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AutoLine: Episode 187 - No G8 for You!, Grooming Jim Farley, Problems in Hybrid Land

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General Motors won’t revive the Pontiac G8 as a Chevrolet Caprice in the American market. Ford’s head of global marketing, Jim Farley, will take over the company’s Canada, Mexico and South American operations. Hybrids may not save as much gasoline as expected. All that and more, plus a preview of this week’s episode of Autoline Detroit about what GM and Chrysler need to accomplish in order to be successful going forward.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. The survival of the Pontiac G8 is off, again. Jim Farley takes on new responsibilities at Ford. And hybrids may not save as much gasoline as expected.

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

This is Autoline Daily for Friday, July 17, 2009. And now, the news.

Tuesday we reported the Pontiac G8 would survive in the American market as the Chevrolet Caprice. Today, those plans are off. Seems like GM’s CEO Fritz Henderson and Vice Chairman Bob Lutz were not quite on the same page on this one. Lutz publicly stated the car would continue to be sold in the American market, Henderson publicly stated it would not, and since Henderson is the Chief Executive Officer he has the final say - for now.

In a clear signal of its growing confidence in Jim Farley, who is running global marketing for Ford, the company is giving him operational responsibility for Canada, Mexico and South American operations. Interestingly, in his marketing job, Farley will report to CEO Alan Mulally. In his operational role he’ll report to Mark Fields, president of the Americas. Obviously, Farley is proving to Ford he can do a lot more than just marketing and is being groomed for a more senior role in the company. In a related move, Ray Day, Vice President of Communications will no longer report to Farley and instead will report directly to Mulally.

Ward’s reports that Audi will start pilot production of its new small car, the A1 (subscription required), in Belgium this October. Its facility in Brussels will be the sole source of the hatchback model. Currently the plant is also home to the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Polo, but the company will stop building the VW there to make room for the A1. Full production is expected to begin in 2010, with cars hitting the streets early next summer.

Autoblog reports that a study released by Quality Planning shows that hybrids may not be all they’re cracked up to be. Throughout 2007 and 2008 the organization analyzed the habits of 360,000 drivers. It found that hybrid and non-hybrid drivers have very similar commutes, but ‘hybrid people’ drive 25 percent more, burning most of the fuel hybrids are supposed to save. The study also shows that hybrid drivers are much more likely to get traffic tickets, and it also shows that repair costs for hybrids are significantly higher than with non-hybrid cars.

GM is expected to announce the location of its battery factory in the next month. According to the Detroit Free Press, that site will be Brownstown Township in Michigan, which is south of Detroit. The $40 million facility will employ about 100 people and will make lithium-ion battery packs for the Chevy Volt.

Speaking of batteries, Mercedes announced it will introduce an all-electric version of the SLS AMG. The vehicle is powered by a lithium-ion battery and four electric motors positioned near the wheels. Mercedes says the vehicle will go from 0 to 100 km/h in about four seconds, equivalent to the SLS AMG equipped with the 6.3L V8.

And here’s how the grid can get the juice to make up for those electric cars. A Burger King in New Jersey plans to install speed bumps in its drive thru that will harness kinetic energy from all the cars that pass through each day. According to Cnet, the drive thru will be lined with metal plates that move up and down as cars pass. That energy can be harnessed and captured twice daily and then be used as electricity.

Coming up next, a preview of this week’s episode of Autoline, we’ll be back right after this.

This week’s episode of Autoline is all about what GM and Chrysler need to accomplish in order to be successful going forward. In the following preview University of Michigan marketing professor Christie Nordhielm talks about the problems Chevrolet faces as it looks for a brand identity.

As always, you can watch the entire episode of Autoline on our website right now.

Ok, thank goodness it’s Friday, it’s time to announce the winner of this week’s trivia contest. We challenged you to tell us name of the parent company that builds Subarus. And the correct answer is . . . Fuji Heavy Industries. As always, we randomly selected this week’s winner from the pool of correct responses. And the lucky person is . . . Larry Gruenwald of Pahrump, Nevada. Congratulations Larry, you’ve just won an Eyes on Design poster.

Anyway, that’ll do it for today’s show. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next week.

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It makes sense for hybrids to drive more miles, since they can go further on the same gallon of fuel. I don't understand the higher rate of tickets though.


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