Episode 178 – Opel Still Up For Grabs, Porsche Attracts More Interest, Valeo Hybrid Technology

July 6th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 6:46

Chinese automaker Beijing Auto offers a bid to take a stake in Opel, however, the president of GM Europe, says that he expects Magna to get Opel very soon. Chinese and Russian investors are interested in a stake in Porsche. Valeo and Peugeot are researching ways to incorporate supercapacitors into mild-hybrid vehicles. All that and more, plus a look at Kia’s brand-new compact car, the Forte.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Opel is still up for grabs. Chinese and Russian investors are interested in Porsche. And Valeo develops supercapacitors for hybrids.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Monday, July 6, 2009. And now, the news.

Who’s going to get Opel? Several reports say Chinese automaker Beijing Auto is bidding 660 million euros, about $920 million, to take a 51 percent stake in Opel. It promises not to close any Opel factories in Germany and is asking for less government financial support than Magna is. However, Reuters quotes Carl Peter Forster, the president of GM Europe, saying that he expects Magna to get Opel very soon.

Chrysler announced the final members to join its board of directors. The company brags it now has a board with extensive experience in transportation, finance and investing, energy and government. I would hasten to add, however, that none of the nine men who sit on the board, except for two Fiat executives, Sergio Marchionne and Alfredo Altavilla, have any automotive experience. In fact, none of the others have any industrial experience. So the board will have to defer to the two Fiat executives on most issues regarding the core business.

Fiat and Chinese automaker Guangzhou Auto will sign an alliance today in Rome to build cars in China. According to Gasgoo.com, the two will operate a joint plant that will build the Fiat Linea, Bravo and Grande Punto models starting in 2011. This deal gets Fiat back in China after its alliance with Nanjing Automotive fell apart two years ago. Those are also some of the models Fiat wants to share with Chrysler.

A report out of Germany says there are three more bidders interested in taking a stake in Porsche. According to Reuters, Chinese and Russian investors are interested in the company, in addition to the country of Qatar, which has already made an offer. Porsche is trying to reduce debt it acquired in its attempt to take a controlling stake in VW.  If it can’t, Porsche faces a reverse takeover from VW.

Valeo and Peugeot are researching ways to incorporate supercapacitors into mild-hybrid vehicles (subscription required). Ward’s reports that the technology would allow the supplier’s start/stop system to store regenerative energy in supercapacitors instead of batteries. Valeo is on track to deliver a supercapacitor mild hybrid system to another European automaker in 2011. The goal of its partnership with Peugeot is to reduce the cost of the technology so it can be manufactured in high volumes.

In other European EV news, the AFP reports that Volkswagen honcho Martin Winterkorn said the company plans on turning-out its first all-electric vehicle in 2013. The company is also aiming for 1.0 to 1.5 percent of the global electric vehicle market by 2020.

The LA Times reports that Best Buy is going to sell electric motorcycles. Last May the company started offering battery-powered bicycles, scooters and Segways in 21 West Coast stores. This month it will broaden its offerings by selling “Enertia” motorcycles from a company called Brammo Inc. The bike features an 18 horsepower electric motor and a lithium-ion battery that delivers a top speed of more than 50 miles per hour, and a range of 35 to 45 miles.

Coming up next, a look at Kia’s brand-new compact car, the Forte, we’ll be back right after this.

Kia Motors continues to grow, especially here in America. At a time when its competition has seen a steady drop in sales, this South Korean company just registered its15th straight year of increased market share, thanks to new products like the Soul and its latest car, the Forte sedan.

For the last nine years, Kia’s current compact model – and brand sales leader – the Spectra, battled the likes of the Honda Civic, Toyota’s Corolla and the Ford Focus, and finished in the middle of the sales pack. But now with a bigger car built on a new platform, it hopes to climb closer to the competition.

Bolder more aggressive styling than with the outgoing Spectra, the front-wheel-drive Forte is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, with all-new front and rear suspensions plus a longer wheelbase giving it a smoother ride.

This South Korean-made compact – which is available around America in mid-July – comes in three trim levels. The LX and EX versions are equipped with a standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual that gets a combined 28 miles per gallon or about 8.4 L/100 km. Meanwhile, the sportier SX with its 2.4-liter four-cylinder powerplant and 173 horsepower gets only 2 mpgs less.

Inside this surprisingly roomy compact car is a bright instrument cluster with a tall center stack and an audio system that’s outfitted with everything from satellite radio to iPod connects to Bluetooth – all standard. The cockpit also comes equipped with features like a six-way adjustable driver’s seat, tilt steering and a long list of standard amenities that are options in some of the competition.

With its package of standard features, and pricing that starts at $13,700 for the LX, to just over $17,000 for the SX, the Forte sedan, and its Koup cousin which comes out later this summer, look to help continue Kia’s steady rise in the American market.

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

19 Comments to “Episode 178 – Opel Still Up For Grabs, Porsche Attracts More Interest, Valeo Hybrid Technology”

  1. Alex Kajdi Says:


    I thought you had a “Big Annoucement” for your viewers last week?

  2. Len Simpson Says:

    Chrysler is smart having “noncar guys” on the board for the
    sake of a consumer’s POV

  3. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Every time I watch a new autoline daily, I feel that the American auto industry is being swallowed by the rest of the world, all we get here is bankruptsy, layoffs, closings. From abroad, mergers, new models, takeovers. It’s enough to stop the world and get off.

  4. Phil Says:

    Was the video of the Kia Forte supplied by Kia? I guess not stopping for stop signs is now considered acceptable if an auto manufacturer feels comfortable sending out video of its drivers blowing through a stop sign in a promotional video. That’s pretty bad if you ask me.

  5. GUY FIROR Says:


  6. paulstewart Says:

    Ya ‘ John what WAS the big Announcement that you hinted at early last week ? At least give us a hint ??? Some kind of a huge industry guest on your Thur. show ? Maybe Lutz was a no show, maybe Penske himself ?

  7. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Ford just announced that their sales in China went up 14%. That’s where the money is now, baby!

  8. Alex Kovnat Says:

    Re electric motorcycles:

    I would like to mention some problems with full electric and hybrid electric motorcycles. First, let’s look at today’s hybrid electric cars. The Prius, to provide the best example, is a front wheel drive car. This is good if you want an electric or hybrid electric car, because the front wheels do most of the braking and you then have very decent regenerative braking via the front wheel drivetrain.

    With rear wheel drive cars, you have a frustration if you want electric or hybrid-electric drive: Since the engine and/or traction motors are coupled to the rear wheels, regenerative braking is then via said wheels. This isn’t good, as its the front wheels that do over half the braking due to forward weight transfer while decellerating.

    Now, let’s look at motorcycles. I never saw or heard of a front wheel drive motorcycle. All motorcycles I know of, drive only the rear wheel. Since the front brake exerts most of the stopping effort and since too much rear brake can cause rear wheel lockup, with a motorcycle you can’t do regenerative braking very well.

    The only solution I see, is to have a motor/generator on the front wheel. Said motor/generator will enable you to have an all wheel drive motorcycle but much more important than that, is greatly improved regenerative braking.

    So if you are a motorcycle enthusiast, put out some positive thought waves to whoever is addressing the matter of wheel hub motors. Front wheel hub motors will also be nice for hybrid electric pickup trucks, as these vehicles are not good candidates for front wheel drive.

  9. John Says:

    Hello John McElroy,

    Pedro has a good point. “I feel that the American auto industry is being swallowed by the rest of the world,…”

    John, do you know of a collection of vehicle data from the “American Automobile Labeling Act”? Does NHTSA provide it?

    I found this summary:

    The American Automobile Labeling Act (AALA) was enacted in October 1992 in order to aid potential purchasers in the selection of new passenger motor vehicles by providing them with information about the country of origin of vehicles and their parts.


  10. Don MacConnel Says:

    I’ve been designing super capacitors into electronics for a long time but just learned that the supercapactor concept was by a scientist at Standard Oil of Ohio. Other countries picked up the idea and ran with it.
    Sound familiar?

    Here’s a link to a good writeup on supercaps. They are very interesting components.


  11. Salvador G. Says:

    John McElroy, I kind of get Supercapacitors on “Mild hybrids” as soon as someone explains what is a “Mild hybrid”. I know supercapacitors they charge faster than a battery, although; discharge faster than a battery and hold less energy than a battery.

    So, What exactly is a “Mild Hybrid” and how is that different than a Full Hybrid???….
    And isn’t a capacitor suppose to work with a battery???


  12. C-Tech Says:

    As a auto technician, with all the new developments with electric drivetrains I hope the manufacturers seriously consider repairability in their designs. Otherwise, these will be some very expensive disposable cars.

  13. pedro Fernandez Says:

    @C-Tech, I agree with you 100%, look what’s happened to the home electronics, nothing gets repaired anymore, just throw it out and buy another one, its the mentality of it, my son has an 18 month old lcd tv it broke and he started looking to buy another one. Is this the future for cars also? It will take a lot of money to get them repaired, and you’d be crazy to buy a used one.

  14. Alex Kovnat Says:


    In answer to what is a mild hybrid, I pointed out in a posting I made here a number of days ago that while not every car HAS to be a full hybrid like the Prius, every car can and should have some degree of hybrid functionality.

    You can get very mild hybrid functionality simply by disconnecting the alternator during vehicle launch and drawing on the battery, so for a few seconds a little more engine torque is available which would otherwise be consumed by the alternator.

    If you want more hybrid functionality, as I suggested earlier you could substitute a motor-alternator for a simple alternator and use said machine to provide some torque during launch.

    As for regenerative braking: You can get some of that simply by demanding a little more power from a conventional alternator while slowing down, so you use friction brakes a little less and return a little power to the battery (or supercapacitor). With a “motornator” (a term I made up to describe a machine that serves as both a motor and an alternator), you can provide torque during launch and then recharge the battery during slowing down, as is done with a full hybrid. Honda calls this integrated motor assist.

    So a “mild hybrid” is a compromise between no hybrid functionality at all (which also means you don’t pay for any hybrid funtionality) and the much higher cost of a full hybrid.

    My prediction is that within the next few years all cars will have some degree of hybrid functionality.

  15. Salvador G. Says:

    Thanks Alex

  16. J Hamilton Says:

    I’ve never understood why the term “hybrid” has become so fully engrained so quickly in the promotion of automobiles. I think it’s simply become a byword for efficient with gasoline, at least insofar as the press and auto makers are concerned. Think of them this way; they stretch each litre or gallon of gasoline further, period. Whether a “mild” or “full” hybrid matters only in how much value you put on saving gasoline. If you care a lot (or want luxury I suppose) then go for the “full” hybrids. If you want a vehicle that might pay for it’s “savings” over it’s finance life then get a “mild” version.

    When I was in the business of managing energies, years ago(before I retired), I used to think of it thusly: Hybrid or multi-source propulsion vehicles in private hands are nice-they teach people the value of saving gasoline as well as saving the most visual component of energy expenditure and they help to expand technology, especially in easily and cheaply rechargeable batteries, but without an industrial component they really accomplish only a fraction of what’s needed. Taking a 30MPG car and adding $10K of technology to get 40MPG is a bit pricey for the average consumer but adding the same $10K to large commercial vehicles yields greater savings in both $$ and oil despite garnering a less impressive unit mileage increase. It is also a much more efficient use of resources as business entities are more capable of “absorbing” the increased costs to say nothing of cutting the developmental time and making the technology cheaper.
    The technolgy exists to save Industry billions of $$ per year (in the long view) and extend the existing supplies of fossil fuels for at least another century until we can decide and develop what our next energy source(s) will be but the short term investment of getting the technology installed and operational is a stumbling block. I failed miserably in trying to convince my masters that you must spend small $$ now to reap big savings down the road. They really only wish to do the minimum in order to have the ability to tout that they are “green”. I hope a fresh approach in Washington will help and wish the Ombama Administration every success but there are, I fear, too few people in Industrials who really care beyond the Balance sheet for each fiscal year…

  17. thor Says:

    When I was in Shanghai China for a month in 2006, there were plenty of totally electric small scooters driven by young poeople, 1-2 young women or men on each. I was very interested and asked how much they cost, and was told about $1,000 each.

  18. John McElroy Says:

    Here’s the industry jargon on hybrids:

    Micro hybrid: stop/start

    Mild hybrid: stop/start with some electric assist

    Strong hybrid: enough electric assist to run in EV mode for limited distances

    Plugin hybrid: same as a strong hybrid, but the battery can also be charged from the electric grid.

    Extended Range EV: (Chevy Volt). Not a hybrid, but commonly referred to as one. Actually an EV. Battery charged from grid and engine. Engine’s sole purpose is to charge battery, it is not mechanically connected to wheels.

  19. J Hamilton Says:

    Why not just make every auto a Micro hybrid ? Cost/unit would be very small, the technology is just too simple and EPA used to estimate that between 15 and 30% of hybrid savings (nearly all of city savings were simply from turning off the motor). Hey GM, do this and market it heavily, heck, even the denser media people will eventually “get it” !!