March 28th, 2012 at 12:00pm
There’s another disaster in the electric-car market. Azure Dynamics, which was converting Ford Transit Connects into electric vehicles, just filed for bankruptcy. Jeep, along with Mopar, just unveiled six different models at the annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. The new Cadillac XTS will be the first car available with a driver’s seat that vibrates if a crash is imminent. All that and more, plus we’ll be talking about how Chrysler is using a very unique process to bring new talent into the company in That Ah-Ha Moment.
Welcome to Autoline Daily. I’m John McElroy and there sure is a lot happening in the automotive industry today.
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST
And we start out with another disaster in the electric-car market. Azure Dynamics, which was converting Ford Transit Connects into electric vehicles, just filed for bankruptcy. Azure needed Ford to sell around 3,000 of the electric Transit Connects to make its business plan work, the Wall Street Journal reports. But Ford only sold 800 in the U.S. and Europe. I thought we’d see a big shakeout in the EV market sometime around 2014, but it looks like 2012 will be the year of reckoning.
EV’S MAY LOSE GREEN IMAGE IN JAPAN
Meanwhile, in Japan, the Associated Press reports that electric cars could lose the green cache that they enjoyed before the giant tsunami triggered a nuclear crisis in the country. If Japan remains committed to nuclear power, says one Japanese expert, “then the green image of the car will get bashed to bits.”
DIESEL TRANSIT HEADS TO U.S.
The Transit van is the big brother to the Transit Connect and it will replace the ancient Econoline in North America. It’s about time! The Econoline tooling was probably paid for when Jimmy Carter was president! But here’s the latest news. The Transit will have Ford’s proven 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, but it will also get a diesel. Ford offers a 3.2-liter inline-five elsewhere in the world and we bet this is the oil-burner they’re talking about. Ford says we can expect a 25 percent boost in fuel economy thanks to the diesel and the fact that the Transit is about 300 pounds lighter than the outgoing E-Series.
CHEVY AD AGENCIES COMBINE
In a move that could save General Motors $400 million a year, it is forcing two of its ad agencies to form a joint venture to handle all Chevrolet advertising around the world. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which is based in San Francisco, and McCann Erickson, based in New York, will form a joint venture called Commonwealth, which will be based in Detroit. So how can that possibly save so much money? Because right now Chevy uses 70 different agencies around the world to handle that business.
JEEP UNVEILS NEW CONCEPTS
Big new for Jeep enthusiasts. Working with Mopar, the brand just unveiled six different models at the annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. First up, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk concept. This vehicle features a number of upgrades including new 18-inch wheels and tires, as well as rock rails to protect the lower body from damage. Next up, the Wrangler Apache. This mudslinger features a 6.4-liter V-8 with an estimated 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. That’ll move you down the trail! Looking in the rear-view mirror, the Mighty FC concept takes inspiration from the Jeep Forward Control model built in the 1950s and ‘60s. It features a laundry list of off-road upgrades from coil-over springs to bead-lock wheels. Like its predecessor, the cab of this flat-faced truck sits right on top of the front axle. The J-12 concept is a stretched version of the JK-8. It’s about 18-inches longer than the Wrangler pickup it’s based on. This gives drivers a full six-foot bed to play with. Rounding out the list, are two special Wrangler models. One has been blasted with more than 250 Mopar accessories including a few prototype parts. The other one is called the Traildozer, which, like the Apache concept I just mentioned, is also powered by a big ole’ HEMI. This machine is an off-road monster with all kinds of skid plates, bumper bars and suspension upgrades.
I’M PICKIN’ UP GOOD VIBRATIONS
Many new vehicles have visual or audible systems to warn drivers if they’re about to get in a crash, but the new Cadillac XTS will have its own unique way to warn drivers. The XTS will be the first car available with a driver’s seat that vibrates if a crash is imminent. Called the Cadillac Safety Alert Seat, it will be offered in a package with other safety features. The left or right side of the seat will vibrate depending where the collision will take place. Both sides will pulse if it’s from the front or rear. It can also be used to help park the car as well. GM first developed the seat about a decade ago as part of its V2V technology.
Coming up next we have That Ah-Ha Moment, where we’ll be talking about how Chrysler is using a very unique process to bring new talent into the company.
THAT AH-HA MOMENT
Earlier this week I sat down with Laurie Macaddino, the vice president of Corporate Audit and Compliance for Chrysler. She reports directly to Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. I asked her to give me one of those “Ah-Ha Moments” that really helped her in her career, and to talk about a new program within Chrysler to recruit new talent to the company and to train those people for a quick career path to upper management. I want to thank the Automotive Next program at Inforum for helping to arrange this interview and to Chrysler for sponsoring it. Let’s go to that interview right now.
(The Ah-Ha Moment is only available in the video version of today’s program.)