AD #1300 – Barra Bolsters Opel, Tesla Completes Charger Network, Volvo Returns to “Safety” Roots

January 27th, 2014 at 11:48am

Runtime: 7:27

- Barra Bolsters Opel
- Tesla Completes Charger Network
- Could Japan be on the Rebound
- Volvo Getting Back “Safety”
- Ford Requires F-150 Certification
- The Pros and Cons of Ford’s Aluminum Strategy

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Hello and welcome to a brand new week of Autoline Daily, we’re glad you joined us today, and now let’s get to the news.

Mary Barra just took her first overseas trip as CEO of General Motors, and she went directly to Ruesselsheim in Germany which is where Opel is based. Barra announced that GM is investing in an all-new vehicle for Opel, which will be music to the ears of everyone who works there. Even though Opel lost sales last year, it actually gained a little bit of market share as its sales did not drop as much as the overall market.

Last year Tesla announced that it’s creating a network of electric charging stations, what it calls Superchargers, across the US to allow Model S owners to drive cross country. And now drivers can travel from coast to coast. Yesterday the company announced it has more than 70 stations in the United States, covering about 80% of the population in the U.S. The superchargers, which are located near highway interchanges, provide about 170 miles of range in a 30 minute charge, and it’s free. Tesla covers the charging costs.

The Japanese car market is the third largest in the world, behind China and the United States, but sales have been stuck in the doldrums for over 20 years. Last year total sales came to 5.3 million units, up only 0.1% from the year before. But Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has introduced a series of economic reforms that might be getting car sales on a healthy growth path. Last month new car sales in Japan shot up 25%. Honda alone saw its sales rocket up more than 70%. And just in case you’re not familiar with the Japanese market, here’s a quick snapshot of where it stands. Toyota dominates the Japanese market, with over 41% market share. That includes Daihatsu and Hino which are part of the Toyota group. Honda is in second place, ahead of Nissan. And then it really falls off to Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, and Isuzu. Imports account for a meager 6.4% of the market Interestingly, kei cars, those little 660 cc econoboxes account for about 2 million sales a year, and are completely unique to the Japanese market.

2013 was a rough year for Volvo due to its lack of new product. It will be rolling out the new V60 this year, but that’s not enough to get the brand growing again. Tony Nicolosi, the President and CEO of Volvo Cars North America says, “What really is coming is next year. And that’s when (we get) our new, what we call Scalable Product Architecture. The products designed off that start rolling out with the new XC-90 and that’s when we’ll really start seeing our growth.” The XC Concept, which debuted at the Detroit show is where Volvo’s design language is headed. Nicolosi also said, “We’re going back to our roots. I think we abandoned our roots in safety. We owned safety. So, I think you’re going to see us go back to our core values and roots.” Smart move I’m always puzzled by car companies that walk away from their brand image.

About 80% of repair work done in the U.S. is handled by independent service centers rather than dealers. But Ford is hoping to change that, at least for its new aluminum-intensive F-150. The Dearborn automaker will require all repair shops to be certified if they want to fix the new truck. Ford will chip in $10,000 to any interested dealer, but it will still cost shops anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 for tooling upgrades and technician certification.

Speaking of that F-150, let’s take a look at some of the benefits and the pitfalls that Ford faces. That’s coming up next.

On Autoline After Hours last week the talk was dominated by the aluminum F-150 that Ford is going to come out with. I want to show you a clip from that show which includes Joe White from the Wall Street Journal, Henry Payne from the Detroit News and Tony Swan from

That’s just a little bit of what we talked about that truck, and it’s a great conversation that you can can catch on our website right now or on youTube. Just look for the Autoline Network. Also, this Thursday night our guest on After Hours will be none other than Bob Lutz. And that ought to be a great show.

But that wraps up today’s report Thanks for joining us and have a great day.

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76 Comments to “AD #1300 – Barra Bolsters Opel, Tesla Completes Charger Network, Volvo Returns to “Safety” Roots”

  1. Bradley Says:

    Wow! There is absolutely nothing wrong with Ford using aluminum. Just like when Toyota came out with a Hybrid, everyone tries so hard to maintain the status-quo.

  2. G.A.Branigan Says:

    The drawbacks to aluminum will be in panel repairs which may or may not happen,BUT the big drawback that might rear it’s ugly head is bigger insurance premiums.

  3. G.A.Branigan Says:

    And as too their ‘military grade aluminum’,please define that.What exactly does that mean,anyone?

  4. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I’m with you G.A. (about military aluminum); the battle hardened pieces (taking the punishment) can be better described (a lot of the times) as titanium.

  5. HtG Says:

    Carbon steel
    Cold Filtered
    Glistening drop of retsin
    Military grade aluminum

    It can get confusing, I know

    Though I would like to hear a little about the alloy they’re using and any welding issues they might be having. (ixnay on the meltingray, GA)

  6. G.A.Branigan Says:

    LOL…..true that my knowledge of military grade aluminum is over 4 decades old,but I do remember very vividly how run of the mill 30 cal armor piercing rounds went through the ‘military grade’ aluminum armor of our APC’s,and the Sherman tanks.I sure hope it’s improved.

    Also,for years aluminum wasn’t ‘stamp or press’ friendly.It would tare or split.I wonder what ford alloyed their aluminum with to make it more mass production friendly?

  7. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Probably the military grade aluminum will be similar to what they make beer and soda cans from. It is very good for forming into shapes that require a lot of stretching, etc.

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    GM and Ram should see their sales numbers go up in the pickup market, higher insurance premiums, more expensive repairs for aluminum are two negatives for the Ford trucks.

  9. HtG Says:

    One thing I’m fuzzy about is if Ford explicitly said it was solely their need for Aluminum in trucks which will constrain supply for other carcos. I imagine that the learnings from trucks will pay off for cars, so are there aluminum cars already in the pipeline?

  10. Mike Says:

    Beer and soda cans have to be, by law, made from virgin aluminum. No scrap aluminum allowed. Thus the best source of pure, alloy free scrap aluminum is the used beverage can. outboard engines are made from it so that they can be operated in salt water without corroding. It probably would not be very dent resistant in a fender/door/hood type of application.

  11. pedro fernandez Says:

    Spent a few hrs yesterday testing the new Cherokee and I was surprised by how well built and solid the thing seems to be, including some dirt road, highway and urban driving in the mix and it handled it quite well, the 4 is enough to get the job done and that 9 speed ZF auto is the smoothest one I have ever driven,

  12. jack878 Says:

    On the Ford aluminum truck he said something that accurate, “aluminum is not a selling point”. I for one would not jump at such a drastic change especially for a truck. This change should be done in increments, not all at once.

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    11, Interesting. I haven’t driven or ridden in one, but was impressed with the appearance of the interior, for a vehicle in that market segment.

    My sister will be replacing her ’05 Liberty one of these years, and will be checking out the Cherokee. I’ve suggested she wait a couple years for reliability data, before buying one, but if it’s reliable, I’m sure she would like it. She likes the Liberty, except for the abysmal gas mileage.

  14. C-Tech Says:

    @ #11 Pedro I will post the 1st time I see a used (new)Cherokee roll through the auction. We will see how welll it holds up to real world usage.

  15. Drew Says:

    As I read, the change to aluminum bodies has been done in increments. It started with the bolt-on pieces over the past 25 years – aluminum hoods, then fenders, then decklid/liftgates, and then doors. Many BMWs are constructer this way.

    Complete bodies have been in production for over a decade — Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, and some Land Rover models.

    Lest we forget, the Hummer military HMV (civilian name “H1″) was all aluminum.

  16. C-Tech Says:

    In this era of free trade, why is the Japanese Car market share for imports so small?

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Audi A8 is the most “mainstream” of aluminum cars sold in the US, and it is not very mainstream, costing $80K or something like that. If it is indicative, aluminum bodes don’t save that much weight. It is only 100-200 pounds lighter than the competing Lexus LS and BMW 7 series. All A8′s are AWD, so adding AWD to the others would make the weight difference more like 300-400 pounds, or 8-9% in these cars. That’s significant, but not a huge “game changer.”

  18. G.A.Branigan Says:

    The humvee is essentially flat panels so those were fairly easy to produce as opposed to the compound curves on the f150…..I’m a thinking.

  19. gary susie Says:

    Alcoa plant near me just opened up a new line to make aluminum for cars and says it will start building another right away to handle more cars.

  20. Lex Says:

    Volvo needs to bring back the P1800 and have Roger Moore “The Saint” reintroduce it.

  21. HtG Says:

    18 you mean like this, Lex?

  22. Phil Says:

    Hi John,
    Can you elaborate about what the Japanese government has done to cause such a dramatic increase in sales?
    Phil Hopewell

  23. Bradley Says:

    The Aluminum noise is simply that. 30mpg F150, 35mpg Ranger and 60 mpg Fiesta…Go Ford!

    If one wanted to try and put some data to this Aluminum noise, what did Saturn tell us with their plastic fenders? Granted plastic is cheaper than Aluminum, but some of the the same concerns apply.

    IMO, this is all noise! Go Ford! Thank you for pioneering!

  24. Wim van Acker Says:

    #16: two of many reasons: right hand drive and low fuel consumption needed.

  25. Wim van Acker Says:

    #16: that is, for volume cars.

    One of my friends in Japan owns a left hand drive Porsche 911, which obviously does not have a good gas mileage, either. His owning that car is a high end luxury, and not very convenient to drive in Tokyo traffic with the driver seat at the wrong side.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    23, The maybe 10 percent lower weight will help city mpg somewhat, but will make little difference in highway mpg. Of course, Ford, along with Hyundai have been rather creative with their EPA ratings, so maybe they will come up with 30 EPA highway for the new truck. I hope no one expects it in real world driving, unless they never go faster than 50 mph.

  27. Ckernzie Says:

    #16 – There still are plenty of non-tariff barriers to foreign automakers in the Japanese market so most automakers wrote Japan off decades ago so they put little effort into selling in Japan or building cars that the Japanese would want to buy. The Japanese people also are very ethnocentric in their vehicle buying so a foreign vehicle has to be ‘trendy’ or bought by someone who is the ‘nail that sticks up’ which is relatively rare culturally. European and even North American vehicles have niche markets in Japan but you’ll probably never see Korean or Chinese vehicles gain a foothold for cultural reasons.

  28. Bradley Says:


    Is it only 10% ? I thought the top model was 700lbs lighter.

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:


    The top model will be 700 pounds lighter than the current F-150, which is 300 pounds heavier than the Silverado, and 200 pounds heavier than the current Ram. That would make the new F-150 about 400 pounds, or 7.5% lighter than the current Silverado crew cab.

    I got the weights from CR’s web site. They bought all of them, comparably equipped, and weighed them. The Tundra is about the same weight as the current Ford.

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    27, Harley bikes are popular with wealthy business people in Japan.

  31. David Sprowl Says:

    If I remember correctly BMW used aluminum on their Z3 roadster. It did not take much to total one dues in part to the expensive repairs. I’ve seen plenty of steel trucks and work horses with dents in them. I can not imagine this will fair well for Ford. Lat time fuel economy was an issue we got small trucks like the S10, Ranger, Dakota & others to choose from. I’m thinking GM is right on this one if history is any indication.

  32. HtG Says:

    Does anyone know how Ford’s CAFE numbers are affected by savings in a high volume product like the F150 truck? Do they get more points because they sell so many, thus saving lots of fuel? I faint at the thought of looking this stuff up.

  33. Kit Gerhart Says:

    32, For what it’s worth, from Wikipedia:

    “Historically, it (CAFE) is the sales-weighted harmonic mean fuel economy, expressed in miles per U.S. gallon (mpg), of a manufacturer’s fleet of current model year passenger cars or light trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 8,500 pounds (3,856 kg) or less, manufactured for sale in the United States.”

    Since it is sales weighted, improving the mpg of high volume vehicles, like F series, should be very useful.

  34. pedro fernandez Says:

    Ford should build a new gen Ranger for the US market, small and lightweight with 4 and 6 cyl turbo engines and 6 speed transmissions for max. mileage and they should do well.

  35. pedro fernandez Says:

    The new Cherokee my buddy rented was giving him only 25 mpg mostly highway driving, despite its 9 speed trannie, I don’t know how they get those lofty EPA numbers for highway driving!

  36. HtG Says:

    33 thanks, Kit. That enormous volume for the F150 is the part of story that gets my attention. High volume also means a better deal from Alcoa. Boy, I’d like to look over Mulally’s shoulder and peek at his spreadsheet.

  37. HtG Says:

    Better yet, maybe Bob Lutz will opine as to Ford’s business plan for aluminum when he sits down this Thursday for AAH.

  38. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I just saw a ratty looking Nissan small pickup in the condo parking lot, which belongs to the daughter of a resident. It is really small, compared to what has been sold for ages.

    If someone sold something like that now, for the price of small cars, they would sell like crazy. If they made a pickup that is small, and basic, there is no reason they couldn’t sell it for well under $20K, with A/C, cruise, and even automatic transmission.

    I still think the reason the U.S. companies won’t do it, is because it would take too many sales away from the big pickups if they priced them fairly.

  39. Drew Says:

    #29 – Kit, I don’t have access to the CR site. The last time I looked at half-ton pickup truck comparative weights, I thought the F, Ram and Tun all weighed about the same. Are we really sure the Ram was the same configuration (Ram’s Quad Cab compares to Ford’s SuperCab, not their SuperCrew)? Engine, driveline, and trim levels can also make big differences.

  40. G.A.Branigan Says:

    FWIW dept: If any of the oem’s really wanted to vastly improve their cafe numbers with their pickups,all they have to do is offer a nice small clean diesel.If they keep the price point within reason……they will sell.Almost every gas station has a diesel pump so infrastructure is not any kind of problem.So the fuel costs a bit more,so what? You get much better mpg’s all around and longevity to boot.It’s a no-brainer in my world.

  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The EPA highway test is done mostly at speeds of under 60 mph, so the EPA numbers come out higher than most people get, especially for tall, high drag vehicles like SUV’s. I beat the EPA highway number of my MINI on tanks when I do a lot of steady speed driving at 50-55 mph, but when I drive on the interstate at 75+, I get about 35, while the EPA number is 38. I rarely match either EPA rating with my Prius, but I’m happy with my ~46 mpg overall, even though it is short of the 50 mpg EPA combined number.

  42. Kit Gerhart Says:

    They were all crew cab, V8, 4×4. and, I think comparable trim levels, except that they tested the Ford with both the V6 turbo and the 5.0 liter V8. The V6 turbo Ford was 20 pounds lighter.

    You may know more about pickup truck trim levels than I do. They were Ford XLT, Chevy LT, Ram Big Horn, and Toyota SR5.

  43. T. Bejma Says:


    Problem is GA, that the CAFE numbers are “sales-weighted” and the numbers just aren’t there to make a big difference. I understand your passion for it, and I agree, unfortunately we are a small minority (at least according to the Marketing guys)…

  44. C-Tech Says:

    I foresee great opportunity for the aftermarket (SEMA) folks with these Alum. F-150′s. You will need alum. – friendly accessories, steel touching alum will be bad over the years. Can you use the same spray-on bedliner formula?

  45. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ T.B.: The marketing guys are all having lunch with the jeep crew ;}> rollllllllllll me another one……..

    Nissan: Having been spanked by the feds for false advertising,how would this from toyota be any different?

  46. Kit Gerhart Says:

    45, The Toyota ad is clearly not believable. That is the difference. The Nissan ad was deceptive, but believable.

  47. pedro fernandez Says:

    Some Chinese auto maker should develop a small pickup to sell here, if they can manage to build them half way decently and sell them at a good price, it would be a good way for them to enter this market, instead of another mid-size or compact sedan which surely will pale next to the established competition.

  48. Drew Says:

    @42 – Kit, the trim levels see comparable. Frod grew their crew cab for 2009. The rear seat leg room will make most stretch limos faint.

    @40 – GA, I could never bring a diesel home and park it in the garage as my wife is hyper-sensitive to fuel smells. As any diesel overfill spill lingers much longer than any petro overfill smell, so not at my house. And if it got on my shoes, it’ll be a short life span for those shoes. It is too bad, as I’d love an A3 TDI. I’ll have to take the modestly lower cost of operation of a petro because a diesel will cost me a lot more in divorse expenses.

  49. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Because a diesel is offered,doesn’t mean everyone would buy one.It ain’t mandatory.But,we deserve the choice,and for me,I demand a choice.I will buy another truck.It will be diesel.It will also be a midsize.If chevy delays coming out with the diesel option,and Nissan has one ready to go,I will buy the Nissan.That is my advantage to not being brand loyal.

  50. ColoradoKid Says:

    F1 2014 cars … the ‘ explanation ‘ …. why

    Truly …. F1 has gone from the pinnacle of motorsports technology … to NASCAR equivalency formula racing …. in less than five years . Add in the Double Points .. and they’ve surpassed NASCAR for irrelevancy

    What a weekend for gearheads . First … watching one of what used to be a Landmark event ( Daytona ) fully become the venue for the More Money Than Brains boy racer wanna be’s – Has beens and Never was beens .. that no one … especially TV audiences could care less about anymore

    Then .. even more ugliness and BS from F1

    Oh well …. at least we still had the AMBR … Two thumbs up to the winner …

  51. Mike S Says:

    About the aluminum F-150: How could Ford ever expect to revert to steel bodies someday? This build is HUGE! Would I want an aluminum-bodied truck? Perhaps, if I knew I could depend on parts when I needed them; that my local repair shop could correctly straighten it out; and if I was assured that, down the road, I could depend on Ford to continue its production. Barring those assurances, I’d shop another marque.

  52. ColoradoKid Says:

    TESLA charger network ? And where would those be pray tell . Nary a sign nor hair of one anywhere here in CO !

    More pretense from the deluded Kickapoo Joy Juice addled folks at TESLA … all while their cars burn to the ground [ if you're lucky ] … or burn your house down with it [ if you're not ]

    30 – Harleys are popular with anyone well heeled enough and not knowing any better .. as well as having a distinct need to be noticed and belong to a ‘ Tribe ‘ … unable to think for themselves as they are

    This from one who’s family has had em from 1926 … right up till about a decade ago . When we all in unison … told the Motor Company … exactly where they could shove it

  53. ColoradoKid Says:

    51 – Bet me once the hype has passed and the AL trend is over .. everyone will go back to steel

  54. ColoradoKid Says:

    The AMBR winner …. for anyone who’s interested

  55. HtG Says:

    50 Reliability seems to be what F1 will be about this year. Forget the drivers. Hopefully, no mushroom clouds.

    (Ferrari making some interesting squeaks about the need to win this year. Why? Going somewhere, Luca?)

  56. HtG Says:

    And by squeaks I mean whinnies

  57. HtG Says:

    Wow :) , Formula 1 apparently not a provocative topic on ALD.

    It’s over. Just wait till the conga line that tries to pass for racing, come Melbourne.

  58. MadMax Says:

    I for one welcome aluminum truck beds that don’t rust! Go F150!

  59. HtG Says:

    It’s really pretty funny, watching F1 people prance around like any gives a damn anymore, excepting of course oil and gas interests desperate to get people jazzed up about driving. And of course, let’s not leave out the money launderers at UBS, trolling for shitsacks around the globe.

    yep, had a couple tonight. Vodka chilled. Ice. Soda. Lemon.

  60. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Harleys: In my world/family,if you can’t build your own harley,you ain’t squat.Those that can’t we call them ‘wallet riders’.

  61. Jesse W. Henry Says:

    I don’t know why there is all the excitement about aluminum ruining the new F150 and repair shops not being able to fix it. Ford has been using aluminum panels in mainstream vehicles for years… hoods and trunks on Mustang starting in 99. The Expedition, Navigator, Explorer, and Aviator have had aluminum rear hatches for years along with hoods on some models. Aluminum panels are hardly new to the industry or Ford… the only thing “new” is the amount of aluminum panels.

    My only concern is that they have the right alloy figured out now to help prevent the oxidation that was so prevalent and caused the paint to bubble on the rear hatches of the Expeditions and Navigators for years.

    The people nay saying aluminum, turbos, and 9 speed/cvt/dual clutch transmissions sound very similar to me to those who said fuel injection was was overly complicated too expensive and didn’t give any real world fuel economy gains over a carb…

  62. Kit Gerhart Says:

    30, 52
    Some of the Harley groups in Japan have interesting dress, like LAPD uniforms.

  63. Kit Gerhart Says:

    My Malibu Maxx had an aluminum hatch, and my Prius has an aluminum hood. I always assumed those were “throw away” parts if seriously damaged. When most, or all of the body parts are aluminum, shops will need to be able to repair them, or insurance will be expensive for those vehicles.

  64. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Kit: Yeah,and they still like the ‘village people’ too ;}>

  65. Jesse W. Henry Says:

    #62 – Kit Gerhart – most modern panels are throw away if the damage is major as the replacement parts are cheaper than the labor to repair… those aluminum panels can be repaired I have seen it done. Will it be more expensive in the short term? Maybe… but lets be honest the majority of the cost for insurance claims is injurys not repair… a five star safety rating will do more to lower insurance costs than steel panels vs. aluminum.

  66. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Here’s what we need to get back too:

  67. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Exactly. Chinese scooters cost less than half as much as Hondas, and while the quality of a Honda is much better, the Chinese ones usually run. That means a Chinese company should be able to sell a really basic small pickup for under $10K, even with the “chicken tax,” and sell it for $12K with A/C and automatic. If sold with a decent warranty, people would buy them, and if they were any good, the company could move up market in a few years.

  68. Kit Gerhart Says:

    We’ll certainly get to find out the whole story, given the sales volume of the F-150.

  69. Jesse W. Henry Says:

    #67 – Agreed Kit, time will tell. I am just much less worried about an aluminum intensive vehicle than any major powertrain overhaul.

  70. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit, what I’ve noticed about these Chinese scooters, which are popular around these parts, is that they’re very slow compared to the better brands, often causing traffic issues and road rage among our very impatient drivers who think that the roads are only meant for their huge trucks or fancy German luxo rides.

  71. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Most of the Chinese scooters are 50cc, like a Honda Metropolitan, with a top speed of about 30 mph. These machines don’t mix very well with traffic on a lot of streets and roads.

  72. Todd T Says:

    Volvo Safety: Here’s a story; When I slammed the 850 T-5R in a review, because the tires were so ridiculous (insanely low profile) I suffered a flat tire on the 405 freeway at rush hour from hitting a very small ripple in the lane. I discovered this was an exteemely frequent issue, dozens of wheels and tires had been purchased for the fleet of test vehicles in Volvo’s fleet. I’d written, if this is the product strategy Volvo wants to pursue, it flies in the face of all the safety heritage they have accumulated over 3 decades. To build a car with such a performance emphasis that basic safety is compromised is the very antithesis of what Volvo means to the consumer. This strategy will fail, and could put Volvo in a very precarious situation.

    For this, my reward was to be banned by Volvo PR. Vindication is always so sweet.

  73. HtG Says:

    Low profile tires also have reduced slip angle, giving the driver less warning of impending slide. I guess having the stability program save you makes some people think they’re looking cool.

  74. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I’m not a huge fan of the ‘rubberbands on rims’ look,or performance.I like a fair amount of sidewall,especially while out in the boonies.

  75. Robert Morrison Says:

    Ford has a really big gamble here.
    I think insurance premiums will make most customers go to dodge or Chevrolet.

    Also what body shops in rural areas can repair or have experience in repairing or replacing aluminum panels.

    This is like the Chrysler ultra drive transmission. Instead of bringing out on slower selling vehicles and getting public used to it and getting shops trained to service vehicles.

    Well I it looks like Ford has lost it’s leadership on trucks.

    Hope Chevrolet and dodge send thank you letters.

  76. vincent joy Says:

    Hey John! Why’d you leave us hanging? What did the Japanese gov’t do that caused the 25% boost in sales?