Tag Archives: auto

Gleagle IG Hybrid

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Gleagle IG Hybrid
IG Geely or with the product name Gleagle IG criticized by China Car Times. “Small cars are only suitable for use in the city. However, the door that opens upward makes it difficult, even to nudge the car parked next to it. Doors can also hit the roof of the parking lot, “writes the media.

Surprisingly again, the media does not know exactly where the car was made. They estimate that only cars made in Lin Hai, Zhejian Province, not far from the headquarters of Geely, Hangzhou.

Interestingly enough, the hood of this small hybrid car is also fitted with solar panels. According to Geely, the panel used to charge the battery. As a source of prime mover, this car uses the engine capacity of 1.0 liters.

To couple power hybrids, electric motors, and batteries supplied in accordance with the desire and ability of consumers. “Costs flexible,” wrote Geely. This was done because Geely electrical and battery system that offers the lowest price of 10,000 yuan or USD 13.2 million.

“Consumers can choose different standards according to their needs, like buying a digital camera that uses a variety of memory cards,” added Geely in the site about this concept car sales.

He also explains, in particular for electrical components, there was a contradiction between the price of batteries and the distance. The further the distance that can be generated from battery-powered, large increases in size. The price is also so expensive.

IG is on display today has undergone a change from the prototype on display before. If previously only used three seats with the concept of a triangle, now, the car has two seats in front (including the driver) and two behind.

Explained all, the car is equipped with a large alternator and start & stop system. We stopped at the intersection waiting for the green light, the engine will die. Engine will live longer automatically once trodden on the accelerator. System used is the mild hybrid or a combination of series and parallel (the same used Prius).

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Auto Task Force: We Won’t Tell GM/Chrysler What to Build

TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – General Motors, Chrysler and the auto industry — not the banking industry — continue to be the whipping boys for members of the far right who paint the Obama administration not as post-supply side Keynesians, but as unmitigated socialists. Ron Bloom, the new chairman of the Treasury department’s Automotive Task Force, tried to address that at the Center for Automotive Research’s annual conference here Wednesday.Granted, he was preaching to the choir. This crowd consisted not of socialist refugees from the old Trabant factory in East Germany, but of North American supplier executives who make up the majority of the CAR Conference’s audience. I’d venture to bet that a majority identify themselves as Republicans.Bloom addressed criticism that GM, Chrysler and the task force subverted longstanding U.S. Chapter 11 rules in giving secured creditors low priority in each filing.”Those who write of the bankruptcy rule being turned on its head haven’t read the two judges’ opinions,” he said. There’s enough case study to show “enough exception that the rule was swallowed long ago.”The quick, 43-day Chrysler bankruptcy and 39-day GM bankruptcy were designed to best maximize each “estate,” and quickly get them back in the business of selling cars and trucks, Bloom said. And any money provided to such creditors is entirely at the discretion of the debtor-in-possession creditor — in this case, the U.S. Government.So why not let GM and Chrysler file Chapter 11s privately? Bloom agrees with GM CEO Fritz Henderson’s argument that in the current financial climate, no other debtor-in-possession creditor large enough to take over the automakers was available. Paying off secured creditors would have been costly, making it impossible for the two automakers to issue stock and repay the Treasury. Bloom says he won’t second-guess Henderson’s assertion that GM can start an initial public offering as early as 2010, and start paying the Treasury about $50 billion back. Bloom believes it possible, but the size of the IPO will depend on GM’s and the market’s condition. Chrysler will need more time. He said repeatedly that the Obama administration does not want to run the auto industry, that neither he nor Barack Obama believes they can run the auto industry better than industry executives. And yet, giving the federal government a stake in each automaker is a better way to shepherd our investment. “GM needed capital. Providing capital as debt would have compounded the situation.”Of course, this is automaker country, and it would be hard to find anyone here who didn’t find Bloom’s reassurances, well, reassuring. Without government intervention, GM and Chrysler would have liquidated, bringing much of the supplier base and probably the Ford Motor Company with them. Unemployment already is 15.4 percent in Michigan, 4.9 points higher than the national level.GM and Chrysler won’t be told what kinds of cars and trucks to build, beyond what the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration already mandate for each and every vehicle sold in the United States, Bloom said. Another speaker here, Rod Lache, managing director of Deutsche Bank Securities, said of Bloom’s “government intervention” in the auto industry, “Wall Street is not as concerned about this as you may believe.”Chapter 7 liquidation for GM and Chrysler would have collapsed Ford, Honda, Toyota, Nissan — most every automaker doing business in the U.S., Lache said.”We think that GM may be profitable by 2011. Ford looks like it may do it even later this year.” And yet, even with Wall Street’s support, a small, but vocal contingent in the U.S. see any government intervention as detrimental to the very core being of capitalism. Detrimental to unbridled capitalism, perhaps. The ravages of unbridled capitalism is, after all, what exacerbated GM’s and Chrysler’s problems in the first place.Nevertheless, with most of this crowd reassured by these Keynesian efforts to rebuild the auto industry, and with it a manufacturing-based economy, on Tuesday, so-called tea-baggers loudly protested a congressman’s press conference on extending the Cash for Clunkers bill at a St. Louis dealership. Why? Because it gave government-funded rebates to get consumers back into car dealerships? Because the $1-billion Cash for Clunkers program was more successful at stimulating the economy than George W. Bush’s $600-per-taxpayer rebate last year?Why do the tea-baggers hate the auto industry so much?
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6565968/government/auto-task-force-we-wont-tell-gm-chrysler-what-to-build/index.html

New Astra to Become a Buick? Managing Brand Isn’t Getting Any Easier

DETROIT – Our European correspondent, Paul Horrell calls the 2010 Opel Astra “one of the best compact hatches the world has to offer.” His story asks; will it come here? The answer is “yes,” in a way. Buick’s 2012 Cruze-based compact (on the Delta platform), designed to anchor the lower end of its New GM lineup, will wear the sheetmetal of the notchback sedan version of the Astra, a source close to matter tells me. I don’t know what it will be called. We haven’t seen the conventional sedan version of the new Astra yet. We can guess it will be very similar to the hatchback, retaining its “sweeping” look, with the sculpted blade in the bodyside and the strong shoulders.The new Astra hatchback’s wheelbase is three inches longer than the old Astra’s, and it’s 174 inches overall, though the version with the trunk may be closer to the Cruze’s 181-inch overall length. The old Opel/Vauxhall Astra hatchback served as the Saturn Astra, a model that sold so poorly here that Saturn didn’t import any for the 2009 model year. While Saturn was designated as GM’s import-fighter, and thus was briefly the portal for Opel designs, that brand now is headed for Penske Automotive. Anyway, GM recognized that the Opel Insignia’s design and the premium level of its interior better fit its intended direction for Buick. GM wants to return both Opel and Buick to their old positions as sub-luxury premium brands. It’s similar, but not the same as Ford Motor Company’s Mercury division, which is about to transform from badge-engineered Fords to European models. Does the new Opel Astra fit? Horrell reports the car “derives much of its upscale feel and design from the Insignia.” I don’t know whether the Buick version will get the Astra’s suspension upgrades over the Chevrolet Cruze, but it should. The Opel’s front suspension has supplementary rebound springs to take the load off the front anti-roll bar, and reduce understeer, and a Watts linkage supplements the torsion beam rear axle for better axle articulation than from a cheaper Panhard rod. “This design allows the bushings that take the lateral loads to be separated from those that take the longitudinal,” Horrell explains. “The former are stiff — for handling finesse — while the latter are soft for ride comfort.”Opels are tuned typically for European roads, which means the new Astra’s suspension may prove too stiff for a traditional Buick ride. We’ll have to wait and see whether GM engineers will even try to get the right compromise from this setup. If GM is serious about revitalizing the core differences between Chevy, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models, though, it had better figure out a way to make the Buick compact different from the Chevy Cruze beneath the skin.I’m not quite as confident about GM’s announcement at the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Michigan, that Buick will have an also-unnamed 2012 plug-in hybrid model in showrooms in ’11. The compact crossover, which makes its debut next year as an ’11 model with conventional engines, is the current Saturn Vue with some new sheetmetal. GM engineers were hard at work to introduce the plug-in hybrid powertrain for that model when the company gave up on the brand. The gas engines will be the direct-injection 2.4-liter four and 3.0-liter V-6 now proliferating through GM’s small and midsize lineup, and the plug-in hybrid will feature LG Chem lithium ion batteries and the 3.6-liter gas direct-injection V-6.I have no argument against Buick getting a plug-in hybrid. In fact, it probably can better absorb the system’s cost with a higher price than GM could charge for a Chevy or GMC model. The problem is that the rest of GM has moved on, with the 2010 Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain (replacing the Pontiac Torrent) reviewed as being far superior to their predecessors. The Saturn Vue/new Buick is another version of those predecessors. These days, though, GM can’t afford to throw away any well-developed technology. Technologies being developed for eight brands must find their way into the surviving four. And the plug-in Vue was well on its way. Perhaps the Buick crossover should be sold as plug-in only. This Buick will share showrooms with the dynamically superior (though design-challenged) GMC Terrain. And with Buick’s own Enclave. That large crossover re-established the Buick brand as a legitimate premium nameplate. Let’s hope the new smaller crossover and the Astra-based compact don’t damage the progress the Enclave has made.
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6540547/car-news/new-astra-to-become-a-buick-managing-brand-isnt-getting-any-easier/index.html

Zero Emissions, All Green: Introducing the Nissan Leaf EV

As we profiled on Friday, Nissan Motor Company chose August 2, 2009 to debut its groundbreaking, game changing zero emission electric vehicle at its new corporate headquarters in Yokohama, Japan, and we were here to check it out. Nissan calls it the Leaf (Leading, Environmentally Friendly, Affordable, Family Car), and says it will launch in the U.S. in late 2010 in limited quantities. The Japanese automaker is boasting that the Leaf will be the first affordable (target price is reportedly $25,000-30,000), real-world, mass-market (by 2012) electric vehicle and that it will have a range of some 100 miles. But before we jump into what it all means and what’s going with those funky headlights, here is a brief synopsis on the program.As we have covered in many recent updates, this is Nissan’s most significant endeavor in environmentally friendly motoring. This new electric vehicle (EV) program goes well beyond the company’s recent attempts at improving fuel economy via such measures as the widespread rollout of CVT transmissions and the licensing Toyota’s hybrid technology. In fact, the Leaf does away with our traditional notions of fuel and jumps right into the long promised future of mass marketed electric vehicles.How does it work? The Leaf runs on a large battery pack composed of 192 flat lithium ion (LiOn) battery cells that lay under the floor and between the wheels. This pack delivers enough power to support the 80kW electric motor for up to 100 miles of driving on a full charge. Recharging will be possible on 110V and 220V house current (8 hours/4 hours respectively for a full charge) and via special higher voltage quick charges. Fine, but what’s with the name?According to Nissan, the “LEAF” name (Nissan PR would of course like us to USE ALL CAPS FOR THE NAME) is what you’d expect a name associated with a tree to be — making a green statement. Here’s some good spin about the Leaf name from the press release: “Just as leaves purify the air in nature, so Nissan LEAF purifies mobility by taking emissions out of the driving experience.” Of course, there’s that little matter of where the Leaf will draw its electricity from — we’re guessing from a power plant that produces lots of emissions. But that’s another discussion…You might have noticed nowhere on the vehicle are the words electric vehicle or letters EV. Instead, what’s prominently displayed on the Leaf is a big ‘ol zero emissions badge. Shiro Nakamura, Nissan’s Chief Creative Office and design head explains why:”EV is a means to get zero emissions, so we intentionally avoided EV branding. Zero emissions is about the overall concept, not the hardware.”But let’s talk about the hardware — particularly the styling — since we already are familiar with how it works and drives.At first glance, the Leaf looks new, yet familiar — and distinctly Japanese. It should, as its exterior and interior styling are the result of Nissan’s Japanese design studios. Nakamura cites as influences the Japanese market March Micra and our very own Nissan Murano (the Leaf’s designer also penned the Murano).From our American eyes, we see a bit of Honda Fit in the shape of the front end, but concur that from most other angles, Nissan’s design DNA is readily apparent. The shape of the greenhouse, from the fast angle of the windshield to the kink of the C-pillar does bring to mind the Murano. The belt line and some surfacing appear lifted from the March Micra, while the profile, proportions and overall size recall Versa, except when you get to the notchback bustle in the back, which is reminiscent of Nissan’s corporate cousin, the Renault Megane.Nakamura agrees with this assessment but states that any similarity with the Megane is purely coincidental.”It has no connection with Renault. We are always careful to not look like Renault. Sometimes it is ok, because we are partners…if you point to one detail, ok, maybe. But as long as the total car looks like a Nissan, that is ok.” As you get closer, a number of interesting details emerge, most notably the strange bulge to the headlights at their inside edge. These and other features exist for aerodynamic reasons — a chief concern of Nakamura’s styling team.”Aerodynamics is very, very important for two reasons — air drag and wind noise control. When driving 120 kph (roughly 75 mph), you can only hear the tires and wind, there is no engine noise.  If you have lots of wind noise, it sounds even greater because .”So his team developed the bulging headlamps, conceivably to break up and channel the flow of air before it meets the seam of windshield and creates noise. They also paid particular attention to the shape and orientation of the side mirrors, to reduce wind nose from the side.So were they successful in reducing drag and noise?  Nakamura thinks so. “I can not say Cd (coefficient of drag) but it is very good — without making it the typical one motion aeroform,” he says during an interview prior to the Leaf’s reveal, alluding to the prosaic shape of both the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight that has become synonymous with low drag. “This is our own expression. But at the same time it doesn’t compromise.”Indeed, Nissan did not skimp on the features for the Leaf; there is a lot of high technology built in, from the optional roof mounted solar panel (said to help power accessory fans) and rear back up camera. Look down and you’ll notice the complete absence of a tailpipe. Between those awkward headlights is another signature EV feature. Where the hood meets the front bumper, is a panel surrounding the circular Nissan logo which flips up to reveal the charging ports. Though we don’t know what direction Nissan plans to take with future EVs, you can expect to find this bit of hardware in the Leaf’s siblings (until wireless non contact charging comes to fruition).Inside, it really becomes obvious that this is not your average hatchback.  The center stack is dominated by a large, bright multi information touchscreen, necessary to interact with Nissan’s EV-IT system (which provides EV range and recharging information as well as navigation, climate, and audio control). A futuristic looking semi-spherical transmission controller rests on the center console, and twists to offer (R)everse, (N)eutral, and (D)rive slots, as well as a button for (P)ark.  Honda styling cues resurface in the split instrument panel — a lower housing features another large, bright display, while a secondary hood above shows speed and other information. As far as comfort and roo
miness goes, Nakamura says his team benchmarked the entire C-segment for both interior and exterior dimensions, so the Leaf should be competitive. We did not get a chance to sit in the vehicle, but noted what looked like ample headroom, decent legroom both front and rear, and a huge trunk not often associated with vehicles that run on batteries.Of course, at this point, some of you might be wondering what the fuss is about. And it’s true. For all of the buildup and anticipation, the Leaf is unlikely to turn many heads when it hits the streets in select markets in late 2010.  Even when dressed up in brilliant blue green paint, there is no disguising the rather pedestrian proportions of this compact, traditionally shaped C-segment hatchback. There is some method to this plainness as, Nakamura explains.”We don’t want to go too far out of the segment. We are expecting a big volume . We want to maintain some mainstream feeling.”  Some but not all. “On the interior, we want to give more of a high tech feeling — unique, but not strange.  One that people can appreciate as real car.”This point is of particular importance to Nakamura’s team, as he specifically wanted to avoid the negative connotations associated with electric vehicles.”There is a perception in some markets that EVs are toys or cheap. Like a golf cart or city car. Maybe they can’t drive at high speed…they are not a real car. We did not want to create a car that is toy like or cheap looking. Ours is a real car. It can go 140 kph (87 mph) and can seat 4-5 people.”If you like the way the Leaf looks, take comfort in the fact that this is very close to a production ready vehicle — as much as 95% according to Nakamura. The specific paint scheme you see here will not be offered, though a shade similar and more durable will be along with a standard palette of customer friendly colors. A few of the surfaces and materials may change on the inside, but the Leaf as you see it now should be very close to what zips quietly past you starting in late next year.While other manufacturers have tied their fortunes to hybrid vehicles and clean diesels, Nissan has been relatively quiet on the low emissions front. With their new EV offering, Nissan is prepared to make a very large noise, as it clearly intends to be the leader in zero emissions vehicle leader. Whether the noise Nissan’s zero emissions program makes is a boom or a whimper bust depends entirely on the success of a car it calls the Leaf.INITIAL SPECS FOR THE NISSAN LEAF:Dimensions    Length:            4445 mm / 175.0 in.Width:                1770 mm / 69.7 in.Height    :            1550 mm / 61.0 in.Wheelbase:            2700 mm / 106.3 in.Performance    Driving range    over:        160km/100miles (US LA4 mode)Max speed (km/h):        over 140km/h (over 87 mph)Motor    Type:                AC motorMax power (kW):        80kWMax torque (Nm):        280NmBattery    Type:                laminated lithium-ion batteryTotal capacity (kWh):    24Power output (kW):        over 90Energy density (Wh/kg):    140Power density (kW/kg):    2.5Number of modules:    48Charging times:    quick charger DC 50kW (0 to 80%): less than 30 min; home-use AC200V charger: less than 8 hrsBattery layout:        Under seat & floorOFFICIAL NISSAN PRESS RELEASE:NISSAN UNVEILS “LEAF” – THE WORLD’S FIRST ELECTRIC CAR DESIGNED FOR AFFORDABILITY AND REAL-WORLD REQUIREMENTS Event ushers in a new era for Nissan and a new era for mobility YOKOHAMA, (Aug. 2, 2009) – Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. today unveiled Nissan LEAF, the world’s first 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. NISSAN LEAFSlated for launch in late 2010 in Japan, the United States, and Europe, Nissan LEAF ushers in a new era of mobility – the zero-emission era.  The car is the embodiment of Nissan’s radical, transformative vision for the future and the culmination of decades of investment and research.  “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.”Key characteristics of the LEAF include:1) Zero-emission power train and platform2) Affordable pricing3) Distinctive design4) Real-world range autonomy – 160km (100 miles)5) Connected Mobility: Advanced intelligent transportation (IT) systemThe “LEAF” name is a significant statement about the car itself.  Just as leaves purify the air in nature, so Nissan LEAF purifies mobility by taking emissions out of the driving experience.  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.  As an added benefit, because the vehicle has less mechanical complexity than a traditional gasoline-powered car, Nissan LEAF is designed to be friendly to the wallet as well as to the environment.ZERO-EMISSION MOBILITYNissan LEAF is powered by laminated compact lithium-ion batteries, which generate power output of over 90kW, while its electric motor delivers 80kW/280Nm.  This ensures a highly responsive, fun-to-drive 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)Extensive consumer research demonstrates that this range satisfies the daily driving requirements of more than 70% of the world’s consumers who drive cars.And, Nissan’s approach makes charging easy and convenient.  Nissan LEAF can be charged up to 80% of its full capacity in just under 30 minutes with a quick charger.  Charging at home through a 200V outlet is estimated to take approximately eight hours – ample time to enable an overnight refresh for consumer and car alike.REAL-WORLD CAR The engineers and designers behind Nissan LEAF worked to create a competitively priced real-world car that would enable Nissan to lead mobility into the zero-emission era.  To ensure comfort, spaciousness and cargo capacity, Nissan LEAF employs a completely new chassis and body layout.”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.DISTINCTIVE DESIGNEven the smallest details can yield tremendous effect.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 announces, “This car is special.”  But the headlights do more than make a statement.  They are also designed to cleverly split and redirect airflow away from the door mirrors, thus reducing wind noise and drag.  And, the headlights provide yet one more benefit in that they consume just 10 percent of the electricity of conventional lamps, which helps Nissan LEAF to achieve its world-class range autonomy.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.CONNECTED MOBILITY IT SYSTEMNissan 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 state-of-the-art 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.”HOLISTIC APPROACH TO ZERO-EMISSION MOBILITY AND ECO-FRIENDLY INNOVATIONNissan LEAF is a critical first step in establishing the era of zero-emission mobility; however, Nissan recognizes that internal-combustion engine (ICE) technologies will play a vital role in global transportation for decades to come.  Because of this, Nissan is implementing its zero-emission vision through a holistic approach, which provides consumers a comprehensive range of eco-friendly technologies from which to choose.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.While zero-emission is the ultimate goal, the company is committed to ongoing innovation in eco-friendly technologies that increase efficiency and reduce emissions.  As a result, Nissan offers a comprehensive suite of automotive technologies, including CVT, Idle Stop, HEV, Clean Diesel, and ongoing research and investment in FCV technology.WORLDWIDE PARTNERSZero-emission mobility programs under the banner of the Renault-Nissan Alliance include partnerships with countries such as the UK and Portugal, local governments in the Japan and the USA, and other sectors, for a total of nearly 30 partnerships worldwide.In these partnerships major efforts focus on three areas:      1) Development of a comprehensive charging infrastructure through public and private investment,     2) Incentives and subsidies from local, regional, and national governments, and     3) Public education on the individual and societal benefits of zero-emissions mobility.ZERO-EMISSION VEHICLE PRODUCTIONNissan 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 EVs 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.
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6537775/green/zero-emissions-all-green-introducing-the-nissan-leaf-ev/index.html

Penske’s Saturn: The Post-Modern Auto Company

Auto companies have traditionally been engineering and manufacturing businesses, rather than marketing and retail businesses. Henry Ford, for example, insisted dealers pay for his Model Ts as soon as they left the factory door. But what made sense in Henry’s time, and reached its apotheosis with the huge River Rouge plant, the most vertically integrated automobile factory in the world, has become a liability today. Auto plants cost staggering amounts of money to build and to run. And in an era where the manufacturing process no longer delivers major differentiators in terms of the finished product — all vehicles have to meet similar safety and fuel economy mandates, and the cost and quality differences between the best and the worst are getting smaller all the time — that’s money many auto industry insiders wished they no longer had to spend. Especially as what largely defines an auto company these days is not where its products are made, but how its brands are perceived by consumers.A Boxster is still a Porsche, even though it is built in Finland by Valmet. A Grand Cherokee is still a Jeep, even though it is built in Austria by Magna Steyr. Right hand drive Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series models are still seen as German cars, even though they are made in South Africa.Which is why Roger Penske’s Saturn play is a stroke of genius. With Saturn, Penske has the opportunity to create the first truly post-modern auto company. Penske’s Saturn doesn’t own a single factory, design studio, or proving ground. What it does own — and all it needs to own — is the intellectual property of the Saturn brand. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect candidate to become a post-modern auto company than Saturn. Envisioned by GM chairman Roger B. Smith as an import fighter because of advanced manufacturing techniques that included a highly automated plant and plastic body panels, Saturn succeeded not because the original car was good — actually, it wasn’t even remotely competitive with anything from Toyota or Honda — but because it was cleverly sold and marketed. Saturn consumers bought into the defining promise of the brand — no haggle pricing and great customer service — rather than the physical attributes of the vehicle.Although GM has agreed to build Saturns for Penske for at least two years, future Saturn models may be sourced from a variety of automakers around the world (the latest rumor has Penske talking with Renault). Saturn could simply rebadge another manufacturer’s existing model, paying for U.S. market certification costs and minor cosmetic changes, or it could commission an automaker to design, engineer and manufacture a complete new vehicle. Either way, it could bring new models to market for way less capital cost than a traditional automaker. Finding someone with spare factory space to build Saturns won’t be hard: The world’s automakers currently have the capacity to build 92 million vehicles a year, but will be lucky to build 60 million in 2009, says respected industry forecaster CSM Worldwide. And with the global economy expected to recover slowly from recession, there’s going to be plenty of spare capacity around the world for a long time yet.All Penske’s Saturn has to do to succeed is sell cars and trucks that deliver on the promise of the Saturn brand. The actual vehicles can be made anywhere, by anyone, and as long as they are competitive with the mainstream players in their respective segments in terms of performance, economy, quality, and equipment levels, it almost doesn’t matter what they are, because the Saturn brand is mostly defined by a classy purchase experience. And if there’s one thing Roger Penske knows how to do with class, it’s selling cars and trucks.
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6538063/editorial/penskes-saturn-the-post-modern-auto-company/index.html

July Sales: Cash for Clunkers Spurs FoMoCo; Toyota Regains Second-Place

DETROIT – Ford Motor Company is ebullient about its first year-over-year sales increase since November 2007. Total Ford-Lincoln-Mercury sales, including fleet, rose 2 percent in July 2009 compared with July 2008, and of that, retail sales rose 9 percent. Still, it’s too early to party. The Great Recession isn’t over yet.”Right now, the legs under the economy are not strong enough to sustain a 14-16 million sales rate as we saw at the end of July,” says Ford analyst George Pipas. “A sales increase in July is not the end of the journey.”Aside from the minor increase compared with a very weak July ’08, when gasoline averaged $4.11 per gallon, Ford proved through individual model sales that the Cash for Clunkers program helped move fuel-efficient metal. Probably not coincidentally, the low-priced cars and trucks that consumers who until now were driving clunkers could afford to buy moved the most. Ford Focus sales surpassed Fusion sales, although both models were up compared with last year. Even though a four-cylinder Fusion is within a couple mpg city/highway, the smaller, cheaper Focus easily outsold the Fusion, 21,830 (up 43.6 percent) to 17,610 (up 66 percent).The redesigned-for-2009 Focus became Ford’s darling when gas topped $4 per gallon. Earlier this year, the facelifted 2010 Fusion was Ford’s savior in some of the slowest sales months in decades. Advertising dollars targeting new models helps.If Cash for Clunkers money drew a lot of prospective buyers to Ford lots in the last week, I’ve got to bet that some of those consumers trading in ’90s Explorers chose, say an $18,000-list Focus over a $23,000-list Fusion because it better met their budgets. Many of those clunkers undoubtedly were third or even fourth cars, driven by the high schoolers in the family. Estimates of how much oil the program saves may be a bit of a stretch.No matter. The program is a success for bringing consumers back into the market — either those who have been holding off or those who figured credit had dried up so much, it wasn’t worth it to walk into a showroom. General Motors estimates July sales for all makers totaled an annual rate that would equal about 11.3-million vehicles, marking the first month in 2009 above the 10-million level.And GM has just announced a lease program with U.S. Bank for Chevrolets, Buicks, GMCs and Cadillacs (its core four in North America) for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan and Ohio through August 31. U.S. Bank leases for the new Cadillac SRX are available nationwide.Meanwhile, Chrysler says that The Wall Street Journal got it wrong Monday morning. Chrysler will continue to offer matching incentives of up to $4500 on certain models whether you bring in a clunker or not. Obviously, if your local dealer is out of, say, 2009 PT Cruisers, you’re not going to get $4500 off a 2010 model. And so, to the numbers:GM: 189,443, off 19.4 percent.Inventory of about 466,000 is the lowest on record, says sales veep Mark LaNeve.With inventories dropping for all automakers, the deals aren’t likely to get any more desperate.Chevy division sales were relatively strong, at 124,948, still down 9.3 percent.Equinox was a rare gainer, up 77.8 percent to 10,834. About 60 percent were ’10 models, and most of those were four-bangers.Buick Enclave remains strong, selling 3,797, off 2.5 percent.Cadillac, at 6,171, off 52.6 percent, was the biggest loser of the core four.Saab was off 71.7 percent to 574 and Hummer was off 57.4 percent to 799.Impala was up 9.6 percent to 14,649 but Malibu was off 7.8 percent to 15,339.Modern wagon wars continues: Toyota sold 9,407 Highlanders, (+39.1 percent), Chevy sold 6,690 Traverses, Honda sold 6,430 Pilots (-15.3 percent), Dodge sold 4,165 Journeys (+21 percent) and Ford sold 3,631 Flexes (+64.7 percent).The new Camaro continues to be in short supply. Chevy sold 7,113, vs. 6,686 Ford Mustangs (-37.6 percent) and 886 Dodge Challengers (-69 percent).GM will build some 2010 G6s for fleet customers, LaNeve said, making it the last Pontiac.The New GM of Chevy, Buick, GMC and Cadillac, sold 160,078 vehicles, a couple thousand more than Ford/Lincoln/Mercury but short of Toyota.Toyota-Scion-Lexus: 174,872, off 11.4 percent.Toyota division accounted for 156,355 (including Scions), off 10.8 percent, making Toyota the U.S.’ best-selling brand.Lexus fell 16.5 percent to 18,517.Prius jumped 29.7 percent to 19,173. Camry sales fell 19.4 percent to a still-strong 33,974.RAV4 may have benefited from the clunkers credit, up 32.5 percent to 15,912.Midsize pickups also are doing well. Tacoma was up 7.6 percent to 12,552.Monthly Scion numbers: 6,754, vs. 11,906 in July ’08.Ford-Lincoln-Mercury: 158,838, up 2 percent.Focus was Ford’s best-selling car, up 43.6 percent to 21,830.Fusion was up 66 percent to 17,610.F-150 remains Ford’s best-selling vehicle, off 19 percent to 36,327.Escape was up 94.2 percent to 20,241.Ranger was up 64.5 percent to 7,695. Looks like another Cash for Clunkers winner.Taurus was off 57.1 percent to 1,760 as Ford ramped down the old model.Mercury Milan was up 59.8 percent to 2,934 while Mariner was up 70.5 percent to 3,682 as the Lincoln side of the showroom suffered a 24.3 percent drop.Inventory of 295,000 vehicles, averaging less than a 50-day supply, is 41 percent thinner than at the end of July ’08.Honda-Acura: 114,690, off 17.3 percent.That’s 106,028 Hondas, off 15.8 percent, and 8,662 Acuras, off 32.5 percent.Civic was up 3.1 percent to 30,037.Accord was off 28.1 percent to 29,774.Fit was off 27.6 percent to 8,876 but CR-V was up 9.9 percent to 19,151.Acura RDX was off 62.5 percent to 519 and TSX was off 35.8 percent to 2,232.Chrysler LLC: 88,900, off 9 percent.Winners were small models, helped by heavy incentives. Chrysler PT Cruiser was up 24 percent to 4,092 sold.Jeep Patriot was up 134 percent to 8,084 and Compass was up 95 percent.Jeep Wrangler, which posted increases for the first five months of the year, was down for the second month in a row, off 25 percent to 4,540.Dodge Caliber was up 63 percent to 7,814.Avenger was up 30 percent to 5,616.Sebring was off 27 percent to 2,781. Chrysler has sold 13,466 for the entire year so far, well below Ford Fusion’s monthly sales.Chrysler Town & Country fell 15 percent to 6,837. Dodge Caravan was up 15 percent to 8,405, however.Ram was off 17 percent to 17,723.Nissan-Infiniti: 71,847, off 24.6 percent.Nissan division was off 24.8 percent to 64,751.Infiniti was off 23.3 percent to 7,096.Nissan Versa was off just 2 percent to 8,530, though Sentra fell 13.5 percent to 9,496.Rogue sales were up 3.8 percent to 6,770.Z was up 11.9 percent to 890. Inexplicably, Infiniti QX56 was up 0.4 percent to 553.Nissan GT-R was off by 19 units to 128.OTHERS …Hyundai says 22 percent of its trade-ins were “clunkers.” Sales rose 12 percent, to 45,553. Accent, Sonata, Elantra and Genesis all posted gains and Santa Fe was down very slightly.Kia sold 29,345 units, up 1,324 units from last July. Subaru was up an impressive 34 percent, to 21,839. Mazda sold 19,032, off 15.1 percent.BMW Group, including Mini, was off 26.7 percent, to 21,253. BMW brand sold 16,381, off 31.5 percent. Mini was off 3.8 percent, to 4,872. Only all-ne
w models gained sales last month; BMW Z4 (up 33.8-percent) and 7 Series (up 14.5 percent), and Mini Cooper convertible (up 45.1 percent).Cash for Clunkers helped Volkswagen, which was up 0.7 percent, to 20,590 while Audi says it outperformed the premium segment, dropping just 5.8 percent, to 6,407. The clunkers program does not help with new cars north of $45,000.Mercedes-Benz USA, sold 17,646, including 16,228 Mercedes (off 21.7 percent) and 1,418 smarts, off 44.6 percent.Jaguar Land Rover fell 25 percent, to 2,607. Jaguar was down 45 percent, to 785 cars and Land Rover was down 11 percent, to 1,822.
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6564996/car-news/july-sales-cash-for-clunkers-spurs-fomoco-toyota-regains-second-place/index.html

Stimulus We Can Believe In: More Cash for Cash for Clunkers

DETROIT – Yes, it’s an economic stimulus program we can believe in. After one week, so many American drivers have traded in clunkers for $3500-$4500 in cash toward a new car that the program is nearly out of money. The Obama administration promised Friday morning that it would fund such trade-in deals signed over the weekend, even though the government has nearly used up the program’s $1-billion funding. Dealer applications have crashed the program’s computers. Friday afternoon, The Washington Post reports, the House voted 316-109 to throw another $2 billion into the clunkers pot. The money was slated for energy loan guarantees as part of the Obama economic stimulus package.While the aptly named Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-California) complained the money was being re-directed without any input from the House Appropriations Committee, Representative Candice Miller (R-Michigan) called the original program “the best $1 billion of economic stimulus funds that the government has ever spent.”She’s right. General Motors and Chrysler have received about $64 billion in federal loan guarantees so far. The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) budgeted up to $700 billion in federal loans to banks, financial institutions and AIG Insurance. And nine failing banks that received $165 billion from the government last year paid more than $32 billion in bonuses to their employees. Each of the 4793 bankers received a minimum of $1 million. They may have been the only American consumers buying cars in the past few months.So at the risk of raising the ghost of Senator Everett Dirksen (“a billion here, a billion there and sooner or later, you’re talking real money,” although the number in his time may have been a million), what’s $3 billion if it gets people in showrooms again? If the last week is any indication, the extra $2 billion in Cash for Clunkers money won’t last more than, er, two weeks. Nice problem to have: if enough of the clunkers are sputtering into GM and Chrysler dealers, the cash may help GM and Chrysler pay back their loans more quickly. We’ll know more on Monday, when the automakers announce their July sales numbers.  If they report sales spikes after the Clunkers program commenced, it had better spur the Senate (where the $2-billion extension faces stiffer opposition) to quickly pass the House bill.
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6537301/government/stimulus-we-can-believe-in-more-cash-for-cash-for-clunkers/index.html

Driving the Future: Nissan’s All New Electric Vehicle

Since April, we’ve been continually updating you on the progress of Nissan’s electric vehicle (EV) program with up to the minute news bulletins like this one.And this one.This one over here.And, yup, this one. Well today, Nissan essentially stuffed all of this information into one giant EV gyoza and reheated it for us at the automaker’s Advanced Technology Briefing at the Oppama Grandrive test track in Yokosuka, Japan.Was it fresh? Admittedly, no. None of what we saw today was groundbreaking stuff, but it certainly was nutritious — especially once we chewed on it for a while and digested all the details.The real purpose of this heaping helping of electrifying info is to build a buzz about Nissan’s latest EV — which happens to be making its debut this Sunday at the company’s new headquarters in Yokohama. Unlike previous concept vehicles and test mules, Nissan’s newest EV will not be a Frankenstein’d mashup of an existing platform and all electric power train. This as yet unnamed EV will be based on an all new, purpose built front wheel drive platform with a plug-in rechargeable electric motor up front and batteries slung low under the belly of the car.Nissan is not using cylindrical cell type batteries like many other electric and hybrid vehicle manufacturers opting instead for flat lithium ion (LiOn) laminate cells that look a bit like giant Pop Tarts. These batteries, developed in partnership with Japanese electronics manufacturer NEC, uses manganese as the positive electrode, instead of metals like nickel or cobalt. Manganese is relatively inexpensive and abundant in comparison to those other metals, and when oriented in Nissan/NEC’s special spinel structure (think Lego blocks) versus the standard sandwich orientation, the result is a battery that Nissan claims is more stable, reliable, and cost efficient than the competition’s. The flat shape and large surface area of the batteries  also makes for easier packaging (in stacks) and cooling. It also means the batteries use fewer components than cylindrical type cells, which also keeps cost down. In Nissan’s EV program, these laminate cells, about the size and thickness of a magazine are stacked four to a module. Forty-eight modules and a management system, packaged as a single lumpy unit and enclosed in a metal frame, comprise the EV’s battery pack. The idea here is that this battery pack could then be bolted up into an EV on an assembly line – as car makers do with various subassemblies. Supplying these battery packs is Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC), a company co-developed by Nissan and Renault. The battery pack slots in underneath the car, between the wheels, where you would traditionally find a driveshaft or exhaust pipes running the length of the vehicle. Some of the modules in the pack are stacked horizontally and vertically to create the base for the front and rear seats in this 5 passenger car. Others lie flat in the battery pack and compose rear seat foot well. Nissan calls the arrangement high-low-high. Though heavy (each of the 48 modules weighs roughly 7.7 lbs), the battery pack’s ground hugging orientation should provide for a low center of gravity and good handling.So will the 80KW electric motor that sits up front in the chassis. While the inverter sits relatively high in the engine bay – about the normal height of an internal combustion engine’s cylinder head – to facilitate access to the charging ports, the electric motor sits very low, between the front wheels and far beneath the strut towers – about where you’d expect to find the oil pan of a traditional engine.Overall, Nissan’s layout is impressive because of its elegance and simplicity. EV powertrain aside, the cutaway model reveals what is essentially a blank canvas.  With the front engine/front wheel drive configuration and all of the batteries low and out of the way, the cargo and passenger area looked like they could be configured in number of ways, without sacrifices to either. Almost any type of body style could be designed on top this platform as well.  And theoretically, you could even make this a rear or all wheel drive vehicle by beefing up the rear suspension and stuffing another electric motor in the back, low and behind the battery pack. Such speculation is all fine and good, but how does it drive?Quite well actually. We had but the briefest taste of the EV’s performance – one lap around the Grandrive test track in a Versa-based test mule – but it made a compelling case.Acceleration is surprisingly brisk; the 80 kW electric motor doles out all of its 207 lb ft of torque in less than 100 milleseconds once you hit the throttle, providing the sensation of instant response. Nissan engineers claim it accelerates better than an Infiniti G35 by leaving the line quicker and getting up to speed more smoothly. Its top speed of only 87 mph is quite a bit off the pace of the G. On the other hand, it’s much quieter than that car or any for that matter. The electric motor and single speed gearbox mean it’s nothing but quiet thrust when you put your foot down. The only sounds come from the tires as they hum over the pavement and the greenhouse as the wind rushes over and across it. As for the rest of the ride, well, Nissan’s EV mule drives pretty much like a standard issue Versa.  Shrunken joystick shifter and tab style parking brake lever aside, the rest of this test mule’s controls feel the same as a standard Versa. Same goes for the ride and handling; the cars pushes back if you ask it to corner too fast, but it does feel more planted and less tippy as it turns. Perhaps the battery placement providing the extra stability.With a range of 100 miles on a full charge, Nissan claims its EV will suit the average commuting needs of approximately 80% of Americans. What happens when the battery runs down?  Well Nissan has clearly thought a lot about that as well; they not only have a plan for how you can charge the car at your house at night, but how you’ll manage during a
busy workweek or weekend.Nissan’s EV battery pack can be charged in a number of ways.  A home recharging kit allows you to power up the EV from standard 110V or 220V outlets. Simply connect an SAE standardized pistol-like charger to the port at the nose of the car and wait. Charge times at 110V are claimed to be approximately 8 hours; half that for 220V.  Nissan has also developed special three phase, 200V quick charging stations can deliver 80% battery charge in 30 minutes – though it requires a larger, specially shaped charger and receiver port.To reduce any anxiety associated with the limited 100 mile range and long recharging times, Nissan has also given its EV a special monitoring system they call EV-IT. This system monitors the battery level and provides range information on a navigation screen, so users will never have to wonder how far they can go or where they can juice up.  Nissan claims EV-IT will also provide a whole host of smart features to the EV driving experience and set up an animated clip to showcase what living with its EV might be like:You wake up to find an email on your smartphone from your Nissan EV providing a update on the battery charge – a benefit of the networked EV-IT system. Assuming you’ve had it plugged in for 8hours at 110V or 4 hours at 220V, your car should be fully charged. At this point, you can remotely turn the A/C on (and in the future, and engine oil warmer) to get the car up to suitable operating temperature while it is still plugged in.  This conserves energy for your morning commute.While you recoup some of the power on the way to work via regenerative braking, the bulk of recharging takes place at work – via the 110V/220V system, or a quick charger. After a long day of work, you pull into your garage, click her off and plug her in. But you don’t start charging right away. Via your smartphone, you program a start time for the charging cycle; late in the night when demand and electricity rates are lowest. For longer weekend trips, EV-IT will help you plan your route, by keeping up to date on your remaining battery power and driving range and locating charging stations nearby. In Nissan’s future, shopping centers and restaurants along your route will have quick charging stations, so you can continually keep your EV’s batteries charged with minimal disruption to your journey. Further off are plans for non contact charging via electromagnetic induction. Imagine being able to top off your car’s batteries by simply pulling your EV over a special recharging pad built into the ground. Whether you’re parked for hours at the local mega mall or for just a minute at a red light, the battery charge goes up.Sound too good to be true? Perhaps. This Sunday, (Saturday for America), Nissan will unveil the first step towards this future, when it reveals its as yet unnamed, zero emissions electric vehicle at its new headquarters in Yokohama.  We’ll be there for a complete update, so stay tuned. 
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6564081/green/driving-the-future-nissans-all-new-electric-vehicle/index.html

GM Taking Its Sweet Time With Opel Sale

How long can General Motors hold off on choosing a partner for its European Opel/Vauxhall operations? The New GM, just born out of July’s bankruptcy, took a second round of bids from Canada’s Magna International, Belgium’s RHJ and China’s Beijing Automotive Industry Holding last week. GM rejected BAIC’s offer and has narrowed down the list to Magna and RJH, while further holding off on deciding between the two.

BAIC offered just 660 million euro in its initial bid, equal to about $940 million, for a 51 percent stake. The Chinese company asked the German government for 2.64 billion euro ($3.8 billion) in German government guarantees. Speculation had BAIC’s rival, Shanghai Automotive Industry Holding, waiting in the wings to come in at the last minute after BAIC’s weak bid. SAIC would have been a natural. It’s GM’s 50-50 partner assembling Buicks for the Chinese market.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel prefers Magna, for political reasons; the powerful labor union, IG Metall, likes Magna’s bid because it considers the RHJ bid a “short-term” investment. Here are Magna’s and RHJ’s bids, as reported by Dow Jones:

Magna, automaker GAZ and Russian government-controlled Sberbank would invest 500 million euro ($712.2 million) in return for 55 percent of Opel, with 100 million euro up front and the rest in loans, which would gradually become equity. Germany would support Magna with the equivalent of $6.4 billion in loan guarantees.

RHJ wants just 50.1 percent of Opel for the equivalent of $392 million, and seeks the equivalent of $5.4 billion in German government funding.

You can see why GM would favor RHJ’s bid. What’s worse, Magna wants to own Opel patents, and GAZ would obtain ownership of GM’s factories in Russia, where it has seen a lot of growth in recent years. The prospect that a state-owned Russian bank would be Opel’s primary investor can’t be very comforting to GM, either.

GM has been backed into a corner with Opel. It needs to maintain a substantial European presence to prevent becoming as provincial as Chrysler was before and after Daimler’s takeover. Right now, the Magna deal is its easiest way into German aid, which entails far more intervention than anything the Obama administration could devise. Working with a labor union that makes the United Auto Workers look like a pussycat (which it has been, anyway, lately) doesn’t help.

RHJ, on the other hand, looks like just the type of investor GM needs: one that gets into Opel quickly and briefly, keeps the European operation afloat while GM North America tries to get back on its feet and then takes its share of future profits, leaving the automotive operations to GM in a few short years.

Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6562665/editorial/gm-taking-its-sweet-time-with-opel-sale/index.html

On the Trail of the Orient Express: Day 1

Daybreak, and we’re parked outside the Gare de l’Est, one of six major railway stations that serve Paris. Nothing particularly unusual about that, perhaps, except for the cars we’re driving — a pair of California registered Hyundai Genesis sedans, both loaded 4.6-liter V-8s. We’re a long way from Orange County, Toto. And we’re about to go further.

The Gare de l’Est is where the famed Orient Express began its journey. We’ve all heard of the Orient Express — it was featured in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, and was the setting for Agatha Christie’s 1934 thriller Murder on the Orient Express. James Bond rode it in From Russia With Love. It has become a pop culture icon.

The original Orient Express, inaugurated in October 1883, ran from Paris via Strasbourg, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, and then into Romania and Bulgaria before finishing in Istanbul, the ancient Turkish city where Europe literally meets Asia. Look at the route on a map and it screams road trip. Which is why we’re parked at the Gare de l’Est as sleepy-eyed Parisians hustle through the terminal on their way to work: We’re planning to drive our two Hyundais more than 2000 miles east to Istanbul.

Our Genesis sedans — one silver, one blue — are drawing curious looks from the Parisians in the early morning traffic. The driver of a Stuttgart registered Porsche Panamera Turbo– a journalist, presumably, as I recognize the car as being one of those used for the press launch in Bavaria a few weeks back — leans out to stare at the cars as he cruises past us near the Arc de Triomphe.

The Genesis is not sold in Europe, and while Hyundai may be a latecomer to the luxury segment, it’s obvious the big, well finished, well proportioned sedan is sending all the right signals to an audience otherwise unfamiliar with the Korean automaker’s upmarket aspirations in the United States: The reactions are overwhelmingly positive.

Our early morning photoshoot over, we work our way through the city to the A4 autoroute, heading into the sun as the commuter traffic jams the inbound lanes. This is the same route we took out of Paris almost exactly a year ago in the Dodge Challenger SRT8 — we top up both Hyundais at the same gas station a few miles down the road. But this time, where not heading for Reims and its famous old grand prix track. Instead, we’re turning off the autoroute where it crosses the Marne River and heading into the heart of champagne country.

Our destination is the town of Epernay, and the headquarters of Moet & Chandon. Moet has been making champagne since 1743, and sent its first shipment of wine to the United States in 1787. Moet occupies pole position on Epernay’s Avenue de Champagne, where hundreds of thousands of bottles of liquid gold age quietly in the cool darkness of nearly 18 miles of tunnels carved into the soft chalk rock underneath.

We’re met by the charming Veronique, who takes on a tour of the historic site. We walk in the tunnel where Napoleon drank champagne with Jean-Remy Moet, grandson of company founder Claude, and under the tree where in March, 1814, the Duke of Wellington shared a glass of Moet champagne with Emperor Francis II of Austria, the Tsar of Russia, the King of Prussia, and the future king of Holland. It’s that sort of place.

We taste Moet’s most recent vintage champagne — the 2003 — in both white and rose over lunch at the Residence de Trianon, built as a private home for Jean-Remy Moet’s children Adelaide and Victor in 1833, and used as a residence by the family until 1958. It’s like angels dancing on your tongue. But it’s sadly only a taste, as we have a couple of hundred miles to cover before reaching our hotel in Strasbourg, and duty calls. As we’re about to depart, Veronique appears with a magnum of Moet’s Imperiale champagne. “It’s for you to celebrate your arrival in Istanbul,” she says. Bless her.

The Genesis whispers along the autoroute to Strasbourg at 80 mph, the 4.6-liter V-8 turning barely 2200 rpm and returning 25 mpg, according to the readout on the dash. It’s a comfortable and relaxed cruiser, its laid-back demeanor marred only by the slight busyness of the stiffly sprung rear end. It’s a minor niggle in a car that is otherwise astonishingly accomplished.

A few short years ago the idea of retracing one of the world’s great luxury journeys in a Korean car would have seemed laughable. But on Day 1 of our Orient Express roadtrip the smooth, silent, and refined Genesis sedan has felt pretty much at home in the heartland of olde worlde luxury.

-Photos by Brian Vance

Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6561705/miscellaneous/on-the-trail-of-the-orient-express-day-1/index.html