July 23rd, 2009 at 12:00pm
Porsche’s CEO, Wendelin Wiedeking, gets the axe. Ford and Hyundai post profits in the second quarter. General Motors names its North American design chief, Bryan Nesbitt, to run Cadillac. All that and more, plus we get behind the wheel of the 2010 Ford Taurus.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. Wedeking gets axed by Porsche. Ford and Hyundai post profits. And GM names a designer to run Cadillac.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, July 23, 2009. And now, the news.
The automotive soap opera that’s been playing out between Volkswagen and Porsche is finally over. The Detroit News reports that Porsche’s CEO, Wendelin Wiedeking, is out. The company’s chief financial officer, Holger Härter, is also departing. Wiedeking leaves Porsche 9 billion euro in debt after his attempt to takeover VW failed. He will be replaced by Michael Macht, the company’s director of production and logistics.
Ford stunned the industry by reporting a net income of $2.2 billion in the second quarter. But, that includes a one-time gain of $3.4 billion in debt reduction. Ford posted a pre-tax operating loss of $424 million even though revenue was down $11 billion. The company ended the quarter with $21 billion in cash, almost the same as the prior quarter. Even though it’s still in a negative cash flow condition, that cash burn is down to $1 billion for the quarter, and Ford says it’s still on plan.
In just as stunning an announcement Hyundai posted its highest ever quarterly net profit. According to the AFP, the company’s net profit was just over 810 billion won or about $650 million for the second quarter. The record net profit was due in part to tax breaks in Korea that boosted sales and gains from affiliates in China and India.
More developments in the Opel sale. Bloomberg reports that Chinese automaker BAIC’s offer of almost $1 billion for a 51 percent stake has been rejected. GM and the German government narrowed the suitors for Opel down supplier company Magna and investment firm RHJ International. But GM favors RHJ in the deal, while the German government prefers Magna. We’ll have to wait and see how this standoff shapes up.
The U.S. government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the PBGC, will now pay for Delphi’s pensions. According to the Detroit News, the agency will assume responsibility for 70,000 workers’ and retirees’ plans which will cost $6.25 billion. Current estimates believe workers and retirees stand to lose $800 million from what they’re owed and that figure is likely to go up. And you have to wonder how many other bankrupt companies will dump their pensions on the PBGC.
Bryan Nesbitt first made his mark on the auto industry as the designer of the Chrysler PT Cruiser. He then moved to the GM Design Staff where he designed the Chevy HHR, then ran the Chevrolet studio, then went on to run GM Europe design and recently has been running North American Design. Apparently GM believes Nesbitt can do more than just run a design staff, he’s just been named to run all of Cadillac. Maybe GM is going to run its brands as true business units, instead of just sales and marketing arms.
Coming up next, we get behind the wheel of the 2010 Ford Taurus.
But before we get into that, a little background information. The Taurus is offered in four trim levels – SE, SEL, Limited and SHO. Starting price for the base car is about $26,000. The midlevel SEL starts at 28 grand while the SHO opens up at 38 thousand. We started our test in a front-wheel-drive SEL that was just about loaded.
And while it’s no Corvette, acceleration is pretty good for a two-ton sedan. It’s also surprisingly agile. The steering has good weight to it and the body stays unexpectedly flat. Fuel economy isn’t bad either. On the highway, front-wheel-drive models should get 28 miles per gallon – that’s about 8.4 l/100 km.
But as with many new vehicles, not everything was perfect. Our test car’s 3.5-liter V6 engine vibrated noticeably at certain RPMs. We asked one of the engineers about this issue, and he reminded us that all the vehicles on hand were preproduction units. It must have just been an irregularity, because NVH was NOT a problem on the SHO we drove a little later.
Moving inside, there’s more to the Taurus’ interior than just good looks. Ford turned it into a technological tour de force. It offers a swarm of gadgets like adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams. But most surprising are the multi-contour seats. They sound like a gimmick at first, but they’re amazingly effective at preventing fatigue by gently massaging your butt.
As you already know, the pièce de résistance of the lineup is the SHO. Taurus Vehicle Dynamics Engineer Crissy Rodriguez talks about this high-performance car’s driving characteristics.
It’s true, the SHO’s handling is very balanced. And just like the regular Taurus, it’s comfortable, feature-rich and stylish. But unlike the standard car, it MOVES, thanks to a 365 horsepower EcoBoost V6. Managing the engine’s output, SHOs come with standard all-wheel-drive and a tighter suspension.
Another interesting point about the car is that thanks to computer modeling and eliminating corporate bureaucracy, engineers were able to deliver it a year ahead of schedule. Look for the redesigned Taurus to start showing up on dealer lots shortly.
And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. And join us tonight for Autoline After Hours at 7 p.m. Eastern when our guest will be Art Spinella from CNW Marketing. You’ll learn some interesting things from him. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you then.