As the automaker that’s least-prepared for upcoming increases in federal fuel economy standards, it was more than a little surprising to find that Fiat’s five year plan for Chrysler did not involve any significant plans for hybrid drivetrain development. But more recently, CEO Sergio Marchionne has said a hybrid Chrysler 300 would be offered in 2013, and the firm hooked up with the feds to work on a hydraulic hybrid drivetrain. And though new CAFE regulations offer generous credits for hybrid pickups, a policy choice that rescues Chrysler’s investment in “Two Mode” hybrid technology, more will have to be done. For, in the words of Marchionne [via Automotive News [sub]],
I have no other way of getting to 2025 numbers than by going to hybrids
But Chrysler won’t rely fully on hybrids in order to make the significant fuel economy improvements it needs. In fact, it will be relying as much on diesels and compressed natural gas (CNG) drivetrains as anything else.
It’s a phenomenon with some precedent: import manufacturers will get nowhere with a certain bodystyle or drivetrain until one of the US domestic brands jumps on the bandwagon and popularizes it. And Jeff Breneman, executive director of the U.S. Coalition for Advanced Diesel Cars, is hoping the same dynamic plays out in the world of diesel power when Chevy brings its Cruze Diesel to the US. He tells WardsAuto
The fact that Chevy will offer a diesel Cruze in 2013 is huge. The gas-powered Cruze will get 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km), so the diesel is expected to get 50 mpg-plus (4.7 L/100 km), and that will make it a game-changer.
Ford, Toyota or Honda haven’t got a diesel for the U.S. yet, but get ready for 2013-2014. That’s when we’re going to see a lot more diesels.
And, as the diesel booster-in-chief, it’s not surprising that Breneman would come to that conclusion. But what are folks inside GM saying about the Cruze diesel? In a recent interview with TTAC, senior advisor Bob Lutz suggested that we shouldn’t expect the Cruze diesel to conquer America or “change the game” all that much.
With Audi and Peugeot dominating the last several Le Mans races using diesel technology to outlast the competition, it seems that the famous French race is becoming the premiere stage for developing and highlighting the latest fuel-saving technology. And why not? Most marketing of new fuel-saving technology highlights the preserved performance and enhanced reliability as much as pure energy savings alone. And leadership in this suite of attributes is about to receive a little more competition, as Toyota announces that
In 2012, Toyota will take part in several races of the FIA World Endurance Championship, including the Le Mans 24 Hours, with a prototype “LMP1” car featuring a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain.
Get Hyundai on board, and bring BMW’s new i brand into the mix, and the international racing business could be re-energized by the the competition to demonstrate the perfect compromise between performance, reliability and efficiency. As many of the top racing series see declines in viewers and manufacturer participation due to their increasing irrelevance to mass-market vehicles and brands, the golden age of endurance racing could just be dawning.
Dow Jones cites a report in Der Spiegel Magazine which claims that GM Vice Chairman for Corporate Strategy Steve Girsky
has made enquiries at BMW to start discussions on “far-reaching joint projects.”
According to Dow Jones, the Spiegel article does not cite any specific source for its information, and TTAC has not yet been able to find the original article online. According to Dow Jones, GM is
primarily interesting in gasoline and diesel engines… General Motors is at an advanced stage in developing a fuel cell and could offer co-operation in that field… The technology behind GM’s Opel Ampera electric vehicle would also be of interest to BMW, according to the report.
GM has not yet responded to TTAC’s request for comment. A similar rumor was floated by Handelsblatt around this time last year, but BMW was quick to quash it. Are things different this time, or is GM still struggling with unrequited desire? We’ll let you know as soon as possible…
First of all, let’s not fool ourselves: this is quite the hypothetical question. For one thing, Fiat is unlikely to federalize the Doblo cargo van that this “Work Up” is based upon until a subsequent generation comes out. In the meantime, the only Fiat Professional vehicle the US market will be getting anytime soon (thanks to CKD production at Warren Truck, according to Allpar) is the Ducato van, which competes fairly directly with Daimler’s Sprinter. But, hypothetically, could this Doblo “Work Up” find a market in the US? Let’s look at what it offers…
Slightly over 11 years ago, Jaguar set the car world’s heart a-flutter with the sleek, stunning F-Type concept. Shortly thereafter they said they’d build it, and relentless hype (including a totally unconvincing C&D “First Drive Review” featuring no actual driving impressions) followed. As the years dragged on, it soon became clear that Jaguar would not be building the achingly gorgeous sub-XK roadster (a decision that Robert Farago called “a shocking miscalculation“). But now, with mules already prowling the British countryside, a new baby Jag roadster concept is coming to the Frankfurt Auto Show… and Jaguar tells Autocar it will be a “precursor” to the coming production model. As a big fan of Ian Callum’s work, I’m sure it will look absolutely delicious… but if this somehow turns out to be another F-Type-style tease, Jaguar will be dead to me forever. [UPDATE: video preview after the jump]
Read More >
With Chevrolet already offering a Cruze Eco, WardsAuto reports that the forthcoming Cruze diesel made a case for itself based on attributes that go beyond mere efficiency. Which is interesting because a GM source tells Wards that the Cruze diesel will get around 50 MPG on the freeway… and unlike the Eco, it will achieve that high number with an automatic transmission (the Cruze Eco’s 42 MPG highway rating is only for manual transmission models). Equally importantly, the oil-burning Cruze will return better performance alongside better efficiency, with 147 HP and 236 lb-ft, compared to the 1.4T engine’s 138 HP and 148 lb-ft, which would make it the performance model of the range… which some say is just what the Cruze needs.
Joseph Lescota, chair of the Automotive Marketing Management Dept. at Northwood University in Midland, MI, thinks a diesel Cruze will draw buyers.
“Chevrolet has a great price-point vehicle that has tremendous eye appeal and options but may not meet the performance needs of a select market group,” he tells Ward’s.
A diesel version would hit that group between the eyes by adding a sturdy engine, extra torque and top-end performance to the mix, he says.
GM executives meanwhile highlight the diesel option’s value as what GM North America boss Mark Reuss calls “a hedge against the unknown.” Only three percent of current US sales are of diesels, but as American brands start rolling the oil-burning options out, and as Americans are exposed to their higher performance and efficiency, that segment could just grow. After all, who doesn’t want more performance and more efficiency for a mere $1k-$4k premium?
Porsche was spared a major embarrassment – by the Chinese. According to an emailed memo, the boys in Zuffenhausen sold 10,722 vehicles worldwide in July, that’s 4 percent below the 11,169 units sold in July 2010. It could have been worse. Read More >
With US gas prices at some of the lowest levels in the world, it’s not too surprising that US consumers aren’t overly anxious to go electric, but what about in Germany, where gas prices are near double the US’s? According to Thilo Koslowski of Gartner Research, interest in EVs remains low there as well, and the big gainer in recent years has been hybrid technology… at the expense of the once-ubiquitous diesel, demand for which has “peaked” according to Koslowski’s research. Says the man who coined the term “the trough of disappointment,”
Although the majority of German consumers continue to see EVs’ benefits in environmental and socioeconomic implications, broad adoption of EVs will remain low as long as current offerings don’t meet drivers’ practical usability and cost-saving requirements. To expand from early to mainstream EV adopters in Germany, automotive companies must focus on technology innovations, offer pricing strategies that are aligned with established premiums for diesel and hybrid powertrain options and develop diverse EV model mixes targeted at younger consumer segments that have higher EV interest levels than older demographics… E-mobility will become a viable addition to future transportation scenarios in Germany, but automotive companies and the German Government must address marketability requirements of EVs, prioritise technology investments and continue to promote cross-industry collaboration. Future mobility concepts will consist of diverse powertrain choices and business models that will leverage technology to satisfy consumers’ transportation needs while challenging traditional car ownership.
Tata’s Nano was launched with much fanfare in 2009, as the world’s cheapest car and a symbol of India’s automotive and economic aspirations. But first Tata had problems with its factory, which was to be built on land [allegedly] stolen from local farmers. Then, early last year, the cars started catching fire and refused to stop. Then finance was the issue, and when Tata revamped its finance, advertising and retail presence, it looked like things were beginning to improve. It turns out the bump was short-lived. After hitting 5k monthly sales last December, volume has fallen again dropping to 3,260 units in July (1/8th the volume of its main rival the Maruti Suzuki Alto) according to indiancarsbikes.in, which reckons
Startlingly, the most fuel efficient petrol car in the country, which is the most inexpensive too isn’t finding takers in a market troubled by high petrol prices and rising loan interest rates, that is clearly favoring cheaper and more fuel efficient cars… the market isn’t biting and the Nano sales have begun the downward spiral, this time continually.
So, what’s Tata going to fix to get its attempt at “India’s Model T” back off the ground. How about “everything”?
After the apocalyptic warning from the industry about a proposed 56.2 MPG 2025 CAFE standard, the auto industry seems to be backing the White House’s latest proposal, which reduces the 2025 target to 54.5 MPG, slows the rate of efficiency improvement for trucks and increases advanced technology credit loopholes. Another key consideration: the White House agreed to a mid-term review of the 2025 standards to ensure they reflect the market. Plus, the DetN points to a previously unheard-of compromise to keep big trucks cheap:
The plan is also carving out special rules for “work trucks” — heavier light duty vehicles used for construction.
As a result of these compromises, the WSJ [sub] reports:
As of Wednesday, Toyota Motor Corp., General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC, Honda Motor Co., Hyundai Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., BMW AG and Volvo had told the administration they would support the plan
With the industry now largely on board, the Obama Administration has a green light to announce its new standard at a ceremony planned for tomorrow. But not everyone is happy with the new proposal…
An extravagant ceremony at Bangkok’s Impact Arena has seen the launch of Toyota’s new Hilux and Fortuner – key models in its developing market portfolio. The pair are products with big, tough reputations, and importantly, the profit-generating ability to match.
As a relatively pragmatic person who generally chooses the imperfect-yet-achievable path rather than agonizing over the perfect-but-unattainable goal, this chart [from a fascinating Boston Consulting report, in PDF here] frustrates me. I understand why Americans choose hybrid-electric cars as their most favored “green car” technology, but from their it gets fairly crazy. EVs are fantastic on paper, but in the real world they’re still far too expensive, their batteries degrade, they have limited range, oh and did I mention that they’re freaking expensive? Biofuels, America’s third-favorite “green” transportation technology can be fantastic in certain limited applications, but the ongoing ethanol boondoggle proves that it will never be a true “gasoline alternative.” Finally, at the bottom of the list, Americans grudgingly accept only relatively slight interest in the two most promising short-term technologies: diesel and CNG. Neither of these choices is radically more expensive than, say, a hybrid drivetrain and both are considerably less expensive and compromised than EVs at this point. So why are we so dismissive of them?
GM still won’t comment on the matter, but a recent rumor that the Cruze’s two-liter diesel engine will be federalized for the 2013 model-year has been confirmed to the AP [via the DetN] by “two people briefed on GM product plans.” That motor, designed by VM Motori and built since 2006 by GM-Daewoo, was recently updated to Euro 6 standards, and according to the Holden website, the Australian-spec version makes 160 HP (at 3,800 RPM) and 236 lb-ft (at 1,750 RPM), while returning 42 MPG (combined with manual transmission) or 35 MPG (combined, automatic). Of course those aren’t EPA numbers, and they could easily change by the time the engine is certified for US emissions standards.