Episode 1030 – A123 Systems Sold, Japanese Woes in China, Daimler Invests $100M

December 10th, 2012 at 11:43am

Runtime: 7:57

A Chinese company bought battery maker A123 Systems, which is good news for one EV manufacturer. Japanese automakers are still having trouble in China due to anti-Japanese sentiment. Daimler AG is investing $100 million in its Detroit Diesel plant. All that and more, plus a look at Ford’s 1.0 Liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine in the 2014 Fiesta.

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Welcome back for a brand new week of Autoline Daily. We’ll have the results of our latest weekly poll later in the show about the right-to-work law in Michigan and how that might impact the UAW. And we’ve got more information about Ford’s 3-cylinder engine and how they plan to sell it. But now let’s take a look at what’s happening elsewhere in the automotive industry.

This is good news for Fisker. A123 Sytems, which makes batteries for Fisker’s plug-in, stopped production when it filed for bankruptcy two months ago. But a Chinese company, Wanxiang, bought A123’s assets in bankruptcy court for $256 million. Wanxiang had even offered more money, $465 million before A123 went into bankruptcy. But several Republican congressman objected to it being sold to the Chinese because A123 also had military contracts. But that part of the company was sold off separately, and Wanxiang outbid Johnson Controls, Siemens, and NEC.

Sales in China have been cooling off this year but they’re starting to pick back up again. They hit 1.46 million units last month, a gain of nearly 9 percent and that’s the highest monthly total in almost two years. Dealers in the country are offering big discounts to try and clear inventory for the end of the year.

But despite the jump in sales, Japanese automakers are still having trouble in China. Reuters reports that Toyota is delaying the launch of a new production line at one of its plants in the country because the company expects sales to decline for the foreseeable future. And Gasgoo reports that a number Chinese dealers are considering dropping Japanese brands altogether, because they’re afraid future protests could cripple sales again. One dealer says that sales of Japanese brands at his outlets have dropped by a third.

Audi, BMW and Mercedes are expecting record sales this year, despite the problems in Europe. But BMW is expanding its luxury-car lead over the others. It’s been able to maintain growth by tapping the U.S. and Chinese markets, where the X1 SUV saw a 37 percent sales increase and the 3 Series climbed 36 percent. BMW deliveries jumped 26 percent in November, while total deliveries increased 11 percent.

Daimler AG is investing $100 million in its Detroit Diesel plant. This will expand production, add new technology and jobs. The plant currently has 2,300 employees and builds four major engines, rear axles and 12-speed transmissions. This investment will allow Detroit Diesel to be the first heavy-duty manufacturer in North America to offer a fully integrated powertrain (engines, transmissions and axles) from one production facility. Daimler says it can design each system to work more effectively with each other.

Well we’ve got the latest results from our weekly poll. We asked you if Michigan’s right-to-work law will help, hurt or not make any difference at all to the UAW. And you overwhelmingly believe it is going to hurt the union. 83 percent of you said it will hurt the UAW. 14 percent said it would not make any difference at all. And 3 percent of you said it would actually help the UAW.

(Ford’s 3-Cylinder EcoBoost can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show)

That one liter engine has surprisingly good low-end torque. But since it’s only offered with a 5-speed manual that is going to limit the engine’s appeal. And if Ford charges too much for it as an option, it’s going to limit it even more.

Speaking of turbocharged engines, our guest on Autoline After Hours this Thursday night is John Morton, who heads up the turbocharging efforts for motor racing at Borg Warner. So join me and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, for the best insider information in the business.

And that wraps up today’s report. Thanks for watching, please join us again here tomorrow.

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30 Comments to “Episode 1030 – A123 Systems Sold, Japanese Woes in China, Daimler Invests $100M”

  1. ColoradoKid Says:


    Dr Alex Moulton ; 1920 – 2012

    Probably the single most influential automotive engineer : with his family owning more tire patents than Goodyear and Alex having more suspension patents than GM and Mercedes Benz combined .

    Known of late mainly for his incredible bicycles one of which I am a proud owner : but in truth his hand can be found everywhere from the original Mini to the Millenium Bridge in the UK to almost every car currently on the road .

    Ride on Dr Moulton – Your kind has become all too rare these days .

    ( I’d of included a Wikipedia linkon Dr Alex Moulton but the page they have is so entirely devoid of information it isn’t worth the trouble reading ; See old articles in AW as well as CAR etc for the full story of the man’s incredible life and contributions )

  2. Bradley Says:

    I am glad JC didn’t win A123. Most regular car batteries are made by a brand JC owns.

  3. ColoradoKid Says:

    BMW X1 – a readers review ;

    First off . What was I expecting ? In truth a MINI Countryman sized CUV with a larger motor and a bit more sophisticated and adult

    What did I get ? In truth the scale of the thing dumbfounded me . Its as big ( or bigger ) than the last 3 Series Estate , the interior was cramped , the rear cargo area left a lot to be desired and …. more importantly ……. Its a Wagon . Not an SUV / CUV Xover etc … but a wagon plain and simple

    The interior design , though not bad is more than a bit ‘ Trendy ‘ what with swoops here and odd lines there which in the long run I’ll bet will wear rather thin with all but the most Fashionista of X1 buyers .

    The exterior … on first impression … and not just the size of the thing either … looks for all the world like a new 3 Series estate . Nothing what so ever to distinguish it from its more expensive brothers other than you’ll never recognize it as one of the X – Family as its not tall enough .

    Unfortunately and after an extended look I chose not to Test Drive the car as I saw no point at all ….. in doing so as well as No Point What So Ever for the cars existence

    Conclusion ?

    Dull . Irrelevant . And a bit silly and pretentious what with that X badge on its rump . Had they called it what it is … a BMW 1 Estate .. it’d be fine but as a member of the X family its a bit of a joke . But .. from what’s being reported today the joke is on the consumer seeing as how they seem to be buying the thing .

  4. ColoradoKid Says:

    A123 News

    Everything is going to China these days …..


    .. and there’s nothing about it that in any way implies ‘ Good ‘

  5. HtG Says:

    Gotta ask for some of that Rocky Mountain Hy!-ooohtee you’re smoking, CK. X1 is no estate and the roofline and seat height are more mini CUV. I sat in one at the dealer tent in Lime Rock this summer and was impressed, inside and out. The interior was well done, I thought, and understated. I remember thinking buyers would jump at it.

    ps. Methinks Old Man McElroy had better start watching his mirrors. The kid’s got it.

    Ford has me pegged on that 3cylinder. The tech details get my oil moving.

  6. cwolf Says:

    Anyone in their right mind should know by now the Chinese could care less about making an investment in its purchases other than for the technology it can pilfer for pennies on the dollar. I find it humorous that the first to voice an objection were republicans. Since the military connected segment was sold seperately,I can only guess their real reson may be due to the loss of money contributions if sold to an American company. To hell with what is good for America; It’s all about money,profits, getting elected and party control!

  7. HtG Says:

    Honda cannot possibly think I’m this stupid.

    The mail brings news that the local dealer is authorized to offer a very high price for my 2002 Civic, which will allow me to get into a new car for the same monthly payment I currently make.

    I make no monthly payment. So what is the dealer trying to say?

  8. cwolf Says:

    #6 I meant losses if not sold to an Am. company

  9. M360 Says:

    You gotta love Ford Motor Company and what they are doing. EcoBoost engines brought new meaning to turbocharging. Now they have a 3 cylincer engine. Who else does that? Not Government Motors, that’s for sure.

  10. ColoradoKid Says:

    # 5

    Owning a CUV I respectfully disagree . The X1′s seating is too low along with its roofline as well as its ground clearance to qualify it as anything but a wagon pretending to be a CUV .I’ll also place odds that the roofline is the same height as the old 3 Series Estate . Sure the quality of the interior is BMW decent but those swoops and such felt more ‘ Fashion ‘ than ‘Function ‘ and the more I explored the vehicle the more convinced I became that was the case

    The fact that its selling only indicating to moi that old adage redone for the 2010′s ” The Packaging Defines the Contents ” has found itself over BMW’s way now as well .

    # 6 Nailed it on the head again cwolf . You’re on a roll of late

    Somebody hire this guy ;-)

  11. ColoradoKid Says:


    What’s the dealer trying to say ? I’d of thought that’d be obvious . What he’s trying to say is that he’s hoping that you’re as gullible and easy to manipulate as a good 75% of the customers he’s sending that notice to will be .

    One of those times in your case where being in the minority is to your very distinct advantage ;-)

  12. Lex Says:

    @ 7 HTG, I got the same mailing from my local Honda Dealer and I make no payments either!
    When you find out what the dealer is saying let me know.

  13. Lex Says:

    Sean is doing a great job. I love the nose on that Euro Spec Ford Fiesta. Ford needs to put that nose on the US versions of the C-Max and Focus.

  14. HtG Says:

    10 I agree, CK. The X1 seemed to me to hitting a market niche of brand admirers more than keen drivers. OK, I may have been pulling your tail a little.

    12 lol, Lex

  15. cwolf Says:

    A lil’3 cyl. Fiesta sounds like an interesting paring and something to look forward to, but I’ll let one of you fellers buy one first. Reports of Ford’s exagerated mpg estimates in its hyb. models leads to reasonable doubts of the 3 cyl. obtaining up to 55 mpg. I have yet to be sold on turbos and await more reliability data on them. I have yet to be convinced turbos deliver the added miles claimed or worth the added initial cost.

  16. HtG Says:



  17. cwolf Says:

    Should I dare ask what a Moulton bicycle costs?

  18. shan Says:

    Maybe someone at Ford should inform it’s dealer network about the new 2014 1.0 Eco-boost Fiesta. The dealers seem to be totally oblivious to it’s existence. Lastly, it baffles me how Ford can advertise on their website the price of the 2013 Fiesta starts at $14k but the cheapest base model in the nation is over $18k. That’s a $4000 disparity……………what gives Ford??

  19. Chuck @ GM Says:

    @9 – Actually GM came out with a 3 cylinder in 1989, called the Geo Metro advertised at 50mpg. I don’t know if it got anywhere near that or not.

  20. ColoradoKid Says:

    # 14 Blankety Blanking Rassum Fassum So & So :o

    FYI I was a little off in my dimensional perceptions ;

    E91 Touring – L 178.2 , W 71.5 , H 56.8

    X1 L 175.6 , W 70.8 , H 60.8

    Dang close though

    # 17 Probably not … but what the heck , They start in the high $2000′s and go up to about $7K .

  21. ColoradoKid Says:


    …….. and then there is that recent ( as in last week ) spat of self igniting 4 cylinder EcoBoost’s thats been reported and recalled to consider as well

    I’m with you on the dubious benefits of Turbo’s as well

  22. cwolf Says:

    Then,my next question about the Moulton; Is a free tube of “Preparation H” included with each purchase?

  23. ColoradoKid Says:


    Actually Moulton’s are the most comfortable as well as efficient and non fatiguing bicycles made .. and in comparison to a quality Mt Bike ( $2K – 5K ) or worse a quality CF road bike ( $4K – $22,000 and up ) though not cheap a Moulton is fairly reasonable . Factor in all the Chiropractic Care you won’t be needing riding a Moulton as well as the case loads of NSID’s you won’t be purchasing and relatively speaking a Moulton is almost a bargain .

    So yeah . They’re pricey . But … they’re worth it .

  24. cwolf Says:

    Do enjoy your bike,esp at our age when exercize often is lacking. But I’ll keep my old Huffy,balloon tires,cushy seat and straight handle bars. On the dirt roads around here,fat tires seem more fitting.

  25. shan Says:

    @ Chuck @ GM Says, i think that Geo Metro 3 banger self-destructed after like 50k miles. The cylinders were lined with a Teflon base material that chipped away and the timing belts often broke and bent the valves before the 50k miles.

  26. cwolf Says:

    Ford says they have a fix for their fire problem. Problem said to be a water coolant software problem allowing low pressures to occure under certain conditions, like driving the darn things.

  27. GPL Says:

    Lately I’ve been reading more and more articles about the increasing rates of allergies being linked to the eradication of germs in our surroundings. Up until the last few decades, humans, continuously exposed to all forms of germs, developed a very powerful immune system. Now, without the constant bombardment of germs, our immune system must find something else to attack, and so begins to attack anything it can identify as foreign to the body.

    What does this have to do with the auto industry? The workplaces of this country used to be “filthy” with abuses of powerful bosses who exploited workers who were desperate for the work or just didn’t know that they didn’t have to tolerate being treated this way. Consequently unions flourished and became very powerful. However, over the past few decades, largely thanks to those unions, our work places have been “sanitized” by labor laws and a more educated, more affluent middle class. And like the idle immune system, those unions began attacking otherwise benign “toxins” to satisfy its own natural urge to fight rather than the benefit of those for home it was developed to protect.

    A union’s only purpose is to protect the interests of its members. Several UAW members I’ve know have told me that they were members simply because they had to be and didn’t feel the union represented them. Right-to-work laws doesn’t take away any power a union has but gives the workers themselves the power to do so. A membership in need of protection will pay dues gladly. A membership held hostage by self-serving management will not, and so the union must satisfy them or fail. Just my two cents, but I think that’s fair.

  28. XA351GT Says:

    @#19 The Metro did come close to 50MPG but so did the Honda CRX @49MPG and it had a 4cyl. The Metro was such a dog that it was a death trap. You had no way to get out of the way of anything traceling faster than a bicycle.1/4 miles times were in minutes not seconds .

  29. ColoradoKid Says:

    Pirelli 2013 Calendar Shoot

    No worries this’ns ratege PG


    Toto Ben ! Enjoy 8)

  30. ColoradoKid Says:

    @ cwolf

    Mine’s the Adventurer/APB model … so fat tires albeit smaller diameter as well . Comfort was my reason for switching to the Moulton’s . It was either that – hurt like heck after every ride – or stop riding all together . With the Moulton I’m still putting on the miles and the smiles . A bit of wisdom from Dr Moulton to end this post written when he turned 90 ;

    ” I may be a bit slower and going a little less further but I’m still pedaling along ”

    Great guy in person as well . He’ll be missed