Last May, the Nissan Leaf was the hottest thing on the green radar. Limited production and a long waiting list for the press meant that Nissan was lending out Leafs (Nissan tells us that is the correct way to pluralize a Leaf) 62-hours at a time. With my long commute and lengthy 120V charging times, this meant a review with only 217 miles under our belt (read our three-part review here: 1 2 3). Now that a few thousand Leafs have found homes in Northern California and I had practiced my “range anxiety” breathing techniques, I was eager to see if the ultimate green ride was also a decent car beyond the batteries.
While Honda and Mazda are just getting their respective footholds in Mexico (the two automakers are opening up respective assembly plants in Mexico), Nissan has had a long presence south of the border, building cars at its Augascalientes, Mexico plant for decades.
Wamp wamp! That’s the sound of the sad trombone playing for the Chevrolet Volt, which missed its 2011 sales target by 2,329 units. General Motors hoped that the Volt would sell 10,000 units in 2011, but it was not to be.
Bloomberg reports that the bow tie brand sold only 7,671 Volts in 2011, but has plants to increase annual production to 60,000 units annually. 45,000 of those will be sold in the United States. The Volt had only been on sale nationwide for the final three months of 2011.
The EV smackdown is about to begin, as Nissan and GM prepare to launch their competing but different EVs in the final quarter of this year. It promises to be quite a show, as both manufacturers have gambled huge sums on distinctly different approaches. The Leaf is a pure battery EV, with an optimum range of 100 miles, but which will easily shrink into some 60 miles under less than ideal conditions. GM’s Volt’s target EV range is forty miles, also subject to the same diminishing influences. Of course, it carries a security blanket gen-set along for the ride. But the first skirmish for the hearts , minds, hands and wallets of consumers has already been decided, in the Leaf’s favor.
Now that Nissan have their Leaf EV in the works, Mitsubishi have the iMiEV in development and GM are rushing out the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota seem to be feeling a little unarmed in the next stage of green motoring. The NY Times updates us on Toyota’s plans to sell plug in hybrids in about 2 years quoting Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota Executive Vice President, as saying “Toyota believes that plug-in hybrids are a realistic solution among vehicles using electricity.” Funny, because not long ago Toyota had a different stance on electrification. In any case, Toyota remains highly conservative in its approach to electric vehicles. In preparation for a mass market launch, Toyota are leasing and renting 600 plug-in hybrids: 230 for Japan, 200 for Europe, 20 for other countries and 150 for the United States. This will provide Toyota with much needed feedback on how to improve the vehicles, a process GM plans on doing with its Volt contemporaneously with its California consumer rollout.
Reuters reports that Tesla is planning an Initial Public Offering, after postponing planned IPOs in 2008 and 2009. Tesla reportedly hopes to capitalize on the recent success of battery developer A123 Systems, on the assumption that the A123 IPO has raised interest in electric auto firms. According to one of Reuters’ sources, Tesla’s IPO filing could be made “within days.” And the Silicon Valley startup, which currently has only one product, the $100k+ Tesla Roadster, will most likely have to hurry. Both Nissan and General Motors plan to enter the electric car market this year, marking the initial entries by established auto OEMs into the American EV market. Both of their initial products, the estimated $30k Nissan Leaf and the estimated $40k Chevrolet Volt, will cost considerably less than Tesla’s estimated $50k Model S sedan and will beat it to market by at least a year. Acquiring funding after cheaper competing models go on sale could be extremely challenging for a boutique automaker like Tesla.
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- MRF 95 T-Bird If Mopar had only offered sport hatch versions of the 200 and or Dart they might have sold more of them for folks who wanted some more versatility without having to go for a small utility Compass Patriot or new at the time Renegade or Cherokee.
- El scotto I started driving in the late 70's. The cars high school kids could afford and wanted were very very worn out muscle cars. Oh Lordy those V-8's bring back some happy memories. Oh there some outliers in my crowd, a VW Bug and a Dodge Scamp with slant six; neither car would die. In 10 years their will be young people wanting very used Teslas or Dodge's with hemis. B&B, I say that if someone is excited about their EV, Hybrid, or Hemi welcome them to the club of people who like cars.
- El scotto Farley and Billy Ford need to put on some jeans, flannel shirts and PPE. They should (but never will) walk the factory floors and ask "what is wrong?", "what could we be doing better?"Let me caveat that. Let Jimmy and Billy explain that any constructive criticisms will be non-attributable. Oh they can use platitude like making the house level again or setting the ship on the right course.Sadly I suspect than many, many Power Points will die in vain in the executive suites in Dearborn. At least three if not four very expensive consulting teams will be hired to review Ford's QC problems. Four consulting teams will mean four different solutions. None them will be put in action. Ford will still have huge QC problems.