Episode 612 – Saab Running Out of Money, Traffic Deaths Drop in U.S., Chevrolet Mi-ray

April 1st, 2011 at 11:33am

Runtime 7:43

Saab is running out of money fast and may be on the brink of collapse if it does not get new funding soon. Traffic deaths in the U.S. dropped for the fifth straight year to the lowest number since 1949. A couple reveals from the Seoul Motor Show. Chevrolet pulled the wraps off an ultramodern roadster concept called the Mi-ray, and Hyundai revealed its first-ever fuel-cell car called the Blue2. All that and more, plus a preview of this week’s Autoline Detroit with Pietro Gorlier, the CEO of the Mopar brand.


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This is Autoline Daily for April 1, 2011. And now the news.

SAAB RUNNING OUT OF MONEY (subscription required)
The Wall Street Journal reports that Saab is running out of money fast and may be on the brink of collapse if it does not get new funding soon. Victor Muller, whose company Spyker Cars owns Saab, is trying to get Russian billionaire Vladimir Antonov to invest in the company and provide it with much needed cash. Antonov had been with Spyker before, but General Motors forced Antonov to drop any involvement with Spyker before it agreed to sell Saab to Spyker. The company is definitely in turmoil. Last week Saab’s long-time CEO, Jan Ake Jonsson, retired; the CFO the company wanted to hire decided he didn’t want the job; and earlier this week Saab had to stop production because supplier IAC refused to ship parts until it was paid. Here’s my Autoline Insight: Victor Muller is a very crafty businessman and will probably be able to raise enough money—for now. But all this shows that Saab is in a very precarious position.

The UAW has been watching its membership drop for decades, but last year it was able to reverse that trend—at least for the time being. Thanks to a partial recovery at GM, Ford and Chrysler, the union saw an increase in members. The UAW is also actively organizing state employees, teacher assistants, casino dealers and health-care workers. All told the union added 20,000 members last year and could add another 8,000 this year. Even so, the UAW admits that’s not enough to offset all of its losses, and says it has to organize the foreign automakers operating in America or it will not survive in the long run.

Everything is going digital these days including crash-test dummies. Ford is working on a digital model of a child with lifelike recreations of the skeleton, organs and brain. The company hopes one day it can use this research to perform crash tests with a computer using a digital dummy. The company already uses digital models of adults but it’s only used for research, not in vehicle development or crash tests. MRI scans are used in order to digitally recreate parts of the body which are put together section by section. Ford wants to understand how crashes affect children and adults differently, especially since children are more vulnerable during an accident and data for kids isn’t as available.

Speaking of safety, traffic deaths in the U.S. dropped for the fifth-straight year. According to the Detroit News, just under 33,000 people died in accidents last year which is the lowest number since 1949. The drop in deaths is somewhat surprising because the number of miles driven by Americans increased by over 20 billion compared to 2009. Since 2005 traffic fatalities have dropped 25 percent.

A couple reveals from the Seoul Motor Show. Chevrolet pulled the wraps off an ultramodern roadster concept called the Mi-ray, which is Korean for “future.” It’s powered by two front-mounted 15 kW electric motors and a 1.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. For more fun, a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine kicks in to drive the rear wheels through a dual-clutch automatic transmission. This means the Mi-ray can switch between front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive. The body is made of carbon fiber and CFRP, carbon fiber-reinforced plastic which keeps the weight down. Its wheels, 20-inchers in front 21s in the back, are made of a combination of aluminum and – surprise – carbon fiber. It even has scissor doors. Inside and out the Mi-ray’s design was inspired by jet fighters and it certainly looks like one.

Hyundai revealed its first-ever fuel-cell car in Seoul. The Blue2 is powered by a hydrogen stack that delivers 90 kW of juice, about 120 horsepower, with 82 miles per gallon. That works out to about 2.9 liters per 100 clicks. The “Blue” part of its name comes from the company’s “Blue Drive” eco brand while the “2” from “H2,” the chemical symbol for hydrogen gas. But if you ask me, the front-end and headlamp treatment sure remind me a lot of the Opel Ampera.

Mopar has ambitious plans to put its name back on the map, and one way it’s working on that is getting back to its roots, its performance roots. That is coming up next.

Pietro Gorlier is the CEO of the Mopar brand. His job is to transform that operation to make it as strong a brand as Chrysler, Dodge, Ram or Jeep. One way he is working on doing that is getting Mopar back into the performance arena. Pietro Gorlier is my guest on Autoline Detroit this week, and here’s a clip from that interview.

Pietro Gorlier actually has a lot of new initiatives that he’s launching at Mopar, and I’m sure you’re going to start noticing that brand a lot more in the future.

That’s it for today’s report on the top news in the global auto industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you on Monday.

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

33 Comments to “Episode 612 – Saab Running Out of Money, Traffic Deaths Drop in U.S., Chevrolet Mi-ray”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    Please just let SAAB go away already, enough with the last minute saves. Nobody in their right mind is gonna buy a car from a company that has one foot in the grave. We lost Packard, a great innovative company decades ago, who gives a flying f—- about SAAB?

  2. Mike Says:

    Well, Pedro, I would guess that there are a bunch of SAAB workers that do give an FF about the company. Sweden in general has the problem that their manufacturing is really not world competitive. That said, there are not enough service sector jobs for their population. Manufacturing is also very much wrapped up in the Tax base. You can’t just give the manufacturing jobs to the Chinese without affecting your own economy. We here in the US, especially in the manufacturing midwest, could tell you about that.


  3. pedro fernandez Says:

    In that case let’s be sorry for all the displaced workers to have lost their jobs in America due to the greedy industrialists who see no country, only the dollar sign, in every aspect of manufacturing. Can you name any TV manufacturer, or bicycle or most other consumer goods with a “Made in the USA” emblem? What about Pontiac, Olds, Saturn, Plymouth, they employed thousands too

  4. HtG Says:

    Antonov, according to Wikipedia, which is all falsehoods. Antonov was cleared of charges.

    “Antonov’s interests (29.9% of the shares) in Spyker Cars were said to have delayed the purchase of Saab Automobile in late 2009. An investigation by the Swedish monetary agency Riksgälden and the Swedish security police Säpo had allegedly found connections between the Antonov family and organized crime, as well as involvement in money laundering. Säpo reported their findings to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, and shortly afterwards GM stopped further talks about the deal until the Antonov family had sold their shares in Spyker Cars.”


  5. tj Martin Says:

    Well if pedro’s posting again so will I .

    SAAB ;

    I’ve said this elsewhere and I’ll say this here ;

    SAAB’s future was DOA at the very instant GM refused Koenigsegg’s offer ( well funded , excellent long term business plan etc etc ) and accepted The VERY Pretentious Spyker’s offer ( which had zero capital behind it , no long term business plan added to the fact that unlike CvK , Spyker’s owners have NEVER shown the ability to make a profit in ANY endeavor they’ve gone after )

    My guess and I know this is pure Speculation is ;

    GM refused CvK’s offer and accepted Spyker’s knowing full well Spyker would bankrupt SAAB eventually , allowing SAAB to go away while NOT under GM’s watch .

    Bad business you say . Think again . GM dumps a losing asset and needn’t worry about SAAB products ever competing with GM WorldWide in the Future .

    Can you think of any other reason GM would pass on CvK’s substantial offer and take Spyker’s pretentious Bad Joke of an Offer instead ?

    Oh and I’ll assume like when I posted this in the UK last year a Spyker rep will come on board to challenge my claim of Spyker Not Having a Business plan in place when they made their offer .

    So like there I’ll challenge the Spyker rep to PUBLISH their Long Term plans for SAAB as CvK has already done .

    So far no takers from Spyker/SAAB here or overseas ( though someone claiming to work for them did email me on the Forum email claiming it did exist )

    Once again Pedro we are on the same page . A sad page to be on for sure … but the same page never the less .

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    The other day I was watching a show about an Arizona salvage yard and a fellow brought in a restored Packard from the 50′s. What a great car that was, I was too young then but if a company that made such great products went under during the post-war boom, you wonder how it could have happened.

  7. tj Martin Says:

    @ pedro ;

    Made in the USA . A label rapidly falling into the History bin , finding its way into abject Extinction .

    Another SAD but rapidly realizing tale to tell .

    Common Sense
    Made in America

    All going the way of the DoDo Bird .

    But place a good portion of the Blame on the US Government and our excessive ( highest of any developed Country ) Corporate Taxes . Then blame the Greedy Bastards running the companies and their Investors as well .

  8. tj Martin Says:

    @pedro ;

    No doubt what so ever that we ( US ) CAN make fantastic products and come up with wonderful innovations .

    But ever since King Ronald’s ( Maggie Thatcher in the UK ) programs to get ALL manufacturing off US shores we’ve been ” Selling England by the Pound ” ( insert US and $ in the proper places ) as the UK has been doing for decades .

    Tossing or Heritage , Abilities and Skills out the Window to become the Roman Empire 1:2 .

    e.g. A land of Consumers … no longer Producers .

    That Worked out real well for the Romans . Wanna bet it works out just as well for us ( US )

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    Glad to see someone sees things as I do, some genius decided to turn us into a service society instead of manufacturing and things have been going down the drain ever since, the only time when we paused was during the BS .COM era, When that bubble burst, (as did the Real Estate boom) we got in this mess that I just don’t see a way out of. Oh wait! $6 gas is gonna be the miracle cure-all.

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    Local Toyota dealer has an ad on a bus that reads: “Certified by NASA” does this mean that if you buy a Prius, you can take to Uranus?

  11. shan Says:

    Is there any truth to the wild rumor that the second car to be built in Bowling Green Corvette Plant will be a mid-engine Stingray?

  12. ckernzie Says:

    The interesting thing about the decimation of American manufacturing is that because of the Wall Street induced economic collapse, subsequent recession & unemployment, slap down of the unions and weakening of the dollar, the US is becoming a lower cost producer. Hopefully we will see American manufacturing rebound and corporations will not automatically run to China to get things manufactured. I try to stay optimistic because as America goes so does Canada and although we are a petro-currency a lot of our GDP depends on American demand so get your s*** together eh?!

  13. HtG Says:

    I would like some insight into how a person can argue for american manufacturing while being against the federal bailout of Detroit. What’s the thought process there? Anyone know someone like that?

  14. Tom L Says:

    @pedro fernandez#1
    Pedro. I would be sad if Saab was shut down.
    I own and have owned Saabs and like them very much.A lot of people would be hurt.
    RE: USA economy.
    The best way to fix the USA is to bring in a 10% VAT Tax,10% income tax and a 10% business tax. Them cut a lot of the deductions……Things would boom

  15. HtG Says:

    From the mailroom-

    I got a mailer from the Honda dealer offering discounted maintenance on my Civic. One offer was to replace the cabin air filter for ~110 rather than ~130. As some might know, this part is replaced by opening the glove box and sliding open a panel, then switching the parts. It takes a minute maybe, and the filter retails for about 20 online. Keep in mind the mailing had my VIN printed on it.

    I worked in a car dealership when I was a kid, so I know the hours of labor on jobs is just a show, but COME ON!

    (sorry to shout, bob)

  16. pedro fernandez Says:

    Tom L as I stated before, the US has been losing well paying manufacturing jobs to foreign countries (China) for decades now, the plight of the Northern cities is deplorable mostly because of these jobs going abroad, where is all the concern over this? Our middle class is dwindling while China’s grows every year, but hey, look at the bright side, $10 toasters and $20 blenders in Walmart!

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    Took my kid’s 08 XB with 25k miles for a front brake pad replacement (drives too fast) they told me I needed: brake fluid flush, alignment, serpentine belt and tranny fluid change. I walked out, got the pads online and paid a “shadetree mechanic” dude to do it at home.

  18. TomL Says:

    Maybe the USA should get it’s house in order before helping other countrys

  19. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Saab? Spyker? You mean they’re still around? Why?

  20. jesse Says:

    # pedro fernandez Says:
    April 1st, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Local Toyota dealer has an ad on a bus that reads: “Certified by NASA” does this mean that if you buy a Prius, you can take to Uranus?
    Depends on how you drive it buddy!:)!!!

  21. Bob in Atlanta Says:

    SAAB needs the UAW to help. The UAW is good at putting auto companies out of business.

  22. HtG Says:

    Pedro, check out the news from Ford this late Friday afternoon when no one will notice.


    That’s like 75million in total. Light yourself a Cuban, Alan.

  23. dcars Says:

    Just a little FYI the US is still the largest manufacturer in the world. We don’t make a lot of the little stuff. Some day when your driving look around and you’ll see lots of stuff that’s made in America.

  24. C-tech Says:

    What is amusing about the people on this site is the defending of the free market system on one hand yet the demands that a company be driven out of business (Kill Saab! Kill Spyker!) If Saab goes bankrupt or recovers, it should up to the management and their ability to produce a good product that consumers want (Not everything is for everybody!) and / or attract enough capital or aid to continue. If you do not like Saab or Lexus or Buick, do not buy one and go about your business.

  25. HtG Says:

    Dan Neil of WSJ just wrote of the Ferrari FF, “… I agree, the car looks like a toilet brush on wheels….”

    Who you gonna call, Sergio?

  26. DGI Says:

    The big three were expert on starting whisper campaigns to kill competition. Hudson had some innovative ideas such as step down construction. The rumor mill was that they “filled up with water.” Interestingly the stock car folk back then had some good luck with the low slung Hudson’s.
    Packard had some nifty torsion rod suspensions with automatic leveling. The rumor mill had it that the torsion rods broke.

    I was a loyal GM fan until they started building with low quality parts. Anybody remember the ball joints that were supposed to be properly cold headed but instead were soft as butter. And then there was a rash of camshafts that lost their lobes after a spell.

    Great engineering and stupid cost reduction moves left a lasting impression with a lot of us.

  27. pedro fernandez Says:

    @HtG with this type of news, it would be cynical to tell the lowly hourly Ford workers that there’s not enough money in the coffers to give them a raise, well this is exactly why we’re seeing for the past few years the amount of millionaires increasing while the number of folks who need one type or another of govt aid also goes up! SAAB had their niche in the market, the market shrunk, they lost their appeal, they’re history, period.

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    HtG soon Allan will be able to buy Cuba!! This guy just won the mega ball lottery every freaking year!!

  29. Jim Says:

    Like it or not I don’t think Saab will be around long you can only escape death so many times but the day of the mid priced nitch brand are probably over for good.

  30. Jim Thykeson Says:

    Pedro: Heres one for you to consider concerning your ‘service-society’ theory. How about those ‘hedge-fund’ mgrs. that make 5 billion a yr. and produce NOTHING!!, while the designer at Hyundai who brought you the Sonata gets a modest wage for his input! Hell, hes the guy who should’a get the 5 bill. That design took Hyundai to becoming the 4th largest car company in the world! The fund mgr….we don’t even know his name and could care yes! Their parasites.

  31. XA351GT Says:

    Hey Jim, the surprising thing is hearing that the Koreans in charge at Hyundai want to go back to a blander ,boring(Toyota) styling. Ego is king at Hyundai and having a American designing their cars can’t be sitting well.

  32. HtG Says:

    Jim, of course you’re referring to John Paulson and the good folks at Magnetar.


  33. pedro fernandez Says:

    Jim, that is precisely why we have more poverty and more millionaires every year, not just here, worldwide. I don’t want to sound like a socialist (I am not) but facts are facts.