February 17th, 2010 at 12:09pm
Toyota shuts some plants, considers doing another recall, and prolongs its PR nightmare. A big fight between Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency over its tailpipe emission limits is starting to brew. A sneak peek of some of the cars coming to the Geneva Auto Show. All that and more, plus John answers your questions about Toyota and biodiesel in the “You Said It!” segment.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. Toyota shuts some plants, considers doing another recall, and prolongs its PR nightmare. Texas sues the EPA in what could become a landmark decision. And a sneak peek of some of the cars coming to the Geneva Auto Show.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, February 17, 2010. And now, the news.
Just when you thought things might be quieting down for Toyota, it jumps back to the top of the headlines. First off, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is demanding that the company hand over documents to see if it handled recalls in a timely manner. Of course, NHTSA itself is accused by some critics of having sat on its hands for years. Toyota also said it is considering recalling the Corolla for power steering problems. It also halted production of assembly plants in Kentucky, where it makes the Camry, and in Texas, where it makes the Tundra.
Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda says he is going to personally lead a new quality task force at the company. But what is attracting a lot more attention is that he said he would not testify in the U.S. Congress. The AP reports that Toyota’s top executive in the United States, Yoshimi Inaba, will testify instead. Akio Toyoda said he’d consider it if asked. But my advice is, you’d better do a better job of getting the word out that you are willing to come testify, because the way it’s being reported here is that you’re avoiding Congress, and that’s a sure way to turn this into a bigger public relations nightmare.
A big fight between Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency over its tailpipe emission limits is starting to brew. According to the Detroit News, Texas filed suit against the agency, hoping to block new emission standards for 2012. Last year the EPA ruled that emissions were a threat to public health and imposed regulations that automakers accepted. However, Texas believes the limits will threaten thousands of jobs. Last week, a similar suit was filed by companies, members of Congress, and trade associations claiming the EPA’s decision was based on “scientific errors and fraud.” We’ll have to keep an eye on this story because if Texas forces the EPA to consider the cost-benefit impact of its regulations, many of those regulations would be thrown out.
And in other Washington News, Senator Charles Schumer from New York introduced a bill that would require dealers to notify customers up front if a vehicle they want to purchase is subject to a recall. According to the Detroit News, dealers don’t have to do that right now. Withholding info could result in fines and penalties. The bill wouldn’t just affect cars but any product that has been recalled.
OK, now to the big product news coming out ahead of next month’s Geneva Motor Show. Starting on the high end, Bentley has released photos of its Continental Supersports Convertible. It seats four very lucky people and is the fastest drop-top to ever come out of Crewe.
Ward’s reports that Hyundai released an artist’s rendering of its Geneva concept called the i-flow (subscription required). Other than this sketch, what we know right now is that it’s a D-segment sedan and it’s constructed of lightweight materials.
Next up, Autoblog is running photos of Alfa Romeo’s new concept that recently found their way onto the internet. Judging by the pictures, it looks like a four-seat coupe with really swoopy styling and a weird name – it’s called the Pandion, which is apparently a genus of osprey and not related to the Fiat Panda with “ion” added to the end. Anyway..
Nissan will reveal a new crossover called the Juke, a compact utility vehicle that’s “dramatically styled” – their words, not ours. But I’ve got to ask, is there room in Nissan’s lineup for the Juke? It already has the small end of the market covered with the Rogue, Cube and Versa Hatchback. The Juke will go on sale in the U.S. this fall.
It’s no secret that Volkswagen is working on a pickup. The company has released photos of its bizarrely named Amarok, but Autoblog has managed to nab a few spy shots of a regular-cab, short-bed version of the truck. Vee-Dub must have realized that many pickup users just need a basic work truck – no bells and whistles – so it’s apparently working on a regular-cab version. If you’re waiting for the Amarok to make it to the U.S. don’t hold your breath.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
And now it’s time for some of your feedback.
Dan Busch heard our report on Toyota recalling some 4×4 Tacomas in which I said it was a supplier problem. “Toyota recall, but this one’s not their fault?” he asks. “I thought that all manufactures speced then tested subcontractors’ parts.”
Dan they do spec and inspect those parts but only in development. Once those parts go into mass production, Toyota, like virtually all automakers, relys on its suppliers to monitor their own quality. Dana, which makes the driveline parts, admitted it found a defect in its own manufacturing process, and that’s why I said this one is not Toyota’s fault.
A very suspicious LEX saw our reports on Freudenberg-NOK’s new powertrain seal which cuts friction and says, “Let’s see how long it takes the oil companies to buy the patent/manufacturing rights to that 70-percent-less-fiction seal made by Freudenberg-NOK. It will be placed in the same vault where the 100 MPG carburetor is sitting.”
Actually, LEX, big oil already missed out on this one. That seal is already in production and is being used by a car company, although for competitive reasons Freudenberg-NOK will not identify which company that is.
And finally, Kit Gerhart saw that GM’s new diesel can run on B20 and asks, “Why it is a big deal that the new Duramax diesel can burn B20, while an ’80s 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?”
Kit, I think that you’ll find the Duramax could probably burn straight fryer oil. The question is for how long. When greasel fanatics convert diesels to run on grease, they don’t have warranties they have to honor. They don’t have to meet government regulations on emissions, which are 10 years for 150,000 miles. And they don’t have to do it for hundreds of thousands of engines. That’s why manufacturers are hyper-conscious when it comes to running their engines on biodiesel, or even ethanol.
If you’re into custom cars, hot rods and just plain beautiful machinery, tune in to Autoline After Hours tomorrow night, when our special guest will be Bob Larivee, the owner of AutoRama, the car show circuit that brings the cruisers onto center stage. That’s tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Eastern live at autolinedetroit.tv
And that is it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.