Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2010 Kia Soul

Today's post I am covering an automobile company that was bankrupt in 1987 during the Asian financial crisis. Hyundai purchased a controlling interest in Kia Motors at the time. Currently, Kia is producing some good cars....with sales increasing in 2008 and 2009, when other manufacturers were experiencing step sales declines.

Today's car is the Kia Soul (Soul). Soul is a compact minivan produced in South Korea for distribution worldwide. It was designed at Kia's design center in California with the first vehicles delivered at European dealerships in February 2009 and North American dealerships in March 2009.

The Kia Soul was designed by Mike Torpey, an American, his inspiration was a Korean wild boar with a backpack (yes it is true). What I think is unique about this car is the edgy design. Also, the The Soul comes in over 10,000 combinations of engines, colours, styling and 50 dealer installed accessories...making the Soul highly customizable.

The U.S. versions of the Soul are available with two gasoline engines.....the base model is a 1.6 litre unit producing 122 hp and with a standard five speed manual transmission. A 2.0 liter unit producing 142 hp connected to a standard five-speed manual transmission with a four speed automatic available as an option. A 1.6 litre diesel engine producing 128 hp torque is offered in European models, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.

Kia is also working on a Kia Soul Hybrid concept which features 1.6 litre gas engine with a 15kW, electric motor with an automatic transmission which will greatly increase fuel economy and reduce Co2 emissions.

Kia Soul earned European safety award with a maximum 5 star safety rating. The five star safety rating places Kia Soul among the safest B-segment family cars in the world

According to Kia....the all-new Kia production car will be a car that defies classification and encourages customers to build an emotional bond with their new purchase by providing a creative platform that they can customise to match their car to their own character. It will appeal especially to the young-at-heart – whatever their age.

Pricing for the Soul base starts at $13,300 USD plus options, and the Soul 2.0 liter starts at $14,950 USD plus options. The Soul 's fuel mileage is 24/30 mpg city/highway.

Kia created the Soul with an eye toward Generation Y, the current batch of young people fresh out of college. It will also appeal to retirees with limited budgets due to the Soul's attractive price. Shown below is the original design concept!


The Soul is an interesting design concept....which will sell well with young buyers and old buyers alike. It now makes the small minivans cool!

Monday, June 29, 2009

2011 Ford Fiesta

Today's post is about one of the most successful global cars produced with over 10 million sold.....the Ford Fiesta. The Ford Fiesta is a small front wheel drive super mini car designed by the Ford Motor Company. The Fiesta is build in Europe, and seven other countries and marketed thru out the world. The Fiesta has not been sold in the U.S. until the 2011 model is introduced to the U.S.

Ford is currently the small car leader in Europe and the automaker’s design studios developed the next generation Fiesta in concept is called the Verve sedan and hatchback.

Ford has been producing the European designed Fiesta for a number of years...the current version is very popular in Europe. So, they are finally bringing the Fiesta to the U.S. Ford is changing production at it's Cuautitlan, Mexico, plant from assembling Ford F-150 pickups. Production is scheduled to begin in early 2010.

Ford has a made a corporate decision to focus on manufacturing small cars rather than pickups and SUV's. Many auto writers have complained over the years that Detroit had virtually ignored the car market to focus on pickups and SUV's....the danger being that if energy prices skyrocketed it would substantially expose the auto companies financial health. The energy crisis of last summer emphasied that Detroit's strategy was foolhardy and extremely subject to fluctuations in the price of fuel.

The sedan was always a given for this market, but the automaker was gauging public reaction to different body styles of the Verve concepts shown at past auto shows to determine interest in the five-door hatch—the three-door hatch shown will probably not be produced for the U.S.
We also waiting on the details on the powertrain, which has been described only as a fuel-efficient four-cylinder of undisclosed displacement and performance. Pricing has not been announced but it is thought that the Fiesta will be priced with the Ford Focus.
Ford also says it is adding a new diesel engine line at its Chihuahua engine plant in Mexico that already makes inline-four-cylinder gasoline engines. The diesels will be used in light and medium-duty trucks globally, including Ford’s first diesel application for the 2010 F-150.
The Fiesta is a high end small car which is very popular in Europe. The question is that are Americans going to pay a higher price for a quality small car. It may take a while to catch on but my thought is that they will.
Currently, Americans pay a premium for a BMW, Audi or Mercedes small cars...which are luxury autos. My thought is that as gasoline prices increase....this will not only be a highly successful small car but highly regarded.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

BMW 335D

In previous posts, I have outlined that the Germans are going to bring a number of diesels to the U.S. It has been almost twenty five years since the Germans have imported diesels to the U.S. This is the first salvo from BMW.....the BMW 335d....which is a rear wheel drive 4-door sedan. A coupe is available in Europe but will not be sold in the U.S. currently.

The BMW 335d is the most expensive 3-series this side of an M-series. Pricing for the BMW 335d starts with a base of $43,900 which is $1,700 over the standard BMW 335i, comparably equipped. Also there is a $900 tax credit for purchasing the diesel. The break even point on the 335d vs the 335i is 2-3 years depending on the price of gas and or diesel...currently the national average for diesel is nine cents lower than gasoline.

The motor is a twin-turbo 3.0 liter diesel with 265 hp. and 425 pound feet of torque. Compared with the 335i sedan, which has 300 hp and 300 pound feet of torque. The BMW 335d speeds down 0-60 mph at 5.7 seconds versus the 335 which is at 4.8 seconds. The 335d motor has been designated as one of the ten best engines in the world by Wards. The 335d is only available with a six speed automatic transmission.

The rest of the 335d experience is atypical 3-series with excellent steering, great body control, great brakes...which stop the vehicle in 161 feet from 70 to 0 mph. The real advantage versus diesels of the past is that you don't have the smoke and clattering of the motor. The diesel has more of a growl than the gasoline BMW v-6's.
Check out the AutoWeek video!

One additional maintenance issue is that it requires AdBlue(ammonia be added during services to keep the emissions clean). The BMW excellent maintenance program covers all maintenance during the warranty period of 4 years or 60 thousand miles. If this AdBlue level drops below the minimum level the car will not start after a number of starts.


My take is the this is one of the better green choices! The payback on the additional cost is fairly reasonable versus most hybrids.
The BMW 335d is not quite as ideal as the standard BMW 335i....but you willl not have to sacrifice driving dynamics like most hybrids. The mileage is not quite as high as the Lexus HS250h as in my previous post. The BMW 335d is one car enthusiast's green machine!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lexus HS 250H

Toyota Motor Corporation has made a decision to increase their hybrid technology across many of their models. They view hybrids as the best method to increase fuel economy! Today's car is a new model designed specifically to be a hybrid....the 2010 Lexus HS250h (HS).

The HS is powered by a 2.4 liter Atkinson cycle four cylinder, which is rated at 147 hp. There are two electric motors that add an additional 40 hp. The continuously variable transmission varies the ratios depending on speed, rpm and load. The HS is also equipped with regenerative braking system.....which helps to recharge the batteries when braking.

The HS will run on electric only mode just like the Toyota Prius for short distances at low speeds.....but at 20 mph. the gasoline motor turns on to assist driving.

If your interested in technology, the HS comes equipped with LED lighting, front and rear parking cameras, a heads-up instrument display, Mark Levinson entertainment package.

Pricing for the HS has not been announced....but should be approximately $40,000 USD plus options. Fuel economy is 34/35 mpg city/highway.

The debate continues as to whether hybrids are a long term solution or a temporary solution to the energy crisis. My thought is that they are expensive versus the cost of the gasoline saved...also those calculations are dependant on the price of gas.

If a hybrid takes ten years to cover the additional cost of the vehicle versus a standard gasoline engine....someone would have to keep the vehicle for that time period to break even or be an environmentalist.

The size of the HS250h is very similar in size to the Lexus IS250.... so why did Lexus develop a totally new car. Perhaps it was a packaging issue....they must not have been able to get all of the hybrid drive train in the IS250.


As I have outlined in a number of my other posts....driving most hybrids you will have to sacrifice driving dynamics. The HS is nowhere near as much fun as the leaders in this class.... the Cadillac CTS and the BMW 328i.

Friday, June 26, 2009

2010 Lotua Evora

This a car that is a major departure for its manufacturer....it is a mid-engined 2+2 rear wheel drive sports coupe the Lotus Evora. The Evora is produced by British car manufacturer Lotus. Lotus has built two seat sports cars....this is the first time since 1992 that Lotus has built a 2+2. Currently, it is the only mid-engined 2+2 for sale anywhere.

The Evora is larger than the current Lotus models Elise and Exige. It weights an estimated curb weight of 2976 lbs. (1350 kg). It is the product of Lotus's five year plant o expand the Lotus line of cars.

It is currently the only Lotus model with a 2+2 configuration, although it has been announced that it will also be offered in a two-seat configuration, referred to as the "Plus Zero" option.

Lotus's have been know for their small interior dimensions....the new Evora will fit 99% of the American male population. The wheelbase is 11 inches longer then the Elise. Lotus intends the Evora to compete with different market sectors including the Porsche Cayman.

The motor is a 3.5 liter V-6 with 276 hp., the motor and six speed manual transmission are sourced from Toyota. The motor also is used in the Toyota Camry and Venza models. The 0-60 mph. speed is 4.9 seconds. The brakes are large ventilated disks with four piston calipers.

The Evora is built with extruded and bonded aluminum chassis....and is apparently 250% stronger than the Elise chassis.

Pricing for the Lotus has not been announced at the present time. The estimated base price is $75,000 USD plus options.

The name "Evora" keeps the Lotus tradition of beginning model names with an "E". The name was a random derivative of the term Evo, instead of being named for the city of Evora, Portugal.


This is a very interesting approach by Lotus to make a family oriented sports car! The interior has been upgraded with a two tone look.....very different than any previous Lotus. Handling for the car should be typical Lotus with exceptional handling, precise steering, and exceptional braking.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Aston Martin DBS

Today, I would like to cover one of the most beautiful cars in the world. This is a car that can stir your emotions into high gear! So I thought that everyone would enjoy the Aston Martin DBS. The Aston Martin DBS is a special version of the infamous Aston Martin DB9.

The DBS is a world class example of a beautiful fast grand tourer that was launched in 2007 at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The first deliveries occurred in early 2008. The car is assembled in Gaydon, England....and the motor is build at the Aston Martin engine plant in Cologne, Germany.

The DBS is a true 2-seat coupe.....as opposed to the DB9 which is a 2+2 couple. The DBS has a bonded aluminium chassis and is made of lightweight magnesium alloy, carbon fibre composite and aluminium. It is the first production Aston Martin to make extensive use of carbon-fibre body panels.

Aston Martin has a checkered past with some great cars and the company has seen its fair share of financial troubles. Ford purchased the brand in 1987 and sold the brand in 2007 to a consortium lead by David Richards, a British racing champion.

Ford brought stability to the company, substantially increased reliability and left the designers to do what they did best. As a result, they have created fabulous examples of the automobile.

The DB in the name stems from David Brown, the owner of Aston Martin for a significant part of its history. The DB9 was designed by Ian Callum and finished by his successor, Henrik Fisker. Ian Callum is an infamous British designer whose work I greatly admire! He has such a sense of style!

Did I mention that the DBS is FAST! The DBS is equipped with a a heavily revised 5.9 Liter V-12 motor, derived from the DBR9 racing car. The motor produces 510 horsepower, a 0-60 mph. speed of 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 194 mph. The car comes with a 6-speed manual or "Touchtronic" 6-speed automatic transmission.

The DBS generates the numbers promised by a vicious exhaust note and steam roller tires. Click to see the DBS video!

Pricing fits under the category if you have to ask you cannot afford it! Yes....it is ultra expensive at $269,000 USD plus options.

Aston is big on the tactile experience; to bring the DBS’s engine to life, you press a sapphire and stainless steel “Emotion Control Unit”—not an ignition button.


I have to admit that Aston Martin DBS is one my favorites cars in the world. First, it is a beautifully styled car with some serious motoring performance.

This is a beautiful example of what a sports car should be! All I can say is wow! The DB9 stirred my adrenaline....so the DBS would only raise the bar.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Energy Department Awards Advanced Technology Loans

Secretary Chu of the Department of Energy has just announced a new $25 billion loan program for the automobile manufacturers. The loan program is designed to help automakers meet the new CAFE standards, which will increase the average fuel economy of new cars from 27.5 to 35 mpg by 2016. The only way to do that is to increase production of fuel efficient automobiles. and reduce production of gas guzzlers.

These are the companies and the amounts that have been announced so far!
  • Ford $5.9 billion.....for will use the money to retool five plants, which will improve the mileage of two million cars produced annually.

  • Nissan $1.6 billion....to modify its Tennessee plant to produce zero-emission electric vehicles and the lithium-ion battery packs. They estimate that production will eventually ramp up to 150,000 electric vehicles annually. Currently, Nissan manufacturers their full size pickup and SUV's at the plant.

  • Tesla $465 million....which will be used to build the Model S plant in Hawthorne, California.

Additional funds will be allocated to both large and small manufacturers and part suppliers per Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. The Department of Energy has indicated that these upgrades should lead to fuel savings of more than 20 million gallons per year.


President Obama has set a new direction with fuel efficiency with the new CAFE standards. Now his backing up his new laws with something to help the beleaguered auto industry.

The U.S. has mismanaged it's energy policy for the last forty years....now that oil is getting expensive we are having to pay the piper....higher energy prices. Brazil has gone from a substantial importer of oil to an exporter of ethanol. They have managed their energy policies wisely!

The importation of substantial amounts of oil is depleting the U.S. of substantial amounts of cash....if this goes on for to long it will be the largest transfer of wealth in modern history. Translated that means that the U.S. will become a second rate country with the living style to match.

So, I support President Obama and Energy Secretary Chu in doing the right thing! We as a country need to find ways to improve our energy usage and eventually achieve energy Independence. This is such a major project that only the government involvement will allow it to happen.

This maybe the second step to the revitalization of the U.S. auto industry....and the possible resurgence of American automobile production.

Monday, June 22, 2009

2010 Audi A3 TDI

I had predicted a while back that the German automobile manufacturers would start exporting diesels to the United States. Presently, sixty percent of the automobiles sold in Europe are diesels....in some countries that number goes to eighty percent of the vehicles are diesels. The price of petrol in Europe is much higher due to taxes imposed on fuels.

Audi is introducing the A3 TDI as an option in the A3 family of cars. The A3 TDI is equipped with the TDI 2.0 clean diesel engine. This is the same motor that is used in the
Volkswagen Jetta TDI. The motor produces 140 hp. and 236 ft pounds of torque.

The A3 TDI is equipped with an S tronic tranmission....which is a direct shift gearbox that combines the advantages of a six speed manual with the abilities of a automatic.

Audi estimates that the A3 TDI should get about 29 city and 40 highway mpg. Pricing has not been formally announced!


The Germans have not really been impressed by the Japanese hybrids that have come out. When they compare the hybrid cost versus the diesels that the Germans are producing....they think that their cars are better choices.

There is some merit to their position....many of the driving dynamics of hybrids are second rate. The new German diesels have better acceleration and handling than many of the hybrids. The cost is also more reasonable for a diesel than a hybrid. Also, gone are many of the problems with the smoke, acceleration, and noise of the old diesel motors.

I am of the opinion that we will see a flood of diesels from Europe. So, we will see which technology prevails....in the short term we will probably see both technologies on the roads as the U.S. becomes more energy efficient.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Corvette ZR1

Yes, this car is super fast......it can only be described as a supercar...the Chevrolet ZR1. This is an incredible beast of a car. In some of my previous posts, I outlined that some of the cars that GM produces are highly competitive in their respective classes. The Chevrolet Corvette is one of those cars, it is an example of the kind of products that GM is capable of producing.

The ZR1 is the best Corvette ever produced.....and it is an incredible bargain in the super car arena. The ZR1 is the most expensive Corvette at $103,970 plus options, that price is double what the base Corvette costs. Compare this car against any other supercar....and this is an exceptional bargain. It is also the most expensive car that GM has ever produced!

The Corvette's foreign competition is priced $187,830 more for a Mercedes SL65 AMG and $323,940 more for a Lamborghini Murcielago LP640. The supercharged LS9 V-8 delivers a tidal wave of power with 638 hp, the 0-60 is 3.3 seconds, and 60-0 is an amazing 97 feet. The ZR1 earned a 1.07 g on the skidpad. All these numbers are exceptional by any standard. Check out the Motor Trend video.

The braking is handled by huge 15.5 front and 15.0 rear ceramic disks. The ceramic disks make the ZR1 brakes strong, fade resistant and have terrific pedal feel.

The ZRI uses carbon fiber on the interior, the hood and on the roof of the vehicle. It does not look at outlandish as some of the other super cars it competes against but delivers a superlative driving experience. In a recent Car and Driver comparison test the Corvette ZR1 won a comparison test over some very serious competitors.


Driving the car will give you an impression that the ZR1 can be a very civilized every day driver. But, when you step on the gas you quickly discover that this is no ordinary car. This is a refined, exceptionally fast, powerful super machine with tons of power and torque....it immediately stirs your adrenaline! For a car enthusiast, this is one exceptionally thrilling ride!
The standard Corvette will be produced for a long time...the ZR1 will probably be phased out after this production run. The engineers that developed this supercar have been transferred to other departments....translated it means that they are probably going to discontinue producing this car.
If you can afford one, I would recommend buying it as it will probably become a collector car!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cadillac Converj

The old General Motors in bankruptcy....the new General Motors will build cars like this! They will exit within the next several weeks a smaller but stronger corporation. The seeds are planted for the GM's return to building good cars....along with profitability. This is the type of product that GM is capable of producing. This is one of the cars that Bob Lutz originated the gorgeous 2+2 concept the Cadillac Converj.

Wow!!! This a an absolutely gorgeous car! It is designed with the thought that a car's beauty should dictate its appeal - not the powertrain. Although, the high-tech electric powertrain named the Voltec has a lot appeal in today's green auto market. The powertrain is an upgraded version of the Chevrolet Volt concept.

The electric motor for the Converj is the sole powertrain and can travel up to 40 miles on electricity alone before requiring the gas engine to power the electric motor. Here is the best part - the batteries can be recharged on a regular 110-volt household outlet which takes 8 hours or a 220-volt outlet which takes 3 hours.

The interior is just a gorgeous as the exterior with white suede, black leather seating and as aluminum and wood trim. The LED instrument panel has blue console illumination while the interior is bathed in white ambient lighting.

The forty mile range also covers most people's commutes.....after that it the gasoline engine turns on to power the electric motors.

GM has not announced production plans but the Chevy Volt is scheduled to happen by the end of 2010. Also, the pricing has not been announced but I would estimate in the $55 - $60k range.


I love the styling and cannot wait until I can drive this car! If GM had started making cars like this ten years ago, they would be flush with cash and would not be in bankruptcy or begging the government for funds.

One of the facts, that I would appreciate about this car is that you don't fill up you tank very often. Gas prices are starting to increase again! The latest price for regular gas in Southern California is $3.00 a gallon. Gas prices are anticipated to increase substantially in the near future.

I am of the opinion that electric cars are the next major wave in the automobile arena! This is a green technology that is being backed by the Obama administration.....so these type of vehicles will increase in popularity.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Infinity M35

Today's post is about a car the Infinity M35...that is exceptional buy in the luxury class...but a sleeper. Most people in the luxury class will purchase a Mercedes E350, BMW 5-series without taking other brands for a test drive.
The M35 is powered by a 3.5 liter V-6 version of Nissan’s VQ engine family, rated at 303 hp. The M35 motor has very satisfactory performance....the motor accelerates quickly and has a demeanor that says "it is ready for action". The M35 is a rear wheel drive mid size sports sedan....handling and braking is exceptional for the luxury class.
Pricing for the 2009 M35 starts at $45,800 USD plus options. One of the most requested packages is the Sport Package..... which adds the sport suspension and 19 inch wheels for $1,650. The M45 with starts at $52,965. The M35 is equipped with a 7-speed automatic transmission. An all wheel drive option is available also.
BMW filed a lawsuit in Canada alleging that some people were confused by the M designation. BMW has the M-series M-3, M-5. The court actually granted an injunction requiring Infinity to change the advertising and badging on the cars.
Check out the cars.com video review!

The Infinity M35 is a real sleeper in the automobile world. The M35 is a real drivers car....with good acceleration, great braking and great handling. For people who know how well the M35 drives, that it does so at an attractive price makes it that much more impressive.
Reliability should be excellent! In fact, a used M35's are a reasonable alternative to a new mid size vehicle. The driving dynamics are excellent......along with great reliability make this a nice ride for a good price. A used 2006 M35 can be purchased for approximately $25K.
The only fault that I noted with the M35 is that the sound deadening is not as quiet as the competition.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Porsche Boxster

On of the signs of a great sports car is how well it gets the driver involved in the driving. The Boxster is one such car....it comes with a mid-engine powertrain, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door roadster or 3-door hatchback . Porsche was flirting with bankruptcy earlier in the year due to the severe economic situation...but that is not unusual in these economic times.

The Boxster has won a
Car & Driver 10 best award ten times....which is exceptional by any auto manufacturer. It steers with precision and an incredible balance due to it's mid-engine configuration....with exceptional braking. Check out this Boxster video!

There are two choices the standard Boxster and the Boxster S. The standard Boxster comes equipped with a 2.7 liter flat-six engine with 255 hp., the 0-60 mph time is 5.6 seconds. The Boxster s comes equipped with a 3.4-liter flat-6, 310 hp, 251 lb-ft., the 0-60 mph time is 5.0 seconds. Both models come equipped with Porsche's new dual clutch gearbox which is standard with the 6-speed manual.

The interior includes the redesigned Porsche Communication Management System as an option with a touchscreen interface to reduce button clutter.

My take on this car is that it is an exceptional drivers car. It is not as fast as many of the other sports cars but it handles exceptionally well. Yes, it is expensive since you can get similar performance at a much cheaper price.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Germany's Cash For Clunkers

Germany launched their Cash for Clunkers program earlier in the year. It has been a major success....registrations of new cars are up 40% in May over last year at the same time. Car dealers are excited that there is so much show room traffic....although the German manufacturers are less excited.

The German government appears to be pleased with the response to the program. Over one million prospective new car buyers have applied for the $3500 willing to trade in a car over 9 years old. The German government has increased the budget from $2.1 billion to $7 billion.

Today's world is very different than the past, multinational corporations are all over the globe. Manufacturing is done in a number of different countries. One of the problems that I have had with all the government bailouts.....is who are we bailing out! It turns out that we have bailed U.S. based companies but a lot of the money is paying obligations to other governments, foreign corporations, foreign nationals. But, at the same time it is our money.....so that is the complexity for governments today.

The Cash for Clunkers program apparently has substantial leakage. Leakage is an economic term....translated it means that the the governments financial efforts to stimulate demand benefits auto manufacturers in other countries. Apparently, only 24% of the money spend into the program has gone to German manufacturers...primarily Volkswagen and Opel.

Germans are apparently going for smaller less expensive cars...the balance of 76% has been spent on Hyundai's, Renault's, Skoda's and other foreign brands. An example of a Skoda Fabia is shown above.

There is an interesting story about a beneficiary of the German Cash for Clunkers program. The company is Skoda...which is a Czechoslovakian company. Six months ago they cut back a number of workers, reduced the work week to four days ...when the German Cash For Clunkers program was announced they rehired some of the the laidoff staff and are working five day work weeks with three full shifts.

A program like the Cash for Clunkers can be an advantageous program if it is implemented properly. Congress should learn from the mistakes of other countries and not repeat them.
Wages in Eastern Europe are much lower than wages in the rest of Europe...therefore the selling price of the Skoda autos is much cheaper. In difficult economic times people will by the cheapest product available.
If a country wants to help the automobile companies in that country..... they have to limit the incentives to cars built in that country.....without regard to manufacturer.
To open the coffers to imports does not make any sense to me! The German plan will mainly help out the dealers especially the lower priced vehicles.....but does not have the same impact on manufacturers.

Monday, June 15, 2009

BMW Hydrogen 7

Here is another innovative look at a future technology. The car is a BMW 7-series 6.0-liter V12 modified to run on both gasoline and liquid hydrogen rather than employing a hydrogen fuel-cell. The car looks like any other 7-series with the exception the engine cover. There is a switch that allows the driver to switch between the two fuel sources.

The BMW Hydrogen 7 is unlike the other Hydrogen powered vehicles. The Honda Clarity, and vehicles from General Motors, Mercedes Benz use a fuel cell technology to create electricity to power the automobile. BMW directly ignites the hydrogen directly in its standard internal combustion engine.

BMW has built 100 Hydrogen 7s, with fifty percent dedicated to customers around Berlin and most of the rest bound for Los Angeles. There is no current liquid hydrogen infrastructure so BMW has to provide a fleet of hydrogen tankers to keep the hydrogen tanks refilled.

BMW put a cryogenic tank into the trunk of the Hydrogen 7 to store the liquid hydrogen at a temperature of minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. The tank is capable of holding 17.6 pounds of liquid hydrogen, which provides a range of approximately 125 miles. The Hydrogen 7 is also equipped with a 19.5 gallon gasoline tank. Refueling the hydrogen tank is fairly simple, with the pump hose easily attaching to the coupler on the car, behind that c-pillar door. The entire refueling process takes roughly 8 minutes.

The hydrogen fuel is stored in a large, nearly 30-gallon (110 liters), bi-layered and highly insulated tank that stores the fuel as liquid rather than as compressed gas, which BMW says offers 75% more energy per volume as a liquid than compressed gas.

One of the technical problem with the car when not using fuel, the Hydrogen 7’s hydrogen tank starts to warm and the hydrogen starts to vaporize. Once the tank’s internal pressure reaches 87 Psi, at roughly 17 hours of non-use, the tank will safely vent the building pressure. Over 10-12 days, it will completely lose the contents of the tank.


It is obvious that auto manufacturers have a ways to go before hydrogen becomes commercially feasible. It appears that Honda is the technological leader in hydrogen drivetrains.

The main concern when using liquid hydrogen is safety....since hydrogen gas is highly flammable. My concern would be a serious accident....could this turn into a replay of the Hindenberg Disaster.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cash For Clunkers Bill

Washington is hard at work on spending our money! Currently they are working on a "cash for clunkers" bill that would in effect allow people to trade in junkers and get a federal tax credit for buying a new car. The bill is supported by the auto industry. The bill was tacked on to a bill to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The "cash for clunkers" bill would give tax payers a tax credit for up to $4500 for automobile purchases between July 1st and November 1, 2009. The funding amount is one billion dollars so the program could end sooner if it spurred sales.

The bills objective to trade-in gas guzzlers for more fuel efficient vehicles. A purchaser of a new passenger car would receive a voucher for $3500 if their new vehicle new vehicle gets 4 MPG combined mileage more than the trade-in vehicle. They would get $4500 if the new vehicle gets 10 MPG more than the old vehicle.

The bill is controversial since environmentalists are of the opinion that the bill could give the credit to someone who gets a additional 1 MPG for the purchase of a light truck like the Hummer H3t, which gets approximately 16 MPG. Certain Senators like Diane Feinstein (Democrat CA) are upset that the subsidies could be used to purchase gas guzzlers. She and other Senators proposed an amendment that would increase the gas mileage requirements and allow the purchase of used cars.


My take is that some type of program like this has been used in other countries to spur auto sales. Italy, Spain, Germany, England and Brazil all have somewhat similar programs. Some of the programs have met with success....other less so.

Congress should review the other countries programs and find the most successful model and implement. It would be good to get car sales going up again. The current bill is riddled with inconsistencies and limited funding. If congress wanted to stimulate auto sales they should implement a serious program. The current bill will probably have limited impact....it it unfortunate that congress cannot do things the right way....rather than half way.

If your in the market for the next few months.....I would recommend taking advantage of the voucher. It would be an additional discount beyond what the manufacturers are offering.

Friday, June 12, 2009

GM Sells Saab Brand

GM has been negotiating to sell the Saab brand to a Swedish company Koenigsegg Automotive AB. Koenigsegg is a Swedish manufacturer of high-performance sports cars based in Angelholm, Sweden. Koenigsegg along with some Norwegian investors have signed a letter of intent to purchase the Saab brand...with the sale to be consummated within several weeks.

Most people are not aware of the name....the company was founded in 1994 by Christian von Koenigseff, with the sole purpose of creating a world class supercar. The first street-legal production car was delivered in 2002.

Apart from developing manufacturing and selling the Koenigsegg line of supercar, Koenigsegg is also involved in "green technology" development programs. This enabled Koenigsegg to produce the CCXR - "Flower Power" flexfuel
supercar as an example.

Koenigsegg is also active in development programs when it comes to plug-in electrical cars systems and next generation combustion engine technologies. Koenigsegg would be able to help Saab with the developement green technologies in their autos.

Koenigsegg holds a number of patents in the engine development area. In March, the Koenigsegg CCXR shown was chosen by Forbes to be one of the ten most beautiful cars in history.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Auto Sales for May

U.S. auto sales are still down 39% versus a year ago, which is still a substantial decline. It appears that the U.S. based automakers are having a rebound in sales with the exception of Chrysler. Sales were the best they have been since the summer of 2008....with a annual run rate of 1.1 million cars.

Ford and GM sold more cars in May and cut the downward spiral sales for the month. During April, Ford and GM sales were down 32% and 35% respectively. An interesting fact is that GM declared bankruptcy during May but their sales were up from the prior month. Meanwhile, Chrysler stayed down 47% for both months.

Mitsubishi down 58%
Chrysler down 47%
Honda down 42%
Toyota down 41%
Mazda down 40%
Nissan down 33%
Mercedes down 31%
General Motors down 29%
BMW down 28%
Ford down 24%
Volvo down 23%
Hyundai down 20%
Volkswagen down 16%
Kia down 16%
Subaru down 5%

It appears that new products were the reason behind the twenty percent increase in sales over April. The Ford Fusion, Ford Flex and the company's hybrids set sales records. In addition, two new Lincoln sedans the MKZ and the MKS helped Lincoln post a 2% increase.

Ford's Fusion set a record of 18,321 cars breaking into the top three mid-size sedan market for the first time since July 2002. The Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan have the best predicted reliability among all mid-size sedans. The Japanese brands have dominated the mid-size segment with the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord.

May sales were up at a fairly decent run rate of 1.1 million cars annually. So, it appears that consumers had more faith in the future to spend money on high ticket items.

An interesting anomaly is that sales of Japanese brands continue with the downward spiral meanwhile U.S. manufacturers seem to be improving. We will have to monitor to see if that is a trend that will continue!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Chrysler Exits Bankrupcy

The Chrysler assets sale to Fiat Group SpA was consummated today. The deal saves Chrysler from liquidation in bankruptcy and turned Chrysler management over to Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne....who was immediately named the new CEO. The Italian automaker did not put any money into the deal but will give Chrysler small car and engine technology.
The deal clears the way for a new Chrysler Group LLC to emerge from bankruptcy. The bankruptcy cleared away billions in debt, thousands of employees, 789 dealerships and high labor costs. The United Automobile Union gets stock in the new Chrysler but did not have to give up much in terms of wage concessions.
Apparently, the Indiana pension appeals were not enough to get the Supreme Court involved in the legalities of the issue. The debate centered around the fact that secured bond holders were put in an unsecured position receiving a small percentage of what they thought they should receive.

Some of the factories that had been closed will be reopened shortly! Others will remain closed and liquidated thru the bankruptcy.
The new Chrysler will will focus on small vehicles. "Work is already under way on developing new environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient, high-quality vehicles that we intend to become Chrysler's hallmark going forward," a press release from the company indicated.
Jim Press, will take the position of Vice Chairman and President. Press was formerly Toyota's top U.S. executive but was enticed to join Chrysler in 2007 when Cerberus Capital Management purchased Chrysler.
My take on this deal is that it stinks! The Obama administration basically ignored the rule of law where secured creditors are secured by assets....the Chrysler bond holders were robbed and had no recourse. First the liabilities were stripped, which are owned by U.S. companies and citizens, then the assets are given to a foreign corporation Fiat with government financing. This is the sweetheart deal of the century. Fiat did not have to pay $.01 US cent!
Fiat does not have the cash or credit lines to acquire any other large company. If the economy turns worse than expected Chrysler could be in this sad state again! Fiat would be able to walk without much difficulty.
I was very unhappy about the way that they treated the 789 dealers that were closed. It is grossly unfair to the dealers, employees and customers.
Shown above is a concept electric car the Chrysler 200 CC!