June 24th, 2010 at 12:10pm
General Motors lays the groundwork for an initial public offering in an effort to shake the “Government Motors” stigma. Ferrari decides to leave manual transmissions in the dust. More details of the Hyundai Sonata Turbo are here and they are impressive. All that and more, plus we get a personal styling tour of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
It’s Thursday, June 24, 2010 and here’s the news.
GM EYES THE ELECTIONS
General Motors is laying the groundwork to do an IPO, an initial public offering, to start selling stock again. The Detroit News reports that GM will hold a big financial summit next week with bankers, analysts, and investment firms. Bloomberg reports GM wants to sell at least 20 percent of the warrants the U.S. government holds in the company, taking the government’s ownership under 50 percent. Here’s my Autoline Insight. GM desperately needs to drop the derisive “Government Motors” nickname that many critics use to describe it. Many consumers still will not buy a GM car because the government technically owns the company. Also, President Obama needs this to happen going into the fall elections. He needs to convince those skeptical voters that the bailout was a good move that’s paying off for the government.
NO MORE HEEL-AND-TOE
When Ferrari first introduced digital gauges on some of its cars back in the 1980s, enthusiasts were horrified. They though it was nothing but heresy that Ferrari would use anything but big analog gauges. And this next announcement will make them cringe in horror. Ferrari is going to drop manual transmissions in its cars going forward. Bloomberg reports that this is a trend amongst other supercar manufacturers. The reason is that dual-clutch automatics are just getting so good, more people prefer them.
Ford will build a new manufacturing plant in Thailand despite all the political turmoil there. Construction of the $450 million factory should be finished in 2012. It’ll be a flexible facility, able to assemble a wide variety of products, but it will start by building the upcoming Focus. Initial annual capacity should be somewhere around 150,000 units. Up to 85 percent of its production will be for markets outside Thailand.
SAY WHAT? MACHO MINIVANS?
Automakers are constantly tinkering with their minivans trying to broaden their appeal. Nissan introduced the Quest as the minivan for people who hate minivans. Pontiac did a version of the Trans Port minivan called the Montana, trying to give it a Marlboro man image. Toyota is doing a series of hip-hop videos of the Sienna, calling it the Swagger Wagon. And now the Wall Street Journal says Chrysler wants to make a macho man version of its next-generation minivan. Here’s my Autoline Insight. Nobody aspires to own a minivan. People buy them because they need them, not because they lust after them. Minivans are just the most practical vehicle there is for a family. And all these attempts to make them macho, or tough, or cool are not going to work, because they never have.
Hyundai is really coming on strong these days, delivering one solid product after another. When it introduced the 2011 Sonata a few months back it took a big risk by NOT offering an optional V-6 engine – this sedan is four-cylinder only. But with up to 200 horsepower on tap the base powerplant is perfectly fine for most people. For those who want a little more oomph though, the company is offering a turbocharged four with 274 horsepower. We’ve known about this for a while, but now we have some more numbers to report. According to Autoblog, the Sonata 2.0 T will deliver up to 34 miles per gallon on the highway – that’s 7.0 liters/100 km – AND it’ll launch from zero to 60 in 6.5 seconds! That’s sports sedan territory people! Making the car even more enticing, it does it all on regular-grade gasoline.
HYUNDAI’S 5.0 V-8
In related powertrain news, Motor Authority reports that Hyundai’s working on a 5.0-liter version of its Tau V-8. The current motor – already a Ward’s 10-Best Engines winner – delivers 385 horsepower, but the enlarged model is expected to put out 429 ponies. Hmmmm … 5.0-liters … that number sounds familiar. Didn’t another automaker just introduce a 5.0-liter engine? … Oh yeah, Ford did. Its reborn 302 just came out in the Mustang – too bad though, it only delivers 412 horses. I wonder if the new V-8 will fit in the Genesis Coupe. Look for it in the Equus sedan around March of next year.
HYUNDAI HYBRID (subscription required)
In still more Hyundai news, Ward’s reports that the company is planning a dedicated-hybrid vehicle similar to Honda’s Insight. It’s unclear whether this new model would use the same powertrain as the Sonata hybrid, but that would be an obvious starting point. No introduction date has been given.
What do you think of the way the new Jeep Grand Cherokee looks? A lot of people seem to like it. In just a moment we’ll take you on a styling tour of the vehicle, with one of Chrysler’s top designers.
When Daimler split from Chrysler, almost all of the Germans working at Chrysler packed up their bags and went home. But not all of them. Klaus Busse stayed with Chrysler. He’s the head interior designer at Chrysler and we just got him to give us a styling tour of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The Grand Cherokee is already in production and should be showing up at dealerships very shortly.
Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tonight when our guest will be Kathleen Ligocki, who has an incredible amount of experience and insight into the auto industry. A former top executive at Ford, CEO of supplier companies, working with the Mexicans and Chinese. Has she got a lot to talk about. Get your questions ready for Rapid Fire and then join us tonight LIVE, starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time for Autoline After Hours.
And that’s it for the top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.