Episode 843 – More Trouble for Fisker, Malibu Gets Power Boost, Mazda Pulls Plug on CX-7

March 9th, 2012 at 11:50am

Runtime: 8:10

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.

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Hello, I’m John McElroy, welcome to Autoline Daily for Friday, March 9th. And now the bad news . . . bad news for Fisker, that is.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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

33 Comments to “Episode 843 – More Trouble for Fisker, Malibu Gets Power Boost, Mazda Pulls Plug on CX-7”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    Check out the wheels on that Standard Superior! I guess that using over-sized wheels to make a prototype look cooler is nothing new! Tesla, oh Tesla what can you say? Now they got conspiracy theorists accusing CR of making this up, really??

  2. W L Simpson Says:

    Volvo gets the Rube Goldberg award for 2012

  3. Dale Leonard-Lakewood,Oh Says:

    John,I want to offer my sincere condolences after learning of the passing of “Ike” on Autoline After Hours last night. We will all miss seeing him on the the set.

  4. Lex Says:

    The Only Thing Hurting the Sales of the Chevy Volt is the high purchase price even after government incentives. The Volt is basicly the Chevy Cruze with an Electric and Gas Powertrain. The Difference in price is $10,000 + Dollars. Gasoline is currently $4.00 per gallon. You can purchase 2500 gallons of gasoline with that difference. The Cruze Eco is rated at 42MPG which will carry you 105,000 miles or 15,000 miles per year for 7 years of ownership. The Economics of the Volt just does not work for the common person. You would never buy it. You would lease it because the cost of ownership is just too high for what it is. It is purely a “Halo” car for Chevy/GM.

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    #4 even so at that price, GM claims it loses money on the Volt.

  6. tj Martin Says:

    #5 ( had to come to mi amigos side on this )

    GM is losing either $120K per VOLT sold ( if you include all the development costs etc per unit ) or $10K per Unit sold ( if you only count the actual production and materials per car cost ) on every VOLT currently sold in the US/CDN . The Ampera’s number are even worse

    All of which you and I are paying thru the nose for from our taxes , thank you very much ObamaClaus !

    A bit of fun ; A 4Matic review .


  7. tj Martin Says:

    And this on China


  8. tj Martin Says:

    And this on OPEL/Vauxhall



  9. Lex Says:


    I too was very sad to hear that Ike passed on.
    Ike will be missed!

  10. ToxicSludge Says:

    Ahhh the fisker.What can I say that hasn’t been said before,lmao.

    @ #4: Before anybody puts their hard earned money on a volt,they should take a look at the VW diesel lineup.At least VW has a good warranty..and doesn’t flame on ;}>

  11. MJB Says:

    Okay, I simply can’t believe no one else has beat me to the punch on this comment, but… Looks like Fisker’s getting some bad Kharma.

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    This blog is starting to resemble that CR Fisker.

  13. C-tech Says:

    @ #10
    That was cool. But could it be that Fisker is producing some bad Kharma? :)

  14. C-tech Says:

    A Chevy dealer in Orlando had more Volts than Malibu’s yesterday.

  15. Gary Paul Says:

    Regarding the new Malibu engine offering 259 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque. Isn’t this very close to what the 2.0L Ecotec was pumping out in summer of 2006 in models such as the 2007 Saturn Sky Redline, or the 2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP, and later in the 2008 Chevy Cobalt SS turbo models? What is different about the engine besides, perhaps, increased emission controls? Will it obtain the same or superior fuel economy than the 2009 Cobalt SS Sedan, which was a lighter/smaller (compact) vehicle rated at 22/30 mpg?

    Regarding the Volt and the causes of its low sales numbers, it is mainly because the costs to develop and offer this parallel hybrid to the purchasing public are still far too great to justify the large price premium. Consumers are not too interested in purchasing ANY new vehicle technology if the cost/return ratio is far outside that of a conventional gas or diesel powered vehicle. This is the primary driver of low sales–and this is even though there is a $7500 tax credit included in the price! The engineering of the vehicle appears quite solid, but this does not mean the vehicle will sell well. Of course, the Volt was designed to change the perceptions of “the masses” regarding Chevrolet & GM, even if it did not make $$.

    As it is, oil is just far too plentiful for fuel prices to stay high enough to justify developing these kinds of vehicles, without FULL RECOGNITION that the company (and or government) will have to support them until they can actually make $$ on their own merits (sufficient sales at sufficient prices)— especially as conventional ICEs (internal combustion engines) with improved transmissions and computer controls continue to improve their fuel efficiency at a rapid rate.

  16. Alex Kovnat Says:


    If a person is convicted, especially more than once of drunk driving or texting while driving, why not require that person to have pedestrian-protecting airbags on the front and rear ends of his or her car while at the same time, not allowing their cars to have air bags to protect THEM from the consequences of their behavior?

    Given that the weight of safety-related doodads tends to compromise performance especially in this day and age of 50 MPG fuel economy requirements, I believe not being required to have them on one’s car should be a reward for having a good driving record.

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Volt is not a Cruze with a different power train. The Volt is a hatchback, not a sedan, and has a drag coefficient significantly lower than a Cruze.

    If they sold a car with the Volt body and a conventional power train, and at the right price, it would be a car to consider for those who wouldn’t consider the Cruze because it is sold only as a sedan in the U.S. Put a good diesel in the Volt body, and it would get great mpg, while having the hatchback utility of a Golf or Prius.

  18. T. Bejma Says:


    The difference between the old LNF engine from 2007 and the new Malibu/Regal GS version is about 25 hp and direct injection.

    GM knew in 2007 when we first announced the Volt was going into production that it would not make money. New technology (not a parallel hybrid but an electric car with an onboard generator) never does make money. But I can tell you one thing, the knowledged gained in producing the car, although never fully understood, is worth the loss…

  19. XA351GT Says:

    #4,#5,#6 , Yep agree with all you guys said. I’ve said this before on the Volt, it just doesn’t make any sense. The car will have little resale value considering that at the end of that 7 years that Lex mentioned .It’ll more than likely need a battery replacement at the cost of good used car. So I think that auto makers grossly underestimated that the general buying public would be able to see through this charade. You will have celebrities driving around in one for appearances that they are good eco citizens . Well they can afford to lose money more so than the average worker can. For most of them their life is spent in fantasy land.

  20. XA351GT Says:

    Kit @#16 I agree , I like the styling of the Volt just not the ridiculous price for a car the same size as the Cruze. Also I think many of of remember the Volt test mule that used the Cruze body and Chassis that was shown on this very site. So that maybe why Lex said what he did. In any case they are the same basic size and class of car and to have a nearly 20K difference in price without the incentives is goofy.

  21. XA351GT Says:

    Maybe GM should do that. Sell the Volt with a ICE as a Cruze Sport . Bet it would sell more than it is now. It would also help them defray the costs and also allow them to lower the Volt price in order to actually entice buyers. I don’t think buyers want or trust E/Vs yet. Even the Prius ,the top seller in it’s class of cars doesn’t sell in huge numbers like a Corolla or Civic do.

  22. Brett Says:

    Maybe if so many Americans weren’t scrabbling desperately to pay their mortgage and eat, they might consider the economic indulgence of something exotic like the Chevy Volt.

    There’s just not a large enough economic pool of early adopters right now. It still sucks to be a regular bloke in contemporary America. Yeah there are some hopeful signs, but it ain’t roses, believe me…

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Somehow, a lot of people consider a Volt to be a totally irrational purchase, because it won’t pay for itself in operating costs, while the same people consider buying a $65K Corvette to be rational, even though the Corvette will only carry two people, and the only way you can even come close to using its performance is on a race track, which only a small percentage of Corvette owners ever do.

  24. pedro fernandez Says:

    Friday, I saw a Volt parked next to me and I took a real close look and I don’t like it’s “hunkered down” look specially with the dark plastic panel located where the windows meet the top of the doors, seems to make visibility a bitch and don’t get why they had to do this. It does not make the car feel very “hospitable” at all.

  25. XA351GT Says:

    Kit@22,Yeah but the difference is the Vette doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not. Comparing the 2 on any level is like comparing apples and hand grenades. The Vette will also hold it’s value more and be wanted as a used car more as well. If you feel paying 20 K more than a equal car with a ICE and another 7K later to keep it on the road then the Volt is your car.

  26. XA351GT Says:

    Pedro , That is what I like about the Volt is that look . Just the price and tech that turns me off.

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:


    There is no ICE car equal to a Volt. The Volt is a hatchback with a low-drag body, having a Cd similar to a Prius. There is no ICE car like that.

    They should probably just lease, and not sell the Volt, as they did the EV-1, to remove the battery thing from the equation.

    As far as ‘Vette depreciation, they depreciate more slowly than a lot of cars, but they depreciate fast enough that they sometimes look attractive as something I might buy used, “just for fun.”

  28. Gary Paul Says:

    Thanks for your thoughts…
    I thought that the older GM Ecotec (LNF) I-4 engine, put out:
    260 HP in the manual trans models it was in.
    —as in the 2008-9 Cobalt SS models; and the 2007-2009 Saturn Sky Redlines; and the 2007-2009 Pontiac Solstice GXPs. (And 235 hp with the a/ts, as for example in an HHR SS model.)
    –And I thought the LNF DID have direct injection, as that’s what many articles indicate–or was that not true in the 235 hp version?) Did the HHR SS LNF not have direct injection?

    As Autoline indicated that the 259 hp 2.0L in the ‘13 Malibu was Real News, I’m just asking if anyone knows what the news is… If the old LNF from nearly 6 years ago made 260 hp, what makes this newer LHU engine, at 259hp so newsworthy? I’m glad that the a/ts can take the power now, yet, in simple terms, how is this latest LHU in the Malibu version improved? For example, how is it different compared to the 2012 LHU in the Buick Regal GS (besides the 11 less hp and 35 lb/ft less torque)? Hopefully it will achieve 30 mpg on the highway….

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The things I don’t like about the Volt are the price, and the mediocre mpg on gas after you go beyond the electric-only range. CR got about the same mileage on gas as a Corolla or Civic, not bad, but not even close to a Prius, and the Volt uses premium gas.

    The Volt makes the most sense for people who would do nearly all of their driving within the battery range.

  30. pedro fernandez Says:

    Jeez, everywhere I turn I see a video on how great the 500 Abarth is and what a bargain”sports car” it is. BS campaign that is what we got here, it is NOT any such thing, it is a phony that is all.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    These guys kind of like the 500 Abarth:


  32. pedro fernandez Says:

    They all do, just wait till they start falling apart cause their wimpy structure can’t handle the abuse they’re gonna get, It ain’t no MINI for sure!

  33. Kit Gerhart Says:

    …and these road test people don’t own the cars. They just play with them a while and give them back.