Episode 668 – The Red Green Show: Chinese EVs, Chrysler’s Quality Improving, MINI Coupe

June 21st, 2011 at 12:00pm

Runtime 8:40

China wants to be in a position to dominate the global market for electric cars and the government is offering subsidies of $7,700 for plug-in hybrids and over $9,000 for EVs.  Chrysler has been at the bottom of Consumer Reports’ reliability and road-test scores for years, but the magazine just tested eight of its 2011 models and says its cars are improving.  MINI just released photos and information on its latest model, a two-door, two-seat coupe.  All that and more, plus John responds to questions and comments in the “You Said It!” segment.


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This is Autoline Daily for June 21, the day of the solstice. For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, welcome to the first day of winter. For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, remember, now the days are only going to get shorter.

China wants to be in a position to dominate the global market for electric cars.  The Chinese government is offering subsidies of $7,700 for plug-in hybrids and over $9,000 for electric cars. It’s also putting in lots of public charging stations in five cities to encourage EV ownership. But in China, like everywhere else in the world, consumers don’t seem to be that interested in hybrids, plug-ins or battery electrics. China Auto Web reports that of the 10,000 alternative vehicles sold in the country last year, only 800 went to private owners. The rest went to government or corporate-sponsored showcase programs. So why aren’t people buying? Because despite the incentives, electric cars still cost too much and are inconvenient to use on a daily basis since they spend so much time recharging.

Chrysler has been at the bottom of Consumer Reports’ reliability and road-test scores the last several years but the magazine just recently tested eight of its 2011 models and says its cars are improving. Scores for the Durango, Charger and Town & Country have improved significantly and are now comparable to some of its competitors. However, they didn’t recommend the vehicles because they’re too new to have data on reliability. Consumer Reports says it was not impressed with the 200, Avenger, Compass, Journey or Patriot. Even though there are improvements they say these vehicles are still mediocre overall.

When J.D. Power releases findings from its initial quality study later in the week, Ford might drop in the standings. Last year the company led all non-luxury makers but this year things may change because of complaints about Ford’s MyTouch infotainment system and the new PowerShift transmission, a dual-clutch trans that uses a dry clutch on the Focus and Fiesta. Consumers have complained that the MyTouch system is distracting and complicated and they say the PowerShift transmission is jerky and unreliable, especially at low speeds. A spokesman for Ford says the transmission issues have been fixed. We’ll let you know how Ford does once the results are announced.

Honda announced that it wants to cut CO2 emissions from all its global products by 30percent by the year 2020. This not only includes its cars but also things like motorcycles and power products. In addition, Honda also aims to reduce CO2 during production and supply chain as well as for its corporate activities. The company also unveiled a new environmental slogan, “Blue Skies for Our Children.” The slogan will be used with Honda’s internal and external environmental activities and communications around the world.

Reuters reports Saab stopped its assembly lines at its factory in Trollhättan, Sweden again, as it negotiates with suppliers. It plans to return to normal production the first week of July.  Short-term financing is a big issue for Saab.  It’s looking into selling its factory and then leasing it back in order to raise enough cash to keep the assembly lines rolling.  According to Bloomberg, it’s estimated the company owes some 300 million kroner – about $47 million – to suppliers. You have to wonder how much longer this company can go on operating like this.

MINI just released photos and information on its latest model, a two-door, two-seat coupe.  By ditching the almost useless back seats the car gains valuable cargo space.  Beyond this big change the coupe version is also the first MINI with a three-box design.  Check out that profile.  See what I mean?  It sits 52 millimeters lower than the regular version of the car and it features an aerodynamic spoiler that pops up 50 miles an hour.  Under the bonnet it offers an array of four-cylinder engines including three gasoline-powered units and one diesel.  Output ranges anywhere from 122 horsepower for the base gas-burner, to 211 for the John Cooper Works edition.  No word yet on pricing or availability so stay tuned.

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

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

Ron Paris saw our report on the new Nissan Versa which traded off a few miles per gallon for more interior room. He says:

“Kudos to Nissan for designing a B-segment car with decent interior room, even if the trade-off is 3 mpg. When I open the rear door of a Ford Fiesta or peer into the rear seat area of the Fiat 500, my first thought is why even bother to put a back seat in these cars when no one in his right mind would want to sit there for more than a mile?”

Ron is right, eking out that last mile per gallon can involve trade-offs that limit the usefulness of a car.

Rick saw the story on how several suppliers are jumping into the market to make turbochargers due to strong demand and worries:

“I think a lot of folks on here have valid concerns about the turbo trend. Are manufacturers talking about the long term projected reliability of these new force fed engines?”

Rick, yes they are. They say that today’s turbo engines, with better oil cooling and better materials should have a long life.

Mark is wondering about tax policies when it comes to exporting vehicles. He says:

“You mentioned that the new M5 may be less in the US than in Europe because of the value added tax (VAT) that would be waved when it’s exported here. This has always bugged me. How is the VAT not consider an unfair trade practice? I know the VAT applies to consumers in Europe, but aren’t they really just subsidizing the exporting of cars?

Mark, yes.  The value-added tax in Europe or the commodity tax in Japan absolutely make it cheaper to export any product, not just cars. But trade organizations ruled years ago that this is not an unfair trade practice. The U.S. has never seriously considered using this kind of tax policy. And while the U.S. does impose a small import tax on most vehicles, it does not offset the advantage of the VAT.

Miradart watched Bob Lutz on the most recent Autoline Detroit and just loved one of his lines.

Where do I sign up for Whiskey flavored Crest? ;) LOL!!  What a great line!

If that doesn’t make any sense to you, go watch the show.

TylerBrandonHardwick saw Episode 666 of Autoline Daily and says:

“You should have kept the devil voice for the entire episode, I increased the bass and modified the equalizer on my computer to fit the episode number, you sound like someone you don’t want to mess with.”

No, you don’t want to mess with the devil.

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

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

47 Comments to “Episode 668 – The Red Green Show: Chinese EVs, Chrysler’s Quality Improving, MINI Coupe”

  1. Ron Paris Says:

    There are some variants you just don’t want to try with the Mini and a coupe body style is probably one of them. AWKWARD!!

  2. Ron Paris Says:

    Thousands of dollars in government subsidies, government supplied public charging stations, a fleet sales rate of 80% and next to no consumer demand. Are we talking China here or the direction of the EV market in the US? No matter; both are centrally-planned ecomomies, so the outcome should be pretty much the same.

  3. MJB Says:

    I’m lovin’ that new Mini. LOVIN’ IT!!

  4. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Even the mythical bird ‘phoenix’ came back to life (from the ashes) every 500 to 1000 years; wow, looks like Saab is also going to go down in mythical history (with its rebirths). :)

  5. pedro fernandez Says:

    So CR has confirmed what most here have been saying about the “new” Chrysler products, except for the few that were re-engineered from the ground up, the rest like the Sebring, Journey etc have been cosmetic only, but where is the beef? nowhere to be found on these.

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    Love that Mini, Tj is probably wondering if he pulled the trigger too early on that GLK.

  7. HtG Says:

    I know I’d like to go the Mini showroom to check out that new thing.

  8. Simpson Says:

    I have a Jim Dandy set of Sony wireless headphones that are recharged by induction. That is the system all EVs should have. Paid by RFID

  9. Duke Says:

    No doubt that there are enough vertically-challenged people out there that would provide enough for a potential customer base for that new Mini, and it looks pretty kewl, but yikes, I can’t even get in to a regular Mini without a ‘Gurney bubble’, or the sun roof open.

    It cracks me up with the so-called My Touch “complaints”. I know three peeps that have purchased new vehicles with it and everyone of them has stated that anyone that can use a smart phone, should have no problem at all. I guess those “reviewers” over at CR and now, Edmunds, haven’t got quite up to speed in that category yet.

    My son, who just bought a F-150 EB, said it took him around 10-15 minutes to learn just about everything that he needed to know about it. Guess the learning curve for some is much steeper.

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    To me, they should have quit adding MINI variants after the Clubman. The Countryman and this new coupe just don’t have the right “look” to fit the MINI brand. Maybe they should called these newer cars something novel like BMW.

    On the other hand, I think it would make sense to have the back seat optional in the MINI hatch and convertible.

  11. dcars Says:

    A reference to the boys from Possum Lodge! It seams only natural that John and Peter are members in good standing, but the question is where have they been hiding the duct tape!

  12. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I use a smart phone, and am typing on one right now, but that doesn’t mean I want to have to use a smart phone to operate my car.

  13. HtG Says:

    Busing it back to NY from DC yesterday, I got to look down into people’s cars. It was a frequent sight to observe drivers holding out their cell and reading or texting. We need computers driving for us ASAP, because it’s only going to get worse out there. (no, nothing ‘interesting’ happening down there, either.)

  14. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Chrysler needs VAST quality improvement especially in the Jeep div.I’m on several Jeep forums still,and the complaints rolling in on the 2010/2011 Wranglers is downright scary,and yet the factory still ignores these major and dangerous faults.I read also that class action lawsuits are being looked into.Especially for the 2007-11 auto transmissions.Looks like macaroni and manly (sp)are keeping their heads in the sand (or elsewhere).

  15. dcars Says:

    Hear’s something for China from the Red Green show’s handyman’s Corner.
    This should solve all their transportation energy needs.

  16. shan Says:

    I guess Chrysler’s or (Fiat)snazzy marketing and PR campaigning is finally running out of steam. The public and car critics have pretty much confirmed most of the product line is the same, mediocre junk they been putting out for decades. I’ll pass…..

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    and to think all these so-called experts jumped on the Sergio dog and pony show with all these “refreshed” Chrysler products without any real substance, esp the Sebring and Journey, we all now it takes time and money to really improve a car’s driving dynamics, not just some better quality plastics and added sound insulation.

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    RE China, soon they will force their slaves to buy electric cars just as they forced them to only have 2 kids. Our Democratic business partners.

  19. MJB Says:

    Well, unfortunately the inevitable charicatures of “Imported from Detroit” will soon begin to surface.

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    Ford will also start a new ad campaign titled: “Imported from Mexico”

  21. HtG Says:

    “Love the Beast” is a documentary made by Eric Bana about his Ford Falcon, and Aussie car culture. Available on Netflix. The stronger stomached cineastes may also ‘enjoy’ Bana’s movie “Chopper.”

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    Looks like MIni is trying to compete with the Fiat 500 I’ll still take the MIni over the crappy Fiat anytime.

  23. Dale Leonard,Lakewood,Oh Says:

    John,WAY COOL on the ending of 668 with the Devil voice.I just about fell out of my chair. I think you should have Ben dub in other sound efffects once a week. Loved it !!!

  24. Alex C. Says:

    How many EV’s purchased in USA for Leaf & Volt (PHEV really) were for consumers vs. government? I am not an EV advocate but they may grow to be a nice niche for low range city dwellers and cleary for the 5% of USA population who are GREENIES. There are also fairly large cost reductions in battery packs that will occur over the next decade. Also there are 2 key new features that American consumers may just love. One is pre-HVAC…or pre-conditioning….it let’s you program the vehicle to be warm in winter or cool in summer while plugged in and BEFORE you get in. No need to open garage door anymore to warm up your car! Also imagine if you don’t have a garage but are plugged in and it starts to snow…you can run heater all night on the grid and come out to a mostly snow-free car! Also a new feature Nissan just announced is coming..that is emergency power for residential homes. Average power outage in USA is about 2 hours and it happens fairly often. An 100 mile EV that is fully charged can provide enough juice for a typical home for about 24 hours! Look out for this on PHEV’s as well to back-up for maybe 1 or 2 hours. No need to muy a back-up generator or go get ice and coolers to save the food in the fridge! Other value we still need to assess consumer feedback on: no more oil changes, no more gas stations, no more huge cash drain monthly on fuel, operation cost that is only 15% to 20% of gasoline car, near silent running, much less brake wear, no engine to fail, etc. Key issues remain high initial cost, short range with anxiety, and long time to charge. All of which will improve. So jury is out but direction is at least EV’s should grow to at least a niche status. Watch out for PHEV’s as they can add the pre-conditioning and emergency power but for much lower cost. They could become main stream in the long term. I vote no for any government involvement with taxe credits or investments…leave it to the free market to work it out…it always does worse when government tries to pick the winners and losers.

  25. cwolf Says:

    A more truthful slogan for Honda should say,”Blue Skies for Our Children…With a Good Dose of Radiation.”

    Nice Mini!

    I can’t speak for others,but CR’s credibility is as realistic as China’s! Never the less, I do hope Chry products gain par with the others.

    Ford’s new product lines have had good success,but, I now wonder if they will once again let their fire grow cold or have the vission to continuously make improvements. Their plans for the C-Max have me bewildered and their plan for investing in a”better” Lincoln line-up tells me they either are not serious in keeping it alive or they just don’t have a clue that by just adding a wing grill isn’t enough to still make it a Ford.

  26. stas peterson Says:

    Dave Champion the tester for CR, is a predictable jerk. When he tested the improved Journey ,he said it was best in class, and might want to buy one for himself. Then he comes out with this fatuous review and blasts the Journey.

    I will always recall what the supreme fat-head said about Toyota an CR’s constant blessing of its reliability when Toyota was in the midst of admiting hidden recall, after hidden recall, and UA.

    Champion said: “The only thing wrong with Toyota is the recalls…”, as he dismissed his long love affair with the Toyota product line.

  27. cwolf Says:

    PEDRO, re#19: And Ford’s future European ad campaign is,” Imported form Greese” Gotta keep those stock values up at all costs!

  28. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    MINI Coupe JCW VS Hyundai Veloster Turbo. Who Will win? Both with 1.6L DI powertrains with 208 HP.

    BTW, tj that was classic. Neo con Conspieracy Theorist, LMAO. Wrong, I’m a Progressive/Conservative truth teller. LMAO, Neo Con!!!

    The Only party that on the planet that even made the remotest of sense to me was the old Canadian Progressive Conservative party before they sold out to merge with the American Democrats (Conservative Alliance Party) and became the Conservative Party of Canada. American Democrats are way way way too Conservative on Social issues for my tastes, and too way way way too Liberal on Moral Issues for my tastes. The republicans are just obsolete, and not even worth capitalizing. Essentially, I’m a Dowhatsrightative to make all people regardless of background safe, healthy, and prosperous in this country like they should be- instead of being under the boot of this Anti Car Police State.

    - I’m tried of seeing crying eyes.
    - I’m Tired of seeing homeless familes with carts begging for money on the side of the road like it’s Brazil.
    - I’m tired of seeing food banks.
    - I’m tired of the Police in this country.
    - I’m tired of seeing people do nothing about it, while the rest of the world in even police states like China are rioting over less.
    - I’m tired of seeing people fighting over BS like Obama VS the Republicans while the real culprits are stealing more and more tribute money fron the people.
    - Im tired of seeing small business go under, while Big Mega Corps get bigger and bigger.

    We need multi parties, it’s just that simple. I dont believe in this 2 party dictatorship passing irrelevant, obsolete, and draconian laws, but sssh.. I cant say that because that would make me a “Neo Con Conpsiracy Theorist.” LMAO- Classic tj :D .

    While you guys go fight over crumbs, we will be planning to take over.

  29. pedro fernandez Says:

    The Journey has a Dr Jekyll/ Mr Hyde problem, the base car with the anemic 4 and spartan interior is not very desirable, the upscale model with the V6, auto 6speed, leather and other stuff goes for well over $30k a ridiculous amount of money for an extended Caliber chassis with a 6 cyl and extra row of seats.

  30. pedro fernandez Says:

    Are we seeing the byproduct of Ritalin over use?

  31. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    I’m also tired of seeing people apply for jobs where there are:

    - Drug tests
    - Intensive Criminal Background Checks
    - Intenstive Personal Background Checks
    - Intensive Credit Checks
    - Requirements that you need 72 Billion certifications and 162 years of experience doing it.
    - Requirments that you need to have a grandma’s driving record so the company’s insurance policy will cover you/

    Just to get a job making $2 an hour (anything under $35K in this country today might as well be $2 an hour-if you make under $35K you’re a slave with no rights in this country- A NOBODY).

    Yeah tj, everything is fine in a country where people with degrees make less than their barely literate fathers who scammed their way out of high school, and got a job the same day they left high school.

    Yeah, everything is fine when College educated people go without jobs and are forced to commit crimes.

    Yep, everything is great!!

    Yes we CANT

    Change you can Piss on is more like it.

  32. cwolf Says:

    Smoke#30: Then this means you can’t find a job,right?

  33. pedro fernandez Says:

    LA Times reports that more and more new cars are being sold w/o spare tires, even the temporary ones, in order to save weight and thus get better mpg’s I say fla fla foey!!, this is just another way to save money, forcing to buy expensive run flats or carry cans of tire repair spray, except if your tires gets a big puncture or you have valve failure, this can ain’t gonna do diddly squat for you.

  34. cwolf Says:

    pedro,what do you think fix-a-flat will do to your tire press. gizzmo within the tire! Don’t be as foolish as my son.

  35. pedro fernandez Says:

    Well, then if they don’t provide a spare, what are you supposed to do when you get a flat, get towed to a tire repair place or buy a flat tire fix kit and a portable air compressor to keep in your trunk? The fix-a-flat claims to be safe to use and there is one manufacturer that includes a couple of cans when you buy one of their car, instead of the spare, I think it’s the Cruze!

  36. pedro fernandez Says:

    I was right, it is the Cruze Eco model that does not bring a spare to save weight and it does come with a tire repair kit!

  37. garyboy Says:

    When I worked for Audi as an intern (1996) I recall the product planners at VW indicating that they just could not interest US citizens in diesels because it cost an extra $2000 to install that power-plant (over a gas engine) & customers balked. Who would imagine that Americans or citizens anywhere would buy a $41000 Volt (even with a $7500 discount) when a fellow can buy a good Chevy Cruze for $10000 or so less? It would take many years to save enough $$ to make the purchase pay off even with $4 per gallon gas. To really simplify this: the fact is we have a LOT of oil in the world and this means developing expensive technologies to reduce oil use are not yet close to worth the cost. As vehicles with modern ICE power achieve better and better mpg there is even less reason to purchase these high cost electrics, many hybrids, or even some diesels.

    Regarding Chrysler quality… as I have followed auto industry product news for decades in this country, do you realize that Chrysler has had serious quality issues since at least the 1957 model year? This doesn’t mean I don’t respect the quality and performance of Chrysler’s root engineering in the 1950′s/60s (426 Hemi; excellent small and big block engines; the A727 Torqueflite a/t; torsion bar suspension; rock solid 9.9” rear axles; etc). Yet Chrysler Corporation and today’s Chrysler has not really placed quality at the top of its list as a fanatical drive that the whole corporation should rally around, for well over 50 years (with the exception of the 59-66 Imperials). Chrysler has gyrated up and down with quality issues for decades even more so than GM and Ford. Why should we believe that this time they mean to make efforts that will stick? Perhaps John should dig deep and ask Chrysler for evidence that this time they mean it for the long term. Certainly the newest vehicles show signs of improved interiors and design, but lets have Chrysler-Fiat show specific hard evidence of their efforts without a lot of generalized statements that don’t pin them down. Be respectful as you always are, but push Chrysler a little to prove they’re serious about quality…

  38. XA351GT Says:

    I love the new Mini Couper . I have been hoping this model would see the light of day since the concept pics surfaced. Glad to see it coming out.
    To answer your question H/S I’d take the Mini over the Veloster everyday of the week. The Veloster just looks ungainly . Not inspired by the shape. Also performance wise both cars will be plenty quick enough to get you killed. My sister had a JCW Cooper S and that car was wickedly fast for what it was . Oh by the way she wrapped it around a tree a month after she owned it,because she didn’t respect it’s power. She got more from the Insurance than she owed and then bought a 03 Mustang Cobra Convertible (the Terminator) Dynoed at 650HP at the RW and she definately respects this car due to the Mini biting her.

  39. XA351GT Says:

    Hey John ,
    I just checked the days are still going to be 24 hours long. Oh wait you meant daylight ,right? LOL

    The people bitching about the My Touch are they the same ones still trying set the clock in their VCRs since 1985? People are way to impatient to actually take the time and learn how to use something. If it doesn’t do what they want automatically then it’s got to be a POS. Many of these same people probably don’t or will use a system like MY Touch and only get it ,because they want to look technically smart to their neighbors and friends or it’s made part of a package they have to buy in order to get some other option they want.

  40. XA351GT Says:

    That should be will not use a system like My Touch. Is there any way to get a edit button on this forum?

  41. Duke Says:

    Kit #11

    You don’t really think that My Touch “controls’ the vehicle do you? Yes, it is a hands-free communication command method – so that you don’t have to use your hands to change A/C controls, music/radio – all sorts of stuff, but the driver still controls the vehicle in all of the important functions – of operating (driving) the vehicle.

    You’d probably take right to it (learning how to use it) if you had a mind to. . . and then realize that it’s parallel is the difference b/w a regular cell phone and a smart cell phone.

    Think of it like Scotty saying, “Computer! _ _ _ _ _” on the Enterprise.

  42. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I guess I’m one of these people who like knobs and buttons, but not too many of them, to control the radio and HVAC in a car. Even my “technogeek” Prius has a tuning knob which I like for tuning to a station for which I know the frequency, but don’t have a preset. The Prius also has steering wheel controls which are convenient at times. Touch screen controls are not something I want in a car, no matter how well designed. You are too likely to make the wrong input if you encounter a bump in the road.

    If voice commands work really well and are not affected by sounds from passengers, etc., they might be ok, but I will always like simple, intuitive controls in cars.

  43. John Says:

    Here is a good discussion on Coal powered Electricity generation and Jack Gerard from the American Petroleum Institute on how our economy is being intentionally destroyed.


    Cloward Piven Strategy anyone?

    Looks like 50% unemployment is the target.

  44. John Says:

    John McElroy,

    Here is the last segment on the energy discussion.


  45. willi Says:

    getting closer … and closer … to the issues and i’m wondering how many idiots will vote for the guy ( or gal ) promising everything in the next election – or how many will even get off their ass to vote – hell american idol has more

  46. HtG Says:

    tj, did you see your car’s up on the dealer site? Nice one.

  47. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Nah cwolf, I’m just tired of the barriers to prosperity in this country. I may be too long to truly understand what a truly free country is, but I like the idea and I want it.

    XA351GT, I love that Veloster. At first I wasn’t enthusiastic about it, but it’s growing on me, and I want one.