With all the attention being lavished on electric cars, you'd think the salvation of the planet is nigh at hand. But don't be duped by all the EV hype. It's going to take decades before they catch on – if ever.
Join John McElroy and his journalist colleagues for an all-new LIVE webcast discussion with Tom Stephens, GM Vice Chairman of Global Product Development. First, you'll get to see a LIVE taping of Autoline Detroit starting at 10AM EST, then we will hand the mic over to the audience, and Tom Stephens will answer your questions coming through the website and our hotline 1-620-288-6546 (1-620-AUTOLIN).
In a shocking development Toyota faces a lawsuit filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission that seeks to ban the import of all hybrids to the American market. Toyota is being sued by Paice LLC for patent infringement on its hybrid system.
The future looks so bright for the used car market that I'm almost tempted to try and get into that business myself. Even though car dealers are going through tough times trying to sell new vehicles, they are going to more than make up for that on their used car lots.
There are all kinds of ways to boost the fuel efficiency of a vehicle. Hybrids are becoming more and more popular. Clean diesels seemed poised to make major inroads in the market. And even though they're a ways down the road, hydrogen fuel cells sure look promising.
Every single day, the United States ships $600,000,000 out of the country. That's what it costs us to pay for the oil we buy from other countries at $50 a barrel. It is the single biggest cause of our massive trade deficit.
I just experienced one of the most amazing sound systems that that I ever heard in a car. What makes it so amazing is that it doesn't use a power booster, or equalizer, or better speakers, or anything like that. Instead, it's all done with software.
There's no question that the Detroit-based auto industry needs a lot of help. There's a 100-year history of how it got into the problems it's in, and some of those problems are beyond management's control.
When Toyota's Prius first hit Japanese showrooms in 1997, I was highly skeptical that hybrids would catch on. Not only was the technology really expensive, I thought the nickel-metal hydride batteries would prove to be the Achilles Heel in the system. Sooner or later you'd be facing an expensive replacement bill, right?
In all this debate about whether we should provide the Big Three with a bridge loan, not enough attention has been devoted to their impact on our national defense. I'd hate to see this country ever get involved in a total global war again, but I especially shudder to think it might happen without the manufacturing capability that General Motors, Ford and Chrysler provide to the United States.
To hear Ford's CTO tell it, all these painful layoffs and budget cuts going on at the company can actually be beneficial. "It gets you really focused on what's really necessary," says Gerhard Schmidt, the Chief Technology Officer at Ford.
There is only one number that really matters in today's financial report from General Motors: how much cash it has in the kitty. And the answer is, not enough. GM is now burning through its cash reserves at a rate that will run short before Christmas.
Anyone watching the auto industry these days is acutely aware that General Motors is hurtling towards disaster. It's burning through cash reserves at a rate that will put it in Chapter 11 sometime next year, no matter how much management says "that's not an option." It's still being crushed by its legacy costs, yes, even after concessions from the UAW. And it just witnessed its own finance arm, GMAC, essentially pull out of the automotive lending business.
The headlines say General Motors is feverishly putting a plan together to take over Chrysler. From my standpoint, only two theories can explain why this is happening. Either the billionaire boys from Cerberus have a master plan to revamp the American auto industry, or they are in so far over their heads that they don't know what they're doing. More on that in a minute.
A few years back I made a bet with a former Director of Engineering at General Motors. I bet him five bucks that Americans would fall in love with modern diesel engines and would want them in their cars. Specifically, I predicted that diesel sales in passenger cars would reach 1 million units by 2012. He bet it wouldn't happen.
There's a lot of talk about making the U.S. energy independent. Or getting off oil altogether. I guess anyone who believes it can easily be done has never taken the time to count how many millions of barrels of oil we import every day. Damn do we use a lot of oil!
Uh-oh. In the pell-mell race to develop lithium-ion batteries for plug-ins, EV's and hybrids, has any automaker taken a hard look at where all that lithium is going to come from? Guess what? Not only are global lithium supplies pretty tight, prices are about to skyrocket.
2010 is shaping up to be a pivotal year in the American auto industry. From a product standpoint there will be a lot of interesting hardware in showrooms, including range-extending EVs, plug-in hybrids, clean diesels, pure electrics, and flex-fuel vehicles running on cellulosic ethanol. But it's also shaping up to be the year when the domestic industry will have to deal with its greatest challenge ever.