January 25th, 2012 at 12:00pm
Japanese auto supplier Yazaki was hit with a record fine from the Japanese government over a bid-rigging scheme involving wire harnesses. Limo Broker, a British limo company, is making a stretched version of the Audi R8. The city of Trollhättan, Saab AB and The Wallenberg Foundation have shelled out more than $4 million to buy and preserve Saab’s official museum. All that and more, plus John responds to your questions and comments in the “You Said It!” segment.
This is Autoline Daily for January 25. And now the news.
CAR SALES UP IN NAFTA REGION
In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama said the U.S. auto industry is back. And he’s right. But there’s more to the story than just the U.S. The entire NAFTA region is back. Ward’s reports that new car sales in Mexico jumped more than 14 percent last year to 2.6 million vehicles. They were up nearly 2 percent in Canada (subscription required) to nearly 1.6 million vehicles. And they were up 10 percent in the U.S. (subscription required) to about 12.7 million. All told, sales in NAFTA hit nearly 17 million units. And that’s getting close to the size of the Chinese market.
YAZAKI HIT WITH RECORD FINE
Japanese auto supplier Yazaki was hit with a record fine from the Japanese government over a bid-rigging scheme involving wire harnesses. According to the Mainichi Daily News, Yazaki must pay about a $125 million fine, the highest penalty for a single company under Japan’s anti-monopoly law. Sumitomo, Fujikura and Furukawa were the other companies involved. Sumitomo and Fujikura were fined, but Furukawa escaped punishment because it told authorities about the scheme before they started investigating. The bid-rigging started in 2000 and determined who would win wire harness orders from Japanese automakers.
AUDI R8 STRETCH LIMO
Riding around in stretch limos is all about getting people to look at you. So Limo Broker, a British limo company, is making a stretched version of the Audi R8. It can seat up to eight people and comes with the 5.2-liter V-10. And man, does this thing scream “Look at me!”
AUTONOMY CLOSE TO REALITY
Autonomous cars keep coming closer to reality. In Europe, a program called SARTRE, or Safe Road Trains for the Environment, envisions platoons of cars autonomously following a lead truck as they drive down the freeway. Proponents of autonomous technology envision road trains where the cars travel much closer together to gain an aerodynamic advantage, just like drafting in NASCAR.
SAAB MUSEUM PRESERVED
Well, here’s another nail in Saab’s coffin. After its official museum came under threat by the pending bankruptcy proceedings, a group came together and purchased the whole shootin’ match of 120 cars. The city of Trollhättan, Saab AB – the aeronautics division – and The Wallenberg Foundation have shelled out more than 4 million bucks to buy – and preserve – this historic collection, which includes the company’s first car. Great move guys!
NISSAN’S SELF-HEALING PAINT
Mark, one of our viewers, wrote in asking about a story we did last week on an iPhone case Nissan is developing. It features the company’s self-healing paint. He wanted to know which Infiniti and Nissan models featured this technology. Well, we got in touch with the company’s PR department and here’s the skinny. Currently NO products in the U.S. utilize Scratch Shield paint; however, the Murano, 370Z and Xtrail in the UK feature it. We’re also told Infiniti products in Europe have it as well. It’s a pretty fascinating technology. The clear coat features a soft resin that actually allows scratches, which are tiny indentations, to “pop” back up after a little time. Hit the link in today’s show notes at Autoline.tv for a more in-depth explanation of how Scratch Shield paint actually works.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
YOU SAID IT!
And now it’s time for some of your feedback.
G.A. Branigan says his lady started looking for a new car, and found out that when equipped the way she wants one, every automaker seems to have the same price. “She asked me why are the prices all pretty much the same and I replied ‘I don’t know.’ Is that price fixing?”
No, that’s not price fixing, that’s the auto industry learning what the market will pay for its products. Price them too high and you lose sales. Price them too low and you lose profits. They’re all trying to find that sweet spot. One more thing. There can be a big difference between the price on the window and what you actually pay for the car.
Jonathan has his hair on fire over the news that the New York Auto Show will be moved out of Manhattan and into Queens. “PLEASE DO A STORY ON THIS NEWS!!! Jamaica Queens is a real pit and the NY auto show needs to stay in NYC.”
Jonathan, I could not agree more. We all want to go to the New York show because we love to be in the Big Apple. It’s like going to the Paris auto show. Who cares about the cars? We get to go to Paris!
David Sprowl is ticked off that Nissan claims the Leaf is a zero emission vehicle. “Really? Since 60 percent of this country’s electric generation comes from the burning of coal, it is a bit disingenuous to suggest that electric cars are zero emissions. That’s like me claiming that Hostess Twinkies are zero calories…so long as they remain in the wrapper.”
David, the latest figures show that coal actually generates 43 percent of electricity in the U.S., but your point is spot on. In fact, I call EVs coal cars.
Rob Grosse takes issue with us dissing that camper add-on for the Toyota Prius. I said it put the “ugh” in “ugly.” “Ugly or not, we need some environmentally friendly campers on the market. I am glad to see that Prius RV for sale. The days of average income families being able to cross the continent in 8 MPG monoliths are pretty much behind us.”
Rob, I agree. We need environmentally friendly RVs, but they don’t have to make them ugly.
Last week Dave saw Autoline This Week with China expert Michael Dunne, who noted that in China the nick name for Cadillac is bao gen, which means dumb and heavy. “Dumb and Heavy?? We in the U.S. have words we use to describe goods from China, but I can’t say them here.”
Thanks for all your letters and comments, we love to go through them all. And while you’re thinking of writing to us, we’d love to get any questions you’d like to pose to the people I’ll be interviewing at the Washington D.C. Auto Show tomorrow, starting at noon. We’ll have Margo Oge from the EPA, Roland Hwang, from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Phil Murtaugh with CODA and others. Go to the John’s Journal section of our website and scroll down to where it says submit your questions to our Washington D.C. guests.
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.