January 19th, 2012 at 11:52am
Europe’s financial troubles are starting to hurt automakers, forcing them to cut costs wherever they can. Peugeot just announced that it’s dropping out of the 24 hours of Le Mans this year. Kia is going back to the drawing board to improve the stop/start system in its Rio and Soul models. As we told you when the story first broke a couple of years ago, Toyota’s problems with unintended acceleration were largely due to driver error, and now the National Academy of Sciences concluded the same thing. All that and more, plus John answers your questions in the “You Said It” segment.
This is Autoline Daily for January 19th, and now the news.
PEUGEOT PULLS PLUG ON LE MANS
Europe’s financial troubles are starting to hurt automakers, forcing them to cut costs wherever they can. Peugeot just announced that it’s dropping out of the 24 hours of Le Mans this year. Probably a smart move considering the company recently announced it would axe 6,000 employees. And yet, PSA’s other brand, Citroen, will continue racing in the World Rally Championship.
THE SCENIC ROUTE
And staying in France for the moment, Renault just introduced refreshed versions of its Scenic and Grand Scenic minivans. The styling was reworked to give them a sportier look. These are the first Renaults to be equipped with the Visio System which includes a lane departure warning system. The Scenic and Grand Scenic are on sale this month in Europe and will be introduced in 40 other markets throughout the year.
WINDOWS OF OPPORTUNITY
General Motors Research and Development challenged students at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Israel to come up with a way of keeping back-seat passengers – particularly children – entertained. The result is called Windows of Opportunity. This project turns automotive glass into interactive displays. Passengers can pinch, zoom and swipe right on the window, which acts like a display screen. A variety of different applications are available ranging from a music-streaming service to one that allows passengers to look through another user’s window in real time. All of this sounds a little pie-in-the-sky . . . because it is. GM has no immediate plans to put the system into production.
SHAKE-SHAKE-SHAKE, SHAKE YOUR KIA (subscription)
Kia is going back to the drawing board, sort of. WardsAuto reports the company is delaying availability of its stop/start system on the Rio and Soul models until the second-quarter of this year. They’re tweaking the technology after receiving feedback from the media – that’s code for us journalists bitching up a storm. There’s a shudder that runs through the car as the engine restarts. This is interesting. More and more automakers are offering or will offer stop/start systems, and some of them have nailed it while others haven’t. The 2013 Chevy Malibu is a great example of stop/start done right. You can barely feel it. But other, much more expensive vehicles fare a lot worse. The BMW 7 Series ActiveHybrid comes to mind. Despite its top-rung price it doesn’t deliver a very good experience.
“IT’S YOUR FAULT!”
As we told you when the story first broke a couple of years ago, Toyota’s problems with unintended acceleration were largely due to driver error. Yes, there were problems with floor mats jamming the gas pedal, and with sticky has pedals, but the main cause was drivers hitting the gas instead of the brake. That wasn’t just us saying so, that was the conclusion of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And now the National Academy of Sciences concluded the same thing. Even so, the National Academy of Sciences says NHTSA needs to improve its understanding of automotive electronics. That may be true, but I would point out, once again, that the problem with unintended acceleration has been around for decades, well before electronics were ever used in cars.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
And now it’s time for some of your feedback!
LS Ford saw our report on that camper that you can attach to a Toyota Prius and says, “Prius pop up camper??? WTH!! This is from the ‘I cannot believe they made that’ department . . . oh wait, I know what the Prius add on is. It’s the dust buster docking station!!”
LS, I thought it looked like a port-a-potty bolted onto the back of the car. That thing puts the “ugh” in “ugly.”
Jerzjt wonders if boosting production of the Jeep Wrangler is the smart thing to do. “Can you run another 100 Wranglers off the line per day without sacrificing quality?”
Yes, you can do it without sacrificing quality. That works out to about six more vehicles an hour for a two-shift operation. And that can be easily handled with a few extra people, or a little bit more overtime.
Cwolf saw my interview with Jim Farley talking about using social media and was not impressed. “Farley really succeeded using social and digital media to promote the Fiesta didn’t he? Just look at the terrific sales numbers- NOT!”
Last year 68,000 Fiestas were sold in the American market. And I agree that’s not a very impressive number. However, the Fiesta outsold every other car in that segment except the Nissan Versa, which is pretty good for the first full year the Fiesta was on sale.
012345 saw our report that a number of automakers in Europe could be hit with fines for exceeding CO2 limits, but he asks, “Mr. McElroy, why is Daimler the only major European manufacturer in that list facing a probable fine? It can’t be because of Daimler’s truck division, they’re not the only major car manufacturer in Europe that also makes trucks.”
Great question 012345. It comes down to this. Mercedes can’t offset its high-emitting cars with enough low-emitting ones. That’s what the smart brand was supposed to do, but as you know, smart is a sales disaster. Meanwhile, BMW is using the successful Mini brand to help offset its big cars, while Audi gets averaged out with all the other brands in the Volkswagen group. This is why Mercedes desperately needs to figure out how to dramatically boost sales at Smart.
ATSV4ME was sorely disappointed in our coverage of the Detroit Auto Show. “nothing on Tesla again…biased reports from John/AutolineDaily/Detroit.” Well, Tesla had absolutely nothing new at the show. And that’s where our bias shows. If you have nothing new to show, we don’t report on it.
Thanks for all your letters and comments. We love going through them all. In fact, get your questions ready for Autoline After Hours tonight when our guest will be Karl Ludvigsen, one of the greatest automotive enthusiasts I’ve ever met in my life. He’ll be joining us from London tonight, so join me and the Autoextremist Peter DeLorenzo for the best insider information in the industry.
And that wraps up today’s report, thanks for watching, well see you tomorrow.