Tuesday, October 6, 2009

McLaren MP4-12C

Most of my readers are familiar with the McLaren racing cars in Formula 1...now they are bringing their racing technology to the street. McLaren plans on building 4000 road legal super cars per year with the McLaren MP4-12C(MP4). The MP4 is mid engine rear wheel drive two passenger super car.

The MP4 will have approximately 600 hp. and is expected to weight slightly over 3000 lbs.
The engine is 3.8 liter twin turbo V-8 with quad cams and four valves per cylinder. The transmission is a seven speed dual clutch transmission. The transmission has the ability to go from a full automatic to race mode. It also has a racing inspired dry sump and flat plane crankshaft.

The exterior design is by Frank Stephenson, who also designed the new Mini, the Fiat 500 as well as working as Ferrari's design chief. Note the functional air scoops on the side and the rear exhaust between the taillights.

It has a number of performance enhancing technologies brought over from Formula 1 racing. The basis is built with light carbon-fiber construction which weighs only 176 pounds. The body is made up of both aluminum and compose panels.


Another beautiful fast super car! The pricing is expected to be in the $225 - $250,000
USD range. Since McLaren has exceptional racing credentials.... the performance will be worthy of the price. The exterior styling is extremely attractive but I find the interior leaves me cold....reminds me of a soon to be extinct Pontiac interior


Friday, September 25, 2009

Volkswagon L1 Concept

Today's post is on the Volkswagen L1 Concept (L1) which was announced at the Frankfurt Auto Show. This is a car that Volkswagen plans on producing...the anticipated launch date would be 2013.

The L1 is an unusual two seat vehicle with a 1+1 configuration! It is probable that the 1+1 configuration may change since that would not be a popular seller.

It features a highly efficient engine, super aerodynamics, and extremely light weight. The new trend in German cars is small engines with a high horsepower rating per liter. The L1 comes with a two cylinder 39-hp turbo-diesel and a 14-hp electric motor.

The body is made of light weight carbon fiber and results in a extremely low weight of 838 lbs. The combination of a small turbo diesel and the low weight results in super gas mileage of approximately 240 mpg.


It is a great design exercise in developing a green vehicle with a small turbo diesel hybrid. The L1 was designed for a limited market since it can only carry two passengers. This appears to be a green commuter vehicle.

It is also another shot fired in the onslaught of German diesel hybrids!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

BMW Vision Concept

Today's post is about BMW's vision of the future.....BMW's Vision Concept (Vision) which is BMW's 2 + 2 turbo diesel hybrid. As I mentioned in previous posts, the German manufacturers are developing a number of diesel hybrids which will get excellent mileage.

The Vision is a plug-in hybrid with a 1.5 liter 3-cylinder turbo diesel with 163 h.p. Additional power is provided by motors...the front and back electric motors provide additional power to a maximum of 356 h.p. and 590 lbs of torque.

The battery packs consist of 98 lithium-polymer cells which weight only 190 lbs and are housed in the center tunnel. The batteries can be recharged in 2.5 hours when connected to a 220 volt electric source.

The chassis is built with aluminum, and the roof and body panels are a polycarbonate material. Light weight was one of the major design objectives of the designers. The Vision is an all wheel drive vehicle in electric mode.

The Vision has some interesting features such as a three dimensional heads-up display and BMW night vision. Those are features that GM developed over ten years ago.

BMW has not announced anticipated mileage for the Vision! But a turbo diesel electric hybrid is anticipated to get substantially better mileage than a gasoline electric hybrid.


This is another step in the electric car revolution! This is one of many new hybrids and full electric cars on the drawing boards. The styling will never make production but many of the design elements will!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bugatti 16C Galibier Concept

Bugatti is an infamous name in the automobile world...building some of the most exotic and expensive automobiles ever built. The new Bugatti 16C Galibier Concept if produced will be the most exclusive and powerful four door production vehicle ever made. Bugatti anticipates that the Galibier will produce approximately 1000 pound feet of torque with a top speed of 240 mph.

The design is exceptional and done by Bugatti exterior designer Achim Anscheidt....accented by the polished aluminum. The rest of the bodywork is fabricated out of tinted carbon fiber. The chassis is constructed of aluminum and carbon fiber.

The interior is exceptional with the burled walnut console running between the front and rear of the interior. The dash has only two gauges visible the speedometer and the tachometer. The rest of the gauges are viewed thru an LCD screen.

The name Galibier comes from a French Alpine pass that typically has been used for Bugatti's four saloons (sedans). Pricing has not been determined but if produced will be approximately $1.8 million dollars.


A very beautiful exotic......with a price to match!

Friday, September 11, 2009

GM Offers Money Back Deal On New Cars

GM has survived via a government sponsored bankruptcy...with the government pouring over $50 billion dollars into the automobile giant. GM has accumulated a negative perception with the public that their cars are unreliable, poorly designed and built. Much of that reputation has been earned over the last several decades.

That is not true of the latest models that GM has introduced. In fact, they are highly competitive, well built vehicles and with good gas mileage. Since the public perceptions persist....GM has decided on a trial basis to offer a 60 day money back guarantee. The money back guarantee is a marketing method to get people to try GM vehicles.
  • Applies to 2009 and 2010 Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac or GMC vehicles purchased between September 14 and November 30th
  • Excludes Pontiac, Hummer and Saturn brands
  • Vehicles can be returned after 31 days up to 60 days after purchase
  • Buyers must be current on financing
  • Buyers will be reimbursed the cost of the vehicle less any dealer-installed items
  • Buyer who are upside down on the trade in will have that amount deducted from the refund
  • Trades will not be returned
GM is planning a media blitz....including ads with Ed Whitacre, Jr. the new chairman of GM. Whiteacre was responsible for rebuilding AT&T after it's fall from telephone supremacy.


GM has done this before with the introduction of the Saturn brand in 1990. Saturn would allow buyers to return the vehicle within the first 30 days. The buyer could return the car to exchange for another car or a refund. The 30 day refund policy was discontinued after a few years as the Saturn line aged and became less competitive with foreign brands.
This shows that the
NEW GM is going to pull out all the stops to rebuild their business back to profitability.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fuel Prices The Next Paradigm Shift

The automobile business is a difficult business at the current time due to paradigm shifts that are happening today. The world was shocked by the sky high oil prices in the summer of 2008 announced that a new paradigm shift was happening. The signs had been there before with the prior Oil Crisis of 1973 and 1979. It is projected that gasoline will cost $10 per gallon USD by the year 2015. A new Business Week article outlines our susceptibility to a new oil crisis.

Fuel saving technologies have been put on the front burner to get ahead of the increasing fuel prices. Automobile companies are spending billions of dollars on new technical developments to deal with expensive fuel costs. If they are caught with an inefficient fleet they may be doomed to obsolesce.

The current fuel saving technology that is currently being marketed is the gasoline-hybrid technology. Gasoline-hybrid technology uses electrical motors along with a combination of batteries to carry some of the load along with a fuel efficient gasoline engine. Toyota leads the world in production of gasoline-hybrids with sales of their Synergy Drive System.

The second fuel saving technology will be electric cars, which includes plug-in hybrid vehicles. GM was at the forefront of the electric battery powered car with its Saturn EV1, which is now called the GM EV1. GM did not produce the GM EV1 due to the limited battery technology at the time and the expense of producing the vehicles.

GM spent an amazing $1 billion dollars on the technology and then subsequently shelved the technology. GM had the label of one of the most progressive automobile companies with the GM EV1 in the U.S. If GM would have continued the battery development in coordination with other battery companies they would be the world leader in fuel efficient automobiles.

The third technology in development is hydrogen power either thru use in a fuel cell or using a standard gasoline engine converted to use hydrogen. Prime examples are the Honda Insight and the BMW Hydrogen 7. Honda is betting the bank that hydrogen will be the dominate technology.

GM picked up the development after they watched Toyota win the public relations war with the Toyota Prius and it's Synergy Drive Technology. The ability of Tesla Corporation to produce the Tesla Roadster and Model S was a major embarrassment for GM..... GM has subsequently developed the Chevrolet Volt, a plug in vehicle which will be able to go 40 miles on battery power before using a gasoline engine to recharge the batteries.

Toyota manufactured the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle the Toyota Prius. Their Synergy Drive system has been the leader in gasoline-hybrid technology. Toyota also was the first company to make money on their fuel saving technology Synergy Drive. Toyota started making a profit on the technology after starting development in the 1990's.Toyota introduced the first gasoline hybrid with its the Toyota Japan during 1997.....Toyota began world wide shipments in 2001...selling the Prius in more than 40 countries. The U.S. is the number one market for the Prius with 50% of 1.2 million units sold worldwide. The fuel economy of the 2010 Toyota Prius is 51 city and 48 highway.


Large corporations are like huge cargo ships that transverse the globe....the cargo ships hold a large value of goods....but the ships are hard to maneuver and changing direction is slow and time consuming process.

Toyota has decided to capitalize on it's major investment in gasoline-hybrid technology. Toyota has spent in excess of a billion dollars developing the technology....so they are looking for a return on their money.

I am of the opinion that gasoline-hybrids will continue to be popu
lar especially as fuel prices go up. If fuel prices skyrocket again.....people will be looking for the most fuel efficient vehicles available. Those vehicles in the short term will be electric cars!

Toyota has decided to focus on gasoline hybrids and virtually ignore electric cars for a number of reasons. But, Toyota's reasoning may leave them behind other manufacturers. GM is launching its Chevrolet Volt which has an announced fuel economy of 230 mpg. All the other major manufacturers are coming out with electric cars. The future belongs to the bold!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

August Auto Sales

U.S. auto sales improved substantially in August due mainly to the Cash for Clunkers Program. Overall auto sales for August were up 1% over August of 2008. This is the first month that sales have exceeded 2008 numbers.

It appears that the Japanese and Korean companies have benefited most from the Cash for Clunkers program. Meanwhile sales of luxury cars are still in the dumps with sales down by 30% over last August.

Ford is the American manufacturer sales winner with a 17% increase in sales over last year. GM sales were down 20%, meanwhile Chrysler sales were down only 15%.
  • Kia up 60%
  • Subaru up 52%
  • Hyundai up 47%
  • Volvo up 25%
  • Ford up 17%
  • Mazda up 12%
  • Volkswagen up 11%
  • Honda up 10%
  • Porsche up 9%
  • Toyota up 6.4%
  • Nissan down 3%
  • Mercedes down 8%
  • Chrysler down 15%
  • General Motors down 20%
  • BMW down 25%
  • Mitsubishi down 26%
  • Jaguar down 33%
  • Saab down 68%
Ford seems to be the beneficiary of increased sales lately. It appears that the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies have sent a number of customers over to Ford. The following Ford models had material increases in sales Fusion up 132%, Focus up 56%, and the Escape was up 50%.

Other notable increases were posted by the Toyota Prius up 40%, Toyota RAV4 up 42%, Honda Civic up 44% Honda CR-V up 52%, Hyundai Elantra up 116% Nissan Versa up 131%, and the Nissan Sentra up 78%.

August sales were up at a great run rate of 15 million cars annually. So, it appears that consumers had more faith in the future to spend money on high ticket items.


This month the Cash For Clunkers program had a substantial impact on auto showroom traffic and sales. The Cash for Clunkers Program may have borrowed sales from future months. We will have to see what the next several months bring.

An interesting trend appears to be developing! Sales of U.S. built cars, both by domestic and foreign manufacturers, appears to be increasing. Even though Toyota sales increased 6%, sales of their domestic built cars increased by 52% meanwhile sales of their imported cars dropped 16%.