July 14th, 2011 at 12:09pm
GM is all in a tizzy because it says Volkswagen has been spreading the speculation that Opel is up for sale and that it’s hurting GM. Hyundai’s home office in Korea wasn’t very happy with the new Sonata, saying it was too radical. But that didn’t matter to consumers as sales increased 30 percent over the old model. Instead of measuring things gone wrong, Strategic Vision is measuring things gone right and overall ownership experience. Their unique system shakes up the rankings compared to more traditional schemes used by J.D. Power and Consumer Reports. All that and more. Plus, a look at Ford’s vehicle to vehicle communication technology.
This is Autoline Daily for July 14, 2011, reporting on the latest news in the auto industry today.
GM, VW BUTT HEADS
General Motors is really ticked off at Volkswagen. Specifically, GM is accusing VW’s CEO Martin Winterkorn of fanning speculation that Opel is up for sale. Winterkorn is quoted in a German newspaper saying that a Chinese automaker would be the most likely buyer for Opel. GM released a statement reprimanding Winterkorn for his comments and said it will continue to support Opel and is pleased with the progress in turning the company around. Since 1999, GM has lost $14.5 billion in Europe.
KRAFCIK KNOWS BEST (subscription required)
When the current generation Sonata came out, Hyundai’s management in Korea was not happy with the design, saying it was too radical. They said the next-generation of the car needed to be more conservative. But that was before the car started rocketing up the sales charts. John Krafcik, the head of Hyundai’s North American operations says they ain’t gonna go to no conservative design. According to Ward’s, Krafcik says they’re that would be a big mistake. In the U.S. sales of the Sonata are up nearly 30% this year and demand is so high it has the lowest incentives in its segment.
There are different ways of measuring quality. The best known studies, like J.D. Power and Consumer Reports, measure things that go wrong on a car. But a company called Strategic Vision measures things gone right. This includes things like the overall ownership experience, including the performance and driving pleasure. And that explains why Volkswagen was rated the best manufacturer by Strategic Vision, whereas is usually is near the bottom of the list on other quality rankings. Other manufacturers that score well are Ford, Nissan, Honda, as well as Jaguar and Land Rover. Here’s my Autoline Insight. Strategic Vision is right. Just counting defects, especially insignificant ones, is a limited way to measure how good a car is. The overall experience is a much better measurement.
MITSU, NISSAN TAG TEAM FOR PICK-UPS
Even though the merger-mania craze in the auto industry has slowed down lately, it’s still going on. Automakers are constantly on the look-out of ways they can cut costs, even if that means cooperating with a competitor, what they call co-opetition. The latest example involves Mitsubishi making a Nissan pick-up, the Navarra, at a plant in Thailand. The two already make minicars together in Japan. So why a pick-up in Thailand? Because Thailand is the second largest market in the world for pick-ups, outside of the United States.
A-PILLAR OF THE INDUSTRY
Like the nose on your face, the size of A-pillars is always growing. The federal government is toughening up roof strength and rollover standards, so engineers have to bulk up roof supports. But while roofs are stronger, the side-effect is that these A-pillars block your view, especially in vehicles with low roof lines like the Chevrolet Camaro. A study performed by the University of Michigan for NHTSA said that 87 percent of subjects reported visibility problems with A-pillars. All is not lost though, some manufacturers have actually been able to reduce the girth of their A-pillars with better design and ultra high-strength steel. The 2012 Honda Civic has an A-pillar nine percent smaller than its predecessor, while the redesigned Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 improved visibility 15 percent.
PARKING FEES, OH PLEASE
While Americans may complain about feeding the parking meter a few dollars per day, motorists in other worldly cities have it far worse. In the heart of London, drivers averaged one thousand ninety dollars a month, while Zurich, Switzerland averaged 822 dollars and Hong Kong rang up 744 dollars for covered parking fees, according to Bloomberg news. Stateside, Manhattan took the top spot at 541 dollars. By the way, a month’s worth of train tickets in New York costs 443 dollars.
Coming up next, a look at what could be the most dramatic improvement in automotive safety that’s coming soon, thanks to break through technology.
They call it V2V technology…vehicle to vehicle. Using GPS and a modified Wi-Fi system, automakers are enabling cars to talk to one another, and prevent them from occupying the same space at the same time, i.e, preventing them from crashing into one another. We recently spent some time at Ford’s Research Labs and spoke with Michael Schulman, a Technical Leader at Ford Research. I started out by asking him, what’s the promise of V2V?
When you talk low cost, you’ve really got my attention. So I asked Michael Schulman, what kind of hardware are you talking about, and why is it low cost?
And just in case we missed anything I asked him what else we should know about V2V?
I love the fact that this technology could have a dramatic impact on safety, that it’s available at low cost, that it can be retrofitted to older cars, and that this technology is right around the corner. Good stuff!!
Don’t’ forget to join us tonight for Autoline After Hours when our guest will be Jack Telnack, the former head of design for the Ford Motor Company. We’ll have a great discussion of where car design is headed these days. That’s tonight on Autoline After Hours, and that’s today’s show for the top news in the industry.