May 8th, 2012 at 12:20pm
Cadillac announced pricing for its new BMW 3 Series competitor, the ATS. An Indian company just introduced a new low-cost hybrid system that can be paired with all kinds of different batteries and engines. The electrified version of Toyota’s RAV4 seems pricier than it should. All that and more, plus John McElroy chooses a winner in the Race to Replace GM CEO Dan Akerson.
Welcome to Autoline Daily for May 8th. I’m John McElroy, and here’s what’s going on out there.
PRICED TO SELL
Cadillac announced pricing for its new BMW 3 Series competitor, the ATS. It starts at $33,990 when equipped with the 2.5-liter engine and six-speed transmission. With the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder the price jumps to $35,795 and with the 3.6-liter V-6 it costs $42,090. All prices include destination charges, and bravo to Cadillac for including those charges, which other automakers omit to make their prices look better.
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Indian company KPIT Cummins just introduced a low-cost hybrid system it calls Revolo. According to Ward’s, it’s similar to GM’s eAssist technology but it can be used with several different types of batteries and with gasoline, diesel or bio-fuel engines that range from 0.8- to 3.0-liters. Fuel economy is improved by 30 percent. The company is making Revolo available both to OEMs and the aftermarket. Pricing for the system will be between $1,200 and $2,800 in the aftermarket.
NOT PRICED TO SELL
And now for some Toyota news. The company just released pricing information on its all-electric RAV4. This amped-up crossover will sticker for nearly $50,000 when it goes on sale in California later this year. That’s twice as much as a conventional, gasoline-powered version. The company plans to deliver 2,600 RAV4 EVs over the next three years. That works out to a modest annual sales target of about 900 units a year. Hell, they probably sell more Camrys than that in an hour! But how come this thing costs so much? The Nissan Leaf and the Focus Electric are considerably less expensive. Even the Chevy Volt, which comes with an internal-combustion drivetrain costs about $10,000 less. Maybe it has to do with range. Toyota claims the RAV4 EV will go 100 miles on a charge, considerably farther than the Focus or Leaf EPA rating. Even so, somehow I get the feeling Toyota really doesn’t have its heart in this project.
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In related news, Scion’s diminutive iQ city car is rolling right along. According to WardsAuto.com, the youth-oriented brand has sold more than 3,700 copies since it hit the market in the Western U.S. last October. Its sales targets are conservative at about 1,000 units per month. To help introduce the hatchback to more drivers, the company is looking into car-sharing services. So far they’ve met with Zipcar, probably the best known of these firms, but nothing is official yet. When the time is right the brand wants to go whole-hog by really committing to a car-sharing service. You can bet we’ll keep you posted . . .
Coming up next, it’s time to name names in the race to replace GM’s Dan Akerson.
RACE TO REPLACE AKERSON
For the last week we’ve been showing you who the candidates are to replace GM CEO Dan Akerson when he retires, presumably in a couple of years. And now it’s time to forecast who might get the job. It’s not as easy to figure out, because the situation at GM is still very much in a state of flux. But here goes.
Tim Lee would seem to have it all – tremendous operations experience and extensive overseas experience. But people who come up on the manufacturing side of the business never make it to the top spot at General Motors. Moreover, at 60 years old, Tim Lee would probably be about 62 or 63 if he got the top job, and with a corporate retirement age of 65, this would seem to take him out of the running.
Dan Ammann would be an obvious choice since he’s got such a strong financial background. But Ammann has the opposite problem of Tim Lee. He is only 40 years old. If the board were to put him in as CEO he would be in that position for over 20 years, and it’s unlikely any board would leave an individual in that position that long. Dan Ammann’s time may come, but for now the board will look for an older candidate.
That brings us to Mark Reuss, who would be my choice, because I believe it’s very important that a car company be run by someone who truly knows cars. But Dan Akerson was recently quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying it was the car guys who drove the company off a cliff. I think he’s wrong, it was the finance people who did that. But Akerson’s view probably reflects the board’s thinking. So even though Mark Reuss runs the biggest and most profitable part of the company, my guess is he will not get the job.
The executive the board is most comfortable with is Steve Girsky. A brilliant finance guy, he speaks their language. Better still, he’s an outsider with no ties to the old GM and its bunker mentality. Even the UAW likes him! But Girsky hitched his horse to keeping Opel, and Opel is a basket case right now. In fact, it’s likely to be a basket case for years to come since any solution will be stymied by European politicians who don’t want to hear anything about lay offs and plant closing. Boards like to nominate CEOs with a string of recent successes under their belts. So, in my read of the situation, Opel will take Girsky out of the running.
And that brings us to Mary Barra. A very capable executive who has proved herself in a variety of assignments in different parts of the company, she is in the perfect position to become the next CEO at General Motors. Mary is known as someone who can get the job done. If Akerson and board would like to leave themselves a legacy, naming the first women executive in the automotive industry would assure them a footnote in the history books. And that’s why I believe that Mary Barra will win the race to replace Dan Akerson.
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And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching we will see you tomorrow.