February 13th, 2013 at 11:52am
PSA posted its financial earnings for last year and the numbers were as bad as we were expecting. Better Place is the company that sets up stations where batteries for EVs can be swapped for a fully charged one, or at least it was. In another sign the auto industry in the U.S. has recovered from the recession, car plants in North America nearly hit 100 percent capacity utilization last year. All that and more, plus host John McElroy gets to some of your questions and comments in today’s edition of You Said It!
Welcome to Autoline Daily, let’s get to the news.
PSA POSTS BIG LOSS
PSA, the parent company of Peugeot and Citroen posted its financial earnings for last year and the numbers were as bad as we were expecting. Sales of fully assembled and CKD vehicles reached 2.9 million units, down 17 percent from the year before. Revenue came to about $72 billion down over 5 percent. And the hit really came on the bottom line. In 2011 PSA posted a net profit of about $764 million. Last year that plummeted to a loss of $6.5 billion. And remember PSA received $400 million from GM last year to partner up on vehicle development programs, so that makes these numbers all the worse.
Uh-oh, things aren’t looking good for Better Place. That’s the company that is setting up stations where batteries for EVs can be swapped for a fully charged one, or at least it was. The company is winding down its operations in North America and Australia. It will focus on Denmark and Israel instead because of a better infrastructure and more demand. Due to Better Place’s decision, Renault is delaying the launch of its Fluence EV in Australia.
In another sign the auto industry in the U.S. has recovered from the recession, car plants in North America nearly hit 100 percent capacity utilization last year. According to WardsAuto, a number of automakers started running 3 shifts which pushed capacity utilization to 97 percent in 2012. Mexico had the highest rate at 124 percent, Canada followed at 99.6 percent and the U.S. was third at 91 percent. The general rule of thumb is the break even point for the industry is 80 percent capacity utilization. Anything above that is pure profit.
HERE, MAYBE THIS WILL HELP
Sales of Mitsubishi vehicles have been terrible in the U.S., but its North American chairman, Gayu Uesugi, says they’re staying put. For the first time since 2005, the Japanese automaker will be advertising in prime time TV, with ads set to begin in June or July.
HAPPY 50th ANNIVERSARY
One of the most iconic sports cars in history celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, the Porsche 911. It first made its debut as the Type 901 at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1963, has sold over 820,000 units and Porsche claims the 911 has notched two thirds of its 30,000 race victories.
We’re always on the lookout for rare, old or just plain strange cars that you, our viewers, find out there in the world. We call ‘em Barn Finds. This week’s selection comes from Gary Magarian who took a photo of this royal blue looker in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “It appears to be British,” he says, “but what make is it, and when was it made?” Well, we figured it out, but can you? Send us your best guesses, and we’ll reveal the correct answer on Friday. Don’t forget, if you find a car or anything else automotive-related that you think would make a good head-scratcher for Barn Finds, send it our way. Just e-mail email@example.com.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
Jeff Perry heard our report on BMW selling Husqvarna and says, “I grew-up saying it: Husk-uh-varna. But in recent TV commercials in the U.S. it’s pronounced: Husk-varna.”
Buzzerd pipes in to add, “John – it’s not HUSQ-A-VARNA, just HUSQ-VARNA. People always want to add an A in there.” Yeah it’s almost impossible to pronounce without adding an A in there. To go from the K sound to the V sound your tongue, throat and mouth have to transition from a glottal stop to a voiced fricative. That transition hard to do without exhaling which can sound like adding an extra A. Sorry, but I studied linguistics in college.
Don From NJ, “Saw the Alfa Romeo 4C and it looks good. But I see prices between 40,000-50,000 Euros for a 230hp 4 banger. If I were a meat eating American I think I would rather have a Corvette Stingray and then proceed to beat the little Alpha that couldn’t, in everything, including a lower monthly payment. What say you John?” Well, as my mother always taught me, that’s why they make vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Different people have different tastes. I’ll wait until I taste both the Alfa and the Vette before I decide which I like better.
Will Beck is not at all impressed with the Chevy Cruze diesel. “All this talk about economy cars with diesel power has got me shaking my head. A $25,000 dollar Cruze? Burning a fuel that costs 70 cents a gallon more! I would buy a natural gas Civic before that.” Will, do the math. Right now the price of gasoline in the US, on average is $3.55 a gallon. Since diesels get 30 percent better fuel economy than a comparable car with a gasoline engine that means diesel fuel would have to be over $4.60 a gallon to be at a price disadvantage. So if it’s 70 cents more, that would come to $4.25 a gallon, meaning it’s still cheaper to run a diesel. As for natural gas, go price out a Civic GX. It’s about $7,000 more than a gasoline Civic.
David Pate also weighed in saying, “The Chevy Cruze diesel costs $25,695 and gets 42 mpg highway and only comes in automatic? The Chevy Cruze Eco costs $19,680 and gets 42 mpg highway and comes in a 6-speed manual, and gas is ALOT cheaper than diesel. I don’t see the diesel selling.” Well, David did do the math and has a pretty strong argument.
JogBird was not impressed about the new Mini GP. “$40,000 for a Mini? ahahahahahaaaahahaahahahaa,” he says.
Admiral Ackbar is not at all impressed by GM’s use of shape memory alloys in the new Corvette. “Smart materials seem like a waste of time. Just use a small electric motor or a passive sort of flapper vent. We don’t need no stinkin fancy metals! Probably cost a fortune to replace.” Admiral, these SMA’s can package into much tighter spaces than an electric motor and they weigh a lot less. My prediction? You’re going to see a lot more applications in the very near future.
Cargogh liked our reports on the ACIS ignition system from Federal Mogul and how you can touch the spark. He says, “I learned the old ‘hold here and here’ trick with the spark plug from my older brother 45 years ago. ‘Knock you to the ground’ just reminded me of the evil grin he cast while reaching for the push mower’s starter rope.” Cargogh, I think we all know exactly what you’re talking about. And thanks again everyone, for your letters and comments.
And then, remember to join us tomorrow night for Autoline After Hours when our guest will be John Davis, the chief engineer on the Ford C-Max Energi. So, join me and the Autoextremeist, Peter De Lorenzo for some of the best insider information in the business.
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.