Episode 326 – Akio Toyoda Called to Testify in D.C., Porsche’s Hybrid Racecar, Chi-Town Recap

February 11th, 2010 at 12:00pm

Runtime 6:45

California Congressman Darrell Issa wants Akio Toyoda to testify in Washington.  Porsche previews a new racecar – the 911 GT3 R Hybrid – ahead of next month’s Geneva Motor Show.  Car prices in China are creeping up because of increased demand from government stimulus measures.  All that and more, plus a recap of the major product reveals coming out of the Chicago Auto Show.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Now the U.S. Congress and the lawyers are putting Toyota in their crosshairs. Porsche comes out with a hybrid racecar. And a look at the new models unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, February 11, 2010.   And now, the news.

Now the U.S. Congress is starting to get involved in the Toyota recalls. The AFP reports that Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California wants company president Akio Toyoda to testify in Washington. Toyota, of course, will be dead-set against that. Akio’s English is not that good and this could turn into an embarrassing situation. But the governors of Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi, who all have Toyota factories in their states, are asking Congress to give the company a fair hearing. And while Toyota says it is quickly repairing vehicles, Reuters reports there are still 70,000 vehicles on dealer lots, but Toyota says it’s fixing 50,000 a day. The company is also considering changing its stop/start button so that it will kill the engine if you push it three times in a row, instead of having to hold it down for three seconds.

And now plaintiff attorneys who have filed dozens of class-action lawsuits against Toyota are considering joining forces to form one giant, national class-action lawsuit against the automaker. They also want to include used cars in their lawsuit because they say the recall has dragged down the resale values of those cars.

Porsche will show a hybrid racing concept at next month’s Geneva Motor Show. The 911 GT3 R Hybrid was developed specifically for racing. It’s powered by a 4.0-liter flat-six engine and two electric motors. Instead of using a battery, it’s equipped with a flywheel generator instead. The flywheel creates its energy from a rotor spinning at speeds up to 40,000 RPM during braking. It can also provide an extra six- to eight-second boost for the driver while overtaking or coming out of a corner. After Geneva, Porsche plans to test the car at the Nürburgring.

The price of a car in China last month rose the most it has in at least four years. According to Bloomberg, prices increased 1.3 percent due to increased demand from government stimulus measures. But it’s not expected to last with production increases expected and all the competition in the country. The increased prices however have eased investor concerns over competition and over-capacity hurting profits.

Coming up next, a look at some of the big reveals at the Chicago Auto Show, we’ll be back right after this.

Press days are over at the Chicago Auto Show.  Here’s a brief wrap-up of what went down in the Windy City.

Kia used the venue to reveal its new plug-in hybrid, the Ray.  Based on the company’s Forte sedan, this compact four-seater has an extra-slippery body to slice through the air.  Following the Chevy Volt’s powertrain strategy, it features a small 1.4-liter gasoline engine and a 75 kilowatt electric motor.  With a lithium-ion battery pack, Kia is shooting for a 50-mile electric-only range.

Honda hinted at the styling direction its next-generation minivan will take with the appropriately named Odyssey concept.  It features sleek body styling and a unique lightning-bolt beltline that cuts into the rear window.  Overall, the “concept” is a little lower and a little wider than today’s model.  Expect the production version to debut this fall.

Volkswagen revealed its redesigned, second-generation Touareg, but not in Chi-Town.  The company’s oddly named SUV premiered in Munich a couple weeks ahead of the Geneva Motor Show.  It gets freshened bodywork and new, fuel-saving technology including a hybrid drivetrain, but the big news is what happened to its waistline.  Vee-Dub trimmed some 208 kilograms of fat off the Portly SUV.  That’s 460 pounds!

Everything that was shown in Chicago wasn’t big news.  Toyota quietly uncovered its updated Avalon sedan.  The 2011 model gets a minor restyle inside and out including new headlamps and LED tail lights, and redesigned center stack.  Under the hood it’s powered by the same 3.5-liter V-6 as before with the same 268 horsepower.

Lastly, as we’ve reported, Ford premiered its redesigned Edge and an updated GT500 Mustang with an aluminum engine block.  It also unveiled Electric and Taxi versions of the Transit Connect.  GM showed off its updated heavy-duty pickups with a biodiesel-compatible Duramax Diesel engine.  And to celebrate the Suburban’s 75th birthday, Chevy showed a special Diamond-Edition of the long-running SUV.

Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern time. Joining us will be Jason Vines, talking about how Toyota should be doing crisis management. We’ll have to ask him what he’d do about Akio Toyoda being asked to testify before Congress.

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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31 Comments to “Episode 326 – Akio Toyoda Called to Testify in D.C., Porsche’s Hybrid Racecar, Chi-Town Recap”

  1. Sean T Says:

    The Toyota hearing should be as “fair” as the ones for GM and Chrysler.

  2. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Poor old Toyota.They are not the shining star anymore.Got big,got sloppy……got caught.And now they want to put whats his face before congress to explain.What a joke.Toyota gets it’s come-uppence.Relax………….it ain’t over yet.

  3. David Sprowl Says:

    Chevy is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Suburban. That would put production starting in 1936. A few months back, Jim Hall insisted that the Corvette was the longest running name plate. Several of us knew better. Looks like Chevy agrees with us about the Suburban. Shame on you Jim.

  4. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The new Toureg looks better, but even after losing over 400 pounds, it is still obese. The new one will weigh about 600 pounds more than an Equinox which has essentially the same cabin space.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    John McElroy,

    Do you know why it is a big deal that the new Duramax diesel can burn B20, while an 80′s Mercedes diesel can burn straight fryer oil, as long as you filter out the chunks of potato? Did the old Mercedes have seals more forgiving of different chemicals, or is it something else?

  6. Max Christensen Says:

    I still don’t agree with the class action lawsuit for the diminished value of the Toyotas at trade-in time. When you buy a vehicle, you buy it for what it is and for whatever reason you find that vehicle to be attractive to you. If something happens during the course of ownership (such as what is happening with Toyota right now) that significantly lowers the value of that vehicle, that’s a risk you take when you sign on the dotted line.

    If the courts agree with this class action lawsuit, they are basically saying a person should be guaranteed a certain value on their car at trade-in time. I don’t think that’s how is’t supposed to work! Maybe these owners will think twice about buying a Toyota the next time they are car shopping?

  7. Nick Stevens Says:

    Kit Gerhart Says:
    February 11th, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    “The new Toureg looks better, but even after losing over 400 pounds, it is still obese. The new one will weigh about 600 pounds more than an Equinox which has essentially the same cabin space”

    I was driven around in a gas Touareg in Brussels in May 2007 by a former high school classmate that was an ambassador there. Diplomats got a steep discount on fuel, they paid 1/3rd the regular price in Brussels, which is actually lower than the US price. We went on a short excursion to the medieval town of Bruges on a Sunday afternoon, the two of us, his wife and one of his sons (visiting too, was doing a Phd at Texas A&M). it drove well.

    The Equinox should be compared to smaller German crossovers, like the Audi Q5 or the BMW X3.

  8. Nick Stevens Says:

    This crisis for Toyota is much more serious than at first, it will cost Toyota a ton of $, but if it does it RIGHT and not as the Shameless domestics used to do it (choose the lawsuits because the beancounters told them it is cheaper than fixing a $50 problem in 1,000,000 cars), the customers will appreciate it.

    There is enormous goodwill that Toyota has accumulated over three decades and tens of millions of satisfied customers, while only a FEW vehicles were affected by the original problems.

    The Domestics should not emulate the wishful thinking that some display in this forum, they should realize that if they do not come up with superior products, the consumers will keep buying the cars with proven quality and reliability. Being stranded in the middle of nowhere in the dead of winter is NOT amusing.

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “The Equinox should be compared to smaller German crossovers, like the Audi Q5 or the BMW X3.”

    The Toureg is a much more “up market” vehicle than Equinox with nicer appointments, etc., but I compared the two because they have nearly identical passenger and cargo space.

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Even with the (slightly) decreasing depreciation, Toyotas are still doing very well. I looked up Camrys the same year as my Chevy Malibu Maxx on KBB and Edmunds, and a Camry that is less well equipped than my Chevy is worth about $2K more. This is the case, even the the Malibu like mine was considered a relatively good car for a domestic name plate car of 2006 model year.

  11. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Woops. I meant (slightly) INCREASING depreciation, or decreasing residual value.

  12. HtG Says:

    Lawyers can smell money. If they can demonstrate that Toyota knew there was a safety problem, did not disclose this to customers, and wasn’t up front with NHTSA, then there is money to be made. I wonder which Toyota customers will want to be included in the class action. They may get small change way out in the future, but the lead attorneys,…well, anyone ever heard of one John Edwards?

  13. Alex Kovnat Says:

    > …. But the governors of Indiana,
    >Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi,
    >who all have Toyota factories in their
    >states, are asking Congress to give
    >the company a fair hearing. ….

    How ironic, that people are getting hurt in stuck-accelerator incidents and there is a big (and not entirely unjustified!) outcry, but let autoworkers lose their jobs and all of a sudden governors in affected states demand that Toyota be given “a fair hearing”.

    Excuse me, but … shouldn’t Toyota be given a fair hearing anyway, without reference to employment issues?

    Its like the days of my youth, when everybody was horrified at the thought of teenagers taking up smoking and eventually getting lung cancer, but nobody down south wanted to see tobacco farmers lose their livelihood.

  14. LEX Says:

    Nick Stevens,

    Thanks for the link to the “2011 Honda Odyssey Concept”. The 2011 Honda Odyssey Concept looks more like a refreshing of the prior version of the Odyssey (2001-2004) with alot taken from the Japanese version. I like the look but what’s with the “Lightening Bolt Belt line”? Honda is copying Hyundai’s Genesis Coup and Chrysler vehicles similar belt lines.

    I wonder if Dave Merck, who is the head of Honda Design Studio in California, is tuned in? Dave please eliminate the “Lightening Bolt Belt Line”. Clean lines are best. The nose is great on the Odyssey 2011 concept as well as the tail. I would not include the reflectors in the lower half of the rear bumper. I would suggest larger turning indicators on the side view mirrors. Flip and fold seating for both the second and third rows which would both go into separate wells in the floor for a flat rear loading surface. An AWD version for those of us who need to move large families and stuff in the nothern half of the country.

    The current Pilot, Ridgeline styling and DNA has been blended very well into the 2011 Odyssey Concept. I hope Honda will do the same for the Element and CR-V.

  15. Nick Stevens Says:

    “# HtG Says:
    February 11th, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Lawyers can smell money. If they can demonstrate that Toyota knew there was a safety problem, did not disclose this to customers, and wasn’t up front with NHTSA, then there is money to be made.”

    Yes, but not made by the consumers, by the damned lawyers. And who will really PAY that money? NOT Toyota! YOU wilkl pay it, the auto buyers of both toyota and the rest of the makers, as Toyota will have to raise its prices to pay the fines, AND the other makers will raise their prices because they now CAN do so.

    “I wonder which Toyota customers will want to be included in the class action. They may get small change way out in the future, but the lead attorneys,…well, anyone ever heard of one John Edwards?”

    Don’t make me throw up by mentioning that male bimbo…I heard that he had sex yesterday with some loser, and he shouted his OWN name four times!

  16. Nick Stevens Says:


    I thought the concept looked like the Ford Edge in front (headlights). Overall, Honda is reacting from feedback, customers hate minvians and want them to look less like minivans, hence the sporty-fast-whatever thunderbolt side view, which i don’t mind.

    The concept is wider and shorter in height than the current Odyssey, in a further effort to not look minivan-ish. But the concept had totally hidden its interior, and no details about its weight (currrent Odysseys are really obese) or HP were given.

    I actually think that both the Ridgeline and the Element stylign stinks, too weird for my tastes, and the current Odyssey is much better.

  17. LEX Says:

    Nick Stevens,

    You are right the 2011 Odyssey Concept does look like New Ford Edge. The New Toyota Sienna looks horrible and Hyundai / Kia is or has dropped their minivans. What is left? The Nissan Quest, Chrysler’s Minivans, which includes the version they build for VW? Let’s face it, people who buy minivans buy them for their people / stuff moving capability. We want reliability, good fuel economy, safety, comfort and space.

    The price tag on the GM Traverse, Acadia and Especially Enclave is to steep for a everyday people mover. The Mazda 5 is too small.

    I suggest that Kia not drop the Sedona because we do not know what is the future for the Chrysler Minivans. Hyundai / Kia needs to infuse some of the new Styling and DNA which they are spreading around in their other vehicles into their minivan(s). The New Kia Sorento and Sportage look great as does the New Hyundai Tucson. The new face used on the Sorento and up coming Sportage would look great on the Sedona.

  18. Nick Stevens Says:

    For people that need all the huge space a minivan today offers, the current Odyssey is excellent and drives well, but it is really obese at 4600 or so lbs, and does not offer AWD.

    I think there is a market segment that needs a regular size minivan, much smaller than that, but bigger than a mazda 5 or a Toyota matrix etc.

    The Enclave etc are obese 5,000 lb crossovers with much less space than the Odyssey. Very inefficient.

    The Korean vans and suvs are not nearly as advanced as the oddysey, pilot or even the Sienna and Highlander. None of them aced any comparison test either. Their styling is far from clean, lots of unnecessary curves and awful front grilles. Plus they are thirsty and heavy too.

  19. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Hyundai is a Hatch/Wagon/Crossover company for now on. Sedona will be the only company minivan going forward. That Entourage had many things going against it.

    1. It wasnt a good van.

    2. Its sales were piss poor everywhere in the world it was sold.

    3. It was made at KIA’s Sohari plant which is notouriously known for making products with POS reliability. (that plant will be closed soon, Thank you CAR GOD)

    4. Many Hyundai owners, (I included) complained to the company about the existence of this van in our lineup in the first place. Ewww… Hyundai Motor America, a Minivan?= HELL NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT ALLOWED!!!!!

    5. John Krafcik HMA-CEO lobbied to pull the plug too!!! He said, “this lesson was an experiment to show HKAG that its bad to rebadge a product in the first place, and that sister products should look radically different.” This experiment which saved the company tons of money is one of the reasons why they gave him the CEO job.

    Trust me guys, dont wish it back either. That was a definate “Old Hyundai” Product that needed to be killed.

    On the Sedona. Its supposed to be redesigned this year, but they pushed things back to be a 2012 MY product. They want an Oddesey Killer.

  20. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Plus, they have Redesigned: Sportage, Optima, and Rio to handle this year from a development and marketng standpoint.

    US Market


    Borrego Replacement/Hyundai Genesis SUV
    KIA Amanti/K9= KIA Version of Genesis
    Forte Hatch/Rondo Replacement


  21. Nick Stevens Says:


  22. paulstewart Says:

    YAWN that’s all the globe-trotting nick stevens can say, The World Turned Upside Down thus was played in Vienna.

  23. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Well hey Nick, you wanted to know what’s up with our van. LMAO!!!

    Hyundai has a van sold in many parts of the world called i-Load/Starex. Its smaller than a Sprinter, and about the size of a Ford Transit but a little smaller than a Transit by a hair. The Passenger Version is called i-Max.

  24. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    It uses a Sonata engine.

  25. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    It gets 30 MPG HWY (US mileage), unlike the Transit’s 25 HWY MPG (US Mileage).

  26. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    The 2010 Camry sure looks and feels a lot like a 1995 Camry on the interior front. Same with Accord. However, it gets top picks, and most recommended, HOW?

    Ill tell you how, the same reasons why Government Investigators can get away with lying at least 4 times in the last 10 years about Toyota Sudden Acceleration


    =Toyota Fanboyism, Giving them a Free Ride and not judging the products on Merit as opposed to branding, Being Dissmissive of the problem, Having Dismissive Outdated attitudes of other Automakers like: Hyundai/KIA, Ford, VW, etc….

  27. Nick Stevens Says:

    Another day, another content-free comment from that Paul Stewart character.

    Of course, I did not come in to just tyoe the above. I just saw an ad fro the Ford Escape, and i thought, how pathetic is this? The EQUINOX should totally eat the Escape’s lunch!

    The Ford ad said: “Ford Escape: UP TO (SIC!) 28 MPG HIGHWAY!”

    Are you kidding me, Ford? the far more substantial EQUINOX (and far better looking than the dated box Escape) already gets exactly 32 EPA HIGHWAY!!!

    Why would anybody in his or her right mind buy the stupid, thirsty, near-obsolete, 10 year old Escape design?

  28. Nick Stevens Says:

    A very REVEALING POLL: 77% of all respondents plan to keep their current cars for 50,000 or MORE miles than they kept the previous cars they owned!!

    “Lifecycle CO2 analysis. Higher miles per gallon ratings for new vehicles. End-of-life recycling. These things will matter to fewer and fewer people because, AutoMD has some interesting numbers out this week about how long people are keeping their vehicles these days. An online survey of car owners conducted in December and January found that about 77 percent plan on driving their current vehicles a total of 50,000 miles more than their previous vehicles. Considering the annual average for U.S. drivers is something like 12,000 to 15,000 miles, that means drivers today expect to hold onto their cars for an extra three or four years. Paying for repairs is apparently preferred to springing for a new set of wheels.”

    AutoMD (a wholly-owned subsidiary of US Auto Parts Network) says that there are, “clear indications that consumers are firmly breaking out of the buy-every-few-years cycle, opting to drive and repair instead.” Of course, there is a slight chance that the increase in miles being put on current cars is because people are holding onto their cars now so they can buy a plug-in vehicle whey they become available, but the obvious economic reasons are more likely.


  29. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Kit:The reason older diesels could burn darn near anything was because they were all mechanical,no computers.Injection pumps and the injectors etc.The new diesels are all computerized,have electronic pumps and injectors to name but a few differences.Bottom line is none of the new diesels were set up to run anything more then B5.B20 requires software upgrades as well as some mechanical upgrades to keep from damaging the now sensitive fuel delivery systems and the even more sensitive sensors.On a side note:Ford was the first to certify B20 in their new Ford diesels…..yea!!

  30. Nick Stevens Says:


    Higher used prices for Accords (higher resale!) have made possible leases for $199/mo for the 177 HP I4 LX, which weighs a still modest 3,200 or so lbs.

    A possible way for makers to increase sales, affordable leases. I’d never consider one unless it was a true bargain, tho (and sometimes in luxury cars like Jags there were some huge bargains in the past.. but the way luxury cars and Jags especially depreciate today, (still very rapidly), Jag can’t offer low-payment leases..)

  31. Nick Stevens Says:

    Yes, 3,200 is very modest for the Accord, which is EPA classed LARGE and at 192-4″ long, 71-72″ wide and 57-58″ tall, it is far bigger than my 1990 Accord coupe, which was 183-5 ” long, 68″ wide and only 53″ tall.

    Ansd 177 HP was exactly the HP of the 3,770 lb Merc 300SEL (208 ” long!) a colleague bought for close to $60,000 new back in 1990 (still drives it! but has kept it out of snow and salt)