Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2010 Toyota Prius Price Change

The price for the 2010 Toyota Prius is about to be raised.   The base MSRP is being raised by $400 across each of the model types.  Toyota had increased the MSRP on the Prius as recently as October.

The Prius I is being set at $21,400 (but don't expect to find one of those as Toyota only sells them to fleet owners, and I doubt they really sell those at all).  The real basic level (II) is up to $22,800.  The Prius III will run you $23,800 and the Prius IV will cost $26,600.  The Prius V is the most expensive at $28,070.  The prices shown exclude delivery, processing and handling fees.

The 2011 Toyota Camry price is going up by $250.

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2011 Toyota Camry Price

The 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid price tag will be going up by $250.  The MSRP is being set at $26,400, making it a 1% increase over the 2010 price tag.  The adjustment in price is set for February.

The price change is affecting all Camry models, although all the other models are being raised by $200 instead of $250.

The price tag on the Toyota Prius is being raised too.

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A Little Misdirection From Ford

You want to know the best way to boost your sales numbers in a particular 'type' of car?  Introduce a new model.  Which is why the following from Ford is misleading at best.

Despite a 11 percent decline in hybrid sales across the industry, Ford's year-to-date hybrid sales are up 67 percent over the same period last year. And the company is on track to set a new hybrid sales record for 2009.

"Hybrid customers increasingly are considering Ford," said George Pipas, Ford sales analyst. "And we are seeing a growing number of conquest sales, many of them from customers coming from import brands, mostly Toyota and Honda."

According to Pipas, the fuel economy message associated with hybrid vehicles resonates well with import customers.

"That, to me, is the significance of offering such high quality, fuel-efficient vehicles," he said.

"The hybrid technology is introducing us to a whole new community of customers who might have otherwise never visited a Ford showroom."

The newest additions to the Ford hybrid stable - the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids - are strengthening sales. Both vehicles deliver an EPA estimated 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, topping the Toyota Camry by 8 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway and making them the most fuel-efficient midsize sedans on the road.

And the Fusion Hybrid has received a number of important third-party endorsements. The entire Fusion lineup - including the hybrid model - won this year's prestigious Motor Trend Car of the Year® award. The Fusion Hybrid also was honored as one of Car and Driver magazine's "10 Best" cars for 2010.
I like the Ford Fusion Hybrid. I think it's good work from a company that's done good things over the past year despite all the depressing news surrounding the industry.

But talking about an 11% decline in a field, while touting how your numbers are up for that type is misleading because of the increase in models you sell. To make my point, the Escape/Mariner Hybrid sales are down 16.6% through November compared to last year. That's not because the Escape and Mariner are lacking in anything, but simply due to the overall industry decline over the past year.

But if you add in the new models (Fusion/Milan Hybrids), which doubled the number of models they sell, and Fords overall hybrid sales are up for the year. Ford is up for the year because they introduced two new models in March of this year. Honda is also up for the year (10%), because they introduced the Insight.  GM's reported hybrid sales are up by 59%, and Nissan is up by 5%.

Toyota is down for the year, but that's because their sales are so dominated by the Prius, which is down for the year (at least in the US... Japan is another story). Which is also why the hybrid market is down. Despite Ford and Nissan and Honda increasing their total overall numbers in sales, Toyota still sells 3 out of every 4 hybrids in the US. So, where Toyota goes, there goes the industry.

And I have a hunch that Toyota is only down because they've been diverting sales of the Prius (and other hybrids) to Japan.  The incentives and rebates being offered there are pushing hybrid sales to the top of the charts.   I have no way of proving that, but the number of days to sell are still down on the Prius.

Anyways, enough.  As I said, I like the Fusion and Milan Hybrids.  I hope they continue to do well, because Ford seems to have a good fix on what makes hybrids tick.  I just don't like misleading numbers being thrown out.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Department of Defense Funding Next Generation of Research

The $636 billion Department of Defense appropriations bill has set million aside to develop hybrids, hydraulic hybrids, batteries, plug-in hybrids, etc... (Source: Det News).  From Lithium-ion battery production to all terrain hybrid vehicles, the appropriations bill is set to fund years of research into the electrification of America.

Funds Are Being Set Aside For
$27 million for domestic lithium ion battery production. These funds will be used for a competitive program to develop domestic industrial sources of advanced battery technologies for use in military applications. Lithium ion batteries also have dual-use applications in the commercial automotive industry for hybrid electric vehicles. The availability of domestically manufactured lithium ion batteries is critical to both the DoD and to the ability of our automotive manufacturers to produce the next generation of ground vehicles.

$9 million for an advanced battery development program. These funds would initiate a new advanced battery technology development program at TARDEC. Advanced battery technology offers tremendous potential to significantly improve the near-term operational performance and capability for military vehicles to generate, distribute and store electrical power. Advanced batteries are also recognized as a critical component of developing military hybrid vehicles.

$3.2 million to continue a coordinated hybrid engine development program at TARDEC. This merit-based program focuses on both basic and applied research in engine technology, power electronics, control technology and other areas. Research areas include theoretical analysis, computational design and analysis, and experimental verification components.

$3.28 million for the development and testing of advanced plug-in hybrid vehicle technologies. This project seeks to develop and deploy plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) technologies that will reduce DoD fuel consumption using conventional generation, renewable generation, and vehicles with exportable electric power.

$2.8 million for hydraulic hybrid vehicle technology. This research seeks to produce a new line of advanced, highly efficient, hydraulic pump and motor products, which will replace conventional automatic transmissions and could significantly improve overall drivetrain efficiency in military ground vehicles.

$2.4 million to continue development of lightweight, rechargeable lithium ion batteries using nanomaterials technology. Lithium ion batteries could be considerably lighter, much more capable, and more affordable than currently available battery systems.

$2 million for the development of a digital hydraulic hybrid system. The goal of this project is to develop a series hybrid hydraulic system that achieves significant weight and volume reduction while also gaining a 50 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over current technology. It is intended that the hybrid hydraulic system resulting from this research will be demonstrated on a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV).

$1.6 million for the development of a lightweight hybrid transmission for military ground vehicles. This project seeks to develop a hybrid transmission for military ground vehicles that will result in improved reliability, reduced weight, and increased fuel savings.

$1.6 million for the development of all-terrain hybrid electric vehicle technology.

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2013 Nissan Hybrid GT-R

According to the rumormill, Nissan is planning on building a hybrid GT-R by 2012 as a 2013 model.

The report, coming from Insideline, is the new GT-R will be a monster, with 600 hp to burn, but will use only 25-30 mpg. 440 hp will come from the 3.8 liter twin turbocharged V6, with an additional 160 hp from the electric motor.

The hybrid system would be built off of the work going into the hybrid Infiniti M, which will be released next year.

Makes me wonder why they would want to do it? The weight would have to increase, but so would the fuel efficiency and the power output. Are power vehicle buyers really interested in the fuel efficiency of their vehicle?

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Plug-in Hybrid Truck Development - Ram Crew 1500

Chrysler sent $3.1 million to a University of Michigan researcher to help develop a plug-in hybrid pickup truck.

Associate Professor Chris Mi is one of a dozen UofM faculty members working on a $5 million grant from the Michigan Public Service Commission to develop plug-in hybrid vehicles. The research grant involves DTE Energy, General Motors Corporation, and the University of Michigan.

Mi is working on the best way to charge PHEV batteries, in terms of safety and efficiency. The research team is working to develop a battery management system that will ensure all battery cells are charged and discharged evenly to protect the cells from damage, prolong the battery life, and maximize the battery capacity.

At the same time, they are also working to develop fast charging centers, that can recharge a PHEV battery in 10-20 minutes.

The new grant from Chrysler is part of the $48 million grant Chrysler received as part of the stimulus funds. (via Mi's work would help develop a Ram Crew 1500 plug-in hybrid truck, which would make it the only full size plug-in hybrid truck.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Lawmakers Offer $220 Million in Tax Credits to Build Batteries in Michigan

Car makers are set to receive $220 million in tax credits for building and developing battery packs in Michigan. State officials believe 1,000 jobs will be created because of the offer.

FM, Ford and Dow Chemical are the companies the tax credits will benefit. According to Sen. Jason Allen, R-Traverse City, the credits are based on production and jobs created. He estimates the jobs created will be more than 2,000.

Ford and GM were pushing for the tax credits as they plan on building plants for assembling hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery packs in Michigan.

GM is investing $700 million to build the Volt (plus others), while Ford is planning on investing $500 million.

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Step Up and Last Three Rounds, I Dare Ya!

So then, will no one step up and attempt to compete with the Prius???

Honda's Prius-Fighter Is Stuck in First - BusinessWeek

So far this year, the Prius is outselling the Insight by nearly 6 to 1. Other carmakers are watching closely. General Motors, for one, is reviewing its entire hybrid strategy. In late November, GM shelved plans for a 53-mpg Prius fighter for its bread-and-butter Chevrolet brand.
With the Insight failing to compete with the Prius, will no others be able to challenge the Toyota dominance in the hybrid world?  Toyota sells 3 out of every 4 hybrids in the US.  1 of ever 2 hybrids sold is a Prius.  1 out of every 100 (or a bit more, really) cars sold in the US is a Prius.

That's a lot to overcome, but it should still be possible.  If the rest of the auto market is competitive across the various types of cars, why can't hybrids be more competitive?

The cost is a big challenge, of course.  A decade of sales gives Toyota a big advantage in technology advancements and engineering cheaper solutions.

Also GM and others may decide it just isn't worth it.  Nissan has decided to work on building all electric, while Audi has focused on diesel.  GM is hoping to beat Toyota to the plug-in market with the Volt.  Ford and Honda seem to be the only real competitors in the hybrid  world, but they're so far back that Goliath seems to be winning without even noticing he's in a fight.

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Mazda May Be Talking to Toyota About Hybrids

Mazda may be in talks with Toyota to develop hybrid vehicles for their line-up.
Mazda May Follow Suzuki, Mitsubishi With Alliance (Update2) -

Mazda has said it plans to introduce its own hybrid car, yet it also is in talks to use Toyota’s system, said Koji Endo, managing director of Advanced Research Japan in Tokyo.

Supplying the system would add volume and cut costs for Toyota, Endo said.

“Even if there were talks of any alliance, I wouldn’t be able to speak about it,” Toyota Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada said Dec. 14.
Mazda, like other car makers, are being pushed towards fuel efficiency technology and developing a hybrid system on their own may be just too expensive to do it on their own.

The article points out Mazda has been working with Ford primarily for years as Ford owned a sizeable stake in the company. But with Ford selling off a big chunk, Mazda will need to look to other car companies to partner with in order to move forward.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Amazing and Incredible News Story

Can we please drop this now?

From Autobloggreen:
As irritating as it may be, is the Chevy Volt Dance really that big of a deal? While we'd argue that it shouldn't be, the real answer apparently depends on whom you ask. Fox News seems to think it's pretty horrible and GM's latest recently-appointed head marketer Susan Docherty responded, "Our Chevrolet Volt advertising, marketing and go to market strategy will be as innovative as the car. We may have missed on this one, but we won't going forward." We agree... it's officially time to move on.

[Sources:, Green Car Reports]

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Edmunds Predicts Slight Uptick in Hybrid Sales for 2010

Edmunds is predicting 11.5 million cars will be sold in the US in 2010. That's up from the 10.3 million cars and trucks from 2009. Of those, 3.2 percent in 2010 will be hybrids, up from the 2.8 percent (assuming they are right about December) for 2009.  3.2 percent equates to 368,000 units sold in 2010, up from 288,400 units in 2009.

That means Edmunds expect the half a percent gain each year will continue.

"Most car shoppers will focus on value and fuel economy as the economy continues to recover," stated Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell. "It has already become trendy to make sensible choices, and we expect that this will be a theme for 2010 sales."

In 2009, diesel market share will be 2.1 percent. Edmunds expects that to remain stable at about 2.2 percent for 2010. But a stable market share in a year with increased number of sales, means the numbers will go up.

My question is, do these figures include the new plug-ins on the way?

BTW, I don't expect plug-in hybrids (or E-REV vehicles like the Volt) to actually make a big impact one way or the other in 2010, as the number available will still be very low.  I just wasn't sure where they were being counted.

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Honda Civic Hybrid Lawsuit

In an update to the lawsuit over mileage figures against Honda, it seems a settlement has been reached. But, 26 state Attorney Generals (AG) are objecting to the settlement.

John True of Ontario, Calif. sued Honda over what he called their inflated mpg figures. After just 6,000 miles of driving, True sued Honda saying he was unable to achieve the 48 mpg city/51 mpg highway figures Honda was using. Instead, he was only able to get 32 mpg in mixed driving.

The mpg figures come from the EPA, and are the only figures Honda is allowed to use in their advertising by law. Which to me says this is a ridiculous lawsuit and it was completely foolish for it to get this far...

If anyone out there doesn't realize that the EPA mpg figure 'will vary,' then they didn't read the label on the car (which clearly states just that!). It's a guideline people use to evaluate the different cars. Unless you drive your vehicle as they do in the lab at a certain speed for so far, then at a different speed for so long (and so on...) then you should know your mileage will vary from the stated figure.

The Settlement
But, that being said, True and one other driver, continued the lawsuit as a class action suit. The 2007 lawsuit worked its way through and Honda worked out a settlement.

The settlement covers 158,639 people who owned or leased a 2003-2008 Honda Civic Hybrid. (Why stop at 2008? The EPA changed the way they calculated mileage figures... again, not Honda who changed the rules, but the government).

As per the settlement, Honda will:

  • Send current and former Civic Hybrid owners a DVD on improving fuel economy.
  • Will offer $1,000 rebate if they want to trade their Civic Hybrid in on certain vehicles.
  • If they no longer own the vehicle, they can get $500 coupon/rebate for a trade-in instead.
  • Or, if they don't want to trade their vehicle in, they can get $100 if they have previously complained.
  • Also, Honda will change their advertisement for two years, saying that "mileage will vary," not "mileage may vary."
  • True, and the other litigant, will split $22,500.
State Attorney Generals Step In
26 state AGs are objecting to the 2007 class action lawsuit against Honda.

AG complaints:
  • List of vehicles eligible for the rebate do not include Fit, Insight, Civic Hybrid or Honda CRZ.
  • Lawyers will receive $2.95 million in legal fees, in comparison to the $100 most will receive.
  • It does nothing to keep Honda from making the same sort of claims in the future
Honda estimates less than 600 could even go for the $100.

Objecting attorneys general include Michigan, California, Tennessee, Texas, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia.

Which is all good and wonderful, but the lawsuit never should have gotten this far.  Who doesn't know the EPA figures are not the ones you will get?  Had True (et. al.) ever driven a car before?  Is the label not clearly marked?  Didn't Honda follow the federal laws? 

What's worse, some people can get the mileage claimed by the EPA in mixed driving.  Some get much better mileage than the EPA claims (See hypermilers).

This sort of lawsuit is just depressing.  And to have it come down to a settlement instead of just being thrown out is even worse.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ford Fusion Hybrid Up for North American Car of the Year

The Ford Fusion Hybrid is one of three finalists for the 2010 North American Car of the Year along with the Buick LaCrosse and Volkswagen Golf.

On the other side, the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Transit Connect and Subaru Outback are up for Truck of the Year.

The winners will be announced at the NAIAS in Detroit.

The winners are selected by a jury of no more than 50 automotive journalists from Canada and the U.S. They are judged on innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value.

Prior Nominees have included:

  • 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
  • 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid.
  • 2004 Toyota Prius
  • 2001 Honda Insight
  • 2001 Toyota Prius

In 2004 the Toyota Prius won and in 2005 the Ford Escape Hybrid took home the top prize.

Two other hybrids were nominated, the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius

2010 North American Car of the Year nominees:
BMW 335d
Buick LaCrosse
Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon
Chevrolet Camaro
Ford Fusion
Ford Fusion Hybrid
Ford Taurus/Taurus SHO
Honda Insight

Kia Soul
Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Porsche Panamera
Subaru Legacy
Suzuki Kizashi
Toyota Prius
Volkswagen Golf/GTI/TDI

2010 North American Truck of the Year nominees:
Acura ZDX
Audi Q5
Cadillac SRX
Chevrolet Equinox
Ford Transit Connect

Honda Accord Crosstour
Land Rover LR4
Lincoln MKT
Subaru Outback
Volvo XC60

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Opel Sets Aggressive Hybrid Goals

GM Europe Head, Nick Reilly told Reuters he would be pushing to refresh the Opel line-up with hybrids over the next five years.

"We will have hybrid engines in our programme, in the next five years, Reilly said. Its first electric car with range-extending technology -- the Ampera -- will hit the market at the end of 2011.

"We expect (to sell) 10,000 to 15,000 vehicles a year at the start. Later it could quickly become substantially more," he said
The E-REV coming before the hybrid is a new approach, but makes sense with the limited hybrid production available in Europe. It may make complete sense to skip over the interim hybrid technology and go straight to the plug-in hybrid.

Although, Toyota may end up having a big advantage there since they have so much experience already with working on two engine types in the same vehicle. The plug-in Prius may be coming after the Volt (and Ampera), but I'm expecting it to be more finished than the Volt will be right from the beginning.

The new Opel head is also talking about an all-electric vehicle in under three years.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hybrid Snow Plow

Jefferson County, Denver, has just introduced their new hybrid snow plow, an all new application for hybrid engines. The hybrid snow plow is a modified 2009 International Model 7300 Hybrid truck they purchased for $162,240.

Jefferson County Unveils First-Ever Hybrid Snow Plow - Denver Traffic News Story - KMGH Denver

The hybrid truck cost about $20,000 more than a non-hybrid model. Jefferson County estimates that the difference will be recouped after 90,000 miles. Jefferson County will use this winter to evaluate the performance of the truck before deciding to add more to its fleet. The County already has 11 other hybrid vehicles.
If the cost difference can be made up in just 90,000 miles, that's fantastic. Other hybrid vehicles (buses come to mind), have had initial problems with adopting the technology. So, I'll be happy to see what happens in the future with this.

It's amazing what a difference going from 5 mpg to 8-10 mpg can make. That's why buses, dump trucks and other municipal vehicles are always touted when they make the switch to hybrid engines over gas or just diesel engines. The problem is always initial cost, however.

Hybrid buses cost a lot more than their diesel only counterparts, making it very hard to make up the cost difference. But at a premium of just $20K, Jefferson County may have just made a big leap forward for hybrid vehicles.

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Audi Says Not So Fast to Plug-in

Audi of American President Johan de Nysschen brought the fight for diesel vs plugs to the forefront once again. Not surprisingly, given their success in Europe with diesels, Audi is a proponent of diesel technology.  And they would like it if the federal government would stop encouraging plug-ins so much.  He'd prefer it if they let the 'marketplace decide.' 

But other car makers and the Obama administration seem to disagree with him.

Johan de Nysschen points out that if 1/3 of Americans drove diesels, "America would save 1.5 million barrels of oil a day."

"I understand why political leaders have fallen in love with hybrids and electrics. But this may be the one time you'll hear someone in Washington say it shouldn't be a monogamous relationship," de Nysschen said.

But that's not enough for some. With oil dependence and environmental issues coming to the forefront, gas and diesel are taking the backseat to electricity right now.

The Obama administration has given $2.4 billion in cash grants to help develop battery technology and electric vehicles. Congress has set up $7,500 in tax breaks to those who buy cars like the Volt or plug-in Prius in the coming years. And Obama hopes to have 3 electric vehicle plants and 30 advanced battery factories running by 2015. That sort of production could lead to the production of 500,000 plug-in hybrid vehicles a year by 2015.

Those sort of federal incentives will allow plug-ins and electric vehicles to compete at first, given the head start diesels and gas only engines have.

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Toyota Begins Australian Camry Hybrid

Toyota began producing the Toyota Camry Hybrid in Australia at a line-off ceremony attended by Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The Altona Plant will build 10,000 units annually a majority of which will be sold in Australia starting in February 2010.

300 will be exported to New Zealand.

"Toyota Australia will be only the fifth country in the world that produces hybrid vehicles and that makes me proud of Australia. I expect that this car will bring a new set of business opportunities to the local community so that the Australian and Victorian auto industry will step to the next level—both economically and environmentally", said TMC Executive Vice President Yukitoshi Funo.

Australian Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr; Victorian Premier John Brumby; other distinguished guests; TMCA President Masahide Yasuda and others also attended the ceremony.

Partial funding (AU$35 million) for retooling the plant came from the federal government, which is why the Prime Minister et. al. were present at the opening ceremonies.

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Toyota Pushing Plug-in Hybrid Launch Date Up by a Year

Toyota is pushing their launch date for their plug-in Prius hybrid up by a year . Toyota will begin selling (retail) in late 2011 in the U.S.

The carmaker said it hoped to initially sell about 15,000 vehicles of the new model annually in the United States, and was considering releasing the model in Japan around the same time.
That is and is not surprising. Toyota has been reluctant to move forward on plug-in hybrids, given their dominance in the hybrid field and their questions about the battery technology. Specifically, lithium-ion battery packs seem to make them nervous.

But with the Chevy Volt debuting in 2010, perhaps Toyota is feeling some pressure to compete, plug-wise.  Also, new regulations in California are forcing car makers to begin selling plug-ins sooner rather than later (see the Volt's launching plan).

Of course, you can already get a plug-in Prius today. You just need to buy a hybrid Prius and then go to a conversion shop. It's expensive to do and it's a risk to make such modifications, but it's been going on for years now.

The retail plan for the official plug-in Prius is still lacking in some details (such as price???).

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Toyota Debuts New Dedicated Hybrid Concept

Toyota will debut a new dedicated hybrid concept vehicle at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit (NAIAS).

Not a lot of details so far, but it looks like a 'city' car.  It must have been hard to squeeze in a hybrid engine into a small vehicle.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Ford Spending $500 Million in Michigan to Build Hybrids, Plug-in Hybrids and Batteries

GM pointed out how they are investing $700 million to build the Volt in Michigan in the next year. Now Ford wants you to know they are also investing in Michigan to build up their hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and batteries. To the tune of $500 million (Source: Detroit News).

Ford expects the $500 million to create 1,000 jobs.

Ford wants Michigan lawmakers to create tax credits in an effort to support their investment.  With an additional $85 million for advanced battery packs and another $35 million if battery cells are produced in Michigan, Ford isn't looking for pocket change.

"In the capital constrained world that we live in and the need to have a sustainable business going forward we think Michigan is a great site to work with," Nancy Gioia, Ford's director of global electric strategy, said. "If we can't make it work here, we are committed to our product plans and to identify the best total business solution."

Ford is planning to bring their next generation of hybrid development and battery pack production 'in-house' with production to begin in 2012 (Source: Reuters).

“We see it as a potential win for both Ford and the state of Michigan to become a center of excellence for vehicle electrification,” said Jennifer Moore, a Ford spokeswoman.

Currently, hybrid and electric battery development is done by Delphi Corp. 

Kuzak, Ford's global vice president of product development, said the change isn't a reflection on Delphi but rather Ford's belief that it can use battery development to differentiate itself from its competitors.

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Hybrid Car Sales, November 2009

Hybrid cars sales were up over 20% for the month of November, even though car sales in general were flat in comparison to last year.  Hybrid car sales are still down 11% for the year, but recent months have been showing a big upwards trend.

Monthly Sales

November 2008
November 2009
% Change

GS 450h
HS 250h
RX 400h




Cumulative Sales

Cumulative 2008
Cumulative 2009
% Change

GS 450h
HS 250h
RX 400h




An increase in Prius sales, along with sales from the new Honda Insight, Lexus HS,  Fusion Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid, more than made up for the drop in sales for the Civic, Highlander,
and Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner.

Toyota was the volume leader, as usual, with 3 out of 4 hybrids sold coming with a Lexus or Toyota nameplate.  Toyota was up 16% for the month.

Honda was up almost 58%, with new Insight sales making up for the loss in Civic Hybrid sales.  It seems clear that the new Insight, which Honda intended as a competitor for the Prius, has become the Civic Hybrids biggest competitor instead.

Ford hybrid car sales were up 73% with the new Fusion and Milan Hybrids creating 7% of the overall hybrid market sales.

Nissan Altima Hybrid sales were also up by 42.5%.  The Altima Hybrid is limited to sales in just some states that require California emissions.

GM hybrid car sales dropped by 16%, down from 768 units to 645 units. 

The downturn in the economy, lower gas prices, and a priority set by Toyota to sell in Japan first (sales of hybrids in Japan are through the roof because of incentives and subsidies from the government) have kept sales for 2009 down.  Add in the sales depression as customers waited for the next generation Prius and you have a bad overall year despite the recovery in the past couple of months.

It should be noted that sales may be down for hybrids, but clearly not as bad as for other vehicle sectors.  Hybrid car sales have recovered faster, helped by the introduction of new models and the third generation Toyota Prius.  Except for the Nissan Altima Hybrid, the models that were on sale for the full 2008 will all be down for the year. 

It should also be noted that sales are still way down from two years prior, when hybrids had their best sales month ever of 33,233.  That was 1.7X higher than this months sales.
Hybrid Car Sales, November 2008
Hybrid Car Sales, October 2009

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Hybrids on the Best Car for the Money Awards

US News Autos announced their Best Car for the Money Awards and there are two hybrids on the list. The Toyota Prius won for best hybrid and the Lexus RX Hybrid won Best Hybrid SUV.

But the choices are a little vague (at least the criteria is) and if you follow the links even a little bit, you're bound to be confused. For instance, the Toyota Camry won for best midsize, but when you click on the link, the Camry has a big #8 on it. Follow that and you'll see the Toyota Camry is #8 on the list of affordable midsize cars, of which the Ford Fusion Hybrid is #1.  The Mercury Milan Hybrid, Toyota Prius and Toyota Camry Hybrid are all ranked above the Toyota Camry.

So, it's all a bit confusing to me. Were hybrids just pushed to the side when looking at the other categories? Makes no sense. That would be like pushing V-6's to the side, while evaluating everything else.

Since there's nothing on the release or the site laying out the qualifications, I'm left confused by the whole award.  To me, the statement "Rankings are based primarily on the balanced, diverse opinions of hundreds of professional auto critics, which are analyzed and scored to create a consensus opinion about each car." means very little to me.

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GM Invests $700 Million into Michigan to Produce Volt

GM outlined their costs associated with updating the Detroit-Hamtramck plant to build the E-REV Chevy Volt. So far, the general is spending $336 million to re-shape the plant.

GM went on to note they've now invested $700 million in Michigan for the Volt. The Volt will be assembled using tools from Grand Blanc, lithium-ion batteries from GM's Brownstown Township battery pack manufacturing facility, camshafts and connecting rods from Bay City, and stampings and the Volt's 1.4L engine-generator from Flint. All that will be brought together at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

The other investments made by GM include:

  • $37 million in Bay City, Mich. to produce cam shafts and connecting rods for the Volt’s engine generator. You know, that generator that will allow the Volt to travel more than 300 miles in addition to the initial 40-mile, all-electric range when the Volt won’t use any gasoline or produce any tailpipe emissions.
  • $23 million in our Flint, Mich. Tool and Die facility to build the dies to stamp metal parts for the Volt.
  • $202 million at our Flint Engine South plant — this is where we’ll build the 1.4-liter engine generator that provides Volt an extended-range capability of more than 300 miles.
  • $1.7 million at the Flint Metal Center, in presses to stamp parts.
  • $30 million in the Weld Tool Center, in Grand Blac, Mich., to produce the robotic weld tool cells that were installed at our Detroit/Hamtramck plant.
  • $27 million in the Alternative Energy Center at the GM Tech Center in Warren, home of our new, state-of-the-art battery lab where we test and refine the Volt battery pack.
  • $43 million in Brownstown Township, Mich., to open the world’s first OEM-owned, high-volume, lithium-ion battery pack plant. We expect battery-pack production to begin there early next month.

"We expect the Detroit-Hamtramck plant will be the first facility in the U.S. owned by a major automaker to produce an electric car. It is the hub for the wheel that we began rolling in 2007 when the Volt debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit," said Jon Lauckner, GM vice president of global product planning in a statement. "Since then, the field of challengers and partners has grown significantly. This competition will expedite the development of electric vehicle technology and infrastructure."

Some equipment for the Volt is being recycled from other GM facilities. Also, the existing track at the plant will be used for assembly. Prototypes will begin production in the spring, with regular production set to commence in late 2010.

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Prius Tops in Japan Again

The Toyota Prius outsold the competition in Japan once again. Toyota sold 26,817 units last month, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association. Total passenger car sales for the month were 268,450 units (Via GCC who has a great graph of Prius sales before and after the incentives kicked in). Which means almost 10% of all passenger cars sold in Japan in November came with a Prius nameplate.
The Honda Insight came in fifth, overall, at 9,413 units sold. Together, that means the Insight and Prius accounted for 13.5% of new vehicle sales in November.

With the new Toyota SAI coming out, hybrids sales should continue to rise. Toyota already has 14,000 pre-orders for the SAI since its unveiling in October.

Incentives and subsidies from the government have been putting hybrids front and center in Japan. With the backlog in orders, the Toyota Prius should continue to dominate new car sales in Japan for another half a year at least.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Diesels Beat Hybrids in 2010 Green Car of the Year

The Audi 3 TDI hatchback was named Green Car of the Year by the Green Car Journal at the LA Auto Show. That's the second year in a row a diesel has taken home top honors.

The nominees for 2010 included 3 hybrids and two diesels.

Last year, the Jetta TDI won and the year before it was the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid. So, obviously, green car of the year is not 'Greenest Car' for that year. Instead, the qualification require a new vehicle and focuses in on the new aspects of a vehicle that make it green.

The TDI won last year because the 'clean diesel' was new. The Chevy Tahoe wonn in 2008 because it had the new two-mode hybrid system.

This year, the other nominees were the latest generation Prius, the Mercury Milan Hybrid, the Honda Insight, and the Volkswagen Golf TDI.

From the press releases (Audi and Green Car Journal)
The A3 TDI is the latest example of the fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions benefits provided by the critically acclaimed TDI clean diesel product line, following the wildly popular Q7 TDI, which launched in June 2009. TDI clean diesel technology was first developed by Audi 20 years ago and has come to signify the brand's commitment to trailblazing automotive performance executed in an environmentally responsible way.

The groundbreaking TDI 2.0 engine available in the A3 delivers 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, yet achieves an EPA-estimated 42 mpg highway fuel economy that is the best of any luxury car sold in America. That means the Audi A3 TDI achieve 50% better fuel economy than a comparable gasoline engine.

"The Audi A3 TDI offers it all," says Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and editor of "This compact luxury car features an impressive EPA estimated 42 mpg on the highway - a 50 percent highway fuel efficiency improvement over the standard gasoline engine A3. Plus, this Audi's quiet, clean diesel engine delivers loads of low-end torque and a fun-to-drive experience, all with the functionality of a 5-passenger hatchback."

Along with setting the bar for highway fuel economy in the compact luxury car segment, Audi's 50-state certified A3 TDI is powered by a 2.0-liter turbo direct injection (TDI) engine with a standard S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission and comes at an MSRP of $29,950.

"In winning the 2010 Green Car of the Year Award, the Audi A3 TDI demonstrates the bright future that clean diesel technology provides through reduced fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions," said Johan de Nysschen, President, Audi of America. "This honor demonstrates that the A3 TDI is a ready-now solution to our society's toughest transportation issues."

The Green Car of the Year® jury, comprised of six environmental and automotive experts along with Green Car Journal editors, selected the 2010 Audi A3 TDI from a field of five finalists that also included the Honda Insight, Mercury Milan Hybrid, Toyota Prius and VW Golf TDI.

This year's invited jurors included Dr. Alan Lloyd, president of the International Council on Clean Transportation; Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club; Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, president of Global Green USA; automotive expert and television host Jay Leno; and automotive icon Carroll Shelby. The Green Car Journal has been unveiling the Green Car of the Year® winner at the LA Auto Show every year since it initiated the annual award in 2005.

"This was the strongest field of nominees ever for our Green Car of the Year® program," said Cogan. "It's a clear indication that the auto industry is on track to deliver an expanding number of 'green' car choices at the showroom in coming years. It's also an affirmation that fuel-efficient clean diesel models are becoming a serious competitor in the American market."

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Volt Production Numbers, the Early Years

Bob Lutz laid out the initial plans for the Chevy Volt at the LA Auto Show. He once again confirmed the Volt will be launched next year in California, followed by other select regions of the country.

That makes sense given his other remarks.

In the first few months, Chevy will be producing 4,000 to 5,000 Volts, with 8,000 to 10,000 total in the first year.

That's not a lot of units to go around, especially if they opened up sales across the country.

Nor will the Volt turn into a top 10 model any time soon. Full production capacity is set at 50,000 to 60,000 Volts per year.

“We are going to ramp it up slowly becasue it is all uncharted terrain for all of us once we start turning out (battery) packs in very high rates,” he said.

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The 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 Price

The 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 series MSRP has been set at $103,125, which puts it in the competitive range with other luxury hybrids. The difference, as BMW points out, is this will be the most powerful hybrid luxury sedan out there.

If you're interested in the long wheelbase, the ActiveHybrid 7L will run you $107,025. Both numbers include the destination and handling charges.

The models will arrive in showrooms in spring of 2011.

The BMW ActiveHybrid 7 Sedans feature BMW’s 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and hybrid electric motor. The auto stop-start feature improves efficiency without interrupted climate control and other features. Additional standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels and tires, Alcantara headliner, leather dashboard and ventilated active front seats. The Premium Sound System, Head-up Display and Rear View Camera are also standard on the ActiveHybrid 7 as are Comfort Access, Soft-close doors and Automatic trunkgate closing.

Options and packages include a Camera Package, Driver Assistance Package, BMW Night Vision and Rear Seat Entertainment Package. A Luxury Rear Seating Package is available on the ActiveHybrid 7L. A full list of options to tailor the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 to individual tastes is listed below.

2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 packages and optional equipment:

  • Camera Package $350
  • Side view cameras
  • Cold Weather Package $800
  • Heated steering wheel & rear seats
  • Driver Assistance Package $1,350
  • Automatic high beams, lane departure warning, active blind spot detection
  • Rear Seat Entertainment Package $2,200
  • Multimedia player and two 8-inch screens
  • Luxury Rear Seating Package (750Li only) $3,700
  • Rear ventilated, massaging Comfort Seats
  • BMW Night Vision $2,600
  • 20-inch wheels $1,300
  • Power Rear Sunshades $1,000
  • Ceramic controls $650
  • 6-disc DVD-changer $600
  • iPod/USB-Adapter $400
  • Satellite radio $350
  • Smartphone integration $150

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Plug-in Prius in LA

Toyota brought the plug-in Prius they are working on to compete visually with the Chevy Volt that is also appearing at the LA Auto Show. But, Toyota is once again emphasizing their feelings that the plug-in is not ready for prime-time.

The batteries are the key. Lithium-ion battery packs are big, heavy and very expensive. Thus, Toyota is restricting the plug-in Prius to testing over the next few years. 350 plug-ins will be sent out in Japan and Europe, with 150 coming to the States.

This will allow Toyota to build up user feedback, as well as technical data to refine the technology. It will also give them time for the battery packs to become smaller and cheaper.

GM, in the meantime, has already announced they will be launching the Volt in California next year.

Major differences between the Volt and the Prius showcase the differences in approaches taken in the plug-in race so far by GM and Toyota. GM is pushing forward on the Volt, while Toyota has so far relegated itself to 'testing.' GM is requiring 40 miles of all electric range, before the gas motor kicks in to keep the vehicle running. The plug-in from Toyota is a hybrid, but with larger capacity. More efficient in the long run, but starts using gasoline sooner. That means the Volt has a bigger, more expensive battery pack, while Toyota can get away with a smaller (still expensive, just less expensive than the Volt's) battery pack.

Read more on the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle in the Press Release:
TORRANCE, Calif., December 2, 2009 -- The 2010 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid vehicle (PHV) will make it’s North American debut today at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Built specifically to support a global demonstration program that begins this month, the Prius PHV is based on the third-generation Prius. The vehicle expands Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive technology with the introduction of a first generation lithium-ion battery that enables all-electric operation at higher speeds and longer distances than the conventional Prius hybrid. When fully charged, the vehicle is targeted to achieve a maximum electric-only range of approximately 13 miles and will be capable of achieving highway speeds up to 60 mph in electric-only mode. For longer distances, the Prius PHV reverts to “hybrid mode” and operates like a regular Prius. This ability to utilize all-electric power for short trips or hybrid power for longer drives alleviates the issue of limited cruising range encountered with pure electric vehicles.

Beginning later this month, a total of 350 vehicles will begin delivery in Japan and Europe in support of model programs with business and government partners aimed at raising societal awareness of, and preparedness for, this important new technology.

Beginning early next year, 150 vehicles will start arriving in the U.S., where they will be placed in regional clusters with select partners for market/consumer analysis and technical demonstration.

On the consumer side, the U.S. program will allow Toyota to gather real world vehicle-use feedback to better understand customer expectations for plug-in technology. On the technical side, the program aims to confirm, in a wide variety of real world applications, the overall performance of first-generation lithium-ion battery technology, while spurring the development of public-access charging station infrastructure.

All vehicles will be equipped with data retrieval devices which will monitor activities such as how often the vehicle is charged and when; whether the batteries are depleted or being topped off during charging; trip duration, all-EV driving range, combined mpg and so on.

“This program is a necessary first step in societal preparation, in that it allows us the unique opportunity to inform, educate and prepare customers for the introduction of plug-in hybrid technology,” said Irv Miller, TMS group vice president, environmental and public affairs. “When these vehicles come to market, customers must understand what to expect and if this technology is the right fit for them.”

In October, Toyota announced its first regional program partnership with Xcel Energy’s SmartGridCity program in Boulder, Colo. Ten PHVs will be placed with Boulder residents who will participate in an interdisciplinary research project coordinated by the University of Colorado at Boulder Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), a new joint venture between the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

RASEI, Xcel Energy and TMS will use this program to gather data on vehicle performance and charging patterns, consumer behavior and preferences, as well as electric utility/customer interactions. The locale offers the additional benefit of monitoring high altitude, cold climate performance of Toyota’s first generation lithium-ion battery.

Additional partners will be announced soon. Regional programs are currently slated for California, Washington D.C., New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Each placement scenario will have a variety of ‘use cases’ or driving conditions to gain maximum input to vehicle performance and customer needs.

To assist with customer education, Toyota has launched a PHV demonstration program website – At the site, visitors can learn more about the technology, follow the program’s progress and, once the vehicles are deployed, track the performance of the demonstration program fleet. This transparent communication of vehicle performance and real world data will allow customers to make informed decisions when considering the purchase of a plug-in hybrid vehicle.

It’s All About The Battery
The battery powering the Prius PHV is the first lithium-ion drive-battery developed by Toyota and its joint venture battery production company, Panasonic Electric Vehicle Energy (PEVE). In early November, PEVE began producing the first of more than 500 lithium batteries on a dedicated assembly line at its Teiho production facility in Japan.

PEVE is the world’s leading producer of nickel-metal hydride batteries for automotive drive applications, having surpassed two million units in total production volume. Nickel-metal batteries are ideal for mass producing affordable conventional hybrid vehicles due to their low cost, excellent quality, high reliability and moderate-demand charge-sustaining operation. Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, are more promising for pure electric and plug-in hybrid applications which require higher energy density to meet the higher demands of charge-depleting operation (large swings in charge/discharge). And, although lithium-ion batteries are less expensive in terms of materials, they are more expensive than nickel-metal in terms of production costs.

This first-generation lithium battery has undergone more than three years of coordinated field testing in Japan, North America and Europe in a wide variety of climatic environments and driving conditions. Using approximately 150 conventional hybrids (mostly Prius), the field test vehicles logged well over a million combined miles. In the end, the battery was deemed both reliable and durable, confirming that it could indeed be used in conventional hybrid applications in the future, depending on further developments in cost reduction.

The battery will now be placed into service in the 500 Prius PHVs dedicated to Toyota’s global demonstration program which begins in December. Operating in a more severe charge-depleting mode, the battery’s overall performance in a broad range of vehicle-use applications will be confirmed.

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2010 Toyota Prius Earns the Best Buy Award

The 2010 Toyota Prius earns a 'Best Buy' award from Consumer Guide Automotive, the first time it has been on the list.  The Prius was 'insufficiently transparent' for the vehicle to earn Consumer Guide recognition until now. 

22 of the vehicles listed in the Consumer Guide Awards come with diesel or hybrid variants.  Thus Consumer Guides feels the hybrid technology has 'finally matured' and is 'firmly established.'

Seems to me like they're a little behind the times, but that's OK. A conservative approach to car reviewers is a good thing.

Press Release Follows:
LINCOLNWOOD, IL., December 2, 2009 -- Consumer Guide Automotive, the leading publisher of authoritative, objective new and used car reviews for over 40 years, today announced the recipients of its 2010 Best Buy and Recommended Awards. The annual list, designed to make car buying easier for consumers, represents the best overall values in 18 vehicle categories. For the almost three million people who visit Consumer Guide’s website each month, this year’s list showcases both perennial performers and some surprising newcomers.

For the first time, the Toyota Prius has achieved Best Buy recognition in the Midsize Car category. “Since its debut in 2001, Consumer Guide has respected the Toyota Prius for its technological sophistication and best-in-class fuel economy. Prius' hybrid powertrain had its faults, however, and did not operate with sufficient transparency for the vehicle to earn Consumer Guide recognition,” said Tom Appel, Consumer Guide Automotive Associate Publisher. “A 2010 Prius redesign brings with it not only substantial improvements in ride and cabin appointments, but a smooth, super-efficient powertrain that operates much like any other refined sedan. It is for these reasons, that for the first time ever, Prius is a Consumer Guide Best Buy.”

In addition to Prius, 22 vehicles with available hybrid or diesel power were also awarded Consumer Guide Automotive Best Buy or Recommended honors. “This once fringe technology has finally matured,” said Appel, “and now many hybrids can be found firmly established among the best automobiles on the market.”

In contrast, this year also welcomes the return of the American large car, with the new/redesigned Buick LaCrosse and Ford Taurus receiving Consumer Guide Automotive Best Buy recognition. “With shoppers migrating from traditional SUVs, the once-dormant large car category is in renaissance. For 2010, traditional big sedans are back, but in a very modern way. The Buick LaCrosse and Ford Taurus are very different cars, but earn Consumer Guide Automotive Best Buy accolades for impressive passenger comfort, road isolation, and dollar value ”

Since 1967, Consumer Guide's preeminent editorial team has used a comprehensive evaluation process based on the factors that matter most to car buyers to arrive at the annual list of winners. Initially, the list is divided into 18 classes based on vehicle type, size, and price. These class segments span the entire automotive market and include hundreds of cars, SUVs, minivans, and trucks.

The editors then use objective criteria such as price, features, performance, passenger accommodations, fuel economy, reliability records, and resale value to assess each vehicle. The winners are divided into two categories: The Consumer Guide Automotive Best Buy and Recommended Award winners.

A Consumer Guide Automotive’s Best Buy rating signifies that a vehicle is ranked at the top of its class and is strongly recommended by the editors. Consumer Guide Best Buy vehicles represent the finest balance of attributes and price within their classes, and they are the best choices for most consumers. Consumer Guide Automotive's Recommended list features cars that, though not ranked at the very top of their category, are still worth strong consideration by the consumer.

The key to Consumer Guide Automotive's annual Best Buy and Recommended Awards is the careful evaluation of every aspect of each vehicle as it relates to consumers’ real-world use of the vehicle.

Consumer Guide’s editorial team drives nearly 200,000 miles a year evaluating what these vehicles do well, and what they don't. The process assures that recommendations are based on experiences that best reflect the settings and conditions that the average car buyer encounters every day. Whether it is driving through the city, highways, rural areas, long trips, or simply picking up the kids up at school, the vehicles are tested in the same way the average car buyer would use theirs.

Complete reviews of the winning vehicles, as well as other pertinent information for in-market car buyers, are provided exclusively by ( and can be found online at

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Shopping for Used Cars Through Craigslist Just Got Easier

If you've ever been shopping for a used car through craigslist, this extension for firefox may be just the tool you need to get by (found via Lifehacker).

Let's face it, shopping through the web is a pain.  This add-on cuts way down on the number of searches you need to make before you decide to contact the seller.  Just look at the features.

  • Gives estimated price from multiple sources. Also provides links for further research.
  • Factory car recalls for the car model.
  • Consumer reviews, this is the real gem.
  • Car reliability information. It shows the msn autos page focused at reliability section. This shows what kinda engine problems occur in that particular car. Other info is also there but reliability info is most useful on that page. Takes like 2 sec to get idea of how reliable that car model is.
  • Scans the posting and shows a highlighted message on top informing about:- accident car, rebuilt car, moving sale, one owner, suggests buyer to ask if the car was involved in an accident.
  • Lists similar (year/make/model) ads from craigslist on top. This gives the idea of going price and the supply/demand.
  • If there is a phone number in the post then it makes it easy to do a search of the phone number on Craigslist to find out if the ad poster has posted any other ads. This sometimes help in determining if its moving sale or a ad by a reseller etc.

You can see in the image just some of the results.  It quickly gave me estimates you should be seeing for a 2001 Prius, plus a bunch of reviews of used Prius, plus the recall notices you might want to ask the buyer about.

If that doesn't get you excited, then you've never shopped for a used car. This is almost all the information you need when you start looking for a used car.

The only bad part is this is an add-on for firefox.  It won't work on Internet Explorer or Chrome (or other web browsers).

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Ford Fusion Hybrid Racks Up Awards

The Ford Fusion Hybrid has seen some pretty good reviews so far, and is now seeing quite a few awards swing by, too. The Ford Hybrid was named one of Car and Driver's 10 Best cars for 2010, plus the Fusion lineup received Motor Trend 2010 Car of the Year Award.

And now the Earth, Wind & Power (EWP) have named the Ford Fusion Hybrid as the Most Environmentally Progressive Car of the Year.  Truck of the Year went to the 2010 Audi Q7 TDI Clean Diesel.

“Ford has worked diligently to make the Fusion Hybrid America’s most fuel-efficient midsize sedan,” said Jonathan Richards, Fusion marketing manager. “It is very gratifying to see our hard work recognized by some of the most prominent automotive journalists in the country through the EWP award.”

The Ford Fusion Hybrid has been a strong seller since its introduction earlier this year. Hybrid sales account for almost 20 percent of total Fusion retail sales, and the majority of those sales have been to customers coming from import brands – mostly Toyota and Honda.

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Toyota Prius Tops in Resale Value - KBB 2010 Awards

Once again, the Toyota Prius topped KBB resale value charts for 2010.

For buyers seeking to make a statement about their commitment to saving the world, no car says it louder than the Toyota Prius. Combining EPA-estimated combined fuel economy of 50 miles per gallon with outstanding resale value, the Prius delivers value throughout the ownership cycle.
The Prius topped the hybrid/alternative category, plus it made the top 10 list (overall) in KBB 2010 Kelley Blue Book Best Resale Value Awards.

Hybrids helped push Toyota and Lexus to the top in the brand and top luxury brand categories.

From the Kbb site:
While most car buyers today consider sticker price the most significant number when choosing a new vehicle, our editors recommend taking a closer look at a number Kelley Blue Book is expert in calculating: its resale value. Depreciation often is the greatest expense incurred by drivers during the first five years of vehicle ownership, so choosing a vehicle that retains its value better than others is important in keeping your total ownership cost low. The Kelley Blue Book Best Resale Value Awards recognize automakers' outstanding achievements in producing vehicles that best retain their value. Awards are presented to top vehicles within 15 vehicle categories, for Overall Top 10 vehicles across all categories and the brand with the best projected resale value across its entire line of vehicles.
Models with top resale values in individual segments include:

• Mid-size pickup: Toyota Tacoma
• Full-size pickup: Ford F-Series Super Duty
• Compact utility: Honda CR-V
• Mid-size utility: Toyota Highlander
• Full-size utility: Honda Pilot
• Luxury utility: Lexus RX 350
• Hybrid/alternative-fuel utility: BMW X5 turbo diesel
• Sports car: Nissan 370Z
• Van: Toyota Sienna
• Hybrid/alternative-fuel car: Toyota Prius
• Compact car: MINI Cooper Clubman
• Mid-size car: Honda Accord
• Full-size car: Ford Taurus
• Near-luxury car: Lexus IS
• Luxury car: Audi A5
• High-performance car: Chevrolet Camaro SS

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Volt Sales Limited to California

Update: Chevy makes it official.  The Volt will be launched in California, with other markets to follow.  The press release does not make it clear when or where the Volt will be available after it is launched in California next year.

Will sales of the Chevy Volt, like the Nissan Altima Hybrid, be limited to certain states? According to a report, GM will restrict sales to California next year when they introduce the Chevy Volt.

That limitation may just be the starting point, but Nissan has kept selling the Altima Hybrid in just the states with California emissions standards. I would be surprised if GM followed that lead, but ...

GM is hoping to break into the California marketplace, where the Prius has done so well over the past decade.

Detroit-based GM has a 9.8 percent market share in Los Angeles, compared with 19.8 percent nationwide, based on data from researchers Experian Plc and Autodata Corp.

GM also announced the winner of the Volt Color contest. David Thomas, 40, of Sanford, Fla., has won Chevrolet's national contest to name the Volt's lead paint color and the opportunity to be the first consumer to test-drive a pre-production Volt. Nearly 3,000 people cast their votes at for Thomas' "Viridian Joule." Voting ended at 8 a.m. ET and Chevrolet announced the winner in Los Angeles.

"I looked at the photo of the Volt on the contest web site and thought it looked emerald in color, which led to jewel and then to an alternate yet appropriate play on that word - joule (a unit of electrical energy)," said Thomas.

LOS ANGELES – Chevrolet announced today at the Los Angeles International Auto Show that the Volt electric vehicle with extended-range capability will be available late next year in California – the nation’s largest new-car market – with other lead markets to be named later.

Chevrolet is also partnering with three California utilities and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) as part of an extended, real-world demonstration and research program to introduce customers to electric vehicles, advance vehicle electrification and establish vehicle charging programs to pave the way for consumers. General Motors is leading the program with a grant of more than $30 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds from the Transportation Electrification Initiative administered by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“It is natural that California is the lead market for Volt. Not only is it the largest automotive market, Californians are known to be leaders in adopting groundbreaking new technologies,” said Brent Dewar, GM vice president, Global Chevrolet Brand.

Volt production is scheduled to begin in late 2010. Pricing has not been announced. The initial Volt launch markets, including California, will play a vital role in validating the retail market readiness for electric vehicles. GM is working with key utilities across North America to prepare each regional market in advance of the retail market deployment.

Three California utilities participating in the demonstration project are Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and Sacramento Municipal Utility District. They join EPRI, an independent, nonprofit research organization based in Palo Alto, Calif., and seven other utilities in the project. EPRI’s utility members represent more than 90 percent of the electricity generated and delivered in the United States.

As part of the research and demonstration program, Chevrolet will deliver more than 100 Volts to program participants to use in their fleets for two years. Chevrolet will also utilize OnStar telematics technology to collect vehicle performance data and driver feedback that will be reported to the DOE and used to improve customers’ experiences with the new technology.

Because the Volt is designed to conveniently charge anywhere, the program also includes installing more than 500 charging stations for residential, business and public use. The charging stations will be used to learn more about the installation, the vehicle charging process and to gain customer feedback on the experience.

The Chevrolet Volt is designed to drive up to 40 miles on electricity without using gasoline or producing tailpipe emissions. When the Volt’s lithium-ion battery runs low, an engine/generator seamlessly operates to extend the total driving range to more than 300 miles before refueling or stopping to recharge the battery.

The Volt is more than its advanced electric propulsion system. With technology beyond the battery, the Volt takes personalization, feedback and interaction to new levels.

The Volt’s “Efficiency Meter” in the digital instrument cluster gives the driver real-time feedback on driving efficiency. The heating and cooling system has three efficiency modes, while activating the Volt’s “Green Leaf” button provides access to vehicle Power Flow, Charging and Energy information. The driver will be able to set the charging schedule inside the vehicle or remotely, based on time of day or cost. And the Volt even has audio and visual cues to alert the driver when the car powers on, off and when charging is activated.

The Volt has been keeping a high profile in and around Los Angeles in the days leading up to the auto show. It has visited notable L.A.-area restaurants, the Westlake Century City Mall in West Los Angeles and was featured at a nationwide school assembly based at the Harvard-Westlake preparatory school. Chevrolet will also introduce a new Volt song designed to educate and entertain consumers during the auto show’s public days.

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