March 15th, 2012 at 11:53am
The auto bailouts of GM and Chrysler have been a lightning rod in this year’s election campaign, but new polls show Americans are starting to warm up to them. GM and Chrysler dealers that survived the restructuring are now seeing record sales, and profits. Mazda worked some magic on the new CX-5 to make it handle well and ride smoothly. All that and more, plus John responds to some of his favorite questions and comments from the past week in “You Said It!”
This is Autoline Daily for March 15th, which is really the ides of March, unlike what I said on Monday’s show, but in any case, here’s the news.
‘MERICANS WARM UP TO BAILOUTS
The auto bailouts of GM and Chrysler have been a lightning rod in this year’s election campaign. Back in 2008 and 2009 when the Bush and Obama Administrations stepped in to bailout GM and Chrysler, six out of 10 Americans opposed them. But the New York Times reports the public is starting to warm up to the bailouts. A new Gallup poll says the approval and disapproval numbers have gotten closer with 44 percent approving and 51 percent against the loans. And a new Pew Poll says a majority of Americans say the bailouts were good for the economy. So why the change of heart? GM and Chrysler are posting big profits and hiring thousands of people.
DEALER PROFITS SOAR
And speaking about that rebound, GM and Chrysler dealers who survived the restructuring are now seeing record sales. According to Bloomberg, dealers are now hiring salespeople and technicians and spending more on renovations and advertising. The average dealer more than doubled their pre-tax profit to $785,000. GM says more than 90 percent of its dealers are now profitable, the highest since the mid ‘70s and Chrysler says 86 percent are profitable up from 49 percent in 2008.
INDIA OVERTAKING JAPAN (subscription required)
Russia’s and Brazil’s economies are booming, and car sales are growing right along with that. China is the star of the developing nations, but India is not sitting still. By 2016 India is projected to overtake Japan as Asia’s second-largest auto market. New-vehicle sales are estimated to hit nearly 5 million this year, up from around 3 million last year. Of course India is a loooooong way from topping China, where almost 18 million new vehicles were sold in 2011, and could hit 20 million this year.
MAZDA’S SUSPENSION MAGIC
Here’s another fascinating tech tidbit we found on the new Mazda CX-5. The engineers wanted to use stiffer rear bushings for better handling, but that could make the ride too stiff. They knew if they could raise the attachment point of the rear trailing arm, like you see on the right-hand side of this drawing, it would smooth out the bumps, allowing for stiffer bushings. But raising the attachment point would require raising the floor height, which would reduce interior room. Instead, they created a pocket in the rear frame rail and tucked the attachment point in there. It’s a simple yet clever solution, and one that makes the CX-5 a delight to drive.
The Brits sure love those surveillance cameras. No wonder George Orwell was British; he knew big Brother was watching! And now British motorists may have to contend with even more monitoring if a new government proposal becomes law. Autoblog reports they’re considering installing cameras at gas stations in order to determine whether drivers have valid insurance. It’s estimated some 1.4 million motorists in the UK are uninsured. That’s one in 25! But it’s even worse in the U.S. About one in seven ‘Merican drivers are not covered! That is 14 percent! Even so, I bet we don’t get them cameras!
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
And now it’s time for some of your feedback.
Kit Gerhart heard me say that diesels now outsell hybrids in the U.S., but wants to know, “Do CAR diesels outsell CAR hybrids, or are you including diesel pickups?” Kit, that includes diesel pickups, SUVs and passenger cars. But the hybrid sales numbers also include pickups, SUVs and passenger cars, so I think it’s a valid comparison. By the way, the hybrid number also includes mild hybrids, like GM’s eAssist, and some people believe those should not be counted as hybrids.
Wim van Acker writes in to say, “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.” Wim, you made my day with that comparison. That is hilarious!
C-Tech wants to know, “Why is VW-Audi buying Ducati?” C-Tech, your question reminds me of an old joke they used to tell at Ford Finance 60 years ago. It goes like this: Why do we build grey iron foundries? Most people would answer, “To make grey iron?” And the response was, “No, to make money!” So when you ask why is Audi buying Ducati, the answer is, to make money. Audi believes that adding another luxury brand to its line-up, even if they are motorcycles, will help it make more money.
Brett really liked our report on the DeltaWing. “Love it. If Dan Gurney saw something in that design, then it definitely has something going for it. I hope it doesn’t succumb to misfortune or teething problems during the race. I’d like to see how the concept performs on its merits against the traditional designs.” Brett, I think we can count on it to have some teething problems. That’s why they’re racing it at Sebring this weekend, all with the goal of getting it to the 24 hours of LeMans in June.
William Schultz wants to know more about the Chevy Captiva. “Don’t remember any news on the Chevy (Saturn), Captiva (Vue) on Autoline Daily. Are these newly built vehicles, old Saturn Vues, or imports from Korea?” William, the Chevy Captiva is indeed the Saturn Vue and in the U.S. market they are only sold to fleet customers, so you’re not going to see it in your local Chevy showroom. Those vehicles are made in GM’s Ramos Arizpe plant in Mexico, and last year they sold a little over 7,000 of them in the American market.
Thanks for all your comments and letters, they make us laugh, and curse, and think. And that makes this job fun.
Before we go, please join us tonight for Autoline After Hours, but at our new time, 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time, which is 22:00 GMT for all our international viewers. Tonight we have Bryce Hoffman from the Detroit News talking about his latest book with all the inside info of what’s been going on at Ford. Join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo for some of the best discussion of what’s going on with cars and the people who make them.
Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.