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Episode 335 – Akio in the Hot Seat, Hyundai Sonata Recalled, Hummer Deal is Dead

February 24th, 2010 at 12:00pm

Runtime 5:58

Akio Toyoda takes the hot seat today in front of Congress and it’s not looking good. Hyundai gets Toyota fever and recalls 47,000 of the brand new 2011 Sonatas. And, the Hummer deal with Tengzhong looks like it’s dead. All that and more, plus John McElroy answers your letters about Toyota and journalistic integrity.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .


Here are today’s top headlines. Akio is in the hot seat today. The brand new Hyundai Sonata is recalled. And the Hummer deal looks like its dead.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, February 24, 2010. And now, the news.

Well as I’m sure you all know, Akio Toyoda is taking the stand today at the congressional hearings in Washington. And judging by the media reaction to yesterday’s testimony from Toyota executive Jim Lentz, it’s not going well for the world’s number one car company. Political grandstanding in an election year from politicians who no nothing about how a car works spells trouble for the auto industry.

Congressmen seized on Jim Lentz’s admission that the floor mat and gas pedal fixes that Toyota is implementing will not eliminate all sudden acceleration occurrences. Lentz gingerly tried to raise the issue, got close to the issue, but never really addressed the issue of driver error. Back in the days of Audi’s unintended acceleration, NHTSA proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that driver error was the cause. Why isn’t this issue being sanely and soberly addressed in these hearings? Because in America, nothing is your fault. It’s the fault of the party that you want to sue.

Perhaps being hyper-sensitive to what’s going on right now with Toyota, Hyundai announced it will recall about 47,000 2011 Sonatas. According to Reuters, the recall will take place in South Korea and the U.S. to fix faulty door latches. Hyundai was seen as one of the automakers that could benefit the most from Toyota’s woes, but my guess is this won’t hurt Hyundai at all.

Yesterday we reported that the sale of Hummer could be done through an offshore investment group. And that’s probably the only way it could happen. Bloomberg reports that Chinese company Tengzhong won’t get government approval to buy Hummer, and probably will not be allowed to sell Hummers in China either. We’ll know for sure what’s going on this weekend though, the AFP reports, Tengzhong will make an announcement about its bid for Hummer.

But it’s not all bad news for former brands General Motors is trying to sell. Yesterday Spyker and GM finalized a deal for Spyker to acquire Saab.

An one last GM-related item.The Chevy Aveo has always been a cheap car that looks the part. But Autoblog is running these shots of the next-gen Aveo, and what a step forward. Both inside and out these pics depict a good looking car. In fact, maybe it looks too good, at least compared to the Chevy Cruze.

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It! And it’s all about Toyota.

And now it’s time for some of your feedback.

Ken Stadden wrote in to say, “John, Your eye-opening take on ABC’s less-than-professional reporting should be forwarded to every car owner in the U.S. Anyone who knows the automotive industry is plenty weary of seeing the mainstream press getting it all wrong on cars, especially when there are ratings to be had. Thanks for the genuine journalism.”

Ken thanks for the compliment. And believe me, I have a lot more to say about this situation. What’s going on with the media coverage and Congressional hearings is bad for the entire auto industry, not just Toyota. The industry is going to face a lot more unnecessary regulation because of this.

Pedro Fernandez watched the hearings yesterday and says: “South west airlines will use this Lentz lynching as a promo for their wanna get away commercials.”

Pedro, you have a wicked sense of humor, but you made me laugh.

And HyundaiSmoke Says: “John, As the responsible Journalist you are, why don’t you replicate the ABC experiment? If they are wrong you’ll bust them plain as day, if they are right then there is a definite wire contamination, problem that needs to be taken care of TODAY, like Today, now!!!”

HyundaiSmoke, I would love to be able to replicate the experiment that Dave Gilbert conducted for ABC News. But we don’t know what that experiment was. I’ve tried contacting Mr. Gilbert, but he certainly hasn’t responded to me. He has not published anything about the specifics of his experiment and neither has ABC. Toyota has replicated his experiment, but so far it hasn’t shared the specifics of that publicly. But I suspect we’ll have more answers on tomorrow’s show.

Joins us tomorrow night for Autoline After Hours when our guest will be Bob Boniface, one of the top designers at General Motors, and the guy who headed up the team that designed the Chevy Volt. That’s tomorrow night at 7PM eastern. Get ready with your questions for Bob Boniface.

And that’s 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

33 Comments to “Episode 335 – Akio in the Hot Seat, Hyundai Sonata Recalled, Hummer Deal is Dead”

  1. Michael Says:

    John the problem is not that Toyota had a problem with the vehicles but that they bragged internally about how they saved money by foot dragging on problems that could be life threatening. At least a manufacturer should seriously investigate a problem that could be dangerous. Toyota is its own worst enemy in this PR debacle.

  2. Gordon Wangers Says:

    Toyota needs to save Akio from himself. This can be accomplished by using Yoshi Inaba as their spokesman. He is charismatic, Westernized, funny, charming, smart and candid. The lawmakers and the American public will respond to him. Jim Lentz and Bob Carter are both very good guys but are viewed by America a mouthpieces for the Japanese. It needs to be a Japanese spokesman and Inaba is the only guy who checks all the boxes. It may be too late to make this personnel change but Inaba will come off well on camera and save face for Mr. Toyoda.

  3. Alex Carazan Says:

    John,
    Your obvious ignorance makes me lose respect for your opinions. Apparently Toyota may also not know everything about how a car works as is clear by their current recalls. It is clear from the complaints by consumers that the root cause is not just floor mats or sticky pedals. You appear to disrespect the congressmen who are just trying to protect us Americans. It is also clear from Toyota’s own behavior and internal documents that they have put money over safety. Mr. Lentz basically admitted this under oath. You also appear to be blaming the thousands of American consumer drivers for human error. The old Audi issue was NOT driver error…the ergonomics design failure by Audi was they made the brake and accelerator on near identical planes…pure stupidity…bad design. No car today has such a design. Go to the NHTSA web site and read the numerous complaints/stories from the real American consumers on the Toyota vehicles under review. Many of the acceleration surges happened when their foot was on the brake or not even on the accelerator. Go and do some homework and read them and get yourself educated. Isn’t it also a coincidence that an exponential increase in complaints of un-intended acceleration happened soon after Toyota changed to by-wire accelerator/throttle technology?

    Maybe if it was your relative or family member who died or were injured in such an event you would have done more homework before you share your diatribe. Please consider this in the future.

  4. AlfaElan Says:

    The gauge cluster on that Aveo looks just like the one on the Chevy Spark I was looking at a couple months ago. It was a nice touch, stylish and functional.

  5. Drew Says:

    Chevy needs to DROP the split grill look on it’s models, especially on the new Malibu and Cruze.

    The new Aveo, even though it has the dreaded split grill, looks much better than the Cruze.

    The split grill look on it’s pickup trucks is horrible too!

  6. Alex Kovnat Says:

    >Political grandstanding in an election
    >year from politicians who no nothing
    >about how a car works spells trouble
    >for the auto industry.

    That is why, a few Autoline Daily editions ago, I urged that TV cameras not be allowed at the hearings.

  7. gb Says:

    John, you nailed it; “Because in America, nothing is your fault. It’s the fault of the party that you want to sue.”
    Sad, but true.

  8. T. Bejma Says:

    The new Aveo is a hot car! Lot of comparissons to a Mitsu EVO and VW Sirroco! Good job GM!

    Need to consider putting those headlights on the Cruze to style it up a little!!

  9. HtG Says:

    Alex, the way I read John’s remarks, is as a critique of the journalism surrounding the Toyota acceleration matter. He isn’t defending Toyota beyond reminding us that they deserve a fair shake, even as they are closely scrutinized.

  10. olwrench Says:

    Toured a genuine humvee when they were new, viewed them as a jeep on steroids,with about the same cargo capacity. Never understood the attraction of an outsized ,cramped quartered,
    LOOK AT ME! Hummer—RIP

  11. olwrench Says:

    Dear mr. Carazan, where can I find one of these
    congressmen that has my interests at heart? I,d like to give him a big hug!

  12. William Bowen Says:

    John, I understand where you are coming from and I agree that mostof the CongressCritters probably would not know a TPS sensor from a donut. BUT, the problem is not just that Toyota has problems with their vehicles – it is looking more and more like they tried to hide the problem for quite awhile.

    As I’ve mentioned previously, that attitude does not surprise me (I’ve seen it personally in a couple of Japanese consumer electronics firms I’ve worked for) but it DOES concern me greatly. People have actually lost their lives do to these Toyota problems – THAT is th issue that needs to be focused on.

    If it turns out that Toyota was actually trying to downplay or hide the true extent of their problems then someone needs to spend a LONG stint in the “Graybar Hotel”, maybe even Mr. Toyoda himself.

  13. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I hope function follows form with the new Aveo; the last rendition truly needed a grand leap in improvement in both arenas. Looking forward to seeing how the Cruz makes out as well.

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    That congressman who threatened to unleash the carnivorous lawyers on Toyota, is a reason why so many people are disgusted with the government. Toyoda announcing more electronics to control the malfunctioning electronics. When will this madness end? I say whoever comes here with a line of SIMPLE, uncomplicated cars, will do very well.

  15. Nick Stevens Says:

    “T. Bejma Says:
    February 24th, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    The new Aveo is a hot car! Lot of comparissons to a Mitsu EVO and VW Sirroco! Good job GM!”

    Anybody who compares the cheapo econobox Aveo (a DAEWOO failed Korean product, BTW) to the SPORTS SPECIALTY COUPE Scirocco betrays their total automotive ignorance.

    Still, as a long-suffering TAXPAYER I still wish GM becomes very successful and RETURNS to the government every single penny it borrowed, with full interest.

    But my wishes do not matter…Just watching the pathetic spectacle of Whitacre getting $9 million a year and NOT having CLUE ONE about the Auto business, and then having to REHIRE that failure Henderson as an EXTREMELY expensive consultant at an outrageous sum of $, proves to me that my wishes are NOT likely to come true any time soon…

    Good Job, Government Motors. Now if you could only manage HEALTH CARE along the lines of GM and the post Office…

  16. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Alex Carazan Says:
    February 24th, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    John,
    Your obvious ignorance makes me lose respect for your opinions. …”

    I save space by not quotin gthe rest of your despicable attack on MCElroy for TELLING THE TRUTH.

    From which rock did you crawl under, Toyota Hater? From your UAW Local?

    And do you really respect any of the UTTER WHORES in Congress? Even ONE of the 435 of them? which ONE?

  17. Russell Lombardo Says:

    I recall when an investigative report showed that Ford executives decided to go against the recommendations of their engineers that the new Ford Explorer, based on the Bronco, was very unstable and had a high tendency to roll over. The engineers said the Explorer should be widened by four inches to make it more stable.

    The Toyota issue pales in comparison to the decision Ford made to manufacture a known dangerous, roll-over prone SUV. Internal memos from Ford showed that the plan was to use their lawyers to defeat the Explorer cases in court.

    To this day, I will never even consider a Ford product because of this heartless decision.

    Toyota had no intention to produce a defective car, though they did drag their feet once the evidence began to mount. Ford’s offense was much greater.

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    Now they want black boxes in cars? God, I love my old, simpleton Corolla.

  19. pedro fernandez Says:

    Toyoda is responding to questions by reading from a prepared text, WTF is this? Dennis is giving him the hard-ass routine

  20. David B. Fishburn Says:

    Mac, after watching today’s show, i gotta say that i agree about the effect of the media hysteria and the political grandstanding on the industry. As far as replicating the experiment, i feel as a auto tech that the experiment was rigged. When you INTENTIONALLY create a short circuit and fool the computer, that is NOT real world conditions. I am not defending anybody, but i feel that there needs to be more investigation into the problem and full disclosure. Pedro, a little note, many cars have had the black box function for years, since the late 80′s. The auto companies never really publicized that, but the law enforcement agencies and the insurance companies knew about that feature.

  21. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    That Aveo stole the door siderake from Hyundai Fluidic Sculpture. Next Gen Accent Sedan will have the same rake, but it will even look more classy than this Aveo. The interior is nice, but I wouldnt buy the competitive Daewoo product.

    By the way Hyundai and GM/Daewoo share some of the same testing tracks in Korea=a perfect place for GM to steal our designs. So like I said as Hyundai goes upmarket GM/Daewoo will follow, and it will benefit the Patriotic US small car buyer greatly.

    Be supportive of the Korean tech and designs in these cars, becuase like it or not that Korean tech is going to save GMs ass on the small car front.

    This will be a Buick too, and that version will be called Viva.

  22. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Thanks John,

    Its a shame they arent cooperating. Maybe you can get a crack mechanic who knows about Drive By wire to figure it out? However, like I said from my experience with Asian cars, that wire contamination is the Achillies Heel of Asian cars.

  23. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Newsflash: Man Wrongly jailed by Biased and hateful Minnesota Jury for crashing his 1996 (Crapmy) Camry might be vindicated as unintended Acceleration Complaints to back to as far as 1995.

    http://www.autoblog.com/2010/02/24/will-toyotas-inintended-acceleration-woes-help-free-imprisoned/#continued

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “Good Job, Government Motors. Now if you could only manage HEALTH CARE along the lines of GM and the post Office…”

    If the rest of the US health care non-system worked as efficiently as the government program for older people called Medicare, we would be in much better shape. Everything I’ve heard is that Medicare has about 1/4 to 1/3 the administrative costs of the private health care insurance in the US.

  25. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Ahh.. Kit, exactly, but you know we cant have medicare for all in America, The real owners of America wont allow that or that would be….. oooohhhh, evil scary boogeyman Socialism

  26. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Hyundai’s home office in Korea has dropped the first frontal image of a new concept that will be shown next week at the Geneva Motor Show along with some technical details.

    The i-Flow is a D-segment sedan meant to go up against cars like the Ford Mondeo in Europe.

    Under the hood, the i-Flow has Hyundai’s first diesel hybrid powertrain including a new 1.7-liter inline-four.

    The diesel has dual stage turbocharging and is paired up with Hyundai’s Blue-drive system using a new six-speed dual clutch gearbox.

    Like the upcoming Sonata hybrid, the i-Flow uses a lithium polymer battery pack. With its drag coefficient of 0.25, the i-Flow is claimed to achieve 78.4 miles per gallon (U.S.) and CO2 emissions of just 85 grams/kilometer.

    Joining the i-Flow onstage will be a refreshed version of the i30 (badged as the Elantra Touring in North America) and low emissions “blue” versions of the i10, i20, i30 and ix35 (Tucson). These models receive automatic start-stop,”

    is ANY Hundai or Kia model, out of the two dozen or so sold in the US, equipped with this esse ntial start-stop system that saves you a bundle (the poor man’s hybrid)? if not, WHY NOT?

  27. Nick Stevens Says:

    An explanation why diesel sales are down in Europe. Also, some sweet VW engines we will eventually get here when CAFE rises:

    “The benefits of gasoline engine downsizing has its latest poster child: the new Polo GTI. It’s a graphic example of why diesel market share in Europe is declining, especially in smaller cars: a 25% reduction on the European mileage standards, without any loss of performance. The GTI’s 1.4 liter TSI produces 177 hp (132kW), exactly the same as its 1.8 liter predecessor. But the combined fuel consumption is 5.9 L/100km (40 mpg US)—equivalent to CO2 emissions of 139 g/km, 25% lower than the outgoing model. Knowing that it also squirts to 100km (62 mph) in 6.9 seconds and comes standard with a 7 speed DSG transmission is only rubbing the wound of knowing it’s not coming to the US with salt. But undoubtedly, tightening CAFE standards will eventually send VW’s pioneering 1.4 and 1.6 TSI engines our way; the question is only in what body.”

    “VW’s small TSI engines are to gas engines what it’s also pioneering TDI engines were to the diesel world: a breakthrough in shattering assumptions of what small artificially-aspirated gas engines are capable of, in terms of both performance and economy. Due to its combination of supercharging and turbocharging, an semblance of turbo lag is history. The 177 hp Euro-5 16-valve four-cylinder engine reaches its maximum power at a relatively low (for such a small engine) 6,200 rpm. Maximum torque of 250 N·m (184 lb-ft) arrives at 2,000 rpm and stays at a constantly high level up to 4,500 rpm. The effect is to recreate the feel of a much larger normally aspirated engine without any of the typical detriments.”

    Another graphic example of the narrowing gap of diesel and gas consumption is in the European Golf: two almost identically powered Golf VI versions: 140hp TDI – 5.4L/100km (43.56mpg); 160hp TSI – 6.0L/100km (39.2mpg). That represents a 10% difference. Meanwhile, the US version gas Golf slogs along with its antiquated 2.5 liter five that bumbles through the EPA test with a 26 combined rating.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Nick,

    Thanks for posting those informative articles.

  29. Nick Stevens Says:

    However, VW missed the boat with this:

    “VW puts a 20,000-euro price premium on Touareg hybrid
    Volkswagen AG’s starting price in Germany for the hybrid version of its new Touareg will be 73,500 euros (nearly $100,000), a premium of more than 20,000 euros compared with the base price for a non-hybrid variant of the premium SUV. VW ”

    A powerplant far inferior to the existing diesel version, and at $27,000 (E20,000) higher price?

    What was VW thinking?

    Kit: You’re welcome.

  30. Nick Stevens Says:

    ($27,000 higher than the base gas version, not the diesel)

  31. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Everything I’ve heard is that Medicare has about 1/4 to 1/3 the administrative costs of the private health care insurance in the US.”

    This sounds very surprising to me. Why would private health insurance be so much more mismanaged than the incompetent, waste-fraud and abuse (from 10% to 33% of the huge annual $3 trillion budget) Government?

    Do you have a link to some kind of a report that proves the above amazing allegations?

  32. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “Why would private health insurance be so much more mismanaged than the incompetent, waste-fraud and abuse (from 10% to 33% of the huge annual $3 trillion budget) Government?”

    The private insurance companies pay CEO’s tens of millions of dollars a year. They spend tens of millions of dollars on advertising and lobbying. They have all these people behind desks whose jobs are to ration care, and “pre-approve care.” They have all these people behind desks sending out megatons of paperwork regarding deductibles, copays, etc.

    There is certainly abuse of the Medicare system, which may (or may not) be higher than with private insurance.

    If you search “medicare administrative cost” you find highly divergent data. The Heritage Foundation and Paul Krugman disagree a lot. I tend to agree more with Paul Krugman. It is probably hard to get good data on this, but it is undeniable that we spend a much higher percentage of GDP on health care, but with worse results than other developed countries with universal health care of various formats.

  33. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Nick, Sportage has it.

    The i-flow will be Europes Sedan,they will still get the Sonata as i45. The iflow is supposed to be lighter than Sonata, thus more efficient.