October 21st, 2009 at 12:18pm
Steven Rattner, the former top auto adviser, highlights his five months overseeing the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies. Strikes impact the global auto industry. A couple reveals from Honda and Toyota at the Tokyo Motor Show. All that and more, plus Christie Schweinsberg from Ward’s Auto shares her thoughts on this year’s Ward’s 10 Best engines competition.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. The former U.S. car czar paints a grim picture. Strikes impact the global auto industry. And a couple reveals from the Tokyo Motor Show.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Wednesday, October 21, 2009. Again, I’m Christie Schweinsberg from Ward’s Auto taking another turn in the anchor chair. Here’s today’s top news.
In an article published in Fortune Magazine, Steven Rattner, President Obama’s former top auto adviser, highlights his five months overseeing the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies. According to the Detroit News, Rattner paints a grim picture of management at the two companies. He wrote, “We were shocked, even beyond our low expectations, by the poor state of both GM and Chrysler.” He also details just how close Chrysler came to going under. The task force didn’t want to keep the company on life support if it was just going to die, but ultimately the thought of losing 300,000-plus jobs convinced the President that Chrysler was worth saving … IF a deal with Fiat could be worked out. The situation at GM was almost as bad. He wrote that the company probably had the weakest finance operation of any major corporation. For more information on this bombshell story, follow the links in today’s transcript.
If the GM/Opel sale ever needed a theme song you probably couldn’t go wrong with the Albert King blues classic “Born Under A Bad Sign.” The Wall Street Journal reports that, just as the European Commission appeared to give the deal a green light, a red one lit up in Spain. That’s where labor unions turned down prospective buyer Magna’s latest offer (subscription required) on job cuts and issued a four-day strike. The union not only wants to lighten the some 1,400 expected job cuts, but to also make sure Opel production continues in Spain. It goes back to that funding that Germany gave the deal, as long as all four of its plants remain open.
Meanwhile, the Journal also reports more strikes – this time in India. Auto parts workers walked out yesterday to protest the suspicious death of a protesting worker. There’s a question about how big the strike is – one labor union says 90,000 workers are out while auto executives put the number at only a few thousand. What concerns observers is that the strike is focused in the state of Haryana, the auto industry hub of the country where more than 200 companies account for nearly 60 percent of the parts produced. So if the strike grows, or lasts more than a week, it might have a broad effect on the country’s auto industry.
Yesterday we reported that strong passenger car sales would propel Fiat to a profit in the third quarter. But apparently they weren’t strong enough. According to the AP, Fiat announced a loss for the third quarter of $250 million or about 170 million euros. The lower-than-expected earnings were due to losses at its truck and farm, and construction businesses.
Lexus has FINALLY revealed the production version of its LFA supercar. Autoblog tells us the rear-wheel-drive, two-seater features a 4.8-liter V-10 with 552 horsepower and a 9,000 RPM redline. Backing the engine is a six-speed sequential gearbox. Zero to 100 kilometers an hour should take about 3.7 seconds, with a top speed north of 200 miles an hour. The company is only planning on building 500 copies with a price tag of $375,000 each.
Also making its debut at the Tokyo show is the second version of Honda’s sporty hybrid concept, the CR-Z. On display is the global version of the car that has a rear seat, but when the production version is introduced at next year’s auto show in Detroit, it will be packaged as a two-seater. Even more interesting, the vehicle will be the first hybrid to offer a six-speed manual transmission.
Coming up next, a few of my thoughts on the annual Ward’s 10 Best engines competition, we’ll be back right after this.
Well, it’s that time of year again, when Ward’s editors park their cars for two months and drive a different test vehicle every day. Are we nuts? Probably, but we have a mission: to find the 10 Best engines in the U.S. auto industry for 2009.
The competition started in September and, I don’t know about my fellow judges, but already I’m feeling overwhelmed. This year’s crop of candidates are some of the best engines we’ve ever encountered.
John Mendel of American Honda, always good for a colorful quote, told me just last week that “Nobody is building crap anymore.” which fits perfectly with this year’s 10-Best crop…featuring all last year’s winners along with 25 other candidates…and we’ve been driving them all!!. Engines as diverse as small, fuel efficient hybrids, all the way to those big new V-8s.
Now, unlike previous years, when our hallways have been filled with talk of power density, torque and horsepower, fuel-efficiency and hybrids seem to be getting a lot of positive buzz.
Besides the Honda Insight, Ward’s 10-Best judges also have tested Ford Motor Co.’s 2.5-liter inline-four, a returning winner– last year in the Ford Escape Hybrid but this year in the company’s Fusion Hybrid sedan.
Typically we’ve only had one hybrid on the list, if any. But this year I wouldn’t be surprised if we award at least two spots to HEVs. After all, the marketplace, and the world, is changing.
The fuel economy we’ve seen so far has been phenomenal, with Ward’s Tom Murphy, in just one example, recording a surprising 55 mpgs from the Fusion.
And we still have more hybrids to come, including the reigning sales champ, the Toyota Prius.
Some of my fellow judges swear by the adage “the more cylinders the better.” But I’ve been pushing for our list to be more reflective of the times, and that means fewer gas-chugging V-8s, or V-6s getting a paltry 22 mpgs, and more four-cylinders, be they hybrids, turbo fours or plain old normally aspirated fours.
But, as you may imagine, some of my fellow judges would sooner die than allow a 10-Best list without at least one V-8. Memo to them: It’s time for a change and I’m ready for a fight.
And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Again, I’m Christie Schweinsberg from Ward’s Auto sitting in for John McElroy as temporary host. Anyway, thanks for watching, we’ll catch you later.