Episode 844 – VW Wants to Match Last Year’s Profits, Mazda to Downsize in NA, Hyundai Santa Fe

March 12th, 2012 at 11:00am

Runtime: 7:02

VW wants to match last year’s operating profit which was close to $15 billion dollars but it won’t be easy.  Mazda is looking at laying off employees in its North American operations due, in part, to the strength of the Japanese yen.  Hyundai is readying an updated Santa Fe crossover to introduce at the New York Auto Show.  All that and more, plus a fun new segment called Hall vs. Hall featuring Jim Hall and his evil twin brother Bob.

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Hello, I’m John McElroy.  Welcome to Autoline Daily for March 12. Hey, it’s the ides of March! And now, the news.

VW wants to match last year’s operating profit which was close to $15 billion dollars but it won’t be easy. The company is going to share more parts across brands for small and mid-sized vehicles. It says in the long term this will cut production costs by 20 percent and assembly time by 30 percent. But in the short term it’s going to raise costs. The company plans to launch 40 new or updated models worldwide in 2012.

Speaking of VW, last week we reported that BMW made headlines appointing a woman to its board of management. German corporations are under enormous pressure to appoint women to their boards ever since Angela Merkel became Chancellor. Now, VW is going to do it, too. But in a twist that perhaps German regulators didn’t have in mind, Ferdinand Piech, the chairman of Volkswagen, is appointing his wife to the board. Ursula Piech, 54 years old, is about twenty years younger than her husband. I think she’s his fourth wife, or at least, it’s known he has twelve children through four different women. Piech is the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche and this latest move solidifies the Porsche and Piech families’ grip on Volkswagen.

Japanese automakers are still facing stiff headwinds due to the strong yen, currently trading at 82 to the dollar. That’s better than it’s been recently, but still not good enough. Now, Mazda is looking at laying off employees in its North American operations. Even though Mazda’s sales in the U.S. are up strong so far this year, the company needs to cut costs to make up for shortfalls elsewhere.

The Bentley EXP 9 F was one of the weirdest reveals at last week’s Geneva Motor Show. Who would have thought this classic British brand would introduce an SUV concept? With monstrous fog lights, plastic bricks for tail lamps and rear haunches that look like they were pulled off a Dodge Charger, the EXP 9 F is a homely mishmash of styling cues. Strangely, Bentley’s designers agree, admitting the concept was “heavy handed.” Thankfully, they’re reworking the production version.

Another day, another auto show; New York is next on the list. Hyundai is readying an updated Santa Fe for the Big Apple. It just released a couple renderings of the crossover on Facebook. This utility will wear the brand’s latest design language, called “Storm Edge,” which is an evolution of “Fluidic Sculpture.” We’ll have more details on the new Hyundai Santa Fe in a couple of weeks.

We like to say that Autoline Daily covers the global automotive industry, maybe we should change that to the solar system. Goodyear is showing off its “Spring Tire” that it developed with NASA for use during space exploration. The tire, which has no air in it, is made up of 800 load-bearing springs which can contour to any surface. It can carry heavy vehicles and is more durable than rubber or pneumatic tires, which aren’t ideal for use in space. Goodyear also developed the wire mesh tire that was used on the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle in 1971.

Coming up next, we have got a hilarious argument over what’s better, the Saturn Sky or Pontiac Solstice. It’s the first installment of Hall vs. Hall. Yep, those Halls . . .

Jim and Bob Hall are some of our favorite people to hang out with. They sure know a lot about cars, and they sure have a way of talking about them. We recently asked them which car was better, the Pontiac Solstice, or the Saturn Sky, and here’s what they came up with in a piece we call Hall vs. Hall.

Those guys are crazy! We’ll have more Hall vs. Hall in upcoming shows, but for now that wraps up today’s report. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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

43 Comments to “Episode 844 – VW Wants to Match Last Year’s Profits, Mazda to Downsize in NA, Hyundai Santa Fe”

  1. Ron Paris Says:

    Hall vs Hall: Slow news day John?

  2. Tony Gray Says:

    I prefer the Sky as well…and I owned 3 Pontiacs vs 1 Saturn.

  3. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I thought the Sky looked better, but both cars were very “underdeveloped” for coming from a major manufacturer. The top mechanism was substandard. There was no trunk, and the interior was, putting in mildly, underwhelming. Both cars looked good, though, and drove ok if properly equipped.

  4. Dan Bedore Says:

    More Hall vs. Hall, please!

  5. Wim van Acker Says:

    John was not sure whether Ms. Piech is the fourth wife. She is, and in Germany people jokingly say that is reflected in the Audi logo with its four rings, representing the four wedding rings of Mr. Piech :-)

  6. Jon M Says:

    I’m not really a fan of Hyundai, though I have no angst against them either; but the teaser pics of the new Santa Fe look pretty good. Now if only Hyundai could steal an interior designer or two from Audi, then they might have a complete package that at least looks good enough on the inside and out. As it is, it might look sharp on the outside, but I’m sure it will be the usual Hyundai blah on the inside.

  7. tj Martin Says:

    KAISER WINTERKORN on the Move ;

    Total Blitzkrieg imminent .


    Hmmn ; Taking on a losing company with over a Billion in debt, that hasn’t seen this side of a profit for decades and lost every previous owner up to this point even more Billions .

    And just to add insult to injury , Winterkorn’s field general practices a bit of Nepotism , just to drill home the point that …. well ……….. VW-Audi . Just wait for it . It’ll all hit the fan … and maybe sooner than later ;-)

  8. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Wow, looking at that Bentley, I kept saying, gee that looks like something familiar…………….and then I got it; Studebaker Lark of years ago. “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Sir Winston Churchill :)

  9. MJB Says:

    I, too prefer the Sky over the Solstice.

  10. dcars Says:

    In regards to VW and Piech’s wife as a board member, and you heard it hear first….. Look what happened to the LA Dodgers and the Divorce. In addition, Earnhart Racing without Dale Jr..
    Sky high profits usually start heading the other way very quickly.

  11. tj Martin Says:

    THIS !!! Is an Italian exotic ;


    And the true star of Geneva . The ‘ White ‘ was spectacular . The ‘ Clear Carbon ‘ mind boggling ( Pagani having turned CF lay up into an Art Form )

    Ferrari – A sad pastiche of its former self

    Lamborghini – Now just another in the pantheon of VW-Audi parts bin cars

    Maserati – A very bad joke on the Maserati cognescenti being perpetrated by a Cynical FIAT empire

    Bugatti – OTT bit of wretched excess and again a VW-Audi parts bin creation

    The show car/prototypes ? Ehhh . Some OK . The rest dull and …. just show cars .

    Nope . Pagani was it at this years Geneva IMHO . Hands down

    Do you want one ? Heck even the most politically correct amongst you wants one

    Do you need one ? No one needs a car like this . Well … Unless you’ve a mug like Rowan Atkins , a body like Shrek and all the personality of Bill Gate . Then maybe a case could be made that you need one :o

    Travel Tip ; If in Italy , call ahead and get a tour of the Pagani facilities . None of the pretense/attitude/BS of Ferrari and twice as fascinating

    ;-) Ciao

  12. tj Martin Says:

    Sky – Solstice

    Solstice – Sky

    Who the heck really cares ?

    They were both pathetic piles of junk … that could of been great had GM engineered and built them right …. that leaked like a screen window in the most minor of rainstorms …. handled like a pine 2 x4 with wheels … and couldn’t come near the MX5 in any comparison

    Solstice-Sky … a pair of OPEL/GM losers .

  13. kurt Says:

    Cute concept of Hall .vs. Hall. They might have fun debating CU’s reliability ratings, or value of ultra expensive cars, etc.

  14. Steve Says:

    Mazda needs to be bought up before it’s to late. Laying off employee in a profitable part of your business to off set losses elsewhere. That’s fine if you don’t plan to stay in business for to much longer.

  15. MW Says:

    Solstice-Sky made you wonder if GM ever knew how to build a car. And then they went bankrupt. I guess you can say that question was answered.

    Thanks for your reporting, John.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Maybe VW can improve the operating efficiency of of Ducati. If they can do that, while retaining Ducati’s following, I guess it might make sense.

    I have ridden Ducati’s, and they are fun machines, but I’d never own one because of the high maintenance desmodromic valve setup, which is their trademark feature.

  17. C-Tech Says:

    @ #7
    You nailed it!

    Hopefully the next Hall Vs. Hall will cover a more interesting subject.

    If appointing your current wife to the board is your idea of oversight, then VW will not see 15 billion in profits again.

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    I’ll answer the Sky/ Solstice question: they both sucked equally!

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “If appointing your current wife to the board is your idea of oversight, then VW will not see 15 billion in profits again.”

    Yeah, but she may not be his wife very long.

  20. tj Martin Says:

    And this from Lotus Land ;


    Told you so !

  21. tj Martin Says:

    @dcars # 9

    FYI dcars , I’ve been predicting the eminent demise of VW- Auod for well over a year now , both here and elsewhere .. so its hardly a first today


    Ducati Desmo . Things have changed drastically since the Stone age there …. so maintenance isn’t the problem with modern Ducati’s . Its reliability .

    Seeing as how VW-Audi’s reliability is abysmal on a good day , its hard to perceive any benefit coming from a VW- Audi ownership ….. The most likely outcome being VW-Audi taking Ducati down with them when the ship hits that iceberg its headed towards .

    Here’s hoping VW-Audi passes on Ducati and that Porsche manages to free itself from VW-Audi’s grasp before its too late


    @ T Bejima – Y’all looking in ? Got a bit of a consolation/revelation for you if you are .

    Spent a little time in the evocative Evoque . As bad if not worse Blind Spots than the SRX . In the SRX they’re not acceptable ( your words ) In a car the size of the Evoque , they’re criminal . So …….. Evoque worse than SRX

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “…. so maintenance isn’t the problem with modern Ducati’s . ”

    They still say to adjust the valves every 6000 miles, and it isn’t cheap, at least at a dealer.

  23. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Uh, isn’t the ides of March, March 15th?

  24. Brian Little Says:


    I just checked and the Ides Of March is on the fifteenth of March.


    Brian “Chicken” Little
    Marion, Iowa

  25. W L Simpson Says:

    My screensaver used to be a Solstice rolling
    platform, ready for the body. From this olwrench’s
    point of view , it was a work of art. Disappointing otherwise.Ergonomically unsound.

  26. G.A.Branigan Says:

    For anyone interested in the old mahindra fiasco here is the latest: http://mahindraplanet.blogspot.com/2012/03/mahindra-wins-arbitration-against.html

  27. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Rumor has it that mahindra has cut a deal with Navistar to start building _____? The building of _____? will be in Alabama…..maybe,kinda,well ya never know with mahindra.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    This whole Mahindra truck thing is kind of weird, given that Mahindra has a reasonably good reputation with their tractors.

  29. dcars Says:

    #26 How does a court in England get to dismiss a class action suit in the US?

  30. dcars Says:

    I vote for the Sky, over the Solstice. I almost bought one, but the darn dealer reminded me how impractical they are for everyday use.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I saw an NSX on the road, for the first time in a few years.

  32. cwolf Says:

    Before VW shoots its self in the foot,at least Piech’s ol’lady will get her share before making the situation worse. Sharing parts between brands could be a good idea that would increase profits,but there is one problem: From what reliable brand are these parts to be shared? There is’nt one! They have already cheepened their cars to to increase profits,so anything more just quickens the downhill spiral.

    Mazda has some good cars. If they don’t get a reputable backer, they won’t last long.

  33. T. Bejma Says:

    Back from Korea and India and finally feeling back in this time zone…


    Heard the Evoque was pretty bad, and now you have confirmed it tj. Too bad, it’s a pretty nice looking vehicle from the outside. Seems pretty typical these days that the best looking vehicles have unacceptable blindspots – Camaro, Evoque, any Lamborgini, Veyron, Lotus Elise, Mustang, Veloster (I don’t like it, but some seem to), SRX (another one I’m not too fond of).

    Then the ugly vehicles have great visibility – Jeep Commander, MB G-Class, Range Rover, etc., etc…

  34. T. Bejma Says:

    Also agree that the Sky was the better of the two, but had to be the LNF powered Redline. I also wanted one but impossible to fit this 6’4″ frame into one…

  35. tj Martin Says:

    Question ;

    What do you get when you cross an Audi with a Ducati ?

    Answer ;

    A motorcycle with the engine ahead of the front wheel , that understeers like a pig , costs too much to buy or repair and who’ customer service/advocate feeds you a ton of lies and hype while you’re owning it . Riding being optional as it won’t work very often


    Mahindra – Last time I bought up how good I thought the Mahindra tractors were , several here , rightly so , corrected my assumptions with a whole ton of facts to back up their contradictions .

    Conclusion ? Mahindra , not only being run by a pack of shysters with Zero respect for Business law , anywhere , build junk as well . Therefore ;

    Anything Mahindra is thinking about building here is probably a very bad idea


    #22 BMW M/C’s valve Adj intervals are the same ( 6000) as are most Euro Bikes ( Triumph excepted – 12,000 ) . These aint no Rice Burners you know . But even the Duc’s can be DIY’d by any competent rider with decent mechanical skills

  36. tj Martin Says:

    @ T Bejima

    #33 From an exotic ( Lambo etc ) Its acceptable to have a few blind spots due to the engine placement , overall height etc

    With an SUV/CUV ? Just aint no excuse what so ever . Except lousy design and zero forethought

    FYI The ‘ Blind Spots ‘ on the Evoque are the least of its worries , believe me . Do I hear $49K for a FORD Focus ( w/AWD ) ride and build quality anyone ?

    Caveat being for the money the Focus is a fine car . $49K for a Focus in Land/Range Rover drag on the other hand ? An overpriced , underwhelming , under performing piece of junk

    The truly sad and stupid thing is …. they’ll probably sell like Funnel Cakes at the County Fair .

    A Fool and his/her money …….

    comes to mind

  37. tj Martin Says:

    @ T Bejima

    BWTM . Forgot to mention . For what its worth , Cadillac’s MotorShow stand bimbo was the best of the bunch .

    For what its worth ;-)

  38. cwolf Says:

    Gossup from GM reps tell me GM is anticipating large sales for the ATS and is considering following the Ford practice of charging either more for the base model or more for the options. The expected base ATS was about $32K and now the word is $33,800. If so,I just lost interest because the new Fusion,in all its forms, is just to attractive. I just read the comments about the Volt on last Fri. show. As purposefull as it is,the Fusion hybred can travel at 62 mph on battery. Thats almost highway speeds and still deliver 40+ there after. Me thinks GM needs to become more realistic if they intend to attract new buyers.

  39. XA351GT Says:

    Okay I prefer the styling on the Sky but my parents own a Solstice GXP. Having read some of the comments against them I am assuming that those folks haven’t driven a GXP or Redline . They really rip. Handle well stop great . The interior fits like a glove so I’m sure that will leave out our oversized people as they won’t fit.
    Really think GM dropped the ball by not making it into a Chevy after the demise of Pontiac and Saturn. You could take a Sky with little modification put the Chevy corporate face on it as they do with all cars today with few exceptions . Add Round taillights call it a Sting Ray and capture Corvette lovers that can’t swing the big bucks for a Vette.

  40. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The big difference between the 6K mile valve adjust interval on a Ducati and BMW bike, is that, with the Ducati, you actually need to do it, but with the BMW, you can go 50K miles, with no problem except maybe a slightly noisy engine.

  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The GXP drives well, and looks pretty good, but still has no storage and a crappy top mechanism. I ordered a Solstice when they were first taking orders, and didn’t buy it, the only time I have ever done that. The reason, was that it didn’t drive very well. The wide ratio transmission and non-turbo engine of the early cars just didn’t work well together.

  42. Lex Says:

    Forget both the Sky and Solstice!
    Bring Back the Pontice Fiero with it’s plastic body panels!!!

    The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe looks great.
    I will have to definitely visit the New York Auto Show next month and check it out. John Krafcik and team are really improving the look of Hyundai vehicles.

  43. Steve K Says:

    Hall vs. Hall – that was funny. They remind me of the banter between hosts on the best car show ever – Top Gear (the real one, not the American rip off version.
    More Hall vs. Hall John!