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AutoLine: Episode 273 – The Electric Coalition, Aptera Needs More Money, New Side Impact Standard

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Yesterday, a group of CEOs gathered in Washington D.C. to launch the Electric Coalition, all with the idea of spurring sales of electric cars. The cofounders of Aptera Motors left their positions voluntarily to save money. The U.S. government wants to add a new side-impact crash standard. All that and more, plus a look at Mercedes’ updated A-Class compact hatchback.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .


Here are today’s top headlines. The EV Coalition wants a ton of subsidies. Upstart automakers face big hurdles. And the government wants a new side impact standard.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, November 17, 2009. And now, the news.

Yesterday, an impressive list of CEOs gathered in Washington D.C. to launch the Electric Coalition, all with the idea of spurring sales of electric cars in the United States. The AP reports that Nissan, FedEx, Pacific Gas & Electric, A123 Systems and Johnson Controls-Saft were all there. They want 14 million EVs on the road by 2020 and 100 million by 2030. They also want tax credits for batteries and charging stations and loan guarantees for retooling plants. In fact, they want $120 billion over the next eight years. And that makes me wonder if this effort will ever get off the ground.

Hey, here’s another reason why Ford stock was up strongly in the third quarter. Reuters reports that billionaire investor and speculator George Soros bought 7.3 million shares of Ford for $53 million. Funny, this is also a guy who says we have witnessed the collapse of the global financial system and we’re no where near the bottom of that collapse. So why buy stock in Ford?

The cofounders of Aptera Motors, the manufacturer of those bulbous, three-wheeled cars have quit … for the time being. According to the LA Times, Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony left their positions voluntarily to save money. Right now Aptera is trying to secure financing and is gunning for federal loans to jump-start production of its 2e model. The car business ain’t easy. And all these upstarts trying to get into the car business are going to learn why the history of the industry is littered with failures.

Volvo is getting enough money to build the new S60. According to Bloomberg, KBC Bank will loan the company nearly 200 million euros or $300 million. Volvo plans to use the money to build the S60 starting next summer and will also use part of the loan to invest in another plant to build small cars.

Ratan Tata, the head of the company that bears his name, said that he expects Jaguar Land Rover will turn around. According to Bloomberg, Jaguar Land Rover has gone through rough times. But this week the company secured a $285 million loan and Tata also raised $750 million last month selling securities that will allow it to refinance debt it took on to acquire Jaguar Land Rover.

The government wants a new side-impact crash standard. Cars will be slammed into 10-inch diameter poles at up to 20 miles an hour. The New York Times says the regulation will be phased in from 2011 to 2014. This will force automakers to redesign their vehicles and will undoubtedly add weight. And let’s see if it has much impact on safety. In the U.S., most traffic fatalities involve people not wearing their seatbelts

The Fiat Doblo just made its official debut. There are two versions of the van, a passenger model that can hold up to seven people, and a cargo version. Four engine choices will be offered when it launches, one gas and three diesels, and after launch another diesel will be available as well as one that can run on either gas or methane. And this vehicle will almost undoubtedly make it to the American market as part of Fiat’s plans to grow the Ram brand in the commercial truck market.

Coming up next, a look at Mercedes’ updated A-Class compact hatchback.

For all of our European viewers this is nothing new, but most of our American audience probably hasn’t heard about the updated Mercedes-Benz A-Class, so we’re going to bring them up to speed.

For starters, the A-Class is the smallest car offered by Mercedes. It’s available as either a three- or five-door hatchback. This year, the company has updated its styling and given it some noteworthy new technology.

Buyers can opt for premium features like an automated parking system, PARKTRONIC. With 10 sensors in the front and rear bumpers it can FIND and then can STEER itself into an available parking space. All the driver has to do is operate the pedals.

Another nice feature on certain models is start/stop functionality for the engine, which the company claims lowers fuel consumption by around 9 percent! When the manual transmission is shifted into neutral and the brakes are applied the engine shuts off. It seamlessly restarts when the clutch is operated or the brake pedal released.

The big question is, will American consumers pay premium prices for small cars like this? The A-class starts at around 20,000 euros – that’s about $28,000, and tops out at more than 30,000 euro. That’s $41,000!

For now, we’ll just have to wait and see when Mercedes – and the rest of the industry – decides to bring premium small cars to North America. But the recent announcement by Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche that we’ll be getting the next-generation B-Class, a people mover that’s one size up from the A-Class, is encouraging.

Before we go, we want to thank you again for successfully nominating us in the 2009 Podcast Awards. Now we want to go for the gold! Please take a minute right now and vote for Autoline Daily at Just look for us in the Business category on the left side of the page and click the button. Then, don’t forget to check your e-mail to validate your vote.

The voting period closes soon, and every voice counts, so go to right now to cast your vote for the daily auto news and analysis you love!

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, and WWJ Newsradio 950

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