Episode 36 – Honda Insight at NAIAS, Big 3 Bailout Problems, Audi’s New Steering System

December 4th, 2008 at 12:00pm

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The Big Three bailout runs into some roadblocks due to lack of support in Congress and from the public. A peek at Honda’s new Insight hybrid which debuts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month. All that and more, plus a look at Audi’s new variable-ratio steering system, called Dynamic Steering.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. The Big Three bailout runs into some roadblocks. A peek at Honda’s new Insight hybrid. And a new kind of steering system from Audi.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, December 4, 2008. And now, the news.

Uh-oh, trouble in the Big Three bailout effort. A poll by CNN and Opinion Research shows 61 percent of Americans are against bailing out the Big Three. The poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday and sampled 1,100 people across the country. Moreover, our media partner WWJ reports that Senate Majority leader Harry Reid says he does not have the votes right now to provide the Big Three with a loan. Even Bill Gates, from Microsoft, is publicly questioning why they should get a bailout. You know, Gates could probably bail them out by breaking open his own piggy bank. And I wonder what Ford is going to think about its partnership with Microsoft to do that Sync system.

But before anyone panics let’s remember, that neither Congress nor the American people have heard the plans that GM, Ford and Chrysler are going to put forward today in Washington. Those plans lay out their restructuring plans in detail. Chrysler is even getting its vice chairman and former Toyota executive Jim Press involved in the presentation, and he knows how to sell! Rick Wagoner is driving a Chevy Volt prototype mule to the hearings and Alan Mulally is driving an Escape hybrid. Moreover, the UAW agreed to suspend the Jobs Bank and postpone the payments the Big Three have to make into the VEBA account which covers health care costs for hourly workers and retirees. That’s what Congress wanted to hear and all this could have a big impact on getting the public and the politicians in favor of helping the domestic auto industry.

In related news, GM and Ford are both looking to raise cash by selling off Saab and Volvo. Yahoo news reports the Swedish government is ready to help, even though it’s not interested in purchasing either company.

If you’ve been thinking about a new car, now could be the best time EVER to get one. The Detroit Free Press reports that there’s a big surplus of unsold vehicles because sales fell faster than automakers could cut production. You should have no trouble finding exactly the car you want and a dealership that’s willing to deal.

Honda will publicly unveil its direct competitor to the Toyota Prius at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month. The Insight, a five-passenger, five-door hybrid goes on sale next spring. Honda expects global sales of 200,000 units per year with 100,000 of those coming from North America alone.

Coming up in our feature story, we’ll take a look at Audi’s new variable-ratio steering system, right after this.

Audi has developed a new technology called Dynamic Steering, that’s going in the all-new A4.

This system can vary a car’s steering ratio based on how fast it’s traveling. It offers quick turning for low speed, and a much slower ratio for highway driving. This helps make the new A4 easy to park and drive around town, yet secure on the open road.

Basically, it has a tiny transmission inside the steering column. Inside the transmission it has a pair of gears. The outer ring gear is round while the inner one, shown here in blue, is slightly smaller and flexible — it’s also mounted around an elliptical rotor. As the rotor turns it flexes the gear slightly, this causes it to mesh with the outer ring gear. An electric motor varies how fast the rotor turns which changes the steering ratio.

Dynamic steering can dramatically reduce the amount of input required to make a turn.

This system is included in an options package called Drive Select, which lets you adjust throttle response, shock absorber firmness and more.

Audi even ties the Dynamic Steering into the stability control system so it can make small adjustments to help keep you on the road.

Anyway, that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. But don’t forget, if you sign up for our free e-mail newsletter you’re automatically entered for a chance to win an awesome prize. This week we’re giving away a limited-edition model of the 2010 Ford Mustang, which was commissioned to celebrate the unveiling at the LA Auto Show. To enter this contest simply sign up for our free e-mail newsletter. Just visit our website, AutolineDaily.com and sign up now. I’ll be announcing the winner tomorrow on “Autoline Daily” so don’t delay!

And that’s it for today’s show. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

13 Comments to “Episode 36 – Honda Insight at NAIAS, Big 3 Bailout Problems, Audi’s New Steering System”

  1. William Walling Says:

    AUDI steering drive employs a decades old ‘Harmonic Drive’ first used within OTC Robots.
    CHRYSLER – Viewing today’s disastrous Congressional Hearings for Detroit’s ‘Pentastar’.
    Senator Schumer (D-NY) suggested CHRYSLER has requested monies with NO oversight.
    While parent CERBERUS might be affiliated with Wall Street, oversight WILL be associated!
    Left their CAB program earlier today as NO future is apparent for this vaunted company.

  2. Roger Carter Says:

    In a panic situation I would think that your reflexes would not be able to change, or adjust automatically, between a low speed and a high speed driving situation, with 2 different steering ratios, with the new Audi steering system, and then again maybe I’m just old school. I enjoy the 5 min. segments. Thanks, Roger.

  3. Mike Hawkins Says:

    Detroit is invaluable but they have been so incredibly lacking in vision and shortsighted for so long it absolutely galls me to see them bailed out.
    They are losing money for years and years and they couldn’t figure out that this was going to kill them?
    I purchased a new Denali in 2004. It stickered at over $50,000 but had a hard plastic dash, an unusable Nav system and a dealer service system that treated me the same as an old pickup truck or Chevy Cobalt.
    Interestingly no one ever reached out to see how my experience with the car and service was working out.
    Say, are they still giving nearly free cars with free service to their managers?

  4. Keith McLean Says:

    I don’t understand why you avoid the real cause of the problem facing the big three? Please take a look at the unions. The reason so many Americans are aginst the bail out is none of the so called middle class have any where near the income or the bennifits that the auto workers have. If other employers had the same work force they would be going broke too.

    Regards, Keith.

  5. John Says:

    “And I wonder what Ford is going to think about its partnership with Microsoft to do that Sync system.”

    Ford should DUMP microsoft and use Embedded Linux Open Source software to save money, increase reliability, and prevent future microsoft “hooks” that will be stuck into Ford, Ford Dealers, and Ford Customers.

    “Even Bill Gates, from Microsoft, is publicly questioning why they should get a bailout. ”

    This should be enough to see that Gates is all about Gates and always will be.

    Wake Up Ford.

  6. Les Odgers Says:

    I’ve made many comments before on this subject…Yes the unions have a large hand in destroying the big three as does congress and idiotic upper management! Post retirement medical coverage, they actually still have that?! And that idiotic “jobs bank” what a F***in waste of money! The UAW needs to join the 21st century, as does all upper management with We need a federal maximum income limit of <$1m year for all publicly held corporate execs. The exec. largess of the last 18 years needs to be stopped! Both these groups seem to look at their companies as their own personal bank accounts. They make the pirates of the 18th cetury look like ametures!

  7. Les Odgers Says:

    BTW, Ford needs to dump that A***e Gates and the Microsoft KGB! Use anything else!

  8. Les Odgers Says:

    Audi variable ratio power steering…What, thats been around for over 15 years at least! It’s noting new and just give me decent steering like the Lotus Elise. Maybe we should outlay power steering except for disabled Vets… That would put and end to land based battleships!

  9. p. j. Thalman Says:

    John, Thank you, Thank you, it’s GREAT to come home from work and get a e-mail on, and about CARS. Please keep up the GREAT work and keep those every day e-mail “ALIVE” Thanks, again, P.J.

  10. Todd Jaspers Says:

    I don’t blame GM and Ford for trying to get rid of Volvo and Saab. They are both great companies, but they are niche brands today… Volvo was a staple in the 80s, but not so much anymore. Since Ford bought them, sales I think have deteriorated.

    I do hope the big three make it out of this. Whatever happens, I hope Pontiac comes through as a make…

  11. John Law Says:

    The problem has not been the unions but the lack of good products.

    Their foray into hybrids has been too late and half hearted.

    Our “domestic” automakers have been taking advantage of NAFTA with their assembly plants in Mexico……that makes it difficult to be loyal.

  12. James Says:

    There’s nothing new under the sun. My old 1980 Ford Mustang had variable-ratio steering. Knowing the Germans, what is probably a good idea has been made ten times more complex than it needs to be, and will soon be the subject of a recall.

  13. Frank Says:

    What is wrong with the Big 3.

    Honda is on their 3rd generation Hybrid. They are conducting customer testing of their fuel cell vehicle in LA.

    The Big 3: Bigger SUV’s, first generation Hybrids providing marginal fuel economy and are rarely mentioned in Consumer Reports reliability ratings.

    I can’t recall the senator today that stated Detroit was building cars that lasted 60 and 70,000 miles – they were too good. Talk about a low bar. 200,000 is the norm for the better Japanese brands.

    Build a product people want and you will not have problems selling it.

    Just because one of the big 3 goes under, it will not affect the demand for vehicles. They other manufacturers will have to build more cars and in order to do so, they need to hire people, buy from suppliers.