Episode 331 – Daimler Reports a Loss, DOE Still Has Billions to Loan, Visteon Tech Update

February 18th, 2010 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:20

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.

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

53 Comments to “Episode 331 – Daimler Reports a Loss, DOE Still Has Billions to Loan, Visteon Tech Update”

  1. Max Christensen Says:

    Too bad for Daimler that they lost a few dollars! It makes it all the better that Chrysler may have been the cause of it! After the way Daimler mishandled and mismanaged Chrysler, we true Mopar nuts will never forgive them for delivering the Pentastar brand to the brink of extinction!

  2. Nick Stevens Says:

    Daimler paid something like $37 billion to buy Chrysler, and had to get rid of it many years and many billions of additional $ later, at a measly, ludicrous $5 or $7 billion, and if you account for the free fall of the US dollar, to compare the two, make it $3-4 billion !

    I have NO idea what Daimler gained from this very odd and crushingly expensive match, but i would suspect NOTHING.

    It was the most moronic decision Daimler ever made, by far.

  3. John Says:

    Re: “cockpit electronics”

    What will be the point when this crazy stuff is just too much ?

    Just say NO.

  4. Nick Stevens Says:

    (in 2001-2, the euro was as low as 87 cents to the $, while a few years later it rose to a ridiculous $1.50 or even $1.60. The last few days the $ has gained about 10 cents, mostly due to the huge problems of Portugal, Italy, Spain and above all Bankrupt Greece.)

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    # John Says:
    February 18th, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Re: “cockpit electronics”

    What will be the point when this crazy stuff is just too much ?

    Just say NO.”

    I agree. I still think a volume knob, a tuning knob, some preset buttons, and a “seek” button are the best way to control a car radio.

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If Daimler is losing money, maybe some day they will see fit to sell some of their good stuff here, like a C-Class wagon with a four cylinder diesel and manual transmission. OK, I’m dreaming. MB’s whole marketing philosophy in America is “exclusivity,” and a car like I mentioned probably wouldn’t be a money maker anyway.

  7. BDC18018 Says:

    Hey John, way to go, no a word about TOYOTA Today!!!!

  8. Nick Stevens Says:


    I believe the reason Merc and BMW do not currently sell their smallest models or the smallest engines in any of their models is exactly that, because of the weakness of the $, they are losing a bundle on them, and they can only make money on overprices S classes and 7 series, and maybe 5 and E class as well.

    That’s a big reason why they make so many (and even export) SUVs in the US, which are probably some of the few mass-produced models that make them any $ today.

  9. Nick Stevens Says:

    Controls that do not even need a firm touch to activate them are not only idiotic, they are an invitation to an accident, fatalities and all the rest of it, when you have people, the driver or people other than the driver, activating them with unintended gestures.

    I still enjoy as much tech and info as they can put in a car, but this stuff in today;s program was patently ludicrous.

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    some of these new cars look more like aircraft cockpit controls, I hate that, good thing I’m poor and never be able to get one of these overcomplicated suicide machines. Only when they start filing lawsuits due to driver lack of attention, will this trend stop.

  11. Phil Hopewell Says:

    Hi John,

    re: TPMS in TRW keys

    Aren’t most automotive keys these days expensive enough to replace without adding yet more functions and cost?
    Pat Goss on Motorweek did a recent segment on electronic keys and mentioned that they can already run over $300 each to replace.

    Keep it simple!



  12. jesse Says:

    So GM has a plan for bad gas in the VOLT!Are they aware that they must first bring a car to MARKET and then SELL A FEW??? By the time this thing hits the streets nobody will care anymore!

  13. EAB Says:

    Not to beat a dead horse, but I have to agree with the “knob observations.” My Ford Ranger has very few buttons. Instead, everything is a knob. As a result, I can manipulate any control on the vehicle without taking my eyes off of the road. I can feel what speed the climate control fan is on, what direction the temp dial is pointed, and where the volume control is located. None of that applies to a touchscreen. Touchscreens are GREAT for applications where you are able to view the device, but because of this “viewing” requirement, it is my opinion they have no place in car-driver interaction whatsoever….PERIOD!

  14. dcars Says:

    The only thing that is worse than the M&B/Chrysler deal was the way that M&B managed Chrysler in the partner ship of “equals.” Racism and arrogance comes to mind when looking back on the whole affair.

  15. Alex Kovnat Says:

    >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 …………..

    Here’s a really radical suggestion:
    Return that money to us taxpayers.

  16. Nick Stevens Says:

    Excellent Suggestion, Alex.

    And why stop there? Two thirds of the idiotic $1 trillion (almost) Stimulus package have not yet been spent (how is this for competence), even though Romer herself, Obama’s econs guru, testified in Congress that the effects of the stimulus will be negligible after mid-2010 (!!!).

    How about they return all the unspent stimulus $ to the taxpayers? Or use them to reduce the debt and/or the huge budget deficits.

  17. dave Says:

    touch controls…that guy had to wave his arm / hand, what 5, 6, 7 times, to move around…that does not look very safe while driving. Just put the button back

  18. LEX Says:


    I wish to send my condolences to the families of the three key Tesla employees killed in the small plane crash.

    What have you learned about the three key Tesla employees, and will this further delay the bringing to market electric vehicles from Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors?

  19. Nick Stevens Says:

    Website “The Truth about cars” has stopped its series “Tesla Death Watch” when the fatal accident proved it too much of an irony.

    The site was referring to Tesla’s dismal financial straits (no wonder!) and accused it of cooking the books to show fake profits. I will give the link in my next post if you want the full details.

    I believe Tesla has been subsidized to the tune of over $400 million of oour hard-earned taxpayer $. Talk about throwing $ down the drain, on a venture guaranteed to fail from the start!!!!

  20. Nick Stevens Says:


    Read it and decide if indeed Tesla’s claims of profits are lies.

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    Why throw money into a company that builds only expensive cars that the average Joe can’t buy? What’s up with that.

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I was fine with the “bailout” of GM, under the circumstances, but to subsidize Tesla’s toys for people with way too much money? I want my money back on that one.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    Hey, I hear yacht builders and private plane manufacturers are also having a hard time, lets give them some money too while we’re at it.God forbid millionaires have to resort to buying used anything.

  24. Nick Stevens Says:

    Shipyards and Private Jet making cos are not subsidized by Obama the way “green” BS companies are.

    And while the people that buy these items are all not millionaires, but multi-millionaires ($10-$100mill net worth at least for a private jet or a serious yacht), the workers who make these items are not.

    I remember when they imposed a luxury tax on these items sometime in the 90s (clinton’s first year?) and they sure did not work, the rich are not fools, they refused to order these toys for even more inflasted prices (due to the tax) and widespread unemployment followed, until the measures were revoked)

    The luxury tax was even imposed on lousy $40k cars or less!

  25. pedro fernandez Says:

    Visteon is also working on a system that detects your middle finger and blows the horn for 5 seconds.

  26. G.A.Branigan Says:

    The DOE can do some good by helping out the many companies that were working on/making bio-diesel that had to close down because obama wouldn’t renew their grants or whatever it was called.The dept.of depts.dept need to get it together.

  27. Chuck Grenci Says:

    While running the Volt’s backup engine to keep the fuel fresh is a good idea, this would have to be done with an already extended (i.e. stabilized gasoline), regular gasoline is already going bad at two months. And while I hear that that is in fact going to be the case, (that a stabilizer will be required to be put into the gasoline), the short run that is programed to be performed will still create an unoptimal condition as ten minutes every month or two will lead to other engine related problems, namely condensation in the oil and moisture in other engine components. While not insurmountable, the algorythm would need to be for a much longer run time than ten minutes.

  28. Nick Stevens Says:

    I have no evidence that gasoline of any kind goes bad, not only after two months, but also after 4, 6 and more months, from my own experience. I have left one of my cars plenty of times in the garage for months, as I went overseas on sabbaticals, and i used a small honda civiv there that is barely used the rest of the year. This June i will do it again, will leave my car here until Dec 31 and start driving the small car over there, which has been in the garage since last Fall.

  29. Max Christensen Says:

    I’ve never had gas go bad in a car (probably because I never let one sit long enough), but I have had gas go bad in small engines such as lawnmowers or weedeaters. Actually not so sure the gas is “bad” as much as it buids up gummy deposits in places where gummy deposits are not wanted.

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I have two cars and four motorcycles that I park for 7 months a year in Indiana while I am in Florida for the winter. I always fill the tanks before parking them, and I never have a problem. I disconnect the batteries of the cars, and they start and run normally in the spring without even having to charge the batteries. Fuel injection is wonderful for cars that sit for months, even the ancient K-Jetronic system on my VW Cabriolet. About two seconds of cranking, and it’s running.

  31. William Bowen Says:

    John, a slight correction to your report on the new TRW key fob. The new fob will eliminate a RECEIVER in the car, not a transmitter. The new fob will act as a repeater for the data transmissions from the TPS transmitters at the wheels, using the RKE receiver and eliminating the need for a seperate receiver for the TPS. It is a nice idea BUT how much more will that fob cost, what happens to the TPS system when the key fob battery goes out (since NHTSA requires TPS as a safety system, will they be real happy with a TPS system that is dependent on the car owner replacing a battery?) and how much more complex will the reprogram procedure be if a replacement key fob is needed (people either lose or damage those RKE fobs all the time, and the newer ones are NOT cheap).

    Yes, this idea may reduce the car maker’s initial cost, but I’m not so sure that the TCO (total cost of ownership) of the car over its life will be reduced.

  32. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I like the keys for my 80′s cars. They don’t need batteries, and you can put them in your pocket when swimming without hurting them.

  33. Puremoose Says:

    With all the recalls from Toyota, why didn’t Consumers Report notify all their readers of the problems.
    They must have gotten this information from there yearly surveys.

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Probably about one Toyota driver in a million noticed any kind of a problem with “unintended acceleration. That wouldn’t show up in CR’s reliability survey.

  35. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    I think Cockpit Electronics are sweet. I just think that the time in between these 5 year model cycles isnt enough to test the kinks fully, and in a regemented and dare I say borderline Autistic process.

    This proves my point that these 5 year model cycles are so passe’. We need to swtich to 10 year cycles, 7 years at the least.

  36. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Id rather wait an extra 5 years for a car filled with Cockpit tech that works EVERYDAY and ANYDAY, than to get a car with this regurgitated 1950s nonsense.

    Many of you purists like this retro stuff, but many buyers hate it, and want 21st century tech in their cars. I want 21st century tech, but I want it as reliable as the engine that powers the thing.

  37. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    I bet if Toyota waited until 2013 to replace the Corolla they wldnt have not only had a much better Corolla, but one with an ELECTRONIC STERRING SYSTEM THAT ACTUALLY WORKS!!!

  38. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Another Reason why I shop H/K. They will hold off putting tech in a car until it works religiously and is relaible as the sunrise.

  39. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Think about modern PCs. I wouldnt want my car to work like a modern PC, or it wouldnt work!!!

  40. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Years ago, there were “public service” ads with the slogan “driving is a full-time job.” That was a great slogan, and it still applies.

    Driving is safer than it was years ago, in spite of the greatly increased amount of driving, but it is only because the cars are so much better in active and passive safety. The car companies need to let people wait until they get home to play with their computers and electronic gadgets, and if they won’t do that, there is a rare case where the work of liability lawyers will be justified.

  41. Donfromnaples Says:

    #11 Jesse

    GM has had a target date of October 2010 as the release for the Volt from the start. No suprises, no delays, just an apparently accurate estimate as to when they would have all the technology worked out for a production vehicle. One major obstacle they had to overcome was waiting on lithium battery technology to be ready for an automobile. It is likely going to cost more than many had hoped, like low to mid 30s which could scare many potential customers away.

  42. Nick Stevens Says:

    It is not just the gadgets, I drive far more concentrated if I am alone in the car than if I have passengers and we just talk to each other.

    That’s why some old city buses had the inscription “Do not talk to the driver” on the back of his seat, over in Europe!

  43. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    2011 Sonata= IIHS top safety pick.


  44. pedro fernandez Says:

    A classic dash w/o all the complicated electronic b/s is a thing of beauty and simplicity. It’s not enough room along the front of the dash, now they’re running down all the way to between the seats.

  45. pedro fernandez Says:

    Mr Stack, the suicide pilot, mentioned GM execs as part of the problem that is plaguing America, holy crap! GM now is responsible for people crashing their planes into buildings.

  46. Kit Gerhart Says:

    # pedro fernandez Says:
    February 18th, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    “Mr Stack, the suicide pilot, mentioned GM execs as part of the problem that is plaguing America, holy crap! GM now is responsible for people crashing their planes into buildings.”

    I heard about a half a dozen reports on Mr. Stack’s suicide mission, but I missed that one.

  47. HyundaiSmoke Says:


    You have to understand about those BMW GTs. The exude power, and passion, and even dare I say a brash sexuality. Maybe its a younger guy thing, Dave agrees with me. We think those GTs are sweet!!!

    I can imagine drving one doing 145 on the interstate in the middle of nowhere West Virginia on I-77. A powerful product with a powerful landscape. (Did 130 in an Accent doing the same thing)

    I wish Hyundai did a Sonata Touring like that.

  48. Andrew Charles Says:

    Most of the green technology fund is sitting unused because while funding is treated as a loan, you don’t actually get any money until you have already spent it. Thus companies usually need to borrow from someone else first, after which there is little need to borrow from the government. It’s a clever way of getting kudos for funding green technology without actually funding green technology.

  49. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Im one of those guys who looks at that BMW Grand Turismo commercial on youtube every couple of days and imagines the possibilities with a kiddie smile on my face like its an Accent or something.

    Yeah!!!!!! :D

    Honda Crosstour Blew that passion. I hope Hyundai does a Sonata Touring like and markets that like a cheap BMW GT.

    I swear damm it, I would buy one!!!

  50. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    I like Rat Rods, and Hot Rods, and all of those 30s, 40s, the Tuckers, the Packards, and early 50s cars.

    I think some of the small cars should go that way. HHR killed it with the ineffcient powertrains and weak performance variants, and pricing. It was priced like a Buick, but it was a Chevy. It should have been a Buick, or cheapened and more accessible as a Chevy.

  51. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Accent and Yaris are of 2 those few 2 door cars that are sellers. I hear about 60% of Accents are the 2 door. I dont know about Yarises, but I hear the sedan is a non-seller.

  52. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    I still think MiTO is a blatant Accent rip-off, but they did a nice rendition of it so I cant complain too much. Mimickery is the ultimate form of flattery, I guess.

    That reliability will still be a question though. If FIAT is so gung ho about bringing one over, they should let Autoline have a demo to play around with.

  53. Andrew Charles Says:

    I think someone has been watching too any Alice in Wonderland trailers.

    I’ve been rewatching Audi’s superbowl ad, and wonder why in this industry no-one has commented that the Green Police are driving a Chrysler GEM.