TTAC News Round-up: Honda Wants a Cheaper Future, Cash for Airbag Woes, and Tesla Races Itself

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

The world needs to be saved, but who wants to spend more money doing it?

That, cash lands on Takata-plagued dealers, Tesla takes to the track, BMW wants you in and out fast, and Volkswagen dreams of slaying the Prius … after the break!

Hydrogen for the teeming masses

By teaming up with General Motors on production and procurement, Honda is hoping to lower the price of its fuel cell vehicle to something more palatable to eco-conscious consumers.

As it embarks on its hydrogen-powered journey, Honda president Takahiro Hachigo wants the cost of its fuel cell-powered Clarity to be no more than that of a boring old hybrid, Bloomberg reports:

Honda is beginning sales of the 7.66 million yen ($67,000) Clarity to local governments and businesses in Japan before offering the car to retail customers. Honda, Toyota Motor Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. are championing fuel cell vehicles to eliminate tailpipe emissions while offering range and refueling times similar to internal-combustion engines. Their drawbacks include higher costs and the lack of hydrogen stations …

Honda plans to start leasing the Clarity in California before the end of the year for less than $500 per month and will sell the car for about $60,000. Europe deliveries also are scheduled to begin by the end of 2016.

Honda hopes to reach hybrid-hydrogen price parity by 2025, even if it means hopping into bed with the Americans to make it happen.

Cash cushion for airbag-plagued dealers

Swaths of unsold vehicles, a slow repair process and other Takata-inspired woes are hitting Honda and Acura dealerships right in the wallet, so daddy’s come calling with some cash.

Financial assistance from American Honda Motor Company comes to dealers this month to offset losses caused by new and used vehicles that can’t be sold, according to Automotive News:

Honda informed dealers that the reimbursement plan will go into effect the week of March 28. But it has not finalized the claim process, according to the notice.

Multiple automakers are sorting through a safety recall of more than 29 million potentially faulty airbag inflators built by Takata.

In January, American Honda ordered a stop-sale on 1.7 million new and used cars and light trucks, including the popular CR-V crossover, from model years 2007-2015.

Replacement components for affected vehicles won’t show up at dealerships until this summer, making the reimbursement program a necessity, Honda claims.

Ten deaths have so far been linked to the shrapnel-spraying airbags.

An army of one

The Tesla Model S is finally being given a chance to compete on the track, and it will have to tackle a tough challenger — itself.

The Electric GT World Series has been created to add some oomph to the fledgling electric motorsports scene, but the only model that currently fits the bill is the Model S, according to Transport Evolved ( via Green Car Reports):

All 10 teams will use the Model S P85+, one of two highest-performance versions until the recent production start of the P90D, with its “Ludicrous” mode.

Organizers say they prefer the rear-wheel-drive version, rather than the P85D with all-wheel drive, because RWD is both more traditional for track racing and mechanically simpler and easier to repair.

Though not official yet, the Electric GT World Series has support from the Fédération Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA).

Teams would be allowed to modify the steering, suspension, brakes and cooling system of their Model S, as well as strip it of excess weight.

Get you in, get you out

BMW wants your butt planted in a new Bimmer as fast as humanly possible, and wants you to deal with as few people as possible along the way.

Ian Robertson, BMW’s head of sales and marketing, explained how it plans to overhaul its retail strategy in the coming years in a sit-down with Automotive News Europe:

Given the customers’ desire to buy from stock and drive away, U.S. dealers tend to stock 300 to 400 cars in inventory. Currently it can take several hours from decision to delivery, but we want to cut that down to 45 minutes, which means really reducing all the non-value-added processes within that: financing, pre-delivery inspection — all that has to get a lot leaner. We need to be asking whether we really need nine signatures on a financial services document any more – quite possibly not. We still have a way to go to achieve 45 minutes, but we’re making good steps toward it.

Having loaner cars always on hand, establishing a better urban dealer presence and booting customers from the aftersales process are other planks in BMW’s strategy.

Herbert Diess has the electric feel

A standalone plug-in hybrid model that returns outstanding mileage is needed in the Volkswagen stable by 2020 if the embattled automaker wants to reinvent itself and compete with the Toyota Prius.

Development of the new hybrid model is part of Volkswagen’s accelerated electric vehicle strategy, and creating a common platform for all of its hybrid models is key, Volkswagen’s brand chief Herbert Diess told Auto Express:

“If you look further, then it’s probably worthwhile thinking of an entirely new architecture because then you can let go of the technical components you put in the car because of the combustion engine,” said Diess. “You gain a lot of space in the interior, for instance.

“For a full EV, you get one size bigger on the interior for the exterior dimensions, so in the length of a Golf you get the interior of a Passat.”

Volkswagen’s Prius-fighter could go by the name XL3, and will likely make good use of existing parts. The vehicle would serve as a stepping stone towards future fully-electric models.

[Image: Jetta Hybrid, © 2013 Alex L. Dykes/ The Truth About Cars]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Burgersandbeer Burgersandbeer on Mar 11, 2016

    What is BMW trying to solve with a better urban dealer presence? How do they reconcile the need to have hundreds of cars on the lot so customers can pick one and drive away with the lack of space in urban areas? What does a test drive in an urban area accomplish? Testing the stop/start system in gridlock?

  • Wmba Wmba on Mar 11, 2016

    Takata airbags. Hmmm. After smugly driving along for years in my Subaru, far removed from the madding crowds trying to get new airbags for their Hondas, some for the second time, I was so happy with my choice. But lo, what is this? A letter from Subaru Canada arrived yesterday. Apparently, after four years of getting the office temps slaving away checking the records sent by camel train from Lafayette IN, to Toronto, and the requisite quarantine period at the border for strange animals, Subaru has discovered from their voluminous records and near-instant information retrieval system that my 2008 Legacy has a Takata passenger side front airbag! I am advised that it may blow up any time, including during an actual accident, and may shower metal shards that could maim or kill. Thus, I MUST NOT CARRY A FRONT PASSENGER until the airbag is replaced, a process taking only 40 minutes. How these metal shards know how to aim themselves to puncture only the front passenger is not explained. UNFORTUNATELY, Subaru Canada advises me, they DON'T HAVE any airbags with which to replace mine, none, not a single one in stock. And furthermore, they don't know when they will have them. When they do get some, I will be advised by letter to hie me down to the dealer and swap out the offending part. Excellent. I am impressed.

  • Geozinger Put in the veggie garden (Western Michigan, we still can get frost this late in the year) finished the remainder of the landscaping updates and hand washed both my beater Pontiac and the Town and Country! Going to the beach today...
  • Rochester I wouldn't obsess over the rate of change, it's happening whether we want it or not.
  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.