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Episode 191 – Wiedeking Axed!, Ford & Hyundai Post Profits, Nesbitt Gets Cadillac

July 23rd, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:35

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.

We’ve already previewed the upcoming twenty-ten Ford Taurus and Taurus SHO, but we’ve finally had some time behind the wheel of both cars. Here’s what we think about how they drive.

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.

20 Comments to “Episode 191 – Wiedeking Axed!, Ford & Hyundai Post Profits, Nesbitt Gets Cadillac”

  1. Drew Says:

    WHAT MOST PEOPLE WILL SAY IF THEY BOUGHT A NEW TAURUS FOR NEARLY $40,000:

    “Gee, I coulda had a G8!”

  2. William R. Walling Says:

    John,
    “Why would ANY responsible manufacturer taut qualities for a TWO (2) TON, fuel guzzling, general public automobile in 2010?”
    No matter how you market such = Trouble Ahead!
    Addressing CLIENT needs sells product and BRAND!
    Hint: Observe no mention of client T.C.O. for FORD’S 2010 Taurus SCO automobile, theres a valid reason …

  3. G.A.Branigan Says:

    John,have Ford send over some of those butt massaging seats to GM.I think their brains (GM’s) are all cramped up.

  4. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Mr. Walling,
    The 2010 Taurus is a replacement for the Crown Vic, and in that role, it does very well. It’s roomier, quieter, rides better, and gets better gas mileage. I don’t see how a $38K version, even a fast one, is going to do very well, though. I guess the SHO must be intended to be a “halo” car, but at that price, there are a lot of very nice cars out there.

  5. Roger T Says:

    The Taurus is a stunner as far as I’m concerned. I’d take a G-8 vs an SHO, but when the G-8 dies, I’d take the SHO vs a Charger.

    Butt massaging??? What’s next? Auto crotch scratchers?? Great, now we’ll have drivers looking at their GPSs, talking on the phone and getting their butts massaged while passing us at 90 MPH. At least their Tauruses butts will look nice.

  6. Blog of Mac » What others have been saying about gm sedan Says:

    [...] http://www.autolinedetroit.tv/journal/?p=5005GM 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. … 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. … [...]

  7. paulstewart Says:

    “Shame on Ford” on price and weight. A 1995 Taurus was avg. 3300 lbs. 2010 is now up to 4000lbs. No wonder Ford’s target of no more than 100,000 will be sold. And that price doesn’t help either. And I’m a Ford guy.

  8. Alex Kajdi Says:

    John,

    It seem that GM is finally getting it’s act together. The naming of Bryan Nesbitt, to run Cadillac must mean that Cadillac will become an independent business segment like Corvette. This will hopefully make Cadillac the premiere brand at the New General Motors with it’s own models without any cloning around.

  9. pedro Fernandez Says:

    These car makers are out of touch with what people want from their vehicles, they keep giving it more and more convenience features which along with mandated safety equipment keeps raising the price of these cars, the new Taurus’s got more luxurious touches than even the Lincolns of a few years ago. I know this doctor who got so turned off by all this technology, he ended up buying his and hers Suzukis cause as he expressed they are “low tech” reliable though not fancy vehicles.

  10. EAB Says:

    Wow…no love for the Taurus? The Taurus’s competition is the large FWD cars like the Toyota Avalon and maybe even the Nissan Maxima. The STARTING price on the Avalon is over $35K and the Maxima is over $30K. So I would say that the Taurus is an outstanding value, even in SHO trim. Bringing up the G8 is a good comparison, but it might be the only one. The Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger are both horrible family sedans as you can’t see out of them and for their size they lack room.

    BTW, all….Ford stock touched $7 today. GO FORD!!!!

  11. William R. Walling Says:

    Kit,
    “Apologies, FORD’S breaking ALL Hearts!”
    Motor Trend listed 2007 Crown Victoria fuel mileage at 18/25 using 87 octane gas.
    Adding insult to injury, FORD tauts the 4.6L I.C.E. as FLEX-FUEL suited!
    FORD EPA rates the 2010 Taurus SHO (agreed by USA Today’s auto columnist) at 17/25 MPG on 91 octane fuel while lacking Flex-Fuel capability!
    Note: Family owns a 2007 FORD ‘Five-Hundred’.
    FORD’S 2010 Taurus SHOULD have been LEADER!

  12. Dan D Says:

    John,
    It doesn’t look like GM is adopting a brand business unit model at all. Lutz is going to run a team of brand-image builders and LaNeve is going to ride herd over the revenue and customer satisfaction side. The individual sales and service leaders will no doubt have their targets, but this doesn’t look anything like what Marchionne has set up at Chrysler. It will be interesting to see if either approach is the right one.

  13. paulstewart Says:

    EAB, no I do love the looks of the New Taurus. But in all honesty. I 27K fine no problem it’s a steal. I can even argue 30K – loaded33, 34 tops. But it’s way too heavy at 4000 lbs. I’m not sure but giving a member of the press a vehicle with noticable vibrations & then saying ” O’ it’s a preproduction model” is not a good PR strategy. That Maxima car will be most likely be cancelled late next year, courtesy of the Altima. Your right about the 300/Charger cars though.

  14. Dave Says:

    I drove Ford Crown Vic Police packages for years and Wow what junk. We now have a Charger and for my work its a way better car than the CVPI, but Ford had not put a dime into the crown due to the fact that it is soon to be done. I do agree that tha Charger is harder to see out of then the Ford.

  15. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I wonder if qc is less when they are fleet cars?A friend of mine bought a loaded down crown vic back in the late 80′s and never had a problem with it.Of course the life of a cop car is very different then your standard family mover.

  16. C-Tech Says:

    Why no love for a strong performance sedan that’s out the door at $40K? The SHO is not for everyone, never was. It is a bargain when stacked up against Cadillac CTS, BMW 5 series, or Audi A4. Go Ford. The PT Cruiser guy gets to head Cadillac? What’s he done since the PT, besides repeat himself? Will he bring back tailfins?

  17. Stuart Somers Says:

    The new Taurus will be a “miss” . It’s way too much money,and it looks like a twelve year old Buick.
    Didn’t the SHO used to have a V-8?

  18. Ford Posts $2.3 Billion Profit - U.S. Politics Online: A Political Discussion Forum Says:

    [...] is not a gross rip off like some) This profit is represented by a one time only accounting trick: Episode 191 – Wiedeking Axed!, Ford & Hyundai Post Profits, Nesbitt Gets Cadillac – Autoline Dai… Ford stunned the industry by reporting a net income of $2.2 billion in the second quarter. But, [...]

  19. Ed Kemmerer Says:

    John,

    What’s with the video feed? I have to close and then open again the segment about 4 or 5 times before it is understandable or doesn’t go right to the commercial break. What’s going on?

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Mr. Walling,

    Comparing the Crown Vic to the Taurus SHO is not a fair comparison. The SHO is much faster than the Crown Vic, even the police package, and is AWD. Actually, the 2010 SHO would have better EPA ratings than the Crown Vic, albeit on 91 octane, using the “old” pre-2008 rating system. The ratings for the FWD new Taurus are 18/28, and, based on power to weight ratio, should be quicker than a Crown Vic.