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Fred931's avatar

How is the automotive world as a whole doing currently?

Asked by Fred931 (9409points) March 18th, 2010

GM is finding steadier ground, Toyota’s getting media up their butts for their sticky gas pedals, and Volkswagen just took their top spot as #1 manufacturer as well. What else is happening?

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29 Answers

mattbrowne's avatar

Undergoing a healthy shift toward smaller and more fuel-efficient cars.

john65pennington's avatar

Good question. Ford has just announced a completely new police car, available in 2012. the reliable and beefy Crown Vic will be replaced by a new “ground-up” police cruiser. it will be smaller than the Crown Vic and basicaly on the Ford Taurus frame. its the SHO verision of Fords Taurus car. big differences are twin turbo-chargers for immediate accelaration and a V-6 engine capable of producing 365 horsepower. everything about this new police vehicle is heavy duty. Ford has lead the police-making vehicle market for many years. i am watching to see the results of practical use in police work with this “baby Crown Vic”. john

Fred931's avatar

@mattbrowne Or you could just say “more European cars.”

Cruiser's avatar

Overall a hell of a lot better than Toyota!

CMaz's avatar

Too early to tell. We will see once they have depleted their government bail out money.

jerv's avatar

@john65pennington Admit it; the little boy in you just wants to take one out for a joyride :P

Electric vehicles are trying to make a comeback. Back when gasoline was still used as a cleaning solvent instead of a fuel, EVs were very prevalent and could/did outperform any gasser.

Of course, nowadays we have Chevron holding the patents thus barring large-format NiMH batteries, so EVs are going to have a tough time since they are stuck with batteries that are either too weak (lead-acid), too pricey (Lithium-ion…. though that is changing), or not allowed on the market in any usable size (Nickel-Metal Hydride) without paying an oil company.

Still, that doesn’t keep Tesla from making a go of it ;)

chyna's avatar

@ChazMaz You mean they haven’t depleted that yet with all their bonuses to their upper management?

noyesa's avatar

The domestics seem to be doing better while Toyota is having some problems, obviously. Ford is actually doing pretty well.

@ChazMaz None of the domestic automotive companies ever recieved a government bail-out. The automotive assistance was a loan. GM and Chrysler will have to pay all that money they borrowed from the taxpayers back.

All three companies have completely revamped their marketing campaign, slightly updated their cars’ gas mileage, and started to appeal to the more economical mindset. Ford has stayed afloat because it mortgaged off most of its assets before the recession, so as of yet they don’t have any heavy debt and they have a very healthy line of credit available to them. Their car line is doing better than any other automotive producer in the US right now, although that isn’t saying much since Toyota has been hit really hard by the recall and GM still hasn’t really found its place in the world. All three US auto companies are slowly finding stability, but things still aren’t looking great for GM or Chrysler.

CMaz's avatar

@noyesa – I stand corrected. Loan.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

What I don’t understand is why a lot of the automobile manufacturers who are building hybrids claim to get only 35mpg on the highway. Do they really believe that is a mentionable improvement over earlier makes and models? I’d be a hell of a lot more impressed with the new generation of cars and the companies that make them, if they got 40 or 50 or even more miles per gallon. My 2003 Chevy Cavalier gets 32–33mpg (+/- 0.5mpg) on the highway now and although it has been well-maintained, it’s still seven years old. Are they in cohoots with the oil cartels?

CMaz's avatar

It is not about getting more mileage and saving you money. It is about lessening the pollutants.

noyesa's avatar

@Rufus_T_Firefly Most hybrids get the same (or worse) gas mileage on the highway as they do on city driving. The economies of scale that we normally expect from cars, e.g., the faster you go the more efficiently a combustion engine runs, doesn’t apply to electric/hybrid cars.

If I’m not mistaken, the Prius gets worse gas mileage on the freeway than it gets on city streets.

City driving is where the boon for hybrids is since it allows them to save from all that idling and “stop and go” style of usage that combustion engines are so inefficient at. However, on the freeway, there’s little to no idling and eletric motors are generally less efficient (at constant speeds), even if they do have a linear torque curve, which is what makes them so great at stop and go.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@ChazMaz – Saving money should be the foremost in everyone’s mind, especially automobile makers who face the possibility of bankruptcy due to lack of sales. Clean air and environment is definitely a plus, but who will they sell to when no one can afford to both buy a new car AND/OR fill their tanks?

@noyesa – True, but I wasn’t really talking about hybrids alone, I should have included all types of automobiles. True or not, there’s always someone saying that we already have the technology to vastly increase fuel efficiency, but that some of those technologies are getting suppressed in favor of big oil and automobile manufacturers who refuse to part or cannot afford to part with their profits long enough to make things better. And, with the fierce competition that exists between today’s car makers, that theory really isn’t that hard to buy into.

CMaz's avatar

“but who will they sell to when no one can afford to both buy a new car AND/OR fill their tanks?’

Funny how survival is used agents us. At least here in America we are not paying $8 a liter. Bottom line is the bottom line. Squeeze you for every penny(or drop) in order to make the stock holders happy.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@ChazMaz – That’s just another facet of the embarrassing and wholly illogical ‘greed is good’ concept. Sadly, satiating greed usually triumphs over doing the right thing and what’s good for mankind isn’t popular with corporate America.

noyesa's avatar

@Rufus_T_Firefly We as a society have convinced ourselves that individuals working in their own self-interest in competition yields the best possible result. This theory has some ground (game theory says otherwise) in the capitalist/economist realm, but I think that many people in our society perceive this as a universally good thing that provides the best benefit across the spectrum. The massive amount of government regulation clearly says otherwise since filtering out pollutants and using more eco-friendly materials makes zero business sense unless people clamor for it or the government requires it, but you get the point. This mindset has led people to believe that the best thing for the automotive industry is to increase profit yields, shed their debt, and increase stock values.

This is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sure, I don’t think bankruptcy is a great moral argument for why GM should be allowed to make dirty cars using dirty factories, but the truth is that if they don’t do things cheaply, investment won’t pick up. The truth is somewhere in the middle—government regulation and the general population are asking these companies to be more ecologically friendly, but it’s difficult for these (massive) companies to restructure their entire business model to fit this mold while they can hardly stay afloat doing this the dirty, more profitable way. The reason they can’t is because of this expectation we’ve set up as a society over the past 100 years of this country’s industrial dominance that the company will try to drive profits up as sky high as can be.

Profits come first and the needs of human beings come second.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@noyesa – Agreed, it’s self-fulfilling to the Nth degree, but the baby steps taken by the automobile industry thus far haven’t gotten us or themselves any closer to where we actually should be in terms of environmental conservation or forward vision. They’ve known for decades that this would eventually come to pass and experts have warned that this would happen for much longer than that and yet they’re still churning out the gas guzzling behemoths (Escalades, Hummers, Suburbans, etc.) in search of greater profits and stockholder dividends. It would be nice if each of the auto makers had enough gumption to pull a Henry Ford and make one incredible automobile that not only gets fantastic gas mileage, but is also inexpensive to produce and repair and which will satisfy the basic needs of consumers. That’s the kind of competition I’d like to see, with everyone clamoring to build the *one *ideal car. The trouble is, stockholders want near-immediate gratification and consumers are conditioned to want the big gas-guzzling environment wreckers just so that their neighbors can watch them drive down the road and think, “Ooooh, I want one of those, too!”

noyesa's avatar

@Rufus_T_Firefly Well, the reality is that the automobile market is largely made up of an oligopoly, there’s fierce competition since the ability to sell a car to an individual is difficult when that person owns a recent car, but at the same time, few of the automobile companies compete directly with each other, which is why the race is actually to the bottom. Engineering and design has never been better, yet cars these days require more babysitting and don’t last particularly long, and that’s on purpose—there’s no reason for them too. Each car company monopolizes its own little niche market and has little direct competition, just other complimentary competition. We have nearly one car per person in the USA, so that’s a saturated market. People aren’t first time car-owners too often, these companies have to be able to continue moving 10 million vehicles or so a year to people who already own vehicles. Markets like China aren’t wealthy enough for people to buy cars en masse and there’s less demand for cars in other wealthy places in the world, like western Europe.

For what it’s worth, Hummer is gone. =)

However, the automotive companies aren’t going to make decisions for their customers, and it’s arguably not their place to do so. They’re not going to say “I refuse to make you a gas guzzling car”—remember that people like these cars. People like big SUVs. They sell like crazy. The Ford Explorer has been one of the best selling cars in the world for almost two decades, and SUVs are still the craze. This stupid “crossover” fad is living proof of that. People don’t like guzzling gas, but if you think they’re going to give up using their military grade roving land base to drop the kids off at school, commute to work on a highway, or pick up groceries, you’re going to have to pry it from their cold-dead fingers. It is really okay for a company to decide that people shouldn’t be allowed to drive them, or is it the responsibility of the people to choose to do something for the environment? Making social decisions by controlling the availability of a bad product is questionable.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@noyesa – Yeah, I knew about Hummer. Good riddance, I say. But, the auto makers aren’t stupid, they could sell the public if they wanted to and IF they wanted to exhibit an environmentally-friendly face and become part of the solution, it would be relatively easy for them to do so.

noyesa's avatar

@Rufus_T_Firefly And they have tried to exhibit a “greener” face. Virtually all of Ford’s cars have a hybrid engine version, and they have improved in gas mileage across the board. Much of Ford’s new marketing campaign, post recession, has broadcast the company to a younger generation which puts more emphasis on the environment and being efficient.

But a corporate entity is not a venue of social control. Policies and displays made by the government can make an impact on how cars are made and what people expect from them, but I don’t see how it’s the responsibility of the automotive companies to tell people what kind of cars they should drive, and it certainly isn’t in their interest to do so since the profit margins are lower on hybrid cars, which seems to be the hottest high efficiency vehicle right now. The automotive companies will be agents of the solution when the demand is there, but right now people are demanding gas guzzling SUVs are crossovers, however pointless and stupid they might be. It’s the people that have to want the change, the companies themselves don’t have to force them to.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@noyesa – That they might become part of the solution only if the public demand is there, which it currently is to some degree, only proves that they are willing to shirk any conscious responsibility to the environment in the name of the holy profit. Doesn’t sound very conscientious to me. Also, it would be nice if there could be design changes that would once again allow the consumer to make their own repairs on a shoestring budget. Overall, it would be a win-win for everyone. As it stands, nearly every automotive repair, which used to be doable at home in one’s own garage, must now be taken to a trained repairman who as been thoroughly trained and whose shop has been properly equipped with all the latest, most expensive electronic gadgets in order to complete the work, further inflating the costs to consumers by thousands of dollars. The easiest way to implement such changes is for the manufacturer to take the lead. But, don’t worry, I’m not holding my breath for that, I’m just saying.

Fred931's avatar

Americans are just being stupid. Here is an unbelieveably good car for the times, and it’s only being sold in Europe because most of us think diesel fuel is still a terrible thing, which is not true anymore. At least they’ll start selling the regular Fiesta here.

I have been going through a Top Gear magazine (coming from the BBC in Great Britain) and was astonished at all the incredible mileages so many cars were getting. Besides the obvious cars to get low mileage, such as Lamborghinis and anything else shouty and fast, I haven’t seen one with less than 30 miles to the gallon. 30. The ECOnetic gets sixty-fucking-five of them, and according to British fuel tests, it can get 75! This is a bullshit scenario rooting from bullshit opinions of some really dumb people.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Still driving my Honda, still eyeing the new Subaru Foresters in the parking lot.

jerv's avatar

@Fred931 They used to sell cars like that here in the states. Do you know how good the MPG on some of those old VWs is, especially the diesel Rabbits?
Of course, you can’t sleep four comfortably, peer down on the roofs of small houses, or set off car alarms with the noise of the exhaust system so they lost popularity in favor of Hummer H2s, other “livings rooms on wheels”, and turbocharged imports that were only ever put on the market for FIA homologation (you need to sell 5000 to compete in certain forms of racing).

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fred931 – I thought GM, Ford and Chrysler have learned their lesson, didn’t they?

GabrielsLamb's avatar

They manufacture cars according to supply and demand statistics… They don’t just keep making them if no one is buying them.So it depends on the economy always.

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