AD #1182 – GM Delays Next Sonic, BMW i3 Electric Unveiled, ZF’s New 9-Speed Transmission

July 30th, 2013 at 11:40am

Runtime: 7:47

According to reports, the next generation Chevy Sonic will be delayed until 2016. BMW unveils the first mass-production car with a predominantly carbon fiber structure, the i3. ZF opened the doors to its all-new manufacturing facility and its new 9-speed transmission. All that and more, plus Autoline Daily correspondent Sean McElroy shares how Nissan is going big into commercial vans by going small.

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. It’s Tuesday the 30th of July and I’m Drew Winter from WardsAuto, filling in for John today. We’ll take a look at Nissan’s new small commercial van in a little bit but first today’s top stories.

Chrysler reported its second quarter earnings this morning and the numbers look pretty good… sort of. The company sold 660,000 cars and trucks worldwide in the last three months, up almost 5 percent compared to a year ago. But its revenue shot up by 7 percent to nearly $18 billion. That means the company was getting much better pricing for the vehicles it sold. Chrysler posted an operating profit of $808 million, up 6.5 percent, and a net profit of $507 million, up a whopping 16 percent. On the face of it, these are pretty good numbers, up solidly from a year before. But Chrysler clearly has room for improvement. Its profit margins are less than half of what Ford posted. Lackluster sales of the Dodge Dart and the delayed Jeep Cherokee are just two reasons why Chrysler is not hitting its full potential.

A few weeks back we reported that GM is delaying the launch of the next Chevy Cruze and now the company is postponing another vehicle. Reuters reports that the next generation Chevy Sonic, which is still known as the Aveo in other markets, will be delayed until 2016. Originally it was scheduled to be introduced in 2015… instead the next Spark will debut in 2015. GM says it will continue to build those cars in South Korea.

BMW pulled out all the stops with the public introduction of its i3 electric car, the first mass-production car with a predominantly carbon fiber structure. It simultaneously unveiled the production version to the media in New York, London and Beijing with top company executives in each city. BMW justifies the cost of carbon fiber claiming its light weight allows it to use a smaller battery pack. Sure enough, the i3 has a normal driving range of 80-100 miles with a 22 kilowatt battery, about half the size that was used in the Mini-e, a smaller electric that delivered about the same driving range. BMW will also offer a 2-cylinder gasoline engine packaged under the rear cargo area as a range extender that will add another 80 miles of range to the car. No word yet on the price of the range extender, but we’ll have much more information on the car in upcoming shows.

Tier-one supplier, ZF opened the doors to its brand-new manufacturing facility in South Carolina last week. The plant is one of the company’s 125 facilities worldwide and will be used to build 8- and 9-speed transmissions. The company will also invest an additional $215 million to expand the plant to produce 1.2 million transmissions a year. The all-new 9-speed, which is available in the Range Rover Evoque, allows direct multiple gear shifts, reduces fuel consumption by up to 16 percent compared to a 6-speed transmission and, even though it’s a front-drive unit, can be used for all-wheel-drive and hybrid applications. The Autoline crew got to test the 9-speed and says it shifts very smoothly and also liked that the tach sat noticeably below 2,000 rpm at 70 mph, but they also found the 9-speed to be a little slow on initial take-off. Look for more on ZF and its products in upcoming episodes of Autoline Daily.

Porsche held a fund raising event at the Silverstone raceway in England over the weekend, to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 911. The German automaker asked owners to bring their personal 911’s for a lap around the Grand Prix circuit. Just over 1,200 of the iconic sportscars showed up, which makes this the largest-ever gathering of the car. And based on the video from YouTube subscriber, Shmee150 it looks like every version of the 911 ever made showed up as well.


(Video and interviews for the NV200 commercial van can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show.)

…And don’t forget the CAR Management Briefing Seminars are coming up next week in Traverse City. WardsAuto will have a team of reporters there once again producing the WardsAuto show dailies with the most complete daily coverage of the events and sessions, plus the latest updates on And if you are not already getting our free e-newsletters with latest analysis and commentaries on what’s going on in the automotive world, go to and sign up now.

And just a reminder before I sign off. You’re not going to want to miss this week’s Autoline After Hours. John and Peter’s guest for the show is the one and only Bob Lutz… who will be talking about his new book “Icons and Idiots” plus a whole lot more. So tune in this Thursday at 6PM Eastern Time for the best insider discussion in the industry.

But that wraps up this show. I’m Drew Winter from WardsAuto, thanks for watching and have a great day.

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59 Comments to “AD #1182 – GM Delays Next Sonic, BMW i3 Electric Unveiled, ZF’s New 9-Speed Transmission”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    Transmission shops are gonna have to bring in consumer loan specialists to deal with the expensive repairs that will be required when all these wunder trannies begin braking down and will need highly specialized techs and equipment to repair them.

  2. pedro fernandez Says:

    First Cruze gets delayed and now Sonic? seems like not all Korean engineers work at the same pace, those owned by foreigners seem to be lagging behind the home owned ones

  3. motorman Says:

    if GM can stretch another year or two out of the present design that means more $$$ in their pockets

  4. ColoradoKid Says:


    #1 – Yup – The more complex they become – the more they break – the more expensive it is to fix em . Been watching the same happen with bicycles over the last decade … and even at that basic level of technology …. you’re seeing more drive train failures than was ever imaginable even just a decade ago . Fact is now the drivetrains screw up more than the riders used to screw them up . Brilliant … for the repair shops that is …. oh well …. at least it’ll keep C-Tech’s wife in Bimmers for years to come ( lol )

    #2 Yeah sumpin odd’s goin on over there Chebbie/GM way fer certain .. and not just with their Korean …. cough .. sputter … partners … what with delays …. odd rumors ’bout this’n that … bits n bobs leaking this way from overseas ….. Hmmmmn .

    Oh well . At least GM’s not alone . FIAT/Chrysler just announced yet another delay for the new …… urp ….. JEEP
    Cherokee .

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    Yes but the Cruze is doing really well but not so the Sonic, it could use a helping hand, I think the Cruze itself is its worst enemy, when people go to the Chevy showroom, they spend more and leave with the Cruze, am I right TB?

  6. Mike Says:

    Hey Pedro, these new trannies are so wonderfully designed that they will never need any servicing. No need to concern yourself about that.

  7. ColoradoKid Says:

    #3 – Or …. to be more accurate and to the point … GM aint got the $$$ to develop the new ones …. especially in light of the ( lack of ) profits those two cars are generating at present for GM .. along with the massive loses incurred by the Cruze EV … oops … meant Volt …. all those incentives cutting deep into GM’s profit margins … along with subprime loans …. etc etc … well … you get the point I’m sure .

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    That is why I hang on to both my old early 1980′s Fuji road bike and 1990′s Toyota and my 70′s Technics table and Marantz receiver and on and on……..

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    #6 oh yes of course and Beemers are so well built with such high standards that they never need fixin’ specially after the warranty expires.

  10. ColoradoKid Says:

    Pedro – #9 – Hee Hee Hee :o Yeah … just like Audi’s n’ VW’s are …. hee hee hee hee

  11. wayne gillis Says:

    Historically, American cars have been designed and engineered “out-of-the-box” compared to others around the world. That’s not the case in recent years. The Dodge Dart is a good example of cookie cutter design and engineering, hence mediocre sales. Design and engineer Fiats for Europe and Dodges for North America.

  12. Drew Says:

    Transmissions are getting (and are already) totally ridiculous.
    All that you need is a GOOD QUALITY 5-Speed manual transmission and a GOOD QUALITY 5 or 6-Speed automatic transmisson that has proper ratios to accommodate the torque characteristics of the engine.
    They should be focusing on quality and durability instead of more-and-more gears.
    The 7-speed manuals on the new Porsche and Corvette is ridiculous!

  13. HtG Says:

    Why not 9 gears? Today the tranny, engine and software are necessarily being optimized to achieve higher mileage. So why wouldn’t you use more gears if that meant keeping the engine most efficient at more loads? Seen that 7th gear on the Corvette? Maybe once this mid level fruit is picked it’ll make sense to use more lighweighting exotic materials, like America has a salad for a year.


    sure would be nice to ask The Man a question on AAH.

  14. G.A.Branigan Says:


  15. ColoradoKid Says:

    12 & 13

    From my own ‘ personal ‘ experience as well as most definitely In My Own Opinion …..

    7 speeds is just right … as well as more than enough thank you very much .. With 7 I get the benefit of almost seamless shifts ( which 5 and 6 speeds definitely do not offer ) and better milage/lower revs with none of the complexity … slow shifts … delayed reaction time etc of the 8′s and 9′s I’ve driven [ Here's a clue ZF ... I wouldn't if I were you be using the Range Rover's evocative Evoque as an example of your fine engineering prowess ... just sayin ... ]

    So 7 speeds ? Definitely ! 8 ? Getting more than a bit iffy and OTT . 9 though ? Seriously at 9 speeds you’re looking for trouble with little or no gains to be had .

    For the record I felt road bikes at 12 speeds and mt bikes at 21 was more than enough as well …. and the minute they went beyond that the problems started left and right

  16. HtG Says:

    15 maybe, but most people don’t care much, and carcos have many tools to optimize different categories of performance. Besides, why is a 9 speed double clutch tranny so complex? It’s pretty straightforward. You want complex? Think about telematics.

  17. ColoradoKid Says:


    So heres a cold blooded question I’d love to ask dear Mr Lutz ;

    Why is it that every company he’s ever been involved with sometime after he leaves always winds up in one extreme financial difficulty or another ?

    I’m all but certain his reply would be ; ” Because I was no longer in charge ”

    But in all honesty I’ve been asking myself of late …. is it perhaps more a case of ” Thou shalt judge them by their fruits ” …. ?

    As the cuz’s like to say : When it happens once …. ____ happens … When it happens twice … well maybe its coincidence …. But when it happens repeatedly time and time again perhaps there’s a very disturbing and ongoing trend involved that everyone is ignoring when they really ought to be paying more attention to it

    Hmmmn .

  18. ColoradoKid Says:

    16 – re; 9 speeds ; Too many parts … too much friction and heat to overcome .. too much chance of failure due to more slightly built parts ( so’s they’ll fit in their confined space ) … with little or no real gains to be had other than bragging rights.

    Go drive an Evoque and experience one for yourself . IMO … it aint very nice at all … the car or the tranny ;-)

  19. HtG Says:

    17 Lutz’ chapter on Exide makes it pretty clear that the joint was a fraudulent wreck before he got there, and that he was the clean up crew. Go ahead read the book, it’s good.

  20. ColoradoKid Says:

    Ford … needs to bring this here ;


    HtG – 19 – But like the cuz’s say …. its a constant and repeating habit for him … not just a one off exception … and anyway its just another book about self promotion and self aggrandizing … just like the last one was * … so of course thats what he’d say

    * Which is not to say there weren’t aspects of the last that I found rang true …. but its overall tone and tenor was that of ” Look at me …. I’m wonderful .. I’m the best there ever was .. everyone should listen to me ” …. which err … gets more than a bit old IMHO

  21. HtG Says:

    20 nope, CK. I’ve read the book(authority lightning bolt) so I can let you know that this book isn’t self-aggrandizing at all. Lutz shows his failings and the strengths of people he worked with(also their weaknesses). Even in the chapter on Chrysler’s Eaton he gives himself some responsibility for building up a cash hoard that attracted Kirk Kirkorian. This book by Lutz in fact shows him being schooled.

  22. HtG Says:

    21 cont’d

    Lutz also shows himself being outclassed by Kunheim at BMW and Poling at Ford.

    Really, the stories in the book are good, like having cigars after dinner.

  23. Chuck Grenci Says:

    If you want to ask Lutz an AAH question, all you have to do is go to Viewmail, caption it as an AAH question (and if it’s good enough) it will be asked on the show. The answer will then be up to Bob; he doesn’t entertain fools so make it a question of worthiness. The last part of the show is called “Rapid Fire” designed especially for the purpose of asking questions to the guest or the panel.

  24. C-Tech Says:

    So far Chrysler has done well with the 8 speed tranny replacing the excellent 5 speed. Mercedes has done well with the 7 speed.I had my doubts, but I think the reliability will be ok. Repairable? Because of the way piece parts sail through transmission cases I doubt these 7-8-9+ speed transmissions will be rebuildable. Too many parts will be destroyed to make it worthwhile.

  25. C-Tech Says:

    @ #4 LOL

    All I want to know from Lutz is will he pick up the Fisker pieces to produce V-8 powered Karmas’? That will be some Good Karma!

  26. Wine Geek Says:

    Hey what is going on with GM? The Sonic when it was released a year or so ago was touted that it was going to be built in the US. Now you stated it was built in Korea, what gives?

    Why all the delays? What has happened to GM design and engineering or is GM just trying to extend product cycles and save money? Will the design cycle be delayed also so that the technology in the vehicles are current or will only the production be delayed and the technology will be out of date when they release the vehicles?

  27. T. Bejma Says:


    Actually Pedro, the Sonic is doing very well. It sold almost as many as the much cheaper Sentra last month and way more than the Honda Fit. You might not see many down in your “foreign lovin’” part of the country but they are selling well.

    Also, about the delay – the new Cruze was actually being designed in Europe, not Korea, so with the situation in Europe, along with the great sales, it definitely makes sense. Getting more out of the Sonic also is logical.

  28. Bradley Says:


    I think it is fair to say out of Ford, GM, and Toyota. GM makes the fewest cars in the United States. I am sure GM execs have tried to argue Canada should be made the 51st state.

  29. HtG Says:

    27 how’s the manual feel in the Sonic, TB, if you know? I’m asking for a reason ;)

  30. pedro fernandez Says:

    #27 TB around here, the Cruze seems to be outselling the Sonic quite a lot. perhaps in other parts of the country, it is not the case.

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It makes complete sense to extend the life of the current Cruze and Sonic, as long as the current ones are selling well. You save money, maximizing the use of a design and tooling. Yeah, the GM haters will disagree.

    As far as 7 vs 8 vs 9 speed transmissions, does anyone here know exactly how these are done? Early TorqueFlight 3 speeds used one planetary gear set to get 2.45 and 1.45 ratios, and straight through for top gear. The most of the early 4 speed autos, other than the old Hydramatics used one planetary, and a a “lay shaft” overdrive for the 4th. gear. Do these new many-speed boxes use multiple planetaries in some mix and match arrangement of gears engaged? I don’t know, but I’m curious, if anyone here really knows.

    The North American market Sonic is built in the U.S., Orion Township Michigan, to be exact.

    Do you have data on GM making fewer cars in the U.S. than Ford and Toyota. It’s possible, but I rather doubt it, with Ford making high volume cars like Fusion in Mexico.

  32. HtG Says:

    31 I don’t “really” know, Kit, but for double clutch arrangements I think it’s gears like in a manual but a rotating bar moves the forks. There are two input shafts, one for odd gears and one for even, one output. Here’s vid by a kid…

    kid’s got a BS in mech engineering

  33. Bradley Says:


    I don’t. If you include volume, then they may really change the outcome. As the Corvette would get lost in the wash.

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Corvette volume is low, so wouldn’t be much of a factor.

    Ford and GM both build stuff in Canada and Mexico, but Ford would have higher volume in Mexico, but GM is probably higher in Canada, though Ford builds the fairly high volume Edge/MKX there.

    I think we need actual U.S. production numbers to really know.

  35. Bradley Says:

    Ok, for grins I went to used their product selector enter 2-4 passenger and under 35k, here are the suggestions:
    2014 Spark
    2014 Spark EV
    2013 Camaro Convertible, SS, Coupe
    2013 Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD
    2013 SIERRA 1500, 2500HD, 3500HD
    2014 Chevy Express
    2013 GMC Savana

    Where is the Cruze, Malibu, Impala, etc. ?

  36. T. Bejma Says:


    The Sonic is built in Lake Orion, MI for the North American market. Because GM is a global company, it is also built in Korea, China and Russia.


    June 2013 data shows you are wrong…

    GM US
    74,000 cars

    GM Canada
    23,000 cars

    Ford US
    40,000 cars

    Ford Canada
    0 cars (22,000 light truck)

    Toyota US
    45,000 cars

    Toyota Canada
    21,500 cars

  37. T. Bejma Says:


    Like all of our front drive manuals HtG, the stick is underwhelming. I have the same one in my Cruze and although it shifts fine, it definitely is difficult to drive spiritedly.

  38. T. Bejma Says:


    You’re right Pedro, even here the Cruze outsells the Sonic (overall we sell twice as many Cruze’s as Sonic’s). They are somewhat close in price once you get them optioned but the Sonic base is around $13,000 and the Cruze base is around $17,000.

  39. HtG Says:


  40. pedro fernandez Says:

    #38 but the Cruze is so much more substantial than the Sonic w/o paying a penalty for gas that folks are willing to pay a bit more for it, I mean after all, it is a BIG purchase and you want to get the most you can for your money. Low and behold, have also been seeing quite a few more Volts as well lately.

  41. T. Bejma Says:


    Cruze, Malibu and Impala are 5 passenger vehicles

  42. T. Bejma Says:


    Sonic is more for the younger crowd, even though quite a few young people buy the Cruze, most are older.

  43. Kit Gerhart Says:

    40, 42
    Between Sonic and Cruze, I’d probably buy Sonic, but only because they have the hatch in the U.S.

  44. Kit Gerhart Says:

    You beat me to that one.

  45. Lex Says:

    #3 Motorman I agree with you 100% regarding GM is squeezing out every last nickel out of those models. This will not enhance their brand(s) image for GM.

    I would love to see a passenger version of the Nissan NV200 that was not a Taxi of Tomorrow. This might be the right vehicles for those late Boomers who are now enjoying grand children.

  46. HtG Says:

    43 Sonic is high on my list for that certain day when I get rear ended by the kid reading a tweet from Andy Kindler. He’s hilarious you know.

    (actually, this weekend I watched a young guy behind me{rear view mirror watcher is HtG} repeatedly checking his cell phone while driving on one of the most accident bedeviled highways around here. He had a passenger sleeping beside him, and he kept looking up to make sure all was alright. BMW of course. And there’s car parts and debris all along this particular bit of road.)

  47. HtG Says:

    This BS with phones is why I’m ready to quit. It may be over already.

  48. T. Bejma Says:


    Cruze and Sonic will still get refreshed before the major changes. 5 years is not long for a model with a refresh in between. That is typical in the industry.

  49. pedro fernandez Says:

    Corolla has had the same body architecture for a decade now, Camry has had it since 2002, I believe.

  50. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Would they be able to sell a passenger NV200 enough cheaper than the other quicker, quieter, generally more refined “minivans” for there to be a market? Like a passenger Transit Connect, I would think it would need to sell at a bargain price to do well.

  51. John C. Briggs Says:

    Love the show but…
    That should be 22 KWH for the battery not 22 KW.

    Makes about as much sense as saying you have a 100 HP gasoline tank.

    John C. Briggs

  52. T. Bejma Says:


    And it doesn’t seem to be hurting Toyota’s brand image…

  53. pedro fernandez Says:

    Reliability and durability and thus value is what keeps people coming back to the brand and those who have had problems with their previous rides, go to them for the same reason. I’ve always said that if VW could fix their quality/reliability issues, they’d be unbeatable, never saw a negative review on a VW on their driving dynamics.

  54. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’ve had a couple fairly recent VW’s that I really liked, a GTi VR6 and a Jetta TDI wagon, but I bought them knowing I wouldn’t keep them a long time. In addition to the suspect reliability, many, or most VW’s need more routine maintenance than most of today’s cars.

    My cars had manual transmissions, but the VW dual clutch needs service at 60K mileage intervals. Unlike many dual clutch transmissions, though, VW’s works very well. Also, unlike most of today’s engines, several VW engines, including the TDI, still use timing belts which need periodic replacement. If one breaks in a TDI, you need a lot more than just a new belt.

  55. Bradley Says:


    Thanks for the data and correction.

  56. Bradley Says:


    Yes, GM is a global company. Although all through the 90s and most of 2000s GM tried really hard to hide that. Especially with all the Buy American pushes.

    I would assume the Sonic is assembled in Michigan, and not “made”.

  57. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Sonic is assembled in Michigan, and has 50% US/Canadian content.

    Here’s the site to find information about assembly location, parts content, etc.:

    The data can be accessed by model year, and sorted either alphabetically, or by percent US/Canada content.

  58. Bradley Says:


    Thanks for the link, that is interesting, but it doesn’t separate Canada from the US. Only at finally assembly is there a distinction.

  59. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, it would be nice if it separated US/Canadian content, but it is still interesting, and in addition to country of assembly, gives the country of origin of transmissions and engines.

    You have to look at window stickers to get the info for a specific car, though. An example is that the manual transmission in a MINI is from Germany, and the automatic is from Japan.