Episode 205 – Nissan Needles GM, Canada’s Scrappage Scheme Criticized, CARS Mania Cools Down

August 12th, 2009 at 12:08pm

Runtime 7:44

Nissan seems a little miffed at all the attention the Chevy Volt is getting for its mileage claims. Ford of Canada’s CEO says the country needs a better car scrappage program. In the U.S., cash for clunkers mania is starting to cool off. All that and more, plus John talks to GM’s Bob Lutz about why and when they’re getting rid of those GM badges that are on the front fenders of all their vehicles.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Nissan is miffed at Chevy’s mileage claims for the Volt. Canada bemoans its Cash for Clunker’s program. And in the US, Cash for Clunkers mania is starting to cool off.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, August 12, 2009. And now, the news.

GM held a huge press conference yesterday where we learned more details about the General’s claim that the Volt will get 230 miles per gallon in city driving. That is what the average driver will get, assuming that half the owners plug in every day, and half don’t. And while GM did not reveal precisely what the combined city and highway fuel economy will be, it did say it will be a triple-digit number. I know that over a year ago, people on the Volt program told me they hoped to get a combined fuel economy label of at least 120 miles per gallon.

And Nissan seems a little miffed at all the attention the Volt is getting. On Twitter yesterday, Nissan tweeted that its upcoming EV, the LEAF, will get the equivalent of 367 miles per gallon, and that it will “be affordable,” a jab at the Volt’s $40,000 price tag. Even so, Nissan hasn’t made any announcements about how much the LEAF will cost. You know, we’re on Twitter too, at twitter.com/Autoline.

There’s no doubt the U.S. cash-for-clunkers program has boosted new vehicle sales, but is the car-buying bonanza just a flash in the pan? Reuters reports that showroom traffic is showing signs of leveling off. One possible reason is that the original $1 billion allocated for the program created a “gold rush” mentality which pushed consumers to race in to get the rebate before it was too late. Now, with another $2 billion on the way consumers seem to have calmed down.

Meanwhile in the Great White North, Ford of Canada’s CEO, David Mondragon says the country needs a better cash-for-clunkers program (subscription required). According to Wards, Canada’s program, called “Retire Your Ride,” offers consumers $300 for trading in a 1995 or older model and buying a 2004 or newer vehicle. So far, only 11,000 clunkers have been scrapped. $300 isn’t a lot of money, and remember, that’s $300 Canadian.

As part of its big media event yesterday, General Motors let reporters into its preproduction operations for the Chevrolet Volt, where they build cars exactly how they’ll be made at the assembly plant. This gives workers the opportunity to train for their jobs at a very slow pace before it goes into mass production. Right now they’re building Volts at the rate of two a day and have built up over 20 cars, out of the 74 preproduction models that will be built. Automakers never let reporters into these operations. Clearly, GM wants to prove to the world the Volt is going into production.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation recently warned the White House that up to half of suppliers face bankruptcy within the next few months. According to the Detroit News, the state wants $2 billion in federal aid to prevent job losses and seeing equipment sold off to foreign companies if suppliers go into Chapter 11. But last week we reported that Ron Bloom, the head of the automotive task force essentially told suppliers, “You’re on your own.”

You know those GM badges that are on the front fenders of all their vehicles? Well, they’re on the way out. Coming up next, I talk to Bob Lutz about why and when they’re getting rid of those badges.

As we mentioned earlier in the show, General Motors held a day-long media event yesterday, announcing the 230 mile-per-gallon rating in city driving for the Volt, let us look at most of the future product it has coming in the next four years, unfortunately no cameras were allowed, and they gave us access to all their top executives. In an interview I did with Bob Lutz, who is now in charge of all marketing for GM’s brands, I asked him what’s going to change in how they market GM’s brands.

So I asked Mr. Lutz, if the emphasis is going onto the brands and away from General Motors, what’s going to happen to those little GM badges that are on the front fenders of all their vehicles?

But then I pushed him a little bit more to explain exactly when these badges are going to be phased out.

We’ll have a lot more from GM’s big press conference on in the John’s Journal channel on our Website later today.

Hey, don’t forget to check out Autoline After Hours Thursday night when we’re broadcasting LIVE from the Woodward Dream Cruise, one of the greatest classic car events in the world. We’ll be webcasting from Auto Zone Hobbies in Birmingham, Michigan, and we have a number of surprise guests stopping by, including performances by the Exhaust Tones, the only band in the world made up of automotive journalists. It’s going to be a fun night, so check it out, y’all.

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

24 Comments to “Episode 205 – Nissan Needles GM, Canada’s Scrappage Scheme Criticized, CARS Mania Cools Down”

  1. Tony Gray Says:

    Hooray for Bob Lutz! I have been complaining for years that GM was sucking precious marketing dollars away from the actual divisions trying to polish the corporate image.

    As he said, people buy Chevys and Buicks and Caddys etc. NOBODY buys a GM. Let the divisions enhance their individuality and handle all the “corporate” stuff behind the scenes.

  2. Max Christensen Says:

    The brand of a car is very importatant, and I’m a very brand loyal car customer myself. But it does make me sad to see the GM badge disappearing from the fenders of their vehicles. All the “brands” are part of the GM “family” – it’s like dropping my last name because I simply want to be known as “Max”. Cars need a “last name” too! Chrysler used to have the Pentastar on the lower right front fender of their cars, and it was sad to see those disappear years ago as well.

  3. pedro Fernandez Says:

    The one big advantage the Volt will have over other electrics is the gas engine to keep the car going when the juice runs out. What are you supposed to do when the battery runs out and you’re stranded? I guess you’ll have to invest in a little Honda generator and then sit there for 4 hours while the battery recharges, Whew!

  4. Tony Gray Says:

    Yeah Max, but the relationship between GM and the divisions was different than that at Chrysler or Ford. You could purchase a Ford or a Chrysler.

    I have been attending Carlisle events for decades. The Ford and Mopar events are huge, and include all of their brands, some no longer around. It didn’t matter if you were a Plymouth guy or a Dodge girl or a DeSoto person, you were all a part of Mother Mopar. Like wise with FoMoCo.

    GM divisions, while polite, USED to actually encourage rivalry amongst themselves. You were a Chevy owner or a Pontiac buyer and considered purchaser of other GM brands as a third cousin, twice removed, if that.

  5. Gerald Thompson Says:

    I remember the GM badge on my 1970 Opel GT. It was a source of pride to me. While I understand why they will be phasing out the GM logo, I for one will miss it.

  6. Tony Gray Says:

    (Fat fingers hit submit too soon…sorry).

    I wanted to close with the fact that the GM show traditionally was the smallest of the major Carlisle events because of this lack of “brotherhood”. This year was pretty big, however, with a strong Pontiac showing…but wait, GM killed that brand. Go figure.

  7. Dave Says:

    Those GM Badges were the biggest waste of money. At a time when alot of the public was not buying GM cars not because of the “brand” because of the service problems and the lack of good designs. Maybe GM should put the money into the car not a badge. I will give GM credit as of the last few years the products have been looking better and they are selling better.

    Ford did the same thing with the 500 by renaming a plain boring car and thought that was the fix instead for improving the product.

    I would be the guy for a VOLT i only drive about 10 miles a day to work and home, but at 40+ grand NO WAY!!!!!!!

  8. Alex Kajdi Says:


    I am eagerly awaiting to get my hands on a Chevy (GM) Volt. If it is going to get an estimated 230 miles per gallon combined city and highway milage, what will be the capacity of the fuel tank? Bob Lutz believes that the American Consumers are so stipud as to not associate Chevy, Buick, GMC and Cadillac with the GM Bankruptcy? This is a perfect example of being out of touch with consumers. GM should focus it’s advertising dollars on promoting the “New General Motors”, and it’s family of fine vehicles. I had written several years ago to Rick Wagoner regarding adding those small GM badges to their product lines as a way to unite the divisions under the then strenght of the General Motors Corporate Umbrella. When I saw those small badges apprear on GM vehicles I said to myself that they must be finally listening to their consumer base. GM is great for undoing a those things that give it strenght. The “Like a Rock” advertising campaign you discussed on Autoline After Hours must actually be referring to the rocks in GM’s leaders heads. I believe GM needs to act like a University. There are several Schools and/or Colleges under a Universities umbrella, Schools of Arts and Sciences, Business, Medicine and Law which gain strenght and identity under the University’s Name or Corporate Identity, i.e. Havard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, Columbia, Tulane, etc. This is how GM should view it’s brands and concentrate advertising dollars accordingly. If GM’s market share does not meet projections in the next couple of years then they should consider shinking down to only two divisions, a core General Motors divison and premium Cadillac divison in North America. Buick would be GM’s identity in China and Chevy in Russia. Good Luck to all the remaining workers at General Motors. If the Volt and other soon to be revealed products do not reinvigorate GM image and sales I can see Hyundai and KIA filling the void left by General Motors.

  9. hermann the german Says:

    Hey, has anyone invited David Welch of BusinessWeek to accompany the ExhaustTones on his bagpipes?

  10. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Straight shooter journalist John McElroy, straight shooter interviewee Bob Lutz; got to love it. Nice mini-interview; I got a lot in that segment; good job. (wish I could have gotten a glimpse of the new product though but understand why it is verboten)

  11. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Looks like the beginnings of a peeing contest for mpg/kpm.Nissan has already checked in for the one upmanship,how about Toyota,Honda,etc.I think it’s going to get somewhat confusing from here in for the ev’s.I wonder who will be the first to claim 500mpg/kpm.If in fact these claims prove out,the consumer will definately be the winner on this one.Nissan was kind of incredulous about the volts pricing.Could this be another type of war?

  12. Max Christensen Says:


    I understand what you are saying and do agree to a point on the fact yeah, you could buy a Chrysler or a Ford, but could not buy a “GM” (do the GMC trucks count?)

    Where I disagree is in your assessment of the siblings under Mother MoPar. I had a MoPar dealer (sold all 3 divisions, Plymouth, Dodge and Chrysler) tell me many years ago, “You can sell a Dodge to a Plymouth man, or a Chrysler to a Dodge man, but you can never sell the other down.” This was of course when all 3 divisions were actually somewhat different and Plymouths were the “cheap” cars, Dodge was the “medium priced” cars, and Chryslers were the “expensive” line. I for one miss those days ……… nowadays it seems the Chryslers are the cheapos of the entire Chysler lineup!

    And yeah, there was plenty of squabbling between the GM divisions, but find me a “family” that doesn’t have squabbles??? They might fight among themselves, but throw a Mopar or Ford guy in the middle of it, and the GM family members were on that poor devil like flys on poop!

    And trust me, there was plenty of rivalry between my brother who drove a Plymounth and myself with my Dodge! So it wasn’t just the GM family members who liked to rumble!

  13. Max Christensen Says:

    On another subject, I find it very irritating that GM and Nissan are getting all the media on the electric vehicles. What about Chrysler??? They are supposedly going to have an electric vehicle (most likely the Circuit) available in 2010 with up to a 180 mile electric range, beating both the Chevy and Nissan on range, and possible beating them to marke. Yet we hear nothing about it? John, can you help us on this one?

    Plus Chrysler has been in the electric vehicle business for nearly 2 decades! Do some research and you’ll find they had a fleet of electric mini-vans in the early 90′s that did very well – dependable, economical, and long lasting! In fact, some of those 90′s electric mini vans are still in use.

    So how about some media time for Chrysler and the efforts they have made and are making?

  14. pedro Fernandez Says:

    http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2009/08/the_chevy_volt_gets_230_mpg_on.php @ G A please go to this link and you can see we’re not the only ones who think this Volt mpg thing is just a big splatter of BS

  15. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Thanx for the link Pedro.LOL,yeah man,the marketing guys are digging a very deep hole that GM will find hard to come out of reputation wise.Lets hear more praises for Lutz and the “new” GM.What a fresh steaming pile.

  16. Chuck Grenci Says:

    So……………why isn’t anyone jumping on Nission’s case for countering the Volt claim with their own (367 equivalent). Both figures are correct; they are just using different units than traditionally used. Use these electrics in electric mode only and it’s not a lie. (the engine was put in for backup and occasional extending range)

  17. pedro Fernandez Says:

    I believe the Nissan electric is just that, electric, no gas engine, so if you run out of juice, you’re stuck. period, not good, unless they provide some kind of emergency back-up.

  18. John Henker Says:

    A Retire Your Ride program here in Canada? First I’ve heard of it here in Edmonton, and now that I have, think it’s a joke: an election plank of the Conservative Government that turned out to be more of a toothpick when they got in and implemented it. Typical. Way to go U.S.A!

  19. Posts about Website traffic as of August 12, 2009 | Ebusiness Blog Says:

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  20. craigerzgt Says:

    John, you say that it’s $300 Canadian like as if it’s much less than $300 USD. In fact, the Loonie is about $0.90 USD, which comes out to be about $270 USD. Regardless though, $300 CAD is absolutely pathetic, and what a stupid slogan, “Retire Your Ride”? Who the hell came up with that?

  21. Stuart Somers Says:

    The 230 MPG rating is misleading.Cents per mile @your KWH rate would be better.
    When you paid your electric bill last month, how many “Gallons” did you buy?
    The KWH rate here, in Connecticut is $.1263, not .11.
    The elecrtic utilities here can barely keep up. They run ads on hot days begging people not to turn on A/C until 8 P.M. You can get a discount if you let the Power Co. install a device that won’t let you turn on A/C at peak hours.
    At 40 grand the payoff for the Volt is probally never. It might be cheaper to have a Limo come and pick you up!
    Do you suppose a coal fired generator at the electric plant is cleaner than small car engine?
    I wonder if the Volt will actually be able to go forty miles–on battery alone–once the batteries aren’t new, or in winter.

  22. Mouhamad A. Naboulsi Says:

    Nissan seems a little miffed? Really? $1.5 Billion of tax payers money for a foreign company Got me miffed too.

    As for the Vehicle mileage, What’s the wheel base on that car? It is not in the same class/size as the Volt.

  23. John Says:

    John McElroy,

    Would you please spend some time defining the energy per mile calculations being used with the different types of hybrids and EV’s .

    Safety should be part of this rating too. Say the Volt has better side impact than the Leaf, that should be part of the equation too.

    If you’re dead from driving your flyweight EV, you won’t be able to comment (trash) on the Autoline Daily segements regarding energy per mile ratings.

  24. Roy Says:

    Personally I have never really noticed a GM badge, so it’s the Chevy bowtie, the Cadillac crest, the Buick three shield symbol, or the GMC logo that identifies the vehicle make. I liked Pontiac and I’m sorry to see the brand disappear, but they lost their performance / sporty excitement image somewhere along the way, and the loss of a clear image killed the brand. Whether the GM badge is there or not is not even news worthy.