GORDON E. APKER: March 8, 1944 - February 3, 2016. It is with great sadness that I report the death of Gordon Apker, a visionary collector and for 10+ years my Pebble Beach team leader. Goodbye my friend.
Sun Mar 06 2016 19:11:26 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
Collector Car Market – The Beginning of The End? August 5, 2014 by Rick Carey 35 Comments
The collector car market cratered in 1989-90.
What were the significant events that preceded the collapse?
1. Auction companies popped up everywhere trying to get a piece of a rapidly growing number of transactions, increasing prices and resulting commissions;
2. Cars sold to speculators, not collectors;
3. Individuals like Hans Thulin took on huge bets on the collector car market’s continued rise; Thulin eventually failed to consummate his purchase of GTO 3607 at Monaco in 1990 for $10.7 million and a year later it was sold for a reported $6.9 million to cover the gap;
4. Prices inflated by significant percentages in periods measured in weeks, not years;
5. The same, identical, cars turned over again and again, sometimes in months;
6. Promoters (auction companies, dealers, brokers, speculators, ‘investors’) argued, “Buy now, it will cost more next month”;
7. Cars crawled out of the woodwork and were sold quickly, with little serious research, to new money buyers who relied upon superficial descriptions and prior transactions to support their valuations;
8. New money was everywhere;
9. The popular press touted “investment values”;
10. High end Italian cars were taking off in price, leaving pre-war Classics in their dust.
Take those ten points and apply them to 2014. Most, if not all, of them are being repeated.
If that isn’t the prescription for a bubble, a boom, and an impending bust it’s hard to describe what it would be.
We’ve seen new auction companies debuting every quarter. Currently, another new auction company is seeking backing, including from an asset-liquidation specialist company [floorplanning collector cars for re-sale? That's about as insane as it gets.]
Finance/leasing companies are approaching collectors with mega-dollar cars offering loans at bargain basement rates.
Opportunists are everywhere. Uninformed new money is flooding the market. They don’t know what they’re buying (seven-figure GTCs, half-million dollar Dinos?) and are only following fashion – like sheep behind the Judas Goat headed for the slaughter house.
Ferrari 330 GTC
1968 Ferrari 330 GTC – This is where it gets exciting: Ferrari 330 GTC s/n 10937. This picture is from RM’s New York Auto Salon and Auction in 2002 where it sold for $85,250. At RM Monterey in 2014 it’s estimated at $650-750,000, at the low estimate (and don’t be surprised at all if it exceeds it) an increase of 7.6 times in twelve years, about 18.45% compounded annually.
1971 Lamborghini Miura SV
1971 Lamborghini Miura SV – With Lamborghinis, too, the sky’s the limit. Miura SV s/n 4942 sold for $825,000 at RM Monterey in 2010. Four years later it’s estimated at $1.8-2.4 million, a compound annual rate of return at the low estimate of 21.5%.
This summer’s reading list could include tomes like Boombustology, Kindleberger and Aliber’s updated Manias, Panics and Crashes, Chancellor’s Devil Take the Hindmost and of course good, old Tulipomania. They’re all recounting the same story of unsustainable, leverage-fueled excess.
The RKMotors auction in Charlotte last Fall was an example of hedge fund money deployed in pursuit of hot profits. When the sale fell on its face the whole auction organization was dismantled nearly instantaneously. Money guys have no patience. Their presence in the world of collector cars is anathema to long term value. If the market turns they will crowd the turnstiles getting out, taking any money available in the rush for the exit.
The Monterey auctions, with their new formats and many recycled cars, could be a watershed moment.
The best thing that could happen in Monterey is that the no-reserve Ferrari 250 GTO sells for $35 million, re-setting expectations to more reasonable levels. It’s the one thing that might scrape the froth off the frenzy and return expectations to less exuberant levels. Don’t expect it to happen, though. If it sells big the hot money buyers will see it as the vindication of their exuberance and head into the salons of Bonhams, RM, Gooding, Mecum, Rick Cole and Russo and Steele with their paddles held into the air in sky’s the limit bidding.
1966 Shelby Mustang GT350H
1966 Shelby Mustang GT350H – What’s up with Shelby Mustangs? Apparently not much. Here is RM’s lot #202, a ’66 GT350H, shown at Mecum’s original Belvidere, Illinois ‘Spring Classic’ in 2007 where it sold for $147,000, then at Mecum’s Indianapolis version of the ‘Spring Classic’ in 2010 for $127,200. It’s estimated by RM in Monterey at $150-200,000.
1967 Ferrari 330 GTC
1967 Ferrari 330 GTC – The 330 GTC phenomenon again. S/n 10007 sold for $506,000 a year and a half ago at RM Amelia in 2013. At Bonhams Quail Lodge this August it’s estimated at $800-950,000, 37.5% compounded annually if it sells at the low estimate.
A Gullwing, GTB/4 or XKE isn’t a pool of mortgages on dwellings where people live and pay every month to keep a roof over their families’ heads. It isn’t a corporate debenture backed by earnings generated by utility to consumers (assuming they have money to acquire that utility.) It’s a dormant, inanimate thing that costs money to own and maintain. It achieves value only through its owner’s enthusiasm and participation in events, even events as mundane as a Saturday afternoon drive. There is no inherent value in a Dino, particularly a half-million dollar Dino.
The Classic market is, thankfully, the exception. The collectors of classic Packards, Bentleys, Stutzes, Lincolns and Cadillacs migrate from the cars they knew as kids into new experiences and friendships among Classic owners and events. They have gained perspective. They don’t follow fads and fashion, they’ve been inoculated for that through hard experience.
1936 Auburn 852 SC Speedster
1936 Auburn 852 SC Speedster – Sold for $246,000 as an aged, tired restoration at Christie’s Greenwich auction in 2005, sold by RM at Monterey in 2008 after a nut-and-bolt restoration for $533,500, estimated by RM at Monterey in 2014 at $550-650,000, a steady, safe, conservative classic value.
1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Roi des Belges
1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Roi des Belges – Sold by Bonhams in 2008 at the dispersal of the Richard C. Paine, Jr. collection for $832,000, this important 1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost 40/50hp Roi des Belges Tourer is estimated at this year’s Bonhams Quail Lodge at only $750-900,000.
1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Cabriolet
1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Cabriolet – Pictured at RM Monterey in 2010 where it sold for $913,000, it had sold three years before at RM’s Phoenix auction for $1,028,500. It’s estimated at $1.1-1.3 million at RM Monterey 2014.
But the divergence between Classic values and more recent cars is a key indicator of frenzy, a transition from collecting to speculating.
Monterey is a celebration of automobiles, but the celebration has been overwhelmed by speculation. It isn’t the Pebble Beach Concours or The Quail or the Concours on the Avenue that gets headlines. It’s the auctions and the eye-popping prices the cars bring that are in the bold print.
Car collecting has lost track of its reason for being, the cars, and been supplanted by speculation.
It can’t continue, and Monterey may be the beginning of The End.
One of the world’s most celebrated movie cars has resurfaced, but in deplorable condition. It’s a sad story, as fans of the 1968 Steve McQueen movie have hunted the remaining Ford fastback for years, all to no avail. It now turns out that the car with chassis number 8R02S125559, was sold in 1987 to a 39-year old man who’d supposedly made his fortune in real estate in and around San Fransisco - not coincidentally the place where the movie was set.
One night, just weeks after the car was sold, the new owner decided it was a good idea to re-enact some of the notorious chase scenes in San Fransisco together with a friend. The duo supposedly trashed the car hard before jumping it at considerable speed in Kansas Street. Here, they went airborn, just like in the movie. However, they landed significantly less lucky. As a matter of fact, the touch-down had such an impact on the Mustang that it virtually broke in half. Although severely damaged the car may have been saved. Unfortunately the new owner, presumably so ashamed about his own stupidity, decided to get rid of the wreck and stored it in a Nevada yard, where it has now been rediscovered. To make matters worse many parts have been sold. The new owner is never the less planning a full restoration.
An avid fan discusses his love affair with a car whose roots are in racing.
Martyn Schorr, a public relations consultant from Sarasota, Fla., on his 2006 Ford GT, as told to A.J. Baime from the Wall Street Journal.
Fifty years ago this spring, Ford introduced a racing car called the GT40 in an attempt to become the first American manufacturer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I was a magazine editor at the time, and I went to the press conferences in 1964 and 1965. The company won in 1966, and it was a monumental achievement. I drove a street version of the GT40 in 1967, and I fell in love with it.
In model years 2005 and 2006, the company built the Ford GT, the spiritual successor to that car of the 1960s, a racing car with a license plate. Arguably, it's the only American supercar. Others come close, but they don't have the important history.
The car has a tremendous cult following. There are people who own one of each color. It's one of a few automobiles that is an appreciating asset; a low-mile, perfect car today could cost $250,000.
I bought mine 2½ years ago. The first thing Ford GT owners tell you when you buy one is that you need a comfortable chair to put in your garage, so you can sit and stare at the car.
It will go 205 miles an hour. But one of the biggest pleasures I get is washing it. To rub your hands all over that aluminum body? It's just a very sensual automobile.
Mon Feb 10 2014 20:05:45 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
Will Bob Lutz's VL Automotive really offer V8 conversions for Tesla Model S?
VL Automotive is closely tied up with Fisker. The company's first product, the Destino, is a converted Karma and the Destino Red Concept, just unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show, is the same hardtop Karma convertible that Fisker showed in 2009. So, what a surprise it was to see that Bob Lutz, who owns half of VL Automotive, is ready to convert a brand new electric vehicle: the Tesla Model S. A gas-powered Tesla? Say what?
A gas-powered Tesla? Say what?
That's at least one way to read this short article in The Detroit News. There's not a lot of context and a distinct lack of details, so we're left wondering if maybe Lutz just meant that Model S owners can buy a Destino. You can read the exchange for yourself here.
What we do know is that Lutz said that VL Automotive has already sold nine Destino conversions. The cars cost $200,000, up from the previous estimate of $180,000, and well above the $116,000 max price tag on the original Karma. For your money, you get a 6.2-liter V8 taken from a Chevrolet Corvette that puts out 636 horsepower and can beat the 135-mile-per-hour top speed that the Karma has. Lutz said that all could add up to sales of around 200 or 300 Destinos each year.
Sun Jan 19 2014 17:05:07 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
Now that the dust has settled from last week's introduction of the new all-aluminum Ford F-150, the issues seem to come down to improved fuel economy thanks to reduced weight, zero rust, while the flip side equates to nightmarish repair issues (welding aluminium is no cake-walk) and will the heartland accept two less cylinders for hauling cows and potatoes? What say you Pix fans?
Wed Dec 18 2013 22:19:01 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
The Tokyo Motor Show (through Dec. 1) unfailingly offers the most outlandish concept cars on the auto-show calendar, whimsical mobile-bots that would never in a million years be built. The i-Road isn’t one of them.
Toyota is producing the first of hundreds of these all-electric tandem-seat three wheelers and will be setting them loose, for example, in the streets of Grenoble, France, next year as part of an urban car-sharing experiment called Ha:Mo (that is short for Harmonious Mobility).
The Toyota i-Road is one of several highly evolved, micro-commuter EV prototypes that Japanese auto makers featured at the Tokyo show this year, and it is a fair example of their anxieties. If current trends hold, the megacities of Asia and South America will be asked to absorb tens of millions more cars and trucks in the next decade. Various species of smaller-than cars, in two-, three- and four-wheeled morphologies, will have to evolve to fit where the conventional automobile won’t.
The three-wheeled i-Road is narrow and tall. Toyota notes it is only as wide as a large motorcycle, and four can fit in the parking space required for a Camry. The driver seating is , like a single-seat race car or an enclosed scooter. A passenger seat has been wedged behind the driver, but it is best thought of as a parcel shelf.
It is a coupe, I guess, with doors on either side of the raked canopy glass. The driver lands in the minimalist seat, about 10 inches off the ground, and grabs hold of a vaguely aeronautic steering yoke. Indeed, the i-Road experience is much like sitting in a glider cockpit: minimal central LCD display, lightweight seating, plastic skin all around, panoramic outward vision.
The i-Road uses two torque-rich 2.7-hp (2-kW) in-wheel electric motors to move at speeds up to 28 mph. That is the maximum allowable in Europe for vehicles not requiring a driver’s license to operate. Toyota execs say a 37-mph version will be available in Japan. The lithium-ion battery pack is good for about 30 miles of range.
Despite its size, the i-Road will provide many of the usual auto amenities, including an audio system, a windshield wiper and that gemstone of a headlamp. In addition to the three-point harness, an air bag will be fitted to later prototypes. Let’s hope you don’t need that.
What happens next is the source of the i-Road’s innovative charm. The trike is steer-by-wire, with guidance inputs digitally translated into the steering angle at the back wheel; meanwhile, geared actuators articulate the front wheels, and their fender enclosures, up and down, causing the buggy to lean into corners like a downhill skier shifting body weight to the ski.
This Active Lean technology relies on the supple algorithmic interplay between the rear-wheel steering and front-wheel articulation, allowing lean angles approaching 30 degrees, depending on speed and steering input. If, for example, a driver has the i-Road fully heeled over and suddenly slows, the i-Road—having consulted its onboard gyroscope—will pull itself upright to avoid tipping. The independent wheel articulation also allows the buggy to traverse sloped pavement, like a parking garage ramp, while the gondola remains level.
At very slow speeds the rear wheel casters like a shopping-cart wheel, allowing the i-Road to turn in less than a 10-foot circle.
Like other journalists invited to drive the i-Road in Japan last week, I had a mere three minutes behind the wheel. It was enough to know the i-Road moves unlike anything else on wheels, with a surprisingly intuitive driving experience. If you have ever leaned a bicycle or a scooter into a curve, you would find the i-Road completely familiar.
It is also a blast to ride, or drive… Operate? The steering software follows commands fluently, and going through a series of S turns, the i-Road telemarks with absolutely no drama. “It will never tip, so feel free to drive it how you like,” assured chief engineer Makoto Morita.
Should Toyota build the i-Road en masse? “We haven’t been able to decide either,” said Mr. Morita, with a laugh. The i-Road is aimed at the contentious urban centers of Asia, but it isn’t hard to imagine them waggling around Santa Monica or Martha’s Vineyard. Talk about a concept car.
Honda Uni-Cub: The Uni-Cub reminds us that for the Japanese auto industry, mobility means more than automobiles. For a nation with one of the world’s fastest-aging populations, getting around at pedestrian speeds is a social concern and huge potential market opportunity for car makers. Riders on the Uni-Cub look like they are sitting on the beak of a well-fed penguin. The padded seat is 24.4 inches high. The stubby, tuxedoed body conceals Honda’s “Omni Traction Drive System” with automatic balance control. Riders merely shift their weight to steer and stop the Uni-Cub. With a top speed of 3.7 mph, the Uni-Cub is designed for indoor office and commercial environments.
Nissan New Mobility: If any company has earned its bones in the electric-vehicle market, it is Nissan, the maker of the first mass-produced EV, the Leaf. But the quadruped here is a Nissan-skinned version of a Renault Twizy EV (Renault is Nissan’s Alliance partner), a tandem-seat micro-commuter weighing 1,100 pounds, powered by a 17-hp electric motor with 42 pound-feet of torque, good for a top speed of about 50 mph and a nominal range of 62 miles. But it isn’t really about the car. It is about sharing. With the New Mobility Concept, Nissan will study urban car-sharing strategies, such as “two-mode EV car sharing,” where the car is used “as a private commuter vehicle in the mornings and evenings, and as a corporate car during business hours, contributing to the revitalization of communities with improved mobility in both urban and tourist locations,” according to a company news release.
HONDA MC-Beta: Japan’s government is considering how to privilege a new class of “micro-sized mobility products,” a vehicle category that meets Europe’s rules for quadricycles (880 pounds max curb weight and no more than 20 hp). The Honda MC-Beta was one of several such vehicles at the Tokyo show’s “Smart Mobility City” pavilion. It’s a tube-frame, plastic-bodied “micro-sized, short-distance EV commuter,” as Honda sees it, with 50-mile range, a nominal 15 hp and a top speed of about 45 mph. The MC-Beta is in early trials in Japan, assigned the unsexy task of exploring “desirable usage patterns and needs for micro-sized mobility products as a part of a social system that will help promote city planning and address issues related to transportation of people in each community.”
Sun Dec 01 2013 22:55:57 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
For a certain type of outdoorsy person, the Volkswagen VOW3.XE +2.39% bus was the quintessential vehicle of the 1970s and early '80s. Then VW buses grew hard to find and the Toyota 7203.TO +1.93% Pickup took its place, because it was cheap, had a reliable 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine that got good mileage, and you could sleep in the back. In the 1980s and '90s, the Toyota truck was it.
I bought my 1989 Toyota in 1994 from a friend of my brother's for $7,500, when I was 23. I was becoming a dropout and I didn't want to pay rent. I was after the freedom of an affordable car that I could live in, so I put a shell on the back, with a bed built into it. I was working seasonally as a river guide in Utah, then I'd take off and roam around. Being single (except for my dog), it was a pretty perfect living arrangement.
Now I'm 42, married and I own a house in Missoula, Mont. I have health insurance and even a lawn mower. I've moved on to more practical cars with more seats. But I can't get rid of the Toyota because of the sentimental value—road trips with different friends, or the time I rolled the truck on a dirt road. It had 42,000 miles on it when I bought it. Now it has 237,000. Every dent tells a story. It's become a symbol of my younger, simpler life.
Mark Sundeen , the author of "Car Camping" and "The Man Who Quit Money," on making his home in a pickup truck, as told to A.J. Baime:
Thu Oct 10 2013 15:51:26 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
GM prods dealers to sell cars online. The software, which keeps GM's 4,300 dealers central to the sale of its vehicles, will provide a high-profile test of whether the auto maker can better cater to online-savvy consumers without running afoul of state franchise laws that give dealers exclusive rights to sell most new cars.
You can buy everything online now, from food to jeans. What about a new car? General Motors is trying to ahead of the trend to sell what might be the last product to be sold online. Christina Rogers reports. Photo: AP.
By the end of this year, GM plans to extend a Web-based application, called Shop-Click-Drive, to its entire dealer network. The app would let new-car buyers use their computer screen to lock in the price of a new car, get an estimate of the trade-in value of their old car, apply for financing and even arrange a test drive or delivery of their new vehicle.
Tue Oct 08 2013 21:21:07 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
A fully autonomous vehicle is at least more than a decade away. That’s one way to look at it. The other is, Holy Cow! Robot cars in a decade? Where do I sign up? Dan Neil takes a ride in Mercedes-Benz’s autonomous research vehicle, and looks at the robo-cars of today and tomorrow.
I'm a third-generation grocer. My wife was urging me to get myself a treat, because I work all the time. I haven't had a fast car since I plowed my old BMW 530i under a truck in 1981. So a few weeks ago, I went to the Jaguar showroom on 11th Avenue.
I've always loved the old Jaguars in British racing green. And they had an F-Type S in that color—the midlevel engine size in the roadster launched this year. [It's the first Jaguar two-seat sports car since the E-Type of the 1960s.] My wife and I have three young kids, so I texted her: "The car I'm looking at only has two seats." She wrote back, "Great. One for you and one for me!"
The experience of driving the car is that intense voluptuousness that omnivores seek, whether in a food or an automobile. If I had to compare the car to a cheese, it'd have to be British. The car drives as smooth as a Stinking Bishop, one of my favorite English cheeses. It's as reliable as a raw-milk Cheddar, as tangy as a Cotswold and as assertive as a good Stilton.
My kids love to play with all the bells and whistles. They call it "Daddy's roadster." I still don't know what half the buttons do. For me, out near the farm we own in New Jersey, the most wonderful thing is to drive my wife around a curve at 60 miles an hour instead of 25—and hope we don't hit a deer.
Rob Kaufelt, owner of New York-based Murray's Cheese shops, discusses British cars and Stilton, as told to A.J. Baime.
This summer might have been the last for some of the country’s surviving drive-in movie theaters. Most of them have yet to make the switch to digital projectors, as Hollywood phases out film. This month carmaker Honda will pick five drive-ins to supply with the new technology, but what about the rest of them? Are they worth saving too?
At the peak of their popularity, there were more than 4000 drive-ins in the U.S., but now we’re down to fewer than 400. “I’d say there’s not enough. I mean they don’t have to be a quarter mile apart from each other like they were back in the 50s and 60s,” says Todd Ament, who owns the Riverside Drive-In in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania.
He says he grosses an average $150,000 per season. Going digital will cost him $60,000-$80,000. But from Ament’s perspective, it’s worth doing.
“You know, to continue providing a piece of Americana that has been, like, lost and forgotten about,” he says. He adds that drive-ins can be more affordable for families than the cineplex.
They still have a strong customer base, too, according to Kipp Sherer with Drive-ins.com. “I think it’s definitely a labor of love. However, they do make money too,” Sherer explains. “And some of them are only open for a handful of months out of the year.”
Sherer says thriving drive-ins have the same business model as indoor theaters; most of their profits come from selling popcorn.
By Shannon Mullen
Wed Aug 07 2013 20:01:55 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
Bernie Ecclestone indicted by German court for alleged bribery. Lawyers for Formula One impresario accepted indictment. Ecclestone claimed he has done 'nothing illegal'.
By Paul Weaver
Bernie Ecclestone said his lawyers have accepted an indictment from a court in Germany. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images
Bernie Ecclestone's hold on Formula One, as the sport's chief executive, commercial rights holder and for almost four decades its most dominating personality, could be loosening with the news that he has been indicted by prosecutors in Germany investigating allegations of bribery.
Ecclestone, who will be 83 in October, confirmed the news on Wednesday when he said: "I have just spoken to my lawyers and they have received an indictment. It's being translated into English."
Ecclestone added: "We are defending it properly. It will be an interesting case. It's a pity it's happened."
He described the serving of the indictment as "inevitable," adding "If someone wants to sue you, they can do it and you have to defend it."
The news came as Ecclestone's representatives attended a court hearing in London to fight claims that he had undersold the broadcast rights to F1 to CVC Capital Partners, the private equity company that has a controlling interest in the sport.
The bribery allegations have been hanging over Ecclestone's head since the jailing, for eight and a half years last year, of Gerhard Gribkowsky, the BayernLB bank executive who was found guilty of taking $44m (£29m) in bribes and failing to pay tax on the money.
Gribkowsky said he received the money from Ecclestone in 2006 and 2007 in relation to the sale of F1 rights to CVC.
Ecclestone, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, said he paid the money because Gribkowsky had threatened to blackmail him.
Ecclestone has said that he could be removed from his position in charge of F1 if found guilty. But, in a sense, his guilt or otherwise is not the problem for F1 right now.
It is the prospect of Ecclestone being dragged through long months of court proceedings, a major distraction as the sport plans a flotation in Singapore.
CVC are already believed to have drawn up a shortlist of possible successors to replace Ecclestone. That was more to do with his age than anything else. Now CVC and the sport has a lot more to worry about.
Sat Jul 20 2013 14:10:27 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
Former Padres President and CEO Tom Garfinkel could be returning to IndyCar.
Within minutes of Garfinkel’s resignation from the Padres Tuesday morning, speculation spun out of Indianapolis that Garfinkel could be filling the presidential vacancy at Hulman Motorsports Properties.
The position would seem to be a perfect fit for the 44-year-old Garfinkel.
And Garfinkel might be the perfect person for the job...
Chubb is upping the ante in the collector car insurance biz in an already crowded field. Their e-newsletter is a good read and includes a wide range of topics including this month's Amelia Island concours feature by Sports Car Market's Keith Martin.
Wed Mar 20 2013 14:23:08 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
2013 Geneva Auto Show: Kia Provo Concept Wows the Crowds.
The Kia Provo Concept appears for the first time at the 2013 Geneva Auto Show.
The stunning Provo Concept is not slated for production, but it likely foreshadows future Kia designs.
Highlights include turbocharged hybrid power and a 1-piece carbon fiber dashboard.
If you're digging the Kia Provo Concept's sense of style, you're not alone. It's been one of the biggest hits at this year's Geneva Auto Show, flaunting a sleek yet muscular shape that puts the Kia brand in a whole new light.
Granted, Kia's styling has been a strong suit ever since former Audi designer Peter Schreyer came aboard a few years back. The current Optima, Sportage, Rio and Soul all boast cutting-edge looks.
But the Provo Concept clearly takes it up a notch. Slap a BMW badge on the Provo's nose and the crowds wouldn't question it for a second. The proportions are perfect on this car, and there's a confident crispness to it that recalls Schreyer's Audi days. The consensus seems to be that if Kia built this car, style-conscious car shoppers would be lined up out the showroom door.
Naturally, there are some details here that wouldn't make it to production. The carbon fiber exterior panels and dashboard would have to go, for example, and we doubt the aluminum toggle switches would make the grade. How about the active rear spoiler with adjustable airflow vents? Yeah, that's another one that would likely end up on the cutting room floor.
The Provo Concept's hybrid powertrain, on the other hand, seems pretty doable. The gas engine, a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, is already in service in the Veloster Turbo, and the dual-clutch automatic transmission could be derived from Hyundai's existing DCT. As for the electric motor that drives the rear wheels, well, it depends on how much Kia wants to charge -- but we don't doubt that they've got the requisite technology.
In short, this is a car that could be built. And we'll be very surprised if something like it doesn't end up hitting dealerships within the next few years, whether it's in the form of a redesigned Soul or an all-new model designed to make Kia's lineup a little more upscale.
What it means to you: For now, just enjoy the eye candy, and the fact that you're genuinely ogling a concept car from Kia. How times change, eh? One of the more notable storylines from the 2013 Geneva Auto Show is that Kia is really coming into its own.
Fri Mar 15 2013 14:46:06 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
Electric cars are promoted as the chic harbinger of an environmentally benign future. Ads assure us of "zero emissions," and President Obama has promised a million on the road by 2015. With sales for 2012 coming in at about 50,000, that million-car figure is a pipe dream. Consumers remain wary of the cars' limited range, higher price and the logistics of battery-charging. But for those who do own an electric car, at least there is the consolation that it's truly green, right? Not really.
For proponents such as the actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio, the main argument is that their electric cars—whether it's a $100,000 Fisker Karma (Mr. DiCaprio's ride) or a $28,000 Nissan Leaf—don't contribute to global warming. And, sure, electric cars don't emit carbon-dioxide on the road. But the energy used for their manufacture and continual battery charges certainly does—far more than most people realize.
A 2012 comprehensive life-cycle analysis in Journal of Industrial Ecology shows that almost half the lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions from an electric car come from the energy used to produce the car, especially the battery. The mining of lithium, for instance, is a less than green activity. By contrast, the manufacture of a gas-powered car accounts for 17% of its lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions. When an electric car rolls off the production line, it has already been responsible for 30,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide emission. The amount for making a conventional car: 14,000 pounds.
While electric-car owners may cruise around feeling virtuous, they still recharge using electricity overwhelmingly produced with fossil fuels. Thus, the life-cycle analysis shows that for every mile driven, the average electric car indirectly emits about six ounces of carbon-dioxide. This is still a lot better than a similar-size conventional car, which emits about 12 ounces per mile. But remember, the production of the electric car has already resulted in sizable emissions—the equivalent of 80,000 miles of travel in the vehicle.
So unless the electric car is driven a lot, it will never get ahead environmentally. And that turns out to be a challenge. Consider the Nissan Leaf. It has only a 73-mile range per charge. Drivers attempting long road trips, as in one BBC test drive, have reported that recharging takes so long that the average speed is close to six miles per hour—a bit faster than your average jogger.
Charlie Drevna, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, on how Washington's fuel standards are increasing the price of cars and gas. Photos: Associated Press
To make matters worse, the batteries in electric cars fade with time, just as they do in a cellphone. Nissan estimates that after five years, the less effective batteries in a typical Leaf bring the range down to 55 miles. As the MIT Technology Review cautioned last year: "Don't Drive Your Nissan Leaf Too Much."
If a typical electric car is driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime, the huge initial emissions from its manufacture means the car will actually have put more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles. Similarly, if the energy used to recharge the electric car comes mostly from coal-fired power plants, it will be responsible for the emission of almost 15 ounces of carbon-dioxide for every one of the 50,000 miles it is driven—three ounces more than a similar gas-powered car.
Even if the electric car is driven for 90,000 miles and the owner stays away from coal-powered electricity, the car will cause just 24% less carbon-dioxide emission than its gas-powered cousin. This is a far cry from "zero emissions." Over its entire lifetime, the electric car will be responsible for 8.7 tons of carbon dioxide less than the average conventional car.
Those 8.7 tons may sound like a considerable amount, but it's not. The current best estimate of the global warming damage of an extra ton of carbon-dioxide is about $5. This means an optimistic assessment of the avoided carbon-dioxide associated with an electric car will allow the owner to spare the world about $44 in climate damage. On the European emissions market, credit for 8.7 tons of carbon-dioxide costs $48.
Yet the U.S. federal government essentially subsidizes electric-car buyers with up to $7,500. In addition, more than $5.5 billion in federal grants and loans go directly to battery and electric-car manufacturers like California-based Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors TSLA +1.64% . This is a very poor deal for taxpayers.
The electric car might be great in a couple of decades but as a way to tackle global warming now it does virtually nothing. The real challenge is to get green energy that is cheaper than fossil fuels. That requires heavy investment in green research and development. Spending instead on subsidizing electric cars is putting the cart before the horse, and an inconvenient and expensive cart at that.
Mr. Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center in Washington, D.C., is the author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" (Cambridge Press, 2001) and "Cool It" (Knopf, 2007).