The United States Department of Energy has announced on its website that it will auction off the loan that it made to Fisker Automotive, a loan for which the hybrid luxury startup carmaker only repaid a small fraction of the principal. Peter Davidson, the executive director of the department’s Loan Program Office, said that the DOE decided to auction off the loan, “after exhausting any realistic possibility for a sale that might have protected our entire investment.”
The diesel powered version of the Mazda6 will be delayed until April of 2014 in the United States, and if you believe Mazda, the delay is meant ”to accommodate final emissions testing and certification.” But prior reporting by TTAC on the matter shows that this is far from the only hiccup faced by Mazda with its oil burners.
Only weeks after starting up long-delayed production of lithium-ion batteries for the Chevy Volt at their new factory in Holland, Michigan, LG Chem has announced that they are stopping production for up to six weeks because a compound used in that production apparently had not been registered for use in manufacturing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. While no shutdown order was issued by the EPA, the agency recently issued a subpoena to LG Chem, demanding a list of chemicals used at the Holland facility.
LG Chem spokesman Jeremy Hagemeyer said in an email to news agencies, “We discovered the possibility that this material may not be properly registered and made the decision to pause our production until we have that question resolved. We are currently reviewing the registration status and will work with the EPA to resolve the issue quickly. In the meanwhile, we are delaying production activities for approximately 6 weeks until we have confirmed the registration status or otherwise obtain approval from EPA.” Read More >
The European Union Commission has pushed back against reports from within the UK government that the EU was considering implementing devices in private cars that would prevent them from exceeding the speed limit, calling the reports “inaccurate beyond the limit”. In an unsigned statement on the EU’s official blog, the EU obliquely criticizing the British government and suggested that the British media deliberately misrepresented the EU’s position. The remarks denied that any such proposals or even non-binding recommendations are “in the pipeline”. The full statement is below the jump. Read More >
The municipality of Beijing, China is going to be implementing traffic congestion fees on vehicles by 2017 to address increased air pollution. The plans were revealed as the city government published a five-year plan to deal with that pollution. Parking fees would also be increased and the areas where only locally registered cars and trucks are permitted to be used will be expanded. At the end of last year, Beijing had more than 5.2 million registered vehicles and city officials would like to keep that number below 6 million by 2017. Three other cities in China besides Beijing restrict new car and light truck sales, Shanghai, Gungzhou and Guiyang.
Is the American love affair with the automobile over? Total miles driven in the United States peaked in August of 2007, then dropped during the recession and has leveled off since then, though the economy is growing slightly and the population is increasing. The Federal Highway Administration just reported that miles traveled during the first six months of 2013 continued the trend, being down slightly from 2012.
Individual miles traveled actually peaked in 2004, at about 900 miles per driver per month. By mid 2012, that had dropped to 820 miles per month. Per capita automobile use is now about where it was in the late 1990s. Until then, driving mileage generally tracked economic growth, according to U.S. Transportation Department economists Don Pickrell and David Pace (PDF presentation here). Since the late 1990s, though, the when the economy has grown, it has grown more rapidly than car use.
While Americans have an image of Europe as the place of autobahns with unlimited speeds, if a new proposal by the European Commission’s Mobility and Transport Department is approved, all cars on the continent could be fitted with devices that limit top speed to 70 miles per hour. Cars would possibly be equipped with cameras that would read speed limit signs on roads and apply the brakes if the legal limit is exceeded. The goal is to reduce the 30,000 annual traffic deaths in Europe by a third. The regulations would not just apply to new cars sold in Europe. Used cars would have to be retrofitted. Read More >
Though it has been criticized by those who oppose government financing of business, in part because of the failure of Fisker, one of the recipients of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program, the DoE has announced that it will resume marketing the ATVM to industry and possible applicants. About 60% of the $25 billion that Congress allocated to the program still remains. No loans have been made since 2011.
“With no sunset date and more than $15 billion in remaining authority, the program plans to conduct an active outreach campaign to educate industry associations and potential applicants about the substantial remaining funds available and the application process in general,” a Dept. of Energy spokeswoman said. Read More >
Following Ford’s announcement that they will revise downward their advertised fuel economy ratings for the C-Max Hybrid, the United States Environmental Protection Agency said that the discrepancy between rated and real world fuel mileage was not the agency’s fault and appeared to be placing the blame on Ford for relying on the agency’s own rules, substituting data derived from the Fusion Hybrid because it shares a drivetrain with the hybrid C-Max. The EPA’s chief automotive regulator, Christopher Grundler, said that when they tested the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Sonata hybrids this summer, “It was fall quite reassuring.”
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The revised fuel economy ratings for the Ford C-Max aren’t the first time that an auto maker has been forced to backtrack on fuel economy claims – nor will it be the last unless meaningful reform is undertaken to ensure that fuel economy figures more accurately reflect the way motorists drive their cars in the real world.
FMG Holdings, which operates a number of car dealerships in western Michigan under the name of Fox Motors, had planned on spending $57 million turning an abandoned industrial site on Chicago’s North Side into a large Ford store but it has now given Chicago politicians an Oct. 1st deadline to either approve or deny their zoning application after the issue has gotten mired in local politics and injected with the issue of race. Read More >
Continuing its divestment of the shares it obtained in General Motors for bailing out the automaker in 2009, the United States Treasury told Congress yesterday that it has sold $876.9 million dollars worth of GM stock last month, somewhere between 23 and 26 million shares, based on the trading prices during July. By those calculations, the U.S. government still holds about 136 million shares of GM, which closed yesterday at $35.98. At the rate that Treasury is selling off its GM shares, the government’s equity will be completely divested by early 2014. The government originally held a 61% stake in GM following the $49.5 billion bailout, over 500 million shares. By selling some of those shares, Treasury has recouped $34.6 billion of the $49.5 billion. Read More >
GM tabbed the automaker’s head transmission engineer to be interim chief of the firm’s global powertrain operations while the company conducts a search for a permanent replacement for Sam Winegarden, who was fired in the wake of an emissions testing scandal in India.
Jim Lanzon, 62, is currently vice president of GM, global transmissions, a position he’s held for 11 years and had an important role in negotiating the recently announced agreement between GM and Ford Motor Co. over jointly developing new 9- and 10-speed automatic transmissions. Like Winegarden, Lanzon has been a longtime GM employee. Read More >
Automotive News is reporting that Sam Winegarden, GM’s vice president for global engine engineering, the company’s highest ranking powertrain executive, was fired this week along with about 10 other GM Powertrain employees in the U.S. and India, over cheating in GM’s emissions testing at its Indian subsidiary.
Last week, the European Union Commission’s Technical Committee on Motor Vehicles meeting affirmed France’s refusal to allow Mercedes-Benz to sell cars using R134a refrigerant, and alsom indicated that other EU countries may block the sale of those cars as well. Now, Honeywell International, which owns the rights to R1234yf, (the only refrigerant currently approved by the EU) said that Daimler’s concerns are unfounded. M-B had run tests showing that under certain circumstances, leaks in the air conditioning system could cause underhood fires, and that when it burns, R1234yf produces poisonous hydrogen flouride gas.