Episode 1056 – Whitacre Wanted Reuss, Peugeot’s Battery-Free Hybrid, BMW & Toyota Partner

January 24th, 2013 at 11:53am

Runtime: 8:51

In a new memoir, GM’s former chairman says he wanted Mark Reuss to succeed him. Peugeot and Bosch announce a battery-free hybrid system that’s lighter and cheaper. BMW and Toyota cement their agreement to collaborate on a host of new projects including a sports car. All that and more, plus John McElroy responds to your questions and comments in this week’s edition of You Said It!

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. Oh boy, we’re almost at the end of the week. Tonight we have a great After Hours program in store. More on that later, now let’s get to the news.

GM’s former chairman Ed Whitacre is writing a book about his time at General Motors, and he reveals something of a bombshell. As reported in the Detroit News, Whitaker wanted Mark Reuss to take over as CEO of the company. But he also says, and I find this very telling, that Dan Akerson wanted “to be chairman and CEO from day one.” And of course, Akerson got the job, presumably because Mark Reuss was too young and did not have enough experience. Whitacre says the transition to Akerson was “not very elegant… But that’s how it played out.” Not very elegant? We need to read between the lines here, folks. I get the distinct impression that Whitacre is not a fan of Dan Akerson or how he got the top job at GM. I believe there’s more to the story. We’ll have more to talk about this tonight on After Hours.

Last summer we reported that BMW and Toyota will collaborate on advanced powertrains and other projects and now it’s official. The two companies just formally signed an agreement to jointly develop a fuel cell system, lightweight materials, research lithium-air batteries and collaborate on a mid-size sports vehicle.

And speaking of advanced powertrains, Peugeot and Bosch just unveiled a new battery-free hybrid system. The system uses a conventional engine that’s combined with a hydraulic motor that is driven by compressed nitrogen. Peugeot says the first vehicles with the technology will hit roads in 2016 with a starting price under 20,000 euros which is about $26,600. The system is half the weight of an gas-electric hybrid and a fraction of the cost.

I spent the last two days test driving the new Subaru Forester, and I came away impressed by some of the key changes they made to the new version. Take a look.

(John McElroy’s Subaru Forester impressions are only available in the video version of today’s webcast.)

We’ll have more reports on the new Forester coming up soon. But coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!

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

Last week we pointed out the nifty aerodynamic approach used on the new Corvette where they take air in at the tops of the rear fenders and vent it out the rear to trick the airflow into behaving as if the car is longer, thus reducing drag. I pointed out that Ford used that approach with an aerodynamic study that it did with the Probe IV in 1983. That prompted my journalist colleague and friend Gary Witzenburg to point out that General Motors used that same technique on a prototype called the Precept. It was part of the government funded PNGV, or partnership for a new generation vehicle program, to develop a five-passenger sedan that would deliver 80 miles to the gallon. The Precept was a hybrid diesel that also took in air from the rear fenders and vented it out the rear. BTW, Witzenburg also worked on that project as a GM engineer.

And Rumblestrip was impressed by the hydraulic hybrid Ford Ranger we showed you that was developed by a startup company called NRG Dynamix, but he wonders, “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.” Rumblestrip, you are correct, sir! When we visited the EPA labs in Ann Arbor they showed us a hydraulic hybrid they are testing with UPS. In fact, it used a HCCI diesel, a homogeneous charge compression ignition engine for maximum fuel economy. Last we knew, the system was still undergoing testing but thanks for bringing it up; we need to call the EPA and get an update.

Ripituc saw my live interview at the Detroit auto show with Peter Schreyer, the head of design for Hyundai-Kia, where I asked him if he was going to redesign the Kia logo. Right now it looks like a copy of the Ford oval. I thought maybe he’d change the oval to mimic the graphic Kia uses for the front end grilles on its cars. Ripituc says, “Love how John tries to push his logo idea on Peter Schreyer (with no result)… that’s the spirit!” You know, over a year ago, Schreyer was the one who told me that it was something that they had discussed doing, and that’s why I asked if it was still under consideration.

Speaking of our live auto show coverage Gerry Parij says, “It was painful to watch the interview with Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, knowing that Chrysler exits NASCAR after winning all the marbles as the Sprint Cup Champion. I suspect that Mopar lost a lot of current and future sales with that decision.” Actually Gerry, that was not a Mopar decision, that was a Dodge decision. When Ralph Gilles was head of Dodge he decided to axe their NASCAR program because they knew they were going to lose the Penske team and felt it would take years to build up the program because they couldn’t attract any of the other top teams to go with them. But I agree with you. Success in NASCAR undoubtedly helps Mopar. And since Dodge won the championship last year, that could have persuaded some top teams to go with them.

Thanks for all your letters and comments, we really find it valuable going through them.

Be sure to join us tonight for Autoline After Hours. We’ll have Mose Nowland, who spent 55 years designing and building some of the most famous racing engines ever to come out of the Ford Motor Company. We’ll also be discussing the Autoextremist’s idea for spinning the Corvette off of Chevrolet to become a brand of its own. And Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics will also be joining us tonight. So tune in for the best insider view of what’s going on in the automotive industry today.

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

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42 Comments to “Episode 1056 – Whitacre Wanted Reuss, Peugeot’s Battery-Free Hybrid, BMW & Toyota Partner”

  1. Tony Gray Says:

    Mark will be next in line, if they have any sense. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, the Reuss era with Fields at Ford will only lead to another golden age of competition between those automakers.

  2. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Thanks, John, for clarifying that these “hydraulic hybrids” use compressed gas to store the energy.

    There cannot be a “hydraulic hybrid,” as it was called in the earlier report about the NRG Ranger, because hydraulic fluid in not compressible, so cannot be used to store energy.

  3. Kit Gerhart Says:

    AW’s take on the Toyota-BMW agreement:


  4. pedro fernandez Says:

    Maybe, just maybe they will add a BMW engine to that Toyota 86 (FR-S) model and really make it a complete sports car.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    4, That would be nice, if it would fit. I’m sure the inline six would be too long, but the turbo four used in the 328i might work.

  6. Richard Tait Says:

    I’m not a fan of Dan Lackerson either. He needs to depart GM before he turns it back into the demon it used to be. We are already seeing the signs. Under Whitacre GM made no mistakes at all, unveiling vehicles that were desirable and promising. Under Lackerson every launch thus far has been less than they should have been. I think somebody should crawl on their knees and beg Bob Lutz to take the top spot at GM. He’s the only man with the long-term vision that can save GM.

  7. C-Tech Says:

    It will be interesting to see how Peugeot and Bosch handle the noise issue with a hydraulic hybrid system. Bosch did not do well with their previous hybrid system.

    John, its not championships that get top teams to go with your brand, its MONEY, ask Toyota and Ford.

  8. ColoradoKid Says:

    Toyota & BMW

    Yup ! The more details coming out of this new alliance …. the more dangerous it becomes ( to the competition that is ) BTW ALD …. you’re welcome ;-)

    Funny .. back when we were discussing BMW dumping PSA’s motors in the near future for use in their MINI’s that Brit Francophile All Things PSA buddy told me this BMW-Toyota thing was in the works and lo and behold ….. he was spot on . Thanks Ollie !

    And from the PSA/GM Alliance ‘ Front ‘ ( sarcasm intended )

    Seems as though PSA has finally developed a ‘ modular ‘ platform …… which surprise surprise …… GM’s gonna be using . So much for GM’s design and innovation . More like Beg , Borrow or Steal of late …. unfortunately

  9. ColoradoKid Says:

    #6 +1 ( and then some ! )

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    7, Regarding Dodge and NASCAR, yep, and, sadly, Chrysler couldn’t pay Penske enough to stay, or any other team enough to sign on.

  11. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Will the BMW-Toyota partnership help Rolls-Royce catch up with Bentley?:-)

  12. HtG Says:

    Sit close to Peter tonight on AAH, John. The heat coming off him from what happened to Mark Reuss is going to keep you warm. Like hot

  13. ColoradoKid Says:


    No , not likely . Then again though … why would BMW- RR care about Bentley’s numbers? Seriously RR makes more profit per car than Bentley ( a lot more ) ….BMW has no desire to water down the brand by cheapening RR as VW-Audi has done with Bentley and truth be known Rolls Royce is doing just fine thanks at the numbers they’re at . Actually they can barely keep up with demand * In fact BMW has stated clearly that any attempt on their part to increase the numbers would only bring down the quality and desirability of Rolls Royce

    Suffice it to say …. if you’re a Footballer ( soccer ) Rock Demi God or well to do Chav …. you buy a Bentley . But if you’ve a modicum of class and truly wish to excessively and conspicuously display your wealth and position in life …. you buy a Rolls .

    BMW got it right when they took over Rolls Royce … whereas VW – Audi has done the only thing they know how to do with Bentley . Make a grand and iconic brand into a cheap ( in quality not price ) and pretentious consumable .

    ( * Ahhhhh… there’s that ” Demand Exceeding the Supply ” factor … which leads to greater profitability coming into play )

  14. ColoradoKid Says:


    Couldn’t pay ? Or was it because Marchionne is absolutely clueless as to what drives the American automotive market place ? Remembering it was Marchionne’s idiotic decision to run the Dart body instead of the Challenger in NHRA Pro Stock .

  15. ColoradoKid Says:

    Here’s a good perspective on ‘ cheapening ‘ a brand ;


    And for the record I’m in complete agreement with this author when it comes to Mercedes future plans as well . Just to be fair about things .

  16. HtG Says:

    13 not to be argumentative, but isn’t Bentley also using Derek Bell as a representative? That man knows how to behave

    but yeah, Bentleys are chavish or Paris Hiltonish

  17. The Autoextremist Says:

    A few things: The Italian overlords at Fiat-Chrysler had/have no use for NASCAR. They couldn’t care less, in fact. When RP wanted a new deal plus a stronger commitment from the factory in both years and in terms of technical support, they weren’t interested in the least. And their fatal mistake? They didn’t believe he’d leave.

    Well, we all saw how that went.

    And the writing was on the wall for the rest of NASCAR too, that the Italians couldn’t be bothered. So without RP’s stellar engine shop, and with no technical support forthcoming from the Fiat-Chrysler overlords, Dodge’s fate in NASCAR was sealed.

    Oh and by the way, anyone who thinks Dodge will sit out a year and come back in 2014, I hate to disappoint you, but the Italians aren’t going to suddenly change their minds. You will see another manufacturer come into NASCAR (Hyundai/KIA/VW) before you see Dodge back in.


  18. Chuck @ GM Says:

    @17 I am an old man, there is just something wrong with foreign cars in NASCAR. What moonshine did they ever run?

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    14, Does NASCAR still help sell cars, like Fusions and Impalas? I kind of doubt it. Did it ever help sell Camrys? I doubt that too, though it may help sell a Tundra few pickup trucks.

    Yeah, without RP’s engine shop, no Dodge team would have had a chance.

    They ran the Dart body in Pro Stock because it would be better for winning, but yeah, not for marketing.

  20. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Well,none of this surprises me.Macaroni is an asshole plain and simple.Same same with that other dipstick pieatro whatever that heads up chrysler.Unlike the old days when stock car racing didn’t attract the attention it enjoys now,there has always been dodge (among others)now they are going extinct too,by design no less.Yup,the American nascar fans won’t mind……much,(said with all the sarcasm I can muster).Win on sunday,sell on monday? That used to be our trans am and nascar mantra,moreso then ahra/nhra.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Dodge was gone from NASCAR for a long time before they returned in the early 2000′s. Maybe they will be back again in about 20 years.

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, Bentley “cheapened” the brand by offering the Continental coupe and drop top, which I actually kind of like, but they also have the Mulsanne, which I think looks much better than the current Rolls sedans. Also, the Mulsanne doesn’t use a parts bin engine like the Rollers.

    Yeah, the BMW engines are probably better, but if you buy these cars, probably uniqueness counts for more than “better.”

  23. ColoradoKid Says:

    Assuming PMD is correct ( and I do believe he is ) Looks like my assessment of Dodge’s involvement or lack there of in NASCAR was right on the money .

    Kind of a no brainer though when you have even a minimal understanding of what makes Marchionne tick ;-)

    Ehhh Pietro ! Che quando ‘ M ‘ ?

    - Chuck@GM . Well I’m old as well and if its any consolation I’ve never gotten over the fact that Stock Car Racing no longer has anything to do with ‘ Stock ‘ cars .

  24. ColoradoKid Says:


    Here’s a good analogy Kit

    Think of Rolls Royce as ‘ bespoke ‘

    Whereas even the Mulsanne with Bentley is luxury ‘ Off the Rack ‘

    For what its worth I kind of like the looks of the Continental as well …… but couldn’t deal with the stigma ownership carries with them . The Mulsanne ? Its good looking . A bit more understated than its RR counterpart ….. but then there’s that ‘ stigma ‘ that now even follows it around like stink on …….

    Guess if I just really had to have a Bentley though I could take to wearing soccer jersey’s :o

  25. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Lmao……I don’t recognize any of the nascar-cars.I can’t tell one from another by looking at them.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Interesting TTAC article, and so true, especially with the front-drive Benz. The last time Daimler was involved with a front-drive sedan for the U.S. market, we got the Sebring. OK, the CLA will be a lot better than that, but I’d probably rather have a “loaded” Accord.

    The 320i, though. I can see some appeal there, if you can get it in the U.S. with a manual transmission.

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If NASCAR got back to racing actual stock cars, Dodge might reappear a lot more quickly than is now likely. A 4 cylinder, front-drive Fusion or Camry would have a hard time competing with a rear-drive V8 Charger.

  28. stas peterson Says:

    The older SCSS B segment archtecture used by Fiat, Opel and GM for more than decade is growing long in the tooth.

    Fiat has unddertaken to design a new B-segment architecture that it calls SUSW, (Small US Wide, that is new and fully federalized and fully compliant with world car standards. It firdt use is in the 500L in Europe which should soon sale here in the USW by summer.

    GM had to spend money on a SCSS follow on too, or partner with someone who did.

    Hence the PSA GM JV. It never made sense as a joint purchasing agreement, as their were no additional volmes of common parts. But now there maybe.

  29. Wayne M. Brehob Says:

    On the subject of hydraulic hybrids, no one seems to be pointing out that the energy that can ve stored in a reasonably sized hydraulic system is a small fraction of what can be stored in an electric system. Whereas the electric system can go 10′s of miles on the electric energy alone, the hydraulic would be taking a mile or less on the hydraulic energy stored. Instead of going to the store and back, you could go to your next door neighbor and back.

  30. Wayne M. Brehob Says:

    On the subject of hydraulic hybrids, no one seems to be pointing out that the energy that can be stored in a reasonably sized hydraulic system is a small fraction of what can be stored in an electric system. Whereas the electric system can go 10′s of miles on the electric energy alone, the hydraulic would be taking a mile or less on the hydraulic energy stored. Instead of going to the store and back, you could go to your next door neighbor and back.

  31. W L Simpson Says:

    Since hoonday & keeya have essentially consolidated , they should share a new logo.

  32. W L Simpson Says:

    Yes, GAB,those were the days , when real cars were raced & the drivers were not automatons.
    My frequent visits to daytona ended when replicas
    appeared on the scene.
    Recently, Autoblog was reviewing excited drivers comments on how much they enjoyed the recent relief from boredom due to a finish line dust up.

  33. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yep. That is why garbage trucks are the perfect application for “hydraulic” hybrids. You go 50 feet, recover energy when stopping, and use the energy to help go the next 50 feet.

  34. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ 32: If these new kids had to drive what was available back in th’ day they damn sure wouldn’t be bored…….maybe dead but not bored.Of course they wouldn’t be gazillionairs either.Ever hear of Mt.Racemore? Just wondering.

  35. Kit Gerhart Says:

    NASCAR is a lot safer now than it was “back in the day,” but it was certainly a lot more interesting when they were driving actual stock cars.

    Something that would add to it now, would be requiring them to change wheels using manual lug wrenches, rather than air drivers.

  36. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Lug wrenches? Kit,how about actually getting back to ‘stock’ cars? What would be wrong with that?

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If they could make them close to as safe as the current cars, actual “stock” cars would be great. That might be hard to do, but modern belt harnesses, HANS devices, etc., along with strong cages in the cars might make it possible.

    The use of spotters has helped a lot. You rarely have a car going 200 mph crashing into a stopped car.

  38. ColoradoKid Says:


    A major correction is in order . The 500L DOES NOT use a platform of any designation designed by FIAT or any of FIAT SpA’s other companies

    It is in fact …. the Suzuki SX4 …. built in the former iron curtain zone …. re-badged as a FIAT …. and will be again as a JEEP , Dodge etc

    Brother …. did you ever get taken in by that one from Marchionne and crew .

    Here’s a clue next time FIAT is claiming they’re developing anything ‘ New ” FIAT SpA has no – zero – bupkiss – nada .. money … and no one’s stepping up to loan – subsidize – bail out etc the company .

    SUSW indeed ! Thats a good one . Rename something borrowed and pretend you’ve created something new …

  39. ColoradoKid Says:


    Safety concerns ? May I point out the ETCC – BTCC as well as FIA Touring Cup cars good sir ? Safe as a ….. safe as a matter of fact … and damn if they’re not ‘ Stock’ cars underneath it all . Just think of it . Chargers , Camaros Mustangs. upcoming Caprice etc once again doing battle on tracks across the US ….. modified and hopped up for racing of course …. but still built on ‘ stock ‘ cars .

    Ehhh. It’ll never happen .

  40. ColoradoKid Says:


    For what its worth the MBOC forums are alight …. with complaints criticisms and negative reactions to the CLA . I’m none to thrilled especially in light of the potential of Nissan engines under the hood

    One thing though TTAC forgot about . BMW’s bringing over their MINI based FWD 1 Series as well .

    IMO if BMW & Mercedes want to ‘ down market ‘ their cars a bit .. what they should do is what they do in the EU/UK . De- content their current line up to a price point and label them accordingly .

  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I agree that it will never happen. Even if they could make them “safe,” they would have a hard to coming up with a “formula” to make 4 cylinder front drive Fusions compete equally with V8 rear drive Chargers, Benzes, BMW’s, or whatever other “mid size” sedans team might want to run under such rules.

  42. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “IMO if BMW & Mercedes want to ‘ down market ‘ their cars a bit .. what they should do is what they do in the EU/UK . De- content their current line up to a price point and label them accordingly .”

    I agree completely. I’d love to have a C-Class wagon with a 4 cylinder diesel and a manual transmission. I’d want A/C and cruise control, but I’d be fine with manual seats and crank windows, OK, they probably don’t sell them with crank windows any more, even in Somalia, but a car de-contented to European rental car levels would be fine with me.