January 25th, 2010 at 12:19pm
GM announced this morning that Ed Whitacre will become the permanent CEO of the company. Car sales in China are rising, but so is the cost of driving one. The average price for a license plate in Shanghai has risen to more than $5,600! Caterpillar shows off a new electric bulldozer that’s 25 percent more efficient than other models. All that and more, plus a look at how Ford is using advanced technology to eliminate noise in its vehicles.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. Ed Whitacre will become GM’s permanent CEO. It costs five grand to buy a license plate in Shanghai. And Caterpillar comes out with a hybrid bulldozer.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Monday, January 25, 2010. And now, the news.
GM announced this morning that Ed Whitacre will be the permanent CEO of the company, ending the search for a new CEO that was underway. It also ends speculation that Christopher Liddell, who recently came over from Microsoft, might be in the running for the CEO job.
It’s earnings time! We’ll be hearing from a lot of automakers and suppliers reporting their earnings over the next week or two. Fiat lost $1.2 billion last year, more than twice what analysts expected, the AFP reports. But Fiat predicts it will make a profit of 200 to 300 million euros….if European governments continue their cash-for-clunkers incentives.
Gold has been on a tear over the last decade with prices well over $1,000 an ounce. But now Bloomberg reports that metals investors are dumping gold and buying platinum. Some analysts say the price of platinum could rise by more than 50 percent this year, after rising nearly 60 percent last year. A key reason why they’re so bullish, besides all the mumbo-jumbo technical analysis is because the auto industry buys about 70 percent of all platinum for catalytic converters, and they plan to buy 20 percent more than last year.
Car sales in China keep on rising and so does the cost to drive one. According to Gasgoo, the average cost of a license plate in Shanghai has risen to over $5,600. Those plates are auctioned off by the city. Last month, 8,000 were handed out but the number of people bidding on them went from about 400 to nearly 19,000, which obviously drove up the price. Drivers wanted to get a new plate before the Chinese new year in February, and also because the government is limiting plates for an upcoming World Expo in Shanghai.
In other China news, GM says it will need a new plant in the country. According to Reuters, the company has added shifts and expanded assembly lines to meet demand at its existing facilities, but it says it still needs another plant. GM said it expects to sell 2-million vehicles this year in China compared to 1.8 million last year.
To help keep classic models running and looking good for years to come, Audi recently launched a new website to sell vintage parts. Right now the company has more than 300,000 components available, including stuff for really old vehicles like Horchs and Wanderers. The site is www.audi.de/tradition-parts — the link will be posted in the show notes if you want to check it out. The company wanted to ensure the availability of the most necessary parts for classic models. Members of ACI – the Audi Club International – receive special deals when ordering from the website.
So, you think hybrids only come in one size – small? Well, think again. At 11-feet high and 60,000 pounds the Caterpillar D7E bulldozer dwarfs your neighbor’s Prius. According to the New York Times, the earth mover is 25 percent more efficient than a conventional model, but the company prefers to call it an “electric tractor” rather than a hybrid. It’s powered by a 9.3-liter six-cylinder diesel engine with 719 pound-feet of torque. The ICE drives a generator which in turn runs two 107-horsepower electric motors – one for each tread. It has no battery pack, but the efficiency boost comes partly from regenerative braking and partly from keeping the engine running at a constant speed.
Coming up next, a look at how Ford is boosting the perceived quality of its cars by making them quieter.
With so many new vehicles being introduced to the market every year, now more than ever, it’s important to get new ones out even faster. And when you can do that and improve quality and reduce cost all at the same time…even better. That’s why Ford is using a couple of technologies that can do just that. One called “Noise Vision” allows engineers to “see” and eliminate sounds in the interior during development.
It’s a small sphere that’s placed inside the vehicle and is equipped with more than 30 microphones and 12 cameras. Software reads the data and creates a computerized image showing hot spots in the interior that could be caused by wind noise, rattles or unwanted feedback from the engine or road.
In the past it was a process of elimination to identify and fix rattles and squeaks, which in some cases could take weeks. Now it’s only a matter of a few hours with Noise Vision. The other technology Ford is using to improve sound quality is something that looks more like a video game than a development tool. Called “Virtual Vehicle Sound Simulator,” it’s used to fine-tune sound inside the vehicle.
Using the virtual simulator, engineers can hear what the vehicle would sound like under different road conditions, speeds, gear ranges and throttle conditions as a simulated vehicle shifts, accelerates and decelerates.
In the past, engineers would test specific components one at a time in a single drive condition. Now engineers can hear noises in real-time in dozens of conditions. Each of these tools has contributed to the success the company has seen lately.
Don’t forget to tune in to our live webcast from the auto show in Washington DC tomorrow starting at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. We’ll be talking with politicians, regulators and industry executives, such as Johan de Nysschen from Audi and Alan Mulally from Ford. And we’ll be taking your questions, which you can send to us. Just head over to the John’s Journal section of our website where we have a special form where you can submit them.
And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.