Episode 71 – Ford May Need Money, Suppliers Enter Medical Industry, Tuft’s Shock Recharger

February 2nd, 2009 at 11:35am

Runtime 5:25

Barclays Capital downgraded Ford stock and says the company may need government money after all. Automotive suppliers are getting into the medical field to help off-set their losses with automakers. A new kind of shock absorber could recharge your batteries. All that and more, plus a look at some in-vehicle technology Ford is offering truck buyers.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Ford may need government money after all. Automotive suppliers are getting into the medical field. And a new kind of shock absorber could recharge your batteries.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Monday, February 2, 2009. And now, the news.

Last week Ford reiterated that it won’t need government money, but Barclays Capital says it might need it after all. Reuters is reporting that Barclays downgraded Ford stock and cut the price target on the stock to $1 from $4, citing cash concerns and an increase in the company’s net debt. Barclays says Ford is no longer off-setting its North American losses with its global sales.

Some automotive suppliers are looking at new areas of business to get into and a report in the Detroit News says they’re starting to make medical devices like heart stents and hospital bed components. The medical market is booming and that’s why a number of auto suppliers are retooling their equipment to get into that segment.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. Congress is considering incentives that would give car buyers $4,500 to trade in their old car for a new one. It’s being presented as a way of getting clunkers off the road and replacing them with fuel efficient vehicles. Texas already has a similar plan which requires the vehicles traded in have to be at least 10 years old and have failed an emissions test. And the federal plan may follow those guidelines. All I can say is that, for the most part, people driving old cars like that cannot afford to buy a new one.

Now the rental car companies want the federal government to provide them with money. The Journal says that Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, Dollar and Enterprise all want access to the TARP money so that they can go out and buy a lot more new cars.

Pirelli is developing a tire that can transmit performance data from computer chips mounted in the tread. Autoblog reports that the “Cyber Tire” can monitor operating temperature, pressure and road surface in real time. The company is also developing what it calls a “Cyber Wheel,” which measures hub loads, and other things. The idea is to package all these sensors right into the tires and wheels.

In the future, you might start aiming for all the potholes in the road. Autoblog reports that researchers at Tufts University patented a shock absorber that can help charge a hybrid’s batteries. Called the Power-Generating Shock Absorber, it has magnets and a coil winding that generates electricity when in motion. The more the shock moves the more power it generates. The developers estimate it can recover between 20 and 70 percent of the energy going into the shock.

Coming up next, a look at some in-vehicle technology Ford is offering truck buyers. We’ll be back right after this.

Ford is bringing a host of new features to the truck market with what it calls its Work Solutions technology suite, including a fully-integrated mobile office in the cab of its trucks. This system basically has the same functionality as a regular office. You can type, browse the web and even print documents right from the driver’s seat. It even lets you access files stored on other computers.

The whole interface is built right into the dashboard. A high-res, 6.5-inch touch screen is the heart of the system. It has two gigabytes of storage and offers slots for CDs, SD cards and even a USB port.

Like the rest of Ford’s Work Solutions suite, this feature is available on 2009 model F-Series trucks and E-Series vans. And who knows, in the future Ford might offer in-vehicle internet as an entertainment option on some of its other vehicles lines, just like Chrysler and BMW.

We’ve got an event coming this Friday you will not want to miss. It’s a live webcast at noon with the Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, the chief economist at Ford. She’ll be giving us Ford’s forecast for how the economy will do this year, as well as Ford’s forecast of what will happen with car sales. You’ll be able to post comments and ask questions during the interview, so start thinking about what you’d like to ask. That’s this coming Friday, live at noon Eastern Time, or 1700 hours Greenwich Mean Time.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

19 Comments to “Episode 71 – Ford May Need Money, Suppliers Enter Medical Industry, Tuft’s Shock Recharger”

  1. Howard Remeta Says:

    I agree with John. Anyone driving a car that is “at least” 10 years old, will not be buying a new car. They are used car people. There is that segment where some people never buy new cars EVER. I’m still waiting for a incentive for buying the 2010 Honda Insight. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  2. Tom Cain Says:

    That’s ludicrous! Why would you assume that someone driving a 10+ year old vehicle not buy a new one? Some of us like to get full value out of our purchases! I’m driving a 14 year old Chevy trunk that is pretty much worn out. I’m about to buy a new one to replace it. I expect to drive the new one that long as well.

  3. Dan Clemons Says:

    Howard, I’m with you. I too have my fingers crossed that tax credits will be offered for the purchase of the new Honda Insight.

    I’m all for cutting back on the amount of oil we buy from the Middle East.

  4. jim Says:

    I beg to differ that a 10-year old car is an “old” car or a “clunker.” My nine year old Chevy runs and looks great. I plan to drive it many more years and hope to put on at least 250,000 miles on that venerable 3.8 liter V-6. Thirty years old, now you’re getting into the “old” car market.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I just hope Ford and other car companies that have PC’s built into their vehicles will have them disabled except when parked, and will make if very difficult to over-ride the disable.

  6. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Salaries have not kept up with the costs of buying a new car, insurance, maintenance, where you could change you own oil for example has gotten too complicated on some cars,plus prices keep rising every year. I have always bought new cars and run them to the junkyard, but with the new realities of life, I will be forced to buy a used one or just keep fixing my old one. Until some car maker wakes up from their world of make-believe and start making good AFFORDABLE cars.

  7. Tom Martin Says:

    Germany has the cash for clunker program and it’s taken a lot of old cars off the road.

    The program in the US has a lot of details to be worked out, and may kill the program.

    Details like the car must get less than 18 mpg, and the new car must get at least 25% better mpg.

    The car must be currently operational.

    Also, it appears that I could buy my neighbor’s clunker for $1500, and then trade it in and get $4K.

    I have what some view as a clunker (1993 Eagle Vision with over 200K). I was only offered $300 trade in, so I kept the car, and drive it more than my Chrysler 300. Since it was rated 18/25, it doesn’t qualify as a clunker.

    I see this both as helping the environment and the economy. I would hope that the clunker rebate would only be for cars assembled in North America. A Prius would not qualify. This restriction is not currently in the bill.

  8. Tom Martin Says:

    The regenerative shocks is interesting. I wonder how much energy is generated, and whether soft shocks generate more energy than firm shocks.

    The Volt and other plug in hybrids should seriously consider this.

    Due to the condition of the roads in Washington, D.C., a plug-in hybrid with regenerative shocks may become a perpetual motion machine. :)

  9. Roger T Says:

    A clunker incentive can be helpful for those that have a vehicle for occasional duty or for graduating students. Worth $4,500 of my tax dollars? Definitely not. Instead they should just pay back sales and tag taxes on new cars and that way make all new cars cheaper, to anyone.

  10. pedro Fernandez Says:

    I think that law could work here, but again with a lot of caveats, ex. you should own the “clunker” for a number of years. It should depend on a buyer’s income, its not fair for a rich guy to get the credit for buying a Mercedes for example. The plus to this is that there should be less accidents due to bad cars out there, and also depending on the price of the car. Plus it should be built here, not abroad

  11. Derek Says:

    As I think about it, I’m kind of liking the Clunker Clause. I’m in the market for a new people mover for my growing family so I’d be happy to go to Joe’s Used Car Sales down the road and drop $300 on an old Ford Escort only to trade it in on the Chrysler Town & Country EV due out in 2010. I’d gladly let the “government” take the hit on the new car, drive off the lot depreciation. Otherwise, one or two year old Sienna for us.

  12. Adam Says:

    I think this guy is vying for some sort of “hardest working guy in the auto industry reporting business” and he’s got my vote.

    With the plethora of auto blog sites these days, the noise is drowning out the news and information.

    ps. As for the clunker idea, I think it would make sense for the government to start actively taking the real gas guzzlers and smoke screen makers off the road. Every day I see the procession of gardeners in their poorly maintained pickups with the signature decrepit lawnmower and greasy, noisy two-stroke leaf-blower in the back — they’re death traps and they pollute. It’s not safe for the occupants or others on the road relying on their brakes. And it’s not fair to allow this kind of environmental negligence accumulate as a legacy for future generations to clean up.

  13. Howard Remeta Says:

    Back to the clunker idea. I thought that “usually” people who have 10+ year old cars don’t buy new cars. Obviously, there will be some out there but I don’t think that is the norm. No matter what you say, someone will come up with something different. I know a lot of people who just buy 2-3 year old cars, then drive them 3-4 years then buy a 2-3 year old car again. There is nothing wrong with that.

  14. John Blinke Says:

    My 1992 Ford Explorer has more than 205,000 miles on it. All major parts are original and the engine has not been rebuilt. It barely burns any oil between oil changes. I keep it because it is comfortable like a favorite pair of shoes. Its 4 wheel drive has gotten me out of several tight spots. Insurance on a new vehicle would be expensive. Why get rid of something that still does the things I need it to do?

  15. Ron Patenaude Says:

    Pirelli that can harness lost energy from tires-Shock absorber Technology that charges batteries,comming from Canada where students in Toronto were able to talk to the people in the space station with a 4000.00 antenna well this is the type of developements we should all be happy to here nomater where we live. That is one of the reasons I am hooked on Autoline Detroit.

  16. Mouhamad A. Naboulsi Says:

    To Dan Clemons,

    Can you please expalin the economic difference of importing oil vs. importing Hondas?

    The answer is NONE. Actually Honda is worse because it is killing our industrial base. Detroit has better bang for the buck, Mileage wise and Economy growth wise. You and Howard should think about that very hard before you favor one disaster over the other.

    Drive American or Dreive your self out of a country.

  17. Mouhamad A. Naboulsi Says:

    Ford and all other companies that are cramming electronics into the car without a thoughtfull and safe deployment are in it for the buck without consideration for safety. I guess Marketing over ruled the Human Factor engineers.

    Drivers should not be looking at anything but the road and the rear view mirros while driving. anything else is a high risk waiting for a nudge to become a perfect storm and an accident.

    For a correct deployment of such technologies please visit our website to learn what is missing.
    Best regards
    Mouhamad A. Naboulsi, Applikompt

  18. dudeguy Says:

    It’s ok to have a comment.

  19. Jan Hankamer Says:

    I disagree that folks who are driving 10 year old vehicles will not be buying a new one. My Explorer is eight years old and even though the market devastated my retirement, I am just waiting for a US company to build a vehicle that will not rape me when gas goes up to 4 dollars again – and it will. Many people keep their cars for ten years – especially if they like them. And many people right now are putting off new car purchases to see what will happen to the economy.