The Truth About Cars » Euro The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Euro 2014 Ford Transit Gets 5-Cylinder Diesel Mon, 10 Dec 2012 14:57:36 +0000

Fans of Euro-vans rejoice. Ford has confirmed that the 2014 Transit, the most European of vans, will get a 3.2L 5-cylinder diesel engine to complement the 3.5L Ecoboost V6.

North American specs haven’t been announced, but European versions of this engine make 197 horsepower and 347 lb-ft of torque, with 90 percent of available twist produced at 1,700 and 3,500 rpm. The last time a diesel was offered on a full-size van was the 6.0L Powerstroke V8 on the E-Series. The new 5-cylinder will be mated to a 6-speed automatic. Sorry folks, no manual will be offered with the brown version pictured above.

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Dropping Euro Makes Japanese Carmakers Want To Throw Up Tue, 17 Jan 2012 18:24:01 +0000

Everybody is talking about how much the Euro is losing against the dollar. At closer look, it is not alarming. Even during normal times I have seen lower Euro rates than the current $1.27. But wait until you look at the Euro from a Japanese perspective. (Like the one I have at the moment, sitting in a pittoresk cabin half way up Mount Fuji that could use better heat.) The anemic euro might discourage people like me from coming to Japan. What it really does is discourage Japanese automakers from exporting to Europe. A lot has been said about the strength of the Yen against the dollar. It’s nothing compared to the Euro. Against the Euro, the yen turned into Godzilla. This has Japanese automakers extremely worried. They don’t really know what to do about it.

The Nikkei [sub] made a table of manufacturers’ assumed exchange rates, i.e. the exchange rate that is in the budget, and of the drop in operating profit for each yen below that rate. The table is in yen. The dollar fetches around 77 yen ( it has fetched less) at the moment. If there is 1,000 in the right column, then think there are $13 million.

On Monday, the Euro momentarily dropped to 97 yen in Tokyo, its lowest level in about 11 years. Let’s run the numbers for Toyota. Assume the Euro stays there, that would cost Toyota $779 million in operating profit – in Europe alone. Ouch!

The pain is even greater for small Mazda. Says The Nikkei:

“Among automakers, Mazda Motor Corp. is most seriously affected by the euro’s deprecation because it has no plants in Europe. It exported some 200,000 Mazda 3s and Mazda 2s to Europe, including Russia, in 2010. But because exports are unprofitable at the euro’s current exchange rate, Mazda will try to make due for now with cost cuts.”

Mazda is aiming for a 25 percent cut in procurement and production costs, but that may not be enough. Even for automakers with local production in Europe, the euro is falling faster than they can adjust production.

The low Euro of course is a boon for European automakers, especially for the export-heavy Germans. I would love to see a table that discloses how much more money they make for every cent the Euro sinks, but I have never seen such a table.

If you look closely, and with an open mind, you see something else that is highly alarming: The dollar/euro rate is masking the fact that both are dropping rapidly. Euro and dollar fall, the euro just falls a little faster than the greenback It is like two people who just fell out of another airplane. One watching the other guy, the drop might look benign. Viewed from the bottom (and this is where Japan should be,) it looks like a ….. get out of the way!!!!

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Why A Bad Euro Is Good Sun, 09 Oct 2011 20:47:03 +0000

Everybody has heard  that Europe and the Euro are in trouble. So why does it take so long to save it? We’ll let you in on a little known secret. First, let’s go to Slovakia. The eurozone’s second poorest member quietly turned into an automotive powerhouse. Ever hear much of the Slovakian auto industry? You won’t. Global automakers such as Volkswagen, Peugeot, Kia have discreetly set up car plants in Slovakia. Parts makers followed. Wages are low – 780 euros a month on the average. Without anyone looking, Slovakia turned into the world’s top auto maker per capita. They want to keep it that way. And that’s why they don’t want to help Greece.

Everything in the EU must be decided unanimously. “One dissenting voice among the 17 countries that use the euro could wreck the latest plan,” writes Reuters.

“It’s a debate the rest of the world is following with concern. No strangers to privations and harsh economic reform, Slovaks are divided over whether their government should agree to increasing the powers of the fund set up to help Greece and other euro zone countries that have lived beyond their means.”

Officially, it’s a question whether a poor country like Slovakia should pay for countries like Greece, which borrowed too much and were fudging their books even before they joined the euro.

Unofficially, there is another matter. A low Euro is fuel for the European export machine. While the Japanese car industry is driven out of the country by its strong yen, a low euro makes exported BMWs, Mercedes or Audi even more attractive.

Germany exported itself out of the crisis in 2010 when the Euro was down to 1.20 to the dollar. When the Euro nearly hit $1.50 last May, exports started to slow down. The crisis in the Mediterranean countries brought the Euro down to more sedate levels, and order books are full. At the same time, imports from Japan, which suffers from a strong yen are being kept in check without anyone  raising a stink about level playing fields.

However, with all the trouble the euro supposedly is in, it still fetched a $1.34 on Friday. Which is relatively high for a currency that is supposedly falling apart  if you believe the news. A euro in trouble hides the fact that the dollar is weak. Whenever there are rumors about the Mediterranean mess being solved, the euro pops up like a spring that has been under pressure. Germany exports about half of the cars it makes at home. Or in places like Slovakia.

So the little known secret is that despite the chest pounding and the dramatic (but largely unsuccessful) salvage operations, the export dynamos in Europe’s north are not unhappy with a euro that is kept in check. If peace would break out on the euro front, the currency could easily zoom to $1.50 or higher.

It is not unwelcome when people in Slovakia ostensibly ask why a poor country should help bail out the Greek. It prevents people in Berlin, Wolfsburg and Stuttgart from openly discussing whether they should bail out the Greek and lose their jobs to a zooming Euro, or whether they should prolong the southern agony a little more. Riots in Athens are more palatable than riots in Berlin. Especially when you are in Berlin.

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Will Rising Euro Push Alfa/Jeep Compact CUV Production To Toledo? Wed, 31 Aug 2011 14:46:08 +0000

Bloomberg reports that Fiat is considering moving production of planned Alfa/Jeep-branded compact CUVs from its Italian Mirafiori plant to the US, as a rising Euro forces tough production choices. Production of some 280,000 units per year were planned to start at Mirafiori in late 2012, but Fiat may now build an as-yet unannounced subcompact there instead. According to Bloomberg’s reporting, Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio

Marchionne, while confirming his commitment to invest at the Turin facility, told Piedmont Region President Roberto Cota Aug. 29 that he may change the production plans for the plant.

“Fiat is evaluating which model it will build at Mirafiori,” Cota said after meeting the CEO.

Fiat’s first-half volume in the European market is down 13%, and its market share has fallen from 8.1% to 7.2%, forcing the firm to think hard about its product mix and production plans. A city car would be sold primarily in Europe, and since the Euro as risen 9% since last November when Fiat said it would build Compact CUVs at Mirafiori, it now makes more sense to build global/US-market products somewhere other than Europe. US production would be a huge boon to the reintroduction of the Alfa brand to the US market (led by the new C-CUV), as it would keep prices and profit margins far more competitive.

There’s no indication as yet of where Chrysler could build the Alfa/Jeep Q5/Forester-fighters, but Toledo North seems like the most likely candidate. Not only is the Jeep Liberty (predecessor to the new Fiat-derived Jeep C-CUV) already built there, but Chrysler is already sniffing out incentives to expand to 327,000 units per year.

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Review: Renault Mégane R26.R Mon, 19 Apr 2010 14:46:02 +0000

Driving the Renault Mégane R26.R on the snow-covered L-10–a public road-cum-rally track near the famous Nürburgring–is an unforgettable affair. And not simply because summer tires and slush don’t mix. This particular Mégane is a stunning piece of machinery in any condition: no Stateside machine comes even remotely close. And unlike most European unobtainium, it’s no sculpted, Teutonic monument to cash-flow either. It’s French. Cheap gas, Japanese quality and the Detroit-centric Eisenhower Interstate System have given Americans no reasons to contemplate, let alone lust after, French cars in the modern era, but not having this Ferrari-killing hatchback on crack is a bummer. The Mégane R26.R is so wrong it’s gotta be right.

The Mégane R26.R is simply unmistakable, even if it’s a Renault hatchback. Clock the 18-inch alloys and Piet Mondrian-worthy geometric decals in red ink. And there’s the Lunar Grey paint contrasting against the carbon fiber hood: a not so subtle reminder this three-door is far more than the tall roofline and dorky C-pillar implies. Rear spoiler aside, there’s simply no way to get around the Mégane R26.R’s hatchback roots. But this isn’t a rice boy poseur: resting against the near weightless polycarbonate rear/quarter windows gives the kinds of goose bumps that only come from a real race car.

Note: first timers will push those side windows while going in for a closer look at the spartan and sporty interior of the Mégane R26.R. And because there’s so little to behold, everything in eyeshot will be serious business: race seats with carbon fiber shells, six point harnesses, an optional roll cage (dressed in red, of course) and suede accents on the tiller and shift knob. The ambiance is bare bones, but what’s left is reasonably appealing in ergonomics and touchy-feely build quality. So it’s still a far better place to kill time than any modern Chrysler product.

And what was left on Renault’s chopping block? A loss of 270lbs from the removal of sound insulation, rear seating, a lone airbag (driver’s side), no radio, fog lights or other ancillary creature comforts. But if you missed the Mégane’s racing pedigree, there’s a “R26.R” badge screwed in the dash to remind all and sundry this ain’t no ordinary French econobox. You know, in case the red wheels didn’t tip you off.

And the greasy bits don’t play around. The Mégane R26.R’s mill comes from the RenaultSport racing parts bin: a 2.0L turbocharged mill, 6-speed transaxle and Michelin Pilot street tires. The (optional) titanium exhaust is a wicked affair, providing unfettered access to the turbo’s prodigious “woooosh” at anything more than quarter throttle. George Lucas never made a Tie Fighter hatchback, but Renault is clearly picking up the slack.

Perhaps you heard that the Mégane R26.R is the fastest production wrong-wheel drive whip on the Nürburgring, earning an 8:17 time slip. While weather conditions kept this review off the ‘ring, driving on nearby country roads shows how the Mégane R26.R accomplished that feat: plenty of suspension travel, a body that stays docile and flat in aggressive cornering and what must be the most communicative steering ever installed on a FWD vehicle. Bumpy roads have little chance at upsetting the Mégane R26.R’s racing line, both the steering and suspension keep the driver informed and in control.

But discretion is the better part of valor with a turbo pushing the front wheels, torque steer still rears its ugly head. With a limited-slip axle, modest power output (230hp/229lb-ft of torque) and a torque peak that’s nearly flat, boost is easy to modulate for post-apex bursts of acceleration. The Mégane R26.R will cook when needed, but the whole affair is subtler than the powertrain (or wheel color) suggests. And that’s not a cop out.

The groovy rotors and Brembo calipers move with a linear feel you rarely see in a (once) mundane compact platform. The Mégane R26.R stops as smoothly as it corners: with only 2700 lbs to halt, there’s no doubt the Mégane R26.R can handle hot lapping on the Nürburgring with grace and pace. And that’s precisely where this car excels, offering owners a rewarding but pain-free way to kick butt on any road course. I’m prepared to forgive Renault for importing the LeCar if they sell us the Mégane R26.R.

Or not. In reality, some performance icons are better left to the brand loyalists. Think of this as the French Cobra R: limited quantities and a lofty asking price of $35,000 USD, not including US federalization. And I reckon an immaculate C5 Corvette Z06 is a far superior track toy, with more creature comforts too. And buying one won’t require a degree in International Business.

And unless Honda jump-starts the Sport Compact genre in the United States, this French sweetheart is merely a tease. Too bad then, that Renault made a true masterpiece. The Mégane R26.R is the ultimate econobox expression, sporting credible looks with hard-edged, useable performance. Perhaps one day gas prices will inspire our premium compact platforms to reach for the stars the way this whip-sharp Renault has…. and maybe someday we’ll all get 5-8 weeks of mandatory paid vacation.

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Turbohybrid Beats The Battery. Sort Of. Thu, 05 Feb 2009 22:59:16 +0000


The vocabulary used to classify hybrid drivetrains has been lagging considerably behind new developments, as Wikipedia’s article on the matter proves. The old parallel, serial, mild and plug-in hybrid categories do little to illuminate public understanding of the underlying technology, and much to confuse it. Enter the BYD Dual-Mode, VW “Twindrive” and, now, the AVLTurbohybrid”. With cooperation from BMW, Bosch and LuK, AVL has developed a mild-ish hybrid drivetrain. The consortium claims it’s cheaper and more fun to drive than a “full hybrid” while offering nearly the same efficiency. Care to deep dive?

The system is built around a turbocharged, direct-injection 1.6-liter engine (tuned for a flat torque curve) coupled to a long-geared manual transmission and a clever electric drive strategy. Electric power replaces low-end torque lost to tall gearing. AVL also claims that turbo overboost maintains a steady charge. Even if you only have, say )slowly), a 15kW double layer capacitor module instead of a lithium-ion battery, you don’t loose [sic] no juice. 

Still awake?

That’s how the boffins rolled during testing of their Stage One (v1.0?) system. Even without regenerative braking or a high-capacity battery, AVL claims that its BMW 320i mule was 24 percent more efficient (NEDC) than a stop-start equipped, naturally-aspirated 320i– at an estimated 150 percent of the price.

And though that doesn’t sound great, a certain unnamed 1.5 liter power-split hybrid (Prius) offered only 36 percent better efficiency than the NA 320i at (again, estimated) 300 percent of the price (to produce, of course). Those BMW badges are expensive.

Anyway, the kicker (claims AVL): the Turbohybrid 320i is more fun to drive than either a weedy NA four-banger Beemer or a Prius. And that I buy.

Check out their release for graphs of elasticity, tip-in, and other “fun to drive” proving stuff.

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