Episode 1053 – New Chairman for Toyota, Big Rigs = Big Sales, Lutz’s Version of Karma

January 21st, 2013 at 11:48am

Runtime: 7:31

Toyota will be getting a new chairman later this year to replace current chairman Fujio Cho. Big truck sales in the U.S. last year hit their highest total since 2007. Bob Lutz paired up with a company that is removing the hybrid powertrain from Fisker Karmas and replacing them with Corvette motors. All that and more, plus we’ll show you a company that is working on a low-cost hybrid that doesn’t need any batteries.

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Hello and welcome to a new week of Autoline Daily, and here’s what’s happening in the wonderful world of automobiles.

Toyota will be getting a new chairman later this year. Japanese newspaper, Nikkei, says the company will name Takeshi Uchiyamada, who led the development of the Prius, as its next chairman. He replaces current chairman Fujio Cho. Akio Toyoda, of course, is the president and CEO.

Big truck sales in the U.S. hit their highest total since 2007 last year. Wards Auto World reports that sales of large trucks were just under 346,000 units, up 13 percent from a year ago. And I remember when sales of 280,000 trucks was considered amazing.

On Autoline After Hours last week, Harlen Charles from the Corvette team told us that the first 2014 Corvette Stingray would be sold at auction over the weekend. Well the weekend came and went and we learned that the car sold for just over $1 million. The winning bid came from race car owner and car dealer, Rick Hendrick. But he did not stop there, Hendrick also bought GM CEO Dan Akerson’s 1958 Corvette for $270,000. Money raised from the sale of the 2014 Vette will be donated to the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, and to the Habitat for Humanity for Akerson’s old ride.

Also on sale at auction over the weekend was the original Batmobile from the 1960’s TV series. The car based off a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept sold for a whopping $4.2 million.

As we reported before BMW would build a two-man bobsled for the U.S. Olympic Team. Well now we have pictures of what the official sled looks like. It took BMW more than a year to develop and uses lightweight materials paired with optimized aerodynamics. The bobsled’s debut was bumped up and was raced for the first time on Saturday the 19th at the FIBT World Cup in Igls, Austria, which saw the USA place as high as 5th.

Fisker is in a heap of trouble. It’s out of money. It lost most of its inventory of car in Hurricane Sandy. And it’s battery supplier A123 is in bankruptcy. But fear not, none other than Bob Lutz is riding to the rescue. He’s part of a company called VL Automotive that is taking Fiskers, removing the hybrid powertrain and replacing it with a choice of the 450 horsepower Corvette LT-1 engine, or the 638 hp LS-9. They’re making some modifications to the styling, notably on the front end. They also changed the name to Destino, which means destiny in Spanish. And now you can buy one for only $190,000. A regular Fisker Karma costs $102,000.

Speaking of hybrids and problems with batteries, we’ll show you a company that is working on a low-cost hybrid that doesn’t need any batteries. They’re doing it with hydraulic pressure instead. That is coming up next.

(Hydraulic Hybrid can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show).

NRG Dynamix is the name of a small start-up company in Michigan that is developing hydraulic hybrids. Instead of storing brake energy in chemical form in a battery they store it as hydraulic pressure in a tank under the vehicle, in this case a Ford Ranger. It’s a whole lot cheaper and offers intriguing possibilities. Jim O’Brien, the president of the company, explains how it works.

The hydraulic hybrid pretty much looks like any Ford Ranger, but is pretty noisy when you accelerate. That noise is one of the hurdles they have to overcome, but remember, it’s still under development.

One thing that impressed me is that while this is a prototype vehicle, the installation is very clean both underneath the vehicle and in the engine compartment. You can see how they were able to keep this Ranger about as stock as it comes.

I’m intrigued about the possibilities of hydraulic hybrids, especially for body-on-frame vehicles, where there is plenty of storage room between the frame rails for hydraulic storage tanks. The fact they can deliver 38 miles per gallon in a Ford Ranger at a cost of about $500 more than an automatic transmission is very promising. Remember, this system allows them to get rid of the transmission, so this system may only add about $500 to the overall cost of the vehicle. If they figure out how to overcome the noise issues you could be looking at the future right here.

Speaking of powertrains, have we got a great guest on Autoline After Hours this Thursday. Mose Nowland spent 55 years designing and building the greatest racing engines ever to come out of the Ford Motor Company. So join me and the Autoextremist Peter De Lorenzo for the best insight into cars in the business. That’s this Thursday starting at 6 pm eastern time or 2300 GMT.

And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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23 Comments to “Episode 1053 – New Chairman for Toyota, Big Rigs = Big Sales, Lutz’s Version of Karma”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    Good luck to Lutz and company, now if someone would do the same with the Tesla, cause the car itself is awesome, if you just get that friggin’ drive train out of there.

  2. Bradley Says:

    Yes, interesting concept with the Destino.

    I don’t care about the noise. Put a 1993-2012 Ford Ranger on a lot with 35 mpg and a $15k price tag, I will buy. Who cares if its old and loud-its a compact truck with 35mpg in the city.

  3. jim Says:

    The hybrid reminds me quite a bit of the Lightning Hybrid out of Loveland, CO.

  4. dcars Says:

    I saw the Destino!(I think?) and lots of other cars at the Detroit auto show. The Fords looked great and I can see why GM doesn’t bring some of it’s international cars to the US.

  5. buzzerd Says:

    Batmobile -I had to laugh when George Barris almost spit out his top plate, twice!, during the auction.

  6. ColoradoKid Says:


  7. ColoradoKid Says:

    Strange … somethings gone amiss methinks onsite today !

    Pedro … + 1 !!!!

    To be a bit contentious here ….. anyone willing to deny that the Destino looks a heck of a lot better than the new Vette ?

    Toyota – Not mentioned / The new boss is in fact anti E/V

    Bobsled – I can’t tell you how utterly disappointing it is that none of the Big Three could see fit to sponsor the US Bobsled team . Kind of gives me the same feeling I got when invited to a Contemporary American composers forum …. sponsored by Lexus

    Nice isn’t it ? How the Big Three are always so anxious to get into our back pockets but so reluctant and unwilling to give back to the very customers they’re trying to court ?

  8. gmveteran Says:

    I agree with Bradley. Even on a new truck like the upcoming Colorado, it wouldn’t bother many company or fleet operators if the truck is a little loud on takeoff if it would save them that much in gasoline expense. Most medium and heavy duty trucks are not very quiet, so it doesn’t seem like a barrier to purchase to me. In fact, I would argue that there is a a HUGE market for retrofitting existing trucks in company fleets. If its $1,000 per truck including labor, any fleet operator is going to jump on it for the rapid payback and ongoing savings. I am also guessing that it doesn’t require much in terms of maintenance, either.

  9. C-Tech Says:

    WOW Mr. Hendrick, a million bucks is a lot to pay to really be the 1st on your block.

    NRG Dynanix sounds like they are on to something, especially if their system can hold up to towing and the torque of a V-8 or Diesel in a pick-up truck or van.

  10. dcars Says:

    Apple had to be the big winner at the auto show; every display had at least one Ipad!

  11. Rumblestrip Says:

    John, wasn’t there a program 3-5 years ago where a hydraulic hybrid system was being tested on UPS trucks? I thought you had done a feature on that as well, for the Sunday TV show too.

    Great to see you at the Auto Show last week.

  12. C-Tech Says:

    Are Destino’s sold through Fisker dealers?

  13. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Kudos to all the philanthropists that spend inordinate amounts of money on seemingly simple (or not so simple) automotive vehicles moving forward to help in a variety of charities and causes; money well spent in a lot of cases.

  14. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ CK: Want some proof of say….GM sponsorship? Here’s a link to take a look see at:


    This has got to be the biggest sponsorship screwup of all time,and thankfully it cost the moron his job.

    I kinda like some of gm stuff.As for the ‘snotbag’ rich folks type of things you feel need the big three sponsorship,why? You already have the ‘snotbag’ oems like bmw/audi/merc to take care of that.The American big 3 can take care of it’s ‘regular’ type of things for us regular type of people,who buy the regular type of products that the 3 regular oems make….that you don’t buy anyways.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The application I’d heard mentioned for hydraulic-pneumatic hybrid systems was garbage trucks. That seems the ultimate application, a “work” vehicle that stops every few feet. Rural mail delivery vehicles might be a close second. In some areas, they stop almost as often.

    As far as what is “too noisy,” it depends. If there is a lot of noise and/or vibration, it would be too much, even for the people who bought Rangers. Like every other technology, though, refinement will come in time, as these systems are developed.

  16. Tom D. Says:

    According to the Wall Street Journal (this pas weekend edition) Lutz and his partner are buying the cars without drive train, starting with 20 of them.

  17. vrmchris Says:

    hello to all.

    chairmanship of toyota. i will wait and see on this one. not enough knowledge about the new chairman.

    big rig sales. that is a good sign of things to come. also in my area, many companies are hiring again.

    barrett-jackson auction in scottsdale, az. these are for good causes and to stroke ones ego at the same time. overall, win-win for the charities involved and the bidders.

    the usa bobsled team. i know this is contentious for you coloradokid, however it is understandable for bmw to do this one. from a patriotic point of view, i do agree with you. a possible solution could go like this. if there is a wealthy person in the usa who has passion for bobsledding, perhaps they could form a consortium of american companies to design, engineer, and build a bobsled for the usa bobsled team that would be wonderful. chrysler, ford, and gm cannot sponsor everything that you like. which goes toward a very specific niche in america. they do sponsor things which the greatest amount of people will see and or do. so one cannot say that they do not sponsor anything. they just may not sponsor those things that you like.

    from karma to destino. someone was going to do this sooner or later. and that someone is robert lutz. as to why it costs so much? there will be alot of assembling and finishing by hand on this one. so that should be no surprise to anyone here. as for the tesla model s, not a bad idea. however in my humble opinion, i would like to see how far we go in terms of battery technology and alternative energy sources. we do not know for certain just yet. a battery operated vehicle does have its place. it may not be your only vehicle to do almost every form of transportation.

    nrg dynamix hydraulic hybrid. this hybrid has huge implications for public and private fleet operators. as rumblestrip indicated earlier, i do remember a segment where either ups or a municipality was operating a hydraulic hybrid system developed by a major oem supplier. this is definitely something to look out for this year.

    thank you once again mr. mcelroy for the aah with mr. harlan charles on the c7 corvette.


  18. Brett Says:

    I wish I still had my loaded 2001 Ranger extra cab 4-door.

    The economy is definitely improving. I got called back the week of Thanksgiving by the company that laid me off three years ago. The builder market has taked off and they’re cutting over 400 slabs of granite a month making countertops. That’s just the granite, too. They also do all the brands of engineered quartz, plus solid surface (Corian, Hi-Macs, etc.)

    Huge uptick here in Central Florida.

  19. vrmchris Says:

    hello to all.


    good for you. it is always good to see anyone returning to work.


  20. ColoradoKid Says:

    The Economy – Don’t ‘ kid ‘ yourself !

    Unemployment 1/20/2009 – 7.4%
    Unemployment 1/20/2013 – 7.4%

    How can this be you ask .. with all the hype and hooppala over manufacturing returning to the US ?

    Simple . As has been revealed over the last three weeks from several media sources …. 90% of that manufacturing is being done by ….. Robots !

    e.g. For that same job that even a decade ago at least 100 would of been hired … both skilled and unskilled ….. today only ten ( or less ) will get a job …. and those ten will need at least …. an Associates Degree in computer programing

    So how can it be that stocks ( may be a hint as to FLA sudden upturn as everyones investments are on the rise ) are up … you ask ? Cause unemployment ….. at this point in time … has zero influence on the market …. profits being the only driving force in place .

    e.g. The already monied are once again a bit more flush …. temporarily …. while the rest of us are being ….. dare I say it …. Flushed .. right down the ol sewey hole .

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    Economy improving? BS, hog wash, pipe dream, that’s my dismal opinion on the subject.

  22. Kate McLeod Says:

    NRG is welcome to try out those hydraulics on my 1997 GMC Sierra. Don’t ask what my mileage is. Also I like Akerson’s old Corvette. Tough to beat that old styling.

  23. GaryPaul Says:

    Do you think the brain trust at GM is thinking of taking over the Corvette nameplate and using it as a halo brand? I seem to recall an attractive 4 door stretched wheelbase Corvette Stingray developed as a style or concept exercise back in the 1960s–they looked great to these eyes although they carried the same exterior design theme as the 2 dr. Vette and I think the same interior. But what if it had a different exterior/interior & careful development? Then “Corvette” could be a brand within Chevrolet–at first still sold at a Chevy Dealer until it evolved into a separate showroom to give brand exclusivity. Stranger things have happened. –Look at what Porsche has done. if the Corvette has such a strong character and it is not diluted as GM has been famous for doing in the past, it might work. Heck they could use sea creatures for the names! Stingray = 2-door. Shark = 4-door grand touring. 4-door Crossover sport Ute = the Tsunami! :-)