Episode 615 – Saab Stops Production, Toyota & Microsoft Team Up, Prices Rise in India

April 6th, 2011 at 11:45am

Runtime 8:38

Saab stopped production again because of another dispute with suppliers over payments. Toyota and Microsoft will team up to develop smart grid technology to use electricity more efficiently and harness power from renewable sources. Yesterday we reported Ford was raising prices because of the rising cost of raw materials, now automakers in India are doing the same. All that and more, plus John responds to your questions and comments in the “You Said It!” segment.


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This is Autoline Daily for April 6, 2011. And now, the news.

More problems at Saab. The assembly lines in Trollhättan are silent because Saab stopped building cars in another dispute with suppliers over payments. It’s a very troubling sign when an automaker can’t raise enough cash to build its products. But some analysts say that all Saab needs is a couple of big investors to step forward and take a big stake in the company. Russian billionaire Vladimir Antonov says he’s ready to buy nearly one-third of the company. But a cash infusion will only help the company if sales of Saabs really start to pick up.

Toyota and Microsoft are making a big announcement today, with Akio Toyoda and Steve Ballmer representing each company, respectively. According to PC World, the two companies will team up to develop smart grid technology to use electricity more efficiently and harness power from renewable sources. The joint collaboration will include work on software that can monitor battery life and log the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources.

Automakers have all kinds of safety equipment on their cars, some of it government-mandated, some of it not. But you might be surprised to learn that some of that safety equipment hasn’t done much at all to improve safety. Here’s Louis Tijerina, a senior technical specialist at Ford, who’s appearing on Autoline Detroit this weekend. Even though the statistics can’t find any safety benefits in anti-lock brakes, I still want them on my car.

Detroit’s automakers have made a lot of progress in the last couple of years, but a survey from RL Polk shows that they have a lot of catching up to do to appeal to non-Caucasian women in the U.S. The survey shows Asian women are more likely to buy an Asian car and if they don’t it will more than likely be a European model. African American and Hispanic women are the only groups to include domestic cars in their top 10 choices but even still they are more likely to choose an Asian or European brand to drive. The top-five list among all groups is dominated by Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai. Caucasian women were not included in the survey, but it’s probably safe to assume their buying habits are similar to the other groups.

Cooper Tires is taking “bling-bling” to a whole new level . . . sort of. The company commissioned a one-off set of diamond-encrusted racing slicks! It did this to help celebrate the diamond anniversary of its partnership with the British Formula 3 series. Understandably these tires DID NOT see any time on the track. These slicks are the work of a London jeweler who affixed the glittering letters to the tires’ sidewalls with a “strong adhesive.” Hopefully they used something better than hot glue. No word if these babies will ever make it to market, but I’d bet similar tires will show up in rap music videos very soon.

PRICES RISING IN INDIA (subscription required)
Who called it? That’s right, I did. Yesterday we reported Ford was raising prices in the U.S. because of the surging cost of raw materials. Today, the Wall Street Journal reports automakers in India are doing the same. Suzuki is bumping prices on its vehicles and in the next few days Hyundai is going to follow suit.

In related Indian news, Maserati plans to open seven dealerships in the country by 2015.

Also, cricket is hugely popular over there and the Indian team just won the sport’s World Cup, so Hyundai, which is a sponsor of the group, is giving each member a 2011 Verna RB, which a subcompact car. I say, good show, chaps!

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!

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

A lot of you sure loved those tags to put on car doors when drivers take up two spots when they park their car. Ron Paris says, “Boy, can I think up a million possible uses for those door tags! How about one for the jerk who parks a foot away from your driver’s door or, worse yet, dings your car in the process? Sort of a kinder, gentler alternative to keying the b&#^@&d’s paint!”

I was also amazed at how many of you commented on Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen coming to NASCAR. But I liked Salvador G.’s comment the best, “Finally, this country is getting something else than furniture from the Finns.”

Chuck Grenci saw our story on a smart phone app that first responders can use to know where to cut into hybrids or electric cars so they don’t get electrocuted. He says, “It wouldn’t be that difficult or very expensive to have a main battery-disconnect located in a predetermined spot on all electrified vehicles. Our rescue squad people shouldn’t have to worry about getting electrocuted in their performance of duties.”

Chuck, that’s a terrific idea. You know most racing series require all racing cars to have a cut off switch mounted where rescue personnel can get to it fast and easy.

Ali from the Bronx wonders, “Are any of the U.S automakers jumping into the luxury compact sedan segment? It seems like they are letting foreign automakers run that part of the show.”

Yes Ali, Cadillac has a rear-drive compact luxury car called the ATS that should be out by the end of this year.

Steve heard me talk about how to get off OPEC oil but he’s not buying it. “Yeah, stack crap in one hand, hope in the other, then let me know which one fills up first.”

Well when it comes to getting off OPEC oil, for me, hope springs eternal.

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

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog and WardsAuto.com

32 Comments to “Episode 615 – Saab Stops Production, Toyota & Microsoft Team Up, Prices Rise in India”

  1. Tony Gray Says:

    Remind me not to shake hands with Steve.

  2. tj Martin Says:

    The SAAB story continues to go from bad to worse with each and every revelation that appears .

    Much as I HATE to see the brand go away , as well as despising the fact that so many will lose their Jobs : I am getting to the point where I think it would be much Kinder for all concerned if SAAB was to just finally Fold : letting everyone get on with their lives rather than living off of one False Hope after Another .

  3. Mike Says:

    I’d be interested to know what other safety items don’t provide a provable benefit. At one time I heard that airbags genuinely saved 1200 lives a year and the cost 400 who wer actually killed by them. Yes that and the $30 billion the bags cost. I am confident that those numbers are out of date. Maybe not accurate in the first place.

  4. Mouhamad A. Naboulsi Says:

    ABS Not Effective? I doubt that very much. The result may be correct but the evaluation method is definitly wrong. Without ABS, vehicles are very likely to spin when drivers attempt to steer away from the collision.

    If we are not getting the desired benefit from the technology, we should raise awareness of how to use ABS, Brake AND Steer, not just Brake.

  5. HtG Says:

    Is anybody out there seeing a lot of Jettas? Here in Westchester NY, the place is starting to crawl with them. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been picking a couple out every drive, and their not even painted polka-dot.

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    Been driving for 40 yrs, never owned an ABS equipped car and thankfully never hit anyone. not even the 24 yrs I live up north with ice and snow and all. ABS, traction control etc just an excuse to make today’s cars so expensive.

  7. HtG Says:

    sch#*sse, I meant to write they’re, not their. F$%r Fl^cht es.

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    @HtG concur with your analysis, sir. Same here in So Fla. I guess folks just love them German-built engineering marvels. Puebla is in Germany, is it not? BTW according to wikepedia the engines are made in Poland, next to the ham factory.

  9. tj Martin Says:

    The ONLY Safety Item that works 100% of the Time is well trained responsible drivers behind the wheel of a well maintained car . Something we’re sadly lacking in this Country

    The PROBLEM with Safety Technology is that far too many drivers ASSUME since their particular car has ABS , Air Bags etc. they are Invincible and can therefore drive like complete and total MORONS ! Taking risks and going faster than even they know they should because in their minds ” Electronic Mommy is taking care of Me ”

    I’d add that all the Drive By Wire BS on current cars trying to convince you your SUV etc. is in fact a High Performance Sports Car able to out maneuver the Laws of Physics goes a long way to perpetuate this Stupidity .

    EG; The Technology Breeds Over Confidence Thereby Causing Accidents Negating any Real and Viable Benefit the Technology Might be able to Offer .

    Hmmn . Pretty damn good formula that , if you ask me .

  10. tj Martin Says:

    @ pedro fernandez

    Well that solves that question ( post # 8 ) I always thought the Jetta was a bit of a Porker :o )

  11. Mike Says:

    For those of you interested, here is a URL for a study done in Australia on the effectivity of ABS. http://www.rsconference.com/pdf/RS040048.pdf?check=1

    It basically says that there is no provable, net benefit.

    One thing I do like about it, is that when it activates, it is a warning to me to slow down, there is more danger than was maybe apparent.


  12. tj Martin Says:

    Hmmn . Not to seem egotistical , but the more I re-read my Formula the more I’m liking it . So…… I’ll repeat it ;

    ” Technology on Cars Today – Breeds Over Confidence – Thereby Causing Accidents – Negating any Real and Viable Benefit the Technology Might be able to Offer ”

    Feel free to quote that one ATD staff or fellow Site members .

    Thats a Keeper !

  13. ckernzie Says:

    Have to put a caveat in about ABS brakes. Although I think ABS has a net safety benefit and I would choose to have it than not (in a couple of panic stops my well honed ‘threshold’ braking has gone out the window), I would like to be able to turn it off. ABS is deadly unsafe on ice rendering your brakes almost useless. I live in Western Canada where ice & snow is a reality 6 months of the year and in severely icy conditions ABS is a hazard. Different test I’ve come across have shown that on snow & ice, stopping distances are increased with ABS. When you are able to lock your brakes on snow/ice debris (snow/gravel etc) gathers under and in front of the wheels and when combined with the constant friction, the tires start to grip. With ABS they just keep rolling…until you hit something or go through the intersection.
    With all these electronic safety nannies the driver should have the power to turn them off!! This was reinforced this winter when a friend’s traction control in her Focus malfunctioned and kept applying the brakes while she was driving…scary! When you engineer and legislate to the lowest common denominator sometimes you can make things worse safety wise.

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    TJ the Jetta was not a porker until the current model which got fatter and bigger to go along with the rest of the population here. Honda did the same with the Accord, the rest of the world gets the smaller version (Acura TX) without the fugly fascia.

  15. pedro fernandez Says:

    All these driver’s aids are just to keep us courteous drivers safe from lunatics out there. Just today I saw a dude driving an older Explorer almost lose it when he turned way too fast in a bit of road rage. the result would have been overturned SUV, 2 hours of a blocked main thoroughfare and inconveniencing hundreds of rush hour drivers.

  16. HtG Says:

    Nice link@11, Mike. Here’s a quote from the piece, where it’s “overall” safety that doesn’t seem affected by ABS.

    ‘It found that cars with ABS were less likely to be involved in accidents fatal to the occupants of other cars but were more likely to be involved in accidents fatal to the occupants of the ABS equipped car, especially in single-vehicle accidents. There was much
    speculation about the reasons for this, including incorrect use of the ABS by the
    driver pumping the brakes or by releasing the brakes when they feel the system
    pulsing, leading to increased braking distance. Alternatively, it has been suggested
    that the retention of steering control during a panic stop may increase the likelihood
    of run off the road crashes.’

    I can see the retention of steering control as a source of accidents since not many people know how to recover from a skid before the stored energy in the springs snaps the car around. Hint to H/S, look where you want to go, not where the car is going.

    The infamous Jturn.

  17. HtG Says:

    call me a chubby chaser, but those Jettas look real pertty, a jigglin down the road.

  18. SalvadorG. Says:

    1. I believe SAAB may be Immortal, Die, Die already; nothing againts SAAB but, it’s been dying for years and it just won’t go down. Immortal I tell you.

    This study would be more interesting (and better) if they had included some answers, as to the why they have this preference; from the women they base this study on. I’m sure some of it surely is advertisement to different ethnic groups from foreign companies is just better than the more usual True Male American Cowboy Ads that the American car companies more than often try to appeal to.

    CRICKET PLAYERS RECEIVE FREE HYUNDAI Also, cricket is hugely popular over there and the Indian… “I say, good show, chaps!”

    Is official, John McElroy Loves Cricket!
    We lost him people, we just lost him.
    Passing hour: Just pass noon easter time. U.S.
    We mourn to his family and friends.
    Good bye JohnMc, we will miss you and sorry for being a jerk too many times.

  19. Steve Says:

    I am all about getting off OPEC oil BY DRILLING FOR OUR OWN!! Please excuse me if I don’t hold my breath until the government allows it. At least while the enviromental wackos have so much influence anyway. Maybe one of these days, we’ll get tired of the high prices and make them drill for ours. Also google “abiotic oil” or “russian oil theory” if you wonder how much oil was created by squashed dinosuars and fish. It is a much better explanation of how oil is created than the western theory. Don’t know that it’s totally correct, but it’s much better than squashed dino’s.

  20. tj Martin Says:

    Cricket Players Getting Free Hyundai’s

    Now there’s a real let Down . Football Players get Caddy’s Vette’s and Stangs . Tennis- Mercedes and Lexus . Soccer – BMW’s Mercedes etc.Golf – Buicks , Caddys n Mercedes .


    Sheesh . And here I thought amongst the Brits and their former Colonies ( excluding us ) Cricket was a Major League Sport .

    Assuming from the cars they give them I guess NOT !

    Condolences Cricket Players WorldWide . You’ve been Short Changed and Kimchi’ed .

  21. tj Martin Says:

    @pedro ;

    Sorry . I meant to say the New Jetta was a porker .

  22. dcars Says:

    Lots of good points are mentioned about ABS. I would prefer to have ABS and insisted that the foreign car we bought for her had that option. But… she gets scared when it comes on!!!!
    After owning a Nissan Rogue here is mine and hers review of it. The “C” pillars are too big and they obstruct her, it feels cheap, the exterior metal and plastic seam thin and very flimsy. It has lots of dents. It has all wheel drive and is excellent in the snow and ice but it’s not a fast car. It has adequate size in the interior. We probably would not buy an other one.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    I read that the Indian cricket team were supposed to get Tata’s but when they threatened to quit the team, they change to Hyundai.

  24. len simpson Says:

    One dark & rainy night, I was SO glad I had ABS.

    Buying OPEC oil is a matter of business & not a matter of need. Read the history of ARAMCO.

  25. HtG Says:

    If the numbers show that driver aids improve safety in multi-car collisions, but are balanced by more solo diggers, then I say keep protecting innocents like me. Driving two cars with no ABS or any other such khazeri, I cannot say I have ever missed the extra safety margin. Did I tell you all about the time the UPS truck cut a left in front of my downhill descending Civic? Hey, don’t signal you long brown streak, I can modulate my screeching tires just fine. Oopsie, a little sideways there.

  26. pedro fernandez Says:

    I believe that the economic conditions we are facing is forcing drivers to keep worn out tires longer and neglecting things like brakes, etc. This is more important than having or not having ABS or traction control or any such safety features.

  27. cwolf Says:

    John, your piece on “WOMEN PREFER FOREIGN BRANDS” is something I would expect to read in Consumer Reports. Its no secret that asians are brand loyal;perhaps a result of unfair quotas that has heavely influenced them over the years. I’m wondering if income and level of education has more to do with the number of African Am. and Hispanic women preferences stated. Where I am from and see,those of a lesser income drive US brands and mostly several years old. The several black,mature women friends that I have frequent contact with like Buicks, Caddys,and other GM products,with a Lexus and Jag. here and there. I would have to disagree with your assumption that caucasian women follow suit of Asians, based upon my observations during my 200 mi. commute to/fro work. Average income elders drive American boats,the mature drive mini-vans and mid-size cars(u.s.). Only the well manicured seem to drive the foreign brands. And the young seem to drive anything they can get their hands on….very fast and talking on the phone!!

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    I meet a lot of people from different social-economical background and ethnic groups and I think categorizing car preference as such is silly. I have met people that would buy nothing but European, others who only go for Japanese and a third group that American makes are the only thing they would ever consider. Oh, and then there’s Smokey who salivates for anything Korean.

  29. dcars Says:

    #28 Well said pedro.

  30. SalvadorG. Says:

    All I gather from that ABS study, is that people don’t know what ABS suppose to be used for.

    ABS (Anti Brake-Lock System) I think most peole think is design to shorten the braking distance.
    It should really be called..
    ASLS (Anti Steering-Loss System) I also thought about calling it – ASS, I can see why they went with ABS. And in a country where most people don’t know how drive properly (which is the reason there are so many accidents to begin with) ABS is kind of useless.

  31. David B. Fishburn Says:

    Regarding the safety features, The problem with them is that, people think that things like ABS will get them out of a bad situation, and they drive faster, tailgate, etc. That is a point that needs to be included in driver’s ed, that these systems are there to help maintain control, not bail your ass out.
    Regarding the first responders phone app; i think it is a good idea, many hybrids/electric cars already have a main disconnect, but they are on the battery pack, they’re there for the service techs, so they can work on the cars safely, and oftentimes are inaccessible due to where the battery pack is located, not to mention that in an accident, the mangled body may make it impossible to gain access to the disconnect. It’s far quicker to find out where the high voltage cables are, to be able to get the injured out quickly.

  32. Nick Taylor Says:

    How do these safety surveys know what accidents DIDN’T happen? Better driver training on how ABS works would go a long way. As for CHMSLs, sometimes that is the only brake light working on someone’s car. Maybe if people maintained their cars better we’d have less accidents. I put an extra bright CHMSL high up on my motorhome so that cars way back can see it.