Episode 921 – Fiat Ups Chrysler Holdings, Ford Closes Filipino Factory, EV talk with Sec. Chu

June 28th, 2012 at 12:00pm

Runtime: 9:38

Fiat plans to increase its stake in Chrysler by purchasing shares from the UAW healthcare trust fund.  Ford is closing its only plant in the Philippines as part of a restructuring effort in the region. John sits down with the Energy Secretary to talk electric cars. All that and more, plus Andrew Justus drives the new Lexus ES.

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Hello again and welcome to Autoline Daily.  It’s Thursday, June 28, 2012.  Summer is in full swing up here in Michigan.  Temperatures could even top 100 degrees today!  But I’m no meteorologist; actually, I’m Christie Schweinsberg with WardsAuto.com filling in for – you guessed it – John McElroy.  Here’s the news.

MORE WHERE THAT CAME FROM (subscription required)
Fiat is expected to boost its stake in Chrysler.  The Wall Street Journal reports the Italian automaker will likely purchase more shares of the company from the UAW healthcare trust fund.  Is this a sign the union is in financial trouble and needs more cash?  Fiat’s stake in Chrysler will likely go up from about 59 percent today to nearly 62 percent after the deal goes through.

PLANT CLOSURE (subscription required)
Now for a little global news.  My publication, WardsAuto.com reports Ford will close up shop in the Philippines later this year.  It’s shuttering its Santa Rosa, Laguna assembly plant that builds last-generation Escape SUVs.  The facility first opened in 1999.  The closure is part of a regional restructuring plan.

Back home, electric vehicles just aren’t selling very well, even with government subsidies.  But this hasn’t necessarily dampened enthusiasm for them.  U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu thinks sales are just getting started.  He offers some interesting perspective on the technology in an exclusive interview with Autoline Daily.

Hey, as we’ve been reminding you, the Autoline After Hours Automotive Draft is right around the corner. For more info, we caught up with our play-by-play analysts, Scott and Mark. As our resident experts their accuracy is second to none … well, most of the time …

Ok. Just to set the record straight that’s the twenty-twelve Autoline After Hours Automotive Draft on July twelfth at Six PM Eastern Time at Autoline-dot-TV. Got it? By the way, WardsAuto’s own Drew Winter is taking part in this year’s Draft and you can get a sneak peek at his company’s name, logo and tag line in the John’s Journal section of the Autoline website.

And on the subject of After Hours, make sure you check out tonight’s show where we’re taking you to the movies.  That’s right, it’s all about automobiles and motion pictures.  Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist is guest hosting and he’ll be joined by Todd Lassa of Motor Trend and Jim Hall from 2953 Analytics.  Check it out.  The LIVE webcast starts promptly at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time, so don’t be late.

Southern states have been surprisingly successful at wooing foreign auto manufacturers.  Some of the transplants that have setup shop in Dixie include Hyundai, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.  Now you can add another foreign concern to the list: Airbus.  The European aerospace company is following in the tire tracks of automakers.  Bloomberg reports the company is poised to announce plans for a commercial-jet assembly plant in Alabama.  It’ll be interesting if this proposal takes off or not.

For the first time since 1967 Mazda does not make a rotary engine. The line that builds the famous Renesis engine was shut down last Friday.  Poor fuel economy and high emissions remain inherent problems with the Wankel engine. At a time when fuel economy standards are increasing and emissions regulations are getting tighter, the rotary just can’t keep up.

BRAKE DUST (subscription required)
The Lorax may speak for the trees but California and Washington State are now trying to give fish a break – literally! The two western states will phase out copper as a friction material in brake pads and shoes by 2025 due to its harmful effects on salmon that spawn there. According to Ward’s copper dust from car brakes washes off roads when it rains, then drains into rivers. Excess copper can disorient fish, especially salmon, interfering with navigation and making them more susceptible to predators.  The change will likely affect all 50 states and some foreign markets. OEMs and aftermarket suppliers will want to make the change across the board to keep supply chains consistent.

After the break we’ll take a peek at one of Lexus’ newest models.

LUXURY SALES RACE (subscription required)
BMW overtook Lexus in the luxury sales race last year but you can bet the Japanese brand is gunning for the No. 1 position.  To retake that crown, it’s launching a cavalcade of new and refreshed product.  One of the latest to hit the road is its second best-selling model.  Andrew Justus has more . . .

(This feature is only available in the video version of today’s program.)

Lexus ES sales have fallen recently.  The car’s best year on record was 2007 when the company moved nearly 83,000 of them.  Today it’s running at about half that rate.  With the new model the company is targeting 60,000 units annually.

A quick programming note here.  Autoline will be off the air next week to celebrate America’s birthday, just an FYI.

Anyway, that’s it for today’s program.  But don’t fret; there will be more Autoline Daily tomorrow!  In the meantime, I’m Christie Schweinsberg with WardsAuto.com.  Thank you for watching and I’ll see you later!

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

34 Comments to “Episode 921 – Fiat Ups Chrysler Holdings, Ford Closes Filipino Factory, EV talk with Sec. Chu”

  1. HtG Says:

    One word; nanotubes.

    Here’s an article on a nano solution for a type of nickel-iron battery which can quickly load and discharge current. It may find a use in cars.


  2. Tony Gray Says:

    Is it just me or do Scott and Mark look more like twins than the Hall brothers?

  3. C-Tech Says:

    Just a follow-up note for kit from yesterday, there is no separate turbocharger maint. for GM and i don’t think Dodge (Cummins) has separate turbo maint. either. For long life on a turbo, regular oil changes and coolant service is key. Also, the speed chips placed in engine computers can shorten Diesel engine life.

  4. C-Tech Says:

    Sorry Kit for not capitalizing your name, no offense meant.

  5. Jon M. Says:

    One of the problems with EVs (and hybrids for that matter) is that they are niche vehicles. Even when mainstream vehicles, such as the Camry and Fusion, come in hybrid/EV varieties, they still only appeal to a certain segment of buyers. My guess–and that’s all it’s intended to be–is that the average consumer doesn’t want to the hassle and/or are too reluctant to deal with nuances of an EV. The premium for such a vehicle doesn’t help either, I’m sure. What’s more, since most hybrid/EVs are all about the fuel economy, they certainly don’t appeal to most enthusiasts. Even if I’m not exactly accurate, I still think EVs will have to advance to the point of being able to drive at least a couple hundred miles on a charge and be quicker and easier to recharge before the mainstream market buys into them.

  6. Earl Says:

    That new ES certainly looks sharp with that spindle grille. And it’s nice to see that have made that interior better especially the dash. But,what gets me is under the hood. Same 3,5L multi point injected engine and same old 6 speed transmission. Not that there’s anything wrong with this combo,however we’re now in an era of direct injection and 8 speed transmission.
    I know somebody’s going to say they would have updated the engine and trans if it hadn’t of been for the tsunami.

  7. C-Tech Says:

    For those luxury car buyers who plush, comfort, safe, and quiet style means more than driving machine, then Lexus has another winner (imho).

    Mr. Chu may have a point, for the few takers so far for the Volt, they all love the car. They are as passionate about their Volts as Corvette owners.

    I will miss those rotary racing engines, briefly had a 1st gen RX-7 and it was fun. Michigan rust killed the body and suspension.

  8. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ #3,C-Tech:From my old diesel driving daze when parking and calling it a day,I would let the engine idle for about 10 minutes to let the turbo ‘warm down’.On today’s diesel pickups most have an ‘idle down’ circuit that does the same thing with the warm down.Only problem is for the most part it’s an option.For people not at all familiar with warm down protocol,they might find that option not needed and end up with expensive turbo repairs/replacement.Your coolant and oil changes are spot on…

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    CR just reported on the Caddy XTS and guess what? no likey much, neither handling, quietness, performance, info-tainment which they say it’s too damn distracting, all touch sensitive crap, which makes me wonder: what happens up north, where you need to wear gloves? need to take off gloves to turn on heater/defroster???? they did like the interior materials and how it was put together.

  10. cwolf Says:

    C-Tech,I have appreciated your wisdom on turbos from a service standpoint. What type of belts and pulley dia. are used to drive the turbo on various makes. From a manufacturing repair view,I consider a turbo nothing more than a high rpm spindle. I rebuild hydraulic and belt driven ones with rpm’s from 300-40,000+. We also make an air lubricated brg. exceeding constant speeds of 100K rpm’s. Beyond the proper maint. issues spoke of,like changing oil and proper cooling,pulley wt. and torques also apply a force perpendicular of the center of rotation which becomes greater as the distance from the brg(s) increases. If given this info,I may be able to extrapolate ,from tables and past histories, a reasonable expected brg. life. Since turbos seemm to be our future,who knows what we can discover when we pull all of our talents into one.

  11. cwolf Says:

    pedro,where you are at,wearing gloves is not an issue. So why the concern? And until anyone interested in buying a Caddy drives one for themself,what CR has to say has no importance.

  12. C-Tech Says:

    @ #10
    Hey Cwolf, thank you. I believe you are thinking of superchargers which are more common on big rigs and are driven by the engine, rather than turbochargers which are driven by the exhaust gases. GM offered a number of Eaton supercharged 3.8L V6′s a few years ago across the big car lines (Buick Park Avenue Ultra, and the Monte Carlo SS comes to mind). The supercharged engines are simpler to work on, however there is limited if any increase in mileage compared to a turbocharged engine.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    I know that cwolf but since most people who live in No. America do live in cold climates during the winter, it does become and issue, I personally don’t care cause I am too broke to ever buy a luxury car, but if I did, it’d be a Lexus LS not a pseudo luxury like a Caddy

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Thanks for the info. That’s what I thought, that the turbo used engine oil and coolant, like my van.

    Yeah, I’m sure turbos like clean oil, and I tend to change the oil more often in my occasional use turbo van, than in my similarly occasional use VW Cabriolet.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I agree that pure EV’s will be “niche vehicles” for a long time, and maybe forever, unless both the range increases drastically, and batteries come along that can be charged at extremely high rates without damage, to shorten “pit stops.”

    Hybrids are another story. Basically, from an operator’s standpoint, they are like any other car, except they use a lot less gas. You just put gas in them and drive. Fuel costs over time will determine where hybrid sales go.

    Actually, a Prius could be considered a “mainstream car” now, based on sales numbers. They have sold well over 100K a year in the U.S. nearly every year since the 2004 model year.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    To me, it seems they went in the wrong direction with the electronics in the XTS. The likely audience for that car would be those who are ready to replace their Sedan de Ville/DTS, and they want simple controls.

    I look forward to seeing the interior of the new ES up close. I was not impressed with the old one, which was too similar to the Camry it was based on. The Lexus had more luxury trappings like wood and leather than a Camry, but the execution sure didn’t scream “elegant,” at least to me. The new one may do better in this regard. In any case, the people who would buy that car will be perfectly happy with the power train, as long as it’s smooth and quiet.

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I had a Grand Prix with the supercharged 3.8, and while it had good power, it didn’t get near the highway mpg of the regular 3.8. It pulled well, especially from low speed, but sounded “industrial” more than “sporty.” Still, it was an interesting engine for the time.

  18. C-Tech Says:

    @ #17
    Supercharged engines give you greater horsepower and torque at low end in a smaller displacement engine, with no lag in throttle response. Turbocharged engines tend to need some revs to boost the turbocharger first. The variable vane and twin turbo setups reduce the turbo lag feeling and provide better low end response, however the complexity is greatly increased. G.A. Branigan is right about a cool-down period extending the life of a turbocharger. I will have to see if Ford has built some kind of electric oil pump into the system to circulate oil to the turbo bearings when the engine is shut off?

  19. C-Tech Says:

    @ #17
    From a service standpoint Eaton did a good job with the GM 3.8L engine. The exhuast note did need to be tuned.

  20. Earl Says:

    #8…..Talking about a cool down time for turbocharged engines before you shut them down has always been important for diesel engines that operate around 2500 rpm. Many a farmer and construction worker operating a turbo equipped tractor or machine has taken out a turbo after stalling and not immediately starting it up again. When an engines stalls oil is no longer sent to the turbocharger.
    #11….Up in those White Christmas states they take their gloves off after a minute or two. And in addition to that a few cars have heated steering wheels. I would suspect any car like the XTS that has a seat that jiggles your crotch will have a heated steering wheel.

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit it seems to be that most automakers are avoiding the “geezers” by making their cars so freaking complicated as to put off such buyers, which is an irony since they’re usually the ones with the deep pockets who can afford these cars.

  22. HtG Says:

    Aren’t there gloves with conductive silver filaments designed for touch screens? I want to see Caddy drivers wear them.

  23. HtG Says:

    Sorry, that last comment didn’t come out right. I mean to say that I doubt Caddy drivers would like to wear special gloves.

  24. pedro fernandez Says:

    I can just see it: conductive gloves for your XTS $100 color coordinated to go with the color of your car.

  25. RonE Says:

    #24: Pedro, Last year when I was looking at the Chevy Cruze, a spare tire for it was $100.

  26. pedro fernandez Says:

    So let’s raise it to $300 after all it’s a Cadillac, everything is top notch quality, right?

  27. C-Tech Says:

    @ #25 and 26
    Some versions of the Cruze use 225/50R17 tires which cost about $100-175 depending on brand and performance options. It is about the same size as a Camry tire. Get over it. It’s ok if you don’t like Cadillac or American cars but facts are facts.

  28. aliisdad Says:

    #5-Jon, I think you are right…My concerns are also about the EV’s range, at least at this point in their development; and some say that the environmental impact is about the same as a regular car since you have to generate electricity in some way…I remember back in high school physics there was some priciple about it taking the same energy to perform a task regardless or its source or type..I think??

    Also, on the Airbus story about setting up shop in Alabama…It seems pretty weird to me that the Obama labor department blocked Boeing from moving to the South Carolina, yet we now have their “foreign” competetor moving to Alabama?!?!? Wow, do we know how to shoot our selves in the foot or what!?!?

  29. Chuck Grenci Says:

    So CR doesn’t like the new Caddy XTS (re pedro #9); well, that’s almost an endorsement (for me). For being unbiased (that’s a laugh, generally CR is slanted against the big three, now two), I don’t listen much when they tell me about cars/vehicles. I’ve had quite a few of the models they pooh poohed and for the most part almost completely disagreed with them. I know I’m only one customer but their portrayal of American ‘iron’ is slanted (negatively) IMO.

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Boeing was wanting to move from the American north to South Carolina, presumably to bust unions. Airbus is moving production from Europe to Alabama, maybe also to bust (European) unions, but it will create American jobs, not just relocate them.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    CR provides a lot of good information on cars, but you need to read the articles and look at the charts. I don’t think they are particularly biased against car companies from the U.S., or anywhere else. If they say car A is noisier than car B, it probably is, and if they say car C has fussy controls, it probably does. A car buyer needs to decide what is important to him/her when buying a car, and CR provides information. To me, the most valuable information they provide is a second set of fuel economy data to use, along with the EPA numbers, to compare cars.

  32. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit CR just praised the Challenger with its redesign and destroyed the IQ and the new Civic so this anti-American bias thing is a lot of crap, this goes back to the 80′s when Detroit was truly making crap while Japan was not, CR did not collapse Detroit, Detroit did it all by themselves.

  33. C-Tech Says:

    @ #32
    Pedro, Kit did not criticize CR for anti-American bias. He just pointed out what information is useful and important to him for comparision purposes. I think there is a slight skew at CR against sports cars, and they don’t understand trucks very well (CR gave high praise to the Ridgeline, especially bed storage, not understanding if you buy a pick to use the bed, how are you going to use the locked compartment under your load?) Other magazines rate the Challenger as the most comfortable pony car so CR’s rating does not seem out of line. You just hate Chryslers, right? :)

  34. pedro fernandez Says:

    I don’t hate any car company, I think they’re all out to make money and that is all right, what I hate is bean counters changing specs just to save a buck here and there w/o looking at the consequences, ex my own Corolla, flimsy door handles inside and out which break off and need to be replaced periodically, I am sure a little more expensive part would last a lot longer, my sister’s Journey has been trouble free except for the brake issue, again I am sure bean counters were involved in the decision to make the rotors too small for a car of that size and weight, and it has brought a problem of premature wear.