February 18th, 2010 at 12:00pm
Daimler, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, reported today that it lost a bunch of money. The U.S. Department of Energy still has some $16 billion sitting around that it can loan out for developing alternative-fuel vehicles. GM has come up with a way to prevent Chevy Volt drivers from ever getting stuck with bad gas. All that and more, plus a look at some of Visteon’s latest tech.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. Daimler lost a bunch of money. The U.S. Department of Energy still has billions of dollars to give away. And TRW comes up with an unexpected way to cut costs.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, February 18, 2010. And now, the news.
Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes-Benz reported lousy earnings today. The company lost 2.6 billion euros on a net basis, down significantly from a profit of 1.4 billion the year before. Even worse, it lost 352 million euros in the fourth quarter. As a result of the loss, Daimler is eliminating its stock dividend, and all that sent Daimler shares down nearly 7 percent.
Part of the reason for the lousy financials, aside from the drop in the global automotive market, was a nearly 300 million euro charge related to getting rid of the 19.9 percent stock it owned in Chrysler. Even so, Daimler managed to generate 2.7 billion euros in free cash flow, the company painted a relatively rosy outlook for this year, and the board extended chairman Dieter Zetsche’s contract until the end of 2013. Wolfgang Bernhard was appointed the head of Mercedes’ van unit as well as in charge of all production and procurement for Mercedes-Benz cars.
Two years ago the government set aside $25 billion in loans for automakers and suppliers to retool to make alternative energy vehicles. Ward’s reports there is still $16 billion of that money just sitting there (subscription required), waiting to be handed out. The Department of Energy says the transition between presidents slowed things up and a number of early applications were rejected because the plans weren’t thorough enough. It’s still accepting applications and wants programs that move more quickly than slower ones.
Guess what!? It’s been awhile but GM and Opel are back in the news. Reuters reports a German government advisory panel is skeptical about the General’s reorganization plans for Opel and says it’s “unqualified for government loan guarantees.” The task force doesn’t have the final say however. GM is asking European countries with Opel plants for 2.7 billion euros, that’s about $3.7 billion, and wants 1.5 billion euros from Germany alone. The plan calls for cutting 8,300 jobs, closing a plant in Belgium and turning a profit by 2012.
One of the problems facing extended-range electric vehicles – EVs that have an internal combustion engine – is that if the driver only runs the car on battery power for long periods of time the fuel in the tank can go bad. This could cause problems when they need the engine to run. Ward’s reports that GM is including a software algorithm in the Chevy Volt that starts the ICE every 60 days or so to keep the gasoline from getting too stale (subscription required). It will only start when the car is being driven and it will stay on for about 10 minutes, long enough to clear the fuel lines and run a few diagnostic tests.
Parts supplier TRW has found a clever way to save automakers money and reduce the complexity of vehicle electrical systems, all with a better key fob. The company figured out how to incorporate the receiver for the tire-pressure monitoring system into the key fob. Now, instead of just locking and unlocking the doors it can be used to send signals between the tires and the car. The tire pressure monitoring system actually uses RF or radio frequency to transmit data. This allows automakers to eliminate a transmitter in a car. Who’d have thunk you could do all that just with a key fob?
Coming up next, a look at new recognition technology that recognizes your gestures.
Last year we showed you technology from Visteon that it refers to as its Integrated Center-Panel Concept, which features things like a touch screen, haptic touch and a display that lights up when it detects a hand near it. This year we got to look at the updated version. Visteon’s HMI and platform manager for cockpit electronics, Jim Kornacki explains what’s new.
The concept is not only high tech but it also makes it easier to control audio and climate controls.
If you’re into custom cars, hot rods or 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 puts the cruisers on center stage. That’s tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Eastern, live at autolinedetroit.tv
And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next week.