While America Slept. Friday, November 21, 2008

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
The sun never sets on TTAC’s devious empire. While America Slept (WAS) is a daily round-up of the news that happened in other continents and time-zones. TTAC provides round-the-clock coverage of everything that has wheels. Or that has its wheels coming off. Our pledge: No feelings will be hurt (except those of automobile execs, one copy-writer, and the gravitationally challenged.)

Opel’s ad attack: While other car companies slash ad budgets, GM’s Opel unleashes a Blitzkrieg on the German populace. “Opel Secures Future” blares the banner headline of full page ads appearing in national German newspapers. [NB: The line doesn’t say “Opel’s Future Secure”]. According to Bloomberg, the target of the ad-attack is to “reassure car buyers that may be spooked by the woes of its parent.” The copy-writer must have been high on something, hyperbole at the very least: “Opel is financially solid and as a brand and a company not at risk.” Boerse-Express says the true aim of the ads is Opel’s foot: “If they are doing so well, why loan guarantees?” Good question.

GM in denial: RenCen weighs in on the topic, says “Opel is not for sale.” Not because they wouldn’t want to. GM flak Tom Wilkinson tells AFP that brands like Opel “are so integrated into GM’s global operations, we would not or could not sell them.” Darn. Nothing works anymore.

Dealers ready to buy Opel: Opel’s German dealer council met last Tuesday and discussed to buy Opel themselves, before Opel goes under. “This is under serious consideration,” says Paul Schäfer, GM of Opel Staiger in Stuttgart, to Automobilwoche (sub.) The money could be raised. Despite (or because) of GM’s denials, the dealers are worried. In the meantime, non-essential expenses, such as a new CI for dealers or a revamped DMS have been put on ice.

Siamalaise for GM: Citing the usual reasons, GM will shut their Thai plant for up to two months, the International Herald Tribune writes. GM’s Rayong plant has an annual capacity of 130,000 vehicles, and cranked out 93,000 units so far this year.

Porsche dthumbs a diesel down: Porsche is holding their noses and will offer their Cayenne with a diesel motor, Automobilwoche (sub) learned. Launch in Feb ’09. A V10 TDI it is not. The rather puny 6-cylinder 240 hp oil-burner will come off VeeDub’s shelves. Good enough for me and Bobby McGhee.

Greening of the S-Class: Daimler Germany is launching the S 320 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY, greenest S-Class sibling of all times. Using Daimler’s BlueTEC diesel engine, the luxury limousine will use only 7.6 liters of oil for 100 km (31 MPG.) Autoversicherung-Online has it.

More Insight from Honda: The first Insight hybrid, launched 1999, was a dud. Next spring, Honda will try again with a new “drive support system.” Depending on the price on Brent Light Crude, the driver can switch to Econ mode to ease the burden on the gas tank. The switch extends the time of the “idling stop,” turns down the air conditioning, and boosts the efficiency of “regeneration,” reports The Nikkei (sub) without much enthusiasm.

Japanese doing ok in China: Japanese JVs in China revised their overly optimistic projections for 2008, but the year still looks bright. Dongfeng Honda sees 26 percent growth, Nissan 9 percent, Toyota guides to 20 percent growth, and Mazda expects a whopping 30 percent increase in China. That according to The Nikkei, which nonetheless kvetches about “unexpectedly slow sales.” Some guys can’t get enough …

GM denies idle talk: Also in China, GM saw it necessary to announce that they have no plans to halt production in its joint ventures in China, Gasgoo says. Who brought that up?

There goes another myth: Japan’s lifetime employment. Meanwhile, back home in Japan, thousands of workers at Mazda and Isuzu are (politely) told: “Kaiko shimasu.” You are fired, bow out. Mazda will shed 6 percent of their workers, Isuzu 18 percent, The Nikkei says. Earlier, Toyota already had announced 3000 cut jobs.

Help me, Honda: Stateside, Reuters reports that Honda will cut NA production by yet another 18000 units. No job cuts. “Workers have the option of coming to the plant and being paid, taking paid vacation or taking unpaid leave.” No need to get Honda out of their hearts.

The Maltese Foul-up: Malta’s Honda importer stopped ordering hybrid cars after a recent Maltese car tax reform made hybrids costlier than traditional CO2 generators. Times of Malta says the importer called the tax scheme “ridiculous” and suggested the government get a clue. A spokesman for the Finance Ministry said something may have been “overlooked.” However, Malta demands solid “proof of the cars’ effectiveness” before they make any changes.

Fat chance: In unrelated news, obese people have the right to two seats for the price of one on flights within Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Thursday. Says Reuters. As word reached Detroit, three bloated Detroit automakers announced immediate plans to relocate to nearby Windsor, Ontario. Ok, I made the last sentence up. So sue me.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href="http://www.tomokoandbertel.com"> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href="http://www.offshoresuperseries.com"> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
  • 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
  • Analoggrotto HyundaiGenesisKia saw this coming a long time ago and are poised for hybrid and plug-in hybrid segment leadership:[list=1][*] The most extensive range of hybrids[/*][*]Highest hybrid sales proportion over any other model [/*][*]Best YouTube reviews [/*][*]Highest number of consumer reports best picks [/*][*]Class leading ATPs among all hybrid vehicles and PHEVs enjoy segment bearing eATPs[/*][/list=1]While some brands like Toyota have invested and wasted untold fortunes into full range electric lineups HyundaiKiaGenesis has taken the right approach here.
  • EBFlex The answer is yes. Anyone that says no is just….. wrong.But the government doesn’t want people to have that much freedom and the politicians aren’t making money off PHEVs or HEVs. So they will be stifled.