Episode 63 – Volt Drive System Branded, Fiat Practically Steals Chrysler, Hummer Drivers Ticketed

January 21st, 2009 at 12:00pm

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Fiat is getting big chunks of Chrysler for practically nothing. GM is creating a new brand for its Volt technology, called Voltec. Hummer drivers are four times more likely to get a ticket than the average motorist, and nobody seems to know why. All that and more, plus John answers viewer questions about plug-in hybrids and batteries in the “You Said It!” segment.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Fiat is getting big chunks of Chrysler for chicken feed. GM is creating a new brand for its Volt technology. And Hummer drivers are just asking for a ticket.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, January 21, 2009. And now, the news.

More details on the Fiat-Chrysler alliance. The Wall Street Journal reports Fiat will get three of the seven seats on Chrysler’s board of directors. And if Fiat meets specific goals for improving Chrysler’s operations within a year, it will be able to buy an additional 20 percent of Chrysler stock for only $25 million. Folks, $25 million for 20 percent of Chrysler is chicken feed. Plus, it got 35 percent of Chrysler for free, and all this shows that Cerberus is taking a bath on its investment in the auto industry.

Well, Toyota made it official and named Akio Toyoda as president of the company. He’s the grandson of the founder of the company. We could have reported this yesterday, but if you remember we actually reported it a month ago. Back then the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun said that Akio Toyoda would become president. You have to realize that the Japanese media operate differently than in the West. It’s much more tied in to official government and business sources. So when the Asahi Shimbun reports that Akio Toyoda is likely to become president of Toyota, you can take it to the bank. If they’re reporting it, it’s already a done deal.

The Big Three aren’t the only ones getting government assistance. France is giving 6 billion Euro to French automakers, but only if they promise to keep jobs in France and if executives give up their bonuses. Renault, PSA and their suppliers alone make up 10 percent of the French workforce.

WardsAuto.com reports, GM is branding the electric-propulsion system powering the Chevrolet Volt (subscription required), in the same way it branded engine families, like Northstar and Vortec. They used to call it E-Flex, now GM is branding it as Voltec.

Ford is using dual-clutch transmissions in Europe and Wards’s Auto.com reports it will start using them in North America next year. But calling them DCT’s like everyone else does isn’t good enough for Ford. It’s going to brand these as “PowerShift” transmissions. The DCT gearbox that was developed with Getrag, will debut on the new Fiesta when it launches, and then spread to the Focus and other small vehicles.

Most people think brightly-colored sports cars are police magnets, but Autoblog reports that insurance company research shows that Hummer drivers are FOUR TIMES more likely to get a ticket than the average motorist, and nobody seems to know why. Maybe it’s because Hummers have big blind spots, or maybe Hummer drivers just don’t care about the rules of the road.

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!

And now it’s time for some of your feedback.

This is “You Said It!” Every day we get dozens of comments and questions from you, our viewers. “You Said It!” gives me a chance to respond.

Kit Gerhart writes in to say,

“I don’t hear much in the media about the downside of plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars. Three things come to mind:
1) A majority of Americans park their cars outside. Where will all of these people plug in their cars?
2) About half of America’s electricity is made by burning coal. Are electrics really environmentally good?
3) What are the environmental issues regarding getting rid of the batteries at the end of their life?”

Kit, number one, if you don’t have a place to plug in an electric or plug-in hybird, you’re not going to buy one. These things are not be for everyone, in the same way small cars don’t meet the needs of some buyers and big SUVs don’t meet the needs of others. Number two, even if you recharge your plug-in with electricity made from coal, the environmentalists tell me we’re still making progress in reducing CO2. Electric utilities are pretty efficient at converting coal to electricity. And number three you raise a great question about end of life of the batteries. When you talk about recycling lithium-ion batteries, it takes more energy to recycle them than it takes to mine virgin lithium. There’s definitely going to be an issue with that.

Gregg Denning wrote in to ask another question relating to electrics. I do not know what it costs to operate an electric vehicle because I do not have a conversion formula for “miles per kilowatt hour” to the electricity rate. Can you find and distribute to us, your loyal, faithful and dedicated audience, a formula for this conversion?

Gregg, I don’t have a concrete answer because as they always say, “You’re mileage may vary.” All I can tell you is that with the Chevrolet Volt, GM says it will cost about 80 cents a day worth of electricity to travel 40 miles. The battery pack will have a capacity of 16 kilowatt hours. That means you should get 2.5 miles per kilowatt hour, but this figure only applies to the Volt. And GM’s cost of 80 cents a day assumes a cost of about 7 cents per kilowatt hour.

Don’t forget to play Autoline Trivia. If you correctly answer this week’s question you’re automatically entered for a chance to win this. It’s a replica of the sporty 1972 Datsun 240Z, and it could be yours! This week’s question is… I’m not going to tell you, because it’s only available to our e-mail subscribers. But don’t worry; if you want a chance to win, all you have to do is sign up for our free newsletter. Just visit our website, AutolineDaily.com, and subscribe now!

Anyway, that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you again tomorrow.

22 Comments to “Episode 63 – Volt Drive System Branded, Fiat Practically Steals Chrysler, Hummer Drivers Ticketed”

  1. Howard Remeta Says:

    Fiat may be getting Chrysler for peanuts but the corroboration of the two may be the only thing that keeps Chrysler afloat and a lot of people work for Chrysler in this country. Sounds more like a free bailout for Chrysler to me. I like the idea of people keeping their jobs.

  2. jerry flint Says:

    my question: what does chrysler get from the fiat deal. cerberus gets rid of chrysler. fiat gets production capability here. but what does chrysler get? It would take 2-3 years to apply fiat engines and transmissions and platforms to us production, and does chrysler have the time? And money? And chrysler needs a accord/camry size car. what does fiat have in this class. it has small cars-500 and punto–not engineered for us standards, but chryser is getting small nissans soon.
    hmmm
    maybe the idea is to lok busy for the auto czar

  3. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I like the idea of Fiat getting Chrysler almost for free, if the synergies work out. I just hope things work out better than the DaimlerChrysler deal.

    Maybe Hummer drivers do more than their share of speeding and running red lights, but I haven’t noticed it. I suspect Hummer drivers get more than their share of tickets because a lot of police officers, like other people, find them to be disgusting. Vehicles with “bumpers” that are about chest high to drivers of regular passenger cars don’t belong on public roads.

  4. G.A.Branigan Says:

    It certainly looks like Fiat is getting the deal of a lifetime,but as the saying goes ‘if it looks to good to be true….”.Perhaps theres a reason why chrysler has been handed off so many times? As for those that own and drive hummers…….LMAO.

  5. Bill Murdock Says:

    Fiat hasn’t been in the grandest financial shape lately, but is undoubtedly better off than Chrysler. As far as Chrysler getting Fiat technology, is that so great? Escept for Ferrari and Maserati, no Fiat products have made it to these shores for decades, and there’s a reason for that. Unless they’ll give Ferrari technology to Chrysler, and I sure can’t see that happening. So as Jerry Flint says, what is in it for Chrysler?

    Also, has Cerberus proved again that if you’re not car guys, you don’t belong in the car business?

  6. JIm Thykeson Says:

    John: GM has been doing ‘hybrids’ for years. Ever hear of deisel motors producing electricity to drive electrified trucks (wheels)? Viola! Electromotive; GM’s train engine division. The onboard deisel generator (the engine) allowed the train to traverse the rail without overhead electrified cable. The Volt is a mini version of the same technology. We ran our warehouse 24/7 on electrified forklifts. We had a battery station that could quickly change out one dead battery for a fresh one. Whos warehouse was this?;…GM!

  7. Tom Cain Says:

    Kit: Fortunately, we live in a free country! Just because YOU don’t like Hummers does not mean that others should be told they cannot drive them!

  8. William R. Walling Says:

    John,
    “Discussed importance of Mr. Toyoda’s elevation at TOYOTA lie NOT in corporate position but it’s timing.”
    As reported earlier today, TOYOTA is now GLOBAL #1 in reported vehicle sales!
    Thus, Mr. Toyoda will assume CEO position of the GLOBAL #1 auto and truck manufacturer.
    Simply, Oriental ‘public face’!
    Mind you, this from a corporate entity (TOYOTA, TM) valued ‘North’ of one hundred (100) BILLION dollars while GLOBAL market competitors teeter on failure.
    ‘That childhood ‘tortoise and the hair’ story realised today …’
    Our domestic competitors should be MOLLIFIED as ‘asleep at the wheel’ is too kind a description!
    Indeed ‘Time for a Change!’

  9. Don MacConnel Says:

    I asked our electric utility how they were going to collect highway usage taxes for electric vehicles.

    Their answer surprised me. Evidently smart meters are already in place that can collect and transmit the charging load data for electric vehicles. The power companies like the idea since most electric vehicle charging is done during off peak hours. One can expect they’ll get paid for collection of the data.

    VIN’s or some other identification will ultimately get collected during charging. That opens all sorts of possibilities…

  10. pedro Fernandez Says:

    I have seen Hummer drivers do the following: drive over sidewalks, go into parking lots without using the driveway,example: jump the curve and parking bumpers. take 2 spaces, use their size to intimidate other drivers by cutting in, taking a space ect. Its just the mentality they have, just look at that ridiculous Ram commercial where a group of macho men drive the trucks like they’re in a movie stunt.

  11. Les Odgers Says:

    What do people do about air-conditioning their cars in Phoenix AZ or any other insanely hot spot, in the city it won’t go below 90 degrees at night in the summer.. Does the Volt or any Hybrid have an electric A/C compressor and how much does that limit the range? Why not put Photovoltaics on the roof and hood like the original GM electric car? How much land are we going to tear up looking for Lithium?

  12. Les Odgers Says:

    On the Hummer issue, what do you expect from a vehicle that is a total “ego purchase”? You can’t even get tires for them, the govt. has bought them all up, I have a friend that owns one, well his wife owns one and they like to say how it will go anywhere? BTW, they have only driven cross country on the street with it, from California to Yellowstone. etc. Four passengers, what a waste!

  13. Tom Says:

    Well, Jerry Flint.

    Chylser is going to benefit from the merger, by having access to small car technology and also have access dealer ships in Africa, and more importantly Europe.

    Chysler is in a worst position than GM and Ford, partly because of the fact that 95 percent of their sales comes from the US auto Market.

    From the long term prospective. If Chysler successfuly develop their frandchise in Europe. Then they will inrease their global sales, and also reduce their risk of american sales melt down.

  14. Terry Townsend Says:

    Les, Pedro, Kit – Wow! What’s next after you purge Hummers from our roadways? Let’s see, Suburbans and Expeditions are huge, let’s get rid of them too – and get those road clogging, gas guzzling Tahoes, Yukons, and Jeeps while you’re at it. Oh, don’t forget all those nasty pickup trucks people buy and don’t really need, especially the 4WD versions – total environmental hogs. And quite frankly, I don’t understand why we allow folks to drive vans unless they have at least 6 passengers at all times – that’s just wrong and there should be a law. But why stop there! Any vehicle that can accommodate 5 passengers or more should be required to have at least 4 passengers on board at all times! Whew, I think that about does it. Now that’s the kind of America we should have, don’t you three agree?

  15. Salvador G. Says:

    John, it just hit me; you had Frank Klegon last week and you asking if Chrysler was capable to produce new cars (Never though he meant FIATs).

    So when are you planning to interview Frank K. again???
    And when you think you can get someone from FIAT on Autoline?— maybe you could use this as an excuse to go to Italy. :o :)
    Maybe the new 200C will use Fiat technology.

    Thanks again John.

  16. Tom Martin Says:

    The $.80 to recharge the Volt is understated.

    First, the $.07 per kilowatt is on the low end for most communities. Some states are in the teens.

    Second, I bet electricity prices will increase to reduce carbon emissions.

    And third, you didn’t include Federal, State, and Local highway taxes into the calculation.

  17. Tom Martin Says:

    TheChrysler deal only makes sense to me if Chrysler starts selling some of their vehicles at Fiat dealers in Europe. I’m just not sure what they would sell. Trucks? Minivans? Jeeps?

  18. Tom Martin Says:

    The Chrysler deal clearly helps Chrysler dealers. They will have more product to sell and maintain.

  19. Richard Burdett Says:

    I certainly see, in the future, that revenue-conscious cities will have electrical outlets on parking meters, that would charge for electric charge along with parking fee…or privately owned parking could do the same thing, with ‘extra charge’ parking spots with power plugs.

  20. Jason Says:

    I’m a technician at a Chrysler dealership and I’m a little scared about working on fiats. What if I have a warranty problem on a fiat and I call thier tech support line and some mobster from sicily answers and starts giving me a hard time. “Yeah this is Tony Capone, What do ya mean your having problems with our cars, Im gonna send someone down there and straighten all you out” YIKES

  21. sam zuech Says:

    A month ago a Hummer owner went crazy and killed his in-laws and burnt their house to the ground, and I think something like 9 people died. Obviously someone who owns a pseudo-military vehicle has an image of themselves as a macho, gun toting, “minuteman.” I would be willing to bet that most of them have an arsenal that is illegal and dangerous to their surrounding neighbors. Hummer owners should be on the watch list for Homeland Security Agency.

  22. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Terry: having a vehicle that wastes so much gas just to carry on or two passengers is simply a drain on natural resources and makes those who sell oil richer and richer. Why is it the Europeans don’t like these behemoths, I’m sure they like comfort like anybody else. Now if you have a business that needs a big vehicle, then you need one, period. But I have seen municipal vehicles carrying an inspector, for example, that could have been a small vehicle, but instead was an Excursion or a Suburban, its just wasteful.