AD #1385 – More GM Recalls Expected, Volvo XC90 Interior, Google’s Autonomous Prototype

May 28th, 2014 at 11:51am

Runtime: 8:34

- More GM Recalls Expected
- Volvo Reveals XC90 Interior
- MINI Superleggera Vision Concept
- Daimler Dumps Company Stores
- Another Misleading Environmental Study
- Google Puts Auto Industry on Notice

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

Uh-oh looks like GM’s problems are far from over. Despite recalling nearly 14 million vehicles in the U.S. it looks like another 2 million are on the way. NHTSA is investigating safety issues regarding corroding brake lines in GM pick-ups from 1999-2003, braking issues with 2014 Impala’s and headlight failures with GMC Acadia’s and Saturn Outlook’s.

Volvo just released teaser images of the upcoming XC90. And by the looks of it, the crossover’s interior is much more upscale than the previous model. As you can see from the pictures, the new XC90’s interior is sleeker because most of the buttons have been removed. Most functions will be controlled by the iPad-sized touch screen in the center stack. And this shows how Volvo’s new head of design Thomas Ingenlath is putting his stamp on the way that Volvo’s look.

MINI has not really done anything all that new or exciting lately, until, that is, it just showed off its Superleggera Vision concept. The open-top two-seat sportscar mixes hand-crafted coachwork with classic MINI styling. Do we see a hint of the original Jaguar XKE in there? The concept is powered by an electric motor, but we don’t know anything about it. It would be kind of cool to see a gas-powered engine under the hood with a manual transmission and rear-wheel drive. That would give MINI something to go up against Mazda’s MX-5 or the Subaru/Scion twins.

Automakers historically have had a contentious relationship with their dealers. They’re always telling dealers how to run their business, especially when it comes to upgrading their stores and adopting customer satisfaction programs. Even though we could not name one car company executive who ever sold cars for a living, they all seem to think they know how to sell cars better than the people who have been doing it for their entire careers. So here’s an interesting twist of events. Unlike in America, in Europe car companies are allowed to own some of their dealerships. But Daimler just announced it’s going to sell all its company stores in Germany. Why? Because they all lose money! Instead, it will sell Mercedes-Benz’s through independent franchise owners who know a thing or two more about how to move the metal.

The Union of Concerned Scientists just came out with one of its bogus studies again. It compared the fleet-average greenhouse gas emissions of each automaker in the U.S. market. And it crowned Hyundai-Kia as the greenest automaker, while it excoriated GM, Ford and Chrysler as the worst. We call this a bogus comparison because while Hyundai and Kia make very good cars, they do not offer a full line-up of vehicles. Neither does Honda, which came in second place. They don’t make full-size pickups or SUVs, which get factored into the average. If the Union of Concerned Scientists really wanted to offer a helpful comparison, they would break their comparison down into categories of vehicles. They should be telling us who’s the best in compact cars, full size sedans, full size trucks, and so on, and not average those together. Why penalize companies that make products which fit the needs of so many buyers? Of course, we don’t think they’ll ever do a fair comparison Why? Because the Union of Concerned Scientists has a political agenda. And providing unbiased apples-to-apples comparisons are not part of that agenda.

Coming up next, Google has thrown down the gauntlet for the rest of the automotive industry. Red Alert! Red Alert! All hands on deck!

Up to now Google has been using Toyota’s and Lexus’s to develop its autonomous technology. But in a move that should send shockwaves through the global automotive industry, yesterday Google showed its own prototype autonomous car. Even though it’s one of the most hideous looking cars you’ll ever see, it’s stunning to see that Google has taken the steps to develop its own cars. Take a look.

(Today’s look at the Google autonomous prototype car is only available in the video version of the show.)

Google says it plans to build 100 of these prototypes and if everything goes well with its initial tests, the company wants to begin a pilot program within the next several years in California. Interestingly, Google built the cars in the Detroit area, though it will not name which company it worked with.. We’re positive it was not one of the Detroit automakers, but there are a number of prototype shops in the Detroit area with the capability to make these prototypes. So now the question every strategic planner at every car company will have to ask is: will Google be getting into the car business?

Before we go don’t forget to join us for Autoline After Hours tomorrow night starting a 6 pm eastern time. We’ll have Monte Kaehr, the chief engineer for the Toyota Camry on the show. Here’s your chance to get an insider’s view of the product development of the best selling car in the American market. So join me and Gary Vasilash for some of the best insider discussions in the business.

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

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36 Comments to “AD #1385 – More GM Recalls Expected, Volvo XC90 Interior, Google’s Autonomous Prototype”

  1. David Sprowl Says:

    Are self driving cars appeal have to do with all of the technology that the things we “gotta have” are now too much of a distraction that we forgot the shear joy of driving?

  2. Tony Gray Says:

    LOVE the taillights on the Mini Concept.

    Google’s first target could be the taxi business. Get in, speak or key in a destination and be whisked away…after you swipe your credit card of course.

  3. Mike Says:

    Seeing the Google “Egg” reminded me of an interesting article in yesterday’s NYT (
    Tata is redoing the failed Nano by adding power to the motor, power Steering and electronic content. At one time there was a writer for Mechanics Illustrated by the name of Tom McCahill. One of his points was that people do want inexpensive cars, they just don’t want the fact that they bought a POS (in his case a Henry J)everytime they get into the vehicle.

  4. RumNCoke Says:

    Sorry man. Google already knows more about me than I want. I’ll still use the search engine but that’s it. Not to get all Orwellian on you, but we may just look back on today from 2050 and wonder “Why didn’t we stop them when we had a chance?”

  5. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Another great commentary today (concerning the greenest car companies), and you alluding to an abject agenda. I have no doubt you are correct, but for the slow of mind (me, in this case), could you expound on what that specific agenda is.

  6. stas peterson Says:

    Way to Go!

    The left wing loony farm that is the so-called ‘Union of Concerned Scientists’ couldn’t find their own ass with both hands.

    I was a charter member back when they actually had scientists and engineers. But the left wing loony lawyers and PR flacks saw a way to make a very good rice bowl, running such a organization and took it over.

    I quit in disgust, just like a much more famous guy, Patrick Moore did at Greenpeace, when the loonys did the same, there.

    If you want a engineer there at UCS, you’ll have to look on the second shift, where the sanitation engineers, (aka janitors), work after the lights are out pushing mops and toilet brushes. They are the only ones left there that can be called ‘engineers’.

    There are zero engineers and scientist there and these over-schooled and under-educated clowns creating these ‘studies’ are facile only with the rustle clink numbers. None of them even came near a science or engineering course in their lives.

  7. G.A.Branigan Says:

    The moonbatz are expert at coming up with bogus everything,as long as they can twist something to fit their agenda.Todays so called ‘educators’ are a joke….and a bad joke at that.

  8. Mike Says:

    Stas, I sometimes feel a little sorry for the HR folks. They are tasked with going out to hire Engineers, without really knowing what one looks like. So they defer to the Universities who do grant degrees but don’t themselves really know what makes an effective Engineer. I’ve known MSEE’s that probably really weren’t safe changing batteries in a flashlight. Taking all the courses and passing all the tests is good, but really, you needed to have the right personality with a good brain in the first place.

  9. MJB Says:

    2. You know, that taxi cab application never even occurred to me, but seems to make perfect sense. Brilliant idea. They’d just need to devise a way for the taxi to know when it’s being hailed, versus a pedestrian waving to a friend on the other side of the street – haha

  10. Brett Says:

    Political agenda: “save the world”
    Certainly makes them the object of derision in this day and age. I am reminded of the cartoon of the global climate change conference where the guy in the back is raising his hand and asking, “What if it’s all a hoax and we make the world a better place for no good reason?”

  11. Mark Says:

    As many have commented already, the report is faulty and useless.

    More than anything, this provides clear proof the Union of Concerned Scientists are spinning data to meet their agenda. If they do this here, why do we listen to ANYTHING they say on other topics that are even more technical? I say the biggest loser here is the UCS’s credibility.

    Many wonder why some people don’t buy into the man-made climate change dogma, but crap like this is one of the reasons. If the data supports your claims, you DON’T need to spin it.

  12. MJB Says:

    Volvo can keep that all-digital touchscreen interface. I do not want one in my car. I’m a buttons and knobs guy all the way!

    There’s no way anyone can convince me that it is just as quick and easy for me to turn down the volume of my radio with a touchscreen (paging and swiping through multiple screens and menus) as it is with a simple volume knob! These things ate the ultimate in driver distraction. Then they haven’t the gall to flash a warning message about NOT using it while driving every time the car is started.

    I’d honestly like to see a statistic gathered showing how many accidents are caused by infotainment system related distractions. My bet is they will easily outpace those caused by texting in the near future (if not already).

  13. Drew Says:

    Thanks Stas!!!!

    So, how do we get the rest of the media to quit giving ink and air time to the UCS?

    When we are done with UCS, we need to get real science and statistics back into IIHS. Presently, IIHS is only interested in getting back on TV by creating the most graphically violent crash and in championing cost tranfer from Darwinians to the OEMs/driving public enmass.

  14. Lex Says:

    I was watching the History Channel’s “Men who Built America” series there was a striking resemblance of the battle between Henry Ford and ALAM (Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers) and what Elon Musk has to deal with from the NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association).

    The Google autonomous prototype car techology might best be suited to replace taxi’s in trips to the airport were light rail or bus service might be too costly, in places like Las Vegas.

  15. Lex Says:

    John McElroy,

    It sounds like you are painting the U.C.S. (Union of Concerned Scientists) to be like A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics)who were the bad guys in Ironman 3. Maybe you should invite UCS to AAH for a panel discussion on how they arrive at their determinations and rankings. I believe this would be a very interesting discussion.

  16. pedro fernandez Says:

    I wonder if autonomous taxi cabs are gonna have artificial body odors put into them?

  17. Lex Says:


    I just had my vehicle serviced at my local dealership this morning. When they returned my vehicle to me the BO (Body Odor) was so strong I had to drive a couple of miles to air it out.
    The poor tech who worked on my vehicle must not shower daily or maybe is homeless sleeping in his car. I did not complain because I felt sorry for the young guy and did not want it to have any negative effect on his employment. This is a hard issue to discuss with a stranger.

  18. Kate McLeod Says:

    Re: Daimler Dumps Stores

    Lee Iacocca, one of the great car company bosses started as a car salesman. So there’s one you can name.

  19. Marshall Says:

    I hate the Volvo XC90′s new interior. I thought Volvo’s were all about SAFETY. With buttons and knobs you can operate things like the radio and climate control without even looking. With touchscreens, you must take your eyes off of the road to make any adjustments. DANGER, DANGER!!

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    Lex, NY is infamous for smelly middle eastern cab drivers, they even had to pass a regulation regarding this and riders were given a phone number to complain about their stinky driver.

  21. Drew Says:

    @ #2 Tony – I really like those taillights on the Mini concept as well. They look like the British flag.

    In terms of fun exterior lights, the 1st generation Kia Soul had turn indicators shaped like turn arrows… but Kia seemed to discretely remove that design detail. I wonder if it was due to FMVSS or whimsy. IF whimsy, that should have been the reason to keep them.

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    yesterday I had the displeasure of going to my local Toyota dealer and looked over the new Corolla and to my amazement, they had placed another sticker next to the regular one with almost $3k in extra BS fees, like adjusted market value or limited supply additional costs, on a freaking cookie cutter Corolla?? who are they fooling? There are plenty of them going around, two No. American factories churning them out day and night.

  23. John McElroy Says:

    @#5 Chuck, The Union has a history of attacking the Detroit Three. They don’t want them to build big cars, big trucks or big SUV’s. And so they put out press releases that accuse them of being the worst polluters in the industry. If they did an unbiased comparison of GHG emitters by category the story would be very different. It is biased reports like the one they just put out that help create a public perception that the automakers in Detroit are just a bunch of bumbling idiots who don’t know what they’re doing.

  24. RS Says:

    I think I see a little bug-eye Sprite in the mini concept. Of course, the cute fin on the “boot” is reminiscent of the Jag D-Type.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I generally go along with what UCS stands for, including the need for renewable energy sources, the existence of human contribution to climate change, the fact that nuclear energy has risk, and even the lunacy of people driving vehicles twice as big as they need, and the need for better mass transit in America.

    That said, the “report” on the green-ness of car companies, as others have said, hurts the organization’s credibility. Yeah, Hyundai doesn’t make pickup trucks and monster SUV’s, but as long as gas is as cheap as it is, people will continue to buy them. For now, Ford and GM are the big producers of those vehicles. If GM and Ford decided to quit making them, and people still wanted to buy them, Hyundai would have them on the market within two years.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    22, Pedro, the local Toyota/Ford/Honda dealer in Kokomo, IN seems to be a generally good place to buy Toyotas. I suspect Kokomo’s being distinctly NOT import territory helps.

  27. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Pedro: If you get a chance,check out the kia soul.I am very impressed with the wifes new ride.For around town she uses the ‘eco’ mode.I don’t know what the mpg is yet,she is still running the tank of gas that the dealer filled up,and she does a lot of running around town everyday.

  28. cwolf Says:

    Nothing against the Corolla, but the Civic is to be a better ride of the two.

  29. cwolf Says:

    I’d rather see autonomous vehicles first used in heavy trucks , like those used in a rock quarry. If they can navigate thru that maze and drop a load to the crusher, then return for another load, maybe I could one day be more acceptable to have them on the road.
    Will these things become smart enough to reduce the posted speeds in heavy rains or during snow storms. All I know is that I don’t want to be in one to find out!

  30. cwolf Says:

    TB: I know you are looking in, so are you getting any warnings that any recalls on the Colorado will not be acceptable?

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Recalls, when needed, are good. Not recalling cars that should be recalled is bad. It seems that there have been too many recalls recently “just to be careful.”

  32. cwolf Says:

    Kit, I’ve been looking at shared suppliers used by various makers. Either the other manufactures using the same ones will soon be doing more recalls or GM is under-engineering products produced by these suppiers. The proofs in the pudding and may be deserving of a response from TB if the other makers utilizing the same supplier experience no recall problems.

  33. Kit Gerhart Says:

    32, It is also possible that other manufacturers using exactly the same parts as GM won’t recall the cars. GM is in the spotlight, so they may be doing “extra” recalls. I don’t know, but that seems plausible.

  34. T. Bejma Says:


    Come on cwolf, there really is only one answer.

    As expected, there will be increased awareness and scrutiny on all programs with the real benefit being even better vehicles and even more satisfied customers.

    If you research it you will find that a majority of recalls are implemented based on a very small percentage of actual defects, but because of the possibility of other failures is still there, all must be “contained”. I disagree that we are facing a rash of “under-engineered” parts (or we would see a much larger percentage of failures). What I see, in my opinion, is validation standards that are not developed from actual results but sometimes arbitrary numbers that may not be adequate to catch all situations that a customer vehicle may see. GM vehicles still have one of the best warranties in the industry and actual reliability ratings at the top of all automakers.

  35. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Pedro, if you believe the advertising, Toyota of Orlando offers some pretty enticing deals (bait and switch; I don’t know) but maybe worth a look. Also, maybe make the move to something that is closer to the size of your current ‘crapola’; now a days the Versa, Sonic, Yaris are probably as big (as the Corolla of old). Lots of good/economical stuff is out there, and with all of them; you pay your money (and you ‘takes’ your chances).

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    35, One thing you are up against with any Toyota dealer in Florida, is that you start out with a ~$700 higher MSRP than in, say, Indiana, because of the SE Toyota Distributors add-on. For me, spending part of the year away from Florida, it was convenient to buy my Toyota elsewhere, but for most people, it wouldn’t be that way.