Episode 268 – Tokyo Show Hit Hard, GM Will Build Converj, Lear Exits Chapter 11

November 10th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 8:27

Attendance at the Tokyo Auto show this year plummeted a whopping 57 percent. General Motors has decided to build the Cadillac Converj concept. Automotive seat and electronics supplier Lear emerges from bankruptcy. All that and more, plus Bob Carter, who runs the Toyota division in the American market, talks about how the company is dealing with all the bad news its run into lately.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Tokyo auto show attendance plummets. Cadillac will come out with the Converj. Lear emerges from bankruptcy. Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, November 10, 2009. And now, the news.

Attendance at the Tokyo Auto show this year plummeted a whopping 57 percent (subscription required) compared to the prior show. According to Ward’s, the drop-off was attributed to all the non-Japanese automakers that dropped out of the show and it being four-days shorter than it was two years ago.

According to the Detroit News, GM has decided to build the Cadillac Converj concept. The stylish model wowed the press and public last January when it debuted at the North American International Auto Show. The car is expected to share the same drivetrain as the Chevy Volt. A pricier Cadillac version of the extended-range electric car will help GM offset the cost of developing the advanced technology. No production date has been set, but it’s AT LEAST a couple years away.

Part of the news that came out of Chrysler’s epic press conference last week is that it’s restructured its electric vehicle development program. The company’s ENVI group has been disbanded, and absorbed into normal product development programs. Surprisingly, according to the Detroit News, the number of employees working on EVs has remained the same or gone up. The first full-electric Chrysler should be a small commercial van based on the Fiat Doblo. It’s expected sometime in 2011 or 2012.

Renault is bringing back the Gordini. Well, actually they’re just going to put Gordini labels on the Renault Twingo and Cleo. The original Gordinis were produced by an engineer at Renault named Amedee Gordini, and in the early 1960s they were fairly common on the rally circuit. Too bad it’s just a label, and not a modern day revival of the car.

With car sales surging last month by 72 percent, China has decided to raise gasoline prices, Bloomberg reports. The new price will be about $3.31 cents a gallon, or about 88 cents a liter, quite a bit higher than in the United States, but much lower than Europe. Gas prices have risen about 27 percent in China this year and the country now uses over 8-million barrels a day, almost 10 percent of the world total.

Yesterday automotive seat and electronics supplier Lear emerged from bankruptcy. According to the Detroit News, the company filed in July and shed nearly $3 billion in debt. The company says it’s in a good position moving forward thanks to the restructuring and adding new business outside North America.

According to the website Science Daily, Dutch researchers are working on ways to improve the fuel economy of heavy trucks. They’ve developed a relatively simple boat-tail attachment that fits on the back-end of semi trailers. Researchers tested the idea under real-world conditions and found that this small addition boosts fuel economy by nearly 8 percent! They say the optimum length of the boat tail is about two meters. The flat panels fold out of the way for easy access to the trailer.

Coming up next, Bob Carter, who runs the Toyota division in the American market, talks about how the company is dealing with all the bad news its run into lately.

Bob Carter is a group vice president and runs the Toyota division in The U.S. market. I recently got a chance to talk with him and asked him what the feeling was at Toyota with all the bad news that’s hit the company lately.

I’m skeptical that Toyota is the only car company that has problems with floor mats that might jam the gas pedal and asked him why Toyota is being singled out on this issue.

I also wanted to know what it was like having Akio Toyoda in charge at Toyota and what kind of changes he is bringing to the company.

Again, that was Bob Carter, group vice president and General Manager of the Toyota division.

Before we go I want to tell you a little bit more about our guest for Autoline After Hours.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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15 Comments to “Episode 268 – Tokyo Show Hit Hard, GM Will Build Converj, Lear Exits Chapter 11”

  1. Tony Gray Says:

    The Converj was a no brainer from day one. The technology is going to be expensive and they will need to spread it out, and going upscale allows them to eek out a bit more profit per unit.

  2. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Mr. Carter, it’s a shame that most Toyota dealers don’t seem to share your belief in putting customers first, I’m so happy the Tokyo Motor show is a bust, maybe it will teach these protectionist, isolationist Japanese that their ways of doing business is out of touch with the modern world.

  3. Ralph Kercheval Says:

    The Floormats have little if anything to do with Toyota’s problem from what I have been reading.

    It seems that there is unintended acceleration related to the ECU and electronic throttle by wire system that Toyota uses. The Floormats were the EASY explination for NHTSA so it gave Toyota some time to figure out the real problem.

    This is going to get interesting over the next few weeks.

  4. Salvador G. Says:

    “boat-tail attachment that fits on the back-end of semi trailers.” -This is the first time I seen a semi-trailer with an actual Butt.

    -You know what I just realize, people in Japan would probably like to buy a foreign car, they just can’t… Someone tell me again -Why can’t the USA send a warship again to Japan to open it’s markets???

    And, it’s GM policy now going to be “Look we have a cool concept lets build that” in history, having a cool concept car doesn’t translate to a good real car most of the time.

    AHH Question: JohnMc when you first saw the Converj Concept, did you get a chance to try it out -maybe drive it a bit- You know, Was the Converj a full complete real car???

    -

  5. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    Salvador: the question should be: who really won the war?

  6. Salvador G. Says:

    Pedro, I don’t like to ask the obvious.

  7. Dave Says:

    The problem with GMs concepts is that is takes GM FOREVER to get anything into production. The Camaro 7 or 8 years, the Volt years. I do give dodge credit in that dept. A concept will be in the show room in 2 to 3 years, we will see with the new ownership

  8. Salvador G. Says:

    I understand that a car goes from concept to production in 4 to 5 years, but the problem that I see is that concept cars are by definition only created to show what a manufacturer is capable off or what they currently working ON, but during actual production somethings are change.

    The Converj concept (if I remember right) highlighted a brand concept interior created with new technology (I still think it look like a bathtub) and people love it… That created a lot of hype around Cadillac. Now if Cadillac decides to produce the Converj and it don’t match the hype it orinally created that would be very bad for GM.

    -

  9. Salvador G. Says:

    Now – good concept to production: the Nissan GTR- I hope the Converj concept to production can be as good as that.

  10. C-tech Says:

    Now – good concept to bad production, the Chrysler Crossfire. Don’t screw it up GM, your rallying cry should be “Remember the Aztek!”

  11. John V Says:

    All the foreigners left the Tokyo show to the home team that makes borrrrrrrring cars. People in Tokyo have too many options to waste time on a boring event.

  12. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Sooner or later the japanese will realize that what goes around comes around.Why in hell would a non japanese auto maker want to spend lots of money to show their wares in a country where they can’t sell them??? Wake up quasimoto,eat a cheeseburger and git yer head outta yer…….

  13. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Those fanatical Koreans over at Hyundai/KIA with their proven reliability would have made sure the mats were right from day one, and they also wouldnt have cut corners with substandard ECU wires.

    Hyundai/KIA arent the only fanatical Koreans, but GM/Daewoo are as well. Quality and reliability scores for GMs Korean sourced small car products are fastly increasing, they are about as good as Hyundai was 5 years ago, and that was pretty decent.

    You GM guys should be happy about that.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Non-Japanese cars are sold in Japan. BMW sells over 100K a year there. Japan is actually very accepting of foreign cars in their market. They allow new left hand drive cars to be sold there, while the only right hand drives that can be sold in the US are those of pre-1968 model year, and post office vehicles.

  15. DOUG STOKES Says:

    I wish that I had the same degree of conviction that it was all in the heads of the people driving those Toyotas but I just can’t wrap my mind around some of the stories that have been authenticated (of burned-out brakes THAT never happened to the Audis and M-B’s in the earlier UI canaworms … AND (big AND) now Toyota says that (in some cases the brakes cannot overcome the engine … especially when the computer is disallowing full braking vacuum over the full power signal … There’s something wrong here … I’ve gotten a floor mat under a pedal and it IS a bitch (usually it means non full application of the brake pedal) … But Jamming the throttle full on … Sorry nope.

    Toyota needs to find a fix (or equip all their machines with the same logic circuit that IRL cars have which cut the engine if full power and full brakes are invoked at the same time) own up and move on. Lives and reputations are at stake.

    John, I really enjoy your Thursday shows … Keep up the You-Know-What

    And say Hi to Csaba for me next time you see him!

    -Stokes