Episode 566 – Parts Shortage Spreads, Volvo to Cut Lineup, Tesla Recycling Batteries

January 27th, 2011 at 11:15am

Runtime 8:03

Earlier this week we reported that Ford is facing a parts shortage and now other automakers are feeling the squeeze, too.  Volvo plans to drastically cut its lineup in the U.S.  Tesla announced it’s launched a battery-recycling program in Europe with a Belgian company called Umicore.  All that and more, plus guest host Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, takes a stab at responding to your questions and comments in the “You Said It!” segment.


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That’s right; it’s time for another installment of Autoline Daily.  It’s Thursday, January 27 2011.  In case you haven’t been paying attention, I’m the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo.  McElroy and company are in Washington D.C. lobbying congress for shorter working hours on press trips and more frequent-flyer miles . . . Nah, I’m just kidding.  As you know, they’re actually down there for the auto show, although they probably will be rubbing elbows with some big-wigs on Capitol Hill.  We’ll hear more from John when he goes LIVE today at noon Eastern.   And remember, you can watch the webcast in REAL TIME on our website, AutolineDetroit.tv.  But enough shameless promotion, let’s get to the news.

Talk about an embarrassment of riches.  Vehicle sales have improved so much that automakers are having a hard time keeping up with demand.  Earlier this week we reported that Ford is shutting down its Dearborn truck plant for a week because of a parts shortage, and now, the problem is spreading.  According to Bloomberg, BMW and Volkswagen are also struggling keep pace.  In fact, at the end of the month, Vee-Dub will be forced to halt production at its factory in Wolfsburg, Germany due to a lack of components.  As McElroy mentioned on Tuesday, the root of the problem lies with suppliers.  During the “Great Recession” they had to slash production drastically.  Now that business is FINALLY improving they’re having a hard time ramping back up.  This may be a big problem for the industry, but at least people are buying cars again, and that is a VERY GOOD thing.

In case you haven’t noticed, more and more technology is showing up in cars.  From voice activation to satellite navigation to internet access, today’s vehicles are loaded with electronics.  To keep all of those circuits pumping, GM has built a special signal-testing facility.  It claims this gigantic laboratory – which is large enough to house a truck – is the first of its kind in the world.  103 individual probes are mounted on a piece of hardware resembling half of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.  The data GM collects from tests in here is used to optimize satellite antenna design and placement on its vehicles.  What does that mean for you?  Well, it should keep the XM Radio and OnStar services working no matter where you drive.

In an effort to boost sales in the U.S., Volvo will cut some models from its lineup. According to Bloomberg, the company currently sells nine models in the U.S. but Doug Speck, the head of Volvo in the U.S., says they want to trim it down to five or six (smart move by the way, Doug). Volvo has already decided to discontinue the V50 but it’s still in the process of reviewing which other models to cut. In the meantime the company will mainly focus on the S60, XC60 and XC90 in the American market. And to help get the word out about its products it launched a marketing campaign earlier this week and plans to spend more this quarter in marketing than it did all last year.

One of the criticisms of electric vehicles is what to do with lithium-ion batteries once they need to be replaced. Throwing them into a landfill doesn’t do much to help environment. In response to that problem, Tesla announced it has launched a battery recycling program in Europe with a Belgian company, Umicore. The battery pack will be recycled into an alloy that can be refined to make cobalt, nickel and other metals. From there, Umicore can turn the cobalt into lithium cobalt oxide which can be resold to battery makers. Also, one of the byproducts can be used for special-grade concretes. Umicore says its technology cuts CO2 emissions by 70 percent during recycling.

Coming up next, I, yes I respond to your questions and comments in the “You Said It!” segment.  And let me tell you, it isn’t pretty.

Here. We. Go.

Every day we get inundated with questions and comments from YOU, our faithful audience.  “You Said It!” gives John – or in this case, ME – an opportunity to respond. So today I’m re-naming it “You Asked For It!”

First up, Jim commented on my GM remarks from yesterday.  He said:

“I guess Akerson won’t be appearing on Autoline After Hours anytime soon!”

Probably not, but you just never know, now do ya?

My words also caught the attention of Kit Gerhart who commented:

“I don’t know much about Akerson, but I hope he’s not as bad as you think, Peter. Somehow, GM has been able to come up with some good product in spite of the constant management shakeups. I hope that will continue.”

I hope that continues too, Kit. GM has tremendously talented people throughout the organization; it’s up to the True Believers to see that things don’t get screwed up by Lt. Dan.

Our friend in Florida, Pedro Fernandez, likes the idea of vehicle communications.  He wrote:

“If car-to-car communication is able to tell the jerk-off behind you to back off or lower his high beams, or to tell the guy that almost hit you for not having his lights on at night, then I’m all for it.”

We’ll see where this leads, but I’m not at all optimistic that this development will be a universal Good Thing.

LEX, or is it L-E-X is puzzled by Honda . . . and frankly, so am I.  He had this to say:

“What is up with the Honda Design Studio? The New Civic is just a minor face lift to the old one.”

That is one of the great mysteries of the business right now, LEX. Honda has lost its mojo and it’s not looking like they’re going to find it anytime soon.

tj Martin also enjoyed yesterday’s commentary on GM and he’s equally NOT HAPPY with Sergio Marchionne.  He wrote in:

“Two BIG thumbs up on your GM/Akerson appraisal.  Now please do the same with Marchionne and his insane business tactics (like dumping the five-speed Fiat 500 on us and the rebadged Dodge Journey on the EU/UK ).  Its time both of these egomaniacs get their due!”

TJ, I’ve held Sergio’s feet to the fire on numerous occasions, and I will continue to do so when the situation warrants it. I don’t see the launch for the 500 being smooth in the least. As a matter of fact, it’s already problematic. There’s trouble brewing there.

Finally, Bob in Atlanta, not to be confused with the other Bob commented:

“The Italians perfected car-to-car communication long ago – hand gestures for every occasion!”

Well said, Bob, and so true!!!

As always thank you for your questions and comments.  We usually appreciate them.  And with that, we’ve reached the end of the road for today’s episode of Autoline Daily.  Check out our website, AutolineDetroit.tv, for our LIVE coverage of the Washington D.C. Auto Show which starts at noon Eastern today . . . probably very shortly, in fact.  We’ll also be doing After Hours from the nation’s capital as well, so check that out at its normal time.  Once again, I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the One and Only Autoextremist.  Thanks for watching, I’ll see you tomorrow.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

40 Comments to “Episode 566 – Parts Shortage Spreads, Volvo to Cut Lineup, Tesla Recycling Batteries”

  1. Todd J. Says:

    Hah Pedro… made it on the webcast!

  2. Tony Gray Says:

    I love the more aggressive tenor being taken by John and the ever popular Peter. I think it is refreshing. Much more interesting than the Political Correctness found in some places where all the brothers are valiant and all the sisters virtuous and also better than some places that spew vitriol without any basis in fact.

    Good job folks.

  3. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Continued good job, Peter; thanks for filling John’s shoes so well.

    Good to see that lithium ion batteries ‘are’ recyclable; it seems as they would be, as nothing is consumed in batteries (on a whole) just chemically altered.

  4. bob Says:

    Great “you asked for it!” segment as well as overall, Peter!

  5. dcars Says:

    “….questions and comments. We usually appreciate them…..” too funny, thanks for a great show today!

  6. Len simpson Says:

    re: recyced batteries. I would guess “alloy’ means no diassembly,just grindem all up & sort out the usables later . anxious to see what,s next in the wide world of battery development.
    My first lessons in the wonderful world of auto repair were disassembling 6 volt lead acid batteries, sorting thru the reusable cells, reassembling the best looking ones, pouring hot tar for resealing, hot lead for reconnecting

  7. tj Martin Says:

    Wow . I’m honored . Two weeks in a row on the You Said It segment .

    As to Marchionne’s Madness … well its not the just the FIAT 500 coming our way thats stoking the fires of discontent . As I’ve been saying in my posts the Brits and the EU are absolutely incensed over the Re-Badged Journey / FIAT Freemont . And its only getting worse with several petitions from readers of the UK/EU Automotive Press for the magazines to pin Marchionne down and start asking him the Truly hard questions . Like ” WTF are you trying to accomplish other than to PO every potential new customer you might gain ”

    I’ve stated this in my posts abroad and I’ll say it here . Either Marchionne is truly mad , our he’s got something very devious up his sleeve .

    With my leanings being towards the later .

  8. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It looks like the end of Volvo is nigh. They are dropping the wagons, the product that “put them on the map” in the US.

  9. bob Says:

    Under Marchionne, they have improved the materials and interiors of many Chrysler and jeep models. I don’t know if these improvements will be sufficient to keep such losers as the Sebring-200 alive. The plan to sell the 200 and 300 as LAncias in Europe seems very lame to me, these cars, even with efficient diesels, may not be able to make it there.

    Still, these guys are not just sitting on their fat asses, they are doing something in the right direction.

  10. bob Says:

    Didn’t the Chinese Buy Volvo? They can use it to make commisar cars, the party functionaries will not know the difference. After all, they love BUICKS of all cars there.. in Party Black.

  11. pedro fernandez Says:

    Si, vote for Pedro

  12. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Yes sergio macaroni did improve the quality of the JK’s interior,but it is more hideous then ever.The center stack looks like an 80′s refuge boombox.Also they have done NOTHING to improve the quality of the mechanics underneath and I mean nothing.

    The JK series far outsells the GC,always have and probably always will.Having said that,they should have put the new Pentestar in the 11 JK,redesign the auto trans oil cooler,improve the quality of the ball joints,improve the rubber bushes in the track bars,make exhaust manifolds that won’t crack open in 30k miles,standard trannies that don’t pop out of gear,better quality throwout bearings……and the list goes on.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Ga It’s all smoke and mirrors, my friend; oh and additional sound insulation which makes almost any car feel more high end and substantial.

  14. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Pedro: Your right of course.Ya know what? When I was recently shopping for a new truck,I never considered buying a Ram.I just won’t throw my money away on Chrysler products anymore.

  15. bob Says:

    Are you guys watching any of John’s interivews with those good gor nothing bureaucrats at the Wash DC autop show? it’s sickening to hear these dumb, obese idiots, esp. the one from DoE…

  16. pedro fernandez Says:

    Isn’t the description of a bureaucrat dumb and idiotic??

  17. HtG Says:

    As you ask Pedro, I know some bureaucrats in DC. They’re just regular people. And so liberal you head would explode. I’m thinking of three right now; two at Treasury(by which I mean IRS) and one at FDA. One of these three used to work for Nader, and another was a law professor and another is brothers with a liberal political personality on cable. I won’t ID them any more precisely. Yet another is former peace corps: He drives a guess what? Chrysler Sebring convertible.

    Not exactly car people.

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    Point is govt. should leave business alone as long as they’re not breaking the law, don’t impose your will on them and let market conditions steer these companies.

  19. pedro fernandez Says:

    I wonder what Peter meant re the problems already arising with the Fiat 500????

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    I have read some of the UK sites dedicated to Fiat 500 owners and there seems to be a lot of unhappy campers among the bunch, mostly electrical issues. Tony better get his electrical engineering degree.

  21. cwolf Says:

    While John is rubbing elbows in Wasington,Sen. Carl Levin(mich.)will be doing the same. He wants the gov’t to increase the EV incentives beyond the present $7500. As plants ramp up production,the added demand from the increase will maintain production,so he says. Why would anyone want to fork out their hard earned cash just so some tree-hugger can save the planet by buying an EV that they probably can’t afford on their own? And it’s probably not even a US car!
    Tesla is applying similar logic by investing in battery recycling,when the money they are gambling with is ours! And again, the investment isn’t even in our country.They haven’t made a dime profit from their product line since conception,yet can mis-direct it anyway they damn well please. Aren’t there any guidelines as to how money is to be handled?
    Given the long commute I have,I need an EV like a hole in the head, but if the handout becomes large enough, I may have to buy one just to get some of my money back…and hopefully a lot more of yours!

  22. HtG Says:

    As I heard John’s guests today, the govt wants to make us less dependent on foreign sources of carbon. Encouraging EVs fits that interest.

  23. tj Martin Says:

    @pedro ;

    How right you are . The FIAT 500 though loved for its looks in the UK is somewhat despised for its reliability as well as its overall drivability .

    Initially it was looked upon as a genuine competitor to the MINI but has since lapsed into the cheap alternative you buy if the MINI is out of your price range , but you’re still wanting a bit of retro kitsch

  24. tj Martin Says:

    HtG & cwolf ;

    I thought after the Government had suspended the Tax Credits for Hybrids the E/V Tax credit was destined to follow .

    So what’s up with that ? Or is that ( suspending the E/V Tax Credit just the hopes and dreams of the new Republican Majority ?

  25. tj Martin Says:

    TESLA ; Is there a bigger scam in the US auto scene right now ? Well maybe . Have a good look at how much of our tax $ Fisker is throwing down the drain on a monthly basis .

    Talk about not making a profit . Fisker can’t seem to even make much in the way of a car !

  26. pedro fernandez Says:

    More govt handouts for EV’s? didn’t these bozos get the message from the voters in the last election: STOP WASTING OUR FREAKING MONEY.

  27. pedro fernandez Says:

    But, Tj, the Brits should be used to unreliable cars, they’ve been building and driving them all their lives.

  28. tj Martin Says:

    @pedro ;

    Too true ! Too true my friend . Never the less they do complain about the 500 regularly .

  29. tj Martin Says:


    Thats your slogan Pedro ! Count me in . I’ll do the media crap . I’m used to their BS !

  30. FrankCanada Says:

    The Fiat 500 uses mostly Bosch (zee Germans) electrical systems, which I agree are not that good. Minis up here in Canada are horrible for electrical, and even BMWs. But like Ferrari & Maserati, when Fiat is on, their on. And just like Maserati’s slow reintroduction into NA, Fiat will slowly grow & grow and the past will be forgotten. I mean look at hyundai! They built garbage and still do, but perception has changed. At least Fiat’s have soul, unlike the English and their German Mini

  31. bob Says:

    “More govt handouts for EV’s? didn’t these bozos get the message from the voters in the last election: STOP WASTING OUR FREAKING MONEY.”

    MAy I SECOND that, or THIRD that, as appropriate!

  32. bob Says:

    I had to STOP the damned AAH show, it was UNBEARABLE to hear these DC Clowns talk and talk about silly subjects, after 10 mins or so.

  33. bob Says:

    “# pedro fernandez Says:
    January 27th, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I wonder what Peter meant re the problems already arising with the Fiat 500????”

    Pietro is hearing things.

  34. bob Says:

    Hey Levin Clown:


    You blithering idiots in DC!

    You make the Euro solution to excellent MPG economically infeasible by requiring another $3k to make Euro-legal diesels US-legal, and then you want to rob us of millions of $7,500 subsidies for your IDIOTIC EVs NOBODY WANTS?


    It will take at least one more round to eject these retards from the US Senate, in 2012, so we can even START to think rationally around here.

  35. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Maybe FIAT is wanting to emulate Mini by using 5-speed manuals in the first cars imported, and will switch to 6-speeds in a year or two.

    The ’02-’06 base Minis had 5-speeds, with a rather short top gear making the engine feel “buzzy” at highway speed. With the ’07 redesign, they made a 6-speed standard. I’m sure some people traded their early Minis on ’07′s, mainly to get the 6-speed with the taller top gear.

  36. bob Says:

    In the few minutes of last night’s AAH I was able to bear, the stupidity of the Nissan LEAF design and overall concept became painfully obvious:

    One of the AAH panel members, who lived in some townhouse in the Wash DC area, complained that it is impossible to recharge the stupid Leaf from his townhouse, and I am sure MILLIONS of city dewllers, for whom the LEAF might make some sense, have the same problem. WHILE Suburban residents who can recharge it (even if they have to wait 20 hours for the STUPID thing to recharge), really can’t use the leaf due to its short range, for their lengthy daily commute and errands.

  37. bob Says:

    “that it is impossible to recharge the stupid Leaf from his townhouse, ” for obvious reasons, it is parked at quite a distance, whether it is 75 feet or 750 feet, from the plugs in his townhouse or apartment, and not right next to his home, as it is possible in suburban single family homes.

  38. HtG Says:

    you may have missed the BMW president on John’s interview from the Autoshow in DC, bob. He said electric cars were basically going nowhere, because of the familiar hassles. At one point he referenced what BMW had learned from the eMini. He didn’t say much, but the body language was readable.

  39. bob Says:

    I could not stand to listen to most of the interviews from the DC show. Too many clowns from Govt…So I also had to miss any good guys like the BMW type.

  40. Chuck Says:

    HtG said “As I heard John’s guests today, the govt wants to make us less dependent on foreign sources of carbon. Encouraging EVs fits that interest.”

    Call me cynical, but if the government really wanted us to reduce dependance on foreign oil, what have they done in the last 40 years that would indicate they really mean that? Given we import a gazillion times more oil than we did in 72? What am I missing?