AD #1302 – Fiat-Chrysler Earnings, Personnel Changes at Mercedes, 2014 Toyota Highlander

January 29th, 2014 at 12:01pm

Runtime: 9:23

- Fiat Earnings Not That Impressive
- Chrysler Earnings Also Lackluster
- Mercedes’ Renschler Abruptly Quits
- Lincoln Delayed in China
- All-New GMC Sierra Denali HD
- Toyota Rolls Out the Refreshed Highlander

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily, we’re glad you joined us today as we bring you some of the most important developments in the global automotive industry.

The Fiat Group reported its earnings from last year, which now officially include all the Chrysler numbers. The group sold 4.4 million vehicles, up 3 percent, and that boosted revenue by a little over 3 percent to $114 billion. Net profits came to nearly $2.6 billion, up a whopping 118 percent, as Fiat can now officially claim Chrysler’s profits as its own. And yet, earnings before income taxes took a hit, dropping nearly 13 percent. Overall, Fiat benefited greatly from absorbing Chrysler, but the group’s numbers are not that impressive, with a return on sales of less than 4 percent. You have to be in the 6-8 percent range to be considered first rate. If we were handing out report cards, we’d give the Fiat Group a “C.”

Now let’s break out the Chrysler numbers to get a more complete picture of what’s going on within the group. Chrysler sold 2.4 million vehicles worldwide, up a strong 9 percent. That boosted revenue by more than 9 percent to just over $72 billion. Net profits shot up a staggering 65 percent to $2.7 billion, but wait, there’s an asterisk on this number. It jumped by nearly a billion dollars thanks to a one-time tax credit. Even so, if you take that out, Chrysler’s net profits were up by more than 7 percent, while it’s operating profit was up 9 percent. And yet, Chrysler’s net profit margin is also less than 4 percent, which is not very competitive. And that makes me wonder, are some of Fiat’s development or administrative costs being charged to Chrysler?

In a move no one on the outside saw coming Andreas Renschler, Mercedes-Benz operations chief and strong candidate to succeed Dieter Zetsche as CEO suddenly quit the company. Renschler reportedly felt he was not given enough authority in his current position. You may remember that Renschler ran the Mercedes assembly plant in Alabama in the US when it first opened. Now it looks like Wolfgang Bernhard is a shoe-in to take over as CEO when Zetsche retires. Those two have been a team ever since they ran Chrysler during the DaimlerChrysler days, and Zetsche has clearly helped Bernhard further his career. I think Renschler finally read the writing on the wall.

Lincoln has been struggling to regain a foothold in the U.S. and now it looks like its facing headwinds in China. Ford has decided to delay the return of the brand to China until the end of this year. The issue: it’s struggling to get dealers to sign up to sell Lincoln. If you combine Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou only five distributors have signed up so far.

GMC is giving reporters their first seat time in the 2015 Denali HD this week. And what we’re learning about this refreshed truck is the powertrains are still the same, but the towing capability has been upgraded. But the biggest changes are in the styling.

One thing that GMC doesn’t expect to change is its most popular seller which is the Denali HD crew cab with the Duramax diesel. The Fort Wayne and Flint plants just started shipping the trucks this week and they should be showing up in dealerships anytime.

Toyota plans to make a big splash introducing the redesign of the Highlander, featuring the Muppets in its Super Bowl ad. And just so you know ahead of time what they’ve done with the Highlander, we’ll give you a sneak preview right after this.

Since it first appeared on the scene in 2001, the Toyota Highlander has been a top seller in the segment. Last year for instance, it sold almost 128,000 units but still only finished fourth behind Ford and Jeep. So clearly there’s room to grow sales, and what better way to do it than with the retooled third-generation Highlander.

(Today’s feature about the Toyota Highlander is only available in the video version of today’s program.)

Almost all versions of the 2014 Highlander are in dealerships now, with the the hybrid expected to be available next month. And wow, that microphone to talk to back seat passengers is pretty cool. That must be a first in the industry if I’m not mistaken.

Make sure to mark your calendar for Autoline After Hours tomorrow night, when our guest is going to be none other than Bob Lutz. We’ll be talking about what he sees going on in the automotive industry right now as well as his new venture called Via Motors, retrofitting Fiskers with Corvette engines. So start getting your questions ready as we host one of the most interesting personalities this industry has ever seen.

But that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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39 Comments to “AD #1302 – Fiat-Chrysler Earnings, Personnel Changes at Mercedes, 2014 Toyota Highlander”

  1. ColoradoKid Says:

    ” The Dog the Dog .. He’s doing it again ”

    Stronzetto Marchionne that is ;

    #1 The order of the names telling us everything we need to know about the future of Dodge/Chrysler/JEEP .. FIAT’s .. with a ( pick one ) name plate on its snout

    #2 Take notice …. FCA will not be Italian ( despite Union and Government agreements / subsidies etc )…. nor American ( despite the agreement in place that ObamaClaus refuses to enforce )… … Oh no ! Its about to become …. cough … hack … Dutch ( when it comes to cars … if You’re Dutch … You’re Not Much … at all.. and never have been ) …. with ….. [ not done yet ] … A UK Tax Domicile …. and err … a 2nd listing in Milan

    Desperate measures by a desperate fool to make a desperate pair of companies survive despite reality ?

    Damn right it is

    Will it work ?

    Not a bats chance in the very depths of Parma [ Ohio ] … or downtown Detroit ;-)

    Marchionne’s Madness … marching ever onwards

    Hmmmn … so I guess we can assume the Elkann’s don’t give a fig about their inheritance .. nor their grandfathers legacy

  2. ColoradoKid Says:

    Place those FCA revelations along side todays Chrysler / FIAT sales numbers news .. and err … you’ve got yourself a recipe for …

    Extinction !

  3. Wim van Acker Says:

    @ John McElroy: “And that makes me wonder, are some of Fiat’s development or administrative costs being charged to Chrysler?” Probably those are charged, and are probably in the order of magnitude of $100′s of millions per year. But the relatively low Chrysler Group profitability is due to a ten time bigger effect (multi billion dollars per year): its meager product line up consisting of Jeep Grand Cherokee, RAM, and which other up to date, well selling product again?

  4. HtG Says:

    Here’s a question

    What trajectories does Mr Lutz see the energy density and the cost of batteries taking over the next few years?

  5. rick Says:

    heard in autosphere new chrysler 200 gets 39mpg hwy can anybody confirm?

  6. ColoradoKid Says:


    What in the _____ does Lutz know about batteries .. EV’s etc considering the fact that he was one of the failed VOLT’s biggest cheerleaders … and is now converting Fiskers and TESLAs to ICE ?

    Not a _____ bloody thing if’n you ask me !

  7. HtG Says:

    We really need an edit function. That’s a whopper, CK

  8. Bradley Says:

    My head is spinning…how many trim levels does GM need on their Full-Size trucks?

  9. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Bradley: At least as many as ford….

  10. MJB Says:

    Totally and completely off-topic here, but am I the only one bothered, annoyed and irritated by the extreme use of up-talking by that first Toyota spokeswoman?

    Out started out as a part of Valley-Girl speak back in the eighties, and has now gone mainstream. I wish this asinine speech trend (mostly among girls and young women) would end, because it makes the speaker sound like they are completely unsure of every single sentence that comes out of their mouth. As if they’re constantly seeking validation.

  11. MJB Says:

    correction. I meant to start that second paragraph with “It started…”

  12. Buzzerd Says:

    Lutz was a huge cheerleader for the Volt because GM was demonized for not making enough fuel efficient cars and or a hybrid so they answered with the Volt and then they demonized (by some ) for building what is a great fuel efficient car.

  13. ColoradoKid Says:

    The Future of in car Infotainment

    Trust me .. as surprised as I am this leaked out [ or .. err .. not ;-) ] … its barely a snippet of things to come

    Everyone else … eat yer heart out … the Big Dog’s comin ta play in yer backyard .. kicking y’all out wiff yer tail between yer legs

  14. ColoradoKid Says:

    8 – As many as it takes in their vain attempts to catch up with the Ford F150′s sales … which is to say …. they’ll never have enough

    9 – MJB – No you are not .. and good point … Valley Girls …. eesh

    [ skip the ad ]

    12 – Lutz was and still is a huge cheerleader for the VOLT because …. the man knows his Hot Rods n’ Muscle Cars … but is completely clueless when it come to EV’s .. the future of the automobile etc

    7 – Whopper ? I see no ‘ whopper ‘ Only the facts as history tells it

  15. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Here’s my take on Fiat/Chrysler’s numbers (as well as a lot of the manufacturer’s numbers of late): way back in ’08 anyone remember John saying that there were too many manufacturers and too many models out there for the market to sustain itself (John correct me if I didn’t remember that from you).

    Well, we got through the great recession (sort of/kind of, or at least we are working at it) and sales have rebounded fairly well. But what has also happened; instead of less makers and less models (and production), the offerings from the automotive segment has practically exploded.

    Just about everyone is selling, at least, good stuff and most are making great stuff but there is just too much out there (for the market to absorb). Brand new introductions practically come with incentives, at release, and profit per vehicle just isn’t producing the great profit ratios traditionally expected.

    I believe the normalization of the auto industry (what-ever that means) hasn’t stabilized yet.

  16. ColoradoKid Says:

    12 – Buzzerd ole bean – “Demonized ” ? Methinks not . Face it … the car is nothing more than an over priced , over weight , underperforming , overly complicated DaeWoo/Chevy … with a few high tech wanna be’s under the hood … and a Sales Failure as well as massive money loser from the minute it left the gate

    Topped off only by the fact that GM’s marketing mavens were stupid enough to try and sell an Extended Range Hybrid … as an EV of any kind type or sort … killing off what few sales the car might of accomplished

    So … ‘splain to me Buzzerd …. how exactly does any of the above add up to being ‘ Demonized ‘ ?

    What ? Has telling the truth suddenly become ‘ Politically Incorrect ‘ and ‘ Demonizing ‘ up Canada way now ?

    Oh yeah …. Toronto’s mayor … it has … never mind … and my condolences :(

  17. ColoradoKid Says:

    Chuck Grenci – Nice bit of writing … but pure unadulterated fiction when it comes to the new FCA ( FIAT/Chrysler )

    Fact is … both brands are and have been in the toilet sales wise going on almost a decade … profit wise things have been even worse … with ONLY JEEP sales barely keeping the companies heads … err …. still in existence …

    As far as the automotive business ‘ stabilizing ‘ ?

    Oh dear … you’ve fallen for the rhetoric have you ?

    Here’s a clue … the automotive businesses future … is looking anything BUT stable … more like at least 40% of the current manufactures are destined to disappear over the next 10 – 15 years .. with at least one [ more like two ] of the [ not so ] Big Three joining the fray

    Wanna become a millionaire investing in the automotive business ?

    Start with a billion … at least

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The “failed” Volt outsells every other plug-in car in the U.S., hybrid and pure EV, except maybe the Tesla S. There is a reason. The Volt can truly be a do-everything car for those satisfied with its cabin space, and a lot of people can use it for 90% of their driving without using a drop of gas.

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    16, CK, I think you know how the Volt has been demonized. It has been demonized by people who hate GM, and wanted them to die, even if it had meant another great depression. The people who have Volts like them for what they are. Most people who have driven them think they are kind of cool, even those, like myself, who wouldn’t buy one.

  20. Buzzerd Says:

    I think your usual anti GM despite the facts would be a case in point.

  21. Buzzerd Says:

    and I love how an internet troller has the nads to say a top auto exec is clueless about any part of the auto business. Well ok if you say so, cause obviously you must know.

  22. T. Bejma Says:


    Well, I don’t think I will get an answer again, after probably the 5th time asking CK but, what the heck, I’ll give it a try…

    If the Volt is nothing but an “Extended Range Hybrid”, why does it qualify for the FULL $7,500 GOVERNMENT REBATE AS THE FULL ELECTRIC VEHICLES LIKE THE LEAF?

    Hint: It is because it is actually and Extended Range Electric Vehicle – EREV for short…

  23. T. Bejma Says:


    I say …. AMEN … +1 … x 1000 .. to the tenth power … and tell it likes it is ..

  24. Lex Says:

    The 2014 Highlander now has a huge front grill, protruding front head light and rear tail light lens. The overall dimensions 2014 Highlander have also increased over 2013. If you are looking to down size from a minivan to a SUV why bother. This vehicle has grown too much with this 3rd Generation.

  25. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Musings: Having lived 120 miles away from my local chevy dealer,I took care of oil changes myself.But,I did save the two ‘free oil change’ coupons that they sent me over the years.Now that I live about 10 minutes away from my ‘once 120 mile one way local chebby dealer’,and it was oil change time I let them do it.Plus tire rotation and a wash,(the car,not me),all free-free-free.

    Having around 50 minutes to kill I cruised the lot looking at all the nice shiny new trucks.1/2 ton gassers both chebby and gmc,and the same for the 3/4 ton gm twins.WOW !!!!!!

    The chebbies to me look far and above mucho better then the gaudy.ostentasious gmc’s with all the gen-u-whine chrome plated plastic grills that really do look like they can cover a 4×8′ opening.Just hidious to the extreme.

    The all new for 14 1/2 ton ‘man step’.If I could have gotten my leg up that high,I wouldn’t need the man step at all.Which means it’s totally useless for me.Ah well,I have faith in the new colorado’s…..I’m a hopin’.

    Interiors? Wow,all the way around.Good show gm,and it’s about damn time.End of report…

  26. gary susie Says:

    Hey CK i don’t think GM ever espected to sell a million Volts but thought they had to to show people that they could build a EV that would go more than a few miles on a charge. Not many people want a car that only goes 70 80 miles. Also if GM is so terrible why are they selling technolgy to Ferrari and other high end car companies.

  27. G.A.Branigan Says:

    About 2 years ago on my way home from the VA I stopped in at the chebby dealership and looked at a volt while I was there.It is a beautiful car,and the interior was extremely nice.My wife loved it,but it being a car,she didn’t want it.

  28. David Sprowl Says:

    I went to the North American International Auto show. Chrysler needs to update most of it;s car line like yesterday. Sure I like the challenger and the Charger, but they like the 300 are long in the tooth. They have yet to address the performance of the Dart. And much to my disliking, the 200 convertible will be going the way of the dodo for 2015. As far as Lincoln goes, Ford is missing the target. Years ago GM was uber criticized (rightfully so)for it’s look alike styling across the brands. Lincoln’s display looks like something from the 70′s and their cars are nothing short of luke warm makeovers of other Ford product. GM on the other hand goes great lengths to differentiate it’s Cadillac brand from the rest of GM both inside and out.

  29. XA351GT Says:

    Okay is it just me or does a microphone and speakers seem like overkill to anyone else? I mean come on it’s a SUV not a tour bus . Just more crap to break and drive up the price of the vehicle.

  30. HtG Says:

    29 I think wind up windows are enough,XA, but if all it takes is the existing mic for the phone function and the speakers in the back of the car to be connected via an algorithm, it’s kind of a simple trick.

  31. pedro fernandez Says:

    Had my first encounter this Sun with touch screen controls for audio and climate while testing out the Jeep Cherokee, thanks, but no thanks, I’ll stick to knobs, buttons and slide controls.

  32. G.A.Branigan Says:

    The trouble with the touch controls is one has to LOOK at the damn things.It’s impossible,(for me at least) to know what I’m touching on the screen etc.Dials and kanobs worked just fine but they ain’t ‘techie’ enough now a daze……

  33. pedro fernandez Says:

    Exactly, G.A. I did the changes while we were stopped at the site of the testing but I could not imagine trying to adjust the thing if I was driving as well, it no wonder that there are so many accidents nowadays

  34. ColoradoKid Says:

    HtG – Totally off topic [ apologies to all ]

    I really can hate people sometimes

  35. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Just thinking out loud: The owner of the strad had it insured up the waazoo,had it ‘stolen’ for the ins money,and gets to keep his strad.

  36. HtG Says:

    You would have to rule the insurance angle out. (I thought it too) Art does get stolen not for sale, but to be used as collateral among baddies. Who knows, let’s hope they’ve got a fiddler in a box to keep the thing alive.

    Btw GA, I’m still chuckling about how you get your truck washed

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Sad, and weird. Wouldn’t this be a bit like stealing Mona Lisa from the Louvre, and trying to sell it at an art auction? Yeah, Mona Lisa would be recognizable to a lot more of the general population, but anyone with even the slightest knowledge of violins would realize that this one was very special, and would be asking questions. Anyway, I really, really hope it is recovered, undamaged.

  38. Chuck Grenci Says:

    #29, XA

    I with you on this one; just a little of the top (speaker system).

    The last clever addition that I thought had some merit was Honda’s minivan with the built in vacuum; it seemed to fit nicely in the rear compartment, and if the hose could reach the whole vehicle, well then, that was a good idea.

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    29, 38
    To me, both the PA and the vacuum seem silly, the PA, because you don’t need it in anything smaller than, say, a tour bus, and the vacuum, because it adds weight that should be left at home, not riding around in your car all the time.

    That’s just me, though. My MINI would have crank windows, if I’d had that choice.