Episode 975 – Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen, Passat Passes Past Record, VW’s Wonderful Ad

September 20th, 2012 at 12:10pm

Runtime: 10:01

Transmission maker ZF is rockin’ and rollin’ as demand for its gearboxes booms. The Volkswagen Passat has passed its previous sales record, which was set in 2001. Prices for red-hot rare-earth metals are finally starting to cool off. All that and more, plus a first drive of the 2013 Ford Fusion and a look at one of the best ads to come out in years.

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It’s Thursday, September 20, 2012. Welcome to another episode of Autoline Daily from “The D.” John’s still wandering around in the wilderness. But hey, you got me at least. I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the one and only Autoextremist, bringing YOU the latest news. And like a jelly-filled doughnut today’s show is loaded with fun so let’s get rolling.

Transmission maker ZF is rockin’ and rollin’. Demand for its eight-speed gearboxes is booming. The German company projects its sales will grow by 10 percent this year to 17 billion euros. To keep pace it will ADD about 35-hundred employees to its payroll by the end of 2012, bringing the total to more than 75,000. Demand for its products will likely remain strong once its new nine-speed automatic transmission hits the market.

The Volkswagen Passat has turned out to be a solid midsize entry in the most competitive segment in the U.S. market. It is spacious, competitively-priced and offers an array of engine choices. Handsome styling – although bland for my tastes – and a nice interior don’t hurt, either. These factors and others have contributed to the car’s success. As of yesterday the company sold a tick more than 77,500 Passats in the United States this year. That tops its previous record, which was set back in 2001. That’s a strong showing for Vee-Dub, but it’s still miles behind the segment-leading Camry. Through August Toyota sold more than 280,000 of them.

Speaking of midsize sedans, Autoline Daily’s Isaac Bouchard is out on the West Coast test-driving one of the newest. With more, here he is.


Nice work, Isaac. That Fusion drives as good as it looks.

There’s some good news for automakers. As you know, the prices of rare-earth metals, which are used in hybrid and EV batteries, skyrocketed the last couple of years because China, which controls the majority of the world’s supply, limited exports. But now Reuters reports prices are plummeting. A speculative bubble burst for the materials, which drove down the price. New mines were opened which will boost the supply and China is expected to start exporting more due to weakening demand.

As we’ve been reporting, PSA, the parent company of Peugeot and Citroen is in a lot of trouble. In an effort to reduce its debt, the company just agreed to sell a 75 percent stake in its logistics unit Gefco to OAO Russian Railways for just over one billion dollars. Gefco transports cars and parts in Europe, Latin America and China. The agreement still needs regulatory approval but the two companies hope to close the deal by the end of the year.

Coming up next, I’ll talk about a bolt out of the advertising blue that will make you smile…

Every once in a while a piece of advertising comes along that makes you sit up and take notice. And no, I’m not talking about Eminem or Clint. I’m talking about an auto manufacturer with the vision to do something completely unexpected and frankly, damn-near genius.

The folks at VW decided we all needed a break from the endless barrage of political advertising we’re being subjected to for the next seven weeks. And boy, are they right. So they’ve come up, or I should say their advertising agency – Deutsch, Los Angeles – has come up with a wonderful 30-second TV commercial that doesn’t show one car. Not one. Instead it shows a variety of real people across all age groups smiling and laughing, closing with a tag line that says simply, “It’s not the miles, it’s how you live them. That’s the power of German engineering.”

Sound corny? You have to see it for yourself. It’s far from that. It’s probably the most compelling piece of advertising – auto or otherwise – to come along in ages. Kudos to VW and its advertising agency for having the guts to do something completely different. It’s simply wonderful.

Hey, have you checked out the latest game from RoundAbout? See if you can guess what’s being described in this clip from “Cartegories.”

There’s much more where that came from and you can check it out right now by clicking the RoundAbout channel on Autoline.tv.

By the way, if you spotted Mark Phelan in that video, you get bonus points. Mark will also be joining me on Autoline After Hours TONIGHT along with that other guy, John McElroy. We’ll have Mike Cairns from Ram Trucks in studio and we’ll see if we can squeeze a massive Fifteen-Hundred in the building as well. Get your AAH fix starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time at Autoline.tv – it’s the best automotive discussion in the business. Don’t you dare miss it!

And that’s the end of the road, for now at least. I’m Peter De Lorenzo, THE Autoextremist. Thank you for watching and I’ll see you later tonight.

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

25 Comments to “Episode 975 – Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen, Passat Passes Past Record, VW’s Wonderful Ad”

  1. HtG Says:

    Just saw that VW ad. Why are those people laughing? Did they just find out their Passat will have to stay in the shop another week?

    Really though, based on my Mad Men viewing, I’d give some credit to the VW management for going with this idea.

  2. Ron Paris Says:

    That’s it? The “most compelling piece of advertising to come along in ages”? Sorry Peter, you lost me.

  3. Jon M Says:

    Alright, I know this kind of stuff is subjective, but between yesterday and today I have to say that all this ballyhooing over the new Fusion is a bit melodramatic. I won’t say the car is staid or ugly; it’s just not that great looking. I like many thought it looked like an Aston Martin knock-off when I first saw the photos. It’s big, bloated butt certainly isn’t the most attractive angle to look at it from either. While I can’t speak to driving dynamics, the new Altima certainly looks like more to get excited about than the new Fusion. A step in the right direction the new Fusion may be, but the best in segment…well, we all have our opinion.

  4. Chuck @ GM Says:

    I didn’t know that’s what Zed Eff stood for.

  5. HtG Says:


  6. C-Tech Says:

    That is the thing about sales records, if you don’t sell a lot of cars, and you finally come up with something popular, you’ll quickly break your own sales record and show double-digit increases. Call me when VW sells 150,000 Passats.

    Peter, once again with the supelatives? The VW ad is good, but great? What is the test of a great ad? Does it increase awareness of your brand by creating a buzz? Does it encourage people buy your product (car / truck)? This ad is creative, however I don’t see it creating a buzz and I doubt it moves the product.

    Will the Fusion be offered with a Diesel engine?

  7. C-Tech Says:

    See if you can get Mike Cairns to bring the Ram Long-hauler concept over tonight. Warning, you may need to add an extension to the studio, or hold the show in the cab!

  8. Jerzjt Says:

    nice work in the field, Issac!

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    To me, those Passat sales numbers seem pretty good, considering they have only a handful of sales outlets compared to Toyota, Honda, Chevy, and Ford.

  10. john 878 Says:

    I don’t see what so close to genius about the VW ad? It’s probably close to genius because it’s German. Had it been GM, it would have been dumb. Maybe we American should start bragging like the Germans do, after all, GM and Ford have many cars that are as good if not better than the Germans….and a lot cheaper in price.
    We American should take pride instead denigrating them like what happens in most cases. The Volt comes to mind.

  11. pedro fernandez Says:

    VW competitors should do an ad of VW owners crying and pouting after 5 yrs of ownership when their repair bills put them in the poor house and they have to get rid of their previously happy and smiling wheels

  12. Chuck Grenci Says:

    So, now with eight speed ‘trannys’ and a nine speed on the way, I’m wondering when do you start to see diminishing returns (with more and more speeds). With more speeds you eventually run out of room (for more gears) or the gears would have to be smaller (less robust) and then mass will also become a concern. I’m thinking eight (or nine) might be okay, but after that, benefits wouldn’t be worth the complexity. Just some random thoughts…………

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Soon you’ll need a Master Tech degree with a minor in electronics and mechanical engineering to work on these new fancy-schmancy 8/9 speeds

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I suspect that, except for smoothness, you have diminishing returns beyond 5 or 6 speeds. Some cars with now-archaic 4-speeds are competitive in mpg. The current 4-speed Corolla did very well in CR’s tests.

  15. C-Tech Says:

    I think trans designers have already reached diminishing returns. In city driving you do not have enough clear road to upshift enough to take advantage of the additional gears. Pedro, the computer-controlled shifting make it practical to have the extra gears and as for the complexity, it appears to be a matter of adding a gearset to give us the 9 ratios. Most trans techs can handle that. Chuck you are right about the concerns about the strength of the gearsets. A failed gearset usually means not just rebuilding an automatic trans but replacing it as all that ground up metal from the falied gearset travels through a trans tearing up the rest of the gearsets and ruining the valve body. I imagine a new 7-8-9 speed transmission is not cheap!

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    These zillion speed transmissions are just trying to emulate the smoothness of a CVT, but with something more robust than belt CVT’s, and with a little less mechanical loss.

  17. C-Tech Says:

    With the concern over the weight of vehicles, how much heavier is a 8-9 speed transmission compared to a 5-6 speed trans? I don’t think you can solve this problem with carbon fiber either.

  18. cwolf Says:

    You fellas are right. One just doesn’t need that many gear speeds to facilitate todays driving needs.

    I liked the Passat I looked at, but it is nothing special. It only sat four comfortably,but the seats were too hard for me. Being on the short side,I did like that I could rest my arm out the window at just the right height. Unfortunately,the way I drive the Passat would be in the service bay every other month for one costly repair or another.

    I think Ford is going to kick some foreign competition a$$ with the Fusion – C-Max combo: they cover all the bases. I wish a sliding door was available on the C-Max. It would allow me to haul a tiller or like item with ease. And at 47/47, who needs the added expense of a diesel?

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The 8- and 9-speeds are probably no heavier; they just have smaller parts. Time will tell how they work out, reliability-wise.

  20. cwolf Says:

    Hey guys: Just watched the show after cleaning out the p-uter and noticed I picked up another 3 cookies after. Can this be?

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    cwolf get yourself Norton anti-virus protection, you can’t surf the web without protection! BTW I recall driving an 8 yr old 1996 LS430 with its arcahic 4 speed and it was a smooooth, quiet ride.

  22. cwolf Says:

    Somewhat related to the no. of gears needed. My 69 MGC has a 4 speed and a hyd. overdrive activated by a stem on the column. Once engaged, the rpm reduction is quite notable and great for hwy travels. That’s prolly why it was called the touring model. Simplicity has its merits.

  23. Earl Says:

    #12…Automotive News interviewed Julo Caspari,President of ZF North America and he was saying that the oneupmanship in transmission speeds is near the end.They have a 9 speed coming out and Hyundai has a 10 speed on the way.
    But for now we have to hand it to Chrysler…an 8 speed now for the RAM 1500 and most cars with 8 speed for 2013. From what I’ve heard GM and Ford are looking at 2015. And Honda has given ZF an order to supply transmissions with more speeds than their current 5 speed.

  24. digitalmonks Says:


    The ZF 8 Speed is ~200 lbs which is less than or comparable to other 5-6 speed solutions. F1 gearboxes (7 speed) used to be cast aluminum and then titanium and now a combination of carbon fiber and titanium. They weigh under 100 lbs right now. So while it is possible to shed weight it won’t come without significant cost (engineering and materials)

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Does the the overdrive on your MG kick down, like the OD on the 50′s and early 60′s American cars?