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Episode 145 – GM Announcing Dealer Cuts, EcoBoost Preview, GM & UAW Near Labor Deal

May 15th, 2009 at 12:19pm

Runtime 7:29

GM is expected to announce that it’s cutting as many as 1,200 dealers today. We get to play with Ford’s new EcoBoost engine. GM and the UAW are near a deal to cut labor costs by more than a billion dollars. All that and more, plus a look at the 2010 Chevy Camaro RS.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. GM is expected to announce its dealer cuts. We get to play with Ford’s new EcoBoost engine. And GM may have reached a deal with the UAW.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Friday, May 15, 2009. I’m Mark Phelan, auto critic at the Detroit Free Press filling-in for John again. And now, the news.

Yesterday it was Chrysler and today it’s General Motors. In about 24 hours these two troubled automakers will have cut almost 2,000 dealerships, and in GM’s case, there’s still more to come. As many as 1,200 dealers are expecting news today that they’ll only have another year or so before they stop receiving vehicles. In fact, as far as General Motors goes, this is just the first wave of restructuring, since it’s planning to reduce its dealer body by 42 percent. And though it hasn’t done it with as much fanfare, we should also note that Ford also has been winnowing its own dealer body over the last few years, reducing the total number by 670 stores.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that GM and the UAW are near a deal to cut labor costs (subscription required) by more than a billion dollars a year as well as reducing its $20 billion pledge to the UAW VEBA. The plan, which could be finalized by next week, would still have to be voted on by the 60,000 GM UAW members.

EcoBoost is the cornerstone of Ford’s strategy to meet upcoming fuel economy and emissions regulations. Ford’s been trumpeting the technology for years, claiming it delivers the power we want and efficiency we need. Yesterday the company hosted a ride-and-drive event at its Romeo, Michigan Proving Grounds to give the media a chance to put EcoBoost to the test. So, does its new turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 live-up to the hype? In short, yes. We test-drove it in the Lincoln MKS sedan and the new MKT crossover. In both applications it was smooth and powerful, with a FLAT torque curve from idle to redline. It doesn’t matter where the tachometer needle is pointing, it just pulls and pulls. But the engine’s fuel economy was more surprising than its power and refinement. We’ll have more on Ford’s EcoBoost technology next week and a review of the MKT.

In other Ford engine news, Ward’s reports that the company will start production of a new diesel later this year (subscription required). Right now it’s unclear which engine it will be. The company has been developing two different diesels, a large 6.7-liter V8 codenamed “scorpion” and a smaller 4.4-liter unit.

In other engine news, Autoblog reports that Dodge is rumored to be developing a bigger, 6.4-liter Hemi. Based on the already huge 6.1-liter V8, the new engine would be offered in the Ram and probably deliver somewhere between 400 and 500 horsepower.

It looks like we may find out who will be taking Opel over soon. According to Ward’s, the German government wants proposals from leading bidders (subscription required) Fiat and Magna turned in next week. The government is also working on a plan to temporarily finance Opel if GM declares bankruptcy. But it looks likely that whoever ends up with the company will have to share it with Opel dealers. According to Reuters, Opel’s dealers are expected to vote today on taking a direct equity stake in the company. To help raise cash, the dealers would set aside 150 Euros for every car they sell for the next three years in a joint fund. The plan is expected to raise 500 million Euros.

And here’s a good reason not to drive around with an envelope full of cash. According to Autoblog, a man in Germany took an Audi A3 convertible out for a test drive with the top down. But he put an envelope filled with 23,000 Euros in cash he was going to use to buy the car on the back seat. And you can probably guess what happened next. Police had to close the road in both directions to help him recover the money, but he was able to recover about 20,000 Euros of it.

Coming up next, a look at the 2010 Chevy Camaro RS, we’ll be back right after this.

The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro is the first 21st Century American sport coupe, and it’s a world-beater.

I tested a V6-powered Camaro RS that can hold its own versus legendary coupes like the BMW 335i – but it costs thousands of dollars less, has more power and gets better fuel economy. For looks, value and fun, it smokes the competition.

It’s a marvelous car, and rolling proof that General Motors can build vehicles as good as any automaker in the world.

Unlike the throwback styling of the Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang, the Camaro’s looks are thoroughly modern, but it’s immediately recognizable as the descendant of Chevy’s 1960s pony car.

The engineering is cutting edge, from an independent suspension that hugs curves and absorbs bumps to the fast and precise six-speed automatic transmission and 304-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 in the Camaro RS I tested.

A 6.2-liter V8 that produces up to 425 horsepower is also available, but unless you’re into tire-shredding burnouts, the V6 packs all the punch you’ll need.

The V6 and V8 both come with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

The interior features a handsome and legible instrument panel, but headroom, rear legroom and luggage space are limited. The materials all look fine, but it would have been nice if Chevrolet had spent a few cents more to replace some hard plastic trim with softer pieces.

Prices for the 2010 Camaro start just over $22,200. To read my full review of the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, pick up the Detroit Free Press or go to www.freep.com next Thursday.

The last thing on the agenda today is to announce the winner of this week’s trivia contest. We challenged you to tell us what Honda’s official name is. And the correct answer is … Honda Giken Kōgyō Kabushiki-gaisha

As always, we randomly selected today’s winner from the pool of correct responses. And this week’s winner is… Robert Grosse of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada. Congratulations Rob, you’ve just won a charming khaki-colored Honda hat.

Anyway, that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. I’m Mark Phelan, auto critic at the Detroit Free Press. Thanks for watching, John will be back next week.

15 Comments to “Episode 145 – GM Announcing Dealer Cuts, EcoBoost Preview, GM & UAW Near Labor Deal”

  1. Thor Says:

    HOnda’s name is Honda MOTOR Company.

    The correct answer provided in this video, writing japanese names with English characters, is utterly insignificant and MEANINGLESS for most of us, who DO NOT SPEAK Japanese,

    UNLESS the show provided a TRANSLATION of the stupid name.

    Which it did not… of course.

    SO what was the goal here? to see who can PARROT that name without understanding a damned word in it?

    That’s STUPID. REALLY, REALLY STUPID, McElroy!

    because the prize is John’s baby, NOT Phelan’s).

  2. Thor Says:

    Now for the SERIOUS part of today’s video:

    That ECOBOOST Engine looks great on paper, both in terms of performance AND fuel economy.

    BUT Ford’s problem is it currently offers it in its UGLY-ASS COwcatcher-grille LINCOLN, which it sells (even without destination etc) for $47k. Add tases etc and it easily goes above $50k with NO options! Add options, and you have $60k for a V6??? a DOMESTIC, ugly-looking (exterior; it threw me off so much, I did not bother to look at the interior) V6?

    Do not expect a lot of buyers.

    The new Diesels are also very promising, but Ford needs to find a SEXY, INTELLIGENT, and TASTEFUl (as well as resasonably and attractively priced) Sheetmetal to put them in.

  3. Alex Kovnat Says:

    We note Dodge may introduce a 6.4 liter V-8 with hemispherical combustion chambers.

    Why not apply the hemispherical combustion chamber principle to smaller engines, i.e. 2 liter inline 4′s?

  4. pedro Fernandez Says:

    These companies refuse to change their ways, its always more power, more displacement, more money and more fuel use. When are they ever gonna wake up and realize they’re dinosaurs trying to survive in the 21st century. Look at the Nissan GTR, Hyundai Genesis coupe. same power, smaller displacement= better fuel economy

  5. Thor Says:

    Pedro,

    I think some of them have already made major shifts towards smaller cars and trucks, but you will not see it until 2011-2012, it takes 3-4 years for them to bring a new design to the customer.

    With gas at $2 today, you can get a 2008 Prius 50 MPG (actual, city MPG I got in CA) for 8,000 less than you would pay ;ast summer, when people paid a $4000 premium, instead of a $4000 discount today, for it.

  6. Marc Says:

    To the person complaining about 50 grand for the MKT with the ecoboost v6, open your eyes instead of your mouth. Look at the Nissan GTR it has the same type of of motor, and I dont think anybody out there has complained about it not having a V8,V10, or a V12. Because the facts show displacement doesnt always matter, and btw the old Toyota Supra has proven this time and time again. And I think the MKT looks great, it is no uglier than the Lexus RX or BMW X6.

  7. David B. Fishburn Says:

    Thor; I think that they meant the Japanese name for Honda. The”Honda Motor Company” is the name for the North American branch of the company. I don’t think that it’s stupid, it is interesting trivia. I agree about the new 6.4 Hemi, since Chrysler owns the rights on the Hemi design, they really need to focus on smaller engines. The head design can and does work on four cylinder engines. Remember the Mitsubishi 2.6l? That was a good engine, made plenty of power and was economical. That engine was in a car called the Conquest, it was also turbocharged.

  8. Tim Ludvigsen Says:

    I feel cheated. I’m 39, When I was 18(1988) There wasn’t any true Muscle cars:Dodge GLHS Omni,Buick GSX V6 turbo,Chevrolet corvette. Gas efficency Blah Blah Blah I’m 6’2″ I haven’t Found a small car to fit me! Oh yah Has anyone seen crash Results On small efficent cars. Kiss my #*%&, F-U goverment rules. I guess I’ll buy old cars as long as I can find and fix them. Until the scremming liberials take that from me. One can take any big block and squese 20 miles to the gallion if they wanted. Oh I forgot Americans are stupid Most cant drive manual tranmissions OR FIX THEIR own cars!!!
    Why cant Ford,GM,Mopar Build: Vegas,Pintos, Gremlins. With new technology That fit tall people. Something old with something new.
    I think maybe that is why more
    americans buy trucks/suv’s they don’t fit in small cars.
    Has any one gone to Home Depot/Lowes/Menards and try to put any lumber in honda fit or toyota Prius?
    I’m not going to buy two vehicles one truck and small piece of —- to drive. Done that wont ever buy Non American Non built in America again!!!!
    Whey to go Dodge Bring the CID’s, Chevy to with the 6.2 and Ford with the mustang V8
    Pedro I Guess I’m a Tall Dinosaur Tell the Asian companys to make it so I can fit!!

  9. Chris Young Says:

    Hi John! I’ve never been moved enough to write before but it is about time…

    It does my heart good to see dealers closing. A Suzuki place just had their unsold stuff carted away today here in small town Florida. In a row are Hyundai, (formerly) Suzuki, Lincoln-Mercury, Cadillac, Honda, Chevrolet, and Toyota. Across the road is Kia. Why do we have these? It is like the carpet and furniture stores – constant pressure to make everyone believe that they need to have the newest and more of it. How many cars do we really need? I am a car guy, brought up in the 60′s on sports cars and then muscle cars but we just don’t have places to use them any more. A car is a tool, only a tool. A shiny new one only tells the neighbors what fools we are. My Ford gets just under 23 MPG on the road, is paid for, is comfortable and is big enough to do or carry anything I want. I can buy an awful lot of gas for an awful long time for the price of even the cheapest modern car that would wear out long before my 1989 car. Invest in unproven new technology? Hah! Let the rich, silly people do that. Baker Electrics were just fine 100 years ago but they did not have good batteries. The batteries still, after all this time, are little better.

    Thanks for listening. Let’s use what we have. Let GM and Chrysler go. And the UAW, too. They all sewed the seeds they are reaping now back in the 1950′s when I was little. It is really criminal when someone can “earn” UAW wages and extensive benefits for doing a repetitive job that can be learned in an afternoon.

    Enough for now. Maybe I’ll join in more now that I have finally started venting here. Of course it is a small audience – I see only a couple of hundred people logged in most Thursdays to Autoline After Hours. What a pity – the discussions would be valuable to anyone.

  10. julius lambert Says:

    Lyndon Johnson did’t live to see his Great Society evolve into Socialism.Ross Perrot has lived to see and hear his words and ideas come true,FULL CIRCLE.GM ran his MOUTH off in the early 80s.If they would have done 30% of what he promoted they’d be OK today.At least Lyndon was a listener and apparently the big three boards are NOT.Remember after WWII the JAPS said you may have won the war,BUT we will BUY YOU.Truman was so stupid he fired general McArthur.Which board was he on?

  11. Terry Lilly Says:

    I wish in the 1990s, that more Americans would have turned to large exciting sedans instead of SUVs and pickups when gas was cheap. A large V8 sedan still beats an SUV for gas economy, and maybe our domestic industry would not have abandoned cars like they did. I love the Charger and the G8 (RIP), but there should be more like these and less stupid crossovers and watered down SUVs. So much effort has been wasted trying to make an SUV like a sedan or wagon.

  12. Thor Says:

    David B. Fishburn Says:
    May 15th, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    “Thor; I think that they meant the Japanese name for Honda…I don’t think that it’s stupid, it is interesting trivia”

    As long as you and they have no clue what these Japanese words mean (poorly represented by ENGLISH Characters, BTW, we have no clue how they are Actually pronounced in Japan), and regardless if you see it and admit it or not, it is REALLY, REALLY STUPID to utter words that you have no clue what they mean.

    Even parrots can do that, and even better..

  13. Thor Says:

    “Tim Ludvigsen Says:
    May 15th, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    I feel cheated. I’m 39, When I was 18(1988) There wasn’t any true Muscle cars:”

    That’s very true, even expensive luxury imports at the time had laughably low HP, the Mercedes S class 300SEL had only… 177, while an Accord 4-cylinder has 190 today!

    You could get a handful of 300 HP cars (12-cyl BMW 750iL; I can get the same and more (if I remove a chip) from a 4.4 v8 in my 1998 7) and a couple Ferraris and the Lambo) but that was it. Even Porshe 911s made 200 or so!

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