AD #1246 – Autonomy Better Than You, VW’s MQB Overhyped? Ford to Reduce Suppliers

October 29th, 2013 at 12:01pm

Runtime: 9:10

According to data collected, Google’s autonomous car drives better than humans. Some analysts say that VW’s modular platform will not save the automaker as much money as it expected. In the years to come Ford would like to reduce its 1,300 suppliers down to 750. All that and more, plus host John McElroy responds to your questions and comments in the newest edition of You Said It!

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Hello and welcome to another Autoline Daily. Later on in the show we’ll get to your comments and questions with You Said It! But now let’s get to the news.

We’ve been following Google’s autonomous car efforts over the last few years and now the company says its cars can drive better than humans. Technology Review, MIT’s magazine about innovation, reports that data collected during Google’s test drives shows that the software is better at maintaining a safer driving distance and drives much smoother compared to most of us carbon-based bipeds. All those sensors and cameras on autonomous cars also make it very easy to determine which car is at fault in an accident.

And speaking of self-driving cars, a new study from the Enos Center For Transportation Policy says that autonomous cars could do wonders for the American economy. It says that even if only 10% of the cars on the road were autonomous, they could reduce traffic fatalities by 1,000 lives a year and save the country tens of billions of dollars. But if, in time, 90% of cars on the road are autonomous, the technology could save 20,000 lives a year and put another $450 billion back into the economy every year.

Volkswagen’s modular platform, known as MQB, was expected to save the automaker a boatload of money, but now some analysts are questioning whether it will ever lead to any significant cost savings at all. VW says its the platform will help cut material costs by 20% and shorten assembly time by 30%, which could lead to annual cost savings of $19 billion by 2019. But Reuters reports that one analyst says MQB is overhyped due to its high engineering costs. Another forecasts that the company will only save $4 billion by the end of the decade. VW will post its third quarter earnings tomorrow, so we’ll have a better idea if MQB is helping the company or not.

One of the reasons why companies love to get involved in the auto industry is the amount of money each automaker spends. Ford, for example, buys $100 billion worth of parts, supplies and services every year from 1,300 suppliers worldwide. But get this, the top 65 suppliers, what Ford calls its ABF suppliers, for Aligned Business Framework, account for $60 billion of that buy. The top 100 suppliers account for $80 billion. In the years to come Ford would like to reduce its 1,300 suppliers down to 750. So even though many companies would like to become suppliers to the auto industry, the car companies all want fewer suppliers who get bigger contracts so they can offer bigger discounts.

At next week’s SEMA show in Las Vegas, Chevrolet’s goal is to showcase it as the brand of choice when it comes to performance, personalization and enhanced capability with 39 vehicles it will have on display. The company will have everything from a modified Spark EV to several Silverado pickups, but first we get a look at the cars. I already mentioned the modified Spark EV, which boasts a 0 to 60 time in the low 7 second range due to a performance algorithm and lightweighting. There will be several Sonic models, one of which is going to have something changed on it each day to show customers just how personal they can get. But when it comes to the bigger cars, the Cruze, Malibu and Impala, Chevrolet wanted to be a little more understated with more mild ground effect packages and, of course, larger wheels. We’ll have more on the other vehicles leading up to the show.

Mazda is also showing off 4 models it will have at SEMA. Two Mazda3’s and two 6’s. No information is given with the pictures, so we will just have to go by what we see, which is not much either. All the cars appear to have larger wheel and tire packages, larger brakes, ground effect packages and unique paint schemes. Although, one of the Mazda6’s is wearing a CS6 Diesel marking on the front door, so we will be intrigued to see if a diesel performance package is in our future.

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!

RonE writes in to say, “I thought there was an earlier show that stated Ram was dropping the Cummins diesel and going with the Fiat diesel?” RonE, the light duty Ram pick-up will get the Fiat diesel, but they’re keeping the Cummins for the heavy duty version.

Mike saw our report on how Volvo will now be marketing its carbon filters for passenger cabins as a way for Chinese car buyers to escape the country’s heavily polluted air. “I wonder how long the performance of those air filters on the Volvo will really last? Is there any proof those filters will really help people? Will the filters ever be replaced as they clog up? Will the aftermarket filters be as effective?” Mike, yes these filters really work. They trap pollen, dirt, and odors and really work with people who have any kind of respiratory problem. The filters are commonly located behind the glove box and can be easily replaced. They usually cost anywhere from $10 to $30.

T. Bejma heard yesterday’s report about suppliers being mad at General Motors over the new terms and conditions of its contracts. “Do you know what in particular the suppliers don’t like about the new contract terms or is it just they were not consulted?” Well, they certainly don’t like the fact they weren’t consulted, but it goes beyond that. There are 40 new terms and conditions, such as making it tougher for suppliers to control their intellectual property, or who they can use as subcontractors. Suppliers don’t like it when car companies stick their noses so deeply into their business.

drew says, “The CTS weight reduction is impressive, but I suspect the added use of expensive light weight materials is a major reason why the price increased so much.” Drew, that’s part of it, but remember, the Cadillac CTS used to be positioned to compete against the BMW 3 Series. Now the new larger CTS is positioned to compete against the 5 Series, and that’s the real reason why the price went up so much.

Larry has this to say about the CTS lightweighting. “I just watched the segment concerning the lightweighting of the Cadillac. My concern is with the mixture of metals, auto companies are turning more and more to adhesives to bond components. Over time adhesives will dry and become brittle. How safe will these cars be? Especially if they are involved in an accident say 15 or so years down the road?” Structural adhesives have been used in making cars for at least 25 years, that I’m aware of. This is space age stuff that can withstand stress, fatigue and extreme temperatures. In many cases, such as bonding steel and aluminum, it’s the only way to safely join those different materials. In fact, using structural adhesives provides a continuous bond, versus the spaced out spot welds that have been used traditionally, and usually result in cars with better crash ratings. I’m not aware of any safety problems involving structural adhesives, even on older cars.

Thanks so much for all your questions and comments, we truly like getting them. And by the way, we want more of your questions this Thursday night for Autoline After Hours when our guest will be Mitch Clauw, the vehicle line executive for the new Jeep Cherokee. That’s starting at 6PM eastern time at

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

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52 Comments to “AD #1246 – Autonomy Better Than You, VW’s MQB Overhyped? Ford to Reduce Suppliers”

  1. Bradley Says:

    Autonomous +1

  2. Mike Says:

    How many suppliers are enough? This argument has been going on forever. When the number is low, there is concern the supplier has too much clout. When the number is larger, there is concern about not getting the big volume discounts. Lopez used to push The “we’ve got to cut the supply base” button regularly. The key is fewer nameplates and platforms.

  3. pedro fernandez Says:

    Autonomous cars, I’ll take a pass, thanks. I know I’m no one to talk, (still have roll up windows, manual locks 3 speed auto) but I prefer to drive myself, thanks anyways.

  4. pedro fernandez Says:

    I suppose Ford will start blaming suppliers for their CR reliability data dive into the abyss of automotive mediocrity. Just wondering if Mullaly will leave now that their reputation is hitting bottom again, GM and even Chrysler reliability is on the rise and they’re sinking, I was surprised to see that even the Dart is doing ok in the CR reports.

  5. Brett Says:

    If cars did not crash regularly, they would not have to be built like bank vaults. They could be simpler to manufacture and maintain, weigh less and get better gas mileage, etc.

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    #5 yeah, tell that to the countless distracted idiots that I run into just about everyday, just today, a woman, blinkers on (illegal) took a while to move on green, then turned like it was her first driving lesson, and drove at 15 mph between lanes, when I finally got to pass her, she was reading something to someone at the other end of the phone, completely distracted, I wanted to block her off and hold her until police arrived, it was like watching a very intoxicated driver.

  7. Chuck Grenci Says:

    It appears that ‘autonomous’ vehicles will one day relegate driving an automobile to avocation only. If the claim of reduced/eliminated auto crashes are substantiated how long before our government and other governments mandate all new vehicles will in fact need to be autonomous. I know I’ll be long gone before that happens but that looks like (to me) the road down which we are heading.

  8. Buzzerd Says:

    Pedro- that’s because in North America 99.9% of all tickets are for speeding, seat belts and impaired driving, two of these things actually have something to do with road safety. Also we have dumbed down our roads so much that a person can drive while reading, brushing teeth, shaving…. and while being slightly dangerous are able to get to their destination despite themselves.

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    Yes and we were told there would be be moon and Mars bases by this time and hunger and disease would be wiped out and we would have 4 day work weeks and that we would not lose our doctors nor our current health insurance with Obamacare and so on…….

  10. Mike Says:

    Some friends are just back from a business trip to China. The visibility is someplaces was less than 10 feet. Maybe those cabin air filters are not just a gimmick, but rather a genuine need. That said, maybe the filters/scrubbers need to be on top of those smoke stacks. another possibility is to frack their way out of the mess by converting to natural gas.

  11. Jon M Says:

    If we have so many sensors and cameras on autonomous cars doing all the work gear-heads don’t want to get away from, shouldn’t we live in an accident free world? After all, aren’t they called accidents for a reason? Then again, this is all theoretical, and we all know how theories play out in reality!

  12. HtG Says:

    EETimes has their piece on the Toyota unintended acceleration case. They spoke to the plaintiff’s engineer, who argues that Toyota’s software can produce errors which the data recorder won’t pick up. The engineer intended to go beyond NASA’s analysis.


    Sure a google gig can accelerate more smoothly than I can. But according to the guys designing the cars, it’s all the different threats and events a car encounters which are the tough design challenge.
    Pedro, I hear you buddy.

  13. HtG Says:

    You and me, Pedro, we’re hosed. Because there’s going to be a critical percentage of autonomous cars on the roadways at which point an analog driver will be locked into the pattern that the ‘schools of fish’ establish.

    Hey, Syd Mead’s vision, not mine.

  14. Reid H Says:

    What if Google has a shut down in its system.Will the cars stop working.

  15. pedro fernandez Says:

    So if I get hit by one of these autonomous cars, to whom do I rant and scream? not the driver, the infotainment system?? I’ll tell him .–…—…-.-.–..-and your mamma too!

  16. HtG Says:

    You’ll have to wake him up first.

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    HtG we shouldn’t be that concerned, after all, with the way our economy is heading most people won’t even be able to buy autonomous bicycles. I love how they’re making all these projections w/o even considering the high cost of this technology and how our purchasing power keeps decreasing.

  18. Wim van Acker Says:

    John: you referred in this episode and on prior occasions to MQB as “Volkswagen’s modular platform”. Please note, that MQB is one of the modular platforms. MQB is for the transversal engine placements and MLB for the longitudinal engine placements.

  19. Jim Bianchi Says:

    John – Assuming autonomous cars will be safer and will get involved in fewer accidents, one unintended consequence might be that the transition puts many collision shops out of business. (As Dr. David Cole once told me: “One man’s waste is another man’s job.”) Of course, one other benefit might be lower insurance costs?

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    Guys, relax, this ain’t gonna happen, this is science fiction gone amok! Who in their right mind is gonna buy into this, even though we’re gonna run out of petroleum in about 50 yrs, I don’t see any mass exodus to alternative fuels, by anyone. Even less by those who can afford it.

  21. cwolf Says:

    If autonomous cars become mandated, you can betcha the used car market will skyrocket beyond mars! I can just imagine someone programing Erie as their final destination. When they awaken, they’ll find themselves in Erie,Pa. instead of Erie,Mi.!

  22. cwolf Says:

    Ford may want to reduce the number of suppliers,but suppliers can only produce so much without expanding. After the 2008 down-turn, I doubt a supplier will risk putting all their eggs in one basket by devoting all their resourses to one or two buyers, if they can help it; especially if the buyers require more control. CCo’s used to make most of their parts, at one time. I’m not smart enough to know if this is the way to go. Perhaps purchasing a supplier is a better option to maintain quality and control. Whatever the answer is, I believe attention to the fact that workers have been over worked,under trained and under paid will have to be given serious consideration in any choice made.

  23. HtG Says:

    What do you mean, the workers are under trained, cwolf? Quality, safety?

  24. pedro fernandez Says:

    cwolf when the Supreme Court held up the Obamacare mandate that everyone has to buy health ins, it opened the flood gates to all kinds of crap, make you buy super efficient cars for example, maybe EV’s, maybe robocars. you may not have a choice, at least you can name your robocar James and you can finally call out: “Home, James!”

  25. cwolf Says:

    One last comment before some of you start to have doubt I am the real cwolf and it has to do with the cabin filters in Chinese cars. I’m not certain of the units of measure,so I will not I.D. them, of a report I heard several weeks ago. One city was reported to have a measure of 1,000, the average was at least 100 and the acceptable rate was 20. So tell me, considering the time spent in a vehicle/day, are the carbon filters really going to have a meaninful effect on anyones health? I know! Lets live in the car with the car running… thats the answer! Duh!!

  26. cwolf Says:

    HtG,most ol’timers were forced into retirement and experience went with it when the 2-tier structure kicked in. The few who had time to be trained by these “guys” was limited, considering the fact it requires years to really become proficient. As the economy grew and more new hires arrived, they were trained with, maybe, several weeks of direction by another who remains in the learning stage. Thank God for quality control! Sure is a lot of down time making corrections for this inexperience.

  27. HtG Says:

    24 One thing about Chinese air pollution that doesn’t get repeated enough is the number of illegal coal mines and the high sulfur coal in the country. If things haven’t changed since
    I read about it, people heat their homes with formed coal cakes, and this one source of pollution. At the same time, China is building more nuclear plants.

  28. HtG Says:

    Another source of Beijing’s poor air is that prevailing winds bring dust and sand from the Gobi desert. Don’t know how you fix that postcard.

  29. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Many year ago,Sears would shop out their hand tools to some small and medium size tool manufacturers.Gradually Sears would increase the size of the orders to those shops to the point where all they made now was tools for Sears.Life was good for them as they expanded their factories to keep up with the demand,and soon Sears was their only customer.Then when Sears had all these shops just producing tools for them,they dropped the “this is what we want,and this is how much we’ll pay…or we will go elsewhere”.All those shops HAD to comply,or lose their ONLY customer.This is what some of the oems is going to try to do,wait and see.

  30. HtG Says:

    28. I’m seeing the reverse process in computers, GA. Wintel ruled the roost for the last twenty years, hovering up most industry profits. But now there is a distributed model gaining momentum, with wider profit sharing and innovation.

    Of course, shark fin detection is ever advisable.

  31. KitGerhart Says:

    I’ve been in China once, in Shanghai in 1994, and the thing that stood out, was the blue haze and smell of exhaust from the zillions of 2-stroke mopeds and small motorcycles. I also smelled coal smoke a few times, I guess from small factories or something. It wouldn’t have been from home heating, since it was late summer, and very hot.

    I assume that most of those 2-stroke bikes have been replaced with 4-strokes by now, but I could be wrong.

  32. HtG Says:

    Please, Detroit, save me from the DC rules making wars.

    Oh yeah, on my own. Save for comment from outside the agency. ;)


  33. Brett Says:

    Does anyone here truly believe that there are tens of millions of people just like us out there that really give a damn about driving an automobile? If that were the case, why do so many drivers stink at it?

    I ate, breathed and slept automobiles and racing from the time I could walk. I wept Jimmy Clark was killed at Hockenheim and I wept when Richard Petty retired. I raced British sportscars in the 70s and crewed them in the 90s. I’ve had numerous vehicles that I routinely drove well north of the century mark.

    That’s why I’m here, even though my salad days of car ownership have passed and I really don’t much care to work on them like I used to. I love cars and I love driving cars.

    I think I can safely state that most of you here have a strong emotional investment in owning and driving automobiles, just like me.

    Well, 99% of car owners and operators DON’T feel that way. Sure, the type of vehicle they own and drive might be some sort of statement about how they perceive themselves, but actually liking driving? Not hardly. They drive because having driving their own vehicle gives them independence and that is worth putting up with the bother of driving.

    That is why the used car market won’t reach into the stratospheric and why within ten years, nearly every new car will be autonomous and it will be a common option in five.

    We’re strange. Most people really don’t like to drive, don’t care about performance, are vaguely aware of styling, and mostly want reliability, safety, and comfort. They’ll buy ‘em like crazy.

  34. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I love driving….I just don’t like driving cars anymore.I love pickups,and have most of my life.But I will say,pickups have evolved more then non-pickup truck drivers realize.They are,at least for me,pure fun,and at the same time very utilitarian.For a guy like me,that’s heaven on wheels.

  35. HtG Says:

    31. Well said. Though I think the majority might be better drivers if they were required to get more training. I might even have a better time on the road if more cars were autonomous: already, I’m getting a skosh fumed at having to wait at green lights a little bit longer as people read their texts. At least the autonomous car will get going when the light changes. But no, I don’t think most people are enthusiasts, and I try to think about the industry that way. Heck, even Mark Reuss referred to people taking the C7 in manual as ‘purists.’ He knows, too.
    32. Yesterday I admired a F150 driver as he powered through a twisty on ramp. To move a big vehicle like that could only mean one thing, car guy. It was black with pretty wide tires and tube shaped running boards. (nerf bars, GA?)

  36. Bradley Says:


    Well said.

  37. T. Bejma Says:


    Nice summary. I also have raced (SCCA) and I still LOVE working on and buying cars.


    I also think it will be better for us car guys when the idiots get in their autonomous vehicles and realize that maintaining a constant speed on the highway, merging correctly and getting up to speed on an on ramp will actually get them safely to their destination, faster.

    Hey, resident Tech Guy, HtG, what is Google building in the SF Bay and Portland? Nationwide internet?

  38. HtG Says:

    35. Neato! The Cnet link has comments that suggest there are 4 of these vessels, and they have a 16ft draft which is significantly deeper than most barges. If it’s a datacenter, then one idea here could be to use the cool waters of SF or Maine to save AC costs. ‘Puters make loads of heat and that costs money. Just dock the barge and hook it up to fiber and juice.

    again, Neato!

  39. HtG Says:

    kind of like how they keep nukes cool. Facebook even located a datacenter in Norway to use the cool air: Not really auto related, unless it helps the gals keep up with their friends when driving.

  40. Kit Gerhart Says:

    31, 32, 33
    Very well stated posts. It’s sad that most car buyers now have more interest in the “connectivity features” than the power train.

    I still like cars, but like driving less than I once did, for the various reasons mentioned. The stint of my recent trip from Jacksonville to Fl SR 528 was not fun, with heavy traffic, generally moving fast, but not at constant speed. As usual, there were way too many people that thought they should be in the left lane, regardless.

    Part of my trip was very enjoyable, though. I took a different route than usual, going from Nashville to near Montgomery, AL, and took about 100 miles of US 231 running southeast to I-10. The traffic was light, the pavement was good, and the rolling hills, gentle curves, and general “green-ness” of the mostly wooded route made for a pleasant, relaxing drive.

  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Would they lay fibre on the bottom of the bay to transfer data, or use microwave or something?

  42. T. Bejma Says:


    Why would Google make the contractor sign a non-Disclosure for a datacenter? To take advantage of the water cooling, they could simply build right on the shore. There is something about it being mobile, I believe. Auto related because without data connectivity we would have to just talk about all of this stuff with our friends instead of all of these people on the InterWeb. ;-)

  43. HtG Says:

    just dock the barge on a quay. Ports have electricity to power the normal boats. And who knows where the fiber optic lines are? Oh, Google does.

  44. HtG Says:

    40 I too hope it’s something villainous, TB.

    Datacenters are very much auto related, if the autonomous connected car comes to pass. Remember what Jen Sun Huang said about cars, they’re the ulitimate mobility device. Huge amounts of data are coming as internet of things falls from the sky anon. That’s going to mean power issues, and the industry is on it.

  45. Marshall Says:

    autonomous cars ~~ And when the computer suffers from a glitch which they all do, you will crash, burn & die.

    I am sick and tired of hearing about self driving cars. It ain’t gonna happen. At least not in this century. With the first accident the lawyers will step in and bankrupt the company.

  46. pedro fernandez Says:

    #43 right on!

  47. Brett Says:


    Don’t make the mistake of lumping the technology associated with autonomous cars with consumer electronics like a Windows PC.

    Contemporary technology now allows airliners carrying hundreds of passengers to land in zero visibility situations at the touch of a button. The liability exposure for that sort of technology is at least one, if not two orders of magnitude higher than that of an autonomous motor vehicle.

    Driving a vehicle in a two-dimensional space is trivial in comparison to landing a loaded airliner autonomously.

    It is coming. Many of the pieces are already in place. There will be redundant physical computers running multiple virtual computers that sanity-check one another a thousand times a second. It is happening now.

  48. pedro fernandez Says:

    I also thought after watching 2001 A Space Odyssey in 1969, that we would have bases in other planets as well specially since the successful moon landings and all, little did I know that Nixon was selling us out to the red Chinese.

  49. Kit Gerhart Says:

    A Boeing friend was involved with a project for flying and landing airliners autonomously in 1980. Actually, that is much easier than driving cars on public roads autonomously. All major airports have the same navigation systems for lining up with runways, and there aren’t many airplanes to keep track of, compared to road vehicles. You don’t need to optically keep track of signs, center lines, vehicles, bicycles on the wrong side of the road, and all the other things that make road navigation complex for machines.

    Still, I’m sure autonomous road vehicles are coming, but that is possible because we have technology that is thousands of times as powerful as what my friend worked with for autonomous flying 30 some years ago.

  50. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit, today as I waited for a light to turn green, some guy stuck his arm into my car to hand me brochure, if I had one of these robo cars, it would have caused injury to him, then who pays for this? my insurance? and this is just one example of things that I see in everyday driving.

  51. T. Bejma Says:


    I assume there would be a sensor that detects that someone is standing next to your car.

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