Episode 832 – GM Appoints New Head of R&D, Volvo V40 Images Leaked, Honda Shuffles Management

February 23rd, 2012 at 12:00pm

Runtime: 6:39

In somewhat of an unexpected move GM named Jon Lauckner Vice President and Chief Technology Officer starting April 1. Images of the all-new Volvo V40 were leaked before the car debuts at the Geneva Motor Show next month. Honda announced its top executive in North America will also become the second-highest executive in the company. All that and more, plus a look at the all-new Toyota Prius c.

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Welcome to Autoline Daily for February 23 as we cover some of the latest developments going on in the automotive industry.

In somewhat of an unexpected move, GM named Jon Lauckner Vice President and Chief Technology Officer starting April 1. In addition to his current position as President of GM Ventures, Lauckner will be responsible for the company’s R&D efforts. He is replacing current CTO Tom Stephens, and the current head of R&D, Alan Taub, who are both retiring.

Every day automakers are leaking pictures of cars that will debut at the Geneva Auto Show. Autoblog came across these pictures of a sleek looking Volvo V40. No other details about the car are known, but after it debuts we’ll let you know more.

In a sign of how serious Japanese automakers are struggling with the strong yen, Honda’s top executive in North America will also become the second-highest executive in the company. Tetsuo Iwamura, who is already COO for North America will also become executive vice president and an executive officer of Honda worldwide. Honda is also appointing Erik Berkman to head its R&D operations in North America, the first time that has not been held by a Japanese. Berkman used to run Honda Performance Development, its racing operations in the U.S.

Just to show you how far Hyundai has come, the Elantra is now selling for a higher transaction price than the Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. USA Today reports that the Hyundai Sonata is also closing the gap on the Camry and Accord. The two Japanese automakers have consistently captured the highest transaction prices in their segments and this could be a threat to their future profitability in the American market, which is where they make most of their profit.

We know the UAW is getting involved in various protests. President Bob King made the union’s intentions clear about a year ago. Now, a right-leaning news outlet found documents on the UAW’s web server indicating the union is training some 100,000 non-violent protesters. It’s cooperating with 43 other groups to form a mass occupy-style campaign, called “The 99% Spring.” Can the UAW pull all these disparate groups together into one big protest movement? We shall see, but it looks like this spring could be an interesting time in America.

Colin Furze, a British tinkerer and stuntman has done the impossible. Well, not impossible, rather, insane. He’s souped-up a mobility scooter with a potent 125cc motorcycle engine. The result is a top speed in excess of 70 miles an hour . . . and tons of laughs! This thing ABSOLUTELY RIPS! With rear-wheel drive it even gets squirrely. But the thing that amazes me about this thing is that it’s a total sleeper. He’s kept just about everything you can see stock, right down to those tiny, little tires. ME WANT!

Thanks for that report, Craig. Don’t forget to join us for Autoline After Hours tonight. Our guest will be Rob Nichols from GM’s Performance Build Center where they build some of the most powerful engines in the world. Join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo for some of the best insider information in the business.

That brings us to the end of today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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

55 Comments to “Episode 832 – GM Appoints New Head of R&D, Volvo V40 Images Leaked, Honda Shuffles Management”

  1. Chuck Grenci Says:

    On Craig’s review in Florida; was hoping for the boat review……………….darn. :)

  2. tj Martin Says:

    TESLA pt III

    One down . ( TESLA’s ridiculous lawsuit against the BBC & Top Gear for daring to be honest about his $110K sham )


    More to come no doubt , what with TESLA’s reactions to the Whistleblower I placed the links for yesterday , with the follow up this morning . ( show # 831 )

    Looks like Elon Musk( rats ) House of Cards is finally tumbling down

    Now if Obamacins and the DOE would come to grips with Reality and dump Musk once and for all off the Government Handouts list !

    Personally I’d have him Tarred and Feathered , Flogged and then left in the middle of Death Valley for Buzzard ( no offense Buzzerd ) Bait

    On everything else in todays news I’ll abstain . For Obvious reasons :o

  3. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I bet that scooter needs really smooth surface for running at 70 mph.

  4. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I guess the bonuses weren’t enough for the UAW (or should I say Bob King), I thought that that was the smart thing to do(bonuses); tie rewards to production.

  5. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Scooters are dangerous (to the walking public) at 5mph (them things even have horns); at 70, lookout. :)

    p.s. John, you’re not ready for one of those………………yet.

  6. tj Martin Says:

    ALEX WURZ & Lexus LF-A


    Video is up and running finally !

    Enjoy , especially the sounds

    I’m with Mr Wurz . Just get in the car and run away .

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    Leno is shown on a video praising the Tesla just like he praised the Volt a year or so ago, come on Jay do you want to lose your standing as a gear-head?

  8. HtG Says:

    LFA. Did you see how tall that Wurz is? I asked Justin Bell if he thought the LFA was a car ‘gentlemen’(read rich guys with limited talent) would like, and he said yes. It has these little extra calipers on the rear rotors which help the car turn in. Of course, I am a sucker for V10 noise.
    Tesla. I notice that John is quiet about this news.

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    Jeez, looks like that scooter can kick my a_ _ in a race, this is embarrassing, folks! BTW I predict that Prius is gonna sell out in no time, they’d better get in enough stock!

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    HtG I think John has on several occasions expressed his dislike for EV’s.

  11. Brett Says:

    I saw one of those Prius Cs in Daytona last week. Might’ve been that one, too. Same color.

  12. HtG Says:

    Pedro, I just meant that JMcE is being cautious about the story. I wish Tesla would be more forthcoming.

  13. Jon M Says:

    What the heck is going on with Bob King? It’s one thing for him to think unionization is the only way company’s should operate, but trying to force his will and the union he heads down the throats of every corporation is quite another. Perhaps Mr. King does not realize or want to accept that there is a reason some corporations are not only not unionized, but do not want to be unionized. Note to Bob King: you–and you’re union–are NOT the savior to working people everyhwere!

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    Has any one reminded Mr King that there is a country just south of the US which would is more than happy to accommodate any and all car manufacturers that want to set up shop over there?

  15. tj Martin Says:

    # 14

    ” Has any one reminded Mr King that there is a country just south of the US which would is more than happy to accommodate any and all car manufacturers that want to set up shop over there? ”

    …… and North ( CDN ) , as well as far South ( Brazil ) along with across the Pacific ( China ) and the Atlantic ( India )


    @ HtG – I wonder if Johnny Mac is fully aware yet of TESLA-GATE

    But seriously …. TESLA be more forthcoming ? Thats like asking me to suddenly sing the praises of E/V’s and Hybrids .

    e.g. Aint never gonna happen ;-)


    @ pedro – Like I said before I’ll take a piece of that Prius action mi amigo

  16. pedro fernandez Says:

    You really don’t think they will sell??? TJ, the Dumb sold a lot of them at the start and they SUCK! not even good mileage for its size and the sacrifices you have to make including having a 3 cyl lawn mower engine. (no insult to lawn mowers implied)

  17. tj Martin Says:


    Looks like TTAC is on the story as well now …. except unbecoming of them it almost reads like an apologetic on behalf of TESLA

    TTAC lose their stones somewhere ?

  18. tj Martin Says:


    Yes but the Prius C is nothing more than Prius 2.0 whereas the SMART was something entirely new , albeit not too SMART .

    So no Early Adapter / Novelty bump for the C I’m afraid .

    More like SSDD with a fatter rump .

  19. tj Martin Says:

    I swear the more I look at the Prius C the more it looks like the Mrs Matrix with one of those cheap aftermarket ‘ Body Kits ‘ stuck on .

  20. Jon M Says:

    Geez, my grammar stinks today

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Prius C will sell very well, in fact it already is selling very well in Japan. The problem is that they’re not building them fast enough.

    In the U.S., the C will be a less expensive, and less “geeky looking” 50 mpg car. It will sell well, even at today’s gas prices, and when gas gets more expensive, the dealers will start screwing people wiih ADP, but still sell the cars.

  22. Bob e K Says:

    Sorry I feel the new sonic is a better car in either sedan or 5 dr…looks good plus a better warranty…probably a lot cheaper price also

  23. 012345 Says:

    Colin Furze, a British tinkerer and stuntman has done the impossible. Well, not impossible, rather, insane. He’s souped-up a mobility scooter with a potent 125cc motorcycle engine..
    Just Great! Now even my grandmother can complain of unintended acceleration.

  24. tj Martin Says:


    #1 Simple fact is the C isn’t ‘ geeky ‘ enough . Lets face facts ( with no insult intended ) The reason the Prius 1.0 sold so well and in fact the reason why every other hybrid ( including Toyota and Lexus’s ) doesn’t is all down to the reality that 99.999% of all Hybrid purchasers want to ANNOUNCE in as obvious , loud and blatant a manner as possible ;

    ” Look at me ! I’m Soo Green and Morally Superior to All of You ”

    The Prius 1.5 proclaims that from a mile away whereas the the ‘ C ‘ like I said looks like a Matrix w/body kit .

    #2 You CANNOT judge the potential sales of ANY car by how well it does or does not do in Japan

    The Japanese market does not relate at all to American tastes and/or needs …. so whether the ‘ C’ sells here or not , it’ll have nothing to do with Japanese market numbers

    #3 How many times do you need to got thru the ‘ Gas Prices Go Up ….. People Stop Driving …… Gas Prices go right back down again ‘ routine before you come to grips with that little reality ?

    #4 Finally . If this whole Iran thing is whats concerning you …. read the Business news on the reality of current Oil Supplies . SA is barely at 50% of their potential – reserves are plentiful – everyone in OPEC has committed to making up for any loss from Iran – Libya has and is a moot point …

    ….and the only thing driving up prices at this moment is in fact Speculators / Hedge Funds etc .

    e.g. There’s no substance behind the current price hikes . At ALL

  25. tj Martin Says:

    @ 012345- LoL !!!! :o

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    People who have bought Prius from ’04 to the present have done so because they are a practical, roomy for their size liftback, that uses barely over half as much gas in city driving than the competition, and only 2/3 as much gas on the highway.

    If the C looks like a Matrix with a body kit, so be it. The fact remains that it will use barely over half as much gas as a Matrix in city driving, and cost about the same, comparably equipped.

    As far as your argument that the current Prius sells well because of the way it looks, consider the current Insight. The Insight screams “different” or “geeky” at least as much as a Prius, but it doesn’t sell well because, compared to a Prius, it is slower, noisier, less roomy, rides worse, and uses more gas. It is cheaper than a Prius, but not enough cheaper to make up for its not being nearly as good of car.

  27. Aliisdad Says:

    The Insight is finished with the introduction of the new Prius C which is really too bad since they both serve their purpose well…The problem is that people need to accept hybrids for what are in appropriate applications…
    While I actually like Honda’s simpler “hybridized” drive system, I recognize that the Toyota has gained (earned) the upper hand…The Insight was originally created to fill the market now being entered by the C…Will people buy it over the lower priced small cars that get almost as good mileage, time will tell…
    The Yaris is a really cool, well-built small car that gets over 40 mpg on the highway…Since that basic structure of the C is Yaris, it seems to me that combining the good of a Yaris with a Prius hybrid drive system will probably be a good small car with good reliability and mileage…Go Toyota (and Honda, too)!!!!

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    While the Insight is full of compromises, the Prius is not, that is the biggest difference. Also I’ve never heard of anyone suing Toyota cause the Prius failed to get the advertised MPG’s.

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’d like to see Honda improve the Insight and make it more competitive with the Prii, but I haven’t read of any major changes in the works.

  30. ckernzie Says:

    #24 @tj Martin
    Hit the nail on the head, The C looks too much like a Matrix or … insert econo-box name here. The ONLY reason the Prius sells in the numbers it has is its poseur appeal and it’s instantly recognizable to Joe Public and to the eco snobs and car haters who love it. The C has a bit of the Toyota poseur personality and it has the Prius name on the back but I’m not sure it translates well enough. As for the Insight, DUMB, EV’s or other Hybrids, they may be geeky and different (and sometimes just variants of regular cars) but people will never buy them in numbers because they don’t have the Prius poseur appeal that has been carefully carved out by Toyota. Without that, it wouldn’t matter if the vehicle gets 200MPG and drives like a Ferrari, if it doesn’t scream “I’m a Green Poseur Snob” the target market will not be interested. The only cars that may have a chance at capturing some of that market are the coal cars LEAF & VOLT, but for the time being Prius with its 30+ lbs. of Chinese sourced rare earth metals is the king of the green hoards.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Prius power train is actually mechanically simpler than the Insight, in that it has no transmission, just a power split device that enables it to “do its thing.” Insight has either a regular CVT, or a manual. Both power trains are explained at:


  32. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Insight looks more like a Prius than a Prius. It doesn’t sell well, because it’s not nearly as good as a Prius. It’s as simple as that.

    Most Prius owners buy the cars because they work well. If you want to call me names, like “green poseur snob,” so be it, but I didn’t buy a Prius for the image. A Prius looks the way it does, to lower the aero drag substantially from the drag of a “normal” looking car. At this point, a Prius is very much a mainstream car. They have been selling more than 100,000 a year in the U.S. since 2004, so if you want to “stand out,” it’s not your car.

  33. tj Martin Says:


    Im afraid good sir as number 30 has stated even better than I did , the World ( especially the marketing mavens ) are in stark disagreement with you

    This might not of been YOUR reason for buying into the Prius image ( I’ll give credence to the fact you just might be that .001% ) but the majority of your Fellow Prius owners bought one for the IMAGE plain and simple

    Had it been for functionality the standard Hybrids ( which are infinitely more practical ) as well as the Honda Insight ( which in all truth is as good if not better than the Prius ) would of sold as well or better than the Prius

    Fact is good sir that it was / and still is the Hollywood Celebrity Bump thats gotten Prius sales where they are , as well as keeping them there

    You’re fooling yourself if you think for a minute any differently

    And seriously Kit … this quote ..

    ” …A Prius looks the way it does, to lower the aero drag substantially from the drag of a “normal” looking car. At this point, a Prius is very much a mainstream car. They have been selling more than 100,000 a year in the U.S. since 2004, so if you want to “stand out,” it’s not your car ”

    Is a joke . Go have a talk with ANY legitimate aerodynamacist about the Aero properties of your Prius . Here’s a clue . It isn;t and you’ve bought into the Prius Propaganda MYTH

    As far as the ‘ not standing out ‘ part . You’re joking , Right ?

    ( please say you are )

    Anyone can spot a Prius ( as well as recognize one ) from a good four blocks away as well as they can a 911 . They are THAT distinct

    But like I said Kit . I’ll be decent and give YOU the .001% nod . But don’t for an instant even try to deny the other 99.999%

    Because all the statistics , surveys etc say I and CK are 100% correct

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    @tj, #33,
    Compared to a Prius, an Insight is slower, noisier, rides worse, has less room, and uses more gas? How, exactly, is an Insight “better” than a Prius?

  35. HtG Says:

    I’ve seen the C, and it is quite low key except for the shiny taillight treatment. If I had to put on my cynic hat, I’d wonder if Toyota were trying to market this one as a ‘hidden car for those in the know.’ You know you’re cool because you’re not shouting, but you know what’s cool.

    I know this because I like the C. ;)

    (I personally totally buy that Kit got the Prius because he likes it. He’s an engineer. I did the numbers on a Prius and it just didn’t pay for its gas advantage in most cases. But I’m cheap sometimes)

  36. tj Martin Says:

    And this one …..

    “People who have bought Prius from ‘04 to the present have done so because they are a practical, roomy for their size liftback, that uses barely over half as much gas in city driving than the competition, and only 2/3 as much gas on the highway ”

    …… Is pure unadulterated Horse feathers as I’ve pointed out time and time again . The back seats in the Prius are miserable . The ride makes the Mrs Matrix feel like a Benz . The front seats are torture devices THE PRIUS’S brakes are abysmal . The handling is a joke for a car its size . Almost every other hatchback sold has more luggage space and the Highway MPG is blatant Balderdash .

    And….. heres a little Insight ( pun intended ) on the build quality of the Prius …. compared to the Matrix to be fair .

    Body panels – Thinner and lighter gauge – to compensate for the extra battery weight *

    Interior ( seats etc ) Thinner seat frames – less padding – less sound insulation – * ( see above )

    Platform – Again thinner lower grade steel – more flexible * ( and again see above for the reason why )

    Suspension – Cheaper shocks /springs etc etc * ( same reason as well as to contain cost )

    That straight from a Toyota engineers mouth .

    All that extra weight , whizz bang technology etc comes at a cost Kit

    Cause as I keep on saying here time and time again;


  37. tj Martin Says:


    I’m giving Kit the .001% nod as well

    The ‘ engineer ‘ part I have a difficult time believing

    Not that most engineers have the common sense God gave to a cow mind you ( we’ve four in our families , as well as several friends and honestly beyond their immediate area of specialization I wouldn’t trust any of their opinions any further than I could throw their car . Excessively linear and stuck inside a box would sum up my overall opinion of the breed )

    As far as the numbers are concerned . other than a full time City Dweller that barely drives beyond his/her Cities borders the numbers DO NOT add up for anyone

    As AGAIN AAA / AARP etc etc etc have stated ever so clearly Time & Time again .

  38. Kit Gerhart Says:

    You have you uninformed opinions which I’m sure I will not change, but you might take a look at this list of drag coefficients of a number of cars:


  39. tj Martin Says:


    I said as good as if not better , not definitely better .

  40. HtG Says:

    tj, aren’t you describing the incremental way engineers can reach a goal? My Civic weighs 2460lbs and is quite slippery, but I can go around the car and see how they achieved it. Matrix is a perfect people and stuff mover, but at least on the regular models like my sister’s is quite quotidienne. There’s a part of me that likes to see compromises; maybe one reason I appreciate F1, where engineering balance is front and center.

  41. HtG Says:

    ‘quite quotidienne’ Who liked that one? Didn’t even have to spell check.

  42. tj Martin Says:

    # 38

    Ohhhhh goody . Back to Wiki( fake a) pedia

    Go have a chitty chat with a REAL aero engineer ( mine is an AeroSpace MM alum / race car designer . )

    For the love of Pete Kit

    Accept that ;

    A) I’m giving you the .001%

    B) I can out fact you on the Prius on any level you chose ( reminding you we did look into one … thrice … once with the Mrs purchase … once again before I purchased the MINI .. and again before purchasing Franz .. just to be sure my FACTs and information were correct . Even borrowed a 2011 for four days to be certain . Along with as a long time Toyota fan as well as a former TRD and TTE racer I’ve been following the Prius story since day one )

    C) Even though I thought you were wrong about the Li battery thing , when I found out you were correct I ADMITTED it … quite clearly as a matte of fact

    So Obviously when I’m wrong I’m willing to admit it .

    So drop it already . You like the car ? Great ! I love my GLK as well but you don’t see me trying to ‘ sell ‘ anyone else on it now do you ?

  43. tj Martin Says:


    And I quote my MM Aero buddy on this

    ” What you see when it comes to Aerodynamics nine times out of ten isn not what you get ”

    e.g. Visuals are at best … deceptive when aero in involved

  44. tj Martin Says:

    Basta ( told myself I’d avoid this conversation this morning )



  45. HtG Says:

    43 where did I hear the aero engineer saying that the rear wing on some car looked a certain way because it looked right to consumers, but actually wasn’t efficient?

    I also find some of the little flip ups on today’s cars pretty naff, but I guess they’re functional

  46. Kit Gerhart Says:

    That drag chart is from ecomdder.com, not wikipedia. I don’t knot where they got the data, but it certainly seems resonable.

    I appreciate your post on the batteries, after you talked to “your guy.” I just wish you’d get beyond saying that every car sucks, except what you have. I agree that a GLK has it’s virtues, even though I probably wouldn’t want one, but you seem unwilling to accept that a Prius is very good at what it was designed to do.

    I am ready to quit this discussion, before we both get kicked off of the forum.

  47. HtG Says:


    no reason

  48. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Here is a procedure for finding the drag coefficient of a car:


    I haven’t done it, but it would be interesting to try. Those windless days seem to be hard to come by, though, in my part of Florida.

  49. pedro fernandez Says:

    Just read an article by CR about a dozen or so cars that beat the EPA highway estimates, not one single H/K product, Honda Civic did the best and the Camry non-hybrid did better than the Mazda 2 with its wimpy 100hp motor!

  50. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Were any VW diesels on the list? They generally seem to do well, relative to their EPA numbers.

  51. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I just checked some cars on CR’s web site, including an Elantra, Corolla, MINI, Mazda 3, Prius, Golf TDI, and Jetta TDI. All of them beat the the EPA highway rating, except the Elantra.

    The Hyundai did pretty well, with 39 mpg in CR’s highway test, vs 40 EPA, but the Corolla, even with its 4-speed automatic did better, with 40 in the CR test, vs 35 EPA.

    Hyundai must really be good at optimizing gearing, engine tuning, etc. for the EPA test, but maybe they are sacrificing real world mileage in doing so.

  52. pedro fernandez Says:

    No but the BMW 3diesel was and so was your beloved MINI at 41 mpg Camry actually beat Corolla as well as the Mazda 2 manual Best non hybrid was the Civic LX at47 hwy, I guess the new Civic still has one great thing going for it!

  53. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The new Camry tied the manual MINI at 41 highway, but the MINI did better in city driving, not surprisingly, since it is a lot smaller, and about 600 pounds lighter.

    The Passat TDI got 51 in CR’s test, vs 40 EPA. That is impressive. The Prius got 55 with CR vs 48 EPA.

    CR’s highway test is a steady 65 mph, with the engine warm and no A/C.

    I got this information from CR’s web site (subscription). It has a function making it easy to place cars side-by-side in a table to compare them.

  54. pedro fernandez Says:

    Our friend at MPGomatic ALWAYS beats the EPA numbers by a very wide margin, this guy must drive with his eyes on the mpg readout with little regard for his speed, his numbers are just way too high!

  55. pedro fernandez Says:

    Still, Kit those are really good numbers for a car in the class of the Camry, those 6 speed transmissions make quite a difference.