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Episode 41 – Trouble in the Senate, Honda Says Batteries Not Ready, Cellulosic Ethanol for Oz

December 11th, 2008 at 12:00pm

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The bridge loan faces a tough time in the Senate because Republicans oppose the bill. Honda says battery technology isn’t ready for plug-ins or EVs yet. Holden and Coskata team up to bring cellulosic ethanol to Australia. All that and more, plus Ford comes out with a way for fleet managers to keep track of their trucks.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. The bridge loan faces a tough time in the Senate. Honda says the batteries aren’t ready for plug-ins or EVs. And Ford comes out with a way for fleet managers to keep track of their trucks.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, December 11, 2008. And now, the news.

One down and one to go. The House of Representatives passed the legislation to provide a $15 billion bridge loan to GM and Chrysler before the end of the year. But now it has to be approved in the Senate where its future is very uncertain. A cadre of conservative Republicans, led by Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, are vociferously opposing the bill. And they oppose their president. Even the White House is now in favor of providing this loan to the automakers.

So why are Shelby and his cohorts so against this bill? They say that unless the Big Three make even more massive cuts, this is just a waste of money. I’d agree with them to a point, but there’s more going on here. I believe they’re out to break the union’s back. They know the Employee Free Choice Act will likely be enacted next year under an Obama Administration, which it will make it far easier for the UAW to unionize the transplants. Senator Shelby has three of those transplants in his state of Alabama. And he may want to see the UAW so weakened it can’t organize those plants, or if it does, will not be able to drive up wages or benefits.

CSM Worldwide predicts that the Big Three may soon be the Big Two. The consulting firm predicts Chrysler will not survive even if it gets government loans. It blames it on a lack of scale and new product development and Cerberus’ unwillingness to invest money in the company. Also, Chrysler’s merger with Daimler essentially gutted its R&D operations.

Even China is starting to feel the effects of the down turn in the auto industry. Geely announced a restructuring move that will cut out layers of management, lay off workers and slash suppliers. Geely says the laid off workers will be placed in other units of the group. Hmm…where have I heard that idea before?

One of the key provisions that Congress wants to see the Big Three do is build fuel efficient cars, especially plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. But we recently ran into Dan Bonawitz, the vice president of corporate planning at American Honda who says the technology isn’t ready.

And speaking of alternative fuel, Holden and Coskata are partnering up to produce cellulosic ethanol in Australia (subscription required). According to Ward’s, this will be the first cellulosic plant outside the U.S. Holden plans to offer a Commodore that runs on E85 by 2010. And it will be available with V6 and V8 engines that will produce more power than current models thanks to ethanol’s higher octane rating.

Coming up in our feature story, new technology from Ford to help fleet managers. We’ll be back right after this.

Owing a fleet of vehicles can cause all kinds of headaches. Keeping track of mileage, maintenance and other things can be a real pain. That’s why Ford came up with a better idea.

The Work Solutions suite is a group of technologies that can really help out. One part of this package is called Crew Chief. It gives fleet managers the ability to monitor the location of their vehicles in real time. If you know where all of your vehicles are, you can send the closest one to a job. This saves on time and driving. It also lets them remotely track things like fuel mileage, engine idle time and a whole lot more.

Crew Chief relies on an in-vehicle Internet connection to work. Data is sent through a web-based application and can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection.

Crew Chief and the rest of the Work Solutions suite is offered on 2009 model F-Series trucks and E-Series vans.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Don’t forget though, next week we’re offering another chance to win some slick Autoline prizes with a brand new trivia question — but we’re not going to tell what the question is. It’ll only be available to our newsletter subscribers. Don’t worry though, if you’re not on our mailing list you can still subscribe. Just visit our website AutolineDaily.com and sign up now. It’s painless. I promise. That way you’ll get every episode of the show delivered right to your inbox, and you’ll also get a chance to answer each week’s trivia question.

Anyway, that’s it for today’s show. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

11 Comments to “Episode 41 – Trouble in the Senate, Honda Says Batteries Not Ready, Cellulosic Ethanol for Oz”

  1. Tony Gray Says:

    Interesting comments about Honda’s battery R&D that doesn’t line up with what GM has been saying about progress with their Volt program. Perhaps GM is putting on a happy face…perhaps Honda realizes they are behind and trying to poo poo the GM lead.

    On the other hand, it is possible that Honda’s design goals exceed that envisioned by GM, placing them at an only “perceived” disadvantage.

    Regardless, I think that Honda’s new Insight and the introduction of the new Ford Fusion Hybrid will finally give Toyota some competition in the high mileage sweepstakes.

  2. steve salis Says:

    It looks to me like GM is making the same mistake with the EV that they made with Diesel engines in the 80′s. I trust a Honda Engineer far more than a marketing guy from GM.

  3. pedro Fernandez Says:

    John: today I met a gentleman who happens to own a Chevy dealership, his frustration in what is happening with GM is painfully obvious, he told me about all the crappy products that he was forced to sell in the past is hurting his ability to sell today’s lineup which is decidely much better, he let me drive his Malibu around the block, I was astonished as to how good that car is. But again due to overproduction by GM and the perceived quality issue, the resale value of these cars is way too low,which as you know hurt the leasing end of it. I relly felt badly for this guy, if only they could get more people into trying out the car they would sell a lot better.

  4. John Says:

    “The Ford Work Solutions™ Magneti Marelli computer system runs Microsoft® Windows® for Automotive. Additional applications allow you to create spreadsheets, update bid forms and much more.”

    Microsoft is at it again.

    Proprietary file formats are the game that Microsoft uses to hook their users.

    The OOXML format is their latest scheme.

    Just Google “OOXML ISO” for some great reading about Microsofts Rigging of The ISO Vote on OOXML .

    Last week Gates was ready to throw the Bailout under the bus.

    Ford should research OOXML and ISO to see what they are exposing their customers to.

    NOT “a better idea”.

  5. Sean Walsh Says:

    When the electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids that Congress is so hot for start failing and consumers are up in arms, it will just give Congress another chance to hold grandstanding hearings and to collect campaign contributions from lawyers filing class-action lawsuits.

    After having watched your show for the last several years and as a Washington D.C. area resident, I have much more confidence in Rick Waggoner, Alan Mulally, etc. than in Henry Waxman, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

    As an engineer in the ship design and construction field, I was very impressed by the recent shows “Technologic” and “Change”. I particularly was struck by Dr. Schmidt’s refusal to be drawn into identifying a single technology as “the solution”. He correctly observed (in my opinion) that it depended on external factors that aren’t clear yet.

  6. Fred Mallien Says:

    A Chevy dealer has 10 Silverados and 10
    Cobalts on its lot. It sells the Silverados out, but there are 8 Cobalts left. The automaker will replace the vehicles sold. Congress blames the automaker for not selling more Cobalts and therefore will withold a bailout. How does Congress expect the automaker to change the consumer’s choice?

  7. Rich C. Says:

    Here are some interesting comments from a former GM engineer who was laid off. It offers a peek into the inner workings of GM and one of the reasons they are having so much trouble effecting change internally

    “In the time that I was at GM, all I ever heard was work harder and things will turn around. I, as well as a lot of other people (non management white collar), busted our tails in doing so only to see our medical insurance go up, our profit sharing reduced or disappear, cost of living adjustments taken away and raises disappear while the executives and UAW’s (the UAW was never asked to sacrifice nor would they) did not.

    “Quality of the vehicles is not the issue here. We designed and engineered vehicles to be of the highest quality. However, sacrificing on the part of the executives and the UAW as we had, to get back market share by lowering the price of the vehicles, was out of the question as far as they were concerned. If they had, these companies would have been in line with their competitors in what they pay their workers and executives and could have beaten them in the market place. These two entities refused to do so and now they have to ask for help because of it.”

    You can read the rest here:
    http://bigthreefail.blogspot.com/2008/12/why-gm-will-fail-former-engineer-tells_7393.html

  8. Muhammad Rafi Says:

    Great shows, as always. But what I’d like to know is how could we, the viewers, buy the Autoline gear that you give away on the show? I’d love to have the Autoline cap and mug.

  9. John Morgan Says:

    Well if chryslr dies that means the resseion will get worse. Plus also the 15 billion auto bail out bill has to pass if anyone whants a corvette , or volt. That Honds exece does know that much about EV’s , in that EV’s can be a car for 70% distances of the population as from the DOT. But I do get that there is no sliver bullet in this energy/envirommental crisis. In that we have to look at all alternative inculding even the bicycle and public transit
    VVV

  10. Brenda Says:

    Why is your news always so late in the day?

  11. John McElroy Says:

    To Brenda

    It takes an awful lot of work to produce our show. The basic rule of thumb is that it takes an hour of work to produce every minute that goes on the air. So a 6-minute show takes 6 labor hours to produce. We could slap it together a lot faster if we didn’t use any video or photos, but we want a quality product.