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Episode 188 – Wiedeking to Lose Control of Porsche, No More CAFE Pay-to-Play, Ford Looks At Lasers

July 20th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:23

Wendelin Wiedeking, the CEO of Porsche, will lose operational control of the company. The new CAFE requirements will be enforced more strictly by the EPA when they go into effect. Ford is looking at using lasers instead of spark plugs. All that and more, plus a look at the BMW 1 Series.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Wendelin Wiedeking may lose control of Porsche. The EPA says German automakers can no longer fall short of fuel economy standards. And Ford is looking at using lasers instead of spark plugs.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Monday, July 20, 2009. And now, the news.

Reuters reports that Magna will soon offer GM a “take it or leave it” bid to buy Opel. It says Magna will demand access to all of Opel’s intellectual property, and wants to build cars under its own brand. It also says Magna’s finance partner in the deal, Russian bank Sberbank, would turn its shares in Opel over to a Russian automaker.

The Wall Street Journal says Wendelin Wiedeking, the CEO of Porsche, will lose operational control of the company (subscription required), even though he will retain the CEO title for now. Wiedeking tried to mastermind a takeover of VW and he ran Porsche’s debt up to $9 billion in the process. But with the collapse in the global economy Porsche could no longer service that debt and now Herr Wiedeking’s audacious plans have collapsed. Porsche denies these reports.

The new CAFE requirements will be enforced more strictly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (subscription required) when they go into effect. According to Ward’s, the EPA won’t allow automakers to buy their way out of meeting fuel standards. Between 1983 and 2007, NHTSA collected over $770 million in fines, mostly from BMW, Mercedes and Porsche. Penalties for missing the new requirements haven’t been determined yet.

There’s a potential battle heating up between the UAW and Toyota. According to the AFP, Toyota is considering closing the NUMMI plant in California after GM pulled out of the joint venture. The union confirmed it’s in talks with the company to try and keep the plant open. Toyota is looking for ways to cut costs at the plant that builds over 350,000 vehicles for the company each year, and it will undoubtedly want the same concessions the Detroit automakers got from the UAW.

Engineers at Ford and scientists at Liverpool University in England have developed a technology that could do-away with the spark plug. The Telegraph reports the new ignition system uses laser light to ignite fuel and air inside an engine. The focused beams of light can deliver more stable combustion, which reduces fuel consumption. The system should allow cars to start more easily in low temperatures, cutting cold-start emissions by 80 percent.

This has to be the craziest incentive around. If you buy a new American truck from Max Motors in Butler, Missouri, you get a voucher for a free AK-47. Thankfully, the dealership is not just handing out free Kalashnikovs. Buyers get a coupon to take to any reputable gun shop where they receive a proper background check before getting their weapon. But I’ve got to ask, pickup buyers are the most loyal “Buy American” owners out there, why is this guy giving away Russian assault weapons? Aren’t American assault weapons good enough?

Coming up next, a look at what we’ve got “in the garage” this week, we’ll be back right after this.

To keep you, our loyal Autoline Daily audience up-to-speed on the latest product news, we get all kinds of cars to test and report on. This week we’ve got our hands on a BMW 128i. As you probably know, the 1 Series is the least expensive Bimmer offered in the U.S., but there’s nothing cheap about the way it drives. Autoline Daily producer Craig Cole reports.

Thanks Craig. The 128i starts at right around $30,000. It’s quick, smooth and an absolute blast to drive. And according to the digital readout, we even got around 30 miles per gallon. Not too shabby. Also, like every BMW, it includes the company’s free scheduled maintenance for the length of the factory warranty – four years or 50,000 miles.

Hey, don’t miss Autoline After Hours on Thursday at 7 p.m. Eastern when our Skype guest will be Art Spinella from CNW Marketing. He’s the guy who did a marketing clinic in California a couple of years ago where he switched badges on a Toyota and Chevrolet, and found that consumers preferred the Chevy with the Toyota badge, but didn’t like the Toyota with the Chevy badge. Art Spinella will have some interesting stories to tell us.

Anyway, that does it for today’s show. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

19 Comments to “Episode 188 – Wiedeking to Lose Control of Porsche, No More CAFE Pay-to-Play, Ford Looks At Lasers”

  1. pedro Fernandez Says:

    BMW and Mercedes have been very smart in NOT switching to the horrible FWD system like most other carmakers have for passenger cars. That 1 series should also come with a four and a small diesel like in Europe. Why oh why eliminate the good old reliable spark plug. Easy to replace if it fails, pretty soon you are going to need a guy with a phD in engineering to fix your car.

  2. Dan Clemons Says:

    That makes perfect sense to me. Drivers trust Toyota’s name more than GM’s name plate. It also shows that consumers can’t really tell the difference between a Chevy and a Toyota in the test drive. In time, drivers of the Chevy badged Toyota will learn to love their new found reliable Toyota made Chevy!!

  3. K.J.Crumb Says:

    Wouldn’t this ignition-by-laser be a big boost in the quest for a genuinely everyday workable HCCI engine… the holy grail engine of the last 20 years? (Diesel fuel economy on gasoline, with gas emissions, performance and the best current refueling infrastructire…) How about an update on this? KJC

  4. Dave E. Says:

    It sounds like GM should leave the deal with Magna. I wonder what would happen if Opel went through bankruptcy and is GM considering this action?

  5. Alex Kovnat Says:

    So, the EPA is going to crack down harder on automakers regarding CAFE?

    One can never emphasize enough that to speak of the EPA “cracking down on automakers”, is to pass along deception and demagoguery. One can never overemphasize how important it is to ask: Who is the government REALLY “cracking down” on?

    The answer as I see it is that it is us, the automobile-driving public.

  6. John V Says:

    Another good daily report. Thanks, John!

    Taking away “pay to play” is a real game changer. Not only does it impact BMW and Mercedes, it will kill the high performance versions of domestic vehicles. I think every SRT-8 version of anything Chrysler makes pays a “guzzler tax” today. I imagine that is also true for similar Fords and Chevys as well. On the other hand, it may boost the tuner aftermarket.

  7. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Pedro,
    There are good reasons why the “horrible FWD system” is used for most cars. It works better for mass-market cars driven by average drivers, especially for smaller cars. Packaging efficiency is better, the drive trains have less power loss, and FWD cars work better on ice and snow than RWD cars. That said, I like BMW’s and M-B’s, but they do not represent what the average driver needs, either in price or function.

  8. Hermann the German Says:

    Maybe if BMW got the weight of the 1series down, they could get their average mileage up. Speckwagonen.

    Also, AKs are made under license so maybe you can get one made in the good ol’ etc.

  9. Roger T Says:

    Opel is the primary source of design and engineering for Chevrolet vehicles sold in most of the world (Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia); it’s crazy GM even thought about getting rid of that brand. And they’d be teaching Russians how to make award winning global vehicles in the process…! Wake up GM, Opel is a keeper!

  10. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Kit: I’ve been around for a while and we did just fine w/o FWD, it was put in cars to cut production costs and make do with smaller engines, but in my opinion most automakers took it too far to the point of putting it on everything they built even”luxury” models. FWD vehicles are too front-heavy, thus compromising handling and wearing out front components a lot quicker than the RWD counterparts

  11. Alex Kovnat Says:

    @Pedro:

    My first front wheel drive car, a 1979 Plymouth Horizon, was awful as far as quality was concerned. The carburetor went out after two weeks, and it took my local dealer a whole month to get a replacement. The dome light was missing, and it developed an electrical system problem after a few months.

    But its combination of front wheel drive and front-heavy weight distribution, I would say 63/37%, enabled it to chew its way through snow that would have stopped a rear wheel drive car cold.

    As for wearing out front components: You can deal with that by rotating the tires between front and rear. Automotive engineers can do their part, by specifying components capable of taking the stresses involved.

    So I can only say from my own experience: FWD with ~60/40 weight distribution yes. Lousey components and quality control, no.

  12. paulstewart Says:

    I disagree with Alex Kovnat I do not believe at all that the enforcement action by the E.P.A. on carmakers is on us at all.But on the carmakers who fail to meet rules or regulations put forth by a organization created by my elected officials.

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I also had a 1979, and it was reasonably reliable. Maybe I was lucky in that regard. Anyway, it was much better in ice and snow than the Plymouth Duster it replaced, and had almost as much usable space, even though the car was much smaller and used only 60-70% per cent as much gas. Yes, I did just fine with rear wheel drive, but my front drive Malibu Maxx is a much better car than any rear drive car even close to its price.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Oops, I left out “Horizon” after 1979 in my last post.

  15. Bill Says:

    Hey John, I wish you’d quit showing clips of that Porsche Pan-American. A four door Porsche is just terrible.

  16. Tom Cain Says:

    The AK-47 offered by Max Motors is NOT an assault rifle! It is a semi-automatic rifle. I suspect the AK-47 was selected to hit the price point of a rifle they wanted to give away. The equivalent AR-15 would cost about twice as much.

  17. Dave E. Says:

    Hey Pedro I agree I’d rather drive a RWD vehicle, but fwd drive is much better in the snow and rwd makes things “interesting” in the winter!

  18. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Kit: of course you’re right about the good points of a fwd, I take it for granted since I live in So Fla.but I don’t believe carmakers had that in mind when they went fwd almost exclusively. They’re cheaper to build and they seem to need more repairs and servicing than rwd, ex. cv joints, overcrowded engine bay. Police depts don’t like fwd for example, and neither do exporters to 3rd world countries due to bad road conditions and servicing problems, If someone made and affordable economical to run rwd I’m there!

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Pedro,
    I live in Indiana in the summer and Florida in the winter. If BMW sold the 1 series hatchback with a diesel in the US, and at a decent price, I’d definitely be interested. If gas goes up to $5 a gallon and stays there, BMW might sell such cars here, but I’m not holding my breath. It might hurt the “exclusivity” BMW and M-B cherish so much which results in neither company selling their cars in the US that I would like to buy.