November 17th, 2011 at 12:50pm
More news from the L.A. Auto Show: Honda unwraps its latest CR-V; Lincoln shows off its updated MKS and MKT models; and Hyundai reveals its new Azera. The much-talked-about new fuel-economy rules in the U.S. are official. In a good bit of news for the industry, dealership showroom traffic is up. All that and more, plus Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist, sounds off on Fiat’s troubles.
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2012 HONDA CR-V
First up, Honda took the wrapper off its redesigned CR-V, which gets a new look both inside and out. Powering the crossover is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Compared to the previous model, fuel economy is slightly better for both the front- and all-wheel-drive versions. But, a five-speed in a land of six and more? Uh, not so much. The CR-V goes on sale next month in the U.S.
REDESIGNED HYUNDAI AZERA
Hyundai revealed its new Azera, which is the fifth vehicle in the company’s line-up to incorporate its fluidic design language. The Azera is powered by a new 3.3-liter direct injected V-6, which is paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. Its combined fuel is 23 miles per gallon, which Hyundai claims is best in class. And like all Hyundais, the Azera is available with a number of safety and convenience features. To my eye this may be the first Hyundai in a while that doesn’t exactly set the world on fire. I would call the design “tepid” at best.
INFINITI’S NEWEST “X”
Infiniti revealed a new crossover yesterday, the JX. It’s larger than the EX and FX but thankfully smaller than that truck-based behemoth, the QX. Its design is reminiscent of the sharp-looking M, with smooth, flowing body lines. It will be powered by a 265 horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 matched to a CVT. Expect this 2013 model to be loaded with technology and carry a base price of around $41,000.
LINCOLN’S L.A. NEWS
Yesterday it was Cadillac’s turn and today it’s Lincoln’s. The blue-oval luxury brand revealed two refreshed products at the show. The 2013 MKS sedan gets a lineup of enhancements and refinements. The exterior design has been revamped, with the car gaining a wispy-looking grille. And pay attention, folks, because that grille is a transition to the “new” Lincoln. The fuller-sized Lincoln’s 3.7-liter V-6 gets a horsepower boost bringing it to an even 300. It should also deliver three more miles per gallon on the highway. The MKS gets a new driver-selectable suspension system called “Continuously Controlled Damping,” bigger brakes and a redesigned interior. Changes to Lincoln’s big crossover, the MKT, are very similar, with the exterior styling being the most noticeable. Look for the 2013 MKS and MKT at Lincoln stores this spring.
CAN’T START A FIRE WITHOUT A . . .
One of the other “big” reveals out in L.A. was anything but. They Chevy Spark is a mini – car, but not a MINI Cooper. As an A-segment vehicle it’s going to compete in a corner of the American market that’s nearly as small as it is. One of the things GM is trying to accomplish with it is testing the waters to see if Americans have any interest in such a small car.
NEW-VEHICLE SALES LOOKING UP
Well, yesterday GM was predicting a SAAR of 14 million for the month, and now a story on The Detroit Free Press seems to corroborate this estimate. Dealerships are seeing a nice bump in showroom traffic as more and more people replace their aging vehicles. Great news for the industry, but not for Fiat, since sales of the Cinquecento are devastatingly bad – more on that later. The company plans to add more stores, but who knows if that will help?
And remember, you can watch yesterday’s LIVE webcast from the floor of the L.A. show. Just swing by our website, Autoline.tv.
Yesterday the Obama Administration made the new fuel-economy rules official. By 2025, vehicles must average 54.5 miles per gallon. The EPA and NHTSA say this will add an additional $2,000 to the cost of a vehicle. Overall it could cost up to $157 billion, but the agencies say this will be offset by saving as much as $515 billion in fuel costs.
HYBRIDS A “SAFER” CHOICE
In a somewhat surprising report, the Highway Loss Data Institute says you’re more likely to avoid an injury in an accident if you drive a hybrid. The odds of getting injured are 25 percent lower in a hybrid than a non-hybrid. HLDI says the extra weight of a hybrid helps protect occupants better. On average, hybrids are 10 percent heavier than standard cars. However, the same report says hybrids are 20 percent more likely to get in an accident with a pedestrian because it’s harder for pedestrians to know when one’s around when operating in electric-only mode. I gotta’ tell ya’, studies like these make me crazy and I assign exactly zero credibility to them. ZERO. Here’s the thing. I barely passed physics in high school but I do remember one key fact: When something bigger runs into something smaller the smaller thing is going to lose.
Coming up next, my thoughts on Fiat’s North American debacle.
On Monday it was reported that the Chrysler Group has suspended production of its 1.4-liter FIRE engine that powers the Fiat 500 in North America due to slow U.S. sales of the subcompact. The Italian-owned automaker is said to have a 184-day supply of Fiat 500 coupes and cabrios available to dealers.
Hmmmmm. Remember all of the glowing pronouncements by Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne about how the Fiat 500 would “transform the U.S. market” and that the automaker would easily sell 50,000 units in the first year? Even though he downgraded that prediction somewhat when the roll out of the car turned out to be a complete disaster, the bottom line is that just 15,826 Fiat 500s have been sold in this country to date. Let me repeat that, just 15,826.
The problem wasn’t with Marchionne’s delusional thinking about Fiat and what it could and would do in this market, because even though he fancies himself a genius and his minions think he is so very, very special, the bottom line is that delusional thinking is delusional thinking in any language. And Marchionne is no different from any of the other auto industry executives of the last, say 50 years, who were convinced they were special and who were equally convinced that they couldn’t possibly be wrong.
The problem with all of this, of course, is that Marchionne’s vision for the future health and well-being of the Fiat-owned Chrysler hinges upon Fiat making it here in the U.S. so that the table can then be set for the launch of Alfa Romeo.
And that dog is just not gonna hunt, even with a prosciutto-wrapped T-Bone.
Reality has yet to set in for Marchionne on this Fiat deal, and that spells trouble for the Fiat dealers who have ponied-up big cash for the privilege of signing up for Sergio’s “vision.” And that reality is that Fiat will never be more than a small-time bit player here, at best.
Talk about a giant pasta bowl of Not Good.
And that’s the High-Octane truth for Thursday, November 17
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