Episode 366 – VW/Porsche Saga Continues, Used-Car Sales Red Hot, No Hybrid for Obama

April 8th, 2010 at 12:00pm

Runtime 6:45

Toyota “comes clean” about its ongoing unintended-acceleration problem.  Used-car sales in the American market are red hot and residual values are rising.  The U.S. Secret Service tells President Obama he can’t have a hybrid limo because of security and performance concerns.  All that and more, plus a look at a future autonomous military vehicle that can go just about anywhere.

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Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Volkswagen may not get Porsche after all. Toyota’s residual values are not going down. And President Obama can’t have a hybrid.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Thursday, April 8, 2010.   And now, the news.

The Associated Press is reporting this morning that former Toyota executive Irv Miller sent an internal e-mail saying the company could not hide its defect any longer and had to “come clean” about its problems. Five days after that memo, Toyota issued a recall of 2.3 million Camrys and Corollas with sticky pedals. Irv Miller was the Vice President of Corporate Communications for Toyota Motor Sales USA. He recently appeared on the Autoline webcast at the Detroit Auto Show, and retired from Toyota at the end of January.

AutoRemarketing reports that used-car sales in the American market are red hot. It cites the chief economist for Manheim as saying cars in the $5,000 to $8,000 range are up 10 percent, while all other segments are up 5 percent. Manheim says record amounts of federal tax refunds are driving sales. Also, the residual values of all cars are up, including Toyotas. And I would add that this is going to infuriate all those people filing class-action lawsuits against Toyota because they thought their residuals would go down.

The saga between Porsche and Volkswagen continues. Bloomberg reports that a merger between the two companies may fall through because Porsche has significant tax and legal liabilities. Analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein say the merger could be delayed or the two companies could use a procedure called put/call structure which would allow Porsche to sell the rest of the company to VW for cash.

Even the president can’t always get what he wants. According to ABC News, the Secret Service denied President Obama’s request that his presidential limo be a hybrid. He was denied because a hybrid would not accelerate fast enough if he needed to get away quickly for whatever reason. The car is heavily reinforced and weighs over two times the weight of an average car.

We’ve already shown you some patent drawings of the upcoming Chevy Malibu, but now it looks like someone has snapped a couple pictures of the new model.  The Detroit News is running these photos of the car which has surprisingly little camouflage on it.  It’s rumored that GM has pulled the Malibu program forward with production starting as early as summer of next year.  The car is expected to be a little shorter than today’s version but roomier inside.

Here’s a wild story!  According to the Miami Herald, visitors to Florida’s Everglades National Park are running into trouble with some of the native wildlife.  Their cars are being attacked, dismantled … and EATEN!  No, it’s not what you’re thinking – the usual suspects like snakes and ‘gators aren’t to blame, these attackers come from above.  It seems the area vultures have developed an appetite for car parts!  Specifically, they’ve taken a liking to rubber, dining on windshield wipers, door seals and sunroof moldings, but they’ll settle for vinyl, too.   The park has tried several anti-vulture tactics – like yelling at the birds – but the results have been mixed.  So far it’s received seven complaints and one lawsuit for $700 to cover repairs.

Coming up next, a look at a vehicle that can drive without a driver.

Autonomous vehicles are still probably at least a decade away for civilian use, but the U.S. military is pushing hard to get them into action much sooner than that.

Check out this test vehicle, it’s a test mule for an unmanned ground vehicle, or UGV. It’s a six-wheeled vehicle with each wheel individually powered by an in-hub electric motor. Power comes from a hybrid system using lithium batteries and a diesel engine that drives a generator. It has a top speed of 50 miles an hour, or 80 kilometers an hour. The UGV weighs 9.3 tons, but can be transported in a C-130 transport plane.

Autonomous vehicles are simply vehicles that can drive themselves. Amazingly, there is no one inside this thing, nor is it radio controlled by someone with a joystick. You just program in where it has to go, and it figures out on its own how to get there. The military wants them because they can avoid having to put soldiers in harm’s way.

The UGV can traverse a ditch that is four-feet deep – that’s 1.3 meters.  It can climb an 18-inch barrier, or half a meter.  It’s highly maneuverable and can literally pivot around within its own length.  It can gingerly climb down a three-foot drop. Remember, it’s figuring out how to do this on its own.  It can easily scale over a pile of loose rocks or cinder blocks.

This vehicle, which is being developed by TARDEC and Carnegie Mellon University, is undergoing intensive testing. Besides its autonomous technology, it’s also developing an advanced suspension, lightweight materials and its hybrid powertrain.

Don’t forget to tune in tonight when our guest will be Larry Erickson, the head of the automotive design school at the College for Creative Studies. If you want to learn about where automotive design is headed in the future tune in tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern time 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.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, The Auto Channel, Car Chat, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

33 Comments to “Episode 366 – VW/Porsche Saga Continues, Used-Car Sales Red Hot, No Hybrid for Obama”

  1. len simpson Says:

    I want my next Malibu to be a wagon!

  2. Nick Stevens Says:

    “And I would add that this is going to infuriate all those people filing class-action lawsuits against Toyota because they thought their residuals would go down.”

    You got that right, John. But it will infuriate even more the Ambulance Chasers that are enticing them to join the class action suits..LOL

    I am not surprised at all at the rise in used car sales, Americans are scaling down their expenses, by necessity or by choice, and new car prices are going nuts, with family cars at $25k (from $5k in 1980) and top-end luxury v8s at $100k!

    The very affordable used car prices (esp. by the owner, no dealers!) were Americans best kept secret, but gradually more and more people will discover it..

  3. Nick Stevens Says:


    many people want their cars to be wagons, and most makers have failed miserably or intentionally are not providing them, but instead sell small crossovers that are heavier, thirstier, and have less room.

    Today the cabbie that lives down the street (Yellow cab) who used to have a Ford crown vic in his driveway for years, replaced it with a Rav4 small crossover, and I wonder why. I have seen many other yellow cabs that are 50 MPG real MPG Prius, here and in Wash DC, they make a lot of sense, but the Rav4??

    Why is TOyota wasting time and $ converting Rav4s into taxis? If they need airpiort taxis that are wagons, at least convert the Sienna minivan instead.

  4. Nick Stevens Says:

    I’m pretty sure it was a Rav4. I looked at the back and there was no Rav4 logo. If it was a larger Highlander, it could at least be a hybrid, which is ideal for a taxi.

  5. Nick Stevens Says:

    PS john, one thing you forgot to mention re the prez Limo is that it is a very ehavy car powered, probably for the first time for a prez limo, by a heavy Duty DIESEL engine?

    The diesel industry should publicize this to reduce public fears of diesels in passenger cars and SUVs.

  6. Gary Taylor Says:

    The Toyota Sienna is good enough to be the Cash Cab on Discovery!

  7. HtG Says:

    the President’s limo just needs to do one thing well.

  8. Willi B Says:

    Nick, you’re so on spot today, couldn’t agree more

    they are so f’d …

    and i stick to my american dream, demo’s, safe vehicles that you can get tons of spare parts for, and low $ for slightly used – 1/4 of what others pay for cars that are high $, and high insurance, and high repair … i can pull the gas cap and replace the whole thing for 1/2 that

    laughing all the way to the gas station

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    len simpson Says:
    April 8th, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    “I want my next Malibu to be a wagon!”

    My current Malibu is a wagon, almost. It’s an ’06 Malibu Maxx. I keep hoping they will again sell a hatch or wagon Malibu. It would be easy, since there are already Opel and Vauxhall versions of the platform the Malibu is based on.

  10. Nick Stevens Says:

    The Maxx is a cross btw a hatch and a wagon. I like the flexibility of the back seat moving back and forth to maximize cargo oir rear legroom as needed.

  11. Nick Stevens Says:

    Without collision (have not bought collision for decades, if I have an accident I’ll use the $10,000 I saved in premiums!), my Accord actually had a higher premium than my 7 (!!!) probably because the 7 had so many more safety systems (the Accord did not even have one airbag or ABS!)

  12. Willi B Says:

    guys, if i haven’t said it, my $10,000 cars ( i have 2 ) are pacifica’s, all safety equipment, great ride, lot’s a room, good MB parts …

    insurance is super low, just wish they’ll bring it back, all wheel drive, 4.0 liter with over 20 mpg, what a package, i can even get dvd at that price

  13. Nick Stevens Says:

    As I was walking to another building, I saw a brand new Fiesta from the back, dark blue metallic color, it looked really good from the back. Also it looks upscale and not like the poor Aveo or even the tinny Yaris.

  14. Nick Stevens Says:

    Willi, the Pacifica is a good choice, actually it is a better looking version of the Mercedes R class which did not sell well. It is a bit too heavy, but that should improve the ride. What MPG do you get hwy and city?

  15. John V. Says:

    Carnegie Mellon’s involvement with the autonomous vehicle is interesting to me. A classmate of mine from undergraduate school started his graduate work at CMU in 1985. He was (and still is) an electrical engineer with a real talent for software. He was on a team back then working on algorithms for autonomous vehicles. CMU researchers have had vehicles driving themselves for a long time.
    Personally, I would rather do my own driving most of the time. It would come in handy for taking a nap on longer trips, though.

  16. John V. Says:

    Nick Stevens,

    Where did you get that the Pacifica is based on a Mercedes?

    It has a lot more in common with the RS Minvan made along side of it at Windsor assembly plant. The concept Citadel may have been based on a Daimler product, but not the Pacifica.

    The only things at Chrysler that got a lot of Daimler were the LX (300 and deriviatives) for suspension and the new Grand Cherokee based on an earlier version of the M class. The 2004 Dodge Durango and later products got CAN communications architecture based on Daimler’s but it was never exactly the same.

  17. Nick Stevens Says:

    I looked at my post, I never claimed the PAcifica is “based” on the R, I said the pacifica is a better looking version than the R.

    But both vehicles are of exactly the same, and unique, type, with three rows of seats, with only two seats in the middle row, not as tall as minivans but taller than sedans,

    And in addition, the pacifica shares plenty of parts with the R class.

  18. Nick Stevens Says:

    On my way back to my office, I saw that Fiesta again, this time up close. The front end is as good as the back, and overall the exterior is high-quality and upscale and with good, strong design lines.

    The interior was cloth, it would have looked better in leather of the same yellow-tan color. Some plastics were hard, but overall it was OK for a subcompact.

    Apparently Ford loaned the vehicle to a project team of students, there were added wiring and instruments inside, and a small laptop-zised screen added to the dash (at an angle)

  19. Nick Stevens Says:

    John Mc: Why was that autonomous vehicle 9 tons heavy, if it did not carry any people and hence no need for heavy armor to protect them? The advantaqe of unmanned vehicles is that you can make them much, much smaller and lighter than if people have to fit in them.

  20. Dave Says:

    I dont know about those pics of the new Malibu its hard to tell, but I do like the way the Malibu looks now. There is a problem with it it is VERY HARD to get in and out of for larger people. I am 6’3 and not heavy and the car is hard to get in and out of

  21. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Oh great, more over hyped used car prices. For some people like myself who would rather have new that $5-$8K is a nice down payment to me.

    I still think its funny that there’s people out there who will pay $5000-$7500 for a 10 year old Civic with 195K that some kid owned from 2002-2007 and burned that motor up real good, LMAO!!!

    Its highway robbery, Litterally.

    I hope China and or India storms the market with $5500 subcompacts in order to push those used car prices down to FAIR levels.

    Even the Mayalsians with their 15 year old Hyundais can come in here and sell $8500 subcompacts to force used car prices down.

  22. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Why buy a 10 year old Civic that I personally would trash in 5 years for half the price of a New one that I can keep for 15?

  23. Max Christensen Says:

    Odd that we aren’t hearing anything from all the Toyota lovers in here about the fact that Toyota DID KNOW they have an accelerator problem and failed miserably to let their loyal, but stupid, customers know about it! This is actually quite criminal on Toyota’s part and they should get fined and fined and fined again for such neglegence!

  24. Max Christensen Says:

    Regarding the new Malibu – from the right rear angle that the picture is taken from, it looks an awfully lot like a Dodge Avenger! The C pillar is nearly identical!

  25. Alex Kovnat Says:

    About that autonomous vehicle with wheel hub motors: As series hybrid vehicles suffer from a efficiency disadvantage owing to losses in the generator and motors, why not compromise? Let’s say we have an SUV. My proposal would be to have the rear wheels driven mechanically and the front wheels, with wheel hub motors or with an electric-motorized axle.

    Having this drivetrain arrangement has the following advantages: One, since you only need four wheel drive part of the time, most of the time you could use the more efficient parallel hybrid configuration, or better yet: A General Motors 2-mode compound split hybrid transmission. When you need 4WD for extra traction, the front wheel motors or powered front axle would then kick in.

    And when 4WD isn’t needed, the motorized front wheels or axle would provide regenerative braking. A problem with hybrid electric rear wheel drive vehicles is, most braking is done by the front wheels so regenerative braking potential is limited.

    It would be nice if one of the world’s automotive OEM’s gave this idea a try.

  26. Nick Stevens Says:

    “from the right rear angle that the picture is taken from, it looks an awfully lot like a Dodge Avenger! ”

    I’m not sure who is more of a psycho, Hyundai Smoke when he extols his.. Hyundai Accent, or Max when he extols his Avenger with his 41,000 miles (right, 41,000, not 410,000. Stop the presses!)

    If the new Malibu does indeed look like the Avenger (which would be shocking, because the current Malibu has excellent and quite upscale exterior styling that looks nothing like the 7/8ths scale Charger-wannabe Avenger styling), then all those who want GM to succeed, and include me, who as a taxpayer will benefit greatly from GM’s future success, should really pray hard…

  27. dcars Says:

    I like the rear treatment to the Malibu, that was the weakest part of the current model’s design. The autonomous vehicle info was very cool. Hey Alex, very interesting proposal! I wonder if GM will start putting the two mode system into some their cars, like a rwd Impala.

  28. Max Christensen Says:

    Ah, always good to hear from you Nicky! Funny how you have changed your tune about wanting GM to succeed – in the past you couldn’t talk enough about the awfulness of “Government Motors”! Perhaps after I pointed out that their success will benefit all of the owners – meaning you and me – you decided I was right. Good for you Nicky!

    As to the Malibu, put your hand over the screen just under the beltline, and it’s a twin to an Avenger!! I LOVE IT!!!

    And Nicky – what’s this – no comment about your corrupt bunch of culprits over in Japan, better known as Toyota????

  29. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    LMAO@Nick!!! Oh, Go Play with your Equally as reliable VW Diesel, as V Dub only shows any sense of reliabiliy on the diesel front.

    Like it or not, you V Dub lovers are threatned by a Hyundai that’s stopped chasing Toyota’s tail and wants to provide what YOU do and more at a lower smarter price, and more reliable, and more fuel efficient!!!

    Nice state of the art Tier 3 cars, that will teach you guys a few things on the gas powertrain front, like you taught the world about diesels.

  30. Nick Stevens Says:

    La vita e tropo corta per non guidare Italiano

    (and they do not mean FIATs… or even Alfas.. they mean FERRARIS)

    TURIN – Ferrari S.p.A. on Thursday released the first images of the 599 GTO, the company’s fastest road car. The 599 GTO, which is a limited-edition variant of the 599 GTB coupe, makes its public debut at the Beijing auto show that starts April 23.

    A select group of Ferrari customers will get a look at the car in Modena, Italy, on April 14.

    The 599 GTO is derived from the 599XX, a limited-edition racecar variant of the 599 GTB coupe.

    The 599 GTO’s 6.0-liter V-12 engine delivers 670 hp – 50hp more than the standard powerplant in the 599 GTB – and pushes the car to a top speed of 335kph (about 208 mph).

    The 599 GTO accelerates from 0 to 100kph in 3.35 seconds. The 599 GTB reaches 100kph in 3.7 seconds.

    Because of it is lighter and more aerodynamic than the 599 GTB, the 599 GTO’s CO2 output is even less than its sister model (411 grams per kilometer compared with 415g/km for the 599 GTB).

    Ferrari will build 599 units of the 599 GTO.

    The car’s starting price has not been announced yet, but in Italy the 599 GTB’s base price is 251,000 euros (about $334,380).

    Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100409/ANE/100409897/1193#ixzz0kc2xPU1a

  31. Nick Stevens Says:

    Somehow, after VW put out the 1,001, 253 MPH (400 KPH!), $1,500,000 (base price!) Veyron, these mere 670 HP 208 MPH cars seem so underachieving…LOL.

  32. Nick Stevens Says:

    PS here is the latest Honda-of-the-day

    20 years, 345,000 miles.

    not bad


  33. Nick Stevens Says:


    And this, a 2004 civic with 310,000 city miles (pizza delivery)