Episode 990 – VW May Shelve Luxo SUVs, F1 and Done, Should Chrysler Buy Fiat?

October 11th, 2012 at 11:55am

Runtime: 7:58

As the situation in Europe continues to go from bad to worse, Volkswagen may put its ultra-luxury SUVs on hold. Fox and Turner Sports have inked a deal that may have greater ramifications on racing coverage. And, John McElroy weighs in on whether Chrysler should buy Fiat to save the company. All that and more, plus correspondent Andrew Justus has some first drive impressions of the new BMW M5!

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Welcome to Autoline Daily for October 11th. I’m John McElroy and here’s the latest developments in the wonderful world of cars.

Despite posting a $7.7 billion operating profit so far this year, Volkswagen want to save cash. According to Reuters, the company may delay development of SUVs for Bentley and Lamborghini. Bentley already showed us this awkward looking SUV called the EXP 9-F. And Lambo already pulled the wraps off the Urus. VW is so profitable, that when it delays new models, you know it believes the crisis in Europe is going to get really bad.

Nissan just announced pricing for the all-new Pathfinder. The base, two-wheel drive model starts at $28,270 and the top of the line Platinum model with four-wheel drive starts at $40,770. That does not include destination charges. The new Pathfinder is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 with a continuously variable transmission, but the big news is the weight savings. By going from body-on-frame to unit-body its 500 pounds lighter, and that, along with other improvements, improved its fuel economy by up to 30%. The 2013 Pathfinder goes on sale at the end of the month.

Fox and Turner Sports just inked an 8 year contract with Major League Baseball. Why should we care about that? Well Fox is the parent company to the Speed Channel, and it’s rumored that Speed will turn into an all-sports network. Fox Sports Media Group confirms it’s evaluating the possibility of a national sports channel, but says no such network is imminent. Well for all of us who can only go to Speed for racing series like Formula 1 and Grand-Am let’s hope they at least keep that.

A few days ago Ford showed off a prototype carbon fiber hood that could help lower fuel consumption. This should not come as huge surprise after Ford announced a collaboration with Dow Automotive earlier this year, that will look at new materials, design processes, and manufacturing techniques. The new carbon fiber hood weighs 50 percent less than its steel counterpart with production times being significantly reduced. Ford continues to look into using carbon fiber on more components, and hopes to drop an average of 250 to 700 pounds on its vehicles.

Things are going from bad to worse in Europe, but especially for Fiat. Sales are plummeting, Moody’s just downgraded the company’s credit rating, and Italian politics being what they care, it is politically impossible for Fiat to reduce its considerable overcapacity. Plus, Fiat still doesn’t have full control of Chrysler, it only owns 58.5 percent. It wants to buy more stock from the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, but needs to come up with more cash, and Fiat doesn’t have much cash to spare right now. Since it doesn’t own Chrysler outright, Fiat can not legally touch Chrysler’s bank account. But Sergio Marchionne did tell me recently that Fiat can contract Chrysler do development work for it, which can save the Italian automaker money. Chrysler meanwhile, continues to confound its critics, boosting sales, gaining market share, and making money. And it’s just getting going in the international markets, so the future looks bright. This presents an interesting opportunity. Why not have Chrysler buy Fiat? To borrow a phrase from Mr. Marchionne, it could be done for a “symbolic price,” that is, with no cash trading hands. Fiat would no longer have to cough up a couple of hundred million dollars to buy more Chrysler stock and Chrysler could provide Fiat with cash. Bada-boom-bada-bing, I find this to be an intriguing possibility.

(Today’s first drive impressions of the BMW M5 are only available in the video version of today’s show.)

M is for magnificent.

Hey don’t forget to join us tonight for Autoline After Hours. I think the Autoextremist is going to be in fine form, because he’s got a lot to say about Dan Ackerson’s latest move to put someone in charge of Cadillac who has absolutely no automotive experience. Plus, if you have any questions about bio-fuels, we will have the answers. Tune in tonight for what promises to be a rocking good time on Autoline After Hours.

And that wraps up today’s report. We’ll be back here tomorrow.

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37 Comments to “Episode 990 – VW May Shelve Luxo SUVs, F1 and Done, Should Chrysler Buy Fiat?”

  1. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Chrysler could but Fiat…..amazing isn’t it? I like that idea..I hope Chrysler is listening.Macaroni needs to go.

  2. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Chrysler could BUY….I need new glasses.

  3. pedro fernandez Says:

    Fiat “rescues” Chrysler and now the tables are turned, I submit that what Chrysler really needed was its own Mullaly, not to be rescued by Fiat or any other brand.

  4. pedro fernandez Says:

    GM is in the same bind, this Akerson keeps making bone head moves.

  5. Brett Says:

    I was saddened when I learned that Fox bought Speedvision, anticipating the same sort of c**p that went on when CBS bought The Nashville Network from Gaylord Enterntainment. “The Nashville Network” became “The National Network” and finally “Spike TV”.

    When they dropped the air racing, power boat racing, kart racing, and Legends of Motorsport, I knew my worst fears were realized.

    The F1 coverage has been it’s only redeeming quality. It has otherwise become “The Bubba Channel”.

    Dropping the automotive aspect will simply render the tragedy complete, IMO.

  6. HtG Says:

    In Re Marchionne talking to JOhn, I got to say, when I come here for daily auto news judgement, I know we’re getting it from an ace. From John, to Peter, to Jim Hall et al, it’s an embarrassment of riches.

  7. G.A.Branigan Says:

    At least Chrysler hasn’t been ‘raided’ like it was with daimler benz.

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    I think Velocity channel is eating Speed for lunch!

  9. HtG Says:

    5 F1. Without incriminating myself, may I say that the Beeb’s coverage of F1 is super? At least a half hour intro to each race, David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan walking the grid pre-race and then commenting throughout the race, commercial free. That stuff on SPEED is abominable, pitched at mouth breathers by loquacious, fat geezbags whose knowledge is severely out of date.

  10. gmveteran Says:

    Some people think I’m nuts, but the more time Akerson is in the CEO’s chair, the more I miss Rick Wagoner. While he was not perfect, he did bring in Mr. Lutz, made a lot of headway on union concessions prior to the bankruptcy, dramatically increased the overall quality of GM products and signed off on some vehicles that showed GM had some imagination left after all. And, he never would have appointed a telephone guy to run a luxury car brand. I say, bring back Rick!

  11. buzzerd Says:

    I go to SPEED for MOTO GP, WSB and AMA racing and their coverage, in between ASSCAR races, has been pretty decent and I hope it stays that way.

  12. Lex Says:

    John McElroy what do you want to do sink Chrysler? I think your idea of Chrysler buying Fiat for a nominal amount is like tying a anchor around the necks of all the US Workers at Chrysler. FIAT (Fix It Again Tony) should not be bailed out by a US Automotive Company which itself received a huge bailout from the US Taxpayer. What were you thinking???

    The Speed channel going all sports will kill Nascar!

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    VW needs to scrap the Bentley and Lambo SUV’s, not only to save money, but because the whole idea of SUV’s for those brands is downright silly.

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    #13 Those cars would have been OK if the world’s economy was in tip top shape, although maybe they’re targeting both Russian and Middle Eastern oil magnates, and there money is flowing like food stamps are in the US.

  15. C-Tech Says:

    If the people who bring you Faux News turns Speed Channel into Faux ESPN, then I hope the people at Discovery step up the Velocity channel and save the good stuff from Speed.

    John, what are you saying? Why saddle Chrysler with Fiat? Why allow Fiat to raid the Chrysler rainy day fund (again).

    With the development of Carbon Fiber hoods, it wíll it be long before we see carbon fiber trunklids, and liftgates for SUV’s?

    Given how heavy these power seats are in today’s cars, I am surprised we don’t see more development in lighter materials like carbon fiber in seats.

  16. C-Tech Says:

    Maybe we should contact Oprah about turning OWN into the next Speed Channel?

  17. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Said it before and I’ll say it again, that Bentley looks like a Studebaker Lark (of some 50 years ago); drop it.

    I liked Speed Channel better when it was Speed Vision (noting cars, boats and airplanes); have tolerated Speed due to the motorcycle racing and Grand Prix. Hope Fox doesn’t ‘fox’ it up; they already present a poorer coverage of Grand Prix when THEY air the race.

  18. G.A.Branigan Says:

    About all I ever watch on speed is the Barrett-Jackson auctions,and a few (very few)car shows like gears,and even that is getting stupid.Chop cut rebuild is a snoozefest.Hotrod was okay.I love the powerblock on Spike on sat mornings and that’s it for that channel.Velocity is really shaping up nicely but really needs some aviation shows to round it out.

  19. HtG Says:

    Isn’t Fox already carrying some of the F1 races in the UK? They’ve got Martin Brundle. If Fox wants they can do a decent job with F1 here in the states(come on, they already own SPEED anyway). What’s on SPEED is so sad compared to the Beeb, with practically no production values. Just three blokes in a studio watching the feed. If F1 wants to get anywhere in the states maybe Fox will decide to do a real show. F1 races are worldwide events, but here it’s like archery or shuffleboard. Where’s Chris Schenkel?

  20. Brett Says:

    re: Carbon fiber hoods, deck lids, etc.

    Aren’t these going to make post collision cleanups rather ugly? Seems like the shards would physically hazardous and fatal to tires.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I watch F1 races on Speed, but that’s about it. The coverage isn’t nearly as good as it once was, but it’s better than nothing.

  22. Charles Domanski Says:

    IMHO the worst thing that ever happened to American television is the American version of Top Gear. What a pathetic bunch of idiots. Especially the fat bearded one. I hate that show. They make me cringe just seeing these three goof balls who think they are funny and know something about cars and trucks. There is no way in hell they could ever be anything like the three men on the BBC versiion of Top Gear. I wouldn’t watch the American version of Top Gear if you paid me. It would be pure torture.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    Adding to 22, it’s a shame that we have so many different, unique places to film this show and all within the US, yet their personalities really turn off viewers

  24. W L Simpson Says:

    During WW2 Britain leveled the VW plants , & then had most to do with their resurrection .—What if —–

  25. W L Simpson Says:

    Carbon fibre is not the only solution to weight
    loss , just the most expensive. Polymers are emerging , just not as excitingly exotic.

  26. Roger T Says:

    No Speed – I wish we truly had a racing channel, with decent coverage of everything us fans are looking for. Perhaps the demise of Speed by going down the Fox route will open space for something more interesting.

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Maybe Disney should start a “speed” channel. For the most part, they have done pretty well with ESPN over the years.

  28. geelong vic Says:

    GM and Chrysler are making Ford and Mullalay look better and better for the long term!! Chrysler buying FIAT would be a death wish. GM apparently has now put in place a death wish for Cadillac with the latest move. Pity.

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    While the new Cadillac guy doesn’t seem to make sense, didn’t Mullaly, “saviour of Ford” come from a company that makes airliners and war materials? That isn’t exactly like the auto business either, is it?

  30. HtG Says:

    But Mulally had a manufacturing and management background. He’s an aerospace engineer with an MBA from MIT/Sloan. He was in charge of developing the 757 IIRC. GM is hiring a lobbyist whose only corporate support is Akerson. At least Mulally had Bill Ford.

  31. HtG Says:

    If I may add, Alfred Sloan was not a car guy when he got to GM. He was an electrical engineer owning and running a ball bearing business in New Jersey.

  32. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, Mulally was with a manufacturing company, but with a much different customer base than a car company.

    As long as Cadillac, unlike Lincoln, comes up with decent products, I like what I see. Still, this constant shuffling of management within GM makes me nervous.

  33. jmann Says:

    Cadillac seems to be selling a lot of cars, but to me the design has always looked . . . cheezy. Overdone, lacking sophistication. Remember, Mary Barra is head of vehicle development these days and, I’m sure, has considerable clout in these decisions. Also, a lot of women drive the current Cadillac. The image ain’t what it was.

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    An older, wealthy, long-time Cadillac driver I know recently bought an XTS to replace a three year old STS. I asked him how he liked it, and he said it is great, except for the controls that he doesn’t know how to work. That is exactly what I expected. This car is intended mainly to replace the DTS, and to a lesser extent the STS. The people who buy these cars are looking for a quiet, comfortable car, but are not looking for electronic gadgets that require a training class to operate.

  35. Philip Says:

    RE: Pathfinder

    Nissan should have changed the vehicles name. The Nissan Pathfinder USED to be a legit off-roader. No more. Not with the changes Nissan made. CVT ~ no-way! Now it’s only good for carting home can of paint from Home Depot, or bringing home the groceries. But, sadly, I guess that’s the way most people used them.

  36. Philip Says:

    RE: Chrysler & Fiat

    I would rather see Chrysler go its own way. A separate American owned company.

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I checked out the Pathfinder section of the Nissan web site, and they don’t seem to mention off-road use in the site, at all. The new Pathfinder is even less of an off-roader than I thought. No low range. No “off road” package of undercarriage protection plates, etc.

    Yeah, it is now really mis-named. Maybe the name means that you find a path to hike on, and park the vehicle at the trail head.