Mergers, unfortunately, will continue

If the real true business cost was reported, of changing the acquired company method of doing business (the process, product, workforce and lost profit) to make it operate as the business plan states it should, I feel most stockholders and boards of directors would not be in favor of acquiring most other companies.
L.R. Portser
Bloomfield Hills, MI

A hopeful yes

Yes, I really hope that it has. How much more consolidation can the industry handle before we're down to one or two OEs? And on the supplier side we'll probably have about the same amount of “players.”

Haven't enough families and communities been adversely affected?
Jeff Halvorsen
Customer Service/Support
SPX Corp.
Warren, MI

Diesel piece was super

I just finished reading the Super Diesels cover story (see WAW — Sept. '01, p.34) and wanted to congratulate Bill Visnic on an exceedingly readable and well-done piece of reportage.

Clearly, the real story on diesel-powered passenger cars is not getting as much play as it should in this country. Thanks for making me a little smarter about diesels.

Keep up the good work.
Eric Hood
Hood Public Relations
Clarkston, MI

A matter of degrees

In response to Mr. Noll's letter (see WAW — Sept. '01, p.9). regarding V-6 balance shafts, there is a fine point that needs correction. The natural balance angle of a V-6 is 120 degrees, not 60 degrees, which is the natural balance angle for a V-12. However, a 120-degree block is so wide that few V-6 engines have ever been built in this configuration, such as in the Ferrari Dino. Otherwise, 6-cyl. engines work best in an inline or boxer (180-degree) configuration for balance, with all cylinders on one plane.

The 60-degree V-6s are primarily designed to be similar in size to 4-cyl. engines, and as they usually are small displacement, the imbalance is not as noticeable. But these also require balance shafts for complete balance. The natural angle for any V-block configuration is found by simply taking 720 degrees (two rotations per engine cycle) divided by the number of cylinders.
Jeff Branch
Eastpointe, MI

Grammatically incorrect

Jerry Flint asks “Where's the Cars?” (see WAW — Sept. '01, p.21). I ask you, “Where's the Grammar?” (I must admit singular verbs with plural nouns ARE one of my grammar pet peeves.)
Patrick Sullivan
Automotive Division

Editor's note: Thanks Pat, but occasionally headlines — especially from irascible columnists — follow a more colloquial approach to the language. We consciously let the fuzzy grammar stand, for effect. It apparently worked. It got your attention.

Lemon or lemonade?

Speaking of “Super Diesels,” how is the Duramax doing? It's been out for about a year. How's the acceptance, quality rating, failure rates, etc. Did Chevy buy a lemon or get lemonade?
Jerry Wilhardt

Editor's note: GM's DMAX plant in Moraine, OH, can't meet the demand for the Duramax engine, so acceptance and quality ratings, we infer, are high. This engine ain't gonna break, so even though it's only been available for a year and there's not much in-use history, we'll gamble and say failure rates will be low. That's the recipe for lemonade.

Most of an issue on diesels and nowhere did I see a cost comparison. I remember looking at a VW diesel in the late '70s. The price differential between the gas and diesel versions was greater than any fuel savings I would have unless I kept the car for 10 years (in fact, the cost of the gas version plus five years of gasoline was less than the purchase price of the diesel).

At that time, diesel was about 75% of the cost of regular gasoline. Today, with diesel fuel as much or more than gasoline, the cars would have to be priced identically to make diesel an intelligent option (rather than simply a “feel good” statement). I think that true cost comparisons should always be included in “green” technology articles.
J.F. Lyon

Editor's note: Your concerns about diesel costs are valid. Our diesel story, in fact, dealt with the rather contentious issue of diesel cost (see WAW — Sept. '01, p.41). We're convinced a new-technology diesel inherently is more costly than a comparable gasoline engine. How much more depends on with whom you're talking. Ford's Richard Baker says, “There's not any doubt the base (engine) cost is higher.”

Europeans buy diesels largely because the price difference between gasoline and diesel is much greater there than in the U.S. As FEV's Gary Rogers says, “Higher fuel costs support higher engine costs.”

Volkswagen, the only automaker selling light-vehicle diesels in the U.S., gets about a $1,300 premium for its 1.9L TDI diesel in a 4-door Golf. The gasoline Golf gets around 28 mpg combined, the diesel a smart 45 mpg combined. Assuming both gasoline and diesel cost $1.50 per gallon, you'd recover the $1,300 paid for the diesel in about 44,000 miles of driving — not an unreasonable payback period.

Of course, there are less-tangible savings associated with diesel engines: They're generally considered more durable and less costly to maintain, while representing a societal “positive” simply by using meaningfully less fuel.

Accentuate the positive

While I am no relative of Dave Smith, it sounds like I am of similar physical stature. You referred to him as “vertically challenged” and “chubby” (see WAW — Sept. '01, p.7). During a dinner table discussion of political correctness a while back, my teenagers decided that I was “horizontally gifted.” Your references to Dave, as are most of today's politically correct terms, have a negative tone. Let's put them in the positive. Otherwise I agree whole-heartedly with your assessment in the editorial.
Jim Smith
Lead Mechanical Engineer
GM Baltimore Assembly

Lutz move is the right move

The engagement of Mr. Lutz by GM is a move in the right direction, taking him away from the other guys who have to secure someone else for themselves. Hopefully there is a supporting cast to work in producing something real. I am afraid that GM will not support him as we perceive, resulting in him being an image during his last hurrah.

Please follow-up on Mr. Lutz and show us some other car guys to see if there is a trend or just a puff of concept.
Norm Reynolds
Consulting Engineer

Wait until Bob Lutz runs into General Motors' aristocracy, bureaucracy and mediocrity. That will truly be the “irresistible force meeting the immovable object.”
Name withheld

Once a Marine …

Your editorial referred to Mr. Lutz and Mr. Smith as “former Marines” (see WAW — Sept. '01, p.7). Sir, there is no such thing as a “former Marine,” as I'm sure either one of them would be glad to tell you. Once a Marine, always a Marine!

Semper Fi,
Edward J. Bardella
Delphi Mechatronic Systems

Editor's note: Because most of our readers are civilians — and neither Mr. Smith nor Mr. Lutz are on active duty — we chose “former” to describe their status.

September Question of the Month

Has the mania to merge or acquire run its course in the auto industry?

Yes 33%
No 67%

Question of the Month
November 2001

Reaction by some to BMW's all-new 7-series styling has been negative.

Do you:

█ Agree
█ Disagree

E-Mail, FAX or Write your response along with your comments to: E-Mail: FAX: 248-357-0810 Write: Ward's AutoWorld 3000 Town Center, Suite 2750, Southfield, MI, 48075.

You must include your name, address, and phone number and whether your comments are on or off the record.

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