Episode 269 – VW Passes Toyota, No IPO For GM Next Year, Woman Finally Gets License

November 11th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:42

Volkswagen has overtaken Toyota as the number-one automaker in the world. GM’s chairman Ed Whitacre doubts the company can go public next year, even though management has been saying it would. A woman in South Korea gets her drivers license…after 950 tries. All that and more, plus John answers viewer questions about Toyota’s floormat problem in the “You Said It!” segment.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Volkswagen passes Toyota to become number-one in the world. GM may not do an IPO next year after all. And a woman in South Korea gets her drivers license…after 950 tries. Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, November 11, 2009 – Veterans’ Day and Armistice Day – and now, the news.

The Wall Street Journal reports that GM’s chairman Ed Whitacre doubts the company can go public next year (subscription required), even though management has been saying it would. Instead of taking the company public, he’d rather see it start paying off the government loans first. I think if GM could start paying the government back next year, it would instantly improve the automakers’ public perception. Whitacre also questions management’s projections for total sales in the American market next year of 11.5 million units, since unemployment is still rising and credit is tight. But he praised management for boosting sales and market share last month.

Peugeot is showing off a hybrid three-wheel scooter concept called the HYbrid3 Evolution. The two front wheels are equipped with electric motors powered by lithium-ion batteries and the rear wheel is powered by a 300 cc gasoline engine. There are no mechanical connections between the front and rear, everything is controlled electronically. It can run on either the gas engine or in electric-only mode or a combination of the two. Fuel economy is 2.0 l/100km or 117 MPG.

Volvo just released photos of the all-new S60, which will make its official debut at next year’s Geneva Motor Show in March. Production of the vehicle is scheduled to start next summer. It will also be equipped with the pedestrian safety technology, which we showed to you earlier in the week.

German auto supplier ZF has come up with a clever design for a simple, lightweight axle assembly. It features a transverse fiberglass leaf spring that you can see in green in this picture. The design eliminates the need for stabilizers, bearings, two tie rods, transverse control arms, and conventional helical springs. So it cuts cost and improves fuel economy, and that makes it clever enough to make it on this show.

Volkswagen has overtaken Toyota as the number-one automaker in the world. According to the Guardian, the German automaker has built 4.4-million vehicles so far this year, outpacing its Japanese rival by nearly half a million units. Vee-Dub has been on fire in China and it’s benefited heavily from government subsidies in many European countries. Toyota’s decision to cut production by 50 percent earlier this year also helped push Volkswagen to the top. In related news, Bloomberg reports that VW aims to sell 130,000 copies of its NMS, or new midsize sedan, in the U.S. per year. That’s a HUGE number. In 2008 the BRAND sold 223,000 vehicles in the U.S.

Talk about perseverance. If you remember, earlier this year we reported on a South Korean woman who failed her driver’s test 771 times! Well, we have an update. Autoblog, says Cha Sa-soon has finally passed the written portion of the exam. How’s that saying go? 950th time’s a charm? After 950 attempts she finally made it. It’s not like the test is ungodly hard, you only need a 60 percent to pass. This accomplishment only took her four years and cost of five-million won – about $4,200. Now all she has to do is complete the road test.

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!

And now it’s time for some of your feedback.

This is “You Said It!”  where I get to comment on your questions.

Ralph Kercheval wrote about Toyota’s floormat issue and says, “It seems that there is unintended acceleration related to the ECU and electronic throttle by wire system that Toyota uses.”

I don’t buy that Ralph. They tried to find a similar excuse when Audi had so-called unintended acceleration. NHTSA proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that unintended acceleration is driver error, caused by people who had their foot on the gas, even though they swear it was on the brake. No matter how fast a car is going, even if you keep the gas pedal floored, the brakes will always bring a car to a stop.

Sean Walsh, wrote in on the same issue. He says, “What’s your take on the ABC News investigation of the Toyota acceleration issue and the claim it’s more than the floor mats. Do you think they have something or are they trying for a sensational story to boost ratings? My wife has a 2004 Camry and is very nervous now.”

Sean, tell you’re wife to relax, this is just more sensationalist reporting that has no basis in fact. This is the same crap we got from “60 Minutes” on the Audi unintended acceleration story back in 1987. The story is bogus, NHTSA proved that. In fact, the shift-lock mechanism on every car today, where you have to put your foot on the brake before you can shift out of Park came right out that investigation. I’ve driven every Toyota model there is over the last 30 years. And every Lexus. And Scion, and I’ve never had this problem happen and don’t know anyone who has. This is just another example of America’s struggle with accepting personal responsibility. It seems like whenever we have a problem we want to find out who we can blame and who we can sue.

OK, enough pontificating already. Here’s an important message…from me.

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

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32 Comments to “Episode 269 – VW Passes Toyota, No IPO For GM Next Year, Woman Finally Gets License”

  1. Frank Nelson Says:

    I agree with John. Any car’s brakes can overcome the engine. Any car’s. I found it difficult to believe that a CHP officer had time to call 911 and explain that his car was running full throttle, and yet couldn’t turn the key off, brake it down to a slow down or stop, or simply put it in neutral and let the engine self-destruct. I was sitting in my vet’s office when the news of this came on, and several people in the office were puzzled that situation could not be stopped by any of these methods. The fact that it killed all of the passengers is truly horrific. It wasn’t necessary.

  2. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Frank Nelson Says:
    November 11th, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    “Any car’s brakes can overcome the engine. Any car’s. I found it difficult to believe that a CHP officer had time to call 911 and explain that his car was running full throttle, and yet couldn’t turn the key off, brake it down to a slow down or stop, or simply put it in neutral and let the engine self-destruct.”

    Very true, and on most or all of today’s cars, the engine wouldn’t even self-destruct; they have rev limiters. The engine would SOUND like it was going to self-destruct, though, in neutral at full throttle bumping the rev limiter.

  3. AlfaElan Says:

    My understanding with the CHP incident is that the push button start on that vehicle has a 2 second delay which can cause confusion and I assume meant he hit the start button again turning it on before the ignition was killed.

    Even so he should have been able to put it into neutral at any time and let the rev limiter deal with it since modern cars will cut the fuel before the engine self destructs.

    When my throttle stuck wide open on the floor mat I pressed the clutch as I turned the key off. It probably hit 8k (over the 7K redline) before it coasted back down, but at least on my 40 year old car there is no wheel lock, power steering or power anything, so I just cleared the pedal, turn the ignition back on and continued on my way without stopping.

  4. Salvador G. Says:

    MAYBE, Maybe; the problem it’s the pedals and, and they pushed forward by themselves.!!
    :P

  5. Bill Kessler Says:

    John M
    Your show is so fresh and informative .
    Is so refreshing to get information that is not marching to a personal agenda.
    Keep up th e good work.
    Best personal regards .
    Bill Kessler

  6. HtG Says:

    Back in the eighties, a guy in school had been working in DC where they were receiving testaments from drivers that had had the acceleration issue with Audi. This guy lorded it over me that if I had saw the compliants, then I would know it was the car. Thankfully, the correct conclusion was reached, even though Audi’s reputation was trashed. If you’re interested, that guy from school was a prick, and works as a journalist in DC to this day.

    Oh, and John, Germans just love to be teased about WWII.

  7. diffrunt Says:

    simple case of mind boggling panic

  8. Andrew Charles Says:

    The issue with Toyota floor mats being investigated by the NHTSA seems to be whether the pedal design contributed to the mat being caught up in and either holding the accelerator down or the brake up. Worst come to worst there is that thing which Americans like to call the emergency brake. If there is an ECU issue it can only be in the way engine shutdown is controlled. I did an internship many years ago at the Australian equivalent of the NHTSA, and I can tell you these agencies always like to cover all the bases, even if privately they think think the issue is a total crock.

  9. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    I think in these cases the drivers panicked and did not react in time by either putting the car in neutral or shutting the engine off, precisely why I don’t like all these electronics controlling the car like in the S class where basically the computer controls all major functions and you just tell the computer what you want done, hopefully it has some kind of bypass system in place is this were to happen.

  10. Darren Says:

    I had the problem on a stick shift Audi. It was the idle compensator that made it over rev to 2800 rpm. Quite manageable to stop.
    Although the Audi service manager denied any problem he came out in a suit and changed the idle compensator. That solved the problem.

  11. Charles Hurst Says:

    Amen John! Loved your closing comments on the Toyota acceleration issue. Americans simply can’t admit we are, as a group, terrible drivers and refuse, as you said, to accept personal responsibility for anything! That lack of accountability is a critical fault that infects every aspect of our culture and will ultimately be our downfall.

  12. Salvador G. Says:

    -
    1. You know, Pedal design it’s been pretty much the same for who knows how many years now, among manufactures they may have different shapes but mechanically the same.

    2. I’m going to agree with JohnMc. People need to have some sense of personal responsibility on this. I still say people who had accidents with the floor mats in their cars it’s because they tend to push the floor mats under during braking.

    -

  13. Dr. Michael Merenstein Says:

    I think full service car washes should be a service required every month, those vacuum guys would properly reposition the mats. No. I don’t own a car wash!

  14. Dan B. Says:

    The back seat passenger made the phone call in the fatal accident involving the off duty Police Officer. That said, “neutral” should have been engaged, which is easy to do when not panicked.

  15. jeff mohr Says:

    never understood the reasoning behind anything but a rubber floor anyhow—- hate the hydro germ infested carpet sponge

  16. C-tech Says:

    The issue with the Camary is a tragic event. I never heard if there were several other events or if this was one isolated event. If this were a single occurance, why the investigation? A good friend bought a used Camary of the same model and I ‘m glad I put Dodge floormats in it!

  17. Dave W. Says:

    Joh, In the investigative stories I have read (LA Times-I believe) on the Lexus sudden acceleration it stated that when the engine was at “Wide Open Throttle” the vacuum to the brakes drops to zero. The brakes have a one brake activation reserve then unless replinished they will not work. Because the vehicle had a button activated start/stop it had to be held in for 3 seconds. The driver did not know this. The manner in which the drive by wire works is interlocked to the shifter and would not be able to shift out of position it was in. This is why there is a call for more investigation.

  18. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    If I had to depend on a car wash attendant for my safety, I’d be in trouble. Not even dealer technicians follow up on their work, I had my son’s Scion in for a dealer oil change, simple enough, right? Well they did not zero out the computer so a week later a warning light came on saying the oil change was overdue and also I found out at the next oil change the same tech neglected to secure a plastic panel that covers the area of the oil filter, causing the thing to flap when the wind hit it, thus creating a noise that became a nuisance. No more dealer service, I now take it to my trusty mechanic who is more meticulous.

  19. C-tech Says:

    unfortunately the “lube kings” at you local dealer are not always interested in becoming future technicians. At my dealer we have 1 of 3 who are interested in becoming a technician and care about the cars they work on, so 2 of 3 oils changes go out like that. The owner does not seem to care, its just a matter of getting you in for a cheap oil change. In the next 10 years it will be interesting to see who is left repairing cars. There are not that many techs under 30, and a lot of good techs are getting out of the business. The tech pay is going down.

  20. C-tech Says:

    Are the Chinese and Europeans buying THAT many VW’s? Who is going to give up their Camary’s and Fusion’s for a NMS?

  21. Denis Says:

    To the Toyota owners with self accelerating cars…don’t panic…simply turn the ignition key off and coast to a stop….then tke a driving course. As John said people need to take responsibility for there own actions.
    Good to see ZF copying the transverse leaf spring suspension that Corvette has been using for decades.

  22. Sean Walsh Says:

    John,

    Thanks for answering my question. I did better than tell my wife not to worry. I played the webcast for her and let you tell her!

  23. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    It’s no secret that VW makes good driving cars, and the styling has become very high end, however they still have that reliability problem that no matter how much they try to improve it , they’re always lagging behind the Japanese, if the Koreans have improved theirs I fail to see why VW can’t do the same.

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    C-tech Says:
    November 11th, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    “Are the Chinese and Europeans buying THAT many VW’s? Who is going to give up their Camary’s and Fusion’s for a NMS?”

    Everyone except people in the US are buying a lot of VW’s. VW is more of a “world” car company than any other. They build cars in Europe, South America, Mexico, China, and probably the middle east. They tend not to build “market specific” cars like Toyota and Honda do for the US, but, overall, what they do seems to work. I’m not sure if they still do this, but not too long ago, VW was building and selling their older designs in less developed markets. When I was in China in 1994, they were building Passat 2′s there, and they made up much of the taxi fleet in Shanghai.

  25. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    And the old Beetle was made in Mexico for the Latin American market until just a few years ago, where’s still used as taxi.

  26. Salvador G. Says:

    Volkswagen seems to asume that once people feel better about buying a new car when the economy gets better, they’re will likely buy VW’s, that’s a pretty high order; not asuming people will just switch to increasing numbers from KIA, Hyundai, FIAT, etc, etc, etc and that Toyota will not increase production again.

  27. Guy, Lakeland, FL Says:

    Great job John!!! I really liked your comments on the viewers comments.

  28. Nick Says:

    John, I enjoy the show.

    You claim that any car’s brakes can overcome the accelerator, even at full throttle. I’m curious to know what your response is to the track test demonstration by Consumer Reports showing that a 2010 Toyota Venza’s brakes were unable to stop the car at full throttle, and in fact that vacuum brake boost was lost completely when the driver attempted to “reapply” or pump the brake pedal at full throttle.

    Also, I wonder what your response is to the ABC News claim that the proportional incident rate of so-called unintended acceleration shows a noticeable increase after Toyota began using its electronic throttle control throughout its lineup.

    Those two are the most compelling arguments for me, though in general I agree that we have a tendency in our culture to want to blame some faceless corporation instead of taking personal responsibility for our actions. Thanks again for an informative show.

  29. dcars Says:

    Vw must have a better reputation outside of the US . Their styling seams very feminine. Oddly I see a lot of women driving their cars, German cars usually appear more aggressive. No offense to anyone that owns one.

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    VW is mostly a “niche” car company in the US, selling cars like no other company or few other companies sell here. They have 4 cylinder diesel cars, real station wagons that are unapologetically cars, not “crossovers,” and hatchbacks that are a notch above what the Asians are now selling. Also, they have DSG torque converter-less automatic transmissions in some of their cars.

    I’ve had four water cooled VW’s, from an ’86 Cabrio that I still have, to an ’04 Jetta TDI. I liked all of them, and three of the four were reliable. The reason I sold the TDI is that no one in the US knows anything about them, and you can’t even get the approved oil except at a dealer.

    It sounds like VW plans to go more “mainstream” with the new sedan, and if it is price-competitive and turns out to be reliable, they should sell a lot of them.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    dcars Says:
    November 12th, 2009 at 10:39 am

    “Vw must have a better reputation outside of the US . Their styling seams very feminine. Oddly I see a lot of women driving their cars”

    I see a lot of women driving Suburbans and Expeditions. Your are right, though, that some VW’s, especially New Beetles VW Cabrios have a relatively high percentage of female drivers. I really don’t care, though, when I drive my ’86 Cabriolet.

  32. John V Says:

    ZF’s Composite transverse leaf spring suspension sure looks a lot like the rear suspension with transverse composite leaf spring with control arms and struts that GM had in its large FWD cars from the Mid 80s and at least through the 90s. ZF’s looks lighter.