Episode 756 – Muller Done with Saab, Caterham Goes to India, Opel is Amped Up

October 28th, 2011 at 11:53am

Runtime: 7:59

Victor Muller has thrown in the towel, agreeing to sell Saab to the Chinese. Caterham wants a piece of the Indian pie as it moves to build cars in the sub-continent. Opel Ampera sales are off to a surprising start. All that and more, plus a preview of Autoline This Week with J Mays and a walkaround of the Ford Evos.

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This is Autoline Daily for Friday, October 28, 2011. And here’s what’s going on in the world of the automobile.

Well, it sure looks like Victor Muller has thrown in the towel with Saab. He’s signed a memorandum of understanding with Pang Da and Youngman to sell 100% of of Saab Automobile to the two Chinese companies for 100 million euros, or about $142 million. The agreement still needs approval from the authorities, shareholders and other parties. All I can say is I hope the Chinese are ready to start pouring billions into getting Saab back on its feet. And I don’t mean billions of yuan.

Chrysler posted decent third quarter earnings. Revenue for the last three months were just over $13 billion. Net income was $212 million, which compares to a loss of $84 million last year. And global vehicle sales came to 496,000 units, which was up 24%. The company’s cash position was down slightly, but is still strong. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says he’s excited about 2012 when the company is going to be coming out with more new product, especially its new C-class car based on a Fiat platform.

Every automaker seems to want to jump into the Indian market these days, even the best known kit-car company. Autoblog reports that Caterham will actually be building cars in India, and will sell its SP/300.R sports prototype racing car there to generate interest in motor racing. And as F1 fans know, the first ever Formula One Grand Prix in India takes place this weekend.

Car sales in China have been growing by leaps and bounds the last several years but now they’re starting to cool off. And that makes Kia nervous. It’s worried that China’s economic tightening policy will hurt demand. It’s also concerned about the European debt crisis and a slow down in the South Korean car market.

So far this year, sales of the Chevy Volt have been modest in the U.S. Fewer than 4,000 have been sold through September. But over in Europe, the Opel Ampera which is based on the Volt, looks like it will get off to better start. According to Ward’s, the car doesn’t go on sale until next month in Germany but the company says it has over 6,000 orders. Opel originally projected it would sell 8,000 Ampera’s in the first year but now the automaker is projecting sales of up to 15,000. Sales of the Volt in the U.S. have been hampered by production problems but Opel says it will be able to fulfill demand.

We’ve got pictures of the new Mustang from Ford. And man, does it sure look like the original 1964 model. There’s a reason for that, it’s a Ford-approved and officially licensed body shell of the original. The body uses a higher-grade steel than the original and has more welds as well. It’s made by Dynacorn International and sells for $15,000. By the way, you can also buy Ford-approved parts and components and build a brand new original Mustang from scratch.

Coming up next, a styling analysis of the new design language coming from Ford from none other than J Mays, the head of design at Ford.

Ford is on the verge of completely changing the look of its cars, as it signaled with its Evos concept car that it showed at the Frankfurt Auto Show. I asked J Mays, the vice president of global design at Ford, to walk me around the car and explain why they’re making these changes.

There’s a lot more to that interview with J Mays, and by the way, I also have Peter Schreyer, the head of design from Kia as well as Marco Tencone from Maserati who provides a styling analysis of the Maserati Kubang, an SUV based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee that will be built in Detroit. You can watch this latest Episode of Autoline This Week at Autoline.tv

And that wraps up this week’s reports. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you on Monday.

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

49 Comments to “Episode 756 – Muller Done with Saab, Caterham Goes to India, Opel is Amped Up”

  1. XA351GT Says:

    Wow, I know we all get older ,but is it my imagination ,but J Mays looks like he’s aged 25 years in the the last few. Maybe the pressure of the business is wearing him out.

    Those dynacorn shells are the way of the future for classic cars. As long as you have massively deep pockets to build the entire car from scratch. If your just replacing a rusty old body and reusing most everything else then it is cheaper than doing body work on a old shell.

  2. TYCBWI Says:

    The other reason for poor Volt sales in the US is the massive dealer markup.

  3. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Kudos for last night’s AAH (especially the opening segment) airing the good/bad rating/ranting concerning Consumer Reports; I thought the dialogue was spot on.

    The new/old Mustang bodies should do pretty well in the classic car re-builders market (similar idea that happened a year or two ago with the iconic ’69 Camaro body).

  4. tj Martin Says:


    I really love the spin most of the Automotive Media is doing today on Chrysler’s ‘ Profits ‘ once again ( not ALD this time though ) making the claim that Chrysler is “Saving ” FIAT : with everyone BUT the serious financial media and Jalopnik totally ignoring the Back Story on the situation

    Heres’ the facts ;

    1) Chrysler/FIAT’s incurred debt is currently out pacing their profits

    2) Chrysler/FIAT’s total debt ( now $8.2 Billion ) is exceeding even the most optimistic appraisal of their current Market Value ( do you think anyone for a minute would buy Chrysler/FIAT for even the debt , $8.2 billion ? Even the Kaiser isn’t that foolish )

    So even by Corporate standards the Truth is that Chrysler/FIAT at this point is a Time Bomb just waiting to go off . Count down beginning …….. NOW !

  5. HtG Says:

    no no you don’t, John. Caterham is a kit car?

    F1 fans will be able to switch technology from the World Series to the first practice in India, if they watch the live stream on Speed.tv

  6. tj Martin Says:

    DYNACORN Mustang shells

    Well there’s been 32 Ford repops available for a long time now for the Hot Rodding scene and they’ve gone Gang Busters in sales as well as providing a cheaper alternative to what is now very expensive Original metal , so I can’t see why the Pony/Muscle Car crowd won’t buy into Repops as well .

    As the price of an original Mustang soars , along with the cost of Body Work it won’t take long for the Repop Route to become the Budget way to Classic Pony/Muscle Car ownership

    My one concern being these will make it easier for Counterfeit ” Original ” Mustangs to hit the market

    Oh but then there’s the fact you can have a ” Guilt Free ” ( not modifying an original ) route to a very Custom RestoRod Mustang .

    Hmmmmn . Wonder if any of those FORD V10′s they had are still around . Do I hear 65 Mustang RestoRod Viper Killer maybe ?

  7. XA351GT Says:

    I’m curious those production numbers from Chrysler are they for the just the brand or do they include Dodge and RAM also? Because 1/2 million units worldwide for that many models doesn’t sound all that good to me . Considering that Toyota sells 100K Fridgidaires ooops I mean Camrys a year.

  8. MJB Says:

    A day late and a dollar short (on the brief discussions held here yesterday), but a good read nonetheless:


  9. tj Martin Says:

    NJ F1

    Here’s the latest from SPEED’s F1 practice coverage this morning

    1) Steve Matchett could not stop raving about the track
    2) They are currently constructing the PERMANENT Pit facilities
    3) The paddock is being effusive over their positive attitude towards the race
    4) A British f1 Journalist talking to SPEED’s on track guy , drove the course and is saying its the configuration of Montreal with the elevation changes and interest of Spa with a back drop to rival Monte Carlo

  10. tj Martin Says:

    @ MJB

    Good catch on the Musk(rat) revelations .

  11. LS ford Says:

    Very interesting styling conversation. I think it is really promising that they have realized that these open mouth grilles (featured from Audi serveral years back) are not pleasing to look at, and do not work so well.

    So does this mean that Bertone in the 1970′s had the right idea? Sharp wedge shapped designs that conduct the air around and over the car are the best? I like the more curvatious (sp?) lines of these newer cars with the smaller front grill openings. The slant noses featured on Corvettes, Ferraris, and others have to point to the obvious. Avoid the mack truck front end. Unless you’re dodge, then by all means thicken up that front end!!

  12. Lex Says:

    Maybe the New Owners of Saab will use Chinese Martial Arts actor Jet Li as the spokeman for the Brand that was “Born from Jets”?

  13. MJB Says:

    Be sure and watch the movie promo embedded within the Elan Musk piece. (circa post #7). Looks very interesting.

  14. tj Martin Says:

    Re; “….. Caterham is a kit car ? ”

    Why yes they are HtG . Always have been . You can of course special order a complete car in the UK/EU but technically they are a Kit Car manufacture .

    FYI; With LOTUS canceling production of the Elise/Exige all rumors point to Caterham , as they did with the LOTUS 7 , taking over production . Lets hope as LOTUS sure did a Botch job of the Elise/Exige ( boatload of them just got Recalled today in the US )

    ( yes for the doubter amongst us , on occasion Caterham UK has spec built cars on offer as well , but the fact remains , Caterham ‘ Technically ‘ is a Kit Car maker )

  15. HtG Says:

    la la la la, I can’t hear you tj.

  16. dcars Says:

    My guess on Saab is that the new owners are not interested in restarting production in Sweden, but they are interested in the name, design, engineering and manufacturing technology. I bet they will pick up the “stuff” and move it all to China. Just like Nanjing Automobile did with MG.
    I would love to build my mustang classic! Wish I had the money and the time to do it.

  17. dcars Says:

    In addition, John thank you for explaining why you disagree with consumer reports methodology. That makes sense and more people should know about the flawed way CR does their sampling.

  18. tj Martin Says:

    @ MJB


    After the Grey Phantoms video I put up Wednesday , then the revelation of a friend buyin Hook Line & Sinker into an obvious Ponzi/Pyramid scheme yesterday , I’m not up to watching Musk(rat ) play his Smoke & Mirrors/ Shell game today …. but thanks .

  19. C-Tech Says:

    I hope there is continued strength in the Pony car reproduction market to support other vehicles. It will be great to see that treatment given to the 1970-73 Camaro (I prefer the body style to the 69′), 70-73 Cuda, and there will probably be some future interest in 78-87 GM mid-size bodies like the Buick Grand National, Monte Carlo, and El Camino.

  20. C-Tech Says:

    John, I am curious if someone will be interested in purchasing the NOS that Saab has, and the rights to reproduce Saab parts. There are still a number of 900 and 9000 lovers out there.

  21. tj Martin Says:

    @ HtG


    Por Que ?

    @dcars – +1 ….Why yes they should . And do if they’ve been listening to me . Which they don’t . Ever (Witness # 14 )
    Snif :(

  22. HtG Says:

    @20 Caterham kit car ‘name calling’
    Steve Matchett. Slow talker, or am I just from New York?

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    My sis got a notification for a class action suit filed against Chrysler for bad bakes Dodge Journeys, (too small for the size and weight of the vehicle) So much for Chrysler engineering and their improved quality. Chrysler/ Jeep better than Toyota? Honda, please someone wake me from this nightmare.

  24. Tony Gray Says:

    I think the new Ford nose is quite attractive. I think it is a critical styling piece that sets the tone for the remainder of the vehicle. Just look at the negative impact the noses of the Edsel, or the original Subaru Tribeca or that nightmare front of the Aztek had on the sales of those vehicles.

    On the other hand, look at the nice lines of any Aston Martin, most BMWs and even the Mitsubishi Lancer….they begin with the nose and move on back.

    As for the Audi nose…man it just hasn’t grown on me, and if it hasn’t by now, I don’t think it ever will. Too bad because I DO like the rest of their looks.

  25. Chuck Grenci Says:

    The news on the Ampera makes some sense; with gasoline and diesel (in Europe) at considerably higher levels (than the U.S. and other markets around the world), extended electric may just be what the people over there can use for general motoring (and recoup the higher upfront costs). Though, if electricity starts stripping the European nations from getting their (used to) tax revenue, well then surly some sort of additional tax will be invoked.

  26. tj Martin Says:

    @ HtG

    #21 Still don’t get it .

    Ever seen these ? The Ultimate Caterham , that in fact isn’t .


  27. tj Martin Says:

    @ Chuck Grenci


    Add in the extensive rebates and incentives the German Govt is shelling out to get the Volks to buy an E/V ( that isn’t ) and you’ve pretty much got the picture

    e.g. Like E/V’s and Hybrids in the US it aint the appeal of the cars themselves that sellin em . Takes a whole lotta Government intervention ( bribery ) to get the things off the showroom floors in the EU/UK as well

  28. tj Martin Says:


    Bummer . But HTH did Dodge manage to place too small a Brake in a car ???

    Talk about blatant negligence .

  29. tj Martin Says:

    A little Automotive Fun to kick off the weekend


    TJ’s new Tour Bus perhaps ?

    ” On the Road again ……… ”

    Toodles all 8)

  30. pedro fernandez Says:

    Well, the Journey is built off the Avenger chassis which is built off the Caiber chassis and they did not bother to improve the brakes even though the Journey is a lot heavier than the Caliber, this should be engineering 101, right? just checked online the Journey is 2k lbs heavier and the front discs are only slightly larger than the smaller, lighter Caliber, incredible!!

  31. marshy Says:

    my three cents;

    1. The Ampera looks very tightly sprung in that stock footage – I presume that it has a much more Euro tune than its lazy sister?

    2. Am I the only one who sees an awful lot of Mitsu Evo in that Ford front? Esp on the angle shown in the clip looking at the headlight and opening?

    3. I mean come on Mr. Mays, trapezoids have 4 sides…

  32. HtG Says:

    Is it this suit, Pedro?


    If you check page 5, you’ll see a table demonstrating how the Journey’s brakes have a very small swept area compared to other vehicles. It looks like there’s only 5M at stake here, though I haven’t read much of the document.

  33. pedro fernandez Says:

    Yes, Sir, that is the one. I’ve read about this for a year or so and the technician at the dealer who fixed it the first time, told us of this problem and told us we could go after-market and get beefier discs or just keep getting them replaced at the dealer every year while the warranty is in effect. This is absolutely ridiculous, if there is one thing car makers should NOT skimp on is brakes, especially for a vehicle that is touted as a family hauler and even comes with optional third row seating. Just think, you’ve got 5k lbs curb weight, add up to 7 passengers and their luggage which could increase weight by another thousand or more pounds, being stopped by brakes designed for a car weighing barely 3k lbs. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. (But I warned her)

  34. HtG Says:

    That 5M number I cited seems to only be a minimum for creating a class action. Do you know how big the suit is actually for? My reading of the doc above is that the discs can just keep getting replaced as they wear and warp. Has your sister experienced brake fade? That’s scary; I once got that going down a mountainous twisty.

  35. pedro fernandez Says:

    Sorry, I misread the Journey specs online the 5k lb figure is when carrying a full load of passengers, empty weight is 3800lbs a thousand more than the Caliber, but it is capable of carrying more passengers and luggage thus putting more stress on the brakes, hers need to be redone already making squealing noises even they were redone less than 1 yr ago

  36. pedro fernandez Says:

    HtG they make noises and feel like you’re not going to be able to stop in time in a panic stop, completely unreliable and untrustworthy.

  37. HtG Says:

    So your sister has only been informed that the class action status has been granted by a court? Did you get what the requested remedy was? Fix the cars, pay?

  38. pedro fernandez Says:

    Haven’t got a chance to read it yet. But what can they do, send you a few bucks? that’s not gonna fix the problem, this is one big “I told you so” moment, but so far I’ve been a good boy

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The discussion of CR’s data continues.

    Yes, there are things wrong with CR’s reliability data. The sample is magazine subscribers, not a random sample of everyone. The questions are a little vague. Not everyone returns the questionnaire. People may lie on the questionnaire. While they increased the number of responses required to list a car, the published results, in some cases, may not be statistically significant.

    But…. What else is there? JD Powers. They have an advantage in that they randomly sample the entire car buying population. That’s good, but…

    1) CR gives more specific information about specific problem areas, allowing you to determine why a car might be rated poorly in reliability. Powers has only four such categories, helpful, but it’s nice to be able to separate engine from transmission problems, or A/C from audio system problems.

    2) In some cases, CR lists sub-models separately, as with MINI Cooper and MINI Cooper S. Powers does not. All they tell is that MINI’s suck, really bad, with their minimum of 2 dots for three of the four categories in the dependability ratings.

    CR is just one source of data about reliability, and performance of cars, but a useful one.

  40. JB Says:

    Always a great show Mr. McElroy! Thank you for your fine efforts.

    volt sales are low because the stock is not at the dealership and expected delivery time is quoted as 8 to 10 weeks..

    The lease deal on the base model is cool at 2500 down 350 a month but with the highly loaded versions as whats available..the lease deal nearly doubles..

    Kind of takes the wind out of the sails for those looking for a cool new vehicle that makes dollars and cents..

    Most people interested in the value proposition of not having to spend money on gasoline each month don’t want all the nonsense like Nav and other frivolous options..

    Just ship out some 2500 down 350 a month vehicles and then the value proposition of the Volt makes sense.

    The options on every lease vehicle…and leasing is a truly attractive way to go for this new technology…are depreciated at 100 percent during the 36 month lease.. (as is usaully the case for options) rather than the approximate 50 % for the base vehicle.

    Just a perspective to consider… since 5 grand worth of options pushes the lease deal to 2500 down and 500 a month on the 36 month lease..

    thats not quite as enticing for most sharp consumers..


  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It makes sense that Ampera would sell better in Europe than Volt in the U.S. For a start, gas is much more expensive, but beyond that, using electricity to run a car is much more “green” in Europe. Most of the electricity in France is from nuclear plants, while almost half of ours is from coal. For now, Germany also has a lot of nuclear power. As long as you don’t have an accident, nuclear power is “clean.” As Chuck says in #25, though, if there are a lot of EV’s or plug-in hybrids, they will need to tax the electricity used to make up for the loss of fuel tax.

    As far as hybrids, they don’t sell so well in Europe because they have have all these very high MPG diesels available. The only small diesels we have available are the VW’s. with their suspect quality and mediocre dealer network.

    It IS the APPEAL that sells Priuses in the U.S., well over 100K a year. There have been no government subsidies on them for many years, at least not where I am.

  42. Lex Says:

    I just finished watching the current Autoline Detroit and have the following observations: The Kia GT Concept done by Peter Schreyer reminds me of the 196o’s Volvo P1800. If Peter Schreyer get rid of those front end fins and makes it into a coupe he might really have something! The Rear End of the vehicle is perfect. The Front Grille and badging are spot on. Lose the Copper and Brass and put a great power plant and it will definitely sell?

  43. pedro fernandez Says:

    TTAC has a list of the best selling American cars in 1975 and to find Pinto, Vega, Mustang 2 Ford Granada on that list proves that we’ve come a long way baby!

  44. David B. Fishburn Says:

    Just a FYI, about the Journey’s brakes; I’m a dealer tech, and have noticed that the rear brakes wear out faster than the fronts, which is odd, since most FWD cars wear out the front brakes several times before the rears ever need replacement. I would say that there is a engineering problem, and it needs to be fixed.

  45. pedro fernandez Says:

    Re the issue with the Journey’s brakes, another instance of the bean counters messing up an otherwise pretty reliable vehicle, I am 100% positive no qualified engineer will put in brakes meant for a lighter, smaller vehicle.

  46. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Regarding all the much-maligned late 70′s and early 80′s cars, my unscientific observation is that OmniRizons were the best of the bunch. Over the summer in Kokomo, Indiana, I saw several on the road, but I only saw one Chevette, and zero Citations. 1987 was the last year for Chevette and OmniRizon, and was the last year for Citation, plus or minus a year or two. I didn’t see any Pintos, but they were earlier.

  47. pedro fernandez Says:

    I remember the first unreliable car I bought was the Buick X car, not that it was a bad car per se, it was just a constant overheating issue that never got resolved, I could not trust the car to go anywhere but to work, so I had to get rid of it, otherwise who know how long I would have kept it!

  48. HtG Says:

    we had Celebrity wagons. Same deal, Pedro. Did you want AC on a hot day in stop and go traffic? You were in the wrong car. But then I recall that when GM went FWD, that meant heat issues in the engine compartment. So there you go.

  49. stas peterson Says:

    Theiverted trapezoid looks like a direct ripoff of the Dodge Journey snout…