Episode 1019 – GM Invests in Buses, Mazda’s 50-Hour Project, Buick Logo Redesign?

November 21st, 2012 at 11:41am

Runtime: 9:08

GM invests in Proterra Inc., a company that makes electric, fast-charging buses. Mazda will be building B-spec race cars, in what it calls the 50-hour project. Could the Buick logo get its first redesign in the last decade? One top executive thinks so. All that and more, plus John talks with Mike Jackson, the CEO of Autonation on Autoline This Week.

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Welcome to Autoline Daily. It’s November 21st, the day before Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and what are we thankful for? Well, to you, our loyal audience for one, and the never-dull, ever-changing auto industry for another. Let’s dig in!

GM Ventures, which is kind of GM’s in-house venture capital arm will invest for a second time in Proterra Inc., a company that makes electric, fast-charging buses. GM invested $6 million in 2011, and now it’s investing more. GM and 6 other companies have invested a total of $23 million. Proterra’s EcoRide buses can be charged in only 10 minutes and have up to 40 miles of range. GM used to dominate the market for city buses in the US. Could it possibly be looking at re-entering this segment?

Electric vehicle sales are nowhere near where automakers hoped they would be and not surprisingly Renault is delaying the launch of its ZOE EV. It says it’s postponing the launch until next year because of the economic downturn in Europe. And Renault says it doesn’t want to interfere with the similarly sized Clio hatchback which it just launched. Even so, it’s yet another setback for the EV market.

Looks like Wall Street is warming up to the idea of car sharing. Goldman Sachs just put out a buy on Zipcar, and the stock is surging. Goldman says that Zipcar is growing could enjoy better profit margins. Even so, it says this is a high-risk investment. Though the price is up this week, it’s down 44 percent for the year.

Ford and Mazda have been going their separate ways the last several years but they’re not completely ending their partnership just yet. According to Reuters, the two companies, along with their Chinese partner Changan, have agreed to invest an additional $37 million to their engine plant in China.

Have you ever thought about going road racing? If so, the B-spec racing series is about as easy and affordable as you can get into. Mazda, Honda, Kia and Mini all offer B-spec race kits, in fact, at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show, Orlando, Florida on November 29th, Mazda will be building B-spec racers, in what it calls the 50-hour project. The kit is $2,575, and if you start out with a used Mazda2, you can build a race car for about $15,000. By the way, Mazda offers $75,000 in prize money for the Mazda Club Racer Shootout, so if you’re good enough, you could actually make money at the same time you live your dream.

Well, we’re officially one week away from our annual LIVE broadcast from the floor of the LA Auto Show, but you can get involved and send questions now! We’ll have a show loaded with top-level executives making news at the show like Anthony Foulk from Audi, Mark Reuss from GM, Tim Kuniskis from FIAT and many others. Submit your questions by clicking the link in John’s Journal on Autoline.tv where you’ll see a full, up-to-date list of the guests slated to appear. And, make sure you tune in next Wednesday at 4PM Eastern Time, 1PM Pacific for the live show.

Buick will be installing its Active On-Demand all-wheel-drive system in the new Encore SUV. They worked with Borg Warner to develop a magnetically actuated compact coupling. The system sends power to the rear wheels on take-off, but if no slip is detected, a computer disengages the clutch and returns the vehicle to front-wheel-drive. The all-wheel-drive Encore gets 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway and will be available by the third-quarter of 2013.

In other Buick news, according to Mark Reuss, President of GM North America, GM will consider a revamp of Buick’s famous tri-shield logo. It would be the first redesign for the logo in the last decade, and the idea is to give it a more modern look that will appeal to the younger buyers that Buick is bringing into the brand.

Car sales in the US market are one of the few bright spots in the American economy. So why are they going so strong? Mike Jackson, the CEO of Autonation has some strong opinions about it, and we’ll get into that right after this.

Mike Jackson is one of the savviest CEO’s in the automotive industry. He heads up Autonation, which may well be the largest retailer in the world. They sell 32 brands in 215 dealerships, so this guy really knows who’s buying what and why. In the following clip Mike Jackson explains why car sales are doing as well as they are in the American market.

By the way, Steve Finlay from Ward’s and Craig Trudell from Bloomberg are on the show as well and you can watch the entire show on our website at Autoline.tv

And that wraps up this week’s reports for Autoline Daily. We will be taking the next two days off to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, and we hope all of you can take a moment to be thankful for what you’ve got. Thank you for letting us be a part of your day, and we’ll see you back here on Monday.

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38 Comments to “Episode 1019 – GM Invests in Buses, Mazda’s 50-Hour Project, Buick Logo Redesign?”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    Mr Jackson is a great salesman, no doubt about it, he almost had me convinced about the quality of new products, then I recall things like plastic, electric water pumps that usually go at 100k miles and plastic door handles that break often and plastic bumpers and aluminum turbo-charge engines that die too quickly and I know he is just being a good salesman.

  2. Phoenix Mark Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to all at Autoline.

  3. Bradley Says:

    Buick revamping the logo, is probably a good idea, but I do like companies to remain true to their roots. However, if the youth are already coming to the brand, why change the logo? Oh wait, that was marketing spin…creating the perception if you are young its ok to buy Buick.

  4. Chuck Grenci Says:

    It’s good to see the electric buses; either total electric or hybrid can take advantage of kinetic energy recovery (as they are stop and go all day long). These, and waste hauler, are probably some of the best candidates. Good on GM; full speed ahead (I say).

    On a new Buick ‘logo’; well as long as they do a good one, why not. After all, the current one, in no way reflects earliest ones (other than certain ‘keys’), which should remain.

    And finally, wishing all our Autoline staff, support personnel and viewers a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Day/holiday.

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    GM and buses, I recall as a kid in Commie Cuba circa 1964/65 GMC buses from as far back as the early to mid 50′s were still running strong, despite poor maintenance and being filled to standing room only, meanwhile a bunch of other buses came in around 1960 to 63 from British Leyland and some Czech company,they soon started to fall apart and would break down in the middle of the road, I remember one time when the brakes on a Czech bus failed and the driver had to crash into a row of small trees, just to stop the damn thing. Oh my goodness what has happened to that incredible American engineering and quality?

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Were the Czech buses from Skoda, or was there another Czech company making vehicles?

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    I don’t know Kit, I was just a kid, I just know they were Czech made, they did have a very strange style almost gothic like, all grey and they had a seat on the right side of the driver, ahead of the door where I would love to occupy whenever I got the chance, since you were just a couple of feet from the windshield and had a great view of the road ahead

  8. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Hmm. Some of the pre-VW Skoda cars I saw on my trip to Czechoslovakia in 1992 had, well, interesting styling, so the buses may have been related.

  9. ColoradoKid Says:

    Inexpensive Racing ;

    One simple word to remember . Its the choice of every F1 driver as well as most other series . Gets you more racing for less $$ than the annual tire budget alone of B-Spec as well as more time racing rather than repairing . Will teach you more about car control in an hour than any ‘ Spec ‘ series can teach you in a month .


    Not shifter karts mind you . WC spec GoKarts .

    E/V inner city buses . The one and only place E/V’s actually make any sense , economically or otherwise .

    #1 +1 . Once a (car) salesman , always a (car) salesman . Smoke & Mirrors being their one and only forte

  10. ColoradoKid Says:

    Czech Buses

    Was Karosa – then became Renault V – then Irisbus now owned by Iveco

  11. ColoradoKid Says:

    Happy Turkey Day to all !

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    The Leylands looked very modern compared to the Czech ones and the old GMC ones, They had to make the doors on the right side since we drive on that side over there, the Czech ones looked almost “bullet” like.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    One thing for sure, Kit, of all the Commie countries, the Czechs seemed to make the best transportation machines, as weird looking as they were, they actually cared about putting out a quality product.

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    I was thinking today about all these electric pumps and power steering and such and what about electric A/C like the Prius for ALL cars that want to get max mileage, seems to me no other component zaps more power from the engine than the compressor, if you could make electric A/C available, mpg’s would go up and so would performance.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It was some of the older, larger Skodas that had really weird styling. The later, pre-VW Skodas I saw were mostly rear engine sedans and hatches, that were boxy, but not too unusual looking for smallish European cars of the time.

  16. ColoradoKid Says:

    TESLA’s Latest ;

    You think the price of the new TESLA S is too high now ?

    Just wait ! TESLA announced Wednesday evening that they’re raising the price . Brilliant move . The company just lost another $116 million in addition to the billions they’ve thrown away already . They can’t build the cars in a timely fashion – due to their incompetence . And now they want to raise the price of a car they refuse to let out for a thorough test drive by the pundits and the press .

    Yeah…. we’ve got so much to be thankful for from Mr Musk . As for me …. I’ll be thankful when the man is finally called on the carpet by the Feds and put in a cell where he belongs

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If you are buying a $50-95K toy, what’s another $5K?

  18. ColoradoKid Says:

    Good news for Lotus ( the F1 side of things at least )


    Hey if the automotive side has to be failing miserably at least the F1 side just got a major league financial boost . Lotus goes better with Coke perhaps ? ;-) ( there’s an inside joke in that last crack for those in the know )

    Korean F1 race – Lost $36 million . Lets hope the Austin event fairs better once the numbers are crunched

    #17 Just one more nail amongst the many in Tesla’s coffin IMO . Not to mention # 363 ( or there about’s ) of Musk/Teslas’s plethora of broken promises and commitments

  19. HtG Says:

    “inside joke”? Let’s try to keep this a family show, Colo

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Will Lotus keep Grosjean?

  21. ColoradoKid Says:

    # 20 – Looks like it at the moment . Kimi wants them to keep him

    #19 – Hey ! Nothing unseemly implied . Perhaps a bit dark and illicit … but not unseemly :o

  22. HtG Says:

    20 I think Lotus, or more properly, the Enstone Team, wants to have a French driver for Renault.

    Amazing how 400+ million people are anticipating Interlagos this weekend, while here in the States it’s just another weekend.

  23. Chuck Grenci Says:

    No HtG, not just another weekend, it’s Thanksgiving weekend, and I give thanks for Formula 1. :) For the faithfull (at least). I’ll probably give NASCAR one last chance (next year) with the redesigned cars but my hopes aren’t too high.

    Hope all us U.S. folks had a good ‘Turkey Day’ and back to Autoline Daily on Monday.

  24. ColoradoKid Says:

    # 22

    I think you might be surprised as to how many of us ‘Mericans ‘ is interested in todays race . Like I said to someone else here NBC Sports didn’t toss all that money on the table to steal F1 away from SPEED cause it isn’t popular . And …. having just seen a few more ‘ rushes ‘ from the upcoming Movie ” Rush ” along with the ongoing popularity of ” Senna ” don’t be surprised if F1 does a Soccer coming out of left field end game and increase its popularity in spades . You heard it here first ! Or …. at least 2nd or 3rd ;-)

  25. HtG Says:

    Cagavam santa, what a race!!

    Tomorrow it might be bye bye Bernie

  26. HtG Says:

    Sebastian Vettel interview…


  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I wonder if McLaren are having second thoughts about hiring Perez. I guess we’ll see. Anyway, it was a great race, and I’m really looking forward to next season.

  28. HtG Says:

    I watch Beeb, Kit, and listening to Martin Whitmarsh it sounds like McLaren simply don’t know what they’re getting,…aside from a nice crisp check. MW says things like, Perez doesn’t quite know the pressure that’s going to come down on him next year, or makes noises like he’ll have to raise his level. Definitely, McLaren would rather have Lewis, while Button now asserts himself as No.1.

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    We’ll have a good chance to see if Mercedes/Brawn can up their game. That will be interesting.

  30. ColoradoKid Says:

    Ditto on the race . Button won the battle ( the race ) but Vettel won the war ( championship ) So long S’Lonso !

    It was interesting to see/hear Ferrari’s hour long whinge about Alonso deserving the championship more than Vettel ! Nothing like watching a sore loser in action

    Perez ? Well it’d be nice if the guy was truly a successor to the Rodriguiz Brothers , but I don’t think he quite measures up . Mercedes should be interesting to say the least . It may be their F1 swan song though if the results don’t start pouring in … soon !

    But !

    #25 Por qua Bye Bye Bernie ! You hearing something I’m not hearing perhaps?Or like myself just a case of wishful thinking
    ? ;-)

  31. ColoradoKid Says:

    BTW – Heard Bernie’s newest NA F1 plans ?

    Austin – NYC/NJ – CA – Montreal – Mexico

    Even by my optimistic reckoning thats a bit OTT Pie in the Sky and over done .

    Nice idea mind you . But I’m not that sure we’re up to that many events in NA as of yet … :(

  32. HtG Says:



    we shall see

  33. ColoradoKid Says:

    # 32 . Oh that ! I guess I figured since there was no follow up that had become a moot point . One can always hope though ;-)

    Then again . In light of the results from Murdoch the Elders recent case ? Maybe not .

  34. HtG Says:



    this is important stuff for Daimler, since they have an issue with DOJ about legalities. Oh, the irony

  35. HtG Says:



    sorry, John, I’m not in the holiday spirit quite yet

  36. HtG Says:


    It goes to show that F1 is not just pointless entertainment and grid girls’ bottoms. I’ll not even bother mentioning oil interests’ motivations for supporting the sport

  37. ColoradoKid Says:

    @ HtG

    #35 Who hasn’t paid out bribes in both Russia and China in order to do business there I wonder ? My guess is .. everyone has to – and does . Its just now Daimler’s been caught .

    #34 Here’s hoping for a swift and decisive Hasta La Bye Bye for Bernie

    #36 – +1 !

    Oh and before I forget . Three Cheers for Vettel and his third WC !

  38. Jonathan Brown Says:

    Good to see Jim Hall’s design segment back on Autoline daily. Its an enjoyable segment each week. Thanks for bringing it back!