Episode 7 – Kerkorian Dumps Ford, GM Seeks Outsider Money, BMW’s Simpler iDrive

October 22nd, 2008 at 12:00pm

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GM fights back against the Chrysler deal by seeking outside investors. Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian dumps his stock in Ford at a huge loss. BMW comes out with a simpler i-Drive system for the 2009 7-Series. All that and more, plus John answers a viewer’s question about Ford’s European diesels in the new segment, “You Said It!”

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. GM fights back against the Chrysler deal. Kerkorian dumps his stock in Ford. And BMW comes out with a simpler I-Drive system.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, October 22, 2008. And now, the news.

The Financial Times is reporting that General Motors is looking for a big chunk of cash from outside investors. This would be an alternative to GM taking over Chrysler, which as I’ve been reporting here, is being forced down GM’s throat by Cerberus. GM may have trouble raising the money, which presumably would come from private investors such as Warren Buffet, but at least GM if fighting back against Cerberus. Way to go GM!

Meanwhile, the Ford Motor Company is having issues of its own. Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian is dumping all the shares he bought in Ford. He paid $7 a share to buy and is selling at less than $2.50. Ouch! This comes on the heels of Ford’s Chief Financial Officer and two board members resigning. The Wall Street Journal says Kerkorian is worried the Ford family was tightening control of the company and could impede its turn-around.

BMW’s iDrive is probably the most controversial electronic device ever put in a car. It forces users to go through a myriad of menus to do simple tasks. So BMW is coming out with a simplified version of iDrive (subscription required) on the 2009 7-Series. It has a cluster of buttons around the knob, which looks almost exactly like Audi’s MMI system, making it easier to use, relatively speaking.

And speaking of new electronics technology, Ward’s reports that automakers are starting to move away from traditional gauges (subscription required) and starting to offer virtual instruments, like on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Replacing traditional gauges with a virtual display allows customers to change the look and feel of their instruments in an almost infinite number of ways.

Honda announced it’s building a second manufacturing plant in Thailand to build the Accord, Civic, CR-V, Jazz and the City. Honda says production will double to 240,000 units. On the heels of that announcement, Ward’s reports that sales in Thailand fell 10% last month (subscription required) due to the global financial crisis and political uncertainty.

According to WWJ 950, the government is investigating more than 1 million Ford vehicles for leaky tire valve stems made by a Chinese company. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it has received 37 complaints of faulty valve stems but no crashes or injuries have been reported. The valves are used on most Ford models.

Coming up next, we’ll take a look at what some of our viewers have been writing in about. We’ll be back, right after this.

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

This is a brand new segment we call, “You Said It!” Every day we get dozens of comments and questions from you, our viewers. “You Said It!” gives me a chance to respond.

And first up today we have a question from Richard Eaton who writes,

“I understand that Ford has a diesel Escort overseas that gets 46 mpg, but they won’t import it to the USA because of diesel prices. How stupid is this, and is there any truth to this?”

Richard, I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me why we don’t get those European diesels. But first off, Ford no longer makes the Escort. But it does have diesel versions of the Focus that get terrific fuel economy. Now, there is a question as to how well diesels will sell in the U.S. because diesel fuel prices are substantially higher than gasoline. And future emissions standards are going to add a lot of cost to the price of a diesel engine. Put it all together and diesels are probably not going to make sense for most car buyers. But, if the price of the fuel comes down and if they figure out some emissions breakthrough that could change.

Remember, we call this segment “You Said It!” If you have a question or comment you’d like answered on the air, there are a number of ways you can contact us. You can leave comments directly on our Autoline Daily posts, or you can send an e-mail to viewermail@autolinedetroit.tv.

But, if you’re feeling really creative, we’d love to see you on video. Simply post your question or comment to YouTube and send the link to viewermail@autolinedetroit.tv. Oh, and one more thing, make sure to include “Video Comment” in the subject line. Do this and we might just respond on the next installment of “You Said It!”

Anyway, 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.TV. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

4 Comments to “Episode 7 – Kerkorian Dumps Ford, GM Seeks Outsider Money, BMW’s Simpler iDrive”

  1. PEDRO Says:

    These luxury car’s controls have gotten way too complicated to the point you need to take your eyes off the road to use them. I know of two people who bought cheaper cars than they could afford, cause they did not want to bother with overcomplicated radio and climate controls

  2. Ed Kemmerer Says:

    Having worked as a Human Factors Engineer at GM, I wonder what BMW did with their HFEs when the iDrive was being developed, it is a human factors disaster. My guess is they shipped them all out when the cry went up that the thing was more complicated than the control panel of a nuclear reactor and the design team didn’t want to hear any complaints about “their baby”. Been there, done that.

  3. Richard Tait Says:

    To comment on the diesel issue, as Mercedes-Benz has so aptly put it, the future of diesel has more to do with the fuel itself than the technology connected to making its combustion clean. If the head of the river is dirty, the delta can’t be clean. So what has to happen is alternatives to petroleum diesel that give off less ammonia, and other pollutants must be found and pushed into production. And fast! Downstream technology that has promise is variable compression ratio that can allow a diesel to start at say 22:1 (high heat generation for the cold start) and as the engine warms up gradually goes down to say 12:1 (where there is less ammonia produced). The exhaust treatment devices will then have less work to do and consequently may be removed or made less costly.

  4. Philip Sparrow Says:

    Why oh why will ford USA not look at replacing their large US vehicles with the Aussie built Falcon and Territory? a simple repower fron the new Ford US EcoBoost V6 engine family and “mustang” 4.6 alloy V8′s is a no brainer assuming that the NHTSA can be satisfied… this would compliment the currently planned “Euro invasion” and could easily be assembled locally in the US. Are their any industy rumours supporting this ideal?