Episode 579 – Penske Fails with smart, Obama “Pulls Plug” on Diesels, Bentley on Ice

February 15th, 2011 at 12:00pm

Runtime 9:14

Mercedes-Benz USA is taking over the distribution of smart from the Penske Automotive Group.  President Obama wants to “pull the plug” on funding for clean-diesel and fuel-cell technologies, diverting it toward electric vehicles instead.  Bentley set a new world-speed record, topping 330 kilometers per hour . . . on ice!  All that and more, plus a look at the brand-new 2011 Nissan Quest minivan.


»Subscribe to Podcast | iTunes | Zune | RSS | Listen on Phone Stitcher

This is Autoline Daily for February 15, 2011. And now, the news.

It isn’t very often that you see Roger Penske fail at anything, but selling smart cars in the American market even proved to be too much for Mr. Penske. Mercedes-Benz USA is going to take over the distribution of smart from the Penske Automotive Group. Interestingly, Mercedes is not buying back the distribution rights, the PAG is essentially giving them to Mercedes, suggesting PAG really took a financial bath on the whole deal. It was easy to foresee that smart would not succeed. For one thing, it had essentially been a failure in Europe, where the cars never sold well, and the brand lost money ever since they started building cars. Some background: back in the DaimlerChrysler days, when Tom Stallkamp, the president of Chrysler, suggested to the board that they drop smart because it was losing money with no hope of every making a profit, he was pushed out of the company. Worse, the cars themselves were not very good. They have a horrible automatic transmission, they don’t ride well, and their fuel economy, about 35 miles per gallon, isn’t that great considering how small they are. Penske brought in Jill Lajdziak, who had been running Saturn, to try and breathe some life into sales. Recently they’ve been hyping an electric version of the smart. None of that worked. He also contracted Nissan to build a version of the Micra for smart to sell, but now that deal has been cancelled, too. Mercedes will soldier on with the brand, waiting for new models that will be based on a platform from Renault, because it needs small cars to meet U.S. fuel-economy regulations. Even so, it’s amazing to see how committed Daimler is to a brand that has lost money for its entire existence.

It seems Chrysler won the informal Super Bowl advertising war with its spot featuring rapper Eminem, using the tagline “Imported from Detroit.”  In comparison, General Motors took a quantity-over-quality approach.  Chevy blitzed the airwaves with five commercials during the game with two more running before kickoff.  But according to the Wall Street Journal, GM was able to capitalize on the buzz generated by Chrysler’s spot.  Joel Ewanick, the company’s marketing chief, counterattacked by getting his staff to make a “keyword bid” on Google. What that means is GM paid to have its content featured anytime someone Googled “Imported from Detroit” or in the case of Volkswagen’s Passat ad, “Darth Vader.” If you Googled those taglines, a link to Chevrolet would appear at the top of the results. This is a very shrewd way to capitalize on someone else’s success.  It’s called SEO, or search-engine optimization.

During his state of the union address, President Obama said he wants 1 million electric vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015 and that he’s going to axe funding for clean diesels and fuel cells to make the money available for electrics. The EPA is going to cut funding for the Clean-Diesel Program for which Congress had allocated $500 million over five years. The administration also proposes to not fund a hydrogen fuel-cell program which had been budgeted at $1.5 billion over a number of years.

Bentley set a new world speed record . . . on ice!  Finnish rally champion Juha Kankkunen – sorry for butchering the pronunciation – piloted a Continental Supersports convertible on the frozen Baltic Sea, topping 330 kilometers an hour!  For our ‘Merican listeners that’s more than 205 miles an hour.  The speed was based on the average of two runs in opposite directions.  It was certified by the Finland Traffic Police and the Guinness Book of Records.  Surprisingly, the car needed only minimal modifications to break the record.  It received a special safety cage, Pirelli winter tires and a parachute to help bring it to a stop.  Its 600 horsepower 12-cylinder engine appears unchanged from the factory version.  It even ran on E85 ethanol, because the environment’s important, even when you’re breaking speed records.

Looks like the Town Car will live on, but now the name goes on another vehicle. Lincoln just introduced the limousine version of the MKT, but it’s calling it the MKT Town Car. It comes in two body styles, livery and limousine. The livery version is based on the standard MKT chassis and is available in front and all-wheel drive. Inside the rear seats were pushed back for more legroom and can even recline, and more cargo space was added.  The limousine version can be stretched up to 10 feet in length and features several upgrades to the chassis to make the conversion possible. The MKT Town Car models will be sold to fleet customers and production begins next spring at Ford’s Oakville plant in Canada.

Coming up next, a look at the all-new Nissan Quest, we’ll be back right after this.

Nissan has completely redesigned its minivan, the Quest, in a quest to try and get sales going. Can it work? Seamus McElroy has this report.

The minivan segment has the reputation of being boring and bland. But Nissan wanted to rehabilitate that image with the all-new Quest. And that started with the design.

The Quest is powered by an upgraded 3.5-liter V-6 that’s mated to a CVT. EPA figures aren’t in yet but the company estimates the fuel economy at 18 MPG in the city and 24 on the highway.

Cloths seats are standard in the lower-trim models while leather-appointed seats are standard on the top trims. Other features include rear DVD entertainment, a navigation system and a permanent storage area in the rear. But it wouldn’t be a minivan without flexible seating. The second- and third-row seats fold flat without having to take them out. However the second-row seats cannot be removed. And the seats are arranged theater style in order to give everyone a good view of the road.

Other unique features include an air purifying and filtration system which reduces allergens and odors and a feature Nissan calls Easy Fill Alert that’s part of the tire pressure monitor system. Here’s how it works.

With TPMS now mandated by the government starting next year, expect to see this feature offered across Nissan’s lineup in the future.

The base price of the Quest starts just over $28,000. However, with the top trim level the price jumps to over $42,000.

The Quest faces pretty stiff competition. The Honda Odyssey was redesigned last year, and Chrysler is just bringing out redesigned versions of its vans.

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

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

78 Comments to “Episode 579 – Penske Fails with smart, Obama “Pulls Plug” on Diesels, Bentley on Ice”

  1. Ralph Kercheval Says:

    Penske should wait for Daimler to introduce the two new models to the Smart line up They are the :

    Not Too
    Not Very

    The Smart Cars make the “B” segment cars look like limos.

  2. shan Says:

    Smart cars have failed miserably in Government Crash tests. That alone, should have been a warning for Rodger to stay away from investing. He would have been better off investing in Alfa Romeo and Fiat.

  3. Michael Says:

    MKT Livery and Stretch Limo versions?



    Almost everybody I talk to thinks the MKT design suffers from a ‘funeral hearse’ effect. And these are local folk who are usually much more apt to buy from the Big 3. I can’t emagine what sales are like elsewhere in the nation.

  4. jesse Says:

    SEO??How about calling it “your commercial was better then ours so we’re going to rip you off by putting up a link using your tag line”..Again,GM show’s it’s low class lack of vision.

  5. Steve Says:

    I think it’s a mistake to pull diesels out of the mix. It’s a horrible mistake to pull fuel cells out. Electric is the worst choice of the 3. So I guess that’s why it’s in. IF there has to be funding from the government at all.

  6. Buzzerd Says:

    I owned the original SMART with the diesel engine here in Ontario. Probably the worst handling small car I’ve driven but still fun with sketchy quality but good fuel mileage. to sell in the US they put in the gas engine and took away biggest selling feature, not to mention North Americans are getting to fat to fit in small cars.

  7. Andrew Charles Says:

    After so many years, not many people remember that “town car” aka “sedan de ville” is actually a type of vehicle, not a brand name. Anyone and everyone can build a “Town Car” and there is nothing Ford can do about it. Anyway I’ve always thought the T in MKT stood for “Town Car”.

  8. HtG Says:

    mmmm, nope. I typed Imported from Detroit and Darth Vader into both Google and Bing, and no GM shows up. Only what you’d expect. Didn’t the NYTimes just have a big piece on how this kind of Black Hat SEO really torques Google? And that if they catch you they will do a manual kick down.

  9. Chuck Grenci Says:

    How about this; state your goals, set your timeframes, (forget about energy programs) and let the best technology win. Misdirecting moneys arbitrarily is typical government blundering at its worse. Can anyone buy these beaurocrats a clue? (No wait, they’ll spend billions on looking for a clue, be unable ‘still’ to find one, and while pick up that tab too.

  10. Chuck Grenci Says:

    #9, last sentence, “-and we’ll pick up that tab too”.

  11. Lex Says:

    Too Bad about Smart. Roger Penske and Jill Lajdziak were trying to make Smart Go in the USA, the land of Bigger is Better!

    Now that Nissan has introduced the Boxy / Ugly New Quest, why does not Ford introduce a new minivan. The European C-Max will be a failure in the US because of it’s smallish size. Remember “Bigger is Definately Better”! I would like to suggest to Ford that they take the New Ford Edge’s front and rear sections and develope a minivan middle section which has fold into the floor second and third rows similar to Chrysler Minivans. My Ford Touch incorporated into a Minivan will have families flocking into Ford Dealerships to buy one.
    Now that is a SMART idea!

    The Town Car name does not belong on an CUV or SUV. A Town Car is a Limo, what is wrong with these guys at Lincoln?

  12. tj Martin Says:

    So…… In todays news ;

    Penske wised up ( dumping SMART )

    Mercedes Benz is once again being Stupid ( taking on SMART )

    Obama is being CLUELESS ( cutting funding for Diesel for what is a currently a non-viable E/V future )

    Juha Kankkunen is still Raising Hell ( the Bentleys On Ice bit is one insane albeit fun stunt ) proving OLD GUYS RULE

    Lincoln is being Questionable ( can any variation of the MKX take the place of the Town Car ? )

    And GM out maneuvers Chrysler in the Virtual World .

    Interesting day for certain .

  13. bob Says:

    I predicted with 100% accuracy what would happen with Penske’s folly, and John Mc today repeated almost verbatim every single reason I gave to prove it was a Folly.

    However, back then (go look it up if you have time or you remember the Autoline Daily episode mumber) John disagreed with me and commented on my opinions on the “you said it” segment, and advised me to not underestimate Penske who had been very successful to date.

    To which I replied, Napoleon was also extremely successful before he invaded Russia. And probably 100 times smarter than Penske, but his smarts did not help him either.

    Geniuses make Blunders too!

  14. tj Martin Says:

    @Buzzerd ;

    Ahem . I lived on two Canadian borders there Buzzerd ( Quebec and BC ) Can’t say you Cannucks are in any better shape ( and in fact the Quebecois are in much worse shape ) than the US .

    So tuck your snide Anti American comments in your Sorrels and drop the attitude .

  15. len simpson Says:

    Since RP was one the real CarGuys of the 80/90s,
    it would be interesting to know “The Rest of the Story”, Smartwise.

  16. bob Says:

    “Steve Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I think it’s a mistake to pull diesels out of the mix. It’s a horrible mistake to pull fuel cells out.”

    You got it 100% backwards. it is a truly horrible mistake to not concentrate on MODERN DIESELS

    and send all other idiotic concepts,

    ESPECIALLY the discredited Fuel Cells, that were ALWAYS “10 years in the future” before they became “20 years in the future” by the usual SCAM ARTISTS that peddle them,

    to the garbage can of Automotive History.

  17. bob Says:

    Re the BENTLEY Record on ice:

    Could somebody, and especially John Mc Elroy, if he reads this, explain to me WHY in the world would they use the Obese convertible, which not only weighs even more than the coupe but must sure have far poorer aerodynamics at high speeds with its cloth top, and not the obvious choice, the COUPE, to do the record run????

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Diesels should be a bigger part of the automotive landscape in the U.S., but they don’t need federal funding.

    The EPA should just allow Euro spec diesels to be sold here, but with local entities allowed to ban them in areas like the LA basin where they might be too “dirty” if used in large numbers.

  19. bob Says:

    Driving Impressions: Honda Pilot

    We took a guest to lunch (salmon was good) and I made a mistake of not taking my “magnificent 7″ but letting a colleague drive us in his first generation Honda Pilot “SUV” or “Crossover”.

    That is a vehicle whose exterior styling I kinda liked, square, boring but solid and not offensive. I also liked the pics of the interior, until I sat in its back seat.

    That thing is more of a minivan inside than the real minivan (the Odyssey), with its pathetic console and column shifter.

    It was obviously not a loaded model, it dod not even have leather. The back seat had barely enough legroom, despite the car’s hefty 4600 or so lb weight. The whole interior looked really like a WAREHOUSE, a sea of greys in different shades, looked cheap and industrial to me. Maybe some plastics were not as bad as the hard plastics in Durangos and Dodge Avengers, but they still looked awful.

    It would be worth an extra $1-2k to ge tthe leather interior, especially if it came with a litle wood or at least with a better interior design color-wise.

    The thing felt almost like a prison on wheels!

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Bentley probably used the convertible for the record, so it will be easier to set another record in the future for PR purposes.

  21. Bob in Atlanta Says:

    The Smart is an excellent example of “Conspicuous Consumption”. Some people will buy a product that is visibly different from others, regardless of the product’s value and virtues, in an effort to display that they are unique. Roger Penske found out that not many people in the USA cared to be conspicuously stupid.

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Did/do the diesel smarts sold in Canada have the same transmission as the gas ones sold in the U.S.?

  23. bob Says:

    Most people that bought Smarts in Europe get them with manual trans. A good friend who already owned 2 BMWs there, an X3 and a recent 530i, also bought a “Smart” with the manual AND with the start-stop system 2 years ago, and at first he was thrilled at how fuel efficient the thing was around the large town he was driving it, claimed it saved him 65 euros a week vs the 530 or the X3, neither of which had a start-stop system.

    However, he deactivated the s-s in the summer so that the A/C would not get screwed, and recently told me that on the highway, the Smart’s MPG was as dismally low as the twice as big, four times as powerful, and twice as heavy 530!!

  24. Reality check Says:

    Bentley used the convertible because it was easier to install the roll cage.

  25. bob Says:

    A friend’s wife also now drives a “Smart”. They are an affluent couple who always considered car expenses as $ down the drain, and bought sensible or not vehicles with high miles from neighbors, her previous car was an early 1990s infiniti Q45 she got for a mere $8000 and drove it into the ground. They live in Arlington VA and the wife likes the ease of parking the Smart in crowded Georgetown when she goes to lunch or shop. I am not sure if she got the manual or the auto.

    her husband drives an old 7 series 6-cylinder 735 1989 which he bought with low miles from a dealer and right after he bought it, both the engine AND the transmission quit, but under the warranty he only paid half the $14,000 for new engine+tranny.

    However, he then went on to drive the 1989 7 until today and put hundreds of thousands of miles on it with no problems.

  26. bob Says:

    “The EPA should just allow Euro spec diesels to be sold here, but with local entities allowed to ban them in areas like the LA basin where they might be too “dirty” if used in large numbers”

    They sure should, and I don’t mind if they exclude the LA basin or even other similarly polluted urban regions, the rest of the US should not lose the huge benefits because of these exceptions.

  27. tj Martin Says:

    Bentley used the Convertible for one reason and one reason only ( roll bars installed in the coupe is easy and been done multiple times fir different reasons )


    Think about it . Which would have gotten your attention quicker ? A Coupe flailing about in the snow ? ( check out the YouTube videos ) Or a Convertible doing the same ?

    The fact that Bob noticed and is questioning the logic answers the question .

    As the Ad Man would say ;

    GOTCHA !

    Or if you prefer . Like the Chrysler SB Ad we mostly disliked . It Worked !

  28. Steve Says:

    and send all other idiotic concepts,

    ESPECIALLY the discredited Fuel Cells, that were ALWAYS “10 years in the future” before they became “20 years in the future” by the usual SCAM ARTISTS that peddle them,

    to the garbage can of Automotive History.

    Do you have any facts, or just your opinion?

    Because fuel cells are here, they work. Sure they can always use more development and infrastructure, but other than that what’s so idiotic about them?

  29. Jim Says:

    John: Please be sure to let us know the next car brand that Jill Lajdziak decides to send down the tubes….

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    All smarts sold in the U.S. have the crappy single clutch automatic. Roger never sold them with a manual.

  31. shan Says:

    I absolutely hate the smell of diesel fumes and the fuel. The newer diesels still sound crappy and I still smell fumes when driving behind them. We need to stop dicking around with E/V, Diesels and fuel cells and devote 100% of the resources to one and only one renewable green fuel!

  32. bob Says:

    “Steve Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    and send all other idiotic concepts,

    ESPECIALLY the discredited Fuel Cells, that were ALWAYS “10 years in the future” before they became “20 years in the future” by the usual SCAM ARTISTS that peddle them,

    to the garbage can of Automotive History.

    Do you have any facts, or just your opinion?”

    Many more facts that you would care about.

    You obviously were not around the last 20 years, or you have not been paying attention. Get educated on the subject, then talk about it.

  33. bob Says:

    “Because fuel cells are here, they work.”

    NO THEY DO NOT. Not when an escort sized fuel cell car costs $1 million to make, or $100,000 if mass produced, and THEN you just CAN’T USE IT, exactly because the extremely expensive INFRASTRUCTURE DOES NOT EXIST. Where will we find the 100s of billions, in this BANKRUPT nation 15 trillion in debt, to fund it???

    ” Sure they can always use more development and infrastructure,”

    MORE infrastructure? they have practically NONE. Are you talking about a high school science project, OR a vehicle with the potential of replacing the fleet of 250,000,000 Vehicles in the US?

    ” but other than that what’s so idiotic about them?”

    You don’t like the word “idiotic”? I consider idiotic everything that scam artists promise the moon and the stars to get BILLIONS in funding and the end result is NOTHING.

  34. Brett Says:

    Maybe the President was informed of the new technology that can bring diesel efficiencies to the gasoline engine without the expensive pollution controls or heavier engine parts for less money. It’d make for a wasteful investment if emerging gasoline engine design and management systems are going to make clean diesel a marginal value.

    I think fuel cells are fine when nothing else will do (like a spacecraft), but they’re flat-out inefficient when you figure the energy it took to recover the hydrogen they use. Unless there’s some sort of amazing, “never saw THAT coming” breakthrough in the cheap production of hydrogen, it’s never going to be commercially viable as a source of energy for vehicle propulsion..

    I suspect the future transitional vehicle will be an electric/gas hybrid like the Volt, with high-tech gasoline engines bringing diesel efficiencies at 1/3rd the additional cost of a diesel and high-energy density batteries providing better range and better packaging.

    Eventually, the price of gasoline and the build-out of charging stations will cross the threshold where people will have sufficient experience with electric vehicle range in the context of their day-to-day life to feel comfortable with the range they get between charging stations, and will need a damned compelling justification for the expense of an internal combustion engine.

    Then electric vehicles will dominate the sales figures. I don’t know when that will be, but I do believe that will be what it takes for it to happen.

  35. Bob in Atlanta Says:

    Shan @30: I agree with you about the Diesel smell – both fuel and exhaust. I had a Jetta TDI for 5 years, and after 8 hours of driving I could smell Diesel in my senses, and for hours after. Loved the torque – hated the limited fuel availability – hated the price, same as premium gasoline – hated the lack of engine braking in the mountains with no compression brake.

  36. shan Says:

    Bob, the Oil Companies and OPEC run the show until they suck up every drop of crude. Also, we do not have a serious energy policy intact, because the lobbyist/special interest have too much influence. Then you have the auto industry which has to be forced into doing the most basic such a making cars safer and more fuel efficient. It will be another 30 years before anything like fuel cell tech ever gets pushed. So, just accept it. Your stuck with gimmicky cars like the Volt and Leaf and maybe a few over-priced diesel models in a couple of years.

  37. Steve Says:

    Bob – of course the cost is outrageous now, so is a conventional prototype when they are hand built, like several hundred thousands. But economies of scale, that’s the key to the cost. But the cars themselves are available and functional, with a 300 mile range


    and people are driving and using them everyday with a limited amount of re-fueling stations



    And as others pointed out where to get the hydrogen is an issue.

    But these are just problems to be solved.

    IF the government has a role in this, and I am not it does, I would think it would be on longer range projects and goals, not on problems already solved like diesels. But even diesels have the issue of robbing peter to pay paul. You make more diesel fuel, you screw the people who heat their house with oil. Unless and until we make more refineries, we’re at capacity, it’s just shuffling fixed resources around. That’s not cheap either.

  38. bob Says:

    “# shan Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Bob, the Oil Companies and OPEC run the show until they suck up every drop of crude.”

    WHat the hell does that mean? There are oil reserves as far as the oil can see, both conventional (OPEC) AND unconventional (US and CANADA, oil shales and oil sands respectively). Oil is hands down and by far the most efficient AND cheap fuel, and will be so for another 100 years, EVEN with the huge growth in China. NO other fuel has its ENERGY DENSITY, which allows my V8 740iL to go 500+ miles on one tank (and if I had the DIESEL, I could do an amaZING 800+ miles on one tank, at equally high speeds).

    ” Also, we do not have a serious energy policy intact, because the lobbyist/special interest have too much influence”

    I was always in favor of a HUGE tax on gas, ONLY if it is balanced 100% with an equal TAX CUT elsewhere, OR if it is used 100% to pay back the national debt, I would NOT give the tax $ to our corrupt Pols in Wash DC.

    ” It will be another 30 years before anything like fuel cell tech ever gets pushed.”

    I do not need the STUPID fuel cells, I am doing FINE with even the Gas engines, and especially the DIESELS. Because of a commute of only 1.5 miles each way, I would not care if gas is $100 a GALLON, I could still easily afford it, but I can guarantee you it will NEVER even go to $10 a gallon (IN 2011 dollars, NOT worthless 2050 dollars, of course!)

    ” Your stuck with gimmicky cars like the Volt and Leaf and maybe a few over-priced diesel models in a couple of years.”

    Apples and oranges. Volts and Leafs are worthless, BUT the Diesels are EXCELLENT value, esp, if you buy them NEW, they retain an AWESOME pwercentage of their price, so much that VW is bragging that its used jettas retain their value more than any other car in its class, even the Civic and the Corolla, JUST because the DIESEL jettas used go for TWICE the gas jettas of same condition.

  39. bob Says:

    The only serious competition, mpg WISE, to the excellent 50 MPG REAL MPG Prius, would only be a serious Diesel Electric Hybrid. it would cost a few $k more than the prius, but would get 10-20 more MPG. VW should develop one of these, if it wants to dominate future markets if oil prices go up.

  40. tj Martin Says:

    Well looks like Bob and i are in agreement again ;


    Oh the Myths are out there . The Fantasies Abound . To the Science Fiction Aficionado they are a vague sense of reality .

    But @ Steve . Can you produce one solitary piece of evidence of ANY Fuel Cell , even in the works , thats less than Twenty years away in the making ?

    Well no you can not ! Because in fact there are none .

    Fuel Cells may be a Very Very Long Term Solution . As a short or medium term solution though they’re Pure Fantasy .

    @shan – Which would you hate worse ? The smell of Diesel ( you’re thinking Large Trucks not modern automotive diesels by the way )

    Or the sound of an empty gas tank and $10 a gallon prices ?

    Also you’re wrong in saying that OPEC controls the Oil Prices and Futures . Thats firmly in the hands of the Wall Street Speculators and Investors . Have a look at how many times there has been when Supply was way up and yet the Prices continued to climb .

    Nope . Blame the Money Men . The OPEC folks have little to say about any of it these days

  41. GPL Says:


    I think about two years ago VW said they were going to do a Golf diesel hybrid, but then only months later quit, saying the cost was too high.

  42. bob Says:

    GPL, missed that piece of info. Of course Peugeot in France developed several diesel hybrid concepts, first a Golf sized 70 MPG vehicle and lately it showed what I think was a production Wagon-like vehicle, the 5007 or sth, with probably not as high MPG, it was big and heavy.

  43. bob Says:

    “Also you’re wrong in saying that OPEC controls the Oil Prices and Futures .”

    Strictly speaking, OPEC controls the production, producing less than it would in free markets, in order to get a higher price for its product, this is the reason OPEC was founded in 1960, before that their oil was dirt cheap and the oil cos owned most of it, but then it changed hands and most of the oil reserves in the world are not owned by Big oil but by OPEC nations and other nations.

    ” Thats firmly in the hands of the Wall Street Speculators and Investors .”

    Sometimes price spikes are due to speculators, but sometimes they are due to legitimate bottlenecks in the supply or major demand increases.

  44. XA351GT Says:

    Hey TJ,
    I suggest you go back and read Buzzerd’s post again. He said NORTH AMERICANS !! Unless my geography is all wrong, Canada ,the USA and Mexico all reside with in the borders of North America. Your comments were really uncalled for and quite possibly a reason why so many non US citizens have issues with us . We are the United States (OF) America. To call us Americans and not include Canadians or Mexicans is wrong they are also technically Americans at least North Americans .

  45. XA351GT Says:

    So Obama shoots himself in the foot again. This is exactly the reason why we will never see any government intervention in fuel prices He wants $8 gas so we are all forced into tiny cars or electric POS and worse air quality due to the increased pollution due to coal fired power plants. He seems hell bent on destroying our way of life. Want electric cars fine don’t fund it with my money. If we taxpayers have to fund these programs then let us vote for the one that gets our money not just decide for everyone like he did with this healthcare debacle he and the dems rammed through and down our throats.

  46. Andrew Charles Says:

    Since nobody else is prepared to fund American business of any kind, the government be pledging to should set up a bank to fund just about everything, not shutting down funding for strategic technologies such as fuel cells and diesels. They should have made it a condition of the TARP loans, codified into their corporate charters. Invest in America. It’s not labor costs (which are on the rise) that is driving businesses to China, it’s readily available, cheap, investment funding.

  47. XA351GT Says:

    Bob ,
    weren’t the 1st gen Pilots rebaged Isuzus?

  48. Andrew Charles Says:

    Peugeots diesel hybrids are going into production right now. They call it eHDi and it includes stop-start, regenerative braking, and a smallish battering, more like Buick’s new eAssist. The company’s in-house awds (not the rebadged Mitsubishis) do use electric rwd though (e-4wd, which is a common technology for smaller vehicles).

  49. Andrew Charles Says:

    The Isuzu-sourced SUV was the Honda Passport.

  50. Andrew Charles Says:

    It was actually closer to the CR-V in size.

  51. Donan Says:

    Modern diesel exhaust does not smell. The fuel itself has an odor as does gasoline. Diesel has many benefits over gasoline powered vehicles and could be an affordable option for obtaining excellent fuel economy. Electric vehicles have many hidden costs (environmental both pre and post) and still cost several thousands more than a comparable gas or diesel power vehicle.

  52. Steve Says:

    tj – I’m not sure what you mean by “less than Twenty years away in the making”. If you looked at the links I posted, you’d see there are FC vehicles out there, right now, today, that have a range of 300 miles giving them the utility we expect in our cars. If you read the other 2 you’d see that there is a small fleet that ordinary people use everyday with, at the time of that article, 1.2 million miles on them. Speaking to the vehicle, if that’s not ready for prime time, nothing else is either. Of course there are the infrastructure issues, and that’s where IF the government has a role, money should be spent. I am not really sure where the country is on making H either. But I am sure if there was a demand, the supply would catch up a lot quicker and cheaper than if the government annoints it. Diesel IS the choice today, I am not arguing it isn’t. But like I said earlier, it would be at the expense of people who heat their houses with oil. I also believe the Russian’s abiotic oil theory is MORE correct than the west’s “made from squashed dinosaurs and fish” theory. Google that sometime. They have decades if hard science to back it up.

  53. Wayne Says:

    @XA351GT – Post #44

    Well put. Good luck getting tj to admit he made a mistake.

  54. cwolf Says:

    Unless VW returns to the quality they once had and ALL models offering a diesel drastically improves upon their reliability,I’ve come to the conclusion that the future looks dismal for those of us with a diesel passion. Yah,bob,you’re the exception. For any kind of milage,I think we’re stuck with the 4 cyl.,unless going hybred. Damn shame!

    Saw a new Honda Odyssey on the pike today. The sharp body line caught my eye,but at second look,I thought its lenght vs width was disproportionate and UGLY. LEX’s comment about Ford sounded reasonable,but,I think the C-Max may fill todays requirements. IMO, since 40mpg is becoming what is to be expected,I believe van buyers will expect more than the 26 or less mpg’s vans get today, regardless of style or reputation.

    As a Ford guy, I”d like a Linc.MKS. But Lincolns future doesn’t look rosey to me if they keep placing their effort in trying to force the HOG MKT and any face placed upon it, down our throats. A PIG in different clothes is still a PIG!

  55. pedro fernandez Says:

    If Mexico is part of the US, then why not open up the borders and let every one come in, like if we were going from Florida to Georgia for example, but also expect all those drug criminals to come in and start their turf wars over here, I’ll bet you don’t live in a border state. Car factories in Mex or Canada DO NOT help our economy or our employment situation

  56. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Bob and others,
    According to what I’ve read, and I did some searching, ALL smart fortwo cars in all markets have the single clutch automatic transmissions. The early ones were 6 speed, and the later ones are 5 speed. If anyone has other info, please post links.

  57. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I had a VW Jetta tdi wagon for about 4 years, and the only time you would ever smell the exhaust was at cold start. If you get the fuel on your hand, the smell lingers a lot longer than with gas.

  58. Tom L Says:

    President Obama should remember that old saying ” you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”
    It will be a hard sell to get American’s to buy electric cars.

  59. XA351GT Says:

    Not sure if your post @ #55 was directed to my post @ #44 or not ,but I did NOT say Mexico is part of the US ,but is part of the North American continent. I never said anything about opening any borders. There are 3 countries on our continent. If your weren’t talking to me I apologize .

  60. XA351GT Says:

    I agree with you that car factories in Canada and Mexico don’t help us. Anyone with any common sense would have known that NAFTA was going to shaft the people in this country that don’t mind getting their hands dirty and building things. NAFTA another great idea dropped on us by the Dems courtesy of the great Bill (I can’t keep my fly closed ) Clinton and friends.

  61. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Huh, xa351gt,
    George H. W. Bush was the president who signed NAFTA. Reagan was pres when negotiations began.

  62. pedro fernandez Says:

    Thank both NAFTA and the greedy industrialists who moved just about every factory to China for the slow death of our blue collar middle class, anyone who doubts this is in denial. Just look at any of our former industrial northern cities.

  63. bob Says:

    From Today’s Autoextremist:

    ” (Three thumbs down): The Obama Administration. Editor-in-Chief’s Note:

    They’re proposing that this country goes “all-in” for electric and extended-range electric vehicles in the new budget, basically cutting clean diesel and other technologies off at the knees.

    Memo to the Obama administration and the other political boneheads in Washington and Northern California:

    The Electrification of America is a pipe dream that won’t resolve itself anytime soon.

    To not embrace clean diesels is a monumental, short-sighted mistake.

    But then again with rational thought in such short supply in those aforementioned touchy-feel enclaves should we really expect anything else?

    Ridiculous. – PMD”

  64. bob Says:

    My thoughts EXACTLY, 100%, Peter!

  65. bob Says:

    “# Andrew Charles Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    The Isuzu-sourced SUV was the Honda Passport.”

    Yes. Not the Pilot.

    “# Andrew Charles Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    It was actually closer to the CR-V in size.”

    It looked bigger, but maybe it was the angular design that can fool one’s eye. It sure was much taller and unstable-looking. The VR-V looks quite different, both today’s CRV and the boxy original one.

  66. bob Says:

    “# Tom L Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    President Obama should remember that old saying ” you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”
    It will be a hard sell to get American’s to buy electric cars.”

    Exactly. And they know that, so they are twisting the arms of their allies, such as General Electric, to buy tens of thousands of these obscenely expensive, impractical, not ready for prime time POS for their company (or government organization) fleets.

  67. bob Says:

    “# Kit Gerhart Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Huh, xa351gt,
    George H. W. Bush was the president who signed NAFTA. Reagan was pres when negotiations began.”

    It was CLINTON who really pushed Nafta, and good for him. It was a much thinner and younger AL GORE that went on Larry King and KICKED ROSS PEROT’s Ignorant, demagogic ass! AND this was the only USEFUL and RIGHT thing GORE EVER DID in his long life! And one of CLinton’s MAJOR achievements.

    Free Trade, WARTS AND ALL. There was NEVER fair trade, and there will never be. SO fuggetaboutit, anti-trade types. Protectionism will be SUICIDAL for all of us and the US economy as a WHOLE.

  68. bob Says:

    “# Kit Gerhart Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Bob and others,
    According to what I’ve read, and I did some searching, ALL smart fortwo cars in all markets have the single clutch automatic transmissions. The early ones were 6 speed, and the later ones are 5 speed. If anyone has other info, please post links.”

    I don’t have any contrary info, except that neither the friend in Arlington VA whose wife owns one, or my old friend and former PhD student overseas who bought the one with the start-stop system (a bargain, slightly used, at his local M-B dealer, for 9k euros all taxes and fees included) overseas, ever complained about the transmission, as everybody else in the US does.

  69. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It sounds like a person can “get used to” the smart transmission. I think I would have a hard time “learning to like it,” but I drove the car only briefly.

  70. bob Says:


    What exactly was the transmission problem in the Smart you drove?

    I remember my 83 Pontiac 2000 with the 5 speed, it was a very primitive transmission, did not shift smoothly esp. btw 1st and 3rd gear. The comparison with the hext car I owned, the 90 Accord coupe 5 speed, was devastating for the Pontiac, the Honda’s transmission was smooth, accurate and perfect in every way.

  71. bob Says:

    “Chrysler’s U.S. fleet business averaged 38 percent in 2010, twice the industry’s 19 percent, according to Santa Monica, Calif.-based Edmunds.”

    They aim to halve that in 2011, but I have to see it to believe it. So the recent success of Chrysler was due to FLEET sales at huge discounts, while GM’s due to retail sales incentives. No wonder the two went bankrupt..

    In case you’re wondering why Chrysler can’t have any profits but keeps losing $ (while Macaroni resorts to creative labeling to fool the financially illiterate, using terms like “operating” (vs “NET” profit)

  72. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Basically, the transmission in the smart is slow shifting but “lurchy.” From a stop, the car accelerates in first gear up to, maybe 10 mpg, then gradually throttles back, declutches, leisurely shifts to second, engages second with the engine revs fairly well matched, but then lurches forward in second giving more throttle than you asked for. That is when making less-than-full-throttle starts. At full throttle, the shifts were still very slow, but the rev matching seems worse than when “leisurely” driving the car. Full throttle, it felt like the rpm was too high for good rev matching.

    In summary, the car felt like a manual transmission car driven by someone who is very unskilled at driving manual transmissions.

  73. bob Says:

    I get it… and it had no optimal amount of gas pedal depression that would make it run smoothly?

  74. Kit Gerhart Says:

    In addition to the SUV they shared with Isuzu, Honda used the Passport name for a small step-through motorcycle/scooter in the late 70′s and 80′s.

  75. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “I get it… and it had no optimal amount of gas pedal depression that would make it run smoothly?”

    That pretty much covers it. I didn’t spend enough time with it to try everything, but the published reviews seem to confirm my experience.

  76. bob Says:

    I was just going thru the inventory numbers as of Feb 1, 2011 in more detail, and I was struck by how badly MAZDA is doing. Especially the Mazda 2 (the rebadged Fiesta), it has almost 8 months of invenrtory vs the “ideal” 2! But others, the Miata also has close to 8 months, and even the popular Mazda 3 has more than 4 months of inventory!

  77. pedro fernandez Says:

    Wow, no matter if they call it Fiesta, Mazda2 or whatever, they just can’t move the damn thing out the door!! BTW I have seen 3 new Odysseys in as many days, considering that the styling change was so subtle, they most have done something right with the interior and driving dynamics. Oh re #19 Bob: if my daily car was a 7, just about everything else would pale in comparison. I’m at the other end, my car is so crappy, just about everything I drive feels like heaven.

  78. Buzzerd Says:

    @tj Martin -last time I checked Canada was part of NORTH AMERICA so pack up your own sensitive XL panties.