Episode 379 – Q1 Financial Results, Chinese Truck Spotted in Metro Detroit?, Mini E Test Drive

April 27th, 2010 at 12:00pm

Runtime 8:37

Lots of first-quarter financial results are in and there are some very interesting developments to report on.  Honda will now allow its natural-gas powered Civic GX to be sold in Oklahoma.  We spot what looks like some kind of Chinese truck on the streets of Metro Detroit.  All that and more, plus Bill Nye the Science Guy takes us for a spin in his all-electric Mini E.

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Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Ford stuns Wall Street. Daimler makes money but Mazda does not. And Bill Nye the Science Guy takes us for a drive in his Mini-E.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, April 27, 2010.   And now, the news.

FORD Q1 RESULTS (login required)
Lots of interesting first-quarter numbers to look at but let’s start with Ford because they’re the most interesting of all – stunning, really. Ford blew through the analysts’ estimates.  They thought the company would earn $.31 a share, instead it earned $.50. They thought Ford would make about a $1 billion profit, instead Ford earned a net profit of $2.1 billion. $1.2 billion of that came from its automotive operations; $815 million came from its financial services.  And it earned money in every geographic region of the world where it operates, including Europe.  These results are a direct result of the way the company is being run, not from selling off Volvo.  So far Ford has only booked $188 million for selling Volvo, and while it no longer includes Volvo in its financial reports, it says Volvo would’ve only contributed $49 million in pretax profits. Chump change.

DAIMLER Q1 RESULTS (login required)
Meanwhile in Europe, Daimler also showed solid improvement.  Revenues increased by 13 percent which helped the company post a net profit of $813 million. And they also managed to generate about $2.5 billion dollars in positive cash-flow for the quarter.

In Japan, where companies are now reporting earnings for their fiscal year that ends in March, Mazda is reporting that its total sales hit $22 billion and it managed to post an operating profit of roughly $100 million. But on a net profit basis Mazda lost nearly $70 million for the year.

Honda announced that it will allow its dealers in Oklahoma to sell the natural gas-powered Civic GX. It’s only the fourth state to be allowed to sell it on a retail basis; California, Utah and New York are the others. Honda was already selling the vehicle on a fleet basis but the company decided to expand to retail sales in Oklahoma because it has a strong CNG infrastructure and it’s the second-largest natural gas producing state in America. Even so, Honda only sells about 1,000 GXs a year.

WULING HONG GUANG MINIVAN (subscription required)
Just because General Motors no longer sells minivans in the U.S. doesn’t mean the company has given up on them elsewhere in the world.  According to Ward’s, SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile just unveiled a new compact business passenger van at the Beijing Auto Show.  The Wuling Hong Guang as it’s called features a rounded, streamlined body and a roomy interior with three rows of seats.  But if you think this vehicle focuses solely passenger comfort you’d be mistaken.  The company didn’t forget about drivers.  It’s powered by either a 1.2- or 1.4-liter P-Tech engine AND the chassis was refined by Lotus Engineering in the UK.  Look for the Hong Guang – catchy name – to hit Chinese dealerships sometime next month.

Hey, what is this? We spotted what we think is some sort of Chinese utility truck on the road near our office.  My copilot during the drive was able to snap a few pictures of the boxy rig as we cruised alongside it.  It’s hard to tell in the photos, but the front end was camouflaged with black tape, covering the logo and other branding, but it definitely looked like something Chinese.  Even more interesting, if you look under the bed you can see what looks like a battery with a GS Yuasa logo on the side.  Shoot us an e-mail if you have any idea what this thing is.

Coming up next, we go for a ride in a Mini-E with Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Yesterday, Autoline’s Chip Drake introduced us to Bill Nye the Science Guy and we discovered his dedication to electric vehicles.  In today’s Part Two, Chip gets Bill to give us a first-hand feel from behind the wheel of BMW’s limited-production electric MINI E.

Well, Bill Nye and his fellow “Pioneers” clearly love their MINI E’s since so many of them have recently signed-on to lease the car for another year.  But BMW says that it may be the last since the company brings its electric 1 Series – the Active E – online sometime in 2011.   By the way, the 450 MINI E Pioneers will be invited to “transition” into the Active E if they’d like to stay with BMW’s electric program.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry.  Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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22 Comments to “Episode 379 – Q1 Financial Results, Chinese Truck Spotted in Metro Detroit?, Mini E Test Drive”

  1. Tony Gray Says:

    It appears that Bill practices what he preaches, living in a modest house instead of a Hollywood mansion…unless being the science guy doesn’t pay that well, eh?

  2. dave Says:

    I love all these “well to do” people telling the rest of us how great and fun electric vehicles are and that we all should embrace them. I could live with the E-mini, or Volt and would have no problem paying for them, but I just will NOT pay the price, even to lease, one of these vehicles. Who knows how long it will take to get the cost down on this tech. 5..10..20..years? i dont know

  3. pedro fernandez Says:

    With every new technology, there will be growing pains but at what costs? If a reg tech is getting up to $75 an hour, what will be the going rate for one certified to work on an EV?. If I were a car tech, I’d be scared to handle one of these and possibly get electrocuted.

  4. Dan Clemons Says:

    We love our 2010 Toyota Prius. We drive it like a regular car and get an easy 50 miles to the gallon. Personally, I like having a battery onboard providing 18 more miles to the gallon than the engine can produce. It’s a lot a car for the price.

  5. dcars Says:

    Bill is right; it is fun to drive and electric car at this time. I had a Honda EV for a year and lots of people asked about the vehicle. I would expect the enthusiasm to die down once they became main stream. As was noted yesterday, if you burn coal to generate electricity your still contributing CO to the atmosphere. China is pushing EV’s yet they use coal almost exclusively to generate power.

  6. dcars Says:

    Their will be growing pains and they will definitely have to be careful around electricity. When the F1 Sauber team was engineering a hybrid system (kers) the car built up an electric charge and shocked a mechanic. The Youtube video was pulled but, it was amazing. I buy electricity, you have to have respect for what your working with, electricity can be dangerous.

  7. LEX Says:

    I want to ask Ed Whitacre why isn’t Bill Nye drive driving a Chevy Volt? Bill Nye is an excellent advocate for Electric Vehicles, especially one made in the USA! Chevy Annouced the Volt almost five years ago and now the Mini Electric, Nissan Leaf are doing real world testing with real people. The GM EV-1 was a perfect commuter car. GM had developed this EV-1 technology also two decades ago, which it must be incorporating portions of it into the Volt. Why is it taking so long? All we hear is the Batteries are not there yet. BS put a solar panel on the roof of the vehicle to supplement it’s charging capabilites and give it a humming sound to alert pedestrians. The Techs at Saturn Dealerships who worked on the EV-1 were given special training and none of them were electrocuted.

    It is my opinion that GM is delaying the introduction of the Volt until the price of gasoline is at or above $4.00 per gallon. That is the tipping point when consumers will reach into their pockets to pay for this EV technology. As long gasoline remains reasonable in price there will be not real push to convert to EV’s.

    Let’s also get Bill Nye on the Bio-Fuel bandwagon. We need to Shake up those Sheks in the Middle East and start producing our own domestically brewed fuel with American Know How, American Capital and American Labor.
    This is a true Stimulus Package that solves two problems, 1. US Dependence on Foreign Oil, and 2. American Job Creation.

  8. Chuck Grenci Says:

    As long as there is choice, I hold no malice towards the electric vehicle. I also believe that they could be fun to drive (I have a good time while playing golf and using the cart.)

    No matter where the electricity comes from, the energy equation equals out (pretty much; combustion first or combustion later). There’s room for all types of locomotion, and until one mode is significantly more efficient, we will continue to see these multiple options; steam anyone (and I’m only partially joking when I say this as it was quite a early serious contender, and with present technology, who knows.

  9. Jim Haines Says:

    I don’t know about the truck exactly but it kind of looks like a new Isuzu or a UD maybe I have seen GS Yuasa batteries in Jap stuff before so I think it’s not chinese just my opinion

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    I saw a documentary on the building of the test Volts and even those expert, seasoned fabricators were having difficulties putting together Volts one at a time. I can only imagine what would happen when it gets to mass, assembly line production when every thing has to be done quickly. I think there are a lot of manufacturing issues that GM needs to solve before they go ahead with mass production. The last thing they need is a bunch of defective Volts out there.

  11. GPL Says:

    “Chevy Annouced the Volt almost five years ago and now the Mini Electric, Nissan Leaf are doing real world testing with real people.”

    LEX, the Volt was announced in January of 2007. That’s just over three years ago, not five, battery only vehicles like the Mini-E and Leaf are a lot more simple than the Volt, and a normal development cycle for a vehicle is three to five years, so I don’t see where GM is delaying anything.

  12. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    John, check around but you can find Wuling trucks here in the States already. Many of them are for sale in Michigan, and are criminally dirt cheap.

  13. AlfaElan Says:

    “BS put a solar panel on the roof of the vehicle to supplement it’s charging capabilites”

    Yeah like the one you can get on the Prius…it almost has enough power to keep the car cool. It does not have enough to get the car more than a few feet down the road.

    There were lots of reasons the EV1 died, from lack of people who actually put the money down to lease them. (GM wasn’t able to lease all the ones they made let alone enough to make sense.) To the batteries being too heavy to have enough range. To range anxiety. The biggest mistake GM made with the EV1 was not understanding the fanatism of the converts and taking the support cost hit to gain the goodwill that Toyota gained by losing money on the Prius for so many years.

  14. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    A Chinese truck with a Japanese battery thats what this is.


  15. Salvador G. Says:

    JohnMc. tell me this if this is not the truck you saw.


    I think this is the one base on some clues…
    Headlights Design.
    Door Design
    Japanese Battery (supplier to Mitsu. Mito)

  16. Salvador G. Says:

    Sorry meant the Mitsu. IMiEV

  17. dcars Says:

    Does any know if Toyota makes any money on the current Prius? I would expect that GM will lose money on the Volt for at least a couple of years. It seams like all the major manufactures are developing Hybrids. I got to believe that the price will become more reasonable as more players get involved.

  18. dcars Says:

    I think it’s Mitsubishi Fuso Canter EEV(Enhanced Environmentally Friendly Vehicle.) The Canter has been on sale in Europe for a long time. The Hybrid version has beeb on sale their since February of this year.

  19. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    The grille is different. Its probabaly a Chinese copy cat truck. Yeah they copy those too.

  20. Todd Jaspers Says:

    It’s great to see Ford doing well. It really gives me hope for America.

  21. Nick Stevens Says:

    “I say this without a great deal of joy, OK, but it’s going to be individual transportation pods that are charging in your garage. You hit one of your normal programs, like your ‘go to work’ program. And the thing goes out into the street — GPS-guided or wire-guided — blends into traffic, consolidates, goes to some sort of mass-transit station, converges onto a train and parks itself along with all the other little modules. At some station, your module gets off. There will be no driver involvement. The automobile is a transient stage in the evolution of mankind’s ability to transport oneself to any other place rapidly. And, ultimately, as we evolve, I think physical travel will become less and less important. Because if you can bring 95 percent of the experience in virtually — in, let’s say, a 360-degree, full-screen, three-dimensional environment — you get 95 percent of the experience instantaneously. The need to travel goes down drastically. And ultimately I don’t think humanity is going to be able to afford a situation where every citizen of the Earth has a car and is zooming around all over the place on concrete highways. It’s just not going to work, and at some point it’s going to stop.”-Bob Lutz

    Some were depressed by the above, but this does not mean the end of the car, it means the end of Wasteful BUSINESS travel and lengthy commuting. people will STILL have cars and drive them on weekends, many with their families, and have FUN with them, not be stuck in stop-go commuting.

  22. Salvador G. Says:

    To be honest I wasn’t sure if it was a Canter, the windshield kind of trew me off – so I’m not sure what model but I think the FG Canter its the closest model.