Episode 330 – Toyota’s Troubles Continue, Texas Sues The EPA, Geneva Show Sneak Peek

February 17th, 2010 at 12:09pm

Runtime 8:22

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.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, The Auto Channel, Car Chat, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

43 Comments to “Episode 330 – Toyota’s Troubles Continue, Texas Sues The EPA, Geneva Show Sneak Peek”

  1. Alex Kovnat Says:

    >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.”

    If that seal was patented, at least we would know a patent is there since a patent is a publicly accessible document. Fortunately, since a patent expires after 17 years, if the oil companies were to have bought up that 100 MPG carburetor patent years ago, by now it would have expired.

    And if said seal was not patented but retained by some awful oil company conspiracy as a trade secret: If some other researcher discovers the same technology independently, the oil companies will be out of luck. Trade secret law does no better than zilch if a competitor discovers the same thing, provided said trade secret was not obtained by nefarious means such as espionage.

  2. pedro fernandez Says:

    I wonder if the same supplier is responsible for bad electric power steering systems in both the Corolla and Cobalt? Toyota may have to move all their operations back to Toyota City to return to their former glory.

  3. Nick Stevens Says:

    Neither the Corolla nor the Cobalt need power steering. My 1992 Civic has none, and it feels bigger and more solid and stable because it does not. I remember renting a 1996 or 97 corolla, it was plenty fast, actually, but the loose steerign wheel, plus the extreme amount of power assist, made it feel really unsafe, a toy and not a 2,500 lb car.

  4. Kit Gerhart Says:

    John,

    Thanks for the reply to my B20/fryer oil question.

    It turns out that fryer oil, at least the kind my friend uses in his Mercedes, is a “warm weather” fuel. If it gets colder than 40-45 as it does sometimes in the winter here in central Florida, the oil get too thick to flow, and the car won’t run. He can mix regular diesel fuel with the fryer oil for cool weather, as long as he adds the regular stuff before the cold weather and runs the car enough to purge the system. I’ve wondered if the two fuels actually mix, or if the regular diesel maybe goes to the bottom of the tank. Either way, it works.

  5. Jim Says:

    I’m glad to see someone standing up to the EPA as they are out of control, they want to legislate lifestyle in America not just oversee or fix real problems anymore.
    How come the Dana driveshafts aren’t cracking in the other OE’s they supply. Was it a run of shafts or is it a overloading problem?

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    Overboosted power steering is one of my pet peeves, I’m sure it was put there so old people and wimpy females could drive around town and park their cars, on some cars it should be optional or at least make it harder to turn than it is now.

  7. Jim Says:

    Most of the fry oil diesels around here run fuel heaters, but they are also the older non electronic models that ran alot more fuel (ie:richer, smokey) than the newer emission controlled cleaner models. My wifes Duramax hardly ever puts out any noticeable smoke. I’m sure they could use fry oil in the newer models but mostly home grown fry oil people lack the R and D money to make it work without pricey problems.

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    Ps also the fwd front heavy design necessitated the universal use of power steering and even though some cars claim to have variable power steering systems, I have not felt any difference in the recent cars I’ve driven

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The last car without power steering I drove was a Smart. The steering actually felt kind of nice. Too bad about that horrible transmission, and the rest of what is wrong with the car.

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Jim Says:
    February 17th, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    “Most of the fry oil diesels around here run fuel heaters, but they are also the older non electronic models that ran alot more fuel (ie:richer, smokey) than the newer emission controlled cleaner models.”

    My friends fryer oil Mercedes is, I think, an ’82. I’m pretty sure it’s fuel system is entirely mechanical. It is a turbo, and is new enough that it doesn’t smoke much, but it’s probably 10 times dirtier than the new diesels, even the truck diesels like Duramax.

  11. T. Bejma Says:

    More flagship stuff:

    GM Considers Flagship Buick Coupe -
    According to John Cafaro, director of design for Buick and Chevrolet, Buick is currently undergoing what Cadillac went through, reports egmCarTech.

    “Cadillac said, ‘What we are doing is not working. Our customers are dying off. We have to carve a new image.’ That is where Buick is right now,” said Cafaro. “GM is now considering adding a coupe to Buick’s lineup just as Cadillac did with the CTS Coupe.

    “A coupe is definitely where you say, ‘I’m back,’” Cafaro said and indicated a coupe would make a strong statement for Buick, “and a statement means it is going to be the flagship. All the design cues and everything would drive themselves down into all Buicks.”

  12. LEX Says:

    Alex Kovnat said:

    “If that seal was patented, at least we would know a patent is there since a patent is a publicly accessible document. Fortunately, since a patent expires after 17 years, if the oil companies were to have bought up that 100 MPG carburetor patent years ago, by now it would have expired.”

    “And if said seal was not patented but retained by some awful oil company conspiracy as a trade secret: If some other researcher discovers the same technology independently, the oil companies will be out of luck. Trade secret law does no better than zilch if a competitor discovers the same thing, provided said trade secret was not obtained by nefarious means such as espionage.”

    I guest you never heard of AREA 51, or the phases “In Our Nation’s Best Interest and/or National Security”? The US Patent Laws are subject to interpetation based upon whether the idea or item is of concern. Patent Rights can mean nothing to multi-national companies unless it suits their objectives.

  13. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    The EPA needs to do something about the Socially irresponsible vehicles Texans drive. We need the Green Police to set up camp all over Texas!!!

    No really Texans have this 1960s mentality about what they drive. Fill it up, and dont worry about it until the next fill up, Oil is infinite.

    That place in terms of motoring is like California, but without a Green Car Culture.

  14. dcars Says:

    Your right John the Amarok is odd looking. A Camaro based Buick convertible could be nice if it looks nothing like the old Reatta.

  15. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Kit, I actually am thinking of getting one of those old school trucks, and running Diesel like that. Run Fry Grease, B20, etc….

  16. Max Christensen Says:

    @ Hyundai Smoke

    Unlike most everyone else in here, I don’t mind your pro Hyundai/Kia comments, though you do go a bit over the top on occasion. But probably no worse than anyone else in here that has a strong affection for what they drive. Plus, I used to have a Kia Sorento and I loved it! So I guess I share some of your adoration for the Korean car guys. And you are right on target saying Chrysler or former Chrysler guys are the ones who will most likely move to H/K. I’ve not moved yet, though I did try a sampling of their wares and I was most highly impressed!

    But your blast at Texas …….. come on, you have to admire those cowboys down there! They operate under a much more free and open atmosphere than the rest of us, and you have to kind of admire their “in your face” attitude about the whole green movement thing and driving their big ole pickup trucks that are gulping gas at about 12mpg. They still know how to make driving fun!

  17. Andrew Charles Says:

    Biodiesel and cooking oil are related, but are not the same thing and behave differently. Biological fats and oils are actually triglycerides, nothing like mineral oils at all. Biodiesel is produced by chemically altering these natural oils, basically removing the glyceride complexes creating glycerine as a byproduct. This stops the fuel turning to gel in your tank, but may make it more corrosive to organic polymers such as rubber and plastic.

  18. Salvador G. Says:

    JohnMc, WHAT THA’ HECK IS AN AMAROK?? You know -John McElroy, I think it’s about time you investigate who names cars at VW, and if you had in the past; please tell me -so I can start sending my hate mail.

    2. I’m not exactly sure if Charles Schumer ‘GODDLY’ mandate that all cars must come out of the factory absolutely Perfect is a good idea – and I say this, because, that’s exactly what he is asking for…
    ..Also – Can you imagine if VW has to recall a car again because of a misprint on their owners manual, I can already imagine VW being MediaBash all over, THANKs Schumer. :P

    finally, When is Texas going to Secede again? I wonder if treason can be arque in court?

  19. Jim Says:

    The Amarok sort of reminds me of a Colorado/Canyon from a few angles…but I’m sure it’s much better made. When the price of fuel starts upward again a truck like this might make more sense.

  20. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Maz there’s nothing wrong with the pickup trucks or cowboys. Green Police or not, the pickup trucks are here to stay in America whether its 2010 or 2110.

    We want those big cars from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s either off the roads, or their engines replaced with a modern Diesel, Ethanol, or highly fuel efficient gas powertrain. If people cant afford to replace the vehicle then they should be given a $5K credit for a replacement vehicle. The vehicle being replaced will be crushed, and the powertrain dismantled.

    The Middle American states like: Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, etc… have no shortage of such products.

    Id love to see about 90% of post 1953 to pre 1991 American classics destroyed, but I know I will never get that from the powers that be. Its a period of American Excess which destroyed the Auto industry with consequences still felt today.

    1953-1991 the worst era of American style, fuel economy, safety. By far the some of the most attrocious and vulgar automobiles every made.

  21. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    You old guys harken back, while I look toward the future as the best time for Automobiles EVER!!!!!!!!!!!

    In 5 years with what many of these companies have planned this will be the 50s and 60s again in terms of iconic products, but with superior uncompromising 21st century tech.

  22. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Gen Y will get the same stylish goodies as our grandparents, but delayed.

  23. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Id like to see almost everything and anything pre 1985 have their engines replaced (except those old school diesels you can just put fry oil in). Talk about economic stimulation, I can just imagine all of the jobs that would provide.

  24. C-tech Says:

    Will someone move the kiddy table further away from the computer.

  25. C-tech Says:

    Hey John, any comments about Chrysler suing Lake Mary High School in Florida about using (copyright infringement) the Ram logo? It seems a bit heavy handed considering you are trying to persuade young customers to buy your product, to take away their logo. It’s also seems to be bad publicity when the school board will have to spend some scarce taxpayer money to change the stationary to the gym floor!

  26. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    LMAO@ C-tech.

  27. FrankCanada Says:

    “We want those big cars from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s either off the roads”

    Then the government can make us drive the “Peoples Car”, oh wait I think Germany already tried that.

    What ever, I think an America filled with hyndais will be good for anti-depression medicine sales. Win-Win for big pharma!

    Don’t let anyone stop your quest smoking hyundai!

  28. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Shut up Frank.

  29. Nick Stevens Says:

    Maybe I should pre-emptively buy some Pfizer stock.. Frank has a point!

  30. Nick Stevens Says:

    “EVs: Inferior in Every Way”! The Greens are not Amused.

    Last year, Detroit News columnist Neil Winton wrote a column called “Electric cars attract hype, but reality is less exciting.” Last week, he returned to the theme with his piece “Battery-only cars make no sense, but still find investors” in which he concludes that EVs are “inferior in every way.” Winton’s main issues with EVs are that they are too expensive and don’t offer the range that drivers need.

    ” It’s a bit like those old Looney Tunes cartoons, when the Road Runner races off a cliff and it takes a little while for gravity to establish its case for the inevitable swift vertical descent. How else can you explain the fact that investors still take battery cars seriously, after the invention of the plug-in hybrid, not to mention the extended range electric vehicle (EREV)?”

    All-electric automaker “Think” was not about to let Winton get the last word.

    Think CEO Richard Canny wrote a letter to the Detroit News refuting some of Winton’s points, ending with:

    ” In fact, even after the battery in an EV has completed its 10-year useful life, it’ll still retain about 60% of its energy density. Owners of EVs will have a valuable asset that could provide energy storage for offices buildings. A market will develop to pay them for these assets, further reducing overall cost of EV ownership. The electric car is starting to look like a stronger proposition now, isn’t it?”

    No. It is still the lamest of the lame, as far as private owners. You can use it for city fleets, but its comparatively huge price may kill it there too..

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The E-Class diesel will be returning to the US market this summer as a 2011 model. I’d much rather have one of those than an electric car, but not enough that I’d ever buy one new.

  32. Nick Stevens Says:

    I’d never buy anything new, unless there is a must-have tech innovation that no used car has.

    But the problem with the diesels is that everybody likes them, esp, the Merc and BMW diesel SUVs, and the used prices for the diresel are so much higher than for an identical gas version, that they exceed by far the fuel efficiency benefits for most drivers.

  33. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Are MB and BMW artificially limiting the number of diesels they send over here to keep prices high? It also seems that way with the VW diesels.

  34. pedro fernandez Says:

    Hyundai and Kia make sense as used cars, they depreciate a lot and there’s that great long warranty, plus you can buy extended warranty after that, so you’ll never pay for repairs again. What a wonderful world this would be if everyone bought a used H/K.

  35. Max Christensen Says:

    @ Smokin Hyundai

    Aren’t you talking out of both sides of your youthful, inexperienced mouth:

    “1953-1991 the worst era of American style, fuel economy, safety. By far the some of the most attrocious and vulgar automobiles every made.”

    And then you go on to say……….

    “In 5 years with what many of these companies have planned this will be the 50s and 60s again in terms of iconic products, but with superior uncompromising 21st century tech.”

    If the ’53-’91 era was so bad (this would include the 50′s and 60′s), why in the world would you want anything in the future to duplicate the iconic products of that period?

    C-Tech was right ……. move the kiddie table away from the computer.

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    H/S says:

    “1953-1991 the worst era of American style, fuel economy, safety. By far the some of the most attrocious and vulgar automobiles every made.”

    We can forget the 80′s, which were, for the most part, a time of medicrity in cars, but the mid-50′s and 60′s were one of the most exciting times in the car business history.

    Sure, there was a lot of silliness in some of the styling, and cars kept getting bigger and bigger without reason. Also, there were a lot of cars in the 60′s that didn’t have the brakes to handle the power. Still, those were exciting times for car nuts who lived through them, when you could tell a Chevy from a Ford from a Plymouth a mile away. Also, in the 50′s and 60′s, the American car companies were making enough money that they did a major restyling every two or three years. Again, it made no sense, but it contributes a lot to cars of that era are so collectible.

  37. Nick Stevens Says:

    “# Kit Gerhart Says:
    February 18th, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Are MB and BMW artificially limiting the number of diesels they send over here to keep prices high? It also seems that way with the VW diesels.”

    VW for sure, MB, probably. For BMW, I know they were encouraged that diesel pen etration in X5 sales was over 30%.

  38. Nick Stevens Says:

    “# pedro fernandez Says:
    February 18th, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Hyundai and Kia make sense as used cars, they depreciate a lot and there’s that great long warranty, plus you can buy extended warranty after that, so you’ll never pay for repairs again. What a wonderful world this would be if everyone bought a used H/K.”

    And where does “Freude am Fahren” (Driving pleasure, or Joy at Driving), to steal BMW’s European Slogan, go then? (To hell at full speed!)

    I rented a Sonata once, in 2005, and have no desire whatsoever to buy one. And at that time it was Hyundai’s flagship. Really boring transportation. Pay $1-2K more and get a civic or a VW diesel.

  39. Nick Stevens Says:

    I agree, the 50s-60s early 70s had great designs. Only the 80s and early 90s did the domestics really screw up, with a few exceptions (original Taurus, exterior design only, the interior was not much)

    There were fantastic looking 50s and 60s cars. original Camaro looked better than any later one. The Pontiac Bonneville also looked great, and most Cadillacs of the 50s-60s too. (except those with the huge fins, too much BS)

  40. Rick R Says:

    Aren’t we lucky that with the terrible state of the economy and other factions of our nation that elected representitives like Chucky Shumer have time to devote to recalled cars. My state government actually had time to debate outlawing licence plate frames of any type. They were concerned that frames obscured, not he number on the plate but, the name of the state. As if big brother can’t run the number on “interpol” and find out what state that number is from. Gee, I sleep better now.

  41. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Rick,

    What do you think about dark grey windows over license plates and tail lights?

    While I think there can be excess from “big brother,” to me, there are valid reasons to have laws on some things. Actually, to me, it is completely reasonable to require that the state on a license plate be readable. I even buy my plate frames with that in mind.

  42. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Nick that 2000-2005 Sonata is ancient tech man. Like I said H/K changes so much each successive generation. By the way Nick, Camaros ONLY started to look good when they changed over to the fastback body style. Unlike many people, I actually liked the look of the 1970-2003 Camaros. First gen Camaros looked horrible, and Im very glad they porked-up the remake to look better.

    Max I only used the 50s and 60s as a example, as that was a big time in the Automotive industry. Just becuase I hate the cars doesnt mean I hate the idea of future cars being as iconic as products from the past, and as asthetically pleasing to the time as they were in the past?

    Yeah Kit, the 80s was the anus decade in the worst era for cars. Were the designers on crack or what?

  43. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    This new Camaro in terms of pricing is TOTALLY out of touch with its original intended clientelle as well. What bad is that for the price of a Genesis, I get KIA Rio Plastics. This car is going to be like the Smart Car.

    Everybody who wanted one and can afford it is going to buy one right now, but in 2 years sales will drop like a rock.