AD #1802 – Traffic Deaths on the Rise, BMW Gooses Sales w/ Loaners, GM Deliberately Holds Back Fuel Cell

February 18th, 2016 at 11:42am

Runtime: 6:31

- Traffic Deaths on the Rise
- BMW Tops Luxury Sales in U.S.
- Volvo Shows New V90 Wagon
- GM Deliberately Holds Back Fuel Cell Vehicle
- Kia Reveals Optima Sportswagon
- The Other VW Karmann Ghia

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33 Comments to “AD #1802 – Traffic Deaths on the Rise, BMW Gooses Sales w/ Loaners, GM Deliberately Holds Back Fuel Cell”

  1. NormV Says:

    Buick/Cadillac had a combined sales of 398,000 units taking the premium segment crown for 2015 in the U.S.?

  2. Tony Gray Says:

    The industry is littered with vehicles with innovative features that were put on the market and failed only to be resurrected by a follow on car maker with much greater success.

    The Chrysler Airflow styling was well ahead of its time. The Chysler Pacifica led the way for the current crossover fad. Jensen’s FF beat the Audi Quattro to the market by a country mile. Even GM’s EV1 was innovative.

    I think it is management’s inability to stay the course that leads to failures in innovation.

    Of course on the flip side are debacles like the early Vega aluminum blocks that tested well but failed miserably in the real world.

    People don’t mind being on the cutting edge of technology but they don’t want to be an uncompensated rolling test bed either. Manufacturers have to find the sweet spot.

  3. GM Veteran Says:

    That’s an interesting thought, Norm. Buick was slated to be the luxury brand and Cadillac the premium brand, so why not look at their combined sales? However, should we also count in the sales of Denali models at GMC? They are considered luxury vehicles and their prices easily overlap the Buick/Cadillac price ranges. With the proliferation of upscale models in many brands that historically were not luxury brands, and with many traditional luxury brands reaching ever further down in the price and size spectrums, it is getting harder and harder to make clear cut sales comparisons!

  4. Lisk Says:

    Unlike cell phones & tablets that sell in the millions of units and get replaced every couple of years and then tossed, the Fuel Cells must have to last much longer. I understand GM’s reluctance to spend billions only to lose money on the finished product (first Gen Volt?).

    As for the VWs, I still favor the original Karmann-Ghia. Very smooth and purposeful. I honestly thought the Type 3 was some French abomination we were going to have to guess what it was. Thanks for the automotive history lesson.
    Sean, was this a conspiracy to get our minds of of Dieselegate?

  5. JWH Says:

    Somebody has to be “First to Market” or we would still be hitching our wagons to horses, however, it is a fine line. If technology will have a short life before obsolescence, the constant re-development & tooling costs need to be in the business model. The cost of being first should be consciously in the business with no surprises. In addition, this cost may be part of the marketing costs to promote the brand image.

  6. GM Veteran Says:

    I think GM is being very prudent in holding back on a fuel cell vehicle, but not for the reason they provide. Rather I think its:

    The ownership cost advantages are not there with fuel cells, compared to ICE and EV’s.

    No refueling infrastructure means you are trying to sell a car that would be very difficult for the average person to own. Due to the much higher cost per station, I don’t see GM or any OEM shouldering the cost of a nationwide hydrogen refueling network like Tesla’s Superchargers.

    If the economies were there, OEM’s would be promoting this as a fleet play, with a central refueling station in the fleet parking lot. That would be logical, but obviously its not cost competitive with gas or electrically powered fleet vehicles.

    So, its really not even the chicken and egg scenario. It would seem that EV’s will keep fuel cells at bay for a long time since they are much more convenient and cost-effective to own.

  7. RS Says:

    And, speaking of innovation gone wrong, can you spell OLDSMOBILE DIESEL??? That one took me out of the GM camp for life! Terrible engineering and absolutely NO help from GM. After the Olds diesel debacle, imagine my surprise when Honda starts offering me warranty work before anything even goes wrong!

  8. marshy Says:

    There are lots of reasons OEMs will pull forward sales into a quarter (or push them out). A big one is quarterly reporting and the impact it has on debt re-financing. If there is a substantial credit note that is due and needs rolling over, the company will strategically time news to maximize the credit rating at the time of re-financing.

    Because markets are based on quarterly reporting, there are many tangible benefits to putting all the bad news into one quarter. Rather than having two ‘meh’ ones.

  9. Jon M Says:

    The title could also have read, “BMW Gooses Financial Results with Creative Accounting.” Of course BMW is not the only one to do this, and because they don’t buy them back in January, it doesn’t push or outright defy proper accounting decorum. Call it sterilized channel stuffing which keeps the red flags at the SEC lowered. I’m not calling it even tantamount to fraud; it’s fine. But a word somewhere in the published financials about such last minute initiatives to prop up revenues I think would be quite appropriate, especially if such “incentives” were material to financial statements.

  10. Todd T Says:

    Traffic fatalities will continue to rise until regulations that take distracted driving as seriously as drunk driving are implemented.

  11. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Until there is a cost effective source of hydrogen other than “taking apart” natural gas, and until there is an infrastructure for filling tanks to 3000 psi, there is no point in fuel cell cars. It will be many years before it happens.

  12. HtG Says:

    Great Wards piece on fuel cells.

    ——
    Doesn’t that Kahrmann 3 look a lot like the Corvair from the rear?

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’ll check the Wards piece.

  14. John McElroy Says:

    HtG: I used to own a Type 34 Karmann Ghia and everyone told me how much it reminded them of the Corvair.

  15. HtG Says:

    13 One interesting bit was that Honda is working closely with GM in developing fuel cells. It reminds me of the ‘partnership’ model that’s ordered the mobile computing economy, and which is entering the space where autos and computing are making strides. One thing the cybernauts know is they must deeply understand their customer’s needs.

  16. George Ricci Says:

    Hydrogen powered cars sounds great, zero emission. Wrong, where did you get the hydrogen? 95% of all the hydrogen made in the US is made by burning natural gas, a fossil fuel. So it has a carbon footprint and is not zero emission. Also, the process of converting natural gas to hydrogen is only 78% efficient and then you lose another 10-12% by compressing it to 5000-10000 psi so you can get enough into a fuel tank to go somewhere.

    GM should stay out of the hydrogen car business. The trouble is CARB is forcing the auto companies into wasting billions of dollars on these cars that nobody wants. I wonder who is ultimately paying hundreds of millions of dollars on the hydrogen infrastructure. I will give you one guess? Then when we have thousands of these cars on the road, one will catch on fire. Someone in the news media will show video of the Hindenburg going up in flames and that will kill all sales of hydrogen cars. Then what do the auto companies do with all the cars they have in inventory and the billions they have invested?

  17. XA351GT Says:

    I echo the Type 34 Corvair comparison.

  18. W L Simpson Says:

    All I remember of the Karmann G was rot, rust & decay,
    like the chevy Vega.

  19. W L Simpson Says:

    Poor driver training is the basic cause of
    traffic incidents . Impaired driving is next,
    weather is 3rd . Stupidity ,according to DashCams, has it’s place too.

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    Cheaper gas, more distracted, clueless drivers =more traffic deaths, safety devices and all. The best safety device is an alert driver.

  21. MJB Says:

    @14. John, I was waiting for that exact comparison. It’s entirely true (on the rear end).

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    19, 20 …and more texting.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Sorry, that falls under distracted.

  24. HtG Says:

    I checked the link for the fatalities report, and see that outside of deaths there were 4.4 million serious injuries on the roads; Serious Injuries defined as those requiring medical attention. Wow, there’s only 340 million people in the country, so we’re talking about more than 1% getting really hurt.

    My personal observation is that more people seem to be limited to attending to their own intentions to the exclusion of what’s happening around them. This includes pedestrians and cyclists, and is behavior I haven’t seen in 40 years of paying attention.

  25. MJB Says:

    24. This is why there’s such a push to get full autonomy on the roads. It’s a permanent band-aid, if you ask me (autonomy). Instead of people behaving properly on the roads, we supply a measure by which they are no longer held accountable for their lack of attention/driving skill/common sense/etc.

    I could easily make another equally compelling comparison, but this is not the forum for that sort of discussion…

  26. HtG Says:

    25 I’m all for autonomy, MJB. Even though I’m prolly one of those whack job purists(okay, my gearbox has synchros) John described today on AAH, I think people driving to work or dropping off kids at school, etc., shouldn’t be taking big risks because of cars. The cars and the driving are too mundane to be risking so much harm. Let’s get computerized.

  27. Alex Milosh Says:

    Sean, that VW Karman Ghia type 34 sure looks similar to a General Motor’s Chevrolet Corvair!!

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    The wackos who are responsible for many of the crashes we see today will never buy an autonomous car, they get a thrill out of cutting everyone off and driving way faster than the traffic allows. Can’t do that with an autonomous vehicle.

  29. HtG Says:

    Autonomous cars will video this behavior and send the file to the insurance company and police. Like the creep the other day who crossed into the on ramp lane at excessive speed as I was merging. If I hadn’t been riding my mirrors so I could swerve out of the way, there might be no more Civic. Who drives into the on ramp lane from the right lane?

  30. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Gasoline, diesel and now electric coming on-line as infrastructures (with electric still wanting); don’t think we’re ready for hydrogen as a fuel (except for commercial, within area uses).

  31. MJB Says:

    26. – HtG, now you’ve got me trying to picture a fully autonomous school bus. Who would quiet the kids – haha

  32. FSTFWRD Says:

    @30 A robot?

  33. Kit Gerhart Says:

    More VW info

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/19/business/volkswagen-memos-suggest-emissions-problem-was-known-earlier.html