March 9th, 2012 at 11:50am
Consumer Reports purchased a Fisker Karma to test drive but it broke down with less than 200 miles on the odometer. GM announced that the 2013 Chevy Malibu will have an optional turbocharged engine that cranks out 259 horsepower. Mazda says it’s pulling the plug on its CX-7 crossover. All that and more, plus the story behind a Jewish engineer who really came up with the idea for the original Volkswagen Beetle.
Hello, I’m John McElroy, welcome to Autoline Daily for Friday, March 9th. And now the bad news . . . bad news for Fisker, that is.
MORE TROUBLE FOR FISKER
First the U.S. Department of Energy refused to give it anymore money. And now it’s in Consumer Reports’ doghouse. The magazine bought a Karma to test drive but it broke down with less than 200 miles on the odometer. And they couldn’t get it started again. They called the dealer and had to haul the Karma away on a tow truck. Consumer Reports says it buys around 80 cars a year and this is the first time it can remember a car breaking down during its check-in process.
WHAT’S HURTING VOLT SALES?
And speaking of extended-range electrics, the Chevy Volt has become a political punching bag in the United States, excoriated by conservative commentators and most of the Republicans running for president. GM says all the Volt bashing has hurt sales. But as I keep pointing out, despite all the negative news about the Chevy Volt, it outsold the Nissan Leaf 2-to -1 last month and it outsold the Mitsubishi i 40-to1. So, are the slow sales due to Volt bashing, or simply that consumers just aren’t that interested in electrics?
FIAT BASHES PEDESTRIAN PROTECTION
Volvo is the first automaker in the world to install an airbag that protects pedestrians. But will it really save more lives? Maybe. When I paid a visit to Fiat’s research center a while back, the renowned Centro Stile, and asked Fiat’s safety experts about these airbags and they weren’t impressed. “Why not?” I asked them. Because the airbag saves the pedestrian, they told me, and then that person bounces off the car, hits their head on the curb, and is killed or suffers severe head injuries. We’ll have to see what happens when these things are in production, but they may not do much.
BMW APPOINTS WOMAN TO BOARD
Ever since Angela Merkel became chancellor, German corporations have come under enormous pressure to put women on their boards. So BMW just appointed Milagros Caiña-Andree as head of human resources and labor relations, and given her a board seat. Daimler and VW put at least one woman on their board last year.
MALIBU GETS MORE POWER
Chevy released more information on the upcoming 2013 Malibu. The base engine is a 2.5-liter Ecotec four-cylinder that delivers an impressive 197 horsepower. But the real news here is the optional turbocharged engine. This 2.0-liter unit cranks out an SAE-certified 259 horsepower with 260 pound-feet of torque. GM says that’s enough giddy-up to propel the car from zero to 60 in just 6.3 seconds. That’s damn quick for a family sedan. In my book anything less than 8.0 seconds is enthusiast territory.
MAZDA PULLS PLUG ON CX-7
Mazda is pulling the plug on its CX-7 crossover. It had a rough start when it launched back in 2006, but recently it’s been selling fairly well. The reason it’s getting the axe is because it’s kind of a “tweener” in the market. It’s a little bigger than vehicles like the Ford Escape or Honda CR-V, but smaller than something like a Toyota highlander. The new CX-5 is a more appropriately sized REPLACEMENT for the CX-7. Mazda hopes to sell some 40,000 of them its first year in the market.
Last night we had a great Autoline After Hours with Paul Schilperoord, the guy who wrote the book about a Jewish engineer who really came up with the idea of the original Volkswagen Beetle. And after the break I’ll tell you more about that story.
WHO INVENTED THE BEETLE?
Every automotive enthusiast knows Ferdinand Porsche designed the original Volkswagen, under the directive of none other than Adolf Hitler. But a new book on the subject argues that a Jewish engineer actually came up with the concept.
The book “Josef Ganz, The Jewish Engineer Behind Hitler’s Volkswagen” argues persuasively that Ganz helped conceptualize the kind of car that the world now knows as the Beetle. Ganz was an engineer and journalist. In the 1920s and ’30s he argued that German automakers needed to build small, light-weight cars using an air-cooled, rear engine, with a backbone chassis and rear swing axles. He even called it a Volkswagen.
Ganz did more than just talk. He developed prototypes, starting with the Ardie motorcycle company in 1930. Though it performed well, it never made it into production. He was hired by the Adler company where he built yet another prototype, which he called the Maikäfer, or May fly. That caught the eye of Mercedes-Benz, which hired Ganz as a consultant, where he helped develop the 120H prototype, which shows unmistakable styling signs of the future Beetle. Interestingly, at the time Ganz was also a technical consultant to BMW.
Finally, one of his designs, the Standard Superior, made it into production. Only a few hundred were built, and only one is known to exist today, but what an iconic design! Later the Bungartz Company built the little Butz that was based on Ganz’s patents as seen here at the Berlin auto show in 1934. Note the swastika in the background.
Needless to say, being a prominent Jewish engineer in Nazi Germany was not going to end well and Ganz fled the country. He continued to develop his concepts in Switzerland during the war, but they never made it into production. After the war he emigrated to Australia where found work with Holden. But broken in spirit, unrecognized and in ill health, he passed away into obscurity until this book came out.
It’s a great story and you can find that book on Amazon. It’s Friday, which means another edition of RoundAbout, and this week it’s all about Geneva. Here’s Craig Cole.
If you’ve watched Autoline Daily this week, you know the Geneva Motor Show has been churning out vehicles left and right, BUT we haven’t even covered 10 percent of those reveals. Well, that changes tonight. This week on RoundAbout, back by popular demand . . . sort of . . . we’ll be talking about 60 brand-new vehicles in just 90 minutes. Join some of your RoAb favorites plus guest Aaron Bragman LIVE at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time at Autoline.tv.
But that wraps up this week’s reports on the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you on Monday.