Episode 270 – China to Boost Exports, Plug-In Incentives In China, Buick Regal Unveiled

November 12th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:25

Concerned over excess capacity in the country, the Chinese government laid out ambitious plans to increase automotive exports. It is also considering offering subsidies to consumers who want to buy BYD’s F3DM plug-in hybrid. General Motors unveils the new Buick Regal today. All that and more plus, a look at the new 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. China wants to export a lot more cars and components. It also may offer generous incentives for plug-ins. And Buick unveils the new Regal today.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, November 12, 2009. And now, the news.

General Motors will announce its third-quarter earnings on Monday, and many analysts are expecting an upside surprise. After all, GM’s unexpected decision to keep Opel suggests it has a lot more cash on hand than it did just a few months ago. Then there’s the fact that it boosted sales and share in the American market even though it’s winding down four brands. GM doesn’t need incentives for new models and is now operating on a clean set of books since emerging from bankruptcy. And that’s why analysts are so keen to hear what GM will announce next week.

Concerned over excess capacity in the country, the Chinese government laid out ambitious plans to increase automotive exports. According to Gasgoo.com, China wants to capture 10 percent of the global trade in vehicles and auto parts by 2020. So the government is encouraging companies to move upscale in developing countries, set up well-developed sales networks and offer better services. And they’re also being urged to transfer technology overseas and invest more in the auto sectors of other countries.

And speaking of the Chinese government, it is also considering offering subsidies to consumers who want to buy BYD’s F3DM plug-in hybrid. According to Gasgoo.com, the car has only been sold to corporations and government agencies so far, and reportedly BYD is waiting for the subsidy to go through before it offers the car to the public. The government is considering offering up to 50,000 yuan or $7,300 in aid to buyers, which is a third of the cost of the car.  The starting price is 150,000 yuan.

General Motors is going to sell the Opel Insignia in the American market, but it will be badged as the Buick Regal. Interestingly, the car will be built in Germany for the first 15 months, then move to an unnamed site in North America. Another interesting fact, this Buick will only be sold with four-cylinder engines: a flex-fuel 2.4-liter and a non-flex fuel 2.0-liter turbo, which will offer about a 7.5 second zero-to-sixty time. Should be a pretty decent car, after all, the Opel Insignia was named the European Car of the Year.

Hybrids and EVs are all about saving fuel. If you want tire-smoking performance you’d better look elsewhere – at least for now. But Autoblog reports that Bob Lutz hinted at the possibility of a performance version of the Chevy Volt. An SS model of the extended-range EV is not totally out of the question; after all, electric motors deliver instant torque. Chew on this: the Volt’s battery is supposed to have a 40-mile range, but what if it could deliver sports car performance for 20 miles, or supercar acceleration for 10? This is an interesting concept. In fact, Mark Reuss, GM’s Vice President of Global Vehicle Engineering talked about this on Autoline After Hours two weeks ago. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Using natural materials in cars is not a new idea. Henry Ford experimented with soybean-based plastic 70 years ago, and many automakers use renewable or recycled materials today. Now, Ford and supplier A. Schulman are the first to introduce wheat-straw reinforced plastic – a material that contains 20 percent bio filler. The third-row storage bins in the Flex crossover are made of this eco-infused polymer. Normally wheat-straw is an abundant waste material, but the company has found a use for it. It’s estimated that this application alone will save 20,000 gallons of petroleum per year.

Coming up next, a look at Nissan 370Z Roadster.

Earlier in the year Nissan released the 370Z Coupe. So far, so good. Sales for the car are up over 20 percent for the year in the U.S. And the company hopes to continue that success with the introduction of the convertible version, the 370Z Roadster.

Aside from the convertible top, the design is pretty much the same as the coupe inside and out. Compared to the previous Roadster, the length and wheelbase are shorter and it’s 150 pounds lighter thanks to use of an aluminum hood, door panels and trunk. Although its still a couple bills heavier than the Coupe.

To improve ride and handling, the double wishbone front suspension is lighter and more rigid and the four-link rear suspension is stiffer and lighter as well.

And like the coupe, the Roadster is equipped with a 3.7-liter V-6 that cranks out 332 horsepower. Drivers have the option of equipping it with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy for the Roadster is 18 city, 25 highway, or about 13 to 9 L/100km, an improvement over the previous model despite a larger engine. It also comes standard with 18-inch wheels with the option for 19s.

Like the previous generation, the Z Roadster comes with a soft top, but the rear window was moved down to make it look more like the coupe. Nissan prefers the soft top because it reduces weight and also allows for more trunk space. It opens and closes with the push of a button and latches automatically without driver assistance, unlike the previous version.

The vehicle is offered with pretty much all the convenience features you’d expect and comes standard with the usual safety features. Look for the 370Z Roadster in U.S. showrooms now with a starting price over $37,000.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Join us tonight for Autoline After hours when our guest will be Hal Sperlich, the former president of Chrysler, and one of the savviest product planners of all time. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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16 Comments to “Episode 270 – China to Boost Exports, Plug-In Incentives In China, Buick Regal Unveiled”

  1. pedro Fernandez Says:

    So the Chinese want to sell more cars? Go sell them to Castro, they still have cars from the 50′ over there, but don’t expect to get paid any time soon. The Regal with a normal 4 and a turbo 4. “Will you like your Regal with Viagra or plain? Mr Smithers”

  2. Richard S Says:

    John: Thank you once again for your great daily update. I watch for it at noon

    I have not seen any reference to Ford’s anti-takeover decision that was made public about a week ago. Apparently, this provision will also protect Ford’s $19B tax cushion. Does this put Ford on a relatively equal finacial footing with GM and Chrysler? Those two companies came out of bankruptcy relieved of debt and their former obligations while Ford still carries its legacy burden. Any thoughts or opinion?

  3. Dan B. Says:

    They need to offer the turbo-four right out of the box on the “new” Regal, I would consider the base engine a bit of a deterrent.

  4. pedro Fernandez Says:

    I give GM credit for beginning the move towards smaller, more fuel efficient engines to comply with the upcoming MPG requirements, at first it may backfire, but eventually every other car maker is going to have to do the same. I mean Volvo and Saab have been using turbo 4′s for a very long time.

  5. Ivan Sears Says:

    John,

    China’s move to heavily increase exports should come as no surprise to anyone. Especially plans to import vehicles to the great automotive dumping ground, the United States. Everyone wants to export cars to America, still the largest economy in the world.

    This says a couple of things, the manufacturing of China is expanding faster than the Chinese economy, and that they are intent on grabbing a significantly larger portion of the global automotive market.

    Interesting that as the more things change, the more they remain the same.

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Now, if they would sell the wagon version of the Regal, I might be interested in a couple years. The Insignia wagon looks pretty good, at least to this fan of wagons and hatchbacks.

  7. Dave Says:

    turbo motors are only good on gas IF you keep the boost down. Just because the motor is a 6 or a 4 with a turbo does not mean good gas in the real world, not on the sticker. My fathers new HHR SS with a turbo is a great car so far, but is avg. about 23 mph. This way better than is Astro he traded but not like my Totoya at avg of 31

    If you use air in a motor by cid, turbo, n20, blower, whatever you need to match it with fuel.

  8. diffrunt Says:

    My 2010 Equinox has the 2.4 that Buick is going to use & it is no slouch in any dept. I put 50k happy miles on my 06 HHR (2.4), tested the SS turbo, wasn,t as satisfying as 2.4.
    Didn,t Opel design this mill?

  9. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    All these desirable GM products are coming from other countries, what’s wrong with American ingenuity and the ability to come up with good products, what would have happened to GM if they got rid of Opel? Ford is doing the same bringing stuff from Europe and so is Chrysler now with Fiat; are we giving up on innovative automotive design and engineering?

  10. Mark Says:

    China might as well export cars to the US most all of the major auto manufacturers and suppliers have shifted production of components to China giving them the technology, they are just capitolizing on this and instead of sending back the components, they are sending the whole car. The US also ought to place high tarriffs on these vehicles as well.

  11. Andrew Charles Says:

    The thing I’ve noticed about China is that 20% of the capacity supplies 80% of the cars. The high-volume manufacturers (mostly JVs such as Shanghai-GM, Shanghai-VW and FAW-VW) at times are running at 110% capacity, while there are dozens and dozens of small companies with plants capable of building 100-200,000 vehicles a year running at 0-20% capacity. If one goes out of business, someone else comes up with a few million dollars to restart production, hoping to be the next Geely.

  12. C-tech Says:

    Hello Pedro. Your observation is right on. I think the reason we are seeing all of this product coming from Europe and Asia is because that is where the successful smaller cars are designed and built. GM, Ford, and Chrysler have devoted their U.S. resources toward developing trucks, suv’s, crossover’s and large cars. Can the U.S. engineers develop small cars? Yes, given the right resources.

  13. HtG Says:

    I saw the new Z convertible. I looked at the rear end. I can’t decide if it looks like pulled taffy or monkey butt.

  14. Chip Bliem Says:

    The U.S. should pay attention to the Chinese goal to increase automotive exports. It’s interesting to see that the government, not the individual companies made the announcement. You can bet they are going to help with incentives and/or financing. Our government could do the same. Faster depreciation for new equipment, tax incentives to keep employment in the U.S., simplifying the tax laws, and much more. To many of our representitives are representing the foreign companies, not the U.S. public. They are also listening to the economists who say we should go to a service economy and get rid of industry. The Chinese are at war with us. We have been on top so long, we forgot how to fight an economic war.

  15. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Last night’s guest was very well informed and seems like he’s the type of exec who should be in charge of these automakers. Smart, good ideas transcend time.

  16. Smoke H Says:

    The Regal is the same conundrum as that Merkle, Robinet, and Bragman speak of with Chrysler.

    The Regal is a car that will be out in 2 years, but needs to be out next week.

    Or budding near luxury makes like Hyundai will trounce all over them with the 200 HP 35 MPG 2.0 and 275 HP 32 MPG Direct Injection Turbo variants of the next Gen Sonata. The Regal compared to a Next Gen Sonata makes the Regal look like a joke. What makes it even worse is that Buick is going to put a 7 year old engine in a brand new car.

    The Regal is a good car, but it wont be so in 2 years. It along with Buicks clientelle will be dated