RepairPal Blog

David Leggett mentions today in his blog at just-auto.com that in the midst of the horrible economic turmoil and uncertainty facing General Motors, the company has opened an auto manufacturing facility outside of St. Petersburg in Russia.

The plant opening ceremony was last week, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev attended, so it was obviously a pretty big deal.  Mr. Leggett makes the important point that despite the recent nasty rhetoric being flung between Russia and the United States, an American company has made a big investment in Russia, and Russia likes it.

According to the Associated Press, Dean Kamen, the inventor of the famed Segway scooter, has created the first hybrid electric car based upon the Stirling engine.

The Stirling engine was first developed by Robert Stirling, a Scottish clergyman and inventor, in 1816.  A Stirling engine uses external heat to drive the internal pistons – the heat is applied to the outside of the cylinder walls to power the engine. 

Today President-Elect Barack Obama hosted his first press conference since being elected. He made the following comments about his plans for the US auto industry:

"The news coming out of the auto industry this week reminds us of the hardship it faces -- hardship that goes far beyond individual auto companies to the countless suppliers, small businesses and communities throughout our nation who depend on a vibrant American auto industry. The auto industry is the backbone of American manufacturing and a critical part of our attempt to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

It's all over the Internet this morning: General Motors had another astoundingly bad quarter and continues to hemorrhage cash.

You can read about it in Autoblog or in the New York Times.

Need a little more oomph under the hood? General Motors has announced that the LS9 under the hood of the Corvette ZR1 will be available as a crate motor next fall. With 639 hp and just over 600 ft. lbs.of torque, this monster is ready to be dropped into a willing engine compartment!

We won't be providing estimates anytime soon on the cost of installing an LS9 into your vehicle, but like they say, "If you have to ask..."

According to The New York Times, General Motors is putting the final touches on the next generation Presidential vehicle.

Would President Obama, Michelle, Sasha, Malia and their new puppy enjoy traveling in this car?  I’d like to propose they brand it “Obama” by turning it red, white and vibrant blue – carrying on with the theme and colors used during the campaign. They also need to add a roof rack for the girls’ gear and an entertainment system to keep the kids satiated during long road trips.  I also think that Obama would much prefer a fuel efficient vehicle, hopefully GM will consider using alternative energy to power this beast.

A Tesla Roadster, driven by Tesla's Director of Sales, was wrecked in a demonstration gone wrong. He took a turn at 100MPH on a wet road with low visibility and lost control. Remarkably, neither the driver nor the passenger (who was ejected from the car) were seriously injured. According to Wrecked Exotics, this is the 3rd accident involving the Tesla Roadster and none have resulted in serious injuries.

Thankfully Tesla has built passive and active safety systems into the Roadster's Li-ion battery to prevent thermal runaway (aka explosion), unlike Sony batteries.

SEMA is in full-swing today, and alternative fuel applications are all the rage.  Yesterday, I wrote about air cars, and today I'm blow away by the Ronn Motor Company's Scorpion.

The primary innovation that the Scorpion features is on-board creation of hydrogen gas from water using an electrolysis process.  The hydrogen gas is then combined with a more traditional combustion fuel to power the V6, and the result is 600 horsepower and more than 40 projected miles per gallon.  I'm sold, but I'm also somewhat short of the $250,000 asking price for the Scorpion HX.

Today, the Internet is alight with information and speculation about investment in Air Cars, or cars running on compressed air as fuel.  You can see details in Carol Bengle Gilbert's article.

The excitement over alternative fuels and approaches to powering our cars is great for the industry, but one thing we've taken note of at RepairPal is that change in the automobile industry is very slow.  New models have a life of about 6 years, or longer, and new technologies take a long time to catch on and prove to consumers that they work.  Case in point: how long was the Prius around before it gained serious support?  Additionally, the auto repair industry is still learning the fundamentals of hybrids!

Detroit auto giants General Motors and Ford each posted their October sales numbers today and they aren't pretty. According to MarketWatch, GM posted a 45% decline in October sales, blamed mostly by the credit crisis. "If you adjust for population growth, this is probably the worst industry sales month in the post-WWII era", says Mark LaNeva, head of GM sales and marketing.

Ford posted a 30% decline in their U.S. auto sales as well, but Ford looks to the launch of their new F-Series pickups to turn things around. Toyota and Honda posted less significant losses but still declined more than 20% each.