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Episode 399 – Lutz Joins Engine Company, Infiniti Performance Line, Ford’s EV Investment

May 25th, 2010 at 12:10pm

Runtime 7:40

A company called Transonic Combustion just added Bob Lutz to its board of directors, but who the heck is Transonic?  Infiniti is getting ready to offer a lineup of high-performance aftermarket parts for its vehicles.  Ford is moving to vertically integrate its electric vehicle operations with a $135 million investment.  All that and more, plus an inside look at Ford’s new Taurus-based Police Interceptor.

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Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, May 25, 2010.   And now, the news.

SO MUCH FOR RETIREMENT
A company called Transonic Combustion just added Bob Lutz to its board of directors, which, of course, has got everyone in the industry like me wondering, just who the heck is Transonic? It’s a California company with offices in Michigan that has come up with a new fuel-injection system that relies on high pressures and precise electronic controls. The company says it will not release more info about it, at least not yet. But it has an impressive board, including Lutz, former GM and Delphi executive Don Runkel, and private equity investor Vinod Kholsa. With people like that on its board, seems to me we’ll be hearing more about Transonic Combustion.

INFINITI PERFORMANCE LINE
V-Series, AMG, S, RS and M are all letters that are synonymous with high-performance luxury.  Notably absent from that list is Infiniti, but it looks like Nissan’s top-tier brand is jumping on the bandwagon by offering its own line of go-fast goodies.  According to Autoblog, it will offer special aftermarket parts branded “IPL,” which is short for Infiniti Performance Line.  The list is expected to include things like air filters, cat-back exhaust systems and even turbo kits and superchargers.  The approach will likely be similar to Lexus’ F-Sport Performance Line.  Look for IPL to premiere this August at the Pebble Beach Concourse.

CAR DEALERS LIKELY TO GET REPRIEVE
In a move that car dealers across the country have been watching intently, the Detroit News reports that the U.S. Senate is likely to exempt dealers from new financial reporting rules. There’s a new agency being created by the Obama Administration called the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. It’s an effort to overhaul financial lending regulations, all because of the lack of oversight that led to the collapse of the financial system in 2008. But dealers complained that they were already subject to a lot of state and federal regulations and that they did not cause the financial crisis. The White House says that auto loans comprise an $850 billion industry – larger than the credit-card industry – and that it should be held to the same standards as anyone who makes loans.

FORD VERTICAL INTEGRATION (login required)
Back when Henry Ford started making the Model T, he wanted to do it all in-house. No outsourcing for old Henry, he wanted vertical integration. And now the company is following that philosophy with electric vehicles. FoMoCo will assemble battery packs in its manufacturing facility in Rawsonville, Michigan – something that’s currently done by a supplier in Mexico.  It will also build electric transaxles at its Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Michigan, bringing jobs home from Japan. And it will assemble its EVs in Michigan. Ford says it wants to control all aspects of manufacturing electric cars.

HONDA STILL INVESTING IN EVs
Last week we reported that Honda is not bullish on electric vehicles in the short-term but that doesn’t mean the company won’t pursue the technology. According to Reuters, Honda’s Chief Executive, Takanobu Ito, says he would like to develop batteries for electric cars in China because of the country’s technology and resources. But he says a breakthrough is needed in battery technology before EVs become mainstream.

CODA MOVING TO OHIO
While Honda is moving from a high cost country to a low cost one, Coda, which makes car batteries in China, is taking the opposite approach. According to Bloomberg, the company will open a plant in Ohio to build batteries because it’s afraid the value of the Yuan, China’s currency, might rise, which would make it more expensive to export. So they’re protecting themselves by moving some production to Ohio.

FORD BUILDING POLICE-GRADE EXPLORER
Ford plans to introduce a police vehicle based on the Explorer. According to the Detroit News, the vehicle will be all-wheel drive and pursuit-rated which means it can perform high-speed chases. Ford believes it makes sense because the Explorer is built on the same platform as the Taurus Police Interceptor, so each can share parts, which helps cut cost. Also, the company wants to maintain its share of the market for police fleets since GM and Chrysler will be introducing new models of their own within the next year.

And speaking of Ford’s new police car, we’ll be taking a closer look at how they’re modifying the Taurus to ensure there’s law and order on the streets, right after this.

FORD’S BRAND-NEW POLICE INTERCEPTOR
Ford dominates the market for police cars in North America and it hopes it can continue that domination as Jeff Gilbert of WWJ Newsradio 950 covers in this report.

Thanks for that report, Jeff.

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

38 Comments to “Episode 399 – Lutz Joins Engine Company, Infiniti Performance Line, Ford’s EV Investment”

  1. LEX Says:

    John,

    Whatever happened to the Carbon Motors Police Car? Why is Ford phasing out the Crown Victoria if it is so popular with the nation’s Police Enforcement Agencies? Doesn’t the Combined sales of Crown Victoria as Police Cars and Taxis Fleets around the nation make it economically viable to keep the Crown Victoria in production? Yes it could use minor exterior updating, but what is important is what’s under the hood and interior roominess / trunk space.

  2. Alex Zauder Says:

    Regarding Ford’s electric car manuf. decisions, it would appear Ford does not only want to control the developing technology but also learn the cost of the new processes.

  3. Nick Stevens Says:

    “LEX Says:
    May 25th, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    John,

    Whatever happened to the Carbon Motors Police Car?”

    What did you expect to happen? NOTHING, financially, it was a moronic idea from the get-go.

  4. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Why is Ford phasing out the Crown Victoria if it is so popular with the nation’s Police Enforcement Agencies? ”

    Why don’t you even Attempt to think about it first? This wasteful low-MPG whale-dinosaur is a half-century old design, and even if the auto illiterate cops like it, the municipalities cannot afford it, and there are sure far better altwernatives, even the Dodge Charger is a major improvement over that pathetic POS.

  5. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Yes it could use minor exterior updating, but what is important is what’s under the hood and interior roominess / trunk space.”

    You got it 100% backwards! That whale needs NO cosmetic changes on the exterior, it is the MECHANICALS and the pitiful performance that need updating, but REALLY it is much better to start with a clean sheet than try to patch a 50 year old dinosaur.

  6. tj Martin Says:

    Lex;

    From what I’m reading ( NYTimes Wall St. Journal ) the Carbon Motors Police car is still moving forward . ( or at least as forward as its capable of moving )

    Whether they’ll actually fly or just become another victim of too many dreams with far too little cash remains to be seen .

    The thing I don’t like about them ( Carbon Motors ) is their website goes on and on about America this an USA that while in truth planning on buying their power trains from BMW . Not a lot of consistency from the outside looking in . So don’t hold out a lot of hope .

    But in the mean time Dodge , GM and Ford itself are coming to the fore with potential Police replacements . And on this I’d have to agree with Nick . The Charger at this point does seem to be the best option available

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    That Accord with almost 300k miles has been through the awful winters of upstate NY. Amazing its longevity under such harsh conditions. Sunbelt cars get by with a lot less wear and tear.

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    in this day of cities and towns cutting back I just don’t see public acceptance of such an expensive police car. Most people will not buy the longevity theory, if anything it will cost more to upkeep than the Crown Vic’s.

  9. Todd J. Says:

    The new Taurus will have big shoes to fill with the Crown Victoria. I’m sure the acceleration and performance will no doubt exceed that of the Crown Vic, but will it be as durable? The body on frame makes the vehicle perfect for pit maneuvers, and I just have a hard time seeing a vehicle built like the Taurus to be able to match that rigidity. Part of what helps the Crown Victoria is it’s weight… I just don’t see the Taurus doing that. I wish Ford well though and I hope they hang in there for fleet vehicles. I just hope they know what they’re doing.

    Jeff Gilbert… where have I seen that guy before? He looks VERY familiar? Maybe I saw him on MotorWeek???

    Great report on Transonic. I’m kind of in the same mindset of Honda (needing new battery technology).

  10. tj Martin Says:

    FYI;

    The deal is done. VAG ( Volkswagen AG for the pedantically inclined ) have purchased 90% of Ital Design Giugiaro .

    @Pedro Fernandez ;

    ” In this day of cities and towns cutting back….. ‘

    Looking at my cities current budget crisis I couldn’t agree more . I’ll guess like Cysz m/c’s Carbon Motors will wind up another wanna be /never was / never should of tried .

    Too bad though because the concept has a few redeeming values

  11. pedro fernandez Says:

    Jeff has been a guest on Autoline on many occasions, he’s a very good automotive reporter. If the GM police car has RWD and a V8, it will be preferred by most police dpts. If they build a police car like that, can the civilian Caprice be far behind?

  12. Nick Stevens Says:

    pedro fernandez Says:
    May 25th, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    That Accord with almost 300k miles

    No, that was the CR-V. The Accord had 398,000+ close to 400,000 miles.

  13. Nick Stevens Says:

    The crown vic sure is quite long, but it is not heavy, it is largely an empty shell, and the smaller Charger and Impala are almost the same weight.

  14. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I think it’s going to be fun watching the ‘police car wars’ that are sure to ensue in the next little while. I’ll be rooting for the Chevy (G-8 based) machine. Oh, and the new Tauras will have wide seats for (utility belts, yeah sure,……………far too many police officers are of a rotund nature; maybe a donut holder will be optional too). :)

  15. Nick Stevens Says:

    I do not object Carbon Motors using the excellent BMW DIESEL that will make it a superbly economical, as well as offer very potent performance (almost 50% better that of the Crown vic), but I do object to the pretentious patriotic BS on their website at the same time.

  16. dave Says:

    The new ford will sell some, but not as much as the CVPI. The newest CVPI my department has is a 2006 and it is JUNK. We, Cops, are hard on the front ends of these cars. Ball joints and pitmen arms should come in a 12 pack. The front drive unibody vehicles will never take the beating a good old body on frame will, and that includes the Exployer. We have a few new chargers and so far much better then the CVPI.

  17. dcars Says:

    Was the police car market big enough to support so many manufactures? When it is just Ford and Dodge it might have been worth while for the two of them, but three and possibly a fourth car? Is the business case still their?

  18. Nick Stevens Says:

    Dcars: Not really, it is not such a big market. Two good choices are enough.

  19. Salvador G. Says:

    Is it moving day today?

    Bob Lutz is moving on-
    Infiniti is moving faster-
    Ford is Moving from Japan & Mexico to America
    Honda is moving to China-
    Chinese are moving to America and the American goverment is moving on auto dealers
    - It is moving day.

    Also, I wonder when are we going to see all the new police cars race on a drag-strip?? :?

  20. al tommaso Says:

    yup….shoulda just done exterior tweaks, drop the 5.0 litre from the 2011 mustang into it (even the 3.7 litre 6-cylinder would suffice in urban areas), and voila, you have the 21st Century Police car…would even make a cool Continental for livery use.

  21. cwolf Says:

    The Crown Vic I had served me well and had zero problems with over 200k miles and got 27 mpg on the hwy. And the troopers I talked to say it served them well. I think it is not the POS Stevens claims to know so much about! But, then again,if it’s not foreign(german) everything else seems always better.

  22. M Campbell Says:

    Nick Stevens said: “What did you expect to happen? NOTHING, financially, it was a moronic idea from the get-go.” and “Why don’t you even Attempt to think about it first?”

    See Nick, this is why your daily BS is driving away participation in this website. Not only are you completely wrong about some things, but you’re nonsensically abusive to boot.

    Carbon is indeed moving forward, with a factory in Indiana, and partnering with companies like Lotus, Lear, Autoliv, BASF and many others. Furthermore, and as TJ Martin pointed, they’re using a drivetrain sourced from your Beloved Motor Werks.

    In the future you might try knowing about a subject before clicking submit on yet more inflammatory drivel, but I’m sure you’ll continue to flame everyone who has the audacity to disagree with you, just like the e-tough guy you think yourself to be.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    LEX says:

    “Yes it could use minor exterior updating, but what is important is what’s under the hood and interior roominess / trunk space”

    The Crown Vic has a large trunk, but the rear seat space is quite small for a car that is 212 inches long. As far as weight, the Crown Vic is light for it’s size at under 4200 pounds. While it lacks some safety features of newer designs, it did fairly well in most crash tests.

    To me, it would have made sense for Ford to update the Crown Vic/Grand Marquis in certain ways, and keep building it. They needed to stretch the wheelbase so they could make the back seat roomier, while leaving the overall length as is. Also, the car is/was not as quiet and refined as a big car should be. There are some safety items like stability control that should have been available, but weren’t. Since police departments like rear drive cars, this all seems to be a good thing for Chrysler. I saw a lot of Charger police cars on my recent trip from Florida to Indiana.

  24. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Police Fleet for Taurus=POOP Resale Values on a VERY crucial car for Ford.

    Then again if gas gets to high enough prices, the Cops will drop down to Fusions, as they should have done in the first place.

    The Substandard Charger is worthy for Police car duty. This new Taurus is overkill.

  25. Miradart Says:

    Here here M Campbell!

    I seldom come to this part with the page because the lousy attitude and arrogance of some of the people posting. For some of you, your comments aren’t about a rational exchange of ideas, it’s about getting in another dig.

    Have an opinion? GREAT! But no name calling. Please leave the flaming comments for YouTube videos. At least on YouTube, when 6 other people find your comments objectionable, it’s pulled.

    If the people that regularly post in this area don’t keep things civilized, I can see a day that there won’t be a place for any of us to discuss car industry issues here.
    ***Autoline doesn’t OWE you a place to vent your spleen on others***

    In short. Please grow up.

  26. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Well Miradart, that kind of censorship is un American and YouTube and many others will face the legal consequences of it soon enough.

    Then again I forgot, Corporations are people in this country Noa and people get extensive Jail Sentences for offenses as minor as stealing a candy bar in this police state.

    No CCTV cameras in America. This isnt Europe, this is Privacy country. So therefore, Americans are more accepting of locking people up and throwing away the key, even for stealing candy bars from Rite Aid or Wallgreens.

    I for example dont flame, Im untactful and just get straight to the point.

    HyundaiSmoke=100% Controversial, 100% Blunt, 100% Uncut, 100% No BS.

    This whole Flaming thing is getting out of control. For example on TTAC, if you say “Well I think your review sucks and blah, blah, blah” Guess what happens?

    You get a letter from the author stating that one more comment like that and you get Permabanned.

    Mr Farago’s site is just like HyundaiSmoke+ 100% Controversial. However, unlike Mr Farago (I have a problem with him too) its perfectly ok and healthy to flat out criticize Me.

    Hell, on my site people say nasty stuff attacking me as a person, attacking my character, making false accusations about my lifestyle, etc… to me at least once every 12-48 days, and I just let them fly when I could have just taken that comment down with 4 Mouse clicks. I keep the slings up, as the poster is the one that made themselves look objectionable, and they should have their comment left alone for all for the world to see.

    This censorship and Police State Tactics are getting out of control, and somebody has to step up and say or do something.

    Oh that’s right it usually HyundaiSmoke-The Non Conformist, who has to take the initiative.

  27. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    So In Essence, I disagree on censoring comments Miradart.

    However, I do agree that objectionable behavior like pinning the tail on the guy who just dropped a thought bomb is uncalled for.

    That does leave me to question the character of the other people in the room who just let it slip by and not say something about it.

    You my friend are someone who has the right character, just remember that in here worse attacks are made.

    I usually get called something in here once a week. Nobody ever come in and says, “Hey that’s not right etc…”

    But oh well what can you do? Its the price of Freedom of Speech I guess.

  28. Miradart Says:

    HS. Lets not romanticize what really is just a disrespectful attitude here.

    1. It is not, and has not ever been “Un-American” to be courteous and polite. Period.

    2. Being courteous is not even close to censorship. Being courteous is what we were taught in grade school. If you don’t play well with others, you will play alone.

    3. Keep in mind, I’m not aiming this only at you either, and not necessarily on todays bunch of postings. It’s the recurrent theme of personal attacks that appear here most every day on one post or another that hamper this entire venue. If the regulars that are doing most of the damage just want to ‘hate-on’ each other, for god sakes, why don’t you just exchange e-mails, and do it away from where a possibly productive discussion may happen.

    If someone wants to show their opinion, that’s ABSOLUTELY Fantastic! If you went to contribute something, GREAT! Disagree? Awsome! Say it! But the petty, juvenile, foul, and completely unnecessary name calling that goes on in here by you and others, really needs to stop.

    If you all claim to be rational adults here, lets start showing it. The bad attitude is keeping people away.

    If this continues to be a cesspool of bitter hate mongers, I would be willing to bet the comments section will be simply shut down. I’m sure McElroy probably has better things to do with his time than filter through the filth.

    That’s my $.02

    Until it changes, I’m out.

    By the way. This isn’t freedom of speech thing. This is a business. If a portion of the business gets hijacked to the point it loses it’s initial purpose, that part of the business is shut. If the attacks keep going, don’t be surprised when your venue disappears.
    Just sayin.

  29. Dave Says:

    I love the way some here tell US, Police Officers, what to drive and what we need. Try getting in and out of a small to mid sized car with all the gear on and a vest. I am not over weight, but I am 6 foot 3 and with my duty belt and vest it is hard to get in and out of CVPI. So when you call for help we will come, but stop telling us we need to drive a little car to save a few bucks in fuel while we are enroute to help you!!!just say thanks..ya right

  30. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Miradart, when did I ever call someone a name?

    I may make fun of cars and car companies for doing something I disagree with just to crack the whip, but never have I called someone a name. Its classless, and Juvenile!!

    Hell, I dont even call someone a name back when they call me a name.

    Why is it this feels like School where the teacher accuses one of the somewhat well behaved kid for being bad, because they are around a bunch of bad kids?

    LMAO, you guys are a Riot!!!

  31. Nick Stevens Says:

    I am not going to reply to thw two A-holes that posted the TRULY abusive, namecalling posts attacking me above, the clowns know who they are, and so does everybody else.

    I do NOT claim to be the Infallible Pope on ANYthing automotive, I am JUST voicing my opinion.

    In order to understand my posts, you need to know where I am coming from.

    POlice officers make comments on what car they need from THEIR point of view, and usually from one or two specific situations that do not happen to them all the time, and in which the dinosaur CV could do OK.

    I ALSO have a stake at what police cars are because I am the TAXPAYER that PAYS for their operations, maintenance and repairs. Not to mention all the officers salaries.

  32. Nick Stevens Says:

    So my comments are based on EFFICIENCY, RELIABILITY, DURABILITY as well as 0-60 and safety of the crew and the public.

  33. Nick Stevens Says:

    PS to those that attack me because I just state the fact, that the germans do make the best cars in the world, Japanese included,

    Why don’t you try to get rid of your prejudices and maybe also racism and hate of all things foreign and admit the facts?

    I happen to have owned and driven all three groups of cars, Euro mid-priced (not a big deal), Euro Luxury, US economy (POS), US luxury (great engine, but overall not competitive to the Germans and the LS), and the best the Japanese have to offer in the low and mid-prices (Honda Civic, Honda Accord, and Toyota Corolla)

    I appreciate ALL of their good and bad points. I NEVER praised the German luxury cars only. In fact, I said many times, if I bought a new car, it would be a TOYOTA PRIUS, PR Disaster and Driver error regardless.

    Are YOU (the namecallers and accusers) equally open minded? Sure you are.

  34. Nick Stevens Says:

    “For example on TTAC, if you say “Well I think your review sucks and blah, blah, blah” Guess what happens?

    You get a letter from the author stating that one more comment like that and you get Permabanned.

    Mr Farago’s site is just like HyundaiSmoke+ 100% Controversial. ”

    Smoke: 1. TTAC is an outstanding site that has nothing in common with your posts, and 2. Farago is no longer there, now it is owned and operated by the Niedrermeyers. You seem out of date, this happened months ago.

  35. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Well Nick, I try to stay my distance from that place.

    Talk about Top Gear America yeah that place is it!!!

    Yeah, they remind of of Top Gear. If they werent such douches in terms of their article content, then maybe they should get a chance at hosting American Top Gear.

  36. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    All I have to cay about this Taurus if Id rather have the Charger behind me if I was to get into a police chase, as RWD cop cars are obviously inferior products. LMAO!!!

    This Taurus is the best possible bang for law enforcement’s buck, and with that kind of firepower 2010s police chases could prove to be more interesting, and dangerous, and go even farther than before.

    It will go back to the days where the Runner and the Cop will have equivalent firepower-FWD. I expect some good police chase scenes in Movies featuring this thing too.

  37. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    I have a feeling just on that fact alone Audi’s with Quatrro will be popular among those persons who would run from the police. Not just criminals run from the cops you know, people do like the thrill and adrenalline of it, people are scared of the cops to the point to where they feel running is a better alternative just for the chance of getting away, people like to just put on a show, and people just want to be left alone

    This cop car, could make the 2010s the decade of Audi even more. Any Make that has AWD available cars will be a winner.

  38. Todd J. Says:

    @Kit Gerhart – I agree with you. I think the new Ford Taurus will be an EXCELLENT and Amazing car, but I do also believe that Ford probably should have re-considered eliminating the “panther” platform. If you consider the fact that, for the most part, the vehicle is completely paid off in terms of research and development. The vehicle lacked a couple of things… but in terms of police duty… the lack of more power / fuel efficiency. You could drop in the 3V 4.6, or maybe even step it up to teh 5.4 liter V8 (which is basically the same thing but bigger). The other things they talk about with respect to being quiet and whatnot… all of that could have been resolved easily when you put together the vehicle packages (more sound deadening). I think with some tweaks they could have eeked more life out of the platform. But, I probably don’t know the whole story. I don’t know what the overhead costs from the labor and facilities demand of the organization VS what they would potentially save / gain in releasing a new platform.

    @HyundaiSmoke – You make an EXCELLENT point about the resale value. I never once considered what effect the used police vehicles would have on the overall market of the car in general. I would generally not assume that people looking to buy CVPIs for cheap transportation would necessarily be in the same market for a brand new luxury version of the car… but who knows.