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Episode 190 – Fiat’s Q2 Loss, FedEx’s Hybrid Conversions, Super-Slick SKF Bearings

July 22nd, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 6:25

The Fiat Group posted a $254 million loss in the second quarter. FedEx converted 92 trucks in its North American fleet to hybrids. Swedish company SKF is introducing a new line of low-friction bearings that helps lower CO2 emissions. All that and more, plus John answers viewer questions about electric vehicles and the Pontiac Vibe in the “You Said It!” segment.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Fiat reports a loss so small it’s almost a profit. FedEx converts most its trucks to hybrids. And SKF develops new bearings that can make big cuts in CO2.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, July 22, 2009. And now, the news.

The Fiat Group posted its second quarter earnings (PDF File), or in this case, second quarter losses. The company lost 179 million euros in Q2, or $254 million. However, that includes everything in the Fiat Group like farm machinery, heavy trucks and components. The automotive group lost 133 million euros, about $188 million. You know, in this day and age when so many others automakers are reporting multi-billion dollar losses, this almost sounds like a profit.

Chrysler’s ex-CEO Bob Nardelli has a new job. The New York Times reports he will be chief executive officer of Cerberus’ Operating and Advisory Company. It’s a division of Cerberus that advises other Cerberus-owned companies on sourcing, due diligence and watching their portfolio.

Last week we reported that laid-off French workers threatened to blow up their factory if they didn’t get more severance pay. Now, according to Reuters, the gang decided to remove the gas canisters it placed outside the plant. By a show of hands, the faction voted to negotiate with the French Minister of Industry to try to resolve the situation – removing the gas canisters was as a condition of the meeting. Workers are still guarding the explosives, which they say can be reinstalled at anytime if significant progress isn’t made in the talks.

Ward’s reports that Swedish company SKF is introducing a new line of low-friction bearings (subscription required). It estimates that its new designs can reduce friction by 30 percent, lowering CO2 emissions by up to 13 grams per MILE on all-wheel-drive vehicles. To achieve this, the company used advanced computer simulation to optimize its designs.

GM is offering a new OnStar feature to help recover stolen vehicles. Called Remote Ignition Block, it allows an OnStar employee to send a remote signal to a stolen vehicle to prevent it from restarting once the ignition is turned off. The feature is offered on select 2009 and 2010 models in the U.S. and Canada. The feature works in conjunction with two already-available OnStar features that can track a stolen vehicle with GPS technology and one that can slow a vehicle down to idle speed.

FedEx converted 92 trucks in its North American fleet to hybrids. Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation and the Eaton Corporation converted the trucks from model years 2000 and 2001 with 300,000 to 500,000 miles logged on them. The vehicles were fitted with a diesel Cummins engine and Eaton’s hybrid system. FedEx says the conversion should improve fuel economy by 44 percent and cut NOx emissions by 75 percent. It also increases the percent of FedEx hybrid trucks by 50%.

Coming up next, I respond to some of your questions and comments, we’ll be back after this.

And now it’s time for some of your feedback.

Every day we get all kinds of questions and comments, “You Said It!” gives me a chance to respond.

Paul wrote in to say, “Electric cars have been around since the mid-19th century and have always suffered from the same concerns — storage capacity and range. I wonder if our shift to a more urban-based society will make the lack of range a non-issue?”

Paul, I’ve always said EVs will be perfect for some people and not for others. And you’re right, they will appeal more to urban drivers, but only if they have a place to plug it in to recharge it. Most people in cities park on the street or in garages that typically don’t have a lot of electrical outlets.

C-Tech asks, “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 an entry-level Buick or GMC.”

C-Tech, I love the look of the Vibe. I think it’s a great compact car, and I agree that dumping a great car doesn’t make a lot of sense. But this tells me GM is probably completely severing its relationship with Toyota and didn’t see how it could continue with the Vibe in the future.

RIGHTKNIGHT70 saw our report on the last Horch that was found rusting away in a field and wrote in with this opinion, “Thank the automotive GODS they did not CRUSH that HORCH!! — WOW!! — History!”

Wasn’t that a great story about how that car was discovered and saved?  RIGHTKNIGHT70, we thank you for taking note of our report.

Hey, tomorrow night on Autoline After Hours our guest will be Art Spinella from CNW Marketing. One of the topics we’ll get Art to talk about is his analysis that shows the Cash for Clunkers program that’s coming is skewed in favor of people buying new pickup trucks. If that’s right, then the program is skewed in favor of the Detroit automakers. So is Spinella on to something here? Tune in tomorrow night at 7 p.m. with me and Peter De Lorenzo at autolinedetroit.tv.

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

12 Comments to “Episode 190 – Fiat’s Q2 Loss, FedEx’s Hybrid Conversions, Super-Slick SKF Bearings”

  1. Alex Kajdi Says:

    I agree with C-Tech, the Vibe is a great vehicle. Maybe Roger Penske will keep the production of Vibe’s going by ordering them for his Saturn Brand. Saturn would have the Vue and the Vibe that sounds like a winning combination.

  2. pedro Fernandez Says:

    If Spinella is correct, then the clunker program will work to help Detroit as it was meant to do but not do much for the environmental part of the program.

  3. C-Tech Says:

    OnStar is an excellent use of satellite technology in a car. Given GM’s need for cash, Why doesn’t GM market a version availible to other manufacturers? Why not offer some form in an aftermarket form? Tom Tom and other GPS system are hot products, did GM miss the boat here?

  4. C-Tech Says:

    Let me get this straight, if I have an old pickup truck, say 1998 Ford truck, then cash for clunkers helps me? The $3500, maybe $4500 is close to what I would get for trade or an outright sale anyway. The bigger discussion should be what happens to all of the “clunkers”. Do they get crushed entirely reducing the the supply of reasonable priced old parts to keep working class people’s older cars and trucks on the road? Are just the engines destroyed? Who is monitoring all of this? Will there be a second round of credits? If you want to stimulate cars sales and the economy, why not give the credit directly to the consumer instead of the dealer? I think dealers are going to reduce what incentives they may offer on a vehicle.

  5. Gary Paul Says:

    Yes John I had the same thoughts regarding the elimination of the present Vibe. Nice vehicle… Why dump it? But with GM leaders (such as Lutz) recently mentioning a strong desire to compete with Toyota (as with the Volt vs. Prius) this seems to be part of the drive behind GM abandoning its relationship with Toyota. It would seem rediculous to really ache to compete with Toyota but sell one of their vehicles as a rebadged GM model! Yet on a directly practical level there are platforms that GM can use and offer though the Chevy division (where the Vibe would have likely gone) that will be so close in size and function to the Vibe that there would be new rounds of redundancy (this time WITHIN Chevy division instead of between GM divisions).

  6. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Neither Vibe, nor its previous NUMMI rebadge, the Prizm sold very well, to the uninformed buyer they were GM products, not Toyotas with GM badges. Besides GM really never pushed their sales much. By the way for my money I’ll take the Vibe 1.8 engine at less than half the cost of a still unproven technology like the Volt.

  7. Dave Says:

    What the VIBE is one of GMs best selling cars. It is not a Toyota badged as a Pontiac…well its close the Vibe had the Toyota motor and drive lines, that the important part. I am a Matrix owner 1.8 xrs for 7 years and what a great car. The Vibe is a great car too and sells very well BECAUSE it is built like a Toyota and has Toyota motor.

  8. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Probably the end of GM’s partnership with Toyota has to do with the money arrangements for the NUMMI plant. That’s too bad, because Chevy could really used the Vibe in their dealerships.

    Now, it looks like their “captive” source for such cars will be gone, as Opel goes on the block. Oh well. Maybe there will eventually be a wagon or hatchback version of the upcoming Chevy Cruise which will, hopefully, be competitive in its class.

  9. Dan Clemons Says:

    Congratulations to Fed-Ex for converting half of their fleet to hybrid drive!!

  10. C-Tech Says:

    It says alot about GM management if they just figured out they should compete with Toyota. The Vibe sold about 70,000 unit a year with very little promotion, hardly a “poor” seller. In the future of auto manufacturing, it is going to be about what YOU bring to a platform, not who builds the platform.

  11. Don B. Says:

    Art Spinella may have a valid point. I own ’84 Jeep Cherokee, ’94 and ’87 LeSabres, and ’94 Roadmaster Wagon. The only one the qualifies for CARS is the Roadmaster, however this is my towing vehicle. There is nothing out on the market that can tow and gets better gas milage than the Roadmaster. The only thing that is close is a Hybrid Tahoe, thats only better by 2 mpg, I need 4 mpg for CARS. I guess an owner ’89 Suburban with a 454 engine could find a qualifing vehicle easier than myself.

  12. ulisse di bartolomei Says:

    Speaking about the Fiat hybrids, the technology double clutch with electric motor between has been stolen from a patent that Fiat Company has never wanted to purchase, but only shamelessly to copy. I invite to visit my blog where her “vitality” of the Fiat planners it appears in all of evidence:
    http://dualsymbioticelectromechanicalengine.blogspot.com/

    Whoever appreciates an honest industrial ethics in defence of intellectual ownership should spread out the history reported in my blog. If the industries can afford unpunished to copy the ideas and defending it need very expensive legal action, to which target need the patents? How our young people can find intellectual courage if the economic potentates crush the rights of the single ones?

    Ulisse Di Bartolomei