Episode 481 – Ford Hires Piaskowski, Nissan Doubles-Down in China, Next BMW 6 Series?

September 20th, 2010 at 12:00pm

Runtime 10:20

Ford hires former Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz designer, Joel Piaskowski, to head up all exterior design for Ford in the Americas. Nissan plans to nearly double its production in China to 1.2 million units. BMW is set to unveil what looks like a thinly disguised version of its next-generation 6 Series at the Paris Motor Show. All that and more, plus a look at a competition organized by Ward’s Auto, to see which Detroit-Three automaker has the best diesel engine for its heavy-duty pickups.

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This is Autoline Daily for September 20, 2010. And now, the news.

One of the reasons why Hyundai has been on such a roll lately is that the designs of its vehicles improved dramatically. And now the Ford Motor Company managed to grab the guy responsible for those designs. Joel Piaskowski was the one who came up with cars like the Genesis Coupe, the new Sonata and a bunch of good looking concept cars. But then Mercedes-Benz hired him away to run its advanced-design studio in California. And then, for reasons none of us here in the media have uncovered, only a year later, Mercedes pushed him out. Everyone in the design community was wondering where he would land, and now Piaskowski is headed to Ford where he will head-up all exterior design for Ford in the Americas. He starts there on October 1st.

Nissan plans to nearly double its production in China to 1.2 million units, which is 20 percent higher than the company originally planned to put in place. Reuters reports that Nissan wants to boost its market share to 10 percent of the Chinese market, up from 6 percent today. But some voices in China say the country is adding too much capacity that could cause a glut. And one former U.S. trade representative warns that China will be tempted to export its excess capacity, causing even greater trade frictions. However, Gasgoo reports that other experts say the top 10 car companies in China actually need more production capacity, and that the excess capacity is with China’s smaller automakers. China has well over 100 vehicle producers.

Carbon fiber and other composites could be the miracle materials that allow automakers to meet upcoming fuel-economy standards, but not everyone is optimistic about them. According to Dow Jones Newswire, Ford CEO Alan Mulally said he cannot make a business case for composites in the auto industry. He cited the huge volume needed for mass production and the cost of autoclave ovens needed to bake the material. Mulally says there is still plenty of room for improvement with conventional steel and other alloys. Remember Mulally used to head Boeing, which is pioneering the use of composite materials in its new, but much delayed 787 Dreamliner. It first took to the skies last December. The first deliveries are expected to reach airlines by the middle of the first-quarter next year.

BMW is set to unveil what looks like a thinly disguised version of its next-generation 6 Series. This “concept” is set to take a bow at the Paris Motor Show which opens to the press next week. Details about this new 2 + 2 are limited. It will have full-LED headlamps and what the company is calling a freestanding control display for its iDrive system . . . I hope that means it’s easier to use. Still, BMW has released plenty of pictures of the car and it’s gorgeous. The body is a lot cleaner-looking than today’s version of the 6 Series and its leather-lined interior is very photogenic to say the least.

Over the weekend Toyota confirmed it settled a lawsuit brought by relatives of four family members who were killed in a high-speed crash last year that led to the recall of millions of its vehicles. According to the AP, terms were not disclosed, but Toyota is expected to file motions in court today disclosing the settlement. The dealer that loaned the car to the family was left out of the settlement and the lawsuit against him has not been dropped. Last year a California highway patrol officer borrowed a Lexus from a dealer. He was traveling with three family members when the car sped out of control and led to a horrific crash because a floor mat became stuck on the accelerator. This high-profile accident led to Toyota’s massive recall.

Is GM hedging its bet with the Volt? According to the AP, the company is getting ready to launch a test-fleet of all-electric versions of the Cruze in South Korea next month. It will be powered by batteries from LG Chem and propulsion systems from LG Electronics. GM says it doesn’t plan on selling an electric-version of the Cruze in the U.S. but I believe that GM wants to make sure it doesn’t get left behind in the EV market if the Volt, with its extended-range system, doesn’t catch on.

Ford, GM and Chrysler all have heavy-duty pickups with heavy-duty diesel engines. Each one of them brags that it’s the best, so which one is? Our friends at Ward’s just put them through the test and we’ll look at who came out on top right after this,

There was a shootout a couple of weeks ago but this one had nothing to do with the OK Corral. It was a three-way dogfight just south of the Autoline Daily studios as America’s Heavy-Duties went grill-to-grill-to-grill testing everything from towing to acceleration. Organized by our friends at Ward’s who called it the 2010 Diesel Shootout, all we can say is “may the best truck win!”

And I can guarantee you Ford really liked that idea since it won the Shootout with its new Power Stroke V-8. Though to be fair, all three engines were very close.

Hey, if you want to find out more about this first-ever Ward’s Diesel Shootout we’re doing something new for us – we’re posting much of the raw video that we shot at the Bosch Proving Grounds that didn’t make it into the story. You can watch it in the John’s-Journal section of our website.

But if you still need even more information, Ward’s also has a special section at its website with all the data, audio and reporting behind the 2010 Diesel Shootout that you may want to check out.

One more thing before we go. If it’s been a while since you checked out our automotive call-in show, Open Line, host Michelle Naranjo has an update.

Thanks, Michelle. We’ll see all of you at 8 p.m. Eastern, Time 5 p.m. Pacific for another edition of Open Line tonight.

And that is 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, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

15 Comments to “Episode 481 – Ford Hires Piaskowski, Nissan Doubles-Down in China, Next BMW 6 Series?”

  1. Tony Gray Says:

    NICE 6 series. As nice a flagship as the late 70′s through 80′s 633-635 version. I’ll have to get a Bronzit Beige one and see if Cybill wants to go for a ride….

  2. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Thanks for the “Diesel shootout” update.very helpful info.I’ve always leaned towards the Cummins diesels and although the Ram came in last,it’s the one I would buy were I looking for a full size diesel pickup.

    The data collected on all 3 were IMHO very complete and surprisingly close on all counts.The Cummins having 2 less cylinders and lower overall maintenance costs was the deciding factor for me.

    Although Ford won the contest,having 2 turbos just doesn’t seem to be the answer to the horsepower wars.I believe it will take more then a couple of years to make the new Ford “reliable” in the long run.

  3. dcars Says:

    It was stunning that Joel Piaskowski was let go by M&B. I wondered if that was an attempt at sabotage of Hyundai. Glad to see he landed on his feet. FYI I read the last installment of the Auto extremist and thought it was dead on. Good Job Peter.

  4. Mark Hillman Says:

    I prefer the NEW 2011 Mercedes-Benz CLS over the NEW BMW 6 series.

  5. Don MacConnel Says:

    When Alan Mulally talks, people listen. His comments on composites are spot-on.

    There is no substitute for a CEO that has experience in bringing complex products to market. (Anyone at GM listening?……I guess not.)

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    By testing this all electric Cruze I think GM is realizing that the Volt is not gonna set any sales records and they need a quick back-up plan if this does happen.

  7. shan Says:

    I know the silver fox, Bob Lutz is “semi-retired”, but GM really needs him to be the CEO. I think his wisdom and personality with what GM needs to be viewed as General Motors and not Government Motors.

  8. dcars Says:

    Does it really mater who’s running GM? It appears that the Chinese are going to buy them as soon as their available. Too bad the US tax payers spent 80 billion to save them only to it give it all up for fraction of what we paid.

  9. Ward’s 2010 Diesel Shootout – John's Journal on Autoline Detroit Says:

    [...] a summary of what went down, check out our story in Autoline Daily episode 481, but for an extended look, here’s some additional insight from the people who made the event [...]

  10. Chuck Grenci Says:

    The diesel comparo is a lot more nebulous than you might think of the winner, Ford Powerstroke. The results in my opinion are close enough that (if you are in the market) you can be rest assured that whichever is your favorite you will not be choosing wrong. Using the objective numbers, and this is what I gleaned from the test, the Ford is very good but doesn’t win; the actual call, to me, seemed to be a call using more of the subjective aspects of the test. Rest assured, all vehicles are top notch, and too bad, an absolute winner needed to be picked.

  11. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The diesel truck comparo was interesting, but the thing that strikes me is that only a handful of these things are used in a way that even remotely makes sense. They only make sense if you drive about 20K miles a year towing 10,000 pounds. Most of them I see are running around with the boxes empty, not towing anything, and using as much diesel fuel as the much cheaper gas version would use in gas.

    You’d think someone would sell a pickup with a diesel about half the size of the ones in these trucks. That would make sense for a lot more people than these huge diesels that they sell.

  12. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Ford vs Chevy” Pickup wars were always JUVENILE and silly. Since Ford came up with the most recent engine, DUH, of course it would win the comparo. The fact that it won by a HAIR, and that all trucks were about equally good, means that Ford MISSED this opportunity to distinguish itself.

    Frivolous Full Size Pickup sales have dwindled. Now the only ones that buy them are either people who actually need them or the wealthy ones that can still satsify their silly whim and be POSEURS rather than actual USERS of these vehicles.

    Ford used to sell 1 million F150s a year, and CHevy more than a million Silverado PLUS ZGMC Sierras. NOTGFonnahappenagain.com. Now they sell HALF that if they are lucky, to the benefit of all the rest of us that will pay far less for gas than we would otherwise, and have few of these ugly creatures to block our view when we drive.

  13. Nick Stevens Says:

    For such an expensive car as the 7 or the 6 series, their styling is rather boring and UNDISTINGUISHED, which is the kiss of death in these categories ($100k or above!). SOme of that is INTENTIONAL by BMW, the cheapo 5 series looks too much like a 7 series. IN PHOTOS ONLY. Up close, it really can look like a lowly, cheap 3 series instead!

  14. Martin Says:

    Nothing against Piaskowski, he’s certainly penned some nice looking cars – but Ford could save a serious amount of money if they’d just start bringing some of the really hot looking cars from the european market. This isn’t your father’s Mondeo…


  15. Nick Stevens Says:

    Yes, the Euro cars of Ford and GM (Opel) are far better looking and usually 3-4 years more advanced technically than their old US counterparts (see Focus). However, they usually cost much more, except for the CRUZE which is sold here in Europe for less than 15,000 euros