March 15th, 2013 at 12:06pm
China has sought to dominate EV technology, but the electric car market has been a flop in the country. Volkswagen’s Chief Executive says the company will build a minimum of 10 assembly plants in the years to come. A report out of Europe says automakers use tricks to boost their fuel efficiency and lower CO2 ratings that border on cheating. All that and more, plus host John McElroy answers some of your questions and comments in this week’s edition of You Said It!
Ah yes, Friday. We earned it, didn’t we? Of course we did. Later in the show we’ll identify the latest Barn Find, but for now, the news.
EVs FLOP IN CHINA
Bloomberg is now reporting what we’ve been saying here for some time now. The electric car market is a flop. Especially in China, which once sought to dominate EV technology. Despite a goal to sell 5 million by the end of the decade, EVs only account for 0.02 percent of the total fleet. There are several reasons why EVs have not caught on, but China’s notorious traffic jams mean EV drivers have to shut off their air conditioning or heaters to prevent the batteries from dying on the road. And if you turn off the A/C, that means you have to roll down the windows and breathe in all that horrific pollution. Now Chinese regulators are looking at increasing incentives on hybrids and other fuel efficient models.
VW’S MIND-BLOWING PLANT EXPANSION
Volkswagen’s Chief Executive, Dr. Martin Winterkorn says the company will build a minimum of 10 assembly plants in the years to come. 7 of the plants will be built in China, where it already has 12. The U.S. could get one plant and 4 to 5 models developed specifically for U.S. customers. If all these new plants are the size of a typical plant that would represent an additional 2.2 million units of capacity, which is far more than GM or Toyota have talked about. And that would definitely put VW in the #1 slot.
IT’S ONLY KIND-OF CHEATING
The fuel economy test cycle in Europe is far easier than the American test and it routinely generates higher mpg’s than comparable cars tested by the US EPA. Even so, a report out of Europe says automakers use tricks to boost their fuel efficiency and CO2 ratings that border on cheating. The reason I say border on cheating is because it is not technically cheating. Some of the tricks include overinflating tires and taping over the gaps where body panel meet. Get rid of those tricks and the study shows a drop of about 12 percent in fuel consumption.
AMERICANS ARE DISTRACTED DRIVERS
In other European news, drivers are less likely to drive while using a cell phone than Americans are. A recent survey showed that nearly 69 percent of American drivers reported using their cell phone in the car in the last 30 days, and 31 percent of people said they had read or sent a text message. That compares to a high of 59 percent in Europe to a low of 21 percent for the 7 European countries surveyed. I would add that it’s rare for Europeans to eat or drink beverages in their car, too.
Alright, people. Time to reveal the identity of this week’s Barn Find. Yesterday we showed you this mossy monstrosity submitted by Gordon Garside. And as, well, NO ONE correctly guessed, it’s an Austin A40 Devon. Hey, we finally stumped you! This particular model was sold from 1947 until 1952 when it was replaced by the A40 Somerset. In those five years, Austin managed to build 450,000 cars. That may be why, as we discovered in our research, it is not hard to find decrepit examples of these sedans in fields all over the world. In case you’re wondering, in 1948 you could have scooped one of these up, with the optional sliding sunroof, for a tidy 505 pounds sterling — that’s 13,237 pounds adjusted for inflation, or about $20,000. Now, if you’ve got a vehicle you think we should feature, you know where to send it: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It! Yeah, you!
Lex says that, “The Transit Chassis Cab nose would look great on a Ford Minivan. Any mention by Ford of re-entering the full size minivan market with an Eco Boost powered Freestar, Windstar or EcoVan? The Transit Connect is just too commercial and boxy IMHO.” Lex I like your suggestion of transplanting that nose, but Ford has not said peep about getting back into, as you put it, the full-size minivan market. Isn’t that one of the greatest oxymorons you ever heard? Full size minivan. But I know what you mean.
Duke wants to know, “What are the German companies, specifically MB and BMW doing to meet CAFE and will they be able meet it in 2 years? Audi is presumably going to ride in on their corporate coat-tails of VW.” Duke, MB is really going to ramp up the smart brand, and CAFE is a key reason why BMW has Mini. Plus, this is exactly why you hear about all the German brands expanding their diesel line-ups, which provide an instant 30 percent improvement in CAFE numbers.
Speaking of diesels, G.A.Branigan says, “Next should be bio-diesel, as I might have mentioned a time or two before. Get the under-hood tech up to speed on B50 and we will be rockin’.” Amen, GA. The fastest way to increase diesel refining capacity is to simply add biofuel to the mix. And guess what? That also instantly lowers greenhouse gas emissions since biodiesel has a lower carbon content.
Edmund T liked my comment about how Jeep should think about sticking a diesel in the SRT Grand Cherokee. “Hey John, I totally agree. I hope Ralph Gilles is considering an SRT Grand Cherokee HEMI Diesel.” HEMI Diesel, whoa! They better run out today and trademark that name.
M360 heard me say that Cadillac needs more models in its line-up. “What new models for Cadillac do you suggest? Maybe a cool convertible or a strong competitor to the MB S-class?” M360, right now the hottest sellers in the luxury segment are SUV’s. BMW and Mercedes have about a half a dozen each. Audi has four. Cadillac only has two, the Escalade and SRX. That’s the biggest hole in Cadillac’s line-up.
Thanks for all your letters and comments, we sure love getting them. And if you’re looking for something to do this weekend, may I highly recommend last night’s Autoline After Hours. Our guest was Klaus Busse, the head of interior design at Chrysler. Anyone who has anything to do with interior design ought to check it out because it really was that good.
Anyway that wraps up this week’s reports. We’ll be back here again on Monday.