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Episode 290 – Saab Saga Almost Over, Plug-In Prius, Battery Free Hybrid

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GM has finalized a deal to sell some of Saab’s tooling and equipment to Chinese automaker Beijing Auto, however, sports car company Spyker is still in talks to get the rights to the Saab name and the rest of its assets. Toyota says it will start selling plug-in versions of the Prius in two years. All that and more, plus a look at a hybrid system that doesn’t use any batteries at all.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

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Here are today’s top headlines. The saga over Saab is coming to a crescendo. Toyota’s plug-in Prius is rated at 134 miles per gallon. And a look at a hybrid system that doesn’t use any batteries at all.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Monday, December 14, 2009. And now, the news.

Saab as we know it will not exist much longer. General Motors has finalized a deal to sell some of the tooling and equipment (subscription required) needed to make the current Saab 9.5 to Chinese automaker Beijing Auto, the Wall Street Journal reports. Beijing Auto will also get the rights to make Saab engines and transmissions. However, Bloomberg reports the sports car company Spyker is still in talks to get the rights to the Saab name and the rest of its assets, including the company’s assembly plant in Trollhattan, Sweden.

I visited the Trollhattan plant in the early 1990s, just a couple of years before GM bought it. It was the most inefficient plants I’d ever seen in my life. Clean and modern, yes, but horribly inefficient. At the time, most assembly plants needed 25 to 30 labor hours to build a car. At Trollhattan it took over 70 labor hours. It’s the only plant I’d ever seen in the world, where it was not uncommon for workers to take a break, sitting in the back seat of a car as it came down the assembly line, smoking cigarettes. If GM had not taken over Saab in 1993, I’m sure it would have been out of business not long after that.

Toyota says it will start selling plug-in versions of the Prius in two years. According to the AFP, the company will start leasing the vehicle to governments and businesses in the first half of next year to gauge demand and then will start selling it to the public in 2011. It can go about 15 miles in pure-electric mode and gets 134 MPG or 1.8 l/100km.

16 employees from Tesla will drive from Los Angeles to Detroit to attend the Auto Show in January. They will be making the 2,700-plus mile trek in a Tesla Roadster but instead of just taking a couple of days, the trip will take several weeks because the car can only travel about 250 miles before it needs to recharge, which can take several hours. And they will be making stops to promote the car as well. The employees want to prove that the Roadster is “tough, durable and range anxiety is for the weak.”

Ford’s popular SYNC infotainment system offers drivers a lot, from hands-free audio control to turn-by-turn navigation. The company has added another feature to the system that gives users with older cell phones the ability to dial by voice, e.g. “Call John.” Not all phones support voice recognition, so the company just released a free computer program that allows users to upload contact information directly to the car via a USB thumb drive. SYNCMyPhone, allows users to use the voice recognition feature.

Autoblog reports that one very enthusiastic fan of the “Back to the Future” movies has turned a 1980s Dodge Daytona into a DeLorean! The K-Car coupe doesn’t look too far off from the famous time machine, especially since the owner has added all kinds of props, from hoses and vents to the “Mr. Fusion” unit on the back. And let’s not forget about the gullwing doors. The guy says he could save enough money to buy a real DeLorean, but his wife probably wouldn’t let him spend it on a 28 year-old car! All he’s missing now is the flux capacitor.

Did you know you don’t need batteries to make a hybrid? All you need is a way to store energy. And it turns out hydraulic pressure can do that as well as any battery.

There can be all different kinds of ways to make hybrid vehicles. Who needs batteries if you can do it with hydraulic pressure? Here’s a great little video that was sent to me from someone at Next Energy, a Detroit-based, non-profit research organization that’s trying to change the energy landscape in the U.S. The following clip shows in plain English how hydraulic hybrids work.

Well, we got the word over the weekend that we did not win the podcast awards. But we sure appreciate all of you who voted for us. And to borrow that eternal optimism of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, “Wait ‘till next year.”

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, Car Chat, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950



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Wait--the new 9-5, or the outgoing one? I don't like the idea of the new 9-5 going to BAIC--it's too good for them.

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Good to see he spared no expense in duplicating Doc Brown's masterpiece of plywood, sheetmetal screws and duct tape.

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What's with the funky 'aE' looking letters with trademark ™ after them in the original post?

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When reproduced in different text, certain characters like dashes and apostrophes do not play nice, hence the weird character symbols.

Edited by Croc
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Wait--the new 9-5, or the outgoing one? I don't like the idea of the new 9-5 going to BAIC--it's too good for them.

The outgoing one. It's good news for both Saab and BAIC.

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Interesting that the Prius wil be BEHIND the Volt as a plug in hybrid...right where it belongs.

Chris

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And yes...poor 1986 Dodge...surface mounted electrical conduits and rattle can paint make for a great looking (NOTE the sarcasm) Delorean!

Chris

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The outgoing one. It's good news for both Saab and BAIC.

Good. Win-win. BAIC gets something they think they want, and GM profits some more on a hoary old car with 1997 underpinnings.

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Good. Win-win. BAIC gets something they think they want, and GM profits some more on a hoary old car with 1997 underpinnings.

Mainland China is the place to go if you want a new "old" luxury car, both real or counterfeit:

Roewe 750 (aka Rover 75 from 1998):

car_photo_218838_7.jpg

Passat Lingyu (aka Skoda Superb from 1998):

vw-passat-lingyu-1.jpg

vw-passat-lingyu-2.jpg

BAIC EV Concept (aka Chrysler Sebring from 2008):

Beijingelectricsedan.jpg

BYD S6 (fake Lexus RX from 2004):

BYD-S6-recent1.jpg

Except a Chinese-branded PT Cruiser, too... as Chrysler sold the blueprints to that vehicle as well.

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