Episode 968 – Chrysler’s Comeback Strategy, Piëch’s Positive Prediction, Quiet-Tuned Clothing

September 11th, 2012 at 12:00pm

Runtime: 7:25

Chrysler just gave its dealers a sneak peek at what’s coming down the product pipeline and there are some interesting revelations. Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piëch has a rosy prediction for his company’s performance in China next year. General Motors is lending a helping hand to those less fortunate. All that and more plus a look at what GM can get its European operations back on track.

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Welcome to Autoline Daily for Tuesday the 11th of September, 2012. A somber day for the United States as we remember the lives lost 11 years ago. I’m Todd Lassa from Motor Trend bringing you happier news from the world of cars.

First up, some short tidbits. GM is lending a helping hand to those less fortunate. It’s partnered with a Detroit charity to turn leftover sound-deadener into insulated garments for homeless people. The company donated enough material to make 400 of these coats that can convert into sleeping bags.

Honda announced pricing for the new Accord. The ever-popular sedan starts at $21,680. The coupe’s base MSRP is a little more at $23,350. These prices exclude about 800 bucks for shipping and handling. The 2013 Accord should start arriving at Honda dealerships across the U.S. on September 19th.

Speaking of money, Chrysler’s SRT group revealed what the next-gen Viper is going to cost. This 10-cylinder supercar opens up at $97,395. The hopped up GTS model starts at $120,395, about one Accord Coupe more than the standard Viper. Prices exclude two grand in destination charges.

Despite a slowdown in the market, Volkswagen expects strong sales in China next year. According to Bloomberg, the Chairman of the company, Ferdinand Piech, predicts VW Group sales will grow by at least 9 percent in 2013. So far this year the company’s sales are up 10 percent. VW is investing $18 billion in China through 2016 to boost production in the country.

General Motors is refuting a Reuters report from yesterday that says the company is losing nearly $50,000 on every Volt it builds. The company says Reuters’ number is wrong because it distributes product development costs across the number of Volts sold instead of distributing it across the lifetime volume of the program. GM says the technology will be used in several future products, which will help bring down manufacturing and purchasing costs. GM says this will eventually lead to profitability for the Volt and its other EVs.

THE COMEBACK KID (subscription required)
Is there an automaker more resilient than Chrysler? How many times has this company bounced back from the brink of oblivion? Now with Fiat at the helm it’s doing it again, and it’s doing it properly. Pentastar product is the best it’s ever been, and it’s going to get even better. Dealers just got a sneak peek at what’s in the pipeline. The Wall Street Journal reports dealers were shown about half a dozen new models that are due to land in showrooms over the next year and a half. That lineup supposedly included a completely overhauled Chrysler 200 sedan with a nine-speed automatic transmission and up to 38 miles per gallon. It could hit the street in the first quarter of 2014. A new small Jeep and an overhauled Liberty were also revealed as was a new model called the Chrysler 100, which is based on the Dodge Dart. Exciting times.

Up next, my thoughts on how GM can get its European operations back on track.

I was one of the auto pundits who supported General Motors when it kept Opel/Vauxhall rather than sell it to Magna.

The question, in light of the European Union financial crisis, is whether there is a future there for anyone in the auto business. Even Volkswagen, which dominates Europe the way GM dominated the U.S. from the 1950s to the ‘70s, has reportedly sliced its internal European sales targets by 150,000 units for the rest of 2012.

Like North America before the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies, Europe has too much capacity. GM’s recent alliance with Peugeot-Citroen looks like a bad idea, but keeping Opel/Vauxhall remains a good idea. Western Europe is still a big, important market, and every global automaker needs to be there. Interim GM Europe chief Steve Girsky must correct a long, steep slide that came when Jack Smith and Ignaki Lopez cheapened the brands.

GM is trying to make Chevrolet its commodity brand in Europe, and push Opel back to where it was through the ‘70s, as a credible Audi competitor. This strategy will take time and money. Opel/Vauxhall should get one of GM’s new rear-drive platforms for a halo model or two, something even Audi can’t do. The question is whether GM’s current management has the patience and discipline to make this happen.

Finally, a personal note. Eleven years ago today, on my 43rd birthday, I attended the Frankfurt motor show for the first time. I was one of a handful of auto journalists who spent the next few days driving the new Honda Civic Si hatchback through Germany, as other American journalists waited for a flight that would allow them back into the United States after Osama bin Laden’s terrorist attacks.

On Saturday, September 15, as part of that Honda press trip, we attended the first major race held at the new Lausitzring. We were heartened that each of the Indy cars in the race, piloted by an international cast of drivers, wore American flag decals in honor of those who died in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania earlier that week.

Alessandro Zanardi was leading the race in the closing laps when he pulled out of the pits on cold tires. He spun at turn one, into the path of Alex Tagliani, who t-boned Zanardi’s car. We watched in horror as a medevac helicopter stood by for what seemed like hours before Zanardi was flown to the hospital.

When we boarded the bus for nearby Dresden, word was Zanardi had died. He survived, of course, though his legs were amputated.

Last week, Zanardi won a gold medal in Paralympics cycling at the Brands Hatch circuit. He finished 27 seconds ahead of the silver medalist. Now Zanardi wants to collect on Jimmy Vasser’s promise that he could drive one of Vasser’s Indy cars if he won gold.

Zanardi’s win serves as a reminder that Indycar and F1 drivers are not the same as you and me. Alex Zanardi’s competitive spirit and optimism serves as an honor to those who died four days before his terrible crash.

And on that note we’ve reached the end of the line for today’s show. I’m Todd Lassa of Motor Trend. Thanks for your time and I’ll see you next time!

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26 Comments to “Episode 968 – Chrysler’s Comeback Strategy, Piëch’s Positive Prediction, Quiet-Tuned Clothing”

  1. aliisdad Says:

    Kudos to GM for the sleeping bags for the homeless!!!

  2. pedro fernandez Says:

    Good job there Todd, I wonder how many of those homeless were US auto workers who have lost every thing?

  3. Phil Says:

    Happy Birthday, Todd

  4. aliisdad Says:

    Also, I want to add that I really appreciated the experiences that Todd shared about 9/11 and the positive example of Alex Zanardi…Yes, all the contributors to this website have differing opinions and the focus is on cars; however, it is really good to get some perspective on life and what matters with these kinds of positive stories…Thanks for sharing your experiences..

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    Like Sergio or not, he’s a real car guy and if he can get Chrysler on the right track, he deserves all the credit he can get, despite all the naysayers who predicted absolute failure for him and the Fiat/Chrysler marriage or adoption?

  6. aliisdad Says:

    Pedro: No, they were GM investors who lost out when ‘bama and the boys took over and sent ‘em packin’..

  7. Bradley Says:

    The suicide robot used in the 2007 Super Bowl ad will sure appreciate one of those jackets.

    Wait, maybe Pontiac would like one too?

    In all seriousness, its a nice creative idea.

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    6 even worst!!! the assembly line people are still collecting unemployment or early retirement? or moved to Mexico?

  9. C-Tech Says:

    Thank you Todd for sharing your experience and perspective. I hope you can pass on the knowledge of how to tell a story like that to the younger staff at Autoline and Motor Trend.

    Good luck finding an Accord at those prices at a Honda dealer.

    The price of a new Viper is close to the price of a 427 Corvette Convertible. Let the (rich) games begin!

    The new Chrysler line-up sounds good with the exception of the Chrysler 100. Why do you need the duplication of product in the showroom? Isn’t that what you are trying to move from?

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    #9 I suppose that there are still some Chrysler/Jeep dealers that don’t sell Dodge/Ram and vice-versa, that is why they need 2 of them, same thing with the old Neon.

  11. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If we are lucky, the 100 will be a hatch, and will look like the Alfa that the Dart is based on.

  12. Gary Paul Says:

    Thanks for your interesting comments on keeping Opel. It appeared to me to be the wise choice as well 3 years ago when GM was ready for bankruptcy, as I thought that they needed some of the platforms provided by Opel as the basis for more fuel efficient vehicles sold by other GM divisions. But this is a darn complex analysis to work through… It would assist in the analysis of the Opel/Vauxhall situation if a chart could be presented that would outline the Product platforms now being used and also evolving from Opel that are used, or could be used in future GM divisions. This would help identify the value of the Opel contributions and perhaps the use by Opel of future GM platforms developing from other GM divisions. For example, we know that Buick now uses an Opel platform (the Insignia model) for the Regal.

    And where does Cadillac fit in Europe after it is first solidly established in China (which appears to be GM’s strategy at this time)?– Wouldn’t Cadillac’s emergence in Europe (hopefully with right hand drive and possibly diesels) step on Opel’s role battling Audi? Hmm–its reminding me of the GM Brand Menagerie of the pre- bankruptcy era–too many brands!)

    If GM is truly worse off than we think, with more operations draining money faster than we have been informed, and GM really needs to sell Opel/Vauxhall to stop the bleeding, what could they reasonably get for it? How would they replace platforms originally developed by Opel? At some point would they not want to be a serious force in much of Europe, again after such a sale?–I would think of course they would–but without Opel/Vauxhall where/how are the fresh new platforms developed? Nice simple problem to ponder, eh?

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    GM could always develop small and medium size platforms with their partners Daewoo, er… I mean GM Korea.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I can’t see Opel/Vauxhall competing with Audi. At least they haven’t done very well in the past, with “up market” cars. Of what I’ve heard, the Opel sold in the U.S. as Cadillac Catera didn’t do much better as an Opel than it did as a Cadillac.

  15. XA351GT Says:

    Okay I want what Zanardi is smoking. That boy is high on life to the 10th power. I wish I could be that upbeat. He has a most positive spirit. I hope he gets that 500 ride and does great in it. I know he’ll enjoy it no matter what. You go Alex.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Currently, Opel, at best, competes near the bottom of Audi’s market position, at least in cars. The top Opel is the Insignia, the one the Buick Regal is based on. That almost, but not quite competes with A4 in Europe.

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit check out the new Audi A3 for Europe review on you.tube.com, incredible performance and high mpg’s to boot, how can Opel/Vauxhall compete with that?

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Opel/Vauxhall compete with VW, Ford, Fiat, PSA, and Renault. As I remember, when I was in Scotland in the navy in 1970, Vauxhall competed mainly with Ford in the UK. VW was still exclusively air cooled, the British car companies were already on a downward slide. Ford had Cortinas and rear-drive Escorts, and Vauxhall had simalar rear-drive cars.

  19. cwolf Says:

    Of the Chrysler models shown, I wish the new Barracuda was included. It is really sharp looking!

    I heard on Bloomburg that Mark Fields may get the COO spot at Ford. They guess he is being groomed to take Mullaly’s place once he retires.

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    they need to send the Challenger to Weight Watchers and get a jump on Mustang and Camaro, less thirsty, lighter, quicker, more nimble, what a concept!

  21. RonE Says:

    Re: #20, Isn’t the Challenger being replaced with the Barracuda? I saw a photo of the 2015 Barracuda (concept?), and it is a very good looking car. Smaller than the Challenger too.

  22. cwolf Says:

    #21 & 22: RonE prolly read the same piece I did,I betcha! The 2015 Cuda is something like 250#’s lighter, a couple in. narrower and quit a bit shorter(5-7 in.). Acctually, it was stated to be near the size of the Stang. Try to find it on TTAC,Carscoop or LeftLane, pedro. Smooth lines, yet aggressive.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    From the photos I saw, it looks very similar to the Challenger and it does not look any smaller, where would this architecture come from? Chrysler got nothing like that, it would have to be a re-engineered Fiat platform.

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    A couple sites I found, allpar being one of them, said the ‘Cuda will probably be on a new Alfa RWD platform now being developed.

  25. jmann Says:

    FUZZY MATH: No, Standard Operating Procedure. Many expensive projects are expensed in just this manner throughout the manufacturing industry. The Press does a lot of damage in their mad dash for the latest “hot scoop.” Just enough information to be dangerous.

  26. pedro fernandez Says:

    It’s incredible when you drive the same car as long as I have, you don’t really notice its faults and why reviewers blast them, I spent a few hours driving the FR-S cause the owner was out of town, then I got back into the Vibrolla and holy crap, It’s a floater!!! I had never realized what a bouncy, wobbly suspension this thing’s got, it’s no wonder so many critics blast these cars for their horrible, gonna-lose-grip any second, dynamics and I finally realized what they meant with “glued” to the ground on good handlers.