Episode 771 – Fit EV for Lease Only, Sales Estimates Differ, BMW Invests in Composite Company

November 18th, 2011 at 12:00pm

Runtime: 8:22

The electric version of the Honda Fit will only be available for lease in select cities in the U.S. GM’s sales chief in the U.S. says sales in 2012 won’t grow that much. Conversely, J.D. Power says next year’s sales rate could hit 14 million units. BMW just bought a 15 percent stake in a company called SGL Carbon, a maker of lightweight materials. All that and more, plus a preview of Autoline This Week all about the most recent UAW contract negotiations.

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Greetings first-time viewers, and welcome back all you Autoline Daily veterans. It’s FRIDAY-FRIDAY-FRIDAY, the 18th of November, 2011 – almost Thanksgiving. The smell of turkey is in the air – the bird, not the country. As you should know by now, I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist. And it has been a long week. A L-O-N-G week. So, let’s get this show on the road.

And let’s start with some news from L.A. . . . hopefully the last of it. In addition to the 2012 CR-V, Honda unveiled the electric version of its Fit. And unlike most hybrids, the exterior styling is identical to the standard model. The company says its combined range is 76 miles. But the real news is it will only be available for lease in a few markets in the U.S. Starting in 2012, Honda will begin leasing in the huggable states, California and Oregon, and then will expand to six East Coast markets in 2013. The price is about $400 a month. The company only expects to have 1,100 available over the next three years. Sounds like Honda doesn’t think EVs will become popular anytime soon.

Earlier in the week GM’s sales chief in the U.S. said he expected this month’s sales rate to be close to 14 million units. Unfortunately, he isn’t as optimistic about next year. According to Bloomberg, he says sales in 2012 will be “flat to slightly up.” But J.D. Power analysts see it differently. They’re suggesting that if current trends continue, by the second-half of next year, the rate could be at 14 million. The forecasters say car sales could grow because drivers need to replace their old vehicles. The average age of a vehicle in the U.S. is close to 11 years old.

BMW INVESTS IN COMPOSITE COMPANY (subscription required)
Lightweight materials will play a key role in meeting future fuel-economy targets. More and more automakers are turning to aluminum and composites to cut the fat on their vehicles. The Wall Street Journal reports BMW just bought a 15 percent stake in a company called SGL Carbon, a maker of lightweight materials. The move comes just eight months after Volkswagen purchased 10 percent of the organization. Forward thinking, as always, BMW is trying to safeguard its supply of carbon composites.

The other day we showed you a vintage advertisement for Holden down in Australia. This 1974 piece was a copy of the old Chevy spot that talked about baseball, hotdogs and apple pie. Well, there’s yet another take on this iconic pitch. Autoline viewer Andrew Charles pointed us to a radio ad from South Africa that used the same jingle. Instead of meat pies and kangaroos they’re singing about braaivleis, rugby and sunny skies. Funny, no mention of apartheid. . . . Braaivleis is the Afrikaans word for barbeque, or grilled meat. Question of the week: Do any of you guys know of other versions of this advertising jingle? If so, let us know.

Look at just about any car on the road today and right smack in the middle of the grille is the brand logo. But that may be about to change. Some automakers want the shape of the grille to convey the brand, not just a badge. This is how BMW has done it for years, but now Ford and Kia are about to do the same. The Evos concept car shows how Ford will be doing this with its passenger cars. Its trucks WILL NOT receive the same treatment. The GT concept shows how Kia is about to start doing the same thing.

In a moment we’ll take a peek at this week’s episode of Autoline, covering the recent UAW labor negotiations, but first: are you ready to cap off L.A. Auto Show week? Craig Cole’s over at RoundAbout HQ with more details.

Tonight on RoundAbout we’ll be doing a comprehensive wrap up of all the reveals that came out of the LA Auto Show this week. We’ll be talking to Miss MotorMouth, Michelle Naranjo, as well as car designer Dali Dimovski to find out what they thought about the crop of new vehicles announced at the show. Plus, we’ll be playing the game that challenges you to identify cars based only on OEM press release spin: Lie of the Beholder. Join us for all that and more at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time at — can you guess it? That’s right, Autoline.tv.

Social media is a very big deal these days, and even though I choose to participate only intermittently on my Tweet account, companies are finding it necessary to have a presence on the twitter-sphere in order to “interact” with customers. The same is true of other organizations. In fact, the famously guarded UAW has even turned to social media.

John’s guests this week on Autoline include Sean McAlinden from the Center for Automotive Research; Joe Szczesny of the Oakland Press; and Robert Chiaravalli from Strategic Labor & Human Resources. And you know the drill. You can watch the rest of this week’s episode of Autoline RIGHT NOW. Just swing by our website, Autoline.tv. Of course, if you’re on the go, the show can also be downloaded as a podcast.

And that’s a wrap. Again, I’m Peter De Lorenzo, the Autoextremist. Thank you for watching this week. John should be back in the anchor chair on Monday. I’ll catch you later.

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36 Comments to “Episode 771 – Fit EV for Lease Only, Sales Estimates Differ, BMW Invests in Composite Company”

  1. HtG Says:

    Cover your eyes, tj. Because this week the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia was named Museum of the Year. Simeone covers the history of GT racers. I’ve been there many times, and am always awed at how one man’s vision and middle class wallet could gather and present such rare and significant cars.


  2. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Thanks for helping John out this week, Peter; good to see you ‘grounded’ today. (gotta be careful at those higher altitudes) :)

  3. Tom Kowaleski Says:


    Just to clarify, BMW originally purchased an 8% interest in SGL Carbon at the time we began the joint venture to build a plant in Moses Lake, Washington to manufacture carbon fiber to be used in the new BMW i3 and i8 vehicles begining in 2013. Today’s announcement was that the company increased its stake to 15%, rather than it being an initial purchase. BMW was the first automaker to take the equity stake in the company.

    Tom Kowaleski

  4. LS ford Says:

    Bye Peter. Funny how he hosted the show from a cockpit…..

    I am very uninspired by this weeks news. LA reveals are mediocre. Caddy’s car is mildly interesting. New A and B segment cars are not at all interesting. However, the snippet on the new non-badge grilles is curious. These fascia’s are getting somewhere. Hopefully they will arrive somewhat soon.

    I will agree that Peter’s comments on Fiat are dead on right. I think there will be a few dissapointed dealers at the end of this game with the 500.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I just return from a “car looking” trip. That’s looking, not shopping.

    I went to a FIAT store that just opened four days ago. They had about 6 cars, none of them “sport” models. I drove a zero option “pop,” with a sticker of $16K. The engine was smooth and the shifting decent. The seats were comfortable enough, at least for me, and the steering felt ok. All in all, not a bad car for little more than Yaris money. Also, the interior was attractive, at least to me, and the controls were more user friendly than many new cars. I actually like the darkish red. To me, the car wouldn’t look right in screaming tomato red.

    I also went to the Benz/Audi/Porsche store. They had three 2010-2011 used GLK’s. It would be interesting to know what they were traded in on, but none of the sales people seemed to want to talk. The thing that stood out, looking at the cars, is that the EPA mileage numbers for the E350 increased A LOT between 2011 and 2012. The ’11 ratings were a fairly dismal 17/24, but the ’12 ratings are a good, for that type car, 20/30. The E350 bluetec doesn’t look too good in comparison to the “new” E350 gas, the diesel having only 21/32 ratings.

  6. C-tech Says:

    My observation on Fiat and the 500 from Central Florida; 3 dealers in Orlando to open. One opens and advertises locally from the OLD MINI location; the other 2 open quietly with no fanfare only billboards to let you know they are open. Fiat introduces the 500 with Jenifer Lopez as the spokeswomen. The commercial talks about her and her New York roots. Very little about the car and New York is NOT known for being a car friendly location. There is also the disconnect between a multi-million dollar singer driving a 17,000 small car. It didn’t work for the Chrysler Pacifica (Celine Dion), why would you think it is going to work now? Having been in a 500, I found it to be a nice small car. Too bad hardly anyone will know this.

  7. tj Martin Says:


    WTH would I want to cover my eyes HtG ?

    I’m thoroughly impressed with the place and in fact will make it part of the NJ F1 Race , Cape May excursion 2013 . Unless of course we decide to do F1 and Martha’s Vineyard instead .

    Hey another recommend . This time a DVD ( or maybe Netflixs has it ) Like Bonneville ? Do you like the M-B 300SL Gullwing ?

    Ever seen the one race at the other ?

    ” Gullwing at Twilight ” Brilliant cinematography and one of the best ” Old Guys Rule ” stories around . Its about John Fitch and his racing the SL at the Salt Lake right into his 90′s

  8. kaki Says:

    Its amazing how Honda is waiting in the sidelines instead of getting in the field with EVs. They did that with hybrids and watched new comers outdo them now they’ve decided not to compete despite having the capacity to do so. By the time the 3 year fit EV TRIAL is up, Honda would have missed the boat. The Leaf might not be perfect, but it has become the poster child for EVs as the prius was for Hybrids. Honda is so out of FOCUS these days,its not even funny. Even tiny Mazda is far more focused than Honda. The big H needs some serious identity refresh

  9. tj Martin Says:

    @ Kit

    When it comes to your judgement of cars you truly are aneosis

    Owning a MINI as you do , how you can come up with those judgements , other than to be contrary to mine , is beyond reasonable belief .

    In case you haven’t ‘ Caught On ‘ the 500 is built on FIATs EU Yaris competitor and drives a heck of a lot worse than the Yaris as well . Fact is the 500 drives worse than the Toyota iQ as both Jalopnik and AW have stated .

    As far as you constant M-B MPG carping , drop it already or I’ll dump a few more FACTs in your lap about your precious Prius

    You gotta problem with M-B’s MPG ? Fine . Do us all a favor and don’t buy one ;-) I don’t care and with M-B’s sales being what they are I’m sure neither will they .

    FYI ; The (not so)SMART is currently outselling the 500 at approximately 4 to 1 in MO and KS . So much for the 500 being a ‘ decent ‘ car .

  10. W L Simpson Says:

    Good week, PD, John better watch his six <g

  11. Aliisdad Says:

    I REALLY enjoyed the little story on today’s show on the Chevy ads in other countries that used the “Baseball, Hot Dogs, and Apple Pie” theme adapted to their countries…It is fun to see these old car ads!
    I also have something that I thought was pretty funny…On the Autoline TV show a couple of weeks ago, John and others were interviewing the global manager for the Chevy brand celebrating 100 years…Anyway, while the program was going on, I noticed a piece of something fell off his chair…You really have to be paying attention to see it, but I thought I was going to die laughing…What a metaphor for GM (and other American car companies) that while he is giving us the “we are now competetive and building global quality, this time…really” line that we have heard from them so many times, this part falls off!! Of course, it had nothing to do with Chevy, but since I have fallen for their “we have now seen the light” crap several times over the years, it just cracked me up…
    On another topic, we have discussed the 500 for a few days which was pretty interesting to hear the different opinions…Now, has anyone any experience or opinion concerning the Cruze diesel?? While, I am for sure not a GM fan, it does seem like it might be a pretty good, ecomomical car, IF it is screwed together well…

  12. Kit Gerhart Says:

    tj #7,
    I drove the FIAT, and it obviously didn’t drive as well as a MINI, but drove OK. I don’t have this thing of bashing everything I don’t own, like some people.

    As far as the M-B mpg, I’m impressed with the mileage of the new E-Class. They made a huge improvement when they went to direct injection.

    Yes, the 500 is built on an existing platform. So what? MINI would have been built on an existing platform if BMW had a front drive platform and it was the right size. No one says the 500 drives worse than the iQ, just that it rides worse. There is a difference.

    Yes, we know you hate Chrysler/FIAT, so you bash the 500. I’ve driven a Yaris, and the 500 drives much better.

    Also, as has come out many times, your FACTs are usually opinion, commonly referred to as BS.

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    Today I had a client at a local Fiat dealer I did not even knew existed, they had a bunch of the 500 in stock including $26k ragtops and $18k with a stick and no options, she said they had a no haggle policy and the price you see is the price you pay and asked if I’d be interested in trading in my car, but when I tole her what I had, she said in a low voice, “between you and me, just keep yours in good shape and it will last you forever” Very honest sales lady.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If the Cruze diesel gets the mpg of the VW Golf/Jetta TDI, it sounds good to me. If it doesn’t substantially beat the mpg of the gas version, it doesn’t make sense, unless diesel fuel gets cheaper relative to gas in the U.S.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    pedro, #11,
    You ran into a rare sales person at the FIAT place.

    That $18K zero option car must have been a “sport.” The one I drove was a base car, called “pop.” For those who want the 500, the base car seems to make the most sense. It is $16K, and has cruise and A/C standard, along with bluetooth connectivity that neither my MINI nor Prius have.

    Of course, I tend to buy “base” cars, as long as they have A/C and cruise. A lot of people buy $30K+ MINIs, but that wasn’t what I was looking for.

  16. tj Martin Says:

    @ Kit Gerhart

    OK time for the OK Corral / Call you out on the carpet bit there Kit

    Name one single FACT not OPINION that I’ve stated that was in any way untrue . Assuming you can differentiate between expressed FACTs and OPINIONs . You want to claim what I’m saying is BS ? Prove it .

    Second ; You drove the 500 for what all of twenty minutes ? I had one for FOUR days

    Third ; What’s wrong with the 500 being on an EconoBox platform ? Seriously ? You LIKE being ripped off to have a cute little body stuffed onto an ECONOBox POS . And by the way Pedro’s prices on the 500 are a little more realistic than the fluff you posted . Lest you forget my little stint with FIAT

    Also if you knew one tenth of the MINI’s history that I do you’d know that it was BMW’s intent from day one to give it a bespoke platform , regardless of what ever else they had in order to create car that was truly unique and a thrill to drive

    Face facts Kit . You consistently try to out do me and consistently wind up on the bottom end of the argument .

    My apologies though for having the NERVE to be a DISCERNING and critical Car Guy . Assuming you understand what that means

    So hang it up . Get real and quit harassing me .

    But hey if you want to take me up on my little challenge , be my guest . Much as I have better things to do , Im more than glad to put you back into your aneosis and pretentious little place

    Though it does get a bit boring , it has its moments of fun .

  17. tj Martin Says:

    @ Kit

    Now Kit , put your glasses on and read this very carefully

    I’ve things to do

    So ;


    Is that clear enough ?If not …. thats just in case you decide to take me up on my little challenge , as it’ll have to wait till MONDAY .

    Again M-O-N-D-A-Y

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    tj, #16,
    Bits of BS you call FACT

    1) You said an inline 5 is inherently smoother than an inline 6.
    2) You say nickel metal hydride batteries are as fire prone as lithium ion batteries.

    I can list a lot more, but you get the point.

    The FIAT I drove was a base car, and the sticker was $16K. The one pedro saw for $18 was a mid or high trim level. That’s simple enough.

    Have a nice weekend, arrogant a$$ho!e.

  19. pedro fernandez Says:

    If I may, I just went online to Truecar.com and priced a 2011 Corolla LE auto for less than that 500 with a stick, I know this is like comparing apples to oranges, but when you can get a car that is superior in every measurable way for less money, most people will go for it. (passionate people not included)

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, the Corolla is a much better, and a better buy for anyone who needs a good, reliable car for everyday transportation. If the Corolla is cheaper than the base 500, that means it would be about $5K cheaper than a base MINI which is really a two passenger car.

    The Corolla is probably the most reliable car on the road, and can be a “do everything” car for a lot of people. The 500, and MINI are niche vehicles. Both get good gas mileage and are “cute,” and the MINI is also a lot of fun on curvy roads, but neither is a very good buy compared to a Corolla.

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    When I say Corolla, I also mean Civic, Sentra, Fiesta and many others that offer much more including a track record of reliability vs the unknown quality of the 500. BTW she told me her biggest competitors are Mini and Mazda2 cause Fiesta is too expensive. I guess she is not aware of the price of the Mini.

  22. XA351GT Says:

    @ tj & Kit
    Letttttttttttts get ready to rumblllllllle !!!!
    LOL Have fun guys.

  23. HtG Says:

    22 Siri is searching for a place to hide.

  24. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I guess MINI and Mazda 2 would be competitors because they are small cars with barely usable back seats. Maybe MINI gets a pass on price, because it is a Euro retro that, unlike the 500, is actually built in Europe.

  25. Lex Says:

    Did you catch the new 2012 Honda CR-V?
    I looks like the designers at Honda Design Studios took a Crosstour and crashed it into a brick wall! The front grill should have been slimmer like the new Odyssey, not similar to the one on the Crosstour. The rear end should have been more angular like the previous 2002-2006 models with a upward swinging rear tailgate and vertical tail lamps. The 2012 CR-V looks like it is about to give birth! Honda has really lost it’s MOJO!

    The New Mazda CX-5 is a late entry to the swelling mid-size CUV market. It will not have the Zoom Zoom factor with customers that Mazda is looking for.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, the new CRV looks kind of funny, but according to AW and others, it is mildly improved over the old one. I suspect it will sell well.

    The next Accord will really tell if Honda has lost it. It will face a lot of tough competition when it arrives.

  27. pedro fernandez Says:

    Spent some time with a client who is a very satisfied Fit owner and who had actually considered the Prius, but went for the Honda due to costs, maintenance and the fact that if carefully driven, the Fit gets real good mileage and they also own a 2 yr old Odyssey and got me thinking; Honda has best in the subcompact, minivan and SUV segments, they’re only lacking in the Civic and Accord because its overdue for a redesign and as Kit correctly points out, this will determine if Honda has lost its way or they just caught with their pants down with the Civic. BTW I met another client today with a Civic Hybrid from 03 and the battery had to be replaced after it passed the 100k mark, lucky for her Honda picked up the tab for the battery itself and she only had to pay labor, even though the warranty had jsut run out, makes you wonder how much of a risk you take buying one of these used.

  28. cwolf Says:

    The comments made on this forum about the 500 only shows there will probably be ample buyers who base their purchases on percieved quality. But, my guess the majority of lookers will turn to the larger cars available having near the same cost.
    I find Lex’s remarks about the CR-V and CX-5 interesting and wonder if he is suffering the same dillusions as CR. His dislikes for the new CR-V are uncontested and honestly accepted as his oun. But to combine remarks of the CR-v and by saying Honda lost its MOJO within the same breath simplely does not go hand in hand. The CR-V is one hot seller for Honda that is well deserved. Expect sales to remain strong.
    I,also, can’t understand why the new Mazda CX-5 won’t have the Zoom-Zoom factor that Lex said. How can he know if the damn thing isn’t available? Will the new 2.o skyactive turbo or the 2013 diesel offering be lacking? I doubt it,Lex! And to call its size a swelling mid-sized! Really? Please place the magazines you’re reading in the john and use them for a better purpose than looking at pictures.
    Finally, GM’s projection of a flat ecomony,over the next many qtr, is the most realistic. The falling dominos of Europe will have an on-going effect on the US. Also, China/US currency manipulation has taken its toll. Inflation,that China is now tring to control,will soon become our problem,too! Add to these two tid-bits what the market will do if the Super-committee flops,plus continuing slow job growth rates. I believe car sales will slowly decrease. True,all those 10-15 yr old cars can’t run forever,right pedro? But maybe some will have to drive those clunkers as long as one remains unemployed and interest rates rise. Used car sales should stay strong,…you betcha!
    The Korean unions asking for more fairness. Seems workers earn a good income,but work too many hours to get it! Are higher car prices for Hyundai/Kia in the future?

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Anyone buying a hybrid that is off warranty, or nearly so, with the original “big” battery should probably deduct part, or most of the cost of a battery from what they pay for the car. The battery in my Prius has an 8 year, 100K warranty, so I would expect the car to have extra depreciation as it nears either of those numbers. That said, I know two people with ’04-’05 Priuses with near 150K miles on the original batteries.

    Do you know what the regular cost of the battery would be for the Civic hybrid? For a Prius, it is a little over $2000.

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    On further checking, it’s probably more like $3K for a new battery at a dealer, at least that’s what it is for a gen II Prius, though very few have been sold. Anyone on a budget can find used batteries from wrecks for cars old enough to need a battery, and there are places that replace individual cells, at least for Priuses. I don’t know how that is with Civic hybrids, since there aren’t nearly as many of them.

  31. pedro fernandez Says:

    Just watched Motorweek review on the new Civic Hybrid and to begin with the word new is not being used properly here, the only new is the type of battery being used, li. ion. MPG’s are mediocre for a “hybrid” they only managed 40 mpg in mixed driving, the brakes are poor, the handling mediocre, the interior, cheap feeling and the acceleration is slower than a Prius. When you add it all up, it makes no sense at all to spend the xtra money for the hybrid, they have a fuel saving model that gets 41 on the highway and costs a lot less, buyt of course Mr Davis had to end the segment on a positive note. “It’s an alternative worth looking into” Pleeeze be honest for once, Mr Davis.

  32. Kit Gerhart Says:

    According to truedelta, you pay a $4670 premium for a Civic hybrid over a comparably equipped non-hybrid. The hybrid gets very good mpg, but at today’s fuel prices, you’d only save about $300-400 a year for 12K miles a year. If most of your driving is highway, you’d save less than that.

    For me, Prius is still the only hybrid I would consider, because it gets the best mpg available, and it’s a HATCHBACK with a longer load floor than a Golf or Mazda 3 hatch. If I could have gotten the same car with a conventional power train for $4-5K less, I might well have done so. It wouldn’t get nearly as good of city mpg as the hybrid, but should come close in highway mpg.

    As far as Honda’s going to lithium ion batteries, I’m not sure I’d want that. While I wouldn’t obsess over it, lithium batteries are clearly more fire prone than nickel metal hydride batteries. I’ve heard enough stories of cell phones, laptops, and iPod touches catching fire when the charging electronics act up, that I usually don’t leave such devices on charge when I’m away from home.

  33. pedro fernandez Says:

    For sure, despite certain person’s disdain for the Prius, it is by far the best choice in Hybrids and the new plug in should make the Volt even more undesirable, I read that the Chinese got an EV named Coda being introduced here for $30k, unknown reliability, quality and if this company will be around in a couple of years, should make buying this thing more of a gamble than jumping off a plane with a parachute prepared by a drunk. BTW I am thinking of celebrating my 60 with a trip to route 66, it is something I’ve always wanted to do, I just got to pick the right car, maybe a ‘stang ragtop?

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’ve thought about doing a route 66 trip, but might want to do it on two wheels with a small group, who are not in a hurry.

    The plug-in Prius will be a lot cheaper than a Volt, but will not have “full power” on battery only. It will have about 80 hp of electric power, and the ICE will start, even with a full battery, if you floor it, to produce the full 134 hp. It should work on plug-in only for a few miles of most city driving. Also, the bigger battery will be an advantage in serious mountains, with its extra capacity to climb long, steep grades, and the extra capacity to recovery energy on the downhill side of steep grades.

  35. pedro fernandez Says:

    I’ve seen a few videos on youtube of portions of that trip and the people driving at high speed which defeats the whole point of taking that trip, to relax and take in the sights and not speed like a freaking cannonball run, I believe the best part to be the mid-west area through the west end because the beginning is too urban and most of the road is not longer there, it has to be a tricky thing to plan, because in Arizona large parts of the old road are just not good anymore and has been replaced with I-40 which has none of the old route charm.

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If I do Rte. 66 on two wheels, I might want to go on a Harley or Triumph which would be more in the spirit of things than my Suzuki. In any case, I would skip Chicago, and probably start at Springfield, IL. I’d want to do the research to find the remaining landmarks of the trip. I definitely would not want to do it as a cannonball run, whether on two of four wheels.