Episode 623 – Nissan LEAF NISMO RC, Mazda CX-5, New Beetle Unveiled

April 18th, 2011 at 12:04pm

Runtime 8:00

Toyota, Nissan and Honda now have all their plants in Japan up and running but only at half capacity. Nissan revealed a race car that’s powered by the same EV technology as the LEAF, called the LEAF NISMO RC. Mazda announced that its crossover concept, the MINAGI, which debuted at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, will be called the CX-5 when it goes on sale next year. All that and more, plus a look at the redesigned Beetle that Volkswagen just unveiled at the auto shows in both Shanghai and New York.


Visit our sponsors to thank them for their support of Autoline Daily: Bridgestone, Dow Automotive Systems and Hyundai

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

This is Autoline Daily for April 18, 2011. And now the news.

Slowly but surely the Japanese auto industry is getting back on its feet. Toyota, Nissan and Honda now have all their plants in Japan up and running. However, they’re running at half capacity. Even so, that’s a smart strategy. By ramping up slowly they’ll be able to quickly identify any potential supply shortages before they become a problem. Stopping and starting production often leads to quality problems, so by running at half capacity they’ll ensure the lines keep running smoothly.

While Japan is running slow, China is the hottest car market on the planet right now. It’s the “Wild East.” And every automaker from Volkswagen to Hyundai is scrambling to get a bigger slice of the pie . . . especially GM. The General just announced a five-year plan to DOUBLE its sales in the country to 5 million units by 2015! Kind of ironic, isn’t it, calling it a five-year plan given that China is a communist country? To reach that goal GM plans to introduce 60 new or redesigned models. Chevrolet and Buick, its two mainstream brands, will account for nearly half of those vehicles. This is a big goal to be sure but it looks like the company is investing in enough product to make it happen.

Speaking of GM, when it comes to clean energy, it’s the leader in getting patents. And that puts GM in the lead of all companies in the U.S., not just automotive ones. According to the New York law firm Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti, which specializes in intellectual property, GM got 14% of all the clean energy patents issued in the U.S. last year, making it the first time it ever hit the top of the list. GM earned the patents for hybrid electrics, fuel cells and solar energy.

And speaking of clean energy, Nissan revealed a race car that’s powered by the same EV technology as the LEAF, called the LEAF NISMO RC. It’s a two-door race car with a carbon fiber body, removable front and rear sections, fixed windows, LED headlights and taillights and a driver-adjustable rear wing. Unlike the LEAF the battery and motor are located in the middle of the NISMO RC, it’s rear wheel drive instead of front, and it weighs nearly 40% less than the LEAF. However for a race car the LEAF NISMO RC doesn’t have the greatest numbers, zero to 62 MPH is 6.85 seconds, its top speed is 93 miles an hour and it can only run for about 20 minutes before its out of juice.

And speaking of the LEAF, Nissan is recalling the car to reprogram it after complaints about people having trouble starting the car. According to the Detroit News, the company will reprogram 5,300 LEAFs in the U.S., Japan, Europe and other markets because it may not restart after turning off. Nissan, which won’t say how may complaints it received, says this technically isn’t a recall since it isn’t a safety issue.

Mazda announced that its crossover concept, the MINAGI, which debuted at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, will be called the CX-5 when it goes on sale next year. The CX-5 is the first Mazda vehicle to incorporate its KODO design theme, which means “Soul of Motion.” And it will come with its new SKYACTIV technologies which include engines, transmissions and an improved body and chassis. The CX-5 joins Mazda’s line-up of crossovers which includes the CX-7 and CX-9.

Herman and Candelaria Zapp dreamt of taking a road trip. The Argentine couple always talked about visiting Alaska . . . so they did. But according to MSNBC the trip turned into a lifestyle. They’ve spent the last 11 years on the road! Yes, more than a decade driving across the world! So far they’ve traversed more than 145,000 miles and visited some two dozen countries from Japan and South Korea to the U.S., New Zealand and Australia. Each of their four children was born in a different country. This would be an amazing feat if they did it in a modern vehicle, one with all kinds of creature comforts, but they didn’t. Their car of choice is a 1928 Graham Paige Model 610. That means highways are out of the question because the top speed is a leisurely 40 miles an hour. The car is a true multi-purpose vehicle, serving as a school, an apartment, a kitchen and a bedroom. The Zapps have even named it, “Macondo Cambalache,” although they also refer to it as “grandpa.” I wonder where they get replacement parts on the road. Hit the link in today’s show notes on our website, AutolineDaily.com for more on this amazing story.

Coming up next, Volkswagen pulled the wraps off its redesign of the Beetle this morning. We’ll show you what that’s all about.

When Volkswagen brought back the Beetle a decade ago, it was mainly aimed at the American market. The new Beetle, as they called it, never really caught on in the rest of the world. And we always anticipated that when it got a chance to redesign it, VW would make the car more appealing to more markets.

Well today Volkswagen unveiled the redesign of the Beetle at the auto shows in both Shanghai and New York. In fact the music they played at the unveil was so loud that that the vibrations made our camera shake. While the car is unmistakably a Beetle, it looks significantly different from the car it replaces. Note how the car now almost looks as if it’s a fast back. No doubt that provides more usable trunk space, which was a real problem with the previous car. And this also gives the car a much better stance, looking more powerful and sporty than the cartoony look of the old one. These show cars have giant rims on them, they look like 22 inch wheels, which will definitely not be on the production version of the car. Even so, this definitely looks like a Beetle that could sell well in world markets, and we should definitely sit up and pay attention that it was also unveiled in China.

Before we go: if you missed the live broadcast of this week’s RoundAbout show, catch it now on the website. Episode 78 features a Russian screw-propelled vehicle that has to be seen to be believed, a spectacular Dutch super bus, and the top ten vehicles Uncle Sam won’t let you import. You can get this and more info about everything else you’ve seen on today’s show at AutolineDetroit.TV.

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

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

40 Comments to “Episode 623 – Nissan LEAF NISMO RC, Mazda CX-5, New Beetle Unveiled”

  1. tj Martin Says:


    Last week I read an article in the Online M/C magazine ( subscription only ) I follow about all the changes the Italian M/C manufacture , Aprilla had done to their new Tuono in order to ” Optimize ” it for the track and roads to be used by the press at its recent release .

    They’d swapped the rear shock for one of a more expensive model , drastically changed all the settings as well as replacing several other parts from ” Stock ” to make the M/C seem as best as possible .

    The author ( who had worked with H.P. Publications ) then went on to describe the even more drastic changes Ferrari does to each and every one of their models ( including testing at the track to be used as well as the public roads up to 2 months in advance / fabricating parts to ” Optimize ” the car etc ) sent out for Press Review .

    His point being , yes both Ferrari and Aprilla are cheating , but at least all the modifications on the Aprilla could easily be replicated by a private owner , where as nothing that was done to the Ferrari could be reproduced ,short of a Full On Race Fabrication Shop : and even they wouldn’t have the computers etc. to do all Ferrari does to the Press Vehicle .

    Now I know for a fact from an Industry Insider that Toyota ( with their Hybrids ) and Subaru have been notorious for this practice , especially with cars being sent to the EPA for evaluation/testing .


    My question to John/PDL or even Scott Burgess is ;

    Is this practice of highly modified vehicles now spread Industry Wide , or is it limited to certain makes and models ?


    TV’s ” House ” is right . Everybody Lies !

  2. tj Martin Says:


    Well I’ll be ( ____ )ed ! The Shanghai F1 Race . Ir was……. dare I say it …………. A RACE !

    Real passing on track ( for position even ) An ending that still surprises on second watching . Seriously HtG .

    It was a RACE !!!

    Somebody must of screwed up .

    Either that or this season may still come out OK in spite of all the Geek Squad Fiddly Bits .

    We’ll see next race .

  3. tj Martin Says:

    VW ” New ” new Beetle .

    Looks like the old ” New ” Beetle that some fat (____ed ) moron sat on and squashed .

    Barely worth calling ” New “

  4. tj Martin Says:

    Macando Cambalache ;

    Great Car. One heck of an Adventure ! Brilliant to bring the kids along .

    Now that took courage and determination !

    As well as a fair amount of Cajones .

    Two Thumbs Up . To the Zapp’s ! As well as John for sharing this one .

  5. David Sprowl Says:

    New Beetle. Hmmmm my first take is that this an updated version of the Rabbit, er golf. Could the Scirocco be far behind? Or is this the new version? Either way to me it dies not look like a Beetle, who’s shape has been well defined by it’s large and storied past.

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    Just picked up latest issue of CR and found that the Elantra is now their favorite small car (sorry TJ) and he Cruze is in 5th place, behind such old designs as the Corolla, Mazda 3 and Sentra, either GM designers and engineers cannot keep up with the rest of the industry, or CR really has an issue with GM products.

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    How can an electric car not be able to “start” are you kidding me? it’s like: “Oh honey, I cant get the dishwater to start” Crappy crap is what they’re making nowadays!!

  8. Steve Says:

    GM has never been high on CR lists. Do they bias things against GM? Couldn’t tell you. Does GM deserve it? Who knows?

  9. HtG Says:

    ( )liars are not alone. Years ago I read an article in Top Gear on some alpine romp in a BMW M3. Toward the end of the piece there was a line about how the brakes in the test car were actually non standard upgrades. To my mind this is a big ( )deal, since brakes going limp in the valley is something the Lads reading the mags may not have err, experienced yet.

    As to F1 tj, did you think the element of tire wear and movable wings made for satisfying competition? I withdraw my theory on Newey’s bendywings, as the new test puts weights on either end of the wings.

  10. Ralph Kercheval Says:

    The Nissan Leaf Nismo RC is a real JUKE!! Wait that should be JOKE!!

    Talk about long pit-stops,If it is anything like the street version of the Leaf. So much for running the 12 hours of Sebring or even the 1/2 hour of (insert track name here)

    Of course once it was charged up it probably would not start!!!

  11. Chuck Grenci Says:

    For touting their unbiased review of products, (CR) exhibits pretty slanted reviews in my opinion. I failed to renew my subscription about 3 or 4 years ago (just to keep my blood pressure at managable levels). :)

    I too enjoyed the Grand Prix of China (even though my Ferrari’s didn’t perform to my expectation).

  12. SalvadorG. Says:

    The Toy Cars RC?? (that makes sense)

    Have you ever met a couple of girls, one is really sexy and cute and the other one is fat and ugly and then to your surprise you learn they’re both sisters and your like “Really! I can’t believe” and then you kind of start seen it, they both do kind of look alike. well..
    That’s one ugly Porsche.

  13. Ron Paris Says:

    So “The CX-5 is the first Mazda vehicle to incorporate its KODO design theme.” eh? Does this mean the end of the controversial “smiley face” which has decimated Mazda designs for the last three years? Hope so; then maybe I can seriously consider that MazdaSpeed 3 I’ve been
    fantasizing about!

  14. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I think the new bug is just as polarizing as the first one was.Either you love em or you don’t.There never seems to be a middle ground when it comes to those.As for offering a diesel here I think that will do just fine and should sell even with the higher priced diesel fuel.

  15. HtG Says:

    I will be at the NY Autoshow next week, so we’ll have a verdict on the new Bug et. al.

  16. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ HtG:You lucky dog.My dad took me to the NY auto show back in the late fifties.That was awesome.I’m looking forward to what you have to say about the new ‘bug’.

  17. HtG Says:

    GA, where was it held then, still the Coliseum? I went there once in the eighties.

    It’s truly enormous these days at the Jacob Javits. Two whole floors. Product specialists who really know the product. Outdoor demos. Special parking surcharges the whole week. Women dragged there by guys who will be repaying them in kind later on. Aah me.

  18. HtG Says:

    Was anyone here wise enough to short the Zipcar(ZIP) IPO? Since opening at ~28.50 last week it’s now down to 26.50 and barely traded 600K shares today. I know I was chicken.

  19. cwolf Says:

    The American translation of the Argentine name “Zapp” is Clampet.

    I wish Mazda success with the MX5,but IMO these crossovers are starting to all the same.

    I can understand why every car manufacturer wants a piece of the Chinese pie,but since interest rates are just beginning to to head upward for god knows how long or high,if GM’s investments should’nt be more cautious.

  20. cwolf Says:

    How about some of you guys giving me your 2 cents worth. Prolly aware I commute 200 miles each day and raised to buy only American brands and have access to GM and Ford discount plans. My 2010 now has 86,000 miles on her. I have always driven the wheels off my work cars, but while she still has some value,I am back and forth if I should satisfy my itch; Cruse,Focus,or that lil’buick clone. A Prius would be fitting,but just can’t do it.
    Wad’ya think?

  21. HtG Says:

    wow cwolf, I just did the math for you mileage. Whose your favorite singer for the road? I knew someone who was a maintenance manager for Pratt&Whitney jet engines, who was determined to get to 250,000 miles in his little Corolla commuter. He had attitude, his wife drove the Volvo.

    The only thing I can say, is that Prius gets its greatest advantage from stop/go rather than highway miles. You drive highway where Prius’ aero would be helping most.

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    Holy crapolla cwolf, that’s a lotta miles and I thought I drove a lot, if you get gas reimbursement, you can’t go wrong with a full size American sedan (no Chryslers) or pick-up, (again no Chrysler) Impala seems to handle heavy duty use pretty well.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    cwolf if you have to pay for gas, then get a Corolla, reliable, low maintenance, good mpg and reasonable comfort.

  24. cwolf Says:

    HtG,I don’t listen to music but am accompanied with ol’shows like “johnny Dollar”,”Drag Net” and other private eye/cop greats.I’ve done this so long, I don’t really know what normal driving habits are. Just know my back side now demands more cush over the miles!

  25. cwolf Says:

    Pedro, It’s all out of pocket,including $5 day for the pike.

  26. pedro fernandez Says:

    cwolf, most sales people I’ve met that have to drive a lot usually get a larger company car. but of course they get reimbursed so they don’t give a crap about MPG. I would forgo your import dislike and get either a Corolla or Camry. Cruze has yet to prove its reliability, maybe you can get an outgoing Focus, I am sure dealers want to get rid of the old ones and make room for the upcoming model.

  27. pedro fernandez Says:

    BTW I just went on Carsdirect.com and they still have some leftover Focus models with $2k rebate. the price of new cars is reaching astronomical numbers, you cant get a compact for less than $20k any longer.

  28. cwolf Says:

    Pedro: We think a lot alike. When I bought my son a Mazda3 for graduation(I put 30K on it first and Ford owned a part of it),I had a plan for the Corolla.A comfortable,reliable and a good valued ride, for sure. Buying Big3 is cemented within me,by family tradition and I’m a union worker to boot.Therefore Camery is out of the question.Last years Focus might be had for a song after the discount. But,again, was I wrong to simply drive the wheels off my past cars? Last car was a top end 03 Escape(27K).Only got $2400 with 220+K miles at trade in looking much better than average.Never had any problems with any of my drivers. Change oil every month payes off.

  29. pedro fernandez Says:

    cwolf I have to ask, what do you consider more American? a California build Corolla (like mine) or a Mexican built American nameplate? I have a clear conscience that the Corolla was built by Americans here. Same goes for all the other transplants build here, using American workers.

  30. vrmchris Says:

    hello to all,


    wow. that is a lot of miles indeed. and i drive 30 miles per day in the week. and drive to chicago from racine wisconsin every two weeks. so i am nowhere near your miles.

    that said, i would recommend the previous focus. but they are getting hard to find new because they were bargains compared to the fiesta.

    to ron paris,

    mazda did show the shinari concept last year to rave reviews. including those on this board. please do a search for it. you will be pleasantly surprised.

    to the regulars,

    thank you very much for you comments and insights. i learn something new everyday here.


  31. HtG Says:

    hey cwolf, if I can add one thing about total costs, consider insurance. I’ve been shopping and learn that domestics are less expensive than imports because if you crash the parts are cheaper. It adds up

  32. cwolf Says:

    Pedro: you are as right as rain! My Milan is not as(really not at all) American as the Corolla(some of them). I am only consoled by the profits had by Ford. Lets not bother ourselves by union devotions,for they are within limitations,yet I remain committed to American assembled with Big3 products given first consideration. My convictions sure get in the way of so many other cars I admire. The Audi looks,the M3 dynamics and the jetta diesel are so wanted,but just have to say NO!

  33. cwolf Says:

    Good stuff, but let’s not drift too far from the main question; Is it best to continue to drivr my work cars until they have little/no value?

  34. XA351GT Says:

    CWolf , I don’t envy that ride. If your set on a Big 3 offering and your putting gas out of your own pocket I’d look at the Fiesta. I know a certain someone here loves to slam it every chance he gets ,but I have looked at them they seem well made with nice material considering the price have a lot of content for the price and get 40MPG without having to pay the hybrid surcharge. If your looking for strictly a commuter car that is a good choice IMO.

  35. HtG Says:

    Of course it makes sense to keep a good car going. Think about how jets stay in service for years, even as the engines get rebuilt, and upgrades and other maintenance goes on. Think about the tax hit on a new car and the instant depreciation. I spoke to a woman who was showing her 50′s mercedes SL convertible at a concourse d’elegance(choked a little on that), and she told me she had had the engine rebuilt. She just loved that car.

    But for someone driving 40K a year on the highway, that’s a lot of money in gas. My 02 Civic(made in Ohio) gets 43mpg at 65mph. That’s 930 gallons a year if it’s you driving, cwolf. So if gas prices rise a dollar it would cost another $930 for you in this Civic. But if you drive something that gets 35mpg, it means $1142 more for the same $1 gas price increase. So the difference is only $212 between the 35 and 43mpg cars. If I didn’t mess up the figuring, who cares?

  36. XA351GT Says:

    Cwolf, to answer #33 I guess you need to ask your self what it costs you per year to keep the car. For instance I bought a 89 GT Mustang new in 88 for $16,200 I still own it 22 years later so based on the selling price and years owned it cost me $735 per year based on sale price alone. If your putting the kind of miles on that you say your cars will have very little resale value based on many peoples standards. They equate high mileage to a used up car. Not considering that highway miles are less abusive to a car ‘s engine than say a car with half the miles if solely driven in city or stop /go traffic. I have always thought it would be more useful to have a hour meter to guage engine life than miles driven. I see cars stuck in rush hour traffic just idling themselves to death . They travel 2 miles in a hour. That has to be worse than clocking 100 miles in 2 hours.

    If the car doesn’t routinely cost you more to upkeep than a new car payment I’d drive it until it dies. You sound like you do the maintainence it needs when required and that is really what keeps a car alive.

  37. pedro fernandez Says:

    cwolf, I also use my car for work with no reimbursement (only deduct mileage from tax filing) and I run them into the ground, 1986 Camry died at 250k, 1998 Corolla 320k miles still going, when engine goes I might just get a junk car engine that appears to be ok.

  38. Kit Gerhart Says:

    My thought is that you should move closer to work, or find work closer to where you live. Baring those changes, I’d say either a Prius, or if you’d want to take a chance on the iffy reliability, a Golf or Jetta TDI.

  39. Brett Says:

    The new Beetle looks like that bastard offspring of an old “new Beetle” and a Panamera.

  40. Mouhamad A. Naboulsi Says:

    Very nice You Tube page