December 7th, 2011 at 12:00pm
The Chevrolet Volt seems to be getting slammed by everyone right now and it looks like GM has a full-blown public-relations disaster on its hands. Chinese consumers prefer foreign car brands, due to big gaps in quality and reliability with the homegrown ones. Dodge is bringing back the Dart name for its new replacement for the Caliber. All that and more, plus John responds to your questions and comments in the “You Said It!” segment.
This is Autoline Daily for December 7th, a day that still lives in infamy. And now let’s get to what’s happening in the global automotive industry.
GM’S PR DISASTER
The Chevrolet Volt seems to be getting slammed by everyone right now. A report released by CNW Research shows buyer consideration for the car plummeting. With the recent media firestorm it’s not hard to see why. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood said he believes the car is safe, but the U.S. House of Representatives will hold public hearings next month on battery fires related to crash tests with the car. Conservative commentators are excoriating the Volt because they hate anything to do with “Government Motors.” And just to rub salt in the wound, Nissan announced it’s expanding availability of the LEAF, pushing it into seven new markets. Looks like General Motors has a full-blown public-relations disaster on its hands.
GM LAYS OFF WHITE-COLLAR WORKERS
Speaking of General Motors, it’s going to be getting rid of a lot of white-collar workers. The Detroit News reports the company is already cutting workers in engineering, product development and administration. It cites GM CEO Dan Akerson saying they have 7,000 more people doing the same amount of work as their competitors. Here’s my Autoline Insight. GM is likely to cut far more of its American, European and Australian technical staffs than any others. As the company relies more and more on its low-cost operations in Korea, China and Brazil, its traditional engineering centers are going to bear the brunt of these cuts.
CHINESE PREFER FOREIGN BRANDS (subscription required)
China’s auto industry is growing by leaps and bounds, but Chinese consumers much prefer foreign brands, due to big gaps in quality and reliability with the homegrown ones. The domestic Chinese brands can’t invest as much money in their products because they don’t have the resources. Ward’s reports an estimated 30 percent of passenger sales will go to domestic brands this year, a 2 percent drop compared to last year.
GEELY SET TO ENTER U.K. MARKET (subscription required)
Since the Chinese aren’t as interested in buying Chinese brands, maybe foreigners will be interested in buying Chinese cars from Chinese brands. Chinese automaker Geely is set to enter the U.K. market by the end of next year, with the Chinese-built Emgrand EC7 sedan. You might remember a few weeks back we reported this Chinese car received a four-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests. The car will cost just over $15,000 and comes with a five-year, 100,000 mile warranty.
So what do you think emits fewer emissions, a Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, a Fiat 500 or a leaf blower? To find out, the folks at Edmunds Inside Line tested them at an emissions lab. The Raptor is equipped with a 6.2-liter V-8, and the Fiat 500 is powered by a 1.4-liter four-cylinder. They were tested against a handheld four-stroke leaf blower and a two-stroke backpack blower. The vehicle tests simulate 11 miles of driving over 30 minutes. So who won? The Ford Raptor! It was far cleaner than the Fiat. And both of them were much cleaner than the leaf blowers. In fact, even when the leaf blowers were tested at idle they emitted more emissions than the vehicles.
DODGE DART MAKES COMEBACK
Dodge is teasing us with its new-from-the-ground-up replacement for the Caliber, and its digging up an old name from the past, the Dodge Dart. This 2013 C-segment model is built on a modified version of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. The car gets a new lineup of engines including a 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo as well as a couple of Chrysler’s “Tigershark” four-cylinders. Three transmissions will be offered. We can assume that means manual, automatic and dual-clutch. Like the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus, the Dodge Dart will be built in the good ole’ U.S. of A at Chrysler’s Belvidere, Illinois plant.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
YOU SAID IT!
And now it’s time for some of your feedback.
LS Ford heard me reporting on a survey that says fewer teenagers are getting their driver’s licenses because they can get together with their friends via social media so they don’t need cars. He says, “John, I think you missed on this one. Is the effect of the economic downturn affecting that poll? IE, parents cannot afford a car for their teenager, so there is no need to get a permit to drive. I think it’s more than Facebook that is hurting this market.”
LS, that is very good insight. And I would add that it’s harder for teenagers to get a job these days. So they don’t need a car to get to work, and because they don’t have a job, they can’t afford a car.
XA351GT saw our report on the massive sales surge last month for the Jeep Compass, and wonders what’s behind the numbers. “So John, for the Jeep Compass to be up 847% over the previous month does that mean they sold 1 in Oct and 847 in Nov? They must be giving them away somewhere because I never see any here where I am. I’d like to know the sales for both months, because I bet totaled it’s not as impressive as it sounds. I hope I’m wrong, but I’d like to see those numbers.”
XA, from October to November, sales of the Compass are down 14 percent. But I wouldn’t read too much into that just yet. For the 11 months of the year, sales of the Compass are up 180 percent. I think that facelift they gave it is what turned it all around.
Miradart loved Autoline After Hours last week with my pal the inventor and engineer Michael Pickholz. “Great show as always! Great guest too! I love it when the guest says what’s REALLY on his mind instead of something that sometimes sounds written and rehearsed. Pickholz was superb!”
That is a good show, especially Michael’s suggestions as to how the car companies in Detroit can do a better job of mentoring outside talent to bring them new ideas and technology.
IndyFlick heard me criticize Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn for saying people will be motivated to buy electric cars as they see more catastrophic storms due to global warming. I said, when the power goes out they’ll be horrified to discover they can’t go anywhere in their electric cars. But he points out, “Um, John you do realize that when the power goes out gas stations can’t pump gas, right?”
Indyflick, that’s true. But with a gasoline car I have alternatives. I can siphon gas out of my lawn mower. Even if I only have a half a tank in my car, I can still drive a couple of hundred miles, where I’m likely to find a working gas station and refill the tank in a matter of minutes. With an electric car it’s going to take me almost a day to recharge if all I can get is a 110-volt outlet. And think about thousands, maybe tens of thousands of electric cars, out of juice, abandoned on the highways. You’re going to have to tow every single one of them, because there aren’t enough mobile recharging trucks to service them. That could take days or even weeks. So if that 400-mile-wide hurricane is bearing down on me, I’d rather take my chances with a gasoline-powered vehicle.
Thanks for all your letters and comments, we may not respond to them all, but we do read them, and try to answer as many as we can.
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching we’ll see you tomorrow.