Episode 836 – NHTSA Backs Off Mandate, Fisker Hires LaSorda, Head of OnStar Steps Down

February 29th, 2012 at 12:00pm

Runtime: 8:17

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!

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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.

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

80 Comments to “Episode 836 – NHTSA Backs Off Mandate, Fisker Hires LaSorda, Head of OnStar Steps Down”

  1. tj Martin Says:

    Hmmmn . Lets think on this for a moment

    PSA is in the weeds

    Yet ….

    GM , who has no money ( of their own ) wants to buy a piece of PSA

    Now FIAT … who has even less money and is more in the Weeds than PSA …. wants a piece of the action

    All while BMW has its partnership with PSA for MINI engines

    Complexity Theory ?

    Methinks this is more a job for ……

    MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

    ————

    I was going to do my part III response to T Bejima’s request for positive input on what the US Car makers should do to better themselves , titled ‘ American Cars ; What they Should and Should Not Be ‘

    But …. in light of Marchionne’s bad joke plans for a new ‘ Jeepster ‘ and now GM’s intent on once again investing in an overseas car maker ( which’ll only come to tears like every other overseas venture they’ve ever attempted ) I can see I’d be wasting my time

    Its hopeless ( a true American car from the [ not so ] Big Three )

    Carry On ! Detroit Auto Makers … that is . At this rate : Odds are I’ll be around a lot longer than you’ll be ;-)

    In the mean time I’ll spend my money elsewhere and simply stop caring . Seriously …. whats the sense ? :(

  2. pedro fernandez Says:

    Looks like Sergio is trying to bite off more than he or Fiat can chew, looks like he’s gunning for #1 in the world of cars.

  3. David Britton Says:

    John I love your show.
    You said that their are only 18 LPG filling stations in the US and most are in California. What about the LP stations for all of the gas grills? Many truck stops have LP filling stations for motorhome tanks like Flying J’s. I think if you have a LPG vehicle the only problem will be trying to find the locations on the fly.

  4. HtG Says:

    OK haters, it’s fish in a barrel shootin’ time. Yesterday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu was on capitol hill talking about how it was not the intention of the govt to lower gasoline prices. The goal is to diversify energy sources. If you read the article, you’ll see a link(click the blue ‘Monday’) to a NYT article about a breakthrough in battery technology which will increase density and lower costs. And it was supported by the the big bad govt! —lock and load, pardner

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0212/73408.html

  5. Drew Says:

    There is a reason NHTSA did not land on ultrasonic sensors. These sensors do best reflecting their sound waves off of hard objects. So, an ultrasonic sensor cannot reliably detect a child,, and will certainly miss a child in warm winter clothing. Ultrasonic sensors also have a limited range (about 10 feet).

    Back-overs are tragic. Fortunately, their occurrences are very rare. Unfortunately, the available technology is disproportionately expensive and may have only limited effectiveness.

    Congress mandated NHTSA to act on back-overs as part of the political posturing of the 2008 Presidential election. This political intervention diluted resources from higher priorities.

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    #3,
    I doubt the stations filling gas grills would be able to support a large number of vehicles running on propane. The actual volume of gas for grills and RV’s would be very small compared to using it for powering vehicles.

    CNG would probably be better, because the stuff is piped many places. Also, home fueling with CNG would be practical for many people. CNG cars would have the same “range anxiety” issues as electrics, though, but the range is a lot more. I think it’s around 200 miles for the CNG Civic, the only factory CNG car being sold.

  7. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Maybe VW should buy PSA, to help hasten their goal of being the world’s highest volume car company. VW now dominates the “mainstream” market in Europe. PSA would give them a piece of the “quirky” market, especially with Citroen.

  8. 012345 Says:

    Great show Mr.McElroy, but one thing I like to find out more about is… Who among the big 3 is number one in the development of engines that can run on natural gas or LPG?

  9. Will Says:

    John,

    LPG and CNG cars make no sense.

    If we take it as a given that it is desirable to shift fuel consumption from oil to gas, there are much more efficient ways.

    One example is to switch domesic and commercial heating from home heating oil to natural gas or propane. Heating oil is of similar weight to diesel. Thus reduced heating oil production can be shifted to diesel production. No new technologies need to be developed. No new infrastructure is required (other than a slight growth in the number of filling stations selling diesel).

  10. Will Says:

    John,

    I disagree with your advocacy of sensors over cameras.

    Especially in a world where cars often already have an LCD display, adding the camera may be less expensive than adding sensors.

    Sensors are hugely innacurate. With a camera, I can postion the car within a few inches of a desired postion. Sensors start chirping at a few feet. At best, sensors are a good tool to remind you to look at the camera display. ;-)

    Like cameras, sensors are also subject to being interfered with by snow/ice/mud.

    Also, bumper-mounted sensors greatly increase the cost of minor collision repairs.

  11. tj Martin Says:

    PSA-GM

    Its a done deal ( autoweek )

    Shall we wait or begin our fond farewells to PSA now while they can still hear them ?

    ——

    Obamacins

    He’s now promising ( NYTimes ) he’ll buy a VOLT

    And ahhh……. drive it exactly where ? Considering the Security risks the only place the Secrete Service WILL let him drive it is around the WhiteHouse lawn

    Oh wait ! I get it . Obama’s gonna get one to replace his Golf Cart :o . Now that at least makes sense

    ——

    @ HtG re; #4

    Here’s my take

    #1 The democrats are manipulating the Auto Industry and Economy numbers to make Obamacins look better than he is

    #2 The Republicans . owning as we well know a major share in the Oil Industry are manipulating gas prices to make Obama look bad

    #3 The so called ” New ” Battery tech that in fact isn’t is an attempt to keep Obama’s E/V mandate looking good

    Which mien freund … call me a conspiracy theorist are just one who’s eyes are wide open ( with a bit of ‘ insidious ‘ Insider’ information ) I’m guessing once the Elections are over ….. all the numbers will mystically and magically transform into something very different than they’re appearing now

    OT – Did you hear what we decided at the Apple Shareholders meeting … to do with the $100 Billion ? ( Apple is now valued en total at $500 billion )

    We’re buying Greece ! Figured if Richard Branson can own an Island we might as well own a country . Got me a nice little Island off the Greece coast for my share . Plenty o’ room for you – pedro – MJB and cwolf to join me and the Mrs !

    OK thats a bit of a joke . But the subject ( buying Greece ) did come up .

    ——–

    THE AMERICAN CAR ESSAY

    What it should and should not Be ( the extremely condensed version )

    Americans DO NOT want an American car that is either a pastiche/ clone or a Badge Engineered Euro/ Asian car

    Europeans Sure as _____ DO NOT want an American Auto that is in fact nothing more than a pastiche/clone / badge engineered Euro/Asian car ( read the articles overseas )

    The Japanese MOST definitely DO NOT want an American car that is nothing more than a pastiche/clone / badge engineered American car ( ditto )

    What we/they ALL to a number want is ;

    A GENUINE , QUALITY AMERICAN CAR THAT IS IN FACT AN AMERICAN CAR

    Ahhhhhh…… such a waste of typing . Oh well … at least I got that off my chest 8)

  12. tj Martin Says:

    I hates typos after the fact

    %&9*23(#5^^1@

  13. Jim Thykeson Says:

    Its time to use the ‘Cracker Barrel’ model and open CNG fueling stations all along the interstates. The retro-fitting of the rigs and CNG fuel stations could be a job creation boom in and of itself alone!

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    If they add the back-up camera thing along with new mpg standards, the cost of a new car will go up by a couple of grand. Then even less car will be sold adding to unemployment numbers, this is brilliant economic strategy.

  15. C-Tech Says:

    LPG, CNG? I understand CNG, Honda has offered a CNG Civic with a home refueling station as an option (if you can get a source for natural gas at home). Ford offers a CNG dual fuel option (it is sublet through Roush I believe) for the F-150. Some welding gas supply firms will refuel your CNG vehicle. What is the advantage of LPG?

  16. pedro fernandez Says:

    #9 besides the Vette, and the Mustang, can you think of any others?

  17. C-Tech Says:

    @ #12 A back-up camera system can be added for about $150. I do wonder if it will be effective? Like some of John’s concerns, if you are looking forward at the rear view mirror or a screen in the center of your dash, you may be still missing some things behind or to the side of your car. I absolutely will not teach the kids to “look into the camera” when backing up!

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    #14,
    Charger, 300, and Challenger are, sort of. They use an oldish Benz platform, but are certainly American cars, in spirit.

  19. C-Tech Says:

    @ #14 and #16
    In addition to those vehicles I’ll throw in the Jeep Wrangler, Ford F-150, and Cadillac CTS

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    16 continued,
    …but they are built in Canada.

  21. C-Tech Says:

    @ 18
    ….and the Hemi engines built in Mexico. The transmission is from Indiana.

  22. HtG Says:

    While the rear camera can get dirty, it’s also possible for software to highlight objects in the field of view. There could be a little alarm telling you your lens needs to be cleaned. “I’m sorry Dave, but I can’t let you back up before you wipe the lens.” Plus, maybe there will be a shutter that covers the lens, or maybe a salamander tongue option to lick the glass for you. Think how much Porsche could charge for this option.

    As the east coast’s worst parallel parker, I’ll welcome the change.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    $150? Really? maybe in Mexico or China, but have you checked out the price of a back-up camera and screen as an option? Isn’t the CTS based on a European platform? and TJ said CARS, not trucks or SUV’s RIP Davy Jones, man, do I fell old after hearing the news!!

  24. pedro fernandez Says:

    #20 No HtG they will include a little washer and wiper system like some Volvos used on their headlights years ago.

  25. HtG Says:

    How much do you think Porsche could charge for that, Pedro?

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Here is the non-answer I got from MINI regarding where the engine in my car was built:

    “Thanks for writing to MINI regarding the engine in your vehicle. We appreciate your inquiry.

    Our dealers are available for any specific parts questions you may have. The parts staff has the knowledge and resources to help our MINI customers, and they welcome the opportunity to chat with you. A list of our authorized MINI dealers, categorized by address or ZIP Code, can be found on our website at http://www.MINIUSA.com under “Shop,” “Find a MINI dealer.” I hope this information is helpful.

    The MINI Customer Relations and Services Department is available Monday through Friday from 9:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M., Eastern Standard Time. You can reach us at 1.866.ASK.MINI (275-6464).”

    I called the customer relations number. They knew who I was from the caller ID setup, so they had the VIN of my particular car handy. I asked my question about where my engine was built, with my window sticker saying France, and some other sources saying “a BMW plant in the UK.” The guy put me on hold and said he’d ask some people and see what he could find out. After a few minutes, he came back and said, sorry, I couldn’t find out anything. It looks like it is really hard to find a conclusive answer to this question.

    I’m starting to think that the engines are basically built at a Peugeot plant if France, but some sort of “final assembly,” of the engine, like attaching the alternator or something, is done at the Hams Hall plant, so they can say the engine was built in the UK without totally lying about it.

    Anyway, if anyone has any conclusive information on this, I’d be glad to hear it.

  27. C-Tech Says:

    @ #21
    You can actually purchase and install it on your vibolla my friend for about that price. Camera is built into the license plate frame and the screen is a special inside rear view mirror. The company is U.S. based, but I don’t know where the components are made.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    These backup cameras are mostly sold as part of packages, and at a very high price.

    I have favored most of the mandated safety equipment on cars, but this backup camera thing is crazy. It looks like the now-delayed rules made no difference whether a vehicle had very good, or very back visibility out the windows.

    I don’t want to pay for it, and I don’t want a TV screen taking up space in the dash of my car.

  29. pedro fernandez Says:

    @25 I don’t have that problem, when folks see and hear the Vibrolla start up, they get the hell out of the way mighty quickly! #23 Oh I guess about $300 B/W $500 in color.

  30. pedro fernandez Says:

    are we getting so freaking lazy that we can’t manage to turn our torsos and heads to the rear, so besides depending on mirrors, we can look in the blind spots?

  31. HtG Says:

    Last year I drove a Toyota minivan that had a rear view camera. Without it, I don’t think I could have parallel parked, or even backed up without relying on the force. You just can’t look through steel well enough to see the ground.

    ____
    Porsche rear cam. Are you kidding, Pedro? Do you know how expensive a Karl Zeiss lens on a Leica camera is going to be?

  32. pedro fernandez Says:

    It’s all a freaking joke, first they design the cars with deadly blind spots and very difficult outward visibility, then they want to charge for a camera and screen system so we can see better out of the poorly thought-out death traps and here comes more profits for the manufacturers, bring back the old stuff, please!

  33. Alex Kovnat Says:

    > NHTSA BACKS OFF BACK-UP MANDATE

    The problem I see with ANY mandated gadget, whether a closed-circuit camera, ultrasonic device, etc is this: Every time the government mandates another doodad on our cars, it adds weight, takes up space, adds costs, and is one more thing one has to spend money to maintain or replace.

    Naturally, those who have a vested interest (emotional/ego or financial) in rear-facing TV cameras or ultrasonic people-detectors will give us a big sales pitch. But consider this: There are probably thousands of patents granted every year by the patent office for gadgets that are meant to make driving safer, more pleasant, more economical, et cetera. If every one of these devices were to be mandated, your car would be so weighted down it wouldn’t be able to move, especially when you consider 50+ miles per gallon CAFE demands.

    Considering that cars are already required to carry ~1000 lb. and thousands of dollars worth of doodads and curlicues to comply with government regulations, I would just as soon that NHTSA never again mandate anything that cars don’t already have.

  34. W L Simpson Says:

    Serious driver training would negate the need for gadgetry, except for full time camera & screen replacing all mirrors

  35. pedro fernandez Says:

    W L Do you really want cameras to replace mirrors? Honestly, sometimes I don’t even trust mirrors, I still prefer to turn my head to make sure I don’t miss any car that may be on my blind side.

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    #33,

    I don’t want cameras, but I think it’s impressive that we kill fewer people in cars than 40 years ago, even though there are several times as many miles driven, many more distractions, and probably less well trained drivers. Were it not for “government mandates,” we’d probably kill 200,000 people a year in car crashes.

  37. steve Says:

    John, Please explain the difference between LNG and LPG as an automotive fuel. Which is a clean, natural gas or propane?

  38. cwolf Says:

    How many people get killed when backing up? I’d rather have a lower trunk lid mandated than a rear viewer as small as 2 inches! Most of the time I have to back up means I just entered the car. Before entering,does’nt everyone look whats around the car before entering?

  39. Will Says:

    Pedro,

    Ultimately, cameras will replace the side mirrors, mainly to improve aerodynamics.

    Cost is relevant because they will require a dedicated display for full-time operation (rather than sharing a display with the nav., etc). Perhaps a projection/heads-up display could be used.

    However, existing powered heated mirrors are not cheap. A wide angle camera on each side of the car would not need any electro-mechanical aiming hardware. Remember, the need to aim mirrors results from having to accomodate the line of sight between the driver and the mirror. A camera eliminates this.

  40. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I think a few token life sentences for people who back over their kids would help solve the problem.

  41. pedro fernandez Says:

    Again, if the industry is so concerned about this issue, why have they designed the new vehicles not only where you sit lower, the belt-line is higher, thicker A pillars, windshields further away from drivers and the rear windows smaller with more metal in the c pillar instead of glass? And now they put in rear cameras, ridiculous. Makes me long for the 80′s GM sedans.

  42. HtG Says:

    Here’s something tj was thinking, I think. Was LaSorda brought in as a condition for the next tranch of govt millions to be handed over to Fisker? The cuzes know.

  43. pedro fernandez Says:

    I must be very lucky, cause in 40 yrs of driving, I’ve never hit anything backing up or sideswiped any car, only been hit from behind twice and by someone running a red light many moons ago, with no electronic drivers aids whatsoever. Oh, and for years I drove cars with no right side mirror.

  44. pedro fernandez Says:

    In the case of Fisker, not even baseball’s LaSorda would help this stalled train wreck!

  45. HtG Says:

    I was just wondering if DC got fed up with subsidizing Henrik Fisker’s bauble(doesn’t look sexy in an election year). At least LaSorda knows production and workers. And 300million dollars is a lot of leverage. ‘Meet the new boss, Henrik.’

  46. tj Martin Says:

    ALD

    ( subtitled ; We Won’t Get Fooled Again )

    Oooops . They gotcha this time ;

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/chinese_government_fools_autoblog_autoguide_leftlane_news_sundry_others/#more-433249

    —-

    @ HtG – #41 I certainly hope not ! FYI the cuzes couldn’t care less about small fry grifters like Fisker ;-)

  47. tj Martin Says:

    #44

    Didn’t Henriks government handouts get the axe last week ?

    I read the DOE loan got canned … due to lack of ….. well …. you know

  48. HtG Says:

    TheDetroitBureau reports today that the new Viper will be debuted at the NY Autoshow. Looks like you suckers may have to suffer another autoshow review from HtG.

  49. tj Martin Says:

    @ Kit

    Well I know for a fact I’s right … but sorry MINI was so unhelpful

    Now don’t you wish you could get the same kind of service from MINI as I did from Apple ? Hee Hee ;-)

    Could of told you ahead that’d be the result … but you wouldn’t of listened ( some MINI CS dweeb is who got your email who in truth doesn’t know the answer and couldn’t care less )

  50. tj Martin Says:

    #47

    The new Viper ?

    Oh yeah the badge engineered SLS which was Benz’s last ‘ gift ‘ to Chrysler afer makin their exit .

  51. HtG Says:

    I’m still going to get a rictus, tj.

  52. pedro fernandez Says:

    RE: LaSorda if you fail once, try and try again.

  53. C-Tech Says:

    @ #51
    As for Fisker and LaSorda: To parphrase W.C. Fields “If at first you don’t succeed, quit trying! It’s no sense to keep making a fool of yourself.” Good night all, this Captiva is kicking my a$$ and parts screwing up and got the wrong part for this van. We’ll try again next month!

  54. C-Tech Says:

    @ #39
    That’s mean Kit! :)

  55. Kit Gerhart Says:

    #48,
    Since you are so sure you are right, exactly what engine assembly do they complete in the UK plant, and why do the window stickers say France as the country of origin for the engines?

    I was not surprised at the non-answer, but MINI is probably better than many car companies with such things. Several years ago, before either Daimler or Fiat, I emailed Chrysler to ask how many ’89 Dodge Caravans had my 2.5 turbo, 5-speed manual power train. I got an answer, 405 of them out of a production of 200,000 or so.

    Anyway, I replied to the email from MINI with something to the effect of, “you didn’t answer my question,” and repeated the question. I’ll see what response I get, if any. My email didn’t bounce, so the reply went to a valid address, though it may not be monitored. We shall see.

    Yeah, it sounds like you got a good response from Apple with real information, rather than one of many form letter sections they might be able to choose from. I’ll have to email Apple and ask why my iPod Touch has that proprietary connector instead of a mini usb or some other standard connector. I’m sure they won’t say “to sell connectors” which is probably the actual reason, but they might have an interesting answer.

  56. Kit Gerhart Says:

    #39,
    Yeah, I guess

  57. XA351GT Says:

    Australia has been running cars on LPG for years. My Falcon was running it when I imported it in 2000. They had to remount the gas tank in the car when it was to be shipped over here. Also the funny thing was the guy that loaded it in the container had filled it up with 98 octane leaded gas that they were still able to buy at regular filling stations. Right after that they stopped selling leaded fuel at the stations.

  58. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Several years ago, a guy I knew converted a Ford pickup with the old 300 CID six to propane. He used it mainly on a farm, so the limited range was not a problem.

    I guess he converted it to save money, but I’m sure the conversion wasn’t cheap.

  59. Steve Says:

    I went to the 6 hours at the Glen (Watkins Glen) last summer. Nothing sounded better than those Mazda Rotary RX8s while they made their way around the track.

  60. Earl Says:

    Back up camera…I have a 2012 Genesis with a back up camera and I can’t say the rain,snow and the likes have not affected it all. Inciidently the car has bumper sensors too. All works well.

  61. Andrew Charles Says:

    The advantage of LPG over CNG is distribution infrastructure. Or, it isn’t. It really depends on the market. In Australia, Korea and some European markets LPG is widely available, but CNG is used only for domestic purposes (heating and cooking). In the US and other European markets, CNG is widely available at gas stations, but LPG is not. In most cases, availability came first, and government incentives followed.

  62. Andrew Charles Says:

    EVs may be selling slowly, but Fisker and Bright’s troubles have nothing to do with sales. Bright was not even building vehicles yet. (Technically neither vehicle is an EV, as both would have used a GM 4-cylinder as primary motivation, with electrical assistance and kinetic energy capture.) The troubles at both companies stem from the effective cancellation of the US government advanced technology vehicle loan program. Officially, the program is still running, and both companies were promised funding they depended on to finance tooling of new factories and production of their new products (the IDEA van and Project Nina sedan). After all this is what the program was for. Both companies have found though that there is a big difference between the promises of funding, and its actual supply. Although the government is legally required by the Energy bill to offer loans to subsidize advanced technology vehicles, in practice the terms of these loans have been repeatedly altered in order to delay approval, and to discourage application or acceptance when approved. GM long ago decided it wasn’t worth the effort or cost; Chrysler more recently withdrew their application after waiting three years for approval; Fisker demurred its loan (already announced by the government to show how much action they were taking to build new industries and save the environment) was made conditional on performance objectives they had not met; Bright had been waiting four years for approval, with more conditions added every time they lodged a new application, until it became clear there was no chance of receiving funding under any circumstances. Bright calls the program a “debacle”. I’d call it fraudulent, farcical and scandalous. In a different country ministers would be forced to resign and governments toppled.

  63. tj Martin Says:

    OOOops !

    Looks like FORD is bombing in the EU as well ( 2nd item)

    http://www.carmagazine.co.uk/News/Search-Results/Industry-News/News-watch-March-2012-todays-auto-industry-news/

    ——

    @ Andrew Charles

    If the likes of Fisker and TESLA are unable to move forward without life support/welfare checks / subsidies from We the People ( American tax payers ) then they’ve got no damn business being in business

    Also your assertions are in fact false

    The MAIN problem with Fisker/TESLA et al beyond the lack of viability for E/V’s , battery problems , lack of consumer desire et al is in fact thus ;

    Neither Henrik Fisker or Elon Musk have one single iota of what it takes to create , manage , finance and make viable a REAL WORLD manufacturing business as neither has an ounce of experience doing so

    Fisker is in fact a failed Automotive designer who’s day has passed and Musk is a Virtual Reality Vapor Ware maven who in fact was NOT the one responsible for PayPals eventual success

    Combine both their abilities and you’re not even close to the experience John DeLorean walked into his little venture with ( think about that one for a moment in light of the blatant failure Delorean turned out to be )

    Add in the fact that both Musk and Fisker have done NOTHING over the last five years , with the exception of making promises they’ve constantly broken , lied profusely and on a regular basis ,as well as con most if not all their actual investors on top of conning the press who aren’t smart enough to call them what they both are .

    A pair of 21st Century Automotive Con Men

    Seriously , how you can make the statements you do aboth both ( which go well beyond what could be considered ‘ Opinion ‘ ) and even for a moment ‘ Claim ‘ to be well informed on the subject of the Musk/Fisker debacle is beyond my comprehension

  64. tj Martin Says:

    TESLA & the COURTS

    Oh yeah and BTW AC

    In case you hadn’t noticed , the fraudulent court case Elon Musk threw at BBC & Top Gear for them DARING to expose the truth about the TESLA Roadster they tested

    WAS THROWN OUT OF COURT

    At least the US Judicial System hasn’t been taken in by the Fisker/TESLA freight train of LIES

    And also . Did you hear the one about the German tuner who’s E/V was tested against the TESLA Roadster ?

    Why no you did not . BECAUSE that track test and the magazine who did it have been suppressed/censored ……… by non other than than the US Government who you CLAIM has not been supporting the company

    Suffice it to say I know the results personally and can tell you the TESLA was not only creamed by the German Tuners E/V but in fact it took some FIVE TESLA roadsters to complete the test : whereas the Tuners E/V required not even one single repair .

  65. tj Martin Says:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/moodys-gm-deal-turns-psa-into-junk/#more-433319

    Let the mourning commence !

    GM barely has their signature dry on the contract and already PSA’s stock has been reduced to JUNK status

    Honestly that took a heck of a lot less time than I assumed it would .

    A moment of silence for the failed GM overseas relationships over the years , some of which have wound up on the scrap heap ;

    SAAB
    Subaru
    Lotus
    FIAT ( forgot about that one didn’t y’all )
    OPEL

    and now

    PSA

    Snif :(

  66. HtG Says:

    To fathon this PSA deal, we might need the combined expertise of a beancounter and somebody from DC.

    64 I rather thought exercising its option with GM worked out pretty nice for the folks in Torino.

  67. tj Martin Says:

    @ Kit Gerhart

    re; Your MINI response ( pun unintended , but it is a good’n yes)

    If its any consolation Kit , your response from MINI USA on a question was about ten times better than anything I ever got by email/phone/snail mail from Audi USA , on a car costing nearly twice as much ( as our MINI’s ) when addressing REAL problems

    e.g.

    Audi ? I’ve owned the car for a total of 48 hours and the ECU has failed

    Audi ? This is the 3rd time my rear suspension has failed

    Audi ? When are yo gonna fix this incessant rattle even your dealers admit is bad ?

    The realities of Automotive Customer Service in the 2000′s I’m afraid . At least from the companies .

    —–

    #65 Yeah but it didn’t work out so well for GM now did it ? Not to mention that despite FIAT making out like bandits the company is still failing miserably

    On the PSA deal ? Maybe the Amazing Kreskin can sort it out

    Being a Smoke & Mirrors deal if there ever was one

  68. tj Martin Says:

    @ HtG

    BTW you never did say

    What did yer cuze think o’ the acoustics etc from a performers standpoint at our Kaufmann CPA ?

  69. HtG Says:

    sorry tj, I never asked. He did however say something interesting about the hall in Berlin; which was that the old wood which they use inside, has a bearing on the quality of sound there. BTW, if you’re not watching AAH tonight, you can listen to the program the orchestra performed at Carnegie last Saturday night. They did some songs by Mahler contemporary Hugo Wolf, and then Mahler 2. WQXR.org will have it up for the next six months. (I know the damned Mahler well enough that I’ve been suffering an ear worm for the last several days. Constant fragments playing in head. Do you know how to make it stop?)

  70. HtG Says:

    tj, the ‘old wood’ comment was made when comparing to a certain hall on our west coast. Mum’s the word.

  71. tj Martin Says:

    The PSA -GM deal

    ( subtitled ; Did Marchionne just pull one over GM’s eyes ? )

    Well and interesting email just popped up in my box from CH way .

    Here’s the thinking .

    The assumption is that the only reason Marchionne made overtures towards PSA is because …….

    He knew full well that’d force GM’s hand to act hastily while knowing full well what the final outcome of the PSA/GM deal will be .

    Crap ! I may have to admit Stronzetto may of done something right .

    ——-

    @ HtG Shame on you !!! ( for not asking ) You’re off the list ! No cottage on my Greek island for you ! No ‘ Soup ‘ either !

    ” Old Wood ” I completely understand . As I’ve said : from a listeners standpoint I think both the Disney and the Kauffmann’s sound is lifeless and dead . More ‘ recording studio ‘ than live concert hall . So if the cuze wasn’t thrilled by the Disney’s sound he sure as heck wasn’t by ours either . Both having the same bloody Acoustician and ours being a bit worse IMHO . But I do love the looks of the Disney .

    Mahler I’m not such a big fan of . No real reason , just not a fav . Anyway HtG being an Introvert , both personally and musically and as a composer , I tend to lean heavily towards solo and small ensembles myself . String Quartet being my absolute #1 after Solo .

  72. tj Martin Says:

    @ HtG

    ” Constant fragments playing in head. Do you know how to make it stop ? ”

    Why yes I do ( had the same problem this morning after NPR blasted ‘ Daydream Believer ‘ due to DJ’s passing )

    Pull out either ;

    #1 The thorniest CD you like in your collection

    or

    #2 The most melodic CD you love

    Listen to it repeatedly until the ‘ ear worm ‘ stuck in your head finally goes away

    I pulled out Cassandra Wilson’s version of ” Last Train to Clarksville ” to finally drive DDB out the brain !

    If you’ve never heard it , its a revelation . Take you about 30 seconds to even realize what the tune is

  73. tj Martin Says:

    @ HtG

    Here it is;

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faK8TxS-D1w

  74. Jeff Taylor Says:

    I usually agree with you John, but I disagree about the backup cameras. Between my wife and I, we’ve had 3 vehicles with backup cameras. While they aren’t perfect, as you point out, they are helpful as another layer of safety and security. I hope to never own another car without one. I very much worry about the safety of my child and I want every advantage I can get.

    My last car had a backup camera and the ultrasonic sensors which was the best of both worlds. Both have their limitations, but when combined they tended to cancel out each others inadequacies.

    I’d say let people choose whether they want cameras or not, but I found that in order to get the backup cameras on most cars that I looked at, you pretty much had to get them bundled with a lot of stuff that I didn’t want which of course bloated the price.

    It is in the manufacturer’s best interest to force you to pay for options you don’t want in order to get the backup camera. So I fear that legislation may be the only want to allow all people to get the cameras independent of trim level and options.

  75. HtG Says:

    tj, I think your worm fix has worked. Thanks. BTW you hit dead on with the Gehry building, old wood judgement.

  76. tj Martin Says:

    MORNING VIDEO BREAK

    http://jalopnik.com/5889624/watch-the-charlie-sheen-fiat-ad-that-was-too-hot-for-the-super-bowl

    Say what you will about CS as a person . He sure beats the hades out of his 2 1/2 Men replacement in the ” Cool ” factor .

    FIAT IMHO screwed up big time not airing this . Sure beats the heck out of Mr Eastwood’s bit of bilge water

    8)

  77. pedro fernandez Says:

    Hey maybe they would have sold a few of these, instead, people went out and bought throat lozenges.

  78. Kit Gerhart Says:

    #73,
    ” I very much worry about the safety of my child and I want every advantage I can get.”

    Then why not, for example, put your child in the car with you before you drive the car, unless the child is in the house with another adult?

  79. Jeff Taylor Says:

    #77

    I wasn’t thinking about a specific case, I just want to know for sure that no kid, my own or otherwise, behind my car when I’m backing up. This applies at home, at the shopping mall, etc. It’s a belt and suspenders thing as far as I’m concerned.

    No technology is perfect, but every little bit helps. I watched my family be destroyed when my sister was killed (not in a backup accident) and I know how much it can devastate a family. I want to do everything I can to prevent that from happening to someone else. I can’t guarantee anything, but I want to be as careful as possible.

    We can get in argument about how to effectively allocate costs for safety features and where to draw the line is a tough call. For me in this case it is worth it. Your mileage may vary and I think this topic is a productive discussion, no matter where it ends up.

  80. Andrew Charles Says:

    #63.

    TJ, I never mention Musk or Tesla, so I have to assume you were so upset you didn’t actually read my post. Low sales, no manufacturing experience, an overweight Karma etc., are all issues Fisker has to deal with, but they are not the source of Fisker’s current problems. People are not being laid off because Fisker needs more manufacturing experience, Project Nina has not been delayed because advanced hybrids have a limited market (you may argue that they SHOULD drop it for that reason, but that is not why they’ve had to pause development). Fisker’s current problem is due to the denial of promised funding. Washington made a big deal about lending advanced vehicle technology companies money to develop product which would solve the problems of fuel economy and global warming. They went so far as to announce a big loan to Fisker to develop the Project Nina sedan, and now they have said, “You have to meet these performance targets before we give you any money.” Fisker had hired staff, bought a factory etc., and now they are told “No, you can’t have the money after all”.

    Furthermore, Fisker’s problems have little to do with Bright Automotive. The problem isn’t a lack of demand, or poor sales, since they were still waiting for funding to start production. The Bright Idea is a completely different proposition to Fisker’s Project Nina. It is an advanced commercial van, with not only a hybrid powertrain, but a whole package designed to meet the needs of big commercial fleet buyers, buyers who were waiting to place orders. These are companies who think nothing of spending the extra $15K for a CNG Express, an electric E150, or a unique box van body instead of the standard Express or Econoline body. With financial markets still as tight as a sphygmomanometer (unless you want to build a plant in China), no one can invest in new plants unless you are already making a lot of money from existing sales. Bright was lead to believe there would be funding from Washington for their innovative van. They made repeated applications for over three years and were told every time “this is great, but we’ve changed our requirements”. Do you think Chrysler and GM withdrew their applications because they decided not to develop advanced technology powertrains? They withdrew their applications because a) the loans came with interest rates no better than their current debt; and b) they realized after waiting three years for approval, that there was no money coming anyway. As startups, Bright and Fisker can’t rely on their nice fat profits to fund new production (most small car companies fail even when profitable because, while they make enough money to cover development and production costs, and pay back their loans with interest, they don’t make enough money to fund development of a new generation model without getting a new line of credit). Fisker is now saying they will seek funding from private investors. Good luck to them (and their investors if they can find them). Bright didn’t think that was a viable option (not after waiting three years for funding already). Ironically the Idea probably has a better chance of entering production even with Bright closing down, than Fisker’s Project Nina has with Fisker selling the Karma and it’s derivatives. Daewoo’s orphaned Maxus van was picked up by LDV, which got it investment from Russian Machines, and is now produced under license in Turkey as the Fargo Fora, and by new owner SAIC in China as the Maxus V80. It may take a while, but the Bright Idea will find a new owner, and a new production site, but maybe not in the USA (which was the whole point of the promised loans). Electric/hybrid commercial vehicles are a whole different prospect to electric/hybrid cars. While some companies have stumbled, the market proposition is far different. Unlike electric cars, there is a real commercial payoff for fleets to go electric. Far higher mileage and routine, predictable usage make the business case for buying electric vans attractive to many companies, and big operators such as UPS, Fedex, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Deutsche Post etc. are willing to buy in bulk, if you have the right product.