August 3rd, 2012 at 12:00pm
With all the 2Q numbers in Toyota sold more than a million more units than it did last year when Japan was ravaged by natural disasters. The company also may have passed GM again to take the sales crown. In our tour of the GM Design Center we saw a lot of great cars, including one with an interesting history. The Nürburgring gets a bail out to stave off bankruptcy. All that and more, plus we ask Ed Welburn where GM’s super secret Studio X is located.
Welcome to Autoline Daily. I’m John McElro. It’s Friday, and here’s the news.
TOYOTA PASSES GM FOR No. 1?
Toyota reported its latest financial numbers and they sure do look good. The giant Japanese automaker sold 2.2 million vehicles in the last quarter, up by more than a million units compared to last year, when the company was hit hard by the earthquake which hit Japan. Revenues shot up nearly 60 percent to $68 billion. And Toyota reported a net profit of $3.6 billion. Interestingly, since GM reported sales of 2.4 million vehicles, this would make GM the No. 1 automaker based on vehicle sales. However, some analysts don’t count GM’s sales of Wuling brand vehicles in China, since GM is a minority owner in that partnership. Take Wuling out, and Toyota surpasses GM.
Speaking of GM, we got a chance to drive the Chevrolet Spark that is coming to the U.S. for the first time. The funky-looking A-class hatchback is already sold all around the world, and it’s built in six different countries. It’s only 4 inches longer than a Fiat 500, but comes with four doors and feels far roomier, especially in the back seat. It’s powered by a 1.25 liter four-cylinder engine that generates 84 horsepower and 83 pound-feet of torque, mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Thanks to a curb weight of only 2,300 pounds the car does not feel underpowered. The base price is $13,000 with a manual trans, the automatic costs another grand. Load it all up, and the price comes to nearly $17,000. Chevy wants to emphasize the city fuel economy of 32 MPG with the manual and 28 with the automatic. The highway number is 38, but this is a car designed for urban use. My overall impression: the Spark offers an interesting infotainment package, good styling, decent enough dynamics and an attractive price. And it’s gets Chevy into a segment where it’s never competed before, at least not in North America.
HOT CARS AT GM DESIGN
On last night’s super-special episode of Autoline After Hours we took a tour of GM’s Design Center with the man himself, Ed Welburn. There was a ton of cool stuff on display but on the way out we ran across something I had NEVER seen before. Called the Pegasus, this red-hot car was built to former GM design honcho Bill Mitchell’s specifications. It’s essentially a customized Pontiac Trans Am, but powered by a Ferrari V-12 competition engine that’s supposedly worth a FORTUNE on its own. The shifter and gauges are Ferrari as well. Mitchell was a Ferrari aficionado, which is why he had this car built. When he retired from GM he took the car with him with the stipulation that when he passed away it would be returned to the company in exactly the same condition. I’m glad he held up his end of the bargain so we all could get a chance to see this orphaned auto.
FORD’S NEW CVT BUILT IN HOUSE
Automakers are locked in a transmission arms race. With every design cycle they add more gears and more fuel-saving features. Ford just kicked off production of its latest “gearbox” so to speak, its new HF35 front-wheel-drive transaxle.
Production of this new transmission is part of a $632 million investment Ford and its suppliers are making in North America to increase manufacturing flexibility and capacity. Interestingly, by doing the work in house the company was able to reduce development costs by 20 percent!
‘RING GETS BAIL OUT
Good news for fans of the Nürburgring, the track just got a loan guarantee from the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The loan, which amounts to 254 million euros, will allow the track to avoid defaulting on debt it accrued while building a hotel and theme park. We reported a couple weeks ago that the track was at risk of going into bankruptcy if it didn’t get some sort of bail out. Though the famous race course has fallen on hard times lately, F1 boss Bernie Eccelstone has pledged to bring the top-level racing series back to the ‘Ring next year.
WHERE IS STUDIO ‘X’?
As I mentioned earlier in the show, Ed Welburn, the head of design at GM took us on a tour of the GM Design Center last night. But one area he would not let us into is the mystical Studio X. But he did give us the background on what it’s about, which we want to share with you, because not many people know anything about it.
In the Rapid Fire part of last night’s show, based on a viewer’s question, we asked Ed to at least point in the direction of Studio X. If I’m reckoning right, it’s in the northeast part of the building. Anyway, if you did not see that show, check it out on our website Autoline.tv. It really is a terrific view of what goes on inside GM’s design center that almost no one on the outside has ever seen before.
And that wraps up this week’s worth of reports. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you Monday.