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2009 Chicago Auto Show

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by atrhugo, Feb 10, 2009.

    atrhugo guest

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    The 101st Chicago Auto Show is taking place under a cloud of uncertainty that is hanging over the auto industry. Not only is there a major global economic downturn, but with peak oil having either already occurred or about to, the future of the IC engine is uncertain. The cash strapped auto manufacturers find themselves without the wherewithal to fund the research for alternatives. These are difficult times.

    In addition to that, governmental pressures are pushing manufacturers in directions the markets may not be leading. This isn't a good time to be an automaker. It certainly isn't a good time to be an automaker looking for a bailout.

    So as the Chicago Auto Show takes place, who is in the best shape (relatively speaking) and which manufacturers are in the ICU?

    Even though Toyota has lost money recently, they still have cash reserves and a product lineup as complete as any manufacturer. In addition they are ahead of the curve on hybrid technology which is the bridge to the future of personal transportation.

    Honda is a survivor and Audi/Porsche/Volkswagen are in relatively good shape, as is Hyundai/Kia. BMW remains a stand-alone company in part because of excellent well-positioned product and also because the Quandts maintain their ownership; if they feel pinched financially would Porsche pick BMW up? Daimler, with a new Mercedes E class and the Smart brand, appears to be hanging on.

    Distressed, but possibly not down and out, is Ford, having sold a chunk of Mazda and dangling a 'for sale' sign on Volvo; they may pull through. And Nissan has announced another round of job cuts just yesterday.

    General Motors is weak; they have decent product, but are really squeezed finacially and Bob Lutz is retiring. Chrysler is close to receiving last rights, with nothing but the Jeep brand worth much to any outsider. Just recently, Jim Press called for Chrysler dealers to order more cars, in order to keep the company afloat until the next round of bailout cash can been be doled out. The Fiat deal may be of some interest, but the last time Fiat sold cars in the US market was a generation ago, and it certainly didn't leave this market on a high note.

    Looming large in any discussion of the auto industry, and potentially capable of sucking up any who falter, are India's Tata and the amorphous visage of a nascent Chinese industry.

    This makes Chicago, the show where more production premiers occur, a place of uncertainty this year.

    ------

    I have an opportunity to cover the Chicago Auto Show media days this year and thought it might be nice to share what I discover with fellow BMW enthusiasts. I'll update this thread in the next couple of days and try to cover the types of cars that this group would enjoy. If I hear any scuttlebutt or see odds & ends that appear interesting, I'll include those as well. Thanks for letting me post. I hope you enjoy it.

    atrhugo guest

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    GM held a briefing this afternoon to discuss the Volt and and unveil the collaborative effort of Bose and Goodyear. (And they had a spread of food of course.)

    Bose has optimized sound system components, reducing size by 30%, weight by 40% and electrical efficiency by 50%. Use of a switching amplifier, specially designed neodymium magnets in the speakers and space saving efforts allowed these benefits. They did not demonstrate the system's sound capabilities, just it's efficiencies.

    The Volt is headed to production in late 2010. Goodyear has developed what they call 'functional polymers' which produce tighter chemical bonds with less clumping of silica than previously available. This reduces rolling resistance. The technology produces a tire with what they claim are decent handling characteristics and yet significantly improved rolling resistance. They did have an interesting science fair like demonstration showing that this technology is the next best thing to 'flubber'. This technology is good for about one mile of the Volt's 40 mile - strictly battery - range.

    Speaking of Volt's batteries; they are lithium ion tech, built by LG. But what is truly of interest is the battery management technology. One key aspect that is strictly managed is temperature. The battery pack is in a 'T' shape longitudinally running for the IP - through center console, with the transverse section under the rear seats. Batteries perform best when their temperatures are kept within tight parameters. The physical encapsulation of the battery elements allow them to be heated or cooled as necessary across the bulk of their surface. When pressed, Frank Weber of GM, refused to get into specific details citing proprietary concerns. He did mention that if the car is left for the weekend in the Walgreen's parking lot in Minot, ND, the gas engine (that serves as a generator) would fire up and bring the batteries up into their temperature rang. There has a been a great deal of development in the physical cases and software for battery management. The batteries are the enabling technology of the Volt.

    The engine is a 1.4L that is based on an existing GM powerplant. However over 90% of the components are specific to the Volt application. It is not a true Otto or Atkinson cycle engine, but it does do some ippsy-dipsies with valve timing. It never charges the batteries, however. Otherwise would it truly be an electric car? When the engine takes over, beyond the 40 mile pure battery propulsion range of the Volt, it merely acts as generator supplying electricity to the motor. There is a small fuel tank on-board and it can be refueled on regular gasoline.

    Recharging the batteries takes under 4 hours with a 240 VAC outlet, under 8 hours with a 110 VAC outlet. In Europe the Volt is rated at using 1.6L per 100km. The EPA has yet to determine how mileage ratings will be applied to the Volt.

    So is this the future? It may be the start of the future, 'fun to drive' was mentioned, but I'll reserve judgment until I have a chance to drive one.

    Four pix: Goodyear's Science Fair Project; Frank Weber, GM's Volt Guru; Hofmeister kink?; Volt Battery Pack

    atrhugo guest

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    One thing I failed to mention is that GM believes that the vast majority of daily automobile use covers less than 40 miles. The gas engine is there strictly to extend the range of the vehicle. CNBC, in a "GM in Crisis" dramamentary last night (and others), have misstated that the engine charges the batteries; it doesn't, it simply supplys the electric motor via it's generator.

    Beyond that, GM is being awfully conservative in their battery pack ratings and how they utilize the battery pack. They will not deep cycle these batteries and they are rated for a lifespan of 10 years, 150,000 miles. At the end of that time, GM expects that there is still over half of the battery pack's useful life left and they expect to be able to sell them on the secondary market. The battery pack in the Volt weighs approximately 400 lbs and that weight is kept low and between the centerline of the axles.

    The Volt chassis is generic GM - with a tube axle in the back and McPherson struts up front. Again, "fun to drive"? We'll need to wait until drives are available.

    atrhugo guest

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    Ford showed off their new Harley-Davidson F150 (yawn - though it sells), and the new Taurus SHO (pics to come). 3.5L 60 degree V6 - GDI (using Bosch injectors and HPFP), twin turbocharged and rated at 365 HP. Pix to follow. But probably most importantly, the Transit van is coming!! Called Transit Connect in the US - Ford delivered five customized Transit vans to contest winners. (And there is the obligatory 'animal' content for a softer side of the auto show news.) Pix to come.

    Chevy showed off their Camaro and a concept called 'Stingray' (possibly a peek at the C7 Corvette styling parameters). But they pretty much admitted that the Transformers movies was thier attempt to connect with a younger generation. As Ralphie said in "A Christmas Story", 'It's a crummy commercial!"

    If you get a chance take a good hard look and feel of the interior trim in the Camaro. It's not up to the best of standards.

    atrhugo guest

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    Pix

    The obligatory dog shot near the Transit van; The SHO block, light,sitff and four-bolt mains; the 'Stingray'; Rhys Millen - trying for a new class record at Pike's Peak with a 500 HP V6 Hyundai Genesis Coupe:

    atrhugo guest

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    Some quick numbers on the Genesis Coupe track model: 4 pot Brembos up front, 2.0L Turo I4, 210 HP, uprated springs and sways, 18" mixed size (front to rear) tires, Torsen LSD, HID lamps, ally pedals, all standard safety and comfort features. $22,000 base price. The V6 track package, 3.8L V6 306 HP std leather interior, $25,000.

    Hmmmmm . . .

    atrhugo guest

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    The new Taurus is based on the Volvo D3 platform and is better looking in the flesh than in photos. The crease that runs below the beltline is controversial especially as it's picked up briefly in the rear quarter panel. The decklid has a nice built in spoiler (tasteful) and the flanks flow better when seen in 3D.

    The 2010 Mustang back end also looks 'odd' in picutres but is much more pleasing in person. Here are a couple of Taurus and Taurus SHO interior pix, Camaro interior, and the Hyundai Genesis Coupe drift, Pike's Peak, Time Attack car:

    atrhugo guest

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    Stingray

    Chevy showed off the Stingray concept as part of the full length infomercial, "Transformers - Revenge of the Fallen" (in major theaters soon). It was stated that this was the first public showing of the concept. And it gives clues as to how the C7 or C8 Corvette may be styled. The C6 brought a tautness to surfaces missing in the C5. Basically the C6 was a C5 without the baby fat. The C6 looks good and it would be hard to improve on it wihtout moving to a different idiom. But they have. This bodes well for the brand (if they're still making cars by then). Here's the Stingray from the flank:

    atrhugo guest

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    If it's Green it's Good

    [jaundiced eye]
    Green sells. Why else would everything be 'green'. It seems that corporations have gotten eco-religon in this day and age and anything customer facing is going to positively scream GREEN! We're grreen, you're green, all earth's children should be green.

    The green revolution is changing how cars are being marketed. But right next to all the green machines are the trucks and SUVs (and if you want to buy one of those they'll sell you one - in a brown paper sack, recyclable of course).

    Every manufacturer was touting either energy efficiency, hybrid, electric, hydrogen fuel cell, etc. Toyota even took pains to point out that it's show floor carpet is made in part of recycled materials.

    So what does green mean? Personally, BMW does a good job with their Efficient Dynamics. It's an interesting approach that brings a swarm (another 'hip' term) of ideas to bear on a problem. If you look after the small things that can be done, pretty soon a lot of little things add up.

    There are a lot of electric concepts on various maker's stands. But battery technology is still the limiting factor. Could a breakthrough be around the corner? Possibly, but bear in mind, batteries, in various forms, have been in use for almost two centuries.

    A century ago battery, steam, and gasoline powered vehicles all vied for predominance of the automotive market. Battery and steam power lost. And in the intervening years IC technology has not been stagnant. Have we reached the pinnacle of gas engine development? Possibly, but there are some new approaches that merge diesel and gas technology that promise additional efficiency.

    The knock on electric vehicles are range, rate of refueling, and perceived performance. While the Volt, for example, may cover the range issue (and some would argue they do that by cheating, using the 1.4L engine as a generator when the batteries reach their low charge limit), its rate of refueling (battery recharge) is essentially overnight on 110 VAC. And performance, at the moment, is unknown outside of GM's development team.

    The problem is gasoline is an incredibly energy dense fuel, there just isn't a reasonable substitute yet, but substitutes are in the wings. So let's work on synthetic, alternate fuels, and maximizing efficiency.

    After all this green goodness, a stop at the Spyker booth was in order . . . pics to follow.
    [/jaundiced eye]

    atrhugo guest

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    Spyker teaser - story to follow:

    atrhugo guest

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    A couple of comments on the Taurus SHO V6 - it's a die-cast block with cast in cylinder liners. Sintered metal con-rds with a bit of extra copper for compression strength. The big ends are cracked (not sawed). The fuel injectors are solenoid, not piezo, and the injectors are on the side of the combustion chamber.

    Cutaway of a SHO V6:

    atrhugo guest

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    SHO "Eco-boost"

    "Take that you tofu eating Prius owner, my Ford Taurus SHO is green too!!"

    atrhugo guest

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    Some days I think I could learn to like owning a Mercedes-Benz . . .

    atrhugo guest

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    . . . but then they do something like this.

    atrhugo guest

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    What's an Auto Show without a Dub's car?

    2009 Hyundai Genesis 'Dub Edition' - pearl white, 22" wheels and 800 lbs of stereo gear in the trunk.

    atrhugo guest

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    Saturn Display

    The Saturn Display was as quiet as a mausoleum. Opps.

    atrhugo guest

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    370z

    The 370Z's interior is a definite improvement over the outgoing 350Z. There are no touch points that are hard plastic anymore (in fact Nissan may have gone too far in the opposite direction, providing too much give on some surfaces). However, the little eyelids over the gauges in the center of the dash are a bit much.

    The blue, in person, looked a bit like a pretty metallic version of Laguna Seca blue. The overall exterior styling is sharper than the outgoing Z, which I frankly found rather bland.

    It's nice to have the tach front and center, lending a sporting cachet. So is this a legit competitor to the outgoing Z4 Coupe? Nice price point but I suspect there's a Center out there that would do a great deal on a Z4 coupe.

    atrhugo guest

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    Spyker

    "Nulla tenaci invia est via" - for the tenacious no road is impassable, was the motto of the Spyker corporation that resulted from the merger of the Spijker brothers automobile coachworks and the Dutch Aircraft Factory; the company's Spoked Wheel/Propeller logo was adopted.

    Spyker ceased building cars in 1925, but some tenacious Dutchmen resurrected the company in 1999, restored the motto and logo and returned to manufacturing automobiles of a very high calibre.

    The current Spyker's styling has been difficult for me to come to grips with since I first spied a C8 Spyder on the way to or from some event at Pebble Beach in 2003. It stood out, which is saying something when there is so much automotive eye candy pulling at you there.

    But I couldn't contextualize what I had seen, and until running across the display of C8 Laviolettes at this year's Chicago Auto Show, I hadn't given it much thought. It was in spending time looking at the components, switches, gauge faces, fonts, and quilted leather that the context occurred to me.

    The styling made sense when I reached back and recalled images of Duesenberg, Bentley, Horch, and Maybach. A whiff of the Jazz age in a modern container.

    There is a hand crafted, bespoke feel to the interior of the C8. A structural strength to the switchgear and sense of wonder at the exposed shift linkage. My god - how delightful.

    The C8 Laviolette LM85 is a limited production tribute to Spyker's Le Mans GT2 cars. (Spyker did race F1 briefly - much to the detriment of their financial standing - it is truly well and good that that chapter is behind them). The orange paint on the exterior is a tribute to Holland of course, as is the orange stitching on the sumptuous black leather.

    An Audi 40 valve V8 powerplant, located amidship, delivers approximately 400 HP, propeling the C8 Laviolette to 100 kmh in 4.5 seconds. It's coupled to a Getrag 6 speed transaxle with a Drexler LSD. The engine/geartrain combination are good for a top speed of approximately 300 kmh.

    What is interesting is that there is a minimum of electronic tomfoolery to interfere with your ability to drive. (Or inability for that matter; dare it be said that the C8 will not suffer fools lightly?).

    Exclusivity is over the top for Spykers. I suspect you'll see 10 Ferraris for every Spyker you see on the road.

    But if you're in Chicago for the auto show, stop at their booth, it's worth a look.
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    Oregon

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    Great reports, Hugo. Thanks for your hard work, palomino. ;^)

    Cody

    atrhugo guest

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    Thanks Cody!

    Since Media Days ended Thursday I probably ought to wrap this up.

    So here's a couple of parting thoughts. There were fewer introductions, and much less pizzazz, this year than prior. That's to be expected in an industry where peak sales have gone from 17 million to 10 million and some feel that they'll bottom out at 7 millions sales (Jim Press mentioned that figure in the Chicago Economic Club luncheon Thursday). There wasn't an overly gloomy feel to it, but it definitely was muted.

    There were a couple of empty areas in the hall this year and the place was not swarming with industry executives (as in year's past). Porsche did not even have a display (and I was hoping to see the Brumos DP winning car at breakfast one morning). BMW had no reveals this year, though the new Z4 was in the booth.

    As always, Paul Brian reprized his role as major domo in charge of herding the journalist cats, a difficult job in the best of times. And he did it with the usual and appropriate sarcasm. I enjoy my interactions with that man. Greg Schmitz worked a lot of the logistics and he and his team deserve a lot of credit for making this a productive two days.

    Bridgestone provides the wherewithal to bring a block of journalists to town and house them. And for that I'm thankful.

    Bridgestone is also heavily involved in youth driver safety, something that BMW CCA chapters do also with Street Survival (I'd like to personally thank all BMW CCA members involved in this - thank you, your efforts may end up saving the life of not only the trainees, but others as well).

    Bridgestone supports the 'Driver's Edge', a program not unlike Street Survival, and also Safety Scholars Video Contest, where the message of driver safety is espoused by young drivers. Anything that can be done to increase teens' awareness of driving safety is to be applauded and Bridgestone's effort to present the message in a non-preachy manner is effective.

    Again, to all the BMW CCA members involved in Street Survival, a hearty pat on the back and thanks from the bottom of my heart. You are making a difference and it is appreciated.

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