General Motors pins hopes to Peugeots European survival strategy

Citroen created DS, a sub-brand of small premium-priced Citroen created DS, a sub-brand of small premium-priced cars that use the same underpinnings as its regular cars but offer more style and features. Photo Credit: Citroen

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As the European auto industry continues to disintegrate, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen has unveiled a new survival strategy: Embrace the fact that it doesnt sell enough cars, just convince people to pay more for them.

Of course. Why didnt Packard and Studebaker think of that?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Peugeot wouldnt be in this fix if folks were inclined to pay top euro for its cars.

Why should you care? Because General Motors has tied its future to Peugeot. GM owns a piece of Peugeot. Its counting on joint engineering and purchasing with the French automaker to help save its German brand, Opel.

Opel itself spent the past few years trying to convince customers its cars were worth more than theyd been paying. That was one of the many failed stratagems that added up to $26 billion lost since about 2000, including $2 billion last year.

Peugeot lost $6.7 billion in 2012. Its Europes second-biggest automaker, after the Volkswagen Group, but it cant go on like that for long.

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Despite the long-shot nature of a plan that says fewer sales equals more money, theres some reason for hope. Peugeot pulled the trick off recently with its Citroen brand.

Citroen created DS, a sub-brand of small premium-priced cars that use the same underpinnings as its regular cars but offer more style and features. DS has been one of the European industrys few recent successes.

2014 CORVETTE PIONEERS SMART MATERIAL: Youve heard of the Smart car, but how about the smart vent? Its a feature Chevrolet engineers developed to save weight and make it easier to close the cargo hatch of the new 2014 Corvette.

Smart materials are specially treated so they have useful new properties. The irradiated "memory metals" that make some eyeglass frames nearly unbreakable and help them retain their shapes after being sat on are an example.

In the case of the Vette, a wire of memory metal attaches to a panel in the rear deck.

An electrical signal changes the wires shape to open the vent when the hatchback is open. The vent allows air to escape and makes it easier to close the hatch. Then the wire returns to its original shape and pulls the vent closed. The system weighsabout 1.1 pound less than a motorized control to do the same thing.

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GM says about 200 motorized parts on an average car could be replaced with memory metal.

MERCEDES-BENZ SHOWS HOPPED-UP HATCHBACK: Next stop, SEMA? You may never have thought youd see the king of luxury brands amid the compact tuners, bikini models and LED valve stems at the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show, Las Vegas annualtribute to automotive excess, but the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG hot-hatchback might be at home among the shows tweaked Ford Fiestas, Hyundai Velosters and Honda Civics.

The A 45 AMG features all-wheel drive, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and 360-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine.

The three-pointed Mercedes star is a classic, but I can already hear a shade-tree tuner pondering how much better itll look backlit with neon.

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