Episode 699 – China Up… India Down, GM Slashes Platforms, ESC Really Works

August 10th, 2011 at 11:41am

Runtime: 7:12

China’s “soft” sales numbers are suddenly looking a lot better in July, while India’s sales dipped for the first time in two years. GM plans to slash the number of platforms it builds in half. And, it works, it really works! Electronic Stability Control reduces deaths and accidents in the real world. All that and more, plus a Taiwanese company may just have an EV breakthrough that combines batteries with super capacitors.


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This is Autoline Daily for August 10, 2011. And here’s what’s happening in the world of the automobile.

For a number of months now we’ve been reporting on how car sales in China have been soft. Well, in July the sales numbers started looking better. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers reports total vehicle sales were up 2.2 percent in July to just over 1.2 million units.

But in India, car sales fell for the first time in nearly two years, totaling just over 133,000 vehicles. Higher interest rates and fuel prices are largely to blame, along with Suzuki Maruti, the largest automaker in India, stopping production of the Swift hatchback to retool for a new model. Automakers believe India, with a population close to China’s, could someday match the Chinese market. But as these figures show, China’s car market is ten times bigger than India’s right now. Ten times is a lot!

And just to show how important the global market is, General Motors says it expects sales in the Middle East to soar 22 percent this year. Amazingly, GM says Iraq is the fastest growing market in the region. GM says that outside of the BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — the Middle East is its seventh largest market in the world. But to put it in perspective, GM expects to sell about 150,000 vehicles in the Middle East this year, a little over one month’s sales in India.

Speaking of GM, it plans to chop the number of platforms it uses globally in half. By 2018, it expects to build 90 percent of all its vehicles off 14 platforms; it currently has about 28. It also wants to cut its engine families in half. Here’s some of my Autoline Insight. When Jack Smith was CEO of GM in the mid-1990s he embarked on a similar program to slash platforms and powertrain variants around the world. It’s kind of shocking to see that GM is still struggling to get this done. Maybe they need to come up with a simple tag line to rally the troops behind the effort. They could call it “One GM.”

Yesterday the White House announced that the Administration’s head of manufacturing policy, Ron Bloom will leave at the end of the month. Bloom was President Obama’s car czar during the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies. He also played a major role in the new CAFE targets. The White House says Bloom is leaving because, you guessed it, he wants to spend more time with his family, which I think has become a code word for “I am so outta here!”

Unlike anti-lock brakes or center high-mounted stop lights, electronic stability control really works in the real world. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says ESC can significantly reduce traffic deaths specifically by 18 percent. The system cuts overall accidents by 6 percent. Statistically speaking, ABS and CHMSLs, have almost no impact on reducing accidents. And starting the first of September, all new vehicles in the U.S. must be equipped with ESC.

As automakers struggle to come out with better batteries for electric cars, what if they were able to integrate super capacitors into those batteries? Coming up next, we’ll take a look at a Taiwanese company that is doing just that.

Earlier this year I paid a visit to a Taiwanese company called Delta Electronics. It’s working on all kinds of technology for electric cars, including combining advanced batteries with super capacitors. In fact, the company has built its own extended range EV based on a BMW. I got a chance to speak with Bruce Cheng, the chairman of Delta, and let’s go to that interview right now.

Delta is also working on the power electronics, the motors and charging stations for EVs.

Don’t forget to join me and the Autoextremist Peter De Lorenzo for Autoline After Hours tomorrow night, when our guest will be Ed Welburn, the vice president of global design for General Motors. What are the latest design trends that he sees coming? We’ll get him talking about that and answering your questions, so join us tomorrow night, won’t you?

And that wraps up today’s report on the latest 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

37 Comments to “Episode 699 – China Up… India Down, GM Slashes Platforms, ESC Really Works”

  1. tj Martin Says:

    Here’s hoping for that C7 reveal this evening !

  2. tj Martin Says:

    Sales down in India

    Could this possibly have anything to do with the fact that everyone that can actually afford a car in India has purchased one ?

    Nahhhh- Just me being cynical !

    A typical conversation @ a TATA dealership in New Delhi ;

    Salesman – Ahhh Mr Patel , you have come to close the deal on your new NANO

    Mr. Patel – No my friend , it is not to close the deal that I come today , but rather to inform you we will not be able to purchase the NANO at this time , due to the economy and the uncomfortable state of my present employment

    Salesman – But can you not Mr Patel , cut some corners or sacrifice some items of comfort for the advantages of automotive ownership ?

    Mr. Patel – But what is left to sacrifice I ask you . With things being as they are , we are already down to only two meals a day with sometimes only one for the wife and I to keep the children well nourished

    Salesman – Ahh but think of the advantages . Cutting your daily meals even further would keep your family in a much more slender state as well as raising your conciousness level . For was it not one of our greatest Holy Men that said , to starve is to realize brilliance ? Not to mention all the many advantages of car ownership my friend .

    Mr. Patel – Forgive me but you are correct in saying this . Bring out the contract and we shall sign , taking our NANO home this very day . It is wise advice you are giving us

    ( living proof Car Salesmen are the same World Over )

  3. Jon M Says:

    I wouldn’t say that ESC should not be standard on every vehicle sold in the U.S., but imagine if people had to actually learn how to drive a car to get a license. You have to do little more than stay in your lane, obey traffic laws, and not play bumper cars on a highway to get a DL. Heck, we could probably teach monkeys to do that! But instead of treating the cause, the gov’t treats the symptoms of vehicle accident fatalities by catering to bad drivers and those dumb enough not to wear seatbelts.

  4. RS Says:

    The problem with EVs has always been “the battery.” That basic technology actually predates Thomas Edison! The only thing new and different is the chemicals used to store the energy.
    The only other way now available to store electrical energy is the capacitor, which has several functional advantages, such as near instant recharging and very slow energy drain.
    Cheap electricity (for the moment) good torque characteristics and quick recharge. Great to hear that someone may be able to bring that to the market.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’ve never even tested the ESC in any of my cars. I guess I drive too gently.

  6. tj Martin Says:

    @ Kit

    I gave the ESC in the MINI a workout once , unintentionally ( hit a patch of oil in a set of fast S’s )

    It works . Trust me !

  7. dcars Says:

    Here is my questions for Ed….
    - GM cars styling has improved dramatically over the last few years, what was the catalyst for this vast improvement?
    - When will the Impala received at least a styling upgrade?

  8. Chuck Grenci Says:

    3.7 versus 1.26 million square miles; another detriment to having India sell as many vehicles as China. Where they gonna put them, where?

    C7 reveal, doubtful (but I would love to be wrong), maybe a morsel though (and it will be tomorrow night, Thursday, that Ed Welburn appears); can’t wait.

  9. tj Martin Says:

    Here’s my plea for Ed ;

    Please , please , please , DO NOT after the brilliance of the C6 and all its variants , screw up the C7 with some over designed , pretentious and overly complex EuroSnob wanna be .

    Just tweak it a bit . Update the styling a tad and call it done . Oh and add a Snow/Ice setting to the TC for those of us in snow zones that’d like to use the Vette year round .

    PLEASE !

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Isn’t the scoop already pretty much out on the C7? At least I’ve been reading for months that it will be mechanically nearly identical to the C6, except for possibly having smaller displacement direct injection engines. Also, it will probably have a slimmed-down butt, and classier cabin appointments. Has anyone heard other rumors?

  11. Tom L Says:

    C7 will be a MID Engine car

  12. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’d heard the mid-engine rumors a few years ago, but they seem to be pretty much quelled. There is still talk of a small displacement, very high rpm V8 as one of the options.

  13. tj Martin Says:

    The Mid Engined C7 rumor was put to rest about four months ago , both by the Corvette Owners website and GM .

    As far as any other scoops , as far as I’ve seen its been nothing but rumors and innuendo .

    GM has been more tight lipped about the C7 than a Swiss Bank

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    AS the old saying goes:”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” Back a few yrs ago they tried to fix their compact, RWD cars with the X-cars.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Corvettes have a following among a certain group of people, mostly baby boomers, who would be very upset if they they ever make Corvettes any way other than front engine, with a pushrod V8. A couple such people I know even whined when they went to the rear transmission in the C5, but they got over it after finding out how well the car worked.

  16. tj Martin Says:

    @ Kit Gerhart

    Oh I could be very happy with a nice Double Overhead Cam V8 as long as its in its proper place ( in front ) with proper drive ( RWD ) and a body style that doesn’t remind me of an old Buck Rogers episode . As well as it continuing to out perform cars twice its price and ………. like the C6 hold 14 days of luggage for two without a hitch .

    Nope . A DOHC engine would be just fine by me . A lot of other Vette fans as well I’d imagine . Remember the old ZR1 ?

    But MID Engined ? Bite your tongue GM !

    Anyway , other than the 458 even Ferrari has left Mid Engined behind …. for good reason I might add .

  17. GPL Says:

    Yeah, I can’t even imagine most Vette loyalists having much of a problem with OHC any more. A decade or so ago, maybe, but with almost all of GM’s products, as long as it retains 8 holes in the block and cross-plane V8 exhaust note, I think an engine would be accepted regardless of where or how many cams it has.

    That said, the pushrod 2 valve V8′s smaller head makes for nice packaging in the Vette, and GM has honed its small block into one impressive lump.

  18. tj Martin Says:

    I’d be thrilled silly if all GM does to make the C6 into the C7 is a few refinements and the cleaning up of a couple of details . Although I’m certain some body modifications will be coming as well . Just not too many I hope .

  19. tj Martin Says:

    FYI Financial News

    Now France is on the ropes

    Soon to join the PIIGS perhaps ? PFIIGS ?

    Any bets Der Vaterland will be following shortly ?

    Its gonna be a long hard Roller Coaster ride . Hang on guys . I’d hate to see any of us get hit too hard by it .

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    The decline of the West and rise of the former commies, how come we don’t hear any economic news from the Russkies, good, bad or indifferent?

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    Too late there TJ, since I am loosely tied to the insurance business, we’ve been hit hard since last yr. making about 30% less that 2 yrs ago. Have learned to cut back on frivolous stuff like dining out, Disney trips, concerts etc. Just yesterday the Vibrolla needed new rubber, pads, shoes, and alignment total $500. But it could be much worse, I could still be living under Castro.

  22. tj Martin Says:


    # 21 Sorry to hear that my friend . God I hate this time we’re living in !!!

  23. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    I love Chinese cars :D .

    American and Japanese Automakers themselves are killing the car. I predicted the economy will get worse didnt I? The next thing I’m going to predict is this over the next 14 months:

    - Gas will go to a low of $2.75- $3.35 a Gallon like within the next 2 weeks.

    - Then all of a suidden (due to internaitonal forces) Gas will go up to $5 a gallon at first (Sometime from September 2011 to March 2012), but as the US dollar continues to devalue, Gas will reach of a high of $7-9 a gallon (Mid to late 2012).

    - People will dump so many of their behemoths that dealers will literally give away (not sell)

    - There will be mile long waiting lists for D, B, and C segment cars.

    - All of the brands will bring in A Segment cars.

    - Brands will start going in the Red, and you will start to hear Bankruptcy talk- the Japanese THIS TIME are going to get hit very hard- TOYOTA WILL BE HUMBLED DAMM IT!!!

    - GM will take a hit, but they will bounce back.

    - Chrysler…… Bye.

    - Ford will take a very small hit

    - The Germans will take a BIG main line hit; a 50% drop at least. The insurance Agents and real Estate Brokers etc… who are used to their BMWs will “drop down” to Hyundai Ford and Chevy. Besides, compared to an overpriced BMW (Bowel Movement waiting) those cars are good value, and are more reliable.

    - Mercedes will gain market share again.

    We need to get rid of the Domestic and Japanese car companies who refuse to make electric cars for under $20K.

    1. The gas engine itself is killing the car.
    2. Rare Earth Metals in an Electric or a Hybrid car are a scam, the car companies know damm well they can make cars that do not utilize any of these metals, but they only do it to control supply so they can sell you petrolleum sucking crap that wastes natural resources, uses plastic, etc…
    3. The production mode of a car itself is killing the car. Cars shouldnt be disposable sale goods with 5 year model cycles, as cars should be heirlooms with 10-15 year model cycles. Look at the MINI it’s hard to tell whether a 2011 MINI is any different than a 2003 MINI. In the NEW WORLD ORDER, people will not have disposable incomes to buy cars every 5 years or so. People are going to become Prosumers- they produce what they consume in a world where: the nation state is eliminated in favor of the continental superstate (USA- to NAU- North American Union), the medium sized corporate entity Honda and Mazda is eliminated in favor of the Multinational Mega Corp- GM Hyundai, Ford, Toyota and much much more….(read Alvin Toffler’s “The 3rd Wave”- it’s happening as we speak). Cars themselves waste precious natural resources, and pollute the environment.
    4. Car interiors should be made out of rubber as the base fitting not Plastic.
    5. All Cars MUST be electric by 2030.
    6. All Car must be hybrids by 2020.

    I’m just saying, but then again you guys wont listen, and the car as we know it will die.

    China, Ford, Mercedes, and Korea are now the car’s only hope.

    GM and Toyota are still part of the problem.

  24. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    We need a Car Revolution and the Americans and Japanese are part of the problem.

    The Koreans are very smart, but still too conservative for their own good, they really need to bring out the exotic powertrain tech quickly.

  25. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    There’s too many buddy buddies in the industry too.

    I find it ridiculous that everybody in Toyota, Hyundai, GM, Ford, etc.. know each other and have worked together at different car companies on different projects.

    Car companies need to be totally shaken up with new staff that do not know each other, and are just hungry and ready to produce good innovative products that look towards to 2050s and not the 1950s.

    They call themselves competitors, but in all reality they are just friends at different car companies.

    There needs to be true adversarial conflict.

    - I want to hear Krafcik say something about how “The 3 series is an overpriced POS” on Autoblog.

    - I want to hear Akerson call the Yaris “A Childs toy from a Toy maker.”

    - I want to hear Mulally say “The Camaro is nothing compared to a Mustang,” With Akerson Responding back “The Mustang is an unadulterated joke.”

    I want to see major corporate espionage, where everything is always taken to the brink, but lawsuits are “somehow” eventually dropped with not a dime spent.

    I want to see GM come out with a $20K electric Sonic that goes 600 miles on a charge, and then have Hyundai respond the very next day with a proposal for a $19K Electric Accent that goes 750 miles a charge.

    Yeah, the car industry needs a revolution.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    re. #17,
    I personally know two Vette loyalists who would have a problem with OHC engines, if that were the only choice. They are ok with ZR1′s being made, but they wouldn’t buy one, even if the price premium over a base car was small. The people who buy Corvettes as the bargain super car that it is, would generally prefer OHC engines.

  27. XA351GT Says:

    Geez ,they’ve been threatening a mid engine Vette since the early to mid 70′s Anyone remember the Rotary Vette concept? The GM rotary engine was supposed to be the power plant for the AMC pacer with it being a FWD . But GM canceled the project really screwing AMC in the process as they then had to scramble to make it a conventional layout with a normal piston engine.

  28. Alex Kovnat Says:

    @Jon M: I agree with what you’re saying. One of the complaints I have regarding government is, everytime someone comes up with a system that improves safety, the government wants to make it mandatory. If this keeps up, cars are going to be so heavily loaded with all manner of doodads that they will be too heavy to accelerate (especially when, in addition to safety, government also demands 50+ MPG CAFE), too difficult for mechanics to service, and too expensive for us to afford.

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It’s always fashionable to bash government regulations regarding cars and everyting else, but, the number of miles driven keeps increasing, the driver distractions keep increasing, you can still get a license without knowing how to drive, but traffic fatalities decrease. Whatever you think about regulations, they have a part, probably a major part in driving becoming safer, in spite of everything.

  30. David B. Fishburn Says:

    John, i find it amusing that they are saying that abs does’nt help to reduce accidents. The abs system is the foundation of the esc system. The real problem is that people don’t know how to really drive, they think that the abs system will bail them out when it is already too late. People really need to learn how to drive as if there are NO safety systems on their cars. They also need to follow the driving regulations/laws.

  31. tj Martin Says:

    Technology in Cars ASC ESC TC ABS etc

    If you’d of asked me six months ago about the subject , I’d of railed on for hours about Nanny State technology , taking the pleasure out of driving etc etc .

    But now ….. after having the Benz for a couple of months ? Well I’ve got to tell you . I like a Climate Control that ” Works ” ( most including Audi’s don’t ) A 7 speed transmission that adapts to my driving style at the moment . Electronic seats that remember who I am at the push of a button . ESC etc that barley seems to exist , yet if its needed its there . Nope . Ole Tj is enjoying thinking about driving only and leaving the rest up to the car .

    Ahhh but here’s the catch . The Benz is set up in every way to keep the driver alert , both in seating posture , relaying info as to what the road and world around you is doing , keeping you comfortable , yet very aware of your surroundings . And more importantly not lulling you with its comfort and technology into a very False Sense of Security .

    Which IS what 90% of the other cars I tested do . Lull you into thinking you’re driving a car , not an SUV . Isolating you so much from your surroundings that intentionally or not your mind wanders . Convincing you thru their Ads etc that your best tactic is to SURVIVE an accident , rather than AVOID an accident .

    Thats when Technology has gone a step too far . And sadly most of the Automakers are very guilty of this charge .

    Technological Overconfidence is my term for this burgeoning Psychosis .

    And its very very real . From the Automotive world , to investors that depend more on their computer programs than their own education and common sense ( a good 60% of the last few days sell off is being blamed on this syndrome ) to Education to even common household events .

    So it seems to me what’s needed is a more balanced approach to all this technology from the manufactures .

    Sure put the Safety Devices in place , but NOT in lew of driver participation , skills etc. If M-B can accomplish this balance , so can everyone else ! Especially the Premium Brands .

  32. Kit Gerhart Says:

    tj, it sounds like you are really enjoying your “Benz experience.” I’d like to splurge and try one of their cars sometime but, unfortunately, with their very restricted product offerings, MB USA doesn’t want me.

  33. tj Martin Says:

    @ Kit


    Completely understandable Kit . But …….. maybe the B -Class or the A-Class ( if it gets here ) might appeal .

    Either way though , you’ve got the MINI in your garage ( and your back obviously isn’t revolting against driving it as mine started doing ) so you’ve already got a great car .

    Unlike the Sybil Quintet , I won’t be going on about how everyone should wand or buy a Benz . But as in above I will rail on about how the manufactures need to raise their standards as what the Benz does isn’t Rocket Science and can be replicated with less accessories at a lower price .

  34. tj Martin Says:


    PS; I wasn’t joking yesterday . The TC/ESC/etc ( I had the Sport Package ) really did save my bacon in the MINI . 40 mph around a set of right angle S’s hitting that small patch of oil , front end drifting etc . Sure some of it was my driving skills but all the lights were ablaze on the dash so I know everything else had kicked in full on . Pulled out of a potential wreck without a hitch ( solid 12″ curbing at the edges of the S’s )

    Maybe I would have saved it without all the goodies , but I’m glad I didn’t need to find out for sure .

  35. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Benz I think I could splurge for, and it would be splurging compared to what I normally buy, would be a C-Class wagon with a 4 cylinder diesel and manual transmission. I’ll certainly check out the B-Class when it arrives, but unless they offer a diesel, it might strike me as a very expensive Kia Rhondo, or something like that. I’ll find out when it arrives.

    For now, I don’t need, or even want any new cars, and there should be more of what I like out there by the time I’m shopping again.

  36. tj Martin Says:

    Sheesh . Thank goodness as always H/S was , is and always will be wrong about everything . I mean seriously , who in their right mind would want any of what he/she/it is predicting to come to pass ?

    Exactly who does it think such a scenario would benefit ?

    The Chinese ? Nope , their fragile boom would collapse even quicker than its already set to should this come to pass

    The Koreans ? Nope ! Same as China only substantially worse as their Economy is even more propped up by Government intervention hype and hyperbole .

    The EU ? definitely not . They’re already on the way down with the likes of VW and FIAT ( once the facts become obvious to all ) leading the charge ( into the abyss )

    The US ? Yeah like any of what it is hoping for would benefit any American in the slightest .

    Me thinks H/S needs to attend a Doomsday Prophecy Intervention or at the very least some counseling cause the little critter just aint got a clue as to what’s real and what isn’t

    Sad the way the Youth of Today are degenerating into Babbling , Dysfunctional , Early onset Dementia addled wastes of good air .

  37. Jonathan Says:

    John and company,

    I’ve been a regular viewer for about 16 months, and have hooked my son on all your related sites, but today’s episode shows you slipping into an all too common advertising/promotional speech pattern.

    Specifically, reference China vs. India sales, China sales are NOT 10 times larger, mathematically, but more like 8.57 times larger, or 9.57 times AS LARGE AS/THE SIZE OF (you pick the phrasing) the Indian market. Seems I’m nit-picking, but at “10 times larger”, you overstate the Chinese market, comparatively, by 11.49%, or about 147,000 vehicles. That is not small potatoes.

    It’s bad enough that political ads do this, as do consumer marketing ads, but I count on you for industry insight and accuracy…And I know you are better than this.

    If your writers need remedial math lessons, sign them up at the nearest community college, soon! And tell them not to feel bad while attending, most Americans accept/get mislead by this type of “sloppy math” in political and consumer ads daily, without thinking about it!

    Best regards,