Episode 166 – Supplier Aid Denied, American Axle Sues Supplier, Electricity From Cars

June 17th, 2009 at 12:27pm

Runtime 6:55

Suppliers in the American market failed again to obtain financial help from the government. American Axle is seeking a court order to get one of its steel suppliers to resume deliveries. A unique way to use cars to generate electricity is being used in England. All that and more, plus John answers viewer questions in the “You Said It!” segment.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Treasury to suppliers, “drop dead.” American Axle sues a supplier to resume shipments. And a unique way to use cars to generate electricity.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, June 17, 2009. And now, the news.

Suppliers in the American market failed again to obtain financial help from the government. The Original Equipment Suppliers Association asked the U.S. Treasury for up to $10 billion so suppliers can buy raw materials and pay employees. But the Associated Press reports that the Treasury doesn’t see a need since it doesn’t see any supply disruptions. From my vantage point that’s like sailing into a minefield and saying, “Well, nothing’s blown up, yet.”

And here’s a good example of that. American Axle is seeking a court order to get one of its steel suppliers to resume deliveries. According to the AP, Republic Engineered Products stopped shipments to American Axle because they wanted volume commitments due to American Axle’s weak financial condition. American Axle makes components for GM trucks and SUVs but it’s not expected to affect GM at the moment because the automaker has virtually stopped all truck production.

As we reported a week ago, Volkswagen objects to the supplier company Magna getting part of Opel. VW says that would give Opel an unfair advantage, since Magna is a supplier to VW and would know its future product plans. But at the National Summit in Detroit, Don Walker, the Co-CEO of Magna told Autoline Daily, that Magna would establish firewalls between Opel and Magna’s supplier business. He notes this is how most suppliers handle the business they do with different automakers, but he added if Magna does become a part owner of Opel, it would need a different type of firewall.

At the Detroit Auto Show last January, Audi unveiled a stunning concept called the Sportback. It was a highly styled four-door hatchback with lots of production potential. Now the company is hinting at what the market version of the car will look like. It released a small video of the vehicle being sketched by its Chief Designer, Wolfgang Egger. The illustration doesn’t show very much, but it at least gives you a feel for what the car will look like. The company also released a tantalizing teaser photo showing a small part of the hatch. Look for the A5 Sportback at dealers this September.

UK supermarket chain Sainsbury has implemented a new green energy generator at one of its locations. “Kinetic road plates” have been installed at the company’s new “green store” in Gloucester, England. The parking lot features large pads. As cars drive over them their weight pushes on the pads, which generates power. The system is expected to produce about 30 kilowatts of electricity per hour, which is about 4 times as much power needed to run the average home.

Researchers at MIT created a nickel-tungsten alloy that is more durable and safer to make than chrome (subscription required). Today, making chrome uses electroplating, which runs an electrical current through a liquid of chromium ions to deposit a thin layer coating on the metal and the process is repeated multiple times. This is not only unfriendly to the environment but it’s also hazardous to workers. The MIT process applies the coating in one step. According to Ward’s, the new coating could be used for engine parts and shock absorbers but is now being tested on bumpers.

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

And now it’s time for some of your feedback. This is “You Said It!” Every day we get dozens of comments and questions from you, our viewers. “You Said It!” gives me a chance to respond.

Mouhamed Naboulsi saw our report on the Mercedes braking bag, an airbag under the car that deploys to help drag the car to a stop to avoid an accident. He says, “Mercedes’ braking concept is brilliant. But, how will they control body YAW?”

Mouhamed, first off, the wheels are still in contact with the pavement so the yaw control will still be somewhat effective. Second, that bag only triggers in the case of an imminent collision and my guess is that the number one priority at that point is to stop the car more than worry about the yaw.

Michael J. Brown picks up on that and says, “Why don’t they make airbags that protect the car too? In the case of fender-benders just think of how many front and rear bumpers could be spared, and how many insurance deductibles too, by having airbags that deploy from out of bumpers.”

Interesting concept Michael, but it’s ironic in that bumpers were first put on cars to protect them, and now we’re going to put airbags on to protect the bumpers? Second, it costs a lot of money to replace an airbag, so you’d still be socked with insurance deductibles. I like the idea that the industry was exploring after World War II when they were looking at putting retro rockets on the front of a car, with the idea of firing them off in case of imminent collision and bringing the car to a dead stop. I think they dropped the idea when the realized, “What if you’re trying to avoid hitting a pedestrian?”

Puremoose saw our review of the Honda Insight where I complained of all the vibration in the rear view mirror. He asks, “Why would the rear view mirror shake? Is the glass too thin?”

Puremoose, I think you nailed it. I think Honda went with thin glass all the way around the save weight to get good fuel economy, and that’s why the rear view mirror, which is mounted to the windshield vibrates so much.

Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Eastern or 2300 hours GMT when Mark LaNeve, who runs all sales, marketing and advertising at General Motors joins Jason Vines, Peter De Lorenzo and me in the studio. I tell you, I can’t wait for that show, it’s going to be a good one.

That’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

20 Comments to “Episode 166 – Supplier Aid Denied, American Axle Sues Supplier, Electricity From Cars”

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  2. Alex Kajdi Says:


    If there are “Kinetic road plates” that generate electricity by having a vehicle park on top of them, why not put similar plates under all the seats and in the trunk of a vehicle so that driver, passengers and luggage can generate electric on your daily commute or long distance trip in your Plug-in Electric Vehicle. No one rides for free! Let you “Bio-Mass” do the propelling!

  3. Alex Kajdi Says:


    When are you going to schedule Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company on your After Hours Show? I was looking at Ford’s UK Website and saw some really attractive vehicles like the Fiesta, Kuga and especially the Galaxy MPV which I believe would do very well in the States. The Galaxy could reintroduce Ford into the MPV / Minivan Market. I like the term MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle)over minivan. MPV does not have the soccer mom image linked to it like minivan does.

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  5. G.A.Branigan Says:

    These kinetic energy plates…are the piezo? With high traffic areas such as city streets etc.why not install them all around to produce electric? Could take some of the summer load off the grid in high density areas….just a thought.

  6. Dave Bardsley Says:

    It seems obvious that the kinetic road plates just take the potential energy of the cars elevation (or motion) and by lowering the center of gravity of the car mass creates an energy transfer to the road plate. That energy is paid for by the car’s owner when the car center of gravity by its own power is raised either went driving on to the load plate or driving off the load plate. It is a plain theft of fuel from the car owners! It is possible that the distortion of the load plate creates energy, but that too would be paid for by increased rolling resistance of the car over the plate — again a theft of energy and fuel from the car!

  7. Bill Says:

    I’m getting a empty box and can’t access the video. Has anybody out there got a remedy?

  8. Don MacConnel Says:

    Thin glass? Well, there was a class action suit against Honda for windshield cracks in earlier Elements. Mounting stress risers were blamed but the glass also seemed very susceptible to cracking due to very small gravel hits or for no apparent reason. Lots of urban legend here but something bad was happening

    Non-OEM glass, which is heavier, seems much more resistant to cracking so the thin glass comment makes sense and would indeed save weight.

  9. Don B. Says:

    A few years ago I saw on a car magazine show that a major car maker {Honda?} had a CNG car and a filling station for home use. You have the filling station installed in your home and connect it to the car at night. The station would take the gas coming into the house and compress for filling the car. After that show I haven’t seen anything on it. Then it maybe a California thing and never made it to the east coast. Since you have been pro CNG maybe you have more info on this.

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  11. pedro Fernandez Says:

    It appears the same thin glass problems plague the 2008 xb’s. They crack under normal use and the rearview mirror which is also attached to the glass, vibrates a lot. Memo to designers: Attach the freaking mirror to the roof of the car NOT the windshield!

  12. Derek Says:

    Kinetic Energy Plates is, indeed, and interesting concept. I can see a number of reasonable applications for them but also see how they can end up being nothing more than a metal plate in the road. First, the reasonable applications, I see them being used in suburban “downtown” four way stop signs, at entry points of traffic circles, and entrances to suburban subdivisions (on either side of those guard shacks where that one section of asphalt pavement is replaced with brick pavers to too look like a glorified crosswalk). But one of the more interesting applications I can think of is to have the technology applied in place of actual speed bumps/humps. So rather than just producing a “plate” the company should produce/install “bumps” or “humps”. As for the when they become useless, well if the technology relies solely on the weight of the car, then if these are placed in a relatively busy location, then a vehicle might always be on them. Essentially, this results in a constant supply of weight that would not vary enough from vehicle to vehicle to generate enough electricity to power a light bulb.

    In any respect, a very interesting and promising concept, but traffic studies would have to be done to make sure the investment would pay off.

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  14. Alex Kovnat Says:

    I would like to add my name to the list of those who vote NO for kinetic energy recovery plates in the road. They would be a nuisance to maintain and besides, the most important function of the road is low rolling resistance (of course this is also a function of tires as well) and good traction. It doesn’t make sense to increase rolling resistance, and then attempt to recycle the energy lost.

    Years ago David Bruce-Biggs, in his book The War Against the Automobile, suggested in a footnote that as long as others were submitting crazy ideas, he might as well submit his: Having solar cells in the road, designed of course so cars could drive over them. That makes more sense to me than kinetic road plates.

  15. Salvador G. Says:


    Can you find out the durability of those kinetic plates??
    I like the idea of placing kinetic plates across town and cities.
    Imagine if we were capable of creating a kinetic plate highway across the USA, inside racetracks and maybe even airports, this country will be set for life.

    CAR TEASERS… I not sure how to feel about car teasers, yeah I like to feel excited about a future cool looking car but, I’m not sure I like to feel naughty.

    keep up the good work.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Kinetic plates should only be used in areas where all of the vehicles are slowing down. The energy to operate the kinetic plates comes from somewhere, that somewhere being the fuel tank/batteries of the car operating them. To get energy from the plate, the vehicle would either climb the plate or climb off it. You would essentially be going “uphill” all the time you were in the plate area, even if the road is nominally flat.

  17. G.A.Branigan Says:

    If these kinetic energy plates are piezo electrics,just the weight of the vehicle is all that is needed.They can be inbedded just under the road surface so no one is “stealing” fuel energy from anybody.You would never know they are there.I think it’s a great idea…..why not?

  18. John Sahr Says:

    The windsheild may be thin to save weight. But the mirror is not vibrating because of that. I have put in auto glass for almost 17 years. The mirror is the problem. Some are attached with a set screw and others have parts that puts pressure on the mirror bracket. If it shakes, then the mirror and the bracket don’t fit together tight enough.

    Also non OEM glass is not thicker or heavier than factory glass. It all has to be made to factory specs.

    And if you have a windsheild changed at the dealer and its under warranty. The dealer is getting the glass from the manufacturer. Its non aftermarket glass.

  19. Mark D. Says:

    The idea of plates on the road seems cool and I can understand the arguments for rolling resistance an all, but aren’t we missing something here. What happens to the plates when they are run over by a snow removal truck? What about road repair and potholes and how this may effect the plate and the corresponding energy storage system? Not sure that the two materials will even survive together. Some body must have already figured this out, eh?

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    For piezo devices to make energy, there has to be some motion. You can’t get something for nothing, including electricity, without some type of input of energy. It would be nice if we could (cheaply) pave all of the world’s roads with piezo plates and produce all of the electricity the world uses, but it doesn’t work that way.