Episode 561 – GM Management Shuffle, UAW Targets Toyota, Chrysler’s Hydraulic Hybrid

January 20th, 2011 at 12:10pm

Runtime 9:51

GM CEO Dan Akerson is really putting his stamp on the company by shuffling some of its top-level executives.  It looks like the UAW is targeting Toyota first as it aims to organize foreign transplants in the U.S.  Chrysler, in partnership with the EPA, is developing hydraulic hybrid technology with the goal of using it in large passenger cars and other light-duty vehicles.  All that and more, plus John answers your questions and responds to your comments in another installment of “You Said It!”


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This is Autoline Daily for January 20, 2011. And now, the news.

GM’s CEO Dan Akerson is really putting his stamp on the company. And women in the auto industry will be thrilled with the moves he’s making. Earlier this week he moved Chris Preuss out as President of OnStar and replaced him with Linda Marshall, who has extensive experience in the telecommunications industry. Yesterday he moved Tom Stephens out as the head of product development and replaced him with Mary Barra, who is 49 years old. Interestingly, she had been the head of Human Resources for GM, but she also has extensive experience in manufacturing and engineering. Clearly with these two moves Akerson is moving old-time GM executives aside in favor of fresh blood to bring in new perspectives. And the fact that he’s promoted two women is going to help project the image that this is a new General Motors.

Looks like the UAW could go after Toyota, first in its effort to organize the car plants of foreign automakers in the U.S. The Detroit News reports that while the union hasn’t officially announced its first target, it acknowledges that Toyota is on the list. The UAW has published a list of fair bargaining principles it wants the automakers to follow, otherwise it’s going to brand them as human rights violators and organize protests in the U.S. and in their home countries. It plans to recruit protesters from college campuses and even organize protests at the International Monetary Fund and Wall Street, as well as at dealerships and the automakers’ headquarters. Here’s my Autoline Insight. No matter what these car companies do, the UAW will brand them as human rights violators. The union says that if workers decide they don’t want a union, then it will just walk away. But you watch; that’s not going to happen.

Yesterday Jim Hall told you about Chrysler’s hybrid plans, which include the 300 and a minivan. Today, we have more details. The company partnered with the U.S. EPA to develop a hydraulic hybrid system.  The technology is already being tested in many industrial applications, including garbage trucks and large delivery vehicles, but the challenge here is size.  Engineers have to make the package smaller – small enough to fit in a Town & Country minivan.  Another hurdle they’ll have to jump is noise.  Hydraulic hybrids can be pretty loud. Chrysler plans to combine a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine with a 117 cc engine pump, a 45 cc drive motor and a two-speed automatic transmission.  Fluid for the system would be stored in a 14.4-gallon high-pressure accumulator. The EPA developed this hydraulic technology about eight years ago and has been trying to get an automaker to use it ever since.

Production of Nissan’s new NV commercial vans started today at its plant in Canton, Mississippi.  The Japanese automaker is targeting a segment traditionally owned by the Big Three, but it’s come prepared.  The 2012 NV series, which includes two heavy-duty models plus two different roof heights, are built on top of rugged, full frames – just like pickup trucks. Two engines are offered:  a 4.0-liter V-6 delivering 261 horsepower and a 5.6-liter V-8 with a stout 317 horsepower.  Both are matched to a five-speed automatic transmission.  MSRP for the base, 1500 model is about $25,000.  It’ll be interesting to see if Nissan can make a dent in this Detroit-dominated segment.

Over the last couple months we’ve been following how China is tightening its control of rare-earth metals mined in the country. Now the government is taking even more control. According to the AFP, the country nationalized 11 rare-earth mines because it wants to strengthen “protection and reasonable development” of the industry. But analysts fear all this will do is drive up the price of rare-earth metals which are needed to make hybrid and electric cars. Last month China said it would cut export quotas by 35 percent for the first half of this year.

In other China news, Changan Auto announced it will establish a research and development center in the Detroit suburb of Plymouth Township. The state of Michigan approved a tax credit of $1.7 million over seven years to convince the company to come to the state. Changan plans to invest $7 million in order to set up the R&D center.

Toyota was asked by the National Football League to edit one of its commercials that airs during its games. According to Reuters, the ad discusses how Toyota technology could potentially help understand and prevent brain injuries and shows a helmet-to-helmet hit and images of brain scans. But concussions and brain injuries are a hot topic in the NFL right now because of their long-term effects. So the league complained to Toyota and even threatened to not air the ad. In response, Toyota edited the commercial to remove the “offensive” material so it can continue to run it.

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!

And now it’s time for some of your feedback!

I can’t believe how many of you reacted to the news that Ford will drop the rear-wheel-drive Falcon in Australia.  tj Martin writes in, saying, “So now the Falcon RWD bites the dust.  What’s next? A front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder Mustang? A Hybrid all-wheel-drive Camaro? The Dodge front-wheel-drive EV Challenger? Next they’ll be selling us gerbil-powered Shelbys, Ferrari diesels, along with a two-cylinder four-door Corvette. Why not make things simple and get it over with. Make every car EXACTLY the same and let’s not pretend any aspect of driving is intended to be enjoyable or fun anymore.”

Ford, did you have any idea what dropping the Falcon would trigger?

C-tech wrote in to ask about what’s going on with Chrysler and Fiat in the U.S. market. “When will the new Fiat Dealers be up and running? The sales dates keep slipping back. The convertible 200 looks good. Why did everyone change from the traditional cloth-and-frame convertible to these metal shells and the inherent complications?”

Well C-tech, the Fiat dealers will come on stream all year long. I think the first one will be open in another month or so. They should have about 130 of them in place by the end of the year. And the reason you’re seeing so many hardtop convertibles is they’re a lot quieter, easier to live with during the winter and they provide the perception that they’re safer in case of a rollover when the top is up. For a lot of buyers, that’s worth the trade off of weight and complexity.

john787 saw the news that Toyota is working on electric motors that don’t need rare-earth metals and says, “Toyota working on a breakthrough by using an electromagnet, for the field of the motor instead of using rare-earth permanent magnets? I find that funny! The electromagnet has been used for close to a century. Using rare-earth magnets has only a slight advantage and that is weight.  It sure sounds good for Toyota, but Toyota is trying to make itself look like an innovator.”

John787, they have to do this. Otherwise, China has them in a headlock.

And finally, Pedro Fernandez reacted to the new-side impact rules by saying, “SEAT BELTS MUST BE USED BY ALL PASSENGERS, stick to that simple rule and all those regulations would not be necessary.”

Amen Pedro. In the U.S. seat-belt usage is at 85 percent of all motorists, and while that’s a lot better than it used to be it’s still below the rate in Europe, which is about 95 percent. If we hit that rate, we’d see a big drop in traffic fatalities.

Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time when our guest will be Joe Veltri, the head of product planning for the Chrysler Group. In fact, we’re going to do tonight’s show right in the Chrysler styling dome. Join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, for some of the best discussion on cars and the people who make them happen. That’s tonight on Autoline After Hours.

And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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29 Comments to “Episode 561 – GM Management Shuffle, UAW Targets Toyota, Chrysler’s Hydraulic Hybrid”

  1. HtG Says:

    Anyone care to estimate how much steam is going to be coming off DeLorenzo’s forehead tonight? What with Ackerson swinging the axe at the RenCen and the UAW getting itself psyched for CommieComando time, let’s hope Peter’s new A4 isn’t letting him down too.

  2. pedro fernandez Says:

    I almost punched my PC screen when I heard the UAW news, are they in cahoots with the Mexican govt to drive all transplants down that way? The subcompact Toyota Chihuahua built in the city by the same name does not sound too far-fetched, BTW the new Nissan cargo van sounds like a Titan-ic failure.

  3. rick Says:

    seen toyota is getting 25 million from dana to cover warranty costs of truck frames. think ford will ever get any compensation out of international for the junk 6.0 liters that so many people got shafted with?

  4. rick Says:

    will new nissan commercial vans be available in u.s. with diesel power?

  5. bob Says:

    Peter is far more restrained in AAH than in his Autoextremist site.

    Call me a cynic, but I just do not buy John’s spin about all that crap about how GM is going in an alleged “new” direction just because it promoted these two aging chicks with “experience” but with no real “ACCOMPLISHMENTS” and sure not much of “car guys” (or ‘car gals”) to these positions.

    It smacks of Political Correctness and Social Promotion, which happened even before GM was overtaken by the Obamaniacs and that crook Rattner who coughed up $10 million so he could avoid jail time.

    I saw a ton of female auto execs at GM and other Big 3 makers that did absolutely miserably, such as the now sent to china to get rid of her Susan Doherty, and also the former Saturn chief Jill LAidjak that now is running SMART into the ground…

    GM and the others, if they want to SUCCEED, should be GENDER AND COLOR BLIND in their important appointments.

  6. HtG Says:

    It was pretty trick the time Peter reacted to Ackerson calling out BMW, by saying, ‘this just in…SHUTTHEF*CKUP!’

    Who could disagree with that?

  7. Len simpson Says:

    “moving out” is a euphemism for ?????

  8. jim Says:

    John, how can you say the new GM management appointments signal anything new. Both women who received the new job titles have deep roots in GM. If people from outside the auto industry had been appointed, then you could say with a straight face that GM is going in a new direction. As it stands, these new appointments are the same old drum beat.

  9. Willi Says:

    the future of hybrid engines:


    no, not my company

  10. ckernzie Says:

    In a pathetic attempt to survive the UAW is trying to spread their cancer to Toyota & others but will end up killing themselves and sending manufacturing elsewhere. The “they didn’t go without a fight gang” have succeeded in chasing as much manufacturing out of UAW control as the Det3 can manage. The UAW’s jihadist mentality will soon have foreign manufacturers “leveraging their global assets” to avoid them. I hope the people & politicians in the Southern States where these plants are located recognize the danger and fight back or their economies may see the kind of decline that the entitlement kings and past clueless Det3 management have wrought upon States like Michigan. C’mon Southerners ‘rise again’

  11. Dale Leonard-Lakewood,Oh Says:

    Hi John, So where did Chris Pruess end up? Outside shoveling snow off his replacements car?

  12. Don Bronn Says:

    What is going on at GM? Stephens who was groomed by Bob Lutz being replaced by Barra. Why all this musical chairs game? Makes one think GM really doesn’t know what it is doing.

  13. Willi Says:

    sorry … too late … we’ve already risen

    Toyota in San Antonio

    GM’s hottest plant in Arlington

    oh, btw, so is the Superbowl

    y’all come

    after the bowl, even more will move here


  14. dcars Says:

    I think going after Toyota is difficult they match UAW benefits in the US. They would have a better chance with VW and might get political help. The German unions could be an ally since they could loose export sales of the Jetta and Golf.

  15. pedro fernandez Says:

    dcars: aren’t Jettas and Golfs built in Mexico? why would VW give in to the union, just move more production down Mexico way where the UAW can’t touch them. GM cant’ seem to find leadership they’re happy with, lucky for them most people that are shopping for a car don’t look at those details. Has anyone one here driven both a Fusion and a Malibu? Based just on driving dynamics which one would you spend your hard-earned money on?

  16. dcars Says:

    I didn’t know that VW is building Golfs and Jettas in Mexico. I can’t believe that German unions wouldn’t want to hook up with the UAW. Seams unfair that VW can have a non union shop in the US and GM and Ford are forced to deal with the German trade union. Unlike China, German industry competes directly with the US for the higher paying, high technology items that the US would prefer to manufacture.
    I’ve driven the Mailbu it has a nice ride and build quality. I’ve never driven in a Fusion.

  17. jesse Says:

    SOMEBODY TELL THE UAW TO LAY DOWN DIE.This isn’t the 60′s or 70′s.I hope Toyota and Honda or Hyundai do not give in to these blood sucking pariahs!They’ve ruined enough companies already!

  18. cwolf Says:

    Pedro: Both Fusion and Malibu are both nice cars and are pretty much equal. The Malibu 4cyl. seems to be more peppy than the other,but has a tad more interior noise and maybe a smidge more thursty. It also has a bit more plastic on the inside. Both trunks are large. The Fusion has better trunk access. Not sure what is standard on each,but I can state leather seats offer more support than cloth and my Milan had more seat control positions.

  19. HtG Says:

    tjM, did you catch this video about your LFA?


  20. cwolf Says:

    I am not sure why the UAW chose Toyota as the target; hyundai seems to be a bigger one. My GUESS is due to the amount of Toyota data that has been collected over the years. Since wages are no longer an issue (U.S. wages one of lowest in world..YES!!!), the focus will be on grievances,unfair practices and policies.
    As has been demonstrated, the Big 3 and the UAW are working more closely together. And the gains had by unionization of one after the other foreign U.S. companies will be mutually benificial to both union and BIG 3 by removing the many inequities to fair trade and competition.
    The few of you who make off-the-wall critizisms have been senseless and NEVER supported by facts. If the UAW and Big3 is making the effort to make things better for America and its workers, the least that should be done is to give them the oportunity to level the playing field.

  21. cwolf Says:

    Kit: I believe it was you who responded to my learning of Chry’s Hyd. hybred at yesterdays comments. Too busy today to seek further facts. I deal with hydraulics alot and accumulators as large as those used on mid-sized presses. Maintaining constant pressure is our aim. So, to utilize one on a van, the only way I see they can be used is as an accelerator assist,since volume and peak pressure ssem to be limiting factors. When combined with auto start/stop, milage gains can be invisioned, but not to the 30% claimed. Got anymore info?
    I noticed our yesterdays comments on this subject have miraculously dissappeared! Sorry to burst anyones bubble before it was reported on this sight!

  22. dcars Says:

    Pretty cool stuff cwolf, thanks for the info. I bet Chrysler wants a friendly relationship with it’s largest share holder.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Search “hydraulic hybrid” and some sites will show up with info on the concept. So far, garbage trucks have been the main test application. They are the extreme of “stop and go driving” with a stop every 50 feet, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they would save 30% in fuel.

  24. C-tech Says:

    The hydralic hybrid sounds like it may work better in a Dodge truck or Iveco van than a minivan or 300.

  25. RPMMAN Says:

    Regarding Toyota’s use of electro magnets to get around rare earth metals, what ever happened to the “magnaquench” method of lowering the weight of electro magnets?

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    From what I’ve read about hydraulic hybrids, it would be very difficult to get “stange noises” down to an acceptable level for regular passenger vehicles.

    I don’t know how much energy can reasonably be stored that way, but garbage trucks would seem to be an ideal use for the technology; with the very frequent stops, you wouldn’t need to store a lot of energy for the technology to be useful.

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    cwolf Says:
    January 20th, 2011 at 5:29 pm
    “I am not sure why the UAW chose Toyota as the target; hyundai seems to be a bigger one.”

    For now, Hyundai has only one US plant, while Toyota has 4 that I can think of off hand, and there are probably more than that. I suspect that may be why Toyota rather than Hyundai might be the UAW’s target.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “Magnaquench” is a material used for permanent magnets, and uses “rare earth” elements. As I remember, China bought the company from GM.

  29. Mr. Rogers Says:

    I’ve noticed more and more people not using there turn signals. They must be out of turn signal fluid. Is there something coming down the pipeline that would automatically turn on the turn signal for people because it seems to hard for people to do this simple task? We have lane changing sensors and lane detection sensors but don’t we have to use the turn signal to make some of these things work?