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AutoLine: Episode 264 – GM Keeps Opel, U.S. Car Sales Slide, New Honda Accord Crosstour

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In a stunning reversal, the board of directors at General Motors decided not to sell Opel. Sales of new cars in the U.S. market in October fell 3 percent compared to a year ago. All that and more, plus a first look at the new Accord Crosstour from Honda.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .


Here are today’s top headlines. GM decides to keep Opel after all. Car sales slide in the American market. And a first look at the new Crosstour from Honda.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, November 4, 2009. And now, the news.

In a stunning reversal, the board of directors at General Motors decided not to sell Opel. The company cited an improving business climate in Europe and its own financial recovery as the reasons why it decided to keep Opel.

Here’s my read on what happened. GM never really wanted to sell Opel, but didn’t have the money to restructure it, so it decided to sell part of it. But once it saw how the governments of Germany, Belgium, Spain and England were ready to provide bailout money, once it saw the concessions the unions were ready to make, and once it realized it had the money to pull this off, it decided not to sell. The thinking probably went, “Why should we let Frank Stronach at Magna and Oleg Deripaska at GAZ get a piece of this deal? We don’t need them. Let’s keep it.” At least, that’s what I think.

Sales of new cars in the U.S. market in October fell 3 percent compared to a year ago (subscription required), but were up a fraction compared to the previous month. The annualized sales rate for the month was 10.4 million units. Ward’s reports that the market share changes amongst the biggest automakers show that GM gained a point of market share, Ford gained 0.6 points, and Chrysler lost 3 points. Toyota was unchanged, Honda lost 0.1 points, Nissan gained 0.4 points and Hyundai gained 1.2 points.

Yesterday Ford announced that Joe Hinrichs, it’s VP of Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs will be promoted to Group VP and President of its Asia Pacific and Africa operations. John Flemming the Group VP and CEO of Ford of Europe will add Mr. Hinrichs role to his current position.

More teams dropping out of Formula One. Now, according to Reuters, Toyota will leave the series. The team spent an estimated $300 million a year since joining F1 in 2002, and never won a race.

Quick quiz, what’s the most popular kind of battery used in hybrid vehicles? If you guessed nickel-metal hydride you’re wrong. According to Ward’s, it’s actually lead acid (subscription required). Sales of vehicles equipped with start/stop systems are booming in Europe and they use special versions of lead acid batteries. Of course run-of-the-mill wet-cell batteries won’t hold up to the stress of constantly restarting the engine and running accessories when it’s shut off. Micro hybrids use 14-volt systems with special programming to stand up to the challenges.

If too much just isn’t enough, we might have the perfect pickup for you. A company called Dunkel Industries showed off a humongous truck at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. According to the behemoth is 32 feet long, eight and a half feet wide and nearly 12 feet tall! Its bed is can hold a full-size car and there’s a spot to park dirt bikes on top. Inside there’s enough room to sequester a jury. I’d hate to see the fuel bill for this thing.

Coming up next, we’ll take a look at the new Crosstour coming from Honda.

Extending the model line of a vehicle is not only a good way to keep the model fresh but also boost sales. Honda tried that with the Accord, introducing a hybrid version but that didn’t go so well. The company is giving it another try with Accord, this time with a CUV version called the Accord Crosstour.

From a styling stand point, the only thing the sedan and Crosstour have in common is the Accord name. Here is the senior product planner for the Accord Crosstour, Lee DaSilva, comparing the two.

In addition it’s longer than the sedan, has more cargo room and also has a different grille.

The Crosstoour offers an optional system called Realtime 4WD that sends power to the rear wheels only when traction is insufficient for the front.

Like the sedan the Crosstour is equipped with the same 3.5-liter V6 and five-speed automatic. To help improve fuel economy the engine features cylinder deactivation, which can run on three, four or six cylinders. The base model gets 18 MPG in the city and 27 on the highway. With the four-wheel-drive version, fuel economy in the city drops to 17 MPG and 25 on the highway.

The Accord Crosstour will be built at Honda’s East Liberty plant in Ohio with foreign and domestic parts. The company is aiming for sales of 40,000 a year. Pricing starts at just over $30,000 for the two-wheel-drive version and a Crosstour with four-wheel-drive and navigation starts at nearly $37,000.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, The Auto Channel, vLane, and WWJ Newsradio 950

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