Episode 883 – Ford Squashes Counterfeit F-150, Aluminum Wiring Saves Weight, Bravo BMW

May 4th, 2012 at 12:02pm

Runtime: 10:22

Remember JAC’s blatant F-150 rip off? Turns out that Ford does a bang-up job protecting intellectual property. Delphi’s aluminum wiring solution can save a ton of weight over the copper alternative — find out how much. BMW’s first-quarter results are very impressive and we’ll have the breakdown. All that and more, plus Craig Cole has Autoline’s first look at the Scion FR-S!

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily for Friday on May 4th. I’m John McElroy.

Remember this blatant rip-off of a Ford F-150 from a Chinese automaker named JAC? Well, turns out it never went into production. And that’s because Ford has an arsenal of patents in China protecting its intellectual property. On Autoline After Hours last night, Bill Coughlin who heads up all of Ford’s intellectual property, said companies can absolutely protect themselves by properly registering and patenting their IP through the correct agencies in China. In fact, Ford has never faced any kind of copy cat designs in China going into production because it has properly protected itself.

We’ve got more to report on first quarter earnings. BMW sold over 425,000 vehicles in Q1, an 11% gain over last year, which includes MINI and Rolls-Royce. Motorcycle sales were up nearly 8%. Total revenue topped 18 billion euros which translates to over $24 billion, and that’s a 14% increase over 2011. Net profits were 1.3 billion euros or about $1.7 billion, which is 18% higher than a year ago. Bravo BMW, that is very impressive.

There sure is a lot of wiring in a typical car. And all that copper adds a lot of weight. That’s why Delphi is showing off aluminum cables. Compared to copper, aluminum wiring reduces mass 48% while achieving the same conductivity. A typical car in North America has about 25 pounds of copper cabling, so switching to aluminum would save about 12 pounds! Better yet, aluminum is cost competitive with copper but doesn’t suffer from the same price volatility. Aluminum cables haven’t caught on because over time they have a tendency to become brittle and corrode at the connecting points, so Delphi developed a sealant to prevent this from happening.


All week we’ve been introducing you to the top officers at General Motors who are in the running in the race to replace current CEO Dan Akerson. Next week I’ll tell you who I think is going to win the race, but today we have to look at one of the strongest contenders, Mark Reuss. He brings a fascinating history to the company in that his father, Lloyd Reuss, was president of GM two decades ago. You’ve got to believe that the father can provide the son with some pretty astute advice of how to climb the corporate ladder. Even so, Mark Reuss has done a pretty good job of that on his own. A complete gearhead, he’s one of those rarities in American car companies: a senior executive who truly knows and loves product. He came up on the engineering and product development side of the business, and played pivotal roles in creation of the V-series Cadillacs and SS Chevrolets. He is even a certified industry pool test driver on the North Course of the Nürburgring. But to be CEO at any automaker these days you should have extensive global experience and Reuss’s only assignment overseas was as chairman and managing director of Holden in Australia for a little over a year. Even so, Reuss runs the biggest and most profitable part of the company and that will weigh heavily in the board’s decision.

On Autoline This Week, my guest is Larry Dominique from TrueCar, a company that generated quite some controversy with some dealers accusing it of stealing data from them. Steve Finlay from Ward’s Dealer Business and Craig Trudell from Bloomberg also join me on the show, and here’s a clip from that program.

(Today’s Autoline This Week preview is only available in the video version of today’s program.)

(Our first-look at the new Scion FR-S is only available in the video version of today’s program.)

Thanks for that report, Craig. Well that wraps up an eventful week of developments in the automotive industry. Thanks for watching, and join us back here again on Monday.

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

40 Comments to “Episode 883 – Ford Squashes Counterfeit F-150, Aluminum Wiring Saves Weight, Bravo BMW”

  1. Chuck Says:

    Aluminum wiring in houses became illegal because of overheating and resulting fire hazard. This won’t happen in cars of course. Why not fiber optic cabling? Costs more than copper no doubt, but safer.

  2. pedro fernandez Says:

    That Scion, oh, man! if I were only 20 yrs younger.

  3. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The main problem with aluminum wiring is a phenomenon known as “cold creep”. When aluminum wiring warms up, it expands. When it cools down, it contracts. Unlike copper, when aluminum goes through a number of warm/cool cycles, wire terminations, such as outlets and switches, become loose and have high resistance, allowing things to get hot and possibly cause fires.

    If they come up with a proper way to connect things in a car with aluminum wire, it should be ok, but I suspect it will require different techniques than with copper. As with some other “new technology,” I don’t want to be the “first kid on the block” to buy a car with aluminum wiring.

  4. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Fiber optic cabling is for signaling; does not carry voltages/amperages.

    And as far as aluminum cabling; depends on how good Delphi’s connector insulator is, but even there, aluminum is more prone to flexing failure (not as malleable as copper) but maybe it would be good for main, non flexing areas (with copper still being used but only in a lesser degree and more critical flexing applications).

  5. GPL Says:

    “Why not fiber optic cabling?”

    Because it can’t carry electricity – only light.

  6. dcars Says:

    #1, gm should be cautious using aluminum, I could be a good alternative to copper if done right.
    It sounds like Toyota is trying to make Scion a Pontiac buyers replacement vehicle.

  7. GPL Says:

    Aluminum wire to save weight… Why don’t they just make thinner fuel and brake lines while they’re at it? What could go wrong?

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    When did Pontiac make a car comparable to this Scion? I must have missed it, Please don’t say the Solstice!

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Solstice coupe? I saw one of the handful they made at the Kokomo, IN dealer. At least it didn’t have the substandard top mechanism of the other Solstice.

  10. HtG Says:

    12 pounds of savings by using Aluminum? 12 pounds? I can’t believe the engineering that’s going into making up for our fat asses. How about incentives to buyers to get their BMI down to sub-obese figures? What’s the ROI on that?

  11. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Here’s a not-too-glowing review of the Solstice Coupe, the last Pontiac.


    Yes, the Scion/Subaru will be a much better car.

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit if the Solstice would have been executed properly, it could still be on GM’s lineup under Chevy or Buick, but like so much of their stuff (going back to the X cars) it looked really good on paper but it was poorly (horribly in the case of the X cars) executed.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Reading that review, GM learned nothing about incorporating small touches inside to make daily living more pleasurable from working with Toyota at NUMMI for all those years, “clunky manual transmission” Really?? did they just learn to build manual transmissions? No wonder the thing went down the path of the Corsica and the Vega

  14. shan Says:

    Enough of the tech talk to justify the usage of aluminum wiring in cars, it’s simply economics. The car is becoming more integrated and cheaply built, like computers are now. When one component fails it affects a host of other components. It will be a mess in 10 years when the wiring corrodes.

    Speaking of car dealers…they are the pretty much all con-men. I never met one that didn’t try to take advantage of me or my family and friends.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, the Solstice, while attractive to many/most people, was very poorly executed in several ways. That article covers most of them, except the really crappy top mechanism of the regular soft top Solstice/Sky.

  16. C-Tech Says:

    I am glad to see the Chinese government ENFORCING the rule of law against those stealing Ford’s intellectual property. Hopefully they will enforce the laws equally against all companies infringing on copyrights.

    The BMW finance numbers are impressive, but I do wonder how much does Rolls-Royce contribute to their bottom line?

    The drawbacks of aluminum wiring, especially in the engine compartment, is much greater than the benefit. The heat-cool cycles and the flexing of the engine will wreak havoc with connectors and broken wires. Electrical problems on older cars are hard to trace and repair. Reducing the value and reliability of your customer’s older vehicles will cost you new customers in the long-term. Didn’t GM, Ford, and Chrysler learn this? Mercedes and Jaquar (Lucas electrics) also learned this the hard way in the 70′s and 80′s.

  17. C-Tech Says:

    @ #16 Sorry that should be Jaguar.

    The FR-S should have a name, at least a nickname. Perhaps there is an ideal for a contest John? I do wonder will the boxster engine reduce the aftermarket parts availible for it?

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    #17 How about “Number one son of the marriage of Toyota and Subaru”?

  19. HtG Says:

    Hooner San?

  20. C-Tech Says:

    I will throw in the Toyota “Mister 3″

  21. GPL Says:

    “GM learned nothing …from working with Toyota at NUMMI for all those years, “clunky manual transmission” Really?? did they just learn to build manual transmissions?”

    I believe the Solistice/Sky manual transmission was from Aisin, a Japanese company part owned by Toyota, not an in-house GM box, so it isn’t really fair to dump on GM for not knowing how to build manual transmissions. It was, however, the gear box from the Canyon/Colorado/H3, so it may be fair to dump on them for using a truck tranny in a sports car.

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    Excuses, excuses, if the transmission or whatever other component you’re gonna put in your car is not good, then you get another one, that is why you have a 5 yr time period from initial planning to getting a car out on the market, plenty of time to do the best you can, not settle for “good enough”

  23. HtG Says:

    I keep in mind that Solstice was Lutz’ car at a time when he had been brought in to change the way GM made cars.

  24. pedro fernandez Says:

    HtG I’m sure Lutz did not get all he asked for in these cars, remember they were not high volume, high profit vehicles, their trucks and SUV’s were, that is why they were some of the best around.

  25. GPL Says:

    No escuses, pedro. I completely agree, with you, especially since its most direct competitor, the MX-5, has one of the smoothest gear boxes in the business.

    I’m just pointing out that you were knocking them for not learning anything from Toyota and building a bad transmission, but the unit in question was actually built by a Toyota holding, not GM. I’m sure it is a perfectly good unit in a pickup or SUV, where it was intended.

  26. HtG Says:

    It is indeed a sweet gear box, GPL. Doesn’t like to go into second until warmed up, though. Blip the throttle between 1st and 2nd.

  27. pedro fernandez Says:

    GPL I was referring to the interior accommodations and the little seemingly insignificant things that make a big difference when you compare cars, like storage spaces and cup holders and nooks and crannies to store stuff and hold your glasses and your phone and other stuff, things the Japanese have done well for many years, get the most utility out of small spaces.

  28. HtG Says:

    OK, I can’t resist. The trunk in the Miata does the job of hauling groceries and most of what you really put in the car. Yes, one time I had to drive home with a filing cabinet riding shotgun; oversized gaijin are a little tougher. Bob Hall was once asked if the sunken rectangle in the trunk floor was sized to fit a case of beer; he hasn’t got back to us yet.

  29. C-Tech Says:

    Colorado/Canyon/H3 another set of under-achieving vehicles from the old GM. If you are going to share common components, isn’t the concept to get the best you can?

  30. pedro fernandez Says:

    I just don’t think the GM brass took the Solstice?/Sky very seriously, just like they did not put a lot of effort into their small cars, it’s almost like they had to do it just to have something in the showrooms to sell, knowing quite well that they could not reach the same level as the Asian brands in that category.

  31. C-Tech Says:

    @ #30
    I think GM brass took the Solstice/Sky seriously, however the “GM Way” or system of developing vehicles just did not serve the corporation well. They failed to adapt to changing times and tastes, especially in development. They produced average and below average vehicles in ALL categories from the 70′s to the 90′s. While the competition changed and adapted, GM was very insular. When the question is “what will it take to build cars people will buy?” it seems GM management was asking the question “what is wrong with the people who won’t buy our cars?”

  32. pedro fernandez Says:

    #31 how do you explain the fact that they did not get their full sized vehicles wrong? you would think they would have gotten those wrong as well

  33. HtG Says:

    maybe CAFE rules forcing GM to make unprofitable small cars led to marginal cars? Favorable Yen rates made small cars profitable for Japan in the past. Have you seen some of the cheaped out interiors we’re getting now?

    Lord, I need to watch more TV

  34. pedro fernandez Says:


  35. C-Tech Says:

    @ #32 As I look at what has happen to GM’s market share since the 80′s, I don’t think they owned the full-sized or mid-sized car market as they once did. The Impala hasn’t dominated its market in years, and except for the latest versions of the Malibu, the mid-sized market went to Ford in the 80′s and then to Honda and Toyota in the 90′s.

  36. C-Tech Says:

    CAFE rules were not the reason for the poor build and engineering of Vegas and Chevettes (plus their corporate clones) in the 70′s to 80′s

  37. pedro fernandez Says:

    #35 true, but compared to their small and midsize cars, those full size SUV (trucks) were in another league. GM never took small cars seriously at all. Ford tied and Chrysler just imported them.

  38. pedro fernandez Says:

    Ford TRIED

  39. HtG Says:

    I thought Ed Cole tried dearly to make a good lightweight car out of the Vega. The bean counters ruined the engine. So sad.

    More TV required

  40. Brett Says:

    re: Aluminum vs. Copper

    I really don’t see why they don’t just run a single bus and run a digital command control system through it. If they can do it with model railroads and slot cars, the price ought to be low enough to implement in automobiles. Lord knows it’s reliable enough.

    Do they still route all the power for the windows through the driver’s door and switch the heavy current? Dumb. Use relay on the motors and you only have to run low-current sense voltage through the switches (instead of letting the original switches go to Hell and force me to re-engineer the system correctly). Planned obsolescence…