Episode 68 – More Toyota Recalls, Europe Likes Its Auto Industry, Elena Ford Movin’ On Up

January 28th, 2009 at 12:00pm

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Toyota recalls more than 1.3 million vehicles globally and reports discouraging sales numbers. Europe treats its auto industry much better than the U.S. does according to GM’s top executive in Europe. Elena Ford gets a big promotion at a certain car company, and I’ll bet you can guess which one. All that and more, plus John answers viewer questions about the Chrysler/Fiat alliance in the “You Said It!” segment.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Toyota gets hit with more recalls and other bad news. Europe treats its auto industry much better than the U.S. does. And Elena Ford gets a big promotion at a certain car company, and I’ll bet you can guess which one.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, January 28, 2009. And now, the news.

Earlier today Toyota reported its sales and production results for last year and for last month and the numbers are very discouraging. For the record Toyota built 9.2 million vehicles last year, including production of small cars from Daihatsu and heavy trucks from Hino, which the company owns. That represents a drop of only 3 percent from the year before. But its results from last month tell the story of what’s going on right now. Worldwide sales fell 23 percent, and exports out of Japan fell 28 percent.

Toyota is recalling more than 1.3 million vehicles globally to fix a defect in the seatbelt, a component in the exhaust system, or both. Reuters reports the company is recalling more than 500,000 Vitz, Belta and Ractis cars in Japan built from 2005 to 2008. It will also recall another 830,000 Yaris and Belta models exported to Europe, North America and other markets.

Fascinating interview at Wardsauto.com (subscription required) with Carl-Peter Forster, GM’s top executive in Europe. He says Europe values its auto industry much more than the United States does. He points out that European automakers are getting aid from the European Union without all the tongue-lashing the Big Three got from Uncle Sam. The same goes for the arguments over CO2 emissions in Europe-it’s a lot less acrimonious than in the U.S. Carl-Peter Forster attributes that to government policy on high fuel taxes and tax credits for low-emission vehicles which puts consumer demand in line with the vehicles automakers have to sell.

Bentley will reveal its fastest and most powerful production car ever at the 2009 International Geneva Motor Show. Not much info yet, except for this crummy photo. Bentley hasn’t even released the name of the car, but it does say it runs on biofuel. This is the latest trick from the exotic car companies. They’re going to base their CO2 claims on using E-85 when next to no one who buys these cars will ever use it.

Nissan is shaking things up in the U.S. It’s closing four of its 11 regional sales offices around the country and it’s shuttering its production design studio in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Nissan says the facility, will be used for ‘other purposes,’ which probably means gathering dust. In total, both of these moves result in a loss of 110 jobs, about 10 of those in Farmington.

Elena Ford, the great-great-granddaughter of old Henry is moving up the ladder. She’s been promoted to director of the company’s global marketing, sales and service operations; recently she’s been the vice president of marketing for Ford Motor Credit. She’ll report directly to Jim Farley.

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.

Jerry Flint, one of the best journalists to cover this industry, writes in to say:
“What does Chrysler get from the Fiat deal? It would take two to three years to apply Fiat engines,  transmissions and platforms to U.S. production. Does Chrysler have the time? And money? And Chrysler needs an Accord/Camry size car. What does Fiat have in this class? It has small cars-500 and Punto-not engineered for U.S. standards. Hmmm. Maybe the idea is to look busy for the auto czar.”

And R. Rufty wrote in with another comment.
“Chrysler and Fiat, now that is laughable. What were the two car companies back in the ’50s that merged and the merger was described in the press as ‘two drunks trying to hold each other up’?” Ouch! There’s a biting comment.

Along these lines, pavilion1985 left a comment on YouTube for us aksing:
If the Chrysler/Fiat deal works, how long before we see Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep-branded Alfas and Fiats in the U.S.? Will Chrysler build some of these products here, and will Fiat sell Chryslers abroad?

Well pavilion, like Jerry Flint says, it’ll take two to three years before we see Fiat products in Chrysler’s dealerships, but Chrysler products will probably show up in Fiat dealerships faster than that.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. But don’t forget, you can get podcasts, transcripts and a whole lot more on our website, AutolineDaily.com. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

13 Comments to “Episode 68 – More Toyota Recalls, Europe Likes Its Auto Industry, Elena Ford Movin’ On Up”

  1. john hykawy Says:

    Hey John, it seems to me that only the US is against american auto makers, in Canada , our government has setup a loan stragegy, but GM did not take part in it, they said ,not needed right now, and another 12 billion was setup for banks to help finance and lease new vehicles, I am beginning to think the US feds are anti-american, what an awful thing to say,I know, but that is exactly what it looks like, even comments from average americans seem anti-american, these people should drive a new Malibu or Fusion before they make rediculous comments.

  2. Brandon Says:

    In other auto-related news, Mitsubishi is supposedly idling their IL. plant for 12 weeks in February.

    What’s happening to Toyota’s quality? Could it be due to them wanting to be #1? They’ve had a lot of recalls recently.

  3. Alex Kajdi Says:

    Dear John,

    I love getting my daily dose of Autoline!
    What will happen to the VW Routan Minivan if Fiat and Chrysler merge? Is Fiat looking to put it’s name plate on the Town & Country and sell it in the European Market at a price point below VW’s minivan, or will the Routan simply disappear like those stupid commericals featuring Brook Shields. I love Brook Shield, but those commericals simply did not help her image or the image of minivans. GM needs to get back into the minivan market and re-introduce the “Transport” power with “Voltec” technology and a solar panel on the whole roof to help recharge the vehicle either while driving or parked outside the office or home.

  4. Martin Says:

    Well well well, once again Chrysler finds his way across the dance hall to the pretty Italian girls… Our memories arent that short to forget previous trysts with Lamborghini and Maserati. (Do you think there are any LeBaron TC’s left out there?)I listened to Jerry Flynn’s comments, a man who’s views I certainly respect, but I have to disagree with his question about what could be in it for Chrysler.

    It would be neat to see Fiat re-enter the North American market utlizing Chrysler’s extensive dealer network. That would certainly help their suffering dealers. A Fiat alliance will open up new platforms to share as well as a whole family of small diesel engines that could only help Chrysler stay ahead of CAFE and emissions standards.

    If anyone at Chrysler is listening, sign me up for a Fiat 500 Abarth Assetto Corse i’ll take one of those all day long

  5. pedro Fernandez Says:

    I’m not surprised to see Toyota also having quality issues, and these are Japanese-made, not here or Europe. I know of an ex-toyota salesman who was instructed to point out Japanese-made models vs domestics, as a point to try to insinuate that those were better. Well now they’re gonna have to change their tune. They simply got too greedy and just wanted to dethrone GM out of the top, in disregard as to why people bought Toyotas in the first place

  6. julius lambert Says:

    I know MB was into our Big 3,BUT that was before all of our BAIL-OUT TAXES were handed out.I do not like our taxes funding foreign INVASION of our markets.Look what MB did to Chrysler,took their 13BILLION,retooled their line up and dumped them.Our Gov. does not seem to have a clue as to what the big picture should look like.It is not as bad as terroorist owning our ports of entry.Oh,and the communists controlling the Panama cannal.I think there are many more PEANUT BRAINEDsin Gov.besides JIMMY CARTER.

  7. Y. SANTOS Says:


    They keep claiming their products are competitive. Well if that is so why doesn’t the consumer share their opinion? Proof of the pudding is in the eating right?

    Detroit will have to slash it’s prices 30-40% across the board to even entice the public to give it a second chance. They will also have to provide a 4 year 50,000 mile no excuses warranty with full service.

    Hyundai offered a 100,000 miles powertrain warranty to win over the skeptics. Why can’t Detroit do the same unless of course their products are still far behind even Hyundai.



  8. Y. SANTOS Says:

    Detroit has been making substandard products since the first oil crisis when it used patch-work solutions to comply with the law

    Why would anyone help Detroit? They don’t have any credible strategy other than the executives awarding themselves outrageous salaries for turning out substandard products.

    GM specially has done nothing more than off-the-shelf mumbo jumbo. Consumers are no longer uninformed. They read and they can tell the difference.

    If they want to survive they have to change the entire philosophy of making cars.

    Right now Detroit has really no plans that are credible as far as long term survival.

    At best only Ford has a chance of coming out of this mess.

    European executives are more in charge as far as product quality and development. They don’t sit in their offices calculating how many more cars have to be pushed out the assembly line to trigger their bonuses.

  9. Y. SANTOS Says:

    product and quality

    Detroit has to emulate the Japanese in all the aspects of car production.

    The US consumer has become very savvy.

    European auto executives are more in-touch with their market which is why they can get support

    Detroit executives have a credibility problem

  10. Salvador G. Says:

    OK JOHN,

    This time you just wrong, what possible automobile from Chrysler can be sold in Fiat’s market- what the Sebring, the PT Cruiser (their SUB’s).

    Common John, Chrysler sold everything to Fiat (Stock and barrel) for absolutly nothing and the only cars comming from Italy to be possibly be rebranded as Chryslers will be Fiats (and thats a maybe) only… NO WAY and absolutly NO HOW will Fiat give Chrysler any Alfa Romeo’s or Lancia’s.

    Now, I apologise for making the following comparison (I do apologise) but if you (John Mc.) ever saw the Godfather, you would know that Italians dont do business like that.

  11. BISHOP Says:


  12. William R. Walling Says:

    “Nice observing Ms. Ford return to the fray!”
    Watch this lady as she is today the only FORD family member championing her grandfather’s historic business.
    Finally, a concerned principle at FORD!

  13. Gabor Vincer Says:


    I do understand why the consumer is avoiding buying a Ford, GM or Chrysler. You are forced to deal with a dealership network that is flawed. If the executives fix the dealerships to make them consumer friendly they will have a chance. You should be treated as a customer instead you are a burden to the service department. They do have the ability to change this and they need to do it yesterday. Most consumers do take time away from their busy schedule to have their vehicles repaired. You want this to take as little time as possible. You don’t want to hear excuses why it’s not ready. As the saying goes “Why do you have the time to get the job done right the second time”????? Fix the dealerships please!!!