AD #1116 – More Fisker Bad News, Fiat CEO Criticizes Regulators, Lexus Headed to KY

April 19th, 2013 at 12:12pm

Runtime: 8:56

Bloomberg reports that the actual manufacturing cost for every Fisker was more than six times that of the purchase cost. Fiat-Chrysler CEO, Sergio Marchionne criticizes regulators for trying to force electric cars on the industry and the public. We get the official word that Toyota will start building the Lexus ES at its Georgetown, Kentucky plant, which is a first in the U.S. All that and more, plus we learn how CNG and LPG are getting a lot of attention.

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Friends, gearheads, aficionados, lend me your ears. We’ve got some cool car stuff to look at today. And we’ve got the results of our latest poll, so let’s get to it.

Bloomberg is reporting this morning that the actual manufacturing cost for every Fisker was actually $660,000, based on production of 2,500 cars. That’s bad enough except another report says Fisker was able to keep getting government subsidies even though it violated the terms of its contract with the Department of Energy multiple times. And even worse than that, Fisker continued to get government money after it declared bankruptcy. So now there are going to be Congressional hearings and the star witness will be Henrik Fisker himself.

Speaking of losing money on electric cars, Fiat-Chrysler head honcho Sergio Marchionne–that’s right, he pronounces it Mar-she-own, not Mar-key-onee as I’ve been saying it all along, and I only know this because I asked him myself yesterday–anyway, at a speech last night at the SAE banquet, Marchionne said they’re losing $10,000 on every electric Fiat 500 they sell. He also criticized regulators for trying to force electric cars on the industry and the public and asked for more freedom to allow automakers to choose what they think is the best technology. He’s especially keen on using compressed natural gas because Fiat is the world’s leader in producing natural gas vehicles. And speaking of that, we’ll have more on natural gas vehicles coming up in the second half of the show because that’s the topic on Autoline This Week.

Well we’ve got the official word that Toyota will start building the Lexus ES at its Georgetown, Kentucky plant, the first time the luxury brand will produce models in the U.S., which begins in 2015.

And speaking of Toyota, AutoGuide says it will likely stop selling the Matrix in the U.S. We’ll get the official word in a little over a month. We don’t really know how it’s selling because Toyota doesn’t break out Matrix sales, it lumps them in with the Corolla.

If I were to tell you that wages in the Chinese manufacturing industry doubled from 2002 till 2008, you might think that is pretty good. Wages in the U.S. increased only 20 percent in that same time frame. Even so, the average Chinese auto worker only makes $2.18 an hour. That means it takes them all day to earn what a worker in the U.S., Europe or Japan would make in one hour.

As we’ve reported before, several cities in China are limiting new car sales by auctioning off license plates in an effort to reduce congestion and pollution. But China’s domestic automakers say this is hurting their sales. In Shanghai some license plates cost over $14,000 which is more than the cost of entry-level vehicles, like Geely’s $7,000 Panda minicar. The people who can afford a plate are buying import brands and that’s why China domestic brands only account for about 9 percent of sales in Shanghai.

But its not just license plate auctions that are hurting their sales, foreign brands are coming out with lower cost cars, a segment once dominated by the local brands. China domestic brands only accounted for 43 percent of sales in the country. As a result, companies like Chery, Great Wall and Geely are dialing back plans to move upscale and are focusing more on quality.

If you want that Porsche driving experience, but can’t afford the purchase price, head over to Hertz. Well at least if you live in select California, Florida or Nevada markets. Beginning this month the company will expand its Porsche lineup to include the 911, Boxster and Cayenne. They join the already available Panamera. Rates for the sports cars start at $250 for a weekend day. But what a weekend!

OK, time for the results of our latest poll. It was based on a study that says most American drivers really don’t know what the rules of the road are. So we posed this question that is typically found on a driver’s test. You are approaching a school bus that has stopped on the other side of a divided highway. Do you (one) Stop and wait for it to load or unload children, (two) Stop, check for children, then proceed, (three) Stop and wait until the flashing red lights go off, or (four) Watch for children and be ready to stop. 60 percent of you chose number 4, and you should pat yourselves on the shoulder because that’s the right answer. In fact, bravo Autoline viewers, you’re way smarter than the general public. 68 percent of the American public got it wrong, based on a survey by

As I said earlier in the show we’re going to be talking about CNG and LPG for commercial trucks and how that business is booming. That is coming up next.

The topic on Autoline This Week is the exponential growth in CNG and LPG for commercial trucks in the U.S. market. Just a few years ago no one saw this coming, but now it’s getting a lot of attention. Take a look.

(Clip from Autoline This Week about CNG and LPG can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show.)

Of course, you can watch that entire program right now on our website, or check your local public television listing since Autoline This Week is now see in over 50 markets across the United States as well as coast to coast in Canada. And I’ve got to tell you, I am super excited about this show, it really is an eye opener.

But enough of me talking, get your work done today, go out and have a great weekend and please join us again here on Monday.

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63 Comments to “AD #1116 – More Fisker Bad News, Fiat CEO Criticizes Regulators, Lexus Headed to KY”

  1. NannieState Says:

    Finally, an automaker that is brave enough to clearly state the problem with government picking winners (EV’s in this case) and losers. Thank you Mr. Marchionne (Mar-she-own) from the visible bottom of this taxpayer’s bank account.

  2. ArtG Says:

    Straight from the NYS DMV driver’s manual:

    “Once stopped for a school bus, you may not drive again until the red lights stop flashing or when the bus driver or a traffic officer waves you on. This law applies on all roadways in New York State. You must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway.”

  3. G. A. Branigan Says:

    Electric vehicles are stupid, we need to dieselize everything in the world, from kitchen blenders to mens shavers to kitchen refrigerators.I always thought Marchionne was a smart man and now I know it for sure when he rejects the electric vehicles. Put a diesel in that 500 and you’ve got me lining up at the Fiat dealer ready to buy one even if I have to pay extra to do so. Dieselize everything!!!!!!!!

  4. Darren Says:

    Asia big on LNG/CNG. Most cabs in Bangkok run on natural gas as do many large trucks.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It seemed that Toyota quit selling the Matrix more than a year ago. A friend wanted to buy one, but the dealer near here didn’t have any. It wasn’t because they “sold like hotcakes” and they could keep them on the lot. They just couldn’t get them at all.

    The friend ended up buying a Hyundai Elantra 5-door.

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Create a refueling infrastructure, and CNG vehicles will make sense. For now, they are more limited in usefulness than even EV’s to most people.

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    Years ago I would have jumped at the Hertz Porsche offer, but now I am older, wiser and poorer, so I’d rather take my crapola to a nice hotel so the wife and I can both enjoy the amenities. (self parking of course)

  8. HtG Says:

    60% correct response rate on the school bus question? I hope you’re grading on a curve.

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    The key to the poll question is the “divided” highway, I’ve had school bus drivers curse me out for doing just that, they don’t even know the rules and they drive the darn buses!!!!

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The school bus laws vary, and have different wording for each state:

    In Arkansas, for example, you are supposed to stop when facing the bus on a divided highway, unless the median is wider than 20 feet.

  11. pedro fernandez Says:

    Well my friend that is a big error, they should be uniform throughout the states, It is up to the driver to drop the kids off on the correct side so they don’t need to cross a dangerous street, a local 6 yr old girl was killed because the driver dropped her on the wrong side of her apt complex, and since it was a divided roadway and it was dark already, a driver going the opposite way did not stop or see her dash across the street and you know what happened then, lots of finger pointing and now one has been convicted of anything.

  12. Ziggy Says:

    I caught the AAH show yesterday and found the opposed piston engine pretty interesting, if you haven’t seen the show I would recommend it, since the engine is a diesel I’m sure Bragagain will be wetting his pants over it. Neat concept, it will be interesting to see if any OEM goes for it under a licensing agreement.

  13. Steve Says:

    FYI: Your poll answer is not correct for all states. In New York State, the law state “When a stopped school bus flashes its red light(s), traffic approaching from either direction, even in front of the school and in school parking lots, must stop before reaching the bus. You should stop at least 20 feet (6 m) away from the bus. You can identify this bus by a “SCHOOL BUS” sign, the red lights on top, and its unique yellow/orange color.

    Before a school bus stops to load or unload passengers, the driver will usually flash yellow warning lights. When you see them, slow down and be prepared to stop.

    Once stopped for a school bus, you may not drive again until the red lights stop flashing or when the bus driver or a traffic officer waves you on. This law applies on all roadways in New York State. You must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway.”


  14. dcars Says:

    Hi John,
    CNG is going to be huge. I’ve attended many CNG fueling station and truck demonstrations.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The opposed piston engine is interesting, but I can’t see how it would be particularly efficient. It operates a lot like the old Detroit Diesel 2-strokes, except that it uses an exhaust port, instead of exhaust valves. Those were relatively powerful in their heyday, but were never very efficient.

    The opposed piston engine would be very well balanced, though, and with only two cylinders.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The closest CNG fueling station to me, in Cape Canaveral, FL, is 120 miles away.

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    Happy news for TB, Buick Encore flying off dealer’s lots not so god for Ford fans TTAC reports and shows lot of sloppy assemblies of new Fusions in Mexico, perhaps Ford should step up their move to North of the Border.

  18. HtG Says:

    13 Steve’s got the goods here. In NY you don’t have to stop if the bus is stopped without flashing red lights, no matter where it is. But be careful. Damn you if you hit a kid.

    This distinction about lights is one of those trick questions I’ve heard.

  19. C-Tech Says:

    @ #16 You can buy CNG and hydrogen at the Orlando Airport.

  20. C-Tech Says:

    Sign of the times: Saw a electric charging port for cars at the Manheim dealer auction.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    A couple sites I found showed Tampa as the closest “open to the public” CNG sites.

  22. jesse Says:

    The GOVERNMENT can’t even run itself correctly yet they try and tell the AUTO industry what to build…how hypocritical is that???

  23. C-Tech Says:

    @ #22 That is the California government. Since the government is us, write your California representative.

  24. C-Tech Says:

    @ #21 You may be right. I see airport vendors using the CNG side, never saw anyone at the hydrogen fill.

  25. C-Tech Says:

    With the cost of the average new car in the $25-30 range, what used car (or truck) bargain do you believe is out there? For this survey, the car must be in the 2004-2009 year range so it may be still financed. No Toyota’s or Honda’s for this exercise. My top bargain choices are (in no order) Mercury Milan/Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, Pontiac G6, Saturn Aura, Hyundai Sonata, Town and Country Minivan, Chrysler 300 Touring(3.5 V6), Nissan Sentra, Ford Escape.

  26. pedro fernandez Says:

    Altima? There’s a lot of them around, Also Avenger/ Sebring, Galant.

  27. G.A.Branigan Says:

    To whom it may concern: In regards to post #3.I was at the VA at the time of that post.My name has been hijacked.Ben,or whoever,please check who posted under my name.
    Thank you,
    The real G.A.

  28. Bob In Atlanta Says:

    Is CK really KC? Both had to “go away” for a time.

  29. XA351GT Says:

    Your report on what Chinese autoworkers get paid confirmed what I had been pretty sure of. That with a difference in pay like that American productin workers can not begin to compete. Is it any wonder that everything you pick up in a store is either made in or a product of China. So along with the fact that they don’t have the EPA constraints that American businesses do they also pay slave labor rates. If anyone out there is naive enough to beleave that once the Chinese can finally crack the North American market ,that is game over for all other car companies that do business here . How will any of them compete witha $5000 car? Sure some will steer clear of them because of being cheaply made ,but others will jump into a new car at that price.History proves this true most recently with Hyundai and later Kia. Until the government has the balls to tariff the Chinese properly to offset this imbalance we will lose all our manufacturing to them over time. Greed of corporate and share holders will demand it.

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    That seems a good list, and I’d add a couple much-maligned GM products that depreciate rapidly, but have served my friends very reliably. They are Impala and, at the very low end, Cavalier/Sunfire. Impala is best with the 3800 engine. My friend’s near 200K mile Sunfire has the pushrod 2.2.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    28, Bob in Atlanta, CK is the former tj.

  32. C-Tech Says:

    @ # 30 Would you add Mini to the list?

    @ # 26 Surprised you have 2 Chryslers on your list

  33. Kit Gerhart Says:

    MINI’s are not good used car “bargains,” because they hold their value well. At least they did in 2010 when I bought mine. I had intended to buy used, but found that I could get a new one, minimally equipped as I wanted, for little more than the two year old used ones I found.

    Also, for those who want a used MINI S, I suspect a lot of those are driven kind of abusively.

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    To me, the cars that are used car bargains, are ones that are decent products, but depreciate quickly.

    For those who want such cars, and are willing to risk the possibility of expensive repairs, the big Benz, and especially the big BMW depreciate rapidly, making them used car bargains.

  35. C-Tech Says:

    I have yet to see a used car bargain in M-B or BMW, bigger cars when they hit 5 years / 70K miles. Bargain to purchase, pricey to repair. Given the engineering that goes into them, I don’t understand why?

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, pricey to repair is a big downside with the European cars.

  37. pedro fernandez Says:

    Well, they can be had for a good price (used) and if you need the room and can’t get into a small foreign job, why not? Yaris and Fit are not good for the used market, they depreciate very little and you can get much more car for your used car money.

  38. pedro fernandez Says:

    Funny thing about this car business, a new car that holds up its value and has a good reputation or is hard to come by always demands a premium as a used one, that is why I will most likely NOT get a Yaris over a Corolla because they both sell for the same price used and the Corolla is a better car all around, except in the mpg dept and even then the diff is not much at all.

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If you want a basic sedan from Toyota, Corolla is the way to go, even new, given the incentives that are usually in place on the Corolla. If you want a hatch, Corolla is out, now that the Matrix “tall wagon” is gone, and used Matrices are hard to find.

    The mpg of the Corolla and Yaris are nearly identical, both the EPA numbers, and CR’s test data.

  40. cwolf Says:

    When looking up best used cars, the Fusion, Milan and Cammry keep popping up. As pedro noted, the Galant rates rather well. I think a Legacy would be a good car, too. The Sonic rates pretty good for a small car…as good as the Fit.

  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Galant would be a good one to buy used, rather than new, if you want that car, since it depreciates very quickly. Suzuki Kizashi also falls into that category, for those who want an “orphaned” brand. The Kizashi also gets pretty good reviews.

    The Galant will depreciate even more quickly if it gets orphaned in the U.S., as may happen any day now.

  42. pedro fernandez Says:

    cwolf a used Subaru demands a high price over here in So Fl since they don’t sell many at all, from what I’ve seen the Corolla as reliable as it is, can be had for a good price, just simply because the market is saturated with used ones, Civics, not so much. Another good buy is a used Buick, not many people want one and most used ones have been pampered by their older owners anyhow. That 3800 engine and 4 speed transmission combo is one of the best Detroit has ever produced.

  43. RonE Says:

    Pedro, If I were in the market for a used car, I would give a Mazda 3 a good look. I bought new a 2001 Mazda Protege ES 2.0 and drove it for 10 years and had no expense other than routine maint. Plus it was a fun car to drive.
    My son is now driving it for his work car and has yet spend any money on it.

  44. cwolf Says:

    There are at least a handful of workers at my plant who buy a used Buick time and time again. For those who buy new always have a few co-workers in wait when they buy another new one.
    Subarus captivate me for some reason. The Legacy is a nice size, good history and the AWD would be good to have for us in the north. Yup, they are hard to find and get a good dollar for one.

  45. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I liked the Legacy wagon, back when they sold it without the “outback” treatment, and always liked the Impreza wagon, except for the mandatory AWD on both of them.

    It would seem that Subaru could sell a lot more cars in places like Florida, if they would sell FWD versions. They probably want to remain a “niche” car company, though, and they have done well in maintaining, and growing their small market share.

  46. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I just looked at the KBB web site, which has a list of “best 3″ by catagory for low depreciation. That, of course, is a list of good cars to buy new. Unfortunately, they don’t have a similar list of cars that depreciate quickly, which would be good ones to buy used.

  47. pedro fernandez Says:

    I saw a local car ad and the Avenger listed for 1 grand less than a Dart, incredible when the Avenger is supposed to be one class higher.

  48. ColoradoKid Says:

    Bob in Atlanta – Little slow on the draw ehh ? Yes I’s TJ … now posting as CK and everyone ( except you obviously ) has known that for months as I made little effort to hide the fact ( though HtG caught on the quickest …. smart fellow that he is ;-) )

  49. ColoradoKid Says:

    35 Complexity and sophistication have their price

  50. ColoradoKid Says:

    ( the real ) G.A. Branigan – # 27

    Phew !

    I knew something was up when your moniker of all people were claiming Marchionne ( aka The Little Emperor – aka Macaroni – aka Stronzetto Marchionne etc etc ) was in any way smart .

    Hope they get the system fixed to eliminate the counterfeit G.A. ASAP ….. I’m not sure I can handle anymore surprises like that :o

  51. ColoradoKid Says:

    Poll results …. As I said when this poll was put up …. the rules are different in every state ( CO .. no red lights … no fold out STOP sign …. no have to stop … MO .. no flashing lights … no have to stop ) …. so pray tell … short of saying never stop for a school bus …. how can there be a right or wrong answer ? …. That poll was more than a bit flawed from the get go

  52. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Perhaps the poll question should have actually been a poll (and not a “flawed” quiz) on what ‘should’ be the law when approaching a stopped school bus (on a multi-lane divided highway); then the answers given would provide data on what the law (maybe) should be. My personal view is that cars can proceed (watching for kids or any pedestrians for that matter) in the opposing lane (I don’t think any child should be allowed to cross a divided multi-lane highway regardless of a buses flashing lights.

  53. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ CK:I was very surprised by that post.I spent most of the day at the VA,and when I got home I didn’t even get on the computer till after supper,lol.Probably sybil still pissed at me…

  54. ColoradoKid Says:

    Protean hub motor vs Physics

    ( subtitled ; Everybody lies including Lotus engineering …. for you G.A. … the real one that is )

    Read the Lotus White papers in their entirety .. …..they missed the boat completely

    Here’s why ;

    Increased unsprung weight ( especially in the wheel/hub ) = Increased rolling resistance = decreased efficiency = increased demands on the power train = again … decreased efficiency ….. by a factor of ten ( 1lb of additional unsprung weight is equal to 10 lbs of added weight on the body/chassis )

    Somehow that point was completely ignored …. by everyone including the automotive press . Hmmmmmn .

    Another funny thing about Lotus’s ‘ White Papers ‘ ( as in there’s no information in them ??? ) … they also fail to mention why it is they were unable to ‘ compensate ‘ for the additional weight on the TESLA roadster seeing as everyone that tested it said it handled like a pig in comparison to the Lotus Elise it was based on ;-)

    Truly ….. GENUINE Engineering in the automotive world …. is now Official Passe’ … Dead …. and Gone … Technology for Technologies sake ….. then compensate for the compromises … having completely taken over

  55. ColoradoKid Says:

    #52 +1

  56. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Mornin’ CK,
    With all the ‘new’ ev oem’s,despite heavy duty computer tech,ev’s remain a ‘pie in th’ sky’ venture (for the last 100+ years) until a REAL break through in battery/elec storage is found.Add to that charging stations in cities,ie:infrastructure needs to be put in place FIRST….and th’ beat goes on….

  57. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The reason heavy wheels reduce efficiency, compared to the same amount of mass elsewhere in the car, is that mass in the wheels increases rotational inertial. As a result, it takes more power to accelerate the car at the same rate, and takes more brake to decelerate at the same rate. For this reason, people have been taking lightness of bicycle wheels very seriously for a long time.

    There would be no difference in rolling resistance with heavy wheels, relative to the same weight on the wheels from the “sprung” part of the car, except for the effect from deforming the tires more on bumps, because of the extra unsprung weight.

    As far as making suspension work as well with very heavy wheels, there is no way that is going to happen.

  58. ColoradoKid Says:

    Kit – 57 – You say potato … I say potaoto …. but we’re both sayin the same thing only your terminology may be a bit more correct… cause we’re both sayin adding weight to the wheels is a very bad thing .

    Just for the record though in the bicycle world its all called rolling resistance as be it weight etc it prevents the wheel from rolling …

    And yes … 1lb off your wheels is equal to ten off your frame

    In a nut shell ….. Lotus Engineering is ….. a bunch of nuts that is …. How the ____ they could publish that pile of bile ( the White Papers ) with their moniker on it is beyond me . As I read it I felt my very intelligence was being insulted by Lotus …. not to mention the depths of disappointment I felt towards a company ( Lotus Engineering and Lotus Cars ) I’d previously held in such high esteem . Another one bites the dust IMO … First Ferrari ( years ago ) Porsche ( 918 ) then McLaren ( beginning with the MP4-12C and culminating with the P1) and now …… Lotus .

    Ughhh ! :(

  59. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Lotus F1 had a pretty good day, not that they have anything to do with Lotus Engineering.

  60. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Lotus sounds like it’s shilling for protean (sp).Unsprung weight has been,and always will be something to be reckoned with.I seem to remember about 30 years ago it was always mentioned on the automotive shows/journals etc about being a big deal,affects handling etc.Funny how Lotus can refute that now.They’re hurting for money worse then I thought.They sold their integrity.What’s next,politics?

  61. T. Bejma Says:

    Interesting that CUE is not featured…

    “COMAND is the worst interface of the modern crew, but one of the easiest to actually use,” summed one of our editors, who noted that despite its odd, unintuitive organization, nothing is more than a couple of levels deep in the menu structure.

  62. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I know I don’t like whatever system is in my 12 equinox ltz.I have been told it works better if I had a smart phone.I don’t want no steekin’ smart phone.

  63. ColoradoKid Says:

    Well …. the system in my Benz works the charm . Completely intuitive ( especially if you’re an Apple user ) I’ve barely looked at the manual more than twice ( whereas every time I went to change even the clock in the MINI I was knee deep into the manual ) and …. its just so ____ logical …. Which makes me wonder …. if Mercedes can do it ( and they did ) WTH can’t everyone else ….. oh ….. but I may know the answer ( as to M-B’s success that is ) Could have something to do with that individual they hired a few years back with SJ’s blessing ;-)


    Lotus Engineering pt III

    Another little aspect they forgot to mention in their ” White Papers ” being the decreased braking efficiency due to the greater unsprung ( and in motion ) weight of the Protean POS .

    Along with …. the additional friction imposed by the electric motor …

    Hmmmn .

    Methinks like G.A. stated Lotus Engineering may be in as bad of not worse shape than Lotus Cars ….. ( BTW Lotus F1 is in none too good a financial shape either currently desperately in need of major sponsorship )

    Yup ! Dany Bahar sure did a bang up job during his tenure running Lotus ( Cars & Engineering ) In less time than it take to explain it all he dragged a company well on its way back …. right into the depths of the financial abyss …. cause of course … like Marchionne …… Bahar’s such a bleedin ( to use a Brit idiom ) genius