Episode 630 – Volkswagen’s Q1 Earnings, Audi R18 TDI, Opel Astra GTC

April 27th, 2011 at 11:50am

Runtime 7:43

Volkswagen’s first-quarter numbers are in and they are a record for the German automaker. Audi just completed its first public test of its latest diesel-powered racecar, the R18 TDI, at Le Mans over the weekend. General Motors released a couple images of its next-generation Opel Astra GTC which is set to debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. All that and more, plus John responds to your questions and comments about hydraulic hybrids, Lexus design and more in the “You Said It!” segment.


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This is Autoline Daily for April 27, 2011. And now the news.

Yesterday we reported Ford’s first-quarter profits, today we’ve got Volkswagen’s numbers, and they are a record for the German automaker. The entire group sold nearly 2 million vehicles in the first three months of the year, up 14 percent. Revenue climbed to €37.5 billion, or nearly $55 billion, up more than 30 percent. Net profit came in at €1.7 billion, or about $2.5 billion. The Volkswagen and Audi brands contributed most to the bottom line, each posting a €1.1 billion operating profit. Scania, the heavy-truck company earned €376 million. Skoda earned €187 million. But SEAT and Bentley both lost money. No financial numbers were posted by Lamborghini or Bugatti, but we did learn that sales at Bugatti fell 45 percent. They’ve only delivered six cars so far this year. So how does VW’s earnings compare with Ford? Well, VW easily won the sales race, outselling Ford by nearly 600,000 vehicles. VW also easily took in more money than Ford, $55 billion versus, $33 billion. But on the bottom line, Ford just nosed out VW. Ford made $2.55 billion in net profits versus $2.49 billion at Volkswagen.

Speaking of Audi, it just completed its first public test of its latest diesel-powered racecar, the stunningly beautiful R18 TDI, at Le Mans over the weekend. The team is preparing for the 24-hour race in June and had 10 drivers drive three different racecars. Tests ran for eight hours and everything went well. This signals the start of all out war between Audi and Peugeot competing with diesel racecars at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

In another sign of how little faith Sergio Marchionne has in electric cars, Chrysler is selling its GEM electric-car business. GEM stands for Global Electric Motorcars. As you’ll remember, former CEO Bob Nardelli bragged that the company was working with General Electric on a breakthrough battery. But nothing came of that and Chrysler shut down its electric-car development program called ENVI two years ago. Marchionne doesn’t seem to believe in EVs, and Fiat is plowing its green card creds into what it calls bi-fuel cars, which can run on gasoline, natural gas or propane. The GEM operations are being bought by Polaris, which makes ATVs, motorcycles and neighborhood vehicles.

Are cell phones killing the market for portable navigation devices? Bloomberg reports that TomTom, Europe’s largest maker of nav devices, is cutting its full-year revenue forecast and its stock dropped over 20 percent this year. The company cites a slowdown in sales in North America as the reason for its drop with more people turning to their cell phones to get directions. TomTom’s CEO estimates that sales of portable navigation devices will drop between 15 and 20 percent this year.

Things are going from bad to worse for Saab. The company is not building any cars right now. Some suppliers stopped shipping parts because they hadn’t been paid. Now the struggling automaker is having trouble getting the cash it needs to keep going. It wanted to raise funds by selling off its property, but that has been stalled by the European Investment Bank. Saab is even in talks with some Chinese car manufacturers to try and get money. I hate to say it but this could be the end of the road for Saab. If a car company can’t build cars . . . well, what more do I need to say?

GM released a couple preliminary images of its next-generation Opel Astra GTC. According to Autoblog, the production version of this three-door hatchback is set to debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. The car’s still under development, but Opel will release full details about it AND open the order books on June 7. Stay tuned.

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!

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

MrAvalanche2004 wants to know, “What the heck is a hydraulic hybrid?”

Oooh, Mr. Avalanche, have we got a great show for you coming up. We’re going to be visiting the EPA laboratories in Ann Arbor, Michigan which is where the hydraulic hybrid was invented, and we have the full story on that. But for now I can tell you that batteries are not the only way to store energy. You can also store it as hydraulic pressure, and then use that pressure to turn the wheels on a vehicle.

I liked the new front-end styling that Lexus unveiled at the New York Auto Show, but you all don’t seem to agree. Dave says, “Ick that new Lexus front end reminds me of Acura!” and C-tech says, “Hopefully Lexus is still refining that ugly front end.”

MJB sure has something to say to Subaru about the look of its new Impreza. “Pleeease, Subaru…DON’T DO IT. Don’t give in to the dark side of the force. Don’t loose your design edge. Even IF the most heralded of your fleet over the past 1 & 1/2 decades resemble toads. Don’t go the way of the Hondas and Toyotas. I see you morphing into bland nothingness. The transformation has already begun. But it’s not too late to turn back. Just admit that you have a problem . . . take that first step. Com’n people. I feel an intervention.”

And finally Jim Taylor is skeptical that public charging stations for EVs will be left alone by vandals. “If the crooks and criminals of the world are willing to risk life and limb to steal air conditioners and saw off copper pipes in restaurants, I bet these public charging stations will disappear as fast as they go up.”

Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tomorrow when our guest will be Chris Theodore, who played key roles in the development of both the Dodge Viper and Ford GT. You’ll love to hear what he’s up to now. That’s tomorrow night.

And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global auto industry, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog and WardsAuto.com

44 Comments to “Episode 630 – Volkswagen’s Q1 Earnings, Audi R18 TDI, Opel Astra GTC”

  1. SlimJim Says:

    Seems like everyone wants Lexus to be more aggressive and compete with European makes, and when they unveil something agressive (almost audi-esque) they get slammed for that too!

    I like the new styling, and the new direction of Lexus. Lexus will take its lumps this year for a few reasons, mostly production disruptions. However, next year looks very promising, and the gains will appear even larger.

  2. tj Martin Says:

    @ cwolf

    RE; Your post # 31 yesterday ;

    Damn fine piece of writing !

    Well said !

    Amen !

  3. tj Martin Says:

    Never Ending SAAB Story ;

    Even worse is that the talks between the Russian Investor and SAAB have collapsed due to the Swedish Governments restrictions on allowing him to get involved .

    So sorry SAABistas . Its looking worse by the minute . Damn It !

  4. tj Martin Says:

    Portable NAV Devices ;

    Garmin’s ( local company ) sales are down as well . With Garmin , like TomTom placing the blame on Smart Phone’s .

  5. Phoneix Mark Says:

    RE the Opel Astra GTC, cool looking hatchback. Will we get it here as a Saturn?… oh yeah… never mind…..

  6. ckernzie Says:

    I think the problem is not that the new ‘face’ of Lexus is ugly but that it doesn’t suit the brand. I give the designers credit for trying to be bold but when your whole mission has been to manufacture the smoothest vanilla, trying all of a sudden to go ‘rocky road’ makes people lactose intolerant.

  7. Chuck Grenci Says:

    While not that big of an Audi fan, especially when talking about their passenger cars, I will admit that their R18 TDI is a real knockout. Lemans should be real shootout this year (and I’ll be in Audi’s camp for the overall win) but my real focus will be for Corvette (in the GT class).

  8. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Excellent analogy and I think you hit the nail on the head. (except I think it’s ugly too)

  9. MJB Says:

    Okay, GM… So when are you going to let the America’s have a whack at that newly designed Opel Astra GTC? (hypothetical question there. We all know it won’t happen)

    I really like that styling.

  10. Chuck Grenci Says:

    And as Saab may be coming to the end of the line, today is the second anniversary of Pontiacs demise; now that’s a shame (for those that knew when Pontiac was producing some great stuff).

  11. MJB Says:

    @ #4 tj

    I don’t doubt that findings of that report at all. I, for one, had always wanted to purchase a portable NAV device, but once I got my Palm Pre smartphone with Sprint’s Turn-By-Turn navigation (shameless plugs. Alright Palm, Sprint, pay up) I simply have no need for a Garmin or TomTom. My phone talks to me just like a NAV system would.

    So I, for one can be counted among the throngs of would-be consumers whose anticipated purchase decision for a portable NAV device has been (perhaps permanently) altered.

  12. MJB Says:

    @ckernzie +1 Great analogy! Lexus is Borden, trying to be Ben & Jerry.

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I have a Garmin, but if I would’t be buying one now. Yes, my phone (evo 4g) does rhe same thing, but is easier to use.

  14. tj Martin Says:

    @ Chuck Grenci ;

    I’ll be cheering on the Vettes as well .

    But it’ll have to be the Peugeot for me for the Over all . I hates Audi no matter how good they looks !

  15. tj Martin Says:

    @ MJB

    My iPhone purchase put paid to wanting a Garmin as well .

  16. tj Martin Says:

    Mercury , Pontiac , Saturn , Plymouth and now SAAB to follow .

    Bristol on the Rocks ( new owner is not too promising )

    Lotus damned and determined to drive itself into bankruptcy

    You’ve got to wonder in ten years who WILL be left ?

  17. G.A.Branigan Says:

    With OnStar’s turn by turn nav,who needs a portable anymore? And,there is no screen to look at with the turn by turn.It’s announced with plenty of time to make your turn etc.Well done GM.

  18. tj Martin Says:

    @ Hyundai(WTF)AreYouSmokin ;

    Assuming you’ll be making your late day rounds , here’s what I’m guessing for that Cocktail of Drugs you’re doing ;

    1) LSD – Creating all those Delusions & Hallucinations
    2) Cocaine – Creating the extreme Paranoia as well as your Delusions of Self Grandeur
    3) Meth – The aggression & inability to discern fact from fiction

  19. SalvadorG. Says:

    AUDI R18 TDI
    I get shivers just thinking about that race, too bad it’s only 24 hours.

    WoW! Deja vu!

    Finally! GM creates an exiting car just for the American market, SuCK on That EuRopEh!.. .. What? never gonna be sold here, I hate you GM.

    John McElroy, I’m just glad most of us here have an utter dislike for Sergio Marchionne, other wise; we all right now would be like.. What a true car guy, great visionary and leadership from Mr. Marchionne, but thankfully; we hate this Italian Jackass and regardless of what obviously right move he makes, we will dissaprove. Now, I want more of our taxpayer money go to waste on electrics. HA! suck on that Maccaroni.

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    SAAB is like a dying patient with no chance of surviving, where is Dr Kevorkian when you need him?? Today I went to a local Budget car-rental joint, and among the compact cars they had there, the last on I would take was a Corolla, I never thought I would say that but just thinking that the 4 speed auto tranny they still use goes back to 2003 or maybe even before is ridiculous every other compact they had there had either a 5 or 6 speed.

  21. dcars Says:

    GM sold the Astra in the US as a Saturn and they had very few buyers. I drove the car and wasn’t that impressed.
    Rendered pictures are always better than the real thing.

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    Or as the old saying goes: “The other man’s grass is always greener”

  23. tj Martin Says:

    @ pedro ;

    You should of grabbed the Corolla . The wife’s Matrix has the 4spd Auto and it works just fine here and in the Mts of CO . Fact is when driving it I never even think about how many gears are inside . It does what’s needed and thats all that matters .

  24. pedro fernandez Says:

    I would love to see a closed door meeting between Sergio and Carlos and hear them debating their quite different opinions on the future of EV’s. Two bright business with completely different viewpoints on the subject.

  25. pedro fernandez Says:

    TJ, if this is so , then why did Lexus develop an 8 speed tranny for the LS? it’s not like Lexus buyers care much about MPG’s, that is why the LS 460H has sold so poorly. I have driven 2 different 5 speeds and the mileage was great and the car ran quieter. (also less engine wear)BTW I did not rent anything, I just went there to meet a client. Even conservative Honda now has a 6 speed auto for the Civic.

  26. Phoneix Mark Says:


    Only the Civic SI has a 6speed. That is true even for the 2012′s.

  27. Phoneix Mark Says:

    Here are the ratio on the 2012 Civic auto trans.

    Gear Ratios: 1st: 2.666, 2nd: 1.534, 3rd: 1.022, 4th: 0.721, 5th: 0.525, Reverse: 1.957, Final Drive: 4.44

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    I stand corrected, I drove the 08 Civic with the auto and it excelled in both city and long distance highway driving, I keep reading from diff sources that the Corolla is just up to the rest of the field.

  29. Andrew Charles Says:

    Why is everyone so down on the GTC? Don’t forget they will be selling the sedan here as a Buick. Never say never.

  30. Andrew Charles Says:

    What happened to the Fiat 500 EV? GEM’s neighborhood EV’s have much more in common with Polarises ATVs and off-road vehicles than they do with regular cars. As such GEM forms a nice fit for Polaris and it’s existing EV program, more so than it does for Chrysler. Most people seem to have thought GEM had been liquidated during bankruptcy anyway.

  31. Tom L Says:

    Three cheers for Sergio not building EV’s.
    Do you think he could save SAAB?
    I must be dreaming crazy Saab thoughts

  32. pedro fernandez Says:

    #28 meant to say NOT up to the rest of the field

  33. XA351GT Says:

    That Audi race car looked great until I saw the billboard they put on it . WTF is that?? Ugly as hell.

    Saab , I hear the fat lady warming up. Don Meredith is also with “turn out the lights the party’s over”.

  34. cwolf Says:

    Sorry for straying from the subject but have a bit of UAW news to share.

    Previous reports/expectations that the union may begin negotiations with GM, rather than Ford (due to profit differences)may not be true. Now,it is said the UAW might bargain with ALL of the “Big Three” at the same time!
    IMO this might be the beginning of a REAL and mutually beneficial relationship. I,now,think a main goal is to increase the number of vehicles assembled by US workers,perhaps by closing some foreign plants. Can’t think of a better way to increase membership. Especially when attempts to unionize foreign transplants at this time, who will suffer from the disaster for quite sometime, will only result to intensify public/political scorn. I,also, forsee this group bargain a rather fair way to set wages for the next four years and to make the best of health care issues. Hope profit sharing is still on the table,but don’t be surprised if a few extra percent increase isn’t asked for. I have more thoughts but so many are intertwined that its best not to stick my neck out too far. Now if we could get them to actively fire the loafers,retrain those who are willing but unsure and to eliminate phones and other EL devises from the production floor. WOW! Rant more and I’ll get a HS complex. See Y’all

  35. C-tech Says:

    Well said Ckemzie !

  36. dcars Says:

    I hope your right c-wolf. I think there is plenty of money to be had if the jobs are available. If they build them in another country then US labor has no chance in making a cent.

  37. dcars Says:

    I thought gem was done with the bankruptcy filing. Polaris could make it work in there product makeup.

  38. dcars Says:

    #22 well said Pedro!

  39. XA351GT Says:

    When GM and Chrysler got government money maybe it should have been contingent on placing more jobs in the US as those jobs would have paid taxes back to the government and removed people from unemployment benefit lines. Cwolf I hope they can negotiate something that is beneficial to both workers and employers . Problem always seems the union has to always go too far.

  40. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    LMAO@ Toe Jam.

    Not my fault a Chery Fulwin is more equipped than a Yaris.

    Chinese cars for America built by Americans in America!!! It’s going to happen,guys.

    How else do you think we’re getting out of this mess? China will build Cheap in America goods here, and this will provide an insane 10 or so million jobs.

  41. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    The Koreans will to be forced to build everything here too. The Japanese will build more in Thailand and ship those Thai Fits over. There will be 5 times more foreign owned company products build and sold here than American owned company products.

    I think the Americans, like their Japanese lovers will be forced to build in Asia and Mexico and ship em here.

  42. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    - built.

  43. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    The Progressive and Conservative Libertarians will bring jobs, but they will create a whole host of new problems with an endgame much much worse than today’s problems.

  44. pedro fernandez Says:

    So tell us, Nobel Prize winning economist Smokey, if all these cars are to be built abroad, like every thing else these days, where are the American buyers going to make their money to buy those wonderful Chinese cars, flipping burgers? washing dishes, cleaning hotel rooms?