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* Our apologies to Thomas Gallagher the former CEO of the Genuine Parts Company. We mistakenly call him John Gallager in today’s video. *
0:07 Hinrichs Forced Out of Ford
0:47 EV Startup NIO Fighting to Survive
1:43 Detroit 3 Workers Earn Good Profit Sharing Checks
2:10 Automotive Hall of Fame Reveals New Inductees
2:57 NHTSA Approves Nuro’s AV Delivery Pods
4:13 Chrysler Pacifica Updates
5:01 Mercedes Reveals Pop-Up Camper Van
5:42 Kia Cadenza Refreshed
6:16 Volkswagen Unveils New Atlas
7:13 Will Fuel Cell Vehicles Ever Catch On?
9:37 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Impressions
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
HINRICHS FORCED OUT OF FORD
Ford announced a bombshell this morning. Joe Hinrichs is being forced out as president of the company and Jim Farley is being promoted as Chief Operating Officer, which means he is likely going to be the next CEO of the company. As we reported earlier this week, Hinrichs was blamed for the botched launch of the new Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator, which hurt the company’s financial earnings badly. But as we also pointed out, Ford has performed dismally under its CEO Jim Hackett. And we would not be surprised to hear Ford announce his retirement before the year is out.
EV STARTUP NIO FIGHTING TO SURVIVE
Despite Tesla’s amazing ability to raise money, it’s not easy being an EV startup. NIO, the Chinese electric car startup, just managed to raise $100 million. While that would be a ton of money for you and I, it’s not nearly enough money to keep a car company running. Bloomberg reports that NIO spent lavishly on splashy showrooms and glitzy marketing and has lost $6 billion since it began in 2014. Investors are deeply concerned. Its stock price is 60% below where it was about a year ago. So far sales of its ES8 and ES6 fell far short of expectations and that was before the coronavirus paralyzed China. Unless someone steps up with a big bag of money, it’s hard to see how NIO can survive.
DETROIT 3 WORKERS EARN GOOD PROFIT SHARING CHECKS
Meanwhile, UAW workers at GM, Ford and FCA just learned they’re getting pretty good profit sharing checks. GM workers will get $8,000, Ford workers will get $6,600 and FCA workers will get $7,280. Ironically, those GM workers may have received checks for over $10,000 had they not gone out on strike.
AUTOMOTIVE HALL OF FAME REVEALS NEW INDUCTEES
The Automotive Hall of Fame, located in Dearborn, Michigan, revealed the inductees for 2020. Most notable is Jay Leno, who is a total car nut but his work on his CNBC show “Jay Leno’s Garage” is the main reason why he’s being honored. Also being admitted is Hyundai’s chairman and CEO, Mong-Koo Chung, Thomas Gallagher the former CEO of the Genuine Parts Company and Helene Rother, one of the first female interior designers, who started her career with General Motors in 1942 and later worked for Nash Motors and other companies. The new members will be officially inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Detroit this July.
NHTSA APPROVES NURO’S AV DELIVERY PODS
Big win for autonomous delivery company Nuro, which is backed in part by the SoftBank Group. NHTSA is allowing it to deploy up to 5,000 of its low-speed electric, AV delivery pods for a 2-year period. Nuro had pilot projects in Arizona and Texas, so we’d expect these pods to be making deliveries in those areas. To get the approval, Nuro agreed to provide real-time reports about safety issues, have regular meetings with NHTSA, engage the community in deployment areas and monitor the vehicles at all times by humans who can take over remotely if needed. This should be exciting news for any company that’s working on autonomous vehicles. This is the first-time NHTSA approved the deployment of automated driving systems without meeting all existing U.S. auto safety standards, like having mirrors and a steering wheel.
CHRYSLER PACIFICA UPDATES
We’ve got a number of reveals coming out of the Chicago Auto Show. Check out the new face of the Chrysler Pacifica minivan! We’d love to hear what you have to say about the styling change. You’ll also notice the taillights have been redesigned and now stretch across the entire tailgate. Another big update is that the Pacifica is now available all-wheel drive and even better it’s still available with Stow n’ Go seating. The new minivan is also the first vehicle in North America to get FCA’s all-new Uconnect 5 system, which includes a 10.1-inch display screen and Amazon Alexa capability. New driver assistance features are available as well. The updated Pacifica goes on sale in the 4th quarter of this year.
MERCEDES REVEALS POP-UP CAMPER VAN
And speaking of vans, Mercedes is now offering a pop-up camper van in the U.S. for the first time. It’s a modified version of the Metris and is built by Driverge Vehicle Solutions in partnership with Peace Vans. Called the Weekender, the elevated roof has a sleeping area for two and the rear bench seat opens into a bed for two. The swiveling front seats rotate 180 degrees to create a lounge feel for the interior. And it also comes standard with a second battery to power devices and any other campsite needs. No word on price or when it will be available.
KIA CADENZA REFRESHED
And while you may not have realized it still existed, Kia gave the Cadenza a fresh look. The new large grille is what sticks out most, but there’s also changes to the whole front fascia, the hood, rear decklid as well as front and rear lighting. The dash and instrument cluster have been completely redesigned, the audio controls were moved and a 12.3-inch touchscreen is now standard. Also standard is a host of new driver assistance features. The new Cadenza goes on sale later this year.
VOLKSWAGEN UNVEILS NEW ATLAS
Volkswagen updated the Atlas. The biggest difference is the front-end design, which includes the same grille used on the Atlas Cross Sport. There’s also minor tweaks to the rear and the new bumper design adds 3-inches to its overall length. Interior updates are highlighted by a new steering wheel, but also include contrast-stitching on the seats and doors and its 8-inch display screen is now standard on all trims, except the base model. Like the other vehicles, new driver assistance technology is available and all-wheel drive can now be mated to both the V6 and 4-cylinder engines. The new Atlas goes on sale this spring.
WILL FUEL CELL VEHICLES EVER CATCH ON?
While battery electric vehicles grab the headlines when it comes to environmentally friendly vehicles, automakers like Toyota, Honda and Hyundai are pouring R&D dollars into fuel cell vehicles. But they only sell them in California, and only in limited numbers at that. So will fuel cells ever catch on? On Autoline This Week we’re joined by three reporters from Wards and here’s what they had to say about whether fuel cell vehicles will become mainstream.
Tom Murphy, WardsAuto
“So our forecast, from LMC Automotive, is suggesting well below zero (percent market share) right now, going up to 0.2% globally several years down the road. With a lot of that growth coming in Europe, and apparently, BMW is going to be one of those big players. In addition to Hyundai and Toyota who are already there.”
“Yeah because Japan and South Korea are really pushing hydrogen fuel cells.”
Bob Gritzinger, Wards Intelligence
“Yeah you could probably get by with a fuel cell in one of those markets but you know in the U.S. or even Europe at this point, it’s hard to justify. But it is that future looking technology that does work, we’ve driven it, we’ve given 10 Best Awards to it and it’s out there. Decades in the future but eventually we’ll just be emitting a little bit of water.”
“And these are fun to drive. I mean you’ve driven a fuel cell, right? There’s nothing unusual.”
“Look it’s an electric car and instead of a battery, it’s got a fuel cell which generates electricity.”
“Instead of having to plug it in, you pump it.”
“And yeah, you can fill the tank almost as fast as it takes to fill a gasoline tank.”
Christie Schweinsberg, Wards Intelligence
“It is worth noting that several automakers see a relatively robust market on the commercial vehicle side for fuel cells. So even if they don’t succeed and you don’t have one in your driveway, chances are maybe the vehicle that brought your packages from Amazon might be a fuel cell.”
“Especially for long-haul across the country.”
“Long haul but also in ports, those kinds of things, places where you can create that hydrogen infrastructure in a closed environment.”
You can watch that show right now on our website, Autoline.tv, or you can find it on our YouTube channel.
TOYOTA COROLLA HYBRID IMPRESSIONS
We like to report on the cars we get to test drive and this week I spent a lot of time in the Toyota Corolla Hybrid. Even though Toyota is investing in fuel cells, in the near term it’s far more bullish on hybrids. In fact, Toyota is very skeptical about the sales prospects for battery electric cars. For one thing, hybrids cost far less to buy than an electric car. The LE model I drove carries a sticker price of $24,000 but according to True Car, most people are paying $22,000 for it. It’s rated at 52 miles to the gallon and while I averaged 49, that was in cold winter weather. So that’s about a 5% reduction in mileage. Had I been driving an EV, I would have expected close to a 40% drop. Last year, Toyota sold about 16,000 of them in the U.S. market. That means it outsold just about every electric car except for the Tesla Model 3, even though the Corolla Hybrid really didn’t become widely available until April of last year. The main selling point of the car is its fuel economy, other than that it’s a decent car but with no other outstanding features. The only thing I didn’t like about it, is that it must have the heaviest doors in the industry, with a commensurate high opening and closing effort. For a compact hybrid car, it’s kind of weird that the doors feel so heavy.
But that’s it for this week’s reports, thanks for watching and we’ll see you again on Monday.
Thanks to our partner for embedding Autoline Daily on its website: WardsAuto.com
John McElroy is an influential thought leader in the automotive industry. He is a journalist, lecturer, commentator and entrepreneur. He created “Autoline Daily,” the first industry webcast of industry news and analysis.