talked about some of the vehicles that did not make the final cut. But at the end of the show I put them on the spot and asked them to name which one will actually win the award. Here’s what they had to say.
The actual winner will be announced at the Detroit auto show on January 14, but you’ll remember a couple of weeks back we asked all of you to vote on the finalists and most of you also chose the Ram pick-up, so I bet that’s how it comes out. And of course you can watch that entire show right now at our website, Autoline.tv.
And that wraps up today’s show. Have a great weekend and we’ll see you back here on Monday.