April 1st, 2011 at 11:33am
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.
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.
UAW GAINS MEMBERS
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.
DIGITAL CRASH TEST DUMMIES
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.
TRAFFIC DEATHS DROP IN U.S.
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.
THIS WEEK ON AUTOLINE
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.