Episode 680 – GM and VW Butt Heads, Krafcik Knows Best for Hyundai, Quality Time

July 14th, 2011 at 12:09pm

Runtime: 8:48

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.


Visit our sponsors to thank them for their support of Autoline Daily: Bridgestone, Dow Automotive Systems and Hyundai

»Subscribe to Podcast | iTunes | Zune | RSS | Listen on Phone Stitcher

This is Autoline Daily for July 14, 2011, reporting on the latest news in the auto industry today.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

40 Comments to “Episode 680 – GM and VW Butt Heads, Krafcik Knows Best for Hyundai, Quality Time”

  1. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Sonata sales are up 30% this, but I think anyone is reading too much into those numbers to think it is all due to the styling. The new Sonata is a much better car. That is selling it.

    Like others here, I suspect I’m going to be pretty tired of seeing all these Hyundais when they are 10 years old, and would rather see another old Accord.

  2. Jon M Says:

    I get automkaer’s efforts to improve safety, but why is driver training in regards to automotive safety given so little attention? The best way to avoid an accident is to know how to handle a vehicle. State driving tests are a joke. Take drivers who really don’t know how to handle a car in something as minor as snow off the road and it will dramatically reduce accidents. It’s not a cure all, but preventing accidents in the first place is the best way to improve safety. And no, it is not the responsibility of automakers to teach people how to drive, but I’ve had many close calls with people who just don’t know how to drive.

  3. Lex Says:


    V2V is BAD Stuff! Once vehicles are outfitted this these devices Big Brother / Big Sister will know everything about you! BS about not used for speeding tickets! The Troops will simply mail you a ticket electronically and charge your credit card everytime you go over the speed limit. A better way to increase vehicle safety is to enhance the Utra Sonic Parking Senors while the vehicle is in motion. This system would alert / warn drivers of near or close encounters with surrounding objects.

    I am glad GM is Standing Up to VW. GM should use the tag line “Imported from the USA!” when selling vehicles in areas outside of North America, especailly in Europe! I would love to see The Opel name plate along side Buick in North America.

    Nissan needs to do something about the styling of the new Versa for North America. I looks like another typical Sh*t Box from some other part of the world.

  4. HtG Says:

    Lex, wait till you see the new Versa in the stinking flesh. Don’t blame the cat.

    On V2V. Does it only work when all the cars at risk share the same system. Yeah, tell Mercedes to buy something from Dearborn.

  5. MJB Says:

    Jon, I completely agree.

    Systems such as this (V2V), as technologically wonderful as they are, will only add to the already high ineptitude of most drivers on the road. First there were those annoying bells and lights on certain manual transmission cars that reminded you it was time to shift. Then there were antilock brakes (which I really can’t knock too hard, because they are actually a good thing in most circumstances). Then there’s stability control. Then cars that park themselves. Then audible warnings when someone is in your blindspot and you’re about to change lanes. Then brakes that get applied for you automatically when you get too close to the car ahead of you. Now there’s V2V.

    We’re creating a generation of folk who no longer even know how to handle a car if the external conditions are not darn near perfect. In short, we’re creating boat loads of car driving wusses.

    Why in the world do we need stability control on a car whose center of gravity makes it next to impossible to roll? Because of innept drivers, that’s why. And we’re just churning out more and more of them each time technology decides to “Make Driving Safer”.

    Driving skill is dying in the name of saftey.

  6. MJB Says:


    You could be right about Big Borther. But I choose to believe otherwise. Not every instance of GPS tracking is an opportunity for government intrusion.

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    So sick of all this technology being added to cars so the distracted idiots that crowd our roadways and make it unsafe to operate a vehicle can go on being distracted and idiots for years to come, after market v2v no thanks, I still know hoe to use a horn.

  8. GPL Says:

    I don’t see how V2V is capable of any sort of central tracking. If I understand it, the units only use the GPS to determine its own location and then communicates with other units in close proximity via wi-fi. There doesn’t seem to be any talk-back via satellite and wi-fi is only good over short distances, so no apparent way for the government to collect data, and unless the units are registered to the vehicle, there’s no way to correlate data to driver, even if they could.

  9. HtG Says:

    I’ve taken some high performance driving courses, learning how to control a car at the limit. My conclusion is the masses of people have no clue, no inclination, and no chance to actually get competent at handling a car. Any populists out there can write letters to my office. The money spent on driver aids is a good investment, especially as people are getting more distracted, and real world driving, talking to you highway 405, becomes ever the bigger bummer.

  10. John Says:

    There will some type of data recorder that will capture the V2V data for insurance and accident purposes.

    Data storage is cheap and getting cheaper all the time. That data will end up in some “big brother” computer database/metadata at some point.

    V2V is good for the mass of clueless drivers but it will never “work” in any car I own.

    They just keep trying to force feed us this electronic junk.

    I agree 100% with Pedro.

  11. MJB Says:

    Htg, I hear you. Driving aids may be a “good investment”.

    … But they shouldn’t have to be.

    Do you remember that scene from iRobot when Will Smith pulled out his ‘vintage’ fossil-fuel burning motorcycle for him and his lady friend to ride on? She was petrified that he was going to be driving her around on it because, in that age, driving by hand had been all but elliminated. But my man still had the old-school skills to handle that bike.

    Driving is sadly becoming an old-school skill. (just like the manual tranny in a Corvette – can’t believe how many Vettes today are stinking automatics…Knife through the heart)

  12. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I noticed in the V2V segment, in which there was a beep (or some other sound generated), when the vehicles got close enough to each other; how does that work on a two lane road with vehicles driving in both directions? Are you constantly bombarded with unwarranted beeps; I can’t for the life of me think that the V2V can be so good and so fast to give any useful notice on ‘near-misses’ (as one sees with normal oncoming traffic).

    And on another topic: John, is Saab dead yet?

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Did anyone see this new Car Show with Adam Carolla and company, I thought it was better that the American Top Gear but Carolla needs to stop trying to say something funny every time he opens up his yap, first show was good, covering various subjects and vehicles, I liked the 24 hrs of Lemons segment. The V2V reminds me of an old radar detector I bought once, driving from NY to S Fl,it kept beeping at everything till I decided it was so annoying, I’d just pay the freaking ticket if I got caught.

  14. SalvadorG. Says:


    JohnMc, What’s the point? I mean; how much stronger does a car pillar really needs to be? -To prevent rollovers? How often does that happen in a car, and SUV’s with constant improvements in stability management controls systems, when was the last time you heard of a SUV rollover accident.
    -To protect against a side crash? Isn’t the best protection during a car collision something that helps dissipate the impact? won’t that cause the force of the impact to be redirected to the passenger? And if a car crash does happen, you think we’ll need stronger jaws of life to tear this cars open?..
    ..Has anyone done a study on this?

    -never mind, the extra weight cause on fuel or the extra money it will cause to repair a stiffer pillar damage.

    good show, JohnMc.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Rollovers are not uncommon. Many or most of them, at least in cars, involve ditches, etc., or sliding sideways in dirt where the tires dig in. Many years ago my sister had a rollover in a 1970 Plymouth Duster, and the roof held ok. This was a low-speed incident, though. She went into a ravine to avoid horses that she came upon in the middle of a curvy road at night. I think I’d be glad today’s cars are stronger than that Duster if I had a higher speed, and more violent rollover than the one my sister described as “slow motion.”

  16. len simpson Says:

    The two greatest failures of the modern world are
    driver training & grade school education. We don’t
    teach us how to drive, we don,t teach us how to live.

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    A lot of new cars come with extremely slanted A pillars for the sake of aerodynamics and to achieve a “sleek” look, why don’t these same rules apply to those cars?

  18. MJB Says:

    Agreed, Kit.

    @ 14 – I understand the need for impact absorbtion and crumple zones. But trust me my man, when you’re car or SUV has flipped and is about to land/roll you upside down straight onto the pavement, you do NOT want that A pillar to be the thing that goes ‘crumple’.

  19. Todd T Says:

    V2V does work, it’s actually very amazing, and promising technology. For all the paranoia about Big Brother, personally, if people are going to be distracted then they need Big Brother. Behavior is NOT going to change, and it can’t be legislated (thank God).
    This technology relies on a low power WiFi signal…basically making your car a “hotspot” and every other car one as well. When one “hotspot” comes within another one’s signal area, it sounds an alarm. It can be programed for all kinds of close rates, and angle rates, including being able to compensate for 2-way traffic, and still be able to let a driver know they have crossed the dividing line and there is oncoming traffic. As to speeding tickets, doubtful. As to evidence for accident investigation…who would argue that? The person at fault? Tough.

  20. SalvadorG. Says:

    I don’t think a 1970′s car counts.

    I tying to think that if you do happen to be in a rollover and your trap under your car, wouldn’t stronger pillars make it harder for the jaws of life to get you out?

  21. SalvadorG. Says:

    ups- correction:

    (I’m trying to think that if … etc.)

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    So, more drinking and doping by Chrysler workers during lunch break, this really is inexcusable lack of management responsibility! I guess if I lived in Trenton I may do the same.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    Did anyone catch the MSNBC 1 hr commercial for BMW last night? Good thing the head of CR auto testing showed up to put a dent in their claiming to be the world’s best car crap by saying they were not as reliable as other luxury brands.

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Salvador #20,
    Yeh, today’s cars are already much stronger than 70′s cars, and may be “strong enough.”

    As far as “jaws of life,” they have already gotten stronger, according to an EMT friend, but they may need to become stronger yet. There is obviously a cost in replacing older jaws with the newer super pit bull variety.

  25. HtG Says:

    I watched the BMW special. Seriously? PhD sound designers? BMW overdoes things so much, it’s just not cool. All those creases and curves in the bodywork reminds me of the saying, ‘if you can’t tie a knot, tie a lot.’ Autocar just reviewed the 1-series and says the handling is pretty dull, no steering with the throttle or brakes. Lord, do I like to bust on BMW.

  26. John Says:

    More Alternative Fuel NEWS:

    “Giant Eagle opens two compressed natural gas fueling stations”

    Thursday, July 14, 2011
    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    “Giant Eagle Inc. held a press briefing this morning to show off its first two compressed natural gas fueling stations in the region.

    The stations, at the grocer and convenience store operator’s Crafton distribution center, will be used to fuel Giant Eagle’s new delivery trucks. One of the stations will be open to the public looking to fuel passenger vehicles that run on compressed natural gas. ”


  27. SalvadorG. Says:

    Kit Gerhart Says:

    Salvador #20,
    Yeh, today’s cars are already much stronger than 70’s cars, and may be “strong enough.”

    As far as “jaws of life,” they have already gotten stronger, according to an EMT friend, but they may need to become stronger yet. There is obviously a cost in replacing older jaws with the newer super pit bull variety.

    But’s that is beside my point.. What, do you think that just because they can make stronger jaws of life, then all is good?

    I mean, I think the real solution should be to find a way to have less to none rollovers, rather then constantly making stronger and stronger pillars.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Of course, fewer rollovers are better than more rollovers, but there will always be some. As to what is “strong enough” for roof pillars of vehicles, to me, current vehicles are probably there. Maybe someone should do a PR campaign pointing out that current “jaws of life” would get you out of an upside down 3000 pound car, but might not be strong enough for the beefier pillars of an upside down 6000 pound SUV.

  29. XA351GT Says:

    Whatever happened to getting behind the wheel turning the key,engaging the trans and driving the car from out of the windshield. Oh by the way mirrors are there for a reason other than ornamentation. I passed to wrecks today both were rear enders. Obviously someone had their eyes on something other than the road in front of them.

    I love how the guy says oh this tech is cheap ,oh really how about in 5 years when all this crap starts going bad. You don’t need all this techno BS. Just sit down and drive the damn car.

  30. pedro fernandez Says:

    Amen! XA351GT

  31. XA351GT Says:

    Pedro @ 22 That’s okay I’m sure the UAW will step right up and discipline them with a raise and better benefits. After all how else will they be able to afford the booze and dope? Chrysler is it any wonder why you have quality problems and a bad rep?

  32. XA351GT Says:

    Salvador G They need better drivers not stronger A pillars . If they didn’t drive them like it was a Ferrari they probably wouldn’t be upside down in the 1st place.

  33. Kit Gerhart Says:

    re. #29,
    In the case of those rear enders, there was probably a “mobile device” between the drivers’ eyes and the road in front.

  34. pedro fernandez Says:

    I have met a couple of body shop owners in the past month and they’re doing very well, thank you! Their message: keep those distractions going folks, we’ve got kids to send to college.

  35. pedro fernandez Says:

    HtG these PhD’s spending days on end picking a sound for warning systems, why not spend some more time trying to make their cars more reliable?

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Note the Strategic Vision results cited in the article. ALL of today’s cars, even VW and Land Rover, are reliable enough that if people like their cars, they, well, like their cars. Some Chryslers, much maligned on this board, fall into that catagory. Challenger is near the top of CR’s survey in owner satisfaction, meaning cars people would buy, even if they could re-think their decision.

  37. Alex Kovnat Says:

    > 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.

    Sooner or later we are going to have to face the issue of whether cars are to be designed to meet the practical needs of the person who actually has to drive and live with a given make and model of car, or whether they are to be designed to meet the purely emotional, purely intellectual, purely ego needs of busybodies who have nothing better to do than make endless demands on the auto industry.

  38. SalvadorG. Says:

    XA351GT Says:

    Salvador G They need better drivers not stronger A pillars . If they didn’t drive them like it was a Ferrari they probably wouldn’t be upside down in the 1st place.


    You saying that to me because… I wrote what???

  39. HtG Says:

    On thin A pillars. the A pillar in the Lexus LFA is very thin, like 1.5″ of obstructed view, because it is made of carbon fiber woven on a loom. Having sat in one, I think it makes a big difference, giving you a panoramic view. Maybe Toyota can get the price down enough to put them in premium cars, at least.(they weave it like a sock)

  40. XA351GT Says:

    Salvator G @ 38 ,Well Sal I thought I was agreeing with your post @27 but maybe I read your post wrong my apologies.