Episode 87 – Incentives Boost Europe Sales, Honda Making Profit, Ford Kills Torque Steer

February 24th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 6:12

New car sales in Europe are picking up thanks to government incentives that pay consumers to scrap clunkers and buy a new car. Honda is still making a profit, thanks to the fact that it’s in the motorcycle business. Ford has figured out how to eliminate torque steer in front drive cars. All that and more, plus a look at some of the technology Mercedes is putting on the new 2010 E-Class.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. New car sales incentives are boosting sales in Europe. Honda’s motorcycle sales are keeping it profitable. And Ford has figured out how to eliminate torque steer in front drive cars.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, February 24, 2009. And now, the news.

New car sales in Europe are picking up thanks to generous government incentives (subscription required) in Germany, France, Italy and Spain that pay consumers $3,200 to scrap an old clunker and buy a new car. The Wall Street Journal reports Peugeot is nearly doubling production of its 207 minicar. Opel is having its best sales month in the last five years in Germany. But analysts worry the sales incentive is only pulling sales forward and that the spike could be short lived.

The Journal also has a fascinating story about how Honda is one of the few large automakers in the world that is still making a profit (subscription required), thanks to the fact that it’s still in the motorcycle business. Honda says its sales of new cars will fall by 400,000 units this year, but sales of motorcycles will go up by one million units. So even though Honda’s profits are way down, it’s still making money, thanks to all those bikes.

Researchers at the European engineering school, ETH Zurich are developing an engine that uses compressed air (subscription required). According to Ward’s, this allows the size of the engine to be smaller and also can reduce fuel consumption by 30 percent. The compressed air could move a car for about 700 ft. by its own power, so it could act as a stop-start feature that would outperform a micro-electric hybrid and eliminate turbo lag. The engine compresses air during deceleration and then uses that air to eliminate turbo lag during acceleration.

Speaking of compressed air, a company called Coda Development recently won the Tire Technology of the Year award for its self inflating tire. According to Autoblog, it works by using a peristaltic pump built directly into the tire that uses the spinning wheel to force air through a liquid-filled tube to maintain pressure at a set level. Coda says the tire will maintain constant pressure throughout the tire’s lifetime.

As we’ve reported, automakers are hyping the products they’re going to be showing at next week’s Geneva Motor Show. Some of the latest pictures to hit the web are of a Kia concept called the “No. 3.” It’s a compact five-door MPV with an unusual diagonally-cut windshield that blends into the roof. It’s not a bad looking vehicle, but I can’t help but notice just how much it looks like the new Ford Fiesta.

Torque steer is the invisible force that tugs at the steering wheel when you accelerate. It’s a big reason why you don’t see a lot of front-wheel-drive vehicles with huge power numbers. Well, Ford may have developed a suspension that eliminates this vice. The new Focus RS has a patented design called “RevoKnuckle.” The car delivers 301 horsepower and 324 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. Autocar over in the UK tested the new Focus and claims it’s a miraculous thing and makes the car feel like it has all-wheel-drive. I’ll just have to wait until Ford decides IF it’s going to bring the Focus RS to North America. If you’re interested, check out the John’s Journal page on our website for more information about this new suspension design.

Coming up next, a look at some of the technology Mercedes is putting on the new 2010 E-Class. We’ll be back right after this.

Yesterday we took a look at some of the design elements on the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Today we’re going to dig a little deeper into the car and check out some of its features.

One technology is designed to prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. Attention Assist keeps an eye on steering inputs and other parameters. If it detects the driver getting drowsy, it emits an audible warning and flashes lights on the dashboard.

Another useful nighttime feature is called Adaptive High Beam Assist. It watches for oncoming traffic and automatically dims the headlamps to keep from blinding other drivers. When traffic has passed, it switches back to high beams for better visibility.

But new features aren’t limited to just electronics, sometimes they’re engineered right into the vehicle. Mercedes spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel tweaking the car’s aerodynamics. Attention to detail in this area improves fuel economy and helps cut down on noise. The company says the new E-Class is the most aerodynamic luxury sedan out there with a .25 coefficient of drag which is identical to the all-new Toyota Prius!

Under the hood Mercedes offers a wide range of engine choices. From four-cylinder diesels to big V8s, there’s a power plant for everyone. In North America the company will offer two V6s – one gas and one diesel, and two V8s, one of which is built by AMG.

Mercedes hasn’t mentioned anything about pricing yet, but the 2010 E-Class should start arriving at dealerships sometime this summer.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. But don’t forget, you can get podcasts, transcripts and a whole lot more on our website, AutolineDaily.com. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

10 Comments to “Episode 87 – Incentives Boost Europe Sales, Honda Making Profit, Ford Kills Torque Steer”

  1. Ed Miller Says:

    Hey John,
    If torque steer is dead, will there be a funeral? If so, which cars would you expect to see in the Torque Steer Funeral Parade?

  2. g magoulas Says:

    Hi John isn’t torque steer the same as posi-trac for the front.

  3. Merv Peters Says:

    Interesting using compressed air. I had a model 50 years ago that used that technology.

  4. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Interesting that Ford could harness the torque steer with that amount of hp and torque.Good show blue oval.Subaru has had that whipped (not in that hp range of course)using the combination of the flat four and equal length drive shafts.G Magoulas:no that isn’t the same,in fact it’s opposite.Torque steer is inherent in most front drive vehicles.It is when applying power,one wheel pulls harder then the other causing the vehicle to veer off to either the left or right.Posi-traction (GM name)is when both (rear) wheels spin with the same force/power/torque without pulling to one side or the other.

  5. pedro Fernandez Says:

    So, the European rebate plan is working, I knew it should have been done here also. Instead, all those millions were given to GM an Chrysler and where are they? in the same shape they were before the money was given. Bottom line: more wasted taxpayer money.

  6. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Same with the bailed out banks Pedro,money down the crapper.And they both want more of our money too,”and the beat goes on……”

  7. John Says:

    Hey Pedro,

    What do you drive?

  8. D. Lewis Says:

    On torque steer, that is (simply) the pulling or turning effect (to the right) you feel in the steering wheel in all front wheel drives when you stomp on the gas.
    On the Kia No.3, I think it looks like the Chevy Groove concept.

  9. pedro Fernandez Says:

    John: I am the proud owner of a 98 Nummi plant built Corolla with all of 279,000 miles and still going strong. up to that one all my previous cars were American nameplates: Chevy, Buick, Plymouth and Dodge. None made it to 100k

  10. John Says:

    Thanks Pedro,

    When you get tired of that Corolla you should consider a domestic. They have come a long way.
    John McElroy test drives many of them and I hear the new Chevy Malibu is one he likes.

    Here is the 2009 Chevy Malibu.