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It’s sales are but a drop in the bucket for Honda, but the Civic GX, recently renamed the NG, might have a chance to grow its market share thanks to efforts by Clean Energy Fuels Corp. to expand U.S. infrastructure for natural gas vehicles.
The fact is, there is so much natural gas available in the U.S. that it’s actually being sold off as an export. Part of the reason is because currently Americans account for 112,000 or less than 1 percent of the world total of natural gas burning vehicles. Most of those are 18-wheel big rigs or fleet vehicles, but the Civic GX accounts for 13,000 since appearing on the American market 13 years ago.
It isn’t hard to understand why there are so few sold: of the roughly 180,000 gas stations across the U.S., there are roughly 1000 that offer natural gas. That means no road trips, no fooling around with the refuel light and little forgiveness if you happen to run the tank dry.
Despite all that, the compressed natural gas (CNG) Civic won the 2012 Green Car of the Year Award, beating out a host of cars including the Mitsubishi i, Ford Focus Electric and Prius V. It also snagged a guaranteed spot until 2015 in California’s coveted HOV lane sticker club, meaning owners may drive solo and skip through ridiculous Californian highway congestion – something that’s sure to make it a popular choice in SoCal.
The Honda won these accolades despite having comparatively poor milage with 27-mpg city, 38-mpg highway and a 31-mpg average, probably because it costs about 30 percent less to fuel them according to Honda. Natural gas costs about $1 to $2 less per gallon-equivalent.
Truthfully, the Civic has nothing to do with Clean Energy Fuels Corp.’s plans for expansion. They’re more more motivated by the crazy fuel volume transport vehicles consumer every year. Rich Kolodziej, president of the trade association NGV America, broke the numbers down in an interview with the Detroit News. If a driver gets an average of 25 mpg and drives 12,000 miles a year, that driver needs about 480 gallons per year. An average truck driver can travel 120,000 miles in a year getting only six miles-per-gallon needs 20,000 gallons of fuel, or as much as almost 42 normal drivers.
Given that there is a surplus of natural gas in the U.S. and that it’s significantly cheaper, installing that infrastructure makes sense. The special few who drive the Civic GX or NG will likely enjoy the benefit of having access to many more fueling stations.
[Source: Detroit News]
In order to counter currency and geographical volatility, Honda announced the use of North American assembly facilities to produce vehicles for export. After experiencing earthquake, tsunami, and yen fluctuation, many Japanese automakers are discussing methods of minimizing the export output of domestic assembly plants and increasing product assembly overseas.
Honda CEO Takanobu Ito tells Automotive News, “Right now, we are asking the U.S. to take on a lot of our production, and exports as well. Already they have been doing some exports to the Middle East, but we are asking them to do more exports around the world.”
Last year, 32,978 cars from plants in the U.S. were distributed for sale in 20 different countries. There has been no word on how much Honda plans to increase North America’s volume of export. However, Ito will cut Japanese plant exportation to 10 to 20 percent of total output. If needed, Honda may even further expand its operation in North America.
[Source: Automotive News]
BMWs in certain markets may be getting a “Made In China” code in their VIN numbers starting at the end of 2011, as the company plans to export Chinese made 5-Series sedans to certain markets.
The Truth About Cars quotes the CEO of BMW’s Chinese operations as stating “We will find some markets, maybe in the Middle East, somewhere in Asia, or some other markets that welcome the products where we can test this export effort. The main market of course is here (in China), because we can’t even supply enough here.”
The 5-Series is built in China as part of a joint venture with Brilliance. TTAC’s China expert Bertel Schmitt claims that the quality of cars built in Chinese/foreign joint ventures is no worse than vehicles built in Japan, America or any other country (and sometimes better). The 5-Series is a popular vehicle in China, with a long-wheelbase version regarded as a status symbol for wealthy Chinese who can afford a driver.
[Source: The Truth About Cars]
The rising yen is making exports from Japan increasingly unprofitable and Honda is looking to cut vehicle exports by 50 percent over the next 10 years as a response to the change in currency valuations.
Honda hopes to sell as much as 90 percent of its vehicles in markets that can use locally sourced vehicles. Honda operates a number of regional plants in Asia, Europe and the Americas to help limit exposure to currency fluctuations.
The Japanese automaker will rely on 660cc-minicars, known as kei cars, to help strengthen their market share position in Japan, where demand for traditional cars has been steadily contracting. Currently, Japanese exports make up 34 percent of Honda’s output, but the company hopes to reduce that to between 10 and 20 percent by 2021.
[Source: Automotive News]
Mitsubishi‘s lineup in the rest of the world is a pretty far cry from the Outlanders, Eclipses and Galants we’re used to in North America. In foreign markets, cars like the i, Colt and Delica can be had instead of the pulse-slowing fare sold here.
Mitsubishi apparently planned on bringing their Delica minivan to our shores, until a rocketing yen forced Mitsubishi to shelve those plans, as the vehicle became too expensive to sell in North America.
Road & Track magazine managed to get one of the evaluation vehicles, and their initial impressions were positive, although they felt that it was underpowered. With a 4000 lb curb weight and 170 horsepower, we can imagine that acceleration would be measured in geological ages, but it looks great. Mitsubishi is devoid of an entry in the minivan segment, and we would love to see this car on our continent. Unfortunately, it looks like we won’t drive one unless we rent one on vacation.
[Source: Road and Track]
Toyota‘s executive vice president for global manufacturing said that exporting the Corolla and Yaris to America was no longer profitable due to a strong yen, which is at a 15 year high relative to the U.S. dollar.
Given the current exchange-rate situation, it isn’t feasible, in terms of a business model, for us to produce Corolla or Yaris in Japan and export them,” said Niimi. “We’re working very hard to reduce costs to maintain the appeal of these cars.
Toyota is currently the largest exporter of vehicles to America. The Yaris, which sells for under $13,000 in the United States, would ostensibly be unable to maintain its current price point under current economic conditions.
[Source: Just Auto]