Episode 231 – GAZ to Get GM Tech, Toyota Can’t Seal Rollover Case, VW’s Weird Car Names

September 18th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:58

GM will let Opel and Russian automaker GAZ have access to its technology as part of the deal to spin Opel off. A judge has ruled that Toyota cannot seal a lawsuit which alleges the company hid rollover data. All that and more, plus a preview of Autoline Detroit about why VW has some of the strangest car names in the business.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. GM’s technology will go to GAZ. Toyota cannot seal court cases involving roll-overs. And why VW has some of the dumbest car names in the business.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Friday, September 18, 2009. And here’s what’s going on in the auto industry.

In an unexpected turn, General Motors will let Opel and Russian automaker GAZ have access to its technology as part of the deal to spin Opel off. The German and Russian automaker will have to pay GM licensing fees for any GM technology they use, but this also applies to technology that is not yet in production. We’ll have to see if that includes all the technology that goes with the Volt, as well as the Opel Ampera.

A judge has ruled that Toyota cannot seal a U.S. lawsuit which alleges the company hid rollover data. Bloomberg reports that the judge ruled the case is already “irreversibly public.” A former lawyer of Toyota’s filed a lawsuit saying the company hid engineering and testing data in 300 roll-over cases. Bloomberg, by the way, filed a request that the judge not seal the case.

After a down year, the Auto Show in Detroit in 2010 looks like its picking up. According to the Detroit Free Press, the main floor of the show is already full and organizers hope that automakers that didn’t make the show this year will be back. New to the show will be an area called Electric Avenue where electric car makers can display their vehicles. Even though there will be more to see, press days are only Monday and Tuesday, meaning no more Sundays.

GM dealers are asking for more vehicles in October than the company anticipated. According to an internal GM report obtained by the Detroit News, dealers want up to 4 times as many vehicles than it had intended to build. Demand was particularly high for the Chevy Equinox, Buick LaCrosse and GMC Terrain. GM attributes the increased demand to the cash for clunkers program, low inventory, and its new 60 day satisfaction guarantee.

Autoblog reports that the subcompact Mazda2 is coming to America. Jim O’Sullivan, the company’s President and CEO of North America, told dealers that the car will go on sale sometime around the end of next year. Hiroshima is expected to show a U.S.-spec version at this year’s LA Auto Show in early December. In Japan, the 2 is sold as the Demio. It shares the same architecture as the Ford Fiesta.

A couple weeks ago we showed you some sketches of the next-generation Hyundai Sonata, but now the company has officially revealed the 2010 model. Its design is a lot more stylish than the current version. You can see a bit of Volkswagen Passat CC in the front end, the swoopy surfaces and the short trunk lid. According to Autoblog, the North American version of the car will go into production early next year as a 2011 model. A hybrid version is expected about a year after launch.

Does it really matter what the name of a car is? I used to think it made no difference whatsoever. Now, I’m not so sure, and we’ll be talking about that right after this.

Naming cars is a creative undertaking. Automakers typically hire companies that specialize in naming products. And this week on Autoline Detroit my guest is Nina Beckhardt, the president of a company called Namebase. In the following clip we talk about the way Volkswagen names its cars. And joining in on that discussion are Jean Halliday from Advertising Age magazine, and Peter De Lorenzo from Autoextremist.

By the way you can watch that entire interview on our website right now at AutolineDetroit.tv.

And, since its Friday you know what that means, yeah, TGIF! But it’s also time for me to give you this week’s answer to our trivia question. We asked you for the engineering term that automakers use to describe the perfect air-fuel ratio in a gasoline engine, which is typically a ratio of 14.7:1. And the correct answer is, stoichiometric. A stoichiometric air-fuel ratio is considered the ideal one. As always we picked the winner’s name at random from all the correct answers and the winner is: David Setser from Hamilton, Ohio. Congratulations David, you just won this stylin’ Eye’s On Design poster.

Before we go, I want to remind you that NEXT WEEK MONDAY – September 21st – we’re having Tom Stephens, GM’s Vice Chairman of Product Development in the studio. Starting at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, you’ll be able to watch LIVE as we tape an episode of Autoline Detroit. Then the discussion will continue in an exclusive web-only broadcast in which we’ll be taking some of your questions and comments.

You can submit questions in two ways. One, you can send an e-mail to viewermail@autolinedetroit.tv, just make sure you put “Tom Stephens Question” in the Subject Line so we can find it easily. Two, you can leave us a voice message by dialing 1-620-288-6546.

Anyway, that’s it for today’s top auto news. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

37 Comments to “Episode 231 – GAZ to Get GM Tech, Toyota Can’t Seal Rollover Case, VW’s Weird Car Names”

  1. Michael J. Brown Says:

    Funny you should mention vehicle naming conventions, John. I happen to think Ford should have not gone with the resurrection of the Fiesta badge, but instead kept the name the car has enjoyed for years over in Europe, Verve.

    If Ford wanted to resurrect a nameplate, I’d think it’d be one with a bit more positive cache in the collective memory of the general public than the Fiesta – like Escort. But being that the Fiesta is such a departure (aesthetically and market segment wise) from their offerings of the past decade a new name like Verve that represents a departure from the norm would have been much more appropriate.

    If I bought a Fiesta, the first thing I’d do would be to swap all the Fiesta badges for Verve ones – for sure.

  2. Writings of Sarah » Blog Archive » Quick scan of the net - volkswagen passat Says:

    [...] http://www.autolinedetroit.tv/journal/?p=5875You can see a bit of Volkswagen Passat CC in the front end, the swoopy surfaces and the short trunk lid. According to Autoblog, the North American version of the car will go into production early next year as a 2011 model. … [...]

  3. Salvador G. Says:

    I understand that in German its consider part of their culture to give long german names to places and things, so I can definitely see what VW its trying to do, at least I hope I do.

  4. dcars Says:

    I’ve always thought that VW names were very fitting. The cars are Clunky, the names are Clunky! Looking forward to watching the show.

  5. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Bug…..beetle….rabbit…..thing…..Maybe they should grab some of the older names/nicknames ;}>

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The car names that always really annoyed me were real words, deliberately mis-spelled. GM has been the main culprit, with Prizm, Savana, and Ciera. Sadly, GM is soon going to do it again with Cruze. That name could keep me from buying a car I might like. What would be wrong with Cruise, if they really want that name for the car?

  7. John V Says:

    I agree on those VW names
    Some more that go over my head: Elantra, Azera, Miata, Aveo, Alero, Prius, Yaris, Camry, Vitara, Altima (sounds like Utimate and Altitude combined, but not close enough to either to sound meaningful).
    The European alpha-numeric names usually have some meaning, but not those used by Lincoln. Some Cadillacs other than CTS,DTS,STS also are a stretch. My favorite is Mercur XR4Ti, but at least the 4Ti hints at the turbo inline 4.

  8. paulstewart Says:

    Ok, who has thor & where did you put him. Make sure he has plenty of air-holes ! Ok maybe Not too many air-holes.

  9. Nick Stevens Says:

    VWs cars are outstanting, except for the reliability. I do not find their names weird or funny. Sure not the Touareg. I am more offended when they repackage a CHrysler Minivan and sell it as a VW Routan, with only the badge and other minor differences. I really, really hate pointless badge engineering.

    Now John Mcelroy always bills himself as a “Veteran Auto Journalist”, and I agree he is. As such, I find it hard to believe that he said

    “I used to think it made no difference whatsoever.”

    He must have known that automakers pay some name artists untold millions of $ just to come up with a dtupid name!

    IN fact, the names I like best are no names at all! I like informative, not nonsensical, alphanumeric names, such as the Merc 300 SEL, the BMW 528, the Ferrari 430, etc.

    NOT the Acura RL, TL, TRX SLX and all that silly meaningless ABC stuff.

    And, John, I remember reading that when Acura foolishly killed the “Legend” name, it lost about ONE BILLION US $ in Name recognition!!!!!

    No wonder it has been going downhill ever since..

  10. Nick Stevens Says:

    Jerry Seinfeld used to make fun of all the silly names of cars such as the Olds “Achieva” (a car that achieved next to NOTHING…)

    He demanded that if a car is no good, we should be able to name it, eg, the Jaguar “Lemona”!

  11. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Kit Gerhart Says:
    September 18th, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    The car names that always really annoyed me were real words, deliberately mis-spelled.”

    Same here. At first, I was annoyed at the “Corolla”, since Toyota made also “Coronas” and “Crowns” that are well known names, but it turned out that “Corolla” is also a real name, just not widely known.

    I far better prefer the Honda “Civic”, it describes the aim of the car perfectly, it used to be a car optimized for driving around town. The “accord” is less descriptive. The “fit” is a .. good Fit!

    And what the hell is a “Prius”? It sounds like a semi-obscene five letter word. But never mind, we are used to it by now..

  12. Nick Stevens Says:

    I am now listening to the AD show on the web, and I am so pleased that everybody on the panel fully agrees with me on the DISMAL Job both Caddilac and Lincoln have done, especially Lincoln, with their gibberish meaningless alphanumerics. They also correctly mentioned Infiniti, but actually Acura is worse in that respect!

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Cadillac has probably lost thousands of sales as a result of the name change from Sedan de Ville to DTS. Now, when the 90 year old guy comes in the dealer to buy his last new de Ville, the saleman has to tell the guy “we don’t have Sedan de Villes any more, but we have this DTS which is the same thing.” The old guy then says, “forget it, I’ll keep the one I have.”

  14. Nick Stevens Says:

    And Lincoln is even worse. At least, if you follow cars, you eventually remember that the CTS is the small, the STS is the old Seville, and the DTS is the larger Caddy.

    But I have no idea what is the difference between the Lincoln MKS and MKZ (I’m not even sure these are correct ‘names”). They seem to be two near-identical designs too, both obese, but with V6s, and both with huge, tasteless grilles that look like an old train’s cowcatcher.

    At least Cadillacs used to look (and still look) much better than these new Lincolns.

  15. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    If you were given the opportunity to design and build your own vehicle, for everyday use, what would it look like? considering safety, economy, reliability, etc.

  16. Nick Stevens Says:


    give me your needs, desires and budget and I will come up with something.

    As for myself, what I have now is more than sufficient for my needs, as well as for my pleasure. If it was available in it diesel version (in Europe it was and is), I’d save about 10 MPG, but as I do not do a whole lot of unreimbursed miles, (I do three times as much reimbursed business ones, at $.55/mile), it is not important for me.

  17. Nick Stevens Says:

    I asked earlier, “And what the hell is a “Prius”? ”

    TO answer my own Q, after thinking about it, it is probably the latin “Primus” (“First”) with its middle letter cut off.

  18. Steve Leyton Says:

    Great comments. The panel was right in pointing out that “Mercedes…” and “BMW” are the parts of the cars’ names that draw customers, more than model designations. Cadillac and Lincoln went a long way toward destroying the positive images associated with both their brands and well-known models when they produced such crappy cars in the ’70s and ’80s. They may never overcome the effects. But the worst blunder has to be Acura, who threw away names associated with high-quality, recognizable products in favor letters. No one wants to work that hard at remembering which ones go with what car.

  19. Jim Sachetti Says:

    “If you were given the opportunity to design and build your own vehicle, for everyday use, what would it look like? considering safety, economy, reliability, etc.”

    In the US today, esp. compared to cars of the 80s and even the 90s, cars are ridiculously over-powered, and unnecessarily obese (SUVs and Crossovers are Morbidly Obese).

    Look at the new Buick Lacrosse, the ‘smaller’ buick. I just checked its specs. Weight close to 4,000 lbs (5,000 if you add people and luggage). WHY does such a modest vehicle need to be that heavy? The Camry has a far bigger trunk than the Lacrosse, and probably more interior room, and is much lighter.

    Engines, even the un-sporty Buick has had, for years now, engines well in excess of 250 HP, and some supercharged ones had 280 HP. That is ludicrous. Nobody needs all that power, and sure not the frail old ladies that drive around in new Buicks in my town.

    A civic-size car can be designed that is plenty safe and weighs less than 2,500 lbs, an Accord fo rless than 3,000 and a FIt for less than 2,200 lbs. ANd they do not need more than 100, 75, and 125 HP respectively. ANd then they would get 40-45, 35-40, and 45-50 MPG easily, and without any expensive diesels, much more expensive hybrids, or plug-ins.

    Such cars have been available in Europe for 3 decades, and even in the US back in the 80s and early 90s.

    What is stopping such cars from being popular? $2 and $2.50 gas. When it went to $4.50 and $5.00 in May 08, the US sales changed dramatically in favor of the above fuel efficient, non-obese, smart designs.

  20. Wayne Says:

    I am not all that impressed with the names that “Namebase” has come up with for the Kia models. The “o” ending is supposed to be masculine sounding but to me they come off as being kind of goofy. The name “Rondo” to me sounds like a one-named South American soccer player and that makes me want to gag. What are they going to come up with next, the “Ronaldo”, the “Pele” or maybe something more feminine like the “Madonna”?? Thanks, but no thanks!!

  21. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    I had the opportunity to rent a Civic last year for a long weekend, it was as close to perfect as any car I have ever driven. Why, I asked myself, can’t the domestics build a car like this? I don’t care what anyone says, the Focus, Cobalt, Caliber just can not match the driving experience of this car.

  22. Jim Sachetti Says:


    I fully agree, and in fact if that civic was a manual, it would be far superior. I believe all rentals are automatics, and even over 90% of all cars sold in the US are autos)

    The manual allows a 4-cylinder car to have excellent MPG while it has the acceleration of a v6.

    Now, of course, some cars have even 8-speed autos, so they should get great highway MPG too. (such as the big Lexus LS460.) others like Mercedes and BMW have 7-speed autos.

  23. Jim Sachetti Says:

    PS the Caliber and the CObalt sure are no civics. The US Focus is the old model facelifted, and is far inferior to the 2nd generation Euro Focus, that one could probably compete with civics and corollas in the US.

  24. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Jim: that Civic was a 5 speed auto, but even then, the extra o/d gear made the car quieter, while giving me excellent hwy fuel economy, at the same time it felt like a more substantial car at high speeds, very impressive indeed. I submitted a question on that very subject to the guest tomorrow, Mr Stephens, asking him if he thinks GM needs to hit a home run in all their upcoming vehicles, just “ok” doesn’t cut anymore.

  25. G.A.Branigan Says:

    The reason the better american “european only” models are not available here,from what I understand is the price.I guess the overseas models cost a bit more then it’s counterparts here do.

    It is true that the european Focus is more modern etc then what we can get here.Having said that,my wife and I are very happy with her 09 sel focus.Plenty of power even though it has the PZEV engine,and it gets great mileage.

    We are into our second year with it and have absolutly no complaints.The sel comes with what ford calls “european suspension”.Big front and rear sway bars,upgraded shocks and struts,and of course the wheel/tire combo.With my x plan,it was around 18.5k.

    Would I pay more for the more modern/inovative focus?Sure,why not.As people pay the price for what they want,so do we.It’s just that we both prefer american vehicles.Will it last 100k?I’m sure it would with the proper care and maint.Would it last longer then say a corolla?I don’t know,nor do I care really.We seldom keep a vehicle for that long.Our choice.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Ford eliminated the Focus from cars I’d consider when the dropped the hatchbacks and wagon. Hopefully those body styles will return to America the next go around.

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Pedro said:
    “If you were given the opportunity to design and build your own vehicle, for everyday use, what would it look like? considering safety, economy, reliability, etc.”

    I’d like a car with a Prius body and a VW TDI or similar power train. Since a Jetta TDI wagon will get 45 mpg at 75 mph, the low drag Prius body with that power train should get 65 mpg while retaining the versatility of the hatchback body, but without the complexity of all the electronics and big battery.

  28. Salvador G. Says:

    Ok, since I like to ask question now and then, I like to ask…

    HOW would you guys re-name all this cars??

    VW TDI
    Tou-areg (or whatever)
    Etc, etc etc…

    To JohnMcELroy… Is there anyway for Autoline to conduct a poll(or something like it) as to how we (the actual public) would like our cars to be name???

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    VW TDI no change
    Tou-areg (or whatever) Family Truckster
    Civic no change
    Insight Prius Lesser
    Mustang no change
    Prius no change
    Caliber Valiant 5 door

  30. Nick Stevens Says:

    While I was very critical of Hyundai for its false and deceitful so-called “Genesis” Non-Genesis Coupe, (John McEl picked my comment and said that he could not agree with me more), I have to give Hyundai kudos for this one, which also answers pedro’s question about a car for the masses that want cheap and fuel efficient and reliable transport in an intelligent design such as tghe current Elantra

    “The 2010 Hyundai Elanta comes in a trim called “Blue” that’s all about fuel economy. The little sedan from the Flying H matches or beats the economy numbers from almost all of the competition, losing by just two mpg to the Cobalt XFE manual – but beating them all in price by a couple hundred dollars.

    To reach its 35 mpg figure, the Blue gets a smart alternator, lower friction engine parts, different gear ratios, an ECU tweak, and a shift indicator. The rest of the line gets some of the Blue’s features, meaning that every new 2010 Elantra ought to save you some money at the pump. The Blue clocks in at $14,145 (*plus $720 for freight)..”

  31. Nick Stevens Says:

    “# Kit Gerhart Says:
    September 20th, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    I’d like a car with a Prius body and a VW TDI or similar power train. Since a Jetta TDI wagon will get 45 mpg at 75 mph, the low drag Prius body with that power train should get 65 mpg while retaining the versatility of the hatchback body, but without the complexity of all the electronics and big battery.”

    At first I was surprised that you would want to replace the VWs excellent styling with the Prius, which I got used to but is not everybody’s cup of tea, then I read why you wanted that. Interesting idea. VW can’t do that for patent reasons, but Toyota could apply that to its next Corolla, but then the uniquiness of the Prius would be compromised, it would not any more stand out as an immediately identifiable hybrid!

  32. Nick Stevens Says:

    “HOW would you guys re-name all this cars”??

    VW TDI -OK as is, informative.
    Tou-areg (or whatever)-If some Americans can’t get used to it, I’d change it to Sahara, or some other off-road image.


    All 3 are perfect as they are.

    Prius- now everybody knows the name, not worth changing. If I was to start with a name, I’d simply call it the Toyota Hybrid Sedan, Wagon, Hatch, Coupe, for its various versions.

    Caliber – I find nothing wrong with the name.

    I sure would change some deceased names such as Achieva, Bravada, and other nonsensical BS.

  33. Nick Stevens Says:

    Pedro- First of, I am surprised you found a Civic rental. I can easily find Toyotas at HErtz, and will rent Priuses from now on when I need a rental, but I have seen the stats, and Honda and BMW and mercedes just do not sell to fleets in any serious numbers.

    I remember the god-awful Ford Contour I rented in the 90s in Phoenix, it must have had a 3-sp auto. And it felt like a… 2-sp! The Focus I rented later (03) was not much better, far inferior to the corollas, camrys and even huyndais I also rented then.

  34. Nick Stevens Says:

    Here is another question or two for you:

    What specific kind of a vehicle describes you as you really are?

    And what specific kind of a vehicle describes how you really would like to be (look) in a perfect world?

  35. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Yeah, Nick I couldn’t believe it but it was from Enterprise and I had asked for a subcompact to save $ and I figured I would get a Kia or Hyundai, Then the counter person said: ‘sorry, no sub available, but would you mind if I give you a Civic instead?” I almost jumped up and down like a little boy but I held back and said something like: ” oh I dont mind, I guess its good enough for a 4 hr trip” and off I went in Auto heaven for a couple of days .To answer your question: A 1978 Corolla, old and not much to look at but still reliable, and ceap to run.

  36. Manu_bud Says:

    I gotta add something about the Touareg name… It is a well fitting name besides the fact that the general american public has no clue what it means:

    Looks like a good way to name a car if you want to reinforce its off-roader image!

  37. Manu_bud Says:

    Yet the english spelling is a bit different: