Episode 118 – GM Unveils Electric Scooter, VW Will Be #2 In World, Chrysler Teams With A123

April 7th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 6:23

GM teamed-up with scooter company Segway to develop a compact, battery-powered vehicle. VW rises to #2 in the world in sales, behind only Toyota. Chrysler announced that A123Systems will supply lithium-ion batteries for the company’s electric vehicles. All that and more, plus an up close look at the new Toyota Prius.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. GM unveils a small electric commuter scooter. VW rises to #2 in the world. And an up close look at the new Toyota Prius.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, April 7, 2009. And now, the news.

Segway, the company that makes those two-wheeled electric scooters, has teamed-up with GM to develop a compact, battery-powered vehicle. Called Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility, or P.U.M.A. for short, it’s designed to help city dwellers get around. It also aims to reduce pollution and congestion in crowded areas. The funky-looking two-wheeler is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack and can hit a top speed of 35 miles an hour, or about 56 kilometers, and a 35 mile range between charges. Compared to a car, GM says it costs as little as one quarter as much to own and operate. I’m guessing that means about $6,000.

Speaking of GM, it used to be the world’s biggest automaker, but now it won’t even be number two. Reuters reports that GM’s sales will fall below VW’s this year, making the German automaker second only to Toyota. It quotes RL Polk Germany as forecasting global sales will only reach about 53 million vehicles this year. But it also forecasts strong double-digit growth in 2011 and 2012, and that global production will set a record of more than 70 million vehicles, thanks to pent-up demand.

And speaking of electric vehicles, Chrysler announced that A123Systems will supply lithium-ion batteries for the company’s first-generation of ENVI, range-extended vehicles and its battery-powered vehicles. A123 is currently planning a site in Michigan to build the batteries and Chrysler plans to bring its first electric vehicle to market next year. Next year? If the plant to build the batteries isn’t built, they aren’t going to be building in volume production next year.

And speaking of getting money to build plants, U.S. automakers and suppliers have applied for $44.6 billion in government money to retool their factories to make fuel efficient cars, reports the Detroit Free Press. But they can’t get any of the money, not just yet. GM has put in for $10 billion and Chrysler for $4 billion. But to get that money any company has to prove it’s financially viable, and GM and Chrysler can’t do that right now. But there’s a problem here, as I see it. There is only $25 billion set aside to retool plants, but the industry has put in requests for over $44 billion. You know, when the government starts handing out money, everyone has their hand out.

And speaking of fuel efficient vehicles, European commercial vehicle company Iveco gave delivery company FedEx 10 diesel hybrid vehicles to test in its fleet. Over the first 6 months, the fleet of Iveco Dailies, traveled an average of 7,900 km or nearly 5,000 miles. The diesel hybrids reduced fuel consumption by more than a quarter and CO2 emissions dropped 7.5 tons.

And speaking even more about fuel efficient cars, coming up next, our driving impressions of the new Toyota Prius.

On an earlier episode of Autoline Daily we gave you an overview of the new 2010 Toyota Prius after its debut at the Detroit Auto Show. We finally got a chance to get behind the wheel of one, to see what it can do.

Even though it’s been redesigned the vehicle still maintains that distinct Prius look. Under the hood is a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine and 90 percent of the hybrid system is newly developed.

The 2010 Prius gets an EPA-estimated 50 MPGs or 4.7 l/100 km and it’s a figure just about anyone should reach or break with minimal effort. It should be noted that we only drove the vehicle for half a day and drove it in ideal conditions but achieving more than 50 MPGs was no problem in our time with the vehicle.

One of the more unique features with the new Prius are the three driving modes. An EV mode allows the driver to run the vehicle on electric power up to 25 MPH for one mile. The Eco mode helps the driver achieve the best fuel economy by smoothing out the throttle. And the Power mode boosts performance.

The EV mode is a neat feature but obviously can’t be used most of the time. The Eco mode makes the car a bit sluggish especially starting from a stopped position and will probably only interest those who are looking to get every last ounce of gas out of their Prius. And the Power mode was helpful when you needed that extra boost, like while on a freeway.

The nice thing about these modes is that they can be switched on or off at any time while driving. It was fun to play around with these features for a day but will owners put these driving modes to use everyday? I’m not so sure. It’s seems like it could be the Prius’s version of paddle shifters.

We’ll have more about some of the other new features in the 2010 Prius in an upcoming Autoline Daily.

Don’t forget, this Thursday on Autoline After Hours, renowned Wall Street analyst Maryann Keller will be joining me along with Mr. Autoextremist Peter DeLorenzo and PR veteran Jason Vines. That’s live this Thursday at 7 p.m. eastern time for a great discussion of what’s ailing the auto industry. And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

17 Comments to “Episode 118 – GM Unveils Electric Scooter, VW Will Be #2 In World, Chrysler Teams With A123”

  1. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Is this how Gm plans to get taxpayers money, by building a wheelchair on steroids? give me a break, and segway hasn’t exactly made an impact either, I have only seen them used by security guards and at Disney World. Also, John your pals at autoweek didn’t think much of the new Prius, calling it “boring”. Well not every car is gonna do 0-60 in 4secs, or take a curve at 70mph. This car has excellent owner feedback and is very reliable, frugal on gas and has great resale value. But none of that is important, it’s just “boring”.

  2. G.A.Branigan Says:

    GM is showing the clear signs of desperation with the sedgeway crap,and it is crap.A totally useless vehicle that appeals to the snotbag treehugger crowd that like the vehicle,do little of any worth.
    @Pedro:I’ve been watching motorweek since the early 80′s and they always favor expensive sports/luxo cars.I have learned to put very little stock in their opinions as they are clearly biased.
    How about throwing one of those Iveco diesels in the Jeep JK??

  3. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Ps. you can get his and hers electric scooters from the scooter store for a lot less than this crap and if you’re 65 or older its free!!!!

  4. G.A.Branigan Says:

    PS:People could also just buy a street legal electric golf cart,a lot more room and safer no doubt.Sedgeway is a loser,always has been,always will be.

  5. pedro Fernandez Says:

    You’re right G. A., here in Key Biscayne,Fl they have street-legal extended golf carts that can carry up to 6 people and are used locally. people use them to run their errands around the village and when they get home they recharge them.

  6. craigerzgt Says:

    I like how Chrysler’s already notifying the media of when the vehicle’s going to be built, when the plant for the batteries hasn’t even been built yet. Bravo Chrysler, job well done!

    Also, why, of all times, is GM pairing up with Segway to make a mostly-useless vehicle that very few people will buy? What next, are they going to pair up with the company that makes those robotic UFO floor cleaners, just because? The leadership of these two companies is mind-blowing.

  7. Dan Clemons Says:

    The 2010 Toyota Prius, now there is a car that has peaked my interest. I have spent more time looking at this car than any other in some time. I did not test drive but got to sit inside a new Honda Insight. That is one well-built car. Fit and finish is just pure perfection inside and out. I gave it a 9 on a scale of one to ten. There is not enough head and legroom in the rear seat for me to fit comfortably. The sticker was $21,970 but the dealer added a Market Value Adjustment of $2,495 making the total $24,465. I thought that was a bit over the top for the current economy. What are these people thinking? I sure hope Toyota doesn’t try that trick at their dealers.

    I like your comments on the new Prius. Keep going!

  8. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @Dan…dealer/dealers that add that “extra” to a vehicle won’t be selling too many of them I would think.Especially with almost all manufacturers coming out with similar cars.The market by 2011 will be flooded with all kinds of hybrids,or straight electic vehicles with the same level of fit and finish.If I were in the market for such a vehicle,I would wait a bit.But ya know what?It’s kinda funny to see car dealerships crying the blues with big giant tears about not selling any cars,then adding a “market value adjustment” to over price a car they can’t sell.It’s thinking like that,that caused the whole financial world to go to sh!t.

  9. Dan Clemons Says:

    G.A. you got that right and may I add that every car dealer on the planet would love to have a no haggle no hassle red tag pricing. It is crap like adding a Market Value Adjustment that made car shopping one of our worst shopping experiences. Dealers take you into an over cramped office where you brow beat each other for two hours trying to figure out a fair price to pay. What an industry?

    John, here is a good topic for you!

  10. Dan Clemons Says:

    And the dealers can’t figure out why they can’t sell any cars! Americans are not all that willing to go along with a bailout either and the car companies can’t figure why they are not loved by the people who buy their products!

  11. G.A.Branigan Says:

    It’s easy Dan……we “get it”,the auto industry as a whole doesn’t.It’s a consumer “revolution” of sorts,and I’m thinking the banks are helping us unintentionaly.Finaly something happened to “wake” up the middle class.AND…..the anti-bailout movement is really taking hold.About dealers:that may be covered in the future,ya never know.

  12. Salvador G. Says:

    Haaahhhh, What a great day.

    1. I like the consensus with all got on GM’s new (What the Hell were they thinking) humn- Concept Vehicle.

    2. Also, John McElroy I don’t mean to correct you, but Porscha who owns VW will become the new 2 in the world (and probably 1 someday)

    3. You got to give it up to Chrysler, after all the Obama administration is trying to do to save the ocmpany, Chrysler just won’t stop trying to screw-up, I actually feel sorry for FIAT.

  13. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Just an observation on the dealer discussion: dealers have always tried to stick to the customers ex. when a car is popular they always add a market correction bs excuse just to tag on an additional profit for them while the om’s look the other way, its happened in all except Saturn and Scion if I”m not mistaken. Cars like pt cruiser, Miata, new beetle, mini and of course even the Hybrids now. I even remember Toyota trying to stick it to a friend of mine when gas went up to $4. when he tried to buy a lowly Yaris. 6 mos later it’s got a $1,000 rebate. So I can’t feel bad for some of these aholes if they go under. They’ve screwed more people than Hugh Hefner. Personally I long for the day when we can buy a vehicle directly from the manufacturer

  14. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I’m not sure that any auto manufacturer can sell cars.They can’t seem to run their manufacturing right,I really don’t see where they could sell directly to the public and do it right.You would still have to have dealerships/service dept’s etc,and the people to run them,the same people I would say.Perhaps some factory oversight with teeth would better serve the car buying public.A really bad dealership could be shut down,franchaise taken away etc.

  15. motorman Says:

    I believe George Will was right with his column,”Industrial policy laid bare” when he wrote about the Volt. “This vehicle was concocted to serve GM’s prolonged attempt to ingratiate itself with the few hundred environmentally obsessed automotive engineers in Congress”. same for this “new” vehicle idea.

  16. clem zahrobsky Says:

    I believe George Will was right with his column,”Industrial policy laid bare” when he wrote about the Volt. “This vehicle was concocted to serve GM’s prolonged attempt to ingratiate itself with the few hundred environmentally obsessed automotive engineers in Congress”. the same for the lastest rickshaw from GM

  17. Alex Kovnat Says:

    I very much enjoyed reading about the new Prius.

    Ford has done a great job with their hybrid electric Fusion, and that is good. But even so, I am opposed to any proposals to limit access to cars like the Prius by protectionist elements.

    What I would like to see is not only hybrid electric drivetrains featuring lithium ion batteries and supercapacitors, but also systems to reduce energy waste caused by building up too much speed and then slamming on the brakes. We already have adaptive cruise control, using compact radar systems to track the car ahead and automatically manipulate brakes and throttle.

    We should also have technology whereby your car would be aware of how many feet you are from the nearest traffic light, and how many seconds it will be before it changes. Anticipating traffic lights, hills and valleys and curves in the road; would enable a car’s master computer to manipulate drivetrain variables so as to achieve the smoothest, most economical performance in getting one to where he or she wants to go.

    As for the Volt serving no purpose other than what George Will mentioned: That’s as good a reason as any to tax gasoline to $4.00 a gallon, if there is in fact a legitimate need to reduce our carbon footprint.