April 27th, 2011 at 11:50am
Volkswagen’s first-quarter numbers are in and they are a record for the German automaker. Audi just completed its first public test of its latest diesel-powered racecar, the R18 TDI, at Le Mans over the weekend. General Motors released a couple images of its next-generation Opel Astra GTC which is set to debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. All that and more, plus John responds to your questions and comments about hydraulic hybrids, Lexus design and more in the “You Said It!” segment.
This is Autoline Daily for April 27, 2011. And now the news.
VW’S Q1 EARNINGS
Yesterday we reported Ford’s first-quarter profits, today we’ve got Volkswagen’s numbers, and they are a record for the German automaker. The entire group sold nearly 2 million vehicles in the first three months of the year, up 14 percent. Revenue climbed to €37.5 billion, or nearly $55 billion, up more than 30 percent. Net profit came in at €1.7 billion, or about $2.5 billion. The Volkswagen and Audi brands contributed most to the bottom line, each posting a €1.1 billion operating profit. Scania, the heavy-truck company earned €376 million. Skoda earned €187 million. But SEAT and Bentley both lost money. No financial numbers were posted by Lamborghini or Bugatti, but we did learn that sales at Bugatti fell 45 percent. They’ve only delivered six cars so far this year. So how does VW’s earnings compare with Ford? Well, VW easily won the sales race, outselling Ford by nearly 600,000 vehicles. VW also easily took in more money than Ford, $55 billion versus, $33 billion. But on the bottom line, Ford just nosed out VW. Ford made $2.55 billion in net profits versus $2.49 billion at Volkswagen.
AUDI R18 TDI
Speaking of Audi, it just completed its first public test of its latest diesel-powered racecar, the stunningly beautiful R18 TDI, at Le Mans over the weekend. The team is preparing for the 24-hour race in June and had 10 drivers drive three different racecars. Tests ran for eight hours and everything went well. This signals the start of all out war between Audi and Peugeot competing with diesel racecars at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
CHRYSLER SELLS GEM
In another sign of how little faith Sergio Marchionne has in electric cars, Chrysler is selling its GEM electric-car business. GEM stands for Global Electric Motorcars. As you’ll remember, former CEO Bob Nardelli bragged that the company was working with General Electric on a breakthrough battery. But nothing came of that and Chrysler shut down its electric-car development program called ENVI two years ago. Marchionne doesn’t seem to believe in EVs, and Fiat is plowing its green card creds into what it calls bi-fuel cars, which can run on gasoline, natural gas or propane. The GEM operations are being bought by Polaris, which makes ATVs, motorcycles and neighborhood vehicles.
PORTABLE NAV DEVICES ON DECLINE
Are cell phones killing the market for portable navigation devices? Bloomberg reports that TomTom, Europe’s largest maker of nav devices, is cutting its full-year revenue forecast and its stock dropped over 20 percent this year. The company cites a slowdown in sales in North America as the reason for its drop with more people turning to their cell phones to get directions. TomTom’s CEO estimates that sales of portable navigation devices will drop between 15 and 20 percent this year.
END OF THE ROAD FOR SAAB?
Things are going from bad to worse for Saab. The company is not building any cars right now. Some suppliers stopped shipping parts because they hadn’t been paid. Now the struggling automaker is having trouble getting the cash it needs to keep going. It wanted to raise funds by selling off its property, but that has been stalled by the European Investment Bank. Saab is even in talks with some Chinese car manufacturers to try and get money. I hate to say it but this could be the end of the road for Saab. If a car company can’t build cars . . . well, what more do I need to say?
OPEL ASTRA GTC
GM released a couple preliminary images of its next-generation Opel Astra GTC. According to Autoblog, the production version of this three-door hatchback is set to debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. The car’s still under development, but Opel will release full details about it AND open the order books on June 7. Stay tuned.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
And now it’s time for some of your feedback.
MrAvalanche2004 wants to know, “What the heck is a hydraulic hybrid?”
Oooh, Mr. Avalanche, have we got a great show for you coming up. We’re going to be visiting the EPA laboratories in Ann Arbor, Michigan which is where the hydraulic hybrid was invented, and we have the full story on that. But for now I can tell you that batteries are not the only way to store energy. You can also store it as hydraulic pressure, and then use that pressure to turn the wheels on a vehicle.
I liked the new front-end styling that Lexus unveiled at the New York Auto Show, but you all don’t seem to agree. Dave says, “Ick that new Lexus front end reminds me of Acura!” and C-tech says, “Hopefully Lexus is still refining that ugly front end.”
MJB sure has something to say to Subaru about the look of its new Impreza. “Pleeease, Subaru…DON’T DO IT. Don’t give in to the dark side of the force. Don’t loose your design edge. Even IF the most heralded of your fleet over the past 1 & 1/2 decades resemble toads. Don’t go the way of the Hondas and Toyotas. I see you morphing into bland nothingness. The transformation has already begun. But it’s not too late to turn back. Just admit that you have a problem . . . take that first step. Com’n people. I feel an intervention.”
And finally Jim Taylor is skeptical that public charging stations for EVs will be left alone by vandals. “If the crooks and criminals of the world are willing to risk life and limb to steal air conditioners and saw off copper pipes in restaurants, I bet these public charging stations will disappear as fast as they go up.”
Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tomorrow when our guest will be Chris Theodore, who played key roles in the development of both the Dodge Viper and Ford GT. You’ll love to hear what he’s up to now. That’s tomorrow night.
And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global auto industry, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.