Episode 245 – Docherty Replaces LaNeve, VW Bearish On Recovery, Nissan’s Land Glider

October 8th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:20

General Motors named Susan Docherty to replace Mark LaNeve as the head of sales. Volkswagen CEO, Martin Winterkorn isn’t optimistic about the car market recovering anytime soon. Nissan’s latest concept car banks as it goes into turns. All that and more, plus a look at Bosch’s efforts to reach the new fuel economy targets set by the EPA.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Docherty replaces LaNeve at GM. VW says the car market won’t recover until 2013 at the earliest. And Nissan’s latest concept car banks as it goes into turns.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, September 8, 2009. And now, the news.

General Motors named Susan Docherty yesterday evening to replace Mark LaNeve as the head of sales. Docherty, 45 years old, had been running the Buick-GMC brands. GM has not named a replacement for Docherty and said it would go outside the company to find a replacement, to ensure it brings fresh blood and ideas into the company.

In the email blast that we sent out with the show yesterday, we carried a headline that said Mark LaNeve had been fired. That prompted General Motors to contact us denying he had been fired, and saying LaNeve got a great job at an un-named company outside the auto industry. We were wrong to say he was fired, we should have said he got out while the getting was good.

It’s hard to read what’s going on with management at GM these days. About a month ago we cited several news sources reporting that Chief Financial Officer Ray Young was leaving the company. I later heard from my sources that Young was still there and was telling everyone he was not leaving. When I called GM to find out what was going on, it would not comment on the situation. In fact, they would not even comment if he was still there. At a news conference yesterday GM CEO Fritz Henderson declined to talk about what’s going on.

Daimler AG, the world’s largest truck maker, says heavy truck sales show no sign of recovery in Europe, but have bottomed out in North America and show some glimmering signs of growth, Reuters reports. Daimler, which uses the Mercedes, Freightliner and Fuso brands in the American market says sales rose 9% in August and could rise 10% next year.

Heavy truck sales are a very good leading indicator of where the economy is headed since so many goods are moved by truck. Years ago I went to the large truck companies and asked, “If heavy trucks are a leading indicator for the economy, what do you guys look for as a leading indicator?” And they said, “We look at sales of trailers.” So I went to the trailer manufacturers and asked, “Who do you guys look at for a leading indicator?” And they said, “We look at sales of trailer axles.” So I guess we need to put in a call to companies like Dana and Eaton and see how those axle sales are going.

Volkswagen CEO, Martin Winterkorn isn’t optimistic about a recovery anytime soon. According to Bloomberg, the CEO says sales aren’t guaranteed to recover next year and that it will take the auto industry until 2013, at the earliest, to get back to pre-recession sales levels. He also predicts any growth will come from China and India in the future.

Nissan previewed a funky looking concept ahead of the Tokyo Motor Show, called the Land Glider. There isn’t a whole lot of info about it but it sits two people, is all electric, made of light weight materials and is designed to get around congested cities. The unique thing about the concept is its ability to lean into turns like a motorcycle. Of course the idea isn’t anything new. Anybody remember GM’s Lean Machine from about 20 years ago?

Coming up next, a look at Bosch’s efforts to reach the new fuel economy targets set by the EPA. We’ll be back right after this.

Recently the Obama administration outlined the fuel economy targets automakers must meet starting in 2012 to get to a fleet average of 35.5 MPG by the year 2016. While that may sound far down the road, 7 years is the blink of an eye in the automotive universe.

That’s why auto supplier, Bosch took the time last week to talk to the media about some of the technology it’s developed that will help automakers meet their fuel targets. Bosch demonstrated vehicles already in production equipped with its direct injection, turbo-charging, and clean diesel technologies. In addition to that executives from the company also discussed its outlook on diesels vs. hybrids and electrics. Here is Dr. Johannes-Joerg Rueger, the Senior Vice President of Engineering at Bosch discussing why the company is bullish on diesel.

But the company is not as enthusiastic about electrics, at least not in the near term.

Reaching the 35.5 MPG ain’t gonna be easy or cheap yet Bosch believes that achieving the number is possible, but….. more collaboration needs to be done between suppliers and automakers.

And that just about wraps it up for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Don’t forget to tune into Autoline After Hours tonight at 7 PM Eastern. Man, will we have a lot to talk about tonight! Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tonight and tomorrow.

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32 Comments to “Episode 245 – Docherty Replaces LaNeve, VW Bearish On Recovery, Nissan’s Land Glider”

  1. David Sprowl Says:

    Diesel will be a much better bet going forward. The cost to the consumer for the initial product will be about the same as the premium for hybrids. However, the resale will be greater as a diesel will not have and expensive battery to replace. Consumers will have less worries about refueling as the current fuel infrastructure is already in place. We are a long way off from seeing the practical electrification of our global fleet.

  2. Nick Stevens Says:

    AAH seems to have no guests tonight?

  3. Dave Says:

    35.5 mpg..LOL I had a large CC motorcycle that did not get that and most small cars with 4 bangers dont get the now!!!!

  4. Jim Sachetti Says:

    Actually many cars in 1980 -84 were getting way over 40 MPG, even 50 MPG, Highway, but these were inflated EPA standards. Since then, EPA lowered them twice. You can find corresponding new numbers at the EPA site for the last 25 or so model years.

    I did own a GM J-car with a 1.8 and a 5-speed, 2,400 lbs, 84 hp, 102 lbft, it was rated 28/46 and did routinely get over 40 highway. But it was quite crude and primitive, with a poor 5-sp manual.

  5. Salvador G. Says:

    JohnMc., I wonder why Bosch is putting their efforts on diesels for the north american market and not hybrids, regardless the fact of how clean and reliable diesel cars have become, the fact still remains… American Oil Co. does not want to produce more diesel.
    –Can you present this comment as my AHH question for tonight–

    Oh- JohnMc, I’m surprise you didn’t go to steel producers and asked them what was their leading indicator. :)

  6. Chuck Grenci Says:

    While diesel will provide an increasing presence in the market, I don’t think ‘major’ is going to be the description. My main concern is where are we going to get all that diesel fuel (if a major portion of the solution turns to diesel). Even though economy will rise on a per gallon basis, so will cost (to consumers) as the demand increases. And what alternative energies are being saved (still takes oil to make it); as ‘Bio’ is still not viable for mass production.

  7. dave Says:

    i have a 1.8 litter Toyota with a 6 speed and on the high way I get about 34, which is very good and i love the car. But to get most cars over 36 in only a few years no way

  8. Nick Stevens Says:


    The target 35.5 MPG is not highway, but average, which makes it even more difficult to achieve.

    But that 35.5 MPG is under very old and lenient EPA rules, not the much tougher 2008 ones, so this will make it much easier to reach.

    The 1.8 with 6 speed Toyota should do better than 34 in pure highway trips, unless it was the sporty MR2 conv or Celica coupe and you drove them at way above the limit speeds?

  9. Nick Stevens Says:

    Re diesels: Note that back in 1980, a huge perecntage of all mercedeses sold in the US were diesels! Maybe 80%!

    TOday Me4rc asnd BMW do the opposite, they bring only their larger, thirstier engines, and few, if any, diesels. But the 35.5 MPG target will force them to import smaller gas engines, more diesels and smaller diesels as well.

  10. diffrunt Says:

    Re: Mr Sachetti comment::: It would appear that less weight might work better , & cheaper than the hitech way of improving fuel economy. I would like to see a polymer bird cage, old Saturn plastic panels & more aerodynamics.

  11. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @D.Sprowl:Diesels will be our more immediate future to meet mpg goals.Your spot on.

    @ Dave:Your wrong about the mpg’s of newer vehicles,EG:My wife’s 09 Focus SEL rated at 35mpg hwy.reality:44+mpg hwy.We get 31/33mpg around town.Also,almost every harley I have built/owned did an average of 40mpg…….with a properly jetted S&S super E carb.

    @ Chuck Grenci:Diesel fuel is a by-product of the gas making process.Make more gas,there will be more diesel fuel.Also,bio-diesel is cheaper and easier to make then either if the ethanol gas products.If the diesel makers do like Ford has done on their new Scorpian diesel,they will be able to run B-20.There is a 20% savings of dino-diesel right there.

    @ All: With the Barrett-jackson vegas thingy happening tonight,I know for sure I won’t be anywhere near here for the AAH’s show.See ya’ll tomorrow ;}>

  12. Dave Says:

    well, i had a zx1100, which i know had did carbs, and 35 was about it and the 1.8 is a Matrix XRS so it is the sporty one, but from Oh to Fl it got about 34 and i get about 29 in mixed driving.

  13. Nick Stevens Says:

    “44+mpg hwy.”

    Even 44, let alone your “44+”, seems quite high for a non-hybrid compact with a 4-sp auto.

    Did you really accurately calculate the MPG? Forget the car computer, calculate it by filling the gas tank twice, both times to the same point (say when it stops fueling and makes the “click” sound) in the middle of a long trip, and writing down the miles. That should give you accurate MPGs.

    I get 44 MPG HWY only with my parents’ civic hatch 91 which is very lightweight (1825 lbs!!) vs the 2,500+ of the focus, has a smaller engine with less HP, and no A/C!

    If the EPA no is 35, given the tougher 2008 EPA numbers, you could get more in most cars if you go below 65 MPH and not use A/C on a flat road. Maybe 38, even 40. But 44? and 44+?

    Maybe it was a short stretch of “work Area” highway when you go 55 or 45 MPH, and in addition your tires were overinflated.

    On the other hand, Dave’s Matrix Toyota is not surprising that it gets less MPG, since it has a far higher roofline than the Forus, a larger frontal area and hence drag, and is heavier, I think.

  14. Nick Stevens Says:

    Scooters and even larger motorcycles get great mpg at low speeds, but on the highway at high speeds their aerodynamics are far lousier than those of cars and do much worse.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Nick Stevens Says:
    October 8th, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    “TOday Me4rc asnd BMW do the opposite, they bring only their larger, thirstier engines, and few, if any, diesels. But the 35.5 MPG target will force them to import smaller gas engines, more diesels and smaller diesels as well.”

    I’m hoping M-B and BMW will starting bringing some of their smaller diesels over. Both have some great 4 cylinder diesels and put them in practical, but great driving cars like the BMW 1 series 5-door.

  16. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Even with good, competetive products, I don’t believe GM will make it. It’s as disorganized and clueless as ever, and Chrysler, even worse, they don’t even have the products to compete. As far as Fiat, when folks realize how unreliable they are, they’ll run away from them.

  17. Nick Stevens Says:


    I fully agree. GM is incorrigible, I see no “new” GM but the bad, old GM. I predict it will soon shut down buick and GMC, and then drop further in market share from 20% to 10% and extinction, in less than 5 years. (30 years ago, it had 55%!)

    Incredibly, Chrysler may have a better chance if Marchionne takes it seriously, he is far better than some auto illiterate moron in Wasshington DC. There is some indication of that. Unlike Nardelli, who never bothered to buy a home in the Detroit Area, Italian Marchionne already bought an expensive condo in Detroit to stay over when visiting!

  18. John Says:

    “VW says the car market won’t recover until 2013 at the earliest.”

    Very Accurate. VW IS CORRECT.

    When you ask yourself, “Why did the U.S. spend 787 BILLION Dollars on a “Stimulus” plan that does nothing for the U.S.Consumer (70% of the U.S. Economy), and nothing for the U.S. Small Business Sector (that creates 80% of the Jobs and Job growth) ?”

    And, then last week about 9 months after the 787 BILLION Stimulus Plan Bill,the White House “Discovers” that the unemployment percentage is going from 9.7% to 9.8% and their “solution” is to extend health insurance subsidies, extend unemployment benefits, and extend the $8000 first time home buyers tax credit. None of these “Band-Aids” create JOBS .

    What is it called when you continue to do the same thing and expect a different result? …

    It starts to look like the “Stimulus Plan” is not really designed to “Stimulate” the economy.

    But WHY would the Stimulus Plan of 2009 be designed to fail?

    Well who wrote it?

    “There was the stimulus bill. My question was: Who wrote this thing? We found out and told you: It was the Apollo Alliance — a progressive, George Soros-funded, extreme left-wing organization. Harry Reid admitted to the nation — no, actually, he thanked the Apollo Alliance for their help.”


    You really need to understand the “CLOWARD-PIVEN STRATEGY” .

    “First proposed in 1966 and named after Columbia University sociologists Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, the “Cloward-Piven Strategy” seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse. ”


    Get used to the term “JOBLESS RECOVERY” .


    It is not about “Business” like VW selling cars in the capitalist tradition.

    It is about “Redistribution of Income” via Collapsing the Capitalist System.

    Google “Cloward and Piven” and read everything you can find to understand their 1966 Strategy that is being employed in 2009.

    Then you will understand why the common sense “fixes” are not being used to reverse our economic collapse.

    VW is Correct!

    “VW says the car market won’t recover until 2013 at the earliest.”

  19. John W Says:

    @John’s most recent post above… I concur VW is correct. We need to listen to their definition of “recovery”. To them recovery (per the article linked by McElroy)is defined as a sales rate of that prior to the recession.

    Recessions are a normal part of the business cycle and happen when the economy is over inflated. We don’t want the same sales rate as before the recession in the near future (1-2 years minimum) it would mean we’ve re-inflated the bubble too quick.

    Also of note VW stated that any growth would be overseas, not here in the USA. Therefore is VW saying we should stay at the 10 million annual sales rate for the USA or will it actually go up? If so, at what rate?

    If the rest of the world is going to grow faster than us and we are going to stay at the same level (or tiny growth), then we are seeing the fall of the US Dollar… and the slow fall of America as the leading economic super power.

  20. Art DesJardins Says:

    There are ways to drive to achieve decent gas milage from almost any car. I have a 1994 Volvo 850 turbo and can get 30 mpg on the highway by watching my rpm on the tach. If I stay between 2200 and 2300 rpm I get a reliable 30 mpg and am going an average of 65 mph. Not too bad for a 15 year old car that has almost 165000 miles and did not qualify for the cash for clunkers because new it got 19 mpg city. Todays cars are capable of doing even better than this if driven smoothly. Get to speed and then maintain it without alot of variation in rpm and you can better the epa estimates on most vehicles. I am not a hypermiler but have slowed down from my younger days and get better gas milage from smooth drivng instead of so much up and down in engine speed. An article some years ago about Jackie Stewart impressed me with his philosophy of driving smoothly on the road to get the best results from your car. I find it works for me and can work for anyone with a little practice. I think we can acomplish the 35.5 mpg goal with the advances in technology we have now that weren’t available years ago and see better gas milage as an achievable goal.

  21. dave Says:

    I am not saying that a car company can not make a car get 36 mph, and some do now..GREAT. The problem will be to have a car company to average 36 across all products. Thats the problem some small cars will get 35, 40, plus but that will be hard to off set trucks, suvs, mini vans sports cars etc..

    And yes I did the math on my Toyota to find the mpg

  22. Nick Stevens Says:


    I had no reason to doubt your Toyota’s modest MPG, I was asking GA Branigan, not you, about his claimed “44+(!)” mpg with their focus, and asked him if he did the math manually, and not relying on the car computer which is seldom accurate in short intervals..

  23. Nick Stevens Says:

    I meant “Dave” not “Nick” above.

  24. Nick Stevens Says:

    I am more optimistic than Dave that companies will be able to achieve the 35 MPG, IF gas prices do not become dirt-cheap and people do not care to buy the efficient cars

    I also am not as pessimistic as John McELroy who predicts that cars will be much smaller and far more expensive to achieve that 35.

    Many reasons:

    1. This 35 is NOT consistent with the harsher 2008 EPA rules, but still uses the old, very generous inflated EPA MPG. If you translate it to today’s MPGS, it will probbably be less than 32, or even 30!

    2. One can easily achieve higher MPG with DIESELS with no compromise on space and features of any car, and with a modest, not a big, cost increase.

    3., You really do not need to go to Hybrids, some diesels will be enough, as long as the fuel hog SUVs are off the road (and they slowly or rapidly are becoming extinct), as well as the obese crossovers, and replaced by efficient tall wagons like the Matrix/Vibe or small minivans, a lot of progress can be made.

    4. Finally, today’s cars, even econoboxes, are grossly overpowered. even the lowly Kia Forte has 156 HP! For an old lady who replaces her obese buick to go to church on Sundays and shop on saturdays, It only needs HALF as much! And you can still go well over 85 MPH on the highway with the Forte and an 78 HP 4!

    In the 80s, GM’s J-cars had a 1.8 lt 4 and 84 Hp and routinely got over 40 MPG highway (old EPA 46 for 5-sp manual)

  25. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Yes I crunch the numbers,and the display is only 1 to 1.5 mpg over.I run Royal Purple full synth engine oil,tires are not over inflated.I use a K&N drop in air filter,and we always use cruise control at whatever posted speed limit.I have been driving like this for decades.Nowadays it has a name,”hyper mileing”.I do the same thing to my Jeep JK and enjoy 22+mpg hwy in a 2 1/4 ton 4×4.We live in the country,not in a city.One other edition to the jeep is a flowmaster 40 series cat-back.Cheap at $125.00 installed.Even on my bikes I get better mileage then most because I’ve been doing it since I was a kid.Go for precision driving.

  26. Nick Stevens Says:

    Why did I say 85 MPH highway? The old GM J-cars with their 84 HP 1.8s and over 40 MPG with the 5 sp manual, were able to go close to 100 MPH, but if you ever drove them you may remember that after 85 MPH, the needle got stuck in the.. odometer thing, and anyway the speedometers at that time did not have speeds above 85 MPH written on the gauge.

  27. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I did forget to mention,I will be changing out the transfer case oil,and both diffs to Royal Purple(my favorite)soon.As with my other 4×4′s in the past,I should pick up around 1 to 1.5 mpg increase.My last 2 Ford F150,FX4′s both showed an increase in mpg when I did that.Also,I will be installing a “tuner”,(superchips)into my Jeep and will do the 87 tune.That will increase my mpg by about 1.5 to 2 mpg.It will improve some other parameters as well.Lastly I am going to change out my plugs to Diamondfire E-3′s.Again,it will increase power and mpg.The only expensive thing in what I will do is the tuner,about 300 bux,but the other things it does for my jeep makes it worth it to me.

  28. pedro Fernandez Says:

    I just want to put in my 2 cents worth re: mpg’s. My son, speedy Gonzalez,drove his Xb, to Orlando and got about 26 mpg, turnpike, I borrowed his car same year, same destination, and took a secondary road including going through towns and stopping at red lights etc. and still managed 32 mpg’s. But I never went over 65 mph at any one point. So it comes down to how you drive the vehicle. Best car for all around driving: Honda Civic. 5 sp auto /2k rpm’s at around 65 I got around 35 mpg’s.

  29. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Mornin’Pedro,it’s not hard to get or exceed a vehicles rated mpg.It’s mostly in the way a person drives,ie:bad habits.There are inexpensive ways to vastly improve the mpg of almost any given vehicle,it ain’t rocket science.Today’s computer controlled cruise control is way awesome.That is the single biggest fuel savings right there.Now,had you used the hwy and cruise,you would have seen maybe 38mpg or better.Most all of it comes down to what anybody does with the skinny pedal.

  30. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    GA I also put full synth and a KN filter on both our cars, mine gets better mpg around town than hwy because of that blasted 3 speed auto which should have been declared illegal years ago. but I can see the day when they’ll have a four banger and a 6 or 7 speed auto, but transmission technology has not kept up with the rest of the other components, I mean the avg auto is the 4 speed, same as it’s been for close to 30 years.

  31. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Your right about the trans bro,and congrats on using synth and a k&n.Big improvements from stock.I want to add a flowmaster to my wifes car,but haven’t won that round………yet ;}>

  32. Andrew Charles Says:

    Actually the CAFE standard manufacturers HAVE to meet in 2016 is only 34.9 mpg. However it varies depending on the size of vehicles they sell and only applies to cars, not vehicles classified by the EPA as “trucks” or light commercial vehicles.

    Each vehicle you sell will have a target economy standard based on its footprint (wheelbase x track). For a manufacturer these per-vehicle targets are combined to get a company CAFE target, which may be a lot higher than the minimum requirement of 34.9 mpg. By combining individual model targets to create a tailored CAFE for each manufacturer a poorly-performing compact can be balanced by a good-performing midsize sedan, or vice-versa, but a company that only builds small cars has no advantage over a competitor that builds a wider range of vehicles. The standard for trucks works in a similar way, but is not so tough and has no corporate minimum other than the combined vehicle target. If a manufacturer such as Suzuki sells largely small cars, then they have to meet a much higher standard—potentially as high as 41.4 mpg. This maximum level is actually slightly lower than under the standard proposed last year, which called for small cars to achieve 41.7 mpg by 2015. Either way, a car like the Suzuki SX4 with only a thirsty 2.0 L will find things very tough in future, and the smaller Swift won’t be much help.

    If you elect to sell only fwd models, then the standard you have to meet is potentially higher than the industry target of 35.5 mpg. In 2016 even a car as large as the new LaCrosse will have to get 35.9 mpg. If GM was still selling the G8, well that would only have to get 34.4 mpg, the current STS just 34.5 mpg. By 2016 a car like the Taurus has a target of 34.1 mpg, the wider MKS drops that to 33.9 mpg, but the Cadillac SLS sold in China, or the new Caprice PPV, just 33.6 and 33.2 mpg respectively. The lwb version of the Mercedes S-Class has a target of just 31.9 mpg in 3016.

    The only way to get your CAFE target for cars down to even 35.5 mpg, let alone the minimum 34.9 mpg, is to build as many rwd models as you can, and that means affordable midsize and compact cars, as well as premium and large sedans (which don’t sell in volume). In practice modern rwd cars get better economy as well (maybe its the transmissions, maybe its better intake and exhaust systems). GM is preparing a CTS that will get 30 mpg hwy, better than any fwd V6 in the US market. The LaCrosse with the same engine gets just 27 mpg hwy. To make matters worse, the awd system in the CTS costs almost nothing in fuel economy, but in the LaCrosse awd gets you just 25 mpg hwy, and drops you even further behind the CTS and STS in the city. GM is mad to build the XTS on a larger awd version of Epsilon.