September 24th, 2009 at 12:10pm
Tesla is losing its head of engineering and manufacturing. Chrysler’s new CEO, Sergio Marchionne, wants face lifts on five different models by 2011. Honda comes out with an electric unicycle . . . that you’ve just gotta see. All that and more, plus how General Motors came up with the fuel economy number for the Chevy Volt.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. Tesla loses its head of manufacturing. Marchionne wants five face lifts in 18 months. And Honda comes out with an electric unicycle . . . you’ve gotta see this.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, September 24, 2009. And now, the news.
The Detroit News reports that Tesla is losing its head of engineering and manufacturing. Mike Donoughe, a former Chrysler executive is leaving Tesla to join a product development company called St. Clair Consulting. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, says with the company getting closer to finding a manufacturing plant to make its Model S that it’s a logical time for Donoughe to leave. To which I say, “What?” Just as you face your biggest manufacturing challenge its logical to get rid of your manufacturing guy? Believe me, there’s a lot more to this story, and we will get to the bottom of it.
Maybe Chrysler will want to hire back Mr. Donoughe. The Detroit Free Press reports that Chrysler is starting to hire back some of the key people it let go while going through its bankruptcy. It also says Chrysler’s new, CEO Sergio Marchionne, wants face lifts on five different models by mid-2011, including the two minivans, Dodge Caliber, Jeep Patriot and Compass.
Jaguar or Land Rover are going to close one of their factories in central England by 2014. According to the AFP, Jaguar’s owner, Tata, will decide next year to close either an assembly plant at Castle Bromwich which produces Jaguars or a plant at Solihull that makes Land Rovers. In related news, Russian automaker Avtovaz, which produces the Lada, will cut over a quarter of its workforce. According to the AFP, the company will eliminate over 27,000 jobs due to the economic slump. Renault owns a 25-percent stake in the company.
As we reported yesterday, Honda and Nissan will start exporting out of the U.S., largely thanks to the weak dollar. Now the AP says Mercedes-Benz is moving some C-Class production from Germany to its plant in Alabama. Obviously, this didn’t sit well with Daimler’s union which says that moving production will cost 3,000 jobs at the plant that makes the C-Class in Germany.
From the automaker that brought you Asimo and the walking assist device, Honda has come up with another bizarre gadget. Think of the U3-X as a battery-powered unicycle. It fits between the rider’s legs and can move forward, backward, side-to-side and diagonally thanks to a unique wheel design. It has a series of small motorized rollers that form one, large-diameter wheel. This gives the U3-X the ability to move in all four directions. Like a Segway, the rider controls the device by shifting his or her body weight. Overall, it should weigh less than 10 kilograms – about 22 pounds – and have a runtime of around an hour thanks to a lithium-ion battery. Honda plans to premiere the bizarre contraption at the Tokyo Motor Show late next month.
Contrary to popular belief, the Volt isn’t GM’s only electric vehicle project. According to the BBC, the company is developing a small, cheap electric car for India. The General has partnered with Reva, an Indian manufacturer that’s sold EVs since 2001. Production is expected to begin next year. No details yet on pricing or availability.
But speaking of the Volt, when GM announced that it would get 230 miles to the gallon people just stared in disbelief. So how did GM come up with that number? We’ll answer that, after the break.
Earlier this week we did a live webcast with Tom Stephens, the head of product development at General Motors. In the course of the conversation we asked him how in the world did GM come up with the fuel economy number of 230 miles to the gallon for the Chevrolet Volt? Here’s a clip of that conversation.
As you all know, sharing that number kicked off a firestorm of controversy over the “fuel economy” of electric cars. And I’m sure the EPA will be refining that procedure as it gets more experience with electric vehicles.
Hey, don’t forget to join us tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern time for another live edition of Autoline After Hours. Peter De Lorenzo is out on the road tonight, but my guest will be Tim Leuliette, the chairman of Dura Automotive, but he’s someone who has been CEO at quite a number of automotive supplier companies. Tim is clever, conversational and really knows product. If you’ve never heard this guy before, you’re going to enjoy getting to know him. That’s tonight, live at 7 p.m. Eastern, or 2300 hours GMT.
And that’s it for today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.