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Episode 192 – No More NUMMI?, GM Announces Retirements, Automakers Oppose E-15

July 24th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 6:35

Toyota is suggesting it will probably pull out of NUMMI. General Motors announced a slew of top management retirements yesterday. Automakers have come out against the EPA’s proposal to increase the ethanol blend in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent. All that and more, plus a preview of this week’s episode of Autoline, all about the new Ford Taurus.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. NUMMI could be on its last legs. GM announces a slew of top management retirements. And automakers oppose E-15.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Friday, July 24, 2009. And now, the news.

Toyota is suggesting it will probably pull out of NUMMI, the Detroit Free Press reports. General Motors already announced it will pull out of the joint venture. But it’s unclear if that means Toyota will close the California assembly plant. I see two things here. This could be a bargaining tactic to get concessions out of the UAW, which represents workers at the plant. Or, by pulling out of NUMMI, which is a separate company from Toyota, the Japanese automaker can continue to claim that it does not close plants or lay off workers.

GM announced a slew of top management retirements yesterday. They include Gary Cowger who ran Manufacturing, Ralph Szygenda, the Chief Information Officer, Troy Clarke, who ran North American Operations, Maureen Kempston-Darkes who ran Latin American Operations, and Michael Grimaldi, who ran Daewoo Automotive Technologies in South Korea. They will all retire by October 1st or the end of the year.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, or AAM, has come out against the EPA’s proposal to increase the ethanol blend in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent. According to Reuters, automakers are concerned that not enough testing has been done to make sure there would be no adverse affects from the increase. However Growth Energy, an alliance of ethanol producers, says multiple studies have been conducted that show there are no adverse affects to increasing the blend. The EPA has until December 1 to make a decision. By the way, the members in AAM are BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota, and VW.

Recently we reported that it looks likely that Chinese automaker Geely will acquire Volvo, and according to Gasgoo.com, this has upset the union that represents Volvo’s engineers. The union is concerned that jobs in Sweden could be cut if production is moved to China and that suppliers won’t work with the company because of Geely’s reputation for plagiarism. The union also posed this question, “How could you expect a less-experienced Chinese owner to turn Volvo around if even Ford failed to do so?”

Autoblog reports that BMW is offering a $4,500 incentive on diesel-powered versions of the X5 and 3 Series. Of course BMW has been offering diesels in a package that costs about five-grand, so all it’s really doing is reducing the premium it charges for diesels. Mercedes and VW charge about $1,500 for their diesels.

The Auto Channel reports that Nissan is developing a new safety feature called Navigation-Cooperative Intelligent Pedal. The technology uses GPS data to track where a vehicle is traveling. If the car approaches a curve in the road too fast, the system can lift off the accelerator and then apply the brakes to slow the vehicle down to a safe speed. The technology should launch this fall in Japan on the new Fuga.

Coming up next, a preview of this week’s episode of Autoline, which is all about the new Ford Taurus.

This week on Autoline we take an in-depth look at the redesigned 2010 Ford Taurus. I’m joined in the studio by three guys that played huge parts in the car’s development. Earl Lucas is responsible for exterior styling, Lon Zaback designed the interior, and Mike Crowley is in charge of marketing. In the following clip we talk about some of the subtle – and not so subtle differences between the regular Taurus and the high-performance SHO.

As always, you can watch the entire episode of Autoline – and a whole lot more – right now on our website.

Ok, it’s Friday, and you know what that means . . . it’s time to announce the winner of this week’s trivia contest! We challenged you to tell us what the letters in FIAT stand for. And the correct answer is. . . Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino. As always, we randomly selected this week’s winner from the pool of correct responses. And the lucky person is . . . Diane Malone of Bartlett, Illinois. Congratulations Diane, you’ve just won an Acura Motorsports baseball hat.

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

14 Comments to “Episode 192 – No More NUMMI?, GM Announces Retirements, Automakers Oppose E-15”

  1. G.A.Branigan Says:

    BMW is offering a $4500.rebate or incentive for their diesel option.VW only charges $1500.for their diesel option.How do they do this,and the american car makers can’t,or won’t?Also,how is it that Mahindra will soon be selling a diesel pickup here with a diesel suv to follow? John,I just can’t seem to understand what you tell us about it being a 4 or 5k option for american cars,or why the once big 3 have pulled in their diesels.Emission standards seem to have been met successfully by foreign companies without driving up the price to “impossible to get”.I need a beer.

  2. John McElroy Says:

    @G.A. Wtih today’s technology, it costs over $4,000 more in emission controls to bring a Euro-spec diesel up to US emission standards. The European automakers have bet the farm on diesels and they have to make them work, even in the US market. So Mercedes and VW are subsidizing diesels, eating nearly $3,000 in cost that they know consumers will not pay. BMW thought it could get Americans to pay the full cost, but obviously they’re throwing in the towel and will eat most of the cost, too. None of the American or Japanese automakers are willing to lost that much money on diesels, so they feel its better to keep them on the back burner until costs come down or demand goes up.

  3. Alex Kovnat Says:

    I agree with automakers that the limit for ethanol in gasoline should be 10%, as anything higher would increase problems for vehicles not designed as Flex-Fuel.

    If it can be proven that use of ethanol has redeeming social value, I recommend that E-85 be offered at as many service stations as possible, with appropriate subsidies or tax breaks to encourage its use wherever and whenever it would be practical.

  4. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Thank you for the answer John,but you know me,I still have another question.How can demand go up for the big 3 when there isn’t an availability? Will they base that on what the foreign manufacturers sell? I have a small example:I have an 08 wrangler jk.I am on 3 different jeep forums.I would say about 99% of the people on there want a diesel jeep,have written to jeep requesting the option,with absolutly no responce.Remember when jeep offered the 2.8L crd for the liberty?They expected to only sell 18k units in two years.Much to their surprise,they sold out almost right away.Now I know your fully aware of that,so is jeep.By selling in volume,wouldn’t that go a long ways to 1)lowering the cost per unit,and 2)improve overall fleet average mpg?John,I can’t help but feel that they are cutting off their nose in spite of their face.Give us the availability,and the demand will be better then expected.have a great weekend John,last nights AAH’s was awesome.

  5. Roger T Says:

    John: Volvo to Geely, Opel to Magna… When are Ford and GM going to see that these companies should stay under their umbrellas? So Ford will use a Geely platform on their next generation Taurus? Will Chevy ask Magna for platforms and design to sell small cars in Europe and Latin America?

  6. Alex Kovnat Says:

    >The Auto Channel reports that Nissan
    >is developing a new safety feature
    >called Navigation-Cooperative Intell
    >igent Pedal. The technology uses GPS
    >data to track where a vehicle is
    >traveling.

    What Nissan is offering is good, but I’d like to take that idea a few steps further. In addition to slowing down on curves, I’d like an arrangement whereby, if approaching a hill, the system would proactively manipulate throttle, spark timing, cam phasing (if the engine uses cam phasers), and transmission to yield the smoothest performance.

    With hybrid vehicles you have more variables to consider, namely borrowing energy from or returning energy to the battery pack when going around corners, or uphill/downhill.

    We already have adaptive cruise control radar, and that too can be worked into systems like what Nissan has devised.

    Figuring out how to simultaneously and proactively manipulate all the aforementioned variables as one proceeds along a given route, will not be easy. But if achieved, it will return dividends in terms of smoother, more economical performance.

  7. paulstewart Says:

    The World turned upside Down.

  8. pedro Fernandez Says:

    John, Toyota also announced that they will be building the Highlander engine in their W. Va. plant soon, so you see it’s not all bad news. Yeah, keep putting more stupid junk into cars, pretty soon no one will be able to afford, nor fix them. Why can’t we just make cars fun to DRIVE again, stop with all this lame technology

  9. Don MacConnel Says:

    Fifteen percent ethanol? Ten percent is too much. Ask any boat owner, particularly in Florida and other humid climates, what happens when the ethanol starts eating light metal components. Owners of cars that don’t get driven much have the same problem. Injectors and other fuel components start to fail.

    Also you have to wonder if the EPA ever pays attention to a significant fermentation byproduct of ethanol production, CO2.

    Maybe it’s green CO2. (Government speak)

  10. Mouhamad A. Naboulsi Says:

    I like the Nissan Idea. It is very smart.

  11. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Going to e15 won’t be good for my wife and I.We’ve had her new focus for 11 months and don’t have 1500 miles on it yet,and it’s the same for my jeep.That fuel would do more damage then good.especially for vehicles not setup for that damned ethenol.

  12. C-Tech Says:

    Most people are already using fuel with near 10% ethanol. I do strongly believe there should be more testing first before making this a requirement. Increasing the amount of ethanol should reduce oil imports, which is a good thing.
    I hope the NCIP maps are up to date!
    I think the GM, Ford, and Chrysler underestimate the number of people who will buy a Diesel powered vehicle if offered in the right package.
    Does Roger Penske need a flexible manufacturing plant for Saturn? Hello NUMMI!?!

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Roger Penske should do what it takes to federalize some Peugeot and Citroen diesels and import them. I rented one last summer, and it was a great car. It can’t be that big of thing to make smallish diesels legal in the US, because VW has been doing it for many years, and selling them at only a $1000-1500 premium.

  14. Thor Says:

    @John McElroy Says:
    July 24th, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    @G.A. Wtih today’s technology, it costs over $4,000 more in emission controls to bring a Euro-spec diesel up to US emission standards. @

    I corrected this quote yesterday but somebody removed it (who might it be?). The $4,000 is based on selling the usual small number of Diesels in the USA. However, in the early 80s, for example, 75% to 80%C of all new Mercedes sold were DIESELS (!!!) and of course the cost would be spread over a far larger no of vehicles and thus be far less than $4,000.

    Such a situation would arise again next year if gas and diesel prices are at $4 again, diesel is not much more expensive than gas, and people use their heads and buyu some fantastic cars and SUVS with efficient 25 MPG v6 diesels instead of the dinosaur 15 MPG gas v8s.