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Episode 1086 – GM Building Two New EVs? Trucks Pick Up, Not Just for Monster Trucks

March 7th, 2013 at 11:48am

Runtime: 6:42

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson touts the company’s research and development. New vehicle sales in the U.S. market are one of the truly bright spots in the American economy right now, but last month the sales growth came exclusively on the truck side. Acura’s Precision All-Wheel Steering, or PAWS is the first system to feature independent and continuous control of the left and right-wheel steering angles. All that and more, plus guest host Murray Feldman gives his thoughts on how automakers can do a better job of winning over customers.

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. It’s Thursday, the 7th of March, 2013. I’m Murray Feldman from FOX2 News in Detroit, filling in for John who can’t make it for today’s show but he will be back for tonight’s Autoline After Hours but more on that later, let’s get to the news.

AKERSON TOUTS GM R&D
General Motors CEO Dan Akerson was in the news yesterday touting the company’s research and development. He revealed that the automaker is working on two separate electric vehicles, one that can travel up to 100 miles on a single charge and another that can go 200 miles. To help reach that goal, the company is working to cut the average weight of its vehicles by 15 percent by 2016. This will help reduce fuel consumption by an average of 10 percent. Akerson says GM will have around half a million vehicles with some form of electrification on U.S. roads by 2017.

CARS DOWN, TRUCKS UP
New vehicle sales in the U.S. market are one of the truly bright spots in the American economy right now. But last month the sales growth came exclusively on the truck side. Passenger car sales actually fell ever so slightly, down 532 units. Trucks, on the other hand were up by nearly 43,000 units. As we reported yesterday, sales of hybrids, plug-ins and electric cars were up strong, but the overall market growth is clearly being driven by sales of trucks, specifically full-size pick-ups and crossovers. Strong pick-up sales mirror an improvement in the housing industry, but those strong crossover sales show that consumers continue to trade in their SUVs and continue to move out of passenger cars.

NOT JUST FOR MONSTER TRUCKS
In our latest edition of New Technology we take a look at Acura’s Precision All-Wheel Steering, or PAWS. It is the first system to feature independent and continuous control of the left and right-wheel steering angles, and is standard equipment on the 2014 RLX. PAWS makes the Acura more stable and nimble by reacting differently to a variety of driving conditions. To enhanced stability the system will command both rear wheels to toe-in during braking and will steer the rear wheels with the front wheels at highway speeds, which also reduces response delay. For the more nimble feeling PAWS will turn the rear wheels opposite of the front wheels when the RLX is under highway speeds, which reduces turning radius and FWD power-on under-steer. The system uses two independent actuators that can adjust toe at each rear wheel plus or minus 2 degrees while it works in concert with Vehicle Stability Assist, Traction Control and Acura’s dynamic braking system. And if, for any reason, the alignment goes out of spec, we were informed by an Acura engineer that it does not require any special equipment or out-of-the-ordinary steps to return it to original spec.

Now lets get to the results of our latest poll. We asked you what your cylinder index is – the number of cylinders you have in your household. That includes cylinders in your car, bike, lawn mower or whatever you have. The median cylinder index for households is 20, the highest is 304 and the lowest is 1. The grand total for the 600 people who participated is 14,825. Wow, that’s a lot of cylinders. A number of you wrote in to tell us how you calculated your cylinder index and if you want to see how participants tallied their cylinders, click the link in today’s show notes. Thanks for participating in this week’s poll.

Coming up next, my thoughts on how automakers can do a better job of winning over customers.

Automotive assembly plants ran at 90 percent capacity last year as the automotive comeback picks up steam. That’s good. More jobs, more auto-workers, more suppliers, more dealerships, more sales people and more c-y-a-’s. More cover your assessments.

I’m talking about people hired by the big car companies to place ‘the call.’ It comes a week or two after the car buyer drives the vehicle home from the dealership. ‘Hi, it’s the dealership everything o.k, you like the car, the dealership experience was o.k., the sales person treated you well.’

And then they remind you that you’ll be getting a survey in the mail. It’s important to fill it out and if your responses are not all perfect it’ll hurt some of the nice people at the dealership.

I know someone who received ‘the call’ after a service visit. They weren’t happy. It took too long, people not friendly and the problem not fixed. Funny thing. Their survey must of gotten lost in the mail, because it never came.

A high ranking big three executive recently admitted to me that they don’t see alot of the complaints. He said we never know about these things. We know why.

I’m reminded of a big three engineer. The woman was in the beauty salon, overheard a customer near by complaining about a problem and the poor service she was getting on a luxury car. It was a car that this engineer happened to work on. The engineer took it upon herself to get the problem fixed within hours.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.

To those of you in the business who accept this system of problem hiding. I have just one thing to say. Every time a customer complains you have an opportunity, a face to face encounter to win that person over. And if you can do it. I bet they’ll repeat that story over and over.

Well that’s it for today’s show but before I go I want to remind you to check out tonight’s episode of Autoline After Hours. Joining John and the Autoextremist, Peter De Lorenzo, is Michael Robinet from IHS, an expert in future product and technology. So tune in tonight at 6PM Eastern at our website Autoline.tv, for the best insider information in the auto industry.

And that’s a wrap, once again I’m Murray Feldman from FOX2 News Detroit, thanks for watching and I will see you next time.

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

51 Comments to “Episode 1086 – GM Building Two New EVs? Trucks Pick Up, Not Just for Monster Trucks”

  1. Ron Paris Says:

    I’m sure the cylinder count survey proves out some crucial point about Autoline veiwers. Let’s see now; what was it?

  2. ColoradoKid Says:

    Car Sales & Financing ;

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/subprime-auto-financing-loan-terms-on-the-rise/#more-480402

    Sub prime loans … extended terms etc …

    That cannot bode well for the auto industry or the overall economic outlook .

    Anyone tracked down the source of that Kickapoo Joy Juice the 3M’s and now Akerson are using ?

    I get the distinct and ugly feeling we’re all gonna be needing a steady supply in the not so distant future ;-)

  3. pedro fernandez Says:

    Our last car purchase last June produced no survey form, the service visit 3 mos after did not either, funny thing is we were satisfied with both the sales and service experience, so I don’t get why it was never sent out!

  4. Feldman Says:

    #1 good luck…

    Akerson: Way to go, genius, reinvent the wheel.

    Years after Tesla offered the gorgeous, 265 (and 300) mile range pure EV TESLA S, GM will offer its own ugly 100 and 200 mile pure EV.

    Wow.

    No wonder TTAC has torn this ignoramus, the clueless ATT staff he brought with him, and his socially promoted auto illiterare minions to shreds.

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    I hope GM’s weight reduction plan is adapted by other manufacturers as well, trim the weight and improve mileage, it’s a no-brainer.

  6. ColoradoKid Says:

    A fascinating ( and short ) essay on the descent and demise of the French Automobile ;

    http://www.stephenbayley.com/w/the-end-of-the-french-car

    Relevant in light of GM’s tying in with PSA as well as a possible at least partial explanation for the ongoing decline of our automotive industry

  7. HtG Says:

    Deep Throat here, Murray. I conspire with the service managers not to deliver bad news to the surveys. I’ll go to the shop directly, knowing full well my leverage. One manager explained to me that if they get less than stellar marks, the OE rep is going to be calling. This same shop will put a sticker on your work slip asking you to call them directly if anything wasn’t right about your visit. Also, if I am pissed I won’t pick up the phone when the surveyor calls; I have caller ID and can recognize who’s calling.(I have my ways)

  8. ColoradoKid Says:

    ” Years after Tesla offered the gorgeous, 265 (and 300) mile range pure EV TESLA S ”

    Seriously ? You actually believe that ?

    So tell us all then . Where are the 3M’s ( Marchionne Musk & Muller ) and Akerson getting their Kickapoo Joy Juice from ? … since obviously you’ve tapped well into it yourself ……..

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    I had a Toyota salesman “encourage” me to respond in a “positive” manner to a survey I was gonna get despite my displeasure with the friggin’ finance dude who tried to rip me off. I did not follow his “advise” of course. Found out later finance dude no longer there.

  10. G.A.Branigan Says:

    “Paws”…sounds good,will be expensive,and should really scare the used buyers away at high sub sonic speeds.

    After well over 40 years of dealing with dealerships,my overall feelings are I would rather have gum surgery.

    Car/truck salesman: I have seen personally,a steady decline in ‘knowledgeable’ salesmen.In truth,I have found that they pretty much don’t know $hit about the products they are trying to sell.

    The service writers aren’t much better,they in general try to baffle you with ‘bull#hit’ to hide their ignorance.Also the big thing now is “oh,you read that on the internet….and you believe it? We never heard of such a problem”. To that I say,’yeah right’.

    Todays top tip: Interesting in any new/used vehicle,go on some internet forums dedicated to whatever it is your thinking about getting,then go and read what REAL OWNERS have to say.Always go to at least two different forums and compare common problems etc.Know beforehand what you MIGHT be getting into,no,or few surprises.Rant over…..

  11. pedro fernandez Says:

    If the Teslas had a normal ICE drive-train, they would sell well based on their looks, reliability would be another issue entirely.

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    GA, Acura has tried this 4 wheel steering before and just like before, it won’t help them sell many cars. GM also tried it on their trucks with the same results, some companies just never learn from their past mistakes

  13. Feldman Says:

    #8 You utterly missed my point. I am not a fan of Tesla, but Musk is not nearly as brain-dead as Akerson, AND, more importantly, he had the smarts to hire a GERMAN Engineer to design the S, which looks GREAT, is FLAGSHIP sized and more,

    and compared to the ugly, diminutive, inefficient, not pure EV (no matter how many times Kit pretends it is one) VOLT, it is 3 classes superior

    SO my point again is that this total fool AKERSON will, YEARS after TESLA offered a 265 mile OFFICIALLY EPA RATED and 300 mile tesla rated Pure EV as GORGEOUS (ask HTG who has seen it) as the S,

    He will offer some insigificant, ugly (in the Dolt tradition) 100 and 200 mile (as optimistic as Tesla’s 300) range pure EV.

    THAT was my point.

    As for Marchionne his brain is worth 10 to 100 Akersons, judging from the UTTER MESS he found and how much he improved things at CHrysler, whether you want to admit it or not.

  14. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Pedro: Oh yeah,I remember that ‘junk’ too.Even John Deere keeps trying on certain lawn tractors.I have yet to meet anyone who has/had one,car/truck/or lawn tractor.Really popular…..ain’t it,lol.

  15. Feldman Says:

    #11 it is always a big risk buying a car from some amateur newcomer like Tesla. However, they have been making cars for almost a decade now, and have engineers who are not amateurs or newcomers. The biggest risk is if it will go bankrupt. Reliability of the Tesla S is an unknown, but maybe it will not be as bad as we think. Interior quality and materials is one area they need to improve, Exterior styling only needs a few minor improvements to make the Tesla logo stand out and be more memorable, etc.

  16. HtG Says:

    15 Have you been up close to the S, Feldman? Leaving aside it’s better qualities, it surprised me that the seam between the hood and front fenders was irregular. I understand that the body is aluminum, so I wonder if they haven’t got the pressing and bounce back quite figured out. The fenders have quite a curve along that edge.

  17. Drew Says:

    So, I read that many of you are drinking the Tesla Kool-Aid. Do you every try to sit in the rear seat? Good luck with that as the door opening is small (dogleg structure just forward of the rear wheel is huge), no grab handle, and no foot room. It is just a desert back there in terms of creature comforts. Oh, I forgot to mention the reading lamp in the back is blinding (very close to the occupant’s eye and operates like a bright flood lamp instead of a focused reading lamp). Tesla has a very long way to go to mature their product, indicating their engineering capability is very narrow.

  18. Lex Says:

    Great Job Murray Feldman!

    I thought the “Cylinder Survey” was pointless!
    I got the feeling you felt the same way.

    Surveys after you purchase or service your vehicle are few and far between, or never arrive. However if you ask for product or price information on a vehicle the messages you will receive either by email, text or phone will make you hate the salesperson(s)and/or dealership. This is why I like to walk into a dealership get the vehicle booklet and walk out only giving my first name. If I as the consumer am really interested in your product I will contact you. The salespersons business card stapled to the booklet is all I need.

    The best Dealer Experience I ever had was at a local Saturn Dealership. I would drop off my vehicle for service. The Dealership would have fresh bagels with either cream cheese or butter available with coffee, tea and/or hot chocolate. A Courtesy Van would drive me to work. I would tip the driver, would always engaged me with pleasant conversation.
    The Saturn Dealership Service Department would call me with pricing before doing service, and later would call that my vehicle was available for pickup. My vehicle would be washed after every service. It was too bad that GM screwed up Saturn.

  19. chuck @ GM Says:

    John – your discussion on the engineer who helped a customer get her car fixed hits home. I have done that several times. I have explained to customers the dealer is not GM. If your dealer doesn’t take care of you, then call the 800 number in your owners manual. That is GM and they will do what they can to help you resolve the issue. On 1 occasion I even wrote an email to the regional service manager to help someone out. I didn’t understand the dealer is basically a franchise owner, and not GM until I started working at GM. And I grew up in Detroit. I’ve even had an argument with a dealer body shop manager about work on my own car, he threw “I’ve been doing this for 20 years” at me and I threw it back “I have been engineering GM trucks that long, fix the vehicle.” He did eventually give in.

  20. Tony Gray Says:

    I’m in the top 12.3%. I am sure I will be vilified in the media shortly and have to give up something.

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    CR was very impressed with the driving dynamics of the Tesla they tested, despite the battery failure that particular sample had, and getting the driving “feel” just right is difficult to do, some companies that have been at it for decades still can’t seem to get it right, all these other issues are easily resolved.

  22. Gerald Says:

    GM

    Weigt reduction, I have been and seen that statement before 1972-1980, 1995 and now toady.

    Just check in 2017 and lets see how much vehicles have lost weight. It will not happen, and only if all cars and trucks become smaller.

  23. Gerald Says:

    Weight reduction, I have been and seen that statement before, 1972, 1980 1995 and now today -
    GM. Just check in 2017 and lets see how much vehicles have lost weight. It will not happen!
    Only if the cars and trucks get smaller.

  24. ColoradoKid Says:

    13

    So like I said ….. be a site mate …. Don’t bogart the stuff …. tell us all where to get that Kickapoo Joy Juice thats got the 3M’s -Akerson and yourself living in a private world of delusions & fantasy .

    We’re all gonna be needing some once those Sub Prime and Extended Term auto loans hits the fan …. so by all means …. share already !

  25. pedro fernandez Says:

    As the price of the avg car approaches the level of a new home back in the late 60′s, we need new ways to finance cars maybe even car-equity loans will be the norm, loans for the down payment or how about lay away plans, oh wait no, cars go up all the time so that would not work!

  26. ColoradoKid Says:

    Dealer Experience ;

    All I can say is when my S4 Avant went all wrong on me I went thru three local dealers in CO … then the VW-Audi regional rep … right up to VW-Audi’s Customer Advocate …. to having the president of the Audi USA owners club as well as a couple of folks in the automotive media advocate on my behalf …. and got absolutely Bupkisss when all was said and done . The car was a mess till the day I turned it in ( lease )

    Which …. is why VW-Audi will never see another thin dime from me nor have my presence darken their doorstep ever again … as well as talking more than a few other folks out of even considering an Audi or a VW .

    Whats that old salesman’s bit of wisdom ? Make one customer happy and he’ll tell ten of his friends …. but make him mad and he’ll tell at least a hundred people he barely knows .

  27. ColoradoKid Says:

    Pedro mi amigo

    Sub Prime Loans . Extended Term loans … etc etc ( read the TTAC article )

    Doesn’t that all seem just a little too … familiar ? As in the main causes of the Housing Market crash ? And that happened with Real Estate which usually appreciates …. unlike cars that depreciate from the moment you drive them off the lot

    Nope my friend . This new mode of automotive financing is a financial train wreck in the making .

  28. pedro fernandez Says:

    Well CK, cars as well as houses or anything else for that matter should be only bought by those who can really afford them and not use banking or financial tricks to make it happen, I for one would never even think of getting into an expensive car by either leasing or some kind of asinine long term loan.

  29. HtG Says:

    OK, Murray, this time let’s pretend we’re in a parking garage somewhere near Georgetown. I’m Hal Holbrooke, you’re Bob Woodward(you thought you were going to have to be Bernstein, right?). Well, I learned that a local service department was breaking into the cell phones of customers and entering positive reviews for their visit to the shop. They got caught, but sometime after I had left the place.

    Sincerely, Your Friend.

  30. ColoradoKid Says:

    HtG – Same thing happened with customers email accounts with a certain nationwide dealer network who’s name I shall not mention ;-)

    (Hint ; no one I’ve done business with … but may have paid them a visit or two back in Decision 2011 . SG was not amused ! )

  31. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Who in their right mind would leave their cell phone in the car while it’s being serviced? Even I wouldn’t do that and all I have is a regular cell phone…..nuttin smart about it at all ;}>

  32. ColoradoKid Says:

    28 – Amen brother !

  33. Dan Clemons Says:

    Thanks Murray. Nice job…

  34. HtG Says:

    31 I think dealer knew the phone numbers, but people weren’t setting the security codes for their voice mail. So there was a default code, known to scammers. I’m not super clear on how it worked, but you didn’t need the phone itself.

  35. gary susie Says:

    20 years ago a dealer tried to cheat me on service work. billed for work not performed and not needed. I reported it to the manufacturer and nothing was done. He is still in business and still cheating people especially seniors and women.

  36. chuck @ GM Says:

    @ 35 Well thats what happened to me in the early 90′s. The dealer charged me 11 hours to replace 2 bolts that sheared, and he nailed GM for a water pump the vehicle didn’t need. GM said without the “bad” pump they couldn’t do anything. I wasn’t an employee then, so we parted ways for awhile. Turned out it was a broken bracket on the A/C compressor that would’ve had to have seen, if the dealer had actually done the work he billed me for. Instead it was still on the vehicle when I got it back.

  37. ColoradoKid Says:

    HtG – 34

    Security Axiom #1

    Any code , firewall etc devised by man(kind ) or a computer created by mankind can and will be broken in the public domain . No exceptions !

    #2 Re-read #1 and repeat 20 times .

    e.g. If someone has a savvy enough hacker on staff and choses to use their skills for what ever reason …. you’re a sitting duck waiting to be plucked .

  38. pedro fernandez Says:

    The biggest, most flagrant rip-off is one that is never reported, technicians charging by the hour according to some manual that says how much time it takes do do a specific task, I had a car serviced by an independent garage, when all was added up, it came to over 16 hrs of work, even though it actually only took about 7 hrs total. I paid 9 hrs for nothing.

  39. W L Simpson Says:

    Anyone remember the annual (shortlived)Happy Saturn owner social events? Saturn was treated
    as separate entity & customer satisfaction was thru the roof. What happened?
    Way back, when i worked at a Ford dealer,service
    & mngmnt personnel floated in and out with the tide.

  40. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Dealerships certainly has made a lasting impression on us hasn’t it? As a kid I had a part time job at the local ford dealer,in the body shop.What a happy place to work.It seemed that everyone there really wanted to be there.Repeat customers was what it was all about back then.The salesmen would send you a birthday card every year,knew every model inside and out,every damn option too.WTF happened?

  41. pedro fernandez Says:

    GA the same thing that has happened to just about every business, from mom and pop operations where you were treated like family and they knew you by name to corporate-owned mega stores who could give 3 craps about you as a customer, you’re just one of the millions that walk thru them there doors

  42. ColoradoKid Says:

    41

    And again I say ……. Amen brother ! That pretty much sums it up .

    —–

    New Trade Agreement between the US & EU ;

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/business/global/europes-carmakers-look-forward-to-us-trade-pact.html?ref=automobiles&_r=0

    Hmmn . Seems to me the only ones that have benefitted from NAFTA is the corporations , governments and manufactures … with jobs , manufacturing and money etc exiting the US left and right . e.g. We the People are getting the shaft !

    So why am I betting it’ll be the same with this EU trade agreement as well ?

    I’ve gotta be honest . The more moves like this Obama pushes forward …. the more I’m regretting voting for the man …. despite the fact that I cannot stand Born with a Platinum Diamond Encrusted Spoon in his Mouth Romney …

    Lose … Lose … or Lose a little worse .

  43. ColoradoKid Says:

    G.A.

    Remember when you could order almost any body style with almost any options available ?

    The old man did just that when he ordered his 65 F85 4dr … with full 4-4-2 mechanicals underneath .. what a sleeper that was !

  44. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I also remember,and miss,being able to run through the entire option list and make your own pkg.Today you have to have a damn sunroof for most of the different option pkgs.Or select an option pkg for just one thing you really want.And the other day my lady and I were remembering all the different interior colors to chose from.Now it’s blk,gray/light gray/or some sort of tan.Pathetic…..

  45. HtG Says:

    The dark grey interiors truly Herb Tarlek torque me. It’s just about camofleaugeing dirt. (how the FFFF do you spell camelflage?)

    Yes, in my cups

  46. HtG Says:

    You guys want to see intense, watch the AAH tonight. That’s a lot of info.

  47. pedro fernandez Says:

    #44 I remember getting a car in 86 with manual windows, locks and cruise control, try doing that today.

  48. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Feldman Says:
    March 7th, 2013 at 12:26 pm”

    “…and compared to the ugly, diminutive, inefficient, not pure EV (no matter how many times Kit pretends it is one) VOLT, it is 3 classes superior”

    No, “Feldman,” I never “pretended” that the Volt is a pure EV. What I said is that A VOLT OPERATES LIKE A PURE EV UNTIL THE BATTERY IS DEAD, after which it will keep going on the ICE. There is more than a subtle difference between a Volt’s power train, and that of the Prius and Ford Energi plug-ins.

    I also said that, yeah, the Volt probably wouldn’t make economic sense for anyone, but that some people like it.

  49. Kit Gerhart Says:

    47,
    I’ve had cars like that too, but not even Hyundai will sell you one now.

  50. ColoradoKid Says:

    To the family of Sergio Marchionne

    I do believe an ‘ intervention ‘ might be in order ;

    http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130307/COPY01/303079868/marchionnes-big-gamble#axzz2MxV034Uq

    The man is obviously spending way too much of his free time with Lapp Elkann’s bunch and that Kickapoo Joy Juice becoming much more than ‘ recreational ‘

  51. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ CK: and if macaroni fails there’s 18 billion euros down the tubes.So,if his plan fails,how would that effect Chrysler?