February 7th, 2013 at 11:49am
Daimler reported its earnings for 2012 this morning and the numbers are solid, but not anything like some other manufacturers. Automakers are making another run at using plastic windows, but they can pose some real issues. Carmakers are using more and more of one common material, but that is going to lead to higher prices. All that and more, plus Autoline Daily correspondent Sean McElroy takes a look at the new 2014 Kia Forte.
Welcome to Autoline Daily. We’ve got reports on new products, new technology, and the latest earnings, so let’s get to it.
DAIMLER DEPOSITS SOME PROFITS
Daimler reported its earnings for 2012 this morning and the numbers are solid, but not anything like the strong earnings we’ve seen from other automakers. The company sold 2.2 million cars, trucks, vans and busses for the year, up 4 percent. By the way, Mercedes-Benz passenger cars accounted for 1.4 million of the total. Revenue was up by 7 percent to about $140 billion. Net profit was up 8 percent to $8.5 billion. However, earnings before income taxes, or EBIT, actually fell 2 percent for Daimler, and at Mercedes EBIT fell 15 percent. Daimler’s board is expected to extend the contract of CEO Dieter Zetsche for another 5 years, but under his watch Daimler is falling behind BMW by almost any way you measure it.
RAM BACK IN THE VAN BUSINESS
Back when Dieter ran Chrysler he got the company to start selling the Sprinter van. Now that Dieter’s gone and Sergio is running the show, Chrysler is getting a new commercial van to sell. Meet the Fiat Ducato, I mean the Ram ProMaster. The unibody vehicle is available in two roof heights, three wheelbases and four body lengths. Powering comes from a 3.0 liter four-cylinder diesel or a 3.6 liter V-6 gasoline engine. Two transmissions are also offered, a six-speed automatic and an automated six-speed manual which uses an electro-hydraulic actuation system for gear shifts. Production of the ProMaster starts in the third quarter of the year at the company’s plant in Saltillo, Mexico.
RENAULT SCENIC XMOD
Renault is set to pull the wraps off its all-new crossover, the Scenic XMOD at the Geneva Motor Show in March. It gets more ground clearance, a new front end design and also boasts one of the largest interiors in its class with seats that are independent, folding and removable. It will feature Renault’s all-new traction control system called, Extended Grip, which allows the driver to choose from 3 different settings from a rotary control knob on the center console. The XMOD will be produced at the company’s Douai plant in France.
Automakers are making another run at using plastic windows. That can take as much as 50 pounds of glass out of a vehicle. It also takes it out of the upper body of a vehicle, which lowers the center of gravity, and that improves handling.The 2014 Fiat 500L is one example of polycarbonate fixed side rear windows. Honda has also used them in the European market. I remember driving a Chrysler minivan test vehicle 20 years ago with plastic windows and they still have the same issues now is they did then. Plastic windows let a lot more road noise into the cabin. And while they’ve probably got this fixed by now, they can haze over just like you see many headlight lenses that look like they’ve got cataracts. Due to U.S. federal safety regulations, plastic cannot be used for door windows or windshields.
ALUMINUM PRICES TO SURGE
Speaking of materials, let’s talk aluminum. Automakers are using more and more of it, but that is going to lead to higher prices. Bloomberg reports that current aluminum prices are a third below what they were five years ago and that nearly a third of aluminum makers aren’t making money. But automotive aluminum usage is growing 5 percent a year and analysts say that will push prices up 30 percent by 2018.
LOUIS, MEET RUDOLPH
We’ve got a few more details on the Chevy Cruze diesel that will be sold in the American market. Of course, Chevy has sold half a million of these babies in other markets, so this diesel is well developed. It’s a 2.0 liter engine with 140 horsepower (110 kW) and 258 lb-ft (350 NM) of torque. 0 to 60 mph takes 8.5 seconds, which Chevy claims is faster than the VW Jetta and comparable with other diesels available in the American market. It comes with a 6-speed automatic and is rated at 42 mpg on the highway. The price is $25,695, which includes the destination charges. And bravo to Chevrolet for quoting prices with the destination charges. Any other automaker that does not include destination is being dishonest in quoting its prices. BTW, if you want to get a lot more details about this car, tune in tonight for Autoline After Hours. Our guest is Josh Tavel from Chevrolet who will be able to answer all our questions.
2014 KIA FORTE
(Kia Forte can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show.)
Thanks for tuning in to today’s show, remember all you diesel fans, join me and the Autoextremist Peter De Lorenzo tonight on After Hours when we’ll get a lot more info on the diesel version of the Chevy Cruze.