Episode 109 – Volvo for Sale, California to Ban Dark Cars? Mercedes F-Cell Concept

March 26th, 2009 at 8:43pm

Runtime 6:27

Ford turns to Chinese and European interests as it looks for a buyer for Volvo. The California Air Resources Board looks to ban dark car colors. Mercedes unveils a strange, anachronistic hydrogren concept car. All that and more, plus a look at the future of Nissan interior design.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Ford is talking to two buyers about selling Volvo. California is considering banning dark-colored cars. And Mercedes comes out with one of the weirdest concepts ever.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, March 26, 2009. And now, the news.

Ford has two serious parties interested in buying Volvo, the Wall Street Journal reports. As we’ve been reporting here for months, Chinese automaker Geely is very interested in buying Volvo (subscription required), as is a consortium of European investors. A sale of Volvo would give Ford more cash to make sure it doesn’t have to turn to the government for help.

And speaking of Ford, it’s going to add a new member to its board of directors (subscription required) – Richard Gephardt, former Congressman from Missouri and the former majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was also a strong supporter of unions, so undoubtedly the UAW will look favorably on him joining the board. Also joining the board is Anthony Early, the CEO of the DTE Energy company.

You’re not going to believe this story. Autoblog reports that there’s legislation in the works in California to ban certain colors of cars, all with the goal of reducing tailpipe emissions. The California Air Resources Board says that dark-colored cars run the air conditioning more than light color ones. You know, you just can’t make this stuff up.

Mercedes has built a totally retro-looking vehicle that’s powered by a fuel cell. It styling doesn’t borrow cues from the Gullwing sportscar or even an old S-Class, it’s way more retro than that. The F-Cell roadster looks a lot like the original Mercedes, the Benz Patent Motorwagen from 1885! Over the course of a year around 150 trainees at the company’s Sindelfingen plant built this wild-looking four-wheeler that blends old and new. Like the original car, it features large, spoke wheels and an open body, while its joystick is a lot like the Patent Motorwagen’s tiller. Its carbon-fiber body and fuel cell powertrain are pure 21st century. The F-Cell has a top speed of only 25 km/h and a range of up to 350 km – that’s roughly 220 miles.

In a report from WardsAuto.com, Toyota has confirmed that it’s developing a hybrid car built on the Yaris (subscription required) platform. With a lower sticker price it would better compete with Honda’s redesigned Insight, which undercuts the Pruis. The company is also looking into building even smaller hybrids than that – ones that could get 60 mile per gallon or better. That’s 3.9 L/100km! In other Toyota news, the company has confirmed that in Japan it will continue to sell the previous generation Prius alongside the new model (subscription required).

Coming up next, a look at research that Nissan’s been doing to make car interiors more user friendly.

In 2005 Nissan established the Interaction Design Team to make future car interiors intuitive and as universally-friendly as possible for meeting the needs of the large and small, and the young and old. Recently the team showed the second generation of its “Best Usability Interior” prototype or BUI-2 for short. The prototype is a modified version of the Note, which is sold in Japan and Europe.

When you open the door of the BUI-2, you’ll notice a molded ridge that runs along the inside of the door parallel to the bottom of the window, to assist the driver getting into the vehicle.

To give the driver as much vision as possible, the spokes on the steering wheel are located at the bottom of the wheel so it doesn’t block the driver’s view of the instrument panel.

Driver info, such as the fuel gauge, speedometer, and odometer, is displayed in the driver’s line of sight between the top of the steering wheel and the road. Video screens to the left and right of the main cluster show what’s happening at the front bumper corners.

To make opening the door easier, the oval-shaped door handle is designed so it can be grasped from several different angles. This door handle design has already been incorporated into the new cube and the 350 Z, or for our Japanese audience, the Fairlady Z. And to further assist passengers, a knob located below the door handle that can be grasped to swing the door open or shut.

The BUI-2 also incorporates a few convenience features that are different but kind of neat. The bottom of the front passenger seat can fold up to hold items, such as a purse, so they don’t go flying out of the seat when coming to a stop. It also features a cup holder that can slide for easier access or to create more room.

One more thing before we go today. We’ve got a special, LIVE webcast that you can watch tonight at AutolineDaily.com. And I’m sure you’ve seen the promos we’ve been running at the end of the show, but I wanted to give you a little more info.

I’ve invited Jason Vines, a former PR honcho for Chrysler, Peter DeLorenzo from AutoExtremist.com, and Jeff Gilbert from WWJ.com who will be joining us via webcam. We’re going to talk about some of the latest product news and issues from the past week AND whatever else you want to talk about, so we’re looking for your help. If you’ve got stuff you want to discuss, bookmark the links on Delicious.com and tag the stories AutolineLive — all one word.

Then join us tonight at 6:30 PM Eastern or 23:30 GMT at AutolineDaily.com and hop in the chat—or just sit back and listen—either way, this is going to be fun. See ya tonight.

11 Comments to “Episode 109 – Volvo for Sale, California to Ban Dark Cars? Mercedes F-Cell Concept”

  1. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I hope Ford sells Volvo to the european investors.California….hairbrained as usual.Mercedes made a fine rendition of their moldy oldy.Don’t get all excited about the fuel cell stuff.If they,or anyone really wants to persue that extremly expensive technology,let it be for powering our homes,not cars.

  2. Tom Martin Says:

    Why continue to sale the old Prius in Japan?

    Is it cheaper?
    Is it a temporary situation due to oversupply of Priuses?
    Is there some item of short supply (like the battery) that is limiting the production of new Priuses?
    Or what?

    You left me hanging.

  3. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Yep, great idea, hire ex-congressmen to work in private industry, we all know what a great job they do in the congress. Speaking of pot-heads, what are they serving in the break room at California’s capitol building. Banning black cars?,why not purple lo riders, or better still have UPS paint their trucks white. And no more black funeral cars, only happy colors from now on.

  4. Jim Sawyer Says:

    What will happen when California discovers that the problem is not the color of cars, or even cars themselves, but people?

  5. Tom Cain Says:

    And they wonder why people are moving out of California and why folks like me would never even CONSIDER living there!

  6. Andy Says:

    It’s not California…it’s MEXIFORNIA.

  7. Jude Butler Says:

    One look at the BUI-2 interior, and I think of the interior of the 1975-80 AMC Pacer.

    The door trim panels on both peak upward at the beltline for easier grabbing when closing the doors (except that AMC included a handle-type cutout for 1979-80). The shape of the instrument binnacle and center stack are similar, as well as the way the passenger side fascia is recessed from them.

    The Pacer came with column shift automatics AND manuals, as well, which meant that you didn’t have to move your hand from the steering wheel for very long, either. Even the position (though not the shape) of the interior doorhandles is similar.

    The only real difference that I can see is that the Nissan’s passenger seat cushion folds up. But then again, the Pacer’s passenger side door was 4″ longer than the driver’s side door, making backseat ingress a lot easier. I’d say it’s a dead heat between them, except that one was built 30-35 years ago, while the other is still a concept.

    I know that Nissan has cribbed a lot of AMC’s exterior styling in the past (compare the Armada to the ’56-57 Rambler wagon, the Murano to the Gremlin, and the use of the Rogue name). This Pacer redux interior is simply the latest example.

  8. Alex Kovnat Says:

    Re California’s idea of banning black cars:

    I have always been concerned that once you allow individual states to set their own fuel economy requirements, what makes us think state governments will stop there? If its acceptable for states like California to demand 43 MPG CAFE, why not also allow them to impose their own regulations in areas besides CAFE?

    That California wants to ban dark-colored cars, is only one possible consequence of allowing each state to impose whatever requirements they please. I have always been concerned that if you allow states to regulate CAFE, what’s to stop some state government from demanding that cars for sale in that state be manufactured domestically, in UAW-union shop states? What’s to stop individual states from demanding not only the above, but also that manufacturers have a minimum number of women, minorities, handicapped, etc., on their boards of directors and high-level executive ranks?

    Runaway power grabs by the federal government are bad enough as it is. Let’s not make things worse by allowing states to impose even more onerous regulations of their own.

  9. john McElroy Says:

    @Tom: You got it right. Keeping the old Prius in production will allow Toyota to cut the price to compete with the new Honda Insight. Once the hybrid Yaris comes out, they’ll probably drop the old Prius.

  10. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Seems like Toyota execs know the business very well, or they listen to feedback more than their counterparts here. Most people I have talked to about the Prius tell me it’s too expensive for them. If they get a less expensive hybrid into the market, it will sell very well, specially with those mpg numbers.

  11. Richard Tait Says:

    I’m a bit late to this, but CARB should really do a bit more research than grade school science will allow. True, darker colours will absorb more radiant energy and stay hot longer than lighter colours. But what CARB doesn’t seem to realise is that it’s the colour of the INTERIOR that makes more of a difference. And even then, the difference is not that great. I’ve had cars with exteriors and interiors of various mixes of dark in/dark out/light in/light out and when it’s hot, it’s just hot. Big hairy deal. Grasping at straws should be added to the list of deadly sins. But then again, if we were to do that whenever California comes up with a dumb idea we’d be surely up 100 deadly sins by now! And to think there are other states that think California has its hands tied to the pulse of eco-technology. I think it has its hands tied somewhere else to be honest. Morons.