June 6th, 2011 at 11:40am
A Saudi Prince wants to see lower oil prices to keep Americans and Europeans from seeking alternatives. BMW unveils its all new 1 Series along with its treasure trove of new features. Pickup trucks of all makes and shapes are piling up across the U.S. as sales slow due to gas prices. All that and more, plus a look at how the auto industry and the EPA are training engineers to make more fuel efficient vehicles.
This is Autoline Daily for June 6, 2011. And now, the news.
OIL PRICE GRIPES
Everyone is complaining about the price of oil these days, even the Saudis. In an interview on CNN, Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal says that he wants lower oil prices in order to discourage the U.S. and Europe from looking for alternative sources. He said, and I quote, “We don’t want the West to go and find alternatives, because, clearly, the higher the price of oil goes, the more they have incentives to go and find alternatives.” He says that the price of oil should be somewhere between $70 and $80 per barrel. Currently the price is over $100 a barrel. Prince Talal blames the political unrest in the Middle East and disruptions in supply due to the unrest as the cause for high oil prices.
NEW 1 SERIES
We’ve just got the latest details on the all-new BMW 1 Series. This entry-level BMW now shares a platform with the larger 3 Series, and, as a result, gains interior and cargo room. Powerplants include two direct-injected, turbocharged four-cylinder engines capable of 136 and 170 horsepower in the U.S. Overseas customers will also have two diesels to choose from including the 2.0-liter shared with the 3 Series and 5 Series. All engines come standard with a six-speed manual or optional ZF eight-speed automatic with stop-start technology and regenerative braking. On the interior the littlest BMW gains more refined appointments and soft-touch materials compared to its predecessor, according to Autoblog. One thing that hasn’t changed, the 1 Series will retain rear-wheel drive making it one of the only RWD cars in its segment.
PILES OF PICKUPS (subscription required)
Mark Reuss, GM’s president of North America, says the company WILL NOT turn to incentives to reduce big stockpiles of pickups. According to Ward’s, dealers are sitting on about a 122-day supply of Chevy Silverados, while the GMC Sierra is at roughly 116. Remember, the ideal inventory level in the U.S. is about 60 days. Reuss would not comment on how the company plans to adjust its production or pricing strategies to better match demand, but it doesn’t sound good for GM. Even so, compared to the competition they’re really not that out of whack. The light-duty Ram is sitting at about 93 days and the Ford F-Series at 80. Nobody is buying Nissan’s Titan. There’s a 199-day supply of them hanging around, and the story’s much the same for the Toyota Tundra at 143 days. How ironic, the Japanese are struggling to increase their inventory of cars.
RACE TO REPLACE MULALLY
Bill Ford has gone on record as saying whoever replaces Alan Mulally as CEO of the company will come from Ford’s existing executive ranks. They’re not going to recruit someone from the outside. So who will Mulally’s replacement be? Let’s take a look at the short list. Everyday this week I’ll show you who the top candidates are and I’ll pick who I think will be the next CEO on Friday’s show. And today we start with the Chief Financial Officer, Lewis Booth. Born in Liverpool, England, his father was a car dealer, so he grew up on the retail-side of the business. He later got an engineering degree, so he knows what it takes to engineer a car. Indeed, he is a true gearhead and loves motorsports. His career saw him take a series of management positions in Ford of Europe in product development, manufacturing, finance and sales. After that he moved to the United States in the 1990s where he went through a very similar rotation, always moving up the corporate ladder. He later became head of Ford’s Asia-Pacific and African operations, including a stint as the president of Mazda. And then went back as chairman and CEO of Ford of Europe. Clearly Lewis Booth has all the experience and skills to become CEO. In fact, if God forbid, Alan Mulally were to step off a curb and get hit by a bus, Lewis Booth could step into that role this afternoon without missing a beat. But there’s only one thing that could prevent Booth from succeeding Mulally. He turns 63 years old later this year. Traditionally, most top-execs retire at 65. And while Ford does not have a mandatory retirement age, this could clearly hinder Lewis Booth from taking the CEO position.
Coming up next, we’ll take a look at how the auto industry and the EPA are training a new generation of engineers to make more fuel efficient vehicles.
How do you grow a whole new generation of engineers who know how to work on hybrids, fuel cells, EVs and bio-fuels. Well, one way to do it is to create a competition amongst engineering schools to see who can do it the best. The U.S. EPA is sponsoring a competition called Eco-Cars, and in the following clip, Chris Grundler from the EPA, explains what it’s all about.
We should have the final results from the Eco-Car competition sometime this week.
And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global automotive industry, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow, with another installment in the race to replace Mulally.