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Auto Outlook: Ford, VW bullish on turbocharged engines

By AL SWANSON, UPI Auto Writer   |   Sept. 22, 2013 at 5:34 AM
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CHICAGO, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Despite the hiccups associated with any technology, the U.S. automaker Ford says it can see a day when all vehicles are either hybrids, electrics or powered by turbocharged engines.

Ford produced its 2 millionth EcoBoost engine Tuesday and said it plans to add to its lineup of five turbocharged powerplants, ranging from a 3.5 liter V6 to a tiny 1 liter three-cylinder engine, and may include a smaller EcoBoost V6 for the next F-150 pickup.

Ford plans to offer a 2-liter EcoBoost engine in a non-pursuit version of its Taurus Police Interceptor capable of getting up to 30 miles per gallon highway and 22 miles per gallon in city driving.

"Five is not the end of the road," said Ford Vice President of Powertrain Engineering Joe Bakaj. He said EcoBoost technology would help the automaker meet the federal mileage requirement of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

It was a "big risk for us as a company to go from a big V8 to a V6. We knew on paper it would be great, but until you launch and see consumers vote, you don't know if the strategy will work," he said Monday at the Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich.

About 20 percent of all new Fords have direct fuel injection EcoBoost engines, which generate the power of a larger conventional internal combustion engine via turbocharging and software while delivering improved fuel economy.

Although an EcoBoost engine is more expensive than a conventional gasoline engine it recoups the additional cost in fuel savings four times faster than a diesel engine, The Detroit News said.

Ford's faith in turbocharging and computer software was echoed by Volkswagen AG.

A spokesman for the German automaker predicted VW would phase out conventional gas engines in three or four years in favor of turbocharged and diesel engines.

"You have to have a turbo these days," Mark Trahan, VW's vice president for group quality," told the News. "We only have one normally aspirated gas engine, and when we go to the next generation vehicle that it's in, it will be replaced. So three, four years maximum."


GM closer to ending federal stake

The federal government's share of General Motors Co. is down to 7.3 percent.

The U.S. Treasury Department Wednesday said it sold 110.3 million shares of GM from May 6 through Sept. 13 recouping $3.8 billion for the government. So far Treasury has recovered more than $35.4 billion of the $49.5 billion it loaned GM in 2008.

The average price of the shares sold was $34.65, and with record profits now on the balance sheet GM stock is rising.

The government said last December it would gradually divest all of its holdings in the Detroit automotive icon by early next year, but The Detroit News says taxpayers are still likely to lose $10 billion on the bailout.

The Obama administration has called the bailout a success saying it helped save the U.S. auto industry, preserved tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs and kept the overall economy from from descending into depression during the financial crisis five years ago.

A White House statement said: "Today, the Big Three are profitable and gaining market share for the first time in 20 years."


Volvo goes 3 million miles -- and counting

Irv Gordon says he's enjoyed every one of the more than three million miles he's put on his 1966 Volvo P1800.

The cherry red Volvo crossed the 3 million-mile mark Tuesday on Alaska's Highway 1 as Gordon cruised along the Turnagain Arm of the scenic Seward Highway. Gordon has visited 49 of the 50 U.S. states.

Volvo says his achievement marks the first time an individual has traveled 3 million miles in the same car in more than 100 years of automotive history.

"It's not about getting to 3 million miles," said Gordon, a retired Long Island, N.Y., science teacher. "It's about the trips that got me to the 3 million miles. I never had a goal to get to 1 million, 2 million. I just enjoyed driving and experiencing life through my Volvo."

Gordon had a 125-mile daily commute when he bought the Volvo and had 500,000 miles after 10 years. The first million miles came in 1987 in New York's Central Park; he logged the 2 millionth mile in 2002.

He doesn't know if he'll drive a million miles more.

"Everyone asks, what's next," said Gordon. "I'll keep driving my Volvo P1800 to auto shows and taking trips across the country. Not much will change. But whether I drive 4 million miles is more up to me than it is the car. The car may be able to take it, but I'm not so sure about me."


Pope Francis I has new wheels -- sort of

The latest Popemobile is a 29-year-old Renault 4 hatchback with about 186,000 miles on the odometer.

The Renault was a gift to the pontiff from a 69-year-old priest from the northern Italian town of Pescantina near Verona -- who only drove to mass on Sundays (just kidding, folks).

The 76-year-old pope, whose official car is an armored Mercedes-Benz M-Class sedan with bullet-proof glass, reportedly was so enamored with the Renault, he took it out for a drive on the Vatican grounds.

Francis has asked Roman Catholic priests to live a simple life, drive inexpensive, humble vehicles and donate the money saved to charity.

The Renault 4 is a 1984 GTL model which has a 1.1-liter four-cylinder engine with 34-horsepower and a four-speed transmission with a shifter on the dashboard. The seats are basic cloth and vinyl, the windows slide open and there's no air conditioning or power steering.

Renault phased out the 4 in 1993, after selling more than 8 million worldwide.

One was used by Francis in Argentina long before he became pope.

Last summer, Renault gave Pope Benedict a specially designed all-electric car.

AutoblogGreen says the old Renault 4 can run on biofuel.

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