August 30th, 2012 at 11:45am
It looks like GM is suffering a brain drain in its R&D department. The latest senior leader to depart the company is Chris Borroni-Bird. Nissan just introduced the all-new Almera at the Moscow International Autosalon. This large sedan is specifically designed to handle Russia’s rough roads. Audi could be scrapping its all-aluminum space frame. The next-generation A8 may ride on a completely different platform. All that and more, plus a look at the Land Rover LR4.
Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily, It’s the 30th of August. I’m John McElroy, and here’s the news.
GM’S BRAIN DRAIN
Looks like General Motors is going through a brain drain. Four senior technical leaders have left the company’s R&D operations in a relatively short amount of time. The latest is Chris Borroni-Bird, who played a crucial role in the development of the GM Autonomy and EN-V. Earlier this year Alan Taub, who was vice president of R&D retired from the company well before retirement age. The same goes for his predecessor Larry Burns, who left three years ago. And the same goes for Bob Purcell, who played a key role in the development of the EV-1. He left the company two years ago. Earlier this year GM cut its research staff based in the United States by 25 percent. I don’t think we’ve ever seen so many top technical people leave a car company well before their retirement ages.
Speaking of GM, there’s an internet rumor making the rounds claiming that 79 percent of GM’s sales are going to the government. It goes on to say that this is just another Obama Administration bail out of GM and the UAW. Well, let’s examine the facts. So far this year about 3 percent of GM sales have gone to government agencies. Of that, three-quarters were to state and local governments, not the feds. And while GM’s government sales did shoot up in June and July, half of those were police cars. Bottom line: if the Obama Administration is buying less than 1 percent of GM’s sales, then it’s not doing a very good job of bailing them out again.
ROAD-READY FOR RUSSIA
More news from Russia today. Nissan just introduced the all-new Almera at the Moscow International Autosalon. The large sedan was specifically designed for the Russian market and features higher ground clearance, more underbody protection, and anti-corrosion chrome treatment to handle Russian roads. The car is powered by a 1.6-liter gasoline engine with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. The Almera will be built in Russia and goes on sales early next year.
CHINESE ZODIAC: YEAR OF THE FORD
Yesterday Ford broke ground on an all-new $760 million plant in China, which will start production in 2015. Ford is going to bring seven new models to China in the next three years, including a low-priced small car to the market. However, Ford will not develop a separate Chinese brand and says the new low-priced car will not be the Figo, which it makes in India and starts at $6,800, because that is a right-hand drive car. But I say how hard can it be to move the steering wheel over to the other side?
NEXT-GEN GOLF COMING SOON
Speaking of new models, the next-generation Volkswagen Golf should be revealed to the world in just a few days but supposedly a product presentation about this MK VII model already landed on the internet. The Golf will supposedly lose 100 kilograms of mass, or roughly 220 pounds. Yet, it will be a little bit longer and slightly roomier, and should get better fuel economy. Look for more details next week and the full story later in September when the car officially debuts at the Paris Motor Show.
OUT AND ABOUT
Vee Dub is also hard at work on its super-efficient XL1. The car was spotted enduring some hot-weather testing. There have been several concept versions of this low-slung bullet-shaped two-seater but the company is rumored to be close to offering a production model. Fuel economy is supposedly in the neighborhood of 235 miles per gallon. That’s thanks to a super-low curb weight and coefficient of drag of just .186! At least that’s how slippery the latest concept was.
AUDI SPACE FRAME GETTING SCRAPPED?
And sticking with the Volkswagen Group, Car and Driver reports the next generation Audi A8, which is expected to debut in the 2016 to 2017 timeframe, could jettison its all-aluminum space frame! This has been the flagship car’s defining feature since 1994. It’s rumored the upcoming model will share an aluminum-hybrid platform with Porsche and Bentley. Apparently it will incorporate high-strength steel and composite materials to save even more weight. We’ll see if Audi makes the switch to this dedicated rear-wheel-drive architecture.
After the break we’ll take a peek at one of the most expensive SUVs on the road . . .
IMPORTED FROM GREAT BRITAIN
The large- and midsize-SUV segments are doing pretty well in the United States. Despite high fuel prices sales are flat to slightly up. We recently put one of the biggest and most luxurious to the test. This American-grade SUV hails from Great Britain of all places. Craig Cole has more . . .
According to data provided by WardsAuto, calendar-year-to-date sales of the LR4 are down roughly 9 percent through July, making it one of the brand’s least popular models. Interestingly the Range Rover Sport is their top seller, while the newly introduced Evoque is coming on strong. It is in second place.
Be sure to join that bodacious Autoextremist Peter De Lorenzo and myself for the best insider discussion of what’s going on in the automotive business. Joining us is Randy Stephens the chief engineer of the Toyota Avalon. And we’ll kick that off tonight at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Autoline After Hours.
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.