By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
As predicted a few years ago, the field of alternate propulsion vehicles continues to grow, and many are finding sales success as well. The new industry term seems to be “advanced powertrain” vehicles, and that encompasses everything that uses something beyond just a diesel or gasoline engine.
Some attribute the sales gains to rising gas prices, while others say the vehicles are becoming accepted in their own right. Yet another voice says it’s due to rising efficiency and the fact that the various systems are becoming more transparent or invisible to the driver.
Regardless, the U.S market shifted about 46,000 advanced powertrain vehicles in May. Toyota’s Prius family continued to lead the sales pack but Chevrolet’s Volt, Nissan’s Leaf, the Mitsubishi I, and the Buick LaCrosse and other GM models with eAssist all made respectable sales gains against May of last year.
But it’s not all roses in the electric propulsion world. Lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems of Waltham, Massachusetts, said recently that “the company’s history and near term forecast of incurring significant net losses and negative operating cash flows, raise substantial doubt on the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” The disclosure appeared in the company’s required 8-K financial filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
A123 supplies batteries to GM and Fisker and holds contracts with European OEMs as well. The bulk of the financial problems arose when the company had to recall and replace potentially defective battery packs and cells earlier in the year. They estimate the field campaign cost over $51 million, with another $15 million in inventory expenses. The company said it has rearranged its lines of credit and is seeking new funding as well.
Saab owners and the shops that work on them have been thrown a lifeline from Sweden. Although the auto maker is closed with no buyers in sight, the parts operation, Saab Automobile Parts AB, still stands as a separate company. They have announced a new subsidiary in the U.S. to supply parts and technical info for faithful owners.
North America Distribution Services Inc., trading as Saab Automobile Parts North America, will be based in Michigan and serve all states as well as Canada. The company noted that there are about a half-million Saabs on the road in North America.
The company recently signed an agreement to use Saab Automobile’s press and body shop in Sweden to manufacture replacement body parts, and a second agreement was signed for access to a large number of fully assembled parts and components.
The most expensive car in the world, at least for now? That would be a 1962 Ferrari GTO which was purpose-built for Stirling Moss to race. The car recently sold for $35 million, almost exactly ten times its sale price in 1996. The buyer is reported to be classic car collector Craig McCaw, owner of Eagle River Investments.
Interestingly Moss never drove the car, having been seriously injured in a prior race. The car does have a significant competition history with other drivers and competed in the 1962 24 Hours of LeMans.
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