Episode 388 – Ford Intros Euro Hybrids, Hyundai Mulls Pick-up, BMW X3 Prototype Bomb Scare

May 10th, 2010 at 12:00pm

Runtime 8:29

Ford announced that it will build its first hybrids for the European market at its assembly plant in Spain. Hyundai could be working on a full-size truck for the American market. A camouflaged BMW X3 prototype caused a bomb scare in New York City. All that and more, plus a look at the brand new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet.

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Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

This is Autoline Daily for Monday, May 10, 2010. And now, the news.

Ford announced that it will build its first hybrids for the European market at its assembly plant in Valencia, Spain. It’s going to make hybrid and plug-in versions of the 5-seat C-Max starting in 2013. The company is also going to export the 7-passenger version, called the Grand C-Max to the U.S. market late next year.

But Ford could be running into problems with its hybrids. Bloomberg reports that an American company called Paice, which holds some of the basic patents on hybrids, is suing Ford for using that technology without its permission. Paice successfully sued Toyota over patent infringement, and is currently seeking to prevent Toyota from importing hybrids into the American market.

Ever since U.S. automakers got rid of their legacy costs last year, they’re not relying on beating up their suppliers to cut costs, or at least not as much as they did before. As a result, suppliers say that doing business with the Detroit Three is a lot better than it used to be. In fact, the latest supplier survey by Planning Perspectives shows that suppliers all reported significant improvements in how they rate Ford, GM and Chrysler at the same time they reported that relations with Toyota, Honda and Nissan are going down. Automakers with the best supplier relations tend to produce the highest quality at the lowest costs.

Chrysler is putting its money where its mouth is. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company plans to reward about three quarters of its stores with financial payouts of as much as $200,000. The scheme is part of a new program geared toward improving customer satisfaction. Nearly 1,800 dealerships will receive a bonus based on evaluations of their operations by Chrysler and three outside companies that used “secret shoppers” to rate how well the dealers treated them.

Could Hyundai be working on a full-size truck for the American market? We found this story on Autoblog courtesy of PickupTrucks.com, which says the South Korean automaker held research clinics with potential buyers in California and Texas to gauge interest. The company used a modified Dodge Ram 1500 with a custom Hyundai grille and interior enhancements for the trials. This does not necessarily mean the two companies would partner on a pickup, but it’s interesting nonetheless since Nissan dropped out of a deal with Chrysler to build its next-generation Titan pick-up off the Ram.

Despite all the troubles Toyota recently went through, it was still able to sell vehicles thanks to pouring on the incentives, but analysts predict as those fade out, the automaker could face a tough time selling cars again. According to the AP, even though Toyota has extended its incentives through the end of May, they aren’t as effective. Sales dropped 16% from March to April, and Edmunds.com says fewer people are considering buying a Toyota now than before all its troubles began.

A camouflaged BMW X3 prototype caused a bomb scare in New York City over the weekend. According to the New York Daily News, the head of product planning for BMW North America, Martin Birkmann, parked the car in front of a museum and accidentally left the vehicle running while he went to spend time in Central Park. A woman noticed the running car and thought the camouflaged vehicle looked suspicious enough to call police, due to last week’s attempted car bombing in the city. The police learned the vehicle did not pose a problem after shutting down the area and even smashing out the window to see if it indeed was a bomb.

The E-class racks up a lot of profits for Mercedes-Benz. And the E-Class Cabriolet is an important source of those profits. We’ll be looking at the new one, right after this.

Open-air motoring has a long history that dates back to the earliest days of the automobile. Keeping the tradition alive, Mercedes-Benz, the company that invented the modern car, just introduced its brand-new E-Class Cabriolet. Autoline Daily Correspondent Isaac Bouchard reports on this luxurious drop-top.

(Sound Bite)

Thanks for that, Isaac. Those look like some nice cars, provided you can afford them. Starting price for the drop-top E350 is about $57,000 while the V-8-powered E550 opens up at nearly 65 grand!

Don’t forget to tune in tonight for Open Line, our newest program that let’s you participate in the conversation. Hosted by Michelle Naranjo, Miss MotorMouth, the action gets going at 8PM ET. Check it out at our website at AutolineDetroit.tv for the most engaging talk about cars that let’s you take part in it all.

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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24 Comments to “Episode 388 – Ford Intros Euro Hybrids, Hyundai Mulls Pick-up, BMW X3 Prototype Bomb Scare”

  1. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Those look like some nice cars, provided you can afford them. Starting price for the drop-top E350 is about $57,000″

    That’s PEANUTS, John, and you’d realize it if you remember how expensive the REAL (not c-CLASS BASED!) E-class cabriolet was back in 93-95, that thing coast $80,000 in far worthier dollars 18 years ago, AND had much less HP than the current engine, even the 6. $57,000 is HALF the price (IN REAL $!) of the old one!

    BTW, it did not look really luxurious inside, perhaps it was the poor video quality.. it was hard to see the polished wood etc.

  2. Nick Stevens Says:

    “Automakers with the best supplier relations tend to produce the highest quality at the lowest costs.”

    John, I fully understand your point here, and this may sound good as a marketing slogan, but It makes little sense.

    Hondas and Toyotas are far more expensive than similar size and HP chevys and Chryslers exactly because they do NOT blackmail their suppliers but they pay them TOP DOLLAR for high quality parts. Historically, as you should know, Ford GM and esp. Chrysler preferred to twist these guy’s arms into lowering the costs to the minimum, and to hell with quality.

  3. D Says:

    How do you “accidentaly” leave a prototype vehicle running in NYC, while you go frolicking in the park?

  4. DBruckbauer Says:

    Accidently left it running?! DUH! No wonder insurance rates just keep going up.

  5. Nick Stevens Says:

    Inventories as of May 1 appeared today in Automotive news:

    That pathetic Transit Connect has 181 days, SIX months of inventory. (anything over 60 days is waste, according to some old wives tale, and anything over 30-40, according to MODERN, 21st century, “LEAN”, Toyota Way (LOL) Inventory management.

    On the contrary, the STELLAR Chevy Equinox had only a SUPERB 26 days, less than one month, of inventory!! And GM is scrambling to make more of them. A HOME RUN, even if the journalists did not understtand it would be one!

    Ford obviously miscalculated, and the so called expert auto journalists that voted for it over the best-selling, excellent equinox have egg all over their faces.

    Other interesting inventory numbers:

    That loser hybrid from Honda, the Insight: 118 days!!!

    But the excellent Odyssey, tjhe KING of minivans, only 29!!! And CR-V 34, and Pilot 36.

    Subaru as a whole has only 35 days, while the loser Suzuki, no matter what the journalists say again, 110 days! And Mitsubishi is just as bad. these two must admit defeat and get out of the US market, unless the idiots want to keep bleeding billions every year!!!

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    Really, moribund Mitsubishi and suckie Suzuki need to buy a one way ticket back to Japan and forget the US market, I mean, when US sales were in the 17 mil annual rate, they barely got by, now with sales as low as they are, only the strong survives. Who knows, maybe in 20 years they can buy GM and get back here like Fiat!

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    Oh no! devastating news for our resident Hyundai-obsessed smokey. his beloved company has to rely on Dodge to supply them with pickups. C’mon Hyundai. stop trying to emulate Toyota. Stick with your own plan

  8. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    LMAO Pedro, America is to Hyundai like VW is to Europe. They are ovbiously trying to copy off VW and its Amarok.

    The Ram is the most appealing full sized truck in the US Market, of course Hyundai would choose a superior truck as a working prototype.

    They sell work vans in Europe, so I guess they want to get into the Work truck market here. I Load is a superior product to Transit.

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    Smoke: Toyota and Nissan are failing with their pickups here, it’s obvious Americans prefer American trucks, if they know Hyundai is actually a Ram, why even bother? Mitsu is not selling many of their Dodge built re badged mid size trucks

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    If the Ram is the most appealing pick up, why is it always trailing both Ford and GM?

  11. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    You have a point Pedro but its appealing to the HKAG owner. If they go cheap on it, make it a KIA if they do it upmarket on a Genesis Platform or something badge it as a Hyundai.

    Its just an experiment anyway. They probably wont even do it, just on the failures of other Asian Full Siaed Trucks alone. If they did such a truck, I bet they could get 30 MPG out of a V8.

  12. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Hyundai likes to try these experiments to not only generate buzz, but to shut the people who ask for a truck a Minivan, or any other niche product up while spending the least money possible.

    Remember the Entourage Minivan, that was just another experiment and the result was, “See, Hyundai in America and Minivan dont go together.”

  13. Andrew Charles Says:

    a) Loyalty
    b) Upfitters
    c) Dealer strength

    The same reason the primitive Econoline outsells newer and far superior vans by a large margin and probably always will.

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    Smoke: when you build a pickup from a car platform you get a Ridgeline and you know the rest of the story there. Ford used to sell the Aerostar, a very good vehicle which they discontinued, instead they brought us the Windstar, which was just as bad as the GM minivans, They should have updated the Aerostar and would stil be arround I’m sure.

  15. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Pedro, all I can say is well see.

    However, if Hyundai decides to go this way with Accent Hatch, then that would be sweet!!


  16. Nick Stevens Says:


    Somebody at Ford does have a clue!

    They will import to the US the excellent C max wagon/mini-minivan, regular and hybrid, they will build in Spain.

    It looks really good, and will succeed.

  17. tj Martin Says:

    Pedro Fernandez ;

    Here’s a little more inside info on HyundaiSmoke . He works , or is a shill for Hyundai Motors and has been kicked off of several UK sites including CAR (3 times ) and Autocar under his H/S moniker along with several others for flagrantly promoting Hyundai as well as misrepresenting himself . If it were me , and I was more active posting on this site I’d demand that the webmaster do the same to the little phony here as well.

  18. Nick Stevens Says:

    pedro fernandez Says:
    May 10th, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Smoke: Toyota and Nissan are failing with their pickups here, it’s obvious Americans prefer American trucks, if they know Hyundai is actually a Ram, why even bother?

    Pickups used to be ab extremely profitable segment, and Toyota and Nissan, who sells millions and millions of pickups all over the world, wanted a slice of the action. They did not do so well, but part of it was the huge crisis that dropped pickup sales for ALL makers to half of what they were before 2007.

    Honda is a different story, they had no clue about pickups, and they built that .. transvestite Ridgeline, that very few people bought.

  19. Nick Stevens Says:

    ” Andrew Charles Says:
    The same reason the primitive Econoline outsells newer and far superior vans by a large margin and probably always will.”

    The Econoline sure is primitive, but it is NOT in the same class as the much smaller, narrower Transit Connect, an econobox delivery van made in Turkey, which looks as it will tip over, and it probably will..

    The Econoline is a much larger van. Ford should have some plans to replace it at some time, and so should GM (they have an aging competitor), but it is a financial decision. if what you have works, and there are no major complaints, why bother the huge expense of developing a new model?

    Checker Cabs were the same for half a century!

  20. dcars Says:

    A paid blogger to promote Hyundai stuff? That’s doesn’t seem ethical.

  21. dcars Says:

    I get the impression that the Utility truck van segment is much more nationalistic. When I mentioned that the transit connect was built in turkey to someone that just bought a few of these vehicles for his business, he was very upset that it wasn’t built in the US.

  22. Nick Stevens Says:

    Don’t waste time with the troll, Dcars. I doubt anybody except his parents gives him any allonance, anyway.

  23. Nick Stevens Says:

    Also, I think there is a market for small, narrow vans in European and Asian old towns, but they are not ideal for US conditions, where more space and weight capacity are needed, and a more stable design also, so it can cruise the highways in safety and not look as if it will tip over.

  24. ncars Says:

    180 days on a Transit Connect means they are filling the system before they truly promote it. In some cases, small to medium businesses could purchase 5-10 at a time. They need that inventory out there, business doesn’t wait for the order. Check against days on Sprinter. The 28 days supply of equinox means either they have slowed the production to adjust for dealer orders and/or cleared through initial inventory, not necesarily having to work overtime-compare against ds of gmc version. Also, paid bloggers exist at a number of companies, not just hyundai–their are agencies that are hired to do just that. That’s what keeps the conversation and hype going.