Episode 336 – Japanese Suppliers Raided Worldwide, Honda Expanded Too Fast, Fiat’s 2-Cylinder

February 25th, 2010 at 12:12pm

Runtime 5:58

Authorities around the world raid the offices of Japanese automotive suppliers. Honda admits that it expanded too fast and quality suffered. Fiat prepares to launch a 2-cylinder engine. Alfa Romeo gets ready to launch the Giulietta and Porsche will show the new Cayenne at Geneva. All that and more!

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .


Here are today’s top headlines. Authorities around the world raid the offices of Japanese automotive electronics suppliers. Honda admits it too expanded too fast. And Fiat gets ready to launch a 2-cylinder engine.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, February 25, 2010. And now, the news.

And the big news, as you all know, was Akio Toyoda’s testifying in Congress yesterday. In fact, his appearance made worldwide headlines. He gave a heartfelt apology and bravely withstood the badgering he got from an outwardly polite but decidedly hostile group of Congressmen. So did we learn anything new at these hearings? No nothing at all. The only thing we can be sure of is that all this is going to lead to more regulation of the auto industry, but it will not lead to less unintended acceleration.

Reuters reports that at a press conference in Japan yesterday, Honda’s president Takanubo Ito said that all car brands suffer from unintended acceleration, including Honda. But he also says that when Honda switched from mechanical to electronic throttle controls there was no noticeable change in the number of cases of unintended acceleration. Ito added that they bombard their cars with electromagnetic interference that goes way beyond what the law requires, and says EMI is not the culprit. And so we can add his voice to the chorus of automotive executives who say electronics are not the cause of unintended acceleration.

Ito also admitted that, like Toyota, Honda also expanded too fast in the 1990’s and started seeing quality problems and recalls. He said they focused too much on expansion and not on customers. But as the complaints came in, Honda got back to basics, and largely put those problems behind it.

In other Honda news, the company announced the price for the CRZ in Japan. The car will be priced at $25,400, which is probably close to what the price will be in the US and Europe. That’s kind of pricey for the small two-seater, and Honda seems to know that too. It’s sales target is only 40-50,000 cars a year, worldwide.

Here’s yet another story related to Japan, and this one is a bombshell. A worldwide investigation into Japanese automotive suppliers, especially suppliers to Toyota, was launched yesterday. In the United States, the FBI raided the offices of Denso, Yazaki and Tokai Rica. In Europe, authorities raided a number of unnamed suppliers, the Wall Street Journal reports. And in Japan the offices of Yazaki, Sumitomo and Furukawa were raided. These are sealed investigations, meaning authorities are not saying why they’re doing this. But the Journal says this has nothing to do with the Toyota unintended acceleration cases. Instead, authorities are trying to bust up an anti-competitive cartel in automotive electronics. American and European suppliers have complained for years about how difficult it is to become suppliers to Japanese car companies, especially to Toyota.

Oh boy, there’s still a lot of news left. Coming up next, a look at the new Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the new Porsche Cayenne, and a 2-cylinder engine that Fiat is coming out with. Back in a matter of seconds.

Alfa Romeo will unveil the new Giulietta at next month’s Geneva show. The car will showcase the company’s “compact” architecture that will be used in future vehicles. The underbody is made of high and ultra-high strength materials. It features a new suspension and a new electric power steering system that is integrated with the active safety systems. It’s a flexible structure that can be used for multiple wheelbases for a family of vehicles.

Porsche will also show the new Cayenne at Geneva. It’s longer than the previous model. And it’s offered with 5 engine choices: a V6, a V8, a diesel, a turbo V8 and a hybrid. The hybrid gets around 34 MPG, that’s about 8.2 l/100km. All engines except the hybrid have the option of a 8 speed transmission with start/stop technology. The new Cayenne goes on sale this May in Europe with a starting price of 46,400 euros.

And last but not least, Fiat will show off a two-cylinder engine at Geneva. The 85 horsepower, 900cc engine will be shown in a Fiat 500, the first model it will be introduced in this September. It features Fiat’s Multiair system. Power for the new family of two-cylinder engines ranges from 65 to 105 horsepower and can reduce CO2 emissions by 30%.

One last news item, and you could consider it a gift for car thieves. A new device called the Electronic Key Impressioner, allows the user to copy car keys just by scanning the lock. Popular Mechanics reports that the device electronically maps the inside of car locks and then provides the key code within seconds via USB cable connection to a computer. So far it only works for Ford vehicles.

Joins us to night for Autoline After Hours when our guest will be Bob Boniface, one of the top designers at General Motors, and the guy who designed the Chevy Camaro Concept, the Sequel Concept Car and the Chevy Volt. That’s tonight at 7 PM 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

44 Comments to “Episode 336 – Japanese Suppliers Raided Worldwide, Honda Expanded Too Fast, Fiat’s 2-Cylinder”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    Too bad Lentz and Toyoda did not appear at the same time, otherwise it would have been called “Dumb and dumber go to DC”

  2. HtG Says:

    I thought I heard Inaba say that break over-ride algorithms would only be available for future product. And that you can’t retrofit some models. Isn’t this a red flag to present owners? Does everyone already know this? Nick?

  3. Roger T Says:

    At least all this scrutiny is going on with the Japanese makers. I don’t think the Detroit ones could have survived any of this, at least in 2010.

  4. pedro fernandez Says:

    I wish Fiat well with that 2 cyl engine, because the 3 cyl Mitsu engine in the Smart is not very good and th Fiat one would make a good option for people that need a runabout,but don’t trust EV’s.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Two cylinders is probably the right number for a 900cc engine. If the engine is an in-line design, which is probably the case, it will no doubt have balance shafts to make it run smoothly as has been done with parallel twin motorcycle engines for years.

  6. Alex Kovnat Says:

    >Here’s yet another story related
    >to Japan, and this one is a bombshell. A
    >worldwide investigation into Japanese >automotive suppliers, especially suppliers
    >to Toyota, was launched yesterday.
    ………………
    >………. But the Journal says this
    >has nothing to do with the Toyota
    >unintended acceleration cases. Instead,
    >authorities are trying to bust up
    >an anti-competitive cartel in automotive
    >electronics.

    The irony of this aggressive meddling in OEM-supplier relationships is, Toyota (and Honda, etc) may find it more difficult to meet the most basic, fundamental need of the road-going citizen: Decent, well-designed and built cars that don’t constantly have to be taken back to the dealer to fix things that should have been done right in the first place.

    For years, Toyota was the industry leader in quality in large part because they owned their biggest tier-1 supplier, Nippondenso (later just plain Denso). Some of Denso’s shares of stock were publicly traded on the Tokyo stock exchange, but most of the shares were held by Toyota.

    You can call this an anticompetitive cartel if you wish, but compare the Toyota-Nippondenso relationship with the hard and mean relationships between GM and their tier 1 suppliers. How can it be in the best interests of the road-going citizenry to have GM mercilessly driving their suppliers for lower and lower costs, given possible quality problems that could occur as a result?

    Given the ego tantrums being thrown by some representatives and senators re Toyota’s recent troubles, isn’t it a shame that the only time you’ll ever hear a congressperson or senator apologize to the public is when they’re caught cheating on their spouses?

    Compare that with the willingness of Toyota’s executives to apologize to the public, not for fooling around outside of their marriages but for the consequences of not being on the ball regarding the quality of their products.

  7. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I wish I could understand why the auto industry is going to “drive by wire” in the first place.Other then it’s maybe cheaper then a mechanical throttle linkage it doesn’t seem worth it in the long run.It is most certainly NOT what I want,although I have two vehicles with it,I would just as soon have the “old style”.I’m thinking it might be time for the auto makers to offer some “back to basics” cars and light trucks.This is my opinion/view and is worth what you paid for it.

  8. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I have two cars with drive by wire, and I like it. It gets rid of the mechanical linkage that, with years of weather exposure, will eventually work less smoothly than when new. Also, you get rid of the separate servo, and additional linkage for cruise control. If I had a problem where my car wouldn’t run because of a failure of the motor running the throttle, I might not like DBW, but as I’ve experienced it, I like it.

    Some things are done with drive by wire which I consider “gimicky” that I could do without, like a “sport” setting which makes the throttle open farther during the first half or so of right pedal motion. I like relatively “low gain” throttle action off idle, because it makes it easy to drive smoothly, My Malibu and Mini (not in “sport” mode) are that way.

  9. olwrench Says:

    Tonight, please ask Mr. Boniface why strut suspension can,t be quieter.My bodyonframe GMC
    1/2ton w/92k miles is many times quieter than my HHR or the 09 Traverse ,which I traded for a 2010 Equinox after only 2 days. The Equinox
    thrums & road roars too, but it,s the best of the bunch. My first job at a ford dealer was noise removal from new fords. The culprits were usually foreign objects installed by the
    good ol UAW.
    union brothers.

  10. Alex Kovnat Says:

    >I wish I could understand why the
    >auto industry is going to “drive
    >by wire” in the first place.

    The basic reason for going to all this ever more sophisticated technology, is societal (government) demands for higher fuel economy, greater crash safety, and lower exhaust emissions. Combine these, with consumer desires for room, comfort and performance, and you can see why OEM’s are driven to procure the most advanced technology possible.

    If you make the driver’s request for more torque (one way to interpret foot pressure on the gas pedal) just another input into the master engine control computer, its a lot easier to manage spark timing, transmission shifting, throttle plate opening, fuel injection rate, intake and exhaust valve cam phase angle, and (for hybrid electric cars) flow of energy into and out of the battery pack, in the smoothest and most economical manner.

  11. HtG Says:

    When I drove the Infiniti G35 recently I noticed that the engine mapping had been shaped to give the driver the feeling of great power on tip in. This was a change from earlier versions I drove. But I noticed on an auto trans Mini that when you pressed the throttle quickly it took quite a while for the engine to respond. It seems OEMs can change the feel and behavior of their wares through silicon.
    I prefer my cable throttled Miata.

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    I prefer manual everything, trans, windows, locks, throttle linkage, no remote controlled anything, no talking dashboards and NO sunroof.

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    HtG Says:
    February 25th, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    “When I drove the Infiniti G35 recently I noticed that the engine mapping had been shaped to give the driver the feeling of great power on tip in.”

    The throttle mapping makes a big difference in how a car “feels.” My manual transmission Mini has much more of a “feeling of power” in “sport” mode, just because a small amount of pedal moves the throttle farther. I’ve only had it in “sport” mode for about 5 minutes since I’ve had the car, because I like to drive smoothly, and to drive for fuel economy. It’s easier to do both in the less sensitive non-sport mode. A couple years ago I test drove a V6 automatic Mustang which had a very sensitive throttle at tip in, to make the car’s trucky lump of an engine feel more powerful. I didn’t like it.

  14. John V. Says:

    Fiat needs to get off its behind and get some of those new models over here (to Chrysler Dealers) fast. They have excess capacity in Europe and their cars might do well here.
    To me that makes a lot more sense than spending another dime on Sterling Heights Assembly Plant. Doing a midcycle refresh to Avenger/Sebring will be like putting lipstick on a pig. Even if they really are a lot better, people wont’ trust them and will be slow to buy them.

  15. pedro fernandez Says:

    Nippon_Denso used to mean quality and unrelenting reliability, now it’s mostly just another name. Toyota needs to carefully study their over-dependence in outside suppliers and reign in some of the components that are being outsourced.

  16. John V. Says:

    Alex K. has it right about ETC, it improves engine control greatly and replaces mechanical components with electronic components that already exist for the most part.

  17. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Everything that’s happening to Toyota is fair. As my friend who both sells Hyundais and Toyotas says,

    “They are quieter than Toyotas, Feel more modern than Toyotas, feel nicer to drive than Toyotas, some of the models now last longer than Toyotas, the interiors dont fall apart like Toyotas, etc…. Yeah they have been asking for it.”

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It sounds like Toyota is now going in the direction GM went many years ago, replacing in-house parts suppliers with outside suppliers which they are beating on for price cuts. In some cases, it seemed like GM got better quality from external suppliers than from the “old line” internal ones, many of which ended up as Delphi, but it seems like Toyota is getting worse quality.

  19. Drew Says:

    Honda seemed to go downhill starting with the 1998 Accord. It was definitely “cheaper” feeling than the previous Accords that I owned.

    Acura is also on a downhill slide……look at the HORRID styling on a lot of the new models. Why do they insist on putting their SUV front end styling on ALL their vehicles?!

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    Well, Toyota wanted to be #1 at any cost right? well looks like they got exactly what they wanted. Learn from this, VW. You’re also outsourcing everything, even assembly, specially from Mexico.

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    Drew: you’re right about Accords from those years, they had transmission problems and other assorted things. The earlier Accords were a lot more reliable. On a recent road trip, I observed a lot of Accords from the early 90′s.

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    From the VW international web site:

    “The Chattanooga factory will build a new mid size sedan specially designed for the North American market. Approximately 30 percent of these cars will be powered by Volkswagen’s TDI Clean Diesel Technology.”

    It sounds like VW may move away from artificially limiting availability of TDI cars, if you want the new “mid size sedan specially designed for the North American market.” That, I suspect, means “downgraded Passat.”

  23. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Pedro, Im not a fan of North American Manufacturing period. I think its a bad idea for GM to build Cruze with the same factory workers who screwed Colbalt up. I unlike most people wish GM built Aveo in Korea.

    Canadian Plants do a horrible job of assmeblng trannies for example. I wouldnt even buy a car with a tranny that came from Canada.

    Honda quality detreriorated when they start to make more Hondas here in America tha in Japan. Plain and simple.

    North Americans arent good manual Laborers, we excel in the professional and service professions. To be a good manual laborer you have to be accepting of exploitative working conditions, and we know people in North America arent going to put up with it.

  24. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    I agree with those who say the North American Worker is inferior. The question is, how do we make you manual laborers superior workers?

    My solutions are either:

    A. Educate them and instll the ethic and attention to detail neccessary to build world class product.

    B. Develop highly advanced robots that can function like a human being, and unemploy 90% of manual laborers and re-educate them.

    I lean towards B a lot more than A. A is more of a compromise for me. Manual Human Labor to me is as obsolete as Butter Churns.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    You can get good build quality anywhere, including the US, Canada, and Mexico, if you run the plant properly. Some North American car plants of various manufacturers put out products of good quality.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    You also have to “design for manufacturing” in the early stages of designing the car, or other product, to get good quality.

  27. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Not just with cars, but construction, logging, mining, machining, etc….

    If they arent smart enough for College give em a trade.

    You guys are still thinking about getting the factories back, and Im thinking that’s NEVER EVER going to happen so now what.

    BUY American=so you can employ robots, and enrich tycoons.

  28. Don B. Says:

    I have “intended unexceleration”. My company car is an ’08 Subaru Outback. When getting on the highway from an onramp I’ve experienced a 3 second delay when stomping on the gas pedal.
    When trying to merge this can be dangerous.
    And yes it is an electronic throttle.

  29. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    The Robots are excellent, but enriching Tycoons Im not a fan of. The manufacturing process would be 90% robots at the minimum if I had my way, but that requires better robotics.

    We are headed for an I-Robot society so you might as well get used to the idea now.

  30. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Subaru=Toyota

  31. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    With proper Robots, they will get the quality down to make any car last 50 years. A computer with less brain capacity than a Human can detect flaws.

    Imagine the robots 15-20 years from now powered by computers with 3 times the intelligence and attention to detail and flaws of Humans. Combined by manual dexterity, and precision that no Human can even think of matching. Brute strong yet ultra lightweight.

    150 Pound Robots dropping in 1200 LB powertrains on their own.

  32. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    All cars these days are the price of a house, yet a House can last hundreds of yars, while a car is obsolete after 5, and useless junk after 15+ years.

    Cars are disposable wastes of resources. Believe it or not GM has the right idea with that platform, and body style changing thing. keep the platform in tact but change the body, powertrain, and interior whenever the customer wants a body, powertrain, or interior change.

    GM is right on the money with that idea.

  33. paulstewart Says:

    HyundaiSmoke, are you trying to bait people with this type of line …North Americans arent good manual Laborers…I agree with those who say the North American Worker is inferior…A. Educate them and instll the ethic and attention to detail neccessary to build world class product… At one time I would read your past “opinions” and agree with some but not all. But you need to rethink recent ones, honestly.

  34. C-tech Says:

    HyundaiSmokinIdiot. Your comments remind me of the Ford assembly plant tour I took. On the first production run of vehicles in this plant, the robot pefectly placed and bolted down the spare tire assembly in each model that came down the line, faster than the production workers it replaced. The problem was that the robot could not tell the difference between the sedans with trunks and the hatchbacks that came to it, so it completely smashed the glass hatches and bolted down the spare tire with – precision!

  35. C-tech Says:

    Hey John! Could your staff add spell-check for HyundaiSmokinIdiot?

  36. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Lmao@ you guys.

    C-tech, that’s why I said 15 or more years out man. Of course today’s robots do not have the precision neccessary yet, but in the not too distant future they will. Not just in factories, but they will wash your clothes, cook, etc… and the demand will be so great that costs will go down quickly enough to where an I-Robot style Robot, would be $10-$20K.

    This is the future, get used to it.

    Those retuning GIs from the War are the ones spearheading the research. Those robotic legs and arms some of the amputees have are phenonmenal.

    Its only a matter of time before those robotic arms and legs are connected to a fully functional robotic torso, and a brain that has more power and knowledge than the Libary of Congress Servers. As I have said before, in 15 years computers will be 3 times smarter than Humans. We are 5 years away or less from the average PC having equivalent intellgence as a human.

    Im not trying to bait people Paul. Im trying to get peple to think about the future honestly, and without the tradiional BS Rhetoric of trying to keep things the way they were, or even going to the past.

    We really have to change and soon, or we’ll become obsolete-to China, and many others.

    Maybe its becuase Im a young guy that I think this way, but things have to change drastically and quickly.

  37. paulstewart Says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m young & I know we must be forward-thinking and I’m changing and yet I try not to denigrate others around me, constructive criticism yes, your way of speaking to people,no.

  38. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Paul we dont have that much time to play games here man.

    People need the truth in their faces to act. If you try to be politically correct or sugarcoat the whole deal the people will just grow complacent.

  39. Episode 336 – Japanese Suppliers Raided Worldwide, Honda Expanded … | Honda Automotive Marque Says:

    [...] See the original post: Episode 336 – Japanese Suppliers Raided Worldwide, Honda Expanded … [...]

  40. Nick Stevens Says:

    Smoked Halibut on Crack: The PEST of this site.

    You do NOT have CLUE ONE.

    The length of your clueless posts is inversely proportional to their TRUTH.

    Toyota has been 100.00% unfairly singled out. Congress did NOT h ave hearings when Chrysler and many others recalled their models after Toyota recalled theirs.

    John MCElroy DID put things in perspective. This Big CIRCUS is about 2.6 deaths a year, out of the 40,000 or so traffic Fatalities every year.

    A more interesting question is, what % of the fatalities were in Toyotas? THEN, if 20% of all cars on the road are toyotas, and only 2% of the deaths happen in them, will the MORONS in Congress SHUT THE HELL UP?

  41. Nick Stevens Says:

    Oh, and PS, since the US is the owner of Government Motors, is there ANYBODY in this site that does not see the OBVIOUS conflict of interest having those hearings about GM’s biggest competitor?

    LOL…

  42. Nick Stevens Says:

    NO, SHAME ON YOU, Rhonda Smith!!!

    From the WALL STREET JOURNAL and “The TRUTH about cars”

    “One of the most important lessons to come out of the last two days of congressional hearings on the Toyota recalls is that blaming individuals for unintended acceleration is too tough a task for our elected representatives.

    And yet the more we learn, the more necessary it seems to take human error into account when dealing with unintended acceleration.

    Nothing illustrates this quite like the case of the very first witness to give testimony before congress.

    Rhonda Smith of Sevierville, TN told the House Energy Committee, under oath, that her Lexus ES350 became “possessed” and that its brakes and transmission failed to respond at precisely the moment that the car accelerated out of control. “Shame on you, Toyota, for being so greedy,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. But it turns out that the shame belongs almost entirely with Ms Smith.

    The Wall Street Journal [sub] [via Jalopnik] reports that, despite her traumatic and inexplicable experience, Ms Smith sold her dangerous, out-of-control ES350 to another family, which has since put 27,000 trouble-free miles on the vehicle (according to just-auto [sub], Toyota has since taken possession of the vehicle).

    Which means she either lied under oath, or displayed a disregard for the safety of others that puts Toyota’s missteps into stunning context. Or both.

    In any case, her behavior adds to our growing suspicion that the vacuous, disingenuous, and self-serving congressional hearings have been the best thing to happen to Toyota PR since the recalls began.

    Shame on you, Rhonda Smith, shame on you!!!”

  43. pedro fernandez Says:

    More people have died from driver error, mistaking the accelerator for the brake pedal than the Toyota deaths, yet I don’t see any actions on the repeated suggestions that old people should be forced to take driving proficiency exams every couple of years after they reach a certain age, no of course not, they old folks vote in droves and no elected official is willing to put their ass on the line to get this done.

  44. Kit Gerhart Says:

    They used to require people over a certain age, I think 75, to take a driving test to renew their license in Indiana. That requirement was dropped a few years ago. Probably the state legislators got too many nasty letters from people who would have to take the test. I suspect the same has happened in other states.