January 21st, 2013 at 11:48am
Toyota will be getting a new chairman later this year to replace current chairman Fujio Cho. Big truck sales in the U.S. last year hit their highest total since 2007. Bob Lutz paired up with a company that is removing the hybrid powertrain from Fisker Karmas and replacing them with Corvette motors. All that and more, plus we’ll show you a company that is working on a low-cost hybrid that doesn’t need any batteries.
Hello and welcome to a new week of Autoline Daily, and here’s what’s happening in the wonderful world of automobiles.
MUSICAL CHAIRS AT TOYOTA
Toyota will be getting a new chairman later this year. Japanese newspaper, Nikkei, says the company will name Takeshi Uchiyamada, who led the development of the Prius, as its next chairman. He replaces current chairman Fujio Cho. Akio Toyoda, of course, is the president and CEO.
BIG RIGS = BIG SALES
Big truck sales in the U.S. hit their highest total since 2007 last year. Wards Auto World reports that sales of large trucks were just under 346,000 units, up 13 percent from a year ago. And I remember when sales of 280,000 trucks was considered amazing.
HOPE THAT’S NOT THE STICKER PRICE
On Autoline After Hours last week, Harlen Charles from the Corvette team told us that the first 2014 Corvette Stingray would be sold at auction over the weekend. Well the weekend came and went and we learned that the car sold for just over $1 million. The winning bid came from race car owner and car dealer, Rick Hendrick. But he did not stop there, Hendrick also bought GM CEO Dan Akerson’s 1958 Corvette for $270,000. Money raised from the sale of the 2014 Vette will be donated to the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, and to the Habitat for Humanity for Akerson’s old ride.
JEEPERS BATMAN! THAT’S A LOT OF MONEY
Also on sale at auction over the weekend was the original Batmobile from the 1960’s TV series. The car based off a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept sold for a whopping $4.2 million.
THE ULTIMATE SLEDDING MACHINE
As we reported before BMW would build a two-man bobsled for the U.S. Olympic Team. Well now we have pictures of what the official sled looks like. It took BMW more than a year to develop and uses lightweight materials paired with optimized aerodynamics. The bobsled’s debut was bumped up and was raced for the first time on Saturday the 19th at the FIBT World Cup in Igls, Austria, which saw the USA place as high as 5th.
KARMA, MEET YOUR DESTINO
Fisker is in a heap of trouble. It’s out of money. It lost most of its inventory of car in Hurricane Sandy. And it’s battery supplier A123 is in bankruptcy. But fear not, none other than Bob Lutz is riding to the rescue. He’s part of a company called VL Automotive that is taking Fiskers, removing the hybrid powertrain and replacing it with a choice of the 450 horsepower Corvette LT-1 engine, or the 638 hp LS-9. They’re making some modifications to the styling, notably on the front end. They also changed the name to Destino, which means destiny in Spanish. And now you can buy one for only $190,000. A regular Fisker Karma costs $102,000.
Speaking of hybrids and problems with batteries, we’ll show you a company that is working on a low-cost hybrid that doesn’t need any batteries. They’re doing it with hydraulic pressure instead. That is coming up next.
NRG DYNAMIX’S HYDRAULIC HYBRID
(Hydraulic Hybrid can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show).
NRG Dynamix is the name of a small start-up company in Michigan that is developing hydraulic hybrids. Instead of storing brake energy in chemical form in a battery they store it as hydraulic pressure in a tank under the vehicle, in this case a Ford Ranger. It’s a whole lot cheaper and offers intriguing possibilities. Jim O’Brien, the president of the company, explains how it works.
The hydraulic hybrid pretty much looks like any Ford Ranger, but is pretty noisy when you accelerate. That noise is one of the hurdles they have to overcome, but remember, it’s still under development.
One thing that impressed me is that while this is a prototype vehicle, the installation is very clean both underneath the vehicle and in the engine compartment. You can see how they were able to keep this Ranger about as stock as it comes.
I’m intrigued about the possibilities of hydraulic hybrids, especially for body-on-frame vehicles, where there is plenty of storage room between the frame rails for hydraulic storage tanks. The fact they can deliver 38 miles per gallon in a Ford Ranger at a cost of about $500 more than an automatic transmission is very promising. Remember, this system allows them to get rid of the transmission, so this system may only add about $500 to the overall cost of the vehicle. If they figure out how to overcome the noise issues you could be looking at the future right here.
Speaking of powertrains, have we got a great guest on Autoline After Hours this Thursday. Mose Nowland spent 55 years designing and building the greatest racing engines ever to come out of the Ford Motor Company. So join me and the Autoextremist Peter De Lorenzo for the best insight into cars in the business. That’s this Thursday starting at 6 pm eastern time or 2300 GMT.
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.