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BACK SEAT DRIVING - AUGUST 2009

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Aug 2, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

HOT WIRES For hot and tender news wires on the car culture, see LA Car's Hot Wires Cash for Clunkers Winners and Losers Nissan Claims 367 MPG for its LEAF Under DOE Standards GM Claims 230 MPG for Volt Under EPA Standards Nissan Unveils Affordable Electric Car for the Masses  

 

Infiniti offered no cars that qualified for CARS

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING CASH FOR CLUNKERS WINNERS & LOSERS The Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), otherwise known as the Cash for Clunkers program came to a screeching halt August 25, 2009, with nearly 700,000 clunkers taken off the roads, replaced by more fuel efficient vehicles. Rebate applications worth $2.877 billion were submitted by the deadline, under the $3 billion provided by Congress to run the program. "American consumers and workers were the clear winners thanks to the cash for clunkers program" said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Manufacturing plants have added shifts and recalled workers. Moribund showrooms were brought back to life and consumers bought fuel efficient cars that will save them money and improve the environment." "This is one of the best economic news stories we've seen and I'm proud we were able to give consumers a helping hand" Secretary LaHood said. "The federal government's attempt to stimulate the nation's economy by instituting the CARS 2009 program remains the subject of debate even as it concludes, but one thing is certain - it motivated hundreds of thousands of consumers to buy new vehicles" said Jack R. Nerad, Executive Editorial Director and Executive Market Analyst, Kelley Blue Book and kbb.com. "Whether it boosts the overall economy for any length of time remains to be seen, but it does demonstrate that a direct stimulus to consumers can quickly generate substantial economic activity." According to a preliminary analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the CARS program will: · Boost economic growth in the third quarter of 2009 by 0.3-0.4 percentage points at an annual rate thanks to increased auto sales in July and August. · Will sustain the increase in GDP in the fourth quarter because of increased auto production to replace depleted inventories. · Will create or save 42,000 jobs in the second half of 2009. Those jobs are expected to remain well after the program's close. Secretary LaHood asserts that the program was also good news for the environment. "That's because 84 percent of consumers traded in trucks and 59 percent purchased passenger cars. The average fuel economy of the vehicles traded in was 15.8 miles per gallon and the average fuel economy of vehicles purchased is 24.9 mpg. - a 58 percent improvement. This is a win for the economy, a win for the environment and a win for American consumers" Secretary LaHood said. Not exactly. There were some losers as well as winners from this program. Let's take a closer look at who exactly won and lost in this program: WINNER: LAWMAKERS Congress has dished out a lot of money to stimulate this recessive economy. None has had the immediate impact the way that the CARS program has. This may explain why it received broad, bi-partisan support - particularly after the initial funds ran out much sooner than expected. WINNER & LOSER: THE ADMINISTRATION The Obama administration pushed for this program and pulled out all the stops to bring it to fruition. However, lack of clear guidelines at the onset and midstream changes, such as what to do with the clunkers that are turned in, made car dealers justifiably nervous. WINNER: CAR DEALERS Car dealers with access to qualifying cars and who knew the rules of the game reaped the benefits of the program. These dealers were able to clean out their inventories and, in some cases, were able to sell vehicles without the usual manufacturer and dealer-initiated incentives. LOSER: CAR DEALERS Some dealers didn't do their homework well enough and made transactions that didn't follow all of the requirements in the program. Usually, it meant taking a trade-in that didn't qualify as a clunker (e.g., too old, EPA gas mileage too good, etc.). WINNER: TOYOTA Of all the auto makers, Toyota was the biggest recipient of Cars for Clunkers, selling more vehicles under the program than anyone else. And it wasn't the Prius that sold the most (not enough supply); it was the Corolla that came out on top. LOSER: INFINITI Despite the perception that Japanese automakers make cars with good gas mileage, not a single new Infiniti product had sufficiently good gas mileage to qualify for the program. WINNER: GM & FORD Among the domestic auto makers, General Motors sold the most vehicles under the program. Among the top ten models sold, Ford had the most domestic models. Ford attributes the program to boosting both its sales and profits for the month of July (and likely for the month of August). Ford was able to clean out its inventory of Focuses and put a sizeable dent in its Escape inventory. LOSER: LOW INCOME FAMILIES A lot of perfectly good-running vehicles were permanently taken off the road as a result of this program. These are the cars that low income families can afford. Nearly 700,000 of these vehicles are no longer available to them. For many, it means turning to very old vehicles that didn't qualify for the program, but that pollute even more and use more fuel. LOSER & WINNER: THE ENVIRONMENT "For environmentalists the effects of CARS 2009 are largely regarded as mixed" says Kelley Blue Book Executive Editorial Director and Executive Maret Analyst Jack R. Nerad. "Certainly the program did get a lot of older, less-fuel-efficient vehicles off the nation's roads immediately never to return. there are also some environmental questions about the efficacy of destroying vehicles that retain usefulness and replacing them with newly built vehicles. Some would say the environment wins in that situation; others would say it does not." In the end, the CARS program was more of a win-lose-win. "The effectiveness of the 'cash-for-clunkers' program will be judged in a number of ways, but a key measure will be how does the automotive market respond to the absence of the 'clunkers' incentive to buy now?" says Nerad. "One clear success of the program was that it got a significant number of Americans thinking about buying a new car again. Any dealer can tell you that increased traffic results in increased sales, and the clunkermania definitely increased traffic."       

 

 

 

 

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING NISSAN CLAIMS 367 MPG FOR ITS LEAF UNDER DOE STANDARDS Everyone's getting into the act. As you know, General Motors announced an estimated 230 mpg for the upcoming Volt extended-range EV earlier this month. The claim was somewhat upended by EPA, noting that it actually hasn't tested Chevrolet's new Volt. Not to be outdone, Nissan responds (via Twitter) that its upcoming LEAF EV can do better: "Nissan Leaf = 367 mpg, no tailpipe, and no gas required. Oh yeah, and it'll be affordable too!" Nissan is referring to the fact that the Chevrolet Volt is slated to sell in the $40,000 range, while their new Leaf is expected to go for around $25,000. As for Nissan's 367 MPG figure, the company followed with with another tweet, indicating that they were using a Department of Energy formula to estimate the 367 MPG equivalency for the electric LEAF. Of course, the LEAF is fully electric, and doesn't use any fossil fuel in which to calculate miles per gallon, but Nissan makes it point.       

 

 

 

 

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING EPA Stresses That it Hasn't Yet Tested the Volt

230 mpg Volt

The Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle is expected to achieve city fuel economy of at least 230 miles per gallon, based on General Motors data development testing using a draft Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) federal fuel economy methodology for labeling for plug-in electric vehicles. The Volt, which is scheduled to start production in late 2010 as a 2011 model, is expected to travel up to 40 miles on electricity from a single battery charge and be able to extend its overall range to more than 300 miles with its flex fuel-powered engine-generator. "From the data we've seen, many Chevy Volt drivers may be able to be in pure electric mode on a daily basis without having to use any gas," said GM Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson. "EPA labels are a yardstick for customers to compare the fuel efficiency of vehicles. So, a vehicle like the Volt that achieves a composite triple-digit fuel economy is a game-changer." "The key to high-mileage performance is for a Volt driver to plug into the electric grid at least once each day," Henderson said. Volt drivers' actual gas-free mileage will vary depending on how far they travel and other factors, such as how much cargo or how many passengers they carry and how much the air conditioner or other accessories are used. Based on the results of unofficial development testing of pre-production prototypes, the Volt has achieved 40 miles of electric-only, petroleum-free driving in both EPA city and highway test cycles. Under the new methodology being developed, EPA weights plug-in electric vehicles as traveling more city miles than highway miles on only electricity. The EPA methodology uses kilowatt hours per 100 miles traveled to define the electrical efficiency of plug-ins. Applying EPA's methodology, GM expects the Volt to consume as little as 25 kilowatt hours per 100 miles in city driving. At the U.S. average cost of electricity (approximately 11 cents per kWh), a typical Volt driver would pay about $2.75 for electricity to travel 100 miles, or less than 3 cents per mile. The Chevrolet Volt uses grid electricity as its primary source of energy to propel the car. There are two modes of operation: Electric and Extended-Range. In electric mode, the Volt will not use gasoline or produce tailpipe emissions when driving. During this primary mode of operation, the Volt is powered by electrical energy stored in its 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. When the battery reaches a minimum state of charge, the Volt automatically switches to Extended-Range mode. In this secondary mode of operation, an engine-generator produces electricity to power the vehicle. The energy stored in the battery supplements the engine-generator when additional power is needed during heavy accelerations or on steep inclines. "The 230 city mpg number is a great indication of the capabilities of the Volt's electric propulsion system and its ability to displace gasoline," said Frank Weber, global vehicle line executive for the Volt. "Actual testing with production vehicles will occur next year closer to vehicle launch. However, we are very encouraged by this development, and we also think that it is important to continue to share our findings in real time, as we have with other aspects of the Volt's development." In response to a query from Green Car Advisor, howver, the EPA issued the following statement: " The EPA has not tested a Chevy Volt and therefore cannot confirm the fuel economy values claimed by GM. EPA does applaud GM's commitment to designing and building the car of the future - an American-made car that will save families money, significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create good-paying American jobs. We're proud to see American companies and American workers leading the world in the clean energy innovations that will shape the 21st century economy."       

 

 

 

 

Nissan LEAF unveiled

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVINGTURNING OVER A NEW LEAF Nissan Unveils Affordable Electric Car for the Masses On August 2nd, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. unveiled the Nissan LEAF, an affordable, zero-emission car. Designed specifically for a lithium-ion battery-powered chassis, Nissan LEAF is a medium-size hatchback that comfortably seats five adults and has a range of more than 160km (100 miles) to satisfy real-world consumer requirements. Slated for launch in late 2010 in Japan, the United States, and Europe, Nissan sees the LEAF ushering in a new era of mobility - the zero-emission era.  "Nissan LEAF is a tremendous accomplishment - one in which all Nissan employees can take great pride" said Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn. "We have been working tirelessly to make this day a reality - the unveiling of a real-world car that has zero - not simply reduced - emissions. It's the first step in what is sure to be an exciting journey - for people all over the world, for Nissan and for the industry." The automaker points to five key characteristics of the new LEAF: Zero-emission power train and platform Affordable pricing Distinctive design Real-world range autonomy - 160km (100 miles) Connected Mobility: Advanced intelligent transportation (IT) system Pricing details will be announced closer to start of sales in late 2010; however, the company expects the car to be competitively priced in the range of a well-equipped C-segment vehicle. Additionally, Nissan LEAF is expected to qualify for an array of significant local, regional and national tax breaks and incentives in markets around the world. Nissan claims that because the vehicle has less mechanical complexity than a traditional gasoline-powered car, the LEAF should be friendly to the wallet as well as to the environment. Zero-Emission Mobility Nissan LEAF is powered by laminated compact lithium-ion batteries, which generate power output of over 90kW, while its electric motor delivers 80kW/280Nm. Nissan hopes this ensures a responsive experience that is in keeping with what consumers have come to expect from traditional, gasoline-powered automobiles. Unlike internal-combustion engine (ICE) equipped vehicles, Nissan LEAF's power train has no tail pipe, and thus no emission of CO2 or other greenhouse gases. A combination of Nissan LEAF's regenerative braking system and innovative lithium-ion battery packs enables the car to deliver a driving range of more than 160km (100 miles) on one full charge*. (*US LA4 mode) Nissan claims that extensive consumer research demonstrates that this range satisfies the daily driving requirements of more than 70 percent of the world's consumers who drive cars. The LEAF can be charged up to 80 percent of its full capacity in just under 30 minutes with a quick charger, according to Nissan. Charging at home through a 200V outlet is estimated to take approximately eight hours. Real-World Car? "Our car had to be the world's first, medium-size, practical EV that motorists could afford and would want to use every day. And that's what we've created. The styling will identify not only Nissan LEAF but also the owner as a participant in the new era of zero-emission mobility" said Masato INOUE, Product Chief Designer. Nissan LEAF's frontal styling is characterized by a sharp, upright V-shaped design featuring long, up-slanting light-emitting diode (LED) headlights that employ a blue internal reflective design that is meant to remind everyone around that this is a special car. The headlights are also designed to split and redirect airflow away from the door mirrors, thus reducing wind noise and drag. And, the headlights consume just 10 percent of the electricity of conventional lamps, according to Nissan. Through bright trim colors inside, Nissan LEAF creates a pleasing and stylish cabin environment. An environmentally friendly "blue earth" color theme originates from the Aqua Globe body color of Nissan LEAF's introductory model. This theme is carried into the interior through blue dashboard highlights and instrument illumination. For some consumers, Nissan LEAF will be the perfect match, and the only car they will ever need. For others, Nissan LEAF will be a logical addition to the family fleet - the optimal choice for the daily commute, for example. Nissan LEAF is the first in the company's forthcoming line of EVs and is a major milestone in the realization of the Renault-Nissan Alliance's vision for zero-emission mobility. The first of Nissan's EV's will be manufactured at Oppama, Japan, with additional capacity planned for Smyrna, Tennessee, USA. Meanwhile, lithium-ion batteries are being produced in Zama, Japan, with additional capacity planned for the USA, the UK and Portugal, and other sites for investment are under study around the world. Connected Mobility IT System Nissan says its LEAF employs an exclusive advanced IT system. Connected to a global data center, the system can provide support, information, and entertainment for drivers 24 hours a day. The dash-mounted monitor displays Nissan LEAF's remaining power - or "reachable area" - in addition to showing a selection of nearby charging stations. Another feature is the ability to use mobile phones to turn on air-conditioning and set charging functions - even when Nissan LEAF is powered down. An on-board remote-controlled timer can also be pre-programmed to recharge batteries. "The IT system is a critical advantage" says Tooru ABE, Chief Product Specialist. "We wanted this vehicle to be a partner for the driver and an enhancement for the passengers. We also wanted this vehicle to help create a zero-emission community, and these IT features will help make that possible." For more information, go to www.nissan-zeroemission.com       

 

 

 

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE

LA Car

That was LA Car's subtitle when it started back in 1997. It's original website address was about five times the size of lacar.com. Since then, La Car became LA Car. Its subtitle became Reporting From Car Culture Ground Zero, then From The Heart of Car Culture, to today's The Cars and Culture of Southern California. At all times, however, we aimed to chronicle the Southland's automotive spirit - much like one's own journal or diary. LA Car has always been a great source to come back to from week-to-week, to see what articles and reviews have been added to our rather staggering database. With Back Seat Driving, a.k.a. BSD (note the similarity to two well-worn abbreviations, BS and BFD) and Hot Wires - Hot & Tender News From the Car Culture (co-located with Back Seat Driving, and updated at least daily), we give you some reasons to come back more often (all opinions, by the way, are those of the respective author). So, go ahead and bookmark www.lacar.com. We'll be sure to always provide a link to Hot Wires and the latest Back Seat Driving blog entry. In the meantime, welcome to the journal and journey from the heart of the car culture. - Roy Nakano 

For past Blog entries, click the following: July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 July 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 August 2006 July 2006 June 2006 May 2006 April 2006 March 2006 February 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 October 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 June 2005 May 2005 April 2005 March 2005 February 2005 January 2005 December 2004 November 2004 October 2004 September 2004 August 2004 July 2004 June 2004 May 2004 April 2004

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