Episode 877 – Q1 Financial Numbers, Google’s Autonomous Autos, Track N Go for Trucks

April 26th, 2012 at 12:00pm

Runtime: 8:19

Automakers are posting their first-quarter financial numbers and we’ve got the latest from Hyundai and Chrysler.  Internet search giant Google is getting into the auto business . . . or at least trying to.  A prototype product called the “Track N Go” looks like an awesome add-on to four-wheel-drive vehicles.  All that and more, plus John McElroy answers your questions and responds to your comments in our “You Said It!” segment.

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Welcome to Autoline Daily for April 26. I’m John McElroy with the latest news in the automotive industry.

And the headlines today are all about first-quarter earnings. Hyundai surprised analysts today with a net profit that jumped 31 percent. The company earned a net profit of $2.2 billion for the first three months of the year.

Chrysler also posted its first quarter results and we have more details on those numbers. The company sold 607,000 vehicles, which is 25 percent more than a year ago. That boosted revenue to $16.3 billion, an increase of $3 billion. And that dropped a lot of money to the bottom line. Chrysler quadrupled its net profit to $473 million. Even so, the company’s profit margin was only 2.9 percent, so as well as it’s improving, it still needs to double what it has already achieved.

GOOGLE CARS (subscription required)
As you may know, internet search giant Google has been testing Toyota Priuses, excuse me, Prii, equipped with self-driving technology, but now it wants to partner with an automaker to bring autonomous cars to market. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company says it’s talking to every automaker to develop software and sensors needed for autonomous driving. Besides more testing, Google says it’s talking to insurers about liability issues before driverless cars come to market. The head of the company’s autonomous efforts, Anthony Levandowski, says driverless cars could be on the market before the end of the decade and also added, and I quote, “If not, shame on us as engineers.”

China is going to install 400,000 EV chargers in 2,000 stations by 2015, in over 20 cities across the country. The government believes this will help domestic manufacturers develop EVs, but it’s obviously also an attempt to reduce dependence on imported oil. 85 percent of China’s electricity comes from coal, and it has a century’s worth of coal.

REACH FOR THE STARS (subscription required)
Toyota just released some numbers on its affordable new sports car, the Scion FR-S.  According to WardsAuto.com, the company expects to sell around 10,000 of them this year after it goes on sale in the U.S. June 1.  That puts the annual goal at 20,000 units.  Jack Hollis, the brand’s vice president is quoted as saying they’re confident dealers will sell every one they receive from the mothership.  Subaru, on the other hand, has much more conservative goals for its BRZ, which is the Scion’s doppelganger.  They estimate they’ll move between 5,000 and 7,000 per year.  The FR-S is off to a good start.  The company already has some 1,200 pre-orders for the car, which starts at about $24,000.

This next bit of technology looks like something right out of a James Bond movie!  Called the Track N Go, it’s a bolt-on kit that transforms a truck into a tank!  It lets you plow through feet of snow and climb steep hills with ease.  THIS IS SO COOL!  Track N Go consists of four individual carriages that bolt to each of a pickup’s wheels.  According to Autoblog, these contraptions were created by AD Boivin, a company that’s well known to motorcross and snowmobile enthusiasts.  Amazingly, the truck’s wheels directly power each of the tracks, a very clever design – and apparently easy to install, too, as you just drive up onto them.  Now, before you go running to your computer with a fistful of money, I’ve got to let you know, these babies are only in the prototype stage.  The company hasn’t said if or when Track N Go will be available for sale – nor how much it would cost.  But I’d bet A LOT!


And now it’s time for some of your feedback.

Dcars heard us say we’ll be reporting on who we think will replace GM CEO Dan Akerson.

“Hopefully they can replace Dan Ackerson sooner than later. My pick is Mark Reuss. He could captain GM through some great times and be so much better than any one else.”

Dcars, are you spilling the beans on the results before we even get a chance to do our report?

A bunch of you really slammed satellite radio for the way it treats its customers. I liked what Jon M. had do say.

“Sirus/XM’s customer service is lousy. They want you to provide C/C info so they can bill you at a 3 year rate automatically. But I only renew for short periods and I beat THEM up to get dirt cheap rates for short periods. Its kind of pain, but there are a number of channels I just love.”

I hope Sirius/XM reads all the comments on our website. There are a lot of unhappy customers who love the channels but hate the customer service.

A bunch of you also discussed the best way to sell your own personal used cars. HtG says:

“I am advised by someone in the business that Craiglist is the way to go. Ebay isn’t worth his attention because the sales usually fall apart due to flakes of all sorts. I’m going to be putting up the Miata soon, since driving around here has become a bit of a Charlie-Foxtrot. I’ve had enough of chicks on their phones blocking a parking lot because now it’s there turn to gab back to their girlfriend, and Bimmer drivers pulling out into the left lane before a nice turn so they can barely creep around the Merc in front of them. I’m going to curb my rant here, John, but it has gotten that bad.”

DonC thinks that Honda is making a mistake appealing that small claims decision on the woman who won almost ten grand in small claims court because her Civic hybrid didn’t deliver the fuel economy it promised.

“Honda’s decision to appeal strikes me as crazy. A small claims case sets no precedent. But if they lose the appeal, and they might, then that’s an entirely different story.”

DonC, I’ve talked to legal experts on this and they say that California small-claims judge is a problem judge who loves to slam corporations and they tell me that Honda will easily win this on appeal. Let’s see if they turn out to be right.

And that’s a wrap for today’s show, but make sure you check out Autoline After Hours, tonight!  I will not be here for it, which means Mr. Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo is in charge.  His guests for the evening include Frank Markus from Motor Trend magazine and Gary Vasilash of Automotive Design & Production.  Should be a great show!  You can check it all out at our website, Autoline.tv.  The LIVE webcast starts at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time so don’t be late!

Anyway, thanks for watching today’s broadcast, we’ll see you tomorrow!

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

22 Comments to “Episode 877 – Q1 Financial Numbers, Google’s Autonomous Autos, Track N Go for Trucks”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    The Scion will outsell the Subie because the latter is already adding a $2k “market adjustment premium” to their version, these dealerships just don’t change their evil ways. BTW those cars are gonna be very expensive to insure despite their 4 cyl engines, which will cut back on possible sales.

  2. dcars Says:

    Sorry John, this site allows me to sound off on a subject and not worry about loosing my job!

  3. C-Tech Says:

    As far as autonomous cars, Anthony Levandowski need not worry about the engineers, if they don’t hit the market by the end of the decade, shame on the lawyers and regulators.

    I hope the FR-S does well, if so it will inspire more automakers to produce affordable sports cars.

    Perhaps GM should market the Volt in China. Over there, the government REALLY CAN make you buy an ev.

    Considering that dealers sell installed lift kits on Jeep Wranglers and pick-up trucks at a 5 to 6K premium, if they can offer the Track N’ Go to dealers with room for a healthy profit margin, it will do well.

  4. Chuck@GM Says:

    My son dropped XM because they’d rather lose him as a customer, than give him the discounted rate if he pays a year in advance. Good decision!!

  5. Chuck Grenci Says:

    C-Tech, GM has plans to bring the ELR (Cadillac’s ‘Volt’) to China (if I remember correctly), and I thought maybe they were going to build it there too (along with the XTS).

  6. Chuck Grenci Says:

    The Scion and the Subie; aren’t they in the same ‘niche’ market the Mazda MX-5 and BMW Z-4 are in? Well maybe with the demise of the Saturn Sky, Pontiac Solstice and Honda S-2000 there’s room there now; but I have my doubts (after initial introduction wears off).

  7. Chuck Says:

    Sirius seriously sucks – is that descriptive and alliterative enough??

  8. Chuck@GM Says:

    XM refused to give my son the discount rate for paying a year in advance, so he dropped them. I guess they’d rather have no revenue than discounted revenue for a paid in full years subscription.

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    #5 not quite those are more like open air roadsters, while the new ones are more of light weight, nimble handlers with drifters in mind, only drifters are more interesting in modding their own old wheels

  10. Jim Bianchi Says:

    Autonomous cars? Perhaps the technology exists to enable them to become a reality … but does the market really want them?

    I recall, John, you once called a self-driving car a “horizontal elevator”. What’s the fun, the excitement, the passion, in that?

  11. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Good point pedro, but perhaps from the same type buyer (don’t know, just guessing). Ah, drifters; the biggest waste of rubber (tires) ever invented. JMO though. Even as sport, drifting doesn’t move my automotive enthusiast meter much (at all); but to each, their own.

  12. I-M Buell Says:

    Looks like the 4 wheel guys are finally catching up with us dirt bikers… :-)

    Boivin has had a dirt bike motorcycle to snow track conversion for years.


  13. 012345 Says:

    I have to say, for many years I been hearing of both independent developers & car companies trying to come up with autonomous vehicles, with various degrees of success to be fair; which to be honest.. made me! very much skeptical of the whole technology, but I am very glad to see Google taking a real step forward in creating an autonomous vehicle and not just in the technological side of it, but also in the business & commercial side of the industry.
    -Now, that doesn’t mean next time I learn of another company failing on its autonomous vehicle/and or technology/ I won’t pounce on them like a hungry lion, cause I will (just for the record).

  14. C-Tech Says:

    If Google can get its autonomous vehicle to act as a taxi or pizza deliver vehicle, they will exceed Apple and Facebook combined!

  15. Jesse W. Henry Says:

    I don’t see the Scion or Subie doing all that well after the inital two years. They aren’t roadsters they are more in the Genesis coupe 350Z arena and distantly the pony cars and there is alot of competition in that area.

    I am sure they are great drives but like the 300Z the RX7 and RX8 the high price to horsepower ratio and low fuel economy to horsepower ratio will likely do them in even if they have the best handling.

  16. pedro fernandez Says:

    Perhaps this will force the American Pony cars to lose some much needed weight. Maybe Google can use their robot car to go around shooting 360 degree videos for their Googlemap system and then we can see all the pedestrians, pets and assorted items they manage to smash into during their trips, BTW did anyone account for the emergency vehicles that go through red lights and stop signs, the robotic cars will be smashing into them as well.

  17. Mouhamad A. Naboullsi Says:

    Actually, Shae on us engineers if people want to ride in a car and not drive it.

    And that my friends, is the difference between a video gamer and a car enthusiast.

    A video gamer sits and stare at a screen (or windshield) and this he is driving, but a car enthusiast strap on a car and cruise.

    Sure, pilot-less car a a technical marvel, but I will want one when I am 80 and my reflexes are not what they should be. But for now. I want to Drive…

  18. Mouhamad A. Naboullsi Says:

    I meant to type Shame and not shae, but the car in front of me hit the brake and I did not want the burger to slide off my lap. JUST KIDDING

  19. Mouhamad A. Naboullsi Says:

    Correction to all the typos:

    Actually, Shame on us engineers if people want to ride in a car and not drive it.

    And that my friends, is the difference between a video gamer and a car enthusiast.

    A video gamer sits and stare at a screen (or windshield) and thinks he is driving, but a car enthusiast straps on a car and cruise.

    Sure, pilot-less car is a technical marvel, but I will want one when I am 80 and my reflexes are not what they should be. But for now. I want to Drive…

  20. Jon M Says:

    What would an auto enthusiast want with an autonomous car? It would be like giving your child the toy packed in the box it came in. What fun is that…to your kid? I’m just imagining buying a car, but not getting the pleasure of driving it. Wait a minute; I had just that experience with so many GMs, except they didn’t drive themselves. In fact, they quit driving altogether. Sad but true. No autonomous vehicles for me, thanks.

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    Yahoo survey says Americans picked Toyota as the highest quality vehicle sold in America, so there you Toyota haters, read and absorb that one!

  22. Brett Says:

    99.9% of drivers in America ARE NOT enthusiasts. Ask them something about how their car handles and they’ll look at you the same way as if you asked them how they liked the action on the bread-lifter of their toaster.

    Cars that drive themselves successfully will be the biggest thing to happen to the automotive industry since the electric starter or the automatic transmission.

    There was a news report yesterday about how Americans are chronically sleep deprived. Don’t you think getting an extra 30-60 minutes of nap time every day during your commute might be pretty damned compelling?

    The Scion/Subaru coupe could very likely take up the torch once carried by the first and second generation DSM coupes (Eclipse, Laser, Talon, et al). I still thing Mitsu screwed up when they moved that from the Lancer platform to the Galant platform.