Episode 187 – No G8 for You!, Grooming Jim Farley, Problems in Hybrid Land

July 17th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 6:41

General Motors won’t revive the Pontiac G8 as a Chevrolet Caprice in the American market. Ford’s head of global marketing, Jim Farley, will take over the company’s Canada, Mexico and South American operations. Hybrids may not save as much gasoline as expected. All that and more, plus a preview of this week’s episode of Autoline Detroit about what GM and Chrysler need to accomplish in order to be successful going forward.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. The survival of the Pontiac G8 is off, again. Jim Farley takes on new responsibilities at Ford. And hybrids may not save as much gasoline as expected.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Friday, July 17, 2009. And now, the news.

Tuesday we reported the Pontiac G8 would survive in the American market as the Chevrolet Caprice. Today, those plans are off. Seems like GM’s CEO Fritz Henderson and Vice Chairman Bob Lutz were not quite on the same page on this one. Lutz publicly stated the car would continue to be sold in the American market, Henderson publicly stated it would not, and since Henderson is the Chief Executive Officer he has the final say – for now.

In a clear signal of its growing confidence in Jim Farley, who is running global marketing for Ford, the company is giving him operational responsibility for Canada, Mexico and South American operations. Interestingly, in his marketing job, Farley will report to CEO Alan Mulally. In his operational role he’ll report to Mark Fields, president of the Americas. Obviously, Farley is proving to Ford he can do a lot more than just marketing and is being groomed for a more senior role in the company. In a related move, Ray Day, Vice President of Communications will no longer report to Farley and instead will report directly to Mulally.

Ward’s reports that Audi will start pilot production of its new small car, the A1 (subscription required), in Belgium this October. Its facility in Brussels will be the sole source of the hatchback model. Currently the plant is also home to the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Polo, but the company will stop building the VW there to make room for the A1. Full production is expected to begin in 2010, with cars hitting the streets early next summer.

Autoblog reports that a study released by Quality Planning shows that hybrids may not be all they’re cracked up to be. Throughout 2007 and 2008 the organization analyzed the habits of 360,000 drivers. It found that hybrid and non-hybrid drivers have very similar commutes, but ‘hybrid people’ drive 25 percent more, burning most of the fuel hybrids are supposed to save. The study also shows that hybrid drivers are much more likely to get traffic tickets, and it also shows that repair costs for hybrids are significantly higher than with non-hybrid cars.

GM is expected to announce the location of its battery factory in the next month. According to the Detroit Free Press, that site will be Brownstown Township in Michigan, which is south of Detroit. The $40 million facility will employ about 100 people and will make lithium-ion battery packs for the Chevy Volt.

Speaking of batteries, Mercedes announced it will introduce an all-electric version of the SLS AMG. The vehicle is powered by a lithium-ion battery and four electric motors positioned near the wheels. Mercedes says the vehicle will go from 0 to 100 km/h in about four seconds, equivalent to the SLS AMG equipped with the 6.3L V8.

And here’s how the grid can get the juice to make up for those electric cars. A Burger King in New Jersey plans to install speed bumps in its drive thru that will harness kinetic energy from all the cars that pass through each day. According to Cnet, the drive thru will be lined with metal plates that move up and down as cars pass. That energy can be harnessed and captured twice daily and then be used as electricity.

Coming up next, a preview of this week’s episode of Autoline, we’ll be back right after this.

This week’s episode of Autoline is all about what GM and Chrysler need to accomplish in order to be successful going forward. In the following preview University of Michigan marketing professor Christie Nordhielm talks about the problems Chevrolet faces as it looks for a brand identity.

As always, you can watch the entire episode of Autoline on our website right now.

Ok, thank goodness it’s Friday, it’s time to announce the winner of this week’s trivia contest. We challenged you to tell us name of the parent company that builds Subarus. And the correct answer is . . . Fuji Heavy Industries. As always, we randomly selected this week’s winner from the pool of correct responses. And the lucky person is . . . Larry Gruenwald of Pahrump, Nevada. Congratulations Larry, you’ve just won an Eyes on Design poster.

Anyway, that’ll do it for today’s show. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next week.

23 Comments to “Episode 187 – No G8 for You!, Grooming Jim Farley, Problems in Hybrid Land”

  1. Jeff Taylor Says:

    Once again GM kills a product (the G8) when it finally gets it right. And they wonder why people don’t want to buy GM products any more.

  2. Bob Petrach Says:

    Harnessing energy from speed bumps is stealing energy from those who pass through the drive through – it’s like skimming the cents off paychecks. It’s insignificant and probably wouldn’t be noticed, but it takes energy to drive over speedbumps. It is hard to see how it would even be cost effective for Burger King. Why not have floor tiles that capture the energy from people walking in the store? The calories burned probably would be a benefit to the customer.

  3. G.A.Branigan Says:

    GM is moving to alienate itself from the american market…..what are they thinking?Hybrids should be called “hypedbrids”.My 2 ton 08 jeep JK consistently gets 23+mpg hwy,my wifes 09 Focus sel consistently gets low to mid 40′s mpg hwy.No secret to either vehicle,watch your tire pressure,stay around the posted speed limit and use your cruise control.Nothing to it.

  4. paulstewart Says:

    Told ya’ so. G.M. can always bring it back in a few years. It must focus 100% on it’s core comeback. Or IT will be gone. There far from being out of the woods yet.Plus that Camaro line up in Canada will have to have another product rolloing off that same line in 1 1/2 years. A sedan would fit in nicely. And you guys know they halted production on the stick/manual only V-8′s a problem is occuring. I’m sure John M. is aware.Hopefully it won’t take long to make the necessary fixes to it. Fingers crossed.

  5. Alex Kovnat Says:

    Today I would like to run an idea past the Detroit area automotive community.

    Those of us who live in the Detroit area are well aware of last Wednesday evening’s Gasoline/Diesel fuel tanker disaster that destroyed 13,000 gallons of fuel and also, totally destroyed an overpass and the pavement on which the disaster occurred.

    Before I put forward my idea, here’s some background: In 1996 a Boeing 747 (TWA Flight 800) was lost, passengers and all, when a spark ignited fuel tank fumes, blowing the aircraft apart. Conspiracy buffs insist it was a shoulder-fired missile, while the official version was that somehow a spark or something ignited fuel vapors.

    Anyway, the Federal Aviation Administration now requires transport planes to use nitrogen in place of air to cover fuel in their fuel tanks, so there will be no oxygen to support combustion if a spark or something similar occurs.

    So the question I’d like to run past the automotive engineering community is: Should gasoline and Diesel fuel in tanker trucks be blanketed with nitrogen to reduce fire/explosion hazards?

  6. pedro Fernandez Says:

    In a related story, Taco Bell announced a pilot program to harness methane gas from the rest rooms in an Encino, Cal. restaurant that sells an unusually high quantity of Hot Volcano bean burritos.

  7. Edward Lipman Says:

    GM again shoots itself in the foot.
    GM screwed up on the XLR , the SSR and the Camaro.
    They showed the concepts years before the cars actually were to be sold , and they lost sales because of it. Who wants to wait , the buying public wants it NOW !
    Don’t these people remember that performance sells. Performance bring customers into the dealership. Then cars are sold , sometimes performance cars but other cars too.
    I want to be able to buy a 415 HP M6 Impala SS now. The same as the G8 GXP M6.
    Edward Lipman

  8. David Says:

    RE: Quality Planning hybrid study… sample bias. Much different psychographics on hybrid buyers.

  9. Bill Fisher Says:

    Nice move GM. Just one more clear example of why Ford is going up whilst GM is heading down. Mr. Mullaly has done a superb job of focusing his leadership on making cars Americans want to drive. Fritz Henderson should take this opportunity to say farewell and join his pal Mr. Wagoner on the sidelines. Both men were very good leaders in another time at GM. It’s becoming clear though that Mr. Henderson’s ability to adjust to today’s automotive climate is disjointed. The platform is already there, the car itself is a hit. Just put a new face on it, spend a few marketing dollars and take advantage of a terrific product by badging it with a nameplate that still gets showroom traffic. C’mon Mr. Henderson, how can you miss on this one?

  10. Alex Kovnat Says:

    Re the Pontiac G8 and Pontiac generally: If the automotive economy changes in ways we could not have predicted a month or two ago, and if said changes are in a positive direction and the G8 starts selling like gangbusters, then: Why not cancel the original plan to scuttle Pontiac?

    Remember, such plans are not chiseled in stone. Human beings made them, human beings can change them.

  11. Gary Gross Says:

    Bravo for Burger King for creating some untapped energy. Was wondering how much we could SAVE if we got rid of the drive-thru?

  12. Kit Gerhart Says:

    GM has made a lot of mistakes, but dropping the G8 is probably not one of them. There is a substantially-more-than-optimal 148 days supply of G8′s now at dealers, and I doubt that calling it a Chevy would instantly make the car a top seller. While the V8 version of the G8 is certainly a performance bargain, most people shopping for generic-looking four door sedans are shopping for price and fuel economy, not the slight performance handling advantage of a rear-drive chassis.

  13. Drew Says:

    Autoline t-shirts cost $22.95!!! Who makes them….GM union people??

  14. C-Tech Says:

    Although there is much discussion over dropping the G8, please tell me why GM is dropping a nice economical small crossover like the Vibe? It seems it will easily fit as the entry level Buick or GMC. It is reliable with tooling that is paid for. Maybe it’s not exciting, but seems it fits the bill as fuel prices increase.

  15. Gary Paul Says:

    Was Henderson’s recent reported comment valid when indicating that the G8 will be killed because it would be badge engineering to use that model at another GM division, like perhaps Chevy? Well, if Pontiac is rapidly being killed there can be no badge engineering because there will soon be no Pontiac that Chevy would be re-badging!

    Henderson could nevertheless have good reasons for killing the G8 just as its getting going, and not using it as a reborn Chevy Chevelle or Caprice. For example it may not fit long term planning for Chevy as the higher mpg standards soon to take effect may not allow for too many vehicles like the G8 which is too heavy, and comes equipped with big engines that don’t quite meet the fuel efficiency required in the near future. In addition –if GM really has changed and is into long term planning–there may very well be concerns about what platform a future Chevelle would use when the model is updated. GM may recognize that a future 4 door sedan—even a sporty one—may need to go fwd to improve efficiency as fwd is a more efficient layout for people packaging—a critical concern when high mpg is emphasized. This would alienate established customers who would be shocked to suddenly see their wonderful rwd Chevy move to fwd on the next update of their vehicle! Furthermore, engineering is continuing to advance the ability of fwd platforms to feel good and perform impressively with higher hp levels and will no doubt be working on refining these aspects further. The push for efficiency and balance in GM’s lineup is massively overdue. Let’s hope that’s what they are aiming for.

  16. Tom Says:

    Seriously guys if the G8 inventory is piling up… why bother making the caprice.

    somebody said they are focusing on the core. But before the focus on the core they should focus on the fundamentals. I think ford have a better management team because they seem to design-build cars more rapidly then GM and Chylser and now Ford builds higher quality cars.

    In the end of the day, people like to buy boring reliable cars… look at honda, toyota and Subaru

  17. Tom Says:

    If it wasn’t for the bargains in Detroit, the mainstream public would never buy them in mass quantities.

  18. John McElroy Says:

    @Kit: The latest Ward’s data shows there is only 46 day’s of G8′s in stock as of the end of June. That’s down from 74 days at the end of May and down from 124 from June, 2008. Not only are G8′s selling well, the available inventory is disappearing quickly!

  19. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    The main reason these cars are selling OK is because of incentives and dealers having to get rid of them because soon there will no longer be a Pontiac, I tried to get a good deal on a vibe,but no way they’re holding out on those, I guess they figure demand will go up if gas prices increase

  20. Don B. Says:

    Just as I start to have hope that GM is making the right decisions, they shoot themselves in the foot.
    In my last letter I stated that GM could make some Government money back by selling the Caprice (G8) as a police car.
    And the El Camino could make a comeback.
    The suits screwed up again, I really believe that their ties cut of blood flow and oxygen to their brains.
    I remember hearing that GM wanted to do things on a global basis, just words?
    Is there any way to foward your site’s comment to Henderson?

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    John,
    The 148 days I saw was from Automotive News for May 1, 2009. It looks like sales are picking up. Anyway, it’s good for the dealers that the days supply is decreasing. Sorry about posting the “old” data.

    Regarding the Vibe, it would fit in great as a Chevy. The Aveo is smaller, and is generally considered worst-in-class in the US, while the Vibe is a very good, practical car. The HHR is a decent, smallish wagon, but not everyone wants “retro” styling.

  22. Glenn E Says:

    Two days of new car shopping in upstate NY and inventorys are slim to none. I do not know what it is like in other parts of the country, but here it is way down. I am looking at Vibes and the two Pontiac dealers had only one 2009 Vibe each. I noticed the one dealer had no G8′s and the other only had one.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    A certain central Indiana Buick, Pontiac, Cadillac, GMC, Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep dealer has four G8′s and five Vibes. They have a bunch of G6′s and G5′s, though.