It’s time to write something nice about Chrysler. The once nearly dead auto company made “60 Minutes” last Sunday, having repaid its federal debt, plus healthy interest, to the federal government (also known as the taxpayers; in other words, us). Sergio Marchionne, the CEO, has clearly done an outstanding job of raising Chrysler to profitability, something even mighty Daimler-Benz could not seem to manage. (Daimler once said the Chrysler deal was a merger of equals, or something close to that. However, Daimler was more equal than Chrysler.) 

I compared my Chrysler 300-C to several other cars over the past few weeks, including hybrids, and the others came up short. I have to give the Mercedes people some credit for that — the rear-wheel drive and five-point suspension system make for fantastic handling and a luxury ride. Well, the hybrids certainly get better gas mileage, don’t they? I was favorably impressed with the Toyota Prius and the Ford Fusion. The new Prius Five (only Toyota would make two different cars called a Prius Five and a Prius V — so much for Roman numerals) is lots bigger and lots more comfy than the Priuses of old. The front seats are excellent. My big problem was that the steering wheel was a bit on the small side and did not have enough telescope range. After an extended drive, I believe absolutely that the Prius gets 50 mpg in and out of town. 

The Ford Fusion Hybrid gets something like 41 mpg in town, and that’s a number I believe after an extended drive. It’s a nice car. Ford took no government loans, and, for that, it deserves much credit. The Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Toyota Camry Hybrid (my wife drives a 2007 model Camry Hybrid) use, essentially, the same technology. The Prius uses similar technology but relies more on the electric motor than the other two. The Ford range is better than 700 miles; the Prius is more than 600 miles. Since each of the three cars has a “real” four-cylinder engine in addition to a battery pack and electric motor, if you can find gas stations, you can drive forever.

The Chevy Volt — currently on production hiatus — uses the battery more than any of the others. It can travel more than 300 miles without using gasoline, and then it can travel another 35 miles with its helper engine. At least, that’s what the salesman said. Once you get to the 335-mile marker, you better have an electrical outlet nearby, and if it’s not part of a 220-volt “charging station,” it may take you eight hours to get a full charge. 

I’m keeping my Chrysler 300-C, mind you, but I enjoyed my foray into the world of hybrids. I like the Toyota/Ford technology — since my wife has used it for almost five years in her Camry Hybrid, I can attest to the fact that it works well. 

I asked some of the Pacer Financial execs, on a webinar last week, when they were discussing the increased global demand for auto fuel (global, not United States — our demand is pretty flat), if they all drove Priuses. The head guy said he handled the increased expense by investing in the RBS exchange-traded notes they distribute. One ETN deals with oil — here’s what the website says about it:

“If the closing level of the Benchmark Index is at or above its historical 100-Index business day simple moving average for five consecutive Index business days (i.e., a “positive trend” is established), the Index will track the return on the Benchmark Index and will have no exposure to the Cash Rate until two Index business days after a negative trend occurs. Conversely, if the closing level of the Benchmark Index is below such average for five consecutive Index business days (i.e., a “negative trend” is established) then the Index will track the Cash Rate and will have no exposure to the Benchmark Index until two Index business days after the next positive trend occurs.”

The oil ETN is either in cash or in oil futures, depending on which way the average is headed.

 Other RBS ETNs based on indices less volatile than oil use 200-day moving averages instead of the 100-day oil average. The idea is to get a good portion of the upside return, but much less of the downside risk.  If you think about it, this can be a good way to play gold, oil or the S&P 500, yes? Pacer distributes the Royal Bank of Scotland’s products in the United States. Remember Planco? It distributed Hartford annuities. Well, Pacer seems to be Planco reborn — the head office seems to be in the same town and maybe even in the same building. The RBS offerings, though, are a long way from variable annuities. So, if you are worried about gas prices, you can buy a Prius, Camry or Ford Fusion Hybrid, or you can buy RBS Trendpilot’s oil ETN. The ticker symbol is TWTI.  

Have a sensational week and celebrate the success of the newly reborn U.S. auto industry.  

 

For more from Richard Hoe, see:

Do Yourself a Favor

Some Nice Words About Ron Paul

Unemployment, Republicans and the Market