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AutoLine: Episode 270 – China to Boost Exports, Plug-In Incentives In China, Buick Regal Unveiled

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Concerned over excess capacity in the country, the Chinese government laid out ambitious plans to increase automotive exports. It is also considering offering subsidies to consumers who want to buy BYD’s F3DM plug-in hybrid. General Motors unveils the new Buick Regal today. All that and more plus, a look at the new 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .


Here are today’s top headlines. China wants to export a lot more cars and components. It also may offer generous incentives for plug-ins. And Buick unveils the new Regal today.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, November 12, 2009. And now, the news.

General Motors will announce its third-quarter earnings on Monday, and many analysts are expecting an upside surprise. After all, GM’s unexpected decision to keep Opel suggests it has a lot more cash on hand than it did just a few months ago. Then there’s the fact that it boosted sales and share in the American market even though it’s winding down four brands. GM doesn’t need incentives for new models and is now operating on a clean set of books since emerging from bankruptcy. And that’s why analysts are so keen to hear what GM will announce next week.

Concerned over excess capacity in the country, the Chinese government laid out ambitious plans to increase automotive exports. According to Gasgoo.com, China wants to capture 10 percent of the global trade in vehicles and auto parts by 2020. So the government is encouraging companies to move upscale in developing countries, set up well-developed sales networks and offer better services. And they’re also being urged to transfer technology overseas and invest more in the auto sectors of other countries.

And speaking of the Chinese government, it is also considering offering subsidies to consumers who want to buy BYD’s F3DM plug-in hybrid. According to Gasgoo.com, the car has only been sold to corporations and government agencies so far, and reportedly BYD is waiting for the subsidy to go through before it offers the car to the public. The government is considering offering up to 50,000 yuan or $7,300 in aid to buyers, which is a third of the cost of the car.  The starting price is 150,000 yuan.

General Motors is going to sell the Opel Insignia in the American market, but it will be badged as the Buick Regal. Interestingly, the car will be built in Germany for the first 15 months, then move to an unnamed site in North America. Another interesting fact, this Buick will only be sold with four-cylinder engines: a flex-fuel 2.4-liter and a non-flex fuel 2.0-liter turbo, which will offer about a 7.5 second zero-to-sixty time. Should be a pretty decent car, after all, the Opel Insignia was named the European Car of the Year.

Hybrids and EVs are all about saving fuel. If you want tire-smoking performance you’d better look elsewhere – at least for now. But Autoblog reports that Bob Lutz hinted at the possibility of a performance version of the Chevy Volt. An SS model of the extended-range EV is not totally out of the question; after all, electric motors deliver instant torque. Chew on this: the Volt’s battery is supposed to have a 40-mile range, but what if it could deliver sports car performance for 20 miles, or supercar acceleration for 10? This is an interesting concept. In fact, Mark Reuss, GM’s Vice President of Global Vehicle Engineering talked about this on Autoline After Hours two weeks ago. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Using natural materials in cars is not a new idea. Henry Ford experimented with soybean-based plastic 70 years ago, and many automakers use renewable or recycled materials today. Now, Ford and supplier A. Schulman are the first to introduce wheat-straw reinforced plastic – a material that contains 20 percent bio filler. The third-row storage bins in the Flex crossover are made of this eco-infused polymer. Normally wheat-straw is an abundant waste material, but the company has found a use for it. It’s estimated that this application alone will save 20,000 gallons of petroleum per year.

Coming up next, a look at Nissan 370Z Roadster.

Earlier in the year Nissan released the 370Z Coupe. So far, so good. Sales for the car are up over 20 percent for the year in the U.S. And the company hopes to continue that success with the introduction of the convertible version, the 370Z Roadster.

Aside from the convertible top, the design is pretty much the same as the coupe inside and out. Compared to the previous Roadster, the length and wheelbase are shorter and it’s 150 pounds lighter thanks to use of an aluminum hood, door panels and trunk. Although its still a couple bills heavier than the Coupe.

To improve ride and handling, the double wishbone front suspension is lighter and more rigid and the four-link rear suspension is stiffer and lighter as well.

And like the coupe, the Roadster is equipped with a 3.7-liter V-6 that cranks out 332 horsepower. Drivers have the option of equipping it with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy for the Roadster is 18 city, 25 highway, or about 13 to 9 L/100km, an improvement over the previous model despite a larger engine. It also comes standard with 18-inch wheels with the option for 19s.

Like the previous generation, the Z Roadster comes with a soft top, but the rear window was moved down to make it look more like the coupe. Nissan prefers the soft top because it reduces weight and also allows for more trunk space. It opens and closes with the push of a button and latches automatically without driver assistance, unlike the previous version.

The vehicle is offered with pretty much all the convenience features you’d expect and comes standard with the usual safety features. Look for the 370Z Roadster in U.S. showrooms now with a starting price over $37,000.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Join us tonight for Autoline After hours when our guest will be Hal Sperlich, the former president of Chrysler, and one of the savviest product planners of all time. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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

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