February 12th, 2010 at 12:18pm
Now Toyota is being accused of hiring former employees of NHTSA who convinced it to stop investigating reports of unintended acceleration. In a sign that the economy may finally be picking up speed, sales of heavy trucks were up last month. A new kind of drivetrain seal could save a lot of fuel. All that and more, plus a preview of this week’s Autoline Detroit about what it costs for an automaker to advertise in the Super Bowl.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. Toyota and NHTSA could find themselves in hot water. A leading economic indicator shows a nice upswing. And a new kind of drivetrain seal that could save a lot of fuel.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Friday, February 12, 2010. And now, the news.
Now Toyota is being accused of hiring former employees of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who convinced NHTSA to stop investigating reports of unintended acceleration. Bloomberg reports that while all automakers hire lobbyists to represent their views in Washington DC, it appears that Toyota is the only one which hired formed NHTSA employees to lobby NHTSA. It quotes former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook of saying, “Toyota bamboozled NHTSA or NHTSA was bamboozled by itself.” Bloomberg also quotes a former NHTSA lawyer who says former employees are not supposed to deal with the agency on matters they handled while at the agency.
And it gets worse. Auto insurer State Farm claims it warned NHTSA about troubles with Toyota vehicles nearly three years ago. According to Reuters, State Farm noticed a trend of claims involving vehicle-related problems with Toyotas and warned NHTSA in late 2007. A spokesman for the insurance company said that the models recalled recently by Toyota were consistent with the ones it had received complaints about.
Sales of heavy trucks are a leading indicator of where the economy is going and in a sign that the economy may finally be picking up speed, Ward’s reports that sales of medium- and heavy-duty trucks finished in positive territory last month (subscription required). This is the first year-over-year increase since December 2006. Total big-truck deliveries numbered just shy of 16,000, a 10.6 percent increase. The only segment to see sales decline was class-four, everything else was up.
The Fiat 500 will be in U.S. showrooms by the end of the year. Ralph Gilles, CEO of Dodge and head of Chrysler design, confirmed in Twitter postings that it will be on sale by the end of the year. He also tweeted that the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee will be on sale within the next three months.
The Detroit News reports that Chrysler and Fiat have signed a $3.3 billion joint-venture with Russian automaker SOLLERS to build cars and sport-utility vehicles. The 50-50 partnership will be supported by a $1.64 billion loan from the Russian government. The plan is to produce nine different models – up to 500,000 vehicles per year – in the country by 2016. The lineup would consist of compact and midsize cars as well as SUVs, including some Chrysler models. As many as six of those vehicles could be built on a new, global platform under development by Fiat.
The supplier company Freudenberg-NOK announced yesterday that it’s come out with a new type of engine and driveline seal that greatly reduces friction. This test shows a conventional crankshaft seal on the left and the new one on the right, what they call the Energy-Saving Seal. To compare the two, they’ve been sped up, then allowed to coast to a stop, but the new design just keeps on coasting. Freudenberg-NOK says the new seal has 60 percent to 70 percent less friction. It says if a heavy-duty semi-truck used these seals throughout, it would save about $1,000 in diesel fuel in three years’ time.
What does it cost an automaker to make a TV ad for the Super Bowl? We’ll be right back to talk about that.
For some people, watching the ads in the Super Bowl are as important as the game itself. On this week’s Autoline Detroit we dissect all the automotive ads that ran in the game. I start out asking Gary Topolewski, a Creative Agency Director who did a Super Bowl ad for Jeep a couple of years back, if automakers really get their money’s worth out of these ads, and I ask him, what does it cost to make these ads?
You can watch that entire interview on our website, Autoline Detroit later today. It also includes David Kiley from Icon Creative, and Jean Halliday, a journalist who covers automotive advertising.
Ok, it’s Friday and you know what that means. It’s time to answer this week’s trivia question. We asked you to identify all of the vehicles that are shown in the opening of Autoline Daily. And the correct answer is, it’s the Pontiac G6, Tata Nano, Ford Flex, Hyundai Genesis Coupe and the Chevy Volt. Not a lot of you figured it out, but the winner is Peadro Craig from El Mirage, Arizona. Congratulations Peadro, you’ve just won a computer mouse that’s a model of the Fiat 500.
And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next week.