January 18th, 2012 at 11:50am
The average age of vehicles on roads in the U.S. increased again last year to 10.8 years. Mercedes-Benz is considering exporting engines built in the U.S. Japanese conversion company, Campinn just unveiled a camper add-on for the Toyota Prius at the Tokyo Auto Salon. All that and more, plus guest host Mark Phelan from the Detroit Free Press shares his hits and misses from this year’s Detroit Auto Show.
It’s Wednesday, the 18th of January, 2012. Welcome to Autoline Daily, your one-stop shop for everything automotive. I’m Detroit Free Press auto critic Mark Phelan with the latest news from the world of cars.
U.S. CARS GET OLDER
And they just keep getting older. The average age of vehicles on roads in the U.S. increased again last year. A new study from Polk says that the average age is 10.8 years, an increase of one year compared to what it was five years ago. The age of vehicles is due to the poor economy, which has dramatically lowered car sales, but researchers expect it to change as sales pick up.
SAAB SENDS CARS TO THE CRUSHER
But one company that will see NO benefit from the improving global economy is Saab. As if its financial problems weren’t enough of a death knell, this bit of news should signal the brand’s demise LOUD AND CLEAR. About 100 cars sitting on the company’s Trollhättan, Sweden assembly line are headed for the big parking lot in the sky. The vehicles in question have an appointment with the crusher. Why not just sell them, even as parts? Well, culling these orphan autos is some requirement of the bankruptcy proceedings, and maybe the healing process as well. A moment of silence for Saab, please.
MERCEDES MAY EXPORT ENGINES FROM U.S. (subscription required)
Localizing production in the U.S. is a real trend these days as currency-exchange rates eat into foreign automakers’ profits. Following this movement, Mercedes-Benz will build engines in America for use in vehicles it builds domestically, but it’s also thinking about exporting them. It will manufacture four-cylinder powerplants in Nissan’s Decherd, Tennessee factory. The deal is part of its technology-sharing agreement with Renault-Nissan.
John Krafcik is not like other executives. The president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America is really personable and friendly – an all-around great guy. He’s not even afraid to sing his lungs out. Every year after the Detroit Auto Show, Hyundai hosts a party for the press. At last week’s event, entertainment was provided by a local band called “The Exhaust Tones.” They’re a group of folks who work in the automotive or media fields. To everyone’s surprise, during their performance Krafcik took the stage and sang a number – and McElroy got it all on video. Look at him go! You know, more CEOs should loosen their ties and let their hair down a little.
This is taking the Prius’ green image to a whole new level. Japanese conversion company, Campinn just unveiled this camper add-on for the popular hybrid at the Tokyo Auto Salon. It’s made from fiber-reinforced plastic and features a retractable coffee table, a sofa that doubles as a bed and even a back door to get inside. And believe it or not, this is actually available for order.
NISSAN’S SELF-HEALING iPHONE CASE
And speaking of unexpected accessories, Nissan just revealed a self-healing iPhone case. It features the company’s self-healing paint finish which is already in use on some of its cars. It’s going through a trial run in Europe and if it’s popular enough it could be on sale later in the year. Nissan says the case can heal a small scratch within an hour but more severe ones could take a week or more.
A lot went down at the Detroit Auto Show. Which products were studs and which ones were duds? I’ll give you my list of hits and misses right after this.
DETROIT SHOW HITS AND MISSES
Be sure to go to the Detroit Free Press or freep.com tomorrow to see my hits and misses from the 2012 North American International Auto Show.
The sleek 2013 Ford Fusion is the hit of the show, and the best-looking midsize sedan we’ve seen in many a year.
It will also offer impressive technology, including a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and a gasoline-powered model that gets 37 mpg.
The 2013 Cadillac ATS sport sedan is another hit. With an all-new lightweight architecture and powerful, fuel-efficient engines, it was developed purely to go after the BMW 3 series.
The Dodge Dart compact sedan is the first real joint project from Chrysler and Fiat. It’s a huge improvement from the Dodge Caliber it replaces, and offers some surprising and advanced features.
The Acura NSX hybrid will become Acura’s next icon when it goes into production in Ohio three years from now. After years of goofy designs and ho-hum engineering, Acura needs this car to revitalize its brand.
There are a couple of real misses at the show, too.
The Chrysler 700C concept minivan looks like Chrysler’s competing with Nissan to see who can make the weirdest-looking minivan. Settle down, boys. Minivans are about substance, not style.
Finally, the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S sport coupes are a wasted opportunity. Their lookalike styling recalls the worst of the old General Motors. It’s too bad, because they’ll probably be great fun to drive.
You’ll find those and lots more auto show hits and misses in Thursday’s Free Press.
Well folks, I think that’s a show. But be sure you mark your calendars because next week McElroy and company will be webcasting LIVE from the Washington D.C. Auto Show. He’ll be interviewing a bunch of regulators and legislators, so don’t miss it.
Wrapping things up, I’m Mark Phelan from The Detroit Free Press. Thank you for watching today’s program. I’ll see you next time!