The Big Three Go to Washington
These flex fuel vehicles were also at the center of General Motors's recent plans to build or change 19 engines and transmissions. The General said that it will offer about 14 models that can run on either gasoline or E85 by the 2007 model year. New flex-fuel vehicles include the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans, and the Chevrolet Uplander minivan. Chevy’s best selling sedan, the Impala, will also get GM’s active fuel management system. The system shuts down cylinders as power demands decrease during driving. Chrysler also offers a similar technology, designed to make large vehicles more fuel efficient, such as the Dodge Charger and the Chrysler 300C.
Despite its focus on E85, General Motors also plans to finally come out with a hybrid vehicle this summer. The 2007 Saturn VUE Green Line will, according to GM, use up to 20 percent less fuel than a regular Saturn Vue – a modest increase in fuel efficiency for a more modest price increase -- compared to the premium on other hybrids. The Green Line will get an estimated 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, compared with 33 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway for the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which is geared more for power as well as fuel savings.
Honda on the rise
Honda also announced plans to build a clean four-cylinder diesel engine within three years. In fact, a Honda spokesperson claimed that their new diesel will run as clean as a gasoline powerplant, a significant accomplishment that would put Honda well ahead of most other automakers in developing a diesel engine that meets new, more stringent US guidelines. Honda also said that they plan to sell cars with a V6 diesel engine in North America, put would not speculate as to the timing. Honda also announced plans to build a new assembly plant in the Midwest.
Unlike Honda, Kia’s expansion seems in doubt – especially when it comes to the company's new plant in Georgia. Thanks to the recent arrests and legal troubles of parent company Hyundai’s top executives, Kia’s multi-billion dollar plant could be delayed – or worse. The trouble started when Hyundai-Kia group Chairman Chung Mong Koo was indicted last week in Korea on embezzlement charges. Officials were last seen circling around Chung's son, Kia Motors Corp. Chairman Chung Eui Sun, with similar charges in mind. According to trade journal Automotive News, the company denied a Reuters report that the project had been "indefinitely postponed," but did indicate some complications, and, at least, a slow down. The automaker plans to launch US production by 2009.
Taurus Still King, VW Eos pricing
Chances are, however, that you won’t get a price reduction on Ford’s best selling sedan. But before you think that’s the Fusion, think again. With more than 71,000 vehicles sold in the first four months of 2006, the Ford Taurus is apparently still the champ when it comes to Ford cars – even though it’s only sold to fleet customers. The Taurus was the best-selling car between 1992 and 1996, and has become Ford’s best-selling car ever – even more than the Model T, which is either an amazing testament to the Taurus’s staying power or a sad example of Ford’s struggle to get back into the sedan market.
Volkswagen, meanwhile, plans to introduce its new Eos hardtop convertible this fall with a base price of $28,620. The base Eos is equipped with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine. The more expensive Eos with a 3.2-liter V6 rated at 300 horsepower is priced at $35,840. All prices include shipping charges.
Photos courtesy of the automakers