Episode 842 – BMW’s Blow-Out Profits, No Diesel For You, Mazda’s Obsessive Weight Loss

March 8th, 2012 at 12:00pm

Runtime: 7:51

BMW reports the highest profits in the history of the company. Obama announces a $4.7 billion plan to get Americans to buy more fuel-efficient cars, but diesels are conspicuously absent. Mazda’s weight reduction on their newest crossover has gone to obsessive levels. All that and more, plus Seamus McElroy has a report on Volvo’s latest Polestar-tuned models!

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This is Autoline Daily for March 8, 2012, I’m John McElroy, and here’s the news.

BMW just reported record profits for 2011. Its earnings before interest and taxes, or what they call EBIT, were just over $10 billion. That gave it an 11.8 percent profit margin. Only Volkswagen has posted higher profits, and VW is a much bigger company. Not only did BMW boost sales, it also cut costs by sharing more parts and components across model lines. And all that resulted in the best results in the history of the company.

President Obama announced a $4.7 billion plan to get Americans to buy more fuel-efficient cars, but only if they are hybrids, plug-ins, electrics or run on natural gas. How interesting that diesels are not included on the list even though they provide a 25 percent reduction in CO2, a 30 percent improvement in fuel economy and already outsell hybrids in the American market despite the fact they’ve never had any incentives. The president claims the U.S. needs to adopt an “all of the above” strategy, but I think he needs to modify that statement to “most of the above.”

Speaking of improving fuel economy, here’s a cool tech tidbit we found on the new Mazda CX-5. That car weighs 220 pounds less than the CX-7 it replaces. And in its fanatical effort to cut weight, Mazda reduced the size of the heads on the bolts that it uses. The diameter and length of the bolts are the same, but the smaller head saves 8 grams per bolt. That’s the kind of attention to detail you need these days, and Mazda says regular sockets will still fit the new bolt design.

Remember Carbon Motors, that company developing a purpose-built vehicle for law enforcement? We haven’t heard from them in a while. Now they’re back in the news, but not in a good way. Bloomberg reports the automaker WILL NOT receive a $310 million loan from the U.S. Energy Department. Naturally, Carbon Motors’ CEO, William Santana Li, someone I interviewed on Autoline a couple of years ago, is outraged by the move. He’s not alone. Some 14 members of congress sent letters to the Energy Department on behalf of the company.

This is the last of our coverage of the Geneva Motor Show, I promise . . . maybe. Toyota just revealed a concept in Switzerland called the FT-Bh. This futuristic vehicle hints at its next-generation hybrids. It’s powered by a 1.0-liter two-cylinder engine and a lithium-ion battery. Natural-gas and plug-in versions could also be possible. Helping deliver a fuel-economy score of 112 miles per gallon, the FT-Bh weighs just 1,800 pounds, or just over 800 kilograms! Ok, it’s one thing to claim that for a concept car, could they get it into production at that weight?

Tires, the final frontier of vehicle customization. But not for long, because Bridgestone is boldly going where no rubbermaker has gone before! According to Autoblog, the company developed a new printing technology that allows drivers to personalize their tires. The process involves two layers of ink and a protective coating. Practically any design can be painted on the sidewall as long as it’s in vector-graphic form. No production date is set, but they could be available by this summer.

(This content available only in video version.)

Thanks for that report Seamus. We’ll have even more details in upcoming shows.

Tonight we’ve got a great After Hours in store. We have Paul Schilperoord the author of a new book on a guy named Josef Ganz, who claims a Jewish engineer really came up with the idea of the original Volkswagen. Also joining us tonight is David Kiley from AOL Autos, who also wrote a book on the Beetle. Please join me and that bodacious Autoextremist for the best insider information in the business.

And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching we’ll see you tomorrow.

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25 Comments to “Episode 842 – BMW’s Blow-Out Profits, No Diesel For You, Mazda’s Obsessive Weight Loss”

  1. Jon M Says:

    Politics, politics, politics. You’ve got to love how the games are played! I’d say diesels are not included in incentives for slow selling EVs and hybrids because they run solely on fossil fuels, and that will not sit well with certain groups. In other words, it’s the politcally correct thing to do.

  2. Tony Gray Says:

    FT-Bh? My feelings exactly.

  3. Jim Haines Says:

    New bolts BS they are called E Torx or External Torx. I have seen them on cars for twenty years. I was always told Torx bolts were popular because robot fixtures hold them better than hex heads or screws. Mazda is trying to rewrite or reinvent history for some reason but they are BSing big time.

  4. dcars Says:

    I think Diesels aren’t included for another reason, the German’s have the best technology for Diesel engines. Opel’s Unions and the German Government is not going to do anything for GM. I see no reason to help VAG, M&B, Siemens and by the looks of it, BMW doesn’t need any help either.

  5. C-Tech Says:

    @ #3
    I agree. John, the bolt in the picture is practically the same as Mercedes and Chrysler among others have been using for years. Perhaps Mazda is expanding their use of them. For northern climates, I wish you good luck getting them off if they rust and seize!

  6. C-Tech Says:

    Before going all conspiracy theory about Diesels, perhaps they were not included in the incentive package because of their success. Why do you need to add incentives to a product which already outsells the competition what 4 to 1? As far as I can see, the real losers are the U.S. auto companies which DO NOT offer a diesel option in their cars, suv’s and light duty trucks and vans.

  7. C-Tech Says:

    John, because inquiring minds want to know, how about investigating what Chrysler is planning to do now that Penske has decided to field Ford cars in NASCAR. Penske was the primary team fielding 2 Chargers and supplying parts to a 3rd team, and other Nationwide and Truck teams. Without Penske, will Dodge drop out of NASCAR? Will Chrysler spend the millions to woo another NASCAR team to put Dodges on the track?

  8. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Agreeing that reverse (external) torx have been used by a lot of manufacturers; also remember there are 454 grams to the pound, so while hundreds of bolts could help reduce weight, there are many other areas of construction that would deliver more massive savings. Of the 220lbs. of savings (in the case of the Mazda); not much came from the bolts.

    The ‘Pres’ was off-based in excluding the diesel (as part of the solution): not in ‘His’ agenda though; sad. The ‘Emperor’ has spoken; and that’s sad too.

  9. shan Says:

    That spokesman for Volvo reminded me of the famous SNL bit, “Hans and Franz… Pump you up”.

  10. dcars Says:

    #6 your right, why bother those companies are doing well, they don’t need any more help.

  11. Miradart Says:

    Amen to #5′s comment!! Less mass before corrosion, means less meat left after to get a pair of vice grips on. I can see a boon in “Easy Out” bolt extractor sales.

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    From the LOL file, CR tried to report on the Fisker Karma, but the test car broke down during the testing! Video avail on youtube

  13. Brett Says:

    Diesels are selling well, and are a mature technology at this point. I expect the the government is trying to stimulate development in other technological fields they mentioned.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Exactly. It would be nice if VW had some company in offering smaller diesels in the U.S. market, but it’s not a place where government incentives make sense, except maybe lowering tax on diesel fuel so it costs the same as regular gas.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Maybe GM will get some 4 cylinder diesels as a result of their investment in PSA. PSA makes some very good small diesels.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    John Mc.,
    Do CAR disels outsell CAR hybrids, or are you including diesel pickups? MB and BMW only sell a handful of diesel cars. VW sells a larger number, but Prius alone sells 130-150K a year, and some other hybrids, like Fusion, sell fairly well.

  17. 012345 Says:

    No bolts, no bolts; seriously no bolts, I can’t believe car companies still relying on bolts, I least (I thought) they had moved to spot welding by now, but bolts. Can someone please tell MAZDA that there is such thing as industrial metal to metal adhesives (super glue) if they’re serious about cutting the weight down.

  18. C-TECH Says:

    @ #17
    It will be hard to un-glue or un-weld an engine, trans, or suspension piece don’t you think?

  19. T. Bejma Says:


    GM already has small diesels in other markets and already had a plan for a diesel Cruze long before the PSA deal was ever thought of. The main benefactor of that deal is going to be Opel who gets much better buying power in Europe. GM (other than Opel, of course) does not purchase much from Europe and high end components (basically things we can’t make very well in Korea, India, Thailand, etc.) are too expensive to bring in. There isn’t much we are going to get here except maybe a Euro type small car in 4 years…

  20. EdK Says:

    OK John, time to fess up, what relationship is Seamus to you? Son? Nephew? Long lost younger brother?

  21. T. Bejma Says:

    Here in India, diesel is about $1 per gallon less than petrol, so it is no wonder 75% of the cars are diesel. If diesel were cheaper in the US, you would see a lot more here. Come on guys, you have to start thinking GLOBALLY…

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Based on energy content, diesel fuel should cost about 11% more than gasoline, but, if properly sized for the vehicle, a diesel gets about 30% better fuel economy than a gas engine, both according to John, and from my own experience I had with a VW TDI.

    When diesel fuel is cheaper than petrol, as in India, it is probably that way due to taxation differences, since it takes more crude to make the same amount of diesel.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    Saw my second Volt in as many days. this one was parked outside a psychologist’s office.

  24. Dave Says:

    If diesels are included in the government tax credits, then you might as well throw in the EcoBoost engines. Greater efficiency at a premium price. I don’t see the difference.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Diesels actually are a lot more efficient than gas engines, if they are properly sized. Turbo gas engines are only a little more efficient, if at all.

    The “ecoboost” F150 gets slightly better EPA numbers than the V8, but Consumer Reports got the same mileage. No, turbocharged gas engines don’t provide nearly the higher efficiency of diesels. Not even close.