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Episode 439 – Honda Changes EV Plans, Another Strike In China, Jeep Off-Road Camper Trailer

July 21st, 2010 at 12:00pm

Runtime 7:29

Honda’s new CEO Takanobu Ito says battery research has accelerated since he’s taken over the company. Another Japanese auto company is hit with a strike in China but is the government deliberately allowing all these strikes to occur? Jeep and Mopar will be the first in the industry to offer customers off-road camper trailers. All that and more, plus John answers your questions in the “You Said It!” segment.

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Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

This is Autoline Daily for July 21, 2010. And now the news.

ANOTHER STRIKE IN CHINA
Just when it seems like one labor dispute is settled in China, another one pops up and again it’s at a Japanese-owned company. According to Reuters, workers at Omron, an auto electronics supplier, have gone on strike for higher wages. What I am told by industry insiders is that the Chinese government is okay with the strikes. It knows it has to let wages go up, but it wants to let foreign-owned companies take the brunt of any labor strikes, specifically Japanese-owned companies. I haven’t been able to verify this, but so far the strikes have only been at Japanese companies.

HONDA CHANGES EV STRATEGY
When Takeo Fukui was CEO of Honda, the company didn’t pursue electric vehicles as intensely as its competition, but things are starting to change now that new CEO Takanobu Ito is in charge. According to Bloomberg, the company announced it will begin selling a pure-electric vehicle by 2012 and will also have a plug-in electric on the market the same year. Ito says battery research has accelerated since he’s taken over and part of that is being spurred-on by California’s mandate that large automakers must sell 60,000 electrics or plug-ins between 2012 and 2014.

NEW FORD EXPLORER
Ford showed the media the new Explorer yesterday, and while all that information is embargoed until Monday, we can piece together some of the things the company already publicly announced to learn more about it. For example, Ford says with its four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, the new Explorer will get the same highway fuel economy as a V-6 Toyota Camry, which would be 28 miles per gallon. But I believe Ford wants to hit 30 miles per gallon, or 7.8 liters per 100 kilometers, just like it did with the V-6 Mustang which gets 31 MPG on the highway. 30 miles per gallon is a magic number and would shatter people’s perceptions that SUVs are only gas guzzlers. And that could bring more people back into the SUV segment.

GM & CHRYSLER DEALERS MAKE MORE MONEY
So what happens when you get rid of 2,000 car dealers, which is exactly what GM and Chrysler did? Well, the ones that survived start making a lot more money. Bloomberg says that the big publicly traded retailers in the American market, including the Penske Automotive Group, AutoNation and Sonic Automotive, will post their strongest sales in several years. Even though a federal watchdog criticized the automotive task force this week for not considering the impact on unemployment when it told GM and Chrysler to get rid of so many dealers, Bloomberg quotes a spokesman from Penske as saying Detroit’s automakers still have too many dealers. A typical Toyota dealer still sells twice as many cars as a typical dealer for GM, Ford or Chrysler.

JEEP OFF-ROAD CAMPER TRAILER (login required)
Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? In a move that seems blatantly obvious, Jeep and Mopar will be the first in the industry to offer customers off-road camper trailers. Two models will be available, the Trail and the Extreme Trail. Both are styled after the Jeep Wrangler, but more importantly, they’re designed to match the 4×4’s off-road capabilities. The campers are built around a tubular-aluminum frame and feature a torsion-bar/trailing-arm suspension setup. The Trail-edition offers 76 inches of headroom, a queen-sized bed and enough space to sleep four people. It also delivers 12 inches of ground clearance. The Extreme model ups that to 15 inches, thanks to a heavy-duty frame and an underbody skid plate. These campers also use the same wheels as the Wrangler so if you get a flat tire on the trail you can always swap out the vehicle’s spare. Both models will be available at dealerships in August as a Mopar accessory. Base MSRP for the Trail Edition is $10,000 while the Extreme Trail starts at 12 grand.

PARTY ON THE AUTOBAHN!
Here’s a story that gives new meaning to the phrase “life in the fast lane.” In an event to celebrate its Ruhr region, Germany threw a GIGANTIC party … on the Autobahn! According to the BBC, a 40-mile stretch of highway between the cities of Duisburg and Dortmund was closed to traffic and opened to the people! Party organizers provided some 20,000 tables so people could eat, drink and socialize. It’s estimated that as many as 3 million people showed up to the event. In fact, it was so crowded that the road had to be closed to cyclists due to traffic jams!  And thanks to ITN News on YouTube for the video clips.

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!

And now it’s time for some of your feedback.

Grant Fisher from Mississauga in Canada saw our report on the J.D. Power APEAL study, which showed that the Big Three topped the imports for the first time ever and he writes in with a correction. “In your report about J.D. Power, ‘APEAL’ should be spelt ‘Appeal.’ I know we have different spellings of words in Canada vs. U.S. (i.e. cheque vs check) but I think you’re off on the spelling of ‘APEAL.’”

Grant, we like it when viewers like you correct us if we get something wrong, but in this case we actually got it right. APEAL is a name for a study that stands for Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout. And we have a correction for you. The past tense of spell is spelled, not spelt.

Yesterday we reported that Mercedes is developing a nine-speed transmission and I asked if anyone remembered the Mitsubishi Twin-Stick transmission. Ken Stadden did. He writes in to say, “My parents had a Twin-Stick Plymouth Champ around 1980 that was a four-speed plus a low-range/high-range lever. I figured out how to shift it sequentially (some shifts required two hands) but two of the eight speeds were virtual duplicates of each other, so effectively it was a six-speed. Still pretty good for the day! (My folks thought I was nuts, by the way.)

Ken, you were shifting with two hands? Your folks were right!

Don MacConnel saw our report that the latest generation of Ford’s Sync system can recognize 10,000 different commands. He says, “Ford’s voice recognition was already cool but with an extended vocabulary I wonder what it will do when I cuss out other drivers? Maybe it will say, ‘Calm down Don.’”

Don, the way these electronic systems are progressing, it’s going to grab you by the throat and wash your mouth out with soap.

And that is it for today’s top news in the global auto industry. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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33 Comments to “Episode 439 – Honda Changes EV Plans, Another Strike In China, Jeep Off-Road Camper Trailer”

  1. K Holden Says:

    Sorry John, past tense is SPELT! (or spelled) who cares?

  2. tj Martin Says:

    Anyone happen to notice that in yesterdays news Harley Davidson is now threatening to move all their production and manufacturing facilities out of Milwaukee Wisconsin ?

    Pedro Fernendez ; Good sir ; I’ll leave the commentary and opinions on this in your capable hands . I know you’ll do it better than I can !

  3. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Well, Harley Davidson also has a plant in Kansas City; is that where they are planning to move production to? That would be the newer plant.

    And all that talk about the high number of speed transmissions reminded me of the Corvette’s 4+3 tranny. They had alot of problems with it and it only lasted from ’84 to ’88 but it was ahead of its time (and some Vette guys love it). It had an automatic overdrive (if conditions warranted it) in gears 2 through 4).

  4. Phil in Burlington Says:

    Ouch! Grant got a smack down from John on his spelling. I know its all in good fun, but, to throw it back at John, you did mis-pronounce Mississauga. It’s actually pronounced “Miss – iss – sogga”
    Cheers,

    Phil

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    Oh so the Chinese govt supports workers striking foreign makers, Duh!! have we become so naive about these commie orientals? do we need to be reminded that they don’t play fair in business practices. They want to give their own brands a price advantage and thus assuring their domestic sales can stay strong, while the Japanese brands will become too expensive, remember there’s no love lost between these two

  6. Salvador G. Says:

    These Chinese strikes beg the question…
    Would these workers had gone to strike if their (o’ so beloved) goverment haven’t given the word to strike on the Japanese companies in the first place??!!
    -
    JohnMc., Are Honda sales on the rise?? because, I can’t comprehend for the life of me; how is it that No One at that company, can’t see anything wrong with the direction they are taken. — I mean, really!!; someone at Honda actually took a look at the Nissan Leaf and probably said ‘We need to get some of that action”

    And, on the JEEP off-road camper trailer… – And the bathroom is Where??

  7. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    I like the design of that new Wrangler. Id entertain the idea if it had a Diesel.

    http://www.autoblog.com/2010/07/21/spy-shots-2011-jeep-wrangler-to-get-color-matched-hardtop/

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    Sal. Honda needs to go back to what made them great in the 1st place, great engineering, basic, desirable cars and forget about filling in all those niches with stupid near-pickups and four wheel steering,(brilliant plan) and ugly ass styling (Crosstour and the whole Acura styling motiff.) Also lagging behind Toyota in hybrids when they have the capability to do better.

  9. Nanny-State Says:

    Harley Davidson’s departure may be due to the State of Wisconsin’s law (passed by a democratic-controlled state house & state senate, and signed by a democratic governor) that requires “Combined-Reporting” (see attached link.)

    http://www.heartland.org/full/27759/Tax_Might_Cause_HarleyDavidson_to_Roll_Out_of_Wisconsin_.html

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    Boy, these Dems sure know how to create jobs, eh? in Mexico and China, that is.

  11. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Pedro, oh you mean Dem and Repoop Corporatists working together to turn everybody into peasants who can only afford a $5500 Chinese Car?

    The Government doesnt have control over GM anymore. GM controls the Government. If the Government really controlled GM they would have in lieu of their Welfare Check forced them to:

    1. Redo the Volt, and make a cheaper mild hybrid model to expand the Volt’s sales base.
    2. Add Direct Injection to 1.4 T for Cruze Eco.
    3. Bring Spark to America with 1.2 Direct Injection as Base Engine.
    4. Gave Aveo a 1.4 Direct Injection.
    5. Forced GM to Make Aveo and Cruze Hybrids.
    6. Forced GM to Develop more experimental tech.

    GM can do this too. They are still holding back a little bit due to bean counters, I can just tell.

  12. GPL Says:

    @HyundaiSmoke

    The flaw in your thinking is that most of that list goes completely over the head of most politicians/bureacrats. The don’t have the intelligence to understand vehicle technology, marketing, or even basic economics as far as I can tell.

    Go bankrupt. Dump dealers. Funnel money into it. That’s about as much as they can wrap their heads around.

  13. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    There has to be a better system than this.

    Every time the Fed Chairman talks, every time President Obama talks, every time the Treasury Secretary talks the sheep divest their stocks dropping the market by 72,000 points (Facetiously speaking): but honestly they have to control this crap.

    Allowing the average inimformed citizen to buy and sell stocks online like a casino HAS TO BE STOPPED. Talk about Great Recessions, that crap will lead to a Greater Depression than the 30s.

    What’s sad is that people think this is an ok way to go, and anti corporatist advocates like myself Morons.

    Maybe the sheep deserve to be on a Bread line?

  14. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    <<<<are called

    You have a point GPL I cant argue with that at the slightest.

  15. pedro fernandez Says:

    Precisely why govt should not run businesses, it failed in the Soviet block and failed in commie China until they copied the Hong Kong model and decided to turn their country into a Communist/ Capitalist hybrid, where the two are kept separate to a point, (except in cases like the Honda strike)

  16. Peter in Vancouver Says:

    John,

    Great program, watch you on TV and internet during the week and Sunday am

    You did get spelt mixed up though

    A USA dictionary online says
    “spelt 1 (spĕlt)
    noun
    A hardy wheat grown mostly in Europe.

    Origin: Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin spelta, probably of Germanic origin; akin to Middle Dutch spelte, wheat.

    spelt 2 (spĕlt)
    verb
    A past tense and a past participle of spell1.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition Copyright © 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

    Spelled is something a witch has done to you

    ” spelled definition

    Variant of spell
    spell definition

    spell (spel)

    noun

    1. a word, formula, or form of words thought to have some magic power; incantation
    2. seemingly magical power or irresistible influence; charm; fascination
    3. a trance

    Origin: ME < OE, a saying, tale, charm, akin to Goth spill, tale < ? IE base *(s)pel-, to speak loudly"

  17. HtG Says:

    OK, Hands up, who would have preferred Obama not bail out Chrysler? His advisors were split.

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    my hand is up, while the taxman’s got his in my shallow pockets.

  19. HtG Says:

    you’re a harder man than me Pedro. AIG and GE and GMAC and Citi and BofA and Fannie and Freddie sent over the cliff too? I don’t want to sell apples on the corner as a demonstration of personal initiative. Did you know Hank Paulson got on the phone to China to get them to stop dumping dollars in fall ’08. Lower level managers were rationally dumping our bonds, and were told to stop. That wasn’t the free market at work in any sense. You would have been fine with the european mega banks going under?

    The question is where to draw the line, not to uphold the principle of free markets willynilly. We did that before.

  20. HtG Says:

    My apologies for the harangue Pedro, but another story from the crisis is that Rick Wagoner went to Paulson’s office in the fall and told him GM would not survive another week if they didn’t get some money right away. Such was his fear. But Paulson, in his own account said he understood industrial companies and that that wouldn’t happen to GM. My jaw drops at the awesomeness of that decision.

  21. HtG Says:

    crxn. Paulson turned Wagoner down. No money at that time.

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    Chrysler has been bailed out twice. if at first you don’t succeed, bail and bail again. So now, FIAT takes over and who knows what’s gonna come out of this, two mediocre companies becoming a bigger mediocre entity, just the thought of a Caliber with a Fiat front end, like mixing a Rottweiler with a Bassett Hound, it’s not much to look at.

  23. vrmchris Says:

    hello to all.

    @nanny-state,

    having went to the link you provided, i would agree that the law that requires “combined reporting” may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    however, most of harley-davidson’s problems are of their own making. and harley will not admit to that.

    @ pedro fernandez,

    yes, the history between china and japan contributes to why there are strikes only at the japanese companies.

    as to chrysler, it is because of mismanagement thanks to daimler-benz (using chrysler’s money to save mercedes) and cerberus (only wanting chrysler financial and not investing in chrysler) that led to the trouble that chrysler is in now. if chrysler went under, the domino effect would have been significant.

    that is why imho chrysler was saved.

    also, there is no such thing as the “free market”. governments are going to interfere in some way whether we like the results or not. sometimes decisions have to be made for the good of a society (even if one believes in certain principles).

    also, fiat is not that bad of a company. at least they are willing to put some real investments into chrysler as opposed to daimler-benz and cerberus. only time will tell on this one.

    @ hyundai smoke,

    before gm was forced into bankruptcy, they were one of the biggest spenders in r&d in the world. they just did not know what to do with the technology. hopefully, once they do the ipo they will gradually get back into that game for real.

    @ htg,

    you are correct. we might be in a depression right now. it is ok for some of these companies to lose their lives (particularly many of the banks who got too greedy for their own good), but in a controlled way.

    @ pedro fernandez,

    agreed about honda. they are now making appliances on four wheels. not creating automobiles. i am not sure that this new ceo is willing to do that now. i need to know more about him.

    gentlemen, thank you very much for your comments today. it has been a positive experience for me today to read your comments and respond to them.

    regards,
    vrmchris

  24. shan childress Says:

    Look in your local newspaper’s classifieds and you will always see used Harleys for sale……the price always starts out ridiculously high and then jumps down when they finally realized they paid a ridiculously over-priced bike that depreciates faster than a Chevy Malibu.

  25. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    To be honest as a Hyundai lover, I am betting on GM to come from behind the most out of the Americans once they get everything together.

    GM could be more socially responsible, and provide every brand with B and C segment cars. I see they are working on C, but Cadillac should consider a RWD/AWD B segment. Base it off the Aveo/Corsa, but mod it to be RWD/AWD. Make a Crossover the size of a 30s Cadillac Sedan. Those cars in the 30s were B segment/C Segment cars. Let’s get back to that. Get back to that era where Small Cars were as important as the big cars today. It will make all companies compete, and keep everybody striving to 1 up each other.

    Make a 3 Door coupe too, and even if it has a trunk its needs a hatch.

    Ford=Now GM=Future.

    That would be really catastrophic for this country if this company were to ever become BMC.

    Chrysler=DEAD would have made Chrysler diehards go to the Koreans in anger, as Hyundai makes Chryslers and KIA makes Dodges, but with Good Asian/German (Not the new bad Asian/German quality of today) quality, more reliable and more fuel efficient.

    On that Chrysler issue Pedro I don’t know, because as a Korean car lover I wanted to get some of those Chrysler folks to join the Korean club.

    However, I have to be fair and honest. That would have been bad at the present state it was in. Soon enough FIAT will have pretty much all of the supply sourced from Mexico: FIAT, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Lancias for Europe, Alfa, FIAT, Ferrari, Maserati. Yep, that way they could come back from behind and try to play with the Koreans. They’ll bring Puntos and Dodge whatevers to try to take down Future Gen KIA Rios. They’ll give Chrysler a B Segment based on the Mito to fight the Hyundai Accent.

    Dodge VS KIA (Then you’ll get a cheap Korean Truck from KIA)

    Chrysler VS Hyundai (Chrysler will be forced to bring a real RWD/AWD flagship, and they will be forced to have a very good B Segment car) They can chip at Buick from below too.

    FIAT should just make Boutique Cars, with their lower offerings trying to pick at KIA.

    Alfa should fight everybody from Cadillac, Audi, Lexus, BMW, Benz.

    I still question whether those Mexico Sourced FIAT/Chrysler parts will have the same quality as the Korean/American/German/Japanese parts the Koreans are using in their cars now, however.

    To even bring the Chevy Brand more upmarket you GM guys should do a series of supercars, not just the Corvette, but 3 cars. A Maserati fighter thats every bit as upmarket as a Maserati but it 35% Less than one. Give that Alfa Competitione a role model in the Corvette, and Tease the Koreans that they don’t have such a car. -To get them to build one of course. Make an ultimate Supercar for $175K for less that is faster than the Bugatti Veyron using a Twin Turbo Supercharged V10.

    Make it look like a leaping Animal, and very vulgar but classy. Give it star power by putting it on a TV show, a crime movie, a Sci-Fi movie whatever. Just get everything in a movie or something. From Aveos to CTS-Vs, and Chevy Supercars. Get it all on TV movies, and always have the cars positioned in pics in its best pose online. If an Aveo has a leaping animal look at a right angle, then always have it in pics like that on the internet.

    Screw a Corvette Brand in Europe. You guys are wasting money when you could fix the image of Chevy in America, while making it a Hot Classy brand in Europe.

  26. stephen c Says:

    John,

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/spelt

    spelt
    –verb
    a pt. and pp. of spell

  27. Nick Stevens Says:

    HtG Says:
    “July 21st, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    OK, Hands up, who would have preferred Obama not bail out Chrysler? ”

    My Long Hand is up all the way, BOTH in 1980 and last year, AND also for GM.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    Government is not the solution, it is THE PROBLEM.

  28. Nick Stevens Says:

    HtG: I hate banks, but they had to be bailed out, they can blackmail Government because they are the lifeblood of all industries, who always use leverage.

    But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who were the first to fail and caused the bank qavalanche, did so at the urging of the same God-damned perverts in Congress, Barney Frank, who insisted they were OK, and CHris Dodd, and to add insult to injury, both of these worthless clowns were the authors of the current financial bill!!!!

  29. Nick Stevens Says:

    PS How’s this for irony, from today’s news:

    “OBAMA SIGNS MASSIVE NEW GOV’T REGULATIONS — AT REAGAN BUILDING! “

  30. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Wow, the first one of those on this site. The proliferation of this is comical.

  31. pedro fernandez Says:

    John, please monitor this forum and don’t allow ads, bad enough we have a bunch of them daily for Hyundai and Kia, Road and Track must be run by senile old guys, they just put out this article on the best cars money can buy including the Honda CRZ, What???? and the unproven Grand Cherokee and Fiesta, two brand new models that have to prove their quality and the CRZ? this car has been criticized universally as an example of Honda’s decline into mediocrity since the past decade. Nick, poor Reagan must have turning in his grave.

  32. Nick Stevens Says:

    I saw what looked like a tiny 3-door Fiesta the other day here, but it was actually a Ford “Ka”. You also see Opel Insignias that are clones of the far flashier and luxurious Buick Lacrosse, the Regal will be another Opel Clone. Instead of Saturns, now Opels are called Buicks.

    BTW it was Reagan who said “Govt is not the solution, it is the problem” above, and I see it every day all over the world.

  33. Nick Stevens Says:

    “before gm was forced into bankruptcy, they were one of the biggest spenders in r&d in the world. they just did not know what to do with the technology. ”

    Not exactly. They were the biggest WASTERS of $ for R&D. I knew plenty of PhDs working at the GM reesearch labs and it was as if they were working for the government, they got second and third jobs, one of them taught courses at UM Ann Arbor 3 hrs a week (plus prep!) during business hours, and drove new GM v3ehicles, most of them junk except for that sweet Northstar Eldo-Seville (they never gave him a Vette) I used to drive when he was lecturing and do my weekly shopping (GM paid for the gas too!), another was much much worse, he was a realtor in his spare time (most of it taken from work time), peddled icons and other antiques, everything except the god damned R&D! Only recently did GM fire the ass of some of these clowns.