Episode 598 – GM’s Dan Ammann: Cadillac Man, Chevy Captiva Sport, BMW 6 Series

March 14th, 2011 at 10:10am

Runtime 7:50

We know a little bit more about the new CFO at General Motors, Daniel Ammann, and here’s the best part, he owns a ’61 Cadillac convertible and drives a CTS-V wagon. General Motors announced it will bring the Chevy Captiva Sport to the U.S. to sell to fleet customers. BMW just revealed its redesigned 6 Series, which features numerous upgrades. All that and more, plus John shares his impressions of how Ford’s EcoBoost technology performs with smaller engines in bigger vehicles.


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This is Autoline Daily for March 14, 2011. And now, the news.

The earthquake in Japan, besides being a terrible tragedy, is having a big impact on the automotive industry. Virtually all automotive production in Japan is at a halt, though automakers signaled they could resume making cars before the week is out. If the disruption only lasts a week then the impact will not be that great. However, Japanese suppliers export parts all around the world and that could affect both Japanese and other automakers who rely on those parts. Bloomberg reports that the price of copper, aluminum and nickel fell because of an expected drop-off in demand. Speculators also bid up the stock of Chinese and Korean automakers, in the belief they will be the big beneficiaries of the work stoppage in Japan. But here’s my Autoline insight. Anyone betting against the Japanese is going to end up losing. Sure, there might be a short-term blip. But it will be very short term. Also, you’ve seen the pictures of all those smashed-up cars and trucks. They’re going to have to be replaced, and that will turn into a boom for Japanese car companies.

Now, over to the on-going saga at Renault, where one of the company’s security officers was jailed and charged with what they’re calling “organized fraud.” They’re accusing this guy of coming up with the scheme to dupe the company out of nearly $350,000. And, if it turns out Renault was wrong, some French politicians and union officials are saying the top executive must resign. No, they’re not talking about COO Patrick Pelata. They’re talking about none other than Carlos Ghosn. You watch, these two gentlemen will be profusely apologetic, but they’ll keep their jobs.

Speaking of people, we know a little bit more about the new CFO at General Motors. Daniel Ammann, 38 years old, grew up on a dairy farm in New Zealand. He joined the company last year, and prior to that he was with Morgan Stanley, where he advised GM both before and during its bankruptcy. Here’s the good part about him. He owns a ’61 Cadillac convertible and drives a CTS-V wagon. That makes him a car guy, and having a CFO who understands product can only be good for GM.

Speaking of General Motors, the company will bring the Chevy Captiva Sport to the U.S. to sell to fleet customers. Right now the Captiva is sold on every continent except North America and Antarctica. It’s essentially a Chevy Equinox. GM says only minor changes are needed in order to meet U.S. regulations. The idea is to offer the Captiva Sport only to fleets because selling the Equinox to fleets would hurt its residual value.

BMW just revealed its redesigned 6 Series. This large two-door benefits from numerous upgrades. Surprisingly, the company changed quite a few hard-points on it. The wheelbase is 75 millimeters longer. That’s nearly three inches, which should give rear-seat passengers a nice bump in legroom. The car is also 39 millimeters wider and five millimeters shorter than its predecessor. Speaking of numbers, this sporty two-door is powered by either a straight-six engine with 320 horsepower OR an optional V-8 delivering 407 ponies. Both turbocharged powerplants are matched to a standard eight-speed automatic transmission. The car also features a fuel-saving stop-start system as well as electrically boosted steering. All kinds of other gadgets are available – like night vision, parking assist and a raft of other “active,” “dynamic” and “adaptive” electronic doohickeys. As you’d expect, BMW claims the 2012 6 Series has better driving dynamics than predecessor. No word yet on pricing or availability.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, or, in this case, get a truck across a river. Autoblog found this little treat on YouTube and it’s pretty ingenious. Who needs a bridge? These crafty – and gutsy – Bolivians made a ramp out of a few planks of wood and then drove this Toyota pickup up onto a couple of boats. Now mind you, these are little more than canoes, which makes the feat all the more impressive. With a little paddling – and some pretty serious bailing – the truck made it to the other side without getting wet. It’s amazing how people can improvise things.

Ford is starting to EcoBoost a slew of engines, not just its 3.5-liter V-6. I’ll show you some of what that’s all about, right after this.

We’ve been showing you some of the new applications that Ford has coming for its EcoBoost technology. I want to show you my impressions of what that’s like on smaller engines in bigger vehicles.

Even though other automakers have the same kind of direct injection, turbocharged technology, none of them are as aggressive as Ford is in offering this technology on multiple engine lines and in all different sizes of vehicles. I’ll bet they all get there, but Ford got there first.

And that’s today’s report on the 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 and WardsAuto.com

40 Comments to “Episode 598 – GM’s Dan Ammann: Cadillac Man, Chevy Captiva Sport, BMW 6 Series”

  1. JB Says:

    Thanks for a great show! I enjoyued hearing about the logic behind the Captive and also about the ecoboost ford powertrain in your Mondeo test drive.

    Exciting stuff!

    Have a good one.


  2. dcars Says:

    Selling the Captiva may give the General enough cars to overtake Toyota for world leadership in auto sales.
    I was looking at car sales by segment, by selling the Impala and the Malibu in the same “D” category, GM outsells the Camry. In addition GM also outsells everyone else in the compact SUV segment by selling the Terrain and the Nox. By adding the Captiva gm becomes the dominate player in many segments. They may have lost their multi-brand strategy but they are changing to bring it back in a new form.

  3. tj Martin Says:

    Well ……… at least unlike Dany Bahar ( Lotus CEO that refuses to own or drive a Lotus ; see NYTimes article / fashion from January ) Mr. Ammann seems to at least have some connection ( owning two Caddy’s ) beyond a Paycheck with GM.

  4. tj Martin Says:

    Future of E/V’s ;

    Anyone still cheering the Future of E/V’s might want to take a step back .

    With the current wave of Nuclear Plant failures after the Quake and the Tsunami happening in Japan , any viable hope for a resurgence of Nuclear Power Plants in the US or the EU is now all but Dead & Buried .

    Which means no Clean Energy to power the Plants to Re-Charge the E/V’s , which also means an E/V’s overall Carbon Footprint is still as large or larger than an ICE engine .

    Add that to the fact that the US , UK , EU and most of Asia’s power grids are already Over Taxed , and the realistic Future of E/V’s is rapidly going down the Drain .

  5. tj Martin Says:

    dcars; post # 2

    I’m afraid you’re adding your figures up wrong . It’s certainly a creative twist on the Facts , but accurate and realistic it is not .

    Like John said , even with the tragedies in Japan , betting against the likes of Toyota is at best a suckers bet .

    And then there’s that damn Reliability aspect , which constantly keeps me away from the US Manufactures in spite of liking some of their products from the outside .

    GM , Ford and especially Chrysler have a very very long way to go before they will ever honestly be able to go Head to Head with the Japanese manufactures . They’re getting better ( except for Chrysler ) but they aint there yet .

  6. shan Says:

    If only they could build an engine that will not break down due to a bad timing belt, blown head gasket and rod knock. There is a huge amount of people either hanging on to their cars longer or buying used cars and the engines seem to wear out after 150k….all makes and models. The ICE is indeed inherently flawed in design. It’s time for a new generation of engines like the OPOC engine.

  7. Phil Hopewell Says:

    Hi John,

    Isn’t the Captiva a rebadged Saturn Vue, not an Equinox as you mentioned in your report?


    Phil Hopewell

  8. Lex Says:

    Great Show!

    The Chevy Captiva is the european version of the late Saturn Vue which Con Ed uses in as one of it’s fleet cars.

    I fell upon a YouTube segement of the GM Hy-Wire vehicle. I was looking to see what GM ever did with the hydrogen fuel cell technology incorporated into a skateboard chassis. Autoline might want to do a show on this technology especially as oil prices increase.

    The Holden Cruze looks to be more attractive and substantial vehicle than the Chevy Cruze offered in the US. Holden has larger gas engines and a diesel engine for the Cruze. I understood the the Cruze was a Global car of GM, so why are we in the US being limited to small 1.4 Liter Turbo in all model above the base model? The Holden Cruze also has a multi link rear suspension which the US version does not have, what’s up?

  9. Tony Gray Says:

    I thought the Captiva was a take on the old Saturn Vue, but I may be wrong. That would account for the quick US certification.

    As for the new 6, as I stated before, I just wish BMW would actually market it closer to the 5, with a top of the line coupe being the 8. I would LOVE the extra room over my 335i Coupe, but I just can’t justify the current huge increase in price. Alfred P. Sloan’s ghost….PLEASE visit Munich!

  10. Tony Gray Says:

    Oops, Sorry Phil and Lex…your comments weren’t on there when I was typing.

  11. Ted Schulze Says:

    Loved you impressions of the Ford EcoBoost engines. Ford may not have been first with this type of engine but the sure know how to market it. I drive a Subaru Forester Turbo and love the way the power come on at the low rpm range compared to the non-turbo version of the engine. Looking forward to driving the Ford 2.0l EcoBoost engine.

  12. tj Martin Says:

    @ Lex ;

    Haven’t you learned by now ?

    We ALWAYS get screwed on the options and technology available on cars sold world wide .

    Even WHEN the car is made by a US manufacture .

    So the Chevy Cruze /Holden Cruze debacle is just another in a long line of SNAFU when it comes to what we can buy in the US .

    Another interesting example ? The Mercedes Benz GLK . In Germany I could buy the car with most of the fragile options deleted ( Auto Tailgate Climate Control etc. ) and with a complete and rather effective Off Road Package .

    Considering how many OFF Road opportunities there are in Germany vs the US and ………. Doesn’t make much sense either does it ?

    But again the US Automotive SNAFU factor rears its ugly head .

    Been this way for decades

  13. dcars Says:

    I’m not counting out Toyota, they are still a very good car manufacturer, with some really great cars. What I am saying, is the old gm followed a multi-brand strategy that allowed them to sell more cars yet not have the best selling car. Pontiac, Saturn and Chevy would sell multiple cars in a single catagory but not have the best selling car, but sell more cars than other manufactures. Think of the Malibu, G6 and the Aura. It may have been a more expensive way to “win” but also added safety to GM by not relying a single car to carry GM.

  14. mikew Says:

    The Ford EcoBoost system is a real advantage for Ford because of the gas mileage increase, which you didn’t even touch on yet. More horsepower AND better mileage is going give Ford plenty to talk about.

  15. XA351GT Says:

    I was reading the current Consumer reports issue on new cars. The had rated in quality 1.Honda,2.Subaru,3.Toyota,4. FORD and they were all really close. The surprising thing was that we have been told over the years about great German engineering but BMW,Mercedes, Audi,VW all finished down in the standings behind Hyundai , GM and Chrysler towards the bottom. Actually Chrysler was the bottom by a substancial margin.

    Shan ,
    I think I’d have to disagree with you about engine life. Almost any engine that is properly maintained will last well beyond 150K. Hell a lot of Subarus have more than 300K on them . Most engines are only as good as the person taking care of it. I’m one of the few on here that probably holds on to a car for life. I had a Taurus wagon with over 175 K on it a Chevy Beretta with 190K ,I currently have a 98 ZX2 with 116K and 01 with 89K Unless they get wrecked I probably own them another 5-7 years and put another 50K on them . They get the maintainence they need before something breaks. The 98 will get a timing belt change next month . When I asked the dealership the cost involved he said he had to look it up because they don’t get many to do. That tells me that people will drive it until it breaks and then complain about the car being a POS because they are too cheap or lazy to do preventive maintainence.

  16. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Lex, Phil and Tony, you are correct that the Chevy Captiva is the late Saturn Vue; not an at all bad vehicle either. My daughter has a Saturn Vue, with the 3.6 L engine and it is quite the performer and handles itself well. And as far as reliability (at least for her) so far so good. Really ashame that Saturn was killed as they were just getting good product back in their mix when they got nixxed.

  17. tj Martin Says:


    I’d have to concur with your assessment of the state of German Automotive reliability .

    Mercedes started the Decent into Hell when they took over Chrysler .VW Audi has in my experience NEVER made a reliable car ( as well as giving what can only be called Abysmal Customer Service ) BMW has been in steady decline for the last five years .

    Porsche seems to be the only one from Germany BARELY hanging on to any semblance of reliability . Barely . But now with VW- Audi calling the shots I’m guessing that’ll fall into the Abyss as well .

    Considering buying the M-B GLK I was mortified to find out that in its first year the car had received CR’s highest rating where as one year later its fallen into the Much Worse Than Average category .

    Have to agree with your engine assessment as well . I’ve got friends with 500,000 plus miles on their Toyota’s etc. It all comes down to how well you maintain the engine from start to finish .

  18. cwolf Says:

    For the average driver, I don’t think there is a measurable quality OR reliability difference between US brands,except chrys.,and Japanese rivals.Where one is weak in one area the other is strong in another and depending on owner requirements,judgements are made.
    Ford has been making terific progress for quite sometime and if Ecoboost becomes proven, Consumer Reports may have no choice but to start comparing Asian brands to Fords!
    I have never hidden the fact I believe in buying an American brand assembled in the US, so I hope Ford’s success continues.

  19. dcars Says:

    Before M&B came along Chrysler’s reliably ratings were better than when M&B was in charge.
    To top it off their fleet fuel economy went down!
    Bob lutz was very happy to pointed this out, when discussing German engineering.

  20. XA351GT Says:

    Okay here is another example of a great car we can’t get our hands on in the US. After you watch the video tell me the host doesn’t remind you of a Aussie John McElroy .


    335KW = 450HP and 570nm = 420 ftlbs

  21. stas peterson Says:

    The 30 odd new American reactors in the pipeline will certainly be hurt by the Japanese events.

    But you obviously don’t know that the new designs ALREADY ANTCIPATED a situation where both commercial power and ALL the standby emergency diesel electric generators do not come on line. Even in Japan despite the great Earthquake and Tsunami, the problems for only on eof the 53 reractors, was not that that ALL failed to come on-line, but that a sufficent number of them did not come on-line.

    The New American reactors don’t even need pumps at all. They have been re-designed to be “passive”. The engineers put the emergency coolant water above the reactor, so it can flow into the reactor by gravity, without power to run pumps.

    Further the coolant capacity in the reactor has been expanded so less emergency coolant water will need to be added. It also gives you more time before you must add some from 45 minutes to several hours, a much more significant portion of the 72 hours or so needed, during a cool-down after shut-down.

    Thirdly, the new reactors have been re-designed so that natural thermal convection is sufficent to circulate the coolant water without the need of pumps at all, or the power to run them.

    The new reactors are better than the ones running safely today. The NRC certifications, as certified “Standard Designs”, are close to complete for GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse-Toshiba re-designs allowing construction to begin soon. But without the now illegal and costly interruptions that monkey-wrenched the construction of so many Plants in the 70s and 80s.

    These new Reactor designs are the reactor designs that everybody wanted them to be, including most critics, back then, and simply were not finished designs.

  22. dcars Says:

    A friend of mine is going to purchase an SUV (probably an Enclave) and I pointed out that truthfully you really can’t go wrong with a GM, Ford, Toyota or Honda vehicle. the European models are over priced, not very fuel efficient, comparatively unreliable and expensive to fix.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I would hope that what happenen in Japan won’t kill nuclear power plant starts for the next three decades. After all, there is a simple lesson to be learned here. Don’t build the plants in earthquake and tsunami prone areas.

    In the case of deep undersea drilling, the moratorium makes a certain amount of sense. It seems that changes are needed to reduce the risk of future accidents, and and some things need to be figured out in order to make the correct changes.

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Doesn’t Captive=Saturn Vue=OLD Equinox?

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It seems that some people don’t care that much about the reliablity of their cars. Some cars which did very poorly in CR’s reliability survey ranked highly in “satisfaction.” Dodge Challenger is a prime example, as is Wrangler. On the other hand, the Toyota Corolla was above average in reliability, but below average in owner satisfaction.

    Maybe one needs to consider that even the least reliable cars sold now are more reliable than the best of not too many years ago. That applies even to the Chryslers that are constantly being bashed on the forum.

  26. cwolf Says:

    @Kit A moratorium makes sense to you, but not to the GOP, where “drill-drill-drill” is the motto. After the last Gulf fiasco, I heard no solutions to a “blow out” at deep drillings exist to this day! I believe the last grant accepted was in shallower waters. Perhaps this is a safer approach,yet I would add that platforms be reasonbly grouped so that an independant emergerncy group could be at the ready when needed.

  27. XA351GT Says:

    I maybe a matter of people wanting a exciting car that may not be the most reliable over a very reliable but boring car which just about covers everything Toyota builds. There is very little in the Toyota family that stirs any real emotion. They are just reliable devices for going from point A to B. Where as a Challenger or Wrangler will do it with style and flair ,but maybe not every time you want it to. Reminds me of the old Harley T shirts that said I’d rather push my Harley then ride a rice burner. Many of them did just that too ,push their Harleys.

  28. Andrew Charles Says:

    The Chevy Captiva Sport is indeed a Saturn Vue version 2.5. It is not the European Captiva, which is a larger 7-seater, but the Latin-American version, built in Mexico like the Saturn Vue version 2.0. The body and interior has been updated over version 2.0 in line with the Korean-built Opel Antara (you’d hardly notice the update), but the American version gets the 2.4 DI 4-cylinder and a slightly more powerful version of the 3.0 DI engine (both of which run on E20 for the Brasilian market), while Korean-built models get the older 2.4 with port injection and two new 2.2 L diesels.

    The Equinox is a nearly 4.8 m long midsize crossover, longer than the Highlander and Pilot, the Captiva Sport (aka Vue/Antara) a compact crossover under 4.6 m long. A new Tracker, possibly about the same size as the Kia Sportage (a little under 4.4 m long) is also on its way.

    As for the Holden Cruze—the US model got the trick multilink Watts suspension and the economical 1.4 turbo, while international markets which got the Cruze first made do with the base 1.8, a carryover 2.0 L diesel and a simpler rear suspension setup. With the launch of the Cruze hatchback international markets will finally receive the 1.4 Turbo and a new 2.0 L diesel with more power (shared with the Chevy Orlando). Holden (which is only producing the sedan so far) is using the Watt’s linkage from the US model on 1.4 Turbo models only as a “performance suspension”. The US doesn’t miss out on anything except the new diesel and the hatchback bodystyle. At 5.6 L/100 km (v. 6.4 for the 1.4 Turbo) the diesel economy is good, but not class-leading.

  29. Robert Morrison Says:

    Reliable really has to be very subjective. I own a 98 Wrangler with 4cyl and about 147k on it still has original radiator everything including clutch. I cannot kill it no matter how hard I try. Every report always has Jeep at the bottom, but this one has been one the best vehicles I have ever owned foreign or domestic. I will buy another one again and recommend it.

  30. Tom L Says:

    John. I think SAAB got there first.
    All my turbo Saabs have been a blast to drive.
    Ford is just learning that a 2 litre turbo can be fun to drive.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    As I remember, CR didn’t rate the Challenger and Wrangler very highly in their “objective” tests. They said the Challenger had wallowy handling, and they hated everything about the Wrangler. The thing is, the Challenger looks great, is fast in R/T form, and the baby boomers who buy these cars value a soft ride over race track handling. With the Wrangler, the people who buy them don’t mind the bad ride, noise, crude interior, etc. Some Wrangler buyers like the excellent off-road capability, and most of them just like the image it presents, and the fact that it can become the most “open air” vehicle on the market.

  32. dcars Says:

    Perception and fact have very little to do with each other. If people get the impression that nuclear electric plants are not safe, then it’s going to be pretty tough to build another one in anyone’s “back yard.”

  33. dcars Says:

    The Challenger and the Wrangler are iconic vehicles and people are going to buy them no mater what CR says about them. They are very cool, I especially like the Challenger, but unfortunately I doubt that I could ever afford to have one. You never know, maybe someday.

  34. Bob in Atlanta Says:

    Will the Japan crisis cause Toyota management to reconsider its North American plant strategy? I thought the new Tupelo, MS plant was originally planned to produce the Prius -then the decision was made to keep Prius production in Japan. Nuclear power concerns can’t be a positive in the US for power system capacity for electric-only cars. With petroleum AND electricity uncertanties, the plug-in hybrid is looking like a better hedge every day. Could Toyota decide to produce Prii in Mississippi?

  35. Lex Says:

    The Nuclear Disaster in Japan is a clear indicator the the US Energy Policy needs to sponser alternate sources of producing electrical power. This can be accomplished via Hydro, Solar, Wind, Tide and Bio-Fuels like corn and corp based ethanol which reduces our need for imported oil. When the cooling pumps fail you should always build a nuclear power plant below a small body which can be used as a failsafe to cool a reactor in times of possible disaster.

  36. tj Martin Says:

    JEEP – A JEEP Wrangler is a JEEP Wrangler , therefore who cares about CR’s driving ratings of the car . But …….. there is ZERO excuse for JEEP’s reliability ratings of late . Its still a simple straight forward and purpose designed car . But the quality of construction , the abysmal reliability , the multiple and potentially catastrophic annual Re-Calls ( averaging 4 per year or more ) etc. etc. are plain and simple , lousy manufacturing , sub par quality components as well as Chrysler/JEEP’s abject lack of concern for either its products or its customers .

    CHALLENGER – Well if you’re a MOPAR fan , you’ll buy one . But if its performance and handling as well as quality and reliability you’re after you’ll leave the POS on the Dealers Lots where they belong .

    Nuclear Power in the US ;

    Name me one single State that is NOT subject to either Flood , EarthQuake , Tornado , Hurricane , Bush/Forest Fire , Volcanic events etc. and I’ll agree Nuclear Power may be viable here .

    But you won’t be able to .

    ANYONE that thinks even for a minute that ANY level of Man Made Technology can stand up to the extreme forces of Nature is either living under a Rock , Blind or severely Deluded .

    History both Past and Present teaches us that ANYTHING Man Makes Nature can destroy in a Heartbeat .

    And more often than not Nature does just that . Not to mention Mans actions against his own creations .

  37. Bob in Atlanta Says:

    Re comment 36: And if man was meant to fly, we would have wings – so let’s all just give up!

  38. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Most Challenger buyers are probably MOPAR fans, but the car does look really good. The car weighs a lot more than it should, about the same as the 300 and Charger which are built on the same platform. Its main trouble areas in CR’s survey are paint/trim and body integrity. Body integrity mostly means rattles, something that would be annoying to me if I had one.

    CR’s reliablity rating of Wrangler is “worse than average,” which is the same as some other cars like Terrain and CTS, and better than BMW X5 and 1 series, Mercedes M-Class, GL-Class, and GLK-Class, and Nissan Z. The Wrangler is a simple machine that should do better, but it is far from the worst car in reliability, at least in regard to CR’s surveys.

  39. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Robert Morrison: Your old jeep doesn’t have all the electronics that the new JK’s do.I have had 3 jeeps,all bought brand new.The only one to give me grief was the jk.You cannot compare the two.They are similar in name only.

  40. Carroll E. Gant, JR. Says:

    BMW 6 Series:

    The 4.4-liter V-8 engine develops a maximum 400 hp between 5,500 and 6,400 rpm, and makes peak torque of 450 lb-ft between 1,750 and 4,500 rpm. This unique “reverse-flow” engine, whose two turbochargers are positioned in the V-area between the cylinder banks, produces an instantaneous and sustained wave of power, making it a delight for the enthusiast driver. The engine can be paired with either BMW’s new 8-speed Sport Automatic gearbox or BMW’s traditional 6-speed manual transmission, quite popular with North American enthusiasts.

    The new BMW 650i Coupe completes the sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds (0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds) with either the 6-speed manual or the 8-speed automatic transmission . Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph. This engine also boasts extraordinary efficiency for a model in its output class. EPA figures will be available closer to the on-sale date in mid 2011.

    John should get his info correct. The automatics are european. In North America we performance car lovers prefer the 6spd manual listed with most BMW’s.