Check Your Mirrors
Odds and ends about cars and the car business
By Brendan Moore
High gas prices are causing Americans to buy less gas, and that’s one of the reasons that gas stations are going out of business at an unprecedented clip, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. It almost seems counter-intuitive that gas stations would be losing money as gasoline goes ever higher in price, but that’s exactly what is happening nationwide. Almost 3000 stations have closed just in the last 12 months, and industry analysts say that many more will follow. What does it mean for consumers? Less stations mean less convenience and less competition, which will probably result in higher prices on average that what prices would have been with more stations open.
VW has rolled out a 235 mpg car for the press that was engineered and built six years ago with a projected launch date of 2012. The car is the One-Liter Car concept vehicle, and it is called that by VW because it will travel 100 kilometers on a single liter of gasoline. The 2012 date was arrived at as a result of the expectation that it would be that long until the carbon fiber that the super-light car body is made of would be cheap enough for the car to make sense from an economical standpoint. Well, now, gasoline has jumped up in price and the cost of carbon fiber has dropped, and VW says that a 2010 launch is more like it. The car meets all regulations and crash tests in Europe, with ABS brakes, airbags, stability control and built-in crash tubes, but no word on a US debut. It is reported that the car will use a two-cylinder turbo-diesel engine.
Chrysler could run out of money in the second half of 2009 if current market conditions stay the same or get worse, according to some industry-watchers. Chrysler does not have the same ability to raise money as Ford and GM, two public companies, and some analysts believe this may hobble the company if more cash is needed in their turnaround efforts next year. It’s worth pointing out, however, that since Chrysler LLC is a private company controlled by the secretive Cerberus investment entity, these guys are merely guessing because no one outside of Chrysler and Cerberus knows just how much cash Chrysler has on hand at any given time.
Chamco Auto is done; stick a fork in them. In addition to all of its other troubles, the wanna-be importer just lost its Chinese supplier of vehicles. Chinese automaker Hebei Zhongxing Automobile Co. was supposed to deliver large numbers of an inexpensive SUV and pickup truck to Chamco for sale in the US, but Chamco has been torn asunder by infighting at the company, lawsuits and counter-lawsuits, and last, but not least, the headlong flight of more than a dozen auto executives from the company, including Steve Saleen. Chamco was shut down by order of a New Jersey Superior Court judge, and control of the company was remanded to a court-appointed trustee in April of this year. Chinese manufacturer Hebei Zhongxing Automobile Co. said, that’s it, we’ve had enough, and we’re out of here. Hebei Zhongxing still hopes to sell their vehicles in the US, but it won’t be through Chamco, that’s for sure. Although they may want to rethink that SUV/pickup lineup. Steve Saleen has already started SMS, an automotive performance company that will enhance many makes, not just Ford models as Saleen performance previously did. And what of the 37 dealers that paid an average of $250,000 USD for their Chamco dealer franchise? They are out of luck.
Now some oil industry analysts are saying that oil could very well be $200 a barrel by the end of 2008. That translates into $6 a gallon gasoline. Why the huge acceleration in time frame for $200 a barrel oil? The simple explanation is that there are a lot things driving up the price of oil and nothing pushing it down. Look for blood in the streets of Detroit if this happens, and a whole bunch of people deciding that an apartment in a city with good mass transit might not be such a bad idea the next time they have to move.
GM is seriously considering bringing the Beat, a small 3-door hatchback, here to the US, but first it must be engineered to meet safety and emissions standards. The Beat is about the size of a Honda Fit, has a 1.2 liter turbocharged engine, and should get around 43 mpg on the highway. GM suggests a MSRP of around $10,000 USD would be the price point. The Beat is currently scheduled to be made in South Korea.
Mahindra & Mahindra is sticking to its plan to sell a diesel-powered pickup and SUV in the US in 2010. The Indian company plans to sell a minimum of 10,000 vehicles annually, despite the savage downturn in SUV and pickup sales in the American market. Mahindra says their diesel engines will make all the difference.
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