So what will it take to get the big auto-makers to manufacture new, more fuel-efficient vehicles? How about massive losses, uncertain oil prices, and a big fat recession.
While the auto industry should have been on this like white on rice at least ten years ago, it looks like arrogance and complete disregard for long-term planning may finally be giving way to the reality of an oil-strapped future.
At the 2009 North American International Auto Show, fuel-efficiency and electrification are taking center stage. But the question is, will these new vehicles just end up being a bunch of the same useless prototypes we've seen in the past? You know, the "latest" technology that conveniently never seems to transition from the labs to the lots?
I guess we'll find out soon enough. In the meantime, let's take a look at some of the vehicles that these guys are touting to the media...
That Which Could Save Detroit
GM's planning to release it new Chevy Spark to the U.S. market in 2011. This is a compact multi-purpose vehicle that delivers 40 miles per gallon. There's also the Orlando - a compact mini-van that is expected to be extremely fuel efficient. Though we have been unable to find an exact fuel economy associated with this one. And of course, the Chevy Volt. We are hopeful costs can stay under control on this one, as sticker shock could potentially keep consumers from having the opportunity to realize what an impressive piece of machinery this vehicle really is. In total, GM is showcasing 16 new and upcoming vehicles at the auto show.
Representatives from Ford have stated that the company is going to develop at least four high-mileage battery-powered electric cars by 2012. A full battery-operated van is also expected to hit fleets next year. And Chrysler is on track to add an electric car to its U.S. product line-up in 2010.
That Which Could Save Foreign Automakers
Chinese PHEV manufacturer, BYD will be introducing its new Plug-In, the F3DM to the North American market in 2011. That vehicle gets about 60 miles on one charge, and is expected to go for about $22,000.
Toyota certainly isn't sitting this one out either. The auto-maker now plans to launch as many as 10 new gas-electric hybrids within the next five years. Toyota is also planning to launch an all-electric car for city commuting by 2012. That vehicle, the FT-EV, is expected to deliver 50 miles on one charge. Perfect for most urban commuters' daily commutes. And of course, Toyota's new, third-generation Prius is being unveiled at the show, though we never expected the company to tinker with it too much...as it is the vehicle that has proven to be their bread-winner right now. Though the fuel economy has been increased to 50 mpg.
That being said, Honda's new Insight may give Toyota a run for its money. This new hybrid delivers 40/43 miles per gallon, and comes in at a cost about $3,000 less than the Prius. This cost advantage could certainly help Honda as consumers aren't likely to disregard price anytime soon.
That Which Can Make You Money
Overall, it's nice to see so much emphasis placed on fuel efficiency and electric vehicles this year at the North American International Auto Show. Let's just hope bailout dollars and dozens of press releases about the struggling economy don't produce more excuses instead of desperately-needed progress.
Now if a new line of electric vehicles and PHEVs do finally make it to market, it will be the high-performance battery manufacturers that will reward investors.
Of course, it's still too early to pick the winners here. In fact, just a few months ago, it looked like A123 Systems, which is planning to go public this year, was considered a front runner to supply GM with the batteries for the Volt. But last week, GM announced that it had instead chosen the Compact Power/LG Chem consortium for the first generation of the Volt.
GM also announced that it will develop its own in-house capacity to manufacture batteries.
As the sector further develops, and demand continues to grow from both the major auto-makers and the small start-ups, like Tesla and Phoenix Motorcars - certainly there will be plenty of opportunities to profit from the run on high performance batteries. And we'll be sure to pass those on to you along the way.
Until then, we believe the lion's share of 2009 profits will still be found primarily in the renewable energy sector.
While Obama's new energy plan is likely to spark a new wave of investment and large-scale financing, it will be the avalanche of new energy supply data that'll send renewable energy stocks to the moon.
We actually listed some of this data in our latest energy report. You can read that here.
To a new way of life, and a new generation of wealth...