Episode 80 – Car Slump Could Last Years, Mahindra in USA This Year, BMW 5 Series GT

February 13th, 2009 at 11:49am

Runtime 7:10

Chrysler Vice Chairman Jim Press says car sales could be bad for years to come. Indian company Mahindra will start selling pickup trucks in the U.S. later this year. Pictures of BMW’s new 5 Series Gran Turismo have leaked on the internet ahead of next month’s Geneva Motor Show. All that and more, plus a preview of this week’s episode of Autoline Detroit where we take a look inside Carbon Motors.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Chrysler says car sales could be bad for years to come. Indian company Mahindra will start selling in the U.S. later this year. And we all get our first look at BMW’s Progressive Activity Vehicle.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Friday, February 13, 2009. And now, the news.

The Associated Press reports out of Tokyo that Nissan is reviewing some of the joint projects it was going to do with Chrysler. Specifically, it is trying to decide whether to go through with the deal to have Chrysler make Titan pickup trucks for Nissan, and for Nissan to make a small car for Chrysler. Nissan says it has to do with cost cutting, but my guess is it also has to do with the possibility Fiat is going to end up taking control of Chrysler.

Meanwhile Reuters reports that Chrysler is prepared to survive even if car sales stay at their present levels for the next four years. And it quotes Chrysler Vice Chairman Jim Press as saying that the current slump is not an aberration and that the industry better get used to running at these sales levels.

Maybe one reason he’s saying that is that the proposed tax break in the U.S. for new-vehicle purchases has been scaled back in the final version of the economic stimulus bill. Originally the proposal would have made interest on auto loans and the sales and excise taxes on new-vehicle purchases deductible on federal taxes. But now, according to AutoWeek, the tax break makes only sales and excise taxes deductible.

Global Vehicles USA will begin distributing pickup trucks built in India by Mahindra & Mahindra to Southeastern U.S. dealerships this December (subscription required). According to Wards, there will be two 2-door and two 4-door pickups, each available with either 2- or 4-wheel drive. Pricing is not available yet. Global Vehicles, is based in Alpharetta, GA, and has signed over 300 dealers so far. The company eventually plans to build a factory in the U.S. to assemble the trucks from kits.

Ahead of next month’s Geneva Motor Show, pictures of BMW’s new 5 Series Gran Turismo have leaked on the internet. The 5 Series GT looks a lot like an X6 that got squashed, with a similar sloping roof and hatch-back. The hatch is actually kind of cool; it can open in two different ways – really wide, or like a regular trunk. According to Autoblog, the company is billing it as a “Progressive Activity Vehicle,” whatever the heck that is. Makes me think Progressive Insurance is gonna sue them over that name.

And finally, Gasgoo.com reports that there are more than 130 independent car makers in China. The top 10 brands made almost 8 million vehicles last year. Together, the remaining 120 automakers made fewer than 2 million. Amazingly, 10 Chinese automakers didn’t make any cars last year. Could this be the ultimate in cost cutting? I remember a recession years ago when a Ford executive said, “Imagine how much money we could save if we just stopped making cars.”

Coming up next, a preview of this week’s episode of Autoline Detroit where we take a look inside Carbon Motors. We’ll be back right after this.

This week on Autoline Detroit I’m joined by William Santana Li, the CEO of Carbon Motors, which, for the first time ever is coming out with a car exclusively designed for law enforcement.

If you want to hear the rest of my discussion with Bill Li, you can watch the entire episode of Autoline Detroit on our website right now.

Well, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. It’s time to announce the winner of this week’s trivia contest. We challenged you to identify a certain design element that BMWs are known for. We asked for the name of the kick or kink found at the base of their C-pillars. And the answer is, it’s the Hofmeister kink. Named after former BMW designer director Wilhelm Hofmeister, this trademark styling element formally debuted in 1961 on the company’s 1500 sedan and it’s been in use ever since. The bent C-pillar-look has also been picked up by many other automakers and employed on everything from luxury cars to inexpensive hatchbacks.

As always my crack team has randomly selected today’s winner from the pool of correct responses. Pookie, the envelope please! And this week’s winner is. . . Tom Livingstone of Cambridge, Ontario, Canada! Congratulations Tom, you’ve just won a special-edition Autoline Detroit 10th anniversary DVD featuring some of my favorite interviews.

Anyway, that does it for today’s show, but one more thing before we go. Next Thursday we’ll be doing a must-see live webcast, all about the viability plans from GM and Chrysler whether they’re going to work. Joining me for that live webcast will be Tom Walsh, the business editor for the Detroit Free Press, John Stoll from the Wall Street Journal, and Jim Hall from 2953 Analytics. That’s next Thursday at noon Eastern Standard Time, or 1700 hours, Greenwich Mean Time for all our international viewers. I want to thank all of you who wrote in to tell me how to open a docx document.

Thanks for your help, and for watching. We’ll see you next week.

10 Comments to “Episode 80 – Car Slump Could Last Years, Mahindra in USA This Year, BMW 5 Series GT”

  1. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Amazing resemblence between the Mahindra 4 door pickup and a Jeep,note the front ends.Wonder how that will wash with Chyrsler? I also remember hearing about an optional diesel for the Mahindra here in the US.If Chyrsler believes that they can and will survive another four years of “way down” car sales,Fiat must have some really deep pockets.We shall see.

  2. pedro Fernandez Says:

    John: Do you know what size these pickup trucks are? and how’s their reliability? If they get them just right they could fill a void left when these so-called midsize trucks grew up.

  3. DC Says:

    What happened to my comment?

  4. JIm Thykeson Says:

    Mahindra! great, just what we don’t need!! The automotive pie is finite in regards to market size, and every time a new player comes into the game expect them to take some of that pie. This is no big deal if you control the game but thats not the case. These Asians know this car business, and I’m afraid the Indians will be no different. Remember in high school who the valvictorians were?
    they wern’t ‘hip-hops’ low-riders, and hot-rod jocks, they were the fore-mentioned! We need to kick them out and role up the carpet. Its the only way we can survive!

  5. SS Says:

    Hey Jim, no need to kickout the valedictorians just so the hip-hopsters and jocks don’t feel bad about being slow. Instead be glad that Toyota, Honda etc. have created good jobs that don’t rely on insane deals brokered by the geniuses at the UAW (who killed the goose that laid the golden eggs). Mahindra can be a positive force if the government ensures that jobs are created here.

  6. Hugo90 Says:

    For decades Mahindra built Jeeps under license in India. They know what they are doing. Their farm tractors are already in America. We could use some smaller pickups, and nobody else seems interested to make them.

  7. Sean Walsh Says:


    I just finished watched the Autoline Detroit show on Carbon Motors. When you first mentioned this a few weeks ago on Autoline Daily I left a comment expressing skepticism. After watching the show, I still wonder about the ability to pull it off but I was impressed as a professional engineer by what I would call the total systems approach to the design and lifecycle approach.

    Please keep us updated.

  8. Steve Dargel Says:

    Mahindral coming to the USA just showcases that US trade policy are a one way street. It would nice if the automotive press would point out the that India has a 100% import tariff on vehicles coming into their market yet are market is an open door. It’s just one the reason are domestic auto manufactures and supplies are hurting.

  9. Jim Says:

    I don’t know what everybody else thinks but I just don’t see Chrysler making it. The Cerebis people won’t spend any money the italians won’t spend any money and the germans are done spending money. Why should the taxpayers give them money if the three owners won’t spend on their own house, I sure don’t want to.

  10. PSUmba Says:


    I don’t know where you came from, but when you say “role up the carpet”, you show why you weren’t the Valedictorian of your class. In my class, our “minority groups” were the Italians & Poles.

    Mahindra isn’t being brought to the USA by Indians. There is an independent importer (Global Vehicles, USA) owned by Americans who:

    - saw a marketplace need that the existing carmakers chose to not fill
    - found a product that fit that need
    - are bringing that vehicle to the USA

    These vehicles use “clean diesel” technology, will get 30+ MPG, and are real workhorses. Their launch was delayed for 6 months, so that these vehicles will be refined to meet the expectations of American consumers!

    If GM, Ford, & Chrysler built a vehicle like this, there wouldn’t be a need to bring in vehicles like this from overseas! Their product development folks bought into the “bigger is better” view just at the time that the “green” perspectives were overtaking that view. This is why Ford ended up borrowing against their entire asset base & I’m going to have to pay to bail out GM & Chrysler!