Episode 122 – Marchione to Chrysler?, Minicars Crash Bad, BYD Battery Trouble

April 14th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 6:15

Fiat’s CEO, Sergio Marchione, is rumored to be Chrysler’s next CEO. The IIHS says minicars don’t crash well against mid-size cars. BYD customers are running into problems with the batteries in its plug-in. All that and more, plus a test drive of the Chevy Volt.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Chrysler may get a new CEO. Small cars get a poor safety rating. And a test drive of the Chevy Volt.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, April 14, 2009. And now, the news.

Will Fiat’s CEO, Sergio Marchione, become the CEO of Chrysler as well? That’s from a report in Italian newspaper La Stampa. Of course, we always knew that Bob Nardelli was brought in by Cerberus to run Chrysler for a limited amount of time, until he got its finances cleaned up. My assumption was that Jim Press, who has enormous automotive experience, would then take over. But if Fiat is going to take a major position in Chrysler, it’s going to want to have its people at the highest levels, and that’s why Marchione is rumored to be Chrysler’s next CEO.

We all know that copy car designs have been a problem in China. You can buy knock-off versions of just about anything, from pirated DVDs to iPhone imposters. This even extends to the car world. One well-known example has to do with the Chery QQ. It’s such a close copy of the Daewoo Matiz, that the doors are actually interchangeable! And now German website Autobild.de reports that Geely is expected to show a car at the Shanghai Auto Show that’s a blatant Rolls-Royce rip-off. Geez Geely, have you no shame?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says minicars don’t crash well against mid-size cars. The IIHS says fuel economy mandates will lead to smaller cars and that will increase injury and fatalities in collisions. Researchers tested a Honda Fit against an Accord, a Mercedes C-Class against a Smart, and a Toyota Camry against a Yaris, in 40 MPH tests. The video is pretty graphic, but the IIHS has been saying this for decades. In the 1970s they said CAFE laws would lead to higher fatality rates, but they never did.

Ironically, trying to make cars safer in one area can make them more dangerous in another. Ward’s reports that an insurance group in Australia is studying vehicle blind spots (subscription required). Using a laser sensor that rotates 180 degrees, they can determine where a driver’s line of sight is. They found that as roof pillars are made bigger and stronger for better roof crush protection, the size of blind spots goes up, and that can lead to more accidents.

Chinese company BYD shocked the auto world when it released a plug-in electric last December. But now Gasgoo.com reports that customers are running into problems with the batteries. Apparently some of the batteries are defective because they aren’t built using the same materials or procedures. The company is also having trouble selling the plug-in, only 80 have been sold since its launch in December.

Coming up next, we go behind the wheel of the Chevrolet Volt! We’ll be back right after this.

The Chevy Volt is one of the most anticipated new vehicles ever. It’s been at the center of GM’s green car push since the company took the wraps off it at the North American International Auto Show a couple years ago. Its launch is probably more important to GM than any other, now that it’s fighting for its life. Our partner, Jeff Gilbert, from WWJ Newsradio 950 was one of only a handful that got a chance to drive a prototype vehicle with the volt’s drivetrain, and he joins us now by webcam. Jeff what’s it like behind the wheel?

Thanks for that report. The Volt looks like it’s going to be a fantastic vehicle. I just hope GM can get the cost of the battery pack down so more people can afford the car. Also, you can get more of Jeff Gilbert’s test drive of the Volt at WWJ.com.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. But don’t forget, you can get podcasts, transcripts and a whole lot more on our website, AutolineDaily.com. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

25 Comments to “Episode 122 – Marchione to Chrysler?, Minicars Crash Bad, BYD Battery Trouble”

  1. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Good luck to Sergio heading up Chrysler,he’ll need it.Well the chinese are almost great copycats.I say that because in their rush to copy and build they consistently fall way short on both quality and reliability.Shame on you China,you want so much to be a player,yet you are nothing more then babes when it comes to the automotive industry.
    Are there no international laws to protect the “real” automakers from this blatent copying done by the chinese in so many areas? Their batteries are another problem that could have serious consequences in the not so distant future.
    Best stay away from the much inferior chinese products until they learn something of quality control,and their responsabilities in the world in which they want to play in so bad.

  2. Dan Bruckbauer Says:

    Just went to view the video of the Volt test drive @ WWJ.com, it is “no longer available”.

  3. pedro Fernandez Says:

    These Mao’s disciples can’t even make a safe toy or a non-toxic freaking drywall so how can you expect them to make a good car? Pleeeze, also I guess FIAT’s Don made Nardelli an offer he couldn’t refuse. As far as the Volt, nice car but at double the price of an Insight, how are they planning to get people to bite that bait.

  4. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It’s been known for years that as cars get smaller, safety doesn’t suffer much in vehicle-to-vehicle crashes if ALL of the cars get smaller. Even with the large disparity in vehicle size, newer cars handle better and protect occupants enough better than older cars that fatality rates have not increased significantly over the last 30 or 40 years, even though the miles driven are much higher.

    Maybe the IIHS will now conduct some crash tests between a Suburban and a railroad locomotive to see if the locomotive is safer in a head on crash.

  5. Alex Kajdi Says:

    Hey McElroy,

    If GM already has the Voltec Drive System in a new Chevy Cruze, why doesn’t GM bring a EV Cruze to market ASAP? I would suggest that GM should start a Waiting List for the Chevy Volt.
    I would sign up on that waiting list. This would demonstrate to Congress the real customer demand for this type of vehicle.

    Alex Kajdi
    Rye Brook, NY

  6. pedro Fernandez Says:

    John: why limit the electric propulsion system to the volt? For the same reason Toyota made an all new car for the hybrid system, when they could have used the Corolla or the Yaris. Honda put the hybrid on the civic and it was not nearly as successful as the Prius has been, so Gm is thinking the same, but at $40k. That’s a big gamble

  7. Michael Kilgore Says:

    Come on folks. Consumers are not buying anything automotive in the numbers needed. All this “green” marketing-speak sounds great in front of a senate committee, when in reality, Americans continue to buy with their eyes and their job-dependent wallets not their ecologically-influenced conscience. When this economic colamity rebounds America will be right back to wanting SUVs and trucks. We, as dealers have a wide aray of offerings today that are more fuel efficient than ever, but sit on our lots, unsold, due to concerns about the next pay check, not the ozone layer.

  8. John Says:

    Hey Pedro,

    Mao’s disciples have been busy with vitamins too. Have you taken your LEAD today?

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – More than 30 percent of multivitamins tested recently by ConsumerLab.com contained significantly more or less of an ingredient than claimed, or were contaminated with lead, the company reports.

    Those copycat commies want to kill us slowly with lead and who knows what else. They are so sly, they think that we won’t notice…anything but the cheap price. I guess they think if they dose us with lead then we will be stupid and go along with their economic warfare copycat ploys.

    BOYCOTT Communist Chinese cars and products.

  9. pedro Fernandez Says:

    John: the problem is if we don’t buy their products, we don’t have many options, have you tried buying any small domestic appliance NOT made there?. Same goes for toys, electronics, just about anything. And now vitamins too? come’on what are we doing to ourselves? Americans, pretty soon it’ll be medicines, ect. They are winning the economic war against us big time. I was told by an auto parts supplier, that many parts that are labeled as made in USA or Japan, are actually made in China and mislabeled by distributors cause nobody wants these inferior copycat parts.

  10. John Says:

    John McElroy,

    “I just hope GM can get the cost of the battery pack down so more people can afford the car. ”

    This battery pack has a shelf life and will be outdated in a very short time.

    Why not lease or rent the battery pack to the user.

    Nobody is going to want to own one. It will be of no use out of a Volt when it functions at 100 percent and it will be a hazmat when it fails or newer technology replaces it.

    So build it in a way that the scrap value can’t be a motive to steal one, and build it into the service lifecycle of the vehicle.

    Take that $10,000 to $15,000 price and figure out a way to spread it over time where GM always owns the battery.

    Think out side the box.

  11. Bill Fisher Says:

    The battery problems plaguing BYD should be no surprise to anyone familiar with the industry in China. BYD has displayed a serious sense of arrogance and naivete regarding the suto market. They have applied many of the business principles they learned in becoming a successful battery manufacturer to their car business and they just don’t apply the same. BYD’s troubgles have only just begun.

  12. Don MacConnel Says:

    Is there a battery technology where old electrolyte can be drained and replaced with new electrolyte that replenishes the energy?

    Maybe electrolyte is the wrong term but it would sure be a cool way to “fill up” with energy.

  13. Dan Busch Says:

    How Japanese of Geely – none has any shame

  14. William R. Walling Says:

    John and fellow viewers,
    “The CORE issue with domestic Electric vehicles are that they have few if any ‘real world’ miles of production wares.”
    Simply, EVERYONE other than TOYOTA has little proved expertise in Electric vehicles.
    Be advised, GM ‘EV-1′ Honda’s original ‘Insight’ were limited production ‘trial’ vehicles NOT decades lived mass production (one (1) million and counting works for me) TOYOTA ‘Prius’ wares.
    If you appreciate various vendors offerings in this market then DO purchase them!
    While your spending perhaps a landmark Bridge spanning the Hudson River connecting Brooklyn with Manhattan recently on TV is of interest?
    Sorry, my nephew retrieved his fiancées,band damaged, diamond engagement ring.
    Fear not he had it repaired! :-)

  15. G.A.Branigan Says:

    What I haven’t seen fully addressed yet is how these vehicles do in a winter situation ie:cabin heat/rear window defrost/seat heater/headlights/mirror heat etc.The Volt has a relatively short range anyways,how much shorter now in full winter mode? Actually the same questions apply to all of the EV wannabes.

  16. pedro Fernandez Says:

    G.A. I met a fellow here in So Fla(very hot) who owns a Prius, in order to get the best mpg he can, he turns off the a/c at every stop light, and then restarts it everytime he gets going again, I suppose in the winter, EV drivers will wear their coats and gloves and hats and make do w/o the heater.

  17. G.A.Branigan Says:

    LOL,I don’t know about your friend there Pedro,LOL.I can’t see people spending 40k on a car that doesn’t have,or you can’t use all of the amenities that you paid for.In other words,if I spend 40k on a vehicle and I can’t use the heater in the wintertime,guess what vehicle I won’t ever own? I don’t want to know anymore,what winter is like without my heated seats either,thats why I bought them ;}>

  18. pedro Fernandez Says:

    For those who think tiny cars are great, look at the video out today of the crash testing done between tiny cars and midsize ones. Holy crap, that Smart (stupid) car went flying like a toy.

  19. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Simple physics:small mass meets larger mass = bigger mess.Cafe can not have it both ways even if they stayed last night in a holiday inn express.They are ,IMHO,the single biggest reason why small diesels have had such a hard time catching on here in the USA.Make the vehicles smaller and lighter is fine,till something bigger hits ya then it’s all over and the lawyers take over.Where in hell is commen sense?

  20. Bill Says:

    Anybody having trouble with the Autoline Daily “play” arrow not showing up. I’d rather have John read the text than myself.

  21. Salvador G. Says:

    I love the reasoning of some people ‘small cars bad! Big cars good! Well, your right and maybe if you buy the biggest car you’ll be more safe. :)

    J.McElroy, so FIAT wants someone to head Chrysler, you think he is ready to deal with the union and the goverment? -has Marchione held any conference with the union? who’s going to be dealing with these two is what I want to know. I can see someone as a standing for Marchione in America doing the dirty work for a couple of years, I just don’t see Marchione be the one doing it.

  22. John Says:


    “Anybody having trouble with the Autoline Daily “play” arrow not showing up.”

    Make sure you have the latest version of flashplayer installed.

  23. John McElroy Says:

    @ Salvador G.: Marchione practically grew up in Canada, he’s very familiar with the CAW. Also, he’s pulled off an impressive turn-around at Fiat this decade, including dealing with Fiat’s Communist-run unions. I’ll bet he becomes CEO of Chrysler if the deal goes through, and I bet he relishes the challenge.

  24. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @John McElroy…After reading this mornings news about the Fiat/Chrysler deal,it may not come to fruition unless the UAW and others come to terms in the concessions dept.Again I have to ask,IF Chrysler goes under and they have to sell of assets,WHO is in line to buy Jeep?

  25. David B. Fishburn Says:

    To Mac- about the European cars having a better safety record than American cars, that’ comparing apples to oranges. European cars are smaller, yes, but you also have to take into consideration the driving enviroment in Europe. Also remember that european driving regulations are much more stringent, with much stiffer penalties than we have. Because of that, their attitude towards driving is different from ours, where they view driving not as a game but as a responsibility.