Episode 540 – WTO Rejects China’s Complaint, Engineers in Demand, 9th Generation Honda Civic

December 14th, 2010 at 11:52am

Runtime 7:22

The World Trade Organization rejected China’s accusation that the United States violated trade rules when it imposed import tariffs on some Chinese tires. There is a shortage of automotive engineers in North America, not only at the OEMs but also at the suppliers. Honda released a sketch of the 9th generation Civic that will make its official debut at the Detroit Auto Show next month. All that and more, plus a look at the new Pentastar V-6 engine from Chrysler.


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This is Autoline Daily for December 14, 2010. And now, the news.

And this is what I call a big story. The World Trade Organization rejected China’s accusation that the United States violated trade rules when it imposed import tariffs on some Chinese tires. The tariffs were a victory for the United Steelworkers union which represents tire workers. But they were opposed by the Tire Industry Association in the U.S. Bloomberg reports the U.S. and China do $366 billion in trade between each other. But China has a trade surplus with the U.S. of more than $200 billion. Here’s my Autoline Insight. This ruling by the WTO is going to encourage other unions and industries that have been hit by Chinese imports to push for more tariffs. And this will not just happen in the United States, but in other countries as well, particularly in Europe.

Sticking with China for the moment, there are so many new cars on the road there that it was only a matter of time before traffic congestion would become a problem. Now the city of Beijing is trying to alleviate the problem. According to Bloomberg, the proposals include offering public bicycles, building tunnels, handing out fines for driving in certain sections of the city, and building more subway lines. A report says traffic in Beijing is now tied with Mexico City as being the worst in the world.

But maybe this next story will be of interest in China. You’ve heard of Zip Car, haven’t you? That’s the car service that allows you to use a car by the hour when you need it. Well, a company called RelayRides, a start-up backed by Google, will let you loan your car out to anyone who wants to use it. Anyone with a good driving record, that is. You register at the company’s website, and then they install an immobilizer that can only let the car be activated by someone who’s scheduled to use it. The idea is that you can make money off your car since, for most people, it spends most the day just sitting around. They charge $6 an hour, which includes insurance and gas. The owner gets 65% of the money. 20% goes for insurance. 15% goes to RelayRides. Bloomberg says most people could make $250 a month.

Now that the Detroit automakers are starting to recover in North America, more good news is starting to emerge. Bloomberg reports that there is a shortage of automotive engineers not only at the OEMs but also at the suppliers. One supplier, Ricardo, put up billboards around metro Detroit and is running radio ads trying to lure engineers to the company. The company says its difficult to attract top talent since so many companies are competing with each other to hire engineers that were laid off during the downturn two years ago.

And now for some now product news. Jeep just released pictures of the Compass. Just as Chrysler has done with its other products, this mid-cycle refresh includes much better styling. It really looks like a Jeep now, doesn’t it? And they greatly improved the interior.

And Honda released this sketch of the 9th generation Civic. It will make its official debut at the Detroit auto show next month. This sketch makes the Civic wider, lower, sleeker and more aggressive. But sketches are always more dramatic than the actual car, aren’t they?

And then Hyundai released these sketches of the station wagon version of the Sonata. Autoblog reports it will debut at the Geneva Auto Show and go on sale in Europe shortly after that. Sure is a good looking car. No word yet on whether it will be sold in the American market, but my guess is that it will not. As much as I like sporty looking wagons like this one, Americans just don’t buy them in enough numbers to justify the investment.

Coming up next, let’s take a deeper look at the new Pentastar V-6 engine from Chrysler.

It’s not every day an automaker introduces a new engine family. They cost a fortune to develop, and that expense has to be spread out over many, many years.

Chrysler just launched its latest V-6 in the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Called the Pentastar, it was under development for at least four or five years, but it was worth the wait.

And Chrysler’s engineers succeeded. From an NVH standpoint the Pentastar can go toe-to-toe with just about any engine in its class. It’s really quiet, but what’s even more impressive is how it compares to its direct predecessor.

Sounds like a win-win to me. With 290 horsepower the Pentastar is very competitive. But other automakers are not standing still, which is why engineers have planned for the future.

They wouldn’t come out and say it, but reading between the lines, direct fuel-injection and Fiat’s Multi-Air system have got to be in the works for this engine. In the years to come, the Pentastar V-6 will be a driving force behind Chrysler’s renaissance because it’s excellent AND it’s going practically every vehicle the company builds.

And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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31 Comments to “Episode 540 – WTO Rejects China’s Complaint, Engineers in Demand, 9th Generation Honda Civic”

  1. dcars Says:

    That rendered civic looks allot like the European Civic. It will be a hot seller if they bring that to the US. While in I took a picture of it and handed it to a local dealer and he was impressed and said he would have no trouble selling that model.

  2. dcars Says:

    I meant to say “While in France…..”

  3. Dave Says:

    HYUNDAI SONATA WAGON..BRING IT HERE!!!! With the 2.0 T!!!! I will buy one

  4. willi Says:


  5. Phoenix Mark Says:

    We really need to get to a world standard for autos. I would love to be able to buy a “European” model here, even if you just ordered it and had to wait for delivery.

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    Does the Chinese tire tariff affect only those sold under Chinese Mickey Mouse brands or does it include all the other name brands you assume to be American or European and are also made there. I was surprised when my semi-expensive Dunlops read on the sidewall “Made in China” By the way the Sonata Wagon looks real nice and also lousy rear visibility, sorry.

  7. HtG Says:

    Pedro, have you seen the new Jetta in the flesh yet? I saw one at the dealer this weekend, and boy does it look different than in the pics.

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    HTG:: The Jetta now looks like a Corolla that went on a cruise and gained weight, reminds me of the older Passat models. I honestly think Audi is one of the few companies that have not been hit by the ugly flu. ps. I’ve spoken to a couple of owners of the previous Jetta, and they don’t like the new one. They told me they would not buy it.

  9. Dale Leonard-Lakewood,Ohio Says:

    Hi John, Station Wagons could make a comeback if they would do some heavy marketing instead of pushing the Crossovers as much as they do. Example: The poor Ford Flex is dying because Ford pushes the Explorer. As Peter said on AAH the only marketing it gets is word of mouth from extremely happy owners.

  10. Chuck Grenci Says:

    While the new Pentastar 6 looks good and is getting some rave reviews (just named as a ten best engines from Wards) I’m guessing the ‘real jury’ might still be out until reliability and longevity results are in. Wishing them the best, and with the new six being ‘all their eggs in one basket’ so to speak, if it attains at least average reliability stats, Chrysler should be able to get their investment back fairly quickly as it attains its payback through economies of scale.

  11. dcars Says:

    Jettas, sell at a premium because they have lots of nice features. What happens if they remove content and sell it a lower price? I think you end up with an unreliable cheap car. Will see if it sells.

  12. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    “ps. I’ve spoken to a couple of owners of the previous Jetta, and they don’t like the new one. They told me they would not buy it.”

    Pedro yeah, that’s what Elantras are for.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Hey Smoke, looks like Honda is taking some styling cues from Hyundai in the upcoming Civic.

  14. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Yeah, kinds of. But this looks like a radical evolution of Honda of the Civic Si Hatch from 2000-2005, and a total rework of Honda Euro design from 2006-Present.

    This isnt the sedan. This is the Civic Coupe that has been spotted. The Grille matches through the spy camo.

    Look it up.

  15. HtG Says:

    Pedro, I was kidding the salesman at VW that the Jetta got bigger because of our increasing american girth. He just laughed and said, he doesn’t use that word.

  16. shan Says:

    Funny how cars evolve over it’s life cycle. The Jeep Compass was an ugly duckling that got panned at it’s inception and only recently has gotten refreshed. Sadly, the price has been creeping up… to where it’s no longer a value purchase. Dealers are milking consumers for all it’s worth for the Patriot and Compass. They tend to sell for 23k with a few decent option. It’s a horrible investment, as they typically end up on used car lots about half the price within a year.

  17. HtG Says:

    dcars@11, the salesman said the Jettas were moving well.

    The styling cues on the Jetta were very Audi. The belt line and taillights were just like Audi sedans, yet the nose still said VW. Lots of detail outside, and the interior was also in the Audi style. I really liked it. Tons of rear seat room and trunk space. And had that new VW smell.

  18. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Pedro I just did an article about it. I even have a demonstrative comparo graph on how the Civic Concept matches the Civic Coupe Spyshot on my site.

  19. pedro fernandez Says:

    let’s see, the Jetta got larger and the price went down, that can only mean cheaper materials inside and out, if reliability was mediocre before it should get worse now.

  20. WL Simpson Says:

    put your car to work? hah! ask any car rental
    company about abuse by renters.

  21. T. Bejma Says:


    The European Civic doesn’t look too bad from the front, however, that back end is a mess!

    Just because we think something looks good, doesn’t mean it’s going to sell here. The Opel Astra (here Saturn) was a very nice looking car (and the new one is even Hotter) but despite it’s critical acclaim it was a sales bomb…

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Jettas will continue to sell reasonably well because, with the TDI, they are the “only game in town” if you want a non-hybrid that gets really good fuel economy.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    This borrowing thing is nothing new, I’ve had my car “borrowed” a couple of times by local low-lifes.

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “The Opel Astra (here Saturn) was a very nice looking car (and the new one is even Hotter) but despite it’s critical acclaim it was a sales bomb…”

    I suspect many people in the US who liked the Astra remembered all too well the checkered history of “captive imports” from Europe, and not just those from GM. Among those that come to mind are Merkur Scorpio and XR4TI, Cricket, ’78-’80 Fiesta, and fairly recently, Catera. Most of them have been so-so cars, and all of them have suffered very high depreciation after being dropped in the US market.

    I hope things go better with the current Regal. It seems to be a very nice car, and I hope it continues to be sold and supported, with the next generation being built in North America.

  25. pedro fernandez Says:

    Kit: good memory there with the obscure, pathetic British-built Cricket. My mom bought one when they came out and she ended up trading it in just 2 months because the dealer could not fix the problem it came with. No wonder it was only sold for a couple of years. Yet the Kia-built Ford Aspire was a decent little car.

  26. JIm Thykeson Says:

    When engineers are trying to change the publics perception of something they have to make a statement. I remember when GM was trying to get buyers to have faith in V6′s instead of 8′s. They took that 231″ Buick and made history with the Grand Nat’l. and Kenny Bernstien’s Quaker State Buick Special at Indy where the 238m.p.h. lap record still stands today. Lets see if Chrysler can replicate Buick’s effort.

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Cricket was Hillman Avenger in the UK. The only reason I know is because I was in Scotland in the navy at the time they were built.

  28. XA351GT Says:

    The Flex doesn’t sell well because it’s styled terribly boring and is expensive. It is a BIG vehicle.

    I don’t think loaning your car is a great idea. What if the borrower runs a red light camera or skips on a Easy-Pass toll. You the vehicle owner are on the hook. No thanks, that’s what cabs are for.

  29. Jon M Says:

    Wait a minute, the Chinese are bellyaching over tariffs on tires? Gimmie a break! Those metal hoarders are showing their hypocrisy. Did they complain to the WTO when they decided to hoard some of the rare metals used in batteries for hybrid vehicles? Of course they didn’t. So hand them tissues and send them home.

    The new Civic looks good, but oh how I long for the days when Honda wasn’t so distracted by becoming such a gas saving (I loathe the term eco-friendly)car company and wasn’t afraid to build NSXs, CR-Xs, S2000s, and Preludes. God forbid they draw up plans for a V-8. You really have to wonder if they’re scratching their heads trying to figure out why they don’t have many hits beyond their usual bread and butter Accords and Civics.

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    All Honda has to do to put them on my shopping list in the future is offer hatchbacks with competitive fuel economy.

    Now, they have no “conventional” hatchbacks like Civic hatches used to be, and the hybrid they have is really REALLY SUBSTANDARD compared to a Prius.

  31. Brett Cammack Says:

    As for current Jetta owners saying they would not buy the new Jetta, I suspect that VW isn’t building the new Jetta for them. They’re building them for Corolla, Civic, Focus, and Elantra owners. There’s a few more of them than current Jetta owners. Not that I don’t lament the passing of a nicer, more European flavored Jetta. I do.

    A thought about station wagons poor street cred: Why not call them “Sport Crossover” vehicles? Give ‘em a 1″ higher ride height over the sedan to enhance the deception.