February 29th, 2012 at 12:00pm
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was on the verge of mandating back-up cameras in all vehicles but decided to put those plans on hold as it collects more input. In another sign of the problems at Fisker, the company just appointed former Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda as the new CEO of the company. The head of OnStar, Linda Marshall, is stepping down from the company after being named to the position a little over a year ago. All that and more, plus John responds to your questions and comments in You Said It!
This is Autoline Daily for the last day of February and here’s what’s going on in the global automotive industry.
NHTSA BACKS OFF BACK-UP MANDATE
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S. was on the verge of mandating back-up cameras in all vehicles but decided to put those plans on hold as it collects more input. Here’s my Autoline input: you’re betting on the wrong technology, NHTSA. Maybe you ought to test drive these back-up cameras before you mandate them. In my test drives I’ve discovered that if the camera lens gets rain on it, or ice, or snow or dirt, you can’t see what’s behind the car. Remember, the camera lenses are really dinky, smaller than the finger nail on your pinky, so it’s very easy for them to get dirty. And in winter weather it can take a while before the screen warms up. People aren’t going to wait for it to come on, they’re just going to go. NHTSA should be adopting sonar sensors which are oblivious to weather and dirt and are cheaper than cameras and screens, and that’s what you want if you’re trying to prevent cars from backing over people.
FISKER HIRES LASORDA
In another sign of the problems at Fisker, the company just appointed Tom LaSorda as the new CEO of the company. Henrik Fisker will stay on as chairman, but he’s turning day-to-day operations over to LaSorda. Maybe this will help the fledgling company, but I doubt it. LaSorda was president of Chrysler as it was being run into the ground, overproducing when it was owned by Daimler and gutting product development when it was run by Cerberus. LaSorda is a good manufacturing guy, but Fisker’s problem is that EVs just aren’t selling and he’ll soon join the growing list of EV startups that are failing. Oh, this just in. EV startup Bright Automotive just announced it’s going out of business.
FIAT INTERESTED IN PEUGEOT STAKE
Peugeot is in deep trouble. 60 percent of its sales are in Europe and we know where that market is headed. Yet General Motors is poised to grab a 7 percent stake in the company. And GM is not the only automaker that’s interested. The Detroit News reports Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is hungry for a piece of the Peugeot pie. The two companies already have a joint venture for building light commercial vehicles, and Peugeot could give Fiat access to business opportunities in Russia and China, where it’s particularly weak. But if Peugeot, GM and Fiat get together it could get VERY complicated VERY quickly. Better go out and hire some experts in complexity theory, guys, because this arrangement could take forever to get anything done.
MAZDA WON’T GIVE UP ON ROTARY ENGINE
Mazda plans to drop its rotary-powered RX-8 sports car this June, but it’s still developing its Wankel engine. According to WardsAuto, the company says it’s close to a technical breakthrough that would improve the rotor seals – a major problem with this kind of engine. It’s also working on a revolutionary ignition system– no pun intended – that’s rumored to use lasers. This is all fine and good, but why is Mazda, a small, independent automaker investing so much time and money in rotary engines? They’ve never caught on in the history of the auto industry and they’re hugely expensive to manufacture because of all the machining they require. PLUS they have reliability, fuel economy AND emissions issues. To me this helps explain why Mazda is in so much financial trouble.
HEAD OF ONSTAR STEPS DOWN
The head of OnStar, Linda Marshall, is stepping down from the company after being named to the position a little over a year ago. She replaced Chris Preuss, who was pushed out by GM CEO Dan Akerson to make room for Marshall. But it sure looks like Marshall got the heave-ho as well. According to the Detroit News, Terry Inch, OnStar’s director of sales, will take over on an interim basis.
NATURAL GAS GAINING POPULARITY
A few years ago billionaire oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens proposed a plan to get more vehicles in the U.S. to run on natural gas. He said it could create a million jobs and cut oil imports by a third. Now trucking companies are starting to adopt the fuel because liquefied natural gas is up to a $1.50 a gallon cheaper than an equivalent gallon of diesel. A new report says using natural gas can cut costs by $20,000 for trucks that travel 100,000 miles a year. But where can you fill up? There are only 18 stations open to the public in the U.S. and 14 are in California. However, several companies plan to open more stations across the country in the next few years. Analysts believe it’s only a matter of time before it becomes more popular due to the low cost of natural gas.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
YOU SAID IT!
And now it’s time for some of your feedback.
Ron E. heard our report on how people who did lead brazing in plants years ago were given a glass of milk to drink to wash the lead out of their bodies and says, “Johnny Mac, I worked for many years at an aluminum smelter. Workers there would flux the holding furnaces with chlorine gas. If someone inhaled the gas, they would be taken to first aid and given a couple of cartons of milk to drink, to coat the esophagus and provide a soothing effect in case there were any burns.”
I’m not sure that milk did any good in either case, but at least they were trying.
RIGHTKNIGHT170 saw that Miles brothers film from San Francisco in 1906 and says, “AWESOME old 1906 film! A truly lost history due to the quake! It’s like traveling back in time!”
And T. Bejma says, “John Mc – Very cool video! Amazing that there was no one killed in that scene, between, the car cutting off the trolley and all of the people waking in front of it and standing in the road.”
Yeah, back in those days it was assumed that you would use common sense and assume personal responsibility. Our litigious society, fueled by plaintiff attorneys, had not yet come on the scene.
Oak cabin liked one aspect of my interview with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This had to be rigged or very good timing!! Did anyone see the lady in the back ground talking on her cell phone while LaHood talked about cell phone use? I missed about half of LaHood’s talk because I was distracted by the lady with the cell phone.”
Oak cabin, when we played that interview back during our editing, I about fell off my chair laughing when I saw that.
Maserattiquatroport saw our report that GM Holden is developing an LPG car for the Australian market as says, “I don’t understand what ‘liquefied petroleum gas’ means. How does it differ from the current petrol we use for our vehicle?”
Maserattiquatroport, LPG is liquid propane. By liquefying it, you can pack a lot more into a gas tank with much higher energy density than a gas.
Thanks for all your comments and letters, we love to go through them.
But that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, please join us again tomorrow.