Now that Ford CEO Alan Mulally has written-off the chances of an auto industry sales receovery for 2009, his Detroit brethren have decided to join the Greek chorus bemoaning their fate. Bloomberg caught up with former Toyota and current Chrysler Prez Jim Press in Paris to hear the bad news. “I don’t see any `whys’ why it’s going to be any better,” Press announced. “We’re already adjusting to this level pretty well. We’re learning how to fight through it. It’s hand-to-hand combat. It’s tough.” Especially if you don’t have a golden parachute strapped to your back. GM’s Fritz Henderson, also not staying at a Timhotel, was slightly less pessimistic about the year ahead. “Even if [the $700b federal bailout plan] does pass, I still think that ’09 will be weaker,” the COO told Business Week. “I don’t see anything which would suggest that you’d see a significant rebound, at least in the first half.” And then Fritz says some scary ass shit. “If the situation deteriorates further, we’ll have to look at further actions, but we don’t have anything planned today.” And… “Henderson said GM’s liquidity plan was based on a forecast of industrywide U.S. car sales of 14 million this year and next. ‘At the time we felt that was a conservative level. Given what’s happened, I’m glad we chose a conservative level because that could well be the level it lands at.’ Uh, Dude, we’re looking at sales WELL under 13m, maybe closer to 12. To paraphrase Sweet Pete, that’s a spittoon full of not good.
Category: Paris Auto Show
Oh man, this is getting ugly. After Porsche’s Turbo and GT2 lost their fastest ’round the ‘Ring record to the Nissan GT-R, the German automaker was… skeptical. So they bought a GT-R in the U.S. and ran the Nürburgring to verify their Japanese rival’s claim. And so they didn’t, failing to get within 25 seconds of GT-R’s ‘Ring highly hyped lap time. Porsche attributed the GT-R’s triumph to non-standard tires, which would nullify the Nissan’s “fastest production car” lap record. Cornered at the Paris Auto Show, Nissan’s European spokesman Neil Reeve said “Quite simply we’re not going to get into a war of words with Porsche.” And then did exactly that. “The final word from us is that it was done on absolutely standard tyres which are available to customers in the showroom. They’re not trick tyres – absolutely standard tyres, normal road tyres. The GT-R comes with Bridgestone and Goodyear (Dunlop). One tyre gives slightly better times around the ‘Ring. We did it on Dunlop. They’re available with the car.” When car.com.au‘s Andrew Heasley pushed him for an explanation, well, read between the lines. “We absolutely maintain (that) Tochio Suzuki – the chief test driver on the GT-R program pounded thousands of laps – he got to know every inch of Nurburgring (circuit) and how the car performs on the Nurburgring and hence set that fabulous lap. More than that, I can’t speculate. I can’t explain why they couldn’t match the time.”
Take that, GM. Formerly-sick car company Mitsubishi Motors has a working electric car; they’re already testing a fleet of a few hundred units in Japan. The Mitsubishi innovative Vehicle promises a 75mph top speed and a 100 mile range. It’ll take seven hours to recharge the battery using a normal socket (220V). If you’ve got high voltage, figure an 80 percent recharge within 30 minutes. Being a totally new car, the iMiEV benefits from the packaging advantages inherent to electric propulsion. The Li-Ion batteries are located beneath the passenger department, and the small electric engine is rear-midships. Thus, despite a sub-four meter’s length, it’s roomy enough for four. The Innovative Vehicle’s interior is airy but spartan/simple– no expensive materials for a lightweight car that wants to be affordable for commuters. I could only take the Mitsu EV for a few-minutes’ spin in a parking lot, so I can’t verify any of company’s range or speed claims. But acceleration is strong, smooth and silent, the steering is pleasant, and it brakes in a solid fashion. It feels like a proper, developed car, not like a prototype. No magic-year nonsense; commercial sales will begin in 2009. If Mitsubishi can keep their performance promises, this one’s a winner, at least for urban early adopters.
Toyota has been showing concepts, prototypes and mock-ups of its 3+1 city car for the last four or so European motor shows, but here in Paris, it’s the real thing. The theory of the design language is silly; Toyota calls it “vibrant clarity” (that’s a state of mind I’d associate with inebriation). But the design itself is strong, clean and forward-looking. I stood in line to check out the interior of this microcar and found it conspicuously well-designed and made of high-quality materials. It didn’t quite pass the international test of anal-retentiveness (“do all surfaces refuse to give way when pressed, and sound similarly solid to a rapped knuckle?”). But don’t forget that this is a tiny, lightweight car. And a wonder of packaging. My claustrophobiac 184 cm body (that’s six feet to you Yanks) found the driver’s and two passengers’ seats snug yet uncramped. For Toyota, the big question is, how the hell to sell the iQ at a profitable price– meaning a higher price tag than its larger models? This is where new technology needs first-class marketing. If they can pull it off, then a Smart death watch may be in order.