January 28th, 2013 at 11:58am
Three major automakers are teaming up to develop mass-produced fuel cells that will be on the market in a few years. Suppliers are struggling to keep up with demand as the automotive market heats up. Should Corvette break away from the Chevrolet mothership? We asked you in our Autoline Poll, find out how everything panned out. All that and more, plus Isaac Bouchard visits the Skip Barber Racing School to find out what it takes to become an expert driver.
Welcome back to Autoline Daily, we are so pleased you’ve joined us today. Maybe that’s because we’ll be announcing the results of our poll where we asked you if the Corvette should remain in the Chevrolet family or break off as a brand of its own. More on that later — now to the news.
EVs DON’T SELL, WILL FUEL CELLS SELL?
Fuel cells are difficult to manufacture and expensive to build. That’s why Daimler, Ford and Nissan announced this morning they’re partnering up to develop fuel cell systems — to split the costs and hedge the risks. Specifically, they’ll develop a common fuel cell stack and fuel cell system, which they expect will lead to mass-produced fuel-cell cars by 2017. This comes on the heels of a Toyota and BMW collaboration to do the same thing. And, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of other automakers teaming up to do it, too.
SUPPLIER CAPACITY CRUNCH
At the recent Autoline Supplier Symposium we learned that suppliers are on the verge of running into critical shortages in production capacity, tooling, and people. The shortage is particularly acute in plastics, rubber, castings, powertrain components, and specialized tooling. So far, suppliers are keeping up with demand by running maximum overtime. But they can only push their people and machinery so far before they’ll start to break down. You can check out that entire discussion in the John’s Journal section of our website, or follow the link in today’s show notes.
ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK
Motor racing fans were relieved to see an end to the winter break with the 51st running of the 24 Hours of Daytona. What a race! We saw a great battle between BMW, Chevrolet and Ford for the overall win in the prototype class, with BMW coming out on top. In the GT class, with production-based cars, there was a terrific battle involving Audi R8s, Ferrari 458s, and Porsche GT3s, with Audi taking the top two positions. You may remember that Mazda entered a trio of diesel-powered Mazda6es in the experimental GTX class. All of them dropped out early, but hey, that’s why you go racing — to find the weak spots in your program. Undoubtedly, Mazda is learning important lessons of how to make its diesels stronger. I think we’ll see other manufacturers getting involved as sports car racing is making a comeback in the U.S.
GOOD DAY SUNSHINE
Volkswagen just opened a gigantic solar park. The 33-acre installation is located at its factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. When the production lines are running, the panels will provide 12.5 percent of its energy needs and 100 percent between shifts. Interestingly, VW plans to use all of the energy the solar park generates and won’t sell any electricity back to utilities.
THE CORVETTE CAR COMPANY
And now it’s time for the results to last week’s poll question. We asked you if you think the Corvette should always be a Chevy. Or should it be split off from Chevrolet and become its own standalone brand? That’s the idea my After Hours co-host the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, came up with. Most of you agree with Peter. 55 percent said Corvette should be separated from Chevy while 45 percent of you voted against the idea. Hey Chevrolet, these are the same viewers that absolutely nailed it when they voted on the North American Car and Truck of the Year finalists. This is an idea that’s worth further discussion.
Speaking of the Daytona 24 Hours that we just reported on, have you ever wanted to go racing? Well, you’ll probably want to start with a racing school. More on that, after this.
(The feature on the Skip Barber Racing School is only available in the video version of today’s show.)
I’ll tell you, if you’re a gear head, there’s nothing like going wheel to wheel on a track to truly appreciate driving a car. But on the track, people, not on the street. Enjoy the rest of your day and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow.