Archive for January, 2009

Toyota Prius Hybrid promises 50 mpg for 2010

  Toyota Motor Corp.’s sleeker, more fuel-efficient update to its iconic Prius goes on sale this spring in a market growing more crowded with competing hybrids and battered by the global financial crisis. But the Japanese automaker’s executives are confident that the third-generation gas-electric Prius, which promises a city-highway average of 50 miles to the gallon, will maintain its spot as the top-selling hybrid in the United States. “Since Prius was first introduced, the consumer demographic has shifted from an early adopter to a mainstream shopper,” Bob Carter, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager, told reporters recently at a news conference unveiling the 2010 Prius midsize sedan. “The Prius has evolved to meet the changing needs of this growing and diverse customer base,” Carter said. The highly anticipated 2010 Prius boasts a 4 mpg improvement over the current model, which already is the …

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Top auto makers caught in the worst industry downturn in decades

  Sliding car sales dealt fresh blows on Friday to the earnings of top auto makers caught in the worst industry downturn in decades. Amid emptying showrooms and production cuts worldwide, Honda Motor Co on Friday lowered its annual profit forecasts for a fourth time this year and rival Toyota Motor Corp’s losses were seen growing. German sports car maker Porsche said first-half profits will fall sharply and forecast a sales slump of more than a quarter in the six months to the end of January. “The sales environment is changing faster than we were able to predict,” Honda Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo told a news conference, noting that four profit warnings in a single year was probably unprecedented in Honda’s history. “We don’t expect conditions in the U.S. to improve in the first half of next year, and we can only hope they …

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Insurance premiums for smaller cars typically higher than for larger vehicles

  When the economy goes into a downward spiral like it currently is, people scramble to find ways to save money, but it seems there’s always a catch. For example: when gas prices went up to $3-per-gallon (and beyond) over the last couple of years, many consumers began clamoring to get out of their big gas-guzzling SUVs and sedans, flocking to smaller cars that delivered better fuel economy. But even before gas prices dropped to the $1.60 range in November; those new small-car buyers discovered a hitch in their plan to save money: insurance premiums for smaller cars are typically higher than for larger vehicles. This has been true for decades, but so many drivers had been motoring around in SUVs, pick-up trucks and big sedans for so long that this fact probably slipped their memories. “Small cars are just more likely to get …

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Big Three say President Obama’s emissions proposals are too strict

  Automakers said Monday that they were working toward President Obama’s goal of reducing fuel consumption, but rapid imposition of stricter emissions standards could force them to drastically cut production of larger, more profitable vehicles, adding to their financial duress. Mr. Obama ordered the government on Monday to reconsider whether California and other states could regulate vehicle emissions to help control greenhouse gas emissions, a reversal of a position taken by the Bush administration. The announcement came as General Motors and Chrysler are borrowing billions of dollars from the government to avoid bankruptcy, and as Toyotaprepares to report its first operating loss in 70 years. Shortly after the president spoke, General Motors said it would cut 2,000 jobs at plants in Michigan and Ohio because of slow sales. The California regulations, if enacted today, “would basically kill the industry,” said David E. Cole, chairman …

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American car buyers usually choose the largest vehicle they can afford from a fuel standpoint

  For the automotive industry, 2008 was a year like no other in recent memory. Auto manufacturers scrambled to meet demand as consumers abandoned large SUVs and trucks, Detroit’s stronghold, for small cars as fuel prices reached $4 a gallon over the summer. Congress responded with new fuel-economy standards that demanded automakers meet a 35-mpg standard by 2020. Automakers, in turn, changed product plans and began investing in expensive new technology to meet those standards. Then, a funny thing happened. Demand for small cars and fuel-efficient gas-electric hybrids bottomed out in the face of a slumping economy, tightening credit and gas prices that dropped as low as $1.50 a gallon. Robert Lutz, GM’s vice chairman for global product development, said the market volatility has made product planning difficult. “When gasoline was $4 a gallon, we couldn’t make enough (Chevrolet) Cobalts. Now we have trouble pushing …

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2009 North American International Auto Show attendance down 20 percent

  Walter Richard scouted the North American International Auto Show on Saturday for a replacement for his 2007 Ford 500. The Southgate resident said his car has 30,000 miles on it and he would like a new car. The Lamborghini and Bentley cars are way out of his price range so he likely will go with a Ford Taurus or maybe a General Motors Corp. car. “I have done it in the past,” he said Saturday, referring to his use of the show to find his next car. “I’m just kind of looking at whatever catches my eye.” The show wraps up Sunday. Attendance has been down from last year. An average of about 50,000 people have attended the show daily this year compared to an average of 65,000 people during the same time period last year, according to show statistics. That works out to …

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What shape will the plug for recharging your future electric vehicle take

  WHAT shape will the plug for recharging your future electric vehicle take? That question is becoming a pressing matter for automakers. The global auto industry has yet to agree on a standardized shape for the connectors that will replenish the batteries of electric cars, though the Society of Automotive Engineers has been working on standards for such a plug for more than two years. Issues of this sort must be resolved before many of the electric powertrains displayed at the Detroit auto show this month will be able to take to the road in large numbers. While the breadth and diversity of electric car proposals seen in Detroit seemed to affirm their inevitability — despite obstacles like $2-a-gallon gas at nearby pumps and a grim car market over all — the efforts at electrification of the vehicle fleet, to use the …

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Toyota and Lexus combined have the most hybrid models among automakers

  Toyota wants to bring new customers to its lineup of hybrid vehicles with a program that only Toyota is in a position to do: hybrid-only certified, pre-owned vehicles. Toyota says its Certified Used Hybrid program offers the standard three-month/3,000-mile comprehensive and seven-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranties, and roadside assistance plus an the eight-year/100,000-mile hybrid battery warranty. Toyota and Lexus combined have the most hybrid models among automakers, and–because of Prius–the highest volume of hybrid vehicle sales in the U.S. The company, which launched the first Prius in 1997, now has seven hybrid nameplates: the Camry sedan, and Highlander SUV; hybrid versions of the Lexus LS, and GS cars and the RX SUV; and later this year, a hybrid-only Lexus HS 250 car. Toyota, which unveiled its third-generation Prius at the Detroit auto show two weeks ago, says that 670,000 of the cars have been …

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Bolivia holds the key for Lithium Car Batteries

  Breaking America’s dependence on foreign energy supplies and suppliers who often don’t like the U.S. is a driving force behind the search for alternative fuels. That includes electric cars, which wheezing Detroit has finally realized it needs to produce. But at Detroit’s International Auto Show this month, the excitement surrounding the Big Three’s announcements that they’re shifting from gasoline to voltage has been tempered by another realization: most of the lithium used to make the batteries for those cars is found in Bolivia, whose leftist President isn’t too fond of the U.S. Small, impoverished Bolivia, in fact, is the Saudi Arabia of lithium. It’s home to 73 million metric tons of lithium carbonate, more than half the world’s supply. The largest single deposit is the Salar de Uyuni, a vast, 4,085-square-mile (6,575-sq-km) salt desert in the southern Potosi region that is …

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Barack Obama’s Chrysler 300C is sold for $271,300

  You might expect to pay about $14,000 for a 2005 Chrysler 300C with just under 21,000 miles, maybe even less in this economy, but there is one on Ebay that just fetched about 20 times that amount. With well over 100 bids, Barack Obama’s Chrysler 300C sold for $271,300. As you can imagine this was no ordinary Ebay auction. In just one day the auction page was viewed by 146,000 people, and over 8,000 people were officially watching it on Ebay. As I was writing this article, over 213,000 people had viewed the auction page, and when it was all over more than 276,000 people had seen it! Now not just anyone could bid in this Ebay auction. No you didn’t have to have a Secret Service clearance, but you did have to be pre-approved to …

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