AD #1177 – Bentley Adding SUV, Toyota Struggles in South America, GM Re-Hires Retirees

July 23rd, 2013 at 11:47am

Runtime: 7:06

Bentley announces it will add its first-ever SUV to its lineup. Two former GM executives try to help Toyota grow its sales in South America. GM is bringing back some retirees who have experience in engineering and manufacturing quality. All that and more, plus should automakers claim that their electric cars are zero emission vehicles?

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily where we strive to bring you a more complete understanding of what’s driving the global automotive industry. Coming up later in the show I’ll explain why automakers should never claim that their electric cars are zero emission vehicles. But first, let’s get to the news.

Luxury SUVs have been popular over the last few years, so it should be no surprise that Bentley just announced that it will be building its own model. The company says that it will be the most luxurious and powerful SUV on the market. It also says the styling will set it apart from any other SUV on the road, but we sure hope it does not look too much like the EXP 9F Concept, which was harshly criticized when it was unveiled. Sales of the SUV will begin in 2016 at Bentley’s plant in Crewe, England, and according to previous comments by company executives, should have a starting cost of around $240,000.

Former General Motors executive Mark Hogan, who is now the only non-Japanese person to sit on the board of directors at Toyota, is going to help the company grow its sales in South America. Back in the 1990’s Hogan ran GM do Brasil, when it made boatloads of profits, so he has a clear understanding of that market. Brazil is a substantial market with sales of 3.4 million cars, trucks and busses a year. Fiat, Volkswagen and GM dominate the market, and Toyota does rather poorly there, trailing companies such the Hyundai Group, Peugeot, and Honda. Another former GM executive, Steve St. Angelo, was appointed to Toyota’s South American operations in April of this year. Hogan and St. Angelo will be working hand in hand to build Toyota’s sales there.

To help with the launch of 20 new or refreshed vehicles this year in the U.S., GM is bringing back some retirees to make sure everything goes smoothly. According to the Detroit News, the company has brought back about 25 employees on temporary contracts, who have experience in engineering and manufacturing quality, to work with suppliers. The move seems to be paying off, Mark Reuss, the head of GM North America, said the Impala launch was the best they’ve had in awhile. I think this is a very astute move because those retirees have so much institutional knowledge of what it takes to launch a new car.

Toyota is set to begin public tests in Japan with something it calls a personal mobility robot. But you can think of it as the company’s version of a Segway. Called the Winglet, it has a top speed just under 4 MPH and it’s designed to make getting around easier and more fun. The Winglet will be tested on sidewalks to see how well it performs with pedestrians and other traffic. The tests are scheduled to run through March of 2016.

As fuel economy standards ramp up, it seems with each new vehicle launch like another gear or two is added to the transmission. Mercedes-Benz is no exception. The company slipped a new 9-speed automatic into the E350 BlueTec for the European market, which replaces a 7-speed unit. But the question that is always raised is if it’s worth the fuel savings to add complexity to an already expensive part. Well in the case of the E350 BlueTec, it may be. Overall MPGs were increased by a mile and a half per gallon to nearly 44.5 mpgs with no effect on its 0 to 60 time.

Coming up after the break, I’ll explain why it’s very misleading for automakers to claim that their EVs are zero emission vehicles.

Electric cars have an important role to play in the automotive industry, but they are not as environmentally clean as some would have you believe. It all has to do with how EVs are manufactured and recycled, as well as how the electricity they use gets generated.

A recent report commissioned by the EPA on the life cycle analysis of lithium-ion batteries finds that they can lead to “resource depletion, global warming, ecological toxicity, and human health impacts.” Whew! It goes on to say that the nickel and cobalt cathodes used in li-on batteries “may cause adverse respiratory, pulmonary, and neurological effects in those exposed.” Doesn’t sound very green to me.

Another EV study published in the Journal Of Industrial Ecology by Yale University, says that depending on how many kilometers an EV is driven and where it gets its electricity means that the carbon footprint of many EVs may be “indistinguishable from those of a diesel vehicle.”

If the electricity that goes in those batteries is generated from coal, EVs can be surprisingly dirty. In Germany, which relies heavily on coal, an EV will generate 110 to 120 grams of CO2. Ironically, the European Union wants gasoline and diesel cars to achieve 95 grams by 2020. So in Germany, EVs can not meet the CO2 standard.

The key to these two studies is that they look at the life cycle energy use of electric vehicles. That means they calculate all the energy needed to manufacture these cars, the amount and sources of energy they use in operation, and the energy needed to recycle them. That tells a completely different story.

Let’s get one thing straight. I love driving electric vehicles. I love the throttle response and the driving experience. I especially love how they reduce noise pollution. I’d like to see them be successful. But let’s be honest about them. Automakers should not be claiming that they are zero emission vehicles. That is completely misleading.

And that wraps up today’s report. Thank you for watching and please join us again tomorrow.

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38 Comments to “AD #1177 – Bentley Adding SUV, Toyota Struggles in South America, GM Re-Hires Retirees”

  1. Todd T Says:

    More to your point John, the government shouldn’t encourage the manufactures to call them “zero” emissions vehicles, that’s where this hypocrisy begins.

    Electric cars are far from being zero emissions, the study I’d like to see is if a person bought a 30 year old Mercedes diesel, drove it 10,000 miles a year, compared to someone buying a brand new “zero” emissions vehicle and driving the same amount…how long would it take for them to even out? I suspect a very long time, since the carbon foot print of manufacturing the Mercedes would already be offset over the past 30 years of use.

  2. Chuck Grenci Says:

    John, nice synopsis on EV’s (on environmental impact); you have expressed what most of the ‘Autoline faithful’ have been saying on and off for as long as their re-emergence into the market. Putting it together in one diatribe firmly addresses most of the ‘impacts’ we might encounter, and for the strident ‘greenies’ (no malice intended), now you know the rest of the story (or at least a balanced understanding, considering a more rounded review of what we know so far).

  3. Bradley Says:

    Will the Bentley SUV have VW DNA?

    Hiring of retirees is nothing unique to GM or the auto-industry. Most companies, especially technology ones, have failed to build the know-how in their younger engineers. Hiring of retirees is a short term solution. The baby-boomers are amplifying this reality.

    The hard fact is, few companies actually build employees technically, they don’t put an investment into them. Offering tuition reimbursement, etc is not the same as decades of real world know-how.

  4. George Ricci Says:


    Please include hydrogen powered cars in your list of “Green Cars Not So Green” Ninety nine percent of all the hydrogen produce in the United States is made by burning a fossil fuel (natural gas)!

  5. HtG Says:

    July 15, Elon Musk was tweeting about how he was going to make arguments for the CO2 efficiencies of EVs. Quote,…

    “Am seeing many poorly argued attacks on “true” CO2 impact of electric cars. Will rewrite attacks 4 max strength & try my best to rebut.”

    Did I miss it?

  6. T. Bejma Says:


    Agree partially Bradley, but in addition to hiring retirees, GM is also hiring kids right out of school that may not have the experience, but have a good attitude and want to learn. I am training one of them right now – 24 years old, only worked in Marketing right out of school, now trying to impart my 25 years of Quality Engineering and Management experience on to him.

    Partly due to the bankruptcy, we lost a lot of older, experienced professionals at GM, but to be truthful, a lot of them had to go. The Auto Industry is WAY different than it was 20 years ago, and a lot of those guys wanted it to go back to the way it was. Slow to embrace new technology, archaic ways of doing business and just an overall “stuck in 1st gear” work speed was hurting them and us. The people that remained through bankruptcy were the stronger performers that were willing and able to change and now we have an overall younger, leaner, meaner workforce.

  7. HtG Says:


    Here in NY there’s a payment scheme to pay upstate wind electricity makers a transfer fee for electricity consumed downstate. Supposedly your electricity is very low CO2 in some manner of equivalence even though it’s really ConEdison joules you’re using. HtG isn’t clever enough to get his fat head around this game.

  8. Drew Says:

    I suspect our government’s real interest in EVs has more to do with reducing our reliance on petroleum and its trade issues (negative trade balance with the countries that hate Americans). So, the question shifts to the devil we don’t know as well – the supply availabilies and sources for the raw materials in EVs. We need sustainable raw materials from diverse and friendly sources.

  9. T. Bejma Says:

    Uh oh… Somebody is getting scared of losing that #1 title. You know what happens then…

    “Toyota is now offering the Camry with some of the highest incentives in the segment.”

  10. Jon M Says:

    Once upon a time there was no replacement for displacement. Now there is no replacement for…more cogs!?! It doesn’t rhyme, but it does seem to be the latest fad…one of them anyway.

  11. Bradley Says:


    Yes, cross-department training is very important.

  12. Drew Says:

    Jon, a few years ago I recall an analysis that concluded anything more than 6 gears represented diminishing returns for fuel efficiency. The industry is now adding many gears. I suspect the key benefit may not be from the number of gears per se, but from enabling a wider ratio span from 1st to top gear. Expanding the ratio span may be possible with fewer gears (and lower cost and complexity), but development engineers and customers must be willing to accept more noticable shift events… as lower numerical top gear ratios require more frequent downshifting whenever loads increase (i.e., incline grades or acceleration demands).

  13. Brett Says:

    The environmental impacts of producing and powering EVs will change over time, most likely for the better. It is a rapidly evolving technology. It will help if there is some form of disincentive for heavy environmental impact.

  14. G.A.Branigan Says:

    As CK likes to say,”there is no free lunch” when it comes to ev’s.That holds true from start,to finish,and every charge in between.

    As old G.A. has been saying all along,the best answer for the near foreseeable future is clean diesels,both large displacement and small.All should be B50 ready.Since the infrastructure is already in place,and bio-diesel does not use food stock,let’s get rolling.

    I know,it won’t happen…..yet.At least the new Ram 1500 diesel is certified for B20.Now that’s a good start.

  15. Phoenix Mark Says:

    As far as EV vs gas or diesel, is it easier to reduce emissions (also measure and retro fit) at one location or 50 thousand mobile locations?

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The term “zero emissions vehicle” was invented to mean zero emissions at the point of use. It would be much better for the air quality of LA to have 5 million EV’s, rather than 5 million old Benz diesels.

    Beyond that, the “greenness” of operating EV’s depends on the electricity. I’ve read that an EV running on electricity from coal is responsible for more CO2 than a high mpg hybrid, but less than most vehicles in the US fleet. Using wind or solar, the EV looks muck better, but there is still the issue of making and recycling the batteries.

  17. ColoradoKid Says:

    @ Bradley

    ” Will the Bentley have VW-Audi DNA ? ”

    Seriously ? I’m hoping thats a rhetorical question … but on the odd chance it is not

    Of bloody freaking course it’ll have VW-Audi DNA . To put it bluntly …. All it is is one more in the badge engineering line up of Toureg-Q7-Cayenne …. with now an even more premium priced version ( Bentley ) to satisfy ones conspicuous consumption desires


    G.A- 14- Multo grazie ! No Free Lunch indeed . And John as concise as he was didn’t even delve into all the ramifications and Green penalties of disposing of EV’s and all their specific parts … not to mention the mining of rare earth minerals etc .. along with the over demand that would be placed on ALL electrical grids .. Worldwide I might add if even so much as 5% of drivers were to switch to EV’s

    No Free Lunch when it comes to EV’s ? More like a high end five course dinner at the most expensive restaurant in Manhattan including a very generous tip ;-)


    Economy – Ugh oh ! Both Harvard School of Economics – NYU School of Economics – MIT etc etc are all in agreement ;

    Corporate Profit and the Stock Markets are exceeding employment , salaries and new job creations … to the point of having created quite a sizable gap…. that is not in the long term …. sustainable . Which …. is what I’ve been saying for months now . Sure ObamaClaus praises the return of manufacturing …. but he forgets to mention there’s no jobs to go with those returns due to automized production

    If I can swing another break this week …. I’ll pass on a few first hand observations on the economy …. that err …. have me nervous as all _____ to be honest . Its getting ….. ugly out there


    HtG- Oops ! Looks like the NJ F1 race may be in trouble as the newly announced Austrian GP is in conflict … time wise …

  18. ColoradoKid Says:

    16 – Your assumption is blatantly false and neglects to take into account the fact that all that power is has to come from somewhere to charge those EV’s ( seeing as how LA can’t be bothered to produce their own ) … so maybe LA won’t be getting deluged directly in pollution …. but somebody else most definitely will . Actually … lots of somebodies if you comprehend the dynamics of air borne pollutants

    Yours is the assumption made by the …. ” Not in My Back Yard … but its OK if its in Yours “…… crowd … who are either 1) Short sighted or 2) Abjectly clueless as to the realities of air borne pollutants … or 3) Are blatant hypocrites ….

    Mind you I’m not accusing …. just telling it like it is ….

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Bentley SUV will probably be a stretched Toureg with a turbocharged W12.

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    What is “blatantly false”? Using EV’s obviously exports the pollution, but would result in good air quality in LA. If all the cars in LA were 30 year old Benz diesels, we wouldn’t even want to imagine what the air quality would be.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    CK, yes, there is a not in my back yard component, but some area, including all large cities, and LA more than most, have more issues with tailpipe emissions than, say, rural Kansas.

  22. HtG Says:

    what does the CO2 math look like if you drive an EV in Seattle or Vegas where there are nearby hydroelectric plants? Seems obvious.

    Also, if you’re stopping and starting an EV on the 405 in LA during a commute how does this compare to a gasser behind you with stop/start equipment?

    I like to weigh the noise benefit of electrical power. When a diesel commuter train goes by it makes a lot more noise than the electric. It would be nicer in urban areas if there were more quiet when cars switched to battery propulsion.

    sounds like CK is almost done with his work, or has run out of tobacco. ;)

  23. Bradley Says:


    I would have guessed, but was hoping VW wasn’t becoming another GM, a broker of cars.

  24. Earl Says:

    On the subject of transmission speeds I recall the head of ZF being quoted that 10 speeds was the limit.

  25. Steve Ashley Says:

    Great report on “green cars not so green”. If choosing between an electric or hybrid, the sparky would be my choice. Hybrids dig a much deeper hole in the environment to manufacture. Why? More parts, i.e. dual powertrains etc.. mean more plants producing more parts therefore the deeper hole. Where is the common sense rationale for a hybrid anyway?
    Regards, Steve Ashley

  26. T. Bejma Says:

    It doesn’t matter what kind of DNA it has it is still B.F.U….

  27. T. Bejma Says:

    Sorry, forgot to put the #3 in front of my comment, but you guys knew what I meant. ;-)

  28. HtG Says:

    It makes me think ‘plushy’

    Don’t know why

    Oh, #3

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    But hybrids have much smaller batteries, and they don’t burn coal. They just burn a lot less gas than other cars.

  30. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I read not to long ago,I want to think it might have been on TTAC,maybe here,but anyways a junkyard prius battery that still had a 60% charge.

    Why wasn’t the battery removed for recycling/disposal? How many of these types of vehicles are rotting away in our junkyards? And what harm to their respective environments are they,or will they do as they sit there for the next X amount of years? Or will unicorns sprout out of the chemical seep?

  31. Bob Aubertin Says:

    Hi John,

    I always enjoy your very informative show, as a matter of fact, I watch it daily.No pun intended.Why don’t we see more car manufacturers using the Propane/LPG fuel solution? Reasons for going ahead. A.) Cost justification, way cheaper overall than electric.B.)The Propane is readily available network source of supply in North America.C.) Most Important,Zero tailpipe emissions/odorless, to save our environment/planet. D.)Increase in engine performance,engine life (NO carbon build-up).

    Kind Regards,


  32. Bob Aubertin Says:

    #4 George,
    to reply to your statement on Natural Gas (a fossil fuel)it does not pollute or cause harm to the environment,even though industry uses it to make Hydrogen, which is another fuel solution for our cars and trucks going forward.Thanks

    Kind Regards,


  33. Todd T Says:

    Dunno about the pollution that would be caused by 5 million Benz diesels in LA, I was only talking about the study that was the subject of the conversation. Since the study was about CO2, that was what I was curious about. Finally, since the subject was about CO2, zero emissions might just be accurate, as CO2 is yet to be considered a pollutant that is a measured component of emissions requirements, the EPA doesn’t have a standard, and cars aren’t labeled based on CO2 in this country. In Europe they are, which is why diesel get’s a “break” if you will, as the lower CO2 levels balances some of the emissions that are higher when using diesel as a fuel.

  34. Dcars Says:

    I had 25 kw solar panels installed on an ice rink. The facility then got a 25 kw ice resurfacer, i.e. Zamboni machine! That’s got to be pretty close to zero emissions. I’m sure making the machine and disposing of it will add something to carbon foot print, but that has to be a very “green installation.

  35. C-Tech Says:

    It seems the zero emissions label for electric vehicles is marketing at its best! Technically, an electric car does not “emit” anything, now does it pollute, absolutely! This is where critical thinking needs to be taught is our schools.

  36. Bob Wilson Says:

    We don’t need comments about “. . . the life cycle energy use of . . .” as we’ve already seen that silliness from CNW Marketing about the Prius in 2006. Three questions puncture that thought bubble:

    1) Can I buy the car? Yes or No – When the answer is “Yes” the cars, whatever they are, sell. To claim the design, engineering, and manufacturing makes them too expensive is nonsense when they are selling, like the Prius or recently the Leaf.

    2) Can I afford to drive the car? Yes or No – The answer is “Yes” by driving the car following the publicly known, EPA protocol. In fact, we get better mileage than on the window sticker. In auto journalism, the most credible report has been the Edmund’s “Smackdown” series that run set of cars on the same route, together, the same trip, and reports the comparative mileage.

    3) Is the car too expensive to salvage? Yes or No – Even a salvage yard will pay for a junker dragged through the gate. No one is coming back later with a ‘recycling bill’ to the last owner.

    Thanks to the 2006, CNW Marketing’s “Dust-to-Dust” report, the words “Life Cycle Costs” has the credibility of a tobacco company press release. Let those foolish enough to claim “life cycle” anything . . . alone in their foolishness.

  37. T. Bejma Says:

    John McElroy-

    Interesting article you wrote in Wards…

    Isn’t this staged assembly how the ultra high end exotics like Aston Martin and McLaren make their cars? Also wonder about your comment that the Germans couldn’t do this, but we could. Is it because their global volume is too much for this type of manufacturing?

    Also wondering how your Buddy Peter D. handled this line… ;-)

    “Clever advertising and marketing are not enough.”

  38. DonC Says:

    I wonder if the regulars on this web site who so hate EVs (I’m looking at you ColoradoKid) ever bother to read. Ditto for this website. Here is what the study, which BTW has nothing to do with the USA, has to say about EVs:

    “We find that EVs powered by the present European electricity mix offer a 10% to 24% decrease in global warming potential (GWP) relative to conventional diesel or gasoline vehicles”

    Note it says 10% to 20% DECREASE. What moron thinks that decreasing greenhouse gasses increases greenhouse gases? Do we not understand what the term “DECREASE” means? As for pollution, pollutants are NOT emissions. EVs essentially eliminate pollution even counting electrical generation since point source pollution from electrical generation is easy to control.